LONG ODDS

A Toby Peters Story
by Stuart M. Kaminsky

       A hard right to the midsection. It was more than a jab. It was hurled concrete behind a lightly bandaged hand in a thin padded glove. It was the first punch of the fight.

       The big kid doubled over in pain.  He looked surprised.  I wasn’t.  I had seen Archie Moore fight before.  They called Moore “The Mongoose”.  He was a patient stalker who moved forward in his baggy pants, arms crossed in a style he called ‘armadillo’.
Moore was just thirty but he had already had more  fights than five pros put together had in an entire lifetime.  Less than decade later he’d become the light-heavyweight champion of the world and hold the title for a record eleven years.  He’d also go on to become the only fighter who faced both Rocky Marciano and Mohamed Ali in the ring.  Tonight, however, he was an up-and-coming crowd favorite with a great record.
Before the kid could come back to reality, Moore  got in fast, hit hard, bobbed away from a wide right and landed a short right to the chin that he had the kid limp and ready to give up or go down.

 I was ringside in Moore’s corner, a white towel  draped around my neck over a white tee shirt watching the fight though I was supposed to be watching the crowd.

      I looked like a typical corner man, flat nose  Somewhere over forty, a touch of gray at the temples, around a hundred and eighty pounds.  I looked more like a washed-up middleweight than a private detective, which was fine for the job.  My job as a second, if the fight went more than one round, was to step into the ring between rounds with a stool, a bottle of water and a bucket for Moore to spit in.  My job as a private detective was to find the person who had told Moore to take a dive or die.
The other man in Moore’s corner was an old timer named Charlie Otis.  Charlie was a big old timer, a black man with short white hair who had sparred with Jack Johnson.  Charlie had a belly now and the air of a Buddha.  Nothing seemed to bother him.  His job was to fill in in the corner for fighters whose regulars were busy somewhere else or who couldn’t afford to come along because the purse wasn’t enough to make it worthwhile.
It didn’t look as if the fight would go more than one round.  It didn’t look as if it would go more than one minute.  The kid hadn’t landed a single punch.

Moore followed the right to the chin with looping left to the chin.  The big kid staggered back looking for something or someone he might recognize.  Moore backed up hoping the kid would fall, but the big kid was either game, embarrassed or too confused to know that his best chance to survive with teeth was to go down, collect some sympathy and whatever he was being paid.

The referee, a little guy with almost no hair  wearing a sweat-dampened long-sleeved shirt, stepped up to the kid, looked into his bleary eyes and heard the crowd calling for the fight to go on.   The referee knew where his cash was coming from.  He motioned for the fight to continue.
The day before the fight Moore, a squat, determined and compact brown man a good forty pounds lighter than the kid he was closing in on, had come to the closet I call my office.  He had to go through the dental torture chamber of Sheldon Minck, D.D.S. to get there.

There were two names on the door to our offices.  One, in big black letters, read “Sheldon Minck, D.D.S.”  From time to time Shelly added a bunch of initials to impress the trade that happened to be looking for a dentist on the sixth floor of the Farraday Building in Downtown Los Angeles.   S.S.C., F.C.V. were the current letters.   Below Shelly’s name, in small letters was “Toby Peters, Private Investigator.”

I had a California license and everything that came  with it.  In my case, everything was a closet-sized office with a window overlooking an alley, a small desk, two chairs, a painting on one wall, a photograph of by father, me, my brother and our dog, a German Shepherd named Kaiser Wilhelm.  The photograph was more than thirty-five years old.

 The war news was good.  The Russians were pushing the Nazis back across the Dnieper.  The RAF and the U.S. Air Force had shot down more than a hundred and four Nazi fighters in three days.  Douglas McArthur was on New Guinea waiting for the Aussies and Americans to take New Britain so he could make that landing in the Philippines he had promised.

Moore had called, said he got my name from Joe Louis who had been one of my clients, and said he had to talk to me.   Twenty minutes later he sat across from me in my office while a patient in Shelly’s dental chair moaned and Shelly sang something that might have been Anything Goes.
“I got a call,” Moore said.   He was wearing dark slacks, a white shirt and a dark zippered jacket.  “I’ve got a fight tomorrow night at the Garden.  Some kid called Sailor Jack Sweets.”

“A call?” I asked.

“Guy said I should carry the kid till the third  and then go down and stay down.”

“Throw the fight,” I said when he paused and  looked out the window.

“Throw the fight,” he agreed.  “I go down.  Guy says I find a wad of bills in my locker.  I win and I’m dead inside half an hour after the fight.”

“Tell the cops?”

He shook his head ‘no.’ “I got in trouble when I was a kid,” he said. “Did twenty-two months in a reformatory back east. I’ve got a record.  I’ve got no proof about this call and I don’t want trouble with the California boxing commission.”

“So…?”

“I’m not gonna lose,” he said.  “Even if I did  I know there wouldn’t be a wad in my locker.  It’s probably just someone hoping I’ll fold.  No real threat I guess.  But…”

“You want…”

“You in my corner,” he said.  “Watching my back. One night’s work.”

“Fifty dollars,” I said.

Moore nodded, stood, held out his hand.  I took  it.

I had questions.  The odds in the fight must have been at least ten to one on Moore, maybe more.  Maybe a lot more.  Any bookie would smell a dead rodent if someone plunked down big money on the kid.  So if money were being placed against Moore it had to be private or in pieces, laid off, covered.  Still, an upset would have meant trouble for whoever was threatening Moore.  Someone would have to be more than a little nuts or a lot desperate or both.  I agreed with Moore.  It was probably a bluff, but for fifty bucks why take chances.
It was a little over thirty seconds into the first round.

The big white kid with the hairy chest and confused blue eyes took another right to the chin without raising his arms to protect himself.  The kid staggered back across the ring and into the ropes. Moore brushed his  left thumb against the side of his nose and strode after the big kid who looked at the referee. The referee motioned for the kid to defend himself. He still hadn’t thrown a punch.

The crowd was big, the usual for a Friday night. Lots of sweat. Kids in uniform. Fight fans of all ages. A few celebrities including Lucille Ball, Warner Baxter and Lou Costello were at ringside.  There were more women than before the war but just as much smoke blocking sight and lungs. I checked the first two rows around me for the tenth time. I'd made the rounds checking out the rows on the other side of the ring. Our gambler, if he was there, could have been anyone sitting there or anyone not sitting anywhere, but it seemed likely whoever had told Archie Moore to take a dive would be watching or have someone watching. The fight wasn’t being broadcast.

As the kid looked for angels or for some sign that told him he was still among the living, I was looking for a very angry face somewhere in the crowd. I didn't find one. Moore strode in with a looping left and a right to the midsection. The fight hadn't gone long enough for sweat to spray the first rows and the timekeeper. The kid was going down. I hoped he didn't have the heart to get up. He was more than outclassed.
 "Toby," a voice came at my side. Shelly Minck stood next to me. He was sweating more than the fighters. Shelly was short, nearly bald, pudgy and wearing thick glasses on his nose and a cigar in his mouth. He looked like a confused baby.

"I think I spotted him," Shelly said starting to lift his hand to point. I reached up and put the hand back at his side. Shelly's arms are remarkably strong. Years of pulling out teeth, occasionally the right ones.

     "Just tell me," I said glancing at Moore who had stepped back to let the big kid sink to his knees. The audience groaned. There were boos. This was Sailor Jackie Sweets about to fall flat on his face in round one. Never mind that Jackie Sweets wasn't really a sailor and his name wasn't Jackie Sweets. He was a symbol. We were winning the war in Europe and the Pacific. He was supposed to win it in the ring, pull off a big upset. Never mind that only a few bigots, misguided patriots and drunks had bet on him, plus of course the guy who had called Archie Moore. The crowd wanted a victory. They wanted the American flag waving. They wanted to sing "Anchors Aweigh".

     Jackie, whose real name was Bengt Forsberg, was about to sink into the California canvas. Bengt was eighteen years old, had been in the States for three weeks. He had come to California with his mother by way of Australia. Sailor Jackie Sweets couldn't speak anything but Swedish. But he did plan to enlist in the U.S. Army if his mother would let him. I got all this from an L.A. Times sports reporter named Scruggsmartin who owed me more than a beer or two.

"Third row, over there," Shelly said no longer pointing but making such broad movements of his head that a few people took their eyes off the ring where the referee was counting and looked at this man at my side who was having a seizure. I followed the aim of the binoculars Shelly wore to a group of standing, chanting fans urging Sweets to get up off his knees. Sweets shook his head to clear it. The crowd thought he was shaking his head 'no.' A half a hot dog sandwich came flying into the ring missing the fallen warrior's head by inches but catching the referee in the chest. He looked as if he were bleeding mustard.

Sweets got to his feet doing a confused shuffle dance as the referee wiped his gloves on his chest.
The referee said something to the kid.  Even if he had been able to understand English, I didn’t think he was close enough to the ring in time and space to answer.

Archie Moore was in the far corner looking as if he were thinking of a high peak in Tibet. I glanced at Otis.  He was thinking of the same peak. I looked at Shelly.

"Look, look," he whispered.

I looked.

“That’s Sonny Tufts,” I shouted.

Shelly shook his head and shouted,

“Behind him.”

At least that's what I thought he shouted. There was too much noise to hear him. Sweets was about to fall on his face again without a punch. Moore ran over and caught the kid before he crashed and smashed his nose even more than Archie Moore had done in the brief fight.

Sonny Tufts and the crowd sat back down in disgust. Then I saw him. He hadn't stood with the crowd. The man had remained seated, a rolled up program in his hand. I wasn't sure what the look on his face meant but anger came pretty close. He was lean, wearing a brown sports jacket, no tie. His hair was dark, combed to one side to make it look like there was more of it than reality told him in his mirror each morning. From here, he looked about my age, pushing fifty maybe, but that was the end of the resemblance. I'm reasonably solid with a face that looks as if it had taken more punches than the battered pug who was standing next to the ring now waiting for the official announcement of Moore's victory before he stepped through the ropes to take a beating for a few bucks.

I look like a boxer or someone who ran into an industrial size refrigerator one time too many. The angry guy with the rolled up program looked like a crooked lawyer in the second half of a Monogram double feature. He had a little mustache and a little chin and something that was clearly bothering him.

"That's him," Shelly said.

"Sit down," someone behind us called. He was talking to us. I didn't sit down. I watched the battered pug climb into the ring as soon as the referee raised Moore's hand in victory. The crowd applauded politely. The confused Swedish kid was helped out of the ring and the angry guy who looked like a movie lawyer made his way down the row he was sitting in. He was moving fast.

      "I said, sit down," the someone behind me said again. I turned. The guy speaking was one of the sailors. He wasn't a kid. He looked like a retread from the Big War and probably was. He was also big. Big voice, big gut.

     "You a cook?" I asked watching the lawyer escape from the row he was in and start up the aisle barely missing a fat woman juggling three beers.

     The sailor was sitting with three younger guys in uniform. They all started to laugh. I had nailed him.

     "Yeah, I'm a cook. Now sit the hell down. Your guy won. Now get out of the way."

One of the young sailors tugged at the older guy's sleeve. The older guy was obviously a line of beers into the night.

"That's Tony Zale," the kid said looking at me. The lawyer was getting away.

"No," said the navy cook. "He ain't."

"He is," said Shelly. The crowd around Moore’s corner was watching us. Moore bounced back to the corner waiting for the official announcement.

Otis climbed slowly into the ring handing him a towel.

The crowd around us was looking at the sailor and me. We promised to be more interesting than the fight that had just ended or the one that was about to begin. A rumble went through the crowd. Tony Zale was in the audience. I hurried after the fleeing lawyer, Shelly behind me.
We almost slammed into four men. Three of them were white and too old for war. They were going to start one of their own with a little Negro man arguing with them in the aisle. Shelly and I parted them in pursuit of the man I could no longer see ahead of us. One of the white guys grabbed my arm.

"Watch where you're going," he said. He wasn't big, but he had friends. Everyone wanted a fight. It was contagious, an arena of frustration.

"Watch who you're talking to," Shelly said. "This is Tony Zale." The three white guys looked at me unsure. I didn't look much like Zale but where had they seen Zale? In a ring? In a little newspaper photograph? The guy let go of my arm. The Negro man was holding his ground. I grabbed his arm and hurried him along with us.

     "Don't need your help Mr. Zale," the little man said. He looked older with his face inches from mine.

     "I apologize," I said. The little Negro looked back at the three guys in the aisle. Two of them stood with their arms folded glaring at us. We had the audience. Even the pug with the smashed face who had climbed into the ring for the next fight was looking in our direction.
"You know what he said?" the little man shouted. "No," I answered hustling him into the corridor  behind the seats and looking around in both directions.

"He said the big sailor took a dive, that Archie didn't hit him that hard. You believe that?"

"I believe he said it," I said. "I saw the punch. The kid didn't dive."

"You should know," the man said with satisfaction. "You should know."

"There," shouted Shelly pointing to my left. The angry guy with the bad hair was bucking the light traffic moving back toward their seats as the bell sounded for the introductions. The crowd booed. Shelly waddled. I ran. I had a bad back. Sometimes I coddle it. Sometimes I challenge it with handball games and workouts at the Y on Main with the punching bag. For someone who's hit the bag and looked the way I looked and loved the sport of boxing as much as I did, I should have a better record in my occasional battles for my clients. I looked like a better fighter than I fought but I had one advantage. I didn't give up. I didn't give up when I was being beaten for a client who had paid me thirty bucks to cover his back and I didn't give up when I went to my knees. Archie Moore had never punched me but I knew I was dumb enough to get off my knees if I had been that kid.
I didn't give up. That's what people paid me for. That's what Archie Moore was paying me for. I ran. There was a row of taxis waiting with cabbies standing around talking. The crowd wouldn't be getting out for another couple of battles. The angry guy got in the first one in line. I caught up with him as he closed the door. I opened it. I could hear Shelly in the distance behind me gasping.

     "Who the hell are you?" asked the guy looking at me at an angle like a bird. I slid in next to him as the cabbie got in and looked back at us with "Where to?" The cabbie needed a shave. He didn't need trouble.

     "Why'd you leave before the last fight?" I asked. The angry guy touched his head to be sure the few strands of hair were still Wildrooted down.

     "What?"

"Where to?" the cabbie repeated.

     "Why did you leave?" I repeated.

     "This man is crazy," the guy in the back seat said   to the cabbie. The cabbie looked at me and shrugged.

     "Could be," he said. "I'm turning on the meter. You want to sit here and talk? Jake by me. You decide you want to go somewhere? Let me know."

     "I'm getting a cop," the man next to me said reaching for the door. "Fine," I said. "Then you can explain why you looked angry when Moore won the fight."

     "None of your damned business," he said looking at the cabbie who was humming and looking out the front window.

"Let's find that cop," I said opening the door.

"Okay. I lost a lot of money," the guy blurted out. "If you plan to rob me, I've got twelve dollars which I'll get back from this cab company if I have to sue them right up to the Supreme Court."

"You bet on the kid," I said.

"Yes."

"Why? He didn't have a chance."

"I was told otherwise," he said.

"By who?"

"By whom," the man corrected. "Look, my name is Jerry Litwiller. I'm a writer at Paramount. A guy at the Wilshire Bar & Grille said Sweets was going to win. He was sure. I'm down to my last twelve dollars after losing fifty on that fight. I'm having a bad night."

"Turn it into a screenplay," I said. "Who was this guy who told you to bet on the Sailor?"

Shelly was at the window now leaning over and looking in, his breath steaming the glass. He was breathing hard and heavy.

"You're crazy, you know that?" the writer said

"I've been told that before," I said. "The guy in the bar. His name." The writer laughed twice and shook his head.

"Colley Tillman," he said. "Works at the Madison Square Athletic Club. Knows all the fighters. Trains some."

"Sweets?"

"Sweets, yeah," Littwiller said.

"He thought his boy was going to beat Moore?"

"Let’s put it this way, he thought Moore was going to lose. He didn't just think it. He said he knew it."

"Fix?"

Litwiller shrugged. "Who knows? What difference does it make? He was wrong. You going to tell me what's going on?"

"You going to turn it into a movie?" I asked opening the door.

 "Who knows?" he said. "I'm desperate and I'm nearly broke."

And you're losing your hair fast, I thought and got out nudging Shelly out of the way. The door closed and the cab pulled away.

"He the guy?" Shelly asked.

"No, but he gave me a lead." I headed back for the arena.

"A clue?" asked Shelly following me.

"A lead."

"I'm hungry," said Shelly.

"Get a hot dog and a beer," I said hurrying back through the open gate and into the corridor. The crowd inside groaned. They were getting a lot to groan about and not much to cheer. I headed for the dressing room leaving Shelly to consider his options, a hot dog and beer or his loyalty to our job.  Moore was in Dressing Room Three. It was small, a dozen full-length metal lockers, a low wooden bench at an odd angle, a table with a tattered and padded leather top. Moore sat on the table, Charlie Otis taking off his gloves.

"You okay?" I asked.

"Kid can't fight," Moore said. "I couldn't have carried him three rounds even if I wanted to. I think I broke his jaw. I'll check when I get changed. You find...?"

     "I'm close," I said. Otis turned to look at me.

     "Crazy damned business," he said. "How many kids you think died in the Pacific today? Guess. Seventy? Hundreds? And this happens." I guessed the 'this' was the threat to his fighter. I didn't stop to find out. There were a few guys smoking in the hallway. No reporters, no fans. It wasn't like the movies. There were no beautiful girls in tight dresses. There were no girls.

     I tried Dressing Room 2. Before I opened the door, I heard a woman’s voice behind it scream, “Henry.”
I went in. The old pug with the face flatter than mine who was supposed to be in the fight after Moore’s sat dazed on a table like the one I had just seen. He was alone wearing a shiny purple robe and a towel over his head. His eye was swollen shut.
“Henry Aldrich,” called the woman from the little  plastic Philco radio on the table next to the pug. He was listening to The Aldrich Family.
 “Coming mother,” came the cracking teenage voice on the radio.

     "I love this show,” the pug said and then added, “You ain't Zale," pointing a gloved hand at me.

"No," I said.

"Damn," the pug said shaking his head. "You see what I did?"

"No," I said starting to close the door.

"I won the damned fight is what I did," he said.

"Won the damn fight. One round. I go in there raw meat for a kid with seven wins and no loses and flatten him. And who saw it?"

"Missed the chance of your career," I said.

"I'll get more," he said. I closed the door and went for door number one. There were five people in the kid's locker room, which was smaller than the other two I had just been in. The Swedish kid was lying on his back, eyes open, blinking from time to time and admiring a squashed bug on the ceiling.

"Tillman?" I asked looking at the faces.

"He's not here," said a big older version of the kid looking at the ceiling. The accent was clear. One of the people in the room was a woman. She held the dreamy kid's gloved hand. She was clearly mom and mom had clearly had enough of boxing and people who lived in and near it. She glared at me and said something in Swedish to the three men near her.

"Tillman," I repeated.

"I think you go now," said the father. I nodded and left the room.

Bluff, I told myself. The threat against Moore was just a bluff.  Tillman, or someone he knew, put down a few bucks on the kid and made the call to Moore. There would be no follow up, no knife or bullet in the back and there would have been no wad of bills in Archie Moore's pocket if he had dived. That's what I told myself. It made sense, but that wasn't what I was being paid for.

There was one man who had been in the Swede’s corner who was not among the people in his dressing room. I figured him for Tillman. He had been wiry, probably around forty and tough looking. He wasn't in the hall. I started opening doors, closets, and a small office with no windows. I could hear a roar of voices, moans, and phlegmy laughter ahead of me.  Another early finish.  There were nights like that. The fights were over.
I went back to Archie Moore's dressing room. Moore was up now, coming out of a small shower stall with a thin curtain, a white towel around his waist. Otis wasn't there but Shelly was, sitting on the wooden bench finishing off a hot dog, a beer perched on the bench next to him.

"He's protecting me," said Moore with a small smile Shelly couldn't see.

"I can protect your teeth too when this is over," Shelly said. "I've got an idea for a rubber thing you can put in your mouth, protect your teeth when you're fighting. Doesn't interfere with your breathing."

"I can’t afford to have people laughing at me when I'm in the ring," said Moore toweling himself off.

"You can't afford to lose more teeth," said Shelly. "Let 'em laugh. Win the fight. Show great protected teeth. We can make thousands. We'll call them the Archie Moore Mouth Protectors. You get five percent on each protector sold."

"No thanks," said Moore.

"Shell," I said. "We're looking for someone, remember.” To Moore I said, “You know a guy named Tillman?"

"I know him to nod to," said Moore reaching for a locker door. Moore opened the door. Tillman fell out missing the boxer by inches. Moore stood in his towel looking down at the fallen corner man. Shelly jumped into action. The corpse’s eyes and mouth were open, looking in awe at a spot on the wall.

"Let me take a look," he said pushing his glasses up his nose. "I'm a dentist." I looked at the door and then at Moore. "He's dead," said Shelly.
I stepped past the corpse, looked in the empty locker and kicked the locker shut.

"We can see that Shel," I said. Shelly stood up.

“Why’d you open that locker?” I asked Moore.

“I thought…my things.  I thought my clothes were in there.”

I opened the next locker. There were Moore’s clothes.  I pushed it shut.

The dressing room door opened letting in the sound of the departing, disgruntled crowd.  They were going home at least an hour earlier than they had expected.

Otis stepped in and looked at the corpse, nothing showing on his face and closed the door.  He had a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer bottles in his hand.

“You see someone come in here?” I asked Otis and Moore.  Both shook their heads ‘no.’

“He’s very dead,” said Shelly looked down at the corpse.

“This is bad,” Moore said looking at the dead man.

“Worse than you think,” I said.  “Tillman was the guy who called you and told you to throw the fight.”

“You sure?” said Moore.

“As sure as I was that you were going to win that fight.”

“Nothing for it,” said Moore with a sigh. “We call the cops.”

“I’ll get ‘em,” said Shelly moving toward the door past Otis who just stood looking down at the dead man.

“Hold it Shel,” I said.

“How’d they stuff a man in a locker?” said Otis shaking his head.  “And when? I ain’t been gone two minutes and Archie...”

“I was in the shower. Someone must have killed him while I was in the shower. Curtain closed. I didn’t hear anything but water.”

Shelly had his hand on the doorknob.  He looked at me and pushed his glasses back up his nose.

“Okay, come back with a cop Shel,” I said.

“Right. Why don’t I just tell them they want a cop in Archie Moore’s dressing room and then I’ll go home,” said Shelly opening the door.

“Come back with them Shel,” I repeated firmly.

“I’ll come back.  I’ll come back,” he said and left the room closing the door behind him.

“I better get dressed,” Moore said moving toward the locker with his clothes.  “What are we gonna tell ‘em?”
“The truth,” I said.

“You put things together and figured Tillman for trying to get me to dive.  The cops will figure it too. Then they’re going to come up simple.  Two and two makes me a killer.”

“No,” I said.  “Two and two makes Otis a killer.”

“Me?” asked Otis calmly still clutching the bottles of beer.

“No time for anyone else,” I said. “I was gone no more than three or four minutes. Tillman left the ring with the Swede.”

“Could have been somebody come in while I was out,” said Otis.

“Otis didn’t kill this guy,” Moore said readjusting his towel, beads of water still clinging to his chest and forehead.
“You asked how the killer could have stuffed Tillman in the locker,” I said to Otis.  “When you came in the lockers were closed and Tillman was on the floor. No one said he had been in a locker.”

“I just…” Otis began looking at Moore and me.

“What happened?” I asked.  “Make it quick.  Shelly’ll be back with a cop or ten in a few seconds.”

Otis slumped down on the low bench and placed the beers gently next to him.  He was shaking his head.

“He come in when Archie went in the shower,”  Otis said softly.  “Mad as hell. He had a gun. Told me to get out of the way.  Said some fool thing like Archie had messed up his life.  He pushed me out the way. Figured an old man wouldn’t be much trouble.  Figured wrong. I’m old but some things you don’t forget.  They just come back.  I hit him hard, pit of the stomach with a left. Then a cross to his face. Missed. Hit him in the neck.  Went down hard. Think I busted his windpipe. I stuffed him in the locker.  Figured we’d just leave him there. Might take days before they found him.”

“Where’d you go?” I asked.

“Got rid of his gun,” said Otis shaking his head. “Picked up two beers to cover.”
The door flew open.  Shelly led in a pair of uniformed cops, both retreads from earlier times helping out for the duration of the war, doing crowd control at the fights.

“What happened?” said one of the cops, a thin guy with a pink Irish face.

“He tripped,” I said.

“He…” Shelly began.

“Tripped,” I repeated. “Came in to congratulate Mr. Moore. Tripped, The bench was in the middle of the floor. He went flying over. Nothing we could do.”

“You saw it?” asked the cop looking at each of us.

“Mr. Otis and I saw it,” I said. “Mr. Moore was taking a shower.  Dr. Minck wasn’t here.”

“I wasn’t here,” Shelly repeated emphatically.

The Irish cop moved over to the corpse and went down on one knee.

“Must have hit  something,” he said.

“Fell against the side of the table,” I said. “Weird. Hit his neck.”

“Yeah,” said the cop getting up.  “I know him. Name’s Tillman.  He was in that kid’s corner tonight. Tillman’s not the kind to come and congratulate someone who beats his boy.”

 “Not unless he had a few bucks on the winner,” the second cop said.  He was even older than the Irish veteran and looked as if he belonged in the gang of bandits in a Bob Steele Western.

 “Who knows?” said the Irish cop.

 He looked at Otis for a long beat and then at Moore.  Their eyes met and held.

 “Heard nothing?”

 “Not a thing,” said Moore.

 “Then I hope you don’t mind if I ask you one more question?”

 Moore shook his head to show that he didn’t mind but the Irish cop had a knowing look on his face.

 “You sign a poster for me?” he asked.  “I’ll tear one down in the hall.  I save ‘em.  For my son when he gets back from the war. I told him you were gonna be a champ.”

 “Happy to,” said Moore.

 The cop smiled and looked at Tillman’s corpse.

 “Shame,” he said. “No place in the world’s safe anymore.”

 “No place,” I agreed.  “A beer?”

 “Why not?” said the cop.

 Otis handed a beer to each of the cops.  The Irish cop held up his bottle and said,  “To the end of the war.”

 “And the memory of the fallen,” added the other cop.

 I felt like saying “Amen” but I just stood watching Shelly shake his head in confusion.

    The End