Page 64 of Overload


All of this Harry London knew from earlier investigation.

The building's lobby, of imitation marble, with a bank of elevators facing the main entrance, was beginning to fill with departing office workers.

Dodging the outgoing flow, London led the way to an inconspicuous metal door which he knew, from a surreptitious previous visit, opened onto a stairway providing access to three lower floors.

On the way in he had given the two detectives a quick summary of the phone call twenty-five minutes earlier. Now, hurrying down cement stairs shielded by fire doors, he found himself praying that the men they were seeking had not already left.

Something else the Property Protection chief knew was that the extensive electric and gas metering and controls were on the lowest floor. From there the building's general power supplies were monitored-for heating, elevator operation, air conditioning and lighting.

Near the foot of the last stairway a thin, gaunt man in coveralls, with unkempt sandy hair and a stubble of beard, appeared to be inspecting garbage cans. He looked up, then abandoned what he was doing and came forward as Harry London and the detectives clattered down.

"Mr. London?" Unmistakably it was the same weak voice as on the telephone.

"Right. You Ernie, the janitor?"

The man in coveralls nodded. "Sure took your time."

“Never mind that. Those men still here?"

'Inside." the janitor motioned to a metal door, similar to others on the floors above.

'How many?"

'Three. Listen, how 'bout my money?"

"For Chrissake!" London said impatiently. "You'll get it."

Lieutenant Wineski cut in. "Is anybody else in there?"

The janitor, looking surly, shook his head. "Ain't nobody else down here but me."

"All right." Wineski moved forward, taking command. He told the other detective and London, "We'll do this fast. Harry, you come in last. When we're inside, stay back by the door until I tell you." To the janitor:  "You wait out here." Wineski put a hand on the metal door then ordered, "Now!”

As the door flew open, the trio rushed in.

Inside, against an interior wall some twenty-five feet away, three men were working. Afterward Harry London would report with relish: "If we'd mailed 'em a list, with specifications of how we'd like the evidence laid out they couldn't have done better."

An electric current transformer cabinet-installed, then locked by GSP & L-was open. Several transformer switches, it was discovered later, had been opened, bound with insulating tape, then closed. The effect was to reduce electric meter recordings by a third. A few feet away a gas meter had an illegal bypass partially exposed. Supplies and tools for the work being done were spread around-insulated pliers, socket wrenches, lead disc seals and a mechanic's seal press (both stolen from GSP & L), and the transformer cabinet casing with a key-also stolen-in its lock.

Wineski announced in a loud, clear voice, "We are police officers." He ordered, "Don't move! Leave everything where it is."

At the sound of the opening door, two of the men working had spun around.

The third, who was lying full length and working on the gas meter bypass, rolled sideways to see what was happening, then shifted quickly to a crouch. All three were wearing neat, uniform-type coveralls with shoulder patches bearing the intertwined initials Q.E.G.C. which later inquiry would enlarge to Quayle Electrical & Gas Contracting.

Of the two men nearest the entry door, one was huge, bearded, and with the physique of a wrestler. His forearms, where the sleeves were rolled back, showed bulging muscles. no other was young-he seemed little more than a boy-with a narrow, sharp-featured face. It registered instant fright.

The big, bearded man was less intimidated. Ignoring the command not to move, he grabbed a heavy pipe wrench, raised it, and leaped forward.

Harry London, who had stayed back as instructed, saw Wineski reach swiftly under his coat; an instant later a gun was in his hand. The detective rapped out, "I'm a crack shot. Is you move another foot I'll put a bullet in your leg." As the bearded giant hesitated: "Drop the wrench-now!"

The other detective, Brown, had produced a gun also, and reluctantly the would-be attacker obeyed.

"You by the wall!" Wineski snapped; the third man, older than the other two, was now standing upright and looked as if he would try to run. "Don't start anything! just turn around and face that wall! You other two-join him, do the same."

Scowling, with hatred in his eyes, the bearded man moved back. The youthful workman, his face white, his body visibly trembling, had already hurried to comply.

There was a pause in which three sets of handcuffs clicked.

"All right, Harry," Wineski called over. "Now tell us what all this stuff means."

"It's the kind of solid evidence we've been looking for," the Property Protection chief assured him. "Proof of big-time electric and gas stealing."

"You'll swear to that in court?"

"Sure will. So will others. We'll give you as many expert witnesses as you want."

"Good enough."

Wineski addressed the three handcuffed men. "Keep facing the wall but listen carefully. You are all under arrest and I am required to advise you of your rights. You are not obliged to make a statement. However, if you do . . ."

When the words of the familiar Miranda ritual were finished, Wineski motioned Brown and London to join him by the outer door. Keeping his voice low, be told them, "I want to split these birds. From the look of him, the kid's ready to break; he may talk. Brownie, get to a phone. Call in for another car."

"Right." the second detective put away his gun and went out.

The door to the stairway was now open and, moments later, hurrying feet could be beard coming down. As London and Wineski swung toward the doorway, Art Romeo appeared and the two relaxed.

Harry London told his deputy, "Pay dirt. Take a look."

The little man who, as usual, looked like a shifty underworld cbaracter himself, Surveyed the scene and whistled softly.

Lieutenant Wineski, who had known Romeo before he worked for GSP & L, told him, "If that's camera equipment you've got, better start shooting."

"Will do, Lieutenant." Romeo unslung a black leather case from his shoulder and began assembling a pbotoflash unit.

While he was taking several dozen photographs, from various angles, of the spread-out equipment and uncompleted illegal work, police reinforcements arrived-two uniformed officers, accompanied by the returning Detective Brown.

A few minutes later the arrested men were led out-the youngest, still frightened, first and separately. While one uniformed officer remained to guard the evidence, Wineski followed. He told Harry London with a wink, "Want to question that kid myself. Let you know what happens."

8

"Wineski was dead right," Harry London informed Nim Goldman. “The kid-he was eighteen, by the way, and not long out of trade school-broke down and spilled his guts. Then Wineski and Brown used what he told them to pry more information out of the other two."

It was four days after the confrontation and arrests at the Zaco Building. Immediately following those events London had reported briefly to Nim. Now, as Nim's guest at lunch in the officers' dining room at GSP & L headquarters, he was supplying further details.

"Go ahead," Nim said, "tell me more." they had paused to enjoy large mouthfuls of lamb stew-a popular "special of the day" for which the chef was noted.

"Well, according to Boris Wineski, when they questioned the big guy-his name is Kasner-he didn't talk much. He's street-wise, has an arrest record, no convictions. The older one, who was working on the gas bypass, let out a few things we didn't know, then he clammed up too. By that time, though, it didn't matter. The police had all the important information-and their truck."

"Oh, yes, the truck. Did the police impound it?"

"Damn right!" Not surprisingly, London sounded happy; he had been in an upbeat mood for the past few days. "That truck was loaded up with even more evidence of illegality than was left around in the Zaco Building.

There were electric meters, seals, locking rings and keys, meter-size jumper cables, you name it. And almost all the stuff was stolen-naturally. You can't buy those items on the open market. One thing we now believe is that the Quayle people have a helper right here in the company who has been their source of supply. We're working on the accomplice angle."

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