Excerpt: The Good Know Nothing by Ken Kuhlken
Title: The Good Know Nothing
Author: Ken Kuhlken
DURING THE SUMMER OF 1936, destitute farmers from the Dust Bowl swarm into California, and an old friend brings police detective Tom Hickey a manuscript, a clue to the mystery of his father Charlie’s longago disappearance. Tom chooses to risk losing his job and family to follow this lead. Even his oldest friend and mentor, retired cop Leo Weiss, opposes Tom’s decision. Why so passionately? Tom lures the novelist B. Traven to a meeting on Catalina and accuses him of manuscript theft and homicide. Traven replies that the Sundance Kid, having escaped from his reputed death in Bolivia, killed Charlie. Tom crosses the desert to Tucson, tracking the person or ghost of the legendary outlaw. He meets a young Dust Bowl refugee intent on avenging the enslavement of his sister by an L.A. cop on temporary border duty in Yuma. Tom frees the sister, delivers the boy’s revenge, and becomes a fugitive, wanted for felony assault by the L.A.P.D., his now-former employer. What he learns in Tucson sends Tom up against powerful newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. He hopes to enlist Leo, but instead Leo offers evidence that Tom’s father was a criminal. For Tom and his sister, both victims of Charlie’s wife, their crazy mother, what now? This is the final chapter in the Hickey saga that ranges across the 1900s.
When the police chief ordered Detective Tom Hickey to kill a guy, Tom didn’t bother to argue.
Chief James “Two Gun” Davis had only last month publically renewed his familiar promise that the LAPD would hold court on outlaws in the city streets. “I want them brought in dead, not alive,” he informed a crowd of newshounds, “and I will reprimand any officer who shows the least mercy to a criminal.”
From the Davis perspective, a criminal was anybody who broke the rules. Donny Katoulis, the subject of Tom’s assignment, broke more than one. The chief alleged that Al Capone had sent the gunman to hit bookie Buster Sykes. Capone had paid L.A. a visit, assessed the risks and benefits of establishing a subsidiary of his Chicago enterprise, and rewarded Sykes in advance for assistance. The bookie stiffed him.
On a blustery spring Friday around twilight, Donny Katoulis tailed Buster Sykes to a parking lot off Sunset Boulevard. Sykes was the lover of Mayor Frank Shaw’s favorite niece.
The mayor was an ambitious fellow, who had spent the months since his inauguration earnestly collaborating with crime boss Charlie Crawford. Their efforts had raised corruption in the city to new depths.
Four .32 caliber slugs eliminated the bookie and cost the mayor a generous associate.
The way Tom figured, Mayor Shaw was out for more than revenge. Cops, crooks, tycoons, publishers, and politicos worked “the system” to such profitable effect, they roused the envy of
smart guys out east. So, Tom surmised, the mayor suggested to Davis that Capone ought to get sent a message.
Davis advised Tom that Katoulis would board the Union Pacific Los Angeles Limited for a departure at 6:20 p.m. He assigned Tom to assure the gunman didn’t reach Chicago.
Tom imagined Davis called on him because the chief figured whoever got done in, the cop or the gunman, good riddance.