Книга: Deadly Honeymoon
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Chapter 5

Pennsylvania Shooting Victim Identified As Hicksville Builder


Scranton, Pa. — State police today identified the victim of a vicious gangland-style slaying as Joseph P. Corelli, a Long Island building contractor residing in Hicksville.

Corelli was shot to death late Sunday in an as yet unsolved attack outside his cabin at Pomquit Lodge on nearby Lake Wallenpaupack. “It has all the earmarks of a professional murder,” stated Sheriff Roy Fairland of Pomquit. “Corelli was shot five times in the head and two different guns were used.”

The dead man had resided at Pomquit Lodge for almost three months prior to the murder. He was registered at the Lodge as Joseph Carroll and carried false identification in that name. Proper identification of Corelli was facilitated through fingerprint records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Corelli was arrested three times in the past five years, twice on charges of extortion and once for possession of betting slips. He was released each time without being brought to trial, according to New York Police Sgt. James Gregg. “He [Corelli] had definite underworld connections,” Sgt. Gregg asserted. “He had several criminal contacts that we know of, and it’s a good bet he was operating outside the law.”

Nassau County police officials denied knowledge of any recent criminal activity on Corelli’s part. “We were aware of his record and kept an eye on him,” one officer stated, “but if he was involved in anything shady, it was going on outside of our jurisdiction.”

Corelli, a bachelor, lived alone at 4113 Bayview Road in Hicksville and maintained an office in the Bascom Building, also in Hicksville. His sole survivor is a sister, Mrs. Raymond Romagno of Boston.

When he opened the door of the hotel room she sat up in the bed and blinked at him. Her face was pale and drawn. He asked her if she was all right.

“I’m a little rocky,” she said. “I drank too much, I got all sloppy. I’m sorry.”

“Forget it. It’s in the paper.”


“Corelli,” he said. He folded the paper open to the story and handed it to her. She couldn’t find it at first and he sat next to her and pointed it out to her. He watched her face while she worked her way through the article. Halfway through she motioned for a cigarette and he lit one for her. She coughed on it but went on reading to the end of the article. Then she set the paper on the bed beside her. She finished the cigarette and put it out in the ashtray on top of the bedside table. She started to say something, then realized for the first time that she didn’t have any clothes on. She looked at herself and jumped up and ran into the bathroom.

When she came out she looked reborn. Her face was fresh and clean, the pallor gone from it now. She had lipstick on. He smoked a cigarette while she put on a dress and shoes.

She said, “Corelli. I didn’t think he looked Italian.”

“He could have been almost anything, as far as I could tell. He didn’t look Irish, either.”

“Carroll isn’t always Irish.”

“I guess not.”

“There was a composer named Corelli. Before Bach, I think. We were right about almost everything, weren’t we? About who he was. He was in construction, but he was also a gangster.”

“In a small way.” He thought a minute. “There are some things that aren’t in that article.”

“You mean about us?”

“I mean about Carroll. Corelli. What rackets he was in, who his friends were. They talked a lot about his contacts but they didn’t say who they were. It might help to know.”

“How do we find out?”

“From the police,” he said.

‘You mean just ask them?”

“Not exactly,” he said.

They skipped breakfast. They left the hotel and found an empty phone booth in a drugstore on Sixth Avenue. He coached her on what to say and she practiced while he looked up the number of police headquarters in the Manhattan book. He wrote the number in his notebook and she said, “Let me try it now. How does this sound?”

He listened while she went through her speech. Then he said, “I think that’s right. It’s hard to tell without hearing it over the phone. Let’s give it a try.”

She went into the booth and closed the door. She dialed the number he had written down. A man answered in the middle of the first ring.

She said, “Sergeant James Gregg, please. Long distance calling.”

The man asked her who was calling. She said, “The Scranton Courier-Herald.”

The man told her to hang on, he’d see if he could find Gregg. There was a pause, and some voices in the distance, and a click and silence, another click and a youngish voice saying, “Gregg here.”

“Sergeant James Gregg?”


“Go ahead, please.” She opened the phone-booth door quickly, stepped outside and handed the receiver to Dave. He took it, ducked into the booth and pulled the door shut

He said, “Sergeant Gregg? This is Pete Miller at the Courier-Herald. We’re trying to work up a background story on the Corelli murder, and I’d like to ask you a couple of questions.”

“Again? I just talked to you people an hour ago.”

“I just came on,” he said quickly. “What we’re trying to do, Sergeant Gregg, what I’m trying to do, is to work up a human-interest piece on Corelli. Gangland killings, in this area, they’re exciting—”


“—and people are interested. Could you tell me a few things about Corelli?”

“Well, I’m pretty busy now.”

“It won’t take a minute, Sergeant. Now, first of all, I think you or somebody else mentioned that Corelli was connected with the underworld.”

“He had connections,” Gregg said guardedly.

“What sort of racket was he in?”

There was a short pause. Then, “What he was in was construction. We don’t know exactly what he did on the side, the illegal side. He knew a lot of gamblers, and his last arrest was here in Manhattan, he was picked up in a gambling raid. We didn’t have a case against him and we let him go.”

“I see.”

“His business was all out on Long Island. That’s out of our jurisdiction, and we didn’t nose around in that connection. We know he was in touch with some people here in the city, some racket people, but we don’t know what exactly he was doing. If he was working a racket in Long Island, well, that wasn’t our business.”

“Could you tell me some of his associates in New York?”


“It would give the story some color,” he said.

“The names wouldn’t mean anything to you,” Gregg said. “You’re out in Scranton and Corelli’s friends, the ones we know about, are just small-time gamblers. People like George White and Eddie Mizell, just people nobody ever heard of. No one important.”

“I see,” he said. “How about a man named Lublin?”

“Maurie Lublin? What about him?”

“Was he an associate of Corelli’s?”

“Where did you hear that?”

“The name came up, I don’t remember where. Was he?”

“I never heard about it. It might be. People like Corelli know a lot of people, it’s hard to say. Offhand I would say Maurie Lublin is too big to be interested in Corelli.”

“Do you know why Corelli was killed?”

“Well, it’s not our case. There’s nothing certain. Just rumors.”


“That’s right.”

It was like pulling teeth, he thought. He said, “What kind of rumors?”

“He was supposed to owe money.”

“To anyone in particular?”

“We don’t know, and I wouldn’t want to say anyway. Jesus, don’t you people ever get together on anything? I talked to one of your men and told him most of this just a little while ago. Can’t you get it from him?”

“Well, you probably talked to someone on straight news, Sergeant Gregg. I’m on features.”


“I don’t want to keep you, I know you’re busy. Just one thing more. Will you be in charge of the investigation in New York?”


“Of the Corelli murder.”

“What investigation?” Gregg seemed almost irritated. “He was a man from Long Island who got himself killed out of state. We’re not doing anything about it. We’ll cooperate with Pennsylvania if they ask us to, but we’re not doing anything.”

“Will there be an investigation in Hicksville?”

“On the Island? What for? He got shot out of state, for God’s sake.”

He thought, Pennsylvania would shelve it because Corelli was from New York, and New York would forget about it because the murder happened in Pennsylvania. He said, “Thank you very much, Sergeant. You’ve been a big help, and I didn’t mean to take too much of your time.”

“It’s okay,” Gregg said. “We try to cooperate.”

He got out of the booth. She started to ask him a question, but he shook his head and began writing in the little notebook. He wrote: “Maurie Lublin.” Under that he wrote: “George White and Eddie Mizell.” On the next line he wrote: “Corelli owed money.” Then: “No Investigation.”

The drugstore was too crowded to talk in. He took her arm, put the notebook back in his breast pocket, and led her out of the store. There was a Cobb’s Corner across the street. They waited for the light to change, crossed Sixth Avenue and went into the restaurant. It was past nine already. Most of the breakfast crowd had gone to work and the place was near empty. They took a table for two in the rear and ordered orange juice and toast and coffee. He gave her the whole conversation by the time the waitress brought the food.

“You’d make a good reporter,” she said.

“And you’d make a good telephone operator. I kept waiting for him to catch on and start wondering who the hell I was and why I was bothering him, but he believed it all the way. We learned a lot.”


“A hell of a lot. George White and Eddie Mizell — I don’t know what we can do with those names. But there is a Lublin. And he’s a crook, and he’s in New York somewhere. Maurie Lublin. Maurice, I guess that would be.”

“Or Morris.”

“One or the other. And everything still holds together the way we figured it. That Joe Corelli owed money, I mean. And that was why he was running.”

She nodded and sipped her coffee. He lit a cigarette and set it down in an oval glass ashtray.

“The big thing is that there’s no investigation. Not in New York and not in Hicksville. Isn’t that a hell of a name for a town?”

“Probably a description.”

“Probably. But the cops there won’t bother with the murder. They may close a file on Corelli but that’s all. That means we go out there.”

“To Hicksville?”

“That’s right.”

“Is that safe?”

“It’s safe. There won’t be any police there, not at his place and not at his office either. The New York police aren’t interested in Corelli any more. And Lublin’s men won’t be there, either.”

“How do you know?”

“They had about three months to search Corelli’s room and office. Maybe that was how they found out where he was, how they got the idea. That lodge was out of the way. They must have had some information or they never would have dug him up. They’ve probably sifted through his papers and everything else a dozen times already. Now he’s out of the way. They won’t be interested any more.”

She looked thoughtful. He said, “Maybe you should stay at the hotel, baby. I’ll run out there myself.”


“It won’t take long. And—”

“No. Whither thou goest and all that. That’s not it. I was just wondering what we could find there. If they already searched—”

“They were looking for different things. They wanted, to find out where Corelli was hiding, and we want to find out why he was hiding, and from whom. It’s worth a try.”

“And I’m going with you, Dave.” He argued some more and got nowhere with it. He let it go. It seemed safe enough, and perhaps she’d be better off with him than alone with her thoughts at the hotel.

The doorman at the Royalton got the car for them. He told them how to find the Queens-Midtown tunnel and what to do when they were through it. The sky was clouded over and the air was thick with the promise of rain. They drove through the tunnel and cut east across Queens on an expressway. The road was confusing. They missed the turnoff for Hicksville, went five miles out of their way and cut back. At an Atlantic station they filled the gas tank and found out where Bayview Road was. They hit Bayview Road in the 2300 block and drove past numbered streets until they found the address listed in the newspaper story. Hicksville was monolithic, block after block of semidetached two-story brick houses with treeless front yards and a transient air, a general impression that all the inhabitants were merely living there until they could afford to move again, either further out on the Island or closer to the city.

Corelli’s building, 4113, was another faceless brick building jammed between 4111 and 4115. There were wash lines in the back. According to the mailboxes, someone named Haas lived upstairs and someone named Penner lived on the ground floor. Dave stepped back into the street to check the address, then dug the newspaper clipping from his wallet to make sure he had read it correctly the first time around: “Corelli, a bachelor, lived alone at 4113 Bayview Road in Hicksville...”

Jill told him to try the downstairs buzzer. “Probably the landlord,” she said. “They buy the house and live downstairs and rent out the upstairs. The income covers the mortgage payments.”

He rang the downstairs bell and waited. There were sounds inside the house but nothing happened. He rang again, and a muffled voice called, “All right, I’m coming, take it easy.”

He waited. The door opened inward and a woman peered suspiciously at him through the screen door. Her face said she thought he was a salesman and she wasn’t interested. Then she caught sight of Jill and decided that he wasn’t a salesman and her face softened slightly. She still wasn’t thrilled to see him, her face said, but at least he wasn’t selling anything, and that was a break.

He said, “Mrs. Penner?”

She nodded. He searched for the right phrasing, something that would fit whether or not she knew Corelli was dead. “My name is Peter Miller,” he said. “Does a Mr. Joseph Corelli live in the upstairs apartment?”


“Just business,” he said, smiling.

“He used to live here. I rented the place after he skipped on me. He lives here for three years, he pays his rent every time the first of the month, and then he skips. Just one day he’s gone.” She shook her head. “Just disappears. Didn’t take his things, that’s his furniture and he left it, everything. I figured he would be back. Leaving everything, you would think he’d be back, wouldn’t you?”

He nodded. She didn’t know Corelli was dead, he thought. Maybe that was good.

“But he never shows,” she said, shifting conveniently into present tense again. “He never shows, and I hold the place a month, waiting for him. That’s seventy dollars I’m out plus another week before I could rent it. I don’t rent to colored and it took a full week before they moved in, Mr. and Mrs. Haas. Eighty-five dollars he cost me, Corelli.”

“Do you have his things? His furniture and all?”

“I rented the place furnished,” Mrs. Penner said. She was defensive now. “Mrs. Haas, she didn’t have any furniture. They just got married. No kids, you know?” She shook her head again. “There’ll be kids, though. A young couple, they’ll have kids soon enough, you bet on it. One thing about Corelli, he was quiet up there. What about his things? He send you or something?”

Jill said, “Mrs. Penner, I’m Joe’s sister. Joe called me, he’s in Arizona and he had to leave New York in a hurry.”

“Cop trouble?”

“He didn’t say. Mrs. Penner—”

“There was cops came around right after he left. Showed me their badges and went pawing through everything.” She paused. “They don’t look like cops, not them. But they show me their badges and that’s enough. I don’t like to stick my nose in.”

Jill said, “Mrs. Penner, you know Joe was in business here. There was a lawsuit and he had to leave the state to stay out of trouble. It wasn’t police trouble.”


“He called me yesterday,” she went on. “There were some things of his, some things he had to leave here, and he wanted me to get them for him.”


“If I could just—”

The screen door stayed shut. “As soon as I get that eighty-five dollars,” she said. “That’s what he cost me, that eighty-five dollars. There was no lease so that’s all, just the eighty-five, but I want that before he gets his stuff.”

Jill didn’t say anything. Dave took out a cigarette and said, “You can hold the furniture for the time being, Mrs. Penner. In fact I think Joe would just as soon you kept the furniture, and then you can go on renting the flat furnished. It’s worth more than eighty-five dollars, but just to make things easier you could keep the furniture for the rent you missed out on.”

He could see her mind working, balancing the extra five or ten dollars a month against the eighty-five dollars Corelli had cost her. She looked as though she wanted a little more, so he said, “Unless you’d rather have the money. Then I could have a truck here later this afternoon to pick up the furniture.”

He could imagine her trying to explain that to the Haases. Quickly she said, “No, it’s fair enough. And easier all around, right?”

“That’s what I thought. Now if we could see Joe’s other stuff, his clothes and all. You kept everything, didn’t you?”

She had everything downstairs in large cardboard boxes. Suits, ties, slacks, underwear. Corelli had had an extensive wardrobe, sharp Broadway suits with Phil Kronfeld and Martin Janss labels in them. There was one boxful of papers. Dave took the carton and carried it out to the car. Jill waited in the car, and he went back to the house and told Mrs. Penner he would send somebody around for the rest of the stuff, the clothes and everything. “Today or tomorrow,” he said.

That was fine with her. He got into the car and drove off.

At the Bascom Building, in Hicksville’s business district, Jill waited in the car with the box of papers while he went inside and managed to get into Corelli’s office. This was easier, because they hadn’t moved him out for nonpayment of rent. He had been gone for three months but they had left his office as he had left it, the door locked and everything undisturbed. He found the superintendent and told him he wanted to get into Corelli’s office, and the old man said he had to have the key or written authorization.

Dave gave him a story off the top of his head — that Corelli had sent him down to pick up copies of a contract, that it would only be for a minute, and that he didn’t want to take the time to get a written authorization from Corelli. The super didn’t believe it but he just nodded, waiting. Dave gave him ten dollars and the super made the bill disappear and took him upstairs and unlocked the door for him. He seemed to be doing something he had done before — for the men who had been looking for Corelli.

“Don’t be long now,” he said. “And lock the door behind you, hear?”

He wasn’t long. The office was a cubbyhole, one window facing out on the main street of Hicksville, a single dark-green filing cabinet, a cheap oak desk, a standing coatrack. The wooden desk chair was padded with a cushion that smelled slightly of old rubber.

There were three drawers to the filing cabinet. The bottom drawer held a half-full bottle of Philadelphia blended whiskey. The middle drawer was empty. In the top drawer there was a disorganized pile of contracts and invoices and letters. The letterheads, as far as he could see, were of various companies in the building trades. He shuffled all the papers into a moderately neat pile and stuffed them into a brown manila envelope.

The desktop was free from clutter. There was a thick layer of dust across it but nothing else. In the top drawer of the desk he found a box of paper clips, a year-old copy of Argosy folded open to an article on skin-diving paraphernalia, a memo pad with no entries in it, a Zippo cigarette lighter initialed “J.C.,” a four-by five-inch glossy print of a girl in panties and bra, a pigskin address book, and a packet of contraceptives. He added the address book to the manila envelope and closed the drawer. In another drawer, far in the rear, he found an unloaded gun and, behind it, a nearly full box of cartridges.

He picked up the gun, then stopped and glanced automatically at the window. No one was watching him, of course. He hefted the gun and felt its weight. He hesitated just a moment, then tucked the gun into his pants pocket, the right-hand pocket. He put the box of shells in his left-hand jacket pocket, stopped, lit a cigarette, and checked the one remaining drawer in the desk. It was empty, and he closed it and straightened up.

Outside, it was getting ready to rain. He got behind the wheel and Jill asked him if there had been anything important in the office. He told her he didn’t know yet, that they would have to see. She said she had forgotten how to get back to the city and asked him if he remembered the route. He started the car and told her that he remembered the way.

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