Who Killed Jack Robinson

Frank Thomas Smith

Chapter 9

TO: Darrell Stark
FROM: James McKew

Subject: J.R. Investigation

[I encourage my people to submit detailed reports on their investigations. In fact, I insist on it. It makes their brains active, keeps me informed and often reveals – even to them - important clues that otherwise might have gone unnoticed. The danger is that some become so adept at creative writing that their reports become more artistic than factual. D.S.]

    As previously reported verbally, my appointment with Senator Kennedy was scheduled for 09:00 Wednesday morning [I also insist on the 24-hour clock.] in the Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. At 08:45 I presented myself to the senator’s secretary. [Note that security was practically non-existent those days; you just walked in.] She told me to have a seat, that the senator was occupied at the moment, but that he would see me as soon as he could. [It may be that Jimmy took my instructions on detailed reporting a mite too seriously. I don’t blame him for that, not at all. Better too much information than too little.]
    At 0900 sharp the secretary pushed an intercom button with her red-lacquered index finger and when the senator answered she told him I was there waiting, and reminded him that I had an appointment with him at nine o’clock. After a long moment he said, “OK, send him in.” I couldn’t help wondering why she didn’t announce me earlier, and finally decided that the senator must be a stickler for punctuality, including reverse punctuality. [More likely he was thinking: who the hell is this guy?] The secretary told me to go into the senator’s office. I stood up, went to the door and raised my fist to knock, but she told me to go right in. I reached for the doorknob…. [From here on some details that are too detailed, even for my powers of patience, will be deleted.]
    Senator Kennedy was seated behind his desk with his feet up on same, reading a newspaper (The Washington Post) and smoking a cigar. He glanced at me, dropped the newspaper on the desk, swung his feet to the ground, stood up and said, “Good morning, Mr. McGee, glad to meet you.” [Accompanied no doubt by the famous Kennedy smile.] He pushed the intercom button and said, “Three coffees Annie, please.” I wondered why three, but didn’t ask; neither did I correct my name, I mean his pronouncing of it.
    “You’re a private investigator, Mr. McGee?”
    “Yes, Sir,” and I gave him my card.
    “McKew? I thought your name as McGee.”
    “No, Sir. It’s McKew, like Kew Gardens.”
    “Brooklyn?” he said, still looking at the card, surprised and, I think, disappointed. “I thought you were from Boston.”
    “No, Sir. I never said I was from Boston.”
    “You never said you weren’t either,” a Massachusetts voice behind me said. I looked around and saw a seated figure, also smoking a cigar, in a dark corner.
    “Never mind,” Senator Kennedy said. “What can I do for you?”
    I told him that my employer, Mr. Darrell Stark, and I had gone to Boston on an investigation and…[Here Jimmy relates the entire Boston experience in excruciating detail without, however, mentioning Jackie Robinson or Branch Rickey. At one point the secretary entered with a tray and placed two cups of coffee, sugar and cream, on the senator’s desk and retreated to the back corner with the third coffee.]
    When I finished, the senator said, “What do you think, Bobby?”
   At first I thought he’d confused my name again, but then the voice from the corner said, “I’d like to know why they went to Boston in the first place and why you think this could blow up to be an extremely delicate matter, as you told Miss Brighton, Mr. McKew, as in Kew Gardens.” The man who spoke rose and approached us. He was shorter and thinner than the senator, and more intense looking.
    “The is my brother Bobby.” The senator said.
    Bobby didn’t offer to shake hands, just perched on the corner of the desk, folded his arms and waited. He was in shirtsleeves with his collar open and tie askew. I admit that he made me nervous. “I’ll tell you that now,” I said, “but I must ask for confidentiality.”
The senator only grunted, but his brother smiled as though he liked that and said, “We’ll have to know what it is we should be confidential about first, Jim.” He called me Jim, should I call him Bobby? He hopped off the desk and held out his hand. I jumped up from my seat like a rabbit and shook it. “Call me Bobby. But Senator Kennedy here is a United States senator,” he said, ironically I thought, “so don’t call him Jack till you know him better.” He sat back on the desk. “Now…let’s have it.”
    “Well, you see, Jerry Rose’s initials are J.R. and another Negro ball player with the same initials was murdered in South Carolina. Our client – and this is the part I ask for confidentiality about – is Branch Rickey…”
    “Brooklyn Dodgers,” Senator Kennedy said.
    “That’s right, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he…well…he was worried…
    “Jackie Robinson!” Bobby interrupted. He hopped off the desk again and walked a circle around the room like it was some kind of cage. “Do you guys think someone will murder Jackie Robinson?”
    “Rickey is bringing him up to the Dodgers, isn’t he?” the senator asked.
    “Yes, he is.”
    “Answer me, “ Bobby insisted.
  “Not really,” I said. “But someone brought the coincidence of the initials to Mr. Rickey’s attention and just to be on the safe side he hired us.”
    “To find out if it’s only a coincidence?” the senator asked.
    “Yes, Sir”
    “What you found out in Boston seems to indicate that Jerry Rose’s death had nothing to do with Jackie Robinson,” Bobby said. “I mean if he was killed by the mafia because of a gambling debt.”       
    I nodded.
   “So we found out that a man – a black man – was murdered by the mafia but no one’s doing anything about it. So I thought that something should maybe be done about it.”
    “Is that why you’re here instead of your boss?”
   I didn’t want to embarrass you, but I had to answer the question. “Yes, Mr. Stark feels that’s not what we were hired for – but he gave me permission to come see you.”
   Senator Kennedy put his feet up on the desk again and said, “What do you think, Bobby.”
    Bobby hopped off the desk and took the chair next to mine. Then he also put his feet up on the desk. He looked at me. “Do you have any evidence that this Billy Bone killed Rose and that the mafia is behind it?”
    I was expecting that question of course. “No,” I said, “but all the ballplayers know it, and they .. . or some of them…might have proof. But they don’t trust the police.”
    “Why not,” Senator Kennedy asked. “Do they think the police are mixed up with the mafia?”
    “I don’t know about that, but they think the police won’t pay attention because it’s a Negro was killed. That’s the way it usually is.”
    Nobody said anything for a while so, though I knew that they knew it already, I told them I came to see Senator Kennedy because if he told the Boston police chief that he wanted the crime solved, maybe it would happen.  
    “Maybe he’s right, Jack,” Bobby said. “We might not get the mafia, that’d be too much to hope for, but maybe this Billy Bones…” He looked at me again..."White or colored?"
  The intercom buzzer sounded and the secretary, Miss Brighton, said that Mr. Andrews from the White House was there. The senator told her to ask him to please wait just a minute. Then, to Bobby he said, “O.K., I’ll call Chief Clancy and tell him you’ll be talking to him about it. Is that all right with you?”
    “Great,” Bobby said. He went back to his corner and took his suit jacket from the back of a chair and put it on. Then he straightened his tie a little. The senator shook my hand and thanked me for coming. Bobby walked me to the door. “Gotta chat with one of the president’s coolies now, Jim. Nice meeting you. We’ll keep you informed.”
    I left the office at 09:37 and…

Continued in the next issue of SCR. Previous chapters