The second hand swept up toward the top of my watch. My voice as steady as possible, I directed Basile: “Hit it, Frank!”
The truck lurched forward with gathering momentum, and Basile had it in second gear when he spun the wheel as the closed doors of the brewery rushed toward us.
I sure hope that bumper does the trick—and those doors aren’t stronger than we are, I was thinking just before we hit with a rending crash.
Splintered wood hurtled down on the radiator, while a flying fragment etched a spider-web design in the windscreen glass. My right arm braced against the dashboard, I could feel my left elbow clutched in the terrified grip of the little prohibition man beside me….
It went down in a shower of dust and splinters, as if some giant hand had drawn a curtain aside to disclose a tableau. Five men stood there, frozen. As I leaped from the truck, before it even stopped rolling, one of them, a huge grizzled man started to reach for the gun in his shoulder holster.
My Colt was in my hand, and as he made his move I triggered a shot over his head. His hand dropped away as I shouted over the hollow echo of the shot:
“Hold it! This is a federal raid!”
That Summer I went to the beach in the middle of a heat wave and played cricket all day and came home with my last great attack of sunburn. For a week, I sat covered in cream-coated blisters wearing only a sheet, and in the daytime when both parents were at work, in the house of a neighbour who was a trained nurse. I raided her bookshelves and found The Untouchables by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, the factual book upon which the most brilliant and explosive TV series of the time was based. Forget Fraley—he was just a journalist ghost writer but Ness was an FBI accountant who did the tax return job on Al Capone, and was prone to exaggerate his own action role in events hugely. If not so hugely as Robert Stack did with the character in the TV series. It must be the only accountant in all history who ever did anything interesting, and certainly the only one ever to be turned into a superhero. It might also be the most remarkable case of self-aggrandisement in all history.
The series was much condemned for its excessive violence, but really it was tame by today's standards, amounting mostly to them all blazing away at each other with Thompson machineguns from those wonderful old cars.
Each episode featured a major guest star playing an actual gangster of the time and the story of his life of crime would be fairly accurately portrayed, the conceit being that instead of the many and various coppers who ran these monsters to ground, in the show it was always Ness and his men. This was about as classy as 50s TV ever got.