And the friend recalls the first time he saw Bobby. He was punching the heavy bag in the Cage Recreation Center, and Charlie Caserta, the little, white-haired manager, was watching him.
"See that guy?" Caserta said. "He was once worth a million dollars."
Move ahead now to a couple of weeks ago, and a friend of Halpern's gets a call from one of the neighborhood guys. "Bobby's in a bad way," the man says. "They switched parole officers on him. They took away Jerry Wells and gave him an oldtimer who's been in the department 25 years. They don't get along. See what you can do, huh?"
The friend places a call to Edward Hammock, the chairman of the parole board. "Yes, Officer Wells was transferred from the Rockland County and Bronx area to Westchester and Mount Vernon. Yes, Halpern was reassigned to Officer Samuel Lindsey. It is not policy to further change a reassignment. I imagine it can be done in an extreme case, but it is not policy. You say Halpern is unhappy? Well, I'll look into it."
The matter is referred to William J. Cashel, the area director. Cashel is a hard-nosed administrator. A conversation with him is like a tennis match with someone who keeps serving before you're in the receiver's box. It's tough to get a word in.
"It's strictly administrative," Cashel says. "The men work geographical areas. Halpern's unhappy with Sam Lindsey? Well, that's too bad. I consider Lindsey a top man. I consider him able to handle any case.
"This nonsense of relationship. Halpern was happy with Jerry Wells because Wells left him alone; he didn't make him toe the line. Well, that's ended now. I'm not going to move Wells back for another reason, too. It's a waste of travel time. It costs us expense money."
Halpern trains in White Plains, which is located in Westchester County, Wells' new territory. This is mentioned to Area Director Cashel.
"Look, my friend," Cashel says, "if Halpern gets in trouble, it's his own fault. You don't go to a surgeon because you like him personally. The last thing I need is for a parolee to tell me who his parole officer is."