By Thom L. Jones
Copyright © Thom L. Jones
In the history of New York’s underworld, buried among the mythology that has created the people and places making up this often confusing landscape, there is one story that has grown much bigger over the years than the sum of its parts.
There have been countless narratives, and articles and at least two movies- the 1950 classic, 'The Enforcer,' starring Humphrey Bogart, and one with Peter Falk in 1960- perpetrating the legend of a group of Jewish criminals who banded together to prey like a pack of wolves on their victims, across the continent of North America, murdering a thousand people until they were brought to bay.
Or so the legends tell us.
It became known as Murder Inc. a name coined by a tough, chubby little leprechaun of an Irish reporter called Harry Feeney, when he broke his story in the now defunct New York World-Telegram.
When the news of their crimes did hit the streets, it was a refreshing change to see that all of the hoods and killers had names that did not necessarily end in a vowel. Although Jewish gangsters had been around for years, they had taken second stage over the years to the growing profile of the Italian-American criminals, who were called The Black Hand, or rarely, the Mafia, and most often the mob, particularly in the early 1900s when New York newspapers reported daily on the demise of someone called Louis or Salvatore or Giuseppe.
Gangsters ruled the roost by 1930 in the Big Apple. And there was nothing anyone could do about it.
The DA said so himself.
Thomas Crain, appearing before Judge Samuel Seabury, said that the racketeers were out of control, and that neither he or the police force could think of any way to curb them. There were 421 murders, up 18% on the previous year, and at least 66 of these where gangland rub-outs, all of them unsolved. Bodies were being dumped weekly on street corners, left in the trunks of autos, flopped into the Hudson or East River. Most of these stiffs were turning out to be Italians, and when Joe the Boss went for his last lunch at the Villa Tammaro restaurant on Coney Island, the Daily News reported that, 'Police believe the Masseria killing will be the beginning of gang warfare that will exceed anything New York has yet experienced.”
It was as it happens the end of one, but nobody in authority knew anything, especially the cops. In east Brooklyn, things were starting to heat up a bit as well.
Especially in Brownsville.
Brownsville covered just 2.19 square miles but packed in over 200,000 people. It was then, the most densely inhabited community in Brooklyn. Predominately Jewish, there were over seventy synagogues dotted about the borough, which also, incidentally, contained the only Moorish colony in the whole of New York.
Pitkin Avenue, the main drag, was packed with shops, food halls, delis and variety shops and the language heard on the sidewalk was predominately Yiddish; the food in the shops, mostly kosher. In 1916, Margaret Sanger established the first birth control clinic in America, here on Amboy Street.
On the corner of Livonia, just up from the park, at 779 Saratoga Avenue, sat Midnight Rose’s candy store. Here, was where the boys would meet up each day to think up scams, pick up an assignment to go out and shoot a mug, or just shoot the breeze over a chocolate malt and a game of pinochle. To-day, the building store-front is still there- the store now a deli-grocery- partially boarded up, adorned and decorated with the mindless graffiti that characterizes inner city urban decay, the sidewalk in front carpeted with the detritus of people who have lost all hope and are not afraid to show it. It sits there, waiting for some construction crew to come along and put it out of its misery.
The boys, who referred to themselves as 'The Brownsville Troop,' and at their peak may have numbered as many as thirty, were an unreal assortment of misfits, muggers, dead beats and killers, with names equally as wondrous, including:
Frank 'The Dasher' Abbandano, Seymour 'Blue Jaw' Magoo, Mandy Weiss, Moitle 'Buggsy' Goldstein, Vito 'Chicken Head' Gurino, 'Oscar the Poet,' 'Pittsburgh Phil,' a.k.a. Harry 'Pep' Strauss, 'Little Farvel' Cohen, 'Happy' Maione, Sholem Bernstein, Dukey Maffeatore, Alli 'Tick Tock' Tannenbaum and of course the bete noir of the crew, the man who would help to bring it all tumbling down one day, Abe 'Kid Twist' Reles.
Some of these guys might have worked independently, linking up with others to perform specific jobs; some may have worked in packs, forming new relationships as opportunities arose; others undoubtedly stayed together for the course.
Moving about on the fringes of the troop, a thermometer looking for a temperature, was Gangy Davidoff, a tough Jew in his own right, a personal assistant to another major hood, nicknamed 'Lepke', but more famous in history as the older brother of Bummy Davis, one of America's toughest welter weights, rated by Ring Magazine as one of 100 greatest punchers of all time. Gangy's role in the pack is vague and uncertain, but I have always believed him to have been more than a supporting player.
The store was run by a hard-bitten sixty year old, domineering European immigrant called Rose Gold, always called 'Midnight Rose,' as she kept a light burning for the boys late into the night, to show them the way home. She and her son, Sam 'The Dapper” Siegal' helped Reles’ in his extensive loansharking operation, and just to keep things in the family, her daughter, Shirley Herman loaned a hand when things got busy. Rose was illiterate, unable to read or write English, but an investigation of her bank account once showed that over $400,000 had been deposited and withdrawn in a twelve-month period.
The locals knew who was who of course, and spoke about the boys the way plebes talk about big-shots. Because for most of the poor people in East New York, Brownsville and Ocean Hill, the 'Troop' that dominated that dreary, filth ridden corner, around the candy shop, cowering under the shadow of the elevated track of the number 3 train, was the only group of prosperous people they ever came into contact with as they went about their miserable lives.
They knew that the folk who shaped the world were ruthless, ambitious and without any scruples. The boys might not be able to conjugate a verb, but they could break a leg or carry out a hit quicker and smoother than any MBA from Harvard. These hard-eyed guys believed in money and attitude. When push came to shove, these were tough Jews; but did they constitute an organized gang of killers, and murder hundreds of people, stretching out and utilizing their talents across the continental United States?
As Shakespeare would have said: 'Now there’s the rub.'
Making sense of this goulash of dysfunctional human beings is like peering through a telescope, the lens of which is covered in Saran-wrap.
If they killed anywhere near the 1000 people many sources allege, most of the hits took place outside of New York.
According to Professor Alan Block, criminal historian of Penn State University, 82 murders occurred in the metro New York region between 1930-1939 that could be attributed to organized crime. Another celebrated crime historian Allan May, has pinpointed 50 killings by victim’s name, between 1933-1941 that might be linked directly into the Troop. The New York District Attorney claimed 66 gangland killings between 1930/1931.
There is also a memorandum on file in the New York Municipal Archives that states a conservative estimate of 85 murders. Brooklyn DA William O'Dwyer actually publicly announced on June 4, 1940, that ' 57 murders involving that ring (the troop) had been solved.' However, according to the Daily News in its March 19, 1940 edition, O'Dwyer claimed 21 murders had been committed during 1939 by the troop, so I guess we have to assume that 36 murders occurred prior to 1939 and in the first six months of 1940. Of course, some of the killing might have been registered outside the Brooklyn jurisdiction and probably were.
It can make the head spin, coming to grips with it all.
There was Harry Greenberg, whacked-out in Los Angeles in 1939 as he sat in his car outside his home; Harry Millman, put down in Detroit in 1937, riddled like a salt-cellar while enjoying a drink in a bar, and Al Silverman, who went bye-byes in Connecticut, also in 1939, dangling on a barbed-wire fence in Somers, sliced like diced ham. Maybe we could add to the out-of-state list Abe Wagner, killed in St Paul's in 1932 by George Young and Joey Schaefar, who might have been associates of the troop; but it's a long shot. Still, you can not stretch four into hundreds regardless of how bad you are at mathematics. Two hundred, two fifty tops within the New York area, four known across the country, where did all the rest take place? It's a mystery for sure.
So what was with these Jewish entrepreneurs of death? Just who did they work for and what was their function?
To understand the makeup of the 'Brownsville Troop,'
you have to look at the broader view of just where they sat within the structure of the Jewish/Italian-American underworld power syndicates that operated in this period in New York, and this is as complicated as a jigsaw puzzle put together by a blind man with palsy.
The first 30 years of the twentieth century saw the New York crime scene dominated by gangland turmoil involving Italian-American groups. This essentially ended in 1931 with closure on what has since become known as the Castellammarese War. The mob sorted itself out and settled down into five distinctive groups, each headed by a boss, four of whom came from Sicily.
There is some confusion as to the origin of the fifth, Gaetano Gagliano, who ran what we now know as the Luchese crime family, as so little is known about him. David Critchley, the author of ‘The Origin of Organized Crime
’ claims he was born in Corleone, if so, that would make it a quintuplet of Sicilians who headed up the Mafia crime families. The Jewish mobsters operated alongside their Italian counterparts, and may have superseded them in terms of a historic time frame. Monk Eastman for example, ran a gang of leg-breakers, extortionist and murderers as early as 1893.
In the 1920s, Arnold Rothstein, a big-time gambler, with lots of money, street smarts and all the right connections, was setting his own stamp on the Jewish opportunity criminal activity that bubbled on every street corner, especially in the illegal booze business, following the Volstead Act. It was ‘AR‘ as he was known, who might have fixed the 1919 Baseball World Series, and he was also known to have been a financial minder to prohibition gangsters like Legs Diamond, Owney Madden and Waxy Gordon. He owned night clubs, casinos, racehorses, and may also have been involved in narcotics linked through Lucky Luciano, one of the most prominent hoodlums of the time. Rothstein’s political skills were much in demand, and he was quite possibly, gangland's first dispute arbitrator.
In 1929, Rothstein was out of the picture; shot dead in his suite at the Park Central Hotel, on November 28th. By then, two other Jewish gangsters had grabbed the headlines-Arthur 'Dutch' Flegenheimer, who ran a hugely profitable numbers business on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and Louis 'Lepke' Buchalter, who along with his partner, Jacob Shapiro, effectively controlled the garment industry in midtown Manhattan, through their dominance of labour relations by criminal extortion. There is evidence to suggest that Buchalter may have inherited his rag trade interests from Rothstein after his sudden death.
It was Buchalter in fact, who would come to play an pivotal role in the life of 'Kid Twist' and his goons in the Brownsville Troop
. Born in February 1897, he had started out as a teenage enforcer and petty thief, before locking in with another violent street thug, Jacob Shapiro, sometime in 1914. 'Gurrah' as he became known, was two years older than Buchalter, and they became a formidable duo on the mean streets of Manhattan.
By the early 1930s, they were controlling enterprises in the garment trade, baking, trucking and window cleaning industries, and the motion picture operatives union, extorting millions of dollars annually.
Buchalter (right) became the most influential Jewish gangster in the New York area. He was unique in another sense also, being the only mob czar who would have to pay the ultimate punishment for his years of sins and transgressions. On March 4th., 1944, he was executed in Sing Sing prison for his involvement in the 1936 murder of Joe Rosen, a former garment trucker, gunned down in his candy store in Brooklyn.
By this point, Murder Inc. had gone the way of the dinosaur. The Troop
was history. Seven of its ace hit men were fried by the state, and one had found out, the hard way that cloud walking worked only for fairies.
The man who you could say became the canary who could sing but couldn't fly was Abraham Reles. Born in 1905, in New York, of Austrian immigrants, by the time he turned stool pigeon in 1940, and started blabbing, 'like a victrola with kinky hair and a non stop switch,' as the Brooklyn D.A. described him, Abe had been arrested 38 times, on charges ranging from malicious mischief to homicide. Standing five feet two inches in all his towering height, with a fire-plug of a body, he looked like anyone's worst nightmare.
With his beady, close set eyes, broken nose, thick, podgy face topped with that Rastafarian bob, body odour to make a horse sneeze, long arms hanging way past his waist, and fists bigger than Texas, he was a man not to mess with, under any circumstances; someone who would write his name on a bullet, so you knew the last thing on his mind. His fingers were so thick, they each averaged over an inch in diameter at their tips. He talked with a strange off-key lisp, and when he walked, it looked as though he was trying to shake off his shoes. Abe Reles (left) was a lusus naturae
in a cheap woollen suit and check cap, sucking on a Chesterfield.
Muddy Kasof and Jake 'The Painter,' and Rocco Morganti and Moe Greenblat and Jack Paley along with the brothers Shapiro, Joey Silver and Ruben Smith did try to mess with him, and he helped them onto the elevator to heaven without loosing a breath. It's unlikely any of them would have had time to hear the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, as Abe eased them on their way.
Abe and his closest followers, guys like Bugsy and Happy, the Dasher and Pep, were in essence a loose confederation of career criminals. Strong-arm artists, shy-locks, extortionists-they were a charming mob of psychopaths-who had banded together early in the 1930s and at some stage, made the decision to take over the action in Brownsville, by removing the then current crime cartel headed by the Shapiro brothers. This, they achieved in 1934, when they dumped the last man standing, Willie Shapiro into a grave on a Canarsie beach. They shot him and strangled him for good measure, but poor Willie eventually suffocated in his sandy coffin.
Reles was a loyal buddy of Louis Capone (no relation to Big Al over in the Windy City) who ran a pasiticceria
shop in Ocean Hill, just off the Eastern Parkway, a hop, skip and a jump from Midnight Rose's. Lou served the best java and Italian pastries in town, and along with his brother Gesuela, a union delegate, worked on the shady side of the street. Louis was short and stocky with watery blue eyes and hair that was turning gray, although he was only mid-thirties. Sometime prior to 1928, he and Albert Anastasia formed a relationship, and Al was a frequent visitor to the cafe.
Louis (right) had made some serious contacts in life, like Albert and Buchalter. Al was perhaps at this time, the underboss in the Mafia crime family run by Vincent and Phil Mangano, based in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. Anastasia was one of the most dangerous men in the New York underworld, and could have been the contact that stitched in the deal between Capone, Buchalter and Reles, leading to the establishment of the executive, or should that be execution arm of the Brownsville Troop
. It seems unlikely that Anastasia was ever the boss of any of these Jewish goons. His position was I think, that of a dominant figure in a power base that used the Troop as and when it suited them. He was only ever, in my opinion, one of three, not one of one, in his link into the cartel.
In essence, Murder Inc., was just the means to an end for Anastasia, Buchalter and their associates. In the shifting and ever changing sands that formed the treacherous New York underworld, where men ratted on each other as easily as they killed one another, there was a definite need for an enforcement branch, a group of hard-ass killers who would drop a mug on the nod anytime, anywhere, as the need arose. And this was what the Troop was accomplished at doing. Murder was a commodity to trade, merchandise to be marketed. They did more than kill people of course. They loan-sharked and extorted and boosted, ran the slot-machine business, crap games, provided strong-arm muscle for union extortion business and all those other things that unscrupulous people do to make a living, but their propensity for violence was unquestionably their raison d'etre
However, the linkage between the leading players in this Little Shop of Horrors was nowhere near as far-fetched and widely spread as tales about it have suggested. There is for example, no evidence, that I know of, to suggest that Abe Reles and any of his accomplices killed for Buchalter (the link that gave them their greatest notoriety) prior to 1936, and it was all over by 1940.
Logically, I think it would follow to the Brownsville boys that as Louis Capone was a loyal friend and supporter of Anastasia who was a powerful crime boss, then by default, Al who was bigger by far than Louis, was their boss as well. These two powerful men were patrons as well as customers of the troop. It was a given that Al would be consulted before they did any hits, or in the euphemism of their very unusual trade, 'take' a guy, or 'drop a package.'
However, I have never found any evidence to suggest that Anastasia led the boys. If they thought they had a snitch in their ranks, they might check with Albert first, and he would okay the hit. Often, on jobs, they would consult him just as a matter of respect. After all, they did not want to go around inadvertently killing someone who could turn out to be a friend or business partner of a powerful Mafia boss. In the strange and noxious world they inhabited, men often killed each other to settle a personal grudge; or a slight, under the guise of group safety planning, so everyone had to be extra careful, especially around Albert.
As Professor Alan Block pointed out in his book 'East Side, West Side,'
very few of the Troop
's killings were done at Anastasia's request; the Brownsville syndicate was a group making money from a variety of extraordinary activities, but never a dime from murdering anybody. The people they killed, with few exceptions, were competitors or informers, actual and potential, who threatened their interests, especially in the garment trade.
To add more shades of complexity to an already complicated environment, Anastasia also operated through his own family of enforcers, hit men like Giaocchino Parisi and Tony Romeo, and Joe Coppola. Buchalter employed his personal, individual pack of killers, hoods such as Charlie Workman, Mendy Weiss and Albert Tannenbaum, who just to make things absolutely confusing, sometimes worked with the Troop
on hits. It's easy to understand how the police had such difficulty pinning down anyone, any time, for any killing connected into this mob, whatever its generic origin. It must have been harder than picking peas out of a pod wearing garden gloves.
The cops however got their big break early in the new year of the new decade.
On January 24th., 1940, a low level street thug called Harry Rudolph dropped a dime to the District Attorney's Office. Harry, who was sometimes called a 'full-mooner' because he was ten cents short of a dollar, was in the jug doing a short one for a misdemeanour, locked away in the City Workhouse, on Rikers Island, on the East River.
It's hard to figure out just why he opened this can of worms. His sentence was lightweight, and the Island was one of the city's better slams. However, he did hate the guys in the Troop. He told Burton Turkus, an assistant district attorney for Brooklyn, that he could clear up a murder case dating back to November, 1933. The victim was one Alex 'Red' Alpert, who had been his trusty friend, and who was apparently whacked out by Reles, Goldstein and Dukey Maffetore.
In a sequence of events, when they brought him in for questioning, Dukey broke down like scrambled eggs, and implicated one of his friends, Abe 'Pretty' Levine, in another hit which had gone down in 1937. And when 'Pretty' was hauled in for the third, he fell apart like a roll of wet toilet paper. He ratted on the big ones, implicating Maione, Abbandano, Capone, Goldstein and Reles, naming them all as members of a complex and widespread criminal conspiracy that specialized in the removal business. Human removal that is.
For the Brownsville Troop
, bad would only get worse.
Arrested in February, and detained in the infamous Tombs prison, Abe Reles reached his own epiphany sometime during March. Although his indictment was doubtful to say the least, based as it was on the uncorroborated testimony of accomplices to those crimes, for some reason, 'Kid Twist' wanted out. His first arrest was on March 3rd., 1925, for felony assault, and between then and February 2nd., 1940, when he came in for the last time, he had averaged a collar once every 78 days, excluding the time he spent in prison.
Maybe in the loneliness of his prison cell he had been reading the works of the formidable medieval Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Schlomo Yitzchaki:
‘Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.’
When questioned by a attorney in court, he replied: 'I was disgusted with the way I was living. It was my life. I was fed up with my life.'
Maybe, and it’s a lot simpler to understand this, Abe could see the writing on the wall. Everyone else was blabbing as quickly as a stenographer could record, but none of them had the knowledge that Reles had, locked away in his curly headed slab of a skull.
So the canary sang, for twelve days, non stop; keeping a bank of secretaries employed filling twenty-five notebooks, cramming pages with thousands of words- an encyclopaedia of mobs and murders.
He became his own personal Wikipedia of criminal knowledge, a reservoir fed by the independent input from years of mixing with people doing terrible things to each other; stupefying his audience with so much information on murder and mayhem, their eyes watered, and their throats wilted and shrunk. He saw his life, as Charles McCarry once remarked, ‘with the joyful clarity of the incurably insane.’
He was the key witness in helping to send Goldstein, Maione and Abbandano to the electric chair.
Abe knew where the bodies had been buried, and the cops were digging them up from all over the place as a consequence. He told them about Peter Panto, the Brooklyn docker who fought against the mob domination of the ports, and as a result, went missing in 1939; Irving Penn a wholly honest citizen shot in error for union leader Phil Orlorsky that the mob wanted removed and Joe Rosen in the trucking industry, who had been forced out of his business and had to start a candy store to survive, and then did not.
These were only the tip of the iceberg:
Ambery and Cooperman, and Landau and Kasoff, and Krakower and Friedman, and Shulman and Shapiro, and Tannebaum and Tietlebaum, the list was endless. A Jewish telephone directory of the dead waiting for their numbers to be disconnected.
The DA was leading up to the big fish, Anastasia, when it all, literally, flew out the window. Along with three other informers, Abe was held in protective custody in a ten-room complex at the Half-Moon Hotel on the boardwalk at Coney Island. He lived there for a year, with shifts of New York Police uniformed cops watching his every move. Except one.
Early in the morning of November 12th., 1941, Abe Reles went out of his bedroom window, Room 623, falling forty-two feet onto a gravelled extension roof that covered the hotel kitchen. He landed on his butt, bouncing forward to smash face down onto the granite chips. Like Tom in Tom and Jerry, getting the bad end of another caper gone wrong.
The impact, according to the autopsy of Dr. Gregory Robillard, fractured his spine, ruptured internal organs and flooded his lungs with blood. The canary had landed. The man who had never obeyed a law in his life, finally paid homage to the one that counted the most.
For him that is: Newton's Law of Gravity,
Although investigations carried on until 1951, no clear evidence ever emerged as to how he took that final flight, down onto the dew-soaked roof. Sometime after 7 a.m., the cops paid to protect him in life, found him crumpled in death, his white, puffy face snuggling into the crushed stone, the wind flapping his white shirt, his new black Gibson shoes scuffed and scratched from the impact.
Joe Valachi, a soldier in the Genovese crime family, who became the first serious mob informant of the twentieth century, saw no mystery in the demise of Reles.
'I never met anybody,' he said, ' who thought Abe went out of that window because he wanted to.'
When they put Abe Reles in the ground, in his understated pine casket, at the Mount Royal Cemetery, in Ridgewood, Queens, a small animal scurried across the earth piled up at the grave side. 'That's a gopher....the rat's in the grave,' shouted one of the mourners. Abe's wife screamed like a banshee. She would spend the rest of her life carrying despair around, like a shopping list, ticking off items of grief as she wandered through her own landscape of never-ending sadness and regret.
Abe'Kid Twist' Reles was thirty-four years old when he died, leaving behind a six year old son, and memories that filled some people like a chest full of rusty nails.
There was a rumour going around a few years back that one of the cops guarding Reles was Charley Burns. He'd been implicated in the kidnapping, murder and body disposal of New York Judge Joseph Force Crater, who vanished off the face of the earth in 1930. He became the most famous person in American history to disappear, at that time, earning news headlines such as ' The Missingest Man in New York.' Burns may well have guarded Abe at some time, but wasn't there the morning he went out of the window.
Years after Abe died, innuendo suggested that Frank Costello the powerful Mafia boss, had paid $50,000 to make sure the Kid never got around to finishing off his testimony. Maybe he did. There were many other people in high places who wanted to make sure that nothing in the way of evidence would come to incriminate Albert Anastasia, who at the age of thirty-eight had risen high and mighty in the New York underworld. One of these was James J. Moran, the venal and manipulating Chief Clerk of Brooklyn DA, William O'Dwyer. Close friends of Joe Adonis, another powerful New York mobster, Moran and Frank were pals for over forty years; Moran was also close to Tammany Hall's manipulating Irving Sherman, who in turn was in deep with Costello. I can quite easily envisage a changing of brown envelopes stuffed with cash between all or either of these men, to ensure that Abe went on that one-way flight. We'll never know in this instance, but it's tempting to believe that sometimes crime actually does pay.
Anastasia (photo right) had left Calabria, in southern Italy, an uncouth young man of seventeen, and at the time of Abe's death, his influence was so great, some sources believed it even led into the department of the Brooklyn District Attorney, via Moran, as well as the inner reaches of the NYPD. A man with such clout, he might easily guarantee a sergeant and five police officers would sleep soundly into a winter’s dawn, as their charge, like Icarus, found his wings of wax no match for the heat of a determined mobster’s revenge.
Abe 'Kid Twist' Reles was the third to go. Bugsy Goldstein and Pep Strauss had gone to their maker via the electric chair, at Sing Sing, on June 12th. Happy Maione was next on the time-to-go list, connecting into his final appointment with death a couple of months after Reles died, in the same hot-seat as his friends, on February 19th., 1942.
Finally, late in the evening of March 4th., 1944, their execution having been delayed 48 hours by order of Governor Thomas Dewey, Louis Capone, Mendy Weiss and last, but certainly not least, Lepke Buchalter, their heads shaved, dressed in white socks and white shirts and black pants, went off in sequence, in death row, like the Three Stooges, wondering perhaps, what to do for an encore.
Frank Hogan, the Manhattan DA tried to make a deal with Lepke before his execution, but Buchalter was staunch to the end. He wouldn't snitch even to save his life. He had let it be known that he had information that could bring down New York City elected officials, national labour leaders, and public office holders. There was speculation in the newspapers that Buchalter could finger someone in the President Roosevelt administration. This could help Dewey in his anticipated presidential campaign. Dewy decided not to engage with Buchalter, and at the end, the Jewish mob boss folded his hand and accepted the inevitable..
At 11:16pm, the executioner threw the switch, and the man who might have been the toughest Jew of them all found out the hard way in a bewildering brilliance of noise and sensation that as noted British journalist Gillian Reynolds once remarked, ‘the arithmetic of ordinary life became the algebra of universal human experience.’
If it ever had been incorporated in the technical understanding of the word, by the early hours of March 5th., 1944, Murder Inc. was without doubt, fully and finally liquidated. Sholem and Blue Jaw, Dukey and Mikey, and Gangy Cohen and the others who escaped prosecution or the electric chair, disappeared into the wastelands of America to live out their lives in quiet desperation; Alli Tannenbaum, shame on him, finished up selling lampshades in Georgia in the 1950s.
All that would remain, would be the years of speculation and innuendo, weaving itself around the legend, growing stronger through time, as writers and crime historians speculated on the haunting image of an organization whose sheer existence was so extraordinary as to make it almost incomprehensible.
Euhemerus the Greek mythographer believed that fables were based on traditional accounts of real people and events. He may have been no slouch in his field, but if the author Thomas Wolfe was right, and Only the Dead know Brooklyn
, then they are certainly, and without a doubt, the only ones who know the real truth about The Brownsville Troop.