Murder, Inc.: The Story of "the Syndicate" by Burton B. Turkus, Sid Feder |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Murder, Inc.: The Story of

Murder, Inc.: The Story of "the Syndicate"

by Burton B. Turkus, Sid Feder

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“Murder, Inc.” was the moniker of the Syndicate’s firing squad, a ruthless group of men guilty of professionally committing 1,000 murders. Murder, Inc. is the book that exposed the Syndicate to the eyes of the world. First published in 1951, it rose to the top of the best-seller list, but later fell out-of-print. Now, here is a new edition


“Murder, Inc.” was the moniker of the Syndicate’s firing squad, a ruthless group of men guilty of professionally committing 1,000 murders. Murder, Inc. is the book that exposed the Syndicate to the eyes of the world. First published in 1951, it rose to the top of the best-seller list, but later fell out-of-print. Now, here is a new edition of the classic that tells all about the great gangsters of the late ’30s and ’40s: Frank Costello, Louis ”Lepke” Buchalter, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Buggsy Siegel, Johnny Torrio, Willie Sutton, Joey Adonis, Dutch Schultz. Here are the stories of how Pittsburgh Phil and Buggsy Goldstein literally set Puggy Feinstein on fire; how and why Kid Twist Reles sang to the D.A. for twelve straight days, confessing dozens of murders; how the killers’ boss, Albert Anastasia, slipped through the arms of the law.From the highest levels of the U.S. government down to the lowest levels of street crime, the Syndicate infiltrated American life. Murder, Inc. tells how it was formally organized by the nation’s ranking mob lords at the end of Prohibition to control all crime, from gambling to crooked politics to labor extortion and murder. It describes the carefully built organization with its board of governors and its kangaroo court, and shows how this massive and powerful organization was finally broken.For it was only from the murderers themselves that the truth could be learned. And no man was more qualified to tell the whole story than Burton Turkus, the Brooklyn assistant D.A. who listened to the killers’ tales and who sent seven of them to the electric chair. Together with Sid Feder, a veteran journalist, they produced Murder, Inc., the definitive work on the most dangerous group of gangsters the law has ever known.

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Da Capo Press
Publication date:
Quality Paperbacks Series
Edition description:
1st Da Capo Press ed
Product dimensions:
5.37(w) x 8.26(h) x 1.11(d)

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Don't blame it all on Brooklyn

Murder, Inc.: National Syndicate--one thousand killings, coast-to-coast--Pittsburgh Phil, traveling salesman in homicide--the Mazza Mob goes to Minneapolis--the blueprint is the same today.

Early in 1940, while digging into the source of local felony, the District Attorney's office in Brooklyn ran head on into an unbelievable industry. This organization was doing business in assassination and general crime across the entire nation, along the same corporate lines as a chain of grocery stores.

The ensuing investigation exposed a vast network dealing in every known form of rackets and extortion, with murder as a by-product to that "business"--an incident to the maintenance of trade. The disclosures, in fact, uncovered a national Syndicate with coast-to-coast ramifications. It is, moreover, the same national Syndicate decried today by all law, up to and including the United States Senate, but far more closely knit than is generally and popularly believed.

As a member of the District Attorney's staff, I prosecuted the board of directors of the death department of this cartel, and sent seven men to the electric chair. (One other is serving eighty years.) Five of these seven were members of the self-styled Brooklyn combination, the branch office which served as the firing squad for all of the organization. The other two were ranking magnates in the national underworld. One was Lepke, most powerful of all labor and industrial rackets czars; the other, his operations manager, Mendy Weiss, a hulking mobster who coolly ordered murder on a country-wide basis. Their only connection with Brooklyn was as contract employers of the combination. They operated strictly on a trans-America scale.

In all the history of crime, there has never been an example of organized lawlessness equal to the Syndicate. Details are not for the squeamish--this is a warning here and now. In a ten-year period, upward of one thousand murders were committed from New England to California, Minnesota to New Orleans and Miami, by the combination, either directly or through the technique it developed. They were done for the Syndicate. The technique became, and, in fact, remains to this day, the blueprint for organized gang throat-cutting. However, murder, I must emphasize, was not the big business. The rackets were. The assassinations were ordered, contracted and performed solely to sustain those rackets.

Fantastic? It can't happen in your town? It did!

The facts were corroborated in testimony that satisfied juries and the highest courts in the land; they were documented in affidavited truths; they were unfolded, in fact, by the killers themselves. In our investigation, for the first and only time, the Syndicate was "broken from within," which is the only way organized crime can be attacked. Abe (Kid Twist) Reles, an arrogant self-glorifying gang leader who murdered more than a dozen men, turned State's evidence, along with a number of his less illustrious cohorts, and the pattern of national organized gangland was exposed. This was an association in which every mob of any importance in the United States had membership. It was a national ring put together on the lines of a cartel.

The blueprint has never worn out. A Charley Binaggio is killed in an open political clubhouse in Kansas City; a Detective Lieutenant, Bill Drury, is "rubbed out" in Chicago on a September day in 1950 for becoming too "nosy"; a Buggsy Siegel is eliminated as he sits reading a newspaper in the living room of a California mansion; Philly Mangano, an original Murder, Inc., staff gunman, is dropped into a Brooklyn swamp in 1951 with three bullets in his head. All make it brutally evident that the pattern is still in use.

There was no method of murder their fiendish ingenuity overlooked. They used the gun, the strangling rope, the ice pick--commonplace tools for homicide. There was the unimaginative mobstyle ride, the shotgun blast on the lonely street. And there were the bizarre touches, too. Dozens were dropped into quicklime pits. Others were buried alive, cremated, roped up in such a way that they strangled themselves by their own struggles for life. The killers thought they had come up with an especially appropriate effect the night they tied a slot machine to the body of a pinball operator who was "cheating," and dropped him into a resort lake.

The Syndicate's tentacles reached everywhere and anywhere. It brought organized crime to California to stay; Cleveland's infamous Mayfield Road Gang and Chicago's Capone crew, which continued operations after Scarface Al's finish, staffed that Far Western office with able hands. A Seattle hoodlum, still in the picture today, represented the Northwest.

Frank Costello's New Orleans slot machines were linked up, and the Fischettis of Chicago and Tony Gizzo and his heirs in Kansas City. The Purple Gang of Detroit held a franchise. The racing wire service had many connections with it in ensuing years. The Miami gambling ring (also known as the Northern Mob) belonged, and the St. Paul combination. The New Jersey outfit, Lepke and Charley (Lucky) Luciano in Manhattan ... Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Dallas--whatever the locale, the underworld of every community of any size in the nation was "in."

A string of hideouts from coast to coast and into Canada was cunningly fitted into the outline. In the late thirties and early forties, as the heat of the Dewey rackets investigations in Manhattan and our murder probe in Brooklyn intensified, potential witnesses were sent out of town in all directions. One would go to Salt Lake City, where the relative of a minor mob affiliate had a prominent business. Several more would hurry off upstate, to the Saratoga area where the Spa offered accommodations large enough for groups. We learned of at least one who went to New Orleans and was told there would be a job waiting with Frank Costello on the slot machines. Sun Valley, Idaho, was a refuge for California boys. A former New York hoodlum operated a popular hostelry there. Kansas City was one of the most cordial hideout locales. Mendy holed up between Kansas City and Denver for almost two years, while New Jersey and New York sought him for murders and the federal government hunted him for narcotics enterprises in New York and Texas. The mobsters who turned State's evidence told us that, in Detroit, concealment was ready at all times for killers who were too "hot" at home. Wherever they went, Syndicate hoodlums on the lam were warmly received.

Little about the organization has been changed up to now. Each mob operated its own racket or rackets independently, collected its own take, was forced to cut no one in. Besides its own operations, each co-operated with every other mob. On some of the larger takes, the various gangs shared the profits, as they continue to do today, in matters like gambling and narcotics. The ties that bound them, and bind them yet, lay in a formal code of ethics, a set of bylaws ruling all, a board of governors for policy-making, a kangaroo court for justice, with complete and final say on life and death. All these were legislated when a group of the very top ganglords agreed to amalgamation in 1934. All are very real and concrete today.

The national ring deals in rackets big and small. No avenue of easy money is neglected. That is its reason for being: quick, easy illegal money. There are gambling and vice on a national scale, the profits running into appalling figures; dope-peddling, national and international. A far-flung loan-shark extortion operated from a Detroit-Brooklyn axis. More damaging to the general welfare, the mobsters tear at the very heart of honest business with their industrial-rackets and labor extortions. They have controlled whole industries. They have raised the price of food and household commodities, boosted clothing costs and affected the pocketbook of virtually every average citizen in America.

Hard-working laborers have been forced to pay tribute in kickbacks from their day's wages. That has applied to any number of unions in which the thugs "muscled" power. The parasitic pirates hire out to foment or break strikes for fancy fees. On occasion, they have even hired out to both sides in the same dispute. They are that versatile. They infiltrated many unions and, once in, have any number of ways to make them pay off. Take one popular example:

The mob's fronts inside the union would incite a faction of the membership into pushing through a vote for a wage increase. The fronts generally were union delegates (through phony elections). Thus, they would carry the wage demands to the employer. The employer knew that refusal meant acid on valuable merchandise, bombings, wrecked trucks, smashed windows--and beatings. The employer gave in. Now the fronts switched the attack.

"This is going to cost you $50,000 a year in wages," they would say. "If you give us $25,000 cash, you won't have to give the raise. We'll straighten it out."

The deal would be made. The $25,000 would go into the mob treasury. The fronts would sorrowfully report that the raise had fallen through--maybe next time it would win. Any union men who objected were killed or savagely beaten.

The Syndicate was, in short, a powerful drain on the very economy of the country, more common than peculiar to every section. It still is.

Now, in the operation of an industry of such magnitude and character, murder was necessary, at times, to prevent interference with business. That is where the Brooklyn branch came in. With its special talents for killing, this was the Extermination Department for Murder, Inc. These killers were not for hire. Their services were limited exclusively to the Syndicate, for use when business required. It was not at so much per throat-cutting or ice-picking or bag job, but rather murder on a year-round flat fee from those gangs in the organization which used the service. It was murder by contract; murder by retainer.

Not that these mobs did not have their own staff killers. But, as often as not, it was desirable to import out-of-towners for such matters. Thus, one of the combination's slaughterers could be--and frequently was--brought into Cleveland or Boston or Hollywood to do a job, and then depart. No one would even know he had been around. Except, perhaps, the victim--and he would be very dead. The boys in the town where it happened, benefiting from advance information, would have iron-bound alibis set up.

Yet, during the entire investigation and prosecutions of 1940 and 1941, through all the drawn-out legal tricks by which the seven convicted killers tried every court and appeal to avoid walking that last mile--and through the ten years since--Murder, Inc., has been irritatingly labeled a Brooklyn production exclusively, like the baseball Dodgers or the sardine-packed beach at Coney Island. Even now, people say that Murder, Inc., was Brownsville and East New York and Ocean Hill, those neighborhoods in northeast Brooklyn which spawned these experts at death. Actually, on the national scene, Murder, Inc., was about as peculiar to Brooklyn as the hot dog.

If a traveling salesman lives in New York and has a sales territory in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, his business would hardly be classed as a New York operation. In just the same way, the Brooklyn triggermen were the traveling salesmen of the national crime cartel.

Harry Strauss was one of them. They called him Big Harry and Pep and, mostly, they called him Pittsburgh Phil, because he was the dandy of the outfit. Pittsburgh Phil would fairly purr when you referred to him as the Beau Brummell of the Brooklyn underworld. To the others, homicide was purely business; to Pep, it was practically ecstasy. He reveled in manslaughter; delighted in death.

"Like a ballplayer, that's me," he explained his enthusiasm once to an associate. "I figure I get seasoning doing these jobs here. Somebody from one of the big mobs spots me. Then, up to the big leagues."

He was vicious as a Gestapo agent, as casually cold-blooded as a meat-grinding machine in a butcher shop. He had such a lust for bloodletting that he would volunteer to handle "contracts" even when it was not his turn to work. He was such an eager and capable killer that when out-of-town mobs had special traveling salesman "commissions," he was the first choice, in most instances, to be sent out.

In the course of our investigation, various of the mob informers "sang" of the exploits of Pittsburgh Phil. It was quite an aria, for Phil killed more than thirty men in more than a dozen cities. He took on assignments in Boston and Chicago, Philadelphia and Miami and Detroit. The Connecticut State Police, for instance, were baffled for seven years by one particularly messy murder. When they heard of our discoveries of Big Harry's handiwork at homicide, they decided their unsolved murder bore the earmarks of his technique.

It seems that as the chill fall dawn came up on November 20, 1933, the first rays of the sun etched out all that was left of Al Silverman, ex-convict and bootlegger, dangling from a barbedwire fence in Somers, Conn. Al had been stabbed. His face had been battered so it could not have been recognized even by his pals, Lepke and Longy Zwillman, who does business in Newark and to this day is referred to as "the King of Jersey." Motive? Take your pick. Murder, Inc., was not advertising its contracts in the papers, those days.

The police of Detroit, too, had a murder that fitted the artistry of Pittsburgh Phil, with the possible collaboration of Happy Maione, who was head of the Ocean Hill hooligans, one of the two squads in the Brooklyn troop. He was called Happy because he wore such a perpetually surly look that when he walked along the street, the neighbors would actually pull down the shades.

Harry Millman, a Detroit gangster, was marked for murder in the summer of 1937. The local boys ingeniously placed a bomb under the hood of his car, set to go off as soon as he stepped on the starter. Only, that was the day Millman sent Willie Holmes to pick up his car for him. It was Willie who was blown into little pieces. Millman was wary now. The job needed an outsider he would not recognize. So the Detroit mob called for help. Three months after the bomb backfired, Millman was in a crowded restaurant one evening, at dinner hour. Two men walked in, poured twelve slugs into him, wounded five other diners, and walked out. No one ever saw the two gunmen again--no one, that is, who could identify them. However, no one would have been surprised if Pittsburgh Phil and Happy Maione were aboard an eastbound plane that evening.

Naturally, Pittsburgh Phil filed no records for posterity. Many of his deeds were so unusually "good," though, that even he, close-lipped as he was, had to tell his pals when he returned from a selling trip. Thus, they became gossip in the underworld, legends of bloodletting. And when some of his very close friends started to talk during the murder investigations, they told us. That is how we found out about the time the mob boss in Jacksonville, Fla., sent word that he had a contract.

Clearly, the man who had incurred the displeasure of the Jacksonville boss was allied with the underworld, although a man's station in life had nothing to do with the mob's decision to kill him. The local leader did not want to employ his own torpedoes. It was the sort of extermination that would bring the police around the next day, checking up on alibis.

Pittsburgh Phil, always eager to oblige, was assigned. A day or two later, he and his little black bag landed at Jacksonville airport. The contents of Pep's bag were varied. There usually was a gun. Since he was versatile, there might be a rope or an ice pick. Of course, there was also fastidious Phil's clean shirt.

Waiting at the airport was one of the junior officers of the Jacksonville chapter who was to "finger" the victim to be. He drove Phil past the man's home. "That one on the right there--on the corner," he indicated. "The one with the stone stoop The guy comes out at the same time every morning. You're lucky. It's an easy pop."

This was definitely the wrong approach to the inflated ego of the visiting killer. "You fingered the bum--you did your job," he snapped. "Never mind how easy it is; I'm doing this."

Overnight, Phil pondered the setup. He had had only one quick glance at the spot, and that, in the dark. Something about it, however, did not look right to the expert technician. Next day, he set out to look over the layout by himself. Precisely at eleven, just as his local informant had said, the prospective victim walked out of his cottage. For a moment, he paused on the stone steps, taking in the warm Florida sunshine.

As the man stood there, Pittsburgh Phil's hunch was confirmed: this was no place for a murder. Here was a house on a corner. That meant two-way traffic. The hour was approaching noon. Housewives, motorists, delivery people, bill collectors--all with eyes and memories--were stirring. Besides, no preparations had been made for a getaway car, with an expert wheelman. There was no "crash car," to block pursuit. No getaway route had been mapped. None of the careful preparedness by which the Brooklyn troop made itself the top in its field. Evidently, the local hoods were simply fingering the victim and leaving the job completely to the visitor.

"These guys are farmers," Phil shrugged, annoyed that they should be so ignorant of finesse in the fine art of assassination, Brooklyn style. It was all right with Phil, though, that they were leaving him alone. "At least, these farmers won't get in the way," he thought. Nevertheless, he was completely irked at the entire job. It was becoming complicated.

Next morning, as the victim left his home at eleven and started up the street, he did not notice the dapper, custom-tailored stranger who picked up his trail.

"Even if it takes all day, I'll tail him and find the right spot," Phil vowed.

Where his quarry went Phil followed. He sat at the next table in the restaurant when the man stopped for dinner. He noted every movement. Finally the victim walked up to the ticket window of a movie theater. Never realizing he was marked for murder--and that it was right behind him--the man disappeared inside. Phil did the same. He was pleased to note that the crowd had gathered early, and that his target took a seat in the very last row.

The gangster leaned against the wall in the dark and contemplated the silhouette of his man. As he leaned there, Phil's hand, quite by chance, came in contact with a glass panel set in the wall. He looked down. The panel fronted an oblong niche. Printed on it was the message:


Inside, as in countless public buildings, was a sturdy ax for combating flaming walls. A bright light lit in his bloodthirsty skull. Here were the means, the weapon and the method for getaway all neatly delivered, as if he had placed an order for it. Now it was "an easy pop."

"I take the ax and sink it in the guy's head in the dark," the killer's mind worked rapidly. "It's the kind of a thing that will make a lot of holler. Dames and guys will make a run out of here. I just run with them--and the getaway is a cinch. This is a natural."

He slid the panel back. His fingers curled eagerly, almost longingly, around the ax handle. He felt it for heft. It would never strike Phil as odd that he was about to bury the blade of a fire ax into the head of a man whose name he would very likely never know.

He moved in, the ax hanging from one hand, concealed along his leg. Another moment or two, and the job would be neatly done. But at that moment, the target did something that has annoyed anyone who has ever gone to a motion-picture theater. Another patron, well up in front, rose and walked out, leaving a vacant seat. Phil's intended victim leaped alertly to his feet and dashed for the "empty."

That did it. That was the last disappointing straw. Disgusted, he slammed the ax back into its wall box. He stormed out of the theater and back to his hotel. It was the final touch. Even Pittsburgh Phil's lust for murder couldn't keep his interest alive now. It was a jinx job, he was positive. Thoroughly fed up with the hoodoo contract, he headed for the airport and took the first plane back to Brooklyn.

The next day he reported to his boss. This was essential. He had left a contract unfilled. A complaint from the Jacksonville commander could convene the cartel's kangaroo court. Desertion from an assignment in the mob is every bit the serious life-and-death matter that it is in the Army in a combat zone in time of war.

"Those Florida jerks wanted me to do a cowboy job," he sneered. To both Pittsburgh Phil and his boss, sinking an ax into a man's head in a darkened theater was perfect technique. To shoot a man off his front doorstep, without the mapped-out getaway, the "hot" car, the other fine details carefully worked out, was truly a "cowboy job." The boss understood at once.

To the boys on the Corner--Kid Twist Reles and Blue Jaw Magoon--Phil dolefully told of his frustration.

"Just when I get him set up--the bum turns out to be a Goddamned chair-hopper," he mournfully concluded.

By mergers, trade agreements and intensive salesmanship--backed by its artistry at carrying out contract murder--the Brooklyn combination was able to grow from a position as just another gang across the East River (and not the most powerful, at that) to one of pre-eminence in its field in the national crime industry.

With all its throat-cutting, though, the troop never overlooked the fact that, to the Syndicate, murder was secondary to the rackets which were the source of income. And the bandits of Brooklyn, Inc., were deep in those. Early in our investigation, any number of ties that bound them to cross-country crime came to light.

Louis Capone, for instance, had excellent connections with the Purple Mob in Detroit in the loan-shark operation, which covered a wide portion of the nation. Louis was no relation to Scarface Al, except that both were murderers and thugs. Suave and well groomed, with iron-gray air, Louis had the appearance of a diplomat. You could almost picture him in striped trousers and a tail coat.

Capone ran a pasticceria--the old-world trade name for a shop dealing in thick black coffee, rich pastry and assorted delicacies. The place was a success. It is feared, however, that the excellent spaghetti sauce and the creamy cakes so popular in the sidewalk cafes of Rome and Naples were only a front for Louis in Brooklyn.

One of the regular patrons was Albert Anastasia, overlord of the water front. Back in the early days before syndication, when the Brownsville thugs of Kid Twist Reles and the Ocean Hill hooligans of Happy Maione were just wild punks, Louis used to feed them. And, from filling their stomachs, it was no trick at all for him and Anastasia to advance to filling their heads with ideas on lawlessness, especially since they were already well along the road to self-education in this field.

Capone held considerable power in the Syndicate through his Detroit contacts. When Dukey Maffetore, just a punk in the Mob, turned informer in the spring of 1940, he mentioned the matter.

"The Purple Gang and the Brooklyn combination," Dukey explained, "controlled the loan-shark racket all over. They had a real close deal. Every week they exchanged money for the shylocking."

The partnership must have been obvious, indeed, if Dukey, who was only on the fringe, was cognizant of it.

Our informers said both Capone and Anastasia were allied with Joseph Doto, who is far better known by his underworld label of Joey Adonis--or Joey A., for short. In those days, Adonis lived in his bombproof home in Brooklyn, and for years had been especially close to Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. Today he resides in a mansion in Fort Lee, N. J., high on the Palisades towering above the Hudson, but close enough so that his influence can still be felt in Brooklyn--politically, socially and industrially. And one of his neighbors still is Albert Anastasia, who followed him across the river and himself built a palatial home on the Palisades.

Until 1951, Adonis had been arrested time and again on charges up to and including assault and grand larceny. He had good friends, though, and his total penalty had been a fine of one hundred dollars. In May of 1951, he was hauled in on gambling charges in Bergen County, N. J., and pleaded non vult--meaning no defense. It appeared that at last the Law had overhauled "Mr. A.," for he was eligible to a sentence of eighteen years. Instead, he drew a term of two to three years from Judge J. Wallace Leyden, and his attorney said he would be eligible for parole in ten months. The New York World-Telegram referred to Mr. A., at his sentencing, as "the laughing boy of the underworld."

Adonis' connections with Costello, and certain Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Western mobsters, in gambling in Florida, Saratoga and Nevada have been most remunerative. For years, he also has enjoyed--until the summer of 1951, at least--an exclusive government-protected monopoly for hauling automobiles from the Ford Motor Company's largest Eastern plant, at Edgewater, N. J.

That Joey A. outranked Anastasia in Murder, Inc., is a virtual certainty. To this day, Adonis stands high on the national board of governors of the Syndicate. No one, in fact, stands higher than this hard-faced hoodlum who looks like a movie version of a gangster. Reles placed him in the picture as the co-ordinator and mediator of intergang disputes anywhere in the ring. Some idea of Adonis' eminence can be gleaned from the marked tone of profound reverence that comes into the voice of any hoodlum, anywhere, whenever he mentions "Mr. A."

In Florida, besides gambling, the Brooklyn combination was associated with other mobs in the jewelry robbery racket. When Reles began his remarkable recounting of the varied virtues of the Syndicate, the jewel "heists" were prominently referred to.

"A lot of people think this Brooklyn troop is just a small-time outfit," he said, putting the proper perspective on matters. "Well, we got good connections. You know how the New York gangs case dames with a lot of jewelry in night clubs, and then take them. We been working with the Chicago and New York guys in Florida for a couple years now, and it's even better."

The Florida race tracks, the gambling traps, the luxury hotels evidently were excellent bases for carrying on such midwinter work. The victims themselves co-operated to some extent, for it is no secret that most feminine visitors to the Miami area look on the trip as an excursion in exhibitionism.

There were any number of other connections the troop acquired. The bookmaking operations reached across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. Through Lucky Luciano, there were narcotics over a wide area. Florida gambling was so closely linked that many underlings were given jobs as "spotters" or strong-arm men in the clubs there. Some of the same executives of ten years ago still run the Florida traps today.

However, neither the hideout system nor the jewel thefts nor the shylock and gambling and narcotics rackets brings out the completely national outline of Murder, Inc., as sharply as the death dealt out from the Atlantic to the Pacific and way stations. As a matter of fact, in addition to convicting seven of the slayers in Brooklyn, we furnished our witnesses--and in some cases, the killers as well--to outside prosecutors to clear up many contracts the troop handled for the Syndicate far from its home base--as far away as Hollywood, Calif.

As soon as word of our sensational findings became known, law-enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania and Minnesota, Massachusetts and California and various other points dusted off long untouched files on unsolved homicides and asked if our aviary of songbirds had mentioned them. The Pennsylvania State Police reopened the eight-year-old killings, in the Scranton area, of Lew Marcowitz (a ride job), Jack Steinberg (shotgun) and Sam Wichner (stuffed in an automobile luggage compartment). Massachusetts prosecutors were reminded of the much-headlined Dave Green killing, among the bodies that had been left around.

There was one intriguing skein of slayings that jumped from New York to St. Paul, Minn., which we never did put entirely together into one piece. The production was, however, the unmistakable technique of Murder, Inc.

On the lower East Side of Manhattan, a violent and unrestrained environment that spawned many of the infamous, one who made a fortune in bootlegging was Abe Wagner. However, at the start of 1932 Wagner's position was threatened by a rising new gang. Eventually this Mazza Mob decided it was strong enough to eliminate competition--by the customary means.

On February 20, 1932, Wagner was riding down sprawling, scrambling Suffolk Street in his shiny sedan. On Suffolk Street, children dart in and out, and pushcart peddlers show an alarming unconcern for moving vehicles. A car must proceed slowly. As the glistening vehicle crawled past No. 66, what seemed to be all of the shooting members of the Mazza Mob suddenly opened up with their guns. They riddled the automobile until the door on the near side resembled the nozzle of a shower. But Wagner rolled out of the other door, and was out of sight, on foot, before the gunmen had a chance to take aim.

Now, Wagner was not one of the trigger-happy gangsters who would immediately start a gory underworld war because of such pointed animosity, especially when the other side evidently was at least as powerful as his own army. His maxim was that it is better to be a live coward than a dead gang boss. He became decidedly respectful, and cautious enough to sue for peace. He knew his enemies could always be contacted at the Hatfield Hotel, at the upper edge of the explosive East Side. The following day, he sent his partner, Harry Brown, and his brother, Allie, as emissaries. He provided them with a sizable bankroll.

"See can you pay them off," he instructed hopefully.

The rival mobsters accepted the tribute; at any rate, the funds were never returned. But guns flashed at the peace meeting, and when the shooting stopped, Allie Wagner was dead.

Mrs. Pauline Wagner, mother of eight, mourning her youngest son, was practical enough, nevertheless, to realize it was only a question of time until the guns would turn on her older boy once more.

"Take Goldie and go away somewhere for a while," she wept. "Go now, so I won't worry. Hurry."

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