Add Your Name — Send a Dollar to Death

Add Your Name — Send a Dollar to Death

“Add Your Name — Send a Dollar” —  to Death

“Add Your Name — Send a Dollar” — to Death

Official Detective Stories Magazine

By Juan Shane, Special Investigator for Official Detective Stories

 DRAFT: LINKS, PHOTOS, LAYOUT and OTHER MEDIA TO COME

A Chain Letter Brought Murder to This Jamaica, Long Island, Druggist — and Police Realized They Had to Find the Two Mysterious Blondes. 

This was murder, the detectives realized. And at the very beginning they knew it was a different kind of murder, a murder they could not understand.

It wasn’t a holdup killing. For the victim had been beaten unmercifully about the face, struck again and again after he was dead. No holdup man kills like that; no holdup man will tarry on the scene of his crime as long as this murder had.

Nor was it a grudge slaying. It had not been carefully planned. The killer had slipped into Frank Cohen’s little drug store at No. 94-32 VanWyck Boulevard in Jamaica, Long Island, perhaps even while other customers were there. He had left the drug store while persons walked by on the street. No grudge killer who might be recognized by Cohen’s life-long friends and customers would take such a chance.

Other facts — facts deduced from the physical evidence — were at odds with the known formula for murder. Cohen lay on the floor of the pharmacist’s laboratory in the rear of his store. The walls and the ceiling were splattered with his blood. Yet the officers could find no evidence of a struggle. No bottles, vials or test tubes had been broken. Nothing had been overturned.

Nor could they find any sign of the death weapon.

“It was a blunt instrument of some kind,” said the medical examiner, Doctor Howard Neail, glancing up at the detectives. “Almost any of the dozen or so blows would have knocked him unconscious.”

Doctor Neail straightened and looked at his wrist-watch, its hands pointing to the noon position.

“He’s been dead from twenty minutes to an hour,” stated the Doctor. “That puts the time of the crime approximately between eleven and elve-forty this morning.”

Captain Henry Flattery, in charge of detectives in the southern half of Queens County considered this.

“Then the killer hasn’t much of a start,” he said. “We received the alarm at eleven-fifty-two and we got here at eleven-fifty-six, just a minute beofe you arrived.”

“Depends on the strength of the woman and the weight of the weapon,” said Doctor Neail. “A fairly strong woman wielding a length of iron pipe could have committed the crime.”

“Well, whoever did it took the weapon with them,” Captain Flattery grimly pointed out.

“Look at this!”

A subdued cry had come from Detective Al Dillhoff. He was perched on a stool examining a sheet of paper in a typewriter.

“Cohen must have been copying this letter when he was attacked!”

Dillhoff indicated another sheet of paper on the laboratory counter beside the typewriter.

It was a chain letter listing the names and addresses of two men and three women.

A dollar chain letter, addressed to “Dear Friend,” warning the recipient not to break the chain lest woe befall him, and promising him modest riches  if he followed the instructions at the bottom of the page.

The instructions directed the recipient to send a dollar to the first person on the list, and then make five copies of the letter, eliminating the name of the person to whom he sent the dollar and adding his own name to the bottom of the list on each copy.

Therefore the recipient was to mail  the copies to five of his friends, and they, in turn, were to duplicate the procedure. Thus, for his one dollar investment, the recipient eventually would receive one dollar from each of 3124 persons — if nobody broke the chain.

Captain Flattery picked up the letter and snored. It was one of innumerable chain letters that were flooding the country on this twenty-fourth of May, 1935.

“Another one!” said Detective Dillhoff. “You know, every one of these letters is a direct violation of postal lottery and fraud statutes.”

Of more interest to the Captain was the fact that Cohen had started to copy the letter, making four carbons, and had gone as far as the third name when the letter suddenly ended with the name only partly written.

“Better make a copy of those names and check them” said Captain Flattery, handing the chain letter to Detective Morlock.

Finger-print experts and a police photographyer filed into the tiny back room. Captain Flattery led the detectives into the front of the store.

Four women and a man were sitting or standing at the soda fountain. Captain Flattery’s eyes went first to the cash-drawer of a register near the entrance to the laboratory and then to another cash=register behind the fountain. The money drawers were wide open, empty.

The omey in the two tills probably had not been more than fifty dollars, because this was an unpretentious pharmacy in a quiet residential district. Had the robbery, then, been a cunning afterthought on the part of a brutal murderer?

Captain Flattery strode on, stopped in front of the civilian who was seated at the fountain.

“You found the body?” Flattery asked.

“No, I phoned the police,” said the man. “I think this lady found the body.”

He indicated a pretty, young woman sitting at the fountain, her hands clasped rigidly in her lap, her face drained of blood, her eyes wide and staring.

“She was coming out of the back room there when I entered the store,” the man said. “When she saw me she stopped and screamed. I went past her and looked inside the back room and I saw the body. By the time I finished calling the police these other women were in the store and I bolted the street door as the officer told me.”

The tree women he indicated were vigorously bobbing thier heads in agreement, fairly bursting with their desire to talk.

Captain Flattery said to them, “Any of you touch anything?”

Instantly he was engulfed by a babling flood of denials from teh women, all talking at once.

Quieting them finally, Captain Flattery said, “Any of you see anybody leave this store?”

“I did!” cried one woman triumphantly as the other two and the man were reluctantly shaking their heads.

She had been idly leaning out of a window in her apartment, this woman said, when she saw a young man hurry out of the pharmacy and speed off in a dilapicdated roadster in the direction of South Jamaica, where, she would have the Captain know, many young hoodlums prowled the streets who were “just the type to do something terrible like this and all of them should be put in jail like my husband says and —”

“When, Madam?” Flattery said sharply. “When did you see this?”

The woman was taken aback. She said haltingly, “Why, let me see know. “Oh, yes! It was just before Mrs. Moscowitz telephoned and promised to meet me this afternoon because we are going—

“When, Madam? roared Flattery, exasperated. “What time did this Mrs. Moscowitz phone you?”

“The woman started in surprise, drew herself up with mountainous dignity. She said primly, acidly, “That’s what I’m trying to tell you! It was at eleven fifteen. I know because—”

Eleven fifteen and the crime had not been discovered until more than a half-hour later. Any number of persons could have entered and left the drug store in that half-hour.

Briefly Flattery questioned the other two housewives and learned that they had been standing on the corner and had not noticed anyone enter the drug store.  A muffled scream from the recesses of the pharmacy caught their attention and brought them running.

Captain Flattery politely but firmly ushered them out of the store and then turned his attention to the stunned, dark-haired young woman.

The girl was seemingly unaware of her surroundings. Captain Flattery’s eyes went over here dress slowly. But he noticed no tell tale bulge such as a concealed iron pipe or simliar weapon might make. He said to her quietly, “What is your name, Miss?”

By degrees her gaze returned from fare places. She said, tonelessly, “Where you speaking to me?”

“Yes. What is your name?”

“Aurora Aguilar. I’m Mrs. Cohen’s maid.”

“Her maid, eh? What were you doing in the laborator with her husband?

Miss Aguilar hesitated, groping in her mind. She said haltingling, “I…I came to get something. He was…I found him like that.”

“What did you come to get?”

“I…I don’t remember now.” The young woman brushed her forehead with the back of her hand. “Something for the baby, I think.”

“What time?”

“I don’t know. It seems ages ago. “

Mr. Cohen wasn’t in the store. We didn’t come out when I called. I went back to the laboratory. I…I saw him. The next thing I knew a man in a white uniform, an ambulance surgeon. I think, was giving me something.

“Was anyone in the store when you entered?” Captain Flattery asked.

“I don’t think so. “I’m pretty sure no one was.”

“Did you see this man when you came out of the laboratory?”

Aurora looked blankly at the man who had phoned the police. She said, “I don’t remember.”

“Do your remember screaming?”

Mis Aguilar’s dark eyes widened in sudden surprise. “No!”

Abruptly she uttered a cry of anguish and darted toward the street door.  “Don’t let her in!” she cried, pushing and clawing frantically at the amazed patrolment on guard. “Don’t let her in! She mustn’t see!”

Comprehension caught at the officers. A charming-looking woman was struggling timidly but apprehensively to get through the gathering throng. She appealed to the officers: “Please! I must get in! I must! I’m Mrs. Cohen!”

A path opened through the crowd. Mrs. Cohen swept through into the store, into the maids arms.

“My husband? Where is he? What’s— “

She stopped, aware of the stillness, of the embarrassed, sympathetic glances.

Captain Flattery said gently, “There’s been an accident, Mrs. Cohen. Your husband is — dead.”

For an instant Mrs. Cohen stared fixedly. Then her eyes closed and she turned slowly white. Detective Dillhoff caught her as she slipped from Miss Agular’s arms.

Captain Flatter turned to detectives Georg Knab and George Campbell.

“Call another squad and go through that crowd out there. THen comb the neighborhood,” he directed. “Somebody may have seen someone in this store between eleven-fifteen and eleven-forty-eight. That’s the approximated period between when the boy ran out and when the maid says she came in here.”

An officer approaced and reported “No prints in the laboratory or around the cash-drawers except Cohen’s and smudges.”

Captain Flattery nodded, then called aside Miss Aguilar.

“Is Mrs. Cohen going to be all right?”

The girl stifled her sobs: “Y–yes. In a little while. She’s very brave.”

“Where does she live?”

“Around the corner and across the street. It’s on the second floor, over Charlie’s Meat Market.”

“We’ll talk to her there,” decided Captain Flattery. He wished to spare the woman the sight of her husband’s body being carried out of the store and it was only a short distance to her apartment.

With a hushed crowd trailing, Mrs. Cohen and the maid, Captain Flattery and Detective Dillhoff turned the corner a few minutes later and cut diagonally across the street.

As they reached the curb in fron of a meat market they halted in their tracks. Charles Ellis, the proprietor, burst out, his beefy face oa study in astonishment and concern.

“Mrs. Cohen! What is it? What’s wong?”

Mrs. Cohen reached out and touched the butcher’s soiled white apron appealingly.

“Charlie!” she gasped. “It’s Frank! He’s —” she couldn’t go on.

Ellis’ eyes rolled inquiringly to Captain Flattery. Then he backed away, confused, uncertain. The maid, bring up the rear with Detective Dillhoff, paused.

“Mr. Cohen’s dead,” she whispered.

“Ellis’ eyes popped. “Dead! Why, he can’t be! He was hale and hearty this morning!”

“He was murdered!”

Ellis’ jaw dropped. He was still standing like that when the little group disappeared into the entrance to the Cohen apartment.

“Charlie was one of Mr. Cohen’s best friends,” Miss Aguilar explained to Detective Dillhoff as they climbed the stairs.

The interview with Mrs. Cohen did not prove helful. She could think of no one with a grudge against her husband. She was positive no other woman had figured into his life.

“What tiem did the maid go to the drug store?” Captain Flattery asked casually.

“I don’t recall exactly,” Mrs. Cohen said. “I wanted some medicine for the bab. It was after eleven-thirty, I think.  I was beginning to wonder why she was so long when a neighbor came and said something was wrong at the store — there was a crowd in front of it.

When the officers departed Miss Aguilar followed them to the door.

Dillhoff said in a low, confidential tone, “You were fond of Mr. Cohen?”

“He was a grand man. Everyone loved him.”

“Was his wife jealous? Any quarrels between them lately?”

Quick, resentful anger flashed into the girl’s dark eyes. Without answering she closed the door.

Dillhoff and Captain Flattery exchanged quizzical glances, then went down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk.

Ellis, the butcher, still was standing on the corner staring in the direction of the drug store.

“This guy was one of Cohen’s best friends,” Dillhoff said. He shold know about Cohen’s secret life.”

The detectives approached Ellis. He said to them anxiously:

“They tell me Frank was killed by bandits. Is that right?”

“We don’t know who killed him,” Captain Flattery said, “but you may be able to help us fiond out.”

Ellis gulped.

“I”ll do anything!” he promised, his voice trembling. “He was one of my best friends!”

Did he have any enemies?”

“No, not Frank.”

“Any extra-marital romances?”

“None that I know of,” Ellis said slowly, thoughtfully. “Nothing particular, that is. Everybody liked him. Frank was good-natured, very courteous. He couldn’t stand to see a woman abused…”

Ellis’ voice trailed off, leaving a vague feeling of something unsaid.

Captain Flattery asked “Who was the woman Cohen saw abused?”

“It was nothing, ” Ellis shrugged.  “Just a kid. Her boy friend slapped her. I thought for a moment that Frank was going after him.”

“When was that?”
“The other night. After I closed my market. A cute little trick was talking to Frank at the fountain when I went in. Then THen this young fellow came up and spoke to her. I couldn’t hear what the kids were saying but the boy was angry and slapped the ger in her face. Frank got mad. I ghouth he was going to jump over the counter and throw the boy out. But they left then, the girl and the boy. The got into a car and drove off toward South Jamaica together.

“What kind of a car?” asked Flattery.

“A rattletrap roadster. Looked as if it’d been put together from a dozen old cars.”

A yojg man in a rattletrap roadster. One witness had seen a youth run out of the drug stor a half-hour before the discovery of the murder and leap into a rattletrap roadster. And this your, too, had driven off in the direction of South Jamaica.

“What did the girl look like?” Captain Flattery said urgently.

“A blonde. A little too much make-up, but she had a neat fuigure. She was wearing one of those sweaters.”

“The boy—what did he look like?”

“You can’t mistake him. Tough. About eighteen or nineteen. Pug nose and red hair.”

Flattery shot a sharp glance at Detective Dillhoff. Red Donovan! A young punk they both knew well, a hoodlum who had been in trouble often and who was headed straight for Sing Sing.

Red and a dozen of his pals had organized a neighborhood gang of teen-age toughs who preyed on lone pedestrians and went in for thievery and other minor crimes. Knives and clubs were their wapons—not guns. Pocket knives—and foot long iron pipes.  An iron pip such as might have killed Frank Cohen.

“The boys have got something!” exclaimed Detective Dillhoff suddenly.

Captain Flattery swung around. Detectives Campbell and Knab were signalling from directly across the street. Flattery and Dillhoff hurried to them.

“There was a blond girl in the drug store fifteen minutes before Cohen’s body was found!” announced Knab.

Captain Flattery whistled softly. “Wow do you know?”

“A truck driver saw her. She was coming out of the telephone booth and the driver said she was jittery as Hell.”

“He had to go on while we were in the drug store but before he left he told a customer in the lunchroom across the street.

“Better find him and bring him in,” said Captain Flattery. “I’d like to know what happened to that blonde.”

Detective Campbell said, “She came out of the drug store a few minutes before the Cohen maid was going in.”

“Who told you?”

“That elderly lady there.” Detective Campbell indicated a gray-haired woman standing in front of a tailor shop next to the lunchroom.

“Did the blonde head toward South Jamaica?”

“No. She came right across to this side of the street and went around the corner.”

“Do you think your withness would recognize the blonde if she saw her agina?”

She’s positive she can. She says she’s seen the blonde in the neighborhood a couple times this last month. But she doesn’t know her.”

“Did the old lady see anyone else enter or leave the store?”

“No.”

The motor of the morgue truck roared; the crowd in the street swept back toward both curbs. As the truck lurched away, taking Cohen’s body to the morgue for an autopsy, Detective Lieutenant Edmund Moor emerged from the pharmacy and strode to the corner where Ellis was standing. For a minute he talked with the butcher. Then he turned and eased his way through the crowd and joined Captain Flattery.

“That chain letter was Ellis’, not Cohen’s,” Lieutenant Moore said. “Ellis admits it. He doesn’t have a typewriter to use as his own so he went to the drug store this morning and asked Cohen to copy it for him.

“How about those other names on the letter?” Flattery asked.

“Morlock’s traced those already. Nothing doing. The woman who sent it to Ellis doesn’t even know Cohen.”

“What time was Ellis in the drug store?”

“A little after eleven.”

“Did he see the young fellow who ran out of the store at 11:15?”

“No. Cohen was waiting on an elderly man at the time. Ellis doesn’t know who the man was. He was buying some patent medicine.

Captain Flattery’s eyes shifted to the far corner. Ellis was strolling moodily back to his meat market.

“It’s a shame Ellis didn’t take that letter to Cohen a few minutes later than he did, ” Flattery said.  “We’d know definitely if it was Red Donovan.”

A few minutes later detectives were prowling the tawdry section of South Jamaica, in and out of pool-rooms, cigar stores and other hangouts of the teen-age toughs. But they did not find Red Donovan.

The Youth’s mother said, “I haven’t seen him in a week. He started running around with a dizzy blonde a month ago. Now his friends tell me he’s got a car. You’d think he’d help his poor mother instead of wasting money on that blonde.”

“Where does he get the money?”

“How should I know? I can’t do anything with him. Maybe he’s got a job.”

Red did have a job. He told about it when he sauntered nonchalantly into Jamaica Police Headquarters the following afternoon.

“I hear you’re looking for me,” he said.

Captain Flattery eyed him steadily.

“Where you been keeping yourself?”

“Around. Why? What’s on your mind?”

“Where were you yesterday?”

“Working. In an auto-wrecking yard in South Jamaica.”

“Good at slapping girls in the face, arent’ you?”

Red froze. “How did you know that?”

“Little birdies told me.”

“The Hell they did! It was that kluck who got knocked off.”

“How did you know he got knocked off?”

“I can read, can’t I?”

Captain Flattery shook his head.  He said evenly. “That won’t do, Red. You were seen running out of the drug store yesterday.” Then, taking a shot in the dark, “And there were blood-spots on your clothes.”

Red blanced. “You’re not going to pin that job on me, are you? I wasn’t even inside the store. I just looked in and jumped back into my car.”

“Yeah? Just looking, eh?”

“Honest! Betty was going to meet me there at eleven o’clock if she got the afternoon off.”

“Betty who?”

“Betty Wiliams, my girl friend. She works in a beauty parlor a couple blocks from the drug store.”

“She a noce blonde, Red?” Flattery asked.

Red brightened. “A knockout!” Then, in sudden self-justification, “But she’s too damn wise. Always making a play for some fellow. That’s why I smacked her the other night. She said I was a bum and told me to scram because she’d made a date with the druggist. But that was a gag — she was just sore because I was late meeting her.”

Maybe it wasn’t a gag, Captain Flattery thought. Aloud, he said, “were you late yesterday?”

“A little, maybe. But I was ony going to drive her home, anyway, and when I didn’t see anybody in the store I figured she didn’t get off work or she had started walking.”

An hour later blond Betty was taking another walk. With detectives trailing her, she stepped out of the drug store, then went diagonally across the street and past a little gray-haired woman standing beside Detective Campbell and Captain Flattery in front of the tailor shop.

“Oh, my, no!” said the little, gray haired lady as Betty flounced by “The blond girl I saw was sweet and innocent-looking.”

“Thank you,” said Captain Flattery heavily.

“Betty’s in the clear but I’m not so sure about Red,” said Flattery later. “That slap in the face doesn’t indicate that he considered Betty’s interest in Cohen as a gag. And he had opportunity to knock of Cohen. We’ve got nothing but his word that he only looked in this store. He may have been here for five minutes.”

Lieutenant Moore said, “A blonde was in here, even if it wasn’t Betty. She may be the key to the whole mystery.”

“Yes, we’ll have to find her,” Captain Flattery said, “if the raid on Red’s apartment doesn’t bring anything new.”

The raid failed to bring anything new. Detectives reported that they had ransacked the place without finding a bludgeon of any kind or a single bloodstained garment.

To the officers the entire baffling case now revolved around the element of time.

Cohen had been murdered sometime between approximately eleven a.m. and eleven-forty, allowing a few extra minutes either way, according to the Medical Examiner.

And during this period, Ellis, the butcher, and other credible witnesses had seen only four persons entering or leaving or inside the drug store—namely, an aged man buying patent medicin; the hoodlum, Red Donvan;an innocent looking blonde and the Cohen’s maid.

Had one of them wielded the deadly bludgeon? All had opportunity. But which, besides Red had motive? And where was the mysterious blonde? That was the most important question. Every available detective was summoned to help hunt for her. The officers methodically scoured the neighborhood, getting farther and farther away from the store as the quest continued into the night and throughout the following day, Sunday. It was a monotonous, exacting, back-breaking job of stair climbin and doorbell ringing.

Detective Morlock had been assigned to the manhunt. He was half-way through his fifth building, three blocks from teh drug store. Sunday night when the fair-haired high-school girl of sixteen answered his knock on a door. “Mr. Cohen’s drug store?” she said when Morlock questioned her. “Why I was in there myself before Mr. Cohen was killed.”

Detective Morlock swallowed hard.

“You were? What time?”

“I was there for fifteen or twenty minutes!” the girl said with definite confidence. “It was going on eleven-thirty when I got there. About eleven twenty-five.”

“Did anyone enter or leave the store while you were there?”

“I don’t think so, I was phoning most of the time.”

“Won’t you tell me about it?”

“That’s all there”But I was there! And I just missed seeing the bandits! The papers said they hel up Mr. Cohen about noon.”

“Were you talking to Mr. Cohen?” Morlock asked.

“I didn’t see him,” she said, tracking a pattern on the carpet with her toe. “I wanted to make another call after I got through phoning, and I waited for five minutes to get change but Mr. Cohen didn’t come out from the rear of his store.” She paused. “I used a dime. I had to hurry to meet Mother.”

The nervous girl seen by the truck driver!
Morlock said, “Waasn’t Mr. Cohen in the store when you entered?”

She shook her gold tresses. “No. He must have been in the rear. I guess he was awfully busy. He was still back there when I left.”

Morlock fished in his pockets for a cigarette to conceal his elation. Here, indeed, was important news. The time element of the crime was narrowing.

“Weren’t there any customers in the store when you entered?”

“No.”

“Did you see anyone leaving?”

“When I turned the corner a man was walking awy from it,” she said. “But I don’t know whether he came out of the drug store. At first I thought he worked in the grocery on the corner—he had on one of those white aprons the clerks wear. But I saw red stains on his apron so he must have been working in the meat market across the street.

Morlock’s cigarette snapped in midair.

“What did he look like?”

She drew an unmistakable verbal picture of Ellis!

Charles Ellis, the trusted friend!

The girls’s story proved Ellis had been in the pharmacy at a vitally important moment—11:25 a.m.

Even granting a few minutes either way for an honest error in her judgment of time, Ellis obviously had emerged from the drug store at some time between 11:20 and 11:30 a.m.

What did it mean?

“He’s our man,” said Captain Flattery grimly when he was told of the girl’s astonishing story.

Ellis, however was not even disconcerted when he was confronted by the girl the following morning.

“Yes, I sorta remember seeing this pretty girl when I came out of the drug store Friday,” Ellis said, “But I didn’t think it was as late as she says.”

“You weren’t there twice that morning, weren’t you?” Captain Flattery accused.
“No, I was too busy,” Ellis said slowly.

No resentment showed in Ellis’ manner or tone. He understood that the authorities could take nothing for granted, and he patiently, laboriously attempted to recall everything he’d done on the day of the murder.

A fussy woman who had been irritatingly slow in her selection of a chicken was one of his last customers before he went to the drug store, Ellis remembered, and he gave her name and address as well as those of many other people he’d seen or talked to or waited on from the time he opened his market in the morning until he went home that night.

His clincher came, however, when he volunteered theinformation that a newcomer in the neighborhood, a woman, had greeted him on the street when he was taking the letter to Cohen’s drug store. On his return he had found his clerk waiting, on the woman, Ellis said, and he again spoke to her, and then went directly to a wholesale butcher a few blocks distant.

“I just got back from the wholesaler’s when I saw you and Mrs. Cohen come around the corner,” Ellis told Captain Flattery.

In her apartment a few doors from teh meat market, the newcomer in the neighborhood readily verified Ellis’ story in almost every detail.

And neighborhood businessmen and residents attested to Ellis’ good character.  No one could suggest a possible motive for Ellis to have committed the crime.

“It’s all a matter of timing,” Captain Flattery mused. “It doesn’t take long to kill— or die. In this instance, a minute, possibly.  Any one of the people who were in the drug store might have done it. “

The search for the patent-medicine customer was intensified while a check-up on Ellis’ statements continued. The check-up was purely routine, however, and little impression was made on the officers when they finicky woman insisted she had purchased her chicken on Thursday, not Friday. Neigher did it seem particularly significant to officers when the meat wholesaler told them that Ellis visited his establishment at 11:30 a.m. and added that he remembered the time distinctly because Ellis had made a payment on a note.

But when Ellis began to prowl the neighborhood restessly that afternoon, with a forlorn expression on his heavy face as he watched the comings and goings of the police, Captain Flattery took notice, and he decided to talk with the finicky woman and the wholesaler himself.

Why, Captain Flattery wondered, had Ellis given the woman as an alibi? Or was he honestly mistaken about the day when the woman did buy the chicken?”

No enlightenment on the mystery was obtained by Flattery, however, when he requestions the woman, and the tiny doubt in his mind had become a persisting annoying thing by the time he caught up with the meat wholesaler late in the afternoon.  Then, precipitately, with the wholesaler’s first words, Flattery’s small doubt ballooned until it filled his whole mind.

“Ellis is a sale-to-sale,” buyer the wholesaler said. “He has been for some time. His business has been poor. Couldn’t afford to buy any more than he deeded from morning until afternoon. He’s in here a couple times a day. That’s why I was so surprised when he made a payment on his note. I hadn’t expected it, and the hour he was here stuck in my mind.  I can state definitely that it was at eleven-thirty, so I don’t see how you can connect him with the murderer. “

Captain Flattery could see. But the motive troubled him. Robbery could not have been Ellis’ mind when he went to the drug store. The evidence against it was overwhelming. What, then, had caused Ellis to fly into a murderous rage? That is, if Ellis actually committed the murder.

Considering all things, Flattery could not bring himself to believe that Ellis really was the killer. But his suspicions again were strong, though vague. They did not crystalize until he got back to the drug store and Detective Dillhoff said:

“That fellow Ellis has been acting awfully nervous. He left his market five times to take a peek at what was happening around this ddrug store.

Captain Flattery’s lips tightened into a thin line. Ellis had a guilty conscience. Something was preying on the man’s mind.

But how make him spill it?  They had no physical evidence to connect Ellis with the crime. And a raid on his market that night did not furnish any. Knives, cleavers, saws and other implements of Ellis’ trade were found, of course, but none blunt enough to fit the woulds in the bludgeoned druggist’s skull. And bloodstained aprons were in his market, too, but at dawn all were returned by technicians of the police laboratory because none of the stains were human.

“The solutions we used changed the color of the stains on those aprons,” said one of the technicians,  “when he sees them he’s going to get suspicious.”

“Swell,” said Captain Flattery.

He meant it. He had a plan in mind. True to the Captain’s expectatinos, Ellis headed for the corner a few minutes after he opened his market that next morning. He appeared haggard, as if he hadn’t slept well.  The feverish activity he found around the drug store, with officers dashing up and then racing away, caused him to look suddenly worse. His jowls sagged in surprise.

And when two officers suddenly met in the middle of the street, stopped, and, after a few words, turned and stared at him in accusing astonishment before they hurried into the pharmacy, swift alarm flooded Ellis’ countenance. He waddled hastily back to his market.

“We got him now,” said Captain Flattery with calm assurance.

His eye was glued to a peep-hole in the rear of the grocery, where he ahad a clear view of everything that went on in Ellis’ market and of Ellis’ movements to and from the corner.

Beside him sat detective Dillhoff, peering through another hole made in the door for the occasion.

Concealed from the grocery store’s customers by a partition, the two officers sat there all that morning watching Ellis slowly crack under the relentless strain of seeing grimly silent officers stride purposefully in and out of apartment-houses and stores, stopping occasionally to whisper on the street before they glanced suspiciously in his direction, whether he was in his market or walking nervously up and down the sidewalk.

Twice that morning he made pitiful attempts to speak to officers, only to be sharply rebuffed. By noon he ceased to come out on the sidewalk.

Twice that morning he made pitiful attempts to speak to officers, only to be sharply rebuffed. By noon he ceased to come out on the sidewalk.

Miraculously, all the officers vanished at 1 p.m., and for ten minutes thereafter Ellis peered in fearful bewilderment through the window of his market. Then, cautiously, he eased out on the sidewalk and started to inch his way toward the corner. Abruptly Captain Flattery and Detective Dillhoff strode out of the grocery and bore down on him. With one stricken glance he tumbled back through the doorway.

A weird scene followed.

In ustter silence, their faces set, the two officers paced back and forth in front of the market, their eyes fastened on Ellis, who had retreated to the far end of his counter. Like sentinels of doom they continued their patrol thorughout the afternoon while the harassed man, mopping his face and tramnpling visibly, tried desperately to wait on the few customers who ventured into his store.

He gave up suddenly. Sending his clerk home, he wearily divested himself of his white apron and pulled on a leather jacket. Then, taking a last lingering look around his market, he stepped outside, closed and locked the door. Head bowed, he moved heavily toward the two officers watching him from the curb and stopped between them. A squad car clided around the corner, stopped. The two officers and the butcher climbed in.

Not a word had been spoken.

At Headquarters Ellis told his story. He told it quietly, without prompting. His audience included District Attorney Charles Sullivan, Captain Flattery and most of the officers who had worked on the case. They were very still.

“I couldn’t stand it any longer,” Ellis said. “It was on my conscience. I could see this morning that you had found out.

“Frank was copying my chain letter. A customer came in. He bouth some medicine. Then he wanted some stamps. I was standing in the laboratory, beside the typewriter. I could see a large roll of bills in the drawer when Frank pulled it out. I was in need of money. Desperately. Things had been going bad for sever months.

“I hoped the chain letter would save me. But the roll of bills looked like a fortune. I thought I could sneak them without Frank finding out. There was no bell on the cash-drawer. And I knew Frank would never suspect me. “When he went back to typing I got the cash-drawer open without a sound.

“But at that moment Frank turned to say something to me about the chain letter. He saw the bills in my hand. He cried out and jumped at me.

“I knew I was ruined if the people found out. I went crazy. I killed him. There was a big pestle on the laboratory counter. I picked it up and hit him. He went limp in my arms. I dragged him to the other side of the room. I beat him until I was sure he was dead. THen I got all the money and left the cash-drawers opened to make it look like a robbery.

“I took the pestle with me. I had it wrapped up, pressed against the side of my body — under my arm, so no one could see it. I smashed it up into powder and threw the powder in the cellar furnace before I went home that night. I also burned the apron. Some of Frank’s blood splattered on it. I thought I was safe then.”

That was Ellis’ story. It jibed with all the known facts in the crime. On February 25, 1936,Ellis pleaded guilty to second degree murder before Judge Thomas Downs sentenced him to serve 25 years to life in State Prison.

 

 

The names Red Donovan and Betty Williams are fictitious as used in this story to protect the identity of innocent persons. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Should ‘ a’ Let Him Shoot Me First

I Should ‘ a’ Let Him Shoot Me First

“Keep ’em up, you!”

The blue-jowled gunman snarled his words.

Patrolman Walter Murphy winced as if in fright. But he really was not afraid. He stood without moving, holding his note-book in both hands. In a flash he had formed a daring plan.

“May I put this notebook in my pocket, Mister?” he said. His voice quavered.

He hoped that, in his civilian clothes, he looked like a frightened motorist. He hoped that neither of the sccowling stickups in front of him noticed the bulge under his coat where his revolver hung.

“Okay, Mug!” said the blue-jowled gunman.

Behind Murphy, his friend Walter Higgins and the boy James Brassard, eighteen-year-old attendant at this filling-station, were backing silently into the restroom, their hands upraised. The bandit waved his gun.

“Make it snappy!”

Patrolman Murphy unbuttoned his overcoat. With the same movement he shot his right hand downward to his service revolver.

“Blue Jowls'” gun roared.

The officer jack-knifed double as the slug tore through his stomach. Again the bandit’s gun flamed and thundered. The slug zipped over the patrolman’s shoulder and buried itself in young Brassard’s chest.

His evil eyes blazing, the gunman kept jerking his trigger, plumping bullets into Patrolman Murphy’s body.

The officer slumped to the floor, still tugging at his holstered revolver.

Then a look of utter amazement spread suddenly over the second bandit’s face. The incredulous expression was still on his knife scarred features when he died. For as Patrolman Murphy hit the floor his service revolver came out at last—blazing.

The officer’s first two bullets crashed through the scar-faced bandit’s heart and stomach. The next three zinged near Blue Jowls’ head as he whirled and fled. The sixth never was fired because at that instant Patroman Murphy was gripped by a spasm of agony.

He writhed convulsively and rolled over on his back, dead — five bullets in his body. Stretched out alongside him was the scar-faced bandit’s body. Crumpled at his feet was the mortally wounded boy, Brassard.

It was thus that Patrolman Joseph Miller found them when, gun in hand, he dshed into the gasoline-station. Hearing the gun battle four blocks away, he’d sprinted to the scene in time catch a glimpse of a gray sedan disappearing into the night.

In the restroom he found Higgins, stunned by the slaughter but unhurt.

Higgins explained that he and Patrolman Murphy, off duty and in plain clothes, had dropped in at the filling-station only a few minutes before to make a telephone call. Murphy had been thumbing through his note-book in search of the number when the two bandits strode in behind their guns —

“Scar Face,” who was to die, and Blue Jowls, who was to kill and escape.

Their first command had been: “Get in that restroom, all of you!” It was at this moment that the patrolman had conceived his daring and fatal plan.

Seconds later the ponderous machinery of the police department was whirling with incredible speed, for nothing electrifies a police force like the dreaded alarm that an officer has been slain.

Even while Patrolman Miller breathlessly was phoning his first sketchy report, the wires were humming. High officials were tumbling out of bed, ambulances and squad cars were wailing through the streets toward the filling station at 181st Street and Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, Long Island. And the police radio was droning, “All cars, all cars,” drawing strategic cordons in a desperate attempt to head off the fleeing bandit car. The hour was 3 a.m., aiding our chances of spotting the getaway machine—we hoped. The day was January 7, 1933.

Coordinating the maelstrom of action was the telegraph bureau in Jamaica Police Headquarters, where two tense operators, Patrolmen Frank Seitz and Vincent Valentine, sat with earphones clamped to their heads, relaying the details to the various bureaus as fast as they received them from the officer at the scene of the crime.
Ten minutes later the gasoline station was swarming with uniformed men and detectives headed by Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, Inspector John J. Gallagher, Captain Herbert graham, Lieutenant Henry Flattery and Lieutenant James Fogarty. Also there were my own superior, District Attorney Charles S. Colden, now a county court judge, and Medical Examiner Howard W. Neail.

There was something grimly awesome in the way they went about their work. Few words were spoken, few orders given. Each man knew his duty; each man did it. One additional witness was found, the night manager of a near-by lunch-wagon.
“I ran outside when I heard the shots,” he said. “I saw a man jump out of a car and run to the door of the gas-station with a gun in his hand. He bumped into another guy who was just running out. Both of them jumped into the car and sped away. I wasn’t close enough to get a look at their faces.”
“Calling all cars…all cars…” the police radio was droning a correction a split minute later. “Two men in the getaway car…dark gray sedan…a Plymouth, a Chevy, Dodge or a Willys-Knight…”

Higgins contributed the information that the killer had been wearing a gray overcoat.
“What’d he look like?” Inspector Gallagher asked tersely.
Higgins’ brows puckered thoughtfully. He said slowly:
“He was about five feet ten, dark skin and his eyes, uh!”
“What about his eyes?”
“Oh!”
It was an involuntary, chorused grunt from the assembled detectives. Killer’s eyes! Would they ever find a murder witness who didn’t say the same thing?
Higgins caught the significance of the grunt and flamed with indignation.
“That’s how I’ll know him if you ever catch him!”
District Attorney Colden looked at Higgins with more than usual interest.
“Tell us about his eyes.”
“Well, they were dark, almost black. But that wasn’t it—there was something peculiar about them. Their shape —I can’t explain it. They didn’t seem to match his face.”
Where should the officers begin a hunt for such a killer?
Medical Examiner Neail and Ambulance Surgeon McKenna had been working frantically over Brassard, the wounded gas-station attendant. Neail now straightened, turned to the police officials.
“He’s semi-conscious, but I doubt if you’ll ever get a chance to question him.”
“Get any information out of him?”
“Not much. He keeps mumbling, ‘The money–the money–don’t shoot.’ Once he said, “Three men in car—holdup–get back in the shack—‘ I couldn’t get any more than that.”
The cash register rang as Inspector Gallagher tapped the “no sale” key.
“Well, they didn’t get anything,” he said. “There’s more than $60 in the till.”
Brassard was carried out and taken quickly to a hospital. He died a few hours later.
Detective Sam Clarke of the Homicide Bureau was busy taking pictures of the two bodies on the floor. Inspector Gallagher turned to District Attorney Colden.
“As soon as Clarke gets through we’ll take that dead punk’s fingerprints and go through his pockets to see if we can learn who he is. If the radio cars don’t intercept those other two, we may never find them. We’ll have to track down every person this bandit ever knew and rely on Higgins to identify the killer.”
District Attorney Colden glanced sharply at the Inspector. This was the Prohibition era when café society courted the companionship of gang leaders and the lower strata of the social order aped the glamorous movie versions of the yellow rats. It was the bootleg era of violent deaths and of spurious caginess on the part of witnesses in answering questions.

“Jail anyone who doesn’t cooperate!” ordered District Attorney Colden. “Charge them with obstructing justice! Tolerate no nonsense! Pamper no one!”

He was about to warn the detectives to take no chances, but a look at the grim faces of the officer’s crowded about him told him it would be futile.

“I’ve seen this bum before!”

The exclamation came from Detective George Brautigan. He’d just entered the gas-station and was looking down at the dead bandit. His brother officers crowded around him.

“I don’t know his name,” Brautigan added, “but he’s one of the punks who used to hang around the Green Parrot when I was a patrolman in Ridgewood.”

Every member of Brautigan’s audience knew exactly what he meant.

The Green Parrot was a suspicious speakeasy seven miles distant from the gasoline-station, in the Ridgewood section of the city which includes part of Brooklyn and Queens.

Brautigan’s memory was corroborated a minute later when the slain bandit’s pockets yielded an auto key and a pocketbook containing a pawn ticket, various speakeasy cards, personal cards and telephone numbers, and a chauffeur’s license.

 

A photograph of the dead bandit was attached to the license. It identified him as Francisco Illardi, 21 years of age, of No. 502 Knickerbocker Avenue, which is in the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn.

Dawn, cold and gray, was streaking the sky in the east when squad car after squad car loaded with detectives roared away from the gasoline-station on what was to be one of the most grim and astounding manhunts in New York police annals.

 

Their orders were simple: Comb the city for Illardi’s friends and relatives! Drag them out of bed! Bring in anyone hesitating to talk! Find out who was with Illardi when he was last seen alive!

Lieutenant Flattery returned to Jamaica Police Headquarters to coordinate the activities of the detective as they telephoned their reports. District Attorney Colden, Inspector Gallagher and Deputy Police Commissioner Leach prepared to face the public’s shocked howl of rage when Jamaica awoke and read of the slaughter in its morning newspapers.

Detectives Frank Heyner and Harry Kraus were the first to report. They’d been assigned to some of the leads furnished by the cards and phone numbers found in Illardi’s pocketbook.

“We’ve found a young fellow who knows Illardi but he’s afraid to talk,” Heyner phoned.

“Bring him in!” gritted Lieutenant Flattery, now an acting-captain in charge of the detective squads.

 

Rushed to Jamaica Police Headquarters in a squad car, the youth identified himself, established an unassailable alibi and admitted he had known Illardi five years. But then he began to hedge.

He didn’t know that two of his interrogators were Assistant Director Attorneys William Gautier and David Dugan and that no harm could come to him. He knew only that instantly a circle of silent, stern-faced men closed in on him ominously.

He knew they meant business when he heard Lieutenant Flattery utter the word, “talk,” in an soft purring tone which conveyed untold horrors to him if he didn’t comply. He talked.

“I–I seldom ever see Illardi,” he stammered. “He–he’s got a bad reputation.”

 

“When did you see him last?”

 

“A week ago”

“Where?”

The youth said he’d been driving past a row of private garages near Wyckoff Avenue and Hancock Street, in Ridgewood, when Illardi hailed him and borrowed a screw-driver to fix his car. He protested he didn’t know what kind of a car Illardi had, nor did he know the garage where it was kept.

“I drove right on,” the youth explained. “I don’t go with him any more. He—he’s got a criminal record now. I just gave him my address so he could return the screw-driver. He—he hasn’t returned it yet.”

“He’s dead!” snapped Lieutenant Flattery. “You needn’t be afraid of him any more.”

Detectives Heyner and Frank Wagenbrenner were given the auto key found in Illardi’s pocket and were dispatched to Ridgewood to search the garages mentioned by the youth.

“It may be the getaway car,” Flattery pointed out to them.

Then, with a wave of his hand in the direction of the youth, he added, “We’re going to find a lot of this hedging in this case. They’re all going to be afraid to talk. Illardi’s record shows he was a tough, vicious rat. His two pals must be worse.”

Unknown to Flattery, his observation was being verified that very moment. Detectives George Brautigan and John Magner were standing in the living-room of the address Illardi had given on his chauffeur’s license as his home. Grouped about them were the slain gangsters relatives, heavy-lidded with interrupted sleep but suspicious and apprehensive, too.

 

Reacting to a normal pattern, they gave up a few details under the persistent hammering of the detectives, with Illardi’s brother answering most of the questions while the others bobbed their heads in vigorous agreement.

 

Illardi, it developed, was estranged from his family. They hadn’t seen him in more than a year. A woman, and not trouble he’d once been in with the police, was at the bottom of the estrangement, they maintained.

 

They didn’t know where Illardi was living but they suggested that his two best friends might know.

When more questions elicited no additional information the news of Illardi’s death was broken to the family.

 

For a stunned moment there was silence, followed by riveted looks of consternation at each other. Then came a storm of lamentations, loud cries and beating of breasts and appeals to Heaven for vengeance on the men who had led Illardi to his death.

When the stomr subsided, the detectives renewed their questioning. Instantly fear settled like a gripping, living thing on the family group.

No, they didn’t think they could be of any help I ntracking down Illardi’s bandit pals. No, they didn’t have the faintest inkling of his other friends.

Hastening to the shoe factory where Illardi’s relatives had said the slain youth’s “two best friends” worked, the detectives singled out the two when they came to work a few minutes before the morning whistle blew.

Questioned separately, they proved to be straightforward, clean-cut youths and they told virtually identical stories. They hadn’t seen Illardi in six months and didn’t particularly care to see him, they said.

Why? Illardi had got into trouble with the police, then he had quit his job and had become a “cake-eater,” they said, mluthing with disdain the word “cake-eater.”

“Yes, I know where he was living six months ago,” one of them responded to a query, “but I don’t know if he’s still living there.”

At the address given by the youth, Detectives Brautigan and Magner found “the woman.”

“Yes, I’m Mrs. Illardi,” she said. She appeared harassed and worried., as though she’d spent a sleepless night.

The detectives brushed silently into the apartment. The woman’s eyes grew large with fear. An eight-year-old pajama-clad girl appeared in an inner doorway.

“Is this Illardi’s daughter?” Detective Magner inquired absently.

“Y-yes.”

Magner’s head jerked around. His eyes fixed the woman accusingly.

“Illardi’s only twenty-one years old!”

“He is not!” the woman flamed. “He’s thirty. I’m twenty-nine.”

She lapsed into indignant silence.

What was this? The police records listed Illardi as 21 years old.

Detective Brautigan was going quetly through the apartment, opening closets, bureau drawers, desks and other places of concealment.

“Where is your husband?” Detective Magner asked the woman.

She put a trembling hand on the head of her daughter, who was now clinging to her gown.

“Didn’t he come home last night?”

The woman hesitated.

“No,” she said finally.

“Who’d he go out with?”

“I—I don’t know.”

“Who does he usually go out with?”

“He—he never says. He doesn’t bring any of his friends home. I don’t know them.”

“None of them?”

“No, Sir.”

 

It was obvious the woman was afraid. Detective Brautigan returned and showed her a bondsman’s business card he’d found in the desk.

“What did you need this for?” he asked.

“That’s my husband’s. He—he got it a few months ago when he—he was helping some friend. I don’t know who. He wasn’t in any trouble himself.”

The detectives shifted their tactics. As gently as possible they broke the news to the woman that Illardi would never come home alive. Minutes later, when her first wave of sobbing misery has passed, she lifted appealing eyes to the detectives.

“What—what am I going to do?”

“We’ll help you all we can,” said Brautigan softly. “But, first you must tell me what you know. You can’t help your husband or your daughter by concealing anything now.”

The woman nodded in despair. Slowly, painfully, the detectives drew from her the names of Thomas Margolo and Dominick LaBianca. They were the only two friends of her husband she’d met, she said.

Her description of both men fitted that of the killer of Murphy and Brassard. Brautigan and Magner looked at each other significantly. Did one of these friends have “killer’s eyes”?

“Where do they live?” Brautigan inquired.

The woman didn’t know. Except for two visits they’d made to her home, she’d seen them only on the street or in speakeasies in the neighborhood of Myrtle and Wyckoff Avenues, Ridgewood.

This was the neighborhood in which Brautigan had seen Illardi years before. It now was being combed by other detectives.

“Did your husband go out with Margolo and LaBianca last night?” Brautigan asked.

“I don’t think so,” the woman answered. “He went out about nine o’clock and said he’d be back in a fiew minutes. I waited up for him all night.”

Brautigan and Magner left her then and went to the address on the card they’d found in Illardi’s home. They found the bondsman reading a newspaper account of the staggering crime at his breakfast table when they walked into his home.

“Sure, I gave that card to Illardi six months ago,” explained the bondsman. “He was interested in bailing a couple friends but he couldn’t get up the collateral. I don’t know if he got ‘em out.”

“What were their names?”

:Let’s see, now. Wait—I think I still have a note on it.” The bondsman rummaged through a pile of papers in a cubby hole in his desk. “Yeah. Here it is—something up in your own territory in Queens. A gas-station stickup. Two fellows, Red Murphy and Thomas Margolo, held in $7,500 bail each.”

Red Murphy? Could this be an alias for Dominick LaBianca?

The bondsman’s face was blank. “Never heard of him.”

 

The two detectives phoned their report to Lieutenant Flattery.

“Stand by,” he directed. A few minutes later Flattery phoned back.

“The District Attorney’s office reports that Red Murphy—his first name’s Joseph—and Thomas Margolo were bailed five months ago,” he said. “Some other bondsman put up the bond. Margolo lives at 721 Hart Street. Murphy lives at 1022 Greene Avenue.

Get Margolo. I’ll send another squad to get Murphy.”

If either of these men was the blue-jowled bandit, how many more officers would be killed before the capture?

The squad sent to get Murphy was composed of Detectives William Jackson, Thomas Coote and Irving Higgins of the Homicide Squad and Detective Peter Thornton of the police precinct covering Ridgewood.

 

 

Detective Thornton, leading the Homicide detectives through Ridgewood, already had uncovered the names Margolo and Murphy as friends of Illardi.

“I know that fellow Murphy,” said Thornton. “I once picked him up on suspicion in connection with a butcher-shop stickup. But I had to let him go. I didn’t have enough on him.”

 

The name of Dominick LaBianca meant nothing to Thornton, however.

“If I know him at all it’s under another name,” said Thornton. “Maybe it’s an alias for Margolo.”

Brautigan and Magner of the squad seeking Margolo were walking along Wyckoff Avenue to get their auto when they spotted Detectives Wagenbrenner and Heyner buzzing taxi chauffeurs. This was the street where the first man picked up had said he saw Illardi and loaned him a screw-driver to fix his car.

Always careful never to upset a brother officer’s play, the fou detectives silently signaled each other. A minute later they met around a corner.

“I think we’ve got the getaway car,” said Wagenbrenner. “And I think we’ve got a lead on the killer through a friend of his. His name’s Arena! Frank Arena!”

 

“Arena!” echoed Brautigan and Magner in unison.

“Yeah, we just got it,” cut in Heyner.

Murphy! Margolo! LaBianca. Arena! The number of suspects was mounting with each passing hour. And Murphy was the only name recognized by any of the police. How could the others be traced?

 

Wagenbrenner went on to explain how the lead to the suspected getaway car had been obtained.

“Heyner and I came down here and made the renting agent ope the whole bunch of garages along here. We must have examined forty cars before we found one which Illardi’s auto key would fit.

“But here’s the pay-off. The garage wasn’t rented in Illardi’s name. It was rented in the name of Frank Arena! And the agent’s description of Arena doesn’t fit Illardi. It fits the killer—the blue-joweled guy!”

“Did the agent have Arena’s address?”

“Sure, but it was a phony. The agent’s positive, though, that Arena lives around here. He thinks Arena’s a fine fellow, says he always pas his rent in advance and all that sort of stuff.”

“When did you last call in?” Brautigan asked.

“We phoned Flattery about an hour ago, as soon as we found the car,” Heyner replied. “He’s checking the motor number and plates now.”

 

They called the Lieutenant and told him about Arena.

“That jibes with what I’ve got,” ex-claimed Lieutenant Flattery. “That auto was stolen three months ago in Manhattan. The license plates were stolen four days ago from another car in Brooklyn.

“You’re on a hot trail. All four of you concentrate on Arena. Margolo’s out under heavy bail. He can’t get very far away. You can pick him up later.”

The four detectives split up to canvass the cab-drivers and lessees of the private garages. Surely one of them would know Arena!

A half hour later the lessee of one of the garages told them:

“I drove in about three o’clock this morning. The garage of that fellow you call Arena was empty then. I happened to notice it because the door was ajar.”

An hour later, a taxi-driver who recognized Arena’s description told them:

“Yeah, I know who you mean. I picked him up one rainy night in front of those garages. I drove him to Green Avenue in the twelve hundred block, to a grocery store.”

 

It added up. A stolen auto that answered the description of the getaway car. It’d been out on the street at the time of the murders. And Arena had given a phony address when he’d rented the garage. But what about the Green Avenue grocery store?

“That’s enough,” grated Brautigan. “Let’s case that store.”

Detective Wagenbrenner, acting for the group, essayed to get a line on the owners of the grocery store by questioning a few of the housewives near by. Ten minutes later he returned.

“The people who run the grocery store are named LaBianca!” he exclaimed. “And they have a son about twenty-six years of age who answer the description of the killer! But these housewieves arent’ sure that the son still lives with his folks.”

Were Arena and LaBianca one and the same man? Or was Arena a friend of LaBianca? Possibly they used the grocery store as a meeting place. Mrs. Illardi had named Dominick LaBianca as a friend of her dead husband. Was this the friend? And how could the detectives learn this without arousing suspicion?

 

Representing himself as a bookmaker, Detective Brautigan sauntered into the store. A young dark-haired girl smiled at him from behind the counter. Brautigan pulled out a roll of bills.

“Call Tommy, the lucky stiff,” Brautigan said casually, using the nickname for Dominick. “I’ve got a lot of cabbage here for him.”

The girl’s eyes widened in mingled interest and puzzlement.

“Cabbage?”

“Green leaves, Sister.” Brautigan flourished the bills. “Dough. It’s the pay-off. It breaks my heart and my pocketbook, too. But it’s all part of the racket. Win today, lose tomorrow. Tommy hit me for a long shot yesterday. Were you in on it?”

The girl hardly could draw her eyes from the bills Brautigan slowly was counting out on the counter. When she lifted her face, undisguised concern was written there.

“Tommy isn’t here right now,” she offered tentatively.

“Oh, that’s too bad.” Brautigan’s tone was one of great sadness. With a sweep of his hand he gathered up the bills and nonchalantly put them back in his pocket. “I can’t wait, you know. I told Tommy I’d be around to pay off at noon today if he hit that long shot, because I’m heading for the tracks down South.”

“Wait, Mister!” the girl cried. “My brother lives in the next block. He just moved there last week. Maybe that’s where he thought you’d meet him.”

Fearful that the girl might phone her brother, the four detectives raced to the address she gave, an apartment on the top floor of a three-story building at No. 1165 Greene Avenue.

The officers didn’t bother to knock. They burst in, guns drawn.

 

The scream of an attractive, blue eyed blonde mingled with the crash of the door. A three-month-old baby raised a wail in its crib.

A blue jowled, pajama-clad young man with blazing dark eyes tried to spring out of bed. The detectives pounced on him.

“Got in late, eh, Dominick?” BRautigan baited.

“What’s it to you, Copper?”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t give a damn.” LaBianca’s lips wreathed in a sneer. “You aint got nothing on me.”

He had something there. Except for Higgins’ possible identification, they didn’t have much to connect him with the holdup slayings. Unless, of course, they found the murder gun or some other incriminating evidence.

Brushing aside the protests of the blonde, who was shrilling, “Leave my husband alone!” He hasn’t done anything! Let him alone!”, they began to ransack the apartment. They had to find evidence!

The bed was torn apart. The contents of closets and bureau drawers were dumped on the floor. Carpets were pulled up and the floor and wall examined for hiding places. A phonography and a radio were almost dismantled. Still they found nothing incriminating.

Even the baby carriage was turned virtually inside out after Mrs. LaBianca had been compelled to take the child in her arms. The search then spread to the hallways and the roof, where Brautigan dove into a pigeon loft and came out covered with feathers but no evidence.

 

“I’ll be!” he exploded. “Not even a bullet, much less a gun.”

“And we’ll never get a thing out of that tough egg downstairs,” lamented Wagenbrenner, who was on the roof with Brautigan.

They returned to the apartment. Contemptuously, his eyes gleaming with self-complacency, LaBianca refused to answer any questions, no matter how innocent they appeared to be. It was obvious that under his enraged stolidity of manner he concealed a sharp cunning—the cunning of hardened criminals who seal their own lips lest their shrewdest answeres betreay an incriminating knowledge.

So the detectives were sure they had a “hot one,” but what could they do about it?

Questioned in a separate room, Mrs. LaBianca wasn’t sure of the time her husband got home but admitted that it had been late.

 

“I was asleep,” she said. “He was visiting relatives in Manhattan and afterwards he went to a crap game over there, he told me when he came home.”

“I thought you were asleep!” Brautigan countered.

“He woke me up when he got into bed,” the blonde flashed back. “I didn’t look at the clock.”

Brautigan and Wagenbrenner joined Heyner and Magner in the next room, where they were guarding LaBianca. Heyner was busy poking through a pile of odds and ends dumped on the floor from a dressing-table drawer.

“Oh, oh!” Heyner suddenly held aloft an auto key. He glanced significantly at Wagenbrenner. “Let’s see that key you have.”

Wagonbrenner produced the key that had been found on the slain bandit’s body. Heyner put the two keys together.

They matched!

Brautigan whirled on LaBianca, who, still clad in pajamas, was sitting impassively on the edge of the topsy-turvy bed.

“Get up and get dressed, you bum,” Brautigan commanded. “You’re under arrest!”

LaBianca lifted mocking eyes and stared coldly, steadily at the detective.

“What for, Copper? He sneered. “You can’t pin that on me.”

Nevertheless, LaBianca got dressed. Rushed to the private garages, he looked on contemptuously while the detectives tried his key on the suspected getaway car.

The key fitted the lock!

But LaBianca still wouldn’t talk. And he maintained his sneering defiance even when Lieutenant Flattery and Assistant District Attorneys Gautier and Dugan hammered questions at him at Jamaica Police Headquarters.

LaBianca was held on suspicion. Although he was linked to Illardi, the slain bandit, by the auto key, there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him with the murders. For that matter, there was no conclusive evidence that the stolen auto found in the private garage had been used in the crime.

And that meant there was no worthwhile evidence against him. The double murder still was unsolved.

“Nothing left but that witless Higgins’ possible identification,” said Flattery heavily.

Gautier and Dugan slumped into chairs. Higgins wasn’t scheduled to return to Jamaica Police Headquarters for several hours; he’d been up all night and most of the morning. But it didn’t matter if Higgins put the finger on LaBianca. That would not be conclusive in itself.

Considering the conditions under which he’d seen the killer, Higgins easily could make a mistake and identify anyone who looked like the killer.

While Flattery, Dugan and Gautier debated the matter, Detectives Thornton, Jackson Higgins and Coote, on the trail of Red Murphy, were sweeping down on a bungalow-shack on Kimball Street in the Brooklyn flatlands, and and Detectives Magner and Brautigan were speeding back to Ridgewood on the rail of Margolo. Still other detectives were keeping the store of LaBianca’s parents and the Murphy and LaBianca homes under contant surveillance.

One lead on Murphy already had failed.

When they’d crashed into Murphy’s home, Detectives Thornton, Jackson, Higgins and Coote had been surprised to find it deserted. There wasn’t even a sign of Murphy’s wife and two children, one a boy of four, the other a 20-month old baby. Neither was there any evidence of a hasty departure.

On Thornton’s suggestion, the squad then had headed for the desolate flatlands home of Mrs. Murphy’s mother. Now as they came within sight of the bungalow they slid out of their auto and approached the two-room building from the front and rear.

Guns drawn, they barged in. Murphy’s startled wife and her mother and the children were in the rear room. Murphy was sprawled sound asleep on a bed in the front room.

“Get dressed, Red,” ordered Thornton, shaking the sleeping man.

Murphy made no effort to pretend he didn’t recognize Thornton.

“All right, Pete,” he said.

 

There was nothing belligerent about him. He seemed crestfallen. While he dressed, his wife and her mother were questioned in the other room.

“Joe came home at eleven o’clock last night,” Mrs. Murphy responded quietly to a query.

“Eleven?” repeated Detective Jackson. “Then what’s he doingi n bed now? It’s almost two o’clock.”

“He didn’t feel well.”

Murphy’s mother –in-law had no idea when he came in.

“I went to be early,” she said.

Eleven o’clock? If true, Murphy couldn’t have been one of the slaying bandits. The crime had been committed at three o’clock in the morning.

Concealing their chagrin, but remaining careful to say nothing that would tip Murphy to the crime they were trying to link him with, the officers search the canty quarters. They found no evidence to connect him with the murders. Then Murphy did something that kept the detectives rooted in their tracks.

He picked up his children, one after another, and held them close for a long time, his eyes closed, uttering no sound.

Then, kissing his wife, he looked into her pain-stricken eyes and said, “Don’t worry, Dear.”

It wasn’t what he did, exactly, nor what he said, that moved the officers. But there was something in his leave-taking like that of a man going on a long journey, something emotion stirring.

What was going on in his mind?

The detectives played on Murphy’s mood. Not once during the long ride back to Headquarters did they say a word, either to Murphy or to each other. Twice Murphy volunteered some general observation. No one answered. He lapsed into silence. It was like a funeral car.

At Headquarters the same procedure was followed. Seated in a chair in front of the desk of Lieutenant Fogarty of the Homicide Squad, with his captors seated on either side of him in a semicircle, Murphy was treated to nothing but silent, cold stares.

For ten minutes Lieutenant Fogarty did not even look up from some papers he was examining. Then, leaning back in his chair, he, too, glared mutely at Murphy. Not a word was spoken.

Gradually Murphy’s uneasiness showed itself. Sitting there, awaiting the unknown, he felt his mouth get dry. He licked his lips. Unconsciously he began to fidget.

Abruptly a door was flung open. Detectives Magner and Wagenbrenner entered, gripping Margolo by the arms. Murphy turned his head. A look of surprised joy flashed across his face. It was as though a great weight had lifted suddenly from his shoulders.

 

Margolo was hurried across the room and through another door. And when Murphy turned back to find himself staring into five pairs of eyes piercing with supreme contempt, the officers knew that he wondered fearfully if somehow, someway, he’d made a mistake.

Still the detectives said nothing. They simply watched while fresh anxieties seized Murphy in their torturing grip. As his imagination raced feverishly, spinning new fears, the blood drained slowly from his face. Tiny beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead. The silence became an oppressive thing, suggestive of the grave. Unwittingly Murphy wrung his hands.

But would he do more than that?

 

Lieutenant Fogarty pressed a button under his desk. There was a commotion at the door. It flew open. Murphy turned, stiffened.

For just an instant LaBianca, his hair disheveled, his tie askew, was framed in the doorway. Then he was hustled roughly across the room by Lieutenant Flattery and Detective Brautigan.

Murphy’s lips trembled. He gulped. He turned to Detective Thornton., pleading with his eyes. He tried to speak. He couldn’t. He tried again.

“P-Pete,” he managed to say, “P-Pete, I don’t want to burn. Pete–“

Thornton waved his hand in the direction of Lieutenant Fogarty, said nothing. Murphy looked helplessly at the Lieutenant.

“Your only chance not to burn is to spill it.” Said Fogarty quietly. “But I can promise you nothing.”

As simply as that it started. Uncertainly, like a thin stream of water finding a weak spot in a kike, Murphy’s words started. Then, as the breach widened, they gained momentum and gushed forth violently until suddenly his entire reserve gave way.

“I only drove the car! “ he cried. “I didn’t do any shooting! LaBianca did it!” He swung toward Thornton. “Pete! Tell’em! You know me, Pete! You know I wouldn’t kill!”

When his confession was complete he admitted participating in 30 holdups of gas-stations and butcher-shops with LaBianca, Margolo and Illardi.

“I usually drove the car,” he said. “Once Margolo and I went out on a job alone. We got caught. But he wasn’t with us last night, so I figured maybe you only picked me up again on that old rap when Margolo came in. But when you dragged Labianca in I knew right off you had us cold.”

“What did you do with the guns?” Lieutenant Fogarty inquired.

“LaBianca has them. He usually hides them in the cellar under his father’s store.”

Word was flashed to Detective Kraus, who had the store under surveillance. An hour later Kraus phone: “We tore that cellar apart. There are no guns there nor in any other place in this building. We went through it from the roof to the cellar.”

Confronted with Murphy’s confession, LaBianca remained imperturbable until told that his parents were going to be jailed for concealing the guns. Then LaBianca betrayed his first weakness.

“They had nothing to do with it,” he protested. “Lay off them and I’ll tell you where the guns are.” Assured of this concession, he went on. “I hid them in the cellar all right. But I got to thinking about the shooting. Then my father came to my place this morning. I was in bed. I had him get the guns and hid them some place else. They’re in a small black bag. He didn’t even know guns were in the bag.”

“Where did you tell him to hid the bag?”

“In an empty flat at 135 Menahan Street.”

The black bag was found in the vacant flat, concealed in a hole behind a fireplace. The bag contained three revolvers. Ballistics tests proved that Patrolman Murphy and young Brassard had been killed by bullets from on of the guns.

The witness Higgins later picked LaBianca out of the line-up.

“That’s the killer,” he said. “I can tell by the Oriental cast in his eyes.”

Thus, less than fourteen hours after the crime was committed, the cse was solved and the criminals arrested. And to the average layman it would appear that Murphy and LaBianca were headed straight for the electric chair. Margolo, of course, did not face charges in connection with the murder.

 

But prosecutors are never so confident. Convictions are not obtained that easily. We took no chances. We had two murder indictments returned against each man, one for the murder of Patrolman Murphy and one for the murder of the attendant, Brassard. It was fortunate that we did.

Detailed to prosecute the two confessed criminals, I tried them first for the murder of the patrolman. They had a clever defense. LaBianca appeared in court wearing a pair of ten-cent glasses to conceal the wicked cast of his eyes and to give him a more dignified appearance. Then both frankly admitted all their previous holdups but contended that on the night of the murders they did not intend to hold up the Jamaica gasoline-station.

“We went there with Illardi, just to keep him company,” said LaBianca. “Illardi was a bootlegger and he was supposed to meet another bootlegger there. Then I saw this Patrolman Murphy in plan clothes with a gun and I thought he was a killer for another mob, so I let him have it.

“Gee, if I’d “a” known he was a cop, I’d ‘a ‘ let him shoot me before I’d pull a trigger,” was the version LaBianca tried to impress upon the jury “I should ‘a’ let him shoot me first.”

 

Murphy said he had gone along just for the ride.

There was just a tinge of truth to their story. No money had been taken from the cash register. And except for Brassard’s dying statement and their own stickup records, there was little evidence that they’d intended to stick up the gasoline-staion that nigh.

In any event the jury gave LaBianca the benefit of the flimsy doubt. He was convicted of only second-degree murder.

But the verdict on Murphy almost caused him to swoon. The jury agreed that he was not guilty!

It must be remembered that this was the prohibition era when the public looked u0on murdering gangsters as glamorous knights.

Neither Murphy nor LaBianca cared to stretch his luck any farther , however. When I prosecuted them for the murder of Brassard, they both asked for and were granted permission to plead guilty to second –degree murder.

Each was sentenced by County Judge Thomas C. Kadien to serve 30 years to life in Sing Sing.