Excerpt # 6 – Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple – From the Black Hand to Murder Incorporated

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008G0J77S

http://www.josephbrunowriter.com/joe-bruno-books.html

They started out as punk kids looking to make a small score anyway they could. However, the Boys from Brownsville advanced to being the right arm of Murder Incorporated; the most blood-thirsty organization in the history of America.

In the early 1920’s, the Shapiro brothers controlled the illegal activities in the Brownville section of Brooklyn with an iron fist. Meyer was the second-oldest and he ran the show. Nothing was beneath Meyer and he once claimed he owned 15 brothels in Brownville, with no partners except his brothers to share in the proceeds.

“I’m the boss of Brownsville,” Meyer said to anyone who doubted his clout.

Irving was the oldest Shapiro brother; not as bright or as tough as Meyer, but still considered the second-in-charge. Willie was the youngest of the three – not too bright and not too tough – not a good combination in the means streets of Brownsville. Willie was basically considered a joke and lucky to have been born into the Shapiro family.

Besides running broads, the Shapiro brothers cornered the market in Brownsville on illegal booze and illegal slot machines. To continue to operate untouched, Meyer was smart enough to pay tribute to the bigger mob bosses from the other parts of Brooklyn (Meyer didn’t consider them partners; just the cost of doing business).

“We got everything straightened out our way,” Meyer told his brothers. “As long as we stay in our own backyard, we’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Then, a young street punk named Abe “Kid Twist” Reles started having ideas.

Reles’ father, Abraham, was an Austrian Jew; a humble man who had come to America to seek a better life. Upon his arrival in the “Mountain of Gold,” Abraham Reles supported his family by doing piece work in Manhattan’s Garment Center. Soon, he had saved enough money to start his own business – selling knishes on the streets of Brooklyn with his mobile stand, which Abraham Reles pushed from street corner to street corner, looking for the busiest spot.

Abe Reles was a stocky 5-foot-2-inch menace, with the large and powerful hands of a 6-footer, and he abhorred his father’s honorable way of life. Reles quit school after the eighth grade and went to work as a go-fer for the Shapiros. The Shapiros used Reles for the most menial of tasks; running errands and sometimes keeping an eye on one of the many Shapiro-brothers-owned slot machines.

One day, Reles took a bullet to his back while minding a Shapiro slot machine (a mere flesh wound), but this got Reles to thinking.

He told his childhood pal Martin “Buggsy” Goldstein, “Why do we have to take the left-overs? We should cut a piece. The hell with those guys.”

            (It was about this time that Reles took  the nickname “Kid Twist,” in honor of a previous New York City Jewish mobster named Max “Kid Twist” Zwerbach, who was killed in front of a Coney Island dance hall in 1908. Ironically, both Kid Twists met their end in Coney Island.)

Reles was the pied piper and Goldstein was his follower. Whereas Reles was a tough runt who could kill with the best of them, the hulking Goldstein was the definition of street muscle. Reles snapped his fingers, and Goldstein jumped to attention and did what Reles told him to do. Reles decided that he and Goldstein should go into business for themselves; nothing big, maybe a few slot machines and a single brothel for starters.

However, Reles knew the Shapiros had too many men on the street and that he needed to make alliances with other street toughs in order to bring his plans to fruition. Reles told Buggsy they should pay a little visit to Happy and the Dasher.

Harry “Happy” Maione and Frank “Dasher” Abbandando were two Italian good-for-nothings who headed the “Ocean Hill Hooligans,” a ruthless street gang which ran the bookmaking and loan-shaking operations in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, which was adjacent to Brownsville. Maione, the elder of the two, was the boss; Abbandando – his second-in-command.

“Dasher” got his nickname because he had been a dashing baseball player for the Elmira Reformatory, where he had spent most of his youth. In fact, people said the hulking Abbandando could have been a hell-of-a professional baseball player if that had been his bent. The movie-star-handsome Dasher also had a slight problem with woman: he enjoyed raping them. Years later, as he awaited his murder trial, Dasher admitted he had participated in dozens of rapes, but he denied one rape in particular.

“That one didn’t count,” Dasher said. “I married her later.”

Dasher’s usual mode of murder was the ice pick because, “It didn’t make too much noise.”

Happy Maione was short and mean, with beady eyes that seemed to bore a hole into the forehead of the person he was berating. In fact, Happy was called “Happy” because a smile rarely crossed his protruding lips.

Once, in order to kill someone who Murder Incorporated said needed to go, the slender Maione dressed up as a sexy woman and knocked on the apartment door of his mark (after removing the light bulb in the hallway, of course). The sucker eyed what he thought was an attractive dame in the peephole of his door (for once Maione was smiling; his fake eye-lashed eyes were fluttering too). As a result, the mark opened the door with the glee of a schoolboy panting on his first date. As soon as the door flung open, Maione and his accomplice filled the victim with several bullet holes.

Abe Reles figured mean thugs like Happy and the Dasher would be swell partners in a takeover of the Brownsville rackets. He approached the Dasher first.

            “How about we get together for a little bookmaking?” Reles told the Dasher. “We could handle some betting; you here, and me and Buggsy in Brownsville.”

The Dasher was not too sure this was the right thing to do.

“I don’t know. Me and Happy are okay here,” the Dasher said. “And what about those Shapiros? They won’t like it.”

“Let me worry about those bums,” Reles said. “I’m for Kid Reles from here on in.”

Reles set up a meeting between himself and Buggsy, and Happy and the Dasher. Reles got right to the point.

“Those bums can be taken,” Reles told Happy.

Happy was willing to listen, but not too eager to join forces.

“What’s on your mind?” Happy said.

“Listen, if we put a mob together we could take everything over,” Reles said.       

Happy was still unconvinced.  “Look, I’m the boss of Ocean Hill, and I get left alone. Why should I stick my neck out?”

“You throw in with us, and we all move in,” Reles said.

“Where do I fit in if I do?” Happy said.

“Simple,” Reles said. “We take care of the Shapiros; then we take over. Everything goes into the pot: Brownsville, East New York, Ocean Hill – everything. Then we cut down the middle.”

Happy, who secretly hated Reles (and he knew Reles hated Happy, too), told Reles he’d think about it.

Happy then approached his mentor Louis Capone about Reles’ proposition. Capone (no relation to Al Capone) was ostensibly a Brooklyn restaurateur, but was, in fact, a big-time gangster with close ties to Mafioso like Joe “Adonis” Doto and Albert “The Lord High Executioner” Anastasia. Capone was knee-deep in loan-sharking and was also a force in several labor union rackets.

New York City District Attorney William O’Dwyer once told the New York Times, “Capone had his fingers dipped in every dirty crime committed by the organized crime gangs. He was the contact between lesser lights like Reles, Straus, Maione, and Goldstein, and bosses like Anastasia and Buchalter (Louie Lepke). But he was not a real head of the mob.”

Happy figured if Capone gave his blessing for a marriage between Happy and Reles, it must be the right thing to do. So Happy laid out Reles’ plan to Capone.

Without hesitation, Capone told Happy. “It sounds real good, Hap.”

Capone even convinced Happy to take in another Capone protégé, Vito Gurino, a 5 foot-6-inch, 265-pound ox, who could kill someone as easily as eating a meatball sandwich. This gave the Reles-Maione crew one more valuable assassin in their war against the Shapiros.

So the alliance was made, and Abe Reles’ and Happy Maione’s gangs merged into one formidable group of killers. The Shapiros had a few proficient gunslingers of their own, but with the addition of his new torpedoes, the tide seemed to be turning in Reles’ favor.

http://www.josephbrunowriter.com/joe-bruno-books.html

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