Excerpt # 7 – Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple – From the Black Hand to Murder Incorporated

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

Word spread quickly around Brownsville about Reles’ and Maione’s ambitions, and Meyer Shapiro was not too happy.

“Brownsville belongs to us,” Meyer told his brothers. “Nobody moves in here.”

Reles’ first order of business was to approach a young punk named Joey Silvers (Silverstein), who was one of the dupes the Shapiros used for their small stuff. Reles paid Silvers, and he paid him well, to tip off Reles whenever there was an opportunity to ambush the Shapiros and kill all three brothers in one place at one time. Soon, Silvers contacted Reles and told Reles that all three Shapiros were holed up in a gambling house and would be leaving shortly, making them naked to a sneak attack.

Not having time to assemble the rest of the crew, Reles and Buggsy brought along a new confederate named George DeFeo. When they arrived at the gambling house, sure enough, the Shapiros’ car was parked right out front. Reles’ plans were to icepick the tires and then nail the Shapiros as they approached their car.

However, before Reles could even pull out the icepick, the Shapiros opened fire from the safety of the house. Buggsy took a bullet in his nose and Reles absorbed another one in his stomach. DeFeo was shot dead instantly.

Reles and Buggsy made it to safety, and with the help of a mobbed-up doctor, they slowly licked their wounds and began figuring out how to take out Silvers for his betrayal, along with the Shapiros.

However, Reles had underestimated the depravity of Meyer Shapiro.

One cool autumn night, Meyer Shapiro jumped into his jalopy and scanned the streets of Brownsville, looking to hurt Reles where it hurt most: below the belt. He spotted the pretty young thing while she was window shopping at a local clothing store. She was the 18-year-old girlfriend of Abe “Kid Twist” Reles.

Shapiro swerved his car to the curb, and before the girl knew what was happening, she was inside Shapiro’s car, kicking and screaming, but no match for a hardened thug like Shapiro.

Shapiro drove with one hand, and with his free hand he slapped and punched the girl into submission.

Then Shapiro sped to a secluded area on the outskirts of Brownville and raped Abe Reles’ girlfriend. And if that wasn’t enough, as an added message, Shapiro pummeled the young girl’s face with both fists, as if she were a man.

After the young girl’s face was a grotesque mask of blood, bumps, and bruises, Shapiro opened the passenger door and kicked her to curb. She lay there for a while, and then dragged herself to her feet and staggered back to Brownsville.

She told Reles what had happened, but her swollen face told everything.

Reles was incensed; women were off limits.

Reles slowly plotted his revenge.

Reles’ first order of business was to recruit another strong-arm for his crew. He picked a dilly in Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, destined to be the most deranged killer in the history of Brownsville, if not in the entire United States of America.

Strauss, who had never been to Pittsburgh (he just liked the name), was called “Pep” by his friends. It was later said Strauss liked committing murder so much (it was reported he killed anywhere from 100 to 500 people), he often volunteered for murder contracts because, as District Attorney William O’Dwyer once said, “Just for the lust to kill.”

Strauss was a connoisseur in the art of killing. He used whatever weapon available, but his favorites were the ice pick (like his compatriot Dasher), and a length of rope, which Strauss used to truss up his victims backwards from ankles to throat, and then let them linger there as he watched them strangle themselves to death.

Reles later said, “When we got Pep it was like we put on a whole new troupe.”

Reles also recruited a nasty Irish killer named Seymour “Blue Jaw” Magoon, who got his moniker from the fact that he had a five o’clock shadow all-day long.

Healed from his wounds, Reles called for a meeting with Happy and both crews.

“Now what happens?” Happy said.

“Well, the Shapiros have to be hit,” Reles said. “We can’t just muscle them out; they got to go. And remember, the first one is Meyer. I got something to square him for.”

The Shapiros knew they were hunted men, but they were lucky Reles and his crew couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a scatter-gun at five paces.

For the next year, Reles and his boys stalked the streets of Brownville looking for the Shapiros; especially Meyer Shapiro. They spotted Meyer 18 times and 18 times their bullets missed the mark. On the 19th  try, Reles finally wounded Shapiro and two innocent bystanders, but the wound was superficial and Meyer Shapiro escaped, still very much alive.

In early July of 1931, Irving Shapiro convinced Meyer that maybe they should relax and take a ride for the day to Monticello in the Catskill Mountains to visit old pal Jack Siegal, who was on trial for running illegal slot machines.

“You look a little jumpy, Meyer,” Irv said. “We can run up and see if we can do anything for Jack. The ride will do you good.”

Since he was tired of being a clay pigeon for Reles’ inept shooting gallery, Meyer agreed to take the day off and breathe in some of that clean, fresh, upstate country air.

By this time, Abe Reles had his long tentacles throughout Brownville and his ears firmly to the ground. Minutes after Irv and Meyer Shapiro left town, Reles knew about their little country excursion. Reles quickly assembled his crew and presented his plan.

“There’s a card game at the Democratic Club on Sheffield Avenue tonight,” Reles said. “Those rats are sure to be back for it. They figure to leave Monticello around four-five o’clock. That would get them down here about eight. They’ll eat and be at the club say, 10-11 o’clock. We’ll be there when they come out.”

Reles was almost exact in his calculations.

Around 1 a.m., with Reles and his crew loaded for bear, Irv and Meyer Shapiro exited the Democratic Club and headed for their cars. The only problem was – about a dozen other card players exited at the same time, forming a shield around the Shapiro brothers. Before Reles and his crew could get off a clean shot, the Shapiro brother were safely in their car and gone.

Reles was steaming mad, but he would not be deterred.

“Quick, over to their house,” Reles told his crew. “They’ll head there.”

Reles and his men sped over to 691 Blake Avenue; the apartment building where the Shapiros lived. The Shapiros’ car was nowhere in sight.

“Good, we beat them here,” Reles said. “Now we go in the hall and wait. Remember, Meyer goes first.”

They snuck into the hallway of the apartment building, removed the overhead light bulb, and waited in the dark. Luckily, no other residents entered the apartment building, and luckily for Meyer Shapiro, he had decided he needed a nice rubdown at a nearby bath house.

“I don’t think I’ll go home,” Meyer had told Irv in the car. “I’m still jumpy. Drop me off at the Cleveland Baths. I’ll stay there overnight. Maybe it will loosen me up.”

Irv Shapiro did as his brother requested, and after he parked his car near the entrance to his apartment building, Irv entered the darkened vestibule.

Reles hesitated, realizing it was Irv and not Meyer Shapiro, whom he wanted badly. However, before he could say anything, the rest of his crew commenced firing.

When the smoke cleared, Irving Shapiro, hit 18 times, was splattered dead on the tiled floor.

Scratch Shapiro brother No. 1.

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