Mob Rats – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles – Part 2

So the alliance was created, and Abe Reles’s 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 Reles’s new torpedoes, the tide seemed to be turning in Reles’s favor.

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

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

Reles’s first order of business was to approach a young punk named Joey Silvers (Silverstein); one of the dupes the Shapiros used to do their dirty work. 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 at one time. Soon, Silvers contacted Reles, and he told Reles the 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, the Shapiros’ car was parked right out front. Reles’s plans were to icepick the tires, and then nail the Shapiros as they approached their car.

However, before Reles could even pull out his 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. After taking a single bullet in the head; DeFeo was dead.

Reles and Buggsy made it to safety, and with the help of a mobbed-up doctor, they 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 luxury sedan and scanned the streets of Brownsville, looking to hurt Reles where it hurt most: below the belt. Meyer Shapiro 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 in 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.

Shapiro then sped to a secluded area on the outskirts of Brownsville and raped Abe Reles’s girlfriend. As an added message to Reles, Shapiro pummeled the young girl’s face with both fists, as if she were a man.

Finished with his assault, Shapiro opened the passenger door and kicked the young girl to curb. She lay there for a while, and then dragged herself to her feet and staggered back to Brownsville, where she told Reles what had happened.

Reles was incensed; women were supposed to be off limits.

His anger intensifying, Reles plotted his revenge.




Reles’s first order of business was to recruit another strong-arm for his crew. He picked a beaut 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 enjoyed 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 weapons available. But his favorites were the ice pick (for immediate death), and a length of rope, which Strauss used to truss up his battered victims backwards from ankles to throat, and then watch them struggle as they strangled themselves to death.

Reles 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 due to the fact he had a five-o’clock-shadow all day long.

After he 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 Statue of Liberty with a scattergun at five paces.

For the next year, Reles and his boys stalked the streets of Brownsville looking for the Shapiros; especially Meyer Shapiro. They spotted Meyer 18 times, and 18 times their bullets missed their mark. On the 19th try, Reles wounded Meyer Shapiro and two innocent bystanders. But Shapiro’s wound was superficial and he escaped.

In early July of 1931, Irving Shapiro convinced his brother Meyer 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,” Irving 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’s shooting gallery, Meyer agreed to take the day off to breathe the clean, fresh, upstate air.

By this time, Abe Reles had his long tentacles stretched throughout Brownsville and his ears planted to the ground. Minutes after Irving and Meyer Shapiro left town, Reles knew about their country excursion. Realizing this was an excellent opportunity to whack the Shapiros, Reles 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, ten-eleven o’clock. We’ll be there when they come out.”

Reles was almost exact in his calculations.

Around 1 am, with Reles and his crew loaded for bear, Irving and Meyer Shapiro exited the Democratic Club and headed for their cars. However, 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 in their car and gone.

“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. No other residents entered the apartment building, and luckily for Meyer Shapiro, he had decided he needed a nice rubdown at a nearby bathhouse.

“I don’t think I’ll go home,” Meyer had told Irving 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.”

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

Reles hesitated; realizing it was Irving and not Meyer Shapiro. But before Reles could say anything, the rest of his crew commenced firing.  When the shooting stopped, Irving Shapiro, hit 18 times, lay dead on the tiled floor.

Scratch Shapiro brother No. 1.


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