SEPTEMBER 2019 - Prologue to a Journey - from Resurrection

A light snow fell on the City of Chicago that morning. Across from the O & C Cartage Company at 2122 North Clark Street, inside the front room of the single story boarding house, Mrs. Grinelda Badalucci, the Landlady, was cleaning the front room curtains. She pursed her lips in disapproval at the grime that had collected on the outside of the window pane and obscured her view. The glass never stayed clean long because of the ever present dust and smoke from the factories and coal furnaces in her neighborhood. Her husband would stay home Saturday and clean the windows. Mrs. Badalucci often paused in her work to peer at the street. She liked to know everything that went on. It was starting to snow again. The only sign of movement outside was a solitary fruit peddler and his pushcart at the corner of her street. The vender was moving slowly; on his way home. For two years prohibition had been the Law in Chicago. Nevertheless bootleg whisky was easy to buy. Many private houses did a thriving business with bathtub gin and, if you knew ‘Joe’ or the password, you could always enjoy good company and the drink of your choice in any of a hundred ‘Speaks’. Control of the illegal liquor trade was a prize much sought after in the underworld. The liquor trade was the cause for sharp differences between the two gangs ruling Chicago Gangland. The war between the Italians and the Irish had been festering for five years. That week a top Terrazini mobster had been hit. Salvatore Terrazini, boss of one of the most powerful of the Italian gangs, vowed to repay the foul deed. On this cold February day, he intended to deliver a Very Special Valentine to the Irish mob. The black Hudson sedan Police car with its four occupants cruised slowly down Clark Street. It came to a stop directly across from Mrs. Badalucci’s rooming house and parked in front of the O & C Cartage Company garage. Two policemen and two over-coated civilians got out of the sedan and walked briskly in a tight group to the side entrance of the grimy single story building. The door of the garage was unlocked. They entered and, once inside, one of the policemen called a sharp command to the five surprised occupants. “Everybody put your hands against the back wall.” Three of the men were in the midst of loading Canadian Whisky crates into a waiting truck. They immediately ceased their work and complied without comment. The fourth man, who was giving orders and smoking, stopped. He put out his hand-rolled Havana cigar before joining his companions. A fifth man, seated at the desk, who had been keeping tally of the crates, put his pencil down to mark his place in the tally sheet. On the lawman’s command they all raised their hands and moved briskly to face the brick wall at the rear of the garage. These men were familiar with the process; they had been raided before. The exercise was old hat to all of them. The cigar whined a perfunctory complaint. “Yuse guys gonna shake us down again?” The only response he got was a short demand to ‘Shuddup’. The two civilians waited silently near the door. The second policeman had taken no part in the drama but stood apart from the civilians like one supervising a careful operation. He had the lean hawk-like face of a predator and the police uniform he wore seemed out of place on him. ​ When the five men were standing against the wall, backs turned away, hands outstretched and flat against the greasy bricks, he spoke a single sentence. “Let ‘em have it.” The two suits moved quickly. They opened their overcoats revealing Thompson machine guns. A second later the garage resounded with the deafening clatter of the weapons and the air filled with the acrid smell of gunpowder and smoke. At that same instant, from the small room in the corner warehouse, a boy of ten or twelve years came out from the toilet. He had a look of puzzled surprise on his face but before he could speak or react, in the next second he fell in a jumbled heap with the others from a 30 caliber bullet dead before he hit the concrete. The garage grew silent. Slowly the smoke dissipated. The policeman, who had given the order to the two gunmen, walked a few steps forward. He fired a single shot into the head of each of the adult victims. When he glanced at the boy, for a fleeting instant, a look of contrition flitted over the lean features. The grisly mission accomplished, the policeman in charge turned next and collected the machine pistols from the two civilians. Following a script, the civilians raised their hands and preceded the policemen to their black sedan waiting at the curb. They got in and drove off disappearing into the thickening snowfall. After they were gone, the snow fell harder. The street and sidewalks fast became covered in white powder. The pushcart vendor, who had hesitated when he heard the gunfire, listening a minute more and then continued to plod his weary way home. The landlady rubbed at the dirty glass of her window to determine the cause of the disturbance but she could see nothing unusual in the street. Inside the garage, a spreading pool of blood touched the pages of the 1929 calendar that had fallen to the floor.