The Manusco Shooting
In 1924 Elias Jackson volunteered to host the, by now yearly, meeting of the guild in central Chicago, Illinois at the hotel Ritz at which he was currently based. On March 24th, the day before the guests were due to arrive, he received a vital lead from an informant and was forced to make immediately for Kenya. Before he left he made arrangements for the visitors he was abandoning to dine at the Blue Heaven Club as recompense for the inconvenience.
Members attending were: Theodore Waltz, Tristram Fink-Nottle,Chester Flannigan, Olive L’amour and new boyBill Van Der Molen. They all arrived at the hotel on time and were presumably annoyed to discover Elias’ absence. However, once staff at the hotel had described the club to them they were, in the words of Fink-Nottle’s diary ‘Greatly Mollified.’
The Blue Heaven Club was well known amongst the elite in the city and Jackson had visited it on a number of occasions to interview potential leads from the African American staff. During these visits he had come to know the manager and was on good terms with him. The club was a speakeasy but one frequented by the great and the good. The booze was imported and expensive and the music was jazz, played by the house band, the 5 Stars. Arrest was unlikely whilst drinking at the Blue Heaven, not least because both the Chief of Police and the cities mayor at the time were frequent guests. Even though the Treasury Department had all the evidence they needed to shut the place down, they found themselves stymied by edicts from above at every turn. Of course, the expense of keeping the place running (the main debit line in the accounts would most likely have been ‘bribes’) meant the prices were as high as the society.
Treasury agent and later FBI bureau chief for Illinois, Roger Daniels, told Guild members in an interview shortly before his death in 1973 that he’d wanted to close the club for months.
“You got to remember, this was prohibition. If I found out about a negro…sorry, I mean a black bar up on the North side, we’d come down like a ton of bricks, everyone there would be arrested and the manager would be thrown in jail for a long stretch. But when it came to the places the bosses drank and believe me, the Blue Heaven wasn’t the only joint we knew about, then the judges never gave us our warrants. But closing down a place like that was how a guy made his career, it made all the papers, got your name known and the only way you could do it was if the place had trouble. A shooting, a fight anything like that. Then you had just cause, you know? So I had my guys stationed round the corner from that place for months, just waitin’ for something to happen. Nothing ever did, not till Ted and his pals turned up. Those weirdos from your organisation were the best thing that ever happened to my career.”
The official police reports from the night in question says that, around 10pm, Peter Manusco, who was sharing his table with strangers whilst apparently waiting for an acquaintance, was shot in the back of his head at close range by a large caliber pistol, probably a .45 and died instantly. Some of the group sitting across the table from Manusco chased the man out into the side alley hoping to apprehend him, where they and 2 of the clubs doormen were fired upon by a man leaning from the door of a grey Ford Packard, wielding a Thompson Machine-Gun.
Once the shooting was discovered, panic ensued amongst the crowd and, somehow, Peter Manusco’s dead body made it’s way from the table where he had died, out of the club entrance and onto the street, where it was struck by the first patrol car arriving at the scene. The CPD never got to the bottom of how the corpse got to the street, ascribing the unusual occurrence to the crowd fleeing the scene having somehow carrying Manusco’s body with them. Others, including Agent Daniels have speculated that, despite later coroner reports to the contrary, Manusco’s wound was simply not as serious as first thought and Manusco had somehow, with half his skull blown off, made his way under his own steam to the entrance.
If this sounds unlikely, consider Olive L’amour’s account of what happened, committed to her diary in the early hours of the following morning. She had stayed behind whilst the others chased the gunman, to tend to Theodore Walz who, upon seeing the man shot at close quarters and with his experiences in france having left him with what would now be called PTSD, had passed out. After the others had run through the door Olive got up to check Manusco’s pulse.
‘ It was strange to think that the man now slumped across the table before me had been my dancing partner only minutes earlier. Pete, as he told me his name was, had not been a good dancer and his breath was bad, but I doubted he deserved what he’d just received from the man with the gun. I rose and walked around the table to check he truly was dead, though I couldn’t see how anyone could survive such a wound. As I approached, the music from the band reasserted itself on my conscious thought. For a moment, all I could think of was how strange it was that nobody else in the establishment had heard the gunshot when, for those of us sat close to the poor man, it had been the loudest thing in the world. However, the club was very busy and between the noise of the patrons and that of the band, the shot appears to have gone unnoticed. The queer normality of the people around me gave me new courage and I reached a hand out to take his pulse.
But as I approached the blood-spattered corpse, it’s hand began to beat out a terrible rhythm on the table in time to the music. I froze as the dead man lifted his head, a hole the size of an apple leaking blood and viscera onto the table as he did so. As he got to his feet I am very much afraid to say that I screamed.
I think it was probably as much that scream as anything that the people saw that began the stampede. The dead man was on his way to the stairs and, as the great mass of people crashed upon him like a powerful tide, he was knocked down and crushed underfoot. But as I watched, the man rose for a second time, a bloody pulp of flesh, like something left in the butchers bin at the end of a busy day, and pushed his way out of the club, moaning the name ‘Joey’ at the top of his stilled lungs.
I am not sure at what point my colleague awoke from his stupor, all I know is that Ted got to his feet and chased the dead man out, screaming for a medic that he’d left behind six years ago and an ocean away. That was the last I saw of Ted until we found him later that evening, trembling in a dumpster half a mile away. Poor Ted. The others, when they returned would not believe what I had seen and I could not blame them, I hardly believed it myself. But I know what I saw and I saw a dead man rise to his feet and walk out of that club. ’
At first glance this would seem to support Agent Daniels’ theory and indeed it was partly her statement that lead him to his conclusions. But if you notice, Olive insists on the word ‘Dead’ and ‘Corpse’ and she would continue to insist that when Pete Manusco walked out of the Blue Heaven Club that night, he had been not injured but dead. She would still be insisting on this version of events the day she died.
At what point the Guild decided to take on the investigation and why they decided to do so is unclear. They obviously all had a genuine interest in police work and perhaps saw this as an opportunity to live out the fantasies of the Guild in the real world. It’s also obvious that the only angle the authorities where interested in was how the murder would help them close down the illegal drinking den. Perhaps it was felt that somebody should bring Manusco’s killer to justice and if the police wouldn’t then they would have to. Perhaps Olive needed to understand all she had seen that night and convinced the others. Maybe they were just naturally meddlesome.
However the decision was reached, it became clear by the following afternoon that they were not about to leave the matter to the authorities. They had obtained a number of leads from the club itself and would pick up more the next day. The following is an extract from a letter that Mr. Chester Flannigan sent to Eliot Jackson six months later, explaining his view of the whole affair.
‘When the patrons of the club fled the scene, we were warned to get out by a trumpet player who we had helped out earlier in the evening. He had wanted to get past our table but Mr. Manusco had been very rude to him until we insisted on his letting the man through. Why we got involved I’m not sure, you would have to ask the others.
Anyway, this trumpet player, whose name we later discovered to be Leroy Turner, a man of some skill with his chosen instrument but of most pathetic personal character, fled through the restroom and I followed him in an attempt to convince him to stay and tell the police what he had seen. However, by the time I got through the door he was already halfway out the window. As he dropped down into the alleyway beyond, something dropped from his cheap suit jacket and fluttered to the floor. It was the business card of a local funeral parlour for the negro population, with instructions on the back to meet there at 11 and to bring his trumpet. I thought perhaps we might use the event as an opportunity to discover more about the club and perhaps see if any of the band members knew the deceased and the others agreed with me that this might be fruitful. None of them seemed willing to join me though. I believe that I was proved correct in the end as you shall see.
In the morning, Fink-Nottle’s man brought him the paper which had a story on the murder. We now knew the victims full name and that the powerful people who had been there the night before were distancing themselves as far from the club as they could. The mayor in particular showed an extraordinary hypocrisy, worthy of his lofty political office.
After taking stock of this, we split up, following up lines of enquiry we thought may be useful. Olive, who at this point I still thought to be suffering from hysterical shock and despite all I have seen since I am not sure I was wrong, would go with Tristram to see the mayor. I think they hoped to pressure him into revealing something but despite getting past his receptionist, were threatened with a suit for slander by his lawyers. A fruitless endeavour that wasted most of the morning.
Theodore and Bill went to call on the Treasury Agent we had met at the club the previous evening and whose lack of interest in the murder itself had, to me, been baffling. Ted had been indisposed when the man had interviewed us and so it was thought if Ted could offer some fresh insight, he might let something useful slip. What Ted could have seen from his stupor that the rest of us missed, I could not imagine but they were convinced. They were not as successful as they would have liked but the agent did mention in passing that, in contrary to the Tribune’s report which described Manusco as a model citizen, the police believed him to be connected to the mob. I believe it was also during this meeting that Ted and Agent Daniels Learned of their joint status as veterans of the war. I believe they met for drinks later in the day but was not privy to that conversation. Probably old war stories.
I, meanwhile headed to the funeral parlour for the time indicated on the business card I had found. On the way I picked up one of the Negro papers and learnt that more credulous members of the staff who had witnessed the incident believed that Manusco’s miraculous walk to the exit had been some kind of voodoo spell. I scoffed at this at the time, though events at the funeral would alter my opinions to some extent. The paper also contained a notice of the funeral that I was on my way to attend. Through this, I learned the victims name, the name of his wife and his job. It appeared he had died in the cross-fire of a fight between rival mob bosses. I also discovered that he was the brother in law of the band leader Mitch Wester. There were too many coincidences here, from the connection to organised crime to the band at the Blue Heaven and I felt more and more confident of discovering some fresh information.
Once I arrived at the funeral, feeling somewhat conspicuous due to the colour of my skin, I managed to persuade the dead man’s friends and family that I had been his jeweller, had been responsible for his wife’s wedding ring and that we had struck up an acquaintance. Looking back, it seems surprising that anyone would have believed that a poor, coloured drayer could have afforded a custom made wedding band, or that the white, middle-class jeweller responsible would wish an acquaintance with such a man but I suppose I must have been more persuasive than I believed, as my story was accepted without question. Mitch Wester, the brother of the deceased and leader of the 5 Star band, was particularly trusting and talked to me about the tragic death of his brother-in-law for a few minutes. I don’t remember the details of the conversation and am sure it had no bearing on the case. I found Mitch Wester to be somewhat of a bore, only interested in his own, petty problems with no understanding of the wider implications of his relatives death.
I tried to discover more about the dead man when introduced to the widow but the infuriating woman was almost incoherent with grief, so I merely gave my sympathies and attempted to be inconspicuous.
Once the funeral procession started I fell into line with the mourners, though I found the whole spectacle somewhat comical. A brass band for a funeral? I shall never fully understand this country, I fear. At the start there was a brief and heated discussion between Wester and one of the band members which appeared to be about the late arrival of one of their fellows. I believe this argument to have been about the tardiness of Mr. Turner, who was not yet arrived, despite the time being well after 11.
As we trudged along, I began to get the sense I was being watched. Looking around, I saw nobody except for Leroy Turner, who was still stuffing the hip flask into his pocket as he ran across to the join the band. After a brief rebuke from Wester, he began to play that queer trumpet of his. I must say that, despite my dislike for ‘Jazz music’ I could not help but be impressed by the quality and tone of the young man’s playing.
At first things continued as before, though I couldn’t get rid of that sense of being watched. Suddenly there was confusion at the front of the parade, as the pallbearers seemed to stumble under the weight of the coffin, despite all being large, well muscled gentlemen and having had no trouble with it thus far. As I watched, the top of the coffin bowed, cracked and then splintered apart as a grey fist broke through the cheap wood. And then, suddenly as a children’s jack-in-the-box, the dead man sat up and moaned at the assembled mourners. Chaos ensued. The coffin was dropped and, as the corpse rose, men and women fled to avoid his icy touch. All but his wife that is, who stepped slowly towards him and said ‘Frank, is that you?’ The monster seemed to recognise the woman and at the same moment, come to realise it’s own terrible state of being. It collapsed to it’s knees, weeping, and wrapped it’s arms around the woman’s legs. after a few moments the corpse was still and, I believe, had simply drifted off once more to that cold place that all men must one day visit.
It was at this point, somewhat startled by the events I had just witnessed but still as collected as ever I had been, that I noticed the unpleasantly rat-like individual who had made such an impression on Peter Manusco the previous night. He was watching the unfolding horror with a strange look of excitement. When he looked back to myself he realised I had seen him, and ran. In the confusion of the crowd I could not see where he had gone. I would have my moment with this murderer though. Accepting that the man had escaped my gaze I turned my attention back to the unnatural events of the funeral and made straight for the wife.
The widow was screaming out her husbands name but this was no time for condolence and I gave her a resounding slap to calm her down. It worked and the screams turned to sobs. I tried to find out what she knew about these horrific events but before I could interrogate her further I was pulled away by Wester and a gang of his thugs. Despite my protestations they insisted I leave the funeral and were most threatening.
Fearing I would learn no more here, I left for my planned lunch with the others, unsure of how I would explain all I had seen.’
After hearing Flannigan’s story, the team seem to have split somewhat into two groups when it came to planning the next move. Bill and Tristram obviously believed the others to have misinterpreted what they had seen or, in Ted’s case, to have lost the plot. They saw the case as a straightforward murder investigation, albeit one that was increasingly looking like it would involve the mob.
Olive and Chester meanwhile were convinced by what they had seen that there was more than simply a gangland killing. Tristram and Bill agreed that there seemed to be some connection between the two events, though they were thinking of the gunman whereas the others were interested in the band that were playing as each of the dead men rose from the dead.
A plan was concocted to lure the band into playing at a time and place of the groups choosing, where they could have a body waiting to prove once and for all whether the dead really were rising from the grave. What they did next would be unusual and would foreshadow the Guild’s reputation for complex schemes to achieve simple ends.
In the groups defence, it is fair to say that they had had a difficult few hours. They had witnessed a murder, some of them believed they had seen the dead walk, their initial forays into real world investigation were proving frustrating and they were unsure of who was connected to the mob and who was just an innocent bystander. It seems likely that the group was being swept along by events and found themselves suggesting and agreeing with notions that they would dismiss as nonsense.
What they did next was organise a party at the ritz. The idea was that they would hire the 5 Star band to play and secrete a corpse (it was apparently undecided at this point if the corpse would be human or animal) somewhere on the premises to see what would happen. They had of course noticed that the trumpet players presence seemed to be of particular importance, so the gig would be conditional on his attendance. How they intended to find a corpse and sneak it into the hotel is unclear. What they would do if it did rise from the dead doesn’t seem to have been considered. And why they didn’t just ask the band some questions is a mystery. But they forged ahead with the plan, hiring the hotel’s ballroom for the evening of the 28th. Tristram Fink-Nottle takes up the story in his diary.
‘Looking back, the whole thing seems ridiculous. The thing is, it was all so damn easy. The hotel were falling over themselves to help, Jeeves made all the practical arrangements and when we arrived at his apartment after obtaining his address from the funeral parlour, Mitch Wester was obviously in no position to turn down a paying job. Honestly, the negro areas of this country are a disgrace. Someone should really give them a jolly good spruce up. This Wester fellow lived in a run-down apartment block with no furniture or any belongings to speak of other than four or five instruments in his room. It was cold and damp and, honestly, he didn’t even have a rug for the floor.
I didn’t want to spend more time talking to this chap than was absolutely necessary but Olive seemed determined to question him or somesuch. I almost regretted not going along with Chester and Bill to search Manusco’s office, but then I recalled what a bore Chester can be and how rural Bill is and counted my blessings. Ted’s a funny bird but Olive is a gal with class and no time with her is wasted.
Anyhow, she asked Wester about that trumpet player, whose name it turns out is Leroy Turner, and he told her he was a sort of a layabout, didn’t turn up to appointments, always drinking and so on. Apparently, he hasn’t been the same since the death of his girl, millie or molly or something. Anyway, what’s important is that he agreed to do the show and said he would try to get Leroy to come.
We told him we’d like to speak to Leroy ourselves, to make sure he comes and Wester told us we’d probably find him at a local drinking den. This whole prohibition thing is so tiresome. If a man wants a drink, why shouldn’t he be able to get one? It’s damned inconvenient and the most inconvenient part of this whole inconvenient trip. Papa, is still insisting I should stay out here and meanwhile all my old chums are living it up in a civilised country where a man can get a drink whenever he damn well feels like it.
Anyway, we went looking for this place and when we found it, good old Ted showed a stubborn streak I never thought he had. When the doorman wouldn’t let us in to see Leroy, Ted just kept on knocking until the buggers threw the trumpeter out to us! I thought i’d die. Anyway, I slipped the man a few dollars and told him they’d be more on the night and he agreed quickly enough. He was actually quite chatty once I gave him a swig of the old flask. Turns out he got his trumpet from Louis Armstrong himself, unless he’s telling tales, which is a distinct possibility.
Our mornings work complete, we went looking for Bill and Chester. They’d been rifling through this Manusco chap’s office and had struck gold. He had a sort of scrapbook, filled with cuttings from the Tribune detailing all manner of ghastly mob violence with a name scribbled by each one – Bonato. Seems like our friend Pete was not entirely on the straight and narrow and had been cooking the books for this Bonato fellow. Well, something must have gone wrong and he wound up ‘popped’ to use the vernacular.
I wanted to head to the Tribune and talk to the waller in charge of the mob stuff and Bill agreed that this might be useful. Ted and Chester wanted to go to the DMV and search for this grey Packard the gunman escaped in. Olive decided to head to the morgue and take a gander at the bodies of Manusco and this Fayette chap Chester saw ‘rise from the dead’ yesterday.
At the Tribune we asked for the craziest member of the journalistic staff as a jape and were directed to a chap by the name of Johnson. We immediately bonded over my ever-present hipflask and he told us Bonato was a small time importer of booze who thought he was more important than he was. Johnson gave him less than a year to live. I couldn’t help thinking that all these mobsters would live a lot longer if only they’d move into a safer line of work, like the production of my own chemical stimulants for instance. I think perhaps this forward looking country would appreciate my talents more than those stuffed shirts at Oxford. I fear, however, that myself and the gentlemen with the organisational nous to partner me are forever destined to stand on opposite sides of the legal divide. C’est la vie.
After saying our goodbye’s to Johnson (and inviting him to the party of course. the man is a delight and will lift everyone’s spirits when our yet-to-be-acquired body fails to be awoken by Leroy’s trumpet) we made our way back to base.
Once there, however, we were shocked to learn what had befallen Ted and Chester on what had appeared to be a safe, if pointless, trip to a government department. It appeared that Chester had become embroiled in what can only be described as a ‘shoot out’ on the streets of Chicago! In fact, the last time Ted had seen our elderly friend, he had been chasing our murder suspect down said street, waving a pistol and yelling ‘police’! After ringing around we discovered Chester had been arrested and I have just sent Jeeves down with the money to bail him out.
Honestly, this is turning out to be a very hard trip on the old pocket book.’
I am not the first commentator to note that Fink-Nottle’s diary should be taken with a large pinch of salt. He was in no way as flighty as he likes to make out in these carefully studied entries and there is strong evidence that he edited his diaries to avoid giving the impression that he was anything other than a dissolute party boy. Details of his colourful past can be found in his biography, elsewhere on this site.
Whatever the fictions of Tristrams diary, it seems accurate in terms of the salient facts. The group did book the 5 Stars to play at their party, Olive L’amour did visit the morgue where she saw the two bodies in question and was told by the coroner that there was no way either of them could have done what the witnesses said they had done and yes, 57 year old watchmaker and jeweller Chester Flannigan did get into a gunfight with a mob hitman in broad daylight on the streets of Chicago. Only two shots were exchanged but this was enough to leave an innocent bystander dead, Flannigan arrested and the mobster, whose name was Joey Larson, in hospital.
putting together the police report, witness statements and Flannigans own diary I have been able to piece together the startling events.
After a fruitless morning searching through hundreds of car registrations with nothing to go on and no guarantee that the Grey Ford Packard they were looking for was even registered, Ted and Chester set off back to the hotel. As they walked they became aware that they were being followed. Thinking quickly, Ted pulled Chester into a pawn shop, from the safety of which they saw Joey Larson, the man they had seen shoot Peter Manusco in the head from close range only two nights earlier, stroll casually past the shop, throwing glances through the window.
The two men decided to apprehend the man. WHY Manusco was killed didn’t matter when you knew WHO did the deed. Together they ran outside and demanded Joey stop. Joey reached into his pocket and pulled out the .45 he had used to shoot Manusco. Ted, who was in the process of attempting to tackle the man, rolled into cover at the first sign of a firearm, cover in this case being between the bumpers of two parked cars. Chester’s reaction was more surprising. Pulling a pistol no one knew he owned, he claimed to be a policeman and demanded Joey drop his weapon. At the sight of the weapons the crowded street panicked and people ran, screaming for cover. One man, Michael Drury, a Chicago native and heroic veteran of the fields of Ardennes, who was married with three young children and made a living teaching fourth grade english, a job which, by all accounts he excelled at, was not quick enough. Joey’s initial surprise at Chester’s outlandish claims of authority lasted only a moment and he fired his gun, striking said husband and father, who’s medal of honour (received for saving his men by single handedly charging a machine gun nest during an assault of the german line) would have to be sold to pay the rent by his widow, was struck in the side of the head and died instantly.
Seemingly unfazed by this violent death mere feet from where he stood, Chester returned fire and caught the gangster in the shoulder. Shocked and badly wounded, Joey turned tail and fled. Chester, who was, remember, in his late fifties at this point, gave chase. It seems he caught up with the much younger man in a nearby alleyway and tackled him, holding him at gunpoint until the police arrived.
Initially arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, Chester was later released on bail after witness statements backed up his story that he only fired in self-defence after Joey Larson fired and killed the innocent Michael Drury. It wouldn’t be long until all charges were dropped, Chester’s case helped by first the abscondment of Joey from his police guard at the hospital and later the discovery of his bullet riddled body at a warehouse obviously used as a clearing house for illegal booze.
But Joey is not out of the picture just yet. The night of the party came around and after a day of dead ends, it seemed as though the party would be the end of the road one way or another. The group had managed to find a speakeasy supplied by Bonato but the owner either didn’t know anything about the man or could not be induced to tell what he knew. The party left with a supply of liquor for their party but no leads. Worse than that, they still had no corpse. Eventually balking at the idea of supplying a human corpse for the experiment, at some point Bill was sent on an errand to fetch a chicken and took the opportunity to buy a dozen as a present for his ma and pa from the big city.
As he arrived back, the party was just beginning. The band, minus Leroy who was late, started up and more and more people began showing up. It seems that members of the group had been inviting anyone they met to the party and it soon became clear that word had spread. By the end of the evening, the party would go down as one of the most debauched of the roaring twenties. Stories abound of rivers of gin, startled chickens and a journalist with the voice of an angel but none of the Guild members would be there to see it.
At around 10, Leroy finally arrived. As he did so and the group prepared to kill a chicken for the greater good, a new group of men arrived. They instantly recognised Joey, his arm in a sling, accompanied by three large men in italian suits with bulges under their jackets. Joey pointed out Leroy and the four of them escorted the startled trumpet player out of the back door. Ted and Olive immediately followed the men out at a discreet distance and watched as they got into a familiar Grey Packard. Across the street was an idling taxi and Olive and Ted paid the driver to ‘follow that car.’ After a moment, the others realsed what had happend and followed, Ted and Chester in his pickup, Tristram driven by Jeeves.
And that is the last thing we know for certain. By the following morning 5 people would be dead, including Leroy Turner and Joey Larson. Tristram Fink-Nottle would be in hospital, receiving treatment for two bullet wounds in his right shoulder, where he would be accompanied by Olive L’amour, herself suffering from a serious head-wound, apparantley sustained in a car crash. Theodore Waltz would be found half-naked and gibbering about the kaiser’s plot in a city park the following morning.Bill Van Der Molen and Chester Flanningan would be tight lipped on what had occured for the rest of their lives.
What happened that night? Well, we don’t know for sure. There are only 2 sources of information to call on and neither of them is wholly reliable. the first is a transcript of an interview with Bill Van Der Molen’s parents in 1948.
‘ Interviewer: Mr Van Der Molen, please could you and your wife tell us what Bill told you about that last night in Chicago?
Mr Van Der Molen: Well, Like I said, Bill went out there one way, came back another. Like, a different person, you know? And it was that night that did it.
Mrs Van Der Molen: Bill was always a sensitive boy and what he saw out there (pause) well, it’s more than anyone should have to see.
I: What did he see?
Mr M: Listen, this family’s been through enough, I don’t want no one to think our son was crazy or nothing. Now you say no one is going to hear this, well fine, but then why record it?
I: It’s for the Guilds records sir. Our president has asked us to reexamine all cases that remain unsolved. It will only be seen by men and women who’ll believe your son sir.
Mr M: Hmm. That guild of yours…
Mrs M: _ Just tell him what he wants to know George, then they’ll leave._
Mr M: alright, alright. So that last night yeah? Bill and those friends of his, they chased these gangsters over town and tailed them to some warehouse. Bill said they tried to get close when they took that trumpet player in, but they were making too much noise, they didn’t want to get shot, see.
Mrs M: They had that much sense, at least.
Mr M: _One of ‘em lets the tyres of the Packard down, so they can’t get away. _
Mrs M: what did they think would happen when they tried, hmm?
Mr M: Anyhow, a few minutes after the gangsters go in this place, they hear a shot. at first they think they’ve gone and shot that coloured boy. But then they hear his trumpet playing, clear as day. Then screaming, more shots and the trumpet player runs out the back door laughing.
Mr M: Yeah, laughing, crazy like and shouting.
I: what was he shouting?
Mr M: Oh a name, you know, his dead girlfriend’s name. Mandy or something.
I: Go on.
Mr M: well, then the gangsters come running out in a panic. they jump in their car to go, but they can’t cos that damn fool let their tyres down. They look round to see who’s done it and see Bill and his buddies. They start pulling out pistols, so that Brit, the one with the title, he levels his shotgun and BOOM! blows one of ‘em away with both barrels and starts reloading. So Bill thinks, shit, I’d better help and he grabs his own gun outta the truck but he’s so nervous that he shoots wide.
_ Mrs M: Bill would never hurt a fly, bless him._
Mr M: So then there’s this fight, and there’s bullets flying round and lord snooty gets hit but they take another man down and the last one, he runs. When they go in the warehouse, they find the punk, the one who killed the guy in the bar…
Mrs M: Larson, they find Larson and his girlfriend dead on the floor. Only they hadn’t just been killed once. Bill said they’d been killed twice, they were all covered with bulletholes see, but it was the head shots that killed ’em, the rest was just for, you know sending a message. Like in the movies.
Mr M: alright, alright, who’s telling this anyhow? So they find these bodies and they hear the police coming so they run for the cars and Bill says, as they run they suddenly realise where the trumpet players gone.
I: And where was that?
Mrs M: We don’t know. Bill would never tell us. It must have been somewhere terrible though. If you could have seen the look in his eyes when he came home. He was never the same after that, never the same. I’m sure he wouldn’t have got involved in the other business if he hadn’’t gone to Chicago that year and he wouldn’t…wouldn’t…(Sobbing)’
It is certainly true that the police found bodies as described by Bill’s parents that evening. And it was also confirmed by the coroner that the two victims inside the warehouse had been shot and killed and then fired upon many more times after death. It was the police’s view, as Mrs Van Der Molen guessed, that this was intended to send a message. It seems Joey Larson had been sent simply to warn Peter Manusco after his boss heard about the file the accountant was keeping but Joey, who by all accounts was somewhat trigger happy, had gone off message. When Bonato found out about the murder he was furious but why he didn’t just dispense with his incompetent employee there and then is a mystery. It has been suggested that Joey mentioned that his face may have been seen by witnesses and Bonato ordered him to take care of that, planning to clean up all the loose ends. What Leroy Turner had to do with all this is another area open to speculation. it has been posited that he was running a rival operation, supplying local black speakeasy’s and undercutting Bonato. Based on what we know of Leroy this seems so unlikely as to be impossible. Besides, if he had been kidnapped from the party in order to be executed, why was he allowed to flee the scene of Joey’s murder unharmed?
the most likely explanation so far mooted is that Leroy discovered that the Grey Ford Packard that killed his girlfriend on their arrival in Chicago, belonged to Bonato and was often driven by Joey Larson. In this scenario, Leroy, driven mad by grief, asks for a meeting with Bonato on some pretext compelling enough to have made Bonato send his boys for the trumpet player. On arrival, the alcoholic, shambling Leroy shoots Joey and his girlfriend, causing the hardbitten mobsters to flee in panic. Hmm. Hardly compelling.
There is one other piece of evidence to consider. Dr Nicholas Vendter was a renowned New York Jungian with an excellent reputation for treating veterans with ‘shellshock.’ later in 1924, Theodore Waltz would become a patient of the Doctor, on the advice of Agent Daniels. After this, Dr Vendter would become the docotor of choice for members of the Guild, whose psychiatric needs were many and varied over the years. Upon his death in 1988 at the age of 98, he left a large collection of notes to the Guild, covering almost all of his ineteraction with Guild members. The collection is unsettling and it should be remembered that the following is an extract of a private conversation between an obviously damaged individual and his doctor. It should therefore be viewed not as a literal relation of events, but as a metaphor, created by Ted’s unconcious to deal with the events of the war that left him so injured and that he could not bear to relive, even in microcosm.
Case notes for patient T. Waltz, June 1925.
Theodore Waltz is a highly intelligent individual, whose mental reaction to his experience on the continent is amongst the worst I have encountered. Until 1924 he seems to have operated on a functional level, working in a low pay, low stress job, cutting ties with friends and relations and generally following the usually patterns. However, he suffered a severe breakdown in the march of ‘24, whilst attending what appears to have been a reunion of old college friends that somehow developed into a murder investigation. Over the last few months Ted has revealed more and more of the story of that week to me, from the man shot dead mere feet from where he sat eating his steak (a dish he can no longer see without becoming violently ill), to the suddenly escalated confrontation on the Chicago streets, to his involvement in what to all intents and purposes appears to have been a ‘shoot out’ with mobsters. All of these events contributed to his eventual breakdown and the real events are intertwined with a horrific fantasy about a trumpet that can raise the dead and men rising from violent deaths. These are obviously hugely symbolic hallucinations.
However, he has never been able to describe that last evening to me, the moment that he finally lost a grip on reality. There is a period, between around 11 in the evening on the 28th of march and 11am the following morning, that has remained a mystery. The closest he has come to telling me what happened is the following story, which he told me during a session in January 1925. It is, of course, an entirely delusional fantasy, but I believe it may hold some key to his current mental state. He had just finished describing the fight with the gangsters and continues the story from the moment he and his comrades left the scene.
“Just as we were getting back in the cars, with the sound of the cops approaching, someone, I don’t remember who, shouted out that they knew where Leroy was going and when they said it out loud, it all fell into place. We’d been so focussed on running around after gangsters and planning parties that we’d missed the most important thing anyone had told us.
Leroy was a dupe, a loser. He hadn’t seemed important. But Larson that little murdering prick, Larson figured it out before any of us. He was following us, me and the others, cos we saw his face at the club. He heard what happened at the club and, when he tailed Chester, and saw what happened at the funeral, it didn’t occur to him to think ‘oh, the coroner must have made a mistake’ he thought ‘shit, that guys trumpet raises the dead.’ And that’s what he told his boss, that’s why they came to the party, thats why they kidnapped Leroy. Imagine that doc, a mob that never died. Bonato would have kicked Capone out of town in a few days.
I don’t know for sure what happened in that warehouse, but I can guess. Joey brought his boss the guy with the trumpet that could ‘raise the dead’ and Bonato, who I guess didn’t like Joey too much, decided to test the theory. The girl was just a bystander, wrong place wrong time. She probably thought she was with a big time gangster and was going to get rich. All she got was dead. When Leroy played and Joey turned out to be right, those big tough gangsters shot the shit out of him, turned-tail and ran. They didn’t look twice at Leroy, like I said, he wasn’t important.
But he was important to someone. Marnie, Millie, whatever her name was, she’d loved him and he’d loved her. We missed that, you see. We missed the human element, the motive. After he realised what he had, after he realised what he could do, there was only once place he could ever go.
I didn’t want to go. I said so. They ignored me. We all knew what we were walking into, but I’d seen Hell once already, over there, and I didn’t want to go back. But before I knew what was going on we were at the cemetery. We could see Leroy, making his way up the hill in the moonlight. He was far away. We went after him though it was obvious we were too late. He started to play, I felt the ground move and saw…I…saw…oh god…”
At this point Mr Waltz began to weep. I waited for him to finish before asking him to continue.
‘The dead doctor, the dead were trying to dig themselves out of their graves. They were pulling at the cold earth, forcing their way up and out, into the night air. They were all around us and they were all reaching and moaning and I didn’t want to look because they were pitiful and…jesus…I just wanted to help them, to pull them up, scrape the dirt from their mouths so they could breath again.
I heard a shot, loud, close and when I turned I saw the Hun, pouring up, out of the earth where i’d left them, dragging themselves back, looking for me. They wanted me doctor. They wanted to kill me, they all wanted to kill me. I couldn’t stay there, I couldn’t let them get me. Do you know what the kaisers men do to prisoners? I heard the order to fall back, to abandon our position, and I followed it. I ran doctor, I ran as fast as I could and I left my friends to die, all over again.’
I point out that his friends didn’t die and, in fact, deny they were ever at the cemetery on the night in question. I also show him the cutting from the Chicago Tribune that I have found from the 29th of March, 1924, which relates the serious landslip that had resulted in a number of bodies in the Graveyard rising to the surface. Also, I continue, It seems to me that these living dead seem remarkably similar to the stories you have told me of you wartime service, of the bodies half buried in the trenches, of hands sticking up from the earth. Is it at least possible that what you thought were monsters and ghouls, were merely memories? Vivid memories to be sure, but only memories. You tell me, you’re the science major, what’s more likely, an army of the living dead or an overactive imagination brought on by the stress of the previous few days and witnessing an unusual and unsettling seismic event?
Ted seems to consider this, and my own face, quite carefully before nodding carefully. Before answering.
‘That one corpse did look a look a lot like Minnesota Bob….’
I consider this somewhat of a breakthrough! I believe we are making progress. “
I have been unable to find a copy of the Tribune report mentioned but have no reason to doubt the veracity of Dr. Vendtner’s account. Such land slps are not uncommon and, as mentioned, none of the other members of the group admit to being at either the warehouse, or the graveyard that night. They claim that after leaving the party, they tried to follow the gangsters but were fired upon and, after Tristram was hit, gave up the chase, instead taking their friend to the hospital. they say it was at this point that Ted fled into the night.
The police found Leroy later the next day, whilst helping to clear up the mess from the landslide. His death was blamed on mob violence, a theory bolstered by later reports of his abduction from the party by Joey and pals. They linked his death to the deaths of Joey Larson and company through the same witnesses. Joey was killed by some mobster who then drove Leroy out to the graveyard and did the same to him. The motive for the murder was unclear but in those days wise guys killed each other for looking the wrong way when crossing the street, so it wasn’t given to much thought. Plus, he was a poor, alcoholic, black Jazz musician and it wasn’t like there weren’t enough of them to go round.
It seems to me likely that the Guild was indeed at the warehouse and that events played out pretty much as Bill’s parent’s suggested. Something happened next but, with all the witnesses dead, we shall never know what. There is not even enough evidence to speculate on why and by whom Turner was killed. He was an insignificant nobody, no motive you can ascribe to any possible killer makes sense. There seems no logical chain of events that lead from Leroy fleeing the warehouse, to him lying dead in a cemetery, head blown off, chest gaping, surrounded by corpses.
Well, of course, that isn’t entirely true. There is one version that makes perfect sense. This version has the Guild members realising that Leroy has the power to call the dead back from the grave and also realise that he must be single-mindedly headed to his dead lovers grave to give her life once more. In his traumatised state, it would not occur to him that his playing might wake anyone else. A decision was taken to stop him, probably by word if possible but through deed if not. Once at the graveyard, they were too late to stop Leroy play and he wouldn’t listen to reason, so they decided to stop him. Leroy was shot twice, with two different shotgun blasts. The first barrel appears to have blown a hole the size of a snare drum in his chest, the second removed most of his head from his shoulders. The body was identified by dental records, found in the top and bottom segments of the jaw which were now separated by around fifteen feet.
The first shot to the chest certainly killed him. So why take the second? well, if I might indulge my macabre side for a moment, if Leroy’s trumpet could raise the dead, and if he was playing it as he himself died, then presumably the trumpets hoodoo would work on Leroy himself? It’s possible that Leroy breathed new life into himself and therefore the horde of zombies that were presumably clawing their way out of the ground. Somebody clearly took the level headed decision to stop the problem at source and took the musicians head off his shoulders, silencing the trumpet and, presumably, quieting the restless dead.
Of course, even this plot has holes. If you take the supernatural elements on faith. If this trumpet was a demonic instrument to call the dead back from beyond the grave, where did a penniless alcoholic get it? Did he buy it in a mysterious pawn shop that wasn’t there when he returned? Did he find it in a forgotten case in an abandoned house? Did Louis Armstrong give it him over a joint one night?
The police file on Peter Manusco was closed after Olive L’Amour identified the dead body of Joey Larson as the gunman who shot him. Bonato, who seems to either have not been at the warehouse that night, or have escaped the fight, was killed a few months later by one of Capones associates in an argument over a girl. The Blue Heaven Club never reopened. Agent Daniels career went from strength to strength, as he rose steadily up the ranks, mainly on the kudos he had received for managing to close such a high profile club.
The Guild members each went their own ways. Theodore spent the next two years in therapy with Dr. Vendtner and seemed to come to more of a peace with himself. Olive threw herself into her work, travelling thousands of miles cross-country as she built a reputation amongst book dealers for tenacious bargaining and dogged pursuit of rare pieces. Chester went back to Arkham, continued his business practices and seems to have been barely affected at all by the whole episode. Bill returned to the family farm and, after initially telling much of the story to his parents, never spoke of it to anyone again. Tristram spent the next two years of his exile in the colonies recuperating from his injuries and using his wound to impress the various wealthy heiresses he was attempting to woo.
All of them declined Elias Jackson’s invitation in ‘25 to make up for the previous year and Theodore and Bill refused to even speak to him. The accounts the others gave were, to say the least, bizarre and after a few weeks trying to convince his friends, Elias was forced once more to abandon his task and return to Africa.
None of them would see each other until January 1926, when an urgent telegram from Jackson would bring them together once more, this time in that other mighty city of the 20th century, New York
Oh, one final thing. In the archives of the Guild is a souvenir from this investigation. A 78 rpm record, recorded by Mitch Wester’s band, the 5 Stars which was sent to Olive in 1925. The A side is the old standard ‘Dr. Jazz’ and is a competent if unremarkable arrangement. The B-side, however, is a composition of Mr. Wester’s own devising, supposedly recorded only a few days before the events at the Blue Heaven Club. The track is called ‘Dead Man Stomp’ and lists, as guest trumpeter one Leroy Turner. Guild legend has it, that this is the very piece the band was playing on that fateful night when Peter Manusco woke from the dead.
Legend or not, it is plain fact that no one in the guild has ever dared listen….
Stephen Mould, Guild Librarian. Taken from ‘100 years of the RPG’ the website commemorating the Guilds centenary.