Between the Blessed Isles and the Brooklyn Bridge Chapter 3
War in the Bowery
By Eppie Black and Dogbrain
Notes: All previous disclaimers apply. Dedicated to Shannon "Porkchop"
The sight of Benjamin Franklin Murphy fidgeting outside my window had
served to lift my spirits for a short while but it was all too easy to see
that my favorite Tammany lackey had a whole lot more on his mind than
convincing me to back up the Wigwam's latest slate of candidates and
whatever political panacea they happened to be pushing. Which is his usual
business with me - that and keeping an eye on me for the Wigwam. My usual
business with him, by the way, is making sure that Inwood gets a fair
return on the votes it sends Tammany's way - that and keeping Tammany Hall
convinced that I am one harmless and retired ex- gang boss, which is
basically true. Anyroad, I unlocked the door for him and we sat together in
the empty bar, him shaking like a leaf and me beginning to think back to my
dream of the night before. I could feel trouble headed my way.
Murphy refused my offer of coffee and then a further offer of a cigar. But
I was in need of both and so procured them. He lit a cigarette of his own
and then sat there looking at me like he was wanting something from
me.authority, I guess. Something I didn't want to wield no longer but, well
I took the bait and the lead in the conversation.
"What's troubling you, Benjy?" I asked.
Then Ben Murphy launched into a story of open gang warfare on the streets
of our city the likes of which I had not heard since me and the Butcher's
final dust-up was interrupted by the Draft Riots of 1862.
........The Events of the Previous Evening............
"All right, gentlemen, lay down your bets for the next round. Lay 'em
down." Called Colleen Kinney, a gaudily beribboned female stuss dealer. As
she continued her patter she sized up the customers at her table.
The first, a shabby, hunched, hungry-eyed old man, quickly placed a spare
dace, two pitiful pennies on top of the ace of spades that was painted onto
Colleen's table then equally quickly dropped a copper lug onto the black
"A widow to win and a lady-wife to loose." Pattered Colleen, who wanted to
feel sorry for the little man despite her knowledge that it was addicts
like him who put the butter on her bread.
"How about you, Sir? Lay your brads down." She added to the next customer.
Now here was the type she liked to see at her table - a right swank young
thug got up in his best clothes and spreading a swell of cash around,
apparently in order to impress the gay bene blowen on his arm. They were
kicking up the high life and having a grand time of it.
"Well, Pops here might find the lady a loser. But I feel lucky tonight.when
it come to the dames." Said the young tough as he laid a half-dollar on the
queen of spades next to the old man's lug.
"Oh youse!" laughed his moll, playfully slapping his arm. Her dangly paste
and glass earrings flashed in the dim light of the stuss dive as she shook
her head giggling. Then her man put his lug on top of the five of Spades.
"That's the Lady to win and the Burroughs to lose." Said Colleen, calling
Then she turned to her third customer. This guy she really didn't like - he
was far too cool. For the past hour she had been trying to figure out his
angle. Was he a gambler who believed he had worked out a system? Was he a
detective about to raid the place? Or were they about to get knocked
over.again? Then the cool customer dispelled any questions regarding his
origins by reaching into his vest pocket, pulling out a red handkerchief
decorated with white borders and proceeding to ostentatiously mop his brow
with it. At Annie Picken's table nearby two customers performed exactly the
same actions. As did one at Wa-Lin's in the corner. And the young man who
had been cautiously sipping the heavily baptized beer at the dingy bar. And
yet another man standing by the door.
Porkchop Cowden, the proprietor of this particular gambling dive, which was
nestled beneath the Allen Street arch of the Second Avenue elevated
railway, stormed into his own backroom and grabbed the lapels of the dapper
young man who had been watching the stusshouse through a peephole.
"Did you see that!" he seethed. "Them 5 Pointers flaunting their colors in
my crib! You going to do anything, Ritchie? Do I have Eastmann's protection
or don't I?"
"Calm down 'Chop, calm down." Said Ritchie Fitzpatrick, not without a hint
of threat since he was after all the first lieutenant of the most powerful
gang in the Bowery. "You got my backing, so you got Eastmann's backing,
Fitzpatrick then forcefully removed Cowden's long thin fingers from his
lapels. "If you behave yourself that is. Me and my crew will take care of
your vermin problem and send those Dead Rabbit wannabes back south of Mike
Salter's place where they belong."
Cowden, still agitated, reached for his pistol from his shoulder holster
and spinning its barrels started murmuring, "Knocked my place over three
times, I'm goin' to pop a cap in some 5 Pointer tonight, man. I don't know
if these third rate yegs ya' brought with ya, can do the job. I got
firepower. I got this baby and my big one 'neath the bar." His words were
feverish and his eyes were rolling in his head.
Ritchie Fitzpatrick looked at him and was somewhat disgusted, "No need for
that. We just send them back to Paul Kelly with a shinty on their glimmers
and a pain in their breadbaskets. That'll be enough to learn them that the
Bowery belongs to the Eastmanns. Now get out there Cowden and mind your
Another tense hour passed before Colleen called for the last bets of the
evening. One of the 5 Pointers stood up. "All right, Cowden, give us our
regulars." said Louis Liogge moving towards the counter.
"I don't owe you nothing!" shrieked Cowden, "This place belongs to the
Liogge slung a beer bottle toward Cowden and it slammed into the wall
behind him with a loud and satisfying crash. Ritchie Fitzpatrick and his
crew emerged from the back room, brass knuckles and slung-shots swinging.
It looked like the 5 Pointers might get the drumming that Fitzpatrick and
Cowden had decided that they deserved but Liogge's was a doughty crew and
Cowden's agitation only grew as he watched the 5 Pointer's handle the
Eastmanns all too easily and continue to wreck his dive. Even Shannon
Cassidy, an agile but inexperienced teenage 5 Pointer managed to get a
lucky blow in and evade his Eastmann opponent. As said Eastmann collapsed
to the floor in pain clutching his manhood; Cassidy sprinted over him, gave
him an extra kick in the side for good measure and grabbed the cashbox.
Cowden popped up from behind the bar and with a hysterical shriek shot
Cassidy square in the chest. The stuss girls and cowering female customers
screamed. Every man in the joint who was carrying a firearm drew. The young
gangster fell dead weight to the floor. The cashbox crashed spilling its
contents. Liogge fired at Cowden but he ducked back beneath the bar. The
bar mirror shattered. Simultaneously yet another of Paul Kelly's soldiers
fired at Cassidy's original opponent. Still dazed from Cassidy's blow to
the groin, he went down, wounded in the stomach.
Cowden crept around to the end of the bar where he fired off his shotgun's
second round at Liogge who had taken refuge behind an overturned stuss
table. Stung by splinters of the shattered table, Liogge realized that
there was no percentage in fighting a shotgun with pistols in the crowded
confines of the stusshouse and, also that Cowden would now have to reload.
"5 Pointers out!" he yelled and gave good example.
As Eastmann's men picked themselves off the floor - they saw that one of
their own was also down oblivious to irony and with a cry of "Murderin'
thieves!" they too spilled out into the streets. For a moment the two crews
stood on opposite sides of the street glaring at each other. Just then
Cowden popped out of the stusshouse door and fired off two wild rounds
hitting nothing (for which the Eastmanns, themselves, had even more cause
to be grateful than the 5 Pointer).
As the 5 Pointers took cover, Liogge stood still, full of dark thoughts
about the Eastmanns in general and Cowden in particular. Suddenly full of
rage that Cowden still lived while Shannon Cassidy, his protégé, lay dead
in the stusshouse Piogge raised his pistol and took a carefully aimed shot.
Porkchop Cowden did not have long to meditate on the difference between a
crazy fool with a shotgun and a crack shooter with a fine pistol: He dove
for cover but too late and a third body landed on the floor, this time,
half-inside and half outside the stusshouse.
Within seconds both crews were under cover, but still exchanging fire.
Within minutes, the first reinforcements from both gangs began to arrive.
"Within an hour there were over a hundred gangsters trading potshots at
each other from behind cover beneath the second avenue el." Continued
Murphy. "and then the Gophers showed up."
"The Gophers showed up?" asked Vallon laughing.
"Yeah, I guess it looked like too much fun to miss."
"It sounds like the biggest dust-up in years." Said Vallon shaking his
head, "but that many boyos out in the street and only three deaths. That
ain't a serious war, Benjy, what's all the fuss?"
"They drove the police back twice before they gave way, Amsterdam. The
coppers had to organize reinforcements from all the surrounding precints
and come in with a massed force."
Amsterdam couldn't help but wince at that phrase. He'd seen a massed force
all right. Memories of the effects of a fusillade of bullets on his fellow
five pointers came into his mind. The memories of the draft riot could be
hid sure enough, but hit the right trigger and out they came.
Murphy quickly understood the look on his friend's face. "It wasn't like
that. There weren't even many hurt when the coppers came in."
Amsterdam Vallon smoothed his hair back and leaned back into his chair.,
"Sure and do you think I'm the only one who remembers? I don't want to see
another war in the streets of this city."
"Neither does Tammany Hall. That's why the boss wants you to referee a
parley between Eastmann and Kelly." Said Murphy.