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" Cowden.

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 queen.

"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 the bet.

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, okay."

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 till."

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 Eastmanns."

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.