A Favour For The King – Chapter One

A Favour For The King – Chapter One

Monday 4th May 1925 – Boston:

Back in Boston it was back to normal. Which was most welcome after all the recent strangeness.

There was still a little tension with the Gustin Gang of Boston but it wasn’t anything too much to worry about. Wasn’t like we had whacked Benny G or anything. His guys had deserved that slapping around in Canada.

In Atlantic City work had progressed on The Beauregard. It had been fully pumped out and then dried out. The engine had been fully overhauled with new parts where required. Soon it would be delivered back to Boston.

Having just read the latest telegram reporting how well the work on his boat had gone, he even had an uncharacteristic smile on his face. Not the kind he displayed when he took a bullet either but almost genuine happiness.  He was walking back to the “office” down the street when he heard a newspaper boy shouting out

Newspaper Boy: “Extra! Extra! Joe Lombardi hurt in South Side shooting. Read all about it!”

Jo Lombardi was head of an Italian outfit in Boston vying with others to run things in south Boston. Not in Solomon’s league but still quite a big shot. Shooting the head of an outfit was a big deal. Could have meant a lot of work. At worst, it could have meant a Boston Mob War. That was lousy for business, well all except undertaking that is.

Ed read the report from “The Boston Daily Globe”. Details were understandably sketchy as it had only happened this afternoon.

The Boston Daily Globe - Monday May 4th 1925
The Boston Daily Globe – Monday May 4th 1925

The report did mention a couple of things. Firstly Lombardi had survived a shooting. At close range? Sounded to Ed like amateur hour. If you can’t shoot good you empty a scatter gun, if you can, you go for the head twice or three times. That would make it for keeps. Why hadn’t they done that? Whoever ”they” were. This was fishier than the freak show exhibit Brendan had let go at Sable Island.

Secondly, Lombardi had been shot outside Bruccola’s Import Export Office. Bruccola was another Italian mobster. Bruccola would never have gunned down a rival so close to his own place. No way would he want the Boston cops crawling all over his place of work. Also, there was an unwritten rule that if a meet was called then there was an assumed truce. Else every syndicate meet would involve the presence of two small armies which just wasn’t practical.

Ed hurried on, anxious to tell the others.

At the office McNifey and McGee were waiting. They had received a telegram from “King” Solomon just a few minutes earlier. He wanted a meet, hopefully not like Bruccola’s. It probably meant a job as he wasn’t really the sociable type.

The Boston Daily Globe Title

Monday 4th May 1925

Joe Lombardi Shot in South Side

Businessman Joseph Lombardi, 44, was today shot and wounded outside the offices of Bruccola Import/Export Inc at 491 Tudor Street.

It is thought he was shot twice at close range by one or two unidentified assailants who subsequently drove off   in the direction of Charlestown.

 He remains in a critical but stable condition. Police guards have been posted at his ward room in Massachusetts General Hospital. 

DA William Donovan will be giving a press conference about this incident at 6pm this evening.

Reporter: Johnny Evans, Crime Desk

They received the news and a copy of “The Boston Daily Globe” article from Ed, then headed over to Solomon’s place in Beacon Hill. As they approached they did their usual circuit to check things out. Three guys were watching Solomon’s place from a drugstore opposite. One of them was Vince Cagle, his scarred face was real giveaway, Bruccola’s second in command. What the hell did they want with Solomon?

If they were suspected of trying to whack Lombardi, shouldn’t they be keeping a low profile?

We opted to enter Solomon’s place unseen by these observers so we took the back entrance.

Solomon was most eager to see us. As always when he had a tough job to be done he was real complimentary. Thanked us again for the great job we’d just done in ensuring his massive hooch delivery arrived intact. He chatted briefly about the Boston shooting but his job was a different matter entirely.  Although he did say that if those stupid Italian mooks wanted to dook it out amongst themselves for the Southside scraps that he tossed them, then what the heck? Turned out Solomon knew about the parley too so he was as surprised as we were to read about the Lombardi shooting. It had been called to decide the division of Southside among the rival syndicates.

Solomon didn’t seem worried about it becoming a war. If a third party wanted to start one that was fine with him. In his opinion there were too many Southside players anyway.

The job he wants to offer is out of town. Again. Oddly enough it involves Vince Cagle’s dumb brother, Joe Cagle, who is up the backwoods somewhere in Maine.

Maine? What the hell do we want to go there for?we would all rather stay in Boston.

Turned out Solomon had family in a town called Bangor. Solomon’s cousin Joan Solomon lived up there. Her brother Harry Solomon, strangely not referred to as a cousin by Solomon, had got into a bar fight with Joe Cagle and had been killed. (Harry a half brother? Disowned? Needed looking into.)

Joe Cagle had run away. He was still at large somewhere in upstate Maine. The hick sheriff and deputies were not too effective so Solomon wanted us to go up there to bring Joe Cagle to book. Apparently it was a reputational thing. Wasn’t it always with these big shots?

So Joe Cagle was wanted intact, to be returned to The King for summary justice.

Solomon wants Joe Cagle ALIVE and he’d only pay us half for Joe Cagle’s dead body.

Also while we were up there we could scope out new Rum Runs for him as Maine was right on the Canadian border.

He assured us it would be a piece of cake. Almost a vacation from Boston. Yeah right!

Joe Cagle was very much the dumb side of the Cagle family. That’s why he had stayed in Bangor when his brother came to Boston. But for all that he was vicious. He had a sideline in Moonshine, as most did up that way, so was probably holed up in the woods somewhere near his still.

In return for the usual daily rates King offered to speak to a contact in the army who could get us some Grenades’. He would also speak to Benny G when he saw him at his club to iron out any misunderstandings that might have been hanging over from our meet in Halifax.

We said our goodbyes and left. Sure was a strange job. Why get a bunch of out of towners to do a job upcountry. Why were the job details so sketchy? There was a lot more to this. But, unfortunately, he was not kind of guy we could turn down so we were stuck with it.

As we exited we chose to pay a visit on the watchers across the street.

We waited till a good looking frail passed by, then as they ogled her we made our approach. We were on them before they noticed. With the drop on them we acquired some nice heaters then sat down next to them real friendly like as we ordered fresh coffee. Turned out Vince was real scared. He was there to see Solomon but was worried that The King would want to kill him in place of his loser brother. We told him it wasn’t like that. Eventually we persuaded him to bite the bullet, as opposed to catching one. After all, if he didn’t go in to make his peace he would probably just be hunted down by Ed. Vince reluctantly headed into King’s place. It was like watching a man go to the chair. All it needed was a priest giving the last rites.

We left him to it.

While the two of us had been visiting Solomon, Ed and Cherry headed off to Massachusetts General where Lombardi was being treated.

They found lots of cops in attendance. They also spotted some G-Men too. Their suits were too clean pressed to be detectives. Wild Bill had put a lot of resource into protecting Lombardi. We were glad not to be involved.

Vinny spotted Lombardi’s number two Bobby Smiles with Lombardi’s girlfriend Lorna coming out of a private room past all the cops. Using his charm he escorted her to her car while Ed kept Bobby Smiles busy. Lorna admitted that Lombardi was in a bad way. He remained unconscious. The hit was not so amateur after all. A lesser man would have been dead already. Just lucky they hadn’t tried a headshot. Maybe Italian? They always went for open caskets.

Keeping a low profile the two then left the hospital.

Port - Bangor - Maine
Port – Bangor – Maine

Later that evening we looked up information on Bangor.

It was a centre for the lumber trade. It had a population of 26,000 so was a good sized town serving a large part of the upstate area. It was at the head of two rivers so was a key communications centre.

Our contact at “The Boston Daily Globe” arranged cuttings to be posted down from the “Bangor Daily News”.

They arrived the next day. From them we gleaned that there were several references to Moon shining in Maine. Seemingly everyone outside the big towns had a still. There were often shootouts as people tried to protect their business but the police force was far too under resourced to investigate them fully.

Ed’s interest was also piqued by references to scalpings made by some Indian called “Razorshins”. Ostensibly tongue in cheek, there were several mentions. They dated back as far as The Bangor Daily News inception in 1889.

There were other vague references to Penobscot Indian legends of something called The Wendigo. More tales spoke of sightings of Bigfoot by trappers working in the remotest parts of the forest.

Don’t get distracted now Ed! Use that college education to work on the case. Ain’t no Bigfoot hunt. What was we gonna do with one anyway, even if we caught it?

Ed was on a mission. He went to Harvard to make additional research into Maine folklore.

The predecessor of the Bangor Daily News was “The Bangor Whig & Courier” dating back to the early 1800s. There were lots more references to Razorshins. Often related to logging. Lumberjacks had reported sightings in the forest. One article postulated that it was protecting Penobscot Indian burial grounds. Another claimed that if you disturbed Razorshins, you could bribe him with good hooch. He might even kick down a couple of trees for you as a thank you if your hooch was really good.

Was this really relevant? I thought we were on a manhunt for Joe Cagle, murderer of Harry Solomon non cousin of Boston boss Charles “King” Solomon.

Back to the problem at hand. How were we to transport Joe Nagle back to Boston? We opted on using a boat. Ed searched out a suitable one. He hired it for a month as we were still waiting for our own boat, “The Beauregard” to be fully repaired. Bangor was on the junction of two rivers so we could sail up the Penobscot River from the coast right into town. Both branches of the river, The Penobscot and its smaller tributary The Boyd were still navigable for several miles north of Bangor.

Solomon’s contact had been in touch. He sent through two boxes of 20 grenades. After checking them we found that ’19 Grenades’ in the first box were good. Much more than was normally the case. We stored them on the boat. One box ought to be enough for whatever we would encounter. The other we stored in Boston.

A separate package was sent over. A bit of theatricality from Solomon. He gave us a “Coin from Palestine”. It was his calling card. If anyone gave us a hard time in Bangor we could show them the coin to smooth the ride.

He also gave us the name of his cousin’s family lawyers in Bangor.

Mr Dominic Flovertree of “Flovertree and Co”. was to be our principal contact in Bangor while Joan Solomon was still getting over the death of her brother Harry Solomon.

It was gnawing at us. King was from overseas. He was a first generation Palestinian Jew so why the interest in his hick cousins from upstate Maine. What was his angle? The pride thing didn’t wash. Guys like him never did anything without a reason. Also we were city guys. Not hunters or trackers. Why not use local talent to smoke out Joe Cagle. Just what on earth were we getting into?

The boat trip was a good idea. Maine was a really underdeveloped state. There were few roads so travel would be slow. Outside of major towns there were few telephone lines or telegraph wires. Communication might well be tricky too. We’d have to get back to Bangor before we could update The King.

We set sail from Boston on the 8th May 1925.

Monday 11th May 1925 – Bangor, Maine:

We arrived in Bangor at mid morning on Monday 11th May after an uneventful journey.

After berthing we went to see Mr Flovertree. He had a very English accent. He appeared quite straight-laced. He said that he didn’t hold with gangsters, then went on to give us a ticking off about taking the law into our own hands. He made himself out be very moral and upstanding.

He was also very superstitious when it came to the legend of Razorshins. From what we could read of his reactions, he seemed to believe that all the tales were true.

Our conversation turned to the events of Harry Solomon’s demise. Flovertree explained that Harry Solomon was killed in a bar fight just on the edge of town. It had started as a brawl but Joe Cagle had carried on beating on Harry Solomon after knocking him to the floor. Joe Cagle only stopped when he had beaten Harry Solomon to death. Blood lust, once he got into it, he couldn’t stop. Joe Cagle was a powerful 6’5” lumberjack, 33 years old. He had a long record of violence. It had been a real mismatch but Harry Solomon had taken it upon himself to protect Joan Solomon from his unwanted advances.

Joan Solomon remained deeply traumatised at seeing her brother beaten to death. However Dominic Flovertree promised to talk to her on our behalf to arrange a meeting as soon as possible.

Dominic Flovertree then arranged for some “Tea” to be brought in before we left.

The “Tea” turned out to be quite good moonshine so Flovertree was not so moralistic after all.

We said our goodbyes and left to have a nose around town.

We were put up in the “Charles Inn Hotel”. It was an elegant four storey period building in the centre of town. Hope they had good insurance. The last few hotels we had stayed had all ended up being damaged in some way or other. Still, that wouldn’t be our problem; it was all on Solomon’s dollar.

As we explored we saw that the Solomon family had control of a lot of the businesses in town. The largest lumber mill, the shipping agency and the outfitters were all owned by them.

They also had a number of warehouses.

That afternoon Ed went to do more research. He visited “The Bangor Library & historical Society”. Dominic Flovertree had advised the clerks in advance so Ed found he had unrestricted access to all their books and records.

As he investigated he read that several attacks by Razorshins occurred on a Full Moon. Just like the Atlantic City drownings. Not again! The attacks progressed northwards probably as the logging companies ventured further upriver.

The most recent scalping was in March 1925. It was attributed to the local Indian tribe, the Penobscot, which shared their name with the area’s largest river.

He saw that the Solomon family were first mentioned in the 1850 census. They rose in prominence rapidly building up controlling interest in a variety of businesses.  David Solomon is patriarchal head of family. There is no reference to Charles Solomon or any Boston relations.

Ed had the bug. He then went to the medical examiner to enquire about last Razorshins murder.

An aged orderly called Old George was most helpful. He explained that over the years, Razorshins victims had been split up into two unofficial categories: Copycats and Bona Fides. Bona Fides were real scalping. All  were cleanly sliced through. In each case the entire top of the skull of the victim had been removed in one very clean blow. The wound edges were incredibly smooth indicating a very sharp weapon had been used. Ed admired this. It was surgical in its precision!

Old George explained that it was only the victims killed on full moons that were killed in the way. The copycats were incidences of where a more standard scalping occurred. Probably by people wanting to blame razorshins, but they were almost never on a full moon. The cuts were more jagged too.

While Ed did all this bookwork the rest of us visited the bar where Harry had died. The barman and several patrons remembered the incident. They all said Harry Solomon was doing the right thing by his sister but was really foolish to go against someone as big and tough as Joe Cagle. After the fight everyone was so shocked and surprised that no-one stopped Joe Cagle as he fled the scene down the forest road.

We got the impression that it was fear not shock but let it go. Also, was no one armed in this town? Why didn’t someone just shoot the guy? Better yet why didn’t Harry have a piece?

Around 9pm that evening Dominic Flovertree sent a message via the hotel confirming that Joan Solomon had agreed to meet us for lunch at 1pm the following day at her club.

We returned to the hotel hoping tomorrow’s meeting might shed some light on what was going on.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ben says:

    starting a Call of Cthulhu Boston 1922 game, your work is blowing my mind. I’d love to ask you some questions if you’re still around.

    1. Joseph Donelly says:

      Hi Ben

      Send your questions through and one of us will try and answer them for you.

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