Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone

Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone by John Kobler

Book: Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone by John Kobler Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Kobler
he thought best. But what was needed to bring everybody into line was a reassertion of Big Jim's old forceful leadership, a recovery of his prestige. Passive acquiescence was dangerous. It could only encourage the jackals to turn on the lion and divide up his kingdom. But the lion would not stir. Plainly, the time had come for Torrio to assume authority in name, as well as in fact.
    Big Jim, who had been living apart from Victoria Moresco for three years, offered her a settlement of $50,000 not to contest a divorce action. "I raised one husband for another woman," the fat and aging procuress said later, "and there's nothing to it." The decree became final on March 20, 1920. The grounds: desertion. Within three weeks Victoria had married a Sicilian hoodlum twenty years her junior named Antonio Villani, and Big Jim had married Dale. After a honeymoon in the fashionable Indiana spa of French Lick, Big Jim brought his bride back to his ornate mansion at 3156 Vernon Avenue and invited her mother to live there, too.
    A week later, on Tuesday, May 11, Torrio telephoned to announce the delivery at the cafe of two truckloads of whiskey. He was very precise about the time-4 P.M. Big Jim left the house a few minutes before the hour, ablaze with diamonds, a red rose in his buttonhole, a homburg perched jauntily on his large head. In his right hip pocket he carried a .28-caliber pearl-handled revolver. His car, driven by a chauffeur named Woolfson, was standing at the curb. Dale asked him to send the car back so that she and her mother could go shopping. He promised to do so, kissed her good-bye, and climbed into the back seat. Woolfson recalled later that Big Jim kept muttering to himself in Italian all the way to the cafe.
    There were two entrances on South Wabash Avenue about 50 feet apart. Woolfson deposited Big Jim at the arched north entrance and drove back to Vernon Avenue. Big Jim pushed open a glass-paneled door and crossed a small porcelain-tiled vestibule, passing a cloakroom, a phone booth and a cashier's cage, walked the length of the main dining room, went through an archway into a second dining room used for overflow crowds, and entered his office at the rear. Presently, a porter, coming up from the basement, noticed a stranger going into the vestibule. The porter returned to his duties below, where four other employees were working.
    In the office, standing beneath the Colosimo family sword, Big Jim's secretary, Frank Camilla, and Chef Caesarino were discussing the day's menu. Big Jim asked them if anybody had called. Nobody had. This appeared to trouble him. He tried unsuccessfully to reach his lawyer, Rocco De Stefano, on the phone. After chatting a while with Camilla and Caesarino, he walked back toward the vestibule through the auxiliary dining room. They had the impression that he intended to wait for his caller there or on the sidewalk. They glanced at a wall clock-it showed 4:25-and resumed their discussion of the menu. A moment later they heard two sharp reports. Caesarino dismissed them as backfire, but Camilla decided to investigate. He found Big Jim lying facedown on the porcelain tiles of the vestibule, blood streaming from a bullet hole behind his right ear. A second bullet had cracked the cashier's window and buried itself in the plaster wall opposite. Big Jim was dead.
    In response to Camilla's call, Chief of Police John J. Garrity arrived from headquarters with Chief of Detectives Mooney. The state's attorney sent several of the detectives attached to his office. When Camilla called Dale Colosimo, she fainted.
    From the angle of fire the police deduced that the killer had waited for his victim in the cloakroom. On the phone booth shelf they found a note in Big Jim's handwriting.
Swan [it said] I made out the statement. You fill in the rest as you see fit. Tell the man to look out after the drugstore and see that he finds out where to find the stuff for me. Don't keep over thirteen men. If you've got more,

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