© Stephen Hawley
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DIVISION OF INVESTIGATION
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
with alias Frank Sullivan
NATIONAL MOTOR VEHICLE THEFT ACT
AGE: 31 years
HEIGHT: 5 feet 7-1/8 inches
MARKS AND SCARS: 1/2 inch scar back left hand; scar middle upper lip; brown mole between eyebrows; mustache
As John Dillinger, #14395, received State Reformatory, Pendleton, Indiana, September 16, 1924: crime, assault and battery with intent to rob and conspiracy to commit a felony: sentences, 2 to 14 years and 10 to 20 years respectively:
As John Dillinger, #13225, received State Prison, Michigan City, Indiana, July 16, 1929: transferred from Indiana State Reformatory: paroled under Reformatory jurisdiction, May 10, 1933: parole revoked by Governor-considered as delinquent parolee:
As John Dillinger, #10587, arrested Police Department, Dayton, Ohio, September 22, 1933: charge, fugitive: turned over to Allen County, Ohio authorities:
As John Dillinger, received County Jail, Lima, Ohio, September 28, 1933: charge, bank robbery: escaped October 12, 1933:
As Frank Sullivan, arrested Police Department, Tuscon, Arizona, January 25, 1934: charge, fugitive: turned over to Lake County, Indiana, authorities:
As John Dillinger, #14487, arrested Sheriff’s Office, Crown Point, Indiana, January 1934: charge, murder-bank robbery:
The United States Marshall, Chicago, Illinois, holds warrant of arrest charging John Dillinger with feloniously and knowingly transporting Ford V-8 four door sedan, motor number 256647, from Crown Point, Indiana, to Chicago, Illinois.
Law enforcement agencies kindly transmit any additional information or criminal record to the nearest office of the Division of Investigation, U.S Department of Justice.
If apprehended, please notify the Director, Division of Investigation, U.S Department of Justice, Washington D.C., or the Special Agent in charge of the Division of Investigation listed on the back hereof which is nearest your city
Issued by J. Edgar Hoover, Director
'You get to recognize a killer in prison. There’s a lot come in that way or they turn when they’re inside. First we thought he was just a hard-headed hick who got a lousy break. Then you’d see him in a fight, and it was like he didn’t care whether he got killed or the other guy, just so someone got it. We learned to keep out of his way.
Even inside, cons joke and are friendly. But year by year, Dillinger just got quieter and madder. I used to sweat every time he looked at me. He always had this expression on his face, his mouth twisted on the left side, like he was under pressure every minute. Some guys try to look tough, then they forget and it’s gone. But he had that look all the time. I tell you, I knew as soon as they let this guy out, someone was gonna walk away from his hat.'
A jail is just like a nut with a worm in it. The worm can always get out – John Dillinger
Midway Airport, Chicago
Tuesday, January 30, 1934
Johnny blinked at the flash of sodium powder as he emerged from the American Airways Tri–motor. Glanced at the snappers swarming the runway as he descended the steps. This was what it must be like for Tracy or Fairbanks. Edward G.
No steel bracelets for Little Caesar, though. Harness bulls packing the tarmac. Khaki-clad State Troopers. Dicks in squashed fedoras. Off the rack suits. He might be getting the same attention as Tracy or Fairbanks, but it was the steel bar hotel for him rather than the Ritz or Hilton at the end of the day.
No Mary Pickford for a guy the Indiana authorities had shanghaied out of Tucson for killing a cop, either. And nobody left to bust him free of the joint the way the boys had at Lima. Not with three of them facing the chair in Ohio for the sheriff they’d gunned during the breakout. Red shot full of holes outside a bank in East Chicago. He wanted to make it over the wall at Crown Point and he was going to have to do it alone.
A couple of dicks broke loose from the mob as he exited the plane. Strong-armed him into the back of a paddy wagon. They sat opposite him as the van joined a convoy of police flivvers, sirens yowling, outriders clearing the way. A Mutt and Jeff team in matching hats and overcoats.
The small one leaned forward, a white haired bruiser with a stogie pegged in his mouth. Black rimmed cheaters. He opened his coat to reveal the worn wooden grips of his service .38 in a shoulder holster. Removed the stogie from his mouth as he spoke. “The name’s Stege. Captain Stege. Number one man on the Dillinger Squad. I got fifteen notches on my piece already. Last three was racket boys we thought was you and your crew. No loss to anyone. I’d give my left nut to drop the right punk this time out, though. Make it sixteen, you get me?”
Johnny raised his hands in front of him. “Take the cuffs off me. I’ll see you get the chance.”
Stege knocked ash from his cigar. “You think I wouldn’t?”
“Tough guy. I wasn’t wearing these things, I’d hammer that piece up your ass.”
Stege blew cigar smoke in his face. “You’d do what, you bastard?”
Stege’s companion squirmed in his seat. “Christ sake, Jack. Keep your mind on the job. Hamilton tries to spring him while you two’s in a pissing match and we won’t stand a chance.”
Stege replaced the stogie in his mouth. Stared at Johnny as the police convoy wound its way beyond the city limits. Crossed the county line. “I hope to Christ your sidekick does try something, you murdering son of a bitch. Anyone tries to stop us and you’re the first man dead.” He waited for a response. Got nothing. “Just try something,” he said hopefully, and settled back into his seat.
They rolled into Crown Point around eight a.m. A trim matron in a tweed suit with lace at the neck descended the jailhouse steps as they pried him out the back of the wagon. Caressed the .45 on her hip.
“I’m Sheriff Holley. I’ll take over from here, gentlemen.”
Stege did a double take at the sight of a female sheriff. Recovered manfully. “Okay, Sheriff. He’s all yours.” Placed a hand between Johnny’s shoulder blades. Propelled him forward. “I’ll see you at the execution, asshole. Book me a front row seat.”
“Get in closer, Stege. Sit on my goddam knee when they throw the switch.”
The reporters clustered beneath the portico of the red brick jailhouse perked their ears. Scribbled that down. They trailed him through the stone-faced entrance of the building. One threw him a question as an adolescent-looking deputy with a Thompson escorted him towards the desk for processing.
“No hat, Johnny. Going for the college look?”
He gave that lopsided grin. The one the Janes went for. “One of those cops out in Tucson. Somebody got themselves a souvenir before I got on the plane.”
The pressmen traded looks as they bent over their notebooks. This guy was different from the tight-lipped Syndicate guns they were used to dealing with. The mute Wops in parrot-colored shirts. Tiger-striped neckties. He had that elusive something. Charisma. Star quality. Call it what you will. Whatever it was, it was going to play well beneath the headlines. A stir of excitement rippled through the pack as a second scribe fired a question. “Glad to see Indiana again, John?”
“About as glad as it is to see me.” He picked up on the mood of the crowd. Nodded towards another reporter. “Got a question, buddy?”
“You’re credited with smuggling the guns into the state pen for the September 26 break. Any truth in that, John?”
“I’m not denying it. Leave it at that shall, we?”
“How’d you get them in?”
He shook a finger at the hack. “You’re too inquisitive.” Let that smile spread over his face again. “I met a lotta good fellas in the joint. I wanted to help them out. There’s no denying I fixed that break last September when those ten guys got away. Why not? I stick to my friends and they stick to me.”
The press had fanned out around him now in a semi-circle. The cops stood back. Gave him the floor. He held up his manacled hands to the Sheriff. “Any chance I can lose these, Mrs Holley?”
The Sheriff raised a penciled eyebrow at a bespectacled figure in crumpled pin stripes. A shaving cut on his chin. Guy looked like a farmer in his Sunday go-to-meeting clothes. A broken down schoolteacher: Lake County prosecutor Bob Estill. Gave the nod.
Johnny circled his hands as the deputy removed the cuffs. “Okay, thanks.” Shook the circulation back into his fingers. Despite the machine guns, the iron bars, he was the guy in control of the situation and he knew it. He was beginning to enjoy himself. “Any more questions?” he asked, shucking his jacket.
“Think you can beat this rap, John?”
He dipped in his vest pocket. Smirked as the bulls tensed. Unwrapped a piece of gum. “I never killed that cop O’Malley,” he said, feeding the gum into his mouth. “I never had anything to do with that stick-up. I was in Florida when the East Chicago job was pulled and I can prove it.” He indicated his face. “You think I got a tan like this on Lake Michigan in winter?”
Scattered chuckles. Another voice from the floor.
“Pretty hot in Tuscon as well, Johnny?”
They’d been a long way from their Mid-West stamping ground. On vacation. The cacti and hitching rails had been a different world from the hard gray skies of Indiana and Ohio. They’d been off their guard. Sloppy. And they’d paid the price when the local cops picked them up at the tourist court without firing a shot. “Those cowboy cops pulled too fast for us. I’ll give them that. We thought they were rubes and flashed our rolls. Drank too much. They picked our mug shots out of True Detective and scooped us one by one without alerting the others. Pie on the sill for them.”
“So that only leaves Three Fingered Jack Hamilton still on the outside,” the reporter continued. “Isn’t that right, John?”
He saw Red stumble and fall as the bullet struck beneath his partner’s steel vest as they exited the First National in East Chicago. The red slick engulfing his hands, his suit, as he hauled the guy into the back of the Terraplane. Laid rubber down Chicago Avenue as they pulled for the sticks. “Red took a stomachful of bullets in East Chicago. So I heard. He never made it beyond the county line. The guys wired him to a manhole cover and slipped him in the Calumet River. I had a whole sack of money to pass onto his kids, but the cops took it off me in Tucson.” His face was grim as he chewed the stick of gum. Went for pathos. “I tell you boys, things would have gone different with me as a kid and none of this would have come to pass. Nine years in the state pen for a first offence was too much. I was just a farm boy fell in with bad company and took to drink. I threw myself on the mercy of the court and pulled ten to twenty for jack rolling some guy. If things had been different…”
There was an intake of breath from the deputy holding the Thompson on him. “Jesus Christ.”
Johnny resisted the urge to wink at the kid. He’d pushed it as far as he could. “Time we wrapped this up, guys. Any more questions before we call it a day?”
“What do you think of Roosevelt, Johnny?”
Of course. The President’s birthday. “You can say that I’m for him and the National Recovery Act. Especially the way he’s kept the banks open.”
Laughter. They liked that one.
“And how long does it take you to go through a bank, John?”
“One minute and forty seconds flat.” He snapped his gum. “One last question before I go upstairs.”
“What do you think of being held by a female Sheriff?”
He gave Mrs Holley a quick appraisal. She was older than he went for, but a nice looking gal. You spent your salad days locked in a steel box with nothing but a contraband copy of 'Artists and Models' and a vivid imagination for company and you got to appreciate a good looking dame. The fact she might be the last attractive woman he ever clapped eyes on was something he didn’t want to consider right now. “I think Mrs Holley seems a fine lady.” Realized he’d drifted within touching distance of the prosecutor, the latter seeming uncomfortable with the scrum of reporters. “I like Mr Estill fine too.”
A cameraman shouldered to the front of the crowd. Turned up the brim of his hat. “A shot with the prosecutor, John,” he said, dropping to one knee with his camera.
Johnny leaned on the prosecutor’s shoulder. The prosecutor’s arm came up automatically. Draped across Johnny’s back. He matched smiles with Johnny as the shutter closed. Caught the county prosecutor and the man he’d vowed to burn for the murder of an East Chicago cop arm-in-arm. Buddies for the camera.
It was an image that Lake County voters would be reminded of six months later when copies dropped into their mailboxes as Democrat Estill ran unsuccessfully for re-election. The rest of the country would wake to the shot the next morning as the wire services splashed the image of the regionally notorious bank robber coast to coast.
The mocking eyes and sardonic smile would set female hearts beating faster from New York to San Francisco. The off - the - cuff wisecracks and cool bravado give heart to Depression weary clerks and factory hands. Inspire a generation of pool hall cowboys. John Dillinger had walked into the Crown Point Sheriff’s office just another yeggman. He woke in his cell the next morning a star.
Stardom was the last thing on his mind the following day, however, as he greeted the elegant figure entering the cellblock, a tall, soulful-eyed sheikh in immaculate blue serge and a pearl gray fedora, a slim black cigarette holder clamped in his mouth. Correspondent shoes.
“Johnny Boy.” A square cut emerald glinted on the newcomer’s pinkie as he threaded a manicured paw between the bars. “How’s it going, pal? They treating you well?”
“Well as can be expected.” He caught a whiff of Bay Rum as he shook. Retracted his hand. “I bring you out your way, buddy?”
Zark inserted an Abdullah in the cigarette holder. Shrugged. “I got a legitimate interest in the case. The cop you killed was East Chicago. I’m here representing the department.” He offered Johnny a cigarette. Lit them both up with a slim gold lighter. “That First National thing. It should never have happened. Why didn’t you come to me, you was gonna knock over the bank? I coulda pulled the cops off the streets. Tipped you when the vault was full. Nobody had to get jugged. Nobody get hurt. It’s the kind of play I’d a figured from someone like Nelson. I thought you had more sense.”
“Yeah, well. It’s done now. No use crying over spilled milk. Is there?”
Zark looked at him coolly. “No. I guess not.” Exhaled a plume of smoke at the ceiling. “How you doing, anyway, John? Anything I can get you? Commissary? Smokes?”
“How about a woman?”
Zark showed his teeth around the cigarette holder. “Missing Billie?”
“Try sweet talking Mrs Holley. She’s a doozy, ain’t she?”
Johnny picked a strand of tobacco from his lip. “I seen worse.” Hell of a lot worse, situation he was in. If there was one thing made jail unbearable to him, worse than the armed guards, confinement, lack of freedom, it was doing without a broad. Especially the dark-haired former hatcheck girl from the College Gardens back in Chi. “A female sheriff, though. What the hell’s that about?”
“Her old man was killed in office. She stepped in till the next election. Keeping the seat warm for her nephew, they say. The deputy walked you in here with the Thompson.” He tipped ash from his Abdullah. “Sure there’s nothing I can get you while I’m here?”
“What about a mouthpiece?”
“Don’t know that it’s a lawyer you need this time, Johnny. More a miracle worker, I’d say.”
“You’re connected, though. You can find me a lip. A Syndicate lawyer.”
Zark replaced the cigarette in the holder. Set it between his lips again. “Sure I can. If that’s what you want.” Smiled. “Yeah, I can find you a lip, Johnny. You can pay the price, I know just the guy.”
Johnny watched the fixer out the cellblock. Pulled on his cigarette. So he’d got himself a shyster. That was something, anyhow. A guy with Zark’s connections promised to find him a lip, it was good as done.
Even a mob lawyer might not be enough to spring him, though. Not with the rap he was facing. Too many people had seen him drop that bull outside the First National a few weeks previously. They had Wilgus, the dead guy’s partner, as chief witness. Even with a decent mouthpiece, his chances were slim.
There was an alternative, though. Busting out. He was an old hand at that.
The papers had boasted that Crown Point was escape proof. There were half a dozen barred doors and some fifty guards between his second floor cell and the street. Floodlights. Vigilantes from the Farmers’ Protective Association. A squad of National Guardsmen to beef up the hacks.
It would be a difficult can to crack. Difficult, but not impossible. You could walk out of any place if the fix was in. He’d proved that when he broke his old partners out the state pen in September.
Harry ‘Pete’ Pierpont. Charles Makley. Red Hamilton. Russell ‘Booby’ Clark. He’d been nothing but a two-bit jack-roller until the guys had pulled his coat for him. Turned him out as a yeggman. They’d taught him the intricacies of making a jug. Running a git. Gave him the training. The contacts. Promised him a place on their string once he was paroled.
All he had to do was help them crash out the place. Pull a couple of jobs with guys they knew on the outside. Raise the money to help fund their escape.
The guys they put him in contact with were a couple of punks named Shaw and Parker: the White Cap gang, named for the headgear they wore to knock over a target.
“All they see is the hat and shades,” Shaw said, donning the latter as they parked outside their first target, a Haag’s drugstore in Indianapolis. “They give a description and it could be anybody. President fucking Roosevelt. Better than a mask, for Christ sake.”
They’d swaggered into the drugstore. Displayed their rods. Shaw took the main cash register, Johnny the smaller one by the soda fountain. “Look the other way,” he said, as the three kids behind the counter gaped at his map.
They faced towards the other counter, where Shaw was ransacking the till.
“Don’t look at me,” Shaw said, brandishing his pistol at them.
They switched their gazes back to Johnny. “I said look the other way,” he repeated. Snatched the cash from the drawer. Glowered at Shaw. “You finished?” he said, retreating towards the door.
Shaw waved a handful of notes at him. “Ready to go.” Followed him out to the car. Found the latter boxed in at the curb between a beer wagon and a farm truck. “What the hell?”
Johnny thrust his head in the driver’s window. “Get this thing on the road. Do it. Now.” He simmered as Parker bumped between the two trucks. Worked the getaway car loose from the parking slot. “Next time…”
He took a deep breath. “Never mind.” Compared his take with Shaw’s as they peeled off from the drugstore: a couple hundred dollars. Not enough. Not nearly enough for the prison break. “Know anywhere else we can hit, kid?”
Twenty minutes later, they stopped outside a City Foods supermarket. “This time, Parker,” Johnny said as he exited the car. “This time make sure you can actually get the thing away from the curb when we’re finished okay?”
Parker gave him a wounded look. “What do you think I am, stupid or something?”
Johnny bit back his retort as he accompanied Shaw through the door of the supermarket. Pulled up short as the manager shook his head.
“You guys again? What is it, twice in the last two months?”
Shaw avoided Johnny’s eye as the latter skewered him with a look. Flaunted his piece at the manager. “Forget the wisecracks. Empty the till, okay?”
The manager hit the ‘no sale’ key. Showed them the empty drawer. “The management started to collect after the last time you hit the place. You missed their guy by a good half hour.”
Johnny lowered his pistol. Glared over his shades at Shaw. “Come on, you. You got some explaining to do.”
Shaw tarried a moment. Began to loot the cigar counter. “I’m not leaving empty handed.”
Johnny lodged his pistol in his belt. Stalked outside. “Fine. Have it your own way.” Climbed into the car. Rocked back in his seat as Parker took off, leaving Shaw on the sidewalk with an armful of Guinea stinkers. “Stop, for Christ sake. Stop the car.”
Parker stood on the brakes. Reversed the car up the street as Shaw panted up to them. Took off again as his cohort collapsed into the back. Ran a red light. Johnny elbowed him aside as he hit the brakes again in the face of an oncoming bus.
“If you can’t drive, give me the wheel.”
He steered them towards his father’s farmhouse and safety. Slept in his old bedroom while the other two put up in the barn. He listened to the old man snore other side the wall as he considered his options. Cutting hay and hoeing turnips seemed like the smart choice compared to pulling another stick up with Shaw and Parker. How two half-wits like that stayed on the outside while good men like Pete and Red were locked down in the pen was beyond him. Dumb bastards couldn’t find their own assholes with a map and flashlight.
Nevertheless, he pulled another job with the duo a few days later, hitting the Bide – a Wee tavern in Muncie, Indiana, just before closing. The take this time: seventy dollars and change. Johnny distinguished himself by pinching some woman’s ass on the way out. Slugging her beau when he objected.
The cops I.D.’ their getaway car, though, a green sedan with yellow wire wheels. Picked up Shaw and Parker the next day. The two of them drew ten to twenty apiece in Johnny’s old alma mater, Indiana State. The career of the White Cap gang was over almost before it had begun.
Johnny escaped the pinch, however, backing his ride unseen out the driveway of Parker and Shaw’s hideout when he made the patrol wagon outside. His next target, the first on his own, was a bank in nearby Dalesville rather than a drug store or supermarket. The take, $3500 and a handful of diamond rings from the vault. Two weeks later, he lifted ten grand from the First National Bank in Montpelier. On September 6, the State Bank of Massachusetts in Indianapolis yielded $24,000, the second costliest bank raid in Indiana history.
In between jobs, he took time out to visit the World’s Fair in Chicago with Mary Longnaker, sister of the fairy cleaned his cell for him in the pen. She was a sweet kid, the first woman he’d had since he raised and he was crazy about her. Couldn’t keep away. Which is how the cops got onto him later that month, tipped by a jealous landlady.
They caught him in his BVDs as he leafed through a handful of photographs showing him and Mary sharing ice cream cones at the fairground. Ogling the World of Tomorrow pavilion. The Old Heidelberg Inn. Posing with an obliging bull as a passer-by worked the camera.
He’d almost pulled on the dicks as they came through the door. A guy in plain clothes comes at you with a scattergun and you tend to fire first. Ask questions later. They’d identified themselves in time, though. Threw the cuffs on him. Hauled his ass into the lockup at Lima. Grilled him about the banks he’d knocked over in the last couple of weeks.
The escape had already gone down by then though, the pistols he’d bought smuggled into the prison shirt factory in a bale of thread by a bribed contractor. The guys had used the artillery to take a couple of guards hostage. Walked them through the main gate under the eyes of their rifle-toting colleagues on the walls, the gun bulls taking them for transfers under escort.
They’d holed up with an old girlfriend of Pierpont’s in Indianapolis and knocked over the First National in Makley’s hometown of St Mary’s, Ohio for funding. Turned their eyes to Lima just a few miles to the north. Johnny had played it cool as he’d sat in the Sheriff’s lockup and waited for them to come for him. It was just a matter of time.
They sprang him after supper on Columbus Day. Thursday, October 12. They’d had pork chops and mash potatoes that night. Corn bread. Coffee. Apple cobbler to follow. A good meal. He’d eaten worse in restaurants on the outside. Sheriff Sarber’s old lady was a hell of a cook.
The Sheriff himself wasn’t a bad old guy, a former Chevy salesman in his forties who’d stood for office when his business folded after the Crash. He saw the light catch the lawman’s bald-head as he labored over paperwork at his desk, his gun belt slung from the back of his chair. His wife sat nearby working a crossword puzzle, while a deputy played with the Sarber’s Labrador, Brownie, on the davenport by the stove. It was a cozy, almost domestic scene mirrored by the guys in the cellblock as they played pinochle, belts loosened, shoes kicked off as they dealt a greasy deck of cards on the recently cleared dining table.
The guy holding the deck shuffled and split with the practiced moves of a professional dealer. Art Miller, a rackets guy from Toledo being held for second-degree murder.
“Deal you in, Johnny?”
Johnny signed off on the letter he’d been writing his old man.
Hope this letter finds you well and not worying too much over me. Maybe I’ll learn someday that Dad that you can’t win in this game. I know I have been a big disapointment to you but I guess I did to much time, for where I went in a carefree boy I came out bitter towards everything in general. Of course Dad most of the blame lies with me for my enviroment was of the best, but if I had gotten off more leniently when I made my first mistake this would never have happened. How is Doris and Frances? I preferred to stand trial here in Lima because there isn’t as much predujice against me here and I am sure I will get a sqare deal here. Dad don’t believe all that the newspapers say about me for I am not guilty of half the things I am charged with and I’ve never hurt anyone. Well Dad I guess this is all for this time, just wanted you to know I am well and treated fine.
Sealed it into an envelope. The hell he’d put the old man through since he was a kid. If there was one thing he felt guilty about, it was that. The least he could do was reassure him things were okay for the moment. He’d have the Sheriff pass it on through his lawyer in the morning. Assuming he’d still be there, that is.
He joined the rest of the guys at the table. “Sure. Deal me in.” Played mechanically, stealing regular glances towards the door. He’d been there since the 21st. Almost three weeks now. The boys had busted out on the 26th. They’d be here soon. He knew that for a fact. All he had to do was wait.
It happened as he took a stint as dealer. Three guys, well dressed, hats low over their eyes. The light gray orbs of the leader, a tall, collegiate-looking athlete, were still visible, however, as he approached the Sheriff’s desk.
“Prison officers. We’ve come for John Dillinger.”
The Sheriff raised his eyes from his papers. Set down his pen. “I don’t know anything about this. I haven’t received a phone call from the pen. Any mail.” He began to rise from his desk. “Can I see your credentials, please?”
The leader reached inside his coat. “Sure.” Shot the Sheriff twice in the chest as his companions drew on the deputy. “Here’s my credentials, you son of a bitch.”
The Sheriff tipped backwards out the chair. Stretched a hand towards his gun.
The gray-eyed man beat him to it. Jerked the Sheriff forward by the collar. “Where’s the keys, you bastard?” He brought his pistol down over the Sheriff’s head. Once. Twice. “The keys to the cell block. Quick.”
Mrs Sarber started forward. “Don’t hit him. Please don’t hit him again, boys.”
The second raider, a well-built, affable looking sort with a moustache, restrained her. “Give us the keys, honey, and he won’t get hurt.”
The deputy cringed beneath the gun of the third intruder, a portly, distinguished figure in his forties, a businessman by appearance rather than a killer. “In the hallway cupboard. The cupboard by the cell block.”
The gray-eyed man signaled the man with the moustache. “Booby.”
“Got it, Pete.” He unhooked the key from inside the cupboard. Worked the lock. Smirked as Johnny threw in his cards. “Not staying for a last hand, Johnny?”
“Think I’ll sit this one out, Russ.” He snared his coat. “Coming with us, Art?”
“My lawyers will straighten it out for me. Racket guys don’t do time in this neck of the woods.” He clasped his hand. “Luck, Johnny.”
“You too, Art.”
He stood aside as Pete forced Mrs Sarber and the deputy into the cellblock. Put a bullet over the heads of the other prisoners as they surged towards freedom. “The rest of you bastards get back. We only got room for Johnny.”
Mrs Sarber clung to the bars as the door closed behind her. Faltered at the sight of her husband. “He’s hurt, boys. Can’t I stay with him a little longer?”
The distinguished looking man grimaced as he turned the key on her. “Sorry, lady. Someone will be along soon, though. They’ll have heard the shots.” He darted a tight grin at Johnny. “Speaking of which-”
“Sure, Charley.” He strode briskly towards the outside door. Spared a glance at the Sheriff lying tangled amongst the furniture on the office floor. “Did you have to do that?” he said, as Pete fell into step beside him.
Pete made an angry gesture as he accompanied him into the street. “You wanted to get out of there, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but-” Let it go as he dropped into the back seat between Russ and Charley. Acknowledged Red at the wheel. Pete was the wild man of the bunch. The guy had been in the nut house as a kid. You couldn’t argue with him once his blood was up. Not if you wanted to keep your head on your shoulders, anyway
Besides, what was done was done. He couldn’t help Sarber now. And he was out. That was the important thing. Out and free and the law couldn’t touch him. For now at least. The fact that the others would be looking at the electric chair for that night’s work wouldn’t become apparent for another three months.
He compared the Crown Point lockup to the cell in Lima as he finished his cigarette. Scored it out on the sole of his shoe. Yeah, he could make it out this joint without standing trial. Indiana State was a different proposition, though. Which was where a good lawyer came in. A lawyer could keep him here in the county jail rather than see him transferred to the pen. Buy him time to make a break.
Yeah, all he needed was a good lawyer. Or at least, a crooked one. A lawyer like the one Zark promised to set him up with. Syndicate mouthpiece Louis Piquet.
Crown Point, Indiana
Friday, February 9
Johnny was dressed in an open necked, collar attached blue shirt. Vest. No jacket. The same outfit he’d worn when he arrived back East. The one the public knew from the newspapers.
He worked his smile as he sailed through the reporters thronging the courtroom. News photographers. Put on a good show for the press as he approached the bench. If it kept the public happy, brought him some support, so be it.
Besides, he enjoyed the attention. A guy could get sick of it after a while, but that wouldn’t be a problem here. He wouldn’t be around long enough for it to become a pain in the ass. You could bet the house on that.
He stopped before the judge, hands shackled, a Thompson notched in his ribs. “Louis?”
Louis Piquet came up from behind the defense table as if at the sound of a timekeeper’s bell. A plump, putty-nosed cherub, he stood barely five feet four in his hand-lasted Oxfords, a diminutive figure amongst the surrounding figures in derbies and fedoras. Stetson hats. His hair added another three inches to his height, however, a tightly curled, salt and pepper mass swept up in a Bride of Frankenstein pompadour, a dramatic coiffure that reflected his style in the courtroom and his no less colorful personal history. For those inclined to believe it, that is.
By his own account, Piquet had been a rod-riding hobo who went on to tour Australia as part of the Sanford track team and fought as a welterweight on the West Coast, returning to Chicago only after being wiped out by the San Francisco earthquake. He’d taught himself law whilst working as a barkeep, passing his bar exams on the twelfth attempt, before using his talents as a Democratic ward heeler to land himself the post of city prosecutor. After sending up a Syndicate patsy for the Lingle killing*, he’d gone into private practice and been rewarded by a string of underworld clients whom he’d sprung via a combination of courtroom melodramatics and under the table payoffs.
Which was the reason he’d been parked opposite Johnny in his Crown Point jail cell four days earlier, tapping a coin against the bars in case the place was bugged. “Dick Tracy stuff,” he’d said, rolling his shoulders. “You never know.”
Johnny held his mud. It seemed over the top to him, but he figured it was the lawyer’s style. “I want you to represent me,” he said. “I didn’t have anything to do with the East Chicago job.”
“I don’t believe you did.”
“I can prove I didn’t.” Bent his head to the mouthpiece’s ear. “Here’s what happened, see?”
Piquet raised his hand. “Before we take up too much of each other’s time. Innocent or guilty, you’re in a pretty hot spot here. I suppose you know it’s going to cost money to put on a strong defense. How much have you got?”
“My old man back in Mooresville has about three thousand dollars.”
“That all you have?”
“Hell, you don’t need a lawyer. You need a doctor.”
Johnny pondered. “That’s all I have in cash. But-” he dropped his voice. “I have a third interest in a quarter of a million dollars hidden up in Wisconsin. I’ll arrange with the boys to have your fee cut out of that.”
Piquet tapped louder. “Cash?”
“Bonds. You can move those, can’t you?” He shook his head impatiently as the lawyer hesitated. “Read the newspapers. I’m not some punk stuck up a liquor store. Robbed a gas station. The man who walks Johnny Dillinger out a courtroom can write his own ticket when all this is over. You ought to be paying to represent me. Not the other way around.”
Piquet walked the coin over his knuckles. Guffawed. “You might think of a career on the other side of the courtroom once you’re out of here, Mr Dillinger. I’ll tell you that for nothing.”
Well. That was as maybe. For the moment, however, the ball was in Piquet’s court. Johnny just hoped the lip’s performance matched his appearance as he stood before Judge Murray in exquisitely cut gray flannel and a white-on-white shirt, blue handkerchief, speckled tie, hand adjusting the latter as he inclined his head towards the bench.
“Your Honor.” He swept his paw towards the accused. “Are we to have a hearing in accord with the laws of this state and of this nation, or are we to witness merely a mockery of the name of justice? Is the state to be permitted to continue inciting an atmosphere of prejudice and hatred? The very air reeks with the bloody rancor of intolerant malice. The clanging of shackles brings to our minds the dungeons of the czars, not the flag bedecked liberty of an American courtroom” – a reverent glance at the Stars and Stripes above the judge’s head - “ I request the court to direct that those shackles be removed.”
Estill was up on his feet. Finger stabbing at Johnny. “That is a very dangerous man, your honor.”
Judge Murray noted the shotgun - toting vigilantes. Deputies. National guardsmen in tin hats and webbing. “Remove the handcuffs from the prisoner,” he said.
Piquet bowed graciously. “Thank you your honor.” Smirked at Estill. “May I also point out that this is a civil court and not a military court-martial. Could anything be more prejudiced than machine-guns pressed into the defendant’s back, and an army of guards cluttering up the room? May the court direct that all guns be removed from the courtroom?”
The deputy at his back stirred. “I’m responsible for the safe – guarding of this prisoner,” he said, tightening his grip on the Thompson.
Piquet regarded him with astonishment. “Who are you?” he demanded, eyes popping like Eddie Cantor’s. “Are you a lawyer? What right have you to address this court?”
The Deputy opened his mouth to speak. The judge, a corpulent, frog - faced figure in black, pince – nez perched on a glowing plum of a nose, made a leveling motion with his hand. “Remove the guns,” he said.
Piquet grinned furtively at his client as the guards trooped from the wood paneled courtroom. Johnny grinned back. Naughty schoolboys in front of the principal. The lawyer wiped his face clear as the room settled down again. Came back for the second round.
“Thank you, your honor. Now that the court resembles a palace of justice rather than an armed camp, I feel we may now be able to proceed to the reason we are here. To whit, the establishment of my client John F. Dillinger’s innocence of the crime of murdering the unfortunate Officer O’Malley in East Chicago last month. In order to prove my client’s innocence of the said charge, I respectfully ask that I be granted a delay of thirty days and a date in March in order to locate and transport witnesses from Florida in order to prepare my defense.”
Estill was on his feet again. “Ten days should be plenty,” he said, addressing the Judge.
Piquet bristled. “That would be legal murder. There is a law against lynching in this state.”
“There’s a law against murder too.”
“Then why don’t you observe it? Why don’t you call back your men with their machine-guns? Why don’t you stand Dillinger against a wall and shoot him down? There’s no need to away the state’s money on this kind of mockery. Why isn’t John Dillinger entitled to the consideration of a hearing? Your honor, even Christ had a fairer trial than this.”
Murray worked his gavel. “May I remind you gentlemen that this is a court of law rather than a school yard. If you cannot restrain your tempers I’ll hold you both in contempt.”
Piquet bent from the waist. “My apologies, your Honor. For the record, myself and Estill have nothing but the greatest regard for each other.”
Murray hid a smile. “He’ll be putting his arm around you next.” Waited for the mirth to subside. “As to your request. The defense is granted a delay until March 12 to prepare its case.”
Estill exploded. Threw his arms wide. “Your Honor, why don’t you let Mr Piquet take Dillinger home with him, and bring him back on the day of the trial? You’ve given him everything else he asked for.”
“That will be enough from you, counsel.”
Piquet repeated the bow. “Thank you, your Honor.” Winked at Johnny.
Johnny returned the wink as he was led from the courtroom. “Atta boy, counsel.” Helped him self to a stick of gum as the deputy returned him to his cell. Reclined on his bunk. Clasped his hands behind his head. He sat upright as Piquet joined him in the cell a few minutes later. Popped the gum between his teeth. “Nice going, Louis.”
“Wasn’t it, though? Did I show Estill a few tricks there or what?”
“Some performance, counselor. You made old Bob look a sucker. I’ll give you that.” He tightened his jaw on the wad of gum. “It won’t come to anything if they ship me to the pen, though. They get me back to that place and I’m cooked.”
“Quit worrying. You’re not going back to the pen. I threatened to file for a change of venue if they shipped you off to the hoosegow. Told them it was too far to travel from Chicago if I was going to conduct a proper defense.”
“And they went for it?”
“Murray and Estill are ambitious. You’re big news, Johnny. No way those two are going to risk losing you to another court.”
“And the Sheriff. What about her?”
“She’s made too many claims about this place being escape proof to let you go to the pen. I made a few cracks about this being too big a job for a woman and she dug her heels in. She might have a badge pinned to her chest, but she’s still a woman. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to handle a woman.” He dug a coin from his pocket. Began to tap on the bars. “This problem you have with going back to the pen, though. Are you planning what I think you’re planning, Johnny?”
“You should know better than to ask me that, counselor.” He edged closer, their heads almost touching. “You’re connected, Louis. Know the pols. Can we put the fix in here?”
“You’re too hot, Johnny. Too famous. And Murray and Estill know there’s an election coming. The political rewards for putting you away are worth more to them than a bribe. Likewise, if they let you walk in the face of the evidence against you-” He grimaced. “Not something a defense lawyer likes to admit, but if you are planning to do what I think you’re planning to do…”
“A gun, then. You can get me a gun, Louis?”
“And what the hell do you think would happen if they caught me? You don’t seem to understand, John. Ever since that picture with Estill, you’re headline news. Above the fold on the New York Times. You’re red hot, man. Anyone who touches you is likely to go up in flames.”
“I’d pay you, Louis. Pay you well. That stack of bonds up in Wisconsin.”
“The more I hear about those bonds, the less I like the sound of them.” He tapped away with the coin. “It just so happens that someone has been in touch with me on the other side of the wall, though. Someone who’s willing to front the money for your defense. Provide a safe house on the outside. Plastic surgery if you want it.”
“I’ll tell you that if you make it out the place. Here - ” he produced a fountain pen. Scrawled on the back of a business card. “Call me on that number once you’re back on the street. I’ll put you together with your mystery benefactor when you phone me. Use my connections to put you on ice. Assuming I’m going to see payment for my services at some point, of course.”
“Keep your hair on, counselor. You’ll get paid.” He switched his attention to the Tommy gun toting guards patrolling the corridors. Barred windows. Steel doors. “Assuming I get out of this joint in the first place, that is.”
Piquet flipped the coin. “I got faith in you, Johnny.” Quit the cell. “See you around, pal.”
Johnny removed his gum. “You too, Louis.” Stuck it to the underside of the bunk. He had time to prepare now. Plan his move. With the threat of being shanghaied to the state pen removed, the biggest obstacle to his escape was gone. Things were beginning to go his way. Play his hand right at this point and he was already halfway over the wall.