The Big Mama war ain't started just like that. First I heard of anything to do with it was from Frank. He came in one day like he sometimes did, said to me "Iceberg, it's getting hot." It was November midway. Getting windy, anyhow. "You don't say" I said to him. "Keep the scratch you got, tight. Don't stretch out. Ain't one stud in three gon' make it back out." I didn't like the sound of that.
The trouble started with some joker, they called him Bugs Moron. His real name was Adelard, Adelard Cunin. I figure they changed it because that sucker was definitely not cunning. He was the blockhead mick to stand for all of them, stupid, stuborn and religious. He'd have made a great Pickett or Pettigrew, if anyone ever needed another one of them. He was the worst kinda sucker to have on your side. Like Mr. Donato once said, "With friends like that, Frankie, they don't need any enemies. Wouldn't have what to use them for."
The whole lot of them up on the North side started out as strong-arms, and never outgrew it. His boss for a while, a joker went by Dion, fronted a run down watering hole, the Liberty Inn. He did as bad with it as Dirty Pete did with his, if not worse. He'd sing to patrons while Moron and the gang rifled their coat pockets in the back. Maybe he thought he sings so good, nobody ain't gonna remember what he walked in there with, or where he walked in with it. He was the joker that first invented what's called the Mickey Finn. Maybe it ain't the dumbest con some moron in a hole ever thought of, but it's damn right close to the dumbest one that's ever got a name. Only a mick could think of it, anyhow. It's a variation of the Murphy, but without no girls. They just prat some joker come in for a drink, spike it for him, then push him out the door. When that poor sucker staggers himself to a laying flat stop in the alley, they pick his pockets. That's just micks figuring things through. They're deep as a teacup sea.
The real Murphy works because the Murphy man ain't got no connection to the joint. He's paid the old timey in the hallway a fin or two, that's all he's out his end. For the Mickey, the jokers running it gotta own the joint. There's no way to pull that kind of thing any other way. He who owns it'd string them up. They'd string themselves up, in their proprietor capacity, if they had any sense. That's just how dumb a mick is, though. He goes to church on Sunday morning, to drop on the platter the nickel he took out of the preacher's pocket Thursday night, in the alley behind church. The mick figures he's on his way to the promised land, and all the while there stands the preacher, with a shiner on the size of that platter. Jokers ain't figured out if patrons keep falling over like flies in the alley someone might come asking what all's in them drinks until the City Sanitary Commissioner did just that. Poor Herbert, he said "Paddy, listen up. There's five hundred fell sick from going to a bar this whole week all over town. Three hundred from your Inn, two hundred from all the other five thousand joints all over the place. What gives ?" Moran and the gang were all upset by it, too. It didn't seem fair to them other folks should magick with numbers and add things up and figure things by counts like that. That kinda low blow just ain't fair, to a mick.
A joker might get hot to lay it into some broad maybe every week, or every other week. That joker wants a drink, or six of them, damn near every night. The way we ran the Heaven, the suckers came in there once, then they came once a week, then they were there damn near every night. But with the Liberty Inn, they downright cured the neighbourhood of drinking, which no preacher or halleluja joint ever managed though they tried. But that's what micks are, always doing someone else's job. They open a bar, do the preacher's job. If they opened a church I'm damn near sure they'd have driven everyone to drink. They sure settled the whoring out that way.
When Papa left for the old country and gave old Boss Al the keys, that's when Frank let me know. That's what they called Mr. Donato. They called him the fox and they had a point, too. I ain't ever seen a smarter white man in my days. By then that joker Dion was dead as a plastic flower. He ran a flower shop right across the Holy Name church. One day, while shaking hands with some guinea he knew, a coupla others that were with him stepped aside and pumped him full. They said the beef was some gambling debts from The Ship, and maybe there was something to that. The real beef though was that he had a big shipment of hot rods coming in, three dozen Tommys and other stuff. He was gearing up to start a war, the guineas figured, and they didn't want that. Everyone in Little Italy was against any violence out in the street like in the old days, not just Mr. Donato but the Union boss Merlo and all of the old top men. Later, after Papa left old Boss Al wiped them out alright, rounded most of them hothead morons up and shot them all dead. Tony the Scourge told him ain't no point doing that, but Al said he don't want no stupid folk walking around that close to him. Tony said "You ain't ever gonna be done with doing it. Stupid folk ain't never done coming."
He was right, too. What the Morons did was organize the vote, in all the wards from the second to sixth. Lots of them stupid folk flocked to them. When the boss did a dozen of them in for good three or four dozen more sprung up right behind them, and none the wiser neither. They kept coming at him and he kept sending them to grow Dion's flowers behind the church all that Winter. Frank never asked nothing of me until then, musta been a week or two before Christmas. Then he started raining in. Pepper was getting a call every week, then every day. By the time the year was out we had more jokers come to the Blue to take scratch than came in to bring it back. Some days we'd close a hundred grand lighter than it started. The deal we had from the beginning was to split it right down the middle, and his share of it piled up, on account of his never coming asking for it. By the time February rolled around and he wasn't giving out with calling he was cutting pretty deep into my share though. At first I didn't say anything, but then I asked him over for a run-down. It's not like he was taking all those bales of scratch to do anything, just bury suckers up in rows that shouldn't have been grown up in the first place. That got me thinking the most. Frank said "Whatcha beefin' for, kiddo ? You're the only one in good shape. When this is done you'll still have your girls. Ain't none of the rest of us that'll have a pot to piss in that ain't got three holes in it."
By then I had ok'd a lot of top tier girls move on. Hundreds of them married off, like Josie or Daphne did. Some stayed in some kind of business, though plenty squared out. Most of the ones still in business were in some kinda showbusiness of other, though not all. Plenty ran motels, diners, all kinda small entreprise like that. I'd say of the small business owners back in those days in Illinois, a good third were mine. Not all of them squared out, neither. I ok'd thirty-eight new houses start up over the years. Not all of them made it through, and most of them didn't run the entire time under the bitch that started them, but anyhow. Because of all that, of all the bitches that were under me over the years, not even five percent were under me right then. Maybe not two percent. Tell the truth most of them were under my top bitches more than they were under me in the first place. I sometimes swiped into one of the first floor girls we had, or a Big House visitor, but it was more often sexing a good old girl taking off for good, for old time's sake, than some new bitch to try her out in earnest. I told him "Ain't like you figure it, Frank. No more bitches stuck to me than studs or bones stuck to you."
It wasn't maybe true, but that whole talk got me to thinking. Come Spring the Moron gang relented on trying the hard way. Even a blockhead mick figures out after the fifteen or twentieth time trying to go inside through the wall that the door might work better anyhow. They set all their preacher choir and political machine to yakking all the old square broads in fifty districts into a lather, about the evils of drink and prostitution. That's when you don't lie about whoring out. That's what they call it, bitches trying to pimp on their man call bitches who got clear in their head who their Daddy is prostitutes. It comes from taking a lower place. That's what the word means. Phyllis explained it to me. These crazed bitches from the Moron gang read in their good book the woman's under the man, then turned around to spit on the only bitches that found a man good enough to be worth being under. That's why no varmint in creation's dumber than a mick, right there.
I ran my idea through with my top bitches. Pepper laughed herself on her back, spasming and jacknifing her legs like she ate a whole fly. Phyllis got so excited she stood up with the doilie she sat on glued to her ass. Maria and Ophelia were all for it, Miriam slitted her eyes and started rubbing her palms together really fast like it was the best deal she had ever heard of. Radell was frothing at the mouth. It just tickled them all pink. The plan was simple but beautiful. First, make a list with all them mick preachers that they got. Then, make a second list with all their daughters, both from the wives and that no wife knew about. Then take them all in. They ran around to prepare for the W-day like it was the second coming. We figured out soon enough those jokers had maybe not read the whole thing through, but most of them read the Genesis five or six times over, and that just for the female side. It was a lot of bitches. I told Frank I was to need some muscle. He said he can send a coupla of boys for a few days, if I'm desperate. I said I want sixty or so. He told me I can forget it. By then the outfit was run pretty thin. Just then some mick immigrant took Big Bill's seat up at Town Hall. The boss hatched a plan to get rid of both that poisonous cripple and the mick when they were down splitting spit in Florida. The cripple survived, but Big Bill came right back in his place. I said to him "Frank... you ain't got no muscle. You ain't got no scratch. What good are you in this world ?" He laughed and said he wonders himself every morning the same thing. I run down to him. He said I'm crazy. I told him I'm no crazier than them smarties cocking it all up over in Cicero. He didn't say anything. I asked him if they're crazy enough to try and hit me. He said "Only if it doesn't come off, kid. Only if it doesn't come off."
Four days later the second floor under Maria's poolhall was chock-full of bitches, like a four-and-a-half acre plantation right there, in the heart of Chi. We got them from eleven to nineteen, almost two hundred prissy pussys chained up. It was Phyllis' idea, to keep them there a day or two. Burn their clothes before them, wholesale. Mess with their head, so they don't think they're so special no more. She said the biggest thing makes a stupid square out of a promising young bitch is the idea in her head she's precious, that she's something special. They never get out of it because they're always by themselves. She said "Daddy, chain them prisses by the pair, so they can't take a shit unless some other bitch wipes their ass. That'll turn them back to normal sure enough." It did, too. Of course it did. They had a big old beer tun for shitting in, and a big old beer tun full of grits. Radell came up with the idea for it. She strutted among the bawling bitches kneeled in the dirt, a few lanterns glimmering here and there, and yelled at them "Don't get them mixed up!" She'd had them put smack drab in the middle, right by each other. Those bitches puked more than they shat while they were there, that's for damn straight.
By the time the stench started to filter in the poolhall the next day we started kicking them out. We'd prat them and make them run down, one by one, alone this time. Most broke down like old flotsam. A coupla dozen among them took the bottom floor in the Heaven, three-four more dozen went over other cathouses where the mama'd take them in. The rest, nineteen broads, we sent back. The deal we cut with them was that they can go if they say Poison kidnapped them. I had the lush black bitch of Poison's stashed away, ready to testify from the inside. That stud never knew what hit him, all of a sudden there's white slavery raps coming every which way. At first he thought the precinct studs were kidding him around. Then when the D.A. brought in that little bitch he started bawling like a crumb crusher. Down on his knees, he blubbered "You do me in too, Adele! You too, Adele!" like he was surprised somehow that bitch been trying to get out from under his dumb nigger ass for fifteen years.
It was the most beautiful hit in history. No captain healthy in the head was going to re-open an investigation that had so neatly led to the conviction of one of the city's biggest threats to public interest, that corrupt pimping nigger Poison. They only had captains that were healthy in the head back then. A few Leonards here and there were found that'd be dumb enough to try, but Big Bill wasn't about to let them cemak things up for him, and then the morgue always has more space for more short studs with brain trouble. None of those nineteen bitches ever spilled the beans, and of the rest... god they hated their old folks. A lot of them went on to give interviews with the newspaper men, told the reporters all sorts of stories. I ain't ever seen those jokers as happy since, they had material what to rack up for months and months afterwards. None of the fifty-nine jokers we had on the first list was a preacher six weeks after Poison's conviction. Their congregations ran them out, then took to the first bar. All the better for them, it's always healthier to talk your troubles over a mug of suds or a shot of rye with a friendly face across the log. Much healthier than huddling together with the preacher in the funny barn, reading from the stupid book while he feels up the young'uns, anyhow.
That took the wind right out of their sails. W-day came June 1st. I chose it that way on purpose. By August Bugsy Moron was all washed up, and all his gang of stupid with him. After that, the hole was made. Every roller in eight precincts cruised the street looking for young pussy. Just about school age was good enough. Often they'd roll a whole gaggle of them, ten, twelve scared little bitches with huge eyes and small titties. They roused up all that were pretty enough and plenty that weren't even close to it. They threw them in the slammer overnight, that did it most often than not. It got to where we had regular teams in the pens working the fresh meat. Pepper spent enough nights in the police locker to make up a year, that's for damn sure, Chris and June and Miriam and Phyllis, too. All of them, really. It got to where buying a bus ticket into Chicago as a teen-age broad was same as buying a ticket into Heaven. We paid the clerks in Wichita, Des Moines, as far down as Kansas City to give them discounts that couldn't aford the fare. Some of them came in knowing full well what they're walking into, wanted to be a star. Plenty though were square broads, if we didn't open their eyes for them who knows, mighta ended up like Daphne but on accident. The thing of it is, of square broads nine in ten end up that way, but of the whores Daphne was the one in maybe a hundred. You can't tell me that's a coincidence. If bitches go one way when they don't know better and another way if they do, it ain't anything but not knowing better. It can't be. Just like those pimps of old Sweet rapped about, we rescued thousands and thousands of young girls from wasting their life a square.
We had it polished down smooth to a fine system. Back in those days, if a cop was shot and killed they gave the wife if he was married five bills. If he was shot and lived they gave him a little to live off for a halfa year maybe it was, a saw or two a week. They paid the hospital bils, anyhow, but if the copper lost a leg or worst of all an arm and couldn't work no more it was rough. Most cops bought themselves insurance, but if the company went bankrupt they'd be stuck. Everyone looked to give men like that a soft job somewhere, and I did my part too. I had seven or eight old timers like that start up their own private eye agency. It was a soft job, that's for sure. Everyone knew they specialise in kidnapped youngsters. Whenever a girl disappeared, if the parents went looking for her any they always found their way to one of them. If the girl wanted back he could return her for us, and if she didn't want back he could charge a little bit of expenses while looking for her anyway.
When the idea first came to me I was in the Washington Arms. A guy named Fenton sat at the log, lifting the suds with his left. He wasn't outright crying in them, but he didn't look much like he had any reason not to, neither. He was sure giving Jack the blues, the log jockey facing him and me. Poor Jack a long face on him like he just found out he inherited a hundred grand all in confederate dollars. I went up to him and said "Hey, Fenton. You wanna get a head start ? Go to the car, see what you find there and bring it in here". He looked at me, then lugged out the slammer. He came back in with a pretty little bitch on his heel. I said to her "sick him, bitch!" and she went to work right there on the floor, banging her head between the bar and Fenton's buckle in her enthusiasm. She hadn't had a meal like that in musta been a whole day. He thought it's just a one-off at first, but then I ran it down to him. He had his agency opened the next day and that little bitch was back in school by the next Monday. She came back into the Heaven the next year, and for all the time she was on loan she kicked our way a bitch a week almost.
Then after all the trouble Al went to get him back in, old Whale Thompson up and croaked one day. Before finishing his bit, too. It came to him as he was arguing over the phone with Ruth-Hanna, the Mama of the cobwebbed square gang. That dumb bitch's sissy husband put something or other in his paper no-one read no-how, but Big Bill and Ruthie herself I guess. It got his goat enough to yell at the bitch over the phone, instead of putting his boot in her ass. Truth be told he was getting a little loose in the head, old Bill. The bitch hung up once he stopped yelling and sent an ambulance over. He was purple and stiff by the time they busted into his office. They gave Maysie, his top bitch, the keys to his secret stash down at First National. She dug almost two million slats in fresh C bills out of the line of boxes Bill had set up down there. I elbowed Frank when the story hit the newspapers "He had more sense than you, where's your millions ? Sure as hell not with me." Frank shook his head "I ain't stiff, neither." The week after that he came in and cracked on me "Iceberg, you've got to do a bit." I looked at him like maybe he's from a different planet. "That's a chump crack if I ever heard one. I ain't done, and ain't doing no bit." He shook his head. "You gotta. We ain't got anyone else to put up worth two shits. That Ruth bitch is running, you want her be Mayor instead ?"
That's the kinda bit he had in mind. Honest I didn't want to, but Pepper kept pratting me on it. Truth be told there wasn't a single girl at the Big House didn't push me and twist my arm to go in for it. Once I said I'm in the running that was that. Before every bitch running house in the whole state pulling for me and every log joker trying to give her competition, they didn't even have an election anymore. Ruth just conceded and they put me in. I ain't called her yet, all day long, and I ain't gonna call her the whole bit, either. I don't rap to no bitch ain't my whore no how. Besides, she's old. I figured the right thing to do for my first day in office is have these pretty bitches write the whole story down. I got plans for the future, too. With television coming in a big way and taking over from the movies the way they ate up the stage, I have a dream that one day soon there ain't gonna be a bitch that's old enough to walk but that has her pussy put on display so any joker wanta take a peek just push a button for it. Ain't no good reason any joker that wanta be a bitch can't buy his reefer straight from the machine, with a bar of candy for afterwards. Other things, too!
Brother, I hope you're happy as a boon coon squeezing milk and honey outta dat sister's ass, and see yous around sometime.