Goodnight, Swell Fellow

"When stars appear and shadows fall,

Then you’ll hear my poor heart call..."

--" I Surrender, Dear"


As the 1924 city elections drew nearer, the Democratic Party fretted that Deanie, always their top "ward healer," might defect. He had been seen in the company of some of the notable Republicans and, reports gushed, looked pretty chummy. Wanting to ensure his patronage again this year, the Democrats, on November 1, threw him a testimonial dinner at the Webster Hotel on North Lincoln Park Avenue, where they presented him with a $1,500 platinum watch.

Three days later, wearing the gift, he and his North Side lads played havoc at the polls -- this time "suggesting" to the voters to vote Republican. Entering a State Street speakeasy, he brandished a brace of revolvers, blew doorknobs off several doors, and shouted, "We’re going to have a Republican celebration tonight." And they did.

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Angelo Genna
In the meantime, the tension between him and the Gennas hadn’t cooled. In fact, it came to a climax the night of November 3. Stopping by The Ship gambling hall in Cicero to collect his share of the October proceeds, he learned that one of the Genna brothers, Angelo, had lost $30,000 at the tables the previous evening. When Torrio recommended that they write the debt off as "professional courtesy," O’Banion sneered. Grabbing the nearest telephone, he placed a call to Angelo and told him to pay up within a week, "or else".

Even pal Hymie Weiss was taken aback by his leader’s impetuosity. When he warned Deanie in the car on the way home to tread lightly with the Gennas, the other replied, "Ah, to hell with them Sicilians!"

After the North Side hothead left The Ship, Torrio summoned Capone and the brothers Genna to counsel. Dion O’Banion had insulted the brotherhood, betrayed their trust, mocked Johnny Papa and continued to make a farce out of the combination that all had worked so hard to preserve. He didn’t understand Italian tradition and railed it with every gesture. Unione Siciliane President Mike Merlo, Dion O’Banion’s unexpected shield, lay near the point of death and was expected to succumb at any hour. What to do to O’Banion when Merlo passes? Their fate was unanimous, thumbs down.

Merlo died that coming Saturday, November 8. Torrio ordered $10,000 from Schofield’s Flower Shop, Capone $8,000. Deanie told them he would prepare the wreaths himself. His tribute.

On Sunday, November 9, Genna sibling James, stopped in to order a wreath for $750. While Deanie crafted it in the back room, Genna’s eyes took in the layout of the shop and memorized it. A few hours later, Frankie Yale, the Unione’s national director, having come in from New York to attend the funeral, placed an order for $2,000. "Please have it ready by mid-morning," he advised the clerk.

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Frankie Yale
Monday morning, November 10, 1924.

Deanie was hard at work in Schofield’s back room, clipping chrysanthemums, rushing to get ahead of an order backlog. He was tired this morning for some reason; needed a break; he glanced at his watch -- 11:30 -- just as he heard the transom bells over the street door jingle. On his way out front to greet the customers, Deanie nodded at porter Bill Churchfield heading the other way, carrying a broom and dustpan, having just swept up. In his left hand, Deanie still held his pair of clipping shears as he rounded the corridor into the showroom. He instantly recognized one of the three men who had entered; the short, stout man in the middle of two strangers was Frankie Yale.

"Are you from Mike Merlo’s?" he asked, holding out his right hand to Yale.

Then, Deanie must have known something was wrong. In a flash, he knew it. It was the way Yale took his hand. His grip was extraordinary and he clutched on as if he would never let go. If the victim may have seen the other men, the strangers, draw their guns, there was nothing he could do. Yale clenched tighter and Deanie winced. The strangers fired: two bullets into his chest, two in his throat, and another blew his jaw away. When Yale released his hold, the bloody thing that was Dion O’Banion fell like fodder against the glass display case, then slipped to the floor. It was probably Yale who administered the colpo de grazia (kiss of death) into Deanie’s once blushing cheeks. This O’Banion would never crack wise against the Sicilians again.

Had Deanie recognized the two men accompanying Yale, he would not have been caught unawares, for they were the most brutal assassins in the syndicate, Juano Scalise and Alberto Anselmi. Together with Yale, they careened from the shop toward Superior Street where they jumped into a dark blue Jewett, driven by Mike Genna. Turning left at Dearborn, the next street over, the car disappeared into history.

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Crowd outside Dion's flower shop 

1. Leprechaun

2. A Normal Childhood

3. Lads of Kilgubbin

4. Volstead's Law

5. Them Damn Sicilians

6. The Flower Shop

7. Crazy Deanie

8. Cicero

9. An Impractical Joke

10. 'Night, Swell Fellow

11. Hello, Mt. Carmel

12. Bibliography

13. The Author
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