Spike was embroiled in a court battle with one of the Boy
Scout contractors who ‘The O’Donnell’ had helped secure
a City contract to re-pave Ashland Avenue from 71st to 95th
Streets – about $ 200,000 net for the mealy-mouthed slob.
Spike had contacted all of the right boys from the anchor to
the top-mast of Public Works Administration and the final
sign off by Mayor Ed Kelly himself. Now the crumb welched
on consultant’s fee and went crying to the Cook County States
Attorney that Spike was shaking him down. But, hey, only
suckers beef. The Treasurer would help Spike brown the sugar
from this lump of blubber.
Joanie Cullen always talked to Spike when the Biddies and
the High hats avoided his gaze and immediate touch like Spike
was a leper. ‘Good morning Mister O’Donnell, Sister Malachy
said to say hello to you when I saw you this morning and I told
Sister that I you never missed Mass.’
O’Donnell was delighted by this skinny little chit in her veil
and with rosary beads twined around her mitt like a knuckleduster.
Joanie Cullen had eyes the size of the hub-caps on
O’Donnell’s Chrysler parked at the steps of St. Sabina’s. Father
Gorey was taking his own good time in getting down from the
sacristy in the hopes that Spike would disappear; Spike liked to
hang around just to tease the new guy taking Monsignor Egan’s
‘What’d ‘Chin-Whiskers’ have to say for herself, Joanie? She
looking to take a few inches off my wallet for you fine young
woman over at old Mercy High? That crone scares me back
into Church, Honey. What’d she want any way?’
Joanie loved the gangster, like one her uncles. O’Donnell
had been shot in the back the previous March when all the
asphalt contracting hoopla had made it into the newspapers
and became an issue in Mayor Kelly’s re-election campaign
– the greater issue was whether or not Spike would live, but the
natural born tough guy recovered after a few weeks in Little
Company of Mary Hospital and his standard walks around the neighborhood. Joanie – and everyone else in Chicago – had heard
of his reputation as a bad man, but knew that tough dapper daily
communicant who was so devoted to his wife, children, brothers
and neighbors that he put out the glad hand and offer of help
to anyone he met. He was as funny as Mr. Duffy the political
boss and more at ease than Buck Weaver, the disgraced third baseman
from the Black Sox days who lived in a nice house
over in Little Flower parish on Winchester Street. Those three
men sat out in front of Hanley’s House of Happiness and played
pinochle almost every day or in front of the electrical appliance
store near the White Castle hamburger stand at 79th & Loomis.
Buck Weaver had a job as the Vice President of Standard State
Bank – the safest Bank in Chicago – because Spike banked
there – and had devoted most of his life to restoring his good
name in baseball. Buck Weaver had known that his teammates
were taking Arnold Rothstein’s payoffs but refused to be a rat
and that was the only reason that Kennesaw Mountain Landis
banned Buck Weaver from Baseball for life. All the others,
Shoeless Joe, Ciccote and the rest had snatched up the bribe and
thrown the World Series – only Buck was pure.
Joanie Cullen added, ‘Tim said hello to you too Mr.
O’Donnell and asked how you were recovering. I’ll bring the
letter tomorrow and show you where he says so. He’s training
for another battle I guess and says that he is working with two
nice boys, one an Italian kid from Ohio and the other a hillbilly
from West Virginia. Tim said the Dago is a great singer and is
with an orchestra around Cleveland, but works for Desoto and
the hillbilly got his first pair of shoes in the Marines and had
never been more than two miles from coal mines in his life. Tim
says that he is a real sweet guy and the ugliest person he ever
met and that includes Myron Muchinfuch, the usher at Notre
‘Uglier than Myron, come on that’s Orson Welles stuff.
Where is Tim, somewhere in the South Pacific again? Did he
say where?’‘Mr. O’Donnell, Tim says nothing accept that he wants
Mary Janes and Bullseyes from Morganelli’s and he always asks
about everyone else. Never know he’s in a war, if it weren’t for
the V-Mail. Al, Jack and Martin talk about the War all the
time and Al is up in Fort Sheridan – he’s a cop, like Father was,
an M.P. and keeps deserters in line.’
‘Al, always had the right makings for the Chicago Police
Department, unlike your Father who is too honest a man and a
Union man to boot. When all of the rest of those apple robbing
Micks in blue wool had no problem shooting at working men,
your father, Joanie, had the steel to tell that louse Capt. Connelly
to take a leap. That’s why you old man ain’t a cop any more. Too
honest. Al will be a Captain with his own bagman someday.
Joanie, here’s a fin – load up on MaryJanes and Bullseyes for
that brother of yours – best man with bag of tools I ever met
in my life. Tell him I did a few laps around the rosary for him.
Give my best to your mother and tell that Bog-man Father of
yours that he had better keep his ‘LOIGHTS OUT-ing’ away
from 82nd and Loomis if he wants to keep healthy and keep it
on Bishop with the other bog-trotters like himself.’
Joanie laughed like she meant it and had no school-girl giggle
which delighted the retired hoodlum more and she pocketed the
five-spot for a trip to Morganelli’s candy store on Ashland Ave.
later that day.