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Wonder Stories October 1932

That the gangster and racketeer are menaces, no one doubts. But how many people look ahead to predict the course of history should his power increase. Recently in Chicago an impudent holdup man walked out of court because his machine guns were preventing witnesses against him from testifying. The prosecuting attorney confessed that the gangster was stronger than the police force of Chicago.

Robber barons of the Middle Ages dominated all trade and transportation and no one could use the roads without paying him toll. Such might be the condition of the future. This would be especially true if gangsters adopted the discoveries of science and used them before their dull-witted opponents. Many will believe this story to be fantastic; yet our forebears of 1850 would be more incredulous were they to return and see the state of affairs of today.


CHICAGO 2042 A.D.

By PAUL BOLTON

The following historical document was found in the archives of Leser-Detroit, where it had been for centuries, since the death of its author. Of Vann Wakeheld we know nothing save what is in the manuscript. Of his protagonist, Jerry Ratoni, books have been written. Wakefield's story throws new light on the last of the super'gangsters. Historic fate of all men of eminence, Ratoni's career has inspired many a legend, obscuring his real person.

Wakefield brings us a picture of the man; he reduces the gang overlord to terms of everyday life. For that reason, if for no other, the manuscript would be valuable. But it does more than that. It clears up many points that have heretofore been mysteries. Moreover, it gives us one man's reaction to the trying days in which he lived. As a true, although in spots inadequate, picture of those times, the manuscript has authentic historic value.

Its editors have confined themselves almost wholly to modernizing the language employed. We call particular attention to the idiomatic language of gangland, scattered throughout the manuscript, which we have transferred, as nearly as possible, into their modern equivalents. Many of these expressions are vividly self-explanatory. Others may be found unintelligible. Still others, impossible of intelligent transcription were deleted. In these expressions, the reader may find the inspiration for words or phrases frequently and commonly used today, evidencing the tremendous effect upon our national life exerted by the wolves of the underworld.

One further notation: Wakefield must not be regarded as an historian. He had one story to tell, his own. He wrote for contemporary consumption, hence neglected to enlarge upon many of the larger aspects of his scene, and even some of the detail which was familiar to him. We have annotated carefully but feel that this is, at best, a makeshift method. But these inadequacies should be overlooked by the reader interested in the human document of one man who lived through two stages of one of civilization's dark ages.

Done at Leser-Detroit, Federation of Americas, 18th of October, 2508, A.D., by Lars, III, librarian, and assistants at the Baden Memorial library.


CHAPTER I
The Rise of Ratoni

Zooming down a sultry sky, three airplanes droned steadily toward Chicago. Two were small, fast monoplanes; the third a large cabin ship. In the cabin ship was Frank "Babyface" Julius, vice-lord extraordinary; and in the smaller ships were his ever present bodyguards.

Babyface Julius dreaded trips of any kind, air or ground. The presence of his "fingers," the bodyguard, in fast fighting ships, could not alleviate the uneasy fear which gripped him when another plane on the important St. Louis-Chicago air route zipped by. For Babyface Julius lived in constant fear of death, fear of being put "on the spot" as he had put many a rival—the inevitable price of eminence in gangland.

As the three planes neared Zion, Illinois, a patrol of nine planes which had been flying in huge circles high overhead, hardly visible from the earth, nosed downward. From the V of this group came a tracer bullet which left behind it a long tail of smoke. As if in answer, the motors of ten planes roared simultaneously, and another V rose from the ground, headed toward Julius.

The observer in the rear guard plane first spied the attackers. He shouted excitedly and the pilot nosed forward abreast of the cabin plane, gesticulating frantically. The huge plane shot forward at high speed. As it sped through the air, the V above altered its course in a huge parabola, headed inexorably toward Julius, steadily cutting down the space that separated them.

Suddenly from a score of guns came the rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns. The cabin plane coughed, wavered, and side slipped sickeningly toward the earth. In a few moments all that was mortal of Babyface Julius was wrapped in a flaming shroud. He was the first gangster "taken for a ride" in an airplane; and his death gave a new meaning to an old term. He had been "given the air."

Babyface Julius met his death August 1, 1935. The same day, Jerry Ratoni indirectly announced his ascension to the throne.

The sensational story of the sky battle was spread all over the front pages of the nation's newspapers,1 that afternoon. At six o'clock the early editions of the morning papers appeared on the streets of Chicago, and in two of the three morning papers appeared a full page advertisement—Jerry Ratoni's bid for underworld leadership. The third paper, for ethical reasons, had declined to print it.

1: The newspaper was a printed dally sheet which once was the principal method of imparting Information concerning world or local happenings. It was displaced late in the 20th century by the radio. Newspaper publishers were first to sense their fate. As early as 1931, prominent publishers declared the radio had become a rival which should be subject to the same restrictions as the newspaper in regard to advertising. Advertising was the principal source of revenue for support of the journals under the intricate financial system of the times, and the inroads made by the radio upon advertising revenues finally swamped the dally journal, although many kept on at a financial loss for years in an Inane effort to "uphold the traditions of the Fourth Estate."

"Jerry Ratoni, Inc.," said the headlines on that advertisement. The announcement continued that one Jerry Ratoni, hitherto unknown, had purchased the Neuvo Laredo, Mexico, distillery formerly owned by the Schwartz interests and would shortly be running at full capacity. All liquors from the distillery, the announcement continued, hereafter would bear the name "Jerry"2 and the quality of Jerry liquors would be guaranteed to purchasers "in any part of the world."

2: Students of Americana here may find, for the first time, the origin of the name for our "Tom and Jerry," although the origin of "Tom" is not explained.

"Be satisfied; buy from a Jerryman," the ad boldly concluded.

When a man bites a dog, that's news. Ratoni needed no other advertisement. Press associations verified the authenticity of the advertisement; newspaper correspondents at Laredo, Texas, across the border from Nuevo Laredo, reaped a small fortune in a few hours; and on the front pages of other morning newspapers, the story of Julius' death was paralleled by the story of Ratoni's advertisement—with much speculation on the identity of Ratoni, the man who had thumbed his nose3 at the United States government.

3: Literal transcription. Meaning obscure but apparently a gesture of defiance or contempt.

There was a nation-wide clamor for the immediate arrest of Ratoni, as the murderer of Julius, as well as for insolence toward the government. In the midst of this clamor, Jerry walked casually into the office of the State's attorney at Chicago, introduced himself, commented that he had seen his name in the newspapers, asked if there was anything he could do for the police, and then, quite as casually, walked out again; for there was no charge upon which he could be held. Many months later he submitted to arrest for income tax evasion and served three months imprisonment. Those three months constituted the sum total of his prison record.4

4: Wakefield here assumes his readers would be as familiar as himself with conditions In those days. Under a law known as the prohibition law, the transportation, sale, and In some circumstances, possession of liquors, was a crime, punishable by Imprisonment and fines. This law was openly and flagrantly violated. Those who sold forbidden liquors were "bootleggers;" those bootleggers who extended their activities into operation of gambling enterprises, sale of narcotic drugs, and other vices, were gangsters, or "racketeers." Ratoni's immunity from imprisonment was by no means uncommon. Gangsters were often forced to pay heavy tribute to the government, in the form of "income tax" on their illegally obtained revenues, and In some cases penalized for falsifying concerning the amount of these revenues; but were seldom punished for the very illegal activities which resulted In those revenues. The ends of Justice often were ill served by the law.

I, Vann Wakefield, who write this chronicle, describe the Ratoni coup so that my readers may have a true picture of conditions as they were in 1935 and thereafter.

There is much to tell in this narrative of gangdom's dictatorship and my small part in it. I was secretary to a great newspaper publisher; I became, in the interests of humanity a Jerryman, a follower of Ratoni.

After the death of Julius came the inevitable conflict with the leaderless Julius gang and the inevitable triumph of the Jerry gang. Through a system of forced tributes, or rackets,5 the Jerrymen soon controlled a score of legitimate business enterprises, besides directing the dope, liquor and gambling trades of the nation.

5: Small business men were forced by gangsters to pay tribute, i.e., to pay sums of money as "protection" against marauders, the marauders being the same gangsters who collected the tribute. Failure to pay tribute meant destruction of the merchant's physical plant, sometimes Injury to himself. This was known as a "racket."

Occasionally a suspected Jerryman was caught. If convicted, chances were that he would be freed wifhip a few months, buying or shooting his way out. At leastsix of the appalling prison breaks of 1937 were laid at Ratoni's door; there were fewer thereafter, for fewer Jerrymen were imprisoned as more officials were purchased. Like a giant human octopus, the Jerry gang spread its tentacles into every important city in the nation. America was on a debauch, comparable only to that which preceded the fall of Rome.6

6: Rome, one of the great cities In the Infancy of the world's history, fell a victim to Its own moral degeneration. It is interesting to note that Rome's last days saw roving bands of outlaws, comparable to the gangs of the 20th and 21st centuries, preying upon the Inhabitants. Quite likely, Wakefield has this parallel in mind. He was not the first to note it. Another parallel is found by the historian in the gangsters' "rackets" and the feudal system of a few centuries before. In both instances the producer was forced to share with the non-producer, in return for spurious "protection." The feudal lord punished with pillory and prison, rope and sword. The gang lord punished with knife and pistol, dynamite and destruction.

I sketch now with a broad brush, purposely careless of detail. A few of many instances may suffice to illustrate the rough-shod Ratoni methods: The assassination of Governor Roberts of Texas, whose private resources and unimpeachable conscience made him immune to bribery when Ratoni sought freedom of the air for whiskey planes bound northward from Nuevo Laredo; the siege of Harlem Flats in New York, when seven Jerrymen, caught red-handed after they had beaten to death an aged merchant who refused to pay tribute, were captured only after they had shot down five policemen and three bystanders—and then were acquitted by a corrupted jury, on a plea of "self defense"; the daylight looting of the Republic Bank of Oklahoma City7 in which five innocent persons were wantonly slaughtered; and the kidnaping and subsequent treatment of Joyce Lomac, daughter of another incorruptible, Mayor Lomac of New Orleans, a strategic city in Ratoni's plans. Miss Lomac died by her own hand three days after she had been returned, "as a lesson," to her father's home.

7: Banks were depositories for gold and silver, metals used then as mediums of exchange in trade and commerce.

With this incomplete survey I come to the Council of 46.8 That organization, which took its name from the number of its original members, was planned by five men:

8: It is difficult to understand the reasoning of the Council of 46. Their's was a foolhardy, albeit courageous attempt to cure the patient by striking off an arm, when the poison had penetrated into the blood stream. We know now Ratoni was but a symbol. His successor, and his successor's successor, stood ready for their coronation, as one boll succeeds another until the poison is ejected from the system.

John M. Randolph, publisher of the New York Evening Sentinel; Erasmus K. Shelby, retired educator; Dr. Julius K. Seidel, famed psychologist; General Paul J. Sterling, former governor-general of the Philippines and Jasper Canby, multi-millionaire public utility owner.9 I was present as confidential secretary for Col. Randolph, in whose home the meeting was held.

9: Public utilities or power companies, paradoxically, were owned by private citizens.

Without preamble, Col. Randolph plunged into his subject.

"Gentlemen, you and I know this nation is faced with a threat without parallel in the history of mankind, a threat the more ominous because it is financed and condoned by the masses of the people, unable to see what lies before them. I do not know whether we can avert the impending catastrophe; I do know we can try. Gentlemen, I propose to you that we wipe from the face of the earth Jerry Ratoni and his followers, before Ratoni becomes dictator of the nation!

"My four friends here and I have talked over the situation from every possible angle. We have finally reached one conclusion. You do not arbitrate with a rattlesnake; nor do you hale him into a court of law. You strike, and you must strike first. Jerry Ratoni is the snake. He lies coiled, ready to strike; his goal, subjugation of the American people.

"Authorities are useless—worse than useless, since many are Ratoni's allies. We must depend on our own resources, and I propose, if you will join me, that we fight him with his own weapons, fire with fire!"

He outlined his plan, essentially, simply. Members of the Council were to worm their way into the Jerry gang, mark its men, learn its secrets, determine what politicians were in Ratoni's pay—in short, expose to the council the complete intricate network of the gang. When we were ready we would strike, and strike with all our strength.

So was formed the greatest secret organization since the Ku Klux Klan.10 Membership in the council spread rapidly across the nation. Soon the Jerry gang was honeycombed with Council members. When a stubborn minority in Congress defeated a proposed repeal of the Volstead act11—despite urgent appeals from the Anti-Saloon League, the W. C. T. U.12 and other temperance organizations, council members furnished a list of those who voted at the behest of Jerry, who profited too greatly from prohibition to see its repeal. We learned the names of business men secretly aiding the gang leader; of his sources for drugs, and thousands of other details. We had decided to take our case to the courts only if we were certain we could win there; otherwise we would appoint ourselves judges and executioners. First we wanted all the facts, so that no innocent man would be harmed, nor a guilty one escape.

10: Vigilante societies of the United States organized after the Civil War, 1865.

11: Volstead act: the prohibition law, previously noted. Its repeal by Congress in 2071 A.D. was an empty gesture, since it had long before been forgotten.

12: We have been unable to determine what organization these initials denoted.

So I became a Jerryman. How?—would make another story. Suffice to say that I started as a worker in the distillery at Neuvo Laredo. I was promoted—because of my youth, strength and ability at the controls of a plane— to rum runner.

As a rum runner, I came to know Ratoni, and this personal contact led m...

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