restricted access 39 Gus Goes Home
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The brutal announcement paralyzed my mind and body. Beforeanimpenetrablefogsettledaroundme,Irememberliftingmy hand to my mouth. I did not speak, but I felt the world crumple silently into dust around me. I do not remember the ride home, or who talked to me and what was said. I did not know when my husband’s relatives came to the apartment that night, or did I know who sent for them. Thenightwasinterminable,whileIfloatedbodilessinahaze,devoid of any feeling but numbness. The next morning someone put my nerveless arms through the sleeves of a coat, pulled a hat over my disheveled hair, led me to the street and into an automobile. I do not remember the ride. The cold wind that blew across my face did not blow away the mist that enshrouded me. Ages later I was led into a room where there were many voices—voices that came in a monotonous babble from a great distance. My nurse told me later that I sat motionless in a chair with my hands in my lap, while newspaper photographers lifted my veil and snapped pictures of my grief. Through the veil came the serene, kind face of Father Dwyer. Father Dwyer, who held my hand, talked to me in a low voice, a Father Dwyer who offered sanctuary in his strength. I could not understand what he said, but his voice and his touch comforted me. It was Father Dwyer who led me to the casket for my first view of my slainhusband.ItwashisarmthatheldmewhenIlookedatthetornbody, 39 Gus Goes Home 220 Gus Goes Home 221 The scene outside the Charles H. Weber Distributing Company following the shooting of Gus Winkeler. 222 al capone and his american boys the patched hands that held the rosary, resting over the still breast where once was the battleground of man’s strongest emotions. A husband who in appearance was the fulfillment of my vision of the day before. Thenthebabbleagain,andfinallythevoiceofRalphPiercepenetrating the cloud about me, saying in so many meaningless words how sorry the syndicate was that Gus was gone. Thenoverandoveragain,lowandtense,thatImustbecarefulnotto tell anyone that I knew Commissioner Charles Weber, not to tell anyone that Gus was associated with the cabarets, and promises that the syndicate would settle with me for every cent Gus had invested. Dimly I heard, but the words made no impression. But the nurse heard, and it was the nurse the syndicate paid—not the doctor and the undertaker. Night again, my grief written and pictured over the pages of the papers . Jesting words, cold analytical words, words deriding my conduct and my remarks. But the pictures served a purpose. A flood of telegrams and night letters came to the apartment, offering sympathy, aid, and revenge. They werefollowedbyhundredsoflettersfrompeopleIneverheardof,people who sent condolences. I could not read them—only appreciate them all for the spirit in which they had been sent. Then more men from the syndicate with their whispered sympathy and their veiled threats as they continually intoned: “You don’t know Weber, you don’t know anything about the clubs.” Backtotheundertaker’schapel,wherethelastofthethousandswho streamedpast“BigMike’s”bierwereshutout,andwhereothersyndicate men whispered threats in sympathetic voices. Then the train and the long ride to St. Louis as Gus returned home. Arrival, with the silent ranks of the American Legion standing at attention as the body of their old comrade-at-arms was lifted from the train. Photographers snatching off my veil, voices, thousands of the curious. To the chapel of another undertaker, then to the Catholic Church, where the same priest who said the last words over Ben Winkeler and his wife repeated them over the body of the son. Gus Goes Home 223 The final resting place in Park Lawn Cemetery, near the graves that housed the father and mother. “Ashes to ashes—” as the rose petals fell. Then the ranks of silent, respectful uniformed men, moving into the distance, the shuffling of the departing crowd, and a woman in a black veil left in a fog of unreality, alone above the body of a departed husband, alone to face the only world she knew, a world that waited with bared fangs. Gus Winkeler in his coffin. ...


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Subject Headings

  • Crime -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
  • Murder -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
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