|3. Everything / Law & Crime|
The Ironic Death of Arthur Flegenheimer
In a hospital room in Newark, New Jersey, Arthur Flegenheimer lay between crisp white sheets. He was busy dying. This was in that other country called the past, where they do things differently; 23-24 October, 1935, to be exact. No matter how well paid the medical staff were - the ambulance people alone had been given a whopping $7001 - people died of peritonitis, whether caused by a ruptured appendix, which was more usual, or by a single rusty bullet ricocheting through the lower torso before exiting out the back of this particular victim who now lay, drugged, barely conscious, and with a body temperature of 106° 2, fighting a futile battle for his life.
Mr Flegenheimer's mother sat sobbing in an anteroom, comforted by her daughter, while Frances, Flegenheimer's wife, was occasionally allowed to come to the bedside in a fruitless attempt to communicate with her failing husband. Doctors and nurses came and went, but the four-bed ward with one patient remained crowded. Police Sergeant Luke Conlon was in attendance, though not as a family friend, along with other police officers, and FJ Lang sat by the bed throughout the entire ordeal. Lang, a man Flegenheimer had never seen before in his life, but who was to be his companion to the gates of death, held a pen and pad in his hands. A police stenographer, Lang was there to take down the dying man's statement.
There were many things the Newark police would like to ask the gangster. They were going to get both less and far more than they bargained for. For in death, Arthur Flegenheimer - aka 'Dutch Schultz' - would leave a literary legacy that Gertrude Stein might have envied, causing writers and fortune hunters alike to pore over his final words for at least three-quarters of a century afterward.
Mother is the best bet and don't let Satan draw you too fast4
Father Cornelius McInerney had been there. The German-Jewish gangster had received the last rites of the Church he'd adopted - some say to placate his rival, Lucky Luciano5 - and Dutch was preparing to die, if not in the odour of sanctity, at least in the hope that Newark, New Jersey, was the closest he'd come to hell.
Surely St Peter, bribed by the right muscle, would overlook such minor peccadilloes as:
Perhaps Dutch believed the slate was wiped clean in heaven. On this planet, the one in which he was breathing his last, there were those who were less forgiving - like the boys at Murder, Inc, who knew where to find someone with a car and a gat6 who knew the way to the Palace Chop House in Newark.
Who shot me? No one
Who wanted him dead, this ruthless, badly-dressed gangster with three women weeping over him in the next room?
French Canadian Bean Soup
Luke Conlon and his stenographer were trying to get information on two subjects. One was the identity of the hitmen. The only thing any of them had got from one of the victims, Jules Krompier, was 'I'd know him if I saw him again.' Dutch, Lulu, and Abbadabba all died without fingering anybody from Murder, Inc, or implicating Luciano.
The other thing they wanted to know was what Dutch and Lulu were doing up in the Catskills8 the day before - and what Dutch had done with that safe he'd ordered. One suspected that about $7m had been buried somewhere.
But peritonitis is a nasty business, and painful, and 'the Dutchman' had paid well and was full to the gills with morphine, and his temperature was high enough to addle what was left of his brain, so all the police and posterity got were a day's worth of non sequiturs ending with these last words:
Look out for Jimmy Valentine for he is an old pal of mine... Come on, open the soap duckets. The chimney sweeps. Talk to the sword. Shut up, you got a big mouth! Please help me up, Henry. Max, come over here. French Canadian bean soup. I want to pay. Let them leave me alone.
After 22 hours of earthly suffering, Arthur Flegenheimer went on to his eternal reward. He was buried in the Catholic cemetery, though his mother draped a talis9 over his shoulders.
Arthur Flegenheimer is gone, but not forgotten - certainly not in Phoenix, New York, where they show up annually to dig, certainly not by Beat poets and students of literature. Arthur Flegenheimer will long be remembered, even if his last words were '...leave me alone.'
Truth, Lies, and Fiction
The Dutch Schultz story has inspired a great deal of journalism and quite a lot of fiction:
Please note that Not Panicking Ltd is not responsible for the content of any external sites listed.