At a Table with the Turk

21

 

Billy Gee was a lower echelon mobster with an impossible last name, hence, Billy Gee. He was also a wise guy, smart ass, which did little to impress the police with whom he occasionally came in contact. I was a baby homicide detective when I first ran across him in an interrogation room on the second floor of Maxwell Street Homicide. I was teamed with a seasoned detective in sort of an informal training program. I forget exactly why we were questioning him, but there is a nice way and a smart ass way to tell us nothing. Billy Gee chose the latter. At the end of the interview, Billy had a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

“Just one more thing Billy,” said my partner as he rummaged through some papers. He pulled out a city map printed on legal paper, depicting the six detective areas in the city.

“See here Billy? Right now you’re in Area Four. I want you to carry this map with you at all times, you understand?”

Billy looked quizzically at the map, his smirk replaced by a puzzled expression.

“Ya see, when you get wacked, and you will get wacked, ask them to dump your body anywhere outside Area Four because we don’t want to waste time on your sorry ass murder investigation.”

Billy left our offices with a more serious demeanor, almost as if we had personally put a hit out on him.

A little over a month later, my partner and I were staring into the trunk of an abandoned auto in an industrial area on Chicago’s west side. The victim’s hands were tied behind his back, his throat had been slit and there appeared to be a single bullet wound in the back of his head.

“Is that Billy Gee?” exclaimed my partner as he leaned into the trunk for a closer look.

“It kinda’ looks like him,” I said. “But it’s hard to be positive.” A slit throat and a bullet in the head have a tendency to distort most peoples natural appearance.

“You guys know him?” asked the mobile crime lab guys as they checked his pockets for any identification.

“It might be Billy Gee,” I replied. “Check his pockets for an Area Map.”

“He probably forgot to carry it,” said my partner. “He got dumped here.”

“There’s nothing in his pockets,” reported the crime lab. “You got the rest of his last name?”

“Yeah, back at the office, we’ll call you with the correct spelling and his date of birth. If it’s him, we were just talking to him a few weeks ago. If you can lift some prints from him, he’s the most likely suspect.”

“You mean victim,” I said.

“Same difference,” replied my partner with a grin.

Several hours later the crime lab personnel confirmed that Billy Gee was in fact our victim.

Most mob hits in Chicago are not easily cleared. We might be able to develop information on who wanted the victim killed and why, but to build a case against a specific individual was a long shot, no pun intended. Years down the road some people might be willing to talk, but for the immediate future we most likely had a case that was headed for the filing cabinet with other mysteries.

When we arrived at the office on the second full day into the investigation we were greeted by members of our intelligence unit bearing a folder full of 8 X 10 surveillance photos of none other than Billy Gee parking on the driveway of an upscale home, entering the house and then returning to his car some twenty minutes later. The dates indicated this was almost a daily occurrence.

The homicide commander, my partner and I poured over the pictures.

“Where is this?” I asked. “Whose house is it?”

“Woodridge,” said one of the intelligence detectives. “It’s Jimmy the Turk’s house.”

“You’ll have to interview him,” said our commander.

“Boss, he’s a top level guy, he’s not going to tell us anything,” said my partner.

“You’re probably right,” said the lieutenant. “But we’ve got the pictures and we can’t ignore them. We have to interview him and file a report.”

The intelligence detectives gave us Jimmy the Turk’s private unlisted number.

“He’ll be more likely to pay attention to you if you call him on this number.”

“Is this the line you’ve got tapped?” I inquired kiddingly. They didn’t take kindly to my remark. This would be a high stakes cat and mouse game; one that we were almost guaranteed to lose, but we had to go through the motions.

We emptied the office of spectators and my partner called Jimmy with the boss and me listening on extensions.

My partner stated his name and identified himself as a homicide detective. The reaction from Jimmy the Turk was absolute silence.

“Jimmy, we need to talk with you,” he continued.

“I don’t talk to cops,” replied Jimmy.

“Well, we’re going to talk with you.” my partner said in a very calm but authoritative voice. “We can come out to your place, it won’t take very long.”

“I don’t like cops in my house.”

“Well then come down to the station, we can talk here.”

“I don’t like police stations.”

“Well, Jimmy, we are going to talk to you. Do you understand?” My partner was using the same calm, authoritative tone, never raising his voice. There was a long moment of silence at Jimmy’s end.

“Where’s your office?” he finally answered.

“It’s the Maxwell Street Station, on Maxwell just two blocks west of Halsted.”

“I know the place,” snapped Jimmy in an annoyed tone of voice. “You know Barney’s?”

“Barney’s Market Club at Randolph and Halsted? Yeah we know it.”

“Meet me there for dinner tomorrow night at seven.”

My partner looked expectantly at the lieutenant and he nodded.

“My partner and I will be there,” he responded on the phone and suddenly the conversation was over.

“You’re going to dinner,” exclaimed the boss with a big grin on his face.

Barney's Market Club

Barney’s Market Club

Barney’s was an upscale eatery frequented by elected officials, businessmen, mobsters and occasionally cops. As a newly married father with two toddlers at home, I had never been there.

Our commander made notifications to our downtown command staff as well as the Intelligence Division and the Internal Affairs Division. If any of them happened to spot us having dinner with Jimmy the Turk they would know why.

The next evening my partner and I headed for Barney’s in an old unmarked beat up Dodge sedan. We avoided the VIP spaces at the Randolph Street side and instead parked on a side street nearby. The 8 X 10 photographs were tucked under my arm in a plain brown envelope.

“You gotta a credit card that will cover this? I asked my partner as we approached Barney’s.

“I do,” he replied. “But I’ll guarantee you Jimmy will pick up the tab. To Jimmy, it’s a matter of saving face and impressing us.”

“Saving face?” I inquired.

“Yeah, saving face. Remember, he’s number two or three man in the mob and he’s having dinner with us lowly cops. He wants to show anyone in the vicinity that he runs it—maybe even make them think he owns us. So order what you want kid, it will be the best meal you’ll have all month and it’s all on Jimmy.”

We entered the restaurant and the maître d’ greeted us before we took two steps inside.

“Yes sir Senator! Do you have reservations?”

Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune reporter wrote about Barney’s and the “Yes sir, Senator!” greeting a few years back:

“It was long assumed that its familiar slogan was born of the patronage of politicians. Though many elected officials (as well as mobsters, businessmen, cops and others on their way to and from events at the Chicago Stadium) were known to drop in, it was owner Barney Kessel’s inability to remember anybody’s name that gave birth to the slogan that eventually emblazoned menus, matchbooks and the prominent sign that hung high from the building. He called almost everybody ‘Senator.’”

“We’re joining Jimmy for dinner,” said my partner as he glanced around the room and spotted Jimmy the Turk sitting at a round table near the back of the dining room. He was flanked by two associates and two empty chairs awaited us.

“Yes sir, Senator,” said the maître d’ without batting an eye as he guided us back to Jimmy’s table.

Jimmy introduced his companions simply as Anthony and Vincent. We would learn later that Anthony’s mob nickname was “The Bull” and Vincent was called “Pug,” but only because sinus and adenoid problems made him sound like the dog of that breed.

The waiter placed menus in front of us and we made our selections without regard to cost. Salads were served and my partner began to slide the photos out of the plain envelope and Jimmy held his hand up.

“We don’t discuss business while we’re eating.”

We engaged in polite but totally meaningless chi-chat. When the entrée dishes were cleared, the envelope again came out but once again Jimmy held his hand up.

“We don’t discuss business before dessert.”

I was beginning to think that we might actually “talk business” at some point. “Dessert” for Jimmy and his pals consisted of giant snifters of Grand Marnier and Cuban cigars. We took a pass on the brandy but each of us lit up a cigar. Turned out the cigar probably gave me more of a buzz than the Grand Marnier would have.

The photos came out one last time—it was show time. We passed them across to Jimmy and his friends looked over his shoulder as he carefully examined the pictures.

“Billy visited you daily, Jimmy. What’s your connection?”

“I never saw this man before in my life,” said Jimmy.

“You ever see this guy?” he asked Anthony and Pug.

They shook their heads in unison.

“I’m really sorry, but I can’t help you.”

“Jimmy, this guy came to your house almost every day. These are only a few of the pictures.”

“Yeah well, you guys can do funny things with pictures, I know that. I’m really sorry I can’t help you.”

Jimmy the Turk stood and shook our hands indicating the meeting was over. He did indeed pick up the check. Like I said earlier, there is a nice way and a smart ass way to tell us nothing. Jimmy chose the nice way. He was not the type of person you would expect to find in the trunk of a car, but he did meet an early demise—he died several years after our dinner, at the age of forty-nine, peacefully at Northwestern Memorial Hospital of cancer.

To the best of my knowledge Billy Gee’s murder was never cleared. His file probably still languishes in some file cabinet marked “Not Cleared.”

I never lost any sleep over it…

Showing 21 comments

  • Darlene Ruh
    Reply

    My only question….what did you have for dinner?

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      Now you had to ask! I had it in the original version but wanted to but it down to under 2,000 words.

      I had the Prime Rib (extra cut), my partner had Filet Mignon. And of course the Cuban cigars for dessert.

      Thanks for reading, Darlene.

  • Janis
    Reply

    Loved it, Jim. Keep the stories coming, and let me know when the second book comes out!

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      Second book? Oh my! We’re still getting this one off the ground, be we have had a very good start. Already in our second printing.

      Thanks for reading, Janis!

  • Barry Felcher, NBC5News, retired
    Reply

    Jim,
    This was a good read — enjoyed the story very much.

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      Thanks for reading, Barry!

  • Bill Kugelman [CFD,Ret.]
    Reply

    Sure brings back memories Jim…… Great reading….

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      Thanks, Bill.

  • Chris Karney
    Reply

    As always, well written and a great story from the past

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      Thanks for reading, Chris.

  • marshall considine
    Reply

    I sure remember a few of these cases,,,,,bings back memories…Marsh

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      We saw some weird stuff in our day, didn’t we? Thanks for reading Marsh!

  • John
    Reply

    The best dietary aid in the world was handling that “Suspicious odor and fluids coming from the vehicle” assignments before lunch

  • Scott
    Reply

    Love the story, I cam only imagine that restaurant in the seventies. Enjoy reading your work every time Mr. Padar.

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Scott!

  • Bill Kushner
    Reply

    Another GEM! Thanks for bringing back memories of the old days, when mutual respect and a bit of trepidation made the job so much easier. Stay safe!

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      As always, thanks for the read Bill!

  • Mike Byrne
    Reply

    Poor Jimmy “The Turk” Torello had the rare honor of being in the small but lucky club of being a mobster that died of natural causes but don’t worry. Our fat friend Jimmy the Turk caught a case of stomach cancer and died at the young age of 49 years old. I’m sure he probably would have chosen to die like some of his victims and be shot in the head and suffer a split second of misery instead of the couple of years of pain he must have gone through with cancer. Just too show you how much pain the Turl was going through, in Frank Calabrese Jr. book he talks about Butch Petrocelli who was in Turks crew looking for pot for his cancer ridden boss to help ease his pain. I’ve never met the Turk but most reporters and people who have met him said out of most of these scumbags he was actually pretty nice and never would spit or swear at reporters like some of these guys. In another twist of Karma, during the Betty Matelse Cicero corruption trial it came out that the Outfit extorted/stole money from Doodles Torello which was Jimmy the Turks widow. Turns out she invested money in a outfit run horse/dog track and some land deals in Wisconsin and never saw a return on her money or any of the money she invested. So much for honor among thieves. PS-I really enjoy this blog, some great stories. Keep them coming.

  • Joe Walters
    Reply

    Great story. Does your consist of all Chicago Outfit stories/encounters or is it mixed stories of when you were on the force?

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      Thanks, Joe. The book is a collection of stories from varied experiences of my son and me…from tragedy to triumph with a few stories shoing how law enforcement work effect one’s family.

      http://www.onbeingacop.com

    • Jim Padar
      Reply

      Sorry for the tardy response, Joe. No, the book is a mix of stories from my son and I. Thanks for reading and commenting…

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