Joe Shannon was another political boss in Kansas City, although his influence was on the decline in 1925. By that time Tom Pendergast had consolidated his power and held influence over several judges in the area and large portions of the city government. Shannon’s faction, known as the Rabbits to Pendergast’s Goats, held little influence inside the city with the exception of several members of the police force and their original constituency along the Missouri and Kansas River. Although at this time neither faction controlled the police completely, there were a few members of it who owed much of their livelihood to the Rabbits and were prepared to make good on that allegiance.
Leo’s undoing in Kansas City began with a simple discussion over coffee one morning, just as so many of the days had started for the Savoy Seven, as Leo’s group of criminal buddies had taken to calling themselves. Ben ‘Little Red’ Godding, a walking contradiction of a man at six foot three and with jet black hair, mentioned there was a car theft job he could not take due to having to head to Omaha to look after an ailing sister. Everyone passed on picking this job up expect Leo, who took it but noticed that the others were giving him odd looks.
“What?” Leo asked, shrugging up his pointy shoulders and waving a hand at them. “It’s a simple job and I could use the money.”
“I think Red’s playing you Lee, all of us probably, and he oughta be ashamed on himself,” replied Bill Fallon who also cast a scornful look at Godding.
“I’m just offering it out there and he took it. Not my fault,” Godding snapped back.
“What’s the big deal?” Leo asked. “What’s going on?”
“You missed it last week but Red here made a step up in the world, its almost surprising that he’s even down here still talking to us polecats.”
“Shut up Bill.”
“You denying you got picked up by the Goats?”
“I, well no, I’m not, but that don’t have nothing to do with us here.”
“Sure it does, and besides, if you’re with the Goats now I’m sure it ain’t jake with them to go passing off your work to us cats. So, that leads to the main question of why you’re down here putting it out?”
Red Godding shuffled his feet a few times, his cheeks blushing red while his brown eyes blinked much more rapidly than usual. The group was silent, waiting, and eventually he rubbed a big, calloused hand across his face and sighed.
“Listen fellas, they just asked me to take the job and put it out for someone to do, someone from outside the Goats ya know?”
“Oh, so you sister isn’t sick then? You sure tried to sell us that angle a second ago. Looks like most of what you picked up from them Goats was how to lie to your friends.”
“No, she ain’t sick, and I’m sorry about all that. I just, well, I don’t know how to do all this stuff now, stuff they want me to do. It’s more complicated than I thought it would be.”
“So, why did you go to them Red?” Leo asked.
“I just thought it would be better, more money, more chances to make something of myself. Instead,” and here paused to look up at the ceiling, “well, they just tell me to do stuff and get mad when I mess it up.”
“So, you came to us because we’re easy and you could get your mission done and not get smacked around by your new bosses ? Or did you think you would come down here and hand out some charity?” Bill snapped back.
“I figured that was the right thing to do after all, you know, because of our relationship.”
“We ain’t got no relationship now that you’re in the Goats, so spare us the pity.” Bill lit up a cigar and walked away after that, muttering under his breath on the way out the door. Red shrugged at the rest of the group.
“What’s the job?” Leo asked.
“Like I said, just stealing a car, that’s it. And it pays really good.”
“Like how good?”
Leo and the remaining members of the Seven all blinked collectively at that answer, a large amount for a simple car theft. Then Chaz Mayfield spoke up in his nasally, Iowa-bred voice.
“I’ll take that action.”
“I already said I would take it,” Leo replied, “so you’re out of the game.”
“Damn,” Chaz whispered back, “I bet it’s some wooden nickel job.”
Leo raised an eyebrow at Red while taking his glasses off to polish them. Silence filled the room for several long moments and then Leo put his glasses back on and stared at Red.
Red finally spoke but seemed to know that what he was about to say was not going to make him any friends.
“Well, it’s a unique car, a Renault NN, that should make it interesting huh?”
Everyone seemed to understand that Red was stalling.
“Hey, ain’t that, oh damn, you can’t be serious,” Chaz’s voice tailed off and Red hung his head a little bit.
“And?” Leo asked, an irritated edge to his voice.
Red massaged his hands a few times and answered to the floor.
“It’s Joe Shannon’s car.”
…to be continued