A Burning Cold Morning (Part 74)

Silence filled the air after that with Stanley staring down at the floor and Leo standing with his hands on his hips, expecting an answer.  Two minutes later the clockmaker looked up at Leo with a dangerous glint in his eye that Leo did not interpret correctly, thinking it was just the sign of a man who had accepted his orders.

“I’ll do it for you, I’ll do it just like you want.  A real good one, some kind of special timer to make sure it works like you said.”

“Good, good.  That’s what I wanted to hear.  Now, I’m happy to give you some cash for expenses and we need to get this thing done quickly, ok, so how,”

Stanley stood up quickly and started shoving Leo toward the front of the shop.  “You can’t rush these things, it’s art.  Art, art, art, no rush jobs! You let me take care of it, no money needed.  You need to go,” he said and then slammed the door shut after pushing Leo out into the narrow lane that ran past the building.   Disconcerted by the dismissal, but figuring he had made his point and the plan was in motion, he stepped off back toward the downtown area to find a room for the night.

Leo meandered a bit on the return trip although his exact stops are not known.  He was back in Minnesota by January 2nd and as he had already violated his parole by traveling outside of the state, he saw no reason to not accept some criminal work that came his way.  It involved being part of a small crew, something that Leo disliked, but he did need to collect some cash and this was a fast way to accomplish that goal.  As he worked with this crew on some holdup jobs he started thinking about his interaction with Stanley and became worried that whatever kind of bomb he used it was going to do more damage than Leo wanted.  It took a few nights of worrying about it, going between his desire for revenge and his unwillingness to see innocent people injured, before he called Stanley on January 15th, 1938 and told him to stop working on the bomb.  Two days later he called him again, telling him to go ahead but to be very careful with how it was detonated.  He was not so sure that Stanley was listening on either call and Leo continued to worry and fret about the plan.  On the evening of January 28th he had resolved to call the whole thing off, to come up with some other way to get his satisfaction, and he planned to call Stanley the next afternoon and instruct him to stop all work immediately.  Unfortunately, at ten a.m. the next day Leo was picked up during a police raid on the crew’s hideaway and soon after it was discovered he was a felon on parole.  His parole was formally revoked at a hearing on February 4th and by the 5th Leo was back behind the bars of Stillwater State Prison.  

He settled back into that life, converting his short parole adventure into an escapade that even some of his closest associates found hard to believe.  The story itself has not survived but a letter from one of those men references a “tall tale from this fella that just got pulled back, said he had stolen a piece from the Met in New York.”  That certainly seems in keeping with Leo’s style although he usually told stories that were a little more difficult to disprove.   

Overall though, things returned to normal.  Leo was so angry though at being back in prison that he abandoned his idea of stopping Stanley and instead waited impatiently for news of the attack having been carried out.  Time went on though and no news came even though Leo read every newspaper that he could get his hands on.  Eventually he realized that it was not going to happen, that Stanley had been too crazy and unfocused after all and no vengeance was going to be meted out to Otto or the Marlborough.  Once that fact had settled itself into his mind Leo began a new train of thought, one in which he planned how to get back at his unfaithful partner Stanley Bittenhopper.  He was going to get out again and he would figure out a way to discreetly take out his anger.  

It would have to be done carefully because Leo also made another firm resolution as he sat in his cell through those long days of 1938 and 1939.  He was not going to spend anymore time in prison.  He may have valued notoriety and recognition in the past but that had not gotten him everything that he wanted.  It had, in fact, taken him away from the nice clothes, good meals and alluring women that he now greatly enjoyed.  Once he was released from this current term, another chance at parole being what he considered a certainty, he would try a different course from the one he had spent his previous years pursuing.  In this plan, Leo decided to assume a respectable career and lead what appeared to be a happy, domestic life while still committing crimes.  He would be careful and discreet, working alone and planning each job well.  This could allow him to enjoy the gangster lifestyle without the danger of capture.  As he refined this plan he included getting married, finding a career that required him to travel often and sharpening his fake biography so he would seem to be law-abiding and socially acceptable.  He re-worked some of his previous story so that it appeared he got his degree in the 1920’s from Duke and spent all the intervening years in the Army.   As 1939 drew to a close Leo was still angry at Otto and Stanley, impatient about getting released and missing all of the finer things and pretty women from his previous life.  

The prison had a very muted New Years Eve celebration for the prisoners with the main attraction being ice cream cones and candy bars.  It was the dawning of a new decade which brought a sense of reflection to some of the inmates and left Leo bragging to anyone who would hear it that, “I ain’t finishing the forties inside this cold prison.”  Two days later, on January 3rd, the prisoners woke up early as usual, just at about the same time that the bomb exploded.  

…to be continued

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