Tobias the Terrible
December 10 1932
One night I am sitting in Mindy’s restaurant on Broadway partaking heartily of some Hungarian goulash which comes very nice in Mindy’s, what with the chef being personally somewhat Hungarian himself, when in pops a guy who is a stranger to me and sits down at my table.
I do not pay any attention to the guy at first as I am busy looking over the entries for the next day at Laurel, but I hear him tell the waiter to bring him some goulash, too. By and by I hear the guy making a strange noise and I look at him over my paper and see that he is crying. In fact, large tears are rolling down his face into his goulash and going plop-plop as they fall.
Now it is by no means usual to see guys crying in Mindy’s restaurant, though thousands of guys come in there who often feel like crying, especially after a tough day at the track, so I commence weighing the guy up with great interest. I can see he is a very little guy, maybe a shade over five feet high and weighing maybe as much as a dime’s worth of liver, and he has a moustache like a mosquito’s whiskers across his upper lip, and pale blond hair and a very sad look in his eyes.
Furthermore, he is a young guy and he is wearing a suit of clothes the color of French mustard, with slanting pockets, and I notice when he comes in that he has a brown hat sitting jack-deuce on his noggin. Anybody can see that this guy does not belong in these parts, with such a sad look and especially with such a hat.
Naturally, I figure his crying is some kind of a dodge. In fact, I figure that maybe the guy is trying to cry me out of the price of his Hungarian goulash, although if he takes the trouble to ask anybody before he comes in, he will learn that he may just as well try to cry Al Smith out of the Empire State Building.
But the guy does not say anything whatever to me but just goes on shedding tears into his goulash, and finally I get very curious about this proposition, and I speak to him as follows:
“Listen, pally,” I say, “if you are crying about the goulash, you better dry your tears before the chef sees you, because,” I say, “the chef is very sensitive about his goulash, and may take your tears as criticism.”
“The goulash seems all right,” the guy says in a voice that is just about his size. “Anyway, I am not crying about the goulash. I am crying about my sad life. Friend,” the guy says, “are you ever in love?”
Well, of course, at this crack I know what is eating the guy. If I have all the tears that are shed on Broadway by guys in love, I will have enough salt water to start an opposition ocean to the Atlantic and Pacific, with enough left over to run the Great Salt Lake out of business. But I wish to say I never shed any of these tears personally, because I am never in love, and furthermore, barring a bad break, I never expect to be in love, for the way I look at it love is strictly the old phedinkus, and I tell the little guy as much.
“Well,” he says, “you will not speak so harshly of love if you are acquainted with Miss Deborah Weems.”
With this he starts crying more than somewhat, and his grief is such that it touches my heart and I have half a notion to start crying with him as I am now convinced that the guy is leveling with his tears.
Finally the guy slacks up a little in his crying, and begins eating his goulash, and by and by he seems more cheerful, but then it is well known to one and all that a fair dose of Mindy’s goulash will cheer up anybody no matter how sad they feel. Pretty soon the guy starts talking to me, and I make out that his name is Tobias Tweeney, and that he comes from a spot over in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, by the name of Erasmus, or some such.
Furthermore, I judge that this Erasmus is not such a large city, but very pleasant, and that Tobias Tweeney is born and raised there and is never much of anyplace else in his life, although he is now rising twenty-five.
Well, it seems that Tobias Tweeney has a fine position in a shoe store selling shoes and is going along all right when he happens to fall in love with a doll by the name of Miss Deborah Weems, whose papa owns a gas station in Erasmus and is a very prominent citizen. I judge from what Tobias tells me that this Miss Deborah Weems tosses him around quite some, which proves to me that dolls in small towns are just the same as they are on Broadway.
“She is beautiful,” Tobias Tweeney says, speaking of Miss Deborah Weems. “I do not think I can live without her. But,” he says, “Miss Deborah Weems will have no part of me because she is daffy over desperate characters of the underworld such as she sees in the movies at the Model Theater in Erasmus.
“She wishes to know,” Tobias Tweeney says, “why I cannot be a big gunman and go around plugging people here and there and talking up to politicians and policemen, and maybe looking picturesque and romantic like Edward G. Robinson or James Cagney or even Georgie Raft. But, of course,” Tobias says, “I am not the type for such a character. Anyway,” he says, “Constable Wendell will never permit me to be such a character in Erasmus.
“So Miss Deborah Weems says I have no more nerve than a catfish,” Tobias says, “and she goes around with a guy by the name of Joe Trivett, who runs the Smoke Shop, and bootlegs ginger extract to the boys in his back room and claims Al Capone once says ‘Hello’ to him, although,” Tobias says, “personally, I think Joe Trivett is nothing but a great big liar.”
At this, Tobias Tweeney starts crying again, and I feel very sorry for him indeed, because I can see he is a friendly, harmless little fellow, and by no means accustomed to being tossed around by a doll, and a guy who is not accustomed to being tossed around by a doll always finds it most painful the first time.
“Why,” I say, very indignant, “this Miss Deborah Weems talks great foolishness, because big gunmen always wind up nowadays with the score nine to nought against them, even in the movies. In fact,” I say, “if they do not wind up this way in the movies, the censors will not permit the movies to be displayed. Why do you not hit this guy Trivett a punch in the snoot,” I say, “and tell him to go on about his business?”
“Well,” Tobias says, “the reason I do not him a punch in the snoot is because he has the idea of punching snoots first, and whose snoot does he punch but mine. Furthermore,” Tobias says, “he makes my snoot bleed with the punch, and he says he will do it again if I keep hanging around Miss Deborah Weems. And,” Tobias says, “it is mainly because I do not return the punch, being too busy stopping my snoot from bleeding, that Miss Deborah Weems renounces me forever.
“She says she can never stand for a guy who has no more nerve than me,” Tobias says, “but,” he says, “I ask you if I am to blame if my mother is frightened by a rabbit a few weeks before I am born, and marks me for life?
“So I leave town,” Tobias says. “I take my savings of two hundred dollars out of the Erasmus bank, and I come here, figuring maybe I will meet up with some big gunmen and other desperate characters of the underworld, and get to know them, and then I can go back to Erasmus and make Joe Trivett look sick. By the way,” he says, “do you know any desperate characters of the underworld?”
Well, of course I do not know any such characters, and if I do know them I am not going to speak about it, because the best a guy can get in this town if he goes around speaking of these matters is a nice kick in the pants. So I say no to Tobias Tweeney, and tell him I am more or less of a stranger myself, and then he wishes to know if I can show him a tough joint, such as he sees in the movies.
Naturally, I do not know of such a joint, but then I get to thinking about Good Time Charley’s little Gingham Shoppe over on Forty-seventh Street, and how Charley is not going so good the last time I am in there, and here is maybe a chance for me to steer a little trade his way, because, after all, guys with two yards in their pocket are by no means common nowadays.
So I take Tobias Tweeney around to Good Time Charley’s, but the moment we get in there I am sorry we go, because who is present but a dozen parties from different parts of the city, and none of these parties are any bargain at any time. Some of these parties, such as Harry the Horse and Angie the Ox, are from Brooklyn, and three are from Harlem, including Little Mitzi and Germany Schwartz, and several are from the Bronx, because I recognize Joey Uptown, and Joey never goes around without a few intimate friends from his own neighborhood with him.
Afterwards I learn that these parties are to a meeting on business matters at a spot near Good Time Charley’s, and when they get through with their business they drop in to give Charley a little complimentary play, for Charley stands very good with one and all in this town. Anyway, they are sitting around a table when Tobias Tweeney and I arrive, and I give them all a big hello, and they hello me back, and ask me and my friend to sit down as it seems they are in a most hospitable frame of mind.
Naturally I sit down because it is never good policy to decline an invitation from parties such as these, and I motion Tobias to sit down, too, and I introduce Tobias all around, and we all have a couple of drinks, and then I explain to those present just who Tobias is, and how his ever-loving doll tosses him around, and how Joe Trivett punches him in the snoot.
Well, Tobias begins crying again, because no inexperienced guy can take a couple of drinks of Good Time Charley’s liquor and not bust out crying, even if it is Charley’s company liquor, and one and all are at once very sympathetic with Tobias, especially Little Mitzi, who is just tossed around himself more than somewhat by a doll. In fact, Little Mitzi starts crying with him.
“Why,” Joey Uptown says, “I never hear of a greater outrage in my life, although,” he says, “I can see there is some puppy in you at that, when you do not return this Trivett’s punch. But even so,” Joey says, “if I have time I will go back to this town you speak of with you and make the guy hard to catch. Furthermore,” he says, “I will give this Miss Deborah Weems a piece of my mind.”
Then I tell them how Tobias Tweeney comes to New York figuring he may meet up with some desperate characters of the underworld, and they hear this with great interest, and Angie the Ox speaks as follows:
“I wonder,” Angie says, “if we can get in touch with anybody who knows such characters and arrange to have Mr. Tweeney meet them, although personally,” Angie says, “I loathe and despise characters of this nature.”
Well, while Angie is wondering this there comes a large knock at the front door, and it is such a knock as only the gendarmes can knock, and everybody at the table jumps up. Good Time Charley goes to the door and takes a quiet gander through his peephole and we hear a loud, coarse voice speaking as follows:
“Open up, Charley,” the voice says. “We wish to look over your guests. Furthermore,” the voice says, “tell them not to try the back door, because we are there, too.”
“It is Lieutenant Harrigan and his squad,” Charley says as he comes back to the table where we are all standing. “Someone must tip him off you are here. Well,” Charley says, “those who have rods to shed will shed them now.”
At this, Joey Uptown steps up to Tobias Tweeney and hands him a large Betsy and says to Tobias like this:
“Put this away on you somewhere,” Joey says, “and then sit down and be quiet. These coppers are not apt to bother with you,” Joey says, “if you sit still and mind your own business, but,” Joey says, “it will be very tough on any of us they find with a rod, especially any of us who owe the state any time, and,” Joey says, “I seem to remember I owe some.”
Now of course what Joey says is very true, because he is only walking around and about on parole, and some of the others present are walking around the same way, and it is a very serious matter for a guy who is walking around on parole to be caught with a John Roscoe in his pocket. So it is a very ticklish situation, and somewhat embarrassing.
Well, Tobias Tweeney is somewhat dazed by his couple of drinks of Good Time Charley’s liquor and the chances are he does not realize what is coming off, so he takes Joey’s rod and puts it in his hip kick. Then all of a sudden Harry the Horse and Angie the Ox and Little Mitzi, and all the others step up to him and hand him their Roscoes and Tobias Tweeney somehow manages to stow the guns away on himself and sit down before Good Time Charley opens the door and in come the gendarmes.
By this time Joey Uptown and all the others are scattered at different tables around the room, with no more than three at any one table, leaving Tobias Tweeney and me alone at the table where we are first sitting. Furthermore, everybody is looking very innocent indeed, and all hands seem somewhat surprised at the intrusion of the gendarmes, who are all young guys belonging to Harrigan’s Broadway squad, and very rude.
I know Harrigan by sight, and I know most of his men, and they know there is no more harm in me than there is in a two-year-old baby, so they pay no attention to me whatever, or to Tobias Tweeney, either, but go around making Joey Uptown, and Angie the Ox, and all the others stand up while the gendarmes fan them to see if they have any rods on them, because these gendarmes are always laying for parties such as these hoping to catch them rodded up.
Naturally the gendarmes do not find any rods on anybody, because the rods are all on Tobias Tweeney, and no gendarme is going to fan Tobias Tweeney looking for a rod after one gander at Tobias, especially at this particular moment, as Tobias is now half-asleep from Good Time Charley’s liquor, and has no interest whatever in anything that is going on. In fact, Tobias is nodding in his chair.
Of course the gendarmes are greatly disgusted at not finding any rods, and Angie the Ox and Joey Uptown are telling them that they are going to see their aldermen and find out if law-abiding citizens can be stood up and fanned for rods, and put in a very undignified position like this, but the gendarmes do not seem disturbed by these threats, and Lieutenant Harrigan states as follows:
“Well,” he says, “I guess maybe I get a bum steer, but,” he says, “for two cents I will give all you wrong gees a good going-over just for luck.”
Of course this is no way to speak to parties such as these, as they are all very prominent in their different parts of the city, but Lieutenant Harrigan is a guy who seldom cares how he talks to anybody. In fact, Lieutenant Harrigan is a very tough copper.
But he is just about to take his gendarmes out of the joint when Tobias Tweeney nods a little too far forward in his chair, and then all of a sudden topples over on the floor, and five large rods pop out of his pockets and go sliding every which way around the floor, and the next thing anybody knows there is Tobias Tweeney under arrest with all the gendarmes holding on to some part of him.
Well, the next day the newspapers are plumb full of the capture of a guy they call Twelve-Gun Tweeney, and the papers say the police state that this is undoubtedly the toughest guy the world ever sees, because while they hear of two-gun guys, and even three-gun guys, they never before hear of a guy going around rodded up with twelve guns.
The gendarmes say they can tell by the way he acts that Twelve-Gun Tweeney is a mighty bloodthirsty guy, because he says nothing whatever but only glares at them with a steely glint in his eyes, although of course the reason Tobias stares at him is because he is still too dumbfounded to think of anything to say.
Naturally, I figure that when Tobias comes up for air he is a sure thing to spill the whole business, and all the parties who are in Good Time Charley’s when he is arrested figure the same way, and go into retirement for a time. But it seems that when Tobias finally realizes what time it is, he is getting so much attention that it swells him all up and he decides to keep on being Twelve-Gun Tweeney as long as he can, which is a decision that is a very nice break for all parties concerned.
I sneak down to Judge Rascover’s court the day Tobias is arraigned on a charge of violation of the Sullivan law, which is a law against carrying rods, and the courtroom is packed with citizens eager to see a character desperate enough to lug twelve rods, and among these citizens are many dolls, pulling and hauling for position, and some of these dolls are by no means crows. Many photographers are hanging around to take pictures of Twelve-Gun Tweeney as he is led in handcuffed to gendarmes on either side of him, and with other gendarmes in front and behind him.
But one and all are greatly surprised and somewhat disappointed when they see what a little squirt Tobias is, and Judge Rascover looks down at him once, and then puts on his specs and takes another gander as if he does not believe what he sees in the first place. After looking at Tobias awhile through his specs, and shaking his head as if he is greatly puzzled, Judge Rascover speaks to Lieutenant Harrigan as follows:
“Do you mean to tell this court,” Judge Rascover says, “that this half-portion here is the desperate Twelve-Gun Tweeney?”
Well, Lieutenant Harrigan says there is no doubt whatever about it, and Judge Rascover wishes to know how Tobias carries all these rods, and whereabouts, so Lieutenant Harrigan collects twelve rods from the gendarmes around the courtroom, unloads these rods, and starts in putting the guns here and there on Tobias as near as he can remember where they are found on him in the first place, with Tobias giving him a little friendly assistance.
Lieutenant Harrigan puts two guns in each of the side pockets of Tobias’s coat, one in each hip pocket, one in the waistband of Tobias’s pants, one in each side pocket of the pants, one up each of Tobias’s sleeves, and one in the inside pocket of Tobias’s coat. Then Lieutenant Harrigan states to the court that he is all finished, and that Tobias is rodded up in every respect as when they put the arm on him in Good Time Charley’s joint, and Judge Rascover speaks to Tobias as follows:
“Step closer to the bench,” Judge Rascover says. “I wish to see for myself just what kind of a villain you are.”
Well, Tobias takes a step forward, and over he goes on his snoot, so I see right away what it is makes him keel over in Good Time Charley’s joint, not figuring in Charley’s liquor. The little guy is naturally top-heavy from the rods.
Now there is much confusion as he falls and a young doll who seems to be fatter than somewhat comes shoving through the crowd in the courtroom yelling and crying, and though the gendarmes try to stop her she gets to Tobias and kneels at his side, and speaks as follows:
“Toby, darling,” she says, “it is nobody but Deborah who loves you dearly, and who always knows you will turn out to be the greatest gunman of them all. Look at me, Toby,” she says, “and tell me you love me, too. We never realize what a hero you are until we get the New York papers in Erasmus last night, and I hurry to you as quickly as possible. Kiss me, Toby,” the fat young doll says, and Tobias raises up on one elbow and does same, and it makes a very pleasing scene indeed, although the gendarmes try to pull them apart, having no patience whatever with such matters.
Now Judge Rascover is watching all this business through his specs, and Judge Rascover is no sucker, but a pretty slick old codger for a judge, and he can see that there is something wrong somewhere about Tobias Tweeney being a character as desperate as the gendarmes make him out, especially when he sees that Tobias cannot pack all these rods on a bet.
So when the gendarmes pick the fat young doll off of Tobias and take a few pounds of rods off of Tobias, too, so he is finally able to get back on his pins and stand there, Judge Rascover adjourns court, and takes Tobias into his private room and has a talk with him, and the chances are Tobias tells him the truth, for the next thing anybody knows Tobias is walking away as free as the little birdies in the trees, except that he has the fat young doll clinging to him like a porous plaster, so maybe Tobias is not so free, at that.
Well, this is about all there is to the story, except that there is afterwards plenty of heat between the parties who are present in Good Time Charley’s joint when Tobias is collared, because it seems that the meeting they all attend before going to Charley’s is supposed to be a peace meeting of some kind and nobody is supposed to carry any rods to this meeting just to prove their confidence in each other, so everybody is very indignant when it comes out that nobody has any confidence in anybody else at the meeting.
I never hear of Tobias Tweeney but once after all this, and it is some months afterwards when Joey Uptown and Little Mitzi are over in Pennsylvania inspecting a brewery proposition and finding themselves near the town that is called Erasmus, they decide it will be a nice thing to drop in on Tobias Tweeney and see how he is getting along.
Well, it seems Tobias is all married up to Miss Deborah Weems, and is getting along first-class, as it seems the town elects him constable, because it feels that a guy with such a desperate reputation as Tobias Tweeney’s is bound to make wrongdoers keep away from Erasmus if he is an officer of the law, and Tobias’s first official act is to chase Joe Trivett out of town.
But along Broadway Tobias Tweeney will always be considered nothing but an ingrate for heaving Joey Uptown and Little Mitzi into the town sneezer and getting them fined fifty bobs apiece for carrying concealed weapons.