The story so far: Bugs Moran has endured a long streak of failure, arrests and prison time since tumbling from the pinnacle of Chicago crimedom. Plotting a comeback with Dayton outlaw Al Fouts, he doesn't seem to notice that he's being followed.
World War II had been good to Dayton. Wartime production had filled the city with jobs and money, and 1946 promised even more. Work was everywhere, from the sprawling yellow brick campus of NCR to the towering smokestacks of GHR Foundry.
The city was as rich as a fatted lamb. On June 25, the wolves arrived.
Bugs Moran and his partner Virgil Summers pulled their black Buick sedan up to the West Fourth Street rooming house of Al Fouts, a bootlegger and petty crook. The teeming neighborhood was slipping past its best days: Once-elegant homes had been carved into blue-collar apartments, and the air was humid with whiskey and violence by the bars and honky tonks.
Moran and Summers toured the city on Wednesday, June 26, paying little mind to hotspots like the Victory movie theater or the B.F. Keith vaudeville house. They preferred to loiter around residential streets, back roads and the intersection of West Third Street and Broadway, home to a branch of the Winters National Bank.
Two days later, when tavern keeper John Kurpe Jr. walked out of that bank with $10,000, a dark Buick was waiting.
Kurpe, a 29-year-old father of three, ran a bar near Moraine's Frigidaire plant. It was payday, and thirsty workers would soon pour into his joint to cash their checks. Kurpe had withdrawn his money in old $10 bills, which were soft and easy to count, and stuffed the cash inside his shirt before leaving.
Kurpe got into his green Ford coupe and drove down South Broadway, headed toward his bar. When he slowed for a truck turning onto Dona Street, he glanced in his rearview mirror and saw the Buick bearing down on him.
"That guy must be crazy to try to make the turn that fast," Kurpe thought. But the Buick didn't turn. It cut in front of him, forcing his car onto the curb. Two men dressed in the blue and white-striped clothes of a railroad worker leaped out, revolvers in their fists.
The taller of the pair opened Kurpe's door and pushed him aside, poking a pistol into his ribs. The shorter man got in back and shoved Kurpe's head down, pressing his gun against the barman's neck.
"Be quiet or we'll stretch you out," one of the gunmen growled.
The tall man jammed his foot to the gas pedal and the Ford jerked down the road. Kurpe, feeling gunmetal dig into his flesh with every bump, begged the driver to take it easy, that his brakes were no good. The driver ignored him.
The ride was frantic but short, ending in a lonely stretch of woods just south of Dayton. As Kurpe pulled himself from the Buick, a bundle of money fell from his shirt. The two men searched him, pulling cash from his clothes.
"Where's the rest of it?" demanded the short man. Kurpe said that was all he had.
The tall man marched Kurpe a few steps into the woods. He told Kurpe to take off his shoes, then bound his legs and hands with surgical tape, slapping a final piece over his mouth.
Kurpe glanced behind him and saw the short man standing near the Buick.
"Look ahead or I'll shoot you," the short man said.
In a few minutes another Buick drove up; Kurpe recognized it from the sound of the engine. The gunmen got inside and the car sped away.
Kurpe used his tongue to push away the tape on his mouth, then twisted his hands and legs free. He walked to Vance Road, thumbed a ride to the Tennessee Tavern, and called the police.
* * *
A week later, Jim Nichols, a 27-year-old sportswriter for the Dayton Daily News, walked home after work to find his wife in a panic.
She pointed out the window of their apartment to a black, two-door Packard parked in front. Two large men were inside, their eyes frozen on a building down Fourth Street.
"They've been there all day," she said.
Nichols approached the car, but the men didn't look up until he rapped on the window.
"You've been sitting outside my house all day," Nichols said. "You're upsetting my wife. What do you think you're doing?"
One of the men glared at him.
"Look, buddy, it's none of your business," he said. "Go back inside."
Nichols did, intending to call the police. But before he reached the phone, it rang. A Dayton police sergeant was on the line.
"Jim, were you just outside talking to a couple of guys in front of your house?" the sergeant asked.
"Yes. What's going on?"
"Don't ask me any questions," the sergeant said. "Just forget they're there."
The next morning, Nichols watched the car squeal from its post. The large men, accompanied by Dayton police, barged into Al Fouts' rooming house down the road and led him away in handcuffs.
The same thing had happened a few hours earlier in Kentucky. J. Edgar Hoover himself announced that Moran and Summers had been arrested in their beds.
The men in front of Nichols' house were FBI agents. They had been stalking Moran for months, following him around Kentucky, Indiana and Dayton, waiting for a slipup. Now they had one.
The famous Bugs Moran would be coming back to Dayton - this time in shackles.
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