3. Kid Twist: The Canary Who Couldn’t Fly
Abe “Kid Twist” Reles was a Lower East Side gangster, who ended up as one of Murder Incorporated’s leading hitmen. In 1940, he was implicated in the killing of a minor gangster, and to save himself, he agreed to spill the beans and testify against his colleagues in over 200 murders. It was the first inkling the authorities had of the streamlined contract killing machine’s existence, which by then had carried out over 1000 hits, and it led to the unraveling of Murder Incorporated. Reles turned out to be a savant, with a freakish photographic memory that allowed him to testify in detail about every murder he had been involved in or heard of, including dates, participants, where the killings had taken place, and how they had been carried out.
Once Reles started singing, four other Murder Inc. hitmen turned state’s evidence, and joined him in testifying against their former colleagues. They and Reles were stashed by the authorities in the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Early in the morning of November 12th, 1941, with police guarding the door, Reles fell out of his sixth floor room’s window. Police explained it as an accidental death, but it was clear that the mob had gotten to his police bodyguards, and that one or more of them had pushed him out. As one mobster put it: “The canary could sing, but he couldn’t fly“.