Murder Incorporated’s Hitmen Worked Out of their HQ Like it was a Labor Exchange
In the 1930s, Midnight Rose was an inconspicuous 24 hour coffee shop and candy store at 779 Saratoga Avenue, in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. Run by a little old lady in her 60s, Mrs. Rosie Gold, the coffee shop and candy store looked as unoffending as can be. Yet, the innocuous Midnight Rose was the secret headquarters of American organized crime’s deadliest outfit, Murder Incorporated.
The atmosphere in the Midnight Rose was compared to a day labor exchange, with hitmen hanging around and waiting for the contract jobs to come in. The hitmen were kept on retainer by being paid a basic salary, plus freelance fees for each hit they carried out. The amounts varied, and depending on the target and the expected difficulty of the job, ranged from $1000 to $5000 – considerable sums in the 1930s.
Rosie Gold kept a wall of pay phones at the back of her establishment. The hitmen passed their time in Midnight Rose as best they could while waiting for work, like in a labor exchange. They drank coffee, smoked, sipped on malted milk, read newspapers, played solitaire, or simply dozed off, while waiting for a phone to ring, with details of a new “job”.
There were multiple cutouts between the mob’s highest authority, The Commission, and the trigger pullers. Once The Commission ordered or sanctioned a hit, it passed on that information to Albert Anastasia. Anastasia would then relay the information to Louis Buchalter. Buchalter in turn would then assign the job to one or more of the contract killers hanging around in Midnight Rose. None of the hired killers had any connection with the major crime families, so if they were caught, they could not implicate their mafia employers.
Once Buchalter had assigned the murder contract, Murder Inc. would go to work. Usually, the first step would be for the assigned hitmen to be taken by somebody who knew the victim to show him the target. Once that was done, the killer or killers would begin planning the execution, which usually entailed following the victim around to establish the best time and place for the hit, as well as the best escape routes afterwards.
Most murders are carried out by somebody known to the victim. That simplifies the work of homicide detectives in most killings, by narrowing down the field of suspects. However, the killings carried out by Murder Inc. were done by killers who were nearly always unconnected to the victim in any way. As a result, the execution squad, despite a prolific murder rate ranging from dozens to hundreds of killings year, was able to operate undetected for a long time.