Chapter 2 Over the Wall

I skidded the truck to a stop near the wall tower. We
unloaded the ladder, and then things went comical. No-
body knew how to fit the two extension lengths together.
Each guy tried to do it in a different way at the same time,
with everybody swearing at each other.
Another guard lieutenant came ambling up. He seemed
upset, but not much. "You sonsabitches," he said, "don't
you know them tower windows ain't supposed to be washed
from the inside?" I started laughing so hard I could hardly
hold the .45 on him.
He finally saw the gun. His mouth fell open and he went
over and stood with the other lieutenant and guard. One
of the screws kept saying, over and over: "Let 'em go.
Don't interfere. They'll kill us for sure."
The three of them were helpless against us. Guards and
officers went unarmed, except for blackjacks and clubs,
inside Stateville. They used to have weapons, but the state
lost too many guns that way, with the cons taking them
away from the screws.
But the old lad up in the tower had plenty of firepower,
26and I got to thinking about him. The way we were flub-
bing around with the ladder might give him brave ideas.
He might get hurt and so might we, which I didn't want.
He was standing over to one side of the tower at the
end of the walkway, doing nothing. He wasn't holding
a gun, but he didn't have far to reach for one.
I decided a little noise might make things safer for
everybody, including him. So I fired two shots and knocked
out the glass of a window at the opposite end of the tower.
He raised his hands and hollered that he was going to
We got the ladder in place, at last, and I scrambled up
with the .45. The other six men in the escape party fol-
lowed, with the two lieutenants and the guard spaced in
between us. With the screws along, we had less danger of
drawing fire, although maybe that precaution wasn't needed.
Not a shot came from any other tower. Either the screws
weren't looking, or else they were remembering all those
meats and groceries from O'Connor's wheelbarrows.
It was pretty crowded when all of us got to the tower
house, which was only a cubicle. The guard handed over
his keys to his sonny boy, Gene, and croaked at him:
"Please don't take me with you. I'm an old man." A couple
of other guys got his weapons—a 30.30 rifle and an au-
tomatic handgun.
On the floor of the tower were packages of meat and
other stolen stuff that O'Connor had delivered a few hours
before. The tower man's Ford sedan was standing on the
roadway outside the wall waiting to haul the loot home—
but now the script was changed. It was going to carry us
far, far away, if our luck held.
The grandpappy guard had a scratch on his face, from
flying glass, I guess. He sure as hell wasn't shot, as some
people tried to claim later.
The next thing that happened all but panicked me.
Gene gave the ladder a kick and it clattered down to the
ground inside the wall. I started to yell that now we were
trapped in the tower. Without the ladder, we could break
our legs or necks dropping that 33 feet to the outside.
Sure, there was a stairway leading down, but the door
27at the bottom would be locked, and there was a keyhole
only on the outside. But O'Connor had covered that angle,
too. "Thorough" was his middle name that day.
He dropped his grocery delivery rope over the side and
somebody—Nelson, as I remember—shinnied down it.
Then O'Connor dropped him a key, taken from the old
guard, to the door below.
Some one of the guys tore the tower telephone out by
the roots. That would delay the alarm getting to the war-
den's office and from there to the Illinois Highway Patrol.
Then we tumbled down the stairs, locked the door behind
us and piled into the guard's Ford.
I looked at my watch. It had been just 17 minutes since
I took the garbage truck away from the driver—but it
seemed like it'd been some time back in my childhood.
Banghart gunned our getaway car, and I looked back.
The two lieutenants and two guards were gazing after us
from the wall. They couldn't do a thing except yell for
help. We had the tower arsenal, plus the two pistols that
Darlak's brother had delivered to the flagpole.
We were on Highway 66 for a while, but mostly we hit
the country side roads. After a while we pulled into a patch
of woods to talk things over.
"Where do we go from here?" I asked. "Where's the
There was a long silence. I began feeling silly, then
alarmed and finally, downright mad. The situation was ob-
vious—and awful.
We didn't have any place to go. There wasn't any hide-
out. O'Connor, the master mind, hadn't set up even one
single goddam contact to help us. We were in a mess.
We had just pulled off one of the slickest prison breaks
in history. And now we were as unprotected as a stranger
turned loose at noon without clothes in downtown Chicago.
Seven of us were jammed into a small car. All of us
were wearing prison uniforms. We had guns, but what
good would they be against the army of cops who soon
would be looking for us? What a fugitive needs is a place
to hide, not firepower.
I had taken it for granted that O'Connor had made
28arrangements, at least for a few days, on the outside. He
hadn't. Well, there was no sense in bellyaching. We took
stock. Together we had $120, mostly money that Gene
had picked up from his meat-and-grocery route.
What we needed was darkness, and it was hours away.
In the meantime, we had to keep moving. The news would
be on the radio soon, and every farmer or small town rube
in Illinois would be phoning the cops upon seeing a
parked car with a lot of guys in it.
So we drove. We kept to the dirt and gravel roads, driv-
ing carefully and slowly. When we met a car, some of us
crouched down so we wouldn't seem to be so overcrowded.
The car had no radio so we couldn't hear the news about
ourselves. But one thing was good. The Ford had a full
gas tank, so we didn't need a filling station stop. Nature's
demands we handled in the trees and bushes. Everything
was aimless. I remember noticing that we passed through
one village four times. The name of the place was Barkley,
and I got mighty weary of it.
When darkness hit, we pulled into a Forest Preserve
grove near Lombard, a suburb to the west of Chicago. We
had driven more than 150 miles and we still weren't any-
We did some scrounging and one of the guys got into a
garage at the rear of a house. He came back with a tattered
suit jacket and an old raincoat. The clothes fit Banghart
pretty well, so he wore them into a grocery store to shop.
We ate bread, cheese and cold meat, washed down with
milk. It felt fine to eat without a gun pointed at you from
a dining-hall tower. "You should have brought a side of
prison beef along," Darlak told O'Connor, "and we could
have had a barbecue."
We had to have help, but where to try for it was a
terrible problem.
The prison had complete lists, with addresses, of our
relatives, of visitors we had had at Stateville, of people
we had corresponded with. They would be watched, with
taps on their telephones. Former cell mates and friends on
parole would be covered like a floor with wall-to-wall
29carpeting. Anybody who did help us could be prosecuted
for harboring criminal fugitives.
There was one possibility among all the hundreds of
people I knew in Chicago. He was a legitimate business-
man and he had been my friend since we were boys. He
never had been in trouble with the law, and there was
nothing kinky in his background. But, most important,
we never had communicated when I was in Stateville, so
the prison had no line on him. I felt sure he would help
us if we could get to him.
The Owl, wearing the tattered jacket and old raincoat,
rode a bus into Chicago. I gave him instructions on how to
telephone the man I had in mind. I couldn't make the trip
because the clothes from the garage were acres too big
for me.
The rest of us waited through the night. It was bitter
cold, even for October in the Chicago area. We couldn't
take a chance on lighting a fire. "If Banghart doesn't score,"
Mclnerney said, "we might as well go back to the main
gate at Stateville and apply for readmittance."
But The Owl didn't fail us, and neither did my friend.
Soon after dawn Banghart was back. He was driving a
car and carrying $500, both loaned to him for me by the
Chicago businessman. And in the car were pants, jackets,
shirts and neckties—nobody ever expects to see a necktie
on a con—enough so we all got a good enough fit.
We dressed and were ready to take off for Chicago in
the borrowed car. But Gene got to feeling sorry for the old
tower guard and his Ford sedan. If we left the Ford in
the grove, O'Connor said, it might not be found for a long
time. What would the screw do for transportation?
"I'll drive the car up on the main drag of Lombard
and park it there," our master-mind said. "That way it
will be spotted in a couple of days. You follow me and
pick me up."
In a couple of days, it would be spotted, he said! Less
than a couple of minutes! The license numbers of that
Ford had been going out over the police radio every ten
minutes all night long. Every cop in the Midwest was
looking for it, slavering frothily for a reward and dreaming
30of becoming a hero. That car was hotter than a jet plane's
We had no more than turned the corner after O'Connor
parked the guard's heap and rejoined us when there came
the big "w-o-o-o—woooo" of a police car siren. A suburban
squad had spotted the license. But by that time we were
out of sight.
I turned on the radio in the new car and got the police
wavelength. The broadcasts made us feel real good. We
had been reported seen in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Kansas
City, Peoria, and 14 different places in Chicago. The cops
had us pinpointed just about everyplace in the Midwest
except where we really were.
All the way into Chicago we didn't see so much as one
police car. If the police had us blocked off, as the radio
kept on saying, then somebody had left a great big hole
in the roadblock.
"I got more good news for you," Banghart said, as we
turned in on Ogden Avenue, the diagonal street leading
from Joliet and the Chicago Midway Airport into the Loop.
"Rog's friend has lined us up for an apartment. We can
move in right away."
We went there, and what a miserable dump it was. A
basement flat near 13th and Damen. I knew the neighbor-
hood like a penitentiary screw knows his stool pigeons. I
had played stickball in the streets out there as a kid, pes-
tered the hurdy-gurdy man, and opened the fire hydrants
for cooling off on those 100-degree August days.
We went into the apartment. Warden Ragen wouldn't
allow a pig from the Stateville farm to set one cloven hoof
in the place. The walls were sweating with dampness. The
kitchen crackled everywhere we stepped. Roaches were a
carpet on the floor.
And the rats! They were as big as tiger cubs and twice
as nasty. Banghart claimed that one of them—a stallion
rat, he said—stood up on his hind legs, doubled up one
fist, pulled a switchblade knife in the other and told him,
with the authority of a Stateville guard captain: "Get
outa here, you bastard, and take your friends with you.
31I've been boss of this cellar for 20 years and you ain't
going to muscle in on me."
I believed The Owl. And the rat, too. But we had no-
where else to go. We stayed, after Banghart said: "We'll
plug up the holes in the floors and the walls with steel
wool, and let the goddam rats tear out their claws and
teeth trying to burrow through." A great strategist, Bang-
hart was—except when it came to staying out of prison.
The landlord of the building was an elderly man who
lived in a cottage at the rear. We told him we were from
downstate Illinois, in Chicago to go to work in a war plant.
He took $65 for a month's rent and told us where we
could buy cheap furniture in a second-hand store some-
where on Madison Street.
We got in some groceries and, for the first time, we saw
the newspapers, all editions of them since the previous
afternoon. Our escape was the biggest news anywhere in
the world, so far as Chicago was concerned. We had
pushed the war off page one. The big, screaming headlines
would make you think we had murdered half the guards
in Stateville.
The Owl and I got the biggest play, because we had been
in the headlines for our conviction in the fake Jake the
Barber Factor kidnaping. Our pictures were plastered all
over the papers, but they were eight years old or more and
we had aged a lot in prison. O'Connor killed my optimism
along that line by saying:
"Sure, you guys are older, but you're just as homely, if
not more so. Any cop could recognize you from the photos,
and don't forget there'll be rewards out for all of us soon."
In its very first story of the break, one of the papers had
dug up the tag of "Terrible" Touhy for me. That fitted me
like calling Calvin Coolidge an anarchist.
The only conviction I ever had in my life, up to the
time of the Factor frameup, was for parking my car too
close to a fireplug. And now the papers were speculating
on how soon I would lead my "mob of terrorists" into
robbing a bank or kidnaping somebody.
Out in California, on a fancy estate built out of swindling people, Jake the Barber was bleating like a lost lamb
32and trying to look twice as innocent. He was scared as hell
that Banghart and I would kill him, he said, and the FBI
was guarding him. Huh! I wouldn't spit in his direction,
much less touch him.
Factor then was under indictment, but on bond, for
swindling Catholic priests in another of his fancy con
games. He later served a prison term in the case, too.
My silly idea of bringing my case before the public for
justice was rebounding in the newspapers like a screw's
club off a convict's head. Instead of getting fair treatment,
I was being crucified. There wasn't one mention in any of
the papers that day that I might be innocent—although
there were plenty of working reporters, even then, who
believed in me.
Later there was a story by Bill Gorman in the Daily
News, saying there probably had been no kidnaping, but
nobody seemed to pay much heed.
I gave up reading and went for a walk. It was my first
jaunt around Chicago since getting free. I looked at the
show window displays, dropped in at a couple of joints
for a beer and saw a movie. The thing I enjoyed most
was looking at the people, free people.
Heading back toward the apartment, I went into a Pix-
ley & Ehler's Restaurant, one of a cafeteria chain special-
izing in baked beans. I got a crock of beans, Boston brown
bread and coffee at the counter, went to a table, and started
to eat. But I didn't relish the beans for long.
In the door came three of the biggest, toughest-looking
coppers I ever saw. I froze. There wasn't any back door. I
was like a mouse in the wainscoting with a cat plonked at
the only exit.
The cops picked out their food and brought it to the
table next to mine. One of them sat sipping coffee and
looking at the Chicago Times, a tabloid. My picture cov-
ered practically all the front page. He squinted at the
photo for a while.
"This guy Touhy would be a fine pinch," he said, and
lit into his grub. He could have reached out and grabbed
me almost as easily as he picked up his coffee cup.
I finished my food, paid my check and left. A fine sense
33of well-being hit me. I wasn't scared any more, and I
wouldn't be again. The experience had shaken the hell out
of me, but, at the same time, it had given me back my
Now, I knew, I really was free. Nobody knows freedom,
of course, if he has fear, but I had never thought of that
Back at the apartment, things weren't good. Mclnerney,
Nelson and Stewart had brought in whiskey and they were
getting drunk and noisy. They were talking about going
out to look for women. I told them to quiet down and act
Mclnerney got mean and sneering. "Big shot, eh?'1 he
said. "Think you're going to run everything, do you?"
I put it on the line for them. Noise, whiskey and women
would bring trouble. Not only for them, but for me, too,
if I was living with them.
It was my money, part of the $500 I had borrowed,
that they were drinking up. I wasn't being tough, but un-
less they stopped behaving like reform-school sophomores
I was moving out.
* I went to bed after that, but the next day I gave our
situation a lot of thought. I wasn't going to gamble on
going back to Stateville on a drunk-and-disorderly pickup.
Anyway, living with six other convicts in a small apart-
ment was too much like prison for me. I wanted solitude:
a life of my own without unnecessary danger.
For another thing, the men who escaped with me still
had the guns we brought from the penitentiary. Suppose
a cop came nosing around the apartment and one of the
guys let loose with a pistol. A lot of people could get
killed, and I might be one of them.
So I set up a life for myself. I was going to stay outside
the wall just as long as I could. I would enjoy my freedom
in my own way. I wouldn't carry a gun, and, when the
time came, as it must for every fugitive, I would give up.
[ wasn't going to have anything to do with any shooting.
I found a furnished flat behind a bank building at Mad-
ison and Ogden on the West Side. It was small, and the
toilet-bath was a share-it proposition down the hall. But the
34joint had two exits, which was essential to sound sleep
for me. And the location gave me a boot. My, how those
bankers would have shook if they knew "Terrible" Touhy
was living only a few feet from their building!
When I got back to the basement apartment that evening,
a drunken argument was going on. Mclnerney wanted to
fight. I jollied him along and then said, in a nice way, that
I was leaving for a place of my own. It was only fair to them
that I move out, I told them.
The newspapers were running pictures of me every day.
I was hot as a depot stove. If I got caught, so would the
rest of them if they were living with me.
I didn't really believe that guff, but it got me out of the
basement without a fight. I made a deal with Banghart for
contacts. To hell with the rest of them.
For a couple of days, I just sat around my new place,
admiring the loneliness. It was terrific not to have- some
con snoring or whimpering or yelling in his sleep in the
same cell, or the next one. And no guard peering through
the door with a stool pigeon pencil in his hand. The great-
est pleasure in life is to be unregimented, your own boss.
Prison teaches you that—though it isn't the easiest way to
learn it.
I needed a substantial bankroll, just in case I had to
pay off a bribe or get out of Chicago. My best source was
my brother, Eddie. He owned a roadhouse, Eddie's Won-
der Bar, near the State Fair Grounds outside of Madison,
I had put up the money for the place, and Eddie would
come up with any reasonable amount I needed.
But making a meet with him was almost as tricky as
getting out of Stateville. The FBI would be sticking as
close to him as hogs to a swill barrel. His phones would be
tapped. If he got caught with me, it would be a harboring
rap for him.
So I called my friend, the businessman who had loaned
me the car and the $500. We met in mid-afternoon at the
Morrison Hotel bar and had a drink at a quiet table. I ex-
plained what I wanted and he set me up with a guy. I'll
call him Simpson, but that wasn't his name.
35Simpson was an ex-convict, and eager to pick up a quick
buck. I explained what I wanted and even drew a map for
He drove up across the state line to Wisconsin, parked
his car in downtown Madison so his license wouldn't get
spotted and took a bus out to my brother Eddie's place. I
figured I needed $1,500, but Eddie said to make it $2,500.
He would get it from the bank next day and send it by
messenger to Chicago.
Simpson came back to Chicago and he was itchy about
the set-up in Wisconsin.
"There are a lot of guys acting like surveyors around
your brother's club," he said. "They got spyglasses set up
on tripods so as to get a fix if you try sneaking up to the
joint across the fields or through the fairgrounds.
"They're FBI men. They hang around Eddie's bar and
peek through the windows of his living quarters at night.
I told him to have your messenger make damn sure he
isn't tailed when he comes to Chicago."
I got the $2,500 next day. An ex-convict working at
the Wisconsin Fair Grounds brought it to me at my apart-
ment, and he wouldn't take a dime for his trouble. Eddie
was paying him, he said.
He also brought word that Eddie wanted to fix me up
with a hideout in Arizona. To hell with that, I said. I
wasn't going to bury myself in some hole in the desert. I
was staying in Chicago.
I had plenty of money now and things should go better.
But a lot of problems and troubles were ahead.