To the newspapers, the public, the police and the politicians, Roger's Des Plains operation looked exactly the way he and Kolb wanted it to look; like a hick, two-bit operation that grossed a few hundred thousand dollars a year. "And Touhy, " Ray Brennan said, "was careful to foster that illusion. He lived well, but not lavishly in Des Plaines as it was a quiet town where he was considered a leading citizen. He was a contributor to charities and a member of fraternal organizations and golf clubs. Touhy and Kolb had a million-dollar-a-year business going plus a neat income from slot machines and a few road houses but they were wary enough not to brag about it. They were smart enough to pay income taxes on it."
Roger, who was now the father of two boys, made his final move to the suburbs in the spring of 1926 and purchased a large, comfortable home, just north of the center of Des Plains. His neighbors considered the bootlegger and his family respectable, hardworking people. "Nice," recalled one neighbor. "Not what you would think for a bootlegger. They were quiet people...refined."
'There was no stigma to selling beer." Touhy wrote. "I bought a place that some of the newspapers later called a 'mansion' or a 'gang fortress.' It was a six-room bungalow and later I put a sixty-foot swimming pool in the back. The only gang I ever had around there was a guard with a shotgun after the Capone mob tried to kidnap my kids....I lived quietly with my family during those big money years. I put a workshop, office and bar in my basement. There was a playhouse for the kids in my backyard. My wife got along well with our neighbors."
Even when Tommy and Roger were being hounded by the police during the John Factor kidnapping, their neighbors supported them. Des Plains historian Mark Henkes wrote, "Touhy gave his money freely to people and families in a pinch. He left baskets of food on the doorsteps of homes with a $20 bill attached to the basket handle. The recipients sometimes never knew where the food came from. He paid medical bills for some families. He made good money selling beer and he gave some of it away." Even though Roger did his best to fit in, there were occasional setbacks like the incident when the Chicago Tribune and other groups were planning a historical pageant for Des Plains in which citizens would dress as early settlers and travel down the Des Plains river in wooden canoes. Meanwhile, Touhy wanted to get rid of some mash, the fermentation of beer, by pumping it into the river. He hired a crew to dig a trench and lay a sewer line from his plant to the river.
He poured hundreds, perhaps thousands of gallons of the mash into the river. The problem was that Des Plains was going through a dry season and the river was low and barely moving. The stench from the mash was unbearable. Father Patrick O'Connor, head of St. Mary's Training School in Des Plains and a member of the parade committee, got a whiff of the foul smell in the river and immediately knew what happened. O'Connor knew Roger and called him about the problem he had created. 'What in the hell were you thinking, Rog? Half of Chicago will be here in a day and you turn the river into a flood of bootleg booze! Do something before the pageant starts."
Roger apologized and hired more then twenty boys from Maine High School in Des Plains to dump thousands of gallons of perfume into the river, "and the pageant was a sweet-smelling success."
So, while the public, the press and the police may have been fooled by Roger's small time image, A1 Capone knew exactly how much money Touhy and Kolb were earning out on the dusty back roads of Cook County. He wanted a piece of it, a large piece of it. As he always did, Capone first tried to talk his way into a partnership explaining the benefits of working within his operation. They met a total of six times that year, in Florida, during the winter months on fishing trips, and Capone offered to let Roger use his yacht.
Touhy said, "He offered to let me use his yacht or stay in his big house, surrounded by a wall about as thick as Statesville's (prison) on Palm Island in Biscayne Bay between Miami and Miami Beach. I didn't accept. "
Roger wrote that he had two business deals with Capone in 1927 because Capone had trouble getting beer for his joints. Capone called Touhy and asked him to sell him 500 barrels and since Touhy had a surplus he agreed and told Capone to send 500 empties to the cooperage. He would send 500 barrels back for the price of $37.50 per barrel, a discount because of the large order.
Capone called back and asked for another 300 barrels. Touhy agreed and told Capone when he expected to be paid. The day before the money was due, Capone called and said that 50 of the barrels were leakers and that he wouldn't pay.
'I'll pay you for seven hundred and fifty, ok?" 'You owe me for eight hundred and I expect to be paid for eight hundred."
"Well the boys told me there were some leakers, but I'll check on it."
Capone paid the $30,000 in cash and called a week later and asked for more. Touhy refused, saying his regular customers were taking all of his output. Knowing that it may have been Capone testing his ability to draw him in or to see what he could produce by taking him to be his biggest customer, 'What was the use of needling him by saying I didn't do business with weasels."
In late 1927, Capone told Willie Heeney, Roger's former business partner, to go out to Des Plains to see Roger and encourage him to come around to Capone's way of thinking. By now, Heeney was working full time in the outfit's enormous prostitution racket where he would stay until the depression set in and he switched over to labor racketeering and narcotics. He soon became his own best customer and became hooked on heroin.
Roger agreed to meet Heeney at the Arch, one of his road houses in Schiller Park, managed by his brother Eddie. Arriving with Heeney at the meeting was Frankie Rio, Capone's favorite bodyguard and enforcer whose presence was no doubt meant to impress Touhy. Heeney was the spokesman, telling them that Capone wanted to open the county for brothels, taxi dance halls and punch board rackets. He was willing to split the proceeds evenly with Kolb and Touhy to which Rio added, "A1 says this is virgin territory for whorehouses."
Roger told Henney that he didn't want or need Capone as a partner, and that although the locals might tolerate speakeasies and gambling dens, whorehouses and taxi dance halls were something else. However, there was at least one brothel in operation in Des Plains at 304 Center Street, apartment 38, above Matt Kolb's brother's laundry store/handbook operation. There were at least three women working on the property and photos of the nude women were later taken from Willie Sharkey when he was arrested in Wisconsin. The FBI later noted that "there were many noisy parties in this apartment and numerous men visited them." A neighbor noted that "six men at a time would enter or leave the apartment together. The next group would enter the apartment only after the first group had left."
FBI agents later tracked down two of the women and described them in their reports as "nice looking women" and "very attractive women. "
Among those identified as regulars to the apartment were "Chicken" McFadden, Basil Banghart and George Wilke. Willie Sharkey, Touhy's enforcer, rented an apartment in the building under the name T.J. Burns and used the Park Ridge Chief of Police as his reference.