The scene: 1930's America. The 18th Amendment is still a valid addendum to the Constitution that shows no immediate sign of being repealed. Mafioso extraordinaire Lucky Luciano, through a number of pacts with German-Jewish gangster Dutch Schultz, is taking heavy steps to consolidate the Big Apple's organized crime gangs into the so-called "National Crime Syndicate" -- complete with its own board of directors calling the shots. A multi-faceted purveyor of dope, booze, whores, light artillery, and miscellaneous purloined goods -- the NCS answers to nobody but itself, with everybody else in the underworld ponying up a cut of their earnings to avoid a dip in the Hudson River with a pair of cement shoes.
It was precisely this kind of violent, entrepreneural spirit running rampant in the streets of America that enabled the enterprise of Murder Inc., (founded by two of Luciano's trusted associates, Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky), to find its niche in a market for some very dubious needs. Although Siegel and Lansky left the project to go onto other endeavours, Murder. Inc., continued to burgeon under the watchful beady eyes of Albert Anastasia and Louis "Lepke" Buchalter.
The business's prospectus was so brutally simple that it begged to be satirized: when a potential client wanted an assassination performed anonymously and discreetly, all he would need to do was pick up the phone and give Murder, Inc. a call, where contracts would be negotiated and confirmed in a matter of minutes. It was a quick and easy professional referral service that functioned, as one contemporary critic so eloquently described it, "a lot like 1-800-DENTIST today -- but with piano wire and tommy guns instead of drills and laughing gas." Even by 21st-century standards, the company's killers were treated extremely well, receiving a flat salary as well as the commissions for their hits, health care, insurance, vacations, and retirement packages.
Many of those killers were circumcised. Anastasia staffed the offices of his new business with a large number of Jewish mobsters from Brooklyn, among them Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, Seymour "Blue Jaw" Magoon, and (most prominently) Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss, the latter of which has been speculated to have killed somewhere around five hundred clients during the course of his Murder, Inc. career.
No small number of prominent crime lords found their lives unexpectedly cut short by a hail of .45 caliber bullets launched from the business ends of Murder, Inc. pistols or tommy guns. Among them were Dutch Schultz (blown away by Charlie "The Bug" Workman while pissing into a urinal) and one of the co-founders himself, Bugsy Siegel (chewed up by Frankie Carranzo's .30 caliber carbine after an ill-fated conversation with Luciano over the phone).
Eventually, however, the halcyon days of murder-for-hire had to come to an end. A one-time employee of the syndicate, Harry Rudolph, found himself arrested and itching for a plea bargain to ease the strain of his impending sentence. In his statements to the district attourney, he mentioned the name of "Kid Twist" Reles and hinted at the possible role he had played in the organisation. Reles, also in custody at the time, was called in by the D.A. for questioning. The Kid began to sing like a caged canary, revealing details on every single aspect of Murder Inc. and the NCS as well. His testimony led to big shot Lepke Buchalter's eventual death in the electric chair, the only board member of the Syndicate to ever be legally executed.
In exchange for his valuable testimony at trial, Reles was given a lighter sentence for the many murders for which the courts eventually convicted him. In court, he recounted numerous killings, both his own and those of others. His testimony led to the execution of Frank "The Dasher" Abbandando, Harry "Happy" Maione, Mendy Weiss, Louis Capone, and Harry "Phil" Strauss. Understandably, no one in the Syndicate was happy about Reles's extreme willingness to sell out his former colleagues for his limited personal gain. Fate eventually caught up with him in 1941 in a Coney Island hotel room, where, despite being under the protection of police, he mysteriously fell to his death from the window. With a $100,000 contract on his life, it is not much of a stretch to say one or more of his guards could have played a discreet role in his sudden defenestration.
Despite this, thanks to Reles's testimony, Murder. Inc, along with the Prohibition-era model of the Mafia, quickly faded into the footnotes of history by the early 1950's. The old kingpins had long since been incarcerated or interred, and the stale dream of syndicalism was being rapidly discarded by younger, more power-hungry contenders. The golden age of the Mob, inaugurated by Al Capone and kept alive by Lucky Luciano, was finally drawing down to a close, and with it, the highly-successful business model that had so successfully capitalized on the cutthroat nature of underworld politics.