A Jazz Age Autopsy


by Nick Tosches

Once upon a time, when New York City lived and breathed, there was a man marked for death, just like us all.

His name was Arnold Rothstein, and he was the only God he worshipped, and he was a great and wicked man.

November 25, 1928. From Lieutenant Francis A. Stainkamp, Commanding Officer, 9th Precinct, to Chief Medical Examiner. Subject: Case No. 6293, Arnold Rothstein:

“At 10:45 p.m., November 4, 1928, Arnold Rothstein, 912 5th Ave, 46 yrs, was shot, room 349, Park Central Hotel, 200 West 56 Street.

“Apparently had been engaged in card game with others in room 349 on 3rd floor of the Park Central Hotel, when an unknown man shot him and threw revolver out of the window to street. Body found lying near stairs in employees entrance to hotel.…

“Was attended by Dr. McGovern of City Hospital and removed to Polyclinic Hospital suffering from gunshot wound of abdomen.”

Mordecai Manuel Noah, a writer and civic leader, observed in 1819 that there was no record in New York of a Jew committing murder. When was it that this changed? When and where is that drop of blood on the map of time and place, that irrevocable moment of true and final assimilation?

Popular legend has made much of the figure of Edward “Monk Eastman” Osterman, often assigning him the role of the first Jewish gangster. He was a late-19th-century ward thug who did the bidding of the political bosses: election enforcements, collections, shakedowns, errands of everyday perdition. In return he was allowed to do some bidding of his own. Tammany Hall discarded him in 1904.

Dwelling amid the low echelons of ward corruption until his banishment, Monk Eastman was a brute and a malefactor, but he was not a killer. The same cannot be said of certain of his Italian-American contemporaries.

New York County Surrogate’s Court, 31 Chambers Street. January 9, 1929. Examination by the Honorable Thomas I. Sheridan, attorney for Mr. Maurice F. Cantor, Esq., executor, legatee, and proponent of [Arnold Rothstein’s] will:

“What is your name?

“Martha Goerdel.

“Were you one of the nurses in attendance on Arnold Rothstein, deceased?


“Did you hear Mr. Cantor say to the deceased, ‘Arnold, I have your will’?


“Did the patient make any response?

“Not that I could see.

“Now what did he do, or what took place when the pen was placed in the left hand of Mr. Rothstein?

“He made no effort to grasp the pen at all.

“In your opinion was this man of sound mind when you signed that will [as a witness]?


“Was the man irrational?

“Yes, most of the time.

“Tell me one thing that the patient said that impressed you as being irrational.

“I would not dare repeat it.”

Zoe Beckley had spunk. She was a woman making her way in the journalism racket at a time when it was a boys’ club. It is she who gives us the only portrait from life for which Rothstein ever sat. It is a portrait in miniature, and, like court portraits of old, which painted away the scars of smallpox and of plague, it is a portrait in which the subject guides the painter’s hand.

“Beckley writes in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Sunday, November 27, 1927:

“Now and then there flashes in the world of business, finance, sport, art or theatricals a colorful figure which comes we know not whence or how.

“Such a personage is Arnold Rothstein, who can make or break a racetrack, a gambling house, a stock deal, a real estate development or a newspaper (almost). He used to be called America’s greatest gambler, but he says he has left that phase of his career behind. Ask any fairly informed person who Rothstein is and the answer will vary from ‘Oh, he’s a crook’ to ‘Gee—he’s a wow! A sportsman, a promoter of big deals, a multi-millionaire, a sentimentalist, a hardboiled egg, a whale of a good fellow and a power to reckon with.’

“There has not been a big prize-fight, a gold rush, a Wall Street flurry, a great horserace or a real estate boom in years that Rothstein hasn’t had a hand in somehow. A torrent of men pour through his offices from early morn till dewy eve, and after.…

“Mr. Rothstein probably has more friends than any other man in the United States. The reason he has is that he knows how to be a friend. It seems to be his religion. But don’t double cross him or he will roll up the sleeves of his white silk shirt and get right after you. And when he’s finished the ambulance will be coming for you, clang-a-lang-a-lang.…

“‘Know why you hear so much bad about me?’ he queries amiably after you have crashed your way into his office at 45 W. 57th st., Manhattan, having waited hours in vain and tried to keep innumerable appointments made by his hard-pressed secretary.

“‘No,’ we answer, like Brother Bones. ‘Why do we hear bad about you?’”

“‘Because the majority of the human race are dubs and dumbbells and have rotten judgment and no brains, and if you have a few brains and have learned how to do things and size up people and situations, and dope out methods for yourself, they jump to the conclusion you’re crooked.’

Beckley played the game well:

“You gather by this time that Arnold Rothstein is a person to reckon with. He is. And like most men of his type, he has a most amazing emotional side to his nature, a nature that is sentimental, sympathetic, generous, kind and affectionate—the sort of affection that makes him speak of his beloved old father with dropped voice and misted eyes.

“‘My father now—there’s a man!’ says Arnold. “‘Man of character and heart. A philanthropist. A smart man. A great man. A good man. He is my ideal. Why don’t you talk to him if you want a real story?’”

“At last, from the heights of contemplation: ‘My code of life is absolutely simple,’ Rothstein tells the seeker. ‘Help a friend, be a friend.’ And what of happiness? It was to be found in ‘being a good scout, keeping busy and helping people.’

Arnold Rothstein was then at the height of his wealth and power. His career had begun under Tammany Hall’s auspices, and he was now thriving in his association with Judge George W. Olvany, who had taken over as Tammany boss in 1924. The mayor at that time was John F. Hylan, a Tammany man in his second term who had begun to live up to his nickname of Honest John. He decided to run for a third term in 1925, but was defeated in the primary by State Senator James J. Walker.

Walker, the most celebrated not only of Tammany mayors but of all New York mayors, was a man of the speakeasies, old neighborhood ways, and the Great White Way. He smoked, drank, lived well, showed up at the mayor’s office as he saw fit. The heart of the city was his.

During the campaign, Hylan had warned of “the wide-open town which Judge Olvany and the Tammany designee for mayor will give you if they are successful on primary day.” Mayor Hylan mentioned “the big gambler” who was the true dictator of Tammany. Speaking publicly on the evening of August 27, 1925, Hylan stated the identity of “the big gambler,” which most already knew: Arnold Rothstein.

When Jimmy Walker won the election that fall, New York entered its greatest time as a city, and it was wilder by far than “the wide-open town” that Hylan had warned against. It was a city where you could get whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted it.

It would last less than four years, its end as attributable to the aftermath of Rothstein’s end as to the stock-market crash of October 1929. The nighttime rhapsody of the Jazz Age would give way then to “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” But that brief span, from 1926 to 1929, was a time of life and freedom that would reverberate, though ever more faintly, through the spirit of the city in the 50 and more years to come—reverberate until the New York that once had been was as dead as Arnold Rothstein.

As he sat in his office like a preacher that autumn day in 1927, telling Zoe Beckley of the simple ways of virtue, he had less than a year left to live.

Dr. Charles Norris, the first chief medical examiner of New York City, has been remembered as a dignified gentleman in a frock coat —


Approximate Age: 46 Yrs.

“Body is that of a middle-aged white male, appearing to be the age given, scale weight 169 pounds, 5 ft 7 inches in height, well formed, well developed.

“Body is warm, no rigor mortis, well muscled and well built.

“Nose natural, lips natural, 4 days growth of hair.

“There is a false rubber plate in the upper [jaw]. Lower jaw shows goldwork, right lower lateral incisor and also goldwork on the canines. The premolars are absent. The first molar is present. Left lower all absent.

“In the penis there is a catheter retained by tape. Foreskin cut.

“There is a single bullet wound situated in the right belly, 3 1⁄2 inches to the right of the midline, 38 1⁄2 inches above the right heel, 2 1⁄2 inches in front of the right anterior superior iliac spine and 1⁄2 inch above it.

“The guts are very warm.

“Brain weighs 1400 grams.


“SEPSIS AND SHOCK: Bullet wound of the belly, large gut, urinary bladder, prostate and pelves; Homicide.


“High tan shoes, marked Robert Whyte, 38 West 45th St., New York.

“Fancy multicolored tie. Label: F. Georges, Boul. Des Capucines, Paris, France.

“Blue garters. Lisle socks with white feet.

“Turned down blue Lane 15 1⁄2 collar, laundry mark 2633, covered with dry vomitus.

“Blue coat with red pin-stripes. Label: Wm. Wallach, N.Y. With vomitus on the collar and shoulders. There is a single hole just below the front edge of the lower pocket. No flares. Trousers of the same material. On the right side, upper portion, there is also a hole which passes through the label of the tailor attached to the pocket: Wm. Wallach, N.Y., N.Y. Custom Tailor. Arnold Rothstein, 10/29/27.

“Silk shirt. Label: Harry Beck, Custom Shirt Manufacturer. With the initials A.R. and a hole in a corresponding position.”

When I set out to write this tale, I was intrigued by the figure of Arnold Rothstein. I still am. But as I researched more deeply, I came to see that the picture of him that history has given us was wrong. “Natura abhorret vacuum,” says Rabelais’s drunkard begging wine for cup and gut. But it is not so much nature that abhors a vacuum, but rather journalists and popular historians. Most of what has been written about Arnold Rothstein derives largely from several standard sources, bought wholesale and embellished through the years. The authors of these sources, or their editors, abhorred a vacuum. When there was no wine, they made it in the basement.

There is, for instance, the fantasia of The Big Bankroll: The Life and Times of Arnold Rothstein, written by Leo Katcher in 1958 and published by Harper in 1959. Since then, Katcher’s book has been accepted and used as the standard reference, but its invented dialogue places it well inside the realm of parody, and I have wondered if Katcher ever laughed aloud as he wrote it.

My true purpose here, above all others, is to unearth the facts, the true facts, of Arnold Rothstein’s life.

Why Rothstein’s life? I will tell you why: because Arnold Rothstein is a shadow figure beyond good and evil. And if that shadow is ultimately unknowable, as it must be, I am resolved that it should not go ultimately misknown, or wrongly known, as it has been. Let others tell you the shade and length of Christ’s hair without offering a single bare fact establishing his existence.

There was no receiving station for immigrants in New York in 1852. The shipping-company representative gave a passenger manifest to the collector of customs, and the immigrants disembarked onto the wharf. So it was that Joshua Rothstein, maker and merchant of caps—Harris Rothstein now: new land, new name—went forth into the rabble.

He established himself at Baxter Street, in the heart of the neighborhood known as the Five Points. There were more than 12,000 needle-and-thread men working in New York in 1855. Harris Rothstein, cap-maker, was one of them.

Abraham Elijah Rothstein, American, son of Harris and Rosa Rothstein, was born on November 24, 1856. He would follow his father into the garment trade.

Abraham Rothstein’s obituary in The New York Times on November 21, 1939, would say that he brought about the settlement in 1926 of the infamous 19-week strike that affected more than 40,000 garment workers. He was known, said the obituary, as Abe the Just.

Years later David Dubinsky, a former president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, recalled that strike. His praise for Abe the Just was well potted, but the truth eventually broke from the pot:

“[The strike leaders] turned to a retired manufacturer, A.E. Rothstein, whose philanthropic activities and basic decency had earned him great respect. This scholarly man had a son Arnold, who had established himself in New York’s underworld. He was in every racket from white slavery to dope.…

“When the Communist strike leaders came to the elder Rothstein, he said he was too removed from activity in the employer association to be of great help as a peacemaker. But he put them in touch with one of the most prominent manufacturers, who minced no words in telling them that the man they ought to see was not the father but the son. The younger Rothstein was more than happy to help. Maybe he thought his father would be pleased that he was doing something constructive for a change. More probably, this astute manipulator saw a chance to muscle in on the garment industry. That was exactly what his lieutenants, Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter and Jacob ‘Gurrah Jake’ Shapiro, did after Rothstein himself was murdered.

On September 3, 1879, Abraham Rothstein, now 22, married 19-year-old Esther Rothschild of San Francisco. They lived together at 270 Madison Street, with his parents. Essie gave birth to a son in the Madison Street apartment on July 18, 1880. They named him Bertram.

After the birth of their son, Abraham and Essie moved to 325 East 20th Street. Esther was pregnant again, in the spring of 1881. It was another son. He was born on a Tuesday and he would die on a Tuesday. The day of his birth was January 17, 1882. They named him Arnold.

Two daughters and two more sons followed between 1883 and 1891. While there are birth certificates for some of the Rothstein children, there is none for Arnold. New York State laws requiring the registration of births were not enacted until the early 20th century. We have no real glimpse of Arnold until the so-called police census of 1890, conducted by officers of the city police. He is listed as the second of his parents’ children, aged eight.

We have no sight of Arnold Rothstein again until the first week of June 1900, when he appears in the 12th Census of the United States. Directly under his parents, listed first among the children, is: “Arnold, son, white, male, age eighteen, single.” His profession is stated as “Stock Clerk Clothing.” Bertram Rothstein had died at the age of 16, on September 6, 1896. Arnold was now the eldest son.

In 1904, at age 22, he is in the menial employ of his father. For the next three years, he is living with his parents with no visible independent means of support. In 1910, Arnold Rothstein is well off, well known, and mysteriously well placed.

Big Tim Sullivan was a hell of a man. He had been born down there, on the East Side, in the old Sixth Ward, in 1863. And now he ruled it, all of it. If you went below 14th Street in New York City, you were in Big Tim’s territory.

Though he ruled every vice racket, Big Tim was not a man of common vices. As was known in every East Side home where a rosary hung, Big Tim had sworn as a boy that he would never drink or smoke, and he had not once strayed from that resolution.

He lived apart from his wife, Helen, but she remained his “beloved wife,” and there was no divorce, for the church forbade it.

Big Tim had a smile for everybody.

During the last years of his life, Big Tim slowly lost his mind. He vanished on August 31, 1913. Later his body was found in the morgue, where it had lain unidentified and unclaimed for days. Big Tim, in his delirium, had been run over by a train in the middle of the night, in the Westchester switching yards.

Jews had been a part of Tammany Hall since the days of Mordecai Manuel Noah, back when the Jewish vote meant nothing. Judge Albert Cardozo, a Sephardic Jew, had been a key man in Boss Tweed’s ring. Max Rothberg, Abe Finkelstein, and the alderman Max Levine were a part of Sullivan’s crew.

Big Tim’s minion Monk Eastman had fallen from grace in 1904. Arnold Rothstein, who was 22 that year, was a different sort of Jewboy entirely. Eastman had no class. He looked like a man roused from a dago garbage scow. He had a face like a jack-o’-lantern left out in the sun to rot, and he barely knew how to tie a proper bow around his neck.

Rothstein cut a figure. He was presentable. More than that, there was something in his head besides pigeon dust.

He had his eye on the end of the rainbow, rather than trained on the cobblestones looking out for the next stray copper penny. He could do with a fountain pen and a column of figures what others did with a gun, and in just as short a time. He had the stuff to know that fear was a sucker’s racket: you used it, or it used you. He was a gambler who knew never to trust in fortune.

Better than most twice his age in the Tammany Wigwam, young Arnold Rothstein knew the ways of the noble redskin—that Indian in a warbonnet who looked to the West on every new-struck $5 golden coin.

Like Big Tim, Arnold neither drank nor smoked. And, like Big Tim, he had a smile for everybody. It was a rare smile, that. Few men had it. But Big Tim knew it, and understood it, whenever he saw it. And so did Arnold Rothstein. Yes, he was a good lad, Arnold was.

She went by the name of Carolyn Green. She was born on May 6, 1888, the daughter of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. Her father, Meyer Jerome Greenwald, a butcher by trade, had been born in Germany. Her mother, Susan McMahon, in Ireland.

Carrie dreamed of a life in the theater. But one could not be a femme fatale named Greenwald. Thus little Carrie Greenwald, in her aspiring, became little Carolyn Green.

In the spring of 1906, a few weeks before her 18th birthday, she appeared in a Shubert brothers musical called The Social Whirl. That fall, she had a part in The Chorus Lady. This is likely when she met Arnold Rothstein. As was later recounted in the book Now I’ll Tell, written by “Carolyn Rothstein (Mrs. Arnold Rothstein)” and published in 1934, “I was eighteen and Arnold Rothstein was twenty-four when we met for the first time, and felt a decided attraction for each other, at an after-theatre supper party.… He sat beside me and devoted himself to me while we ate broiled lobster, and every one except Arnold sipped champagne.

“After the supper he drove me home in a hansom cab. And the next night he called for me at the theatre and took me to supper. After that he was in constant attendance.”

Her last, small part was in a musical called Havana in the spring of 1909. That summer, she traveled north by train with Arnold for the racing season at Saratoga. Accompanying them were Herbert Bayard Swope and his girlfriend, Margaret Powell, who later became his wife.

Swope, one of Arnold’s best friends, was to achieve great acclaim as a journalist for The New York World. He was the most famous and celebrated reporter of the early 20th century, the winner of the first Pulitzer Prize for reporting. He was also a character: a thrill-seeking gambler who lived high and fast. There is no telling what information and favors were passed between him and Rothstein in the years that Swope held sway at the World.

On August 12, 1909, Herbert and Margaret rode with Arnold and Carolyn to the home of the justice of the peace of Saratoga Springs. As Carolyn later recalled:

“We four then drove to the cottage where we had a happy but simple dinner in celebration of the marriage, and then Arnold and I retired to his bedroom, man and wife.

“No sooner were we alone together than he said to me:

“‘Sweet, I had a bad day today, and I’ll need your jewelry for a few days.’”

When Arnold and Carolyn returned to New York in the late summer of 1909, they moved into the Ansonia, a luxurious 17-story residential hotel at Broadway and West 73rd Street. It was a grand structure, the Ansonia. Completed in 1904, it had Turkish baths, the world’s largest indoor swimming pool, basement shops, and several restaurants decorated in Louis XIV style. A rooftop farm provided tenants with the freshest food. From Flo Ziegfeld to Igor Stravinsky, Enrico Caruso to Babe Ruth: they all stayed at the Ansonia.

Carolyn later looked back with complaint. The couple’s room “was, in no sense of the word, a suite,” she informs us. “It was in this room at the Ansonia that the lonesomeness, which was to be the keynote of my married life, began. From the moment of our return my husband contrived to leave me by myself.”

In early 1910, Arnold and Carolyn moved to a three-story brownstone at 108 West 46th Street, down the block from where Carolyn’s parents were living. Carolyn does not mention this parental proximity in her book. Arnold listed his business in the city directory as “real estate.” (By 1915 he would be listed as “broker,” and by 1918 he would be listed only as the secretary of the Carolyn Holding Co., of which Carolyn was listed as the president, with an office on Cedar Street.)

With the benison of Big Tim Sullivan, Arnold had been involved in bookmaking, shylocking, and gambling enterprises since at least the turn of the century. Now Arnold set about refurbishing the first floor of the brownstone into a casino. Carolyn claimed that she could hear the click of the roulette wheel from her bedroom and discern from the pauses between spins whether the house was winning or losing.

But as Big Tim withdrew increasingly from the reign of his power to that of his inner demons, the human vermin of his system began to come forth brazenly to pursue forbidden crumbs in the absence of authority. The lowest of these vermin wore suits of blue wool and buttons of copper.

Herman “Beansy” Rosenthal ran a gambling joint on West 45th Street, around the block from Rothstein’s brownstone casino. Rosenthal had opened the joint with a loan of two grand from Big Tim and subsequently made the mistake of taking another $1,500 from Charles Becker, a police lieutenant whose job was to oversee the suppression of vice. In a year when his salary was under $1,700, Lieutenant Becker deposited almost $59,000 in his personal savings account.

Lieutenant Becker wanted 25 percent of Rosenthal’s take. To protect his interest, he would post a man named Jacob “Bald Jack Rose” Rosenzweig within the club, and Rosenthal was to pay Becker’s share to Rose.

By this time, in 1912, Big Tim Sullivan was virtually non compos mentis, and Tammany was in disarray. There was nowhere for Rosenthal to turn for protection. When one of Lieutenant Becker’s criminal associates was indicted for murder, the officer insisted that every gambling operator contribute $500 to a “defense fund” to ensure his acquittal. This was too much for Beansy Rosenthal to take. He spoke to Rothstein, who told him to bear up and pay.

Instead, full of booze and Dutch courage, Beansy spilled the beans to Rothstein’s friend Herbert Bayard Swope. His drunken words appeared in The New York World of July 14, 1912. He was being harassed, Rosenthal said, by the very cop who had imposed himself as a partner. Swope did not name Becker, but in the course of Beansy’s telling everything he knew, there was little doubt as to the lieutenant’s identity.

When Beansy Rosenthal saw the newspaper that Sunday, he turned to Rothstein, who offered him $500 to get out of town. Rosenthal refused.

When Lieutenant Becker saw the newspaper that Sunday, he turned to his collection man Bald Jack Rose and told him what to do. Another of Becker’s men, William Alberts, better known as Big Jack Zelig, was in the Tombs. Rose arranged Zelig’s release and told him that Beansy Rosenthal must not see another sunrise. Four men were hired as a killing crew: Jacob “Whitey Lewis” Seidenschnier, Louis “Lefty Louie” Rosenberg, Harry “Gyp the Blood” Horowitz, and Francesco “Dago Frank” Cirofici.

Beansy, meanwhile, had returned to Rothstein and told him that he had decided to take him up on his $500 offer to get out of town. Rothstein told him it was too late.

“You’re not worth $500 to anyone anymore, Beansy.”

Late on Monday night, Beansy was in the bar of the Hotel Metropole. He was told that somebody outside wished to talk to him. He stepped out under the incandescent bulbs of the Metropole canopy. The four killers emerged from an automobile and opened fire. A passerby noted the license number of the automobile as it sped away.

Within two weeks, Lieutenant Becker, Bald Jack Rose, and the four members of the killing crew were under arrest. Becker’s pleas for help from Tammany Hall were unanswered. Jack Zelig agreed to testify for the state. On October 5, 1912, the morning before the trial was to begin, Zelig was murdered while boarding the 13th Street trolley.

Bald Jack Rose also agreed to turn state’s evidence, and even without Zelig’s testimony the four killers were convicted and were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing. Becker was convicted as well. On the morning of July 30, 1915, he too went to the electric chair. His last words were: “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”

If one were of dark mind, it might be seen that Rothstein had played Rosenthal well, using him, with Swope’s witting or unwitting help, to get rid of a business competitor—Rosenthal himself—and at the same time, and far more important, a cop who had been a considerable source of trouble. In doing so, he would have served not only his own ends but the journalistic career of his dear friend Swope as well. Big Tim Sullivan, who had died during Becker’s trial, surely would have enjoyed the coup. Bald Jack Rose, the turncoat, later worked for Rothstein.

There was a song from 1909 called “The Ace in the Hole.”

“There’s con men and there’s boosters,

There’s card-men and crap-shooters;

They congregate around the Metropole.

They wear flashy ties and collars,

But where do they get their dollars?

They all have got an ace down in the hole.”

Carolyn described Sid Stajer as “always closest of any man to my husband.” It was Stajer who transferred a six-year-old chestnut gelding named Virile to Rothstein on November 16, 1916. It marked the beginning of Rothstein’s years as an owner of Thoroughbred racehorses.

Short, stout Sidney Stajer is a mysterious figure. Where Rothstein is, Stajer often is not far from there. Twelve years Arnold’s junior, Sidney was a very young man when Rothstein took him under his wing. It is not known to us how the 22-year-old son of immigrant workers had come to possess a Thoroughbred colt that had won, placed, or shown in the majority of its times out that year. Stajer has been described with dismissive glibness as a “drug addict” and a “large-scale drug dealer.” No one mentions his distinguished service during the first World War.

Arnold Rothstein’s finances seem to have taken a leap during this period.

President Woodrow Wilson had signed the Harrison Act into law on December 17, 1914. The act, which essentially outlawed the sale, possession, or use of opium and its derivative heroin, went into effect on March 1, 1915. A headline six weeks later, in The New York Times of April 15, 1915: ILLICIT PEDDLING OF HEROIN AND COCAINE PRACTICALLY AT AN END, POLICE SAY. But as would similarly prove to be the case with Prohibition five years later, the act in practice gave the illegal drug trade new and greater opportunities for profit.

Arnold Rothstein was the principal financier of the international heroin trade. While investigating a worldwide narcotics-smuggling ring, Assistant United States Attorney John M. Blake questioned Rothstein about his ties to known drug traders.

“The best explanation Rothstein could give us,” Blake later told a reporter, “was that he loaned money to different people, but that he never kept tabs as to the manner in which they invested such loans as long as he was repaid with a profit.”

In 1926, in the biggest narcotics case since the passage of the Harrison Act, a man named Charles Webber and an ex-cop, William Vachuda, were accused of importing 1,250 pounds of opium, morphine, heroin, and cocaine into the country. Rothstein acted as the bail guarantor for both Webber and Vachuda.

On July 13, 1928, federal narcotics agents arrested Sidney Stajer along with Abraham Stein, another Rothstein associate, and George Williams at the Hotel Prisament, at Broadway and 74th Street. Rothstein appeared at the hotel on the night of the arrest and later posted bail for all three men, who on March 11, 1929, four months after Arnold Rothstein’s demise, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to import narcotics.

Papers found in Arnold Rothstein’s safe after his death led federal narcotics agents to the biggest bust of the era: an estimated $2 million worth of heroin, cocaine, and opium—the equivalent today of more than $21.5 million—discovered in trunks aboard the Twentieth Century Limited bound for Chicago on the night of December 7, 1928. The passenger to whom the trunks belonged was Joseph Unger, a small man in his 50s who had been one of Rothstein’s lackeys.

Eleven days later, a ton of dope, valued at more than $4 million—a ton might be valued at $100 million today—was seized in Jersey City after arriving from Le Havre in five crates. The shipment was in the name of one “Joseph Klein,” an alias of Joseph Unger, who was presently being held in the Tombs.

Two days later, Unger was hastily brought to trial at the federal district court on the charges from the December 7 seizure. A few days before Christmas, to the chagrin of the authorities, Unger pleaded guilty. There would be no examination of the defendant. Nothing would be revealed.

The consensus among old-timers was that heroin had been better in New York in the days before the Italians took control from the Jews. In the 1989 oral history Addicts Who Survived, an elderly black man called Mel said, “When I first started dealing I had Chinese and Jewish connections; later I had Italian connections. It was a beautiful thing when the Chinese and the Jews had it. But when the Italians had it—bah!—they messed it all up. They started thinking people were just a bunch of animals—just give them anything.”

Another voice, Jack, said that “the Italians infiltrated” when “Arnold Rothstein got killed.” He remembered that “them Italians, they stayed in their place as long as he ruled the roost, as long as he was there they didn’t butt in. But, once he was gone, that’s when they started to infiltrate.”

The start of the Saratoga racing season, on August 1, 1918, would bring celebrants to festivities at the grand opening of the Brook, a stately old mansion on Church Street that Arnold Rothstein had converted into a casino. Gambling houses had thrived in Saratoga Springs since the first racetrack opened there, in the summer of 1863, but they were out in the countryside, near Saratoga Lake. The Brook was near the town center, close to the majestic Grand Union Hotel.

The Brook also served as the summer destination for a sort of Fresh Air Fund that Rothstein operated for a small group of inner-city youths who apprenticed themselves to him. They were all immigrant lads: the eldest, Francesco Castiglia, was from Calabria; Salvatore Lucania, from Sicily; and the youngest of them, little Maier Suchowljansky, from the Russian Pale. In the full blossom of their manhood, these young men—Frank Costello, Charles Luciano, and Meyer Lansky—would be the true inheritors of Rothstein’s legacy, taking his ways, principles, and vision to their fullest end.

Frank Costello, the most intriguing and powerful of the triumvirate, was especially drawn to Rothstein. It has been said that Arnold Rothstein and Joseph Kennedy were the only two men he admired.

Lansky remembered having met Rothstein at the Bar Mitzvah celebration of the son of a mutual acquaintance. “He invited me to dinner at the Park Central Hotel, and we sat talking for six hours. It was a big surprise to me. Rothstein told me quite frankly that he had picked me because I was ambitious and hungry.”

To list the other young Jews to whom Rothstein was a rabbi would be like transcribing the criminal index of early-20th-century Jewish enterprise. Among this generation were Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Arthur “Dutch Schultz” Flegenheimer, Philip “Dandy Phil” Kastel, Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, Irving “Waxey Gordon” Wexler, and Abner “Longy” Zwillman. The list of mackerel-snappers who learned from and served him is longer.

America liked to see herself as a melting pot. In this country, where the phrase “equal opportunity” gained meaning only as a late-20th-century legislative term, Arnold Rothstein was the first true equal-opportunity employer. He brought together the Christian and the Jew. In a lily-white world, he provided the backing for Keep Shufflin’, the 1928 black stage review, and chose as his trusted personal valet and assistant Thomas Farley, a gentleman of color from Virginia.

The horse that Stajer had transferred to Rothstein in 1916 marked the beginning of Rothstein’s years in the Thoroughbred-racing owners’ circle, among wealthy southern gentlemen and New York aristocrats such as August Belmont Jr.

Anthony Zito wrote about racing for The New York World under Rothstein’s friend Herbert Bayard Swope. As a journalist he went by the name of Toney Betts. Like Swope, he was a gambler as well as a reporter. Zito remembered Rothstein well.

“In a way he was an investment broker, except that most of his dealings lacked the wispy air-brush of legality.”

Zito also well recalled a hot summer day in July of 1921 that would never be forgotten:

“The scene: Aqueduct Race Track. Temperature: 94° in the shade. Post Time: 4:28 p.m. A minute and a fraction later Rothstein had won $800,000 on a horse named Sidereal, more money than anyone in America ever before had won on a horse.

“But he was not satisfied. Sidereal did not pluck out his obsession. Rothstein had a mania to win $1,000,000 on one horse. Sidereal, 30 to 1 at the opening, had been backed down to 5 to 1, and was rubbed out by many books in the rush just before post time.”

Sidereal had failed to win in three previous starts. Owned and trained by Max Hirsch of Texas, who also worked with Rothstein’s horses, the two-year-old chestnut colt had been named by Herbert Bayard Swope.

The $800,000 that Rothstein won that day by betting on Sidereal is equivalent to $8.25 million in today’s money.

Zito continued:

“Rothstein planned a betting coup as patiently as a chief-of-staff maps out a campaign for a large-scale invasion, but it didn’t always follow the blueprint.… At that time the horse spongers were active at Belmont Park and Rothstein had an interest in a book. He was approached with a proposition to take care of a 4 to 5 shot. He paid the professional fee and told his book to take in all the bets it could on the favorite. ‘But don’t be clumsy,’ he warned him. ‘Don’t go from 4 to 5 up to even-money. Be gentle and make the first rise in price 9 to 10. Ease the suckers into the trap.’

“A sponge had been inserted in the horse’s nostril so it couldn’t breathe freely and was a sure thing to be out of the money. The horse won by five lengths, clipping Rothstein for $70,000. Word got around that the sponger had the right stable but the wrong stall.”

Rothstein had organized his Thoroughbreds into Redstone Stable in the fall of 1919. “Red” from roth, “stone” from stein. It was merely the literal translation of his family name.

August Belmont Jr., a son of New York’s German-Jewish aristocracy, detested Rothstein, who gave the lie to Belmont’s grand and stately charade. Belmont asked that Rothstein keep away from Belmont Park. Rothstein was infuriated. Intermediaries negotiated a compromise between the two men. Rothstein was to have his way at the track on the Sabbath and on holidays.

Some time later, Belmont encountered Rothstein near the paddock on a weekday afternoon. “What are you doing here today?” he inquired.

“It’s a holiday.”

“A holiday?”

“Why, yes, you ought to know, Mr. Belmont. It’s Rosh Hashanah.”

It had been in the fall of 1919, while organizing Redstone Stable, that Arnold Rothstein was supposed to have fixed the World Series. Of all the transgressions of which he has been accused, this, the most celebrated of them, was perhaps the only one of which he was innocent.

Given the way the fixing of the 1919 Series unfolded, there was no need for him to do a thing, except to profit from the mistakes of others.

These others, knowing that certain of the favored Chicago White Sox ballplayers were ripe for fixing, and assuming that Rothstein would be keen to finance the venture, had set the fix in motion and then approached Rothstein about what they were sure would be his eager involvement. These two gamblers, the retired major-league pitcher Sleepy Bill Burns and the retired lightweight boxer Billy Maharg, had arranged the fix with two White Sox players, pitcher Eddie Cicotte and first-baseman Chick Gandil.

At a hotel room in Cincinnati on the night before the opening game of the Series, Abe Attell, who worked for Rothstein, had met with Burns and Maharg, along with Cicotte, Gandil, and five other Chicago ballplayers. Attell knew his boss well enough to believe that he would not overlook an investment as lucrative as this. He had assured Burns and Maharg, the fixers, that Rothstein would put up the $100,000 that the players wanted. But the mistake had been to proceed without him from the beginning.

Now that the one set of fools had already purchased the other set of fools—granted, they had been bought on the installment plan, the old hire-purchase plan by which Arnold’s grandfather had gotten his first Singer sewing machine, a few dollars down, but bought nonetheless—Rothstein could partake of the fix without pitching in a dime. Burns and Maharg had blown the chance to have his backing the moment that Attell revealed to Rothstein that everything was in place, that all they needed now was his backing. Rothstein sent word that he did not believe that such a fix was possible, then he acted on what they had given him.

The White Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in eight games (out of a possible nine in those days). Rumors that the Series had been fixed were in the air, as well as Rothstein’s name, but it was not until September 1920 that grand-jury hearings in Chicago led to open scandal. The ballplayers testified that none of them had been paid in full.

Rothstein’s reputation as the fixer of the Series grew with the passing of years. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald introduced “a small flat-nosed Jew” named Meyer Wolfsheim, described as “the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.”

Wolfsheim is a gross caricature, a man with cuff links made of human molars in whose mouth Fitzgerald puts words such as “business gonnegtion.” Fitzgerald would later claim that he had drawn on “my own meeting with Arnold Rothstein” to lend form to his fiction.

Edith Wharton had made her own Jew from schoolyard mud: Simon Rosedale, a nouveau riche who seeks to enter society, in her 1905 novel, The House of Mirth. On the publication of The Great Gatsby, in 1925, she wrote to Fitzgerald, congratulating him for having made “the perfect Jew.”

A “bucket shop” was a brokerage house that dealt in small, even single-share stock orders, and charged a slight premium over the listed stock prices. For would-be investors of modest means, who could not afford to place orders of the size handled by the big brokerage firms, bucket shops were the only game in town. But most bucket shops played on the ignorance of would-be investors. Money was taken but orders were not executed. Fortunes were made in bucket shops, and the tide of suckers was endless.

It was the great Fuller-McGee scandal that brought an end to the golden era of the bucket shops. Edward Fuller and William McGee operated a bucket shop under the name of E. M. Fuller & Co. It had failed three times on the Consolidated Stock Exchange. (The Consolidated was a disreputable 19th-century excrescence of the New York Stock Exchange, an offshoot shut down by the New York State Attorney General’s Office in 1925.) They were tried three times but never convicted.

In the spring of 1923, William Randolph Hearst assigned his New York American reporter Nat Ferber to discover “who was protecting the bucket-shops.” Ferber received permission from the New York County district attorney to examine records that were under federal guard at Fuller and McGee’s vacated office. He came upon a sheaf of canceled checks. Some of them were made out to Arnold Rothstein.

Ferber also discovered that William J. Fallon, Fuller and McGee’s lawyer, had brought about a hung jury in their third trial by bribing one of the jurors, a Charles W. Rendigs, to hold out for acquittal. Bill Fallon was also one of Rothstein’s lawyers.

Fuller and McGee, who bucketed the money of others, lost most of it gambling. Arnold Rothstein, who cared more for their money than he did for them, was the one who took it. In the 12-month period from November 10, 1920, to November 9, 1921, E. M. Fuller & Co. wrote checks to Rothstein amounting to more than $187,000.

Rothstein was called as a witness in Fuller and McGee’s bankruptcy trial. In the hearing room, he was asked if there had been conversation between him and Bill Fallon regarding difficulties that Fuller and McGee were having.

“I don’t recall going to Fallon at any time to talk over the Fuller case.”

“Your answer is that you don’t remember?”

“My answer is that I don’t care to discuss it.”

“On what ground?”

“On the ground that it would incriminate or degrade me, whatever that means.”

He was asked if he could offer any information regarding several hundred thousand dollars that he was alleged to have won in bets from Fuller.

“The law,” he said, “makes betting a misdemeanor.”

Fuller had said that he lost more than $22,000 to Rothstein betting on the 1919 World Series, and a lawyer for Fuller and McGee’s creditors had successfully argued that Rothstein would be liable to the creditors for that amount if it could be shown that he had been a party to the fixing of the Series.

“Do you know a man in Boston named William J. Kelly?” he was asked.

“What’s that got to do with this case?”

“He’s an attorney, isn’t he?”

“I know him as something different. I think he’s a blackmailer to tell you the facts.”

“Did you engage W. J. Kelly to represent you in the Grand Jury proceedings over the World Series of 1919?”

“You ought to be ashamed to ask me that.”

The interrogator tried to press more deeply.

“As a matter of fact, you were represented at the hearing by William J. Fallon and Kelly?”

“I have no attorney.”

“Don’t you know the White Sox players made the charge they’d been double-crossed, and didn’t get the money after they had thrown the first game?”

“I never promised them any money. I don’t even talk to ball players.”

The interrogator tried another tack.

“Do you know Charles W. Rendigs?”

“I believe I do.”

“He’s the man indicted in the Fuller case in connection with bribery. Didn’t you have a conversation with Rendigs while he was a juror in the Fuller trial?”

“Oh, behave. I refuse to answer.”

There were more questions about Rendigs, the juror-for-hire. Rothstein became more fed up.

“The next thing,” he said, “you’ll be blaming the Japanese earthquake on me. There must be something the matter with those cough drops you’re eating.”

Three weeks later, October 29, 1923:

“When you win a bet, it’s a matter of income, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know. I’m not up on the law.”

“Well, if you won a bet would you call it income or outgo?”

“I’d call it lucky.”

There was so much paperwork, and so much of it senseless, for to Arnold Rothstein paperwork was by nature subterfuge. In 1923 he said that he could not recall the names of the officers of A. L. Libman, Inc., of which he was the president, unstated and unseen.

His name in fact rarely appeared on legal documents. He owned many corporations, yet his name did not appear on the papers of incorporation. Before changes to the corporate tax laws in 1976, each corporation held by an individual party or parties was taxed separately rather than as part of a commonly held group. This meant that the lowest possible corporate tax rate could be achieved and maintained through the creation of new corporations as needed, so that no single corporation’s net taxable income ever exceeded the limit for the lowest tax-rate bracket.

The sources, destinations, and amounts of money that passed through these corporations, and many others that Rothstein held, are unknowable. As far as the record went, he was an unseen ghost at the heart of a spectral corporate empire. As a rule, not even the directors of these corporations knew the true business of these corporations.

On April 22, 1924, the government of the United States complained that Arnold Rothstein had paid only $35.15 in income tax for the year 1921.

It must have been those 15 pennies.

What do you believe Arnold Rothstein would have made of Damon Runyon, the reformed drunk from Manhattan, Kansas, who worked for Hearst’s New York American?

The writings of Damon Runyon are central to the romance of Jazz Age New York. His short stories about Manhattan—New York, not Kansas—are above all entertainments. The articles that he wrote on deadline about Rothstein for the American became a short story called “The Brain Goes Home,” which was included in his 1931 collection Guys and Dolls. Through Runyon, Arnold Rothstein became Nathan Detroit. Guys and Dolls made Runyon a wealthy man during what most people knew as the Depression. However, he was no longer around for what would have been his big payday, when Guys and Dolls premiered as a Broadway musical in the fall of 1950. Played by Sam Levene, Nathan Detroit now brought laughter through stage buffoonery and song.

But Arnold Rothstein was not one for the theater. His wife said that he had almost never attended stage plays or shows, and believed that he had never seen a moving picture.

So what might he have thought of Guys and Dolls, of the buffo song and dance of Nathan Detroit, formerly Arnold Rothstein, as in the headline of the New York American of November 6, 1929: WHO SHOT ROTHSTEIN?

Like the Harrison Act, the Volstead Act, which ushered in Prohibition on January 16, 1920, presented the opportunity for new and immense fortunes to be made. From this time until the end of his life, Rothstein was the investment banker for the country’s biggest bootlegging operations. Irving “Waxey Gordon” Wexler, who controlled almost all smuggling activities along the New York and New Jersey shoreline, worked for Rothstein. He made some $2 million a year from Prohibition. There is no telling what Rothstein made.

He and his wife now lived apart: Arnold at 20 West 72nd Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, at the 15-story Fairfield Hotel, which he owned; she directly across town at the grand apartment overlooking Central Park at 912 Fifth Avenue, the last place where they had lived together.

By Carolyn Rothstein’s own account, the marriage had ended almost the moment it began. She tells of his entreaties to her not to leave him. She does not tell us that she did leave him for long periods, as she desired, at his expense.

Arnold Rothstein had no yearning to leave Manhattan. His home was Broadway. Heroin got shipped, he didn’t.

But his wife had become a devotee of luxury liners and fine European hotels and châteaux. State Department records show that she went to Europe almost annually beginning in the summer of 1914, five years into the marriage, when she sailed to England aboard the Aquitania. A passport photograph from 1919 shows her smiling haughtily, her dark hair bobbed, strings of pearls around her neck. Though she had no work, she usually stated her occupation as “actress.”

Her book tells of Arnold’s infidelities. There is no mention of the young merchant Robert Behar, of London, or of her return to London to be with him after her husband’s death. They were married there on June 3, 1929. Behar was 28 years old. Carolyn was 41, but she gave her age as 36.

She did not return to New York until January 4, 1933. She returned alone, calling herself Carolyn Rothstein Behar.

Carolyn renewed the copyright of her book in 1962, when she was in her 74th year. It is then that she vanishes.

Nobody knows how he met Bobbie Winthrop. Some of the biggest of the Broadway vamps would feed their sugar daddies and suitors to him. He lavished gifts and favors on the girls, and they led their fat-cat suckers to his lair. Perhaps one of the vamps introduced him to Bobbie, who was an aspiring showgirl. Perhaps Bobbie brought her own sweet self around. They were almost certainly together by 1913, when she was 22 or 23 and he was 31. And they stayed together. If there was love in his life, Bobbie Winthrop was it.

Bobbie seems to have been born in New York in 1890. She was a good-time blonde. She was probably everything that Carolyn was not.

She seems to have died from booze and pneumonia. Her body was found by Rothstein at her place, at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, on September 5, 1927. She was 37. On her death certificate, her occupation is stated as “writer.” What did she write? And where did it go?

When Bobbie Winthrop died, he bought a new one. Her name was Inez Norton. It is likely she was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1901 or 1902.

One account has her as a Baptist Sunday-school teacher as a girl. She was said to have fallen in love with army captain Claude Norton when she was 15 years old, and run off and married him. A son, Claude Norton Jr., was born about 1918. The marriage apparently ended in divorce, and she took the child.

It was probably in September 1927, the month of Bobbie Winthrop’s death, that Inez met Arnold Rothstein at Lindy’s, where he regularly held court in his private booth. The telephones at Lindy’s, Circle 3317 and Circle 10490, belonged as much to Rothstein as they did to Lindy’s. Many believed that he had a piece of the joint.

Beautiful, blonde Inez is supposed to have found work that season as a chorus girl in the latest edition of the Ziegfeld Follies, which had opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre in August, less than three weeks before the death of Bobbie Winthrop.

In the New Year, Inez Norton was residing at Rothstein’s Fairfield Hotel. He called her son, 10-year-old Claude, the Sweet Potato Kid.

During this time, Rothstein’s attorneys, under Maurice Cantor, were drafting his will according to his instructions. The Last Will and Testament of Arnold Rothstein, signed on March 1, 1928, was a document of seven pages.

It bequeathed $50,000 each to his brothers, Edgar and Jack, and $15,000 to his attendant, Thomas Farley. After these bequests, the rest of his estate was to be equally divided.

Half was to be placed in an investment trust, with its net income to be paid to “Caroline Rothstein who is now my wife, during her life.”

The remaining half of the estate, allotted as follows, was also to be placed in trust. The net income from $75,000 of that trust was to be paid to Sidney Stajer for a period of 10 years.

Eighty percent of the net income from the remaining amount was to be divided equally between his brothers, Edgar and Jack.

The other 20 percent of the net income from the remaining amount was to be divided equally between his business associates Samuel Brown and William Wellman.

Some months later, a new will was drafted. There was one significant change: after the bequests to Edgar Rothstein, Jack Rothstein, and Thomas Farley, a third, rather than half, of the remaining estate was to be placed in trust to provide income for his wife. The one-sixth that remained of this half of his estate was to be placed in trust to provide income for a period of 10 years to Inez Norton.

This was the will to which Rothstein’s hand would be placed as he lay dying, the so-called deathbed will, which bears a frail X rather than a signature.

Carolyn Rothstein, whose bequest had been reduced by one-sixth, and those members of the Rothstein family who were not named in the will, perceived a conspiracy against them by Rothstein’s lawyer and mistress. Abe the Just rushed to court with a petition to invalidate the will six days after the death of his son. Three days later, Carolyn signed an affidavit supporting the appointment of Abraham Rothstein as the temporary administrator of the estate and also noting that Inez Norton was “in no wise related to the decedent” and thus had “no claim to decedent’s bounty.”

Court actions and legal problems would go on for years and in the end bring Inez nothing. She did appear in a 1930 stage play based upon the murder of Arnold Rothstein. Room 349 received much attention owing to its subject, but none of the attention was good. It closed after 15 performances on Broadway. Inez sought to portray herself in the 1934 Fox motion-picture version of Now I’ll Tell (released a mere three weeks after the publication of Carolyn Rothstein’s book). The role went to Alice Faye, but Inez was given a small part with four lines in a scene set at Lindy’s.

In September 1935, Inez was to marry Thomas C. Neal Jr., of Chicago. He was 24. Her age was given as 32. Young Neal was a college man. Better yet, he was the only son of a retired Chicago bank president. But the old man came to New York on an aeroplane and called a halt to their plans. I hope, for her sake, that the banker had to buy her off to protect his smitten mooncalf son. It is then that Inez Norton vanishes, as does the Sweet Potato Kid.

After the autopsy, Rothstein’s body was claimed by his brother Jack. Upon arrival at the Riverside Memorial Chapel, on West 76th Street at Amsterdam Avenue, the body was placed in a bronze-finished mahogany casket, which was said to have cost 5 grand, the equivalent of about 54 grand in today’s devalued currency.

Abraham Rothstein arranged for the funeral services to be conducted, on the morning of November 7, by Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung of the Jewish Center, one of the most revered and distinguished rabbis of the day.

On January 20, 1930, the Riverside Memorial Chapel petitioned the surrogate’s court to collect $5,399 in funeral expenses.

The body was laid to rest in Union Field Cemetery, in Ridgewood, Queens. When I lingered there among the Rothstein gravestones, I saw that most bore words of Hebrew and the English word “beloved”—BELOVED SON, BELOVED HUSBAND SON AND BROTHER, BELOVED DAUGHTER, and so on. But there is no Hebrew carved into the rock of Arnold Rothstein’s grave, nor is he “beloved.” He is simply dead, and all it says is MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE.

When, following Jewish custom, I went to place a stone atop the granite of his grave, I saw that there were two already there. I sometimes wonder, until this very day, who put them there. I will never know. Something as plain and as simple as that, two stones in the cemetery breeze atop a grave, and it is beyond knowing.

Those stones speak more to me than the lesser mystery of Arnold Rothstein’s murder. Not lesser in that the mystery of that murder can be solved: it cannot, and it never will be. Lesser in that the mystery of the stones, set in silent sacred breeze, is more illimitable and vaster-beckoning by far. One stone for good, perhaps, and then a stone for evil—and what of the third, which I myself place there beside them, not really knowing why?

On Sunday night, November 4, 1928, Arnold Rothstein went from his West 57th Street office to Lindy’s. There was a call there, inviting him to a card game in the room of George “Hump” McManus, a gambling friend, at the Park Central Hotel, on West 56th Street. Rothstein sent his chauffeur, Eugene Reimer, to fetch him more money.

Rothstein went to Room 349 of the Park Central Hotel. He is said to have played cards for high stakes, tens of thousands of dollars, for a while with McManus and other men. He was not there for long. At about 10 minutes to 11 that night, a house dick found him moving slowly on a staircase. “I’ve been shot,” Rothstein said.

That’s all he would say. He never said who had shot him, or when, where, or why. He did not even say if he knew the answers to any of these things. The headline on the front page of The New York Times the next morning said: ROTHSTEIN, GAMBLER, MYSTERIOUSLY SHOT; REFUSES TO TALK. More than 75 years later, there is little more to be added to those words.

Rothstein was dead the following morning, Election Day, November 6, 1928. Whatever had happened—and no one appears to have known exactly what did happen, and no one ever would—it shook the secret system of the city to its bones.

The source of the waves that shook that system remained unknown. The murder was not properly investigated. It was not even properly covered up. Evidence was recklessly hidden, discarded, compromised—not so much in conspiracy as in anxiety. Rothstein’s body had not even been fingerprinted—the most routine part of an autopsy—so that there were no fingerprints to compare with any that had been left. It was as if no one, lawman or criminal, wanted to be close to this murder in any way. There was a disorganized, unconvincing trial of McManus and other shambles of legal diversionary formalities. Nothing came of them but more confusion, more disquiet.

There was fear throughout Tammany Hall. The police commissioner, Joseph A. Warren, Mayor Walker’s former law partner, was replaced by the benign figure of Grover Whalen, under whom, in 1930, there was published the pretense of a formal investigative report, In the Matter of the Charges Preferred Against Various Members of the Police Department in Connection with the Shooting of Arnold Rothstein, which was little more than a chump-chop stew of subterfuge, expedience, whitewash, and unknowing.

The impact of Arnold Rothstein’s death, and the mystery, fear, and disquiet surrounding it, led to Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt’s commission in 1931 of the jurist Samuel Seabury to fully investigate the government of the city of New York. As Herbert Mitgang recalls in Once upon a Time in New York, Mayor Jimmy Walker, sharply dressed in blue, observed before he took the stand, “There are three things a man must do alone. Be born, die, and testify.”

The investigation led to Mayor Walker’s resignation, on September 1, 1932. The former mayor departed for Paris, a city that was still a city. New York’s Jazz Age was over. It had ended when Rothstein took that bullet in the gut. All since then had been but reverberation.

That bullet: from nowhere, like those stones in the breeze atop the grave.

From the moment Rothstein was shot until today, the mystery has grown. Speculation has roamed wildly in a desire to identify not only the hand that pulled the trigger but also the interplay of hidden forces that controlled the hand.

Speculation has led nowhere, nor will it lead anywhere hence. The source of the bullet is like the source of the stones. The bullet from nowhere, the theody in the gloam, the silent stones: a true mystery and its answer are one.