The Untouchables

Season 4 Episode 14

The Speculator

Aired Thursday 9:30 PM Jan 08, 1963 on ABC

Episode Recap

1929. Eliot Ness gets an anonymous phone tip: a big meet at a warehouse on Grover Street, Nitti and all the boys will be there. At the warehouse, about twenty hoods are putting their record books into a huge trunk. Since Al Capone got nailed because of bookkeeping, from now on nobody is to keep any written records; there will only be one central file, and the bookkeeper will be Leo Stazak. Leo tells the boys that records, with notes on accounts receivable, would tip the Feds as to how the speak owners do business. Leo will run the central file, everybody else is just to use the phone and deal in cash. Then Nitti gives a little talk: they all know what happened to Artie Graff, he ran a good speak--but he got busted because Ness got a hold of his records. Nitti adds laconically, "The Organization has voted to give his widow a few bucks in memory of her departed husband."

Ness and his men use their cars to crash through the warehouse doors. Nitti tells his boys, "No guns. We're clean." Leo Stazak douses the records with a gallon of gasoline, and turns them into a blazing inferno. Ness takes all the hoods downtown. In the interrogation room, a defiant Nitti ironically tells Ness the fire was no big deal...what's he trying to do, make a federal case out of it? Ness says it IS a federal case. But with the evidence a pile of ashes, Ness has no choice but to let Nitti go. Nitti tells Ness he doesn't like being interrogated like this...and as a parting shot Nitti says, "Ness, you operate like a cheap hood."

Outside the Federal Building, Nitti is looking for his car, which is nowhere in sight. Nitti grouses to Leo Stazak, "My boys are probably still lookin' for that 2-bit lawyer of mine! I can't depend on nobody." Leo offers Nitti a ride in his car. Nitti likes the way Leo torched the records; Nitti says ask for something and it's his. Leo's modest request is that Nitti give his cousin Angie (who is driving the car) a job. Nitti agrees, and adds, "Peanuts, peanuts, nickels and dimes." Then Nitti says, "Tell me what you really want," and they both have a good laugh.

Nitti needs to raise $1.25-million, so he can buy a 60-truck convoy of Canadian whiskey. Leo says all he needs is 300-grand to start things rolling, and he'll double Nitti's money in the stock market. Leo manages to accomplish this by getting Anton Ryba, a master forger who owns a print shop, to run off duplicate stock certificates. A week later, after liquidating, Leo gives Nitti over half a million bucks in cash. Nitti says, "Let it ride." But then, there's the stock market crash: October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. Leo can no longer use his phony explanation (that he's picking winning stocks all the time) to cover the fact that he was really using phony certificates. But Leo plays the stock market crash to his advantage: he tells Nitti the half million in cash is gone, when he really has the cash in his suitcase. He'll get away with it, if only he can fast-talk Nitti out of filling him full of lead.

Leo says he guessed wrong, but the whole world guessed wrong on the market. Nitti won't kill the guy for trying. Then Leo outlines a new scheme. Maybe they can get the $1.25-million whiskey convoy without money. (The whole time Leo is explaining his scheme, Nitti is resting his right arm on the suitcase filled with half a million bucks, the money Leo said was lost in the stock market crash!) Leo says they can get the whiskey in return for services. Nitti sarcastically snaps, "Fine, fine...and whatta we pay for this? What are we, a bunch of Indians? Whatta we give 'em for this, beads?" Leo explains that they can get their share of the profits by offering the whiskey owners storage and distribution for their booze.

Meanwhile, Ness pays a visit to Anton Ryba about the phony stock certificates he printed. After Ness leaves, Leo pays Ryba a visit. Leo doesn't want him talking to Ness...or worse, to Leo pays Ryba off with a slug in the pump. That night, Nitti is at the Bazaar Baths club (specializing in Turkish baths), getting a rubdown; Ness walks in. Nitti quips, "I got the whole place tonight, Ness. Why don't you go down to the Y?" Ness brings up how much Nitti must have lost on Black Tuesday. Nitti says, "Yeah, the whole world went down the drain," and then he adds sarcastically, "except you guys work for the government. But you ain't interested in money, are ya, Ness?" Nitti says he'll never get him on a tax rap, and then Nitti heads to the showers. Ness follows him into the shower room and keeps talking. Nitti can't believe it, "You still here?" The masseur hoses Nitti down with two hoses. Ness talks about the stocks. Nitti retorts, "I told ya I lost, whatta ya gonna do now, laugh?" Then Nitti snaps at the masseur, "Whatta ya tryin' ta do, drill holes in me?!"

Ness shows Nitti the phony stock certificates. After Ness leaves, Leo visits Nitti, who is now in the steam room. A steaming Nitti snaps at Leo, "What if I fit you out for a pair of cement boots?!" Leo fast-talks his way out of it, saying he didn't double-cross Nitti, his cousin Angie did...Angie pocketed the cash and faked the certificates, so he killed him; Leo swears he is loyal. With a phone call, Nitti verifies that Angie is dead. Using some curious logic, Nitti says, "Any guy who'd kill his own cousin is loyal clear through." But later Ness tails Leo, and finds him with the cash, and arrests him; Leo was tried and executed for murder. As for Nitti, he was sent up for 18 months, on the tax evasion charge he'd tried so hard to avoid. But he let bygones be bygones when he sent flowers to Leo Stazak's funeral.