Richie Lonergan – Character in Divide the Dawn
“A wild-eyed, windswept, floppy-booted, dirty-blond-haired fifteen year-old limps in the room like some forgotten, defective cur on a prison ship.”
Richie Lonergan (b. 1900), also known as Pegleg, is a gloomy, violent teenage gang leader who is emotionally stunted by a traumatic childhood. Almost completely catatonic, he has the ability to murder without remorse and has been known to beat much larger men in bareknuckle fist fights. When he was eight years-old, he was run over by a Brooklyn trolley that severed his leg at the knee. Richie relies on the German-Jew Abe Harms to speak and think for him. Even with his deficiencies, he is an important ally in the gang world due to all the teenagers that follow him and the many younger brothers he has.
Even though he can’t ride bicycles, he steals them and rents them out to kids in Brooklyn. In 1916, his mother Mary struck a deal with White Hand gang leader Dinny Meehan to open a bike shop that she would run, as long as Richie and his followers worked for the gang. In the process of deal-making, he knocked out dockboss Red Donnelly in a bareknuckle brawl in the alley behind the Dock Loaders’ Club. With Vincent Maher, Richie murdered Mick Gilligan in the Kirkman Soap Factory and tossed the body in a giant silo.
By 1917, family friend Wild Bill Lovett turned Richie and his followers against Meehan and made Richie kill Meehan’s enforcer Tommy Tuohey. But their revolt collapsed and Lovett was sent to World War I where it was reported he died in combat. By 1919, Richie then fell back into favor with Meehan until Lovett mysteriously appeared in Brooklyn and had Richie murder Mickey Kane, Meehan’s cousin, starting a blood feud and gang war between Lovett and Meehan.