It was 3 a.m. in lower Manhattan, the time of night the city gave up its dead.
The Peeping Toms came out round midnight. The deli stick-ups commenced around 1 a.m. Buildings went up in flames between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. After the bars closed at four, the second-story men and vandals struck. At 5 a.m., the jumpers who’d been agonizing all night took their fatal dives from rooftops and fifth-floor fire escapes. All as reliable as a German train schedule. Only grisly auto accidents failed to keep regular schedules.
Which was why Weegee the Famous slept days and prowled the city at night with his camera, when the worst of the worst happened.
But 3 a.m., that’s when the murder victims turned up. That’s what put money in his pocket. The tabloids paid okay for photos of fire victims and jumpers, especially emotional shots of spectators gasping at people trapped in a fire or gawking to see if someone would take their final leap in life. Smash-ups paid okay if they were bad enough. But the city’s numerous tabloids paid best for nice 8x10s of murder victims.
Photographing murder victims wasn’t difficult these days, what with the raging mob wars. Weegee could rely on one a night. On rare nights when no gangster turned up dead, there were always the stray husband-wife or wife-husband murders, or the loner who no longer could stand the radio blaring from the next-door apartment of a hard-of-hearing old biddy.