A portion of the back of Empty's head had been surgically removed. He had heavy eyelids, prominent lips, and wore his short brown hair slicked back. He smoked cigarettes, typically wore a wide red necktie with a picture of a curvaceous woman in a bathing suit on it, and carried a thin metal strap that he would use to slap his subordinates' faces if they were disrespectful.
Williams had a habit of using the phrase "As a matter a' fact...".
Early Days[edit | edit source]
M.T. Williams had suffered a brain injury during a gang war. His head was operated on by the famous surgeon Wallen Peters (who reportedly later went insane). A portion of Williams' brain and skull were removed, leaving him with an indentation in the back of his skull. He then acquired the nickname "Empty".
Empty served time in prison for robbery. After his release, he resumed his criminal activities. He was arrested on several occasions, but was not convicted. He kept an attorney on retainer, and operated with a small gang.
The Diaper Heist[edit | edit source]
Empty Williams first came to Dick Tracy's attention when he and his two associates, Benny and Jimmy, hijacked a cargo truck containing 120,000 cotton cloth diapers. Williams had thought they were stealing a truck full of furs, and was frustrated when he discovered the mistake.
Determined to make a profit from the theft, Williams contacted Karl the Car Wash King, the owner of a successful chain of car wash parlors. Williams offered to sell Karl 120,000 cotton wiping cloths at 4 cents each, significantly less than the 60 cents Karl typically paid. When they met to exchange the goods, Karl saw that the cloths were in diaper boxes and refused to buy them. Williams (or one of his men) shot Karl and took the $5,000 cash he had brought. They then retreated to their hideout.
Identifying the Hijack Gang[edit | edit source]
Tracy had begun to stake out a restaurant called Jimmy's Grill, which he had learned that Williams and his gang frequented. Tracy summoned the driver of the hijacked truck to the restaurant to observe the patrons' comings and goings. When Benny arrived to get food for the gang, the driver recognized his voice and Tracy and the police followed Benny back to Empty's hideout.
When Empty discovered that Benny had been followed, he threw Benny out of an upstairs window, killing him. Empty and Jimmy then attempted to escape. Jimmy was shot by Sam Catchem as they descended a fire escape, and Empty had no choice but to try to flee though the coffee shop on the ground floor of the building.
Tracy and Empty engaged in a brief showdown in which they caught each others' reflection around a corner using a large metal coffee urn. Tracy shot through the wall, peppering Empty with plaster. Empty, thinking he'd been shot, gave himself up. Refusing to be taken into custody, Empty retrieved a second gun that he kept hidden in a cigarette machine. Empty shot Tracy in the arm, then fled.
On the Run with Bonnie[edit | edit source]
Empty went to his regular barber shop, which was run by Bonnie the Lady Barber. Bonnie, herself a former criminal, was in love with Empty and was devoted to him. She had prepared a special headpiece to disguise his misshapen skull, which Empty found to be an effective means of concealing his identity.
Tracy tracked Empty to Bonnie's shop and sent Sam to investigate. Empty, who was hiding in the next room, recognized Sam's voice and had Bonnie help him subdue the detective, telling her that he was a rival gang member. Empty and Bonnie knocked Sam unconscious, broke his 2-Way Wrist Radio, and sealed him inside a broken slot machine with his clothes soaked in ether. The two then tried to load the machine into their car, but abandoned it when they saw a police patrol car.
While Tracy and the police force were occupied with trying to locate and recover Sam, Empty and Bonnie fled town with her trailer home. They were married by a Justice of the Peace in the small town of Benton, and Bonnie entrusted Empty with her life savings, believing it would help him to go straight.
Williams had no intention of giving up his life of crime, and tried to recruit Bonnie into aiding him in a bank robbery. When Bonnie refused, Williams left her in the trailer while he drove it off a cliff, where it struck a power line and burst into flames. Bonnie was killed, and Williams left in her car.
Running on Empty[edit | edit source]
Empty abandoned the car and boarded a bus, doubling back to the city. He knew he could not return to any of his old hideouts, but also believed that the police would not trace him back to the city. He took up residence in a children's tree house, surviving on milk and dairy goods that he stole from local houses during the night.
Tracy was able to track down Williams using information gathered from the drivers on the bus route. When he learned of the reports of the stolen dairy products, he and the police traced Williams to his tree house hideout. They attempted to use tear gas to flush out the fugitive, but Williams kicked the canisters back at the officers. When Tracy climbed up the tree to confront Williams, the tree (whose base had become rotted) collapsed. Tracy suffered only minor injuries, but Williams was seriously wounded in the fall. He was taken to a hospital where he later succumbed and died. His last words included his habitual "As a matter of fact ,."
Notes [edit | edit source]
- Williams' 2 subordinates, Benny and Jimmy, change names during the course of the story. The man with the glasses is originally identified as Jimmy, while the tougher-looking one with the bushy eyebrows is called Benny. Later, though, the bespectacled criminal who goes to buy food and is followed by Tracy is identified as Benny.
- There does not seem to be any connection between Empty's associate Jimmy and Jimmy's Grill, where the police conducted a stakeout to find Empty.
- The conclusion of the Empty Williams case coincides with the birth of Dick Tracy's daughter Bonny Braids. There is no apparent connection between her name and Bonnie, Empty's accomplice.
- Empty's marriage to Bonnie may not have been legitimate. While the Justice of the Peace who performed the ceremony was genuine, they would not have had time to obtain a marriage license or a blood test prior to their time as fugitives.
- The story of Empty Williams has been cited by current Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton as one of his favorites.
- There is no apparent connection between Empty Williams and "Cappy" Williams, an associate of Shaky.