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Willie Wheeler
Willie01

First Appearance:

June 16th, 1980

Known Relatives:

Mrs. Wheeler, Mother
Mr. Wheeler, Father (Deceased)
Mr. Wheeler II, Uncle/Step-Father
Keenan Wheeler, Younger Brother
Seth Wheeler, Younger Brother

Created By:

Max Allan Collins &
Rick Fletcher

Can Be Found:

Dick Tracy: The Collins Casefiles Vol. 3

Willie Wheeler was the teen-aged son of Mrs. Wheeler. He had two younger brothers, and they all lived in a low-income area of the city.

Criminal Career

When Willie's mother began having respiratory problems that often left her bedridden, Willie decided to take action. He acquired a pair of roller skates, and would skate through populated areas of town, snatching purses. Willie would later take only the cash out of wallets and drop the purses and other personal effects into mailboxes, believing that they would be returned to their owners. He intended to save the money that he stole and move his family to Arizona, where he believed that the dry climate would help improve his mother's condition.

Willie was missing school to commit his thefts, and his younger brother Keenan soon realized what was happening. Keenan confronted Willie, saying he was prepared to fight his brother rather than let him continue his criminal activities. Their younger brother Seth stopped them from fighting, and Willie left to steal more purses.

Breakdown

On that day, Willie inadvertently became involved in the case of Bernard Breakdown, who had kidnapped Diet Smith. Willie, on his roller skates, stole the suitcase with one million dollars cash in it from Dick Tracy. Willie was amazed at how much he had stolen, and when he saw a newspaper headline about the missing industrialist, he realized the implications of what he had done.

Skating through the city, Willie caught the attention of Lizz, who had heard about the young purse-snatcher on wheels from her fellow officer Lee Ebony. Willie confessed to Lizz and asked how he could help. Lizz told Willie where to meet Diet Smith Industries employee Mark Wright to drop off the ransom money, believing that he could get there faster on his skates than a police car could get through crowded city traffic.

Willie met Wright, who was grateful for his return of the money. Willie then led police to Breakdown's hideout by riding on the bumper of the kidnappers' car.

After Breakdown was arrested and Diet Smith and Dick Tracy were freed, Willie met Tracy for the first time. Willie was praised for his bravery in helping the police, but was still made to answer for his petty thefts. Tracy spoke to the juvenile court judge on the young man's behalf, and Willie received a suspended sentence. Willie vowed never to break the law again, and Tracy and Ebony took a special interest in the Wheeler family.

Torcher

By this time, Mrs. Wheeler's condition had improved, and she arranged to move her family to a better apartment. Their current building had been targeted by the arsonist called Torcher, and Willie observed the building superintendent, Charley, taking a bribe from Torcher. Willie confronted Charley, but the superintendent denied any wrongdoing. Willie did not believe Charley, and he arranged for his family to remain in the building after the other tenants had all agreed to leave.

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That night, the Wheelers heard looters outside their apartment and they barricaded the door. After the looters left, Mrs. Wheeler insisted that they were leaving in the morning and she put her sons to bed. Willie and Keenan sneaked out of bed and investigated the building, finding evidence of Torcher's arson attempts. They believed that they had stopped the potential fire and returned to bed.

Torcher had set more than one fire, however, and the building was soon engulfed in flames. Willie kept a cool head and helped lead his family to safety. Once the Wheelers were outside the building, Willie asked a police officer on the scene to take him to Dick Tracy. Willie was prepared to identify the man he had seen bribing Charley. With the help of Junior Tracy's skills as a police sketch artist, an accurate picture of Torcher was produced.

Torcher died while attempting to evade capture, and the Wheelers' landlord was arrested as part of the arson plot. The Wheelers moved to their new apartment, and Willie was again praised for his alertness and bravery.

Later Life

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Willie and his family were present at the wedding of Junior and Sparkle Plenty.

His mother later married his late father's brother, himself a widower. The Wheelers later moved into a house on the same street as Junior and Sparkle. Willie was significantly older than the members of the newly-revived Crimestoppers Club, but he offered the younger kids some advice from time to time.

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