Riverville Murder - Chapter 31
Case of the Riverville Murder
A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack
The minute Nancy saw Allan, she said, “It’s been too long, Allan, I hope you like beef stew.”
Despite Allan’s persistence that he hadn’t come to have dinner, Nancy insisted.
“Don’t argue, Allan. When her mind is made up, you’ll get nowhere, Scott said as he handed Allan a Scotch over ice.
A horn sounded at nine-forty-five just as Scott finished his breakfast. He grabbed his briefcase, kissed Nancy, and went to the waiting car for the trip to Somerville. “Had a great time with the boys last night, thanks. And Nancy’s beef stew is terrific,” Allan said as the car moved from the curb.chapt
At the Somerville police station, Scott and Allan are greeted like old friends by Winston Grant. After being escorted to a conference room, they find an elaborate tray of pastry, a large coffee maker, and all the necessary condiments sitting next to the tray.
“I figure it’s the universal coffee break time, so help yourselves, men.”
“So, you don’t think the young man Clark was ever connected to the Compton Hill gang. He does seem a little young for them. I’ll accept that. Do you think he was attempting to steal them for Dino Markos? I doubt that Clark, on his own, knew what to do with the guns had he been successful. Did either Clark or Markos mention the name Hofstadter?”
Chief grant sipped his coffee thoughtfully before saying, “Hofstadter? No, I don’t recall that name. It is possible that Clark was working for Markos. Otherwise, why would he even know him? Do you think, whoever this Captain Callan is, that he’s Markos’s buyer?”
“It looks that way, doesn’t it? Hofstadter has to fit in there somewhere. We know he is associated with Callan. I’ll try to pry it out of Markos when I question him.”
“Good luck with that, Scott,” Grant said. “Markos is a polite, quiet guy, but underneath he is tough as nails.”
“I have handled tough as nails before. That doesn’t bother me. Please have Markos brought in.”
“I will, but first, who in the hell is Callan?” Grant asked.
“Oh, yes, I almost forgot you didn’t know about Callan, sorry. He is a captain in the Boston Police Department and was an advisor and informer for Goddard. Possibly, his second in command.”
“God help us,” Grant blurted out. “How did you ever find that out?”
Scott went on to explain the whole thing, from Callan’s being overly interested in Scott’s findings to Mark Simmons’s suspicions. Then to the shooting of Simmons and the attempt on Scott’s life. And explained the temporary detectives on his staff, the bug, and recorder. Purposely leaving out Alice Nadeau.
Scott then went on to say, “It’s almost sure that Callan was the leak, before the raid, that allowed Goddard’s lieutenants to escape. Why Goddard didn’t disappear is beyond me unless he thought his bar under the Expressway was safe.”
Grant sat with his coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. And a look of disbelief on his face.
“And I thought it was over the day you arrested Goddard. What a spiderweb you are trying to untangle.”
Scott just smiled as Grant lifted the phone, pushed a button, and said, “Bring Markos to my conference room immediately.”
During the pause, Allan refilled his cup and selected another Danish. “More coffee, anyone?” he asked.
Grant accepted, saying, and you’ve been in on all this, have you, Allan? What a grand education in police work. I hope you appreciate that.”
“Yes, Sir, and gratefully.”
Markos, being pushed through the doorway by an officer, almost sent the pastry table flying. Allan moved quickly to catch Markos before he fell. He shrugged Allan off and glared at the officers.
“Was that really needed, officer?” Grant sternly said to the cop.
“He was giving me a verbal and physical hard time coming here, Sir.”
Scott spoke up, saying, Take the handcuffs off, officer. There is no need for them in here.”
Looking to his chief for affirmation, the officer removed the handcuffs, then threw a glaring glance at Scott, turned, and stood with his back to the door.
“Please sit down, Mister Markos. Would you care for some coffee?”
Markos sat stiffly, crossed his arms, and frowned belligerently at Scott without answering.
“I have some straight-forward questions for you. Your answers today could determine how aggressively you will be prosecuted. Cooperation will be to your advantage.”
Markos all but ignored Scott and turned to Chief Grant. “Who in the hell does this guy think he is? Why should I tell him anything?”
“This man is the Chief Investigator out of the Massachusetts State Attorney’s office, which should give you a hint of the depth of trouble you are in. You’ll be wise to answer him and do it truthfully.”
Markos looked at Scott, for the first time, with an expression of resignation, then slumped down in his chair. “What is it you want from me?”
“First, do you know a man named Gus Hofstadter, or have you ever heard anyone mention his name in conversation?”
“No, to both questions.”
“Scott made an entry in a small notebook, then asked, You were a member of the Compton Hill Gang and know Nathan Goddard. Did you ever discuss selling guns with Goddard?”
“Are you kidding? Goddard doesn’t know I’m alive. I collected the “numbers” money from the barbershops and variety stores. Once in a while, I checked up on a girl or two to make sure they weren’t holding back any money from tricks. In those days, I was just a bug to most of the gang.”
“If you never discussed guns with Goddard, did you ever hear him talking of firearms to anyone else?” Scott continued.”
“He wasn’t up here very much, ya know – guess he spent his time in South Boston. One time I was sweeping up, and Goddard was in a room with some guys. Someone yelled down the hallway that he had a call about the guns. I got a little curious and asked around about getting a gun. Most people just laughed at me, but one guy laughingly told me there are plenty in the building – better grab one before they’re shipped to Ireland.”
“Did you hear who was calling Goddard that day?”
“I think so, but I don’t remember the name – Zebra, Zebroy, something like that.”
“Could it have been Zebrine?” Scott asked.
“Yea, yea, something like that -- could have been anything starting with a Z.”
“Now, about Captain Callan. How do you know about him? Was he ever at the warehouse? Did you see him with Goddard?
“Once,” Markos replied. “He was here with Mister Goddard, but I didn’t hear them talking. There was a lot of talk about Callan between some of the others, though. They always shut up when I was around. I figured maybe Callan was a sea captain, seeing that the guns were for Ireland.”
“You’re doing a good job, Dino. Would you like a cup of coffee? Then you can tell me about Bobby Clark. Are the two of you partners?”
Markos Shook his head and said, “No coffee, thanks. No, Bobby and me aint partners. I don’t remember where we met, but he is a friend. I told him about the guns, and Bobby asked me if I could sell them if he got into the warehouse and lifted them. He said we could split the money. I told him yes, I have a buddy in New York that kinda does that for a living -- is a supplier, you could say. I talked to my New York friend, and he agreed to buy the guns.”
“That’s interesting,” Scott said. “Where does your friend sell guns in New York?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never been with him for that. I know he has a hidden compartment in his truck that always has guns in it. I guess he either peddles them or people come to him. He once told me that all the big guys in the city come to him for guns. I figured he was bragging, trying to impress me.”
“Are you from New York, Dino?”
“You could say that,” Markos came back somewhat proudly. “My old man had a candy store in Queens where he did small-time bookmaking and ran a numbers game. The old man got put out of business when he wouldn’t pass off his bets, for a commission, to one of the big bookies. Because I knew all the old gent’s customers, I came East for my health after the funeral.”
“He was murdered. I’m so sorry,” Scott said.
“Was his own fault. He was stupid not to hand off the bets – too much power behind those big bookies to say no.”
“You’ve been very cooperative, Dino. I’ll try to see that you don’t get bunched in with the top men of the Compton Hill Gang for prosecution. That way, you won’t have federal charges against you. Chief Grant will keep me informed, and I’ll help wherever I can. In the meantime, do not give anyone a hard time. It will turn around and bite you.”
After Markos left. Scott asked Grant, “How old is Markos? He seems in the late twenties or early thirties, but I think he is younger. I’ve known teenagers who try to rush maturity by dressing and acting older in an attempt to fit-in with older men.”
“I’ve had the same thought but haven’t looked into it. One of the detectives must have a sheet on him. I’ll let you know the minute I know his age.”
“Thanks, and please let me know when the state’s court days are and the assigned judge’s name. I mean, for the underlings of the gang.” Scott said as he left the building.”
“Are you going to try to get Markos and Clark off, Boss?” Allan asked on the way back to Boston.
“No, I couldn’t do that. They both need some rehabilitation, and they will not get that in with hardened criminals. I think Clark, as does Markos, has mitigating circumstances, namely a hard life growing up. If I find this to be true, I’ll write a report regarding both of them and present it to the DA and the presiding judge.”
Back in Boston, Scott checked his phone messages, pushed most aside, and called Matt Hart.
Matt answered instantly, saying, “I’m glad you called. I tried to get you in Somerville, but you were heading back. You asked for checks on Gus Hofstadter, Ned Zebrine, and Chuck Cressey. They came today. Will you be here tomorrow?”
“No, I can’t,” Scott replied. There is too much going on at the Italian Club that is being recorded. Lloyd Qualter and Al Guatino are reporting two or three times a day with things going on there. Occasionally I’ll have them bring the recorder in, and Annie transcribes the material, then they return to the club. Please send the reports to me by messenger. They are as crucial as the recordings in setting up an arrest.”
“Can do,” Matt said, “But please, keep me informed. I’m curious about Mark Simmons. Any word from him?”
Not a word. I’ll check with his family. The way they took to each other, I think he is mighty happy to be with the Hendersens, and that is beneficial for healing.”
“Yes, that was a good move on your part, Scott. But don’t you think he would be happy anywhere he is safe?”
“Naturally,” Scott answered. “You had to be there, though, to see the immediate bond between Mark and the Hendersens. In about ten-minutes, Mark changed from a placid recovering patient into a vibrant young man with a perpetual smile.”
“In any event, I’ll be happy when Simmons is able to come onboard. You’re lucky. The messenger service is in the building right now. The information about Gus Hofstadter, Ned Zebrine, and Chuck Cressey is on the way. You should have it in an hour or so – hope it helps with an arrest.”
Scott discarded several more message slips, people trying to sell him stuff, and made a couple of more calls when the hand radio made a squeaking noise, and Guatino’s voice came out of the set. “You there, Mister Wadsworth?”
“Yes, Al, what’s going on?”
“We thought you should know. You were the topic of conversation at the club for an hour or more this morning. Callan is worried that you are still messing around with The C Street gang, not being satisfied with the harm you have done already. This Hofstadter guy says he can get some out of state talent to put you away if Callan wants. Callan says he’ll think about it, seeing his own people couldn’t handle the job. You better be very careful from now on. Get some protection.”
“I didn’t think Callan would stop at one attempt. Thanks for the heads-up, but I have more protection than you know about, Al. I’m expecting an FBI report on Hofstadter to be delivered any minute now. I’ll know then just where he comes from and how powerful he is there. If I find it’s legal, I’ll consider a pre-emptive jump at Hofstadter and get him out of the picture. Anything else going on there?”
“Yes, Sr, Callan is telling Hofstadter how angry he is at Jason Atkins because he can’t get Ned Zebrine and Chuck Cressey moving fast enough in recruiting replacements. He says he’ll through them out if they don’t produce.”
“Interesting.” Scott comments. “What does he think he will do then? He’ll have no one.”
“You and Buck come to my law office first thing tomorrow, and we’ll get all that transcribed. Also, I must give you lessons in proper radio procedure.”
“Boss, I don’t want to interfere,” Allan reluctantly said, “but don’t you think we ought to get those bullet-proof vests you requisitioned? Every other state cop had them issued weeks ago.”
“My God, I’m neglecting your safety, Allan. I’ve been so involved with logistics, I completely forgot about the vests. Please, forgive me, and don’t ever be reluctant to bring something important to my attention.”
“How about Buck, Al, and Mark, when he gets here? Can you up-date the requisition to include them?” Allan asked.
“I’ll do it right now, in case they don’t have them, and let the quartermaster know you will pick the vests up first thing in the morning. We can always return two if Buck and Al have theirs. I’ll walk to work.”
“Oh, yea, it’s my turn to buy coffee, Alan. How about it?”
“On my way, Boss.”
The messenger from the statehouse arrived soon after Allan left. “Please sign here, Mister Wadsworth. Big rush, huh? -- must be pretty important, huh?”
“You’ll undoubtedly never know, my friend,” Scott said as he tipped the man five-dollars.
Scott shuffled quickly through the sheets and found a stapled batch of six pages with Hofstadter’s name at the top. What the pages revealed astonished Scott, and he couldn’t believe this man was free in society. Sixteen warrants for outstanding traffic violations. That alone is enough to keep him in city jail for, at the very least, a week, even if he paid the fines. Two counts of bodily harm with intent to murder, and wanted for suspicion of bank robbery on Long Island. Then, the small things; suspicion of extortion, suspicion of organized crime activities, including prostitution and importing art without proper licensing, and of course, evading arrest; all emanating from various New York State agencies.
What an ideal citizen, Scott thought, if, in fact, he is a citizen.
Scott read on to reveal that Gustloff Hofstadter is indeed not a U.S. citizen, rather a Swiss citizen. Gustloff Hofstadter, at age forty-three, entered the country six years ago on an educational visa.
When Allan returned with the coffee, Scott read parts of Hofstadter’s report and said, “Obviously, the authorities don’t check on the expiration of these visas, or have never been able to tie this guy down to any one place. On their behalf, like so many small government functions, this one is probably understaffed and with insufficient funding to follow up on every visa infraction. I suppose the police know of this but can do nothing until they can arrest Hofstadter. It appears he is a slippery character, well versed in evading detection. It would be interesting, and possibly helpful, to know Hofstadter’s international background. Frank Gray can do that quickly through Consolidated News Service.”
Allan walked over to Scott’s desk, a sign he had something significant to say. Scott looked up, and Allan said, “Is it possible you are putting more importance on this Hofstadter visa thing than necessary? He’s here now and wants something from Callan. When we bag him, all the rest will take care of itself, don’t you think? Boss, I think you might be letting personal political agenda creep in here. I understand you have a large appetite for information and facts. That appetite can often, and unnecessarily, muddle up something straight-forward. If you, for curiosities sake, want to know Hofstadter’s life history, you can turn to Inspector Sullivan or Director Malison,”
“Sergeant, you continue to surprise me. Recently, about Nadeau having one-up on Callan. Then reminding me of the vests, and now, pointing out something that should be obvious to me in my position, and is, actually. You’re right; my curiosity can push relevance aside. Thank you for this, my friend, and for taking my advice about speaking up.”
“Happy to, Boss,” Allan said and returned to his seat by the window, feeling a particular pride in himself and the Boss.
The records of Ned Zebrine and Chuck Cressey, quickly scanned by Scott, reveal two hardened criminals in their mid-thirties. Both have done prison time for various small crimes. Jason Atkins is a story unto itself, having never been arrested for even a traffic violation. It gets interesting when Scott reads, he is the son of a Police Chief in a small, obscure town in the south-western part of Rhode Island. A sub-note indicates the chief, Danial Atkins, was federally investigated several years ago as being a go-between for the east coast Massachusetts gangs and the Rhode Island gangs. Insufficient evidence was found for an indictment.
Scott quickly radios Guatino, “Scott here, over.”
Guatino, here, what can I do for you, Boss, over.”
“Are you still at the club, and is Jason Atkins there? over.”
“Yes, they are all here today. You’ll want to hear this recording, over.”
“Absolutely. See you in the morning, out.”
“We have a lot to listen to tomorrow, Allan. I’ll go into these reports thoroughly at home tonight. Let’s get out of here.”
As Scott settled in the car’s seat the next morning, he turned to Allan and said,” I want to run something by you. Why do you think the son of a policeman, namely Jason Atkins, would wind up a lieutenant in a gang like the C Street gang? His father is a Police Chief.”
“Hell, Boss. I’m no psychiatrist. I’ve known several guys to end up bad, in one way or another. I could never figure that out either. It’s not like they grew up poor in a bad neighborhood and had to struggle for respect. They were all from reasonably affluent families leading average held-together lives. A couple actually graduated from college.”
“Well, we don’t know a thing about Atkins home life, but his father, being a Police Chief, suggests it must have been about the same. Although there is some unresolved question, from the federal investigation, of the chief playing both sides against the middle,” Scott said.
“Then, it must be one of two things,” Allan replied. “Either his dad is dirty and brought Atkins up the same way, or he didn’t have a good home life and revolted, ending up a criminal. There is one thing I know about bad cops – most are bullies. Perhaps Jason Atkins was abused.”
“I’m inclined to think your first analysis is the stronger of the two. The Feds are seldom wrong, you know. It could explain why Jason Atkins has absolutely no record. I’ll make some inquiries about Jason and the family. I have some resources in Rhode Island.”
Lloyd Qualter is waiting in the Charles Street South office when Scott and Allan arrive. “Where’s Al this morning, Buck?” Scott inquires.
“I guess he got some bad food somewhere. He told me he was sick all night and felt terrible, looked it too – all pale and sweating. I hope it isn’t the flu. I sat next to him all day.”
“Sorry to hear it,” Scott said. But life goes on, so let’s get the play-back going.
“I set the counter to zero last night, listened to the whole day’s recording, and made a note of the essential parts. That way, we can move through it quickly.”
Qualter re-wound the wire until the counter returned to Zero, then fast-forward to seven. This is Callan chewing out Atkins about the lack of recruits from Rhode Island and threatening to talk to his father.
Allan comments, “We weren’t far off on that one, Boss.”
Following that, they listened to Hofstadter badgering Callan that he absolutely needs the guns from Somerville, that he made an agreement with Goddard, and buyers in New York are waiting for them. If they don’t get them soon, Callan can forget any further help from New York. This was followed by a long rant of foul words from Callan, directed at Scott for almost busting up a good thing.
Fast-forwarding again to sixty-two, Qualter said, “In between, they talked about Alice Nadeau – that she needs punishing for holding back the money for the guns until some fool got caught trying to steal them.”
The wire then revealed Callan cursing again at Scott and telling them how much he regretted his man failing to kill him, that he is hoping to get another try very soon. He tried softening that by bragging how he took care of the squealing Simmons kid. They were quiet for a while before Callan told Atkins to contract some experienced thieves to break into the warehouse and get the guns. He will not tolerate failure. Callan then told Atkins to ask his dad for help if he can’t do it himself, and while he was at it, to find a reliable hit man for that Wadsworth bastard.
Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired. Oh, and in case you didn't notice.... he's a pipe smoker too.
Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2020
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