Case of the Riverville Murder
A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack
Chapter Twenty Six
“With the cooperation of Reverend Carlton Mac Elroy and yourself, I think it will go like clock-work. Reverend Mac Elroy feels as you do but is willing to step around ethics to save Mark’s life. To answer your other question, Mark Simmons will only be at your place for a matter of hours. Allan and I will come to the funeral home, as towel and lab coat delivery people, in a panel truck with proper signage on its sides. We will take him out in a large hamper. After he is safely in Riverville, I can discuss the funeral with you and Reverend Mac Elroy. Keep in mind that the funeral is only for the family. Normally, there would be a large contingent of police at the funeral. That is OK, but they cannot enter the church. I will talk to the Chief about that problem.”
“When do you anticipate all this will take place?” Mister Gregg asked.
“As soon as I hear from the hospital that Mark can be discharged, we will finalize everything. Arrangements have been made to keep Mark at the hospital longer than necessary for his safety and allow time to figure out what to do with him when he is released.”
“I guess we have covered everything, Mister Wadsworth. I’ll await your next phone call, and trust that all will go as planned.”
“I’m surrounded by the best people I can find,” Scott replied with determination in his voice. I’m very confident that you have nothing to worry about.”
With that statement, Scott rose from his chair, followed by Allan. Allan stepped to the door and opened it, as Scott extended his hand to Mister Gregg -- “Happy to meet you, Sir. This will be over soon.”
Lloyd Qualter appeared at Scott’s office at the appointed time and walked right in.
“Good afternoon, Boss and Allan. What’s the important news you have for me?”
“Have a seat, Buck. Do you remember the woman from the raid on Goddard’s bar, Alice Nadeau? Well, she is back in the picture. Allan, Mic Mitchell, and I were in Palmer’s Bar, at the Palmer House, and she appeared at our table and gave me the names of Goddard’s three lieutenants, whose names are Jason Atkins, the top man, and the sub lieutenants are named Cressey and Zebrine. She saw them in a restaurant in Northborough, so they might be living in that vicinity. We are looking into their records to find their first names and, with some luck, their photos.” Scott replied.
“Then, you don’t have them yet?”
“I expect them momentarily. In the meantime, your activities for this office have changed. While tailing Callan, he might, from time to time, lead you to the place called the Italian Club in South Boston, or to his bar. I think you and Al Guatino took a look at the club when we first learned of it.”
“Yes, Boss. We found nothing.”
“Callan was spotted at the Italian Club recently. More than likely, that club will be his meeting place for the lieutenants. Now, I do not want you going up against any three gangsters alone, much less those four, and I’m calling Captain Callan a gangster.” My superior and I have mulled over the question of arresting Callan and the lieutenants together or separately. We consider together to be the most expedient. However, that may not be possible. You will have to make that decision when the time comes. So, you can see, this is more than a surveillance job now.
“Buck, do you have the radio yet?”Scott asked.
“Yes, Sir. It was delivered yesterday evening. I’ve been familiarizing myself with it.”
“Then, you have noticed a button, on the bottom left; that button will get you in direct contact with the state police. All you have to say is Scott and a location. Use either an address or place, and there will be patrol cars with you in a short time. Remember to press the button again to disengage that feature.”
“ I have arranged an increase in patrols in South Boston. I think that is where you will grab them. Should you be elsewhere, it might be a bit longer for cops to join you.”
“Will I have to change a frequency to use that button?” Qualter asked.
“No. Only two frequencies are reachable. Squeezing the talk leaver gets you directly to me on one frequency. Pressing the button, rather than activating the lever, changes the frequency and electronically opens the radio to talk to the state police.”
“That’s some kind of radio. Where did you come up with that?” Qualter quizzed Scott.
“Salinger Radio Company came to me saying they want a more significant part in the police communications market and asked me for ideas and testing. They are a good company trying to get to the top and are pushing their engineers for innovation. I came up with the general idea. Salinger dropped it in the engineers' lap, and they came up with what we now have. The Massachusetts State Police have a half-dozen prototypes to test, the only ones in existence. They are the same radios we used during the raids, but those were without the instant call button.”
“You are sure it works, aren’t you? I don’t want to push that button and have no one show up.”
Scott and Allan laughed before Scott said, “It works, Buck. Allan and I have tested it extensively, so don’t worry.
“There is one thing. If you find yourself following Callan out of the city and heading west, he will probably be on his way to Northborough or even Worcester. Radio me immediately if you are within thirty miles of Boston. Otherwise, phone me as the radio only has thirty miles or so range.”
“I have made arrangements with the Worchester barracks commander to keep an eye out for Cressey and Zebrine. After you call me, I will alert them in Worcester that you are coming. You phone the Worcester commander when Callan stops, and you think he is with Cressey, Zebrine, and or Jason Atkins. Give him a good description of your location, and you will soon have police aid. Do not call the Worcester commander if Callan is not with those three, and the commander will know my call is a false alarm. Be sure to get on Callan early Monday morning. Should you find Callan and Atkins together, and they separate, let Callan go and follow Akins. There is a good possibility he will lead you to Cressey and Zebrin – we can pick Callan any time.”
“Don’t hesitate to call me about anything. In this department, there are no stupid questions – however trivial.”
“Got it, Boss; hope I can meet your expectations. I have never attempted such critical and involved surveillance as this.”
“Do your best, young man. It’s all I expect from anyone. I believe you will discover you are more competent than you think,” Scott declared as he filled a pipe, and someone knocked on the door.
“Delivery Service. I have a package for Chief Investigator Scott Wadsworth,” the old gentleman in an olive-green uniform loudly proclaimed, his massive white mustache bouncing as he spoke, and his gray hair protruding wildly from under his uniform cap.
The photos and records being neatly coordinated make it easy for Scott to sort out a set for Buck Qualter. “Here you go, Buck. Study the photos and try to memorize them. Use them like flash-cards, having someone test you. It won’t take long before you have them sorted out. However, when you are working, keep the pictures close by for confirmation. Now, get going and try to have a relaxing weekend. Best of luck.”
Michael Mitchell pulled up to the state police firing range early Monday morning in a rented car and removed his brand-new Colt 1911 from the car's trunk. Confident he will quickly qualify for a license to carry the weapon, Mic entered the building and approached the front counter.
“I’m here for instruction and a certificate of qualification to carry a weapon. My name is Micheal Mitchell.”
The officer at the counter looked at Mic with raised eyebrows. “Really, We can teach you safety, how to load and fire, and clean your weapon. Once you have mastered that, the license is up to you and a more in-depth background check that it took for you to buy the pistol. Have a seat while I find the instructor.”The instructor, a sergeant slightly over six-feet, entered the room wearing his sharply pressed uniform, boots so polished as to be used as a mirror, and his peaked garrison hat held rigidly under his left arm. Except for the garrison hat, he reminded Mic of the drill masters he encountered when first entering the British Army.
“Follow me, young man,” he said after scrutinizing Mic from head to toe.
On the firing range, under the harsh fluorescent lights, the instructor, with a slightly prominent midsection and salt-and-pepper thinning hair, appeared older than at first. In a gruff voice, he explained the 1911 to Mic.
“What do you say, Michael? Do you think you can handle this weapon?
“Yes, I do. I qualified on a very similar piece in the British Army. It held thirteen wounds, however.”
“Oh, you did, did you. We’ll just see,” the sergeant said and placed a box of cartridges on the low counter in front of Mic and ran out a target. “Go to it, son.”
Mick’s hands flew as he rapidly filled a magazine and shoved it in the gun, expertly holding the gun down-range. He worked the ejector slide, driving a round into the chamber, flipped the safety off, and lifted it to arm's length. The roar was almost deafening when in rapid-fire, Mic emptied the magazine at the target.
Standing with his hands on his hips and a deep frown, the sergeant growled as he started to retract the target. “Now, do you think you hit anything that way, boy?”
“Yes, Sir, I did.”
The man glared at him until the returning target came back and hit the end of the cable. He turned to the paper target, and his eyes widened as his mouth dropped open.
“What is this, a joke? What is Wadsworth up to, sending you here? Does he think he is making a fool of me?. Damn, boy, you shredded the center of the target!
“Not at all, Sir. Scott believes I need personal protection because my life has been threatened. I helped him capture a thief during a case about a rare ancient smoking pipe. He has escaped prison.”
The sergeant looked at him for quite a while, wondering if he should believe Mic’s story.
“Well, where have you been practicing, then?”
“Honestly, I haven’t. The British Army said I have a born talent for firearms. They were sorry when I had to leave.”
“And why was that? The sergeant inquired.
“I was too young. I lied about my age to get into the army.”
Later, sitting on a bench drinking cola and smoking, Mic and the instructor talked for most of an hour. Mic explained his connection to Smyth and the antique pipe and Smyth breaking out of prison.
“That is some story, Michael, and aren’t you fortunate to meet Mister Wadsworth, the kind and gracious man he is,” the sergeant said, losing all gruffness.
“Scott took me in hand and into his family, and I was ready for it. He got me a job and paid for my night school. I have a business education, thanks to him.”
The sergeant, stretching as he got up from the bench, with a hint of stiffness, shook hands with Mic saying, “I will qualify you for sure. There’s no point in coming back here unless you want to say hello occasionally. I’d like that.
“Thanks, sergeant, I might just do that, Sir.
“You call me Pop – all the boys do,” he said as Mic drove off.
Mic waved in acceptance and thought of what his mother told him, “You can never tell a book by its cover.”
In the meantime, Buck Qualter sat in an old Plymouth coupe a block away, waiting for Callan to leave his house. When he did, Buck followed as far back as he dared until Callan pulled up in front of a small dingy looking restaurant. Buck continued on, turning around in a gas station and driving back to stop across from the restaurant. Callan took a half-hour for breakfast before driving off again. Buck made a u-turn and followed as Callan went directly to the Police headquarters parking lot and into his reserved birth next to the door. After he went in, buck found a spot where he could see Callan’s vehicle and waited. Callan didn’t come out until four-forty-five and went directly to his home.
Later that evening, Buck sat writing the day's events in a ledger book, thinking the Boss might expect repots. When finished, Buck read what he had written and thought, “That sure wasn’t very exciting – thought I’d have more action.”
Charles Street South:
Scott and Allan entered the Charles Street South office shortly after nine o’clock to find Annie typing up a storm.
“At it already, Annie,” Scott asked.,
“Oh yes, you have a contract for Marathon Shoe due tomorrow,” she replied. “Did you forget?”
“What would I do without you. Yes, it slipped my mind – thanks. I’ll review it when you finish, please.”
Scott, finishing his coffee and about to light a pipe, is aware of Annie buzzing him, ”A doctor Colligan from City Hospital is on the line.”
“This is Scott Wadsworth, Doctor.”
“I’m calling about Mark Simmons. He is getting quite nervous and anxious over being in the hospital when perfectly healed. In my judgment, he should be discharged before that condition becomes a problem.”
“Absolutely, Doctor Colligan. I’ll try for tomorrow, and please tell Mark I’m working on it. I'll call you back later today if I can make the arrangements. Please give my secretary your phone number and extension.”
Scott immediately called Mathew Hart at the statehouse in hopes he can expedite acquiring a white laundry truck, a large hamper, and two white jackets and caps. Naturally, his superior wants to know the particulars of the request. Scott went onto his plan to get Simmons safely to the Funeral home using a hearse and to Riverville in the laundry truck.
“I’m hoping to smuggle Mark out of the hospital tomorrow; it seems he is clinically upset at being there when he is well. The doctor wants him out. Sorry, but this is a bit of a rush.”
“I’ll do my best, Scott. We’ll paint a truck if necessary and purchase the rest. You will have it tomorrow. We don’t want our new employee going loopy before he starts!”
“What more can I ask. I’ll talk to you later today.”
Scott immediately called Arthur Gregg at the Gregg and Son funeral home, who agreed to transport Simmons from the hospital tomorrow and house him for a couple of hours. He next called the Simmons home and related the news to George Simmons, who was verbally delighted at the news. Scott decided to wait until tomorrow to telephone Riverville.
“Allan, are you ready to do some theatrics?” Scott asked.“ With the aid of the undertaker, I will take Mark out of the hospital tomorrow. Then, you and I, dressed in white jackets and caps, will deliver him from the funeral home to Riverville in a laundry truck.”
“I gathered all that from your phone conversations -- should be a real lark.”
“No doubt,” Scott replied. “But now, I have to review this contract. Call the deli in a while and order lunch. I’ll have a toasted BLT and coffee and see what Annie will have. Get whatever you want, and petty cash from Annie.”
After lunch, Scott and Allan sat talking about the Goddard case progression and speculating about Buck’s success tailing Callan. “We have piled a lot on his shoulders,” Scott said, “I hope he can handle it. I know he has some experience filling in as a detective, but not how much.”
“I wouldn’t worry about him. He tells me about some of his activities from time to time. I was surprised by some of the tight spots he has handled successfully.”
“It’s the compound problem of the three lieutenants that bothers me, and the time it might take to get help to Buck. I hope he won’t try to take the four of them alone. He needs a partner, or he’s liable to get hurt.”
“How about Al Guatino?” Allan asked. “They sure managed to fool and bag Jerry Mc Dougal and John Byrne at Goddard’s bar. Remember, they entered the bar when Loyd and Al were left there to receive prisoners during the first raid? Lloyd and Al acted as bartender and customer -- even serving them beer – and then arrested them?”
Scott thought for a few seconds before replying. “Right! So much has happened since then that those days fade away. You’re right. I’ll work on getting Guatino on board. Good thinking.”
While thinking about afternoon coffee, Annie buzzed again. “Michael Hendersen on the phone,” she said.”
“Chief! You are on my schedule to call today. Happy to hear from you.”
Scott, The family is wondering when that lad Simmons is joining us. Everyone, but especially the youngsters, is excited to have a visitor with stories to tell living with them for a while.”
“Exactly why I intended to call today. Tomorrow is the day. I trust the short notice is not a problem. I have no choice. According to Simmons’ doctor, He needs to get out of the hospital for his mental health – getting anxious, just hanging around there. I think we should be in Riverville early afternoon. I’ll bring him to the station.”
“Fine, Scott, I’ll alert the gang. See you tomorrow.”
As Scott cradled the phone, he mumbled something, causing Allan to say, “Didn’t get that, Boss.”“Sorry, I was talking to myself, I guess. I said I wish all these calls were new clients. As if I had time for more!”
Later, Scott looked up at the wall clock as Allan, yawning, leaned on his elbows on the windowsill watching the clouds. “Let’s close up Allan, what do you say?”
“Whatever you say, Boss.”
Annie buzzed again just as Scott locked his desk. “Mathew Hart, Sir.”
“Matt. We were just closing up. How did you make out finding the van and uniforms?”
“Not so good with a white one, but I have a blue one fresh from the impound with “Flowers” painted on the side. Also, blue coveralls and caps are inside the van. It’s parked in the guest area in the back. I have the keys.
“OK, I’ll have Allan take care of that after we get Simmons to the funeral home. I hope there are flowers in the van.”
“Afraid not. Call and have a funeral wreath delivered to your home. Put it on your expense account. When you get back from Riverville, call me. I’m interested to see how it all went.”
On the drive home, Scott turned to Allan add asked, “Do you have a black or navy suit? We should look like undertakers when we take Mark from the hospital.”
“I had a navy double-breasted. I think I saw it in the back of my closet recently – don’t suppose the fit matters much.”
“No, I don’t think so, as long as the pants aren’t up to your knees. That would be too obvious.” Come to the house for breakfast tomorrow, and we will choreograph the day. Make it around Eight.”
Allan arrived precisely at eight, wearing his navy blue suit. It appeared slightly tight, and the sleeves about an inch too short. He and Scott planed out the day over sausage and eggs accompanied by a half grilled tomato and English Muffins. When finished, Scott called City Hospital and informed Doctor Colligan they will be picking up Simmons before noon.
As they pulled away from Scott’s home, Allan observed Qualter sitting in an old pickup truck and brought it to Scott’s attention.
“Yes, I know. I asked Lloyd to follow us today and watch our rear. If there is someone following us, it could blow the plan to smithereens. He has orders to detain anyone he spots.”
Allan parked in the rear of the funeral home at nine-forty. “I’ll go get Gregg. I see the hearse is out of the garage, so I guess he is ready.”
Qualter waited on the street at a discrete distance.
“Am I happy to see you two,” Simmons said when he saw Scott and Allan. He was seated near the ICU nurses' station, wearing a white knee-length medical coat, a stethoscope in the side pocket, and a name tag on his chest. His complexion was much darker, thanks to an astute nurse with pancake makeup.
The three men walked to the ambulance entrance where Mister Gregg and the backed-up hearse awaited six-feet away. Mark removed his disguise and hopped on the gurney. Mister Gregg covered him with a large blanket. Scott and Allan pushed the gurney into the hearse, then moved to the front seat. The drive to the Funeral Home was uneventful.
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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