Case of the Riverville Murder
A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack
Leaning back in his old wood office chair, he blows smoke rings at the ceiling and tries to fight the feeling of fear that comes each time he thinks of his granddaughter being in eminent danger.
Carl, on the walk back to his office, suddenly realizes he must ramp-up protection between now and when Kelly leaves for Vermont. It could take several days to two weeks, depending on her employer’s needs.
Frank Sullivan, wandering the streets while waiting for the All Erin to open, wonders if he has done the right thing. “Should anyone find out I snitched, my life will be taken with dispatch,” Sullivan says to himself. “Should I leave here and head West or hop a flight to Dublin and disappear somewhere in the Republic?
“But then,” Sullivan continues, “How can they possibly find out. I doubt the coppers will tell anyone. And yet this whole armament thing is getting bloody. I never bargained for that. And besides, Hurley treats me like some sort of lackey that doesn’t deserve any respect. Sure, and I must do some serious thinking on this.”
That evening after dinner, Chief Michael J. Hendersen pauses on the front porch to light his pipe for the walk to the Adams house. Slowly descending the steps and turning onto the sidewalk, he ponders just how he is going to address the subject of the danger Kelly is in without frightening the devil out of the family, at the same time convincing Kelly that she must get out of the area for the safety of her life. The family was already assembled in the living room as the Chief entered.
“Kelly, your Uncle Carl received a phone call today from a member of the gang involved in the gun smuggling and the recent murder of a federal agent. This man strongly suggested you are in great danger if you remain in Riverville. Carl and I discussed your options and we agree that you should visit you aunt in Vermont as soon as possible. I know you are against it but you do not have a choice now. It’s the safest place you can go. What with your aunt’s brothers there, you have a built in squad of guards. In the meantime, I will talk to your employer about a leave of absence that is convenient for him. I am also doubling the volunteers that are now guarding you.”
Kelly, sitting on the love seat that occupies the alcove with the large bay windows, with her face in her hands and her shoulders shuddering, cries silently. Her mother, moving to the seat beside Kelly, attempts to calm her. Eventually she stops sobbing, raises her head and looks around the room.
“I’m sorry to put you all through this. I would give anything if I hadn’t gone to the pub that night. However, I did go and nothing can be done to change that. If a visit to Vermont is what you all think is best for me, then so be it. I’ll make the best of it. I’m sure aunt Helen and the rest will welcome me.”
“Good” the chief said getting to his feet. “I will get things rolling first thing tomorrow and let you know when the move will take place. I don’t think this will go on much longer. We are hopeful, very soon, of identifying the two men that tail you every day. An FTA agent will be working at the station soon. And, your Uncle Carl and cousin Francis are going to the pub Saturday to do some snooping. In the meantime, your protection is doubled and will be strategically positioned to quickly intervene should any attempt be made by strangers to approach you.”
“Thank you, Grandpa Mike. I know you are doing all you can.” Kelly said as she walked to the chief and kissed him on the cheek.
Mic Mitchell descended the front stairs of his apartment building, with the rain coming down hard and the wind blowing it nearly horizontal, he pulled his hat down tighter and the collar of his raincoat up higher. He glanced at the sky and shivered slightly. October in July, he thought as the dark ominous clouds raced across the sky.
Mitchell, taken under the wing of Scott Wadsworth when he was working on The Case of The Killer Pipe, had skyrocketed to a supervisory position and is on his way up at Swenson’s Plumbing Service; a job Wadsworth was instrumental in Mic obtaining to get him on his way to a respectable life.
After a short subway ride, Mic entered the Swenson’s Plumbing Service building and quickly went to his office where he checked a wound on his left thigh through his trousers. The deep wound, obtained on a job a week or so ago, required constant attention to retard infection. His pant legs, being soaked from the rain, caused concern that the dressing might be wet. Mic retrieved the necessary materials to replace the bandage from a desk drawer, and proceeded to the men’s room to change it. He walked directly to the men’s room, entered the first stall and lowered his pants to observe the wet and sagging bandage. After cleaning the wound with antiseptic and applying a salve, he reached for the clean bandage just as the outer door opened to the accompaniment of loud voices obviously arguing.
“Now, hold-on, what are you doin’ draggin’ me in here sayin’ it’s a matter of life and death?”
“In a matter of speaking, it is. Now, lower your voice and check under the stalls doors to see if anyone else is in here,”
Quickly raising his trousers, Mic stepped onto the toilet seat.
His heels clicking on the tile floor as he walked past the stalls, the voice said, “No one is here. Now, what is this about?”
Mic stepped off the toilet and continues with the new bandage while listening intently.
“The boss got a call from Belfast last night -----”
“Mr. Swenson?” The other voice interrupted.
“No, stupid, the one on C Street. Now listen. Everyone from the PIRA in Belfast to Connors in New York, to the boys in Somerville are worried about that Kelly Adams overhearing Hurley and Sullivan talk about the gun shipment and spreading it around. They want her quieted – permanently. And don’t mess it up like you did with that FTA bloke, understood?”
“Understood, but this will take some time to set-up. I’ve got to know where she goes and what she does.”
“Hurley and Sullivan can fill you in on that. They have been tailing her day and night. So, get on it quickly.”
Mic heard the door slam as the men left but waited a bit before leaving the men’s room. Walking swiftly, he made his way to his office while ignoring a couple of people approaching him along the way.
“This is Michael Mitchell. Please put me through to Scott Wadsworth. It’s very important I speak to him.”
“Michael! It’s good to hear from you. How long has it been? Two months or so?”
“Yea, about that. Scott. I overheard something this morning and I’m not sure what to do about it. It concerns a murder and someone I think I have heard you mention”
“Why don’t I come to Southie and we can have lunch. This doesn’t sound like something we should discuss on the phone.”
“Fine with me,” Mic said. “I’ll meet you out front about noon. See you then.”
Over the years, since his bout with Nazi espionage agents, Scott Wadsworth grew his legal business and gained a good deal of notoriety for his investigative skills; skills being a result of his work in Army Intelligence and later with the FBI and Boston Police Department. He still maintains his offices on Charles Street South, but most of the time he oversees the Massachusetts Attorney’s Investigative Department.
The black Lincoln stopped directly in front of Swenson’s Plumbing Service building just as Mic Mitchell scurried down the steps and walked quickly through the rain to the car’s open back door.
The two men exchanged greetings and Mic said hello to the driver, Sgt. Allan Rockford of the state police in his chauffer’s black suit. The car headed out and traveled to Hanover Street, turned left onto Prince and stopped at Angelo’s Restaurant.
Scott was greeted warmly by Angelo and led to a small private dining room lavishly decorated with Neapolitan tapestries. As they ate, Mic related to Scott and Charlie what he overheard in the men’s room; emphasizing that he is astounded over such a thing happening at Swenson’s. That everyone he knows there is a stand-up person and most are family men.
“I’ve found out those traits mean absolutely nothing when it comes to crime, Scott said. “Remember Albert (Lucky) Ryan from The Killer Pipe case? He was a family man and owner of a highly successful and profitable business but under it all he was a thief, smuggler and responsible for several murders. I know Mister Swenson would never be part of anything like this. However, he has no control over the private lives of his employees.”
“Yes, I remember, Mic replied. “Although I am trying to erase my prior life from my memory”
“I can understand that, Mic. Perhaps, for your own well-being, you should remember the undesirables you have come across.”
“You’re correct, I know of Kelly Adams through her detective uncle and her grandfather. She also has a cousin on the Riverville Police Department. I don’t know what I can do to help, but I’ll take a ride up there and tell them the story. Also, I’ll put one of my people on finding any known bad guys living, or with business on, “C” Street.”
“Mic is there anything else you can tell me about the men in question?”
“Nothing that I can think of. I didn’t recognize their voices. I did wonder what they were doing in the office and not out on a job; unless a job has been shut down for the day for some reason.”
“Can you check on that and let me know? Also, if a job is shut down, I want a list of the men on that job.”
“I’ll have it for you in the morning and bring it to the state house. I have some vacation time, so I can take a day tomorrow.
The next morning Mic arrived at the state house at nine-fifteen with a list of thirteen names.
“Here’s the list, Scott. A crew was taken off a job on Commercial Street because of an Electricians Union problem. I guess it was a supporting move.”
“Great, I’ll get someone right on this and see if we can narrow it down a bit.”
Scott pressed one of the buttons on his phone and immediately his secretary walked through the door.
“Annie, please get someone to run this through the ID section and see if there is anyone on this list having a criminal record. This might take a half hour, Mic. How about some coffee and a pipe?”
“Sure, why not!” Annie located Scott in the coffee room and handed him a folder containing the records of three men. Scott took a cursory look at the records before standing.
“Thanks, Annie. I’ll be out the rest of the day. If you urgently need me, try the Riverville Police Department or that bag phone Allan keeps in the car. Oh yes, have Allan Rockford meet us at the back door, please. Let’s go Mic.”
Charley Maxwell was in place near Kelly’s work with his Canon fitted with a five-hundred-millimeter lens. He decided to stay in his car, partly because of the light rain and high wind, and shoot at a distance.
James Hurley followed Kelly to work a bit too close to suit Maxwell. He decided to speak to the officers following her about it first chance he could. The lens proved to do the job perfectly and he has several good shots of Hurley; who immediately went in the coffee shop when Kelly entered her building.
Maxwell started his car and drove to the sub shop up the street. The officers on duty that day retreated there from the rain about the time Hurley entered the Coffee Shop. The shop appeared empty, except for the officers seated at a table drinking coffee. Francis Hendersen being the only one he recognized.
“Good morning, Frances. Are these gentlemen on the job with you?”
“Hello Charley. Why yes, they are. Dad doubled the crew due to some new information that came in. I don’t know what that is, but it must be critical. Have a seat and some coffee,” Frances said and then proceeded to introduce the other officers.
Maxwell, after taking a couple of sips of coffee, “I noticed the bum following Kelly was a lot closer to her than the other guy I photographed. That concerned me and I wanted to bring it to your attention if you hadn’t noticed.”
“Yea, I noticed. We were talking about it before you came in. It would make it easier to grab her if a car pulled up beside her.”
“Exactly,” Maxwell replied.
“You’ve had years more experience on the beat than any of us. What do you think we should do?” Frances asked.
“I’d move the two from across the street and have them be ahead of Kelly a few steps, and the two behind Kelly, close behind the bad guy. Also, I’d have weapons cocked and placed where they can be easily drawn. I doubt an abduction will be tried in this area – just too many people. It’s more likely before or after she is in a congested area.”
Frances thought a few seconds the replied, “You’re right. We’ll do just that, and I’ll inform the sergeant about it. He will probably want to instruct the rest if the volunteers to do the same. Thanks, Charley.”
Maxwell finished his coffee quickly, stood up and shook hand all around saying, “Happy to meet you all. I’m usually in my studio and don’t meet new people very often. Now, I must get back to work. If I can find that guy, I want to do a good study of him and get back to my lab.”
The rain had stopped when Maxwell got back to his car. He drove back past the coffee shop and spotted Hurley turning the corner as if heading for the yacht club and the public pier. He stopped and waited a couple of minutes before turning to follow Hurley and parking in the small lot just short of the pier. He opened his duffle bag and fished out a Red Sox cap and jacket along with a short false beard, put them on and started walking toward the pier, his Canon hanging from his shoulder. Hurley was leaning against a light post at the end of the pier. Maxwell acted as if he was taking pictures in all directions from the pier and quickly shooting Hurley in the process. He noticed Hurley taking his raincoat off, and in the process, his sport jacket partially came off one shoulder revealing, in a shoulder holster, what looked like, a thirty-eight-caliber revolver. He swung the camera and grabbed three shots before Hurley could adjust his jacket. He continued photographing the area around the pier while getting closer to his subject.
“What are you doing?” Hurley asked.
“Me? I’m taking shots of the pier for the town. They plan to expand the pier this fall and need photos for the engineers. Sure glad the rain stopped. I’m on a short deadline as it is. Have a good day” Maxwell lied, turned and returned to his car.
AT 11:00 a.m. the same morning, Allan Rockford guided the state police Lincoln carrying Scott and Mic, into a “GUEST” spot of the Riverville Police Department parking lot.
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 2019
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