Case of the Riverville Murder
A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack
Chapter Thirty Four
Grant motioned to Scott for an answer. “I think that PIRA contact is over,” Scott offered. “Gus Malone, the Provo contact, is presently in Interpol’s hands, and Global Mortgage and Loan no longer exists. Callan has no interest in Ireland. He needs money to keep the gang going and for recruitment. Naturally, there might be others somewhere in the U.S. with a PIRA interest. I don’t know any.”
“That is certainly reasonable, Scott, and I’ll pass it up the ranks, “Guilford said. “I would like to hang in the fringes of this operation, as before, just to witness the finale.”
“Fine with me,” Scott said. “Be at my law office at eight o’clock tomorrow. We will be doing the final strategy for the arrests, which might occur that afternoon or evening.
As often happens during the late fall in New England, Somerville was enveloped in dense fog. The patrol cars keeping watch on the warehouse moved slower than usual as the officers attempted to see through the mist. Shadows around the building took on the shape of human forms, making the task more difficult. Over the radios, alerts were sounded and then rescinded.
Inside, Somerville and Massachusetts State Police held strategic positions where the weapons were stored and near the large abandoned air intake protruding through the ceiling. At Loading Dock C, stationed behind crates and boxes, two officers wait on each side.
Soon after four A.M., sounds are heard echoing through the air intake, and a knotted rope falls through the duct. One by one, three men climb down the rope, followed by a canvas bag and a fourth man. An officer presses the transmission button on his radio and whispers “lights.” Every light in the warehouse comes on. Moving in, the officers find the thieves in total confusion and moving about, not knowing what to do. The arrest was almost uneventful, with the robbers surrendering immediately except one, who attempted to run.
Charles Street South:
Everyone was on time the next morning. Qualter and Guatino, as usual, were waiting when Scott and Allen arrived. Then came John Guilford, Dick Taranto, and Harry Malison. In the conference room, Scott introduced John Guilford and explained his part in the case from its start in Riverville.
Guilford greeted everyone, then said, I have news you’ll all want to hear. Before I left Somerville this morning, Chief Grant called me. He told me that shortly after four o’clock this morning, four men were arrested in Somerville. They were charged with attempted robbery of the firearms held under the ATF’s protection. The arrest went as smoothly as expected, with no injuries other than a sprained ankle a thief obtained while trying to run. A Summerville policeman threw his baton at the fleeing man’s legs, tripping him and sending him sprawling. The identity of the thieves is not yet known.
“I’d call that a great beginning to ending this mess,” FBI Director Malison said.
“I wonder how that is going over at the Italian Club. With all the leaks, they probably know! Now, to start the meeting, I have four officers at the ready, Scott told them. Plus, two cruisers patrolling in Southie on three shifts. We have direct radio contract capability, and they can be at the club in minutes.”
Taranto spoke next, saying, “Under the circumstances, I don’t want BPD officers in on these arrests. Callan might not be the only one of his kind on the force. We can’t risk a leak. If necessary, I can enlist a limited number, three or four, detectives -- old-timers -- I can trust from a couple of precincts. They must be volunteers, however.”
Malison said. “Smart move, Dick. I must admit but hesitated to say, the thought of a leak from the BPD crossed my mind. I’m glad I didn’t have to bring it up.”
“So, let’s see,” Malison continued, “Eight from your group, Scott, four from the BPD, and I have five that I can free-up – seventeen at the most. That’s a lot of men to arrest four or five surprised crooks. I think we should follow dick’s reasoning and forget BPD involvement – other than Dick himself.”
“Perhaps,” Scott said. “But let’s hold off on that until we work out an attack strategy. I would like to see three men inside the building before our subjects get there. I don’t think there is an alarm system, so it will be a matter of picking a lock on one of the doors and hiding somewhere inside. My people will be listening on the Salinger Radio bug, and we will know when the subjects arrive. The rest of this team will either go to assigned doors to prevent escape or enter the front. At the same time, the inside men will come up behind the subjects. Harry, Dick, and I will enter with our people and make the arrests. Harry, you get Gustloff Hofstadter, Dick, you, and whoever is assigned to you, grab Callan and the lieutenants. Then, I’ll speak to them about the charges and how each one might be charged under federal and Massachusetts state laws. We will want to be close to our appointed positions and move together quickly. John Guilford, you follow us in at a safe distance. Dick, Harry, how does that sound?”
“Sounds workable,” Dick said. “I think we need a floor plan and someone who knows how to pick a lock and agree on a signal to start.”
“We have a lock picker among us; our very own Allan Rockford. He told me he learned how from an allegedly retired locksmith. Anyway, he got us into Goddard’s bar on the first raid.”
“And I’ll get right on the floor plan,” Dick said. “I can get it faster than anyone else, being a top cop.”
“For a signal to move in, either Qualter or Guatino will be listening in the car close by. How about three short beeps on the horn followed by one long beep, something that might be commonly heard and ignored,” Harry offered.
All agreed as Dick Taranto returned from Scott’s office after making a call to the Boston Planning Board. “The floor plan is on the way by messenger,” Dick announced. “What did you decide for a signal?”
Scott told him, then said, “Let’s take a break until the floor plan arrives unless anyone has questions or comments.”
“I can sure use some coffee. Anyone else?” John Guilford asked. “It’s unanimous. Come on, Allan, show me where the coffee shop is.”
Scott moves to where Qualter and Guatino are drinking coffee and says, “You two know the building, so I think you should get to the club. Keep me informed by radio of anything important. I doubt we’ll attack today. We have yet to go over the floor plan, and Taranto and Malison have to inform and assemble their people. Be here in the morning with the recording. I need to talk to Judge Millstone about any new evidence.”
Later, surveying the floor plan, Guilford looking on with interest, they positioned each man and decided the BPD men are not needed.
“We need an assembly point near the club, assign men to cars according to their position, and go over the plan one more time,” Malison said.
Laughingly, Allan said, “I can get us into Goddard’s bar again. It’s not far from the club.”
“Why not?” Scott said. “It worked well before as a headquarters.”
“What about electricity? By now, it has probably been shut off.” Dick Taranto commented. “We have large battery-operated lamps, or I, as BPD, might be able to have electricity turned on for twenty-four hours.”
Allan said, “I like your second alternative. “The lamps will require a truck, and acquiring the lamps could attract attention from the wrong people. Besides, flashlights won’t be so bad for an hour or so.”
Scott jumped in, saying, “Dick, give the electric company a try, please. It’s the simplest. All they can say is yes or no.”
“I’m wondering about the four troopers in two cars waiting for a call from the hand radio,” Malison said. “They will have no knowledge of our discussions. Why not pick four troopers, have them meet us at Goddard’s bar, and give them a rundown of the attack. I think there will be plenty of time before we get the call from Qualter to move in.”
Scott replied, “Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. At first, the radio seemed the best solution. Thanks, Harry. Good catch. I’ll get right on it.” The Captain of the closest State Police Division quickly agreed to release only two detectives and two troopers to Scott’s operation.
The group worked on the attack plan for hours, checking and rechecking timing, deciding who will guard which doors, what to do in case of gunfire, and a hundred other minute details.
During a break, Scott’s radio sounded, and Qualter said, “I don’t know how he found out, but Callan is livid over the arrests in Somerville. To quote him, “All the money I paid those dumb bastards down the drain. The loss of funding from the weapons is worse. Just wait until those incompetent goons are in jail. I’ll have their lives made so miserable they’ll wish they were dead.” Then he ranted about the failure to kill you on the highway – said he saw it in the afternoon newspaper – said another wad of cash gone with nothing to show for it. What is this, Boss? Are you hurt or anything?”
“No, both Allan and I are OK. I’ll tell you about it later. Bring the recorder in today. I want that transcribed for the judge.”
Ironically, Judge Millstone called shortly after Qualter’s radio call. Annie announced the call and put him through.
“Scott, my God, man, are you alright? I read in the newspaper account of the attack on your car. That was some experience. Did you know the assailants?”
“Both Allan and I are fine, Sir. No, I didn’t know them and haven’t seen the papers, so I don’t even know their names. But I know who hired them, Callan. He talks of it on today’s recording.”
“Good,” the judge almost shouted. “After reading random transcripts and listening to recordings, I can safely authorize you to move forward with your plans. If the FBI is included in this, step right into it. We’ll take care of the warrants, although you might not need them. You certainly have probable cause and witnesses to the conversations, and there is precedent for the action, particularly in federal cases.”
“We thank you, Judge Millstone. I’ll give you a report as soon as possible after arrests are made.”
Annie came into the room and turned on the lights. “It’s near four-thirty, gentlemen. The daylight slips away much earlier these days.” As she left the room, everyone acknowledged Annie with a verbal response of one sort or another.
Qualter and Guatino arrived soon after everyone left, other than John Guilford. “Set the recorder to the beginning of today and give it to Annie,” Scott commanded. “Judge Millstone will want to see a transcription. I can listen anytime.”
“Have you two decided who is going into the club early? Allan will let you in by picking the lock on the rear door. So, whoever it is, Allan and I will pick you up in the morning at seven. Two FBI agents, probably the ones you met earlier, will go in with you. The rest will meet at Goddard’s bar and move at your radio command. It might be a long day waiting in hiding, but then, it could be over in a couple of hours.”
“I’ll be going into the club,” Guatino said.
“Fine. Qualter, you get on Callan in the morning and radio the minute Callan, Hofstadter, Ned Zebrine, and Chuck Cressey are all at the Italian Club. If anyone else is there, I want to know when you radio me.”
“Yes, Sir, to the word,” Qualter said.
Annie came into Scott’s office with the recorder and the typed transcript. “Anything else, Mister Wadsworth?” She asked. I’m meeting Mic after work.”
“No, Annie. You go ahead and give Mic my regards, please.”
On the drive to Scott’s Walnut Street home, Allan asked, “Boss, why is that called the Italian Club? Most of the Italians don’t live anywhere near Southie.”
“I asked Commissioner Taranto the same question the other day. It seems that the building and the Soccer Club were both built just after the war. It was some kind of civic project for the returning veterans and the youth of the area. As it happened, the Soccer Club had moderate use by some vets who learned the game in Europe and for Rugby by the Scotts and Irish. Since both games have flourished over the years, more extensive and more centrally located facilities have emerged. That left it to youth leagues and high school use.”
“That which is now the Italian Club had a few weddings and parties. It soon became apparent that the kitchen facility was not adequate for such functions. It was turned over to the Boston Police Department for education and training use under Lieutenant Callan’s management. That purpose lasted a couple of years before the building, ostensibly finagled by Callan, was deemed unsafe for use. Callan managed to hang onto the building somehow. Dick speculates the C Street gang used it for purposes unknown.”
“That’s some story, Boss. Looks like Callan has been crooked for a long time. He must have a lot of unethical friends in the city government to pull it off. Maybe some will come to light after Callan is arrested.”
“Dick says he intends to make sure that happens. Have a good evening, Allan. See you tomorrow at six-thirty,” Scott said as he exited the vehicle.
At home, Scott was greeted warmly by Nancy, had a brief conversation with the boys, then finally relaxed. He poured some Scotch over Ice from the sideboard, settled in his leather chair, and called Frank Gray of Consolidated News Service.
“Frank, Scott here. Tomorrow is the day we bring an end to the C Street gang – thought you might like to be there. I know you have been chomping at the bit to get some copy on our progress for your service. I’ll fill you in on how we reached this point later. After, or perhaps during, the trials, I’ll give you transcripts of recorded evidence. Also, if he is willing, I’ll set up an interview with Mark Simmons. His story will give you a good follow-up to the main story.”
“Elephants couldn’t pull away, Scott. What time and where?”
Be at my house at six-thirty and be prepared for a long day.
The next day, Allan drove to near the Italian Club's rear door and saw two men there.
“It’s OK, they’re FBI,” Guatino said quickly.
Allan picked the rear door lock for the three with deft hands, and a musty, stale odor escaped the club. He returned to the car and drove to Goddard’s bar.
Inside, Guatino and the FBI agents searched for a secure hiding place. An FBI man shouted, “I've found it – over here in the coat check room.”
The men entered the room with flashlights probing the dark and discovered a large quantity of dust covering everything, indicating a lack of use for many years. The paneled swing-up door over the service counter window squeaked loudly as Guatino released the locks and opened it, finding that the small room overlooked the main function room and the front door.
“I’ll leave this open a crack so we can see under it. One of you guys go out there and see if the opening is noticeable.”
Guatino peering through the narrow opening, saw the FBI man walk side to side in the function room before stopping in the center and giving a thumbs-up sign, and returning to the coatroom.
“When all of those bums get here, you throw open that swing-up door while my partner and I rush them.” the FBI man said upon returning. “Guatino, make some noise with that door and have your weapon out. We’ll separate quickly, so if one of them tries anything, he won’t have a prayer. I don’t think it will happen, though. They aren’t that stupid.”
John Guilford is the only one waiting as Allan pulls up in front of Goddard’s bar. They exchange greetings before Allan makes quick work of the lock and opens the door. Again, the smell of stale air blasts out at them. Scott enters first and finds the light switch. “Well, Dick came through,” Scott said, as the room came alive with light.
The rest drifted in over ten minutes, collected a chair, and moved it to where Scott was sitting. Scott stood and asked, “Who, other than the four new state troopers, have any questions as to why we are gathered here this morning?”
“Good. Commissioner Taranto and Director Malison, please take your men to where you can instruct them on what and where they will take part in this operation. My people stay here.”
When chair scuffing stopped, and the room was quiet, Scott told the new troopers what the operation is about and what various people will be doing. “Two of you troopers will be with me, Sergeant Rockford and FBI Agent Bud Strome. We will be informed by radio when all the subjects are at the Italian Club. Sergeant Qualter will be watching from his car. When each group is in place, you will hear a car horn sound, three short honks, and one long. At that, we will go through the front door. Those concealed on the inside will come forward, and we will have them in custody. Formal arrests for federal, state, and international charges will then be made. It will take a while. Oh, yes, you other two troopers are to stay outside and watch the right side of the building; other officers will be on the left side. This is cautionary should someone try to exit by a window. Wait five minutes from the time we go in, and come inside to assist with guarding and escorting the prisoners. Is everything clear to you? No questions? OK, relax. It might be an hour or several before we are called.”
The noise level rose as the officers broke away from groups and started talking. Allan and Scott stayed seated and spoke with John Guilford.
During a lull, Allan asked, “Boss, do you have any reservations about this going smoothly? I know it will take really tight timing to pull this off without any resistance. Any shooting inside the club might be disastrous and really bad P.R.”
“You know, Allan, I hope everyone here has those thoughts. If they do, the operation can’t help but be a smooth-running success. No, I have no reservations at all.”
Time went slowly until someone found the coffee machine that Qualter found when the bar was used on the previous raid. Bottled water and coffee were still in the storeroom. Playing cards were found under the serving bar.
The four-hour wait ended when the Salinger Radio squealed, and Qualter said, “Everyone is in the building, Boss. The two FBI agents following Hofstadter have taken positions on the left side of the building. I waited ten minutes before contacting you to see if anyone else came. None did. You can come ahead.”
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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