Case of the Riverville Murder
A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack
Chapter Thirty Two
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.
“That’s it, Boss. Do you want me to give Annie the recorder and my list of stops?”
“Yes, Al, and give her a demonstration on the fast-forward function and how it works with the counter.”
When Guatino came back, Scott asked, “Al, can that wire be copied somehow?”
“Gee, I don’t know. Nothing of that was mentioned when we took the class at Salinger Radio Company.”
“OK, Al, I’ll call them. You stay put until I find out if Salinger can make a copy, then you can either take care of that chore or get back on Callan – or both.”
Upon quarrying Salanger Radio, the manager told Scott, “Absolutely. We make copies all the time. We use a very fast speed on a unique transfer device, so a person can wait for it. They are used as back-ups or when a wire is full. We are working on a conversion to Vinal seventy-eight RPM records – best for a large audience. That takes four days.”
“That’s great,” Scott responded. “Someone will be there this morning, a Sergeant Guatino. Are you in a position to loan me another play-back unit? We are nearing the end of a huge case and don’t want to tie up the one we are using.”
“We can do that, Chief Investigator. I’ll see that your sergeant has one before he leaves.”
“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts thanks you. You are helping us take a step in maintaining the safety and security of its citizens.”
Scott then called Matt Heart and briefly told of the new evidence, asking him to come to his law office in the morning and bring the District Attorney.
Next, he contacted Harry Malison. “Harry, I’m about to finish off the Southie gang. In the morning, I’m meeting with my boss and the D.A. to listen to some phone tap recordings. I find this case involves Rhode Island and New York, massive abuse of a student visa by a known gangster, and a new stash of weapons we’ve uncovered that were slated for Ireland before we disabled the gang. If I’m correct, these findings and interstate activity makes it of interest to the FBI.”
Immediately, Malison asked, “Where, and what time?”
“My law office at nine o’clock.”
After that, Scott contacted Chief Winston Grant in Somerville and asked if he might be interested in the meeting.
“With a passion, Scott,” Grant said. “After talking to you the other day, I’m feeling a little left out.”
“We can’t have that. I’ll call on you to talk about the new-found guns and explain Dino Markus and Bobby Clark.
Scott leaned back in his old squeaky office chair, lit a pipe, and turned to Allan. “Allan, should I ask Dick Taranto to this meeting. I don’t want him to feel left out, but more importantly, I think he should be here, despite what Hart might have said to him regarding Alise Nadeau.”
“I’m with you, Boss. He is the Assistant Police Commissioner, and you are planning to arrest one of his captains. I think, if you don’t ask him, it is worse than Mister Hart talking to him about dropping his investigation of Callan. In the future, you might find it difficult to get cooperation from him.”
“Right on, again, Allan,” Scott said and dialed Dick Taranto.
Scott buzzed Annie and asked that she have six copies each made of the recording transcript. “Also, Annie, please get a cable off to Inspector Sullivan, Dublin Interpol, asking for information on Gustloff Hofstadter.”
It didn’t take long for Sullivan to answer the cable. Scott was digging into some of his own business for the first time in days when Annie announced that Inspector Sullivan is on the phone.
“Frank, I sure didn’t expect such a fast response. What do you have?”
“Frankly, not much that will help you, I expect. Hofstadter is comparatively small-time, although he is wanted by most countries in West Europe. Just petty stuff on a small scale.; burglary, extortion, smuggling, and the like.”
“Is Interpol looking for him?” Scott asked.
“Not in a big way. His home is Uster, outside of Zurich, Switzerland. He and a couple of student friends hatched a plan to swindle a bank there. This happened fifteen years ago. The plot was discovered and thwarted, and the boys reprimanded – all but Gus Hofstadter. He simply disappeared. The next time he was heard from, he was in France. Interpol only wants him to answer some questions about his father, a well-known Swiss financial figure. There is a theory he might have instigated the swindle.”
“Then I guess you don’t have a great interest in making another trip here to talk to him,” Scott said.
Sullivan was quiet for several seconds before saying, “I’ll ask around and find out just how cold the case is. In any event, if you have charges against Hofstadter, I’ll know where to find him, if necessary.”
“He is deeply involved in this case, maybe on a federal level. So, yes, his where-a-bouts will be known.”
Finishing up his work, Scott, returning a pile of folders to Annie and finds Allan helping her collate the transcriptions. “How’s it going? Almost through?” Scott askes.
“Almost,” Annie replies. “If you need Allan, I can finish up in five minutes.”
“No, you two finish what you are doing, and then we can all lock-up together. Big day tomorrow. Get a good rest so you will be at your best.”
Allan appeared at Scotts front gate at seven-thirty the next morning. After two beeps of the horn, Scott came through the gate and looked at Allan, not wearing his typical tweeds. But looking smart in a double-breasted blue blazer, gray flannel trousers, white button-down shirt topped by a quietly striped tie, his black Loafers shined to a high gloss
“Good morning, driver. Where is Sergeant Rockford today?”
“OK, Boss. You wanted me at my best, so this is part of it. I can change if you wish.”
“Actually, I appreciate you being so conscientious. Sorry for the kidding. I couldn’t help it.”
“Don’t mention it. The right kidding says a lot about friendship.”
When they arrive at Charles Street South, Al Guatino is waiting for Scott with the duplicate recording wire and the borrowed play-back unit.
“I’ve set yesterday’s part to zero for you,” Al said. “Here are the counter numbers you will want. If you wish to go back for some older days, turn the control to rewind. This will take a lot of hunting, so I suggest you hand out the transcripts and use those instead.”
“Well done, Al. I hope you can locate Callan this late. Try the club first. At this point, we need all we can get that is incriminating. Is tomorrow OK to return this unit?”
“The manager at Salinger said to return at when convenient. So, when you are ready, let me know.”
Scott’s guests arrived soon after Guatino left. Each within minutes of the others. Scott escorted them to a conference room. Chief Grant came with John Guilford of the ATF in tow.
While setting up the equipment, Scott said, “This is a wire recorder we have been using to record telephone conversations and general discussions at the Italian Club in South Boston.
First, though, here are the reports on four individuals attached to Callan; Jason Atkins, Gus Hofstadter, Ned Zebrine, and Chuck Cressey,” Scott said while Allan handed them out. “You will be hearing these people on the recordings. Please take special note of the part about Danial Atkins, Jason’s father. If it proves to be accurate, and with the Hofstadter info, it turns this case into interstate gangsterism, which takes it beyond us. That’s why I invited Harry Malison, District head of the FBI, to this get-together. I’m also glad John Guilford from the FTA is here. John headed the team that sidetracked the shipment of weapons out of Portland earlier in this twisted case.
“Harry, you’ll be particularly interested in Gus Hofstadter, and I have more info from Interpol. I’ll tell you about it later.”
The men quickly went through the reports underlining passages and making comments among themselves.
When they became quiet, Scott said, “The recordings you will hear, and I have transcripts for all, are pertinent sections from many hours of surveillance at the club in one day. You will see the correlation between this and the reports you’ve just read. There may be some things you do not understand. Hold these until we are through. Then, I’ll either explain them or attempt to find your answer in a week’s long effort to listen in on happenings at the club. I have some other transcripts from previous days we can turn to.”
After listening to the recording, the room remained silent for several minutes before Harry Malison stood and paced back and forth. “That is a lot to sort out and absorb, but two things I’m sure of. One, I want to arrest Hofstadter. Two is to take a hard look at Danial Atkins and, hopefully, break the chain connecting him to organized crime. Anything the FBI can do to help finalize your problem, just ask. My office is open to you all.
Chief Grant, sitting with his elbows on the table and his head resting in his hands, suddenly stood and said, “If Callan hires some hoods to steal the guns, I will have to add more security to the warehouse. I can use some help with that – more experienced help.”
Matt Hart replied, “I can help you there. We’ll work it out after this meeting. Perhaps John Guilford can join us.”
Scott took the opportunity to call on Chief Grant, asking him to relate the events surrounding the discovery of the weapons and Clark and Markos’s involvement.
“So, in conclusion, you can see Markos was familiar with Goddard, but not personally because of his low position in the gang. He did see Callan and Goddard together at the warehouse and heard of the weapons but knew nothing more. Through interrogation, Scott and I concluded that Clark is simply a victim of circumstance and not involved with either gang. On the other hand, Markos will be prosecuted as a member of the Compton Hill gang only. The connection between Callan and Goddard is the highlight of Markos’s answers, further establishing Callan’s guilt.”
Dick Taranto violently pushed his chair back, stood with his hands firmly planted on the table, and with authority said, “OK, now let’s simplify this. There is enough evidence against Callan and what is left of the C Street gangsters, as well as Hofstadter and Danial Atkins, to make arrests on actual charges. And, if not charges, on suspicion of crimes. And you have only heard part of it. I was secretly investigating Callan until I was told I was interfering with a state investigation and ordered to stop. I have evidence, as well. And I venture to say Scott and his people have accumulated supporting evidence through interviews and recordings in the previous weeks.”
Taranto continued, “We have done enough. With the threat of another attempt on Scott’s life and possible theft of the weapons, it is time to act. I agree that the FBI take care of Hofstadter and David Atkins. If necessary, the state can always get to them. That the evidence is compiled in a comprehensive way and warrants obtained. Then, put together a combined task force of Mass State and Boston police to arrest this bunch, either together or individually. Such task force to be commanded by Chief Investigator Wadsworth. There is no question of his abilities.”
“Thanks, Dick,” Scott said. “If there are any objections to the Commissioner’s comments, speak up now.”
Scott waited a couple of minutes and said, “As there are no objections, I ask Commissioner Taranto to join me in this task and FBI District Director Malison to be available for advice. With my secretary, two detective Sergeants, Qualter and Guatino, and Sergeant Rockford, we will have more than reliable help.”
“Now, I want to tell you about and applaud the work of the people I just mentioned. They have gone all-out to intelligently and skillfully assist me. Allan’s job description says he is my driver. Believe me, he is more than that. He is highly intelligent and astute, having offered advice and opinions immeasurably helping me make decisions or change the direction of my thoughts. Even at times when not asked,” Scott added with a Smile.
Scott lifted the phone and buzzed Annie, who shortly entered the conference room pushing a rolling cart of coffee and pastries. She took Scott aside, telling him she thinks she has every word of the meeting recorded.
“How did you do that? You don’t have an input for the wire recorder.”
“I sat your Dictaphone, on slow speed, by the door. I hooked the microphone over the doorknob and turned up the sensitivity. I figured it was worth a try. I’ll take it back now and see how successful I was.
Scott stood there, shaking his head and smiling when Allan walked over. “What’s up, Boss? You look like the provable cat.”
He told Allan of Annie’s ingenuity, and they both had a good laugh. Meanwhile, Chief Grant and Matt Hart move away from the others and stand by the windows.”What is your problem with more security at the warehouse, exactly?” Grant asked.
“My city has a relatively small, under-budgeted police force for its population. Presently a patrol car circles the warehouse every half hour. We do that because of the warehouse’s previous use and to deter any return of that gang. Catching that Clark kid was on a tip. To ramp-up security for a known break-in will cut us very thin in the rest of the city.”
“Unfortunately, that’s an old story in cities where, whatever council it is, continually keeps police and fire budgets low to maintain some obscure statue or old schoolhouse. Actually, no one cares about them except for a couple of townie board members.” Hart expounded.
“That’s about the size of it,” Grant agreed.“What can you do to give us a hand?”
“I can temporarily assign volunteer state police to your force, men trained in surveillance and apprehension. Ideally, they can be stationed, on three eight-hour rotating shifts, inside the warehouse and outside observing the doors. That will take eighteen volunteers – not easy to get. However, we can work out a shift plan regardless of the number who volunteer. This will free-up your people to increase drive-by patrols.
Everyone circulated around, talking, drinking coffee, and eating pastries. Harry Malison found Scott in a corner talking to Allan. “Scott, are your guys at the Italian Club right now?”
“Yes, they spend most of every day listening in. Why do you ask?”
“If you have communication with them, I’d like to know if Gustloff Hofstadter is there.”
“I do, Harry. Come to my office, and I’ll radio them.”
Qualter answered the radio, “How the meeting, Boss. Quite dull here – a lot of depression.”
“The meeting went well. Is Hofstadter there. The FBI wants to know.”
“Yea, he showed up about a half-hour ago.”
“Let me find out why Harry wants to know. I’ll get back to you.”
Harry answered quickly, “I want to get a man there and follow Hofstadter when he leaves. If I’m going to arrest him, I want to know a bit more about him.’’
Back on the radio, Scott related Harry’s needs and asked, “What kind of car do you have today?”
“It’s an old dark green Chevy two-door coup. I don’t know the year. Will this FBI guy let us know who he is? We don’t need another questionable character in this drama.”
“I’ll make sure of it. Thanks, see you the next time you get here. Keep in touch.”
Scott gave Harry the car information and a description of Hofstadter with his home address, then said, “Make sure your man identifies himself, so there won’t be any confusion.”
“Right, Harry said. Now can I use your phone? I need to get this moving.”
Qualter and Guatino, somewhat cramped in the old car, sit in a variety store lot. Guatino is operating the recorder while Qualter is slumped in his seat, head back and eyes closed. He comments, “Man, this is a long day. All they do is worry and argue. Callan hasn’t got a clean word in his head. I‘m getting tired of it.”
“It’s the life of a detective, pal. We won’t be doing this forever -- Hey, open your eyes. A blue Buick is roaming around the neighborhood – could be the FBI.”
The Buick stops in front of the store. The man goes into the store and emerges, lighting a cigarette and walking directly to Qualter and Guatino, who retrieve their revolvers. The man knocks on the window with one hand and shows his badge with the other.
Qualter cranks down the window, and the FBI man says, Nick Constance here. Make like you are giving me directions. Which car is Hofstadter’s?”
Qualter points out Hofstadter’s car, and Constance goes back to his Buick and drives off. He wasn’t seen again for a half-hour when Qualter spotted him backed into a driveway of a For Sale house on the other side of the club.
In Boston, Dick Taranto and Scott deeply review the transcriptions and select those to present to Judge Millstone. Allan returns to a chair at the end of the table with the last coffee from the urn. Taranto notices the movement and checks his watch.
“Allan, go home. It’s ten-thirty. My car is our front; I’ll take Scott home.”
On compulsion, Scott looks at his watch and says, “I’m sorry, Allan. I lost track of time. By all means, go home. First, check to see if Annie is here. Send her home if she is. I’ll apologize to her in the morning.”
“What time tomorrow, Boss?’
“I’ll walk to the statehouse. Unless I call, come in when you feel like it. I might be going to the courthouse, but not sure.”
Allan showed up at eleven o’clock as Scott and Dick Taranto were finishing compiling and packaging the transcripts. “Ah, glad you are here, Allan. We have a one-thirty appointment with Judge Millstone. We’ll leave when we finish here, have some lunch and go see the judge. It will be tight getting the warrants on the strength of the transcripts. I hope the judge is in a good mood.”
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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