Case of the Riverville Murder
A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack
Chapter Twenty Seven
“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, where 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 proved uneventful.
They shed their suit jackets and ties at the statehouse and donned the blue overhauls and caps found in the panel truck. Allan went to Scott’s to pick up the funeral wreath.
Lloyd Qualter showed up in a different car, and as they waited for Allan’s return, they talked about the morning’s adventure.
Qualter told Scott, “I didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary on the way to, or from, the funeral home. And I weaved in and out of traffic – pulled close to you and dropped way back. I doubt you were being followed. None of the vehicles stayed with you all the way.”
“I’ve been thinking about your assignment, hunting Goddard, and the three lieutenants. I’m wondering if you need a partner or not. Four to one aren’t outstanding odds. What do you think?”
Qualter thought for a minute or two and replied, “I’ll have to admit, I’ve thought about what I should do if I have all four in one place, other than push that button on the radio and hope the back-up isn’t far away. A partner might be good. I’d have company, at least.”
Scott offered, “Al Guatino came to mind. Any thoughts on him?”
“Perfect! We did well at Goddard’s bar that first day. When Jerry Mc Dougal and John Byrne walked in unexpectedly, it was as if we could read each other’s minds, and arrested them without incident. More than that, we get along,” Qualter, with a note of excitement, answers.
“First, I’ll determine if I’m allowed to take on another person and then check if Guatino is interested. As soon as we return from Riverville, I’ll see my boss about taking on another temporary assistant.”
As soon as Allan returned with the flowers, they set off for the funeral home -- and Simmons. Delivery at the funeral home is made private by using a closed-in carport attached to the building. Scott and Allan opened the truck’s rear door, retrieved the flours, and went into the building.
Mister Gregg asked. What’s with the flower truck? I’ve been expecting a laundry van.”
Scott replied, “We couldn’t obtain one, so took a flower delivery truck found in the vehicle impound lot.”
Simmons, relaxing in the office with a cup of coffee, said, “That didn’t take long! How do you think this move is going. Anyone on your tail?”
“Not so far,” Scott replied. “Lloyd Qualter is the rear echelon and doing an excellent job of it. If we hand no tail earlier, I doubt we’ll have one now.”
Scott, Allan, and Mark returned to the van, followed by Mister Gregg. “Here, give these to some family short on flowers,” Allan said while handing the wreath of flowers to Gregg.
The silver and blue diner on Route One invited them, by a large sign proclaiming, “The Best Roast Beef on the North Shore.”
Ten minutes after they were led to a booth, Qualter joined them, saying, “No tails! Only trailer trucks with a single driver entered this parking lot. I also watch for any strange action from passing vehicles. No one is following you.”
As the men left the diner, praising the roast beef, Scott dismissed Qualter to return to his regular duties.
After an uneventful continuing trip, Allan drove into the Riverville Police Department’s back lot at quarter-to-two. Scott, Allan, and Mark proceeded to Chief Hendersen’s office, where they found Sergeant Carl Hendersen and Patrolman Frances J. Hendersen with the chief. Scott introduced everyone.
The atmosphere in the office is jovial; on par with a birthday or Christmas. “We are so happy to have you with us, Mark, the chief said, clasping Mark’s hand. I speak for the entire family and want you to be part of it for as long as a sanctuary is needed.”
“Welcome, Mark,” Carl said. “You will be staying with my brood. I’m sure you will find it exciting and entertaining. I hope they don’t overwhelm you. Let me introduce you to my son, Frances.”
“Thank you all very much. I have two brothers and a sister. I don’t think I’ll be overwhelmed,” Mark replied. “I am a little dazed from the stress of the shooting. The unselfish effort and care I’ve received, from Scott and his people, to keep me safe have me in awe. Lying in that alley leaking blood, I had little hope of surviving.“
“You can tell us all about it later,” Chief Hendersen told Mark. “Now, Carl and Frances will take you home to meet the rest.”
Turning to Scott and Allan, Mark askes, “I don’t suppose, in all the other arrangements, you thought about clothing for me?”
While giving himself a slap on the head, Scott winks at Mark, keeping within the mood of the moment, and then turns to Allan. “Allan, how come you didn’t think of that?”
“Me, Boss. Heck, I’m just a lowly driver. You’re the thinker in this crew,” Allan said, playing along and looking entirely innocent.
After several minutes of revelry and back-slapping, Scott said, “You make a list, Mark, and we’ll drop it by the house. When your mother calls me, someone will pick up the items and bring them here. You have to get along now.”
“Guess I can’t ask for more. There must be a general store or something out here in the wilderness,” Mark said as he finished his list and gave it to Scott.
Frances grabbed Mark by the back of the collar. “Wilderness indeed? I’ll have you know we even have a sub shop. How’s that?”
Carl, moving behind the two and giving a gentle shove, says, “OK, enough fooling around. Take Mark home. Your mother is probably pacing the floor in anticipation of meeting him.” They left the office gibbering and laughing.
“Great kids, wouldn’t you say, Scott,” the chief commented.
“No doubt, Chief. Now we must get going. Always something else to do, you know.”
Allan ran up the walkway to the Simmons family home. As he stepped onto the porch, the door opened, and Misses Simmons appeared. Rather than answer a lot of questions, Allan held up both hands to stop her and said, “Mark is his old self again and is safely in Riverville. He received a fabulous greeting from the Hendersens. A good friendship seems to be building between Mark and Frances Hendersen, a patrolman in the Riverville Police Force. I have a list of things he wants, mostly clothing. Please call when you have it assembled, and I’ll take it to him. It’s nice to see you again, Misses Simmons. Give my best to your family.”
Allan immediately turns and trots back to the blue van, where Scott is waving to Missus Simmons from the passenger’s seat.
At the statehouse, with Allan doing a coffee run, Scott phones Frank Gray.
“Frank Gray, may I help you?”
“Scott, on this end, Frank. Simmons is safely on the North Shore. Can you arrange for the article to run in the evening papers? I’m sitting at my desk reading it right now. Good job, my friend. That should stir-up the enemy.”
“Yes. I think there is enough time for the late editions. Morning edition too? Did you have any problems getting Simmons out of the area? I might like to do a follow-up on this whole capper, maybe even a short story.”
“Sure, the morning editions too if you can make it happen. Everything went smoothly and on time, thanks. About the follow-up, an article will be OK. However, Mark and his family will have to agree to a short story.”
“I get you. Well, talk to me later about it. I have to call in some favors if we want to get this going,” Frank said.
Allan, returning with two cups of coffee, meets Matt Hart at Scott’s door. “How come only two, Allan?”
“Here, you take them in Mister Hart. I’ll get another cup.” Alan reluctantly said.
“No, no, no. I’m pulling your leg, Allan. I just finished my coffee. Here, Let me get the door for you.”
“Hi, Matt. Have a seat. I have one more call to make to Reverend Carlton Mac Elroy, and then we can move back to arresting Callan.”
“Reverend Mac Elroy, happy to hear the charade is at its end, quickly agreed upon Saturday for the mock funeral. “These usually take an hour or so. I have arranged for recorded music. There will be no one in the church: only the Simmons family, the undertaker, his men, and me. You have set-up security. And the coffin will be returned to the funeral home. Correct?”
“Yes, Sir. Scott replied. If you need me between now and then, just call. Until Saturday, then.”
“I really do not think Mac Elroy likes doing this fake funeral, but because of the influence of the large Simmons family at his church, he will. Sorry, Matt, what can I tell you?”
“Did the run to Riverdale go smoothly?”
“Like a clock,” Scott responded. “Qualter followed in another vehicle to be sure we were not followed. He did the job splendidly.”
“Thinking of Qualter, It occurred to me that should he coral Callan and the lieutenants by himself, and it takes too long for back-up to reach him, he could be in deep trouble. I’d like to get him a partner until the case is over.”
“I suppose you are right, and I have no doubt you have someone in mind,” Hart said sarcastically.
“Yes, Sir. Al Guatino. Together they arrested, in magnificent fashion, Jerry Mc Dougal and John Byrne on the first day of the raids. They think the same and get along well.”
“OK, Scott, I’ll make the arrangements. You have a reasonable justification, as always.”
As the day wained, Scott’s thoughts again turned to Lloyd Qualter. He said to Allan, “I was amiss in not giving Lloyd the rest of the day off. I hope he wasn’t futilely trying to find Callan the rest of the day.”
“He likes his work. Futile or not, I wouldn’t worry about Buck Qualter if I were you.”
“Perhaps,” Scott returned as he lifted the phone and dialed his law office.
“Anything you need me for today, Annie?”
“No, Sir, your slate is clear today.”
“Good, it’s been tiring. If Lloyd Qualter calls, ask him to phone me at my home, please.”
He hung up and said to Allan, “Let’s lock-up for today – it’s been a long one. I’ll walk home. Maybe the walk will invigorate me a little. Please pick me up in the morning at about nine. We’re going to see the Simmons family.”
The Simmons family listened intently the next morning as Scott explained the funeral. “I want you to invite some of your friends and/or relatives, those who will not reveal to anyone that the service is fake and that Mark is safe. Please impress upon them that Mark’s life might depend on their secrecy. Limousines are set aside for the procession, the hearse, an immediate family car, and the guest cars. To bring the coffin into the church, a side door will be used. You and the guests will remain in the vehicles until Mister Gregg appears at the front door. There will most likely be several police groups standing at attention when you move from the cars to the church. You have the choice of remaining in the sanctuary or moving to one of the parlors. I suggest you choose a parlor to reduce any emotional reaction. Keep in mind that Mark is safe and happy. Don’t even think of what might have been, and you’ll be fine. Several organ interludes will be played during the half-hour service. After the service, perhaps bagpipe music from a police contingent as the coffin is returned to the herse. Any questions?”
“Just one,” Mister Simmond replied. “Will we be picked up at the house, or do we go to the funeral home?”
“It is customary to pick up the immediate family. Guests make their own way to the funeral home before the procession to the church. I’ll be in one of the guest cars.”
The family thanked Scott and saw him to the door. “Oh yes,” Scott said as he hesitated at the door, “In today’s newspapers, you’ll see a headline and short notice of Mark’s death. I had this placed as a notification to our enemies.”
“You will receive calls from your family, friends, and strangers.” Scott continued. “To sidestep suspicions about Mark’s alleged passing, do not trust the strangers, and avoid lengthy conversations with anyone. The enemy will try to catch you in conflicting facts and will be analyzing your emotional state so, try to sound sad.”
After lunch at a mid-eastern restaurant, Allan headed the car back to Boston and Scott’s law office. Walking down the hall, Scott hears his phone ringing, and, upon opening the door, Annie is heard saying, “Hold on, please. He just came in. It’s Lloyd Qualter,” Annie whispered to Scott.
“Buck! How’s it going?”
“Slowly, I’m sorry to say. Callan isn’t doing much of anything except eating and putting in five or six hours at headquarters. At least he gets to work on time. Each night he goes out to a nearby bar and is home by ten. I’m keeping a log if you ever need a detailed report.”
“That must be very monotonous, to say nothing of lonely. How would you like a partner?”
“Boss, that would be great, but your kidding, right?”
“Not at all. I’ve cleared it with my boss. How about Al Guatino?”
Scott heard nothing but breathing on the phone for several seconds, then, “Great choice, Boss. At Goddard’s bar, we worked like old partners, although, before that day, we only had a nodding acquaintance. I believe we can be an effective team.”
“So do I, Buck. You call Guatino and see if he is interested. Remember to mention that it is a temporary assignment. Get back to me, and I’ll set a meeting time for the three of us.”
The next day, Scott walked to the statehouse. When Allan showed up, Scott told him, “Al Guatino jumped at the proposition. He and Buck will be here at ten-thirty to fill Guatino in on the operation.”
As it turned out, Buck Qualter, in his conversation with Al Guatino, had filled him in on the job he was about to undertake. There was little left for Scott to say. He impressed upon him the dangers and importance of eradicating the South Boston crime activities and those who perpetrated them.
“We’re happy to have you with us and partnering with Buck, I can’t promise anything, but your work here might lead both of you to something better. Buck, did you go over the hand radio with Al?
“Yes, Boss. He’s a fast learner.”
“On your way then and pick up Callan if you can. I have high hopes of nailing him with Goddard’s lieutenants.”
Scott’s phone jingled just as Allan returned with coffee. “Really,” Scott said into the phone. “What time, or did he specify?” “OK, thanks, Annie. See you later today.”
“Judge Millstone wants to see me before noon, Allan. Finish your coffee, and let’s get going.”
Allan set the red light on the car’s roof, allowing him to maneuver skillfully and unimpeded through traffic. Scott and Allan entered the judge’s chambers at eleven-fifteen.
“Chief Investigator, I need a brief update regarding the South Boston case. Both federal and state prosecutors are winding up their presentations. I’ve been appointed to oversee the whole thing and need to know what is left for you to do.”
“We are in the closing stages,” Judge Millstone.
Scott explained Captain Callan’s association with Goddard and how he came to know the connection..” To finalize, Scott explained Alice Nadeau, the lieutenants, and why he obtained Qualter and Guatino.
“Thank you -- very informative.” Judge Millstone said. “I read in the paper, the young officer Simmons passed away. I understand he was shot outside your office. Tell me more about that.”
“Respectively, Sir, I cannot. All I can tell you is that he is not dead. It’s all tied into the attempts on my life and this case. To tell you more will jeopardize Simmons’ life.”
“All right, Chief Investigator. I’ll accept that. But, when this is over, I want the full story.”
On the way out, Allan said, “That wasn’t bad. I thought you might get a good chewing-out for something, Boss.”
“No. Despite the judge’s abruptness, likely caused by being so busy, he is a good and reasonable man. Now, how about Angelo’s for lunch?”
The car headed out, traveled to Hanover Street, turned left onto Prince, and stopped at Angelo’s, Allan’s favorite restaurant.
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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