Wednesdays with Whitey (when he was still on the lam)


Nice beach day, innit?” I approached four semi-circled beach chairs facing the Florida mid-day sun, the breaking ocean waves at their backs. Cigars were being nursed and much of the conversation, which I couldn’t distinguish, was spoken quietly without a lip  being moved .They seemed to be addressing their shirt collars. That all stopped with my conversational gambit.      

"I noticed you got red B on your ballcap,there. You guys Sox fans?” Only the guy with the B cap looked up through his oversized RayBans. “

“Usta be.”

“You from the Boston area?”seizing on his reply as encouragement despite its brevity.

“Usta be.”

One of the heretofore silent companions lit another stubby black cigar off of the embers he’d been working on, then looked at the train station size timepiece on his left wrist, either looking for inspiration or trying to figure out how the device worked. "I'm from the North Shore of Boston myself, a small town called Amesbury." I hastily added, "We live   right on the Merrimack River," implying this was the best part of town. "Where are you folks from?"

"Heah and theah."

"Your work  keep you movin’ around?"

"Somethin’ like that,"

 "Do you work for somebody or are you your own boss ? You fellas look more like management than employees. Am I right?"

 "Lissen, you're interruptin’ a Board of Directors meetin’ right now. Some guys do business at lunch; other guys do business on the golf course; we do it at the beach. We bring our wives and girlfriends and combine business with pleasure. That's them undah the beach umbrellas ova theah. Is theah anythin’else I can do for you?"

 "Now that I think of it, could you do me a small favor and watch my things while I take a quick swim? It's just a small bag here and I won't be in long." In the bag was a mini cassette recorder, car keys, and half of a Subway air-sub starring lettuce, pickles and banana peppers and not much else. It had come unwrapped and would be the first thing to greet anyone who opened the bag.

"Go ahead and leave it heah if you want, but I got other things ta watch , other ways ta spend my time with my associates heah. Like workin’ on my tan and watchin’ the tide go out."

 "I really appreciate it, guys. By the way, I'm Pete," I said while offering my hand by way of introduction to the guy with the big watch who had suddenly appeared at my side. I never even saw him get out of his beach chair.

 "Jimmy, what's with this guy? He think we need friends or somethin’? Lissen pal, just get your swim over with and move along,will ya?"

 A series of inviting, two foot waves beckoned me to get on with that swim. The Board of Directors seemed poised to get on with their agenda as soon as the coast was clear, literally.What follows is a transcription from my recorder.

"So you're tellin’ me, Jimmy, that it's your bruthah they got in the slammer , up theah in Massachusetts awaiting murder charges. Even the Feds can tell the difference between you and Billy. Whatta’ you sayin’?"

 "What you uh seein’ up there is the family secret. We got anutha brothah , a little short of a full sized brain, if you catch my drift.He bin stayin’ with a cousin on the South Shore. He knows things, though, about the family. A’ course, what he knows is what Billy and I tol’ him. He and Cathy set up house in Santa Monica a few years back. It cost me a fortune to get Cathy to go along with this, but it was a generous offer and after all these years she knew it would not be in her best interest to refuse. All the boys in our family look pretty much alike. And with just the grainy photographs that yuh see in the newspapers to go on, ya know what I'm sayin’?"

 "So how’d they  even find him? "

"They got a tip, how else? A woman I was spendin’ a little time with dimed him and Cathy. After that, the Feds moved so fast you’d think they bin holding their breath for 10 years. They asked him if he was James Bulger and when he said he was, they went right to DNA testing for the airtight i.d. which told them what they wanted to believe. I'm not saying that luck had nothing to do with it, but I just play the cards I was dealt."

 "Hey, you guys about done heah? It's almost time for the early bird specials. You interested in some half priced appetizers at Boston's right there on the beach in Lauderdale?"This last spoken by a female’s voice with just a hint a restlessness in it.

“I love their wings and avocado dip.”

 “I don't want to go to Boston's right now, if you catch my drift. Hey, buddy, we're leaving. Yuh have to mind yuh own stuff.”

“Wanta hit the take out window at Sonics?”

“Nah, it’s Wednesday. We’ll do the Steak and Shake, bring it back to the place, and watch the NetFlix that came today. It’s “the Town” again. I never get tired of seeing them get it wrong.

There were eight sets of footprints leading over the sand to the parking lot by the time I got out of the water. My bag was undisturbed despite it vulnerability for a few moments. I wiped the contents of my Subway air-sub off my hands. Then I listened to the tape which I’ve just shared with you and wondered what to do with the knowledge I now possessed. I see all sorts of stuff at Florida’s endless beaches, none of which I feel compelled to share with the authorities or even the lifeguards. Honest.