This is a work of fiction. While some events and characters may be based in some part on real news events, the names, characters, places, and incidents herein are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Michael C. Hughes
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the author constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If You would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the author at [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
First edition: January 2016
© Michael Hughes, Toronto, 2015
“Ma was sadistic. A stone killer. I think she enjoyed it. Watching.”
Connell was doing the talking, leaned back in the detective department of the C-11, Boston PD, a uniformed rookie from traffic asking the questions.
“It was like she, herself, was already dead inside and that was the only thing left,” he said. “To destroy other people. One of the most disturbing individuals you’re ever likely to come across.”
The rookie was curious and a little surprised.
“You actually met her?”
“No. Hardly anyone outside her circle ever met her. She didn’t go out much. Spent most of her life in her kitchen. I just pieced it all together from interviews with those who had. Statements people made. Intel from sources.”
Connell fell silent for a moment, thinking back to it all.
“I heard it was more than a dozen girls disappeared around her,” the other fellow said.
Connell nodded. “That we know of. Confirmed. Some males as well. I’m sure more we don’t know about. Maybe never will.”
“And you’re still on it? The case?”
“Yeah,” Connell nodded, a little surprised himself that he alone hadn’t given up.
He didn’t mouth the next words, but he still thought them from time to time: someone’s gonna pay.
And he wasn’t letting it go until someone did.
One year earlier
Early morning. A late model black sedan pulled up to the curb on a leafy street on Boston’s east side, a pocket of ritzy homes near the bay. Two men in expensive suits exited and briskly walked a short distance along the sidewalk beside an ivy-covered stone wall, stopping at the entrance gates to No. 6 Currie Close.
“Is Ma really the one who put out this order?”
The man he was asking the question of was obviously the lead man. The one who had the answers.
“She’s the one all right. And she’s the one who said ‘zactly how it’s got to go down.”
The other man nodded.
“We really got to do it the ‘zactly way we was told?” the other asked.
“Ex—zactly as we was told.”
“Well, I think it’s sick. I’m in the business, and I think it’s sick. It’s sick.”
“OK. You made your point. You think it’s sick. You want your dough?”
The other man let out a short sigh. “Yeah. But it’s sick. Why’d she want two of us on the job, anyways?”
“In case Vinnie squeals and runs for it. She’s knows he’s a fat slippery basotto. Like I said, Ma’s a stickler for getting things her way, and Vinnie ain’t slipping nowhere.”
Dawn had just broken over the city, but they saw that no lights had yet come on inside the stately three-storey stone mansion.
“You sure he ain’t gonna look out and see us?” the nervous one whispered.
“It’s five fucking a.m. When was the last time you was up at five a.m.?”
“You sure it’s not alarmed out here? Motion detectors?”
“I’m sure. It ain’t. Just the sides and back are alarmed. Just relax will ya? We got three hours to wait and you’re starting like this already? You’ll drive me nuts.”
They had turned in an opening in the wall that led to a broad circular driveway. They made quickly for the first garage door, the one closest to the home’s service entrance.
The lead man had a lock-pick set and the garage door lock was easily jimmied. He
eased the door up quietly, they stepped in, and he eased it back down just as quietly.
As they looked around, the lead man spotted a couple of folding lawn chairs against a back wall. He went to them and brought them over, pulling first one open and gently setting it down, then the other.
“Make yourself at home,” he whispered, taking one seat and indicating the other.
The other man sat and glanced all around. It was a large, tidy, garage: four doors with a tandem bay at the end, making it a five-car. There was a Mercedes E-Class sedan parked in the bay closest, a Ford Expedition SUV in the next, and a 16-foot inboard/outboard speedboat backed in on a trailer in the far tandem bay. They were seated in the empty bay facing the entrance door to the house.
“Nice place Vinnie’s got here,” the man said, looking around with a touch of envy.
“Yeah. Vinnie’s been living beyond his means for a long time. Probably what got him into this mess.”
The other man merely grunted.
“How come he alarms the sides and back but not the front?” the second man asked.
“Cause the guy gets about five newspapers delivered in the middle of the night. Didn’t you see them all out there?” He lapsed into derisive mock baby-talk: “But the l’il paper delivery guys was setting off the l’il motion sensors every l’il hour between two and six, and it was disturbing his l’il sleep. What crap!” he said, breaking out of the baby-talk. “Anyways, he’s got the front sensors shut off. He never got around to wiring the garage.”
“And you know all this how?” the other whispered.
“Ma. She done her homework. ‘Course wasn’t that much homework to do. All she had to do was call Paulie. Paulie knows the place. That Momma. She looks like a harmless old bag but, man, she’s one pazza manovella. Crazy in the head,” he said, tapping his right temple to emphasize that Momma’s reputation was that of a certified mental case. “They don’t call her Momma Lupe for nothing. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her. You know she off-ed her old man, eh?”
“No. Really? Her old man? Why’d she do that?”
“Guess they had some difference of opinion about how to run the business. Like I said, Ma’s a stickler about getting her own way.”
“How’d she do him?”
“The old fashioned way. Rat poison in his tourtiere. Like in the old movies. A bit at a time till it built up in his system. Strychnine or whatever. He liked his garlic, so he never noticed a thing. One day he just drops. Went down as natural causes. A heart attack. She had him cremated before there was even time to send out for marshmallows.”
The other man thought about that for several moments.
“I heard she’s got two sons work with her. Why didn’t she use them for this?”
“For a job like this?” the first man said with obvious scorn. “She don’t trust those two to go for coffee.”
The man then rose, crossed the garage to the rear wall and cranked the window full open to create an out draft. He returned and they lit up smokes.
And they waited.
About 8:30 they heard sounds of stirring from inside the house and, half an hour later, Vincent Momesso entered the garage from the door into the house. He hit the garage door opener to go out and collect his papers, then started down the steps with a yawn and a scratch at the bald spot at the back of his head when he looked up and saw the two in the chairs.
The lead man had weapon drawn.
“Hey, Vinnie. How’s things?”
“What the hell’s this?” Momesso demanded.
“Vinnie, we ain’t got time to chit chat,” the man said, standing and pulling out his phone and flicking it on video. He held it out, in his left hand, a silenced 9 mm in his right hand.
“Vinnie, get on your knees.”
“What the —”
“I don’t want no trouble from you. I want to get a statement and I don’t want you jumping around on me, so get on your knees.”
“This is bullshit …”
“You’re right,” the gunman said. “But I got my orders. On your knees. NOW!”
Momesso reluctantly went down on his knees in his expensive silk pajamas and housecoat on the grease-stained floor.
“What’s this all about? Who are you two? I don’t even know you guys. Does Paulie know you’re here?”
“Did Paulie send you?”
“No. Never mind about us. Fact is, you took some merchandise didn’t belong to you. Lots of it. And then, when you was asked nicely many times to give it back or pay for it, you said some rude things. That wasn’t smart. Plus you went and smacked that hooker around. Also not smart.”
Vinnie squinted at the two men.
“Is this about Momma?”
The gunman nodded.
Vinnie was relieved. For a moment there he thought he’d crossed one of his mob brothers somehow. He breathed a little easier.
“Hey, well listen, I didn’t mean nothing,” he said, in a consoling tone. “I didn’t know that girl was one of Momma’s. And that dope stash that stupid broad had, I thought she’d ripped off some mark. I thought it was free dope, so I swung with it. I didn’t know that was Momma’s neither.”
That, he felt, explained everything.
But the gunman shook his head slowly.
“That’s a crock, Vinnie, and you know it. You may not have known when you batted the girl around and took her stuff that she was one of Momma’s. But you knew after. You was told. Over and over you was told. And that was no little dope stash she had. That was twenty ounces of pure hundred-grade powder worth more’n eighty grand. Dope entrusted to Ma for delivery. Wasn’t even hers. You had to know that wasn’t some party girl’s stash. Again, you was told. But not only did you not make restitution – or apologies – you called Momma some nasty names. In front of all the guys. All three was big mistakes. BIG mistakes.”
Momesso realized then they were serious about this.
“Okay, okay” he said. “I screwed up, OK? I was stupid about it. So now I’ll make good. I’ll give Momma the money for the dope and I’ll send flowers to the whore.”
“You’re gonna have to do better than that, Vinnie,” the gunman said, pulling back the hammer on the compact little Bernardelli semi-auto. It made an ominous click, which resonated in the silence of the garage. “Momma wants to hear genuine contrition. You know, like a confessional. Like at church sort of thing. With some heart behind it.”
Momesso suddenly got the full urgency of the situation.
They were actually threatening to shoot him!
He held out his hands in a pleading motion.
“Okay. Okay. I’m a lousy son of a bitch and I throw myself on Momma’s mercy. Ma, please, I’m sorry I messed with your business. I’ll make it up. Double! It was all just a big mistake.”
The gunman looked at the video on the small screen and shook his head.
“Vinnie, that just ain’t convincing. I gotta tell ya, no Academy Award there. If that’s the best you can do …”
“No. No. Hold it. Wait. Okay. Ma, I’m reeeaaally sorry. I’m a complete piece of lying double-dealing shit. Ma please … please … show some mercy … Pleeeaase! I’ll make it up. Ma, pleeeaase … just give me another chance.”
The gunman looked at his associate and they exchanged slight nods: they had enough on tape. This was sick and they did not want to prolong it.
“That was good, Vinnie. Too bad you’re such a screw-up,” the man said and he fired four silenced rounds in rapid succession.
The impact threw Momesso onto his back. He writhed only briefly as the shock to the heart was almost instantaneous. Vincent Momesso let out a brief death rattle and a sigh and went limp. It was over in seconds.
The shooter clicked off the video, pocketed the phone, and bent down to pick up the four spent shell casings.
“Well, that’s exactly the way Momma wanted it. Let’s get outta here and go get our dough.”
Two hours later. Connell pulled into No. 6 Curry Close, past the stone pillars at the front gate and onto the wide brick driveway.
His cases seldom took him to this small enclave of expensive real estate on the eastern-most edge of the C-11’s territory, and he was just as happy about that. The problem with these cases among the Fortune 500 set, as far as he was concerned, was that they got complicated too fast. They led places where people didn’t want cops poking around. Next thing the Chief gets a call. Then a City Councilor gets involved. Then the Mayor’s Office gets involved. Then … well, they were just a pain!
Good thing it was John Henry’s case. John Henry Morgan was Connell’s sometimes partner when cases and budgets were big enough.
Connell had heard over the police band that Morgan and several others from the C-11 had been called to view a body at the address. He was merely curious. He was planning just to stick his head in, say a quick hello to John and the others there, extend his sympathies, and carry on to the stationhouse.
He stepped out and he heard a pair of wood doves cooing in a nearby tree. Even though it was only a mile or so from the towers of downtown, that pocket was so quiet and wooded it felt more like being in cottage country than near the heart of the city.
The house wasn’t as big as some others in Boston, like over in Beacon Hill or Back Bay. On a square foot basis it was actually not big at all. Maybe four thousand square feet. And a bit plain. And a bit on the shabby side as well. Unkempt grass, weeds here and there, which was unusual in these fastidious pin-striped neighborhoods.
The garage door nearest the front entrance was raised and he saw Morgan inside, standing with a cluster of forensics people.
Connell walked in with his coffee in hand.
“Morning, sports fans.”
They were looking down at a body with obvious entry wounds to the chest. A rivulet of blood had zigged and zagged across the tile floor to a drain under the Mercedes nearby, and much of the floor area around and in front of the victim had been taped off by the CS crew.
Morgan turned and looked over to watch Connell approach. They hadn’t crossed paths for most of a week and were partners only when it was necessary for two senior detectives to be teamed on a case which, for budget reasons, was only occasionally. Mostly, they worked their own caseloads. Connell was in his usual ‘old clothes’ attire, which meant ‘street mode.’ A rumpled flannel shirt, well faded jeans, a scruffy black pea jacket. But he looked otherwise pretty well rested for a guy who often looked haggard and worn from too many late nights, too much beer, and too much greasy pub food.
“You lookin’ good, little brother,” Morgan said. “You been living right lately, or what?”
“Got to bed early and slept like a baby last three nights,” Connell said. “Not sure why. But feels good now. If I felt any better I’d have to register my entire body as a restricted weapon.”
Morgan grunted and cracked a half smile. He was well used to Connell’s self-promotional pronouncements.
“Who’s our host?” Connell asked, glancing down at the victim and taking a long sip of coffee. “Some stock market wanker?”
Morgan said, “You lookin’ at the late Mr. Vincent Momesso.”
“Slim Vinnie? The mob guy?”
Morgan nodded. “ ‘Bout as Slim as he gonna get now.”
“Wow. They let Slim Vinnie into this neighborhood?” said, a little incredulously, glancing at the mansion across the street.
It was meant as a rhetorical comment, but Morgan replied.
“I doubt they took a vote on it, Ty. Fact, I doubt people round here had any idea who their neighbor was.”
Connell drained his cup. “I’m sure you’re right, John. Anyway, glad he’s all yours,” he said and turned to leave.
“Hey, where you goin’, man?” Morgan said. “Thassit? You just gonna slide in here, have a free peep, and then walk?”
“Come on, John. You don’t need me on this,” Connell said, tossing his cup into a nearby garbage can as he headed for the door.
As soon as heard that it was mob business, his interest evaporated. As far as he was concerned, the only homicide cases more problematic than Fortune 500 ones were mob hits: third party professional contract killings. They were frustrating, time consuming and, too often, dead ends in the end. Besides, it was Connell’s further opinion— and that of a good many officers— that scores settled by mob guys between themselves was their business and could stay that way as long as no innocent citizens got hurt. And Vinnie was anything but innocent.
Connell was almost to the open door when Morgan called to him again, “Hey, hey, get back here, man. Least you can do, since you showed up, is scope the scene. I’m maybe gonna need an o-pinion down the road, and you no good to me if you haven’t even checked out the vic.”
Connell stopped. Morgan was right. He wouldn’t be crazy about the case either —for the same reasons Connell wasn’t— but he was stuck with it, and he wasn’t letting Connell off so easily. It was the least he could do for his partner. And you never knew when your two cents worth might be called for. Maybe even three cents worth. Cases sometimes swung on less.
So Connell walked back and had a cursory look over the scene. He noted the arrangement of the two lawn chairs as well as the scuff marks some distance apart on the dirt on the garage floor, like two men had sat and waited. Plus there were lots of cigarette ashes in the dust but no butts. So whoever had waited had pocketed the butts. The body looked like it had four entry wounds, but there were no bullet casings marked out on the floor. So the shooters had picked up the brass as well.
No wronged wife or a jealous husband in the heat of the moment here. It was exactly as it looked at first glance: a well-planned pro job.
“So you got a pro-fessional hit,” Connell pronounced. “What a surprise.”
“Looks like they let theirselves in the garage early —the garage door lock was jimmied—and waited a while,” Morgan said. “Vinnie comes out and —”
Connell nodded agreement, then seemed to spot something. He bent under the yellow tape and knelt down, looking over the late Vinnie Momesso closely, from head to toe. He glanced away briefly, like he was thinking something over, then turned back
“They not only let themselves in early,” he said, rising. “They had a little talk with the guy before they plugged him.”
“Now how do you figure that?” Morgan asked.
“Vinnie’s knees. Ground-in smears from grease on the floor. The fabric’s dark, so it’s not that noticeable right off. But it’s still damp. More than from just sinking down and falling over. More like they made him kneel, had him on the floor for a while. Maybe got him to give up some information. Maybe a name.”
Morgan leaned in for a closer look at Vinnie’s pajamas.
“The sick bastards,” Morgan said, then turned to Connell. “See, man. You already spotted something useful.”
The technique was something Connell called GSR, Guided Subconscious Retrieval. A bit of quantum psychology. Heightened observation. Heightened perception. Whatever people wanted to call it. Allowing the subconscious to bring forward details that the eyes see and the brain has registered but which the mind doesn’t immediately bring forward.
“Come on, John,” Connell said. “Nothing you guys wouldn’t have spotted —eventually.” He turned and headed again for the door. “Okay, guys. I had my look. I’m outta here. Catch you back at the station, bro.”
“Hey,” Morgan called after him again, “You not even a bit curious ‘bout what this is all about?”
“Not a bit,” Connell said with a wave, and he left.
The gunmen reported to Isabel Lupanier’s house, a modest brick bungalow in an unpretentious older neighborhood in the Mattapan district of southeast Boston. A working class district of several square miles of modest bungalows and row houses.
“I can’t believe she lives down here,” the junior of the two said. “I heard she was big-time. Worth millions, and she lives like this? In a little dump?”
“Ma’s pretty close with a dollar,” the other said. “She also likes to keep a low profile. Besides, I heard she’s got a huge place down near Orlando. The French-Canadian sector down there. Maple Leaf Village or whatever it’s called. Who knows? Don’t know why she don’t just retire down there. She’s gotta be sixty. Who needs the grief?”
“What’s her main racket?”
“She’s got some sort of lock on the stripper market in town. Imports cute-assed little white girls right outta the backwoods of Que-beck. Some don’t even speak the anglais but they know how to do the can can. Because most of ‘em don’t speaking much English, Ma taught ‘em jus to say oiu oiu to everything. Works out great. But mainly she moves tons of product for the bikers and for Paulie’s guys through these girls, which is where the big dough is.”
They parked and knocked at the front door. The smell of cooking from inside was so strong you could smell it outside.
“By the way,” the first guy said. “When you meet Ma, don’t stare.”
“Why would I stare?”
“Just don’t stare.”
Ma, herself, answered the door. She had on an apron and was drying her hands, like she had been working in the kitchen. Even with the warning, it was all the second man could do to keep from staring.
“Good. It’s you,” she said simply, and she turned and headed back toward the kitchen, expecting them to follow.
Momma Lupanier was a short, wiry woman in her mid-sixties with wild salt and pepper hair, a sharp hawk nose, and a bit of a limp from a bullet she supposedly caught in the lower back in her younger days. But her most distinguishing feature was her facial hair. She had pronounced curly black moustache hairs on her upper lip, chin and cheeks, as well as the hairiest legs under a rough skirt either man had ever seen on a woman. The junior man had obviously never seen a woman with a mustache and a wiry five o’clock shadow before.
“What’s she? Some kind of mutant,” the man whispered lowly as they entered and the other shot him a quick glare: just keep your mouth shut.
The two followed the strong smell of something steamy and heavy with garlic cooking on the stove. They entered a spacious old-style kitchen with spotless black and white tiles on the walls and bright red linoleum on the floor. A cook’s kitchen. Ma’s two sons, both in their thirties and both still living at Ma’s, were seated sullenly at the large kitchen table. The room was bright from a huge picture window which dominated the west wall. Obviously a window put in after the house was built.
“Theo. Alain,” Ma barked. “Get up and make room for these gentlemen.”
The sons stood and shuffled to the rear, standing in the doorway with arms crossed, awaiting any other orders that might come their way.
“Sit,” Ma ordered the two, so they did.
“You get it all?” she asked.
“Yeah,” the senior man replied, digging out his phone.
“We listened on the police band,” Ma said, and nodded in the direction of the CB radio in the corner. “The maid called it in at nine. Most of the C-11 is still over there.”
Both men nodded. That was good, that Ma already had already confirmed on her own that the job had been done.
The lead man handed the phone toward Ma, but she waved off touching it.
“Just play it for me,” she said.
He hit play and the sons gathered around to watch the small screen.
The sons grinned back and forth as it played and, when the video was over, she said a simple definitive, “So.” Then added. “Give the phone to Alain.”
The man was a little reluctant.
“I want him to download the video,” she said, irritably. “He’s not going to harm your phone.”
The man handed over the phone
“Alain, take it to the computer in the basement,” she ordered. “Theo,” she ordered the other one, “Go get the envelope.”
While they waited, Ma said, “Sit. Have some coquille.” Obviously what she was cooking on the stove. She pronounced it quickly, the French way —co-key— so that it sounded like “cookie.”
Deciding to play it diplomatically, the senior man said, “Yeah, sure, Ma. I could go for a cookie. That’d be great.”
So Momma spooned out some lumps of white rubbery bits in a thick tomato broth from the deep pot on the stove and set a bowl in front of each.
The men looked first at one another, then at Ma.
“Ma this ain’t cookies. What is this?” the senior man asked.
She huffed dismissively, “Cookies? Of course it’s not cookies. It’s coquille … coquille … coquille St. Jacques,” she said, losing a bit of patience
“Well, what is that?” the fellow asked.
“Coquille,” she repeated. “Oh, how you say in English … scallops.”
The son returned with a manila envelope and handed it to the man. It was obviously stuffed with bills.
“You want to count it?” she asked.
“No. That’s okay, Ma. We know you’re a straight shooter,” he said and tucked it into his inner jacket pocket.
The son began to chuckle.
“That’s good,” he said. “I like that. Ma’s a straight shooter.”
Momma looked at him sharply.
“I mean, it’s funny,” the son said, trying to explain his way out. “You know— shooting straight.”
“Theo, shut your face. You know we don’t talk about such things at the dinner table.”
The two men glanced at each other a little surprised: this from a woman who had just listened to a tape of a man pleading for his life and being shot on her order before soup?
The son hung his head, well scolded, and moved back to his position at the rear door.
The men choked back just enough to humor Momma, then said they had to cut out.
Ma turned again to her son. “Theo, move away. Let these men downstairs to get their phone.”
Theo moved away from the door and the men started down.
Their first inkling that all was not well was when they saw the entire lower portion of the stairs and the floor at the foot of the stairs covered in a heavy clear plastic, like painter’s drop sheets.
The second inkling was the two loud snick clicks from behind them —hammers being drawn back.
Two blasts, one right after the other, from both barrels of a twelve gauge shotgun at close range shattered the air like cannon fire, the tight pattern of shot hitting each in the back, upper left, behind the heart, propelling them down the stairs on top of one another onto the sheeting. Blood quickly began to ooze.
From the top of the stairs Ma looked over the bloody scene. She set the shotgun back where it had been, behind the door.
“Theo,” she said. “Go down and help your brother clean that up.”
The son was clearly distressed by the cleanup job facing them. The blood. The bodies. Packing and rolling it all up. Disposing of them Momma’s way.
“What about the money?” he said. “It’s going to be a mess.”
“What money?” she asked, looking at him like he was crazy. “You think I was going to give them money?”
She huffed and went back to her stove.
The next day Connell entered the C-11 looking less well rested. He’d pushed it till well into the small hours that night on a stubborn case and, when he showed up at two that afternoon, he looked more like the haggard, bleary-eyed Connell they were accustomed to seeing around the stationhouse.
He took off his belt, his back hip holster and weapon and, with a yawn, wound the whole thing into a bundle and dumped it into his lower desk drawer like he always did when he had deskwork in front of him. That day he had a hard day’s slogging at the keyboard ahead, catching up on reports.
John Henry was at his desk across the aisle.
“How’s it going, bro?” Connell asked before settling in, wondering where things stood with Vinnie.
Morgan had a vexed expression.
“Aw, man, I hate these mob cases,” he said. “They’re like a big ol’ black hole that sucks you in and you know you never gonna come back out. You might figure out who did it. You might even figure out why they did it. But you know you never gonna figure out how to get the sucker wrapped up and into a court.”
“Like I said, bro, glad it ain’t mine.”
“Aw, come on, man,” Morgan said. “You got a good feel for these things.”
“Mobbed up cases. Cases that ain’t straightforward. How am I gonna get going here?”
Connell could see that the big guy was stymied before he even began. Morgan was also a religious man and a righteous man, a deacon in his church, and mob cases of any kind never sat well with him. As if any kind of murder case could sit well.
“You got a start-point yet?” he asked. “Any idea who might have ordered it?”
Morgan shook his big head in the negative. “But I know who had to bless it. The Man —Big Paulie. Paul Veltro. Who else? You can’t hit a wiseguy in this town as high up as Vinnie without Veltro giving the OK.”
“So, somebody in Veltro’s crew probably took it and did it. That’s a start.”
“Mmm. Big help. I’ll ask them ‘bout it next time we’s sitting down over tea after church.”
“Well, at least that narrows it down from three point five million people in the greater metropolitan area to maybe under a hundred guys.”
Morgan grunted. “Yeah, that is if the shooter didn’t come from out of town. That would bring it back up to three point five million.”
“Any idea what Vinnie might have been doing to get his brethren so pissed at him?”
“Near as I can figure, nothing unusual. I ran it by the guys over at the Mob Squad, and it seems Vinnie was just engaged in his usual chamber of commerce activities. Skimming, scamming, extorting, stealing, embezzling, dealing dope.”
The Mob Squad was what they called the Organized Crime Unit, based out of HQ up town. It tracked and coordinated motorcycle gangs, the Italian and Russian mobs, Vietnamese gangs, and any other gang activities across the GBA. The Greater Boston Area takes in most of the entire population inside the I-95 highway that rings the city from the south, well out to the west, and rounding in again well north. Dozens of smaller cities, towns, and neighborhoods making up that census area.
“How about parolees and ex-cons recently back on the street?” Connell suggested.
“I checked. Nobody with contract killer credentials.”
“How about new talent? Anyone noteworthy arrive in town lately?”
“Not that came in and signed the big red guest book over at city hall.”
Connell felt for his partner. This was exactly why he hated such cases.
“How’d you get stuck with it, anyway?” he asked. “How come they didn’t just move it over to the Mob guys?”
“I made the mistake of getting there first. I had no idea on the drive over that it was mob business. We thought it was an old money case. Once we got there, and the media guys got there, and it became this big front page item, Ms. Nolan jumped all over it and decided she wanted to keep it in-house. Make points with the Captain. Made it sound like a big break-through moment. Take it an run. I’m s’posed to push it into some kind of prelim shape so we can bring the team in later.”
Connell rolled his eyes. Right. Departmental politics. Lt. Catherine Nolan was head of Detective Services, the C-11.
“John, good chance this thing is going to dead end anyway. I wouldn’t spend too much time on it.”
“Easy for you to say, man. You ain’t the one with Nolan on your tail.”
Connell realized that his partner was hitting the wall.
“Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll do some nosing around for you. See if I can find out anything.”
“Naw, man,” Morgan said. “You can’t do that. Nolan’d be all over your sorry ass, you go putting time in on this.”
“Don’t worry about it, bro. Most days Nolan’s got no idea what I’m doing. I’ll just mix in a few inquiries for you while I’m on about my own stuff.”
At six-foot five and a still mostly muscled two-hundred and eighty pounds, Morgan was forty-nine and twenty years Connell’s senior. He had stepped in and helped Connell out a time or two where a certain intimidation factor had helped move things along. The favors went both ways.
Morgan nodded. “Yeah, okay, little brother,” he said. “I’d ‘preciate that. Nolan’s really pushing on this one.”
That night, Connell devoted some time to see if he could stir something up for John.
He decided to start with pool halls. So he headed outside his usual territory, across the channel into the northern part of the city which.
Connell split his time between regular duties at the C-11 and his INSOURCE rounds. INSOURCE was Intelligence Sourcing. A trial project of the BRIC, Boston Regional Intelligence Center of the BPD. Its mandate is to build a network of reliable informants— ICs, Intel Contacts, from the criminal world; and CIs, Confidential Informants from the civilian sector. The city that brought the world Whitey Bulger was trying once again to the get the intel business right. Connell had volunteered for the experimental unit and, at the C-11, he was a squad, so far, of one.
There were a number of pool halls in close proximity to each other along an long industrial-commercial stretch of small shopping and commercial malls along Highway 145 which runs past Logan Airport and northward. Some of these halls were big, well-lit, and well known. Others more dingy little hole-in-the-walls.
Connell’s approach was to go in, watch a game or two in progress, watch some soccer on the overhead TVs, and generally try to blend in while he sniff around for a certain promising type of individual. For this he went on gut instinct. He’d know his guy when he saw him.
He went into three establishments and sensed that each was out of the loop. Finally getting a good feeling about the fourth. It was a smaller more casual joint in an upstairs unit in a small commercial mall around the corner from a strip club. Also less than a mile from one of Paul Veltro’s “front” businesses, a discount furniture store. So its location was promising.
Connell walked in in his jeans and scuffed-up leather jacket with a Boston Herald folded and tucked under his arm, looking like a working guy out to kill a few hours. No one raised an eyebrow.
He sat at the bar and nursed a beer and browsed the paper, getting the lay of the place, and a particular table of players caught his attention. He took his beer and moved over and sat on a bench nearby and watched. He made the occasional comment about some of the shots that were made, and got himself noticed.
After a while, one of the players inquired if had any money to wager.
He let it be known that, yes, he did have some money to risk, that he had just signed on as a driver with a small trucking firm around the corner, and that he had a few hours to kill before his shift. He was also a fanatical fan of the Irish National Soccer Team —“the best flipping soccer team in the world!” That quickly struck a competitive chord among the Italian National Soccer Team fanatics present and he was immediately razzed for his poor taste in soccer teams. Another beer or two and he was cautiously accepted by the small group of players, all young Ginos in their twenties.
For most of an hour Connell played with good humor, lost steadily, and told bad jokes. He gained more cautious acceptance.
He noticed that one of the players was a little more reserved and a little less talkative than the others. He sensed, from long experience, that this was the guy to get close to.
His opportunity came when he was playing against the guy and managed to get up a few points on him. They were pretty close on points when the cue ball ended up behind a red with the seven on the other side, three inches from the corner pocket.
Connell eyed the shot from all angles.
The guy said, “You’ll never bank that shot. You’re done, pal.”
Connell was only a fair pool player and, like most fair pool players, he had just one good trick shot. It was a shot he had practiced until he could pull it off most times he attempted it. It involved coming down on the cue ball and jumping it over an obstructing red to drive another ball into the pocket. Most other players, when they tried to “jump the ball,” as often as not the cue ball itself followed the struck ball into the pocket. But Connell had learned how to put a backspin on the cue ball so that it ran up to the lip, then pulled back. But it was considered a hot dog maneuver by serious players, and wasn’t much appreciated, so he only pulled it out on rare occasions.
He knelt and eyed the shot again and said, “I think I can drop it. You want to bet on the shot?”
They already had a bet going on the game.
The Italian guy glanced at Ty, then glanced at his friends: he’d already committed himself by saying the shot couldn’t be drain.
“Yeah, sure,” he said. “How much?”
“That’s up to you, amigo.”
“You got a hundred?”
Connell paused as though coking on the amount. He got that do-I-even-have-a-hundred look and dug out his wallet. He turned his back for a moment to have a private peek inside.
When he turned back, he said, “Yeah. Okay. I’m good … just.”
“O-kay,” the guy said, and laid his money on the table. “Let’s do it.”
Connell laid his bills down and walked the table, eyeing the shot again from all sides, finally positioning himself with the cue stick high behind and over the ball. He rammed the cue down hard and the ball jumped the red and smacked the black, driving it into the pocket. The cue ball followed dangerous close to the lip, and then rolled back.
There were a few whistles and hoots from those watching, but he could see that the Italian kid was not pleased.
But rather than pick up the money, Connell left it on the side of the table. He knew the guy’s name was Tony, because the others had addressed him as such, so he said, “Don’t worry, Tony. I’m not the kind who gets lucky and runs. I only got one good shot, and you just saw it.”
They played another few games and Tony won his money back and a little more, which made him a happy guy again.
It was soon others turn to play, and Connell and Tony took a table nearby and called for a couple of beers. Tony was in his late twenties: muscular, handsome, thick black hair gelled and combed back, and vain. Connell sensed that he was the kind who wanted you know how just well connected he was. It turned out he worked at a fitness centre around the corner, also did some bouncer work in his spare time at a nightclub nearby. So he was in a position to hear things.
Connell had the Herald laid out on the table and he began flipping through casually, making idle comments. He worked things around slowly from soccer to music to films to the hit on that mob guy downtown. There was a follow-up story about it in that day’s paper. Connell stopped at the page.
“Man, they got this guy good, eh?” he said, tapping the article.
“Now, that one was cool,” Tony said.
“Cool?” Connell said, sounding a little surprised. “They went right into the guy’s garage and got him in his pajamas. That’s brutal!”
Tony waved that off.
“Ah, it was just business,” he said. “Vinnie wasn’t a good boy. Matter of fact, he was a very bad boy. You fool around with the wrong people, that’s what you get.”
“Did you know this guy?”
“Vinnie? Nah. I just heard he was way out of line.”
Connell didn’t comment. He continued to look over the article.
Tony then leaned forward and looked both ways before speaking lowly, in a conspiratorial tone. “You know they made the sucker get down on his knees and beg for his life. And then they shot him,” he said, pleased with himself for knowing this arcane bit of detail.
Connell knew that that hadn’t made it into any of the news reports. It was a holdback. Something only police and the killers knew.
Connell made a little huff of skepticism. “I dunno about that. You can’t believe everything you hear.”
Tony shrugged. If Connell didn’t believe him, he didn’t care one way or the other. He leaned back and rested his arms along the bank of the small booth.
“It says here that it was a pro hit,” Connell said, reading from the article. “You really think they made him kneel?”
Tony nodded knowingly. “It’s all about revenge, my man.”
“What’d he do, sleep with somebody’s wife?”
Tony leaned in and spoke lowly again. “He tampered with something wasn’t his. But it wasn’t nobody’s wife. It was business.”
“Really? Well, I wouldn’t mess with those guys,” Connell said, shaking his head and taking a long drink of beer.
“This wasn’t even wise guys,” Tony said, continuing to lean forward and speak lowly. “This was a crazy old French bitch ordered this one.”
Connell tried not to convey his suddenly very keen interest. He set his beer down as though the statement barely interested him.
“A woman ordering a hit?” he said, offhandedly. “Mmm, I doubt that.” He turned back to the paper.
“You’d be surprised, man. This old bat’s connected. And hell has no fury, right?”
Then Tony seemed to realize he’d said enough. He looked at Connell a little more closely and he decided to zip it.
“So you want to shoot another game, or what?” he asked.
Connell glanced at his watch. “Yeah. Sure,” he said. “One more. Then I gotta head to work. I gotta make the midnight run up to Bar Harbor tonight. Fricking Wal-Mart. Man, I hate that drive.”
He spent another half-hour playing pool and left the hall.
The next day at the stationhouse, when Morgan walked in, Connell was already at his desk.
“Morning, little brother,” Morgan said, and he looked over quizzically as he hung up his coat, clearly wondering if Connell’d had any luck on his behalf.
“Well, I had a chance to have a look around for you,” Connell said.
“I played a bit of pool with an Italian kid up near the airport. He works at a fitness club up there. Does some bouncing at a nightclub as well. So he’s in a position to hear things. He claims that word is that the hit on Vinnie wasn’t a mob hit at all.”
“This kid says it was ordered up by a woman.”
Morgan plunked his two hundred and seventy pounds into the swivel chair, and looked at Connell skeptically.
“Man, there’s only one woman I know in this town who could call for a hit like that,” Morgan said.
Connell nodded. “Momma Lupe.”
“Yeah. You know her?”
“Never met the woman. Hardly know anything about her. But I came across her name a few years back when I was working that case with the guys up in Revere. The biker case. She’s French-Canadian. Operates out of the south end, I think. Supplies strippers to biker and mob clubs. I think she’s tight with Veltro and his mob pals. And that hit on Vinnie? It’s her style. Even the part about Vinnie kneeling. Have him beg for his life. She’s nuts. And sadistic. Vindictive, sadistic, and nuts.”
“Momma Lupe. Don’t that mean crazy or something in pisano?” Morgan asked.
Connell nodded. “Strictly speaking, it means she wolf. But the pisanos use it to mean more. A complete mental case she wolf. A rabid she wolf with pups. Crazy vicious. Crazy unpredictable. I got the whole story from the Revere guys when I worked up there.”
“And you think this pool hall kid knows what he’s talking about?”
Connell nodded. “I think he’s heard things.”
Morgan adopted a thoughtful expression; mulling something over.
“You really think the mob would let an outsider weirdo like Momma Lupe call for a hit on one of their own guys?”
“I was wondering the same thing myself. I guess it depends what Momesso did. If he crossed her bad enough —and it hit Veltro in the pocket— the guy might have stood aside. Let Momma take care of business her own way.”
Morgan sat up straight in his chair. He seemed to be suddenly motivated, like a weight off his shoulders.
“Well, bro, it looks like you might have hit the mainline. How you feel about trying to pin this down a little more? I’d feel a whole lot better if I could be sure this ain’t mob business. We might even have a shot at cracking it.”
Now that they had a name, and a face, and a sheet, they at least had someone to zero in on. If what Connell had heard was true. Not that pinning anything on Momma Lupe was going to be easy either.
“I wouldn’t count the case closed just yet, John,” Connell said. “It’s still a third party hit with no witnesses, no weapon and no perp. Yet. No bookmaker would give us more than 50 to 1, even if it was Ma behind it. But tell you what, leave it with me for another day or two.”
Connell went to the CORI site, Criminal Offender Record Information, the local police-only portal that archived police and court records statewide. He typed Lupanier and waited. But he got a surprise —nothing came up.
He tried again. He type in the whole name this time: Isabel Lupanier.
Still nothing came up.
Very strange. Especially for someone as active in an illicit trade as Momma was supposed to be. Nothing? Police, when they knew they had felons active in their jurisdiction —not merely active but growing their businesses— made it a point to find ways to charge these people with even the most minor offences. This to start a sheet so that, at some time down the road, they could demonstrate a build-up in criminal activity. Someone like Momma, even if she had moved to the Boston area only in recent years. You don’t drop into her line of work from another planet. She supposedly supplied strippers and hookers to strip clubs all across. To have no sheet at all? How was it possible? But there it was —none of the usual litany of minor misdemeanors related to her trade: possession restricted substances, being a found-in, trafficking in prostitution, soliciting, living off the avails, running a common bawdy house.
“Not even a traffic ticket?” Connell said aloud.
He then went to the DMV site, Department of Motor Vehicles.
Not only did Momma have a clean record there as well —she wasn’t even registered.
She apparently didn’t own a car and didn’t drive!
Things weren’t adding up.
Connell went back to the CORI site. To the Comments section and, off the official record, there were some interesting notes. Of particular interest were several reports from different officers from different jurisdictions in recent years trying to tie Momma to the disappearance of various rivals, associates, and even girls connected to her operation. But none of these cases had ever gained enough substance to become charges. So Momma’s record in the State of Massachusetts was clean on the all counts.
The file did give a current address: a back street in Mattapan, a low-rent district in the city’s southeast corner.
Connell, when he was done, was more intrigued than ever.
He decided to have a closer look at Momma. And her operation.
On Monday morning Morgan entered the C-11, curious again to know how Connell had made out.
“How you makin’ out, brother?” he said.
“Not bad, John. Some news to report.”
Morgan sat down and straightened around to listen.
“I hit half the strip clubs in the city over the weekend,” Connell said and John arched an eyebrow. Connell knew very well that John’s opinion was that such places were a blight, were the devil’s work against women and that they should be leveled, not attended. Connell didn’t disagree, but he pushed on. “The rumor that Ma has a lock on girls coming in seems to be true. Half the girls I overheard spoke with French accents. Heavy French accents. Just off the bus from Quebec.”
“You know, Ty, I know that most of the girls working these clubs are imports from somewhere else, a lot are here illegally. But I don’t need to hear too many details about these places.”
“Anyway,” Connell said, pushing ahead again. “I needed to get a feel for where the scene was at. I also bought a few dozen beers for my buddy at the B-3, Mattapan District. He knows Mattapan and he knows Momma and her operation about as well as anybody does.”
Morgan nodded that that sounded promising. “And …”
“And I found out that Momma runs her little empire from her home. From her kitchen table. A little place off Fuller, north of River Street. According to my guy, she runs card games on Friday nights, which biker and mob guys are known to show up at. Crazy thing is, again according to my guy, she runs them like a church social. No smoking, no drinking, no swearing, no spitting, no cheating, no arguing, and no guns at the table. And they sit there playing till all hours of the night.”
“I don’t get it,” Morgan said. “Why would bikers or mob dudes show up to play cards with a wingy old French bat at a place with rules like that?”
“To stay on the right side of Momma, I guess.”
“And there was one other very interesting feature about her setup.”
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“Her kitchen is at the front of the house, on the west side, on Fuller, but looking down a street called Milton Avenue.”
“Milton runs down and meets Morton Street which runs to where River and Dorchester meet, the main crossroads in that part of town. Momma’s house is right on the corner of Fuller and Morton.”
Morgan looked confused. “Man. All this geography. It’s making my head spin.”
Connell pressed on.
“There’s a great big picture window with no drapes or blinds on it and that looks right into Momma’s kitchen from the street —or out to the street from Momma’s kitchen, whichever way you want to put it. Where Momma and these guys sit watching the world go by playing cards.”
“Ty, is there a point in there somewheres?”
“Yeah. Two points. Point one is, from her kitchen she can see anyone approaching her place from five blocks away. Point two is that, if she’s running her business from her kitchen, and her kitchen has that big picture window, and the window faces a corner and a long side street, we could maybe get a truck parked along the street far enough down not to alarm her. We could get a parabolic mike on that glass.”
Morgan sat back. “I like the sounds of that. Now maybe we’re gettin’ somewhere. But we need a warrant and a budget to put a sound truck and a team on it.”
“I’ll leave paperwork to you, bro,” Connell said. “See Nolan about a tap warrant. Meanwhile, I got another angle I can work. I’ll let you know how that one goes.”
“Okay, man. Let’s do it.”
What had occurred to Connell was that, since Momma’s primary activity was importing and booking girls in strip clubs all around New England, that there had to be a girl or two out there who had been abused, cheated, or otherwise wronged by her. Or by one of the lunatic sons, or one of Momma’s other hired goons. Maybe a girl who might know inside things about Ma’s business and be willing to talk about it.
He just had to find one.
And he knew just the guy.
Paul Geddes was a small-time dealer/user and a creature of the late night world of seedy bars, sleazy nightclubs and stipclubs, and all night donut shops. He was a junkie who would sell his mom for a twenty-dollar hit. A true bottom feeder. Every time Connell had met with him he was wearing the same greasy old buckskin jacket and greasy blue jeans that smelled like neither they —nor Paul— had been near a washing for years. And probably hadn’t. The guy had body odor and bad breath that could knock you back a few feet just by saying hello. He was short, stocky, and had teeth so yellow they looked like corn kernels. A true denizen of the netherworld.
But he could get access to information no one else could.
And, as far as intel went, he’d tell you anything, or find out anything —for a price. And he frequented the north end biker club scene to boot, so he’d be well familiar with Ma’s operation.
Connell just had to find him. Last time he’d seen Geddes, the guy was sitting in a run-down little donut shop on Bennington, the main thoroughfare in the north end and where Connell had just been the day before on his tour of north-end pool halls. Also a known hangout for heroin addicts.
Connell made the drive and, sure enough, he spotted Geddes in almost exactly the same spot he’d last seen him two years before. Parked at the same small round window-side table, dressed in the same greasy buckskin jacket, greasy blue jeans, stained black T-shirt, and snakeskin cowboy boots with silver-tipped toes. And he still had that reptilian quality about him. His skin shiny with dirt and grime. Scaly, like a lizard.
He was holding court with several other candidates for Citizen of the Year who wandered off quickly when Connell stepped in and pulled a chair around.
“Hey, my man,” Geddes said, a bit surprised and a bit wary to see Connell again. He gripped Connell’s thumb in a musician’s handshake. Even the handshake was smarmy. There was nothing musical about Paul.
They traded small talk for a few minutes, then Connell said, “Paul, I’m gonna need a little information.”
“Yeah, well. We all got our needs, don’t we?” Geddes said, and he cast a sideways glance at Connell, assessing how much urgency Connell might have on this particular occasion.
Geddes’s mind didn’t run to what the information might be. That was immaterial. He’d give up anything that didn’t get him killed. It ran only to how much that info might fetch. And for Geddes, every dollar translated strictly into cc’s of heroin: his lifeline. He knew, from working with Connell before, that Connell worked some sort of undercover detail that had access to cash for info. So he knew how it worked and what to expect. It all just came down to bargaining.
Connell said, “This could be a nice payday for you, Paul. Something like last time. Depending what you bring me.”
He could see that Geddes was interested. Was still much in the game and on the needle.
“Can you define ‘nice’?” Geddes said.
“I gotta check. Maybe up to five grand.”
“Up to leaves a lot of wiggle room.”
“First, I just wanted to see if you were still in town, still in business, and still interested in the occasional freelance assignment.”
“Well, you found my office,” Geddes said. “And I’m still open for business.”
“Okay. I found you. Let me see where I can take it. I’ll get back to you.”
Connell rose and Geddes made a little shooting motion with his finger and thumb as he left.
Connell hooked up the next day with Morgan.
“Okay, John. So, I ran down an old source,” he said. “This is a guy who can find out whatever we need to know about Momma.”
“That’s good, man. I also got a solid gold warrant for the tap on her window. We just be picking up public air waves, like a little old Momma Lupe radio station.”
Connell had to smile at the radio station imagery. “I also put in a req form with the Fink guys. My guy’s a known IC in my file already. It’s a formality. I just got to make a call to pick up payment.”
The Fink Fund was what working officers called the three-man internal division that handled pay-off monies, both from hotline tips from the public and CI and IC sources from guys like Connell. Officially it was called SIPCO. The Secure Informant Payment Clearing Office and the amounts doled out could range from fifty dollars for minor phone tips, up to many thousands for major intel on lengthy and successful investigations.
“Okay, man,” Morgan said. “You want to make that call?”
Connell made the call. “We’re good,” he said when he hung up.
“Let’s go find your dude.”
They swung by the Fink Fund offices in a downtown tower, double-parking out front while Connell ran in to sign for the cash. He brought back a small canvas banker’s cash bag stuffed with small bills.
On the drive to Geddes’s “office,” Connell filled Morgan in on exactly who they were going to be facing.
“John, I guarantee you’re not going to like this cat. But just let me do the talking. Don’t do or say anything. You’ll just spook him.”
“Okay, little brother. You in charge. I just wonder where you find the rocks to look under for some of these guys?”
“Don’t worry. The guy’s good. Last time he cost us ten grand on that biker round-up, but it was well worth it.”
Morgan whistled lowly. “Man, that’s a lot of bread for a lowlife.”
“Not to a lowlife on junk. Besides, the operation ran three months and we confiscated vehicles and property worth half a million at auction.”
They found Geddes at the same table at the donut shop.
But this time Geddes was not the relaxed laid-back person he had been when Connell spoke with him just twenty-four hours before. And Connell knew why. When they’d last met, Geddes had been on the fix, and all was mellow in his world. This time he was on the hunt and wild-eyed. He probably hadn’t had a hit that day.
Connell introduced John but Geddes avoided looking at him. He avoided eye contact of any kind. And he was tense and edgy.
“You taping this?” Geddes asked, his eyes darting around, glancing inside and outside the shop.
Connell said, “Paul, you know I’m wearing a wire. If I’m going to advance you major bucks, I gotta have my back covered. We’ve been through this before. Just don’t mumble and speak clearly.”
John cast a nervous glance Connell’s way and Connell could see that the big guy was not sold on Geddes, or on the whole situation. But Connell knew how to manage guys like Geddes. He slipped the canvas bag out of his jacket and onto his lap, out of sight of other eyes in the shop. But Geddes’s eyes widened and he got that dire craving look that junkies get and that Connell knew so well.
“Hey, man,” Geddes said, “Can you do me a little advance before we start?”
That was why Connell had brought out the bag.
“No problem, Paul, how much you need?”
Geddes’s eyes darted around the room again as he calculated how much he might be able to tap Connell for. He was in no position to be greedy, but he clearly needed a hit.
“How about a hundred?” he asked, his eyes locked on Connell’s.
Connell hesitated for a moment, to let the tension build a little, then he pulled out a hundred dollars in twenties. He held onto them for another moment, letting Geddes squirm a bit more, build up his motivation to cooperate, then handed them under the table. Geddes took the money and rose quickly.
“I’ll be back in five,” he said.
As Geddes was disappearing out the door, Morgan was shaking his head.
“Man! You really think that smackhead’s going to come back? After you just laid enough on him to get high all night?”
“He’ll be back,” Connell said. “I work with these guys all the time. And he’ll be settled down when he does. I couldn’t work with him the way he was. He was too edgy. Eyes darting all over the place. It was going to fall apart. Believe me, he wants the other forty-nine hundred more than he wants to run with that C-note.”
Geddes did return. In less than fifteen minutes. And he was exactly as Connell had said he would be: settled, calm, focused, and ready to deal.
“So, my man, what’d you want to know?” Geddes asked, the transformation quite remarkable.
Connell knew that Geddes had gone around the corner to an even smaller, grittier, little all night eatery, made a buy, had gone into the filthy washroom there, took out the spoon he always carried, and warmed the powder to a golden fluid with his lighter. He then fixed himself up while seated on the toilet. Junk hits almost immediately —a warm all-enveloping body glow that addicts need to normalize. By the time Geddes got back to the table, all was right in his world again.
“Momma Lupe,” Connell said, simply, when the guy was seated.
For a couple of long moments Geddes said nothing. He just stared at them both.
Finally, he said, “You expect me to tell you anything about Momma? Man, that’s one place we never been before and I didn’t know that was on the table.”
But Connell had thought it through. He knew that a guy like Geddes couldn’t afford to rat out someone as highly placed as Momma. He’d rat out his mother or other family, but never someone like Momma. That is, not if he wanted to continue to live anywhere near Boston. Anywhere in the northeast, for that matter.
Connell remained calm. He spoke in a reassuring tone.
“No, Paul, I don’t expect you to do that. This is going to be the easiest most risk-free five grand you’ll ever make. And for it I want just two things. One, I want to know if she ordered the hit on Vinnie Momesso downtown. For that I don’t need details. Just get me an answer. Two, I want a name. One name. Of one girl who’s inside Ma’s setup. Or Was. Someone who knows the whole picture from the inside and is willing to talk. Someone with a grudge to settle with Ma.”
“Momma’s a connected lady,” Geddes says. “Not a lot of people speak out about her around here. It could be bad for your health, messing with her. She really is crazy, you know.”
“So I’ve heard,” Connell said and tucked the envelope back into his pocket.
Geddes watched closely as he did so.
“What’d she ever do to you guys?” Geddes asked. “And why do you guys give a shit about Vinnie? Even the mob guys don’t care that he got it.”
“Let’s just say,” Connell said. “We’ve got a special incentive in this case.”
“A de-partmental Christmas bonus?” Geddes said and smiled a yellowish-brown smile.
“Something like that.”
He could see Geddes thinking it over. Informing in any way on anything to do with Momma was risky. But, still, five grand—
Connell leaned in close. “Paul, you don’t even have to exert yourself for this one. Just come up with one name.”
Geddes thought about it for a moment.
“There might be a few people she’s fucked over, but I can’t guarantee they’ll talk to you. As for the hit on Vinnie, I might be able to find out about that.”
Connell suspected that Geddes already knew the truth about Vinnie, but he wasn’t the kind to give away information for free when he could collect on it.
“Tell you what I’m gonna do,” Connell said, and he slid out the canvas bag again. He pulled out another hundred dollars, which he shoved into Geddes’s T-shirt pocket. “I’m gonna give you another hundred dollars down payment right now towards that five grand. You call me when you get an answer and a name, and we’ll do more business.”
He stood to leave. John following suit.
“All you want is a name?” Geddes asked.
“A name that works. Somebody who will talk. Somebody who has something to say.”
“And my name doesn’t come up anywhere?”
“Paul, you’re the invisible man.”
Geddes glanced around, to see who might be watching them, and he nodded, to himself, thoughtfully.
“Okay, man. I’ll get back to you,” he said, echoing Connell’s words of the day before.
Outside, in the car John said, “You really think that stoner dude’s gonna come up with a name we can use?”
Connell was glancing in the mirror as they pulled out of the lot. “He’ll go through that second hundred tomorrow. By Thursday morning —unless he wins the lottery— he’ll be on the phone to me.”
At Thursday noon, Paul Geddes put the call in to Connell: he wanted to meet.
“And bring the rest of the dough,” Geddes said.
Geddes was at the donut shop once again. Standing outside this time, waiting when they pulled into the lot. Connell motioned him into the back seat of the unmarked. Geddes hopped in and they exited the lot, to talk with a little more privacy. Morgan was at the wheel.
Geddes said, “You get my dough?”
Already it was “his” dough. That told Connell that the hook was well set and that this fish was ready for the reeling.
He held the canvas cash bag into view and said, “So, what’s the deal with Vinnie?”
“It was Ma’s job,” Geddes said. “Big Paulie gave it the okay, but Vinnie stiffed Ma direct. Taking some dope, batting some girl around. I dunno. But Vinnie was Ma’s all the way and no one in the outfit’s going after her for it. Besides, it was done by outside guys. No one knows from where. It was Ma’s to do how she wanted.”
Connell and Morgan exchanged glances. Good to get confirmation. Now they just had to figure out how to build a case they could take into a court, and it sure wasn’t going to be by putting Paul Geddes before a judge or jury, or even his statement. Connell’d given him immunity anyway. At least it was a start.
Connell glanced at Geddes in the rearview. “And number two?”
“Yeah. As for a name, let me get this clear,” Geddes said, and Connell almost had to smile. When Geddes was on the junk and was totally leveled-out and lucid —like he was at that moment— the guy was sharp as a lawyer. What a transformation from the vibrating, inchoate, addict-in-need he sometimes was. “I give up one name and I got no other involvement, right? No court. No line-ups. No grill sessions.”
Connell turned in his seat to face Geddes. “Not quite, Paul. I don’t just want a name. I want the right name. Somebody who’ll work with us.”
“So, you’ll give me the five grand today?”
“Noooo,” Connell said. “Today I’ll give you another two hundred advance. That’ll buy you a few days, and it’ll buy me a few days. We’ll track down the name you give us, we’ll go interview them, and see if it’s a go.”
“And if it ain’t a go?”
“Then I’ll need another name, won’t I?”
Geddes agonized for a bit. He wanted the whole payment then. But he finally gave up a name.
Connell didn’t respond right away, glancing again at Geddes in the mirror, deciding if the name was any good.
Geddes also paused, thinking it over a bit more, that he had to do a bit more sell. He added, “She’s what you want. Cute kid. Straight out of the Quebec woods and right off the pumpkin wagon. She hit town without too many mental issues but they got the needle into her and wired her up pretty quick and, from then on, they owned her butt. And I mean owned. They had her processing johns like high-production time at the sausage factory. They hit her up with smack to zone her out and then with meth shots to rev her up. She was like this combination of real live wind-up Barbie doll and zombie. Total mind control. She also got worked over pretty good by those two sons of Ma’s. They took runs at her whenever they wanted. So she’s bitter. Bitter bitter. And she knows stuff. About Momma. About other girls. Knows it all. Probably even where a body or two is buried.”
“And she’ll talk?” Connell asked.
“Yeah. She’ll talk. Just ask about her sister.”
“Where does she work at?”
“The Crazy Horse, usually. I heard she had some sort of breakdown and they sent her home. Maybe gave up on her. Never good news when they do that. I’d hurry and get there if I was you.”
The last comment sent a jolt of concern through Connell.
The Crazy Horse was a sleazy backstreet knock-off of the famous Paris stripclub/whorehouse. It was located less than a mile away. No doubt one of Paul’s haunts when he had cash to spare.
Connell peeled off two hundred dollars and said, “Paul, we’ll talk again in two days.”
And they dropped Geddes off back at the donut shop.
As they drove away Morgan said, “You think that dude’s smoking us about this gal maybe knowing where a body or two is buried.”
“Not at all. He knows that’s what we want. My bet is he’s right on the money. Paul’s a first-rate source. Gets it all right from key players. Not many out there like him.”
Connell was just worried about what might happen to the girl if that strip club—or Momma— considered her a burnout no longer of use to them. A burnout with too much insider knowledge.
Back at the stationhouse, Connell ran the girl’s name through the system and it popped up with a few minor charges in recent years. Possession, prostitution, drunk and disorderly, the usual hooker activities. And there was a driver’s license from the Canadian province of Quebec with a fairly recent photo.
There was also a Boston address, current as of three months ago. Some further checking uncovered an old un-served Province of Quebec bench warrant from her days in Quebec. A minor traffic offence she’d skipped out on. Most New England states had traffic reciprocity relationships with most of the eastern Canadian provinces and would serve each others warrants. They just wouldn’t prosecute them. But the girl wouldn’t know that Massachusetts wouldn’t prosecute and Quebec warrant. It gave Connell a solid negotiating tool.
Connell contacted the local QPP station, the Quebec Provincial Police, in a little town called Saint-Malo, the town where Dumont had lived and grown up, and the station that had issued the original ticket. He asked them to fax through a copy of the ticket and the warrant.
The next day he and John met up at the station.
“How’s the tap going?” Connell asked.
“Like a charm, far as sound and clarity goes,” Morgan said, “Only one small hitch.”
“Momma and her crew never talk shop in the kitchen. They play cards all night and never so much as mention work. But Momma keeps leaving the room with certain guests. They seem to head to a small room at the back of the place, and they come back a few minutes later. All we hear is poker talk and cussin’. Any time they might be starting to talk about something good, they leave.”
Connell shook his head slowly.
“Son of a bitch. Man, she is one wily old sow. You think she knows you’re there?”
John shook his head ‘no’. “I think it’s just the way the crazy old bat does her business. Probably got a house rule about no shop talk in the kitchen, like the rest of them rules she has.”
Connell could only shake his head in begrudged respect. This one wasn’t going to be easy.
“You going to keep the tap going?” he asked.
“No. We gotta pull it. The crew’s booked across town starting tomorrow. We could sit there forever, but I don’t think she’s gonna say nothing in that kitchen of hers.”
“Too bad. It could have been good. Well, anyway, I got the Dumont girl’s address. Let’s go see what she’s got to say.”
They found the apartment in West Roxbury, a rickety third floor walkup in a neighborhood of low rent high turnover tenements. Connell knocked at the door. It was almost noon, but they had to knock several times before the girl opened the door half-dressed and half-asleep.
“Emily Dumont?” Connell asked.
“‘oo the ‘ell are you?” she said, in a cute French accent, scratching her still-sleepy head.
She was a slim girl, almost to an unhealthy degree —maybe anorexic, Connell guessed. Junk’ll do that to you. She had delicate, porcelain-like features, and a shock of reddish-blonde hair.
“I’m Det. Connell, and this is Det. John Henry Morgan,” Connell said, and he flashed his badge.
She said, “Yeah, an’ I’m Lady Madonna. Listen, it’s kind of early. Youse guys’ll have to catch me down at the club some time.”
And she slammed the door.
Connell was relieved. At least she still had some spirit. Hadn’t been completely crushed yet. He knocked again.
They could hear her shuffling back to the door, which she yanked open in anger this time. “Listen, I tol’ you guys to beat it. Scram. I’m tired. It’s too early. Get out of here. G’wan. G’bye. Adios …”
And she went to slam the door shut again, but Connell put his foot in.
“Uh, Miss Dumont,” he said, leaning in. “We really are police officers. And we really do need to speak with you. Now.”
“What for? I ain’t done nothing wrong.”
Connell held up the old warrant.
She squinted at it and her shoulders sagged.
“Can we come in for a minute?”
“Yeah, Sure, Why not? I’m awake now anyway,” and she waved them in and pulled her housecoat around her body which was slim in the waist, arms and legs but remarkably well-developed up top. It was almost incongruous. A waist so slim and breasts so overly-developed. Connell had to wonder if it was all original equipment or after market. Her thin little housecoat wasn’t easily containing her ample amplitude and they kept threatening to spill out. Obviously one of the reasons she came in for so much special attention in Ma’s world.
She sat on the small living room sofa and Connell and Morgan took chairs opposite.
“So why are you chasing me about that ol’ ting? I did stop. The cop, ‘e says I din stop, but I did stop.”
“Miss Dumont, we’re not really here about the warrant. We understand that you work at the Crazy Horse.”
“Yeah,” she said, a little defensively. “Sometimes,” she said and reached for a cigarette from the pack on the table. She lit it.
“And you know a woman by the name of Isabelle Lupanier. Momma Lupe,” Connell continued.
“Yeah,” she said again, more defensively.
Connell leaned forward in the tattered old chair.
“Miss Dumont. We’d like to talk to you about Momma.”
The girl was clearly frightened and reluctant to talk at first. But it didn’t take much for it to turn into more of a therapy session than a police interview. It started in fits and starts, but before they knew it, she was filling the ashtray with smokes one after the other and talking so fast they could hardly keep up with their notes.
She spun out a story about how she was approached by Ma back in the small town of Burlington, near Montpelier in northern Vermont. About a hundred and fifty miles due north of Boston in an almost straight line up the I-93. She said that, after high school was done, she had begun to slip over the Quebec-Vermont border to dance in towns and cities in north Vermont when she was eighteen.
At that she sneered.
“At eighteen in Vermont you can become a slave to drunks, you just can’t have a drink to get yourself numb. Men! They make all the laws! Keep us sober so they can get drunk.”
She also been working as a waitress at a small diner in her home town, Saint-Malo, just across the Vermont border, she said, and still living at home with her folks. The dancing she said she was able to keep from her parents and was going toward building a college fund to go back to school. She had her heart set on a media arts career. She went on to speak about how Ma and her sons were so nice the first few times they came by the club in Burlington. They said that they were tourists, just visiting the area, and it struck her as odd at the time, that an elderly woman would be traveling with two grown sons in their thirties and stopping in strip clubs as they toured. But they struck up a friendship with her and ended up taking her out for an expensive dinner that first night. Even gave her some money to buy some new clothes. She thought they were wonderful.
They came back through the town a few weeks later and the scenario was repeated: dinner, a few gifts, some more money. Just nice people.
Then they came back a third time.
“I ‘ad no idea dey were driving all ‘round the countryside. All over Vermont and Quebec. Talking to girls like me. Amateurs and newcomers who wanted out, nor more in. Making friends with us. Giving us money. Buying us tings. The tird time they came back we went to dinner again, and dat’s when Ma said I owed her two ‘undred dollars, plus interest by the week, which made it tree ‘undred dollars. Then she said she knew ‘ow I could pay her off fast and make lots more money besides. I could make two tousand dollars a week, she said. Den I realized. I knew what she was talking about, but I needed the money. I thought I could ‘andle it. That’s how I ended up in Boston. But I had no idea what they were like. What being a slave was like. Then the sons started on me.”
She said she was repeatedly raped by the sons once they got back to Boston, and then they “sold” her to a biker club in Revere and the bikers took turns raping her. Breaking her down, locking her in, terrorizing her, getting her malleable. They forced her to perform in their strip clubs, and to perform sexually with customers both inside and away from the club. What made it all possible, she said, was the fact that they had got her on the smack. After one fix, she was theirs.
“I thought it was wonderful. I felt so free. After that, they owned me.” What Geddes had already said.
She also told them about her “quota” for dealing dope in the clubs —mostly coke— and what happened when she fell short.
None of this was news either to Connell or to John. That that was the nature of Momma’s operation, and every other stripclub/whorehouse operation in the world with minor variations. Trading in the misery of desperate addicted women. But Ma had added a twist they hadn’t heard of before. A quote system.
Connell regarded her sympathetically. “What happened if you didn’t meet this quota?”
“She turned me over to the sons, an she’d watch. They’d chain me to the bed so I couldn’t run and go at me. Momma used to sit there drinking her absinthe and making comments, like at a wrestling match. Then she’d ship me off to one of the biker clubs and they kept me in their cub house. Ma said I had to get my head right. That meant sell more coke.”
Connell and Morgan exchanged glances. They knew there would be more if they just let the girl keep talking. Eventually, she got around to what they were hoping for.
She claimed that her younger sister had been grabbed the same way after she had. That the sister too had had been brought to Boston and had also been turned over to the bikers to break her in, like you’d break in a young horse. Break their spirit. But the sister, she said, was not like her. She was frightened and passive. The sister, according to her, was a wild cat. Fiercely independent, violently against having hard drugs pushed on her, especially averse to needles and heroin. Impossible for anybody to manage or dominate. She cursed at Ma, had deeply scratched the face of one of the sons, and kicked at the bikers, spat at people.
“You couldn’t control Martine,” she said and fell silent. “She was such a fighter. I so admired her.”
“Was she older?” Connell asked.
Ms. Dumont nodded. “By a fourteen months.”
“How’d they know about her?”
“From me. It was so stupid and so trusting. In the early days Momma just asked me if I had a sister, and I said yes, and so they went and got her too,” she said, and looked away. Obviously feeling guilt along with the pain for being the one to have exposed her sister.
She dabbed at her eyes and Connell gave her a few minutes.
“Where’s your sister now?” he asked, quietly.
She sat again in silence for a moment.
“I can’t tell you,” she finally said. “They’d kill me.”
Connell understood. And he felt for the girl. Trapped into in a hellish world. Every word a trap. The truth more dangerous than lies.
“Can you tell me if she’s still alive,” he asked.
She was silent again for another moment. Then shook her head ‘no.’
That was all they needed.
Connell leaned forward. “Miss Dumont, your name won’t come up. If you tell us what happened to your sister, we can put the piece together ourselves. Make our own case. There are a lot of other girls involved here. You won’t have to testify and nobody has to know you spoke to us.”
The girl agonized, looking so thin, pale, and frightened. Connell thought she looked more like a frightened little girl of maybe fourteen, than a worldly young woman of nineteen. But the prospect of justice for her sister was obviously strong. Something that no doubt had been eating at her.
Finally, she said, “Martine, when she first came, she tried the dance business but it was not for her. She tot she could do it for the money and keep everyone away from her. Just her alone on a stage in her own world. No drugs, no men, just dancing. But it is not the ballet business. It is the sex business. And the slave business. She kept pushing and kicking at men who came too close. Finally, dey came for her —Ma and the sons— to try again to break her. What we didn’t know was dat when Ma brought us to these places, to these people, she sold us to them. Twenty thousand dollars. Doze bar owners, dey owned us! But it wasn’t only that. Ma gave a guarantee. If any one of us din’t do ‘xactly what we were supposed to, they could ship us back to ma and get their money back. Or get a replacement girl.” She looked at them in horror. “Can you imagine! A guarantee! For owning people!”
She paused again to re-gather herself. She pulled her housecoat around her a little tighter.
“Anyway, what happened was Martine quit. Tol them to go stuff themselves. If dey ever came near her again she was going straight to the police. She got a small place and even found a boyfriend. She went back to work as a waitress and found a small place. Working downtown. In a nice hotel. Their coffee shop. She was out of it. Out of the dance business. Away from the clubs. Out of it all. Making a new life. But one day, those sons, dey came for her. They ‘ad a ‘uge row on the street and Martine was pushed into the car. One of her friends at the coffee shop tol me she saw dat.”
Then the girl fell silent again.
“Did you see her after that?” Connell asked.
Again, she shook her head ‘no.’
“Where is she, Miss Dumont?” Connell asked. “Do you know.”
The girl hesitated for a moment, and then broke into tears.
Connell said nothing for several moments.
“Gone where?” he asked, quietly.
Connell wasn’t sure what she meant. “Which reservoir?”
“I dunno. Out of town somewhere.”
“The Wachusett Lake Reservoir?”
“Might be. I heard that name.”
It was near Worcester. About forty miles from Boston in hill country. More a huge lake than a reservoir.
“Doze sons came for me too. They tol me dat Martine was gone. Dat dey put ‘er in a dog cage and filled the cage with rocks so she wouldn’t come back up. She was still alive when they tipped her in. They had her hands tied and her mouth tied so her screams wouldn’t get out. She screamed all the way to the bottom. Bubbles coming up. Momma ordered it that way. He said Ma was there. She’s de one gave the cage de push and watched as it sank. Alain tol’ me dat later to scare me back into line.”
Connell and John exchanged glances of disgust.
“Were you trying to get away as well?” Connell asked.
“Not like Martine. I was going crazy. Bit I needed de stuff. I still do. Dey gave me a few days off and some stuff. But I know dey’ll come back for me. Alain said, if I din be’ave dis time, I’d end up in the bottom of the lake wit Martine. Dat I’d still be alive when I ‘it bottom. They scared me so bad I couldn’t sleep. But now I just want it to be over.”
The Reservoir Lake was a big lake.
“Miss Dumont, do you have any idea where at the lake they did this?” Connell asked.
She sniffled. “I heard dem talking one time. About a spot they go to. An old log trail. Near a cemetery. A dump grounds they called it and laughed about it.”
An aerial search should find it. Maybe even satellite view of the lake.
The girl broke into tears again, and Connell shut his notebook. Suddenly tracking the death of a mob lowlife like Vinnie Momesso seemed almost inconsequential.
The next morning Ty, John Henry, and a marine diving unit from the local State Trooper detachment were gathered at a small overgrown boat ramp down a little-used old logging road leading to the Reservoir Lake. It ran beside a small pioneer cemetery, an unused and forgotten heritage site. The State Police boat went out about fifty feet from the east shore mid-way down the Reservoir, and began to scan the area with sonar. There was a sharp drop-off in depth at that spot, and there was something down there, in the deep.
Divers went down and they ended up winching to the surface a wire-frame dog crate. Then another. And another. And another. Until they had four such crates loaded onto the rear of the police boat. Each was encrusted with muck and ooze from being on the bottom, but two things were clear: inside each crate were remains of a body, slim and female, and inside each were large river stones which would have held them under for eternity.
There wasn’t much doubt that one body would be that of Martine Dumont, or that the others would be girls who had passed through Momma’s hands.
“There’s two more fresh ones down there we can get now,” the dive leader said. “And there’s others as well. Packed deeper in the weeds and growth. Might need a heavier winch to bring them all up.”
Connell felt sick.
Back in Mattapan, the phone rang in Momma Lupe’s kitchen. The sons, seated at the table, looked up but made no move to answer.
Ma was at the sink. She wiped her hands and picked it up herself.
She listened intently for several moments without speaking. The sons could tell that the call was somehow important, and they watched and waited to see what it was about, staring back and forth.
Finally, Ma set down the phone. She stared out the big window for several moments not speaking
“That was Worcester,” she finally said. Worcester is the second largest city in the state. Ma’s operation supplied girls to clubs all around the area. It is five miles from the Wachusett Reservoir. “The police ‘ave been out at the Lake all morning.”
The sons looked back and forth. Ma had biker contacts across the state who monitored police radio bands and tipped her when police activity threatened.
“How could they know about the lake?” Alain asked.
“How? Probably because of you two and your big mouths. It’s good to scare the girls, you said. Dis is what comes from talking to anybody, about any of our business.”
“Somebody must have talked,” Alain said. “One of Paulie’s guys.”
Momma wheeled around.
“You talked,” she said. “Paulie’s men don’t know about the lake. How would dey? Just shut up.”
They could see that Momma was in that quiet rage that came over her before decisive and brutal action.
“We’ll find out who talked, ma,” Theo said, trying to appease her.
“Oh, shut up. Both of you,” she snapped. “ ‘Oo do you think is going to talk to idiots like you and tell you what ‘appened.”
Momma threw down the dishtowel and stomped from the room.
“I’ll ‘andle this myself.”
When divers brought up the other two crates that had been recently dumped they were in for a whole new kind of shock
The bodies weren’t of young women.
They were of men.
Men dressed in nice suits and over coats, both with large gunshot wounds in the back.
They called Connell with the news.
“Any idea who they are?”
“Not right now,” the State Trooper said. “No ID and no hands. Maybe never know.”
Weird, Connell thought, when he hung up. Who were these two? How did they fit into Momma’s world?
The bodies had been sent to the State Police Forensics Lab in the nearby town of Sudbury, only twenty miles from the site. At the morgue, work had already begun to establish identities of the girls.
When Connell and Morgan relayed details of the discoveries in the Lake to Nolan, Nolan was both shocked and relieved. The prospect not only of solving the contract murder of Vinnie Momesso, but also of rolling up Momma Lupe’s operation made it a very good day in a very sad way.
And Connell had come up with a strategy. They would get the tap back on her kitchen window, and he and John would go to Ma’s front door at a time when the sons would likely be home. They would tell Ma that they would like to step in and have a word with her, that they had some routine questions regarding the activities of the late Vinnie Momesso. Connell predicted that Ma would remain cool and calculating and would allow them to step in, rather than make a scene at the door. Then she would buy time. She would lead them to the kitchen, and attempt to deflect their answers with vague answers and non-committal shrugs. When Connell brought up The Reservoir Lake, Ma would continue to sit sullenly, continue to shrug off all questions. Stay calm until they left.
Then she’d blow.
“My bet is that ten seconds after we’re out the door and down the steps she’ll start in, ripping strips off to those two sons. It’ll be as good as a confession, and we’ll catch it all on tape from the van. Then we go back in with the warrants.”
The plan was approved.
If they brought in all three to the station together, they felt certain that they could get one of the sons to turn, to crack and spill. They weren’t bright enough to withstand a withering and prolonged Q and A session without getting tripped up by their own lies.
So, that evening at six, Connell and Morgan donned their Kevlar under their sports jackets and —backed by a heavily-armed SWAT unit— they mounted the steps to Momma Lupe’s front door.
At the door, Connell paused and glanced back, down the street. The police van was in place, the mike aimed at the big window. To the left, just around the corner, one SWAT team was in place and only steps away, hunkered low against the side of the house. To his right, other SWAT guys were grouped behind the hedge at the other side of the house.
Connell knocked on the door. And they waited.
But no answer.
So he knocked louder.
They waited again.
Still no answer.
There were also no sounds of stirring from inside. Just dead quiet.
John leaned over and peaked in the front window next to the small porch. There were heavy shears drawn across, but he could see vague shapes inside, just furniture and doorways.
“No lights on,” he said, cupping his hands to the glass. “Aw, jeez, I don’t think they’s home.”
They knocked several more times, still no response.
“Aw, man. What now?” John said, disappointed. “We sit it out here and wait for them?”
Connell deliberated briefly.
“No,” he said. “We’ve got a warrant. Let’s go in and see what we find inside. We can wait in there. “
He signaled to one of the SWAT guys nearby who moved up the porch stairs.
“Can you pop this door without breaking in it?” he asked.
The man checked the door over quickly.
“No. There’s three slide bolts,” he said, and pointed out the locks. One high, one middle, one low. “We’ll have to bust it down.”
Connell deliberated for another moment.
“You know what? You guys go around back,” he said. “Bust in through a window or kick in a door if you have to. Anywhere where Momma can’t see it on their way back.”
The man returned to his unit and they went around the house.
Shortly, Connell heard movement inside and the deadbolts sliding across. They and the other SWAT unit moved inside.
They fanned out quickly through the rooms of the small place but found no sign of Momma or of the sons.
But there were signs of hurried packing: empty closets, drawers empty and left open, bathroom toiletries cleared out, and Connell got a sinking feeling.
John called to him from the kitchen.
“Uh, Ty, better come have a look.”
Connell walked in, and on the kitchen table was a two-inch thick black leather bound book: A Digest of the Criminal Code of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was sitting, like a paperweight, on the corner of a note.
Connell glanced at the setup. Ma’s perverse touch?
The note was hand-printed in pink day-glo marker. It read: “Please water the plants and feed the cat. Gone fishing. I. Lupanier.”
At that moment, a cat wandered up from the basement and made a small meow at the door.
Momma, it seemed, had simply walked away from her operation and had left with the two sons to who-knows-where.
Maybe, Connell thought, with Ma no longer in town, Emily Dumont would be willing to tell a court what she knew. What they also really was a witness to one or more of the murders. Emily might also be of some help there.
The next day he and John called on Miss Dumont’s apartment, to advise her that they had recovered her sister’s body, but that proceedings against Ma would not be going forward until they could pull together more evidence. Maybe she’d be willing to go to a secure refuge center for women while things moved forward. She’d be safe there. She could maybe start a detox from the junk.
But there was no answer.
They knocked repeatedly, but after five minutes it was clear that Emily Dumont wasn’t home.
They called the Crazy Horse to see if she’d been there. They said she’d been sent home three days ago and had no idea.
Had she gone back to Quebec? Gone to stay with a friend?
Connell turned once again to Paul Geddes. If he didn’t know where she was, he could find out.
So Connell and Morgan drove once again to the donut shop.
But this time Geddes wasn’t there either.
Connell had no idea where Geddes lived because he had never had need to track him to his residence before. But now he had to do so, so he called in Geddes’ name over the SDR band and he got back an address in Chelsea, the town just north of the city across the Chelsea River. A neighborhood of with low rent rooming houses and welfare apartments.
There was also the little matter of owing Paul the final forty-six hundred dollar payment. Connell was always good on his word to informants —how he kept their trust and co-operation— and he knew that Geddes would forgive him tracking him to his door when he handed over the little canvas bag.
His apartment was in a dreary, foul smelling and rundown city owned tenement, but Geddes didn’t answer the door.
They knocked several times, but he, too, was not home.
Was he out chasing a fix? Was he inside? High, holed up, and not answering? Had he overdosed and was lying dead or in a coma?
They decided to round up the super and have a look.
Once inside, the first thing that hit them was the stench. Rotting food. Geddes hadn’t picked up a beer can or a pizza crust in months and the place reeked of old food bits scattered in all corners and all around the floor.
They made their way through a garbage strewn living room and down a short hallway to the apartment’s single bedroom. Connell was braced for the worst: finding Geddes’ stinking carcass on filthy old bed sheets.
But Geddes wasn’t there either. The bedroom was also a garbage dump, with just enough space pushed aside on the saggy old mattress for a person to lie down.
Still no Paul.
Then they went into the small kitchen: more beer cans and pizza boxes, mixed in with other discarded bits of molding food.
There was a small table in one corner, mostly covered with dirty plates and fried chicken boxes. But the garbage had been pushed aside so that one corner of the table was clear.
On the corner was a note.
When Connell read it, it gave him a chill: “Gone fishing with Ma. Paul.”
It was hand-printed in pink day-glo marker. In the same scratchy hand style as the note at Momma’s.
Isabelle Lupanier, a.k.a. Momma Lupe, disappeared permanently from the New England area.
Emily Dumont and Paul Geddes also were never heard from again.
State Police divers re-searched the spot where they had found the original crates, but found nothing more. They also began a scan of the entire lake. The Reservoir Lake is a big lake, second biggest in the state, also inter-connected to a series of smaller lakes and rivers around it. They kept the sonar going for a week, but found no more crates.
For lack of hard evidence —other than the hearsay statement of Emily Dumont— Momma Lupe was never officially charged with murder and could not be compelled to return to Massachusetts even if she were found. That seemed to be an end to it. No charges ever brought against her.
But it wasn’t the end for Connell.
He kept making occasional calls and, several years later, he heard rumors that someone sounding a lot like Momma had surfaced in New Orleans. On the stripper/hooker scene. Recruiting girls from small backwoods towns across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Mississippi to work in mobbed-up strip clubs along the Gulf states.
Connell made calls to the New Orleans PD and to the FBI Regional Office there to see if anyone could verify the rumors. But no one down there had even heard of any Momma Lupe. Or of any Isabel Lupanier. Or about anything unusual from strip clubs around the Gulf states. Women came and went from these places almost daily. Who could track it?
Then, on a nagging hunch, Connell did a nation-wide search of Isabel Lupanier, to see if there might be relatives somewhere with whom she might have had contact.
But no Isabel Lupaniers popped up.
That was strange.
The no Lupaniers at all showed up.
That was really strange.
How was it possible that there were no Isabel Lupaniers, and even no Lupaniers at all in all of America?
Connell then broadened his search to Canada.
Again, no Isabel Lupaniers. And no Lupaniers at all.
In frustration, and as a last resort, he worked through an associate at INTERPOL in DC. A man he’d gone to college with. He asked the man to do a world-wide search for any Lupanier any where.
The man did.
There was no one named Isabel Lupanier on planet earth, he said. There wasn’t even another Lupanier.
“There are no Lupaniers anywhere,” the man said. “It’s a made up name.”
Connell set the phone and could only shake his head once more at the most evil and cunning woman he’d never meet.
“Officially she never existed,” he said to himself. “Still doesn’t. Amazing.”
He still makes calls. Still hasn’t given up.
When Connell drops by a crime scene he’d picked up on the police band on his drive in to work, he decides to swing by and have a quick look. When he gets there his sometimes partner, John Henry Morgan, is already on the scene and dealing with it. When Connell realizes that it’s ‘Slim Vinnie’ Momesso lying on the garage floor at the big estate home, and that it’s one hundred per cent a mob hit, he looses all interest. Contract hits are black holes that can suck you in and leave you with nothing. He wishes John well and leaves. But when Morgan starts to work the case, he begins to hear strange rumors. That it might have been a woman who ordered the hit. And not an enraged wife or lover. Some mystery woman with enough clout in the mob underworld to order a hit. But what kind of woman could order a hit on a made Italian-mob wiseguy. The case then definitely catches Connell’s interest. Someone’s gonna pay!