Riverville Murder - Chapter 22

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Case of the Riverville Murder

A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack

Chapter Twenty Two


“Of course. I know you well enough to trust what you say and believe you have more than a suspicion about Callan, or you wouldn’t be telling as much as you have. I’ll have to pass this request by the Police Commissioner, you know. Other than that, you have my word. Please keep me in the loop, and call if I can help. Give my best to Nancy and the boys.”

As Scott cradled the phone, a loud thump emanates from the front door. Investigating, Scott finds a bottle with a smoldering rag fuse stuck in the neck. Removing the rag, gasoline fumes rising from the bottle assault his nose. He carries his findings to the front fence and empties the gas into the dirt by the fence, then places the bottle and rag near the gate, thinking, “I’ll pick that up in the morning. One more thing for the FBI to look at.”

Returning to the house, Scott stops at the side table and pours some Scotch over ice before going to his chair and dialing State police headquarters.

“This is State’s Attorney Chief Investigator, Scott Wadsworth. I need information regarding Detective Lloyd Qualter, please.”

One moment, sir, and I’ll connect you with Personnel.

“Personnel Department. May I help you?”

“Yes, this is Scott Wadsworth of the State’s Attorney office. I would like the phone number of Detective Lloyd Qualter, please.”

“I’ll need your ID number before I can give you that information, sir,” the voice said in a happy, lilting way, obviously designed to dissuade any objection to another delay.

“SA-1-1,” Scott quickly returned.

“That number is Riverside 2264, Chief Investigator. Can I help you further, sir?”

‘No, thank you.”

Lloyd Qualter lifted the receiver at the second ring. “You’ve got me, Speak.”

“Lloyd, this is Wadsworth. I’d like you to come to my office at the statehouse in the morning. Can you arrange that?”

“Absolutely, sir. I don’t go on duty until one-o’clock. Will about nine-thirty be good.?”

“Fine with me, “Scott replied.

In the morning, Scott decided to walk the couple of blocks to the Massachusetts Statehouse and called Allan to pick him up there at noon. He said goodbye to Nancy and the boys in the kitchen; and picked up the bottle and rag fuse on the way out the front gate. Once out the gate, Scott stopped and removed a shopping bag from his briefcase and place the bottle and fuse in it. The odor was practically gone, and he hoped what remained wouldn’t be noticed in the office.

The door, with Matthew Hart, State’s Attorney hanging above, was open. But before entering, Scott gave a courtesy knock.

“Happy to see you, Scott. I thought you might have changed jobs – perhaps went to the BPD, or something,” Matt Hart jokingly said.

“No sir, I’ve just been swamped cleaning up Boston and Somerville and helping with the murder in Riverville. To say nothing about gun-runners, the ATF, U.S. Coast Guard, and Interpol. Here are my reports, in chronological order, covering the whole thing so far. I might add, we are getting very close to closing it out and handing the various segments to the proper authorities.

“Yes, I know, Scott. I have ears out there, and as you know, ATF Agent John Guilford is second cousins to my wife. I hear a lot from them, as we are quite close. From all indications, you have done a superlative job. For the first time, state and local police have worked very closely together – even sharing the same vehicles and reporting to one superior. That is history, and the best part is, it ran like clock-work.”

“Not quite as smooth as I would like, Scott said, as he stuffed his pipe with Ehrlich’s DPE. There is a leak somewhere that warned Goddard’s lieutenants of the raids. Besides, I’m confident he is also responsible for the murder of Norman Riley at the county jail and the shooting attempt, on my life, at the courthouse. I’ve also found an unexploded gasoline bomb in my front yard.”

“We have to set up some protection for you and your family. I’ll talk to BPD Chief Cosmo Natali today and set up twenty-four-hour patrols of your neighborhood. Also, a plain car, with two state detectives, to be with you all day. Even with all your work, it doesn’t appear that Goddard’s bunch is finished yet.”

“No, it isn’t. That’s another reason I am here. I have sufficient evidence to suspect Cpt. Claud Callan, BPD, is running the show for Goddard right now. A sergeant working under him became suspicious of his actions with the prisoners when we held them at Goddard’s bar in South Boston. Later he noticed Callan lying to me about responses from prisoner questionings. He also brought to my attention that Callan was on the raids as an observer but started taking a very active part. Callan was also very anxious to get copies of my reports. However, I put a stop on that, even though I had told him he could have copies.”

“What is it you want me to do about this, Scott” Just tell me,” The State’s Attorney interjected.

“Two things. I’d like State Police Detective Lloyd Qualter temporarily transferred to my office for the purpose of surveillance of Callan and reporting directly to me. Secondly, I would like to expand my office by one permanent transferee, Detective Sgt. Mark Simmons of the BPD. In the early stage of the operation, I gave Simmons control of all those patrolling South Boston -- also arranged for his promotion to sergeant through Cpt. Callan, his boss. He is the one who observed, and put me on to, Callan. There will be no place for Simmons at the BPD when the whole story is out, and this is all over. He is smart and has strong observational skills. He will be an asset.”

“There is no problem temporally transferring Qualter to you; if he agrees, that is. As for Simmons, as long as we can financially handle a new person, you’ve got Simmons as well. He will have to be happy with his current salary for a while. I’ll get someone looking into that end of it.”

Just then, the phone rang. “Yes, Mister Wadsworth is still here – OK, send him in.”

Minutes later, Lloyd Qualter tapped gently on the still-open door.

Scott greeted Qualter and introduced him to the State’s Attorney, then said, “Detective Qualter, I was very impressed by the way you did your job in South Boston and would like you to come work for me temporally. It’s a very hush-hush job and could be dangerous if not handled properly. I think you are the man for it.”

“You know, Mr. Wadsworth, I’m a rookie detective. Not that I am refusing the job, but don’t you need someone more experienced?”

“We know you were doing detective work, on and off, for some time as a uniformed trouper, and being successful at it. Now, as a rookie, I don’t believe your rank defines your skill at this time.”

“Make a decision, young man, the State’s Attorney interrupted. The Chief Investigator wants you for this job. Do you want this opportunity or not? It might mean a lot for your future.”

“Yes, Sir. I do. I was just hoping for a hint of what it’s about and what is expected of me,” Qualter replied, trying not to inject the sarcasm he felt.

Scott started to speak but stopped. Instead, to let things quiet down before he lost Qualter, he stood, retrieved a match from his pocket, and relit his pipe slowly. He continued, “Your function and purpose will be thoroughly explained in a day or two, along with a communication scheme for we two. I would like you to join me and assist in closing up the South Boston effort. There is a bit to conclude before that happens, and I want you to discretely and quietly help pull it all together.”

“I’d be honored to work with you, Mister Wadsworth. When should I report?”

“The transfer will have to be approved by your captain and the commissioner. I doubt that will be a problem and could be as soon as tomorrow. I’ll let you know the minute I know.”

Qualter stood and shook hands with Scott, then turned to the States Attorney, extended his hand, and said, “A pleasure to meet you, Mister Hart, and thank you for this opportunity of working in the State Attorney’s department; for however long it might be.

“An impressive young man, Scott. I hope he lives up to your expectations.  Now, about Boston Detective Sgt. Mark Simmons. Have you talked to him about this, and if so, what did he have to say?”

“No, Matt, I have not. I wanted to pass it by you before approaching him.”

“I’m glad you did. I trust your judgment. But keep me up to date with your every move on this. In particular, inform me immediately if you get any static from the BPD.”

“Absolutely, Matt.”

Scott made the short trek to his office, just down the hall from Matt Hart. He started reading his reports at his desk, looking for positive mentions of Mark Simmons that might have slipped his mind. While putting the last page on the read pile, the phone demanded his attention.

“I have deputy Commissioner Richard Taranto calling Mister Wadsworth, please.”

Dick Taranto advanced steadily in the Boston Police Department from Detective Sergeant when he helped Scott and the FBI clean up the Boston Nazi crowd in 1934, and again during the Case of the Killer Pipe in 1946.

“Please put him on.”

“Dick, old buddy. Man, it’s good to hear from you. It seems like yesterday that we worked on that stolen antique pipe problem. When did you get to the Commissioner’s office?”

“A little over four years ago. I thought you probably knew. I virtually flew through the ranks due to the Indian pipe case and the Boston Nazis’ notoriety. You had a lot to do with my getting here.”

“Well, no one deserves it more. I’m happy for you. However, I’m not happy that we sort of lost touch. We must remedy that.”

“Scott, I’m calling about holding reports from Captain Claud Callan. Can you give me a viable reason for that action?”

“Yes, I can, but I gave Chief Natali a full rundown on my reasons. He said he would have to pass it through the commissioner’s office. I guess he didn’t pass my reasons along.”

“He did, but I want to hear it from you; the high-lights anyway.”

“OK, here goes. Callan’s actions during the raids are questionable. I was informed of them by one of his own men. He conversed with select prisoners and made several needless phone calls, all in my absence, which leads me to believe Callan is on Goddard’s payroll and leaked plans of the raids to him. We did not find one of Goddard’s top echelon people. Besides, he took it upon himself to question prisoners at headquarters when he was along only as an observer. Then, he lied to me about what he had learned. The lies were witnessed by two officers. The quick murder of Norman Riley upon his transfer to County Jail and the recent attempt on my life, combined with everything else brought to my attention, convinces me that Callan is running the organization in Goddard’s absence.”

After a long silence, Taranto replied, “I know you are being truthful, and it doesn’t look good for Callan. Naturally, you have cause to withhold the reports. This presents a very large problem for the BPD. What do you propose next?”

“I have approached a highly trusted and intelligent state police detective to join my office temporally. His one duty is to keep an eye on Callan’s activities and report only to me. Other surveillance measures might be taken, as well. When, and if, this office accumulates enough solid evidence, it will be turned over to the Boston Police Commissioner and State’s Attorney, Matt Hart, for action. Then I am out of it unless needed.”

“Well, it’s a sad turn of affairs, and you have handled it admirable. I’ll explain it all to the commissioner and tell him I’ve given my OK.”

“Dick, this problem is getting passed from hand to hand. You know what the chances are of this leaking because of that fact. If that happens, we will have wasted a lot of money and manpower. Tell the Commissioner if you must, but please, not too much detail. And stress the need for security,” Scott said in an emphatic voice.

“Leave it to me, my friend. Keep in touch.”

Scott cradled the phone, picked a fresh pipe from his briefcase, and with a sigh, leaned back in his old wooden swivel chair and lit-up. As he blew out the second match, the door opened, and Allan walked in carrying two paper cups of coffee.

“Ah, just what I need, Allan. It’s been a stressful morning. Have a seat.”

“What’s on the docket for this afternoon, boss?” Allan asked as he swung a chair around and sat with his arms over the top of the back.

“I have to stop at FBI regional headquarters first. A gasoline bomb was thrown at my house last night. Obviously, it didn’t ignite. I want it scanned for prints on the QT. Harry Malison, the regional director, is  my friend and does an occasional favor for me.”

Scott and Harry carefully looked over the gas bomb before Harry said, “Sure, I’ll send it through with the other stuff. That cocktail was put together by an amateur. The glass is much too thick to break simply by tossing it. You’d need a sledgehammer in strong hands to smash it.”

“Appreciate it, Harry. We’ll be on our way – much to do, you know.”

Allan and Harry exchanged goodbyes’, Harry saying, “Real happy to see you again, Allan. If the need arises, don’t hesitate to call me. A friend of Scott’s is a friend of mine.”

Before getting in the car, Scott asked, “How about Angelo’s for lunch, Allan?”

“Sounds good, Boss.”

Scott sat in the front seat, something he seldom does. Turning to Allan, he asked, “What do you think of Mark Simmons as a cop and a person? You’ve spent quite a bit of time with him recently, so I want a sincere answer.”

“In the time I’ve known him, I don’t think they come any better,” Allan answered without hesitation.

“Good. What do you think of bringing Mark into the Chief Investigator’s office? I can use him. If all about Callan proves true, Simmons is through as a cop in Boston. Or anyplace else. I hate to see good talent wasted.”

“I think you are right on with this one, Boss. He and I have kind of bonded. We’ll work well together. Other than that, I don’t see how you hold it all together; what with maintaining a large law office and being Chief Investigator for the state. It will be good for you.”

At his law office, Scott ran through his Rolodex to find the phone number of Mark Simmons.

“Mark, I’m glad I caught you at home. I would like you to drop by my office on Charles Street South at about ten in the morning. Can you do that?”

“Yes, Sir. Anything at all, if I can help. See you then.”


Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired. Oh, and in case you didn't notice.... he's a pipe smoker too.

Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2020
All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, printing, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

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