Peering out from behind the shabby curtains of a second-story window in a flophouse directly across from the Lancaster Street Garage was a group of hard-driving troopers from the Massachusetts State Police. Six days a week, beginning in late April and lasting into July, the troopers were hunkered down at the window in the roach-infested bedroom, chronicling the mob action across the street.
They saw the little things -- Bulger and Flemmi preening on the sidewalk between appointments, sucking in their stomachs when a pretty woman walked by or making sure their shirt buttons lined up with their belt buckles. They watched Bulger's body language downshift into a business gear when he was displeased -- charging hard at a visitor and jabbing a finger into the man's chest, swearing at him all the while. When Bulger was done Flemmi would take over and do the same. More significantly, the troopers saw the big things -- men arriving with briefcases and betting slips. They watched money change hands. They took notes and they took pictures. In all, during the 11 weeks they watched, they counted more than 60 noted underworld figures come and go; in fact, virtually every organized crime figure in New England, at one time or another, showed up at the Lancaster Street Garage for a meeting with Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi.
The garage provided a panoramic shot of the Boston mob, like a silent movie -- no words and all action -- that captured the whole of the underworld. And the action filling the wide screen in living color contrasted sharply with the narrow snapshot of Bulger and Flemmi the Boston FBI was planting in the bureau's files and in the minds of anyone who asked about the two gangsters.
It was also a state police surveillance that had begun quite by accident. Trooper Rick Fraelick happened upon the garage one day while he was driving in the neighborhood on a tip about a stolen car ring. He drove down Lancaster Street and noticed George Kaufman and some of the other mobsters standing on the sidewalk. He pulled over and, out of their view, checked out what was going on.
It was a jaw-dropping moment. He recognized other mobsters coming and going. He saw Bulger and Flemmi. Fraelick returned to headquarters and told Sgt. Bob Long, the supervisor of the Major Crime Unit. Long accompanied Fraelick on a few "drive-by's" to view the activity for himself. They felt the adrenaline rush that comes with the prospect of a potentially big case. The question was where to set up. Directly across from garage was a rundown brick building, 119 Merrimac Street. The first floor was a gay bar. Upstairs rooms could be rented. It was a dump, a cheap place where winos crashed. There was little privacy -- walls lacked insulation and were made of thin wood paneling that a fist could pass through easily. Posing as a gay man, Fraelick rented the room looking directly onto the Lancaster Street Garage and, starting in late April, he and Long and and Trooper Jack O'Malley began documenting Bulger's affairs.
There were other troopers involved along the way, but these three were the principal investigators who arrived early each day and took up at the window, usually in shifts of two. The men were all local. Long, in mid 30s, had grown up just outside of Boston, in nearby Newton, the fourth in a family of 10 kids. His father was a lawyer, and since he was a boy he'd dreamed of becoming a state trooper. Bob Long was a jock in high school, even won a partial basketball scholarship to a local junior college, but once he blew out his knee his sporting life was over. Less than nine months after earning a college degree in criminal justice from City College in San Francisco in 1967, he was back in Massachusetts standing at attention at the state police academy. Now in charge of a special investigations squad, he'd hand-picked Fraelick and O'Malley -- both, like himself, athletic and solidly built, the brown-haired Fraelick originally from the North Shore and the reddish-blonde O'Malley from Boston's Dorchester neighborhood and a family of cops. (O'Malley's dad, a Boston cop, still patrolled Roxbury.) The two troopers, both in their late 20s, were pulled off the road to work with Long. The hours were a killer, but O'Malley was single and Fraelick, though newly married, didn't have any kids yet. Long had two sons, and the youngest, Brian, who was 10, had just been selected as the poster boy for the Massachusetts Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The boy got to pose with Bobby Orr of the Bruins in the poster.
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Its board approved the...