Bob Long and his troopers were ecstatic. But it was quickly all downhill from there. Testing the reception, they faced technical problems. Instead of the mobster talk, they picked up pager calls for doctors at the nearby Massachusetts General Hospital. The microphone installed inside the radio didn't function at all. The one in the couch worked but wasn't of much use, producing little more than a rush of sound, like a hurricane, when one of the mobsters, especially the over-sized ones like Nicky Femia, collapsed into it. But they were getting transmission from the microphone in the office, and that was the prime location, and after straightening out the hospital interference it was soon up and running.
Then the sky fell in.
Bulger and Flemmi and Kaufman mysteriously started looking up at the windows in the flophouse. Abruptly, they altered their routine. Instead of talking in the office or in the open bays, Bulger and Flemmi held meetings inside the black Chevy. The office was now off limits. The troopers were stunned. They kept monitoring their bugs, but shortly after the gangsters moved their talk to the backseat of the Chevy they stopped coming to the Lancaster Street Garage altogether. Early on in August the court order permitting them to bug the garage expired. The troopers had their notes, a pile of great photographs, but nothing more. Bulger was gone.
In the days before Long, Fraelick and O'Malley had failed in their bugging attempt, trouble had been brewing for the FBI. It began with a chance encounter at a Friday night party. John Morris, cocktail in hand, sidled up to a hulking Boston detective. The diminutive Morris still managed to talk down to him -- the federal agent lording over a local cop. "You have something going at Lancaster Street?" Morris asked with a conspiratorial smile that urged: C'mon, you can tell me.
Taken aback, the detective put on a poker face to mask his surprise. Direct questions about another agency's secret investigation weren't expected cocktail chatter at a midsummer party. The question hung in the air, unanswered.
Morris pushed on. "If you have microphones in there," he said, "they know about it."
After some more dead air, the police detective finally replied, "I don't know what you`re talking about."
The detective moved away from Morris. But his heart was racing. And the next morning, he called Bob Long. The early morning phone call did not take Long completely by surprise. He had been sensing something was wrong. All the bug inside the Lancaster Street Garage's corner office picked up was a jaunty Whitey Bulger commending state troopers for the great job they did patrolling the Massachusetts Turnpike. Ball busting or coincidence? Long wasn't entirely sure. But the more he thought it over, a pattern became clear. He and his troopers had watched for months from a flophouse across the street as Bulger harassed anxious gamblers owing money and bantered with visiting Mafia dignitaries. Then, exactly one day after a bug was up and running inside the garage, Bulger had been praising highway patrols and, more importantly, changing his routine. Business conversations had moved from inside the office to the back seat of Bulger's black Chevy parked inside the bay area.
Initially Long had figured Bulger and Flemmi had spotted the troopers across the way. But now word of Morris' overture made Long realize the problem was much worse than a blown surveillance. To Long, the gangsters' new routine wasn't just one of those things that happened. It was treachery. The call from the police detective confirmed the shocking truth that Long saw through a red haze of fury.
And he became transfixed by two questions:
How did John Morris know about the State Police's bug?
Copyright 2000, Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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