After the meetings, however, the FBI in Boston then went into spin cycle. Initially, the Bureau insisted Morris had learned about the bug by putting two-and-two together: first, his own informants from the North End Mafia had detected "new faces" in the area and, second, Morris had heard that Boston police were ordered to stay away from Lancaster Street. To a professional like Morris, there was only one conclusion: something investigatory was underway. Morris even offered that his approach to the Boston cop was a well-meaning bid to use his insight as a warning to the troopers.
But O'Donovan and his troopers viewed Morris's account as disingenuous at best and, during the weeks that followed the Ramada Inn summit, made it clear they were not buying the FBI's explanation. In turn, the FBI moved the tense, interagency dispute up a notch. The FBI said it had learned from their informants that any leak had come from within the State Police. This meant, according to the FBI, that the collapse of the bugging operation was the State Police's own fault. The agent who had brought this new juicy intelligence to the table was John Connolly.
Back at State Police headquarters, the troopers kept debating what went wrong, going over every move they'd made. They weren't going to give up, not yet. They'd seen too much of Bulger and Flemmi.
They let a few weeks go by to give Bulger and Flemmi some room to move. Then they hit the street again, riding around to see if they could pick up the gangsters' scent. It wasn't easy, especially after the debacle at the garage. Bulger was crafty, a difficult mark. Behind the wheel of the Chevy, he employed a number of evasive driving techniques. If he was approaching a traffic light at an intersection and the light was turning yellow, he accelerated and raced through the intersection. Sometimes he simply ran the red light. He drove down a street and suddenly pulled a U-turn and came back at you. Sometimes he drove the wrong way down a one-way street, and Southie seemed cursed with one-way streets. He knew South Boston cold, and he often zig-zagged his way through the old neighborhood rather than take a direct route to his destination.
But soon enough the troopers picked him up. Just before Labor Day, Long, Fraelick and O'Malley established that Bulger and Flemmi had a new pattern, and it revolved around a bank of public pay phones outside a Howard Johnson's Restaurant right off of the Southeast Expressway.
The new routine went like this: Nicky Femia drove into the HoJo's parking lot, circled around and then parked. He'd saunter over to the pay phones, look around, stuff a few coins into the phone and make a call. The black Chevy pulled in a few minutes later, carrying Bulger and Flemmi. Then they climbed out, looked around, and each went into a telephone booth to make some calls. They chatted away, their heads bobbing and turning, always looking out over the parking lot and studying any vehicle that might drive by. Once off the phone, they drove off. The troopers, if they could keep up, followed them to Southie, or into the North End, where they met up with any one of the number of underworld figures they used to meet in the bay and office of the Lancaster Street Garage.
So far, the investigation had focused on loansharking and gambling, but the troopers now began to make out the hint of a drug connection. The troopers didn't know at first who Frank Lepere was; in fact, a number of photographed wiseguys were written up in their logs as "unknown white male." But showing a photograph around, the troopers learned it was Lepere, a former Winter Hill associate who'd gone into the business of marijuana trafficking with Kevin Dailey of South Boston. Lepere showed up at Lancaster Street carrying a briefcase, and, looking back, Long and his troopers realized "it wasn't full of candy bars, that's for sure." After Labor Day, the troopers had followed Bulger and Flemmi from the pay phones to South Boston where the two gangsters met up with Kevin Dailey. This time Flemmi was the one carrying a briefcase. They met for an hour in the parking lot of a closed-down gas station across from The Gillette Company plant along the city's Fort Point Channel.
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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