The Devil Learns a New Trick
“The sounds of crushin’ bones and tearin’ flesh, the tail of that monster splashin’ in the water, I couldn’t tell ya’ what Vinnie was yellin,’ Boss. I told that little bastard, Pauly, we needed to pull Vinnie in, that he’s your brudder-in-law. That the rules are different with family. And all the time that ‘gator was tuggin’ on Vinnie’s leg, and Vinnie’s cryin’ and screamin’ somethin’ ‘bout his kids. I says to Pauly, ‘help me pull the poor bastard in. We gotta turn around, take him back to a hospital in Nawlens,’ But the sonuva bitch pulled the anchor n stotted the engine. Next thing I know, we’re flyin through the swamp and wees at that old voodoo lady’s place. I told ‘im you’d be mad, I told him wees prolly gonna die, but the little bast…”
“Yes, Bobby, you told him, and he didn’t listen.” Whitey Bulger pushes himself back from his half ton, hand-carved mahogany desk. Everything began to move in slow motion. Or so it seemed Bobby Salerno, old friend and business associate to notorious Boston crime boss, James “Whitey” Bulger.
Whitey rose from his massive leather chair. The enormous room Whitey called his office looked more like a king’s library. Shelves of books lined three of four walls from floor to twenty-foot ceiling. Most people didn’t believe Whitey read every one, but Bobby, a former classmate, saw the “A’s” on his report card, saw him raise his hand to answer questions none of the other project kids could.
In this elaborate room, only two others stood. A couple of Whitey’s bodyguards. One Italian, one black, both huge. Neither move the entire time they discuss the matter of Vinnie’s death.
Moving toward Bobby, around the desk, one of the guards took two giant’s steps. One step to move out of Bulger’s way, one step to move back to his original position.
Bobby looks at them and asks, “You guys trade your necks for steroids down in Tajuana?”
Whitey laughed. “How long have we known each other, Bobby? I know you crack jokes when your anxiety starts to get to you. What do you think we’re doing here, old friend? Don’t you recall how many years of trouble we’ve seen? “
Bobby smirks. “Boss, remember that time we got caught drillin’ the hole to the girl’s showers?”
Bulger grins. “Of course, I saw Sally naked before you did.” They both laugh.
“Remember Father Mulaney comes in and he says to us, ‘boys, why do you have my drill?’ and you says, ‘Father, to repair the wall.’ And he grabs us both by an ear and takes us to
his room. He was gettin’ that paddle ready. He says, ‘Jimmy, why must my most intelligent student get into so much mischief?’
“And then you asked him about that painting on his wall.” Bobby stops, breathes deeply. “Whitey, wasn’t that painting one of the ones the boys took from the museum?”
“What a keen memory, friend. Yes, it was a replica. Christ on the Sea of Galilee. Rembrandt. And if you remember, we did not get paddled. And the Father told me that The Church owned that painting, I was simply returning it to the Vatican. The other paintings had rightful places, too. The Vase, that Vinnie was served up to the alligators for, belonged to the Voodoo queen. But I digress.”
Whitey returns to his chair. “Bobby, do you remember what Father Mulaney said as we left to return to our rooms that night?”
Bobby thinks for a bit. “I remember he said somethin’ about bein’ afraid you’d work for the devil someday.”
“What he said, Bobby, was, ‘James, you could lead The Church if you set your mind to it. But I fear the Devil will be your associate instead of The Lord. Worse, it’s not you I fear for, but mankind. For if ever Jimmy Bulger teaches the devil his tricks, the necessity of a revision to revelation may follow.
“That was it, yeah, he said the devil may win if he gets you on his side.”
“Remember the projects, Bobby?”
“South side, of course, Jimmy. That’s us, that’s where we began.”
“Indeed Bobby. And now look at all of this.” Whitey extended his arm, palm up, and moves the limb in a horizontal arc to showcase his exquisite, albeit elaborate, office.
Bobby couldn’t help noticing how similar this gesture appeared to that of game show hostess Vanna White’s. Bobby began to laugh, starting in his belly, rising up until flowing as tears down his face.
Whitey’s head snaps toward Bobby, now there’s only inches between their noses. Bobby swallowed his laughter with a gulp. Sweat began to bead on his forehead.
“What’s so funny, Bobby? And don’t say you don’t know. You do. And I know you know.”
Bobby giggled nervously, then begins to speak. “‘Cuz when you did this…” He begins to mimic Whitey’s gesture. Both thugs reach for their guns simultaneously.
“Calm down, boys,” Bobby says to them, a light laugh in his voice. “Iza’ just answerin’ the boss man.”
He looks to Whitey. “May I continya’, Boss?”
Whitey nods to Bobby, then waves his hand to signal “guns away.”
Bobby confirms their compliance, smiles, turns to whitey, jerks his thumb toward the thugs, and says, “Hey, Whitey, whadja’ do, tell the nuns down at St. Bridget’s to raise ya’ two fat orphans?” He redirects the next question to the bodyguards. “You boys twins?” They look at one another, confused. This time Whitey and Bobby laugh.
Laughing together relaxes Bobby, he resumes to tell his reason for laughing prior to this. “Anyways, when ya did that, ya looked like Vannar White from The Wheel a’ Fortune.”
Bobby and Whitey bellow laughter.
Bobby never notices Whitey nod to the thugs, never sees them pull their guns. Bobby laughs hard, eyes closed as the two thugs empty six rounds a piece into his chest and gut.