Connections – Available Now at:
Some people seek out connections. Jack Contino does it for a living. A cop knows how to link people and events. Maria Falcone connects people and places; the city of Boston, a rural New Hampshire college town, a Boston hit man, a college professor.
Jack Contino is a veteran cop with the Metropolitan District Commission Police Department. He often works with the FBI and a gangland massacre puts him in pursuit of a killer, but the trail takes an unexpected turn.
Maria connects by leading a double life; college coed during the week and high priced call girl on weekends. A professor loves her. A mobster uses her. Her future depends on one of them.
Ben Secani learned to kill for his country in Vietnam and finds opportunity in the Boston Mob.
The action puts these people on a collision course and the result changes their lives forever.
Jack Contino always walked into a bar like he owned the place. He sucked in his gut as best he could before entering, keeping his six-foot four inch, two-hundred and thirty pound frame as erect as a fifty-four year old veteran cop could. Despite his size, Jack had a lot of spring in his step. It was late afternoon in Boston, the right time to catch one of the parking spots vacated by the daily commuter students, who gobbled them up by seven in the morning. Jack worked his way onto an open stool at the far end of the bar and casually surveyed the room.
The Bullpen entrance was two steps down at the end of a short sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue across from Boston University. Its patrons were both working class and B.U. students, mostly the older ones taking classes through the Metropolitan College. Some classes started as early as four-thirty. Winter was over but people still wore warm clothing. Some liked to get ready for class with a cold one. A long, L-shaped oak bar took up the left side of the room. Tables with four chairs at each were scattered along the right, leaving a small passage to the bar. The lighting was dim and got dimmer toward the back.
The first two tables were occupied by a small group of university employees, a young mix of males and females. They were a bit loud and seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were five men at the bar. Two looked like groundskeepers, with their heavy work boots and cuffed work pants and the others might be faculty or grad students. The working men looked to be about forty plus while the others were probably in their late twenties. There was casual conversation among the three faculty/grad types. Jack couldn’t make out what the working men were saying to each other. He noticed a lone figure sitting at a table in the back corner, a man about his own age. The man was wearing a shiny Red Sox jacket and a blue baseball cap with a big red “B” in the front above the visor. He had a hamburger plate with fries in front of him but he was looking around more than eating. His beer bottle was half empty. He knew Jack had spotted him.
“Give me two bottles of Miller,” said Jack as the bartender approached. She was a middle aged woman wearing a white blouse buttoned up to the neck and black slacks. About five-foot six, she cut a nice figure, her long brown hair in a ponytail.
“Coming right up.”
Jack put some bills on the bar when the beers arrived. He stood up with one in each hand and walked over to the guy in the corner. He placed a bottle in front of the man seated with his back to the wall and slid into the chair against the other wall. Both men had a view of the whole room. Jack took a swig from his bottle.
“So, you got yourself into a tight little spot in Connecticut,” said Jack. That served as an introduction.
“Yeah, well, it was supposed to be a good deal, but it didn’t go so good. That’s why I called your office. I need some help and I’ve heard some talk that you’re the guy for that. The word is you’re a straight up guy. You gotta help me out, Jack. You work with the Feds. You can pull some strings.” He took a bite of his burger as if to cue Jack.
“You think I’m the Seventh Cavalry coming to your rescue? You ran some guns to guys planning a bank job in Hartford. What the hell were you thinking? Now the Feds have your number.” Jack swigged his beer.
“Hey, I didn’t know what they were planning. And those pieces can’t be traced to me. I made sure of that. The Feds are setting me up. Whatever they claim to have is bogus.”
“Hey, keep calm, will you. Regardless of what you think is happening let me tell you what IS happening. The FBI has you targeted and they have a way of making life miserable for people in their cross hairs. You ran the guns to a guy who moved them to another party, the guys who wanted the bank. Lucky for you they never got to the gig, because if they did, you’d already be in lock up and I couldn’t be of much help to you. But your guy wants to go home at night so he gave you up. They already have enough to put you away, Charlie.”
“So why didn’t they?”
Jack sat back and smiled a big smile, the kind that says I’m your Daddy. He helped himself to a couple of fries and washed them down with beer.
“I’m already helping you out, get it? But I’m not a social worker. You have to make it worth my while.”
“What can I do?”
“ It’s time for you to reconsider this omerta crap, your code of silence. I know you’re in a good position to know a lot about what the Boston mob is doing. We know about that North End apartment of yours. It attracts some interesting people. Oh, don’t look so surprised. We’ve heard about it now and then. Some solid information from you, stuff that will hold up in court, might make me willing to talk to the Feds on your behalf. I’m especially interested in the Winter Hill guys. There’s one guy I’d really like to nail. He’s got connections at the State House, so he thinks he’s bullet proof.”
“Hey, Jack. I don’t want to go there. Are you nuts? I’d be asking for a bullet. Hell, a bullet would be merciful the way that guy works.”
“He’s been pissing me off for a long time, but I’ve got to be careful. Let’s just say he’s got good insulation.”
“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on that’s got nothing to do with him. Let’s focus on some of that.”
“Well, it better be good. Think it over, old boy. Time’s a wastin’.”
Jack took a long drink from his beer. He pushed back from the table, got up and walked away. The other guy sat silently, watching Jack leave. He had some decisions to make. He couldn’t see the broad smile on Jack’s face.
In 1947, after working with the Metropolitan District Commission Police for over two years, Jack Contino started taking day classes at Walker College, a small junior college in his hometown of Somerville. He didn’t mind working the night beat, the standard practice for new police officers, but he knew he wanted to get off the graveyard shift and make detective. An Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice would help him advance.
A park with a large lawn area was located just across the street from the three Victorian houses that comprised the college, an administration building and two classroom buildings. Jack liked to bring a muffin and a thermos with coffee to the park before class and enjoy some peaceful time after patrolling all night. There were park benches that allowed Jack to get off his feet. On this particular morning a lovely young woman who he had seen on other mornings already occupied Jack’s favorite bench. That was interesting.
“Excuse me, but do you mind if I sit here,” he asked.
“No, not at all.” She was impressed with Jack’s height and athletic build.
Jack sat down, poured some coffee into the cup that covered the thermos and took a sip. The flavor was something he had been waiting for. It showed.
“Tough night?” she asked, still looking into the textbook she held in front of her.
Jack showed a wry smile. “Naw, not so bad. Just long, that’s all. I work nights.”
She closed her book and slipped it into a green bag with a long draw string then stood up clutching the bag in front of her. “Enjoy your breakfast.”
Jack watched her walk away. He liked the swooshing sound that her Florence Nightengale dress made as she walked. He was impressed with the nurses he had met while in the Army. They had guts working in combat zones. He hoped this one would never have such an experience after she graduated.
Their morning meetings became more frequent and their conversations grew longer each morning. Her name was Natalie Buono, a first year Nursing student, who took the bus over from her parent’s house in Medford. Jack was hooked.
On this morning, Natalie spoke first. “What was it like, Jack, being stationed at Pearl when they attacked?”
“It was awful. We couldn’t believe what was happening. I mean, it was a quiet Sunday morning and then all of a sudden all hell broke loose. Excuse me, I mean it got real nasty.”
“That’s OK, Jack. I’m a big girl.”
Jack paused a moment. “It’s such a shame that all happened. I mean, Pearle was good duty up ‘til then. The Army was not so bad. I even did a little boxing.”
“I’ll bet you were good at it.”
“Yes, I was. Not too many guys wanted to fight me after awhile, so I just gave it up. I fought heavyweight.”
“Well, I’m glad you came out alright, otherwise this would be a difficult conversation.”
Jack checked his schedule for his off duty days and began taking Natalie out to dinner and movies. They dated regularly and those days became the happiest of Jack’s life. He had found his love.
After a cold winter, spring finally came in 1948 and Jack was happy to be put on a rotating shift: two days on duty, a day off, two nights on, then two days off. Usually the new schedule gave him more time to be with Natalie, but sometimes she had studying to do at night and he left her alone with her school work. One night, Jack and a friend from the force, Leo Barbado, went to a Somerville bar to relax and knock back a few beers.
The first two largers went down well and Jack enjoyed his conversation with Leo. They ordered another round just about the time the place started to get noisy. Jack’s back was to the bar but Leo could see it clearly. A tall, thin young man was on his feet, arguing with a guy on a bar stool. The seated man held his hand up as if to call a halt to the discussion and he spun around on the stool, turning his back to his adversary.
“Don’t turn your back on me, asshole.” He backslapped the guy on the head hard.
The guy spun back around. “Hey, I don’t want any trouble.” He turned his back again.
“Oh, no? Then just pay me what you owe and we’ll all be happy.” He backslapped the guy again.
Jack was getting irritated so he turned to see who was having the argument. He turned back to Leo.
“You know him, Jack?”
“I’m afraid I do. Young Tommy Shea, neighborhood tough guy and overall pain in the ass. I went to high school with his older brother, Jimmy. He’s an asshole of another kind. This one thinks he can beat up the world. He’s already done time in juvy. He’s getting on my nerves.”
Jack stood up from his table and pushed his chair back.
“Jack, we’re off duty.”
“I know. This will be strictly unofficial. Stay back unless he’s got help. Just me and him.”
He approached Shea while Leo looked around the room to see if anybody else got up.
“Hey,” he said, getting in Shea’s face. “I’m trying to enjoy my beer and you’re making it difficult with all this noise. Why don’t you take it outside?”
Shea turned and recognized Jack. “Oh, the big tough cop wants me to take it outside. Yeah, I know who you are. Think you’re a tough guy ‘cause you’re a cop. Contino the wop cop.”
Jack swallowed hard and kept quiet. His mother had always taught him to count to ten when he got mad. This time, he didn’t make it past five. “Like I said, why don’t you take it outside.”
“Why don’t you take it outside, wop cop, if you got the balls.”
Jack felt his heart quicken as the anger built. “You know what, Shea? This is my lucky day because I just happen to be off duty. So I’d be happy to get in some fresh air. Why don’t you come along?”
In a minute they were standing in a back parking lot facing each other close up. About half the bar patrons, including Leo, rushed out the door to form a circle around the too fighters. Jack held his fists like a trained boxer. Shea looked like a caged animal about to pounce on whoever opened the cage door.
They inched closer to each other and suddenly Shea threw a fast right hand at Jack’s head. He slipped the punch easily. Shea stepped towards Jack and threw another right. Jack deflected that one with his left arm. Then Shea landed a left hook to Jack’s mid-section. He followed it up by rushing into Jack with his shoulder, hitting Jack in the gut, knocking him back but not down. He grabbed Jack, wrapping his left arm around him in a clinch. While they tugged at each other, Shea’s right hand produced a shard of beer bottle glass from his pants pocket. As Jack pushed him back from the clinch, Shea swung at Jack’s face with the glass, grazing the left side of his chin. Blood appeared immediately.
Jack should have expected a less than fair fight from Shea. OK, no more fooling around. Jack closed in on Shea, who still held the glass shard in his hand. Jack feigned a hard, left jab at Shea who reacted by blocking his face with his hands. Like a football place kicker, Jack swung his right foot up at his target with great force. He caught Shea in the groin, who buckled over in agony but stayed on his feet. Jack then hit him with a powerful right to the jaw that staggered Shea. Another right hand to the gut bent Shea over. Jack could have ended it right there with another right. He wanted to kill the punk. Instead, he grabbed Shea’s shirt with his left hand and began slapping him repeatedly, open palm then backhand. There’s something about slapping a guy around. It’s almost like a parent beating a child.
Jack pushed the groggy Shea to the ground and checked him for weapons. Surprised to find him clean, Jack went back inside with Leo and finished his beer.
“Nice work, Jack. He won’t bother you again.”
“I think he’ll try. But he’ll use another angle next time. If he’s like his smart, older brother, he’ll always try to get an angle, you know, some advantage over the other guy. And he’s just not cut out for the straight life. We’re going to hear more from him.”
On a bright spring day in June, 1948, Jack entered St. Joseph’s church in Medford through the side door. His buddy from the police force and best man, Leo Barbado, followed behind him. Jack was comfortable in the formal wear for the wedding, but Leo looked like a fish out of water, constantly fidgeting with his necktie and cuffs.
“Relax pal. You’d think you were the one getting married today. You got the rings?”
“Yeah, of course I’ve got the rings.”
“Just making sure. I don’t want anything to mess up for Natalie, you know. Everything’s got to go real smooth today.”
“Don’t worry, Jack. Everything is going to be great. No bad guys today.”
The wedding and reception went without a hitch and the happy couple took off for a few honeymoon days on Cape Cod. Only Jack couldn’t forget about Tommy Shea.