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By David C. Martin
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 David C. Martin
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Chapter OneIT IS 7:00 A.M
It's a cold, drizzly, overcast Saturday in Boston. Barry Blumberg lives in a top floor apartment on High Street, in a triple-decker, in Charlestown. From the rear porch you can see the Tobin Bridge and the city of Cambridge. Barry has been a Boston cabbie for thirteen years. Today will not be his lucky day.
His girlfriend Karen Silkstocking has been with Barry for three years now. She is an attractive tall sultry redhead with straight shiny hair that extends below her shoulder blades. While she is devoted to Barry she is content as his girlfriend.
Today is Saint Patrick's Day. It is a holiday of the highest degree in Boston. Karen is up early bubbling away in the Jacuzzi. She is looking forward to the Saint Patrick's Day parade and the daylong celebration of corned beef, cabbage, alcohol consumption and good cheer that is the tradition for Saint Patrick's Day. Unfortunately, she never does get to the celebration. Barry is always working on Saint Patrick's Day. There are always plenty of fares and the tips are good on this high spirited day. This year is supposed to be different. This year Barry promised that they would spend the day together and join in all of the day's festivities.
Barry is still in bed. He had a difficult Friday night shift that ended at 12:00 midnight. On the way home he stopped at the Morning Glory Bar for a pre-Saint Patrick's Day warm-up of boilermakers. At 2:00 A.M., Mack the bartender yelled, "bottoms up boys I'm going home."
Barry obliged with a last shot of Jameson Irish Whisky and then found his way home to sleep it off.
Suddenly, his cell phone on the nightstand starts to ring. Groggily, Barry answers the phone. "Hello" mutters Barry.
"Where the hell are you?" the loud voice on the other side inquires. "I am landing in Cambridge in five minutes." The loud voice continues, "I expect my ride to be there, waiting for me."
Barry has not told Karen that he recently agreed to provide chauffer services for a union official today. The official is Harry Sharpstone. Harry is an organizer for the teamsters. He is coming to town to do some background work. His new assignment is not going to be easy. He has been sent from Chicago to organize the cabdrivers of Boston into a local chapter of the teamsters. Harry is a gruff Vietnam Vet. His remaining thin wavy grey hair is unkempt. He is fit, in his late fifties, and dressed in a dark wrinkled three-piece suit. The tie has been removed and is in his pocket.
Barry has sprung from his bed. Hung over, he hurriedly gets dressed in his chauffer's outfit that had been cast in a pile on the bedroom floor. He runs to the bathroom, quickly brushes his teeth and kisses Karen on the forehead and says, "I love you".
Karen has her eyes closed while she continues to bubble away. She smiles as she is kissed. Then she quickly sits up and remarks, "Hey, where are you going?"
Barry, while headed out of the bathroom and toward the apartment door responds. "Sorry babe. I promised to cover an important chauffer assignment today. I'm late. I'll call you from the car."
"But you promised to spend the day with me."
Barry does not respond. He hurries through the door, soars down the stairs and out the front door. Quickly, he unlocks the door of the black corporate style limousine parked on the street out front. He puts the key in the ignition, turns the key and...
BOOM! The limousine blows sky high into smithereens. There is nothing left but twisted metal and a fireball of remains.
Karen quickly jumps out of the tub and runs to the front living room window only to see the fireball below where Barry's limousine was parked. Horrified, she screams, "Barry! Barry!"
She knows he is gone.
She lets out a horrifying scream of grief and agony from the impact of knowing that her loved one's remains are burning in the fireball below.
Chapter TwoACROSS THE CHARLES RIVER
In Cambridge, Harry Sharpstone deports from his helicopter and heads into the Yellow Cab Company office. He is impatiently awaiting the arrival of his ride.
Harry had been attending a Union Banquet meeting on Friday night in Springfield, Massachusetts, so the helicopter was the best mode for making the early morning breakfast meeting here in Boston.
Harry was a tough, impatient Sergeant in Vietnam. As a labor organizer these traits have been helpful. "I've been waiting fifteen minutes," Harry muttered. "Who's Melio?" Harry asks in a sharp voice.
"That would be me," Melio responds.
"Hi Melio, I am Harry Sharpstone. Has my ride arrived yet? I'm on a tight schedule."
"Oh, hello Mr. Sharpstone. It's nice to finally meet you in person."
Melio Rocco is the cab dispatcher, part-time cab driver and an organizer who requested that the teamsters pursue unionizing the cab drivers.
"Barry's not here yet," Melio replies. "I am very sorry Mr. Sharpstone. I'll dispatch one of these cabs for you for the day right away. It's important for you to stay on schedule."
Several minutes later Melio reports, "Sorry Mr. Sharpstone, since it is Saint Patricks Day all scheduled drivers are quite busy and those who are not scheduled are not willing to give up this day off. So I'm going to take you myself. I am your driver for the day."
"Thank you, Melio, let's get going."
Harry and Melio make their way across town to the Bayside Club in South Boston. This is no ordinary breakfast meeting. This is the annual Saint Patrick's Day breakfast, heavily attended every year by a who's who of Boston's most powerful politicians.
Oh sure, Saint Patricks's Day is a big event in every major city, but in Boston it is particularly special. You see, in Boston Saint Patrick's is also a legal holiday! That's right, March 17th also happens to be Evacuation Day, the day the British fled Boston in defeat of the Revolutionary War. So today all public offices are closed and all the pubs are open.
Saint Patrick's Day means so much to the State Senate President Billy Bulger that he was determined to find a way to make it a public holiday. Senator Bulger is also a historian. So he scoured Boston history for an event that occurred on March 17th, and the evacuation of the British troops from Boston was just the perfect event to justify a government holiday celebration. And what sane politician would vote against making Saint Patrick's a holiday worthy of a day off and a public celebration?
The day's opening event, a breakfast and roast held at the Bayside Club, is hosted by none other than South Boston's own pinnacle of the political scene, State Senate President Billy Bulger. As president of the Senate, he controls just what bills will be allowed to the floor for a vote. Even the Governor, Bill Weld, pays deference to the powerful Senator in order for his legislation to be brought to the floor.
Senator Bulger has a sharp mental recollection of all favors extended to various politicians and when the time is right to collect on a "favor" you can be sure that the payback will play strongly into the Senator's favor. As a result, the State payroll reads like a list of Senator Bulger's family, friends, neighbors and supporters.
But today isn't a day for political hardball. Today is time for camaraderie and good cheer. Today is a day for laughter, self-deprivation, stand-up comedy and a good-natured political roast. For Harry Sharpstone, this event is very important business. Today Harry gets to meet some of the political players who will be involved in both sides of the issue of the cabbie unionization process that is yet to begin.
Harry will study personalities, political associations, traits and just what makes each politician tick. Does he have an Achilles' heal? Who are friends and who are foes? Who can he trade favors with? What kind of favors will work to gain their support for his effort to unionize the cabdrivers? Ah yes, this is a busy morning for Harry, and a valuable opportunity.
As Harry enters the Bayside Club, an aide to Senator Bulger meets him. "Mr. Sharpstone?" The aide inquires.
"Yes," Harry responds.
"I am Clarence McDuff. Let me take you to meet Senator Bulger." He takes Harry to the side of the Head table and Senator Bulger comes over to meet him. "Senator Bulger, this is Mr. Sharpstone from the Teamsters Union, Chicago."
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Sharpstone", says Senator Bulger. "I apologize for not having any time to meet with you today. As I mentioned, I am the Master of Ceremonies here this morning."
"That is quite all right, Senator Bulger", Harry replies. "I appreciate the opportunity to attend this renowned event and I am sure this will be a valuable experience. I'll call your office on Monday to schedule a meeting with you."
"Wonderful, we'll talk again soon."
"Clarence, kindly show Mr. Sharpstone to his table."
Senator Bulger proceeds to the microphone to begin the breakfast. "Attention friends and comical foes. Let's begin the meal and festivities with grace and a blessing led by Father O'Hearn." "Thank you Senator Bulger. Please bow your heads. Father bless this bounteous meal before us. Bless all of those who attend festivities throughout the land on this glorious day of celebration and merriment. Finally, God bless all of those about to be roasted here today. Remember, it only hurts for a minute."
Clarence takes Harry to his table. Harry sits down next to a highly decorated police officer. He reaches to shake Harry's hand. "Hello, I'm Police Chief Bratton."
"It's very nice to meet you Chief Bratton. I'm Harry Sharpstone from the Chicago office of the Teamsters."
Senator Bulger, in a loud and jovial manner exclaims, "It's so nice to see Senator Kerry here. You were good to get here on time. Last year you were stuck in front of the mirror."
"Ah yes, I could never miss that red mop-headed Governor of ours. It's nice to see you, Governor Weld. I didn't know Protestants got up this early on the weekend." "I understand your nature, as a former Federal Prosecutor, is as sharp as ever."
"It was only last week when he made a citizens' arrest. He pinched a handicapped person for parking in a regular parking spot."
"Nice collar there, Governor Weld. You are truly tough on crime."
"It's nice that the blue-blooded WASP could join us for the Feast of Saint Patrick. Corned beef and cabbage is hardly the Filet Mignon and asparagus that Governor Weld is accustomed to."
"American history is a favorite read for me. I recall in reading that the Welds came to Massachusetts in 1620 'with only the shirts on their backs'—and 8,000 pounds of gold. And they didn't arrive aboard the Mayflower. They sent their servants on the Mayflower to get the summer cottage ready."
"By the way, Governor, I received the House's 'no-new-taxes' budget yesterday. Of course I'm not done reviewing it for Senate consideration. What do you mean by 'no new taxes'? I could slap a tax on a galloping horse."
Senator Bulger looks toward the Governor's wife, Susan Weld, and says, "Don't be nervous. It is your husband we are after."
"OK Governor, before you have me removed, I surrender the floor. Ladies and Gentlemen, Governor Weld."
"Thank you, Senate president Bulger," exclaims Governor Weld in an equally loud and jovial manner.
"The Senate president is the only man I know who never uses a steak knife, but cuts his food with his tongue."
"You are right about that 'no-new-taxes' budget, Senator Bulger, it's been a tough couple of weeks for some of the Democrats in the Legislature. They have a recurring nightmare that the money they are spending is their own."
"I knew I still had a lot of work to do when I called Senator Bulger's office yesterday to confirm this gathering. The senator has a phone answering system with the following announcement: 'If you owe me a favor, press one and leave your number. I'll be sure to get right back to you. If I owe you a favor, hang up and wait for me to get back to you. If you wish to make a contribution to my campaign for reelection, press two and leave your credit card number. If you think Bill Weld is really running Massachusetts, press three, leave your name and then press two and leave your credit card number.' Thank you very much."
Senator Bulger jumps up and retrieves the microphone from Governor Weld. "Oh yea, that was great, Governor. Hmmmmmm! If that's the best you can do, then my power position is safe for a long time."
"Noticeably missing is Mayor Flynn. He is drawn to TV cameras the way moths are drawn to light. Ray Flynn just loves the klieg lights. He actually posed with Salman Rushdie."
Suddenly, Chief Bratton nudges Harry Sharpstone as he is completing a cell phone call. He leans over and speaks to Harry's ear "We need to talk. Please meet me in the entranceway." They get up and made their way to the rear of the hall.
"That was a detective from my office. Apparently a limousine blew up in Charlestown about one and half hours ago. The driver is dead. His girlfriend told the detective that he was driving for a teamsters organizer today as he left. Was this driver supposed to be working for you today?"
"Oh my goodness.... why, yes, I believe so. I thought he overslept so I arranged another ride. I don't understand. Why would someone do this?"
"At this point, I do not know. The investigation is ongoing. Somehow, you could have been the actual target in this car bombing."
"Why would I be a target? I've just arrived. Who would be targeting me?"
"I do not know, but I am going to want to talk to you later this week. Are you planning to be in town for a while?"
After a pause for thought, Harry responds, "Yes I will be staying at the Bostonian this week. You can reach me there, Chief Bratton."
"Very good Harry, could I get your cell phone number?"
"Of course, it's 876-744-3334."
"Thank you, Mr. Sharpstone. I will follow up with you soon."
In the meantime, former Governor Frank Seargant has been leading the crowd of four hundred in a series of Irish songs. Chief Bratton leaves the building and heads back to his command. Harry Sharpstone makes his way back to his table, where he takes his seat and resumes evaluating the room full of pols, the event, the culture, the politics and now the suspicious ties.
Now full of corned beef, cabbage, Irish whiskey, laughter and smiles, the mass of celebrants, celebrators and celebrities makes its way to strategic locations for viewing the Saint Patrick Day's parade.
Harry hops in his cab and is whisked off to the corner of "L" Street and East Broadway in South Boston. This is the home of Cox Electric Company. Mr. Cox passed away several years ago. He learned his electrical skills firsthand from Thomas Edison, himself. The family still gathers here with his brethren of electricians for this annual parade tradition. Cox Electric, South Boston, Massachusetts
The union brothers have graciously reserved Harry a choice standing room position for the parade.
It's an ideal March day for this event. The temperature is 50 degrees and it is partly cloudy. It's a great day for a parade.
Boston's finest lead the way. The flags of the police color guard are unfurled and wave briskly in the cool breeze. Stationed on the corner right next to Harry is Sergeant Clancy O'Malley, who snaps to attention and salutes as the Color Guard marches by.
Suddenly, an approaching parade viewer who has "over celebrated" staggers close by, grabs the light pole on the corner, swings around and falls to the ground at Sergeant Clancy's feet, where he proceeds to expel his stomach contents onto the Officer's shoes. Sergeant Clancy flags down a police cruiser and they briskly deposit the drunken parade-goer into the cruiser and he is whisked away. While still there, the officers leave the Sergeant a towel to clean off his shoes. Clancy then sticks each foot in a nearby melting snow bank for the final rinse, and throws the towel into a nearby trashcan. It is now officially a good Saint Patrick's by all measures.
Meanwhile, sirens scream as police cruisers roll by.
They are followed by the high pitch of a bagpipes, fife and drum band. These burley men march strongly in their green plaid kilts. Next is the Grand Marshall. This year, Mayor Flynn is Grand Marshall. Mayor Flynn is known for frequently running in the Boston Marathon. So, naturally, he chooses to walk the parade route, waving and shaking hands with the gathered citizens, while his family rides along behind him in a beautiful 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible.
Excerpted from CHARLESTOWN by David C. Martin Copyright © 2010 by David C. Martin. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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