BOSTON — Did Kevin Weeks and his gangland boss Whitey Bulger want to murder me? Undoubtedly.
Did they ever concoct an actual scheme to accomplish their goal, either by blowing me up with military-grade explosives or by shooting me from a cemetery across the street from my home?
I’m not so sure about that.
I can’t say that I’m displeased that Weeks has put me back in the news, especially with the new Bulger biopic Black Mass opening wide. Weeks’s story about the 40 pounds of C-4 explosives that the gang obtained from corrupt FBI agents is great publicity for my new novel about the Boston underworld, Killers, which is available on Amazon and everywhere else.
Every knock a boost, as they say. There are worse things than being called a “vicious bastard” by a vicious bastard. I think I’ll use it as a blurb for the paperback edition.
Of course Weeks and Whitey knew where I lived—I was a neighbor of one of Weeks’s brothers. And Whitey did hate me. I had committed an offense he considered punishable by death. I had embarrassed his younger brother, the state Senate president, William M. Bulger. And I had done so in the worst possible way, by repeatedly linking the imperious pol to his serial-killing, cocaine-dealing gangster sibling.
I always referred to Billy by his State House nickname: the Corrupt Midget. As in “the 65-inch-high Corrupt Midget.” The family was not amused.
The Bulger crew was violent, even Kevin Weeks, the gang’s 300-pound Fredo. Weeks eventually pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to five murders. He buried three of Whitey’s victims in the basement of a house in Southie, then later dug up the corpses when the house was sold. With Whitey and his partner-in-crime Stevie “The Rifleman” Flemmi, Weeks reburied the skeletal remains in a vacant lot in Dorchester.
They undertook their ghoulish task on a Halloween night, with Weeks standing guard, brandishing a machine gun, under orders from Whitey to shoot anyone who happened by. As the reinterment went on, a kid pulled up in his car. The three mobsters hit the dirt, and watched as the kid took a drunken piss. When he finally drove away, Whitey jumped up, ran to Weeks and grabbed his firearm.
“Why didn’t you shoot him?” Whitey demanded. “We had plenty of room in the hole!”
The Bulger crew strangled girlfriends. They gunned down businessmen in Florida and Oklahoma. Two hoods were machine-gunned in separate hits just down the road from The Boston Globe. The FBI informant executed other hoods for being FBI informants.
My problems started when I wrote a magazine story quoting the then-mayor of Boston, Kevin White. During cutaways after a TV interview, a reporter asked White about the source of Billy Bulger’s almost absolute power at the State House.
“If my brother threatened to kill you,” the four-term mayor replied in footage that never aired, “you’d be nothing but nice to me.”
When I printed the exchange, the Bulgers were enraged. But I had it on videotape. It was undeniable. At the time I was working for both the Boston Herald and a TV station in Dorchester. To get back and forth, I had to drive by the South Boston Liquor Mart, which Whitey had extorted from its legitimate owner.
During warm weather, Whitey would hold court outside the liquor store. Next to a busy rotary, it was too loud for any law-enforcement bugs. Usually he was joined by his fellow FBI-protected rat, Stevie Flemmi.
“Whitey was always talking about you,” Flemmi later told me with a smile, during a court recess. From my TV job, Whitey knew what I looked like. Plus, I was in his neighborhood every day. But I never ventured into Whitey’s package store.
The anchor at my TV station was the son of a former mayor of Boston. He lived in Southie, and patronized the Liquor Mart. One night the clerk struck up a conversation with him.
“How come Howie never comes in here?” he asked. My friend shrugged.
“You tell him,” the clerk said, “that if he comes in, we got a fresh dumpster waitin’ for him out back. It’ll be another Robin Benedict.”
Robin Benedict was a prostitute in the city’s Combat Zone who had been murdered and chopped up by her college professor-boyfriend. Her remains were never found.
That was a wake-up call. Whitey’s ownership of the liquor store was no secret. The local FBI office bought booze for their Christmas parties there. During elections, Southie pols vied to have their campaign signs displayed in the store’s front windows—it was considered the Bulgers’s unofficial imprimatur. When Whitey needed to install curbs in the store’s parking lot, the work was done by a City of Boston crew—during business hours.
An astonished photographer for The Boston Globe had driven by and taken photos of the crew, but the cowed editors of the Globe refused to print them. The day after the disgusted photographer handed the spiked photos over to the FBI, a private work crew appeared on the site and removed the city-installed curbs.
The Bulgers didn’t just have “the Town” wrapped up, they had the city, the state, and most of the Boston media as well.
That was my problem, that was everyone’s problem. We couldn’t go to the cops.
Whitey Bulger was paying off at least six Boston G-men. Billy Bulger controlled the state budget, which meant the MA State Police. When one of the MSP brass installed a bug in Whitey’s garage, an anonymous rider was attached to the next budget to force his retirement. (A conservative Democrat governor vetoed the retaliatory provision and was subsequently defeated in the next primary election by a Bulger puppet named Michael Dukakis.)
When a new mayor of Boston was elected, Billy Bulger asked for only one favor: the appointment of a key member of Whitey’s gang, corrupt FBI agent John “Zip” Connolly, as Boston police commissioner. The new mayor adamantly refused, and Billy had to back down. (Connolly is now serving a 40-year prison sentence in Florida for a gangland hit in Miami.)
If they could muscle a governor or a mayor, what chance did I have, even with a column and a TV gig?
I began taking whatever precautions I could. The key to staying alive, I quickly figured out, was to avoid becoming a creature of habit. Wiseguys (or anyone else) who don’t mix up their routines are the ones who inevitably get caught “flat-footed,” to use the old expression.
I drove home a different way every evening. If possible when I parked, I backed into the space, so that if I had to, I could flee more quickly. I stopped meeting face-to-face with anyone I didn’t know. I stayed out of bars, especially in Southie. Occasionally I’d sleep somewhere other than my house. The local cops kept an eye on my house in the predawn hours.
I wasn’t the only reporter they threatened. When the Globe finally awakened from its long slumber, the local FBI office passed on a warning to a reporter. The agent, a friend of Zip Connolly’s, told the reporter that a hood conveniently in the Witness Protection Program wanted to warn the scribe not to write anything derogatory about the Bulgers.
I happened to know the plug ugly. His name was Fat Tony Ciulla. Fat Tony wouldn’t have told this kid from the Globe if his coat were on fire. It was more FBI BS, but you can’t take chances. The reporter and his family were moved out of Southie.
This went on for years. Slowly the noose began to tighten around Whitey’s neck and I relaxed somewhat. Whitey vanished in late 1994, but Weeks was still lurking about. At a tanning salon, he bragged to a Herald photographer that he knew that I had lived next to a graveyard. He mentioned nothing about any C-4 or high-powered rifles, but when he was arrested in 1999, his indirect threats against me were included in a DEA detention warrant.
I was in court when Weeks was brought in for his first hearing. He looked over at me.
“Be kind, Howie,” he said.
I never talked about the threats—it would have sounded like so much braggadocio. No one wants a Brian Williams reputation. I remained silent until Weeks began shooting off his mouth.
After lugging him, it only took the feds a few days to flip Weeks. I nicknamed him “Two Weeks,” and much to his chagrin, the moniker stuck. So did an anonymous one—“Kevin Squeaks.”
When Weeks got out of prison five years later, he sold an “as-told-to” book to New York editor Judith Regan, shortly before her O.J. Simpson fiasco. To promote the book, he embellished his story about me. Now it involved explosives, and a stakeout across the street from my house, in the cemetery.
I was interviewed in 2006 by 60 Minutes. They told me how Weeks had been lying in the leaves just inside the cemetery, waiting for me to emerge from my house. But when I came out the front door (which I hardly ever used) holding my daughter’s hand, he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was right out of a hackneyed B-movie script.
I told the late Ed Bradley that Weeks didn’t have the “stones” to kill me. The producers loved it—crazy macho Boston Mob talk! But I also told the producer, you might want to reconnoiter that graveyard. There’s an old stone wall surrounding it, hard by the road. If Weeks were lying in the grass just inside the graveyard, he would have only been able to draw a bead… on the stone wall.
But some 60 Minutes stories are just too good to check out. Just ask Dan Rather.
Two years ago, Weeks testified as a prosecution witness against his old boss, Whitey. Weeks once more recounted his favorite tale about the cemetery. When Weeks shouted out my address in open court, the judge was so concerned that she ordered it redacted from the trial transcript. That made me smile—Two Weeks had said he was waiting to kill me outside “99 Concord Road.” I had lived at 91 Concord Road.
I was watching his testimony, as was the Globe reporter whom Whitey had purportedly threatened to kill. Whitey had tried to keep both of us out of the courtroom (as well as the authors of Black Mass) by listing us all as witnesses for his defense. The judge let us attend the trial; needless to say we were never called by Whitey.
The irony of Weeks’s testimony against the serial killer he had worshipped for so long was rich. Having purchased his own freedom by informing, he now sneered at Whitey as a “rat.”
“You suck!” Whitey screamed back at him. For once I found myself in agreement with a Bulger.
At another point, Weeks was asked by Whitey’s lawyer if he’d ever lied about anything.
“I’ve been lying my whole life,” Two Weeks said.
At age 59, he still is.
Howie Carr is a New York Times best-selling author of The Brothers Bulger and Hitman. His latest book is a crime-thriller novel, Killers, about the post-Whitey Boston underworld. Follow him on Twitter @HowieCarrShow.