CHAPTER SIX

I regarded the bloody object that rested on the sterile paper. Clumps of clotted tissue clung to its lower extremities like limpets on a wave-washed rock. Although the patient sitting in my chair would certainly enjoy newfound relief now that the impacted third molar was removed from his lower jaw, I could not help feeling a wee bit like Torquemada every time I clamped my HuFriedy cowhorn forceps securely around an offending tooth and I began to rock it loose from its socket. You do this after you partially lift the tooth with a tool called an elevator; after the forceps are in place you rock the tooth back and forth and then extract it. Sometimes there is a muted crunch of bone or crackle as a root fractures under the strain. But always there is the sickening wet sucking sound of the gum tissue, a sound like that produced when you sink up to your knee in a muddy bog and then pull your leg out. To mute these noises I always have my patient wear earphones playing classical music- on the loud side. My current patient was listening to E. Power Biggs playing Bach’s Toccata in E minor. He felt nothing… yet.

The lower portion of Ronald Belknap’s tooth was bent at a thirty-degree angle. This dogleg had developed over the years as the tooth tried to push its way up through the gum- in the manner God and nature intended all good teeth to do- and join its fellow teeth in the job of grinding up food. But the tooth could not push its way to the surface because the jawbone was too small and there wasn’t room. Our tiny mandible, like our appendix, is a curse of human evolution, So the tooth pushed against the twelve-year molar in front not it at an angle. And as it pushed against the molar, it began to bend. Finally all this pushing and bending leads to inflammation, pressure, and infection. Sometimes you need to section impacted teeth before you remove them, but in Belknap’s case I didn’t.

“Ohhhhh Jameseeeez,” he moaned, looking at the huge tooth that lay soaking the white paper with blood. “No wonder that sucker hurt!”

“Yes,” I said, “and unfortunately, when the local wears off you’re going to get some more pain. Notice, Ron, I’m not calling it discomfort, as so many of my colleagues do. I’m calling it pain because that’s what it will be. Do you drink?”

“Sure.”

So I gave him a blue card with instructions. For minors, or people who don’t drink, I give a white card with a different set of instructions and a prescription for Tylox. But never do I mix instructions, or cards, because booze on top of a pain-killing drug can make some people drop where they stand after one snort. It’s very dangerous.

“Hey Doc. This just says to go home and get bombed.”

“Uh-huh. There’s a good drink recipe on the back. Stay home tomorrow and watch the tube. You’ll be in some pain for the next twenty hours because I had to remove a wee bit of infected jawbone. That’s going to smart. Next day return to work and a take aspirin. Keep the packing in your mouth until dinnertime and don’t rinse. Good-bye.”

“What about payment?”

“One pain at a time. Susan will bill you.”

He regarded the devastatingly gorgeous Susan Petri, the one who could turn men into stone. Susan Petri should be a controlled substance. He addressed me sotto voce.

“Wow, Doc. If you’ll pardon a personal observation, you’ve got some really nice scenery around here. Must make coming to work uh, less of an ordeal.”

“If you’re referring to Ms. Petri’s physical attributes”- I sniffed- “then let me assure you they had next to nothing to do with my hiring her. And, speaking as one twentieth-century man to another, I regret your judging her solely on her physical appearance. It is sexist and archaic. Isn’t she dynamite?”

“Yeah, I-OOOO I think I just got the first twinge!”

“You ain’t felt nothin’ yet, Ron. There’s more where that came from. Go home and guzzle; I’ll see you Friday.”

I saw him out the door just as the phone rang. It was Joe, returning my call to Ten-Ten Comm. Ave.

“Where the hell have you been? I called you before work.”

“Oh. You mean it was important?”

“Joe, listen: I’ve got a taped phone message from Johnny. He called me late Friday afternoon and left a message on my machine.”

“Well what’s it say?”

“I’ll play it over the phone. Hold on.”

I pressed the playback button on my phone answering machine and held the receiver right over the tiny speaker: Hello, Doc? This is Johnny. Johnny Robinson, Dependable. Listen, I got your work from the dental lab but I’ll be a little bit late with it. Can you hold on until just before suppertime? Sorry, but I’m totin’ somethin’ hot for my buddy Andy and I’ve got a- uh [squeak, flap, squeak] complication, dontcha know… [bark, bark]. Sorry for the delay… I’ll stay in touch. [bark, click]

There was a pause on the other end after it was over. Then, Joe asked me to play it again. I did. Then he asked me to play it a third time.

“Okay, I’ll be out in an hour. I might bring O’Hearn with me. You hear that squeaking in the background? Phone-booth door… the old type. And the barking? Johnny’s dogs. Somebody was tailing him.”

“Who’s Andy?”

“That’s what we’re gonna find out. Stay put.”

Joe and I listened to the tape three more times. We played the end of it over and over again to try and determine what the background noises meant. The problem was that the answering device was a crude recorder, and the speaker was a tiny arrangement barely an inch and a half across. Hardly concert-hall realism. Frustrated, Joe said he needed a big tape deck with three heads so he could make more copies. I had such a deck, but the one at the Concord police station was closer and Joe said he’d like Chief Brian Hannon’s opinion of the message.

“You would? Really and truly?”

“Well why not?” asked Joe.

“Well why?”

We nestled ourselves in front of the police department’s big Akai tape deck after we’d made four copies of the message, which ran 25.4 seconds, and listened again to the original tape. Brian Hannon sat between us, running his fat fingers through his thinning sand-colored hair as he cocked his ear at the-voice. The details in the background were clearer with the better equipment. The squeak of a door hinge, the faint sounds of traffic and pedestrians and a bell.

The three of us hunkered down there like sparrows on a wire, listening. I was at one end, a bit lean and graying at the temples. Brian, short, stocky, and almost bald, was in the middle. Bringing up the far side was good old Joe, with his paunch and his hound-dog eyes. Then I knew who it was we must’ve looked like: Larry, Curley, and Moe. The Three Stooges.

“Phone booth,” growled Brian at the squeak, flap, squeak. “He’s opening and closing the door of a phone booth, probably to get a good look at somebody who’s tailing him.”

“We agree,” said Joe. “And the barking we’re hearing is Tommy and Susie, who are on their leads right outside the booth. They usually didn’t bark. It took a lot to make them squawk. All these things add up to the message: I’ll be late, I got a complication…”

“Uh-huh,” I agreed. “Like somebody tailing me, trying to get what l’m carrying.”

“What?” asked Brian.

“We’re narrowing it down. But what about the chiming bells in the background? Which church is it?”

“Three bongs. Pretty deep bongs. Must be Park Street Church,” mused Joe, “but somehow it doesn’t sound like it. Three bongs means three o’clock. Let’s consult Johnny’s log and see where he was at three.”

Joe flipped out his pocket notebook and checked the page that he’d copied the log information on. He ran his finger down the list.

“Let’s see. At three in the afternoon Johnny was making a cash delivery to National Distilling in Cambridge. That’s right over near the Museum of Science. Hell, there’s no church there. None at a1ll.”.

“It’s gotta be Park Street Church,” said Brian. “Do you know any other church that strikes the hours?”

Joe shook his head. “Doesn’t sound like Park Street. The bongs aren’t deep enough. God knows I hear that church often enough. They play a little song and then chime the hours. The bongs are slow and deep. These bongs are more like chimes; they’re fast and higher-pitched.”

“Is it Trinity Church in Copley Square?” I asked. “I hear tons of people in the background- a lot of street traffic and pedestrians.”

“I don’t think Trinity strikes the hours,” said Joe, rubbing his chin with his thumb. It made a raspy sound. He rewound the tape again, for the hundredth time. We were going to wear it out. There it was again: the barking, the squeak of the phonebooth door, and three bells, far off. Close by were lots of people walking and talking. Shouting and laughing.

“A mob scene,” said Brian. “Sounds to me like lunch hour. Doesn’t sound like three o’clock. Only on a weekend would it be so noisy at three. But it’s gotta be either Park Street or Copley Square.”

“Wait a minute!” said Joe. “I just heard the word fiari. That’s Italian for flowers. Hell, Johnny’s in the North End here. That must be Old North Church.”

We thought we’d solved the thing then. But several problems emerged. One was the fact that his log sheet showed him at the distillery at 2:45, over in Cambridge, not in the North End. Second, as Brian had observed, the mob scene outside the phone booth was too manic for three in the afternoon, even on a Friday.

And finally, on Joe’s suspicion that Old North Church did not chime, we called and had this confirmed. Old North was silent. Great for lanterns in the window, but not for chimes. We called Trinity. Also silent. That left us with Park Street, except the bells didn’t remotely sound like those in the Park Street belfry. Then I solved it.

“Listen again,” I said. “You’ll hear that the bells aren’t spaced evenly. It doesn’t go bong, bong, bong. It goes bong, bong,… bong. Two and then one. It’s a ship’s bell, don’t you see? It’s sounding three bells.”

“Three o’clock?”

“No. It would be, uh, five-thirty. Eight bells is four, then it starts all over again with a new bell for every half hour. Three bells is five-thirty in the evening. That would explain the heavy street traffic too.”

“I didn’t realize the North End was so close to the harbor,” said Brian.

“Right smack dab on it,” said Joe, “except that it’s mostly hidden by all the crowded buildings. But there’s no indication in the log that Johnny went back there after his last job.”

“You remember two of the jobs had a star after them. That meant they weren’t completed. One was for my dental work, which is why Johnny called me in the first place. The other unfinished business involved the public library and a party in the North End.”

“Uh-huh. And at the end of the day he went back to the North End to complete that errand, and he was carrying your lab work too. He called to say he’d be late, and right there on Hanover Street, or nearby, he realized he was being followed. And I bet the party in the North End is named Andy.”

Joe got on the phone and rasped out a series of commands to Ten-Ten Comm. Ave.

1. He wanted the location of all phone booths in the North End near busy streets. Considering their rapid disappearance in favor of phone “enclaves,” this wouldn’t be difficult.

2. To check my theory, he requested information from Massport on any large vessels moored, anchored, or in transit near the North End on the day in question.

3. He called Sam Bowman at Dependable Messenger Service and requested further details on Johnny’s errand to the library and the North End. Sam said he’d call back shortly with all the dope.

“Let’s get coffee,” said Brian, and while we sat in the police squad room and sipped, Joe’s headquarters called back and gave us the location of four phone booths that would answer the set of variables he had described. They also said Massport had given them the names of three big ships in the vicinity of the North End on the previous Friday. One, a cargo container vessel named Dunmore Hughes No. 8, out of Bantry Bay in the Republic of Ireland, was making her way down the Mystic River channel from the Charlestown port terminal to Boston Harbor at exactly three bells.

Then Sam Bowman called back. We went back to Brian’s office, where Joe took the call. His face clouded over. The big brown eyes took on a steely hard squint, and the mouth turned down at the corners. He was unhappy about something.

“Sam, say those two names again please, real slowly.” He scowled.

“Uh-huh. Yes, I know them. They’re very familiar. I just wanted to make sure. It’s just that when I hear those two names, Sam, I get a knot in my stomach and want to slug somebody. What? You don’t understand? Well let’s see now, what happens to you when I say Scottsboro Boys?”

Through the receiver end of the phone Brian and I could hear faint yelling and cursing, even though the phone was pressed to Joe’s ear.

“Well I thought so. So you see how it upsets me when I hear the names of Sacco and Vanzetti.”

“Sacco and Vanzetti?” said Brian.

“Sacco and Vanzetti!” I said.

“Sacco and Vanzetti,” reaffirmed Joe, who hung up and sat down wearily. He picked up his mug to take a sip; his hands were trembling. None of us said anything for a while. Then Joe spoke.

“Johnny’s errand was to retrieve a portion of papers and effects willed to the Boston Public Library by the late Dominic Santuccio, a lawyer in the North End and a second-generation Italian-American. The papers and effects all concern the Sacco-Vanzetti case.”

He stopped there and sipped again. His hands were still shaking. We nodded at his statement, as if listening to a university lecture. He continued.

“I met Dom a few times in connection with court cases and Italian-American functions and benefits. Nice guy, and rich. His obsession was collecting and verifying documents and evidence relative to the case. Like most of us he was certain the men were framed. He hoped to write a book proving their innocence and restoring their reputations. He was not popular with a lot of establishment people for wanting to do this. He died three months ago of cancer and never got the chance to do it.”

“Yeah, I remember reading about him,” said Brian. “What do you mean, us? You said that like most of us he was certain they were framed-“

“I mean us Italians, naturally. And also anyone who feels sympathy for the working-c1ass immigrants in general. Sacco and Vanzetti committed no crime; they were radicals who questioned the system and fought for workers’ rights, so the system big shots had them executed. So it’s, ah, no surprise that I get a little upset when I even hear the case mentioned.”

“I’m glad to hear you’ve got the case so goddamned buttoned up,” said Brian, who was swiveling his chair around, back and forth,”because I’ve read about a lot of evidence that says they were guilty. Guilty as all hell of murder and armed robbery. The only reason, in fact, that a lot of idealists and artists thought they were railroaded is because of the propaganda stirred up for them by the Communists and Wobblies.”

He leaned back and swiveled like a semaphore. If he was trying to get a rise out of Joe, then it worked. “

“Oh yeah? Well what about that blackguard and murderer Michael Collins? Bloodthirsty pig- it’s a good thing. De Valera had him murdered, even though it was a double-cross. Of course, what would you expect from-“

“Don’t you ever call Michael Collins a murderer,” snapped Brian. “And don’t ever accuse Eamon De Valera of killing him. Why I’d-“

“Now hold on a minute, you guys. Can’t we just discuss- “

“Sacco and Vanzetti were doomed from the start. The mill owners and industrialists wanted them dead. Demanded their death. The trial was a mockery. Evidence was altered. Witnesses were led. A new trial would’ve-“

“Bullshit, Joe. You can’t argue with a ballistics test. At least one fatal bullet was fired from Sacco’s gun. Lots of reliable witnesses identified Vanzetti as one of the gunmen. When they were arrested, both men lied about what they had been doing. Both men were armed, too, with weapons like those used in the holdup.”

Joe slammed his palms down on the table and jumped up, shaking his finger at Brian’s face.

“Hannon, you don’t deserve to be a police chief if you believe all that crap. There’s a logical explanation for each of the things you mentioned, and the fact that they were even issues at the trial and turned against the men proves a conspiracy to obstruct justice. And as for that bullet, it’s a direct misquoting of the witness summoned. A lie!”

“All I know is what I read, Joe.”

“You don’t know much. Those poor guys were tried and convicted not because of what they did, but because of what they were: working men, radicals, foreigners… Italians.”

Then Brian really muddied the waters by remarking that maybe that wasn’t so far off the mark, considering that Italians practically invented crime in America.

To which Joe replied- shouted back is better, actually- that ninety-eight percent of Italians were peaceable and law-abiding, and if Brian implied, directly or indirectly, that they were violent, he would personally take Brian’s head off.

To which Brian replied- shouted back is better, actually- that the Irish never, as commonly supposed, looked for a fight, but if Joe wanted to start something with him, he personally knew of a place in Southie where seven or eight strapping young Sons of Erin would take delight in performing the Kilkenny two-step on Joe’s face.

To which Joe replied But before he could reply the door to Brian’s office burst open and two boys in blue, their batons drawn, jumped into the room.

“Everything all right, Chief?” asked the bigger one. “We heard shouting and-“

“It’s okay, ‘guys,” I said calmly. “It’s just two officers of the law about to commit murder.”

Brian dismissed them, and I got each combatant to his neutral corner. They glowered at each other over the table.

“I, uh, gather that the Sacco-Vanzetti case is fraught with externals. It’s surrounded by issues of ethnicity and class. One might even say the judicial system was on trial as well as the defendants.”

“Right, Doc. The trial did not prove they were guilty; it proved a man who didn’t speak good English, didn’t have a lot of money and prestige, and didn’t agree a hundred percent with the exploitation of immigrants could not get a fair trial.”

Brian started to say something,. bit his lip a little, then said it anyway.

“But it’s not by any means certain they were innocent,” he said.

“Let’s get back to Johnny Robinson,” I suggested before Joe could reply. “Who’s this Andy fellow he mentions?”

“Sam told me he’s Andrea Santuccio, Dom’s son. I’ve never met him. Johnny went to the Boston Public Library as planned at eleven on Friday and retrieved a certain parcel of letters and transcripts, given to the library by Andy after Dominic’s death. Apparently this certain parcel was especially controversial or something. Anyway, Andy later fought for a special injunction to get it back. I guess he wasn’t aware of what the packet contained at first. When the court ruled that the Santuccio family was entitled to reclaim part of the papers, Andy immediately hired Johnny to pick them up and deliver them back to the Santuccio home in the North End. Clear so far?”

We nodded, and Joe continued.

“But when Johnny got to the Santuccio house apparently nobody was home. The mother died over ten years ago and Andy is the only surviving member of the family. He’s also a bachelor, I guess. The fact that Andy wasn’t there altered Johnny’s plans. Andy was supposed to be waiting there but wasn’t. So Johnny hiked over to Cambridge for the other errands, went to get your fancy dental work, Doc, and at the end of the day hoofed it back to the North End. Remember, all this time he’s carrying the hot papers for Andy right in his pouch. We don’t know, but we can assume that Johnny called you either right before or right after he went back to the Santuccio house a second time.”

“And delivered the papers?” asked Brian.

“No. And did not deliver the papers.”

“How do you know, Joe?” I asked.

” ‘Cause the asterisk was still there in the log, indicating a nondelivery. Sam said that before he called me back just now he called Andy’s number. No answer. Now I’m going to try again.”

And he did. Still no answer.

“Doc,” he said wearily, “are you beginning to get the same queasy feeling I am?”

“Yep. I assume you’re thinking that the guy in the chimney just might be-“

“Andrea Santuccio. The guy who was supposed to take possession of the papers but who wasn’t there to get them.”

“Where’s that body now? In Boston?”

“It’s en route from a Lowell funeral home to the Suffolk County morgue, where the autopsy will continue in greater detail. It may be there already. I’m going to make sure some locals from Hanover Street get a look at the corpse. Now.”

So he got on the phone again to Ten-Ten Comm. Ave. to have some bluecoats from the North End take a peek at the grisly body we’d found in the chimney. But it wasn’t necessary. As soon as the remains had come into the morgue it was identified. A subsequent check with dental records confirmed that the man was indeed Andrea Santuccio, son of the late and renowned Dominic.

“Well,” sighed Joe as he twiddled a pencil between his big fingers, “at least we know why Johnny was killed, though it’ll be small comfort to Sam.”

“And a lot of us policemen,” said Brian. “Can you work up some sort of scenario on this thing?”

Joe rubbed, his stubble and thought for a minute. His face darkened.

“Old Dom Santuccio had those papers for years. He always claimed he’d uncover some kind of evidence that would clear Sacco and Vanzetti. But he obviously never did or he’d have been pounding on the governor’s door night and day, shouting and screaming. Old Dom was quite a character- a fire-eater. Finally, about a year before he diedhe had the cancer already and was on all kinds of drugs- he said he’d have a great announcement to make. One that would shake the world. Trouble is, nobody would believe him. Including me. He was batty by then from the pain and the drugs. Then he had a stroke and lost his speech and most of his memory. Andy had to hospitalize him because he got so violent. Now I say this, and I don’t like to, being Italian: if there’s anything hot in that pack of papers, I’m afraid it’s something that drives the last nail in the coffin of Sacco and Vanzetti. If not, then why didn’t he let it out?”

“Why did he will the papers to the library then?”

“He didn’t. After he died, his son, Andy, donated them.”

“Now wait,” said Brian. “Is there anyone who’d go haywire if they knew the stuff had gone into the public domain? If so, they’d be mighty annoyed at Andy. Mad enough to kill him.”

We all considered in silence for a minute. Then Joe cleared his throat and raised his big bloodhound eyes up at us.

“Okay. Assuming the evidence is damning- and I can reach no other conclusion- then there’s only one logical candidate for a group who’d get totally unglued at the mere thought of its revelation.”

“Who?” asked Brian..

“Ever hear of the Sons of Italy?”

“Oh no. No way,” I said.

“That’s what I hope too. After all, I’m a lifetime member.”

“Say it ain’t so, Joe,” I said.

“I hope- I hope to God it ain’t so, Doc.”

There was more silence. Then Brian spoke.

“Wait a minute, Joe. Wasn’t Andy in Sons of Italy?”

“Sure. One of the real leaders, and so- oh shit. I see what you mean. They certainly wouldn’t harm him. In fact, the Sons wouldn’t hurt anybody… I don’t think.”

“Here’s what happened,” I said. “After old Dom’s death Andy, being a good citizen and interested in the case and his father’s lifelong passion, donates the papers. Fine. Then sometime later, and we’ll probably never know how, he discovers that there’s something hot in the papers: a potential bombshell. He has to get the papers back to save the last vestiges of Sacco and Vanzetti’s tarnished reputation. Because if scholars dig out the facts and publish them, every American, and especially every Italian-American, will have to face the truth- that Sacco and Vanzetti were indeed robbers and killers. Right?”

“That’s it. So far so good… But, he also knows that somebody else wants the papers. Or else why hire Johnny Robinson?”

“Yeah, but who wants them?”

“I don’t know,” said Joe. “But I’ve seen the archives room at the Boston Public and it’s a virtual vault. The people who wanted the papers would have to take them from Andy after he got them back, or else during the delivery itself.”

“It would seem to me that taking them from Andy would be easier and safer,” I said.

“Yeah, but you don’t know the North End like I do. It’s the tightest of all the Boston neighborhoods. Maybe they thought pulling something against Santuccio on his home turf would be very risky, so they took or lured young Andy away from the meeting with Johnny. Maybe they thought he already had the packet. Under interrogation, he tells them it’s on its way via courier, but one glance at Johnny and the dogs and the thugs know it’s no-can-do. So they know if Johnny can’t make contact he’ll either leave the packet at Dependable’s office or take it home, where they set up the ambush-“

“Doesn’t sound right,” I said. “Let’s suppose that by eleven in the morning the bad guys already have custody of Andy away from his house. He tells them the drop is being made right then, and they’re too late to connect. He describes Johnny to them- maybe they’re already familiar with how formidable he is- and they set the ambush with the bomb by early afternoon. One or two guys are in Robinson’s place waiting. Another guy, stations himself at the Santuccio house to see if Johnny comes back, which he does at around five. Still no Andy, so he leaves and starts home. He stops to call my office, knowing I’m waiting for the bridge. At that time he discovers he’s being shadowed.”

“Right!”

“Okay. So he’s struck out twice with an important meeting with Andy and thinks he’s being tailed. ‘A complication, dontcha know,’ he says. He’s put two and two together and it spells trouble. But he’s cool; he’s been through worse. He does stop at Dependable to drop off the log sheet and get into his Cutlass to head for home. He takes his pouch with him because he wants to touch base with Andy, and me, over the weekend. Probably the lookout notices this, and calls ahead to some guy waiting; near a pay phone in Lowell. Johnny’s coming home with his pouch: get ready.”

“Yeah. So the hit goes pretty much the way we figured it. As soon as he’s dead they take Johnny’s pouch and skip. They kill the Santuccio boy so he won’t talk, and as an afterthought remove two of his digits.”

“Would you guys tell me what’s happening?” asked Brian. So we did. And he thought about it..

“But you said the boy was tortured too. That’s terrible. It also has to be explained. Why torture the kid? Who would want to do that?”

“Hatred,” said Joe.

“Maybe. But that’s only one of the three reasons for torture,” said Brian. “The other two are information, and the verification of information.”

“Ah yes. Well then, they tortured him in order to find out about Johnny and how to get their hands on the packet,” I said.

“Maybe,” he said, “or maybe it happened afterward… Maybe they tortured and killed him as a last resort because they didn’t get what they wanted.”

“They got it,” said Joe. “We know they got the pouch; we can’t find it anywhere. Neither can Sam.”

Brian Hannon, set fire to a Lucky, inhaled deeply, and let the smoke stream out his nostrils like a dragon.

“Mmmmm. You can’t Find it. But that doesn’t mean for sure that the bad guys have it. Yet. Johnny was no dumbbell. He was cool and sharp. Maybe he stashed the pouch at the last second.

Who knows? All I say is, I say the torture thing is not only ugly, it’s mysterious. It needs explaining. If I were you, Joe, I’d hang in there like a sash weight. Go at it tooth and nail; I’ll help any way I can.”

We got up and left the chief’s office. But Joe ducked back in to thank Brian, which I thought was nice. Then he said: “About that ballistics test performed at the Dedham trial. I just want you to know a few things about it, Brian, because like any cop I’m aware of how decisive they are nowadays. This was the first ballistics test and comparative analysis of fired bullets ever performed. The guy who did the test was a Massachusetts state cop, like me. His name was Captain William Proctor. My boss remembers him. Anyway, the results proved that one of the fatal bullets could have been fired from the pistol Sacco was carrying at the time of his arrest. Could have. What they didn’t give Proctor a chance to say was that it could have been Fired from any thirty-two-caliber automatic. Later investigations by the defense showed that the spent cases had a peculiar mark on them made by an ejector claw common only to foreign-made automatics. Sacco carried a Colt. The defense later showed that the pistol that tired the bullet probably belonged to Antonio Mancini, a professional killer and member of the Morelli gang of Providence.”

Brian stared dumbstruck during this discourse. Then Joe and I headed for Old Stone Mill Road. I had a question that was gnawing at me.

“Joe, if the defense proved that the bullet was probably tired by this other guy, then why didn’t they let Sacco and Vanzetti off?”

“Because they had already been electrocuted. Read the books on the case, Doc. It’s not very pretty. The whole thing makes the Commonwealth look like a ninety-pound pile of dog doo.”

Mary was out shopping. I made a big sandwich for my brother-in-law, and while he ate lunch I drank two mugs of coffee and ate half a banana and some yogurt. While we ate I asked him lots of questions about the Sacco-Vanzetti case. Then he left for Ten-Ten Comm. Ave., taking the tapes with him. I returned to my office to look at X-rays and do preliminary work on a mandible resection that I was to perform the following week. After all my appointments I stopped at the library before going home, and emerged with seven books, all about Sacco and Vanzetti.

Quite a case.

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