St. Louis, New Orleans, Louisiana. Among the most interesting sights of the French
Quarter in New Orleans are the small, quaint hotels that dot the streets and
alleys. Each has a unique style and atmosphere. Many have existed since the
early 1800’s, although most have been upgraded, and now provide comforts not often found in the larger hotels, which also abound in the area.
The lobby of the Hotel
St. Louis, on Bienville, is quaint, with its circular waiting room
bench, and the photograph albums of weddings and other events held in the hotel.
There are tall French doors into the hotel lobby area, and again into a
magnificent courtyard area beyond the lobby. The courtyard rises several floors
to the sky; bordered by balconies that access the rooms, accessed through an
unobtrusive elevator off to the side of the lobby. Tall palm trees cover the
outdoor portion of the restaurant, providing light and a quiet, settling
The desk clerk looked
up, as the sound of screeching brakes announced the arrival of the limousine
van from the airport. In moments, there were six people coming through the
swinging French doors, followed by the clanging of luggage on a two-wheeler.
"I'll leave the
luggage here," said the overly large van driver, "Thanks for driving
Airport Express," he added, as he walked among the passengers, receiving
tips for his efforts. "Enjoy your visit to New Orleans," he
continued, as he pushed his way through the door, back to the van.
trip, said the first of the passengers to the desk clerk, "Does everybody
drive as fast, and swerve through the lanes on the Interstate as this guy does?”
The man had a large stature, with broad, muscular arms visible through his
short sleeve shirt. The size of his hands spoke volumes about his years of
so," answered the desk clerk, "This is New Orleans. Nothing is
normal, quiet, or calm here. Do you have a reservation?" she asked.
man answered, giving his name, and that of his wife. "We are staying for
four days. Here for the Longshoreman Convention."
"We have a number
of people coming in for that," the clerk responded, "Most stay at the
larger hotels, but we still fill up with those that want a bit more elegance
and quiet. Welcome to the Hotel St. Louis," she smiled. "You are
going to be in room 405," she added. "If you will take the elevator
to the fourth floor, your room is around to the right on the back balcony.” She
pointed out the location on a map under the glass on the desk.
"It's a smoking
room, right?" the man asked.
answered the clerk, "It is a smoking room as you requested.” The man
nodded, went over to the pile of bags to retrieve his, and then moved toward
The clerk signed in
the second couple, which wanted to know where Bourbon Street was, since they
would be attending a party and parade there later in the evening. The clerk
showed them the folded map of the French Quarter that came with their room key, and circled the
hotel, and Bourbon Street. They also took their luggage, and headed for the
A final couple came
slowly up to the desk, letting the others get out of the way before they
attempted to move. "May I help you?" asked the clerk. "Yes,"
answered the man, as he stopped at the desk, "I'm Robert Gillespie. I
believe we have a reservation for five days. This is my wife Alicia.” This
customer seemed different from the others. He was tall and lanky, wearing an
informal suit with open collar instead of a tie. His accent gave him away as
someone from New England, probably Boston or further north.
"Yes, we do, Mr.
Gillespie. Your reservation says you want a non-smoking room, one with an
interior view. That's odd. Have you been here before? Usually, everybody asks
for a view of the French Quarter. We have some beautiful interior rooms on the
fifth floor, at the end of the balcony. It really gives you some privacy."
"That will be
perfect," answered Gillespie, "We really came here for some quiet
time. That may seem odd in the French Quarter, but, we came here ten years ago
on our honeymoon, and wanted to come back and enjoy the city."
answered the clerk, "Let me see," she added, as she looked at her
computer screen. "Here it is, Robert Gillespie of Boston. You are staying
in the same room you had ten years ago. We recently re-painted it, and upgraded
the furnishings since, but it is the same room, and on the fifth floor I hope
you enjoy yourselves here in the Quarter.” She handed Gillespie the room packet
with the keys and map.
"I'm sure we will.
Thank you," said Gillespie as he scooped up the luggage and started for
the elevator. The clerk watched as he moved, and was sure she had seen a gun on
his hip. She became concerned, and went back to the registration record. There,
she saw a flashing line that said Special Instructions. She clicked the
mouse on the line, and now saw a box pop up that said, Federal Bureau of
Investigation. May be carrying a weapon. Use discretion. At least she knew
that she did not have a problem to report, but she wondered what an FBI agent
might be doing at the St. Louis. With a shrug of her shoulders, she went back
to work, finishing logging in the other four new registrants before she sat
down on a stool behind the counter to wait for the next wave of arrivals.
Headquarters, New Orleans. "All right, let's settle down," the
officer at the podium said to the assembled police officers at morning roll
call. "This is going to be a busy week. The dockworkers, among others, are
in town this week. That is a big convention, and they like to enjoy themselves.
As some of you already know," the officer, continued, "Jimmy Galanto,
the head of the local on the docks here died last night, in the French Quarter.
The detectives will be all over the place today. Give them what help you can. Expect
to see the FBI snooping around as well.” The officer continued with the rest of
the morning announcements, but that was the big one, and a number of the
officers continued to discuss it as they went to their vehicles to start the
Three officers stood
in place at the end of roll. The lieutenant wanted them to remain. As the shift
officers filed out, three detectives, and two others the officers did not know
came in through the other door. The lieutenant spoke first.
"We asked you
three to stay," the lieutenant started, "Because you are being loaned
to the detective branch for their investigation on the Galanto murder.” The
three looked around, and saw the two other men sitting at a side table.
they?" asked one of the officers.
"This is Agent
O'Neill, and Agent Shaw,
from the New Orleans FBI Office. The Longshoreman's Union had been under
Federal supervision for a number of years, while they cleaned up their act. The
Federal judge here only released the New Orleans local last year from direct
supervision. That makes the Galanto killing a local crime. The Feds are here to
assist in the investigation, since they know more than we do about the inner
workings of the local."
"This is the
team, gentlemen," continued the lieutenant, "Three detectives, three
officers, and two FBI agents. Find me Galanto's killers, and find out why he
died. It's that simple-direct questions, and direct answers."
will this afternoon be soon enough?" kidded one of the officers.
answered the lieutenant, as he started to walk from the room. "Answers—that's
what I need for the chief—answers,' said the lieutenant as he closed the door
to the squad room behind him.
offered one of the detectives, "This is where we start.” He walked up to
one of the blackboards that surrounded the room, and began to write down what
they already knew. In the next half hour, they developed the beginnings of a
plan to proceed.
St. Louis, New Orleans. The small elevator opened to the lobby, allowing Gillespie
and his wife to exit. It was a very small elevator, one designed for not more
than four people at a time comfortably. Everything about the St. Louis was
small-except, that is, the courtyard that rose to the sky through a skylight
roof, amidst the balconies providing entry to the rooms. Even the pale yellow
color of the walls gave a sense of smallness, and comfort.
"Where would you
like to eat this evening, Alicia?" asked Gillespie, as he and his wife
entered the lobby.
"Let's try the
dining room here, Bob," she responded. "I'm really tired from the
traveling; a quiet dinner would be great. We can start sightseeing
"Fine with me,
dear," answered Gillespie. He
escorted her through the French doors to the courtyard and started across the
palm-covered area toward the main entrance of the restaurant. There, they met
the maitre'd, standing in the doorway, waiting with his menus in hand.
evening," he said pleasantly, "Will you be dining with us this
answered Gillespie, "I believe we will."
responded the maitre'd, "I am Pierre, and welcome to The Louis. Let me
show you to a table. Do you have a preference?"
quiet," answered Alicia Gillespie.
responded Pierre, "Right this way.” He took them to a corner table, where
they could hear the music, but still be out of the main flow of traffic. To one
side, Alicia could look out into the courtyard, which seemed even more beautiful
as the sun began to sink on the horizon. Pierre seated both, provided each a
menu, and motioned for a waiter, who came over to the table quickly.
drinks for both he and his wife, and they sat back and listened to the music,
played by the small trio in the main part of the restaurant. The waiter gave
them time to relax and settle in, before he came over again to take their
"Bob, this is
wonderful. I'm glad we came," said his wife, as Gillespie sat twirling his
wine glass, but listening intently.
"So am I, Alicia.
We needed a vacation, and badly. Things have been too stressful over the last
year, with case after case giving us too little time to enjoy ourselves. I
hoped we could get away. I made it really clear to the Bureau that vacation was
next on my agenda.” He took her hand, and held it lightly. “Let’s enjoy
ourselves, for once, and not worry about the job. We have seven days to really
see New Orleans."
Alicia smiled, and
returned the grasp on her hand. "Bob, I hope so. I really do want to think
about nothing else but us, at least for a week."
"You have your
wish, my dear," responded Gillespie, "Even my personal friend is in
the safe in our room. I intend to be just a tourist looking at the sights.” As
he finished speaking, the waiter brought the food they had ordered, and began
to arrange the table to place the dishes for them.
It was nearly nine
when they finished dinner, had dessert and coffee, and a short liqueur. Bob
paid the bill with his credit card, and they rose to leave, stopping to thank
the maitre'd with a tip for the liqueur he had sent to their table. Then, they
strolled through the darkened courtyard, looked up at the darkened sky, and
entered the lobby.
"Would you like
to walk a few blocks?" asked Robert, "The night is beautiful, and
cool. Just the right walking weather."
answered Alicia, "Not tonight. I think I will go up to the room. I'm tired
from the trip and the long day. Don't mind, do you?"
all," answered Robert, "Let me take you to the elevator, so you can
go upstairs. I'm going to walk just a bit before I come up as well.” He walked
over to the elevator, and kissed his wife on the forehead, as the door opened,
and she entered the small elevator cab.
“See you in a little
while," he added, as the door closed. Once it did, Robert walked out into
Bienville Street, and looked both ways.
He spied the sign for the Old Absinthe Bar, and decided he would visit,
and sit to watch the people going down Bourbon Street.
Armstrong International Airport, New Orleans. Sliding slowly into a
space near the General Aviation Terminal, three men emerged from a dark colored
sedan, took their bags from the truck, and started to walk toward an open
hanger nearby. Inside the hanger, a small Jet Stream Executive jet waited, with
the stairs open and down to receive passengers.
"Are you ready to
depart?" asked one of the men, as he entered the small office, when a man
waited, drinking coffee.
"Anytime you are,
sir," answered the man, "We can be airborne in less than ten minutes,
if you all are ready to depart now.” The three men nodded, and carried their
bags over to the plane, where the pilot helped them put their bags into a
baggage bin on the side of the tail of the plane.
you like," said the pilot, as he started to climb the stairs. "I'll
get final clearance for takeoff. There isn't much traffic, this time of day. Should
be gone in a few minutes.” The pilot had already completed his pre-flight
check, since one of the men had called when they started the trip from downtown.
The message had been to prepare for takeoff, since-they weren't staying as
destination changed?" asked the pilot from the cockpit, as the men boarded
answered the man who had previously spoken--the one the others called Amid--we still go to the
that," responded the pilot, as he called the tower for clearance.
St. Louis, New Orleans. The sun the following morning was beautiful as it
rose in the early morning sky over New Orleans. Three men entered the lobby of
the St. Louis, stopping to look down the street to where the murder had
occurred the previous evening, entered the hotel and went straight to the front
desk. The first man, a tall, thin man in a light brown jacket, and similar
khaki pants, pulled a wallet from his pocket, as he approached the desk.
Ma'am, I need the room number for a Mister Robert Gillespie, please.”
responded the clerk, "I assume you want Agent Gillespie of the FBI. He is in
Room 520. Take the elevator to the fifth floor, turn right, and go half way
around the balcony. If you want to call him first, ask the operator for
answered the police officer, "You have been very helpful.” He walked over
to the house phone and picked it up. “5520 please," said the officer. The
other two sat on the circular waiting room seat, while the other officer made
Robert Gillespie?" asked the
officer, as Robert answered, and asked what they wanted.
"This is Bob Gillespie,"
he said, "What can I do for you?"
"This is Detective
Kehane of the New Orleans Police Department,"
the officer said, "We understand that you witnessed a killing last night
on Bourbon Street. I would like to spend a few moments with you on that
subject, if you don't mind."
responded Gillespie, "My wife is still sleeping. I'll be right down. Meet
you in the restaurant.” Robert dressed, went to the safe for his badge and gun,
and slipped out of the room. Ringing for the elevator, he was shortly in the
lobby, headed for the restaurant. As soon as he hit the door, he recognized
another agent, and went over to the table where he was sure the New Orleans
officers were also located.
"Jim, how are
you?" said Gillespie, as he extended his hand to the FBI agent he knew
sitting at the table. "What brings you out this morning?"
"Bob, this is Detective
Paul Kehane, of the New Orleans
PD. He is investigating a murder last evening down the street that we
understand you witnessed.” He also introduced the other officers at the table.
"I saw some of
it, Jim, but I was sitting on the other side of the Old Absinthe Bar when it
happened. Good to meet you Detective Kehane," said Gillespie, as he
extended his hand to the detective, and shook his hand. "As I said, I saw some
men coming up behind another man. Thought that was odd, but then, there was a
large crowd moving along. When I heard the woman scream, and saw who was on the
ground, I looked around, and saw the same men moving quickly toward a dark
sedan, parked on Bienville, the other side of Bourbon from where I was sitting
at the time."
"Make? Model? Tag
Number?" asked one of the other officers.
large sedan. Looked like a town car. Louisiana plates, 46N3122, I believe,
said Kehane. "We appreciate your observance.” You mentioned that you
thought you saw something odd. What was it?
“Well, it just seemed
odd to me that three men who had space to move easily around the person in
front of them would continue to move up closer instead of moving to the side
where there was plenty of space to walk. The crowd was getting larger behind
them, but there was still plenty of space to avoid the man in front of them. It
was just a fleeting feeling, but I guess that is what you see, even if you are
not looking for crime at any particular moment.”
car," interrupted one of the other officers, "Probably Hertz. Most of
their cars start with 46. We'll check it out."
asked Gillespie. "Anybody important?"
"The head of the
Longshoreman's Union here, Rich," answered the FBI agent,
"That's why we are along for the ride. This local was under Federal
trustee supervision until recently. So far, we have no real jurisdiction, but
we're helping out, just in case."
understand," responded Gillespie, "I intended to call your boss to
let him know I was in town on vacation. Guess that's water over the dam. I'll
call anyway, though, just to pass the time of day. Haven't spoken to Fred in a
"Just one more
question, Agent Gillespie, then we can get out of your hair. Two things actually.
Your official duty station and what brought you to New Orleans.
"First one is
easy," Gillespie answered. "I'm the deputy Agent-in-Charge of the
Boston FBI Office. I'm here on vacation.
My wife and I honeymooned here ten years ago. We wanted to see New Orleans
finished a major terrorist case in Boston," said the local FBI agent.
you need, just call," said Gillespie. "Right now, I think I will have
breakfast. Care to join me gentlemen?” They all nodded no thanks.
"We have to go,
Bob," said Jim, "Let's get together before you go back to
"It's a date, but
later in the week," answered Gillespie, as the officersrose to leave,
while he sat down to have breakfast.
“This is WWLTV, New Orleans,” started the news announcement. “We have a
breaking news flash. Jimmie Galanto, the man credited with cleaning up the
waterfront and the Longshoreman’s Union here in the Big Easy was apparently
brutally murdered in the French Quarter today during a union-organized parade. Witnesses
say he was stabbed to death by three people, who have escaped capture by the
“Few facts have emerged so far. Our news anchor, Brad Pennington is on
the scene, Brad.”
“This is Brad Pennington outside the Old Absinthe at the corner of
Bienville and Bourbon in the French Quarter reporting on a very strange crime
this evening. Jimmy Galanto, head of the Longshoreman’s Union, and the man who
almost single-handedly cleaned up this local, and managed to get the Feds off
its back just last year, is dead.”
“He was the victim of a team of killers, so eye-witnesses say, who
stabbed him several times from the back and simply walked away. We have no
motive for the crime, and apparently, the NOPD has so suspects either. We
looked at video of the crime from one of the restaurants with video cams, and
it appears that the team was Arab, or at least Arab looking. One had a red fez,
the kind of hat that many Middle-easterners wear, and the other two just looked
Arab. The police have now started to get copies of the tapes we have already
“The suspects drove away in a black town car or sedan and I have to tell you folks, looked as
cool as a cucumber as they committed the act and simply walked away. This is no
off-the-wall killing. It has every appearance of being well planned and
calculated. Even here in the big Easy, we don’t see this kind of thing very