[Copyright © 2012, John V. Tieso. All rights reserved.]
New Orleans. Gillespie returned to his hotel room, to find his wife Alicia, dressed and ready to become a common tourist, scarf on her head, and carryall bag on her left arm. She was sitting on the edge of the bed as Robert arrived at the room, and entered.
“Where have you been,” she asked, as she watched Gillespie take off his weapon, and place it in the room safe.
“Downstairs in the restaurant,” he responded, “Jim O’Neill came over to say hello. He rang the room while you were sleeping, and I went down to see him.”
“What were you going to do, shoot him?” she laughed.
“No, I wasn’t. You know the new rules say we have to stay armed at all times. I don’t mind in the room, but outside, I’m still FBI. Have no choice.”
“I was just being funny,” she responded, “You sure do need cheering up.” Alicia rose from the corner of the bed, and went over to hug her husband. She kissed him on the left check. “How about some sightseeing, love bird?”
“Sure,” he smiled, “Let’s go see the city.” He went back to the safe, retrieved his weapon, and stuffed the weapon, in its holster, to the clip he kept on his belt behind his back. Then, he readjusted his baggy coat, and looked in the mirror to make sure it was not obvious.
“Madame, may I escort you to the city?” He extended his arm, they both laughed, and went out the door toward the elevator. Soon, they were walking along Bourbon Street, on their way to the waterfront.
New Orleans. Longshoreman’s Union Local. A small band waited at the front of the local. Dressed in white shirts, and black pants, they stood ready for a traditional New Orleans funeral procession that the union local was giving for its late business agent, Jimmie Galanto. There was a lot of brass, a couple of drums, several trombones, a tuba, and other instruments one would see in a traditional New Orleans funeral band. All together, there were 12 men, and each looked to be an age that meant they had been playing in these bands for many years.
The route would go from the union hall on the waterfront’s Riverfront Park, along the Riverwalk, to Iberville. It would then proceed down Iberville to Bourbon and along Bourbon to Toulouse. There the parade would end, and the casket would be brought around the corner to St. Louis Cathedral for the funeral. After the funeral, burial would be in Metari
Large sprays of flowers adorned the street around the union hall. Even more were displayed in the hall itself, where the body still lay in state in a closed casket, with an American Flag. Galanto was a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving in the Riverine Force along the Mekong; coming under fire several times. After incurring multiple shrapnel injuries, he was evacuated to the United States, and eventually separated from the Navy. As soon as he was able, Jimmie joined the Longshoreman’s Union, and started as a lugger along the docks.
Galanto had gained a reputation as a tough negotiator, and as a tough protector of the union local. While the union had continued under Federal trusteeship, there was no hint of scandal during Galanto’s tenure as the business agent. Anyone who even came close to doing something illegal quickly became old news. Jimmie saw to it that they no longer worked on the docks. The men feared him, some even hated him, but they also respected him for what he had done. His shoes would be hard to fill. They all knew it.
This is Jim Day, WWLTV News, reporting at the scene of the Galanto Funeral. We are at the Union Hall along the Waterfront. Our understanding is that the funeral march will proceed down Canal and Iberville, over to North Ramparts, and down Bienville, crossing Bourbon, where the murder took place. The union marchers will leave a wreath at the corner, near the Old Absinthe, as a memorial and then proceed on Bourbon, and over to Toulouse toward the Cathedral.”
“The Archbishop of New Orleans will officiate at the funeral, with burial to be this afternoon at St. Louis Cemetery in Metarie. There are expected to be large crowds, and the NOPD has already placed no parking signs along most of the streets that the March will follow.”
“We will report live during the march and the funeral here on WWLTV.”
A large white hearse moved slowly toward the front of the union hall. It was an old style hearse—drawn by two jet-black horses, with a liveried coachman high on the drivers’ perch, with the funeral director sitting next to him in evening dress. As soon as the hearse arrived, the band began to play a slow rendition of the dirge A Closer Walk, started by the lone bugler at the front of the band, which stood at the right side of the front door of the hall. Others joined in by the second bar, and all they awaited now was for the family to leave the union hall and join them in the street.
Mrs. Galanto was in a long, black dress, with a heavy veil, and, as she emerged from the hall, accompanied by her children, everyone could hear her sobs of grieving, and were moved. The family stood to the left side of the doorway, as the casket was brought out, and was placed in the rear of the hearse, where it could be seen on all sides through the large glass windows. When the pallbearers completed their task, the door to the hearse was closed, the family moved behind the hearse, and the parade was started down the Riverwalk and over toward Canal. Three flower cars followed at intervals, behind the hearse, interspersed with the band and groups of union members, families, and friends.
The parade stopped twice; first, at the aquarium, before it turned down Iberville, in a last remembrance of the waterfront that Galanto loved so much; and then again at the corner of Bienville and Bourbon, where the murder had occurred. A large floral arrangement was placed at the wall on the side of the Old Absinthe House in his memory. The band played Amazing Grace, and two other songs before they moved again along Bourbon down toward Toulouse, this time toward the Cathedral.
New Orleans. Bienville Street Coffee Shop. In the coffee shop, the police officers heard the sound of music, and looked out the window to see the parade stop.
“Must be Galanto’s funeral trip,” said Agent Gil Shaw, who noticed that the march had stopped at the corner where he had been killed—a tradition in New Orleans. “Looks like a pretty good send-off to me,” he added.
“No,” answered Rick Kehane, “It can’t be Galanto’s. I understood his funeral was tomorrow. Must be someone else.”
“Do they do this for everybody?” Asked Shaw, who had been mostly quiet through the morning.
“Pretty much, especially if you have been in the community a long time,” responded Kehane. When the parade started again, they went back to their own thoughts, just as the phone rang,
“O’Neill,” answered the agent into the phone. “Smith, what do you have for me?”
“Just this, Jim,” responded Agent Smith, “They diverted from the flight path about 100 miles south of New Orleans, and swung southeast, then east. Coast Guard picked them up further out, flying low, and headed toward The Azores. DEA picked them up with an EC-3, and trailed them to a small airfield outside Ponte Delgado. Two passengers got off, and went a short distance to a pier, where they took a boat to San Miguel Island.”
“As of last evening, they were still in San Miguel. We assume the third stayed on the plane, and departed with it, headed east. The pilot declared a new flight path with Azores that gave the new destination as Lisbon.”
“Any ID on the men at San Miguel, or the one still on the plane?”
“According to the people at The Airport, there were two men, probably five foot ten, and one that was over six feet tall, certainly much taller than the other two. The tallest of the men stayed on the plane. We don’t have any better descriptions than that.”
“Thanks, Smith, I appreciate your efforts.”
“No problem. I hope you get them.”
“So do we. Talk to you later,” said O’Neill as he closed his phone, ending the call.
“Kehane, we have the plane diverted from its original path to Atlanta, to Ponte Delgado in The Azores. From there two of the men got off the plane, both in the upper five-foot range. A third, much taller, stayed on the plane and it left, supposedly headed to Lisbon. That gives us a bit of a different story from what we first knew. We have only sketchy descriptions and different sizing of the men,” said O’Neill after closing his phone.
“No problem. We will work out the differences,” responded Kehane.
New Orleans. The French Quarter. Bob and Alicia strolled easily along the narrow streets of the Quarter. Gradually, the town was coming alive, as it prepared for lunch in the many restaurants and cafes, common to the French Quarter, and New Orleans in general.
They had seen the funeral parade as it crossed Bienville going along Bourbon, and they decided to follow at the end of the crowd, since it was going in the same general direction they thought they would take in the morning air. Soon, the parade reached Toulouse and stopped, so that hearse could move along toward the Cathedral on the next block.
Some of the mourners remained to accompany the body into the church while the band played one final rendition of Amazing Grace at the corner—its way of sending the body to God. As the hearse moved away, and the song ended, two small vans arrived to take the band and their instruments back to the music hall from which they were hired.
Normally, they would have waited for the services to be over, and conduct the rest of the parade on the way to the cemetery. Today, since the body was not going to be buried until much later in the afternoon, the normal practice was changed to fit the circumstances. There would be no joyful music returning from the cemetery.
The Gillespies turned into Toulouse as well, walking slowly and viewing the windows of the shops as they moved along. Soon, they were at the corner of Picayune, where they turned left toward Jackson Square. They sat for a while watching people go by and eating a beignet they had purchased from a street vendor.
“The town is so beautiful this time of year, Bob,” said Alicia, as she looked toward the trees surrounding the section of the square where they sat. The sky was clear; the air crisp; and there was no hint of the rain that often falls during March and April.
“It was just like this when we were here last,” responded Bob, thinking back to those happier times when he was a relatively junior agent, and not a senior in a major American city. This was their first real vacation in nearly ten years.
“How about some seafood for lunch?” asked Bob.
“Great,” answered Alicia, as she began to look in her visitor’s guide. “There is a place just down Decatur, on the other side of the park. It’s at the corner of Toulouse, called Ralph and Kacoo’s. Listen to what it says.”
“This place is huge, and has a full-sized fishing boat in the center of the bar. Be prepared to wait for a seat. You can order anything and be happy, since everything is fresh, prepared to order, and priced reasonably. That sounds like us, priced reasonably. Want to try it?”
“Sure,” said Bob, “Sounds good to me.” They got up from their bench, and walked across the park to Decatur, then down Decatur to Toulouse. There, near the corner they found Ralph and Kacoo’s. Sure enough, there was a short waiting line. From the inside came the aromas of Creole-style seafood that you could only find in New Orleans.
Bienville Coffee Shop, New Orleans. “OK,” said Rick Kehane, “Let’s go over what we have, and then where we need to go from here. We have a death, and a body being buried. We know he was stabbed, we think by three men, who were observed by an FBI agent who happened to be there. They escaped in a dark-colored sedan. We have the license number, and now know that the car was abandoned at The Airport. No prints found.”
“The three men wore dark suits and overcoats; one man taller than the others; all wearing grey hats. No other description of the men. O’Neill, we may need to talk to that agent again. What was his name? Oh, yeah, Gillespie. We better see if he can give us better descriptions of the killers.”
“Let’s see, we also know that the men escaped by plane from The Airport in a small jet, officially headed for Atlanta, but ended up in the Azores. There, two men got off, and headed for San Miguel Island. The other one disappeared, but was probably still on the plane. It headed for Lisbon, we think. We’ll get that confirmed by Interpol.”
“Anything else we know?”
“Just that one of the men’s fingerprints, named Amid, matched to a photograph from a recent FBI case in Boston. Another reason we need to speak with Gillespie again. This poor guy is not going to get much of a vacation, I am afraid. We will work out the details of speaking with him, after we brief the AIC here. This is getting too complex for us not to get him involved.”
“Agreed. Let’s just see what we can get soonest,” responded Kehane. “You guys work on the Gillespie angle, and I will start the ball rolling on Interpol requests for both the Azores, and Lisbon. Then I will go to see the coroner for his final report. See you in the office in the morning. We need to go to a funeral.”
Thirty minutes later, O’Neill and Shaw were pulling through the gate at Simon Boulevard, where the New Orleans FBI Field Office was located. They entered the building, and headed up the stairs to the office of the Agent-in-Charge, Fred Ledwith.
“Is Fred in,” asked O’Neill, “We need to see him, if he is.”
“Sure Jim, let me check,” answered Maybelle the receptionist. “Mr. Ledwith, Agents O’Neill, and Shaw are here to see you.”
“Send them in,” Ledwith responded. They walked through the partially open door into his office, and sat down in two chairs facing the desk.
“Well, how are you two doing on the Galanto investigation with NOPD?”
“Actually,” responded O’Neill, “This thing is quickly getting complex.” He related what information they had, and that Bob Gillespie had observed the murder.
“Bob is here? In New Orleans? Has he called in?” asked Ledwith.
“Not exactly,” said Shaw, “He is here with his wife on vacation, celebrating his anniversary. They are staying down at the St. Louis. He saw the murder his first night here. We saw him this morning. He had identified himself to the NOPD officers on the scene last evening. Gave them some good information. I told him I would fix the call-in with you.”
“How is Bob? Is he OK? Nothing major wrong?”
“No,” responded O’Neil. “If my memory serves me correctly, he and Alicia have been married ten years now. They are just out walking the city. I told him I would file his notice that he was in town. He hadn’t had a chance to call.”
“Not a problem. Hope he comes over, though. I would like to see him. We worked together several times over the years. When he got to Boston, I got the Fingerprint Bureau.”
“So what’s the complexity?” Ledwith added.
“It seems that the only real description of the murderers is in the head of Gillespie. One of the killers, a guy named Amid, we think Bob can identify. Amid was somehow involved in that caper in Boston a month ago, where the CIA was involved, and an Arab woman was killed.”
“I remember that. Better work it out to have Bob visit here. I do not—repeat—not want him to get involved with the NOPD. Anything they want from him, they get through us. Understood?
“Yes sir,” they both replied in unison.
“Maybelle,” shouted Ledwith to the receptionist, “Get the St. Louis Hotel, and leave a message for Agent Robert Gillespie to call me about having dinner. Better, call him on his cell phone to be sure, in case he is still out with his wife. Suggest Café Giovanni’s on Decatur. That’s close to their hotel.”
“Ok, Mister Ledwith, will do.”
“I’ll suggest at dinner that he come in tomorrow afternoon. Will that work?”
‘Sure will, sir, answered O’Neil. By the way, NOPD has inquiries in to Interpol about the killers. Looks like one in Lisbon, and two in the Azores.”
“Make sure our Interpol liaison gets us included in the replies. Anything else?”
“Nothing from us, chief,” responded Shaw. “Thanks for the time.”
‘Thanks for the update. Work the case, and make sure Gillespie is not unduly bothered by these locals.”
O’Neill and Shaw waved as they left to return to their own offices.
Ledwith sat back in his chair and remembered a much earlier time, when two young agents were pursuing three alleged bank robbers along the docks in Bayonne, New Jersey. They had them bottled up in an old warehouse, with no way out but the front door. Eventually, it came time to go in, and the job fell to the two agents. One protected the door, as the other entered.
Seconds earlier, they had flipped a coin to see who went first. Ledwith ‘won’, and entered the door. A shot rang out; the other agent—Gillespie—entered, and returned fire, bringing down all three men. Ledwith had an injury to his shoulder, not serious, and they had their first apprehensions as FBI agents.
Since that day, they had been the closest of friends, at least as close as moving frequently within the FBI allowed friendship. They both had several major cases under their belts now, but were still remembered the lessons of their first case together. He looked forward to seeing Bob and Alicia this evening.
New Orleans Parish Morgue, New Orleans. Kehane breezed through the double swinging doors that separated the administrative offices of the Coroner’s office from the autopsy and lab areas that did the real work.
“What do you want Kehane?” asked Doctor Lambert, the Coroner.
“Need the report on Galanto, if you have it Doc.”
“Have we called you yet to say it’s ready?”
“Well, no, but I really need it doc. There is a lot of pressure on this case.”
“There is a lot of pressure on all of your cases, Kehane,” Lambert replied.
“Can you give me anything?” asked Kehane.
“Sure, the man is dead of stab wounds; several stab wounds in the chest that punctured his lungs. It was done with a long, sharp weapon that pierced through his coat and shirt, and he died from them. What else do you need?”
“That will do it for now, Doc. Thanks.” Kehane knew better than to get Doctor Lambert excited. He had been the coroner as long as anyone could remember. His nephew was a lieutenant in the NOPD, and the last thing Kehane wanted to feel was his temper. Better to get what he could and wait patiently.
“Young officers,” said Doctor Lambert aloud to an empty room, “They want everything yesterday. No patience.” He went back to his work on another body on a table in the autopsy room.