My Friend, Saint Ed

This entry is about a fairy tale that could not possibly have happened, which caused me to rethink my values about truth and justice. It’s also about a real-life situation in which a guy well known for doing the right thing was able to save the lives of two really dumb cousins.

The fairy tale was told to me in a bar in Greenville, Massachusetts, by a guy who was talking about “The Lake” in Newton, a community where Italian is the predominant language. I had been a police reporter in Newton and knew somewhat the lay of the land, and everything he told me matched up with what was well known in that area. For instance, the fact that a certain mayor “liked the pretty ladies.”

But he also told me things no one outside of a certain organization would ever learn – stories about rooms literally stacked with money. Needless to say, I listened with interest.

At one point I thought, “This guy talks too much to be the real thing,” but too much other stuff added up and you have to remember, he had no idea I had worked as a police reporter in the town he was talking about. We were 100 miles away. He thought I was just some guy.

Then he told the fairy tale. It was about a poker game with some leaders of the local criminal organizations and a couple of police chiefs! That could never happen, right?

Well, in the fairy tale, it turned out that some guy had the bright idea to rob this game. In one of those flashes of brilliance in the middle of the night, he reasoned that none of the players would be able to report being robbed without admitting they were breaking the law gambling, and gambling with the other team at that.

Well, not surprisingly, the guy turned up dead, and my chatty friend from The Lake happened to mention his name and I happened to recognize it and he happened to mention the guy who made the decision to euthanize the individual in question, something that might become really important if someone were to decide that this fairy tale could have actually taken place.

I suppose that someone could have been me, but you know, there’s only so far I’m willing to go to get a story, and I had a strong sense that this wasn’t it. I decided that it was not up to me to interfere with the process of evolution. When the snake charmer gets bit, he ought not to expect a lot of sympathy.

Now my friend Saint Ed, with whom I greatly enjoy playing poker and talking about Hannibal, had a similar situation in his neighborhood. Two of his cousins, one smaller and a little bit smarter and one tall and goofy, were painters. They decided to improve their lot in life by robbing the big game. They put on masks, but they didn’t take off their paint-spattered sneakers and everyone knew who they were.

They might have ended up like our brilliant friend in the fairy tale, but the guys who got robbed spoke to Ed, who was, then and now, known as a guy who could straighten things out, and was known also as the cousin of the two knuckleheads involved. The upshot was they gave back the money and went far away, owing their lives to my friend, Saint Ed.