South Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger was sitting on a bench in New York City's busy Penn Station for what would be his final meeting with his trusted friend and longtime partner in crime, Kevin J. Weeks.
While Weeks waited for his train back to Boston, Bulger, who had been on the run for two years, told him, "If anything comes down, Kevin, just put it on me."
Recounting the November 1996 meeting during one of his first in-depth interviews about his life with one of Boston's most legendary crime figures, Weeks said he believes Bulger was telling him, "It's all over for me, if anything comes down, just save yourself."
Bulger said he'd be in touch, shook hands, and promised to call at a prearranged place and time. But that call never came and they haven't spoken since, according to Weeks.
"I just thought that he was finally moving on and cutting ties with anybody who was back here," Weeks said. "That's what he always said you had to do."
According to Weeks, who lived in Bulger's shadow for 25 years, doing what you had to do has meant a lot of things: throwing a punch at former Boston mayor Ray Flynn; cleaning up the blood of Bulger's murder victims while Bulger napped; digging graves; and arranging telephone calls between the Bulger brothers after the gangster went on the lam.
Before Whitey Bulger became a fugitive, Weeks said he was present for "hundreds and hundreds" of meetings between the gangster and his politician brother, William. The two brothers never discussed crime, Weeks said.
Weeks, who turns 50 this month, described his current life as a would-be author and businessman as simple and law-abiding.
"It's done, it's over," he said. "I can't change nothing so why should I beat myself up over it? I just move on to another chapter in my life."
Bulger, 76, has eluded capture for 11 years and is on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list, charged with killing 19 people and corrupting some of his FBI handlers while working as an informant.
Weeks, who went from gangster to government witness and spent five years and three months in prison for murder, is busy planning book signings and readings for an autobiography he has written with Phyllis Karas, a local author and Boston University adjunct professor. The title is "Brutal: The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger's Irish Mob."
Weeks is also facing a bankruptcy case. In an unusual deal negotiated by lawyers in that case, a share of the profits from the book will go to creditors, as well as the mothers of two women who were killed by Bulger and filed wrongful death suits againstWeeks.
Weeks will promote the book during a live Boston.com chat today from noon to 1 p.m. and on Thursday during an appearance at the Virgin Megastore on Newbury Street. But already, some of Weeks's assertions are being challenged.
Weeks says he struck Flynn, who was then a state representative, with a blow and knocked him out during a confrontation in 1979 at Triple O's tavern in South Boston. Weeks contends that Flynn was drunk and provoked him by repeatedly calling the bar's owner, Bulger associate Kevin O'Neil, by the name of his recently deceased brother.
But, Flynn, who is also former ambassador to the Vatican, accused the former gangster of distorting the incident, saying that Weeks tried to punch him but missed.
"On his best day he couldn't land a glove on me because he was a bit of a coward and he wasn't as tough as I was," said Flynn. "Kevin Weeks couldn't stand up to me. I was the so-called greatest athlete ever to come out of the town."
Flynn said the confrontation concerned his antidrug efforts in South Boston. He said he was trying to run Bulger out of the drug business, and Weeks confronted him at the bar, to warn Flynn that he and Bulger controlled South Boston.
"I've done a lot of things in my life, but I don't lie," said Weeks, who stood by his assertions.
Federal prosecutors have vouched for Weeks's credibility in court, saying his cooperation is unrivaled in Massachusetts. Weeks began cooperating after he was arrested in 1999 on federal racketeering charges; he admitted helping Bulger and Stephen Flemmi kill five people. He led investigators to a mob grave, where the remains of three of the victims were recovered. His testimony helped convict retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr.; Flemmi's brother, Michael, who was a Boston police officer; and Richard Shneiderhan, a former state police officer.
"We didn't just take what he said at face value," said Thomas Duffy, a retired State Police major. "We went out and independently corroborated it and found it to be highly truthful."
Although Weeks admitted shooting, stabbing, and beating people, he said he never killed anyone.
"It wasn't that I wouldn't shoot," said Weeks. It just wasn't necessary, because Bulger and Flemmi "liked killing people," he said.
Twice, Weeks recalled, Bulger shackled his victims to a chair in a South Boston house and grilled them mercilessly for hours before shooting them. On another occasion, he strangled a young woman in the house.
After all three killings, Bulger went upstairs to nap on a couch while Weeks and Flemmi cleaned up the mess and buried the bodies in the cellar. Murder seemed to have a calming influence on the gangster, Weeks said, like taking Valium.
Weeks, who was a 24-year-old bouncer when he teamed up with Bulger, said he discovered that Bulger and Flemmi were informants in 1997, when it was revealed in court. At the time, he said, "I felt the last 25 years of my life was a lie."
The feeling of betrayal he felt was what prompted him to cooperate with investigators two years later, he said.
"It's against the lifestyle," Weeks said. "Either you're a criminal or an informant, but you can't be both."
Weeks said he knew that Bulger routinely gave cash and gifts to Connolly and other agents and police officers. But he had always thought Bulger was just taking information, not supplying it.
As he walked around Castle Island in South Boston last week, Weeks, who declined to join the Federal Witness Protection Program after his release from prison last year, said he was not afraid to return to his old haunts because he only cooperated against Bulger, Flemmi, and their corrupt contacts in law enforcement.
"I never hurt anybody on the street," he said.
After Bulger fled, Weeks kept in touch with him with occasional visits and prearranged telephone calls. He also said he arranged one call between Bulger and his brother William, then president of the state Senate, and two calls with brother John, then a juvenile court magistrate.
Weeks said he also made arrangements, at Whitey Bulger's request, for Connolly to receive a phone call from Bulger at the office of Francis X. Joyce, who was then executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center. But, Weeks said, he does not know if Connolly received the call. Joyce, a onetime legislative aide to William Bulger and friend of Connolly's, could not be reached for comment.
Weeks also recounted how he frequently stopped by William Bulger's South Boston home to give him updates on the criminal case and tell him how his brother was doing on the run.
"He was worried about him," said Weeks, adding that William Bulger loved his brother and "was concerned about his brother's health, his well-being."
Before Bulger became a fugitive, Weeks said he was present on hundreds of occasions when Whitey Bulger met with William Bulger. The pair would discuss their families and current events, but "they never talked about criminal matters," he said.
In spring 1996, Weeks said he learned that the FBI had discovered that Whitey Bulger was using the alias Thomas Baxter and had been hiding out on Long Island in New York. But, Weeks said, he had no way of alerting Bulger and had to wait five weeks, until Bulger called him on July Fourth weekend, to warn him. Bulger's reaction, according to Weeks, was "at least I know."
In August 1996, Weeks said he drove to Chicago with his girl friend to help Bulger make arrangements to obtain numerous false driver's licenses, and that he spent the day with Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig. In his book, Weeks recounts how Bulger pulled a knife on three men who appeared to be bothering the women.
"He's not going to go out of his way to look for trouble," said Weeks. But he added that Bulger would not hesitate to shoot or stab anyone who crossed him.
At their final meeting in New York City two months later, Weeks said, Bulger was wearing his trademark baseball cap and sunglasses and had grown a pencil-thin mustache.
He acted like a man with nothing to hide, said Weeks, describing how Bulger even stopped a police officer on the street to ask directions.
He said they have not spoken since he boarded the train home that day, and he has nothing to say to him now.
"If I saw Jimmy today, I'd keep on walking," Weeks said.
Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.