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The Boston Globe

Metro

Kevin Cullen

The mentor and his muscle

They used to spend every day together. Except Sundays.

Whitey Bulger took Sundays off. He was very traditional like that.

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Whitey and Kevin Weeks walked around Castle Island together, mentor and protege, talking life, talking business, talking trash. Then they’d do crime. Shake down drug dealers. Put guns to people’s heads or some other body part. Kevin says they did the occasional murder, and that usually meant Kevin got dirty, because he was Whitey’s gravedigger.

Whitey groomed Kevin like the boxer Kevin was, bringing him along slowly, drawing him in gradually, like a game fish.

Whitey first noticed Kevin when Kevin was knocking guys out at Triple O’s, Whitey’s hangout on West Broadway, where Kevin worked as a bouncer. Whitey took a shine to him. Kevin was a brawler, but he was no dummy. Two of his brothers came out of the Old Colony projects in Southie and went to Harvard.

Kevin was a legacy and could have gone to Harvard, too, but he was too busy knocking people out. When Kevin’s father found out Kevin had hooked up with Whitey, he was prouder of Kevin than he was of his two sons who made it through Harvard.

Kevin’s father was a boxer and when Kevin was a kid, he’d punch Kevin, trying to toughen him up. Southie was a rough place. The projects were rougher. You didn’t have to win, Kevin’s father told him, but you had to fight.

Kevin always insisted that he and Whitey did not have a father-son relationship. But he looked up to Whitey, who taught him everything about gang life and helped him earn millions.

And so when Kevin walked into the courtroom Monday, Whitey couldn’t help himself. Whitey has been pretending all along that he couldn’t be bothered to notice those testifying against him. But he literally turned around and craned his neck to watch Kevin approach the witness stand.

Whitey would have noticed that Kevin has dyed his hair a darker shade. Kevin is 57 now, but still youthful in an ineffable way. Ray Liotta could play him in the movie.

Still, Whitey tried not to betray too much interest in what Kevin had to say, which was to implicate Whitey in every crime imaginable, from extortion to murder.

Whitey did, however, glare at Kevin when Kevin started talking about authenticating a note that Whitey supposedly wrote about the old hood George McLaughlin.

As it was, Kevin repeated his now oft-repeated testimony about being the lookout when in 1982 Whitey and another guy gunned down a hood named Brian Halloran who was shopping Whitey to the FBI and didn’t know Whitey was considered a more valuable FBI stool pigeon. Whitey’s FBI handler John Connolly put the target on Halloran’s back and Whitey gladly complied, in the process killing a second man, Michael Donahue, a truck driver who had offered Halloran a ride home from the Southie waterfront.

Donahue’s widow, Pat, and her three sons — Michael Jr., Shawn, and Tommy — leaned forward when prosecutor Brian Kelly asked Weeks who the second man in the hit car was. The guy was masked, Weeks said, but he thought it was Steve Flemmi, Whitey’s partner in crime, or Pat Nee, his friend.

The testimony on the second gunman was fleeting. Whitey’s lawyers will dwell on it during cross-examination, trying to show Weeks is protecting his pal Nee. It kills the Donahues that the defense cares more about this than the prosecution.

Weeks’s testimony will be especially crucial on one of the few things Whitey really wants to refute, that he killed Deborah Hussey, the daughter of Flemmi’s paramour.

Before Monday, the last time Kevin saw Whitey was 17 years ago in New York City, when Whitey was already on the run after being tipped by his FBI handler.

“If anything ever comes down,” Whitey told him then, “put it on me.”

Well, something did come down. Kevin got pinched.

And now he is doing as his mentor instructed, putting it on Whitey.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.
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