What a week.
So many grim stories, so little time. We were confronted in rapid succession with four villains so notorious, so unsubtle, and so terrifying they could have stepped right out of a true-crime paperback; and then with a fifth, whose story is terrifying precisely because he could not.
If you’ve somehow retained your faith in humanity, the federal courthouse was not the place to be last week. There, the ongoing trial of alleged mobster Whitey Bulger turned uglier, if that is possible when you’re talking about someone accused of ending 19 lives. Witnesses revealed Southie’s Robin Hood as a plain old hood — an executioner, drug king, shakedown artist, and rat. A screenwriter would have been embarrassed to script Tuesday’s expletive-laden back-and-forth between Bulger and his former protégé, hit man Kevin Weeks — it was so obvious and contemptible.
On Wednesday, the courtroom mob drama took second billing to the action next door, as 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was finally arraigned for the Marathon attacks that killed four, injured more than 260, and brought the region to its knees. We have seen this movie before — the misfit using religion as an excuse to maim and kill and be somebody — but that didn’t make it any easier to watch. It stung extra hard that the conspiracy nuts bleating about Tsarnaev being railroaded shared the same courtroom — let alone the same city — with the victims and their loved ones.
But the opportunities America offered Tsarnaev pale in comparison to those tossed aside by Aaron Hernandez, at the center of the worst story in the history of Boston sports, a drama that continued to unfurl last week. If what prosecutors say is true, Hernandez is monumentally stupid, or a psychopath, or both. How else to explain someone with a $40 million NFL contract becoming a murderous thug, then leaving a trail to his own doorstep that blazed so brightly – text messages, cars rented in his name, footage from his own security cameras — that a child could follow it?
Then on Thursday came the spectre of Albert DeSalvo, menacing as ever, as DNA evidence from his exhumed remains may finally settle the mystery of the Boston Strangler after 50 years of agonizing uncertainty.
You would never know it from last week, but not all evil conforms to such cinematic standards.
The spotlight that moved from one remarkable reprobate to the next was so blinding it made it hard to absorb the fifth and most chilling story of the week.
This one was not the stuff of history or of potboilers. On Wednesday, Anthony Gideika was charged with fatally beating 3-month-old Chase Gideika who, with his twin brother Anthony Jr., had the great misfortune of being born into the wrong home on an unlovely corner in Lynn. The police report is sickening: the infant repeatedly shaken and slammed. Both parents abused drugs. Gideika claimed he had started using again because he learned the twins were not his biological children.
Workers from the Department of Children and Families took another child from the home last summer because they believed he was being neglected. They kept the twins in the home even though they were born with drugs in their system. The couple, officials said, seemed to be trying to keep the babies safe. Other relatives were pitching in. This dicey, delicate approach has worked with other families. Not this one.
There is just one potential villain here — Gideika — but many who may share in the blame, including the mother who left her babies in his care and the DCF workers who gave the couple one more disastrous chance.
There is nothing black and white about this tragedy; no simple, familiar narrative to help us make sense of it. All week it felt as if we lived in a town defined by outsized outlaws. Gideika reminded us of that other obscure and deeply hurtful place, one we have come to know all too well.
Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.