“They were all zeros, every one,” the owner of the bowling alley said when the police asked him about the dead men in his parking lot.
There were six of them, shot to death outside a Dorchester dive, gangster style–lined up and gunned down with a Thompson 45. Just like Big Al did to those boys on St. Valentine’s.
Nicky Saint, P.I., found the scene bloody, horrible and fascinating. The neon lights of the bowling alley sign bathed the scene in a strange blue and orange glow. The falling snow melted in the still warm blood. It was two o’clock in the morning, December 30th.
All six men were part of a bowling team called “The Geesers,” a play on their age and their bowling record.
“They were the worst bowlers in the whole joint,” the other league members said in their interview with the police investigators, “maybe of all of Boston. They always bowled zeros, nearly every frame. They became notorious for throwing big giant goose eggs. That’s why their leader, Hap Simpson, was called ‘Mama Goose.'”
The rest of the team was Sal “Zip” Rizzo, Stanley “Nada” Banks, Harry “Zilch” Maroni, Ernie “Nixy” Yarbrough, and Louie “the Void” Nelson.
Rumor had it they were a rowdy bunch. They drank a lot, laughed a lot, kidded the other bowling teams endlessly, but all in good fun. Most people thought their antics to be quaint. That’s one of the benefits to being old. Annoyances get called eccentricities, ornery behavior gets labeled as cute.
The old men had just finished last place in a late-night tournament and were tying one on until the bartender kicked them out of the bar at eleven-thirty. Thirty minutes later there was the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun in the parking lot, and the six Geesers were a laying dead.
“What kind of beef would gangsters have with a bunch of retired bowlers?” Nicky wondered out loud. He had counted fifty-three casings by the curb. Someone really laid into these guys, and good.
“You know these boys were all retired mobsters themselves,” the beat cop who was taping off the crime scene told Nicky. “Rumor had it that they were all hit men, too. Their nicknames preceded their bowling records because they were renown for completely erasing their targets. “Mama Goose,’ in particular, was the go-to man for the head of the Languine family if he needed to put any problems to bed.”
“Those are just rumors,” the newspaper man writing up the story for the Globe said. “Besides, Zilch Maroni and Nixy Yarbrough were in opposing gangs. Cold blooded killers like that don’t just shake hands after shooting each other’s cousins for a decade. No, these guys were low level traffickers and bootleggers. They all spent the last few years getting to know each other in jail serving nickel and dime stints for minor offenses and came out the other side on a bowling team. From the Pen to the Pins, Ha! That’ll be the headline.”
“Well, either way, these geezers ain’t exactly innocents,” the cop retorted. “Pretty open and shut case by the looks of it. A couple of old Mafia boys killed off by a new crop of young Mafia boys. Let ’em pick each other off, I say. Saves the G-men the trouble.”
“Open and shut except for the timing,” Nicky said.
The reporter took up-close shots of each of the dead men’s faces. He’d be the lead story for sure. “What do you mean the timing?” he asked Nicky between flashes.
“The thirty minute window from when they left the bar to when they were killed.”
“Probably stumbling around looking for their cars,” the cop said.
“Maybe they tried to talk their killers out of doing them in,” the reporter suggested. “They probably knew the boys.”
“Or maybe they didn’t,” Nicky postulated as he puffed on his pipe. “Maybe this is just supposed to look like a mob hit. Maybe the killer wanted to make sure he left them dead on the sixth day of Christmas.”
“Oh boy,” the reporter sighed. “Here we go again.”