BOSTON. Pete Boyle has been a reporter for the better part of three decades on a succession of newspapers here, but he says he has no fear he’ll ever be out of work. “I cover crime,” he says in a voice roughened by years of cigarettes and cheap coffee consumed on all-night stakeouts. “I never run out of inventory.”
But beneath Boyle’s hard-bitten exterior lies a soft, mushy center today as he lays to rest Goldy XIV, the latest in a succession of goldfish that have died in mysterious circumstances. “He was a good one,” Boyle says, fighting back tears. “I mean all of them were, but I got kind of close to him in the two days I had him.”
Scene of the crime
Boyle is a committed bachelor, having decided long ago that his subject matter made him too much of a target for retaliation by organized crime for a conventional home life. “It wouldn’t be fair to a woman,” he says looking off into the distance after he turns the last shovelful of dirt into his goldfish’s grave. “She goes off and buys percale sheets with a high thread count, a new dust ruffle and duvet, and next morning the stuff is ruined because some mook dumped a horse’s head in your bed.”
But a few years ago, finding himself growing older–and lonelier–Boyle decided to acquire a pet. “I put a lot of thought into it,” he says. “I decided since I keep odd hours I shouldn’t get a cat or a dog cause they’d tear up my apartment. Goldfish seemed the best bet.”
As Boyle took his leave the morning after setting up his fish bowl, he gave the first Goldy an ample supply of food. “I was scheduled to listen in on a Mafia initiation ceremony that night, so I knew I’d be getting home late,” he recalls. “I shook Goldy out a bowl full of fish food–he seemed really happy.”
When he returned home that night, Boyle was devastated to find Goldy floating lifelessly, the apparent victim of a mob snuff-out while he was gone. “I knew they were trying to send me a message,” Boyle says as he tears well up in his eyes. “The Mafia will leave a dead fish on a stool pigeon’s door step as a warning to keep quiet or you’ll sleep with the fishes.”
Fish on–no wait–that’s a toad.
But Boyle didn’t back down, and his friends on the police force were glad to help. “Pete gets our names in the paper,” says Sergeant Jim O’Hanlon of the Boston Police. “It was the least we could do.” So his apartment building was put under twenty-four hour surveillance, with teams of police watching the front and back entrances except when forced to leave for coffee and donuts. “I didn’t mind sticking around even if it meant my coffee wouldn’t be hot when my partner got back,” says Patrolman Richie Guerin. “We all have to make sacrifices.”
But the crimes continued, even with the police presence, making the serial killings Boston’s biggest unsolved crime since the 1960′s murders attributed to Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler.”
Boston Strangler: “You got nothin’ on me, copper. I was watching the gerbils the whole time.”
But DeSalvo died in 1973, and police say every lead they’ve developed has turned into a dead end. “We have a profile of the killer,” says the BPD’s O’Hanlon. “We cruise the frozen food section of local supermarkets, looking for guys with an unnatural interest in Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks.”
Fish sticks: Could there be a link?
Boyle appreciates the work his pals on the force have done, and says their failure to nab the culprit won’t stop him from living his life just the way he wants. “I’m off to get Goldy XV,” he says as he hops into his car and writes down something in his reporter’s notebook. “I’ve got to remember to stock up on fish food–I’m running low again.”
Available in print and Kindle formats on amazon.com as part of the collection “Boston Baroques.”