Shea has been out of jail since 2002. He’s on the straight and narrow now, living in his old neighborhood, doing construction jobs. But he admits that sometimes he gets tempted. “I have urges,” he says. “I have urges to walk the streets again. To go back and say, ‘I’m in control now.’ And believe me: if I was, there wouldn’t be no snitching. None. I can tell you that right now.”
In the meantime, he still finds himself trying to wrap his head around Whitey Bulger’s betrayal. “I have this recurring dream all the time,” he says. “I see him in New York. I see him walking down the street. And I pull him aside into a doorway. And I ask him, ‘Why? Why would you be an informant? Why would you do that? Something you’ve always preached against?’ And then, that’s when I snap his neck.”
When I interviewed Pat Nee at his apartment, he had told the Herald just days earlier that “I wouldn’t put it past Whitey to come back and decide to go out with a bang.... After all, we’ve certainly done our share to embarrass the bad-breath fag.” And I have to admit, as irrational as it was, I entertained disquieting premonitions of a knock at the door, a still-spry 76-year-old Bulger bursting in, guns blazing.
“That’s no joke,” Nee says. “I know his mind-set on things like that. He’s capable of it. If he’s on his last legs, has an illness, or just feels like it’s time for him to die, yeah, I could see him coming back and going out like that.” But, he says, it’s “not a fear. Just a fact of life I live with. I think my reflexes would be faster than his. I’d do what I have to do.”
Nee knows Bulger’s treachery well. Years before he was sent to jail for helping organize a shipment of seven tons of weaponry, purchased with $1.2 million of stolen money, to the Irish Republican Army aboard the Gloucester fishing trawler the Valhalla, he was Whitey Bulger’s acquaintance, his enemy, his hunter, and then his grudging partner in crime. But to hear Nee tell it, never once did he trust Bulger.
“My relationship with him was different than a lot of other people’s,” Nee says, sitting in the spare living room of his Southie apartment. “I’m sick of hearing about him. I’m just sick of him being in my life all those years. Just by entering the room he could turn wine into vinegar. He would spoil the whole atmosphere.”
There’s no denying, however, that Bulger looms large in Nee’s book. Like Shea, he was finally persuaded to write the thing with an eye on setting the record straight on his particular slice of the story. “I didn’t like what I was seeing. The books coming out, other people’s points of view, people that weren’t there. I’ve met over 40 people over the years that were on the Valhalla. If these people were on the Valhalla, it woulda sank.”