As Whitey and Greig strolled along Palisades Park, he spotted a homeless man named Charlie Gaska. At first, Gaska waved him off, but Whitey was persistent, saying he could make it worth his while; all Gaska had to do was let him use his Social Security number. Not long after he pocketed the man’s identification, Whitey and Greig were standing in the manager’s office at the Princess Eugenia apartment complex on nearby Third Street. Whitey peeled off hundred-dollar bills to put a deposit on Apartment 303, a two-bedroom, two-bath unit that rented for just $837 a month.
The two filled out a few forms, signing their new names: Charles and Carol Gasko. Whitey had changed one letter in Gaska’s name, a variation so subtle it would not arouse suspicion. They explained that they had no need for a reserved parking space in the basement of the complex, but that they would put some of their belongings in a storage locker.
Charlie and Carol were model tenants. Every month, about a week early, Greig would deliver the rent to the office across the street, where a property manager would take their white envelope stuffed with crisp hundred-dollar bills and joke, “Carol, did you rob the bank again?” The two would laugh.
The Gaskos acquired a reputation for being thoughtful neighbors and pleasant company, but they were also intensely private. They said that they came from Chicago for the warm weather and didn’t have any friends or family in the area — a plausible explanation for why no one ever visited.
Using her alias, Greig subscribed to the Los Angeles Times and got Whitey a subscription to Soldier of Fortune magazine. An avid reader, Whitey amassed a collection of several hundred books, many about military history, war, and organized crime. Among the volumes were Escape From Alcatraz, The Master of Disguise, and American Mafia. Some, like Secrets of a Back-Alley ID Man, offered practical advice for the fugitive gangster on topics such as how to forge identification documents. Whitey used his newly acquired skills to create business cards for Greig under various fictional names.
Whitey was wary, consumed with avoiding capture. Now in his late 60s, he sported a white beard and mustache. When he ventured outside, he wore large, old-fashioned eyeglasses and a fisherman-type canvas hat with the brim pulled low over his face. Greig, in her mid-40s, seemed more interested in appearing attractive than she did in disguising herself. She never left the apartment without makeup. The couple dressed casually but impeccably, generally both in jeans or light-colored slacks and white long-sleeved shirts over a T-shirt. Greig often wore all white — a white blouse, white pants, white sun hat.
If Whitey had methodically abandoned everything connecting him with his old life, there was one thing he refused to give up: his stockpile of weapons. While on the run, he had collected some 30 shotguns, rifles, pistols, and revolvers, taking advantage of lax Nevada gun laws to buy some of them at a show in Las Vegas. He considered his collection a hobby. “It’s recommended to have a hobby after one retires,” he told a friend.
Whitey cut several holes in the walls of the apartment, stuffing the guns, ammunition, and knives inside some; in others, he stacked neat piles of cash totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. For day-to-day expenses, he kept a cash drawer in the kitchen, with neatly stacked rows of bills in denominations ranging from $1 to $100.
Whitey slept alone in the master bedroom, leaving the guest bedroom to Greig. He kept a loaded handgun and a stack of crisp bills on a shelf next to his bed. His windows were covered with opaque plastic held in place with duct tape over which hung black curtains. He tucked several more loaded guns behind books on a bookshelf. At night, he often stood on their balcony with binoculars, canvassing the neighborhood for any sign that he was being watched.
Mostly, Whitey and Greig’s life centered on the mundane. Greig kept a weekly planner, listing doctors’ appointments, department store sales, and when it was time to change the sheets on their beds. Greig ran all the couple’s errands, paying their utility bills with money orders. Knowing their cash might have to last for many years, they were frugal. Greig shopped at the 99 Cents store and T.J.Maxx. She used coupons and bought mouthwash and detergent in bulk. She made some purchases through mail-order catalogs, including the Vermont Country Store, which sells flannel nightgowns and New England jellies. She bought castile soap by the case from a Kentucky company and ordered Whitey’s $103 New Balance sneakers from Road Runner Sports. Twice a week, she shopped at the farmers’ market at the Third Street Promenade, pulling a metal cart down the street. They joined the AARP, through which they received senior discounts. Whitey had made millions in his years as a mobster, but now they lived on a fixed income like most other retirees. Continued...