If Greig handled most of the household chores, Whitey took charge of a key task: making sure they didn’t get caught. They trolled places where the homeless gathered and bought identification like driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers from at least a half dozen alcoholics, drug addicts, and mentally ill people. Workable ID was essential for one of their occasional errands, the 2½-hour drive to Mexico, where Whitey could buy medicine for his heart condition without a prescription. Wanted posters for the two were circulated at the border, but no one ever spotted them.
They were, however, probably on one of their Tijuana excursions when they stopped at the hair salon in Fountain Valley in 2000. After the FBI publicized the sighting, Greig stopped coloring her hair, reverting to gray. The couple saw no need to uproot themselves, however. Whitey had no intention of reclaiming his old life — and, besides, he no longer bore much resemblance to the face on the Wanted posters.
Whitey and Greig had been living at the Princess Eugenia for about 10 years when they began initiating more conversations, especially with newer, younger tenants. After years of keeping people at arm’s length, they seemed to yearn for social contact. Whitey regularly placed the free local newspaper at the doorsteps of the tenants he befriended, cautioning them to read the police blotter. When a young single woman moved in, Whitey offered self-defense advice. One night, the woman heard a knock and opened her door to find Whitey and Greig standing there. “You have to protect yourself,” Whitey told her, handing her a can of mace.
Some neighbors considered the Gaskos a “darling” elderly couple; the two were sometimes seen holding hands during their walks. But a few women said that the couple rarely showed affection and that Charlie seemed controlling and unappreciative of his wife. “I never thought he treated her so well,” said Barbara Gluck, who lived down the hall and knew them for more than 10 years. “She was young and she looked very pretty. He was old and grizzled. I kept thinking to myself, ‘What are they doing together?’ ”
But for Greig, the Santa Monica years were more like a dream, long-deferred, now come true. After years of having to share Whitey with Teresa Stanley, she relished her role as sole caretaker. Janus Goodwin, a minister who lived three doors down, said Greig would frequently end their conversations abruptly to rush back to Whitey “like he was God.” Greig would often smile broadly and say in an exaggerated voice: “Someone needs me. I’m needed!”
Whitey, who turned 80 in September 2009, was beginning to show his age. Greig fretted over her arthritis and Whitey’s prostate and worried about paying their medical bills. She subscribed to magazines like Prevention, shopped for healthy foods, and put them on a reduced-sodium diet. He was not a very good patient. His aversion to doctors was so strong that he worried he might lose his temper with one and get himself in trouble. But Greig helped him control himself, often playing good-will ambassador when she accompanied him to appointments. He introduced her as his wife.
Every few weeks, Greig got her hair cut at a salon on Wilshire Boulevard. She confided to her hairdresser, Wendy Farnetti, that she was concerned about her husband’s health. One day the talk turned to men. “I have the worst taste in men,” said Farnetti. “I’m a bum magnet.”
Greig laughed. “I really love the bad boys,” she said. “My husband was a really bad boy when I married him, but he’s a lot more mellow now.”
It was true. After so many years in Santa Monica, Whitey saw himself, in fact, not so much as a criminal in hiding as a man in love. Greig’s loyalty, proven over so many years, meant more to him than anything. He was not a man prone to regret, but regretted not meeting her sooner. If he had, things might have been different. “By the time we met it was too late,” he wrote in a letter to a friend. “I was in too deep, had done too much to even consider an honest way of life.” Whitey Bulger had not gone soft as much as he had gone native. He was a man of Southern California now, and he had never been happier.
A LITTLE AFTER 8:30 p.m. Pacific time, on May 1, 2011, President Obama appeared on television. “Good evening,” he began. “Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murders of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.” Continued...