It was just after 7:00 am, in early August of 1982, when the phone rang at our new townhouse. I was still in the euphoric haze of becoming a first-time father. It had just been a little over two weeks since my first child was born. “You have a strawberry blond little girl!” the South Miami maternity nurse told me as I stood bleary eyed at 1:06 a.m.
My wife Sue and I were now learning about parenthood. New daughter Shawna was the most gorgeous baby I ever saw. She definitely told us when she was hungry and that meant forget about getting much sleep. But, my darling wife was always the first to jump up to tend to our new baby.
That morning, I grabbed the phone right away, fearing it would wake up Shawna. The voice I heard, though I was still groggy, was instantly familiar. It was our World Jai-Alai Chief of Security, Bob Lawson.
Bob was an ex-FBI agent who joined our company upon retirement. He was a quiet, no-nonsense guy that I had met in Tampa the first day he joined the company. Bob and I had a great working relationship. But he rarely called me at home.
“Marty, sorry to bother you at home,” he started off. “But, they just found John Callahan’s body in the trunk of a car at the Miami airport,” he continued. “I’m sure you’re going to get some calls on it when you get in.”
I quickly told him I would be right in, even though we lived in Kendall, about 30 minutes away. I got dressed, slipped quietly into Shawna’s room just to see that angelic infant face, kissed Sue goodbye, and left.
Driving in, I thought to myself… Roger Wheeler, our owner, was murdered more than a year ago. Callahan has been gone from World Jai-Alai for almost six years. He’s found dead, not in Boston, but here in Miami. Is this just a coincidence?
John B. Callahan had left the big accounting firm in Boston, Arthur Anderson and Company, where he was a consultant for the First Bank of Boston. He became President of World Jai-Alai in 1974. Callahan had been forced to resign in less than two years at the helm (early 1976) for associating with some unsavory characters at a downtown Boston bar. Now, he was dead! Murdered! Body found in the trunk of his car.
When I entered the valet parking area where the corporate executives parked, I found it eerily empty. Many times I arrived before president Dick Donovan or VP Paul Rico. But, there was no one. In fact, one of our maintenance personnel was removing the name plates from the parking spaces.
I parked and immediately went into the main building looking for someone to give me more information. The only one there was Bob Lawson, the one who had placed the morning call to me. I asked Bob what had happened and was there anything he could tell me to say to the press.
Bob responded that he had no further information except what he had told me on the phone. I knew Bob still had close contacts with the local FBI. If anyone knew more, he would. But, it seemed this was another mystery.
Then, Bob said, “Donovan and Rico won’t be in today. In fact, I’m not sure when they will be back in.” I asked where they were. He said he couldn’t reveal that. What? Can’t tell me that? I was beyond surprised. Now it was getting a little scary.
Apparently, due to the “coincidence” of two World Jai-Alai executive personnel being murdered, someone told them to be cautious. Who knows, they could be next. They were told to stay out of sight until there was more information. Thus, all the names were being removed from the parking spots, in case anyone had any further ideas of doing harm.
I, then, went across the lot to my office only to find another lineup of messages. My response: “Callahan left our company years ago. He has had nothing to do with World Jai-Alai for more than five years.” The media didn’t buy it. They told me this had to be more than a coincidence and wanted to talk to Donovan or Rico. I told them that was impossible, all media went through me.
After making it through the day and into the early evening, I drove home to my wonderful wife and my daughter Shawna, who had already captured my heart. I wondered as I drove, could I be in danger, too? Is my new family safe? Why didn’t we just stay in Tampa, under the radar, enjoying life.
It would not be long before we found out that others did not believe it was a coincidence. John Callahan’s death was definitely linked to Roger Wheeler. And, law enforcement in three states were going to stop at nothing to prove it.