Get a Sneak Peek at a Mafia Mistress’s Memoir
The Doctor Broad is the fascinating story of how a woman with a distinguished medical career became doctor to one mobster and mistress to another.
A long, narrow corridor lined with closets led to a small bedroom. Beside the bed was a night-stand, and on the wall a shelf contained a stereo, tuned to a classical music station. The bathroom was walled with ecru-colored tiles and contained the only bidet I had seen outside of France. We kissed for a long, lingering moment, and then he pulled away, saying he’d be back shortly. I undressed and got under the covers, by now shivering uncontrollably from a potent combination of nerves and horniness. I had drunk two glasses of wine with dinner, enough so that I was only half sober. Lying there I began to fantasize, and fear, that any moment armed gunmen would burst through the door, pistols spitting death. I wanted to run, but lust and longing pinned me to the bed more securely than any handcuff.
Louis returned and undressed unselfconsciously. I noticed scars on his shoulder and abdomen. He had the sinewy figure of a distance runner, which he was. He pulled back the covers, which I was clutching to my chin and gazed at my body with open admiration. “I can’t believe it,” he said, “you’re a thirty-seven-year old mother of three and you have the body of a teenager.” He then proceeded to tell me what he would and wouldn’t do, sexually, with a frankness that astounded me. Everyone who has watched “The Sopranos” on HBO knows that there is a sexual practice that at least the older generation of mafiosi considers unmanly. I learned of this belief that night, long before Uncle Junior’s travails on the hit show. “That’s fine with me,” I replied, “I’m a meat and potatoes kind of woman myself, when it comes to sex.”
And so, our affair began. I knew that what I was doing was wrong, not for any reasons relating to sexual morality, but because my first responsibility was to my children, who would be harmed by more notoriety, and my second was to Raymond, who could be subjected to trial if my credibility were damaged. I can only say that I paid a heavy price, one that pushed me to the brink of madness, and left me, for a time, shattered and maimed and inconsolable.
Over the next few weeks, Louis and I met once or twice a week, always at the Forum. If anything, Louis was even more concerned about our affair becoming public knowledge than I was. He reiterated often that he didn’t want our friendship to add to the problems I already had to deal with. He was confident that his own legal entanglements would be resolved without a trial. These dated back to the Marfeo-Melei double murder in April of 1968. The two men had been shot-gunned to death in a grocery store in the Silver Lake section of Providence, allegedly on Raymond’s orders. Pro Lerner, the shooter, was serving a life sentence. Raymond and three other defendants were convicted of conspiracy but acquitted of accessory charges. They had long since completed their sentences.
Louis had heard that he, too, was going to be indicted on conspiracy and accessory charges and, convinced that he would not obtain a fair trial, had fled, eventually spending ten years in hiding. No eyewitness to the shooting ever came forward, and there was no physical evidence linking the crime to any of the defendants. The prosecution’s case rested on the testimony of one man, John J. “Red” Kelley, a notorious thief who was the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Plymouth mail robbery that occurred in the early 1960s. In August of 1969, he was arrested for the December 1968 robbery of a Brinks truck in Boston. More than a year after the Marfeo-Melei murders, when faced with the prospect of a long prison term, he turned state’s evidence and implicated Pro Lerner, Raymond, Louis and others.
By the time Louis returned from his ten years in hiding, Red Kelley had developed Alzheimer’s disease, and since he was the only prosecution witness, it seemed highly unlikely that Louis would ever be brought to trial.
Louis was sketchy about the details of his years abroad but did say that the experience changed his life. “I spent a lot of time in the Alps and made friends with a lot of climbers there. Talk about real men! Those guys made me realize that all the people I grew up admiring, thinking were tough, were not — they weren’t in the same class when it came to toughness. And I realized that the people I’d been looking up to all my life were all nuts!” He seemed to want to reassure me that he was a very different person as a result of his years away. Once, I asked him how he had made his living when he was younger. He hesitated a moment and then said, “I was a thief, that’s what I did. I went out every night and stole, like it was my job.” I was a bit taken aback that he would admit this to me, but it didn’t change how I felt about him.
In general, he was vague or unforthcoming about his life in the years before I met him. He did tell me that when he was in his twenties he’d served two years in prison for armed robbery. It was not terribly important to me, because that was many years in the past. He also told me that when he was younger and would be out riding in a car with his friends, they would often be pulled over by the police and arrested. “But what were you charged with?” I asked. “Oh, I don’t know,” he replied, “probably with being abroad after sundown.” That’s the kind of amusing but unhelpful answer I was likely to get if I asked him something he didn’t want to answer.
Even before his ten years on the lam, he’d made several trips to Europe on the Queen Mary, visiting Italy and France for the most part, giving himself a spotty but adequate education in art and history, reading the great books of Western literature. He knew more about these than most of the Brown medical students I taught over the years. During his years in hiding, he had taught himself French, taking the Metro in Paris to the farthest stop, then walking all the way back to his apartment, engaging people in conversation with the help of a dictionary, painstakingly translating the signs along the way.
In what I took to be an oblique reference to Raymond and newspaper statements about his position in the Mafia hierarchy, he said, “Nobody has ever been my boss, nor do I want to be anyone’s boss.” While living abroad, he’d become an expert skier and fair mountain climber. At age fifty-four, he had the stamina and physique of a man half his age; he’d run marathons. I learned that his father had died many years before, but that his mother, Mary, was still living — a tiny woman then in her late seventies whose piety drove him to distraction. We were in full agreement on the Catholic Church and the pernicious influence it wielded in our respective ethnic communities.
Louis had an older brother, Andrew, who managed a bar on Federal Hill, and a younger brother, Anthony, who was a gynecologist with a large practice. Anthony and I became good friends, and each other’s physician. He had gone to medical school in Bologna, where he met an Italian woman and married her. They had four children and lived in Providence. Although more than ten years younger than Louis, they bore a strong resemblance to each other, and more than once Anthony had been pulled over by the police and had a gun held to his head by officers who mistook him for his brother. Louis never married but had an adult daughter, born out of wedlock to one of his former lovers. He’d missed most of her growing up because he was in hiding, and they were not close.
Louis showered me with gifts, but not the clichéd items that might be expected: no fur coats or gaudy jewels, no trips to Miami or Las Vegas. He gave me a hand-blown glass lamp, pocketbooks, a pair of leather pants—and books, endless books: Boccaccio’s Decameron, Will and Ariel Durant’s multi-volume The Story of Civilization, Roget’s Thesaurus and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, among many others. And meals—he delighted in feeding me and my children at the Forum. At times, he seemed almost maternal in his solicitude. He telephoned every day. Without words, but with actions (which always speak louder), he made his caring visible, and I felt cherished and, paradoxically, safe.
I didn’t examine my feelings too closely. I was content to let the tender sapling of our relationship exist in its hidden recess, away from the hostile, prying eyes that would view it with censure and seek to destroy it. To bring our affair into the light of day would endanger ourselves and others, but keeping it hidden away stunted its growth in ways we only vaguely intuited, while sharpening the edge of pleasure we stole in the lengthening nights.