First, gangster James ``Whitey'' Bulger poked the crown of Raymond Slinger's head with the barrel of a gun and explained there would be little blood if he shot him there. Then, Bulger ordered a henchman to fetch a body bag.
Slinger, a South Boston realtor, thought he was dead.
More than 11 years later, the same fear that gripped him then -- and kept him from testifying against Bulger -- returned yesterday as he testified in federal court about his run-in with the South Boston crime boss.
``I'm less afraid now,'' said Slinger, who has declined FBI offers to relocate him. ``But I'm still frightened for myself and my family.''
Slinger's ordeal in the winter of 1987 became known in May in documents about his encounters with Bulger and associates Kevin O'Neil and Kevin Weeks that surfaced during hearings into whether criminal charges against Bulger's sidekick, Stephen Flemmi, should be dropped.
But yesterday was the first time that Slinger, subpoenaed as a government witness, told his story under oath in court.
Besides describing the alleged shakedown by Bulger and his associates -- Slinger said he paid them $25,000 before the FBI began investigating and O'Neil stopped the payments -- Slinger denied he told the FBI that he would take the stand against Bulger or wear a hidden microphone.
His testimony contradicts FBI agent John Newton, who testified in May that Slinger said he would testify and wear a wire. Newton suggested that the ``great case'' was dropped because Bulger was a top-level FBI informant.
Lawyers for Flemmi and his co-defendants -- New England Mafia boss Francis P. Salemme, Mafia soldier Robert DeLuca, and Winter Hill gangster John Martorano -- say Newton's testimony shows the FBI ignored the crimes of its prized informants.
Flemmi claims that the bureau promised him and Bulger immunity from prosecution in exchange for information on the Mafia. Bulger fled before he was indicted in January 1995 on extortion and racketeering charges and remains a fugitive.
Yesterday, Slinger said, he met Bulger and Flemmi in 1986, when O'Neil brought them to Slinger's East Broadway office to talk about real estate. Six months later, Slinger said, O'Neil called him to a meeting at Triple O's on West Broadway.
In an upstairs room, Slinger said Bulger told him that he had been hired to kill him. Instead, he said, Bulger offered him a choice: pay him to kill the person who wanted Slinger dead, or pay to ``scare him.''
Slinger said he asked Bulger if $1,000 or $2,000 would be enough for the scare, but Bulger ``said his boots cost more than that,'' and set the price at $50,000.
Slinger said he contacted his friend, City Councilor James Kelly, who is now the council president. ``He said he would try to call a few people'' for help, Slinger said, but phoned back later and assured him ``things should be OK.''
In May, Kelly, of South Boston, denied he talked to Slinger, but yesterday he said he had a ``very, very vague'' memory of such a conversation. ``He may have said something like that but I didn't believe it and did nothing with it,'' Kelly said.
Two weeks later, Slinger said, he was called to another meeting with Bulger. Though he had a borrowed gun, Slinger said Bulger and his cohorts took it away, then beat him up. Bulger then threatened to shoot him through the top of his skull.
Within two months, Slinger said, he had paid a total of $25,000 cash to O'Neil.
Then, Slinger said, Newton and fellow FBI agent Roderick Kennedy paid him a visit. Slinger said he rejected their idea to wear a microphone and testify against Bulger.
Slinger said he immediately called O'Neil to tell him about the FBI visit. ``He called me back the next day and told me I didn't have to pay any more money,'' Slinger testified.