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Life as a snitch: Anonymous to the end, 'Possum' tells secrets

March 16, 1992|By David Simon | David Simon,Staff Writer

Possum frowns. "I felt bad for that person, but hey, it's all in the game."

The interview winds down as Possum begins to fade, his eyes closing. He tells the reporter to call next week for some good information: "You tell me what it's worth," he says, then asks for an advance. "I need to run out to the store."

The reporter gives him $20. Possum pockets the bill, then offers a long, skeletal hand.

'I never knew'

"You ever hear of a guy named Possum?" asks the reporter. "A junk man?"

"He was an a-rab, right?" says Donald "Frog" Nelson, a westsider now doing time for federal drug violations. "Tall, dark-skinned?"

"Yeah. That's him."

"Oh yeah, I do know him."

"He died a few weeks back," says the reporter. "It turns out he was one of the best informants ever. He gave the city escape squad something like 500 fugitives."

Silence on the line.

"Were you ever on escape?"

"Fifty-eight days once, back in the seventies," Nelson remembers. "I was hanging on the westside but laying my head at the Flag [House] projects. They kicked in a door at the Flag and got me in bed. I never knew how they found me."

"Did you meet up with Possum before then?"

"I'm sure I did somewhere. He was always around."

A long silence.

I= "Possum," he says finally, laughing. "I'll be goddammed."

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