Death on the Move

Donal Buchanan

© Copyright 2015 by Donal Buchanan
 

 

Photo of a woman in a convertible using a CB radio.


Ok, I'm through.” The Medical Examiner stood up creakily. His dew-soaked trousers were a crumpled mess. The pasty-gray color of his face could have resulted from the inadequate lighting provided by police flashlights and a distant street light. He joined the circle of four policemen and one detective around the headless nude body lying in the grass. In the darkness near the road another detective was trying to lose the contents of an already dry stomach. An occasional car whirred by on the highway.

Barney Kowalski forced himself to stare down at the poor mutilated ruin. “What can you tell us, Doc?”

Barney, anything I say now is going to be off the cuff,” said the ME, “I'll do better once I get her to the lab.”

I know that, Doc. Give!”

Well, . . . we have here a white female probably in her late twenties. Height about 5'6''. She probably weighed about one-twenty. Unless she dyed her hair, she was a brunette.”

When did she die?”

Hard to tell. I'd guess, not more than two or three hours ago. It is one a.m. Now. That means it could have happened as long ago as 10 p.m.” The thin bespectacled man peered up at Barney. “I can tell you one thing, though. She wasn't killed here.”

Barney knodded. “Yeah,” he said.

You knew that?” The ME looked a bit pained.

Hell, Doc,” said Barney, “Even a rookie could see that. There's not enough blood here. Let's get on with it. Was she sexually assaulted?”

Won't know that until later, but there are no overt signs that she was.”

What killed her?”

A knife. Whoever used it was a sadistic butcher! I counted fifteen penetrations, five of them serious enough to cause death. There may be more. Will that be all?”

Yeah, Doc. Thanks.”

As the ME left, Bolivar Cohen came staggering out of the darkness, wiping his ashen face with a handkerchief. He was a big man, topping Barney's six feet by four inches.

Did you get it out of your system, Bo?” asked Barney.

I don't think I'll ever get it out of my system!” snapped Bolivar. “God! I thought I'd seen some messy things in battle, but never anything like this. Who would do such a thing? How could it happen?”

Maybe she lost her head over a man!” cracked one of the older cops.

Barney winced. “Sullivan, you got no respect! For that, you get to hang around until the techs are through. And you escort her to the morgue and observe the autopsy. Then hustle the report to me —along with her personal effects!”

Hell, Loot,” Sullivan replied. “She ain't got no personal effects that I can see.”

Well, you and the techs can beat the bushes. There's gotta be something we can go on. C'mon, Bo, let's get out of here!”

Sullivan groaned.

Bolivar put his hand on Barney's shoulder. “Just a minute, Barn.” He turned to Sullivan. “Jim, I noticed a set of pretty deep tire tracks back there. Be sure the techs get those. Sullivan nodded.

The two detectives walked toward their ancient Plymouth parked on the grass just off the road, a lonely two-lane stretch of highway that chopped through the wild flatlands on the outskirts of the city.

Barney let Bo take the wheel. He pulled the red flasher off the roof and slumped down in the passenger seat. He laced and unlaced his fingers—a sure sign of cogitation. Bo swung the car onto the road just as an ambulance roared towards them from the city, its siren dying to a moan as it slowed to a stop.

Those poor suckers are in for a shock,” said Bo. “Say, Barn, how'd she come to be found so fast?” She was back from the road in that tall grass.”

Someone called it in on the CB emergency band. They weren't specific —just said something funny was goin' on here. Sullivan and his partner found her. Probably somebody saw the body getting dumped.” Barney hit the dash with his fist. “Bo, I got a bad feeling about this. I think we're dealing with a psycho.”

Yeah,” muttered Bo, “And who can figure a nut? I wonder what he did with the head?”

And where was she killed?” asked Barney. “I can't see him doing it in the car then driving off with the head!”

Aw, Barn, if he's psycho, he's liable to do anything!”

And why are we saying 'him'?” said Barnaby. “A woman could of done it.”

You really believe that?

Hell, no; but we gotta consider it anyhow.”

They worried the case for the rest of their shift, but got no answers. Neither detective slept well that night.

A ten a.m., Bolivar was awakened by the phone. “I'm not here!” he shouted into the receiver. “I've gone to Florida!”

Knock it off, Bo, and get over here,” Barney's voice crackled. “They've found where she was killed.”

Bo slammed down the telephone and reached for his clothes. Ten minutes later he picked up Barney at his apartment.

Cal's Cool Campers was a large auto lot on the edge of town specializing in recreational vehicles. The two detectives pulled up next to two cops and a civilian standing beside a Dodge motor-home parked on the lot. As they got out of the car the civilian approached.

I am Calbert Buffey, gentlemen. I presume you are the detectives they sent for?”

They admitted to it and announced their names.

He pulled them towards the door of the camper. “This vehicle was here when we opened up this morning. It wasn't here when we closed at 7:30 last night. It isn't one of ours because all of ours are kept in the fenced lot overnight. We went inside —it wasn't locked—and —and it was horrible! Blood all over the place inside! Naturally we called the police at once.”

Barney looked at the cops. One said, “That's right, Loot. It's a mess in there.”

They entered a door just back of the driving area and found themselves in a small lounge/kitchen. The cabinets and fittings were of the best.

Plush,” said Barney. “Where's the blood?”

Back here.” Buffey led them down the short hall past bookshelves that seemed to hold only porno books and magazines. Further down were a toilet and shower. The entire rear of the camper was filled by a large, comfortable bed with fluffy pillows. Lacy curtains shaded the one-way glass windows. He flicked on a light which reflected garishly from a mirror in the ceiling.

The silken sheets were so gory that you could hardly tell that their original color was gold. The walls and curtains were spattered with blood.

You're right, Barney” said Bo. “This has got to be the place.”

Yeah,” replied Kowalski. “Now, where's the rest of her?” He began opening cabinets in the hall, then stopped.

Bo—”

Yeah, Barn?” Bo and Buffey stepped over and peered around Kowalski into the broom closet he had opened. There, impaled on a mop handle, was the missing head.

My God!” gagged Buffey. He stumbled out of the camper.

At least it wasn't you, this time,” said Barney.

That's because I'm numb!” Bo retorted. “Looks like Doc was right. She was a brunette. And pretty, too. Say, Barn, take a look at this!”

A message was scrawled in blood on the inside of the closet door; 'ALPHA'

Barney nodded. “I'll finish up here, Bo. You get Doc and the techs here fast —and arrange to have the head transported to the morgue as soon as we're through with it.”

Two hours later they sat in a diner and compared notes.

That layout was really posh,” Bo remarked. “It must have cost a fortune. Maybe she's a rich kid who picked up the wrong hitchhiker.”

According to the driver's license in that purse we found in there, her name was Mary Lee Jacobs. She was twenty-five. No occupation listed. Her address is local, but not in the rich district by a long shot. It's on the tender end of Loyne street. Did you happen to notice one thing about that motor home?”

What?”

It has a CB”

So? Most of them do these days . . .” Then Bo looked shocked. You mean—?”

Yeah. I think the nut called in his own crime —from a safe distance, of course!”

Bo shook his head in wonderment. “You know, Barn, this 'alpha' business bothers me. Do you think he's gonna go through the whole alphabet?”

That haunts me too, Bo” said Barney.

He could be a military man —you know, phonetic alphabet and all.”

Sure, or a cop. We use it too, y'know. Or he could be a Greek.”

What's our next move?”

We check out her address.”

The address on Loyne turned out to be a sleazy hotel of the sort catering to down-at -the-heels traveling men, old pensioners, and tired hookers. The desk clerk spotted them for fuzz the second they walked in the door. He was an unappetizing gross lump of flesh who so filled his cubicle that he appeared to have grown there. He wore no jacket, an open-collared shirt, and suspended trousers. This, not to mention the beer clutched in one beefy paw proclaimed that he knew the joint lacked class and didn't give a damn. He peered at Kowalski and Cohen belligerently.

Whaddaya want? I run a good place here. Just ask the beat cop,

Barney raised his hands in supplication. “Cool it, cool it. Don't go off half-cocked. Does a girl named Mary Lee Jacobs live here?”

The clerk looked honestly puzzled. “Nah. I know all the dames here. There ain't no Mary Jacobs.”

Barney described her.

The desk clerk's face went blank. Something flickered behind his eyes. His next words were reluctant. “Yeah— you must mean Ginger Lee. She ain't in now. What's she done?”

Nothing,” said Bo. “How about letting us see her room?”

Hey, I don't know about that,” blustered the clerk. “Ain't you supposed to have a warrant or something?”

Barney reached across the desk and grabbed a handful of shirt. “Friend, we're from Homicide and you wouldn't want to obstruct justice would you? How about it?”

Okay, okay! 203!” Sweat beaded his porcine nose and cheeks. “But she shares that room with another girl who might be there now.” He handed Barney a key.

Stay put —and stay off the phone,” warned Bo as he and Barney headed for the stairs.

At room 203 there was no answer to their knock, so they used the key and entered. The room looked lived in —in only the way that two messy and uncaring single females can leave a room. There were twin beds, a single large dresser with a mirror, a small table and a couple of well-worn easy chairs. Clothes hung in the closet, but were also draped casually everywhere else. The tiny bathroom was festooned with drying pantyhose. Letters lay on the dresser addressed to Ginger Lee and to a Cindy Masters. One envelope, addressed to 'Jenny Baker', had the address crossed out. Someone had marked it 'Return to Sender'. The sender had given no name, but the return address was out of state. Barney and Bo noted all this as they carefully searched the premises. They found a photo album that belonged to Ginger Lee. They confiscated the album and the letters.

Using the room phone, Barney put in a call to the department. A few minutes later he replaced the receiver and called to Bo, who was rummaging in the closet.

Leave it, Bo, we're finished here. The'll be a some techs along in a bit and we'll leave a man on the place so we won't miss Cindy Masters. We now know what these ladies do for a living. Ginger has a record as a hooker from way back. It figures that Cindy is one too.

Both working out of one room? And from the looks of things there must have beena third girl here, too,” Bo exclaimed. “What'd they do? Work shifts?”

No, Bo,” replied Barney. “We saw Ginger's 'office' already. What we have here, obviously, is the home base of at least one mobile whore —and possibly two or three!”

Bo's eyes grew round. “The oldest profession has some new wrinkles! How do they get their customers —flag 'em down on the highway? Maybe that jerk downstairs pimps for them!”

Barney scratched his head. “Maybe. At any rate he's got some questions to answer. They also could be working for whoever provided that expensive set of wheels. These gals usually work out of the truck stops, but I think this bunch came up with a new turn.”

What's that?”

CB” I think they meet their customers on the airways.”

Hey, yeah! That could be it. Then our murderer must own a CB.

It's possible,” said Barney. “C'mon, let's question the rest of the people in this dump. We might get lucky.”

Since we're dealing with a fruitcake, that's probably the only way we'll ever get him,” muttered Bo.

They left the room and entered the dimly lit hall which was carpeted with a frayed 'Persian' rug made in Belgium. There were ten rooms on the floor. The locks on three doors were broken and the rooms were empty. They showed no signs of recent occupancy. Four more were locked and there was no reply to their knocks.

They were luckier at 205, next door to 203. The door opened on a chain lock and a tiny, apple-cheeked face crowned with snow hair above merry blue eyes showed itself between the door and the jamb. “Yes?” chirped the lady who owned this vision of geriatric loveliness.

Barney identified them and asked about “the girls next door.”

The door closed and the chain lock removed and the boor was opened wide. A spry, slim little lady in her younger seventies stood before them. She wore a very up-to-date and well-fitted beige pantsuit. “How exciting!” she said. “You must come right in. I hope the girls aren't in any trouble. They've always been very kind to me. We're really good friends. Please sit down. Will you have some tea?”

Barney and Bo could see that this was more like an efficiency apartment than a room. The furniture was tasteful and the room was as lovely and ageless as its occupant—whose name, she said, was Mrs. Ruth Juergen. He and Bo sank into a comfortable couch and Mrs. Juergen perched perkily on a straight chair in front of them. They woefully declined the tea. Mrs. Juergen looked disappointed.

I hardly ever have any visitors, you see. It would have been nice,” she said.

She straightened up and, placing her hands together in her lap, spoke directly to Barney. “All right, to business, then. What can I do for you?”

Do you see the girls next door often, ma'am?” Barney asked.

Oh, yes, every day. Not in the evening or night of course. They work then.”

And . . . uh . . . are you acquainted with the nature of their . . . err . . . work?”

Why, certainly, young man,” her eyes twinkled mischievously. “I wan't born yesterday y'know! They follow an ancient and well established profession. But they are good, kind girls all the same and I am proud to call them my friends. They do my washing for me and all sorts of little errands that make life pleasanter —at least Ginger and Cindy do. There was a third girl with them for awhile . . . Jenny, think her name was. She was a mess. On those awful drugs. Ginger and Cindy took her in for a bit and we all tried to help her . . . uh . . . 'kick the habit' I think you say . . . but it was no use. She finally overdosed and died. I believe it was in the papers. Happened at some party where a lot of drugs were being used.”

I remember that, Barn,” said Bo. “It was at that pusher's pad a couple of weeks ago.”

Oh yeah,” replied Barney. “They locked up the jerk didn't they? They raided the place before he could get rid of her body. Some neighbor called. Narco handled it.”

That was it,” said Mrs. Juergen. “That was what happened. Poor girl . . . But we could all see it coming. She was just no good to herself or anybody else. She had a very strict upbringing . . . too strict, apparently, and just decided to kick over the traces and went from one mistake to another.” She shook her head. “There's so much of that these days!”

Do Ginger and Cindy ever use drugs, Mrs. Juergen?” asked Barney.

Oh, no. Of course I can't say for certain, but I'm sure that they'd never do it. In fact Ginger told me once that it was bad for business. Why don't you ask them yourselves? Cindy said that she had got her hair done before going to work so you won't see her till tomorrow, but Ginger ought to be there. She usually looks in on me before this.”

Barney looked uncomfortable. “She can't, Mrs. Juergen,” he said quietly. “she's dead. We're investigating her murder.”

Ruth Juergen's straight little body sagged. She stood up and walked stiffly to the window and stood for a bit with her back to them.

Mrs. Juergen . . . ”

She turned. Her face was wet with tears. “I do so hate people t-that lose control, don't you? Oh, why did it have to happen to that fine girl? Does Cindy know yet? How did it happen?” She returned to her seat.

Barney explained as much as he felt she should know. He didn't mention the decapitation. “Now, is there any way you can help us? Did you see Ginger yesterday? Do you happen to know who she planned to see?”

Mrs. Juergen shook her head. Her hands clenched and unclenched in her lap. “No. I-I saw Ginger, yes, but I didn't know where she planned to go or who she planned to see . . . I never pry. Maybe that is why they became my friends. I can ask Cindy when I see her tomorrow, if you want . . . ”

Do you know any of Ginger's friends or steady customers?” asked Bo.

No. Like I said, I don't like to pry.”

Barney stood. “Thank you, Mrs. Juergen. If you think of anything, we'll have a man outside Gingers door in the hall for awhile. Just tell him and he'll get it right to us.”

Outside the door, Bo muttered. “What's a nice, sweet little old dame like her doin' in a dump like this?”

Barney grimaced. “Poor old gal probably can't afford anything better. You know how little Social Security amounts to these days.

They tried more rooms with no response to their knocks. The last one they tried was #208. Almost immediately the door was opened to reveal a large, lean man in his fifties with a face that could have been carved out of frozen vinegar. He wore a black suit with a white shirt and string tie. His tight little mouth creaked open: “Yes?”

Barney and Bo identified themselves and went into their spiel. The man shook his head emphatically. “Nope. Don't know nothin' about them gals. Handmaidens of the devil, if you ask me! Temptin' good men away from the path righteousness! I only been here a few days, but I know their kind, Haven't said nary a word to 'em and don't intend to. They deserve anything that happens to 'em!”

What makes you think something has happened to them?” queried Barney sharply.

The man was taken back, then said: “Stands to reason, don't it? When the minions of Caeser come nosin' about after a body, somethin's either happened to 'em —or is about to happen to 'em!”

You say you have only been here a few days?” asked Bo.

Yep. Got here last Monday. Thought I'd drop in on my Bishop.” He drew his lanky frame up proudly. “I am the Reverend Thomas Barlow, sir. A minister of God in the Church of the Everlasting Lord. It ain't a big church, but we like it that way. I got my call twenty years ago and have been chasin' sinners and savin' souls ever since.”

The man would give them no further information. Barney thanked him and he closed his door, leaving them standing in the hall.

It took them the rest of the afternoon to check out the residents of the five-story hotel. Some were cooperative (when it was made clear that they were not the targets of investigation), others were hostile. No new information was developed. Back on the second floor, the patrolman now standing in front of 203 reported that the technicians had come and gone, but no Cindy.

What now, Barn?” asked Bo.

We go see a friend of mine,” Kowalski replied.

Barney took the wheel and drove them out to the northern suburbs, turning off the north-south highway into a large development of postage stamp lots and identical, boxy, asbestos-shingled cottages. Barney pulled up in front of one of them. The steps leading to the front door were covered by a strong wooden ramp with side rails. A cheerful voice answered their knock: “Come on in. It's not locked!”

They entered a small parlor where all the furniture seemed carefully lined against the walls to give the maximum amount of floor space. A small, middle-aged black man sat in a wheel-chair in one corner hunched over a table littered with electronic gear. Bo noticed an excellent instrument of the sort used by CB base stations. The man grinned and waved at them when he recognized Barney. “Hi! What are you doin' out here, Lieutenant? I don't think I know your friend.”

Mike Callahan, meet Bolivar Cohen. Nice to see you, Mike. How's the dictionary coming?”

Mike turned his chair to face them. He had no legs. He grinned again. “It marches,” he said. “It marches. Begorrah, a Spanish Jew teamed with and Irish Polack. Glad to know you, Cohen. I'm a mixture too. You might say I'm one of them Black Irish!” He chuckled at his own joke. “Can I offer you gents a beer?”

Bo looked hopeful, but Barney said, “Thanks, no, Mike. This is a duty call.” He turned to Bo. “I've known Mike about 10 years, since the hit-and-run that left him legless. I nailed the crumb that did it. Mike's some kind of electronic genius and lately he's been getting into CB. He's compiling a dictionary of CV lingo, so he listens to it most of the time.”

I see where you're headin',” said Bo.

But I don't,” said Mike. How can I help you? Sit down and tell me all about it.”

Barney and Bo sat. Barney briefly outlined the case they were on. “So, you see, Mike, we need to get a line on the way these mobile mammas operate. Did you happen to be listening last night?”

About what time?”

Say between eight and ten pm — make it eleven pm, just to be on the safe side.”

Yeah. Not only did I listen, I taped some good stuff. Mostly truckers, but there were a few dames. What's her handle?”

Handle?”

Yeah. You know, the name she uses on the air.”

Oh,” said Barney. We've got a couple of names, but I don't think we've got any 'handles' yet.”

Well,” said Mike, reaching over to a shelf lined with tapes, “during that period last night we had quite a bit of action . . . Ah . . . These are the ones I want . . .” He consulted t notebook. “Okay, at eight-fifteen Tillie the Trucker came on. I don't think she's your gal. I met her once and she's a straight arrow. Handles an eighteen-wheeler outa Detroit.”

Definitely not.” said Barney.

Right. Then we got Swingin' Susie at 8:29. She was looking for beer company as I remember.”

That's a possible,”

Mmmh . . . Now, at 9:10 pm we got Aura Lee.”

Orally?”

No. A-U-R-A Lee,” said Mike. “Like the poem—but the thought could be there. She had a real sexy voice.”

Barney!” cried Bo. “That could be it: Mary Lee . . . Ginger Lee . . . Aura Lee! I'll bet that's our gal!”

I'd like to hear that one, Mike. Any others?” said Barney.

Just one. Another sexy, come-hither dame who called herself Cinder Ella. She was on the air about 10:30. I remember her 'cause she got no returns on her call that time.I'd heard her on the air earlier—about 7 pm and she made a date with some trucker to meet him at a truck stop north of town.”

That must be Cindy!” said Bo, exitedly.

Let's hear Aura Lee now, Mike.” said Barney.

Mike placed the seven inch reel on his recorder and pressed the fast-forward button, keeping an eye on the counter. Finally, he stopped it, grunting with satisfaction, and pressed 'play.'

A soft, breathy female voice filled the room.

. . . You got Aura Lee. Come on . . .Say again, good buddy, you're breakin' up. . .”

Why can't we hear her caller?” asked Barney.

Mike stopped the recorder. “Whoever was calling her must have had a small set —possibly a hand-held job. He was close to her, but too far off for me to pick up his signal.” He pressed 'play' again.

. . . Okay, Alpha Man, that's better. C'mon . . . You got a pooped-out pedaler in a portable pad--. that's me, but I can't eyeball you. Are you over my shoulder? . . . Uh-huh . . .Hey, let's get together and split a brown bottle. D'you known the chew and choke on the right just past the hole-in the-wall?. . . Okay, see you in five. Here's eighty-eights to you and Aura Lee is clear.”

Mike stopped the recorder. “Alpha Man,” breathed Barney. “Damn! I wish we could have heard him. Save that tape, Mike. That's our victim all right, making a date with her killer!”

Right, Barney,” Mike rewound the tape and took it off the machine. He boxed it and made a notation on the box. Then he handed it to Barney. “Here, you take it. I've noted down the counter numbers where you can find her message.”

Thanks, Mike,” Barney turned to go. “C'mon, Bo.”

Mike laid his hand on Barney's arm. “Say, are you guys interested in that Cinder dame too?”

Yeah,” said Barney. “We'd like to find her.”

Well, I just got her on tape again a little before you guys showed up—must have been about 5:30.”

Let's hear it!”

Mike picked up a reel from the table top and fitted it onto his machine. He scrunched his brows together in thought, then held down the fast-forward button for about 15 seconds. Then he pushed the 'play' button.

. . . This is Careful Charlie clear with his hammer down .. . . Keep On Truckin . . .”

There was a brief hiss of static, then a cheerful female voice gave some call letters and said:

. . . This is Cinder Ellie, a bodacious beaver loose on big nineteen. Anyone got ears? C'mon . . .” A male voice identified itself as Horrible Harry and tried to make a date, but Cindy didn't buy it. “Now, Horrible, you ought to know I know your voice by now. You were Lonesome Larry last week and I figure you are still a County Mounty —and I just left your stompin' grounds. So long, Horrible . . .If nobody can give this beaver some good numbers, she'll just have to put a cork in it. C'mon . . .” There was a brief pause filled by a faint indiscernible babbling. Cindy must have understood, however, for she answered. “You must be barefoot, Cotton Picker, your signal's week . . .” Gabble followed.

What does she mean, 'barefoot'?” asked Bo.

It means he's got a low-powered CB, like the guy last night.”

But he was Alpha Man, not Cotton Picker.”

Shh! Cotton Picker's not a handle. It's like 'good buddy'. Now, please shut up. She's talking again.”

Aw,mercy, mercy, Omega Man. You vibe good, but let's eyeball each other over some road tar. What're you pushing? C'mon.” Gabble.

She says he sounds good, but she wants to check him out over a cuppa joe,” Mike explained. “She's got the lingo all right.”

She sure does,” said Bo. “Sounds like a new language.”

That's exactly what it is!” Said Mike. “Hush, here she goes again.”

Okay, Omega Man, it's a date. I know the place. I'll bang a u-ee —pun intended—and see you there in twenty minutes. You'll recognize my rig. It's a portable bedroom with twin mamas mounted rear. This is Cinder Ella clear. Keep the greasy side down and the shiny side up. . .”

Mike cut off the recorder. “I'd like to meet that girl. She could really add to my vocabulary!” he said.

In more ways than one!” said Bo. “Say, what'd she mean by twin mamas?”

Two nine-foot antennas. She's got 'em on the rear bumper of her mobile home.”

My God,” said Barney. “It's almost six. She must be with him now. Maybe she's late. Mike, can you raise her on that thing?”

Sure.” Mike turned to his radio set, flipped a switch and set the channel-selector carefully. He spoke into his microphone: “Breaker, breaker nineteen, this is an emergency call.” He gave his station designation and continued, “This is Black Elf calling Cinder Ella. C'mon . . . “ He repeated this two or three times with no results. “She's not on the air,” he said.

We've got to find her or she's dead!” said Barney.

Let me try something,” said Mike. He turned to his set. “This is Black Elf lookin' for Cinder Ella. She's drivin' a portable pad with twin mamas mounted rear and banged a u u-ee about 30 minutes ago. Who's got ears, c'mon?”

Black Elf, this is Hangover Hal parked at a bean store on 29 north. A portable pad
with twin mamas banged a u-ee on my front awhile ago on 29 and headed towards the wall. Don't know if that's your party, but a beaver was pushin' it and had the hammer down. Any help? Back.”

That's a big ten-four! Good numbers to you, Hangover Hal. This is Black Elf, Clear.” Mike turned to Barney. “That give you any ideas?”

Yeah,” Barney said. “Remember where Aura Lee met him? The Chew and Choke on the right past the hole in the wall — translation, please, Mike.

That'd be Rosie's Diner. Going north through the Markham Tunnel it would be on the right.”

Thanks, Mike!” Barney started to leave, then turned back while Bo went out to start the car. “They might leave there and be on their way before we can get to them. You keep trying to raise her, Mike, and if you do, try to get her to stop and get away from her vehicle. Tell her you're behind her and her rig is on fire or something. It might get us some time. I don't think the jerk will try anything out in the open.” Mike nodded, and Barney hustled out.

Siren screaming, they sped back to the highway. Barney muttered, “Damn! I'll take us ten minutes to get there from here.” He grabbed the mike. “Dispatch, this is King-2. We're in Seneca about to turn north on 29 to Rosie's Diner. Murder suspect believed there with intended victim. Are any other units closer?” Dispatch responded: “Negative. No units closer than fifteen minutes due to rush-hour traffic and other calls.” “Hellfire!” cried Barney. He pressed the mike button. “Get us at least two units there for backup as soon as you can. This is a Code Three!”

Never a cop when you need one,” said Bolivar, concentrating on his driving. “I hope that piece drinks slow coffee.”

The minutes seemed to drag as they weaved their way north through the heavy traffic, crashing through stoplights, narrowly missing cars and pedestrians.

The mile-long Markham tunnel was choked with cars moving at a steady forty miles an hour. The clangor of their siren in the confined space reverberated endlessly.

Turn that damn thing off,” said Barney. “It won't do us any good in here.”

Finally they emerged from the tunnel and could see Rosie's Diner about 600 yards ahead.

There they are!” cried Bolivar.

Sure enough, a large Dodge motor home had just turned out of the Rosie's Diner parking lot into the North-bound traffic. Barney could see the twin antennas mounted on the rear bumper. An army of commuter traffic surged between them.

Hit that siren again, Bo!” cried Barney. “C'mon, you turkeys, move! Okay, Cindy-baby, turn on your CB! Damn, they're really movin', Bo! We've gotta get this clunker to the shop. It can't cut it any more. Can't you step on it a little?”

Don't bother me, I'm busy, muttered Bo as he whipped the Plymouth around an antique Chevy whose aged owner must have bean deaf. “Hey, look! They're slowing down and pulling over. Mike must have gotten through to her!”

The motor home drove onto the grassy verge on the right and stopped. A startlingly pretty blonde leaped out of the driver's side. Clutching a small fire extinguisher, she ran to the rear of the vehicle and peered under it. A man climbed out the passenger door as the two detectives screeched to a stop. He took one look at them and turned to run. Barney leaped out of the Patrol car, drew his thirty-eight and aimed it at the man across the open door. “Move, Reverend, and I'll blow your head off!” The man froze, his hands in the air. “Go get him, Bo!”

Bo frisked the man expertly, coming up with a ten-inch carving knife which he wrapped very carefully in a handkerchief. Cindy, who had stood by as if mesmerized, her eyes flicking from person to person, gasped when she saw the knife. Bo whirled the man around and handcuffed him. Face-on, it was easy to recognize the vinegary visage of Thomas Barlow, their acquaintance from Room 208.

Barney straightened up and walked over to Cindy. Sirens could be heard approaching Rosie's Diner. Barney called to Bo, “Stick that turkey in the back seat, Bo, and send our back-up home. We'll take him in ourselves.” Bo waved and propelled the now listless Barlow towards the Patrol car.

Cindy had, by now, recovered some of her poise. She held the extinguisher with two hands like a club. “What the hell is going on here? Are you busting me, too?.

Gently, Barney explained. Cindy's blue eyes grew big and round, then her face crumbled. Dropping the extinguisher she clutched blindly at Barney and flooded his shoulder with tears. “Mary . . . Ginger . . . dead . . . and . . . me next! But why? We've never hurt anybody!”

Barney patted her back. “It's over now. You're safe. I don't know why he did it, Cindy.” Then, a thought occurred to him. He disengaged himself and turned her face towards him. “Cindy, who was Jenny Baker's father?”

Why . . . he . . . I think he's a preacher. I never met him. Jenny couldn't stand him. He's the reason she . . . You mean that's . . .” Horror filled her eyes as she jerked around to peer at the figure in the Plymouth.

Yes,” said Barney. “I think so. I'll bet his ID reads 'Baker' and not 'Barlow'. I think he blamed you two for Jenny's death.

My God!” Cindy could think of nothing else to say.

At the end of their shift Bolivar drove Barney home.

Barn,” he said. “How'd you know it was the Rev? You couldn't see his face from where you were”

You need to study our bible as well as yours, Bo,” replied Barney. “You thought we were going to have a whole alphabet of murders. I knew who it was as soon as I heard Cindy talking to him on the CB. He never planned more than two: 'I am the Alpha and Omega—I am the Beginning and the End.'

Pretty good,” admitted Bo. “It sure is nice to save someone's life for a change. That nice old chick, Mrs. Juergen, will be happy.

Oh yeah,” said Barney. “I meant to tell you. I checked with Vice. That 'nice old chick' is the owner of that hotel and, incidentally, also owns those motor homes. She's a well-known madam they've been trying to pin down for years.”

Bolivar groaned. “Doggone it! You can't trust anyone anymore!”

Keep your eyes on the road, Bo!. Let's keep the greasy side down and the shiny side up. . .!”


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