Poor Dead Doris. 19k. Adult Mystery. | By: Oscar A Rat | | Category: Short Story - Mystery Bookmark and Share

Poor Dead Doris. 19k. Adult Mystery.


July 2003, Smith City in Ohio. 

The old lady lay silently though not exactly in peaceful slumber. Rather than resting in peace, her repose appeared violated by two city employees hovering over the bed. They were Smith City detectives. Her, or its, eyes were open accusingly, mouth gaping as if to say, “Leave me alone, you bastards.”  At least that was Detective Sergeant Jablonski’s impression, and would have also been his choice of expletive if it were him being exposed to the world in a similar condition. 

The body lay on its back on the bed, sheets twisted as if fighting its demise -- an all too familiar sight to them both.

Jablonski’s partner, Detective Second-Grade Edwards, stood in the open doorway to the room. It was a single in a cheap residential hotel. The coroner's assistant had been called to certify death and he was waiting for her to appear. 

Once a popular stay, luring visiting tourists and businessmen, the Statler Hotel had downgraded to cheap lodgings for local residents and prostitutes; showing its age by a sign reading “Stat_ _ _ _ otel." Even local pimps lived in better quarters around the corner.

“Here she is, Trix.” Edwards led the assistant coroner, named Trixie Thompson, over to the reposing body. Trixie's looks did little to belie her name, in that the lady looked as though she would fit well on the stage of an ancient burlesque theater next door. A tall, fashionably-dressed brunette, thick glasses magnified the image of large green eyes, accentuating their color.

“This okay?” she asked, nodding at a cluttered dresser top near the bed as a place to leave her bag.

“Better not. At least until you make your expert opinion, Trix,” John Jablonski told her. In that city, every death rated the heading of “homicide” unless, or until, the cause was known without doubt. Even little old ladies dying peacefully in bed. 

“Here, this should be okay.” Using a hankie, he pulled over a kitchen chair that had been sitting in a corner. Just one hell of a way to start a Friday, John thought.

Trixie sat a brown medical kit on the edge of the chair, laid out a few instruments and began a simple but, to her, repetitive task of determining an initial opinion on cause of death. While John complained of a few times a week, Trixie repeated that duty three to eight times a day.

While she was busy, the detectives looked the room over. It seemed cut and dried -- an old woman dying alone in bed. Neither detective or ME expected any complications. 

It was only bad luck that they'd caught the squeal on their way to work. Hell, it was bad enough, John thought, that they had to suffer through the constant chatter of radios in their official cars, but now the damned things were required in personal vehicles. Detective work needed concentration and who could concentrate while listening for a call sign among idle chatter? 

“About time we had some free time,” Edwards said, looking out a dirty window at a brick wall. “Jane and I are supposed to go to a PTA meeting tonight. I’ve missed the last two. How you going to spend them?”

“Dunno. Probably sip cheap wine and watch tv.“ John shrugged, watching Trixie. Single, he admired that view better than the brick wall showing through the outside window.

The landlady had knocked on Mabel Trum’s door that morning. No cooking being allowed in single rooms, the two older ladies normally breakfasted together in the hotel manager’s apartment. That morning, Mabel hadn’t shown up. 

Since they were such good friends, the landlady had checked on her. Discovering poor Mabel still asleep, she had shaken her by the shoulder -- with no reaction. In her capacity, the landlady had seen many dead bodies and recognized her friend would never again be down for breakfast. Checking the magnets on her own refrigerator door, she had called the police to start events rolling.

“Well, John?” Edwards poked a pen at a 10x11 photo of three people standing next to what looked like a Ford from the forties or fifties. It appeared to be a normal-looking shot for the time-frame, but more like Bonnie and Clyde in that two of them had the handles of pistols protruding from their waistbands or pockets. Except by a trained policeman such as Larry Edwards, the weapons were barely discernible in the small print. He bent into dim light filtering through the dirty window to study the photo. 

“With any luck we should have a weekend off for a change,” he said, looking closer. A rifle or shotgun barrel could be seen through the glass in the back window of the Ford. “Hey, John. Take a look at this.”

Jablonski leaned over to pick the photo up with two fingers and his handkerchief, holding it to the light.

“Don’t look like one of those amusement park backgrounds.” Jablonski studied the photo, glancing back and forth from the body to the teenage girl in the shot. “Looks like a younger edition of our body here, Larry. Wonder if she has a record?”

“I suppose we can run her prints after Trixie gets them? Wouldn’t hurt nothing,” Edwards answered, idly stirring items around on the dresser top with the tip of his pen. 

The detectives were killing time until Trixie finished making her ruling of death from old age in some form or other. Although mildly curious, both knew they wouldn’t really bother running the prints. The two had too much other work to do if they hoped for time off.

After Trixie finished, the detectives would search the room for identification, notify the meat wagon and the deceased's relatives -- if any, then go on to other things. After finding a cup of coffee and donuts on the way to the station, of course. 

Later, Trixie would send a report to them giving information to use in their own one-page summation. That would be the end of it. The two had up to a half-dozen of those deaths to check out in an average week.

“I don’t think you guys are going to make it home this weekend.” Trixie interrupted their puttering around. “Come here a minute.”

She had the corpse’s head cocked to the side and, using a penlight, showed them several red spots on the exterior of the left ear, along with a small glint of red inside. A dribble of dried blood led from the inner ear down to the earlobe, hardly noticeable unless you were looking.

“I’ll have to take the body back for Dr. Johnson to do an autopsy, gentlemen. It looks from here as though it’s an icepick wound and someone has jammed toilet paper in to stop the bleeding. Sorry fellows.” She grinned up at them as though she weren’t all that sorry.

Icepick. Icepick? Jablonski thought. Where the hell did you find one of those things these days? A few years back he had even looked, and couldn’t find one anywhere. Glancing at his partner, he said, sighing, “Looks like a very long night.”


Back in 1942 Doris Trumbell had been an abomination -- ask her parents. Only sixteen, the girl had already earned a long juvenile record. Nothing serious: minor shoplifting, curfew violations, fights in school, drinking alcohol, and petty theft. Her parents were praying they could survive until their daughter made eighteen and could be legally ejected from their home. Assuming Doris would, at the rate she was going, make it to that age.

It wasn’t her actions around her parents, brother, and sister that worried them. Doris was rarely seen at home, living with whichever man or boy would support her. It was the potential for trouble that worried her hard-working parents. At any moment, they expected a telephone call that Doris was either dead or in jail. It seemed a tossup as to which would come first.

The country was in the throes of WWII war production. Men being scarce, even women were accepted in industry. Rationing was the norm, with a black market to supply goods to the populace. Police manpower also being affected by the draft, crime escalated almost out of control.


“S’all right, Jerry Honey,” young Doris whispered, leading the mark through the back door of an abandoned and empty house, “Mama ain’t home. She works nights at the Acme Plant.” Both of them obviously drunk, she stumbled on the top step, skinning her knee. “Ouhhh, that damn step.” She giggled drunkenly. “Shhhh, don’ wanna wake the neighbors.”

No way he could lie and say she looked eighteen, Jerry Honey knew. “Yeah baby, don’t want the neighbors to see.” He followed her into an empty kitchen.

Although drunk, Jerry Honey had enough sense left to notice the room was indeed empty. It had nothing in it but the kitchen sink and piles of trash.

“Hey, Janet, babe. What the hell--”

The flat of a half-rotten two-by-four jerked his head forward, blood splattering a wall. Jerry Honey fell to his knees.

“Hey, watch it.” Doris, suddenly a great deal soberer, jerked away. “You’ll get it on me. Ick.”

Jerry Honey was jolted by another blow, that one against the right side of his head. Since he was trying to stagger up at the time, he fell over instead. Two more blows, the last breaking the dry board, and Jerry Honey was out for the night.

“Damn it. That board stung my wrist when it broke, and I got splinters in my hand,” Harry complained, sucking on a bleeding thumb while Doris went through Jerry Honey’s pockets. She remembered to take off the guy’s watch. Still bickering, the two simply walked through the empty house and out the front door.

Harry was parked down the block. While he drove, Doris examined their loot.

“Pretty good, baby. We got us over forty dollars and a cheap watch.” She took out two tens and the watch, passing them to her confederate. “You keep the watch. It’s a man’s.”

“You wanna come home with me, Doris? I have a bottle of Crown Royal, unopened?” Harry checked the watch in the light of the car's dome light, then flipped it out his window. He rented a small room in an apartment building. Prices there were cheap, with most of their former roomers in the military.

“Na, I’ve had enough for one night. Just take me to my place. Pete’s gonna be home before long and he gets angry if I’m not there.”

“I don’t know what you see in that guy, short and fat. I can just imagine you two in bed, as though you were a minnow topped by a whale.” 

Both laughed at the implied picture.

“Now, it ain’t all that bad, Harry.” Doris giggled as she got out. 

Her lover wasn’t home yet. Doris poured herself a drink of vodka and Coca-Cola and turned on the radio. She almost had Pete convinced. If he wasn’t such a coward, she would have done so long before and be out of that hick town by then. Despite his looks, and his relative impotence, Pete had a couple of good attributes.

For one thing, he had been wounded early in the war and was an experienced soldier. He also worked as an assistant manager at the First National Bank downtown and, to make it even sweeter, was a gun collector. Pete even owned one of those tommy-guns the gangsters used to use, supposed to be Pretty Boy Floyd’s, and had taught her how to shoot it.

In those days, defense plants going full blast and cash payrolls weekly, banks brought small bills in on Fridays to cover paychecks. She was trying to get her lover to come in on a robbery at his bank, right after an armored truck dropped off the payroll money.

The bank had few employees. They were: Mr. Simpson, the manager; his assistant, Pete; two loan clerks and three tellers. Not even a uniformed guard. Pete had bragged one time of having over $100,000 on hand for a typical payday, counting the usual amount kept for emergencies and daily use.

At first, Harry wanted Doris to serve as the getaway driver, which she flatly refused.

“I set the whole damned thing up and you ain’t leaving me in no frickin’ car,” she fairly screamed in anger at Harry and their friend, Sammy. “If it wouldn’t be for me, you’d be home jerking off and talking about robbing another gas station. I go in or I’m taking my guns and going home.”

Finally, all of them agreed on simply leaving the car running out back with the doors locked and all three going in. The lot back there was usually empty and they wouldn’t be inside long. 

Doris had never been in the bank with her boyfriend. Pete was against letting the world know he had a sixteen -- young looking sixteen at that -- year-old girlfriend.


One sunny day in July they parked in back of the bank. The lot was empty except for a few employee cars parked against a fence at the rear. Wearing Halloween masks, they went in through the little-used back door. Doris, dressed as a boy, carried her favorite -- the tommy-gun -- in a large brown-paper shopping bag, hand on the pistol grip. 

As the others headed for the teller section in the front, Doris fired a burst of .45cal rounds into the ceiling. One old man and two female customers were there at the time. Nobody needed to say anything. The three customers simply stood silently, staring at Doris and her smoking bag.

Excitedly, nervous energy boosting her senses, she motioned them against a wall while trying to keep one eye on her companions who were active on the other side of the counter. 

Pete had reluctantly agreed to go along with the robbery -- as long as no one was hurt. He was to act as surprised as the others but to make certain the robbers found all the money and to help prevent anyone from fighting back.

Keeping an eye on the customers and the front door, Doris edged toward the partition. Pete, maybe misunderstanding his role, was taking far too active a part. Doris saw him helping stuff bags -- standing right alongside Harry. Harry’s shotgun, actually one of Pete’s own, lay on a counter between them.

The manager and tellers were lying on the floor, Sammy guarding them while watching the two frantically fill cloth sacks. 

The employees must realize something is wrong with that picture, Doris was thinking. At least one was probably wondering why Pete, a combat vet, didn’t grab the gun and fight back, and why he was helping them so willingly. 

Doris sighed. Pete’s willing attitude could ruin the whole damned plan. She knew her boyfriend and that he would talk if threatened with prison.

Sammy, supposedly on guard on that side of the counter, didn’t seem to notice one of the male loan officers lying next to a desk pulling a telephone to the floor by the cord.

Doris fired a couple of rounds at the man to frighten him. The guy ducked and pulled harder, the telephone falling off the desk and landing next to him. As he grabbed at it, Doris adjusted her aim and fired a long burst. The loan officer jerked as several .45cal rounds stitched his body. The smell of cordite accompanied rattling of empty cartridge cases as they hit an imitation-marble floor. One of the women screamed.   

Panicking, Doris heard Pete yell and jerked her weapon in his direction, firing into his body as he turned and Harry dodged out of the line of fire. It was simply a reflex but, with the stakes raised, maybe the best solution, she decided later.

The bank robbers escaped the way they'd come in, through the back door and out of the lot. 

“Whooo, that was a blast,” Harry said, sweating hands on the wheel as they sped out of town. “Let’s head for Texas, uh? Blow this asshole town?”

“Not me,” Sammy replied, slumping down in the passenger seat, exhausted both physically and nervously. “I got a family here. Drop me off before you go.”

Doris herself had been thinking, too. She realized it would be trouble if she disappeared. Since she lived with Pete, the police would be certain to notice her gone. She didn’t want them searching for her as a victim -- or a suspect.

“I can’t go either, Harry,” she told him.

“I thought that was why you did it, to get money for a new life?” Harry protested, settling back to his driving. He'd halfway planned on taking her with him.

“Yeah, but not as a fugitive. Later, once things cool down.”

“Well, count out the money and give me my share. I’m getting the hell out of here.” Harry turned down Smith road on his way to Sammy’s shack.

Since the moneybags were in back with Doris, she opened them and, separating cash from checks and other diverse papers, began sorting and counting currency. There was a little over $70,000 in the bags. Splitting it into three piles -- since it didn't look like Pete would be needing any -- she stuffed the money back into three bank-bags. 

Doris handed two of the bags up front to the others, keeping the one with her share and shoving the excess papers to the floor. Now why the hell did they bring out all that extra shit? she thought, but Pete had insisted, shoveling them in with the cash.

“About $23,000 apiece,” she told them. “Drop me off with Sammy. And you better give me Pete’s guns.” The other two grabbed their loot and passed back the pistols and shotgun they had used in the robbery.

Although Sammy turned on the car radio, there was nothing on the local station about a bank robbery. They had stolen the car for the occasion and had their own parked at Sammy’s place. 

Sammy was land poor. His family owned a good deal of mountainside but the land had little value. Too sandy, rocky, and sloping to farm, it was mostly covered by scrub trees and brush. Good for hunting but for little else.
Harry and Sammy had left their cars at an ancient falling-apart shack a squatter had built deep in the woods behind Sammy’s house. The building was large enough to have space to hide the robbery car inside. With the heavy brush and isolation, nobody was likely to look there. Hidden among the trees, weathered and unpainted, it would be difficult to see from the air.

“Good luck, and have a good life,” Harry called back as he drove away in his own auto, never expecting to be seen by them again. The robbery vehicle was already hidden half-inside the old structure.

“Come on, honey. I’ll take you home.” Sammy had started his own car and was waiting. Doris held back, looking around.

“On second thought, Sammy, I think I should leave my shit here.” She had been thinking. “If the police investigate Pete, they have ways of identifying his guns as being in the robbery. When he wants them, Pete can find them here. And I can’t have all that cash lying around in his, or my parent’s, house. If they do suspect Pete, they’ll search his home. I’ll leave my share here and pick it up later.”

She carried her bag back inside and threw it into the trunk of the getaway car, locking the vehicle and hiding the key behind a wooden post across the room. Sammy then drove her to Pete’s house. When they arrived, she had Sammy drive around the block a couple of times to make sure the police hadn’t been there yet.

Once inside, Doris hurried to the bedroom. Of course she had left the mask at the shack, but she now changed clothes, taking the ones she'd used in the robbery down the alley to a distant neighbor’s trash can and shoving them far in, piling other trash on top. Going back to Pete’s she changed again, that time into pajamas, and got into bed. She slept all afternoon without interruption.

While she was eating supper, Doris heard a pounding on the door. It was the police, taking that long to investigate Pete’s possible involvement in the robbery. Doris had tried the radio and been astounded to hear a report of a $400,000 robbery. Nothing else had been said about the investigation. She figured she and Pete were in the clear or they would have been there long before.

“No. I haven’t had the radio on. I figured Pete was working late,” she told the detective, a man named Simpson. “I wasn’t worried. He often does that on Fridays.”

“Well, I have to tell you something. You better sit down,” the detective told her. “He was shot in a robbery. Your father is being operated on right now and is in a very bad way -- not expected to live.”

“He’s not my father. He’s my boyfriend. Who shot him? Did you get the guy?” Doris tried to act surprised and heartbroken but it was surprisingly hard.

“Did he ever talk about robbing his own bank, even as a joke?”

“No. Of course not. Pete would never do that. He’s an honest man. I ought to know.”

“I hear he has a gun collection. Does he have any machine-guns?” the detective asked, looking into her eyes.

“Ugh. I don’t know what all he has in that closet. A big bunch'a guns is all.” Doris looked aghast at the question. “A machine-gun? Isn’t that one of those big things that marines shoot in the movies, that make noise and booms really fast?” She shrugged. “I don’t think so. All he has is the short ones and the long ones, not no really big ones.”

The questioning went on for awhile. The detective never even asked her where she had been at the time. He finally said goodbye, commiserated with her again and left, telling her where Pete was -- in which hospital. 

Doris took a taxi to the hospital but since he was in intensive care and wasn't expected to live, couldn’t get in to see him. She was told Pete’s family had been notified and would be coming. Mere friends, even live-in girlfriends, weren’t allowed. 

That night, the police came again and took the remainder of the gun collection with them. 

Doris knew of money Pete kept around for emergencies. His parents weren’t aware of that fact. Before they came for his possessions, she found and kept it. She still had most of a month on the apartment and didn’t want to leave too soon, feeling it might be suspicious. And Doris certainly didn't want to go back to her parents. 

A few weeks later, only a couple of days before the rent ran out, the girl heard on the radio about Sammy’s arrest. Doris realized she should get out of town, and quickly. She trusted Sammy. He was much nicer than Harry, but the police had ways to make a person talk and Sammy wasn’t all that bright. Doris called a taxi and went to a friend’s house.

“I need you to do something for me," she asked a school friend, Mary Smithson. “Buy me a car. I have a few-hundred dollars and need one real bad.” 

“You’re underage and don’t have a driver’s license. I could get into plenty of trouble.”

“You’ll be all right. I’m going to leave town. It can’t get back at you. If I get in trouble I won’t tell anyone where I got it.”

“It’ll be in my name, though. If you have an accident, the cops will check.” Mary objected.

“Mary, please. This is important. Just say I stole or borrowed it or something, anything, but I have to have one and you’re my only hope. You wouldn’t want me to hitch rides on the highway, would you? I’m leaving, with or without your help.” 

It took a little time, and a lot of convincing, but Mary finally bought her a used 1936 Buick. After packing her things, Doris drove to the shack to get her bag. 

Doris was glad she had kept the useless papers, since what was left contained over $200,000 dollars in bearer bonds along with stock certificates and other financial papers she didn't know how to spend. What could she do with Canadian money? she’d wondered, and there was a large pack of it. 

Not being very well educated, she hadn’t recognized them as being valuable at the time of the robbery. Pete would have, and had thrown the bonds in during the crime.  A radio announcer had finally explained their value 

She found the trunk of the getaway car had been disturbed. There were papers thrown around in it as though someone had gone through them. She saw with relief that her money was all there, although many of the bonds were gone. 

Doris figured either Sammy or Harry had come back for their share, leaving hers, about $120,000 dollars in negotiable papers. On second thought, she realized, it would have to have been Sammy. Harry would have taken it all.


Back to 2003. After Trixie left, the detectives started their regimen. The two were glad they had been careful earlier -- before knowing it as a murder. They first dusted for fingerprints. Going out to the car, Detective Edwards searched for and found a police-issue camera and took photographs of the scene, while Jablonski knocked on doors for witnesses. 

Smith City didn’t provide a fancy crime scenes staff. Anything promising would be sent in to the state laboratory for analysis. The scene would be sealed and preserved but a State Crime Scene staff would be called in only if the prosecutor decided it was worth the expense to the city. 

Detective Edwards didn't think that would happen. Not for an old lady dying under those circumstances. That it was probably done by a doper needing cash for a fix. Sooner or later a friend would turn him in. Those people weren't very loyal when it came to ratting on each other.

Most of the hotel residents were at work or out on the street. Some were either sleeping or not answering knocks. The desk clerk hadn’t been at work the night before, naturally, but gave the name and address of the one who had been. Again, predictably, that one wasn’t home either or didn’t answer her telephone. 

It took several days to question all the residents of the hotel. None had seen anything of note. No strangers hanging around or anything of the sort. Nobody had asked where to find Mabel Trum. 

Of course, getting in or out of the hotel without being seen would have been easy. The normal night clerk was in her eighties and slept through most of the shift, waking to take money from and give hookers a key. There were other entrances, some not even going through the lobby. Many of the rooms were unoccupied.

Among other things, Sergeant Jablonski kept the photograph. There were many fingerprints in the room but fingerprints were essentially useless unless matched to a suspect -- and there were no suspects. The weapon was never found, no icepick being in the room or vicinity. The victim hadn’t been known or suspected of hoarding money and had no enemies. No relatives could be found, nor any personal correspondence naming them. There was nothing but a dead old lady in a lonely room. Even the manager's wife knew little of Mabel's past.

The detectives found a few bank statements from a local savings account, giving totals in the lower hundreds, along with a scattering of paid doctor bills. Checking with the bank, they could find no next of kin or valid references. The references they found were either fictitious or couldn’t be located, the last not being suspicious considering the time element. The woman had had the account for many years. The detectives had literally nothing to go on, with new cases piling up.

“I don’t know what else we can do, John,” Detective Edwards admitted, a week later. “She doesn’t even have a social security number that we can find.”

“The woman must have been getting money from somewhere. It takes cash to live and she wasn't on government welfare,” John Jablonski mentioned. He was stumped. “We have to release that room sometime. The management is already complaining. Let’s go back and give it a last going over first.”

“We already did, John. Just file the damned thing away and forget about it. Ain’t nowhere else to look. It was probably a stranger looking for drug money or a casual burglar. Maybe she had her door open partway? A crime of opportunity. The state will have to shoulder the burial expenses.”

“Na, let’s try again, just to make sure. Tell you what, take this photo to the newspaper and send copies to the FBI. Maybe someone will recognize one of them,” Jablonski instructed his partner. “You do that and I’ll find a strong flashlight and small tools. While you’re busy, I’m going over that room inch by fucking inch. If we don’t hear anything from the newspaper or Feds in a couple days, we’ll file it away.”


Sergeant John Jablonski, pockets loaded down and jingling with tools, plodded back up the hotel stairwell to the third floor. On that final search, he spared nothing. Starting in the center of the room, he pulled a chair over and began with the ceiling. He thumped with a wooden hammer for loose sections and used a screwdriver to pry at all the seams -- looking for hollow sounds or loose nails or boards. 

Shining a bright flashlight along each section of the surface, he searched for shadows which might indicate heavy weights on the upper side of the pasteboard ceiling. Over time, a heavy object would tend to bow the surface directly below it. 

Then he did the same with the floor in the center of the room, checking it carefully, inch by inch. His procedure was slow but effective. First the center of the room, top to bottom, then the furniture, leaving the walls for last.

Next, starting at one side of the door, he moved around the perimeters of the room, checking out each piece of the meager furnishings. As he finished with each, he would shove it into the middle of the floor and start on the next. John probed and pried each piece carefully from all sides, looking for marks, loose nails, lumps or sealed tears in padding, discolorations of any sort. Lastly, he shook or slammed them against the floor to see if anything loosened, then did it all again. Each piece was then piled into the center of the room, leaving bare spaces around the walls. After that were the walls, checked in the same manner as the floor and ceiling, inch by inch. 

After spending several hours at his task, Jablonski was becoming discouraged until he found two loose nails on the inside of a window sash. With the glass down, the nails were hidden, but raise the window and they could be seen. Not only seen, but almost fell into his hand when he pulled on the head of the first with his screwdriver.

With the nails out, a six-by-one-inch section of wood came loose. Inside the windowsill he found a bankbook. Handling it carefully with a handkerchief, he opened it. The name on the account was Doris Trumbell. It occurred to John that Trumbell was close to Trum, Mabel’s name. Flipping carefully to the last page, he saw a fantastic figure of over $170,000. 

The savings account was very old, dating from 1943, and had started out as slightly more than $130,000. It had gone both up and down over the years, indicating some sort of employment. He also noticed one period of about fifteen years with no activity. He figured it as a bank account that held the key to many secrets.  

Detective Jablonski sat back onto the floor, legs spread, while he rested and thought. He now had both a name and a possible motive. Unlike the other bills and bankbook, he hoped that this one might have valid references to check.

After he returned to the station and queried bank records by telephone, he called the FBI and State Police, asking both to check out the name “Doris Trumbell.” The detective then began the laborous process of trying to locate the three references this Doris woman had needed to start the old account. Of course all of them could either have died in the last sixty years or be fictitious. At least it was a place to start.


Back to 1942, the day after the robbery. “$400,000?” Sammy had been idly listening to the radio while looking over new car ads in a newspaper. He had already given about $10,000 to friends and family. “Did Doris hold out on us?” he asked himself.

Upon reflection, he didn’t think so. Although flighty, Doris had never seemed to him a devious type. She was too open to plan anything of that sort. Maybe the radio or bank was inflating the amount? 

Later, listening to another broadcast which mentioned that many bonds had also been stolen, Sammy remembered the papers Pete had shoved into the bag. Sammy had been too busy at the time to question it and, although annoyed during the robbery, certainly couldn't stop Pete. He had thought of it as wasting time. He also recalled that the bags, including papers, were out back in his shed, still in the rear seat of the robbery vehicle.

Walking out to check, Sammy found the bonds. Figuring Harry was long gone, on his way to Texas, he split the bonds, papers, and Canadian money down the middle. Half for him and half for Doris. He intended to find and inform her later.

With an unexpected windfall of $120,000, Sammy’s spending went wild. He immediately drove to another town, another larger bank, to cash it all in.

He bought a new house across town, paying land taxes on it and, just for the hell of it, on his old property for the next hundred years. The county needed cash at the time and allowed paying that far in advance on estimated taxes. 

Sammy also bought not one but four new cars; two for himself and a couple for relatives. His mother had never had a new one in her life.

In the forties, that much money went a long way. Since his younger brother had always wanted his own auto-body shop, Sammy bought one for him. 

The newly-wealthy man became a frequent sight in local bars and bistros, spending money as though it were water.

Naturally, the police were checking for such activity. Sammy soon heard a knock on his door. It was two police detectives along with a uniformed patrolman.

“You Samuel Burrows?” one of them asked. When Sammy nodded, the man requested, “We’d like to talk to you, Sam.”


With no way to explain, Sammy found himself bereft of his new riches, along with most of his recent acquisitions and his freedom. They tried, but couldn't get the land-tax payment back, sort of an intergovernmental matter. 

Sammy found himself sentenced to thirty years hard labor in a penal institution. It could have been less, but Sammy refused to tell on the others. The state was famous for its early releases and he had managed to keep a little cash from the robbery -- hidden in that same old shack. Not a very good stake for the future, but better than none at all.


Driving the old Buick, Doris was ready to leave the shack on her way out of town. Bag of retrieved loot over her shoulder, she was surprised to see another car, a fairly new Chevrolet, bouncing over the ruts of the dirt path -- coming toward her.

She dropped her bag and returned to the now-unlocked getaway car, grabbing a convenient pistol from the back seat. By the time the Chevy arrived, she was back outside, the gun jammed into the back of her belted jeans.

She was shocked to see Harry climb out and walk toward her. He had a revolver in hand as he approached. 

“What’s this shit about $400,000?” he called out, pointing the revolver at her chest. “You trying to cheat us, uh?”

“I didn’t know, Harry. Honest.”

“The hell you didn’t know. Thought you’d get away with it, bitch? I wouldn’t be surprised if you already killed poor Sammy. Where you hide his body? Back in the shed there? Or is it the woods?”

Badly frightened, Doris backed away from the advancing madman. She saw no way to run, no place to hide from the angry man and his weapon.

“Well, it didn’t work. That your money on the ground? Your’s and mine, and probably Sammy’s too.” He gave her an evil grin, his waving pistol then settling, aimed at her head. “I got news for you, honey. It’s all mine now.”

Doris, not knowing what else to do, dropped to the ground while clumsily reaching behind herself, even as Harry's weapon followed her movements and fired.

He missed, a bullet hitting the ground near her left knee. She managed to get off a single shot before he could correct his aim. It hit the man high in the left shoulder, jerking him in that direction. Holding the shaking pistol with both hands, she emptied it into Harry's body, dropping him where he stood.

Doris lay in the dirt for several long minutes, staring at Harry's body.  Finally hearing bird chirping restart, she managed to get to her knees while sobbing hysterically, trying to breathe as panic ebbed, slowly draining away into a dull empty feeling. 

Struggling for breath, she could see his blank unseeing eyes staring as though accusing her, as if it were her fault instead of his own. She would have worked something out between the three, Doris thought. No reason to ... to ... kill each other.

Finally getting to wobbly feet, she managed to drag his body into the shack, clumsily and frantically levering it into the back seat of the getaway car and slamming the door on a rusting metal tomb. 

Not even thinking of searching him or his vehicle, she threw her bag into her own Buick. Her only wish was to get out of there. Seeing newspapers on a shelf, she thought briefly of burning everything. Even while reaching toward them, she came to her senses, realizing that a fire would attract people to the shack. Doris only wanted to put distance between herself and that whole damned town.

Not having any real destination in mind, she turned south, finally settling in Florida. At first, she bought a nice little house and set it up. Putting the money into a local bank -- the same account Jablonski later found -- she lived a life of leisure. Having enough sense not to seem ostentatious, she didn’t flaunt her wealth.

Over the next few years, Doris went to and graduated from a local business school. Having attained an interest in firearms, she bought interest in a gunshop, one that catered mainly to the police, and settled down to a simple life. Instead of drawing from her bank account, she added to it.

Her business partner, however, was the opposite. He ran the shop into the ground, trying to expand by buying several others. He had controlling interest, so Doris was helpless to stop him.

Tired of day to day repetitious work, she bailed out of the failing enterprise and married a wealthy business executive. That marriage ended fifteen years later with a divorce. 

Fat, fifty, and free, Doris again looked for fresh climes, ending up in a cheap hotel room in Smith City. She figured that, if she spent it wisely, she still had enough money for the rest of her life. 

Because of the bank robbery, she had never applied for a Social Security account when the program had started, afraid it might come back on her. In Smith City, Doris found there were private non-government social programs to help people in her position. Using the name Mabel Trum, she applied to a church for aid. 

Using that program forced the need for a local bank account. Business savvy, Doris never kept much money in that bank, only enough to use day-to-day. Her robbery money was saved for emergencies and a few luxuries.


Back to 2003. Sergeant Jablonski soon had data coming back from his inquiries. The victim's prints weren't in any files that he could find. 

He tried to contact the three individuals the victim had used for reference on her old bank account. One was deceased, another moved but left a forwarding address -- one that also came to a dead end. The detective tracked the third woman down, her telling him she did remember a Doris Trumbell, a friend from long before. 

At that point Jablonski wasn’t at all certain as to whether he was tracking a Mabel or a Doris. He made a date to see the woman, named Mary Smithson, the following day and reserved a flight to Doris’s home town. 

By then John's lieutenant had declared the case interesting enough to spend the necessary expense money. Solving 60-year-old bank robberies on his watch could help his own career.

Fingerprint checks were almost useless. They were done, but too many people had used that hotel room over the years. The results were kept, however, in case a suspect could be determined.

The photo itself did result in one hit. The FBI matched one of the men in it to a mugshot of an ex-convict named Sam Burrows from Doris’s home town. He had been convicted of bank robbery in 1943, sentenced, and subsequently released after serving his time. Burrow’s file held the name of a parole officer across the country in Los Angeles. The parole officer had probably retired long before. Figuring him for a long shot, Detective Edwards telephoned the LA police, asking them to question Sam Burrows and his old parole officer, if either or both could be located.

Jablonski then flew to Storyville, Doris’s home town. The first thing he did was check in with the local police, a necessary courtesy when operating in a different jurisdiction.

“Can you see if you have anything on this Doris Trumbell, lieutenant?” he asked the duty officer in Storyville. “We think she’s a murder victim in Smith City, but aren’t sure. She, or at least the victim, was going under the name of Mabel Trum. It could be a contraction of Trumbell, from sixty years ago. And I think it’s tied in with a bank robbery here. Come to think of it, I'd appreciate your running both names through your files.”

“That was a long time ago, Jablonski. I don't think anyone around here would remember her photo. You have any fingerprints?” 

Jablonski handed over the fingerprint card from the coroner. It was run through the station files and, unsurprisingly, came back negative. It had been a long time, and she might never have been fingerprinted or the old prints even have been computerized.

“Nothing. You want a patrolman to help you find your way around town, sergeant?”

“Wouldn’t hurt, or at least let me borrow a car. What about this Samuel Burrows? He was arrested here for that robbery. All of them must have known one another for that photo, along with a car filled with weapons.”

Jablonski was shown the bank robbery file to study. It showed at least three people involved -- four if there had been a driver. A few of the reports also mentioned the assistant manager, Pete Adams. He had acted suspiciously but, being shot in the robbery and denying involvement, came out a hero instead. A follow-up report showed that if involved he hadn’t seemed to profit from the robbery. 

After recovery, Pete had returned to work and advanced to manager of another branch in a nearby town, seemingly an outstanding member of that community. It had taken him years to pay his share of the hospital bills, so he didn't seem to have extra money. 

One, Burrows, had been caught, tried, and sentenced, but didn't give anyone else up. The identity of the other two or three had never been found and there was no mention of a woman involved.

Jablonski spent the rest of the morning checking the local newspaper office for old issues from that period, learning nothing that wasn't in the police file. 

After lunch he met his guide, a patrolwoman named Lucy Chin, an ethnically Chinese patrol officer. She arrived in an undercover police car and was in uniform. Some local authority had figured a uniformed officer would be better for Jablonski's purposes than a plainclothes detective. Besides, the town only hired one detective, who was busy enough as it were. 

Since he was a stranger to the woman he wanted to interview and also out of his jurisdiction, a uniformed officer would help authenticate him. And, he recalled that since he would be unable to arrest, or even detain, anyone on his own a local officer might be needed.

"Hi there, sarge. What you doing way down here?" she asked, seemingly friendly as well as easy to look at. She did seem diminutive behind the wheel of the large vehicle, barely able to reach the pedals while stretching her neck to peer out the windshield.

"Got me a little case I'm working on, Officer Chin," he told her while settling into the passenger seat. "Might find something here, or not. First, I have to interview a Mary Smithson." He gave her the address. 

The woman was waiting at her home.


“Tell me all you remember of Doris, Mary,” Jablonski instructed her. “We’ll sort out the wheat from the chafe later.” 

Officer Chin sat with them at Mary Smithson’s kitchen table. The sounds of children playing came through an open kitchen door, along with the odor of some sort of roasting meat. A window air-conditioner was running quietly but Mary preferred to listen to her grandchildren, even if she couldn’t see them. Hence the open door to the backyard.

“Well, at that time we were friends from high school. I'd finished a couple of grades ahead of her but we were good friends. After I graduated and she quit school we sort of separated."

Mary got up to go to a window, checking on the children. "Gotta keep an eye on them these days. Not like when I was a kid. Children used to be able to wonder the streets and feel safe." She sat back down and took a sip of coffee before continuing, "Doris used to be too wild for me, hanging out with strange dangerous-looking men. She was only sixteen in 1942 you know? She quit, or simply stopped going to school at sixteen and we saw little of each other after that.

“Once in a while we would meet and go to a movie or something, but the guys she brought along would turn me off. Doris wanted to force me ‘out of my shell’ as she said, and would usually bring an extra man along with her. Her companions were almost always older and usually rough-looking. Remember, I was a teenager, too. A little older but still naive.” She laughed.

“Do you remember any of them?" he asked. "Here, look at this picture.” 

Mary studied the photo, putting on reading glasses and leaning closer to illuminate it in a sunbeam coming through a window.

“Yeah. I remember them slightly. This one," she said, pointing, "was named Harry, Harry Black or something of that sort. I almost married a Harry once, so I remember the name. She fixed me up with him for a date once. Once was enough. All he wanted to do was act tough and brag about his police record.

“The other one was, I think was named Sammy? Sorry, I don’t remember any last name. He was nicer, but still way too old for me at the time. I recall something about him working in an auto shop downtown, and I think he still has some family around here somewhere. 

"Later he went to jail for that big robbery. It was in all the newspapers at the time. I was surprised. I thought his friend, that Harry, would be the one to go to jail. The three of them were pretty tight at the time.”

“That’s Doris Trumbell in the picture isn’t it, Mary? Look close and be sure.”

“Yes, that’s Doris all right. I’d forgotten how good we looked back then.” 

John was relieved. At least he now knew her name was Doris, not Mabel.

“Did Doris have a job, do you remember, or did she live with her parents?”

“Her parents, Mabel and Jonathon Trumbell, are dead now. Passed away within a couple of years of each other. No, she lived with some bank manager, was always bragging about living an easy life. That and going out to the woods and shooting his guns. She said she even shot one of those old-time gangster’s guns, Pretty boy Parker’s or something.”

“Do you think she and the Harry in the picture could have helped rob that bank? I’ll bet you considered it?”

“Well, yeah. I thought about it once or twice, sorta daydreaming. I suppose they could have. God knows she was wild enough. But why would she shoot her boyfriend? And why wouldn’t he have reported it or something?”

“That’s one thing I’ll have to find out, Mary. One of many things. It’s how many robberies end up, one of them turning on others to get more money. That or snitching on each other for easier sentences. Sometimes, with those kinds of people, their love affairs make for internal trouble. We catch a lot of criminals when their romances break up.”

“Do you think this bank manager guy might be in on it?” Mary stared him in the eye.

“Another thing we have to consider. It might have been a double-cross. I found out him and the clerk were both shot with a tommy-gun, 'as the old time gangsters used to use,’ you said. It was by the smallest robber, which could have been Doris. Or she could have been driving them. And she did leave town soon afterward. With quite a bit of money, according to a bank book I found.” Jablonski sat thinking for a minute.

“Look, Mary, you’ve been a big help. I might have to talk to you again but I have other things to check on first. Thanks for your help.”

“Glad to help, sergeant. And you too, Officer Lucy. Feel free to call on me if I can be of any more help.”

Next, the two stopped to talk to Sammy’s brother, Peter. He owned his own bodyshop, a large garage-type building, fancy and fairly-new. It didn’t seem to have much business, though, with few cars parked outside.


“Does this place do a lot of business, Lucy? Or is this the off season?” he asked, as she parked the car in an almost-empty asphalt parking lot.

“It doesn’t have a very good reputation here in town. Depends mostly on out-of-town contract work,” the officer replied. “Peter’s one of those people who talk big but do little. He’d rather socialize than work. 

“We’ve suspected him of running a ‘chop shop’ but can never prove anything," she told Jablonski. "He'd once been a lousy mechanic, but somehow found the money for that place and has managed to keep his head above water -- at least so far. We get complaints about his work, though.”

Peter Burrows was, as Lucy had mentioned, a large jovial individual. The two found him alone in the shop. He was working under a pickup truck, the only vehicle to be seen in the spacious interior, but was more than willing to stop work to show them to his office. 

As they walked, he bragged about a new computer setup, how he could diagnose autos with a few probes and switches.

“Yeah, Sammy’s straight now. He didn’t feel welcome in town here after he got out’a the pen. Police harassment. Sorry Lucy, old girl. Hey Lucy, baby. Why not go to the Barrel Festival with me next month? A cop with me would keep me out’a fights. You could figure it as off-duty police work?”

Lucy looked at him as though he were a bug pinned to the wall, not bothering to reply. 

“We were talking about your brother.” Jablonski tried to steer Peter back to the subject.

“Oh, yeah. Sammy. Well, nothing much to tell. He got permission from his parole officer, and moved to California -- LA. Since then he’s gotten married and had a couple of kids. Even retired from a Bowing airplane plant down there. 

"That robbery was one hell of a long time ago. He wasn’t no snitch though, gotta say that about him.” Peter grinned proudly at an obviously uncomfortable Lucy Chin.


Their next stop was at now-retired Peter Adams’s house. It was huge, solidly built of brick and ancient-looking. Many of the ground-floor windows were bricked-up, which seemed surprising. John briefly wondered how bad the burglar situation could be in that small town.

After retiring, Pete had moved back to his hometown of Storyville. The two police found him outside in a large backyard, working in a vegetable garden. The house sat in the middle of about two-acres of well-tended grass. A large old-style wooden barn stood nearby.

“Yessir, I’m Pete Adams. What’s up?” A large balding man with an obviously stiff leg, he seemed to be in otherwise good shape for his age.

Jablonski showed the man his badge and identification, introducing himself and Officer Chin. 

“So? What you want with me?” Pete asked, getting to his feet with the aid of a cane and dusting his hands off on dirty overalls.

“You used to know a Doris Trumbell, a long time ago?” Jablonski asked.

“Yessir, a long time ago.” Pete reflected. “And I didn’t know she was underage. She showed me an ID card saying she was eighteen.” He had to grin at his revelation. The police could hardly be investigating for the robbery, or statutory rape. Not after all these years.

“I’ll take your word for it, Mr. Adams. What I’d prefer to talk about is the robbery, the one where you were shot and almost died.”

“How could I ever forget? The bitch, excuse me, ma'am, shot me up good. I still can’t use my left leg worth shit.”

“The bitch? You never said it was a woman who shot you. I read all the reports.”

“I guess I didn’t realize it until the whole thing was long over, Officer Jablonski. It’s a low point in my life and something I go over in my mind a lot, and it just clicked. The size and shape and all. The way she walked. She lived with me, so I've seen her walk often enough. Don't know why I didn't notice at the time. Probably because I was too damned worked up and busy with the others.”

“And with a tommy-gun at that. You’re lucky to have lived through it.”

“You’re telling me? Damn, but I was scared seeing that thing spit out rounds.”

“You know a lot about them things, uh? I hear you were a gun collector once.”

“Yeah, still got a little interest. It's just too much trouble to register the things these days. Those tommy-guns are a dream to shoot but one hell of a lot of paperwork to own.” He paused a few seconds, "From what I’ve heard, anyway. Seen in the movies ... you know?”

“You’ve never owned one yourself, then? I saw the list the police confiscated from your place and no weapons of that type were on it. And you were in the army?”

“Me? Strictly an .06 Springfield for us privates." He laughed. “Never had the honor, and too late now. Back then, you could order them from any gunshop, even from magazines. Now, I’d have to go through the Feds. Besides, I’m getting too old for all that firearms stuff. I got my collection back later and still buy one on occasion. But only rarely and if it's too good a deal to pass up.” He swept one arm to indicate his house, barn, and landscape. "I have enough other hobbies."

“Did you know the one robber that was caught? A man named Sam Burrows, Mr. Adams?”

“Nope, can’t say I did. I didn’t hang out with people like that. I was a respected bank manager at the time.”


After checking other records on a local police computer, it was late by the time Jablonski finished at the station. The detective was surprised when Lucy stayed to help.

“I can handle it, officer. You can go home,” he told her while struggling with an unfamiliar database program on their computer.

“That’s all right, John.” She pressed her small chest against his back to point at the screen. “There it is, on line three.” She smelled sweet, with just a hint of violets.

After they were through, he took her to a local pub for dinner. It was to thank her, or at least that was what he told her and himself. She agreed to drive him back to the airport the next day. Since it was too late for a flight out, Jablonski had decided to stay for the night, maybe find a bunk at the station. Most kept a couple for late-working officers.

Patrolman Chin knew a hotel and called to get Jablonski a room. She knew the owner, another Asian, and got him a good discount.

After checking in at the hotel and before he retired, he called his partner, Detective Larry Edwards. Larry updated him about an interview with Sammy Burrows by the Los Angeles police.

With time off for good behavior, Sammy had been paroled back to Storyville in 1964. It was his first offense and prison had shown him he didn’t care for the life. All he wanted to do was go back, get the money he had withheld from the authorities, and get the hell out of that town. He was in his late forties, still young enough to start a new life.

The ex-con had saved $ 20,000 of his original $123,000 and constantly cursed himself for not hiding more. It was better than nothing though, and the thought of it had kept him sane while in prison. At least he wouldn’t have to start a new life at some menial janitor job. Or so he'd thought.

Sammy found he still wasn’t free, having to report weekly to a parole officer, one that kept a somewhat careful eye on Sammy. He was made to follow an entire book of rules, the damn thing being the size of a paperback novel. For one thing, Sammy had to maintain an income, a job of some sort. He was also required to stay in town and get permission to leave the state for any reason. 

There were many other restrictions on his life.

He couldn’t associate with other ex-convicts -- no danger of that. But he also had to be home at night and could be called at any time by the parole officer. He couldn’t drink and had to even get permission to see a woman in a romantic setting. It was almost, not quite, as bad as being in the pen. And it was for the remaining six years of his sentence. 

Knowing it was the cause of his being caught in the first place, he knew he wouldn’t be able to spend much money, only what he made at work as a contract landscaper's employee. 

“Look, Mr. Smith,” he said to his parole officer. “I’m not welcome here. What are my chances of moving somewhere else, where nobody knows me?”

“I guess that’s allowed, Burrows. You’d have to find a job there first, though. Then I could ask my supervisor. But the job comes first.” A catch 22 situation if Sammy had ever heard one. He had to find a job, but couldn’t go anywhere to look for one.

That problem was solved by having a relative obtain one for him. His cousin lived in LA. and worked at an airplane plant there. The place was thriving and had a policy of helping ex-convicts. Since the cousin was a supervisor, with a little pull, he quickly found Sammy a position on an assembly line.

“All right, Burrows, you have permission to leave here. Your new boss sent us a completed form 1037a and promised you’d be gainfully employed. One less on my workload -- for which I'm thankful. 

"Good luck. You are to report to Room number 342 of the Los Angeles parole authority at 3247 E. Elm by next Wednesday afternoon. He handed Pete a page from a notepad. Be on time or you’ll be bounced back to prison. From what I've heard, they don’t screw around down there.”

Sammy, on his way to LA, stopped briefly at the shack in the woods. Immediately, he noticed that someone had been there. A rusty car was parked alongside the old building. Looking in a dirty window, he didn’t see anything interesting. Fearing for his hidden cache, Sammy hurried inside the structure.

His money was still there, in a canvas sack buried in a corner behind a pile of trash. The rats has nibbled a hole in one corner and a few bonds were partially digested. On the way out, he noticed a light-colored bundle on the rear seat of the getaway car. It hadn’t been there before.

Checking it, he found a skeletal body dressed in man’s clothing. Putting two and two together, he figured it must have something to do with both the robbery and the vehicle outside. He was in a hurry to leave, but soon realized they had both been there a long time; not much chance of interruption in the next few minutes.

He couldn’t see if he knew the corpse. Sunlight inside the structure was too dim and he didn’t really want to drag the damned thing outside for a better look. A little squeamish, he opened the door to look for identification. From the size it could be Harry. It was obviously a man, so Doris was out. But what would Harry be doing back there, dead in the old car? Also, who the hell else could it be and who could have killed him?

The hell with it, I have my own problems, Sammy realized. Closing the car door carefully and wiping the handle with his handkerchief, he took his money and left. As an afterthought, the ex-convict stopped and searched the car sitting outside. He was careful and used his handkerchief again when forcing the door open -- it was rusted shut. Sammy had learned a few things in the pen.

Since the keys were still in the ignition, Sammy tried the trunk. He found a treasure inside, over $23,000. It was still in the bank bag from the holdup, which made him realize that had to be Harry’s body in the shack. It was strange that whoever killed Harry had left the money, but Sammy wasn’t about to question the point. “It’s mine now,” he muttered to himself.


Sammy found the job waiting, along with his cousin, in LA. He kept to the letter of the law and served his parole. 

The ex-con was fairly happy with the way events turned out, even found a girlfriend and married. The money helped out, spent in tiny dribbles after his parole ended and backing the purchase of a new building for his brother's bodyshop in Storyville.

The now-honest ex-convict was happy to tell the police quite a bit of the story, minus the shack, money and body, of course. He didn't figure it as squealing, since the cops seemed to know Doris was implicated and even mentioned she was dead. Harry was obviously dead. 

He himself had served his sentence and couldn't be tried twice, and he didn’t give a damn what happened to Pete, so he told them about the bank manager. It felt good to get it all out in the open.


Now we’re back to 2003. Returning to his desk in Smith City, Sergeant Jablonski checked in with his partner. The two spent a couple of hours on paperwork then went on to more current work. The lieutenant had been on Detective Edward’s ass because of all the time taken on the Mabel Trum, now Doris Trumbell case. There were several more recent crimes needing immediate attention.

It was a week later before Jablonski was caught up enough to work on Doris’s case again. Both figured there was no hurry, her being dead and most of the researching involving sixty years before. The two spent a couple of hours shuffling papers and consolidating their information into current summaries for the files.

“So, what'a we got, here, Larry? We know her real name and a little of her history. She was, according to Sam Burrows, in on the robbery and shot two employees, including her boyfriend. Then she disappeared for a long time -- nobody seems to know where -- ending up murdered in a cheap hotel room. That’s about all I get so far.

“But who could have killed her, assuming it was one of the people involved in that old robbery? It also could be someone around here. As far as we know, she had no enemies and few acquaintances, but we could be wrong. That everyone wants to speak well of the dead doesn't help us any. And where's that ashtray hidden?" John stops to go through desk drawers. "No brass around this late to catch me smoking." He lights a Marlboro while accepting the ashtray from Larry, then continues,

"She didn’t even hint that she had much money and nothing was taken from her room, not that there was much to take. But a sneak thief would have taken something, if only on principle,” John continued, slouched back in his chair. “And wouldn’t have tried to hide the murder by stabbing her in the ear. He wouldn’t have given a damn how it looked."

“As to the bank robbery," Larry said, "I sent a copy of Burrow’s statement to the police in Storyville. They’re studying whether Peter Adams can be charged with the bank job. It's Statute of Limitations stuff, up to the prosecutor. They'd have to proceed with dead or missing witnesses, bad memories and the like. He would be damned hard to convict,” Larry Edwards reminded his partner. Getting stiff from sitting, he stood up and paced around the desk.

“Back to our case," Jablonski said, lighting up another smoke. "We know that Sam Burrows didn’t kill Mab -- Doris. He was at work in LA., thousands of miles away. Peter Adams is possible but very iffy. He probably forgot about her long ago, at least by his manner. 

"Harry Blackwell is the most likely killer. For one thing, Burrows said Blackwell didn’t get his full share of the money. The bonds were split between Burrows and Doris.” Jablonski paused, shrugging. “Unless, like you said, it was something completely unrelated? A druggie out for a fix.” 

“I put out a Be On the Look Out ( BOLO ) bulletin on Harry Blackwell," Larry reminded John. "We found his prints in the FBI database from when he once applied for a postal job. So far nobody’s located him. He doesn't have a social security number and hasn't paid taxes since 1941. Many people never joined the Social Security program when it was new and many more weren’t eligible,” Edwards recalled.

“It’s becoming intriguing, Larry. We started out with an old woman dying from a heart attack or something and now have a murder, two shootings, and a bank robbery,” Jablonski said, sighing, “I don’t think we can do anything until or unless we hear about that Blackwell guy. He’s the only lead we have and seems to have dropped off the face of the earth. 

"Oh, by the way,” John said, starting to put his suit coat back on, “I told the Storyville Police to call if they found out anything. We’re to tell them when and if we find Blackwell.”


In 2003, Detective Phil Swint was the only plainclothes officer in Storyville. He split his time between detective work, what little there was, and as city parole officer. The bank robbery case was the largest and one of the oldest cases he had come across in his files. He considered himself lucky in that the case had been computerized. Back in the seventies, the city had decided to save money by not computerizing all older crimes. Since then, many older paper and boxed files had been lost or destroyed to save storage space.

After Jablonski reminded him and having a little free time waiting for a parolee to report, Phil studied the paperwork, over and over. It wasn't a large file.

His bosses thought Peter Adams had been in on that robbery, but couldn’t touch him. The case was too old, witnesses dead or moved away and that damned time limitation on top of everything else. If it ever went to court, what weight would a jury give to an ex-convicts testimony? Against the word of a respected ex-bank manager and war hero like Adams?

Pete said he had never owned one of those machine-gun things, “tommy-guns” as the weapons were called. Phil had looked it up in a library book. “Thompson machine pistol, version 1921, cyclic rate of 650-700 rpm”, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, it sounded dangerous.

Phil had found a computerized gun-shop record of Pete's buying one. Both Adams and another woman -- he forgot her name right then -- had both said he never owned one. An interesting lie right there. Why would he be lying except to cover up his involvement? Owning the damned thing had been fully legal at the time. Nothing to cover up.

While searching county land records for another reason, he came across the fact that Sammy Burrows owned a large mountainside property near town. Phil had passed it often but never paid any attention. Although short on residents, there was one hell of a lot of wild mountainside in their county.

Driving by the property, he could see an unpainted tumbledown house and a dirt driveway going in from the highway. Nothing else but trees. There were many square-miles of such useless mountainous property in the area. It played hell with the county tax base. The county could hardly pay people to search all that mostly-vertical land mass on foot for who-knows-what from sixty years ago. It was only that the Burrows name had caught his attention. 

Detective Phil Swint made a mental note to investigate it when he had a chance. Not right away, since he had to wait until his brother returned from Kentucky to loan him a jeep. Phil didn’t want to use his Buick on those dirt and gravel trails.


Eventually, a week or so later, Phil remembered to borrow the jeep and set out for the long-abandoned property. He brought along plenty of flashlights and made certain he had a couple of spare tires for the jeep and a fresh battery in his cellphone. It was easy to get lost or a flat tire back in those hills, and possibly a long walk back.

He followed an unused dirt road off the highway and to the house itself. The structure had once been two-story, though you could hardly tell since the second floor was partially collapsed -- along with the front porch. 

Figuring he had to cover all bases, Detective Swint got out and looked around the structure for an hour or so, prodding debris with a rake handle he found and getting his feet and legs wet in the long grass. His stirring brought up the odors of rotting wood and damp earth. 

“Ouch!” Swint exclaimed while getting back into the jeep. His trouser legs were covered with burrs from tall weeds. A partially-collapsed barn behind the house received the same treatment. Nothing of value in either. 

Two dirt lanes, conspicuous because of missing trees and obviously not used for many years, could be seen meandering through a wild tumble of virgin forest. Phil debated with himself whether to try one, both, or simply give up and drive back to town. Gazing back at the Jeep, an off the road vehicle, decided him.

Shrugging, he started the engine and picked one of the two at random. He was lucky to have four-wheel drive. Even then, the all-terrain vehicle almost got stuck twice. It wasn’t because of ruts, although the trails had mostly washed out in seasonal rains. The major problems were vines and young trees growing in his path. Shrubbery would get caught in the grill and undercarriage, creating quite a drag on his vehicle. It was obvious that path hadn’t been used in a good many years.

It was getting toward lunchtime and Phil about ready to look for a place to turn around, when he saw a glint of sunlight reflecting off glass, somewhere ahead. 

Ten minutes later he pulled into a clearing. At least a place to turn around in, he thought, looking around. He spied a rusted vehicle sitting on flattened tires in front of him and a tumbled shack beyond that. The roof and one wall of the building were caved in, showing another vehicle parked inside.

Phil turned the jeep to face the trail. At last an excuse to walk around, he figured, stretching stiff legs as he stopped and got out to go over to the first rusty auto, a Chevy. Hell, that wreck was older than he was, Phil thought while pulling on the front passenger door. It squeaked open to reveal a faded newspaper on the seat. Phil brushed dust off. The date on the front page was 9, June, 1942. A week or so after the robbery, he noted.

Curious, but not alarmed, Phil wandered over to the shack. It took a few minutes to shift rotten boards away from one of the back doors of that abandoned auto. The windows were too dirty to see through. He found a stiff rag lying in the dirt and wiped a swatch of the rear window.

The detective jerked back in alarm. He was looking at skeletal human remains partially on the seat with what appeared to be a loose leg lying on the floor of the old vehicle. It had a little skin showing, more like a desiccated corpse than a skeleton. 

Forcing himself to look again, and closer, Phil could see, from the way it was dressed, that it was a man. On the floor, down by its feet and legs, he could see, in the dim light, a wooden gun stock on the floor and a pistol lying on the seat.

The detective had enough sense to note the license numbers of both vehicles in his notebook before using his cellphone to call the station. He then drove back to the highway to wait for emergency vehicles, among them a small bulldozer he'd asked for. It looked to him as though that old case was to be reopened, needing an easier path cleared back to the shack.

It took weeks for the State Crime Lab to process the area. Papers on the body easily identified it as that of the missing Harry Blackwell. Two of the weapons found in the vehicle were traced, through records, to Peter Adams. 

As part of the process, Detective Swint notified Detective Jablonski of the find.

“Thanks, Swint,” Jablonski replied. “Could you do me a small favor? I’d appreciate it if you would wait until I get with you before interviewing Adams? I'll be there as quickly as I can get a flight.”


It being a small city, keeping activity on the mountainside secret proved impossible. Out-of-town criminal investigators let the matter slip to people like waitresses, bartenders, and hotel employees. All those vehicles parked in a remote area attracted attention from passing residents, not to mention the yellow crime tape as seen from the highway. Most people didn’t know much, but knew something important was going on -- Pete Adams among them.

Pete thought it must have something to do with the robbery but not just what. Why else would they be at Sammy's old house after all these years, and with him long gone? He also suspected the police would soon be knocking on his own door.

Being too old and tired in his 80's to start a new life on the run, Pete spent the time preparing to make a stand. Still a secret gun nut, he owned a large collection of ordinance. Much of it was illegal and hidden in a partial basement in his barn. His prizes were both .30cal and .50cal machine guns from WWII -- along with a small supply of ammunition for both. Also a Korean war era portable rocket launcher called a “bazooka." 

Although he owned a small collection of assorted land mines, it wasn’t enough to do much damage. He did plant the mines in the more obvious places, such as behind trees where police officers might crouch as well as a couple on his side of a stone boundary fence. Pete made up his mind not to go down easy, suicide by cop seeming better than the rest of his life in gaol. 

The first thing Pete did was go to the local supermarket to stock up on food, then the gun store in town to buy more ammunition. As a final thought, he purchased a dozen five-gallon gas-cans and filled them at Mac's Sunoco Station. The gasoline would make excellent booby-traps.

As he worked, Pete reflected on his troubled life back in the forties....


Back in 1943. A local hospital.
“You’re going to be in here quite a while, Mr. Adams. You’re lucky as hell, you know? Most of the bullets were stopped by a desk and table but a few went through the leg hole of the sorting table and hit you in the lower body,” the doctor told Pete Adams. 

Pete was glad at that moment that he had splurged on a solid oak workspace for his office. That, and the paperwork in its drawers had saved his life. 

That bitch had shot at his legs, overcompensating for the tendency of the weapon to climb. Most of the shots were low and had to travel through a portion of desk and drawers, which stopped or slowed them. A few had bounced, ricocheted off one side of the foot-well and into him. Those were also slowed down, not much but enough to save his legs from amputation.

It took long months before he could walk again without crutches. Luckily his bank work required a lot of sitting and little walking. 

Doris had succeeded in hurting him in another way, though. One of the .45cal rounds had hit his genitals. He now had to pee through a tube.

Not having any other recourse, or any real sexual interest after that, Pete had thrown himself into his work, advancing rapidly. He still hated the lot of them, especially Doris. She was both the instigator and the one who had shot him. Shot him for no reason at all.

He had done his share, both with information and remembering those bearer bonds -- part of the bank's investments portfolio. Some investments were in chancy loans, such as farm or business, but the bank had been required to commit a certain percentage into more stable investments, such as municipal bonds. Bearer bonds were like cash, no names or recorded serial numbers. Put in, say, ten dollars, and in ten years cash them in for twenty, no questions asked.

The only one he could have identified was Sammy Burrows, and the cops caught him first before Pete could have his revenge. All he knew about the other was the name “Harry”; no chance on finding him. Doris had still been in town for a while after he was shot but left before he could walk. She, of course, never visited him while he was in the hospital.

Pete had dreamed about getting even with her when he was able, or even when released from the hospital, but the whore had disappeared by then. In his spare time he had searched for her. He found her once, about six months after a divorce. It had been far too late, since she had already split for better climes.

A few months ago he had mentally kicked himself in the ass. Pete found he could have easily found her in his former occupation by simply looking for those new computerized bank accounts. Back then, computers were new objects, both unfamiliar and frightening to older users. 

Using contacts in the banking community, he found she had -- and was still using -- a savings account from a bank in Florida.

It was one of those where she could refuse monthly statements -- said she moved around quite a bit and wouldn’t receive them. Instead she would call in occasionally to check her balance. But she did give them an address in Smith City. 

All Pete had to do was request a bank manager that he'd trained many years before to read the address off to him. He told the guy she had an unclaimed amount in the Storyville bank and he'd wanted to contact her. It was all so easy -- once he'd thought about it.

Pete carefully picked a very small .22cal semi-automatic pistol for the deed. It was summertime and with little clothing on he didn’t want to look conspicuous with a larger weapon. He tried to hide a hunting knife in his trousers but the bulge was too great, so he brought along an icepick that came in a thin leather sheath. A few pieces of tape on each leg, one holding the small pistol and the other the pick, and he was ready.

Driving to Smith City, Pete had parked his Mercedes two streets over from Doris’s address. It was a little after eleven pm, not too early for the streets to be empty and a stranger to stand out to residents, yet not so late that such a walking stranger would be noted. He'd walked quickly, as if on his way to or from a specific destination. 

The hotel had a sign reading “Sta_ _ _ _ _  _ otel” over it. Since it was probably the Statler and was the only hotel on the block in any case, Pete went up to the front door. Through a glass pane, he could see nobody at the reception desk. 

Pete tested the door by swinging it open six-inches. There was no bell or other sound, so he stepped in and walked quickly to a door marked “stairs,” closing it tightly behind himself. On the other side of the small landing, he saw another door. It had a bar across it to keep it closed. Through a small square window, he saw the door opened onto a dirty alley and, he noticed when trying it, no alarm sounded. Having seen doors like it many times in his life, Pete knew how to recognize the ones with alarms, so he wasn’t surprised. At least he had a way out without going back through the lobby.

He'd stopped at the third floor. A small window at eye level showed the corridor empty. Pete wondered what the bitch would think when she saw him after over sixty years, a vengeful figure probably long forgotten.

Reaching down to strip the pistol out of its bindings, Pete had transferred the gun to his pocket and knocked gently on the door to Doris’s room. He had to knock for over a minute, each tap slightly louder than the one before. 

He could hear activity in the room, mumbling and sounds as though a chair were being shifted. The door opened four or five inches, no chain visible. Pete was surprised at how old she looked, but was certain it was Doris. 

“Yes? Who are you and what you want?” a sleepy voice came to him. It had been many years, but he recognized her voice. He had been hearing it in his dreams and nightmares for all that time.

“I rented a room down the hall, and the desk clerk asked me to tell you a package arrived for you. The clerk has it downstairs,” Pete lied, edging his right foot into a crack between door and jamb.

“I ain’t expectin’ nothing,” was her sleepy reply.

“Whatever. Not my business. The clerk just asked me to tell you. Goodnight, lady.” 

“All right, thanks.” She tried to close the door but was stopped by his shoe. As her gaze drifted downward to look for obstructions, Pete shoved back, hard. Doris bounced from it and staggered over against the foot of the bed, trying to keep from falling. Pete pushed his way in quickly, closing the door behind himself, pistol in hand.

“What you want? If it's robbery you won’t get much,” she gasped, eyes bugged out and by then wide awake. “If you’re going to rape me, let’s get it over with. I’m an old woman and need my sleep.” 

The same old Doris, Pete thought, with an unwanted pang of affection. It had always been hard to frighten her.

He'd remembered, once, bringing a large rubber spider home to shock her. It had been soon after she'd moved in with him. All he saw was her eyes narrow a little, her mind seeming to click. Almost immediately, she picked the thing up and inspected it. He reminded himself to be careful. She was a quick thinker; not your stereotypical frightened female.

“Sit down, Doris,” he commanded, making certain she saw the pistol. Again, her eyes steadied and she gave the impression of thinking quickly. He saw what must be recognition as her gaze flowed over his face.

“Pete? What are you doing here?” 

He'd been pleased to notice her voice was a little unsteady, 

“You can put that thing away. I’m nothing but an old woman,” she reiterated, obviously forcing herself to relax, mind seemingly spinning to organize her thoughts.

“Why did you shoot me, Doris? I was in love with you and thought you felt the same. Why?” Pete could feel anger evaporating and fought to keep it. It was one thing to dream of that moment, quite another to have it actually occurring. 

Doris sensed his hesitation. She might still get out of it, she thought.

“I was nervous. My first bank robbery after all, Pete, honey. I had to shoot the one guy. He had a telephone,” she told him. “When I swung over to look at you, I guess I forgot it was still shooting.” 

Sure, and pigs fly, Pete had thought. He knew the woman, and she wasn’t the excited type. She was also very familiar with that particular machine-gun. He’d like to believe her, but no way. 

He saw a bottle of gin on the dresser and decided he could use a drink. He still planned to kill her, but was mixed up in his mind. A drink would help him concentrate.

“Just sit there, hear me? Don’t you move or I’ll kill you.” Pete brandished the pistol in her direction while looking around for a glass.

“I won’t, Petey.” Doris had seen him looking at the bottle. “There are some glasses in the bathroom. Pour me one too, all right?” She tried being just a little seductive. Just a little, girl, don’t overdo it, she'd told herself. She had to take control, somehow.

He'd forced a smile and went into the tiny bathroom. Grabbing two glasses he returned to see her sitting straight up at the edge of the bed. Her pajama top had been loosened, giving him a glimpse of her right breast. Pete couldn’t help it. Memories came flooding back.

Since it took both hands to pour the drinks, he shoved the pistol under his belt. Handing Doris one glass, he looked for somewhere to sit, reaching for a straight chair sitting across the small room. 

While he was stretched out, reaching for the chair with one hand, drink in the other, she'd made her play.

“Pete,” Doris almost whispered. 

In a somewhat unbalanced position, he turned his head to get a face full of raw gin as she threw it at him while grabbing for the gun butt. As he fell, her hand on the gun's handle pulled her down on top of him. As the two grappled in silence, the pistol slid away into a corner.

Pete, being heavier and stronger, was soon on top. Feeling the metal pick rubbing against his leg, he sat on her left side, pinning her to the floor. Left hand holding her head steady, he inserted the ice-pick in an exposed ear and shoved down as hard as he could. After a very little resistance, it went in to the hilt.

Pete had to sit for what seemed minutes as she spasmed, legs thrashing in a staccato rhythm against a post at the foot of the bed. Doris finally quieted, lying limply under him. It was only then that Pete extracted the instrument, realizing she was really dead.

Panting hard, he'd sat quietly next to her cooling body, looking at the bloody device. It seemed strange that such an innocent kitchen tool could do such a deed. He had used it to chip ice hundreds of times, never realizing what a deadly weapon it could be.

The killing had been an anticlimax. It had given him no satisfaction at all. In fact, it created a large empty space in his life. After all those years of thinking and planning, he now had nothing. Nothing at all to look forward to. Nothing but a few more years as an old man, living in an old house with his memories, gardens, and guns for companions. The thought of revenge had been far sweeter than the deed itself.

Shaking his head in pity for himself, the banker in Pete had put things to order. He'd wiped off everything he had touched in the room, using a spare towel from the bathroom cabinet. 

Next was placing Doris onto the bed as though she were sleeping, carefully wiping her ear inside and out and shoving a bit of toilet paper deep into the wound, wanting his last look at a past love to be as serene as possible. Lastly, Pete kissed her on a cooling cheek. 

The killer had thought of searching the place for money but was too disturbed at that moment. Besides, it had probably been spent long ago or she wouldn’t be living in such a hovel. Wrapping the glasses and gin bottle in a towel to take with him, he'd quietly left the hotel and gone home.

Now, figuring the game was playing out, he was determined to finish with a bang -- literally. The police were coming too close for comfort. Pete still wasn’t certain they'd tied his murder of Doris in with his part in the robbery but at his age the robbery charge alone would put him in for the rest of his life. He had little to live for in any case, little to lose by fighting back. Killing Doris had effectively ruined his own remaining years on the Earth.

Pete finished his preparations. With plenty of supplies, he would snort a little speed to stay alert, then wait.


Detective Jablonski and his partner, Larry Edwards, were met by a familiar, to Jablonski, face at the small Storyville airport. The airport itself was a private enterprise run by a local resident. It consisted of two short runways, which had necessitated their department renting a small airplane and pilot. They could drive but the detectives were in a hurry, not wanting to hold up the Storyville police unnecessarily. To his surprise, his captain had okayed the expense.

“Hi, John. Glad to see you,” Lucy Chin shook both their hands, hers particularly warm in Jablonski’s -- or so he thought. Her eyes seemed to drill into his, and that was no imagination. After that, she glanced over at his partner. 

Although he hadn't kept in contact with her, all the way to Storyville he'd found himself thinking of the petite Chinese police officer, hoping to see her again.. 

While she drove, Lucy briefed both detectives on what the local police had found on the mountain.

“Not only the corpse of that Blackwell guy, but also the getaway car and most of the guns used in the robbery. One was a machine-gun traced to Peter Adams. One that he'd denied owning, not once but at least twice. That ties both of them into the robbery, as well as into Harry’s killing,” she finished. “Because of the statutes, we can’t charge him with the robbery, but Harry's murder has no such limitations.”

“What about Sam Burrows. Could he have killed Harry?” Edwards asked.

“Not likely,” Lucy told them. “The newspaper in Harry's car had a date two days after Sam was arrested. Sam was in our jail at the time, waiting arraignment.” She thought a moment. “Unless someone threw the newspaper in later?”

“Again, not likely,” Edwards replied as they pulled into the police station parking lot.

“And we can hardly ask Trumbell,” Jablonski observed. “It looks as though that leaves poor old Pete Adams as a strong suspect for either or both murders, unless he can give us another name. There still could have been a driver for the bank job.”

“If there were, Burrows would probably have told us. He seemed cooperative and had nothing to lose. He couldn’t have killed either one and has already served his time for the robbery,” Jablonski said as all of them left the vehicle.

After a short introduction and talk with Detective Swint in his office while search and arrest warrants were being acquired, the four of them set out for Pete’s property. They didn't feel it necessary to take more backup to arrest the eighty-year-old retired bank manager. Four of them should be sufficient, or so they thought.

“You circle around to the back, Edwards. Lucy, check out the barn over there and wait in case he leaves by the side door. Careful. He could easily be inside the barn. Me and Jablonski will knock on the door. Should be able to take him by surprise,” Phil Swint ordered, it being his jurisdiction. None of them expected trouble and even left their pistols holstered.

After giving the others time to prepare, John and Phil went up to the porch where they knocked on the front door, with no answer.

What sounded like a dynamite blast came from around the house, briefly shaking the structure. Both detectives ran around the side of the building to find a smoking hole in the ground. Larry Edwards was found wrapped around the base of a large but splintered tree in the backyard, blood already pooling. He didn’t move. He had tripped one of the land-mines and been thrown there.

“Get more people here,” Jablonski almost screamed. “Larry? Larry?” He ran over to his partner. All it took was one quick glance to ascertain Edwards would never answer. His head was turned toward Jablonski and had no front to it, only a mass of exposed brain matter.

Drawing his pistol, Jablonski rushed toward the barn to warn Lucy. As he ran, he heard the heavy distinctive chatter of a machine-gun. He saw Lucy start to come outside and then run back into the barn as shots stitched through thin wooden planks, easily penetrating that side of the building. He himself dodged behind a nearby tree in the backyard and studied the innocent-looking brick home.

The first thing John noticed was that all of the ground-floor windows along his side of the sturdy building were bricked up. The ones upstairs were open but sported heavy iron bars. It looked like a fortress. A few minutes later he saw a shadow in one of the upstairs windows and a rifle barrel poking out.

The detective fired several rounds from his pistol at the other weapon, causing it to withdraw. He was afraid to move. Whoever it was in there could still be watching him from the shadowy interior, or might have moved on. He couldn’t chance it. 

Looking back at a hole in the ground where his partner had probably stood, he realized the place must be mined. Although not knowing anything about them, he dropped down to his haunches and carefully rubbed the ground for any protrusions that might indicate recent burial. He knew Pete had once been a gun collector and might well have any number of such weapons available. 

Jablonski decided he should wait for reinforcements. He could cover the rear and one side of the house, and Lucy had the same side. Of course, all they carried were pistols. Nothing much against the firearms Pete was capable of using. He had already heard some sort of heavy automatic weapon.

The sound of sirens interrupted his contemplation. In a few minutes John saw activity behind him and heard much more in front of the house. As the police finished deploying, the battle-zone again became silent.

That silence was interrupted by a loud ripping sound as some sort of heavier automatic weapon was heard from the front of the building, along with a loud explosion. John saw Lucy running for the house. Thinking it was only Pete inside, firing from the front, he also took a chance and ran for the cover of the house itself. Both made it to the brick walls of the home with no trouble, pressing themselves against sun-warmed surfaces.

The loud firing stopped and the detective waited, his heartbeat settling down. It felt a lot safer there than behind a tree. Pete probably had weapons that could cut that damned tree down, Jablonski thought. Who the hell knew what all he had in there?

“John.” He heard a whisper near him. It was Lucy Chin. He couldn’t help noticing how pretty she looked, even in a ripped uniform, complete with dirty face and disheveled hairdo.

“You all right, Lucy?”

“Sure. I can take care of myself,” she told him, smiling nervously. “What about your partner, Larry?”

“Dead. Probably a land mine, booby-trap or something.”

“Jeeze. I wonder how many I just missed stepping on?”

“In this case, just missed is as good as a mile. You don’t have a radio on you do you?”

“Course I do. I’m a street cop. Always carry one.”

“Let me use it.” 

She came up to him, very close. He could smell her nervous sweat, even over his own since it was perfumed. Having interrogated a good many criminals, John knew all about sweat smells. They could be guilty, from fear, or simply body odor.

“The case is on my belt. It's easier to let you use the handset,” she explained, stretching a cord that ran into the top of her blouse. He could see part of two pert little breasts as he pulled the cord tautly towards himself. “Easier to keep the cord out of my way," she explained shyly.

“Hello? I don’t know your codes. This is Jablonski,” the detective spoke into the mike.

“Do you mind? I’m frightened, even though I try not to show it.” Already almost touching, Lucy flattened herself against him.

“No, of course not. A pleasure. Yeah. Go on Phil. Just talking to myself. What the hell’s going on out front? Me and Lucy, Officer Chin, are against the wall out back.”

“Yeah, ha-ha. Stick to business.” Phil told him that it had been a .50cal machine gun he'd heard in front, firing through a basement window. As they'd fired back, police could see their pistol rounds sparking on the metal of a shield. 

Pete must be running around his house, Jablonski thought. No telling where he was at any one time -- unless he was firing. Phil told him they were still checking, but couldn't think of anyone else that might be in with him. Pete hadn’t had much time to get help and wasn’t known to have any close friends. Not close enough to want to die with him, anyway. 

That couldn’t go on forever. Only one sighting at a time, he assumed, so it must be only one man pinning them all down. A dangerous assumption, but logical. 

Jablonski learned authorities were going to wait until a state negotiator got there to try to talk the fool out. There was no way he could win. Sooner or later he would be wounded, tire, or have to sleep. 

Police could lose men if they stormed the house. Tear gas wouldn’t work. For one thing, Pete probably carried a gas mask. With all that military ordnance, they had to assume he did. Clouds of tear-gas drifting in the thin breeze would hinder the police more than Adams.


The hours went by, John and Lucy sitting down against the back of the building to watch as the sky darkened. John thought of them trying to get around front, but realized it wasn't worth the chance of being shot, maybe by other cops. 

Eventually, they heard a bullhorn as a negotiator tried to talk the man out. The answer was two cars being totaled by the big machine gun, which then went quiet again. We’re in for a long night, Jablonski figured.

“How did a girl as pretty as you get into police work?” the detective asked. He kind of figured they knew each other enough for the question. It was a fairly intimate situation for them, as though the two were bugs on a wall. At any time, a grenade could drop on them.

“My grandparents were both on the force in China, during the revolution,” she told him, shuffling a little closer. “Then my father joined the police in Frisco. Father not being blessed with sons, I’m carrying on the tradition. We Chinese are big on tradition, you know?” She grinned.

“Doesn’t seem such a good idea right now, does it?” John laughed, ducking as Pete fired from one of the second-story windows above them. Since he hadn’t dropped anything on them, he probably didn’t know the two were still there; which gave Jablonski an idea.

They waited until Pete went on to another firing point before the detective turned to his compatriot.

“How strong are you, Lucy? Did you ever take that training course on entering a structure? I mean the one where one officer crouches down while another jumps on them, and is boosted up and over the obstacle?  Like into a window?”

“Yeah, I think I know what you mean?” She still seemed a little dubious.

“I mean, if I went back about fifteen feet or so and ran at you, do you think you could take my weight for a second and help me up to that balcony over there?” 

It was a roof over a small back-porch. There was no window or door above it, only what looked as though it were a platform about five or six-feet square to keep rain off the porch. 

“What good would that do? There isn’t any window or nothing,” she asked, puzzled. “And wouldn’t it be easier for you to hoist me up, I’m lighter than your fat ass.”

“Speaking of fat asses,” he answered, looking at her meaningfully, then sighed. “Yeah, guess you’re right. We might be able to get in if we can get to the roof. From my experience, these flat-roofed brick houses often have an access door in a tarred roof, for maintenance or something. Or maybe just to let the residents sunbathe."

“Speaking of bathing, I could use one.” She giggled. “We both could.” She became serious, “Maybe together, after this is over?”

“I wonder if the lieutenant can get us a rope, that would help?” Jablonski deliberately avoided an answer. He used the radio to ask. 

About a half hour later, there was a "thunking" sound and the two were sprayed by brick-dust and chips. A small arrow had appeared sticking into the brick wall six-feet from them. It had a thin black cord attached. “Damn. At least Swint could have warned us.”

Pulling on the cord brought a much thicker rope snaking over the ground. It had already been knotted every foot or so and was plenty long enough to reach the roof.

While they were studying the rope and winding it into a coil, Jablonski heard shooting from the other side of the house. It was rifle and pistol fire that ended in another ground shaking explosion, then a long drawn-out scream. He noticed it didn't shake the sturdy building. Lucy keyed on her radio to ask what was going on.

“A SWAT team tried to storm the other side of the house with an armored truck from town, Phil says." She told him. “Adams has some kind of rocket launcher. Blew up the local Brinks truck they were using. Got some wounded.”

“Let’s go. We been sitting long enough.” Jablonski got to his feet. “Wait until he fires again from out front, then get out there quick and run back at me. I’ll help you up.”

The two had to wait anxiously for twenty minutes, until Pete fired at something from the front of the house. Lucy rushed out into the yard, turned, and ran right at the detective. At about four feet from him, she jumped. He was ready, crouched and braced. Using her forward momentum, John threw her upward at the porch roof.

Lucy's hands grasped a metal railing around the platform. He tried but failed at shoving from below as her waving feet fought for something to hold on to. 

Finally acquiring a purchase she stood, out of breath, on the platform. The rope went up next and was tied to railing supports. Jablonski being out of shape, she had to brace herself and help him up. Next was the roof itself.

It was much easier. He simply stood against the building with cupped hands while she climbed his body, with him holding her steady. Her fingers could reach a drainpipe from there. It squealed a little, but held as she pulled and he pushed her lighter body upward. The rope was then tied to a chimney on the flat roof and he, himself, was soon standing on a tar-papered surface. 

He could hear a muffled cheer from the other end of the backyard. It reminded him that the police had been watching them earlier while she’d been hugging him for comfort. That was why Phil had made that crack.

“Now, let’s hope there’s an entrance and that it isn’t booby-trapped or locked.” Maybe knowing she had an audience, Lucy appeared more animated and enthusiastic while Jablonski felt like a tired old man. Where the hell was that adrenalin when you really needed it? 

It was hard searching in the dark and on their knees, but Lucy did find a loose section of tar-paper, in a square about two-feet on a side. She found it by its handle, resembling that of a flattened cupboard latch.

“How we going to do this, John?” she asked nervously, looking at him with fearful eyes reflected by distant street lights. He could hear the slide on her pistol slamming forward in the dark.

“Leave it in place for now and hope it isn’t locked. When he fires from one of the other sides of the house, we’ll trust to luck and try to go in. Then all we have to do is track him down in there.”

“All? Ain’t that enough? In the dark?"

“And we stay together, no matter what happens. Don't go running off to look for the bastard. The last thing we want is to shoot each other by mistake." John paused, thinking. "Now first thing, you get over to the other side of the roof while I raise this. That way, if it’s booby-trapped it won’t get us both and the other can still drop in after it blows.”

“What if you’re only wounded? I can’t leave you to bleed to death.”

“Ha, fat chance. If this thing does blow, there won’t be enough left of me to save. Don’t worry your pretty head about it.” He tried to laugh but found his throat too dry. It came out as a cough. Her statement hit too close to home.

The two heard the .30cal machine-gun chattering around the side towards the barn. Jablonski, taking a deep breath -- maybe his last -- steeled himself and jerked the handle on the trapdoor. It came up so easily he fell over onto his back, the square of plywood flying to rattle ten-feet away. 

Cursing softly, John had to search for his lost pistol in the dark while Lucy sped past him and down into the house. Obviously, Pete Adams had forgotten about the little-used roof. Maybe he hadn’t thought anybody could reach it? Whatever, they were soon inside.


John found they were standing in a bedroom. It was dark, but enough light came in from a single barred window to see by. John hoped to hell the inside of the house wasn’t booby-trapped. From the way Pete was running around in there, from floor to floor and window to window, that didn’t seem very likely.

The firing from the other side of the house stopped and all was silent again. The detective could hear running footsteps downstairs as the killer raced from somewhere to somewhere else. Good, John thought. At least he wasn’t coming upstairs yet.

Finding a stairwell, the detective could see the remains of a living room downstairs. It was obvious police bullets had taken at least some toll on the furniture. Of course all the lights were off. He didn’t dare show himself for a clearer look, since Pete could be anywhere.

The detective moved over to where Lucy stood across the stairwell from him, also trying to see below.

“Look. This is our best bet, I think." He held her close, bending to whisper. She pushed her ear into him, to hear better. They could hear a couple of shots from the first floor, sounding much louder from inside. "Sooner or later he has to come up here. The best place to take him is on the stairs. I’ll bet he has his long-guns and larger weapons lying at different points, rather than carrying them from one firing position to another.” Jablonski continued whispering, “All he’ll have on him is maybe a pistol. We’ll wait until he gets halfway up and stop him. What you think?”

He could feel her moist hand on his side, grasping his own tightly. Her hand was slippery with sweat -- or was the sweat his own?

“Okay. Sounds good to me,” she whispered in a slightly shaky voice, her hand coming up to his neck, pulling his head down. He felt a warm sweet breath and then a kiss on his right cheek. “Good luck.”

They separated and waited as firing reverberated throughout the house, again much louder in the closed environment. Then there were more running sounds from downstairs, followed by a curse as Pete must have tripped over something. They heard loud panting as he reached the base of the stairs, and then started up.

“Hold it! Police!” Jablonski heard Lucy cry from the other side of the steps. 

There were several flashes as first Pete then Lucy fired. John hadn't been ready. Caught by surprise, there was a scream as the flashes ruined his night vision. The detective heard someone crashing down the stairwell. Still not able to see anything but shadows, Jablonski ran down, blindly holding onto the railing with his left hand, the gun in his right slamming back and forth in the dark.

Dimly, John could see the killer rising and emptied his own pistol into the man. By the time Jablonski finished, Pete was nothing but a dark lump at the base of the stairs.

“We got him, Lucy. We got him,” the detective called out, panting loudly. It wasn’t until he was fully downstairs that he noticed his partner hadn’t answered. “Christ,” Jablonski cried, rushing back up the stairs. 

He found Lucy on her knees, sobbing quietly, one hand on her right shoulder amid a smear of dark blood, wet eyes shining in the dim light.

“Come on, honey, time to go home and take that shower.” He nuzzled her neck while searching the top of her blouse for her radio handset.

"Deeper, John. It sometimes drops below my bra." Somehow, he didn't mind that investigation.

The End. 

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