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About Dead Doris 4 of 8. Detective Adult 2,800 (1 Viewer)


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Synopsis: In mid 2003, Detective Sergeant Jablonski and partner are called to investigate an old woman found dead in a small hotel room. They find out it's a murder. The scene shifts to Doris Trumbell, sixteen and wild in the year 1942. Her and friends, Harry and Sammy, with the help of her boyfriend, Pete, rob a bank where Pete works. During the robbery, Doris accidentally shoots Pete. They Escaped with the cash. Sammy being caught later, Doris leaves town after killing Harry.

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 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 had 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 next day. 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 picture. 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 dates of 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 had an undercover police car with her 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 sported 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 look 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 the 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."

She 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 always turned 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 her 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 a 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 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 them when their romances break up.”

“Do you think this 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 out 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 body-shop, 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 got 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 -- L.A.. 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 Pete 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 up 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 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 a 1906 Springfield for us privates." He laughed. “Never had the honor, and too late now. Back then, you could order them from any gun-shop, 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.”

At the conclusion of the informal interview, they found he wasn't of any more help, saying all he knew was the robbery itself, nothing much about afterwards.

End of Section Four of Eight. To be posted approx. every two days. Please tell me of any mistakes you noticed.
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