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. It turns out the Doris was the murdered woman in 2003. John Jablonski and partner, Larry Edwards are investigating both her murder and a 60 year old bank robbery.
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.
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.
He and his bosses thought Pete 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-convict's testimony? Against the word of a respected ex-bank manager 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 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 a 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 check it out. 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 new 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 took 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.
He followed an unused dirt road off the highway and to the house itself. The structure was 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 go back to town.
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 of the building was 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, the detective 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 lying 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 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 guns 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, detective,” Jablonski told Swint. “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 the 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 in California? He also figured 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 getting ready. 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 of that era, called a “bazooka."
Although he had 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, like behind trees where police officers might crouch. Pete made up his mind not to go down easy, suicide by cop seeming better than the rest of his life in jail.
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.
“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 the solid oak workspace at 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 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 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 attempted to visit him.
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 new 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.
End of Section Six of Eight. To be posted approx. every two days. Please tell me of any mistakes you noticed.