February 19th, 1955
Get Broke Quick
It was cold enough that I could see my breath. A cold front had moved in overnight, and it made me wish for a warmer coat. My trenchcoat has seen better days. The Lucky Strike I was puffing on did little to actually warm me, but it was nice to pretend that it kept my hand at least a little warmer.
I had another hangover, and this one without the benefit of Nana’s spaghetti to help ease the pain. It left me feeling mean. The bitter cold wasn’t helping.
Damon finally pulled up in his squad car. I didn’t ask how he managed to shake his new partner, instead just started walking up the street towards the mechanics shop. Damon had to run to catch up with me, and his heavy breathing revealed the scent of alcohol. He was drinking on the job again.
“I didn’t sacrifice my job for yours, just so you could drink it away,” I wanted to say. Instead I kept my mouth shut.
Eric Frank was a hot rod mechanic who we had liked for the murders those years ago. The two of us were actually giving him a talking to when the shootout with the other lead suspect fired off. Damon and me, we always figured he had stopped ‘cause the City had gone with a scapegoat. Now that it had started back, he was back to suspect number one.
Damon was telling me about how he was trying to get the Chief to reopen the case, and how politics was throwing a wrench in the system. I mostly tuned him out. Our current mayor had got his seat by bringing the Stilton Strangler to justice. There was no way it was getting reopened.
The shop was a small two bar garage with a small office to one side. Both bays were closed against the cold, so we made our way to the office. Inside nothing much had changed since we were last there. The only difference I noticed in fact was the girl behind the desk. She had on a lot of make up, too much, especially around the eye. I suspected it was hiding a bruise.
“Looking for Mr. Frank, he in?” Damon asked, flashing his badge.
Her eyes widened. “He’s back in the junkyard officers,” she said, pointing towards a back door.
We marched right on out back without more than a muttered thanks to the woman.
The junkyard was a maze of ruin. Cars filled our vision, each flawed in some terrible way. We fit right in. Damon led the way, giving a veneer of propriety to this whole affair. I just needed him to hold it together long enough for us to find a little proof on this guy.
We rounded a row of cars and then there he was. He was a big man, heavily muscled, with a head shaved bald. He was up to his elbows in an engine, working a large wrench to try and pull something out.
“Hello again Mr. Frank,” Damon said.
Frank noticed us for the first time, and his eyes narrowed. “The hell are you two doing here?”
Damon stepped forward, his hands in the pockets of his long coat. “How about you let us ask the questions. Like this one: where were you three nights ago at about ten o’clock?”
I liked to ease into things a bit more, but Damon always went right for the throat.
“It’s none of your business where I was,” the man said. He held the large wrench in his hand ominously.
Damon stepped a little closer. “See, I think it is. Another girl, she’s gone missing. Junk yard like this…lots of places to hide a body.”
The man snarled. “I was with my mistress.”
Damon laughed. “Of course you were. No way she would lie to cover for you.”
Something triggered in Frank’s mind. I could see it happen, the man just snapped. With a yell he threw himself at Damon, swinging the wrench.
Damon is a big guy too though. He just hides it well under that coat of his. Three rapid fire punches had Eric laid out on the ground. The man was sobbing pitifully, blood streaming from his nose.
It was disgusting.
“Go to my house,” the man was choking out around his sobs. “You’ll see, my wife, she’s gone. She…she…she caught us. That night. Walked right in on us.”
Damon took a step back, looking over to me.
“She the girl working the desk?” I asked, squatting down beside him.
He looked up at me and nodded.
I reached down and pressed my thumb against his broken nose. When the scream stopped, I looked him dead in the eye. “If I ever come back and see her with a bruise, you better move by God.”
I rose to my feet and walked away. It’s strange how trying to do the right thing can leave you feeling dirty.
Damon matched my pace. “Well assuming we believe him, which I do, there goes our only suspect,” he said nodding over his shoulder at still prone man.
We were passing through the office now, when something caught my eye. A flyer. I ripped it off the wall, then showed handed it over to my old partner. He looked, then his eyes widened. ‘Son of a bitch…do you think?”
I nodded. Taking the flyer back from him, I read it again.
“The 6th Annual Great Hot Rod Rodeo! All this month!”