The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 32

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

The music of laughter, toasts, and clinking glasses floated out the open windows of Alioto’s upstairs dining room. Mario Barla, the manager of the world renown seafood restaurant, stood in a dark corner of the room observing his well dressed guests, seated at candle lit tables. One of Mario’s great pleasures is to be credited for the excellent service offered his guests, and so each evening, he also watches with the vastness of an eagle’s eye, his staff as they wait on their patrons. The first unusual event of the evening had been the quick departure of the guests from the center table. The group that he suspected to be FBI Agents had order aperitifs. All seemed well as they enjoyed their drinks until a quick moving rumor floating from newcomers coming up the stairs reached their ears. The person Mario deemed the lead agent had used the slightest nod and a slight flick of his index finger to signal his men to leave. According to a code, the team retrieved their overcoats and left by the same stairs they had used earlier. The last of the group to leave tucked three twenty dollar bills under his drink, and left without comment to anyone.

“Mister Barla. What’s going on?” asked a young waiter. “They just got here. Their drinks have hardly been touched.”

The impeccably dressed manager in a black silk suit and bow tie pulled the waiter aside and whispered.”Stephen, in this business you need to have a sharp eye and tight lips. Capisce? Something terrible has happened up by the turntable and your guests departed because of it. I suspect that they were all FBI Agents.”

“How could you tell?” asked Stephen in the same quiet tone of voice.

“Listen to me. You need experienced eyes like mine. I know where to look.” He patted the young waiter on the side of his arm and said, “Start looking at things without being seen. You can learn a lot when you know what to look for.” Mario tilted his head upwards with the air of the more intelligent class. He added, “There is much you can learn if you know how. For an example, a quick sliding look across the front side of a gentleman’s coat while he is unbuttoning it might reveal a slight bulge, and the constant lift under the arm might be hiding a holstered gun. I practiced this technique when I waited on guests as you do now. Someday, you will have experienced eyes, too,” he added with a smile. “Now go. Clear that empty table and take the money to the cashier. You can keep the change for your tip.”

Mario watched the smiling young server head for the cashier’s desk. To his own delight he saw the movements of Stephen’s shifting eyes travel from guests to guest, scrutinizing men in sport coats and jackets. Stephen had put to practice what he had just been taught. Mario chuckled to himself, Soon this young man will be trying to solve crimes.

 

FBI Agent Robert Parker and his team traveled back to the cable car turntable saying no more than, “Excuse me, please,” as they slid through groups of people going in the opposite direction. Their authoritative voices captured the attention of those on the lookout for trouble. “Don’t they look like the FBI? Did you see their matching overcoats and ties?” said a tourist.

Parker and two other agents, Sanders and Bronson, approached the crowd hovering around the turntable. They badged their way up to a small group of men hovering low to the ground by the cement planter near the path to Fisherman’s Wharf. Presenting their badges to the people pushing against them for a look at the victim, they asserted themselves, “FBI, stand back.”

The cable car engineers nodded to each other when one of them read a walleted identification and badge. They stepped aside and relinquished their positions to the agents who looked like men of strength and had the firm voices of authority. “I’m glad you’re here, man. What do you want us to do next?”

 

Agent Parker squatted down next to Jake who still had his hand over the victim’s bloody neck. “Who found this man?” asked Agent Parker.

“I spotted him,” said Jake. “I thought he was a drunk who had passed out.”

Behind them came loud voices ordering people to stand back. Detective Vincent Fontino, and his two top men, Detectives Marino and Scully, along with more police had arrived. They barged their way through to where Agent Parker tried to study the lethal wounds inflicted on the yet unidentified man.

Fontino squatted down next to Parker. He identified himself, “I’m Detective Vincent Fontino, SFPD, who are you, sir?”

I am Special Agent Robert Parker, FBI out of New York. My team and I were in the area when we heard the rumor of a death here.

Fontino nodded his head in affirmation, leaned closer for a look at the victim and pursed his lips. “Who discovered the body?”

Jake answered, “I did. I am Jake Henderson, the conductor for the cable car standing behind us. In my last check before pulling out, I thought I spotted a drunk passed out over here. I tapped him on the shoulder and rolled him over. That’s when I saw all this blood.”

In the background, police officers raised their voices, telling the crowd, “Move back even further.”

“This poor man tried to say something before he died in my arms,” said Jake. “I leaned close to his face but I couldn’t figure out what he tried to say.”

“What did it sound like?” asked Fontino as he eyed his men and signaled with his arm for more quiet.

“It sound like he said, “Save…arilyn. Save somebody… I couldn’t make out the name..and then he died right here in my arms. I couldn’t do anything to help him…” Jake’s voice trailed off.  Fontino saw Jake shudder as he recalled that moment of death.

The 5′ 6″ handsome but overweight detective, in charge of investigation of all the recent murders in the great city of San Francisco, took in a deep breath and let it out. His mind searched for the right words to comfort this caring old man. Fontino shook his head in acknowledgement of the sadness Jake expressed. In the small amount of lighting from the lamppost, he could see that the conductor still held the dead man’s body as if protecting him somehow. Tears glistened down Jake’s aged lined face, spurring Fontino’s thoughts to the many tearful faces of the grieving survivors he had encounter in the last few weeks. The burning anger inside him grew and he felt his temper about to explode.

Agent Parker pushed on his knees to a standing position and offered Fontino a hand to get up. “I had planned to come see you tomorrow. My men and I are working on a case that led us here from New York.”

“Excuse me. Excuse me.” The urgency in the voice of the man trying to push through officials caught their attention.

“Who are you and what’s your business?” demanded Detective Scully.

“I am the owner of the restaurant across the street – the Buena Vista Cafe. My name is Allen Aherne.”

Agent Parker spoke up. “Let this man through. I know him.”

“How’s that?” asked Fontino.

“I remember him,” said Parker to Fontino. Then he turned to cafe owner. “Mr. Aherne. I’m FBI Agent Robert Parker. I had dinner at your place tonight.”

“I think I can identify your dead guy there,” Allen said as he pointed toward the body in Jake’s arm.

“I think we both know who it is,” said Parker.

As Allen moved forward, Parker brought out his left arm to block him. Fontino tried to pull Allen back. But both men were not quick enough. The horror that spread across Allen’s face confirmed his recognition.

“Oh, my God. I was afraid… I prayed it would not be him. It is Jim Stetson. I’ve known him for years. He is a police officer for the SFPD.”

“What makes you so sure this is him,” tested Fontino.

“His face and neck… it’s a mess, but I know those clothes and his haircut.” Allen choked, “We go to the same barber.” Allen turned his head away. An FBI Agent offered an arm, and the sobbing owner of one of the city’s great landmarks grabbed onto it as he crumbled at the knees.

“It seems all three of us know this man,” said Fontino. “Let’s not say any more until we get him down to the morgue.”Mr. Aherne, please do not share with anyone that you can identify the victim. We have to keep the information confidential. This is a murder investigation. Do you understand what I just said?”

“Yes. Yes, I do,” said Allen standing up straight now. “I’ll get my assistants to close up and I’ll meet you down at the station.”

“One of my men will come with you. He’ll drive you down to police headquarters and bring you to my office. We don’t want anything to happen to you,” said Fontino.

Allen’s jaw dropped. “You think I might be in danger?”

Both Fontino and Parker nodded their heads in agreement.

“Yeah, okay. Whatever you say,” said Allen with a trembling voice. He headed back to the cafe. Officer John Vickers acknowledged Fontino’s nod. “I’ll take care of him, sir,” and followed Allen through the unknowing crowd.

Fontino said aloud with frustration, “Where’s the ambulance? Did anyone call an ambulance?

“We changed the order and called the Coroner, boss,” replied an officer setting up bright orange traffic cones to cordon off the scene.

Blaring sirens and flashing red and white lights of an Emergency Medical Technicians’ van came to a quick halt. Two men carrying a stretcher approached Detective Fontino. “Why are you here? The Coroner and his men are supposed to be here.”

“The Coroner’s men are working overtime with pick-ups tonight. We’re here to help out,” said a technician whose name tag said Zachery. “It’s been a horrific day, sir,” he added.

“Don’t I know it,” said Fontino with sarcasm. Then he quickly added, “Man, I’m sorry. I’m starting to lose it.”

“All of us feel that way, sir.”

“Okay, but first, wait for the forensics team to take pictures. Deliver the body to the Coroner Gregory Simpson, and tell him that per my orders, he is to take charge of this body and report to me right away. Do you know who I am?”

“Yes, sir. You’re Detective Fontino, in charge of the…”

“Okay, all right, all right. I just wanted to make sure. Tell Gregory that this is double stat urgent.”

Stepping close to Parker, Fontino said in a low voice, “Thank you for coming here with your support. As you can see, this city’s resources are falling apart tonight.”

“What can I do to help right now?” asked Parker.

“How about an update from the time you met this victim. Come in my car down to headquarters. We can talk on the way there.”

“I’ll leave instructions for my team to be of assistance. We’ll hunt down this crazy slicer together.”

 

In the car, Detective Fontino found the details Parker shared were as fascinating as a hit movie. He absorbed the details of bank robberies fortified with bombings, and savored the clues that dragged Parker and his team across the states.

When they arrived at Police Headquarters, new reporters swarmed around them at the entrance. “We have no comments at this time,” said Detective Fontino. “We have a few leads, but as you know, we can’t share that information without ruining the case,” he said with a slight smile and a subtle wink of his right eye, the only charm he had ever given the press. He knew that at this high-tension time across the whole city, he had to keep a softness in their news devouring hearts or they would eat him alive in seconds.

Flashbulbs flared from cameras and the disappointed news hounds dispersed to the telephone booths to make their reports. One of Fontino’s men whispered in his ear. “The Police Commissioner is on the phone for you.”

Fontino nodded and said to Parker. “Meet me in my office. There’s a phone call I have to take.”

Ten minutes later, Fontino came through the door of his office so hard the door banged against the wall. He threw his overcoat on the credenza behind his desk. His two most trusted men, Marino and Scully, stood behind Agent Parker on either side of the cracked frosted glass door.

“Thank you, Agent Parker for sharing what you know and your offer of assistance. I just got the ramrod from the Police Commissioner. My whole department is in jeopardy of dismissal. I can use all the brain power I can get.” He paused and picked up a pencil. Twirling it between the fingers on one hand he said, “As you’ve seen, the city is filled with tension. People are scared.” He pulled out a stack of file folders from his lower desk drawer. The murders attributed to the Serial Killer have escalated. This collection,” he held up the folders, “are my murder files from just the last two weeks.” Fontino paused and looked around the room. No one said anything in response. “Now, with or without motive, this killer slices anyone he pleases. That is, if we are assuming correctly, that Stetson’s murder occurred while tracking down the Serial Killer.”

Fontino put the files away and sat down at his desk. “Parker, here’s a detail you didn’t know about Stetson. Chief of Police, Michael Logan, demoted and suspended him from his duties this morning. The specific reasons have not been disclosed, and maybe never will be shared. The Commissioner wants this matter kept as private as possible. Let me think… the Commissioner said, ‘I don’t want the public to have any more, police shenanigans to laugh about.'”

Detectives Marino and Scully shifted in their stance. Detective Fontino saw the understanding look on Parker’s face and continued. “The Chief of Police is fuming, too. One of the big questions is, Why, why was this cop having dinner with a suspected criminal?”

The lead detective dug in his desk drawer and poured out two Aspirins. He rubbed his brows with the palms of his hands. “Many of the men in the force already know about this. Stetson, an ass of a jerk, loved showing off his authority to women, and he loved making men squirm and do his dirty work. I think his brain was wired to collect information to use as leverage and profit.”

“You mean he blackmailed his own men?” asked Parker.

“Yeah. I’ve seen him do it from a distance, but I didn’t have any proof and none of the men involved wanted to step forward to testify against him.” Fontino tossed his pencil back on his desk. “We’ve all been hoping that one of the higher ups would do something about him. But this, this isn’t what we hoped for. And, the timing is terrible,” Fontino yelled. “Stetson’s death complicates all our investigations.”

Fontino swiveled left and right in his chair. “There’s always someone who is going to leak information or start rumors, then the media will have a rip roaring time citing dissatisfaction. Who’s going to believe that cops want to protect the city when they’re corrupt among themselves?”

Agent Parker nodded in agreement. “I understand your predicament. You will have my full cooperation. In the morning I will contact the regional office to qualify this case for additional support.”

A knock on the door interrupted their conversation. “Boss, it’s me, Pete.” Fontino nodded and Marino opened the door. “That owner of the cafe, Allen Aherne, is here to speak with you.”

“That’s good. Show him in, Pete.”

Fontino turned to the three men in the room. “So, while we hear what Allen has to say, my other men are questioning his staff about seeing Stetson tonight. Parker, I want you to sit in on my questioning. After that we’ll have him work with a police artist and see what we get.”

“Then I’ll take a look to make sure we are thinking about the same person,” said Parker as he stood up and rolled his shoulders. “My hunch, is that Stetson’s dinner guest is the Serial Killer, and I’m almost sure that this is the same man I’ve been hunting for across the states.”

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 31

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

George made two right turns and found Mattie, Jeanne, and Krista waiting for them in front of the Wooden Horse Toy Store, their arms loaded with purchases. “We bought some old favorites and some new board games that you’ll like, Haley,” said Jeanne.

Haley waited for them to put their packages behind the second row of seats before she spoke. “Well, I talked with Eric and I’m feeling really good about it,” said Haley. “The guilt of not calling him right away was killing me.”

“So, was he mad at first, or just happy to hear from you? Did you tell him how much we appreciate him? Com’on, Haley…We want all the details,” said Jeanne from behind George’s seat. “Where did you go to make your phone call?”

George came to Haley’s rescue, “I took her to my friend’s restaurant. It’s called Celeste’s Fine Italian Food. Giuseppe, the owner, and I have known each other for years. You’ll like him, Jeanne. We can go there for dinner tomorrow night,” he added.

Just then, an arm thrust a folded newspaper through the car window and let it land on George’s lap. “Thought you’d like your copy of the evening paper, George.”

“Thanks, Chester. I almost forgot.” George tucked the newspaper into the side slot of his car door. He had a good idea what the front page story would be tonight. With a quick look at Haley, he said, “Let’s go home girls. You’re all exhausted. Did that ice cream make your day any better?”

“Oh, Haley. I have an ice cream sandwich for you in this carton. Here,” said Jeanne and passed a striped pink and brown carton forward.

“Thank you, Jeanne.”

“Better eat it right away,” said Mattie. “It might be melting already.”

“You’re going to love it, Haley,” said Krista. “I’m having the same thing. It’s filled with Mocha Almond Fudge.”

“Who would have thought that after what we’ve gone through that we would be winding down with ice cream tonight?” said Haley. Neither one of her friends said a word. Her humor had fallen flat. She quietly finished the treat they bought her as they approached Pierce Road.

 

The sounds of leaves and twigs crinkling under their tires danced through the open windows of the van. They signaled to Haley that she was close to home.

Krista broke the silence. “When will you be talking with Eric again, Haley?”

Jeanne interjected, “Did he tell you he was crazy in love with you and couldn’t wait to see you again?”

Turning around in the passenger seat Haley spoke with calmness. “Eric said that he had been crazy with worry about us and that he was so glad to hear we were safe. He wanted to know where we were, but I explained why we had to keep that a secret.”

“That was per my advice,” said George.

Haley continued, not giving anyone a chance to make a big deal about keeping a secret from Eric. “I told him we were all so thankful he was there to help us at the hospital, and that we all realize how much more trouble we could’ve been in if he hadn’t helped us get away from the apartment building.” Haley paused, deciding to leave out the part about three more deaths in their building. “Oh, one more thing, I told him that George plans to drop off his van at his aunt’s house tonight. Otherwise, there are no plans for the next call. I guess it just depends on what we find out in the news reports.”

“I wonder what our friends are going to think when they don’t see us at work,” said Jeanne. “Oh my God, what are they going to think when they come to visit us at the apartment and find it destroyed?” Jeanne said as an afterthought.

“They must already know our apartment’s destroyed,” said Krista. “It’s in the newspaper that our apartment building is otherwise known as The Murder Building.”

“How did you find that out?” asked Haley.

“I read it in the evening paper at the drugstore.”

“How could you keep that news from us,” asked Jeanne.

“I’m tired, Jeanne. And, I’m tired of being scared. I can’t stop thinking about how we found Mrs. Hamlin laying on the floor dead. Can’t you understand?” Krista broke down in tears. Her hands covered her face as she sobbed, “I tried to contain myself so you wouldn’t lose your happy spirit. She loved me, and now I just want to disappear and die.”

Jeanne climbed over Mattie’s legs to squeeze in next to Krista. She held her best friend tight.

Even in the dark, Haley saw tears welling up in Jeanne’s eyes. “I am so sorry I’ve been such a big mouth,” said Jeanne.”

“Jeanne, I think that’s your way of hiding that you’re still scared, too,” said Haley.

“I’ve never seen girls loving each other so much. We’re going to be okay, right, George?”

“Yes. We are all going to be okay, and we’re home now.” The tires crunched on gravel as he pulled up in front of their cabin. “A good night’s rest will strengthen us for tomorrow. Girls, there’s one more thing Mattie and I want to share with you. We’ve arranged for certain friends to provide continued protection while you’re here, so try to put those worries aside and get some sleep.”

“Someone’s watching over us like in the spy movies?” said Jeanne.

Everyone laughed and shook their heads in disbelief of her humor as they got out of the van.

“If there is anything you need, please let me know,” said Mattie.

“Ditto that for me, girls,” said George.

Krista wiped away her remaining tears with the back of her hand. “You both have been the answers to prayers. This beautiful home and your loving ways are more than anyone could have hoped for.”

“Talking about comforts, I can’t wait to crawl in bed,” said Jeanne. “Com’on Krista. It’s so quiet around here, I bet we could hear the ants snoring.”

“Sure, they’re all under your bed, Jeanne,” snapped Krista.

“Sleep as long as you like,” Mattie said. “Breakfast is when you want it. George and I are going to spoil you girls for a while.”

“I can handle some spoiling,” said Jeanne, and she hugged Mattie goodnight. “And George, I’m looking forward to knowing you. Thanks again for the trip into town tonight.” She turned and took the stairs two at a time.

“Ditto that for me, too,” said Krista with a meek smile. “Good night.”

Haley moseyed up the stairs behind them but halfway up she turned and came back down. “Aunt Mattie, George, I’m so glad to be here again. It’s wonderful,” she said and hugged them both. “Thank you.”

“You always have a home here, Haley. We’ll see you in the morning. Get some good sleep tonight,” said her aunt.

 

Mattie and George settled down on giant floor pillows in front of the fire in the living room. “Doesn’t it feel wonderful to have them here, George? I think it makes this house feel full and even happier,” said Mattie.

“Yep, it’s full of laughter, and a lot of worries. I hope they’ll be able to adjust. They’re used to an 8 to 5 routine, five days a week. Now, they’ll have nothing to do.”

“Oh, it’ll be six weeks before they get bored with this town. Then they will want to drive to Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Carmel. Jeanne will be boy crazy for a while. I think Krista will find something unique to do, but I don’t know about Haley. She loved her job with her boss at DuPont, and now that she has a crush on Eric, who has a good job in San Francisco, anything can happen with her. Oh dear,” she sighed, “at least we’ll have them all together here for about six weeks.” She turned over, nosed her nose to his and hugged him tight. “Me? I’m here to stay with you.”

“Yep. Like Krista said, “Ditto that for me, too.” They chuckled and turned over toward the fire and fell asleep watching the embers fall through the grate.

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 30

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

By the light offered by the lamp posts Steele moved with stealth into the crowd gathered at the head of the cable car. A knitted watch cap lying on the ground underneath a bench caught his eye. He looked around to see if anyone was looking for it. Everyone faced toward where Stetson’s body laid. Steele picked up the cap, shook the leaves out of it, and put it on. His body tensed with alert as he spotted the man who had been eating dinner at an adjoining table. In quick steps the man headed right for him. But he slowed down as he got closer, and without a pause he glided pass Steele without showing any recognition. Damn if the simplest things don’t make the best disguises.

In the dark Steele felt confident as a stranger. That was one of the charms of being a tourist in San Francisco. Striking up conversations with strangers in public places had a safety rope. When ready to move on, strangers would just say, “Good-bye, have a wonderful day,” and be gone. Tonight, Steele stopped in the midst of a family group or a couple to pipe in a joke, or add a flattering comment.

The bold voice of a young teenager caused an unpleasant reaction from the crowd. “Hey you guys, I just heard that a man’s hurt over behind this cable car and that there’s blood all over the place.” He paused, then added, “The guy must be dead.”

Steele watched heads turn toward the speaker who didn’t look old enough to shave. He heard several women gasp. As the rumors flitted from one group of people to another, he also heard young children starting to cry.

“Get down from there,” said a sailor dressed in his blues and a white cap. He rushed toward the teenager and pulled the kid off the cable car. Holding the scared teen by the collar of his car coat, the sailor held him close face to face. “The people who raised you, raised a fool. You’re scaring people.”

 

Tingling feelings of pleasure traveled up Steele’s arms as he continued to watch the crowd’s reaction to what he had done. He cupped his hands together as if to blow on them for warmth, but his true purpose was to hide a wicked smile. Killing Stetson has its unexpected pleasures.

More voices from newcomers to the turn table popped around. The sounds of panic beneath what they said, kept the tingling sensations moving up Steele’s arms. “What’s happened? Is that true? Are we safe? Should we get off the cable car?”

 

Steele right hand slid into his right pants pocket to feel the smooth and cool finish of his switchblade. With an itch to have some more excitement he started down the asphalt path leading down to Fisherman’s Wharf. He joined a group of giggling girls with their cousins and blended in with them, talking about the great sea food at Alioto’s.

Joking around for a few minutes, Steele won an invitation to join the group for dinner. The taller one of the group with thick brown hair and football shoulders said, “Hey man, why don’t you come with us to Alioto’s for dinner. You’ve been there before so you can clue us in on what to order.”

“Sure, I can do that,” said Steele with a big grin. At that moment, one of the girls said, “Here comes trouble, Jannie. It’s your little brother.”

“Jannie, Jannie!” a young boy yelled as he ran down the path and crashed into her. He pulled on her coat sleeve. “Mom says you need to come back, now. Someone’s dead,” he said and paused to catch his breath. “We heard there is blood all over the place.”

“Oh Nicky, don’t exaggerate,” Jannie said as her shoulders slumped. She brushed her long blonde hair back over her shoulders, and Steele saw that her dimpled smile had disappeared.

“I don’t want to go back. I’ve been looking forward to dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. You, Mom, and Dad are okay, right?”

“Yeah, but Mom’s real scared,” said Nicky.

The two teenage girls eyed Steele, their friends, and then looked back at each other. The one with the longer hair said, “Jannie, let’s go back. I’ve never seen a dead body before.”

“No way, Katie. I’ll go back because my mom’s worried, not because of any dead body. What kind of friend are you?”

“The curious kind,” said Katie.

“I’m curious, too,” interjected Nicky pulling on his sister’s coat again. “Let’s get back quick or I might miss it.”

“Okay. Let’s go back now,” said Katie. “Seafood doesn’t sound so good to me anymore.”

Without a word of apology to Steele or their other friends, the girls grabbed Nicky by the shoulders and ran back toward the cable car. Steele and the others followed. Staying close to the girls, they weaved through a maze of people until Jannie found her parents.

“Here they are, Henry,” announced Jannie’s mother as she wrapped her arms around them. “Oh thank God you girls came back!”

She cuffed Nicky’s ear. “And you, Nicky. You weren’t suppose to run off like that,” scolded his mother.

“Yeah,” said Henry as he put his arm over his son’s shoulder.

“Dad, Dad. Take me over to see the dead body,” urged Nicky.

“Son, listen to me,” he bent over and said in a low voice, “A dead body is terrible to look at.”

“But I’ve never seen a real dead body before, Dad. Just on TV.”

“We’ve got to respect the dead, son. They are not objects for us to get thrills. If the rumors are true, that someone died  horrible death. You’ll always wish that you hadn’t seen him because it will be a sight you’ll never forget.”

“Gee, Dad. You take all the fun out of this. It’s gruesome stuff I can tell my friends when I get back to school.” Nicky crossed his arms and pouted.

Henry patted Nicky’s head and pulled him close. Whispering in his son’s ear, he said, “I don’t want to scare mother and the girls, Nicky. But, that serial killer we heard about on the radio this morning might still be around here watching us. Stay here next to me, son. If this cable car doesn’t leave soon, you can help me hail a taxi cab back to the hotel.”

Nicky’s eyes went wide in awe as he stared up into his dad’s face.  His father had just trusted him with a big secret, and said he could be of help, too. He nodded to his dad that he understood. They moved closer to where mother and the girls stood.

 

“Hey guys, I’m going to get something to drink. It’s been a long wait. Are you still going to dinner down at the Wharf?”

“Nah,” we’re going to stick with Jannie and her family. We all know each other from school back in Iowa. Come back and see what we’re going to do next,” said one of the other cousins. “We always have fun hanging out with them.”

“Okay,” said Steele and fist bumped the kid before he turned around and left. He pretended to be heading toward the Buena Vista Cafe but made a quick left turn on Beach Street. Good planning, Steele. Here comes the owner of the cafe.

A yellow cab came up beside him trying to maneuver between tourists on the street. Steele knocked on the driver’s window. “I need a ride,” said Steele when the cabbie rolled down his window.

“Sorry, mister. I’ve got a fare waiting for a pick-up,” said the cab driver tipping back his cap to see Steele better.

“Here, this will make up for it. Right?” Steele handed over a hundred dollar bill.

“Well, no one else is going to beat that tonight. Get in,” replied the cab driver.

Steele scooted over to the right side of the cab and sat back. “Take me over to Bush and Mason Street,” he instructed as his thoughts were of the petite blonde hostess he met at lunch at Lefty O’Doul’s. “I’ve got a sweet girl waiting for me.”

Copyright 2015 Millieanne Lowe, Orange County, California

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 29

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

Stetson fired his gun and the sound of it echoed across the park. If anyone had heard or spotted the tiny flash, it would have been hard to see the two men fighting at the far end of the pier as they were on the dead end side of the round house. Stetson had felt his gun firing high. If only he had cat eyes and been able to see in the dark, he would have seen Steele’s leg coming to knock the gun out of his hand. Then the Serial Killer would be dead now. Stetson swore as he felt Steele coming at him again. A fist hit his jaw and he felt as if his teeth were about to fall out. Still, nothing was more important than living long enough to kill Steele.

Bending down Stetson scrambled for his gun as it slid across the cement ground toward the opening in the pier wall. The gun hit the foot of the slot and slid backwards to the underside of a fisherman’s bench instead. A kick in the ribs brought blinding pain. “I don’t do business with losers,” jeered Steele.

As Steele’s leg swung toward him again, Stetson grabbed  his ankle and twisted his foot. That brought his opponent down to the ground. They rolled on the ground behind the bench, each man trying to beat the other to death.

Stetson’s fist struck out for Steele’s face but Steele saw it coming and moved. Stetson’s knuckles scraped against the ground and he swore as the pain radiated through his hand and up his arm. He put his weight on top of Steele and leaned on his left arm across the killer’s chest as he reached for the gun tucked in the back of his waist. Steele crossed his legs like a pretzel, did a sit-up and then rolled backwards up to his shoulders, throwing Stetson off to the side. Steele sprang to his feet, and drew out a flashing switchblade. Before Stetson could back off, Steele lunged forward and stabbed Stetson under his ribs and twisted the blade. “See if you can stand the pain, you looser!”

 

Steele watched as Stetson, looking stunned, buckle at the knees. Steele stabbed him a second time. “Just making sure you make it to hell, pal.”

Satisfied, the killer stood up, wiped the sharp blade on the backside of his jeans, closed it, and stashed it in his pants pocket.

“You’re lucky it wasn’t your throat I sliced,” said Steele. “Now you can die a slow death.” He turned and ran into the darkness toward the bath house. Steele had a plan. As soon as he made it passed the bleachers, he would change his pace to a casual walk. Then he would mingle with the crowd surrounding the cable car turn table. Soon afterwards, he would be on his way to Marilyn’s apartment on Bush Street.

 

Stetson felt the burning pain where Steele had stabbed him twice. Rolling onto his right side, Stetson pulled out a handkerchief from his back pants pocket and pressed it hard against is wound. It wasn’t going to be enough to stop the bleeding, but he had to try to get to some help. He crawled over to the fisherman bench, reached under it, and retrieved his gun. Steele’s running footsteps faded in the increasing distance.

“Watch out. I’m no looser and I don’t give up easy,” mumbled Stetson. Using his elbow to press against the wound, his hands pushed down on the cement seat. And with stifled grunts of pain Stetson managed to stand up. He spotted Steele’s navy blue neck scarf on the ground. Leaning on the back of the bench for balance, he lifted it up with the toe of his shoe. With his left hand he shook out the dirt and debris. Swinging it in the air several times, he doubled it in half, and then once again. Stetson stuffed it inside his windbreaker to pad his wounds and soak up the blood. At a snail’s pace, the fingers of his hand  moved the zipper head higher to keep the scarf in place. A scattered thought came to mind – Wouldn’t it be a surprise when Steele saw his neck scarf again?

His head hurt with every movement. God, another pair of hands to hold my head would be real nice. Hunched over, Stetson headed back to the cable car turnaround where he knew Steele would try to get lost in the crowd. He muttered obscenities as he weighed his chances of saving Marilyn from harm. If only there had been a phone booth built on the pier for emergencies, he could call the police and have them save Marilyn. Save Marilyn…that became his mantra through his pain as he quickened his stumbling steps.

 

Out of breath, Steele slowed down. He had run the length of the pier which was about a half mile, and made his distance to the bleachers beyond the bath house. He felt confident he was free of Stetson. If no one else went down to the end of the pier in this heavy fog, a tourist or fisherman would not find Stetson’s body until the morning.

He combed his blond hair with his fingers and smoothed down his jacket, then sensed that something was missing. His neck scarf. He patted his jacket pockets, nothing was there. Should he go back to find his scarf? Nah, he thought. Whoever finds it will think a tourist had lost it because an elegant Paris label had been sewn in.

As he came closer to the crowd, he did one more check. His hands felt up and down the outside of his leather jacket searching for wet spots of blood. He felt none. He then felt secure and did not look back. Although, if he had, he might have seen a slow moving, hunched over man with a gun in his hand, following him.

Steele stepped into the crowd of people who stood around the turn table. They were waiting for the grip man and his team to finish turning the cable car around. He found a senior couple chatting with their grandchildren, and started a conversation with them. When he became bored with their chatter, Steele squeezed in with another group. They were talking about getting souvenirs down the way in Fisherman’s Wharf. Steele caught  sight of blonde hair and smiling faces, sneaking glances at him. This was much more interesting. He moved along to join them in their laughter.

The wait for the cable car to be ready for the next load of passengers took a while. In the midst of laughter after he had shared a great joke, Steele turned around and saw Stetson’s pale and pained face. Their eyes locked. Steele made the first move. He walked over to Stetson’s right side, put his arms over the crippled man’s shoulders and said, “Hey, pal! Where’ve you been? I thought you’d gone home in a taxi.” Steele slid his hand down Stetson’s right arm and with quiet force removed the gun from his enemy’s grip. “Com’on over here and get in line with me. We’ll be boarding soon,” he said.

Smiling, Steele patted his friend’s shoulder in a warm and friendly manner. Squeezing Stetson’s shoulders hard, he forced him toward the back end of the cable car. Stetson made a move to reach for his other gun, but Steele blocked his arm and said, “Keep quiet and you might live a little longer.”

Over by the front of the line a teenage boy pointed at them. “There’s those two drunk guys again, Dad.”

“I see them son, let’s keep our distance,” responded the father. They turned their backs on the killer and the wounded cop and redirected their attention to the cable car.

The men working the turntable locked it into place. The  grip man jumped on board and attached his gear to the rumbling cable beneath the ground. He rang the bell hanging over his head to signal the conductor that he was ready for passengers to come aboard. Upon hearing the bell, people who were cold, and tired of standing around, boarded without a further sign from the grip man.

A low roar of excitement filled the air. Some passengers, the older men and women, headed for the inside of the cable car where they could see out the windows and be a lot warmer. Other passengers, bundle in warm clothing, caps and gloves, raced for the limited number of seats on the outside bench. Those who missed getting a seat grabbed their spot on a lower step next to a pole.

The cable car wobbled as people continued to climb on board. Every seat and every inch of standing room inside the cable car disappeared. These were the people who stood and grumbled in the cold for 45 minutes waiting for the cable car to appear over the hill and get turned around. Now they cheered, laughed, and called out to each other, “Over here! I saved you a seat with me, over here!”

Steele watched and waited for the moment when everyone’s attention focused on finding a seat. Poking the gun into Stetson’s side, he turned the weakened man sideways. Stetson tried to pry himself loose of his grip. Steele pocketed the gun and snapped open his switchblade. He pointed the tip underneath Stetson’s jaw. “This is it, man. End of the line,” he said and jabbed the blade upwards and ripped across Stetson’s throat.

He felt Stetson’s body jerk, and saw the eyes widened for a moment. Stetson gurgled as if on cue and began sliding to the ground. “Hey man,” Steele said, “If you’re going to be sick, let’s move over there.” Steele hefted Stetson’s half dead weight over to the a cement planter. Leaning Stetson against a short wall next to a hedge, he turned and walked away.

Within three minutes Steele rejoined the laughing group of girls he had spoken with before. His reformation back to wholesome, good-looking guy, was smooth, as always. He had avoided a major part of the blood spurt, wiped clean his blade, and stashed it back into his pocket. With his arms crossed and hands tucked under his elbows, he smiled to get their attention. “What are you girls going to buy at Fisherman’s Wharf?” His white teeth attested to his good-guy personality and the girls chatted with him non-stop. Steele found their trust in him, an unbelievable phenomenon. Especially with stories of the Serial Killer in the news day and night. The thought made him even happier than getting rid of Stetson.

“Which restaurant are we headed for? I’m starving!” yelled one person to another in their group. Amid the ensuing banter of which place to go, Steele chimed in, “Alioto’s the best!” and continued to walk in step with the girls as if he were part of their group all along.

 

Stetson knew he was dying. He struggled to move and fell to the ground. That’s when Jake, the disgruntled white bearded cable car conductor, spotted him. He had just apologized, “Sorry folks, the car’s full. You’ll have to wait for the next one.” The disappointed group moaned and stepped back to huddle together at the beginning of the new line.

“This can’t be another drunk,” the conductor mumbled to himself. He walked up to the dark mound by the planter. “Hey Mister, get up or you’ll be…” As he got closer, he faced the horror of the Serial Killer’s work. A ghastly cut across the throat bled profusely. Jake pulled out his handkerchief and covered it. He tried with both hands to stop the bleeding as he called out, “Someone, quick! Call for the police and an ambulance.”

Right away, men in the crowd left their families to see what had happened. “Oh my Lord,” the conductor said. “Please help this man. There is so much blood everywhere.”

The grip man noticed that his conductor had not rung the bell in response to his signal. Holding onto one of the white poles, he swung out and yelled into the darkness, “Jake! What’s holding you up, man?”

A shaky voice emanating from the crowd of men said, “Someone’s hurt. Get an ambulance and the police. Hurry!”

The grip man and his assistants ran toward the conductor to see for themselves what the problem was. They backed off in shock. One of the two assistants held back the crowd gathering toward them. The other ran into the wood shack, turned off the radio, and called the police for help.

The tourists who had boarded, unaware of what had happened, complained. “What’s the matter? What’s the hold-up now? We’re cold out here, can we get going soon?” The questions grabbed more attention to the assistants.

“Why is the grip man bent down over there? Did someone have a heart attack?”

In his final moments of consciousness, Stetson knew he had lost the battle with Steele. Sensing the close attention from the conductor, he moaned, making the slightest noise.

The conductor leaned closer, “What did you say, man? How can I help you?”

Stetson’s lips moved and all he could say was, “…arilyn. Save …arilyn.”

Then his very bad day ended in a very bad way.

“The ambulance should be here any minute now,” said someone from the crowd.

Jake shook his head, “I don’t think it’s going to help. I think this man just died.”

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

James Langston Hughes 113th Birthday Celebration

On Google Doodle today I was led to discover this link: http://www.redhotjazz.com/hughes.html  I found it a fascinating and inspiring read and thought you might also enjoy learning about this Black American writer and poet.

Hughes’ work and his life was controversial for many reasons. One of the quotes that impressed me was when Hughes argued, “no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself.” His statment made me look quickly at myself…I have been afraid of writing the things I could for fear of offending certain people, and this has held me back, maybe, from being all that I can be as a writer. I am now in the stages of finding out more about myself and what I dare to write, J. Langston Hughes has inspired me. I hope you find his life and writing inspiring, too.

MillieAnne Lowe

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 28

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

Since his childhood, Steele had always thought that he and the darkness were one. In the darkness, away from the temptations of the women he found inadequate, he found comfort. The darkness served as a theater to visualize and relive his pleasurable memories and adventures. In the dark places of his mind, it served as a place to regenerate another murderous event. The darkness was Steele’s personal think-tank.

As he walked beside Stetson, their breaths appeared as small puffs of steam billowing from a fast moving train. Steele’s had two thoughts playing tug of war in his mind. On one end of the rope, his need to kill Stetson. On the other end, his need to see Marilyn. After the allusions made by Agent Parker, releasing his passion with her would soothe his soul. But then, she also was not perfect. She had an attachment with the boyfriend, whose name was Mark. No problem, getting his revenge would be easy. If Mark was there, he would enjoy what Steele planned to do to Marilyn.

The vicious killer took a deep breath and the chill of the air cleared his mind from all the booze. His plans for tonight would be unique. No other girl he had found had been as special as his intended for tonight.

The old lady, her dog, her daughter and two grandchildren had not been killed for any pleasurable reason. The last three girls he had devoured were wayward girls, unworthy substitutions for his first great love, Alicia.

Steele recalled the memories of his first passionate love. As far as he was concerned, his life began when he fell in love with his neighbor’s daughter, Alicia.

Alicia had captured his heart with her youthful beauty of soft creamy skin, sky blue eyes, and soft blonde hair that carried the scent of a new day after a rain. Her sweet voice and innocent thoughts charmed him. In a short time they became inseparable. No one would have imagined that their coming together would begin the most unusual experiences of his life.

When their long walks in the woods were no longer suitable to include their passionate kisses, Alicia breathlessly expressed her how she felt, “My desires to be totally yours match the passion we share.” They ran hand in hand toward her grandfather’s old and worn out barn. Alicia climbed a tall wooden ladder to the loft, and he had followed. Clucking hens scurried around, kicked up small bits of straw, flapped their wings furiously, and fussed in circles. They alerted all who would listen that a stranger was among them. Three resident horses, neighed, acknowledging the young couple’s presence as well.

Up in the loft, the aroma of sweet hay mixed with the scent of liniment, created a warm and sensual ambiance. As their passionate kisses heightened their lust, a howling wind approached. Its strength crashed open the barn doors, blowing every item not tacked down into its swirling cyclone. Splinters of wood shot through the hens like arrows. Two long slivers pinned a Rhode Island Red hen to the base of a thick wooden column underneath the loft. Hay, dirt, and bits of rags, swirled high and low, invading the hayloft where he and Alicia lay naked.

As the debris flew in circles around them, Steele held Alicia closer. The hardness of her pert young breasts against his skin excited him beyond what he had ever experienced. They kissed and caressed  the once unknown private places of each other’s bodies. Their uninhibited lovemaking rocked and pulsed with the thunderous rhythm of the storm outside. Their screams of climaxing together matched the high-pitched notes of the howling wind. Alicia’s hair ribbons blew off and her lustrous blonde hair spread in all directions.

The storm became larger, hovering right above them. Horses neighed and screamed their fears, kicked down their stall gates and dashed wildly out into oblivion. Tin cans that once held nails, spilled and clattered in the wind. The noise of the storm screeched like an orchestra warming up for its masterpiece. The musical fabric of chaos circled the two lovers. They chose to ignore any danger and once again fulfilled their passionate desires.

When the storm stopped they had been laying in each other’s arms when suddenly, Alicia screamed. She pointed at her grandfather climbing over the edge of the loft.

His scraggly white hair, electrified, stuck out from his head like a mass of wires. His eyes were wide with disbelief as he looked upon them.

“Get away from me! Stop starring at me!” Alicia frantically searched for her clothes to hide. A new storm, howling like the first one, roared into the barn obliterating everything in its path. The old man stretched out his arms and took a step toward Alicia. Steele remembered instinctively grabbing  the pitchfork from its hooks and throwing it at the leering old man.

The blood he saw was bright red. It seeped from where the tines had punctured the old man’s chest.

Alicia held the shreds of her skirt in front of her, tears ran down her face as she mumbled something Steele could not hear. As she shook her head back and forth in denial of what was before her, Steele felt a renewed force in his body.  He pulled Alicia down to a remaining dark corner. Giving his passion priority, he left the old man bleeding to death in a pile of debris. Twigs from the nearby woods, chicken feathers, hay, nails, and a feed bag, lay around his inert body… remnants representing his whole life as a farmer. Ignoring her protests, Steele kissed her as he pinned her resisting body down with his. Stretching her arms above her head, he rammed into her with the force he had felt in the storm. Elated with every move he made in her body, his needs renewed with an insatiable appetite.

The chaos of the storm, the killing of another human being, the sight of blood flowing from the body, and the excitement of new pleasures sustained him. The swirling chaos had seduced him, enveloped him, and captured him once, and for all his lifetime.

Steele saw the repulsion in Alicia’s eyes, the soft and dreamy look she had for him was gone. Another whirlwind tore away the side of the barn. Alicia screamed as the wood cracked and the wind whooshed with power, lifting and twirling every small bit in its path. Outside the horses screamed again in fear and galloped away in all directions.

“Let go of me! I don’t want to die here! Let go!” Steele covered her mouth with his hand. These were not words he wanted to hear. As she fought to get away, Steele grabbed a knife partially hidden under a haystack. Then, with every thrust of his body, he pierced her body with the sharp and shining blade and gloried himself with the spurts of blood like her grandfather’s… bright red.

Steele remembered looking down on the violence, as if he viewed everything from a balcony. He stuck the point of the blade under her ribs, cut her in the stomach, pounded the knife in her chest, and when near spent, he slit under her breasts. His final thrust into her body accompanied the flashing steele blade into her throat.

Her blood streamed everywhere, and her eyes had seemed to be looking up into heaven. “Alicia, my Alicia, you are a beautiful sight to behold.” The quietness after her death presented him a masterpiece of his own, and the excitement of his actions was more than he had ever thought possible.

Wiping off what blood he could from his face, hands, and body, Steele put on his tattered pants and shirt that he found plastered against one of the remaining walls. With agility he jumped from the loft and ran outside. The shadows of what remained disclosed the devastation to all that he knew and had treasured. The farm house had been flattened to its foundation. The once thick woods, home to many animals, and chirping birds, suffered the greatest destruction. For as far as he could see, it had been shredded by the storms until only slivers of trees and rough stumps remained. As he stood there, another dark funnel approached, its powerful force moved around and passed him, splintering the barn where Alicia, and the pitchforked body of her grandfather lay. To escape the swirling debris, Steele had jumped over dead animals, and ducked flying pieces of farm equipment. Two other storms came together upon the barn and everything in it disappeared as if it had never existed. Steele remembered all that had happened and how he felt. The darkness made the storms for me.

When neighboring farmers came to help they were in awe of the storm’s total destruction. Steele drew into himself and feigned shock. All the while enjoying his private thoughts.

 

The blare of fog horns brought Steele back to the present. But he hung on to one lingering thought. Since that time, killing anything had not been a problem. He smiled a wicked smile in the dark.

He and Stetson now stood of the far side of the round house at the end of the pier, more than a mile from the restaurant. They watched a thousand small lights twinkling in the hills, believing that they were just as small and that no one watched them.

Stetson moved closer to Steele. “There’s a smile on your face. What are you scheming about now?”

Steele turned to his rival and smirked, “I’m thinking about what I’m going to do to Marilyn tonight.”

“Oh no, you’re not.” The barrel of Stetson’s gun flashed under the lamp post. “Tonight, you’re going to hell!”

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

 

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 27

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

Stetson watched the city’s most dangerous and feared man stew in his thoughts. He had never seen Steele scared, worried, or stumped. The killer always had quick and confident answers for everything. Now, Steele’s eyebrows knitted together in serious thought making him look like an scowling owl.

What Agent Parker related about their suspect rang true – the large sum of money, their suspect fleeing from the east coast, and the admirable techniques used for the explosions. All three points matched back to back to Steele’s highlights tonight.

Stetson scrutinized Steele’s face again. Behind the scowl Steele’s brain was figuring out who ratted on him. That dumb rat, he’ll be dead soon.

All sorts of thoughts flew across Stetson’s mind. Agent Parker had played his hand just right by setting Steele’s mind into a fight or flight mode. He and his team were probably just waiting for Steele to panic, make a mistake, or try to escape. Does Parker suspect, or already know that Steele is the Serial Killer? The timing of the first murder fits the timeline Parker described.

Stetson took a deep breath and said, “Hey man, you look like your mind is somewhere else solving a problem.”

“Yeah, you got that right. I’m tired of this place. I’m tired of a lot of things. Why don’t we take a walk down to the end of Muni Pier? Ever been there?” asked Steele.

“Yeah, sure. It’s where I made my first move on a girl in high school and got kissed,” Stetson said with a smile at the memory.

“Well, heck. You aren’t such a miserable loser, are you pal? Com’on, let’s get some fresh air.”

Stetson saw no hints of unsteadiness as Steele slipped on his leather jacket and threaded a navy blue scarf around his neck. His original idea to get Steele drunk and off guard was not working. Not after Agent Parker’s allusions to an imminent arrest.

He signed the dinner bill and left a twenty-dollar tip for the waitress. Stetson zipped up his windbreaker half-way leaving room for quick access to his weapons. The particular style of his jacket hung loose from his shoulders, and the length of it covered his back weapon even when he bent over. Knowing that they were in place, Stetson felt confident that he was ready for whatever action needed. He knew something was going to happen tonight, and soon.

Outside, a light fog hovered over the street lamps. Further out, its dense form made it harder to see the roundhouse at the end of the pier. Nodding toward the windows, Stetson commented, “It’s going to be chilly out there.”

Steele looked at him and shook his head in a pitying way, “You’re such a pussy. Worried about getting a chill? You’re still your Mama’s good boy, aren’t you?”

Stetson walked up closer behind Steele and gave him a he-man shove with both hands, laughing as he did so. Steele overemphasized it and purposely tripped into a busty brunette in a black v-neck dress. Her friends stood next to her by the door.

“He did it,” Steele said as he pointed over his shoulder to Stetson.

One of the girls said in a husky voice, “Well, if he doesn’t want you, I’ll take you out.”

“Sorry, girls, I have to be good and get home to bed.” Steele smiled and winked at the giggling women.

“Com’on, get going,” said Stetson as he acknowledged the people at Agent Parker’s table with a wave and a smile.

“Let’s go back and you can push me into that girl again,” teased Steele.

“No, we don’t. You can’t always get away with murder,” Stetson said.

Stetson felt his face redden and turn hot with embarrassment of what he had said. Outside, the cold air stung his face hard. Coming across an empty soda can, he kicked it with such a force that it flew over two parked cars.

Speechless now, Stetson jay-walked across the street to the curved pathway along the shore.

Steele caught up with him. “You’re wrong, pal. I always get away with murder.”

Under the light of a lamp post, Stetson saw Steele’s wicked smile.  The violent urge to bash in the evil face pulsed through his arms. Instead, he hid his tightened fists in his jacket pockets as if his hands were cold.”Let’s walk on the right side, here,” he said. “It darker. It’ll be harder for anyone to see us together.

“That’s just what I was thinking, pal.”

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California