Bill and Frankie pulled into the parking lot of the Jack-In-The- Box at the corner of Davis and Willomet, in north Oak Cliff. They had been re-interviewing possible witnesses to the killings, and known associates of the four victims. So far they had broken no new ground.
“Wanna’ go in or go through the drive-thru?” Bill asked as he took his foot off the accelerator and gently braked for a car in front of him.
“Let’s go in and grab a table,” Frankie said. “That way we can go through the evidence and the data we collected on the tree and the van. See if we can get a lead that way.”
“Sounds like an Oscar,” Bill said as he pulled into a parking space and cut the engine.
“An Oscar, as in an Oscar Meyer Weiner?”
“I don’t get it,” Frankie said as he exited the passenger side door.
“It’s a play on words,” Bill explained as he closed the car door and walked to the entrance of the store. “Take the word ‘winner’ and give it a slight Spanish inflection, you get ’weeeeener’.” Bill drew out the word in an exaggerated phonetic sound. “From weener you get Oscar Meyer, so you call it an Oscar.”
“Billy boy, that is one sorry play on words,” Frankie said with a smile.
“It’s a Yankee thing I guess,” The smile came over Maloney’s face quickly as he added, “It goes over well in the Bronx; the Puerto Ricans started it.”
They entered the Jack-In-The-Box, got their food, and headed to a table in one of the enclosed areas near the back of the store.
“Frankie, what did you find out about the van?” Bill asked as he took a large bite from his hamburger.
“Not much to go on there. With no license number, not even a partial, the best we could do was run Chevrolet through vehicle registration, then sub-category by van, and localize by City of Dallas. We don’t even know what year it is.”
“What did you come up with?”
“Two hundred and seven. There are two hundred and seven Chevy vans registered in Dallas. That’s a lot, but at least it might give us something to cross reference with.”
“How about the tree?”
“Well,” Frankie began, and then stopped to take a drink of his iced tea. “We checked with every nursery in the vicinity, and checked their delivery records for the last five years. Thank god for computers! We found that there were 130,000 tree deliveries made by nurseries in Dallas and the nearest suburbs of Highland Park, Plano, Richardson, Irving, Garland and Grand Prairie. Then we sorted by Chinese Pistachio, and found that there were 5,046 of these trees delivered. Next we localized to the north Dallas nurseries, which would include Highland Park, Richardson and Plano, and found that over this period there were 3,554 deliveries.”
“How many matches do you have with the van and the tree data sets?”
Frankie took another long drink of tea and smiled at Bill from across the table. “We have eighty-nine matches.”
“Not bad. So, assuming that your samples include our nasty boy, and further assuming that he didn’t provide fake ID, we have a possible suspect list of eighty-nine people.”
“Exactly”, came Frankie’s reply. “Now we can start doing background checks.”
“By the way, did you find out anything new from forensics?” Now it was Frankie’s turn to ask the questions.
“Well kinda,” came Bill’s equivocal response. He finished his hamburger and washed it down with a Coke. “On the down side, the duct tape, the fishing line, the weed killer, the gorilla mask, the catcher’s mitt, the tent stake, the fishing pole, the bobber, and the fishing lure are so common as to be virtually untraceable.”
“Well where does the ‘kinda’ come?” Frankie joked.
“I’m getting to it already,” Bill grinned. “I got to thinking about the Cortez killing,” he began.
“The one with the fishing lure attached to his lip,” Frankie responded.
“Right,” Bill continued. “You know I fish, and I know that putting lures on your line, I mean attaching a lure to a swivel at the end of your line, takes a lot of dexterity from your fingers. It also takes the same dexterity to remove a lure with a treble hook from the mouth of a fish. It stands to reason then, that it would take just as much dexterity to implant a treble hook in the mouth of a fish, or a man.” Bill paused for a sip of coke.
“Go on,” Frankie encouraged.
“Well, then it hit me, Frankie, like a damned ninety mile an hour fastball. “The blood on the other treble hook, that came from somebody other than Cortez.”
“What are you saying Bill?” Frankie was now very intrigued.
“I’m saying that he had to take his gloves off to free his fingers for the delicate task of implanting the treble hook in Cortez. That’s how he stuck himself. He was holding the lure with his fingers and as he was implanting the rear hook he must have got one of his fingers caught in the front one. If he had to take his gloves off, he had to have left prints. We overlooked that the first time around because we didn’t know about the blood. I got the lure from the evidence room and gave it to our fingerprint technicians.”
“What did they find?”
“They found a full middle finger print, a full ring finger print and a partial pinkie print. They are now searching for a match.” Bill responded.
“Good work Bill Boy!” Frankie said with a huge smile as they both arose to leave. As they were about to get in the car, Bill looked across the top of the vehicle at
Frannkie with a quizzical look on his face.
“Frankie, did you run a make on the blood type of those eighty-nine matches?”
“That’s next up at the plate,” Frankie said as he got into the car and closed the door. “My turn to drive.”
It was just about dusk as the low angle of the sun brought out the long shadows of trees and buildings. While night would soon enshroud the city, dawn was approaching in the minds of the two detectives. They were getting closer.
They had driven in silence for three blocks, when Frankie shot a quick glance over at Bill, who was drumming his fingers on the armrest.
“You know she likes you, don’t’ you?” Frankie said with a smile.
Bill stopped his drumming and glanced at him.
“I know who likes me?”
Frankie pulled up to a red light, and looked over at Bill.
“Maria, she likes you. You know, as in really likes you?”
“I know what you mean Frankie. I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night. How do you know she likes me?”
The light turned green, and Frankie eased through the intersection.
“Because, I’ve seen the way she looks at you,” he said.
Bill turned and looked out his window, mumbling to it incoherently.
“What?” Frankie asked.
“I said, I sure haven’t seen her look at me that way.”
Frankie started laughing.
“Well of course not you rummy! She’s too subtle for that. She’s not a bimbo. She’s a class act. Whatcha’ think, she’s gonna go all gooey-eyed at you?”
“Hell Frankie, I don’t know. Don’t forget to turn right at the next corner.”
“I’m on it chief. Well?”
Bill was becoming annoyed now. He cut his eyes at Frankie.
“Well, do you like her?”
Bill rolled his head around as if he had a stiff neck. “Yeah, I guess, hell I don’t know?”
Frankie started laughing again. “Are you kidding me? With that face, those eyes, and her brains, and you don’t know? Billy Boy, Maria is a babe! If you don’t like her then you’ve got a screw loose.”
Bill acquiesced. “Well, sure, I guess she’s okay. But hell, Frankie, relationships with women, they’re like…I don’t know, they’re like a pepperoni pizza.”
Frankie raised his eyebrows as he stopped at another red light. He looked over at bill and frowned.
“Okay,” he said, “I’ll bite. How are relationships with women like a pepperoni pizza?”
“Well, it’s simple. At first it all looks great. You really want it, and you dive right into it. Then, before you know it…you’ve got heart burn, and you’re goddamn sorry you ever succumbed to it. And then you swear you’ll never do it again.”
“Is that what happened with your ex?”
Bill nodded. “Her name is Mona.”
“But the thing is, you do go for the pizza all over again, don’t you?”
“Yeah, you do, Bill said. “And that’s what I’m afraid of. So there’s that. But then, it seems like everybody I get close to dies. So then there’s that. It’s like an extra topping on the pizza thing.”
Frankie turned on Zang and headed for the substation. “But Mona didn’t die, Bill.”
Bill looked straight ahead, somberly. “She did on the inside Frankie.”
Frankie instinctively knew to let that one go.
“ I don’t want to put Maria through that kind of hell,” Bill said as he wrung his hands.
“I understand. But if I know Maria, I think she would like to decide that for herself. Know what I mean?”
Frustrated, Bill looked out the window again. “Who started this conversation anyway?”
Frankie pulled into the substation parking lot and said, “You did. You just didn’t realize it.”