Sunday, September 15, 2019

HAMILTON FISK

Copyright (c) 2019 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



Hamilton
Fisk
By R. Peterson


            Lawrence Fisk had just been called to serve as Bishop of the thirteenth ward. He was dressed immaculately in a Stafford Executive suit accented by a bright red tie which subtly showed his affiliation with the Utah Republican Party. He carried in his right hand a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants with a highlight on section 111 verse 2 dealing with Salem Massachusetts. Accompanied by his wife Ruth, her sisters Kate and Emma and eight of his nine children he left early for Sacrament Meeting. Before leaving, he’d taken a few minutes to look down into the square concrete walls that had previously formed a coal chute, before the two hundred year old stone-house had been converted to natural gas, and prayed that his last offspring, an adolescent, would sleep away the day.
The courteous and helpful staff at the Neuropsychiatric Institute had assured Lawrence that there was nothing medically wrong with his daughter’s mind at least nothing that might require compulsive incarceration. However, the doctors who had conducted the extensive examinations confided privately to him that they and several of the staff were frightened by her dark and enigmatic aura.
A splintered eight-foot long, two by ten with nailed traction slats every foot along the length leaned against the mold-spotted walls and resembled more of an entrance board to a chicken coop than a stairway but Salt Lake City had very stringent laws concerning child detention. Lawrence hoped the ignominy of his righteous household would remain in the dark and secluded hollow he had created for her and not cause any further embarrassment.


-------2-------


Hamilton Fisk lay on the sweat dampened mattress and listened as the two Chevrolet Suburbans left the driveway. The black wax candle, she’d lit only moments before, illuminated a Siouxsie and the Banshees poster and a female Brown Recluse spider spinning a web in a dark corner of the unfinished ceiling.
She got up slowly and searched through a sewing box on a table near her bed and found a pin. The spider, which she’d fed flies to for weeks, tried to crawl into a crack in the cement wall. Ham used a burnt matchstick to lift the spider from the web and move it nearer the candle flame. She used a pair of thick bifocal glasses stolen from her “aunt” Emma to observe the spider’s tiny mouth-parts as she delicately prodded the chelicerae area with the pin. Ham smiled as the Brown Recluse left a tiny gob of venom on the end of the pin then replaced her on the web. She wiped the pin clean on a quarter-sized slice of thin roast-beef and then put the meat into a plastic bag.
The curtain-less shower was ice cold but she took her time and used plenty of goat milk soap to lather her long ebony hair. All rituals required a cleansing and before midnight she would do nine. She dressed carefully in a mid-thigh black-velvet Dark in Love dress with a low-cut lace up neck and pulled black boots over black leather leggings. A silver-plated Curses Chain  belt with a dagger attached was hooked around her waist. The knife, when drawn from its sheath appeared to be merely a black lipstick holder. Unbeknown to any of the Salt Lake Police officers who had previously questioned and searched her, a hidden latch turned the lipstick holder into a real weapon with a wicked sharp blade.
She used no makeup. The all night McDonalds on second south did not allow it.
Ham stood in the bottom of the cement walls that used to form the coal chute, closed her eyes and listened. She kicked the chicken board with the horizontal slats with her boot. There was no way she was walking up that! She took a moment to make sure that no one was around. Why cause trouble? Slowly she levitated from her basement apartment. Two streets over, two Pit Bull dogs began to growl. The growls turned to shrieks as they were attacked by three black cats.
            “Thank you my pets,” Ham muttered as she ambled down the snow covered sidewalk. “It’s nice to know you have my back.”

-------3-------

            The first city bus could have taken her directly to work but she had the time and she chose the second. She was dropped off just one block from Joe’s Attic a dingy antique store with a vintage bicycle gathering dust in the front window. She shouldn’t have been anywhere near the store but she was drawn to the magic like a moth to a flame. And this was even more dangerous.
            Ham stood at one corner of the dirty glass and peered through the spokes of the 1938 Adler Damenrad ladies’ bicycle on display inside. The store owner had moved the bike to his show window to entice her. Joseph Amati was anything but friendly unless you gave him what he wanted.  The fifty year-old man had almost dragged her into the back room twice when she inquired about the bicycle’s price. “I won’t sell to just anyone and the price isn’t money,” he’d told her as he stared at the snake inked on the back of her hand. Ham knew plenty of guys like him. They considered any girl with a tattoo a whore and made crude advances.
She wanted to make sure he wasn’t where he could see her … so she could inquisition the bike. He was in the back room with a bucket of soapy water washing a dirty shade from a lamp.
            Ham took two 1939 Lincoln wheat pennies from a pouch attached to her belt and pressed them face down against the glass … about two foot apart. She rotated each coin with her middle fingers. Ideally, she should be closer.  It took several tries but then the bicycle wheels began to turn. Joe Amati looked up from the lamp shade he’d been cleaning. The bicycle’s kick-stand must have made a noise on the wooden platform when it moved. Ham ducted down and held her breath. After a couple of minutes she peered over the edge of the window. Amati was gone so was the bucket of water. She placed the pennies wheat side down against the glass and then slowly slid them upward. The bicycle trembled and then finally lifted into the air.
            Ham smiled. The bicycle was the real thing. She just had to figure out how to get it.
She heard a noise and turned a split second before the hot, dirty water hit her head and shoulders. The bicycle in the display window dropped to the floor and tipped over.
Ammonia in the washing solution burned her eyes. “Vattene da qui!” Amati howled. He stood with the bucket in his hands and stared at the top of her wet dress where her sixteen year old cleavage shown. He looked up and down the street then licked his lips. “I have in mind to drag you inside! Darvi una frusta!”
He reached to clamp boney fingers on her shoulder. Ham twisted free then stood-up and shoved him. Amati stumbled three steps backward and fell.
Ham slipped the wheat pennies into her pouch as she ran. Amati cursed as he struggled to his feet. He hurtled the empty bucket. It hit the sidewalk behind her. “Ti prender├▓ la prossima volta che ti dividi,” he yelled. “La prossima volta ti prendo!”


-------4-------


Ham waited almost twenty minutes for the next bus one block down. A tree, with a few leaves left in late October, kept her partially hidden. She kept staring down the street expecting the Italian perverti to show up … but he didn’t. Her hair had frozen in long stringy tangles.
She got off at the north end of second south. There was a bridge there with friends under it.
Several shopping carts filled with empty bottles were jammed against the cement embankment Three unkempt individuals warmed their hands around a metal trashcan burning broken pallet boards. “Got food?” one of them asked as she passed. “I haven’t been to work yet,” she told him.
            Liberty Johnson was half buried under three ragged blankets. “Are you sick Libby?”
            “Just cold,” the old woman said pulling the blankets tighter.
            “I’ve got it,” Ham showed Libby the piece of meat she’d wiped the spider venom on.
            “How much?”
            “About as big as a pin head,” Ham told her.
The old woman’s arthritic fingers produced a tiny paper square with an image of Disney’s Goofy printed on one side. Ham took it from her.
            “Make sure they are both swallowed at the same time,” Libby said. “The effects should begin thirty minutes to an hour after ingestion.”
Ham carefully worked the LSD into the tiny square of roast beef.
            “I wish I was coming with you,” Libby said. “But I’m getting too old to go creeping.”
            “I’ll tell you all about it when I come back here with my bike,’ Ham told her.
            “Make sure he gives you a receipt,” Libby said. “Terror will make him do anything but when he’s himself again he might have second thoughts.”

Ham arrived for work at the second south McDonalds fifteen minutes early. It was a good thing she did. The regular cook had called in sick and Ham would get an extra twenty-five cents an hour for taking his place. Luck seemed to be on her side but Ham wondered how long it would last.
Her shift ended at midnight and at first she didn’t think he was going to show. She’d followed him for months and knew his routine. Sunday nights at 11:32 on his way home from visiting his mother he always stopped for a McRoast-beef Sandwich, fries and a Coke. She’d gotten this job after formulating a plan to get the bicycle.
            Her pulse quickened as she saw the white station wagon get in line for the drive through. They were extra busy tonight. She waited until both the other employees were busy with customers and then she spooned roast beef onto a bun with her tiny piece of beef on it. She wrapped the sandwich and placed it in the warmer.
            Two Utah State Patrolmen were at the window. Clair, the girl working the registers, took two double cheeseburgers, two fries and then grabbed the roast beef sandwich from the warmer and dropped them into a bag. She handed the bag to the officer driving while she filled two paper cups with coke. Ham was dumbstruck; she just stood there staring.
            “Miss,” One of the officers pushed the wrapped roast beef toward the window. “I ordered a McChicken sandwich!”
            Clair tossed the roast beef back on the warming tray and retrieved the right sandwich. Ham didn’t know she’d been holding her breath until she started to breathe again.
            “I was just trying to do him a favor,’ Clair said as the white station wagon pulled up to the window. “Do you know what the put in them chicken nuggets?”

            “A McRoast beef, a small fry and a large coke,” Joseph Amati recited his order exactly the same way he had at least four times before.
When Clair handed Amati the bag he took the sandwich and fries out then knocked on the window. “These fries are cold,” he complained. “You want me to pay full price for cold fries?”
            “We can take the fries back and not charge you,” Clair explained. “But nobody gets a discount!”
Ham watched Amati take a big bite out of his sandwich.
            “Sporche puttane americane!” Amati growled just before he sped away.
Ham used her cell phone to dial the other members of Abra Cadaver. “He ate it,” she said.

-------5-------


The assistance manager wanted Ham to stay late and help clean up. “I quit,” Ham told her.
Ham was halfway to Amati’s antique store when Worms picked her up in his Father’s Ford F150. “Are you sure he lives alone above his store?” Walter Havens was gripping the steering-wheel so hard his knuckles were white.
            “He has a brother who stays there sometimes but he’s always drunk. If he is there it will be like stepping over a sleeping dog.” Ham was putting on her make-up. A flashlight, on a string, pointed at her chin was around her neck.
            “You got the key?”
Ham smiled as she held up the skeleton-key. “The locksmith didn’t even have to file it. It’s a standard key for nitwits!”

Worms parked a half block from the shop and they walked. Lights were on in the windows above the store. The downstairs was dark but Ham could still see the Adler Damenrad ladies’ bicycle lying on its side in the display window.
            “Maybe we should just bag this,” Worms moaned.
            “That bicycle belongs with me,” Ham told him. “If you got the shakes … wait for me in your dad’s truck.
            “That’s a great idea,” Worms said. He was already running. “I’ll keep an eye out for cops!”
Ham inserted the key in the lock and turned it. At first nothing happened and she swore under her breath. She applied more pressure and the lock mechanism clicked. It sounded at least three times as loud as it should have. Ham inched the door open and then reached up with her right hand to silence the bell. The store smelled of dust, sweat and cigar smoke. The sound of a television came from above.
The stairs to the apartment were at the back behind the cash register. A car went past outside and dark shadows chased each other across the room.
As she ascended the stairs the sound of the television grew louder. It was a good thing because several of the stairs squeaked. She turned on the flashlight that made her face glow.
There was a long hallway and it was dark. Ham hadn’t counted on this. She was halfway down the hall when a door opened behind her. The cold metal of a gun barrel was thrust into her neck. “Scream and I’ll kill you,” the voice said.

TO BE CONTINUED …

Sunday, September 8, 2019

JEEP the ripper part 3

Copyright (c) 2019 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson


We flung ourselves inside the Dodge Matador, Just as molten-steel from the massive cauldron poured into the mold we’d been standing in. The car was surrounded by steel body molds from a time when most American cars were not made of plastic. “Quick! Light another cigarette!” I yelled. Wesley took a cigarette from the battered package he’d been hording and sighed as he stared at it. “Light it!” I thundered.
            “I should have never started smoking again,” he said. “Now I’ll have to quit all over again!”
            I slapped the back of his head. “Now is not the time to quit!” I screamed. “Jeep the Ripper is somewhere above us and there’s no telling what he’ll do! We need you smoking so we can hop out of here!”
I could hear something mechanical start up and looked upward out my side window. Jeep the Ripper was parked on a platform high above us next to a large crane. A rusty chain with a large magnet attached to the end began to descend rapidly.
Wesley pushed in the lighter embedded in the dash and I felt the hydraulic lifts begin to fill. The car began to bounce and play music the same time the lighter popped out. “Louder!” I screamed.  Wesley carefully adjusted the volume on La Cucaracha just until the car began to bounce sideways. The magnet scraped the bumper but missed us. The crane was turning, trying to snag us. “Louder!” I bellowed. I knocked Wesley’s hand away from the knob and cranked the volume all the way up.
The Dodge Matador leaped into the air just as the magnet brushed the back bumper and we somehow became free. The car bounced out of the mold and I hit the gas. We careened sideways and smashed through a stack of rusty barrels leaking some galvanizing chemical that smelled like it was mostly gasoline. Fumes from petroleum products are one of the most dangerous things in the world. I told Wesley to put out his cigarette … and he tossed it out the window.
I heard Jeep the Ripper roar to life or was that flames? I saw him hurtling down a ramp. This time the furious four wheel drive was going to make sure we didn’t escape.

-------2-------

We thundered down endless corridors with rows of wrecked cars and salvage metal stacked on both sides. Jeep the Ripper had been towing the cars he’d wrecked here for years and melting them down. It was the perfect way to hide his devilishly dirty-work. Twin doors were open the way we’d come in and I headed toward them. Just when I thought we were going to escape, the doors rolled closed. The Ripper was obviously using a remote control. He beeped his horn twice though to confirm my suspicions. The Jeep seemed to be laughing. Wesley lit another cigarette.
I raced and banged through a massive warehouse littered with giant spools of frayed and rusty cable tangled like fishing-line. The CEO of this factory had obviously run this operation into the ground. He’d probably spent money like a wealthy immigrant fresh off the Queen Mary. One of the spools of cable had Brooklyn Bridge stenciled on one side with the words FOR SALE painted over it. “There’s a sucker born every minute!” I horse-laughed like B.T. Barnum. Wesley nodded. He was just finishing his cigarette.
            “He’ll never catch us!” I tried to project a confidence I didn’t feel as I swerved to avoid a stack of broken and leaking freezers. The Dodge Matador slid on the ice, wheel-hopped over a small mountain of exhaust pipes and crashed into a solid wall made of cases of unsold tuna fish cans. The Matador’s engine backfired twice … and then stalled. Decades of old dust filled the air. I could hear the roar of an engine moving up fast behind us … then turning … backing up. Even with my expert police skills, I knew we were in trouble. We were in Jeep the Ripper’s lair and he had all the advantages!
Wesley was slow lighting his next cigarette and the car shuddered as Jeep the Ripper’s tow cable fastened securely onto our back bumper. The Jeep began beeping out Morse code as we were being towed in reverse and Wesley translated it onto his pad. When the honking finally stopped Wesley showed me the message.

Dear Boss,
I was really going to let you slide … but you found out where I sleep. So now I’m going to melt your ride … next time buy a Jeep!
You are going to die!
Jeep the Ripper

-------3-------

Thank God my police radio was still working. I called dispatcher Molly Hubbard. For once, she picked up on the first ring … she seemed to be in an unusually good mood. “Oh! Hi John.”  She was like sunshine to a coal miner. “Just a minute I have my friend Edith on the other line.”
I heard her lay the phone on a table next to a bag of potato chips and her chatter was nonstop between mouthfuls of crunching.
            “This is an eleven ninety-nine!” I boomed. “Officers need assistance!”
            “I’m sorry Edith.” I heard her say. “I need to respond to a call.”
The sounds inside the precinct suddenly became muffled and when I heard a long slow escape of air I realized she was sitting on the phone and releasing melodic amounts of methane gas. She’ll pay for this I vowed. All these calls are recorded. “We’re on our own,” I told Wesley. “We won’t get any help from the station.”
            “That stinks!” he said.
Jeep the Ripper was pulling us up a ramp now, one that led to a platform high above the huge cauldron filled with molten metal. A long line of junk cars dangled from hooks moving along an overhead conveyer and kept the huge stone container filled with scrap metal. Wesley jerked as a 1952 Rambler Station Wagon passed above us. “My first car was a Nash wagon,” he gasped. “Only mine had a huge dent in the passenger side after my date with Cindy Clawson.”
            “I remember her,” I said. “What a dream boat! Wasn’t she the one Butch McPound was sweet on?”
            “That’s the one.” Wesley was still staring at the battered car.
            “So Butch caught up with you two and decided to do a little custom work on his rival’s car?” I shook my head. It wasn’t hard to figure out.
            “No! Cindy kicked in the door right after I stopped at her house,” Wesley confessed. “I’d told her that I drove a Corvette.”
I ordered Wesley to light another cigarette just as his old Nash began to spin. He bent his head and just missed seeing the caved-in door on the passenger side. I was proud of myself. Some memories, like gift-wrapped bombs, are better left unopened.
The Dodge Matador tried to wheel-hop but Jeep the Ripper had us on such a short tow-chain that he bounced instead. The south-of-the border music was louder than ever and the Ripper seemed to be enjoying himself. Little puffs of smoke came from both exhaust pipes timed with the music. Wesley and I both felt like two tamales about to be dipped in hot sauce.
            We were about three floors above the factory floor but there was so much smoke it was hard to see. I suddenly realized the factory was on fire!

-------4-------

            Jeep the Ripper unhooked the tow cable and at first I thought he was going to let us go then I felt the crane with the huge magnet attached bang down on the roof and lift our car into the air. It swung us out over the cauldron filled with molten metal. We tried everything, the music was cranked all the way up and Wesley smoked cigarettes three at a time but still we were like a fresh-caught catfish flopping on the end of someone’s fishing line. It became a contest to see who could scream the loudest. Wesley finally collapsed out of breath and in a sea of tears. “That’s what you get for smoking!” I realized we were close to the end … so I tried to rub my victory in.
            The Ripper was obviously enjoying himself. The four-wheel drive did a little dance of his own … and to our music. I was furious. I unrolled my window, coughed, and then yelled “Why don’t you take a picture … it will last longer!”
            The Jeep paused for a moment and then we saw the red light on the dash-camera mounted to the rear-view mirror turn on. He was taking a video of our agony. In a few years, he was probably going to spread it all over Facebook and U-Tube!
            There seemed to be a problem. I watched the Jeep’s back up lights go on and I realized he was trying to get a wider angle shot. I usually don’t get many brilliant ideas, but my mind was suddenly as dangerous as a water cannon in a fizzy factory. I told Wesley to climb out his window onto the roof and after he lit three more cigarettes he joined me on top of the Matador. We began to dance like Indians calling down rain clouds. The Jeep backed up again. He was determined to get a full screen shot of this! I spun Wesley round and tossed him in the air like a circus act I’d seen as a kid. The Jeep backed up even more. I heard his front wheels spinning frantically as he tried to get traction and finally his helpless horn honking out Morse code as he slipped over the edge and plummeted into the fiery depths below.
            I wanted to toss Wesley a few more times but he insisted on writing down Jeep the Ripper’s last words.

Dear Boss,
Don’t be smug … and think you’ve won. My smashing cars … has just begun!
Until the time … that next we meet! I hope that you … enjoy the heat!
Jeep the Ripper

We watched in horror as a series of warning lights began to flash on the crane controls. The giant magnet would release its cargo in ten seconds. The cauldron filled with molten metal bubbled right below us. I was amazed when Wesley threw the rest of his cigarettes away. “Those things will kill you,” he said.
Five seconds!
I tried my police radio twice … but it was answered and clicked off both times.
Three seconds!
“Take my hand,” I told Wesley. He gave me a brotherly smile and when he reached out I climbed on his shoulders and tried to climb up the crane chain. The chain was slick with old grease … and I’d eaten too many donuts.
One second!
We closed our eyes and waited for the inevitable. Two of Clabber City’s finest were about to meet their end. Our most memorable police cases passed before our eyes. Lost dogs, jaywalkers and that never-to-be-forgotten speeding ticket! We were both surprised when we heard the crane’s motor shut down and a booming Captain Wolfe’s voice. “Dancing on top of a police vehicle!” He thundered. “If there’s so much as a scratch … you’ll pay for it!”

-------5-------

            Two days later we both stood in the captain’s office. “You two are the most miserable excuses for cops that I’ve ever seen,” he bellowed. “If it wasn’t for the quick thinking of Dispatcher Molly Hubbard, after she discovered an erased portion on your call in report, you two would be just a couple of wrinkles in some remanufactured American Motors/ Jeep fenders.
            “The foundry we were in used to make   parts for Jeeps?” I was beginning to put the story together.
            “What did I just say?” the captain growled.
We were placed on three months suspension without pay and the Captain ordered us to work as security at the half-burned foundry to pay for the damage to the Matador. It was December and we were both huddled around a pot-belly stove inside the guard shack trying to stay warm. Wesley and I had been in a vicious fight with Starlings all day that refused to fly south for the winter. We were almost out of bandages and both in need of a bath.
The distant honking we both heard was a series of long and short beeps. It sounded as if it came from somewhere deep inside the still smoking structure. Wesley automatically took out his pad and began to translate the Morse code. I snatched the note from him, opened the door to the stove and threw the paper inside. We were not officially on duty and …white bird poo landed on my shoulder …
We already had a job.

THE END?

           
           




Sunday, September 1, 2019

JEEP the ripper part 2

Copyright (c) 2019 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.





By R. Peterson

            The screams were deafening inside the now free car; I rolled down my window to save my ears as the Dodge Matador crashed through the guardrail and careened high into the air above Devil’s Canyon. I barely caught a glimpse of Jeep the Ripper’s wagging tail-lights as we rolled over and began to plummet a thousand feet to the river below.
My partner, Tom Wesley, fumbled a battered package of Cool cigarettes from the glove compartment and somehow lit a torn one between shrieks. “I thought you quit smoking?”
“What the hell!” he sneered. His hair was blown straight back from the wind. “We’re going to die anyway!”
The metal tow-chain that had been attached to the Ripper’s Jeep, whipped through the air and cracked the windshield before trailing like a huge snake behind the plunging car. “Damn!” I muttered. “They’re gonna want us to pay for that!”
I decided to try the radio one more time. “This is detective John Elmo,” I tried to keep my voice calm. “We need assistance!”
Dispatcher Molly Hubbard sounded as if she had a mouth full of potato chips; I could hear her munching and a rustling sound as she carefully closed the bag. “Oh hi John,” she said. “I’ve been wondering why you haven’t called in.” Wesley had finished the cigarette in two long drags and was lighting another. “What is your location?”
            “A thousand feet above Devil’s Canyon,” I screamed. Wesley looked out his window. “Eight-hundred feet,” he corrected.
            “Oh that nice pullout above the canyon,” Molly said. “I’ve always wanted to go back there. What a lovely view you have!”
            “We’re going to die!” I bellowed. “We’re about one hundred yards north of the pullout!”
            “But the highway turns west there,” Molly spoke slowly as if looking at a map. “That would put you over the edge and …”
            “Falling! Damn it!” I screamed.
            “There’s no reason to use profanity,” Molly said. “Call back when you find a civil tongue.”
Wesley was smoking his fourth cigarette. “She hung up!” I moaned.
            “Strange,” Wesley said. “But it almost seems like were floating.”
My partner was right. The wind rushing through the windows was now just a breeze. We both stuck our heads out and looked upward. The Dodge Matador was attached to a large army surplus parachute the kind designed to land heavy vehicles in hard to get places. Jeep the Ripper must have activated it when he released the tow chain. Written with a grease gun on the billowing red white and blue silk underside was another message from the ripper.

Dear Boss,
This ain’t over yet … because I don’t want it to be. Careful you don’t get wet… and you’ll be seeing me!
Yours truly
Jeep the Ripper
Thirty seconds later we discovered the Dodge Matador had an uncanny ability to float in the raging white water … for almost two minutes.

-------2-------

            “I should never have put you two morons on the case!” Captain Wolfe was livid. “If it wasn’t for the quick thinking of our dispatcher you two would still be lying on that island twenty miles downstream.
            “It was nothing,” Molly happened to be walking past on her way to the vending machines. “I was on my way home and decided to have an officer swing by to see if you’d calmed down any.”
I was still hurting from the series of rabies shots the paramedics insisted on giving me. “That beaver got in three good bites and could have been rabid!” Captain Wolfe growled. “Why didn’t you climb a tree like Wesley?”
            “His foot was caught in the beaver trap!” Wesley said. “And there wasn’t just one beaver there was a whole family!”

-------3-------

We were given two weeks suspension without pay. During that time no more was heard from Jeep the Ripper. We were beginning to think he moved out of state or had been involved in an accident. I imagined the jeep rusting away in some salvage yard and I could almost relax … then the call came.
            A morning-sickness green 1971 Dodge Coronet Custom station wagon owned by hairdresser Elisabeth Stride had been hung from a historic oak tree in the city park. When we arrived on the scene a weeping Elisabeth Stride was cutting Captain Wolfe’s hair as he sat on a park bench. “What?” he demanded when we stared. “I had an appointment!”
            “My God!” Wesley gasped as he pointed to the famous three hundred year oak.
An industrial sized meat-hook connected to heavy cable had been attached to the water pump and the tremendous applied force had broken the motor mounts as the helpless vehicle had been winched high into the air. Sometime after the initial lift, the transmission mounts as well as the heavy bolts holding the rear leaf springs had broken and the entire drive train assembly was strung Shish kebab style above the car like a trout that had been gutted by an amateur fisherman.
            “When did you last see your car in a drivable condition?” Wesley asked Elisabeth.
A team of tree surgeons and Clabber City officials were trying to decide how best to lower the car without damaging the City’s famous landmark. “Easy now!” A man from the historical society warned the nervous man operating the crane. “George Washington relieved himself behind this tree after the British drove him out of Boston.”
She gasped as the car was slowly lowered to the ground. “Last night when I parked in the driveway,” she sobbed. “I was going to park it in the garage but Henry has his plants growing in there under artificial lights.”
A noisy plane flew over us … and I had to wait for my next question.
            “What time was this?” I asked. I shook my head. Over the past several years hundreds of grown men in the community had suddenly become interested in horticulture. Whatever happened to bowling?
            “Oh Henry’s been growing his plants for years,” she said. “He and his friends seem to enjoy them but I think the flowers are plain … and really not that pretty.”
            “I’m talking about your car!” I indulged her.
The plane was flying in circles. I was tempted to pull my gun!
            “About six O’clock,” she said. “I’d stopped at the store to get Henry’s Ding Dongs on the way home.”
            “Did you notice any strange vehicles driving past your house … perhaps while you were watering your yard?” Wesley noticed the sprinkler attached to a garden hose when it sprayed his leg. That damn plane was flying overhead again and we had to wait for it to pass to be heard clearly.
            “There was one …” Elisabeth said. “A dusty Jeep with a winch attached to the front. But I figured it was one of George’s friends. He tells them to come around after dark. I don’t think he wants the neighbors to know he’s into flowers and all that stuff.”
            “You think this case is related to the Ripper Mutilations?” Captain Wolfe was looking in a mirror.
            “It doesn’t fit,” I said. “The Ripper always leaves a note.”
Just then the branch, the Dodge Coronet was attached to, broke and the car plunged to the ground with a terrific boom. Exhaust pipes, gears, lug-nuts, fenders, broken glass, a car seat, gaskets and a gas-tank rolled and tumbled across the grass. We all looked up to see how damaged the tree was. The plane flying overhead was a sky writer. Written with white smoke were these words:



Dear Boss,
I’ve missed you … let’s have some fun. Why so blue?  I’m never done!
Yours truly
Jeep the Ripper

“I’ll bet that cost him a pretty penny,” One of the officers looking up at the sky muttered.
Captain Wolfe had just stood up and was brushing off his uniform. “Henry Stride is a good friend of mine,” he bragged. “And Elisabeth gives me a discount.”

-------4-------

The Clabber City Police Department ended up buying the Dodge Matador when it came from the repair shop. The captain insisted that we use it for our patrol car. We were sitting at the same stakeout next to the car wash and between two used car lots that we’d used before. “When something works you don’t change things!” Wolfe had growled.
Annie Chapman’s live in boyfriend, Juan Hern├índez, had done the repairs for the department at a discount rate and he’d also installed hydraulic lifts connected to the car’s radio and cigarette lighter. Whenever Wesley, who was now a chain smoker, lit a cigarette the car’s radio/tape-deck would blast an extra raunchy and loud version of La Cucaracha while the car bounced and danced sideways on the asphalt.
Wesley was on his second pack of cigarettes when the call came. “What the hell?” Dispatcher Molly Hubbard sounded as if she had a mouth full of peanut brittle. “This is the fourth time I’ve tried to call you idiots,” she said. “All I get is two guys snoring and south-of-the-border music blasting through some cracked speakers. What are you doing, having a fiesta while you’re supposed to be working?”
            “We’re trying not to attract attention,” Wesley explained.
            “Jeep the Ripper called more than an hour ago,” Molly said. “He wants you to meet him at the old foundry on Canyon Road in …” They could hear her remove a leg of lamb from her arm and look at her watch, “… fifteen minutes. He said if you’re late or you notify any cops he’s going to slice another Dodge.”
            “Doesn’t he know we work for the department?” Wesley asked.
            “Captain Wolfe said to do whatever the Ripper wants and to send you guys there,” Molly said. “He’s at Elisabeth Stride’s getting another haircut.”
            “He just got one …” I looked at my watch, “nine hours ago!”
            “Some of us like to look sharp!” Molly hung up.

-------5-------

The Clabber County foundry had been closed for more than twenty years, ever since the United States started buying steel and iron from Japan. A security man with a long white beard and a bird’s nest on his head sat in a tiny shack near the front entrance. “Are you here to relieve me?” He sounded like a drowning man who’s spotted an island.
            “We’re cops!” Wesley told him.
            “I didn’t do it!” The man backed out of the shack with his arms raised. A mangy black bird flew out of the shack crapped on our windshield and then soared away; baby birds could be heard chirping.
            “Do what?” I asked.
            “I’ll never tell!” the man turned and started to run. Wesley pulled his gun and shot him squarely in the back.
            “What did you do that for?”
            “That was a Starling that flew,” Wesley said. “Can you imagine someone helping them nest?”
I pulled my own gun and put two slugs in the security man for good measure.

-------6-------

It was inexplicably hot inside the old foundry. We parked the Matador and stood under a huge cauldron capable of pouring fifty tons of molten steel into forms stacked in a circle around us. I wiped my sweaty face with a rag while Wesley lit another cigarette. He barely escaped from the Dodge before it started dancing. The ceiling was more than sixty foot tall in this part of the building. I thought I heard a motor running on a platform high above us. “Jeep the Ripper is that you?” I yelled. There was silence then after a moment we both heard a tiny beep.
            “We’re here … what do you want?” There was a long silence again and then a series of long beeps mixed with short ones.
            “It’s Morse Code!” Wesley said taking out his notepad. “The Ripper is trying to communicate with us!”
The series of long and short beeps continued and Wesley wrote furiously. Finally he handed me the notepad.

Dear Boss,
I don’t get off on your Spanish tunes. And dancing cars are just for goons! I’m heavy metal born and bred. Run for your lives or else your dead.
Yours truly
Jeep the Ripper

We heard the sound of a winch beginning to wind and the massive cauldron above us began to tilt. Molten steel the consistency of fiery lava began to pour from the huge vessel. I looked around but there was no place to run. “Inside the car,” I screamed.


TO BE CONTINUED