Back | Next


John Zeek

Freddy Genucci found the body lying on his front lawn. Freddy was a little shaken up. Some people might find that odd, since Freddy was a funeral director and was used to dead bodies. But his normal line of work didn't involve bodies leaking on his front lawn. Besides, no one expects to see a gaping wound across a man's throat when they try to wake up what looks like a drunk.

When the call came into the Grantville police station, the desk was manned by Emil Zollner. He shouldn't have been given that much responsibility, but he was there because of Dan Frost's soft heart. Emil normally worked as a foot patrolman, but he had tripped going down the station steps and gotten a twisted ankle. Rather than have him miss a week's pay, Dan had given him desk duty.

Emil's English was not the best and Freddy was excited, so the message came across a bit garbled. In the end Emil sent two patrolmen to Freddy's house.


As he sat in the passenger seat, Jurgen Neubert watched Marvin Tipton as he drove the police car. I have to learn to drive, he thought. These Americans will never believe I am a policeman if I don't. Still, it could be worse. I could be doing foot patrol.

Jurgen thought back to the time before he had heard of Grantville. He had been happy enough as a farmer, before Tilly and his army came. Still, this was a lot more interesting work. And he got to meet so many people. In the past few months, he'd met more people than he'd known in his whole life before.

Jurgen slid his hand to his belt to check, for the fifth time today, that his handgun was still in his holster. The revolver, what the Americans called a Colt Python, was one of the finest made pieces of machinery he had ever seen. Jurgen was still surprised that Chief Frost had trusted him to carry it. After checking his gun, Jurgen checked his other equipment, the "slapjack" riding in the almost-hidden pocket on his right leg, the side handle baton on its clip on the car door, and most especially the "ballpoint" pen he had been given just this morning. Tipton had explained, when he gave him the pen, that in a two-man car one man was the driver and one was the writer.

Jurgen was proud at being trusted to keep the records of their day. All in all, he thought, this was a better life than farming. A position of trust. He slipped his hand up to finger the badge that was the symbol of his office. New clothing, too, though the uniform trousers he had been issued were tighter and not as comfortable as the slops he normally wore. Most of all, it was a job worth doing, protecting the people and property of his new city.

Just then the radio squawked, "Base to car one."

Jurgen picked up the mike and answered, "Car one."

"Unknown trouble at number two Happy Hills. Contact Mr. Freddy Genucci."

"Clear base. Car one en route to Happy Hills." Jurgen saw Tipton nod his head, showing he had heard the message.

As Jurgen wrote the call on the record sheet, Tipton asked, "You have relatives out on Happy Hills don't you?"

"Ja, my cousin Jost and his family rent a house and farm there. My cousin Mina works for Herr Genucci. I hope nothing has happened to the Genuccis. They are nice people."

"Well, I don't like unknown trouble calls. Stay alert until we find out what's going on. I wish Emil had gotten more information." Tipton increased the speed of the cruiser.

Surely it is not another raid, Jurgen thought as he remembered the terror of the ride out to the high school with Hans driving the bus. He had emptied his revolver and forgotten how to reload, so he had relied on the shotgun someone had thrust into his hands. He checked his revolver again and looked at the shotgun mounted on the cage behind him.

When they arrived at the Genucci house, Jurgen was relieved to see Mr. Genucci standing beside the front door. Mr. Genucci was visibly upset and kept pointing to the body on the front lawn. "Look there. He was lying there when I went out to watch the sunrise this morning."

As Jurgen went to check the body, he heard Tipton ask, "Know who it is, Freddy?"

"It's Tommy Cooper. Not the old man but his son. The one everybody calls Young Tommy."

Looking at the body, Jurgen wondered why a man who appeared to be in his fifties would be called "Young Tommy." Jurgen, who had seen his share of dead bodies, was also surprised at the injuries. Young Tommy's head was almost cut off. It was nearly severed by the deep cut across his throat. Only the bones of his spine were not cut through.

"Shoot, I hate the idea of going to tell his old man someone killed him," Officer Tipton said as he walked over to stand by Jurgen. "Freddy, did you hear anything before you found the body?"

"No, Marvin, our bedroom is in the back of the house and we can't hear anything out front when we are in there. Though I thought I heard something right after I went to bed last night that sounded like a backfire from a car. You know how bad some cars are running on natural gas or alcohol. I just thought it was a car on the road."

"Don't think it was a car that killed him. Jurgen, go call the office and tell them what we have and tell them to send an ambulance. Don't use Cooper's name on the radio. No sense letting anyone with a scanner know our business. There needs to be an autopsy, though it's pretty obvious what killed him."

As Jurgen went to the car, he saw his cousins Jost Neubert and Mina Matz walking toward the Genucci house. "Jost, Mina, stay here by the car. We have a problem at the house."

While he waited by the car, Jurgen told Jost what had happened. Jost seemed to be worried. "What is the matter? Did you know Cooper?"

"Ja, I purchased a little tractor from him and his brother. They tried to cheat me."

While Jurgen was thinking about that, he noticed Mr. Genucci was pointing toward Jost, and Officer Tipton had his notebook out and was taking notes.

Jurgen decided he should find out everything that happened between Jost and the Coopers. So, taking out his notebook he asked, "How did they try to cheat you?"

"They sold me a little tractor. It was like the one that came with the farm I rented from Herr Moritz. I thought having two would be even more help around the farm. They said it was ready to run on alcohol like the one I have. But when Herr Genucci looked at it, he said it had to be worked on to even run, much less run on the alcohol we make. But I saw it run, they were plowing a field with it."

"How did you pay for the tractor?"

"With the silver I had when I came here. I didn't change it all to paper money. Herr Genucci threatened to take them to court and they gave me half my money back. He is helping to fix the tractor and I help him around his funeral parlor."

"Jost, when did this happen and have you seen either one of them, this one or his brother, since you got your money back?"

"I bought the tractor last week, but it was only yesterday that I got my money back. It was the brother who gave me the money. He paid me in paper money, but Herr Genucci says it is good. I haven't seen Tommy since last week. But I saw the brother, they call him G. C., early this morning. Him and his wife were walking toward their home when I went to check on the cow."

"Do you have any idea what time that was? When you went to check on the cow, I mean?"

"Ja, we have a clock and I checked it when I came back in. It was five-thirty when I came in, so say five o'clock when I saw G. C."

Jurgen noticed Jost was wearing a belt knife, the same knife he always wore. Jost had always been a bit of a miser when it came to money. Jurgen remembered one time in their village Jost had got in a fight over who owned a chicken.

His thoughts were interrupted when he noticed Officer Tipton waving him over. "Stay here, Jost. I have a few more questions for you and Mina."

"Well, what does your cousin say?" Tipton asked as Jurgen joined him.

Jurgen gave him a quick run-through of what Jost had told him. Tipton nodded. "Yeah, that checks with what Genucci has to say. Except he said Jost was a little more upset about the Coopers trying to cheat him." Tipton squatted to get closer to the body. "Think Jost was mad enough to do that to him?"

Jurgen was reluctant to answer. Tipton was asking him to accuse his cousin of murder, but in his mind it looked like Jost was a prime suspect. Before Tipton could press him for an answer, they were interrupted by the arrival of the ambulance, closely followed by another squad car with Chief Frost at the wheel.

Dan Frost walked up to the body. After looking around to see if anyone was in hearing distance, he said, "Boys, this is going to be a hot one. We have to solve it fast. The Coopers are in tight with the Club 250 crowd, and you know they're going to make a stink if we don't."

Tipton shook his head. "Boss, we have a suspect with a motive, but I don't think he did the killing." Jurgen's heart dropped into his boots. Tipton had to be referring to Jost.

After he had seen their notes, Frost said: "Okay, you two are in charge of the investigation, but keep me informed. If we were still up-time I'd call in the state police, but here and now we have limited resources. If you need more people, ask for them. Get Jost's knife. Dr. Nichols' people can run a comparison check to find any human blood on it."

Jurgen walked back to where Jost and Mina were standing. "Jost, we are going to need your knife for tests. If the test comes back negative, you'll get it back."

"Jurgen, I did not kill that man. I haven't even seen him since last week. Ask Mina, ask Franziska, my wife. I never left the house, except to check on the cow. And I was still in my nightshirt when I went to the barn to check the cow."

"If we check your knife, and there is no blood on it, that will prove you didn't kill him. But we are going to have to check your knife."

"But there is blood on it. I used it to kill a chicken yesterday." Jost untied his belt and pulled the sheathed knife from it.

Jurgen remembered the lecture Dr. Nichols had given during his police training. "Jost, they can tell the difference between the blood of a chicken and a man's blood." As Jurgen took the knife, he added, "This will prove your knife didn't kill him. If you didn't kill him you have nothing to worry about."

Watching Jost, Jurgen could see he wasn't too sure about this whole process. Well, that was easy to understand. They were all strangers here.

As they watched the body being loaded into the ambulance, Officer Tipton joined them. When he saw the knife in Jurgen's hand, he turned to Jost. "When this is all cleared up, I'll make sure you get your knife back. Come on, Jurgen, we need to go out to the Coopers' and tell them what happened."

When the two were in the car, Jurgen had to ask, "Do you think Jost did it?"

"Nope. Oh, I bet Jost has a temper, and if you pushed him enough he could kill. But somehow it just doesn't fit. Besides, there's Tommy's pistol. Or, to be exact, there is the pistol Tommy didn't have."


"Tommy always carried an old revolver in his hip pocket. I should know, I took it off him one time before the Ring of Fire. Dan gave it back to his dad, but Tommy had it when I saw him last week. But when I checked the body, there was no revolver. So whoever killed him probably took the revolver. In addition he still had some silver coins in his pockets. Not likely that Jost would kill him over money and not take the money."

"Strange that whoever took the revolver didn't take the money, though."

"Murder cases are always strange, you ask me. And that pistol is going to be a real lead if we find it."

"Why, Marvin? I mean, there must be lots of pistols like it in Grantville."

"Not like this one. It's an old Smith .32-20. I doubt there was another like it in Grantville. I know that even before the Ring of Fire cartridges for it were rare."

"We can talk to Herr Santee and Herr Johnson, since they are doing the most reloading, and see if anyone else has one."

Jurgen noticed that Officer Tipton gave him a surprised look. Why? Chief Frost had told Jurgen to learn about people in the town.

Finally, Tipton nodded his head. "Good idea. We'll run by Johnson's place after we talk to the Coopers and check with Santee when we head into town. By the way, when we get to the Coopers', let me do the talking. They are going to be tough to deal with. They always are. But we don't need to stir them up even more by having you talk to them."

"Why would I upset them?"

Tipton glanced at him. "G. C. and `Old' Tommy are . . . well. Do you know the term `rednecks'?"

"Ja, the Club 250 crowd." Suddenly it all made sense. The people around the Club 250 didn't like their new German neighbors.

"There you go. All the Coopers are regulars at the 250. In fact G. C.'s wife works there as a cook and waitress. Your English is very good, better than my German, but you still have an accent. That accent would be just enough to set the Coopers off. Sorry, partner, but that's how it is."

As Jurgen thought about what Tipton had said, he noticed a discoloration in the grass by the road. "Stop the car. I see something!"

Tipton brought the car to a halt and the two walked back to discover a large patch of what had to be blood in the grass beside the road. Nearby, the high grass was flattened down as if a heavy weight had been rolled over it.

"Good eyes, Jurgen, I would have missed this." Tipton pulled out a couple of paper envelopes to collect samples.

"What do you think, Marvin? Was Cooper cut here and the body moved?"

"Well, someone was cut here. We won't know if it was Tommy until we get some lab work done. I didn't think there was enough blood back in the Genucci yard."

Looking down the road, Jurgen estimated they were about two hundred yards from where the body was found. Then he noticed the bark on a nearby sapling had a large split. Walking over to it, he found what looked a lot like a bullet hole. "Hey, Marvin, look here. I think we found the sound Herr Genucci heard."

Tipton came over. "Yep, that sure looks like a fresh bullet hole to me. Want to bet when we dig out the bullet it's a .32? I'll get the saw out of the trunk and we can cut out the part of the tree with the bullet in it and take it with us."

As Tipton walked back to the car, Jurgen continued to study the ground around the blood splatter. A few feet away, he found a jacket made from the fabric the Americans called denim or blue jeans. Bending to look closer, he saw bloodstains on one of the sleeves. "Marvin, I found a jacket with blood on it."

Tipton was back now, with the saw. He squatted to look at the jacket. "Wasn't Tommy wearing a jacket?" he asked. "This might belong to whoever stabbed him."

Tipton and Jurgen both started making drawings of what they now believed was the murder site.

"Damn, I wish we still had enough film to take pictures. A camera would be better than any drawing we can make."

Jurgen had to agree. He had seen some of the almost magical pictures in the files of the police station. "Marvin, do you have the jacket in your drawing? I am going to get a bag out of the car so we can collect it as evidence."

"Got it. Hey, hold it up first. I want to see what size it is."

As jurgen lifted the Jacket, he realized it was too small for even an average-size man and was either a woman's or a child's jacket. It was also badly torn at the shoulder of the bloodstained sleeve.

"Just like I thought. It looked a little small." Tipton hefted the saw. "Get the bag and I'll cut down the sapling. Then we can head on out to the Coopers'."


When they pulled into the Coopers' driveway, Jurgen saw that the house was very run-down. Not like many of the houses in Grantville, which needed a coat of paint, but in need of major repairs. He could see that a number of the roof shingles were missing and the eaves had missing boards. In the rear of the house was what the Americans called a "mobile home," though Jurgen himself had never seen one move. Parked near the side of the house was a smaller mobile home—what the Americans usually called a "camp trailer."

A burly-looking man came out of the front door.

"That's G. C.," Tipton said. "Guess we get to talk to him first."

"What the hell you want?" Cooper demanded, as the two policemen got out of the car.

"Cooper, I need to talk with your dad."

"What about?" G. C. looked at Jurgen. "You're one of those krauts they put on the police, ain't you?"

"Cooper, you're starting to get on my nerves," Tipton said, before Jurgen could answer. "Now go get your dad before I start thinking about an obstruction-of-justice charge."

"Come on, then, follow me. His place is around back. Don't want no kraut in my house."

As Cooper led them around the house toward the mobile home, Jurgen spotted the outline of a small pistol in his right hip pocket. He also noticed that Tipton had unsnapped the safety strap on his holster.

"Hey, Dad! A couple of cops here wanting to talk to you!" G. C. yelled, as he knocked on the door. "One of them is a kraut."

"Marvin Tipton, you got a lot of nerve bringing one of those Germans on my property," was the first thing the older Cooper said as he looked out through the screen door.

"Mr. Cooper, could you step outside or could we come in? What I have to say is not the sort of thing I want to yell through a screen door."

"Wait, let me get a shirt on and I'll come out."

As they waited, Jurgen looked around the yard. Next to the rear of the camp trailer he saw a very beat-up garden tractor. That must be like the one they sold Jost, he thought, hoping the one his cousin got was in better shape.

Old man Cooper finally came out of the mobile home. "All right, what's so important that you have to drag an old man out of bed? I'm not a well man, you know. This better be important." Jurgen could believe Cooper was not a well man. He could hear him wheezing from ten feet away.

"Mr. Cooper, G. C., this isn't easy to say, but Young Tommy was found dead this morning. It looks like someone killed him."

"What! Someone murdered my boy?" The older Cooper sat down heavily on the steps. But Jurgen noticed that G. C. didn't seem as shocked as his father.

The old man let out a couple of inarticulate gasps. Then he started yelling. "Gladys! Gladys, come here! Somebody's killed our boy!"

From the back door of the house an older woman came running, followed by a middle-aged woman.

Tipton leaned over and whispered, "Gladys and Connie Cooper. Old Tommy's wife and G. C.'s wife."

After what seemed like an hour of wailing and inarticulate muttering, the two older Coopers went into the mobile home.

"Okay, Marvin," muttered G. C., "it looks like I'm the one stuck with making arrangements. Where's my brother?"

"He's down at the medical center and you can have whoever is doing the funeral pick up the body. You don't have to go identify him. We positively identified him. Hell, I've known Tommy seems like my whole life."

"Who killed him?"

"That's what we're trying to find out, G. C. Do you know where he was last night?"

"Yeah, he was down at the Club. In fact he was supposed to walk Connie home, but he took off. I got hung up at the garage and asked him to get her."

Tipton turned to look at Cooper's wife. "That right, Connie?"

"That's right," the woman answered. Jurgen noticed that she was looking at her husband, not at Tipton as she talked. "I was working till twelve and Tommy was supposed to walk me home, but around eleven I noticed he was gone. So I called G. C. at the garage."

"And you went over and got her?" When G. C. nodded, Tipton continued. "What time was that, G. C.?"

"Oh, it was about twelve, twelve-fifteen. They were just closing when I got there. Connie was waiting outside so I didn't go in."

"If you didn't go in, I guess you don't know who was there."

"Well, I saw Wilda Bates and her daughter Marlene leaving and I saw Ape Hart walking with them, but I doubt if they saw me."

"Connie, who all was in the Club 250 last night?"

"I can't really say. I was in the kitchen most of the night. Ken, you know Ken Beasley, got a mess of venison steaks and I spent most of the night cooking instead of waiting tables. Then when I came out of the kitchen about eleven, I noticed Tommy was gone and I called G. C."

"If you're thinking someone from the Club killed him you're way off base. Forget it." G. C. glanced at Jurgen. "Using a knife sounds like a kraut to me."

"Why, G. C.? Has Tommy had any run-ins with some of our German citizens lately? We did hear something about a tractor."

"Tractor? Yeah, me and Tommy sold a tractor to that kraut that rents from Ted Moritz. Neubert is his name, I think. He wasn't happy with the deal. He even got Freddy Genucci to threaten to sue us. Is that about all you want to know? I got to make some calls. Got to find someone to do the funeral. No way I want that Genucci touching my brother."

"One last question." Tipton raised his hand to stop Cooper from walking off. "When you brought Connie home, did you notice anything as you walked by the end of Happy Hills? What would that have been, about twelve-thirty or one o'clock?"

G. C. seemed to think a bit. "No, we didn't see anything odd, and it was closer to one than twelve-thirty. If that's all, I really have to make those calls."

"Yeah, G. C. that just about does it. If we need anything else, we'll get in touch with you. Call the station if you think of anything new."

As the two policemen walked back to their car Tipton asked, "Well, what do you think?"

"Marvin, did you notice that when the wife was answering she was always looking at her husband?"

"Caught that, did you? It was almost like she was checking with him to see if her story was right. Of course the thing that made me wonder was how G. C. knew Tommy was killed with a knife. I never told him how Tommy was killed, and I doubt Freddy Genucci called him. Makes you wonder, doesn't it."

As they got to the car Jurgen looked across the top and asked, "Were you really friends with them? They seem to dislike you now."

Tipton gave a little laugh. "Yeah, Tommy and me were pretty close, but we were kids then. Our friendship ended when I put on this uniform. His choice, not mine. Sometimes that happens. You better get ready. It can happen to you. Wait and see when you have to arrest someone who's a friend."

As they started to pull out of the Coopers' drive, a school bus stopped across the end of the driveway and unloaded the younger Cooper children and the Craigs who lived on the other side of the road. As they waited for the school bus to pass, Tipton looked at his watch. "That's the two-thirty bus. Henry Johnson should be on that bus, on his way home from the middle school. We might as well follow it to the Johnson place and talk to him now."

"Ja, since he lives so close to the Coopers it is a good possibility he does their reloading."


When the bus stopped in front of the Johnson drive, they were proven right when they saw Henry and the four Schultz and Ekhard children get off and head up the drive.

"Henry! Henry Johnson!" Tipton yelled as they pulled into the drive. "Can we talk to you?"

They saw Johnson stop and wave to them. "Hi, Marvin. Come on up to the house. I bet I can find you and your partner something cold to drink."

As they followed Johnson up the drive, Jurgen noticed the bulge under his coat. That had to be a pistol, he thought. Thinking about it some more, he was not surprised. Johnson was one of only three male teachers at the middle school, and since the raid, people had realized the schools were major targets for the enemies of Grantville.

Soon the three were seated in the Johnson living room with glasses of iced coffee in their hands. Tipton and Jurgen had followed Johnson's lead and hung their gun belts on the hooks by the front door. Tipton sipped his coffee and then asked, "Henry, have you met my partner, Jurgen Neubert?"

"Can't say that I have." Johnson extended his hand. "Good to meet you, Officer Neubert. Now I doubt this is a social call, so what can I do for you?"

"Henry, we're trying to get a line on Young Tommy Cooper's pistol and thought he might have come to you for reloaded ammo."

Johnson chuckled. "What's Tommy done now? And, yes, I know his gun, if you're talking about the Smith .32-20 Hand Ejector."

"As far as we know Tommy didn't do anything but get himself killed. His pistol is missing and we're trying to track it down."

"We thought you might know if anyone else had a revolver in that caliber," Jurgen interjected. "And could tell us if anyone tried to buy cartridges to fit it."

"Tommy got himself killed," Johnson mused. "Can't say I'm surprised or too broken up about it. I don't have a lot of use for the whole family, frankly. Oh, I do business with them, but I keep a sharp eye on them. To answer your questions, I reloaded eighteen rounds for Young Tommy a couple of weeks ago. All the cases he had. I can do a lot when it comes to reloading, but I don't make cases for a .32-20, it's a bit of an oddball. And as far as I know there are only two other .32-20s in town, both rifles. You should check with Paul Santee, he does a lot of the rarer cartridges, but I would bet that three .32-20s are all you'll find."

"Herr Johnson, if you could see a bullet could you tell us if it was one of the ones you reloaded for Cooper?" Jurgen asked.

"You're talking about a fired bullet? Maybe, if it's not too damaged, but I loaded soft-lead round noses for Tommy. If it hit something hard it's going to have flattened out quite a bit."

"It's in a tree," Tipton said. "When we dig it out, we'll bring it out to show you."

Johnson thought a minute, "I doubt I can tell much. But you might weigh the bullet. Most .32s use a ninety- or ninety-five-grain bullet. A .32-20, on the other hand, uses a hundred-and-ten-grain bullet. I don't know if that's any help, though."

"Thank you, Herr Johnson, that might help."

"It's nothing. I am happy to help."

"No, really, Henry," Tipton said, "this really helps out. I have one more favor to ask though. Can I use your phone to call the office? I want to check and see if any word has come in on the autopsy, and I don't want to use the radio."

"Sure, it's over there by the stairs, right next to the scanner." He chuckled. "I listen in on your radio traffic myself, so I can understand why you don't want to use the radio. I'll just step out on the porch and let you have some privacy."


While Tipton made his call, Jurgen and Henry stood on the porch and talked. "Officer Neubert, how do you like living in Grantville? Must be quite a change for you."

"Ja, Herr Johnson. To you Grantville is just a small town, but compared to my village it is a city."

Henry chuckled. "Actually, I know what you mean. I worked in country schools all my life, before I moved back to Grantville, and it seemed big to me when I came home."

Just then Officer Tipton came out of the house. "Henry, we have to run, and thanks again for the information. By the way, we would appreciate it if you kept our talk under your hat."

"No problem, Marvin. As far as I'm concerned it's all on the square." Jurgen saw Johnson make a sign with his hands.

"Thanks, Henry," Tipton responded. Jurgen noticed he also made a sign.

As the two walked to the car, Jurgen asked, "Marvin, you may not want to answer this, but what was that hand sign Herr Johnson gave you?"

"No problem, Jurgen. Henry and me are both Masons. He was telling me he wouldn't tell anyone what we talked about until I said it was okay. If you're interested, I'll give you a pamphlet about it when we get back to the station."

Once they were in the car, Tipton turned to Jurgen. "Well, partner, we screwed up. They did a quick autopsy on Young Tommy and he was stabbed twice. We missed the wound to his chest."


"Yep, he was stabbed in the chest. It nicked the heart, but didn't kill him until a few minutes later. He could have walked to the Genucci's place. The throat was cut after he died. Maybe an hour or two after he died."

"What now, Marvin?"

"We'll stop by the office and tell Chief Frost what we have. And I want to pick up a handi-talkie before we go to the Club 250. We'll see what Tommy was doing last night. I bet that's what got him killed, not his troubles with your cousin Jost."


After stopping the car in the parking lot of the Club 250, Tipton turned to Jurgen. "Watch your back in here. I don't think any of these yahoos are stupid enough to try anything, but you never know with mean drunks. Clip the handi-talkie to your belt and be ready to call for backup."

Jurgen picked up the little radio and clipped it on his belt. It still amazed him that he could talk into this little box and Emil could hear him back at the station. The Americans had marvelous tools.

Walking into the Club 250, Jurgen could feel every eye in the place staring at him and Tipton. No so much, he thought, because he was German, but because of the uniforms they wore. Tipton led him toward a table set near the end of the bar. At the table was seated a man who appeared to be working on records and accounts.

"Hi, Ken. We need to talk with you and some of your employees and probably some of your customers."

"Why should I want to talk to you, Marvin? Prancing in here with your pet German. Have you taught him to do any tricks yet? Bet you could teach him to fetch real easy." Jurgen noticed that Ken, whoever he was, had said that loud enough for the small crowd in the bar to hear. A number of them laughed and seemed to be inching closer.

Tipton looked around the room and said in a loud voice, "I guess I forgot to introduce Officer Neubert. He is about two seconds away from calling an ambulance for everyone we don't arrest. I'll try to hold him back, but he is determined to get some answers or put two or three of you rednecks in the medical center and the rest in jail."

Jurgen could sense the crowd studying him. Returning the stares of the people, Jurgen picked out the man he was going to hit first. Drop the biggest one in the place first and maybe the rest will back off.

"Of course, you could just answer our questions. Then all you have to deal with is me. And you all know I am just sweetness and light to talk to."

"Hell, Marvin," the big man Jurgen had picked out said with a slight laugh. "Last time I talked to you, I got thirteen stitches and two days in the county lockup. I'd rather drink." With that, he looked away and concentrated on the drink in front of him.

The rest of the customers followed the big man's lead, though Jurgen could sense they were still watching.

Tipton gave a snort of disgust and turned back to the man at the table. "Jurgen, this is Ken Beasley. He owns this outhouse. He is the person you want to question first. If he doesn't want to talk to you, we can just shut this place down for a couple of days. A health inspection will do it easily." With that, Tipton leaned against the wall behind Jurgen and seemed to be watching the few couples who had returned to the small crowded dance floor.

"Herr Beasley, we are investigating the death of Young Tommy Cooper."

"Yeah, yeah, his dad called here about an hour ago and told Fenton. Funny, Tommy gets killed by a kraut and you start harassing his friends."

"We don't know who killed him yet. It might have been a German or it might have been someone he knew from here. I am sure you want us to find the real killer. We were told Tommy was here last night. Is that right?"

"Yeah, Tommy is in every night. Last night was a Thursday so he was supposed to walk Connie home. Can't say I saw him leave with her, though. In fact I didn't see him leave at all."

"You were working the bar last night?"

"Nah, Fenton was handling drink orders. We weren't very busy after eight so I caught up on my paperwork. One thing, though—Tommy paid off the bar tab he had been running for a couple of months. Paid it in silver."

"Did you see who he was drinking with? Who he spent most of the night with?"

"Didn't you hear me? I said I was working on the books. One time early in the evening he got in a yelling match with Ape but it was nothing big. They went on drinking together afterwards."

"Who is Ape?"

Beasley pointed to the big man Jurgen had noticed earlier.

"One last question and we are done, for now. Was Tommy carrying a gun last night?"

"I guess so. Tommy was always packing. He had an old Smith and Wesson revolver he carried. He probably had it last night, but I wouldn't swear to it."

"Thank you, Herr Beasley. You have been helpful. Now, I need to talk to Fenton. Is that him working behind the bar now?"

"Yes, Fenton Mase. Hey, Fenton! Come and talk to this cop. I'll take over for you." Beasley got up from the table.

Jurgen watched Mase walk over to the table and sit across from him. Mase was an average-sized man, but walked with all the confidence of a born fighter. Jurgen thought Mase had probably been hired to keep order in the bar as much as to sell drinks. He realized that of all the customers and staff, Mase was the only completely sober one in the Club. And he also seemed to be relaxed about talking to the police.

"Herr Mase, I want to know about Tommy Cooper and what happened when he was in here last night. What can you tell me?"

"Not much. He came in about five o'clock and had dinner. I served him a couple of beers at the bar and then he started talking to Freddie Congden. They moved over to a table and started playing cards with Ape and Monkey Hart. So Brandy, she was waiting tables last night, served them the rest of the night."

"Did you see what time he left, and who he left with?"

"There you got me. I didn't see him leave. I think he was there till closing and left with Connie, but I can't swear to it. Things get busy about closing time. There's always somebody who wants one last beer. This is a beer crowd, but they drink a lot of it."

"Oh," Jurgen said, as if just remembering something. "Did you notice if Tommy had a pistol?"

Mase seemed offended. "What kind of bartender would I be if I missed that? An old Smith revolver, right hip pocket, turned so the butt was toward the middle of his back."

Jurgen realized bartenders and policemen had a lot in common when it came to watching people. "That is all I need right now. Did you say Brandy was the waitress that waited on Tommy most of the night? Is she working today?"

"Yeah, Brandy Bates, that's her, the young one." Mase pointed to the two women carrying trays of beer mugs from the bar. "The other is Marlene Bates. She and Brandy are some kind of cousins. She wasn't working last night, but was here with her mother, Wilda, and Ape. Connie was the other waitress last night."

"Are you sure? I thought Connie Cooper was the cook."

"She cooks and waits tables both. Last night Connie was in the kitchen until, oh, eight or nine at least. Then she came out and waited tables until closing. That's easy to remember. The bar always runs smoother when Connie is working. She isn't sneaking a drink all the time or getting orders mixed up like Brandy. Is that all? I need to get back to my bar before Ken screws up the beer taps again."

Jurgen waved him off after thanking him. Leaning back he asked, "Did you hear all that, Marvin? I think we need to talk to Ape and his friends next."

"We'll get around to Ape. Stick with the waitresses for now. Interesting that Connie lied to us about waiting tables last night, don't you think?" Tipton then turned and called out, "Brandy, step over here a minute, would you? Officer Neubert wants to ask you some questions."

When she came up, Tipton gestured at a chair. "Have a seat. Bet you need to get off your feet for a while anyway."

Looking across the table, Jurgen studied the young waitress. She looked to be in her early twenties, and was pretty in a rough-hewn sort of way. Her looks were spoiled by the dislike, almost hatred, he could sense in the look she gave him in return.

"Fraulein Bates, we need to know what Tommy Cooper did last night. This will help us find his killer. What can you tell us?"

"You're one of the Germans they made cops, ain't you?"

"Yes, Fraulein, I am German," Jurgen said patiently. "Now, unless you want to sit here all night, will you answer my questions? The longer we spend, the more tips you lose."

Brandy gave a little laugh. "Tips, in this crowd? You have to be joking. They wouldn't know a tip if it bit them on the ass. But I'll answer your questions. Okay, Tommy Cooper. He was in here from about five o'clock until closing. He had a steak, but complained it was too tough and was priced too high. He got drunk as a skunk, and tried to grab my butt every time I walked by. You talk about tips. Tommy left a quarter, new money, on the table. I think he was just too drunk to get all his change. I hope whoever killed him did a good job and made him suffer. There, does that make me a suspect?"

"Well, it puts you on the list, Fraulein," Jurgen said with a slight chuckle. "But I think it is a very long list. Did you kill him?"

"Nope, not that I'm sorry he's dead, but Fenton walked me home and I live here in town. So I never saw Tommy after we closed. Guess you'll have to keep looking."

"And keep asking questions." Jurgen continued, "After he ate what did you see?"

"Tommy played cards with Freddie Congden, Ape, and Monkey Hart for beer. He seemed to be doing most of the losing, too. At least he was doing most of the buying. After they left he sat and played solitaire. Drinking beer the whole time."

"Tommy was spending a lot of money, then?"

"Yeah, he had a lot of money. Both American dollars and German silver."

"Is that what caused the fight between him and Ape? Losing at cards, I mean."

"It wasn't really a fight. Ape and him were just yelling at each other. Call it an argument. And it was over Tommy asking Marlene to go out to his trailer with him. Wilda, Marlene's mother, and Ape live together. When she told Tommy to keep his hands to himself, he got smart with her. Ape was just defending Wilda. At least as far as I could tell. I had other customers."

"Did you see when Tommy left if he was with anyone?"

"No, in fact I didn't see him leave at all. Last night was my night to collect beer mugs and I was back in the kitchen helping wash up."

"I guess that is about all the questions I have. Oh, did Tommy have a pistol with him?"

"I don't know. If he did, he kept it hidden. Like he kept his tips."

Tipton leaned over the table. "Here's a tip for you Brandy: get out of the bar business. You're too young to be working here. Go see Peggy Craig over at the elementary school Monday and she'll get you on working in the cafeteria. Tell her I sent you."

"Why, Officer Tipton, I didn't know you cared. I think I'll pass, though. As bad as the people here are about tipping, I doubt those snot-nosed kids are any better." With that Brandy got up from the table and flounced back to work.

"Snot-nosed kids," Tipton commented with a huff. "Three years ago she was one herself." Then in a louder voice he called, "Marlene, we're ready to talk to you now."

Watching Marlene approach, Jurgen thought, there was Brandy in a few years. Hard-bitten and world-weary.

As soon as she was seated, Marlene started talking. "I wasn't working last night. So I don't know why you want to talk to me. In fact I wouldn't be working tonight if Connie hadn't taken the evening off. What with Tommy getting killed and all. So there is not a lot I can tell you." With that she started to get up.

"Hold it, Marlene," Tipton said from his place by the wall. "Office Neubert still has a few questions for you."

Sitting back down, Marlene looked at Jurgen. "Ask away, but there is nothing I can tell you."

"We already know you were here last night, even if you weren't working. What we need is to know what Tommy Cooper was doing last night."

"Tommy was doing what he always does, getting drunk and being a nuisance. He even asked me to go home with him. Like I wanted to see his ratty old camp trailer. He got all huffy when Mom told him to shut up and called her a name. He was just being an asshole, as usual."

"This was while he was playing cards?"

"Yeah, I was sitting behind him and he kept reaching back trying to feel my leg. Ape told him to cool it after he shouted at Mom."

"What time did you see him leave? And was there anyone with him when he left?"

"Actually he was still here when we left. That was at eleven. I had to get home to see about my kids so I was checking the clock. Mom and Ape walked me home, so they left the same time I did. Monkey must have left just after we did, because he caught up with us before we got to my trailer."

"So Tommy was still here at eleven when you left?"

"That's what I said, wasn't it?"

Tipton leaned over and asked, "One last question and then you can leave. When they were playing cards, what games were they playing?"

"Euchre. Tommy and Freddie Congden against Ape and Monkey." Marlene got up and left.

"What do you think, Marvin?" Jurgen asked as he rose to stand beside Tipton.

"I think I'm getting a picture I don't like. Looks to me like Connie lied about Tommy taking off before eleven. And maybe even about not walking her home."

"Ja, it looks like she may be covering up for someone."

"That's what I don't like about it. As much as I dislike G. C., I can't picture him killing his own brother."

"So who do you think killed him?"

"I don't know. In fact I have less of an idea than when we started. Frustrating, isn't it? You ready to talk to the cardplayers?"

"Sure. Which one first?"

"Well, I don't see Monkey or Freddie, and since he's walking this way let's talk to Ape."

Jurgen looked up and saw the man who had been pointed out as Ape Hart heading toward them.

As Ape sat down, he waved to the other chairs at the table. "Marvin, Marvin's buddy, I guess you'll want to talk to me sometime tonight. Let's get it over with so I can get back to my friends."

Looking at Ape, Jurgen could see how he got his name. The man was huge and shaped something like the picture of a gorilla Jurgen had seen in the library. He even appeared to be as hairy, from the amount of dark hair on his arms and hands. Looking closer he saw that the hair was flecked with gray. Ape was no longer a young man. Still, he looked like he could lift a loaded wagon.

"Herr Hart, we are checking on what Tommy Cooper was doing last night. We have been told you spent some time with him. Is that true?"

"You speak pretty good, for a kraut," Ape said with a smirk. Jurgen could see Ape was enjoying insulting him to his face.

"Herr Hart, we can ask these questions here, and let you go back to your friends," Jurgen said laying his handcuffs on the table. "Or I can hook you up and take you over to the station and ask them there. Your choice."

Before Ape could answer, Tipton leaned over the table. "Remember Ape, you've been drinking all evening and Officer Neubert has about twenty years on you."

Jurgen could see Ape studying him. "Ha, I can see you'd really enjoy trying to put those cuffs on me. Wouldn't you, Neubert? Well, not tonight 'cause I got things to do. But one day we'll get it on."

"Herr Hart, you are wasting your drinking time," Jurgen said with a smile. "So tell us about your and Tommy's card game."

"Okay, Of-fi-cer Neubert." Ape stretched the name out so Jurgen could see there was no respect in the use of his title. "Me and Monkey played euchre against Freddie and Tommy for a couple of hours. We were playing for beers. I didn't buy a beer all night. Tommy can't play euchre for spit. He always orders up if he is holding a bower and an ace."

"What was the argument you had with Tommy about?"

"Wilda told him to keep his hands off of Marlene and he got a little smart with her. I told him to chill out and he acted a little frisky, but nothing came of it. It wasn't a big thing. Tommy gets like that some times. He's an asshole. Was an asshole, now, I guess."

"That didn't stop you from drinking the beer he bought though, did it?"

"Look, Tommy was spending money like he owned a bank. He said he had gotten the better of a kraut on a deal selling a tractor. He was laughing about how him and G. C. ripped the kraut off. They switched tractors on him. Then Tommy ripped off G. C. and took all the money. If I hadn't drunk his beer someone else would have."

"Did Tommy have a gun with him?"

"Yeah, he had that old Smith in his hip pocket. It caught on the chair a couple of times when he got up. If he ever tried to use it, he'd have dropped it. I told you he was drunk, didn't I?"

"When did he leave?"

"I couldn't tell you. Freddie left about ten till eleven and we played one hand of three-handed. Then Marlene had to leave at eleven, so Wilda and me walked her home. Tommy was still here when we left."

"Do you have anyone to back up your story?"

"Hey, if you think I killed him, you're way off base. Wilda, Marlene, and Monkey can all tell you where I was. In fact I waved to the mayor on my way home and he waved back. Ask him. I was on the other side of town."

"Herr Hart, I think that is all for now. We might want to talk to you later."

"Anytime, Of-fi-cer Neubert, anytime." Ape got up from the table. "I'll look forward to it."

"I wouldn't worry about Ape," Tipton said softly. "When he's sober, he's too smart to fight a cop. And when he drinking he can't fight and he knows it. That's why I wanted to wait to talk to him."

"Marvin, it looks like we have to go back and talk to the Coopers."

"Yep, I'm afraid so. Damn, sometimes I hate this job. Let's go."


Just before they arrived at the Cooper house, Tipton turned off the headlights and let the car coast to a stop. From where the car was sitting, Jurgen could see the house and the camp trailer and the edge of the mobile home. The yard and most of the house were lit by the full moon.

"I don't see any lights. Looks like no one is home, Marvin."

"We'll wait. They'll be home sometime tonight. While we're waiting, what are your thoughts on the case?"

"Marvin, you know these people and I don't, but it looks to me like they are trying to hide something."

"Yeah, they're hiding something and as usual they're doing a lousy job of it."

Just then Jurgen heard a noise from the back of the house. Looking at the mobile home, he could see two shadowy figures near an old truck parked there. Listening carefully, he could hear muffled voices. "Someone is beside the old truck."

"Yeah, let's get a little closer." Tipton flipped the switch to make sure the dome light wouldn't come on when they opened the doors. "You go right and work your way up behind them and I'll go down beside the house."

Jurgen and Tipton carefully closed the doors of the car to make no noise and separated to move toward the house. Just before closing the door Jurgen retrieved his baton, and slipped it into the ring on his belt. He should have taken that with him into the Club 250, he realized now.

As Jurgen crossed the ditch beside the road, he was keenly aware of the noise he was making. He thought he sounded like a herd of cows. But the two figures beside the truck continued what they were doing as he worked his way though the brush that bordered the yard. Soon, he was even with the mobile home and could see the figures' faces in the moonlight. It was G. C. Cooper and his wife, Connie. They were loading something in the truck.

Just then something Tipton stepped on made a slight noise near the rear of the house. Jurgen could see G. C. jump and stare toward the house. "Who's there?" G. C. called as he put his hand under the bottom of his jacket. "I've got a gun!"

"It's me, Marvin Tipton," Tipton called, "and I know you have a gun, but you better get your hand off of it. We need to talk."

Connie Cooper gave a gasp and sank to the ground leaning on the side of the truck. She sat there giving out little gasps.

"I don't have anything to say to you, Marvin. We're a little busy right now. You can come back in the morning, or better yet, stop by the garage." Jurgen could see that Cooper had drawn a pistol and was holding it beside his leg, out of Marvin's sight. Jurgen started working his way closer to the Coopers, the noise of his movements masked by their voices.

"G. C., I can't do that. I have a bloodstained jacket that I bet fits Connie, and an eye witness that saw you and her on the road walking away from where Tommy was killed. And I know Tommy walked Connie home from the Club. Now I find you loading what looks a lot like gas cans into your truck. Thinking about running away, G. C.?" The whole time Tipton was talking, he had been moving closer to G. C. Now he was less than ten feet away.

As Jurgen slipped closer, he wondered what to do. He could shoot him, but he didn't know that G. C. was the killer. Jurgen drew his baton.

G. C. brought his pistol up and pointed it at Tipton. "Marvin, stop right there or I'll shoot."

Tipton stopped moving and spoke in an almost conversational voice. "You know, G. C., the one thing I am having trouble figuring out is why you killed Tommy. It wasn't the money. He's been taking money from you and your dad for years. It sure wasn't because he was a drunk. Tommy has never spent a sober day since he could sit on a bar stool. So why did you kill him?"

Jurgen could tell that Tipton had seen him and was trying to keep Cooper from realizing there were two of them. Jurgen moved closer till he was just at the back of the truck. Three steps away, then two. A quick lunge and Jurgen brought his baton down, backed by all of his two hundred pounds of muscle and bone, on the barrel of the gun in Cooper's hand. A flash of light and a loud crack as the pistol fired into the ground. Then a quick back stroke with the baton to Cooper's chest and he was down, the pistol falling from his hand.

"Thanks, Jurgen." Tipton picked up the pistol from the ground. "I was hoping we wouldn't have to shoot him. It makes a lot of paperwork." Jurgen noticed for the first time that Tipton had his backup pistol in his left hand. Handing over the recovered pistol, Tipton told Jurgen, "Tommy's gun, keep it for evidence."

Tipton then bent over and touched G. C. on the ground, "You all right, G. C.? Roll over to your left, I want to get that pop gun you carry in your hip pocket. That's a good boy."

G. C. merely sat and gasped for breath, holding his arms close to his body as Tipton removed the small automatic from his pocket.

"I think . . . he broke my ribs," G. C. was finally able to get out.

"He could have legally put a .357 through your brain. Think about that the next time you pull a gun on a cop, you damn fool." Tipton looked to where Connie was sitting. "You got something to tell us, Connie?"

Jurgen watched as the woman pulled herself together. "G. C. didn't kill Tommy. I did."

"I sort of figured that from what I heard at the Club. You ready to tell us the whole story?"

"Yes," Connie answered with a slight sob.


As they watched G. C. being loaded into the ambulance and Connie being escorted to Chief Frost's cruiser, the two officers finally had time to talk.

"What do you think is going to happen to them, Marvin?" Jurgen waved at the taillights disappearing down the road.

"To Connie, not much. All she did was fight off a rapist. I knew Tommy had become a real lowlife, but to try to rape your brother's wife . . ." He shook his head. "That's a little much even for him."

"What about G. C.?"

"Oh, G. C. will do some time on a work crew and sleep in the jail for a while. If they had just called us when it happened . . ." Tipton's voice faded away.

"You think he was trying to make it look like Tommy was killed by someone else? Trying to cut off his head and all?"

"Let's stop talking about it." Tipton watched a wagon making its way down the road. "You see that garbage wagon, Jurgen? That's us, picking up society's trash."

Back | Next