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11

Pass the ketchup, would you?

Certainly. Want some mayo?

Nah. Sissy stuff.

Pickles acceptably manly?

Sure. Onions, too.

Glad to hear it. I love onions. Dont care what they do to my breath. Have some more.

Dont mind if I do.

Care for some chopped torso? Merylo closed his eyes. I mean, tomato.

Lieutenant Zalewski grimaced. You sure know how to blow the fun out of a picnic.

Youre not the first one to tell me. He took a bite of his Coney. You sure you want this job?

You talkin about the picnic? Or workin with you?

Take your pick.

Im sure I want to be your partner. Id be crazy to say no. Youre the top homicide detective on the force. I figure this jumps me up five, maybe eight years ahead in my career.

Merylo didnt argue. And the picnic?

Zalewski shrugged. I was told Id have to make sacrifices for my career.

Merylo smiled. This must take some getting used to for Zalewski, especially given Merylos bulldog reputation with the rest of the boys on the force. All work and no play. Nose to the grindstone. Never give a sucker a break. And here they were, on the highest point of Jackass Hill, sitting on a red-and-white-checked tablecloth, having a picnic. On a cold day, no less. Yes, the rest of the boys would think they were insane. Or something worse.

I noticed you didnt use mustard, Merylo commented.

Never cared for the stuff. Hard on my stomach.

Its not a Coney without mustard.

Im doin okay.

And sauerkraut-thats the key to the whole thing. You didnt take any sauerkraut.

What kind of red-blooded American puts sauerkraut on some-thin as American as a Coney?

The ones who like good food.

Hmph. Sounds like a Kraut thing to me. You got a thing for the kaiser? Or that new kid?

Adolf Hitler?

Yeah, him. I hear hes really whipping that country into shape.

Is that what you hear?

Yeah. He got that Saarland back, didnt he? Made military service mandatory. Got rid of the Versailles Treaty that was slowing him down.

And you see that as a good thing?

Personally, I think we went too easy on the Krauts after we beat them down in the Great War.

The War to End All Wars.

Yeah. But with this Hitler guy in charge, maybe theyll get civilized. Join the rest of the world.

Merylo addressed his attention to his perfectly constructed Coney. I hear he burns books.

Yeah, well, tell you the truth, I was never that crazy about books myself. So, Zalewski added, obviously choosing his words carefully, mind if I ask why were out here in the middle of winter having a picnic?

I think youre entitled. Seem strange?

Well it doesnt match up with the standard Merylo image.

When youre on a case, working the streets, working over some thug, you need a certain authority.

I can see that.

But I can still appreciate a picnic. And I thought it might give us a chance to get to know each other. Since were going to be working together. Right?

Right. Right.

So what else is bothering you?

Who said-?

You havent taken a bite out of your Coney.

Oh! Well He picked it up and crammed half of it into his mouth. Mmm. Good.

Glad you approve. There is fancier fare. But its hard to beat a good Coney. I practically survive on em. Which may explain why I look the way I do, he added, patting his firm but substantial belly.

So, okay, were having a picnic, Zalewski said, wiping his mouth, were getting to know each other. But why here? In Kingsbury Run. On a cold day.

Now thats the question. Glad you finally got there, Lieutenant. Merylo put down his dog and gestured expansively. Look around you. What do you see?

Zalewski took in a panoramic view of the countryside. From here on the apex of the Hill, you could see for miles around. Lotsa scrub. Brush. Dirt. Some kids playing. More kids running all over the gully, probably hopin they might find another corpse. Industrial complex to the northeast, pumpin more soot and smoke into the air.

Keep going.

Two trains headed toward the factory. Some decent houses off to the south, some wretched ones off to the north. And Shantytown, of course.

Exactly. Spent much time in Shantytown?

Even as he asked the question, Merylo already knew the answer: Why would he? Why would anyone? A miserable assortment of derelicts and destitutes living in packing boxes or, at best, makeshift sheds. It was the embarrassment of the city.

Tried my best to avoid it, tell the truth, Zalewski said, a trifle shamefaced.

Nothing to be embarrassed about. Perfectly understandable. If a crime hasnt brought you out there, what would? Got any notion whos living there?

Zalewski shrugged. Bums. Vagrants. Hoboes.

Thats true. We get a lot of those. They ride in on the rails and stay, least till they get in some kind of trouble and have to move on. Most cases, theres no record they were ever there. No one remembers.

Sounds like bad news for crime solving.

Exactly. Thing is-its not just bums.

It isnt?

Merylo shook his head. Sure you wont try some sauerkraut? Zalewski declined. Theres some good folk out there, entire families even. Poor joes who lost their jobs when the stock market crashed and work got scarce and havent been able to get back on their feet since. Migrants escaping the Dust Bowl. Theres even some poor boys whove found some kind of job or other, but it doesnt pay well enough for them to live anywhere else.

Really?

Merylo nodded while he smeared mustard on a second dog. Imagine that. You work all day in some damn factory or slaughterhouse, and still your familys living in a shack. During a Cleveland winter. That, he said, giving a decisive twist to the lid of the mustard jar, might drive a guy to do anything.

Zalewski swallowed. You mean-even cutting off two mens heads?

Thats not the act of a desperate man. But I think desperation might cause a man to do things he ought not be doing. Ever wonder why the corpses were left here?

Seems like a lot of work.

Exactly. You cant drive a car down that gully. They werent rolled down the hill-that wouldve left marks. The killer had to carry them a long way.

Maybe thats why he drained the blood. To lighten the load.

Merylo avoided rolling his eyes. Dont think that would make much difference. Especially to this killer. He had to be strong to get those corpses out here. I dont think I could do it.

Maybe he had help.

Thats possible. Especially if the mobs involved.

Zalewski gave him a narrowed eye. You know something, dont you?

In fact, I do. Merylo pulled a folded report out of his coat pocket. Know much about the Bertillon department?

Thats, uh, French, isnt it?

Well, its named for a French guy. Invented what we call anthropometry. A way of taking precise measurements of a criminals features, so they can be used later to identify him. He came up with a lot of other stuff we use every day-like the mug shot. Using plaster to preserve footprints. Ballistics. Showed us how science could be used to solve crimes.

Sounds like a smart guy. For a frog.

He got the Dreyfus case totally wrong, but who hasnt made a mistake at one time or other?

Zalewski looked puzzled. But hows this help us? We havent got a footprint. Or a bullet.

True. But we do have hands. And the hands have fingerprints. You know what they are, right?

Course I do. Did that Bertillon guy discover those, too?

No, but he showed us how to use them. Our Bertillon department has a pretty substantial collection of them. Including one for a Hungarian mug named Edward W. Andrassy. Merylo paused. Also known to you as the first victim.

Zalewskis eyes bugged. What? Howd you figure that out?

Andrassy was picked up in 1931 for carrying a concealed. They printed him. Took a mug shot, too. Course, his face is pretty messed up now. But its definitely him.

Was he in the mob?

Nah. Strictly small potatoes. Long record of petty offenses. Gambler. Drunk. Good-looking-people say he was popular with the ladies, go figure. I never could understand what dames go for. He liked to hang out in some of those sleazy joints on Rowdy Row. Third District. No indication that he ever did anything big time.

Then why would anyone want to kill him? Like that.

Im just guessing, but the mob boys have been known to go crazy violent when they want to send a message. We know Andrassy gambled, and we know that every gambler eventually has some bad luck. Maybe he needed money. Maybe he made the mistake of borrowing from the mob. Maybe he couldnt pay it back.

So they whacked off his head?

Or maybe this big lover boy got involved with some dame he shouldnt. Maybe some hoods moll. Might explain why we have two victims. Maybe there was a love triangle.

So they whacked off his head.

Merylo swallowed the last of his third dog. Its not impossible. I went out to his wifes place last night. She said there were some suspicious characters hanging around about two weeks ago. She didnt know who they were and her loving hubby wouldnt tell her.

Mobsters.

We shouldnt jump to any conclusions. But its possible. Wife told me something else. She said shed seen one of her neighbors in the window several times with a pair of binoculars. Pointed toward Jackass Hill.

The killer!

I hoped. I went over and talked to the guy. He sighed. Turned out hes got a thing going with a married dame on the other side of the Run. Whenever her husband leaves, she waves this white handkerchief. Lover boy sees it in his binos and skedaddles across the Run to give her a good one.

Ouch. Not the killer.

Dont think so. More like a homicide victim in waiting.

Zalewskis eyes lit up. What about the other corpse? The big guy. Did you print him?

Couldnt. Body has decomposed too severely. Apparently hes been dead a lot longer than Andrassy.

I bet he was a punk thug, too.

Maybe. Its something to check out.

Zalewski sat up, his eyes bright. Youve done a lot of work. I hadnt heard any of this.

No one has. No point.

But youve got a real lead!

Did you see the papers after the news of the murders broke? They went gaga with this stuff. The Plain Dealer called it the most bizarre double murder in Cleveland history. The Press ran front-page pictures of the boys and the News said it was vengeance for a frustrated love affair-even though they had no evidence at all to back up their glamorous story. The newsboys are going to be all over this any day Eliot Ness isnt smiling for the cameras. If we announce that we have leads, theyll expect us to have a killer by Tuesday. Im going to lay low. Not a good idea to stir things up till youve got something solid.

I guess not.

Merylo began packing away the picnic. I asked if you were sure you wanted to be my partner. For a reason. Theres tons of work to be done, and whether I like it or not, I know I cant do it all. Weve got to blanket the area, the homes, the factories, the shanties. Everything you see around you now. Talk to everyone. Especially in Andrassys neighborhood. Cleveland s got the largest Hungarian population outside of Budapest -did you know that? Were gonna talk to every one of them. Maybe someone saw something suspicious. Maybe someone carrying a large heavy bundle. Who knows what it might be? But this guy lugged two corpses-and their heads-all the way out here and down the gully. Surely someone saw something. He paused, giving Zalewski a steely eye. Were going to find that someone.

Understood. Zalewski helped him put away the condiments. You know I think Im going to like working for you.

Merylo grunted his reply.

Zalewski couldnt let it go. Were gonna catch this guy, arent we?

Merylo looked right into his eyes. You bet we are. You and me, buddy. Hes as good as nailed.


| Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness | c



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