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13th Precinct: Issue Eight
Bob Yosco

"I was wrong, Johnny, there was nine."

Just what I didn’t need to hear. The cab had gotten me to Jackson Heights in record time…an angry cop can make traffic part like Moses and the Dead Sea deal…and Vic Fleming was waiting for me in front of the apartment building on 87th Street.

"So when did eight turn into nine?" I asked.

"Hey sue me okay?" Fleming answered through a puff of unfiltered cigarette smoke. "We missed one under some clothes in a bedroom closet. Friggin people live like cockroaches here so its no wonder."

I ducked under the yellow crime scene tape to make my way into the main entrance and hustled on purpose just to make Fleming jog to keep up.

"And we’re sure it’s the same guy?"

"Same MO, same stupid crap written on the walls." He gasped as we jogged to the fifth floor. The elevator would have been faster but even if I wasn’t already pissed at Fleming the stairs were the way to go. I doubted the killer would have taken the chance of getting stuck in an elevator, so I checked the stairway as carefully as I could while taking them two at a time. Crime Scene Analysis would do the down and dirty work of looking for trace evidence but it didn’t hurt for a detective to look anyway.

The door to 5C was open so I brushed past the sea of blue and had to come to a skidding halt once inside. Blood everywhere. Area rugs were saturated with it, the walls were splattered in drying red, and without even counting I knew that there had to be at least a dozen or more lab rats working to sort through the mess.

"He, Jesus why the frig you gotta run," Fleming coughed behind me. "He did most of them here in the living room, all but the kid in the closet, and wait till you see the kitchen."

I stepped carefully around the kneeling green lab coats as I followed Fleming into the kitchen, and there was no doubt he was right. All that mess meant eight people were butchered in the living room and their bodies moved…

"The frig this guy trying ta say?"

The kitchen table was one of those big old round ones, the kind you could add sections to, and it was open as wide as possible. Eight chairs around the table inside of the unusually large kitchen. Eight chairs with eight people sitting in them.

"Shrinks’ll call a friggin convention over this one, eh, Johnny? Jerkoff does a slice and dice then stops to cook. Stove was even still warm when I got here and not for nothin but that paella ain’t half bad."

A bowl of colorful rice was in front of each of the victims and a large pot of more of the same sat on the stove, cooling, but still retaining some warmth. The handle of an eight-inch chef’s knife stuck out of a silverware holder next to the sink, and the sink itself was clean.

"You tasted it?" I asked once the full impact of what Fleming had said sunk in.

"Not like I chowed down, I took a taste. And don’t look at me like that okay, wasn’t me putting on the feedbag at some fancy restaurant, some of us work overtime you know."

I drive all the way to Queens in a cab just not to let on that I’d had a meal with Jessica and they knew. That meant…

"ME say’s that ain’t the knife either." Fleming offered just so he could hang on to the one-upmanship that came from arriving first on the scene. "Thing’s too sharp and the Doc figures it was some kinda ragged-edged blade he off’d em with, serrated kinzoo or something like that, just like the crack house killings in Soho. And before you ask, no, we ain’t found it yet."

"Who called this in?"

"Old lady next door found them, a Mrs. Gonzalez." Fleming answered as he flipped through the pages of a dog-eared notepad. "Says she stops in every Wednesday night to pray with Mrs. Veras, that’s the deceased female sitting next to the fat guy at the head of the table. She knocks, gets no answer, the door is open so she waltz’s in and gives out a helluva scream before fainting right in one a the big pools of blood. Nosy bastard across the hall, I think Sam got his name, sounded like Carnoza or something, he runs over to see what’s up and gives the 911."

"And don’t tell me, but no one saw or heard anything else."

"Bingo, the kid’s a detective. Same as all the others, Johnny. Walls in this hole so thin you could hear a rat fart three doors down, but not a peep. The food’s another twist sure, but the writing on the bedroom wall is just like all the others. Shame to let all that extra rice go to waste…"

Maybe someday I’d be able to eat in a room full of dead people, but not yet. The horribly mutilated bodies of the adults were bad enough, but looking at the kids, their throats torn open…hell, the youngest couldn’t have been more than six or seven…

"You wanna see the kid in the closet before the body-jockeys tag and bag?"

I didn’t but I had to take a look at what was written on the walls so I followed Fleming. Large kitchen and cubbyhole bedroom meant that there’d been some remodeling done, but that’s typical of Hispanics. Gather and eat, be happy and invite half the neighborhood. Decent, good people, family people who deserved more from their city and if I already didn’t want to collar this creep bad enough the smeared scrawl of blood on the wall over the headboard clinched it for me.


"Ya think the frig would come up with something new…"

"Vic, you were the Primary for the Soho investigation, weren’t you?" I interrupted.

"Yeah. Well, sort of. I had that kidney infection, remember, and the Boss gave most of the legwork to that asshole from narcotics because it looked drug related. No skin off my nose, we pinch the bastard and I get some of the juice…"

"They were all Irish, weren’t they?"

"The victims? Yeah, so what? Not like back in the old days but in case you hadn’t noticed a lot of Micks still live in the city, kid."

"And the Mott Street Social Club, Sam handled that one, didn’t he?" I continued.

"Sam and that new broad, Flo, yeah. Nice ass but chicken legs belong at KFC. You know me, Johnny, meat on the hoof or I don’t taste…"

"Were they all Italian?"

"Duh. Mott Street. Social Club. Ring some bells? No wait, three were dagos and one was Portuguese I think. Not like you can tell them apart so if Sam first thought it was some wop hit don’t blame him."

All Irish, then Italians with one mistake and now all Hispanic. Justice For All.

"You gonna look in the closet so we can get the hell out of this dump or what?"

I took the obligatory glance at the young girl crammed into the tiny closet and told Vic I’d meet him back at the house. Enough death for one evening, enough of trying to hold back the feelings of outrage and helplessness. Time to catch the son of a bitch, time to see if my hunch had any legs.

It was getting chilly outside but I turned down a ride from one of the uniforms. I wanted to walk this one off a bit, and I needed to think. Three separate and seemingly unrelated mass murders. No connections except for the obvious dis-connection; throwing out the misfire the perp made in mistaking a Portuguese-American for an Italian-American, all three crimes done with ethnic purity. I walked and thought, and was deep into sorting through what it could mean when a flickering light over a small, shuttered-in candy store caught my attention and I did a double take.

The Howies Sweets sign shouldn’t have been on at all if the store was closed, but that’s not what made me stop and stare. I was alone on the street but my reflection was not.

"Best I can do, John." The familiar voice whispered from seemingly far away and yet very close. "Chinatown. Not yet, but soon maybe. Try the duck."

Boyd Castanet’s reflection faded until all I could see was the glow from the cigarette in his hand, and that winked out a moment later.

[ END ]

©2002 Bob Yosco



Bob Yosco - Once again, Bob Yosco takes us on a tour of the strange streets of 13th Precinct...

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