Leather bound police detective in the 1950's gets a new partner, an inspector's daughter.
| 'Homicide Harry' Lazlo sat on the bench in Rittenhouse Square and sipped a steaming black Horn & Hardart coffee from a paper cup. Harry glanced at the three shabbily dressed white males who floated face down in a large, rectangular, whitewashed fountain. Water dribbled impassively from the statuary. Cupid seemed unimpressed by the dead. Harry was once a combat Marine in the South Pacific and had seen the dead in every position and condition imaginable. The detective turned back to the view of benches, trees and flowers. He watched uniformed Patrolmen dealing with gawkers, dog walkers and reporters. It was 7:30 AM and soon more people on their way to work would become curious and late.
The Medical Examiner would also arrive soon to pronounce the dead men 'dead'. Then Harry could let the uniforms and ME assistants go fishing so the Doc could do what needed to be done at the morgue. The detective hoped that there was some form of identification in those wet pockets. That hope was not a strong one because the men looked down and out. Winos came from Skid Row a few blocks away to sleep it off in the comfort of the park. The beat officers where ordered to keep the benches clear but some nights were too busy to get that done. Sadly, Skid Row was a place of street names, small change, someone else's old clothes and body odor not a place of wallets, soap, jobs, addresses and ID's. They had not entered the fountain of their own volition. Swimming was not a scheduled activity for the lost souls of Skid Row.
Many detectives in Harry's unit would have seen this as a waste of time searching for the killer of street people, but not Harry. The poor guys were most likely veterans like everyone else in these post war days of the 1950's. The shared fear of death and the chaos of war were not faded from many men's minds and most likely never would. So Harry would investigate like the men were old buddies. Maybe one of the poor floaters was an old buddy, Harry had not seen any faces yet. Images of Tarawa beaches tugged at the edges of Harry's mind as he tried to concentrate on leaves and blossoms, shade and sunlight..
In time, the Medical Examiner arrived. Doctor Andrew Filbert Gracie was an co-worker that Harry had come to know well, they had shared some bad times and some worse times. They greeted each other somberly. The fishing trip was a sad success. The ME did an cursory examination then walked to Harry
"These gentlemen were shot at close range, Harry. There is a wound center chest, a wound in the back the head. Looks like an execution. The oldest male received some extra attention but it looks post mortem.
"Doc, did you find anything to indicate who they were? Scars or tattoos? A wallet maybe?"
"Sorry, Harry. Not a much except a ring on the old man but it could help. West Point rings are not that common. He had cash in his pocket more than a hundred dollars. The other two only had change for a buck"
"Robbery was not the motive?"
"Doesn't seem like it. There was cash in the old guy's pocket and the ring, Harry. No watch but the shading of skin on the wrist shows that he normally wore one.. I've already got two scheduled for this morning. I'll let you know if and when I have anything but the line is long. This is the worst St. Patrick's Day I can remember. Accidents, crimes, bar fights. The night shift had a very long night from what I hear. Well, Carpe diem, Harry."
"And hopefully the guy who did this." Harry shot back.
The assistants waited awhile for Harry to take a look at the bodies of the deceased who now lay drying on their ambulance cots. The clothes of the old man were weathered and wet but well made and expensive. Usually Harry would talk his partner into work like this but Harry's partner, 'the Wolfman', was lying in Pennsylvania Hospital with a gunshot wound to the left cheek. No damage to the Wolf's face but his trousers were beyond repair. The shame of it was that Harry had been the shooter. Another story that..... but clothes make the man, floating or butt shot.
Harry found himself squinting and frowning and wishing to wash his hands by the time he was done. If not robbery (who would rob poor people anyway?) then why were these men dead? To make things worst, the old man on the gurney did look familiar. Harry was sure he had seen him before. In a picture somewhere, maybe a mug shot, in a newspaper or magazine, Harry knew that face but couldn't come up with a name. Fingerprints would be included somewhere in the process but would probably yield little. The lab assistants would take prints but to match them to a name, probably a rank and serial number too. It would take an army to find a visual match. The Armed Forces could provide a lot of finger prints these days. Harry knew that he would not likely get an answer via prints before he retired. He wouldn't spend much time hoping. The bodies disappeared into ambulances and meat wagons. The uniforms returned to their respective beats. A glance at his watch and Harry thought that he might have time for another coffee until a uniform walked up to inform him that he was wanted at the Round House, PDQ. Harry got into a patrol car instead.
At the Round House, the Police Headquarters building in Philadelphia, Lazlo found himself on an elevator to upper floors he had never been invited to, before today. Chief Police Inspector Verden Quinn was waiting for Harry in a well appointed office on the fifth floor. Quinn was a golden boy in the department. One day he would likely be Police Commissioner. When Harry arrived on five, a uniform was waiting at the elevator door and whisked Harry straight into Inspector Quinn's presence.
Sitting in the office was a tall dark haired woman with an oriental features. She wore a sever navy blue skirt and jacket with a badge on the lapel, a detective badge, shiny, golden and new. Harry had a bad feeling. There had been rumors of a woman, a college graduate, at the Police Academy. Harry did not turn and look at the woman. He was afraid she would read the look on his face correctly.
" Detective Lazlo, this is my daughter, Officer Veronica Quinn. Veronica will be your new partner for the time being since you're solo. I want her to get a taste of criminal investigations before she is promoted to an permanent administrative position. I want her experienced but I don't want her on the street in uniform. I want you to keep her busy but keep her safe. Anything happens to her and I'll have your scalp." Inspector Quinn smiled as if he were joking but Harry knew he wasn't.
Harry knew he'd end up in a bed next to his partner if this young lady so much as broke a fingernail on a Police Headquarters vending machine. Harry also knew that while the Wolf would one day walk again, his own backside would never heal from damage inflicted by a Chief Inspector. Harry smiled trying to hide his true feelings but the Inspector and his offspring were already committed, practiced and prepared for arguments, evasions and excuses. So they set off in rapid fire tandem to batter down any reluctance on Harry's part even after he agreed.
"My daughter is a fully trained police officer." the Chief Inspector began.
Followed by a sweet and lilting, "I can take care of myself in an altercation."
"My daughter was taught to shot from childhood by a very good instructor, me."
"I can type 80 words per minute. I'll be an asset in the office."
"My daughter has a degree in Criminal Justice...from Penn. It's a new field of study for women. She's one of the first women to gain this degree at the University."
"I am good with people. Good with interviews and interrogations, right Dad."
Although Harry had no choice in the matter, they went on this way. It turned into a contest to see who could be sing the lady's praises in the most creative way.
Harry wanted to roll his eyes and poke his finger in and out of his open mouth while making the gag noise. Instead, he just waited for the tide to ebb. They first agreed to 6:00 AM in the morning in the Homicide Office then changed the time twice more until Officer Quinn was comfortable about her first morning in Homicide and her beauty sleep. Harry was not sure when she would show up but didn't care. Lazlo got out of there, the same way he had come, PDQ.
The following day the sun rose, a new day filled with promise, Harry sat at his desk with a cup of coffee from the break room. Harry made a faces, a lemon on the tongue faces. Harry's day began with bad coffee and a call to the lab with negative results on his aquatic John Does. Nothing known but lots of alcohol in the blood. Surprise, surprise! Oh, and the man's ring had been on that finger for years by the condition of the skin. A lead that had just become promising.
The next few hours brought the arrival of his new partner. Dressed in civilian clothes, a blond wig and wearing high heels. Harry kept his own counsel as Officer Quinn clopped up to her new desk. She said good morning and began unloading decorations, knickknacks and pictures from a cardboard box.. She placed them on the surface, then moved them around, then rearrainged them again. Harry watched in wonder as she made herself at home. A statue of Jesus, an ashtray that looked like a revolver, pictures of Dad, friends from college and her dog.
"Ahem. Miss Quinn, the LT is waiting to see us in his office. Would you like to accompany me there before lunch?"
The sarcasm sailed off toward left field and Harry's new partner smiled and and asked brightly, "Which way?"
The coffee in Harry's stomach burbled and groaned as he walked with his head down. All the way to the LT's door, Harry listened to his new partner and the conversation that percolated from her.
"My degree is in Criminal Justice but I also have a minor in theater. That's why I am in costume. I thought that, you know, I could be undercover and such. I could get some great information if I were in the right place. I have excellent hearing."
What Harry was now hearing was the background conversation from other detectives.
"Poor Harry. My God is that his new partner?"
"Couldn't happen to a nicer guy."
"See what you get when you shoot your partner?"
"Breaking in a new partner, Harry? Or a new girlfriend?"
"They call him 'Homicide Harry' cause he's murder on his partners."
"Is she Chinese or somethin.? Look at her eyes, they're almond shaped. A blond Chinese detective.....that's new."
"Do you know how they name a Chinese baby? They throw...."
The back of Harry's neck glowed bright red above his white shirt and he wished his tie were tighter, much tighter and tied to a ceiling fixture or sprinkler pipe.
"Detective Lazlo, what did that guy just say about silverware? Is there something the matter with your neck, Harry?" his new partner asked. Harry wished he was deaf.
The head of the Homicide Division of the Seventeenth District, LT John Hanna, sat at his desk tapping a pencil with his left hand and holding a file folder in the right. Hanna smiled as hard as he could at Veronica Quinn but never glanced at Harry. Obviously aware of who her Daddy was.
"So glad you could join me this morning. I have some work for you today. If it's not inconvenient, I'd like you to begin at once. This complaint came to me direct from the Mayor's Office. It seems that a personal friend of his was assaulted last night, bitten on the neck outside of a center city night club. The young lady, a Miss. Carmella Comedone, is a close personal friend and the Mayor would like this investigated as if it were attempted murder."
"Great!" mumbled Harry.
Again the sarcasm left the park and Ms. Quinn gushed, "Oh, How exciting!"
Harry looked at his shoes and wondered if he had spilled salt, broken a mirror, missed seeing a black cat or walked under
a ladder in the last few days. Maybe he was just paying the karmic price for wounding his best friend and real partner.
"Was her wound seriously enough for surgery? When will her treatment be completed so that we can question her? Can she even speak?" Harry asked.
" The bite didn't break the skin but it left a hell of a red mark on her throat. The young lady showed it to Mayor Pettigrue this morning. The Mayor said that it looked angry."
"Seriously?" Harry asked as he accepted the file.
"Harry, I know it's all shoddy, shady and shitty but take care of this for me,..... please."
"LT, I.... aah." Harry glanced at the Quinn girl. "That is, WE have three unidentified dead bodies in the morgue. Isn't that more important than..."
"Harry, the Mayor is very interested in this young woman's welfare."
"God! You mean he's doodlin' her!"
"No, Harry. Not yet but.."
"Not yet? That's even worse. Can't you give this to Hoolihan and Freeburg...please?"
"The Mayor asked for you personally. The newspapers called you and Wolfie the best homicide cops in the city."
"Looks like I did Wolf a favor."
"Yeah. Well, he might shoot you sometime if you ask him nicely."
Harry said a really, really bad word. Quinn giggled. Hanna shrugged his shoulders. Harry then realized that he was the last man in Homicide to know about the Mayor's friend. Harry said the bad word again and wished he had a blond wig to wear on his way back to his desk, maybe no one would recognize him.