Detective duo go out of their way to find trouble
| Homicide Harry Lazlo huddled in the front seat of his partner's aging Packard sedan watching the trees pass in the dark. The sky was dark. The road was dark. Harry's mood was dark. It was a very cold February evening and Harry wanted to be back in his Philadelphia apartment snug and warn. The headlights showed the road ahead. The wipers were keeping the light snow at bay. The car's heater, sadly, was lagging behind the intruding cold.
"What the hell are we out here looking for, Will?"
Harry's partner turned and grinned at Harry's discomfort.
" We are searching for The Jersey Devil, Harry My Boy!" The Wolf Man declared gleefully.
" Take me home before there's violence and blood, You Lunatic! You dragged me out in the cold for a ride in the Jersey Pine Barrens to look for.."
" A roadhouse, Harry. We're looking for place called 'The Jersey Devil'. It should be right along this road if my directions were correct. We are here to meet with a lady. A lady in trouble. Well, a lady with a brother who may be in trouble to be truthful."
"A lady." Harry sighed. "Wolf, with you there is always a lady. What does she look like?"
"I don't know what she looks like, Harry. She sounded beautiful on the phone but who knows. That's why you're here. Suppose she looks like ...Well, the Jersey Devil. Then you can talk to her, see."
"Just what does beautiful sound like on the phone? Explain that to me, Wolf. Please."
Up ahead on the left red neon glowed in the night then 'The Jersey Devil' came into view...and it began.
Harry Lazlo and Will Dixon were major crime detectives on the Philadelphia Police Department and they were partners. In Philly, detectives were paid the same as patrolmen but their uniform was business attire. The two detectives were assigned to the Center City district and were well known, thanks to a police department promoting public official. Known to the press and know to the citizens who read the papers. In 1953, everyone read the papers. Their nick names were a product of this unwanted notoriety. 'Homicide Harry Lazlo' came into being on the week that Harry cleared five homicides. There was nothing involved but luck as two confessed, one was caught at the scene, the other two had both had the courtesy to commit their crimes in front of multiple witnesses. None of this was noted by the writers. Detective Dixon's epithet was the result of the front page photos that accompanied the newspaper story. Will Dixon looked very much like an actor from Universal Studios who repeatedly played a werewolf in numerous horror films very popular in the 1930's. However Will's features were more chiseled making him undeniably handsome. There were ladies even before the pictures but now it was becoming a nuisance. At least it was to Harry, to Wolf Man Dixon not so much.
It was a week night and parking lot of the held more vehicles than expected especially considering the weather, mostly pick-up trucks. The building itself was barn sized with a long, well lit porch that ran all along the front punctuated by a pair bright red doors. There was a more discreet 'ladies entrance' near the end of the porch and the two detectives headed that way hoping to enter unnoticed.
Inside the vast space was only partially lit. Harry and Will found themselves in a shadowed corner opposite the bar and dining area. There were a jukebox and a darkened stage by the front wall and a huge fireplace in the back of the room. Two double swinging doors took up positions on both sides of the fireplace with signs denoting 'in, 'out' and 'kitchen'. A row of booths swept away from where they stood in the dim light. The only person sitting on their side of the room was a young, pretty and chubby girl in a waitress uniform.
"There she is Harry sitting in that booth. Just my luck. She a little heifer, young and innocent. You find out her problems and take notes, lots of notes. That way, her feelings don't get hurt an' all because the good looking guy isn't there listening to her. I'm for that bar, a beer and roast beef sandwich. I'll chat up the guys at the bar to kill time. Looks like Pineys from end to end. I see overalls, coveralls and even some damn-it-alls. Try to be done when I finish. Okay, Harry."
"Wolf, you're a man of many talents but I hardly think you know much about corn and tomato farming. Corn is a grain and tomatos are members of the nightshade family. You don't even know who runs the 'Grange' here about so stick to baseball, religion and politics.
" They look like Democrats but what's a grange, Harry?" Wolf turned around but Harry was already sitting down in the booth.
"Hello Miss. My name is Officer Harry Lazlo of the Philadelphia Police Department. I believe that you're waiting to talk to me about your brother. I understand that he's been missing a few days now. I'll give you whatever advice I can. "
"Hi Officer. You seem nice and professional. You get right to the point. That's really good. I'm waiting for you to get here alright but it's my older Sister Grace who wants to talk to you. I was just waiting in her place in case you turned out to be some guy trying to, you know, get next to a pretty girl in trouble and take advantage of her situation. I can play dumb when I have to and that big guy behind the bar is my Father. I'll send her out. She's in the kitchen. Most of the family works here but my brother is a musician. My Sis will tell you the rest."
In a few minutes a beautiful redhead came and joined Harry in the booth. Harry grinned and shook his head.
"Is something wrong Officer Lazlo?" she asked.
"No. Everything is fine. Amusing and ironic but fine. Grace is it? It's nice to meet you. Would you like to tell me about your brother? You can start with his name, address and that type of thing. Then tell me what happened."
"I don't understand. Amusing? Ironic?"
" Don't worry. Just something my partner said earlier tonight. Nothing important."
Grace began to talk and Harry began to listen...and take notes, lots of notes.
On the way back to the city, the Wolfman was growling down one dark road and up the next.
"Harry, why didn't you call me to do the interview. That lady was just my type. Her and I would be making music in no time. I would have charmed her right out of that kitchen."
"Will, that lovely young lady would have eaten your lunch. She was way over your class and weight. You would be going home with a broken heart and a broken nose. It's best for your ego that you never talk to her or about her ever. I have enough information to speak with the locals tomorrow while you're in court. Then I'll call her and give her the advice I would have given her tonight. File a report and never call you again."
"Harry, you think you're protecting me from a woman? That's a first. Are you sure she wouldn't have fallen for me?"
"Trust me, Will. You wouldn't like her. She wouldn't like you. I until you parted forever I wouldn't like either of you."
"Okay, Harry. I'll trust your judgement."
"That's why I'm driving you home. I want you fresh for the judge and jury. Take a nap and I'll wake you when we get there."
Harry parked Will's car on the block close to Will's apartment and walked home. He slept without dreams.