VIOLENT DEATH WAS no novelty to Sgt. James Peyton. He had seen far
worse than a brunette with a bruise on her forehead and a slit
He felt as if he had just touched a live wire.
He wide-eyed the older detective. "Dad--"
Lt. Lawrence Peyton raised a cautionary hand.
"Please, Jimmy." His voice dropped. "I wish I'd never told you
"But the MO--"
"Sh. The husband hears you, spreads the rumor he's back.... " He
glanced at the bedroom door as if he expected something to enter
and devour them.
Lucy Welch's long hair spread out like a nun's veil on the gray
carpet beneath her. Her brown eyes stared up at Jimmy.
She wore a red tube top and tight, black designer jeans. How
perfectly, colorwise, her top and lipstick coordinated with her
Jimmy hoped his necrophilic fantasies weren't too obvious. He must
mention that to Dr. Larsen tomorrow.
Jimmy Peyton was a fat little boy in a blond, blue-eyed hunk
disguise. He had fooled many women, since he always took off before
the disguise slipped.
Lieutenant Peyton surveyed the huge, decadently ornate bedroom. He
was a great, bloated version of his son with a cloud-gray crew cut.
"Judging by that crap on the dressing table, she liked spending
"Or knew how to get some guy to spend it for her."
Lieutenant Peyton winked approvingly, which gave Jimmy a glow, then
turned his attention to the bed. "Black silk sheets. Now, what does
that tell you?"
"I don't think you should jump to conclusions, Dad."
"You want to get to my rank, you'd better."
The glow faded.
* * *
The Welch living room was expensively furnished, spotlessly clean,
and coldly neat. Jimmy couldn't wait to leave it.
George Welch had a thin, vinegary face and rust-colored hair,
parted down the middle.
"I understand," said Lieutenant Peyton, "you were divorced?"
"Separated," said Welch as if he were about to have the lieutenant
beheaded. "We were happily married; but we were having
difficulties, so we decided to spend some time apart."
"I see. So what happened tonight?"
"We were supposed to go to dinner and that play at the Birmingham
Theater. I came by to get her; and I found her like that."
Jimmy noted Welch's granite formality. Indifference to his wife's
death? Shock? Or something else?
"Did you," asked Lieutenant Peyton, "notice anything unusual as you
Welch hesitated. "No."
"Okay. Now, did your wife have any enemies?"
"Yes." Like he was a cat and the question was a nice, juicy mouse.
"She recently became friendly--just friendly--with a man named Eric
Dimke. According to Lucy, he was used to getting his way with
women; and when she turned him down, he didn't take it well."
"What did he do?"
"She wouldn't tell me. But I got the impression she was scared of
"You know where this guy lives?"
He gave them an address in Flat Rock.
"Think he's telling the truth?" asked Jimmy back in the car.
"Not completely. Maybe not at all. Not about that trial separation;
that's for sure. Once she got her hands on his money and that
house, that little bitch was through with him.
"And all you need to jump to conclusions about that is eyes."
The address was in a sparsely populated area.
They turned into a driveway, the headlights revealing a bedraggled
Oldsmobile parked so close to the road they almost rear-ended it.
They crossed what felt to Jimmy's ankles like a balding, unmowed
Lieutenant Peyton sidestepped something. "Look out for this junk."
A lone streetlamp and the light from the house dimly illuminating
scattered auto innards.
"I don't believe it," said Jimmy.
"That a woman as well off as her would take up with anyone who
"Now who's jumping to conclusions?"
* * *
The big, black leather reclining chair was the only piece of
furniture in that room that did not need reupholstering,
distinctive in a room whose walls bore cheap prints of flowers,
gleaming on an unshampooed rug; and as anyone who had known him ten
minutes might have expected, Eric Dimke occupied it.
He was a great bronzed ape with a creamy white Elvis pompadour. As
he leaned back, his unbuttoned shirt spread open, displaying his
Only Jimmy seemed to notice the woman. She viewed the proceedings
as she had greeted the Peytons at the door: with dumb animal
indifference through which muted anger only occasionally flickered.
Blotches marred otherwise satisfactory features.
Lieutenant Peyton repeated Welch's accusations.
"He's full of it."
"Did you know Mrs. Welch?" asked the lieutenant.
"Sure I knew her. Lotsa guys knew her. She was hangin' around the
Flat Top Bar--I dunno, five, six weeks before I got talkie' to
"What would a woman from Indian Village be doing in a bar around
Dimke shrugged. "I wouldn't go to no bars in Detroit after dark. I
got the idea she went to bars all over the place. I mean, she was
lookin' for action. Or maybe she just didn't want to go to no bars
around where she lived 'cause she thought her old man might catch
"She was afraid of him?"
"I think she was. I got the idea he was this wimp she'd just
married for his money; and I asked her why she didn't leave him;
and she said, 'That's something I'd rather not go into'; and she
got this funny look in her eyes. Know what I mean?"
"Yeah. You got to know Mrs. Welch quite well, didn't you?"
Dimke's face went cold. "Like what do you mean?"
"Well, she told you about her marriage. She told you about other
bars she went to. Welch knew your name and address, which kind of
suggests she did too. I mean, you can't blame us for--uh- jumping
Another shrug. "So I let her talk to me. So I let her think I was
comin' on to her." He and Lieutenant Peyton studied each other. "So
maybe I was. Hey, I been married--what?--twelve years? I used to be
real big with the ladies. So I let some fine-lookin' chick make
some moves on me, show me I still got it. Even the most happily
married man's gotta do that or he gets stale. Right, hoe?"
"I guess so."
They were precinct bound.
"What do you think of his story?" asked Jimmy.
"Story's fine. But did you notice Mrs. Dimke's wrists?" Jimmy
vaguely recalled bruises.
"And the way she acted?"
"She acted bored."
"She acted scared. She was scared to let us see how scared she was,
so she held herself in. There's plenty she could tell us, but she
knows what he'll do to her if she does."
"So it's between Welch and Dimke?"
"One thing's sure: it wasn't him."
Lieutenant Peyton grinned. "You know."
The lieutenant flipped on his office light. "The bloodstains show
she was killed in the bedroom. And there was no sign of a struggle,
so it was evidently someone she trusted." He started going through
the mail on his desk. "I mean, can you see anyone letting him get
that close--and in her bedroom yet?"
He glanced at one of the envelopes, started moving it to the
bottom, then glanced at it again.
His face went blank.
"What's wrong, Dad?"
The old man struggled to smile. "Now, you got me doing it. Where's
the letter opener?" He went through his top drawer, then the second
drawers on each side, then the next, growing more frantic with each
drawer. "Where the hell is the damn letter opener?"
"Dad." He grabbed the envelope and ripped off an edge.
Lieutenant Peyton snatched it back, clawed out the paper inside,
shook it open, and read it.
He offered it to his son with a trembling hand, looking as if he
were going to vomit.
The hand-printed words flew up like fists: "Lucy Welch was my
return performance. Mephistopheles."
Jimmy foggily heard his father: "First good hunch you had since you
got promoted out of uniform; and it had to be about him."
The bar was on the first level of the Renaissance Center. It was a
slow night. The bartender and all but two of the patrons were
engrossed in a televised Tigers game.
The Peytons sat, hunched over drinks, in the dim red glow,
remembering seven years ago. . . .
Lieutenant Peyton recalled a young blonde, nude on a morgue slab.
Her face was like the wholesome farm girls on the cover of his
folks' American Magazines, except for the lump on her head and the
gash across her throat.
An officer read from a notebook: "Her name was Helen Dunn.
Twenty-three years old. She was a barmaid." He named a bar near
Wayne State University. "Her boss was emptying out some trash,
right after opening up, when he found her body behind some cans."
"Had there been any trouble recently?"
"Nothing in particular; but you know how barmaids are."
"Yeah." He replaced the sheet, wondering how to say what he had to
say without revealing too much. He decided it was impossible. "I
want this to have top priority. I want to know who works there, who
"Something special about this, sir?"
"Maybe I just don't like to see twenty-three-year-old girls die."
He was not fooling the officer. He did not care.
The "something special" was a printed note now in his desk drawer:
"Helen Dunn begins her beauty sleep tonight. It's going to be a
long one. Mephistopheles. . . ."
Anyone can write a note, blame a personal killing on a fictional
psychopath. The police investigated the murder with more than usual
diligence, but spread no alarms.
Peyton dismissed the note as a blind a week and a half later, but
spent the next two months going through his mail on the brink of
He had just stopped fearing postal deliveries when the second note
arrived: "I'm afraid Tracy Huggins won't have much time for
studying from now on. But that doesn't matter. She's never going to
He shut off his feelings and scoured the day's reports, then called
every Huggins in the phone book.
He went home with no idea who Tracy Huggins was. . . .
The next morning, during coffee, someone tapped him on the
It was another detective. "Weren't you the one who was looking for
"Her folks just reported her missing. She hasn't been seen since
leaving a late class at Wayne two nights ago."
Six days later, a deputy sheriff on horseback found her behind some
bushes in Hines Park. . . .
Wayne State was on its guard. Patrols, curfews, inspection of
credentials, hot lines to a special task force--there was no way
this character could strike again.
As long as he confined himself to WSU.
One April night, Debra Meredith, twenty-tour, divorced, went to a
singles bar in Farmington. She left, according to witnesses, about
She was found the next morning in the driver's seat of her car in
an Oak Park shopping center. This time, the note was on her lap:
"Debra Meredith was looking for action. She found it.
The investigation was soon statewide; but there were few leads, all
false, by that early morning in June when a priest at the
University of Windsor found Julie McKinnon, of Toronto, in some
The Windsor police received a note the next day: "Julie McKinnon
felt so safe on this side of the water. Now she feels so sorry.
Mephistopheles. . . ."
That was the end of it.
* * *
The whitewashed walls of Dr. Whitney Larsen's office were decorated
with framed degrees, including a Ph.D.; professional-looking
photographs, taken by the doctor himself, of breathtaking
landscapes ("I won't shoot anything warmblooded, even with a
camera"); and numerous paintings, portraits and abstracts and
everything in between, of dogs ("I like dogs. My dogs have lasted
longer, and pleased me more, than all my marriages").
Dr. Larsen's build resulted from another hobby: fine food. He was
not fat yet; but it was a distinct possibility. He was a tall man
with black, curly, thinning hair. His hazel eyes studied Jimmy
Peyton, who haltingly detailed his fantasies about Lucy Welch.
The doctor realized he was expected to say something profound. "Was
she good-looking--uh, as corpses go, that is?"
"Mrs. Welch had been an attractive woman in her lifetime."
Larsen chuckled. "Could it be, if you'd jumped her bones, that
really would've shown Daddy?"
"I don't know."
Conversation stopped. Jimmy studied the plaques and pictures while
Dr. Larsen studied him.
"Jimmy," said the doctor finally, "I get the feeling you're not all
here with me. Like there's something really bugging you; and all
this stuff about having the hots for a corpse is just your way of
He did not prod. He had learned the reluctant revelations were
often the most significant, and that no patient was obliged to make
"When we got back to headquarters, there was this envelope on my
father's desk. . . ."
"So now," said Dr. Larsen, "he's back; and you're going to deliver
him to daddy as a Father's Day present--" he glanced at his 1984
calendar--"two months late."
"Then, what exactly?'
Jimmy laid a folded piece of paper on the desk. "This is the note."
Dr. Larsen's face soured. "Anyone ever tell you you watch too much
television?" He read the note, his expression grim, then became
haughty. "Ziss fellow iss obviously overzexed; but zen, aren't ve
all? Ven he vas a kinder, hiss mama locked him in ze closet ven she
caught him veering her undervear--hoo-ha!--undt ven he vas in dere,
he seen papa t'rough da keyhole makin' nice-nice mit a floozie."
Jimmy's expression was granite. "Seriously, if you don't already
know as much as I could tell you about this guy--maybe, if you
don't know even more--I'd be worried about your future as a cop."
"Think he wants to get caught?"
"Hell, no. Anymore than you want to break your neck when you go on
one of those super coasters at Cedar Point. I mean, besides hating
women--which, I hope to God, you've already figured out--he likes
"But why did he stop for seven years, then go back to it?"
"One sure way to find out."
"Have him make an appointment with me."
Judy Franklin was Lucy Welch's sister. Lieutenant Peyton could see
a resemblance muddied by drink and fat. Her brown, boy-length hair
was flecked with gray. Her face was cosmetically embalmed.
She had a Georgia accent. "That wimp she married didn't kill her,
that boyfriend did."
"We have them under observation, ma'am."
"You should have their rear ends in jail."
"Why?" Her body tightened with rage. "I mean, what makes you
He took his notebook from a drawer, placed it open on the desk, and
poised a pen over it.
She relaxed a little. "I only met Welch once, back in 1977, when
Lucy brought him home for a Fourth of July picnic. They weren't
married yet, think she just met him. Didn't like him then. Every
time I turned around, he was hangin' around her; or he wasn't far
away, watchin' her.
"And the way he watched her. I been in enough bars to know when a
man watches you that way, you don't want no part of him.
"Couldn't understand what she seen in him till I found out he had
money." Some of his feeling about that must have shown in his face.
"Well, you didn't have to live on what was left of your daddy's
paycheck from his ladies and his drinking."
"So you met him only once; and you're basing a murder accusation on
"That and the letters she sent me. He was just like I thought he
was--jealous and clingy and all-around weird."
"Do you have any of these letters?"
"Not now I don't. I threw 'em out a long time ago."
Aren't you the sentimental bitch? "So all you have against Welch is
hearsay? What about Dimke?"
She tensed again. "I suppose you'd say that was hearsay too,
specially since she never said nothin' right out. But a sister
knows. You just go out there--he lives out in Flat Rock--and take
a look at that wife of his. He coulda done that to her, he coulda
done this to Lucy."
"Good point." He thought it best not to mention having already done
so and coming to the same conclusion, or seeking someone much
deadlier than Welch or Dimke.
Or that he was now drawing an unflattering caricature of the mayor
Lieutenant Peyton was obviously uneasy the next few days. He
finally told Jimmy why over lunch. "Remember the last time I was
after this guy; and I came in one night, real nervous, and glanced
over my shoulder like I thought someone was following me; and you
and your mother wanted to know why?"
Jimmy searched his memory, then shook his head. "But now that you
mention it, was someone following you?"
"Maybe. I don't know. That was after Tracy Huggins disappeared. Her
folks came to headquarters, raised hell. Said I should've told the
papers about that first note. Then, they would've known. Then, they
could've done something. Stuff like that.
"Heard they hung around the rest of the day, still pretty steamed
up. Made me kind of paranoid."
"What did they do when her body was found?"
"I got a phone call the next day. They just said, 'Satisfied?' then
hung up. I could tell it was Huggins."
"Did she bring it all back?" The old man's brows twitched. "I've
seen her in the halls."
He was referring to Judy Franklin.
Jimmy brought Dr. Larsen up to date. From Judy Franklin's mouth to
the doctor's ear, the story was naturally mangled. But one point
survived. And finally someone saw its significance.
"She won't leave us alone," said Jimmy. "She won't let us do our
"Well," said Dr. Larsen, "she gave you information that, on the
face of it, was worth checking out; and as far as she can see, you
didn't; and you won't explain why."
"The commissioner wants to keep a lid on it. He thinks this guy
might be a copycat. Says he never heard of a psychopath starting up
again, years later, in the same area."
"Tell the commissioner for me that, if psychos obeyed rules, they
wouldn't be psychos. Unless he had reasons he didn't want to talk
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing. The point is you don't seem to be satisfied with knowing
you're doing the best you can. The victim's sister's got to see it.
I mean, if you desperately need to have everybody approve of you,
how the hell are you ever going to arrest anybody?" He glanced at
his watch. "Which might be a good thing to think about until next
Jimmy counted out Dr. Larsen's fee. "I guess Mephistopheles has
become kind of our obsession."
"Then, my bet's on him."
"Obsessed people can't think straight. Try some relaxation when you
get to your desk in the morning."
Jimmy hesitated as he laid a five-dollar bill on the pile. "I
noticed you became thoughtful when I told you what she said, like
something'd occurred to you."
"You'll never give up trying to turn me into a consultant."
"Did something occur to you?"
"Okay. If I tell you, will you remember it was your idea?"
"And this is the last time you ask me for advice?"
"Then here it is. . . ."
Jimmy went looking for a certain book of photographs, which he
found after two difficult days.
That night, he took the book to a certain bar. Helen Dunn's boss
scanned the page in which Jimmy was interested and, without
prompting, singled out the right man. "This guy. I know I seen him
hangin' around here, botherin' Helen, not long before it happened."
He scanned the rest of the page. "I recognize some of these other
people too; but if you're lookin' for someone who was botherin'
The rest were dead ends.
The Hugginses slammed the door at the mention of his name.
The owner of the singles bar stared at him. "Seven years ago! I
can't even remember who the hell was here last night."
Julie McKinnon's acquaintances were far away by now.
He was wasting time.
Time enough for Patti Bukowski to leave her East Detroit home and
her husband of three years, Gil, because things were getting too
crazy. Time enough for her to move to a downtown Detroit apartment
building to experience being answerable to no one.
She spent the first evening in Hart Plaza on the great, terraced
stone structure that overlooked the darkness of the Detroit River.
She was too absorbed in the solitude and the glow of the Windsor
skyline at sunset to notice him until he sat beside her.
Patti gave up two and a half weeks later, only partly because she
She was afraid of a man who had seemed so nice at Hart Plaza.
Gil had suggested she wait until tomorrow; but what could be the
harm of going home tonight?
She turned, feeling as if she had just stepped off a thousand-foot
cliff. "Oh. Hi."
"Where are you going?"
"I don't think that's any of your business."
"You're going back to him, aren't you?"
She looked for her car key. If she ignored him, he would most
likely get the hint.
She did not see him reach into his pocket, take out a small chain,
welded to a sinker and two slugs, and raise it over his head.
"Patti," he cooed.
"Hold it right there." A figure emerged from the shadows, waving a
gun at the man. "Up against the car and spread the feet."
Jimmy Peyton showed her his credentials, read the suspect his
rights, and patted him down. He found a switchblade knife, on which
flecks of blood were later discovered, and an envelope addressed to
Lieutenant Peyton. (It contained a hand-printed note: "Gil
Bukowski's waiting for his wife to come home. He'll have a long
"I know this guy," said Patti.
"So do we. George Welch."
"I decided," said Jimmy at his next session with Dr. Larsen, "I'd
gotten as far as I could with Welch's yearbook; and if he was
really killing them 'cause they rejected him, like you said, I'd
better just shadow him till he made his next move." He shook his
head. "Dad must've asked seven years ago about guys they were
having trouble with."
"Pretty girls don't comment on every guy who gets too persistent;
there's just too many of them. And I doubt Welch's victims realized
how sick he was."
"But how did you know it was him?"
Dr. Larsen's face soured. "I didn't know diddly. I just made some
"Like he lied about what he was doing at the scene of the crime,
which I hear you cops have a way of considering suspicious. I mean,
we're supposed to believe she was dressed the way you say she was
because she expected the kind of guy you say Welch was? Come now.
"And it would answer your father's question--you know, why would
Lucy Welch let Mephistopheles walk right up to her in her own
bedroom?--if until recently it'd been his bedroom too.
"But the closest I came to a brilliant deduction like William
Powell and Warner Oland and Basil Rathbone in all those old movies
was: seven years ago in June, the Mephistopheles murders
mysteriously stopped. One month later, Welch turns up at a Fourth
of July party, engaged to Lucy. And no sooner does Lucy dump Welch
than Mephistopheles comes out of retirement and makes her his next
victim. I mean, I wouldn't hang anybody on that; but it does bear
"Now that I've answered your question, I've got one."
"Why were you so hung up on this guy?" Jimmy was still trying to
formulate an answer when the doctor added, "In other words, how
much of you do you see in him?"
He had a way of returning abruptly to the point.
If you should have comments,
suggestions or problems to share with us, or if you want to share information
as mentioned above, please click on this text.
Back to Classic Short Stories
Please address your comments to
Gary Lindquist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Page format and design (obviously not the stories) are|
B&L Associates, Renton, Washington, U.S.A.
All Rights Reserved.
Last Modified June 2, 1997.