For my one phone call I tried Liz, but she wasn’t home. Neither was Henry North. My mother was, but seeing my name in the morning paper had put her on a bloody mary kick, and she had nothing to offer but a lot of slurry hysteria.
Like with the first two killings, the cops had nothing on me except a lot of circumstantial weirdness—but boy had it ever gotten circumstantially weird. A dead night watchman now. Found in the same place where I’d hopped the fence in a drunken stupor to pound a smart-aleck sign into the ground. Even weirder, the nylon cord used to hang the guy was from the same hardware store I bought the sign.
“Got an answer for that one, Drake?” Malarkey and his muscle-headed minions had me in the precinct’s upstairs interrogation room the whole day, barricaded from a pack of ravenous press wolves down the hall.
“Nope. Maybe you should talk to the guy at the hardware store.”
“We did already. All he remembered was you.”
“Well, it’s pretty clear I was being followed. So maybe he lifted the cord right after I left the place.”
“The only thing clear to me, Drake, is that either you’re the one doing these crimes, or you’ve had more bad luck than a blind man at a blackjack table. You still expect us to believe this baloney about somebody framing you?”
“I would. Especially with your clown car staking me out for over a month and coming up with less than poodle poop.”
“HEY! ” It was Griff, the idiot from my last time at the precinct. Ugly as ever. “Watch your mouth there, Melvin.”
“It’s Milton, jerko. The papers had it wrong, too. Actually, I’m kind of surprised you knew how to read them.”
Steam came out of his bull nose. Malarkey casually stepped between us.
“Nobody was at the construction site but you and Vincent Grosso, Drake. Don’t make this difficult.”
“You’re the one doing that. I told you, the guy was all over me, and he smelled like the peanuts in Grosso’s pocket. Didn’t you see his footprints?”
“Are you kidding? The wind was blasting so hard all night we didn’t even see your prints.”
“Then this is just crazy. What the hell motivation would I have to string someone up, let alone knife a guy on Opening Day and beat one of my best friends to death in a park?”
“You tell me. I know some baseball fans who react pretty strange when their team’s been losing.”
“That’s real funny, Malarkey. How about I just pay the 30-dollar trespassing fine now so I can go home and get some sleep?”
Griff snorted at me. “This fine’s about ten grand more than that. Looks like your seat-dusting and butt cheek-kissing job ain’t exactly gonna cover it…Melvin.”
I looked at his oafish face one more second, then sprung from my chair and took a swing at it. My fist grazed the side of his head, knocked him back. Was able to lunge again before they had their arms around me.
“Malarkey! Chief wants ya!”
Another cop stood in the doorway. Malarkey disappeared for half a minute, leaving me with my cheery friends. I shook them off, did my best to pretend they weren’t there, which made them even more nuts. When Malarkey returned, his face was flushed.
“You’re a luckier bastard than you have any right to be, Drake. Some big shot just paid your entire bail, plus the sixty dollars we just milked out of him for your ‘special’ trespassing fine.”
“Well gad and zooks. Was it the Mayor?”
“Nope. Someone bigger than him…lately. Now collect your crap and get out of my sight so we can start tailing you again. And this time you can bet it’ll be half the force!”
* * *
Griff’s sidekick took me down a back staircase ten minutes later to avoid the reporters. Popped open a door to a dark back alley and stuck an envelope in my hand.
“From your angel of mercy, whoever he was. Don’t leave town and stay the hell out of trouble, Drake, would ya? I got a vacation coming up.”
He left me in the alley, and I started walking. It was going to be pretty hard to stay out of trouble if my personal tormentor was always trying to keep me in it. I waited till I was two blocks from the station, then ripped open the envelope. There was a note inside:
We have a 1 p.m. matinee with the Braves tomorrow. Come up and watch the game with me. —H. Stoneham
MIL 000 000 010 003 – 4 8 0
S.F. 010 000 000 000 – 1 4 0
W-Robinson L-Giel HR: Mays GWRBI-Pafko
Getting grilled by the cops had to be better than sitting through this. Mays homers off Rush in the 2nd, and the Giants can only scrape three singles and a walk together in the next ten innings. Two singles and two doubles off Giel and Jones in the 12th win it for the Braves, a very rough opener to our second homestand.
CIN 000 002 020 – 4 7 1
L.A. 000 000 000 – 0 2 1
W-Purkey L-Williams HR: Bilko GWRBI-Bailey
And the Dodgers fare no better, getting wiped clean by the usually hit-happy Bob Purkey. But they stay just a game out of first because…
PHL 000 001 030 – 4 9 2
CHI 000 140 00x – 5 7 0
W-Drabowsky L-Cardwell SV-Elston HRS: Anderson, Fernandez, Repulski, Long, S. Taylor GWRBI-Long
Even when they lose, the Phillies drive the opposition nuts. Down 5-1 in the 8th, Chico Fernandez smacks a 2-run homer and after Elston relieves Moe, Rip Repulski hits a pinch-hit blast to make it a 1-run game. Elston calms down to get the 1-2-3 9th, though, and the Cubbies are suddenly half a game out.
PIT 300 000 001 – 4 8 0
STL 000 020 03x – 5 9 0
W-Jones L-Kline SV-Muffett GWRBI-Boyer
Luckless Sam Jones walks six and seems destined for yet another loss, but Boyer puts the Cards ahead for good with a 2-run triple in the 8th. With Paine tired, the sketchy Billy Muffett comes on to get out of a second and third and no out situation for the save.
CHX 000 000 000 – 0 4 1
NYY 100 000 00x – 1 6 0
W-Ford L-Donovan HR: Carey GWRBI-Carey
As advertised, a tense classic. Whitey makes Andy Carey’s 1st inning tater stand up, and the Yanks stretch their lead back to four games.
DET 010 000 020 – 3 9 0
BAL 000 000 000 – 0 4 0
W-Bunning L-Brown GWRBI-Bunning
All Bunning, all day. Jim not only throws his best game of the year but triples in the game-winner.
CLE 201 101 011 – 7 12 1
BOS 302 010 101 – 8 6 1
W-Wall L-Tomanek HRS: Minoso, Jensen GWRBI-Jensen
Make that two straight days with Jackie Jensen winning a game with a jog-off homer in the last of the 9th. The Tribe hang more runners on the bases than underwear on a tenement clothesline.
K.C. 010 100 001 – 3 5 0
WAS 000 100 000 – 1 9 1
W-Garver L-Clevenger HR: Chiti
If no one was in Griffith Stadium to see this game, was it really played?
National League through Tuesday, June 3
American League through Tuesday, June 3