April at the Antique Alley (4 page)

 

mounted outside covering the front door and spilling over to the street and parking areas.

Wanda Crowley remembered other people talking about the breakin at Uptown Treasures. Neither of them could remember buying a truck load of furniture from anybody at a ridiculously low price. Both claimed to know Lola but they considered her a bit of an eccentric and very old fashioned. They also told me that every other word out of her mouth was untrue. It is not that she was purposefully lying, but in their opinion she simply couldn’t help making a good story a little bit better every time she retold it.

They both seemed genuinely concerned with her welfare though and asked when the funeral would be. Once again we had to explain that we knew nothing about the final arrangements but promised to get the information to them as soon as we had it.

 

CHAPTER-03.

 

Jill and I sat in my six year old Taurus parked at the end of the block known as Antique Alley. We each took out a steno pad and started furiously writing notes.

Jill finished in about forty minutes and it took me a few minutes longer to put down everything I remembered from the folks we had just interviewed. We had collected business cards from everyone we had talked to with the exception of the Adonis-like son of the mayor but it was not likely that Jill or I would forget any details of the lovely Mr. Donald Smith.

We had collected one security disc from Parnell Erickson that was unlikely to show us anything of value but we also had found that Steven Crowley of the Texas Treasuretrove had some tapes. He would not, however, turn them over unless we were cops, which, of course, we were not. I made a separate note to have Detective Samuels visit with Mr. Crowley.

We had found absolutely nothing that might point us to Lola’s next of kin.

Everyone we had talked to seemed to like Lola but none knew her well. Those who knew her best knew nothing of her family.

 

There was perhaps an hour of sunlight left and we were still in the area of the crime so I took my digital camera out of the glove box and Jill and I walked around the area getting photos of the street and its buildings. We even walked around back and photographed the loading docks behind the storefronts including Lola’s.

Dinner hour on Sunday is an interesting time for businesses that depend mostly on week-end shoppers. The shoppers themselves were drifting away and would return to their own jobs Monday morning. The shops were doing their

 

clean-up so they could shut down for the evening with most staying closed the following day or two. In other words Sunday evening for the shop owners was the Friday afternoon of regular week-day workers.

If one went south on Routh street a few blocks towards the central city one would find one’s self surrounded by clubs and restaurants that were also winding down the busy week-end. If one traveled north along Routh one would find some more traditional businesses like dry cleaners and convenient stores that yielded after a few blocks to a residential area that was the best address in Dallas fifty years ago but had felt a steady decline for decades.

Not far to the west of where Jill and I stood there was a large inner-city high-school which was, of course, this being a Sunday, all locked up. To the east was an area dominated by business offices mostly serving the legal community which would all be abuzz with activity Monday morning, but just like the high-school they were all abandoned right now.

Jill and I walked the neighborhood and kept my digital camera clicking away until the light faded on this small universe centered by the antique alley.

 

Senior Detective Eric Samuels had warned me to stay away from this case and then sent me in to interview the other business owners in the area. As Jill and I sat in the Dallas Police Station waiting room I reminded myself that I was on vacation, which basically meant that I wasn’t currently being paid by anyone. Still, I had just spent most of a beautiful Sunday up to my armpits on a murder case. My stomach growled at me to remind me I hadn’t eaten anything for hours. Jill and I would wait until we could give a brief report to Samuels, then, hopefully, we would be done with the case. It was a police case. Jill and I had nothing to do with it other than we had happened to be in the general vicinity of the crime a couple of hours before it had happened. As good citizens we had helped out as we could, but after our report we would leave it as a police matter.

Finally the detective called us into his small office where we verbally gave him our reports and he also had one of his techs download all the pictures from my digital camera. He thanked me for the one security disc I had been fortunate enough to collect, and he promised he would seek out the ones Steven Crowley would hand over.

We pulled out the business cards we had collected and Samuels carefully copied these. We went over each person we had talked to and Samuels promised to run background checks on each.

Samuels sincerely thanked Jill and I for our hard work and then once again warned us to stay away from the case as it was now officially a police matter. Fine with me. The one part of the mystery I was still worried about was contacting

 

Lola’s next of kin. I had gathered no helpful information and Samuels had none either. He promised to let me know if anything turned up on that front.

 

We stopped at the first restaurant we could find open where we wolfed down something bland but hot.

It was 10:15 PM on a Sunday which meant that the bars in Dallas could only be open for another hour and forty-five minutes. I nudged the Taurus into a parking slot outside the Dallas Eagle which is a Gay/Lesbian bar in uptown. The place was filled with people but quiet, which fit my mood well. Jill and I went through the ritual we had developed where we tossed a coin. Fortunately I won the toss. I handed her my car keys and ordered a rum and coke. Jill sighed and whined a bit but asked for cranberry juice.

The music was played not as loud as a dance club but it was a bit louder then a quiet neighborhood bar would play it. There was a small dance floor but it was currently unoccupied. They had some sort of projector set up, and on a wall I saw a grainy black and white all male cast porno. Fortunately I could not well see that wall. It reminded me of a grade school party where all the boys sat on one side and all the girls were on the other. There were probably twice as many boys as girls.

Since Jill and I are platonic I did sort of start looking around, but I never left the table.

When the big digital clock on the wall said “11:59” the bartender shouted out “Last Call.” I was just finishing up my third and felt a good deal better. We headed for the car and expertly Jill piloted my trusty steed to Irving while I enjoyed an open-windowed view of my fair city at sixty miles an hour. I was nowhere near drunk, but I was feeling pretty good. That all changed when we arrived at my house/office back in Irving and found it had clearly been broken into.

 

CHAPTER-04.

 

I had, of course, no real reason to suspect that a breakin at my house had anything to do with the murder at the Antique Alley, but I also had no reason to suspect that it did not. We had found my front door wide open and even in the dark I could see the dusty outline of a boot print on the door right near the door knob.

The entire house was dark and we didn’t really know if the perpetrator was even gone now or still inside. We had not entered the house yet so Jill and I retreated to the relative safety of my Taurus. We turned the engine on and I pulled my 38 out of the glove box. I checked to make sure it was locked and loaded and then dialed Eric Samuels on my cell phone.

 

Two squad cars full of Irving’s finest showed up sirens and lights in just a couple of minutes. They had instructions from Dallas PD to secure the area but told me Samuels was going to get a nights sleep before he came by. He also let us know we could not go inside which I had expected. Jill and I were not really in a hurry to get inside until after the cops had swept the place for intruders anyway.

One young uniformed officer stayed with Jill and I while the other three drew their weapons and searched my abode for bad guys which were no longer still there.

They would not let us in the house, but one of them was kind enough to fetch our toothbrushes from the bathroom. He had me lock the door even though the damage suggested that it might not stay locked. They draped a lot of that yellow crime scene tape across my porch, and shooed us away.

Fortunately there are a lot of motels in the area and I had my platinum card with me.

 

I woke up at five AM which was about an hour ahead of sunrise. I went potty, brushed my teeth, wiggled into the same clothes I had worn yesterday, and scribbled out a note instructing Jill to call my cell when she woke up. I pointed the Taurus at the nearest drive thru and ordered a bag of McBreakfast and the largest McCoffee they served laced with three packets of powdered cream.

I knew Samuels was an early bird so, since I was up anyway, my plan was to get to my place where I was sure he would arrive just after sunrise. He surprised me by not arriving until well after seven and by then the coffee had run through me and I was seriously considering driving to the nearest service station for a quick bathroom break.

When he did arrive though he let me into my own house and I slipped away to the upstairs bathroom desperately trying not to touch anything.

Downstairs, Samuels had two techs with him that were photographing everything. They systematically marched through every room on the first floor taking many mapping photos of each and then they climbed the stairs and repeated the process there. Fortunately I keep the house pretty neat.

You can not necessarily tell what someone is searching for, but you often can tell the size of their quarry. For instance, if someone were searching your home for something the size of a business card they would have to not only open every single drawer and cabinet, but they likely would go through every single book on your book shelf leafing through it for the card and tossing the books on the floor one at a time as they searched through them. On the other hand; if what they sought was the size of a basketball, they would open the cabinets and closets, but there would be no need to waste their time looking through your paperback collection. Finally; if they were looking for something the size of a roll top desk

 

they would search each room quickly and maybe open the closet doors, but they would not even bother opening your kitchen cabinets.

It was obvious from the lack of mess that they had been searching for something large. They had not found it because nothing was missing. Apparently they had gotten a little pissed off when they couldn’t find what they were looking for because my television had been tossed into my hot tub, but we could not find anything else that seemed to be damaged or missing. Samuels made sure the television was unplugged and had two of the techs lift it out of the tub for me. I would have to buy a new television but that didn’t bother me much because I rarely get the time to sit and enjoy a good T.V. show.

The techs spent a lot of time outside my house while Eric and I sat at my kitchen table drinking coffee and talking. They spotted and photographed the boot print on the front door and claimed they could get a really good impression from it.

One of them also spotted a single tire track in my driveway that did not match my car or Jill’s car, but that might not be much of a lead because they could not tell how long the tire track had been there and my house was used as a business so I had traffic in and out often. Never the less they took out the paste and made a cast of the tire mark.

As I said earlier there was no reason to suppose that the break in at my house was tied in any way to the murder of Lola Martin, but Samuels and I both jumped to the same conclusion that the person who had broken in had been searching for the desk I had purchased from her. I told Samuels where the desk currently was and he warned me that it was now potential evidence so I was not to touch it and also not to tell anyone else where it was. He was just about to leave with his techs when my cell phone chirped to life. It was Jill whom I had stranded at the motel. I promised to pick her up shortly.

The techs were just about to take down the crime scene tape but I asked them to leave it where it was because I was not convinced that my door was secure and would have to leave, so they left the tape there and told me I could tear it down later.

 

It was only nine AM on a Monday and it already seemed like a really long week. I nudged the Taurus west on highway 183 to the motel we had stayed at where I checked out and collected my partner Jill. I had already done breakfast but she was starving so our first stop was a Denny’s where I sipped another coffee as Jill wolfed down pancakes and sausage links.

By ten o’clock Jill and I were at the hardware store where we picked out a whole new door. Believe it or not it was going to be cheaper to replace my entire front door than it would have been to buy the replacement hardware for the broken door and then paid someone to do the repairs. The young female clerk at the

 

hardware store made it sound so simple for a couple of intelligent women like Jill and I to replace a door, so we confidently tied the new door to the top of my Taurus and headed back to my home/office.

We wrestled the door down off my car and onto my front porch. Jill scampered up the stairs to what I use to refer to as the “guest” bedroom but now must truthfully admit was Jill’s bedroom. Before I had located and gathered up all my carpentry tools Jill had returned wearing the cutest little carpenter’s outfit I had ever seen. The outfit was cut the same as bib overalls, but the legs were trimmed as shorts and it was the white canvass a painter would wear. Under the bib a red tube top peeked out. I would have to venture up into her bedroom some day soon to see just how many clothes she had moved in.

I won’t bore you with all the details but let’s just say that the simple little task of swapping out the doors took Jill and I several hours and pretty much chewed up the daylight hours of this fine Monday.

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