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Jan 5, 2016

Sam is working as a squad dick back in 1977 when he handles a case which shows us that small things left unchecked may lead to something really big.

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED VOODOO
by Wayne Zurl

Long Island, New York, July 1977

At 3:30 p.m. on a hot and sunny Tuesday, a uniformed officer walked into the 5th Squad Detectives’ office. His blues were wrinkled and an eight-point cap sat on his head at a jaunty angle.

“Detective Jenkins,” he said, “I understand you’re catching the squeals today.”

“Officer Thomas, aren’t we being dreadfully formal?” I said.

“Yeah, I know. Listen, Sam I’m sorry, but the lieutenant said I should bring this over to you.”

He waved a carbon copy of a field report for a moment before handing it to me. I skipped the heading and read the synopsis of the incident.

“This is a dead cat,” I said. “I can see it was murdered, but it’s only a misdemeanor in the Agriculture and Markets Law. Why give it to me?”

“Read the top line. It’s a burglary. It happened in a house.”

“Great. House or not, you’d usually give something like this to Plainclothes as a misdemeanor investigation. Inside, outside, who cares? It’s still just a cat.”

“The L.T. said it’s the second similar incident in forty-eight hours. Frampton and Leonard handled one the other day—dead chicken hanging on a front door. They gave it to PC. Marty Koenig is handling that.”

“And your boss thinks we have a serial animal killer?”

“I guess.”

“Thank him for me, the moron. I’ve got thirty-five open cases. Like I’ve got nothing better to do than investigate dead cats.”

“What can I tell you, buddy?”

<><><>

Twenty minutes later I stood in the kitchen of a house on River Avenue, in one of the flea bag sections of town.

An evidence technician puttered around processing the crime scene and the homeowner, one Cedric Bromley, stood next to me.

“Who would do this to my cat, mon?” Cedric spoke with a Jamaican accent and appeared to be on the verge of tears.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Mr. Bromley. Have you had a problem with any of the neighborhood kids lately or a major argument with someone?”

“No, sir, I don’t argue with no-body.”

Cedric’s dreadlocks were tucked under a black, yellow, red, and green knitted cap. The smell of cat blood, urine, and feces tainted the air in his home.

“This is not your average burglary, Cedric. Besides your cat having its throat cut and hung from the light above your sink, the person who did this took a dump on your kitchen table and left the remnants of a marijuana cigar behind. I’ve never seen a bomber that large before. Big time ganja.”

“I tell you, mon, I got no enemies. I don’t bother no-body. And not every Jamaican does drugs. I don’t know who did this.”

<><><>

I left as the E.T. finished his work and Cedric stood there dumbfounded.

Back in my unmarked car, I switched on the ignition and picked up the microphone.

“555 to headquarters, 10-33 with unit five-zero-one.”

“10-4, five-five-five, switch down,” the dispatcher said.

“501, copy,” came from the sector car.

I turned my radio to Frequency Two.

“501, on.”

“Frampton or Leonard in the car?” I asked.

“10-4, that’s us.”

“Can you meet me at your relief point?”

“10-4, five minutes.”

It took me three minutes to drive to the railroad station and I waited only a few moments.

A blue and white patrol car with Officer Wayne Frampton driving pulled up next to my Plymouth. He rolled down the window and showed me a wolfish grin.

“5th Squad needs help from the likes of us?”

His partner gave me a wave. I returned it.

“Yeah, one of the uniform lieutenants thinks we’ve got a serial killer in your sector.”

“Serial killer?” Frampton’s salt and pepper hair fell across his forehead and covered the tops of his ears. Not exactly regulation. He drove the supervisors crazy.

“A chicken and a cat,” I said.

He laughed. “We had the chicken. Who had the cat?”

“Thomas and Armstrong.”

“Where’d it happen?”

“Inside 215 River Avenue. Rastafarian named Cedric Bromley. Know him?”

“Yeah, Gary wrote him for a stop sign a couple months ago.”

“He into anything?”

“Not that we know. He seemed okay. But all these Jamaicans like their ganja.”

“Tell me about the chicken.”

“There’s a Haitian family on West Street, about a block south of Main. We figured a neighbor didn’t like the smell of chicken shit from the coop they keep in the back yard. Cut one’s throat and hung it on the door knocker to bleed out. Weird thing was, somebody left a bag of human shit on the stoop and set it on fire.”

“Like a Halloween prank? Whoever comes out and stomps on the burning bag gets shit on his shoes?”

“Something like that.”

“Anything else?”

Leonard spoke for the first time. “Perp left behind a bomber roach with enough grass in it to roll another joint.”

<><><>

I walked back into the 5th Squad and tossed my keys and notebook on the desk.

“Whaddaya know, kid?” Detective Sergeant Louie Demarco asked.

“I know I’ve got too many real burglaries and a new armed robbery working to think about spending time on assassinated cats and chickens.”

“That stuff in 501 sector?”

Louie was a small, middle-aged man with dark curly hair and an Errol Flynn mustache.

“You got it,” I said.

As Louie and I spoke, the squad commander, Lieutenant Harold York, walked out of his office.

“You working on that 10-3 with the dead cat, Sam?” he asked.

“Yeah, boss. Kinda weird. Louie tell you about it?”

“Yeah.”

York was tall and distinguished-looking, with slicked back hair and a three-piece brown suit.

“Any connection between the complainants?”

“I don’t know. Got one Jamaican and a Haitian family. I’ll check for a connection.”

The lieutenant got a faraway look in his eyes. “Haitians and Jamaicans? Dead animals? Marijuana?”

“Right.”

“Have you considered Voodoo, Sam?”

<><><>

The detective whose desk faced mine had about 200 years on the job and was always a good guy to ask for a second opinion.

“Hey, Dave, you ever handle anything involving Voodoo?”

“Voodoo? You got zombies doing stick-ups or what?”

“Gimme a break, huh? The L.T. brought up a good point.”

I explained the possibly related cases.

Detective Browne sat back in his chair with his fingers intertwined over his large belly. His blue and red striped tie ended at three buttons north of his waistline. A couple of soup stains on the tie added to its character.

“Voodoo my ass,” he said. “There’s some connection the complainants aren’t telling you about. Nobody tells the whole truth.”

“Thanks, partner. You’ve been an immense help.” My voice dripped with sarcasm.

“Yeah, you’re so smart? Go out and look for some Voodoo mama with mojo.”

<><><>

The next morning I walked into the Squad and looked at a clipboard holding the reports that came in on the midnight tour. One grabbed my attention. I pulled the field report from under the spring-loaded clip.

“Hey, Louie,” I said to the sergeant. “Who caught the squeals from the midnights?”

“Richmond, but he’s not in yet.”

“Tell him I’ll take this burglary on Lake Street. I think it may be related to my cat and chicken.”

“You going there now?”

“Stopping for coffee first. The complainant may not be awake yet.”

<><><>

I knocked and a good-looking Hispanic woman in her early-thirties answered the front door of a neat one-and-a-half story bungalow on Lake Street, only a block off the main drag. She had dyed red hair, wore a well packed halter top, and short-shorts that hugged her muscular mid-section.

“Mrs. Santiago, I’m Detective Jenkins, 5th Squad. Can we talk about what happened last night?”

I learned that twelve pigeons in her husband’s coop had been strangled and six of their throat’s cut. The screened-in coop was located behind their house and built on stilts to keep animals away. Whoever killed the birds defecated in the middle of the coop and left a half-smoked reefer behind.

Since Maria Santiago could tell me nothing more than she surmised it happened between 7:30 and 10:30 the night before while she and her husband Indio were at the movies, I started knocking on doors of the surrounding houses. At house number three I scored a bingo.

The woman living in the home with a back yard abutting the rear of Santiago’s property, less than fifty feet from the scene of the crime, told me something interesting.

“I heard a racket behind Santiago’s place,” the elderly woman said. “His birds were going crazy, flapping and squawking. I looked outside but didn’t see anything. Then I heard someone whisper, ‘Come here baby, come to Cisco.’”

“And what happened next?”

“And nothing. I went back to watch TV. The noise kept up for a couple minutes, that’s all.”

She blew smoke from her unfiltered cigarette toward the ceiling and stuck her left hand defiantly into the pocket of her house dress

“Mrs. Bloomberg, why didn’t you call the police?”

“I don’t want to have nothing to do with those Puerto Ricans. Let them fight among themselves. Let someone younger call. It’s none of my business.”

<><><>

I parked the gold Plymouth and walked back into the Squad. Louie Demarco leaned back in his chair with his feet on the desk reading a copy of Newsday.

“Hey, Sergeant, wake up and do me a solid.”

“Whaddaya want, kid?

“Get your ass in gear. We’ve got police work to do.”

“What’s your hurry, you young cock-a-roach?”

“Check our nickname file and then call Intelligence to see what they have. I need to know who’s called Cisco in this area.”

“Only half the male population on the west end of town. Why? What have you got?”

“Some old battle-ax heard a guy who killed a bunch of pigeons call himself Cisco. See if you can get me a name while I call Crime Scene.”

“I wouldn’t do this for just anybody, Sam.” Louie laughed. “You’ll owe me.”

“Yeah, yeah, sorry to interrupt your current events study.”

The duty sergeant at the Crime Scene Unit told me the ET who handled the massacre at the Pigeon Hotel recovered a fingerprint from a glass pane on the door of the coop. The print had been forwarded to the Identification Section to match against their files and the elimination prints he had taken from Mr. and Mrs. Santiago. The sergeant anticipated getting it back in a few days.

I called the ID Section myself.

“Come on, John,” I said to a sergeant. “I’ve got a hot lead here. I need to match the print to someone called Cisco. Do me a favor and push this to the top of your pile.”

“Sam, we’ve got robberies, real burglaries, recovered stolen cars, and a homicide that came in overnight to go on the bottom of the stack. And you want me to play around with a latent from a dead pigeon case? I know the coop is technically a building, but gimme a break, it’s not a real burglary.”

“John, this is bigger than just pigeons. I’ve got two other cases with probably the same perp. From what I’ve learned, it may be connected to Voodoo. And now that Hispanics are involved, I have to look at Santeria. Come on, we go way back. For me?”

“Okay, but I’ll remember.”

<><><>

I drove to the bodega on West Main Street and spoke with the owner, Anibal “Benny” Quilas.

“You know anything about people around here practicing Santeria?” I asked.

“That’s a private thing, man. Why do jou ask?”

I explained my theory.

“I don’t know, man,” he said. “A few old people may believe in that, but no one who would kill pigeons.”

“They practice animal sacrifice in that religion, don’t they?”

“I don’t know, man, maybe. Hey, I’m a Catholic, what do I know? But who would sacrifice pigeons? That’s sick, man.”

“I don’t know either, Benny. I’ve got a dead cat, a chicken, and now a dozen pigeons. What do you know about Voodoo?”

He looked at me like I had two heads.

<><><>

Sergeant John Rondinelli from the ID Section called me the next day.

“I did that print for you, the one that Smitty took from the scene of your pigeon caper. It doesn’t match anyone who’s been arrested in the county.”

“Rats!”

“You’ve got dead rats now?”

“No, wise guy; that was an expletive. Now I’ve only got 400 Ciscos in the precinct to look at.”

“Could be a juvenile. No prints on them.”

“Yeah, maybe. Thanks anyway.”

“Sorry, pal, but you still owe me.”

“You’re all heart. John.”

<><><>

Just after lunch, Officer Paul Thomas walked into the Squad. I dropped the phone back onto the cradle as he stood in front of my desk.

“What’s up?” I asked. He looked a little frazzled.

“You know that homeless guy they call The Bishop?”

“Yeah, tall skinny guy. Tyrone something.”

“Tyrone Banks.”

“And?”

“And you got a minute?”

“Yeah.” I pointed to the guest chair next to my battered metal desk.

He sat down and tossed his hat on my blotter, atop stacks of paperwork and pushed a hand through his dark hair as he settled into the armless chair.

“Yesterday, on the four-to-twelves, Frampton and Leonard get a call: Dead dog near the tracks on that vacant land off Railroad Avenue.”

“You think it’s connected to the chicken and the dead cat?”

“It was decapitated.”

“What did they write it up as?”

“Just that. But those two are sharp. They forwarded a copy of the field report to you.”

“Haven’t seen anything yet.”

“Probably sitting in the back room waiting to get processed,” he said. “But they left a note and asked me to make sure you know about this.”

“Maybe it was some sick bastard who took a dead dog and laid it across the tracks just to see a train cut it in two. It’s happened before.”

“I don’t think so. We drove over there this morning. About fifty feet from the tracks the grass was stomped down to make a clearing and there’s blood all over. The dog wasn’t decapitated post mortem.”

“Jesus.”

“I called the dog warden who picked up the corpse and checked it closer than they did. He said the dog’s throat was cut and then above that cut, someone hacked off the head. Only he couldn’t find the head.”

“Maybe a hungry animal carried it off.”

“Maybe not.”

“Huh? So what’s The Bishop got to do with this?” I asked.

“He flagged us down about a half hour ago.”

“The old guy’s half nuts, you know.”

“Yeah, he is, but he brought us something.”

“What?”

“Come outside. You don’t want this in the squad room.”

We walked into the parking lot. Car 501 was parked in the breezeway between the precinct house and the 5th Squad building with its trunk open.

I looked at Thomas’ partner. “Whaddaya say, Jimmy?” Armstrong was blond and stocky, but not fat.

“Hi ya, Sam.”

A red and white plastic cooler sat in the trunk.

“You guys having a beer party?”

“Not hardly,” Armstrong said.

“Tell me I don’t already know what’s in the cooler.”

“’Fraid so,” Thomas said.

I gingerly lifted the lid.

“Oh, man!”

<><><>

Louie Demarco and I walked into Lieutenant York’s office. The boss sat at his desk signing reports. He looked more like a banker than a cop.

“Loo,” I said, “Can you get me a couple of Street-Crime guys to sit on that abandoned shack along the railroad tracks, next to Tinsley’s Auto Body?”

“What have you got?”

I told him about the dog’s head in the cooler and how I wanted to put it back where the homeless man found it and wait for the owner to return.

“Animal sacrifice. Marijuana. It is Voodoo. I thought so. I told you.”

He sounded pleased with himself.

“I don’t know yet, boss. This is the fourth case with all the same elements.”

“I’ll call Sergeant Woods and get you two men.”

<><><>

At 10 p.m. that night, the duty sergeant at the Squad called my home. The pair of Street-Crime Unit cops had locked up a subject who came back to retrieve the cooler and dog’s head.

At the office, I found Sergeant Dick Barney sitting at the team leader’s desk.

“Where are they?” I asked.

“Man, you can really pick’em,” he said.

“Yeah, lucky me.”

“March and Lightman have him over in the juvenile room.”

“A juvenile?”

“Yep.”

“Not a Voodoo priest?”

“The boss will be disappointed,” he said.

I walked over to the precinct house and found the two plainclothesmen from Street-Crime standing next to a desk in the small juvenile interview room. One was blond and one dark, each dressed in jeans and sport shirts. Both were well over six-feet-tall with plenty of beef to them. The red and white cooler sat on the floor and a slightly built, swarthy boy with long dark hair parted in the middle and a pair of ebony eyes that could bore holes in boiler-plate slumped in a chair chewing on a hangnail.

Eddy Lightman, the blond cop, spoke. “Anthony Francisco.” He pointed at the juvenile. “Fifteen years old.”

“You call a juvenile officer yet?”

“Thought you’d like to talk to him first.”

“Thanks. What happened?”

“We were watching the shack like you wanted. After a while this guy goes in, picks up the cooler, and leaves. John followed him on foot and I hung back in the car. He walked over to Waterworks Street, behind the old lace mill. I parked the car out on West Main and met John.” Lightman took out a cigarette and lit it with a Bic.

“That’s a long walk.”

“It is,” Lightman said.

“Then what happened?”

“Then this sick bastard took the dog’s head out of the cooler and set it on the stoop of the last house on the left side of the street.”

“And get this.” John March took over the story. “He drops his pants and is going to take a shit on the walk in front of the stoop. So we grabbed his ass and brought him in.”

“Literally?”

“No, stupid, figure of speech. I wouldn’t touch this douchebag’s ass.”

I chuckled.

“What did the people in the house say about all this?”

“Nobody’s home.”

“You book him?”

“For what?” March asked. “Lugging around a dog’s head or attempted shitting out of doors? Actually, he did have about an O.Z. of grass in his pocket, but we figger you can charge him with whatever.”

Lightman handed me a plastic bag full of marijuana stapled to a lab invoice.

“Yeah, thanks,” I said. “He have a knife on him?”

March held up a second plastic bag he picked off the file cabinet next to where he stood.

“Nice big one—expensive equipment for a little turd like him. A four inch Buck lock-back.”

“Do me a favor and invoice that to the lab, too. Let’s see if it’s got animal blood on it.”

“You got it,” March said.

“Need us for something else?” Lightman asked.

“See if you can get info on the owners of the house on Waterworks and give me a call.”

“Sure, anything else?”

“No, I’ll take it from here. Thanks. Good job.”

“Okay,” March said. “We’ll go out there and keep the county safe for democracy.”

The two street monsters left the precinct.

<><><>

“So, Anthony, what’s the story?” I asked.

“Aren’t you supposed to advise me of my rights?”

“You’re not under arrest yet. I just want to talk. You ready to tell your side of the story?”

“To you?”

The kid’s attitude annoyed me. “No, nitwit, to Genghis Khan. Don’t make me smack the shit outta you. Tell me about the dog’s head.”

“I just found the cooler and didn’t know anything was in it.”

“Why did you put the head in front of that house?”

“They’re friends of the family. Guy works with my brother Vito. It was a joke.”

“What’s their name?”

“I forget. Guy’s name is Joe or something.”

“Yeah, right. How many times have you been arrested?

“I’m a juvenile and I want a lawyer, and I need to call my mother for her to get me one.”

He started gnawing on his finger again.

“You into Voodoo or anything like that?”

“Get real, man.”

“That was a lot a grass for one little shithead like you. Might be felony weight.”

“It’s a dime bag, man. You from outer space or what?”

<><><>

I asked the desk sergeant to have the dispatcher call the duty juvenile officer in to write up Anthony’s detention and call his parents. Then I phoned the desk man at the Juvenile Section at headquarters.

“Juvenile Services Section, Detective Kiley.”

“Bill, Sam Jenkins. I need a favor.”

Kiley and I had gone to the academy together.

I asked him to search the juvenile records for any involvement they had with Anthony Francisco. He came back shortly with a story about how Anthony had been arrested and charged with torturing, killing, and dismembering a neighbor’s puppy—something he lured to him with left-over Italian sausage. The Family Court judge recommended probation with psychological counseling, released him to his mother’s custody, and as usual, the judge sealed the records.

“Look, Sam,” Kiley said, “You never got this information here and certainly not from me.”

“Okay. If a judge asks, I’ll think quickly and make up a story.”

“Just, for God’s sake, don’t tell the truth.”

“No sweat. Thanks, I owe you.”

“Yeah, okay. See ya.”

<><><>

Leo Schmidt was the probation officer who handled Anthony’s case. I disturbed his otherwise tranquil evening.

“This kid’s been killing animals and harassing Jamaicans, Haitians, Puerto Ricans, and tonight a couple originally from New Orleans. You get any indication he was into Voodoo?”

“I read the kid’s psych reports every week. The court appointed shrink wouldn’t tell us any useful shit, but I’ll tell you this: The kid’s one sick bastard. Voodoo, my ass. He’s just plain evil. But remember you didn’t hear that from me.”

<><><>

I cuffed Anthony and walked him over to the Squad. Ten minutes later, Detective Bobby Prince from the Juvenile Section showed up.

“I want this bird locked up for the night,” I said. “Can you get me the standby Family Court judge to lodge him and petition him to court in the morning?”

“Good luck!” Prince said.

The tonic he used on his hair made it look shiny and coal black. His long drooping mustache gave him a surly appearance.

“Why?” I asked.

“Donald Foy is on call tonight. On something important and simple he hates to be called out. For this he’ll go berserk. The guy’s a whack job.”

“This punk has been going around for the last week croaking animals and smoking grass. That’s why he’s on probation. For chrissake, he’s a serial killer in the making.”

“Foy doesn’t look like an animal lover and where these young assholes are concerned, he’s so liberal, he makes George McGovern look like a Republican.”

“Oh, great.”

Anthony sat in the chair next to my desk picking at his cuticles, listening to our conversation. When I finished, he only moved his eyes to look up at me and grinned like a weasel watching an injured sparrow.

“You want to call this guy’s parents and have them meet us at Family Court?” I said.

“Mother.” Anthony said.

“What?”

“I only got a mother, no father.”

I wanted to smack the smirk off his face.

“Detective Prince, will you tell Rocket Man’s old lady where she can find us?”

<><><>

It took us twenty-five minutes to drive to Family Court. Half way there, lightning crackled in the western sky and a light rain hit the windshield. A uniformed court officer met us at the door. He was the only one present.

After locking the entrance again, he ushered us to Judge Foy’s chambers. We all sat on guest chairs in the hallway waiting for the reluctant jurist.

Twenty minutes later, Foy came storming down the hall removing a Member’s Only windbreaker before he reached us. Prince stood up. I followed suit.

“Hello, Judge,” he said, while Foy opened the door and turned on the lights.

“This better be good, Detective. You know I don’t like to be disturbed without good cause.”

The judge was just over fifty, bald on top and slightly overweight. He looked like the type who wanted to act tough, but could never quite pull it off.

I stuck in my two cents. “We had a good reason, Judge.”

“And you are?”

I told him.

“So, what’s your story?”

I told him that, too.

“You want this boy lodged in a secure facility for killing a dog?”

I elaborated one more time.

“Ridiculous. You have no proof of his involvement with the other incidents. Even this is shaky. He’s what, a hundred and thirty pounds? Do you know what will happen to him inside?”

Yeah, I thought, he’ll probably slit his cell-mate’s throat and shit on his bunk.

“Your Honor,” I said, “obviously the boy can’t control himself and marijuana seems to be a focus of his life. And it doesn’t look like his mother has any influence over him either.”

Then I let it slip.

“He’s on probation for the same thing and he’ll most likely do more or even worse unless you lock him up.”

“Most likely? You come here saying he most likely did other things and he’ll most likely do more of the same. I don’t react to most likely scenarios, Detective. I need probable cause to believe. You should know that.”

The judge tried to intimidate me with a cold stare. He was neither big enough nor bad enough to trouble anyone I knew.

“And where did you learn about his probation and the reason for it? Those records are sealed.” he said.

Foy looked at Prince, who shrugged. I glanced at Anthony. The smirk was back in full force. Now I wanted to smack the kid and the judge.

“There was a field interrogation card made at the time of his arrest. It never got purged from the precinct file,” I lied. “I assumed you’d want to know his history.”

“I’ll look into this and release him to his parents,” Foy said. “Where are they?”

“His mother is on the way, Judge,” Prince said.

“Judge,” I said, “if you let him go, we’ll only have more of the same. This is a mistake.”

Foy picked up a pen from his blotter and slammed it down for effect. The court officer flinched. Prince closed his eyes for a second. And Anthony kept on smiling.

Foy glared at me. “I’m the court, young man. Don’t you presume to tell me my business!”

I took that as my cue to leave.

“Bobby, I’ll call your office and have a car sent to pick you up.”

I heard Anthony snicker. I turned and walked out, reminding myself not to send Foy a Christmas card.

The court officer followed and locked the door after I left.

<><><>

After I finished my set of day tours, I spent two weeks with my wife wandering around New Mexico and northern Arizona. When I returned to work for a week of five-to-ones, my in-box was stacked with interdepartmental envelopes and loads of other mail.

At eleven o’clock, Louie DeMarco asked, “Hey, Sam, you get a chance to read any of the tour bulletins from the last couple days?”

“Haven’t had the pleasure, Sergeant.”

“You’ll like this one, kiddo. Ryan’s case. Home invasion on Cedar Avenue, two blocks south of the railroad station. Nine-year-old boy was home alone. Perp slit the poor kid’s throat and took a dump on the living room floor.”

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