Copyright c 2000 by Gary Lovisi



Finders Keepers

An original Griff and Fats story


Gary Lovisi


I said to Fats, "You know, Fat man, we got another call coming in over the box. It’s on the edge of Blacktown."

He only nodded. He knew it would be trouble.

That’s the way it was back in the bad old days of 1962 in a town I’ll call Bay City. Even today, years later, I don’t feel right – or safe – using real names in all this stuff I’m telling you. But that’s the way it was in those days, being a cop, doing what we had to do to hold the line. Even then the slime was taking over, doing their damnedest to bust us down, destroy law and order, twist justice, kill cops. To get away with all kinds of crime so that they could just do it all again the very next day!

I was being much too thinkful. Fats had a thing against too much "thinkfullness," as he called it. Fats said I did that too much. He was right, of course. Fats was always right. Fats hardly ever did any heavy thinking, hardly ever talked, but when he did, it always meant something important. That’s the man I was partnered with back then. Sergeant Herman Stubbs, 290 pounds of blubber with an attitude. I’m Lieutenant Bill Griffin, one of the lone survivors from the old days, still left alive and telling our stories.

"Hey Griff?" Fats asked, interrupting my mental meandering with his mouth full of Crackerjacks. He was driving, but every so often he’d upend the box and pour a glob of caramel coated popcorn glop down his gullet. Then crunch it into oblivion.

"Yeah, Fats?" I said, watching as we flew by all the hookers on Dumont Avenue.

"You know what I think?" he said, sorta thoughtful. Fats never got that way unless he had something on his mind. Which wasn’t often.

"I don’t know, Fats. I’m kinda afraid to ask." I said, and meant it.

Fats just laughed as if to say, "You should be."

If you knew Fats that’s just the way he was. But he only smiled at me and added, "What I figure is… I think we’re about due. Ain’t we, Griff?"

It had been weeks. Things going along smooth on the job. Kinda normal. At least for Bay City. No major problems. I knew what Fats meant. It was about time. We were due for another dose of some major-league weird, or some super sick crap, or any of the other stuff that gets thrust upon you in this job from time to time.

"Fact is, Griff, I think we’re kinda overdue, so we may be in for some extremely super weird crap. What do you think?"

I grunted. He had a point, on that big fat head of his.

Fats grunted back, smiled. Knocked off the box of Cracker Jacks, opened another, and headed our Plymouth out to Livonia Avenue. We got the call there was a body laying in a yard waiting for us to give it the once over.

When we got to 426 Livonia Avenue – sure as the ‘Square Mile of Vice’ is the real center and heart of this hell town – there was supposed to be a man’s body laying out on the lawn. What we saw was a white guy, mid-thirties, working-class clothes, and not very dead at all. He was wearing bracelets and very much alive and sitting calmly on the porch of #426.

"No one I know," I said to Fats as we walked over to the guy. He was with two of our uniform guys, our buddy Smitty, and his rookie partner, Billy Ryan.

"So what’s up?" Fats asked, now on his third box of Cracker Jacks with the end hardly in sight.

Smitty gave us the nod, indicated the man in handcuffs on the porch. "That’s Mr. Arnold Kroptic, who lives here. We were called to investigate sounds of gunfire."

I nodded. Fats burped, meaningfully.

Smitty then produced a .32 handgun wrapped in a handkerchief, said, "The gun Kroptic used to shoot and kill John Strossen."

I nodded, "And… Is Strossen dead? Where is he?"

"Oh yes, he is very dead," Kroptic chirped in, almost proudly. "I had to kill him. I just had to."

"And why did you have to do that?" I asked, giving Fats the nod.

Kroptic said, "I can’t tell you that, officer."

"Detective," I corrected.

"Whatever," he replied.

I ignored his remark, looked over at Fats, said, "I think this may be it. Our overdue case has arrived."

Fats smiled, then nodded like he’d been expecting it all along. Which, of course, he had.

Smitty looked at me and tried to stifle a laugh. He was a street cop, knew the score, said, "Just wait, Griff, it gets better."

"What do you mean?" I asked, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Smitty smiled, nodded to his rookie partner Billy Ryan, said, "Why don’t you take this one, Billy?"

"Breaking him in?" Fats said.

"Yeah, gotta do it sometime. This is his first day, get him deep in the soup right off," Smitty laughed shaking his head in disbelief. Then said, "Go ahead, Billy."

Ryan chortled, said, "Detectives you caught a weird one right off. Why don’t you ask Mr. Kroptic what happened to the body?"

Fats and I weren’t buying.

Smitty chimed in, "When Billy and I got here we observed Kroptic on the porch with the murder weapon in his hand. At his feet, over about there, just in front of the first step, was a very dead John Strossen. Billy and I disarmed Kroptic. He offered no resistance. Then we cuffed him to the porch post, and left to check out the house and grounds. We were gone for no more than five minutes. Swear it, Griff. When we got back, Strossen’s body was gone!"

Fats just laughed and laughed, said, "Ah, didn’t I tell you, Griff." Then getting real serious and shedding his jolly fatman image he added, "This is weird."

I looked around, said, "What about neighbors? Anyone see anything? I suppose Kroptic is mum?"

Smitty nodded.

Billy added, "He won’t say a word, says the way we had him cuffed he couldn’t look behind him anyway."

Fats said, "I mean, who’d take a dead body? Why would anyone steal a dead body?"

"Neighbors are all in their houses, behind locked doors, and covered windows. That’s the kind of neighborhood over here on the border of Blacktown. No one wants to know nothing," Smitty said.

"And this Strossen, you sure he was dead? He couldn’t have just got up and…" I asked. It was silly, but I had to ask, stranger things had happened after all.

"No Griff. I checked," Smitty replied. "Strossen was deader than dead. No pulse. Billy and I canvassed the area but we couldn’t come up with anything. No one saw a thing or they’re too terrified to speak up. It all happened so damn fast, but the crux of it is Strossen was shot dead, then someone stole his body!"

Fats just laughed and laughed.

I looked at him then, not finding it so amusing.

"Griff, this is better than the movies, better even than them old pulp magazines I used to love to read when I was a kid. Them crime horror stories with far-out titles like ‘Captive Sex Slaves of the Hideous Ghoul Killer.’ Now that was fun stuff, Griff."

I looked at him, "You used to read that stuff?"

"Sure, all the time. Great stuff. This is like them old stories, Griff. Totally weird. I think we’re in for some fun with this one too." Then Fats turned to Kroptic, said, "Of course, Mr. Kroptic you had no partner in this murder? You killed Strossen on your own? And you never saw who stole the corpse?"

Kroptic smiled and said almost proudly, "The killing of Strossen was entirely my own idea. I had no partner or help in it at all. And no, I did not see who took the body, not that I care, now that he’s dead."

"See, Griff, and I believe him," Fats bellowed now, adding, "I think we got a real doozy here!"

Of course Fats was just playing in that odd sick, twisted cop way of his. He didn’t like this kind of crap any more than I did, yet I had to admit that someone stealing that dead body out from under us had got my attention.

Besides that, Strossen was our only piece of hard evidence that a murder had actually been committed.

"Fats, I want that damn corpse!" I growled.

Fats nodded, laughed, "Yeah, Griff, it sure ain’t right. Even kinda insulting. How dare someone steal our stiff!"

The rest of that day Fats and I, with Smitty and Ryan’s help turned Livonia Avenue and the environs upside down and every which way but loose. If there was a hidden stiff anywhere in that section of town, Fats and I would shake it loose but as the day came to an end Fats and I came to a kinda different conclusion.

Fats said, "He ain’t here, Griff. He just ain’t here. We woulda seen a sign, and I shook everyone’s tree in this neighborhood and nothing fell out, because there was nothing there to fall out. You get it?"

"Yeah, nothing corpse-wise that is," I replied, but there was plenty of other crap, but all that was stuff we weren’t interested in at the moment. Truth of it was a pissed-off 290 pound Fatman could do an awful job of intimidation, so that when he decided to shake someone’s tree, every damn thing that person was hiding was sure to fall out. Everything, except the stiff that had been stolen.

"’Course Captain Landis is kinda unhappy about this turn of events," Fats chortled in what was the understatement of 1962.

"Yeah," I said, "we all is unhappy."

"So, Griff, there’s gotta be something else, something we ain’t figuring," Fats added. There he was, being obvious again. That meant he was starting to think, and that usually meant trouble.

I nodded, "You mean like the body wasn’t stolen to impede our murder investigation? Or with us not having any corpus delecti…. You mean it was…random?"

"Yeah, Griff, like random. Random Bay City resident drove by, maybe walked by for all I know, saw the corpse, put it in his car, maybe on his back and… You know? A real sicko. Took it home…or something."

"That’s a special kind of crazy, Fats."

"Yeah, Griff, real special," Fats was silent for a moment, thinking. He reached into his pocket and unpeeled a Hersey Bar, consumed it in two quick bites, burped, looked at me and said, "Now, what sick, twisted, piece of human garbage would do a thing like that, Griff?"

I looked at Fats, nodded, said; "Bay City is a big, bad place, Fats. I guess we gotta start making a list."

And that’s just what we did the very next morning as we sat at Jackie’s Diner on Dumont Avenue going over the list of names Fats and I had put together the night before.

Fats offered his usual biting comment on our suspects so far. "What an accumulation of human vermin, lowlifes, parasites, degenerates, loosers… Damn, Griff, we gotta lotta names here."

I nodded. Lotta freaks.

Fats put a pencil mark through one name, said, "Cosgrove hung himself last week in his cell."

I nodded, "Or so they say."

Fats laughed, being sensitive again, I guess, said "Whatever, for us it’s just one less skell on our list."

I said, "We gotta like a guy for this that either knows Strossen somehow, or is into some weirdass death stuff, like maybe necrophilia."

Fats shuddered, said, "You mean, like having sex with dead people?"

I nodded.

"Jesus," Fats said solemnly, then added with a laugh, "I just thought of something, Griff. If he’s having sex with that dead guys body… Does that make him a homo too?"

I shrugged, laughed, that was just Fats’ way of trying to cheer me up. I said, "Appears to me he’s got enough problems if he stole that body, chief among them are the legal ones. I don’t wanna think about what he’s doing with it. Fats, I don’t wanna dig too deep into this stuff, I just want our stolen stiff. You know, Landis ain’t going to let us play too long on this one anyway."

Fats nodded, serious now, "Let’s see that list."

I handed Fats the list and he went through it carefully scanning each name. He said, "There’s two here, two real demented bastards who might try something like this. Emilio Nardone, is just warped enough to do something like this as a joke. Then there’s this other, not what you’d think at all, well-respected man, wealthy, family guy, business guy, big-shot undertaker. I hear he’s some weird kinda S&M freak. Might be into making some new kinda scene…"

"Yeah? Gee," I said. "Hope it doesn’t catch on."

Fats laughed, "So let’s do it."

I said, "I’m giving the list to Smitty and Ryan, they’ll track down each of the names, just to be on the safe side to see if any of these guys know Strossen. Maybe they took the body for revenge? Spite…? Who knows…?"

"You don’t think it’s the weird sex angle, Griff?" Fats said, a bit too hopefully.

I shrugged, "Who knows, whatever it is, we’ll find out soon enough."

Fats nodded, "Sounds good to me. So, you wanna go visit Nardone or Simmons first?"

I looked at Fats and smiled, "Let’s go see Nardone first, I gotta work my way up to dealing with Simmons and what we might find there."

"Amen to that, Griff."

Emilio Nardone had just got out of an upstate prison after doing a stretch for bank robbery. His trademark was defecating on the bank manager’s desk before he left with the money. It kinda made his robberies memorable, but the crime lab never much liked dealing with the ‘evidence’ he left behind. But you had to give it to Emilio Nardone, he had a certain sense of… I guess in some circles you might call it…humor?

As we drove up to 410 Conastoga Drive, the residence he’d given his parole officer, Fats put it all into wonderful perspective when he said, "Griff, I don’t know how he does it! Now this guy robbed almost a dozen banks, and dirtied the manager’s desk every single time. I just don’t understand it. I mean, how could the guy crap on command like that? You know, you just can’t do it when you want like that. Leastways, I can’t. Like, just do it, when everyone in the bank is watching?"

I looked at Fats incredulous, asked, "We got this case of a stolen stiff and that’s the burning question you got for Nardone?"

"Yeah, I mean, among others."

I shook my head, "Then why the hell don’t you just ask him, because I certainly have no idea."

I was getting a bit testy, but Fats never seemed to notice at all. Truth is, he noticed sure as hell, but he’d never let on to me he noticed. That was the way partners worked in the old days.

Instead he just said, "You know, Griff, I think I will ask him."

He looked at me and smiled, and I could only shake my head.

Fats added, "Griff, I’m gonna find out about that. Guy could crap like that, on command, on schedule. I mean he’s robbing a bank for Christsakes! He’s gotta be under tremendous pressure…"

"Fats! I don’t wanna talk about it."

"I mean, pressure doing the armed robbery. Then on top of that, he’s gotta…"

"He’s gotta…perform. Poop on command. Do his trademark," I added, trying to help out Fats with the words before he got us into a place I didn’t want to go with this.

He smiled, "That’s it exactly, Griff."

I smiled, "You happy now, Fats? Okay, here we are. Let’s go in and see Emilio and you can ask him yourself. Just remember, we’re still looking for that stolen stiff."

Emilio Nardone was a thin, wiry man, dark hair, pencil-thin mustache, and eyes that gleamed like a mad man. With a smile to match. Handsome in a way, but a very strange way.

He opened the door after Fats pounded on it enough times making such a racket that if Nardone had copped the Strossen stiff even the dead guy would have woke up from all the noise.

Fats stabbed his BCPD badge in Nardone’s face, said, "Emilio Nardone, we wanna talk to you."

Nardone said nothing as Fats bulled his way into the house, down the hallway, to sit opposite Nardone in the small, stale living room. Watching him like a hawk. I followed, casing the dive as the low rent flop that is was. I sat down across from Fats.

I said to Nardone, "You know John Strossen?"

Nardone looked at me, at Fats, shrugged, "Never heard the name."

I nodded, said to Fats; "He’s lying. We don’t have time for games. Why don’t you take him out back and smack him around a little."

Fats just smiled, hit a big ham fist into the palm of his other hand meaningfully and said, "Sure, Griff, that sounds like fun. Come on, Nardone, you need a little loosening up, and I’m just the guy to put you in a definite talkative mood!"

Nardone turned pale.

Fats just smiled at him in that special way he had with perps, which actually got Nardone even more nervous.

I just nodded, "Don’t make too much of a mess, Fats, you know how much I hate cleaning up after you."

Fats said, "Come on now, Emilio… Let me show you how I used to bust heads over in Blacktown when I was a rookie. Now them was some violent days."

Nardone froze.

I gave Fats a grim little smile. Fats never busted heads in Blacktown or anywhere else, but Nardone didn’t know that. Nardone didn’t know that at all. All he knew was that a 290 pound mean-ass copper wanted to break his bones unless he talked. Back in the old days that was known as giving the perp ‘incentive’. Fats was big on incentive.

"L-L-L-ook, I, ah, okay, I lied." Nardone stammered. "I know Strossen, but I didn’t kill him."

"I didn’t ask you if you killed him, Emilio," I said. "I know who killed him. I want to know if you got the body?"

"What body?"

"Strossen’s body, you dink!" Fats growled.

I could see Nardone was lost. He just didn’t get it. So I said, "Spill what you know, Emilio."

Nardone nodded, sighed, "There’s nothing to tell. I knew the creep. Can’t say I’m sad he’s dead. He had a lot of enemies, but…"

"Now we get it out, Griff," Fats said, but I wondered how much of it.

"Go on, Emilio," I prompted.

"Well, he was into some pretty weird stuff…"

"You mean sexually?" Fats asked.

Nardone nodded silently. He was terrified now.

I wondered why. I really didn’t want to hear about it, but I said, "So, Nardone, tell me all about it."

Emilio Nardone shrugged, "He and a guy named Roger…"

"Roger Simmons?" Fats barked.

"Yeah, Roger Simmons. They were into certain, ah, peculiar sexual situations…"

Fats looked at me. I looked at him. We both looked at Nardone. None too happy.

I said, "You gotta be more specific, Emilio. Like, what kinda kinky stuff?"

Nardone did a bit of hemming and hawing, trying to figure out what to say, how to say it, and a way to get away saying the least possible. We knew the dance.

Fats looked at me and said, "Sons of bitches are having sex with dead people!"

I pressed Nardone now, "Alright, Emilio, out with it. What’s the story?"

Emilio Nardone shook his head, stammered, "Look, I only worked for Simmons. After I got out of the joint I got a job there. Strossen worked for him too…"

"And let me guess, Nardone, a guy named Arnold Kroptic worked with you there too?" I asked.

Nardone sighed, said, "Yeah, Strossen and Kroptic hated each other. They were always fighting, arguing… Roger tried to let them have equal shares, we all took turns…but they always complained, always…well, you know?"

Fats barked, "No, Emilio, I don’t know! What the fuck are you talking about?"

Nardone looked up, embarrassed now, smiled a sick grin and said faintly, "You know, the grass is always greener and all that."

I wanted to smack him. "Can’t we get a straight answer out of you, Emilio!"

"What the hell do you want!"

"The truth!" Fats barked, pounding the table now.

Nardone jumped, said, "Well, you know? Roger gave out the bodies, let us take turns with them… John and Arnold were very jealous of each other…"

"Of each other?" I asked, looking at Nardone with disgust.

"They were jealous of the corpses the other one got to have. Strossen had the corpse of Mary Jane Daughtry, a real piece, big woman, what a body! What tits! She was the absolute best, but beginning to go bad. You know? Spoiling. Strossen kept her around too long I think, but I couldn’t blame him, not really."

"Of course," Fats growled, shaking his head in disbelief.

I shussed Fats and told Emilio to continue.

"Anyway," Nardone added, "Kroptic had the Jones girl, now she was new, fresh meat, young, and Strossen wanted to have a few turns with her. Roger did tell them to share. Roger was always fair, but John just didn’t want to."

I looked over at Fats, his head was held down in his big hands, low, sad, he looked sick. He looked like he was going to puke.

Fats didn’t say a word on the way over to Roger Simmon’s place. It was in the best neighborhood. Big house. Nice lawn.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" Fats finally growled. "People die, they’re your cherished loved ones, you pay to place them in good care. The best care. All so some sick demented twists can diddle them!"

"And fight over them," I said quietly. "And even kill over them."

"But why the hell would Simmons steal Strossen’s dead body, Griff?" Fats asked as he pulled up the car to number 4428 Porter Lane.

"I don’t know, Fats. This case has got me bugged. A necro ring is just too damn sick, too damn twisted for me. You sure were right. We got ourselves a real beaut of a case here."

"Yeah, and something else, Griff. I feel we’re missing something. Important."

I had felt that feeling myself. You get it in investigations sometimes. You see all the pieces of the puzzle, except one -- the one that matters most and puts it all into perspective. The crucial, important piece."

"Something weird is up, Griff."

I laughed, "You mean something weirder than these ghouls having sex with dead people?"

Fats just looked at me all serious and nodded solemnly.

I hate when he does that.

Then we got out of the car and banged on the door to Roger Simmons’ house.

A woman answered. She was pretty. She said she was his wife. Her name was Cassandra. She said, "Roger is at the Lincoln Street parlor, detectives. He’s having the basement refitted for the new crematorium."

We nodded. I didn’t know what to say. Fats could hardly look at her, could hardly say a word, which was pretty incredible for the Fatman when an attitude was upon him. I knew he was busting a gut to tell her. To warn her. She didn’t know a thing.

I said, "Mrs. Simmons, you mind if we take a look around a bit?"

"Why forever for, detectives? What is it you want?"

"We’re working a murder case, mam," Fats said. "Man was killed that worked for your husband, by another…ah, employee."

"I am not conversant in any way with my husband’s business, and certainly not with his employees. Roger handles his business as he sees fit with absolutely no involvement from me at all. I find the entire business, unsavory. I’m sure you understand, seeing as the type of business it is. Hardly fit for a lady’s involvement at all."

I nodded.

Fats said, "Do you know Arnold Kroptic or John Strossen?"

"I have heard Roger speak the names, and not in a positive manner, but I have never met the gentlemen. I do not go to the parlor, detectives, and I certainly do not mix with any of the lower behind-the-scenes hired help."

"I see, Mrs. Simmons," Fats said.

We were walking into the living room when I saw the drop of blood. It was in front of a closed and locked door.

I looked at Mrs. Simmons, looked down at the door, pointed and said, "Closet or basement?"

"That’s the door to the basement, detective," she replied, a bit surprised.

"What’s down there, mam?" Fats asked.

"Basement," she said simply, then realizing what we meant she added, "Just storage. Boxes. A lot of dust. We never go down there."

We got her to unlock the door and let us in. There was a long wooden stairway leading downward. With Fats in the lead, and me following, and Mrs. Simmons behind me, we turned on the light and descended the stairway.

She’d been right, it was a mass of boxes, storage cases, old furniture. Junk. Dust. Over in a corner there was an old four-poster bed with John Strossen’s body upon it.

Cassandra Simmons shrieked and fainted dead away. I caught a cold chill as I looked at the corpse. Strossen was a small man, almost a midget, ashen dead gray face.

I asked Fats to gather Mrs. Simmons, carry her upstairs and put her to bed. I told him to alert one of the servants to look after her. Then Fats left and I was alone with John Strossen’s corpse.

"Good to finally catch up with you, shorty. You’re Bay City’s hottest ticket to track down. Pretty good going for a dead guy." I said, walking over to the bed to view him more closely. He was still fully dressed, still wore the bloody clothes he’d worn upon his murder, rigor had set in, but he didn’t smell too bad. I wondered why. I turned him over easily, no crap stains. No wait, these were new pants. Had to be. Most of the time at the point of death, or shortly thereafter the bowel distends and evacuates, leaving quite a smelly mess. I realized now that someone had cleaned up John Strossen.

That got me thinking.

I wondered how the body had gotten here. I didn’t want to think about why it was here, not right now. My mind centered on Roger Simmons, but somehow he didn’t seem right for this. Why bring his sick little games home? I took a stroll around the basement as I waited for Fats. The dust was thick. Mrs. Simmons had been right, this basement had been unused – at least by her. I figured that Roger had done all his sick twisted necro games in the back room of his funeral parlor. I wondered if there might be a collection of photos behind this murder. Then I saw the footprints. Made by tennis shoes. Small. A woman’s shoe. Or, a child’s.

Fats came back, grunting, "She woke up, screamed again, took a pill, screamed, some more, told me to call her husband and to get that dead man out of her basement. I think we got a problem here, Griff."

I nodded, then put my fingers up to my lips, motioning for Fats to be quiet. I pointed to the footprints. I followed them around the room, leading Fats, to the stairs, back to the bed, where they disappeared – under it. I gave Fats a nudge and pointed under the bed.

I said, "You know if the Simmons’ have any children, Fats?"

Fats said, "One child, Griff, a son named Bobby. He’s supposed to be upstairs in his bedroom sleeping."

I knew Bobby wasn’t in his room upstairs at all, he was here in the basement hiding under that bed. The same bed with the stolen corpse of John Strossen laying upon it. Now how the hell you figure that?

I looked at Fats and shook my head. This was not one of our better cases. We both knew it now. We had that fear, growing in us, about what this all meant. We both knew that in another minute we were going to have to bust this case wide open and that was something we did not really want to do now. It would end up destroying a young boy’s life forever. That’s the way things were back in 1962. You get involved in real weird stuff and get caught – your life is over. One way or another.

I sighed, looked over at Fats. The tower of blubber looked so sad I thought he was gonna cry. He just nodded, said, "Go ahead, Griff, let’s get this over with."

I nodded, took a deep breath, said, "Okay, Bobby, you can come out from under the bed now. We know you’re down there."

There was stone cold silence for a long moment. Like what I’d just said hadn’t pertained to Bobby at all. Like he was hoping we’d just all go away. We weren’t. We couldn’t.

"Bobby?" It’s all over now, come on out," I said.

I saw his shoes move.

Then I heard the shot.

Fats and I jumped out of our skins, scrambled down and under the bed to pull the boy out. Bobby looked to be about 16 years old, big for his age. In his hand there was a .38, in his head was a bullet that had his blood gushing everywhere.

"Damnit, Griff!" Fats shouted, "I never figured him for having a gun!"

We pulled the kid out and tried to revive him. Fats was just about to run out to put in a call for an ambulance when I grabbed his arm, pulled him back to me and said, "Won’t be needing any ambulance, Fats."

He looked at me, his big fat face dripping tears, and he just collapsed in a heap next to me and the dead boy.

Fats and I sat there for a while, too stunned to move. The body of the dead boy Bobby for company, the rotting corpse of John Strossen looking on from behind us.

Fats said to our boss, Captain Landis, "Near as we can piece it together the necro ring began with Simmons. He hired freaks like Nardone and the others would play along, keep it secret. They did only the women first, kept them around, had their private parties in the funeral home basement, dressed them up, swapped them. Later on they began using all the corpses, male and female… kinda experimenting…"

I said, "Thing is Roger Simmons had photos of it all. He kept them in a secure place, tucked away in a locked dresser hidden in the unused basement of his house. A place where he knew his wife would never venture. That’s where Bobby must have found them. It wigged him out; he began to spy on the men working in the back rooms of the funeral parlor his father owned. He saw a lot. Too much. He began to follow the workers. We have corroboration on this now from Nardone. Bobby was there syping on Arnold Kroptic when John Strossen came to his rooms to continue the fight from the night before about the Daughtry girl…ah, Daughtry corpse. Anyway, it was Bobby who took Strossen’s body, Kroptic kept mum because he didn’t want it to get out about the necro ring. Kroptic also figured that if we couldn’t produce a body, there was no proof a murder had taken place and he’d be in the clear."

Landis scratched his head. He’d heard some doozies in his long career but this was the worst. And the dead kid made it a real tragedy.

"How the hell that kid get Strossen’s body to his home, anyway?" Landis asked.

Fats jumped in, said, "Bobby was a big kid, Strossen practically a midget. The kid was sitting in his heap spying again -- when he saw the action -- the murder of Strossen. He just ran over when no one was looking, stole the body, dumped it in his car and left. The whole thing took, what, two, three minutes?"

I just nodded.

"One thing I don’t understand," Landis said. "This just never came out. I mean, we’ll cover it up and all in the official report to protect the kid, but, what the hell was he gonna do with that body? He wasn’t gonna…do anything like he’d seen in those photos? Was he?"

I saw the pained look on the bosses face. This was tough for him to deal with. He had kids. It was real terror. I didn’t say anything, hoping Fats would answer, but when Fats didn’t, I knew something had to be said. So it was up to me. I said, "Boss, I don’t rightly know for sure. I’ve seen some twisted people in my life. You too. God knows, Bay City’s got more than it’s share these days. How do they get like that? I guess they start young. I don’t really know what Bobby Simmons was going to do with that body, or what he intended. I guess we’ll never really know now. But I know what I’d like to think, Boss. Fats. I’d sure as hell like to think that Bobby did it to show his old man how wrong it all was, how utterly sick, maybe shock him back into reality from whereever his disgusting perverted, degenerate ways had lead him. That’s what I hope a good son, that kid Bobby, was trying to do. He was in way over his head. He had intimate knowledge of things no child should ever have to deal with. No adult, either. I’d like to think that’s what it was all about, though. He was a good kid."

Landis nodded, I could see the relief in his face.

Fats looked at me and I dared him to say the unspoken question – then why’d the kid kill himself?

The wheels of justice creaked along. Roger Simmons and Emilio Nardone were on their way to prison for various offenses. Arnold Kroptic was on his way to death row for murder. Cassandra Simmons was admitted to a home for the mentally disturbed.

Landis told Fats and me to take a few days off. Actually, he ordered us.

Fats and I didn’t see each other for a whole 72 hours after that. It was the longest stretch for us to ever be apart. I stayed home alone in bed for the entire three days, drinking myself to sleep, full of nightmaring dreams, until I just couldn’t take it no more and had to get back to the job.

Fats never said what he’d done on his enforced ‘vacation’. I never asked him. I only found out years later, that he’d spent every damn minute of every damn day and night at the grave of Bobby Simmons.

Simmons Funeral Home was closed down. Then it reopened under new owners. New name. It had some kind of special going the last time we passed by, first class funeral with all the trimmings for a new reduced rate. Fats and I hardly noticed it.

Sometimes you get a case that no matter how well you can tidy it all up in the end, no matter how you can get to the sick, twisted truth of it all, it still leaves a bad taste in your craw. Some things will go with you to the grave. Silent secrets.

I never told Fats or anyone else this, but Bobby Simmons muttered one phrase from under that bed before he shot himself.

When I’d been alone with him in that basement, while Fats was still upstairs, I asked Bobby why he’d stolen the body.

I heard his crazy laugh from under the bed.

Then in a whisper I wish I’d never heard, he said, "Finders keepers."

Copyright 2000 by Gary Lovisi