Although the people and events portrayed in this story are true, the names of those involoved and time period have been drastically altered. Therefore this story is classified as a work of fiction.
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As soon as I was able to stop vomiting and shaking, I called in the 187. Murder first degree, in my mind there was no doubt that it was a murder. I'm not going to get into details here, just let me say that the only positively identifiable part of the body was the feet, at least at first glance. That is why I lost my dinner. I have never seen anything more grotesque than what I saw in that dumpster. I am sure the lab boys will be able to come up with something, but I had my suspicions it was Papa Joe and that scared the hell out of me. Billy was in shock and not able to talk sensibly. So the only thing we had to go on was what he first told me, "Papa Joe, he, he's in the alley."
"EVERYBODY BACK BEHIND THE BARRICADES." The Sergeant yelled.
The crowd had grown large in a very short time. I could catch a few words now
and then, most of the voices familiar,
"Did you see who it is?"
"Is it Papa Joe?"
"Hey Sam, who is it?" That voice was Charlie the bartender.
Everyone was trying to get a look at what I had found. Sometimes I am appalled
at human nature, how could they be so curious about something like this? How
could they be so morbid?
I was still shaking and very weak, even after back up had arrived.
Papa Joe had adopted me when I first moved to the Polk. For some reason he latched on to me like a long lost son. I didn't really object because I was alone in this city full of people. A stranger in a new world. Having grown up in a very small town, I was more than just a little overwhelmed when I first moved here although I never let anyone see how I really felt, always putting up a front, looking like I was completely at ease and familiar with my surroundings. Little did those that I passed on the street know that I was scared to death, shaking inside with fear.
I hope you don't mind flash backs, because that is how I am going to tell you about the people in my life, my chosen family.
I had just moved into my apartment on Polk Street. It was an old building, built in the early 1900s. The apartment was long and narrow, I dubbed it the bowling alley. Hardwood floors, an old fashioned bathtub with a shower curtain that hung from a circular rail above the tub. There were two reasons why I chose this area, it was inexpensive and there was a large gay population, people that I could relate to. So, here I was, new neighborhood, new people and a new life.
I had just gotten everything into the apartment. A laborious two days of hauling box by box, piece by piece from the alley to the basement, into the elevator, up to the 5th floor, out of the elevator, down the hall and finally into the apartment. My place was still a mess with boxes stacked everywhere. I had found most of the kitchen stuff but before I could eat, I needed to have something in the place to eat! I didn't know the neighborhood, so I went for a walk in an attempt find the nearest store. It just happened that the first one I came upon was Papa Joe's. I peered into the window before I went in so see if they might have what I needed. I could see grocery items stacked on shelves, lined up in a orderly fashion. It looked as if the place was very well stocked. I didn't see anyone inside, but I did see a few things that I could use so I went in. I walked around the store for a while, picking up an item here and there, shaking my head at the high prices. When I had everything that I thought I would need to prepare the next couple of meals, I brought it all to the counter.
"Is that it sonny?" The man behind the counter asked.
When I looked up, I saw a short, very ancient man staring at me with intense brown eyes that sparkled like none I had ever seen, eyes that radiated experience and intelligence, I was awe struck. Have you ever met someone that could look right into your most inner being, instantly knowing your every secret, your every desire?
"I ahhh, Y, Yes I, I guess so." I stuttered like some dumb idiot.
"Hey, are you ok?" He inquired with honest concern.
"S, Sure, I, I'm ok." I stammered again.
This old man had stunned me to the core. I was a bumbling idiot. I couldn't get a word out of my mouth coherently.
"Well sonny, you don't look ok to me. You look like you have seen a ghost or something."
I took a deep breath. Held it in for a moment and slowly let it out. I looked the man direct in the eyes,
"I appreciate your concern sir but I am perfectly ok." I managed to say with a lot of concentration.
"Ok, if you are sure about that."
I nodded my head, again not able to speak.
"You sure look familiar to me. Have we met before?" He asked.
"I doubt it sir. I have just moved here from out of town."
He looked me over. Studying me like an art critic would a painting then his eyes brightened and he said,
"I know why you look so familiar, you look just like my cousin Marco. He is tall and thin like you. Maybe you are related?"
I don't think so sir. I don't have a drop of Italian blood flowing through my body. Besides I have green eyes."
"Well, you sure could pass for Italian and there are Italians with green eyes."
"Really? I didn't know that." I looked at the old man, trying to figure out where he was going with this conversation. "My name is Sam Peterson."
"Nice to meet you Sam. Everyone calls me Papa Joe and you can do the same."
That was how I met Papa Joe. From that day on, he was my adopted father, or should I say I was his adopted son. I think it was because I looked so much like his cousin Marco. He told me that he and his cousin Marco were very close.
"You see, Marco's parents died when he was just a young tyke. I was his only living relative and he wound up living with me. Actually he was my second cousin, so he was much younger than I was, he became a son that I never had. I loved that boy with all of my heart." Papa Joe said sadly.
I could see tears in his eyes, even though he didn't allow himself to cry, I could see the pain.
He told me that Marco had died a few years back.
"What happened?" I asked.
"He got the disease. He wasted away right before my eyes and died in my arms."
Joe turned around away from me. I could see him wipe his eyes and then he turned back and looked at me with a stare that would freeze anyone.
"What disease?" I asked.
"He died of AIDS. He was Gay, Mr. Peterson." Again fixing me with that stare.
"I am sorry Papa Joe. I would have loved to have met him and please call me Sam."
"I knew you were a good person the moment I set eyes on you young man." He replied with a smile. "Now are you sure this is all you need?"
"Yes sir, I think this will do it for now. I just live up on the corner so it isn't any problem walking back here if I need anything else."
"Good, you come back and visit me even if you don't need anything." Papa Joe said as more of an order than a request.
"I certainly will sir."
Papa Joe had a heart of gold and a mind that was as quick as anyone half his age. He was always helping those in need in some small way. If they needed food, he would have them work in his store to earn it, if they weren't able to work, he would find some little something that they could do to earn what they needed. He always told me that people had to have pride. If you just handed them things, they would lose that pride, but if they earned what they needed, they kept their pride and it would grow. Over the years, I have witnessed what Papa Joe was talking about. I saw people down on their luck, destitute, hungry and Papa Joe would make them work for food and money. That gave those people the pride to go on and better themselves. It happened again and again.
One thing that I adopted from Papa Joe was his dislike for what the kids in this community had to go though to survive. He hated it and I hate it. Kids that have been beaten and kicked out of their homes. Hated by their mothers and fathers, kids that happened to be a little different from others. Gay kids, Bisexual kids, kids that had been literally thrown away by their parents because of the way they were born.
Ok, ok! I'll get off of my soapbox now. It just irks the hell out of me when I think about it and I start ranting.
That is how I met Papa Joe and over the years we became the best of friends.
I had this gut feeling that what I saw in that dumpster was Papa Joe. You know
what it is like, this feeling of dread that courses though your body, making
you shiver with fear. It is like a sixth sense.
God, I am going to break down again. Excuse me a moment.......
"Hey Sam! Come over here quick."
I looked up to see Tom and Fred. You remember those two don't you? The two
that arrested me on that fateful night. The night that brought me back into
law enforcement. Over the years, Tom and Fred had become friends. Not real close
friends but friends enough that we worked together very well. Both of them had
moved to plain clothes two years ago, homicide division.
"What is it Tom?" I asked as I slowly rose to my feet. I was still shaky and a bit unsteady on my feet.
"Take a look behind the second dumpster." Fred instructed.
I slowly made my way over and peered behind the dumpster that Fred had indicated. I could barely make out another pair of shoes, shoes that looked like they were connected to legs. My heart started racing again as I turned and shouted at one of the uniformed officers.
"Hey you, bring me a flashlight and be quick about it."
The young cocky officer slowly strolled over to me with a smirk on his face. I glared at him and yanked the flashlight out of his hand thinking to myself, "Damn kids." I lowered myself to the pavement to get a better look under the dumpster. As I played the flashlight toward the body, I saw it move.
"He's still alive. Lets get this damn thing moved." I yelled indicating the dumpster.
Fred, Tom, myself and two other officers pushed the dumpster far enough out
so I could squeeze in behind it. Just as I got to the body lying on the pavement,
I heard a groan. I reached down to start assessing the injured party and it
let out the loudest yell that I had ever heard.
"Ottenervi indietro il figlio d'una femmina."
"Hold on there, it's me Sam." I broke out in tears to see Papa Joe sitting there with his fists raised in defense. He is alive!
"Oh Sam, I am so happy to see you. I was jumped by two hooligans, I thought I had the best of both of them but they were just a bit too quick for my old bones."
"Papa Joe, you scared the hell out of me. I thought that was you in the dumpster."
"In the dumpster? What the hell would I be doing in a dumpster?"
"There is a body in the dumpster, I thought it was you."
"I didn't see a body in the dumpster. What are you talking about?" Joe looked at me questioningly.
"Come on out here and take a look for yourself." I said as I stood up and helped Joe to his feet.
We squeezed out from behind the dumpster, Papa Joe was still a little shaky so the two of us supported each other as he took a look at the body.
"Mama Mia!" Papa Joe exclaimed as he stepped back away from the grizzly
sight, his eyes large with fright.
"Who would do such a terrible thing?" He shouted shakily.
"I don't know Papa Joe but I am going to find out who and why, this is my beat and everything that goes on here is my business." I replied seriously.
"Hey Sam, the wagon is here." Fred shouted from the front of the alley as he waved the coroners wagon into the alley. Right behind them were the lab guys. This place was going to be a mad house very soon. I told Fred that Papa Joe and I were going to go back to his store.
"We'll be there if you need to talk to either of us." I shouted over my shoulder as we walked toward the rear entrance to Papa Joe's store.
"Where is Billy? Papa Joe asked as we entered the store.
"I think he is still out front by the Crossroads. He saw something in the alley and came running out saying that you needed help and then he broke down. I'll call the bar and see if someone can bring him here." I called and talked to Charlie, I told him that Papa Joe was ok and asked him if he could have someone bring Billy over. I hung up the phone and turned back to Papa Joe,
"Ok Joe, now spill it." I said as I looked at him, peering into his eyes.
"What do you mean Sam?"
"What happened out there? Damn it Joe, there has been a murder, a grizzly murder and you were either involved or you interrupted the suspects."
"Sam, how could you even think that I would do something that outrageous, horrendous, terrifying?" Papa Joe said as he jumped to his feet, his eyes glaring at me with anger.
"Joe, I know you didn't do it. Sit back down. You do have to realize that you are going to be questioned by the homicide detectives and that is exactly the position they are going to take. I just want the unedited version of what you are going to tell them."
"Ok Sam here it is, unedited." He looked at me again with those sparkling eyes of his as he sat down. "I was taking the trash out to the dumpster and as I opened the alley door, I heard someone making a grunting noise and something that sounded like something being dragged. I stepped into the alley and didn't see anyone. I just thought it was my old ears playing tricks on me, so I headed over to the dumpsters. Just as I walked around to the front of the first one, I saw two people lifting something up and throwing it into the second dumpster. I didn't even get a glimpse of those two before one of them jumped me. I tried to fight back but they were just too quick for me. The last thing I remember, they were picking me up and throwing me. I hit the wall and the lights went out."
"You must have slid down behind the dumpster and before they could get to you, Billy came out of the store and screamed. That must have scared them off. Papa Joe, do you think you could provide enough information to a police artist to draw those two?"
"No Sam I couldn't. I didn't see that much of them. I can give a little physical information but that is about it. Nothing that would positively identify either one." Papa Joe said as he shook his head with regret.
"PAPA JOE!!!" A voice screamed as a body came hurtling through the door of the store and threw its arms around Papa Joe.
"It's ok Billy, I'm fine." Papa Joe assured the young man as he hugged him back.
"Oh God Papa Joe, I thought you were dead. I was so scared."
"Billy, you should know that no one could kill this old coot. Maybe a few bruises but that is about it." I joked. "Billy, did you see who attacked Papa Joe?"
Billy slowly looked at me and shook his head. "No Sam, I couldn't tell who they were. It was too dark. All I could see was someone hitting Papa Joe and picking him up."
"Ok Billy. I'm sure that the homicide detectives are going to question you. Don't be nervous about it and just tell the truth."
Billy nodded his head in agreement and threw his arms around Papa Joe once again.
"Now Billy, everything is ok. Sam seems to think that you saved my life. What do you think about that?"
Billy pulled himself away from Joe just enough to look into his eyes. "No way. I didn't do anything except panic! I screamed like a little girl and ran."
"Billy, that is what saved Papa Joe. You made enough noise to scare them away before they could really harm him." I explained.
Billy just shook his head and hugged Papa Joe once again. That boy sure had
taken to Joe fast. Of course it was very easy to do, I am a perfect example.
The three of us sat and talked for a while before the detectives came in to question Papa Joe and Billy. I cleared out while they did and went back to the alley. I was curious to know what Tom and Fred had found out. The coroner and one of the lab guys were examining the body. I took a couple of deep breaths, steeled my nerves and walked up to them.
"What have you found out guys?" I inquired.
The coroner looked up at me and shook his head. "I have never seen a butcher job quite this grotesque, Sam. I can tell you that it is a male of approximately 16 to 20 years of age. Blond hair, blue eyes, weighing approximately 140 to 150 pounds. That is about all we have to go on at the moment. I'll be able to tell you more after the autopsy."
I thanked the coroner and walked around the crime scene. Trying to spot something
out of the ordinary. I knew that the lab guys and the detectives were a lot
better at this than I am but this is my turf and I knew what was normal and
what wasn't. I recovered my flashlight from the sidewalk and scoured the alley
inch by inch. There just has to be something here, something telltale lying
about. I started at the dumpsters and worked my way back toward Larkin Street,
I knew they hadn't come in from Polk, there were too many people there. I worked
my way from side to side, carefully examining every little crack and cranny.
I was almost to Larkin when I saw something shiny lying up against the building
on the sidewalk. I crouched down next to it, as I looked closer I saw it was
a bracelet, silver chain with some type of engraving on a medallion hanging
from the chain. Not wanting to disturb it, as it could be evidence, I called
back to one of the lab guys.
"Something like this would not lay around long in this neighborhood. It could be connected to the murder." I told the lab investigator.
"Yeah but this is just an ordinary bracelet, nothing expensive or out of the ordinary." He said as he reached to pick it up. I grabbed his arm.
"Look, you may think it isn't anything but do me a favor and treat it like it is. Ok?" I asked.
He nodded his head and extracted a pair of forceps and a plastic evidence bag from his pocket. He picked up the bracelet and gingerly put it in the bag. After he sealed it, he wrote the item description and location on the identification tag.
I looked at him and smiled. "Thanks."
"No problem, Sam."
Now that the bracelet was in the plastic bag the two of us examined it closer. The medallion had the letter "D" etched into it, with a dragon curled around the letter. It didn't look like an Asian dragon, more like the old gothic dragons of English lore.
"When you get back to the lab, would you mind getting a photo of that medallion for me?" I asked.
"Sure Sam, we should have it by morning."
I went back to Papa Joe's to see if Fred and Tom were finished. Just as I walked into the back door, I saw the detectives leaving by the front door. Great timing, I thought to myself. Papa Joe and Billy were still sitting where I had left them talking with each other, both looked very tired. As I walked over to join them, they both looked up at me with questioning expressions on their faces.
"Did you find out anything Sam?" Papa Joe asked.
"A little, but nothing that is going to help at this point." I said looking over at Billy, suddenly an idea came to me. "Billy, do you know any kids on the street that are about 17 or 18, blond hair, blue eyes and about 140 pounds?"
"Sure Sam, about half the boys here fit that description. You know that."
"Yeah, you're right. Would you do me a favor and keep your ears open to see if someone fitting that description has recently disappeared?"
"Sure Sam, are you telling us it was one of the kids from here?" He asked looking visibly shaken.
"No Billy, there isn't a positive identification yet. Just a general description for now. But if you hear of anything make sure you let me know."
"I will Sam, you can count on me."
"You too Papa Joe?" I asked.
"You can bet I will Sam. I want those two caught."
"I'm going to take a walk around the area and ask a few questions. Maybe someone saw something." I said as I stood.
"Be careful out there Sam."
"I will Papa Joe, you know that." I answered back over my shoulder as I walked out of the front door of the store.
I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes looking left toward Larkin Street and right toward Polk Street. A MUNI bus pulled up and stopped in front of me, it was one of those double buses that ran around the clock on Geary Street. A few people got off and scattered in different directions. I decided to head toward Larkin. On the corner of Larkin and Geary is another bar. Since I thought that the suspects had come from Larkin, I decided to drop in and see if anyone had seen anything earlier that evening.
As I approached the bar, I could see a few of the regulars standing outside smoking.
"Hi Sam, how are you tonight baby!" One person said.
I looked her/him up and down. She/he was dressed in a very short, tight skirt, tight blouse that showed an ample bosom, long black hair and 3 inch high heels.
"Hello Bridget, good to see you this evening. Any good prospects?" I asked.
"Sam, you know I quit working the streets two years ago, why do you keep asking me that?"
"Bridget, the day you quit will be the day you die. Don't try to kid me." I smiled and shook my head at her and walked into the bar.
"SAM !!!" Mother Jenkins yelled.
"Hi Mother, how are you?" I asked as I walked to the bar and gave her a kiss.
Mother Jenkins is the owner/operator of this outlandish bar that caters to transvestites and cross dressers. It is usually packed from dark to dawn as it is this night.
"Mother, do you mind if I use your stage for a minute?"
"Oh Sam, are you going to put on a show for us? Maybe a little strip show? Hmmmm?"
"No Mother not tonight."
"Well, if I let you you'll have to promise me to come back and put on a show later."
"Ok I promise." I answered as I walked to the stage and picked up the microphone.
"Excuse me please." The sound reverberated through the bar.
"Hey Sam, gonna do a show?"
"Come on Sam, take it off."
"I just love a man in uniform."
Cat calls, whistles, and words of encouragement were yelled by everyone.
"NO! No show tonight. I have something very serious to talk to you about."
The bar quieted down and every pair of eyes was on me.
"Just a little while ago a body was found in the alley behind this bar." I announced.
Gasps and "Oh Mys" were heard from all in attendance.
"From what I can tell, the suspects came from Larkin Street into the alley. I just want all of you to think back over the evening to see if you can remember seeing anything out of the ordinary."
"Honey, that is a daily occurance around here." A voice answered.
" Dierdre, you know what I mean." I admonished. "All of you think about it and if you remember anything come to me. You know you can trust me to keep my informants to myself. One other thing. We found a bracelet in the alley that had a medallion with the letter "D" engraved on it with a gothic dragon curled around the letter. If you might have any idea what this could mean, let me know. Thank you, that is all I have for now."
I put the microphone back on the stage and stepped down into the crowd.
"Oh Sam, how awful. Do you have any idea who it was?"
"No Leanne, I don't. Did you see anything?"
"No honey I didn't. I've been in here all evening. You can just ask Mother."
"Don't worry Leanne, I don't suspect you."
Leanne leaned to me and kissed my cheek. This goes on all of the time in this bar. I can never get out of this place without having lipstick all over my face. I talked to several of the patrons before I left. No one had seen anything out of the ordinary.
I spent a few more hours walking Larkin Street talking to everyone I saw, without any results. Finally at about 2 AM, I gave up for the evening and went home. It didn't take me long to fall asleep, it had been a very tiring evening. The next morning, or should I say more like about noon the next day, when I got up I noticed a piece of paper that had been slid under my door. I was sure it wasn't there the night before. I walked over and picked it up. I read and re-read the note.
I might have some information for you. Meet me tonight at midnight on Hemlock between Van Ness and Polk. I'll find you.
To be continued......
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