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Authors: Day Keene

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BOOK: Death House Doll
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I didn’t get it. “Why should that bother Corson?”

“Because LaFanti is one of our minor local big shots. And Corson thinks this silence and inactivity on his part is to lull us into a feeling of false security, that he, LaFanti that is, still hopes to come up with a fast one. You see it’s his open boast that his political connections are so strong that the State doesn’t dare execute anyone connected with him.”

“He can make that stick?”

“He has on several occasions in the past.”

“How much longer has Mona?”

Olson consulted the calendar on his desk. “Five days. We’re expecting, momentarily, some last move by LaFanti. Because of that and the fact that the diamonds for which Mona killed Stein are still missing and various insurance companies are eating off our tails, Captain Corson and his boys are back-trailing themselves. They’re trying to smell out anything they might have missed in the original investigation. I imagine that’s how he happened to pick you up outside her old address this morning.”

I washed the cut on the inside of my mouth with rye. “How come the State is so anxious to burn the girl?”

Olson looked down his nose at me. I couldn’t make up my mind whether I liked the guy or not. He was smooth, like all lawyers. To the average guy words are just something you say. He could make them bend around corners. “The State,” he corrected me, “is never anxious to see anyone executed. It is as much a part of the State’s Attorney’s office to protect the innocent as it is to prosecute the guilty. All we do is present the facts as gathered by the investigating officers and present them to the jury. It is the jury that determines the amount of guilt and the penalty, and the judge who set the date of execution.”

“You handled the case personally?”

“I did.”

“And Mona killed this guy Stein?”

“Beyond a shadow of a doubt.” Olson stood up back of his desk. “Excuse me a moment, Sergeant. I realize that because Mona bore, or claimed to have borne, your brother a child, you’d feel much better about this whole affair if all the details were clear in your mind.”

“That’s for sure,” I admitted. “I only saw her for two minutes this afternoon, but she didn’t impress me as the kind of a girl who’d be in the mess she’s in.”

Olson’s smile was thin. “I don’t wonder you feel that way about her. Her looks confused the jury. Despite the fact she confessed she killed Stein and her holograph confession was admitted as evidence, the jury stayed out for forty-six hours. And at one time, I believe, they stood six to six for acquittal.”

He left the office. I sat wondering what holograph meant. There was a big dictionary on a metal stand in one corner of the office. I thumbed through it until I came to the word. According to Mr. Webster, the word holograph meant:
document, as a will, wholly in the handwriting of the purported author.

Having confessed to killing the guy in her own handwriting seemed to remove any doubt as to her guilt. Still, the hard-faced matron had said:

“I don’t care how many confessions she signed. Mona never killed anyone.”

The hot dog still bothered me. I stood looking out over the city. At night Chicago looked like a big babe in a black velvet dress, hung with a billion dollars’ worth of jewels, and all hot and panting to go somewhere.

Olson came back with a fat manila envelope and laid it on his desk. “I’ve the case history here. At least most of it.”

It was the first time I’d ever seen a police file. The investigation read like a story. First there was the report of the radio car officers who had been sent to the hotel to investigate a shooting. Their report was dated 7:15
., 1-25-’53

I fingered on through the file. In the coroner’s report the approximate time of death was listed as 4:30
. of the same date.

“How come the lapse in time?” I asked Olson.

He laughed. “You’re shrewd to catch that, Sergeant.”

I said it didn’t take a mental giant to figure there was a gap of almost three hours between 0430 and 0715.

He explained. “According to the story Mona told on the stand she sat terrified for three hours after she’d shot Stein, before she got up nerve enough to call the East Chicago Avenue Station.”

There was nothing in the file concerning the three hours but a report by a Lieutenant Masters who said he had questioned the switchboard girl. She had admitted that Miss Ambler had made two early morning calls, but being a new girl on the desk she hadn’t known she was supposed to write down the numbers.

The official pictures were the worst. There was a picture of the dead man lying nude on the bed, the sheet sodden with blood and various articles of intimate feminine attire scattered around the room. I stuck at a pair of size 4 high heel shoes with their toes pointed under the bed. There was no doubt what the bed had been used for before the guy on it had been shot.

There was also a picture of Mona, her eyes swollen from crying, her lips smeared and her hair disheveled. She’d put on her dress but she was still bare footed and even in the picture you could tell she wasn’t wearing anything under the dress. She looked just like she had in the death house, like a frightened little girl. The only two mature things about her were her breasts and the heavy loop gold earrings.

“Not very pretty, is it, Sergeant?” Olson asked.

“No. It isn’t,” I admitted.

The file was six inches thick. It would have taken me as many hours to read all the various police and laboratory reports. I looked at Olson. “Suppose you tell me the story.”

He poured us another drink. “Well, as I presented it to the jury, from Mona’s own admission, verified by Captain Corson and the other investigating officers, Mona met Stein in a North Clark Street deadfall called The Furnace.”

“It’s that kind of a joint?”

“Decidedly so. We’ve been trying to close it for two years but it’s one of a string of such places owned by Joe LaFanti and, so far at least, he’s been able to pull enough political wires to keep us from taking any action.”

I sipped at the drink he’d poured. “Go on.”

“You’ve seen Mona. She’s pretty. Stein, a wholesale jewelry salesman from New York, was on the town and amorous. He wanted to buy what she had for sale, and that was fine with Mona. They took a cab from The Furnace to the apartment hotel in which she lived and their business transaction was consummated.” He glanced at one of the reports in the file. “It says here, for a fee of twenty dollars.

“As I presented the case, it would have ended there but Stein, liking the merchandise he’d sampled, wanted more of the same and arranged to stay the night for an additional fifty dollars.” Olson’s smile turned smug. “I imagine he intended to put it on his expense account as ‘entertainment.’”

My mouth felt hot and dry. I finished the rye in the glass. “Some entertainment.”

Olson looked at the picture of Mona. “I have no doubt he got his money’s worth. Unfortunately, Mona had a bottle in her apartment and they continued drinking. Then, sometime during the early hours, drunk, wanting to show off in front of Mona, Stein showed her the fortune in un-set diamonds he was carrying in his specially made money belt.”

“How big a fortune in diamonds?”

“Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars retail, their wholesale value insured at one hundred and twenty-five thousand.”

I whistled.

Olson continued. “Almost as drunk as Stein was, the diamonds intrigued Mona. She’s been one of LaFanti’s girls long enough to know that un-set diamonds are almost untraceable. Immediately her greedy little mind began to scheme. She fed Stein more of what he wanted and more whiskey. Between the two, he passed out. When she was certain he was out she crept out of bed, taking the belt with the diamonds in it with her.

“Unfortunately Stein came to and realized what was happening. He threatened to call the police. They struggled on the bed and around the room. Then, according to the story Mona told the court, and which the jury decided to disbelieve, afraid for her life, she snatched from a drawer a .38 calibered revolver that one of her admirers had given her and shot Stein in self-defense. She only shot him once. But as you can see by the pictures the bullet caught him in the left temple. And there she was with a dead man on her hands, or should I say in her bed?”

“Then what happened?”

Olson sucked at his cigar. “According to her story: still plenty high, she sat terrified for three hours wondering what to do. At 7:15, slightly sobered, she decided the best thing she could do was call the police.”

“And the diamonds?”

“They were never recovered. She refused to even talk about them.”

“And the two phone calls?”

“We were never able to trace them. Our theory is that one of the calls, possibly both, were to Joe LaFanti and he either sent one of his boys or came to the apartment personally, taking the diamonds with him when he left, allegedly to finance her defense. She didn’t say anything to you about the diamonds, did she?”

I shook my head. “No.” There was something screwball about the story, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Olson asked if I wanted another drink. I said I’d had plenty and stood up. “Well, thanks.”

“It was a pleasure, Sergeant Duval,” he assured me. “I’m only sorry that Captain Corson —”

I stopped him. “I told you to forget it. Nice to have met you, Mr. Olson. See you around some time.”

Out in the hall I wondered if I should have called him Mr. Attorney, or something. It was the first time I’d ever met a First Assistant State’s Attorney.

The hot dog continued to bother me. I wished I hadn’t eaten the goddamn thing. Then, riding down in the elevator, I realized it wasn’t the hot dog that was bothering me. It was the little doll in the death house: a girl I’d only seen for two minutes, my dead brother’s widow, a twenty-dollar tart who’d scragged a wholesale jeweler for a quarter of a million dollars worth of diamonds.

The big foyer was filled with uniformed cops and plainclothes men, coming and going, chewing the fat, talking about their wives and broads, bitching about their pay and tours of duty, like so many G.I.’s in a day room. Most of them had probably been G.I.’s, glad when they got that paper, when the big brass had said “duration.”

I pushed through the swinging doors out onto the sidewalk. Lower South State Street was dark but I could see the bright lights of the Loop.

I thought I’d tie on a good one. I’d get so drunk I wouldn’t know straight up from shooting. Then after I saw the lawyer in the morning and made arrangements about the kid, I’d push on to the Coast.

A big man detached himself from the shadows of the building and walked over to where I was standing. Corson had his last year’s Leghorn, or maybe the year before, pushed to the back of his head. He looked somehow shabby in the apron of white light escaping the glass doors of Central Bureau.
Anyway the guy’s honest,
I thought.
A captain of homicide could clip plenty in this mans town.

We stood a moment, neither of us saying anything. Then he took off his hat and ran a hooked forefinger around its stained sweat band. “You going to prefer charges against me for roughing you up?”

I told him. “No. You thought you were doing your job. Preferring charges against you would be like some recruit preferring charges against me for belting him a small one to remind him a dirty rifle could cost his life some day.”

I liked him better when he grinned. “I thought you weren’t supposed to clip ’em in the new Army.”

I grinned back at him. “You aren’t.”

“Yeah. I get what you mean,” he said.

I started on, turned back. “You could tell me one thing, if you would.”

He put up his guard again. His face and eyes were as blank as the side of a scaling wall. “What?”

“How come you’re still working on the Stein case with the works in the closed file? And don’t give me that malarky about the insurance companies eating on your tail.”

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Maybe I don’t think Mona killed Stein.”

“In spite of her confession?”

“In spite of her confession.”

I waited for him to amplify his statement. He didn’t and it was obvious that he didn’t intend to.

“Oh,” I said softly. “I see.”

Then I walked north on State Street, looking back over my shoulder from time to time, as if what he’d just said was a secret between us.

Chapter Four

a girlie show not far from the corner of Congress Street. I stopped and looked at the life-sized pictures on the walk. If all the clothes on the babes were sewed into one rag it wouldn’t form a big enough flag to form one Maggie’s drawers.

The inevitable pee-eye sidled up to me. “Like to see a girl, Sergeant? Looking for a good time?”

“No, thank you,” I thanked him. “I’m allergic to prophylactic stations.”

He gave me a dirty look and moved on over to talk to a high school punk. I walked north toward the Loop.

The sour taste of the hot dog was gone. When a hard-boiled, heavy-fisted detective like Corson admitted some doubt as to the guilt of a party, he, himself, had investigated, the chances were Mona wasn’t as black as her case file indicated.

I was almost to Van Buren Street and the south boundary of the Loop when a sharpie in a loud sport coat opened the door of a blue Club DeVille parked at the curb and stepped out on the walk.

“Going our way, Sergeant?” he asked me.

He had a high effeminate voice. I thought at first he was a fruit and started on. Then I stopped. I felt a gun barrel bore into my ribs.

“Which way are you going?” I said.

He prodded me to the door of the car. “You’re Sergeant Mike Duval?”

“I am.”

“Then get in. Joe wants to talk to you.”

“Joe Who?”

“Joe LaFanti.”

One hand on the car door, I hesitated. “What’s he want to talk to me about?”

The driver, a big, smooth-shaven, good-looking lad, with a smile almost as oily as his hair, asked, “Does it matter, Sergeant? You heard Tommy. I want to talk to you. Now get in or we’ll cut you down right here on the walk.”

BOOK: Death House Doll
3.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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