Thursday, November 30, 2017

Chapter 8: The Pinball Cafe __ "Who's Eating Harry Dick" _ a modern day crime caper

Chapter 8: The Pinball Cafe _ Who's Eating Harry Dick _ a modern day crime caper

It was one of Rhonda Darewyzki’s favorite places to kickback and chill out when she wasn’t managing her Goods & Grooming Shop or actually cutting hair there as one of the stylists. Her hands would sometimes get cramps at work after customer after customer. Playing pinball exercised her fingers, wiggling them letting them stretch and, in addition, Rhonda would exercise her brain there. Of course, after getting completely baked on weed.

Rhonda smoked some O.G. Kush and was at her favorite pinball machine “Theatre of Magic.” She had told Harry Dick she’d meet him at 3:30. She had gotten there 15 minutes earlier and was getting into the zone. Rhonda’s fingers stretched and wiggled back & forth working the bumpers. It was a welcoming feeling from having them curled up and positioned to cut hair. Lots and lots of hair. Working her brain with mental excercises while she worked the bumpers calling play by play to herself, “left brain, left brain, right brain, right brain. right brain, left brain, left brain, right brain, left brain, yes, nice one!” Her brain lit up with the flashing lights of the Theatre of Magic pinball machine - neurons firing from stimulation.

Before headed to The Pinball Cafe, besides getting baked on O.G. Kush, Rhonda had stopped real quick at The Candle Lab also on Butler Street in Larryville and close by her Grooming & Goods Shop and The Pinball Cafe. Her Candle Lab shopping bag with three soy scented candles rest on top of the red formica counter top near the two pinball machines in the back of the first floor near the bathrooms where she played on the Theatre of Magic machine.  Theatre of Magic was also the “special ops” code name that Harry Dick gave her. It was convenient for Harry Dick to send a quick text, “When can you meet at Theatre of Magic?" And Rhonda would reply with a time and then show up at her favorite pinball machine.

Detective Harry Dick entered through the door - darting toward the line of customers at the large colorful counter before it got too long. Harry Dick had been meeting Rhonda Darewyzki at this location for a while now and new the drill. If he wanted to grab a hot prosciutto panini and large coffee he better bust a move. The coffee being from La Prima in the Strip was good and strong and a nice kick for the later part of the afternoon. It was Saturday November 26th and the place was packed. Lawrenceville itself was packed. It was a warm fall day on Thanksgiving weekend and people wanted to be in Larryville for Shop Small Saturday (encouraging people to shop at the local small business owners places on main-streets and cool sidewalks of towns and cities across America).

Harry Dick attacked his sandwich with a voracious appetite, though, for the time being, he slowly sipped on his coffee, trying to focus more on Rhonda’s world. Detective Harry Dick had trained his cohorts for doing special-ops rogue sort of cop work of this nature and Detectives Bill Crawford and Rusty Jones had both cultivated their own “Theatre of Magic.” As homicide detectives, if they needed to find out if a so & so suspect was on drugs so they could run a joint parallel investigation, they could do so.  Furthermore, they could match DNA this way and be sure, and, then, figure out another way to secure the DNA through the proper paper channels of the law. It had been working out great until this series of murders provoking an intense special interest due to their alarming ritualistic manner.

Rhonda Darewyzki and Detective Dick conversed for a while under the constant background noise of pinball machines and lots of happy, energetic chattering people on a Saturday of a favorite holiday weekend. The first floor of the Pinball Cafe offers 10 pinball machine and, on the second floor over looking Butler Street, it is equipped with about 33 pinball machines which all take tokens only. “Look, Harry, you know I’ll do what you ask of me when I have the opportunity,” Rhonda sighed, “but there’s only so much I can do! We can’t force people in a barber’s chair off the streets! There’s only so much I can do for you so quit trying to handcuff me with unrealistic expectations in a no win situation."

Me and whoever else you, and Crawford & Jones have working for you! Rhonda Darewyzki assumed that Detectives Crawford and Jones had other shop owners existing on "Shakedown Street” too but she wasn’t exactly sure and none of them would let on anyway - claiming it was classified information. Rhonda wouldn’t struggle with it.  It wasn’t worth it. She knew she ultimately had a path out anyway. This more or less amused the unofficial Russian princess and always helped keep her calm, cool & collected demeanor in life - especially when dealing with Harry Dick.

Harry Dick reached inside her shopping bag grabbing one of the candles and remarking, “ok, this smells like rosemary.” Placing it back in the bag and going back in for another he sniffed, and coughed, and laughed, and blurted out, “dirt! This smells exactly like dirt. Wow! Why would anyone want to by a candle that smells exactly like dirt?” Shaking his head back & forth with a disapproving look he put the second candle back in the bag and came up with the third. Giving his review of this third candle, he instead asked Rhonda a question that was more rhetorical than directed at her, “how do you know what Morning Dew smells like?” Harry Dick paused and then continued, “I sure as hell don’t!” 

Rhonda stopped playing pinball and turned away from the machine. She was now facing Harry Dick, and, relayed why she bought that particular candle. "John Mayer - who is a pop musician - is now playing with the band the Grateful Dead and calling themselves Dead & Company," she began confidently. Dead & Company is touring and Sirius XM has been playing their live music on its Grateful Dead Channel. And John Mayer with Dead & Co. have been paying the song ‘Morning Dew’ at the shows and just crushing it!” Harry Dick had an expression on his face as if he were lost in translation. He didn’t really care or know about what she was talking about. He broke his silence and said, “are you high on pot?!”

Rhonda Darewyzki spun herself around and played another bonus-ball in the Theatre of Magic machine she had earned. She was crushing it! She felt the rush and need to assert herself over Harry Dick and spoke daringly to him now, “what are you going to do arrest me for possession of marijuana? Let me be the first to contact the press. I’ll tell the true narrative. That Detective Harry Dick, and company, can’t catch the East End serial killer nicknamed 'the city chicken cannibal’ and, moreover,” Rhonda had more to get off her mind, “they can’t catch the killers in the streets! Everyday they’re shooting up in the Hill District or Homewood, Wilkinsburg, Homestead, Hazelwood, Duquesne! You know, where all the black and brown bodies live?!” 

And Rhonda Darewyzki wasn’t finished with her speech just yet, “yeah, and, so, since they can’t catch and arrest the violent criminals committing all the serious violent offenses, killings and crimes in the streets at night and now even in broad-day light - these cops are still trying to demonstrate and convince the tax paying public that safety has prevailed over danger - because another pothead has been busted for possession of marijuana!”

Harry Dick turned throbbing red. He looked like he might blow his top. He took another sip of his coffee. It was a long hit from his mug. His anger turned soft. His eyes watered up a bit. Rhonda and Harry definitely developed a rapport, however, it was always more the professional snitch & cop conducting special-ops kind of rapport. Clearly this feeling Harry had confused him - this border-lined more of the territory of a quirky friendship of some sort. It was a place where his footing felt unsteady. Where honesty and emotions are expressed. Where there exists winners and losers. Because of honest words spoken by someone you’re that familiar with can hurt - you feel a need to posses power over them. 

Harry Dick didn’t have to say a word and he didn’t. Rhonda Darewyzki frustratedly concluded, “this isn’t just your country, Harry Dick, it’s our country.” Rhonda still focused on not letting the ball she was playing go in-between the bumpers controlled by the buttons her fingers pressed. She offered up a cvil rights attorney she knew from New York City that was a real bitch to be on the other side of and was politically savvy enough to navigate Rhonda Darewyzki’s past, present and future. “If you have a problem with me freely expressing my opinions, then please contact my civil rights attorney friend, Maya Wiley.” She coyly added, "or maybe she’ll contact you.” Detective Harry Dick’s butt cheeks clenched.

Rhonda Darewyzki then had a flashback. This moment triggered a  strong memory of an inspiring encounter with Willie Nelson. That’s how Rhonda became introduced to Attorney Maya Wiley. She had met the performer, activist and American icon, Willie Nelson, backstage at FarmAid. They started in on talking about the need for quality food in the inner cities, urban farming and social justice / criminal justice reform. Willie Nelson, hailing from Texas, was carrying on about how he had friends in law enforcement and what a great respect he had for Texas Rangers. Mostly all being good, professional people.

Yet, he blatantly made it clear to Rhonda his belief. “There are good cops and there are bad cops,” Willie Nelson continued, “the bad cops are the ones busting people for smoking weed who are nonviolent otherwise good folks. And the good cops are the ones who don’t care if they smell a little bit of weed or not and tell ya to go into your dressing room or get on your tour bus and smoke-up.” Willie Nelson lifted the black cowboy hat from his head and used it to point towards and direct a selected few away from the security, police officers and state troopers and to his dressing room door.

In Willie’s world this was fact and not some random point. Rhonda Darewyzki did not question or doubt his sincerity and pretty much adopted that same point of view. Willie Nelson was very personable, real and upfront. He provided her with an eye opening perspective that seemed to be where her heart, body , should and mind wanted to gravitate towards for the longest time. She wasn’t naive or dumb. And Rhonda Darewyzki developed a bravado akin to Willie Nelson’s spirit that was courageous, brave, unabashed and not afraid. It was an ethical integrity that a lot of artists are equipped with and exuded. Most importantly, through experience, Rhonda was prudent about being patient. And, she knew how to play the hand she was dealt pretty well. 

Withdrawing himself from the Pinball Cafe, Harry Dick entered the street where he slightly tilted his head down and moved with the traffic. Harry felt like he just had a spat with a lover, even though, it was Sara Morehouse that was his lover. They were engaged to be married in the spring. Did he have a thing Rhonda Darewyzki? He knew he wanted to sleep with her. He knew he liked how her hair smelled. Sometimes Rhonda would demand, “what are you doing?!” And Harry Dick would be smelling her. Did he need more? What was going on here?

There were pressures mounting for Harry Dick in the city. The country boy who loved nothing more than the feeling of being that boy who watched the elders of the family come together in the early fall and can the bounty of their harvest. That old time feeling haunted him. More and more living and working in the city felt like he was suffocating there without his family out on the farm. They canned vegetables, fruits and made jams, jellies and preserves. It was a simple life. They even canned fresh deer meet from a kill in season or a fresh pig or cow that they had freshly slaughtered and butchered. Nothing was wasted. And it was from this nostalgia that the embers of Harry Dick’s fire were stoked. Burning with a wantonness he couldn't describe with words. It wanted things like they were. 

Things felt precarious to Harry Dick. Now the F.BI. could very well likely be taking over the murder cases suspected to be at the hands of a cannibal, serial killer.  To make things worse off for Harry Dick’s psyche,  he hadn’t had the time to keep up on stalking his 10 point buck for the season. This Monday the 27th of November was the first day of rifle hunting season for deer. It was a big deal in Western Pennsylvania. Schools would be off on Monday. Boys and girls going off hunting with their dads and grandpaps. While Harry Dick was stuck in the city, the 10 point buck out on old man Benson’s property lifted its massive rack on its head from the stream where it had stopped to drink. His nostrils flared as he took in the warm breeze coming from the south. Harry Dick wasn’t in it.

Chapter 8: The Pinball Cafe _ Who's Eating Harry Dick _ a modern day crime caper

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Chapter 7: Blood on the Tracks _ "Who's Eating Harry Dick" _ a modern day crime caper

Chapter 7: Blood on the Tracks

"Who's Eating Harry Dick" _ a modern day crime caper 
CopyRight 2017 John Alan Conte Jr. &

“Just because the DNA found in Specs hair clippings we got from Rhonda matches the DNA found on a cigarette butt outside of Gooski’s doesn’t mean Specs murdered the Applebottom kid,” Detective Rusty Jones was lecturing Detective Harry Dick.  Detective Bill Crawford pensively awaited Harry’s response. Detective Crawford felt the same way as Detective Jones. 

“Specs goes to Gooski’s all of the time and he lives around there," Detective Rusty Jones added. Harry Dick asked, “wouldn’t you say Specs 'the tailor' knows a thing or two about the anatomy of male bodies?” Detective Bill Crawford couldn’t wait to insert some humor to lighten up the mood, “oh, oh, he knows how to pack my big Ploughman’s Platter inside a three-piece-suit! If that’s what your insinuating?!” Harry Dick smirked, “what kind of tweed?” “Herringbone, of course,” Detective Crawford jested. 

The sidewalks sparkled with crystalized frost refracted from the light of street lamps in the predawn of a cold Thanksgiving Day. DeLuca’s serves-up a great breakfast and was a favorite of a lot of cops and FBI agents. It opened for breakfast this Thanksgiving Day at 6:30 a.m. Located in the Strip District it was about 10 - 15 minutes away this time of day on a holiday from the next victim discovered. 

The three were on their way. Detectives Crawford and Jones drove in one vehicle. Detective Harry Dick driving alone in his vehicle was in the lead although both vehicles arrived on the scene at the same time. Under the South Highland Avenue Bridge the body was discovered. It was on the tracks. The city cops on the scene were in disbelief. They couldn’t have imagined this scenario on any morning let alone on Thanksgiving Day. This was beyond normal. No doubt.

Despite the fact that only two decades ago in the early 1990’s East Liberty had a problem with dead bodies stacking up due to two rival groups, now it was a hot place to be. Once two rival groups were competing with each other over turf in the city and were so trained to wip-oue their rivals that they would even kill solely based on the colors red or blue members of the opposing group would  be wearing. 

The reds were the Bloods and the blues were the Crips. It wasn’t pretty. But gang warfare never is. Pittsburgh had a major gang problem hidden under the umbrella of a rust belt city fallen on hard times trying to reinvent itself. That was the narrative of the politicians and the local media. The East End used to be a desirable location for rich industrialists who wanted to leave the the smoky working-class districts of the city. Stately custom carriages pulled by fine, strong horses would make the trek to and from the opulence of the East End mansions to the slums and iron & steel mills of the smoky city referred to back then as “hell with the lid off” by a respected international journalist and author.

The Main Line that was built connecting Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in 1852 fostered the growth of some of Pittsburgh’s earliest suburbs. Soon the farmland of the old East End had commuter service to downtown. The first of the cities trolley cars or, street cars as locals still refer to them, were also pulled by fine, strong horses. Carriage and trolley car commutes by original horse power took a few hours back then. The rail line helped expedite this commute. By 1868 the MainLine spurred annexation into the city of twenty-one square miles of rapidly expanding the East End suburbs. And today in 2017 the South Highland Avenue Bridge connects a charming Shadyside neighborhood with the revitalization of a hot new East Liberty distention location. 

From underneath the bridge at the base of the 1876 stone pier and original abutments on the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line a Whole Foods was now visible along with an array of thriving businesses and newly modern urban housing. This important stretch of railroad tracks that brought men together for work back in the later part of the 19th century had brought men together today to also do a specific kind of work. Hunting a serial killer.

These men gathered this morning for something evil. It was the awful work of a 21st century serial killer who more and more appeared to have a fancy for body parts. The city cops first on the scene were being debriefed by Detective Dick and his county homicide detective partners, Jones and Crawford. This was unbelievably way outside the parameters of any road of any case they went down before this gruesome series of murders haunting the city.

This would surely freak the public out and furthermore both disturb and infuriate the good Mayor Will Spudutto!  The timing sucked too. In the early 20th century Woolworth’s and Jacobson’s and Mast’s attracted shoppers in East Liberty and surrounding neighborhoods in big numbers as a hub of culture and a place where men and women wanted to be seen and to see who’s who doing what. 

East Liberty was one of Mayor Will Spudutto’s prized roses among a dozen blooming neighborhoods with that American beauty quality. Red is a popular color of roses. And red is the color of blood. And this young fellow on the tracks under the South Highland Avenue Bridge lost a lot blood. Blood on the tracks. “What a way to start the morning,” a city cop greeted the detectives. “Or what a way to end a night,” Detective Crawford jokingly reacted. The cop was a rookie and too freaked out to be funny and kept walking. 

The victim was shirtless. He rested on his stomach. On his back there were two words. At first glance the words looked like they were tattooed along the back. Given a closer look and it was evident that the words were carved into the skin. The wounds were fresh. Blood had coagulated around the edges of the letters in the cold of November. “Eat Me” read the bloody words.

In consistent fashion with the other murder victims of similar nature they were dealing with the heart was removed. Though, the head still attached to the body of this victim, other body parts were missing. The victim’s denim jeans were unzipped and wet with blood and maybe urine. Missing were the genitals. Missing were the genitals of the victim from his body. 

Recovered were the likely genitals of the victim about 20 yards away and up against a graffiti covered concrete wall. Two mason jars sat side by side. One of the mason jars contained two items. 

Inside the one mason jar was a ticket from the Rex Theater on the South Side for a Free Show With Michael Glabicki & Dirk Miller of Rusted Root Thanksgiving Eve and the other was a receipt for Kelly’s Bar. The victim’s I.D. listed Ellsworth Avenue for an address so one could reasonable assume after last call at Kelly’s he tried to walk home. Inside the other mason jar labeled “gobble gobble” and contained a penis and testicles. 

“What a twisted turn of events,” Detective Rusty Jones muttered. “This is fucked,” declared Detective Bill Crawford. Pink hues swashed across the sky above the rooftops, chimneys, steeples and big box structures of the cityscape from which the three detectives looked up at with uneasy dispositions. Dawn was breaking. 

It was Thanksgiving morning. It would be a sunny day. People would go about their holiday eating turkey and watching football and napping in front of the TV. For those working this crime scene, understandably, time stood still. The day existed in a shroud of mystery.  Harry Dick seemed as lost as everyone else and articulated the notion, “what the hell is going on?"

A well liked seasoned veteran city cop who was displaying a sheet on his clipboard shouted out, “see, this says Softball Roster! Now before Janelle Hallway from WTAE arrives on the scene with the others we have to finish up and determine who is on the final roster is on squad A and who’s on squad B! Squad A says $20 bucs the victim’s junk was cut off after the killer took his life and Squad B says $20 bucs the county coroner is gonna state the victim lost his junk before he was wasted by our guy!” Detectives Crawford and Jones were among the shouts, “I’m in!"

Chapter 7: Blood on the Tracks _ "Who's Eating Harry Dick" _ a modern day crime caper CopyRight 2017 John Alan Conte Jr. &