Freddy Genucci found the body lying on his front lawn. Freddy was a little shaken up. Some people might find that odd, since Freddy was a funeral director and was used to dead bodies. But his normal line of work didn't involve bodies leaking on his front lawn. Besides, no one expects to see a gaping wound across a man's throat when they try to wake up what looks like a drunk.
When the call came into the Grantville police station, the desk was manned by Emil Zollner. He shouldn't have been given that much responsibility, but he was there because of Dan Frost's soft heart. Emil normally worked as a foot patrolman, but he had tripped going down the station steps and gotten a twisted ankle. Rather than have him miss a week's pay, Dan had given him desk duty.
Emil's English was not the best and Freddy was excited, so the message came across a bit garbled. In the end Emil sent two patrolmen to Freddy's house.
As he sat in the passenger seat, Jurgen Neubert watched Marvin Tipton as he drove the police car. I have to learn to drive, he thought. These Americans will never believe I am a policeman if I don't. Still, it could be worse. I could be doing foot patrol.
Jurgen thought back to the time before he had heard of Grantville. He had been happy enough as a farmer, before Tilly and his army came. Still, this was a lot more interesting work. And he got to meet so many people. In the past few months, he'd met more people than he'd known in his whole life before.
Jurgen slid his hand to his belt to check, for the fifth time today, that his handgun was still in his holster. The revolver, what the Americans called a Colt Python, was one of the finest-made pieces of machinery he had ever seen. Jurgen was still surprised that Chief Frost had trusted him to carry it. After checking his gun, Jurgen checked his other equipment, the "slapjack" riding in the almost-hidden pocket on his right leg, the side handle baton on its clip on the car door, and most especially the "ballpoint" pen he had been given just this morning. Tipton had explained, when he gave him the pen, that in a two-man car one man was the driver and one was the writer.
Jurgen was proud at being trusted to keep the records of their day. All in all, he thought, this was a better life than farming. A position of trust. He slipped his hand up to finger the badge that was the symbol of his office. New clothing, too, though the uniform trousers he had been issued were tighter and not as comfortable as the slops he normally wore. Most of all, it was a job worth doing, protecting the people and property of his new city.
Just then the radio squawked, "Base to car one."
Jurgen picked up the mike and answered, "Car one."
"Unknown trouble at number two Happy Hills. Contact Mr. Freddy Genucci."
"Clear base. Car one en route to Happy Hills." Jurgen saw Tipton nod his head, showing he had heard the message.
As Jurgen wrote the call on the record sheet, Tipton asked, "You have relatives out on Happy Hills don't you?"
"Ja, my cousin Jost and his family rent a house and farm there. My cousin Mina works for Herr Genucci. I hope nothing has happened to the Genuccis. They are nice people."
"Well, I don't like unknown trouble calls. Stay alert until we find out what's going on. I wish Emil had gotten more information." Tipton increased the speed of the cruiser.
Surely it is not another raid, Jurgen thought as he remembered the terror of the ride out to the high school with Hans driving the bus. He had emptied his revolver and forgotten how to reload, so he had relied on the shotgun someone had thrust into his hands. He checked his revolver again and looked at the shotgun mounted on the cage behind him.
When they arrived at the Genucci house, Jurgen was relieved to see Mr. Genucci standing beside the front door. Mr. Genucci was visibly upset and kept pointing to the body on the front lawn. "Look there. He was lying there when I went out to watch the sunrise this morning."
As Jurgen went to check the body, he heard Tipton ask, "Know who it is, Freddy?"
"It's Tommy Cooper. Not the old man but his son. The one everybody calls Young Tommy."
Looking at the body, Jurgen wondered why a man who appeared to be in his fifties would be called "Young Tommy." Jurgen, who had seen his share of dead bodies, was also surprised at the injuries. Young Tommy's head was almost cut off. It was nearly severed by the deep cut across his throat. Only the bones of his spine were not cut through.
"Shoot, I hate the idea of going to tell his old man someone killed him," Officer Tipton said as he walked over to stand by Jurgen. "Freddy, did you hear anything before you found the body?"
"No, Marvin, our bedroom is in the back of the house and we can't hear anything out front when we are in there. Though I thought I heard something right after I went to bed last night that sounded like a backfire from a car. You know how bad some cars are running on natural gas or alcohol. I just thought it was a car on the road."
"Don't think it was a car that killed him. Jurgen, go call the office and tell them what we have and tell them to send an ambulance. Don't use Cooper's name on the radio. No sense letting anyone with a scanner know our business. There needs to be an autopsy, though it's pretty obvious what killed him."
As Jurgen went to the car, he saw his cousins Jost Neubert and Mina Matz walking toward the Genucci house. "Jost, Mina, stay here by the car. We have a problem at the house."
While he waited by the car, Jurgen told Jost what had happened. Jost seemed to be worried. "What is the matter? Did you know Cooper?"
"Ja, I purchased a little tractor from him and his brother. They tried to cheat me."
While Jurgen was thinking about that, he noticed Mr. Genucci was pointing toward Jost, and Officer Tipton had his notebook out and was taking notes.
Jurgen decided he should find out everything that happened between Jost and the Coopers. So, taking out his notebook he asked, "How did they try to cheat you?"
"They sold me a little tractor. It was like the one that came with the farm I rented from Herr Moritz. I thought having two would be even more help around the farm. They said it was ready to run on alcohol like the one I have. But when Herr Genucci looked at it, he said it had to be worked on to even run, much less run on the alcohol we make. But I saw it run, they were plowing a field with it."
"How did you pay for the tractor?"
"With the silver I had when I came here. I didn't change it all to paper money. Herr Genucci threatened to take them to court and they gave me half my money back. He is helping to fix the tractor and I help him around his funeral parlor."
"Jost, when did this happen and have you seen either one of them, this one or his brother, since you got your money back?"
"I bought the tractor last week, but it was only yesterday that I got my money back. It was the brother who gave me the money. He paid me in paper money, but Herr Genucci says it is good. I haven't seen Tommy since last week. But I saw the brother, they call him G. C., early this morning. Him and his wife were walking toward their home when I went to check on the cow."
"Do you have any idea what time that was? When you went to check on the cow, I mean?"
"Ja, we have a clock and I checked it when I came back in. It was five-thirty when I came in, so say five o'clock when I saw G. C."
Jurgen noticed Jost was wearing a belt knife, the same knife he always wore. Jost had always been a bit of a miser when it came to money. Jurgen remembered one time in their village Jost had got in a fight over who owned a chicken.
His thoughts were interrupted when he noticed Officer Tipton waving him over. "Stay here, Jost. I have a few more questions for you and Mina."
"Well, what does your cousin say?" Tipton asked as Jurgen joined him.
Jurgen gave him a quick run-through of what Jost had told him. Tipton nodded. "Yeah, that checks with what Genucci has to say. Except he said Jost was a little more upset about the Coopers trying to cheat him." Tipton squatted to get closer to the body. "Think Jost was mad enough to do that to him?"
Jurgen was reluctant to answer. Tipton was asking him to accuse his cousin of murder, but in his mind it looked like Jost was a prime suspect. Before Tipton could press him for an answer, they were interrupted by the arrival of the ambulance, closely followed by another squad car with Chief Frost at the wheel.
Dan Frost walked up to the body. After looking around to see if anyone was in hearing distance, he said, "Boys, this is going to be a hot one. We have to solve it fast. The Coopers are in tight with the Club 250 crowd, and you know they're going to make a stink if we don't."
Tipton shook his head. "Boss, we have a suspect with a motive, but I don't think he did the killing." Jurgen's heart dropped into his boots. Tipton had to be referring to Jost.
After he had seen their notes, Frost said: "Okay, you two are in charge of the investigation, but keep me informed. If we were still up-time I'd call in the state police, but here and now we have limited resources. If you need more people, ask for them. Get Jost's knife. Dr. Nichols' people can run a comparison check to find any human blood on it."
Jurgen walked back to where Jost and Mina were standing. "Jost, we are going to need your knife for tests. If the test comes back negative, you'll get it back."
"Jurgen, I did not kill that man. I haven't even seen him since last week. Ask Mina, ask Franziska, my wife. I never left the house, except to check on the cow. And I was still in my nightshirt when I went to the barn to check the cow."
"If we check your knife, and there is no blood on it, that will prove you didn't kill him. But we are going to have to check your knife."
"But there is blood on it. I used it to kill a chicken yesterday." Jost untied his belt and pulled the sheathed knife from it.
Jurgen remembered the lecture Dr. Nichols had given during his police training. "Jost, they can tell the difference between the blood of a chicken and a man's blood." As Jurgen took the knife, he added, "This will prove your knife didn't kill him. If you didn't kill him you have nothing to worry about."
Watching Jost, Jurgen could see he wasn't too sure about this whole process. Well, that was easy to understand. They were all strangers here.
As they watched the body being loaded into the ambulance, Officer Tipton joined them. When he saw the knife in Jurgen's hand, he turned to Jost. "When this is all cleared up, I'll make sure you get your knife back. Come on, Jurgen, we need to go out to the Coopers' and tell them what happened."
When the two were in the car, Jurgen had to ask, "Do you think Jost did it?"
"Nope. Oh, I bet Jost has a temper, and if you pushed him enough he could kill. But somehow it just doesn't fit. Besides, there's Tommy's pistol. Or, to be exact, there is the pistol Tommy didn't have."
"Tommy always carried an old revolver in his hip pocket. I should know, I took it off him one time before the Ring of Fire. Dan gave it back to his dad, but Tommy had it when I saw him last week. But when I checked the body, there was no revolver. So whoever killed him probably took the revolver. In addition he still had some silver coins in his pockets. Not likely that Jost would kill him over money and not take the money."
"Strange that whoever took the revolver didn't take the money, though."
"Murder cases are always strange, you ask me. And that pistol is going to be a real lead if we find it."
"Why, Marvin? I mean, there must be lots of pistols like it in Grantville."
"Not like this one. It's an old Smith.32-20. I doubt there was another like it in Grantville. I know that even before the Ring of Fire cartridges for it were rare."
"We can talk to Herr Santee and Herr Johnson, since they are doing the most reloading, and see if anyone else has one."
Jurgen noticed that Officer Tipton gave him a surprised look. Why? Chief Frost had told Jurgen to learn about people in the town.
Finally, Tipton nodded his head. "Good idea. We'll run by Johnson's place after we talk to the Coopers and check with Santee when we head into town. By the way, when we get to the Coopers', let me do the talking. They are going to be tough to deal with. They always are. But we don't need to stir them up even more by having you talk to them."
"Why would I upset them?"
Tipton glanced at him. "G. C. and `Old' Tommy are . . . well. Do you know the term `rednecks'?"
"Ja, the Club 250 crowd." Suddenly it all made sense. The people around the Club 250 didn't like their new German neighbors.
"There you go. All the Coopers are regulars at the 250. In fact G. C.'s wife works there as a cook and waitress. Your English is very good, better than my German, but you still have an accent. That accent would be just enough to set the Coopers off. Sorry, partner, but that's how it is."
As Jurgen thought about what Tipton had said, he noticed a discoloration in the grass by the road. "Stop the car. I see something!"
Tipton brought the car to a halt and the two walked back to discover a large patch of what had to be blood in the grass beside the road. Nearby, the high grass was flattened down as if a heavy weight had been rolled over it.
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- The Grantville Gazette Staff