A Mann's World

by Rick Beck

Chapter 2

The Taskforce

"Number Six is up. They've just found him over off "P" Street next to the bridge. Probably been there since last night," Jim Bland handed his partner the cup of coffee he'd just purchased.

Bland's thin fingers tangled with Tom Pollard's fat version. He had the car started before he adroitly popped the top off the coffee with one hand, letting it float down to Pollard's side of the car and onto the floor to join the other tops, crumpled paper and cups while he was pulling out into traffic.

"How do they know it's ours?" Pollard asked, bracing himself as Bland dodged cars like he thought the DC Strangler would still be on the scene if they hurried.

"All I need to know. Ligature still around the neck, plain gray clothesline with a square knot decorating it. You dumb son of a…," Bland yelled as an unaware driver changed lanes in front of the fast charging car. Horns blared. "Coroner says he's been there ten to fifteen hours."

"Sounds like our man. That's near one of those queer bars, isn't it? Hay Loft? College Club?"

"Fraternity House. Quarter of a mile west. There's also some college housing right there near the Circle," Bland said.

"I hope this one's not from the housing. It would be easy for the Strangler to make a mistake like that. Kill some innocent kid."

"It's our man, though. The press doesn't have the rope yet. I hope they've kept them away from the body until they bag it." Bland dodged more cars as he spoke.

"Will you slow down. He's dead, Jimmy. He ain't going nowhere," Pollard held his coffee up to protect it from the next sudden move. He always wore his coffee after a trip to a crime scene.

"You want to drive? This isn't my favorite part of the job, you know."

"Obviously, Mario," Pollard jabbed, leaning back, realizing he hadn't been killed yet by his partner's driving and it was better to let him drive than to listen to him complain.

"Yeah," Pollard said to the window. "We want to get right on top of this. We might find something this time. This guy doesn't give up much."

"He's very good. Five until today and I still don't see him. Just the rope and the body. I don't even feel him yet. I know he's there though. Have we ever had someone that did six before? Can't be a copycat. We haven't released the rope. It's him all right."

"Nope. Never seen this many by one dude. We did that domestic a couple years back. I think he did four but all in the same house. Sick bastard killed his own kids. I hope this isn't some innocent kid. That college housing makes me nervous," Pollard talked on as the car sped up and then slowed down as they reached another group of cars.

"He enjoys it. This one gets close. He might be one of 'them'. They say some of them hate themselves. How far is it from hating yourself to hating others? I bet he's a fag," Pollard said as he looked around, giving up on trying to drink from the cup. "Why are they like that Jimmy? Makes me sick thinking about it."

"There's lots of perverts in the world, Pollard. Get use to it," Bland said, jerking the car over to the curb after making a U-turn in front of an on-coming vehicle that had just come off the "P" Street Bridge.

Bland parked his green sedan behind three DC police cruisers. He stood in the street as traffic brushed past, looking over top of the sedan at uniformed officers standing across the field. They were grouped at its furthest corner, by the edge of the woods fifty or sixty yards from the street. "P" Street Bridge passed over Rock Creek Parkway and the woods ran down to within a few yards of that road.

As he walked behind Pollard toward the uniforms he could see the way the trees sloped downhill. He saw the heads of two plainclothes homicide detectives who were standing just beyond a steep slope that fell away a few yards from the body. They all nodded. Bland recognized Sam, the senior of the two detectives.

He measured with his eyes. The body was five or six yards inside the tree line where the woods were fairly flat. Bland looked at the rope still around the victim's neck. There were purple abrasions under the rope. The face was almost blue, the eyes were open and fixed in a far away stare. The victim was neatly dressed in a dark blue shirt that had black soil on one arm and on the collar near the instrument of death. The slacks were black and sharply pressed.

Bland stooped for a closer look at the victim. "Looks like mine," he stated, glancing directly at Sam as he said it. He removed a pencil from his jacket pocket using it to turn over leaves. Bland knew they'd already turned these leaves before going down that slope but this was his case and he left no doubt who was working it.

"Yeah, looks like the one we found in Rock Creek Park three weeks ago. That would have been number two. This is the second one up here, right?"

Sam wore a rumpled gray suit and looked at Bland when he spoke. He was pudgy like Pollard, but older, and graying at the temples. He stepped gingerly as he ran his hand through some leaves, holding onto a tree so he didn't roll down the hill. "Number one was under White Hurst Freeway, right?" He went on, glancing up at Bland. "There were two weeks between that one and number two in Rock Creek."

"Yeah, that was one. Rock Creek was two. One in Southeast makes three."

"There have been two since then, another in Southeast and the one near those fag joints on New York Avenue, right?"

"You interviewing for the taskforce? You're talking to the wrong cowboy. That old black fart runs the show from over in Georgetown as of last week. He's too fat to get out here and do the leg work," Bland complained, kicking at a clump of dirt.

"Good god, Jimmy, he's a commander," Pollard said as he approached. "You telling me you want John Brown out here on his hands and knees like us white boys? Get over that idea."

"Nah, just a joke. He's a good old boy as boys go. He'll let us do the work and he'll take the credit."

"They're waiting to bag the body. They knew you'd want to see it. You ready for them?" continued Pollard.

"Second in a week," a younger detective said, kicking at a pile of trash. "You want I should go through this crap? It's nowhere near the body. He wouldn't come down here if they was up there."

"Nah, he don't leave nothing behind him," Bland agreed, wanting to get rid of them. "He don't bring nothing to the dance but that rope."

"Funny he leaves that though," Pollard said looking down the slope at Sam. "Why not just snip, and take it along. No butts, no gum wrappers, nothing but that rope."

"He brings them to where he snuffs them. The victim probably thinks he's about to get lucky," the younger cop said with a happy face.

"Next thing he knows he ain't thinkin' nothin'," Sam replied. "The rope's his calling card, you know. I been reading about these birds. They take 'trophies' and leave a little something to sweeten the pot, but nothing you can trace, you see. Just to toy with us."

"Quit selling it, Sam. I told you to see the big nigger if you want on this case so bad. Until then it's my case, so quit busting my chops with your wit and wisdom. I read the book. I could have written that book."

"Or he snuffs them and brings them to the drop. Hence no evidence," Sam went on undeterred.

"Could be like that Sam. You might be onto something. He could drive them to where he drops them after they're dead. It's a long way to the street though. He'd be big," the younger cop imagined as he thought about the distance between the body and the street.

"Or has some way of rolling them?" Sam said, thinking about the distances as well. "He's too careful to be lugging a body around. Nah, he snuffs on the spot."

"This guy died right here." Bland had no doubt.

"Yeah, fags pick each other up all over the place," the younger detective said. "I hear tell they'll do it anywhere. I hear tell…."

"You wouldn't do it anywhere, junior? If you could get it, that is," Pollard said annoyed.

"I get plenty."

"Yeah, I can see the hair growing on your hand," Pollard said and the younger man looked at his hand. "Told you. He don't get none."

"I wouldn't know what fags do, sonny. I leave that up to you to find out. You seem to know plenty though," Sam said. "We have some experience in this area, do we?"

"Fuck you. You know plenty. You just don't tell is all."

"You're damn right I wouldn't if I was a cornholer or a dick licker. I'd keep damn quiet about it, junior. Listening is what you ought to be doing."

"You guys cool it. Come on up. We'll zip this guy up and let the coroner have him. Let the uniforms do the hill again just in case. Tell them not to let anyone know about that damn rope. No press back here until he's bagged." Pollard was walking away from Bland even before he finished his instructions.

"Nice clean looking kid," the young detective said, stopping to look down at the body with some sympathy. "Good dresser. Not cheap either. That didn't come from the National Shirt Shop."

"Yeah, you'd notice that. I tell you this kid knows about fags," Sam said, shaking his head and breathing heavy after struggling back up the slope. "These young guys! I don't know about them," he muttered.

"Fuck you, you old fart. You're the one who spends all the time in the bathrooms around town. You're one to talk. Don't think I don't notice. No one stops at every other toilet if they ain't doing something weird."

"Son, I can't even do my duty for the old lady any more. I sure don't need no faggots whistling on my Willy. You get my age and you'll have to piss every fifteen minutes too. That's why you should only speak when you're spoken to. You might learn something if you do."

"That's what they all say," Pollard said. "Keep an eye on him kid. Don't let him in that john across from the White House at Lafayette Park. It's a homo heaven from way back."

"The White House?" The young detective sounded stunned. "Yeah, he's been in that one. A lot!"

"That's where that Johnson aide got himself busted for that shit. I'm sure Nixon didn't know anything about it. That son-of-a-bitch would have called in close air support to run 'em off there, if he'd gotten wind that they were that close to his position." Pollard laughed at the imagery of jets bombing across from the White House. "Better keep Sam out of that one for sure."

"Whose side you on, detective?" Sam asked, offended that it seemed as though he was siding with the young cop. In reality Pollard never sided with anyone. He always felt safer playing the middle of the road.

"I'd be on the Strangler's, only I'm a cop and I've got to side with the fags on this one," Pollard said. "A few fewer fags ain't going to hurt my feelings none. I don't want to be getting on no first name basis with any of 'em, that's for sure."

They all laughed as they stared at the corpse one last time. Jim Bland was already sitting back in the car drinking what remained of his cold coffee, watching the college students that walked on the next block up.

"Connell, come on in here. Tell Mann to wait."

"Yes, sir," Connell pushed the button on the intercom as Mann came up to the desk. "Take a seat." Connell moved down the hallway and opened the door to the commander's office without knocking. "What do you think?"

"I don't know if he can keep his cool. He didn't know the Grill was a gay bar. He spent an hour there and didn't pick up that the place was gay."

"He lived all his life on the reservation until he was sixteen. I don't think they had many gay bars on the reservation."

"You told me that gays are seen as special by some Indians, and that book you gave me said the same thing, but Mann doesn't seem to be aware of it. The Sioux and Crow deal got his attention. I'm going to read some more." Commander Brown said. "Send him on his way. Give him the list of places. Introduce him to that piano player. You think that's the kind of guy Mann will respond to?"

"I don't think he will respond to anyone in particular. Phil's harmless and a very nice man. He was happy to do me a favor. He's nice enough that I hated lying to him."

"They still got the bar over by the FBI?"

"Yeah, that's the Hideaway. Corner of 9th, downstairs."

"J. Edgar would be rolling over in his grave."

"From what I hear, Hoover would have been right at home, although he probably preferred Johnny's."

"I don't want you telling me that shit. Go on with the plan as we've discussed it. You keep an eye on this kid."

"Yes, sir," Connell said.

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