A Griff & Fats story
“He ain’t much,
Griff,” a voice told me as we looked over the dead body. It was a guy name of
Chauncey, no last name anyone could recall, or anything anyone knew about him.
He was a Skid Row wino, a bum, an occasional handyman who would do odd jobs for
a few bucks to buy cheap booze out on the Skid. Chauncey was at the end of his
rope and now he was at the end of his life—and it had come nasty. As far as
anyone on the Skid knew, he never hurt anyone. He seemed to be a harmless
down-and-outer of Bay City—the town that we did our cop business back in the
day—but it really wasn’t Bay City. I just call it that when recounting our
adventures. Makes it a lot easier—and probably safer.
I looked at
Chauncey. He had died badly. I looked back at my partner, Sergeant Herman Stubbs,
the Fatman. I was Lieutenant Bill Griffin, aka Griff, and we was Griff & Fats
and we did detective work in the city back in the late Fifties and the early
Sixties—we usually dealt with the stuff no other cops in the city cared to deal
Griff?” Fats expostulated as he opened up a large Hershey chocolate bar loaded
with almonds. It was his third one so far, and he deftly peeled off the wrapper
as he shoved the chocolate mess into his massive maw of a mouth—as we looked
down upon the body of the lately departed poor old Chauncey. The crowd was beginning
to form up, as it usually did.
“Get the hell
away from here!” Fats barked an order to the crowd with his usual intense
meaning of impending doom. “Move on back now!”
They moved on
back, but they stayed and they looked. Gawking, making all kinds of whispered
comments to each other. That’s mostly because Chauncey was a sight to behold.
You usually don’t see this kind of thing done to guys. We’d seen it done plenty
to women and young gals—sometimes even kids of both sexes—and that was terrible
as hell—but usually not with a full grown older male. And not with a
down-and-out old coot like Chauncey. Someone no one cared about. Well, it
appeared someone cared about Chauncey all right—but in a bad way.
hated this guy a bunch,” Fats said stating the obvious. You could tell that
just by casually looking at the body. We’d take a closer look soon.
ruminated, looking at the torn and bloody corpse. Chauncey was stark naked, and
he’d been stabbed about a hundred times. His sexual organ had been cut off and
lay beside him, his feet had been sawed off. Sawed off. What the hell!
“Not done here,
dump job. Why the hell go through all the trouble for a dead-ender like
hated him a bunch,” was all Fats repeated, and he could have been right. Or we
had a real evil sick monster on the loose. Then my partner covered the body.
Uniform cops came over, cordoned off the crime scene, asked onlookers if anyone
knew the deceased. The ME had just arrived and took a gander at the corpse, he
would give us his preliminary report soon, a more detailed one later. Other
bums came over, the smell of cheap booze strong on them like a fog of smog.
said, “Chauncey was a good dude, these days, since he came to the Skid, but I
heard when he’d been younger, he was a real bad dude. He’d been a cop long ago,
and a real bad ‘un.”
“A cop?” I asked
the oldster, giving Chauncey another look, now that the ME was examining him
more closely. I gave him a hard look.
“And who are
you?” Fats asked the man. He had no teeth, was as thin as a rail, a real
drinker. His liver was probably shot, more pickled than a jar of sour gherkins.
“I am Frankie
Boy. That’s all you need to know.”
Boy, how do you know Chauncey had been a cop once?” I asked sharply. It seemed
The man shrugged,
wet his lips, held out his hand. I bit, gave him a fin. He scooped it up and
pocketed it like an expert.
Then Frankie Boy
said, “He told me once. He told me all about it. That’s how he come so hard to
drink. Cop work did it to him, he had to do some bad things, not his fault, he
said, but... You know…?”
I looked at my
overly large partner, “Fats, take Frankie Boy here over to the car, we gotta
talk to him in more detail. More private.”
“Come on Frankie, today’s your day to shine. Spill the beans to us. You’ll have
your drink. First follow me.”
Fats took Frankie
to our car, got him seated in the back seat all comfy, then started in on him getting
the low-down on all he knew. Frankie appeared to be cooperative. I saw Fats
take out his pen and pad, so he was writing down stuff—that was a good sign. He
was serious about this. So was I.
The M.E., Doc
Carten gave me the low-down on the corpse, on what he had found out so far, the
official autopsy would follow, but for now we had what we needed to know. One
thing he verified was that the body had been stabbed a hundred times—seemed to
be exactly one hundred times with some form of short bladed knife. Lotta work,
Chauncey had been
a cop. Once. Who the hell could have figured it. Who was he?
I stayed with the
body a bit, looking at the face of the deceased. Chauncey. That name just didn’t
seem to fit. Never heard of any Chauncey. Something was all wrong here.
Chauncey was sometimes a name used back then generically for a guy as an
insult. Like a nobody. A phantom. It was a name that I figured was used to
cover up the man’s real identity out here on Skid Row. But maybe not, because
no one cared out here about anyone’s real name or who or what they had been
before they came out here to the Skid. There had to be something more to it.
Then it came to
me. I looked at the face, it was far older, older by 20 years, and much used,
abused and beaten, but it was him! It was that SOB Albert Stark! Allie!
Chauncey was Allie Stark! I looked up in shock and surprise, the years had been
brutal on poor Allie—now he was just ‘a Chauncey’—a phantom, a nobody. He
hadn’t been a nobody once.
Fats came over
then. “You know, Griff, you know who that guy was?” That Chauncey guy?”
“Yeah, I do, it
was Allie Stark.”
Fats just shook
his head, “Who coulda figured? I can’t believe it. He’d been big shit in Bay
City once. Long ago before my time. Real big shit—big shit on the force—a guy
whose shit never stunk. But I heard the stories. Some of them at least.”
“Yeah, a real bad
guy, did his own police work—judge, jury and executioner.”
the worst part of that trio, as I heard it, Griff. He was an out and out
killer. Least ways, what I heard on the grapevine. Nothing ever proved, of
course. A killer cop, and I hear tell he was out for hire.”
“I heard the same
stories. Maybe just dirt talk?”
“Yeah, if so,
imagine what the hell he’d been involved in?”
“Whatever it was,
one of his little games might have got him killed.”
“Yeah, and killed
“Yep, real nasty,
like revenge with 20-30 years of interest tacked onto it,” Fats said, and that
got me thinking. Which was usually bad. I tended to think too much. It had me
going through all kinds of scenarios. They came and went in my thoughts, but
there was one that seemed to fit. Maybe.
“I think we need to
dig into Albert Stark—his old cases, especially guys that he put away, who may
have been innocent.”
“You think he did
that?” Fats asked me carefully. To the Fatman as a cop, that was the worst ever
offense a cop could do. An honest mistake was always possible, it happened, but
a scam and a set-up was sacrilegious to his old-timer cop sensibilities.
“I think so,
Fats. I think he found some suckers he threw into prison to solve crimes he
himself may have committed—maybe even murders—or maybe he just did it to close
cases and up his star in the department?” I told my partner grimly.
Fats growled back
in anger, he hated what I had said, hated that a cop might have done such a
thing, but this was Bay City and he knew cops like Albert Stark, so he more
than believed it was possible.
“Let’s get to
work on his old cases and on the guys he put away. I’m sure we’ll find
something there,” I said.
We did just that.
Fats and I jumped on it like a hungry dog. We got some time from Captain Landis
to nose around the records room at HQ and the records morgue in the basement.
Also court records from back in the day. We also visited the city jail and the
prison upstate that housed Bay City’s more serious convicts. We nosed around a
great deal. We knew the places to look. We looked at dusty old records in dusty
cardboard boxes that hadn’t been opened in years. Maybe decades.
Then we found it.
Actually, there was a lot of it. It seems Stark put a lot of guys away who
might have been innocent. Really innocent. But there was one of them that stood
out to us for the obvious reasons. The newspaper clipping gave us what we needed,
it was the only such clipping we came across on any of Stark’s old convictions.
A guy name of William Berry, convicted of a nasty double murder about 35 years
ago. The papers said he was innocent, Berry shouted his innocence, and he said
that Stark had lied, planted evidence, set him up. All possible back then,
especially with a cop like Stark. The newspaper clipping said it was the
greatest miscarriage of justice since—well, since the last miscarriage of
justice which had not been that long ago. Anyway, it seemed bad, it still
smelled ripe so Fats and I decided to dig deeper on this one. Eventually we hit
We found out
William Berry had been recently released from prison after 35 years on a
medical. We found out other stuff to. Nasty stuff.
“Griff, this guy,
William Berry, ain’t no angel. No citizen. He was a low level crim, thief, some
B&E, but he didn’t go away for any of that stuff, he was sent away for the
rape of his own daughter, and the murder of his wife!
I looked at Fats, “He
denied it. He even said that Stark did it all, or at least the press and the
newspaper clippings of the day say so. The actual reporters are all dead now,
most of the people involved are dead too, 35 years is a long time.”
“Yeah, but Berry
is still alive.”
“Yeah, I wonder…”
“Don’t wonder too
deep, Griff, because I gots a nasty feeling that Albert Stark did the dirty
deeds. He set up the father, William Berry for the fall.”
theory,” I said carefully.
“We’ll check it
out,” Fats told me, just to make sure we didn’t have another psycho on the
“No wonder the
killer of Chauncey—I mean, Albert Stark—is so damn angry in his violence,” I
said softly, thinking it through. We had to track down this William Berry. It
should not be that difficult, he was sick, maybe dying, old and broken-down.
something else, Griff,” Fats told me reading from another old newspaper clipping
in the file, “Says here the daughter and mother were both excessively stabbed
“To make it look
like a rage killing, or a domestic?” I offered.
apparently, but there’s even more. The killer chopped off the feet of the
mother and daughter.”
muttered. “Who could do that to his own daughter and wife? I don’t think this
Berry would do that.”
“Maybe not, but
he sure would do what was done to his wife and daughter to Albert Stark, when
he caught up with him, 35 years later. Out on the Skid. When he was Chauncey. A
broken man because of all the bad he had done as a cop—and gotten away with!
When Berry found Stark on Bay City Skid Row. He might give him a hundred stab
wounds, cut off his feet, do to him what he had done to Berry’s wife and
“And I figure the
cutting off of his sex organ had just been an extra insult, to remove the
offending member that had caused so much pain to Berry and his family,” I
“Yeah, I guess
you might be right,” Fats added with a sly grin of fake pain. “One way to find
out about this is get the low-down from Berry, when we find him. You know,
Griff, if this is true, I feel for the guy.
“I know, but we
gotta find him and get the truth of this.”
“So let’s get on
It didn’t take us
long to find William Berry. He was not trying to hide, or to get away. He’d
been released from prison on a medical and he was in a wheelchair, and he was
old and dying. How he had been able to kidnap Stark—Chauncey—and kill him—seemed
amazing to Fats and me. Where did he get the energy for it? He was a very sick
and weak man. Dying obviously—but not quite dead yet.
We found William
Berry in a half-way house on the edge of the ‘Square Mile of Vice’ and got a
chance to speak with him in private in his room.
“You guys from
the cops?” he asked us as soon as we walked into his small room. He sat alone,
in the dark, in a wheelchair, puffing on a cigarette. Coughing as he did so. I
thought I saw blood. The cancer stick couldn’t have been any good for him.
“Yeah,” I told
“I figured you’d
be here sooner or later. What took you so long?”
“We got a lotta
stuff to do, it’s our busy season,” Fats interjected.
“Well, I did it,
I got that Chauncey, killed him good. Revenge is sweet—for what he did to me
and my family.”
I nodded. He was
admitting it all. This appeared pretty cut and dry.
Fats sat down on
the edge of the bed and slowly took out a Camel and lit it.
the name he went by,” William Berry told us with anger. “He had 35 years of
life and boozing, while I had 35 years in prison, a living hell. He raped my
daughter, then killed her and her mother. My wife caught him doing the deed,
you see, so she had to die and so did my daughter to cover up his crime. He
stuck me with the bill for it all. He set me up. Planted evidence. I had no
chance. He was an evil man, and he deserved what he got. I make no apologies.”
“I see,” I said
nothing, just sat there like a big fat Buddah puffing away on his smoke.
“Come on, now you
can take me in. I’m dying anyway,” Berry told us with a growl. “You gotta wheel
me out though, I ain’t got the strength to do much these days.”
“Yeah, all over,”
he told us with a look of impatience and annoyance.
I nodded, “How
the hell you get the strength to abduct Stark— Chauncey—and kill him? A hundred
damn stab wounds, sawed off his feet—not to mention his sexual organ. That took
a lot of work, especially for someone as ill as you appear to be.”
“I knew what had
to be done for 35 years. Went over it in my mind, day after day. I thought
about the one hundred stab wounds—did you know he stabbed my wife and daughter.
Fifty times each! He told me every detail of his crimes, seemed to enjoy the
telling of it too. Of course I told the cops, only they said I must have done
it ‘cause I knew so much stuff that only the killer would know. Sounds sick to
say, but I think God gave me the strength…”
just smiled at that, smiled for the first time, coughed, smiled again, “I guess
where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
“I guess so,” I
replied, nodded. “Well, Fats, I think we’re done here.”
Fats looked up at
me, put out his smoke, got up off the bed, said, “Yeah.”
going?” Berry asked us.
“Back to work,” I
told him. “We ain’t bringing you in. Forget it. Chauncey’s murder will be just
one more unsolved cold case. We’re leaving now, but just to let you know, my
partner and I would have done the same damn thing if it had been our wife and
daughter. If we had a wife and daughter.”
“Good night, Mr.
Berry,” Fats told him as we left the room and he started to close the door
behind him. “Have a nice life, or what’s left of it.”
Fats closed the
We walked out
into the hallway.
There was just
one gunshot from inside the room.
I guess William
Berry had accomplished what he wanted to do—after 35 years revenge was sweet,
but now there was nothing left. Seems that old proverb is true—before you begin
on the journey of revenge—first dig two graves.
Copyright 2020 by Gary Lovisi.
All Rights Reserved. “Killing
Chauncey” will appear in the print
collection Hardcases and Homicide,
published by Bold Venture Press in the fall of 2020.
Gary Lovisi also has
his a YouTube book collectors channel, which is under his own name in the
This channel has over 100 videos on rare and collectable
paperbacks and other books.
GARY LOVISI BIBLIOGRAPHY:
(Recent and partial):
The Secret Adventures of Sherlock
THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK
HOLMES (Ramble House, 2007)
MORE SECRET ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK
HOLMES (Ramble House, book #2, 2011)
SECRET ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK
HOLMES: BOOK THREE (Ramble House, 2016)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. HOLMES
(Gryphon Books, 2016)
SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BARON'S
REVENGE (Airship27, 2012)
THE GREAT DETECTIVE: HIS FURTHER
ADVENTURES, edited anthology (Wildside Press, 2012)
THE MYSTERY SURROUNDING WATSON'S
LOST DISPATCH BOX (MX Pub., UK edition, 2014)
SOUVENIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
(Gryphon Books, 2002, non-fiction, new edition forthcoming)
SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE GREAT
DETECTIVE IN PAPERBACK & PASTICHE (Gryphon Books, 2008, large-size, spiral
BATTLING BOXING STORIES, edited
anthology, (Wildside Press, 2012)
VIOLENCE IS THE ONLY SOLUTION
(Wildside Press, 2012)
MURDER OF A BOOKMAN (Wildside
DRIVING HELL'S HIGHWAY (Wildside
THE LAST GOODBYE (Bold Venture,
THE NEMESIS CHRONICLES (Bold
ULTRA-BOILED: HARD HITTING CRIME
FICTION (Ramble House, 2010)
DIRTY DOGS (Gryphon Books)
EXTREME MEASURES (Gryphon Books)
HELLBENT ON HOMICIDE (Do Not
Press, UK, 1997)
BLOOD IN BROOKLYN (Do Not Press,
UK only, 1999)
Science Fiction / Fantasy &
GARGOYLE NIGHTS (Wildside Press,
MARS NEEDS BOOKS (Wildside Press,
WHEN THE DEAD WALK (Ramble House,
SARASHA (Gryphon Books, 1997)
The Jon Kirk of Ares Series:
#1 THE WINGED MEN, 2014
#2 THE INVISIBLE MEN, 2015
#3 THE SPACE MEN, 2015
#4 THE MIND MASTERS (forthcoming,
#5 THE TIME MASTERS (forthcoming,
WEST TEXAS WAR AND OTHER WESTERN
STORIES (Ramble House, 2007)
THE SEXY DIGESTS (Gryphon Books,
THE PULP CRIME DIGESTS (Gryphon
Books, 2004, large-size)
THE ANTIQUE TRADER PAPERBACK PRICE
GUIDE (Krauss Books, 2008)
DAMES, DOLLS & DELINQUENTS
(Krauss Books, large-size trade paperback)
BAD GIRLS NEED LOVE TOO (Krauss
Books, hardcover, 2010)
MODERN HISTORICAL ADVENTURE NOVELS
(Gryphon Books, 2006, large-size, spiral bound)
THE SWEDISH VINTAGE PAPERBACK
GUIDE (Gryphon Books, 2003, large-size).