Ch 2: It's Over There

A police car arrived on the scene with its lights flashing, attracting a crowd of curious seekers drawn to the scene by the presence of a police car and flashing lights. As they marked off the area, White walked the detective to the body.

"It's over here!" he said, pointing to the lifeless lump. John Babb was a seven-year veteran of the police department when he followed White to the rear of the house. He had seen much in his career, but the sight he saw would be indelibly etched into his memory. When he spied the body, he instantly began implementing steps to secure the crime scene.

Where?" asked Warren Brown, a young black man well known in the black community who was the only black detective in the Monroe Police Department. It had been twenty years since Monroe hired its first black police officers, but there were still so few that Brown could unceremoniously be referred to as the only black detective. He was trusted, a straight shooter, and known for being hard but fair. Brown had investigated many crime scenes, but this one would be etched in his memory for years to come.

"I was getting ready to paint these houses, and I came down through here, and then I saw it," said White.

"Was the body just as it is now?" asked Brown.

 "Yes, sir. I didn't move her or anything; I just saw you all passing by and flagged you down," said White.

Detective Brown studied the scene closely, glancing over his shoulder at the crowd that was growing larger and straining to discern the identity of the woman on the ground.

"Don't let anyone in this area," he commanded, waving his arms and pointing to other arriving officers to form a perimeter around the area. It had to be protected to preserve any evidence that might be found that could identify the assailant.

They would not have had to look very far for the assailant if they had known where to look, what to look for, and for whom they sought; the one responsible was so close to the scene that he could touch it and retrace the deathly deed step by step. The assailant resembled all of the other curiosity seekers, drawn like bugs to a glimmer of light on a summer night, titillated by the specter of blood and death. The hood over his head didn't look conspicuous either, considering the chill in the air. He watched with a morbid sense of pride as the police tried to unravel his handiwork. He was sure that they wouldn't find anything; he was too careful. The police were so cumbersome; their ineptness was one sure fact. They suspect the obvious, and their stupidity stumps them as they search for minute details while missing the obvious in front of them.

He didn't know the woman lying in the mud. He had nothing against her, admired her beauty, and was savagely attracted to the way that she fought him. With each lunge and swing, he admired her as a formidable adversary, fighting against a superior opponent. He watched the lugubrious scene with the same sense of subdued passion that a hunter has as he stands over conquered game.

It's best that he didn't know her; otherwise,  he might have cared. He didn't care why the order was given; perhaps she angered or frightened someone; the whys of the matter were not his concern. Who knows why one person wants to end the life of another? Was it love, greed, or vengeance? He didn't know; it wasn't his concern. His job was done, and he had the envelope. He didn't know who paid him; what mattered was that the call came, the irrevocable instructions were given, and the envelope had been delivered. His contractors had probably established themselves a safe alibi and made sure they were nowhere near the scene, probably the whole city, when the deed was done. His contractor would have innocent hands and would be above suspicion. He was smart.

The assailant was smart as well—too smart for the Monroe Police. They would never catch him because they were not accustomed to smart assailants. They were more familiar with the nickel and dime types who clumsily left evidence that formed a literal bread crumb trail straight to their front doors. These were the petty criminals whose inability to anticipate what a detective might need to build a solid case often betrayed them. The Monroe police were not accustomed to dealing with a sick criminal mind that killed for fun or for hire, but they couldn't resist the temptation to hang around to watch the police stumble and fumble around what should have been obvious. If they were not so stupid, the whole affair would be laughable, but he didn't laugh; he just stood and watched as Monroe's finest Columbos played detective.

The assailant had done his homework. Several rapes had occurred in Monroe's South Side; more than were reported. A general atmosphere of fear and caution existed throughout the black community. If he did the deed and made it appear to be another of the rapes, he could disappear anonymously as frustrated police did what they usually do: look for the obvious and interview the usual suspects. If they found no one to clear the books, they would eventually find someone to blame and declare the case closed. In that case, all they needed were circumstantial tidbits—not enough to be proven in court, but enough to place the blame on some deserving misfit who may not have been guilty of this crime but certainly committed others that were just as dastardly, perhaps worse.

It was a stroke of genius to pull down her pants and leave her naked with her hands tied behind her back. Knowing the Monroe cops, it would instantly be assumed that she was killed in the process of rape—just another rape like all others that were happening. The fact that there was no semen wouldn't matter; they would make it a rape so that it would fit the pattern of all of the others; that's the way they worked in Monroe, anyway.

The police investigated the reported rapes; there were a half dozen more in the same month that were not reported; the victims were too afraid to call the police. Even if the rapes were reported, most felt the police would not take them seriously but would pin the crimes on the first vulnerable suspect.

The Berg Jones Lane neighborhood was a congested area whose population was fed by the presence of two low-income housing projects on the east and west sides of the two-mile lone strip named after a wealthy black man that no one really knew. The housing tenements were duplexes filled with mostly single-parent, female-headed families. Children played in the yards, and old women sat on concrete porches watching babies amber around in diapers. Cars drove down the lane quickly, often with the music turned up loudly as drivers leaned to the right and gave signs as they passed.

It was a congested but peaceful neighborhood that was home to hundreds who parked their cars in driveways, stood on corners waiting at bus stops, or waited without any apprehensions for lovers to meet them in their front yards. It was only intimidating to those unfamiliar with the area. Despite its activity that never seemed to end, punctuated by loud televisions, a mother cursing out a stubborn son, a girlfriend up in the face of a guilty lover, and a dealer passing envelopes on the corner, the area was usually considered safe. Until the rapes started.

At first, there was only one. Then another. Soon there were so many rapes in the Berg Jones Lane area that women who walked at night for any reason carried butcher's knives with them in full view. That wasn’t always the case. At night, the children were brought in from nighttime play under the street lights, doors were closed, blinds were shut as double bolt locks were turned on doors, and windows were locked shut. Women who walked at night took precautions. Usually, they paid little attention to the parade of people they passed in the night—men standing in corners, leaning against cars, or just standing alone with heads bowed and hands in their pockets. That changed when the rapes began. Now, every man they encountered was suspect; the knives were kept close. If the police would not protect them, they certainly intended to protect themselves.

In the neighborhood, they gave the rapist a name; they called him the "Grease Man" rapist. He earned the name because, despite the deadbolt locks and other precautions that most took, he always seemed to find a way to the house of someone who did not believe the reports of rape. It was never on the news or in the newspaper. The rapes were just urban legends in the minds of a few, so they didn’t take the precautions necessary to protect themselves. Somehow, the rapist gravitated toward the unprotected. When he found a vulnerable victim, he broke into their houses and did something to them. No one knows what he did or how he did it, but they couldn't wake up. While totally unconscious, he then greased their vaginas with hair grease and Noxzema.

The Grease Man was bold; he even tipped into the bedrooms of women who were asleep with their children or a parent in the same room, even the same bed. No one knew why the women wouldn't wake up or what he did to make them sleep through the entire episode, but they suspected that he used his fingers to violate them, applying grease all over their pubic areas. The women awakened later to find themselves covered with grease. They knew they had been violated. It was humiliating. Even more humiliating than being raped is the fact that he came that close and did not force himself on them. In a strange way, it assaulted the self-esteem of many who considered themselves desirable and irresistible. Who wanted to face the inevitable jokes that would follow a woman who was so ugly that a rapist wouldn’t even have her? So often, the invasions were not reported. The police wouldn’t catch him, and they would be the subject of ridicule. It was the kind of humiliation that was unbearable.

Once, a grandfather woke up and saw the Grease Man standing over his granddaughter. He had pulled back the covers on her bed and pulled down her pants. She was flat on her back and obviously unconscious, but before the grandfather could act, the Grease Man dashed out of the room before the half-asleep grandfather could get to his feet. There were other sightings as well, but no one could identify the mysterious night stalker. Even worse, no one wanted to admit to being his victim.

It didn't take long for the word to spread all over the South Side that there was a serial rapist breaking into houses and ravishing women with his fingers; at least, they thought it was his fingers. Yet no one would call the police; none of them wanted the embarrassment that would come when neighbors saw the investigators at their home. They would know that they had been victims of a man who raped them with his fingers. So, no one called the police, but the neighbors knew anyway; that kind of secret couldn’t be kept. It spread like wildfire as each recipient added more imaginary details to each vivid account. Some reported that the "Grease Man" used Chloroform on his victims. Others said he knew each victim, visited their homes, and put Mikis in their drinks to knock them completely out. Some said he was tall. Others said he was stocky, like a fullback. They attributed to him catlike stealth and the cunning of a viper.

The police heard the rumors about the "Grease Man" but did not do anything. It was dismissed as another of the urban myths that circulate about the projects. They didn't pursue the rumors because they were already overloaded with assaults and domestic cases that required so much of their time. It all meant more paperwork, so without a complaint, they didn't ask about the Grease Man, nor did they investigate. If no one filed a complaint and it wasn't reported on the news, it didn't happen.

That was the official policy. The assailant could have covered his trail even more if he had rubbed grease on the legs of the body; it would have certainly pointed them to the Grease Man. That wouldn't be necessary, though; he could count on the ineptness of the Monroe Police Department. Even with the grease, most of them wouldn't connect the dots because it would mean that they had leads on rape suspects prior to this murder and did not investigate them. Even if they saw the grease, they wouldn't make the connection in their reports. The murder had all of the characteristics of a rape; that was sufficient. That alone would baffle the Monroe cops, who would spend months or even years trying to figure out this case.

Cops are so stupid, it would be interesting to watch them fall all over themselves like Keystone Cops, trying to figure out how and why the woman had been killed. So, the assailant stood with his hands in his pockets and stared as the detectives took over the investigation. He recognized them; they did not even notice him in crowds. In this cat and mouse game, he had the best advantage; he could watch them without being seen and follow them as they attempted to retrace his steps and unravel the puzzle he left behind. If they came too close, he would disappear; it wouldn't be hard because no one suspected him. That was the beauty of his business; no one ever suspected him, and he enjoyed watching the baffled police close their unsuccessful case or find some poor sucker who would be the recipient of all blame, the perfect scapegoat who would become a victim himself to clear the unsolved case from the files of unsolved crimes.
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