As the thunderstorms made their way across the sky earlier, I passed some time looking at Instagram on my cell phone. I came across a post by EC Comics called “CHOKE”, which included this drawing by Joe Orlando, done while he was an artist at EC, sometime in the ’50’s.
As I looked at this photo, an entire scene formed in my head, a scene from an old hard-boiled detective story that would work well in black and white… and, cramped as it is on a tiny touch screen, I began typing a little.
She was lying in the dark, dingy alley behind Sal’s pizzeria and Ling’s dry cleaners, a dreamboat tossed out like an old, broken toy.
She was a doll, all right… just not a living doll, not anymore. Somebody saw to that in spades.
Sal’s delivery kid said he left with an order about a half hour ago, and then found her when he got back, so this was fresh.
There were a pair of gloves beside her, but no sign of a handbag. I didn’t think this was a robbery, though. This was far too savage, too personal for that.
No, whoever did this took her bag to try and buy some time. And maybe a ticket on a Greyhound bus.
The longer it would take us to ID her, the longer it would be before we could start looking at who knew her… and that gave me an idea. Charlie had finished photographing the scene and was packing his gear.
“Before you go, do me a favor. Take a good clear shot of her face, maybe like you’re doing her portrait for a magazine, willya?”
“Yeah, sure,” he muttered as he took the lens cap back off his camera and moved behind me to get a good angle.
“And Charlie, please run this back to the house and make me a good sharp 8 by 10 as soon as possible, OK?”
“Kinda late in your career to start a scrapbook, ain’t it?”
“Very funny, wise guy. No, I can bet this gal won’t have a sheet or a mug shot on file with us, but if I get a photo to the Gazette first thing, I’d like to see if the editor of their society pages might recognize her. Save us a hell of a lot of time getting her ID if they do.”
“Jeez, that’s a helluva idea, Joe. Sorry about the wisecrack.”
“Don’t worry about it. Make it up to me by getting that photo done.”
“You got it.”
I stood as Charlie shot, his flash looking like silent lightening in the small alley around us.
I glanced across the street and saw the bodega on the corner was still open, the owner outside gawking with some looky-loos.
I lifted the yellow tape and walked over. I doubted he’d have a security camera facing the alley, but it couldn’t hurt to ask.
Besides, it would give me a chance to get a pack of butts.
Seems like I picked a bad week to quit smoking…