Millie’s lead came to nothing, like all the others. Dressed in a simple v-neck sweater, full length skirt, and with minimal make-up Millie was almost “the girl next door”. She flipped through our mug shots at the precinct and came up with zip. Apart from Carl’s hands, her recollection of him was vague enough to put half of Cleveland’s males in the frame – or so it first seemed to me.
Not quite. I was building up a profile. Carl was big – bigger than me with large hands and feet. And he was circumcised, although I didn’t ask Millie to compare his jewels with mine. Other than that, a regular guy wearing everyday clothes, the sort you wouldn’t notice in a seated stadium.
Millie sipped her mug of coffee, shrugged, and gave me the look that meant she needed to be elsewhere. I took the hint and gave her my telephone number.
‘Millie … call me, if you see this Carl again.’ She looked worried so I added, ‘I won’t say you fingered him.’
She nodded. That was the last I saw of her.
Later that morning, I was called out to help Sergeant Hogan and a few other detectives to carry out a search of all the vacant lots on Orange Avenue and East 14th for the missing head. It seemed a fruitless task, but I did have a chance to chew the fat with Wachsman. I told him my cat house lead drew a blank, but he filled me in with what he’d found out.
‘We talked to this lady, a Mary Cimino. She said her dog barked awhile a few nights ago, but she thought nothing of it. I showed her the picture of Flo, but she didn’t recognize her.’ He scratched his head. ‘Here’s the strange bit. Harry Bennett had seen Flo walking close by some nights, mostly drunk. According to him the last time he saw her was two weeks before she disappeared; she was in the company of a black hobo of about fifty. They were both swaying about, and cursing each other.’
We looked at each other. ‘One–Armed Willie?’
Wachsman nodded. ‘Could be.’
‘We can’t pin anything on him,’ I said.
Wachsman shrugged, and we carried on searching for Flo’s head; but we drew another blank. So did the other detectives.
We returned to the morgue that afternoon to listen to the County pathologist, Dr. Reuben Straus, who revealed appalling details from his post mortem.
‘The whole reproductive system and part of the appendix was removed prior to death and, similarly to the other murders, the heart was bled dry. The killer appeared to be in a rage; arms and legs were cut and then wrenched from their sockets. Death was attributed to murder and “criminal violence”.
This was the worst homicide I’d encountered. It was butchery – a madman on the streets of Cleveland.
At least I was certain about one thing. One-Armed Willie was no madman.
So who had killed Flo Polillo?