Saturday, August 28, 2010


THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY UPCOMING NOVEL "THE PETERSON INVESTIGATION". The story is basically about a D.C. Homicide detective who grew up in Huber Heights, Ohio; who retires in 1995 and is asked by one of his boyhood friends, who is now the Chief of the Huber Heights Police, to return and command the HHPD Criminal Investigation Division. He accepts, thinking he is in for a laid-back (compared to DC) post=retirement gig. But three weeks after he is sworn in he is confronted by a horrendous murder that is a stone 'whodunit".

In the scene below, Detective Sergeant John Philip Waterman and Chief (Colonel) Kyle David Meadows are on a drive through the City of Huber Heights so that Waterman can see the various changes to the territory since he left town for the Air Force. They are on Rip Rap Road and are passing an enclave called Miami Villa when the conversation triggers a memory for Waterman about a tragic illegal drag race in 1969, which will have a major bearing on the plot later.

This is FICTION. Any resemblance of any character to any real person, living or dead, is purely co-incidental. Copyright 2010 by F. Allen Norman, Jr.; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Chapter II
The Territory
(Copyright 2010 F. Allen Norman, Jr. All rights reserved.)

A few miles later we arrived at Miami Villa. "The Villa" was and is a community of mostly very blue-collar folks. Back in the day, they were nowhere nearly as well-off as the middle-class families living in what was then called "Huber Homes". They constantly dealt with flooding, as the community is hard by the Great Miami and the river overtops the levee from time to time. The houses mostly use propane for heating and cooking. But they are very well kept up, and the driveways and yards are home to boats and some of the best, fastest, and most well-maintained "muscle cars" in the region. The kids attend City schools, and in our day they were called the "Villa Rats" (but never to their faces unless the caller wanted an ass-kicking.) They were some of the toughest kids I have ever known. These folks were mechanics and machinists, mostly. They were salt-of-the-Earth people, but they were fiercely independent. If they could have issued passports to their community, they would have done so. "Generally' Kyle said, 'We don't go in there unless they call us or unless we have business there. They like to take care of their own problems, so unless someone gets killed or something we sorta let them be. But they've given us a couple of good cops. Jimmy Lawson, the guy you replaced, he's from the Villa. Remember Johnny Lawson, the Villa boy in our class who got killed in that drag race? Jimmy is his kid brother."

Johnny Lawson was a Villa kid who was known for his 1957 Chevy Bel-Air. He had worked for that car from the age of thirteen, raking leaves and shoveling walks, weeding gardens, whatever he had to do to get the money. When he was 15 he bought it, and it sat in the family carport while he kept working every chance he got. Weekends he might be found working on it with a clutch of older boys, souping up the engine and drive train, or sanding down the body by hand for the paint job he wanted for it. The day he got his driver's license, he celebrated by driving the primer-coated monster into Vandalia for painting.

What emerged from A&L Body and Paint was a 1957 Chevy sedan with full-moon hubcaps, a chrome air scoop on the hood, a tachometer installed outside the windshield, and a four-speed floor mounted Hurst shifting setup. The interior was as plush as a New Orleans whorehouse with black crushed velvet seats and chrome trim galore. The beast had been painted metallic "Candy-Apple Red" with a gloss-black racing stripe running from front to rear on the hood, roof, and trunk. The rear end was jacked up as high as State law allowed, and the engine sang through fiberglass- packed "Thrush" mufflers muting the twin exhaust. It sounded like a hungry tiger, and Johnny soon became king of the local street-racing circuit.

A section of Rip Rap Road that was arrow-straight had for years been marked with "START" and "FINISH" lines. It was uniquely suited to illegal street racing because this particular stretch of the road was entered at the south from Wagner Ford Road via a bridge over the Great Miami River. After a slight bend, the road went as straight as a rifle shot for a mile before bending again and re-crossing the Miami to continue north. This enabled the posting of lookouts, and during the summer drag-racing on Rip Rap was a popular - and dangerous, not to mention highly illegal- pastime. Johnny won a lot of money there. He also won two "title-for-title" races and sold the cars for a good profit. I realized as we drove along that it was on this same day and the same road we were on that Johnny Lawson lost his life.

He had been racing a Northridge boy who was driving a Chevy El Camino. It turned out later that two of the Northridge boy's pals and he were out for vengance, since Johnny had taken the title to a cousin's car in a race. The Montgomery County Sheriff's investigators had found that the other two Northridge boys had stood among the other spectators and thrown roofing nails into Johnny's path. Johnny hit those nails going at least 150 MPH. His right front tire blew, shredded, and his car left the road, rolling over at sickening speed ; then hit a tree on the riverbank and ejected him into the swollen Great Miami River. The next day I had gone to see the County rescue squad dragging the river with grappling hooks as the Lawson family watched and wept. I suddenly realized that the 10-year-old blond boy who was clinging to his father weeping that day must have been Jimmy. I sighed and - although I am not Catholic - crossed myself. Little did I know that this 1969 case of aggravated manslaughter would come roaring back with awful consequenses here in 1995, fully 26 years later. "Hey' Kyle said, 'turn up Fishburg. See that bar on the corner?............


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