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Authors: James Ellroy

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I said that might apply to my mother's case. It's the victim-killer nexus. Specific men kill specific women and kill no more. They bring fantasies to the act. They juxtapose their rage and lust against a female image. Maybe my mother vibed loose prowess. Maybe Stephanie vibed kindness to plunder. The killer killed my mother. He probably hit her and raped her unconscious. Stephanie screamed and fought. She got off the south bed. She disrupted her killer's fantasy.

He killed her. The act traumatized him. He never killed again.

Rick said maybe, maybe not. It didn't vibe intentional snuff. It vibed rape panic and rape escalation. The fuck brought the cord and gun. The gun for threat, the cord for suppression. Most rapes went unreported. Rape as social stigma—1965. Stephanie might be vic 16 or 60. The nexus, the alchemy—something made him kill her. I said her beauty and softness. Bam—his switch drops. He sees outtakes from his shitty life. His stress context implodes. A happy kid dies.

Women as one-way mirrors. Women as Etch-a-Sketch boards. The killer snags one real image and starts to revise. His revisions tap signals. It's sex semaphore. Details get distorted and magnified. It's a funhouse mirror now. It's all in his head. The woman loses proportion. She gains bizarre shapes. She gets dehumanized.

We shitcanned the analysis. We rapped rude and wrathful. We ran a righteous right-wing reverie. The Gorman job was individual forfeit. The Gorman job was moral default. Nothing justified it. The killer had to pay. His childhood trauma and attendant justifications bought him no mercy chits. Fuck the cocksucker dead—

I DUG INTO the file. I met Dave Lambkin's partner, Tim Marcia. He complemented Lambkin. He was big and athletic. He walked with a roll. He talked less than Lambkin. He weighed his words and zoomed to the point.

We dug binders out. I read the autopsy report and first summary report. I rechecked the crime-scene shots. I theorized. I indulged possible wishful thinking.

No vaginal or rectal hurt. No foreign fluid types. Virgin and nonvirgin assessments. No semen or Jergens cream inside her. Vaginal rupture by natural cause.

Doc Kade was dead. Koivu was dead. Ditto Munkres and Buckles. Byron was in a rest home. He was senescent. There was no one to clarify.

My sense: no penetration. The killer didn't rape Stephanie.

Tim Marcia agreed. She was young and tight internally. She was struggling. Her legs were unbound. There's no Jergens on bedspreads/no Jergens floor drip. There's the east-bed semen stain. Maybe it's a forced oral cop. Maybe the killer jerked off.

I asked about vault evidence. I mentioned bedspread DNA. Marcia said a cop tossed it. It was an outrage. Some cop on a spring-cleaning kick.

I read reports. I skimmed mug shots. I checked the peeper sketch. Dave Lambkin did a cutout trick. He took a side-view mug shot of Mr. X. He placed it against the side-view sketch. They dovetailed exact.

Mr. X looked good for it. They couldn't brace him yet. They ached for it. Vengeance beckoned. Knock, knock—come here, motherfucker.

I read the file. I hobnobbed with the Shoe-Tree and Remorseful Rapists. I read the obscene-phone-call log. I remembered
my
calls to strange girls. I tried to come off as a kool kat. The girls laughed and made me hang up.

September 2002: Detectives Dave Lambkin, Tim Marcia, and Rick Jackson stand in front of the old Gorman home.
(Todd Hido/Edge)

I found the San Diego notes. I found the boy's Christmas card. I read
The Collector
that summer. It turned me on. The captive woman was a redhead. My mother was a redhead. Samantha Eggar was a redhead. She played the captive in the film. I saw it during the Watts Riot. It played in Beverly Hills—stone's throw to Hillsboro and Sawyer.

Tim Marcia and I discussed a wild card. The Gorman job— consensual sex goes blooey.

Pros and cons. Coronado/the rope trick/the
Collector
connection. A secret boyfriend unnamed. The gun and rope as book-movie props. The boy's shaky psyche. Chaste kicks and Stephanie's imposed limits.

It flew for ten seconds. It flew apart then.

Why use the sister's bedroom? Stephanie's room was out back. Mom and Dad parked in the rear. They're home—oops—let's split.

And:

The torn lip/the punch there/the head bump/the drag burns/ the cord by the front door.

Dave ran the file by a Fed profiler. He posited a front-door approach. The killer knocks. Stephanie answers. It's her last look at daylight.

I skimmed the file. I read the Georgia Street Juvie reports.
I
spent a night at Georgia Street. It was August '65. I shoplifted some ice cream. LAPD popped me.

It was scary. Tough kids made fun of me. A friend's dad got me out. He took me to County Probation. I was too old to adopt. Somebody signed a paper. It made me an “emancipated juvenile.”

The reports detailed a world wild and wimpy. It's all middle-class Jewish freaks. Two names jumped out. I knew one guy at John Burroughs Junior High School. I smoked weed with another guy. He knew my pal Craig Minear. Craig crashed his 2-seater plane. He died November '70.

I read the file backwards and forwards. I became friends with Dave and Tim. We yukked at phone-call outtakes and picaresque sex freaks. We discussed the rape and no-rape angles. We lauded and mourned Stephanie.

Tim and I drove to Hami. We checked old yearbooks and found Stephanie. She's sleek in her Phi Delt sweater. Her pageboy's down and swept by barrettes. Her expression shifts picture to picture. She's a pensive kid. She tries to show happiness. She doesn't always succeed.

I told Tim that I loved her to death. He said he did, too.

THE INVESTIGATION BUILT. Dave and Tim built that warrant for X.

They had his CII#, FBI#, LAPD arrest stats. The Auto-Track computer system shot them ten prior addresses. They had his wife's and ex-wife's stats. He married the ex in '62.
He lived in
West L.A. in '65.
They had stats on his kids and kid brother. The “Family Index” ran 100 pages. It tallied prior addresses and driving records. It listed other people living at old addresses. Mr. X had a son and a daughter. The son was clean. The daughter had busts: dope/theft/prostitution.

The case hinged on the print. The case would build off X-MAN'S denial. No, I wasn't in that house. Bullshit, you
were.

LAPD print-solved a '63 case. It went to court four years back. Hollywood Division/fall '63. Male killer/female vic.

They ran unknown prints. They utilized CODUS. They got a match. The man lived in Minnesota. He denied his presence in the pad. He claimed navy duty then. Navy records disproved it. A jury convicted him.

The print was
it.
The confrontation would goose a reaction. We'll make sure his wife is gone. We'll brace him alone. We'll hook him in slow. We'll bring a search warrant.

Dave was writing the warrant now. It was detailed and legalistic. They were looking for this:

Personal records. Vehicle records—late '50s to late '60s. Firearms and ammo. Docs describing X-Man's size on 8/5/65. Photos of X-Man in a blue uniform. Mason cord or photos of X-Man with same. Docs establishing X-Man's whereabouts on 8/5/65. Docs establishing connections to the Gorman family. Photos, film, or video depicting violence against women. Pornography depicting women posed in restraints.

The approach ran tripartite. The print/the warrant search/ X-Man's reaction and/or denial. George Iwasaki was dead. Age would alter X-Man's looks. Eyeball wits were out.

Dave and Tim were swamped. Breaking jobs swarmed their Gorman commitment. Dave worked the warrant part-time. Other work diverted him. He buzzed through Rape Special. He passed the wall tableau. He always said, “Sorry, Stephanie.”

I STUCK AROUND L. A . I cruised the Gorman house a.m. and p.m. I read the file. I explored Dave S.'s jive story and exemption. I thought about Stephanie. I brought flowers to her grave. I pondered the “Laura” syndrome.

The book and movie define it. Homicide cops dig the gestalt. The title woman is lovely and perplexing. She's a murder vic. A cop works her case. Laura's portrait seduces him. She turns up alive. The vic is someone else. Laura and the cop fall in love.

It's ridiculous wish fulfillment. It negates the hold of the dead. They inhabit your blank spaces. They work magic there. They freeze time. They render our short time spans boldly precious. They build alternative memory. Their public history becomes your private reserve. They induce a mix of vindictiveness and compassion. They enforce moral resolve. They teach you to love with a softer touch and fear and revere your obsessions.

My obsessions were born in 1958. “Son, your mother's been killed” and the upshot. She was my first untouchable crush. Stephanie was a daughter or a prom date. She's dancing out of a shroud. I don't know her.
I can feel her.
She's twirling. She's showing off her prom gown. I can smell her corsage.

DAVE AND TIM built the warrant. They planned their questions and signals. They brought Orange County cops in. Two agencies conferred. A judge signed the warrant. X-Man's ex lived in Riverside County. They planned a dual approach. Dave and Tim would brace X-Man. Two cops would brace the ex. She was with X-Man in '65. She might know some stuff.

The date was set: 1/23/01.

I went home. My wife and I talked about Stephanie and digressed ourselves hoarse. I reveled in Helen's brilliance and flesh-and-blood
life.

We rented
Bye Bye Birdie.
We scanned the crowd scenes. We couldn't spot Stephanie. Rick and I talked long-distance. Rick was happy. LAPD was forming a Cold Case Squad. It was all oldies/24-7. Rick, Dave, and Tim were set to start.

Fuck happy. Rick was thrilled. Time travel unlimited.

I rented
Pollyanna.
I saw Stephanie.

She was ten or eleven. She stood on a bandstand stage right. Hayley Mills sang “America the Beautiful.” A line of girls flanked her. They all wore the Stars and Stripes.

There's Stephanie—alive and in color. She's a child on the safe side of sex. Her eyes dart. The moment flusters her. Her hair was lighter then. She's got hazel-brown eyes like me.

I hit Rewind and Fast Forward. I did it
x-
dozen times. I watched her. I caught every breath. I filled some blank spaces up.

THE BRACE WENT DOWN. It clicked like clockwork.

Two units in place. Bam—X-Man's wife leaves early. Dave and Tim walk up.

They're nervous. They've got butterflies like Godzilla. They've got badges and IDs out. They knock on the door. X-Man opens up.

He's friendly. He's not flustered. They mention an old murder. He doesn't clench up.

He invites them in. They all sit down. He appears befuddled— old murder, huh?

Dave and Tim start to explain. X-Man cuts them off.

That 16-year-old girl, right? I remember that. I was across the street. I was at a friend's house.

The sister ran over. My friend was a doctor. He wasn't in then. I ran over to help. I saw the body. The cops came. The cops shooed me out.

Oh, fuck—

He came off credible. He came off true. He smiled. He betrayed no nerves. The boom didn't drop.

Dave quizzed him. X-Man responded. The doc and wife— alive and well. Yeah, we're still in touch.

There's the boom. It fell on
you.
Oh shit, we're fuck—

They schmoozed up X-Man. His credibility held. They said good-bye and walked out.

They found the doctor. They braced him. They braced his wife concurrent. They backed X-Man up.

Heartbreaker/square one again/fluke fingerprint/months trashed and fucked.

Dave called and told me. He described “the worst day of my life.” I reran
Pollyanna.
I cued Stephanie up.

It's over. It's not over. It's been a year plus. Closure is nonsense. Nothing this bad ever ends. The killer is crucial and
irrelevant. He knew Stephanie for ten minutes. He never
loved her. His memories are brutal and suspect.

Baby, who were you? How would you grow and who would
you love? Did you know you'd touch driven men and teach
them?

You've got torchbearers. Three detectives and one chronicler. We want to know you. It's a pursuit. It's a likelier outcome than justice.

We're spinning our wheels. It doesn't matter. We get
glimpses. You're twirling in your prom gown. Color us
devoted. Color you gone.

Grave Doubt

1.

HOUSTON PD/DISTRICT 6/BEAT 6870.
DATE: 5/13/81.
TIME: 9:30 P.M.
LOCATION: 8935 NORTH FREEWAY.
PREMISES: SAFEWAY PARKING LOT.
CRIME: CAPITAL MURDER.
VICTIM: BOBBY GRANT LAMBERT/WHITE MALE/53.
SUSPECT: GARY GRAHAM/BLACK MALE/17.
INCIDENT # 035207084.

The crime scene:

The Safeway lot. Rectangular. Sixty yards deep.

Night lights. Parking lanes and slots.

A fence behind the store. Small homes adjacent. Strip malls moving north.

A frontage road. Parking-lot access. A freeway adjacent.

The beat: low-shelf. Urban blight ascendant.

Motels. Gas stations. A low-end black demographic.

Eyewits state:

The victim enters the store. The victim walks the aisles. The victim grabs items.

Three packs of lunch meat, bread, cheese, milk, cookies, Ritz crackers, onions, gloves, garbage bags, a carton of Raleigh cigarettes, a six-pack of V-8.

A cashier totals the items. The victim pays with a C-note.

The victim exits the store.

He walks twenty feet. A black male walks up behind him.

Witness Bernadine Skillern observes.

She sits in her car. Two kids sit with her. Her daughter's in the store.

The black male accosts the victim.

He grabs his back pockets. The victim reacts.

He pulls away. He turns.

The black male grabs his collar. The black male puts a gun to his head.

Witness Skillern observes.

She fears a shooting. She tries to deter it. She leans on her horn.

The black male turns. Witness Skillern sees his face. The victim breaks free.

Witness Skillern hears a “pop” noise. The victim drops his grocery bag. The black male walks away.

Other wits observe. Their names:

Daniel Grady/white male/age 35. Wilma Amos/black female/ age 32. Sherian Etuk/black female/age 29.

The victim staggers. The victim weaves to the store.

Witness Skillern starts her car. The victim falls in the doorway.

Witness Skillern tails the black male. He's in her headlights. He starts to run.

He runs around the store. Witness Skillern's kids scream. Witness Skillern turns back.

Store employees call the cops. An ambulance shows. Paramedics examine the victim.

He's DOA.

PATROL UNITS SHOWED. Homicide showed.

For Houston PD: Detectives W. W. Owen and J. W. Ellis.

They checked the grocery bag. They checked the gunshot wound.

Small caliber. The entry point: near the sternal notch.

They check the victim's clothes. They found:

One comb. Two pencils. A lighter. Best Western motel matches. A key for room 208.

The vic's driver's license. Issued for Oregon State.

Coins: $2.07. Sixty hundred-dollar bills.

A botched heist. The killer got chump change. The killer missed six grand.

A tech crew arrived.

Techs shot the body. Techs shot the crime scene. Morgue men removed the body.

Patrol cops checked the lot. They found the vic's van. They impounded it.

Owen and Ellis braced the wits.

Witness Skillern described the incident. Witness Skillern described the killer:

A black male. 18 to 20. 5′9″ to 6′.

Slim build. Slim face, clean-shaven. Close-cut Afro. White jacket/black slacks.

Witness Grady described the incident. Witness Grady described the killer:

A black male. Tall, slim, young. White sport coat. Small-caliber pistol.

Witness Amos went home. Witness Amos phoned Homicide.

She described the incident. She described the killer:

A black male. In his twenties. Short dark hair, clean-shaven. Black slacks/white coat.

Witness Etuk described the incident.

She's working a check stand. She hears a “pop!” outside.

She looks out the window. She sees a black male.

He wears a white blazer. He wears black slacks. The window glass blurs his face.

He backs off from the victim. He backs out of sight.

Owen and Ellis hit the Best Western.

They talked to a desk clerk. They talked to a barmaid. They talked to a guard.

Room 208: registered to Ronald M. Allen.

He was from Burbank, California. He checked out at 9:05 p.m.

Owen and Ellis checked the room. They found:

Paper slips. Names and phone numbers. Cleaning receipts for Bobby G. Lambert.

One ashtray. Cigarette butts.

Two brands. Raleigh, one other.

Owen and Ellis checked the switchboard. “Allen” made 16 toll calls.

They wrote down the numbers. They drove to the morgue. They gave the numbers to a coroner's detective.

The detective called them. He called five area codes. He hit Mrs. Ron Allen.

She said Ron split Houston. He was in Vegas now. Bobby Lambert shared his Houston motel room.

Bobby had Houston business. She didn't know what. Bobby left his wife recently.

The detective called around. The detective traced Bobby's van. The detective snagged a cop in Pima County, Arizona.

The cop said he couldn't talk now. The cop said he'd call Homicide.

Owen and Ellis drove to Homicide. The cop called them.

He said he checked Lambert out. He queried a dope line. He hit positive. Lambert was dirty.

Ellis requested more data. The cop said he'd call back.

Another cop called back. He said:

Lambert was dealing. He got popped on 8/14/80.

Oklahoma City.

Lambert flies dope in. Lambert gets nabbed. Lambert's under indictment.

Some coke. 20,000 Quaaludes.

Owen and Ellis worked all night. Detective D. W. Autrey assisted.

He drove to the impound. He checked Lambert's van.

He found:

Marijuana.

Three shotguns.

One New Mexico driver's license. One Canadian driver's license. One radio operator's license. One insurance card. One draft card.

Made out to:

Billy Francis Smith—DOB 3/1/30.

Plus:

Court docket papers. Oklahoma District Court. A bail receipt for Bobby G. Lambert.

THE AUTOPSYRAN pro forma. Ditto the forensics.

The vic died from gunshot trauma. He ate one .22 slug.

The DEA called Owen and Ellis. They laid out Bobby G.

Bobby was a dealer. Bobby was an ex–carny man.

Bobby was a con man. Bobby was a sleaze.

Bobby loved to gamble. Bobby loved Vegas. Bobby hung with a cat named Ron Allen.

Ron was a gambler. Ron was a pool shark. Ron and Bobby meant grief.

Owen and Ellis hit the Safeway. They found another eyewit.

His name was Ronald Hubbard. He worked at Safeway. He offered this story:

He was shagging carts. He saw a man outside. The man hid his face.

Hubbard walked toward the store. Hubbard heard a shot. Hubbard saw the man holding a gun.

Hubbard described the man:

Black. Early 20s. 5′5″, 120–130. Short Afro, clean-shaven. White blazer, black slacks.

Owen and Ellis called Witness Skillern. Ms. Skillern came to Homicide. Ms. Skillern worked up a composite.

Autrey and Detective Rascoe assisted.

Ms. Skillern chose feature strips. Ms. Skillern built a face.

Facial tone: F-1-1. Nose: N-9-2. Lips: L-3-1. Eyes: E-58-2. Chin: C-26-2. Hair: H-131-2.

Autrey worked the composite. Owens and Ellis worked Lambert.

They braced the wife. They braced the DEA. They braced the Pima County cops.

They got bland shit.

Lambert was a hustler. Lambert was a sleaze. Lambert shot pool in Houston.

It vibed inconsequential. The murder vibed heist.

Autrey got a call.

The caller's name was Wilma Mukes. She offered this story:

Her sister's name was Florence McDonald. Ms. McDonald went to Safeway. Their sons tagged along.

Said sons:

James Mukes/black male/age 7. Alfonzo McDonald/black male/age 10. Leodis Wilkerson/black male/age 12.

Ms. McDonald goes in the store. The boys sit in the car. The boys see the shooting.

They know the shooter. They've seen him before. He hangs near their pad.

Autrey braced Ms. McDonald. She offered this story:

The boys saw the shooting. The boys saw the shooter. The boys saw him one day later.

He stood across the street. He stood by Judy Brown's pad.

James Mukes saw him. James yelled at Leodis and Alfonzo. James yelled, “There's the man that did the shooting.”

The man ran off. The boys told Ms. McDonald.

Autrey braced Judy Brown. She offered this story:

The man sounds like Curly Scott. Curly knocked up her daughter.

She had her baby. Curly came around less.

Curly was tall and skinny. Curly was clean-shaven. Curly lived at 7339 Phillips.

Autrey checked Curly out. Detective D. W. Cook assisted.

They learned:

Curly had priors. Curly had bond forfeits. Curly had warrants extant.

Curly had four recent addresses. The Phillips pad plus three.

Autrey and Cook looked for Curly. Autrey and Cook tapped out.

Owen and Ellis rigged a photo spread.

They laid in a Curly Scott mug shot. They laid in four random males.

Witness Hubbard viewed the spread. He did not see the shooter. Witness Hubbard viewed Witness Skillern's composite. He said it resembled the dude.

Witness Amos viewed the spread. She did not see the shooter.

Witness Skillern viewed the spread. She did not see the shooter.

Witness Etuk viewed the spread. She did not see the shooter.

Owen and Ellis looked for Witness Grady. Owen and Ellis tapped out.

The Lambert job was one week old. The Lambert job was dead.

Owen and Ellis got a call. A wrecker-driver offered this story:

It's 5/13. It's 10:00 p.m. He's out in his truck.

He passes Stuebner Air Line and Gulf Bank. He's close to Safeway. He spots two black males in a Plymouth.

They look “suspicious.” He tails them. He nails their license plate.

The black males see the truck. The black males speed up. The black males vanish.

Owen and Ellis traced the Plymouth. The owner: one Linda Ann Thomas.

Owen and Ellis braced Ms. Thomas. She offered this story:

Her son drove the car. She never did. She supplied her son's stats.

Reginald Thomas/black male/DOB 4/6/63.

Reginald Thomas called Homicide. He offered this story:

He shopped at Safeway. His girlfriend lived close. He bought their babies' diapers there.

Owen and Ellis braced Thomas. Owen and Ellis rebraced Ms. Thomas.

Thomas stated:

He went out that night. He picked up his girlfriend. He arrived at 7:30 or 8:00.

They split. They parked off Stuebner Air Line. A truck pulled up. The driver killed his lights.

Thomas freaked. Thomas drove his girlfriend home. They arrived around 10:00.

Thomas viewed the composite. Thomas did not know the man.

Ms. Thomas said she had two more sons. Their names: Earnest and Melvin.

Melvin was in jail. The charge was Murder.

OWEN AND ELLIS made calls. Cook and Autrey ran point.

Melvin Thomas: Case 24251061.

A gunshot murder. A .22 pistol. No weapon received.

“Another suspect” tossed it. Location unknown.

Cook and Autrey called the lab. The lab ran tests.

The Thomas slug. The Lambert slug. Let's compare.

No go.

The Thomas slug was scarred. The comparison failed.

Owen and Autrey called Juvie Probation. They learned:

Melvin Thomas was popped on 5/12. Melvin Thomas did not kill Bobby Lambert.

Cook and Autrey rehit Safeway. The manager viewed the composite.

He stated:

It looked like a shoplifter. He popped him some months back.

He was about 19. He was 5′10″ to 6′. He was very thin.

The manager checked his records. The manager tapped out.

No file notes. No complaint report.

Cook and Autrey ran computer checks. Cook and Autrey tapped out.

No complaint listing. No numbers extant.

The Lambert job was twelve days old. The Lambert job was dead.

ROBBERY CALLED HOMICIDE. Detective J. W. Whiteley called Autrey.

Whiteley popped a kid. He resembled the composite. He packed a .22.

He was seventeen. His name was Gary Graham.

Graham was a heist guy. Graham went on a heist spree. Graham used various weapons.

His spree dates: 5/14 to 5/20.

They popped Graham on 5/20. They ran lineups. The heist vics ID'd Graham.

Graham was a heist guy. Graham was a rape-o. They popped him this way:

Gary Graham in 2002. He asked his supporters to show up at his prison “with rifles, shotguns, AK-47s, and whatever else is necessary to protect our rights.”
(Copyright © Houston Chronicle)

5/20/81. About 3:00 a.m. A cabbie stops for gas.

She's female. She's in her cab. She's 57 years old.

She pumps gas. Gary Graham walks up.

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