The Allentown Murders is a murder mystery set in Allentown, NY, the bohemian ‘artsy’ jewel of Buffalo.
It is here Hap Pozner, his wife, Joanie, and friends Slick & Susie attempt to unravel the mystery that surrounds, what appears to be a series of murders perpetrated by a serial killer.
Little do they suspect, as they hunt for the killer of Joanie’s dad, Mitch Taylor, that they would soon become the hunted.
Is the little girl in Hap’s nightmares a portent of the danger to come, or is she a ghostly figure attempting to save him?
Drugs, prostitution, embezzlement and a string of unsolved murders by hanging all play a role, as the four would-be heroes become entangled in this web of deceit and murderous lies.
The story has an unusual twist as is told by four different narrators – each from his unique perspective. But who is telling the truth and who is not?
* * *
It was the spring of 1986; a time of great promise. The cold war was virtually over, the Berlin Wall was soon to come down; and the promise of a bright future for Joanie and I lay just ahead within our sights.
Slick and Susie were still Slick and Susie, but with careers, and our families were healthy and happy. Who could ask for more?
But this was real life, not some storybook tale. And oftentimes in life when things seem to be going smoothly the bottom drops out.
This was the year when we all learned a great deal about life, about love, about hate and about nightmares.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. March of that year was only the beginning of what was to be a year to survive.
* * *
“Beware the Ides of March!”
* * *
* * *
Saturday, March 15, 1986
This seems all too unreal to me. Here I sit writing a letter to a complete stranger, sending him all of my research that could potentially destroy the lives of some very bad people who would in turn destroy me. That’s insane! But as crazy as it may be, I am doing it; I must.
I address this note in a very informal fashion, not because we know each other personally or even in a business way…”
Well, there it is; most likely my death warrant – and possibly his. I just hope he succeeds for both of our sakes. What have I forgotten? It seems like there is something critical that I’ve left out; some little clue that might help him. What could it be?
“Kate would you mind going over what you’ve found out once more. I’m trying to put it all together and there seems to be something important that I’m overlooking.”
“Sure Bob, let me get my notes first. I’ll meet you in your office in about 15 minutes. Is that okay?”
“Hey, you’re the one helping me. Take whatever time you need, but hurry,” I said with a laugh.
“All right, here are the cold case files we have on murders in the Allentown area over the past three years. And this pile over here is all the information that I found on that shifty union boss named Fitzpatrick. I know that he is involved in drugs and prostitution in the area. In fact, I believe he’s now the number one player. He also has some shady dealings going on with several politicians in the area and has connections in the Buffalo Police Department. He must – “
“Hold it right there! You know these things; you believe these things; but can you prove these things?” I interrupted.
A bit squeamishly, “Not exactly. But isn’t that your job? I’m just the gopher; you know, go for files, go for coffee, go for chocolate donuts, go for –“
“I got it, I got it. So let’s lay it all out, go through it and see if we can connect the dots. Then maybe we can find proof. How’s that,” I said confidently.
“And that’s why you get paid the big bucks,” Kate said with a girlish smile.
“I’m exhausted boss, it seems like hours. Can we quit for today and pick it up again tomorrow? It’s got to be late; look out your window. It’s dark out there,” Kate said, exasperated.
“You go home. I’m sorry to keep you out so late; it has been hours. In fact, it’s well after ten p.m. Now go. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“And what about you? Will I find you still here when I get back at eight in the morning?” she remarked.
“No. I promise I’ll be out of here in just a few hours. Okay? Now get going, you’re slowing me down.”
* * *
Sunday, March 16
“Why am I not surprised? You did stay here all night.”
I could hear Kate as I began to wake up. She was standing over me now curled up in a ball on the one old stuffed chair that I refused to get rid of. As I opened my eyes I could see her leaning over me with a stern look on her face and her hands on her hips letting me know of her disapproval.
“Okay, so I did stay all night; but before you get on your soapbox about my not taking care of myself, let me show you what I found out.”
It looked like I had bought enough time to divert her attention to more important matters.
“Here, in this pile of news clippings and assorted police reports, I think I may have found just what we need to put these players away for a long time. And, as an added bonus, I may have found the identity of the man behind the scenes pulling the strings!”
“Well! That might just make it all worthwhile. I’m sorry I didn’t stay to help,” Kate said in a forgiving tone. “But I have some news that just might be of interest to you; and I didn’t have to stay up all night to find it. It was right here in the morning paper.”
She paused long enough to open the local section of the Buffalo News to find what she was looking for.
“Here, look at the police blotter. It says the body of a woman named Shelly Donlevy was found in an alley on Elmwood near Allen this morning hanged. Her death appears to be drug related and is being investigated as possibly the latest in a string of murders dating back to 1983. It says she was one of the regulars there, a hooker. She worked the corner of Allen and Elmwood, right near the Allendale Theater. It says here that her roommate, a rather large local exotic dancer who goes by the name of ‘Tons of Fun’ claimed that Shelly told her that some of the other girls had it in for her because of her popularity with the Johns. She said some of them were very powerful men in the community, but refused to divulge any names.”
She could see that my curiosity was piqued. I interrupted her with, “Who could they be? Is one of her Johns the key to this whole thing?”
“Slow down a sec. The report doesn’t say; but the police are investigating and will release names only when and if formal charges are brought. Do you think we need to go in and find out for ourselves?” Kate asked.
“Yes, but I’m afraid you’re the one who can get the information, seeing as how I’m not too good looking in a mini-skirt and halter top. Right?”
I could see that Kate had caught on to what I was getting at.
She responded with, “Oh, I guess that means that I should be out on the streets doing my job instead of standing here talking to you.”
“Exactly,” I said with a smile.
“Now remember, don’t get into any cars or go into any of the back alleys in Allentown,” I reminded her.
“I know. I need to look like a hooker and talk like a hooker, but not act like a hooker.”
“Yeh, and by the way, if you do – don’t take any wooden nickels, ha!”
“Why, because I might quit this job ‘cause someone else is willing to pay me more than you do!” she shot back.
* * *
monday, march 24
“Doctor, is she going to be all right?” I said standing just outside Kate’s hospital room door.
“Yes, of course. She will be just fine, but it may take a month or so for her to heal completely. That is, from the physical injuries; the emotional trauma that she has gone through may take years.”
“May I go in and see her now?” I said almost in tears for what I felt was entirely my fault.
“Yes, but don’t wake her. She needs rest right now. You can sit with her and if she wakes on her own please keep the conversation light and pleasant,” he cautioned.
“Of course. I understand.”
As I slowly and quietly pushed open the door I couldn’t help but feel the weight of this whole episode sit squarely on my shoulders. Why did I send her out there to do my work? I could have done this a hundred different ways. I should have thought this thing through better. Now, because of me, she’s lying there taped up and plugged in with monitors and tubes.
“Bob, Bob; Bob are you dead or what?” Kate strained to get out while I lay sleeping in the armchair next to her bed.
As I slowly woke out of a well-needed rest, I could hear her calling out my name.
“What? Where am I? Kate, did I wake you?”
She just grinned through the swollen lips that had been stitched, “No I woke you. I’ve been awake for almost a half hour just watching you sleep there. You looked so comfortable and cute all curled up that I hated to wake you. I know that you haven’t had much sleep these past few weeks during your investigation, but I had a feeling I’d better wake you. After all, what would your ex-wife think if she knew that you and I were sleeping together? Ha!” she said with a painful laugh.
“I suspect she would say that she knew it all along; and that’s why she left me,” I replied with a sheepish smile.
At this Kate lowered her eyes at the thought that she had in some way broken up an already failed marriage.
I quickly added, “I am so sorry for what I caused. If I could redo this whole thing and let it happen to me you know I would. I never meant for anything to happen…”
As I rambled on with my feeble apology she interrupted.
“I know, I know. We both regret what happened. I should have followed your advice, but the guy had a whole handful of wooden nickels. So what was a girl to do,” she said trying not to laugh this time.
“Look it, the doctor told me I was supposed to have only pleasant conversation and not get you upset; so let’s change the subject.”
She added, “I think I’d be more upset if we didn’t talk about what happened – and what I found out!”
With that she caught my attention. As bad as I felt for her this news brought me back to the matter at hand.
“At the risk of being insensitive; what did you find out?” I asked in a somewhat impatient tone.
“First, you have to know that the beating I got was not because I wouldn’t put out, it was because the John I was pumping for information had gone too far – he told me some things that I was definitely not supposed to know. I guess he figured that it would impress me that he was so important in the ‘organization’ and that I was just a dumb hooker, so I might give him a freebee.”
“Well? Did you?” I said kiddingly.
“Not funny! Do you see these tubes and bandages?” she came back with.
“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.”
“And neither could he. He gave me names of some of the important people he knew up the food chain and what he did for them. When I asked him about some of my co-workers that have been killed the past couple of years he started to lay it all out for me; the who, the when and the why.”
I was captivated by her story. I inquired, “Well, who did them in?”
“Let me finish. It was then that he began to suspect my motives, I guess since I wasn’t laying there naked and spread-eagled.”
“Just what were you doing and where were you? You know I told you to keep it out in public where you would be safe,” I said.
“I know, but he insisted we go to a quiet place to talk. I didn’t know he meant his place. It was a room just off of a back alley on Allen St. Really more like a converted storage room with a bed, hot plate and an old broken down sink and toilet.”
“Sounds lovely. And he thought that this should impress the clothes off any woman; right?”
“Well I might have been impressed if he had a curtain hanging over the one window he had. Anyway, what got me there was the information he promised, not his good looks or incredible charm; and he was about to give me more details.”
I had to ask, “What happened? Why did he stop?”
“He was about to name the head of it all when the door suddenly burst open. There was a very tall, muscular man in a blue pin-stripped suit standing in the doorway.”
“Did you see who it was; can you describe what he looked like?” I began to ramble.
“No, the room was very dark and when the door opened he appeared to be a silhouette against the bright light from a flood light streaming through the alley behind him. It was then that I heard his voice for the first and only time. That I won’t forget!”
“What did he say?” I said leaning forward in my chair as I got caught up in the moment.
“He said, ‘It sounds like you want too much too soon. You know Rome wasn’t built in a day. Now was it? That just cost one of you your life.’ No sooner had he spoken these words then he grabbed me and threw me against the back wall of the room. As I slumped to the floor I could see him pull out a knife and slit the man’s throat. He then came toward me. I knew I was next and the only hope I had was to try to escape. I got up and tried to evade him in an attempt to get to the door, but he grabbed my arm and held it tight as he struck me across the face and then into my ribs. Just before I lost consciousness he once again threw me against the wall. In a calm and disturbing voice I could hear him say, ‘I guess you got lucky. This time it cost him his life; next time it will be yours.’ And as he left the room it went black. The next thing I knew I was here in the hospital.”
I slumped back in the chair and said, “Maybe we’d better call this whole thing off. I’m so sorry for what happened to you. I don’t want anything else to, and I don’t want anyone else to get hurt. We’ve come too close to very dangerous people that don’t play. We are way out of our league. Let’s just turn over what we have to the police and let them sort it all out. It’s time for us to bail.”
Kate struggled to sit up, and with a very determined look she said, “Look it; this is just the time to not quit! We’ve come this far and I have the bruises to prove it. They’re scared; they’re scared that someone has got them by the gonads. It’s not the time to cut and run; it’s time to squeeze them!”
“You are one crazy bitch – excuse me, I mean hooker!”
I could see a crazed look in her eyes as she responded, “Don’t piss me off or you’ll be ahead of the guy that beat me on my ‘to-do-in list’!”
I could see she was lapsing back into a well-needed sleep that would help her heal, so I sat quietly as she drifted away.
It’s time to again work on my back-up plan. If Kate and I aren’t able to see this through then it will all fall on that poor, unsuspecting writer I found to carry this thing through to the end.
“Now where was I with my letter; oh Yeh…” I said out loud while Kate slept peacefully in her bed next to me.
“...no, I do so because I have been following you (figuratively) for a while, looking for someone that I can trust to carry through with what I’ve started if something were to happen to me. The fact that you received this means that I am no longer alive and must rely on the person that I believe you are to finish the work I’ve begun.
I must, here, warn you that, as I have met an untimely demise, there will not be the same threat to you unless you let the wrong people know what I am asking you to finish for me. I believe your character, intelligence, unswerving desire for truth, and your honesty and integrity are the backbone of what led me to you. But most importantly it was your inquisitive nature that led me to believe that my story, here enclosed, will find its way to fruition in your hands.
If, for some reason, you don’t find it in your soul to right this wrong then simply destroy the contents of this message and the evidence that I have gathered and put me out of your mind. No one, with the exception of myself, knows anything about this information being in your hands. There are, however others whose lives are, or will be, in danger as you finish the task I have begun; that is, exposing the murderous greed and other crimes in the city that you and I both love – Buffalo.”
As I finished, I too began to slip away into that dream world we call sleep.
Scenes from the 2013 Allentown Art Festival
Sites from the 2013
Allentown Art Festival