It was May of ’93, but I remember it like yesterday. The shine was barley off our new badges when we got the call that a body was found, by three fisherman, floating face down in the Allegheny River.
If Bobby was nervous, he didn’t show it. Me, I felt like I had a belly full of butterflies. We had done this many times before, but never as detectives. I buttoned my collar and fixed my tie before we drove to Point State Park, where it was fished out.
“He was dead before being dumped into the river,” the ME said, kneeling over the body.
There was a deep gash on the back of the head. It looked like it had been hit with a brick over and over. We flipped the body over.
Bobby looked at me, “Harry, is that…?
“I do believe it is,” I interrupted.
The body was of Marvin Hames. Hames grew up in Johnstown, about three hours east of Pittsburgh, where he played football and baseball. He turned down a scholarship to Penn State to go play football for the University of Southern California. He was the Steelers first round draft pick that year, and was in town for the team’s mini-camp being held at the stadium.
We drove back to the station to see if we could get more information on Hames. An honer student in high school, where he was all-conference his senior year. A three year all-American running-back at USC, and graduated in the top ten percent of his class. The kid had everything going for him, and someone took it away like he didn’t matter. We never got the chance to see how great he could’ve become.
“Detectives Collins and Tyler,” the Captain called from his office.
Looking at the Captain, I knew that he knew how nervous I was. Not only was it my first case as detective, but it would also get attention from around the country because of who Hames was. The murder of a star running-back doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Take a deep breath,” the Captain told us, “and do your job. Don’t worry about the attention.”
We learned that Hames rented an apartment in the River View Building, over looking the park, a week before the murder. It was where we started the investigation. There where boxes scattered through out the place, some full, others empty. No sign the murder took place there.
We talked to the Super; a friendly middle-aged man who said Hames came home after practice, but went to the ball game that evening.
“Do you know if he went with anyone, or was meeting someone there?” Bobby asked.
“No, Mr. Tyler, sorry, I don’t.”
“Do you know if he walked?”
“Yes, he walked, Mr. Collins.”
“Thank you,” I said, and we left.
Bobby drove over to the stadium while I walked. The quickest way to walk there from the Apartment Building was through the park, and over the bridge. At the top of the steps that led up to the bridge, I spotted what appeared to be dried blood on the railing, and running down to the pavement. I radioed Bobby, and called a forensic team.
As they inspected the bloodstains, Bobby and I walk across the bridge looking for anything else suspicious. Other than cigarette butts, we didn’t find anything. We knew it wasn’t a robbery; Hames’ wallet was in his pocket when he was found. He might have known his killer
We went to see if the ticket taker who took Hames’ ticket, last night, was at the stadium. The Pirates had an afternoon game, and there were ushers and stadium workers scurrying around. We just had to find ours. We knew from the ticket stub that Hames’ entered gate B. Albert Koz was working the gate that night. He was called down to take to us.
“Do you recognize this man?” Bobby asked, showing a picture of Hames to Koz.
“That’s Marvin Hames. I took his ticket last night,” he said. “You don’t forget Marvin Hames.”
“Was anyone with him, sir?” I asked
Koz thought for a second and then said, “No, not that I could tell.”
The News had gotten out about Hames; there were hordes of reporters outside the station. You couldn’t get in without someone shouting a question at you, or shoving a microphone or a recorder in your face. Bobby didn’t seem to mind, though, he looked like he was having fun answering the same question over and over.
When we finally got inside, the Captain met us at our desks. “Take a trip to Johnstown,” he said. “And see what you can find out.”
We grabbed some lunch before that boring ride east.
Reporters were outside of Hames’ parents house, but not as many as were at the station. We went in without answering any questions. Although Hames was an only child he had a lot of family around, aunts and uncles, and seven cousins. They were all there. His mother was upstairs, probably not wanting to see anybody. I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. She emerged with her sister as soon as we arrived.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Bobby said, helping her down the last few steps. “Anything you can tell us that might help us find out who did this?”
“He was real close to his coach, Mr. Clark,” she said, pouring herself some tea. “They kept in touch after Marvin went to USC. Mr. Clark retired last year.”
We drove to Johntown High to see if they knew where to find Clark. The principle told us that he moved to a Pittsburgh suburb to be closer to his son.
“Marvin was a good student and a great young man,” he said, looking at Hames’ file. “Why would anyone do this to him?”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out, sir,” I said, before we left.
We had just gotten back to the squad room when a fit out man came in. I waved him over to my desk.
“What’s your name, sir?” I asked, as he sat down.
We couldn’t get that lucky, could we?
“The same Joe Clark that coached football at Johnston?”
“Yes. I can’t reach a former player of mine, Marvin Hames. We usually talk a couple times a week, but haven’t heard from him in ten days.”
We did just did get that lucky, but how the hell did he make it through all the reporters without finding out anything? When I told him about Hames you could see his heart break. There were tears in his eyes, and he couldn’t say anything. He just sat there with his hand over his face.
The Captain waved Bobby and me into his office while Clark was in the restroom.
“The blood on the bridge is type A,” he said, hanging up the phone.
Bobby went to his desk and picked up the phone. I went to check on Clark.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hames,” I heard Bobby say when I reached my desk.
“She said he had type A,” Bobby said. “We have our crime scene.”
“Can you think of anyone who could possibly do this, sir,” I asked after Clark after he sat back down at my desk.
“I can’t,” he said. “I loved Marvin. He was the nicest kid I had, and everyone looked up to him.” He paused for a moment and added, “There was one disgruntled kid. The only year I had him, when Marvin was a senior. He played the same position.”
“Can you remember his name?” Bobby asked, writing in his not pad.
Clark pondered for a minute, “Ray Freeman, I think his name was. Two years younger than Marvin. He only played that one year.”
I checked to see if Freeman had a criminal record. He didn’t, but his fingprints were on file. He was serving in the Army, at Fort Hancock in New Jersey, since the summer of ’91.
The Captain had a contact at the base, and made a call on our behalf. Captain told use that Freeman was AWOL for the last two months, and they were trying to find him too. Up until the time he went missing he was a good soldier, never a problem and always took orders well. They were mystified by his absence.
I picked Bobby up the next morning, and again went to Johnstown. This time we went to the last known address of Freeman. It was a vacant lot. A passerby we talked to said the house burned down in ’92, and the couple that there now lived in a small two-bedroom house three miles away.
There was a couple sitting on the porch when we pulled up, not elderly, but not young either.
“Have you found my boy?” the woman shouted from the porch. “I’m Elli Freeman, this is my husband Ray.”
“No we haven’t, ma’am,” I said, showing my badge. “We were hoping he was here.”
“We ain’t heard nothing from him in three months, and last month a guy from the Army came and told us he went AWOL,” she said, tensely.
She told us how well he was doing since he joined the Army; no more trouble like he had in school. Mr. Freeman said that along with the letters his son kept sending, he also called twice a month.
It felt like we were going in circles. I was beginning to wonder if being a detective was worth it. The biggest problem on the beat were drunk drivers and speeders. Bobby and I wanted this since we were kids. Now, I wasn’t so sure.
We stopped at a sandwich shop once we got back to the city. The sandwich maker was a young man with dyed blond hair and brown framed glasses, but resembled Freeman.
I looked at the picture of him I had. “Ray Freeman?” I said to the man behind the counter.
He looked up at me and quickly disappeared into the back. I followed dodging whatever was in my way. Bobby was in the ally when I reached the back door. I thought we had lost Freeman until a car backfired around the corner.
We rushed around the corner to see the car start pulling away, but it stalled. Freeman jumped out and ran north toward the river. He didn’t get far before he tripped on a sewer grate. Bobby slapped the cuffs on him, and we took him to the station.
We found out Freeman rented a storage place not far from the sandwich shop. We let him stew in a holding cell while Bobby and I went to check it out.
Wasn’t much there, but it looked like he’d been staying there a while. A TV, mattress and an opened footlocker with a duffel bag behind it. We search the locker and bag; clothes, a couple pair of shoes and some video games. Nothing to indicate he had anything to do with Hames’ death.
We took Freeman to an interview room when we got back.
“Why did you go AWOL, Ray?” I asked, walking behind him.
“Awe man, I just could take it no more.”
“So you have a problem taking orders,” Bobby said, sitting at the table across from Freeman.
“So why’d you join the Army? I looked him in the eye.
“It was my Dad’s idea. He thought it would straighten me up.”
“It did for awhile, what happened?” Bobby calmly asked.
“I didn’t like being told what to do,” Freeman started to go agitated.
“When’s the last time you saw Marvin Hames?” I sat down next to Bobby.
“High school. When we played football.”
“You didn’t see him after that?” I asked
“No. It’s a big school. And I didn’t go looking for him,” he sarcastically said.
“Why’d you only play that one year?” Bobby questioned.
“After the stories I heard about Mr. Clark, I decided not to play.”
I raised my eyebrows, “What kind of stories?”
“About what he was doing with some of the players.”
“What was he doing to them?” I rose out of my chair.
“Having sex with them.”
I paced heavily around the room, “You know with who?”
“No. Didn’t want to know. After the year, I just never went back.”
Bobby pointed to him, “Did he ever approach you?”
Bobby shook his head, “And you didn’t tell anybody?”
“No. It’s none of my business.”
“Stay here,” I said, and Bobby and I left the room.
I could feel rage building inside me. It took all I had to control it. I sat at my desk to calm my emotions. Of all the criminal acts, that might be the worst. It turns my stomach, and I get pissed.
I told the Captain what Freeman had said, and that I didn’t like him for Hames’ murder. He told me to contact the MP’s at Fort Hancock, let them deal with him and turn our attention to Clark.
Before we brought Clark in for questioning, we wanted to see if Freeman’s story had any bearing to it. We got our hands on an football roster from Hames’ senior year, and contacted John Kirk, the quarterback. He was working with the team over at Duquesne University. He agreed to come in.
I took Kirk back to the interview room while Bobby watched through the window.
“How well did you know Marvin Hames, Mr. Kirk?”
“We were best friends our junior and senior year. I was devastated to hear he got killed.”
“Did you stay in touch when he went to USC?”
“We tried to always get together when he came home. Sometimes we did, other times I got stuck at school.”
“Some. I walked on.”
“How well did you know Joe Clark?”
“We were tight,” he lowed his head. “He helped me get in to Duquesne,” he whispered.
His body language suggested Freeman’s story had some credibility to it. I told him I’d be right back, and I left the room to gather my thoughts. The Captain was also watching through the window, and told me to take it slow. After I told myself to relax a few times, I went back in the room.
“How often did you and –,” I started to say, walking in the door.
“I have to go, emergency,” he interrupted, looking at his beeper.
He told me he’d be in touch in a couple days, and gave me his business card. I’m not sure if I believed him or not. But it looked and sounded like he was ready to talk. Maybe I gave him too much time to think about it when I left the room, and he changed his mind.
The next morning Norm Fry came to the station. He played for Clark in 1979, his first year as head coach. Fry got home from his honeymoon yesterday, and heard about Hames last night. I took him back to one of the interview rooms.
“I contacted Marvin his senior year,” he said, sitting down. “And we’ve been in touch since.”
“I high school?” I took out my notepad.
“Yes. I want to congratulate him on breaking my rushing record.”
“You were that good?”
“I was all right. Marvin was ten times the ballplayer I was.”
“Were you guys close?” I pulled my chair out, turned it around and straddled it.
“Close enough to find out we had something in common.”
“What was that?”
“After his senior season, we were on his porch having a couple beers celebrating the state championship. He got chatty, and told me what Clark did to him. One day after practice his junior year, he was the last one in the field house. Clark approached him and threatened to bench him if he didn’t have sex with him, and threatened to cut him if he told anyone.”
“And, he did the same to you?” I gripped the chair-back with both hands.
“Before my senior year, he knew I wanted to go to Penn State. He told me he would help me if I, play ball, as he put it.”
“Did you have any scholarship offers?”
“Only to Slippery Rock, but I figured I was good enough for Penn State. Clark said he knew someone, and could get me in.”
“So you agreed to play ball. Is that the only time it happened?” I loosened my grip on the chair.
“After the game I got the record my senior year. He told me a recruiter was there and said I could go if I played ball again. He took me to his private bathroom.”
“In the locker room?” I stood, and tried to hide my anger.
“With the whole team in front,” his eyes teared up.
I told him I’d be right back, and went to get something to drink. I saw Bobby coming up the steps, “You’re late.”
“I had car trouble,” he grabbed some coffee.
I brought Bobby up to speed on the interview. By that time I calmed down and went back in the room. Bobby stayed at his desk to look for some more of Clark’s players.
“Did you see Clark after the season was over?” I sat at the table across from him.
“Once,” he wiped his eyes. “When he brought me the information packet for Penn State. Didn’t see him after that, not even at graduation.”
“Did you play football for Penn State?”
“Yeah, but couldn’t cut it. Then I flunked out and got heavy into the bottle. Didn’t get sober till I met my wife.”
“Did you know, or hear any stories of Clark doing that to other kids?”
“No. I did get the nerve to tell my history teacher,” he said, before I could ask another question. “He was one of the coaches.”
I leaned forward in the chair, “What did he say?”
“He said he would take care of it, but I didn’t hear anything after I told him,” he pounded his fist on the table.
“Do you remember his name?”
Fry rubbed his forehead, “What was his name?” he whispered. “Horn, I believe,” he bellowed. “I’m not positive.”
I thanked him for coming in, and went to my desk to find some information on the faculty that was there at the time.
Sam Horn was the secondary coach while he was substituting. He quit coaching when he began teaching full time, and climbed the ladder to Assistant Principle.
The investigation took a strange twist. But I had a feeling Hames’ murder was related to what Clark had done to him.
The Captain sent two uniformed officers to track down Clark while Bobby and I went to talk to Horn in Johnstown. We got there just as school was letting out. Horn was in his office. Bobby knocked on the opened door.
“Mr. Horn,” I said, showing my badge.
He looked up, “Come in. Have a seat. Your here about Marvin? Damn shame what happened to him.”
“Actually,” I said. “We’re here about Norm Fry.”
He got a perplexed look and asked, “What about him?”
“We heard that you knew what Clark did to him,” I said, looking around the room.
“Clark didn’t do anything to him,” Horn put his pencil down.
“So you just ignored what Fry said to you?” Bobby asked , while writing notes.
“Yes. Fry had a vivid imagination,” he swallowed hard.
I noticed a ticket stub lying on top of crinkled papers in the trash can. “When did you go see the Pirates?” I picked up the stub.
“A couple nights ago,” he said. “I met a lady friend down there. I cleaned out my wallet after lunch.”
I showed Bobby the stub, “Did you know Hames was there that night too?”
“I had no idea,” he put papers in his brief case.
“Can you remember what Fry told you exactly?” Bobby leaned forward.
“I don’t know. Something about getting into Penn State if he had sex with Clark,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Now if you excuse me, I have to take my mother to the doctor.”
“One more thing, Mr. Horn,” I said. “What’s the name of your lady friend?”
“Rose Sye. She teaches at Woodland Hill High School,” he said, right before he left.
Bobby and I looked at each other, and nodded in agreement. We didn’t like his body language, and thought he might be hiding something.
I checked in with the Captain as soon as we get back. He told us Clark was upstairs being interviewed by the sex squad, but they weren’t making any progress. I called Kirk, and asked him to come back in. He reluctantly agreed.
Bobby succeeded in finding Sye’s address. I told the Captain we were going to pay her a visit, and that he could expect John Kirk. He said he would send him upstairs.
Sye told us she left right after the ballgame, and Horn was going to try to find Hames after seeing him on the video board.
Horn pulled up, and got out of the car as we were leaving Sye’s house. He ducked back in his car after spotting us. Bobby reached him before he was able to pull away.
We took Horn to the station, and put him in a interview room. I was pissed.
“Why did you lie to us about seeing Hames at the game?” I screamed, pacing back and forth.
He was sweating profusely, and just shook his head.
“Did you find Hames after seeing him on the scoreboard?” Bobby slammed his had down on the table in front of Horn.
“Walking out of the stadium. We talked for a while,” he wiped his forehead with his sleeve.
A knock on the window interrupted. I told Bobby I’d go, and left the room. The Captain said Clark had just confessed to having sex with Kirk and Hames. I went back in without saying a word.
Horn had his head on the table, and crying like a baby. He picked his head up, “I didn’t mean to kill him.”
I pulled out a chair and sat across from Horn, “What happened?”
He wiped his tears away, “I don’t know how it happened, but the conversation got around to Clark. We argued. That’s when I slammed his head on the railing.”
“How many times?” Bobby wanted to know.
“Three or four.”
“Why? Because of what Clark did?” I yelled.
Bobby threw a pen and paper on the table, “Write it down.”
It felt like we worked two cases, which it turned out to be. Horn and Clark were going away for a long time. The nervousness I had at the start of the case disappeared, and it wasn’t so hard afterwards. Whether it was speeders or killers, the object is to get the perpetrator off the streets.