CAR DOOR SCORE — The ZODIAC Killer

An outtake from Chapter 8 of HorrorScope— “Car Door Score”– by Gian  J. Quasar

 

Traffic was occasional for this time of night. The corner of Clinton and Main in downtown Napa was dark except for the fuzzy light from the cones of evenly spaced streetlights. They mostly illuminated the old rock walls of Napa’s historic and oldest building. In the large parking area behind it, owner Mike Black had built the Space Age, modern Napa Car Wash. It looked more like a long fun land ride. Affixed incongruously to this historic 1900s building was a stark contrast of 1960s lathed stucco. This was narrow set of offices that managed the car wash. Here the phone booth stood by the stucco wall. The car wash itself extended back into the darkness of the parking lot until its “Space Age” girders melded into the dark silhouettes of a grove of trees.

Hal Snook arrived, parked down the street and walked to the parking lot. The police officer guarding the area confirmed he had arrived quickly and, shining his flashlight beam on the dark booth, showed it had not been disturbed. The receiver was still off the hook. Both then started shining their flashlights around, but the round beams never coasted over anything that seemed like tire tracks or footprints.

Lake_Berryessa_Car_door_at_crime_scene
Zodiac’s score on Bryan Hartnell’s car door.

 

 

Meanwhile, Narlow and Lonergan paced the gurneys as the victims were rushed into ER, where Drs. Caulkins and Seibert started attending them immediately. Narlow and Lonergan followed in and hoped for some information. When the blankets were pulled back, all were surprised by how brutal this was. Blood soaked their clothes, trickling out from slices in the fabric. Both were in critical condition. Another doctor was being summoned. The doctors told Narlow and Lonergan to get out.

There wasn’t much for them to do but wait yet again. Lake Berryessa was about an hour away along a thin, dark country road marked only by reflectors here and there. Whatever evidence awaited them, none of it was as important as the eyewitness accounts. So they waited.

Time passes slowly in a hospital corridor. At one point the nurse told them Celia’s best friend’s name was Judy. They decided to call the college and get in touch with her. When she couldn’t be found Narlow issued an APB for her. Still they waited. Finally, the doctors said they could talk to Bryan. He was the most stable of the two. At 9:37 p.m. they were allowed a brief chat.

Hospitals are cold places. It is not a temperature that registries on the skin but in the centers of living. An x-ray room is particularly anodyne. The machine makes its noise. Voices echo in the Spartan surroundings. Nurses are always calm. Doctors are utilitarian. Bryan lay on the steel table in fear of his life, drugged up and in shock.

DSC00717-icon

Where Bryan Hartnell had parked and the location that night of all the forensic investigation.

The detectives leaned over and smiled at him. Their faces were a friendlier sight than the cold white glare of the overhead light set in the ugly, dull ceiling.

Before they could say anything, a nurse peaked in. Narlow was wanted on the phone. Lonergan proceeded with asking the questions.

In such a state like this, Hartnell was only capable of repeating the most significant details. It was clear from his description that the appearance of the assailant was striking. The first detail he gave was the most disturbing. Hartnell said the man wore “a black ceremonial type hood, square at top.”

Perhaps because of his drugged and shocked state Lonergan was hesitant to believe it . . . at first.

Hartnell continued: the attacker was heavy set, about 200 to possibly even 250 pounds. Though he approached with a gun, he stabbed them with a long knife. The gun had a holster, the knife a scabbard. The gun was an automatic; the knife appeared homemade with a black handle. His clothes were dark.

Lonergan was skeptical. He later stated in his report: “It should be noted that Hartnell was very groggy and he was very difficult to interview at this time.” Lonergan wanted Hartnell interviewed again the next day if possible.

Lake_Berryessa_Suspec sketch
Possibly the best sketch of Zodiac, taken at Lake Berryessa. 

 

The flashlight beams crisscrossed for the last time. The sidewalk, parking lot, and the gutter revealed no tracks. Snook got his dusting kit and went to the phone booth. Before he entered he could see that the receiver was lying on the little shelf under the phone in the corner of the booth. He noted that the receiver faced south; mouth piece was almost under the phone and the ear piece near the edge of the shelf, pointing south. The openings faced east. In other words, the caller had held the phone with his left hand and set it down with the same hand. Not surprising since most people dial with their right hand. Moreover, given the location of the booth in relation to the street, this was more convenient for the caller’s safety. This allowed the caller to keep his eye on Main Street and the sidewalk to see who passed while he spoke.

Snook dusted the whole area and took a few dozen prints. When he finished and packed-up his kit he checked his watch. It was 10:49 p.m. He had a long drive to Lake Berryessa now.

Not only was this a long drive, it was at this time of night a deserted drive. His headlights coasted about the dark two lane road. With every bend, they swayed off sapling brush on one side and etched hillside on the other; occasionally off wood posts with little reflectors on them. Finally, on the right side there was nothing but a morass of ink. This indicated the valley lake was on his right side. He was getting closer. His headlights pushed on.

karmenghiatracks

The redoubtable Snook at the scene on Knoxville Road.  

Little did Harold Snook know but that Ken Narlow and Dick Lonergan were only 20 minutes ahead. At 10:15 p.m. they had left the hospital and returned to the station to talk to Celia’s best friend, Judy, who had finally been found. The interview yielded no information on anybody who would want to kill her. She was, after all, just visiting. It was an exercise in futility, though standard procedure.

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

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