The Houston Stalker Part 3– Breckenridge Disappearance

She was an unlikely fit to be working in the Men’s Club, one of Houston’s largest exotic clubs. She was from a religious family. She may not have done any of the dancing– she only waited tables– but she was still an unlikely fit for the job at the club. Things went well. She made good money. Despite not being one of the exotic dancers, she too was a beautiful young woman.

It had been a couple of years since a dancer had been savagely murdered and another raped in the sweltering summer of 1990. The crimes hadn’t been connected back then as having been done by the same perp, but . . . there are always creeps on the prowl around these clubs. The girls are aware of it all the time.

But these are your average losers and not your premeditated and careful stalkers with a scope on just the right victim. There was little reason to suspect during this hot summer night August 3, 1992, that he had scoped another girl and was cruising the clubs to finally make his move.

. . .If that is what happened.

Everything indicates the Houston Stalker, as I call him, was very confident. He was prepared to take on a couple on his first recorded attack on June 20, 1990. He took on a couple in a risky location (lovers’ lane) and made his attack a fairly prolonged one on the night of August 22, 1990 . . .then he seemed to be gone. Or did he just realize he was leaving too many clues?

There was a lot of talk of DNA already back then. He would realize that if he wanted to continue his binge of crime the bodies could not be found.

After the gruesome murders of Andy Atkinson and Cheryl Henry, there were a number of disappearances of young women in and around Houston, Harris County. They followed a similar pattern– they had contact with the clubs. They were either last seen leaving one of them or worked in connection with them. One variant is the gym– one worked at a fitness joint. The connection is the same, to an extent– expected voyeurism of a beautiful, young woman.

Before we probe into these cases, let us look at the disappearance of Tara Breckenridge. It was a slow night at the Men’s Club on August 3. The girls were asked who wanted to leave early.  Along with another waitress, she opted to go. She clocked out at 12:29 a.m. August 4 and walked past the doorman without acknowledging his “good night.” A security guard walked her to her car, a little red Pontiac Fiero. According to Houston PD’s website, she had left the club a little before 1 a.m.

When her live-in boyfriend, Wayne Hecker, returned to their apartment around 5 a.m. he was surprised that she was not home. She usually got off work at 2 a.m. when the club closed. He and a friend informed the police and went looking for Tara. On the way back to the apartment, on the highway known as West Loop North (which heads north from the Men’s Club to their apartment) they found her Fiero parked on the shoulder.  The blinkers were not on. The car alarm was not engaged. And a can of mace was on the passenger seat. She always carried it with her. When her engine hood was finally opened, police discovered that her alternator belt was missing.

What Hecker and everybody else deduced is easy– the alternator belt got thrown from wear, fell down through the engine and onto the highway, and the car coasted on and she had to pull over. Someone came along. She felt safe with whomever it was– leaving the can of mace was proof of that. She left with him. She didn’t leave her blinkers on, etc.

breckenridge-carlocation3

The location where her car was found on the highway. 

Fact: she was never seen again.

Who could she have known? It had to be someone who around 1:15 or 1:30 a.m. was on the road. Who could have come along? It seems ludicrous to think someone she knew personally came along randomly unless she was being stalked from a distance that night.

Two suspects came to the fore quickly– her boyfriend Hecker, and an admirer who left her notes expressing joy that she would “marrie” him.  One of those kind.

breckenridge-highway290

The location of the Men’s Club compared to where the Fiero was found on the highway. 

Hecker’s alibi was that he was at a pool hall until around 5 a.m. However, it is the narrative to regurgitate that Hecker was unaccounted for at the pool hall between 12 a.m. and 1:45 a.m. when he was seen to return. This kinda shot his big alibi for the night. The narrative now says he had an hour and forty-five minutes to commit the evil crime and return to the pool hall.  This is not true.

Tara had not clocked out until 12:29 a.m., and Houston PD says it was closer to 1 a.m. when she physically left the club. This reduces the crime window to considerably less than 30 minutes. Hecker would need to take some time to return to his pool hall by 1:45 a.m. It doesn’t seem he had much time to kill her and dispose of the body so carefully it has never been found.

The other suspect was the happy note writer who loved her. Both seem a poor fit, however.

For each to fit, the scenario would be the same: it would require that he followed her, saw her pull over, came up and took her away, telling her not to put on her blinkers or alarm. Or he returned afterward with the car keys and turned off the blinkers . . .which seems a waste of time and effort. Or . . . he brought the car to the location, opened the hood, cut the alternator belt to make it look like the car threw it, took it with him, and arranged the car, with her can of mace inside, to make it look like. . . what? Incriminating for someone who knew her?  Why do that if the killer really did know her? Also, the last bit would require an accomplice with a car by which the perp could then leave.

Tara was off early that night– unusual. So whoever followed her had waited in the parking lot or along the street. He seized the opportunity when he saw her car on the side of the highway. She felt safe with him or he truly was in a position to come back and arrange the scene.

It sounds like a cop or a guy playing copper. The rape victim of June 1990 said her attacker had a military bearing about him. We know he was an adept stalker. It wasn’t coincidence that the first rape victim of June 1990 was an exotic dancer at the clubs and the second and first (known) murder victim was also. He popped up at the first victim’s house, ready around 2 a.m. when all the clubs closed. Henry and Atkinson were at a lovers’ lane– so he must have followed them after they had left Bayou Mama’s, another club, that hot August night.

In the next post we will look at all the missing women around Houston during this time period– they were last seen at a club.

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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 or Q Man. “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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The Houston Stalker– Part 2. Killer

With the rape of an exotic dancer in northwest Houston on Terra Cotta Drive, June 20, 1990, we have a valuable clue to the skulking modus of the Houston Stalker, enough at least to induce his actions on the night he murdered Cheryl Henry and Andy Atkinson.

The exotic dancer had worked at GiGi’s, and she returned home at 2 a.m. He was waiting upstairs, fishnet hood on, gun in left hand, and standing at the bedroom door. He knew her schedule, at least in the rough. He knew her boyfriend’s name was Randy. He asked “Where is Randy?” So he wasn’t entirely sure where the boyfriend might have been.

So what do we deduce? He learned of her schedule from visiting GiGi’s more than once, but didn’t have a close window into her life otherwise. He must have followed her home one night and learned the address of the house she lived in with her beau.

Two, we must infer that she was his ultimate target and interpret that he wasn’t scared of taking on and binding the boyfriend should she have arrived home with him.

Now– the night of August 22, 1990, two months later. Young Andy and Cheryl left another club– Bayou Mama’s. They went to park at Enclave Round, known back then as a Lovers’ Lane. The industrial park for which the area was in development was slow in coming. So the broad Enclave Parkway was in, even the street lining trees were planted. Cul de sacs were here and there leading to the plowed fields and old trees lines that had enclosed the old farmland. atkinson-scene-4

Houston’s Channel 11 obtained this old aerial of the industrial complex as it looked back then. Atkinson had parked in the circle area of the cul de sac. The thick stand of trees in the far right is the crime scene.  You can see how a game path leads there from the circle. 

Here they sat on Enclave Round petting, talking, whatever. They were in Andy’s white Honda Civic. The line of trees to the south is about 400 feet from the cul de sac. The next morning when the youngsters had not returned home, a search was started. A security guard had found the car, and called Cheryl’s mother using the phone number in Cheryl’s purse, which was in the car (the car windows were rolled down).

A search commenced, and later the police found their bodies in the densest part of the tree line 400 feet from the Civic. Cheryl had been raped, her wrists bound with hemp rope behind her, she lay face down, with rotted cedar fence palings put on top of her. Her throat had been cut thrice– I’m assuming right to left indicating a left handed perpetrator. About 50 yards away, tied around a tree with hemp rope was Andy. His throat had been cut so deeply he was almost beheaded.

One of his golf clubs had been taken by the perp and laid down on the ground, pointing to Cheryl’s body. A few golf balls made a line pointing toward her.

There, in general, it is. The crime went unsolved. Until 2008 no one knew that the perp had been ready to take on a couple in their own home a couple of months before. The backlog of rape kits from Houston PD was finally processed and a match was made between the rapist/killer of Henry and the rapist and home terrorizer of the exotic dancer from GiGi’s.

Knowing what we know now, we can see a connection. The creep wasn’t scared to take on couples. He wanted the woman really bad and probably came across his intended victims from cruising the club scene.

Both Cheryl and Andy worked at them as well. So we cannot be certain that their killer came across Cheryl while scoping Bayou Mama’s that night. He may have had his eyes on her for a while and was following her at a safe distance that night. He came ready with hemp rope, a knife, probably also a gun as a control weapon, a flashlight, and was prepared to do extending raping and killing in an open area like the undeveloped development.

The exotic dancer at GiGi’s said he had a military stance and bearing, and used aggressive, vulgar language.

We don’t need to go into the crime scene details in this post, but a few points of logistics must be considered. Remember, part of understanding and hence solving a crime is reenacting it. We have to consider just what a perp would need to do to pull this off successfully. The body of facts as we now have them tell us this creep wasn’t just cruising a lovers’ lane area and looking for victims. The odds would be astronomical that he would come across a victim that also worked at an exotic club like his first victim.  Therefore we must conclude that his intent was on Cheryl Henry for a while and he followed them that night at a distance and knew it was them in that white Civic.

How did he do it? Did he drive past on Enclave Parkway and see the car sitting down the cul de sac? Did he drive through the cul de sac first and then return? I think the latter unlikely. But he could have parked down the cul de sac at a distance from them. They would have thought it another couple. Then he skulks up and appears at their open window.  Or he could have driven up and parked behind them and played cop.  This would mean that he had a pretty imposing car. Andy was parked (from the looks of it) at the back of the circle or facing Enclave Parkway toward the back of the circle.  They would have seen any car enter the round and then drive down it.

There was blood in the car, so the creep subdued and had to subdue Andy first. Walking a couple in this condition across a plowed field to the densest part of the tree line (in the dark of night) is quite something. I must assume that he took the golf balls and club at the same time. It is hard to believe he came and went from the car after killing them just to position some artifacts. But who knows. The footprint pattern would have told us. The club and balls may have been in the field closer to the car and a taunting message to walk toward the tree line. If so, this would indicate he did walk back to the circle after the murder (thus he had parked there himself).

Comparing the photos above, 1989 and 2002, and then looking at the aerial provided by Houston’s Channel 11, reveals the line of trees was maintained largely intact when the area was finally developed after 1995. The road to the back parking lot was cut through the tree line. Two trees stand forward but close to the line, and they can still be seen in the 2002 Google on the right. One still remains today. 

The killer seemed particularly angry at Andy, so I assume Andy had, in fact, challenged him. He patiently tied him up to a tree trunk and then went at it with vengeance. Before or after raping Henry? I assume before.

But this was obviously a very aggressive attack by an accomplished stalker of the club scene, and someone so arrogant that once he fixed a target in his lustful and demented mind nothing was going to stop him.

We will leave it here at this post. Consider the pictures and just what it would take to have the confidence to pull off such a protracted crime at a location like this, on a couple that could not possibly have been random targets. Could he have parked behind them and not fear a cop would check two empty cars at a lovers’ lane? Cops check those locations. Did he park elsewhere and walk a distance to the car? Was he in the military and hence only stationed in Houston for a while? Has this night stalker struck the club scene elsewhere around the country?

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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 or Q Man. “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.

The Houston Stalker: A Silent and Careful Serial

Within the gruesome annals of lovers’ lane murders there are few that break the common MO of hit and run type of spontaneity.  The Zodiac Killer’s attack on a couple at Lake Berryessa is one such example where a couple was taken on close up, hands-on sort of way.  The Phantom of Texarkana killed one of his couples that way in 1946. But there aren’t many examples. Usually the victims are shot at and the perp races off, leaving little evidence.

A rare example of a hands-on couple’s killer at a petting spot in more recent times occurred on August 22, 1990. For years the double and savage murders of Cheryl Henry (22) and Andy Atkinson (21) stood as a solitary crime. Because of this the theories were that it could have been revenge. Both worked within the exotic club atmosphere, and many twisted minds find release in such dark and sometimes anonymous places of legal voyeurism. Perhaps it was even a homicidal maniac passing through Houston. But it wasn’t.

Finally, DNA made a match. Some 18 years after-the-fact backlog rape kits were finally processed. The rapist and murderer of Cheryl Henry was the same man who had raped a woman in Houston just two months before and relatively nearby to where he would murder the young couple. He was now a serial, and probably more prolific than the evidence showed.

Hands-on lovers’ lanes killers are usually the gutsiest and most violent. They are also usually the most premeditated. The same rings true here. Let’s look at the circumstances of Houston’s silent stalker.

It was 2 a.m. June 20, 1990. The victim was an exotic dancer at GiGi’s. She just returned to her boyfriend’s house at 7826 Terra Cotta Drive, in west Houston.  She went upstairs. There suddenly appearing in the doorway to the master bedroom was a man in a fishnet stocking mask. It distorted his features. It distorted his lips and voice as he snarled at her. He held a gun in his left hand. It had a long barrel. He demanded: “Where’s Randy?”

This was her boyfriend’s name. He knew her boyfriend’s name. He had done some work. Various terror-laced indignities now followed. The hands-on home invaders always seem to like that stuff. They have the time here. We must look at it a bit because it sheds some light on how this maniac must have acted with Henry and Atkinson two months later.

The creep did a number of things. According to reports he taunted her with death. He put the barrel of his pistol to her head and cocked it more than once. He later tied her wrists with duct tape, then sealed her mouth and eyes with it. He shoved a pillow case over her head and then robbed her purse. Then, of course, the swine raped her. Verbally, he was “very vulgar.” Exact words unknown.

I don’t think this guy was too skilled yet. Obviously, she had seen him and he knew that was compromising. As a result, he taunted her that she wasn’t too observant, not noticing he had on a military uniform. The police think that he was trying to convince her she hadn’t seen what they believe was a security guard’s uniform.

After he finished raping her, the usual threat came. He told her to lie on the floor and forewarned her not to move, because: “I may be in the house for an hour or for five minutes.” It’s the usual warning so the victim won’t try and get free and call the police quickly. To make sure of this the assailant had removed the receiver from the phone cradle and stuffed it under the mattress.

He had covered his bases to some extent, but there are a few clues here we have to consider in light of what we know he would do 2 months later. He knew the victim’s boyfriend by name. He could have learned this rummaging in the house. He stationed himself in the master bedroom, the obvious first place one of them would go upstairs. He probably wasn’t afraid to take them both on.

atkinson-henry-terra-cotta
Quiet Terra Cotta Drive. 

Although he may have learned the boyfriend’s name from some document within the house, he had likely come across her at GiGi’s. He wanted her bad and he was ready to take on the boyfriend if he had to. But would he have murdered her and her boyfriend if they had been together?

This we don’t know, but it is a big jump in crime strategy to go from a single rape in a victim’s house to being fully prepared to bind a couple at their car at a petting spot on the fringes of Houston’s rural area. From what it sounds like with his first known victim, he really enjoyed his “fun.” With Henry and Atkinson, he would bind them both, lead them into the woods (100 yards apart), rape her, and then cut both their throats, the boy’s so deeply he almost took off his head in his bloodlust.

All that we have is DNA on this Kolchakian style “Night Strangler” type of villain I have labeled the Houston Stalker. The sketch that opens this blog article was done 18 years after-the-fact, and you may take it for what it is worth. The victim insisted the assailant was: “white man in his mid-30s, about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds with brown hair, brown eyes, a possible mustache and olive skin.”

One thing seems evident: this was no ordinary rapist and lovers’ lane assailant. He’s probably responsible for more missing women, but he made sure there was no evidence (bodies never found, of course). His two mistakes are his first rape (presumably first) in west Houston and then the double murder of Henry and Atkinson.

It is time many researchers started looking into reports and files– crimes on individual women home alone or couples where they were not murdered (yet), and then on couples murders, then missing women associated with the nightclub circuit,  to see via MO how many links can be made.

In our next post we will probe into the murders of Atkinson and Henry.

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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 or Q Man. “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.

Steele Canyon Cold

Unlike Proctor Valley Jane, this murder victim was identifiable. Yet from the little  that San Diego sheriffs have released on her murder, it seems her death had to be determined to be a murder– so it seems it wasn’t too evident at face value such as an obvious knifing or shooting.

heidt
Proctor Valley Road marked by the yellow arrow– showing the relationship to Highway 94 and Steele Canyon Road. 

In fact, there is too little, and unnecessarily too little, information on the death of Elizabeth Heidt. Two days before Christmas 1977– a month and a half before Proctor Valley Jane’s body was found in a ditch off Proctor Valley Road in Otay– Heidt’s body was found in a drainage ditch a mile east of where Steele Canyon Road meets with Route 94 in Jamul (pronounced Hamool), east of San Diego.

She too was young, far too young. heidt2

Her murder is a cold case, and there is little likelihood of it being solved let alone linked to Proctor Valley Jane of one and a half months later in Otay unless there is much more information released on the circumstances.

The area of Steele Canyon Road where her body was found remains undeveloped. The map shows how close Proctor Valley Road is. The difference is Highway 94 is the main backroad out of San Diego going east for whatever reason. It becomes Campo Road. Proctor Valley Road remains quite outback to this day, and it would take a little knowledge to know where it is.  But if the same killer is afoot he had enough time to find it.

Much more information needs to come out about the murder of Heidt.

If a killer was passing through San Diego for these months, he made it a point to drop bodies in the rural areas southeast. It is likely he headed to Arizona after this. I don’t know of any other cold cases that come close to the MO here. . . and  sadly the way the bodies were discarded is a common MO. Proctor Valley Jane being poisoned, however, is pretty unique.

Not saying either of the above are the location of the body drop, but such ditches are all along Highway 94 here approaching Jamul.

 

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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 or Q Man. “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.

Proctor Valley Jane

The year 1978 is a long time ago for a forgotten nameless teen. Surely, no one remembers her. She was only about 15 years old. She had a broken tooth, one that already had a root canal. She also had a right ear that was slightly deformed and noticeably smaller than her left. But she probably usually kept her long hair covering it. She had worn perky blue denim coveralls and a white mid way blouse.  At the end of her life she had worn her hair in a ponytail, tied with nothing more than a rubber band.

She was murdered, you see, dressed as I described her above. It had been a couple of days before Valentine’s Day 1978. She was then dumped in a ditch on Proctor Valley Road, a bit east of Bonita, back then an unincorporated part of San Diego just east of Chula Vista. proctor1

Bonita is a nice place. I used to live on Otay Lakes Road back in the 1980s. Dirt bikers hit the open canyons. Rustic mountains and hiking are nearby and you are also only 30 minutes from the beaches (Imperial and Coronado).

As I was saying– Jane Doe with the deformed ear must have hitched from afar. She is unidentified to this day, and with her distinctive ear you’d think someone would have remembered her . . .if they wanted to. Someone had cared enough at one point to get her root canal– pretty expensive treatment.

Not only was Jane distinctive, she was murdered in a distinctive way– possibly tortured but certainly poisoned. That’s not that common.

The only other set of similar murders I can recall were also back in the 1970s and located in Sonoma County in northern California. They are often mixed up with the Coed Murders, but they stand out as uniquely different. The victims were much younger than the coeds and killed in different ways. The coeds were apparently killed by a certain type of bondage in which while they struggled to free themselves they slowly choked themselves, presumably while their killer watched. janedoe-otay-1978-543957-2

But the other, much younger victims were poisoned, at least more than one of them. It may not have been the sole means by which they were killed, but poison was certainly part of the horrid gambols perpetrated upon them. Their killer(s) was strong and threw them down an embankment when finished with his thrill.

The Sonoma Murders can be accessed on this blog.

Let’s get back to Jane Doe in Otay/San Diego.

She clearly was found nowhere near to Sonoma County, but she may prove a link to this other Sonoma killer. It’s not too farfetched to consider this creep traveled the roads of California and fed off the fat of the land, as it was called. That was a common thing in the 1970s, especially if one had a van. And, curiously, there was an incident with a van in the Sonoma cases– an attempted kidnapping of a teen who may have been destined to be the next victim.

proctor4

In this van incident it seemed the perp had an accomplice. This might explain the unusual strength the killer of the teen girls was thought to possess– he threw one body over some intervening bushes on the embankment of a rural road. Instead of fiendish strength, it may have been two men who tossed the bodies, discarding them as if . . . well, no need to go into it.

If this creep traveled south in his van (maybe with an accomplice), Proctor Valley Road is the type of road where you’d expect him to dump a body. It doesn’t mean a van was involved, but it just seems to fit.

Proctor Valley Jane was a typical 1970s hitchhiking girl probably. A runaway from a fractured or single parent home, and the parents didn’t care. Maybe an orphan, but I would imagine by now someone would have remembered a girl with such a distinctive ear from an orphanage.

There is still uncertainty as to who the Sonoma Coed Killer was–  if it was Manalli he was certainly dead by 1978. But if there was another killer operating in Sonoma County, the clues in the Proctor Valley Jane case may help lead to a solid suspect. It takes checking the suspect list to find who was in both counties at the given times.

There is also another murder down in San Diego Co. that may shed light on this connection. We will discuss it in the next blog.

Proctor Valley Jane is not an investigation of mine. I merely call attention to a potential link. It requires more details to see how similar the MO was. The discarding of a body on a rural road unfortunately is all too common, but death by poisoning a teen girl is not so common.

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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 or Q Man. “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.

Quietly Unraveling The ZODIAC

I’m sorry once again that my blog has fallen silent for the most part on current cold case investigations. I know this is especially frustrating for those who have been waiting for HorrorScope, which I have delayed more than once.  You all have learned how I have contempt for books that advertise “Solved” when the contents are nothing more than a dangling accusation against yet another suspect (on whatever case the book may be based). That is not the purpose of HorrorScope.

I don’t really classify myself as a writer. I write about some of my real life investigations, and HorrorScope is the result of my investigation into uncovering the true identity of the most boastful slayer in history.

To update you, several avenues are being pursued right now to secure contemporary hand printing examples from my suspect, including help from former law enforcement and private eye’s. Other sources are being sought to locate him during February 1964 and June 1963, to see if he and therefore ZODIAC are truly a viable person of interest in these early double murders.

If the contemporary hand printing sample comes back a match, a sample will be released on Q Files and I will proceed from there with all that is required to present the case appropriately and also let law enforcement take the next steps for their own investigation.

Aside from that no more information will be released until everything is finalized. Thank you again for your patients.

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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 or Q Man. “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.