They say that some relationships are like sausages, you don’t want to look too closely at what’s inside them.
So when Chicago homicide detective, Paddy Morgan, asked me to help him with a murder a block away from my mother’s house on north Milwaukee Avenue, I was reluctant to get involved. I, Detective Joseph Bielack of the NYPD, was on vacation and visiting my mother. What did the CPD want with me?
“Come on, Joey,” Paddy explained, “it’s summer, and the worst time for murders, and besides, you grew up in the neighborhood. You know these people.”
After much persuasion by Morgan, I agreed to walk down the block to the Kazmerski house, the crime scene, and look it over – just on a consulting basis. Morgan would still be working the case.
North Milwaukee Avenue in the city of Chicago is largely a Polish community with a few other ethnic groups, such as Latvian, Ukrainian and Puerto Rican. It is a poor neighborhood with older frame and brick homes, small shops and businesses, but proud of its heritage. It has its own Polish newspaper, Polska Chicagaska, and every summer, the Polish Constitution Day Parade.
As the New York cop walked down the block, he tried to recall the local gossip his mother had related to him about the victim, Francis Kazmerski, an elderly man, and his young wife, Sonia.
Mr. Kazmerski had worked in a nearby printing factory until he retired, frugally saving every penny. When he retired, he bought a brick bungalow on Milwaukee Avenue.
He also arranged to marry a young Polish girl, an 18-year-old brunette named Sonia. He was in his sixties, and the differences in their ages made for a stormy marriage.
Also, he stayed home and puttered around the house while Sonia worked at a Polish delicatessen to supplement their savings. The gossip was that more-than-friendly attentions were paid the girl by the strong and hard-working construction men in the neighborhood.
The two detectives moved under the crime scene tape blocking off the Kazmerski house and went inside. The frail old husband was sprawled face down on the living room rug, while Sonia sat quietly at a dining room table, drinking water from a glass. The coroner stood up and greeted Paddy, and was introduced to Joey Bielack.
“Not enough murders in New York, you want to borrow some of ours, Detective?”
“That’s what I told him,” I said, jerking a thumb toward Morgan. “That’s a nasty wound on his head.”
“Yes indeed,” the pathologist replied. “It might have been from a weapon, or it could come from falling and smacking his head on the coffee table.”
“Any other trauma?” Paddy inquired.
“Small bumps and bruises all over his head. I can’t quite make out what from.”
I glanced over at Sonia. She wore a blue housedress and her brown hair was tied in a pony tail. She sat smoking a cigarette and watched them without interest. She looked more like a daughter than a spouse of the elderly gentleman.
“What’s her story?” I asked Morgan.
“Says she went grocery shopping this morning. When she came back, the door was ajar, and she found him like this.” Paddy gestured at a bag in the kitchen. “All bought this morning, just like she says. Patrolman we sent to the deli confirms her story.”
“Search for the weapon?” I asked.
“Negative,” Paddy replied, “all the kitchen utensils would have her prints, of course. Luminol on them shows no blood stains. Right now, the evidence (or lack of it) seems to support her version. Intruder comes to the door, maybe looking for money, gets angry and pushing the old gent inside, bashes him.”
“She’s an awfully cool customer,” Joey remarked.
“You told me it was a marriage of convenience,” Morgan said.
“Ah huh,” I replied, “and who wouldn’t want to believe a sweet young thing forced into marriage by old-country customs to an old coot! Mind if I look around?”
“Be my guest, that’s why we asked you here.”
I walked slowly through the house, as Sonia glanced up, eyeing me coolly. I checked the bedroom, bathroom, and wandered around the dining room. No red flags—no sign of a struggle. But the more I watched the young widow, the more uneasy I felt. In the kitchen, I looked into the shopping bag, which contained lettuce, pierogi, bread, butter, and a long Polish sausage, called a kielbasa. On the stove was a large pot filled with water, and one dish stood in the drainer. On a hunch, I pressed on the foot pedal of the garbage can, and looked inside. What I saw made me smile.
Paddy ambled over to where I was standing. “Find something?”
I put on latex gloves and, reaching inside the garbage can, pulled out a long, crumpled outer skin of a Polish sausage. “Paddy, test this skin for her prints and her husband’s blood, and I bet you have your murder weapon, plus enough to charge her. Here’s what happened. She comes home with her groceries, and she sees a way out of her marriage. Maybe she’s already spotted a likely husband number two. The current guy is so old, this ain’t gonna be too hard. She wallops him from behind several times with the kielbasa, and he falls and busts his head open on the coffee room table.”
I saw Paddy looking at me with a raised eyebrow. “Oh yeah,” I continued, “she’s one smart cookie. So, she’s figured out how to get rid of the murder weapon.”
“No,” Paddy said, “you’re kiddin’!”
“Not at all.” I examined the sticky sausage skin. “She eats the kielbasa after cooking it, but before she can cook it, she has to peel off the outer skin; she can’t eat that with the old guy’s blood and sweat—she’s hygienic, see? So the skin goes into the garbage. She cooks and eats the skinned Polish sausage, and the murder weapon is gone. Unfortunately for her, the crime lab will find enough to link her to the killing.”
Poking their heads into the dining room, the detectives looked at Sonia, who stared back with cold disdain. Paddy leaned over to me. “You know, she’ll still be a looker when she gets out of the joint in about 20 years.”
“Why, you interested?” I asked the Chicago cop.
“Maybe,” he smiled. “She knows how to cook Polish kielbasa.”
“Sure,” I replied. DSS
Mardelle L. Fortier, 67, of Lisle, IL., is a writer and college instructor at College of DuPage and Benedictine University. She is the author of numerous published stories.
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