Saturday, December 5, 1964
It had take three days for Chief. Ziolkowski to get back to me about the Guilfoyle connection. He said the detectives were grateful that I had passed the information onto them, but he warned me again not to expect much. "They have closed the case. Cops are not anxious to reopen a case, once closed, unless something jumps up and bites them in the butt."
"So this didn't rise to the butt-biting level."
"Not even a gnat to be swatted away."
Bad but not unexpected news. Time for plan B.
The weather was clear, the roads were fine, and I decided to try another run to Fort Wayne in hopes of catching Diane Johnson at the restaurant. I figured she would have talked to her sister or cousin, whoever she was, about the "favor" and probably—or maybe—gotten the scoop.
Since it was an ambush of sorts, I thought I might mitigate the negative by taking Butch along. Mrs. Johnson would know, at least when I introduced him, that Butch was a friend of Dave, the only one he had asked to see. With that in mind, she might not perceive me as her enemy.
Of course, I could have phoned her first. That would have been the polite thing to do. It would also have given her the chance to avoid me. I wasn't sure she would be working today, but she worked more hours than anyone else.
It was a good bet. She was there. When she saw me, her face did not express delight. I went up to her, Butch at my side, and introduced the two to each other.
Her face registered something more complicated. "Thank you for visiting Dan," she said. "It meant the world to him. I hope you will visit him again."
"I'd like that," Butch said.
"We're going to take a seat," I said. "When you get a chance, could we have a short chat? I have some news, and I'd like to check a couple of things with you."
We took our seats at a table for four and waited. In a few minutes, Diane came over as if she was taking our order. "I can't take a break for a while, so order something. Maybe we can manage while I'm standing here."
I filled her in on what we discovered about her relative, our strong suspicion that she was the one who wrote the "ransom" message. Diane looked surprised.
"How did ... ?"
"Long story," I said. "We think, I think, this was coincidental, not related to the murder, hmm death, of Father Fox. Can you confirm that?"
She took some time to answer. "I think so. She's my first cousin. We grew up together. She's a good person, but she was angry about Father Fox's role in getting her son suspended. I tried to get her to let it go, but she couldn't. She thought he was a bad guy and that he shouldn't be teaching. But but I don't believe she wanted to kill him."
"If she did, she would have gone through one of your boys," I said. "That's what's making us nervous."
"It made me nervous to," Mrs. Johnson said. "I talked to both boys about it. They denied having contact with her in several months, and I'm inclined to believe them."
"I think Butch and I are so inclined as well," I said. "It explains Dave's apparent confusion about being involved, not involved, and so on. He was involved, to the extent of popping the envelope in the mailbox, but he didn't want to explain that you gave him the envelope."
"Did you know what was in the envelope?"
"I didn't look at it. I assumed it was a letter to Father Grieshaber, stating her case. It didn't bother me. I thought it was a reasonable thing to do, under the circumstances. I had no idea it was an anonymous threat. That took me by surprise. Frankly, I'm embarrassed about it. But again, she just wanted to get the man fired, not killed."
This explained the threatening letter affair in a way that was good news for her two sons. And it made sense. On the other hand, it didn't provide a clue as to who might have poisoned Father Fox, accidentally or otherwise.
"What do I tell my cousin," she wanted to know. "She's not exactly my biggest fan at the moment."
"You can tell her that the St. Joseph County detectives did not seem very interested in this affair—and she should relax." I thought about telling her that her what I thought about her cousin, but I decided not to stir the pot.
On our way home, I turned down the radio and asked Butch what he thought.
"Her cousin needs a program," he said.
I laughed. He had heard me use this language when I saw people clearly in the throes of dysfunction, alcoholic or not. "I think you're right."
"Mrs. Johnson said Dave would like me visit again. Can I?"
"It's the least we can do." I turned the radio up.
We got back to the house in time for an early dinner. There was no soiree planned, so I figured to go to a meeting. At dinner, we filled in Sarah and Sissy on what we learned. The conversation effectively made Sissy part of the family investigation team, which was a concern but the only way to go at this point. It would, potentially, at least bring the family together.
Sissy was a good sport about being the last to know and immediately got on board with questions. "If this Guilfoyle woman did not poison BJ, then who did?"
"Please call him Father Fox."
"Well, that's what the seminarians call him—or did."
"Did, right. He's gone now, and I'd like you to be more respectful."
"And professional, now that you're part of the team," Sarah said.
"Excellent point," I said. "Now to your question. Thoughts anyone."
"Gotta be the nuns," said Butch.
"What? You're going to blame it on women?" Sissy asked, genuinely irritated.
"Sissy, Mrs. Johnson's cousin is a woman," Sarah pointed out, "and she's our only other suspect, sort of."
"Oh, yeah, right." Sissy said, chastened a bit.
"Anyway, I was wondering about the sisters, myself, or one of them," Sarah said. "But why?"
No one said anything.
"Maybe it's one of the priests," Sissy said.
"Or brothers," I said. "Brother Rufus made fun of Father Fox every chance he had."
No one knew Brother Rufus, so I had to explain. "The maintenance guy. Impish personality, not altogether kind, especially to Father Fox."
"Is he a killer?" Sarah asked.
"Nobody on the premises appears to be a killer," I said. "They are men of God, after all."
"And women of God," said Sissy.
"And don't forget the seminarians," said Sarah.
"Hard to forget that," I said. "One of them is taking the fall."
"You know, I don't think I know the whole story," said Sissy. "Beej ,,, Father Fox was poisoned, right?"
"Right," I said. "The poison was identfied as an extract from the yew tree, which is rather available around here."
"And the detectives picked on Dave because he knew it was toxic," said Butch. "But there are yew bushes along the front of the building. Anybody could have done it."
"That's correct," I said."Dave got fingered because he had the the interest and the knowledge about yew trees."
"Dave knows lots of stuff," Butch said, a little loudly. "That's what makes him an interesting guy."
"Let's look more closely at the method," I said. "As I understand it, poisoning is a method more common among women."
"There you go again," said Sissy.
"I think that's true," said Sarah. "I'd have to check on it."
"The nuns!" cried Butch.
"Settle down there, Partner," I said.
"Are the nuns the only women on the premises?"
"Yes, no," I said, correcting myself. "The secretary is a woman. Hmm, the secretary quit a couple of weeks ago, supposedly under stress. Apparently the goings-on were too much for her."
"Timing seems suspicious," said Sarah.
"Good point," I said.
We were getting nowhere, with more leads and little evidence. On the other hand, we were getting somewhere as a family. I still needed a meeting.