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North Coast Current

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North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Sunday Serial: Haunted Bones-Chapter 19


Authors note: This is a work of fiction. It does not reflect any actual events, and all of the characters are fictional. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.There is a real city of Oceanside, California. It’s San Diego County’s third largest city with a below-average crime rate.
The Grand Pacific Hotel is fictional, but during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were at least two similar resort hotels that did exist, primarily serving railroad passengers and tourists as described in this book.

— Tom Morrow

Chapter 19

Two days later, Beatrice Cryer, Aaron Hinkle, and Seth Adams were all rounded up and taken to the Oceanside Police Department where they were put into a small conference room now set up as an interrogation room. Under the law, they couldn’t be forced to come to the police station, but Joe and Danny strongly suggested they should.

“We invited John Traiger to join us today, but his health has deteriorated. We wish him well. I’m sure you all know who he is.” Danny looked sternly at the group while he was saying this. The three looked at each other and meekly nodded. Beatrice did ask how he was doing.

“He’s under doctor’s orders to stay in bed. The doctor believes Mr. Traiger is suffering from a lot of stress. I think I know why. Do you know why?” Danny asked Beatrice, but it was meant for everybody. They remained mute.

“As you already know, and I know you know this, two bodies have been discovered at the Grand Pacific Hotel while it was being demolished. One was a Marine wrapped like a mummy; and one was a set of bones found in the old hotel privy pit. We have determined exactly when these bodies were placed in their respective positions.

“We have determined the identity of the Marine. We have not determined the identity of the skeleton other than to say we know it was a woman. Do any of you know her identity?” The three looked at each other and remained mute.

“Okay then. I’ll move on. What you don’t know, nor does the rest of the world know, is we found another set of human bones at the hotel, stuffed inside the old boiler furnace. We have determined it was a Marine. We have identified him, and we know when he was put in the boiler. Does anyone care to enlighten us as to how he got there?” Again the three of them looked at each other and remained mute. Danny looked at Joe who remained stone-faced.

“No one knows?” Danny asked in a mockingly tone. Everybody shook their heads side-to-side. Danny did notice Aaron Hinkle stare at the floor with a blank look on his face; his eyes glazed over.

“Would it do any good if I told you we found a fourth body?” The moment after Danny said this, Aaron and Seth looked at each other and then at Beatrice. Beatrice wiped a tear from her eye.

“Beatrice? You want to say something?” She wiped another tear. Danny asked her again but in a more moderate tone.

“Do you know who it was, Beatrice?” Beatrice looked up at Danny now with tears in her both of her eyes.

“Do you want to tell me or do you want me to tell you,” asked Danny.

“It … it was my father,” she said in a broken voice.

“James Custer Armstrong. That was your father?”

“Yes … yes, that was him,” she said looking down with tears streaming from her face. Joe reached over and handed her some tissue. There was a moment of silence. Danny had to regroup and show some sort of compassion without losing the interview.

“He was mean, wasn’t he?”

“Yes … yes, he was very mean to Momma. He beat her all the time. I … I was only five years old at the time, but I … I remember how mean he was. He would never let up, especially when he was drinking.”

“Did he ever beat you?”

“Yes … yes he did. And he beat my brother, too.”

“Your brother Jimmy?”

“Yes. He beat him a lot. Jimmy had mental problems, and our dad beat him all the time. He said he was trying to beat some sense into him. But Jimmy’s problems came from birth. It wasn’t his fault. God made him that way for a special reason. I loved my brother.”

“Beatrice, did you kill your father?” Beatrice looked Danny squarely in the eyes; tears still rolled from her cheeks. She answered meekly but firmly.

“No, I did not.”

“Your mother? Did she kill him?”

“No, she did not.”

“Jimmy?” Beatrice put her hands into her wet face.

“Yes, yes he killed my father.”

“But he wasn’t Jimmy’s father, was he?”

“No, no he wasn’t.”

“How did he kill your father?” Beatrice took several deep breaths and a sip of water. She regrouped.

“Dad and Momma were having a bad fight in the kitchen. There was a lot of screaming. I stood in the doorway and saw him hit Momma up against the stove. She grabbed an iron pan to defend herself. My father backed off and took a drink of liquor and laughed at her. He put the bottle down and moved towards her. Before he could get his hands on her, Jimmy appeared out of nowhere and whacked him upside the back of the head with a baseball bat. I will never forget that sound. It was the hollowest sound I’d ever heard.

“He fell forward into Momma and hit the floor like a sack of potatoes. Jimmy just stood over him ready for him to move again. He didn’t. Momma took the bat from him and told him to go into his room.”

“And you saw all of this?”

“With my own very eyes.” Beatrice took another sip of water.

“Your brother, he was twelve at the time.”

“Yes, I think he was.”

“Did he know what he was doing?”

“He knew well enough to know that Dad was going to hurt Momma. Jimmy wasn’t going to let that happen.”

“Your brother died back on June 8, 2010. That right?”

“Uh … well yes. He did.” This caught Beatrice totally off guard. She quickly realized the detective knew more than he was letting on. It was in her best interest to keep telling the truth.

“Your mother didn’t call the cops, did she?”

“No, no she didn’t. It wouldn’t have been in her best interest.”

“Because she was a house madam, correct?”

“As I later learned, yes.”

“You just decided to hide the body, correct?”

“Yes. As I understand it we were getting ready to move anyway.”

“And Jimmy wrapped him up as a mummy, that right?”

“Uh … well, yes.”

“His savant skills were in science, yes?”

“Uh, yes they were.”

“Your Momma suggested this? To wrap him as a mummy?”

“No, she didn’t suggest it. Jimmy did. He came back into the kitchen and suggested it. He said he knew how to do it. He seemed to know what was going on. Please understand, I was only five years old at the time. I really didn’t know what was going on. Momma sent me to my room and told me to be quiet. I really don’t know what happened after that. All I knew was men folk came to rescue Momma.”

“But later, you asked your momma about the story? That correct?”

“I suppose. Jimmy had also taken an interest in ancient Egyptian history and told Momma he could hide the body for her. He would wrap the body like a mummy and they could hide it in the chimney, sort of like back in the Egyptian days and the pyramids.”

“And your momma listened to him?”

“Looks like it, huh detective?” There were a few laughs from everybody mostly from Aaron and Seth.

“I guess it sounded like a good idea to them at the time. She knew some men who could stuff him in the chimney and brick it up. I guess that was the plan. Momma didn’t talk all that much about it.”

“So you left the apartment building?”

“We did. Moved to the GP. I thought it was fun.”

“No more beatings from your father?”

“Hell! He was dead. Life got better.”

“Until 1966.”

“Uh … 1966?” Bea had a surprised look on her face.

“Yes, 1966,” Danny repeated. “That’s when the second mummy appeared. You care to elaborate on that? You were now twenty-nine years old. You knew something.”

“No! Beatrice didn’t know anything. But I did,” Seth said interrupting, almost yelling. This took Danny by surprise.

“Well, okay tell me,” Danny said calmly.

“Beatrice was away from the hotel that weekend.”


“There was trouble in one of the rooms with one of the girls.”


“No, well, yeah, but they were our girls.”

“Okay then…”

“Things got out of hand,” Seth began explaining. “One of the customers got belligerent and started beating one of our girls pretty bad. Somehow she got the upper hand and whacked him over the head with something. Don’t remember what it was, but it killed him.”

“Cold-hard dead,” Danny concluded.

“Whatever, but he was dead. Gertrude came to the room and saw the mess. She didn’t panic. Actually she acted pretty cool.”

“Where did you come in?” Danny asked.

“She called me to the room. We worked out a plan.”

“Stuff him in the bathroom wall?”

“Pretty much, yeah,” Seth nodded. “You see, we couldn’t call the cops because it would’ve brought unwanted attention to the hotel. We couldn’t afford that. Business would’ve gone kabloowee. So we decided to protect the hotel.”

“By stuffing him in the wall?”

“It was perfect. The guy was a nobody Marine who liked to beat up on girls. We had it all planned out.”


“Gertrude and me,” Seth answered. “I stuffed him in the wall and Gertrude sent the girl out of town . Told her never to comeback. Just go disappear. Told that poor girl she might get into trouble if she didn’t leave — gave her a thousand bucks of Gertrude’s own money to go make a new life. Never saw that poor girl again.”

“So that’s where the leaks came in?”

“Yeah, we had ’em all the time. It was perfect. On the pretense of a leak, I took the room out of commission for a few days while I stuffed him in the wall and repaired the hole.”

“John Traiger know bout this?”

“He did. Had to decommission the room for a while. Yeah, he knew about it. Wasn’t happy about it, but he knew.”

“I assume Jimmy wrapped the body?”

“He did. To keep it from smelling. Did a good job from what I saw. Never did have any complaints from any guest after we rented the room again. This time to regular customers.”

“You were head bellhop in 1966?”

“I was. But I was also had worked in maintenance. I knew what I was doing. Plus I had some pull around the place. Other people knew what was going on. We had to protect the hotel. We covered each other’s asses.”

“The girl who killed him. Where is she these days?”

“Does it really matter?” Aaron said piping in for the first time. Danny remained quiet. He shuffled some papers around and moved on.

“The body in the privy pit? Anybody care to elaborate?” Everybody looked at each other several times. Finally Aaron spoke up.

“That was sad, real sad. A customer had some sort of problem and killed that poor girl.”

“Obviously you know something. Care to expound?”

“Happened in 1951. I’ll never forget it. Some Marine went bonkers and killed that girl. Gertrude heard the ruckus and went to the room. She was lying on the bed drenched in blood. The Marine was cowaring by a wall, crying like a baby. He was naked. He knew what he had done. Gertrude walked up to him and slapped him on the head and then threw a blanket over him.”


“She knew his commanding officer. She got on the phone, called him, and told him to get his ass down to the hotel this instance.”


“The Marines hauled his butt away. I understand he was on the next boat to Korea and he never came back alive.”

“The girl?”

“I put her in the pit. They had just torn down the old wooden privy building and were putting a new addition over top of it. The pit had been backfilled with dirt. I buried her under some of the backfill and put some old debris over top to make it look natural. They finished the addition and nobody was to the wiser.”

“Do you remember her name?”

“I’ll never forget it. Marilyn. I’m sorry I didn’t know her last name. I did say a short prayer after I buried her. But from what I understand, she came from a broken home. Her family didn’t seem to care about her, and she didn’t seem to care for them.” Danny again shuffled his papers and went on to another topic.

“Do any of you know about the body in the boiler?” Again everybody looked at each other waiting for someone to speak. Seth Adams finally spoke up.

“Another sad story. A Marine went crazy and started beating up this girl. He beat her pretty severe. Somewhere along the line, she found a knife and stabbed him in the heart. He bled out at the foot of the bed.”

“Who came to the rescue of this damsel in distress?” Danny said being a little sarcastic. He was believing what he was hearing but not liking it. He was actually kind of pissed at their stories and justifications.

“Well, I did. I came to help her.” Seth said again.

“Not Beatrice?”

“Oh no, she didn’t have anything to do with the girls after her momma died.”

“Nothing at all?”

“I told you when you interviewed me I had nothing to do with the girls after Momma died. You don’t listen very well!” Beatrice said.

“I just assumed you were trying to deceive me?”

“No, I wasn’t. I had nothing to do with the girls.”

“But they kept coming, right?”

“A few did every so often. But nothing like it used to be.”

“Well then, who took care of them?”

“Mr. Traiger did,” Seth said.”

“Mr. Traiger!?” Danny said totally astonished.

“Yes, Mr. Traiger.”

“You’re kidding? I never would have thought,” Danny said, shaking his head.

“Well, he did. They were bringing in some bucks for the hotel when things got slack. Apparently he and Gertrude worked out some sort of deal. I didn’t know the details. I just knew he was the go-to guy after Gertrude died,” Seth said.

“You know about this Beatrice?”

“Yeah, I knew about it. But I didn’t want anything to do with it. I was already working in the dining room, doing well for myself. I stayed out of it.”

“So, the girl — what happened to her?”

“Mr. Traiger did like Gertrude did that other time. He gave the girl some money and told her to take a hike. Don’t come back.”

“Did she?”Danny asked.

“Nobody has seen her since. Don’t know where she is.”

“He put the Marine’s body in the boiler?”

“Yes, I helped him,” Seth admitted.

“He never totally burned up,” Danny said.

“Yeah, we know. Ol’ Bessie gave out sooner than we expected. Another few days and he would’ve been burnt toast forever. Not much we could do except close and lock the doors.”

“So Mr. Traiger told Mr. Boykin, the owner, it would cost too much to move the old boiler at the time?”

“Yep. The longer that old boiler stayed there on the property locked up, the better chance we had for the body never to be discovered. By the way, how did you discover it,” Seth asked.

“We had a hot lead!” Joe said piping in with a bit of black humor.

“Oh,” Seth said, not catching the attempt at levity.

Danny sat quietly for a few seconds, shuffling his notes and papers looking for something he may have missed. Danny was about ready to call it quits when he suddenly remembered something else.

“By the way, I’m curious. Had all of you been staying in touch with each other through the years?” Beatrice spoke up first.

“We did for a while after the hotel closed up. But as the weeks and months passed, we didn’t. Occasionally a phone call here, maybe run into each other at the grocery store here and there but that was about it.

“When we read in the paper about the Marine mummy being found in the wall, we started talking to each other,” she continued. “Then when the girl in the privy was found, we got a little worried. We figured sooner or later somebody would find out about us. But you sort of caught us off guard when you did. We didn’t have our stories all that coordinated. Did you think that?”

“To some degree, yes,” Danny confessed. “But what we heard seemed to be too coincidental coming from people that, as you said, hadn’t talked to one another since the hotel closed in 1985. Leaking pipes was one example. Even Mr. Boykin touched on that.”

“Well the fact was the pipes did, indeed, leak a lot. It was a mess,” Aaron said.

“Yes, I’m sure it was,” Danny agreed.

After a few more non-essential questions, Danny motioned to Joe for a huddle outside the room and talk to James Fillmore, the assistant district attorney, who had been listening in on the interviews. Danny asked for the three to sit tight. He would be back shortly.

“What do you think?” Danny asked, looking at his partner and the ADA.

“We’ve got three senior citizens guilty of hiding human bodies and interfering or hindering the investigation of a series of murders,” Fillmore reckoned. “Basically, what we have is a mixture of direct and indirect evidence about separate crimes that happened over a period of many years ago. The actual murderers, so to speak, are either dead or missing. If you want to go after those two hookers, then have at it. But my guess is they’re either dead or have changed names so you’ll never find them. It’s a crap shoot.”

“Yeah, that’s about what I thought,” Danny said, nodding in agreement. “I don’t see any jury convicting old-age pensioners for something they did decades ago with no premeditation. Joe, you got any thoughts?”

“I feel about the same way. I mean, for all practical intents and purposes, we’ve solved the case. It’s just that everybody directly involved in the actual murders seem to be dead or probably near death. What’s the use? Is it worthwhile to pursue these people even if there was a slim chance of conviction? Can you imagine the cost of the trials? I don’t think so. Besides, we got two high profile bodies that we’ve kept quiet from the press. But the bigger issue is, do we want to take the chance and expose all this with no certainty of convictions? If we do and fail, it’ll be on helluva mess.

“Joe’s got a point, Danny. I’d just drop it right here, right now. You’re dead in the water. Don’t make it worse,” Fillmore said.

“Well, if you’re willing to sign off on this, we’ll drop it. You’re the one who would have to duke it out in a courtroom,” Danny said.

“Let’s get some officers to take them home,” Joe said.

“I’ll tell Lieutenant Hastings we’ve closed the case,” Danny said, walking up the hallway toward his supervisor’s office.

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Sunday Serial: Haunted Bones-Chapter 19