Read Luggage By Kroger: A True Crime Memoir Online

Authors: Gary Taylor

Tags: #crime, #dallas, #femme fatale, #houston, #journalism, #law, #lawyers, #legal thriller, #memoir, #mental illness, #murder, #mystery, #noir, #stalkers, #suicide, #suspense, #texas, #true crime, #women

Luggage By Kroger: A True Crime Memoir (4 page)

BOOK: Luggage By Kroger: A True Crime Memoir
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Catherine said she saw the report
on the detective's desk while he was out of the room. She said she
only talked to the detective for twenty minutes. But, before going
to the townhouse, she said, all that she knew had come from him.
She said the detective approved her trip that night to the
townhouse.

"It looked like there had been a
ferocious battle in the garage," she testified in her deposition.
"I saw a lot of blood. It was all over the right side of the
garage. There were pieces of more than blood out there, and I never
saw anything like that in my life."

She admitted she took documents
that night but nothing else.

"When we got there somebody had
poured glue in the lock, and they had pasted a sign on the front
door written in paper that said, 'Sealed by order of the court.' We
did not know what court—the kangaroo court?" she testified. "We
didn't know, so we went around to the back."

She said they entered through the
garage because she suspected Robert would be "in there plundering
heavily, so I decided to take that which was mine out of the
house."

Catherine began to ramble in her
testimony. She told the lawyers: "I think the next day somebody
told me the homicide detectives figured that it was either a
homosexual who killed him or a drug-related deal because they had
found some boxes there, crates, packing crates, and I started to
receive a large input of information at this time from many people
who began telling me things that they had heard, and I could not
tell you what one told me and what the other didn't."

She said: "I also heard that they
thought that if I had done it, I would have used a gun."

Catherine said she couldn't recall
the names of the locksmiths or a friend who loaned her a van to
transport property from the home. She said: "It passed like a
dream."

No one expected Catherine to
present the image of a grieving widow when she took center stage at
the deposition in July, barely six months after the brutal murder
of the man she claimed had been her husband. But none of the
lawyers either could have predicted the dark mix of sarcasm that
spouted from her mouth. They knew she had flaunted her role in
interviews with police investigators. And the way she handled
questions in the civil deposition just enhanced her image as
someone who felt untouchable in Tedesco's death.

I never had a
chance to read her deposition until ten years later. By then, I was
able to smile about her cocky comments, shake my head with a laugh,
and whisper softly to myself:
Yes, that's
my gal
.

FIVE

September 28, 1979

"That's her. She's here. That's the
bitch everybody is talking about."

It would not have mattered if I'd
been at that deposition two months earlier, or if I had known in
September about the other things I learned later on. It would not
have changed what happened between Catherine and me. This was a
special, peculiar time for me—a period that left me vulnerable for
a dance down the dark side of the street with Catherine Mehaffey as
my escort. Freshly separated from my second wife, I was looking for
adventure. Although Tedesco had complained about the way she cooked
food, I thought she might make the perfect chef for serving plates
of action.

Responding to my friend's whispered
alert—"That's her"—I turned to look out in the yard where he was
pointing his finger not so discreetly at Catherine as she strolled
toward the house looking for the bar. We had come after work on a
Friday afternoon to some lawyer's cocktail party organized to
celebrate nothing more than the end of the week and his purchase of
this upscale townhouse near Houston's bustling downtown. The
lawyer's name was James, and he had offered his verbal invitation a
few days earlier during a personal visit to our office in the
criminal courthouse press room.

"There'll be lots of nasty crack,"
James had said, announcing his party.

"Nasty crack, huh?" I had said.
"How can I refuse?"

So it was that I came to be
standing in James's living room, staring through his French doors,
and watching the nastiest crack in the courthouse as she headed my
way. This widow, of course, wore red. But at least it wasn't a
flaming firehouse red that might have offended old-schoolers who
prefer their widows shrouded in black. Her dress had splotches of
yellow to complement the golden curls parked just above the
shoulders. At five-feet-three-inches and about a hundred pounds,
she really didn't look the menace that most would have us believe.
She was considered attractive but not necessarily a knockout. In
later years I would recall her as resembling the adult actress
Reese Witherspoon, who was only three years old at that time. But
she also had the hard look of a bad girl, and that played to my
weakness. A menace? She just looked like fun to me.

"So this is the notorious Catherine
Mehaffey," I teased, approaching from behind as she ordered a
scotch from the bartender. I figured this might be the only time in
my life I'd be able to use that opening line.

She turned and squinted from the corner of one
eye. I could tell she was not immediately impressed with my attire.
I stood out from the legal crowd in their pinstripe suits. My
khakis and herringbone jacket betrayed my station. But after all, I
did represent the working press, and I had a reputation to
maintain. I also offered a display of red and yellow with my tie: a
field of red decorated with yellow images of the three monkeys
warning observers to see, hear, or speak no evil. It was a
tradition at the courthouse for me to wear the thing when juries
deliberated big cases, and now it seemed fitting as I began to
flirt with Catherine Mehaffey. I asked for a scotch and saw her
watching.

"And you would be…?" she asked,
waiting for me to fill the blank.

I offered my right
hand in a professional greeting, took the drink with my left, and
said, "Gary Taylor. I cover courts for
The
Houston Post
."

Immediately she jerked back with a sneer, as
if someone had thrown a dead skunk on the floor. She sipped her
drink and peeked over the edge of the glass. I stared her down
until she spoke.

"I used to like that paper. It used
to be the start of every day for me. Now it just makes me sad. I
still read it, but not my mother. She can't stand it anymore just
because of Fred King."

"So Fred wrote a story you didn't
like? Those police stories can be gruesome," I said, realizing
that, as our police beat reporter, Fred had written the story about
Tedesco getting his head caved in. I recalled how Fred had managed
to work Mehaffey into that story, noting police had questioned her
about the common-law marriage lawsuit and suggesting to even a
casual reader: "gold digger" or, worse, "femme fatale."

"If this ends with Faye Dunaway
playing you in the movie, you'll feel better about Fred," I
said.

That made her giggle because, as I
would learn later, she was a sucker for old crime movies,
particularly those with bushwhacking babes, dangerous darlings or
murderous muffs."I can't apologize for Fred, he's one of our best
reporters," I continued in a professional vein. "I only control my
own stories, and I don't think you've made any of those yet. But I
do remember that Tedesco story was buried on the inside with no
pictures. Maybe nobody read it but you and your mother."

"It was read by everyone I know,"
she said, swishing a mouthful of scotch as she spoke. "Now I have
the estate trial starting Monday. We'll see who gets the last laugh
on this. Are you covering that?"

"Nope. I'm strictly criminal
courts. I don't even know if we're going to cover it. We're in one
of those periods where editors see stories like that as detracting
from more serious stuff like the mayor's race."

"That would suit me just fine if no
one is there to hear me tell about the merciless beatings and abuse
I took from that man."

We were starting
to click. Two or three times in everyone's life they find another
person playing their tune. This was happening then to us. As we
talked, I knew both of us were thinking in the back of our
minds:
I'm going to fuck you, sooner or
later. That's where this conversation is headed
.

If you say you've never had such a
Norman Rockwell moment yourself with a potential sex partner, I'm
sorry. But our roadmap to the bedroom was marked in scarlet letters
from the moment we met. I can't explain how. But it happens. It's
happened to me maybe four times in life. And this was one of
them.

"So, where is Mrs. Taylor tonight?"
Catherine finally asked, not so subtly digging for a crucial piece
of information.

I sipped my scotch and took the
bait: "Which one? You might say I'm estranged at the moment from
wife number two. So I hope she's home with the girls."

"Ah, Mr. Taylor, that's too bad.
Just when we were getting along so well. But I have such bad luck
with the estranged. You know, they always take what they want then
run back to wife number two or one or whatever. Then I get the
broken heart."

"I don't think that's an option on
this one. You can trust me on that."

"Trust you, huh? You'd like that,
wouldn't you? You'd be panting like a dog and begging for more if
you could get some of this. Then you'd go off and run back to that
wife number two the minute she says: 'Oh, Gary, I think we've made
a terrible mistake. The girls need their father.' And you'd have
this big, shit-eating grin on your face like you just scratched the
seven-year itch with a steel sheep's comb and got away with
it."

She finished off her scotch, then
continued: "I've been there. But it is fun to flirt with you a
little. Once that divorce is final, you give me a call, and I'll
buy you a decent scotch and maybe, uh, a new suit if you think
you'd wear it."

"You ever been married?" I
asked.

She tilted her head, batted her
eyes, and laughed as she replied, "You mean to anyone other than
George?"

"Oh, yeah," I said almost
apologetically. I was surprised she'd even snapped on the omission.
It didn't seem he would count. "Forgot about him."

"I sure can't call you as an expert
witness, can I? You might qualify as an expert on marriage, but I
can't have that attitude."

"Well, besides George Tedesco.
Anybody else?"

She chatted a bit about her first husband and
their time in Japan while he served in the Navy. Of course, she
omitted the part about taking a shot at him. I guess it might have
been confusing to discuss more than one wounded husband at a time.
She quickly turned the conversation to my situation.

"What makes you think this is so
permanent?"

"She's got a new man in her life.
That's why we're estranged."

"So sad. You're the stooge on this
one?"

"I came home from a trip and asked
my four-year-old daughter about her weekend. When she said, 'It was
terrible. Uncle Al was here all weekend,' I figured a separation
was in order."

By this time Catherine had ordered
another scotch and was drinking it just as I provided the details.
My misery caused her to spit a mouthful on the floor as she laughed
in my face. I realized the image of the victimized cuckold really
wasn't earning the proper respect from her. She obviously had her
own code of acceptable conduct. So I shifted to my charming rogue
personae.

"I got even. We had a chat, and I
went ahead and told her about my eight affairs."

"How long were you
married?"

"Four years."

"You had eight affairs in four
years of marriage and confessed it? Your lawyer must love that. Why
in hell would you confess to eight affairs in four years of
marriage?"

I shook my head, sipped some
scotch, and mumbled, "That was all I could remember."

Another mouthful of scotch hit the
floor.

"You know," I said, "it's kind of a
joke to say it, considering I've been married twice, but I'm really
not the marrying kind."

Just then, one of my reporter pals
walked up and inserted himself into our conversation. Jim Strong
was destined to play a crucial role in the saga about to unfold. At
the time, we shared adjoining desks in the criminal courthouse
press room. While I wrote for a newspaper, Jim reported his stories
for a string of local radio stations. We often covered the same
trials and events, played bridge together on slow days, and had
started trading life stories over beers now and then. He lived
alone in a house in north Houston, and I was already thinking about
possibly renting a bedroom from him so I could have a cheap place
to live during the divorce. For the last couple of weeks, since
Uncle Al had arrived, I'd been sleeping for free on the living room
couch of a sympathetic editor who had warned his sympathy would
vanish by the end of the month.

"I see you've met the belle of the
ball," said Strong, hooking a thumb in Catherine's direction. To
her, he introduced himself by saying, "Mehaffey, right? I'm
Strong."

BOOK: Luggage By Kroger: A True Crime Memoir
11.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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