The Friday morning sky was full of hazy sunshine as I strolled into the
Independent News Service offices and towards my desk.
"Kolchak! Get in here!" came an angry shout from the
open office door to my left. It was fast becoming the standard morning greeting from my boss and editor, Anthony Albert Vincenzo.
"Yes Tony", I called back, knowing that the next few minutes would involve large portions of apologizing, explaining,
arguing or blame-dodging on my part.
"Carl," Vincenzo said, holding up a copy of today's Chicago Tribune,
folded over to display the five-column photo appearing on the front page. "Can you explain to me how you appear in this picture
taken at yesterday's press briefing at the Medical Examiner's office? Your assignment yesterday was to cover the demolition
of the last drive-in theater in Lake County."
"I did, Tony, I did. I was in Lake County. How do you know that's me
in that picture? The only face you can see clearly is the M.E. himself."
"The hat, Kolchak. That hat is one-in-a-million,"
he shouted, his finger stabbing the corner of the picture. "There's not another one of those straw monstrosities in the whole
"Well if you don't want bad news, you shouldn't read the competition!" I half-heartedly shouted back. "I
should be assigned to cover what's going on at the county building! The Medical Examiner's office is withholding information,
covering up the facts or at worst, tampering with evidence!"
I was hoping to keep Tony off-balance by changing the
subject, but he sidestepped my diversion.
"Assignment, Kolchak, look it up. That's what an editor gives to a reporter.
And if that reporter wants to keep his job, he better accept and complete said assignment! I'm sending you back to the Medical
Examiner's Office today, Carl. But not for your 'tampering' story. Your assignment is to follow up on a crash victim from
an overnight accident that happened on Archer Avenue. It's the latest in a string of high-speed wrecks they've been having
along a couple of block stretch out there. Some sort of racing club has been losing a lot of members recently. Find out if
the driver had any booze or drugs in his system and then write a public service piece on the dangers of street racing."
service piece! Tony, that sounds like something you'd have Ron Updyke write. Just give me a couple more days," I leaned in
and whispered conspiratorially, "I've got an Assistant M.E. ready to talk."
"Out! Kolchak, you have your assignment,
get to work!"
And so I left Tony Vincenzo, ulcers and all, to his high ground, the high ground between making a living
and making a difference.
Before leaving the office, I checked the Justice PD press releases for the morning and got
some basic facts on the crash I had been assigned. Rudy Bonatello, 27, single, drove a '62 Corvette into a cemetery fence.
I guess he was anxious to get in. My first stop would be the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office downtown. If I hurried
I would catch my inside source of information, Dr. Timothy Bollanger, Assistant M.E.
There weren't many employees
of city, county or state government that were willing to talk to reporters in general or myself in particular. Dr. Tim was
an exception. In appearance he was as different as the popular image of a coroner could be. Neither grim, somber, or cadaverous,
Dr. Tim was round and jolly, with a warm handshake and an affinity for Hawaiian shirts. I pulled up just in time to catch
him in the parking lot getting into his car.
I caught Dr. Bollanger's eye as he unlocked his door. "Hey Kolchak, don't
push it." he said, looking over his shoulder, "I don't want to explain to my boss why I was talking to you again."
good morning to you too, Tim."
"I'm sorry Carl, but they're really watching us since you started asking embarrassing
questions. Do you want breakfast? I'm buying," he offered.
"I could use a cup, Tim. Thanks," and I followed him to
a corner diner frequented by the office staff.
"What's new in the world of investigative reporting, Carl?" he asked
when we sat down in our booth.
"No grand conspiracies to uncover or regimes to topple today, Tim. I've got a local
assignment. Do you know anything about a crash victim brought in overnight, a Rudy Bonatello?"
"Yeah, Carl. I assisted
with that one. What a mess. He was going close to ninety when he hit the fence." Said Dr. Tim, shaking his head.
there any drugs in his system? Was he drunk?" I asked, sipping my coffee, which had just been served.
"No drugs, some
booze, but not an excessive amount. He should have been able to control the car." Answered the doctor.
something wrong with the car mechanically?"
"We wouldn't know that yet, and probably never will. The police won't
go through that much accident reconstruction unless there's a reason for it. And this crash is easily explained; guy leaves
bar, guy drives too fast, guy crashes. 'nuf said." answered Dr.Tim. "And he's not the only one, there have been four fatal
crashes so far this spring within a few blocks of last night's"
"Four fatals, is that a lot? It sounds like a lot."
"It's not a record amount, but is more than average. The locals near there have some sort of street racing
club. So with increased risk comes increased penalties, I guess."
"Yeah, I guess. Well, thanks for the coffee, Dr.
Bollanger. I'll try not to call you at work." I laughed as I got up to leave.
"See you, Carl and thanks for nothing."
he replied, waving.
My next stop was the scene of the crash. The surrounding area had already been swept and washed
down. All the parts of the vehicle had been removed and a cemetery work crew was already on the scene repairing the fence.
I parked nearby and walked along the curb trying to get a feel for what the crash scene might have looked like last night.
There were no skid marks on the pavement but the curb had a long scuffmark where the Corvette launched itself into the fence.
The turf between the headstones in the cemetery showed impact damage from auto parts large and small.
I had gotten
close enough to the work crew to see that their truck had "Resurrection Cemetery Maintenance" painted on the door. The three-man
crew was busy removing the damaged sections on the fence and had replacement wrought iron sections loaded in the truck along
with their tools.
The crew was made up of two young men and an older grizzled foreman-type who was obviously in charge.
"Did any of you happen to see the accident or victim?" I asked.
"No mister, we were all at home in our beds.
We were notified about the damage this morning. We found it pretty much as you see it now." replied the foreman, speaking
for all of them.
"I'm Carl Kolchak, Independent News Service. I heard there have been other crashes near
here recently. Have any other accidents involved cemetery property?" I asked.
"There have been a lot of crashes on
Archer Avenue for the past 50 years. But none of them were accidents." the foreman answered, chuckling, glancing back at his
"Not accidents," I asked, chuckling along, "Then what?"
"It was Mary, Mr. Kolchak. Resurrection Mary."
the foreman answered, and the smile faded from his face.
"Who's Resurrection Mary?" I asked, although the name sounded
"She's a ghost, Mister Kolchak, who's been seen on and off since the 1930's. She's supposed to be
buried inside there somewhere." the foreman gestured with his thumb towards the vast area beyond the fence. "She appears from
time to time on the street, hitchhiking, riding inside cars, standing inside this fence and she's been doing it for a long
"Do you believe in ghosts? Mister...?" I asked trying to sound skeptical, which was hard considering all I've
seen and reported over the past few years.
"Wachholz, Bernard Wachholz. With two h's, Mr. Kolchak. And yes, I do believe...in
Resurrection Mary, anyway"
"Have you seen her?" I asked.
"No, but enough other people have, over the years.
She's kind of a local legend, like the Loch Ness Monster. If you look for her, you'll never find her. But turn around some
night, and there she is." he answered, and I could tell he was enjoying sharing the legend with an outsider.
thank you very much for the information, Mr. Wachholz. I'm going to take a few pictures and be on my way."
up at the crash scene a few minutes later and waved to Wachholz and his crew as I got in my car.
"Don't pick up any
hitchhikers, Mr. Kolchak!" he shouted as he and the workers waved back.
That afternoon I handed in to my editor, the
unspectacular story of the death of Rudy Bonatello. A young man who's life was needlessly cut short due to his love of driving
fast cars. Any mention of Resurrection Mary or a pattern of ghostly sightings in that neighborhood was edited out by Vincenzo
- because that's what editors do.