Camarillo, CA. 1983. If our phone rang after 11:00 p.m. it was usually the hospital with one of Jim’s patients in labor. Tonight, the familiar deep voice belonged to Detective St. John.
“I know it’s late,” he said in a steady, measured tone, “but I had to call you.”
I pressed the phone close to my ear. “What’s going on?”
“I’ve just come from Fraser’s,” he said. “Scott called this afternoon – hysterical. Shouting and jumbling words. He said he had no food. The only person he could call was me.”
My stomach tightened. “What did you do?”
“I raced to his pad, afraid of what I’d find when I got there. He looked like shit – dirty clothes, growth of beard, red eyes, scared shitless. I said we were going shopping. Him and me. Now.”
Detective St. John introduced me to the ex-loan officer and best friend of Freeway Killer, Bill Bonin, during our collaboration on a book about those murders. One of the persons I met during that journey was the man who had just called St. John with the desperate request.
Scott Fraser was a Boz Skaggs double and neighborhood gadfly whose apartment was ground zero for underaged boys and men with dubious backgrounds. On our first meeting, I thought here’s a guy whose down on his luck, but his quick smarts and impish, almost childlike glee, charmed me. I’d baked a quiche for the meeting, but when I opened the fridge for drinks, there was nothing inside but butter and a Coke. Months later, St. John called to tell me Scott had called in a panic because, once again, his fridge was empty.
St. John raced to help the man who gave him critical information about a serial killer. It was what St. John did – day in and day out – for fifty-one years. I wished I could have witnessed the rail-thin, pale-complexioned fortyish man and the balding cop in a loose-fitting sports coat that covered his .38 shopping at Safeway. They probably passed the vegetable and health food section for ground beef and beef pot pies. And I know St. John would have bought a bottle of Scott’s favorite: Ten High. John St. John was the one person Scott could count on in an emergency long after most detectives would have forgotten him. St. John still cared.