The Man Called “Jigsaw”

by | Jan 24, 2024 | Crime Writing | 0 comments

January 22, 2024. Camarillo, California. I sat at my desk with all my four dogs snuggled beside me. Also beside me were stacks and piles of research material and photos scattered like leaves after a windstorm. I wanted to use a few photos as grist for a blog about St. John’s pyramid theory of solving murders. Suddenly a different idea popped into my brain.

 Forget plan A. Plan B might interest readers in a different way. It’s more personal.    

What grabbed me wasn’t a photo. It was a rumpled green fishing license I’d saved. Next to the license was a scrap of yellow paper that had my writing – almost illegible – hurried, jumbled, messy. I leaned in closer to see what I’d written and what the connection was between a fishing license and a yellow piece of paper that had suddenly caught my attention. Why now?   

Then I remembered.

The October morning was sunny, bright, full of promise. John St. John and his wife, Helen had invited me to stay in their retirement home in Hornbrook, California for two weeks so John and I could work on our book proposal. Part of this writing retreat was meant to include fishing lessons. On day three I prepared for a day of casting, hooking, and reeling in salmon.

On day three, John took me to the local fishing store to buy a license. I gave the shopkeeper my birthdate, driver’s license number, address, told the truth about my height but lied about my weight. The license number was 083924-5. I had a borrowed fishing pole, bait, a baseball hat and now a license. I was ready to catch salmon!

While John chatted with a customer I wandered to the bulletin board – always a good source of neighborhood gossip and read a post that stopped me cold: “Wanted – a good woman who can cook, clean fish, dig worms and sew. Must have a good boat and motor. Enclose photo of boat.”

Who wrote that gem? I imagined a man who awakened at dawn, wore crumpled fishing hats, lived alone, ate beans out of a can, drank Coors and subscribed to Live to Fish magazine.

I raced to tell John I’d just found the perfect character for a romantic novel. Forget Match Dot Com. Forget that television show The Bachelor where a beleaguered lost soul looking for love had to spend months handing out roses to a swarm of applicants dreaming of the final rose and an engagement ring. This guy was real. He had a purpose. And – he was desperate.

John watched me write on my license and said, “Why don’t you give the guy a call? I don’t know much about your cleaning skills or if you’ve ever sewn more than a button on a shirt or if you’re a good worm digger. But your cooking could use a refresher course.”

I gave him a slight shove and said, “You’re asking for big-time retribution Mr. St. John.”

Perhaps this incident best described the magic of our relationship. St. John was used to television cameras following his award speeches. He’d been called “the best policeman in America by Chief Daryl Gates, had a 90% conviction rate and invited over 500 friends to his 40th anniversary party.

I was not only the collaborator on our book: Jigsaw and Jane, Thirteen Years of Murder and Mayhem. I was one of the very few people who had the honor, the privilege, and the fun of really knowing the Man Behind the Badge. But – he always caught more fish than me.