Authors: Jamie Sheffield
Donnelly’s Ice Cream, 12:39pm, 6/6/2002
I had a large Black-Raspberry cone in hand, and once John came out with his, more modest, baby cone, we moved off some distance to talk about what I had found out, my ideas for getting to checkmate, and … hopefully, setting up a schedule for future payments in bacon.
I had called
John as soon as Pete clumped down the stairs and out to finish his route, suggesting Donnelly’s as a meeting place for a number of reasons: it was approximately equidistant from both, and they serve fantastic ice cream with the best view (
that I’ve yet seen
) in the Adirondacks. They also don’t force me to choose my flavor (
I have trouble making choices without sufficient evidence to make a considered judgment … growing up in NYC with Baskin Robbins was torturously stressful … Donnelly’s has one flavor everyday … you just have to choose the size
). I sat down on the grass and found the castle on top of Whiteface in the distance.
“Tony Allen, Robert Everson, Mark LaFleur, and Brent Martin.” I said while handing him a folded sheet of paper. “Their names and home/work addresses and phone numbers are on that.” I tapped the paper, at the same time doing some speedy r
epair work on my dripping cone. Donnelly’s has been using the same soft ice-cream machine since 1953, and while it is a marvel of mechanical endurance, it can deliver overly soft treats when they get busy … as they were today.
“What, all four of them killed the birds?” John asked, unbelieving.
“Of course not, but I don’t know which of them it is.” I answered, getting ready for his next question.
“So why the fuck are we sharing this pleasant, if runny, dairy treat, Tyler?” He gestured dramatically with his cone, and three drops of light-purple goo spattered my t-shirt like thick blood. “You said that you’d get the information I needed to stop the bird-icide (
avicide, I thought, but didn’t interrupt
), and here we are … you just gave me a random list of names … these guys could owe you money or steal your morning paper for Christ’s sake!”
bly, but they don’t and didn’t. One of these four heard or saw something directly or indirectly that makes them think something in your not-so-secure office is worth stealing. I don’t know what it is, or which one it is … nor do I really care. I have a plan to end/head-off your problems without having to do the last bit of legwork … do you want to hear it or not?”
He perked up at this, and I leaned/dodged/ducked out of the way of some more black-raspberry spatter-evidence. “Do tell.”
“I’ve identified four possibles. We don’t want to stake them out for days/weeks to find the guilty party; we just want the slaughter of innocents (
I gave him a bit of my #4, playful, but could tell that it, to some degree, flopped
) to stop. Our advantage is that we don’t need to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt … that, coupled with a comfortable disregard for the rights and property of others.” I could see that he had a glimmer, so I continued.
“Allen has a sugarbush not far from Helgafell, and it feeds into a
sugar shack.” John looked at me as though I was speaking Dutch. “A stand of sugar maple trees and a house that he uses to boil the sap down into maple syrup.” He nodded.
“We burn the
sugar shack … it’s insured and nobody’s ever in it at this time of year. Everson owns a store in town that sells formal-wear and other clothes … we break the front display windows. LaFleur drives a new Escalade … we flatten all four tires. Martin has an attached garage at his home, and no dog (
or guinea fowls
) to raise the alarm … we can hose it down with blood-red paint.” John looked at me like I was crazy.
“Four different forms of vandalism won’t seem connected/related to anyone who doesn’t have my list already in their head (
especially the Police
), but the guilty party will definitely take it as a message … the one who actually killed the birds and wants to rob you will get the message, and stop … the rest will collect insurance and feel unlucky for a day or two.”
He tilted his head at me, like a dog trying to get a fix on a mysterious whistle, “You’re an odd duck Tyler Cunningham, no shit.” John smiled at me, and did some clean-up work on his ice-cream which had started running down his wrist. “Afterwards, how do we find out which one it was?”
“We don’t. We don’t care. I think that it’s most likely Allen, and is least likely to be Everson, but it doesn’t really matter … nobody gets hurt … just stuff.” I said.
John looked at me like I was from Mars, but nodding slightly, as if he could live with knowing this particular Martian.
“It meets our/your needs, stops the birds dying, protects Nick’s secrets and ‘
’, and avoids you having to run any bodies through the wood-chipper.” I felt confident now that I could see my way through the next minute or so of conversation to the twist that, if it came off, would end my day even better than a large cone from Donnelly’s.
“I like it
… not least because it’s not at all my style, and Nick won’t tumble to my having had to fix anything.”
This fed into my twist so perfectly, that I couldn’t wait for my planned opening, 30 seconds from now.
“There’s just one remaining loose end, John. My source also indicates that there was likely someone inside feeding information to the shooter.” I paused here to give him time to jump to a conclusion that I would reinforce a second later. “It’s critically important to me that nothing happen to Sophia.” I let that hang, while John crunched things around in his head, and ate his soggy cone, before pulling out a napkin and wiping his hands.
He swallowed my baited prompt, “She’ll have to leave the farm, Tyler. Nothing bad’s gonna happen to her, but she can’t live there anymore
… she’s out this afternoon. After I have a talk with her.” He leaned on the last sentence in a way that I wasn’t crazy about, so I reiterated my earlier position.
The important thing is that nothing bad happens to her … you can’t make her talk about her involvement in this without tipping that we don’t know which one it is, so it’s best to just make her leave. She’ll report back to whichever guy is the guilty party, and that will convince him that the you know he did the shooting. He’d be crazy not to walk away from it, and think himself lucky.” This was one of those instances in which my lack of emotional response/display comes in handy; now I just had to get out of here cleanly before he thought about it too much.
“Funny how it’s working out, isn’t it? We met because Sophia’s grandfather wanted her
out of Helgafell, and here it is … happening … just a few days later.”
“She’s the newest ‘
’, which is logically when a family member is most likely to want a relative out of a set-up like the farm, and also the likeliest person to be a plant/scout for someone wanting to steal from you.” This was sketchy, but could hang together if John wanted the symmetry to work.
“I guess. So, how should I work it?
Sooner is better than later, and I want Sophia gone ASAP.” John offered.
“I can take care of the tires and the storefront in to
wn, if you can manage the sugar shack and the garage.” I offered, both to sweeten the deal, and to move things along, past Sophia.
“Just because they’re closer to you, doesn’t mean they’re easier for you
… I’ve got some experience with things like the in-town ‘accidents’ you suggested. Let me handle them, and you can wander the backwoods of the rural Adirondacks for the maple-shack and what’s-his-name’s garage. Wear gloves, be quiet, and get gone as quickly as you can afterwards.”
… thanks John.” It would be best to let him help in planning, to shift some of the plan over to him in his mind.
“Sounds good Tyler
… we should do them all within 24 hours of Sophia getting bounced … I’ll take care of that this afternoon, deal with Everson and LaFleur tonight. I’ll bring some eggs along with another slab of bacon tomorrow sometime. Can I bring them by your home?”
“I’ll be in and out, but there’s a key under
… never mind … you can leave it in the fridge, assuming that you can get in as easily as you did last time.” I said.
“I could shout at those locks of your
s and get through the door in less time than you can with your keys.” He said in a tone devoid of boast/pride … almost concern (
I would have to get some better locks when all of this was done … assuming that it worked out as planned, and I still had the SmartPig offices
Tony Allen’s Sugar Shack, 3:37am, 6/7/2002
There’s an island of forest and wilderness bounded by routes 86, 186, and 30
… that was my target for this evening. I’d found that people living in the Adirondacks defined their lives and locations by the roads that cut through the trees, around the lakes/ponds, and over the mountains, and planned to use that to my advantage. People tend to see their world by routes of travel, and to ignore/discount the unknown. The people that I would be visiting tonight very likely didn’t see the miles of forest behind their homes as more than backdrop, or a place to get firewood or sap (
and those things from the edges of the woods, not deep
). They wouldn’t imagine people approaching them from that side, when the road ran to within 50 feet of their house. So I would be coming in from their blind side in my visits to Tony Allen’s Sugar Shack and Brent Martin’s Garage.
I’d parked my Honda Element off to one side of the gate of the Lake Clear Transfer Station (
) after they closed at 3pm, walked in about a mile to a chunk of State Forest Preserve along the Jackrabbit Trail, then hung my hammock in the woods and waited for dark. I made a simple, no-cook, supper of Cokes and jerky and orange slices (
the candy, not the fruit
), then climbed up into the bug proof hammock to read/sleep/wait (
each in turn, as my wait was nearly nine hours, and I haven’t slept that long since being hospitalized for pneumonia when I was seven
). At a bit after one in the morning, I judged the timing right, grabbed my hydration pack, and headed out.
I was still getting used to the feeling of being in the woods at night, in the dark, having grown up in the eternal twilight and cocktail party
noise of Manhattan for most of my life. I could hear insects chewing the wood in trees around me, frogs extolling the virtues of a pond that I would never see, and twice the sweep and brush of feathers overhead as a bird flew between/amongst the trees, doing whatever birds do at night in the woods. I could see nothing under the canopy of trees in which I had hung my hammock, save for the cone of light that my headlamp emitted. I found the path, checked my compass to make sure that I went in the correct direction (
a bit east of north
), rather than back towards my Element, and headed out at the fastest pace that I felt comfortable with … stopping every few minutes to stop/look/listen.
I had been walking along the trail that runs from Paul Smiths to Lake Placid for almost an hour, when I reached up and shut my headlamp off, letting the darkne
ss rush back in all around me. After a few minutes, my night vision started coming into play, and I could make out a dozen shades of grey in the moonlight (
the moon was only a few nights away from full, and once I let it, gave me enough light to navigate by
). I had walked this path earlier in the spring, and remembered a series of side-trails shooting off to the East, and in the general direction I needed to travel … I skipped the first one, and turned down the second, hoping that it would pan out … it didn’t.
I had a few simple landmarks memorized from my map-time before leaving the SmartPig offices, and as soon as I broke out and into a rutted field
, I took a bearing on one of the airport beacons, and the signal light on top of Whiteface … I was still too far south. Instead of turning around and heading back down to the Jackrabbit Trail, I decided to walk along the edge of the field, taking bearings every five minutes to double-check that I was headed in the right direction (
as well as track my progress
). Somewhere between my fifth and sixth bearings, I had passed the sweet-spot, so I headed back along the edge of the field (
planted with … I guessed … corn
) until I found a jeep-trail, just opposite a farm house with a single light burning in it, and turned up the trail into the woods.
I walked up the jeep-trail back into darkness, but didn’t dare turn my headlamp on so close to the peopled portion of the
world, and my eventual target. It was slower going than I had planned on, but eventually (
probably no more than eight to ten minutes, although it felt longer
) I reached the sugar shack. I had no sooner walked around it, listened for people, creeped in through the unlocked (
) door, and scanned the room with my headlamp, when it occurred to me that my plan was dead in the water … I had failed to plan for everything, and couldn’t imagine how to do what I needed to do and get clear cleanly, much less find and hit my second target (
Brent Martin’s garage
). I had brought a gallon of gasoline (
which was more than adequate to burn the wooden sugar shack
), but had no timing device, and couldn’t be sure of getting all the way down the jeep-trail and back to the relative safety of the Jackrabbit Trail before someone from the waking farmhouse saw/came to the fire. I mentally went through the gear in my pack, and an inventory of the sugar shack (
based on my initial scan of the room via headlamp a few minutes ago
) frustrated with myself for not taking all factors into account before heading out so blithely … 41 seconds later, I had it.
I grabbed a box of long/thin/white emergency candles off of a shelf by the door, an armload of empty soda bottles from a container along the wall, and a spool of lightweight string (
it felt like cotton, but it was hard to tell
) from a junk-drawer/toolbox in the far corner of the building. I carefully filled all of the soda bottles three-quarters of the way with gas (
and screwed the lids back on
). I paced off the room, and cut/tied string to each bottle, connecting all of them to a single string with a loop at one end. There was a nail head sticking one quarter of an inch out of one of the floorboards at one end of the cabin, which would serve my needs perfectly. I tied my Swiss Army knife to one end of the string for weight, and lofted it over an exposed ceiling beam at the opposite end of the cabin from my nail head (
on the seventh attempt
). Pulling on the string with a slow and even pressure, I reeled in the string until the bottles were suspended roughly seven feet off of the ground, and then walked over to my nail head, carefully paying out the thread as I went. I looped the thread around the nail head several times, and then tied it off. I went back and carefully unscrewed the lids of each soda bottle. I lit one candle, and used drippings from it to place four more unlit ones around the room … three underneath the soda bottles, and a fourth laying on its side right next to the exposed nail head that bent the string slightly out of true in its path from nail head to ceiling beam. Finished, I stopped, looked around, made sure to gather all of my things back into pockets or pack, and lit the four candles I had placed.
I opened and closed the door very carefully, checking afterwards to make sure that my passage from the sugar shack hadn’t blown the candles out (
), and traveled back down the jeep trail as fast as the darkness would allow.