Authors: Robert Thornhill
A few shovels full later, we pulled a metal box from the ground. The hasp and hinges had rusted from the years of exposure, but Kevin’s knife soon popped the lid open revealing stacks of bills still wrapped in Wells Fargo bands.
“I recon this is yours,” Louie said, handing the box to Dr. Crane.
She stared at the contents of the box for a moment. “Chloe Fisher had the other half of the hold-up money and used it to help finance my education. Because of that, I’ve had a successful career and wanted for nothing. I think the contents of this box would have more meaning for some other people.”
Having said that, she started lifting the stacks of bills out of the box and handing them to Billy Bob and Oren. “I think your grandmother would be pleased to know that her well-kept secret helped her two grandsons start their own business. Use it wisely.”
“Uhhh, thank you so much, Aunt Liz,” Billy Bob stuttered. “I don’t know what else to say except we’ll make you and Grandma proud.”
When all of the stacks were gone but one, she put the lid back on the box and handed it to Louie. “The sacrifices your cousin Nate made affected my family in ways you can’t imagine. We owe him a debt of gratitude and you should be proud that he was part of your family. I just hope that finding your uncle’s grave and having the locket and this box as family keepsakes gives you some measure of comfort. Thank you so much.”
“No, the thanks should be to you, Ma’am. If it hadn’t of been for you, I woulda never knowed about my kinfolk.”
After a round of hugs and tears, we all pitched in to replace and smooth the dirt around Curtis Jackson’s grave. For seventy years he had faithfully guarded his son’s legacy. Something told me that his grave would not be forgotten. Louie the Lip would see to that.
As I drove home, I thought about what I had felt when the lid to the tin box had popped open.
My first thought, when I saw the money wrapped in Wells Fargo bands, was that of a cop. The money had been stolen in an armed robbery and rightfully belonged to the Wells Fargo company. Then, when I saw the look of utter gratitude on the faces of Oren and Billy Bob, and the tears in Louie’s eyes, I began to waver.
Undoubtedly, after seventy years, the statute of limitations had expired, the two perpetrators were long dead, and most likely, the Wells Fargo office that had been robbed was probably now a Starbucks.
I wondered if my rationalization was just me giving in to the dark side.
When it was all said and done, I felt good about what we had accomplished.
I hoped that was a good thing.
The next morning, I thought a visit with Captain Short was in order. I felt he needed to know about our two recent run-ins with DeMarcus Tweedy. His continuing vendetta against me personally and cops in general meant that none of us were safe as long as he roamed Kansas City streets a free man.
I realized as I drove to the precinct that there would be a limit to what I could share with the captain. I couldn’t exactly waltz into his office and tell him that we had discovered the loot from an armed robbery and divided it amongst ourselves.
Those thoughts made me revisit my conclusions of the previous day that justice had been served.
After playing the whole thing over in my mind, I felt comfortable with the idea that justice had been served. Maybe not the justice of the lady in the flowing white robe wearing a blindfold, but the justice of her sister, the one in the skin-tight skirt, fishnet stockings and high heels.
Was this me, crossing over to the dark side or just seeing the world from a different perspective?
I had tried to time my arrival so that squad meeting would be over and the gang would already be on the streets, but I misjudged it by just a few minutes. The meeting was just breaking up when I walked into the squad room.
Ox was the first to see me and he pounced like a duck on a June bug.
“Good to see you, Partner,” he said, smothering me in a big bear hug.
“You, too,” I replied, prying myself loose.
Amanda Parrish was right behind him looking no worse for wear after her abduction by DeMarcus Tweedy.
“Partner!” she said, punching Ox in the arm and scowling. “What am I chopped liver? I thought I was your partner.”
“Oh! I --- I ---,” he stammered sheepishly.
“Just kidding, you big doofus. How are you, Walt?”
“Great. How’s this big oaf treating you?”
“Best partner a girl could have,” she replied.
Ox blushed. “Walt, have Maggie give Judy a call. We should get together this weekend.”
I was about to respond in the affirmative when Officer Dooley, the precinct wise guy, took his shot.
“Hey Walt, how’s your new business going? I had a friend who was a private eye. Always carried a thin piece of paper and a pencil with him in case he had to trace someone.”
Dooley was about to unload another one when the captain approached.
“Don’t you have somewhere you’re supposed to be, Dooley?”
“Uhhh, sure thing, Captain,” he replied heading for the door.
“Some things never change,” the captain said, smiling. “What can we do for you Walt?”
“Just a minute of your time. I’ve had a couple of run-ins with DeMarcus Tweedy I thought you should know about.”
He motioned me into his office.
I told him about being ambushed at the storage locker and the cemetery.
“What in the world were you doing in Highland Cemetery?” he asked.
So there it was. I was about to lie to the captain when I remembered Dooley’s wisecrack.
“Kevin and I had a client that hired us to track down a person from their past life. The guy had passed away and we located his grave in Highland Cemetery.”
That wasn’t a lie, it just wasn’t the whole truth. I left out the part about the buried treasure. He seemed satisfied with that, and I started to congratulate myself when I realized that I was getting pretty good at telling white lies and half-truths. It seemed to be a necessary skill when one operated on the dark side.
“I just thought you should know that Tweedy hasn’t slacked off, he’s just been concentrating on me. The guy killed Vince, abducted Amanda Parrish, shot up the Three Trails Hotel, and has tried to blow me away twice in the past week. We have no idea where he might strike next. None of us are safe. He could come after Maggie or Mary or any other cop.”
“I have everyone looking for the guy,” the captain replied. “Every cop has a photo of him in their squad car. We’ve been shaking down every C.I. we have on the street, but we’ve come up empty so far.”
“Some other mope has been running with him,” I said. “I heard him use the name ‘Lamar.’”
“That would be Lamar Sheetz. He’s got a rap sheet as long as your arm. Two very bad dudes out there with vengeance on their minds and nothing to lose.”
I had just returned home when the phone rang.
“Walt, this is Dr. Crane. I wonder if you’d have time for me to stop by for a visit?”
“Certainly. What time?”
“How about now? I’m parked in front of your building.”
I looked out the window and, sure enough, her Beemer was idling at the curb.
“Come on up.”
A few moments later, she was seated in my office.
“You may find this strange,” she began, “but a lot of the information that was in my mother’s diary has come as quite a shock --- especially the part about Terrence Thrasher not being my biological father.”
“Actually, I don’t find your concern strange at all,” I replied. “My wife, Maggie, had the same experience about a year ago. Kevin is her brother and she hadn’t seen him for years. He showed up out of the blue, dying of kidney failure, hoping Maggie would be willing to part with one of her kidneys for a transplant. She agreed, but tests showed that she wasn’t a compatible donor. Unbeknownst to both of them, their mother had been having an affair with another man. Maggie and Kevin had the same mother but different fathers.
“I’m sure you are feeling what Maggie felt. She had spent her whole life believing she was Maggie McBride and suddenly she finds out that it was all a lie. Needless to say, we started doing research and were fortunate to discover the identity of her biological father.”
“I’m so sorry your wife had to go through that experience, but in a way I’m relieved because you will understand what I want you to do. I want to hire you to find everything you can about Johnny Butterfly. I need to know about my father.”
“Wow! I certainly understand, but we don’t have much to go on. It was seventy years ago and the only thing we know for sure is that the trailer he was pulling had the name Monarch Trucking on the side.”
“No, we actually know one more thing. Johnny Butterfly was on his way to Rochester, Minnesota with his load.”
I had forgotten that detail.
“Yes, I remember now. Still, it’s a long shot.”
“Will you take the case?” she asked, expectantly.
It wasn’t like I had clients lined up outside my door.
“Absolutely. You have the right to know where you came from, and I’ll do my best to track down the mysterious Johnny Butterfly.”
I saw no need to involve Kevin at this point. There was really only one place to start and I didn’t need any help with that. I figured I could bring him into the case later if I ran into a brick wall.
I fired up the computer and ‘Googled’ Monarch Trucking Company. I was hoping that it was still in business, but that would have been too easy.
There was only one reference to the company. It said that Monarch was founded in 1940 and was purchased by Global Worldwide Trucking in 1972.
I ‘Googled’ Global and was pleased to discover that they were still in business. As I read through their webpage, there was good news and bad news. The bad news was that Global, like their name suggested, was HUGE. They had offices all over North America including twelve cities in the U.S. as well as in Canada and Mexico.
This had all the trappings of a large corporation like Wal-Mart, coming into town and running the local five and dime or hardware store out of business. It looked like Global had swallowed up a number of smaller, family-owned trucking companies. Dealing with a mega-corporation would certainly be more difficult than one locally owned.
The good news was that they had offices and a warehouse on Front Street in the East Bottoms.
I dialed their number and a perky little voice answered. “Global Trucking. How may I direct your call?”
I thought for a moment. “Uhhh, never mind. Wrong number.”
I realized I didn’t even know who to ask for.
I scribbled the address on a slip of paper and headed to my car.
I figured if I could get inside the building, there might be some kind of directory that would give me a clue.
When I came to the address I had jotted down, my mouth dropped open.
The Global complex must have covered twenty acres. No less than thirty tractor-trailer rigs were backed up to the docks of a huge warehouse at least two football fields long. Another fifty trailers were parked in the asphalt lot. A three-story office building was attached to the west side of the warehouse.
I parked in front of the office building and made my way to the lobby. Thankfully, there was an office directory on the wall. There were at least a dozen listings and looking them over, I decided the one labeled ‘Acquisitions’ might be my best bet.
Apparently they weren’t through swallowing up smaller competitors since they had an entire department dedicated to the project.
I approached the receptionist and discovered that she was the source of the perky voice on the phone. “Welcome to Global. How my I help you?”
“Uhhh, Acquisitions. I’d like to speak to someone in Acquisitions.”
“That would be Mr. Simmons. Let me see if he’s available.”
After a brief conversation, she said. “Mr. Simmons can see you. Take the elevator to the third floor. His office is 303.”
I knocked and a pleasant voice said, “Come in.”
Simmons was an elderly gent, not as old as me but close. He motioned me to a chair.
“I’m Harvey Simmons. I don’t get many visitors up here. How may I help you?”
I had decided that rather than play games, I would be right up front about what I was looking for.
“I’m Walter Williams and I’m a private investigator.”
I saw the look of concern register on his face. Maybe I had been too direct.
“Don’t worry. I’m not investigating your company, at least not directly. I’m actually looking for some information about one of the companies you acquired several years ago.”
“What company and what kind of information?” he asked, obviously still concerned.
“Monarch Trucking Company,” I replied. “I’m actually trying to locate one of Monarch’s drivers for a client of mine.”
He seemed to relax a bit. “Monarch. That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time. If memory serves we bought that firm sometime in the seventies.”
“1972, if Google is correct.”
“That sounds about right. I’m intrigued. What’s so important about this driver?”
Here it was again. I had to tell Simmons something without telling him too much.
“The driver was my client’s father. He mysteriously disappeared after one of his runs to Minnesota, and we were hoping that the company’s log might give us a clue to his disappearance.”