Fiction Saturday – Untitled Story – Part Three
The Central Police Headquarters Building reflected most people’s opinion of the Police Force housed inside: Worn out, broken down, and very, very dirty.
The “Missing Persons Department” was comprised of one desk, half a file cabinet and the half-hearted attention of one cop. The only reason it got that much focus was because that cop kept getting himself in Dutch with his Lieutenant. “Missing Persons” was the Police equivalent of being sent to the Principal’s office.
“Where can I find Jake Feller’s desk these days?” The desk sergeant snorted at the mention of Feller’s name.
“No. You do that and he’s likely to jump out a window. I’ll just surprise him. OK?”
“Yeah, I guess so. You look harmless, but I’d kind of like to see him do the window thing.”
“I’ll tell him you care.”
Half of the desks were unmanned, including Feller’s. Either the city was having a sudden crime wave or Mulroney’s Bar down the block was having “Two for the price of one” Boilermakers. It was barely 10 AM. I headed down to Mulroney’s.
“Good morning, Jake. Remember me?” He looked up from his copy of The Racing Form. When he recognized me he reached for his beer.
“I’m afraid I do. Are you a Missing Person? It can be arranged, y’know.”
“I’ve missed you too, Feller, but I’m actually here on business.”
“Really, now? You mean someone actually hired you? For real money? American money? Did your client go missing on you before they settled up their tab?”
I slid into the booth. The wood glistened from the elbows of a million drinkers.
“Jake, I’m following up on a report of a husband who turned up missing two years ago and …”
“He’s either dead or living in California – pretty much the same thing if you ask me. Why don’t you just give it up and go back to peeking in windows.”
“Hear me out. Adam Cream went down in that Yosemite plane crash. Remember that? And his wife thinks he’s still alive. She claims she saw him walk away from the crash into the woods. She filed a Missing Persons report with you guys, but never heard anything back. Can you at least pull the file for me? I’ll buy you another round.”
Feller looked up from the table. His eyes were already looking like boiled eggs. “She must have given you an advance, right? OK, another Boilermaker and we’ll go take a look at the file, but no promises.”
The file that Feller pulled from the gray metal four-drawer cabinet didn’t have much – the initial report filled out by the detective who rode that desk back then. There were copies of some inquiries sent out to California – to the local police in towns near Yosemite, to the Park Service, and to the airline company.
“Well, there’s your problem. Everybody we asked out there said the same thing – there was nobody named Adam Cream on the plane, before during or after it screwed itself into the dirt.” That much I already knew, which brought my grand total of cold hard facts to zero.
If what Ginger Cream told me was true, that her husband survived the crash and walked away, it raised some questions.
He couldn’t have planned the plane crash, so was he injured and staggered off to end up being the main course for the bears, cougars or coyotes? If that’s what happened, then he is dead, but by now his bones would be scattered and untraceable.
If he survived the crash and looked at it as an opportunity to disappear – why? What would pulling an Amelia Earhart get him? Even if he had a little cutie stashed away, he’d have to leave his money behind. That makes no sense.
Cream is, or was, a very wealthy man and could have flown to half the islands in the Caribbean for a quickie divorce and kept his bankroll intact.
Who’s been running his company for the last two years? Big companies are like battleships – somebody has to be keeping it on course day and night. I can’t see Ginger running anything other than a tab at Tiffany’s.
She thinks that he is alive – she hopes he’s dead –but she really believes he is alive. Why? What does she know that she isn’t telling me? A lot is my bet.
“Mr. Adam Cream, founder and CEO of the Golden Pyramid Oil Company, announces his marriage to Miss Ginger Tumulski, a native of the city. After an excursion to Europe they plan to reside here at the Cream Estate on Insmore Road.”
That’s how it read on the microfiche reel at the Public Library. The bare facts and nothing more. Another reel, a few years older, told me more.
Adam Cream was a hardscrabble local boy who hit it big working as a wildcatter in Texas and Oklahoma. He parlayed his way into the pipeline business and, by his thirtieth birthday, he was the richest man in the state.
When he came back to his hometown and made it his corporate headquarters, he also became the most eligible bachelor around. That is how the green-eyed redhead entered the picture.
The newspapers gave me the surface story, but I needed to dig down to really learn anything more than what Adam Cream wanted people to know. To find what I needed meant I had to get off my backside and do some legwork. My legs were not going to be happy.
The phone book listed only one Tumulski, an “S. Tumulski,” at an address down by the river – 732 Pulaski Street. In that neighborhood if your name made it into the phone book you were an old timer there.
Pulaski Street was made up of houses that should have been torn down years ago, but patchwork repairs and a city inspector who could be bought for less than a good meal, kept them filled with hardworking families, mostly immigrants. Number 732 was an older wood frame house. The front lawn was worn away to nothing by children, dogs, and neglect. The battered aluminum mailbox had a masking tape label reading “Stefan Tumulski.”
A dog barked from inside the house when I knocked on the screen door and a loud male voice yelled at the dog. I liked the dog’s attitude better.