Cardiff's Return 1950s Mystery Story Part 1

American car of the 1950's
American car of the 1950's | Source

Sheriff Carl Webster ignored the quiet, well‑dressed, young man who entered his office unannounced.

"What's wrong, Carl? " the visitor said; then added in the tone that never failed to exasperate the Sheriff who slammed his newspaper down, leaned over the desk and shook an index finger at his visitor. "Dammit Jennings. If a hard working man can't have a morning cup of coffee and read his paper without some highbrow, smartass coming in and . . . "

Jennings smiled and raised a hand to stop the flow of Webster's indignant rage. Webster only muttered a few more syllables, to keep up the pretense.. "Hold on, Sheriff," Paul said. "You’re getting upset. Why not settle down and I'll have a cup of your coffee. "

Webster scowled. "Haven't you got anything to keep you busy at that college of yours? I suppose you drove all the way down here just so you could give me advice on how I should do my job". He sipped his coffee and smiled despite himself.

Instead of answering immediately, Paul sat, took a cup and filled it with coffee. "That’s a fine way to greet an old friend," he said, after lighting his pipe. “A friend, I might add, who not only comes to offer the benefit of profound learning but pleasant company as well. As a matter of fact, Carl, I have a few days vacation and last week one of my students came up with a most intriguing question. She wanted to know what becomes of a crime case which is not brought to a satisfactory solution. I don't suppose that you have any ideas on the subject. Do you?"

"We work them until they’re solved, naturally," Webster answered. “Will you keep that smokestack of yours outside?”

"Oh come now, Carl. Don't give me that. I’ll bet you have a file about so long. And I'll bet even further that they're not looked at very often. What do you mean---smokestack?"

Author's Comment

This is a story I wrote some time ago. I usually try to avoid stories that are long on Hubpages, but I wanted to share this one and am posting it in three parts. I hope you enjoy it.

Korean War image
Korean War image | Source

A Challenge

. All right. So we do have a file. And next you’re going to tell me that I could solve them all if I used psychology."

"Take it easy now Carl. I didn't come here to criticize. Just to get information. What I want to know is why the cases remain open. What are the usual reasons? "

The sheriff smiled. "Well now, that's different. If you came to me for advice and not to give it. I'll admit that you've been helpful around here at times I appreciate that. But sometimes your lecture on Criminology gets on my nerves. Usually ---to hear you talk, folks would think that we're too old fashioned around here to take care of anything. I'm glad you finally realize that an old lawman might know something about the practical business of catching crooks."

At this outburst, Paul returned the sheriff's grin with his own, which revealed a certain good humor but always had of a touch of irony behind. "I didn't know you took it so much to heart, Carl. It’s wrong of me to criticize your work, and I didn’t mean to do it. Please accept my apologies because I do know that the problems in your job are different from mine and you have to deal with more than the criminal. I know you have to worry about being elected again and you can't afford to play around with untested ideas. But right now, how about the information? You know, I did ask you about something."

Webster leaned back. "There could be any number of reasons why we can't clean up a case. For instance, there may be a crook that we can't get a hold of. Or stolen money may be hidden where we can't find it."

"What do you mean about a criminal that can't be caught? Why not? What prevents it?"

"Well, they might leave the country, for one thing."

"Are there many who do that?”

"Yeah! Quite a few, as matter of fact. And they're the devil's own to find, unless the police on the other side are willing to cooperate. And then it's only the big city police that can actually afford to do much about it."

"Then you must have some cases on file like that." Paul mused.

"As a matter of fact, I do."

"Recent ones?" Paul asked, as he refilled his pipe. Before Webster could answer, Paul continued with, "Could I look through them, Carl? They might be interesting."

"Help yourself. But I doubt that you'll find much of interest." Webster pointed to a small card file. Paul casually thumbed through it, and then randomly picked out a card:

1950's

Paul Finds Case

"Take it easy now Carl. I didn't come here to criticize. Just to get information. What I want to know is why the cases remain open. What are the usual reasons? "

The sheriff smiled. "Well now, that's different. If you came to me for advice and not to give it. I'll admit that you've been helpful around here at times I appreciate that. But sometimes your lecture on Criminology gets on my nerves. Usually ---to hear you talk, folks would think that we're too old fashioned around here to take care of anything. I'm glad you finally realize that an old lawman might know something about the practical business of catching crooks."

At this outburst, Paul returned the sheriff's grin with his own, which revealed a certain good humor but always had of a touch of irony behind. "I didn't know you took it so much to heart, Carl. It’s wrong of me to criticize your work, and I didn’t mean to do it. Please accept my apologies because I do know that the problems in your job are different from mine and you have to deal with more than the criminal. I know you have to worry about being elected again and you can't afford to play around with untested ideas. But right now, how about the information? You know, I did ask you about something."

Webster leaned back. "There could be any number of reasons why we can't clean up a case. For instance, there may be a crook that we can't get a hold of. Or stolen money may be hidden where we can't find it."

"What do you mean about a criminal that can't be caught? Why not? What prevents it?"

"Well, they might leave the country, for one thing."

"Are there many who do that?”

"Yeah! Quite a few, as matter of fact. And they're the devil's own to find, unless the police on the other side are willing to cooperate. And then it's only the big city police that can actually afford to do much about it."

"Then you must have some cases on file like that." Paul mused.

"As a matter of fact, I do."

"Recent ones?" Paul asked, as he refilled his pipe. Before Webster could answer, Paul continued with, "Could I look through them, Carl? They might be interesting."

"Help yourself. But I doubt that you'll find much of interest." Webster pointed to a small card file. Paul casually thumbed through it, and then randomly picked out a card:

"A sum of 50,000 dollars was missing from the local firm of Cardiff and Burnett. Charles Cardiff had disappeared and investigation revealed that he had taken a plane to South America. The firm had been reimbursed by the insurance company.”

Paul read it through a couple of times and then said, "You know, Carl, it doesn't look like there is much of anything here, but it might be interesting to follow it through and see what I can learn. Any objections?"

“Go ahead" Webster laughed. "Go ahead, but I don't know what you can find that isn't right there already."

Neither did Paul, but he didn't say so.

Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger

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Paul Pursues a Lead

Alone in his room, Paul Jennings irritably pressed tobacco into his pipe, noting as he did so, that it was too tight and would stop burning halfway down. He lit it anyhow. Having looked at the facts in the Cardiff ease for two hours, he felt like telling Webster to forget it. However, Paul had too much intellectual pride to do that. He'd just have to play around with it and see what they could come up with. To turn up anything new in a crime that was already virtually solved except for apprehension of the criminal was an impossible task. Especially for a criminologist. After all, he thought, it isn't the scholar's job to do practical police work. Suddenly he stopped his pacing. "Maybe not," he said almost aloud maybe it isn't as obvious as it sounds. "It's worth a try, anyhow." With a feeling, something like elation, he put his pipe back between his teeth. It had gone cold.

After refilling his pipe, Paul put on his coat and drove out to the firm of Cardiff and Burnett, or as he found it was now called: Joseph Burnett & Co. Importers. A rather quiet but impressive place of business, Paul observed. Mr. L. Joseph Burnett, he decided, was a rather ordinary business man; quiet, polite and methodical. Probably dull as well, Paul thought.

After introducing himself, Paul told Burnett he was doing a case study on criminal motivation, and felt Cardiff's flight was a very curious case which might serve as a thesis subject.

"l see, Professor Jennings. Although I fear that I can give you very little information. You see, I really do not have the vaguest notion of why my partner might have wanted to steal from me. From himself as well, you understand."

"That isn't really necessary, Mr. Burnett. I am primarily interested in a study of the personalities of the different kind of people who commit crimes. If you could give me some information as to what kind of person Charles Cardiff was and some background on the crime itself, it would help me out a great deal."

"In that event, I will give you whatever assistance I can. However, business is rather pressing right now, and I must attend to my clients. If you would consent to be my guest at dinner tonight, we could discuss the matter then. My address is on the card..."

Paul took the card and agreed to visit Burnett that evening. In the meantime, he decided to visit Cardiff's wife. The Cardiff estate adjoined the Burnett place, so it would be convenient to go there right away. When Paul got to the Cardiff's, however, he discovered that Mrs. Cardiff had not been there for some time. He spent the remainder of the afternoon looking around and talking with a young boy who worked at the place after school. Later as he drove the two miles separating the two estates, he kept wondering why a man who obviously had roots in family business, land and home would commit a crime that was virtually voluntary exile. The Burnett place turned out to be very much like Cardiff's except that it was newer.

Paul was admitted to the house by a servant and asked to wait for his host. While waiting, Paul casually surveyed the interior of the room Although expensively furnished, it struck Paul as being singularly tasteless. The room of coarse reflected the business the man was in, displaying a vast panorama of art objects from around the world. The items themselves were mostly of a high quality and generally interesting, but somehow the whole collection struck Paul as being arranged in the most inharmonious way possible. Oriental rugs on the floor and African statues on the mantelpiece. Exquisite art without a visage of expression. When Burnett made his appearance, Paul was glancing through a Spanish edition of the "Readers Digest"


...to be continued.

© 2014 Don A. Hoglund

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6 comments

Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 2 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Interesting story and I will be watching for more of it. I did notice a repeat of a paragraph. under "Paul finds case", just so you can fix that.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks or commenting, Becky. I tried to find the duplication you mentioned but couldn't find it.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

On to part two!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading.


midget38 profile image

midget38 2 years ago from Singapore

Now what will he find?


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading, midget.

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