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Cardiff's Return 1950s Mystery Part-2 Conclusion
I had planned to post the story in three parts but decided to do it in two sections.
to this point Paul Jennings has pursued investigating the disappearance of Cardiff by interviewing people Cardiff knew.
"Ah. Professor Jennings. You are very prompt. Speaks well for a man. Our dinner is ready and we can discuss this thing you wish to know about while we eat. That is, if you find it agreeable."
"What was Cardiff like?" Paul inquired after they settled down to the meal. l understand he was very fond of his way of life here. It seems extra ordinary that he should leave it all behind him, no matter what the gain. "
Burnett set his wine glass on the table and then answered, "I am quite sure, Professor, that my partners actions are no more surprising to you than to myself. He was rather sentimental...It gave him a certain charm, but made him a rather weak businessman. He was competent but the firm was on the downgrade when I entered it."
"You mean it was originally Cardiff's firm? How did that come about?"
"Oh yes. The firm was started by his father. Charles inherited it and he made the first steps toward modern procedures. But he was like his father and simply couldn't recognize business is business. Well, to continue, the accounts were in the red, but with my help we got things on solid ground again. It does seem, now that I think about it, Charles was rather resentful of my methods. I can't help but wonder if he didn't just go berserk out of rebellion."
"It is possible," Paul said, "that a deep set resentment could cause one to act in a way that is contrary to his own best interest. However, such things usually require extreme provocation."
"Naturally, his own interests were with the firm" Burnett continued, "He was still well off financially, although he didn't have control of the business anymore. That may have bothered him. He may, indeed, have felt that he was losing the business."
As Paul left, he mused over the idea of Cardiff rebelling against his partner. "Hardly worth leaving the country for," he thought.
The next morning Paul was again at the sheriff’s office.
"What if I were to tell you that Cardiff is dead?" Paul's voice was calm, almost casual. He waited for Carl Webster to answer.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he was dead." Webster replied. But it doesn't seem likely that you could prove it. What else is new?"
"I don't have to prove it, Carl. You're going to do that." Paul held a match to his pipe and then continued, "I saw his body, you see. At least I think it's his body. That, of course, is where you come in. I mean you have to identify it before we can be sure."
"YOU WHAT?" the sheriff's coffee mug hit the desk with a thud.
"I said that I saw a body that I suspect is Cardiff's. I took the liberty of sending one of your deputies out to get it."
"You mean he-- Cardiff is here? He's not in South America? He came back?" Webster was obviously interested now. Then he added, as If to himself, "Sure. He would come back to get his wife. Well, don't just sit there. What happened to him? What makes you think that the body is Cardiff's?
Paul set his cup down. "I don't really know much, except I've found a body. And whoever it is has been murdered."
With the sheriff paying rapt attention, Paul proceeded to tell him of his activities. He told him about the visit with Burnett and his difficulties in trying to see Mrs. Cardiff, and an odd afternoon spent in the company of a teen age boy. How the boy had informed him that Mrs. Cardiff had been gone for some time. "Finally, after leaving Burnett," Paul said, "l saw the boy again and stopped to talk with him. Apparently I had gained his confidence, because he told me that he had found something suspicious and he seemed to be scared.
"It had to do with that old cemetery that lies between the two estates. The fact is I wasn't really too interested because what I wanted to do was to get alone somewhere so I could think. But you know, Carl, there was something about the boys attitude that made me curious. Even then--- I didn't think it had anything to do with Cardiff. Anyhow, I followed the boy to the cemetery. The whole place is really weedy and dismal enough, but he brought me to a back corner of the place that was really unkempt. He showed me a burial vault that looked like it was a couple of centuries old way back in this secluded part of the grounds an old tomb that nobody would have visited in a generation."
Paul paused, tamping his pipe. Webster nodded, "That Churchyard itself is no bus station. Nobody but the Cardiff and Burnett families have used it at all for the last thirty years."
"The boy was a little nervous," Paul continued. "He told me that he had been passing the place one night awhile back on his way to a school dance and heard noises and saw a light flashing back there. He didn't think much about it at the time. Thought it was probably some of the younger kids having a snipe hunt or something. It wasn't until after I left to visit Burnett that he happened to go back there to see what things were like. What he showed me was a number of scratches on the vault and what when examined closely looked like a lock that was much newer than it should have been."
"Are you trying to tell me, "Webster interrupted, "that you went in there and found Cardiff's body?"
"I went in there all right. And I did find a body I mean besides the one that belonged there. It might be Cardiff's."
Webster, instead of answering Paul, sent men to identify the body and check on the whereabouts of Mrs. Cardiff. He also had them check the airlines to see if there was a record of Cardiff's return."
"Well then" he said to Paul, "if the body is Cardiff's, it would seem that he took the money, went to South America, returned to get his wife and wound up dead. It looks like you dug up something at that."
"There's just one problem Carl"
"And what's that?"
"Who killed Cardiff'? And why?"
Webster frowned. "Yeah. I guess I was getting a bit eager. Money would be the likely reason. I wouldn't be surprised if he had the stolen money on him. Being on the run, he probably didn't have any place to leave it."
Paul listened, drawing slowly on his pipe. "Sounds reasonable," he said. "only, it couldn't be a chance assault. It's too unlikely that some stranger would have chosen that place to hide the body."
"There's his wife to consider..." said Webster.
It was definitely established by the following day, that the body was that of Charles Cardiff. Death was caused by stabbing and had occurred within two weeks of the South American flight.
Mrs. Cardiff has not been located yet," the sheriff told Paul. "The airline records show that Cardiff boarded a plane for South America and there is no record of his return."
"Could he have come back under an assumed name?"
"It's possible. There was one passenger on a return flight who has not been identified."
"Just the same, Carl, "Paul said, as if he were not following the train of the discussion. "It doesn't make sense. why would he go to another country and then return? To get his wife? Why didn't he take her to begin with? Or send for her?"
"He could have done it to throw us off the track. Make us think that he was in South America while he was here all the time."
"There seem to be some things he didn't plan on though," Paul replied.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, if he planned on staying here, he must have planned on being alive. At the same time, he couldn't have really expected to live in this community. It's too small. And he was well enough known that he was sure to be recognized."
"Anyhow," the sheriff continued, "it doesn't really make much difference why he came back does it? Thanks to you, we know that he is here. Just as soon as we locate Mrs. Cardiff we should have the whole thing wrapped up."
"That is, "said Paul, "if Mrs. Cardiff killed her husband."
The next morning Paul received a phone call from Carl Webster. Mrs. Cardiff had been located, along with a sum of money that she admitted had come from her husband. It had been mailed, according to her story from South America. She claimed that she had been expecting to meet her husband in New York and she appeared to be completely unaware of her husband's death.
When Paul arrived at the sheriff's office, Webster told him that it seemed pretty certain that Cardiff made off with the money, left the country, sent the money to his wife and then decided to come back under a different name. Then she must have killed him and left with the money.
"If that's what happened," Paul replied, "why did he send the money to begin with? And why didn't he meet her in New York as he'd planned in the note?"
"He probably had a change of plans after sending the money. As for the note, she may have written it herself."
" There was a foreign postmark on it, Wasn't there?"
"Yeah, I guess there was. "
Paul held a match to his pipe and took several seconds to get it lit. Finally he took the pipe from his mouth and said, "You're right about one thing though."
"What's that? If I'm not asking too much."
Paul drew a few thoughtful puffs on his pipe and then said, more slowly than usual, "That part about Cardiff not writing that note. He didn't you know.."
"No, I don't know. What the hell-- say what you mean Jennings?"
"Well, that note coming from Cardiff is just unreasonable. There are too many things wrong. First of all, he is supposed to have written the note to his wife because he is in South America and wants her to meet him in New York. But he is neither in South America nor in New York. He is right here and he's dead."
"I know that. That's why Mrs. Cardiff must have written the note to herself."
"Fine, Carl, " Paul said. "And then she mailed it from South America?"
"Well, I admit it seems improbable. But it must have been either her or Cardiff himself. One way or the other."
"You're wrong. "
1950's Pop Music
"I mean that someone else could and did write that note."
"Do you know something about this case that I don't, Jennings? Speak up. This is my job, you know."
"In that case, Carl Just one thing. Actually I just discovered the fact this morning. Things didn't make sense. I got muddled down, just like we are now you see, we just need one more fact. I found the other fact by double checking with the airline. Just got back, by the way." He stopped talking to relight his pipe.
"O.K. So get on with it, Jennings. And will you put that damn pipe away?"
Paul went outside and emptied his pipe. "I talked with some of the people there,” he continued when he came back. "Not one of them described the mysterious passenger as looking anything like Cardiff. "
"That's absurd," the sheriff interrupted. "We tracked him to South America and we know that he is back here now. If it wasn't him that came back on the plane, then he must have come back by some other means. What difference does it make?"
"You're wrong again, Carl. We don't know that he left. What we do know is that someone left who used the name of Cardiff."
Carl Webster said nothing.
"Don't you see, Carl?" Jennings continued. "Cardiff did not go to South America, at all. He was killed, put into that tomb and has been there all along. If you check with that boy out there, I'll bet you'll find he saw those lights out there before Cardiff's disappearance, not after."
"All right. I'll send a deputy out there. But Mrs. Cardiff would still be the likely suspect."
"Not so fast, Carl. It couldn't be her. The descriptions were definitely of a man. Someone definitely took Cardiff's place on the plane, left the country, mailed the note to Cardiff's wife and then returned under a different name. "
"Burnett, Cardiff's partner. Who else? He must make frequent trips to South America. I know that he must speak Spanish because he has Spanish magazines in his house. Besides Burnett fits the facts."
"Well, Professor. Just how does he fit the facts?"
"Suppose that instead of Cardiff robbing the firm it was Burnett. And then suppose that Cardiff found funds were missing and decided to have an audit of the books. Now if Burnett was ambitious and wanted control of the company, what would be better than to kill Cardiff'? He would not only have Cardiff out of the way but he could cover up his crime of theft in the process. It would have been simple. He could have had Cardiff make plane reservations on some pretext and then killed him. Of course, he wouldn't have expected the body to be found, especially as no one knew that there was a body. Just to make sure, he went to South America and mailed that note and the money to Mrs. Cardiff which not only built up the case against Cardiff but got Mrs. Cardiff out of the way as well. After all, what could she do when her husband failed to show up?"
"It makes sense, Jennings. Just one thing."
"What's that, Carl?"
"How do we prove all this?"
"Just like you say, Carl." Paul got up to go.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Like you say, that’s your job, Sheriff."
© 2014 Don A. Hoglund