I walked out into the cool evening and felt refreshed from my shower and shave. I was also relieved that all that noise was inside the walls of the bar, and not following me! Don’t misunderstand, the outside parking lot was loud, but nothing compared to what was going on inside Chiefs. The parking lot was also crowded, and people were walking, standing and talking almost everywhere.
I hadn’t noticed anything unusual, and opened the door of the Ford preparing to get in behind the wheel. Then, from somewhere behind, somebody quickly stepped up and stuck a gun in my ribs. The familiar feel from the cold steel of a gun barrel is something you never forget.
A voice I didn’t recognize spoke in my right ear, “Get in, you drive. No tricks and no conversation.”
I slid behind the wheel and my ‘new friend’ got in the backseat. He put the gun to the back of my head and said, “Head south and take the north entrance to Bailey Park. Stop in front of the Pavilion and shut the engine off. We’ll talk then.”
I followed instructions. If this guy intended to shoot me, he wouldn’t do it in Bailey Park – which was the good news. The bad news was that he sounded serious, and maybe I was wrong about the good news!
We rode in silence, and I parked the Ford in the shadows of the Bailey Park Pavilion. He got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side and took a seat beside me. This was my first look at my ‘new friend’ and I didn’t recognize my captor. He was short, stocky and had the mixed sour smell of sweat and grease. The dim moonlight, and a distant streetlight, gave me a faint view of his hand and the gun. His nails were black, probably from the constant grease, oil and grime they were exposed to. Efforts to clean his hands had helped, but it only enhanced the smell of grease mixed with cheap hand soap. This man was an automobile mechanic.
He spoke. “Trust me Carson Reno; I will shoot you if necessary. Understand?”
“Mr. ‘Whoever’, I don’t intend to make it necessary – so I do understand. But, please tell me why the gun and why we are here?”
“I need your protection,” he said quickly.
“From what? You’re the one with the gun!” I said sarcastically.
“Don’t be cute,” he snarled. “It won’t be good for your health or any of your friend’s health. Just listen and don’t ask questions. Understand?”
“I understand,” I said, but obviously I didn’t. Telling me to not ask questions never worked.
“I have some money that belongs to the Mafia,” he grunted. “A lot of money, and they want it back. But you’re going to help me get out of this situation. You’re going to help me, because if you don’t, one or more of those little stewardesses will get hurt, seriously hurt.”
I interrupted him. “So, let me guess. You’re Sanford Galey, and you have the two hundred thousand dollars that they misplaced in the stewardess’ luggage. You stole it from the apartment or your dead half-brother ‘Noodles’ stole it, and gave it to you. Then, unfortunately, he ‘got dead’, either by your hands or the Mafia, and now you want to run away and live on a beach somewhere. Am I guessing right?”
“I told you no questions,” he was agitated. “You don’t know shit, Mr. Detective. That two hundred thousand dollars is peanuts, and it wasn’t stolen; that was an accident. ‘Noodles’ and I have accumulated over two MILLION in cash that the Mafia didn’t know about. But, this stupid accident of ‘Noodles’ putting the money in the wrong bag has brought the whole thing down. Somehow, they figured out that ‘Noodles’ and our partners had been skimming some of their dough, and now they want the money and my head. I’m going to give you a one-fourth share, five hundred thousand, and you’re going to help me – that must make me a nice man, right? And you’re going to help me, because if you don’t, one of those cute little stewardess lady friends of yours will end up dead. Understand?”
“You’ve asked me three times if I understand and I’ve answered yes. This time I answer no, I do not understand. I don’t want your money, and giving it away does not make you a nice man – again, the answer is NO. So, what do you expect me to do?” I was frustrated.
“That’s your problem, you figure it out. Just get me out of this town, this state and this country – the quicker the better. I’m not playing with you Reno, I’m serious.” I believed he was.
“Okay, but can I ask a few questions?” I hoped.
“A few, but hurry. I’m leaving this car in 5 minutes and I will be back in touch with you tomorrow, so make it quick.”
“Who are your partners?” I asked.
“You don’t need to know that, except that they are no longer partners. I have the money and they’ll probably all wind up dead – if they aren’t already. If you really need to know, you can look for bodies, I guess.”
“Is Hanson Collier involved?” I asked.
“No comment. Next question,” he responded.
“Is Marlon Crow involved?” I asked.
“No, and you’re running out of questions,” he said waving the gun and looking around.
“What happened to the two hundred thousand that was in the stewardess’s luggage?” I asked.
“I don’t know, and that’s the truth. I suspect ‘Noodles’ found it and tried to return it; that’s when they figured out a lot more than two hundred grand was missing. That is just my guess, but now you’re out of questions. See you tomorrow.” He opened the door and quickly disappeared in the darkness of Bailey Park.
I sat in the car for the next 5 minutes repeating the word ‘shit’ – over and over again.
I needed to visit with Joe, but wasn’t up to the noise and party at Chiefs. Using the payphone at the Bailey Park Pavilion, I called Chiefs and told whoever answered to find Joe and tell him to meet me at the VFW as soon as possible. Usually those messages got delivered, and unless he had already gone to bed, I was sure I would see him shortly.
Compared to the noise at Chiefs, the VFW was like a church! The slots were dinging and I could hear loud voices from the poker room, but no jukebox, thank goodness.
John fixed me a Jack/Coke, and I was visiting with Homer Plunk and Randy Harbin when Joe walked in and took the stool next to mine.
“Thanks for getting me out of there boss. Things were really getting wound up and I was having trouble avoiding Flo. Nickie was looking for you, and I told her you had other business.”
“And I can just imagine what Nickie said when you told her that,” I laughed.
“She said your hormones had come loose and you were trying to gather them up! What did that mean? It made no sense.”
“Joe, sometimes it’s better to just listen to Nickie and not look for a definition. It can be frustrating,” I offered. “Get yourself a drink and let me share something with you.”
Joe ordered a drink and I told him about my visit and conversation with Sanford Galey. When I finished he just said, “Really, Two Million Dollars!”
“That’s what he told me, and I believe him. I just haven’t figured out what to do next, but I’m working on it. I want you to make an early trip to the Humboldt Airport tomorrow morning and lease us a plane – the biggest they have. And if you don’t think they have one big enough, then go get one at Keller Field in Jackson.”
“You don’t intend to help him – do you?” Joe asked with surprise.
“I certainly do not. But we’ll need to string him along until I figure out what to do next. He’s scared, that was obvious. It seems he’s not only stolen from the mob, but he’s also shafted his partners. I think he figures the mob will take care of them and he can get away with all the money; at least that is what I think he’s up to.”
“How big of a plane do we need?” Joe asked, still confused.
“Like I said, biggest they have. Certainly large enough for 3 or 4 people, and bigger if you can get it.”
“Who are his partners? Do we know?” Joe asked.
“He wouldn’t say. But my bet is that skydiver was one of them, along with any other bodies that turn up. I also think Hanson Collier is involved too, maybe even his whole organization.”
“Okay boss. I’ll get the plane in the morning, but what then? Are we going to see Leroy?” Joe asked.
“No. I’m not getting Leroy involved, at this point. You get the plane and then meet me back at Chiefs. We’re going to visit Hanson Collier, and then wait for Sanford Galey to make his contact with me. It might be a long dull day, but probably with an exciting ending!”
We had few drinks and talked over our plan. It was after midnight when I finally settled into my cabin at Chiefs. The party was still going, but somehow the noise wasn’t bothering me. Leaving Leroy out of the loop WAS bothering me; however, it was the right decision. Leroy needed to play by the rules, and if my hunch was correct, we weren’t going to be playing by the rules for the next couple of days.
It had been a long day – I slept well.