A Burning Cold Morning (Part 34)

The next month was very profitable for the two of them with their “L&S Silver & Gold” shop maintaining a brisk flow of business well into August.   Although Stanley continued to have some issues keeping up with the demand, overall Leo was happy with his partner and believed that he had made the correct decision.  For his part, Stanley worried often about the potential of getting caught, sometimes having to be calmed down by Leo before he could focus again on his work.  He did enjoy the money though and had spent it freely and not so discreetly, although his father so far had no idea about the reputation his son was gaining out in town.

Black Board Dancing Club

Black Board Dancing Club

  This new found notoriety pertained mostly to his activities at a few local saloons and also at the Black Board Dancing Hall.  Stanley spent almost every night there, buying drinks for women and trying to get them to go spinning around the dance floor with him.  The fact that this reputation had not leaked back to his well-connected father was a luxury which would not last much longer of course, and Leo had just started to warn Stanley about this when they also received their first police interaction.   

The officer, a tall man with a medium build and black hair, entered the store just a little after noon on Thursday August 12th, 1926.  The interaction was fairly short, with the officer stating that a local woman had made a complaint that an item purchased at L&S by her husband was a fake.  He produced the ring, with a section of the electroplating scraped off, and Leo denied that it could have been purchased at his store.  He asked the officer if there was a receipt, which there was not, and without too much more trouble the lawman left.  Leo always avoided giving a receipt if he could, often going to great lengths to distract patrons who asked for one, and then sending them of their way after they had forgotten the request.  It was a small complaint and the officer seemed to believe him but Leo knew that this was likely the beginning of the end for his scheme, the first little blow to their operation.  He was determined to draw it out as long as possible though, so he went back to selling.  That same night though he did take the precaution of secreting another vehicle in a hidden area outside of the town, as this trick had proven so useful to him in Olympia.  That made him feel much better and he decided that Stanley did not need to know about the police inquiry.  

It was six days later when a much more unwelcome interaction occurred, with a local grifter named Jess Miller.  This man, long-haired and grimy looking, stopped into the shop for the sole purpose of winking at Leo and saying, “I know what you’re up to in here,” before walking out again trailing a laugh behind him.  Leo knew that once his scheme became known to the area’s criminal element there was dual danger to his business; both from a rat telling the police about it to gain some credit and also from similar operations starting up in the area.  That would thin out the demand pool and inevitably cause an increase of customer complaints to the police as more shops starting selling fake items.  This troubling thought, the second blow to his scheme, sent Leo into a brief bout of depression but he emerged from it fairly quickly and by August 20th he was back to pressuring Stanley on his production pace.   That afternoon, while observing his partner at work, he also brought up the subject of the new building being built in town.

“You know Stanley, that newspaper building, that one they are putting up over on 17th and Eye?”

“Yeah, sure, I know about it.”

“Well, did I ever tell you that I am a civil engineer?”

Stanley raised an eyebrow but then turned away.  Leo reached out to grab his shoulder.  “I am, really, I know about these things.”

“From what, school?”

“Sure, that,” Leo replied, “some anyway, and when I was in the Army, that too.  But mostly from reading books.”

“You learned how to build things by reading books?”  Stanley scoffed as he spoke, “Well, maybe don’t build anything for me, okay?”

Leo fussed with his hair for a minute, slicking it back over his head.  “I’m telling you this my friend because I know they have a vault in that building, they’ll be building one right into the foundation of the place.”

“How do you know that?”

“I already told you, I know about these things.  Newspapers always have a vault, they need to keep all the information in it, you know, the secret stuff they use for their stories.”

“Secret stuff?” Stanley replied, “I don’t think there’s that many secrets in the reporting business.”

“Sure there is, sources, and special information they have collected up along the way.  They store it just in case it becomes a story later, or to use it against a politician.”

“Sure, sure, whatever you say.  People think I’m paranoid sometimes but you sound much worse than me right now.  Who cares anyway?”

“Well, I don’t care about the vault really, not all that paperwork.  But I would like to see if we can get inside before they seal it all up, you know, take a look at what the vault looks like as it’s being built.”

“Why?”

“Research my friend, for the future.  Could your father get us in?”

“I doubt it, and I’m not asking.  He’s already giving me some strange looks these days.”

That reply silenced Leo, who remained sitting near Stanley, staring off into space.  Twenty minutes later he shook his head, stood up and walked out into the night.  

It was on September 1st that a third blow came and this one had the potential to be trouble for the L&S operation in a much more immediate fashion.  It was two-thirty in the afternoon of that fairly warm summer day when Stanley burst into the clock repair shop, sweating and out of breath from running.  Leo, who had been smoking a cigar and reading the newspaper, lowered it slowly and peered over the tops of his glasses at his partner.  A few deep breaths later Stanley managed to spit out the troubling news.

“It’s, my father, it’s too late, it’s all over, he knows!”

This statement alarmed Leo but he managed to contain his reaction well.  Reaching up to remove his glasses, he calmly stood up and walked over to Stanley, reaching out to put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder.

“Now, tell me what you mean by that.  What do you think he knows?”

…to be continued

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