A Burning Cold Morning (Part 73)

“Well, I was just hoping to come out and see ya, you know.  For old times sake.”

“You know where to find me,” Stanley replied and then abruptly hung up the phone.

Leo shook his head and wondered just what was up with his former partner.  Maybe he was even crazier than he had been the last time they had spent any time together.  It had after all, kind of seemed that way from his discussion with Jimmy.  Either way, he had a job he needed to get done and Stanley was the guy who was going to do it.  The next day Leo hopped on a train and headed to California.  

He arrived in Bakersfield six days later, having stopped off for several days in Reno, Nevada to visit another of his female pen pals.  During this time with her Leo managed to secure a loan of two hundred dollars, for which the woman would never receive repayment.  She had no such thoughts at the time though, dropping him off at the train station and waiting to wave a tearful good-bye as it pulled away.  She returned to her home while Leo traveled on to Bakersfield, stepping off the train and into a rather cool morning on December 21st.  The clouds in the sky were thin and scattered with an intermittent breeze blowing from the west.  The place looked different than when Leo worked his scheme in 1926 as the continuing oil boom drove a rapidly expanding urban area.  Stanley’s shop though had changed little and Leo walked right up to it and opened the door, eager to speak with his former partner. 

Hermelink clock courtesy Smithsonian art museum

Hermelink clock courtesy Smithsonian art museum

Instead, he was brought to a dead stop just a few feet inside the door.  The shop, which formerly had been mostly devoid of decor or adornment, now had hundreds of gilded clocks sitting on a haphazard collection of shelves, stands and chairs.  There were even timepieces piled up on what had previously been the work bench at the front of the shed.  These clocks were of all sizes from small pocket watches right up to an impressive grandfather clock standing next to the small hallway that led to the rear portion of the building.  It was a lot of shiny objects to take in all at once and Leo realized that Stanley had likely done the gilding work on a good percentage of the items on display.  That made it easy to understand why he might be going crazy.  He was still taking it all in when a very long-haired, heavy set man in disheveled clothing shuffled out of the back area of the shed.  It took another few moments for Leo to realize it was Stanley even though he had been prepared for a changed appearance after his discussion with Jimmy back in prison. 

“Stan, whoa, you, well you don’t look so good old friend.”  

“Who…oh yes, it’s you huh, Leo?” 

“Yes, like I said, came to see you, it has been quite awhile.” As he spoke Leo took in just how dirty Stanley’s hair was, how downcast his face seemed and the sadness in those eyes that now peeked out at the world between tangled pieces of hair.  “What the hell happened to you?”

Stanley laughed loudly before replying.  “Oh Leo, my friend, you are such a joker, a funny guy.  It’s so good to see you!”  His eyes had  lit up suddenly and he stepped quickly toward Leo and embraced him, a gesture that was reluctantly returned.  Once they separated Leo spent several moments straightening out his suit and tie, smoothing out his pants and brushing off the general filthy feeling that had transferred with Stanley’s embrace.  

“Well, yes Stan, it’s good to see you too.  You really have changed.”

“Oh, I’m just busy, very busy with all of this work.  No time for vanity anymore, just important work to be done.  Do you see all my pretty clocks?”

“Yes, I see them.  Aren’t you selling any of these?  How did you get so many?”

Stanley’s face, which had brightened considerably several moments ago, now darkened.  “No one comes anymore, well I mean, hardly anyone.  I just find clocks and fix them, make them pretty.  But no one comes.” 

Leo was pretty sure he knew why that was happening but it really did not concern him at the moment.  He ran his hand through his hair and then asked Stanley if they could step into the back area of the shop so they could talk privately.  Once back there he started asking Stanley about his more recently discovered talents in relation to bomb-making.  It immediately changed his former partner’s demeanor, as he now became excited and focused, giving enough details to Leo implicate himself in several well-known crimes.  It did not appear that Stanley had much attachment to reality or the idea of consequences.  Leo then launched into his story about Otto Knaack and the Marlborough Hotel although Stanley did not appear to be listening until he mentioned that he wanted to get revenge by using a bomb.  Focused again, he asked Leo for information on the building and then told him he was sure he could bring the whole place down.

“No, that’s not what I want,” Leo replied.  “You need to pay attention to me, especially this part, ok?  I don’t want no kids hurt or any of the other people staying or living there.  Just get that janitor and do some damage to the building. That’s it, that’s all.  You understand me right, no collateral damage?”

Stanley shook his head vigorously.  “It ain’t no fun without collateral damage” he shouted in reply.

“Will you quiet the hell down?  We don’t need anyone hearing us right now.  Now you listen to me good.  You remember back in the day when I first came to this town?  Do you?”

Stanley nodded.

“Well, you weren’t nothing back then, just a dew-dropper hanging out with your Pa.  I made you money, made you someone important, remember?  It was my plan, my scheme that set us up and got you all those pretty hot tomatoes you used to chase around.  You owe me for that Stanley and I’m calling it in right now!”  Leo was red-faced when he finished and had been holding on to Stan’s shoulder and looking him right in the eye as he spoke.  “Now, you promise me you’ll do it and keep it clean like I said.”

…to be continued

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