A Burning Cold Morning (Part 80)

As that year moved into spring Leo felt that he definitely needed to get some additional money stashed away to ensure that he could properly provide for his growing family.  This marked a period of time in which very slowly but steadily his time and attention were more focused on the planning and commission of crimes.  Although he still stuck mostly with bank robberies there were some occasions when he returned to stealing cars or grifting.  He ran a few fake jewelry schemes in Nevada and New Mexico, including one in which he narrowly escaped capture in Reno.  He had been running that operation under an alias of course but the close call did scare him enough that he mostly stuck with banks and cars after he managed his getaway from the police.  Leo, when home, played the part of father in a forced but kind way, trying to interact with Sharon especially when she was playing outside in the yard or at the park.  That seemed to be much more comfortable for him than other parental tasks such as teaching life skills, reading stories or enforcing discipline.  He and Amanda continued with a strained, lukewarm relationship and Leo spent most of his free time pouring over out-of-town newspapers.  He often would leaf through eight or more of these every day, seemingly skimming the pages in a manner that made no sense to his wife.  She questioned him about it a couple of times but his non-responsive answers made it clear he was not interested in discussing it with her.  As it seemed harmless enough she just figured he was restless to be back on the road or was looking for information to help him with sales opportunities while he traveled.  

As the end of 1962 approached, Leo’s performance for King Manufacturing had hit a low point.  Internal documents reveal that the executives in the company had been aware of the decline going back to at least 1957.  It seems as though they had held several meetings to discuss Leo’s roles with the company and the possibility of firing him had come up first in 1959.  That time he was saved mostly by his prior reputation, although he was confronted with the issue and made aware for the first time about the company’s concerns.  He turned things around starting after that meeting and lasting through the fall of 1960 when things began again to decline.  There were some highs and lows in his performance after that, seemingly always just enough to head off another confrontation.  However, by November of 1962 the company general manager had seen enough and called Leo back to Flint for a meeting.  He arrived over an hour late blaming an issue with his vehicle.  As always, Leo was sharply dressed and still exuded confidence and charisma. 

His issues were of course caused by the criminal activities which were taking up more and more of his time.  Bank robbery had become an extremely risky thing to do as law enforcement tactics had evolved as had bank technology and security.  Leo found himself having to do more extensive planning and surveillance than ever before to ensure success, all of which took him away from his real job of selling for King Company.   The general manager started the meeting with an abrupt statement.

“Right now Leo, you are basically here to convince me not to fire you.”

Leo blinked back in reply, took a deep breath and replied, “You know, after all this time, that’s a bit of an unfair way to jump on me.”

“Yes, well that may seem so, but the issues with your productivity really have to be faced by you and quite frankly, by us.  You have been with us a long time, eighteen years in fact, and there were some great times in there.  Your record as a sales manager back then and for many years, really top-notch stuff Leo.  That’s not now though, and your previous success has well, basically it is why you still have a job right now.  But you’ve burned up all of that goodwill and consideration.  These last years have been several variations of poor or awful and we need to move on.  Look at this report on your productivity.”  He slid a few sheets of paper across the large wooden desk toward Leo. “Your run is done, maybe you can find another start at something else, get your fire going again like back in the day with us.”

The GM steepled his fingers together as he finished speaking, peering at Leo over the top of his reading glasses.  Leo looked down at the top page of the reports, saying nothing and not picking them up.  Several tense seconds clicked by on the wall clock behind the desk, the GM continuing to stare at him.  Finally, Leo looked up and delivered a very impassioned response, citing a long litany of good deeds done for the company mixed in among details about the increasingly difficult sales scene in the United States.  He went on for over ten minutes and finally the GM gave in and stated, “exactly one more chance Humbert, just this last one.  Go out and save your career and you better start at it right now.”

Nothing came of that chance as Leo was much too involved in casing a bank in Billings, Montana to spend much time selling. On March 3, 1963 the GM called him at his hotel and stated he needed to see Leo again back in Flint.  When Leo told him that he was working a “hot sale” and could not return immediately, the GM replied that Leo needed to be sitting in his office on March 6th or he would be terminated.  That day passed without Leo showing up and so ended his career at King Manufacturing. 

He did not inform his family about losing that job and continued to act as if he was still a traveling sales manager.  It was now necessary for all of his income to be made from crime as he had no intention of trying to arrange another legitimate career.  This actually made him happier as he had grown increasingly frustrated with the normal business and work world.  The seven year period where he had been devolving slowly back into his old lifestyle had made him realize that it was the only situation with which he was actually content.  It was high stress, dangerous and exciting, all things which he felt suited him perfectly.  

…to be continued

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 79)

He spent the next three months mostly on the road, returning occasionally to both Amanda in St. Anthony and also his room at the Durant where he maintained an address to look good for the company.  However, by the time that November of 1944 rolled around, Leo had realized that King Company hardly cared where he lived as long as he continued his high level of success and was present at the mandated quarterly meetings.  Realizing that the hotel room was just costing him money and that Amanda was getting increasingly upset about the amount of time he was away, Leo abandoned the room at the Durant and was thus able to spend a little more more time in St. Anthony.  

The next ten years passed quickly and were largely uneventful.  In fact, although he did pull off a very occasional bank robbery to reset his financial situation, for the most part Leo just worked hard and stayed successful.  He actually turned out to be a rather remarkable salesman who established close relationships with a large range of customers, including municipalities and construction firms.  This resulted in large profits for King Manufacturing and kept Leo in a position of prestige.   Along the way on his travels he did cross paths with some former cronies and was invited to join up on several capers, all of which he turned down.  If Leo was going to do any crime at all, he was going to do it by himself.  

There were a few other items of interest in Leo’s activities between 1945 and 1955.  One was that he gave almost eight thousand dollars to victims of the Marlborough Fire, usually by leaving small packages of cash wrapped in brown paper inside of a mail box.  Much of this money he directed at children who had been injured but it is believed that he managed to give some money to every victim that he was able to locate.  He also took at least two more trips to try to find Stanley, all of which proved fruitless and he was unable to find even the smallest indication that his old partner was still alive.  He became increasingly convinced that the Clockmaker was dead, especially as he heard many stories about how Stanley really liked to wait around and watch his bombs explode.  Perhaps he had perished in one of those explosions.  Leo also kept up some very infrequent contact with Olivia, although he never put a return address on his envelopes and as far as is known, she was not aware he was living in Minnesota.  He also engaged in a new hobby when he had free time, which was researching biological and other kinds of chemical warfare.  There is not much information on what drove him to this although some speculation is that he was telling King Company executives that he had been involved with it in the military.  Perhaps he decided that he needed to be more educated about the topic so he could effectively sell that kind of false story.   Finally, Leo was keeping up his tours of the strip clubs, not just in Minneapolis but everywhere that he went, although the Gay 90’s remained his favorite place.  In all of those clubs he was known for being generous to the women who worked there, buying them gifts and drinks while dating them as frequently as he could arrange.  He told many stories about his past to these women, sometimes about his true and exaggerated criminal activities and other times he stuck with his carefully crafted fake life story.  

By the time that 1955 had started Leo was deep into his split lifestyle and starting to think again about the allure of the criminal world he had enjoyed so much before his long prison terms.  He and Amanda had a strained but warm relationship as Leo always showered her with attention and gifts during the short periods of time he was home each month.  It was during one of these times, toward the end of February, that Amanda met him at the door as he was returning from walking down to the newsstand.  When he looked up at her and their eyes met he realized that she was smiling more brightly than she had in quite some time.  It was an odd enough event that is stopped him right in his tracks, fedora halfway removed from his head and the stack of newspapers still tucked under this arm.  

“What? What is it?”

“Oh, Leo, I hope you, well, it’s great news.  I just hope you are as happy as me.”

“Well, what is it?”

“I’m pregnant,” she replied and then burst into tears although the smile remained on her face.

Leo did not immediately go to her side as he felt like he had just walked into a solid brick wall.  This was not something that they had wanted to happen although they had spoken about it several times over their decade of marriage.  As far as Leo knew, they had been in agreement about it.  He was not suited for the role of father, of that he was certain, and besides he was almost never at home.  Now though, he was going to have to step up and be one, a fact he realized and accepted in the space of just a few short moments.  Then he stepped over to Amanda, pulled down the hand she now had covering her face, and told her how very excited he was to hear the news.  

Things changed after that, as they do for new parents, although not all of the changes would be considered typical.  Leo still traveled of course although now he was much more punctual about getting back to St. Anthony, foregoing all of his stops at strip clubs and to visit girlfriends.  He had internally re-dedicated himself to his family and Amanda was much happier.  He also became very worried about the money, wanting to make sure that he was able to provide the best for the new child and also his wife, expenses that were not going to all be covered by his King Company salary and commissions.  He planned, although did not commit, several bank robberies and was much more aware of possible opportunities to make money, all ideas which he carefully filed away as he fought to contain his impulses. 

On November 19, 1955 the daughter of Leo and Amanda, who they named named Sharon,  was born and they both were proud parents, a fact which is obvious from the letters they wrote.  Leo even penned an unusually long one to Olivia detailing his daughters, “perfect little blue eyes and long eyelashes.”  As the year came to a close the Humbert’s seemed to be a happy, successful and growing family, Amanda a new and excited mother, Leo a reformed and eager father, and all of them together and living well on 39th Avenue. 

Inside Title Page Who's Who

Inside Title Page Who’s Who

 

Leo's Entry in 1960

Leo’s Entry in 1960

The beginning of the next year would see the trend continue, with Leo making his first appearance in the “World Who’s Who in Commerce and Industry,” a listing that would continue for many years, at least up until 1966.  That entry, which was submitted by his bosses at King Company, contained many of the false facts that Leo had created for his sanitized life story.  It even included the detail that he had been in the Army from the 1920’s up through the early 40’s, conveniently covering his years of criminal activity and imprisonment.  Listings in other years had incorrect addresses, a variety of invented roles including a mention that he was a traveling lecturer and researcher in chemical warfare while still also being employed by King Manufacturing.  It should also be noted that some of these later editions of the publication actually list his wife as deceased, a fact that Amanda was not aware of although the reason for it may be obvious from some of Leo’s later escapades.   And yes, although Leo was a rededicated family man in early 1956, that was not going to last.  

…to be continued