Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Special Delivery, Part 1

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The following entry in the Rocky Stone notebooks is dated April 25, 1949:

Monday morning came and went and nothing to show for it. I settled in with the morning paper and read all about a cat whose owners had moved from San Francisco to Salt Lake and left the cat behind. The cat showed up on their new doorstep a week later. The owners had since moved to Los Diablos and the cat followed them again. “We plan on moving to the East Coast next time,” they said. I crumpled up that section and tossed it in the waste basket.

Portly's Diner was just as quiet at lunchtime. A few workers from the docks were piled in at the counter, quietly diving in to the blue plate special as I sat in a corner booth, watching the world go by. The food was greasy and the cook burned the french fries so he gave me extra. I tossed them aside and stepped outside, back to the real world.

A delivery truck followed me back to the office. It passed me by and parked on the other side of the street. Something made me sit in my car and watch. The driver, a man of middle aged years with a day's growth of beard, yanked the back doors open. That's when the fun began. He was expecting to find a little more than an empty space in the back of his truck and he was willing to yell about it in words that shouldn't be repeated in mixed or unmixed company. I've never been one to drum up business but this was too good a set-up to pass up.

I noticed the name 'Dave' was embroidered on the driver's shirt.

“What's up?” I asked him.

He let fly with another salty expression. “They're going to kill me.”

“I'm sure it's not as bad as all that.”

A few more words came out of Dave, and fast. Evidently it was as bad as all that. “What do you know?” he asked me. “You think you're some kind of detective or something?”

“As a matter of fact...”

I handed him a calling card and he studied it. “You're Jonas Dunphy, piano tuner?”

“Wrong card,” I apologized, and retrieved the right one.

The driver let out all his air in a long, whistling breath, shook his head, and mumbled, “You discreet?”

“As much or as little as I need to be. What can you tell me?”

Dave pointed to the door across the way. “I got hired to deliver this statue to the people in this building. It got damaged and they were gonna fix it. I don't get it. I loaded it in myself and I didn't stop for nothin' until I got here. It's just gone!”

There were bound to be prying eyes watching so I directed him inside to the so-called comfort of my office. He was shaking hard as he thought about what awaited him so I handed him a ginger ale to soothe his nerves. He emptied it in the time it took to sit down on my couch. “Who does this statue belong to?” I asked him.

He held out his glass for a refill. “Some punk kid named Frank. Frank Weller. Lives in a big house up in the hills. Pain in the neck getting that statue in my truck. Had to park up the street and dolly the dad-blamed thing for a block.”

“What did the statue look like?”

Dave scratched his chin. “Dunno. He had it boxed up.” He thought some more as I poured some more ginger ale in his glass. He downed the drink in one shot. He looked like a man who had some practice. “I don't got no money, Mister. How am I going to pay you?”

“You're not,” I said, “but maybe your Mr. Weller will. Let's go see him.”

“We can't go to Weller! He'll blame me for it!”

“There's that chance. But I'd be willing to bet he's more interested in getting his precious cargo back than anything else. Besides, the repair shop is likely expecting the delivery. When it doesn't get there, Weller is bound to get a call anyway. You'll have to explain one way or another and you might as well have me on your side when you do.”

Dave nodded. “Guess you're right.” He held out his glass again and I filled it to the top.

Will Rocky find the statue? Tune in next week to The Adventures of Rocky Stone!

Go to Part 2 Confronting the Man in Charge

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