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The Crackstone Chronicle

Connections

Copyright 2010 Bob Henneberger

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with.

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Contents

Author’s notes

1. Duck!

2. Funny feelings aren’t always humorous

3. Where everybody knows your name

4. Which way did he go?

5. Hide and go seek

6. What’s the difference between a lawyer and a crazy man?

7. Wake me when it’s safe.

8. You can train an old dog.

9. Follow me

10. Trained Monkeys

11. Let your dreams take wing

12. Lost in plain sight

13. Is that a totem, or are you just happy to see me?

14. Just because Alice fell down the hole, doesn’t mean we all have to.

15. Did I say something wrong?

16. Now, for something completely different.

17. Pack up all your cares and woe

18. You can go home again

19. Back in the saddle again

20. You raise me up

21. Damnit, I’m a doctor, not a magician

22. Things left undone

Author’s notes

I’m an anomaly in the equation. I’m here, but I’m not supposed to be here; I remember everything, , everything. I’m not Billy Pilgrim at all, I’m not unstuck in time; time does not even exist. But I will not live forever, and I do not know everything there is to be known. My anomaly, however, does allow me to remember everything connected with John Crackstone.

When one wants to gain awareness, sometimes it’s best to be lost for a while.

"O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself

a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Since the primary audience for this story is human, all references are geared to contemporary levels of human science and social custom.

1

Duck!

There never seemed to be opportunity for reflection; in fact, John made sure he never had time for introspection. Taking brief stock of his life was all he would sometimes do, in spite of the glaring necessity to perform more in-depth self evaluations. Meanwhile, time passed. He dropped out of college in his Junior year to join the army to fight against the Hun; he was mustered out of the Army in 1919, entering as a second lieutenant and leaving as a captain. He remembered almost nothing of what occured between those two ranks. There had to be more to that story, but damned if he knew what it was, so it seemed only reasonable that he would want to spend his time solving other people’s mysteries and finding lost things, just not his own lost memories. It also seemed logical that he would become a detective in search of something a bit out of reach, something just on the tip of his tongue.

Although he didn’t realize, or didn’t want to realize it, in the past year he had gained sixty pounds, and as a result, John Crackstone walked slower. It was 1924, and the post Great War economy and John’s cash flow had at least kept pace with his expanding girth, or was it the other way around? It didn’t occur to him to reduce the tempo of his professional and social life; as a man of means, he liked a fast, flashy lifestyle at this particular moment in his life.

His main regret this past year was that he had to purchase three new grey suits since his size seemed to change every three months. He tried dark blue and pin striped, but grey looked better with his new measurements. John also continued to test out colognes; this seemed to be a life long experiment with him.

As a detective he specialized in missing persons; the jobs were simple and would take from two days to two weeks to complete if he screened them before he took them on. John’s caseload ranged from one to twelve clients in any given month, although lately he seemed to be getting fewer and fewer cases. He attributed that to the time of the year, winter. Family and financial problems, his bread and butter, seemed to simmer in hibernation until the full bloom of Spring. For some reason, people generally waited until the weather warmed up to hire a private detective. .

John never kept accounts, although he found time to write down how much a client still owed him, especially if he had more than five cases or more in the air at the same time. Instead, he assessed his financial state by the size of his tab at Mullins Bar; the larger his tab, the poorer he was. Banks were for sissies so John either carried his savings in his pockets, or wore it on his back.

Besides his wardrobe, John splurged on the tool of his trade. This last year he had traded in his Smith and Wesson 38 caliber revolver for a custom built Colt factory engraved 45 caliber automatic pistol. In the Army, he had gotten proficient at a similar miltiary version. He swore that as soon as he could afford it, he would buy a better quality pistol.

Although business slowed as the Winter slump plodded along, his social life picked up. He attracted a new girlfriend, Betsy Anderson, daughter to a millionaire.. Sporting a beautiful heiress seven years his junior on his arm was a novelty. He didn’t mind having fewer clients, because when he ran out of pocket money, Betsy gladly paid, and, so far, this didn’t bother John. His friends told him he should be bothered by this; it made him seem less a man, but John didn’t feel that way and he worried why.

Since he left the Army 5 years ago, John wondered why he felt and acted the way he did. Was there something to his memory loss that affected his character? He was honest and loyal, character traits he knew in his gut that he carried from childhood. But, he was aware of somewhat eccentric behaviors that didn’t fit the 1924 New York norms. Perhaps he should see a doctor about this memory loss and intermittent behavioral hiccups. Maybe; when he had enough cash on hand.

…………………

John enjoyed the slow trudge down Park Avenue to call on Betsy. The only thing on his mind, besides the upcoming meal, the fine Canadian whisky and the possibility of magnificent sex, was the last case he had cleared that week.

John would take a potentially dangerous assignment, but it would have to be for a large fee. He valued his life and his limited free time. He had just finished such a well paid case, though he had yet to collect the fee. Maybe the District Attorney wouldn’t tell the mob lawyers the identity of the person who put the finger on the accountant and maybe no one at the New York police department would inform the mob that one of their dirty accountants was pressured into turning over the right set of books to the city attorneys. Maybe there is a Santa Claus and maybe nobody would aim a gun at him, but not in this lifetime. John was glad he had his new Colt strapped under his left arm.

………………..

As a rule, the butler answered the bell, but this evening Betsy answered the door herself. He would pick her up when she advised him her parents were absent. Kenneth Anderson, Betsy father, didn’t have much use for John; this way he could avoid further awkward moments. Although Betsy was twenty two years old, Kenneth tried to control his sole heir. When Betsy came out to the social elite at her nineteenth birthday party, her tried to arrange marriage for his daughter, four times, but she stubbornly refused each suitor. John was aware that this level of parental control was why Betsy was dating him; he told himself that that Betsy was unaware of her own motives. To Betsy, he was the ideal romantic, he was also the anti-husband stubborn dreams were made of.

“I told Benson I would answer the bell,” Betsy murmured. Her smile could melt iron.

“Did your father tell him not to let you go out while they were gone?”

“Something like that. Where are we going tonight?”

Betsy scooted out onto the front porch and closed the door behind her.

“I thought we could catch an early dinner then head to the Sunset Café, I heard there’s a great jazz band there tonight.”

“That sounds swell,” Betsy slipped her arm under John’s as she spoke. “What about later?”

“Maybe my place?”

John anticipated a positive response, even though Betsy had so far not accepted an invitation to his apartment.

“We’ll see,” Betsy replied. She looked away, teasing him.

He stopped near the curb on the corner of Fifth and Eighty First looking for a taxi. For a late March evening, the temperature was no more than crisp. The day had been warm and quite sunny, and the night was clear as well. John looked up and down Fifth Avenue at the evening crowds, noticing more foot traffic than usual, no doubt drawn by the fine weather and the equally fine selection of musical events New York had to offer that night. But he couldn’t flag down a taxi. He remembered the New York of his childhood and the lack of motorized vehicles. At that time, most of the traffic was horse drawn. Maybe a taxi was easier to get then, but the streets smelled a lot worse.

In the stream of automobiles that ebbed and flowed from block to block, John noticed a Ford forcing its way up Eighty First towards the park. The driver acted terribly rude, switching lanes aggressively, creating near accidents. Then John’s body went on alert as the Ford approached.

As the vehicle jerked to within ten feet of their corner, the man in the passenger’s seat pulled out a revolver, just showing from the bottom of the window. Without saying a word, John pulled Betsy down to the sidewalk; he put his body between the her and oncoming car.

“John?” Betsy breathed out the phrase as she thumped onto the sidewalk behind him.

“Stay there,” he insisted. “I think there’s going to be some trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?”

Betsy tried to look around his back.

“Stay down behind me,” John repeated as he pushed her head back down with his left hand. He pulled his pistol out with his right. “Those men in that car have a gun pointed at me.”

“A gun?” Betsy started to cry.

By the time the car reached the corner and the gunman had a clear shot at John, most of the crowd saw the revolver. Their reactions were not uncharacteristic of native New Yorkers; the women screamed and the men ran, trying to drag the screaming women with them, away from the obvious target. The pandemonium left the shooter without a clear shot since John, the target, was not running. The car halted at the corner, waiting for a clearer opportunity.

John was thinking. He must have pissed off Legs Diamond more than usual. Legs was the muscle for Arnold ‘Mr. Big’ Rothstein. The driver of the Ford looked like Legs himself, Mr. Diamond must want to see the killing up close and personal. Not waiting for the revolver to fire, John sent two forty five caliber slugs into the side of the car as soon as there was an opening in the crowd. That panicked the crowd even more, and the gap between John and the car closed up again with the yelling mass of people. The car hurtled away, turning north on Fifth Avenue.

Why did the automobile leave? John didn’t think he had actually hit the shooter since he hadn’t aimed to hit him. Would they come back around the block to try again? John knew the answer to that and several other questions as soon as he looked back up Eighty First Street.

“Go back home.” John helped Betsy up from the sidewalk. “You don’t know me, and you were just out for a walk by yourself tonight.”

John knew what the next few moves would be; it wasn’t complicated like a chess game. This situation was more like tic-tac-toe, very predictable. Betsy could not be associated with a gang related shooting, even more than she should not be associated with John Crackstone, small time private detective. Reality can be so ponderous at times.

“What?” Tears were rolling down Betsy’s face.

“The cops are almost here and they will tell your father that you were involved in a street shooting because of me.” John took in a fresh breath of air. “I don’t care what he thinks of me, but I don’t want there to be any bad feeling between you and your father because of me.”

“I understand.” Betsy sniffed as she wiped her face with the palm of her right hand. Her expression hinted that she was reassessing her relationship with him.

“Put the gun down, sir!” The first arrival of New York’s finest ran up, shouting.

“Of course,” John responded. He carefully placed his Colt on the sidewalk.

“What just went on here?” The cop demanded. A little bigger around the middle than John, more out of shape, he was gasping for air.

“It seems I was fair game for the Jewish mob,” John answered. “My name is John Crackstone, and I’m a private investigator.”

“So, what’s that got to do with anything, Jonnie boy?” another voice asked. A second policeman, this one in plain clothes, stepped out into view.

“Gardinar?” John focused on the second man. “That is you, isn’t it?”

John had met Rich Gardinar a little over a year ago at Mullins Bar. As a detective with the New York City Police, Gardiner had known Bill Mullins for ten years. John, Rich, Bill, and a few other men met for a friendly poker game every Thursday night for the past year.

“Of course it’s me, but why don’t you answer my question?” Gardinar asked.

“I just handed over Arnold Rothstein’s bookkeeper to you guys and I don’t think he liked that too much,” John retorted. Even though he had become close friends with this policeman, the evening’s events were more than boyish hijinks.

“Yeah, I heard,” Rich said. “It doesn’t sound like a job you’d normally take on.”

“It wasn’t,” John replied. “I was hired by the owner of the accounting firm to find one of his missing accountants. That guy did mob books on the side, and when I found him he asked me, for a protection fee of course, to arrange a meet between him and the District Attorney.”

“That sounds more like you.” Rich chuckled. “So, what happened tonight?”

“Two men in a Model T drove up to this corner, the passenger pulled a revolver out and started shooting. I recognized Legs Diamond as the driver, but I didn’t recognize the man with the gun.” John paused for effect. “I understand why the uniforms showed up here so quick, but why is a detective here within minutes of a street shooting?”

“You’re always direct,” Rich answered, in an official tone. “I was following Legs.”

“Well,” John said, grinning. “He went that-a-way.” He pointed up Fifth Avenue.

“That’s not funny, you know.” Rich sounded frustrated. “Pick up your gun and get the hell out of here.”

“You’re letting me go?” John carefully retrieved his Colt from the sidewalk and stuffed it back into its holster.

“I guess so,” Rich replied without changing his stern expression. “If it were any other night, I’d have the officers haul you to the station for shooting in the middle of all these people, but tonight is your lucky night.”

“Thanks.”

John wanted to ask several questions, but he forced himself not to. Time and headlines may let him know tomorrow, or maybe not.

“Just one more thing,” Rich added.

“What?” John turned to face the policeman.

“That girl you were with,” Rich said. “The Anderson girl.”

“What woman?” John looked at the streetlight, then back at Rich Gardinar. “I’m alone this evening.”

“I don’t think so, John.” Rich paused again. “You know you have to not see her again, at least for a long while.”

“Well, if I had been with her, I would know that,” John agreed.

“Her father is best friends with the mayor, and there’s no way in hell I would tell anyone I saw his daughter here tonight, but don’t press even your exceptional luck any more after tonight.”

“I understand,” John solemnly agreed .

………………..

Life ebbed low for John during the next week; his love life was nonexistent again and his professional life was even lower. Although expenses were small at the moment, due to said lack of social life and an inexpensive apartment, he had other financial obligations. One of those was a telephone answering service and he was a month behind. Without a telephone in his apartment, or an office, or a secretary, he conducted business only through this service and word of mouth.

The manager of the answering service was a plain looking woman in her early thirties with an obvious crush on John; he wondered how far that crush would take him this time.

“I hope you came bearing seven dollars,” Desiree Minter said, concern on her face.

A single woman, thirty one years old, Desiree stood five foot eight in flat shoes and weighed one twenty. She was the perfect flapper, tall and skinny with a flat chest. Desiree was born and raised in Flatbush and had struggled to change her accent for the past fifteen years.

“No,” John leaned in towards her “But, if you have a message from a possible rich client, I might have the money for you tomorrow.”

“This is the second time you’ve been late, sweetheart,” Desiree said with a tinge of regret in her voice.

“That’s not too bad,” John said quickly.

“The second time, in three months,” Desiree replied in a more forceful tone.

Her uncle owned the business, but she was responsible for the monthly cash flow.

John rummaged through both his pants pockets and pulled loose change and a few bills from both of them, placing all the cash he had in the world on Desiree’s desk. “Will this work?”

After carefully counting the cash, Desiree answered, “This is four dollars and thirty nine cents.”

“Did I get any messages?” John asked. “Maybe you could just give me four dollars and thirty nine cents’ worth of messages.”

“You only got one,” Desiree said with a sigh.

“Well?” John held out his hand.

“I hope she hires you,” Desiree replied as she handed John the slip of paper.

After reading the note quickly, John looked back at Desiree.

“Do you know who she is?” he asked.

“No, but judging from the address she’s at least rich.” Desiree smiled for the first time. “If you get hired, come back here and pay the rest of your fee. Maybe take me out for coffee.”

“I will, and I’ll pay in advance for the next month too,” John replied with a broad grin.

2

Funny feelings aren’t always humorous

“Mr. Crackstone,” John’s potential new employer intoned.

Susanna White pointed to the interior of her formal living room.

“You may sit in there, I shall be back in one moment,” she added.

Susanna was a woman who carried herself and described herself as statuesque; standing five foot even, she graced a room as if she were six feet tall. Slender and quite good looking, John was thinking, in her early thirties at most. Even at four in the afternoon and even though she wasn’t due to leave the house, she wore a proper, formal looking dress. Her hair was dark and long. It would have reached the small of her back, if she had not put it up in a neat bun on the top of her head.

“Sure thing, Mrs. White,” John obediently replied. He watched her walk down the center hall, to enter a room at the far end. She closed the door after her.

He wondered what she was doing. Maybe she just needed to step into the kitchen, or perhaps she wanted to speak to a servant. Meanwhile his mind went through his own appearance, checking for but finding no major flaws. About five foot nine, he weighed a little under 260 pounds, although how much under, or over, he would never know as he refused to ever weigh himself. His friends commented on his voracious appetite while he ate out. All he kept at his apartment was some crackers and whiskey. John was unsure if this was odd or normal. He spent some time pondering if either was true.

He always wore a three piece suit when he visited prospective or active clients; his color choice now was always gray. John had toyed briefly at wearing a hat, but most of his friends laughed when they saw him in one, so he gave up on that fashion item. As for accouterments of his chosen profession, beside the gun he carried, John wore a Waltham Vanguard pocket watch, railroad approved, which he carried in his right vest pocket attached to the middle button of the vest with a thin gold chain.

Scanning the area as he walked into the living room, John noticed that the late Victorian darkly upholstered furniture was at least twenty five years old, maybe older. The furniture was also well carved and placed. A faint but stale scent hung in the room; seeming to echo the atmosphere of old money that permeated the building. Appropriate for a massive home on Park Avenue, he thought.

John walked to the mantle to look at some of the photographs perched there. Three pictures sat on the mantle and all in the same style of ornate silver frame. Two were of an older couple, perhaps her parents, and the third showed Susanna White in a wedding dress, embraced by a husband who looked at least ten years older than her, maybe fifteen years older.

John glanced around the room again, studying the paintings hanging on every wall. He didn’t know that much about art, but they looked old. Most of the paintings were landscapes, and none of them looked like American landscapes. Perched on the wall above a writing desk was a portrait of a stern old man; this geezer seemed to look down in disdain at whoever stood in the center of the living room.

Two windows facing the street, both with heavy drapes which were partially drawn, let in a splash of sunlight which washed the dark carpet in yellow light. John wandered to a tall backed overstuffed chair and sat down. He pulled his Waltham from his coat pocket and looked at the time; it was not yet two in the afternoon.

“I’m sorry I kept you waiting,” Susanna White announced. She quickly ushered herself into the living room,

“Would you like some tea?”

John stood quickly, not having heard her enter the room. Politely refusing, he sat down again.

“You must be wondering why I called you to come here.” Susanna settled in the sofa across from him. She looked to be in a better mood. This time, her expression was less agitated as she smiled at John.

“I would like to know why you picked me for this task?” John asked.

Susanna looked somewhat taken aback. “Well, if you must know, my friend Eleanor Billington hired you last Fall to find her missing niece.”

Mrs. White was not used to an employee being so intrusive; that was not the social custom in her economic class.

“I remember that case,” John replied.

He quickly recalled the missing niece who had run away with the cook’s son. She and her new husband had taken up residence in Frederick, Maryland. John handed the address to Eleanor, who promptly had the marriage annulled, the ex-husband arrested, and the pissed off niece sent to Switzerland. The trials and tribulations of the rich always amused John.

“What I meant was,” Susanna White said, returning to her first comment, “You must wonder what case I called you here to solve.”

“I assumed you needed a detective to find something for you,” John responded.

“That is correct.” The formal smile disappeared from Susanna’s face. “I have lost my husband.”

“Lost in what sense?” John asked, wondering if the old man had just bolted with a younger woman, or if he had been snatched?

“He said he was going to the corner store to get some cigars and he never came back.”

Looking at John’s expression, Susanna knew that what John was thinking might be true, but she needed to confirm it, one way or another.

“What have the police done?” he asked. The police didn’t like strangers butting into their cases. John did not want to have them pissed off at him again.

“They said they are looking for my husband,” Susanna bit off her words impatiently.

“I need some more details if you want me to help.” John cleared his throat. This was all smelling like a bad idea, although he did wonder how much money she was willing spend to find her cigar chewing husband.

“All right,” Susanna sounded determined. “What kind of details?”

“Well,” John said, quickly considering the pros and cons to what he said next. “Was your husband having an affair?”

“Excuse me?” Susanna quickly stood up from the sofa.

“Mrs. White,” John said. “No one can find a missing man if he lost himself and wants to stay hidden. Your husband could have been snatched by gangsters for a ransom, but you would have told me that already, I think. He could have had an accident, but I’m sure you have checked all the hospitals, and the morgue. If the police are on this case, I can also assume that they would have checked all the other possible criminal reasons your husband disappeared.”

“So, what’s your point?” Susanna glared at him.

“My point is,” John said, as he took in a deep breath. “At this point, before anything else happens, you need to give me all the information about your husband and his disappearance.”

“I see,” Susanna paused, then sat back down on the sofa. “I’m not sure I can be of any help.”

“What do you mean?” John asked. “Are you telling me that you have no idea why your husband might want to disappear?”

“No,” she looked at the heavy long low table in front of her as she spoke. “I cannot think of a reason for him to leave.”

“Think hard,” John insisted.

“Don’t you think I’ve been doing that for the past few weeks!”

Susanna’s voice was adamant and her expression defiant, but a small tear appeared in the corner of her right eye.

“We were getting along better than ever. I have seen so many of our friends drift apart over the years, but we were always very close. William made all the right decisions with his money, we have more than we need. So why would he want to leave?”

“Has any of his money mysteriously been transferred out of your accounts?” John asked.

He thought of accounts she might not know about, did not mention them.

“Most of our money is in stocks.” Susanna said, doubt in her tone. Her expression was wary, maybe she’s reluctant to say these things to a stranger, John thought.

“William feels we can have a much higher return if we invest most of our assets in stocks,” Susanna continued. “His business savy has certainly proven to be reliable these past few years.”

“I assume you use only one brokerage firm?” John asked.

Susanna hesitated, then seemed to come to some decision. She nodded her head, and relaxed into the sofa. “We use Paine Webber,” she said. “my husband’s family has used that firm for the past thirty years.”

“And, no stock has been sold since your husband disappeared?” John asked again.

Susanna nodded her head, with emphasis.

“Were there any large sales in the year leading up to his disappearance?” John asked.

“For the past three years, he has only bought stock, not sold it,” Susanna snapped .

“Has any money vanished from bank accounts?” John asked.

“None,” Susanna declared. “The police have spoken to all our banks and told them not to allow any withdrawals unless I make them.”

“I assume they also spoke to your broker?” John asked, knowing the New York police can be thorough if nothing else.

“Yes, they did,” Susanna concurred. “Will you help me?”

“What does you husband do for a living?” John chose to ignore her question for a bit while longer.

“Property,” Susanna said, slight surprise in her look. “His family owns a hefty number of buildings in this city and he manages them.”

“That’s something,” John, said, thinking out loud.

“That’s what?” Susanna looked confused.

“Sorry,” John said. “ I mean, maybe a tenant was mad at him.” John nervously cleared his throat. “Maybe someone wants to buy some of the properties and he wouldn’t sell, I don’t know.”

“I see what you mean,” Susanna sounded more at ease with this idea. “His disappearance could be linked to business. The problem with that is that my husband was in the process of selling all our properties.”

“Why?” John seemed puzzled. “I would think that property management would be a steady business to be in during these times.”

“It is,” Susanna said. “But, William thought stocks are a much better business to be in right now since they pay as much and require almost no hands on management.”

“What did he plan on doing with all this newly freed up time?” John asked. He thought Mr. White sounded like a man looking for a change of pace and perhaps place.

“He wanted to devote more time to his hobby,” Susanna made a face of distaste. Seeing John’s questioning expression she added, “He collected American Indian artifacts,” she paused. “About half of his collection is on permanent loan to the Smithsonian in Washington.”

“Has it occurred to you or the police that he might have gone out west somewhere in search of stuff for his collection?”

“Yes, it did,” she said. This time she looked wounded as well as appalled. “The police said that he did not book passage on a train or a ship. Our only automobile is a Packard and both the Packard and our chauffer are still here.”

“All right,” John said in as much of an assuring tone as he could muster.

John took stock of the situation as his mind turned over the possibilities. His brain was mostly calculating the possibilities of actually finding the man although those possibilities became slimmer with each tidbit of information Susanna White let loose.

John decided to take the job for twenty dollars a day, plus expenses and a twenty five hundred dollar bonus for finding the man. He did, however insist on knowing a lot more details about William White’s business, friends, office, and social club.

“That’s a lot you need to know,” Susanna finally said. “Some of that’s more than I know.”

“Do you still want me to find your husband? John asked.

“Yes, I do.” Susanna walked to the entrance hall. “You wait here, I’ll bring the butler here, he can answer most of your questions and he can give you the keys to William’ office.”

…………………….

“Will there be anything else?” The butler had a great poker face, bland, polite.

Susanna White had deposited John in a large pantry room right off the end of the main entrance hall. White, with ceilings that had to be fourteen feet high, the pantry’s cabinets filled all four walls. In the center stood a long narrow table with six sturdy but plain chairs around it. Seated at the head of the table, watching John, the household butler looked to be in good physical shape. Six feet tall, in his early forties with short cut salt and pepper hair, he was dressed in a black suit with a starched white shirt and a black tie.

John could smell the beginnings of that evening’s meal wafting from two rooms away, beef stew. Potatoes and carrots simmering in beef stock, John thought. He began to taste the meal, he began to want the meal. But he kept his attention on the other man’s question.

“I don’t think so,” John said. “What did you say your name was?”

“As I told you when we began this discussion, my name is Goodman.”

“That’s your last name, right?” John asked.

“That is my proper name for this household,” Goodman replied.

“All right.” John sensed that he shouldn’t push Goodman any further. “You’ve told me where William White works, where his club is and some of his friends.”

“As well as his broker’s name and his antique dealers, and many more personal details than I feel necessary.” Goodman retorted. He didn’t exactly seem angry, but he did seem eager to see John to the door.

“What about Mr. White’s state of mind right before he disappeared?”

“What do you mean?” Goodman cocked his head to one side.

“Was he upset or agitated?” John asked.

“No,” The butler answered in flat tones.

“Well,” John snapped. He knew the drill but he was getting tired all the same short, non informative answers everyone here had been giving him. “What mood was he in?”

“He seemed to be his usual self.”

“Since I never met the man, how about telling me what his usual self was?” John forced himself to remain friendly.

Goodman waited before answering, looking at the door leading from the small pantry to the main hallway, then back at John.

“He was a quiet man, he liked to read and he liked to arrange, catalog and research his collections.”

“Did he like to go to parties?” John tried to pry something else from the butler.

“Only for social obligations or business reasons,” Goodman leaned forward to peer at John.. “He did like his gentleman’s club, he would go there perhaps three to four times a week for a few hours at a time.”

“Right,” John said. “You told me his club was the Harvard Club on West 44th Street.”

“Yes,” Goodman replied. “Mr. White was a member of the class of ninety seven.”

“Right,” John did a quick subtraction and arrived at an age of forty six or forty seven for William White. “Do you think I could visit the club and speak to some of his friends?”

“I don’t think so, Mr. Crackstone,” Goodman answered as he shot a wicked grin at John.

“Excuse me,” Susanna White interrupted as she walked into the pantry. “I just wanted to know if there was something else you might need before you depart.”

“Ma’am.” Goodman rose quickly from his seat. “I believe Mr. Crackstone has received all he will need to pursue his investigation.”

“I can speak for myself.” John looked at the butler for a second, then moved his eyes to Mrs. White. “I’d like to speak to some of Mr. White’s friends at his club, if that’s possible.”

“I don’t see why not,” Susanna said.

Interesting, she was watching Goodman too, John thought.

“I can call them and inform them as to who you are and why you need to speak to William’ friends,” Susanna added.

“I could go there after dinner today,” John added. “I think most of the gentlemen would be there at that time.”