I’m one of those people who wish they lived in a different era. Sometimes I even hate my own time. I guess that’s why I became a historian, and ended up lecturing on the University of Toronto’s main campus.
Although I enjoy it, researching and lecturing about the past often isn’t enough—I have to get boots on pavement— hit the streets, and go searching for remnants of a bygone time.
But mostly I end up in a lecture hall and that’s what I’m doing today—teaching freshman about the Depression era and showing slides of life during the 1930’s.
The lecture goes well and there are plenty of questions at the end, so I consider the day a success.
Among the students milling about afterwards, I notice a man in his mid-thirties, dressed in a suit, and looking for the entire world like the kind of muscle Gatsby would have hired for his bodyguard.
He politely waits, hanging back until the last stragglers leave, and then steps forward.
“I’m Detective Abe Rosen—I work out of 51 Division, and I was wondering if you could spare me a few minutes?”
I must look startled, because he immediately breaks into a warm smile that completely disarms me.
“Don’t worry,” he says, patting my shoulder, “it’s nothing concerning you—it’s about a cold case I’m working on.”
I breathe a huge sigh of relief. His eyes crinkle with amusement. I like him—he seems kind.
“Are you a homicide detective?” I ask as I pack my books and notes into my briefcase.
“I am. I’m working on a case involving the murder of a police constable back in the Thirties—August 16, 1933 to be precise.”
I whistle softly. “That’s almost 80 years ago—surely the perp must be dead by now.”
“No doubt, he is,” he smiles, “but there was no conviction and the killer walked.”
“So why are you investigating it now?”
“Some new evidence has come to light. Apparently, a letter was found when an estate was being settled—it was locked in a wall safe and on the outside of the envelope a handwritten note said, “Do not open until after my death.”
I look at him, intrigued.
He knows it, and seems bemused, but continues with his spiel:
“We suspected a man called Jake Goode. Well, it turns out the actual killer may have been his friend and accomplice, Bert Gladstone. Gladstone’s widow wrote the letter, but when her daughter found it, she must have suppressed it, hiding it in the wall safe. The daughter died recently and when her children opened the safe, they found the confession.”
I shake my head in disbelief. “So, the daughter went to those lengths just to protect her mother’s reputation?”
“In the safe, were some yellowed newspaper clippings about Officer Ricker’s death along with some penciled notes. The letter mentioned where a 32 caliber gun was hidden—but the place names are gone now—most of them local—familiar terms only residents would know.”
“So, where do I come in?”
“My niece, Marlene Buchmann, took a course of yours and mentioned you were something of an expert on Toronto during the Depression Era—I thought maybe I could pick your brain.”
An image of a beautiful girl with curly red hair immediately leapt to mind.
“I remember Marlene—it was fall last year—she was an excellent student.”
“That’s my Mar,” he says proudly. He runs a hand through his dark, wavy hair and grins. You’d think she were his daughter.
I glance at my watch—it’s eleven thirty and I’ve got another lecture at one—but I want to help.
“I’ll tell you what—why don’t we grab a sandwich in the coffee shop and you can fill me in on the details?”
“That’ll be great, Prof,” he beams.
“By the way, call me Scott—only my students call me by my title.”
“And you can call me Avrum.”
I arch an eyebrow.
“Just joking,” he laughs. “Abe is fine.”
I like him. I like his sense of humor and his down to earth manner.
But solving a 1930’s cold case seems far-fetched—and that’s why I’m fascinated.
He senses it too and knows I’m hooked.
I also suspect my involvement won’t stop there. We’re going to work together, Abe and I, and it’s going to change my life. I can sense it.
And I think he does too.
© 2017 – 2018, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.