George Keith Król
Skied Skier
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Back in the fall of 1987, I was a graduate teaching assistant at Penn State in the Department of Political Science.  In a prelaw course on the Supreme Court, specifically defendants' rights, I had many students who wished to play a part in many of the hypothetical cases we explored.  Subsequently, I placed many of them in this story.  I had intended to transfer my notes to here last winter, but it looks as though I'll have to try again...before tax season 2009-10

Król runs into a dangerous situation while skiing undercover in the Poconos.   Set in January 1988, it is the first story I wrote with the setting in winter.  For those familiar with the Supreme Court, you might notice some familiar villains in this one.
Król soon finds out that physiology can be his -- and his buddy Keith's -- death.  Fortunately, he manages to turn some of the villains against their masters, as he uncovers a criminal ring in one of the ski resorts in the Poconos, along the Appalachians, in northeastern Pennsylvania.. 

After three years of living in State College without the university,  I accepted an assistantship with the department of political science.  I figured I had a better chance to get into teaching this way.  Outside of my cases, I had no real career.  Anyway, I returned to Wilkes-Barre for the holidays, and a reunion with my friends.  Soon Keith and I were buddying around (male bonding) in Wilkes-Barre.  It was just after New Year's, Saturday the Second, when Joe, Keith and I arrived at my house.
"George, you had a call from the Poconos," my mother intoned as we climbed the front steps.
"The Poconos?" Joe frowned.  "Whom do you know there?"
"No one that I know of," I mused.  "What's the number?"
I removed my vest and denim jacket as I dialed the number.  A man's voice answered.
"Hello.  I'm trying to reach Troy Fedora."
"Speaking.  What's this about?"
"I'm George Krol, returning your message."
The voice ascended.  "I'm glad I could reach you.  The State College police gave me your number.  I'm the chief state inspector here, investigating a mystery.  I surely could use your help.  The commonwealth (of Pennsylvania) would be quite generous."
"How'd you guys like to go on an adventure?" I asked aside.
"Where?" Keith chimed excitedly.
"Where is this mystery?" I repeated into the telephone with bated breath.
Fedora chuckled.
"Have you ever heard of a place called Damiment?"
I felt my eyebrows rise.
"My high-school senior class-trip was there in 1975!"
"Good.  I'll give you directions.  We would like you to get here today.  Are you coming alone?"
"No," I winked at my companions.  "There will be three of us.  These two have benn quite helpful in other cases."
"Fine.  I hope that you will expedite matters.  Governor Casey considers this case a high priority."  (Note: Pennsylvania in 1988)
"This case is high priority, guys," I announced when I hung up the phone.
 
That Sunday morning (3 January) my Renault struggled up the Pocono Mountains.  Keith and Joe giggled a few times when I had to downshift to third, then to second.  Nonetheless, it was still forenoon when we arrived.
Fedora was waiting for us. His luxurious curls topped a form of about 1.86 m.  He immediately greeted us.
"Glad you got here so quickly.  Who's the group with you?" he smiled at us.
"Joe Tunn and Keith Cahill."
After exchanging handshakes, Troy motioned us inside to a coffeeshop  We each perfunctorily ordered a two-cup Expresso, about 500 ml each.  Troy expressed some stress as he told us the case.
"We have a murder mystery on our hands.  I knew the victim well, a fellow state investigator.  We found the corpse on a slope on New Year's.
"The coroner was uncertain about the cause of death.  He thought it was a heart attack, but the autopsy showed that the victim was brain-dead at the time his heart stopped."
"Weird," Joe muttered.  "I know of no poisons which would work that way."
"Well, there was a fellow from the physiology department from Penn State, who had, er, an unusual theory."
"What was that?" Keith asked earnestly.
"He said that death had occurred through something called 'orthostatic syncope'."
"Did you check the wrists and ankles?" I gulped.
"Wait a minute!" blurted Troy.  "Do you mean you buy this guy's story?"
"No," I assuaged.  "I mean that you should check every lead, especially if the coroner couldn't pinpoint the cause of death.  Besides, didn't you say it was murder?  I hardly think that a heart attack be murder."
"You were really close to this guy," Keith surmised.  "We're here to prove it's murder, and to solve the mystery.  What was he investigating?"
"We've had tips about a burglary ring here," Troy answered without composure. "Neil was onto something -- I just know it."
"Well, then we're here to test your intuition," Joe added. "Could you show us the corpse and where you found the body?" 
 
When we looked at the body of the investigator, we saw a curlpate in his mid-twenties, about 1.70 m, and irritation in the lower limbs.  I asked Troy the name of the physiologist who had made the diagnosis.
"So, you think this guy's correct.  His name's George Verdigris, at Room 217."
"I'll join you at the site of the discovery later.  I want to talk with this chap.  Before I go, I want to know the location, of course."
"George, you must control your impulse," Keith laughed.  "I'd better come along"
After Troy game me the location and the directions, Keith and I strolled into the motel area of the resort. 
"Do you think we're going to disturb this guy?" Keith wondered.  "I know it's noon, but he might be sleeping."
"We'll offer our apologies, but I want to know how he correctly knew the cause of death.  No coroner would guess orthostatic syncope."
Keith's hazel eyes dilated.  "So you found out that Verdigris was correct!"
"Right, little buddy.  Now I want to find out his motive for revealing it."
 
I knocked on the door of the room thrice.  A flick of the wrist unlatched the door.  A heuristic experience greeted us.  There had been some struggle in the room; furniture lay scattered around the room.  Near the bed I could see a left arm protrude into my view.  We found George Verdigris lying supinely besides the bed.  I knelt and felt for a pulse.  No pulse throbbed in the left wrist of the blond curlpate.  I shook my head.
"It's inchoating a bad year for curly guys in their mid-twenties," I philosophized.
 
"I received your call just before Joe and I reached the spot," Troy stormed into the room, his rosy cheeks ashen.
"From the position of the body, I'd say they knocked him unconscious after some struggle.  Look at the muscles on him!  Of course, I would expect a physologist to stay in such shape!"
"What's the cause of death?" Troy asked my staring at the comely corpse.
"I'd say strangulation.  I felt a broken trachea after I was sure he was dead.  From the ribs on his neck, I'd guess some scarflike material.  Unfortunately, this incident did not just cost a bystander his life; it complicates the mystery."
"George, how do you know that Verdigris wasn't part of the burglary ring?"
"Joe, look around.  This guy was living like a graduate teaching assistant.  I'll bet he was driving some wornout used car!"
 
Author's note: Of course, I was joking about my current situation.  Some of my students actually read this story.  Unfortunately, it was written longhanded.  I'd like some of them to read it now!
 
Other note: this is 1988, so cellphones are not ubiquitous!
 
"Just like your Renault," Keith beamed.
"Precisely," I replied.  "I'm afraid our work is only commencing.  One thing is for sure; this burglary ring is dangerous."
"How did they get in here?" Joe queried as he scanned the room.
"They probably followed him in here," Keith ventured as he examined the portal woodwork.  "It could be their motive was revenge for correctly uncovering the first cause of death."
"Robbery is definitely out," Troy concluded.  "He still has his wallet."
"What's this?" Keith shouted as he reached just under the bed.  I saw him retrieve a pearl from the floor.  Joe held it to the light of a nearby window.
"It surely looks real," he muttered as he rolled it between his gloved index and thumb.
"Troy," I followed the logic.  "One of these thefts wouldn't happen to be a pearl necklace, would it?"
"I don't remember.  I can always get the list," he replied while picking up the phone.  "Get me the lobby.  I want to speak to Craig Snider."
"This pearl ties this murder to the burglary gang, doesn't it?" Keith whispered to Joe and me.
"If it does," I answered.  "Then both murders tie to this theft ring, and we are in considerable danger in this investigation."
 
"Considerable danger?" Joe repeated as we continued to regard the pearl.
"Guess what, guys," Troy interrupted.  "There was such a burglary reported.  The thieves hit Room 347 this morning, while the couple was out to breakfast."
"How many investigators do you have on this case?" Joe quizzed Troy.
"Actually, we have only Craig and me."
"I suggest you get more.  We're going to have to move fast to get these guys!"
"Why'd you say that?" I whispered to Joe on the way to our room.
"Because you'd said this case was dangerous," Joe answered simply.  "I figure we need some protection.  Do you have your pistol?"
"I keep it hidden in my suitcase.  It has a hidden compartment.  I'll show you when we get inside."
"Okay," Keith interrupted irritatedly.  "Who has the key?"
"Why I think I do," I fumbled through my left pockets.
"Never mind," Keith noed.  "The door's open."
"More than that!" Joe interjected.
Atop my suitcase lay a piece of cardboard with crimson letters:
"Krol,
Get off this case or face judgment!" 
 
 
 
 
 
  

"One thing's for sure," I commented.  "We can assume that Craig or Troy didn't write this message."
"How do you know that?" Keith queried.
"Because your names are not there, and the threat is on top of my suitcases.  I think someone recognized me.  We'll find out as we continue this investigation."
"How are we going to do that?" Joe said with askance.  "If they know you, they know us."
"Correct.  So we force them out in the open," I unveiled my plan as I showed my comrades where I kept the pistol in my suitcase.  We were soon off to the three jewelry stores around the resort.  I guessed that this ring needed a fence somewhere.  Unfortunately, the three were closed for the New Year's weekend.  Nonplussed on that angle, we decided to explore the site where the inspector was found.  We contacted Troy to meet us there.
"Any luck?" Craig accosted.
"I'm afraid we came too early to check the jewelry stores for a fence."
"What makes you think that a fence would be here and not operating elsewhere?"
"I don't, but I doubt that this ring is just keeping the stuff hidden."
"So, now what?  You can't try that angle again until Monday."
"There's no hurry.  They won't be able to unload the loot until Monday, either.  Besides, we'll need time to survey the area.  Tomorrow will be fun, rather than work, so we'll appear to our invisible adversaries."
"Here's where we found Neil," Troy indicated. 
"The corpse was lying in this fenced area," Craig continued.
I grabbed my chin with my gloved hand.  "It's obvious that he didn't die here.  Did you check his jacket and pants for pressure marks?"
"Why, no" Troy answered back.
"I suggest you do.  I am now certain Neil died of orthostatic syncope."
 
Both Troy and Craig were speechless.
"Come on, guys," I commanded.  "Let's go up the acclivity for some clues.  They could still be fresh because there was no storm last night.
"I'm sure someone dropped Neil here after they had killed him.  I figure it'd be easier to drag a body downhill."
"What makes you think that they didn't use a snowmobile and cover their tracks?" Keith persisted.
"No time, friend.  Besides, there are no other tracks.  My guess is that someone carried him here, which means they had executed him near here, someplace hidden."
"A cave, perhaps?"
"Keith, there could be an abri somewhere anywhere.  An osar could cover the entrance."
"How did you guess all this?" Joe asked as he caught up to our gait.
"The irritation in the lower body plus the brain death confirmed that Neil was upright when he died.  What confused me was that there were no marks on his wrists and ankles.  Then, I realized that they had hanged him fully clothed in a cold atmosphere.  Voilą, a cave!"
"Aren't we alerting them to our plans if they see us?" Joe wondered.
"That is why we're going to explore the slopes tomorrow.  I want to find out the best possible place to hide an abri.  They can't see us from the cave, but they may follow us if they see us from the outside.  Our best bet is to force them to act."
"How far up do you want to go?"
"I think a hundred meters is enough, Keith.  I'd say we have three candidates, one to our left and two to the right.  Tomorrow each of us will ski through this area.  If you notice anything different than today, we three will come through here together."
 
"Did you find anything?" Troy questioned when we returned.
"Only that you'll need reinforcements on Monday," Keith stated cryptically.
"He means we have an idea where the culprits are, but we won't be able to flush them out until Monday," I expatiated.
 
Sunday the Third went by without further incident.  I knew our antagonists had the advantage of acqaintance, so I skied through the suspicious area as casually as I dared five times.  Then I realized that I'd forgotten a possible nexus."
"Who found Neil's body yesterday?" I broached Troy when he answered the telephone.
"Actually, it was three guys. They may still be here.  Hold on awhile while I check at the desk."
Perhaps I do have a chore tonight, I thought.  A few minutes later, Troy destroyed the thought.
"George," he returned crestfallen.  "The names they gave us are not on the register."
"When they reported the discovery, what time of day was it?"
"About eight o'clock as I remember."
"When did the ski slopes open yesterday morning?"
"You know, George, you're right.  If they had been skiers, they did not have time to come down the slope!"
"Which means we're talking about members of the burglary ring who knew Neil was dead and probably laid him there."
"Why do you suppose they didn't just dump him in the dark before dawn on Saturday?  I'd think they wouldn't have wanted someone to see them with the corpse."
"That's it, Troy.  Someone must have seen them, so they reported it to avoid suspicion!"
"It still doesm't explain why they disposed the corpse that way.  I'd take it somewhere."
"Troy, where'd you take it?  No matter where they took the body, they risked discovery.  If they used a car, they'd leave tracks.  Ditto with a snowmobile.  Perhaps their leader has a warped way of warning his foes unless..."
"Unless what, George?"
"...Unless they did it deliberately.  If so, it's their Achilles heel!"
"I don't follow."
"Never mind, Troy.  Are you getting reinforcements?"
"Yes, Harrisburg lent us three agents for the week."
"That should be plenty of time.  Tomorrow morning, my group is going to stake out the jewelry store for a fencing operation.  When I shake the tree, I want to catch all the apples."
"The agents should be here by noon."
"Fine, here's to good hunting."

" So they must be in there. Should we wait a bit
troyjoeslopes.jpg
to see if they come out?" Joe dubitated. (C) Alopex, 1987, 2003

Finally Monday the Fourth dawned over the resort.  Because the shops were open at eight, we three retired and arose early.  By five to eight, each of us was at his post.  It was about a quarter to nine when a voice startled me.
"George, What're you doing here?"
I whirled like a dervish toward the sound.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Dave Reed's standing two meters behind me.  Dave was a small guy, about one sixtyfive cm and seventy kg.  A chemical engineering graduate assitant, he was also in the Graduate Studay Association, where I first met him.
"Remember the tales I told you about my other life?" I answered with a question.  "Welcome to one which is occurring now."
Dave's eyes lit up.  "May I help?"
"Sure.  It will look less suspicious if I update you on my latest exploits while I keep watch for out target."
I was just through explaning the case to Dave when Joe's voice broke through my comilink.
"George, Keith, I just spotted a short, blond man with a few pouches on his person."
"Come on, we've hit paydirt," I commanded.  Then into my comilink I replied, "I'll be there in five minutes.  Over."
"George, there's no time!  He just exchanged the pouches for cash.  He'll be leaving within a minute!  Keith just arrived.  We're on a pinch.  Call Troy fast!"
Dave and I halted at a pay phone long enough to allow mounting tension to build.  Only he and Craig were there.  I suggested they meet us at the jewelry shop for a quick search.
Meanwhile, the suspect somehow knew something was wrong when Keith and Joe approached him.  He broke into a trot and loped just our of Keith's attempted tackle.  The impact knock Keith's skicap off, exposing his pulled back dark hair as he plopped into the snow.  Joe leaped over him as the frigid elements redded his rubicund complexion further while he lay in the snow.
The fugitive soon lost Joe, also.  He momentarily disappeared behind a fence and come out charging at Joe!  Joe gulped as he channeled his momentum an another direction.  The blond, now wearing a tuque, ruthlessly assailed Joe and came within a meter of running him over.  Fortunately, Joe dived behind a trash bin in time.  So, both guys found out how to kiss snow!  While the culprit was retreating down the slope, Joe lay there dazed, his mustache soaked with perspiration.  There had been skis behind the fence!

The following scenes will mix with the story as they occur.  

The impact knocked Keith's skicap off, exposing
joeandkeithfall.jpg
his pulled-back dark hair as he plopped into the snow. (C) Alopex 1987, 2003

Dave and I arrived to a serene scene at the jewelry shop.  Dave shook his head as I motioned us to go inside.
"No," he reminded me.  "If they recognize you, the shopkeeper will clam up.  Let me ask about the jewelry.  You come in later within earshot."
I waited until the shopkeeper had brought out the wares.  Then I came within earshop, pretending to browse another counter.
"What kind of guarantee do you offer for these earring?" Dave was saying.
"Well, you know I have to run a business.  That is why my prices are low.  Excuse me, a supplier just came in."
"Hey, Dan," an average-height man with wavy hair broached.  "We've picked up a liquidation of pearls last week."
I nearly blanched as this supplier went into the backroom with the ruddy-haired lentigenous shopkeeper.  I casually stepped up behind Dave and whispered, "I'm going to follow this guy."
I retreated just as the suspect came back out.  I knew I didn't have time to meet Troy, so I had to hope he had sense enough to forget about a search there.  If he busted the shopkeeper before we had uncovered the ring, we'd probably lose the case.
"So long, Mike," perorated the shopkeeper.
"I still can't decide," Dave picked up the negotiations.  "I'll decide whether to return later.
By this time I was following the suspect. I knew as Mike back to the motel rooms.  Mike appeared oblivious enough to make me wonder if he were a decoy.  He unlocked the door to room one seventy five nonchlantly.  Dave appeared twenty seconds after Mike had closed the door.
"Someone's following you!" he croaked nervously.
  

Brok banged his gavel. "The case of Brok vs
borkedtrial.jpg
Krol and Cahill commences. Justice Ginzberg, the evidence, please." (C) Alopex, 1987, 2003

"Okay, Mike," I agreed. "You cut us down, and we
keithandicrucified.jpg
capture the culprits." (C) Alopex 1988,2003

"So, what?" Rob replied scathingly. "Now we'll
robandsteve.jpg
have to kill them! " (C) Alopex 1988, 2003