It was late June in State College. Taking a page from Robert Kiyosaki, I was using my spare house for rental. However,
I had used the livingroom as an office, so I wanted to rent it as one. At the time, Matt Keith, a little, freckled blond
student, rented most of the house with my assitant, Keith Cahill. Both demanded quiet, for Keith was trying to publish his
stories. Neither had use for the livingroom. I figured an office would serve it well, allowing the guys their quiet during
I was in my office that Friday. July began the following Monday, and I still hadn't rented the spare office.
I heard a hard knock at the door. When I saw who it was, my jaw dropped.
"Don," I blurted.
Don had already left himself in, his 1.90-m figure was past the doorway. His broad smile met mine, and we embraced.
"It's been so long..." I started.
"...Well over a decade," he finished. "I've left the police department to start on my own as a private detective.
When I saw your name on the rental notice, I just had to come. What is the rent?"
"Don, I was asking what the notice says, but..."
"I'll take it. Does it start Monday?"
"Yes," I agreed. "But you must catch me up on your life this weekend."
"Well, George, nothing much happened after I graduated with a degree in law enforcement. Wasn't
it the reason you stayed here and went to graduate school?"
"Eventually I was in the MBA program. Then I began to consider accounting. I picked up
a parttime job in accounting while I worked in motels. It took most the the 1980's for me to get started. I think
1989 was the critical year.
"It's funny, but I had the most dangerous encounters all the time you were gone. The last one
in 1989, "The Crime for Christmas", hit the closest. I surely could have used you on that one."
Don smiled. "I guess you did quite well without me. Maybe we together can solve some
mysteries. Are there any archenemies out there?"
"Well, yes, I can think of around three. They never caught the former district attroney, Renchnburg.
He's been at large nearly two decades. Every so often he sends me trouble. He's the Moriarity to my Sherlock Holmes."
Don sat in the webbed rocker, as we enjoyed the quiet of the twilight. I just drank in the
"So what are you doing for the Fourth?"
Don broke a smile. "I think I'm going to spend next Thurday on this porch!"
While we were speaking, both Keith and Matt walked up the stairs to join us on the porch over the
garage. Then just pulled up chairs and sat down.
Matt seemed the most distant. He appeared rather exhausted. He watched the stars come
out, closed his eyes, and seemed to float among the stars. I resumed the reminiscing.
"Don, do you remember our first case?"
"George, that had to be the first time I realized how good your powers of observation were. "
"May we hear it?" Matt asked with his eyes closed.
"Of course, Matt. I don't think George would mind."
"Not at all. Matt and Keith know me well enough to share our adventures."
Don and I narrated our first encounter with criminals, teenage vandals some twentyfive years earlier.
Matt gave us quite a stare as we drew him into the story. I could tell he was thinking that the event occurred just
after he had been born. Keith, with whom I'd shared some recent adventures, just sat there and listened.
Both lit up cigarettes and slowly smoked them.
"This case I call 'The Valiant Vandals', I began the narration. Don will correct me if I err."
Brring! The sound of my alarm clock smashed into my sleep like a baseball through a plateglass window.
As I became conscious, I remembered why I had set the clock at this unearthy hour: I was beginning swimming lessons at the
neighboring pool, the Aquadome, with Don and Tom. I stumbled out of bed, and as I stood up, I felt a grogginess in my
head. I breathed deeply and drifted into the bathroom. I washed the sleep out of my eyes and dried them with a
towel. Down the stairs I stubled, not looking forward to the same old cereal.
I grabbed my cerulean towel and my beach towel of the Marx brothers. I began walking down the
hill toward the pool. From one street below appeared Don with s scarlet towel around his neck.
"That's a fine thing to see," I teased. "A red towel with green trunks. All you need
is to whiten your curly hair and to grow a beard!"
"That's really cute, George," Don replied. "Your blue trunks match your blue towel and clash
with your blond and tanned appearance."
"We'll see who's the better swimmer soon, or have you been praticiing?" I challenged.
"No. Not at all, but I hope you don't mind my showing you up by next week," joked Don.
We walked to the building, went through the turnstile, showed our badges, and arrived at the pool.
Tom was walking slowly toward us. Looking disappointed and angry, he said, "We're out of luck, guys."
"What do you mean --" I broke off because my eyes had focused to the bottom of the pool. Through
the chlorinated water, broken glass along the bottom dared us to go in.
"Say, why did they check our badges?" I asked miserably.
"This place is not coordinated. They just discovered the problem after you came in," Tom explained.
Just then our teacher, Miss K, walked toward us with Pete, a blond also from our neighborhood.
"I guess we'll have to postpone our lesson until two this afternoon," she sighed.
Oh, drat, I thought. I got up for this?
My anger from the morning dissipated in an afternoon of trying to change my dog paddle into swimming.
"Not so hard, George," Miss K counseled. "You'll drain all the water out of the pool."
Because it was late July, it was getting dark noticeably earlier. Don had this fact in mind
when he decided to do some detecting: "Say, guys, Let's watch the pool tonight."
"Why? The police will probably be checking the place, and there are guards. We'll just
be in their way," I protested.
"Well," Don asked with that adamant stare I knew too well.
"All right," I succumbed. "I'll stay just because I might miss something."
"That adventure seemd calm compared to some of the cases we went through," Keith noted.
"That's fine with me," Matt added. "I have enough adventures camping and hunting in Wyoming!"
"Well," Don explained. "Despite all those detective shows on television, most work is rather
boring. Often one may fall asleep while waiting for something to happen. They key seems to be the timing,
when to spring into action."
"Sometimes the solution is so simple, but when to apply it determines when it'll work," I added.
"So, when are we going to see you guys in action?" Matt kidded.
"Matt, I don't play detective for a living," I rebuked.
"But it seems you end up in a mystery anyway, " Matt noted.
"Well, I think my chances just increased," I predicted.
I ignored Matt's comment and continued the narration.
The three of us watched the sun set and darkness fill the area of the pool. It was just past the end of dusk when
we heard a guard yell, "What are you kids doing here?"
Seeing a guard approach us under the lamplight gave us a natural impulse to get out of there, when we did in great disorder.
We scurried to the fence and climbed over it laboriously.
As we hurried through the shadows along the road, I still felt the intense fear: "I have a better idea, guys. Let's
"Best suggestion all night," agreed Tom.
The next morning I entered the pool area to meet Don, Tom, and Pete.
"Do you think the guard recognized us?" I asked Don.
"No, it was too dark." Quickly changing the subject, Don added, "We're early. No one's in the pool."
Don had hardly stopped speaking when we heard a woamn scream at the other end of the pool. "There's a monster in
We diverted our attention to the source of the scream. We then saw the woman jump out of the pool ahead of a hug
tortoise, when was snapping at her heels.
"Can you believe it? The vandals were here again!" I exclaimed, noting everyone else was speechless. If we'd
only stayed a little longer last night."
Then an idea hit me --- The guard must have though we had been the vandals. The authorities must have thought they
had scared us away and left the pool unguarded. Maybe we're responsible for the huge reptile in the pool!
A lifeguard was sneaking behind the tortoise and noticed the name etched into its shell. Soon a bright red truck
with "Crestwood Farms" in white letters on the doors pulled into the parkinglot. Several men left the vehicle, and one
of them told the lifeguard that someone had broken into their farm and had stolen the turtle My mind began wondering
where the vandals were. I was sure thye must have been watching from somewhere.
The men threw a net over the tortoise and took it home. Soon we were back to swimming lessons in the pool.
We had learned our lesson. We went to see one of the latest movies that evening. When we passed the pool,
we saw a police car across the street.
"It's about time they wised up," Tom stated. But when we reached the other side of Coal Street Park, Don tapped
my shoulder and said, "Look!"
Down by the pond were the vandals. From the reflection of the light off the waves, we could see oil was pouring
from a drum onto the water.
"Let's get those policemen fast! They could be intending to ignite the oil!" I exclaimed as we instinctively began
to course up the path toward the pool. We reached the car, and quickly explained the situation.
"I'll call headquarters," the driver said, while the other one told us to stay out of sight.
Heading back to the pond, we kept away from the very path we had taken. "Maybe we should have taken this way before;
we might have been seen," Tom wondered.
When we reached the pond, the vandals had vanished. Ugh! I thought. We may have let them get away again.
Pressing my nose against the fence, I saw the drum's floating upon the water. Oil was still spilling out of its spout.
Had the vandals recognized any of us?
The next few days returned to normal. Then one night, Don invited me over to his house. I had just begun
walking down the last block when I saw Don come out of the house. However, he walked away from me, towards the main
street. I accelerated my pace. As I passed Don's house, two shadows opened the car doors of a brown hardtop, grabbed
Don without a struggle, slammed both doors, and pulled out. I found myself chasing down the sidewalk, then through the
shadows of the street.
My mind became insane with worry, my stomach pitted, and I stubbed my toe on a stone, which had gone through my sneaker.
I was hobbling on one foot as I desperately watched the car vanish around the corner. Only the smell of exhaust
lingered. What had happened? Then it hit me that the vandals had identified us and kidnapped Don. I needed
I returned to Don's house and rang the bell. Mom Hough answered the door: "Oh, George, Come right in!"
I accepted her hospitality and sat in the livingroom. "Did Don say where he was going?" I asked nonchalantly.
"He said that Pete had called him to come over to his house for some reason. Don left too quickly for details."
After an hour of waiting, I left and bade Mom Hough goodbye. While I was walking down the porch steps, a police
car with flashing red lights pulled up in front of the house. My jaw dropped when Don and two policemen emerged from
the car. I ran over and hugged my bosom buddy.
"What happened?" I broached. "I saw the vandals take off with you in their car and I --"
"Well," interrupted the office. "His story checks. I guess we did right by believing him."
"What happened?" I repeated. "Did they catch the vandals?"
"No. They escaped before the poilce could apprehend them," Don replied. "It's a long story, but you'll want
to hear it."
"I guess we'll be going," concluded the office. Soon we were watching the flashing red lights fade into the distance.
"The vandals took me to an old abandoned house designated for demolition," Don narrated. "They bound me to a chair
and gagged me."
"Great Scott!" I swore. "I know what comes next!"
"The leader began slapping me around. My face still tingles. The police must have seen the light from the
candle. One of the vandals saw the police from the window, and they left me there, well, almost."
"I'm afraid to ask -- ," I interjected.
"One of them knocked the table with the candle over. As it hit the floor, it ignited some old rags. The kid
untied me, but he left. I stomped the fire out. The police arrived, and I had a gap of credibility of why I was
"But you had evidence of what had gone on," I retorted.
"Yes. The ropes and the rest of the scene gave me enough credibility I needed to convince the police."
"D you think the vandals will come after us or you again? I don't think so," I denied with some fear in my voice.
The following Saturday we were watching a softball game, when I heard a voice behind me say, "Turn around, Hough.
The game's down there!"
Don bent over to me and whispered, "George, those vandals are right behind us. But when I turned around, the back
row of the bleachers was empty! My instant conclusion was the the vandals were there for a reason. Immediately,
the four of us were staggering our way through the stands and running into the parkinglot. That same old brown hardtop
greeted us as it egressed the lot. Again I was left standing on concrete with the smell of exhaust. "Did anyone
get the license?"
"No, Their luck is still with them," Don answered.
Monday afternoon Don and I were enjoying the air conditioning of the Wyoming Valley Mall. When we came outside,
something else greeted us besides the heat -- the car! I was so astonished that I walked right up to it and peered inside
to see orange polyester. Through closed windows, I could see three radios: a two-way, a citizens' band, and a regular
stereo. "Don, it looks as though the vandals cornered the market on radio equipment," I remarked.
"Never mind that; Get the license plate, and let's get out of here!" Don exclaimed as he looked around the lot.
We were unlocking our bicycles when a policeman came out of the mall and got into the car! When I looked into Don's
surprised eyes, I saw the message: "Let's follow it."
So, while ordinary kids played ball on hot summer afternoons, we played detective. Keeping a safe distance was
no fun, especially on the highway.
"Don, if he continues on this highway, we'll lose him," I vocalized our fear just as the car turned onto a side street.
Don went first, and I almost ran into him when he stopped suddenly on a corner.
"The car stopped in front of a green house," he informed. We had just returned from going around the block as the
car again drove away. "Is this the right house?" I asked.
"It must be. The policeman went inside and got something."
Partially hidden behind tree, we watched the house from across the street. Ten minutes later, out came a
teenager with closely cropped brown hair, jeans and a red shirt. Don instantly recognized him as the driver of the car!
We followed him to a large white house with a porch across the side and front. He went along the porch, knocked on the
side door, and went inside. We sat on our bicycles for about fifteen minutes when Don announced, "We've
seen enough. No doubt this is where the leader of the vandals lives."
That was enought for me, also. I felt we were being watched.
We must have been watched! A few more days passed to Friday. I went down to a nearby supermarket to buy a
few items. While I was picking a can of peas, I saw that car again outside. This time the vandals were in the
lot, and there was an empty seat next to the driver! Fear grabbed me just for an instant as I contemplated myself as
the victim this time.
I decided to take the offensive, and I looked for the leader. After I had covered the entire store, I saw a teenager
with a sinister smile leave the manager's desk and the store. He sat in the empty seat in the car!
Then I saw the manager head for the checkout line. He walked up to Don and his grandmother! Partially hidden
behind a stack of cans, I saw Don empty his pockets. When a model car came out of a pocket, I couldn't decide which
was redder -- the car or Don's face. I decided to interfeere, so I walked to the scene. When Don spoke to
me in surprise, I had a reply.
:I'm about to break a frame. I saw the leader of the vandals talk to the manager!"
"So that's it!" Don said while snaping his fingers.
We then easliy convinced the manager that either it was a mistake or the older boy had lied. I was ready to check
out, so I stood behind Don and Mom Hough.
Much to the chagrin of the cashier, we attempted to explain to Mom Hough why someone put a car in Don's pocket and tried
to frame him for theft. When we came out of the store, that car headed for the exit, and the leader jeered at us.
"It's about time we taught them a lesson," I threw the taunt back.
"I think I know how they get forewarned," Don said.
"Oh, sure. So do I. We have their license number. How are we going to use it?" I replied.
"You'll see," Don said simply.
That evening we sat in the kitchen at Don's house. Tom and Pete were with us at the table as we listened to a radio
on the policial band. They wanted to know our plan.
"Just watch, you guys," I answered, "while we play monopoly. Where's the board?"
A call came nearly every fourth turn. I was just about to bankrupt everyone when the radio announced, "Car 27,
repond to hoodlum's painting the Stegmaier building on Market Street."
"Don, you do the honors," I said winking.
Don took the telephonic receiver and called the police to give them the license number and a description of the car.
A few minutes later, I bankrupted my last opponent and said, "I won."
The radio answered with "Hoodlums apprehended with paintbrushes and cans."
Don smiled at me and said," We all won. In fact, we vandalized their plans."
"Does that make us valiant vandals?" I joked.
|Keith Cahill, as I conceived him.
|small and Celtic
Over the next month (July), Don was involved in rather routine work. When the Wynns arrived,
Don actually enjoyed looking them up in the internet.
"Keep your ears open when Pete and Marty play with Buddy. They may learn something about their
I kept vigilance the entire month. Soon it was time for the camping trip. Paul had been
looking for other work, and Keith would be returning soon.
The five of us went camping. By then I knew I could trust Paul, but I wanted to know his secret.
The boys helped us set up camp. Soon the night crept into our campfire as we barbequed.
After the boys retired, a silence fell between us. It was thicker than the cool of the night.
"I can feel summer slip away," I commented.
Paul looked down, then his eyes met mine. He broke contact, looked down again, and struggled
I just sat there silently.
"Paul, I'm going to turn in," I noted. Then I began to put out the fire. Paul came out
of his funk, and helped me extinguish it.
Somehow I knew he'd tell me soon. Little did I know that the news would break even sooner.
Paul, the boys, and I were hiking when my cellphone rang. I was rather annoyed, as I expected
a wrong number. "Hello?"
"George," Matt broached. "A man was looking for the Wynns this morning!
"I don't think so. He was nicely dressed, like a banker or a lawyer. He said he was looking
for a Pual Wynn and his son George."
"Buddy's real name is George?" I intoned. Then I realized that Don and I had failed to check
up on Buddy.
"What does Don say?"
"Don's on a case this morning. Keith and I palyed dumb. We said we saw them earlier this
month before we went on vacation."
"Thanks, Matt. Keep playing dumb. I will confront Wynn to find out what's doing on."
After I hung up, I looked right at Wynn. "Paul, we must talk. Why was someone at my place
looking for you and Buddy?"
"Do you want your boys to know this?"
"Does Buddy know?"
"Then Pete and Marty should knnow."
We assembled the boys , found a clearing, and sat down. I leaned toward Paul, looked into he
cerulean eyes, and said, "Is there danger?"
Paul looked down, then met my gaze.
"I don't know. It depends upon which party showed up today."
"Are there more groups searching for you?"
"Actually, there are two.I should begin with the background. If it's my wife's relatives, there is
no danger. They simply want to take Buddy with them.
"If it's someone from the syndicate, everyone's in danger. The police offered us protection,
but I took us out on our own."
I was still leaning forward. "Let's have the first version. How can your wife's
relatives get Buddy? Aren't you his father?"
"It's some story. About four years ago, I gradually realized I was living a lie. It was no
one's fault, but I soon knew that I was gay."
"So now your wife's relatives are using that fact as an excuse to take Buddy away."
"When I told my wife, she didn't understand. I told here about two years ago. We began
plans for an amicable divorce. Then her relatives found out why we were divorcing.
"About the same time, I stumbled into organized crime. I had a friend who was an accountant,
and he informed me about some suspicious firms. Before he could report them, someone had killed him.
"The police wanted me to testify in the trial. Then my wife was killed in a carbomb.
I knew we couldn't stay there, so we began drifting. So, it depends upon which party showed up today."
I sat there in the quiet for a full minute. "Whoever it was doens't know where we are.
I suggest we get back to camping until Monday. On Labor Day, we should have a better handle on what's going on here.
Perhaps this seeker will return and give away his purpose."
"Doesn't it bother you at all?'
"Doesn't what bother me?"
"That I have organized crime after me, or that I'm gay?"
"Paul, Don and I have had a few tangles with the syndicate over the past few decades. As for
your orientation, I suggest you take it up with Matt, who told me he was gay three years ago!"
Paul and the boys had a good time camping when Monday arrived. We drove to the outskirts of
State College, where I left Paul and Buddy off. I was leery of our plan, but I could not come up with a better one.
"I want you to stay out of sight for a few hours. We'll put everything away. then I wnat
you to sneak around the area and slip into the buildings at separate times."
I gave Paul my cellphone.
"If there's trouble, I know a place you can hide."
I had already checked with Matt and Keith. There had been no incidents since Friday.
We pulled into Alopexian Estates without trouble. Pete and Marty pulled out gear, and Matt
came out to help.
"What's happening?" asked the little, blond guy.
"Hopefully, nothing," I replied. "However, I have the feeling that someone is watching us."
Matt's azure eyes widened. "Don just said the same thing. He thinks someone is perched
in the woods some four hundred meters opposite the front of the building."
"Then my precautions were justified. Let's get inside."
"Let's make sure I see a snoop. Give me a halfhour to go around the guy, then bring in the
Wynns. It will confirm my suspicions," Don noted as he scanned the area with binoculars.
"Do you think it's the same guy?" I queried.
"George, it's the same fellow who was here Friday. It may be a private investigator, or a hitman,
for all we know. I want to flush him out."
"All right, then let's move into action," I agreed as I called my cellphone number. Soon Don
was gone, and we began to wait for the Wynns to show.
A halfhour passed when Don called me. "I can't find anybody around."
"Are you sure someone was watching us?"
"I'll look around some more, but I don't see anyone around."
That evening we were once again on my porch.
"So, where do we go from here?" I asked.
"That fellow who was looking for the Wynns was real," Matt insisted.
"Maybe, it was nothing," Don conceded. "I'd still remain cautious over the next few months."
"We'll all keep on the qui vive," Matt assured.
"The Wynns are staying?" Keith added.
About that time, Paul joined our group. "It's very nice out here on a September evening," he commented. "I've
enrolled Buddy in school. I can't keep running away from trouble, especially when I have friends to protect me."
I placed my arm around Paul's shoulders. "We can certainly handle it. Actually, it's easier to hide out in
State College, than in Philadelphia."
"But the homophobia," Paul objected.
"I've been here for three years," Matt rebuked. "I'd rather be here than in Laramie, or even in Charlotte.
There are many students from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and their suburbs, where they're more tolerant."
This case occurs in 2012-3. I hope to finish it by the end of the year. As always, it is a tribute to Matthew
Shepard, tolerance, my buddy Jimmy, and my own imagination.. Constructive feedback is welcome until I finish it.