The Columbia Cop Caper…Part VII: January 2022

An Original Short Story by Jack Robbin

January 2022

Fallsburg Constable Bronco Kelly is helping out his old boss, Ben Knapp, owner of the Columbia Farm Hotel, by serving as security for the weekend while the hotel entertains a few hundred New York City cops. Bronco has discovered that the room of wealthy socialite Louise Corning has been broken into, and thinks her missing son, Edwin, may be involved. When we last left him, Bronco was on his way to question Mrs. Corning about her son’s possible whereabouts when he heard his name whispered from a dark corner of the room…
I was on my way to the stairs leading up to Mrs. Corwin’s rooms when I heard a voice whispering my name from a darkened corner behind the stairwell.
“Mr. Kelly!” the whisper repeated. “Over here…it’s Edwin.”
I walked over, and was only mildly surprised to find Edwin Corning crouching down in the corner, mostly obscured by an overstuffed chair.
“Mr. Kelly, I need to talk to you,” he whispered nervously. “I think I am in big trouble. Really big trouble.”
I quickly looked around, making sure no one saw me walking over to the corner, where Edwin was mostly hidden by the chair and overhang of the staircase. He seemed more scared than anything else.
“Edwin, do you realize everyone is looking for you? Where have you been?”
“I’ve been hiding,” he said quietly, “I was trying to decide what to do.”
“What to do about what?” I asked. “Did you have anything to do with your mother’s jewelry going missing?”
“Yes. I did.”
“You took them? Where are they?”
“Not exactly. But I know who did.”
“Let me guess,” I said. “Jeremy Cruckhorn?”
Edwin looked at me with surprise. “How could you possibly know it was Jerry?”
“That’s not important, Edwin. But I need to know where he is right now.”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that,” he said, looking down at the floor. “This wasn’t supposed to happen like this at all. I was just showing him the jewelry, honest. He grabbed it and took off. I tried to stop him, but he shoved me, and I tripped and fell. I haven’t seen him since.”
He continued staring at the floor and began sobbing softly.
“We’re going to have to go talk to Sergeant Mangan,” I told him after some time had passed. Finally, he looked up.
“I need to apologize to my mother first, if that’s okay,” he said, getting control of himself. “I owe her that much.”
I escorted him as unobtrusively as possible back upstairs to Mrs. Corning’s room. There was a small gathering outside her door, including Troopers Mangan and Elliott. I whispered to Edwin to stay put at the end of the hall and walked over to Mangan. I asked him if Edwin could see his mother for a minute before speaking with him. Mangan was adamant at first that it was out of the question, but eventually relented.
“I’ll give him one minute…literally one minute,” he said to me. “And you have to be with him.”
I took Edwin by the arm and we walked into the room where Louise Corning was staying, while Bill Elliott held the door for us, closing it softly after we entered the room.
Mrs. Corning was lying on the bed. She looked relieved when she saw Edwin.
“My Lord, Edwin,” she said. “where have you been?”
Edwin didn’t sugar coat anything, but owned up to his role in the burglary. He explained to his mother that he had met Jeremy Cruckhorn the previous summer at sleep-away camp in the Adirondacks. The Cruckhorn boy was a scholarship case– his parents would never have been able to afford such a place—and he dressed and talked and acted very differently from all the other boys, so no one wanted to associate with him. Edwin wasn’t very popular himself, so the two had become friendly.
Jeremy was always trying to prove himself to the other boys, Edwin said, and had gone out of his way to act like a tough guy by generally disobeying all of the camp’s rules. He was constantly stealing cigarettes from the cafeteria workers, pilfering candy and soda from the commissary, and sneaking off to visit the girls’ camp on the other side of the lake. Edwin had often aided and abetted him in his transgressions.
“I don’t think he is really a bad kid,” Edwin said. “It’s just that he is always trying to prove to everyone that he is.”
When the two had bumped into each other at the caddy shack at the Columbia, they had picked up where they had left off. Jeremy seemed fascinated by the fact that Edwin’s mother travelled with a staff, and had a group of rooms at the hotel and he had asked to see them. When Edwin agreed, the two of them waited until everyone else had gone out and snuck into the rooms.
“When Jerry saw your jewels, he got a crazy look in his eyes,” Edwin told him mother. “I let him hold a couple of pieces and then he refused to give them back. I tried to take them, but he pushed me away and I fell back over the corner of the bed and hit the floor pretty hard. He took off, and I have no idea where he went.”
Mrs. Corning had sit up in the bed, and was looking at her son while he spoke. When he paused, tears began to form in the corners of her eyes. Edwin’s eyes matched hers.
“I’m sorry, Mother,” he said softly.
I tried not to be too abrupt about it, but I finally took Edwin by the arm again.
“Come on,” I said. “Now you’ve got to tell Sergeant Mangan the same story.”
It looks as if Fallsburg Constable Bronco Kelly is on the verge of solving the theft of the Corning jewels from the Columbia Hotel. Now he just needs to locate young Jeremy Cruckhorn, whose father is a New York City police officer, and hope that he still has the jewels. Our story continues in the next edition of The Hurleyville Sentinel.