The Columbia Cop Caper…Part III: September 2021

An Original Short Story by Jack Robbin
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 more than a hundred New York City cops let their hair down. He has just consented to play a round of golf with the son of the only other guest at the hotel, wealthy socialite Louise Corning, which sounds harmless enough, but does a new adventure await?
Edwin Corning turned out to be a pleasant young fellow, extremely polite and inquisitive, but not very athletic or interested in learning how to play golf. Still, we took our time playing on the nifty little course, most of which was within sight of the main house.
It was a hilly course, but Edwin didn’t complain, even when he appeared to be winded by the walk up some of the steeper slopes. Of course, I was carrying the bag of clubs, which we shared, so he had no additional burden to bear.
The time seemed to pass quickly, and after completing the final hole, on which Edwin was actually able to sink a long putt to finish his round on a high note, we made our way back to the little shack adjacent to the first tee to return the clubs. I took them inside the little building, leaving Edwin waiting just outside, and spent a few minutes chatting with Shorty Ryerson, the guy who took care of the course and dispensed the clubs. He had been at the Columbia forever, it seemed, and we had worked together there years before, prior to the construction of the golf course.
When I emerged from the shack, Edwin was standing off to the side, talking with a young man about his own age, who had apparently arrived with a small group of others. There were three older men, who looked like they might have been cops, and one other younger man, perhaps a year or two younger than Edwin in addition to the young man Edwin was speaking to.
As soon as Edwin spotted me coming out of the shack, he stopped his conversation and walked toward me, perhaps a bit more abruptly than I would have considered normal.
“Are we all set?” he asked as he approached. “It must be time for lunch.”
“We’re all set,” I replied. “and I’m sure your mother is waiting for you to eat with her. I hope you had a good time.”
“Thank you, Mr. Kelly, for your patience with me. I am not much of an athlete, I’m afraid, but I did enjoy myself today. I’m sure we’ll see you again.”
“Looks like you might have made a new friend,” I said, motioning toward the young man with the group of golfers who were about ready to tee off.
“What do you mean?” he answered almost defensively. “I don’t know him.”
“Oh, my mistake,” I said. “It just looked like you were deep in conversation when I came out.”
“We barely spoke.”
I let it go at that, and we went our separate ways. He headed for the dining room to meet his mother, and I climbed the stairs to see if Irene was in our room. She was unpacking a few things when I walked in, and I don’t give Edwin Corning another thought for the rest of the day.
Irene and I passed the afternoon leisurely walking the grounds of the hotel, which gave me a chance to keep an eye on the hundreds of New York City cops who were checking in throughout the day. Irene walked until she was exhausted, then went up to take a short nap before dinner.
I walked her upstairs, and did a quick walk through the main building, eventually ending up in the lobby, where I spotted Ben Knapp. We spoke briefly, and he updated me on the guest count. He advised me that there was a musical trio performing in the dining room that night and staying on for dancing afterwards. He advised me to be on the alert, especially after the dancing ended, as he expected the cops to be pretty rowdy by then.
Despite Ben’s suspicions, the evening proceeded without incident, and the dancing was enjoyable and uneventful. Irene and I actually danced a couple of numbers before she had had enough and decided to retire to our room. I walked her upstairs and then returned to the dancing. As things were winding down shortly after midnight, I was standing by the door watching people exit when I spotted Mrs. Corning.
She had not been dancing, but was apparently coming in from outside. When she saw me, she walked over.
“Good evening, Mr. Kelly. How fortuitous that we should meet. I want to thank you again for spending time with my son this morning. I am grateful, and I think it meant a lot to Edwin, although he would probably never admit it. He does not have many friends and does not make friends readily.”
She said she had been for a walk and then had spent the remainder of the evening on the porch, enjoying the peace and quiet as well as a nightcap.
“I allow myself one highball after dinner each night,” she confided. “I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea.”
I ended up walking her upstairs to the rooms she was renting, and was just about to say good night when she let out a gasp.
We were just a few steps from her door, and she had her key in her hand when she stopped suddenly and stared at the door. It was wide open, and even though it was dark inside there was enough light from the hallway to see that clothing was strewn across the floor.
“Someone has broken into my room!” she exclaimed.

Looks as if Bronco Kelly is in the middle of another mystery. Find out more in the next edition of The Hurleyville Sentinel. Our story is work of fiction, and although Ben Knapp, Louise Corning and Edwin Corning are real people, no representation is made as to the accuracy of their characterizations here.