The Columbia Cop Caper…Part VIII: February 2022

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 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 that her son, Edwin, helped another boy, Jeremy Cruckhorn, ssteal some valuable jewelry. When we last left him, Bronco was with Edwin as he told his story to Sgt. Tom Mangan of the NY State Police…
I took Edwin Corning by the arm and led him over to where Troopers Tom Mangan and Bill Elliott were standing. Edwin was still sobbing softly after the encounter with his mother, during which he had confessed to helping, although he claimed inadvertently, Jeremy Cruckhorn make off with Mrs. Corning’s jewelry.
“Son, I’m sure Constable Kelly has told you that you are in a lot of trouble,” Mangan said as we approached. “All you can do now is to help yourself by helping us.”
“I never meant for any of this to happen,” Edwin said, shaking his head.
He told Mangan and Elliott essentially the same story he had told his mother just moments before, and added that he was ready to take whatever punishment was coming his way as the result of his actions.
“And you have no idea where Jeremy Cruckhorn might have gone after he took the jewelry?” Managan asked.
“None,” Edwin answered.
“What did you two talk about when you were together?” I asked him. “Besides the jewelry, that is.”
“Nothing really. Jeremy is really hung up on this girl he had met at camp last summer, and he talks a lot about trying to impress her. I kept telling him it’s a lost cause. She is from a different world. That’s about all we discussed.”
“Maybe he was trying to impress her by showing her your mother’s jewelry?” I suggested. “Or the money he might get from fencing them?”
“Where is this girl from?’ Mangan asked.
Edwin explained that the girl was from Kingston, and she was from a wealthy family and had spent time at the girls’ camp across the lake from where he and Jeremy had been last summer. Jeremy had repeatedly snuck off to visit her, but Edwin’s impression was that although she was somewhat taken with the idea of the bad boy image Jeremy liked to project, she was much too sophisticated and well-to-do to ever really associate with him outside of the camp.
Mangan and I looked at each other, and I was sure we were thinking the exact same thing. Could Jeremy Cruckhorn have taken the jewels in an attempt to impress this girl? And if so, could he possibly be on his way to see her now?
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Mangan spoke first.
“The train station, you think?” I asked in reply.
We decided to chance it. Mangan sent Elliott to find Jeremy’s parents, while he and I headed for his car, Edwin in tow. The youngster would be needed, Mangan reasoned, to point Jeremy out if we did come across him.
I told Mangan there was a morning train coming in from Middletown in a few minutes, but the train east—the one Jeremy would likely be trying to board—wasn’t due for another hour. Mangan got the car started and we headed for the Luzon Station, just a few minutes away.
We arrived at the station just as the Middletown train was approaching, and we saw a small group of people gathering on the apron waiting for it to come to a stop. We asked Edwin if he saw Jeremy anywhere, but he said he did not.
Mangan parked the car, and the three of us got out and headed for the station. Although I was in plain clothes, Mangan’s uniform was sure to give us away if Jeremy was paying attention, so he walked behind me, holding onto Edwin the entire time. Although the two of them nearly disappeared behind my considerable girth, it didn’t matter. We were still fifty feet or so from the station when a young man darted out the door and headed toward town.
“That’s him!” Edwin said loudly. “That’s Jeremy.”
I reacted quickly, and my long strides made up the distance between us in a matter of seconds. Jeremy was across the street and headed toward Prince Brothers store as I approached the intersection, and I saw him disappear behind the building. There wasn’t much traffic on the street that time of morning, so I was able to get across without stopping, and cleared the corner of the building just a few seconds behind him. He was nowhere to be seen.
I slowed up, and began to look through the sheds behind the store. I was peering into the second one, which was filled with sacks of feed, when a I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. Instinctively, I raised my right arm up, just in time to intercept a crashing blow from a piece of lumber, which splintered in half as a result of the collision with my forearm. The boy on the other end of the lumber let out an expletive and swung the shorter piece that remained in his hands back to take another swipe at me.
I was able to dodge the second swing, and used the fact that it left him off balance to grab hold of his shirt, yanking him forward toward me, and tripping him with my leg. He fell heavily to the ground.
“Hello, Jeremy,” I said calmly. “How about you be smart and stay down?”
I put my foot on his back just to make sure. He attempted to rise, but found it impossible. He slumped back to the ground, and then Mangan appeared with his handcuffs already out.
Together, we lifted Jeremy to his feet and Mangan patted him down. There was a brown paper sack stuffed inside his shirt that contained a few pieces of Mrs. Corning’s jewelry. Mangan handed the bag to me, and roughly clamped the cuffs on the boy’s wrists.
Mangan put Jeremy in the back seat of his car and we drove back to the hotel, where his parents were informed about his arrest. The boy’s father looked for a split second as if he was going to take a swing at somebody—I couldn’t tell if Mangan or Jeremy was the contemplated target—but I took a step toward him and he seemed to think better of it.
Next, Mangan and Elliott and I went to speak with Mrs. Corning, and after she had identified the jewelry as the pieces that had been taken from her room, Mangan told her he would have to hold onto it until it could all be cataloged and photographed. He wasn’t sure how to handle Edwin, he said, but he would leave that up to the District Attorney.
While Mangan and Elliott were talking with Mrs. Corning, I eased myself out of the room and slipped upstairs to find Irene.
After all, we still had a piece of the weekend left, and I felt as if I had earned a little rest and relaxation.

That concludes The Columbia Cop Caper, but Bronco Kelly is sure to get involved in further adventures, so watch for them in future editions of The Hurleyville Sentinel.