• Solomon Goldstein and the Missing Corpse

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    Solomon Goldstein, Attorney at Law, was introduced in a short story last year.  He is a reluctant lawyer, finally having to change his name from Jacob Anderson toGoldstein – marketing himself as a mean Jewish Lawyer – the only way to attract any business.  Solomon (Sol) Goldstein was the name he used in his legal activities.  Otherwise he used his real name – Jacob.  He is assisted by his somewhat edgy assistant, Norene Yaraslova and supported by his very intelligent wife, Jeanie.  His one-man firm is located in Rock Springs Wyoming, and thriving, much to the disgust of the other attorneys in town.

     

    THE CASE OF THE MISSING CORPSE

     

    The three were digging like badgers under a bright moon.  “Damn, the ground is still frozen and we are only down about two feet, it’s going to take hours to get much deeper.”   “All right, toss in the body, fill in the dirt and snow, and release the limbs we’ve pulled back so they hide the grave.  We all agree that we dug down over four feet, right?  Hurry up and we’ll hike back to the snowmobile and get the hell out of here.  I don’t want to ever see this place again.”  The snow came down even harder as they left.  Within fifty feet they had disappeared – just silent flakes whirling in the wind.

     

    “How can you drink that swill,” said Howard.  “I love Swiss Miss Cocoa blended into hot milk with a shot of half and half.  Smooth as silk.   A little cream from Jensen’s Dairy whipped up by Jeanie to top it off – better than that artificial imitation crap in spray cans.  And a lot better than your overpriced mocha latte espresso cappuccino with valium sprinkles from Starbucks,” said Jacob.

     

    Howard’s insurance office was across the hall from Jacob’s.  In fact since Jacob owned the building, he was Howard’s landlord.  Over the last six months the two had become friends, with Howard showing up in Jacob’s office around 8:10 to start his day.

     

    “Well,” said Howard.  “You may be right about this particular coffee this morning.  It could use just a small additive.”  And with that he took out a pint of Jamison’s Irish whiskey and poured in generous dollop.   “Where’s Norene, this morning?  I didn’t see her lurking in the hallway.”  “She and Jeanie have an early morning kick boxing class twice a week – I just hope they don’t decide to gang up on me one day.”   I gained about ten pounds this summer and Jeanie’s been bugging me to start jogging, but I told her that particular exercise is high on my list of fatal diseases.”

     

    “But look at yourself Howard, you really shouldn’t start drinking this early in the morning,” said Jacob, “You are as rumbled as a bag of rags – your clothes are all wrinkled and puckered, especially your shirtfront.  That’s a tale-tale sign of you doing your own laundering.”  Howard had started to resemble a triangle. He had a small, almost bald head with his remaining gray hair on one side pulled up in a comb-over.  Half the hair was almost black from a self-administered dye job.  From his head he widened out until his waist settled around his hips like a life preserver.  He looked as if he could melt into his seat at any minute.

     

    “If you had my problems you’d start drinking the minute you were awake.  I hate my business.  I sell a product that no one really wants – that is based on the fear of a crash, death, or their house burning down. My ex-wife is going back to court for more alimony. I’m sixty-five pounds overweight, so much that my grand daughter calls me “Fatso Gramps,” and I have no friends except for you, and you’re questionable.  – on top of it all I live in Rock Springs – the Hell Hole of the state.  I think I know how a terminally ill person must feel when he wakes up with only a few days to go.”

     

    “Let me tell you a really funny story,” said Jacob, maybe it will improve your mood.”  “You know Hank’s Garage; you may or may not know the owner is Henry Spivic.  “Yes I know who Hank is; kind of an unsavory character, but I understand he is a very good mechanic.”

     

    “That’s right, I have my cars repaired there.  Two weeks ago Hank got blind drunk, combined his beverage of choice with a little cocaine, and became completely disoriented.  He ended up doing some breaking and entering, but was so far out of it, he also broke into his own shop without recognizing where he was.  Caught in the process of dragging out his own front-end alignment machine to put in his pickup; that’s when the cops showed up. They apprehended him, and did a search of the premises.  Unfortunately he had three ounces of cocaine in the back of his box-end tool drawer.  The cops arrested Hank, and tossed him in the pokey.  He was already on parole for receiving stolen auto parts.”

     

    “In the past I’ve defended his antics in return for working on my vehicles.  So I went straight to the DA and explained the case.  My argument was that he couldn’t be prosecuted for breaking into his own business and cops didn’t have a search warrant for the drugs – the other two businesses he hit were just minor trespassing – didn’t steal anything.  Arthur White, our illustrious DA, said he understood that Henry had invited the officers in. Said there was some merit in my argument, but he’d let a judge decide at the preliminary hearing.

     

    “That is when I dropped my bomb.  I asked him, “Where do you get your car repaired, Arthur?”  “I go to Hank’s over on Elk street.”  “Well if you push this, we’re both out of pocket for someone to fix our cars.  Henry Spivic and Hank are the same person.”  Arthur thought for about one second and said, “You’ve convinced me, Sol, a successful prosecution is one thing, but finding a good auto mechanic is entirely something else.  Plead him out and I’ll get the judge to just extend his probation.”

     

    Howard laughed at the story and Jacob joined in.  Then Jacob’s demeanor became more serious.  “Do you know any thing about John Gianette?”  “Enough to make sure I stay comfortably out of his way.”  “I’ve heard he can be a little rough around the edges,” said Jacob. “Why do you ask?” said Howard.  “His ranch manager asked me if I would consider representing Gianette’s son.  It’s one of those ‘he said, she said’ sexual assaults.  I generally don’t want anything to do with those kind of cases, but Norene convinced me to at least talk with him – she always says we need the money.”  Howard spoke up, “He owns the old Triple S – big spread – somewhere around 9200 acres – about forty miles north of here up by Sixteen Hills – west of Farson – changed the name to the Big G.   Came into this area about six years ago with a bunch of money.”  The ranch borders the O BAR O on one side and the US Forest on the other.

     

    “I’ve heard all kinds of rumors about how he acquired the Triple S.  All I really know for sure is that the children of old Harley Mickleson sold the place for cash – they all vamoosed as soon as it closed.  Says he’s Spanish.  Supposed to be from the Carolina’s; tells people his ancestors came from Castile, Spain, but I still think he’s a wop.  I’ve learned to never trust anyone whose name ends in a vowel,” said Howard.  “What about Norene?” said Jacob, “Her last name is Yaraslova.”  “Exactly,” said Howard, “She’s a prime example.”

     

    “Gianette has returned the ranch to pretty much like it was in the 1800’s.  Still uses horses and cowboys on the range – only a few roads – lots of barbed wire.  Even does a cattle drive in the fall.  Brands instead of using ear tags like everyone else.  Strange brand that is supposed to ward off the evil eye.  Gianette says its just an elaborate backwards G.

    “He tore down the old ranch house and built a huge new one – but with classic ranch styling – hand carved logs and split shingles.  Even has a bunkhouse.  I flew over his spread one day and saw a half-mile grass airstrip and a huge hanger.  I think you could easily land a small jet.”

     

    Just then Howard saw Norene coming up the walk.  “Wow, look at that, Blue wool suit, short skirt, white silk blouse, nylons, ferregamo five-inch heels.  What is going on?”   “I have no idea,” said Jacob, “It’s like a costume party every day. Although she no longer dresses like Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark.” As Norene strode through the door they both involuntarily gasped.  While her attire was very sophisticated, she had apparently forgotten to wear a brassier.  Her thinly covered breasts offset her elegant ensemble.

     

    “Well, what are you two looking at?” said Norene.  The two were too stunned to answer, but then she laughed and said,  “Just wanted to make sure I haven’t lost my touch.  I’ll finish dressing in my office.”  The two blinked at one another, then laughed aloud.  “Howard, you can’t say that Norene didn’t give you an electric charge to start the day.”  “You are right, lets hope another nymph will come my way, if not, Norene’s appearance will hang in my memory long enough to give me courage.”

     

    “Now let me tell you a quick story about her before I leave,” said Howard.  “Do you know Javier Baptiste, the French guy who is about sixty?”  “No don’t believe I do, does he need a lawyer?”  “No, no, he’s bartender down at the Wolf Den Bar.   He and I were swapping stories one evening when Norene showed up – low cut tight dress, spiked heels, those thirty-eight’s on prominent display – she was stopping traffic both ways.  Javier took a long look her way and said, “Il y a Une Foule Dans le Balcon”   “What?”  He looked at me with a big smile and translated. “That is French for “There is a crowd in the balcony.”  “I couldn’t have agreed more.”

     

    Norene stuck her head in.  “Jacob, you remember that John Gianette is coming in this morning?” said Norene, no longer braless.  “And here is the great news, I told him he would have to bring a retainer check for $50,000.”  “Really,” said Jacob, raising his voice in excitement.  “Of course not, I just wanted to get you pumped up.  We need a big case.”

     

    “Also this Fedex letter just came from the Bar Association in Cheyenne.  “You open it,” said Jacob, involuntarily cringing.  Norene opened the FedEx package and read the letter.  When she turned around there was a sour expression on her face.  “Not good news?” he said.  “Not, it’s bad news. The President of the Wyoming Bar Association requires your presence next Friday at 9:00 AM in Cheyenne.  There is no explanation other than this is a very important matter and they need you there.”  “Great, there have probably been complaints about my adopted legal name, Solomon Goldstein. They are going to disbar me.”  “No,” Norene said, “It might be that someone has done a deep dive into my own past and attached you to some of the Yaraslova family activities.  I’ll see what some of my contacts in Cheyenne think.”

     

    “Look, here’s Gianette driving up in his Mercedes, with his idiot son, Nicolas; as you might imagine he goes by Nic.  Just be careful, Jacob, he is not a guy you want to have as an enemy.”

     

    John and Nic were led into the conference room.  John was a big man, not in height, but he had the shoulders of a bull, a barrel chest, and the arms of a jackhammer operator, the gray hair on his balding head cut very short.  A Rolex on his wrist, Hugo Boss dark suit and blue Brooks Brothers shirt and tie.  He crushed John’s fingers in a meaty grip – but his smile was open and friendly.  Sol thought he looked like a GQ boy.  Norene’s thought was that he was more like a model for Mobster’s Quarterly.

     

    His son did not look anything like him.  Tall, thin, ash-blond hair, bloodshot washed-out blue eyes, thin lips, light-complexioned with the pasty face an alcoholic – he looked almost like an albino.  His mouth had a permanent sneer that gave him menace and he walked in with a swagger to let you know he knew he was entitled.  His only real color was his nicotine stained fingers.  John spoke first in his baritone voice.  “Hello, Miss Yaroslava, been a while since I’ve seen you.  I hear you are doing well. Sol, I can see you question that Nic and I are father and son.  We are, his mother is Scandinavian.”

     

    “Let’s get right to business. You’ve no doubt heard about the little dust-up that Nic got into with this Candy Pepper girl at Killpepper’s Night Club.  She’s just a normal stripper who saw a rich kid as a way to make some easy money.  Nic here tells me she got into the back seat of his pickup and they had consensual sex.  That’s all there is to it.  I have other attorneys but I thought it would be better to have a local man take the case.  Is that okay with you Nic?” Nic nodded his head, and then repeated the same story almost word for word in a coached high-pitched monotone.

     

    Sol said, “I had Norene pull the police report – I’d say that you would be in good shape except for the physical injuries sustained by the girl.”  “Means nothing,” said Nic.  “She told me she liked it rough and as we got into it she keep yelling for more.”

     

    Solomon held up the report. “It says she sustained facial and body bruises, a broken nose, and a dislocated shoulder.  Any explanation for those serious injuries?”  “Like I said, she kept egging me on,” said Nic.  “What about last year when there was a similar case over in Lander?”  “That case was settled and the records were supposed to be sealed,” said John.  I’ll bet Miss Yaraslova found someway to get a hold of the reports,” his face growing red.

     

    “Why don’t you just settle with this girl, and have her drop the charges?” Sol asked.  “We’ve tried but she won’t budge.  She’s mad as hell,” said John. “I wish I could help you,” Sol said.  “But I have a rule I have followed ever since law school – If I believe a potential client is guilty, I won’t represent him.  Nic here may be as white as the driven snow, and I could be wrong, but that is my decision.”  John jumped to his feet.  “I thought a good lawyer defended anyone who could pay him – everyone is entitled to be represented in court.”  “Yes, that’s true and I can give you several names here in town who will take Nic’s case.”  “That’s enough,” said John, but he took Sol by the arm above the elbow and gave it a forcible squeeze.  “You may think back on this meeting some day.”  Strangely enough it was said with no malice.

     

    Once they had left, Jacob asked Norene,  “How do you know these people?”  “About three years ago Nic came on to me in the Steep Drop bar.  After my second ‘No’ he started to get a rough when I told him I wasn’t going to a “Hot Pillow” motel with him.  I punted him in the gut and when he fell I put a spiked heel on his Adams Apple.  I told him the next time he came on to me, I’d make sure he would go through the rest of his life as a mute.  For good measure I put a little more pressure on his throat – understand he couldn’t speak for a week.  Got an apology and a gift certificate for $500 to Nostrum’s in SLC from his father a couple of days later.  I wouldn’t trust the Gianette’s as far as I can spit.  You are on his short list now boss, that squeeze on your arm was a Judas kiss; keep a good lookout.”

    Friday rolled around all too soon, and Jacob headed for Cheyenne with Norene as moral support.  He had just walked into at the Bar Association’s offices in the Wyoming supreme court building when the secretary opened the door and gave him a seat in the conference room.  In fifteen minutes, Swenson Hardy, the president of he bar came in with a man Sol didn’t know.  “Good morning Solomon,” said Hardy with a grim smile.  “Let’s get right to it.  Do you have any idea why we have called you in this morning?”  “Probably to disbar me,” he thought to himself.  “No, I don’t.”

     

    “Well as you can imagine it’s something serious.  This here’s Ben Millard.  He and myself constitute the disciplinary panel for the all attorney’s in the state – we report to the Supreme Court.  Solomon cringed, waiting for the hammer to drop.  We’d normally have three here but our colleague Joe Budd died last week; you probably heard about it – fool had too much to drink and rolled his car into the Green River, just south of Labarge.  Damned fool.  We need a replacement and you are it.  The newest member of the disciplinary committee of the Wyoming State Bar.  Any questions?”  Jacob thought to himself, quickly reviewing his dealings with other attorneys during the year. “ I’ve got as much confidence in the legal system disciplining its own as I do in fairy tales.”

     

    “Why me, I’m new, and just getting started in practice?” said Sol.  “Let me tell you how we pick our committee members.  We look at the roughest towns in the state and then pick a man from there that we think is a good fit.  You are a good match since you are from Rock Springs and from what we can tell, most of the attorney’s in town already hate your guts, so there is nothing to lose.  Plus you are a Jew and we’ve never had a Hebrew on the committee.  Fact is, I don’t think we’ve ever had a Jewish lawyer in the state.

     

    “It’s not a bad deal – pays $3,000 a month and an expense allowance.  Unless it’s an emergency we normally meet here once a quarter.”  “Do I have a choice in the matter?” asked Sol.  “Not in the least unless you are anxious to become one of our investigatees. No one turns these appointments down.  You can get off in three years.”

     

    “So welcome to the club. I’d dug up a copy of the Rules of Professional Conduct.  We’ll let you know when we have the first complaint.  In any event, let’s meet here in one month.  We usually come in the night before – head for dinner, drinks and cigars at the Bunkhouse Bar and Grill, then work a half-day and call it good.  We have an investigator named Butch Major who does all the heavy lifting – the committee members are not expected to get their hands dirty.  Butch is a former lawyer and comes up with evidence before we act.  He resigned from the bar and turned in his license – was using his trust account to gamble on line.  He made all his clients whole, one of the reasons why we hired him.  He’s smart, irritating and hates lawyers – just the right mix. He’ll show you some of the ropes.”

     

    As they left the room, Swenson Hardy said, “Sol, I’ve got a twin engine Cessna if you want me to fly over and pick you up before our next meeting.  We’ll buzz some pronghorn antelope – its fun to run them until they flip over.  Fastest animal next to a cheetah, a buck can do 55 mph on the level.”

     

     

    ******************************************

     

    Westley Duggins was furious.   It was late Saturday afternoon and he was headed for a line dance in Rock Springs that evening.  But his boss, Mr. Case Warren, was insisting that he ride up to the Outlaw Cave, some seven miles from road end.   He figured that the four single malt whiskeys his boss had downed were the cause of this stupid decision.  “I’d send you on the snowmobile, but it’s broke, so go get your horse ready. The last part is too steep and rocky anyhow – probably have to lead your mount.  You should be able to get up there in about an hour and a half riding at an even pace.  I’ve got a strong hunch those two lost heifers and their calves are in that cave – pretty sure I’m right.”  “Can’t I go in the morning?” said Wes.  “No, I want you to go right now.  There’s a bunch of wolves that lurk right along our border with Gianette’s Big G, and I just have a funny feeling about it.  Get going right now, the sooner you go, the sooner you’ll be back, although if they are in that cave and there is a sign of wolves around you may have to stay the night.  Call me on your cell phone when you get there.  “With obvious irritation in his voice, Wes said, “Well you’re the boss.”  “I was the last time I signed your paycheck, now get goin’.” growled Warren.

     

    A mile into the ride Wes was still cussing, the wet snow driving into his face.  “For hell’s sake, can’t it blow the other way for a change?” He’d long since accepted that nature neither favors one person or another but drives rain and snow with indifference on all, but he was still furious.  “This is total BS,” he said to himself, as he pulled his hat down tighter.  “I hope I find the cows and calves frozen.  If I thought I could get away with it I’d hold up somewhere for an hour and tell the old S.O.B. I checked and couldn’t find a thing.”  But he road on muttering to himself.  As he urged his horse down one gully and another, he finally got within 200 yards of the cave, where the pine and undergrowth were thickest.

     

    “Just as I thought,” he said to himself, “Not a damn thing.”  But then he heard growls over to his right.  “Probably some enterprising varmints eating the remains of the cattle.”   But then he heard growls over to his right.  “Probably some enterprising varmints eating the remains of the cattle,” he hoped.

     

    “We’ll guess I’d better look to see how many are down, but I’m surprised that a wolverine could take down a heifer.  Maybe they’re just cleaning up after the wolves.” He looked up to see a slash and a brand mark on an Aspen tree that showed he had crossed onto Gianette land.  He tied his horse and plowed through the snow with his flashlight held in front.  No cattle, but the wolverines had been digging into the ground.  When he pulled back the pine boughs he could see some sort of black cloth.

     

    As he got closer, he could see the cloth was really rubber or plastic with a cow bone sticking out.  He directed his flashlight down and pulled back the rubber and found he was looking at the bones of a corpse, the flesh peeled off from hand to elbow. “What the hell?” Jumping back and looking around, he called Mr. Warren immediately.  “What in blazes is a body doing there?”  “Don’t know boss, pretty spooky.  I think the wolverines dug up it up and had themselves a bit of a snack.  What do you want me to do? I got a funny feeling, something’s not right, I want to get out of here as soon as possible.”

     

    “I’ll give you a choice.  You can either stay there with the body and we’ll get someone out in the morning, or you can throw the corpse behind your saddle and bring it in.  Just wrap your poncho around what is left,” said Mr. Warren. “How about I just come back now and leave the body here,” said Wes.  “Nope that won’t work, wolves or some other animals will be back and there won’t be nothin’ left.”

     

    Wes cussed silently again.  “Okay, I’ll bring the damned thing in. Can someone meet me at Three Mile and take the cursed thing off my hands?”  “Yeah, we can do that.  Give me about an hour,” said Case.

     

    Three hours later the body was tossed none to gently onto the barn floor. Case Warren then called the sheriff’s office in Rock Springs.  No one was in on a Saturday night, so the call was routed to 911, but the supervisor advised him to just keep the body where it was.  Finally Case got a hold of the county coroner who told him to bring the body to the morgue.  He’d have someone there.

     

    Mr. Warren loaded the body in his Ford F250, cursing the whole fiasco, and set out in four wheel drive at 70 mph to Rock Springs, getting there just before 2:00 AM, snow blowing in hard from the south.  The grizzled older man who met him was ornery and irritated, and the two of them roughly jammed the bag containing the corpse into the old locker without a look.  Both quickly went their way with little conversation.

    The next morning the coroner wandered in, full of curiosity to see what he had, but the drawer was empty.  He tried all the other containers but there was nothing.  “What the hell?  Is this some sort of joke?”  He called his sometime assistant who verified that he and Case Warren had put a black bag containing a body in Drawer C.  He hadn’t looked at the corpse, but he could feel it was somewhat rigid and the body bag was ripped.

     

    “This makes no sense,” the coroner said.  I’ll get a hold of Case Warren and let’s get some answers.”  Warren called back and put Wesley Dugginson the phone.  “I don’t know a thing other than I could see a hand, wrist and arm with most of the flesh torn off – probably by the  wolverines.  Took me an hour to get the dang thing loose from the frozen earth.  I kept looking around the whole time. My horse was rearing and screaming like there was still something out there.  I can tell you I was damn glad to get away  – felt like there was a watcher in the trees.

     

    I covered the thing with the bag as best as I could, then put my poncho over the rest and roped it behind me.  The body was heavy – say 200 pounds – and stiff. Thought I might break some of the bones on the ride in.  Never looked at the face.”  “Me neither,” said Warren.”

     

    “Well this is a fine screw up,” said Lester Black, the coroner.  “Better call the sheriff and see what he thinks.”  He did just that, and Percel Hall, the sheriff, interviewed everyone involved.  He told each to be absolutely silent about this incident.   There were some marks on the morgue’s back lock which had been picked, but it wasn’t broken.  Then he got his deputy, and had Wes take them to the site – still a tough ride.  There was nothing to be seen since there was now another two feet of snow.  After digging around for an hour, they decided that there was not much to do until spring. Once again, the sheriff, who was up for election the following year, cautioned everyone to keep their mouths shut.  Of course that didn’t work.  Wes got drunk and told a friend of his, who spread the juicy story like grape jelly.

     

    Immediately there were rumors and accusations and demands.  The sheriff caught the brunt of the inquiries.  Smartly, he told the truth of what had happened.  His department was following all leads and would appreciate any help from the general population.  And he did tell the newspaper that the slab where the body had been kept was sprayed with bleach to remove any signs of DNA – they were dealing with intelligent criminals.  Norene told Jacob that this was the high plains ofWyoming, maybe the corpse had blown in from Kansas.  The sheriff asked the state for help and a seven-man search and rescue team went back to the grave site, but found nothing other than the depression in the ground.  Someone started talking about a serial cannibal, and a hue and cry was taken up to search house by house.  Nothing, nada, nobody seemed to know a thing.  The Feds and FBI were called in, but they also turned up nothing.  After three months, the sheriff announced that the investigation was continuing, and they were looking at new leads.  In reality, he figured it was space aliens, ghouls, or werewolves, and the case would never be solved.  He put all the information he had into a cold case file and closed his mind.  Besides, there was no one missing in town or the surrounding area.  The only other crime that night was the theft of Barney Stills plumbing van – never recovered it either.  Maybe the space aliens drove off with the body inside.

     

    Next Month -– Part Two

     

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