Tags

SEVEN

Wednesday morning I spent a few hours at the office sorting through
mail. I also started a new file for the DeMargio murder. I didn't know
at that point if the murder was connected in any way to the
disappearance of the old man and the little antique clock, but I figured
that for the time being I would consider them to be two separate cases.
In any case it looked like I was going to have to do some digging into
the DeMargio matter, if for no other reason than to cover all the bases.
About noon I grabbed a quick lunch and then headed up north in the
Plymouth to find the old man's place.

Pauly had said that the house was about two miles up on Pines. Once it
looked like I was in the right area I slowed down to about 15 miles per
hour and checked the houses on each side of the street carefully. After
passing about ten or twelve various mansions I saw a large dark brick
wall extend out to my left. Driving a little further I came to the gate,
a large, ornate, wrought-iron affair about twenty fee tall at its peak,
set between two large brick pillars. The left pillar had a bronze plate
on it, just like Pauly had described. The plate simply said 'Fischer.'
The gate being open, I drove in and up to the house following a long
curving driveway.

I had seen a lot of big expensive houses in Los Angeles, but after
some of what I had seen in Europe none had impressed me much. The
Fischer mansion was an exception. It was gorgeous, plain and simple. I
got out of my car and just stood there looking it over. It was a true
Gothic style mansion from top to bottom, with a high tower in the center
that resembled something you were more likely to see at a university
than on a home. Various bushes and trees grew along the front, along
with some vines that hung down from the higher elevations of the house.
The house represented more than just money at work. It was old-world
beauty transplanted to the shores of America.

I was standing there admiring the elegant windows when one of the two
large doors that constituted the main entry opened in front of me.

"May I help you?" a voice said from beyond the door. I couldn't make
out who was speaking due to shadows in the interior. I walked up.

"Is this Mr. Fischer's residence?" I said, as I approached the door.

"This is the Fischer estate, yes."

Standing now in front of the door I could begin to make out the person
inside. The first thing that occurred to me was that the man standing in
front of me could hardly have been Fischer, as he was far too young. And
it was doubtful that Fischer would have answered the door himself
anyway.

"I was wondering if Mr. Fischer would be home? I'd like to have a few
minutes with him, if he is not too busy. Or I could make an
appointment."

"I'm afraid Mr. Fischer is not at home" the man said. He didn't bother
adding any other information, and I could tell that he was about to
close the door on me.

"I represent Mr. Tony Rodriguez" I said, trying to make it sound as
classy as possible. "It seems that my client has come into some property
that we believe belongs to Mr. Fischer. Since the matter concerns some
money, I figure that it might be worth a few minutes of Mr. Fischer's
time. Or if he is not at home, as you say, then perhaps you could handle
the matter."

He considered the information for a minute, then opened the door wider.

"Come in, please." he said. "May I take your hat?"

"Uh, no, that's okay. I'll just carry it. Are you the butler?"

"My name is Jenkins. I'm Mr. Fischer's gentleman's gentleman."

"My mistake."

Jenkins seemed to be somewhere around my own age, mid-forties,
carrying approximately the same slightly muscular build as I did but on
a slightly shorter frame. He had a thick head of dark brown hair, combed
back and well-trimmed. He was wearing what I assumed to be his work
uniform, black slacks and vest over a long-sleeved white shirt. I didn't
know what his background was, but he certainly looked the part he
played.

"If you will just follow me, we can go where we can talk."

The interior of the mansion was as impressive as the exterior. I felt
like I was walking through an old museum, the Prado maybe.

"How long has Mr. Fischer owned this house, if you don't mind me
asking?" I said as I followed him down the long hallway.

"Mr. Fischer has been here for over thirty years. He had this house
built himself, brick by brick."

"It's very impressive" I said.

"That is most people's opinion. I think we can talk in here" he said,
opening a large paneled door on the left side of the hall.

The clock that had been left in Tony's shop I considered a curiosity.
It was old and elegant and no doubt expensive, but it wasn't the kind of
thing you were likely to see every day. The room that Jenkins led me
into made me feel like I was suffering from the delirium of some
narcotic. There were what must have been a hundred small antique clocks
in the room, a small museum's worth.

"Holy sufferin' shit" I said before I could stop myself, afterwards
thinking that the class impersonation was definitely over.

"Yes, Mr. Fischer is quite the collector. And there are more in other
parts of the house" Jenkins said, a tinge of pride to his voice.

"More? Are you serious? I would have thought that this was every little
clock ever made."

"Oh no, there are many more. But Mr. Fischer has no doubt one of the
best collections in the world."

"Mind if I wander around the room a bit?" I asked him.

"Of course."

I cruised around the room, stopping now and then to look at one or
another clock that I particularly liked. After a few minutes I decided
that I had better get back to business.

"You know, by coincidence I was over at the L.A. art auction place
recently. It seems that there have been a good number of antique clocks
sold in the past few months. I don't suppose that Mr. Fischer has been
selling any of his collection lately, has he? Either himself or through
an agent?"

Jenkins paused just long enough to make me suspicious.

"No, Mr. Fischer doesn't sell his clocks."

"Are you sure about that? Maybe one of the servants took a few of them
or something, tried to make some extra money?"

"I think I would know if that happened" he said.

I looked him square in the eye.

"Yeah, I think you would have" I told him.

I placed my hat down on a nearby table and looked at a few more clocks.

"Anyway, Jenkins, it seems that Mr. Fischer left one of his clocks in
my client's establishment. Probably an accident, just forgot it. That
was last week, on Wednesday. Has Mr. Jenkins been home lately?"

The question seemed to cause Jenkins some concern.

"Mr. Jenkins has been elsewhere since Wednesday."

"Elsewhere? And where exactly would elsewhere be, Mr. Jenkins?"

He was silent for a second.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you that" he said.

A few of the clocks suddenly began to chime the hour. Within a few
seconds every other clock in the room went off as well. The combination
of delicate sounds resembled the music of a dozen glockenspiels, but was
loud enough to drown out the sound of a car engine. It was a strangely
pleasant effect nonetheless.

The chiming began to stop, with a few straggler clocks adding their
little notes in at the end. After they had all stopped the room was
silent except for the ticking noises of the many clocks, leaving me and
Jenkins standing there looking at each other.

"What did you say your name was?" Jenkins asked me.

"I didn't say. But it's Maginess, Patrick Maginess."

"I'm not sure if I like the tone of some of your questions. It seems to
me that some of them have nothing to do with Mr. Fischer."

It was obvious that Jenkins was going to be what you would call an
uncooperative informant. It was also obvious that he was hiding something,
or at least that's what my intuition told me. I decided to get tough and
push him a bit. I pulled out a cigarette and flipped open the Ronson,
giving him an accusatory look as I lit the smoke. He didn't seem to like
either the look or the cigarette. That was good. I wanted to irritate
him a bit.

"So let's get back to Mr. Fischer, then, since you mentioned it. You
say you can't tell me where he is. Is that more in the line of you can't
because it would be improper? Or that you can't because you don't know?"

I could tell that Jenkins temper was beginning to crack the thin veneer
of sophisticated behavior that he put on. He just managed to hold himself
together.

"I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to leave now, please."

I tapped some ash out onto the floor, took another drag of the
cigarette and exhaled slowly, and put my left hand in my pocket. I
wanted him to know that I had no plans to go anywhere.

"Let me be direct with you, Jenkins. And I'm sure you can tell by now
that I can be a really direct guy when I want to be. I've got a clock to
get back to Mr. Fischer, and I'm going to keep digging until I find him.
Now if he happens to be off doing hell knows what with hell knows who,
that's okay by me. But I need to talk with him. Maybe you know where he
is and maybe you don't, but I want to know exactly what you know. Are we
clear on that?"

"I don't think that…"

"And I don't think that you quite understand your position here. I
can't find Mr. Fischer, and that bothers me. In the meantime there's a
guy lying in the morgue right now named DeMargio that seems to have a
thing for selling off antique clocks. And, hey, look what we've got
here. Antique clocks. Dozens and dozens of them. Clocks and a dead guy,
and one guy who I can't seem to find. You want to go on playing that
game, Jenkins? Or do you tell me what you know?"

He went over to one of the leather chairs and sat down. He took a deep
breath, and exhaled slowly.

"Now we're talking" I said. "Okay, first question. When was the last
time you saw Mr. Fischer?"

"That would be last Wednesday. He had his usual breakfast and then
asked me to drive him into town."

"One way or round trip?" I asked, pacing in front of him and smoking
the Pall Mall.

"One way. I took him to the coffee shop he liked. He said it reminded
him of home."

"This home, here?"

"Naw, no. I think he was talking about his old life. A long time ago."

"And you didn't pick him up. Because he didn't tell you to, I take it,
if it was a one-way trip."

"I just dropped him off. He did that on occasion. He would take a cab
back or something."

"Did he say anything about going out of town, on an airplane for
instance?"

"No. He didn't ask me to pack any suitcases. If he left town, it was
with the clothes on his back."

I circled around in front of him a few more times.

"And you haven't heard from him since. He didn't call or anything."

"No. Nothing. To be honest, I was getting kind of worried. The house
only has a certain amount of petty cash in the drawer for expenses. It's
just about gone, and there is staff to pay and items to purchase."

"Speaking of purchases, did you know DeMargio? Steve DeMargio?"

He tried to give me an innocent know-nothing look, but I could tell
from his expression that the name had registered.

"No. I don't know anybody by that name."

"You don't, huh? And so it's just a coincidence that he was selling
antique clocks, I guess."

"There are more antique clocks in town than these" he said sourly.

"Maybe, but most of them seem to be here."

I went over to an ashtray and stubbed out my cigarette, then went back
and stood in front of the chair again.

"What about a guy named Olsen. You know him?"

"I don't know anyone named Olsen."

"Or a girl named Brooke. You know her, maybe?"

"I know a Brooke that works down at the fish-market. She sells
fish."

"Fish. Somehow I don't think that's the right Brooke. Next
question. Who handles Mr. Fischer's money? Except for you, that is."

"He has an attorney. Aaron Stein. They go way back I guess. I thought
about calling him when Mr. Fischer didn't return, but I kept thinking
that Mr. Fischer would most likely be back at any time and that there
was no reason to worry."

"So how long were you going to wait?" I asked.

"Probably until the petty cash ran out. I didn't want to have to call
Stein unless I had to."

"And why would you feel that way?"

"I didn't want to have to tell Stein that I had lost track of the old
man. I was one of the people who was supposed to be looking after him.
Mr. Fischer is a very generous man. I will undoubtedly have a good
retirement bonus from him when I leave his service."

"And maybe you decided to take an early retirement by knocking him
off."

Jenkins grabbed the arms of the chair with both hands, shaking his
head back and forth.

"No, no" he said. "You don't understand the way things are here. I
live in a beautiful house. Mr. Fisher buys me a new suit every year,
tailor made, when he has my new uniforms done. I have a whole closet
full of suits. He bought me a car. It's not an estate car, I own the
title. I would never hurt the old man."

Something in my gut told me that he was telling me the truth. He might
have been lying about not knowing DeMargio, but I thought that he was
probably telling the truth about Fischer. I pulled out one of my
business cards and handed one to Jenkins.

"Give me a call if you hear from the old man. No ifs ands or buts. You
call me the second you see him or hear from him. Got it?"

He took the card, looked at it and nodded.

"See ya, Jenkins. I think I can see my own way out."

As I walked out of the house I thought about the life Jenkins must
live working for Fischer. He might not have as much free time off as I
did, and maybe he could never be quite as much his own man as I could
be. But on the other hand he did seem to have a good deal going for him,
more suits than I had, probably a better car, and at least some sort of
good retirement bonus going out.

"Maybe I should have been a gentleman's gentleman" I said to myself
and to no one in particular as I walked toward the car.

But I knew it wasn't likely. I could never be that gentle.

EIGHT

Aaron Stein's office was located in an old but still stylish building
over in Inglewood. The foyer was decorated in marble and sculptured
steel in the old style, with plenty of glass in the entrance to let
people know that a lot of money had gone into it. The elevator I took up
to the fifth floor was elegantly paneled and carpeted and loaded with
brass fixtures. This was one of the higher rent areas of L.A. for office
buildings, and with every square foot that I passed on the way to
Stein's suite my own office building seemed shabbier and shabbier.

Stein's office suite itself was large and rather sparsely decorated
with expensive furniture. It was partitioned in half by a low, dark-wood
railing behind which sat a very attractive black-haired secretary behind
a large Chippendale desk. She looked to be in her mid-fifties and wore a
beautiful though conservative black-and-grey suit of the newer sort,
with the short jacket and tight-fitting skirt down to the calves. She
gave me a practiced but nevertheless genuine smile as I walked in.

I took out a business card and handed it to her.

"Name's Maginess. As you can see, I do private investigations. I was
told that Mr. Stein represents Samuel Fischer, is that correct?"

She looked at the card and then placed it carefully at the desk.

"Mr. Fischer is one of Mr. Stein's clients, yes. May I ask what this
is concerning?"

It was obvious that the enquiry wasn't exactly a request. I had loads
of experience dealing with these top-line secretaries. I had learned
that it was generally best to lay it out directly to them.

"Seems Mr. Fischer left some valuable property in my client's
establishment. My client wants to get the property back to him. Only
thing is, nobody seems to know where Mr. Fischer is, exactly. I thought
that maybe Mr. Stein could tell me something about that."

"I see" she said. I must have made a half-way passable impression, as
she kept smiling.

"Do you think it would be possible for me to talk with Mr. Stein for a
few minutes?" I said, giving her my best smile in return.

"I'll check. Why don't you just have a seat and I'll see if he's
available."

I went over to some large leather chairs and tried to make myself
comfortable. The office was totally Spartan, and I could only guess that
was by choice. There were no paintings on the walls, no ceramics, no
bookcases of old books. There weren't any magazines lying around either.
The people that came into this office weren't the type that had to wait
around reading magazines. Except for guys like me, of course. I had left
my copy of STRANGE STORIES in my other suit. There was nothing to do but
sit there trying not to look too uncomfortable. After a few minutes it
occurred to me that there were no clocks, either. One might have thought
that given Fischer's collection that he might have given one to his
attorney at one time or another.

The secretary finally got around to me and picked up the phone. She
said something into it that I couldn't make out from my chair, and it
occurred to me that might have been another benefit to having the large
room with the chairs placed so distant from her desk. The secretary
picked up my card and walked into the inner office. In less than a
minute she returned, still giving me that professional smile.

"Mr. Stein will see you, Mr. Maginess. If you will just come this way."

She swung a small section of the wooden railing out and closed it
behind me. Then she led the way to Stein's office. The difference
between the reception area and the inner office was like night and day.
The office was lined with books, I supposed most of them law books, and
there were several prints on each of the walls. I immediately noticed a
small antique clock on one of the bookcases.

A short and rather stocky man who I guessed to be in his early sixties
walked out from behind the desk and extended his hand. He had a rather
old-fashioned pen-line mustache and an expensive three-piece suit that
was also a little behind the times.

"Mr. Maginess. A pleasure. Please sit down."

I took a chair in front of his desk, another but larger Chippendale.
Stein made no apologies for neatness. There were papers stacked all over
the desk. He spoke with a slight German accent, but it was evident that
he had worked hard to perfect his English. I only noticed it due to the
fact that I had dealt with Germans during the war.

"Thank you for seeing me. I suppose your secretary filled you in a
bit?" I said.

"Yes. But why don't you go over it again. You say you have something
that belongs to Mr. Fischer?"

"It most likely belongs to Mr. Fischer, yes. He left it at my client's
place of business. Most likely an accident. I tracked him to his home,
but it seems his man-servant or whatever you want to call him hasn't
seen Mr. Fischer since he visited my client. I was wondering if you knew
where he was or how I could contact him."

"I see. But no, that's news to me. I haven't heard from Mr. Fischer
for several weeks, in fact. You say he hasn't been home?"

"Evidently not" I added.

"He didn't say anything to me about going out of town or anything. To
be honest, he doesn't travel much anyway. Frankly, I don't know what to
make of it."

"Well it seems that the last anyone saw of Mr. Fischer was last
Wednesday at about four when he hired a taxi over in east L.A."

"Hired a taxi. Hmm. Jenkins usually drives him. Jenkins takes care of
just about everything for Mr. Fischer except for the cooking and
cleaning. So I take it you talked with Jenkins?"

"Yeah. He claims not to know anything. Evidently Mr. Fischer didn't
say anything to him about going anywhere and didn't order any suitcases
packed."

"Well I must say that is very odd, Mr. Maginess. If Mr. Fischer was
going out of town he almost certainly would have let me know. Everything
having to do with Mr. Fischer's large scale finances passes through me,
and I imagine that an out-of-town trip would have come through my office
first."

"Have you noticed if any sums of money have been drawn out of his
accounts lately? Say over the past two weeks or so?"

"I just checked Mr. Stein's accounts yesterday, in fact. No, there
haven't been any withdrawals. There seem to have been a few checks that
passed through, but those were dated earlier."

"And he has no other accounts that you know of?"

"No, none."

"Like, maybe one at First Western Savings?"

"I don't know about any accounts at First Western, no."

"Does Mr. Fischer have any other properties that he might have gone
and stayed at? Any business trips he was planning?"

"Like I said, no business trips that I know of. As for properties, take
your pick. He owns quite a few. There is another house in Sacramento,
but he leases that one. There is a small apartment in Vienna that he
inherited and still keeps open. But I don't think he would go there."

"Why not?" I asked.

Stein paused hard for a second.

"Would you care for a brandy, Mr. Maginess?"

"What the hell, might as well" I said.

He laughed and went over to a small table and poured two brandies.

"As you say, might as well" he said as he handed me my glass. He
returned to behind his desk.

"No, I don't think Mr. Fischer would go to the Vienna flat. I probably
shouldn't mention it, but there are simply too many sad memories there
for him."

"Sad memories? How so?"

"Well, that is an interesting story, Mr. Maginess. If you have the time
to listen to it."

"Sure. I love stories."

He sipped his brandy and thought for a moment, as if trying to decide
where to begin.

"Mr. Fischer, that is Samuel Saul Lowenthal Fischer, came from a
rather wealthy Jewish family in Vienna. His father was one of the first
to bring large-scale industry to the region. He owned a bank as well,
which was how he had raised the capital for the factories in the first
place. But that was before my time. By the time I met Samuel, he had
already divested himself of the banking part. But I get ahead of myself.
Would you care for a cigar, Mr. Maginess?" Stein held out a thin wooden
box. Even the box looked expensive.

"These were a recent gift from an associate of mine in New York.
Excellent macanudos, flavorful but very smooth."

I leaned over and took one. We spent a couple of minutes going through
the ritual of cutting the tips off and lighting them.

"I'm no expert, but this is one fine cigar" I commented after we had
puffed a bit.

"Thank you. Now, back to our story. Mr. Fisher was the third oldest
son in his family. The oldest son was Leonard. As it was back then, and
as it so often is even today in wealthy families, the first-born son was
the one who inherited the financial obligations. The second son, Nathan
Fischer, became a well-known physician in Vienna. As for Mr. Fischer,
there weren't that many options for him in those days. First of all, he
was third-born. Second, he was a Jew in a very anti-semitic city. But as
a child Samuel had shown an interest in history, and he ended up as an
academic. He taught for a while at one of the local universities and
published a few papers."

"Meanwhile, the turn of the century came and went. Samuel's father
died, evidently of old age. He was followed a year later by his oldest
brother and his mother, who evidently died of catarrhal fever. Then his
remaining brother died also, of a drug overdose. Samuel suddenly found
himself in charge of his family's estate. Now Samuel had no training in
business or economics whatsoever, but nevertheless he managed to do
well. War was looming in Europe, everyone knew it. The only question was
how soon it would happen. Samuel began to sell off much of the family
fortune and move it to safe investments in the United States."

"What did he invest in here, if you don't mind me asking?" I said,
puffing at the excellent cigar.

"Oh, mostly industrial stocks. I'm not at liberty to say which ones.
He also made investments in property here in Los Angeles, and up and
around Sacramento and San Francisco. He chose well. All of them have
yielded excellent long-term gains. Especially the property here. Los
Angeles has gone through a boom since the war, I'm sure you've noticed
it.

"Yeah, I can't believe the traffic. It's hard to see how it could get
any worse."

"But it makes no difference now, Mr. Maginess. Samuel is a rich man. I
don't even think another depression could change that at this point. But
there's more, if you would like to hear it. The sad part of the story."

"Sure" I said. I didn't know how relevant the information would be to
the case, but given the excellent cigar and the brandy I could have sat
there all afternoon listening to him.

"When Samuel was teaching at the university he met a young Jewish
woman there. They were both of the same approximate age and intellectual
predisposition, and as such they quickly fell in love. They married soon
after, and by Samuel's account were extraordinarily happy. A year later
they took a summer trip to a mountain cabin in the Balkans. On their way
back to Vienna they stayed in Sarajevo overnight. There was already
unrest in that area at the time, primarily due to the influence of the
nationalists. Coming out of their hotel on the way to a restaurant they
ran into a political demonstration held by one faction or another. The
demonstration was a few blocks away and as such they were not
immediately concerned."

"But then things turned violent for some reason or another. A few
pistol shots were fired into the air. The shots frightened some horses
pulling a carriage, and they bolted out of control. Samuel and Yonah
heard the carriage charging from behind them too late. Samuel tried to
pull his young wife out of the way, but she fell and hit her head on the
concrete walkway. Samuel held her in his arms. Within a few seconds, she
was dead."

"A sad, sad thing" I commented. We both sat in silence for a while.
Stein took a deep sip of brandy.

"Yes, a sad, sad thing. Samuel moved to the United States immediately
after the funeral. That's how I met him, we were on board the same ship
coming over. He was in the upper berths, of course, I was in the lower.
I was just a poor student who had finally passed his law exams and was
on my way to a new life. Samuel kind of took me under his wing. It took
me two years to pass the bar here, and while studying I helped Samuel
manage his investments. I helped him to learn English. Samuel knew seven
languages, but unfortunately English was not one of them. I had learned
English studying British law. Anyway, I'm his attorney even today."

"And he never married again? Or had any children?"

"No. He did not. He never could stand the thought of it" Stein said
glumly.

"Excuse me for asking this, Mr. Stein, but I'm sure you can understand
that given the circumstances I have to ask it. Who inherits Fischer's
estate if something would happen to him?"

"Well, I really shouldn't tell you that. But given as you say the
circumstances, I don't suppose it would hurt. Mr. Fischer's will
stipulates that all of his estate is to be given to this or that various
charity. I suppose that makes sense, given that he has no heirs or
living relatives."

"And what about you, if you don't mind me asking. Do you benefit by
his death?"

"I will be honest, yes, I do inherit a bit. But not as much as you
might think. Mr. Fischer financed a rather nice home for me a decade or
so back. The will states that the house should be paid off in full. I
also get a certain sum of money."

"Mind telling me how much money, Mr. Stein?"

He considered that for a minute, placing his cigar in the ashtray.

"You might as well know. I will inherit sixty thousand. That is
approximately five percent of Mr. Fischer's current equity here in Los
Angeles. It does not include his investments elsewhere."

"That's quite a bit of money, even so" I commented.

"I was his friend," Stein said simply. "Maybe his only friend. I'm
sure you can understand."

I decided to try a new line.

"Do you think it's possible that Mr. Fischer kept some money in Vienna
from the early days, money you might not know about?"

He seemed surprised at that one.

"I suppose, yes, it's possible."

"Do you think you could give me a list of Mr. Fisher's addresses? The
one in Sacramento and the one in Vienna?"

"If you think it would help," Stein said. He picked up the phone and
gave instructions to the secretary.

"Martha will have the list for you on your way out" he said, hanging the
phone up.

"Thanks, Mr. Stein. By the way, that clock over there on the
bookshelf. Did Mr. Fischer give that to you?"

"Yes, he did" Stein said, looking over at it with interest. "It was
one of his better pieces, I believe."

"I hate to be gauche, but is it worth a lot? I don't know much about
clocks."

"Hmm, I think it is worth about five-hundred. But that was a few years
back. It might be worth a bit more today."

"So, if you wouldn't mind telling me, Mr. Stein, what's the thing with
clocks? I mean, it seems to go way beyond just a hobby with him."

"I really don't know, Mr. Maginess" Stein told me. "But I think that
Samuel's obsession with them was just his way of getting his mind off
the past. Or at least that is the way it seemed to me. And as I said, I
was his friend."

It was time to put my cards on the table.

"Well, I have to tell you, Mr. Stein, what I have dug up so far seems
to indicate that Mr. Fischer might have taken a plane out of L.A. last
week. And he might have an account that you don't know about at First
Western. Either that or a safety-deposit box."

That seemed to hit Stein hard.

"I see" Stein said. He clasped his hands in his lap, almost as if in
mourning. "I was his friend. But Samuel was an unusual man. Maybe he
didn't tell me everything."

"One more question if you don't mind, Mr. Stein. And then I will be
out of your hair. Does Mr. Fischer have any connection with the Los
Angeles Aquarium, by any chance?"

"Interesting that you should ask that" Stein commented. "Samuel has a
rather large connection with the Aquarium. He's a major benefactor."

"So he goes out to the Aquarium occasionally, then?" I asked.

"He visits quite frequently, Mr. Maginess. He is on the board of
trustees. They have their meetings out there."

"And so Jenkins, he would drive him out for the meetings?"

"Well, I suppose so, yes."

I figured I had pretty much drained the well dry for the moment. I
stood up and put my cigar out in the ashtray next to the chair.

"Thank you for your candidness, Mr. Stein. You have my card. If you
wouldn't mind, I would appreciate it if you would give me a call if you
hear from Mr. Fischer. I think I have a clock with his name on it, so to
speak."

"Of course" Stein said, coming around the desk. He shook my hand once
again. "And please, why don't you take take a few of these cigars with
you. You might be the only person who cares about Mr. Fischer besides
myself. I can't thank you enough for that. You will keep me informed
also, please?"

I nodded to the secretary on the way out and she handed me a neatly
typed list. I folded the list around the cigars and put them into my
lapel pocket. Sixty thousand was a lot of incentive for murder, I
thought, as I waited for the elevator. But it didn't feel right. In the
first place, Stein had just spent almost an hour telling me a sad and
romantic tale about a friend. And you just didn't do that if you had
just buried the guy somewhere. On the other hand, given DeMargio's
murder I couldn't exactly rule out the possibility that Fischer might
have come to some sort of bad end as well, especially inasmuch as no one
had heard from him.

More importantly, there was Pauly's account that he had taken Fischer
to the airport. And while I had no evidence yet that he had actually
gotten on to a plane, there didn't seem to be any reason that Fischer
would just have gone out there only to remain in L.A.

In any case, I had a feeling I knew where Fischer had gone. Or at
least I knew where I would have gone if I had been him.

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