The Sixth Man – Episode 14

thAB5JVP51A New Name

Charles Peterson Arnold,” Mrs. Bradford said. “CPA. You owned a Chrysler dealerships in Columbus, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, and Atlanta, Georgia. We‘ll call you Charles from now on.”

I know cars,” Charles said. “What else do you know?”

You have a wife, son, and daughter.” Mrs. Bradford said.

That registers nothing with me,” Charles said. “Are you sure?”

Look in the picnic basket, Mr. Joseph,” Mrs. Bradford said. “There is a brochure published by your dealerships. On the next to the last page is your picture.”

Charles removed the glossy brochure from the basket and thumbed to the back. He stared at the picture. He studied it. “I look slick,” he said. “That’s me, but it really isn’t. I’m not that person.”

Looks like you’re probably better off than me,” Mrs. Bradford said.

I still haven’t a clue,” Charles said and joked, “but for some strange reason I think I can give you top dollar on your old used car as a trade-in on one of mine.”

I think you should take some time before you jump back into the auto business,” Mrs. Bradford chuckled. “Stay with me a little longer, but you should definitely go visit your family. I cant‘ find anyone else who will work as cheap as you.”

How long have I been gone from them?” Charles said.

Three years,” Mrs. Bradford said.

Three years,” Charles said. “I don’t remember a thing. Sometimes I think I remember something. It’s like when you expect company and hear car doors and no one is there.”

Let’s gather things and head back home,” Mrs. Bradford said.

On the walk back to the car Charles said, “Mrs. Bradford, give me a budget to work with and I’ll arrange to have this place fixed up and the boat restored. I think the idea ought to settle in on me for a while before I barge in on them.”

What ever it takes, Mr. Arnold,” Mrs. Bradford said.

I’ll stay until the task is complete,” he said. “I sort of like the name Charles Paterson Arnold, but I’m confused; what does this all have to do with Indianapolis?”

Perhaps you live here at one time,” Mrs. Bradford said.

Perhaps,” Charles said.

2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

The Sixth Man – Episode 13

111023MM-PHOTO-5-2-Edit-L[1]Bradford Lake

Over the next month Steve had a driver’s license and was driving a Bentley for Mrs. Bradford.

The morning was cool. It was early fall. The leaves had begun to change and there was a liveliness to the morning. The glow of the sun off the leaves gave the appearance of warm embers on a crisp night.

After Mrs. Bradford’s morning coffee she prepared a meal in the kitchen. It was a picnic lunch; fried chicken, potato salad, corn on the cob, and an apple pie. Near noon she brewed a pot of coffee and emptied it into a thermos. She packed everything needed for a picnic in a basket and summoned Steve who was ironing freshly laundered curtains.

Could you put that aside for the time being and drive me out to the country for awhile,” Mrs. Bradford said.

Steve pulled the plug on the iron. “I’ll get the car and pull it around, Mrs. Bradford.”

I have a picnic basket on the kitchen table,” Mrs. Bradford said. “Take that with you and place it in the back seat.”

Where will we be going?” Steve said.

To a small pond purchased some years ago,” Mrs. Bradford said. “It will take us a good thirty minutes to get there.”

Steve drove with Mrs. Bradford in the back seat giving directions. At last they pulled into a lane paved with black top. Weeds had forced their way through it in some places and overgrown on the side of it.

Steve stopped the car near an old boathouse near a small lake.

Bradford Lake,” Mrs. Bradford said. “It is so beautiful our here. My mother and father used to come out here and motor on the lake.”

Is this my next project?” Steve said.

No, but I’m going to restore this place,” Mrs. Bradford said. “I want you to take charge of it for me. Hire people to do it. “There’s an old boat in the boathouse. It’s quite handsome. I suspect it needs to be restored. It’s been too many years to recount.”

Steve got out of the car and opened the door for Mrs. Bradford.

Grab the basket,” Mrs. Bradford said. She pointed toward the boathouse. “On the other side of the boathouse is a fireplace. Start a fire and we’ll heat the corn that’s wrapped in foil. There is a blanket in the trunk. You will find a sandy beach on the lake, spread out the blanket and we’ll have a picnic together. Would you like that, Mr. Joseph?”

Yes, I would,” Steve said.

They sat and ate slowly with interludes between bites talking about the warm sun, the mild breeze, the vibrant colors, and shimmering water. Mrs. Bradford spoke of old times long forgotten and only recalled because of the mood and pleasantness of the day. She seemed to drift to a gentle time of love, nostalgia, and romanticism.

Have you ever been in love, Mr. Joseph?” Mrs. Bradford said.

I don’t know,” Steve said. “At my present state I’m not sure of what it is.”

It is stronger than death, Mr. Joseph,” Mrs. Bradford said. “Even my husbands philandering nor death has ever diminished my love for him. Have you ever seen a pathetic sad looking dog. It needs somebody to care for him. That was my husband. Like a dog,” she smiled brightly, “he always knew who fed him and where home was.”

I think I know what you mean,” Steve said.

Not really, Mr. Joseph,” Mrs. Bradford said.

I don’t think you brought me out here to talk about love,” Steve said.

I hired a private detective to find our who you are,” Mrs. Bradford said.

Do you know?” Steve said.

Yes,” Mrs. Bradford said looking out over the shimmering lake.

Please tell me,” Steve said looking at her as if begging.

2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

The Sixth Man – Episode 12

Charley Sleeps Alone

I ran my father’s business while my husband philandered,” Mrs. Bradford said. “He was killed by one of his mistresses twelve years ago. He never did an honest days work in his life. He was kept man.”

What kind of business?” Steve said.

We were into wholesale building supplies,” Mrs. Bradford said. “I knew the business inside and out from my father and grandfather. After the death of my scoundrel husband. I turned the business over to our two sons who proved to be as worthless as their father. Fortunately long ago I invested in real estate. I‘ve lived like this to throw my sons off. If they knew the money I have they‘d be sponging off me. After running the family business in the ground they sold it for pennies on the dollar. One has a sheep ranch in Australia and the other owns a bar in the Canary Islands.”

That’s sad,” Steve said.

My daughter, Gwendolyn, is like me,” Mrs. Bradford said. “Except she choose well when it came to men, a business lawyer. They started a small corporation that purchased businesses that were losing money and turned them around and then sold them. What a team they are!”

Let me guess,” Steve said, “they were the ones who bought the business from your sons.”

Mrs. Bradford laughed. “Those two idiot sons of mine don’t know to this day and you figured it out over coffee.”

I know something else about you, Mrs. Bradford,” Steve said.

What would that be, Mr. Joseph?” Mr. Bradford said.

I’m sure in the business world you are tough and ruthless,” Steve said. “But you married for love, you stayed in love, and you love those idiot sons more than ever.”

She forced a smile over a face that was about to cry. “They struggle with a genetic problem passed on to them as my husband did. Their only chance at life is by means of me and so it was with Charley. Do you want to here something funny, Mr. Joseph?”

Sure,” Steve said.

Near the end of Charley’s days he laid in bed and kissed my hand so tenderly: a tingle ran all through my body. He said, ’In the after life I will be faithful.’ Don’t you think that’s touching?”

Yes, but it’s not funny,” Steve said.

Oh,” Mrs. Bradford said. “I haven’t got to the funny part.”

Next is death and generally that’s not funny,” Steve said.

On his gravestone it says, ’Charley, I know your sleeping alone now.’”

You’re kidding me,” Steve said.

Someday I’ll have you drive me out to his grave and I’ll show you,” Mrs. Bradford said. “But first we must buy a car. Can you help me do that?”

If there’s one thing I know, Mrs. Bradford, it’s cars,” Steve said.

Hmmm,” Mrs. Bradford said, “a CPA who knows cars.”

2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

The Sixth Man – Episode 11

thEI2U9WHXA Question For Mrs. Bradford

Steve returned and Mrs. Bradford showed him the room above the garage. During his absence she got it ready for him, although she apologized for it’s condition. It had not been occupied for ten years.

Will this be adequate for you, Mr. Joseph?” Mrs. Bradford said.

I slept in an abandoned car last night, Mrs. Bradford,” Steve said.

 

A month passed and the Bradford Mansion began to take on the form it once displayed. Steve did all sorts of gardening, repair, and domestic chores. There was little time for him to contemplate his lack of identity. The conversations between he and Mrs. Bradford were business-like, formal, but cordial. He was the hired help and she was the lady of the house.

At the beginning of each day she had a list of things she wanted accomplished. What he was not able to accomplish on one day was held over till the next. The list never became smaller. Steve thought she must lay awake at night and construct tasks for him. If he were any more of a man he knew he would have surely left after a week or two. But in some measure he found enjoyment in his work and likewise Mrs. Bradford was taking on a new sense or lost sense of purpose; she really enjoyed giving orders and organizing.

It was early morning. Steve walked to the sidewalk that laid a good fifty yards from the house. He grabbed the newspaper from the box and brought it back to the house. Mrs. Bradford sat at the dinning room table with her morning coffee. Steve placed the paper on the table to her side.

Sit, Mr. Joseph,” Mr. Bradford said., “and have your morning coffee with me.”

Another cup was at the table. Steve sat and Mrs. Bradford poured the coffee. She slid the cream and sugar close to his cup.

Am I fired, Mrs. Bradford?” Steve said.

She smiled. “No, dismissals take place in the den.”

That’s good to hear,” Steve said. “But sitting here with you does make me curious.”

I’ve been watching you,” Mrs. Bradford said.

I won’t take anything, Mrs. Bradford,” Steve said. “You can trust me.”

I know that,” Mrs. Bradford said, “that’s not what I mean.”

So you have been observing me,” Steve said. “That sounds better.”

You see, Mr. Joseph,” Mrs. Bradford said. “You know the difference between watching and observing. You are educated beyond high school and a serious person. Subtle things don‘t escape your notice.”

Maybe I was a CPA,” Steve said.

Why would you say that?” Mrs. Bradford said.

It just seemed natural,” Steve said.

You could have said brain surgeon or lawyer and that would have carried as much weight,” Mrs. Bradford said, “but you said CPA.”

Maybe I have tax problems,” Steve said.

That’s another clue,” Mrs. Bradford said.

Mrs. Bradford,” Steve said. “I have never asked, but what did you do before you became a reclusive old maid?”

You are bold,” Mrs. Bradford said. “I think you are a leader and people answer to you.”

You are avoiding my inquiry, Mrs. Bradford,” Steve said.

You are not only bold, but persistent,” Mrs. Bradford said.

My question, Mrs. Bradford,” Steve said.

2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

The Sixth Man – Episode 10

P1020340081212MYNEW60WICKERSUNROOMSET[1]Tea With Mrs. Bradford

Steve walked for a mile or so. He purchased something to eat from a fast food burger joint. He spotted an abandoned car on and empty lot and slept there for the night. He returned to Mrs. Bradford’s the next morning and continued his work without notifying her he was there.

At mid morning while Steve scraped peeled paint form window trim Mrs. Bradford called out from the side door, “Mr. Joseph, perhaps some iced tea?”

Steve stepped down from the ladder and wiped his hands. “That would be greatly appreciated.”

Steve stepped inside the side door. It was a sun room with plants and white whicker furniture.

Have a seat, Mr. Joseph and I’ll bring your tea,” Mrs. Bradford said. “Would you like it sweetened and with lemon.”

Steve hesitated. “Yes, of course.”

Is something wrong, Mr. Joseph?” Mrs. Bradford said.

No,” Steve said. “What you said had a familiar ring to it, but not sure where.” Steve smiled politely.

A moment later Mrs. Bradford returned with a glass of iced tea.

You mind if I sit with you Mr. Joseph?” Mrs. Bradford said.

Not at all,” Steve said. “It will be a pleasure.”

You have uncommonly good manners for a handyman,” Mrs. Bradford said. “Either you are a charlatan of sorts or a man with breeding and secrets.”

Steve sipped the tea. “Delicious, Mr. Bradford. You are a woman of perception.”

What have I perceived?” Mr. Joseph.

I have a secret,” Steve said.

Mrs. Bradford smile politely.

You seem like a nice lady who can keep secrets,” Steve said.

My family has a closet full of skeletons,” Mrs. Bradford said.

My name is not Steve,” Steve said.

Please don’t tell me you’re Jimmy Hoffa,” Mrs. Bradford said.

When did he disappear?” Steve said and sipped the tea.

Mid seventies,” Mrs. Bradford said.

It is strange,” Steve said. “I know Hoffa, but not my name.”

You don’t know your name?” Mrs. Bradford said and sipped her iced tea.

I came to Indianapolis based on a conversation in a bar,” Steve said. “I instinctively used the term Nap town in relationship to Indianapolis. I got a bus ticket and arrived here a few days ago hoping something might jog my memory, but nothing has. I spent time in the library looking at old accounts and pouring through old high school annuals and nothing.”

Have you contacted the police?” Mrs. Bradford said.

No,” Steve said. “If I’m supposed to be in prison or jail that would be like being in a box within a box. I’d rather not know.”

A missing person’s report may have been filed on you,” Mrs. Bradford said. “You may have family looking for you and worried.”

I’ve thought of that possibility,” Steve said. “But I can’t return to anyone unless I know who I am, because I’ve considered also that perhaps it is best I remain missing.”

Mrs. Bradford sipped. “That will be locked away in my closet of secrets.” She stood and left the room.

Steve leaned in his chair to see if she was going to use the telephone. She opened a desk drawer and removed an envelope. She walked back toward the sunroom and Steve relaxed in the chair as if he didn’t watch her.

Mrs. Bradford handed the envelope to Steve. “Inside is some money. Go buy some suitable clothing. I’ll not have rabble working for me. By the time you return I’ll have the room above the garage ready for you. Your wages will be one hundred dollars a week. You will have Sundays off and you will be expected to do everything I cannot. Room and board are free.”

Steve parted the envelope. There were several twenty dollar bills in it.

That is an advance,” Mrs. Bradford said.

Steve folded the envelope and tucked it in his shirt pocket.

Go immediately,” Mrs. Bradford said. “Five blocks, a right at the light, and another block; there is a men’s clothing store. You will find more suitable works clothes there.”

Steve pressed his lips, gave Mrs. Bradford a nod, and left.

2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

The Sixth Man – Episode 9

thQJW2CJCQSteve’s Job

He found the house and the shrubs he slept under the night before. The next morning he walked a short distance and had breakfast. He walked back to the property where he slept. It was a mansion. It showed signs of neglect, but there were signs that someone lived there also.

He went to the door and knocked until the door opened.

An elderly lady, perhaps in he mid 70s came to the door. She was tall, thin, and makeup was caked on he face. She wore a dress. It was long and the collar was high around the neck.

What can I do for you,” she said disdainfully.

My name is Steve Joseph,” he said. “I’m looking for work.”

Go find a job,” she said.

I couldn’t help but notice that your place is a grand place, but it appears to have been neglected for a while,” Steve said. “If you can just pay me a dollar an hour…”

A dollar an hour,” she responded sharply.

Two dollars,” Steve said.

Two dollars,” she said squinting at him, “I’m frugal, but not cheap.”

Ma’am,” Steve said. “I need the work badly and I don’t want wages to be the issue.”

For 8 an hour what do you have in mind?” she said.

Well I could start by pulling weeds and planting some flowers,” Steve said. “The yard could use a good mowing and some manicuring.”

Go on,” she said.

It looks like the gutters and downspouts could be cleaned out and repaired,” Steve said. “And I’m thinking you need the trim scraped and repainted.”

You’ll find everything you need in the garage,” she said. “It’s on the back of the property on the other side of what used to be a garden.”

Am I hired?” Steve said.

Yes,’ she said. “But don’t dillydally.”

Steve worked until the sun fell below the maples to the west of the property. He knocked on the back door and the woman appeared quickly.

Ma’am,” Steve said. “I’ll be back to tomorrow. If you like I can clear the garden. I don’t think it’s too late to start one.”

I’ll be expecting you,” she said.

What time shall I be here?” Steve said.

I’m up at six,” she said, “Seven would be a good time.”

Very well,” Steve said. “I’ll be here then.

He turned away and started to walk down a brick sidewalk toward the street.

Don’t you want your pay,” she said.

Not till my work is done,” Steve said. He smiled and nodded. “Have a good evening Ma’am.”

You may call me Mrs. Bradford,” she said. “I’ll do so, Mrs. Bradford.”

2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

The Sixth Man – Episode 8

6036453865_2f02d9874b_z[1]Clueless In Indianapolis

Steve got off the bus in Indianapolis. It was near midnight. He walked out to the street and looked around. “You can’t tell anything by the night,” he thought. He walked back into the bus station and fell asleep on a bench.

The morning brought a light drizzle. He found a coffee shop and had breakfast. He walked aimlessly for blocks. There was nothing familiar about Indianapolis.

As Steve walked something came to his mind. When he looked at the newspaper from the man in Des Moines he quickly calculated 37 years. What happened 37 years ago?

Steve found the public library and started looking at papers 37 years ago. No headline or picture jogged his memory as he slowly ran reels of microfilmed newspaper through a projector.

It was night and he was asked to leave. He was hungry and mentally exhausted.

He bought a sandwich at a convenience store and a can of Coke. He sat on a bench in front of the store and ate. He finished and walked through an old neighborhood with large houses.

“Old money,” he said.

He found low hanging shrubs and crawled under them. He curled up with his duffle bag as a pillow and quickly fell asleep.

He woke the next morning to the sound of garbage trucks and after breakfast at a café walked back to the library. This time he poured through old yearbooks that were at least 37 years old. He was hoping for a name, a memory, a face – something. There was nothing.

As he walked from the library and down the street he was certain that Indianapolis had a place in his memory. He hoped it held a clue. On the other hand he was tortured by thinking that perhaps he may have only known someone from Indianapolis who talked about it at length and it suddenly instinctively came to mind while overhearing a barroom conversation.

A thought came to his mind, from where he did not know. “The harder you try to remember something, something in the subconscious tries to push it further away. But how can I not try hard, I’m obsessed with knowing who I am.”

“It sounds like the talk of a psychologists,” he thought. “Perhaps I was under the care of one or maybe confined to an institution.”

For the next hour he spent his time in a phone booth calling mental health facilities and institutions and inquiring if they had someone missing. All were present and accounted for.

“I was here,” he said to himself leaving the phone booth. “I know I was here. What are the odds of coming across something that might jog my memory? It is too small to calculate; I have a better chance of being stuck by lightening twice in the same day.”

Another hour of aimless walking produced nothing but tired and sore feet. “At present I have no place else to go. I guess I’m stuck here. I’ll stay until compelled to leave.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories