Book: Ask the Right Question

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Monday morning brought business: A nine o’clock call to serve a stack of subpoenas. For some reason I said yes and by ten I was on the trot.

I guess I was trying to get away a little. Sure I was still on the Crystals and the Grahams, but I wasn’t happy about it.

Basically because the drift seemed to be away from the fifty thou, not toward it. I was so much happier when things looked like taking the money. Maybe I took the subpoenas so that I wouldn’t succumb to the recurring urges to go and cash the check.

How could I stop at the bank if I was busy with subpoenas?

What was so special about me that I wouldn’t take, the money and run?

I guess just that I had some money once, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Or maybe the thought of getting money again opened up the mental possibilities of getting some of the other things back again. Like my daughter.

At one I permitted myself to stop for lunch. By pie time it occurred to me that what had seemed so strange a couple of nights before was not all that strange. Dr. Chivian. What would really have been strange would be if his signature had appeared on death certifications in France and Indianapolis a week apart.

But ten years? It’s a lot of time.

And it began to fit.

Suppose Crystal knew Chivian in France, as well as Joshua. Suppose Crystal and Chivian got along. Suppose, when Leander found he was sterile, or suspected it, he contacted Chivian to make the tests because he could count on Chivian’s keeping the results quiet. It fit with the abrupt change of doctors which had shown up in Fleur and Leander’s medical files. Chivian arrived and stayed on as their family doctor. And Chivian had happened to be around when Estes breathed his last.

Not bad for a guess.

No, not a guess; a deduction. Very classy.

After I paid for the eats I checked a phone book for a Henry Chivian, MD.

There was none. Not even a plain Henry Chivian.

You can’t win them all.

I let it go. Till three, and two subpoenas filled the time.

By the time I got back to the office I was more or less resigned to starting on the kind of job I hate. Wading through the minutiae in all those pictures from Crystal’s office. It was the only thing I could think of to find Chivian. I presumed that he was somewhere in the area, or at least had been some fifteen years before. Probably he still was, because Fleur and Leander had not returned the bestowal of their patienthood to Fishman, fils. They might just have gone to some other doctor entirely; certainly I had not found Wilmer Fishman the most charming individual I had ever encountered, though he still ranked above Numb Nuts. Still, Fishman was thriving and it was reasonable to assume that he had picked up enough bedside manner to retain his father’s patients, all things being equal.

So I assumed Chivian was in the general area. Where? I could ask Leander. Or some other Crystal.

Scratch that. I prefer not to stir the fire under the foot until I have nothing else to do.

I could go to the library and go through phone book after phone book in the Indianapolis area. They have them. I could get as far away as Chicago, Detroit or Cincinnati that way. If you live near an airport there it can be faster to Our Town than driving from Evansville or Fort Wayne in the state. But leafing through phone books is highly inefficient.

So I gambled that there would be some record of Chivian in Crystal’s records. Fair enough. One presumed that with Crystal the rich one, there would be some recorded flow of cash from Crystal to Chivian.

A pot of tea and an hour and a half later, I found it. The things that take the greatest amount of time in this business are the ones that can be most easily summarized. “I studied the financial records until I found some checks made out to Henry Chivian, MD.” A thing like that could stand for days of work; this can be the dullest job in the world.

But at least it’s work you can do while listening to the radio. Like baseball, if there were any baseball on the radio in Indianapolis. The tenth largest city in the country, and no major-league baseball. Just the Indianapolis Indians, perpetual triple A farm club, community-owned. When I was younger, just out of college the second time, my mother bought me a share of Indians’ stock, symbolic of her wish that I come home and settle down. But those were the days when I had major-league aspirations. 1956 it was, and the stock cost ten dollars. The next year I got a free ticket to a game as my dividend. Now, fourteen years later, I get memories. Since big-league basketball and the Pacers came to town I’ve become a basketball man. That Roger Brown!

A few minutes before five I found the series of checks paid to Henry Chivian. Two items of interest: first, that the recent ones were deposited in a Lafayette, Indiana, bank, which probably located him for me. “Recent” was from 1957. The ones before then were cashed or deposited in Indianapolis. The Chivian theory upheld.

Second, the checks were issued very regularly and since the move to Lafayette, they were sent twice a year. On the order of five thousand dollars in ’57 growing to fifteen thousand dollars in 1970.

That could mean only one of several possible things. Unfortunately, I didn’t know which one.

For instance, it was not a lot of money for someone to hit a man with Leander Crystal’s resources for. If it were payment for covering up anything.

It was also not a large amount of money for a doctor to move to an area for, not if he had any class, and somehow I figured that to deal for so long with Crystal he had to have some class. But it was a nice annuity, and maybe he was an obliging, unambitious fellow.

Why did I assume that anyone dealing with Crystal had to be ambitious?

It also occurred to me that it might mean that someone in the Crystal household was a junkie. Fleur presumably.

And why Lafayette? Why not Indianapolis? Surely it’s a big enough town to insure secrecy, if that’s what was desired. Crystal had proved that in his “Ames” office. Of course the decision had been made in the late fifties, but Indianapolis was still pretty big then, over four hundred thousand. Maybe there was some nostalgia about the old days in France, and the name Lafayette.

I nearly thought myself past five o’clock. But not quite.

I got the phone, asked for and got Chivian’s office number from Lafayette information and then dialed direct.

I got a very kindly voice saying, “Doctor Chivian’s office.” Very kindly. Like young and pretty and, well, kindly. I asked her for an appointment, which she correctly took to mean with the doctor.

“I can give you next Monday at two o’clock.”

“I was hoping that I could have it sooner; I mean, would it be at all possible to squeeze me in tomorrow afternoon?”

“May I ask the nature of the problem you want to discuss with the doctor?”

“It’s, well, it’s a male problem.”

“I understand.” She understood! “If you can come in tomorrow at about two, we’ll try not to keep you waiting too long. May I have your name and address please?”

I nearly blew it by calling myself Henry. “It’s Harry, that is, Harrison Keindly.” I spelled it for her. “But everybody calls me Harry.”

“All right, Harry, you come in tomorrow around two. Thank you for calling.”

Very kindly. Now and then, a voice just seems to do it for you. I spent dinner wondering what I should wear.

My postprandial preslumber period I spent very virtuously working in the office. Going through Crystal’s tax records and bills. I picked up each photograph, studied each sheet through my magnifying glass and tried as hard as I could to figure out what the hell it could possibly mean.

I didn’t do very well. My familiarity with the paper trappings of money is rudimentary. When I was involved in such things, for my brief period of affluence in the late fifties, I had a tax accountant to do all that stuff. I just signed. I was fighting the crowd I found myself running in, professional people of all sorts except finance who spent all their time talking about the manipulations of money. I fought them successfully; all the way home to Indianapolis. It’s another reason I hesitated over starting to go through Crystal’s stuff carefully. It sort of meant more to me than itself, but once started.…

I found three pieces of information I recognized. Deeds and purchase agreements to two properties and records of sale of a third.

The sale was the property “known as Graham House” on North Meridian Street. It brought the tidy bundle of $96,500 in August, 1955. At about the same time the house at 7019 Jefferson Boulevard was bought for $58,000.

The third property I was also familiar with, a house on Fiftieth Street on a 47- by 64-foot lot. Mrs. Forebush’s house. Crystal bought it in September, 1953. He paid thirteen thousand dollars. That seemed high to me. Not far off what the house would bring now.

Attached to the deed were bills for adding an electric opener for the garage, landscaping to the extent of adding tall shrubs, and inside the house, cleaning it out, installing furniture, twin beds, and new locks on all doors.

Very ambitious. I could understand it, the deed and the improvements, I mean, if not exactly why. It occurred to me that Mrs. Forebush might have some wisdoms on the subject.

It also occurred to me that for several hours I had not given a thought to the fifty thousand dollars.

I was pouring a glass of orange juice when the phone rang. It was Leander Crystal. He did the talking.

“I’m sorry to bother you at this late hour, Mr. Samson, but I was thinking about you and it occurred to me that I might have overlooked something that might be worrying you. The matter of the check I gave you. If you would prefer, and I think you probably should, I can give you all or part of the money in cash.”

“That’s a lot of money to have lying around the house.”

“I don’t mean to be gross, Mr. Samson, but when there is a certain amount of capital around, such things can be done fairly easily.”

“I see. I appreciate your telling me. That isn’t what has been holding me up, though I probably would have got to it.”

There was an intratelephonic pause. I sensed he wanted to speak and was trying to find the words. He found them. “Again, I don’t mean to apply even the slightest pressure, but I wondered if I might be of any assistance in resolving whatever it is that is holding you up.”

“Now it’s my turn to want not to be gross, Mr. Crystal. But to be frank I have never been bought off a case before and I am the sort of person that I have to be absolutely certain that it is what I want to do.”

“I see. In fact, the delay should be a comfort to me. It is a testimony to your scrupulousness. Well, shall I leave it at this? If you have any questions that I can help you with, or if you want to talk about the matter I called about, then call me.”

“I shall.”

“I just want you to know, Mr. Samson, I appreciate a man with scruples.”

“So do I, Mr. Crystal.”

I adjourned for the evening, I spent so long daydreaming about little cottages by Kentucky lakes and adjacent vegetables gardens and tax-free dollars that it took me until past one in the morning to understand that he was sweetening the pot by implying that my “scruples” might lead to subsequent employment and financial benefit.

By the time I got to wondering if he was a member of the Mafia I knew that I had hit bedtime. I mean, Fleur on drugs was one thing, but me becoming a gangland pawn was another.

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