Mr. Pigeon

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Mr. Pigeon solves a problem involving a former Nazi prison guard.

Submitted: December 30, 2012

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Submitted: December 30, 2012

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Mr. Pigeon

Mr. Pigeon sat idly on the park bench and waited. He flicked bread crumbs out of a paper bag to a group of fat birds near his feet. He considered the meeting with his client. The young man had sounded privileged and demanding on the phone. It was unlikely to be an interesting case.

Most demanding clients who answered his ad were looking for an aggressive private detective or a bodyguard. Pigeon was neither. He wasn’t six feet four inches tall, and he wasn’t 250 pounds of rippling muscle. Mr. Pigeon was average height and weighed less than one hundred and sixty pounds. He did try to keep in reasonable shape, but not one of his muscles rippled. Worst of all, he was gray-haired and old. He was not an ordinary detective, and he didn’t do physical violence. What he offered was the wisdom of a long and eventful life, an excellent education, and his own odd ways of dealing with the universe. He was an expediter, a trouble-shooter, more than a detective. This he always tried to make clear, but it didn’t stop people asking him to help with their divorces.

This client hadn’t mentioned a divorce, but Pigeon still suspected he wanted an ordinary detective. Many clients did, so he kept some business cards listing the phone number of a reliable local example. This client only said he needed advice. That was what Pigeon did best.

He tried several times to imagine what sort of problem the client was bringing him. His favorite sort was where he listened, then dispensed amazingly brilliant advice that not only solved the client’s problem, but greatly improved the ozone layer. It had, unfortunately, never quite happened like that.

A sharp object suddenly pressed the side of his neck, interrupting his train of thought. “Give me your wallet, old man, or I’ll stick ya,” a tenor voice growled behind him. Mentally Pigeon shrugged, keeping his muscles relaxed as he reached into his inside coat pocket for his wallet. As he pulled it out, he opened the wallet and in one swift movement pressed the halves together backwards until he heard a faint snap. He handed the opened wallet to the thief.

“Nice of you to open it for me,” chuckled the voice. He felt the pressure of the sharp object ease and pull away.

“Not really,” remarked Mr. Pigeon, as a buzzing noise began behind him. He turned in his seat to see a badly dressed young man slumped on the ground. He was shaking violently. “It’s a variation on the tazer,” Pigeon said as he stood up and walked around the bench. “This is the fourth time I’ve been mugged in this park.” He picked up the man’s large knife, wedged the blade between the bench seat and the concrete supports, and snapped it. He picked up his wallet and put it back in his pocket. Then he rifled quickly through the thief’s pockets, pulling out a set of keys and a worn, leather wallet with a Batman logo embossed on one side. “You are an embarrassment to your hero,” he informed the man on the ground. The shaking was starting to fade. “You will feel much better in a few minutes.”

Opening the young man’s wallet, Pigeon pulled out the money and counted it. “Only twenty-seven dollars?” he asked. “That will barely pay for the handcuffs!” He pulled a set from an inside pocket, slipped one cuff around the young man’s wrist, then dragged him a few feet along the grass to a tall elm tree. Wrapping the handcuffed wrist around the trunk, Pigeon pulled the other wrist to him and cuffed it as well. From another inside pocket, he pulled a strip of duct tape, which he smoothed carefully over the thief’s mouth. He put the wallet back into the young man’s coat pocket.

Standing up, Pigeon surveyed his handiwork. “It is a little remote here,” he noted. “It may be some time before anyone thinks to help you. I left the key to the handcuffs in your pocket. While you wait you may consider choosing another livelihood. This one doesn’t seem to work very well.” He walked back toward the bench, then turned. “By the way, Arnold,” he said, “your driver’s license is out of date. You might consider getting it renewed.”

A well-fed, middle-aged man in a business suit was waiting by the bench. “Mr. Pigeon?” he asked. Pigeon nodded. “What’s wrong with him?” The businessman motioned to the thief.

“Tree-hugger,” said Pigeon. “Let’s walk.” He started walking on the path that wandered around the perimeter of the park. The man hesitated, then fell in alongside of him. “Tell me,” began Pigeon, “all about it. Leave out no pertinent detail.”

“My name is Jason Tweedman. It’s my grandmother’s problem, really. I’m trying to help her. She’s eighty-three. I want to get her into a nice nursing home, one of those half-care places—where the residents live on their own but get the extra help they need?” His voice rose at the end, as if he wasn’t sure Pigeon could understand this amount of detail.

“I am familiar with the concept,” Pigeon said. “Please continue.”

“She says she’d like to move, but she’s afraid. She’s convinced her neighbor is a murderer and wants to kill her.”

Pigeon sighed. “She went to the police, but they don’t believe her. They think she is senile, has poor eyesight, and only bothers them because she is starved for attention.” He stopped. “Tweedman, this is a job for a private detective. I’m an expediter. I don’t do protection.” He turned to walk away.

“Wait! You need to hear the rest.” Tweedman grabbed Pigeon’s sleeve. “Please,” he begged, “Just listen.” Pigeon nodded to him, then motioned that they should continue to walk.

“My grandmother’s a survivor of Ravensbruck—the Nazi concentration camp.”

Pigeon nodded. “Located north of Berlin. A women’s camp.”

“Yes,” said Tweedman. “Most people don’t know that.”

“I am old,” remarked Pigeon. “And I used to teach history.”

“She remembers this neighbor from the camp. She swears she was a guard named Else Muller. Now this woman lives two houses away, and my grandmother is both angry and scared.”

“What is Muller’s current name?” asked Pigeon.

“Ellen Wheeler. She says she’s from Milwaukee.”

“You have talked with her?”

“This morning. She does have a slight German accent. She said she was raised by her grandparents, who had emigrated from Essen and spoke only German at home. She is a widow. Her husband was in the Navy for twenty years, then retired and became a plumber. He died three years ago. She’s harmless.”

“I see,” said Pigeon. “What do you think you need from me?”

“I need to get my grandmother to move to the home. I saw your ad and thought you could, you know, listen and kind of hold her hand. Make her think someone is going to do something about this neighbor.”

“Well, I may be able to help.” Pigeon paused. “There are conditions. You say you read the ad?”

“Yes.”

“Then you know I work for a flat fee of one thousand dollars, in advance. I guarantee results, but I don’t guarantee what those results may be. I do what I think will work, without regard to any expectations. If I don’t fulfill what I believe is the contract, then I will refund the full amount. If I believe I have fulfilled it, whether or not the results are what you wanted, I won’t.” He paused again. “I may add at this point, that though I have had several clients who found my procedures uncomfortable, I have never had to refund the money.”

“I understand,” said Tweedman. “And I agree. Here is a cashier’s check for one thousand dollars.” He pulled out a check and a small piece of paper, and handed them to Pigeon. “Her address is on the paper. She’s expecting you.”

“All right.” Pigeon took the check and tucked it away. “Let me ask you a few more questions, beginning with the most obvious. Have you contacted the Wiesenthal Center? Or any other Nazi hunters?”

“My grandmother called their New York office. Else Muller committed suicide in 1963, in Argentina. Frankly, they didn’t believe my grandmother. They said their resources were stretched too thin to investigate this. They are satisfied that Muller is dead.”

“And so are you,” commented Pigeon. “You believe them.”

“Yes, of course.” Tweedman was indignant. “My grandmother is getting up there. She’s losing it. She belongs in the home. They understand about these sorts of things.”

“Undoubtedly. One more question, Mr. Tweedman. Who else have you told or consulted about your grandmother’s difficulty?”

“There isn’t anyone else to tell. The police don’t believe her, and the Wiesenthal Center doesn’t believe her. She called them. I only called you.”

“Very good, Mr. Tweedman. I think your problem will be solved within a week or so. Moving your grandmother should be much easier. Good day.” Pigeon turned and walked away quickly in another direction.

Once out of earshot, Mr. Pigeon pulled a cell phone from his pocket and pressed a number he had on speed dial. He spoke for a few minutes, ended the call, made another call that took less than a minute, and pocketed the phone. He sniffed the air for ozone and smiled contentedly.

Three days later headlines were screaming around the country about the Nazi prison camp guard who had been thought dead and was then discovered living comfortably in American suburbia. The FBI had her in custody, and she was being held for extradition to Germany, where she would be tried for war crimes.

Mr. Pigeon was meeting Mr. Tweedman in the park. He sat on the same bench, flicking bread crumbs out of another paper bag to what were probably the same fat birds. Tweedman approached. He did not appear happy.

“Mr. Pigeon, I want my money back!” Tweedman barked. “I thought you were going to listen to the old lady, then sweet talk her into the move, not start a publicity campaign!”

“Nonsense, Mr. Tweedman.” Pigeon seemed unperturbed by the other’s indignation. “I cannot help what you thought I was going to do. I fulfilled the contract. You wanted your grandmother to agree to the move. I simply removed the obstacle.”

“You called a reporter!”

“Exactly, Mr. Tweedman. It is what you would have done had you been thinking more clearly. You needed your grandmother to see that her problem was taken care of. You didn’t want to pay a detective agency to investigate. I merely contacted the only investigative agency I know that charges me nothing to do the investigation, would be very interested in your grandmother’s story, and has the power to draw the attention of government agencies who are institutionally too busy to look.” Mr. Pigeon smiled pleasantly. “I’ll bet your grandmother is willing to make that move now.”

“Willing to move? Of course she is willing to move—to a far more expensive retirement home! She has four separate talk shows in a bidding war for a personal interview. She’ll be able to provide for herself for years. I no longer have any say in it.” Tweedman paused to gather his breath. “What really bothers me is the cavalier way you risked her life. Suppose that woman had tried to hurt my grandmother for exposing her? Would that have been in the contract?”

“She did try,” said Pigeon quietly. “She tried that first night. Ellen Wheeler was frightened when you questioned her about her past. You told her about your grandmother recognizing her. After we talked, I called a friend who does security and sent him over to your mother’s house. When Wheeler saw a young man sitting on your grandmother’s porch, she passed by instead of entering the gate. Then she went around behind the house and found another young man on the back porch. She came back three times that night. When the FBI finally arrested her they found a handgun in her purse.” Pigeon drew a deep breath. “It cost me more than your fee to keep your grandmother alive long enough to be on a talk show, Mr. Tweedman, so don’t lecture me about not doing my job!”

Stunned, Tweedman stood motionless and quiet for a short time, then turned abruptly and walked away.

A tall figure stepped out of the trees and spoke softly. “I wanted to thank you for the other day, Mr. Pigeon—for what you did.”

“It was nothing, Arnold. Charlie tells me you did good work protecting that woman. He says you’re a natural at the security business.”

“He’s offered me a job, Mr. Pigeon. I’ll be working for him full time.” Arnold stopped, embarrassed. “I thought I should give these back.” He held out a pair of handcuffs.
“That’s very nice of you, Arnold,” said Pigeon, pocketing the cuffs. “Then I should return these.” He pulled out his wallet, and Arnold took a step back. Pigeon pulled out several bills and handed them to Arnold. “Twenty-seven dollars, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, sir. Thanks.” Arnold took the money and turned to go, then turned back. “Mr. Pigeon? I did renew my driver’s license.” He walked quickly off through the trees.

The fat birds were slightly disturbed by Mr. Pigeon’s quiet laughter as he continued to flick bread crumbs to them, but only slightly.


© Copyright 2018 Dan Crawford. All rights reserved.

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