Friday, March 18, 2011

It's Not Bliss

Ignorance: the root and stem of every evil.

One problem with ignorance is that there isn't a single individual on the face of the earth who isn't guilty of it. We are all ignorant of most things. Another problem with ignorance is that it is not simply a hole in one's knowledge. Ignorance can be a very complex and messy thing.

There's the ignorance of not knowing. There are things I don't know but I know they are there to know if I care to find them out. Then there is the ignorance of not knowing and not knowing that you don't know. That's a case where I don't know something but I don't know it's there to be known.

I know there is a great restaurant somewhere around here, but I don't knew where it is. Or, I'm hungry and I wish I knew if there was a good place to eat around here, but I don't so I'll settle for a greasy hamburger.

Then there are those who are ignorant and happy in their ignorance. That's a combination of ignorance and arrogance. A deadly combination. There is a joke that has been floating around lately. Question: What's the difference between ignorance and arrogance? Answer: I don't know and I don't need to know.

Then there is defended ignorance. That's when I resist the attempts on me to be educated about something. I knew a guy who refused to watch any educational or cultural program on TV. He hated them. He would rather turn it off and sit in the room drinking beer with his buddies than to learn something about the world at large.

But the worst kind of ignorance is ignorance that doesn't know it's ignorance. It's pot and kettle ignorance. It's based on opinion not fact, on reaction not reason and on emotion not thought. It's the kind of ignorance that says I'm right and everyone who disagrees with me is just plain ignorant. It's the kind of ignorance that's practiced with lightening speed and rapier effect by some members of our representative government these days.

The sane thing to do is to face our own ignorance, find out what we need to find out and not worry about someone else's thoughts, if they have any.

DB - The Vagabond
(This is not a contest)

What was the most significant event that happened in 2010?

Will you people get your act together and answer this question, please?
Only 9 responses so far. Winter is almost over.
What happened to old Jasper Fingerhut?

A murder mystery in 7 sections.

Section 1

The police came soon after Brett Salazar called them. He had called to report seeing a man floating face down in a quiet part of the Borden River. A police wagon soon arrived and they fished the man out of the water He was dead.

The man was old, barefoot, wearing large brown corduroy trousers and a tattered and torn blue shirt. There was nothing in his pockets. He had a large metal cross around his neck and on his left middle finger a ring in the shape of a skull with a small green stone in the left eye socket, the other socket was empty. No one recognized him.

Doctor Skinner, the Bordentown Medial Examiner, received the corpse to begin his examination. He was to determine time and cause of death and any other important information he could find about the mysterious dead man.

While this was happening Boris Klipton, Professor of Art History at Bordentown State Teachers College, was way upstream. Sitting by the river, he was working on his latest book. It was an account of recent unsolved art thefts.

During his interview with Detective Rice Turner, Brett Salazar, testified of hearing four gunshots in the distance long before he saw the body. When Detective Turner asked him what he was doing at the river, Brett answered that he was planning to fish but had forgotten his fishing gear and was about to go home when he spotted the dead man floating in the water.

Section 2

At around 3 p. m. Professor Klipton gathered up his papers, put them in his briefcase and got back in his car. He noticed some lint and bits of cloth on the seat, brushed them off on to the floor, put down his briefcase and drove to Sam's Place.

Sam Nevitt opened his general store and gas station about 25 years ago. It was on the outskirts of town, away from all the bustle, which is the way he liked it. He would get business from folks leaving Bordentown on their way home and others who were passing through. He did a good business.

Sam was a good man, but he had one nasty habit. He liked to go down to the river with his rifle and shoot birds.

When Professor Klipton arrived he found Hank, Sam's part time help. When asked Hank didn't know where Sam was but thought he was probably out shooting. Klipton filled up with gas, bought a few items for his dinner and drove home.

The dead man came to Doctor Skinner's office in a body bag. He and Ivan, his assistant, opened the bag and as they did Skinner immediately put a large towel over the dead man's face and upper body. Then he dismissed Ivan for the day and went to work.

section 3

Detective Rice Turner didn't speak often, he seemed to others to be bored with life. That was a mistake. He was very well educated. He had a PhD in Economics from Yale and a law degree from Princeton. He was Phi Beta Kappa and a Mensa member. He was looking forward to a career in government whn he discovered he had a genius for solving problems. That soon became criminal investigation. He settled.

Signing, he opened the report from the Medical Examiners Office. Reading through it he discovered that the dead man was between 70 and 75 years old, approximately. and in reasonably good health for a man his age. Doctor Skinner had removed three 22 caliber bullets from the body, one from the shattered right shoulder, one from the right ventricle and one embedded in the large intestine. All the bullets had entered the body from the right side of the back. There were severe bruises around his neck. There was water in his lungs and a strange substance in his blood stream which Skinner had suspected was poison. He sent it on to the police lab for analysis. Time of death was between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. Cause of death: strangulation.

Attached to the report was an advisory. Skinner thought the body should be buried as soon as possible. He didn't say why.

Presently the report came from the police lab confirming that the substance in the man's blood was arsenic.
Section 4

Detective Turner hated to look at dead people even though he had seen many in his career. Nevertheless, accompanied by officers Rourke and Minetti, he went to the morgue. The cadaver was laid out on a table. Dr. Skinner had done a sloppy job putting it back together but Turner could see that the man had been in his seventies. He had long hair and a long beard, very gray.

Officer Rourke said that they should locate the next of kin if there was any, but since they didn't know who he was it would be hard. Turner told them to take photographs of his face, front and sides, take them around town and see if anyone recognized him.

Turner lifted up the dead man's beard and uncovered two pieces of the puzzle. One, the bruises around the man's neck did not seem as severe as the doctor had said, particularly for one who had been strangled to death. And two, somewhere between the time he was removed from the river and this moment, the large metal cross had disappeared from his neck.

When Professor Klipton returned to his home he put his briefcase down next to his computer, checked his watch and took a shower. About an hour later someone rang his door bell. He opened the door. Without a word a man handed him a large, thick envelop, then turned and walked away. Klipton didn't open the envelop. He knew what was in it. Two hundred thousand dollars. His commission.

Sam Newitt leaned his unloaded rifle down against a chair and unbuttoned his shirt. Roy, his gay lover, was waiting for him in the bed.

Section 5

Detective Turner reread Dr. Skinner's report. He looked in the evidence bag, found the dead man's clothes, a tattered blue shirt. underwear and corduroy trousers, no shoes or socks. He found a ring in the form of a skull, and a smaller bag containing three bullets, but no cross.

He made a phone call, then filled out a police form assigning the body to himself and went home for the day.

Early the next morning Sam left Roy in the bed still asleep, dressed, took his rifle and went off to open his shop.

The police lab had made about six copies of the dead man's photographs and some of the officers set out to interview anyone they could find who might recognize him.

When Detective Turner arrived at the police station he got Officer Minetti to help him get the cadaver back into the body bag. Then the two of them carried it out and put it in the trunk of Turner's car. He got in and drove to Farmington.

Professor Klipton had put the envelope with the money into his safe with the other envelopes and went off to his job at the college, two towns away. He wasn't home when the police came around with the picture of the dead man.

When Dr. Skinner arrived at his office Ivan was cleaning things up. Skinner said he would be gone for a while he was going to take a drive. But just at that moment they brought in two more bodies. The police wanted a rush job because thee might be a crime and if so there would be a third person involved. One of the bodies, a woman, was badly beaten. So Skinner sighed and went to work.

It was mid day when turner got back from Farmington. He drove to Dr. Skinner's office to ask him some questions. When he entered Skinner was at work carving up a cadaver. Turner noticed some mounted deer heads on Skinner's walls and asked if Skinner was a hunter. Skinner replied that most of the men around those parts were hunters. Turner also asked if Skinner knew anything about a large metal cross that was around the dead man's neck when they pulled him out of the water. Skinner said he had no knowledge of it. Turner believed he was lying.

Back at the police station Turner was informed that in the whole town there was no one who recognized the dead man. Turner asked how far they went looking and was told everywhere except Sam's. Who is Sam, he asked. They told him it was far out of town but had some local business. Let's go talk to Sam, he said.
Section 6

When Detective Turner and the officers arrived at Sam's place, Turner showed his badge and Minetti showed Sam the picture. He identified the man as old Jasper. Sam told them he lived way up in the woods somewhere, by himself Sam figured. He told them there was a dirt road about a mile further down the highwasy and that he might be in there.

Sam also said "Jason was a nasty character who kept telling me I was a devil and a miserable sinner and God hates me and I'm going to hell, because he knows I'm gay. He used to shout at me in some strange language I didn't know. I threatened to pop him one day if he didn't shut up."

"Did you pop him?" asked Turner.

"No. Why?"

"He's dead." Sam seemed genuinely shocked and surprised. At least Turner thought so.

Boris Klipton finished he morning class and went to his office. He made a note on some papers and looked them over. "One more" he said. All the evidence of his involvement had to be secured before he could wrap it up.

Ivan noticed that Skinner was unusually nervous as he worked on the first cadaver. He was impatient and was barking out commands to Ivan who was trying to do his best.

When Turner and the officers reached Jason's place the first thing they saw was a van with the windows painted out. Around the side they saw pens of chickens and rabbits. Turner knocked on the door. He wasn't expecting an answer. He tried the door it was unlocked. When he opened it there was a hissing noise and a large rattle snake was writhing on the floor ready to strike. Officer Minetti grabbed his pistol and killed it with two shots. He kicked it to make sure it was dead and threw it outside.

Jason's shack was two rooms with a barn attached. The furniture was simple but of good quality. In the corner they saw and glass case tipped over, where the snake usually lived, they thought. There was a table and on it an envelop addressed to Jasper Fingerhut After inspecting the rest of the room they entered the second room which was a bedroom. On the wall was a wooden plaque with writing on it.

"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them' they shall lay on the sick and they shall recover."

At the back of the room there was a curtain and behind it a large metal door which they thought led to the barn. There was no handle on the door but there was a large square hole at the side of it where a handle and lock should be.

"I've never seen a key hole like that" said Rourke. "Maybe we should get our locksmith up here to see if he can open it."

"I don't think that will be necessary." said Turner.

Back at the station Turner immediately sent out an arrest warrant.

Who or what killed Jasper Fingerhut?
Section 7 - The Conclusion

Professor Lipton was in his office when the phone rang. The call lasted about 20 seconds. He hung up, gathered all his papers together, put them in his brief case. canceled his afternoon class, got in his car a drove quickly to the Bordentown Police Station.

He had to wait because Detective Turner was with Judge Francis Warlock obtaining search warrants for the premises of various suspects. When he returned to his office Boris Klipton handed him a piece of paper which said the Professor was on special assignment for the FBI aiding them in an investigation of the International Art Theft Organization. Turner learned that Klipton was acting as a middleman between the theives and the buyers, that he was writing a book about the experience, that he is paid good commissions for his labors all of which he keeps in his safe to be used as eveidence when the sting operation takes place. He further leaned that Jasper Fingerhut was the receiver. On a phone call for Klipton he would release some work of art to the person who came to bring it to the buyer. It was thought no one would suspect a crazy old man who lived by himself in the woods, a religious fanatic, would have anything to do with art theft. Fingerhut also received a commission and thus could afford a comfortable life even in his hermitage. Turner was told that everything is kept in a barn attached to his cabin behind a thick metal door which is the only entrance to the barn. It has a secure lock that can only be opened by a special key and the key is a large metal cross that he always carries with him.

Turner thanked Klipton and promised not to blow the cover. Klipton left.

The evening was coming and all the parties involved were brought in for questioning, one by one. Brett Salazar reaffirmed that he definitely heard four gunshots that day and there was a cross around Fingerhut's neck when they pulled him out of the river and that he didn't remove it.

When asked if Dr. Skinner had done anything unusual when Fingerhut's body was brought in Ivan replied only that the doctor had put a towel over the face and chest, otherwise no. He was dismissed early but it wasn't unusual since he was a part time employee.

Hank said only that Sam had taken his rifle and gone out to shoot birds as he often did in the afternoon. He said he sort of knew where Fingerhut lived but he never went there.

San claimed that even though he took his rifle he did not go shooting birds that day bur went to visit a friend. When asked who the friend was he declined to say but he said the friend was not important to the investigatiom. He spoke again about Fingerhut being a religious fanatic who used to scream at him about how he was going to eternal torment because of being a fag and wouldn't shut up about it.

Detective Turner asked "Did you kill him?"


"Do you know who did?"

"No" he answered quietly.

Doctor Skinner came in a sat down. Detective Turner took a sheet of paper out of his pocket and said that he had taken Fingerhut's body to a doctor friend of his in Farmington and had him perform another autopsy. That doctor confirmed the three bullet holes in the man's body, found no evidence of Fingerhot having been strangled and confirmed the cause of death as drowing. Skinner seem to be surprised.

The Turner said "Now let me tell you what I think happened. You drove up to Fingerhot's place with a loaded 22 caliber rifle which we found in your home when it was searched this afternoon. The lab says these bullets" which Turner poured out on the table from the plastic bag "match the rifle. You should have kept the bullets Doctor. Them to make sure he was dead you took his body down and dumped it in the river. But he wasn't quite dead, was he? He died from breathing in water from the river. Then you went back to his place for some reason, discovered the door at the back with the strange key hole. You cleverly thought that the cross Fingerhut was wearing was probably the key to unlock the door. But it was too late to fish him out of the river. You went to your office and waited. When they brought him in you quickly covered up his face and chest with a towel so Ivan, your assistant didn't see the cross or the fact that there were no marks of strangulation on his neck and throat. After Ivan left you removed the cross, put it in a safe place, where we found it, performed a sloppy autopsy and sent him back in the body bag with instructions that we should bury him right away. You would have gone up there today if you hadn't had an accident case,with two victims to examine. Now there's only one piece missing. Why did you do it?"

"Because he deserved it."

"Why did he deserve it?"

"It's a crime of passion, Detective. He wouldn't lay off Sam. Sam was going nuts with the old man screaming at him every time he came there."

"Are you and Sam sexual partners?"

"We're lovers."

"That's not the only reason you killed Fingerhut."

"No. I knew he had a lot of valuable stuff up there I wanted to know what he had."

"How did you know that?"

"Hank told me. He said he overheard a conversation at the gas pump between two strangers about a rumor of a crazy old man who lived up in the woods and hoarded a fortune in stolen property. I figured it was Fingerhut and when I saw his barn I knew it was."

"Well, Doctor, did I get the story right?"

You left out one detail, Mister Clever Detective. Before I left Fingerhut's place I turned over the snake case so if anyone came to snoop they would go away fast."

"We killed the snake and snooped. Well, you're a lucky man Doctor Roy Skinner."

"How's that?"

"I have a warrant here for your arrest for the murder of Jasper Fingerhut. But it turns out you didn't kill him. The river killed him. But I'm sure we can change this to attempted murder and a few other charges. Kindly see the officers in the front to have yourself photographed and fingerprinted Thank you."

(Case Solved)

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