Steven Levi : The Buxton Bootlegger and the Shad Man : Fiction : April 2019

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I come from Alaska and I married a woman from the Outer Banks. I fell in love the lifestyle, language and unique character — and charterers — in Buxton, Ocracoke, Avon and Waves. We will be retiring there and I look forward to fishing for Red Drum and drinking youpon tea.

The Buxton Bootlegger and the Shad Man

Captain Noonan, the “Bearded Holmes” of the Sandersonville Police Department, was just slipping into a delicate noonday repose that only a hot North Carolina day on a Buxton beach could provide when he was suddenly and rudely awakened by a haphazard slap on his shoulder.  Since neither wife nor children would dare such an affront, particularly since they were in Avon spending his money at that very moment, Noonan was quite sure that his unwanted guest was not a relative.  At least not one with whom he was familiar.  Considering the aroma of alcohol mixed with the stench of fish left out of water too long, Noonan hoped that this man had mistaken him for some other unfortunate soul and, hopefully, one that was well down the beach.  Substantially downwind as well.

“Are you, you, you, the great Heinz Nooderman, the defective from Sandersonville?”  The man stood with swimming fish eyes over the Chief of ‘defectives.’

This did not appear to be the beginning of a great conversation but he could hardly deny his identity.  “Well, I’ve been called worse.”

“Excuse, ‘cuse me for my condition,” the man urped rather than spoke.  “It’s, chebeen a hard day an’ all.  I’m not a man what goes to drink,” he tried to finish the sentence but a stomach spasm stalled him.  “Not a man what goes to drink,” he continued.  “Drink is the curse of the working class, Sir, and I am of that working class.”

“Yes, I suppose you are,” sighed Noonan.  “Was there something in particular you needed me for?”

“Aye, indeed there is, Sir.  You see, and please excuuuuse my condition, but I am the local magistrate and I have just fallen into a vat of rather intoxicating liquid.”

“That I can smell,” replied the detective.  “Did you sink to the bottom and drink your way up?”

The man thought for a moment and then laughed.  “Oh, that was rich, Sir.  Quite rich.  Actually, that’s from an old folk song.  I believe it’s Rye Whiskey.”  He chortled and rocked back on his heels.  “Yes, it is from Rye Whiskey.  But I am usually a sober man but I was plunged into a vat of bootlegged spirits.  I was investig, investrig, investreg. . .” he had a hard time getting the words out.

“You were investigating a bootlegger?  Aren’t you a bit late?  Alcohol has been legal since the 1930s.”

The man continued to rock on his heels.  “Right you are, Sir.  Legal it is.  But, speaking as a magistrate, who, in fact, I am, selling liquor other than beer and wine is illegal in these parts unless such liquids are bought from the State store.”

“I see.  So you were investigating a still?”  Noonan managed a wry smile.

“You have a vicious choice of verbs, Sir.  But, yes, I was investigating the bootlegger’s cache – that’s an Alaskan term, I believe.  Noun actually.  I was investigating the bootlegger’s cache when I fell into the vat of spirits.  By the time I was able to extricate myself from the substance, I was in the, er, this condition.”

“I see,” nodded Noonan.  “Might I ask from where the fish smell comes?”

“’Emanates,’ as my wife says. ‘Emanates.’  She’s a fine one for verbs as well.  No, the fish smell is my own.  I am, as they say in these parts, the Shad Man.  I do not make a living as a Magistrate.  That, Sir, is an honorary assignment.  My income comes from the buying and selling of shad.  Are you familiar with the fish?”

“No, I can’t say that I am,” replied Noonan. “I image you may have pickled a few this afternoon.”

“There you go with the verb again.”  He paused for a moment.  “But from where you’re sitting smelling, I guess you are entitled to your opinion.  Excuse me, not only is sitting a transitive verb but allow me to refresh myself and we shall continue this conversation.”

Before Noonan could respond, the Shad Man walked drunkenly into the waters of the Atlantic and fell face down in the shallows. The water closed over him in a kerplunk like a rock dropping into deep water.

Not sure whether the man was in his right senses, rather, sure that the man was not in his right sense but might need assistance, Noonan started to rise off his chaise lounge when the man struggled to his knees in the shallow brine and pulled himself erect before he returned to the Chief of ‘defectives.’

“That felt better,” the Shad Man stated though Noonan not sure what it was better than.

“Well, it has cut the aroma,” Noonan replied.

“Yes, perhaps, I don’t know.  But if you say so.”

“I do.”

“Let me continue.”

“I am waiting with bated breath.”

The Shad Man gave him an evil look.  “Now with the adjectives.  Are you a detective or an English teacher?”

“Sorry,” replied Noonan.  “Please continue.”

“Where was I?  Oh, shad. Yes, they are like salmon in that they live in salt water but breed in fresh water.  A bit smaller than your king salmon. They average about four pounds but can get up, of 12.  They’re a sport fish too.  That is, I buy and sell shad for the commercial culinary market.”

“Yes, you are the Shad Man.  What does this have to do with the bootlegger?”

“Nothing, I was just explaining the origin of the smell emanating from my clothing.”

“Yes, I see.  Now, about the bootlegger?”

“Eh?  Right, the bootlegger.  Yes, you see bootlegging of elixirs not of the beer and wine variety is illegal except for personal consumption.  This individual has been making large quantities of a clearly-illegal elixir and giving it to his friends.”

“Is that illegal?”

“Not really.  You can give home-made liquor to friends.  You just can’t sell it.” 

“So he wasn’t doing anything illegal?”

“Well he was giving liquor to friends who were giving him cash.  I’d say that was illegal.”

“I’d say you were right.  Why don’t you arrest him?”

“I would if I could but I can’t so I won’t.”

“Run that by me again.  I got lost somewhere after ‘I can’t.’”

“I can’t arrest him because I can’t find the still.”

“But if you fell into the still, isn’t that a good indication where it was?”

“Yes and no.  Yes, I fell into the still. But when I went back with the Sheriff, the still was gone.”

“Gone?”

“An entire bootlegging operation just disappeared.  Poof.  Into thin air.”

“I find that hard to believe.  Buxton isn’t very large and if the still was large enough for you to fall into, it would be very hard to move.”

“That’s what I told the sheriff.”  The Shad Man leaned forward and whispered odiferously into Noonan’s face. “He thought I had been drinking.”

“I can’t imagine why,” said Noonan slyly.  “Let me get this straight.  You went to the bootlegger’s operation and fell into a still.  You got out of the still and went to get the Sheriff and when you got back the entire operation was gone.  Are you sure you went back to the same place?”

The man was suddenly indignant.  “Of course I am.  This is Buxton.  A hamlet.  I was born here.  You think I don’t know every nook and cranny we don’t have here?”

“Don’t have?”

“That’s right; we don’t have any nooks and crannies.  That’s how small we are.”

“I see.  So you need my help in finding the still?”

“No.  In getting my wallet back.  I lost it in the still.  As soon as I find the still the Sheriff will make the arrest.  I just need my wallet back.”  He leaned forward and whispered in Noonan’s ear again, “it has all my credit cards and a lucky four-leaf clover.”

Noonan gently pushed the man’s head away from his own.  “Why don’t you go home and get some sleep. When you’re up and chipper again, we’ll talk.”

“A splendid idea,” the man said and rocked on his heels.  But he could not leave without another request of the ‘defective.’  “Don’t tell anyone about my wallet, OK?  ‘Specially the bootlegger.  He’d spend more than my wife faster.”

“I know the feeling,” replied Noonan.

With all said, the Shad Man stumbled toward the sand dunes dividing the beach from the highway.  

Noonan was intent on relating his experience to his wife, primarily because her sister’s brother-in-law lived in Frisco, just down the beach from Buxton.  The brother-in-law was an acceptable sort but his wife – Heinz’s sister-in-law – was a royal pain.  Anything from, about, relating to or associated with the Outer Banks was better, grander, more exclusive than anywhere else on earth and most particularly Seattle. Heinz could not wait to confront her with the story of a drunken magistrate who was really a Shad Man who had fallen into a bootlegger’s still which had subsequently disappeared in a town so small it didn’t have mailboxes.  The collection of characters and incidents were so obtuse the good detective was inclined to believe someone had been pulling his leg.

When the good detective was able to confront his esteemed sister-in-law with the tale of his day on the beach, his sister-in-law, Olga, snapped quickly at him, “Well, are you going to help Old Man Witherspoon?”

“Pardon?” replied Noonan quite surprised.

“Old Man Witherspoon.  The Shad Man.  The one who fell into the still that disappeared.  Are you going to help him?  He could lose his job as Magistrate over this, you know.”

“I thought the Magistrate job didn’t pay. Besides, how did you know about his problem?”

Olga rolled her eyes. “Everyone knows about his problem.  Do you think this is Seattle where you have read a newspaper to know what’s going on?  Witherspoon has been after Archie Scarborough for decades.  He figured he’d catch him one day.  Seems like it’s the other way around.”

“So you know who the bootlegger is?”

Olga gave him one of those ‘really!’ looks.  “Of course I know who the bootlegger is.  Everyone does. So do you.  You just don’t know him as the bootlegger.  He’s the old man in his 80s you had a drink with two nights ago at his hotel and restaurant, the Twisted Anchor.”

“That’s the bootlegger? The old guy?”

“Of course it is.  You don’t think he makes all his money on food and changing sheets do you.  No, the real money is in the liquor.  He makes his own and sells it a shot at a time. He’s done it for years.”

“Not USDA approved, eh?  Well, if this is such a small town and the bootlegger has been doing it for years, why does anyone care?”

“Budget crisis.  The State of North Carolina is having a budget crisis. It needs to get every dime it can. So the order went down the judicial food chain and Old Man Witherspoon, on the bottom, got told to shut Scarborough down, force him to stop making and selling liquor.”

“That must have made Scarborough happy,”

“He could give a rip!  He’s been bootlegging as long as I’ve been alive.”

“Well, that’s quite a . . .”

Olga cut him off.  “Enough with the age insinuations, Heinz.  Scarborough started making his own liquor when the State made it illegal, back in the 1950s.  That’s the way Archie is.  If it wasn’t illegal, he wouldn’t be doing it.”

“Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?”

“Not if you’re Archie Scarborough.  Now, are you going to help Old Man Witherspoon or not?”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Get his wallet back, of course.  Who cares about Archie’s liquor?”

It was certainly true, Noonan thought and he headed for the Twisted Anchor, that Buxton was indeed different than any place he’d ever lived.  Here he was, the Chief of Detectives of one of the largest city in America, going to visit a known bootlegger who was openly selling liquor to retrieve a wallet a magistrate had lost in a vat of illegal elixir that had disappeared between the time the Magistrate went in and the Sheriff arrived. 

Archie Scarborough was just as amiable when he met the second time as the first.  A tall, bull of a man, he was both refined and educated.  As soon as Noonan told him of his mission, Scarborough reached under the counter and pulled out a wallet.

“Is this what you are looking for?”

Noonan opened the wallet and spotted Witherspoon’s driver’s license.  “I presume so.  If it was this easy, why didn’t Mr. Witherspoon just come to you and ask for it?”

“Because I need you to do something for me.”

“Really?  Why should I, a law enforcement officer, do something for a man who makes illegal alcohol?”

“First, because I don’t make illegal alcohol.  It’s not the making that’s illegal. It’s the selling.  I swear on my mother’s grave I am not selling illegal inebriants.  I offer it at no charge to my preferred clients here and if they wish to honor me with a pittance, I do not discourage them.”

“That sounds pretty close to illegal to me.’”

“Well, State has its opinion and I have mine.”

“There’s backed up with the force of law.”

“Maybe.  You see, I’ve been making this allegedly-illegal liquor since before the State of North Carolina made it illegal.  I’m grandfathered.”

“Does the State look at it that way?”

“Unfortunately, no.  It’s been a matter of dispute for a while.”

“How long is ‘awhile?’”

“Since the first day selling liquor other than beer and wine was illegal.”

“Uh, Huh.”  Noonan was now certain Buxton was its own special universe.  “Back to the original question.  Why should I help you?”

“Because, I, Sir, am the man who can get Olga off your back.”

“That is one powerful argument.”

“I’m sure you’d see it that way.  What I need is for you so solve an old local mystery.”

“Mystery?”

“An old one at that.”

“OK.  I’m here.  I’ll bite.”

“Care for a drink?”

“Sure, I’ll take a beer.  Make it legal, though.”

“You take all the fun out of bootlegging, Sir.  Beer, legal, here you go.  Now, as to the story.  As you probably could have guessed, before tourism the big business here on the Outer Banks of North Carolina was fishing.”

“I thought tourism had always been big.”

“Oh it has been.  But in the 1920s it wasn’t as big as it is now.  Fishing was the biggest.  But because of the way the industry was structured, no one was making a dime. The big boys from New York would buy the fish for a dime on the dollar and sell them to restaurants on the East Coast.  In those days you could get away with selling anything as high quality and shad dominated the market as all kinds of exotic fish.  What, with exotic spices and sauces, anything will taste good.”

“So the large processors were buying shad cheap and selling them as import.”

“Bingo!  But it didn’t take long for the locals to realize they were being snookered so they did what every red-blooded American businessman does when faced with large and overwhelming odds.”

“They surrendered?”

“No! That’s what the South did! The Confederacy lost because it was being run by politicians. The North won because it was being run by businessmen. When a businessman is faced with large and overwhelming odds, he does the same thing labor does.  He organizes!”

“So the businessmen formed an organization?”

“Sort of.  They knew that if you formed an organization that was visible, the distributors in New York and on the East Coast wouldn’t deal with them.  They weren’t stupid.  As long as there is a monopoly everyone in the monopoly makes money.  It’s just the fisherman and the diners who were being cheated.  No, the fishermen formed a loose arrangement that would force the price of shad up.”

“The feds must have loved that.”

“No one cared.  This is the 20s and 30s now.  But the big change came in the 1940s and World War II. By then this loose arrangement of business was more solid because everyone had been doing business that way for two decades. But with World War II the War Department suddenly descended on the Outer Banks and bought all the fish from all the processors.  Fish was a food and thus a war materiel.”

“So the arrangement disappeared.”  Noonan placed emphasis on the word ‘arrangement.’

“That’s right. By the 1950s, when there was again a growing private sector market for shad, the American consumer was lot more savvy about fish.  Your wife is from Alaska so you must know that there is a great difference between top quality king, silver and red salmon and the pink salmon that gets sold as king, silver and red.”

“Don’t I ever.”

“The old monopoly out of New York started up right where it had left off but the arrangement down here was gone.  Most of the old men who had run it were retired or dead.  Their children were not following in their galoshes so there weren’t a lot of people interested in a conglomerate of any kind.  That’s when Sylvester Witherspoon stepped in.”

“Witherspoon, as in . . .”

Noonan couldn’t finish the sentence.  “His father. Known as the Shad Man around here because his father and his grandfather claimed the title at the turn of the century – the last one. Sylvester brought a new twist to the business.  Just forcing the price of shad up wasn’t going to be enough to save the industry down here.  So he came up with a twist.  The New York syndicate thought they were buying many seafood products from many fishermen when, in fact, they were buying many seafood products from one man:  Sylvester.  He was just well hidden.  Then he would route the money through a lot of businesses so every one of them looked to be losing money but not one went broke.  It drove the IRS crazy!”

“I’ll bet it did.”

“But there was a problem.”

“There always is.”

“In those days the money had to be moved in cash.  The syndicate paid in cash and then Sylvester would bleed the money through the businesses in cash. There were not a lot of checks in those days and besides, everyone on the island was on his payroll, so to speak, which meant that even the smallest fisherman got a cut.”

“Ah, cash.  The glue of any good relationship.”

“You said it right.”

“And one day the cash disappeared.”

“That’s right. One day the cash disappeared. $10,000 which was quite a bit of money in those days. We know the cash came in. We know Sylvester signed for it and turned over an order.  He locked it in a safe.  He left with three workers and two days later his body was found on the beach.  The workers have air-tight alibis, the safe is empty and the Witherspoon struggled to keep their business alive.”

“Now young Mr. Witherspoon wants to know where the money went.”

“That’s right.”

“This is a rather old mystery.”

“Yup, about half a century old.”

“Even if I could find the money, it’s in the form of cash.  If it was $10,000 then, it’s $10,000 today. The money’s in the interest.”

“Yes, that’s true.  But the screen rights would be worth $100,000.”

“If I can find the money.”

“All you have to do is make a well publicized try and that might do it.”

“What makes you think I want the press involved?”

“They are.  The editor of the Outer Banks Enterprise is looking for you as we speak.  You see, I anticipated you would be receptive to the challenge.”

Noonan knew when it was licked.  “OK.  What do you have on the original robbery?

Without missing a beat, Scarborough handed him a thick Manila envelope and indicated an empty table.  “Would you like another legal beer?”

Generic is the word Noonan would have used to describe the material in the folder.  There were several newspaper articles from several papers that all said the same things – and no fact was new. Sylvester’s body had been discovered on the beach after he had been missing for several days.  There was no indication of foul play and the body was found with a full wallet, keys, pocket change and a pocket knife. His spectacles were still in his pocket indicating that body had probably fallen on the beach as opposed to having been washed out to sea and returned with the next tide.  Whoever had cut the articles out of the paper had neglected to include any kind of a date. Associated with the articles, on the front and back, were snippets of stories someone could use to find the exact date:  a wedding announcement, movie schedule, article on the falling price of shad, a letter to the editor on the evils of government run liquor stores, and half a photo of a man holding a North Carolina Record Porgy at 8 pounds, 8 ounces. There was a humorous filler about a woman in Hatteras who heard a thump on her doorstep and found a fish, presumably dropped by passing bird and a notice of a lifesaving drill to “transpire’ the following Sunday near the lighthouse. 

Also in the envelope was a receipt signed by the elegant hand of Sylvester Witherspoon for $10,000, some sort-of police reports from the three workers who were the last to see Sylvester alive. One had gone to a church social where he remained all evening.  Another had gone north to Elizabeth city on a steamer and the third went fishing and was gone for six days.  There were some other notes with dates running to the present.  All three of the workers were dead; none of them showed any sign of sudden wealth during their lives and their families did not appear any wealthier upon the deaths either. 

The Witherspoons hadn’t done too badly over the years.  The loss had been devastating at the time but the company had survived.  Young Witherspoon had kept the company alive and today it was finally making large dollars with the sudden demand for healthier food in the American diet. 

It took Noonan all of about 30 minutes to go through the file.

“Find the money yet?”

“Did you look under Sylvester’s mattress?”

“Actually we did.  And in his attic, every hold of every boat, under the dock, inside the freezers and refrigerators, inside the larger fish, everywhere.”

“Nothing?”

“Not a clue.”

“OK.  Is there anyone in town who knew him personally?”

“I did.  He was about ten years older than me.  I’m 85.  There aren’t too many though.  There’s Doc Whitford.  He’s pretty old.  Kind of comes and goes if you know what I mean. Alzheimer’s.”

“Anyone else?”

“Everyone knew Sylvester.  He had a lot of friends, young and old.  Not a lot of them left and none of them contemporaries.  Just Doc Whitford.”

“Where can I find Doc Whitford?”

“Upstairs.  I figured you’d want to talk to him.  If I were you, I’d want to talk to him.”

“Is there anyone else you figure I’d want to talk to?”

“Widow Smathers and her daughter.  They were, shall we say, close to Sylvester over the years.”

“Close as in mistresses?”

“Close as in Sylvester’s wife died young.”

“Let me talk to the Doc first.”

Doc Whitford was a well-dressed, well-groomed man in his 90s who had absolutely no idea what State he was living in.  When Noonan asked him about Sylvester Witherspoon, Whitford recalled a young cattle trader in Montana by that name.  “Got his head caught between a hoof and a pipe and went down for the count,” the Doc recalled. “Never recovered.  Became a used car salesman.”

“No.  Sylvester Witherspoon of Buxton.”

“Him, yes.  Knew he well.  Knew his son. Died of Alzheimer’s a few years ago.  Dad never recovered from the loss.”

“You mean the father.  The son is still alive.”

“How did he do that?  That’s against the laws of nature.”

“Do you mean Sylvester and his father or Sylvester and his son?”

“Who’s Sylvester?”

“Sylvester Witherspoon.”

“Witherspoon.  Fine family. Terrible loss when their son died.  Eaten by a shark.  Never found.”

“Sylvester drowned.”

“Him too.”

Noonan tried a new tack.  “Did you ever know Sylvester Witherspoon’s father?”

“The Shad Man.  Of course. Everyone knew him. He died too.”

“I imagine so.  When did he die?”

“Long time ago.  He didn’t know.  Had Alzheimer’s.  Just like me.  Didn’t know when he went.  Can we go to the ball game now?”

That was about all Noonan could get out of Doc Whitford.  The Widow Smathers, ancient, and her daughter, elderly, had fond memories of Sylvester.

“He was a gracious man,” recalled the Widow.  “Treated us well when we needed it.  

Never asked for much. His wife died young, you know.”

“When?”

“Oh, shortly after they were married. I never knew her.  She was from Avon.  Or was it Frisco, Darlene?”

Darlene, the daughter, wasn’t much help.  She remembered Sylvester when she had been a girl in her twenties – and she was in her 70s now. She recalled he was always looking at his watch and kept saying “Time is money” and always smelled a little like fish.

“Like father like son,” Noonan muttered to himself. 

“Absolutely,” broke in Darlene.  “He married my Alma.  Looks just like his father.  Says the same thing all the time ‘Time is money.’ Always looking at the clock on the wall or the watch in his pocket or the digital dial on his cell phone. ‘Time is money.’”

“Sylvester, was he sick at the time he died?  Was he being threatened?  Anything like that?”

“Well,” recalled the Widow.  “He was old when I knew him and you know how old people are.  They forget this, can’t remember that, but he could always remember my birthday.”

“But he wasn’t being threatened or in money trouble.”

“No. Everything was going well then. Everyone in Buxton was making money.  His was a very clever schemer, young man.”

“So it worked?”

“For years,” broke in Darlene.  “Until the IRS finally caught on and that was that.”

“When was that?”

“About the time Sylvester died. There’s no connection.  Sylvester’s son was running the operation when the IRS showed up.  It was a little poorer for a while be we all recovered.”

“Until the IRS showed up,” snapped the Widow.  “Closed down a perfectly good scam.”

Noonan thanked the ladies for their time and they left with Doc Whitford in tow.  The Doc thanked Scarborough for the pony ride on the way out and asked if he could pet the ostrich when he came again. Scarborough assured the Doctor that he could.  The Widow and Darlene didn’t seem to think the Doc was acting different at all.

“Comes with living in small town,” Scarborough said when the trio had left. “Have you solved the mystery yet?  The newspaper man should be here soon.”

“Actually,” Noonan replied, “I think I have.  But I don’t think you’ll want me to talk to the reporter.”

“Oh,” said Scarborough in a surprised tone, “why not?”

“Well, because it might spoil your little scheme.  You see, here’s what I think happened.  Sylvester knew the IRS was going to be coming to town.  How he knew it I don’t know but I’m sure he knew it. The only way to get the IRS off your back is not to have any money.  So he faked the robbery. But he couldn’t really do anything with the cash.  The IRS has a nasty tendency to find hidden assets.  So he invested in something that would make money that the IRS could not find.”

“And what was that?”

“Your illegal business.  I’ll bet that was where you got your start-up cash.  Sylvester wanted to invest in something that would make money with his allegedly stolen money.  Liquor was going to be illegal; he switched from shad to liquor. Illegal things make good money and there are no taxes.  When he died, his share went to his son, who’s your partner.”

“You can’t prove that.”

“I don’t have to.  I’m not John Law.  I’m just solving an old local mystery.”

“What about the body?”

“Wherever Sylvester died he didn’t die on that beach. He probably died at home of natural causes.  The newspaper article says that foul play was not suspected.  It was just fortunate timing.  Then you and your partner’s son put it to good use.  You claimed the money had disappeared.  That pulled the Witherspoons off the IRS hook.”

“How do you know he didn’t drown?”

“Because he didn’t have his most valued object with him.  His pocket watch.  That’s not listed as being on his person when the body was found. I’m sure his son took it away before leaving the body on the beach.  That’s the watch he’s got today.  He always has that watch. That’s what his mother-in-law said.  Always.  Yet yesterday when he came to see me he purposely flung himself into the ocean to clear his head.  He clearly didn’t have the watch then.  Salt water would have ruined it.”

“So you’re saying that Sylvester and I were partners in bootlegging and his son and I are current partners.  If that’s the case, why has he been trying to shut me down for 20 years and how did he end up in my still – not admitting that I have a still, of course.”

“He’s been tipping you off about his raids for the past 20 years to keep his job as Magistrate.  Come on, Scarborough, you can’t hid a still in this town and now have everyone and their brother know where it is.  Young Witherspoon never fell into the still either, that was just a red herring to get me to look over the newspaper articles and talk to the reporter.”

“If what you say is true, not admitting that it is, for what possible reason would I want to have you investigate the disappearance of Sylvester’s money?”

“That was the real mystery here.  I’ll have another legal beer, Archie.  I deserve it.”  As Scarborough handed him another legal beer, Noonan put the articles back in the Manila envelope. “I can’t say for sure but here’s what I think.  You overplayed your hand, by the way.  It wasn’t the money that made any difference.  It was the publicity. Whether I found the money – which I couldn’t because it no longer exists – or not, you and your silent partner stood to make big dollars on the publicity.  Get a camera crew down here shooting the mystery of the Shad Man’s fortune and they’ll be staying that the Twisted Anchor and drinking in your bar.”

“Perish the thought.”  Scarborough threw his head back and laughed.  “How did guess?”

Noonan picked up Witherspoon’s wallet shook it.  “Dry as a bone.”  He tossed the wallet onto the counter. “Are you planning on talking to the press or should I?”