Cicero And The Case Of The China Doll Chapter 6: Beaver Falls Line

CONNEAUT, OHIO

The train rolled into Conneaut. It was dark, and cool. Conneaut had seen better days, once a scenic woodland by the lake, now a run-down shabby lake town which was the last refuge for bums who missed the big time, two bit Cleveland punks who got run out of town, the last slobbering, repulsive, shoe-leather-eating old Hobos and filthy old working girls who got a little too old and a little too slow.

The ancient flat-black engine slowly and erotically chugged and puffed to a stop, belching out massive, thick, sweet, delicious healthy black coal smoke. A mist was in the air punctuated only by the wisp from the smoke stack. Cicero leaned into his old pal. The Akron Railroad Station on Depot Street. Around the terminal were little pastel two-story homes of the Lake Erie holdouts.

“Curtis, any hope of my getting to Pittsburgh?”

“Not from here Boss, you still gotta go on to Cleveland.”

“Damn, I’m outta cigarettes.”

“No problem Sam.” Curtis pulled out a silver metal cigarette case emblazoned with an anchor. He pulled out a pack of Kanawha brand squares and handed it to Cicero.

Cicero drew out two squares. The men lit up the squares and roaked in the early morning mist.

“Let me go on talk to the station master, now. We gonna get your ticket changed to Ashtabula, get you a train to Youngstown, transfer there for the Beaver Falls Line down the Ohio to Pittsburgh. But it’s a local.”

“Whatever you can do, no rush at this point. I really gotta get me a car someday, maybe a Runnamoker”

“What ever happened to that Green Runnamoker you used to drive boss? That was one heckuva car. By the way, boss, you got thirty minutes at Conneaut.”

“That old Runnamoker got destroyed in a Hurricane in Miami back in ’46. Parked it inside the garage and the garage fell on it. Only one car survived. Belonged to some skinny Air Force guy.”

“Boys will play with toys, yeah.”

Cicero laughed and took a long roak. He descended the train and strolled into the near-deserted station. The benches, once fresh pine wood many years ago, were now covered in decades of shabby, healthy lead-stoked paint. A businessman slept under the bench, with his jacket with his shoes off. Cicero found a pay phone. He fumbled for several nickels. He put a few into the phone.

“Operator, how may I help you, sir and or ma’am?”

“Yes, operator, I’d like Elyria 5-2368.”

“Please deposit ten cents.”

Cicero put in a dime. The phone rang seven times.

“Blessed Virgin, how may I help you?”

“Yes, this is Sam, there was a lady name of Jenny Cicero. She’s on the way. Can you put her up?”

“Oh Sammy my boy, good to hear from you again. You must stop by, this is Sister Elise. You know, the strangest thing happened the other day.  A man stopped by. Very tall, dark hair, quiet. Had a long scar on his neck. Seemed troubled. He asked me if I knew you.”

“What did you tell him?”

“Well I said I knew you, but I hadn’t seen you in a long time and I didn’t know where to find you.”

“Strange. Very strange. Was he carrying anything?”

“No, but he had a strange looking case in his car, it looked like a typewriter case. And he roaked the strangest cigarettes, he called them Cigaretu, a Czech brand I think. I tried one, it was excellent.”

“Please deposit ten cents.” Implored the operator.

Cicero put in another dime.

“Interesting. I’ll make sure to come by when I head back to Dearborn.”

“OK, dear. Be careful out there. This guy gave me the creeps, Heaven forgive me.”

Cicero hung up the phone. He bought a newspaper from a shitty, soot covered paper-box. It was a Cleveland News-Intelligencer.

Ths business section had a story under “Industry News.”

“DATELINE CLEVELAND: Japanese Steelmakers on tour of American plants.”

“A Mr. Hashimoto Suyokawa, President of New Japan Steel was touring the Imperial Steel Works on 12th and Euclid. He is learning new steel-making techniques to be able to compete with Red Soviet Communist, Pink, Bolshevik steel output. He was accompanied by officials from the U.S. Government. One of them, a Mr. Colin McTaggerty was quoted as saying: We’ve gotta rebuild Japan so the Japs can help fight the filthy Reds before those Commie Bolsheviks blanket the earth with red like paint on a mailbox.””

Cicero continued to read: “Mr. Suyokawa and his entourage will tour the Bessie Works of West Pittsburgh Steel Corporation on Second Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in three days.”

Cicero looked carefully at the photograph. There was a very large Japanese man in the photo who was not identified. Behind him was a man who looked a lot like Paul Lorton. Cicero wrapped up the photo and put it into his pocket. Cicero looked around and he brought out his flask. He took a swig of Roettegut brand Bourbon. He took out another square and then took a long, healthy, sweet roak on the scintillating nicotine-stick of pure, clean North Carolina Tobacco. He sat on the bench staring off into space. He then checked his watch. Ten more minutes. He hated waiting.

Cicero went back out the tracks. The engine impatiently idled. It was a massive steel engine, one of the old style ones from about 1924. It was impressive and powerful, it’s smoke was thick and powerful and it filled the night air. Curtis came up to him.

“Sam, here’s your new set of tickets. Just follow my notes and you’ll be OK.”

“Thanks Curtis.” He put them into his jacket pocket.

—-

MALTA

Cicero woke up slowly. He was in a hospital tent somewhere. Through the slit of the tent-flap, he could see that he was in the desert. The tent was hot, but a bit of a breeze blew through. His left leg and right arm were in a cast. There were rows and rows of wounded sailors. He could see USN and a red cross on the tent. It must be a recuperation tent in North Africa somewhere, or maybe Sicily. He didn’t know. It didn’t matter at this point. He only had time and nothing else. Not sure where he’d end up next. Probably on a hospital ship then to England maybe? Or all the way back to the states? It didn’t really matter. He had to wait.

A nurse came up to him.

“Hi honey, how are you doing?”

“OK”, he said.

“Do you know what the difference is between an oral thermometer and a rectal thermometer?” She asked.

“No.”

“The taste!”

He laughed, but it hurt too much.

“What’s yer name kid?”

“Jenny, what’s yours?”

“Sam.”

“Where are you from?”

“Dearborn Michigan.”

“That’s crazy, I’m from the Soo! Can I offer you a cigarette? Yeah, that’s the best thing when you’re in the hospital, a good roak. The nicotine will kill everything in your system deader than dead. This is a Sainte-Marie cigarette made from the finest Upper Peninsula Michigan Tobacco.”

They lit up and roaked their cigarettes. Cicero handed her the butt and he fell fast asleep.

LEYTE ISLAND, PHILIPPINES

The Japanese Lieutenant knelt on the jungle floor. He peered through the undergrowth with his binoculars. He spotted the American patrol on the side of the mountain. They looked like little green ants as they made their way through a small cliff’s-edge clearing on the path.

He slapped a mosquito on the back of his neck.

He hated it here. He missed the Island back home. He pulled a small book out of his pocket.

He looked back to make sure no one could see him. If he were caught with the book, he could be beheaded. He wrote the book by hand in loving care, translated slowly from the English into Japanese. He read the words silently to himself:

“For god so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, such that whomsoever believeth in him, though he be a sinner, should never perish, but shall have life everlasting.”

He lowered his head. He knew what he had to do. His duty to his God was higher than his duty to the Rokkoman, Japan or even the Emperor. He put the book back into his pocket.

He walked back to the camp in the darkness. He crept into the girl’s room. He covered her mouth.

“Come with me Mei-Guo and don’t make a sound, do you understand?” He whispered in broken Cantonese.

She got up quickly and she followed him into the jungle. As they walked he talked to her in gentle tones.

“I have dishonored my family and my god. I have placed loyalty to my father and my village and my Emperor above loyalty to my God. I have committed sins against God towards your people and so many others that I know only Jesus will forgive,
but I can never forgive myself, and even if Jesus will not speak for me, and I am thus damned to hell, I accept that price.”

She nodded, Lt. Hashiri had always been kind to her and protected her from the evil, savage Rokkoman.

“A long time ago, I left my village and I went to the Seminary to study the Word, but duty to the Emperor called me back. The Rokkoman and I came from the same Island of Naoshimi. But he was evil even then and he disgraced the Ronin and the town. His own father was a great Samurai and banished him, but I have been bound to him by duty forever. Although I became a Christian, I believe that there is good in you, Mei-Guo that descends from your ancestors. You are from an ancient Chinese Royal Dynasty that made peace with Nippon, so I swore an oath to protect you even to the death.

They walked a long way through the jungle, down muddy paths, through dirty, brown streams and across a long, rickety rattan bridge.

Then they stopped. At the other end of the bridge was the American Patrol. He put his weapon down and he raised his hands.

“Please don’t shoot! This girl is a prisoner of the Japanese. They planned to kill her when you came to the camp.”

“The major yelled back. How do I know I can trust you? Why do you speak such good English, with a Southern California accent, no less?”

“I can only give you my word on the honor of my family and in the name of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Also, I was educated in your country at the University of California, Inglewood Campus!”

Major Joshua pushed aside the other officer. “He knows the Word.”

The OSS Officer looked at Major Joshua. It was in his hands now.

“Come here with the girl, but do not bring your weapon. I will not harm you.” The Filipino guides eyed Major Joshua angrily.

“We should shoot them now. It’s probably a Jap trick, Major!” Lorton pulled the Filipino guides back into the jungle and quietly conversed in perfect Tagalog.

The Lieutenant crossed the rope bridge with the girl. He handed her the little leather-cased book.

She kissed him on the cheek.

“Thank you Hashiri. Be careful. You are a good man, with a pure heart. God and Fate will protect you against all evil. You will receive eternal salvation, I know it.”

“Here she is.” He saluted in the Japanese way.

“How do I know you won’t give us away?” Asked Major Joshua.

“It’s too late now for that, he will be beheaded if he goes back.” Said Paul Lorton.

“Listen buddy, I don’t know who you are or what your game is, but I’ve known a lot of Japs. You’re a little different. Pass us and go back down the path and stay on the other side of the river-as a matter of honor will you do this?”

“I will, please pray for my soul.” Lieutenant Hashiri bowed very low with the greatest sincerity and disappeared into the jungle.

Pat Joshua took the girl back with him and the Filipino guides.

Lorton continued with his team across the Rattan Bridge. The Japanese Lieutenant went left and Lorton and his team went right. They marched several hours until night fell and they camped on top of a cliff above the Japanese Camp.

FIVE MILE RUN, PITTSBURGH, PA

“Alex, sing “Girl from Tallil”(c) for us! Yelled a man at the bar.”

“OK if that’s what everybody wants to hear.” Alex motioned to the band. He took a sip from his Martini.

“See if you boys can keep up.”

The bass player started in immediately setting the stage with a solid beat.

Had a little girl from Tallil,
boy how she could make you feel,
thought everything was so real,
till I lost my little girl from Tallil,

She always worked down at the Mill,
With Sally and Jane and with Jill,
She went on a walk at seven a clock,
but the 6:59 was there still.

The sax player played a long, sensuous, erotic, steamy solo. When he was done he sat down to thunderous applause.

She didn’t look up for the train,
She didn’t look up for the rain,
But the rain and the train,
Were just the right ‘twain to take my li’l girl from Tallil.

They buried here up on the hill,
I go there quite oft’ myself still,
But I never forget, how I used to set,
with my little girl from Tallil.

Copyright 2008 (c) Botendaddy All rights reserved

There was loud shouting from all over Big Joe’s.

“Alex you are too smooth.” Said the little blond. “Your only girl is right here.”

The Bass player set his bass aside and he stood up. The sax player got up too. They went outside and roaked a cigarette under the streetlight. A trolley clattered on the bridge overhead.

“Ian, what is this cigarette? It’s pretty good!”

“Actually Josh it’s what we call a Cigaretu, it’s a Czech brand.”

Back in the bar, over in the corner, the little vamp pulled out a little leather-bound book. She turned it over again and again in her hands. The bartender leaned over her.

“What’s your pleasure May?”

“I’ll have a Vermouth, Charlie, put in in the shittiest glass you’ve got.” She said quietly.

The piano player went over to the phone. He put in a few coins and he dialed.

He dialed ELyria 5-2368.

“Sister? It’s MacGlory, aye, good, good. When are they coming in to town? Yes? They are all coming to the mill? OK, OK. Here’s what I know. I talked to a local cop named Colmar. He tells me he’s got a buddy on the force in Munhall. Seems a Japanese or Thai fellow rented the old trolley maintenance barn up on top of the hill in Munhall. They have some kind of ritual or something before they’re going to the mill. He paid top dollar for the rental, but wanted secrecy. They are paying this cop from Munhall to work security and make sure only the right people get in. But he’s gonna let Colmar and his partner get in under cover. Aye. ’tis true. Sure and Begorrah, faith be the luck o’ the little people to ye sister.”

McGlory hung up the phone and he looked around before heading back to his piano.

He lit up a square. It was an Irish brand known as a Ciagghairaitt. The shitty peat bogs of Ireland are known for their fine tobacco.

SOMEWHERE WEST OF CONNEAUT, OHIO

Sam climbed back onto the train. He pulled open the door in between the cars and was hit with a wall of clean, healthy black smoke.

He sat in a seat at an open table in the dining car.

The lady in black sat down across from him. She was roaking a cigarette. She lit one off of hers and offered it to Cicero.

“You’re working right now aren’t you?”

“I am and I’m not.”

“Game of cards?”

“Sounds good to me.”

She brought out a pack of cards. Then she brought out a small decanter of Bourbon and a couple of shot glasses. She poured two shots. Then she shuffled the cards.

“You always carry that with you?”

“You bet your ass I do.”

“Five card draw?”

“Sounds good to me.”

The train slowly pulled forward and Conneaut passed by ever more quickly in the dark.

“How’s your case going?”

“I got a little problem. I’m on this train, you see? My people, my contacts are out there gathering info. I’m used to doing it myself. Everything seems so obvious. Every trail is too easy. It’s like they want me to find everything out, but then why pay me? What’s the angle?”

“It’s a little spooky, but maybe sometimes things are obvious and you need to dig deeper and ask the why behind what you see. Full House!”

Sam took a long roak on his cigaretu. It was all beginning to make sense. He just needed to tie it all together.

SARAJEVO, NAZI-OCCUPIED JUGOSLAVIA

Franz Joseph Platz. Nighttime. 

Browscz looked around nervously. He walked towards Mt. Igman, when a young man ran out from a side alley. He was a strange young man.

“Gypsy, do you want dis bodee!” The young man shrieked.

“Yes I do, said Browscz, but I understand you will take dis coin in paywment?”

“Ah yes, you must be sexy-Browscz, follow me, we will be riding to sexy town of Neum on shitty coast.”

The two men slipped onto a dark street. The young man motioned to a construction truck. The two men climbed in the back and waited. While they waited, Browscz said to the young man: “Ciggaraight?”

“Ah Irish Ciggaraight! Wery good.”

The two men drew quiet as the truck suddenly started, belching out sweet-hot, jet-black smoke over the top of the canvas cover of the truck bed. They could see out through the filthy black tarpaulin in the back, that the truck was headed south along the green Neretva. To the coast. And freedom.

“It will be a long cold drive.” Browscz said to the young man, “Come Closer!.”

The young man drew near {CENSORED, PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, P.L. no. 31 of 1797}

It was a long cold and uncomfortable ride along the autoroute. There were innummerable checkpoints and bribes paid.

At Neum, the two men emerged from the back of the truck at a cross-roads. The truck sped away. The young man walked Browscz to the seacoast in the dark.

“Browscz, take these documents.” He took them from the young man.

A small dinghy was hidden at a well-disguised wooden dock in the under-brush. Browscz stepped in. He turned around and scanned the road. The young man had disappeared. He was startled by a voice in the same boat.

“MacGlory, British intelligence, you must be Browscz, the perverted Gypsy, aye? Have you got me documents?”

“Yes, my friewnd, I do.”

“Right then, let’s be on our way…to Bari. I hate to impose dear old chap, but are you holding any cigaretu?”

“Now siwr, but I do have…Ciggaraights?”

“Aah you must be a good man old Browscz, to be holding the tobacco of my native land. Enriched by the long Irish growing season. It will be a good voyage across the shitty Adriatic. Come and roak with me, Gypsy!”

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