Kickapoo Edwards had a near death experience when he was in pursuit of the notorious kidnapper Billy Balderdash. In a mystical, out of body experience during which he had visited Heaven, he encountered his grandfather there, who told him he should forsake his career as a PI and go into the ministry.
Grandfather had said, “It is far more important to save souls than it is to chase criminals.”
As a result, Kickapoo decided to study for the ministry and seek a little flock in The Malthusian Church of the Recently Enlightened. He even entertained the idea of doing missionary work for the church, perhaps returning to visit the headhunters in South America. He was, however, worried that he had not completed the search for Billy Balderdash and brought that perfidious miscreant to justice. Biff and Beylene Edwards had taught their son to finish what he started. That was an important part of his code ethic. But grandfather’s words carried more weight because of their divine source.
After many sleepless nights of soul searching, because it is not easy to violate one’s own code ethic, Kickapoo came upon a perfect solution: He would turn the Billy Balderdash Case over to his fraternity brother Gort Rumson, who had also majored in criminal justice at Heliotrope University.
Now, Gort Rumson was born under a wandering star. People told him that he resembled his famous great-grandfather, who lived a roving, gypsy kind of life ending in the gold rush in California. Gort’s restless spirit made it difficult for him to settle down before he had seen the wide world. He had not had a steady girlfriend in his entire life. Indeed, Gort had followed Henry David Thoreau’s suggestion that one should live as free and uncommitted as long as possible.
Gort graduated from Heliotrope University in 2006. He majored in criminal justice and minored in English, with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. He was proud of having studied under the famous Peoria judge Affa Davit and Professor Lancaster Markem of the English Department. Like many college graduates, Gort wanted a life of challenge and adventure; he wanted to sail the seven seas, travel to the four corners of the world, and do battle with formidable adversaries. But he could not find employment in law enforcement, so he took a job as a spider squasher 4th class on a banana boat named “The Arachnid.”
Gort was elated to receive the call inviting him to replace Kickapoo in the search for Billy Balderdash. Finally, here was the challenge and the excitement that Gort longed for. Here was Gort’s opportunity to live with intensity and make his mark. Gort quit his job on the “Arachnid” immediately and familiarized himself with the case.
Billy Balderdash was a veteran sailor just back from the Sargasso Sea. From the thick file on him, Gort concluded that Billy was not exactly what you would call the salt of the earth. The legal documents in his file indicated that he had been the object of numerous lawsuits involving breach of promise. He was also charged with income tax evasion, misrepresentation, attempted bribery of two Illinois governors and seven Chicago aldermen, and high crimes and misdemeanors. Gort could never in his life understand why high crimes and misdemeanors would be lumped into one category, but he knew he had a lot to learn about legal matters.
One thing was clear, though: Billy had a reputation for negligence. One of his captains had reported that Billy had refused to batten the hatches, scrub the poop deck, and man the bilge pumps. His last captain, whose previous command was the “Exxon Valdez,” had reported Billy to Green Peace for throwing a Snickers candy bar wrapper overboard. Obviously there was something seriously wrong with the cut of Billy’s jib.
Despite all of the allegations against him, Billy had managed to elude punishment because he was a master of disguises and a genius at using false identities. He also went by the names Alfred Bulltop Stormalong, Edward Teach, Shipwreck Cogan, Billy the Id, Charlie Horse, and Bobby Shafto.
To Gort’s dismay, he learned that Billy’s favorite scheme was to prey on women. He was one tough monkey when it came to manipulating and mistreating women. Billy would convince a woman that he was the gallant hero on the white horse who had come by to take her away from all this. At first he would charm them with his high budget Joe Biden smile, promise them an exotic life of romantic enchantment, use them for whatever suited his purpose at the moment, and then cast them away. Billy’s MO. was to worship the ground a woman walked on and then treat her like dirt. Gort vowed to capture Billy and bring an end to his egregious exploitation of women and his shameful record of political corruption.
Gort recalled his classes in criminal justice at Heliotrope University. Judge Affa Davit had emphasized that a good PI is always impeccable in collecting basic information. The judge also urged his students to use both inductive and deductive thinking in solving cases. He was a firm believer that a good PI follows a hunch. Since Billy’s last known address was San Francisco, Gort decided to go there and see how much information he could find about Billy from his last landlord. Since Gort had not seen his parents in quite a while, he decided that he would pay them a visit before he went to San Francisco. In addition, he wanted to see if his Aunt June could give him any suggestions for capturing Billy. Gort knew that he could use all the help he could get in this case, and Aunt June had always been there for him.
To be continued
Dr. Logsdon is the much-loved English professor who has inspired students at Western Illinois University and Eureka College for many years. He lives in Eureka with his wife, Mary, and writes a weekly story for the Woodford County News Bulletin.