Beyond the Western
For Silas Tully, for him to sit still much longer, there had been too much abuse and noise,
too much skullduggery, too much connivance in his old East Saugus neighborhood on
Lincoln Avenue. He was convinced a smoldering pot was continually brewing there and
would boil over sooner than later. He hoped his timing was right as he began, even
though a retired cop, to make his own observations, to keep watch. He’d been a cop for
almost half a century (counting his Marine Corps time) and was now widowed, with lots
of time on his hands. Truth is, he had been called back “for advice” a number of times by
the chief, who had been a pup when Silas Tully had solved some of the most difficult
cases in Saugus and elsewhere on the North Shore.
All the germane circumstances and events rolled through his mind; a noisy and dirty
divorce years earlier between an antique dealer and his nightclub stripper wife, the
Burford Ramseys, with a cast of unsavory characters mixing in the action; her casual but
continual appearances in the neighborhood in a hostile and threatening approach to old
neighbors and to the elderly couple who were caretakers and tenants in the gorgeous
house that once had belonged to her and her husband, which he received outright in the
divorce; that the elderly couple, the Jerol Limbos, were abused one night a few months
past when their apartment over the garage was invaded by two thugs, with no arrests yet
being made. All action centered in or around 890 Lincoln Avenue.
All that information was working the back of his head as he rode into Saugus Center,
around the rotary and headed for the barber shop.
As he cruised slowly into a space across from Mike and Jimmy’s Barbershop on Central
Street, next door to the J & M Sub Shop, a lot of horn-blowing started behind him. He
had gone out simply to get the newspaper, then thought it a good time to see the boys in
the shop, say hello and swap a few tales, when he heard the horns. In the rear-view
mirror, he studied the street activity behind him; one car, a black Volvo, new, showroom
new and glitzy, was trying to back into a space between two other cars. Silas wondered
why that space was so important when there was a ton of room right behind him, at least
six spaces along the curb, and just ahead of the Volvo. Something immediately told the
usually retired Saugus cop that the driver did not want to be seen by a cop, even if retired.
His old habits were hard to shake, he would be the first to admit, like a cross-section of a
tree keeps its history handy enough to read.
“My day has started,” he said, as he sat straight up in his seat, with a nonchalant wave to
Mike, in the window of the barbershop, working Chair #1 with a view of Central Street.
“That guy in the Volvo’s following me,” he said aloud as he sat behind the wheel of his
fire engine red Ford F1500 pick-up truck. “I’ll tell you this, pal,” he muttered into the
mirror, “I may be a long way around the corner, but I’m not all the way down that road.
You can be sure of that, whoever the hell you are.” He nodded at the mirror again. “Well,
pal, whoever you are, I guess I’ve smoked you out. You’re welcome to the bait.”
He’d dawdle a while, he decided, to see if he could further smoke out the snoop.
For ten minutes, reading a few words at a time in the Saugus Advocate first and then
The Saugus Advertiser, alternately looking in the mirror, he maintained his vigilance.
Nobody got out of the Volvo. Nothing moved. Nobody came out of the condo, as if a
passenger pick-up was being made. A Fed-Ex truck double-parked for no more than a
minute, while a delivery was made. A newsboy dropped off two papers, one on a toss
across a lawn, the other dropped into a mail box.
The Center of Saugus moved in its Saturday way, traffic brisk, J & M Sub Shop busy
near noon, parking thick in front of the House of Pizza and the hairdresser, pizza for
lunch, hair day for the senior ladies from Heritage Heights or Laurel Gardens. Things
could be calm if he let them be, but Silas Tully was always at the matter of things, the pot
always needing to be tended. There had been days it was a cauldron. At such moments he
thought of Ashton Davis, the old English teacher, mimicking Shakespeare’s Weird
Sisters from Macbeth; “Where hast thou been, sister?” Silas loved looking into his past in
more ways than one.
After all the parking nonsense, the difficult parking choice, the impatient horns blowing
from a line of traffic, Silas was more convinced that he was being followed. His sense of
timing, and premonition, he affirmed silently, was still operational, still acute. There were
days when he looked for such confirmation, days when he couldn’t find any of it at all.
“Too far from the action, too close to the dream,” as one old timer had said. But he knew
he’d always be a cop. There, at the back of his mind, seeing the desk at the police station,
he wondered what was on the action log that would accord him the privilege of being a
snoop dog’s target, other than his on the cuff East Saugus observations.
He’d have to call down to the station, as nothing came to mind after serious thought of
known activities, open crimes. Saugus, for all intents and purposes, was being properly
laid back, in the shadows of every day. Route 1 lately had been mushy and quiet, nothing
but traffic on the move. There hadn’t been a late-night fight on the Pike for more than a
month that he knew of, visitors behaving for the while, like picnic time was in swing and
the suds were still available. No robberies on the book. No hit-and-run accidents. Only a
few grievous family matters being aired out. The log was tame for the recent past.
All this quiet said the Volvo must have been smoked out.
Silas stepped out of his truck and waved his newspaper at Mike looking out the wide
shop window. Then he casually crossed the street without glancing back at the Volvo.
Inside the shop door he gabbed his introductions to Mike at Chair #1 and sometimes retired
Jimmy sitting in for the by standing behind Chair #2.
He and Jimmy had the same constitution, about not letting go of long-held practices. Neither could fully quit what they loved. For him it was the police department itself, and the solutions to crimes and other perplexing problems that for a whole lot of years had burned up quick as a candle.
For Jimmy it was the constant gab and interaction with friends of forty years or more.
No day was the same, yet they would all eventually conform to the same pleasantry of the
Passage of time. Mike, in his due, would run the same course; both Mike and Jimmy could
See that, coming.
Silas stayed by the door, his eye on the Volvo down the street, still squeezed in between
two other cars. A short man got out of the rider’s side and walked casually up the
sidewalk, passing by the shop on the other side of the street. He was hatless and balding.
He did not look at new flowers at one house shrieking out red and orange and glorious
yellow petals. He paid no mind to a boy and his dog on another front stoop, just kept
himself painfully disdainful about the facts of life moving around him. Insensitive he was
about the flow of life, Si decided, a man to keep his eye on.
With his long experience in such matters, Silas checked and catalogued the man,
knowing he could write an accurate description in a matter of minutes, catching and
collecting all the details. The snoop was 5’ 7” in height, suited, in dark gray, a white shirt
and a dark thin tie they were wearing these days, overdressed for an ordinary weekend in
Saugus Center. Made from rich-looking material, the suit had a fine cut at the lapels, but
was the kind Si Tully had never been found in. Silas figured the snoop at 180-190
pounds, a bit overweight for his height, and thick through the chest, the way an iron
pumper is built… expanded chest, huge upper arms, neck thick as an anvil. Si would bet
he had a few tattoos, perhaps a few scars. His gait was athletic, as though he had played
sports at one time; not basketball, perhaps football, maybe hockey or soccer, but not
basketball. Outside of the needed height, there was not that niftiness that basketball fed
on, as if it had been frozen in his form.
The man did not look across the street at the barbershop but carefully eyed Silas’s red
truck, the Ford 1500, fire engine red and the Marine Corps emblem displayed on the rear
window like an earned medallion. Some unpainted window boxes, seven of them, sat in
the bed of the truck, the wood clean and smooth #1 pine, right from the mill. He had been
dickering in his mind about what color to paint them, thinking he had settled on red.
Same color as the truck. A super match for the driveway, just for him and a few
neighbors on Taylor Street across from the library.
Silas, even then thinking about how loud the red would be, stayed behind the door frame,
not visible to the man, who continued up the street, past the Pythian Building, over the
long unused railroad tracks, past the old State Theater building, past where Dave Lucey’s
insurance office used to be. Silas tried to remember who kept offices in the building now
and couldn’t do so. Insurance? Hairdresser? Both fit the scheme of the Center.
The Volvo all this while had stayed in place. The walker in the Saturday suit turned at the
corner of Centennial Avenue, looked around for a few minutes, pretended to check out
the small parking lot there, looked impatiently at his watch, and began to saunter back
toward the Volvo. That small check of the time, posing as if someone was late, overdue,
made a silly imprint on Silas. Suited. Saturday morning. Saugus Center. Outside the
realm of possibility, he said to himself. Anybody can see that.
Jimmy, cleaning up the trim on a young customer, watching Si’s intentness, staring at
him nuzzled against the door frame, finally said, “Si, you coming or going?” He cocked
his head, a throwback characteristic Si had noted some forty years earlier, his smile
warming his words, a familiar radiation of his sardonic humor. “You cops always
approach things in a slow hurry.” He grinned an entirely new grin, a bit of the retirement
age showing in his face, the smile still ready, the acerbic tongue a daily tool of the trade,
honed as well as a razor over the years. Si had always liked Jimmy and his early nonsense
approach to things before the deep and inexorable conversations began. Like parking
tickets, crime, a war now and then, taxes down on the Cape, the cars that Saugus haircuts
had bought him including two Lincolns and a Caddie, the Sox or the Patriots, the tone of
the landscape, and often, like a gray and somber prevalence, the unnamed road in front of
each of them.
Mike, quickly in the mix, the opening primed for him, said, “He’s onto you already, Si.
Thinks you belong to him today. I swear he came all the way over here from Davis
Square just to get you in his sights, line you up. Believe me, the first thing he said this
morning, the very first words, ‘Law and Order been in yet this week?’”
The customer in the chair fidgeted uneasily as the scissors moved in the air out in front of
his face. Si did not know him and realized he must be a new customer. He’d get to know
Mike if he came by often enough… like the next month… Mike and his scissors and his
own brand of humor.
Silas Tully smiled and said, “Somebody already beat you to that, Jimmy.” Then, the old
control coming into play, he wished he hadn’t said anything. He’d have to resort to a
cover up, mask his current situation, and be a cop all over again. The crow’s feet crinkled
at his eyes and he dipped one shoulder in an ordinary salute.
“You know, gents,” he said, nodding his head, as if they knew his mind set all the time,
“I was going to get a haircut today, but I couldn’t decide which hair, so I’ve changed my
mind.” He turned and walked out of the shop, starting to cross the street without looking
at the Volvo or up the street toward the old State Theater building and the short guy in a
suit, thinking Saugus Center was really dressed up for a Saturday morning.
Up ahead of him, crossing the tracks coming his way, the lone man in a suit walked
aimlessly to a point in front of the Pythian Building as though a holiday was at hand and
he was waiting for the parade. He stayed there, looking back where he had come from,
then retraced a few steps to insure he’d not pass by Silas Tully, ex-cop, crossing Central
Street and approaching his truck.
For Si, something else was trying to click in place since he had been in the shop, a
nagging sensation that had an edge to it. From his first day on the force, as all his cohorts
had said, Si always sought out that something else all the while sitting there waiting to be
found. He thought of Craig Petchi’s Volvo. It was almost an image of the one parked
down the street. There was something on this Volvo windshield that wasn’t on Craig’s, or
in a different place, or of a different size. It registered now as odd. It came home to him
now. It dawned on him, in on quick burst of intelligence, a paired resonance, that the
Volvo, he had seen a day earlier on Lincoln Ave had not been Craig’s, but had been this
The old intuitive sense was still operational. Blood quickened in his veins.
Si reconstructed that earlier sight of the Volvo, less than 48 hours before. He had visited
Paul Miketavich, another retiree, who lived across the street from the large Georgian
house owned by Burford Ramsey that’d been invaded by two toughs less than two
months ago. Craig Petchi lived two houses down from the Georgian house and he had
assumed the Volvo at the curb was Craig’s. The thugs had roughed up the old man and
the woman who lived above the garage in back of the house, who were just tenants, Mr.
and Mrs. Jerol Limbo. They were elderly. Ramsey was out of town and had not even
come back to check on them after the home invasion. The case was not solved. Nothing
was missing. It was not robbery. Burford Ramsey, on a coincidental phone call while the
cops were still there, said as long as nothing was taken, he did not need to come back,
saying that the Limbos were well-taken care of financially, including medical coverage.
“I am in the western part of the country, on a long road trip and have no idea when I’ll be
back.” It sounded like never.
It also added up to serious caution. But had been forgotten, and had fallen off the police
calendar. Except for Silas Tully’s concern.
When Si mentioned the case to Paul, Paul said, “Hell, we all know he’s been hiding
something, but that’s as far as it goes. His divorce was a lulu. Wife is a wild one. Mean as
a bag of cats. I’ve seen her ride by a hundred times, like she’s keeping tabs on the place,
waiting for her ex to die off someplace. Can’t bring him in when it’s only his property
that’s been violated and his tenants. Sounds like he really treats the old tenants okay as
far as that goes. The old guy over there, Mr. Limbo, says they don’t pay any rent, they
just have to keep the place a bit spruced up, cut the grass, keep the flowers growing.
That’s a pretty good deal. I’d like to have it, because they don’t cut the grass… they have
a crew that comes in and does it at least once a week in green weather. Another crew
does the winter plowing.”
He had looked across the street at the house. “This used to be the Gold Coast, as you
know, this end of Lincoln Ave, and that’s one nice house. I know you’ve never been
inside, nor me, but I know guys who have. Eleven or twelve rooms in there they say. A
front staircase carpenters nowadays couldn’t put together, not on a bet. Or would have a
helluva job trying to do so. I’ve heard all the woodwork inside is fantastic, last century
stuff, the stuff you can’t buy any more. And that includes all the old furniture, all period
stuff worth an arm and a leg most likely.”
He was nodding his approval, and somebody else’s good fortune. “And that garage back
there, that’s also kind of special I’d guess. I think the tenants probably live most of the
time upstairs in a small apartment. I’ve never been in there either, or the house as I’ve
said, and that’s one trip I’d love to take. One of the neighbors, guy’s gone now, lived up
on Bailey Hill, told me a big semi backed up to that barn or garage, whatever you want to
call it, late one night, maybe a month earlier than the invasion. In the morning it was
gone. He said it was about the longest rig he’d ever seen. Had Texas plates on it, but no
name on the box.”
All that came back to Silas as he watched the suited man get back into the car. He
wondered about the Volvo’s appearance down on Lincoln Ave two days earlier.
Criminals returning to the scene of the crime? Curiosity? Covering tracks? Alerted by the
ex-Mrs. Burford Ramsey that an ex-cop was hanging around, perhaps on the Ramsey
payroll? Something else going on? Burford Ramsey ready to return home from a long
stay away? A deep groove dug itself in Silas’s mind.
The Volvo had not moved. Traffic moved in a normal Saturday line. The sun was bright.
Another paperboy made another delivery. Three more customers entered the barber shop
and were milling around in introductions and hellos, Saturday working its social graces in
“I think I’ll take them for a ride,” Silas said aloud at the mirror. Then he called the
station on his cell phone.
A short while later, the sun now directly overhead and shadows in agreement, Si drove
across Route 1 to Breakheart Reservation, 640 acres of hardwood forest and a pair of
freshwater lakes, one of them named for his old high school principal, John A. W. Pearce.
Most of the park sat in Saugus, with a corner jutting into Wakefield. He knew the place
as well as his easy chair at home, had fished there, skied there, played teen age hide and
seek with classmates all coming of age at the same time, sometimes on the same evening.
He remembered one pal who had said, “Great place in the dark; when you couldn’t see
your hand in front of your face, you saw everything there was to see.”
Si afforded himself a small smile of appreciation, for the old days.
On the upper edge of the Breakheart Road, two miles away from the Center, the main
road winding down through the forest, he slipped into a quick turn-off, branches raking
the truck windows, and killed the engine. Si wondered what damage the branches would
do to the paint job, and then shrugged it off. He was sure the truck would run as long as
Out behind him the Volvo rolled slowly by, the driver obviously cautious in strange
territory. Si figured the forest would fix him so he couldn’t see the trees for the forest, or
the red truck in amongst dense young fir trees. After three or four minutes, Silas backed
out of the turn-off and proceeded up the climbing road. From the top of the hill he saw
the Saugus cruiser parked across the downside of the road and the Volvo stopped in the
middle of the road. Two officers were talking to two men. One of them was the suited
man, the perambulator from Saugus Center. Each pulled an I.D. and showed them to the
cops, who took no notes and handed them back almost immediately. Then they pulled the
cruiser aside and let the Volvo continue. Si called the station and told them to radio the
cruiser and tell the two officers he would talk to them later, back at the station, and to
make sure they had the ID information he asked for.
Silas went back over the reports of the home invasion. He was full of wonder; who had
broken in? Why? What were they looking for, if robbery was not committed? What was
Ramsey involved in, if anything? Why would he not come back to check out his house?
Did the Limbos say what the thugs were looking for? Had they been asked, by the thugs
and by the police? What was not written into the report that might have been written?
He’d have to go back there and ask questions, and it would have to be on his own. The
chief had not asked for his help as he had on other occasions. This incident he was
checking out was coming to be past news, and might fade sooner than later, given a
Si, in a quiet moment in the parking lot outside the station, pondered what else of his
recent activities had induced the strangers to begin following him. It couldn’t be his visit
to Paul Miketavich, because they were already there, parked on the street, when he
arrived that time. Quickly, he wondered if it could be Paul they were watching, who
might have squeezed himself onto the playing surface by being an observant neighbor
and a retired cop. He’d have to check Paul and the old couple again; those were givens.
Mrs. Limbo answered the chimes that rang in the house when Silas pushed the ornate
button beside the front door. He swore the chime music was scored from an opera he
could not bring a name to. Mrs. Limbo was as small as a light sack, though heavy age
lines marked her face and neck. He had a momentary chuckle when he thought of one of
his own neighbors whose grandchild said she had worms on her arms. But Mrs. Limbo
had her own teeth and a warm smile. Si could smell bacon still riding the air. It was 1 PM
and he assumed they were late sleepers, yet most of the older townies he knew grabbed at
every minute of daylight they could get. It was in the cards of duration measurement, or
some other argument he had read about.
“May I help you?” she said, as she held the door open, but not too wide. No fear appeared
in her eyes, as though the past experience had faded away.
“Mrs. Limbo, I’m Silas Tully, retired from the police department, and the chief gave me
permission to talk to you about the time you and your husband were bothered by those
men. I am now involved because I think I have evidence that focuses on the case.”
He did not want to tell her about the Volvo surveillance, fearing it would alarm her all
over again. “That permission is only going as far as you and your husband agree, but I
have been a cop in this town since I was 22 years old and I don’t like what happened to
you and Mr. Limbo. I’m only trying to help. I used to live in this neighborhood, just up
the road a short way, but past Ballard Street. The Marchettis live there now.”
With a broader smile, her eyes lit with recognition of some sort, Mrs. Limbo motioned
him in, and said, “I know their daughter Sandra.” Then she called her husband. “Jerry,
there’s another policeman here. He wants to talk to us.”
A door down the hall opened and the bacon smell came stronger. The small person of
Jerol Limbo, a shade bigger than his wife, and surely not a person who could handle any
kind of maintenance about the place, came down the hallway. He was in his slippers yet.
Si looked at his watch and Jerry Limbo smiled at him a quick response. “We are late
sleepers, sir, because we watch black and white old-time movies until the wee hours. Last
night we watched Laura and Casablanca, two of Jenny’s very favorites, love stories you
know,” and added, with a smile, “of one sort or another.” Si marked him as patient and
considerate and somewhat older than his wife, with worms on his face and neck as well
as his arms.
“Come on into the kitchen,” Jerry said. “It’s the only room we really use in the house. We
sleep in the apartment above the garage. There’s a lovely apartment up there that Mr.
Ramsey lets us use. Even has an elevator at the back because the stairs are so narrow, he
said. Our television is up there. We don’t watch TV during the day, not even the news.
Just our films at night, the old ones, the black and white beauties that make up our own
time.” He smiled at his wife, as if they were kids caught at recess playing games in the
coat room. She smiled back. Silas Tully felt the honest pull of happiness tremble in his
chest, touch a root of him someplace down inside. He thought of his dead wife for the
third time in the day, and there was plenty of day left.
“Have you had breakfast?” Jenny Limbo said. Not the slightest bit of embarrassment
found her voice, as the afternoon sun dropped steeper rays through the windows in the
spacious kitchen. Silas knew he was at another level of living. The room was a classic
collection of woodwork he had rarely seen. The cabinets were splendid narrow slats of
golden yellow wood all intricately joined with unerring precision. The slats accepted light
and threw it back comfortably. Whatever lights were on, were hidden by a precocious
designer or architect more modern than the woodwork. Silas took in as much of the
room as he could and knew his mind would be taxed with all he saw.
“I’d love a cup of tea, if you could favor me, Mrs. Limbo. But I’d like to ask a few
questions about what the men were looking for when they broke in.”
“Tea,” she smiled, then turned to Jerry and said, “see, we’re not all gone over to coffee in
a Styrofoam or cardboard cup.” She was gleeful in her assessment.
“What were they looking for, those men?” Si said in response to her full smile. With a
sudden clarifying thought re-assessing his approach, he said, “They didn’t hurt you much,
did they? They didn’t get really rough with you?”
Jerry Limbo answered for his wife. “No. A bit of hard talk, a shove or too, but no real
pain. Mostly noisy threats you could read as plain noise after a short while. And we have
no idea what they were looking for. They just kept looking into things, into bureaus,
closets, the chifforobes, both desks in the study, behind the sofas. But they handled
everything like they knew it was valuable, like they knew what was in their hands or
what they were touching.”
“You mean like antique collectors or dealers?” Silas said.
Both Limbos nodded assent.
“When did they show the most disappointment?” Si said, looking back down the hallway
to the lovely furniture displayed as proud as in a showroom, all period pieces that left him
ignorant of value and appreciation other than a perfunctory nice. He felt as if he were in a
museum. For as much as Si himself could appreciate, Burford Ramsey had a very
expensive eye, and damned good taste.
“That’s easy,” Jerry said, nodding at Jenny at the same time, both in their personal
warmth zone, fully content with each other. “When they got into the garage. They were
flustered then. I mean, really flustered. They got angry at us, shouting, ‘When was the
stuff moved? Who moved it? Where did it go?’ At first, I didn’t know what they were
talking about, and then I figured it was the cars.”
“What cars were those?” Silas said, looking out the window at the garage behind the
house. The two wide doors gave off the impression of vastness beyond the doors. The
three windows on the second floor gave off the same impression. He tried to gauge the
size of the building by looking at shadows, but the sun was nearing noon and standing the
walls straight up in the day. “Did the police ask about them?” He had not seen any
comment in the report.
“They didn’t ask and we didn’t tell them. The cars were here, in the garage all the time,
under covers. We never once peeked under the covers because Mr. Ramsey said we were
not to do that. We knew they were important to him, valuable in some measure. Frankly,
Mr. Tully, we have it made here for an older couple, and we’ve managed to put a few
bucks away for the time if this arrangement ever falls down around us.” They shared the
coatroom grins again, and Si felt an old innocence in small but continuous waves. It made
him extremely comfortable.
“What happened to the cars?”
”Well, Mr. Ramsey called one night and said that on the next evening, or shortly later, a
large truck would come and back up to the garage and they would take the cars away, all
three of them, but that we would have to get a receipt with the driver’s signature after we
saw his driver’s license and his other ID, like a company voucher or something. That was
over a month before those bad guys came visiting us.”
“Did you get those papers? Did you give them to Mr. Ramsey?”
“Oh, no,” Jerry Limbo said. “He hasn’t been back here since the cars were moved and we
have them up in the apartment, in a safe. Do you want to see them? Bring your tea. We’ll
go look at them. You can see where we live, where we watch our movies. Wait until you
see the DVDs and CDs and tapes that he got for us. He got a whole supply of old black
and whites from some collector and a whole bunch of others from Red Box, that company
out in Chicago. We have our own Red Box kiosk, the kind they use for renting CDs and
DVDs. It’s a prototype he got hold of just last year, right from Chicago, as I said. We use
the same dollar every time. He had the thing rigged for us. Isn’t that marvelous? That’s
getting your money’s worth, wouldn’t you say?” They each snickered the secret coatroom
laugh, and Si thought it was the thing that kept them going in this life.
When they stepped into the through a side door, Silas Tully thought a basketball game or
a tennis match could be held in the garage. The room was wide and deep and could hold
more than three cars with ease. The art and practice of maintenance leaped out at him.
The floor was clear of any oil spills, debris, or road matter. The walls were lined with
every conceivable tool and implement necessary to work on automobiles. Si thought
about Chuck Rumfola’s garage out in Avon, New York when he had visited Chuck the
year before. He had not seen him since they had separated from the service seemed a
century ago. But in Chuck’s garage, the floor space taken up by 7 tractors he had rebuilt
from scratch, John Deeres and Wheelhorses, the walls were covered by tools that had
been used a thousand times. He could tell that by looking at Chuck’s hands and by the
heels and backs of his boots showing how often he worked on his back.
The stairs, at one side of the garage and leading to the second floor, very narrow and
appearing as if they’d fall down if anybody of any size trod on them. The Limbos walked
to the back of the room and Jenny pushed a portion of a slatted board fitting into the
décor. The whole section opened to an elevator, which made Jenny Limbo smile as wide
as she ever smiled. “Mr. Ramsey had this put in special for us. Said the stairs over there
were a ruse. I don’t really know what he meant by that, but I’m glad for this.” She drew
him into the elevator and the three of them were lifted to the second floor. The elevator
was not an antique collector’s item and gave a smooth ride and a smooth stop.
Then Silas Tully, retired Saugus cop on most days, who lived simply and comfortably in
a small cottage on Taylor Street, where he and his wife had spent their time together until
she died, stepped out of the elevator into another world.
Immediately he knew that antique collectors would have a heart attack at seeing what was
spread out before him. The faces of the antique dealer brothers he had seen on the
Traveling Antique Show on TV did not come to him but he could hear their voices saying,
“Do you have any idea what this desk is worth?” The tone would be heightened,
reaching, full of coming surprise, and the owner of a small colonial desk would shake
with anticipation. He wondered if he loved the surprise of seeing sudden wealth fall at
the feet of an older person, or the slow mystery of origin being traced about a piece of
furniture someone might have thrown out or sold unsuspectingly to a scrounger for a ten-
All the rooms were indeed out of another world, an earlier world, and Si felt the
compulsion to touch each piece in each room to see if he could lay his hands on an earlier
energy, the art of the craftsman who had put together a piece of furniture for thirty or so
dollars that was now appraised at 80 or 90 thousand dollars. That too took his breath
“Now you see, Mr. Tully, why we hope this situation never ends for us. This is a dream
world, and Jerry and I are old times people. We live and dream in the past. We can’t let it
go. When Mr. Ramsey heard that from us, we were being interviewed at the time, he
stood up and said ‘the job’s yours.’ We fit what he wanted. Neither one of us has ever
looked back except to share the past.” She paused, pointed at the wall beside her, pushed
another piece of paneling, and the safe was exposed. “And the bank sends us a check
every month, without fail, just the way Mr. Ramsey said it would so we could take proper
care of the place.”
Jerry twirled the brass combination lock and the door opened. He withdrew a piece of
paper and handed it to Silas. “This is what we got from the truck driver.”
Silas saw the letterhead from a Sandhill Transportation Company, Gunbarrel, Texas. He
had indeed heard of that town. The document was handwritten and signed by Amos
Liberty Cockran, STC Driver and above his signature, in careful block-style printing, was
Received this date from the premises of Burford Ramsey, at 890 Lincoln Avenue, Saugus,
MA 01906 and at the hand of Mr. and Mrs. Jerol Limbo, all under cover on loading and
tie-down inside Trailer # 387M of STC, for delivery at 7112 Waring Road, Gunbarrel,
Texas, the following items, three vehicles identified as:
1950 Jaguar XK 120, Tag 221V
1965 Shelby GT350, Tag 222V
Delahaye Type 135 Special, Tag 223 V
Tag info has been previously sent to STC for receipt agreement.
Delivery is estimated at nine (9) days from this date.
Signed: Amos Liberty Cockran, STC Driver
Witness: Jerol Limbo
Date: May 9, 1989
“You know, Mr. Tully,” Jerry said, “we never once saw those cars. Don’t even have any
idea what they look like except maybe low and sleek the way the covers draped down
over them. Those plastic sheets never came off, even when they were being loaded, being
drawn up by a cable winch into the truck and then tied down really careful, every move.
Those cars were under cover during the whole darn move. In fact, two men came with
Mr. Cockran, big guys, in that huge cab of a truck, and they didn’t see the cars either,
though I guess they were itching to see what was hidden.” He looked around and offered
a single judgment: “I suppose Mr. Ramsey was the only one ever to see those cars
before they got covered up. The cars came here one night long after we were hired to
watch over the place while he was off on his travels, the world over from what I gather.
The cars stayed covered and we never looked. Never even peeked, this place being too
good for us to screw up. Mr. Ramsey’s never spent more than a month at a time here,
forever on the move he is. Mrs. Ramsey, the ex-Mrs. Ramsey, has been hanging around
every now and then, but never really bothered us. Like she’s always on the watch for
what’s going on. Keeping tabs, you might say, maybe waiting for something to pop loose.
But we’ve been here close to seven years now, me and Jenny, and never dreamed it could
be so good in our old days, so we don’t rock too many boats.” If Silas ever saw security
personified, he saw it then in Jerry Limbo’s eyes.
Jenny jumped right in without missing a beat. “Here we are with no kids, no big bills,
nobody left but us and our movies. I know all the lines in Laura, every one of them, and
Jerry’s got Casablanca down pat, right to Claude Raines and Humphrey Bogart saying
goodbye at the airport, about being the start of a long friendship. But Jerry knows that
one better than me. It’s what we are, plain and simple.”
Si couldn’t bring himself to ask about the Volvo that had been hanging around. Perhaps
everything here was cleared away as far as the snoopers were concerned, and he was
being trailed because he had been in the area before, because he was a cop, because he
had other interest in things. All the possibilities flooded him, but he’d go down to the
station now and get the skinny on the Volvo occupants; they would not realize he had
picked them out, with the assistance of Saugus’ finest young cops.
“I’m going now, folks, but if anything comes up, give me a call. I’m in the book, on
Taylor Street, or any cop can find me. If the boss calls, tell him I’d really like to talk to
him. Sounds like he’s really taken good care of you folks.”
“It’s better than the movies,” Jenny Limbo said, as she took him to the door of the
elevator and ushered him inside. “Way better than the movies. Way better than Ronald
Coleman’s Shangri-La.” Her smile was still wider than her face.
At the station, Silas Tully cornered the two patrolmen who had stopped the Volvo in
Breakheart. “We got what you wanted, Si,” one of them said. “The one in the suit, the
tubby one, is Emilio Sonata, no record, lives in the North End with his mother and a kid
brother, most likely connected one way or another. He’s a real muscle head. Said, first
thing, he’d get his lawyer, that’s before we even opened our mouths. A braggart with
someone dirty speaking for him at call. Also says he works for an antique dealer in
Revere, but doesn’t know dick. I asked him a few things that I know from my aunt and he
doesn’t know an inkwell from a piss pot. But the driver’s more interesting. His tag’s
Marlin Haggerty. Got a string about a mile long. Strong arm stuff, assault and battery on
a couple of old folks in Medford and down in Linden, won’t fight his weight in men but
maybe old ladies. The funny part is he’s got hands like a manicure specialist. Like he had
a stop at Hazel’s shop in the square. Like he’s a real phony if you ask me.”
“You get all that stuff so easy?” Silas was thinking how fast the world could turn on its
heels. What had he seen in his time? TV, the computer, cellular phones, iPod, CDs and
DVDs, speed and compression and Google bragging away about everything possible fact
that was known, kids working the computer at 5 and 6 years of age, some even younger.
As it often happened with him, he began a time measurement, thinking back, holding his
memories down to the last possible ounce, knowing, even as he felt the new case
moving all around him, that old things, dear things, would keep his mind busy even on
his busiest day. It made him wonder about all the old pieces of the past down at 890
Lincoln Avenue, collector’s gems in every nook and cranny. He’d love to get his sister in
there to take a look, but it was too dangerous with the Volvo people in the area. And then,
full curiosity finally working its crowbar on him, he wondered what the three cars looked
like, the ones that hardly anybody had seen recently. The realization came at him as
quickly as thought: they would be available on the computer, just press a damn key on
The youngest cop, who had spoken earlier, explained in his comeback. “I got a bluecoat
pal in Revere. Knows them personally. Has invited both of them in to the station over
there on a couple of occasions. Says he’s waiting for the big brick to land on them. It’s
sure ready, according to him, though it could be wishful thinking.”
“They into antique cars at all?” Silas said.
“Where’d you pick that up, Si?” the young cop said. “I didn’t know that until I got a
phone call about twenty minutes ago. Boy, you got your ear everywhere. Both those guys
are hot in the car biz. I’ve heard some really classic names and models thrown into the
“I think they were looking to heist a few doozies,” Si replied.
“Duesenberg’s?” said the young cop.
“No, not that I know of. That’s just an expression, an old one, for something special. I
guess it does come from Duesenberg’s, now that I think of it.” The past still held on, Silas
was thinking, as he pondered what this latest information would unearth, and he was glad
of the past still having good legs.
Si decided not to tell the young cops about the cars shipped out of the Lincoln Ave
address. And thinking why he had so decided, suddenly decided, that if the snoops were
still around, and not scared off, he’d give them another leg to chase. Maybe he’d get a
chance to bag them for something more illegal than playing peek-a-boo. He thought
really serious about that and called a pal who owned a garage in Manchester-by-the-Sea
and explained the favor he needed. But he knew he might have to wait to spring the trap.
All it needed was the Volvo sitting behind him in traffic, or somewhere in the vicinity, on
It didn’t take them long at all, he thought, as he dropped into the long-standing Tumble
Inn in Cliftondale Square. Before he nodded at some of the guys at the corner table, he
spotted the Volvo across the square behind him, at the curbing in front of the gas station.
Traffic, never really light in the square, was steady, foot traffic at a minimum, and a full
house for coffee sat the Tumble Inn counter.
A half hour later, when Si left as casually as he could make it, a newspaper under one
arm and waving to some old cops still gabbing, he drove out of Smith Road, crossed the
square around the rotary and headed for the Pike. Thirty minutes later, after an unhurried
ride on the Pike and east on Route 128, he was pulling into Ralph Pillings’ garage in
Manchester. The Volvo, its chrome alight from the sun, was behind some bushes back up
the road. Ralph and he spent the better part of an hour discussing the situation. When
Silas left, the Volvo was nowhere to be seen.
But a dozen hours later, under full darkness, the Volvo slid into a side street and the two
men alighted and moved in behind Ralph Pillings’ garage. By flashlight they were casing
the line-up of antique cars inside the garage, when the lights went on and two policemen,
on late detail, with drawn weapons, and aided by Ralph Pillings and Silas Tully, took
them into the office.
Emilio Sonata, the suited dude, blew the whistle in ten minutes, spilling the whole pot of
beans on none other than Burford Ramsey’s ex-wife, Sybil Ramsey, now Sybil Marotta,
who arranged, or tried to arrange, the theft of a lot of rolling money on wheels. He told
about a few other hits they had made, all by arrangements set up by her and her new
husband, an antique auto dealer, Joey Marotta, from Medford. Marlin Haggerty, the guy
with the soft hands, never said a word during the quasi-interrogation in the office of
Ralph Pilling’s garage, scoffing at his pal all the while. “They get you inside, Emma,” he
said, “you’re gonna be one smooth piece of butter.” His nod to Silas was an inside nod,
loaded with promise. He even added a knowing wink.
It was over two weeks later when Burford Ramsey called the Limbos from the West
Coast. “I can’t tell you where I am or where I’m going, but I know Sybil has been
around. Keep clear of her as much as you can. She’s one mean lady. Call the cops if you
feel threatened again. I will call occasionally to check on you. You’ve done a good job
there. I did get my cars delivered in Texas, and I have made a terrific deal selling them. It
assures me enough money to keep you and 890 Lincoln Ave in good shape for as long as
I can see. Thanks for your help. And I’m sorry you had that bad company. I hope things
are quiet around there now.”
Jerol Limbo jumped in. “Mr. Ramsey, those two guys have been around again. And your
former wife saunters by in her car every once in a while, and Silas Tully, the old cop, has
been here and needs to talk to you. He asked if you would call him at this number.” And
he gave Burford Ramsey the home phone number of Silas Tully.
“I’ll take care of it,” Ramsey said, “now you folks take care of yourselves. The checks
will keep coming, okay?”
“Yes, thank you,” said Jerol Limbo. Ramsey hung up.
A few hours later Silas Tully’s phone rang. It was Burford Ramsey. “Mr. Tully, I have to
talk to you. Jerol Limbo gave me your number. I’m really on the run from my ex-wife.
She doesn’t just have a mean streak in her, she means me harm, and only me. I’d like to
propose something to you that I’ve been thinking hard about for a couple of days. It
stretches things a bit but, being who and what you are, and how you’ve got a vested
interest in the town, and in the Limbos, I can see it being completed.”
For the next half hour, the two men spoke earnestly and clearly. Silas Tully ended the
conversation by saying, “It’s been a pleasure to talk to you, sir. I hope to meet you
someday. Don’t worry about the Limbos.” He hung up the phone.
Two days later, the noon sun working well over all of East Saugus, the second largest rig
ever seen on Lincoln Avenue, pulled up in front of #890 and had slight difficulty in
backing into the garage. The driver made several attempts until the rear of the rig
finally passed up the driveway and squarely faced one of the garage doors.
Jerol Limbo made the last okay motion as the garage door opened. The rig driver and two
strikers swung open the rear doors, latched them against the sides of the trailer, and then
pulled out metal runway ramps from under the trailer. The three men were noisy with
laughter and chatter and lots of metallic sounds. From the inside of the long rig they
rolled down the portable ramps, under cover all the time, three vehicles, only a portion of
the tires and wheels visible. When the vehicles had been pushed into the garage and the
door shut, the doors of the trailer were closed, and the men climbed aboard after Jerol
Limbo and Jenny Limbo signed the delivery receipt. The rig had to make a number of
passes to safely clear the driveway and the hedges of the house across the street.
Early in the evening, dusk not yet set in, Mr. and Mrs. Jerol Limbo, dressed in obvious
refinery for a gala night out, entered a cab out front after the cab driver had blown the
horn several times. It looked like a night on the town or a wedding and reception was the
evening ticket for the Limbos. At three in the morning it was evident that they might be
staying overnight someplace. At 3:15 AM, after one garage window was forced open and
a door silently opened, Sybil Marotta, her husband, and two accomplices, neither one
from the Volvo, entered the garage to find under plastic cover, three absolutely junk cars.
And Saugus police in a small force.
Late the next morning, cruising up Lincoln Ave toward Cliftondale, after indulging in
black coffee and a tasty honey-dipped at Kane’s Donuts, Silas reflected on All Things
Saugus and felt at ease for the time being. Some moments he felt like a lobsterman
baiting his traps with chum, but what he caught this time were not culls. Time changes
was a swift and accurate acknowledgment, he admitted, and many elements change with
it. In the course of half a mile, two new houses hung onto sloping land and three in-process
rehabs were starkly evident of alterations in the terrain. All things being considered, he
settled into a comfort zone, and pictured himself sitting in one of the chairs at Mike’s and
Jimmy’s, having only twice fallen asleep there that he could remember. He wondered, if he
picked out the one chair, would either one of them charge him full price.