“Hey Suzy! Somebody killed Clinton Shank!“ exclaimed my father over the phone.
“Oh my god.” I was shocked.
“Yep. Somebody killed Clinton and it looks like murder.”
“Oh my god what happened?”
“Well, the state police were just here.”
“You mean at our house?”
“Yes, they wanted to talk to me.”
“Oh my god! Are you a suspect?”
“No, I don’t think so. They know I rented a garage from him and they wanted to talk to me. One of those Spoonours found him dead and called the cops. They found him down there dead in his car. Said he had been strangled and his wallet was missing. Looks like there was a struggle.”
“Why do they want to talk to you?“
“Well, they know I rented a garage from him and wanted to know when I’d seen them last. If I knew anybody who was giving him trouble or if anybody had been hanging around. Of course I didn’t know anything. Probably wouldn’t have told them anything if I did know. I told them when I saw him last. You know he always did sleep in that car ever since the rat chewed his ear.”
Clinton had inherited a property from his parents about four doors down Park Street from my parents’ house. It was an old clapboard building with an old-fashioned general store on the first floor with living quarters in the back and an apartment on the second floor. The place was a pit. It was painted all over with shiny aluminum paint. There must have been a sale on aluminum paint when he went shopping. The entire thing is painted aluminum, from the tin roof, all the walls, trim, windows, doors, everything. The aluminum paint didn’t weather well and as it started peeling and fading it looked pretty awful.
There was a general store on the first floor that had been opened probably 40 years ago. Clinton lived on the first floor behind the store. He would go in there and get drunk for God knows how many days at a time. One time, he was in there sleeping it off and a rat chewed his ear. He was horrified. As you can imagine he would be.
So ever since that time Clinton slept in his car, he had a row of garages back behind the place – maybe five or six attached garages. They were all painted redwood red. Maybe there was a different paint sale that year. My father rented one of the garages from Clinton to put one of his cars out of the weather. He would see Clinton when he went down there to get the car out or put it away. Sometimes Clinton would be out and about, sometimes he would be sleeping in his car in the garage, but he was always taking care to make sure he had some ventilation so he didn’t asphyxiate sleeping in the car.
Clinton was an odd duck that’s for sure. My grandmother used to say he was brilliant – he was a genius. One summer my father said he had a typewriter and he put the typewriter on the front fender of his car and would stand there typing. My father says he typed most of the summer.
“What was he doing?” I asked.
My father said, “Well, he told me he’s writing a book about Admiral Byrd.”
“Admiral Byrd? What does he know about Admiral Byrd?”
My father said, “You know Admiral Byrd! He’s that guy who led the expedition to the South Pole.”
“Yes, yes, I know, I know. But what does Clinton know about it? Did he research it? Where in the world would he get the material?”
Daddy said, “I don’t know, but he’s finished with it now and he’s putting it in a big envelope and he’s sending it off to a publisher.”
It was not long until an arrest was made. Two boys from the Vision Quest Camp were charged with the murder. Vision Quest is a camp for troubled teens up on South Mountain – sort of an alternative to prison for youth – a detention center.
My father groused, “They can’t do anything with those kids. I don’t know why they even try. They’re semi-finished. Those two must have escaped, walked down to Mont Alto and killed Clinton for five dollars. That’s all they found on them.”