The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 33

 “Gated communities? Oh yes, they’re quite the rage. But not in Altoona, I shouldn’t think.” Another snort. “Maybe he should have stayed in Altoona.”

 Why didn’t he?

 Why had he come to New York? He’d gone to college not far from home, returned home after graduation, and very likely fallen into the job selling insurance at his uncle’s agency. Then when he came into a few dollars he moved to New York and went to law school.

 Why? Didn’t Penn State have a law school? It would have been cheaper than moving to New York, and would have been a logical preface to taking the Pennsylvania bar exam and practicing law not far from home. He could even have gone on selling insurance in his free time; he wouldn’t have been the first person to work his way through law school in that fashion.

 But instead he’d had a clean break. Hadn’t looked back, as far as I could tell. Hadn’t taken his bride back home, hadn’t introduced her to his family.

 What had he left behind? And what had he taken with him when he made the move? How much had his parents left him?

 Or had they left him anything at all?

 Start with the uncle. I called Eleanor Yount to see if the firm’s records had him listed by name. She had an assistant pull Glenn’s résumé and reported that he had not been spe-cific in listing his job experience prior to law school. Like his after-school jobs and summer employment, his career in insurance had been merely summarized. Sales and adminis-trative work at uncle’s insurance office, Altoona, PA, he’d written, along with the dates.

 I got through to the Information operator in Altoona and had her check the Yellow Pages listings for an insurance agent named Holtzmann. There were a lot of Holtzmanns in the region, she told me, most but not all of them spelling it with two N’s, but none of them seemed to be in the insurance business.

 Of course your uncle doesn’t necessarily have the same last name as you. And there was a fair chance the uncle had died, or retired to Florida, or sold the business and bought a Burger King franchise.

 Still, how big was Altoona? And how many insurance agents could it have, and wouldn’t they tend to know each other?

 I asked the operator for the names and numbers of the two insurance agencies with the largest Yellow Pages ads. She seemed to think that was an amusing request, but she gave me what I wanted. I called them both, in each case managing to get through to someone who’d been there a while. I explained that I was trying to contact a man who had been in the insurance business in Altoona and who may have been named Holtzmann, but who in any event had em-ployed his nephew, whose name was in fact Holtzmann, Glenn Holtzmann.

 No luck.

 I called Information again and got the names of half a dozen of the two-N Holtzmanns. I took them in order. The first two didn’t answer. The third was a woman with a voice like Ethel Merman’s who assured me that she knew all the Holtzmanns in town, that they were all related, and that there was no one in the family named Glenn. Nothing wrong with the name, but no Holtzmann had ever used it, and she would know if they had.

 I said I thought he was from Roaring Spring.

 Now that was a different story, she said. She didn’t quite say it, but she gave me the impression that people in Roar-ing Spring had tails. She knew there was a Holtzmann fam-ily in Roaring Spring, although she hadn’t heard tell of them in years and couldn’t say if any of them were still around. One thing she did know was that the Holtzmanns in Roaring Spring were not in any way related to the Holtz-manns in Altoona.

 “Unless you go clear back to the Rhineland,” she said.

 I called Information and asked for Holtzmanns in Roaring Spring, wondering why it hadn’t occurred to me to do so earlier. No matter. There weren’t any. I called Lisa. Did she happen to know the name of the uncle at whose insurance agency Glenn had worked in Altoona?

 She said, “What a question. Did he ever mention any of his relatives by name? If he did I don’t remember. The thing is, neither of us talked much about our families.”

 “What about his mother’s maiden name? Did he happen to mention that?”

 “I’m sure he didn’t,” she said. “But wait a minute, I just came across it on his group insurance policy. Hold on a minute.” I held, and she came back to report that it was Ben-ziger. “ ‘Father’s name—John Holtzmann, Mother’s maiden name—Hilda Benziger’ ” she read. “Does that help?”

 “I don’t know,” I said.

 I called Altoona Information again looking for an insur-ance agent named Benziger. There was none listed, and I didn’t bother chasing the Benziger name any further than that. The uncle in question could have been an uncle by mar-riage, husband of the sister of one of Glenn’s parents. He could even have been an honorary uncle, the father of a sec-ond cousin. There were just too many ways he could have a name that was neither Holtzmann nor Benziger.

 I hung up the phone and sat there trying to figure out what to do next. It seemed to me that I was knocking on plenty of doors, but I kept getting them slammed in my face.

 Was I going to have to make a trip to Altoona? God knows I didn’t want to. It seemed a long way to go to chase down information that wasn’t very likely to lead anywhere. But I didn’t know if I could manage it from a distance. Up close, I could chase his parents’ names through old city and county records, find out who all his relatives were, and come up with a name for the uncle in question.

 Assuming the people I encountered were cooperative. I knew how to ensure cooperation from record clerks in New York. You bribe them. In Altoona that might not be possible.

 Was I going to have to find out?

 I glared at the phone, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t pick that moment to ring. It was Lisa. She said, “After I hung up I started thinking. Why insurance? Because he never told me he was ever in the insurance business.”

 “He told Eleanor Yount.”

 “He told me he sold cars,” she said. “He sold Cadillacs and Chevrolets. And something else. Oldsmobiles?”

 “When did he do that?”

 “After college,” she said. “Before he moved to New York, before he went to law school.”

 “Under Auto Dealerships,” I said. “Do you see the name Holtzmann anywhere? Holtzmann Motors, Holtzmann Cadillac?”

 They were remarkably patient at Altoona Information. While she checked I pictured Glenn Holtzmann stretched out on the pavement in front of a Honda dealership and across the street from a muffler shop. The city’s largest Cadillac dealer was only a block or so away.

 There were no Holtzmanns in the Altoona listings. I asked her to try Benziger. That rang a bell, she said, but she couldn’t say why, or find a Benziger Motors on the page. I told her I was looking for a dealership that sold Chevrolet, Cadillac, and possibly Oldsmobile.

 After a brief search she reported that only one local deal-ership listed itself as an agency for Cadillac. They had the other lines I mentioned, and GMC trucks, and Toyota as well. “Sign of the times,” she said of the last. “That would be Nittany Motors,” she said, “out on Five Mile Road.”

 I took the number and dialed the call. The woman who an-swered didn’t believe there was a Mr. Holtzmann present, unless it was a new man in the service department whose name she didn’t know as yet. Was that who I wanted?

 “Then I guess Mr. Holtzmann’s not the owner,” I said.

 The idea seemed to tickle her. “Well, I guess not,” she said. “Mr. Joseph Lamarck is the owner and has been as long as there’s been a Nittany Motors.”

 “And how long has that been?”

 “Why, quite a few years now.”

 “And before that? Was there a time when it was Benziger Motors?”

 “Why, yes,” she said. “That was before my time, I’m afraid. May I ask the nature of your interest?”

 I told her I was calling from New York, that I was in-volved in the investigation of a homicide. The deceased seemed to have been a former employee of Benziger Mo-tors, and might have been a relative of Mr. Benziger.

 “I think you ought to talk with Mr. Lamarck,” she said, then came back to tell me he was busy on another line. Would I hold? I said I would.

 I was lost in space when a deep male voice said, “Joe Lamarck here. Afraid I didn’t get your name, sir.”

 I supplied it.

 “And someone’s been killed? Used to work here and a rel-ative of Al Benziger’s? I guess that would have to be Glenn Holtzmann.”

 “Did you know him?”

 “Oh, sure. Not well, and I can’t say I’ve thought of him in years, but he was a nice enough young fellow. He was Al’s sister’s boy, if I’m not mistaken. She raised young Glenn by herself and died about the time he went up to State College. I believe Al helped them some over the years, and then took Glenn on after he graduated.”

 “How did he do?”

 “Oh, he did all right. I don’t think he had any real feeling for the automobile business, but sometimes that comes with time. He left, though. I couldn’t say what it was he was tired of, Altoona or the automobile business. May have been Al. Damn good man, but he could be hard to work for. I had to quit him.”

 “You used to work for Benziger?”

 “Oh, sure, but I quit, oh, musta been a couple months af-ter Glenn started. Nothing to do with Glenn, though. Al chewed me out one time too many and I went down the street and worked for Ferris Ford. Then when Al had his troubles I came back and bought the place, but that’s a whole ’nother story.”

 “When did that happen?”

 “Lord, fifteen years ago,” he said. “History.”

 “That was after Glenn left.”

 “You bet. Several months after that Al had his troubles, and it was some time after that before I took over.”

 “What kind of troubles?”

 There was a pause. “Well, I don’t like to say,” he said. “All just history now, anyway. There’s nobody around played any part in it. Al and Marie left town soon as they could, and I couldn’t guess where he is now. If he’s alive at all, and it’d be my guess that he’s not. He was a broken man when he left Altoona.”

 “What broke him?”

 “The damn federal government,” he said with feeling. “I wasn’t going to say, but I’m not hurting anybody and you could find out easy enough. Al was keeping two sets of books, been doing it for years. His wife Marie was his book-keeper and I guess they worked it out between them. He had an accountant, of course, Perry Preiss, and he was in trouble there for a while, until it turned out that Al and Marie had kept him in the dark all along. Still, I understand it hurt his practice.”

 “What happened to the Benzigers?”

 “They settled. No choice, was there now? IRS had ’em cold. It was out-and-out tax evasion, too, with a fraudulent set of books and some secret bank accounts. You couldn’t say you made a mistake, you didn’t report this and that be-cause it slipped your mind. IRS wanted to, they could have put the both of them in jail. Had ’em over a barrel, and didn’t show a lot of mercy, my opinion. Took Al Benziger for everything he had. I wound up buying this place. Somebody else bought their house, and somebody else got their sum-mer place down by the lake.”

 “And Glenn was gone when this happened.”

 “Oh, sure. Didn’t come back to rally round, either. If he even heard about it. Where was he at the time, New York?”

 “New York,” I said. “In law school, paying his way with the money he came into when his mother died.”

 He asked me to repeat that. When I’d done so he said, “No, that part’s wrong. Glenn Holtzmann grew up in a trailer in Roaring Spring, and they didn’t even own the trailer. I don’t guess his mother ever had a dime aside from what her brother gave her.”

 “Maybe there was some insurance money.”

 “Surprise me if there was, but anything like that would have been long gone. Didn’t I say Glenn’s mother died about the time he started college?”

 “I guess you did.”

 He said, “Raises a question, doesn’t it? Where’d he get the money?”

 “I don’t know. How did the IRS know to come after Al Benziger?”

 “My Lord,” he said.

 “Who knew about the second set of books?”

 “An hour ago I’da said nobody knew. Perry Preiss didn’t, I know that for a fact. I didn’t know about it. I’da said Al and Marie and nobody else.”

 “And now?”

 “Now I’d have to wonder if maybe Glenn knew,” he said.

 “My Lord, my Lord.”

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