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North Coast Current

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North Coast Current

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Sunday Serial: Haunted Bones-Chapter Fourteen


Authors note: This is a work of fiction. It does not reflect any actual events, and all of the characters are fictional. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.There is a real city of Oceanside, California. It’s San Diego County’s third largest city with a below-average crime rate.
The Grand Pacific Hotel is fictional, but during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were at least two similar resort hotels that did exist, primarily serving railroad passengers and tourists as described in this book.

— Tom Morrow

Chapter 14

After an introductory call, the detectives made their way to Carlsbad to the home of the long-time owner of the Grand Pacific Hotel. Boykin was sitting on his beach front patio, enjoying an afternoon cocktail, watching the sun drop to the horizon while listening to the ocean’s surf.

Today the Pacific was calm. Its waves were just loud enough to soothe the mind. It was the kind of low, dull roar that caused the mind to wonder—and reflect; reflect on the memories—the good memories. Those that made everything in life worthwhile. That wonderful roar made everything all right with the world.

For Boykin, money, lots of money, made the ocean’s roar and its beautiful setting that went with it worth the price it cost him. And, with the hotel’s sale months before, Boykin had the kind of bucks to live well along Southern California’s coastline. The hotel was but one of those benefits from many years of smart real estate investments.

Jennifer, the investor’s beautiful wife – herself a trophy to go with Boykin’s lucrative investments, welcomed Danny and Joe into their home, escorting them to the patio. She offered a cocktail, but the detectives declined. It’s not to say they didn’t want one – the setting couldn’t be better, but their question may not blend well with a cool drink. Maybe later.

“So, you fellas want to talk to me about the ol’ gal, huh? I assume this has something to do with those bodies? Nasty business.”

“Yes sir, it does. We think you can help us,” Danny said.

“Don’t know what I can do, but I’ll try my best. But keep in mind I didn’t do any actual day-to-day work at the hotel. That’s why I had a staff. I owned it for a short time before it closed. I inherited it from my family.”

“Uh, yes sir. I would imagine. But for the moment there are some lingering questions about parts of the hotel we need answers to. We’re hoping you can help us,” Danny said taking the lead from Joe, who took out his pocket binder and prepared to take notes—hopefully, copious notes. But before Danny could start, Boykin began rambling about the hotel and how his family became its owners.

Both Joe and Danny sat listening, hoping this trip down memory lane wouldn’t take too long. They needed to get back to the office. But what was about to be revealed really opened their eyes—and their case. Boykin’s memory stroll would be worth their wait.

“Well, the hotel had been in the family for generations. My great-grandfather bought it from the original owner some years after it was built in 1895. Seems that owner got into some financial trouble.”

“How was that?” Danny asked showing genuine interest.

“Right after it opened, it became a grand success. It was making money hand over fist. Only trouble was the owner started spending it like wildfire and living a lavish lifestyle he really couldn’t afford. He eventually stopped paying his bills and, as you can imagine, that upset the creditors. Eventually the bank took it over. But they were in the business of loaning money and not running a hotel. Word spread quickly and my great-grandfather purchased it for some ridiculously low price. He didn’t know anything about the hotel business, but he knew a good investment when he saw it. The rest is history.”

“But you had to close in 1985.”

“That we did; yes. The place was coming apart and it was costing us way too much money to keep up the repairs. Besides, the place had lost its charm. It just wasn’t quaint anymore – it was just old.”

“Speaking of coming apart, what about the old plumbing?”

“Plumbing? Hell, those old pipes leaked like a sieve. Whoever did the original plumbing didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. I remember my dad and granddad threatening to tear the place down at one time because it leaked so much. But they never did. Somehow they just coped with it. Eventually all the leaky areas were fixed. But some leaks remained causing sections to rot away, which caused even more damage. Now that was costly!”

“So exactly why did you close it?”

“Revenue, son — there just wasn’t enough of it. We just couldn’t keep up with the newer hotels and their services. Eventually, I saw the handwriting on the wall and just decided to close her down and board her up.”

“Why not tear it down and build a new one?”

“Again it was money. The real estate market at that time was still sluggish from the Carter years. Even though the rates were coming down, they were still too high. We couldn’t find a buyer. We thought we’d just wait out the market slump and go for it again. With inflation and all, we thought we could ask a higher price.”

“But you just sold it earlier this year. Why not back around ’05 or ’06 when the real estate market was really booming?”

“Son, the fact was I just f…ed up! No other way to explain it. I priced it too high, thinking the boom would last forever. It didn’t and potential buyers evaporated. We just pushed the envelope too far and lost out. When the market crashed, so did we. All we could do was wait for some sort of new recovery, which, by the way, is scary as hell right now, seeing who’s sitting in Washington.”

“Okay, so the market’s recovery is still sluggish. What did you do, fire-sale the place?”

“Oh no, not hardly. We did come off our price some from the ’06 asking price, but, truthfully, we got lucky.”

“How’s that?”

“Some hotel developer’s son from back East had been keeping an eye on the ol’ girl. Seems him and his wife had come out this way back in the late ’70s to vacation and ended up staying at the GP for a week. They fell in love with the place and later came back the following years until she closed. He was really disappointed when that happened.

“Then one day about six months later, I received a call from his father inquiring about what I was going to do with the property. His son apparently put the bug in his ear. I told him I was eventually going to sell, but the business climate had to turn around first. He fully understood that.

“We talked about interest rates and such, but we never did talk about a price or anything. He said he would stay in touch from time-to-time to see how things were going. Never did hear from him again.”

“Find out why.”

“Up and died from a heart attack.”

“His son ever call you?”

“Yeah, he did. It was a few years later. He said he had taken over his father’s firm and was learning the intricate mechanics of the business. His father, from what I later learned, was one helluva deal-maker and a guy who made things happen—and happen fast. And, my impression was his son wanted to do operate the same way.

“We had a good talk but nothing happened. I was partly to blame for that because I still wasn’t ready to sell. But he told me that one of these days he’d own the Grand Pacific property and turn Oceanside into one of the premiere West Coast resort cities.”

“So this was around 1988 or so?” Danny asked.

“There abouts.”

“So what happened in the years to follow?”

“Not much really other than the property value soared beyond belief, as well as the exorbitant taxes and the damned insurance I had to keep on the place. I have to admit, it was becoming a nightmare just to hang on to it. Hell, I had to do something.”


“And how.”

“I assume you sold it to the developer back East.”

“Eventually, yes. I did when a previous local deal we were working on fell through at the last minute.”

“Local, huh?”

“Yeah, some real estate attorney put together a deal with a few other investors who hadn’t already gone belly-up from the housing collapse. Surprisingly, the attorney found a bank that would loan the partnership up to 50 percent of the sale price as long as they put down the other 50 percent.

“But for some reason, I had a bad feeling it wasn’t going to work out. Nevertheless, he kept calling me, assuring that everything was going to work out just fine and that he was in the process of lining everything up. Then one day I got a call from the bank wanting to know if I knew who I was dealing with.”

“Did you?”

“Never had met the guy until he approached me about wanting to buy the hotel. But I knew his father, a long-time family doctor here in town. Ah hell, you must know who I’m talking about, Dr. Homer Dobbins. His wife was bludgeoned to death awhile back from some late night intruder, and the old man was shot. But I guess you already know that.”

After Boykin made that statement, Joe and Danny looked at each other as calmly as they could; but their guts twitched so bad they felt like they had just been struck by a bolt of lightning. Danny noticed Joe straightening an already straight tie. He turned back to Boykin.

“Uh, yes sir. We’re well aware of that case. Now … you’re telling us the attorney you’re talking about was JUNIOR Dobbins. Is that correct?”

“Yes, that’s him.”

“And the deal didn’t go through?”

“That’s right. The investors were only able to come up with 45 percent of the down payment. From what I understand, young Dobbins went to his father for the remaining 5 percent.”

“If you don’t mind, how much money are we talking about here?”

“I sold the hotel and property for ten million. And Dobbins’ group could have owned it if the kid could’ve come up with a measly two-hundred and fifty thousand. But he didn’t and the deal fell through.”

“By any chance you know the reason why his father didn’t help him?”

“To my knowledge, his father agreed to help. It was his step-mother who got in the way. She refused to co-sign the papers. No signature, no money, no deal.”

About this time, Jennifer Boykin walked back out onto the patio. She noticed her husband’s vodka tonic was all but empty. He raised the glass and rattled the ice cubes signaling he was ready for another one. She took the glass and again offered the detectives something to drink: Coke, tea, water, beer? Both officers said water, but really wanted beer—lot’s of beer.

“What happened then?”

“Luck. That’s what happened. Not too long after the deal collapsed, I got a call from my young developer friend back East. He said his money situation had improved greatly and wanted to talk business. I cut right to the chase and said ‘ten million and it’s all yours.’”


“Two weeks later he flew into town, signed the papers, and handed me a certified check. I went straight to the bank, made a deposit, went to the liquor store, came home, fixed a drink, and have been sitting out here looking at the Pacific ever since.”

“You’re kidding,” Joe said speaking for the first time.

“Not really, but I do lounge out here often; especially in the afternoon. It is so peaceful.”

“Yes, it is,” Joe said. Danny turned around and again looked at the Pacific. But at the moment, he didn’t give a damn about the view. He was a hell of a lot more interested in what Boykin had said about the Dobbins family. The former hotel owner didn’t know it, but he had just produced the smoking gun in the Dobbins’ case. Danny calmly turned back around to ask more questions.

“Did you talk with JUNIOR some more after the deal fell through?”

“I did. He approached me again wanting me to reduce my price. I told him I didn’t want to do that. I told him I was holding firm.”

“But did you ever consider it?”

“No, not really. The banker who called me told me that JUNIOR was in financial straights. Apparently he got whacked pretty hard during the down-turn. He lost his shirt.”

“And the bank was going to do business with him?”

“Only in a small way. You see, the investors he’d lined up were in good financial standing. They all had good credit. The bank didn’t have a problem with them. The bank knew they were good for the loan. But, like I said, they could only raise 45 percent of the down payment and couldn’t stretch it further. The remainder had to come from young Dobbins.”

“His father was willing to help, but his stepmother didn’t? That what you heard?”

“Yeah, more or less. I really don’t know the details as to why she wouldn’t. Dobbins didn’t tell me anything. I can only speculate there had to have been some sort of riff between the two. My wife, Jennifer plays golf over at the El Camino Country Club and knew Harriet. The rumor mill had it that JUNIOR was upset with his step-mom believing the only reason she wanted to marry his father was because of his money. But the truth of the matter was she did, in fact, have money after her first husband died. She didn’t need the Doc’s money.”

“Anything else you can think of?”

“No, that’s pretty much about it. Say, how you guys doing on that murder case? Any suspects, yet?”

“The Dobbins case? We’re quickly narrowing it down.”

“Good! Hope you catch the sonuvabitch.”

“Oh, we will; we will. You can count on that.”

“Now what was it you guys wanted to ask me about the hotel before I got off on my tangent?”

“Oh, yeah. The boilers. You had two. What’s the story on that?”

“Ol’ Bessie. That’s what we called the original one. She was quite a workhorse. How it ever made it as far as she did was a wonder. They really built some heavy-duty boilers back in the days. And big! My god that thing was big. Damn near the size of an old steam engine.”

“Oh yes, it was big. But what happened to it, and why the second boiler?”

“She just gave up. Fortunately we could see big problems coming. We got some repairmen to take a look at it, but they said it wasn’t worth repairing. Said the cost of a new, more efficient one would be the way to go. So we ordered a new one. And timing was good, too. Just after we got the new one in place and installed, Ol’ Bessie gave out.”

“And the new boiler. Why not install it where the old one was?”

“Money. The removal of the old boiler was, at the time, cost prohibitive. You saw how big that sonuvabitch was. It would’ve cost us a fortune at the time. So we just decided to leave it and lock the door.

“The placement of the new boiler was also a money issue. It was cheaper to put where we did than over by the old boiler. The hookup was easier and we could install newer water lines and natural gas lines at a cost savings. It was much cheaper to do that.”

“By any chance do you remember when all that occurred?”

“I think it was the summer of 1972 if I’m not mistaken. Yes, that’s when it was. For some reason I remember our hotel manager bringing me all sorts of reasons to put it where we did. He seemed right adamant it would save us a bunch of money. And he was right, it did.”

“That hotel manager. Was that John Traiger?”

“Yes, it was. Good man. How did you fellas know that?”

“We’ve talked to him. Lives with his daughter up in Anaheim.”

“So, John is still alive, huh?”

“Yes he is. And he’s doing well.”

“Good to hear that. Next time you see him, tell him I said hello for me. You do that?”

“Yes sir, sure will.”

“So, how’s the case going with those two bodies at the hotel?” Danny kept quiet about the third body found in the boiler.

“Still working on it. It’s a tough one. Still gathering evidence. But let me ask you about those boilers again. Del Torrance, the fellow who demolished the hotel, mentioned you took care of removing the old boiler. Shouldn’t the new owner have done that?”

“Probably, but he had environmental concerns about it, thinking it would cost too much to eradicate. Because he didn’t bark at my asking price, I told him I’d take care of it if I could remove and sell the newer boiler, to help offset my costs. He didn’t have a problem with that.”

“Well, okay. That makes sense. Do you remember the name of the company who removed them?”

“Some company out of San Diego. I don’t remember the name right now. I’ll have to get back with you on that.”

“Yes, that would be good.”

“May I ask why you need that information?”

“Oh, just part of the investigation. We’re trying to be as thorough as we can. You know how that goes.”

“Yeah, I understand. You do what you gotta do.”

“Maybe a few more questions and we’ll be out of your hair.”

“Go ahead. I’m in no hurry. I’m just enjoying my cocktail.”

“Well then, you remember John Traiger…”

“Yes, good man. He was hired as a bookkeeper after returning from Korea. When the previous manager died, I elevated him to that position because of his strong work ethics and the hotel knowledge he had gained. He saved us a lot of money — did an excellent job. Plus he was a military man. I liked that.”

“You in the Marines?”

“Briefly. I ended up in Cambodia. Got may ass shot off. Sent back home for recovery. Discharged. Never went back. I guess I was lucky. Lots of guys never made it back.”

“Yes, it was a sad war.”

“It was a conflict. Helluva a conflict, though. You ever in the services?”

“No, I wasn’t. But being a policeman sometimes makes me feel like I have. Some days it feels like a war zone.”

“I can imagine.”

“Okay, what about Seth Adams? Your head bellman.”

“Also a good man. Always greeted with a smile. Never seen such big white teeth in my whole life. He still living?”

“Yes, he is. Lives up in Oceanside, enjoying retirement.”

“Good to hear that.”

“Ned Martin?”

“No, can’t say that I do.”

“Beatrice Cryer.”

“I think I remember her working in our dining room. As I recall, she was a nice looking lady with big tits. Always smiling. She still around?”

“Yes, lives in Oceanside with her cats,” Danny replied. “What about Aaron Hinkle?”

“Wavy red hair. Yeah, I remember him, but not from the hotel. He owned a jewelry store downtown. Bought my wife’s diamond wedding ring there. Had his designer make me a special setting. Cost a bundle, I remember that!”

“My grandfather probably did that setting.” Joe said, chiming in.”

“He did?”

“Yes sir. He worked for Aaron back then. That was his job, He was well-known for his diamond settings.”

“Well, the one he did for me is beautiful. I had it appraised last year. It’s worth ten times more than I paid. Great investment. Jennifer wears it all the time knowing its worth. I keep telling her to wear it just on special occasions. She tells me that everyday living with me is a special occasion. I just couldn’t argue with that and said, ‘Okay, wear it all you want.’ Well, what the hell. It’s only money.”

“Yeah, only money,” Joe said, with a sly smile.

“Sorry detective, I wasn’t trying to be condescending. I was just using an old expression.”

“No offense. I knew what you meant,” Joe said with a lighter smile.

“Anything else, detectives?”

“No sir, I think that about wraps it up. You’ve been very helpful.”

“Don’t know what I said to be helpful, but if you say so.”

“Mind if we come back if we have some more questions?”

“Feel free. But, why not do it on a Saturday afternoon when you’re off-duty so you can have a cocktail with me.”

“Yes, sir. That’d be nice. We’ll do that.”

The detectives made there way to their car after a cordial good-bye to the lovely Jennifer. After getting inside, Danny slapped the steering wheel with his left palm. With the statement he had just heard from Boykin, he now suspected JUNIOR Dobbins was his step-mother’s killer. He just knew it. But there was one small problem: what he and Joe heard was only hearsay evidence and not enough to arrest the creep. They needed more concrete evidence that would support the statement. But there was no doubt in their mind they had found the motive: revenge.

“Helluva smoking gun there, huh pardner?” Joe said.

“Yeah, it is. Makes sense now. Remember when JUNIOR’s wife told us about the phone conversation she overheard?”

“About how he was so upset with his father and how he blamed everything on Harriet? Yeah, I remember. But we’ll never be able to use her statement. She won’t testify against him.”

“Who says we’ll use her statement? Let’s go the bank and talk to that loan officer who handled the transaction to buy the hotel. Maybe he knows something. And maybe he can give us the names of JUNIOR’s investors. We need to talk to them. Maybe one of them is pissed-off enough at JUNIOR for fouling up the deal. Maybe one of them has direct knowledge of what he said.”

“Again, it’ll just be hearsay.” Joe said.

“No. It’ll be direct evidence.”

“Okay. And then we can get an arrest warrant. Right?”

“Absolutely,” Danny agreed “We need to get that sonuvabitch behind bars.”

“He’ll make bail,” Joe grunted.

“Probably. But he’ll know we’re after his butt. He’ll be looking over his shoulder. He’ll make a mistake. Might even lead us to the gun.”

“There you go, pardner, speculating again.” Joe said.

“If you want to call a gut feeling ‘speculation,’ then yeah. He’ll be running scared. He’ll screw up. And when he does, we’ll be there to nail his ass—for good!” Danny was looking straight ahead with a broad smile on his face.

“Nice theory. You get this from ‘Law and Order?’”

“Yeah, right. Let’s go to the bank.”

“Never make it. Bank’s getting ready to close. And it’s Friday.”

“Where you been? Banks are open on Saturday these days,” Danny smiled. “Getting back to the hotel case, we’ve got to make sense of those boilers.”

“We’ll work on it this weekend,” Joe reckoned.”Think the lab has identified those dog tags yet?”

“We would’ve heard by now.”

“Well, let’s go over there anyway.” Just as Joe made this statement, his cell phone rang. Timing was everything.

“Who was that?” Danny asked.

“You’re not going to believe this. It was the lab. They’ve just ID’d our boiler bones — those haunted bones. That’s what they are, don’t ya know,” Joe said

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Sunday Serial: Haunted Bones-Chapter Fourteen