The dream of William Burns

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Apr 15, 2013

Note: On March 1, 1932, Charles Lindbergh’s infant son was kidnapped, prompting a years-long investigation into the crime. Six weeks later, William Burns died following a prolonged period of illness. The rest of what follows is entirely the invention of the author.

William Burns puffed out his cheeks in frustration. As he exhaled, a small jet of vapor formed for a moment. It was damn well cold enough up here, he thought. Florida was a Hell of a lot more livable in March.

Burns crossed his arms, and tilted his head one way and then the other, as though looking for something. There was nothing to see, though, at any rate nothing more than there had been all morning. Just that big new house, off through the pine trees. A couple of cars out front. No one coming or going, though, and nothing else anywhere nearby but more trees. He believed—no, he had seen—figures moving inside the house a few times, even from this far away. But that didn’t prove anything useful. What was he doing here, really?

What was Lindbergh doing here was a better question, he thought, squeezing himself against the frosty evening air. All that money, beloved by everyone and opportunities anywhere he went, and he chose to make his home up here halfway to the Arctic? Year-round? He had flown across the Atlantic Ocean, surely the concept of removing someplace warm at least for the winter wasn’t too daunting for him…

He might try to drop a hint, perhaps, an offhand remark about someone he knew who wintered in Florida. Though for that matter, his family might want to relocate entirely after this; god knows Burns knew the feeling. If only Lindbergh would talk to him. Burns could help, he wanted to help, he understood what this was like. He had been through much of it, more than once: threats to his family, anonymous notes, and of course the whole circus that always converges on a case like this. Burns had been in the middle of those too many times to count and he understood the instinct to hole up in a fortress, shut everything out, trust no one, but dammit they needed his help and here he was, ready to offer it, but stuck tramping around in a forest like some gumshoe amateur.

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