The Thief Got Away With the Crime

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During one of my jobs in high school I served as a soda jerk at the Woodlawn Café.  The owner, Joe Fejes let me work evenings.  My job was to make shakes, malts, sundaes, ice cream sodas, pour coffee, and serve pie. Near closing time, I cleaned the fountain and took out the trash.

On this particular night I drove Dad’s green Buick to work. This Buick was the newest car he ever owned even though it was ten years old when he bought it. The nineteen thirty-nine Buick became his favorite.

Woodlawn Cafe sat on the corner of Ninety-fifth Street and Woodlawn Avenue, less than a mile from home. On this dark, cool October night I got permission to drive to work. I wasn’t old enough for a license, but I was driving around the neighborhood on special occasions.  I parked the Buick on Woodlawn next to the restaurant, right in front of the back door.

The Buick had a defect which we tolerated.  The ignition did not work with the key.  All we had to do was turn the knob on the key port, and the starter jumped to life. We continued to stick the key into the switch as a security measure and as a place to keep it while driving.

That evening, business was normal.  It was never super busy at night, but a steady stream of customers came in for coffee and pie, or an ice cream soda.  I also filled some orders for banana splits and sundaes.

At eight p.m. it was time to take the garbage out to the alley.  I opened the door fully expecting to see the Buick standing there, but  it was gone!  My heart jumped into my throat.  Where was it?  I ran to the alley and to the parking lot around the other side of the building, but there was no car.

I rushed into the building and told Mrs. Fejes what happened.  She told me to call the police to report it stolen.  I ran home to make the call.  How would I tell Mom and Dad that someone stole the car?

I fumbled through the phone book to find the number for the Burnside Police Department and dialed. It seemed like forever before I got an answer.  The officer asked me a lot of questions about the car to get a description.  One thing they asked which I couldn’t answer was the license plate number.  I had to get Dad to find the number in his papers.  The police said they would keep their eyes open for it, but until I called them back with the number they couldn’t do much.

At nine o’clock, Mrs. Fejes called us from the restaurant. She saw a car like ours parked by the back door of the restaurant.  I ran all the way back there to check, and sure enough the Buick stood  right where I had originally left it.  I drove it home and parked it in the garage. Early the next morning, before I left for school, two detectives came to the front door. They were following up on the stolen car report.  I told them the story, and showed them the car in the garage before they closed out their report.

I never did find out who took it or why. The only story that makes sense to me is that someone who knew the about the quirky ignition switch took the car for a joy ride and quietly brought it back. They may have enjoyed the ride, but I sure as hell didn’t have any joy that night.

One Response

  1. This one I have never heard before!! I loved that Buick too. I remember driving home from the farm and a rod .bearing went out in Gary just before the merge of rtes 12 and 20. There was no expressway at the time.

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