The Disappearance of Eddie Mars
Randy Bechtel
The Disappearance of Eddie Mars

“Where is Eddie?”

Usually the answer to this question was that Eddie was with his wife Leslie. But because Leslie was asking the question, possible answers seemed limitless. That is, until Leslie limited them:

“Those Old Timers are behind this! I know it!” she screamed.

“Oh Leslie, I don’t know,” my wife Jane said. “When did you last see Eddie?”

“He called me yesterday afternoon from Costco,” Leslie said. Her eyes again fastened on mine. “It’s the Old Timers, isn’t it?”

I could not say no. A month ago, an L.A. production company invited Eddie and me to submit a treatment for a reality show based on men certified as Old Timers by The Order of Old Timers, a.k.a., The Walter Brennan Institute. The association was founded and operated by Eddie’s cousins—Marvin, Edna and Larry Mars—whose day job was pig farming in Ionia, Iowa. Eddie and I decided to focus the reality show on the association’s highest rank of Old Timers, individuals who had pursued or were pursuing a goal no one before them had ever pursued. We came to learn that this distinction applied to one of two types of people—visionaries and lunatics. After interviewing a few Old Timers, we concluded Old Timers are insane.

Still, I tried to allay Leslie’s anxiety by putting on a happy face. “I think you’re jumping to conclusions, Leslie. Eddie only spoke to two Old Timers himself that I know of. And one of them has been murdered.”

Two unhappy faces indicated I could have worded that better.

“Just when did you last talk to Eddie?” Leslie asked me.

“Just after Thanksgiving. After Wally Wooley was killed by a telephone pole,” I replied. “But days before, Eddie and I decided to drop the reality show when—” I glanced at Jane realizing I was about to say something that would be news to her. “—when we learned Eddie’s cousins were being investigated by the IRS for not reporting their association income.”

Jane rolled her eyes and shook her head. Only hours before, she had observed:

“So much for trying your hand at show business. After scripting two dinner theater mysteries and your foray into reality show production, your one claim to fame is that you’re on law enforcement’s data base as a known associate of gangsters.”

Her sour expression now said: “Add to that a known associate of three tax evaders.”

Putting on a happy face, I said: “How big a deal could this IRS thing be? I mean, we’re talking about a mom-and-pop online association whose membership dues came from losers.”

“Big enough that all three Mars cousins have disappeared,” Leslie said.

“Disappeared?” I said.

“Went into hiding,” Leslie said. “Marvin Mars left a goodbye note. It said, ‘Kiss my dingleberries!’ At least, the FBI assumes it was a goodbye note.”

“What about their pig farm?”

“Tuesday Eddie was questioned by an FBI agent who said they believe the cousins’ unreported income totaled eight figures.”

Jane’s thinking seemed to progress from registering five to six to seven zeros as she said, “Oh . . . my . . . God!”

Leslie said: “And just before she vanished, that bitch Edna—  I’m sorry for swearing but that’s the kindest title I can give Edna.  That bitch posted on the association’s website that Eddie was seeking Old Timers to be featured in a television series. Those interested should contact Eddie directly, and Edna listed Eddie’s cell phone number, e-mail and home address. As if Eddie was the cause of her IRS audit!”

In a voice that ranged from hiss to sob, Leslie then said Eddie became aware of the posting three days ago after he received the first of more than 50 phone calls and 300 emails from Old Timers that day alone. Then strange people began knocking on their door, one made up as a Cyclops whose knock went unanswered and whom Leslie blamed for twice leaving a helium balloon picturing a single eye on their lawn.  She and Eddie had even discussed moving before Eddie went to Costco and she to her sister’s house so as not to be home alone.

“Have you reported Eddie missing to the police or must you wait?” Jane asked.  

Leslie collapsed on the couch. “No, they took a report,” she sobbed. “But how . . . how do you tell the police that your husband is . . . is plagued by a . . . a swarm of Old Timers . . .  and not sound nuts yourself?”

When no one replied, Leslie looked at me as her posture straightened, then said with an edge: “Maybe you should talk to the police.”

I was reminded of the famous line: “There's nothing sooner dry than women's tears.”

Jane intervened: “I don’t think, Leslie, that’s a good idea. You see, the police have labeled my dear husband as a known associate of Fritz Schicklegruber and Wally Wooley. Those are the ones we know of anyway. I would be shocked if his associates don’t also include Olaf and Sven Svensen.”

“The Albino Cannonballs!” Leslie gasped.

Crossing my heart, I said: “Leslie, I’ve never met nor even communicated with any of these people. What the police mean by associate is beyond me. Apparently you only need to have met somebody who knows somebody who knew somebody.”

“Oh yes,” Jane said, “let’s not forget Wally Wooley’s hitman, Trey Caleb Bolt. That was Randy’s Thanksgiving Day surprise—being subpoenaed during dinner to testify in Bolt’s murder trial.”

“As a prosecution witness!” I said. “Which I never had to do because Bolt made a deal and pleaded guilty.”

Jane sat down beside Leslie and, draping her arm about Leslie’s shoulders, gave Leslie an even better reason to look shell-shocked:

“Now that I think about it, your Eddie probably doesn’t fare much better on the police database than Randy does. If things go as they seem to go, Randy and Eddie are now known associates of the Mars tax dodgers. Poor Eddie can’t even claim he never met his cousins. Then too, Randy’s so-called association with Wally Wooley was the result of he and Eddie being at the murder scene of Harry Wooley.”

“What?” Leslie croaked.

“Oh, you didn’t know?” Jane said sympathetically. “Yes, well, neither did I until Thanksgiving. Another Thanksgiving dinner surprise! Eddie and Randy were standing there interviewing Harry Wooley when the poor man was squashed by a truck. But it’s probably good this came up because as much as I hope this isn’t true, it does look like anyone who is regarded as an associate of Wally Wooley is also regarded as an associate Fritz Schicklgruber and Trey Caleb Bolt. Question is: Is Eddie also a known associate of the Svensen brothers? I shouldn’t wonder if he is.”

“My Eddie and the Albino Cannonballs!” Leslie whimpered. She buried her face in her hands and implored: “Oh Jane! Whatever happens, we can’t let this get back to our book club!”

“An excellent point!” Jane said. “I agree, of course. Mum’s the word.”

Leslie raised her head and glared at me. Again her tears had suddenly dried. “You need to do something,” she said. “Don’t ask me what. Just do it! And do it fast and discreetly!”

I told her I would immediately contact our mutual friends and Game Changer Productions for any news about Eddie. If that yielded nothing, I would go to the police myself.

“Despite what Jane said, I do have contacts in the Police Department—senior detectives, to be exact—who don’t think I’m a criminal,” I said.

***

At police headquarters I asked to see Lieutenant Baker because the lieutenant had said on two occasions that I was too boring to ever be a person of interest. This should be a plus, I thought, because someone so boring could not make up the claim that Eddie had met foul play at the hands of one or more certified Old Timers who totaled at least 3,422 based on Leslie’s last email count.

“And you want to see the lieutenant about what?” the desk sergeant asked.

“A possible kidnapping by Old Timers.”

The sergeant blinked and gave a quick shake of his head. “And you are?”

“Randy Bechtel.”

“Oh, you,” he said as if mine were a household name signifying inconsequential. He announced me to Baker via telephone and, after shrugging with surprise, told me Baker would be right out. 

When he appeared, the lieutenant said, “Now my day is complete. How about a coffee at Starbuck’s?”

I followed him outside somewhat miffed by his lack of formality.

“It’s good that you stopped by,” Baker said as we walked. “When we get back, I have some mugshots I want you to look at. Possible accomplices who fingered Harry Wooley for Bolt.”

“I don’t see how I could positively I.D. anyone,” I said.

“I don’t expect you to. Just let me know if any look familiar. Now, what’s this about the Old Timers?”

I told him the situation and concluded with: “Lieutenant, believe me, these Old Timers are insane!”

At Starbuck’s we ordered two coffees and sat at a table outside.

Baker said: “Unlike you, I’ve never met an Old Timer and know only what came out about them in the Harry Wooley investigation. That and the little the Feds tell me about the Mars family scam. Still, I tend to think the Old Timers are best described as eccentric, not insane. Eddie disappearing after his relatives makes me wonder whether he was in on their scam. Split four ways, Eddie’s take would have been at least $4 million.”

“Gadzooks!”

“You got that right. And that figure could be conservative.”

I shook my head. “Even so, Eddie wouldn’t become involved in anything crooked,” I said. “As far as I know, he had next to nothing to do with his Iowa cousins before one contacted him in October about making a reality show.  You may not believe this, but Eddie is a Stanford honors grad who had a long and respectable career as a school administrator in Sacramento.”

“You’re right, I don’t believe it,” Baker said. “However, Eddie strikes me as someone more likely to be linked to grifters as a stooge rather than an accomplice. How is his relationship with his wife? Things been okay at home?”

“As far as I know. The last three days have put a strain on both of them, sure. But Leslie desperately wants Eddie found.”

Baker now pointed out that if Old Timers were responsible for Eddie’s disappearance, investigating more than 3,000 suspects within a month would require about 200 detectives working full time.

“Oh, we’ve thought of that,” I said. “Leslie and I came up with a list of nine likely suspects.” I handed Baker a typed list of names and contact information. “These are Old Timers living in the vicinity who contacted Eddie multiple times.”

Baker cursorily looked at the list.  “What else can you tell me about these people?” he said.

“Well, Red Mooney is first on the list because he attacked Eddie on his website, bewareofelks.com. I—not Eddie—Interviewed Mooney for our reality show and more or less told Mooney: ‘Don’t call me. I’ll call you.’ But Mooney probably thinks I was Eddie because it’s Eddie he attacks on his website. He claims that Eddie’s nickname is Fuzzy Wuzzy. A false claim, I’m here to tell you!”

“Let us hope!”

“You don’t understand. Red Mooney believes people with double-Z nicknames belong to an inner circle of the Elks Club conspiring to become the world’s ruling class.”

“Uh-huh. The Elks conquering the world . . .” Baker wrote a note on the list, then asked, “Is Eddie an Elk?”

“No.”

“Just how does Mooney attack Eddie on his website?”

”Well, he doesn’t specifically. He only lists Eddie as ‘Eddie Fuzzy Wuzzy Mars’ among Elks conspirators. But it’s implied that Eddie is high up the totem pole because his nickname has two double-Zs. And the website rants about the evils of the Elks in general. For instance, Mooney claims the Elks are behind the disinformation about climate change. Why? Because they need big oil to run their RVs. And Mooney has followers who are emailing and texting Eddie. They don’t say much. Things like, ‘Bite the big one!’ and ‘Eat shit!’”

“How do you know they’re from Mooney’s followers?”

“Their salutations are always, ‘Dear Fuzzy Wuzzy.’”

”Uh-huh,” Baker said as he scribbled a note. “This second Old Timer on your list—why a question mark in place of a name?”

“That’s what’s-his-name. Or I should say: ‘What is his name?’ He’s an Old Timer who holds the Guinness World Record for changing his name legally. Leslie said he emailed three times under the name of Winston Churchill II, then called twice under the name of Bongo Kooljay. Whether Bongo is still his legal name I can’t say. That’s the thing about these Old Timers—they’re very, very committed to being like no one else.”

“Okay. Next we have Mickey Bitsko—our first Sacramento boy.”

“Bitsko is the world’s leading authority on the life Ralph Waite.”

“Who?”

“Ralph Waite—the actor who played the father on the TV show ‘The Waltons.’ Bitsko wrote a seven-volume biography on Waite.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No one does. Probably not even Ralph Waite. Eddie did talk to Bitsko, who was excited about being on TV because, for one thing, he could promote sales of his books. The biography was self-published and Bitsko told Eddie boxes of the biography fill his garage and two bedrooms. Not that money was driving his enthusiasm for Ralph Waite. Bitsko is currently writing a screenplay titled, ‘The Ralph Waite Story.’ And he told Eddie that he and a trumpet player in a Mariachi band may team up to write and produce ‘Ralph Waite: The Musical.’”

Baker now scribbled a good minute. When he finished, he looked at me somberly and said, “I’m revising my opinion about the Old Timers. You may be right. They are insane.”

***

Outside police headquarters I was walking to my car when I received this text:

“New phone #: 916-321-4555. New email: eddiem@outlook.com Eddie”

Twice I had received calls from that telephone number, both of which I ignored because I did not recognize the number. I had yet to listen to each call’s voice mail.

“Tell me you’re not at police headquarters,” Eddie said when I called.

“Where the hell are you?” I roared.

“Home.”

“Home!”

“I’ve been home all along.”

“What?”

“Well, except this morning when Leslie came back from her sister’s.”

“I thought she came home last night and you were gone.”

“No. She spent the night at her sister’s and came home this morning. Yesterday she was pretty pissed so she went to her sister’s and I—I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I cleared out my phone at Costco for the third time and turned it off. By the time I came out, my voice mail was full again. I sort of freaked and threw my phone in the river. Then I boozed it up. Suddenly it was morning, so I took an Uber to go get a new phone. That’s when Leslie came home. She saw my car here and no me, and she couldn’t reach my phone so she freaked. She’s here with me now.”

“Eddie, you’re an idiot! Leslie’s an idiot for marrying you! I’m an idiot for knowing you! And to answer your question: Yes, I just left the police. I actually convinced them that you may be in danger and are not, as they correctly believed, an idiot!”

I heard Eddie tell Leslie I had gone to the police and her reply which was too muffled to understand. Back again, Eddie said:

“You don’t possibly think you could pop into the police station and set things straight?”

“No! Hell no!” I erupted. “You call the cops or have Leslie do it. Leslie’s the one who filed the missing-persons report.”

Eddie relayed this to Leslie and a moment later said: “Leslie thinks you should do it.”

“Eddie, I really don’t care,” I said. “But then, I’m not your wife. The cops told me that when a spouse disappears, the other spouse is almost always responsible. So their investigation will start with asking people about Leslie. They asked me for names of people they could question and the only ones I could think of were members of Leslie’s book club.”

Eddie relayed this to Leslie. When her screaming stopped, he said:

“She’s calling now.” He paused, then said in a hushed voice: “I can believe the police would investigate my disappearance by first focusing on my wife rather than Old Timers. What I can’t believe is that the police would investigate my disappearance at all.”

“Sure they would, Eddie!” I said. “That is . . . of course . . . if they had good reason to think you were victimized. Although, being that it’s you, the reason would have to be a very good one. Or probably one very, very good.”

“Which they don’t have.”

“Probably.”

“I suppose influencing their thinking is that they believe—or so I’ve just been told—that I was an associate of Wally Wooley and am an associate of Fantastic Fritz, Trey Caleb Bolt and, last but not least, the Albino Cannonballs, Sven and Olaf Svensen..”

“Hey, that didn't come from me!” I said.

Copyright © 2021 by Randy Bechtel

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