“The Mystery of the Stolen Pipes” is from a book I wrote entitled Stories to
Smoke a Pipe by. I revised the original story and present it here.
I hope you enjoy it!
Melvin S. Schwartz
I have been fortunate enough to acquire a manuscript written by Dr. Sanford Mallin. It details Dr. Mallin’s investigation of the theft of an extremely valuable pipe collection. Before I reveal the manuscript’s contents, and how I acquired it, let me give you some information about Dr. Mallin, which I think you will find interesting.
Dr. Mallin was my physician for many years. He was an old-fashioned kind of doctor who was extremely competent. The way Dr. Mallin showed concern for a patient’s well-being was most admirable. He never rushed you; instead, he took the time to make sure you understood all of his instructions. Dr. Mallin was certainly one of a kind. Then, one day in February of 1989, he disappeared. There was not anyone who knew why he left, or to where he had gone. The only things missing from his house were his clothes, medical bag, a number of medical books, and his smoking pipes. In addition, I learned much later, he had withdrawn all the money from his bank account. There was not a single reason that anyone could give for his sudden behavior –it is a mystery to this very day.
At the time Dr. Mallin disappeared, he was forty-seven years old, six-foot one-inches tall, and weighed about 180 pounds. His black hair, streaked with gray, was combed straight back. He had deep-blue eyes, and a thin, medium-sized nose. Although his body was lean, he had good muscularity, a strong and handsome man.
Perhaps the reason Dr. Mallin never married was that he was so devoted to his practice. Some might jokingly say that he never went to the altar because of that tobacco he smoked, a latakia blend. His passion for smoking a pipe was certainly well known.
I was never aware of Dr. Mallin trying to find the Templeton pipes. However, I do remember hearing about Charles Templeton’s pipe collection being stolen.
Before Charles Templeton’s wife Mary left to live out her days in a nursing home, she gave me a signed manuscript written by Dr. Sanford Mallin. She swore that it was his signature and that the story was true. She explained to me that Dr. Mallin wrote down the events that occurred while he searched for the stolen pipes. Before Dr. Mallin disappeared, he gave the manuscript to Mary Templeton; she in turn has given it to me. Her explanation for giving it to me was sent along with the manuscript I received: “I never really knew what to do with this manuscript. However, since I am going away, I feel that I have to give it to someone. I have thought about this for quite some time. Although you only remember me from the times that I came over to play cards with your mother, I remembered that you are a dedicated pipe smoker just like my beloved Charles. And I can’t think of anyone better to give it to.”
With Mary Templeton’s permission, I now make public this story.
Friday, March 21, 1986.
It was almost 4 p.m. when I returned home from the office. As I settled down in my favorite chair, I fired up a large Dunhill “ODA”; it is a pipe that I acquired from Whitley’s Estate Pipes. Buying pre-owned pipes from John Whitley has been very helpful to me in building a valuable collection. Every month he sends me a price list with photos of fine old briars for sale. I picked up this month’s issue and studied it as I puffed on my Dunhill.
Suddenly the doorbell rang. I walked to the door and when I opened it, there, standing in the rain, without the aid of an umbrella, was Mary Templeton.
There was a sense of urgency in Mary’s voice as she said, “Hello, Sanford, I have to speak with you.”
“Please, please come in,” I said.
We walked into the living room. She was tightly clutching a white handkerchief as she sat down. Mary seemed very tense and nervous about something. At first, I thought it was because of the death of her husband Charles, who passed away four months ago. However, I was soon to learn otherwise.
Her lips quivered as she began to speak: “Oh, Sanford, I feel so depressed. I did not know what to do — go to the police, or to come here. I-I just didn’t know.”
“Mary,” I said, “please tell me what this is all about.”
“It’s Charles’ pipe collection.” She placed the handkerchief to her eyes, and then shrieked, “Someone stole it!”
“My God, who would do such a thing?” I asked, being both angered and bewildered by her statement.
“I don’t know,” she said, and then wiped her nose with the handkerchief. “I was hoping you could help. Why would the police give a damn — a bunch of old pipes — when to them it would not mean a thing. To me they are more than just a bunch of old pipes. Every time I looked at them, they brought back memories. I enjoyed seeing Charles relaxing in his favorite chair, smoking one of his pipes. Oh, Sanford, do you think you could find out who stole the pipes and return them to me?”
She looked at me with tears rolling down her cheeks. What could I say? I was not a detective, but I certainly had to try to help her. I spoke firmly: “I’ll try my best, Mary. I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I’ll do all that I can to find the pipes.”
“Thank you, Sanford,” she said, the corners of her lips rising to a little smile. She then quickly put the handkerchief inside her purse. I was happy to see that she was feeling better. There were questions I had to ask; hence, it was important that her faculties be alert.
I puffed on my briar, and then asked, “Do you have any suspicions as to who might have stolen the pipes?”
“No,” she answered.
“When did you discover they were missing?”
“Last night when I arrived home from the concert at Carnegie Hall, all the pipes were gone. The pipe cabinet and pipe rack were both empty.”
“Did you tell anyone that you were going to the concert?”
“Only Arthur Brimley, my good friend Edna’s husband. I just wanted him to tell Edna because I was supposed to go to bingo with her.”
“Was there a reason why you changed your plans?”
“Well, yes. Gerald Stanton called me to say that he couldn’t make the concert and asked if I wanted to go. Well, I just love Ricardo Muti. He is so handsome and exciting. The emotion that he generates when conducting the orchestra — Sanford, he is marvelous! Therefore, when Gerald told me that the concert ticket was for Ricardo Muti conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, I very happily told him I would be delighted to go. Gerald was even kind enough to give me a ride to Carnegie Hall. We arrived there about two-and-a-half hours early, but I didn’t mind; I had dinner and did some window-shopping.”
I felt compelled to say something unpleasant: “I know Gerald Stanton, and a display of kindness is most unlike him. If I were a heart surgeon, instead of a family practitioner, I would never have Gerald Stanton for a patient — heart surgeons need people with a heart! Of course I should mention that he’s a lawyer.”
“Now, Sanford, just because he’s a lawyer…”
“Mary,” I interrupted, “I was only joking.” But was I? “Did Gerald say why he couldn’t make the concert?”
“No. He just drove me there and said, ‘Have a nice time, Mary,’ and then he left.”
I relighted my pipe, and then asked, “Is there anyone else who might have known you were going out?”
“I don’t think so.” She paused a few moments, and then exclaimed, “Wait a minute, there was someone else! I received a phone call from Margie Wainwright about a half-hour after Gerald called. She wanted me to come over for dinner. Margie has been extra kind since Charles passed away. She invited me over for dinner about once a week because she was always worried that I would be lonely. Anyway, I had to tell her that I couldn’t make it because I was going to the concert. I’m sure you know her husband, Fenton Wainwright.”
“Yes, indeed. I don’t think your husband was too fond of hi
m. Fenton appeared to be quite jealous of your husband’s pipe collection.”
“Oh, Fenton is jealous of almost everyone. He is jealous of Gerald Stanton because Gerald is so well to do. In fact, Fenton is even jealous of you.”
“Of me?” I was quite startled by her statement.
“Yes, of you. He would always say how lucky you are to be able to smoke a pipe at home without anyone complaining.”
“He has a problem because Margie doesn’t like the smell of tobacco smoke,” I said firmly.
“Whatever, Sanford, he tried everything. Even that tobacco my husband used to say the women love . . .”
“Yes, that’s the one.”
“Well, being single has its rewards.”
“You should get married, Sanford.”
“Someday. But now do tell me, are you sure that no one else knew you were going out?”
“Yes, I’m positive.”
After I took a few quick puffs on my pipe, I said rather solemnly, “Well, from what you’ve told me, it could be either Arthur Brimley, Gerald Stanton, Fenton Wainwright, or anybody else.” I wasn’t trying to be funny, just honest.
She looked puzzled. “Hmmm . . . I don’t think Arthur Brimley smokes a pipe. Do you know if he does?”
Her response indicated that she did not grasp the meaning of my statement. I answered her question: “Arthur used to puff on a briar. He quit smoking about a year ago. As I remember, he had a nice collection and sold it to John Whitley.”
“I see.” She paused for quite some time, and then asked, “Who do you think would have stolen the pipes?”
“At this point, Mary, I couldn’t even guess,” I said dejectedly.
Mary looked down as she spoke: “The apartment doesn’t seem the same with both the pipe cabinet and pipe rack empty. They are so naked just standing there with no pipes in them. Those pipes were my most treasured memories of Charles. After his death . . .” She lifted her head up and watched me puffing on my pipe, and then continued, “I sometimes would hold one of his pipes and remember how Charles would fondle it. He was so happy with his pipes.”
“I know, Mary, and I’ll do whatever I can to find the pipes and return them to you.” I had to pause there because I was debating within myself whether to make her understand the complexity of it all. I decided to make one point very clear. “But you know it won’t be easy. How am I going to recognize the pipes?”
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “I almost forgot!” She reached into her purse and produced a sheet of paper the size used for typing. “Sanford, it’s a good thing that you reminded me. On this paper, Charles recorded in detail every pipe in his collection.”
She handed the paper to me. I looked at it and was quite amazed to find that Charles listed what appeared to be his entire collection of twenty-eight pipes. The typewritten list contained remarkable detail: brand of pipe, finish of pipe, shape of pipe, and even the nomenclature. The nomenclature on the old Dunhill pipes includes a patent number that actually informs you of the year the pipe was made; for example, patent number 417574/34 and a 2 after the words “MADE IN ENGLAND” denotes the year 1942.
There were 18 Dunhills and 10 pre-transition Barlings on the list. Those two were the only brands that Charles Templeton purchased. I would estimate the value of the pipes to be approximately six thousand dollars. If my estimate seems on the high side, his pipes are of makes in great demand, and their condition is excellent. Charles never smoked the same pipe more than once a week. In fact, he was so meticulous about caring for his pipes that he had a buffing wheel in the apartment to keep them looking new. In addition, he was very careful not to disturb the nomenclature.
I relighted my pipe and drew several long puffs. I then happily exclaimed, “Mary, this list will make it possible to find those pipes. It will not be easy, but, at least now I feel more confident.”
Her eyes were clear and bright as she said, “Wonderful! When I remembered that Charles had made a list of all his pipes, I went through all the drawers in his desk. It was there that I found it. I can’t imagine why he made that list, but I’m glad he did.”
“Yes,” I said, “and me, too!”
After Mary left, I continued puffing on my Dunhill. I studied Templeton’s list and filled the room with clouds of smoke. The aroma of latakia was unmistakably in the air.
When the pipe was finished, I put it down next to Whitley’s catalog. Then an idea struck me: the most logical way for someone to sell the pipes would be to John Whitley. He not only sells pre-owned pipes, but he also buys them.
I picked up the phone and dialed John Whitley.
“Hello, Whitley’s Estate Pipes, John Whitley speaking.”
“Hello, John, this is Dr. Mallin calling from New York.”
“Oh, hello, Dr. Mallin. What can I do for you today?”
“John, someone has stolen a very valuable collection of patent Dunhills and pre-transition Barlings. Has anyone offered such a collection for sale today?”
“Why, no, Dr. Mallin. How large of a collection is it?”
“Twenty-eight pipes in all.”
“That is quite a large collection. Were they yours?”
“No, they belonged to the late Charles Templeton. His wife has asked me to help in finding them. Would you please call me if anyone offers you such a collection for sale?”
“Oh, yes, I certainly will.”
“Thank you, John,” I said most appreciatively.
“That’s okay, Dr. Mallin. I would be more than happy to bring that thief to justice. Just one thing before you go, in the event you find them, please let me know.”
“Certainly. Also, I think it’s safe to assume that the thief is from New York.”
“I understand. Good luck, I hope you find those pipes.”
“Thank you,” I said, ending our conversation.
After I hung up the phone, I realized how frantically I was hoping the thief wouldn’t keep the pipes to smoke. To most people, the thought of smoking six thousand dollars worth of pipes instead of selling them might seem inconceivable. However, pipe collectors are a unique breed; we have been known to do strange things in support of our hobby. In fact, buying a pre-owned pipe that someone else had smoked might seem like a careless maneuver by even other pipe smokers. However, John Whitley’s pre-owned pipes are sanitized and restored to a like new condition.
With today being Friday, and no office hours until Monday, I had the weekend to investigate the mystery of the stolen pipes. I knew I had three avenues to explore: Arthur Brimley, Gerald Stanton, and Fenton Wainwright.
Saturday, March 22, 1986.
My thoughts this morning were to visit the houses of my three suspects. I was hoping to find a clue that one of my suspects had possession of the stolen pipes. It would be delightful if I could walk in and spot the whole collection in the living room. However, I knew it wouldn’t be that easy.
Even though Arthur Brimley quit smoking about a year ago, I still felt my investigation should begin with him. At 10:15 a.m. I phoned the Brimleys.
“Hello, Arthur, it is Sanford Mallin calling.”
“Dr. Mallin, good of you to call. How is everything?”
“Fine. I was wondering, Arthur, if I could come over today.”
“Is there anything wrong?”
“No, not at all, it’s only that today I have some free time and thought it might be a good idea if we got together and had a chat.”
“Yes, sounds like a fine idea. You certainly picked the right day, for I could sure use a doctor. It’s probably nothing more than a little gas, but has been bothering me the past few days.”
“What are you feeling?” I inquired.
“Well, I have some pain in my . . . not the stomach . . . down further.”
“Is the pain on the right side?” I was concerned that it might be appendicitis.
“No, it’s around the left side.”
“I’ll examine you when I come over. What time shall I come?”
“How about this morning before noon?”
“Fine, I’ll see you then,” I said, before hanging up the p
In anticipation of being out most of the day, I put a rather large, bent Ser Jacopo pipe and a tin of tobacco in my shoulder bag. After putting on my tan corduroy sport jacket, shoulder bag, and taking my medical bag, I hurried out the door. I had a tremendous feeling of excitement as the adventure was beginning.
It was a few minutes after eleven when I parked my BMW in front of Brimley’s house.
Brimley’s wife greeted me: “Come in, Dr. Mallin, it’s good to see you again. Where have you been keeping yourself?”
“I’ve been quite busy, Edna.”
“Really, Dr. Mallin, I wonder what you doctors would do if people didn’t get sick.”
“I guess we would have to find a different occupation. I could always drive a truck.”
“Ha-ha, very good, Doctor, but what about vitamin C? There’s a famous scientist who believes that vitamin C is helpful in preventing even the common cold.”
“Well, the medical establishment doesn’t quite agree. However, just between you and me, I am taking a timed-release vitamin C capsule every day. I suggest that you do the…” I was suddenly speechless as Arthur Brimley entered the room smoking a pipe!
He took the pipe out of his mouth and said, “Hello, Sanford.”
“Arthur,” I finally found my tongue, “you are smoking again.”
“Yes,” he said, and then blew a puff of smoke towards the ceiling.
As he walked closer, I could see the white dot on the stem of his pipe. The white dot is inlaid into the stem of all the Dunhill pipes. I tried to hide my anxiety when I said, “That looks like a Dunhill.”
“Yes, it is, very observant of you, Sanford. The white dot?”
“Without question, unless you devilishly drilled a hole and poured in some white glue.”
He laughed, and then said, “No, this is a real Dunhill.”
“I must say, Arthur, I am surprised to see you with a pipe. When did you start smoking again?”
Edna interjected rapidly, “He started smoking about four weeks ago. Once again, he is spending a fortune on pipes. He must have bought two dozen already.”
Arthur removed the pipe from his mouth. “Now that’s not true. I didn’t buy twenty-four.”
“How many did you purchase?” I asked.
“Fourteen. I bought most of them from John Whitley. I ordered three more, should be arriving on Tuesday, but that still makes only seventeen.”
Edna spoke angrily: “Seventeen! Are you crazy? What do you need that many for?”
He looked at me and said, “Sanford, she doesn’t understand that you have to give the pipes a rest so that they dry out properly; therefore, you need a number of pipes to smoke in a rotation.”
Edna looked at me and asked, “How many pipes do you have, Doctor?”
“Thirty-seven,” I said. “And there’s always room for more.”
“You’re both crazy!” Edna exclaimed loudly, and then she left the room, muttering to herself, “Men, they have nothing to do but waste their money on pipes.”
Arthur turned to me and pointed to his abdomen. “Sanford, could you check this ache I’ve been having?”
“Yes, of course,” I said.
I examined Arthur in his bedroom. When I pressed down on the lower left quadrant of his abdomen, he shrieked in agony: “Ouch!”
I straightened myself and asked, “Arthur, do you have any other complaints, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea?”
“Well, just a little nausea.”
After further analysis, I revealed my diagnosis: “Well, Arthur, I believe you may have a case of diverticulitis. I recommend that you go on a liquid diet for two days, and get plenty of bed rest. I’ll phone your pharmacy and prescribe an antibiotic for you.”
“Thank you, Sanford.”
“That’s quite all right. Also, I’d like you to get a Barrium enema test.”
He had a worried look on his face as he said, “I don’t think I like the sound of that procedure.”
“It’s needed to make a proper diagnosis,” I assured him. “Call my office on Monday, and Kathy will give you all the information.”
While Arthur was getting dressed, I walked into the living room. On an end table, Brimley’s Dunhill was sitting on a pipe rest. I picked it up to see if it had a patent number — it did. I then pulled out the list of Templeton’s pipes and compared numbers — they matched with both pipes produced in 1949. The shapes were the same but there was one difference: the pipe on my list was described as having a silver band on the shank, but Brimley’s pipe did not have a silver band. It was not possible that Brimley removed the silver band because it stated on Templeton’s list “Silver band was put on to repair a cracked shank.” It was the only pipe on the list that had such a notation. Well, it certainly got my heart to beat a little faster.
I put the pipe down and noticed Brimley had entered the room. He spoke excitedly: “It’s the Templeton pipes, isn’t it? You think that pipe is one of them. You think that pipe is one of Templeton’s, don’t you?”
“No,” I answered. “I was just curious as to the year of the pipe.”
“Bullshit! What the hell have you got in your hand? Is that a list of Templeton’s pipes? I bet it is!”
I prepared myself for an onslaught, but I had to ask, “How did you know that Templeton made a list?”
“For your information, Stanton, Wainwright, and I, all know of that list!” he shouted.
“I see no need to be so nasty about it, Brimley. After all, I haven’t charged you for the examination today.”
“Listen, Dr. Mallin, you can take that test– whatever you call it– oh, yes, Barrium enema, and stick it up your…”
“That’s enough, Brimley!” I shouted, and then walked out the front door.
I was feeling somewhat disappointed when I got into my car. My first appearance as an investigator was not very successful. After all, I wanted very much to see the collection Brimley had supposedly purchased from John Whitley.
Gerald Stanton’s house was only a short distance away. I decided to see if he was home.
The slightly stocky, well-groomed, well-dressed Gerald Stanton answered the door. His dark brown eyes stared out at me. “Dr. Mallin, what brings you here?” he asked, sounding a little hostile.
“I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by.”
“Well, I . . .” he paused, and then snapped, “come in.”
“I hope I’m not intruding,” I said, thinking I may have come at an inappropriate time.
“You should have called first,” he said bluntly.
“You are quite right, Gerald, please excuse my bad manners,” I said, trying to put the matter aside.
I followed Stanton into the living room. We sat down on a beautiful white leather sofa. From my shoulder bag I took out a pipe, and I was about to take out my tin of tobacco when his hand suddenly stopped me.
“Don’t smoke,” he growled.
“What’s happened, Gerald, have you suddenly joined the anti-smoking campaign?”
“No, of course not! Can’t you see that we have redecorated?”
I looked around the room and observed a host of changes: leather chairs, mirrored walls, marble tables, and a very expensive looking Oriental rug. “Very nice, Gerald,” I said, while admiring the new decor.
“Yes, it is very nice, and it cost me a fortune. Carol does not want any burn marks to spoil it, so I promised her that I wouldn’t smoke in here.”
“Where do you smoke?” I asked.
“In the den.”
“Only in the den?”
“Yes, only in the den. I was creating too many burn marks in here. Carol was really getting on me for it, and she was right because it looked like hell!”
“Okay, Gerald, you’ve made your point,” I said, and then put the pipe back in my shoulder bag.
His eyes narrowed. “Now, what has really brought you here?”
“As I said, Gerald, just in the neighborhood and stopped by for a chat. I was also curious if you’ve added any pipes to your collection.”
“It’s the same as when you last saw it.”
“I haven’t been here in . . . it must be nearly three months.”
“Closer to six.”
“And you haven’t even added one pipe?”
“Any particular reason why?”
“Sanford, I have about thirty pipes and that is sufficient for me. Besides, there really isn’t anything produced today that interests me.”
“How about the old collectibles? Those patent Dunhills and pre-transition Barlings?”
“I have some of those and don’t need any more.”
“How many do you have?” I asked.
“The same as when you last saw my collection,” he said gruffly. “What’s with all these questions?”
“Just curious,” I answered in my most relaxed demeanor.
“Your persistent curiosity surprises me, Dr. Mallin.”
“I’m a pipe collector, Gerald. Don’t you think it’s quite natural for me to be interested in your collection?” Stanton rose and walked to the fireplace. He put his right hand on the poker and fiddled with some kindling wood. Then he turned to face me and stared into my eyes; it was a long, hard, cold penetrating stare. It seemed like almost a minute passed before he opened his mouth to speak.
“All these questions wouldn’t have anything to do with the Templeton pipes that were stolen, would it?”
“Of course not, Gerald,” I said, as I watched his hand tighten its grip on the poker and his knuckles turned a hard white.
“It is still . . . Doctor, isn’t it? I mean, you haven’t changed your profession to being a detective now, have you?”
“Gerald, I came here for a friendly chat and you’re giving me this sarcastic nonsense.”
“Perhaps you’re right, Doctor,” he said, as he released the poker, and then sat down.
I was quite relieved to see him sitting down, especially without that poker. I braced myself for my next question. “Gerald, may I see your pipe collection?”
“Now, Doctor, you really are curious today, aren’t you?”
“Gerald, it has been a long time since I’ve seen your pipe collection. I would really love to see that beautiful old Barling Oom Paul again.”
“Barling Oom Paul? You’re mistaken, Sanford, that was one of Templeton’s pipes; I’ve never had one.”
“Well, I would still like to see your collection.” I was trying my best to get a look.
“I would like to show them to you, Sanford, but not today.”
“Oh, why not?”
“Because I have to go now and pick up Carol at her friend’s house.”
“Perhaps some other time?”
“Yes, of course, some other time. Now I really must be getting along,” he said, and then escorted me to the door. As I left the Stanton house, I felt somewhat frustrated at not seeing his pipe collection. Even though it was hard to imagine Stanton being the thief, the thought still plagued my mind.
I returned home and had a late lunch, nothing spectacular, just a tuna sandwich on whole wheat and a cup of coffee.
It was almost 3 p.m. when I reached Fenton Wainwright on the phone.
“Hello, Fenton, how are you?”
“Dr. Mallin, it certainly has been a long time since we last spoke. To what do I owe this most unexpected pleasure?”
“I thought perhaps you might like to have a pipeful together?”
“Sounds like a capital idea. How about this evening at eight?”
“That’s fine with me. I’ll see you then.”
After I hung up the phone, I lit my pipe and sat down to read The Book of Pipes and Tobacco, which I like to refer to from time to time.
I arrived at the Wainwright’s house at 7:50 p.m. Margie who kidded me about being early greeted me; doctors have a poor record of accomplishment for arriving on time. Speaking for myself, I am not late on purpose, but it happens.
During my conversation with Margie and Fenton, I unsnapped my pipe holster, a very clever device for carrying a pipe. When I lifted the pipe out of the holster, Margie said angrily, “Don’t light that thing in here! It will make the draperies smell, the plants will die, and the whole room will stink!”
“All right, Margie,” I said, and then turned to Fenton, “I thought we were going to have a pipeful together?”
“Yes, of course. Let’s go into the den.”
We went into the den. Before we sat down, Fenton reached over to a pipe rest sitting on a table and picked up a graceful-looking smooth-finished Radice. I in turn filled my Castello with Dunhill’s My Mixture 965. After a few wooden matches, the aroma of latakia began to fill the air.
Fenton spoke somewhat nervously: “Sanford, I wish you would change to a tobacco with a more pleasant aroma.”
“Fenton,” I said, “I’ve tried just about everything there is to try, and I always come back to Dunhill’s 965. It has such richness, body, and flavor. It has gotten to the point where I don’t even consider trying something else. I’m sorry if it bothers you, but it’s the only tobacco I enjoy.”
“It’s not that it bothers me, Sanford, but my…”
He stopped abruptly as Margie entered the room with an angry expression on her face. She turned to Fenton with the meanest look I have ever seen on a woman. She opened her mouth and I expected fire to shoot out; instead, she screamed quite loudly, “How many times have I told you to shut the door when you’re smoking in here? I have told you enough times to penetrate that thick skull of yours. Why the hell can’t you have some consideration for me?”
Fenton answered quietly: “I’m sorry; I forgot to close the door.”
“I don’t give a hoot about your apologies,” she said, shaking a finger at him. “Just make sure you close the damn door!” She turned and slammed the door behind her.
Fenton’s hand trembled as he lit the pipe. “She really gets on my nerves, Sanford. She is always saying, ‘Don’t smoke here, and don’t smoke there. Go into the den and make sure you close the door.’ It just drives me nuts! Every time I want a pipeful, I have to come in here. And you know how much I enjoy watching Basil Rathbone play Sherlock Holmes.”
“Yes, and I also enjoy it, especially when Basil gets into puffing on one of his Peterson pipes.”
“Well, I can’t even enjoy that privilege because both the TV and VCR are in the living room.”
“Couldn’t you buy another VCR and a small TV to put in here?”
“Oh, it isn’t that. I wish it were that simple. The problem is I do not have a single electrical outlet in here, only the light switch on the wall, and that’s it!”
I looked around the room, and then said, “Not even one outlet. How could they have designed the room like that?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” he said.
“Yes, I know,” he said rather sadly.
“I know that Margie doesn’t like the smell of tobacco smoke, but when did she confine your smoking to the den?”
“It started when she began having her friends over for the card games. They complained of an acrid odor in the room. Next thing I knew, she gave me the ultimatum: ‘Smoke that shit in the den, or I’ll throw out your smelly pipes!’ Now, that didn’t give me much of a choice, did it?”
“No, not at all,” I said, and then turned my head to look around for his pipe rack.
He relighted the pipe, and then asked, “What is it, Sanford?”
He obviously observed my inquisitiveness. “Your pipes, Fenton, I don’t see the pipe rack. Where is it?”
“I-I have it hidden,” he said, while shifting nervously in his chair.
“Hidden? What in heaven’s name for?”
“Well, I . . . I have to keep it hidden.”
“Fenton, you certainly are acting peculiar tonight.”
“No, it’s just . . . you don’t understand.” He stood up and began pacing the floor.
Finally, he continued: “I’m trying to cut down on my smoking; therefore, I have the pipes locked up in the cabinet over there.” He pointed to an oak cabinet resting on the red carpet. I would estimate its dimensions to be about 2 feet wide and 3 feet high. It looked like a cabinet used to store video tapes.
“How come you have it locked?” I asked.
“I don’t want Margie getting any stupid ideas,” he replied.
My curiosity was getting the best of me. “Could you open it so that I may see your pipe collection?”
pointed to the cabinet. “It hasn’t changed since the last time you saw it.”
“Well, it has been so long that I would like to see it again.”
“I can’t show it to you,” he snapped.
“Why not?” I asked pointedly.
“I don’t have time now. I have to meet a gentleman at nine-thirty.”
“It would only take a minute,” I persisted.
“I can’t. Look,” he said, pointing to his watch, “it’s almost nine.”
I relighted my pipe, and then remarked, “I thought we were going to have a pipeful together.”
He looked at me a bit shyly, and then said, “I’m sorry, Sanford, I completely forgot about my appointment. Now, I really must ask you to leave.”
Fenton walked me to the door while pressing his hand on my back, urging me along.
He apologized again, “I’m sorry, Sanford, truly I am, some other time at your convenience. Okay?”
“Certainly,” I answered, as he opened the door and pressed a little harder on my back.
I left the Wainwright residence and decided to wait in my car to see if Fenton really had to leave. While puffing on my pipe, I waited patiently. As nine-thirty came and went, Fenton Wainwright never left his house. What could it mean? It certainly seemed as though he was acting in a suspicious manner.
Sunday, March 23, 1986.
After a light lunch, I decided to enjoy some classical music. I felt a need to relax and let my mind ponder the next move. It was very difficult to make a breakthrough in this problem of the stolen pipes. Perhaps if I were able to obtain a search warrant, matters would certainly change. However, I am only a doctor, not a police officer.
I put on a record of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2; it was Colin Davis conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra. With a beautiful straight-grained James Upshall pipe in hand, I puffed contentedly while listening to the music.
My enjoyment of the music changed to thoughts of my three suspects: Brimley, how coincidental that he suddenly began smoking a pipe again, and he had an old patent Dunhill, not one of Templeton’s, but how many others did he have? Stanton, how odd he suddenly had to leave when I asked to see his pipe collection. Wainwright, and let us not forget dear old Fenton; he certainly was acting in a suspicious manner. When I asked to see his pipe collection, he said he must leave before 9:30 pm. But did he? I waited until 9:45 p.m. and observed that Fenton never left the house. In addition, his pipe rack locked up inside a video tape storage cabinet was certainly strange! Oh, I know Fenton explained that he was afraid Margie would do something stupid, but . . . I wonder.
I knew it was going to be very difficult to find the stolen pipes. After all, I could not go around pulling a pipe out of a pipe smoker’s mouth to examine it. Even if I could, one pipe from the list would not mean very much, for there are many pipes that would match Templeton’s list. It all seemed so futile. I had to find someone who had the whole collection, or at least a great part of it, although a great part of it would likely leave some doubt.
Monday, March 24, 1986.
Kathy sent in the first patient. “How are you, Mr. Harris?” I asked.
“I’ve been feeling a little dizzy, Doctor.”
I looked at his chart: High blood pressure — Reserpine 0.25 mg. “Have you been taking your medication?” I asked.
“I was . . . but then I couldn’t . . . I couldn’t . . .”
“Mr. Harris, will you please tell me whatever it is you’re trying not to?”
“Doctor, it’s my . . . my sexual potency. I believe the medication was affecting me.”
“That’s quite possible. If the reserpine is giving you a problem, I’ll prescribe a different brand.”
“Will changing the brand cause any other side effects?”
“Mr. Harris,” I began, feeling somewhat annoyed, “I appreciate your concern, but there are possible side effects from all high blood pressure medication. You certainly should report any problems to me at once, but do not just stop taking your medication. Now, please be still so that I may take your blood pressure.”
I pumped him up and took the reading.
“How is it, Doctor?” he asked.
“170 over 110,” I said, surprised at the high reading. Then I continued, “You were doing fine on the reserpine; however, since that is creating a problem, I’ll give you a different medication.” I then wrote out a prescription of penbutolol for Mr. Harris.
After he left, Kathy sent in the next patient.
I was surprised to see an old pipe smoking acquaintance of mine enter the room. Henry Biddle and I had shared many pipefuls together. We occasionally would meet at the Rook and Pawn Chess Club and have a game or two.
“Hello, Henry, how are you feeling today?” I asked.
“Not very good, Doctor,” he said, sounding quite nasal. “My nose is congested, and I have been getting headaches. And I get some pain over here,” he pointed to an area near his right cheekbone.
“Do you have the pain on both sides?” I asked.
“Yes, I get it on the left side, too.”
I examined his throat, nose, and ears. After I shut the light in the room, I shined a light into his mouth to examine the maxillary sinuses behind the cheekbone. There was a lack of “transillumination” which most probably indicates an infection.
I revealed my diagnosis: “It looks to me like you have sinusitis.”
“I thought it might be something like that. Well, I guess that means no smoking for a while.”
“Absolutely no smoking until you are feeling better again, and I don’t mean just a little better, I mean one hundred percent better; otherwise, you will only aggravate the condition and possibly cause it to become chronic.”
I instructed Henry to purchase a popular nasal decongestant and turn the bottle upside-down so that it acts as a dropper: this method is both more effective and less traumatic to the mucous membranes. I then wrote out a prescription for an antibiotic, and advised Henry to use aspirin for the pain.
“I guess that’s what I’ll have to do,” he said, and then began nervously fingering his chin.
He appeared to be very concerned about something. I was going to dismiss his behavior as due to the sinusitis, but something made me pursue it.
“Henry, what is troubling you?” I asked.
“It’s the pipe show, Doc. I have been waiting almost two months for it. And the way I’m feeling . . . well, I just can’t make it tonight.”
“Tonight?” I had completely forgotten.
“Yes, it’s John Whitley’s tenth anniversary in business, and he’s hosting the event at the Sovereign Hotel in Atlanta. Unfortunately, it’s only on for tonight.”
“Yes, of course — that’s it!” It hit me like a bolt of lightning. “What time is the show?”
“It begins at seven this evening and ends at eleven-thirty.”
I immediately got Kathy on the intercom. “Kathy, please get me a plane ticket to Atlanta. I want to arrive there…” I turned to Henry, “How far is the Sovereign Hotel from the airport?”
“John told me it’s no more than thirty minutes.”
I turned back to the intercom, “Kathy, I would like to arrive there before six this evening. And see if you can get me a return flight for tomorrow.”
“Okay, Dr. Mallin.”
Henry had a puzzled look on his face. “Doctor, what’s this all about?”
“Have you heard that the late Charles Templeton’s pipe collection was stolen?” I asked.
“Yes, but what has the pipe show in Atlanta to do with it?”
“Henry,” I said, still feeling the exhilaration, “whoever stole the pipes will probably be at that show tonight.”
“Doctor, how can you be so sure?”
That question brought me down-to-earth. “I am not positively certain, but the pipe show is definitely the place to try and sell such a valuable collection; after all, what better way than to reserve a table and display those rare pieces for sale? Henry, I’ve got a strong feeling about this.”
Kathy called me on the intercom. “I’m sorry, Doctor, there aren’t any seats to Atlanta. Do you want me to try for
“No, that won’t be…”
“Doctor,” Henry interrupted, “I was going to cancel my plane ticket and room at the Sovereign Hotel, but, well . . . if you could give me what I paid…”
“Henry, say no more.” I could almost kiss him. “I don’t know how to thank you enough. Of course, I will pay for your plane ticket and hotel room, and I will not charge you for this visit. Would that be fair with you?”
Henry seemed quite pleased. “Certainly, and I hope your trip is successful.”
“I hope so, too.”
“Doctor, are you there?” Kathy asked over the intercom.
“Kathy, I’ll be leaving for Atlanta –” I turned to Henry, “What time does your plane leave?”
“The plane leaves from JFK at three this afternoon and arrives in Atlanta at 5:10.”
“Excellent, and when is the return flight?”
“Tomorrow at two in the afternoon.”
“Kathy, cancel the rest of my appointments for today. I should be able to keep my appointments for tomorrow evening, but please reschedule today’s patients for Thursday afternoon from one to four.”
“Okay, Doctor, and have a nice trip.”
“Thank you,” I said, and then glanced at my watch: it was 11:15 a.m.
Henry took out the plane ticket from his wallet and handed it to me, and then used the phone in my office to call the hotel and change the reservation to my name.
After carefully placing the plane ticket in my suit pocket, I got into my car and proceeded home. I wanted to change my clothes, pack an overnight bag, take a few pipes and tin of tobacco, and, of course, take the list of Templeton’s pipes.
At the airport, I hailed a taxi for the hotel.
I stood in front of the Sovereign Hotel and admired the billboard near the entrance:
Monday, March 24………………………………………7:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
In the Grand Ballroom………………………………….Hosted by John Whitley
You can see, swap, buy and sell pipes. Come and join the fun!
Presented by John Whitley of Whitley’s Estate Pipes
I lit my three-quarter bent Castello with a few wooden matches and gazed at the billboard. As I puffed quickly on the pipe, I could feel my heart pounding. I was definitely excited at the thought that I might finally find the thief who stole Templeton’s pipes.
I entered the hotel. I went straight to the desk clerk and got the key to my room. After leaving my things in the room, I took the elevator down to the main floor. When I reached the ballroom, there was a tall man standing at the entrance. He had red hair, a full red beard, and wore small circular eyeglasses. His right hand held a straight billiard-shaped Dunhill pipe.
He spoke in a deep, resonant voice: “Hello, I’m John Whitley.”
“Hello,” I said, “I’m Dr. Sanford Mallin from New York.”
“You’re a bit early, Dr. Mallin,” he said, pointing the pipe at his watch. “We don’t begin until seven.”
“I know, John. But I didn’t come to trade, buy, or sell.”
“Oh, just to look?”
“Sort of, John. I’ve come in the hope of finding the thief who stole Templeton’s pipe collection.”
John was visibly upset as he said, “Doctor, I don’t think you are going to find the thief here.”
“Quite the contrary, John, this is the perfect opportunity for someone to sell those pipes at a very nice profit.”
I was surprised that my explanation was necessary. Mr. Whitley certainly should have known that the thief might try to sell the pipes at his show.
John pointed his pipe to the ballroom. “I suppose you want to take a look inside?”
“Yes, I think it would be best if I could look around before the public is admitted.”
“Well, I suppose you’re right. Everyone is at their table, so let’s go inside.”
“I would appreciate it, John, if you would accompany me as I inspect the tables.”
“Okay, but we will have to explain your early presence.”
We decided it best to state that I was a friend of John’s, and that I was getting a private tour of the exhibitions.
When we walked inside, I was quite amazed at the number of tables reserved for those wanting to trade or sell their pipes. “How many tables are exhibited here?” I asked.
“Sixty-four,” he replied.
I was puffing quite hard on my Castello as we walked about the large room.
Suddenly I noticed a table full of Dunhills and Barlings. A surprisingly young man in his early thirties with long sideburns was seated.
I managed to ask quite calmly, “How old are those Dunhills and Barlings?”
The young man looked at John and said, “I thought we were starting at seven.”
“This is Dr. Mallin, a close friend of mine, and I’m giving him the privilege of a private tour.”
“I see,” said the young man. Then he turned to me, “The Barlings are all pre-transitions, and the Dunhills are mostly patents from 1941 through 1952.”
After taking out my list of Templeton’s pipes, I carefully began making comparisons.
The young man seated at the table became very impatient. “What is he doing?” he asked.
John stuttered, “I-I don’t know.”
“Please,” I said, “I am checking my list for certain pipes that I’m interested in.” The young man seemed satisfied with my explanation; he did not distract me again.
After careful inspection, I could only discern there were just a few pipes that matched my list. Such being the case, the only conclusion I could draw was that they were not Templeton’s pipes.
John asked quietly, “Dr. Mallin, was that a list of the stolen pipes?”
“Yes, I answered.
“You mean Templeton actually made a list of all his pipes?”
“Yes,” I said, and then showed him the list.
His eyes opened wide as he exclaimed, “Amazing! The list is detailed in every way, truly amazing. But what if the thief stole the pipes just to smoke them?”
“If that be the case, then I’m afraid we’ll never catch him. By the way, John, that’s a nice Dunhill you’re smoking.”
“Thank you,” he said, smiling. “I can assure you it’s not one of Templeton’s.”
We continued walking past the other tables. There were spectacular collections of pipes, such as Castello, Sasieni, Comoy, Caminetto, Charatan — I could go and on. It was truly a pipe smoker’s delight to see such fine pieces displayed.
John tapped me on the shoulder, and then asked, “Would you like some coffee?”
“Yes, thank you,” I replied.
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
Just before John turned to leave, my eyes caught sight of an unexpected familiar face. “Wait!” I exclaimed, as my hand went up to John’s chest. “There! Look over there!” I pointed to a table across the room.
“What is it?”
I ignored John’s question, but motioned for him to follow me. I walked briskly, feeling my heart beating faster. As I moved closer, the excitement within me was building up to such a degree that my heart was pounding furiously.
I stood in front of the table. My heart was ready to burst out of my chest. It was here! Finally, my search had ended. There were Dunhills and Barlings on the table with four rows of seven for twenty-eight! I then looked at a familiar face, and my anger poured out as I said, “Brimley, you fool, you miserable fool!”
“I-I don’t know what to say, Sanford. I guess I could explain, but it probably wouldn’t mean much to you.”
I turned to the other familiar face, “Stanton, and you, too. With all your money, why would you do it?”
“Look, this has nothing to do with money. We always wanted to participate in a pipe show; it is the thrill of being able to display and sell a rare collection, but we could never sell our own pipes. And what does Mary Templeton need these for?”
ldn’t understand,” I replied. Then I faced the other man. “Fenton Wainwright, and you’re in this as well. All three of you conspired to this contemptuous act of thievery.”
Wainwright looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, Sanford, I truly am, but it’s just like Stanton said, we could never sell our own pipes. And . . . well, why does Mary Templeton need these?” He pointed to the pipes on the table, and then continued, “This was a dream come true for us to be here displaying these beautiful pipes for sale. Surely, you can understand that. Can’t you, Sanford?”
“No, I can’t!” I shouted. “There’s no excuse for this foolish kind of behavior.” I then turned to Whitley, “John, you’d better call for the police.”
“Yes, Dr. Mallin, I’ll do it right now.”
I turned back to the three scoundrels. “Now, correct me if I am wrong, gentlemen, and I use the word “gentlemen” quite loosely. Stanton, you gave Mary Templeton the concert ticket, and then drove her to Carnegie Hall. Therefore, I would surmise that as both of you left the apartment, you, Stanton, pushed in the button on the latch so the door would not lock. Then someone entered the apartment. It could not have been you, Brimley, because Mary telephoned you at home. That leaves only you, Wainwright. You entered through the unlocked door, stole the pipes, and then pushed in the button on the latch to lock the door behind you.”
Stanton looked up at me, and then remarked, “Very good, Doctor, or should I say, Sherlock Holmes?”
“No need for you to be sarcastic, Stanton,” I replied.
“No need for you to be involved in this, Mallin,” Stanton retorted.
My eyes gazed at the three of them, each with head bowed, hands fidgeting with the pipes. How pathetic they looked. All successful men who were financially secure. There they were, educated men, sitting there waiting for the police to arrive. Their comfortable homes to be replaced by a prison cell. And why? I too would like to participate in a pipe show, but I could never resort to what they did. And, I certainly would never consider selling my pipes. They had to be brought to justice; it could have been your pipes as well as mine. People like that must not be allowed to take away our most prized possessions.
I felt a need to express myself. I put my hands on the table, looked at the three of them, and then said, “I hope the three of you remember your dream come true story. Of course, you did not get to fulfill your dream entirely, not being able to sell even one pipe, but you certainly accomplished a remarkable feat. Take a good look at those pipes. Would you like a picture of the pipes to take along to the prison cell? I hope all of you rot in hell!”
Stanton rose and so did Wainwright and Brimley. They suddenly started for the exit.
“Stop them!” I shouted, and then chased after them as they tried to escape. I moved quickly across the room; the floor was slippery and I almost fell. It was certainly a time for sneakers and not the Bally shoes I had on. Still, I managed to get close to Stanton, for he was the slowest. I made a desperate lunge for Stanton’s legs. I got him! I grabbed him right above the ankles and brought him down. He twisted, turned, and managed to get his legs free of my grip. When he got up, I reached around from behind and put him in a bear hug; he was trying to elbow me, but I kept my bear hug good and tight. After a minute or two, John Whitley and some other men surrounded us. When I was able to let them get a secure hold on Stanton, I looked up and saw that some other heroic pipe smokers had both Wainwright and Brimley within their grasp. It was only a matter of minutes before the police arrived.
I walked back to the table where the Dunhills and Barlings were neatly displayed. John Whitley brought me an attache case and some newspapers. We carefully wrapped each pipe in newspaper and placed it in the attache case. Then we filled in the extra space with some more newspaper for added protection of the pipes.
As I went up to my room, carrying the attache case, I thought about how happy Mary Templeton will be when she gets the pipes back. And, I was feeling very happy myself. After all, I finally managed to solve the mystery of the stolen pipes.
March 27, 1986.