TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
The letters started arriving in August 1982 and initially addressed to “The FBI Agent working on Jimmy Hoffa case”, Tampa, Florida. I was a new agent at the time, so I was assigned the follow-up investigation into the letter that simply said “I’m not dead”.
I made a crude map to get to the remote address, and then paid a visit to the sender. After what seemed like 5 minutes of persistent knocking, a pleasant looking woman with wild white hair answered the door. She explained that she had to “get ready” before she could answer the door. I suppose my eyebrows lifted a bit. That was my first clue that she was unique – to put it nicely! Her home was a hodgepodge of amusing décor with an abundance of knick knacks. There was no evidence that she had a clue about how to decorate a home and it seemed that she included anything that pleased her. There was a cat perched on every flat surface. She was dressed in a billowy dress that they called a “muumuu” back in the day. Stained deck shoes with holes in the toes and an old straw sunhat completed the look of a totally crazy individual.
I was quite amused while I was interviewing her about the contents of the letter. She was giddy with excitement as she told me that she was THE Jimmy Hoffa and should not have been declared dead. Jimmy Hoffa had already been missing for 7 years. The legal processes to declare him dead had just been completed July 30, 1982. I began to believe, right there, right then, that I was getting tangled up with a lunatic. Little did I know….
She went on to tell me that she was abducted outside a restaurant in Detroit 7 years ago. All efforts to get away were futile. In the scuffle, she stated that she was stabbed, but the wound looked far worst than it was. Seeing her opportunity, she played dead. The big goofs drove all night long, arriving on the Gulf shore early the next morning, they dumped her body in the Apalachee Bay. She floated motionlessly until the sounds of civilization were completely obliterated by the sounds of the water and sea birds. She eventually made her way to the shore in a wilderness area. Realizing that her life was in extreme danger should it be discovered that she survived, she hid out in the wilderness for a few weeks while deciding what to do next. Wild fruit, berries, roots and fish became her mainstay and she found herself feeling better than she had in years. She described her appearance as looking like a crazy old woman with a beard when she finally emerged from the wilderness to begin what she knew must be a completely new life with a total disconnect from her prior life. She worked her way south until she came to a place called Horseshoe Cove. It was the magic of the name that decided that this was where she would live.
Looking closely at her face, I could not detect any evidence of a recent shave, nor a 5 o’clock shadow. Her voice was that of a woman. There was nothing of her appearance that looked in the least bit male. After this short interview, I asked why she contacted the FBI after this long time. She simply said that she didn’t like being declared dead because that meant that everyone would stop speculating about what happened to Jimmy Hoffa and she was rather enjoying her little cat & mouse game of a life. She feared that without the excitement of fooling the mafia, she would wither up and die. She said she was only 69 and had a lot of life left to live.
I assured her that I would look into the matter for her, then left the premises while chalking her up to being a crazy old cat woman.
Months passed, then I received another letter. This one addressed to my attention. She inquired about the “status of her case”. I had my clerical assistant drop a note to her that the investigation is on-going. After that, the letters continued to arrive at respectable intervals. I instructed my assistant to respond in kind each time, yet there was no “ongoing investigation” – there was, in fact, NO investigation. I had already reported to my superiors that the woman was apparently insane and the inquiry was closed.
The letters continued, co-workers cracked jokes and I was the butt of those jokes. Thinking that I could convince her that the FBI office in Tampa had closed, I began to stamp “Return to Sender” and “Unknown” on the envelopes before slipping them - furtively I might add – into her own mailbox. At the same time, I began paying regular visits to Jimmie Mae. Yes, that is the name she used…Jimmie Mae Huff. She had quite a good sense of humor.
She regaled me with stories of her “Teamster” days. She told me who was on the up and up and who couldn’t be trusted. She even gave me details of crimes committed in Detroit. She kept me amused with her wonderful imagination.
To assure that no more letters went to the FBI office where I worked, I told Jimmie that the FBI office in Tampa was closed, but that I was the special agent assigned to the case and would remain in Tampa for the sole purpose of the reversal of the greatly over exaggerated claim of his death. Yes…in her company, I referred to her gender as male. It sometimes got confusing, but it was my little way of pacifying a demented old lady. Sometimes, I slipped up and referred to her as a woman, but she played along with an exaggerated wink… As unexpected as it was, I came to understand that I was truly fond of Jimmie Mae. A transplant from the north at age 10, I did not grow up around my grandparents. Visiting Jimmie Mae was like visiting my own grandmother. I grew fonder over the years. I truly loved that old woman.
Once she was assured that I was working exclusively on her case, the letters to my office stopped. As I explained to her, the case was still very sensitive and the mafia was still completely interested in his whereabouts, so he must continue to lay low. She accepted that explanation and life went on.
It was early May 2009 that I read the headlines – “DEAD WOMAN IS A MAN” The news article left no doubt in my mind that it was my own beloved substitute Grandma, Jimmie Mae. My grief was enormous… My confusion greater…
It was then that I really began to believe all the things Jimmie Mae had told me over the years. She told me how she used Nair on her face until the hair follicles were so destroyed that she didn’t have to use it after the first few years. She had crafted an undergarment that created bumps and curves where they should be for a woman. She only wore it when she had to go into town. The muumuu’s she lived in completed the look. Her voice was not the same after having been dumped in the Gulf of Mexico way back in 1975, her voice box already damaged from being choked by who ~ she never would say ~ was further damaged by the salt water. The result was a weakening of her voice to such a point that it was easily mistaken for a woman’s voice. It was an epiphany moment when all the details came together in my mind to present a whole picture of the end of the life of Jimmy Hoffa ~ 34 years after he disappeared. And I am the only person in the world who knows.
I must remain anonymous if I am to retire in 2012 with an unblemished record, however, the burden on my heart is too great to delay the news for his family and friends. I want them to know that Jimmy lived a full and wonderful life. His “forced retirement”, if I may refer to his end years as a retirement, were full and happy years. Once he discovered the health benefits of a diet rich in fruit, grains, vegetables and fish, he felt so well that he had no desire for any other meat. On the day he “disappeared” from Detroit, he had enough money in his pocket to purchase a small Cracker house in a rural area just off of a main highway and at the end of a dirt road.
It was an undesirable location for the likes of most people, but quite appropriate for him to live in almost total obscurity for 34 years after his “death”. His small garden yielded enough fruit and vegetables for his small roadside stand. He gathered aluminum cans and soda bottles for a little more spending money; however, I assure you he did not need much. His transportation was an adult tricycle. All in all, he had a comfortable retirement and his style of living promoted the best health he had ever enjoyed in his whole life.
To continue in the spirit of Jimmy’s “game”, I shall not disclose the exact location of his final years, nor my identity. He left the property to me and I am quite sure that I will live out my retirement much the same as he did. I visit the property weekly to care for the many cats that he loved so much. It is my little labor of love for my “Grandma” until I can move there next year.
As a final act of love for Jimmie Mae, I have destroyed all FBI records that remained from the initial letters and subsequent “investigation” up to and including when the inquiry was closed. Also, in my capacity as an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I had his real death certificate, property records and all news articles of the shocking discovery upon “her” death sealed for 75 years beginning July 30, 2009, which I considered and chose to be a most appropriate date.
So…that is what happened to Jimmy Hoffa… Let’s just say that he lived happily ever after and has now returned to his sender.
April 4, 2011
This was written for BFF 93 ~ “Return to Sender” and is a work of fiction.
By Darlene Cirinna
Copyright April 4, 2011
All rights reserved. Do not use
without permission of author.
Photos found on Google Images
Copyright does not cover images
If there is a copyright on the images,
it is unknown by the author.