Thu 7 Nov, 2002 03:59 pm
The Lieutenant sat uncomfortably as he briefed the Chief of Detectives on the cases reported over the last 24 hours. Normally, the Lieutenant would be at ease as he discussed the caseload with his superior. This morning, however, the coffee seemed stale, and there wasn't any sugar kick from the donuts.
Most of the cases were "same old, same old", but there was one case that promised to be a "who done it". The Lieutenant wasn't even sure that a crime had been committed. He saved the unusual for last, and paused after bringing his Captain up to date on a major investigation.
"Well Farley, is that all"?
Captain Cobb sat back into the plush seat that was the prerogative of a Chief of Detectives, and waited.
Lt. Farley opened the case folder and studied it once again. After a moment, he made his report. In spite of his uncertainties, the Lieutenant spoke with confidence by putting the story into the expected format.
"At 0318 hours last night a report was received that a citizen was awakened by screaming in his basement Rec Room. Two uniformed officers, Muldoon and Schaffer, were dispatched, and were met at the scene by the complainant, John Sommers, and his wife, Mary. Also at the scene were three small, hysterical, girls. The complainant and his wife were wearing bathrobes and pajamas, but the girls were fully dressed. Muldoon, who wrote the report, indicates that the complainant and his wife are childless, and that they were baffled as to the identity of the three girls. The uniformed officers were unable to calm the children enough to hear directly from them how they came to be in the complainant's Rec Room in the middle of the night. The children were delivered to Social Services, and the officers returned to routine patrol.
This morning, I contacted Social Services and asked if they had been able to discover anything further regarding the three little girls. I was told that they had been sedated, but had been interviewed by a caseworker this morning. The girls gave their names and ages as: Constance and Deborah Gates, ages six and seven, and Amanda Blake, age seven. The girl's story, such as could be understood, was that they had been playing in the Blake Rec Room on Thanksgiving afternoon. I'm told that they had no explanation of how they came to be in the darkened basement of a strange house.
Captain, I just don't know what to do with this case. No children have gone missing in the area since Thanksgiving, and I doubt that the Sommers people had anything to do with the kids showing up in their basement in the middle of the night. I've never heard of such a case. Was there a crime? What do you want me to do with this?"
Captain Cobb closed his eyes for a long moment. "Jim, you didn't give the address of the Sommer's house. What was it? It didn't just happen to be 33102 Dobbin Lane, would it?"
The Lieutenant looked down at the report and was astonished. "The address was 33102 Dobbin Lane, but how could you know that sir?"
"Let me tell you a story about a very unusual case that happened when I was a probationary rookie; almost twenty years ago.
It was Thanksgiving, and not having family, I was riding with Jack Eissen. That was before he made Sergeant, but he was already a legend. It was quite an honor to ride with Jack; I learned a lot from him.
Anyway, we were dispatched to 33102 Dobbin Lane to take a missing persons report, and conduct a preliminary investigation. On arriving at the location we were met by the complainant, Jerry and Elizabeth Blake. The next-door neighbors, George and Wilma Gates were also present. The whole bunch was very distraught."
Lt. Farley began to object, but was waved back into his chair by the Captain.
"Just wait a minute, Jim, this story is going to get a lot stranger. Jack and I separated the two couples and after a bit got each of their stories. It seems that the Gates girls had gone over play with little Amanda after the family's Thanksgiving Day dinner. They were dressed-up for the occasion and took their dolls with them. The Gates girls were ages 6 and 7. Mr. and Mrs. Gates saw their daughters leave their house, and never saw them again.
Jack interviewed the Blake people and was told that the girls had gone down into the basement Rec Room to play. Less than an hour after the Gates children arrived, all three children were discovered missing from the Rec Room. During that period there were three other people known to be in the Blake's house, Mr. and Mrs. Blake and their teenaged son, Bruce. Mrs. Blake said that she never left the Kitchen at the back of the house where she was busy cleaning up after the family feast. It was Mrs. Blake who discovered that the three little girls were no longer in the Rec Room. Taking slices of pie down to the children on a tray, she was surprised to find them gone.
Mr. Blake and his son were together in the Living Room. Mr. Blake reading the newspapers, while Bruce watched the football game on television. Mrs. Blake asked her husband and son where the girls had gone. The Rec Room had only a single point of access. The windowless Rec Room was connected to the rest of the house only by a short flight of stairs from the Living Room. No one could go up, or down the stairway without stumbling over Jerry or Bruce Blake, yet neither of them saw or heard anything. The Rec Room was tidy, with no signs of a struggle. The Gates girl's dolls were sitting on chairs pulled up to a card table that appeared to have been used by the children for a play tea party. The rest of the room was pretty bare. There was an old Persian rug on the cracked concrete floor, and some mostly empty bookshelves, if I remember right. Nothing was out of place, and there was no place the children could have been concealed.
Once the Blakes were certain that the children were nowhere on their property, they notified their neighbors to see if the girls had somehow merely gone from one home to the other. Mr. and Mrs. Gates went ballistic, and Mr. Blake called us.
Jack was certain that the stories he was told by the family accurately described their activities from the time the Gates children arrived until the little girls were discovered missing. We called for backup, and began a house-to-house canvass. That neighborhood, as you know, is gated; it was one of the first in the city. The sign-in sheet didn't show anyone entering the neighborhood that shouldn't have been there. Actually, there had been even less activity that afternoon than normal. After the backups arrived a full sweep of the area was conducted with not a single scrap of evidence turning up relevant to the missing children. An old woman across the street swore that no one had driven along Dobbin Lane from noon until the time the black and white arrived. The backyard at 33102 Dobbin was completely enclosed at that time, and no one could have gone through the yard without coming to the attention of Mrs. Blake.
The whole case was quite a sensation at the time. A lot of folks thought that one, or both of the Blake men may have done away with the children, but nothing was ever found to support the suspicion. There was never any ransom note, but eventually the Feds came in anyway. The media camped out of the Blake lawn for weeks, and even I had my picture in all the papers. Eventually the press moved on to other stories. Though our detectives worked their hearts out, the case eventually had to be put into the inactive file. Because I was personally involved with the Blake disappearances, the case never was closed to me. I worked it off and on for years, and I suppose that I may be the only person still with the department that even remembers the Blake case.
Now apparently the missing children seem to have turned up in the exact place they vanished from almost twenty years ago."
The Lieutenant asked, "Whatever happened to the Blake, and the Gates families?"
"Oh, the Gates were both killed in an automobile accident out on Route 12 about ten years ago. Mrs. Blake went crazy and may still be locked up over at Summerville. Mr. Blake lost his business, took to drink and eventually committed suicide while Bruce was away at college. Bruce got a basketball scholarship up at State, and became a police officer over in Jackson Heights. Nice kid; I think he just made Sergeant.
Okay, here's what I want you to do. First, get me pictures of the three girls and start a DNA analysis so we can be sure of what we've got. I want you to personally interview the girls to see if there is anything to help us understand where they've been for twenty-years and how they managed to vanish from a secure area. Next, get me Bruce Blake's current contact information so I can give him a call. If the girl who is giving her name as Amanda turns out to be his sister, he'll want to know and is the only living relative we know of.
Finally, if you have any idea of how three little girls could disappear for twenty years without apparently aging a day, I want to know."
Ooh creepy. Now I want to find out what happens! Question: would the older detective perhaps refer to his old casebook or file(s) when speaking with the younger police officer about the Blake matter? Despite having an interest in it, there's obviously been a lot of other police work in the intervening near-quarter-century. So wouldn't the elder man have to refresh his recollection somehow? This could introduce another case file (and I think you got "case file speak" down) and perhaps old newspaper clippings (which of course also have their own kind of language usage).
This is an interesting story because of the perspectives it opens up, and only here in the first installment. I look forward to seeing more.
Asherman.... excellent writing!!! I would buy this book!!!
Jespah.... this is a great forum.... BTW, is that a Border Collie in your Avatar?????
Yep, that's a Border Collie, as I kind of see myself as a herder here. Oh, and because on the Internet no one knows you're a dog. :wink:
Once it becomes clear that an investigation is no longer producing useful results it is destined for inactive status. The case load is very heavy. The Detective Bureau I'm most familiar with, and it was the fourth largest in Los Angeles County, had only two Divisions. They were Vice and Narcotics and Detectives. Detectives had a total of sixteen officers divided into four sections, and led by only three sergeants and a lieutenant. That small crew was responsible for investigating, reporting and preparing for prosecution every crime that occurred in a major urban city.
There just isn't enough resources to spend much time and effort on investigations that aren't productive. In this story, though it was obviously high-profile (high-profile cases get alot more resources because of the public attention), there just wasn't much that could be done. The children vanished from inside such a secure area, that it would have been very unlikely that they were taken by anyone outside the house. Even if the Blake men had anything to do with the disappearances, where were the bodies and how could they commit a violent crime against three children without making a ruckus? Every thing leads to a deadend. This case is not workable unless something happens to give detectives a lead, and as time goes by the chances of ever closing the case diminish to just about zero.
Because a case is inactive, doesn't mean that interest in solving it totally goes away. Every cop and supervisor would love to retire without leaving any unsolved/unresolved cases, but that is really an impossibility given the nature of moder police work. Some cases, for a lot of reasons, will remain fresh in the minds of some officers for their entire careers. I've sat with officers who were retired for ten years who could give me precise details on half a dozen cases that almost as old as I was, yet somehow remained important to them. Capt. Cobb, Chief of Detectives, could probably still give a detailed description of what the children were wearing at the time of their disappearance without refering to any files, or notes.
People do vanish from time to time. The Judge Crater case is still open, and the Marie Celest remains an interesting tale. I especially liked the film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. These unsolved disappearances have a way of engaging us, and we find ourselves at odd moments testing unprovable solutions. That ability of unresolved mystery is the heart of this story. I have no solution in mind, but will probably ponder occassionally alternate explanations for the Chief of Detective's question. It was the puzzle and personal involvement that kept Capt. Cobb's mind on this old case for years.
If you come up with a solution, I'd like to know just as much as my character would.
Absolutely, "Picnic At Hanging Rock" is one of my favorite films (as well as the same director's "The Last Wave"). Your short story also reminds me of O'Henry's writing (which has inspired so many films).
VERY interesting story line. The only thing I had a little trouble with was the Captain's seeming underreaction to the most startling aspect of the situation ie. not that the girls would return, as incredible as that would be, but that they would return unaged.