by Geri Fitzsimmons & Andy Stephenson
At two in the afternoon, the gentlemen hadn’t needed the added accommodations or expense of a private conference room. It was fairly late for lunch and too soon for even the earliest supper crowd; yet, now, to Joe Farley’s surprise, they were escorted to just such a room. The two senior FBI agents were already there and one end of the long table was being spread with set-ups.
A J Sanders lifted a highball glass and gesturing with it he said, “We jumped the gun and ordered drinks.”
“JB? Neat,” Harris acknowledged acceptance of the scotch from the bottle already in the waiter’s hand while Farley said, “I’ll just take black coffee.”
Sanders rose half way from his seat, but apparently Wesley forgot his manners as Farley offered, “Neil Harris. Dr Harris is a physiatrist who helps us work up profiles.” He qualified Harris’s presence without giving away their friendship. Sanders shook hands while Wesley finished his drink, plopped the empty glass on the table, nodded ,and offered the required hand to end the ritual.
“We may as well order first,” Sanders said, “so they won’t be interrupting us every ten minutes to see if we’re ready too. How about House Sirloins all around?” The agreeing nods was followed by the waiter’s effort to capture everyone’s individual taste on doneness and sides on a pad.
Dr. Harris studied his new acquaintances.
The men, though with entirely different features and coloring could still be classified as a general type. Caucasians with above average height, military molded physiques where even their clean-shaven chins were squared, determined, and representative of the strong masculine take control officer, both appeared more inclined to give than ask for help.
Already into his late forties, A J Sanders’ light brown hair had a rusty shine to it that masked any grey and his hazel eyes were deeply set on either side of a narrow nose. The lips were thin pink lines; while a dusting of faded freckles were barely perceptible on his cheeks, none of it diverted from his over all attractiveness.
A younger Peter Wesley, had thick black hair that argued against its enforced buzz-cut and grew too quickly to maintain a sharp brush so here and there an unruly curl formed. A bluish shadow on his lower face advertised hidden roots of a thick black beard. Dark blue eyes bordering on violet drew the most attention to a face that could have been dominated by his mother’s Slavic features, for the bridge of his nose was broad and the cheeks plump and wide but this was tempered by a mild olive complexion of his dad’s mixed Irish-Spanish heritage.
Besides having the same choice of career, the men had fatherhood in common. A single little blonde daughter had come from their mating and captured their hearts the second she opened her eyes. Now one of those little girls was dead and the other missing.
Even with his extensive knowledge of Psychiatry, Harris would be hard pressed to discover which suffered the greater agony; though Wesley’s daughter was confirmed dead, so no hope of rescue, Sanders had to worry what could be happening to his child.
Sanders attempted to keep the anxiety out of his tone as he asked Farley, “Joe, could you give us a run down of where you are in the case so far?”
“Nothing more than you’ve read in the reports from the Chief’s office. Believe me Carbonetti is keeping abreast of things. We have a full contingent of investigators working overtime.” Farley had chosen to sit next to Wesley, now he turned slightly and dropped his hand on the man’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Pete, but I don’t see any similarities except for location between the others and your daughter‘s death.” It was difficult to say murder, though someone intentionally or accidentally had interfered with Suzy’s young life. “As for A J’s kid, we just added her kidnapping to our investigation because of the connection between you two. Believe me our boys are right on top of it. Benson’s headed out to her school and we will connect with him later today.”
Harris had switched to listening while the lawmen discussed the cases; quietly he further delved into the file Joe gave him in the car. When the salads came, he ate but the others nibbled with little interest. They showed more enthusiasm with the main plates but only Farley really did justice to the chief’s efforts.
When fresh coffee replaced half eaten meals and desert was refused, the men started again when Harris interrupted, “At least two if not more people are involved in these killings. I’d estimate you have at least two killers operating independently. Correct me…the boy found in the rear of van was abused and dumped much like the bodies in and around the barrels. Agent Wesley‘s daughter was in clean clothes and placed in sleeping bag that was left half way open. That shows remorse."
“Remorse,” Wesley spit. “The son-of-bitch I’ll show him remorse.”
“I don’t believe the person intended for her to die.”
“Then why in hell did he snatch her?”
“Hold on Pete,” Sanders said. “Dr Harris, you think Suzy was taken for some other reason? There’s a chance Marie is still alive?”
“If she was taken by the same person, perhaps. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a male. The way Suzy was cleaned-up, dressed so carefully, and even her hair was neatly braided.” The Doctor was studying the child’s pictures. “You may well have a mothering complex involved here.”
“Neil, what about the kids in the barrels?” Farley interrupted. “The broken bones, the way they were starved…”
“Way different circumstances. Stinks of welfare fraud. And from the notes you have here, your unit is already focusing on that concept.”
Constant Pruitt was sweating in the over heated conference room. The promised lunch had long since been forgotten by the officers, so her stomach was barking while her nerves caused an increased acid build-up that was becoming noticeable in the closed door atmosphere. All the water she kept pumping into her stomach was making things worse, her face had turned shiny and the wetness caused her makeup to run; black streaks of eyebrow pencil invaded her pale green shadow and her mascara beaded and mixed with the liner she applied too heavily. “Gentlemen, I’m sorry but unless Marjorie,” she nodded towards her supervisor, “wants me to put in for overtime, I’m off work in the next ten minutes.”
County Social Services Supervisor Marjorie Steinberg, seated before a pile of hard copy files she’d been attempting to match up with computer entries wasn’t feeling overly generous towards her underling. She was angry and more than a little worried. Constance Pruitt was one of those people who rarely asked for help, seemed to always be on top of things with a quick answer for any question, and Marjorie had considered her completely dependable. If an experienced case manager like Pruitt could have her records in such a disheveled state, what kind of mess will the newer workers have for me. Now the Supervisor’s eyes darted to the wall clock. She said, “It’s only three Connie.”
“Well, I had to clock in at seven to meet Sarah Dickerson at Edison’s school by eight this morning. You okayed it Friday. Then I skipped lunch when you summoned me to come back here.”
Marjorie ignored the second and asked of the first grievance, “You got the boy registered?”
“Not exactly.” Caused everyone to pause in their activity and stare at Connie. “Well…Sarah wasn’t at school. She had called them and said Eddy was ill. I went to the house but only her husband was there. Seems Sarah was taking the child to the doctor.”
“So what’s wrong with him?” Marjorie asked.
“I don’t know. I planned to go back or at least call the Dickersons. But then we got tied up here and well…I’ll call before I leave the office.”
“Call now.” Tomanio handed her a phone. “Paddy, look up the number.”
“I have the number,” Connie snapped. “I have all my Foster Homes programmed into my cell.”
“How old’s this boy?” Tomanio wanted to know.