Authors: Mary Jane Clark
Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Adult, #Thriller
embers of the press were staked out in front of the Blake house throughout the morning. At lunchtime, a catering truck arrived, providing sandwiches, cookies, soda, and coffee. B.J. D’Elia lined up with the other hungry members of the press. “Who’s paying for all this?” asked B.J., fairly certain that it wasn’t being charged to the KEY News budget. The news division’s budget had gotten tighter and tighter over the years he’d worked there.
“I heard Eliza ordered it,” said the FOX reporter who stood in the line in front of B.J.
“That figures,” said B.J.
When he got to the counter, he took a chicken salad sandwich, some chips, and a Coke. B.J. found a place to sit in the shade under a tall tree, keeping his eyes on the front door of the house. As he crumpled the plastic wrap that had protected the sandwich in his hand, he saw Annabelle come out of the house. Grudgingly, he started to get up and hoisted the camera to his shoulder, anticipating that Annabelle could be making another statement. The camera crews from the other media outlets did the same thing as a throng of reporters and producers, eager for any new scrap of information, surged forward.
Annabelle put up her hands to stop them. “Hold it, everybody,” she called out. “I don’t have anything for you. Just relax.”
“Come on, Annabelle,” yelled the CBS reporter. “What’s going on in there? Any news?”
“Honestly, the only thing I have to tell you guys,” said Annabelle, “is that the FBI is going to hold a press conference at four o’clock.”
“Where?” yelled an NBC producer.
“Right out here in the driveway,” said Annabelle.
“What do you expect them to say?” The CBS reporter wasn’t giving up.
Annabelle tried not to show her exasperation. “I wouldn’t presume to speak for the FBI,” she said. “That’s it, guys. That’s all I’ve got.”
Almost instantaneously, the scores of reporters and producers pulled out their cell phones and called their respective broadcast producers and assignment editors, apprising them of the information about the FBI press conference. Annabelle continued to walk down the driveway toward B.J.
“How’s it going in there?” he asked when they both had taken a seat beneath the tree.
Annabelle sighed deeply. “It’s horrible, Beej. Just horrible. I feel so sorry for her. And there she is, worrying about me in the middle of it all. She insisted that I go out and work so Linus won’t be ticked off.”
“How is she holding up?” B.J. asked.
Annabelle shook her head. “I guess as well as can be expected. She’s putting on a brave face, but she hasn’t slept, she isn’t eating, and she’s wound tight. I just hope she doesn’t snap.”
“Well, I don’t like just hanging around and doing nothing,” said B.J. with anger and frustration in his voice. “Anybody could be sitting here, staking out the house, waiting for the feds to come out and feed us a few crumbs. We should be out doing something, Annabelle.”
“I feel the same way, Beej,” said Annabelle. “That’s why I called Linus and asked him to send out another camera guy. Once he gets here, you and I are taking a little trip to Camp Musquapsink.”
“But I thought we already had a crew there this morning,” said B.J.
“We did,” said Annabelle. “They got their shots of the camp and the police hubbub outside. But, after they saw the FBI agents leave, they left, too.”
“So what are we going to get that they didn’t get?”
Annabelle shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “But the camp is the last place Janie was seen. It’s as good a place as any to start figuring out what happened to her.”
Yellow police tape still draped parts of the entrance and reception areas, but the KEY News crew car was able to drive directly into the parking lot. Annabelle got out first and went directly into the office. She identified herself and asked to see the camp’s director.
“Holly is busy right now,” said the girl at the desk. “She’s taking phone calls from parents.”
“That’s all right,” said Annabelle. “I can wait awhile.”
“I don’t really know how long she’ll be,” said the girl. “Can I help you?”
Annabelle thought quickly. For all she knew, once Holly Taylor came on the scene, she might shoo them off the property. It wouldn’t hurt to try to pump the girl.
“Obviously, I’m here about Janie Blake’s abduction,” said Annabelle.
The girl nodded.
“You weren’t by any chance staffing the desk when her caregiver came and took Janie from camp yesterday, were you?”
“No,” said the girl, shaking her head. “That was Lisa.”
“Can I talk to Lisa, then?” asked Annabelle.
“She’s not here,” said the girl. “Actually, Holly fired her today.”
“I see,” said Annabelle. “I guess I probably would have fired her, too. Lisa should have checked that caregiver’s signature when she took Janie out of camp.”
“I guess so,” said the girl, “but I can understand how it happened. Sometimes we have too much to take care of and we can’t pay attention to two things at the same time.”
“Why? Was Lisa taking care of something else?” asked Annabelle.
“I heard she was collating song sheets,” said the girl. “She was only trying to get her work done, just like all the counselors do. I feel really sorry for Lisa.”
“Maybe she’d like to talk about what happened, give her side of the story,” suggested Annabelle. “Do you think you could give me her phone number and I could call her?”
The girl shook her head. “No, I shouldn’t give out Lisa’s personal information, but I could call her and tell her you’d like to talk to her. That way she can get in touch with you if she wants.”
“That sounds fair,” said Annabelle as she took a business card from her wallet and put it on the desk. “My cell number there is the best way to reach me.”
Annabelle glanced at her watch. “I have a deadline,” she said. “If Ms. Taylor isn’t going to be able to talk with me soon, I’ll have to get going.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” said the girl. “But Holly went out and spoke to everybody when all those media people were here this morning. I don’t know if she’ll want to speak with you even when she does finish with her phone calls.”
Annabelle knew that the KEY News crew that had been at the camp in the morning had gotten video of Holly Taylor making her statement. Annabelle had been hoping she might be able to snag an exclusive one-on-one interview. In the process, she had also hoped she might be able to glean some new information. The likelihood of that seemed to be diminishing. Annabelle thanked the girl and turned to leave just as a young man walked in the door.
“I’ve got today’s pictures to load, Kim,” he said, holding up a digital camera.
“What are those?” asked Annabelle.
“Pictures of stuff that happened at camp today. I have a Web site,” the young man said with pride. “I set it up this year. When they get home every day, the kids can log on and look at themselves. The parents like it, too. They can see what their kids have been doing.”
“Neat idea,” said Annabelle. “What’s your Web site’s address?”
When Annabelle got outside, B.J. was leaning against the trunk of the car, his camera gear on the ground.
“Got some b-roll,” he said.
“You didn’t wait for permission?” B.J. shrugged. “What can I tell you? I’m a bad boy,” he said, smiling. “On the other hand, what’s the big deal? Lots of pictures were taken here today. I just got a few more.”
Annabelle opened the back door of the sedan and took out the carrying case containing her laptop. She opened it and turned it on.
“Good. They’re wireless here,” she said.
“What are you doing?” asked B.J.
“I want to check something out,” she said, tapping the keys until a picture of the Camp Musquapsink sign over the front gates filled the computer screen. On the side of the screen was a list of dates, the days the camp had been open so far. Annabelle clicked on Monday, July 21.
A few more clicks, and the smiling, painted face of Janie Blake appeared.
he glanced at the digital clock on the dashboard, knowing that Skip was waiting for her. But Stephanie really wasn’t in any rush to get home. She pulled into a rest stop on the highway and bought a tuna sandwich and a cup of coffee. She decided to sit at a table and eat instead of gobbling it down in the car.
For the rest of the ride, Stephanie listened to the radio reports about Janie Blake’s abduction. When she pulled up to the house, she got out of the car, kicking at the dried leaves and pine needles that covered the ground. Skip had never gotten around to raking them. She looked at the house. It needed a paint job. Skip had never gotten around to doing that, either. But Stephanie didn’t feel she could say anything. It was his house, not hers.
She walked inside and found Skip watching television.
“You look nice and relaxed,” she said as she bent over and kissed him. “How’s everything?”
“Fine. I’m just taking a break,” said Skip. “How did it go?”
“They didn’t believe me.”
Skip sat up. “It’s always like this in the beginning,” he said.
Stephanie went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of wa
ter. “I’m tired of them brushing me off and thinking I’m crazy,” she said when she walked back to him. “It’s so discouraging. Why won’t they listen to me?”
“Look, they’ll come around,” said Skip. “You’ve had other cases, and the cops are always skeptical at first. Then they see that you have special gifts. They’ll be sure to see it this time, too.”
n announcement went out to all law enforcement personnel with an updated description of Janie Blake as given by the camp worker who had seen her last.
As Detective Mark Kennedy read it, the color rose in his cheeks.
Green paint had been on the child’s face.
In recent years, psychic criminology had been gaining some grudging acceptance in law enforcement circles. Detective Kennedy made it a point of keeping up with criminal justice publications, reading the articles about psychics but never being quite convinced of their legitimacy. He knew that there were some in his line of work who believed that a talented psychic could help pinpoint a geographical area where a missing person might be, narrow the number of leads to concentrate on, emphasize information that had been overlooked or come up with entirely fresh information. Kennedy had never bought it.
He didn’t want to be a close-minded guy; he wanted to be open to possibilities, but, until now, his only experience with “remote viewing,” as they called it, was through television shows and the articles he’d read. Those hadn’t persuaded him to believe in anything to do with the paranormal. But the woman who had come to the station this morning was
real, and the dream she described, in which Janie Blake had paint on her face, was entirely fresh information that was proving to be true. Information he had dismissed.
Kennedy pulled out the file in which he had stuck the paperwork on Stephanie Quick. It was worth a shot. Maybe the other guys would laugh at him for suggesting that a psychic was credible, but it would be far worse if it turned out that she could have helped them find the Blake child but was ignored.
He picked up the phone and began calling the police departments listed on Stephanie Quick’s résumé. It turned out that one of her dreams had provided information that had helped a search party locate a missing woman in the Poconos. And, in another case, she had sat inside the car owned by a man who had never come home from work one night, and she had been able to describe how he had been robbed and murdered as he came out of his office. Later, she said a dream had revealed that he had been buried near a bridge. The man’s body was eventually found on the western bank of the Delaware River, not far from where a train trestle crossed overhead.
Kennedy went to Chief Steil and told him about Stephanie Quick and what his research had uncovered.
“You know what? I don’t want to touch this stuff with a ten-foot pole,” said the chief. “Let’s just pass this on to the FBI.”
e had been putting off going down to the gas station for as long as he could, but now he couldn’t wait any longer to go and pick up his final paycheck. Hugh wished he could just tell that clown what he could do with his pathetic hourly wage, but he needed the money.
As he drove around the reservoir, Hugh braced himself for the unpleasantness that would surely be coming. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last, that he’d been let go as soon as the boss found out about his past. How was a guy supposed to straighten up and fly right when nobody wanted to hire him, when everyone was repulsed by him and wanted absolutely nothing to do with him? The pressure of being ostracized and whispered about made it even harder to stay on the straight and narrow.
Pulling into the parking lot, Hugh could see the owner frowning through the window of the service station. Hugh parked next to the building, but before he could get out, the owner was standing beside the car.
“Here,” he said, thrusting an envelope through the open window.
“Thanks,” said Hugh as he took it.
Without another word, the owner turned his back and walked away.
Hugh started to call after him, but thought better of it. He was tempted to tell the guy off. But the last thing he needed was a scene. He didn’t want to call attention to himself. And God forbid, he didn’t want the cops to be called.
Everybody made mistakes, some worse than others
, thought Hugh. He knew that society viewed his mistakes as among the most heinous. Some people felt sorry for him, most people hated him, but none of them wanted to have anything to do with him.
The only one he could count on was Isabelle. She had always been there for him and he thought she always would. He had loved her since she was a little girl, his baby sister who always stood up for her older brother when it should have been the other way around. Even then, Isabelle had sensed that he was different, and vulnerable. And she had been loyal to him all these years, through all the whispers and accusations and the court hearings and the jail time. Hugh knew that Isabelle had suffered the embarrassment and pain of being shunned, just because she had a brother who was a disgrace.
That’s why he was doing his very best to please her. Isabelle deserved his devotion and his utmost effort. But it was hard to be good, so hard. There were so many, many temptations.
Hugh put the car into gear and looked in the rearview mirror. A silver SUV pulled up to the pump behind his car. Hugh could see the blond head of a little girl in the passenger seat.
His eyes stayed trained on the mirror as he felt his pulse quicken. He remained in the car, watching the child, until the owner of the service station came out again and chased Hugh away.