Authors: Mary Jane Clark
Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Adult, #Thriller
n the bottom floor of the KEY News Broadcast Center, Joe Connelly sat in his office adjoining the main security center. He was focused on the information on his computer screen. Joe clicked from entry to entry, sipping a cup of black coffee and looking for anything that could help in the search for Janie Blake.
computer file currently had over eighty cases culled from mail and telephone threats coming into KEY News headquarters and KEY affiliates around the United States. Some of the cases were simple; others were not.
Over the years, Eliza Blake had received lots of bizarre correspondence, but not all that many threats, surely not as many as her predecessor in the
anchor chair, Bill Kendall, had gotten. But the number of truly disturbing letters had risen in the last few months. Joe was certain that was because of all the publicity that had heralded Eliza’s return to the morning program. The woman’s face had been everywhere, on billboards, buses, and magazine covers. Published stories about her professional and personal life had been too many to count. Joe knew the people in the publicity department had their jobs to do, whipping up viewer interest, but that didn’t make his job any easier. The more that
was out there in the press about Eliza, the more the crazies wrote their letters.
Most of the letters that came addressed to Eliza were nuisances, and not anything truly alarming. After years of experience, Joe had learned what to dismiss and to what he should pay attention.
Joe knew the FBI was going to call him and he wanted to be ready. He separated any letter in the file that made reference to Eliza’s daughter. Then he read them again. Most of them seemed benign.
Happy Birthday, Eliza. I’m your biggest fan. I hope you have a wonderful day with your little girl.
Read the article about you in
Eliza. That picture of you and Janie was the cutest.
Watched you on your first morning back on
KEY to America.
You looked wonderful. Why don’t you bring Janie to the set sometime? I would love to see her.
Joe continued to read, stopping to study one letter again and again.
I watch you on television and read all about your career at KEY News. I think not only are you a wonderful newswoman, but you are the world’s best mom. You seem to love Janie so much. I wonder if she knows how lucky she is. Janie is such a beautiful child, wouldn’t it be terrible if something happened to her? Can you imagine what your life would be like without her? Janie better appreciate how lucky she is to have you, because it only takes a moment for life to change forever.
Evaluating a letter was always a judgment call based on experience and intuition. Joe Connelly’s gut told him he had something here the FBI would want to see.
rs. Garcia listened to the occasional hiccup coming from Janie who, after crying for her mother; her dog, Daisy; and Zippy, her beloved nighttime companion, for hours, had finally fallen asleep. From outside, she could hear the sound of birds calling to one another. Mrs. Garcia hadn’t slept at all, but the chirping birds told her that morning had finally come. Yet it wasn’t a normal morning, heralded by familiar and reassuring birdsong. Today was much different from yesterday when she had gotten up, washed and dressed, and then seen to it that Janie was fed and safely off to camp.
Safely off to camp.
Nothing was safe now. These people who had invaded her world were heartless and ruthless. Mrs. Garcia couldn’t be certain what the day ahead would bring, but she trembled at the prospect.
The blindfold was still tied tightly around her skull. That, and the anguished worrying she had done all night, had given her a pounding headache. She felt helpless and terrified but she tried not to cry. How was she going to get herself and Janie away from these horrible people? And if she did try anything, would it only make matters worse? Would they hurt Maria and Vicente and Rosario as they had threatened to do?
The fear she felt at the prospect of harm coming to her family didn’t outweigh her determination to save Janie. Mrs. Garcia pulled again at the restraints that bound her hands, wincing as the ropes cut into her flesh. The man had tied her up so tightly that there was almost no give.
Mrs. Garcia strained to hear in the darkness.
Where is he now? What is he doing? And where is the woman who was helping him?
Mrs. Blake must be beside herself,
she thought. But Janie’s mother had undoubtedly called the police by now. The American police were very smart. They would surely come and save them from these monsters.
In the meantime, it was her responsibility to keep Janie safe. She inched her body closer to the child’s. She could hear the sound of somebody stirring in the next room.
Where are they?
he network morning programs are all starting in less than half an hour. We should give them something,” Eliza said. “I have to go out there and make a statement in time for the shows.”
“Let me do it,” said Annabelle, reaching over and rubbing Eliza’s arm. “The media is our friend here, Eliza. We can reach millions of people. We’ll let them know that Janie is missing and get her picture circulating. We can do more to find Janie in a few seconds than if we nailed flyers to trees and telephone poles every day for a year.”
Eliza agreed with Annabelle. The public had to be informed about Janie before they could ever help find her. Eliza knew that it would be important to humanize Janie, emotionally linking the public to the outcome of the search for her child.
But Eliza also knew very well what it would be like if she went outside to face the press. They would pounce on her and she would be the focal point of the story. There would be questions about how she felt, how she was holding up. It might be better to have the facts laid out to the press by someone else so that the focus would be only on Janie and Mrs. Garcia’s disappearance.
Eliza looked over at Katharine and Paul, who had been sitting there
listening to the conversation. Her in-laws suddenly looked so frail and old and there was no way Eliza was going to ask them to trot outside and answer a barrage of questions. They were under enough pressure as it was.
“Let me do it, Eliza,” Annabelle repeated.
“God, that would be great,” said Eliza. “But do you really want to?”
“You’d do it for me, wouldn’t you?” Annabelle asked.
“What about your
“Unfortunately, I’ve done enough of these ‘heartbreaking news’ things that I can handle both jobs, at least for this morning. Harry Granger is out there, and you know him—he barely needs to be produced at all. It’s not his first time at the rodeo. And B.J. is out there, too, now. He doesn’t need to be told what pictures to get; he has better instincts about that than I do.”
“Still…,” Eliza said uncertainly.
“Don’t worry,” Annabelle insisted. “There are other producers out there, too. We aren’t leaving Harry twisting in the wind. After the broadcast, if you want me to continue to be your spokesperson, I can ask Linus for a leave until Janie comes home.”
Annabelle went outside to join the news personnel on the street in front of Eliza’s house. Immediately, she was surrounded by colleagues from ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, FOX, and the local television and radio stations, as well as reporters from the
New York Times,
Wall Street Journal,
New York Post,
and the Associated Press. It surprised no one that the
were also represented. This story was tailor-made for the gossip tabloids’ front pages. Photographers from tmz.com, ready to stream the latest video to the popular celebrity news Web site, were there, as well as aggressive paparazzi drooling for the sensational shots that would command top dollar.
“I have a statement, everybody,” Annabelle announced.
She waited while the photographers, camera crews, and reporters with microphones and notebooks jostled into position.
“I am Annabelle Murphy, A-N-N-A-B-E-L-L-E—that’s one word—M-U-R-P-H-Y. I am a producer for
KEY to America
and a colleague and friend of Mrs. Blake. I have a short statement to read and afterward I’ll take a few questions.”
Annabelle cleared her throat and began to read from the announcement she and Eliza had composed.
“Yesterday, at approximately eleven forty
, Janie Blake, age seven, was taken by Carmen Garcia, Mrs. Blake’s housekeeper, from Camp Musquapsink, a children’s day camp in Sloatsburg, New York. Neither Janie nor Mrs. Garcia has been seen or heard from since. Local and state police in New Jersey and New York as well as the FBI are investigating. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has also been contacted.”
Annabelle paused and swallowed before continuing. “Mrs. Blake is asking anyone who has any information that might help find Janie to please call their local police department. Later in the day we hope to have set up a designated number to call.”
The CBS reporter shouted out the first questions. “Was the housekeeper scheduled to take Janie from camp? Was this something planned, something that Eliza knew about beforehand?”
“No,” said Annabelle. “Eliza has no idea why Mrs. Garcia took Janie out of camp yesterday morning.”
“Does that mean the police think Mrs. Garcia kidnapped Janie Blake?”
“You’ll have to ask the police,” answered Annabelle. “But Eliza does not think that Janie was kidnapped by Mrs. Garcia. She also believes that Mrs. Garcia would never take Janie without letting her know where they were going. She thinks Mrs. Garcia was somehow forced to take her child.”
“But she does think Janie was definitely kidnapped?”
“Eliza doesn’t know exactly what to think,” said Annabelle. “As you can imagine, there are many nightmarish scenarios running through her mind right now.”
“Was this her first year at camp?” asked a local newspaper reporter.
“I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
“How long has Mrs. Garcia worked for Eliza?” asked the reporter from the
Annabelle thought back. “I think about two years.”
“What is her background?”
“I know she came with impeccable references.”
“Is she a United States citizen?”
“I’m not sure about that,” said Annabelle. “I’ll have to get back to you.”
“Has there been any ransom demand made?” asked the
New York Times
“Then perhaps they could have been in an accident,” suggested the Associated Press reporter.
Annabelle took a moment before responding. The note that Carmen Garcia left in the camp log indicated that she was signaling for help. Or perhaps more troubling, she may have written the note to shift suspicion away from herself. Either way, a car accident wasn’t high on the list of possibilities. Annabelle didn’t want people searching ditches instead of focusing their attention on a full-scale hunt for whoever had taken the child.
“We have reason to believe that is not the case,” said Annabelle.
“What reason?” called the NBC reporter.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” said Annabelle. “You’ll have to ask the police or FBI about that.”
“When will the police or FBI be coming out to talk to us?” asked Harry Granger. Eliza’s cohost on
KEY to America
was standing out on the
street with the rest of the reporters. Annabelle was supposed to be assisting Harry, doing whatever needed to be done to have him ready to report when the morning program began. Instead, she was helping Eliza. And while she didn’t want to neglect Harry, she felt strongly that what she was doing right now was more important. There were other KEY News producers scurrying around out here this morning and they could help Harry. Plus, Harry was a pro, not the prima donna some anchors were. Annabelle was confident he was going to be more than fine without her.
“I don’t know about that, Harry. When I go back inside, I’ll see what I can find out.”
Harry asked a follow-up question. “How is Eliza holding up?”
“About how you might expect,” said Annabelle. “She is extremely worried and upset.” Annabelle looked down at the ground and then up again. “And she’s praying that Janie will come back to her, safe and sound.”
ughie.” Isabelle shook her brother’s arm. “Hughie, get up. You have to come watch the news.”
He kept his eyes shut. He wanted to finish his dream. But his sister had seen to it now that he wasn’t going to find out if the little girl with the dark pigtails and pinafore would take the candy he offered her.
What a lousy way to start the day.
Hugh got out of bed, pulling his nightshirt down as he shuffled out to the living room. “This better be good,” he said.
“Shush,” Isabelle said with annoyance. “Just watch.”
As he digested the television report, Hugh bit his thumbnail down to the point where it hurt. Then he gnawed at it some more as he contemplated what Janie Blake’s kidnapping would mean.
The camp was in Sloatsburg; the kid’s home was in Bergen County. Both of those locations were close enough to his modest ranch-style home that Hugh knew the police were going to come knocking on his door. He was sure of it.
It wouldn’t be the first time the cops had come calling. And it wouldn’t be the last. Whenever a kid went missing, they loved to look
his way and throw their weight around. But they had come to this apartment before and found nothing. They wouldn’t find anything this time, either.
Still, Hugh found himself trembling. He shook with fear and outrage.
It’s just not fair.