Authors: MK Alexander
“What year was the car which Detective Durbin mentions?”
“We will begin there, I think. And we will begin with photographs. If we find a similarity, we can check for fingerprints.”
The inspector looked at me and smiled. “A very strange state of affairs, Mr Jardel.”
“Why exactly are we looking at these old files?” I asked.
“The geological clue I spoke of.”
“No offense, but that’s utter bull crap.”
Fynn looked at me but didn’t seem at all upset. “I think there maybe a family connection. Like you mentioned, a generational killer.”
“Oh.” I had little else to say but that seemed more plausible somehow.
After about an hour of searching he came upon two files: Clara Hobbs and Debra Helling, both twenty-two years of age, both from Sand City, both disappeared in 1975 and 1976 respectively. Never found. I looked at the cold case photos and compared them to Durbin’s files.
“The resemblance is extraordinary, don’t you think?”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were the same people… especially her,” I said, and pointed to what looked like a yearbook photograph of Debra Helling.
“Indeed.” Chief Inspector Fynn sifted through the files again, paying special attention to fingerprints. He seemed dismayed to find none.
I tried to explain, “Back then people didn’t get fingerprinted routinely… not unless they were convicted of a crime… and even now...”
“Ah yes… of course,” he muttered almost to himself but continued through the folders. After a few minutes more, Inspector Fynn found a third file: Lorraine Luis, age twenty-one, disappeared from Sand City in 1977. She was never found either. The last record seemed to have an effect on the inspector. I couldn’t be absolutely sure, but I’d say a small tear came to his eye.
“Who is this third girl?”
“Someone I know… from the past.”
“What? Where is she?” I asked then paused.
Wait. Why did I just ask that?
“Apparently she has not been discovered yet.”
“It’s rather odd.”
“So she will turn up?”
“I fear for the worst.”
What was I thinking? Why are we even looking at records from, like forty years ago. I felt very unsettled. I took out my camera and started photographing the files on the desk.
“What are you doing?”
I shrugged. It was pretty obvious.
“Is this permitted? Is it alright for Detective Durbin?”
I was quick, got all the shots I needed and reached for my cell. “Yeah, I’ll call him right now,” I said, but then remembered the cell phones were down till Thursday at least. Inspector Fynn made copies of all the files with the help of Mademoiselle Wilma.
The drive back to Sand City was very quick and very quiet. Hardly another car on the road and no speed traps. The inspector sat in a brooding silence, I thought. Anytime I tried to broach our paradoxical discovery— no— make that impossible discovery, he brushed me aside with replies like, “I cannot offer a suitable explanation…” or “...it is too difficult to comprehend…”
That’s for sure. But records don’t lie.
Chief Inspector Fynn raised his doubts, “No, I do not trust computers much.”
“How can you say that? They’re instrumental to our civilization.”
“I agree with that premise, but it does not change my idea of trust.”
“I’m not following you.”
“For example, I doubt the truth of anything I find on the internet. Photographs are so easily altered. The primacy of the visual image has been compromised. You cannot trust what you see. Even film, or video, as you call it— such can be altered in any way as to hide the truth or create a false one.”
“You mean like special effects?”
“So, I certainly do not trust what I read. All text is subject to easy and instant change by almost anyone. How can I trust the written word nowadays? And why should I?”
All good points, I guess, but it completely begged the question. Nothing we just found was from a computer file.
I dropped Fynn at the Blue Dunes Hotel, just northeast of the Village on the ocean side, tucked away beneath a high sandy bluff. He had a corner suite on the second floor.
“Do you want me to take the files back to Durbin?” I asked as he was about to leave.
“Thank you, but no. I’ll telephone him from my room.”
“How can I get in touch with you? I could call your cell… or, what’s your room number?”
“I have no cell phone.”
“No cell? Are you kidding?”
“Why would I kid? I find it makes my life simpler.”
“Simpler? Ha. I can check my email anytime I want, text anyone, talk to anybody, search or fact check instantly. Why would you want to live without a cell?”
“As I’ve said, my life is simpler than that. Whether it is better, is a personal valuation.” He turned and smiled briefly. “Besides, my mobile does not seem to function in your country.”
“Gotcha… So, how do I get in touch with you then?”
“I will be in touch with you.” He smiled again.
“You want my number?”
“Not really, rather it’s not necessary. I’ll find you when I need you.”
My old Saab was built for just this: twisty turny pavement and excessive speeds. I raced down the back roads from the ocean side to the Sand City
office after dropping off Inspector Fynn. This time of year traffic was a rarity. It was early evening, maybe around six o’ clock or so. No one was there, except I might have heard a noise from the basement. Jason, probably. I headed straight up to the attic, the morgue, the archives, and started a search on the two dead girls. Nothing about my visit to Fairhaven with Fynn sat well. How was any of this possible? How could two girls from the seventies show up dead almost forty years later? It was impossible. I had three wildly improbable theories and one plausible. On the wild side: alien abductions, frozen corpses, clones or doppelgängers. On the plausible side: mistaken identity.
It took some doing. I sifted through boxes of old newspapers and eventually came across the mid-seventies. Wow, had things changed… Back then, the
was a weekly already, but a giant broadsheet, maybe fourteen by twenty-something inches. And the design was painfully amusing. Must have been a seventies thing. I didn’t even recognize half the fonts.
Is that Peignot?
Only paste-up Amy would know for sure...
On page six of every issue was the Sand City Police Blotter. A quick roundup of all calls for the week. Stupid stuff mostly, drunks, cats in trees, domestic disputes. This might take some time…
About an hour or so later I came upon the first missing person, Clara Hobbs. Not much there, but it was confirmation. Clara, a waitress at the Crab Shack disappeared on North Hollow Beach while walking her dog, September 1975. There was more about the dog than her. He was a yorkshire terrier that answered to the name of Roxy, and had apparently disappeared as well. Debra Helling, victim number two, was last seen on Boxtop Beach, October 1976. The third disappearance was Lorraine Luis, who seemed to have vanished without a trace from the bridle path in July 1977. I made copies of everything and stuffed them into my bag. Confirmation of the impossible.
My thoughts then turned to Inspector Fynn. Something was weird about this guy to say the least. How the hell could he have known about the old county files? He would be my next task. I’d search the internet for anything that could be found. On my way downstairs a thought struck me. I continued across the landing and walked to the basement door. I peered down the steps. There was a light on and I could hear music blasting through tiny headphones. I called out: “Jason?”
The was a long delay. I heard some scuffling noises, a chair moving and feet hitting the floor.
“Jason?” I called out again.
“Hey, Mr Patrick. I didn’t know anybody was here.” A figure appeared at the basement door. Jason was about twenty-two, just out of college, tall, and very presentable. He had short brown hair, gold framed glasses, and an oddly sullen personality. “What’s up?” he asked. His expression was glum as usual. He rarely smiled.
“Hey Jason… how are you? Update went okay?”
“Listen, I need your help on something.”
Jason made a face. “What, the Treasure Hunt thing? It’s going to be a pain in the butt to do.”
I agreed with a look. “I know… for you and me both. Can’t we do it in Flash?”
“Flash? I wish… no, all the f--king tourists have iPads— no flash— going to have to use html five. I’m telling you, it’s a nightmare scenario, if—”
“Um, it’s not really about that,” I cut him off, knowing he might talk for another ten minutes on the subject.
“Oh,” he said.
“If I wanted to find somebody on a passenger list, you know, like on a flight… is there a way?”
Jason almost smiled. “Sure, I can do that.”
“Can you show me?”
“It’s easier if I do it myself.”
I considered this for a moment and felt my options narrowing. “Okay, that’d be great…” I took out my notebook and jotted down a name. “This guy… he probably flew in from Amsterdam, or maybe any other big city in Europe. Say within the last two weeks.” I paused. “Make that, within the last month…”
“Tractus Fynn,” Jason read the name. “Where did he land? You got a passport number? A photo?”
“No, that’s all I’ve got… he could have landed at any major hub: Logan, JFK, Philly, I don’t know. I don’t have a picture either, but he’s an old guy, maybe seventy.”
“Okay, I’ll do it now.”
“That’s what I like about you, Jason.”
“You always say that: ‘I’ll do it now’ … and you do. Thanks.”
Jason looked at me. “I’ll shoot you an email.”
I decided to drive over to see my buddy Eddie, at Fish City Seafood, the wholesale packing plant. It was a ten minute ride down Long Neck to the Marina. Eddie Hernandez usually worked the second shift, seven to three, and we were pretty tight. He plays a mean bass and we had jammed together more than once. I forgave his one obvious failing: an over-devotional attachment towards the Who.
Not my favorite band of all times. I saw his monster truck in the parking lot and pulled in beside it. Not fair to call it a monster truck, I guess. It was really just a pickup with huge tires. Like a lot of Sand City locals, he had a permit to drive along the ocean beaches. Something about riparian rights. This was his four by four.
His story came to mind as well, not a story that ever made it into the
, but he was very fond of telling it: A few years back Eddie was out on a trawler, working the banks with his uncle, I think. They were way off-shore, and hauled up a giant bluefin, maybe five hundred pounds. A call comes up on their radio, a mayday from a Japanese factory boat. “Shit, we could beat the Coast Guard there no problem,” he told me more than once. Turns out there was no problem, no mayday anyhow, but it was a good enough excuse to drift into the two hundred mile exclusion zone. It would take some time for a cutter to actually get there. The Japanese crew was happy to take that tuna off Eddie’s hands for forty-thousand dollars. Forty grand for a fish? Alright, it was a big fish. I was always a little dubious. Do Japanese fishing boats always carry that much cash? Was that yen or dollars?
“Hey Eddie,” I said as I opened the door to his tiny paneled office.
He was sitting with his feet up, mindlessly watching a television set mounted from the ceiling.
“Whoa, Jardel… long time. What’s up, my man?”
“Not much. Working hard?”
“Hard as I can.”
“I need a favor.”
“More fish sticks?”
“No, no thanks. I’m good, but I need your expert opinion for a story I’m working on.”
“Expert opinion, huh? What, like who’s the greatest bass player of all time?”
“Ah no.” I laughed. “More along the lines of frozen food.”
“It’s simple really. How long can you keep something frozen?”
“What do you mean, how long?”
“I mean weeks, months… years…?”
“I dunno, forever, I guess… so long as your freezer is cold enough.” He sat up suddenly. “Want to see?”
“Take a stroll…” Eddie reached behind the door for an arctic parka and handed me one as well. He led me through a narrow corridor out past the loading bays. I heard some machines clattering repetitively in the background. He took me to one of two giant freezers. “Better zip up,” Eddie warned and pulled his hood up over his crazy curly hair. A blast of numbingly cold air hit us hard when he opened the giant door. There was an odd smell inside, and the hairs in my nose froze instantly. It was seemingly very dry.
“We got this baby set at thirty below. Everything in here is frozen like a rock.” Eddie picked up what looked like half a fish wrapped in plastic and dropped it to on the floor. It didn’t exactly bounce, but it didn’t shatter either. He picked it up and tossed it to me. “Hard as a rock, see?”
He was right. It was. “How long can you keep it like this?”
“Long as you want, so long as the juice stays on.”
“Right… What happened with the storm when we lost power for three days?”
Eddie gave me a look, almost a panicked look. “That was bad. We could’ve lost our whole inventory. But the bossman gave the orders: Don’t open the freezer door for nothing. He locked it up tight and then brought in a couple of generators the next day. Everything was fine.”
“You guys should have a back up, like batteries, or... a solar panel or something.”
Eddie nodded his head. I’m not sure he was even listening.
“How long does it take to thaw something out?”
“You with your questions…” Eddie paused to consider. “I guess that depends…”
“Depends on what?”
“How big your fish is, and how hot it is.”
“Say... room temperature… and a big tuna, like a hundred pounds or so.”
“I dunno, two or three days, maybe?” He turned to me. “These are weird questions, dude. What kind of story are you writing?”