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Don Canaan’s news background covers four decades of American history -- from editing news film and documentaries for NBC News in New York to immigrating to Israel in order to pioneer the new city of Yamit in the Sinai.
Upon his return to the U.S, Mr, Canaan earned a master’s degree in journalism. His series, "Jews in Ohio's Prisons" received first place for best weekly journalism in Ohio from the State of Ohio Bar Association.
His books are available in e-Book, print edition and audio book formats from Amazon, Audible, Smashwords.com and Draft2Digital.com in English, Portuguese and Spanish versions.
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By Jonathan Swift
Pretty Little Girl
(Previously "Dutiful Daughter")
By Don Canaan
(and Shawn Graves)
Copyright 2011 By Don Canaan
All rights reserved
Chapters 1-4 can be found below
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to any real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. Although some real locations and events have been used in this book, details and physical descriptions have been changed. Other locations and events are purely fictitious.
“Well, aren’t you a pretty little thing?”
Laura froze. The sounds of the fair were drowned out by the roar in her ears. It was already warm and promised to be a hot day, but she was suddenly chilled…and a little girl again.
One of her earliest memories was sitting in one of the cars on the Ferris wheel as it rocked lazily back and forth. The wheel had stopped with their car at the very top and all of Fresno and the surrounding areas spread out from the fair grounds, the lights of thousands of homes and businesses twinkling in the night.
She clung to her father, squealing with equal amounts of horror and glee each time she peeked out over the edge of the car to look down on all of the people. It only took a few seconds before she buried her face against her father’s shirt, the fabric fisted in both small hands. His arm around her made her feel safe in a way that not even the belt around her waist and the safety bar locked over their laps could.
She couldn’t have been more than three years old, much too short for the ride. How had her father convinced the operator to let her on? It wasn’t too hard to figure out. Laura’s father was persuasive and used to getting his way; in his business, in stores, in restaurants, in his home. One thing he always wanted was whatever would make her happy. Nothing was too good for his only daughter. He made sure she had the best clothes, the best toys, and the best education. If she had pointed her chubby hand at the monstrous ride and said, “Ride, p’ease, Daddy?” he would have done whatever it took to get her on.
She didn’t know if he had taken her to the fair that first year after her birth, but certainly by the following year he had begun what would be a yearly tradition. Although he hadn’t lived in Fresno for years before she was born, he had fond memories of the fair from his own childhood. He had been raised there in the days when Fresno was a rural agricultural town. Going to the fair was one of the few luxuries his parents had managed to afford. Taking her back to his home town every year became a ritual that nothing was allowed to disrupt.
From the beginning it was a father-daughter only trip. Laura’s mother was neither invited, nor did she seem interested. They always went the first day the fair opened, arriving at the gate before it opened and staying until well after dark. She slept in the back seat as he drove home, but even so, she was always tired and cranky the next morning. When she was old enough for school she was allowed to stay home and rest.
No matter what was happening at work, the opening day of the fair was theirs. It continued every year, even after she entered her teens and her father was the last person she wanted to go to the fair, or anywhere else, with. But he insisted and he always got his way. The last time she went to the fair with him was nine years earlier, the year she was twenty five. She was engaged to be married in six months and she decided that it was juvenile for a married woman to continue going to the fair with her father.
Laura watched the Ferris wheel, remembering. She remembered the exhilaration of rising in the air, the way her stomach did flip-flops as they descended. Most of all, she remembered being three years old. She remembered thinking her father was the biggest, strongest, bravest man in the world. She remembered that feeling of assurance that nothing could hurt her as long as he was holding her.
She looked over at him now. It was the first day of the fair and she was there once again with her father. He didn’t look big, or strong, or particularly brave. Today he just seemed…lost. His hair was white; he didn’t stand as straight as she remembered from her childhood. He certainly didn’t exude the confidence and authority that had always convinced everyone from powerful CEOs to Ferris wheel operators to accede to his wishes.
“Daddy, do you remember taking me on the Ferris wheel?”
He smiled at her.
“I think there’s time for nine holes before that meeting.”
“Dad, we aren’t at the golf course. We’re at the fair. Remember? The Fresno Fair? You and I used to come every year.”
“I just need to pick up my clubs.”
He ambled away and Laura followed a few feet behind, watching him stop to bend down and pick up an imaginary tee. The exhaustion of the last two years suddenly settled over her, along with the familiar resentment of having put her life on hold. The life that had fallen apart. As they neared the exhibit halls, she caught up to him.
“Dad, do you want something to eat?”
“We have a foursome and it’s too beautiful a day to waste indoors.”
“You don’t even know who I am, do you,” she sighed.
He patted her hand where it rested on his arm.
“Well, aren’t you a pretty little thing?”
Laura released his arm as he knelt to put the imaginary tee in the dirt. Reaching into her purse, she ripped a piece of paper from her notebook and located a pen. She quickly wrote on the paper and when he stood up, she folded the paper and tucked it into the breast pocket of his shirt.
“The boys want to meet in the bar for drinks before we start,” he told her.
“The clubhouse is right over there,” she replied, pointing to the Home Arts Building just across the grass.
He smiled and headed in that direction. She watched him, knowing that within a few steps he had already forgotten where he was going. The tide of people broke around her as she stood, feeling her heart pound in her chest. He followed the crowd of people moving toward the building. He stepped through the large open doors and into the shade. The crowd closed around him and then her father disappeared from her sight. Still she stood there, her eyes watching the doorway.
For five minutes she waited, and then she pulled the strap of her purse onto her shoulder and began walking away from the building. She walked to a different gate from the one they had entered less than an hour earlier. Refusing a stamp on her wrist that would allow her to reenter the fairgrounds later, she slipped through the exit. She walked to the parking lot where she had parked her car. Sliding behind the wheel, she started the car and turned the air conditioning on. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the steering wheel for several moments. Finally, she backed out of the parking space, and pulled out onto Chance Avenue. She made her way slowly through the busy streets until she found the entrance to Highway 41. Merging into the southbound lanes, Laura drove away from Fresno. Away from her memories.
It was the fifth or sixth time that the man passed by before Steve Jacobs, CEO of the Fresno City Fairgrounds, took notice of him. He was not tall, several inches shorter than Steve’s six feet, thin, white haired. Steve tried to remember how long ago it was that he first saw him; several hours, at least. The man didn’t seem to be with anyone, nor did he seem to have a destination in mind and Steve had seen him in several different areas as he made his rounds. There was nothing unusual about that; a lot of people came to the fair just to walk aimlessly around and look at the sights. Except the man wasn’t looking at them; he didn’t seem to even notice the rides with screaming teenagers or the hawkers trying to lure him to play a game.
Steve watched as the man approached a young couple and said something. The boy and girl gave him a wary look and glanced at one another. He could see them shaking their heads as they moved away, and then heard their mocking laughter once they were well away from the man.
He thought back and couldn’t remember having previously seen the man with food or anything to drink. September’s San Joaquin Valley sun beat down mercilessly, making it unwise to go too long without fluids. Could this be a homeless man panhandling? It was possible. Security guards and the police tried to keep them out, but occasionally someone slipped inside.
Steve began to surreptitiously follow the elderly man. His face was red and his breathing labored, yet his expression was pleasant with an absent-minded smile. The man again approached someone, this time a frazzled-looking mother with three small children in tow. He couldn’t hear what the man said, but he saw the woman frown at him and quickly pull her children away. He decided it was time to intervene. If the man was annoying paying customers, it was just a matter of time before someone reported him to security. Or, he thought, before some macho hot-head decided to take care of him.
He closed the distance between them and gently tapped the man on the shoulder. The man swung around slowly, a smile spreading across his face when he saw Steve.
“Well,” the man said. “It’s you.”
Steve paused for a moment, searching his memory since the man seemed to recognize him.
“Sir,” he finally said. “Do you need any help?”
“Well,” the man said, reaching out and shaking Steve’s hand enthusiastically. “Isn’t that just?”
“Oh, sure, sure. We have an 8:00 AM tee time, but I think we’ll make it.”
“Tee time?” Steve glanced around at the milling throng of people, none of whom seemed aware of the strange conversation he was having with the man. “Sir, can you tell me your name?”
“Absolutely,” the man said with a chuckle.
Steve waited but the man didn’t offer his name. Instead, he seemed to forget that he was having a conversation. He turned and began walking away. Steve moved to stand in front of him.
“Sir? Your name?”
“Don’t you worry, young man. I never forget to tip my caddy. Here you go.” The man patted his pockets as though looking for something, and then reached into a small breast pocket and withdrew a slip of paper. Handing it to Steve he said, “I better go catch up with my group. They can’t start without me.”
Steve looked at the paper as he followed the man, trying to keep him in sight. Written on the paper were the words, “My name is Larry.” Catching up with the man, Steve gently took his arm to get him to stop.
“I’m sorry, sir. Is your name Larry?”
“Well, hello there!” The man shook Steve’s hand again. “I haven’t seen you in a stone’s age! What have you been up to? How’s the family?”
“Larry,” he tried again. “Can you tell me your last name?”
“We just need one more good man to make a foursome. How about it…are you up for it?”
Steve ran a hand over his eyes and looked at the man in frustration. He noticed that not only was his face red, he was perspiring profusely and had large sweat spots on his shirt. As he began to walk away again he wobbled a bit and Steve worried he was about to fall. Gently taking his arm, Steve steered the man to a concession stand and bought a bottle of water.
“Larry, I think you better drink this.”
He put the bottle to the man’s mouth and tilted it. The man drank willingly enough, but when Steve tried to put the bottle in his hand he didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Sighing, Steve held the bottle to his lips again and reached for the radio hooked to his belt.
“Security, this is Jacobs. Do we have any missing person reports?”
“No sir, no missing persons so far today.”
“I’m bringing in a man who seems to be lost. We need to get an announcement out.”
“Yeah. Elderly man, approximately five six, first name Larry.”
“Will do, sir.”
“Larry,” he said, clipping the radio back on his belt. “I’d like you to come with me, OK? Let’s see if we can find your people.”
Larry offered no objections as he accepted another drink from the cold water bottle. He meekly allowed Steve to guide him through the crowds toward the fairgrounds security office. As they made their way slowly, stopping frequently for Steve to give Larry another drink, the announcement went out over the loudspeakers.
“Attention, please. We have an elderly man who has become separated from his party. He is approximately five feet, six inches tall and his first name is Larry. Anyone looking for this gentleman please contact the security office, located next to the southwest entrance gate. Thank you.”
Steve was relieved when he finally ushered Larry into the security office. He offered the elderly man a chair, but it took several attempts to get him to sit. Steve finally had to gently push on his shoulders until his knees bent and he lowered himself onto the chair.
“What’s going on, Steve?”
Steve turned as Jack Padilla entered the office. Jack was head of security for the fairgrounds.
“I found this guy wandering around the grounds. I’m not sure how long he’s been here, but I’ve seen him several times over the last few hours. He’s pretty confused and he had this note in his pocket.”
Steve handed the note to Jack. Jack read it and handed it back to Steve, who folded it and put it back in Larry’s pocket. Steve knelt and gave Larry another drink of water.
“I was worried about heat exhaustion,” he said. “I haven’t seen him with anything to drink and he’s sweating pretty good.”
“He hasn’t told you his last name?”
“Nope. He just talks about golf.”
“Golf, huh? This seems kind of strange,” Jack told him. “I mean, if someone put that note in his pocket to identify him in case he gets lost, then why not put his last name on it as well? His first name alone won’t help locate where he belongs.”
Steve gave Larry another drink of water before standing up.
“Think we should get one of the cops in here and file a police report,” he asked.
“No,” Jack said, scratching his head. “We’ve got the announcement going out. Let’s see if anyone comes looking for him.”
“He’s been here most of the day. Shouldn’t someone have reported him missing already?”
“Maybe they don’t know it yet. He could have been with a group that split up. You know how that goes…one person thinks he’s with the other one, that one thinks he’s with the first, and no one realizes he’s missing until they meet up. ‘Elderly man named Larry’…that should get someone’s attention.”
The sound of retching caused both men to spin around in time to see Larry vomit, slide from his chair, and crumple onto the floor. Steve rushed to the unconscious man as Jack called for the paramedics stationed at the fairgrounds.
The paramedics were close by and arrived within minutes. Larry had regained consciousness, but he was lethargic and mumbling incoherently. Steve stood back and watched as they examined him, started an intravenous line for fluids, attached the leads for the heart monitor, and radioed to the hospital emergency room that they would be bringing him in.
Steve gave what information he had about the man, which was little other than his name was Larry. He didn’t respond to his name, but he didn’t respond appropriately to anything that was said to him.
“He’s severely dehydrated,” the paramedic told Steve and Jack, kneeling over Larry. “We need to go take him to the ER.”
“Could the dehydration be the cause of his confusion,” Steve asked.
“Could be. But there’s no way to know right now whether the dehydration caused the confusion or if he was already confused and that’s why he didn’t drink enough and became dehydrated.” He looked up at the two men. “You haven’t located any family?”
“Not yet,” Jack responded. “When…if…someone hears our announcements and comes looking for him, we will let them know where you are taking him.”
Larry was able to stand up with help and the paramedics convinced him to lie down on the gurney. He was so weak that he didn’t resist and they soon had straps across his chest and thighs to prevent him from falling, or climbing, off as they wheeled him out to the waiting ambulance.
“All right,” Jack said as the ambulance drove away. “I guess we can’t wait any longer to file a police report. If his family shows up and it was just a misunderstanding, the police can just close their case.”
“Yeah,” Steve agreed. “But something tells me that no one is going to come looking for him.”
(to be continued)
Summary of Chapters 1 & 2
Laura Bedrosian's father, Armen, the wealthy owner of an automobile distributorship, has taken his daughter to the Fresno County fair ever year since she was a child. At age 13, Laura was kidnapped and her father paid the ransom. However, as repayment, he demanded that Laura agree to his nightly sexual advances. These rapes continued for 20 years. On her 33rd birthday, they stopped when Laura abandons Armen, now afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, at the fair. The fair's officials try to locate the person that brought him to the fair but when that effort fails, the Fresno Police Department intervenes.
With each step she took, Laura watched the concentric outlines racing outward from her foot in the wet sand. To her left the waves roared relentlessly onto the shore. Soon the water washed over her feet and then her ankles. She moved slightly up the shore as the tide came in, to avoid getting wet above her calves. The abrasive sand felt good on the bottoms of her feet, and that contrasted with the soothing cold as the waves hit her toes.
This wasn’t a busy section of beach, but there were a few families dotting the beach with children building sandcastles. Two men threw Frisbees into the surf for their dogs to retrieve as a woman walked a third dog on a leash. The roar of the surf drowned out any other sounds, making her feel almost alone. She took a deep breath and savored the scents that were quintessentially ocean; brine, decaying shellfish, seaweed.
If she could afford to live anywhere in the world that she wanted to, it would be here. An expensive beach-front home would be nice, but she would be happy to have a small house in town. She had always loved the beach and she found Cayucos to be a beautifully quaint little town. Like all towns along the coast, it had its share of tourists year round. But more than the others, Cayucos had managed to retain that small-town, neighborly feel.
Her aunt, her mother’s sister, and uncle had lived there for many years. Growing up, she had spent a month of every summer with them. Her father hated the beach and always pled the need to work. Her mother joined her occasionally, but was usually too sick. Maybe that was part of what she loved most…this place, the time she spent here, was hers and hers alone. Her cousins treated her like another sibling and for four weeks every year she could pretend that she was part of a family. A normal family.
Once she had her driver’s license, she would wheedle permission from her father as often as possible to make the drive on her own. She had dreamed of moving there someday, after high school. But she was needed at home so often that she went to college locally. Still, as often as she could, she made her escape to the ocean.
David had loved it almost as much as she did. He had, in fact, suggested more than once that they move. But she refused to leave her parents. And then David found someone he wanted more than he wanted her. Someone who was more than happy to leave her parents and move to the coast with him. They lived in Los Osos with their brand new baby girl.
She wondered if things might have been different if she had agreed to move with David. Maybe if they had moved away they could have worked out the rest of their problems. Maybe if she had been able to break free of the needs of her parents that threatened to strangle her, their marriage would have survived. Maybe if she had given David a baby he wouldn’t have left her. Instead, David got to live by the ocean at last, while she stayed in the same town, the same job. David got the baby he always wanted, while she moved back in with her parents. There was no reason to pay rent when she spent most of her time with them anyway.
She looked at her watch, thinking she needed to find a place to stay tonight. Her aunt and uncle still lived in town and her cousins were all nearby, too. But she didn’t want to stay with any of them. She wanted to be alone. She wanted silence, except for the sound of the ocean.
Reluctantly she trudged across the dune to the narrow stone steps that led up to the parking lot. She would begin a search for a motel room. At the car, she opened her purse to pull out her keys and her eyes fell on the old, well-worn leather wallet. Inside were her father’s expired driver’s license, old pictures, and all of his credit cards. This trip would be on her father. She deserved it.
Detective Elizabeth Roberts maneuvered through traffic, heading for St. Agnes hospital and the John Doe they had in the emergency room. It had been a long day and she was just about the leave for home and a dip in the pool of her apartment building when she got the call. An elderly, confused man found wandering around the fair. Her hope was that by the time she reached the hospital, he would already be reunited with his family and she could close the case.
She parked in a reserved space and went in through the emergency room door. She showed her badge to the receptionist and was buzzed through. The receptionist directed her to the room where she would find John Doe. Liz maneuvered through the maze-like emergency department and found room sixteen.
The curtain was open and propped up in bed with the bedside tray across his lap was the elderly man. He was, as had been described in the initial report, white-haired and in his late seventies to early eighties. It was difficult to tell while he was in bed, but he didn’t appear to be very tall. He was thin, but looked as though he was muscular when he was younger. His face was weathered and pleasant. Over the standard-issue hospital gown, he was wearing some kind of fabric vest that fastened in the back. It had straps extending from it that were tied to the bed frame. There was a tray of food in front of him and it didn’t look as though he had eaten any of it. In fact, he didn’t seem to even be aware of its presence. All of his attention was focused on trying to cut through one of the straps that were restraining him with the plastic knife that had come on his tray.
“Excuse me,” Liz said. “Mr.….uh….Larry?”
He didn’t look up as he continued sawing on the strap.
“It’s almost ready. I…just…need…to….”
The knife snapped in half, part of it dropping onto the floor. Liz smiled as she bent to retrieve it and then gently pried the remaining piece from his hand.
“I think this is safer over here.”
“Oh my goodness,” exclaimed a nurse, walking into the room. “You haven’t eaten a bite.” She examined Liz’s badge and told her, “He seems to be too confused to feed himself. I’ll have to call for a volunteer to come and feed him. We are getting slammed tonight and I just don’t have time.”
“Well, I can get him started until your volunteer gets here to take over. I would like to speak to the doctor.”
“Oh, thank you so much! It shouldn’t take too long to get someone here. And I’ll let Dr. Singh know that you need to speak to him.”
“Has anyone called looking for him…or have you been able to identify him?”
The nurse shook her head. “No…no calls and the only identification is that piece of paper in his pocket that says his name is Larry.”
“Where are his belongings?”
“In that plastic bag under the bed.”
“OK, thanks.” As the nurse left the room, Liz picked up the fork and speared a piece of unidentifiable meat. “Here you go, Larry. Why don’t you try this?”
Larry smiled at her and when the food touched his bottom lip, he opened his mouth. Liz was relieved when he began chewing. She had heard that people with dementia eventually forgot how to eat, but once the food was in his mouth, Larry seemed to know what to do with it. She tried giving him the fork, hoping he had gotten the idea, but he tried to drop it over the rail. Liz caught it and continued feeding him. She tried talking to him and asking questions, but he seemed intent on eating.
A gray-haired woman in a pink uniform, who looked like she wasn’t much younger than Larry, arrived and took over feeding him. Just behind her was Dr. Singh. He explained that Larry was severely dehydrated when he arrived, and running a temperature over a hundred. He was lethargic and only responded to painful stimuli. They administered intravenous fluids and he began to perk up….enough that they had to restrain him to keep him in the bed.
“He insisted he was looking for a foursome to play golf,” Dr. Singh told her with a smile.
“8:00 AM sharp,” exclaimed Larry.
“Can his confusion be caused by dehydration,” Liz asked.
“It could, but I don’t think it was the cause in this case. We are running some routine tests and will see if we can find an organic cause for it. Without more extensive tests I can’t say for sure, but my guess is he has Alzheimer’s. He definitely has some type of dementia.”
Liz sighed. “So he was found at the fair?”
“That’s what the paramedics told us when they brought him in. In fact, I believe they said it was the fair manager who found him. They said that they made announcements to go to Security if anyone was missing him, but by the time the paramedics left to bring him here, no one had shown up.”
“The fair manager?” She sighed again and handed her business card to him. “OK, Doctor, thank you. If his family does show up, will you let me know?”
After the doctor left the room, Liz picked up the plastic bag containing the clothing Larry was wearing when he came to the hospital. She checked all of the pockets, but found nothing other than the slip of paper bearing the words, “My name is Larry.” She slipped it into an evidence bag, wondering how many people had touched it throughout the day. She checked the labels on his shirt, pants, and underwear. They were all a brand sold at Walmart. Great, she thought, there are only a million of those.
“Well, Larry,” she said as the volunteer gave him the last bite on the plate and began clearing the dishes. “I am going to have to leave now. I’m going to do my best to find out where you belong.”
She took his right hand in hers and shook it. Larry held onto her hand and covered it with his left and smiled.
“Aren’t you a pretty little thing?”
“Yeah, thanks, Larry.” She chuckled. “That’s just the image every female cop is going for.”
“We’ll get together and play golf in the morning.”
“OK, Larry.” She pulled out her cell phone and snapped a picture of him. “You get some rest now.”
After calling to make sure that the manager would still be there since it was after eight at night, she drove to the fairgrounds, get what details she could from him, and then call it a night. She couldn’t very well stop every person leaving the fair and ask if they were missing an old man.
At the front gate, the young man selling tickets said that he didn’t know where the manager was, but he would call Security to ask if anyone knew. The answer came back quickly that he would meet her in front of the Administration building.
He arrived a few minutes after Liz. He was tall, with close-cropped dark blond hair. He wasn’t dressed like a CEO, Liz thought appreciatively. He was wearing jeans and a blue short-sleeved button-front shirt.
“Well, Detective Roberts…we meet again,” he said.
“Yes, Mr. Jacobs, so we do.”
“I’ve missed you.”
Liz laughed. “You saw me at breakfast this morning, you goof.”
“Every moment away from the presence of my fair wife is an eternity,” Steve intoned somberly, making her laugh again.
He leaned in to kiss her but she pushed him away.
“Not so fast there, Jacobs. This is official police business. I’m here to ask about the man you found wandering around today.”
“Ah, yes…Larry.” He fished keys out of a pocket and unlocked the doors to the building. “Let’s go in my office to talk.”
She followed him through the lobby and down a hallway to an office with large windows overlooking the gardens, admiring the way his jeans hugged his hips and thighs. They had met three years earlier on a blind date, arranged by mutual friends. A year later they moved in together. A year after that, they were married in a small ceremony at Steve’s parents’ home. They had invited very few people and most of those were Steve’s family. The only family Liz had at the wedding was her sister and her family.
“I could make a pot of coffee…” he offered, sitting down in the chair behind his desk as he gestured for her to sit in the chair across from him.
“No thank you, I don’t want to be awake all night.” She pulled a notebook and pen from her bag. “I know you already told this to the officer who took the report, but if you could just go over it again for me. When did you first see Larry?”
He grinned at her mischievously before answering.
“Remember the last time we were alone in my office late at night? This desk is awfully big and sturdy. Did you bring your handcuffs, Detective?”
“Hey, I told you this is business,” she answered gruffly. “And never you mind where my handcuffs are,” she muttered, concentrating on her notebook.
Steve chuckled and then became serious.
“I’m not really sure when I saw him the first time. Sometime early in the afternoon, I think. I saw him at different places throughout the afternoon.”
“What made you notice him? There are thousands of people coming through here.”
“I don’t know, exactly. He was alone and he just seemed…like he wasn’t really here. I guess that doesn’t make sense.” He shrugged. “He was all alone and walking around with people everywhere, the rides, the games, concession stands, exhibits…all this noise and activity going on around him and it seemed like he wasn’t aware of any of it.
“Around five o’clock I began to really pay attention to him. Then I saw him stop a few people and talk to them. I couldn’t hear what he said, but they all looked at him like he was crazy and walked away. I thought maybe he was a homeless guy and was asking people for money.”
“Is that when you approached him?”
“Yeah. I asked if he needed help and his responses didn’t make any sense. He kept talking about golf. He thought I was his caddy and handed me a piece of paper from his pocket, thinking it was a tip. It said, ‘My name is Larry.’ He looked like he had been out in the heat too long, so I got him some water and took him to Security. I had them announce that anyone looking for Larry should report there.”
“And no one has?”
“No one. We announced it periodically for a couple of hours and no one responded, no one reported him missing. I was discussing what to do with Jack, when Larry threw up and passed out. So we called the paramedics and they transported him to the hospital.” He grinned at her.
“Have you met Larry yet?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “I went to the hospital to interview him…well, I tried to interview him, anyway. He’s still looking for a golf game.” She was quiet for a moment. “How likely do you think it is that this confused man somehow escaped the notice of the workers and security people and wandered into the fair all on his own?”
“People sneak in…it happens. But we work hard to make it as difficult as possible for them to do it. A healthy, smart, teenager might do it, but it will be hard. An elderly, confused man? I won’t say it’s impossible, but it’s unlikely. Highly unlikely.”
“I had someone call all the nursing homes within a ten mile radius and no one is missing a resident. He’s not from a facility within walking distance, so he probably came in with someone. The question is…why hasn’t that someone noticed that he’s missing?”
Steve leaned forward and rested his forearms on the desk. “You know, Jack said that note in his pocket was strange…just a first name, but not enough to actually identify him.”
Liz nodded. “That’s what I think, too.”
“So are you thinking he was deliberately brought to the fair with the intention of dumping him?”
“Maybe. The more time that passes with no one checking with security or calling the police to report him missing, the more likely that scenario is. It’s something we have to look at, at any rate. You have security cameras at all the entrances, right?”
“I’d like the footage from today…from the time the gates opened until the time you found Larry. If I can see when and where he came in, maybe we can get a picture of the person who came with him.”
“Sure, I’ll have Jack get it to you first thing in the morning. Are you planning to go to the media?”
Liz nodded as she stood to leave. “I’ll call it in tonight. Maybe by morning this will be solved and I won’t have to spend the day staring at security tapes.”
“Well, if you want some help, Jack and I could stare at them with you. We both know what he looks like, so we will recognize him. We can come to the station or you can come here…whatever works for you.”
She frowned in concentration, thinking about a morning spent searching the tapes alone.
“You’re on,” she said. “We can do it here…nine AM? I am going to need to interview anyone working here yesterday who might have seen him with whoever was with him.”
“Nine o’clock,” Steve agreed. “We’ll be here.”
He stood and walked around the desk to where she was standing and reached out his right hand. Liz put her hand into his and he pulled her into his arms and kissed her.
“Sorry, Detective. Are you going to arrest me now?”
“No,” she said, pulling away from his embrace reluctantly. “I’ll let you off with a warning this time.” As he walked her out of the building and toward the front entrance, she asked, “Are you going to stay until closing?”
“Yeah, at least tonight.”
“Well, hopefully I’ll be sound asleep when you get in.”
“Sweet dreams, Detective.”
“Oh, I’m sure they will be, Mr. Jacobs. I’m sure they will be.”
As she walked out to her car, Liz called the desk sergeant and asked him to get a press release out to the television stations in time for the late night news. She sent the picture from her phone to go along with the release. Once in her car, she had every intention of driving straight home. But instead she found herself driving back to the hospital.
Visiting hours were over, but there were still stragglers in rooms and walking through hallways. The nursing staff was busy with bedtime medications and requests from patients. She was given the number of the room that Larry, registered as “Larry Doe,” had been admitted to on the fourth floor.
“He’s definitely feeling better,” the nurse assigned to Larry told her. She was tall and broad shouldered, her gray hair cut short. She exuded a no nonsense attitude and Liz wondered how many patients were afraid to ask her for anything. “I took him for a walk in the hall, and one of the aides did, too. But I finally gave him something to sleep and he settled down. I don’t think he’s asleep, though, just drowsy. You can go in and see him.”
Liz thanked her and headed for his room. All of the rooms in the hospital were small and single, so there was no roommate for Larry to disturb. He was lying in bed with his head slightly elevated. The bed rails on both sides were up and he was still wearing the cloth vest that was again tied to the bed frame. His eyes were closed when she entered, but he opened them drowsily and smiled at her.
“Hi, Larry. We met earlier this evening. I’m Detective Roberts.”
“Yes, he’ll be fine,” he responded.
“Larry, do you remember being at the fair today? Do you remember who took you there?”
“I reserved us a time…I think they’ll hold it for us, but we should hurry.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Liz sighed. “OK, Larry. You get some sleep and I’ll see you tomorrow. Maybe we can get you back to where you belong soon.”
She patted his hand and watched for a few minutes as he drifted to sleep. Rubbing the back of her neck and feeling suddenly very tired, Liz stopped by the nurse’s station to thank the nurse and leave her card in case anyone contacted the hospital about the missing man. She drove home hoping that by morning someone would have recognized Larry’s picture and called the police station.