Murder on River Road

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Mystery and Crime

Submitted: May 15, 2015

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Submitted: May 15, 2015




Copyright 2015

Victor Darnell Hadnot and Amanda Travis

"In order for the public to care, they must first be interested." Truman Capote

That Mrs. Forest had been admitted on other than her own merit stung, the police observing her made it worse. The middle aged woman seemed beyond simply distraught, as uniformed officers questioned her. It had been days since the reported missing of the woman’s youngest daughter, and the toll was obvious. Police observing everything that had happened. made it all the worse. The distractions were all around, if this had been a missing case involving a poor or immigrant family, it would have never made the news. But Mrs. Forest was no longer talking to just the cops. This was a media circus, because the victim’s family was rich and held prominence within their exclusive community.

FBI Agent Sally Christie didn’t know whether to laugh at the irony, or be angry. Salem, Oregon was a small city, and while it had its moments, most of the rich folks on the other side of the bridge, in West Salem, considered themselves immune to the problems of East Salem. In the end Agent Christie did neither, opting for a weariness that was not an act. The city held a strong contrast, with the very wealthy living across the bridge, all the while, if you crossed the bridge into East Salem, you could openly see men and women, standing on the corners of main drags and major shopping markets, with signs, begging for assistance, all the while most cars and their drivers, pretended like they did not exist. Alarms went off in Mrs. Forest’s head. As the young FBI agent, working on her first homicide for the bureau, and accompanied by her seasoned partner, entered into the room, their was a silence, as the local police acknowledged that this case had been elevated to the level of the FBI. Women everywhere had the same reaction to Agent Christie. So, for some of the female cops to look at her that way, was par for course, she didn’t care, she was used to it, but, at the end of the day, they we just local law enforcement, she was playing in the big leagues, and took comfort in that fact.

Sally’s mouth curved , but her eyes didn’t smile. After they had the room, the tension dropped from where it was. Agent Parkson, a big Black fellow, leaned towards Mrs. Forest and asked a few questions. He’d strung Mrs. Forest up and left her hanging, when questioning her version of the truth. Sally examined the woman’s belongings, not obviously, but with a modicum of tact. No one had questioned if she killed her daughter. In cases like these, when a young child went missing, only to be found many days later, dead, lots of fingers would be pointing at the child’s parents. Everyone had been relieved that the child was finally found, but not like this. The fact that the child’s body was found along side the road, next to where the river ran, begged more questions, the DNA was a match for Mr. Forest. But Mr. Forest had spent seventeen hours a day in Portland, for days, before joining the official search for the child .

During the questioning session, it became clear that Mrs. Forest and her husband were prominent members of the Aladura Church, they had six children, five survived. Mrs. Forest had put her missing daughter on Google Alert a week ago, after she’d been missing for more than a few days. All of this seemed to be the acts of a parent who desperately wanted to find their missing daughter, but, wealthy families often keep the mot heinous of secrets, even devote families. Mrs. Forest gestured weakly to her journals. While Parkson asked tactful questions, Sally continued to look at the woman’s things, she’d been hospitalized, because of the news of her daughter’s death, the way the body had been found, by joggers. There was nothing here that they could use, Sally thought. The obvious thing, was that the Forest family had lots of money, and if things started to look suspicious, could lawyer up in a heartbeat. Mrs. Forest’s chin dropped to her chest as awareness returned in jolts. Besides the normal things that people go through, there was the psychological issues, most people go through stages, the shock of finding out that a loved one has been killed is hard enough, but add to it, murder, and that is just another trouble added on to it.

Sally logged into the FBI website, chose her FBI avatar and went to the desired database. The FBI server asked Sally for identification and when it was satisfied, allowed her to access the information she sought, as she glanced over at her partner Parkson, chatting with colleagues and eating something sweet. But Sally searched, finding no criminal records. It was only when the Forest family was contacted by the killer, wanting a ransom, that the FBI was called in, and it was only after they had hired private detectives to handle the ransom drop off, and the little girl’s body was found alongside the railroad tracks, by River Road, that the victim’s family was straight forth. Sally navigated the FBI virtual database, and the breath rushing out of lungs as she found something. There were several persons of interest that Sally began to look into, mostly they were either members of the family, or closely associated with the victim’s family in some indirect way. Sally’s eyes were tearing over her partner’s choice of dinner. Sally knew only too well, how working late hours on hard cases, left little to be desired for a normal life, specially when the case was a high profile case, such as the one that she and her partner were assigned.

"You need something to eat," asked Parkson, supposedly heading out to get something for them. He was a big man and obviously never met a steak he didn’t like.

Sally nodded, glancing up from the screen, "Yeah, sure, that sounds good."

"What you have in mind?" was Parkson’s response.

Sally announced, "Surprise me." and with that she poured back into her research.

At least they hadn’t cuffed the suspect again. The immigrant woman that was one of the members of housekeeping, hired by the Forest family, had persisted in not being cooperative, which led Sally and Parkson to have to cuff her in the first place. She was about to tell them something when the door opened and a well dressed man in his mid thirties entered. Sally and Parkson were taken aback, when the man handed them his card, a lawyer, hired by the Forest family, presumably to protect the housekeeper’s rights, Parkson and Sally found that very odd.

Mrs. Forest was on her land line when Agent Christie and Parkson came back. The gardener was an older Asian man, possibly of Korean decent, Agent Christie and Parkson questioned him extensively. The gardener looked over the rake, his dark eyes stern. The man generally had access to the estate grounds of the Forest family, actually, no one ever really noticed him or his crew as they went about their lawn keeping chores. The sight of Mrs. Forest’s older daughter in the kitchen brought back memories for Mrs. Forest. It wasn’t just that the gardener, who was almost invisible most of the time, he and his crew doing the routine chores about the outside of the expensive home, it was that he often brought on extra help, and that help was rarely ever properly vetted. It came to pass that his wife acted as a guardian, and had picked up many a terrified immigrant woman from the bus station in the middle of the night, risking the ire of their abusive sponsors that had driven them to flee. Most of the people that the gardener’s wife had picked up were in the country on limited visas, they had the right to work in the country, or their visas had just expired and they were desperately trying to slip below radar. The gardener had worried about his wife’s efforts all the time, but that hadn’t stopped him from supporting her efforts. It was the rise and fall of an abusive system that drove the people to seek out new lives in a new country, however, with all of that desperation, came opportunity for corruption and vice.

He’d been in love with a woman who worked inside the house, revealed the gardener. As further questioning revealed, the gardener and several members of the inside household staff had unexpected ties, which upon further enquiry revealed a network of illegal immigrant workers. The Forest family attorney sat at the round table across from Agent Christie’s desk, as did Mr. Forest, two people who wanted to protect the gardener. The deeper that Sally and Parkson dug into the case, the more troubling the behavior of the Forest family seemed, such as their extending of legal support for their estate workers, whom one or more of them, might have very well been part of the kidnaping and murder of their little girl, the family was obviously hiding something.

The Forest’s older daughter jumped in her waiting room chair when someone touched her shoulder. The case was taking on a different twist and Agent Christie and Agent Parkson were onto exploring new leads. She realized that the FBI agents had been focusing on her and had gotten the wrong idea. The fact of the matter, which bothered the both of them, was that they were trying to help the victim’s family, by trying to discover who killed their daughter, and bring those responsible to justice, would it bring back the dead child, surely not, but it was the best that the law could do. The oldest daughter tried to draw her mind away from the fear, pulling her computer tablet towards her out of habit. Because of the way that things were going, the direction the case was taking, they decided to question the Forest’;s older daughter.

The family’s lawyer stood up when Sally and Parkson entered the room. While it was everybody’s right to have legal counsel present when talking to the police, the fact that the victim’s family was so inclined, cast suspicion on them. The young teenage girl had been so unnerved by what was going on that she hadn’t dug very deep into her own explanations. Upon questioning of the oldest daughter, it became apparent that the daughter was having a relationship with a teenaged boy about her own age, in which the parents, on both sides, objected to strongly. Her eyes had closed, her face still pale. Sally and Parkson brought both the young people in for further questioning. Arousal warred with the apprehension in her dark eyes, when she first saw the boy she was having a relationship with. The relationship had been going on for sometime, with many attempts by each side of the families, to break it off, due to the fact that they were of deeply divergent religious affiliations. The teenage boy recognized the lifted chin as a warning and detoured, approaching the table from another direction. It was dirty business, digging into people’s private lives, but, when the death of a child was involved, and trying to catch the murderer, well, it had to be done, but Christie and Parkson tried to be tactful.

By killing this young girl before the Forest family could talk to the police, the killer had shown his or her hand. Agent Christie had been feeling kind of woozy as of late, and she really could not get a fix on as to why, so she simply tossed it off to either something she’d eaten, or the sudden change in weather, as the Oregon climate was rather damp and cold that time of year. They began to wonder how the killer knew so much about the internal investigation. Agent Parkson on the other hand, seemed to be doing quite well, actually, when Sally thought on it, her partner always had a strong disposition. Sally and Parkson informed the local police to look internally, thinking they had a leak. As the investigation went on, Sally and Parkson developed a profile that seemed to lead them down even darker paths, as aspects of the murder of the Forest family’s child held certain elements similar to other cases, and those cases had been conducted in other states.

Parkson and Sally knew that the police wouldn’t suspect each other because that was not how the system was wired. But, when Sally began to turn her attention to the idea that this might be a serial killing, things began to skew towards, who would have that kind of access? But it didn’t matter because a leak was a serious breach. The fact that there was a dead child and that the family was acting more and more like they clearly knew much more about it, was fairly obvious, the real question was what they knew and how it played into their child’s death. The kidnapers managed any potential fallout, cut off any search in their direction, before it started, with a single, well placed phone call, and a demand for a ransom. The Forest family had told the police that they were not sure when they actually noticed when their daughter went missing, and they blamed that odd notion on the fact that everybody in their household, were very busy, active in various things. Now the only threat to the murderer’s plan was the fact that a pattern had emerged. The fact that media coverage had reached the level that it did, made it easy for the killer to gain insight as to where the case was going, and avoid detection on the surface, by covering his or her tracks.

The imposter was reckless and the Forest’s youngest daughter’s killer was very careful and meticulous. The more the case dragged on, the more twisted and strange it became, with tips about copycat killings and unrelated kidnaping’s. Tears ran down the oldest daughter’s face. When Agent Christie and Agent Parkson decided to have a little one on one with the Forest’s older daughter, she seemed genuinely distraught about the death of her youngest sister, something that she hadn’t seemed like before, Sally told Parkson that she had the impression that the oldest daughter had been coached. She seemed to have run out of steam and Sally waited for the opportunity to take the questioning up a notch. In addition to the weird behavior of the victim’s family, a credible lead on a suspect began to emerge, as they found out about a mysterious cult leader, who had a traveling ministry, that just happened to coincide with several murder kidnaping’s.

There was an awkward silence as they waited to see what the sibling might say. When the police questioned the cult minister, he seemed to have a solid alibi, and they had no real evidence to hold him on, even though in the police’s desperate attempt to show the public that they were on top of things, by violating some of the suspect’s rights, by harassing him and implying evidence that did not really exist. Agent Christie and Agent Parkson looked at the Forest family’s oldest daughter with concern. Did the oldest daughter actually know something about her sister’s death? The Forest’s oldest daughter, looked as if she realized she’d missed something, but wasn’t going to push it because she trusted her boyfriend to fill her in later. While Sally kept herself open to the possibility that there might be a serial killer, Parkson, with way more years of seasoned FBI experience, decided that he liked someone connected to the Forest family, for the kidnaping and murder.

Mrs. Forest stumbled across the parking lot in a pair of very high heels. Agent Parkson and Agent Christie had managed to question Mrs. Forest alone, without the aid of the family lawyer, and she revealed a very different story of the family than what had been put forth up until that moment. Sally had gotten a good deal of work done, as she’d been waiting for quite a while. In most of the cases that Sally had worked on, there came a point, when there emerged a suspect or some kind of a theory, if there was no clear suspect, and in this case of the dead Forest family’s youngest daughter, there was no difference.

Late in the evening, at a local cop bar, Agent Christie and Agent Parkson were having a drink. "You look like you could use another one." said Parkson, as he got up to go to the counter.

Sally replied, "Yeah, I’ll take one more before I start to wind down for the night."

After Parkson left, a police lieutenant approached, she was a rather big woman, something about her was scary. "You and your FBI buddy can be on your way now, it would seem."

Sally raised an eye brow, "I don’t see the local police telling the FBI what it can and can not do."

The woman glanced about with a grin, "Yeah, well, I guess you haven’t heard, we have made an arrest in the Forest murder case. The maid did it, she is going to confess to the whole thing. There is going to be a media gathering tomorrow. You are invited to attend. Guess us locals out did the mighty FBI on this one."

Agent Parkson made a frustrating sound, a growling in his throat. The media was everywhere, it turned out to be quite the circus, much like the cop had told Sally, all the while Parkson seemed a little more than just annoyed. Sally remembered how Mr. Forest had stared at his son, wondering how he had appeared to have veered off course. With the media praising the local police for finding the so called killer, Agent Christie and Parkson decided to make use of the cover, to continue down certain paths that they had wanted to investigate, and now, they could do so without the glare of the news hounds. Mr. Forest had considered the circuitous route Mrs. Forest had taken, the look of weary panic on the man’s face when he’d stopped at the drug store. While Mr. Forest had protested that the police had already found the killer, and seemed quite relieved and wanted the chapter to be closed on the subject, he was beyond puzzled as to why the FBI wasn’t acting like the local police, in essence, why the case wasn’t closed to them as well.

When he didn’t stir Mrs. Forest became bolder, brushing the back of her fingers over her husband’s neck ,pushing his hair from his forehead, running her thumb over the ridge of his troubled brow. The fact that the two FBI agents followed Mr. Forest back to his car, finding Mrs. Forest waiting for him, and viewing their orchestrated behavior, spoke volumes as to why Sally and Parkson were still tying up loose ends, as they had explained to Mr. Forest, which Mrs. Forest claimed was harassment, because the case was formally closed. When Mr. Forest came out, she went to the gas station next door. Sally and her partner had every right to tie up loose ends, so long as they didn’t cross the line, because the case was indeed, officially closed, it was just the matter that the maid could not have pulled off the kidnaping on her own, perhaps the murder, but not the highly organized kidnaping, and then there was the little matter of the money, where was it? Mr. Forest made himself think of his oldest daughter and his oldest son and finally his late youngest daughter. Mr Forest seemed to draw strength from the presence of his wife when she was around, and that led Parkson and Christie to postulate that the couple knew a lot more about the kidnaping than what was put forth thus far.

Mr. Forest glanced nervously at his attorney. Agent Christie and Agent Parkson had gathered the Forest family and a few other people of interest at the local police station, with the intent towards filling in the gaps, which the local law enforcement seemed happy to overlook. Mrs Forest’s laugh sent another chill through her husband’s blood. Agent Parkson took the lead in explaining what really happened, as the key police and persons of interest watched and listened on, noting that Sally and Parkson had made an arrest, and that something of importance had taken place. They stood nose to nose, eye to eye, and for the first time, Mr. Forest knew true fear. Parkson and Christie, working on a lead, went to where the cult minister was hold up, a wooded location about twenty miles outside Salem, where when they searched the place, found a dog overly interested in a covered pit.

Mr Forest so hoped Mrs. Forest was afraid, or at the very least angry. Further investigation revealed a young girl, who had been held there for sometime, after the time that the Forest girl originally went missing. The person who had threatened the girl was not the maid, mild-mannered as she was reported to be. Sally took over and explained that the maid and Mr. Forest had been having an affair, which produced a female child. The cult leader had watched the family from afar, watching everyone else so cautiously. It turned out that the cult minister knew the Forest family, through a religious conference, found out that the child that everyone thought was the Forest family’s youngest daughter was actually the maid and Mr. Forest’s daughter and was blackmailing the family. Because she had her pride, Mrs. Forest kept her hands to herself.

The cult minister kidnaped the wrong child, got the ransom, and killed the child, because the Forest family finally had enough of being blackmailed, and was going to go to the authorities, but, what the cult leader didn’t know, was that the maid had a second daughter with Mr. Forest, they were twins, and he had taken the wrong child. For a few seconds, the FBI agents just let everyone look.

Realizing his mistake, he managed to out smart the private detectives that the family had hired and got hold of the intended daughter, but, Sally and Parkson found her before the cult minister could killer her as well, after having contacted the Forest family and demanding even more money and extortion. She tossed a photo of a murky looking cult leader onto the desk and everyone’s taut insides shattered.

It was at that point that Sally went and got the Forest family’s daughter, and the Forest family reacted with relief and joy to see her again, while the key police were left in obvious disappointment, having arrested and charged the wrong suspect, the true killer and kidnapper had been arrested by Christie and Parkson, when they discovered the Forest’s daughter, alive and relatively in good condition.

The media everywhere had the same reaction to the news that the Forest family’s daughter had been found alive, after having been thought to be dead. As the press was informed of the turnaround, Sally reflected on something she had originally considered; most families have secrets, things that they’d rather keep hidden in the dark corners, but wealthy families often have the most heinous secrets of them all, and with that, Sally and Parkson left the area, glad to be done with it.

© Copyright 2018 Victor Darnell Hadnot. All rights reserved.

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