A New Man Part 19

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He couldn’t believe what he saw and he refused to touch it until he called Kelsey, which he did the minute he got cell service. He waited two hours before he picked up the bag and carried it out of the park. He had left her a message on her cell and on the voice mail at the station, short of calling 911 he didn’t know what else to do. He knew that he had to get it to safety before someone else came along and discarded it as trash.

He didn’t know how the bag hadn’t been covered with snow after all that had fallen since he had arrived in town but there it lay under another bench down the “road less traveled”, it looked like a bag that he had seen in several of the pictures of Haley. It was a pink drawstring bag and had a splatter paint and peace sign design. There was no mistake that it belonged to Haley.

Since Kelsey never showed he took the bag and the contents back to the Nowhere Inn and laid it on the table and stared at it for what felt like hours. He didn’t want to contaminate any evidence that might be in the bag but the suspense began to kill him. The answer to where Haley had gone could be in that bag. Why would she leave it behind if it contained something important to her? He feared he had already compromised the bag by bringing it into the hotel so looking inside could have disastrous results. But the eagerness to peek inside was like telling someone not to push a button and then walking away.

He didn’t have any latex gloves so he found the extra trash bags that they put with ice buckets and placed one on each hand. He, with the art-like precision of a surgeon, pulled the drawstrings loose and turned his eye downward. Inside he saw a pair of running shoes and clear plastic zip bag that contained makeup. That was all, except for a red leather bound book with frayed tan pages. It was warped and dirty from the moisture from which the bag had failed to protect its contents.

Jacob retrieved the book and opened to a random page:

June 18th

Saw S today, he was a jerk as usual. He knows how I feel and yet he doesn’t care. I wish I didn’t have his secret, he knows it kills me. Good run this morning and had a meeting with C. He promises to help me get better with the guitar. D doesn’t understand my need for the money and that’s why I help C. Its getting hot here so I’m going home to do some writing. I have a good idea for a song dedicated to Mom.

He flipped through the journal and it was the same throughout. She talked about missing her mom, and no names appeared within its pages. Only first letters. It was pretty easy to figure out who most of them were, S = Seth, J = Jordyn, G = Graham and so forth. He assumed D meant Dad but there were a couple that puzzled him. C, B, P, R, and someone she referred to on several of the last pages as “the lady in blue”.

Jacob made his way to the counter at he front desk. The kid behind the counter could have easily been the girl from the grocery stores twin brother. He bore the same gothic style as she and his black spike hair with purple tips were visible from a mile away. The kid said nothing, only pointed to a room that had a plaque that read “employee’s only”. Inside Jacob found the copy machine he had asked about.

Just as he finished copying the two hundred pages that nearly filled the book, beginning in late may and ending on the day before her disappearance, his phone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out and stared at the caller, ID.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello, Nathan, Detective Lawson,” she said matter of fact, “I am outside your hotel and am on my way in. Just wanted to make sure you were decent before I barged in on you.”

He thought for a moment and said, “I am on my way down to get a cup of coffee. I can meet you at my room. 217.”

He hung up the phone and darted out of the door of the managers office, electing to skip the wait for the elevator, and up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Just as the door to his room closed behind him he heard a wrap and Kelsey’s announcement.

With his hands shaking he stuffed the book down into the bag and carried it to the door.

“I presume you haven’t touched anything?”

“You would be correct. I have left it just as I have found it.”

“Except its, here.”

“Except its, here. I grew tired of waiting at the park and decided it would be best to remove it before someone threw it out.”

“I understand.” She took the bag and left him there. With the photocopied journal.

He had made the decision to take a trip to Memphis. The roads had been cleared and the bridges reported as safe again. He would do the interview with the mother and then give the journal to Jerry and be in Dublin by seven P.M. It was a fool proof plan.

***

Professor Wade Dean, as the frosted glass door announced, sat behind his long oak desk in his gray tweed suit. A pipe lay in an ashen covered tray that sat next to an amazing computer. It was connected to sound mixing equipment and Jacob had no idea what any of it did. His gray beard was similar to an Amish beard and his gray hair showed his age of nearly sixty years. Pictures were scattered here and there throughout the office, one sat on his desk and another sat on a bookshelf that contained several books on the art of music. The woman in all of the pictures looked strikingly beautiful and held an eerie resemblance to Haley.

“I’m sorry to have to bother you on your free period Mr. Dean.”

“Its no bother really, and it is Professor Dean or Wade. My father was Mr. Wade.”

“Yet you smoke a pipe?”

“I guess I do.”

Jacob wriggled in the chair, his butt becoming uncomfortable already. “I just needed to know about your relationship with Haley?”

“My relationship was one of non-existence. I never met the child.”

“But you knew of her?”

“Sure, she contacted me sometime after Carol had made the trip home after her mother had passed. She said she was trying to reach her mother and she was having little success in the matter.”

“You make music?”

He found the question amusing. “Yes, yes I do.” He pulled a tobacco pouch from his tweed jacket pocket and picked up the black pipe. “Mind if I smoke Mr. Collins?”

“It is your office, and it is Nathan, my father was Mr. Collins.”

“Not Detective Collins?”

“Not anymore. I’m in the private sector now.”

“I see. That money belongs to Haley. Her father has no control of it. Only what is granted to him by the lawyers for her well being.”

“I assure you professor that it isn’t about the money.” Jacob again wriggled in his seat.

“I’m sure I will not be of any assistance in your investigation and you have more than likely wasted a trip and my time.”

Jacob stood and walked over to the picture on the bookshelf and pulled it from its home. Carol sat in a chair with Wade leaning over with his head resting on her shoulder. She was the focus of the picture and Wade was merely an ornament.  “How could anyone do that?”

“Excuse me Mr. Collins?”

“Leave.”

“I’m not sure I follow you.”

“Sure you do.” Jacob returned to his seat. “Haley was just a little girl and did nothing to your wife. She simply left town and left a two year old in the hands of an unsuspecting father.”

“I’m sure there are two sides to the story.”

“I’m sure professor, so why don’t you tell me that story since your wife refused to meet with me today.”

“She had a prior engagement that I am sure she told you about.” he puffed on his pipe, sending smoke into the already stuffy air of the tiny office. “But if you must know, I had no idea that she even had a child until I received an e-mail from a girl claiming to be interested in attending this college and subsequently this music program. We began to IM and I later found out that she was in fact the daughter of my wife.”

“When was this?”

“It started about two weeks after the funeral, and the reading of Noreen’s will.”

“You honestly had no idea?”

“Mr. Collins, I am a busy man and highly devoted to my work. My life and the life of my wife had no time for a child and we never even discussed the matter.”

“Noreen never mentioned it?”

“I only met her a couple times and it was never brought up. I can now assume it was because she knew it was a sore subject for Carol.”

He leaned forward in his chair getting closer to Jacob and nearly halfway across the large expanse of the oak desk. “Is she dead Mr. Collins?”

“I don’t know, professor. Why do you ask.”

“I only heard from Mrs. Bledsoe that she feared Jerry may have a few demons.” He took a puff on the pipe again sending smoke into the air to join the smoke that yet to dissipate from the room.

“What sort of demons?”

“Some that require a lot of money.”

Jacob thanked him for his time and stood to leave.

“Mr. Collins. I agreed to meet with Haley. For the program and to set up a meeting with her mother. She was thinking of moving to Memphis. She was a talented songwriter.”

“When did you meet?”

“We didn’t. She was supposed to come the weekend she went missing. She never showed and I never heard from her again. We had no idea she was missing until you called this morning. No one from Bledsoe Industries or Jerry himself thought of contacting us.”

Jacob couldn’t feel sorry for them. Haley only wanted to meet her mother, she had gone so far as to create a rouse in which to meet her. But her mother had been too self involved to care.

“Maybe she should have called as well.”

The drive back from Memphis offered Jacob some time to reflect on what he learned. Jerry was the last known person to see Haley alive and did he receive the money if she died? Maybe. The only thing Jacob didn’t know is the identity of the person giving her problems but he was pretty sure he had just found Musicman28.

Just as he was pulling into Pine Bluff his phone rang again. He glanced at he ID although he knew the name that it would give. He answered with a hello.

“We found her body Mr. Collins.”

He was speechless. Although he had expected as much, something in him had held onto some sliver of hope, maybe for Jerry as much as for Haley herself.

“She was in the park near the pond.”

He knew this part of the job, the part no cop likes. The informing of the family. And in his case an associate. He had been hired to find a missing girl and he had failed. Although the outcome was inevitable and she was already doomed to the fate before he had even arrived in town.

“Would you like me to tell Jerry?”

“We have an officer headed to his home now.”

He couldn’t believe the words he was about to say. No one would offer search a thing. “Stop them, I’ll do it.”

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