A Faraway Song (Part 16)

It was exactly five minutes later when he returned and I had made what I guess must have been decent progress as he nodded at me and tucked the last few microfiche slides away himself.  He then waved me out of the room with a softly spoken, “You can come back tomorrow if you wish.”

As I walked out past the counter I glanced over at the copier behind the main desk, wishing I had been able to use it.  As I did so I saw several sheets of paper lying on the side nearest to the doorway.  The top page had the headline about the missing local girl which had caught my eye earlier.  The pages were a printout of that article and several more related ones, including a few I had not found during my own search.  They looked just like the newspaper pages but were printed onto regular paper.  I glanced back at the room and the librarian was standing in the doorway.  He smiled and then shrugged.

“We have all of those on microfiche you know.  We just keep the actual papers around because of tradition I suppose.  Film is easier to search through.  Less messy.”  He smiled and rubbed his fingers together.  “You don’t get dirty.”  He turned away and I was not sure if he was mocking me or just trying to be friendly in a strange way.  Grateful anyway, I shouted a, “thank you,” back his way and left the library.

I thought about the situation all the way back to my usual spot on the side of the road in Clyde Forks.  When I arrived though it looked like rain and I retreated to the motel again, ending up with the same room I had vacated earlier that morning.   When I settled in that night, after another satisfying meal, my thoughts turned back to the events of the day.   I read through all of the articles again, making notes as I did so.  The additional articles the librarian had found did provide some more information and added to my list of questions.  This is how my journal entry read from that night:

Jenny Lee Wilson – age 12 – lived on Flower Station Rd with mother, father, grandmother.  Is this near Clyde Forks Rd?

Mom needed some things from store and asked Jenny to go – gave her $5 – this was around 4 pm – several versions of what she was picking up – How far was this store? 

Called back from store phone – wanted gum and chips – Mom said ok but get something for cousins

Mom figured she was heading back directly – told other girls to start going toward store also so they could help carry bags- also said Jenny would have a treat for them

They apparently went (maybe halfway?  a few versions of this seem to exist) but did not see her and just went back to house and played outside – why didn’t they tell someone?  No info on that but also no one in the articles seemed to think it was strange ?  Seems like it to me

Jenny’s mom called from the house that dinner was ready – around 5 pm – when she saw cousins come in but not Jenny they told her about not meeting her on the road

Mom walks up road to, all the way to store, doesn’t see her – asks store worker who verifies Jenny left around 430  – said she was by herself

Mom walks back, calling for Jenny, no luck, calls police from house 

Search conducted, incl. overnight, not found but one empty bag from the store was (had logo on it, looked like it had not been there long)- goes on for several days – dogs used also – dogs had scent on road all the way but police think she walked on same side of road coming and going so not useful – dogs never left road when tracking 

Nothing else ever found 

Other info: only other details collected were two people who police talked to during investigation 

Otto Clements (also reported as Clement) – lives on Cemetery Rd – interesting…I wonder which house? – said he was walking dog that night (Oct 20) – a car drove past him with a girl in the back seat  – he says it was her but also seems a little fuzzy on the details of what he saw – said car was a two-tone paint job – thinks it was a Dodge

Marcie Vaughn – was standing in her driveway on CF Road – lived right where the logging road was – car had to slow down to make turn – she clearly described the girl she saw and it matches the pictures I have seen of Jenny – she also stated with certainty that it was Dodge Lancer – black on top, white on the bottom – driven by a small-framed man wearing glasses 

How close is all of this to Cemetery Road?

Who can I get to talk about this?  

Is this the girl the reverend heard?  Can I find out more about this when the police couldn’t?

I awoke the next morning and read it again as I decided on my plan for the day.  I also realized that I was going to have to figure out a way to make some money.  My funds, the amount I had saved up from my last job so I could take my “abandoned mine adventure,” were close to depletion from the extra time I had already spent in the area.  That could wait until tomorrow though.  For today, I had decided to drive back to Cemetery Road and go knock on Brown Suit’s door.

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 15)

The next morning seemed like a whole new world to me, mostly because I had taken care of my immediate needs.  A roast beef dinner and a hearty breakfast, labeled on the menu as the Frontier Special, had me energized, bright-eyed and in a thoughtful mood.  I even took about thirty minutes to go over what I had been doing and try to determine if I had become obsessed about something that really was not that noteworthy.  Ultimately I determined that whatever it was I had stumbled across in Clyde Forks really was pretty strange and did warrant some further investigation.  I set off for the library and was happy to find it open and a pleasant man at the desk.  He was pale and thin, but had a bright smile and lively green eyes that seemed to take a real interest in me as I told him what I was looking for.  He escorted me to the room where they stored all the older newspapers, both print and on microfiche.  After a brief class on using the microfiche reader, and another on their filing system, he turned to leave after a quick pat on my back.

“Good luck to you son,” he muttered on the way out.

“Any idea where I should start?  Do you remember anything about a missing girl in this area?”

He was gone though, the door to the room clicking behind him softly.

The next four hours were weary work and I had to take breaks every thirty minutes or so to give my eyes some relief.  I had begun with the printed editions, figuring that starting with newspapers from two years ago fit the reverend’s “few years ago” reference closely enough.  I knew it was going to be a sizable task, so decided to go on the principle that a missing child would likely be on the front page of at least one section of the paper, or possibly in the first few pages of the community section.  After flipping through an entire year my hands were grimy and black from the print and I had the beginnings of a nasal issue from the dust that had seeped into the collected news pages.  Giving up on that, I moved onto microfiche which also proved fruitless, although I did learn more about the area as I paused to read interesting articles along the way.  It was two-thirty in the afternoon by then and I wandered out to the desk, telling the librarian I would be back after lunch.  He warned me that they were only open until four, so I wolfed down a sandwich from a nearby deli and had returned to my mission by three o’clock.

I started back in on the printed editions, this time three years back, and was covered in grime, ink and dust again when I pulled the paper from October 22, 1970 out of the stack and was met with the headline, “Local Girl Missing after Trip to Store.”  Slightly to the discredit of my manliness I let out a quick squeak of victory.  Maybe this was it.

The story was short but interesting and full of details.  Jenny Lee Wilson had gone to the grocery store for her mother on the afternoon of October 20th.  She had definitely arrived at the store as she had called back home from there to ask about using the leftover change from the  purchases to buy some snacks for herself.  That was the last anyone had seen of her.  Apparently her cousins, who had been visiting for the week, had run up the road to meet her and assist with carrying the groceries home, but she had not met them.  They had returned to their yard, not immediately informing anyone of this fact, and it was dinnertime before the alarm was raised.  Searches of the area had turned up nothing and the article mentioned that the mother was extremely, and understandably, distraught.  It also mentioned another fact which seemed poignant given my own observations.  It stated that given the lack of children in the area, this incident was especially troubling and had made a significant impact on the community.

Eager to see if more information existed on this story, I flipped rapidly through the following days papers and did come across some additional articles.  It seemed that not much progress had been made on the investigation, and the later articles mostly gave human-interest facts about Jenny, her family and their plans for a memorial to her.  The last article, however, reveled a startling fact.  A report had emerged, from two separate eyewitnesses, stating they had seen Jenny in a two-tone car in the early evening of October 20th. This vehicle had been observed traveling west on Clyde Forks Road and was last seen on what was described as, “the old logging road that cuts across the K&P rail line.”  It seemed like a matter-of-fact statement in the article but it stunned me.  I knew from my walk the day before that this was one way to head to the old mine.

Was it possible that this was the girl the reverend had heard?  It seemed possible but I also knew that although cutting across the old K&P line was one way to head over to the mine, it also was not the only way.  There was obviously a road through that area, a rough two-track which the reverend and I had discussed at the time, but it apparently was in bad repair and not drivable all the way through the forest.  Could there be other roads though, ones which a local might know, ones where you could reach the mine?  That seemed possible, or at least worth looking into.  An abandoned mine did strike me as a place where a person set on harming a kidnapped child might decide to go.  I heard a soft click behind me.

“We’re closing up now son, it’s four o’clock.”

I turned to look and it was the pale man, the smile on his face but a look of insistence in his eyes.

“Could I copy something really quickly?”

He glanced around the room, at the strewn newspapers and scattered collection of microfiche slides on the desk next to the reader.  He gave me another smile, although this time it was rather thin-lipped and his voice was terse.

“And get this place cleaned up properly?  I don’t think so.  I will be back in five minutes and there better be a major transformation in here.”  He waved his hand and finished with, “and I do mean all of this.”

I grimaced, shook my head and started picking things up, carefully placing them back where they had come from.  The librarian’s upcoming inspection did not strike me as something I wanted to fail.


…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 14)

“What?  Are you sure?”

He nodded his head firmly in reply but I kept questioning him.

“I mean, I can see that this whole thing freaked you out, that’s obvious.  But are you sure you really heard a little girl calling out to you?  Isn’t it way more likely that you just heard some weird effect of the wind?  Or maybe your mind just made it up because it was so silent when you were standing there? You know, the whole idea that your imagination can come up with anything it wants to and convince you that it’s real?”

He just shook his head back and forth and I started in on the questions once again.  I had only uttered a single word though before he stood up and grabbed the front of my shirt.  His hands were cold and his breath smelled like alcohol of course, but also like raisins, which is the thing that stuck in my mind.   His blue eyes were bloodshot but focused as he spoke.

“I know what I heard in there, I know it and swear to it. That voice was clear as a bell, soft but a little worried, like she was just figuring out that she did not know the way back.  There was no wind and no mind tricks.  It was a little girl!”  He spat those last words at me and then sank back into his chair.  I was too shocked to immediately reply, wiping my face off with a handkerchief I pulled from the inside pocket of my denim jacket.  We both sat there, me lost in my thoughts about the reverend’s story, until he took a series of deep breaths and spoke again.

“And I know who it was too.”

I shook myself back into the immediate moment, unsure of what he had said.  “Excuse me?”

“I know whose voice is was, or at least I’m pretty sure I do.”

“You know who the little girl is?  How is that possible?”

“I think it was a girl that went missing from here a few years ago, before I got here obviously, but the previous reverend, well he mentioned it.”

I could hardly believe what I was hearing as it sounded almost too good to be true.  Some actual information was about to be disclosed.

“So, who is she?”

“I’m not sure of her name or anything like that.  He never told me, just mentioned it as an event in the community that I should be aware of.  He also cautioned me never to bring it up on my own, which I thought sounded a bit paranoid.  That was before I knew the people here of course, or the culture.  It makes perfect sense now.”

I sighed in disappointment.  “So, you really have not idea who she is?”

“Not specifically, no.”

“Wait a minute.  Someone tells you that a young girl has gone missing from a place but you don’t ask any questions about it?  You don’t get any other information?”

“I tried but he wouldn’t say anything else.  And once he had said it, I think he regretted it, mostly because I did ask so many questions.  In the end he just gave me that warning and said that he was leaving.”  He poured the last of the whiskey and stood up, waving the bottle at me.  “I suppose I should have asked if you wanted some, but then there would have been less for me.  Now leave me alone.”  He started walking back toward what I assumed was the entrance to the apartment he had mentioned.  I called after him.

“Can I still take a shower here?”

“I thought you never used that apartment?”

“Well, I’m using it today.  Leave.”  After that he stepped through a green door and closed it behind him.  I heard a deadbolt being thrown and was not sure if this was because he thought I really would follow him, or just because he did not want anyone else finding him passed out drunk later.  I left the church and started to walk back toward my truck, the new information I had obtained jumping around in my mind.  Despite the lack of specifics about the girl I really felt like I was getting somewhere.

What to do next though was unclear to me.  I thought about going to the local police and seeing if they had any information about this missing girl, but was not sure if they would be willing to help me.  I also worried about what they might think of why I was so interested.  Then the idea struck me that it must have been reported in the newspaper and a search at some library in the area might uncover some information.  It could some time but I had plenty of that to spare. There was of course also the option of trying to get more information out of the Clyde Forks locals.  I laughed a bit at myself as I considered that.  I had not proven to be very good at extracting information so far, at least not without voluntary binge drinking being involved.  The library seemed like the best option and I decided to try it out the next day, which was Saturday.  Hopefully they would be open.  I jumped into my truck and moved it so that I was parked on the side of Cemetery Road, right at the intersection with Clyde Forks Road, and resolved to sit there for the remainder of the evening and just observe the activity.  I was also hoping to hear a repeat of the child-like noises I had heard the evening before so I rolled my window down and settled in.

An hour rolled past without anything happening, then two hours, a general weariness creeping over me.  I also realized how very hungry I felt, and also that I had not eaten very well since my arrival in the area.  My limited trip food, which I had packed into two coolers, was either eaten or spoiled and I had not done anything about replacing it.  In addition, I smelled truly terrible and knew that the solution to all of these problems was to find a motel.  Grabbing a pamphlet of information I had picked up before my trip I located the nearest one that had a restaurant nearby.  Reluctantly, but also with a great sense of anticipation about being clean, full and rested, I put my truck in gear and headed out.

…to be continued