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