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Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 8

Updated on November 10, 2012

The Just War, Ch. 8

Note: We are now up to the seventh installment in a novel that I'm writing as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1-30. I got sidetracked for a bit but now I'm back on schedule. The rules remain: just write it! Don't edit, don't obsess, don't chart out notes. Don't worry about spelling, syntax, grammar or continuity. You can go back and fix those things later, but the most important thing to writing the novel is to get it written! It works out to 1,667 words per day. If you do more, great! If you do less, don't worry! Just keep plugging! And hopefully my first draft, with all spelling errors and continuity holes intact, will inspire you that you can do it too!

Detective Phil Smithers was an intense man. He drank a lot of coffee and chain smoked. He bore down hard on everything he did, his silver hair cut into a crew cut that made him look like an electric current was always running through him. His thin face and thin frame seemed to be in constant motion, he rarely could sit completely still. When he concentrated on something, he sometimes didn’t blink. This last habit was especially useful when trying to extract the truth out of recalcitrant suspect.

The city of Fishers had never experienced a kidnapping before. This would be big news, and he knew that the news vans were on their way. The fact that the girl was severely autistic would put even more pressure on everybody. He thought about this. Why would someone take an autistic girl? This told him it was one of two reasons, either because it was a crime of opportunity or it had been planned and the perps had been waiting for their moment. The library had been picked on purpose because of the meeting area and the east entrance. He hoped it was the latter, because if it was the former then they were dealing with a sick man and this was guaranteed to end badly.

The father had pictures of her in his wallet, and these had been helpful. Smithers had scanned them into his computer and they had gone out to the news stations. An Amber Alert had been issued immediately. The mother had brought a bigger picture, and this was better. Not too much time had elapsed. But every minute that went by without recover meant that the likelihood was getting dimmer.

He was leaning toward the theory that this had been planned. It went too smoothly, the kidnapper knew exactly what he was doing. He (and the prevailing assumption was that the kidnapper was male) had his vehicle in just the right place to be able to grab the girl and hightail it out of there. This lead to the very real possibility that there might be more than one, because getting almost any girl who was fully conscious into a vehicle and keeping her there would require someone to restrain her, which meant someone else would have to do the driving. It also meant that they had been watching the Lawless family for a long time. It didn’t help the family that this Saturday morning excursion was something you practically set your watch by. But the family went a lot of other places as well. Someone who frequented one of those places, possibly someone who worked at one of them, might have seen the girl and gotten an idea. Obviously the dad tried to take care of the daughter. Maybe some easy money. Maybe some cheap thrills.

The father was unfocused and the son was distraught. A girl who wore glasses was comforting the son, sometimes. When the mother arrived things seemed about to come unhinged, but then they settled down. There was a real tension between the mother and father, and this did not bode well. Not to Phil Smithers, at any rate. This was a time when the family needed to draw closer together, circle the wagons. But as anyone who dealt with emergencies and tragedies knew well, the situation didn’t make the people, it revealed them.

The family seemed to be pulling it together. The mother came and sat down, meeting Phil’s steady gaze. She had obviously been crying, and he’d heard from Stoner that she had initially met the news with near-hysteria. Still, she was being calm at the moment, and Smithers felt that she would focus on the situation now and fall apart again later. There was certainly something to the mother that was not there in the father. The son was another matter altogether but that was to be expected. Most sixteen year olds in America never faced what Barry Lawless was facing, at least not in suburbia.

But back to the father and mother. Smithers couldn’t help it, he analyzed people. He tried to figure out what they would do in a given situation. First impressions were often correct, and his impression of Victor Lawless had been that he was a man who wanted to be in control but felt helpless. This might cause him to withdraw, or it might cause him to do rash and possibly dangerous things. Smithers was betting on the latter and he was figuring when to tell the other policemen so that they could be ready for anything. If Vic went off the damage would need to be controlled as quickly as possible.

The mother was different. Of course she felt helpless in this situation, only the most confident or well-connected person would feel any different. But she seemed to be almost doubling down, to use poker parlance. She was concentrating on details, pulling things together, trying to make sure that the police would have everything they needed to do their job. The father had been a ball of tics and frustration, wanting to go out himself and find the van. He had let this be known in ways both subtle and not so subtle. The mother on the other hand, she sat down and stayed still. She met Smithers’ gaze steadily and never wandered from answering the questions he asked. From her he learned that the daughter was taking Risperidone twice a day, which the father had neglected to mention. This was important. She had a history of injuring herself and sometimes striking out at others. Janet Lawless confirmed that this would get worse if she missed her scheduled doses. In fact, the daughter had been wearing a red foam helmet because something had been bugging her and she was given to increased bouts of head banging.

This was worrisome. How would the kidnapper or kidnappers react when she started banging her head against one of them? Janet had informed them that her daughter ate little in the way of solid food, mainly sticking to bottles of Pediasure even at the age of fourteen. They had trained her to drink from a thermos, her favorite Hello Kitty thermos was still in the side compartment of her backpack. Her backpack was still in the back seat of the Explorer. About the only solid foods that she would eat were Steak ‘n’ Shake Chili Deluxe and Wendy’s french fries. If they could get this information to the kidnappers that might actually help the police as they staked out, as best they could, Steak ‘n’ Shake and Wendy’s fast food restaurants in the greater Indianapolis metro area.

The daughter was also still wearing diapers. Would the kidnappers actually change the diapers of a fourteen year girl? Would they even think of it? What else would they do while they had her pants off? Smithers was a father too, his own daughter was thirty one years old and had a nine year old daughter of her own. But he couldn’t afford to think like a dad, he had to think like a detective and to do that successfully he had to climb inside the perp’s head. Smithers didn’t like this, this was the first time that anything like this had happened in Fishers. It was the stereotypical ‘safe community.’ It was clean, prosperous, and had the best school system in the state. He had moved his own family here twenty years ago, when it was still rather small and everything west of Allisonville Road hadn’t been developed yet. His then eleven year old daughter and nine year old son had both done well in school, made friends and become solid part of the community. His son was attending Indiana University down south in Lafayette. His daughter had married her high school sweetheart and together they ran a frozen yogurt business off of State Road 37. He and his wife attended the non-denominational East 94th Street Christian Church just south of Fishers, in Indianapolis.

Officer Tim Johnson came over to him. “Phil,” he said, leaning over and dropping his voice, “all the TV stations have reporters here.”

Nodding, Detective Smithers turned to look out the window. The library parking lot was still full of cars from patrons, probably more now that the news had gotten out about the kidnapping. He saw WISH TV, channel 8, WTHR channel 13, WTHR channel 6, and WIPX Fox 59. Radio stations WIBC and WFYI both had people there. It had been less than two hours since the event, but not only as this big because it had happened in Fishers, but because the victim was severely autistic. Phil smelled trouble, and although he wouldn’t say this to anybody, not yet, he didn’t think this would end well.

Getting up from the table he’d been sitting behind, Smithers walked around to the family. The mayor of Fishers was talking to them, trying to reassure them that all was being done that was possible. The father looked steadfast and earnest, the mother looked like she was somewhere else, trying to will herself to find her daughter telepathically. The son looked like he’d just found a bloody body in his bedroom.

“Mr. and Mrs. Lawless?” Phil started. Slowly, they both turned to look at him. “The news media are right outside the library. I don’t mean to bring this up at such a delicate time, but it might help if someone went to talk to them.”

“I can’t,” Jan said. Her voice sounded far away, matching her gaze.

“Do we have to do this right now?” asked Vic. His jaw was set and his eyes were burning with anger and pain.

“It would be helpful,” Smithers said. “If you really can’t do it, we have an Information Officer in the department who can.”

“Yes, I’ve seen him on the television,” Jan said. Her eyes were starting to come back a little.

“Yes,ma’am,” Smithers continued, “and he can certainly handle it. But please remember this, it might make no difference to the kidnapper…”

At this Barry started crying. A loud sob escaped from him, causing everybody in the room to look at him. Jan shot a look at Smithers that would have made most men feel like finding a rock to crawl under. She took the sobbing Barry and went to a different corner of the room.

“Was that really necessary?” Vic asked.

“Yes sir, it was,” said Smithers, though he didn’t sound unsympathetic. “Look, I don’t mean to sound like a hard case, but the sooner we can get someone from the family in front of cameras, the sooner we can start rallying the public to your case.”

“I don’t understand,” Vic responded. “What do you mean by ‘rally the public?’ How could they not be on our side?” His nostrils flared and his jaw clenched. With his peripheral vision Smithers saw Vic’s right fist clench and unclench.

“They only know rumors, sir,” Smithers shot back. “I’m sure by now that newsbreaks have mentioned the disappearance of a teenaged girl from Fishers. An Amber Alert has been issued. But a lot of people don’t know she’s autistic. That could kick into high gear if someone who might know the kidnapper or anything about what he was doing, they might be more willing to come forward. Murderers, robbers, they get protection from their family and friends. But someone who hurts a kid? They get treated different. It’s not the same.” Smithers wiped his brow, he really needed a cigarette. “And Mr. Lawless?”

Vic stared straight into Smithers’ eyes. “Yes?”

“It means more coming from a family member than the Information Officer of the police department, or even the mayor. Most people will react more positively to it.”

“All right,” Phil said after a moment. “Let me talk to Jan and Barry for a minute, then I’ll go face the cameras.”

copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved


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