Around ten days earlier…
Friday afternoon in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn was warm with a gentle refreshing breeze that heralded in another much anticipated weekend. School was finally out and the eager young children embarked on their homeward bound journeys, excited at the prospect of two days off.
It was the time of the day when the local suburban bus stops played host to the gathered parents who eagerly waited and watched the approaching yellow school bus as it crawled along the suburban street in their direction.
With a squeal of the brakes the bus jerked to a stop in front of the waiting parents. After a momentary pause, the door sprung open and one-by-one excited young children filed out from the bus and quickly found their waiting mom or dad before being whisked away.
When her turn came, eight year old Emily Dupree excitedly made her way down the steps for the last time this week. At the bottom step Emily paused before energetically jumping down to the ground. Her little shoes slapped heavily on the ground.
With a beaming smile her excited young eyes scanned the gathered parents for her Mom.
Emily was a bright and pretty young girl with a vibrant smile and effervescent personality. Her hair was pulled back into long tightly plaited pigtails with little pink ribbons tied into bows on the end. She wore a pink button up cardigan over her white dress that was printed with little soft pink flowers. Her pink colored school backpack was strapped to her back.
Emily’s little face lit up when she saw her Mom smiling and waving. With her face filled with genuine youthful excitement and loving trust, Emily quickly ran over to her Mom, who had squatted down to greet her. Emily threw her little arms around her Mom and gave her a heart-warming hug.
‘Hello darling… how was your day?’ Mom asked as she hugged her little girl.
‘Hi Mommy…It was great thank you. We had lots of fun today. Sarah and me shared our lunches.’
‘That sounds very interesting, Em...’ Mom said. 'But you know it’s Sarah and I shared our lunches, darling…not Sarah and me,’ she said as she took hold of Emily’s hand and they headed off for the short stroll to their nearby home.
‘Sarah and I…’ Emily corrected as she smiled up to her Mom.
‘Did she have some yummy things to share, Em…?’
Emily nodded and smiled. ‘She shared her brownies with me and I shared my cookies with her…they were all really yummy,’ Emily said. She had an excited little skip in her step.
Emily lived with her mother, Megan Dupree and her step-father Kirk Wallace in their comfortable three-story row house in Boerum Hill. Emily never really knew her paternal father. She was only eighteen months old when Megan packed her up in the middle of the night and left the family home, and her drunken abusive husband behind.
After her divorce, Megan and Emily lived on their own in Brooklyn for about two years before Megan met Kirk, a 40 year old divorcee who worked as a Civil Engineer with the NYC Department of Design & Construction. Kirk was a quiet character, a little introverted and often quite intense and serious.
It wasn’t long before Kirk invited them to move in and live with him in his house in Ocean Street, a place they had called home as a happy loving family for just over two years.
Kirk was the only dad Emily ever knew. She understood he was not her ‘real dad’ but she loved him dearly, just as though he was. Megan and Kirk never married. They had discussed it, but both agreed that, for the moment at least, it would be better to wait, having each experienced bitter marriage breakups.
At thirty-three years of age, Megan was a chic, sophisticated woman with an eye for fashion and style. She was always immaculately attired with salon styled mouse brown hair. She worked ‘school hours’ as a retail assistant selling high-end brand women’s couture and women’s shoes in Sophia’s, a well-known clothing store in Boerum Hill’s bustling Smith Street commercial strip.
The hours were perfect. They allowed Megan to drop Em off at her bus in the morning before work, and then be there each night to collect her from her bus after school. It especially helped when the owner and boss of such a successful business was her best friend.
After a short walk Megan and Emily arrived in picturesque Ocean Street. The thick foliage from the large evergreen trees lined either side of the street. The branches projected a natural canopy over the generous sidewalks and cast a welcoming shade from the intensity of the afternoon sun.
All the houses along the upper-middle and upper-class Ocean Street consisted of narrow fronted three-story row houses, each one propped up by a small twelve step stoop that extended down to a street level gate.
As they approached their home Emily let go of her Mom’s hand and playfully ran ahead. She swung open the black wrought iron gate and ran up the stoop to the front door.
Once she reached the top landing she turned to face her Mom. With a beaming smile on her face Emily leaned on the handrail while she patiently waited for Mom to catch up.
This weekend was an important weekend for Megan. It was the launch of the upcoming winter range of women’s clothing. Prior to each new season Megan and her work colleagues accompanied their boss, Sophia to Manhattan where they attended a clothing industry expo that brought together all the brands for the launch of the upcoming season’s clothing range.
After many hugs and kisses, and some tearful goodbyes with her daughter, Megan was ready for her busy weekend. Sophia collected Megan in a hired shiny black town car early Saturday morning to be chauffeured off to bustling downtown Manhattan.
Megan glanced back as the car pulled away. Kirk and Emily waved goodbye from their front landing. The seasonal launch only happened four times a year so it meant Megan didn’t get to spend much time with Emily on those particular weekends. But she was comforted in the knowledge that Em would be spoiled by Kirk over the weekend.
While she was away, Kirk and Em usually went on day trips, played games, bought ice-creams, and did all the things that Em loved doing. These weekends were a great opportunity for the two of them to spend some quality time together. It was important to Megan that Emily’s weekend was occupied because her own busy weekend schedule meant Megan normally didn’t return home until late on Sunday night.
The clock had just ticked passed 11pm Sunday night when Megan unlocked the front door, stepped inside and dumped her overnight case onto the entry floor. Kirk met her in the foyer when she ambled in.
After a kiss and a greeting hug, Kirk picked up her overnight bag and they moved through to the kitchen at the rear of the premises.
A cup of coffee later and they had each shared the highlights from their respective weekends. Kirk told how he and Emily went for a walk around the picturesque Prospect Park Lake and later took a row boat out on the lake.
’Emily loved it,’ Kirk said. ’We chased ducks in the boat and Emily even had a go at rowing—unsuccessfully of course.’
Megan smiled at Kirk's story.
Megan told how excited she was after seeing the new upcoming range of women’s clothing and shoes, how swish the hotel they stayed in was and although it was a work related weekend, she had fun.
‘Oh…’ She excitedly jumped to her feet and unzipped her overnight case. ‘Wait until you see these…’ She removed a pair of blue Jimmy Choo shoes with five inch spike heels, which she proudly held up to Kirk.
'The shoes worn by models in the demonstrations at the expo are considered seconds, so we are able to keep them, if they fit. These fit,’ Megan said with a grin.
Kirk smiled. 'That’s great Megs…’
‘So…how’s my little girl been? I missed her this weekend.’ Megan eagerly awaited his reply.
‘She’s been good, as always. She wouldn’t go to sleep though. She said she wanted to wait up for Mommy…She lasted until about nine, or so and I haven’t heard from her since.’
‘I might just pop in and have a peek at her,’ Megan said as she rose from her seat.
‘Don’t you dare wake her…’ Kirk jumped to his feet and followed Megan out of the kitchen.
The door to Emily’s bedroom was partially ajar when they arrived at her upstairs bedroom. Emily preferred to go to sleep with the bedroom door slightly open so that the light from the hallway bled into her bedroom.
Megan slowly opened the door to peep in on her little girl. She smiled when she noticed Emily lying tucked up, all secure in her blankets.
Kirk placed his finger to his pursed lips. ‘Ssshhh...Don’t wake her,’ he whispered. He reached in and closed the door back to the original position. ‘You’ll never get her back to sleep if she sees you tonight…’ he whispered. ‘You can see her in the morning.’
He motioned with his head for her to move away with him. Megan smiled her acceptance and followed Kirk away from the room.
As per their usual weekday morning routine, Megan was first to wake Monday morning. She quietly slipped out of bed, threw on her robe and went down stairs to put on the coffee. Kirk and Emily usually rose a little later, after Megan woke them.
Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs Megan paused as her tired eyes locked onto the front door. She frowned when she noticed the door was slightly ajar. Megan opened the door and stepped out onto the landing.
She wrapped her lightweight dressing gown around her body and hugged herself tight while she stood in the fresh morning air.
Her concerned eyes scanned the quiet street looking for anything out of the ordinary; anything that would explain why their front door was open.
The street was quiet with no activity at all. Megan knew she closed and locked the door last night when she arrived home, so why was it open this morning?
Suddenly Megan’s expression tightened. She spun around and ran straight through the open front door and quickly ran upstairs – two stairs at a time on her way to Emily’s room.
As she approached the door to Emily’s room her run slowed to a quick walk when she noticed the door to Emily’s room was just how they left it last night. After arriving at Emily’s room she slowly opened the door and peeped inside.
Megan’s eyes flared. Her mouth fell open and her heart skipped a beat when she saw her daughter’s little single bed was now empty. She pushed the door open all the way and flicked on the light. She frantically searched Emily’s room. But Emily wasn’t there.
Panic set in. Megan hyper-ventilated from fear. Where was her little girl? Where was Emily? Why was the front door open?
She ran from Emily’s room to check the bathroom; it too was empty. ‘Emily…!’ Megan yelled as she moved through the house. ‘Emily, where are you darling?’ But there was no response.
Megan was frantic. She ran towards their bedroom. ‘Kirk... Kirk…Quick. I can’t find Emily. She’s not in her bed.’
By the time Megan arrived at their bedroom Kirk was out of his bed and met Megan at the door. 'What do you mean "She’s not in her bed"...?’ He asked through tired eyes and a weary expression.
‘She’s not in her bed,’ Megan repeated aggressively. ‘What do you think that means?’
Kirk pushed passed Megan and ran to Emily’s room where he stared at the empty bed. Megan followed him into the room. ‘When I went downstairs the front door was open,’ she said.
‘Open…or unlocked?’ Kirk clarified.
‘No…well, both. It was open…you know ajar, about this much.’ Megan indicated about ten inches.
‘She has to be here somewhere…maybe she sleep walked and is lying curled up on the floor downstairs,’ Kirk suggested.
But despite a thorough search of all three floors, the basement and back yard, young Emily was nowhere to be found. In desperation Kirk ran up and down Ocean Street in the off chance she may have walked outside in her sleep and was lost.
After several minutes Kirk slowly re-entered through the front door. His shoulders were rounded and his dejected face said it all.
Megan greeted him in the foyer. Her hopeful gaze crashed when she noticed the expression on his face. Megan cried out as she collapsed to her knees. She cupped her face in her hands as she sobbed uncontrollably.
She was gone. Her little girl was gone and they had no idea where she was. Did someone take her…? Did someone enter their house and take their beautiful little daughter?
The worry was etched across Kirk’s face as he sat on the floor beside his distressed partner, comforting her before he decided they had better call the Police.
The uniform police were on the scene within minutes and after conducting their own search of the house, a BOLO request with a description of young Emily was broadcast to all police units. A missing child broadcast always elicited the quickest response from available police units in the area.
At the request of the uniform police, a Detective from the 84th later attended at the Ocean Street address. He introduced himself to the distressed parents of Emily as Detective Luke Fox.
Back in the smoke filled bar room…
Luke held his gaze on the old man. ’So you see… that was my latest case. The poor young girl went missing ten days ago now and she is still missing. I am no closer to finding her and with every day that goes by, the chances of finding her alive diminish. There are no witnesses, no signs of forced entry into the house, no sign of a struggle. No-one saw anyone, or heard a vehicle in the street. Forensics came up clean. There is nothing but two very distraught parents,’ Luke said.
The old man thought for a moment. He nodded. ‘The answer is right there in front of you, son…You just allowed your emotions to influence your judgment and cloud your thinking,’ he said.
Luke frowned. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘The little girl never left the house...she is still there.’
‘What the hell are you talking about…? Are you saying she is hiding from her parents?’
The old man shook his head. 'I had a case identical to this back in ’68…’ the old man said. 'It was a huge mystery—at first. A pretty young girl went missing from her bed overnight…On the surface it appeared to be an abduction. There were no clues, no witnesses, nothing…Just like your case. And just like your case the child’s mother had been away for the weekend. I’m gonna do you a favor, son and tell you who took her and where the young girl is,’ the old man said.
Luke leaned on to his elbows, intrigued by what the old man was about to say. ‘You think you know who took the young girl…?’ Luke was cynical. ‘I thought you just said she never left the house.’
The old man nodded. ‘That’s correct, she didn’t. But you don’t have to worry about trying to find her alive…I will also tell you that the young girl is unfortunately dead. You’ve not only got a murder on your hands son… but you will find the poor young thing was also sexually assaulted…raped if you will.’
Luke’s eyes widened at the revelation. 'And you know this, how…?' Luke inquired.
'Well…in my case in ’68, just like this one,’ he said with a flick of a finger in Luke’s direction, 'There was a common denominator…both girls had a step-father. In my case in ‘68 it had us all puzzled for a long time. But I looked outside the square, son…I blocked out all the emotions, the distraught parents, all the theatrics and I found that the step-father raped and killed their young girl and hid her tiny body in a wall cavity in their basement. Re-plastered over the wall and everything…and the same has happened in your case…mark my words. The step-father did it son,’ he said, punctuating his comment with a confident single nod.
Unconvinced, Luke collapsed back in his chair. He shook his head at the delusional old man. ‘No way…No way... He loved that little girl,’ Luke said. ‘Besides…he had an alibi.’
‘Did he just…?’ the old man said. ‘And what was that…?’
Luke held his gaze on the old man. His brow furrowed. He started to wonder if the old guy was a little senile. ‘You remember I told you when Megan returned from Manhattan they both went upstairs and looked in on Emily sleeping before they went to bed…? Well she was there when Megan came home…he certainly couldn’t have killed her over night while Megan slept and then re-plastered any wall.’
The old man shook his head. ‘You’re not looking at the whole picture, son… you’re just hearing what you want to hear. You have to be better than that,’ he said.
‘Oh yeah, how’s that…?’
‘Well for a start…did the mother actually see the daughter in her bed… or did she just see a body shape under the covers…? Did she go over and look at her daughter, kiss her daughter on her forehead…anything like that…?’ the old man asked.
Luke's eyes lifted. ‘No,’ he said with a shake of his head. ‘No, they just looked in from the door. Kirk didn’t want Megan to wake Emily up.’
The old man pointed to Luke and grinned. ’There you go…’
‘But that doesn’t make him a murderer,’ Luke said.
‘Were there any signs of recent, or fresh renovations in their basement?’ the old man asked.
‘To be honest, I didn’t really notice,’ Luke said. ‘When I went down to the basement I was looking for a missing girl…not indications of renovations.’
‘Think about it son…You said it yourself…’ The old man counted on his fingers. ‘There were no witnesses…’ he pushed back another finger. ‘No signs of forced entry into the house.’ He pushed back another finger, ‘No sign of a struggle,’ and on his last finger he said, ‘and no-one saw anyone, or heard a vehicle in the street. The house was locked overnight and the door was open in the morning…I’m tellin’ you son… The step dad is your man… What’s his name…Kirk?’
Luke shook his head. ‘No disrespect, Sir…but you couldn’t be more wrong…’
‘OK...’ the old man said. ‘Do me a favor…check the local hardware stores around the time the mother went to Manhattan. You’re looking for someone making a purchase of a sheet of drywall, paint and fillers, tools etcetera, all the stuff needed to replace a drywall…What have you got to lose?’ He said. ‘As it stands, ya got nuthin’ else to go on, have you…?
Luke silently considered the old man’s theory.
‘I tell you what…’ the old man said. 'Before you do that…go back to the family home and inspect the basement. You should be able to tell if a wall was recently painted. If it has been, then you do as I suggest…check the hardware stores…if there are no signs of recent renovations…you can forget all about it. What do you say to that?’ the old man asked.
Luke nodded in acceptance as he removed his note pad. ‘That sounds fair enough to me,’ he said as he scribbled down some notes. ‘I’ll go back and have a look at the basement.’
The old man watched on with a satisfied grin as Luke made his notes.
When Luke closed the cover on his pad the old man rubbed his hands together. ‘There you are…That’s one you’ll soon solve…Let’s hear about the next one causing you grief,’ he said.
Luke smiled at the old man and shook his head. ‘I haven’t solved shit yet…’ he said. 'But OK…I’ll play along. The next case that had me stumped was the one I had before young Emily’s. A fifty-four year old woman was murdered in her home in Brooklyn Heights…