The Girl Who Disappeared

The Girl Who Disappeared

A Story by Demetri J
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Another mystery for detective J DeMarcus and his new assistant Terra. They meet a suburban family whose six year old daughter has disappeared from their house without a trace. Kidnapping? Or...

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Hello, all. (Sorry, I'm still not used to this) If you’re reading this I’ll assume you’ve read my previous memoir, ‘The Ballroom Murder Case’ but if you haven’t I’ll briefly catch you up. For starters, my name is Terra West, I’m currently fifteen years old despite how well spoken and mature I apparently sound, and I’m the daughter of my city’s Chief of Police. But, per usual, this isn’t really about me at all. In my last entry I detailed how I became the working assistant of the teenage detective who also happens to be my best friend. Since then, I’ve been helping him take on cases big and small (mostly small) from any client who didn’t let his age stop them from seeing his talent. Ever since the last incident I wrote about, though, none of these little excursions were as noteworthy as this one. I mean, how could a living, breathing person just vanish into thin air? If the case I’m about to relay for you has taught me anything useful, it would have to be just how fragile families are, and how vulnerable we make ourselves without realizing it. Don’t worry, that’ll make sense to you by the end. In any case, let’s take it from the beginning…



“I hate public transportation.” I sighed, stepping off of a bus full of overweight, sweat-covered, suspicious smelling, no-concept-of-personal-space individuals and waiting for a moment. J came right after, straightening his tie.

“It gets us where we need to go,” he replied, stepping off as the screeching doors closed behind him. “So long as you don’t breathe the air.”

“When we make enough money from doing this, the first thing you should do is save up for a car.”

Granted, it would be a year or two before either of us could drive it, but still.

We made our way to the sidewalk and began heading toward our destination, the house of today’s clients. J, always determined to look his best while on the job, was clad in a dress shirt and matching tie, his big, curly hair as tamed as he could get it. I wondered if I was putting enough effort in my wardrobe as I stood there in my new denim long coat and one of the many scarves in my vast collection. I guess next to J I always sort of feel like I blend into the background; he has a way about him that does that.

“Alternatively,” I continued as we walked up the client’s street, as specified in his email. “We could be getting normal jobs, like at the mall or something.”

“Normality’s a myth,” J scoffed. “Just a social construct designed to keep people in line. Besides, you’d scare away all the customers.”

I stuck out my tongue and made my best scary face.

“What is this case we’re going to about, anyway?” J asked, clearly showing how attentive and prepared he always is. I pulled out my cell phone and quickly eyed through the email one more time.

“It doesn’t say,” I reported. “Just says it’s urgent and possibly life-threatening, the usual. That, and the address, sent by the name Stephen McLaren.”

We continued walking for a little longer as I took in our surroundings. It was a nice, clean, upper class suburban neighborhood, every house we passed looked like someone’s dream house. We finally arrived at the home in question, this one standing out and looking even nicer and more well-to-do then the rest of the neighborhood.

“I think this is it.” I said, matching the address displayed on the mailbox with the one on my phone as we walked up the fancy cobblestone path, past the exotic-looking garden, up to the front door.

“Why is everyone that calls for my help rich?” J lamented as we stepped onto the grand, cement stoop.

“Meanwhile, we’re still cobbling change for the subway.” I added.

“Give it time.” J said, as he reached his hand up to the doorbell button. He pressed it, and within seconds it cracked open, revealing a thin, nervous looking red-haired woman. She looked somewhere in her thirties, and I assumed she was the mother of this house. Her face was in a sad, scared expression and I could see a gleam of uncertainty in her green eyes as she looked at us curiously.

“Mrs. McLaren?” J finally said, breaking the silence.

“Yes?” the woman said, beginning to pull herself together.

“We were called here to help your family. Is there a Stephen here?”

“He’s here!” a voice from behind her. A male voice, sounding like someone mine and J’s age. The teenage boy’s hand reached around the door and swung it open entirely, revealing the house and himself. He was definitely around the age of J and I, probably a year or so younger. He had curly black hair, but retained his mother’s green eyes, which peered at us wondrously through thick-framed glasses.

“Stephen?” J asked. The boy’s face lit with excitement.

“You came!” he exclaimed.

“Evidently.” J replied with a shrug. Mrs. McLaren stood there confused.

“Come in.” Stephen said, backing up and nudging his mom out of the way. J and I glanced at each other, then took a simultaneously step into the house.

“Who’s she?” Stephen asked, motioning toward me and closing the door behind us. He asked J, as if I either couldn’t answer him myself or wasn’t standing right here.

“She’s with me,” J answered, sounding almost equally patronising. “She helps me. Anyway, you called for a detective, what seems to be the problem?”

“My little sister is missing.” Stephen explained. That certainly caught the teary-eyed mother’s attention, as she stepped in between them.

“Wait,” she said, trying to make reason of what was happening. “Who are you two?”

“Well,” my partner began. “I’m J DeMarcus, and this is Terra and, in short, we’re going to find your daughter. But we’ll need your help…”

J trailed off when two more people came down the stairs. A brawny-looking man and another, slightly older, teenage boy. The man had Stephen’s wavy black hair, but brown eyes, a big, muscular build, and nicely maintained facial hair. His older son wore his black hair in a buzzcut and took more after his father than Stephen; he was tall, handsome, fit-looking guy, probably a senior in high school, and a far cry from his skinny, messy-haired, bespectacled younger brother.

“What’s going on here?” the man demanded. Stephen stepped forward.

“I emailed a detective. The cops couldn’t find Leyla, but he’s gonna try to.”

The clearly distraught father gave one cursory look at J and all but scoffed.

“What, is this one of your friends from school?”

“No, wait,” the older McLaren boy said in realization. “He’s that kid from the news. He found out who killed the rich guy.”

J shrugged again. “That’s the gist of what happened I guess.”

Mrs. McLaren spoke, for the second time since she opened the door.

“It is you! You can help us?”

“Mary,” Mr. McLaren shot angrily. “You can’t be serious.”

“Well,” I said, figuring I should chime in. “We’ll do what we can.”

“Why not, dad?” the older McLaren son spoke again. “It’s not like the cops did anything.”

The annoyed father sighed in submission, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. J stepped forward, going into full private-eye mode.

“I’m gonna need a full account of what happened from all of you.”

“Sure,” the mother said, collecting herself. “Come with us to the dining room.”

She lead the way as J and I, along with her sons and her husband (still convinced he was wasting his time) followed her through the fancy and spacious kitchen to the equally fancy and spacious dining room. There weren’t many decorations or anything here, just an empty china shelf and a round, wooden family dinner with five accompanying chairs around it. Maybe watching J work for so long had rubbed off on me, but even I could tell this family hadn’t been living here long.

The only thing hanging on the wall was a big family picture, each of the McLarens smiling happily toward the camera and Leyla in the center. She was small for sure, having her mother’s bright orange hair and big, beautiful green eyes that seemed to take up half her face. She had a smile missing a few teeth, but epitomizing innocent happiness nonetheless, and a face covered in adorable freckles. My heart sank realizing this cute little girl was the one that had gone missing.

Mrs. McLaren sat first, her two sons following her lead and sitting across from each other. I sat, expecting J to sit next to me. Instead, he walked past the chair and started pacing the room; I should’ve seen that coming. Mr. McLaren continued to stand with a grumpy expression and his arms crossed.

“Jack, sit.” his wife barked, seeming to lose her temper. The man sighed and complied, taking the last of the seats, the one beside her.

“Before we start,” said J, avoiding eye contact with the entire family as he paced. “I’m guessing you assume she was kidnapped?”

“That’s what we think happened,” the desperate mother answered. “We just don’t know how.”

“Terra,” J called, beginning instruction. “Check the sex offender registry to see if any convicted child predators live in the area.”

I nodded, quickly taking off my backpack and pulling my laptop from it. Previously powered on, the screen went straight to an internet browser, but a window popped up telling me I needed to connect to a server.

“Hey,” I called sheepishly, open for response from any member of the family.  

“Could I have your wifi password?”

“I have it written down somewhere,” Stephen said, pushing his chair out and getting up. “I’ll go get it.”

He quickly rushed out of the dining room. J turned to his mother.

“So, Mrs. McLaren,” he said. “From the beginning.”

“Okay,” she began, composing her thoughts. “This morning I was waking the kids up for school. Leyla’s only in kindergarten. I made breakfast and brought it to the boys but when I went into Leyla’s room she wasn’t there. When we realized she was gone we looked through the whole house, but she’d just disappeared.”

“So do you think someone broke in and took her?”

“We have a security system, if any doors or windows get opened without the code being put in an alarm goes off. If someone broke in, we all would have been woken up. Plus the cops that were here earlier said there was no sign of forced entry. They think she ran away.”

Stephen returned, handing me a crumpled sheet of paper with a long code of letters and numbers scrawled across it in pen. I connected to their household’s server and began to carry out the task J had assigned me.

“You don’t think that’s possible at all?”

“Leyla’s very happy here, she would have no reason to.”

“Plus she didn’t take anything with her.” Stephen added.

J thought for a second, then proceeded. “Are we sure that she was here overnight?”

“Yes,” Mrs. McLaren answered. “At around midnight last night she came in our room because she had a nightmare and was scared. Jack told her she was getting too old to sleep in our bed, but we calmed her down until she stopped crying and sent her back.”

“Did anyone see or hear anything unusual afterward?”

“Well, it was pretty late, the boys were asleep. Jack and I heard nothing.”

“Actually, mom,” the older McLaren son spoke up. “I think I was up a little later than Stephen. I was laying in bed studying for a history test, I don’t remember when I fell asleep but it was probably around midnight. I didn’t hear anything, but I noticed right before I went to bed there was a really bad smell.”

“Greg,” his father sighed. “A smell doesn’t mean anything.”

“Actually,” J said, his eyes drifting off to the ceiling. “Every detail’s important. As far as I’m concerned that might be a clue.”

“What time did you wake up, Mrs. McLaren?” I asked, making a digital note in my phone.

“Around six-thirty.” she answered. I typed the information accordingly; 12:00-6:30.

“That’s a six and a half hour window.” I reported to J.

“So that’s it,” J said, staring off into space, as if clarifying it to himself. “No one could have gotten in without a code, but Leyla was in this house and six hours later, she’s gone. One little girl, just gone, like she ceased to exist…”

“Nothing we haven’t already established,” Mr. McLaren cut in, growing even more impatient. “Are you through wasting our time yet?”

“Not yet,” J replied. “There’s a possibility someone was targeting your family. How long have you lived in this house?”

“We just moved here three weeks ago,” the father answered. “But I don’t see what that’s got to do with-”

“And who have you told? Who knows where you are?”

“We don’t have any enemies! No one we know wants to hurt us.”

“You’d be surprised.” J said, more passively than he probably should have. Before the man could answer back, the sound of the doorbell rang throughout the house.

“Who’s that?” Mr. McLaren asked, looking over to his wife.

“It’s Carol,” she answered. “I told her what happened over the phone and she said she’d come over.”

Jack got up, and headed out of the dining room.

“Carol?” J asked Stephen.

“My parents’ friend.”

“Well, J,” I said, looking at the information on my laptop screen. “No child predators live here that the state is aware of, aside from a female teacher who slept with a male student three years ago.”

“Dang,” J sighed. “If someone’s kidnapped her they won’t be that easy to find.”

Mr. McLaren, along with a chubby blond woman who looked a few years younger than he and his wife, came walking. I could presume this was Carol.

“Sorry I took so long,” she said directly to Mrs. McLaren. “I had trouble finding this address. My first time in the neighborhood and all.”

“It’s alright.” Mrs. McLaren sighed, the composure she’d seemingly built up beginning to slip again.

“I like the new place though. It’s really nice.” Carol said, looking around and taking it in. She was doing her best to lighten her friend’s spirits, I don’t think it worked at all.

“Hi,” she said to me, just then noticing the two new faces in the room. “Friends of the boys?”

I glanced over to J, meeting eyes to determine how we should go about answering that. He shrugged, then looked back to Carol.

“I’m Terra.” I introduced with an awkward forced smile.

“J.”

“Just J?” Carol said curiously.

“They’re gonna help us find Leyla.”

The look on her face upon hearing that didn’t convey much confidence. J turned to Greg, his expression clearly still in deep thought.

“Your sister,” he began. “Did she get scared at night often?”

“Yeah,” Greg answered. “She always thinks there’s monsters in her closet, stuff like that. She’s only six, she’s scared of everything.”

“She really didn’t run away then; a girl afraid of monsters in her closet wouldn’t go out of the house alone while the sun is down. About this security system, does she know the code?”

“I mean, we all do. Why?”

“Because a kidnapper couldn’t have gotten in, unless someone helped them.”

“What?” Stephen cut in. “You mean they got her to turn it off.”

“Or they lured her out somehow,” J answered. “Either way this means that they would have to be someone she knew. Someone she trusted.”

The McLarens each fell silent and shifted eyes between each other uneasily.

“Hey,” J said, holding up his hands as if suddenly realizing the weight of what he just said. “That’s only a possibility, if she was actually kidnapped.”

“Of course she was kidnapped,” the angry father barked. “The question is where they took her.”

“Well,” J answered nonchalantly. “We can’t figure that out until we find out the motive for taking her, which we can’t figure out until knowing who it was that did it.”

While J questioned the family, Carol had pulled an expensive-looking tablet from her bag and started moving her finger across it. Eventually she turned the screen around to show the room.

“They put out an AMBER alert,” Carol said, her tablet displaying a webpage with Leyla’s picture with the McLarens’ contact info underneath it. “Everyone we know’s passing it around on social media.”

“Great,” J said. “Maybe someone will know something important.”

He turned back to Mrs. McLaren. “How many rooms are in this house?”

“This one, the kitchen, the living room, three bathrooms and four bedrooms.”

“No garage, attic basement?”

“No basement, the building had an attic but it was boarded up before we moved in. I forgot about the garage though, we’ve been using it as storage for now.”

J snapped his finger in realization, eyes lighting up with possibilities.

“The garage!” he said. “Does your security alarm go off when the door to the garage opens?”

Mrs. McLaren thought for a moment. “I don’t think so.”

“No,” Greg answered. “It doesn’t, the company said they’d fix it.”

J grinned confidently. “Then we may have found out how the kidnapper got in.”

The family erupted into a look of what was partially happy to have a new lead and partially unsettled by the knowledge. Stephen began asking questions about the garage to his parents and everyone erupted into a unanimous chatter, exchanging and comparing theories and ideas. While they were all busy doing this, J walked over to the back of my chair, leaning over from behind to whisper in my ear.

“Did you catch that?” he asked, almost giddily.

“What?” I whispered back, completely oblivious (as usual).

“Someone told a lie and just exposed themselves without realizing. You didn’t notice?”

Before I could respond, he walked away from my chair and went back to pacing.

“What’s more,” he spoke loudly, reclaiming everyone’s attention. “If the person didn’t take anything or wake anyone up, that means they specifically targeted Leyla. Which stands to reason they’re familiar with every member of the family, and have probably been watching you for a while. Notice anyone suspicious looking lately?”

“Actually, yeah,” Stephen answered. “Greg and I see a guy walking around our neighborhood usually when we get home from school. He wears a long coat, a hat and sunglasses, so no one can really tell what he looks like. Sometimes we can even see him from our window.”

I wondered to myself why no one had mentioned that earlier. It all seemed so obvious now.

“We might have just took a huge step forward.” J exclaimed. Mr. McLaren slammed his hands against the table, finally fed up.

“We already told this to the police,” he boomed. “The people who actually should be doing this job. This has gone off long enough, I’m done entertaining this! My daughter is missing right now and instead of going out and looking for her I’m talking to some kids playing detective!”
“Jack…” Mrs. McLaren said, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Where would you look?” J retorted, triggering this man’s temper even further. “And if you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to help you.”

“Helping waste my time,” Jack continued. “You’re not gonna figure out anything the cops won’t!”

J remained calm, sighed, then cocked his head back, as if prepared to gently cut this man down a peg.

“I can figure out a lot of things,” he said. “I mean, I figured out you’re cheating on your wife.”

The room erupted into gasps and then silence. I bit my tongue and looked back to my inactive laptop screen to avoid eye contact with anyone. You always find a way to make things worse.

“What are you talking about?” Mr. McLaren shot back, as if disgusted by the accusation. J didn’t answer him directly, but instead turned to Carol. He spoke in a sharp, inquisitive tone.

“When you got here, you acted like you’ve never seen the house before.”

“I haven’t,” Carol said, clearly wondering what that had to do with anything. “Jack and Mary just moved here, this is my first time visiting.”

“No it’s not.” J answered bluntly, without a second of hesitation. He walked back over to me and grabbed the piece of paper Stephen had brought to me earlier. Of course, he had to call attention to me in the middle of this.

“Terra looked up information for me before you got here. She needed to use this password to connect to the McLarens’ wifi. But you came in and got straight on your tablet to social media, while the password was right here. You never saw it or typed it in, so I can only assume your tablet automatically connected. Conclusion: you’ve been here before.”

Carol’s face turned white. The loud, bombastic Mr. McLaren had suddenly seemed to lose his voice. J continued.

“You were here, but you pretended you weren’t. The only reason you would do that is if you were hiding something from someone. I notice you don’t have a wedding ring, so you’re single or at least tell people you are. Single, sneaking into a married couple’s home… Oh, and who answered the door when you came?”

He pointed back to Mr. McLaren, whose face was so bright red that it showed even through his five o’clock shadow. His eyes which were previously shooting daggers had come to resemble that of a deer caught in headlights.

“So there, sir,” he continued, in the most condescending tone he could muster. “I can do my job just fine, is that proof enough for you? How about you cooperate now?”

Carol didn’t say anything at all, but instead just bolted, running straight out of the room. Mrs. McLaren bursted out into the tears she was fighting so hard to hold back this whole time, with no words either, but instead just a wailing sob.

“Mary…” Mr. McLaren breathed, trying to come up with what to say to alleviate the situation. His attention instead focused to Carol, who was running out of the house.

“Carol, wait!”

He ran after her. Mrs. McLaren, still blubbering uncontrollably, pushed back from her seat and ran out of the room as well, heading upstairs. The two McLaren boys awkwardly exchanged glances and conceded to go check on her. Now, it was just my partner and I alone in the dining room.

“J!” I exclaimed, slamming my laptop shut and jolting up from my seat. “What the hell is wrong with you!?”

“What?” he defended innocently.

“We’re supposed to be finding a little girl, not breaking apart her family!”

“Well, I’m trying to. He was being difficult, you saw.”

He shrugged. “Besides,” he continued. “It’s better Leyla comes back to a family that’s worked out its issues.”

I crossed my arms and scoffed at him.

“Do you really care about their family’s issues?” I pressed. “Or did you just want to show off to prove a point?”

He raised a brow at me, then seemed to disregard me as his gaze shifted around the room. He was deducing something, I was sure. Ugh.

“What is it now?” I demanded.

“I can’t tell what exactly it is, yet,” he answered, still not making eye contact with me. “But something about this house is weird.”

Just then, the two McLaren boys came back into the room.

“Sorry about that,” Greg said (as if he should be the one apologizing). “Is there anything else we can do to help?”

“Yes,” J answered. “Show me the garage.”

The distraught brothers lead the way to the garage. Greg opened the door, and just like they said, no alarm went off. Stephen flipped a light switch as we all entered and a bright fluorescent bulb brought the room to life. Boxes. Cardboard boxes of every shape and size piled everywhere, with different names and descriptive factors, full of what I assume were clothes, appliances and other possessions the family had yet to unpack. I knew their mom had said it was being used for storage, but damn, you could hardly see the floor.

J’s eyes quickly fixated on the big, aluminum garage door. His contemplative expression changed to one of disappointment. Even I could see why; this garage door was practically in mint condition.

“It wasn’t here,” he reported to the boys. “This door shows no signs of being forced open. And besides, if someone broke in through here, the light switch is all the way on the other side. No way they’d make it through all these boxes in the dark. It’s unlikely anyone broke in through here last night.”

“Well,” Greg began. “How else could anyone have gotten in past the alarm?”

J raised a brow and looked down to the floor, puzzling the question as hard as he could. He then looked back up and spoke.

“Can we see Leyla’s room?”

Greg and Stephen exchanged glances and shrugged.

As we headed upstairs we were unexpectedly greeted by Mrs. McLaren again, holding a box of tissues to dry her swollen, reddened eyes.

“Sorry for all that.” I blurted out before J could say anything that might make the situation worse.

“It’s fine,” she said, finally calm again. “I should have known. All the times I smelled someone else’s perfume in my room, all the times I noticed the food I bought disappearing… I guess I just didn’t want to think about it.”

She shook her head.

“But that’s not important now,” she said. “The priority right now is finding my little girl, and even if my so-called husband doesn’t trust you to do that, I do.”

“Great,” J said, with a comforting smile. “The guys were just taking us to her room.”

Mrs. McLaren put the tissues down and lead the way.

Leyla’s room was the most decorated part of the house I’d seen thus far. Between the pink curtains, pink and purple bed sheets and butterflies painted on the wall, it clearly flaunted exuded being the dwelling space of a bubbly little girl. Like everywhere else in the house, the windows were intact (not even the curtains looked moved) and there was no sign of forced entry. I wasn’t sure what J expected to find that Mrs. McLaren and the cops hadn’t.

“Well there’s a new detail.” J said, pointing to her bed.

“What do you mean?” I asked, seeing the sheets were still messed up. Clearly Leyla didn’t have a regular habit of making the bed.

“The sheets,” J said. “They’re not just messy, they’re hanging off the bed by the end.”

“Meaning?”

“That’s the way a blanket looks after you get out of bed. But when you get back in, you pull them closer. Conclusion…”

“She never laid back down!” Stephen realized. J nodded.

“Wherever she went, she never got back to the bed. It must have been right after she left your mom and dad’s room.”

Mrs. McLaren and the two brothers stood puzzled, continuing to look all around the room for whatever clue they could find, as J discreetly grabbed my wrist and lead me to the corner of the room. Bringing his face an inch from mine, he whispered,

“I think I may have figured this one out, but if I’m right this family won’t like it.”

“What do you mean?” I whispered back, before the revelation hit me. Suddenly, it all seemed obvious, all the clues fell into place.

“Wait,” I exclaimed, barely containing my whisper. “You said before someone Leyla trusted could have lured her out. Like a family friend! That Carol lady is the one that took her isn’t she? She’s in love with their dad so she got rid of the kid he has with his wife so they could be together!”

There was a moment of hesitation.

“What?” J said, with a genuine look of confusion that made me feel like an idiot. “How’d you come up with that?”

I looked down, sure my face was turning red. J continued,

“They have two other sons, and in that scenario wouldn’t she just kill his wife? But now that you mention it, the affair makes me question things.”

“How’s that?” I asked, trying to regain my intuitive integrity.

“Mrs. M said the food she bought was missing,” J began to explain. “But an affair is one thing, you don’t hook up with a married man and then raid his fridge. That’s just disrespectful.”

“And sleeping with him isn’t?”

“Relative. But that’s the thing, I think what happened to Leyla is-”

“Ugh,” Greg called from across the room, his loudness snapping us out of our conversation. “There’s that smell again!”

J let go of my hand (I hadn’t noticed he was still holding it) as we walked over to where Greg was pointing, Leyla’s closet. Greg, Stephen, their mom and I crowded around it as J reached to it. He slid open the pink-painted wooden doors and the wave of air emanating from it confirmed what Greg said; it wreaked. I fought the compulsion to plug my nose as J and I got closer to inspect it. There was no visible source of the smell, but all of the closet’s contents were thrown about wildly. All of Leyla’s little clothes were clumsily sprawled about on the hangers, half of them already fallen to the floor. There was no explanation I could think of, but as I looked over to J I saw an excited smile on his face and his eyes live with excitement.

“That’s it,” he called. “I knew it! The security alarm, the smell, her never getting back to bed, Mrs. McLaren’s food disappearing… I knew there was something weird about this house! Solved!”

“You figured it out?” Mrs. McLaren demanded, everyone anxious for an answer.

“Yes,” J began. “It’s-”

The doorbell rang. J’s expression quickly became annoyed.

“Dang, can I finish a sentence?”

The McLaren brothers lead the way downstairs, back to the front door. Greg opened it, and there stood a police officer. The young, lean Deputy Benson, my father’s most trusted partner.

“Have there been any updates on the missing girl?” he asked the boys.

“She’s not missing anymore.” J answered from behind them. Benson looked past the brothers and noticed us.

“Terra?” he questioned. “What are you doing here?”

I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer.

“Well,” I began. “My friend brought me here to help look for the girl. This is J, you’ve probably heard about him on the news?”

J stepped forward proudly.

“Wait,” Benson said in realization. “You’re the one Chief West is always complaining about.”

My good ol’ dad. At this point, everyone had gathered again around the door, including Mr. McLaren and Carol.

“I figured it out,” J reported. “I know where Leyla is.”

“Well, let’s go!” Mr. McLaren exclaimed (suddenly more trusting of J’s deduction skills).

“No need,” J replied. “We’re already here.”

The room erupted into gasps and confused chatter. I wished just once he would keep me in the loop when doing this.

“Leyla never left the house.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Mrs. McLaren.

“Follow me,” J called, turning around and heading back up the stairs. “Benson, grab your gun.”

My stomach knotted as I followed the McLarens and Carol up the stairs, Benson following close behind me with his weapon drawn. We stopped in the middle of the hallway as J pointed upward. Our eyes were directed to a rectangular construct built into the ceiling. I looked almost like some kind of door.

“What?” Mrs. McLaren said, breaking the confused silence.

“That used to be an attic,” Mr. McLaren explained. “Like we said before, it was boarded up and closed off before we moved in.”

“It was,” J agreed. “It was supposed to stay that way, too. Stand back everyone.”

J jumped as high as he could, throwing his hands upward and just barely grasping the ends of the attic door. He was suspended for a moment, hanging on for dear life as he kicked and jerked his body downward as hard as he could. Suddenly, with a loud snap the door dropped down. J fell, crashing on the hardwood floor as the attic door opened and a creaky, unstable-looking wooden staircase unfolded from inside of it. Everyone stood with a look of puzzlement and wonder for a moment before a figure came running down from it.

Right the hell out of nowhere, a tall, freakishly skinny man with the palest skin I’d ever seen and the longest, most disgustingly unkempt hair I’d ever seen, wearing what looked like torn up rags and the remains of an outfit compiled from articles found in the trash. Benson yelled something, but it couldn’t be heard over the collective screams of Mrs. McLaren, Carol and I. For a split second, this strange man’s tired, hard, bloodshot eyes looked right into mine, and without words he pushed Mrs. McLaren aside and rushed down the hallway, toward the stairs. Benson quickly raised his gun and took a shot, the man suddenly screaming in pain, clutching his own leg and inadvertently falling forward, loudly tumbling down the stairs.

“Who the hell is that!?” Mrs. McLaren burst out, through her own tears.

J got up from the floor, brushing himself off and straightening his tie as he shrugged nonchalantly.

“Some homeless guy,” he answered. “He probably found this house when it was for sale and started living here. When you guys moved in, he continued living here but had to keep it a secret. He was the reason your food was disappearing, he would sneak around and steal it. And as for the smell, he assumedly hasn't bathed in months.”

“He was in our house this whole time?” Stephen cried, seemingly disgusted by that realization.

“And none of you even noticed,” J proceeded. “Except for one. A little girl who thought she was hearing monsters in her closet, when in reality it was him hiding there, pushing all her clothes to the side and leaving his scent behind. The same little girl who knew there was a reason to be scared, who no one took seriously. The little girl who found this guy, so he covered up her mouth and dragged her away to his new hiding spot so no one found out he was here. And, with any luck, the little girl who’s still up there in the attic.”

Benson looked down the staircase at the scary intruder laying there, then he looked back to J.

“Don’t worry,” J assured. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Benson nodded and placed his gun back in its holster, before ascending the staircase as gently as he could. In a matter of minutes, he came back down, holding a tiny little girl who was clutching his body with all the strength she could muster, visible rope marks and bruises all over her arms and her bright red face covered in tears, snot and mostly duct tape. Mr. and Mrs. McLaren simultaneously erupted into tears as they grabbed her from Benson’s arms and hugged her tightly. I looked over to J, and I could see a proud little smile forming on his mouth. Solved another one.

A ton more police showed up at the McLarens’ house to further inspect and ask questions. The family was pretty shaken up and hysterical at first, but they were eventually back to normal. Leyla, unfortunately, seemed pretty scarred. It seemed inevitable, but we could tell she wouldn’t be forgetting the experience any time soon. More than anything, the family, along with J and I, were just happy she was alive and reunited. I was also pretty happy with all the calamity my father was too busy to show up; he hadn’t yet warmed up to the idea of me joining the detective’s side and going out to do things like this, maybe with a little luck he wouldn’t find my name in reports of this excursion. In any case, J and I payed our respects to the family and were basically on our way. The sun was near setting and the breeze had gotten a little chilly, I drew my scarf tighter as we headed down the sidewalk.

“Hold on a second,” I said, suddenly remembering. “What about the shady looking guy in black Greg and Stephen said they saw?”

“Not related,” J answered with a shrug. “Maybe that’s a mystery for another day.”

“Wait!” a voice called from behind us. We turned back to see Stephen running after us and breathing heavily, a case of asthma clearly not treating him well.

“Stephen,” said J, allowing the boy to catch his breath. “What’s up?”

Stephen looked up at J, eyes full of wonder.

“My mom wants to pay you,” he said. “She wanted to know how much.”

“Pay me?” J laughed. “I can’t charge y’all for finding a lost little girl. Tell your mom not to sweat it.”

Stephen looked dumbfounded. “But you saved my little sister’s life…” he trailed off.

“Of course I did,” J answered confidently. “Between you and me, Stephen, a while ago I lost someone close to me. The only family I ever had. Now, when I can stop that from happening to other people, I do; it’s my principal. And I’ll never do that for money.”

Stephen looked at J with mistified eyes, as if seeing him in a new light now.

“There has to be something we could do?” Stephen respectfully persisted.

“Actually, there is,” J replied. “If you want to repay me, spread the word. Let everyone in this city know they have their own detective now.”

With that, J and I turned our backs and began our slow walk away into the sunset, to disappear into the mysterious night of the city.

“Actually,” J called out as he swiftly turned back around to Stephen. “Do you think your parents could give us bus fare?”

© 2017 Demetri J


Author's Note

Demetri J
It's suggested you read these stories in order for maximum enjoyment and understanding, but each should stand alone substantially. Anyway, what do you think of the story and characters? Were you able to figure out the mystery before it was revealed? And if you plan to continue reading the chronicled adventures of J and Terra, what would you like to see in the next installment? Thanks for reading, and answers to these questions, along with all feedback, would be appreciated!

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Featured Review

I did enjoyed the story. You create situation, mystery and good ending. I like the realistic feel of the story. I liked how the search was done and the conversations. No weakness in the outstanding tale.
Coyote

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Demetri J

4 Years Ago

Thanks very much!
Coyote Poetry

4 Years Ago

You are welcome.



Reviews

That was good. I did not think of the scent of someone who has not washed creating such as disturbing scent. But you are right. It woudl stand to reason, but it would also make a similar scent if it was a dead animal in there, to. The other points I did not see either. I thank you for the story. Could I suggest you take a look at my work kind sir or lady.

Posted 4 Years Ago


Demetri J

4 Years Ago

Sir, and gladly
Well, this one is great! I've been drawn in from the actual beginning of the story, the end. My one, and only suggestion is a grammar check. There is always that one dot, or letter missing, or not on the right spot.. So, you gotta act like a detective, and serve them justice! :)

Full rating.

Posted 4 Years Ago


I feel like reading a Holmes story. You're really awesome. Now, I will learn how to describe my characters in detailed through reading your works. Ha-ha. :D

Though, I'm just perplexed at some parts like these:

- '...We finally arrived at the home in question, this one standing out and looking even nicer and more well-to-do then the rest of the neighborhood.' Should be '...We finally arrived at the home in question, this one standing out and looking even nicer and more well-to-do THAN the rest of the neighborhood.'

- '...“He’s here!” a voice from behind her.' Shouldn't it be '...“He’s here!” (CRIED/CALLED/YELLED) a voice from behind her.?

I just took note of these things while I was reading, though I must say they are just of minute details.

However, I really like the way the story flows so smoothly. Really nice! :)

Posted 4 Years Ago


Demetri J

4 Years Ago

You're right! I'm terrible at proof-reading my own work, thanks for pointing those out lol and glad .. read more
TheMalady

4 Years Ago

You're very welcome! Your first POV just reminds me of Watson, haha. ANyway, keep on writing! :)
I did enjoyed the story. You create situation, mystery and good ending. I like the realistic feel of the story. I liked how the search was done and the conversations. No weakness in the outstanding tale.
Coyote

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Demetri J

4 Years Ago

Thanks very much!
Coyote Poetry

4 Years Ago

You are welcome.

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906 Views
4 Reviews
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Shelved in 1 Library
Added on January 14, 2016
Last Updated on January 27, 2017
Tags: Detective, Mystery, Locked room, Suspense, teen

Author

Demetri J
Demetri J

Manhattan, NY



About
I have aspirations of writing and a dream of getting played for it. I write screenplays, short stories, and whatever else I feel like in the moment. I don't write, read or review poetry. more..

Writing