The Gift That Gives and Takes
We never know where our gifts will take us in life or if, in fact, we will use them. The old lady had been told that her grandchild had a “gift.” What that might be was anyone’s guess but the old lady told the little girl that she had one. The child had no idea what she was talking about until one day some months later when she was playing outdoors on a summer day and glanced up at the blue sky. She saw a vision. There were three cameo-style images looking at her, Jesus, Mary, and God Himself. She stared for a long time. She was used to seeing planes in the sky but not pictures. She ran inside the house to get her mother so she could see the beautiful pictures that had been painted in the sky. But when the mother came out, they were gone. The mother scoffed and she hurriedly went back inside the house. The girl, feeling dejected, kicked around some sand in her sandbox, and then sat in the grass, with elbows on her knees and fists at her cheeks. She would not, no, she would not, look at that sky again. But after several moments, she couldn’t help herself. She looked up at the sky. The images were there, as clear as any painting or picture she had ever seen. They remained in the sky above her until her mother called her to come inside. That was the last time she would see them.
She never mentioned the vision to anyone again, but the images of those three cameos stayed tucked in a pocket of her mind. Yeah, yeah, I know. Some people don’t believe in God, let alone Jesus and the Virgin Mary. But the girl did. And as she grew older, her thought was that this had been a sign from God. Once in awhile things would happen. There would be a moment of such clarity that it was almost startling.
The girl became Jules, the woman, named after her grandmother, Julia. Sometimes she had a spiritual faith and sometimes she did not. Her life had always vacillated between total euphoria and complete despair. There seemed to be no middle ground for Jules. Perhaps that is why she became an investigator. Well, it was as good a reason as any.
She knew as soon as her boss put the manila folder on her desk that this case was…she didn’t know, but the word “freaky” came to mind. She had been asked to find a child. Not much background info was there but enough for a start: mother’s name and her last known address in Florida; father’s name and whereabouts unknown. Alrighty then, she said to herself after her boss left, let’s start here in Pennsylvania.
She ran a DMV check and came up with a late model truck registered in the father’s name some seventy miles away. God, she hated it up there. Klan country. Never knew who or what you would run into. Once she had been investigating in that vicinity and the subject had been hard to find, out there in thick country. Many lived on lanes that didn’t show up on maps. They didn’t even have mailboxes, opting instead to use a postal box, keeping their whereabouts unknown and hidden. She had been about to give up when she drove past a lane with a carved wooden sign that read, “Beer Bullets and Babes.” That’s the place, she thought. And it was. Now she had to go back for a different investigation.
She drove to the address listed by DMV. No vehicles were in the driveway of this slip-shod, red brick, neglected house. She knocked at the door but no one answered. To top it all off like too much foam when someone else pours a beer, there were no houses nearby. Damn it to hell. Miles separated this house from others. So for days she did a stake-out and was hidden by thickets of overgrown shrubs and trees that seemed to crawl along the ground. She would drive there at different times of the day, waiting and eating Pop Tarts in her car. Then she saw the red truck.
She stayed in the car and watched as a man of medium build wearing black-rimmed glasses exited the car. She checked the DMV photo against what she could see of him through binoculars. That’s him. Thank God! She was getting damn tired of this stake-out, especially when she needed to pee. Wait. He had turned back to the truck and was lifting a little boy down. They went into the house together. Where was the girl she was looking for? She let five minutes go by then moved her car into the driveway.
She had memorized everything she knew about him, which wasn’t much. He answered the door when she knocked and in her best ditsy voice and with a broad smile she said, “Hey there! You must be Frank!” Jules was ‘kinda cute,’ people had said, so she worked it. He smiled and said, “Yep, matter of fact I am. What can I do for you (emphasis on you)? He opened the door for her to come in. Bad mistake. She scanned the place fast, taking inventory of the half empty bottles of booze and a nasty smell in the place. Then she did the deed. She showed him her badge.
With that, he kicked the door behind her closed and pinned her against the stove. She was wearing a trench coat, so he couldn’t tell if she was carrying or not. She put one hand in her coat pocket and yelled the first thing that came to her mind, “Up against the wall!” She left out mf-er. He did it. Then she said softly and firmly, “Let’s talk, Frank, but don’t turn around. Got it?” He stood there.
“I’m lookin’ for your daughter, that’s all. So help me out here, will ya, Frank?” He turned his head toward the little boy with short blonde hair and said, “Right there. There she is.” Jules said to the child, “What’s your name sweetie?” The boy who turned out to be a girl spoke softly and said, “Caroline.” That was the missing girl. Jules had a bad feeling about this. The kid’s hair had been cut like a boy’s and the child was wearing a little boy’s outfit.
Frank started to move toward Jules, but she pressed her free hand hard against his back and whispered so the child couldn’t hear, “Don’t move. Do. Not. Move. You hear me?” He stayed put and with the hand that did not have a gun, Jules pulled out her cell phone and pushed the programmed button for the State Police, giving them as precise a location as she could. And she told them to bring Children’s Services with them. She pressed her hand hard against Frank’s back again. “You want your little girl to be okay, don’t you, Frank? Huh? Let’s not get messy here.” The stench of him wrecked her senses. Putrid.
The State Police pulled in, along with people from Children’s Services. One Officer put a gun on Frank while Jules went outside to explain her investigation to the Sergeant. Turns out that ol’ Frank had three outstanding warrants in Florida for some very bad stuff, like child molestation. He had cut the girl’s hair and was about to be on the run again. She was taken into protective services and ended up living with her maternal grandmother who was said to be a good woman, maybe not unlike Jules’ grandmother. At least that thought had crossed her mind.
About a month later, Jules was asked to come to Headquarters for a meeting. Unbeknownst to her, the higher-ups were giving her an award for finding Caroline. She stood in front of the group. Photos were taken. She shook hands, even as her legs were shaking. She thought about “the gift,” and went outside and vomited.
Tags: a lost child, being an investigator, Cher Duncombe, child molestor, god, grandmother, investigating, investigation, jesus mary, little girl, old lady, police, sign from god, spiritual faith