He was used to seeing garage sale and lost pet signs posted on telephone poles around the small Texas town he lived in. It was all the “have you seen him/her” signs that drew his concern. They began popping up at an alarming rate about a year ago. He was not responsible for putting them up, but he was responsible for finding out why they went up.
The first disappearance was a man in his ’80’s. The family said he always liked to go for a walk in the evenings. They called the police when he failed to return by his usual time. The poster went up 48 hours later.
The second was a woman in her mid 30’s. She left work and headed for the gym for her scheduled workout with the trainer. She never made it there. The poster went up shortly after.
The next few happened over a 3 month period.
-A teenager on his way home from football practice.
-a young lady on her way to work at the bank.
-an elderly woman who went to meet the girls for ice cream.
The only similarity the police could find between them all is that were no similarities between them. No clues….no evidence left behind…no stone left to unturn. They were all just gone. The police were out of options…that was until the Mayor reminded them of the towns “used to be famous” resident.
He had been hailed as “the Puzzle Solver” in the late ’90’s by a big city newspaper. From the time he became detective he had an unparalleled knack for solving the unsolvable.
He got the moniker from solving a serial killer case that had been open for decades. The killer left coded notes at the scene of the crime and sent some to police to taunt them with his superiority. He wasn’t assigned the case, he just took a shot a solving the riddle of the notes. His mind fell in line with the killers and he decoded the messages. The messages led he and his team to a 67 year old sociopath with a passion for puzzles and death. Hence, the media dubbed him “The Puzzle Solver”. The story carried nationwide.
His streak of piecing together the unfinished puzzles of the past gave closure to many. But no winning streak lasts forever.
“Mr. Mayor….the puzzle solver? Seriously? That guy hasn’t even finished a puzzle from Walmart much less worked on a case since he got here 5 years ago. We just need more time….” the police chief said
“MORE TIME?” the Mayor interjected, “We don’t even have a theory on what is happening to our citizens. In the time you have had, all we have are more vanishings. Go visit him……before I vanish.”
“Yes sir. You do realize he quit working on cases before he moved here. He vowed never to work on another case when he couldn’t solve the disappearance of that Massachusetts girl. I hear he lives on that ranch and doesn’t even have a TV. He can’t even stomach the news anymore how will he be able to digest this?”
“You know what they say….those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Take him the files. He will help. Guys like him just need a little aid to get back on their feet. I think he has one more puzzle to solve.”
He was working in his garden when the unmarked cruiser pulled in. He watched as the man in the suit went to his trunk and pulled out a file box.
The chief headed toward the porch with the box, but was stopped before he got there.
“Can I help you with something?” he said as he stood up from tending the soil.
“We thought you might be willing to give us some help. The town has a disappearance problem. We are getting nowhere and would like you to take a look. Maybe you will see something we can’t.” the chief replied.
“I know about the problem. I also have a theory. They all just wanted to go somewhere else. There you go. All cases closed….in record time…even for me.”
“Look. I know you are washed up. The Mayor doesn’t care. He needs fresh eyes on this one. We just want you check out what we have. If you find one clue to what’s happening, give it to us and we will leave you alone to your garden and solitude. I am going to leave these on the porch and come back in a few days. If it is still in the same place when I return, I will take it back. If not, we talk.”
“Whatever floats your boat. Just make sure you leave it out of the way so I don’t trip over it going in and out of the house.”
The chief place the box on the porch, turned and left him to make his decision.
The box sat there until the next morning. He always went out onto the porch to watch the sun rise. He sat on his swing and kept glancing at the box. After 20 minutes of indecision. He reached for the box, picked it up and took it inside.
He took it to his dinner table and began to spread out the contents. All basic police forms, witness reports and the like. What made his heart skip a beat was what was at the bottom.
A collection of missing person flyers. Each with a personal picture attached.
The more he switch his gaze from the flyers to the pictures, the more his mind began to ponder….
“Maybe I could use a little busy work.”
He said with a smile.
——–to be cont nued——–