Three people working for the same foundation, mysteriously disappeared from different locations on the same day. More than twenty years later, the case remained unsolved, and now there was a fourth person missing.

Episode 3

As was her usual practice, Jackie split the work up between the three of them. Naturally, Michael, who bragged about not yet coming across a closed website he couldn’t find, wanted to stay at the home base and learn all he could about the foundation and their employees. That was fine with the other two. Instead of calling Russell Summers’ last known place of employment, which was a library in a small town in Colorado, Jackie decided to personally go there.

Nothing could have made Carl, their resident private jet pilot, happier than to have an occasion to fly his beloved airplane. First however, all three spent the next two days on the internet trying to find out just who Russell Summers was. Their search brought up several Russell (Russ) Summers. Three were too young, one was a college professor and when Carl called the phone number on record for him, Russ Summers answered the phone. Obviously, he wasn’t missing. The fourth was in a well-known jazz band currently on tour in England, and when called, the fifth said he’d never heard of The Skaldeck Foundation.

It was late the next night when Michael grinned, sat up straight and turned in his swivel chair to face Jackie. “Got it!”

“Got what?” Carl and Jackie asked at the same time.

“The Skaldeck Foundation’s website! It lists the names of their employees and some of them have pretty impressive credentials – not just their education, but technical papers they’d written and published.”

“Print that out, please,” Jackie said.

“Know what else?” Michael turned back around and initiated the print command on his computer. Instantly, the office printer began to make its usual soft clicking sounds. “There’s a request for donations with a letter of recommendation from our friend, Senator Jaddel. Do you suppose he’s kept in touch with all the employees over the years?”

Carl nodded, “Otherwise, how would he know one is missing?”

“Yes, but if he was staying in touch, why did it take him three years to figure out Russell Summers was missing?” Jackie asked. “That doesn’t make sense.”

Michael looked at Carl. “She’s right, that doesn’t make sense. The senator is holding out on us. He’s got another reason to find Russell Summers and it doesn’t have anything to do with the foundation.”

“I say we call him and find out,” Carl suggested.

Jackie shook her head. “We can’t. He asked me to keep this way, way under the radar, and not to contact him unless we find Russell.”

Michael pushed his glasses back up his nose. “The Senator doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s up to? Doesn’t the government keep a record of every phone call a senator makes?”

“Every official phone call,” Jackie muttered. “I don’t think it’s legal to trace a private number.”

Carl scoffed, “Yeah, like the government always obeys their own laws.”

“Nor do we,” Michael pointed out. “We record people without their knowledge, which I’m thinking could get us twenty to life.”

“Just now that’s bothering you – after all these years?” Jackie asked.

“I’m a married man now,” Jackie, “with responsibilities.”

She got up, went to the printer and retrieved the pages Michael printed out for her. “Well, if we get caught, I’ll ask the senator to find us the best lawyer he knows.” She took the list of employees back to her desk and studied it for a moment. “Five women and the rest were men. Two of the women disappeared with the CEO of the foundation. Now Russ is missing. It says here that his technical papers had to do with neuroscience, but it doesn’t say he’s a doctor. That’s interesting.”

“I don’t suppose you have to be a doctor to study the brain,” Carl said. “The question is, why? Why would the Skaldeck Foundation hire someone who’s interested in studying the brain?”

“Gentlemen,” said Jackie. “We’re not getting anywhere here. I think it’s time to get some use out of that overpriced jet my husband talked me into buying.”

Carl beamed, “You know, Jackie, “I think I love you,”

Jackie smiled. Michael rolled his eyes.

*

Springfield, Colorado was a small farming community and Russell Summers’ last known place of employment. The town supported the usual businesses, such as auto repair, air crop sprayers, a construction company, two banks, and a library. As soon as they landed at the small airport, Jackie hired a car and headed for the library.

The Springfield library was large compared to the size of the town, complete with a children’s section, two computers with internet access that residents could use, and several rows of two-sided book shelves. With spring planting in full swing on the farms and the children still in school, the library was practically empty.

Behind a desk near the door, sat a comfortably dressed woman who greeted Jackie with a smile. “I wonder if I might speak with your director,” she asked.

The woman looked amused. “Would that be regional or local?”

“Local,” Jackie answered.

“Then I guess you’re stuck with me. Are you looking for a job? I sure could use the help.”

“No, I’m looking for Russell Summers. I understand he worked here about three years ago.”

The woman’s smile slowly faded. “I can’t think why anyone would want to find him. If you ask me, he has a screw loose somewhere. You know the kind – too intelligent for his own good. If someone asked for a particular title, he knew right where to find it. Russ never put a book back where it didn’t belong, but …”

“But what?”

The woman dropped her gaze. “I shouldn’t speak so ill of people.”

“Miss …?”

“Minor, Elise Minor.”

“Miss Minor, it seems Russell Summers is missing. When did you last see him?”

“Missing? Are you a cop?”

“No, I’m just someone trying to find him.”

“You’re not a friend, I know that much. Russell isn’t the kind of guy that would have a lot of friends.” Elise paused to think for a moment. “He did get one phone call while he worked here. It was from a woman.”

“Do you happen to remember her name?”

Elise pulled a log book out of her top drawer, opened it, and then leafed through the pages until she found what she was looking for. “Barbara Landley. I remember because she called again after he quit, and left a message should he ever come back.”

Jackie hid her surprise. Barbara Landley’s name was on the list of the foundation employees.

“The first time she called, Russ got all freaked out, and looked around like … like he thought someone was going to kill him. Anyway, he didn’t say a word and just walked out. That was the last time I saw him. I sent his paycheck in the mail, but it came back undeliverable. If you find him, tell him his money has gone into the state’s unclaimed money account. All he has to do to get it back is prove who he is.”

“If I find him, I’ll let him know. Did she leave a number?”

“Yes. I was curious so I looked it up. It’s a Boston area code.”

Jackie didn’t bother to write down the number Elise read aloud to her. “So, you have no idea where Mr. Summers might have gone after he left here?”

“Russ didn’t talk much, but he did like to read, especially the kind of books other people aren’t interested in.”

“Such as?”

“Autobiographies about inventors, and pioneers in the field of medicine. Naturally, in a library this size, there weren’t many books for him to choose from. Between you and me, I think he has a photographic memory … and you know what else? I think he hates it.”

“One more question. Where did Russ live while he worked here?”

“He rented a trailer in a park over on Hanson Street. Like I said, his paycheck came back, so he’s long gone by now.”

“Thank you, Miss Minor. You’ve been very helpful.” With that, Jackie nodded and walked out of the library. As soon as she got in her rented car, she started the ignition. Speaking into the diamond broach on her jacket lapel, she asked, “You get all that?”

“Loud and clear,” Michael answered from their Virginia basement office. “The address of the trailer park on Hanson Street is 556, and I count ten mobile homes on the lot. Most of them look like they’ve been there for a while.”

Jackie entered the address in her GPS. “What about Barbara Landley? Anything on her yet?”

Waiting at the airport and sitting in the office section of their private jet, Carl answered, “So far, I’ve found seven Barbara Landleys and they’re scattered all over the world. None of them still have a Boston phone number.”

“Seven,” Jackie whispered under her breath, as she backed out of the library parking lot and headed for Hanson Street. “If Russ was trying to find the perfect place to hide, this little town was it. Highway 385 runs right through it, but there several back roads he could have taken. The question is, did he drive, take a plane, or hop on a bus?”

“Hey, why don’t you stop at the gas station and see if anyone remembers if Russ owned a car. Everybody’s gotta get gas when they’re leaving town, right?” Carl asked.

“Good idea,” said Jackie.


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