Al Corzone was standing quietly in the hallway. The sterile environment of this section of the hospitals’ west wing was evident everywhere. Nurses plodded past him occasionally, yet their footfalls were barely audible.
Al was a detective for the New York city Police Department. He hated this part of his work. Meeting the parents of a victim was always hard, and he never quite mastered in what he would say to them. His partner, Ernie Brown, was a little better at it then he was, and tended not to get so emotionally bound up during this part of the investigation.
The parents had arrived shortly before they did, and both officers waited patiently outside the room for them so that they could ask them some questions. The victim, a young teenage girl, had been raped and nearly beaten to death.
The girl’s father came out first. The look of grief on his face was unbearable, even to these two veteran officers. Seeing Al and Ernie standing shortly down the hall, he approached them. You could visibly see his anguished expression turning into controlled rage.
“You the police?,” he asked of them.
“Yes. I’m detective Corzone and this is my partner, detective Brown.”
The man gave a quick nod, then asked, “Who did this to my little girl?”. Both detectives could see the rage in him reaching the breaking point.
“Is there a place that we can talk Mr. Sharveys,” Al asked, trying to keep the conversation under control.
A nurse standing nearby quickly interrupted, “We have a waiting room just down the hall.”. She had talked to the detectives when they first arrived and knew the circumstances that brought them here. She indicated the room at the end of the hall.
The three men walked to the room and Ernie closed the door behind them after they went inside. “I know what you’re going through, but we have to ask you a few questions,” Ernie said.
“Do you?” Mr. Sharveys blurted out, “do you really know what we’re going through?”
“Yes we do, Mr. Sharveys,” Al said. “We’ve gone through things like this hundreds of times.”
“I’m sorry,” the man said trying to control his emotions with great effort, “but who could do this? What kind of animal would do this to such a sweet little girl?”
“I don’t know,” Ernie replied, “that’s what we’re here to find out.”
“When did you and your wife see your daughter last Mr. Sharveys,” Al asked.
“About four hours ago,” he answered.
“Was she with anyone?” Brown asked.
“No. She was going around the corner to her friend’s apartment,” he replied.
“What time was that?” Al questioned.
“About seven o’clock,” the father said, “just after we had dinner.”
“Had she had any enemies in school, or in the neighborhood that she may have mentioned to you about,” Brown asked.
“No. No one,” the father said. “She was a sweet girl. Everyone loved her.”
“Any boyfriends?” Al asked, hating to have to asked the question.
“No!” the father said, giving Al a baleful glance. “Like I said, she is a sweet little girl. She’s just a baby and only fourteen years old.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Sharveys, but we have to ask you those questions,” the detective replied.
“No more of those type of questions!,” Mr. Sharveys said adamantly. “This is my little girl we’re talking about.”
“Mr. Sharveys, when did you realize that your daughter was missing,” detective Brown said trying to console him.
“When her friend called asking where my daughter Laura was,” he replied, tearing his angry eyes from Ernie’s partner. “That was about nine o’clock.”
“What did you do then?” Al asked in a soft voice.
“I went outside to look for her right away of course,” he said, his thoughts seemingly turning inwards.
“And then…,” Al prompted.
“I couldn’t find her,” the father said, that look of anguish returning. “I then told my wife to call the police and went back downstairs to see if I could find her. I called out her name, but she never answered me. The rest you know.”
The police did find Laura in a nearby park, after a call they received from a woman walking her dog. After interviewing the woman, who stumbled upon the girl’s body lying behind a bush, they found themselves at a loss fro any clues. It was then her identity was realized when they received the missing persons report. Parents and child were then reunited under these difficult conditions at the hospital.
“That’s all for now Mr. Sharveys,” Al said, not wanting to cause any further anguish. “We’d like to ask your wife a few questions when she gets a chance.”
“Get this guy,” Mr. Sharveys said bitterly, “I want him caught.”
“We’ll get him,” Ernie said, “don’t you worry about that.”
“Good,” Mr. Sharveys replied,, “and thank you. Thank you both.”
They watched him as he left the room, each giving the other a sad look. They ambled back outside, neither saying another word. Walking back toward the room where the Sharveys sat with their daughter, they paused a few doors down the hall to wait for the mother to come out.
Both detectives were lost in their own thoughts. Brown flipped through his notebook while Corzone leaned against a nearby door frame. Suddenly, Al’s concentration was broken by a child’s voice shouting, “He’s hurting her, he’s hurting her!”
Curious, the detective walked back down the hall and glanced into the room where the commotion was coming from. There he saw a young girl sitting upright in bed with her eyes wide open. Two nurses, and a young doctor, who were attending to her, were trying to calm her down.
“But he’s hurting her!” she cried out again indicating her mid section and shouting, “here!”
“There, there Jenny Mae. Everything is going to be alright,” one of the nurses said soothingly.
“But he’s trying to kill her!” the girl protested.
“Don’t fret dear,” the nurse said again, glancing toward the doctor, who was administering a sedative to the girl.
Jenny Mae turned and directly stared at Al, “He thinks she’s dead.” she then laid back and closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep. The detective, glancing towards her heart monitor saw the beat of the pulse steady and become regular.
“Can I help you?” he heard the nurse say, when she realized that he was standing in the doorway.
“No, I’m a police officer,” he said fumbling to produce his badge. “I’m working on a case that had been brought in down the hall when I heard this girl shouting.”
“And professional curiosity couldn’t keep you away,” the elderly nurse said.
“Well, I guess you can say that,” he replied. “Who is she?”
“Her name is Jenny Mae,” she replied, giving a sad backward glance toward the now sleeping figure.
“What happened to her?” he asked.
“Fell down a flight of steps,” she said. “She had been in a coma for days, but she’s waking up on and off with these bad dreams.”
“Where’s her parents?” Corzone questioned.
“Has none,” the nurse replied, “comes from an orphanage. Apparently her parents had abandoned her as an infant, and she’s been living there ever since.”
“That’s sad,” Al said. “How old is she?”
“She’s fourteen now. Past the prime age for any chance of adoption,” the old woman said, sadly shaking her head.
“What happens to her now?” Al inquired.
“Well if she makes it out of this, she will leave the home at eighteen, and be out on her own,” she answered.
“Why? What’s the matter with her?” Al asked with a little concern.
“Brain hemorrhage from the fall,” the nurse replied. “Why the concern and all the questions?”.
“No reason,” Al said, “just professional curiosity.”
Al turned and left the room. There he spied his partner talking to Mrs. Sharveys. She must have just come out of her daughter’s room, so Al joined them. As before, they led her into the quiet room where they hoped that she could shed any new information on the case. After talking briefly to her, they realized that she could share nothing new with them. They thanked her, and walked her part way down the hall.
“What were you doing in there?” Brown asked Al referring to his recent whereabouts.
“I heard a little girl yelling, so I went to see what was going on,” Al replied.
“And…?” Ernie prompted.
“And, nothing,” Corzone said. “Apparently the kid woke up from a nightmare, or something.”
“Well let’s get back to the office,” Brown said. “We’ve got paperwork to do.”
Turning, they headed back down the hall toward the elevators. Suddenly they were stopped by a small voice calling them. “Detectives,” it called firmly. The two men stopped and looked into the room where the voice was heard to come from. There, the young jenny Mae sat in her bed eyeing them quietly.
“He thinks she’s dead, but not for long,” she said to them. They stood there with their mouths agape, not knowing what to say. She then closed her eyes and laid back to sleep.
“What was that all about?” Ernie asked his partner, without turning from where the girl slept.
“I don’t know,” Al replied in the same stupor.
“Who is she?” Brown inquired.
“I’ll tell you on the way back to the office,” Al replied. They both turned and left.
The next day, Corzone and Brown canvassed the neighborhood hoping to pick up any information relating to Laura. They had surmised that she either had been abducted or possibly lured somewhere where she then was brutalized by her assailant. Their investigation began in the building where the girl lived. There they questioned neighbors, the building super, and several of the tenant’s children playing out front. They made their way around the corner, stopping by a delicatessen located there. The owner, noting that his shop was frequented by the neighborhood kids, stated that Laura hadn’t stopped there that evening. He said that she had been a regular at his store and knew of what had happened to her.
“We’re all shocked,” he told the detectives. “She was such a nice girl.”
“You say she stopped here often?,” Brown asked.
“Nearly every night after school,” the shopkeeper said. “She always bought gummy-bears. That was her favorite candy.”
“Did she have any boyfriends?” Al asked.
“Naw. She was too young,” the man responded.
“Have you ever saw anyone follow her?” Brown questioned. “Were there any strangers in lately?”
“No. I get to know everyone around here, and there’s not a face I don’t know,” he answered.
“When’s the last time that you saw Laura Sharveys?,” Brown asked again.
“About eight o’clock, two nights ago,” he said.
“Well thanks for your help,” Corzone said ending their inquiry. He knew that they could gather no more information here, and they needed to push on elsewhere.
“I hope you guys get the bum who did this,” the shopkeeper said. “He’s got the whole neighborhood up in arms.”
“Rest assured,” Brown said, “we’ll get him.”
“Maybe, before you turn him in, you’ll drop him by my shop for five minutes,” the shopkeeper said with earnest, “I’d like to show him around a little, if you know what I mean.”
“Can’t do that, though I’m sure that after everyone we’ve interviewed so far, would like to give him that same tour,” Corzone said with a wiry grim. “You’d have to wait in line for
“I’ll wait. I just hope they save a piece for me,” he confided.
“Don’t worry, he’ll get his day, but in court,” Brown said.
They thanked him again and left. They stood outside the deli for a few minutes wondering where to go from there. “Seems like Laura had a pattern, and I believe her assailant knew that.”
“I don’t follow you,” Brown said eyeing his partner.
“He’s here,” Corzone said with conviction.
“Who?” Brown asked.
“The guy who did this to her,” Corzone said, “he’s here, and he’s probably watching us right now.”
“What do you mean?” Brown questioned.
“Who ever did this wasn’t a stranger,” Corzone explained. “They probably watched her for sometime. Maybe even for years.”
“Years?” Brown quipped.
“Yes, years,” Corzone said. “The pattern is too neat. This guy must have watched her grow up. He knew her every move. No one saw her abducted so he must have been able to lure to him.”
“You think that’s what happened?” Brown asked, convinced that his partner may be right. They both had been scanning the buildings as they talked hoping that they may spot anyone acting suspiciously.
“What about the shopkeeper?” Brown queried.
“Nope. He’s more like the neighborhood icon and watch dog rolled into one,” his partner responded.
“Okay then, lets check out the building next door where the kid’s friend lives,” Brown said, leading the way up the street.
From behind a window, a nervous pair of eyes watched their progress as they moved on.
The next day Corzone stopped by the hospital to check on Laura’s condition. After talking to the doctors, and learned that recovery seemed painfully slow, he visited with the parents briefly.
“Have you had any luck so far,” the father asked.
“Some,” Al replied. “We’ve been able to retrace her steps and establish her whereabouts over these last few weeks.”
“And…?,” Mr. Sharveys pressed.
“And nothing conclusive yet,” Al answered. “Has your daughter mentioned anyone in the neighborhood that she had conversations with on a regular basis?”
“You think it may be someone where we live?” Mrs. Sharveys asked.
“Well, no one saw anyone grab her, and I’m leaning toward believing it was someone that she knew,” Al said pointedly.
The Sharveys’ were stunned. “She knew everyone and talked to quite a few people. She was a very friendly girl,” the mother said.
“I always taught her not to talk to strangers,” the father said.
“I don’t think this guy was a stranger,” Al said with some conviction.
“But, why? She’s such a good girl,” the mother said.
“I don’t know,” Al replied, not wanted to delve into what type of fantasies could of gone on through the assailants mind. He saw that Laura’s father picked up his thoughts but hid this conjecture from her. He gave Al a knowing look on his now stern face.
Corzone left after reassuring them again that the person that did this to their daughter would be caught.
“God speed,” Mrs. Sharveys said as he departed.
Al walked down the hall and passed by where Jenny Mae was staying. Stopping, he peered in, catching the eye of the nurse.
“Hello detective,” she said with a wane smile.
“How’s she doing?” he asked, indicating the sleeping child in the bed.
“No change,” she responded, sadly shaking her head.
“It’s a shame. She’s a good looking kid,” he replied. “I’m surprised that no one has ever taken a shine to her.”
“She always been shy and awkward, I’ve heard, and found it hard to fit in,” she explained.
“Pity,” he remarked.
“Hello detective,” Jenny Mae said apparently aware that he was in the room.
Surprised, he went over to her bed and smiled down at her. “Hi there,” he said.
“You’ve met him today,” she responded.
“Met who?” he asked quietly.
“The man who hurt her,” Jenny Mae replied.
Shocked, Al sat down on the chair by her bedside. “Do you know who I’m looking for?” he asked.
“Uh-huh,” she answered.
“Do you know who he hurt?” Al asked.
“Laura,” she replied.
“Do you know Laura?” he questioned in disbelief.
“She’s the girl, like me, down the hall,” was her answer.
Al looked toward the nurse, who returned with look of puzzlement and a shrug of her shoulders.
“Who is this person who hurt Laura?” he inquired.
“I don’t know his name, but he smells funny,” she replied.
“What does he smell like?” he said, hoping for an answer to the person’s identity.
“I don’t know. I’ve never smelled anything like that before,” she responded.
“How do you know all this?” Al continued.
“I just do,” she replied. “It’s in my head.”
“Oh, I see,” he said, unsure of where to go from there.
“He’s worried about you, you know,” she pointed out.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because he knows you’re going to find out who he is,” she said. Before he could ask her anything else, she drifted back off to sleep.
Al turned to her nurse and asked, “How does she know all about this? Has anybody mentioned the case to her?”
“No. No one,” she replied.
“How long has she talked about Laura?” Corzone asked.
“Ever since the other girl came in,” the nurse said. “It’s the first time Jenny Mae really talked about anything since she herself came to the hospital.”
Puzzled, he turned back to look down at the young girl sleeping peacefully before him. She may have overheard them talking in the hall, he thought, but it was down right spooky the way she came out with things. It was as if she could have seen what had happened to Laura Sharveys. It also worried him of her vision of the assailant. He too felt that whoever he is, was close to where Laura lived, and felt the proverbial ‘eyes on the back of his head’ when he went to her neighborhood. What the other thing was she said about him, he almost voiced his thoughts aloud. She said something about the smell.
“Nurse, where are the clothes that Laura Sharveys wore the night she came to the hospital?” Al asked, turning back to the nurse.
“In the drawer of the dresser, by her bed, I suppose,” she replied. “Unless the parents already brought them home to be washed.”
Corzone left the room and walked down the hall. He paused outside Laura’s door and knocked gently to announce his presence.
“Come in,” he heard Laura’s mother say from the other died of the door.
Al re-entered the room that he left only moment before. “Mrs. Sharveys, do you have the clothes that Laura wore when they brought her in that night?,” he asked.
“Well, I haven’t had a chance to bring them home yet,” she partially apologized. “They should be in the drawer over there,” she concluded by pointing to the dresser nearby.
“No need to apologize,” Al said. “As a matter of fact, I’m glad you didn’t.”
“Why?” the father aid, as Al removed the clothing from the drawer. “Could you determine anything significant with them?”
“Possibly,” Al replied. Picking up the clothes, he sniffed at them. Little Jenny Mae was right he thought, there was a distinct odor there. It smelled like gasoline or oil.
“Can I take these with me?” he asked of the parents.
“But of course, if you can use them to help,” Mrs. Sharveys said.
“I think they will,” Al replied. He rummaged further in the drawer and retrieved a plastic bag at the bottom of it that was usually kept there. He put the soiled clothes inside of it, for which purpose the bag was used for.
“I’m going to take these back with me to have them analyzed,” he said.
“Why were you smelling them?” the father asked.
“Are you cops part bloodhound too?”
“Part of our training,” Al quipped with a small smile. The father just turned and shrugged to his wife.
Detective Corzone bade them farewell again and left the hospital. Hopefully the hint little Jenny Mae gave him could help the case. He knew that he wanted to talk to her again.
The waiting came to an end three days later when the report came back from the lab. Some semen and hair samples were found on the clothing. Usually this type of testing was regulated for violent cases with homicides getting first priority. Detective Corzone was insistent, and had gotten his boss, Captain Bill Sample, to go to bat for him.
“What other trace elements did you find on the clothing?” he asked the lab technician, when he, and Detective Brown, went to retrieve the report.
“Blood samples,” he replied, “but they were mainly the girl’s, although we are still breaking down the samples to see if other blood may have co-mingled with the evidence.”
“Anything else?,” Corzone asked.
“Dirt, grime, and oil,” the tech replied.
“What kind of oil?” Brown finally asked.
“Fuel oil,” the tech said glancing down at his copy of the report.
“Any special type?” Al queried.
“Number six,” was his answer.
“What is number six fuel oil?” Brown asked.
“It’s heating oil,” the technician replied. “They use it in furnaces to heat buildings.”
Ernie and Al gave each other knowing looks, and left the lab with the report. They thanked the lab technician for his diligence, and expedience, as they departed.
“I hope this helps,” he said as they left.
“It sure has,” Corzone replied over his shoulder.
“Well now we know where it happened, but we still don’t know who did it,” Brown said to Corzone.
“Well, I have the feeling that our man was able to get Laura away from where he assaulted her and dump her in the dark nearby. He probably hoped that we would assume that, that was the place where the assault took place,” Al said. He was convinced that he was right.
“Now what?” Brown asked.
“We’re going to visit someone that is going to point the finger at the perpetrator,” Al said. “We’re going back to the hospital.”
When they arrived there, they were greeted by Laura’s anxious parents. “Did you discover anything new?” the father implored.
“Yes, we think that we are on to something,” Al replied. “Tell me Mr. Sharveys, did Laura befriend the man who runs your building?”
“Do you mean, Mr. Ramos, our super?,” he asked.
“Yes. Has she ever mentioned that she talked with him?” the detective pressed the question.
“Yes. Quite often,” he said with puzzlement. “You don’t think he’d do this to my little girl?”
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Al said. “Let’s just say that I’m just making an inquiry about any relationship that they may have formed over the years. Do you know if she had talked to her often?”
“Everyday,” the mother chimed in. “He’s such a nice man and he would bring her presents and candy sometimes.”
“Gummy bears?” Al inquired.
“Yes, but how did you know that?” she asked.
“Just been doing a little homework,” he replied, dismissing the question.
“We have to go now,” Brown said, and added, “We have work to do.”
They told the parents that they’d let them know if anything developed and said their goodbyes. “Is this all the information you needed to come here for?” the father asked Corzone.
“No. We have to make one more stop,” Al replied.
They went down the hall to Jenny Mae’s room. The nurse, whom Al talked with before, was inside caring for the girl. She motioned them in, indicating that they were to be quiet. “She had a rough night,” she said. “Poor thing is wasting away to nothing.”
“How bad is she?” Al inquired.
The nurse just shook her head and replied, “She woke up just a little while ago and asked to talk to the detective. I believe that she was referring to you.”
“Detective?” a small said from behind her. They turned to see Jenny Mae looking at them as she lay on her side.
“Yes, I’m here, Jenny Mae,” Corzone said quietly, sitting down on a chair next to her bed.
“You found the key didn’t you?” she asked in a weak voice.
“I think so,” he replied
“You did,” she confirmed. “Before you can see him, you can smell him. He’s stinky, you know.”
“Where does he live?” Al asked.
“Downstairs in her building,” she said. Before Al could say anything more she drifted back to sleep.
The detectives left and headed for the building where the Sharveys lived. They inquired where the super could be found from an old gentleman sitting on the front steps. “He lives in a downstairs apartment,” he told them pointing toward the front door. “Just go down the hall, and you’ll find a staircase leading there.”
They thanked him and went inside. Finding the stairs, they began their descent. As they made their way down the stairs, the odor of garlic and onions being cooked became overpowering. Al looked at Brown, who replied, “She was right about the smell, but how did she know?”
Al just shrugged his shoulders and continued on down to the next landing. This level of the building was only a half story below street level. It allowed anyone who lived here some sort of window clearance, which more than likely was only at sidewalk level at best.
As they arrived at the building superintendent’s door, they fumbled for their badges in order to present them , and identify themselves. After knocking on his door they were greeted by Mr. Ramos, wearing a forlorn, and haggard, look on his face.
“I guess you want to see me?” he said, tears welling up in his eyes. “I saw you coming from my window,” he said indicating a window near the ceiling behind him. From where they stood they could see people’s legs beyond the glass and could picture the daily views the man was presented with. He confessed to them on the spot, and with remorse, plead that he regretted hurting Laura.
“Why did you try to kill her and dump her body in the park?” Brown asked.
“I was afraid she as going to tell, and that I was going to lose my home here,” he replied bitterly.
“I was drunk,” he continued, then indicating the window, “and I used to watch her everyday.”
Brown used Ramos’ phone and called fro back up. They read him his rights and placed the handcuffs on him. Within the hour, other police units descended on the location, and took samples from Ramos’s apartment and the boiler room just down the hall.
“Let’s head back to the hospital,” Al said to Ernie. “I’d like to tell the parents that their ordeal is over.”
When they arrived they were greeted with a state of bedlam. A blue light was flashing in the hall when they got out of the elevator, and it seemed that doctors and nurses were running in all directions.
“What’s going on?” Al asked at the nurses station.
“We just had two code blues,” she replied using the term meaning near death emergency.
“Al could see the attending medical staff rushing into both Laura’s and Jenny Mae’s rooms.
“Damn!” Al swore, and rushed down the hall to the Sharveys who were ordered to wait outside their daughter’s door. Ernie lagged behind and drifted towards Jenny Mae’s room.
Al tried to comfort the Sharveys, as the father held his sobbing wife in her grief. “What happened?”
“Suddenly, she went from bad to worse,” he replied.
As soon as it seemed to have started, the pandemonium ended. A doctor came from Laura’s room and approached her family. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said perturbed by what he had seemed to have just witnessed.
“Is she all right?” the mother asked tearfully.
“Yes, she’s just fine,” he said with some amazement. “We almost lost her, but she made a miraculous turn around, which even I’m at a loss for words for.”
“She’s alright?” the father said, trying to understand what the doctor was trying to tell him.
“Yes, and she’s awake,” he said. With a puzzled look he turned to Al and said, “She’s asking for you. She said she wants to speak to the ‘detective’.”
Al walked into the room, and there on the bed, Laura Sharveys lay on her side staring at him. “You got him didn’t you?” she asked.
“Yes,” Al replied.
“Didn’t I tell you he was stinky?” she said.
Al could only nod his head. He then left the room and made his way down the hall to where he last visited Jenny Mae. Ernie Brown, who was standing just outside the door turned to face him. As their eyes locked, Brown sadly shook his head confirming Al’s fears.
The nurse appeared from within and greeted Al. “Poor thing,” she said, “she’s been lonely all of her life. All she ever wanted to find was a home, and a family.” A tear rolled down her cheek as she faltered and tried to regain herself.
“I think that she has,” Al said. “I think she has.”