It’s been over twenty years now. I had just returned home from military service and was beginning to believe the safety of my hometown had somehow disappeared in my absense. Everything and everyone seemed different. Perhaps they’d all been abducted and replaced while I was away, or perhaps I just witnessed it all through new eyes. The verdict is still out, but the abduction theory seems more interesting.
A middle school girl from my neighborhood had gone missing and, in the beginning, I didn’t think much of it. Teenage girls go missing all the time in North Texas, but they’re usually found later that night at their older boyfriend’s house or at least by the next morning after the damage had already been done. Young love is a stupid thing, and I can only imagine it’s gotten more ignorant in the smart phone generation. It was always so much easier in my youth when the scorned parent could just pull the phone cord out of the wall. Nowadays? You might as well just let them go, otherwise they’ll smite you with videos of the act on your social media accounts!
Unlike before, this girl stayed missing. No, I won’t go into too many details because it’s still an open case and, whenever I do talk about it, her family members threaten me with bodily harm for bringing it up. Unusual for a group of people who want their lost family member to be returned to them safe and sound after two decades. Perhaps the ones responsible for still investigating this super cold case should look a little closer to home when brainstorming this poor girl’s current whereabouts.
My home county is a mystery within itself. People go missing there all the time and stay missing. Some say it’s because the buddy/buddy law enforcement system makes them disappear. There’s a lot of wooded areas and some very deep lakes. It’s not beyond reason to think such things. Then again, it’s the meth capitol of Texas and you never know what lurks within the darkened corners of mistaken and abandoned manufactured homes. The early warning camera systems up in the trees cost more than the damned living space. Priorities?
The young girl apparently disappeared on her way home from school and this is where the details get a little fuzzy. Some say her parents were so super religious that they bordered cult status. Some also say she was on her way home to announce she was pregnant by the before mentioned older boyfriend. I’m serious when I say this is a typical North Texas occurrence (having a middle school girl come home suddenly to christen future grandparents) but I don’t believe most of these unfortunate kids have to deal with parental units that rival David Koresh. Even though I never knew her personally, I felt sorry for her.
About a year after her disappearance, I ran into her at a tiny gas station one town over from my own. Ironically, she was holding the establishment’s door open to scream at the clerk regarding how much gas she needed in a car. I knew for certain it was her because her missing flyer taped to the glass door was mere inches from her face. She noticed my alarm and shushed me with a single finger.
“Don’t say anything,” she begged. “You’re crazy if you think I’m going back there.”
With that, she vanished from sight, never to be seen or rumored to be seen again.
I never promised to keep her request and told the first cop I saw. He didn’t appear to be too interested in the information. I lived across the courtyard from a sort of police “welcome wagon” and he just happened to be the next one to drop his duty belt to the floor and releive some work related tension into the awaiting throat of my neighbor. I don’t know if he ever knew she used her mouth like a metaphorical squad room, but I don’t think he cared either. Many a DNA strand from several of his coworkers all gathered there like it was an “end of shift” meeting. I didn’t bother contacting anyone else other than this single officer. If he didn’t care, then obviously the rest of them would blow me off, but in a more official capacity than the girl across the way. I hated fucking cops and, as far as I was concerned, I’d played the role of the concerned citizen and did my due diligence.
Over the years, I met the missing girl’s two siblings. Regardless of my disdain for law enforcement, I became a member of the local Sheriff’s office out of pure necessity. The girl’s brother visited the jail on a regular basis so I casually mentioned it to him during one of his visits. He asked me not to tell his younger sister and left it at that. Man, if you can’t trust a multiple felon to care, who will? Of course, I didn’t oblige that request either.
The younger sister turned out to be a doped out, washed up stripper (I’m also using the washed up description as a metaphor as well since bathing on a regular basis was clearly optional) but she was exactly the kind of girl I was looking for at the time. Easy and stupid. Alcohol is a mother fucker, isn’t it? Luckily, there was a line a mile long and around the corner to crack those panties and my sorry ass Sheriff’s office salary wouldn’t afford me a fast pass. I told her about meeting her sister after the disappearance during one of our casual meetings at a local convenience store. She called me a liar. Nothing personal against sex workers. I’m a huge fan. This one, however, seemed to have something sinister hiding behind those eyes other than dark circles from multiple, drug induced sleepless weeks.
To be quite honest, I hadn’t thought about this case in quite some time until I received a message from a total stranger on one of my social media platforms. I had recently began writing and co-hosting a true crime podcast and somehow this personn made the connection between me and my hometown. She informed me that she’d met this missing girl on a train a few years ago on the east coast. Somehow she’d manage to evade detection all these years and build a life for herself thousands of miles away from her rather disturbed, yet cookie cutter North Texas family. I passed that information along to the Sheriff’s Office and wiped my hands clean of any involvement. I’m a writer, not a super hero.
I made note of this information on social media but was, again, immediately attacked by the brother and sister. I can’t help but wonder if someone has ever done a study of siblings of missing persons and how they’ve never bothered to create their own identites other than that of “the brother or sister of that missing person”. Surely, the attention they’ve received over the years has created an ego and a sense of belonging that the criminal and the exhibitionist wouldn’t have received otherwise. It’s almost as though a sort of narcicism built from tragedy prevents them from accepting any new leads and wanting their long, lost sister to return home two decades later.
I’m not a psychologist, but I married one. She seems to agree with my hypothesis one hundred percent even though it stems from my writer’s need to bestow upon every character a sense of extremity in their personalities. But, is fiction really all that far from the truth? I think not.
The deepest depths of my soul hopes my mystery messenger was correct in her assumption and that this missing girl, who was only destined to be another religiously whipped victim of my hometown’s cruelty or dead from a back alley abortion brought on by her parent’s need for secrecy, is alive and well on the east coast and commuting to a career by rail. Yes, my imagination has developed quite the life for her, a partner, and the child who never would’ve came to be if she hadn’t done the unthinkable. Most believe she’s in an unmarked, shallow grave in the woods near where I grew up or weighted and sunk to the bottom of a lake, but these assholes lack any type of vision or creativity. Then again, there’s always the chance these backwoods inbreeders know something I don’t.
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