Chapter 1: Missing Since…?

A John Doe Fanfiction By Booklovr

Disclaimer: The television show, John Doe, and all of the associated characters, ideas, and concepts are owned by Fox network, with which I am not affiliated, because if I was, there would be no doubt about it returning next season!

This story is dedicated to:

John Doe, our favorite amnesiac,

All the folks at Fox who make it happen,

And everyone on the JD discussion boards, who help me come up with ideas, if only by my disagreeing with theirs!

Sometimes, I forget.

I wake up, and for a few moments everything seems normal.  I forget about the amnesia, about knowing everything, about mysteries and deaths and everything else that usually fills my waking hours.

Sometimes, sometimes, when my mind isn't yet fully awake, and I haven't yet begun to think, a minute might pass where I'm just a normal man, getting out of bed, like every other man in the world.

For that one minute, while I forget it all, the only thing I know is that I feel truly happy.

When I finally do remember, when the first thought of the day crosses through my mind, and everything comes crashing back into place, it's as horrifying as if I'm just realizing everything for the first time.

And the minute that follows is one of the most terrible things I've ever experienced, as I struggle to grasp the reality, and to find the strength that usually gets me through each day.  Because I forget that, too, and strength is the hardest thing to find.

For that one minute, while I remember it all, I'm tempted to just give up on…everything.

But I pull myself together, forcing down the despair, sometimes physically dragging myself out of bed, sometimes just lying there until I can come to terms with everything all over again.

But it's worth it.  For that one, first minute, it's worth it.

On the morning that this story starts, Saturday, April 12, 2003, well, that was a particularly bad morning.  The first thing I remembered was that Karen is dead.  Even though it had been two months since she died…even today, looking back…it's still far too painful to deal with first thing in the morning.

Eventually, I got up, more or less ready to face the day.  I got dressed—I bet you don't know that in India it's perfectly proper for men to wear pajamas in public. Pajamas are accepted as standard daytime wearing apparel.[i]  I also bet you don't care.  But where's the fun in knowing everything if you can't show off once in a while?  Well, I suppose there's no fun anyway.

I wished I could remember what I'd dreamt the night before.  I was certain that it was the same dream every time.  I'd often tried remembering it in that first minute of the morning, but it always faded.  I wondered if it was a memory.  From before…well, Before.  The only thing I knew for certain was what it wasn't about.  It wasn't about my life now: no crimes, no Phoenix Group, no worry or frustration… Laughter.  I could remember laughter.

I checked the computers in my back room.  The continuous searches that I ran, looking for anything on the Phoenix Group, the mark, or even a missing persons report that matched me—they never seemed to come up with a match for anything.  It was getting rather depressing.  Besides that, I could no longer stand the concrete walls.  I used to have pictures, maps, clues, lists, papers from cases I worked on, everything that I used to find out who I was, all over the walls.  But when everything was stolen, well, money can replace computers, but it can't replace something like that.

It was one of those mornings where I was tempted to lock the door, throw away the key, and say, "To Hell with it all!"  Not that I would be giving up.  It would just add a little variety to my day.

I wonder if I might actually have done it.  If I could have walked away from it all, never looked back.  Just continued with the life I'd been leading, and once and for all, lay the past to rest.

I'll never know.

Because just as I stood to leave, a match was found.

At first, I almost didn't look.  After all, any search engine worth the Internet connection it takes to use it will produce an average of two million, one hundred nineteen thousand, one hundred sixty-two point twenty-five results for a search on the word "phoenix," though the figure is slightly skewed because some search engines will produce as much as four thousand times as many results as others, but the point is, I had a lot of false alarms on that search.[ii]

What stopped me was when I realized that the monitor that had found the match was not the one connected to the "phoenix" search.  It was the missing persons search.

Nearly two thousand, four hundred people are reported missing every day,[iii] but generally not people who have been missing for several months already.  So, naturally, I was somewhat wary of the idea that any new results would be found.  If someone matching my description was posted after all this time, well, considering how things had been going lately, my suspicions were probably justified.

But, of course, my curiosity won over my suspicion, and I looked.  This is what I saw:

April 6, 2002
Southburg, Washington

Theresa Small


Date of Birth: 7/18/1975

Sex: Female

Height: 5'5"

Weight: 125lbs

Hair: Dark brown

Eyes: Brown

Race: White

The Details:

One year ago, Theresa Small suddenly decided to leave her town, informing only her elderly neighbor (Mrs. Veronica Kelly) of her intentions to leave.  Small gave no details regarding her destination, stating only that it was a "family emergency" and that she would return within four months.  She has not been seen since.

Her car, a red 1992 Isuzu Trooper license plate 101-JDF, was found abandoned in the woods beside the road, a quarter of a mile from the Southburg bus station, April 8, 2003.  Her purse, identification, and luggage were not found in the car, and there were no signs of violence.

Small has no family, was unemployed at the time of her disappearance, and was said to "keep mostly to herself."  It is believed that she may have been going to see her long time boyfriend, whom none of her neighbors had met or could name.

Small was last seen shortly after noon on April 5, 2002.  She was wearing dark jeans, a light blue sweater, and white sneakers.

Anyone who has seen or has information pertaining to the whereabouts of Theresa Small, please contact your nearest police office.

The woman in the picture—I had seen her before.  She was the woman from the ferry, the one who had seemed to recognize me.  The woman with some connection to the Phoenix Group.

She had been missing for a year.  Since before I saw her.  What did that mean?

I needed more information, and I knew where to get it.  As soon as I had printed out a copy of the report, I headed to the Seattle Police Station as fast as I could.

Ironic.  For all my suspicions before, it never occurred to me that the search criteria had been set for myself.

Frank Hayes, Seattle cop and longtime friend, looked slightly confused to see me walk into the Police Station that day.

"John. Um.  Did we call for you?"

"Actually, no.  I…need your help this time."

Considering the kinds of problems I have, Frank probably had good reason to look so unsure.  "What kind of help?"

"Do you recognize her?" I asked, holding out the report.

"Southburg?  That's out of our jurisdiction.  You'd have to go to—"

"No, not the case," I cut in impatiently.  "The woman.  Does she look familiar to you?"

He hesitated.  "A little, yeah.  Why?"

"Remember, two months ago, when Karen…disappeared?  The picture in the fire?"

It seemed to click.  "The woman you see in color?"

"That's her.  She's been missing for a year, and I saw her after the day she disappeared."

"Wow.  But…what do you need my help for?"

"I need to find her."

"Understandable.  But I can't help you there."

"I need to see the case file."

"I told you, that's out of our jurisdiction.  You'd have to go to Southburg and find out who's in charge of it there.  And even then, they wouldn't let just anyone—oh, no."

"I just need you to refer me as a consultant—"

"I can't do that, John.  Besides, we're not allowed to just interfere with someone else's case like that.  And what exactly are your qualifications?  'Knows everything' isn't going to cut it with them."

"But you could—"

"No, I can't.  Besides, you're personally involved with this.  I can't send you down there just for that!"

"Isn't there anything you can do?"  I must have looked really pathetic, because he sighed and leaned forward.

"Listen, and I should not be suggesting this," he whispered.  "Southburg is a pretty small town, and this disappearance has to be the biggest thing to happen there in years.  If you go down there, you can probably find her house yourself…and conduct your own investigation.  Talk to witnesses.  See what you can find out.  You might have more luck if you pretend to be a private investigator.  But if you get in any trouble, or interfere with the police there, I will deny having told you this."

That was a brilliant idea.  I wondered why I hadn't thought of it before—probably the stress.  I stood up, thanking him.

"And another thing—try not to do that…thing you do."

"What thing?"

"You know.  That 'I know everything' thing.  Try and blend in."

"Blend in.  Right.  Sure.  I can blend in."

"Uh-huh.  Good luck."  I was already halfway out the door.

Just as I was leaving, I heard Jamie Avery ask Frank, "Was that Doe?  What was that all about?"

"Well," Frank answered, "you probably don't want to know."

The town of Southburg, Washington[iv] is fifty-two point three miles south of Seattle, but to travel straight takes you through National Parks, so I had to take a different route.  South along route five, east on route twelve, Southburg sat between Mt. Rainer National Park and Mt. St. Helen's National Volcanic Monument.  Within a five-mile radius of the center of the town, the land holds at a consistent elevation of seven thousand, two hundred eighty-three feet, varying within a range of plus or minus forty-seven feet.  The population at the time of the most recent census was one hundred eighteen.  The forest, which was cleared away within the town's center, still held strong until a quarter to a half of a mile past the borders.  Just to give you an idea what the place was like.

Because the bus stop was as good a place as any to start, and because my own car was not optimally equipped for mountain travel, public transportation was the way I took.  Only one bus goes to Southburg from Seattle each week, seven o'clock on Monday morning.  So I had most of Saturday and all of Sunday to prepare and wait.

A good deal of Monday, as well, it turned out.  The bus trip took six hours, twenty-three minutes.  There was traffic, and delays…but let's just skip to my arrival.

The bus station was within two hundred yards of the western-most edge of town, and consisted of nothing more than a clearing and a parking lot with no cars in it.  Southburg was not exactly a tourism hot spot.  From there, it was barely three hundred yards to where the abandoned car had been found.  It was easy to spot: the Southburg Police Department had left a deputy, a car, and probably half its supply of police tape to guard it.

Now was the time for me to try out my story.

"Excuse me, sir," I called as I walked towards the deputy.  "Is this the 1992 Isuzu Trooper abandoned by Theresa Small, missing since April 8, 2002?"

"Um."  The deputy was no more than twenty years old, and probably didn't know what to make of the situation.  "It is the car that crazy woman ditched on her way out a year ago."  Then he seemed to remember himself.  "Ah, and who are you, sir?"

"John Doe, Private Investigator," I said, holding out a business card.  It was very impressive, I'm sure, being on laid paper with my name and "office" (actually home) address and phone number in blue and a red phoenix graphic.  The phoenix was probably a bit in poor taste, considering what little I knew about the Phoenix Group, but it was the only thing I could think of at the time.  In any case, it worked; the deputy seemed to equate my having a business card with my being a real PI, and let me approach the car.  I actually felt bad; the cards had cost me only $56.43 at Staples for a box of a thousand, and didn't really mean anything.

Let me skip the specific details about the SUV, and move to what I found: nothing.  I started with a half hearted attempt to find any signs on the ground from when she left, but footprints don't survive a year of exposure in the Cascade Mountains, so that was rather pointless.  In fact, I assumed that the local police would have found anything so obvious already, and it was mostly just a courtesy.  Inside the car, again, nothing was left.  So everything had already been taken, either by Theresa or by the police.  Well, that sort of thing had never stopped me before, and pulling on a pair of gloves, I proceeded to inspect every inch of the vehicle.

As I studied the scratches on the hood, I asked, "So, what do you think happened here?"

"Well, she was probably abducted.  The kidnapper either surprised her at the bus station or was hiding in the car when she got in.  Kidnapper hid the car down here, where no one would find it—the hill's just steep enough that you can't see this part of the woods from the road unless you're looking for it."

"Why'd the kidnapper take all of her luggage, if no one was supposed to find the car?" There was some mud splattering on the front bumper, but too much dirt had accumulated for me to tell much.

"We're still working out the details."

"And didn't the report say that there were no signs of violence?" No fingerprints on the inside of the driver's side window.

No answer from the deputy.

"May I ask why this car is still out here, if it's already been searched?"  Next, I began carefully scrutinizing the driver's side.

"Well, lots of reasons," the deputy said.  "I mean, where else would we put it?  It's out of the way here, and the next time someone's heading out that way that can tow it, we'll get them to take it, too."

"Uh, huh," I barely answered, studying the seat position.  It was still set comfortably for someone of her height and stature.

"And, of course, it's not like anyone would want to steal this thing—even I have a better car!"

"Mmm-hmmm." The inside of the door showed no signs that the seatbelt had been undone violently, but that was never too sure of a thing, anyway.

"And we've already searched this thing all over, so there's probably nothing you can find that's useful."

"Really?" I looked at the headrest of the driver's seat.  "So you've already removed anything that could be evidence?"

"Yup, nothing in there that can be used for anything."

There was a glimmer of color on the seat: two turquoise fibers and a strand of brown hair.  "So then, you won't mind if I take this?"

"Take what?" he asked sharply.

"Oh, nothing, as you said; clearly not evidence if you missed it."  While the deputy was obviously trying to work out what I might have found, I picked up the threads and hair, and put them into a plastic bag.  Probably not evidence at all, but I wanted them, anyway.

A thorough search of the SUV produced nothing more.  Well, a few paper scraps, some lint, another thread here and there.  I picked them all up.  I guess some part of me just desperately wanted to have a part of her.  The deputy seemed to think I was only doing it to make him feel inadequate; after a few minutes, he stormed off to the police car.

The last things I looked at were the tires.  They were still new, or had been a year before.  They were flat now, because of air pressure changes, but whole, mostly still balanced, and the tread was still only slightly worn.  I inspected the clearing all around, then looked up the hill directly behind the car.  The ground was steep there.  A rotten log lay in the way.  I was just looking over that log when I heard someone approach.

"May I help you?"

I turned around to face the Southburg Police Chief.  He was quite the opposite of the deputy—past middle age, but still as tough as ever, with a look that suggested whatever your story was, he'd already heard it twice before.

"Yes," I answered, "I was about to ask, how do you think this car got down this hill?"

"Who are you?"

"John Doe, I'm a private investigator from Seattle."  I handed him another business card.

Far from impressed, he didn't even glance at it.  "A private investigator?  Who hired you?"

I had this part of the story all planned out.  I looked him in the eye and said, "A private party who wishes to remain anonymous."

What?  I'm a bad liar.  The closer to the truth, the better.

"Well, John Doe," he spat, "I presume the car came down in the normal fashion."

"But where?" I pressed, turning back to the log.  "Not straight down this way.  This log hasn't been moved in years, as you can easily tell from the rate of decay.  And not that way, either."  I pointed to a more or less clear path up to the road, at an angle.  "Too many large rocks and a tree stump—1992 Isuzu Troopers are one of the most unbalanced Sports Utility Vehicles, so it couldn't have come that way and stayed intact.  And the only other way even remotely clear enough," I ran over to a path that ran nearly parallel to the road, "is all the way over here.  And see this broken branch?"  I moved it experimentally, testing what my mental calculations had said.  "The car hit it head on as it came this way, and it left that long thin scratch down the front—here."  I ran over and pointed to demonstrate.  "So what must have happened—she turned off the road someplace much closer to town, drove through the woods to get here, then turned her car around, probably so she could get her luggage out of the back, and from there—"

"Does your story have a point?"  Again, far from impressed, the Chief looked simply furious.

"Just trying to reconstruct what happened."  I vaguely wondered if I had been doing "that thing I do," as Frank put it.  I tried to make it sound like I had a pretty good idea about everything, rather than actually knowing everything.  In retrospect, it was probably not much of an improvement.

"Now, listen here, Doe, I got a call from Deputy Morse here, saying some Seattle P.I. had come out of no where and was searching the car and taking evidence—"

"Not evidence," I corrected.  I held out the plastic bag.  "See?  Just some left over things inside.  If they aren't evidence, there should be no objection to my taking them."

"That should all be down at the station, with everything else gathered from the car."

"What?  A strand of hair, three paper shreds, two scarf fibers—"

"Scarf fibers?  What makes you think they're scarf fibers?"

I bit my tongue.  "Just…a hunch."

"Listen, Doe, this is a serious investigation.  If you know something, spill it.  Otherwise, I suggest you get back to Seattle."

"I don't know anything.  Well, not about this, anyway.  And I can't go back, since the bus back to Seattle doesn't come until Friday.  So you're stuck with me for a week."  Trying to be fair, I added, "I'm not planning on interfering with your investigation in any way.  I'll just ask some questions, then leave when the time comes."  I picked up the suitcase I had brought with me and turned down the path.  "Good day, Officer Russell," I added as I walked away.

"I never told you my name."

That stopped me.  Another slip.  But I said, as calmly as possible, "Well, I wouldn't come all the way up here without doing a little research, would I?"

I headed through the forest, following the path Theresa must have driven down.  By the time the path met with the road again—just outside of the center of town, on such a gradual slope, it could hardly be measured—I had concluded there was only one explanation that made sense.  Theresa had, for whatever reason, simply decided to drive along a path in the forest that was barely wide enough for her SUV, but, almost suspiciously, perfectly straight.  A few broken or overlong branches, and their corresponding scratches on her car's hood, indicated that she was driving perfectly straight; the lack of damage to the undergrowth around the clearing implied that no one had gone away from the car who wasn't under their own power and aware of how to walk relatively carefully.  Not that much evidence remained, after a year, but it there were a variety of bushes, mostly of the genus Rubus, meaning brambles, grew thickly near where the car was parked, and there had been no evidence of breakage, or any remains of fabric.  Again, it might not have lasted for a year…

I had to stop thinking of the scene as if it was still fresh.  Still, the most likely route of escape from a car parked in that clearing was straight up onto the road, and it was too inconvenient for anyone to come back for luggage if she didn't need to.  No matter what way I looked at it, I could see no evidence that Theresa didn't leave under her own power.  But no evidence is not evidence.

She hadn't looked like she was in danger, when I saw her on the ferry, but that was six months after her disappearance, and a lot could happen in six months.

Just look at all that had happened to me in the six months since I saw her.

I considered the Police Chief.  Fredrick Russell had been a very prominent lieutenant in the Boise Police Department, involved in many high-profile cases, until four years earlier, when he had gone into a semi-retirement and transferred to Southburg.  I assumed that I recognized his face from the countless newspapers that were stored in my brain, and thought no more of that, except to remind myself not to slip up like that again.  What did catch my attention was the fact that he did not seem to have previously realized any of what I had told him, and didn't seem to be paying attention when I did.  It was almost as if he didn't want to learn anything about Theresa's disappearance.  But that was simply unbelievable; he was in all probability just suspicious of new people who appeared and just spilled out facts that way.  Which was, doubtless, what Frank had been trying to warn me against.

It would probably be a good idea to simply avoid the police from now on, I thought.  So much for the idea of looking over the evidence they've already gathered.  Well, I would simply need a plan B.

Southburg had a small inn.  More accurately, one of the four restaurants in the town had a second floor, where the owners lived, and there was a spare room rented out to the occasional boarder that came through town.  Roger and Joyce Harper, a middle-aged couple who, like many of the other Southburg citizens, had lived in the town for most of their lives, owned the Lost Hiker Inn, a family business.  Roger took the money I offered, and scrutinized one of my business cards, and then Joyce led me to the spare room.  She watched suspiciously as I looked over the room.  It was small, furnished with a bed, a dresser, and a desk.  The window looked out on the center of town.  It would do for four nights.

"So," she began suddenly, "you're the mysterious private eye from Seattle?"

"Yes, John Doe," I introduced myself.

"Well, Mr. Doe, if you want my advice, I suggest you go back to Seattle and tell your client to keep his nose where it belongs."

"Excuse me?"

"I don't know who sent you here, but I suggest you tell him, her, or them that it's none of their business what goes on here." She turned and closed the door as she left.

Xenophobia.  Not uncommon among small, isolated towns, and probably understandable, given the circumstances.  But I had a feeling that this was something more.  I just didn't know what.

My next thought was to try and find where Theresa had lived.  The room did not come with a telephone, but the newest edition of the local phone book lay on the dresser, published April 21, 2002.  Theresa Small was not listed, but she may have always been an unlisted number, anyway.  Veronica Kelly was listed as living in a duplex apartment, and a quick check of the other addresses listed showed that no one was in the other half—thus, probably Theresa's house.

25 Oak Street was a fairly new building; from what I could tell of the outside architecture, it was roughly twenty years old.  Veronica Kelly lived on the bottom floor, and the second floor windows were each covered by a large "X" of police tape.  The front door was unlocked, and there was no one in the connecting hallway.  Up the stairs, the door was similarly decorated, and locked as well.  I was about to try picking it open, when I heard the sound of a clearing throat behind me.

Startled, I turned to see a silver haired woman of about sixty, looking suspiciously at me from the foot of the stairs.  "Are you lost?" she asked.

"You must be Mrs. Kelly," I said, coming down the stairs.  "My name is John Doe, I'm a Private Investigator working on the disappearance of Miss Small.  I understand you're the one who reported her missing?"

She accepted another of the business cards that I was showing around in lieu of an actual badge and turned to look at it under one of the windows.  When she looked back, she was smiling.  "Oh, good, I'm glad to see that someone is finally taking an interest in poor Theresa's disappearance!  Come, come, I'll make you some tea."

Her apartment was small but homey, and Mrs. Kelly proved eager enough to talk.

"Call me Veronica, please, almost no one uses 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.' around here."  She sat across the table and poured us both tea.  "Now, I'm sure you're going to want to know all about Theresa."

Everything, I thought.  "Just what relates to her disappearance," I said.

"Well, she lived upstairs from me for three years before she left.  Sweet young thing, very smart, too, but kept mostly to herself.  Anyway, about a year ago, she told me there was a family emergency, and she would need to leave for a few months, and wanted to know if I could keep an eye on her apartment.  Of course I said yes, poor thing, and she left that afternoon.  Haven't seen her since."

"Family emergency?  I thought she had no family."

"Well, I think she may have been going to see her boyfriend.  Never met him, he didn't like the mountains or something, but she talked about him quite a bit, and they were together since before she moved here.  He moved around a bit, never had the same return address twice on the letters he sent."

"But she never once mentioned his name?"

"Well…she might have once…I'm getting old, you know, memory's not so good anymore."

I considered what she'd told me.  "Well, Veronica, that's pretty much everything in the official report.  In fact, that's almost exactly everything in the official report.  Don't you have anything to add?"

She seemed unfazed.  "Oh, is it?  As I said, I'm getting old.  Tend to repeat myself, you know.  Well, you ask me a question, and see what you can stir up."

"Alright.  Why did you wait a year to report her missing?"

She shrugged.  "At first, I was a little worried, but I thought whatever it was just took longer than she thought it would.  About five months ago, I started to get suspicious, but the police here wouldn't believe me.  Not many people liked her, you see, someone who stays in one place, doesn't go out much, doesn't talk to anyone, they assume she's a little crazy.  It wasn't until we got a young couple up here a last week, looking for a place to live—city folk, they saw a squirrel run across the road or something and stopped to take pictures, found her car there.  The two of them raised a huge ruckus, and finally got enough attention that the police had to report it."

"Does this couple have a name?"

"Oh, probably.  I don't know it.  They decided they didn't like country life so much after all, headed back to Olympia.  Police might know how to contact them, if they decide to tell you."

Right.  Another possible clue I wouldn't be able to get.  "So, if she never went out much, how'd she pay rent, buy food?"

"Well, she never really had a job, if that's what you're asking.  I guess her boyfriend sent her money.  She used to do odd jobs around town, to earn a little here and there.  Of course, shoveling driveways or raking leaves, she was competing against the local boys and girls, so it didn't get her too much business, you know."

I tried to think.  She lived here for three years.  Never spoke to anyone.  Never had a job.  It was rather unbelievable.  "Do you know anything about her past?"

"No, nothing, she never really talked about that kind of thing."

"So what can you tell me?"

"Not much helpful, I'm afraid.  Theresa kept to herself, wrote to her 'secret' boyfriend, sometimes played the piano, that's really about it."

"She played the piano?"

"Yes.  Didn't have one of her own, but she would bring down her music and use mine."  Veronica moved into her sitting room and showed me a piano in the corner.  She played a few notes, absently; it was almost perfectly in tune, though it had turned ever so slightly flat, as if it hadn't been cared for in a while.  "I'm afraid it's fallen out of use in the past year.  She played so much better than I could, what with my arthritis now…it seemed a shame to continue without her."

"What…kinds of songs did she play?" I asked, trying to sound only idly interested.

"Oh, all kinds." A distant look crept into her eyes.  "She had a song for almost every mood.  One particular favorite, though.  How did it go?" She slowly began to play, carefully, and with more skill than she would have given herself credit for.  I recognized the song, and had to turn away to hide my expression.

My Funny Valentine.[v]

"Well," I said hastily, clearing my throat.  "That's enough for today, I think.  I can, of course come back if I have more questions?"

"Oh, yes," said Veronica, returning her attention to me.  "Although there was one other thing.  Now, what was I going to…?  Ah, yes.  If I remember correctly, the last letter she got from her boyfriend was from Seattle, and I believe there was a bus the day she left that went to Seattle, in fact, at five o'clock that afternoon."

"Really?"  I knew the latter fact, of course, but the former was interesting.

"Yes, that's right.  You will go see if you can find anything there, won't you?  I'm afraid I've started to get quite worried, after all this time.  I've suspected for a while she might have gone that way, but of course the police here won't listen.  They don't seem to care."

"Seattle.  I'll be sure to see what I can find when I go back Friday."

"You'll be here until Friday?"

"Yes, the five o'clock on Friday is still the only bus back to Seattle."

"Ah.  I thought you would have driven.  Well, no matter.  If you have any more questions, well, I'm usually right here.  Good bye."

With that, the conversation was clearly over.

I paced up and down my small room that night, trying to figure out what I'd gathered so far.

"Alright.  So she lived here alone for three years, but no one knows anything about her.  Except that she used to play My Funny Valentine.  Which is the one song that I…is it a coincidence?  Did I know her?  Do I recognize that song because I heard her play it once?

"Never mind that, focus on her disappearance.  She packed up her car and left without telling anyone where she was going.  No one even asked.  'Family emergency,' but no family.  Boyfriend could count as family.  So, she drives out of town, turns off the road, and hides her own car?  Didn't want anyone to know she was taking the bus?  But why, driving would be faster—unless, she didn't want to be followed?  Why not?  Where was she going?"

I thought hard about that car.  Something was wrong, but I didn't know what.  "No signs of violence, but they still assume that she was kidnapped.  And the killer 'ditched the car'—wait."  Was that what I had missed?  "The deputy—he said that she ditched the car there, but then said she was abducted, and the kidnapper hid the car.  That doesn't add up.   What was he trying to—"

There was a noise outside.  I opened the door.  Joyce glared at me and demanded, "Who were you talking to?"

"No one."

"I heard your voice.  Who were you talking to?"

"I was talking to myself, trying to think.  I do that sometimes."

"You sounded like you were on the phone."

I pointed to my cell phone, the only line in the room, which was charging.  "No service out here in the mountains," I added.

She glared for a second in the general direction of the window, then turned around.  "Well, keep it down; it's after ten and some people are trying to sleep!"

I sighed and shut the door.  Rather typical of small town people…rather stereotypical, actually.  In fact, a little too stereotypical.  Nosey landlady, concerned widowed neighbor, incompetent police officers—it was like a bad detective novel.  That's what was bothering me—or at least one of the things that bothered me—everyone was acting exactly as someone might expect them to.  Almost as if they were all playing parts!

But what really got to me was the incompetent police bit.  Russell was from Boise, so he should have known better than to simply assume kidnapping, especially when there was no evidence for or against it.  He should have known that car couldn't have simply been driven down the hill from anywhere nearby.  So why hadn't he?  Or why hadn't he seemed to?

It was a lot to think about, but unfortunately, I didn't get any farther that night.  Eventually, I gave up for the time and went to sleep, still thinking…and humming…

A/N: Okay, I am writing this story as it comes to me—that's a first—so there's no telling how long it will take the next chapter to appear: days, weeks, more weeks…if you want to speed up the process a little, use the handy "review" button at the bottom of the page, and tell me what I'm doing right and wrong.  My Muse appreciates it.  Until next time!

[i]  in India…daytime apparel.  Provided by Drachendamen at the official John Doe boards at

[ii] Averages provided by my own research and are not verifiable.

[iii] Number unconfirmed.

[iv] Southburg, Washington is a completely invented town, and any resemblance to a real town is purely coincidental.  All associated figures are also invented, so if they don't "work out" please feel free to blame my parakeet.  I know I will!

[v] My Funny Valentine: for lyrics and information, go here: