We had a few days to wait for the report from the medical examiner. Gun spent time with the tech geeks to see if they could glean any DNA or fingerprints off of the locket while we waited on the results from the morgue. They also began to run a photo taken at the crime scene through facial recognition. I decided to try the remaining homeowners and see if I could get lucky and find a decent picture of our slaver on somebody’s security camera.
It took me until 9 pm to accomplish my task. I had almost given up hope until I arrived at the next to last house. The homeowner had just installed a top of the line camera. It stored its contents on the homeowner’s server inside his house. He made me a backup, and I took it home to review. I sat there for what felt like hours. Finally, our man came into sight.
My heart sank as I saw him dragging young Kathy roughly by her neck. The young girl struggled to stay on her feet. The man wore a ball cap and had his face covered with a bandana. So many young gang bangers cover their faces like outlaws in the old west. It looks stupid, but it is useful. I could feel my anger rising and my fist clench as I sat there watching the security video. My heart broke when the slaver returned by himself a few minutes later.
Although the video may help in a courtroom, it was mostly a dead-end. By the security camera’s clock, the crime took place around 3 am. Something I was sure the medical examiner would figure out as well.
The next morning at work we found out the lab got a DNA hit on a missing child. Kathy Jackson was her name. She had been reported missing for over a year. My stomach twisted into a knot when I realized how long she suffered. The database had copies of her dental records along with her DNA. Kathy’s teeth were healthy before she disappeared, but the corner reported her mouth was filled with one cavity after another, along with missing adult teeth. The difference in the reports was likely the result of malnutrition and beatings.
A thought popped into my head. She was a problem child to her captors. Perhaps that was why she lay in the morgue. Hope entered my mind. If there was a God, she had to be there with Him now. Kathy was a small warrior who had suffered much. I was going to make sure the men who did this saw justice.
Gun tracked down Mr. and Mrs. Jackson’s address. Although it was in an area of Santa Ana known for gang activity, we did not suspect the local gang. Most gangs protect their turf and do not harm their neighbors unless the neighbors report on them to the police.
Gun and I believed those responsible to be a rival gang, or possibly a pedophile who sold Kathy off once he finished with her. Unfortunately, that did not narrow things down for us. Neither of us wanted to talk to the parents without a lead, but it looked like we had no choice. Dreading what we had to do, Gun and I went to the parents’ house.
We got to their small ranch house around noon on a Sunday. It backed up to an abandoned drive-in theatre. The neighborhood was not the best area to raise a family in. Mrs. Jackson answered the door. Gun decided to take the lead. He introduced both of us. “Mrs. Jackson I’m Detective Che, and this is Detective Brown. We’re investigating the disappearance of your daughter.”
Mrs. Jackson was more than happy to invite us in. The house had faded yellow linoleum in the entryway. A well-worn brown shag carpet covered the floor in the family room and off into a hallway. The furniture looked old and used, but it was clear Mrs. Jackson kept her house clean. Not a dust particle rested on any hard surface, and the faded fabrics were all freshly vacuumed. Both Mr. and Mrs. Jackson appeared much older than they should have been. His hair was curly and completely gray. The loose skin and tired eyes made him look older than his 40’s.
Likewise, Mrs. Jackson’s once thick hair that she had in the picture inside Kathy’s locket was now thin and frizzled. Black bags hung low under her eyes. Whether the bags were from a lack of sleep or had just never left her, I could not tell. Gun and I sat on the couch, and the parents sat in two chairs across from us. Mrs. Jackson looked excited. “You have news about our daughter?”
The hope in her tired blue eyes tore my heart in two. I hated to do what we had to do. “We are looking into it.” was how I started the conversation. “My understanding is that she disappeared on the way home from school. Is that correct?”
Mr. Jackson jumped in before his wife could answer. “That’s what we thought, but a relative had picked her up.”
“Oh? What is the relative’s name?” I asked.
Mr. Jackson looked at me with hollow eyes. “It doesn’t matter. He’s dead.”
I looked over at Gun, and he gave me a slight nod. I turned back to Mr. Jackson and continued. “Let me get this straight. You found out your daughter was missing, and then told the police she did not return home from school. You later found out a relative had picked her up but failed to tell the police. Now that relative is dead, and your daughter is still missing.”
Mrs. Jackson started to cry, and Mr. Jackson nodded.
My heart broke for the mother, but the father was apparently covering something up. I knew it was time to tell them the truth. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but we found your daughter’s body in a nearby town.”
Mrs. Jackson wailed and collapsed on the floor. Her husband got down to comfort her. Gun and I sat there quietly until Mrs. Jackson’s sobs into her husband’s shoulder had quieted some.
Gun took the lead at that point. “Mr. Jackson, we know this is a tough time. Are you sure it was a relative that picked up your daughter? Can we have a name?”
He shook his head. Mrs. Jackson suddenly sat up and slapped her husband. “Stop it, John! You know that’s a lie!”
Gun leaned in and spoke directly to Mrs. Jackson. “Please tell us what you know.”