John interrupted Detective Gun. “Don’t do it, Elle. We don’t know what will happen if we snitch.”
“I don’t care.” Mrs. Jackson snapped back at her husband.
“Please, Mr. Jackson. ” Gun said. “This is hard for everyone. Your wife may help us catch your daughter’s killer.”
John pulled up his knees, rested his arms on them and bowed his head down. Whether it was a look of surrender or prayer, I could not tell. The room was now quiet as Mrs. Jackson continued.
She looked and both Gun and myself and said, “John isn’t lying to you about everything. Kathy’s Uncle did pick her up, but John left out an important piece. Kathy’s uncle, John’s brother, is a known pedophile and considered a fugitive by the state at one point. Before that happened, he was let out of prison about two years ago. We tried to help get him back on his feet, but then a neighbor saw him loitering around the elementary school. If we reported John’s brother, it would be considered a violation of his parole.”
I broke into her explanation. “What is John’s brother’s name?”
“Caleb, Caleb Jackson.”
I wrote down the information, and she continued. “We talked to Caleb, and he assured us that he wasn’t doing anything wrong. That was where his walks took him. He never talked to the kids or followed any of them. Kathy told us he would just walk home with her.”
John looked up, eyes red and dripping, “I thought he was just looking out after our little girl. He was my brother. I didn’t think he would hurt his own family.” John’s head bowed back down into his arms.
Elle gently put her hand on the back of John’s neck and started to rub it. The two were going through a lot, but we needed to follow-up on this lead. “Are you able to continue Mrs. Jackson?” I asked.
“Oh yes.” She said in a determined voice. “One day I got home from work early and found Caleb rubbing Kathy’s shoulders with her shirt off. Kathy said her uncle was helping her loosen her tension after a stressful day at school. Caleb tried to play it off as innocent, but I knew better. After sending Kathy to her room, I explained to John’s brother that he had to be out of the house by the next morning, and was never to come near my daughter again.”
Gun looked over at John, “Mr. Jackson, were you aware of this.” John nodded, his head still in his arms. We could hear his muffled sobs. I then asked Mrs. Jackson to continue, but she wanted to take a break and grab some water. When she returned, she had glasses for all of us. The break did everyone some good, and the tension released a little bit in the room. I decided to try to move things along.
“What happened to Caleb?”
To my surprise, John looked up, took a long drink of water and then answered us. “He left just like my wife asked. At that point, we thought everything was fine. Elle picked up and dropped off our daughter for a few weeks just to be sure, but there was no sign of my brother. At least not until he showed up in my driveway one afternoon while Elle and Kathy were out shopping.”
I wondered if he was finally going to tell us the truth about what he knew. “What did he tell you?” I asked.
John continued. “Caleb said he was dropping by to check on us. When I asked him where he was living, he would only say out in the desert. Looking back on it, Caleb could have been high because he was extremely nervous, almost paranoid. I asked him if he had a job and Caleb said he was working for a transport company owned by a man called Diablo. Caleb said Diablo paid him top dollar to conveyor his goods from a depot in Mexicali, Mexico to Lockhart, California. My brother told me the drive was easy because he was allowed to take it at night when the weather was cooler.”
Gun looked over at me and shared the same thought I had. I guess he decided to share it with the couple to see how they would react. “Your brother was transporting slaves.”
John nodded and began to weep. Elle’s eyes teared up, and she clenched her fist. She spoke through her strained voice, “John couldn’t see it at first. Who want’s to believe their brother would be involved with enslaving human beings? We didn’t hear from him anymore after that. At least, not until the day Kathy disappeared. We feared the worst. Kathy’s best friend was with her when John’s brother picked her up. She said Uncle Caleb told her to come tell us he had her.”
I was confused. “If you knew Caleb had Kathy, why didn’t you tell the police?”
John wiped his face. “I did. But nobody knew how to find my brother. He was a ghost. There was no trace of him in either town and no trace of Kathy. The state police kept the manhunt quiet for fear he might try and flee to Mexico with our daughter.”
John stopped, and we all caught our breath. Mrs. Jackson gave them both tissues. Inside I felt as grieved as the parents. Mrs. Jackson picked up the story for us. “After a few months of finding nothing the police assumed they had gone to Mexico. We were warned not to try to find her ourselves down there due to the cartels. We just prayed every day that God would bring her home safe. Then, a month ago they found Caleb’s body out in the desert east of Barstow. There was no sign of Kathy or any of her belongings. We didn’t know what to think. The police changed her status from kidnapped to missing.”
The parents both begin to weep and hold one another. I offered to have our police psychologist drop by, but they said they would call their pastor.
It was clear Gun, and I had overstayed our welcome. If I am honest, I do not think I could have stayed any longer and held myself together. We had two murders to solve and one suspect, Diablo. The devil himself appeared to be our person of interest.
If we had known what tomorrow would bring, we would have never left their home.