D’s Table Part 11

The story of Wendell Davidson had begun to spread and had been covered by several newspapers in the tri-state area, including the New York Times and the Newark Star-Ledger. Ruth Davidson had fumbled her way through several interviews with newspapermen over the days since his return. Her son had sat beside her, mute and unmoved, his condition unchanged. She fielded questions, and her son sat blankly beside her, no clear indications that he was either watching or listening, no sign of presence or consciousness or awareness.

To see her son so doggedly silent pushed Ruth into a state of depression. She shied away from social interaction and wandered languidly around her house during the day and nestled close to her husband at night. She avoided appointments that used to be an unvarying part of her regular social calendar: afternoon coffee with the neighbors, semi-weekly tennis with friends and a weekly book club. She instead preferred to sit at home and listen to the radio. She used her son as an excuse, saying she had to care for him, but she genuinely wanted to avoid contact with friends and acquaintances. However, due to this social isolation, she found herself even more voluble with her husband when he returned home at night, divulging to him the full contents of her thoughts and emotions on a nightly basis.

She received a phone call during one of these langorous days. A man with a subtly foreign accent greeted her and announced almost straight away, “I have called you because I believe I can help your son.” The bold pronouncement so surprised Ruth that she didn’t know how to reply. “I have read about your son’s story. I received your number from Mr. Fitzsimmons of the Long Islander. My name is Dr. Felix Lutz. I am a practicing psychiatrist with offices in Manhattan, and I want to help your son.”

“I would be grateful if you could do so, but I don’t know if…”

“You needn’t come to Manhattan,” Dr. Lutz interrupted her, “I will come to you. If you are busy I will make it convenient for you. And you needn’t worry about payment. I will waive my usual fee. Whatever doubts you have, I will resolve them. You see, I am curious to study your son. Please do not let my words mislead you. I do not see him as some laboratory animal. I do want to help him. But I believe he has much to teach us in the psychology profession. He can help me as much as I can help him. If I can succeed in treating your son we psychiatrists will gain much in our understanding of the human mind, and it will significantly improve our ability to help other patients. I trust that you understand that your son does need psychiatric help.”

“What’s wrong with him?” she asked with a heavy breath.

“I hesitate to offer diagnosis without having met your son,” Dr. Lutz said, “The accounts that I have read suggest neurotic depression or catatonic schizophrenia, perhaps even dissociation. I was tempted to diagnose it as apallic syndrome, but I don’t think that’s right. But really I need to see him, especially since what I’ve read suggests that there are features of his condition that don’t fit neatly within these diagnoses. So are you willing to let me offer my services?”

There was a long silence as Dr. Lutz waited for her response. “I can’t tell you either which way right now,” she said, “I have to ask my husband. But thank you for your offer. It’s awfully kind of you.”

“Call me back as soon as you decide and we can begin treatment immediately,” he said.

Ruth talked to her husband that evening over dinner. “I received a call from Dr. Felix Lutz,” she said, “He’s a psychiatrist. He says he can help Wendell.”

Wendell sat at the table with a plate in front of him. He carefully and slowly pierced the bits of pork chops and broccoli that sat on the plate in front of him and guided them into his mouth. Ruth had already cut the food for him, since he otherwise, for whatever reason (stubbornness? confusion? ignorance), wouldn’t eat it.

Frank watched his son’s deliberate and careful motions as he ate. “How much does he charge?” Frank asked.

“He says he’ll do it for free,” Ruth said, “Our son is a unique case and he’s curious to study him.” She felt a perverse bit of pride as she said these things, as if this was something to brag about. “He might also be looking for some notoriety,” she added.

“Do you know anything about this Dr. Lutz?” Frank asked, “Is he a professional? Does he have credentials? Are we sure we can trust him with our son?”

“I don’t know,” she said, “I’ll ask. I’ll call up Mr. Fitzsimmons, the reporter. He apparently knows him.”

“If you think we can trust him, I say we give it a try,” Frank said, “Perhaps this head shrinker has some tricks up is sleeve. I’m entirely stumped.”

D’s Table Part 10

Detective Jones had a friendly demeanor, which made it easy for people to talk to him. He pulled out his notebook with a gentle smile and asked the man, “You saw a black Cadillac some time between 9:30 and 10:00 am on Monday? Is there anything else you can tell me about it?”

“Yeah, it was a Sixty Special,” the man said, wiping his hands on his shirt and wiping his nose with the back of his hand, “Looked like a ’53 model. Can’t say for sure, though. The face of the ’53 and ’52 models are almost identical. I would’ve had to get a better look at it. I was just here in my garage when it passed by heading that direction.” The man pointed in the direction of the southeast. It couldn’t have gone far because only maybe a minute or two later I saw it driving back in the other direction. I assumed they were lost.”

“Did you see the license plate on the car?” Jones asked, “Catch the number?”

“Wouldn’t that be lucky for you,” the man said with a laugh, “But when you got a thing of beauty like that in front of you, you don’t look at the plates.”

“Were they New York plates?” Jones asked.

The man shrugged his shoulders and said, “Wasn’t paying that close attention. The only reason I noticed the car was because it was such a nice car. There were probably a few others that drove by around that time, but I didn’t pay them no mind.”

“Did you see any of the occupants of the car?” Jones asked, “Any details would be helpful.”

The man shrugged his shoulders and said, “What did I just say? I did notice there was a man seated in the back seat behind the driver. I don’t know if that helps.”

“Thanks for your time,” Jones said, jotting down the last notes and closing his notebook.

“Hey, so is this all about that kid who was missing?” the man asked.

“Yes, he was found nearby,” Jones said.

“Yeah, I read about that. So, you’re thinking the guys in that black caddy were the ones who returned him?” the man asked, and Jones nodded. The man added, “Hope you catch them.”

After many more inquiries, the two detectives reconnected a few blocks north from where they started. They headed back towards their car and shared information while they walked. Jones’ sole witness was the only person they’d found with any information.

“You think it’s the car?” Jones asked.

“It fits with the story we heard from Miss Stewart,” Detective Olmstead said, “The men are wealthy. And that he saw the car driving south then turning around and heading north fits with them dropping off Wendell and driving away.”

“What do you want to do next?” Jones asked.

“Next we canvas the area asking if anyone saw a black Cadillac,” Olmstead said. Jones groaned. Olmstead answered the groan by saying, “It’s either that or it’s digging through the vehicle registration records and trying to find every 1952-53 black, Sixty Special Cadillac. We’ll probably have to do that anyways, eventually, but maybe we’ll get lucky with the canvassing.”

As Jones and Olmstead returned to the precinct station and stepped into their office, the secretary announced to them, “Professor Danburry from Cambridge called.”

“Did he leave a message?” Olmstead asked.

“He said he’s been unsuccessful, but he wants you to call him,” the secretary said.

“Okay, will do,” Olmstead said, “Thank you, Trish.”

“Can I get you boys anything?” Tricia asked.

Both men shook their heads in unison, as Olmstead picked up his phone and started to dial a number. When he heard a “Hello” on the other end, he said, “Professor, this is Detective Olmstead of the Nassau county police. I understand you tried to call me earlier.”

“Yes,” professor Danburry said, “About that scrap of paper. As I told your secretary, I couldn’t identify the language or even the letters. I asked everywhere around here. Even talked to some people at NYU. It’s got some of my friends very curious. The letters are similar enough to some known alphabets that there’s a real possibility they may not be made up, such as a cypher or a constructed language. We want to know where these letters come from just as much as you do. I’ve sent copies further afield to colleagues across the country, even abroad. I’ll tell you when I hear back.”

“Thank you, professor. I appreciate your help,” Olmstead said.

“You don’t need to thank me,” the professor said, “I want to catch the degenerates responsible. Justice is too often thwarted in her efforts.”

D’s Table Part 9

The next morning the detectives drove their car towards the Levittown neighborhood where Wendell had been found. Olmstead drove the car while Jones sat next to him on the passenger side, his his arm resting on the open window. Jones had a chiseled, angular face with a small set of round eyes buried deep in the center of his head. Short blonde hair rolled in curls along the top of his head, and his large hands held onto his hat.

As they drove, Olmstead spoke: “At this point, we’re operating under the assumption that two men, perhaps more, drove Wendell to Levittown, let him out of the car and drove away. There’s obviously not enough time for them to have walked all the way from Hempstead to here. A train would also take too long, the train stations are too far away. A bus is barely possible, not likely. A cab is possible, but dropping some random kid in the middle of a neighborhood would be too suspicious, and if that’d happened, by this point a cab driver would’ve probably come forward as a witness. That leaves us with the sole realistic possibility that they travelled from Hemstead by car. Also, they had planned to drop Wendell off, that we can assume. They were driving here to drop him off; perhaps they noticed that it was cold and bought him the coat to keep him warm. Why this neighborhood? Not certain. The fact that they bought the coat in Hempstead suggests either that it’s near where they’re located or it’s on the way. So, they’re not from around here, I would guess, nor from further east on Long Island. Perhaps their from the city, perhaps further. I would guess that they dropped him off here because they knew the boy was from around here. Maybe this is where they originally picked him up two years ago. Don’t know for certain. Maybe not important. So, are you and I both in agreement on all that?”

“Can’t fault your logic,” Detective Jones said.

Jones preferred to let Olmstead do the talking. Most of what Olmstead said had been tacitly understood by both of them up to this point, but Olmstead wanted to make sure they were in full agreement before they started their canvassing.

Olmstead parked along Horn Lane, directly in front of Claudia Naismith’s house. It was one of the smaller models, long and narrow with a low roof, but it had a beautiful green lawn and several round bushes in front.

The two men stepped out of the car, both putting on their hats and buttoning the front buttons of their jackets.

“Mrs. Naismith reported that she saw Wendell walking towards what would be that direction,” Detective Olmstead said, turning around and pointing towards the southeast, “We’ll take it as most plausible then that the men who deposited him here left him somewhere back there.” Olmstead turned around and pointed to the northwest. “You take the east side of the street. I’ll take the west side. We’ll keep going until we get tired of this damn tedious job,” Olmstead said.

Jones nodded and walked to the first house on the east side of the street while Olmstead walked to the first house on the west, and they both knocked on the doors. The two men subsequently moved in parallel down the street. At every door where someone was there to receive them, they showed a picture of Wendell and asked if the occupant had seen this boy wandering the streets on the morning of September 20th. Then they asked if they had seen any car they didn’t recognize driving this neighborhood that morning sometime not too long before 10:15am. They universally received negative responses to these questions. They took notes of which houses hadn’t answered and which houses hadn’t seen anything.

Jones was the first to find a legitimate witness. More than a dozen houses from where they’d started he approached a house in front of which a man was working on his car in the driveway. When the detective announced, “Detective Jones, I’m looking for some information on Wendell Davidson, the missing boy who was recently found,” the man rolled from under the car and stood up. His hands were black and he was wearing a dirty white t-shirt.

“Sure,” the man said, “What about?”

Detective Jones showed the picture and got a negative response, but when he asked about the car, the man raised his eyebrows. “September 20th? You mean Monday?” he asked, “Yeah, I saw a black Caddy rolling by here that morning. Nice car. Real nice car. No one around here owns one. Can’t say the time for sure. I know I left around 10:30 that morning. Maybe about 9:30 to 10:00 when I saw it.”

D’s Table Part 8

“Well, I’ll start with the one I saw first,” Miss Stewart began, “He was the one that came in and asked me where they could find a coat for a young man. Both of them wore hats and suits, and I didn’t get a great look at their faces, but I’ll do my best.”

Miss Stewart started to describe the man: “dark, probably black hair, with some flecks of silver,” “clean shaven,” “almond-shaped, brown eyes,” “pointy chin, narrow mouth,” “triangle-shaped head.”

Officer Tubbs sketched out the details on the pad. Complimenting her once she was finished, “You’re observant. You have a real eye for detail. Like an artist.”

“It’s my aesthetic sensibility,” she said in her squeaky voice, emphasizing and taking a particular pride in the word “aesthetic.” “You like my nails?” she asked, displaying them on the table, “I had them done a few days ago, but I take good care of them. Look nice still, don’t they?”

The two detectives appeared reluctant to offer an opinion on the red, half-moon manicure, but the sketch artist observed, “They look swell.”

“Thank you,” she said, “You’re a man with aesthetic taste. No wonder you’re the artist.”

The large face of the first suspect filled the surface of the sketch pad. Officer Tubbs added some finals details to it before he turned it around and showed it to Miss Stewart. She suggested some cosmetic improvements, and he adjusted it.

“Can we move on to the other man now?” Detective Olmstead interjected.

“Sure,” she said, “Didn’t get as good a look at that one. He mostly stayed in the background while the first cube did the talking and the buying. I don’t see you why he was there. He could’ve just stayed back in the car.”

“Did you see their car?” Detective Olmstead asked.

“Nah,” she said, “just assumed they had one.” She then started to describe the second man: “hair looked mostly white,” “looked old, maybe sixty,” “longer, narrower, oval face,” “some wrinkles,” “heavy bags under his eyes,” “bit of a frown on his mouth,” “mole above lip on right side; my right, not his.” “Come to think of it,” she asked, “When you make these drawings, is it like looking into a mirror where everything’s flipped, or like you’d see with a photograph?”

“Like a photograph,” Tubbs said, “Like someone would see him if they were looking at him. So I’ll put the mole on what would be his left.”

“I was thinking about that recently because I was noticing that my hair looks nicer in the mirror than it looks in pictures. A guy I know was taking my picture for some glamour shots, and it just didn’t look right. But down at the hair salon or at home, I only see my hair in the mirror, which is not the way everyone else sees it. I wish they had a mirror that would show you how you look without flipping it. Maybe like a double mirror or something. That way I’d see what I look like to other people, you know? That would be so much better. You think my hair looks okay, doesn’t it?”

Detectives Olmstead and Jones were again reluctant answer and shared a look between them, but Officer Tubbs willingly said, “Your hair look nice.”

“Thanks,” she said, “I do it up myself every morning, in front of the mirror.”

Officer Tubbs again finished the sketch and again showed it to her. After making some final changes, Detective Olmstead asked Miss Stewart, “Is there anything else you remember that you failed to tell us during the first interview.”

“Yeah,” she said, “I was just thinking about last night as I was replaying the whole scene in my head. I had noticed how thick the wallet of the cube who paid was. Real thick, you know? They must have been rolling in dough. He just came in and bought that coat like it was nothing. It probably was to him. It wasn’t cheap. I mean, it’s not a pricey place where I work, but most people don’t spend money that easily.”

“Thank you,” Detective Olmstead said, “You’ve been immensely helpful.”

She stood up from the booth when the other three men stood up. “You’re welcome,” she said, then asked, “You like my skirt? It’s new. I just got it. I was going back and forth on whether to buy it.”

Officer Tubbs again offered her a compliment before they left.

The three men returned to the Nassau County Police station. Detective Olmstead pulled the two drawings from the sketch pad and made several photostat copies of them. He handed over the prints to Officer Tubbs and sent him off to deliver the photostats to all the nearby papers.

“We’ll see what type of witnesses these scare up,” Detective Olmstead said, sitting down in his seat and relaxing. He looked at his watch and added, “I think it’s high time you and I went out and canvassed the neighborhood where Wendell Davidson was found. First thing tomorrow.”

Detective Jones looked back at his partner with a pained expression. “We can’t put it off any longer,” Detective Olmstead said.

Detective Jones conceded with a forlorn nod.

D’s Table Part 7

The day wore on and Ruth continued with the cleaning that had been interrupted by the visit of the reporter, but she soon grew tired of the task and sat down on the couch and clicked on the radio.

She was interrupted from her quiet reverie by a visitor who knocked at the front door. She opened and saw a young high schooler, about Wendell’s age, whom she recognized.

“Hannah, wasn’t it?” Ruth said when she saw this beautiful, blonde girl.

“Yes,” Hannah said, “I have come to see Wendell, if you don’t mind. I read that he had returned.”

“He’s not really up for guests,” Ruth said, “You must have also read that he hasn’t been speaking and is terribly depressed.”

“Please,” Hannah said, pleading with her eyes as much as with her words.

“Alright,” Ruth said, stepping aside, “I’ll show you to him.”

Ruth took Hannah to the bedroom where Wendell was seated in his chair, staring out the window.

“Wendell, you have a visitor,” Ruth said to him, to which he gave no response. Ruth then whispered to Hannah, “If you can bring him out of this state, I would be infinitely grateful.”

“I’ll try,” Hannah said a bit overwhelmed and surprised by this onerous request. She walked up to Wendell, and she stood in front of him, blocking his previous view, but he didn’t respond. She knelt down so that her eyes met his eyes, and she said to him, “Wendell, it’s me. Do you remember? It’s Hannah. I’ve missed you. A lot of people at school have missed you. We all want you back. We can’t imagine what you’ve gone through, but we’ll do whatever it takes to help you.”

Hannah received no response from these words. She looked up at Ruth, who’d been standing at the doorway watching over this conversation. “Would you mind giving us a few minutes alone?” Hannah asked.

“I’ll get back to my cleaning,” Ruth said and left the two of them alone.

Hannah moved her face closer to Wendell’s, and she said to him, in nearly a whisper, “I really did miss you. I mean that. I loved you… love you. If I did anything wrong I’m sorry. I need you to forgive me. I’ve felt guilty about it for a long time.”

Hannah then leaned forward and planted a kiss on his lips. Wendell gave no response. It was like kissing a statue. Even this did not awake him to consciousness, and Hannah fell down onto her knees with a frustrated sigh.

“What’s wrong?” she asked Wendell, but he still no response. “I’ll leave you alone if you don’t want me,” she said, “Or I’ll come visit again if you do. Just tell me.” But he gave no response, and she sighed.

After a long period of silence, Hannah stood back up, smoothed out her dress, and walked out of the room.

Hannah found Ruth cleaning in the kitchen, and she told her, “I’m sorry Mrs. Davidson. It’s horrible to see your so like this. I wish I could help.”

“I wish I could too,” Ruth said. As she took Hannah to the door, she told her, “Stop by anytime if you like.”

“I will,” Hannah said, but in her heart she dreaded the unpleasantness of another reunion like the one she’d just endured. She waved goodbye and left.

Ruth received a phone call later in the afternoon. She again hopped to her feet and grabbed the phone, hoping to hear the loving voice of her husband, but instead heard the voice of Detective Olmstead.

“Mrs. Davidson, how are you doing? I called to ask if there was any change in your son’s condition.”

“None at all,” she said melancholically.

“That still upsets me to hear it,” he said, “I also wanted to say that I noticed the article in the Long Islander. Some media attention may help our cause, but I wanted to ask you to be cautious about what you tell the newspapers.”

“I just had an interview with the nice young man who wrote that article,” she said, “He’ll do another tomorrow. I hope I didn’t tell him anything I shouldn’t”

“Just don’t tell them anything related to our investigation. We in the police like to hold a few things back from the public; so that when people come in claiming they know something, we can test them with non-public information. You don’t mind do you?”

“I don’t know anything about the investigation,” she said.

“Well, we just started. There’s not much to know,” Detective Olmstead said with a small chuckle, adding afterwards, “But we’re working on it.”

“Can you tell me about it?” she asked.

“I’m not going to discuss the investigation in general with you,” Detective Olmstead said, “but I can share some details with you since most of this will be made public soon. Though I would ask that you abstain from disclosing this to anyone, except your husband, of course. So far we’ve managed to track down the coat that was found on your son to a store in Hempstead. We found the sales clerk who made that particular sale, and she described two men who purchased the coat. We didn’t get many specifics from her description, but we’re going to send a sketch artist over to her, and we’ll release the sketch to the papers. Hopefully, we’ll be able to scare up a few more witnesses with it. That being said, we don’t plan on making information about the coat and the store public. We’ll continue our investigation, but I’ll be honest, we don’t have many lines to follow. We’re still hoping your son’s condition improves and we can use him as a witness.”

“I hope that too,” she said.

After a few more words, Detective Olmstead hung up the phone. He sat in an office that he shared with his partner, Detective Jones. Their two desks, both covered in paper, but Detective Jones’ maintained in a state of much greater order and cleanliness, faced one another.

Detective Olmstead looked at his watch and said to his partner, “If Officer Tubbs is ready, then we probably should leave soon. Don’t want to keep the girl waiting.”

The two men both stood up from their desks in unison. Detective Olmstead’s jacket was hanging on a coat rack, and he put it on, covering up his shirtsleeves and his suspenders. He and Detective Jones then put on their hats and walked out of the office.

Soon the two men were in a car driving into Hempstead, with their sketch artist, Larry Tubbs, riding in the back seat. Tubbs wore his blue police uniform, with a gold badge gleaning on his chest. He was a tough-looking, dark-haired youngster with his hair slicked back and a comb in his back pocket. He walked a beat through the calm streets of the Long Island suburbs, but spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent from the mean streets where he grew up.

He had a huge sketch pad tucked under his arm, and when the car pulled into a parking space in downtown Hempstead, he stepped out of the car with the other two men. The young sales clerk that had they were traveling to visit, lived in a small apartment above a hardware store. They had arranged to meet her in a soda shop next to the hardware store. She sat in a booth, slurping up a chocolate malt through a straw. Two men sitting out the counter, watched her eagerly, and she coyly pretended not to notice them.

The three men walked up to the booth and Detective Olmstead said, “Miss Stewart, thank you for meeting with us. This is my partner, Detective Jones, and Officer Tubbs will be doing the sketch.”

Miss Stewart was a pert, young woman, recently graduated from high school. She had golden, blonde hair done up in an elaborate, curly updo and a smile that was highlighted by a bold, red lipstick.

“I heard about the story of that boy who was kidnapped,” she said in a high, squeaky voice, “Whatever I can do to help catch those horrible people who took him is my pleasure.”

The three men sat down in the booth opposite Miss Stewart, with Detective Jones squished against the wall and Officer Tubbs seated opposite her at the end.

“You say there were two men who bought the coat,” Detective Olmstead said, opening a notebook and referencing his notes, “If you could describe them for us, Officer Tubbs will try to draw them.”

D’s Table Part 6

Dennis Fitzsimmons had a narrow face with a long, thin nose that stuck out of his face like a fish’s fin. Sympathetic wrinkles appeared on his forehead when he looked at Ruth, and he touched one hand to his combed, dark hair. He reached a gangly arm behind him, to bring forward a second man, his photographer, who bore a camera with a massive flash around his neck and held a heavy tripod in one hand.

The photographer stooped a little as he stood, and he extended a tentative hand towards Ruth to shake. He made the best attempt at a friendly smile, but his expression came across as nervous and shy.

“This is Michael Paul. He’ll be taking a few pictures of you and your son, if you don’t mind. Always helps to put a face to the story. Really tugs at the sympathy the way words can’t. Do you mind if we come in?”

“Of course. Please,” Ruth said, gesturing for them to enter, “May I offer you something to drink?”

“No thank you, Mrs. Davidson. Where can we sit? And where is this son of yours? I have just as many questions for him, as I have for you.”

Ruth went to the bedroom, and she led Wendell into the living room and guided him down into the couch, where she sat beside him. She grabbed Wendell’s hand, and she held onto it to comfort him.

Mr. Fitzsimmons sat in an armchair and faced the two of them, while Mr. Paul set up his tripod and hid behind his camera.

“Wendell Davidson, it is a pleasure to see you safe,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said. Wendell, as usual, seemed to be oblivious to his surroundings and didn’t respond with words or with body language.

A bright flash from the camera appeared to momentarily pull him to attention, and he looked in the direction of the light, but it was only a small moment of lucidity. He drifted back into his catatonia soon after.

“He hasn’t spoken since he returned. I haven’t heard a word of his voice in years now,” Ruth said. Her voice faltered as she spoke. Mr. Fitzsimmons leaned towards her at this outburst of emotion, a certain dazzle in his eyes. He pulled out a handkerchief and offered it to her, but she turned it down, since her eyes were still dry.

“Have you considered consulting with the expertise of a psychologist? It is possible that he might be able to bring your son back to where he was before he left.”

“Is this part of the interview?” she asked.

“No, just trying to be helpful.”

“I don’t know if I can trust a psychologist with my son? I don’t know much about them. They’re for crazy people, aren’t they? My son isn’t crazy. Is he?”

“I meant no offense,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said, “Perhaps it’s time for me to begin the interview proper.”

Mr. Fitzsimmons asked her several questions about the circumstances of Wendell’s return, about what she had been doing and how she was feeling before and after his return and about her future plans.

Ruth had a power of drawing men in with her vulnerability, a power she had never learned to exploit. In fact, she had never even been aware that she had such an effect. As she spoke, Mr. Fitzsimmons watched her with a transfixed stare far out of proportion with her modest beauty, while Mr. Paul remained in the background and took several pictures of her and her son.

Mr. Fitzsimmons was somewhat disappointed with the content of the interview. Without any access to Wendell or to his undoubtedly interesting story, his article would be lacking in detail. He had decided by the end to change the focus of the story. It would be about the broken state of Wendell, his reclusive, world-denying silence and what it suggested about the nature of his experience.

Ruth apologized at the end, “I’m sorry that my son can’t contribute. I hope you haven’t wasted all of your time coming down here just to speak with me.”

Not in the least,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said, “We have enjoyed the pleasure of your company and learned much while doing so. It’ll be a great article. You’ll see. Our readers will fall in love with you and your plight.”

The reporter and the photographer said their goodbyes, and were soon out the door and gone.

D’s Table Part 5

Ruth turned off the television, which Wendell had been sitting in front of ever since dinner, and she led him to his bedroom. Ruth had kept the room that he had occupied at the time of his disappearance unchanged since then. It functioned as something like an oasis of optimism for her. She would vacuum the floor and dust the shelves, even occasionally clean the sheets, all in preparation for that day when he would return.

All of the items in the room were also preserved. A model airplane hung from the ceiling, suspended on a string, dangling above the airplane bedspread. A few model cars were on display, built by Wendell himself in his younger days. A telescope sat on its tripod, which peaked out through the window, and a small globe sat on his desk.

“You can dress yourself for bed, can’t you?” Ruth said as she led him to the bed. She set him down in the bed, saying, “Your pajamas are in your dresser where you last left them. You can find them, right?”

She walked towards the door, but Wendell only sat at the bed without moving. She went to his dresser and she fished out the pajamas. She set them on the bed next to him, and she turned around to leave again. But when she turned back and saw him still sitting there, unmoved, not even having noticed the clothing, she sighed and said, “Your not an infant anymore. I don’t want to have to put diapers on you and wipe your bottom when you poop. It doesn’t matter how depressed you are. There are things that a grown up boy has to be able to do on his own.”

She pulled the shirt off of him and pulled off his shoes and pants and put him into his pajamas. He didn’t resist. He even moved somewhat to make it easier for her, but he didn’t otherwise respond to anything she did. Once he was dressed, she pulled back his sheets and tucked him into bed, kissing him on the forehead as she wished him, “Good night.”

When she went to her bedroom, she found Frank already in his pajamas and lying in bed, a book in his hands, still reading.

“Our son is going to be difficult to deal with,” she said, “He can’t do anything on his own. I have patience, but it has limits.”

Frank set down his book and gave her his attention as she complained.

“It’ll get better,” Frank said, “Just you see.”

That night, as Ruth slept, she dreamt a nightmare, the first she’d had in decades. The contents of the dream were hard to describe, since they were vague and abstract. She was floating in some dark, boundless realm. Small and indistinct shapes moved around her, avoiding and ignoring her. But there was one shape that seemed focused upon her and was trying to communicate through lights that flickered on its surface and mumbled noise. Though there was no distinct reason why, she experienced a profound feeling of dread while immersed in this place, as if she were invading upon some alien place and had a reason to fear that her presence might be noticed.

She woke earlier than usual, with an unpleasant feeling suffusing her body.

After she rose from her bed in her dressing gown, she went to the front door to grab the newspaper. She picked up a copy of the Long Islander from the doorstep and brought it inside.

When she unfolded it, she saw a picture of her son sprawled across the front, a reproduction of the same image she’d use on her flyers and which had given to the paper years ago when he’d gone missing. The headline, “Missing Long Island Boy Found,” appeared at the top.

The article contained the basic details about her son’s reappearance, with quotes from Detective Olmstead and her own words about how she thought Wendell was depressed.

Later that morning, after Frank had left, she received the expected visit from Dennis Fitzsimmons. He rang the doorbell, and she soon appeared at the door, dressed in an old cleaning dress, with her hair pulled back under a kerchief and a feather duster in her hand.

“I was just cleaning up before you came,” she said, with a slight blush of embarrassment.

Mr. Fitzsimmons was dressed in a well-worn suit that had seen many miles, and he pulled the hat from his head and said, “Good morning Mrs. Davidson. Always a pleasure to see you. You absolutely needn’t have gone to the trouble. We’re just here to talk with you, and if he’s comfortable with it, to talk with your son, too.”

D’s Table Part 4

They arrived home, and Frank pulled the car into their garage, while Ruth went inside and began to prepare an early dinner. Before doing so, she set Wendell down on the couch in the living room.

“Do you want to watch television?” she said, “Lots of brand new shows since you’ve been away. Did you get to watch television wherever you were? A new Flash Gordon show just started. You still like Flash Gordon don’t you? You used to love the comics when you were younger. Maybe you’ve outgrown it. Nowadays they’re selling color televisions. The Clarks down the street just bought one. Looks stunning. Frank won’t get us one. Yet. Someday soon, though.”

She turned the channel knob until she settled on something that looked appealing and stopped it there, turning to Wendell to see his reaction. He stared blankly at the television, no expression on his face, his eyes fixed.

She went to the kitchen to prepare the food while Frank sat in in armchair with a newspaper in front of him and a pipe in his mouth.

According to the tongues of most impartial judges, Ruth was a mediocre cook. Frank— either because he lacked judgement, wasn’t a picky eater, or enshrouded everything that his wife did or produced in the glow of love—was not an impartial judge, and he greedily devoured the chicken, potatoes and cooked vegetables that were presented before him.

Wendell sat at the table, looking at his food without interest, without even comprehension showing on his face. His mother urged him to eat, but he didn’t respond. She had to put the fork in his hand and tear off a piece of the breaded chicken breast and then actually guide him through the process of stabbing the meat and placing it in his mouth. After the success of this demonstration, he seemed to be able to perform the action himself.

“You getting excited to get yourself back in school, tiger?” Frank said between bites of food, “It’s the start of a new school year.”

“Please Frank, we’re not going to pressure him to go back to school until he’s ready. He’s had a horrible experience,” Ruth said, placing her hand on top of Frank’s to emphasize the point.

“I’m not pressuring him,” Frank said, “The boy might be genuinely excited about going back to school. I would be. It’s just the type of thing to snap him out of it. When I was young, whenever I was feeling down, I’d just bury my nose in my schoolbooks, and sure enough I’d soon forgotten all about it because my head was too busy doing sums and memorizing facts.”

“It’s not that simple,” Ruth said, “He’s not going to snap out of it. And he’s not a boy anymore.” She turned to to Wendell and she said, “I’m really sorry Wendell. We’ll do everything we can to help.”

“It may be simple, it may not be. We don’t know anything about what ‘it’ is at all. All I’m saying is that he needs to transition back to his normal life, and the faster he does it, the better it’ll be for all of us.”

After Ruth had cleaned the dishes and placed them in the dishwasher, she heard the ring of the phone in the bedroom. She looked at her husband, immersed in a book and smoking a pipe. He appeared willing to ignore it. She walked across the house to the bedroom and picked up the phone, saying, “Hello?”

“Hello, Dennis Fitzsimmons from the Long Islander here. Am I speaking with Mrs. Ruth Davidson?” She replied in the affirmative, and he said, “Wonderful, Mrs. Davidson. I don’t know if you remember me, but we’ve met before. I was wondering if I could speak with you about the recent return of your lost son, Wendell. We here in the newsroom were immensely grieved when we first heard about his disappearance two year ago, and it warms our hearts to hear of his safe return. Our readers too, I think, would love to hear a happy ending to this tragic tale. Do you have anything you’d like to say about this fortunate event?”

“I’m happy,” she said.

Mr. Fitzsimmons waited to hear more, but when he didn’t, he said, “I know it’s late, and you may not have had time to let it sink in. Perhaps, do you have time for an interview tomorrow in the morning?”

“Yes, I can make time,” she said.

“Wonderful, do you have any other comment that you’d like to contribute. Perhaps about how your son is doing. He is uninjured I hope.”

“He is, but he hasn’t been talking since he returned. I think he’s depressed.”

“Understandable, understandable. He must’ve endured a horrifying ordeal at the hands of his kidnappers. But until tomorrow, Mrs. Davidson.”

D’s Table Part 3

“You make it seem rather ominous,” Ruth said, “Has he really seen such horrors?” She grabbed Wendell and pulled him close against him, saying, “My poor little child.” Tears poured out of her eyes again as she tried to imagine the mysterious ordeals he’d experienced and been scarred by. “He’s too young for things like that. He’s was always such a sensitive boy.”

“When he does start speaking, you’ll give us a call,” Detective Olmstead said.

“Why?”

“A crime was committed,” Detective Olmstead said, “He was kidnaped. And he is a witness. Our only witness so far. When he first disappeared we were thorough in our investigation, as you know. Still found nothing. Out roving these streets is the monster or monsters responsible, and I’m eager to put that person or persons behind bars, so that they don’t do it again.”

“I understand,” she said.

“One more thing I want to tell you,” Detective Olmstead said, “I hope you don’t mind, but we searched his pockets. We were looking for identification. I’m going to show you what we found.”

The detective carefully set down on the table a few coins, a black, metal Parker pen, a generic bronze-colored key, and a piece of paper.

“First, we found some change, eighty-three cents,” he said, pointing to it, “Then we found this pen. Do you recognize it?”

“It looks brand new,” she said, “My son didn’t have anything like that.”

“What about the key. Do you recognize it?” he asked.

“We don’t use a key like that,” she said.

“And we found this piece of paper. Do these letters mean anything to you?” he asked.

It was section of plain white paper, a small section that had been torn off a larger sheet. On it were a series of unfamiliar letters, pictographic in style, but very simple. Ruth didn’t recognize the letters.

“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” she said.

“Is it your son’s handwriting?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, “If he was writing in English, I could tell you, but not this. I’ve never seen writing like this before. I’ve never seen my son writing like this before.”

“It appears to be the same ink as the pen,” he said, “I did a comparison. We think that pen wrote these letters and since we found the pen on your son’s person, we think he wrote it. It could be cypher, a foreign language, I don’t know. When your son starts speaking, we’ll need to ask him, what these things mean. That’s all for now. You’re free to take him home. I wish you well. And keep in contact.”

“Thank you,” she said. She reached down and took Wendell’s hand in hers. She tugged at it slightly, and he rose out of the chair. “This coat must belong to you,” she said, noticing the light, zippered coat he wore over his shirt, “Thanks for lending it, but we don’t need it anymore. All the rest of his clothes are the same he had when he left. In fact, he must’ve grown a little, since these pants are definitely short on him. But not this coat.”

“Not mine,” the detective said.

He grabbed the coat and removed it from the boy. He looked inside and there he saw the price tag attached by a string with a price of $8.95 handwritten on it.

“Do you mind if I keep this?” the detective asked.

“It’s not ours, as I said,” Ruth said, shrugging her shoulders.

She took Wendell’s hand, and she led him out of the room and through the station to the parking lot in front. They waited for a short time, Wendell sitting in still silence while Ruth looked worryingly down at him.

Soon Frank arrived in his green Buick Special and parked. Ruth sat Wendell in the backseat, and she sat in front, scooting close to her husband on the bench seat, so that she have as much physical contact with him as possible.

Frank looked at Wendell in the rearview mirror as they drove, asking him, “How you feeling, tiger? We’re glad to have you back. We’d given up on you. It’s a danged miracle you’re still alive.”

“He doesn’t talk,” Ruth whispered to her husband.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Whatever happened to him has affected him so deeply that he can’t speak about it. He can’t speak about anything,” Ruth said.

“Well, how long will that last? He needs to get back to school and see his friends,” he said.

“I don’t know,” she said, “All I know is we’re going to have to be supportive. Make him feel comfortable. Remind him that he’s back home where he belongs.”

D’s Table Part 2

Ruth had to confirm that she was in fact hearing the words that she thought she’d heard, the words that she’d been so long yearning to hear. “You have my son at the police station?” she asked.

“We believe we have your son, and we need you to confirm that he is,” the woman said.

“Put him on,” Ruth asked, “If I can just hear his voice. You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this. Just a quick ‘hello’ and I’ll be right over in a jiffy.”

“We have not been able to get him to speak, I am afraid,” the woman said, “You are able to get down here to the second precinct, are you not?”

“Yes, of course. I’ll be right over,” Ruth said and hung up the phone.

She dialed a new number, and after a ring, a secretary on the other end of the line, answered, “Westmore Insurance, how may I direct your call?”

“Sue, this is is Ruth. I need to speak to Frank.”

“One moment please.”

After another few rings, her husband was on the line announcing in a coarse, forceful voice, “Frank Davidson.”

“Frank, it’s Ruth,” she said, “I just heard from the Nassau County Police. They said they have our son. We have to go down there.”

“What?” he shouted, “Our son? They have him? How? That can’t be possible.”

“I couldn’t believe it either,” Ruth said, “Even after dreaming of this for so long, part of me is still convinced this is some misunderstanding and that when I get there, it’ll be some other mother’s child. I’m still shaking from the news. You have to get home and give me a ride to the police station.”

“Don’t be a ridiculous. Get a bus, or a cab. Whichever,” Frank said.

“But are you…” she began to ask.

“I’ll be home as soon as I can,” Frank said, cutting her off, “I can probably catch a train in twenty minutes. I should be at the Hicksville station by 2:35, and then I can meet you down at the police station. Hanson isn’t going to like it. He wouldn’t care if it was Eisenhower himself waiting to see me. He doesn’t want us to ever leave work early. I’ll talk him into it.”

“Aren’t you happy to hear it?” she asked, “Isn’t it good news?”

“Of course, of course,” he said, “I may not sound it, but I’m happy. See you soon.”

“Bye. I love you,” she said.

Ruth was soon at the police station being led into an interrogation room where Wendell was waiting. The boy sat in a chair staring at the blank walls of the room. His mother recognized him as soon as she saw him, and she ran forward and grabbed him in her arms.

“Oh Wendell, my son,” she said with overflowing emotion, “It’s so great to see you. I thought I’d never see you again. I thought you were dead. I imagined the worst. I’m so glad to see you. I’m so glad you’re okay. I never thought this day would come. I dreamed of it, but I just couldn’t imagine it would ever happen.”

She looked into his face and into his eyes, grabbing his cheeks in her hands and looking at him with tears streaming down her cheeks. But he didn’t look back at her. He didn’t seem to even notice that she was in the room.

“What’s wrong with him?” she asked to the detective that was standing in the room with her.

“He’s been like this since he got here,” the detective answered.

His name was Detective Olmstead, and he spoke with a thick Long Island accent. His silver hair was cropped in a military-style cut, and he stood in his shirtsleeves, exposing a pair of black suspenders.

“He was dropped off by a woman named Claudia Naismith. She lives in your neighborhood, I believe. She found him wandering the streets less than a mile north of where you live. She couldn’t get a word out of him. We couldn’t get a word out of him either. We had a devil of a time figuring out who he was. If you hadn’t filed that missing persons report, we’d probably still be looking.”

“Is he going to be okay?” she asked.

“I’m no doctor,” the detective said, “But I say just give it some time. He must have gone through a harrowing experience. If he’d seen some action in the war, I’d call it shell shock. It’s something like that. He just needs time to recover.”