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D's Table
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D's Table

Chapter 2

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 a beacon of hope 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 a “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 years. 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. Though there was no distinct reason why, she had 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 been 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 her 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. 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.”

Dennis Fitzsimmons was a young and eager reporter. He 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 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 and guided him down into the couch, where she sat beside him. She grabbed Wendell’s hand and 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 meet you,” 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 moved closer to her at this outburst of emotion. 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.”

“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, but 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.”

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

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 phone call. She again hopped to her feet and grabbed the phone, hoping to hear the loving voice of her husband, but instead hearing 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, “Yet.”

“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. 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. It wasn’t too hard. 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.


Later that afternoon, Detective Olmstead and his partner, Detective Jones, drove 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 pocket. He walked a beat through the calm streets of the Long Island suburbs, but spoke 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, while two men sitting out the counter, watched her eagerly.

“Miss Stewart, thank you for your help,” Detective Olmstead said as greeting, once he reached the table, “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 the people who took him is my pleasure.”

“You say there were two men who bought the coat. If you could describe them for Officer Tubbs, he’ll try to draw their faces.”

“Well, I’ll start with the one I saw first. 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 I didn’t get a great look at their faces. Both clean shaven. But let me start with the first guy.”

Miss Stewart started to describe the first man: “dark, probably black hair, with some flecks of silver,” “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.”

“It's my aesthetic sensibility,” she said, 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, 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 fifty-five,” “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 has a camera and was taking my picture. Down at the hair salon, 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? How does my hair look?”

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.”

Officer Tubbs again finished the sketch and again showed it to her. When he was finished with the 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 as I whole reimagining the whole scene that 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. And 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.”

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, “But for the time being, I think you and I are going to have to canvas the neighborhood where Wendell Davidson was found.”

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

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