THE GRADE 12 DETECTIVE CLUB
THE CASE: KIDNAPPING THE SCOTTS AND GLORIA - Ep. 5
Graphic Design by: Marilyn Russell / Written by: James M. Russell
Like any good employee, Cuppie followed the JAG and, just as instructed by his boss, wrote down the addresses each time one of the kids got out.
Bridgit was the last to be dropped off, so once the JAG drove away, Cuppie parked in a deep shadow cast by the streetlight just a couple houses down the street from Bridgit's home. Cuppie’s boss figured that she was the leader "of that bunch of nosy kids" - his words - so he wanted Cuppie to report back to him “every time that little bitch so much as sneezes."
Slouched in the driver’s seat of his boss's black, '64 Cadillac Coupe DeVille - lights off, windows up, Cuppie played his favourite Eagle's CD over the Caddy's Blauplunt sound system, safe in the knowledge that because it was so late, and because the Caddy was black, and parked in the shadows, nobody would notice him or the car. What he didn’t figure was that Mr. Hockless, Bridgit's neighbour to the east was the Vice-President of the Neighbourhood Watch Committee and, due to a recent bout of insomnia, spent nearly every night for the past month or so sitting on his screened porch watching reruns of '60 TV shows. Not only did Mr. Hockless notice the Caddy park in front of the Stein's house but he had written down the Caddy's license plate number before the male, balding, thin build, wearing a dark blue or black t-shirt, had even shut off the engine. As was his practice, Mr. Hockless gave the unidentified vehicle a four-minute grace period before calling the police non-emergency number.
Bridgit never noticed the Caddy sitting outside her house, nor the driver, nor the black police cruiser pull to a stop behind the Caddy. Bridgit was busy using her favourite search engines to find a reference to 'J.A." other than 'Junior Achievement', 'Jamaica', 'Juvenile Activity', and 'James Allen', a recently deceased rapper who interestingly went by the stage name 'Deadman J.A.' It was 1:46 and Bridgit had just loaded "Crawlie" - the automated search program Keisha wrote - when she received Janet's text.
Sewer runs E for 200 M then branches N and S. The N branch passes within a K of the Scott's house. Thnk we should chk it out?"
What sewer? Bridgit replied
NE corner of ABC. Heri and I discovered it... worth checking?
Definitely! Bridgit replied because she knew that the sewer could have been the answer to the question that had been nagging her since they took on this case, “how did the kidnappers get their victims out of their gated community without first passing the guard at the front gate?”
Sewers are dangerous places. Not only are they filled with various toxic gases, some of which are also flammable, but also, they aren't a claustrophobic's best friend, so Bridgit and the others didn’t understand why Ramu volunteered to descent into the 'rabbit hole'. Although he was the only SCUBA diver in the group and therefore the only one with breathing apparatus - admittedly designed for negotiating through water not gas-filled sewers.
Bridgit and Janet decided that Lansdown and St. Clair was the best entry point. Problem was, some idiot positioned the sewer entrance in the middle of the intersection and there was constant traffic flowing through the intersection, despite it being 2:13 in the morning. It was Janet who came up with the idea, "remember the Mystery of London’s Forgotten Australian Timber Roads?” It took a few moments for Keisha and Heri to get the connection. Emma, Janet and Kaseka knew immediately. Working in teams of two they fanned out and removed two ‘one way only’ and two ‘do not enter’ signs from side streets then attached them to the poles to the north, south, east, and west. It must have confused the hell out of drivers but it worked.
They used the ¼ inch Blueline braided rope Kaseka always kept in Juggernaut's trunk, tied it to the back of Ramu's belt with a Munter Hitch then handed the rope to Emma, the strongest of the members.
"We don't want you triggering any sparks,” Bridgit said as she gave Ramu her ProTac 2L, LED flashlight, which she had rendered gas-proof by wrapping it with a metre or so of duct-tape.
"One tug from us is asking if you're OK... one tug from you means 'yes'."
"What happens if I'm dead and can't answer?"
"You can't die. You're a geek. You have no life to begin with!"
"Emma!" said Bridgit with a bark. "Two tugs from you means 'get me out of here'. Got it?"
Ramu nodded, positioned the facemask over his eyes and nose then climbed onto the metal ladder and began his descent into the ominous blackness.
Although the cops could easily have arrested, or at least detained, Cuppie for loitering, they simply ordered him to "move on", which he did - around the block – and back, although this time he parked a few houses south of his original spot. Half an hour later Kaseka and the gang picked up Bridgit and Cuppie began following the JAG.
Cuppie drove around for nearly half an hour, secretly hoping he would never find another entrance to the sewer – but he did eventually. Of course he would have rather sat in the Caddy and just watched the kids from afar. The sewer entrance cover looked heavy, a foul smell rose from it, and besides, he was a little afraid of the dark. Cuppie was on the phone with his boss for several minutes before he was finally swayed by the words, "I need to know what those kids are up to so you’re going down there – either now, or later in pieces after I finish with you."
His boss always managed to be convincing.
The cover weighed a ton but he finally pried it up with the aid of his boss' tire changing wrench then wrestled the cover to the side. Cuppie couldn't find a flashlight in the car but he figured that the flame from his lighter would provide enough light.
Ramu couldn't remember one traumatic event that may, or may not, have given birth to his claustrophobia. He did however recall being terrified of confined spaces as far back as kindergarten when playtime included what Mrs. Rolf named 'camp stories' - a mandatory and agonisingly long time that two students had to spend in a pup tent she erected in a corner of their classroom. They were supposed to use the time to create a story about trees, or the earth, or birds, or other forest animals, which they then had to share with the other kids. Ramu would spend the entire time sobbing quietly so it was always the other kid who had to create the nature story.
Ramu’s heart began racing and sweat oozed from every pore the moment he set foot on the top rung. It wasn’t the wetsuit or the twenty-five pounds or so of breathing equipment strapped to his back that caused him to perspire, no, it was blinding terror.
The ‘ladder’, nothing more than bent iron bars imbedded in the concrete wall, ran out about four feet shy of the bottom, so Ramu had to lower himself using just his arms. At gym Ramu could do ten pull ups easy but in the sewer Ramu's arms quivered under the added heft of the tanks and fear.
Emma was focused on the rope feeding through her two hands when she noticed Janet squat on the ground, pull something, and then something else from her backpack. In the murky dark night, it was difficult for Emma to see what Janet was holding but from the way she waved her hands, the zoned-out expression on her face, and the mouthed words Emma had a pretty good idea what Janet was doing.
"Tell her to stop!" Emma barked impatiently at Bridgit who looked up from her cell, glanced at Janet then replied in a conciliatory tone, "She's not hurting anybody."
"She's not helping either!" Emma replied.
Janet muttered, “It’s a spell to bring good luck, usually in business, but I think it might be appropriate in this situation as well."
"What's that," Emma said with an accusatory tone.
"What's what?" Janet shot back.
"In your left hand."
"Mandrake root and a pinch of red clover. I really could use some dragon’s blood but…." Janet dug into her backpack and pulled out a small clear glass bottle containing a red liquid, “… but this extract of wild beets will have to do.”
"Witch!" Emma shouted.
"Bitch!" Janet replied as she dropped three dimes into a small, red felt bag then added five drops of beet extract.
Just then, nearly a foot of rope raced through Emma’s hands, burning her palms.
When Ramu's size 13W shoes slipped off the sewer wall he was sure he was headed for an unfortunate landing but his right hand maintained its firm grip on the bottom rung. So instead of executing a belly flop in the dark he remained upright as his Nike's sank into the black slime that carpeted the sewer’s floor.
"You OK?" Bridgit said from above then remembered their system and jerked once on the rope.
Ramu tugged back once.
The round sewer was quite spacious, with a diameter more than enough to accommodate his six foot two inch height. To the left, the sewer ran straight - for at least twenty feet - beyond that the light from his ProTac 2L surrendered to the darkness. To his right however, the sewer branched left and right. Ramu chose the left - but for no particular reason. He regretted the decision the moment he noticed the left branch beginning to narrow about twenty feet from the Y's crotch. This is impossible! he thought as he dropped to his knees and began crawling on all fours. Once, then twice, he scraped his tank on the underside of the tunnel before he decided to turn back. Unfortunately there was no room to turn around so he had to back out.
Cuppie had only reached the third rung down when he pinched his nose with the forefinger and thumb on his left hand. "Jesus, this place stinks!" he said so loudly that his words echoed thrice off the sewer's walls. The orange light cast by the streetlight overhead had faded by the time he climbed down two more rungs so he pulled the lighter from his right pant's pocket and flicked. The blast not only set his clothes on fire but the force of it blew him out the sewer entrance and three feet into the air. Fortunately, the driver of the car whose hood he landed on had a fire extinguisher in his trunk.
" ’dat sound like thunder or an explosion?" asked Emma.
"I'd go with 'explosion' and unless you recently contracted some rare condition that resulted in paralysis of your tongue, moving forward, please pronounce the ‘th’ in that.” Janet said with a sarcastic tone.
Bridgit was the first to notice the smoke oozing out of the sewer and immediately gave the rope a sharp tug.
Ramu had already re-entered the large sewer when he felt the signal. He responded with two short jerks then grabbed the lowest rung of the ladder and began climbing. The search had been a bust but the explosion, somewhere further down the sewer to his left, had produced so much grey smoke that there was no point continuing.
Once he returned to ground level, Bridgit and Heri helped Ramu wrestle free of his tank and straps while he continued coughing uncontrollably.
"You OK?" Bridgit asked.
"Found nothing, sorry," He replied in a hoarse voice, coughed twice more then finally managed to take a deep breath.
The first few notes of Pachel Bell signaled to Bridgit that computer program had finished its search.
Bridgit scanned the three news articles found in the search - two from newspapers and one from MacCean - then said with conviction, "I know where to find the Scotts and Gloria."
"About bloody time Watson!" said Emma.
"We notifying Rezoski?" asked Heri.
"No time," Bridgit responded.
"Jolly good Sherlock. How did you figure it out?," said Kaseka in an unconvincing British accent.
“Well,” replied Bridgit as she hurried toward Juggernaut, “As Holmes said famously in A Study in Scarlett, ‘There is nothing like first-hand evidence". Which is exactly what I discovered, although it was more like a clue, but I didn’t know where it would lead – until now.”
“And the clue was?” asked Kaseka.
“J.A. Watson, J.A.”
No one spoke during their entire journey to 3230 Albion Rd., what truckers call "The Backyard" a curious name for a level, nine acre gravel and broken brick parking lot for trailers - hundreds of them - all positioned in neat rows.
The Members stood at the entrance to The Backyard, stunned by the enormity of their task.
"Surely we don't have to check every trailer," said Keisha with a hopeful tone.
"The J.A. on the Perp's arm stands for Judas's Army, a motorcycle gang heavily involved with drugs and prostitution in eastern Ontario and Quebec. About nine years a rival gang, The Dead Spirits ambushed their clubhouse with automatic weapons and, according to reports, mortars. Our Perp must have survived somehow, and since the Dead's are still around, the Perp is undergoing treatment to remove the incriminating tattoo.
“But what does this place have to do with…”
“Smashing question Watson. The J.A.’s owned this lot before the bank repossessed it.”
"OK. But how is that information going to help prevent the seven of us from spending the next three weeks searching every one of these bloody trailers," Kaseka asked.
"Elementary Watson, notice that the ground is still damp from the rain two days ago? The doors of these babies are several feet off the ground so the Perps would need a platform or ladder in order to place the Scott's and Emma inside, so...."
"We look at the ground behind each trailer until we find one with four impressions in the soft earth."
"From a step-ladder," said Janet
"Or stool," added Heri
The excited members fanned out in The Backyard - each of them with hope in their hearts and a ProTec flashlight in their hand.
Within a half hour they heard Heri shout, "Awesome!"
The Duty Desk Officer was busy filling out an incident report when an exhausted Robert and Cecile Scott and little Gloria walked through the front door of Station 52. Mr. and Mrs. Scott each carried a partially eaten hamburger in their hand while Gloria licked furiously at a chocolate dipped ice cream cone. Considering what they’d been through, the three former kidnap victims looked surprisingly calm to the casual observer despite reeking of sewage.
Gilles was just about to start up his Soft-tail when his cell beeped to signal an incoming text.
“Damn kids,” he muttered then shouted toward the front door of ABC, “Cuppie, the game is up. Pack our stuff. We’re flyin’.”
The End of: THE CASE: KIDNAPPING THE SCOTTS AND GLORIA