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Little Girl Red
The body was found in Riverside park, along the riverbank. She was wearing a scarlet sweat shirt, with the logo Lexington University on it. And matching scarlet slacks. Barefoot, and her ankles had dark purplish bruises around them, like she had been in chains. Approximately fourteen years old.
I was called in after the autopsy. Cornier, who was also a friend of mine, Walter Miller, said it was death by poisoning. He also said that by the state he found her organs in the poison was close to cyanide. There was no ID found on the kid, no purse or backpack nearby. Janie Doe was way too young to go to Lexington, so I thought at first her parents went there, but when I saw the polo it looked too new. The next day I went to the university to speak to the Dean to at least see if he had seen her around before, visiting a brother or sister, meanwhile a news announcement was made, and there were fliers that went out for someone to claim her.
The Dean, Thomas Martin, looked at the photo for a full minute, before answering. The photo, by the way, was taken before the autopsy, the girl's eyes were open and her lips were parted a slight way, she was found that way. Oh, god it was spooky looking, adding that her skin was ghostly pale.
"Sorry, Detective. There's 24,449 students here approximately. I see parents, younger siblings, relatives, etc. I can't keep up with all of them. The students might know more about this, someone at the front desk even."
"She doesn't even seem remotely familiar?"
"Nope, a lot of kids her age hang around after school hours to see college life."
I just left it as that, I asked the front desk, same answer, so I moved on to the students. Checking the dorm managers, seeing if they remember seeing her around. One said he did see her.
"You know this girl?"
"Not really. She would stand outside the door over there and look around, like she was waiting for someone."
"I asked her when I first saw her, but can't remember."
I sighed and asked if he saw who she was waiting for.
"Not that I saw. If someone did talk to her I don't know about it."
"How long ago did she start doing this?"
"I don't know, I mean she didn't come everyday, but it was continually. I think four months ago this started." He paused. "The reason I didn't tell her to scat is because she looked like she desperately needed to see who ever it was."
I thanked him and asked if I could see the security tapes from the last four months. He approved it. When I got back to my car there was a tall pudgy guy waiting for me there. He introduced himself as Garret Blane, my new partner. He was working on a case yesterday which is why he was just called in.
"So, what do got?" He asked when we got back to the station.
"Fourteen year old found dead at Riverside, no ID, death by poison." I told him, I also filled him in on the tapes. We were in there for six hours before anything came up. It showed our girl, just waiting by the door like how the guy said. But only one had footage of someone coming up to her. A lanky redhead, probably nineteen. At first it just showed him talking to her. We even fast forwarded and they talked for a while.
"A relative?" Blane suggested.
"Maybe." I answered. "Stop it right here, I think he handed her something."
And the guy did. It was in a yellow folder and then they both left. The guy's name turned out to be Harrison Decon. He was a physics major. His dorm was on the first floor.
"What girl?" He asked. I showed him the picture and told him we have a footage of him talking to her. After looking at it he remembered.
"Oh, her. Little Girl Red."
"What?" Blane said.
"Don't you guys watch the news about your own case? That what they've been calling her on the news. At first they just called her as the little girl in red, the Little Girl Red thing caught on once Nancy Grace called her that."
I sighed, the media comes up with weird names for this stuff, I guess Little Girl Red was a take on Little Boy Blue.
"If you knew her why didn't you call in?" I asked.
"I didn't really know her..." He trailed off and let him in his dorm. "What I saw won't be printed right?"
"Depends, how do you know her?" Blane asked.
Decon looked embarrassed for a second. "I study hard, barely anytime to party like my roommates. I don't have a girlfriend, so when I get a little too stressed I drive downtown and-"
"Don't tell me this kid was prostitute." I said, I had a hard time watching the movie Taxi because of Foster's character.
''No, she wasn't that I swear. Ya see I know this guy-pimp, that has a place where you can pick who you want-"
"Like a brothel?"
"I guess so. Anyway when I first went there I saw her there watching TV. I asked the same thing, whether she was in the 'business' or not. The guy said no. He told me that if any of the 'clients' leave anything there after a 'session' he pays kids ten buck to return it. She was one of the kids he pays do do that.I left my belt one night."
I asked what he was talking to her about for so long on the tapes.
"I was asking what a kid like her was doing mixed in there. She told me that it was complicated or something. I tried to get her to tell me, but she told me to drop it."
"And the envelope?" Blane asked.
"The guy told me that if anyone leaves anything he'll make sure they get it back, but when the kid comes we have to send back some money for the trouble, or at least something he can cash in. I gave her two gold watches I had. Got them from a pawn for $300 each and so I figured they were worth something."
"You must have left something other than your belt, the tapes show her outside this building for the last four months."
Decon said he didn't know what she was doing here the other days, but he only talked to her once. He gave us the address of the place. Just as we were leaving I asked if he knew why she was found in a sweat shirt from this university. He said he didn't.
The brothel was a old refurbished warehouse down town.
"Hello, gentlemen. Patch Gordon at your service. Tell me what you like and I'll-"
We showed him our badges and that grin vanished. He tried to make a run for it but I tackled him and soon had him in the station.
"I've done nothing wrong, officers, nothing."
"No, just run a *****house." I said. "And hire little kids."
Patch Gordon, or his real name Lawrence Redding, look disgusted. "I don't do that crap, you people are sick. I have values, if your looking for a child sex ring-"
"Then what did you arrest me for?"
I put the picture of Little Girl Red on the table. "Recognize her? She's all over the news, Nancy Grace dubbed her Little Girl Red." I told him.
"And one of your clients remembers her being one of your delivery people." Blane said gravely.
"Yeah. I pay the kid ten dollars to return their stuff, that's not illegal. I'm doing some of them a favor."
"Your right it's not illegal. But killing a kid is." I said.
"I didn't kill anyone!"
"Alright. How did you know this girl, what was her name?" I asked.
Redding looked at the picture for a moment. "I don't know her name, when I hire these kids I don't ask for their names. I saw her walking through the neighborhood and asked if she wanted to make some cash."
"Was she a normal employee?"
"And you don't know her name?"
Redding grinned."My girls call her Angel, Youth, Baby, stuff like that because she was so young." He turned serious. "I never knew her real name or where she came from. She was like a ghost or something, she could walk up behind you and you'd never hear her. She could come and go without making a sound, mysterious. Didn't even go to school for all I know.But I haven't seen her for a month and thought she quit."
"So you wouldn't mind if we searched the brothel would you?"
"Go ahead, you won't find anything."
Blane and I searched alone. The place sure was big, I'll you what. We had searched five room when Blane asked: "Your not worried that Little Girl Red will end up like The Boy In The Box, are you?"
"What? Never find out who she is or who killed her? Sorta. But the Boy In The Box case was back in 1950 something. We have better technology than we did back then. We'll find who she is, eventually"
The thought did worry me though. What if it we don't. No one has called in yet, she's been all over the news non-stop. No tips, no claims, and no one seems to have know this kid's name. What if Little girl Red was someone no one cared about, someone everyone forgot about? Someone had to, no matter what there had to be someone who knew this girl enough to know her name. For some reason I grew angry thinking about it actually. Not just that someone had the nerve to poison a child, but that from what I'm hearing, no one bothered to remember the name. Why? Everyone had a name, even orphans that grew up without parents knew their names, and if no one named them they named themselves. So what was her's? She was known to someone by something, and apparently no one except Blane and I never cared about her enough to know what it was! What, was she not important to anyone? Did she have to die for someone to give a crap about her? To care and focus on only her for once? That makes it worse!
My rant was interrupted by my cell. I opened if quickly.
"WHAT?!" I screamed, not really meaning to. I calmed down and repeated myself. Blane gave me a weird glance and waited for me to get off the phone. When I did I told him Walter wanted to talk to me, he had to show me something.
"I don't know how I missed this." He said. He had the body on the operating table. It was face down and he parted the hair with latex gloved hands.The was a faint mark on the back of the head. It looked like a brand.
"It's a brand." He told me.
I must have looked horrified because he told me it wasn't for what I thought.
"I've seen that kind of brand before. It's not a child sex ring or anything. It's hard to explain exactly what the brand stands for."
"Try me." I said. Walter paused, he was gathering his thoughts. "Well," He said. "the other kids that I've known with this brand have all been alive. Exhausted, deathly sick, and unconscious, but with a heart beat. Um, as you know I am also a qualified forensic psychiatrist, that's how I know about the brand. When the children were okay to talk they brought me in to see if I can find out what happened. They all claimed that they remember being taken from their homes to this house...um, and they all named the relative same man. The first child I knew, a boy named Paul, said that the man's name was Marcus Webber. Paul was thirteen when found next to a dumpster. He said he remembers being kidnapped from the park when he was young and taken to a house with many other children already there. We found the place and 'Marcus Webber' was arrested for child abuse, kidnapping and Münchausen syndrome by proxy."
I paused. "Okay, but..."
"He denied the accusations, and the other children found in the house denied it too, all claiming that Webber was their father. They all showed signs of Stockholm syndrome. We had only Paul's word, the jury didn't find that enough evidence, Webber walked away. Five years later a set of twins, both age fourteen, were found beaten and very ill. They also claimed to have been kidnapped, by a man named Steven Harris. When we located the house...it was Webber again, just dyed his hair blond. Same thing happened just like Paul's case, and happened two more times, with the same outcome. What it all had in common was the brand on them. The other children found each time all had the same Z shaped brand on them, usually on their under arm, or soles of their feet, a place he would only know of. "
I started to feel sick myself. "Why, did he do this, exactly?"
"The children that were found said they remember seeing him putting something in their food, and that some of the other children would be fine one day, sick the next, get even more ill, and finally would disappear. Paul specifically said he remembers seeing numerous people come and talk to Webber. From the sound of it he kidnapped these kids and intentionally poisoned them, made them ill and appear to have many children and sick children for his own gain."
"Like for health insurance money?"
"Apparently, that's where the MSP comes in. When he gets what he wanted he dumps what ever kid he's using and moves on to one of the others and when he thinks he's running out of kids, he kidnaps again. But I was able to get that he lets the older ones leave the house, like go to the store, the park. Probably scared them enough to know that they would comeback, which explains how Little Girl Red here was able to work as a delivery girl for Redding. But this is the first time one of these kids have turned up dead though, that I know of."
I had to take a deep breath, then asked if there is any pattern amongst these kids.
"No pattern that I remember hearing about or seeing.These kids come from all over, privileged familys to welfare. Some of the kids we found were actually his own, probably from a few divorces or something."
I suddenly felt the intense need to vomit, but I was able to keep my nerves and stomach under control. That was sick, just plain sick, inhumane and would make Satan himself disgusted. "How long ago was Paul found?"
"Twenty years ago." He added: "I found a hair strand on her sweat shirt and sent it in. The results came back to day, it matches the DNA of Marcus Webber, when I was dealing with Paul."
I was at lost at what to do. If this guy changes him name every time he's caught how am I going to find out where he is? I glanced down at Little Girl Red. I couldn't help thinking "Someone finally cares." to myself. A idea suddenly came to me, I asked Walter to try and contact Paul, if he could, then went out to Blane and told him to make a call to Lexington University.
Walter was able to contact Paul, two days later he got Paul to come to the Station. A man of mid thirties with graying hair and standing 5'6 in height. Walter had his hand on Paul's back for resurgence. "You don't have to do this, we can find someone else. "
"No, I'll do this."
"Are you sure?" I asked him.
"Yeah. If it will help put him away.
I got the employee files from the university. Everyone who works there from the Dean himself the the new cleaning guy. Each file held a photo of the employee. We went through five until we got to him. I asked Paul if he was sure. He said it was him, aged, but him.
That's why Little Girl Red was wearing a sweat shirt from the university. And probably why she was there on the video footage waiting by the door. Anyway Webber was going under the name Farley Munch. I wasn't surprised when he lived two blocks from where Little Girl Red's body was found.
It was a large house, he didn't answer, and the door was kicked down.Blane covered me and I moved down the hallway on the right. The first door was on my right, there was some voice heard inside. I kicked it open, turns out it was just a TV, and six pairs of little eyes. They were all under the age of ten, and actually well groomed, the room itself had only three mattresses in it and the TV. I told Blane to call someone to take them away. I kept moving and kicked in another door. There were seven children in this room. But they were all ill. Only one really looked awake, he was twelve and there was a bucket full of vomit next to him. They were all in a bed, except two were sharing one, and the smell of blood was strong. One girl, only six years old, had some dripping on the side of her mouth, eyes shut and breathing heavily. I called Medical. The next room was bigger than a den, and it had eight children, they were all older than ten but younger than fifteen. Half of them were in a corner with blankets, lying down, trying to sleep probably, the other half were huddled in front of a TV. They all looked at me as though I was either Jack the Ripper, or the Archangel Gabriel.
"I'm not going to hurt you guys. I'm with the police,we're going to get you all home."
"We are home." A girl said, no older than thirteen. She looked pale and had dark circles under her eyes, and her hands were red, they were curdled on her arms.
I had to ignore that for the moment and asked where their 'father' was. No answer. I kept going and found Webber. He was in a office like room, connected to a oxygen tank, and was looking out the window. I repeat what I did to every man arrested, His response : "So they found me again?"
I pulled out the girl photo and slide it in front of him. "Remember her? They've been Calling her Little Girl Red on the news."
He didn't look at it. "I don't watch the news..."
"Maybe you'll remember her if you look."
"My eyesight isn't what it was young man."
I felt myself growing impatient. I was able to swallow the feelings. "How young do you take them? Huh? Did you get them to come to you with a puppy?"
"I don't know what your talking about."
I moved my chair to his side of the table and told him we knew everything. He looked at me, his eyes cold and unfeeling. This was the man that killed the girl, who poisoned her and kidnapped her. Not just her but every child found in that house. Twenty-one. There was twenty-one children in there. A chunk of them ill. "I admit it." That caught me off guard.
"You do, do ya? Tell me how young you kidnap them, two, three years old? Five, or is five too old for you?"
"When they are young enough to learn the rules." He started gasping, and pointed to the oxygen tank. I gave to him. Walter described a monster. A monster than poisons kids and dumps them like trash when he's done. He take someone's baby and makes sure they forget about their mother and father. He doesn't care, of course he doesn't, their all just more cash to him. The girl. He dumped her body like she was garbage or a dog. She was dead, she belonged to someone, and she had a name. Everyone seemed to have dubbed her no important enough to remember or bother with her name, except Blane and I. But as I thought about it. Blane, good man as he was, didn't seem too taken in by this. He seemed more indifferent, that's good in some cases, but god. Suddenly, knowing the lost child's name was all I wanted to hear. To know she wasn't forgotten, that at one time in her life someone cared enough to name her. And this S.O.B. was going to tell me.
"Got your breath?" I asked, when he removed the mask. He nodded.
"Detective. I'm old, I've been doing this long enough, and I'm going to die soon. Go ahead a put me on death row or something."
"You say that like your retiring from WAL-MART, you stupid SOB!"
"Quite a temper you got. Was your child kidnapped, Detective?"
I sighed. I shoved the picture closer to him. "Look at her." He did. "What, is, her, name? Did you forget? Was making her sick until she died not enough?"
"She's not the only girl I've had-"
"I know that! But this kid you killed, you poisoned her, until she died. Now I want to know her NAME." He looked at the photo, as did I. Her deadly pale skin, eyes open, dead lifeless blue eyes. Her mouth open slightly, she looked alive, but she was clearly dead. Webber didn't answer for a few moment until he said those words, those three words: "I don't Remember."
"What do you mean you don't remember? She was in your house not five days ago, and you don't remember her name?"
"I'm sorry, really, Detective, but I honestly don't remember. If I did, I would tell you I swear."
"You have to, you probably gave her the poison yourself, and branded her, behind her head, yourself. And you can't remember her name!"
The old man looked at the picture harder. "I'm sorry, I really don't remember."