I don't know about you or how you would feel but there is something eerily sterile about sitting in the precinct. They didn't take me into a private room or anything like that, they didn't even seem to notice me much as they bustled around doing whatever they do. You would think that by now they would have all the modern conveniences they need to do their jobs and it would take so long for them to search their records and find who they are looking for, especially a child who has recently disappeared. But they seem to be seriously behind the times.
While I am sitting there waiting I recall video chatting with one of my clients earlier that morning. I was a little groggy because it was really early for me. The birds tweet at sunrise, but I am counting the cracks in my eyelids. However on this day she needed to meet earlier than usual so though I hadn't gotten much sleep I accommodated her. Now I am yawning every few minutes as I sit here and wait for whoever is supposed to be asking me questions.
My eyelids are so heavy. I startle myself as I almost fall out of the chair in a serious nod. Then I hear this voice calling my name. Am I dreaming, did I actually fall asleep waiting?
"Ms. Johnson, Ms. Johnson. Excuse me, is your name Deborah Johnson?"
"Yes, yes, yes." I stumble over my words, I had actually dosed off right before he started calling my name.
"Yes, yes, yes, but most folks just call me Debbie. Who are you?"
"Ma'am, I am here to question you, okay?"
"Well, I just wanted to know who you were, especially since you know my whole name and all. My bad."
"Listen, I have to ask you a few questions. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions."
It always makes me laugh when some authority figure like a cop or detective asks you if they can ask you a question as if that unwritten law does not exist, you know the law that says they can ask you anything and you better answer and you better not lie either.
"Sure you can ask me a question, what do you want to ask me." I say politely.
"Well, I want to know what happened to Johnny Samuels this morning. We have already spoken with his parents and now we need to ask you a few questions."
It always tickles me when they use the plural pronoun "we" like you don't see anyone else with the guy but he talks with this authority like, he is surrounded by cherubim and seraphim or some invisible party of authority figures who are waiting for your responses that you better answer or else. It's so intimidating the way they do that.
"I thought that was why I was here, so you could question me."
Bravo, I say to myself, it was a snarky remark, but it was my little way of gaining at least a semblance of authority over my own life after sitting in that place for hours and being ignored the whole time as well. So there!
"Did you ever meet with Mr. and Mrs. Samuels before?"
"No, I just met them this morning."
"Then how do you know them?"
"Like I said, I met them this morning. I don't know them and didn't know them before this morning. Obviously they knew me before I knew them, since they contacted me first." I am feeling pretty witty now.
"Ma'am, as I mentioned to you before, I will be asking the questions and I would hope that you will cooperate with me. You do realize that what happened this morning on your property is a serious matter, correct?"
"Yes, I do, I feel terrible, I feel awful, I don't know what happened, I can't even explain it myself."
"Okay, Ma'am, terrible and awful is fine but we need some questions answered at this point. So, how did you come to meet them."
"I only met them this morning. They called me and said they had heard of my day care and how well I did with the children there and they had a special child and wanted to see if I could do something with him."
"Special Ma'am, what did they mean by special."
"Heck if I know. They never really explained it to me, I just felt good that they thought I could help him. Look, it was really early in the morning, I didn't get much sleep, cause I had to be up with the birds to video chat with my other client."
"Ma'am, we really want to stick to the course of questioning, we are not really interested in anything that does not have to do with finding out what happened to Johnny Samuels. Unless of course, your video chat was about him, was it?"
"No it wasn't about him, it was about...."
"Ma'am, as I already stated," he interrupts, "we need to stay on topic here."
By this time, I am starting to focus on the person behind the voice. It was bad enough that the precinct was archaic but even this dude was archaic. Dressed in a tan trench coat looking like a modern day Columbo, who wears trench coats anymore?
"Ma'am.." he twerps and snaps me out of my thoughts. Good thing because a sinister smile was creeping across my face.
"Ma'am, so you are saying you just met them this morning via a phone call."
"No, I am saying they called me and asked me if I could work with their special child and so I told them sure, and they brought him right over."
"How soon after the call?"
Sometimes these guys can be so anal, how soon after the call? I said they brought him right over.
"Um, I guess it was within the hour or so, somewhere near 8 or 9 o'clock.
"Can you be more specific Ma'am, what was it 8 o'clock or 9 o'clock"
"How abut 8:30 AM?" I snap back!
"Ma'am, there's no need for you to be sarcastic. We need an exact time, we are trying collaborate your story with theirs. If you say 8:30 and they say 9:00 then we may have a discrepancy and you may have to sit here even longer to figure out exactly what time it was. Do you understand?"
Okay, so now his voice is starting to drone on and I am getting anxious, not by him but just from trying really hard to stay awake. Last night was a real solo party of one and I am still drawing myself out of that fog.
"Okay, let me put it this way. My video chat with my other client was around 6AM. it lasted about 2 hours or so, then I got the call from them, that would make it around 8 am. They said they would be right over, they seem to already know where I live and so they brought their son over shortly after that. I felt kind of awkward because I was still dressed in my house clothes because I hadn't expected anyone to come over."
"Ma'am, are you running a business in your home? A child care business? Or are you some kind of special consultant that works with special children?"
I am feeling a bit insulted, special consultant? What does that mean, special consultant that works with special children. With an indignant voice, I respond.
"Sir, I am a certified childcare provider. I work with children using my special program that I created that has seen great success over the years. People have raved about the results I have gotten with their children as you can see, perfect strangers heard about my services and contacted me out of the blue."
I feel really good about saying that. I perked up and now I am really awake. He seemed to be insulting me.
"Ma'am, I apologize if I sound incredulous. But you seem like, well, never mind.. So they came there as you say, around 8:30 or so."
"I can only say that because it was quick, I have no idea where they came from. We didn't even get a chance to get any details exchanged because every thing happened so fast."
"What do you mean, everything happened so fast?"
"Well, they came over, we sat down for a few minutes, we talked a few minutes, I took Johnny outside and that is where he disappeared. Whoosh, just like that he was gone!"
"Okay Ma'am, one thing at a time. We will get to that part. What did they tell you about themselves?"
"Well, they told me they had been looking for the most suitable daycare/educational space for Johnny. somewhere where he could thrive and the person would be able to address his needs and give him exactly what he needed to thrive. They talked a lot of stuff that basically went over my head. They tried to explain how "special" he was and I have seen hundreds of children in my day, and sometimes I notice that parents want "their" child to be more special than anyone else's child when the child is just a child who may have a little this or that but nothing as major as some parents like to say about their child."
"Ma'am we still need to stick to the story. So what did you say to them?"
"I told them that I would be more than happy to work with their son. Children are just in need of the attention that they need, every child does not need the same attention, some want to sing, some want to dance, some want to read some just want to play.. I told them that I would see what he liked to do and work from there."
"Were they pleased with your response?"
"Um, I really don't know. I know they were not too happy after he disappeared, not at all. And I felt terrible, he was on my property, I felt responsible, how could this be happening?"
"Okay, Ma'am, what happened next?"
"Well, I had this container of apples, it was a plastic container and it had four apples in it. I use the environment to teach children simple things and the environment can be used. So, I sang a little song, I made up right there, "Apples go low and apples go high, apples can go way up to the sky." While doing that, we have Jonny's hands on the container and mine and we learn several things in that little song. Mr. Samuels smiled at me in approval and then I took Johnny out into the yard. I have a huge yard on my property. I call it a yard because I have it fenced in for the safety reasons."
"What happens after that Ma'am?"
"Well we are singing this little song near a tree that's on my property, a bit away from the house, and all of a sudden, it's as if the earth opened up and swallowed him."
"The earth opened up and swallowed him, Ma'am?"
"Well, it was sorta like that. We are doing our little song, holding the container of apples, we move our arms up and down with the song. In fact, we were gonna take the song a little further but.."
"Ma'am can you please stay on focus? We really need to have your story step by step."
This guy has no idea how devastating that moment was for me. I am beginning to tremble now, even, just thinking about it and reliving that moment, it was traumatic. How he just seemed to disappear into the ground like that.
"Well, at one point, I think I was holding him in my arms. I'm not sure, he was such a cute little thing, no more than 3 years old.. but things are foggy now. Did I drop him and then the ground swallowed him or did the ground open up. I don't know, I just can't remember which happened."
"Okay, Ma'am, so you saw the ground swallow him, correct."
"Well, no not just like that, when it happened, he seemed to go face first into the ground, I was so nervous, I wondered if his parents could see from where they were sitting what happened, so I reached down to pull him back up. My heart is racing now, cause you know, something like that happens on your property, you are in court forever, so I quickly grabbed him and tried to pull him back up, but I lost my grip on him and he just was gone, like whoosh, just gone! I really don't know how that happened, I really don't know what happened. It was terrifying and I felt so responsible. It's my fault, it's my fault."
"Ma'am, can you please calm down, we need to ask you a few more questions."
By this time, I am trembling. I am so shaken I feel like I may relieve myself.
"Um can I go to the bathroom?'
"Yes, Ma'am, Sgt. Anderson will escort you to the bathroom."
Dang, I think to myself, what do they think I am gonna do, escape or something, they gotta send me to the bathroom with an escort.
When I return, Mr. Columbo is prancing and on the phone. He appears really agitated but I didn't do anything, so he must be getting some bad news from some where else.
"Take a seat, Ma'am, I will be with you in a minute."
What? You have some information on Mrs. Samuels? She has a record? Hmm, okay. Ms. Johnson, yeah she's right here. Daycare License expired 3 years ago? Anything else?"
He's quiet for a long time, it seemed like centuries, I was gonna get that license renewed, just last week, I mean, I hadn't had any children in over 4 years now. So, I wasn't really active, and when they came over, I told myself, I had better get it renewed right away. I had every intention of doing that. But, it had been a rough 4 years. Money was tight, I had used up all my savings, and my clientele had trickled down, folks can hardly by milk for their babies much less pay for anything extra. I brought my fees way down, but even after that, things were just not working out. I kept telling myself to get that license renewed because you never know, but then I needed $400 to do it with, and with the mortgage, and other utilities along with insurance, it was hard to swing it and before I knew it 4 years had passed. I am beginning to feel really, really bad now, because he was on my property, and I didn't have my license and I am not even sure if I had paid my property insurance.
"Ma'am, Ma'am…... Ma'am....... Ms. Johnson!!!" He actually raised his voice at me and startled me, I was deep in my thoughts but I respond,
"Yes, yes sir. did you have any more questions for me? I really don't have anything else to tell you. Can I go now?"
"So, it seems that you do not have a current license to provide daycare services. Is that correct?"
"Well, yes, but since they came over, I was gonna get it right away."
"Do they know that your license has not been renewed in 4 years, Ma'am? Are you aware that that is a violation of state law? You cannot take any children under your care without a license. You are aware of that, correct.?"
"Well, yeah, I am but I was gonna get it, they were just over there for a few minutes, we didn't even exchange any paperwork or money or anything. I was just showing them a few things that I do with the children. We didn't sign anything or anything like that."
"But you did intend to proceed as if you were all legal, though, correct? You weren't gonna tell them that you did not have a current license now were you?
"So, you do realize that you are in violation of state law, correct?"
"Well, no, I mean yes, I mean no. Oh I don't know what I mean, how did I violate state laws?"
"Ma'am, at the moment of first contact it was your responsibility to tell them that you do not have a current license and that should have been the end of the phone call, instead, you intended to deceive them and pretend that you were legal and take their money for your services and hope no one found out that you were providing child care without a current license to do so, is that correct, Ma'am?"
One of the things that is most annoying about these characters is how they drone on. They are turning your world upside down with what they are saying but the drone is so unnerving you just want to scream out at them.
"Listen, you are correct, I was gonna pretend I was legit. I really was, see, I hadn't had anyone there for years, and I was hoping that working with them would draw more to me so they would not need to know cause I would have the money to pay for the license renewal. But we didn't exchange any documents and they did not pay me a dime, not a single dime, so I am confused how I am in violation."
"Well, Ma'am, they could say that you deceived them and that you were a fraud and could sue you on fraudulent charges."
"Yes, they could have your business investigated and they could have you charged. It may not stand up in a court of law, but from now on, make sure you make it clear to any prospective parents that you do not have your license."
"Okay, I will, I promise, I will, but, but,..... well, anyways. I promise I will. Or maybe I will just sell my body on the street to get the $400 to pay for the license." I say sarcastically. How dare they threaten to sue me because they feel I was being a fraud!
"Ma'am, can we get back to the object of my questioning please?"
Oh wow, now he wants to stay on topic. I didn't bring up anything about my license and I frankly don't see what that has to do with anything, since I didn't take any money from them. Well, I did lose their child, but that's different. I am feeling really, really bad, almost like I'm a criminal or something.
"Ma'am, can you tell me what else happened after the child disappeared into the ground?
"Well, I tried to pull him out, but I lost my footing and he was gone, all I had left was his shoe that was still in my hand. I just didn't know what to do after that. Mr. Samuels came over. I am crushed, I can't even talk. Mr. Samuels used his hands to push the ground away around the hole that Johnny fell into. But as he began to push away the soil, I got a glimpse of my basement. I saw the boxes I had stored in there stacked up and I was like, oh, wait, maybe we should go in the house and call the police. I didn't know what to do. I started thinking that if I could distract them long enough, that I could go into my basement and see if he was down there. We didn't here him crying or anything, and I wondered if he was hurt or something or maybe dead down there, but I wanted to distract them so I could go look and see if he was down there. Oh I don't know, what I was thinking or what I could do. But you know what, they were so calm. The mom came out, she looked over there, where we were standing near the tree, and then she just went back into the house. I was like damn, if that were me, and I lost my child, I mean just whoosh like that, I would be devastated. I started to think about them Sandy Hook folks who just smiled like it was any other day, their child died."
"Ma'am, we are not here to talk about Sandy Hook."
"I know, but that is what I thought. When the cops came, they were still composed as if nothing had ever happened to their child. He just disappeared into the ground, like he fell through a hole in my yard, and they were calm, they were not even screaming at me, or telling me I better do something quick, or threatening me, they were like, business as usual. When the police got there, I had gone down into my basement, but I didn't see him there, he wasn't there, and my mind was so confused, because how could he not be there, where was he. I felt I was in the twilight zone or some strange movie or TV show. And especially because his parents were so calm."
"Do you know anything about the Samuels'? anything at all? Do you have their personal contact information? Anything?"
"Well, no, I mean I could check my caller ID for the time they called but they just introduced themselves as Mr. & Mrs. Samuels. Like I said, we didn't exchange any paperwork or anything like that."
"So today, was the first day you ever saw them?"
"And you have never heard of them before, like read about them in the newspaper or anything?"
"No, I don't understand why you are asking me these questions."
"Do you know them by any other names. Like are they Johnsons' or Masters' or Campbell's or any other name that you may know them as."
"Excuse me, didn't I tell you earlier that I never met them before this morning? Are you insinuating that I knew them before? If I knew them before, then why would I lose their kid, that don't make no sense." I respond indignantly.
"It makes sense Ms. Johnson, it makes sense if you were part of the plot."
"Plot, plot? what plot? A plot to lose a child down a sink hole or something? What kind of plot is that? That makes no sense, why would I engage in such a plot, and on my property where I could get sued for child neglect or as you said, misrepresenting myself, being a fraudulent childcare provider, and all that? Why would I even engage in such a plot? How would that help me out?"
"Well, Ma'am, there are many scam artists in this world and this seems to be just another scam."
"What the hell, are you trying to say, that I am pretending that the child fell down a hole into my basement? Are you saying that I am pretending to enjoy being interrogated by you and losing my reputation behind some plot or scam? Sir, you are ridiculous!"
"Yes, you may think so Ma'am, but I have seen worse in my line of work, I have been a detective with Child Protective Services for 30 years, and people seem to find all kinds of ways to lose children. They know they will garner sympathy, money and even fame, if they get on TV crying about their lost child. We have found that some of them actually drug their children, have them kidnapped and get ransom money for them. It is typically done with little children, but they can get older ones to do it as well. Some of them are drug addicts and need the money. Some of them are homeless and pretend they have a home the child ran away from."
"Man, get out of here, are you serious? You can't be serious. People will do that to their children? Come on man, you can't be serious."
"I am dead serious, which is why I am wondering if you are part of the plot, part of the conspiracy."
"Yes Ma'am, are you aware that it would be impossible for that hole in the ground to be a part of your basement? The hole that the child allegedly fell through?"
"Allegedly, allegedly. I saw him fall through that hole. I tried to grab him but something had him so hard all I had left was his shoe. Mr. Samuels said it was some kind of boogie man that got him. And then he showed me the bottom of the boy's shoe and pointed to some shape on the bottom of his shoe that was supposed to be the sign that the boogie man got him. I was like, this guy must be nuts or so outdone his child fell down the hole."
'Ma'am, did you go into your basement to try to find the child down there?"
"Yes, I did, I went down there, while the police were talking to his Parents. Well, I sorta slipped down there, because they didn't see me go to the basement. I don't even think they saw me come back either. I was pretty quick, and besides they were asking them questions."
"The police was asking them questions? Why weren't they asking you questions? You were the one who last saw the child?"
"I don't know, I don't know, the police were just talking to them actually. They seemed to know them or something, it seemed kind of strange, but they were pretty friendly. I was thinking to myself, when are these folks gonna break down. They just lost a kid in a hole and they are talking as if nothing happened it made me think about crisis actors like them actors in the San........"
"Ma'am, we must stay on topic here."
"You know what, I think I remember you talking to them too. You were there, I remember you now. You were talking to them after the police left or were the police walking all over my yard looking for the hole, damn I can't remember.. What the hell, that was you, now that I think about it, you had on that coat you have on now, but I was looking through my window so I only saw the side of your face. You turned and walked away, but you left your briefcase on the column there. And you know what, I saw the lady, she pulled something out of your briefcase. It looked like a picture or something, she put it back but I saw her pull it out. That's weird, why would she pull that out of your brief case, and why did you leave it there anyways, ain't that supposed to be like top secret or something, like stuff you don't want nobody to see?"
"Ma'am, yes indeed. I left it there on purpose."
"Yes, I wanted to let them know that I was on to them. And now I think I am on to you as well."
"Wait a second, on to me, what did I do? I didn't do anything. I swear, I don't even know them people!"
"Well, it seems she doesn't know that little boy either."
"Well, when I asked her the age of the child and his birth date, she gave me a vague answer, and said he was born in January. Wouldn't a mother know the exact date of the birth of her child?"
"Well, I should think so. But what does that prove?"
"It makes her suspect, how would she not know the exact date that her child was born?"
"Okay, but I still don't see how that makes me suspect or in cahoots with them in some crazy plot to lose their kid."
"Ma'am, are you aware that it is impossible for your basement to stretch all the way to that tree that is several hundred yards away from your property? the only way that could be a part of your property is for it to be a tunnel of some sort."
"No, wait. Let me think about this. I mean, I felt so guilty and responsible, I don't think I actually thought about that. Hey, You're right, we were a bit of a ways away from the house, the tree is way over there. I don't know how far, but....... but..... when I got a glimpse down the hole, I saw my stuff, stuff that is in my basement, boxes, stacked, children's toys and other stuff.. "
"Ma'am when you went into your basement, did you look up?"
"Well, no, I looked down, I looked down behind the boxes that were stacked up, I wanted to see if he had fallen down back there. I knew he would be dead had he fallen down that far. But no, why would I look up?"
"Ma'am, because if you had looked up you would have seen the hole he fell through."
Duhhh, I really feel like an ass now, why didn't I look up? What made me look down instead? Certainly, I would have needed to check out the hole in the ceiling which would have meant a hole in the floor, which would have been the floor under the first floor of the house which means, what I saw was not under my house, but under the grounds around my house and that we would have had to been in the house for him to fall through to my basement.
Wow, the cloud is lifting. Fear, guilt and anxiety can surely cloud ones judgment.
"Um, are you saying that there is a tunnel underground near my property? Are you saying that someone built a tunnel underground and that they snatched that child down there? Man, that's crazy! And where was I while they were building this tunnel? On my property?"
"Ma'am, I have a receipt here from a nearby liquor store. You have been purchasing quite a bit of liquor especially lately. It seems, from the report we got from the cashier, that you slowly but surely started coming in there more and more often. So, I may surmise that you were sound asleep, maybe when they were building that tunnel?"
I begin to shift in my chair, I am not liking how I am feeling, this feels like a set up. I said I was gonna stop drinking as soon as I got my license renewed. I mean, I had only started having a few drinks after the children left anyways.. no one was there, my husband left me long time ago, I don't have any of my own children, I live alone, I had an assistant but as things got slower I let her go. But, just a drink or two before bed because it was hard to sleep at night.
"Are you trying to say, that I was drunk, so I wouldn't hear them banging and moving shit around on my property? Is that what you are trying to say?"
"Ma'am, are you aware that there is a tunnel system that goes right under your property?"
Oh now he wanna skip the subject.
"No." I respond tersely.
"Okay, Ma'am, you are not aware of a tunnel system being build under your property? Are you aware that this system is used as part of the plot? And are you aware that the children they claim to have been abducted are not abducted but are part of the conspiracy? Are you aware that they tell the children to go right to the spot where the tunnel entrance is, in the ground the children put their faces to the ground or jump up and down on that spot or fall on that spot and they are quickly snatched by the accomplices to this plot? Do you realize that after they capture the children, they drug them to shut them up and so they have no memory of what happened after they fall through the hole. Ma'am, little Johnny Samuels, or whatever his name is fell through that hole on purpose. He knew what to do."
"But how is that possible? I took him out onto my property and over to the tree."
"Ma'am, did you take him over there or did he "ask" to be taken over there?
"Let me think, let me think, everything is all twisted now. Wait...... wait...... um, I think you are right, he did, he said, "let's go near the tree, he did say that, he said, let's go near the tree!" Actually he spoke so well I was surprised for a child of 3 he spoke very well."
"Ma'am, he is really 5 years old, small for his age, but he started this game with his "parents" when he was 3 years old. To him it's a game. He has no idea how he is being used and for what purpose. He just plays the game.."
"Oh my fucking God! Are you serious, are you kidding me? It's a game they play with that cute little boy? He doesn't know, He just does it?"
"Unfortunately, this is only one of the many games that are being played with children. from time to time we are able to at least catch the adults who are doing this, our biggest problem is getting the police and other officials to stop it!
Okay Ma'am, you are free to go."
"What? what? that's it, that's all?"
"Yes, that's all, we have both the alleged Samuels in custody. We have been trailing them for a long time, so thanks for your cooperation. You are free to go."
"Well, I'll be damned, ain't that some shit. What the hell."
"Ma'am, you would do well to watch your language and take leave while we feel we have no reason to keep you. And by the way, stay away from the liquor store, you can save that money to renew your license."
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