“How can you bring your heart to leave my children all alone in the wood…”
Hansel and Gretel
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Saturday, October 7
Edgar Nikephoros Huntinger, private investigator, smiled at Amaltheia Amaranthus across the candlelit table, at Spyro’s in downtown Miami.
“You look lovely tonight, Amaltheia. Your satin dress complements your ivory skin and dark Grecian features. But it seems an odd color. M-m-m. Not quite a pink. Maybe a soft purple, certainly an unpink. What color is it, Amaltheia?”
Amaltheia laughed. “You are right, Edgar. It is one variation of pink. called pale magenta.”
“Well, it certainly becomes you,” he said.
“I love how you look tonight, Edgar. Your blue tie goes well with your white silk shirt. It brings out your handsome dark looks, and your blue eyes.” She said, as she slowly chewed her salad.
“Thank you, Amaltheia,” said a thoughtful Edgar Huntinger, as he picked up the skewer and ate a piece of beef. “I’ve been to a specialist recently to check my prosthesis.”
“I’m surprised, Edgar. I thought that your artificial foot was the newest scientific invention.”
“It’s been uncomfortable lately.”
“Well, did the doctor adjust it?”
“He did better. He replaced it.”
“Good. Let’s talk about your work. Are there any new cases?”
“Not presently. It was a good reason to spend this evening with you,” Edgar said, smiling.
“Have you ever investigated a missing child case, Edgar?”
“No. So far I’ve only investigated adults.”
“Well, Edgar, since you are between cases. I wondered if you’d take a missing child case. I have a friend who knows someone whose children are missing. She told me that, he is afraid it may be too late.”
“Tell me more.”
“Well, his children-- girl, and a boy-- seemed to have run away. He has reported it to the police. They have been gone a week now, and the police have not had any leads.”
“They usually assign those cases to detectives, who are exceptionally good. He’s not happy with the way they are managing it?”
“No, Edgar. He is not.”
“Would you like me to talk to the father?”
“Yes, Edgar, please.”
“Give your friend my number.”
“Thank you, Edgar.”
Sunday, October 8
The next morning, Edgar Nikephoros Huntinger sat across from the father of the missing children. They were in Wendy’s Restaurant, where the client had agreed to meet. Papadakis ordered coffee for the investigator and himself, and with a halting, gruff voice told him his problem.
“Mr. Huntinger, my name is George Papadakis. I have two children, a boy who’s twelve years old, and a girl who’s seven. They’re missing. They’re the children of my first wife who’s deceased. I’ve married again, but my wife is jealous of the children because they’re the children of my first marriage, and because of the expense. The last fight, she threatened to leave if I didn’t send them away, so we could be by ourselves. I think the children may have overheard us.” The middle-aged man stopped. He lifted his hand to his thinning brow and swiped the glistening sweat. He ran his hand through his scant and stringy peppered hair. “I’ve been worried about them. Friday was the last time I saw them. After I came home from work, and I saw that they weren’t home from school, I checked to see if the bike was gone. Sometimes they go riding together on my son’s bike. It was gone. When it got dark, I was so afraid, I called the police. The detectives were kind, and they’ve done everything they could. But, two days have passed, and I’m worried that they’re not working hard enough. They have missing people every day, and my kids aren’t that important.” The father paused and gulped the ice water in front of him. “I heard you’re good at investigating problems, that people like me have. I have money saved. You can have that if you find my children.”
Huntinger removed a pad from his briefcase and wrote briefly. He was silent. He looked up, and he stared at him. “Do you have pictures of your children with you?”
The father took out a wallet, removed a photo, and he handed it to the investigator.
Huntinger studied the pictures of a little boy and a little girl, with dark wavy hair. They were smiling. ‘What are their names?”
“My son’s name is Sebastian, and my daughter’s name is Selene.”
“Beautiful names for beautiful children.” Huntinger was silent. “Mr. Papadakis, did the police check for tire marks near your home?”
“They checked the garage where the bike was stored, but as far as I know they didn’t do much else.”
“I’d like to go over your property, to check for signs they may have missed. What is your address?”
“My address is 1855 Northeast 195th. Street. I’m home on Fridays only. I work as a delivery man for a moving company, and Friday and Sunday are my days off.”
Huntinger wrote rapidly in his notebook. “Would Friday morning be convenient for me to stop by?”
“Yes. Anytime between nine and twelve.”
“Thank you, Mr. Papadakis. I’ll be at your home around ten.”
Mr. Papadakis gulped down his coffee. “I’ll see you then, Huntinger.”
Huntinger finished his coffee and stood up. “Have a good day, Mr. Papadakis.” He left.
Friday, October 13
Huntinger arrived at Papadakis’s home at ten o’clock. He walked up the stoned walkway, vibrant hedges on either side. He knocked. Papadakis opened the door.
“Good morning, Mr. Papadakis. I’ll be looking around your property. Do I need a key for the garage?”
“I’ll open it from the house.”
“Thank you. I’ll let you know when I’m done.”
“That’s fine.” He nodded his head and shut the door.
Huntinger went into the garage and found particles of dirt in the corner. He went out and checked around the house, where there was thick foliage. He found tire marks leading to the street. He walked to the nearest neighbor and rang the bell. A middle-aged woman, with sharp brown eyes, and a bright floral housedress answered. “Yes?” she grumbled.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, Ma’am.” Huntinger produced his identification. My name is Edgar Huntinger. I’m a private investigator hired by your neighbor, Mr. Papadakis, to investigate the whereabouts of his children. Do you remember seeing them at all on the evening of Friday, October 6?”
“I don’t remember seeing them that day.” She shut the door.
Huntinger continued to ring bells at residences. He finally reached a house at the far end of 195th. Street. A boy of about twelve, with bright brown eyes, and brown wiry hair answered.
“Is your mother home? “Huntinger inquired.
“She went shopping. Who are you?”
“I’m a private investigator.” Huntinger showed him his identification.
The grubby boy stared at Huntinger’ s plastic wide-eyed. “Wow. Can I help?”
“Maybe you can?” Huntinger chuckled. “Do you know the Papadakis children?”
“Yeah. I go to school with them.”
“Can you help me figure out where they might be?”
The boy squinted, then smiled. “They been wanting to check out The Enchanted Forest. Maybe they went there. Does that help?”
Huntinger smiled. “It sure does.”
Earlier, on Friday, October 6
It was getting dark. Sebastian pedaled earnestly as Selena gripped his waist. He stopped when he came to a bridge. He was still as he listened to a drip-drip from under them. He smelled the faint odor of a sewer. Motionless, he stared in front of him.
Selena shivered. “What’s the matter, Sebastian? Why did you stop?”
“I thought I saw something in the shadows. Don’t be afraid, I’ll protect you,” he whispered. So that his sister would not know it, he kept his fear in an imaginable round ball inside his chest.
A large menacing shadow appeared and loomed in front of them.
“What is that” Selena said, trembling.
“Don’t worry,” said Sebastian, soothingly. “Who are you?” he shouted.
“Hello, children. I won’t hurt you. What are you doing in the woods this time of night?”
“We’re lost and hungry. Can you show us someplace we could go for help?”
“Yes. Just keep going and follow that path.” The menacing shadow pointed toward a clearing; the moonlight shone like silver. “Keep going until you see a house. Go right in. There’s a refrigerator there, full of food. Make yourselves welcome.” He stepped aside, so they could pass.
Sebastian pedaled across the bridge and disappeared along the path toward the house.
Monday, October 16
It was sunset when Edgar Nikephoros Huntinger, private investigator, stood at the bridge located in The Enchanted Forest. He heard the drip-drip from under his feet, and he smelled the faint odor of a sewer. Slowly, he walked on, until he saw a dilapidated house. He stayed in the shadows, as he walked, cautiously. He hastened his steps. As drew closer, he heard a child crying. The sound grew louder as he approached the house. From the shadows surrounding the house, a large man appeared. He pointed a gun at Huntinger.
The investigator stood motionless, as realization gripped him.
“Now you know, Huntinger, that it was me who kidnapped my children. I had to hire you because the police suspected me, and I had to change that. I didn’t expect you to succeed because my acquaintance told me that you didn’t have experience with missing children.”
“Why did you do this, Papadakis?”
“Because it was the only thing that would keep my wife. I thought she’d learn to love them if she thought she would never saw them again.”
“How did you know that they’d actually leave home, and enter the woods?”
“I wasn’t sure that they’d do it. I started a fight with my wife about finances one day. They were missing that same day. I figured they went into the woods, and I was right. This old house has always been empty. I used it for my plan.”
There was a sound. Sebastian was coming out of the house. The client turned, diverted.
Huntinger kicked the gun out of his hand, then grabbed him, and punched him as he fell. He retrieved the gun and stood over him. “I’m putting your children in Protective Services. And I’ll see that you get my bill, behind bars.”
Saturday, October 23
Edgar Nikephoros Huntinger, private investigator, smiled at Amaltheia Amaranthus across the candlelit table at Spyro’s restaurant. “So, you see, Amaltheia, in this case, it really was the father who committed the crime.”
“That’s sad, Edgar. But at least the children were unharmed.”
“He never intended to harm them, but they’ll have psychological scars.”
“We should check on the children sometimes, just to make sure that they are all right.”
“I agree, Amaltheia. I’ll put it on my calendar to visit them periodically.”