Author's Note: So much for the best laid plans and all that. The plan, specifically, was to do one post on each blog every week...but a little unscheduled flight that ended with a rough and very embarrassing landing put me out of commission for a while. Good thing I just started this blog and not many people know it's here yet! Now, where was I?
The woman was hysterical.
Her husband wasn’t in much better shape. He could barely talk, struggling to answer my questions in fragmented sentences. Their six-year-old daughter had been abducted from their backyard. There were no witnesses, and an exhaustive search of the neighborhood turned up nothing.
“I don’t understand how this could have happened,” the child’s father said, choking on every other word. “She only let Mandy out of her sight for a minute.”
He looked over his shoulder at his inconsolable wife, being tended by a neighbor. “She’s always been an overprotective mother,” he said, lowering his voice. “Mandy’s our miracle baby.”
“How so?” I asked, taking notes. In the years I'd been with the FBI, I'd found child abduction cases to be the biggest test of my objectivity. If somebody took my kid, I'd probably hunt them down and kill them. Kidnappers and pedophiles should always be turned over to the parents. The courts might let them go. But you didn't hear that from me.
“We’d been trying to have children for years, almost as long as we’ve been married,” the distraught father went on. “We both come from big families and wanted kids of our own, but it just wasn’t happening.”
“Is your daughter adopted?” my partner, Jack Farlow, asked.
He shook his head. “No, no,” he said. “She’s ours. We went to a fertility clinic when we couldn’t conceive. It took everything we had, all of our savings, but Mandy’s worth it.”
“You had difficulty in having a child,” Jack said slowly. “Who was at fault?”
The man was at first puzzled, then angry. “What kind of question is that?” he asked. “What has it to do with Mandy being missing?”
“Probably nothing, maybe everything, depending on the circumstances of her birth, sir,” Jack said. “Did you use an egg or sperm donor?”
The man shook his head. “No,” he said. “Mandy’s ours, one hundred percent. She was conceived by in vitro, but we used our own…you know.”
“We have to ask,” I apologized. “If your daughter were not biologically yours, then we would have to consider the possibility that the biological parent might have taken her.”
“We’re her parents, no one else,” the man insisted. His face reflected his deep fear for his child’s safety. “Please bring our baby home. Please.”
“I only turned my back for a moment,” the distraught teacher repeated over and over. “I never left the schoolyard!”
A six-year-old boy had been abducted outside a prestigious Seattle school for gifted children. No one saw it happen, even though there were several children in the schoolyard, being picked up by their own parents. Everyone was being questioned.
“We understand, Mrs. Harwood,” I said in an attempt to calm her.
“I don’t understand!” The emotional outburst came from the child’s mother. “You were responsible for him! You were supposed to be watching him!”
“I was watching him!” the teacher attempted to defend herself. “I was watching all of them! I only turned away for a moment!”
“Long enough for someone to take my son!” the angry mother shot back at her.
“Easy, Mrs. Wyndham,” Jack urged. “She won’t be able to remember anything if you keep attacking her.”
Charlotte Wyndham turned to the window, hugging herself tightly as if trying to shield herself from the chill of fear that consumed her. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She said her husband was in Paris on business. He’d booked a flight as soon as she called him, but he could not be there before the next morning.
"We only had each other, until Noah was born," she said. "Neither of us have any other family, and we both wanted children. When we couldn't get pregnant on our own, we sought out the experts. It took us three years and thousands of dollars to have Noah, but he's worth every penny. If anything happens to him...."
The woman’s body was found in her car, parked in the driveway outside her Florida home. She was still in the driver’s seat, her seatbelt still in place. She’d been shot in the head at close range. Her five-year-old son was missing, presumably taken from his car seat.
We questioned her husband at length. He was frustrated by the endless probing. "My wife is dead, my child is missing. Why are you wasting time questioning me?" he demanded.
"You found her, sir,” I said. "We have to start there. With you."
“She had no enemies,” he said irritably. “None. She got along with everybody. I always envied that about her. She was the peacemaker. I was the loose cannon.”
“Were you a loose cannon with her, Mr. Reynolds?” Jack asked.
“No, of course not.” Roger Reynolds didn’t miss the implication. “What are you asking me?”
“Only if there were any problems between the two of you.”
“You think I killed her?” Reynolds asked incredulously.
“No, of course not!”
“What about your son?”
“What about him?”
“Were there any problems regarding the child?” I asked.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Reynolds snapped. “Our son was perfect. Perfect.”