I was the only Detective in this six man police department in the City of Sultan, nestled at the base of Stevens Pass, between Western and Eastern Washington. This small rural community is a place where everyone seems to know someone’s business. Less than 5,000 people call this town home. Sultan’s history’s goes back to the days when logging and mining was the primary employment.
Nowadays, employment is focused on small business, catering to people diving on their way to Either Stevens Pass or on their way to Eastern Washington. Sultan gets its share of fender benders, speeding, homeless problems along the Sultan River where homeless camp or in a local bar involved in a brawl. Meth is no stranger to Sultan nor is cold weather.
But all in all, this is a good community. Unlike the six officers assigned to provide patrol of Sultan, my primary job responsibility is Investigation. That in and of itself is truly a full-time job requiring endless hours of follow-up investigative work on crimes, tips from citizens and looking for clues that might solve a particular crime. This morning I was driving to City Hall to meet with the members of the Town Council to brief them on a series of unexplained missing person cases in Sultan.
Earlier this morning Chief David and I reviewed the 16 missing person files that had been reported all within the last six weeks. It was highly unusual to have so many people reported missing for this small town. In fact, I couldn’t recall a year when we had more than two people reported missing in an entire year. Almost always given time and a few interviews, each case was solved with no crime involved.
But these cases were different. Worse yet, there was no pattern or common denominator that could tie all them together. The only thing the 16 cases had in common was that they were all male. Their ages ranged from 17 to 68 and their backgrounds, employment and education were just as varied. I saw no connection to drugs or alcohol. I couldn’t rule any of them a kidnapping because there no ransom demands had been made to their families or loved ones.
If they were all murdered, the bodies were well hidden. If they were murdered, there was also no discernible motive. None of the credit or ATM cards had been used since each of their disappearances. Every one of the missing person’s vehicles was still parked either at their homes or places of employment. Everyone was on edge and as I parked in front of City Hall, I knew the town Council was on edge as well.
Over and over in my mind I kept asking myself, “How could 16 people simply vanish without a trace?” The meeting lasted more than an hour and when it was over, the pressure to solve these cases was made very clear. When I arrived back at my desk, I laid the stack of files down and turned and looked at the pictures of 16 faces on my wall. “Where are you all?” I shouted. “Help me find you. Tell me what to do.”
As I studied their faces, I stared at their eyes, hoping for some odd reason that within their eyes would be a clue. Suddenly, without even thinking, I walked over to a large five drawer filing cabinet and pulled out a large map of Sultan, folded in six parts. It was a 1978 layout of Sultan, detailing the number of buildings in Sultan back then as well as the surrounding area.
In particular, it revealed six locations of interest to me. It was a long shot if you will of where the missing people could be if they were abducted. Personally, I wasn’t convinced one way or the other that we had a suspect randomly kidnapping people, especially men, not women.” Money wasn’t the motive. Stealing their credit cards and vehicles wasn’t the motive. A vengeful former spouse wasn’t a motive.
None of the missing people really knew anyone with a grudge against them. It was a baffling series of cases with no pieces of the puzzle for me to fill in. Each crime is in truth, a series of pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. Clue by clue, piece by piece, a picture begins to form and given enough investigative work, tips, finger prints, DNA, witnesses and evidence any crime can be solved.
I was onto something, I could sense it. If and that was a mighty big word, “IF” the missing men were still in Sultan and they were all abducted by the same person(s), they most likely could be held in one location. But Where? Where could they be hidden that loved ones, volunteers and police had not searched? As I thought that very question, my finger tip tapped against a location on the map.
My finger tapped against one of six locations, forgotten by time itself. Five locations were old abandoned logging camps and the sixth location was the old Sultan Wastewater Treatment Plant. If these missing persons were still alive, they could be held captive at one of these locations. The down side though was that because no demands had ever been made, all 16 could in fact be dead.
But why would they all have been murdered? If any of the missing men were found by me at any of these locations, I feared in the back of my mind that I would find their bodies. That would mean Sultan had a serial killer in our midst. It would mean bringing in the FBI, the Snohomish Sherriff’s Department Task Force, as well as the Washington State Patrol Forensic Unit.
I met with Chief David and went over the map with him and explained the areas I would be searching, one by one. I could tell by the look in his eyes, that like me, “It was a long shot,” without a shred of evidence to support my belief that any of these locations were directly tied to any of the missing men. None the less, he gave his approval and I filled the gas tank of my four wheel drive Ford Bronco and headed out with my map.
It was difficult finding the first road leading to a high country logging camp, long closed down. In fact, when I did find what might be the road, I saw the road crews had cut out the road and before me stood a ditch. One look told me no vehicles had used this road in twenty years. The tall grass and saplings were undisturbed. I put the Bronco into four wheel drive and slowly dipped into the ditch, and dug my rear tires into the ditch, sliding left, then right, before climbing up the other side and onto the vague road.
I could only drive so far before the overgrown trees ahead of me blocked my path. I radioed my location to dispatch and stepped out onto the ground. It was summer now and the sun warm, but the breeze cool through the trees. I slid the two-way radio into my back pocket, locked the door and began to make my way up the path, pushing sapling branches away from my face or walking around trees.
Several hours later, I began to make out the outline of the outbuildings of what once had been a booming logging camp. Now all that was left were decaying buildings. I wasn’t in a hurry to just walk into the camp, not knowing what I mind encounter. There might be no one here at all. But on the other hand, I could be walking into a heavily armed “Meth Lab” or discover a room of tied up men.
I could feel my heart beating faster as I tried to stay hidden by the trees and brush, moving ever closer to the camp, straining hard for the slightest signs of activity. My eyes strained to see the slightest movement of anyone outside the buildings on guard or the movement of a windows curtain. But I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Finally, I was beside one of the five buildings listening as my heart pounded like a drum.
Building after building I searched, but I found no one. No one had been to this camp in 25 years. When I returned to my Bronco, I checked in with dispatch and drove to the next location. Once more, I came up empty handed. The next day I searched two more logging camps. They too were empty. I was surprised that those who set up meth labs hadn’t set up their lab in one of these remote locations.
On the third day, I finished searching the fifth and last remaining logging camp. It was a short search though because the snows had collapsed all nine of the buildings. Still I searched and looked for anything that might have been a clue. When I made it back to my Bronco this time, I was tired. I had done a heck of a lot of walking in the last three days and my legs reminded me of that as I pulled myself up into the Bronco.
I forget to radio back to dispatch that I had made it back to my vehicle. When I arrived at the abandoned Sultan Wastewater Treatment Plant, once more, I forgot to radio my location to the dispatcher. Forgetfulness was not typical of me, but the strain and duration of repeatedly walking through the woods just tired me out. Now I found myself parked outside the iron gate of the treatment plant.
Just as I had expected, there was graffiti painted on many walls. Windows were broken out and brush had grown throughout the plants nine buildings. Beer bottles were strewn here and there and I knew that at one time this place was a place for those partying and perhaps the homeless. Yet, I knew the graffiti wasn’t new. The paint was old, faded and weathered from years of heat and rain.
I really didn’t expect to find so much as a stray cat or dog in this place when suddenly I saw the tall red haired woman walking towards me. I swear she just came out of nowhere. One instant she wasn’t there and the next moment she was and she was quickly approaching me. She was in her late 30’s, about 5 foot 10 and maybe 140 pounds, slender build, shoulder length red hair, with deep green eyes that seemed to entrance me.
She wore knee high black boots, with long black and red striped stockings up to her knees. She wore a black laced gown and walked with confidence, closing the distance between us. I awkwardly felt for my wallet and thrust it in front of me, identifying myself as a police officer, telling her to stop, but she ignored my words and kept walking towards me. Her eyes were menacing yet seductive as I pulled my gun and ordered her to stop.
Still, she continued towards me, revealing a playful, confident smile. She walked with a sense of power, of control as if there was nothing I could do to stop her and she was right. When she stopped, she was less than three feet away from me as my eyes became lost in her green eyes. There was no anger in her eyes though and I felt her take the gun from my hand and toss it to the ground.
I wasn’t really aware that she had taken my gun. All I knew at that moment was that I heard it tumble onto the concrete. As we stood there facing each other, no words were spoken. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to ask her a hundred questions. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to take her to the ground and handcuff her; it was that “I couldn’t.” I was helpless, absolutely helpless. What was this power that she had over me? And those eyes.
Those beautiful green eyes. No matter how hard I tried to look away from her gaze, I couldn’t. Finally she reached down and took my hand, turned and led me towards one of the buildings. Yet, I wasn’t afraid. I wanted to walk with her. I wanted to make love to her. I never wanted to leave her, not for a moment. I wanted to be hers for the rest of my life. Just before we entered the building, she stopped and turned to me and her lips kissed mine.
Make no mistake, this was no ordinary kiss, but a earth shaking, toe curling, heart beat racing kiss that made my arms hold her so close that we were as one. Never before had I felt such an explosive, sensual, hungry for affection kiss as hers. I felt my two-way radio lifted out of my pocket by her hand and she held it before me. I looked down at the radio in her hand and she offered it to me.
Now the radio was in my hand and all I had to do was radio dispatch for assistance, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. With a soft, soothing, sensual whisper, she commanded me to toss the radio into the pond. In seconds, it sank under the water and she smiled seductively at me, turned and led me into the building. We walked thru room after room until we came to one last door and when she opened it and entered, I saw that this was her home.
It was a sparsely furnished room, with a mattress, blankets, pillows, a table with two chairs, but that was all. There was no mirror, no dresser, no cook stove, just a place to make love. I wanted to ask her so many questions but her eyes told me not to speak. She began to undress and as each piece of clothing fell to the floor, my desire to make love to her increased.
I can’t remember undressing and don’t know why I didn’t try to flee, to flee for my life, but I guess it was because I didn’t fear her. I had surrendered my body and mind to this red haired beauty the moment I looked into her green eyes. I knew that now and wanted her to be mine until my last breath. As we lay there side by side I caressed her body and she moaned with delight.
Her green eyes now sparkled like a thousand facets of a brilliant diamond. I kissed her skin gently and felt her hand curl around my head as if to encourage me to let my lips travel to places where the fourth of July begins. It was a moment when all that once was, was no more. There was no Sultan, there was no Chief and there was no investigation. There was only “US!”
Again and again she groaned as my lips took her to the stars of heaven’s delights. My hands stroked her waist contentedly and patiently, savoring the delights that were mine to possess. Time held no meaning at that moment and for a police officer and a red haired temptress, time had indeed stopped. We made love for hours and the longer we made love the more passionate she became, wanting more, craving more, pleading for one more, just one more.
Long after she lay there, in a lover’s trance of fulfillment, I massaged her back, down her thighs and down to her ankles with the softest of kisses. Kisses that whispered I was her slave now and for all of our tomorrows to come. As the days came and the nights followed, I never ate. Come to think of it, I never slept. I never felt hungry or thirsty as we made love again and again.
Then came the time when she left our bed and gathered up all my clothes, placing my badge on top of my shirt, turned and handed them to me as her eyed motioned for me to take them to the door to my left. As I reached the doorway and peered inside, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place for there were the 16 missing men’s naked bodies, each beside a neatly folded stack of clothes.
They had also met my seductress and like me stayed and made love to a supernatural woman whose lust for pleasure would never be satisfied by mere mortal men. Even though I knew my fate, just as each of the men knew before me had known and met their fate, I laid my clothes down and returned to the bed and lay beside her. I saw the look of appreciation in her eyes towards who she had chosen to be her lover to his death, and once more, I made love to her.
© 2008 Raymond Cook (All rights reserved)
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