Cory Wade is Missing

by Rick Beck

Chapter 4

Open Door

On the second day of interviews at Bishop's school, with a cup of coffee on the headmistresses desk, after five interviews, Angus was counting down the interviews until he reached Justin Parkson. His name came up more than any other name, when the students spoke of Cory Wade.

Angus's day really started with Scott Marcum. Scott, a senior and member of the tennis team, had either jumped ahead of Angus in coffee consumed, or he was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by nature. This isn't the usual posture for someone being interviewed by an outside official of unknown origins.

Young people are naturally suspicious of older people, who show up unannounced and start asking questions. Scott was aware of Angus on the first day he did interviews at Bishops. Everyone but the woman who ran the cafeteria heard Angus was there to do interviews about one of the students, who was missing.

Scott was either a very good actor or he had absolutely nothing he wanted to hide. He had so much information it flowed from him, and Angus did his best to keep up, after answering a few questions.

"When did you decide to become a private detective. That sounds like such a Hollywood occupation, if you know what I mean? There are so many examples of great private eyes in film history. Do you like private detective films?" Scott Marcum wanted to know.

"When I have time for them," Angus said. "I came to San Diego by way of Chicago. I was a Chicago detective before I retired and came out here."

"You're still a cop of sorts," Scott more said than asked.

"I am. It's what I know, Scott. I'm told I'm good at my job. The police department is quite restraining. After so many years of chasing bad guys, I wanted to remain in the field but branch out somewhat. Go on my own. Pick the cases I want to work," Angus said.

"What do you think happened to Cory?" Scott asked, leaning forward to receive any secrets Angus wanted to reveal.

"You've got this interview thing all wrong, Scott. I'm here to interview you. I don't mind an exchange of ideas, but the question is, what do you think happened to Cory Wade?"

Scott sat back rather abruptly. He seemed to grasp the situation.

"I'm a flake at times. I'm young. I'm allowed, but I just jump in at times, and I don't know when to stop. I'm curious about so much. I know so little and I want to know everything about everything. I want to know what goes on in the world out there," he said.

"Here we are in our private boy's school, and it isn't part of the world around us. We're like an oasis in a desert, not that San Diego is a desert, except it actually is, but we're pampered and guided, and one day we need to go out there, but we know nothing about how the other ninety-nine percent of people live. This isn't the real world, if you catch my drift."

"I do, Scott, and at another time we could discuss it, but why not tell me about Cory," Angus said, needing to keep Scott tethered..

"Nice kid. Quiet. Not like me. Cory doesn't, didn't, jump into the middle of things. I never saw him with the same boy more than a few times. We came to Bishop's the same year. He got on with the senior boys. I imagine because he was smarter than most of us. While the seniors froze out most freshman boys, some took to Cory. Other than that, he was just another kid, going to school here. I do think that this year, he began to get on with Justin. Justin Parkson. He's the school's single's champion in tennis. He was coaching Cory, but it was more than that. I stay late at practice. I need to use up some energy before i go home to get into my parent's hair. I'd see them together, talking. They talked a lot lately. They were together more lately. Cory was smart. We had classes together over the years. He wasn't shy in class. He simply didn't mingle that well with the other boys."

"Anything else you think might help me in my search for Cory?"

"No, not really. We come here to school and at the end of the day we go back home. What I know of him is from here. Nothing a few dozen other boys won't say," Scott said, sitting back in his chair.

"You play tennis well?" Angus asked.

"Doubles, of course. It's a more civilized game than the one Justin Parkson plays. I believe he'd drive the ball down an opponents throat if he could get them to open their mouths. He's hardcore. You don't become a champion of anything by being namby-pamby."

"You don't like Justin?" Angus asked.

"I like him. He does not care for me. I'm too ebullient for his taste. He tried to play doubles one season. I think I was a junior. Justin drove everyone off the court. He didn't play well with others, and doubles requires some finesse, give and take. I didn't want to be on the court when Justin was on the other side of the net," Scott said.

"Why would such a hard driving kid be asked to coach Cory?"

"Got me. I thought it was weird. Coach might have thought it would help Justin to tone the intensity down a notch. Surprised me to see them sitting and talking. Up until that time, Justin talked with his tennis racket. We all heard him. I guess that's a plus in sports. I had classes with Justin, and off the tennis court, he's fine. He's smarter than most of the kids. Quite a combination. No one else has his drive and that amount of intelligence at Bishops. He's a one-off."

"You friends with Cory?" Angus asked.

"Friendly, not friends," Scott said.

"You aren't friends with Justin?"

"Hardly. He doesn't like me. I know why. I'm too much for a lot of people to take, but Justin isn't a social animal. I am. I tried to hard to get him to talk to me. He's older, you know. He's still here because of tennis. He held back on credits to get another year as singles champ. I think it was a deal the coach cooked up with his parents. I'm sure a tennis player like him doesn't come along very often."

"You admire him?" Angus asked.

"Yes, I'd like to have gotten to know him better. He's too intense. He's sitting out there waiting for his interview. He hasn't begun to chew up his notebook yet, but he will," Scott said, and the interview was over.

Scott Marcum was the type of interviews cops love. You had to sort through the words, but he spilled all the beans on everyone. The trick was to get someone like Scott focused, and then, the more he talked about Justin Parkson, the more Angus learned.

Justin was spoken about often enough to make the interview compelling. The image Scott Marcum painted for Angus, made Justin a person of interest. He was closest to Cory at Bishop's, and Angus wanted to explore what that meant.

But w as the cutthroat singles tennis champion capable of violence? Angus wondered.

Angus sped up his next two interviews.

His stomach was growling, and he needed more coffee, but, as soon as Justin Parkson came in the room, his attention was on him.

It was a little after ten-thirty.

Justin Parkson didn't take a seat like all the other boys. He wasn't anticipating being in there long. He know how quickly Angus did the last two interviews. He also knew how much time Scott Marcum spent with the detective who was investigating Cory's disappearance.

Justin's looked Angus over. The kids jaw was tight. His piercing brown eyes were about as unfriendly as eyes got. Angus was the enemy. Whatever was eating on Justin Parkson, it ran deep.

Angus needed to handle this kid with care. He didn't want to be there and if he felt crowded, he'd leave, and there wasn't a damn thing Angus could do about it. Justin could refuse to talk to him.

What had this kid wrapped so tight, Angus wondered.

"You are Justin Parkson? Please, have a seat."

Angus would use a friendly approach.

"Yeah. I'll stand," he said. "I'm hoping to grow taller."

"We might be a few minutes. It's OK to relax. I don't bite."

"You're here about Cory. I go to school with him. I play tennis with him. That's it. There's nothing else I have to tell you," he said.

"Your name has come up a few times. I have some questions I'd like to ask you," Angus said. "I'm only interested in finding a missing boy. A few minutes of your time could be helpful."

Justin dropped his notebook on the front of the desk. He fell backward into the chair. Both air and anger came gushing out of him, when he sat down. He was eye to eye with Angus now. He showed no sign of giving an inch, but he would sit for the interview.

Justin was tall, as most boys were taller these days. His expensive shirt hugged a well shaped chest and defined arms. He was muscular without being big or bulky. A medium size boy, he looked athletic. His eyes were still piercing and his jaw remained set.

He looked apprehensively fearless. It's probably how he looked to the competition, just before a match. His eyes locked on Angus's eyes. He showed an odd combination of emotions. Angus needed to get him to relax. Otherwise, the interview would not go well.

"What's up?"

"What's up?" Justin said, and then he laughed. "What's up? That's your question?"

"You come in here looking like a condemned man. You're wrapped tighter than a banjo string. What's up with that? I'm a simple private eye. I have a mother who wants me to find her missing son. I need any information anyone can give me so I know where to look. Until I have some idea where to look, Cory might be out there in trouble, hungry, who knows where. I was a cop for twenty years and I'm not about to tell you what can happen to a kid alone on the street, but I'm sure you can imagine."

"It was Scott that put you on me. That fairy has been after me for three years. He said I was friends with Cory, didn't he?" Justin asked.

"You were next," Angus said, waving his list. "I have a list. I interviewed Scott earlier. I don't think he said much about you. It was just your turn, Justin, and yes, some boys said that you and Cory seemed close. I was looking forward to talking to you. As I said, I'm looking for a direction to go in. I have nothing right now, and Cory is out there, somewhere, waiting to be found."

Angus spoke softly and in a pleasant voice. Justin Parkson knew something, and Angus was going to find out what.

In a more accusatory voice, Angus said, "Where were you last Monday after school?"

"Last Monday? I was where I am every day after school. I was at tennis practice," Justin said.

"Do you remember Cory being at practice last Monday?"

"I think I do. He's usually at practice. If I'm going to see Cory, I'm going to see him at practice."

Angus brought a sheet of paper to the top of a stack of papers he had in front of him. "'Coach Struck, was Cory at practice last Monday?'" Angus read.

"This is Coach Struck's answer. After he opened the top drawer of his desk to look at a sheet of paper, he said, 'No, Cory wasn't at practice Monday. The Friday before was his last day at practiced.'"

"'Coach Struck, was anyone else absent from practice on the Monday Cory disappeared?'"

"The coach's answer, 'Yes, Justin Parkson was absent. Very unusual for him to miss practice. He's my best player.' Your coach didn't need to look at the sheet of paper to tell me that," Angus said, putting down the sheet of paper and locking eyes with Justin.

"You see how that looks? Cory disappears on Monday. Cory isn't at practice after school on Monday. You're the only other tennis player absent from practice after school on Monday. You say you were at practice. Do you see how this makes you look? Do you want to tell me about it?"

'You see how this makes you look,' is a phrase Angus used on about a thousand perps over the years. It doesn't mean much but to someone sitting in an interview across from a cop, you may as well point your finger at them and say, 'You did it.'

Angus didn't know how it looked, but Justin did.

"So sue me. I was wrong. If I wasn't at practice, I don't remember where I was. I don't remember going anywhere on Monday. I'm always at practice after school."

Justin was cool, but he was lying.

Angus looked at Justin closely.

"Jessie," he said out of the blue.

"Jessie who?" Angus asked.

"My friends call me Jessie. Faculty, adults, call me Justin. Just so you know."

"The tennis brochure calls you Justin Parkson, singles champion. Nice picture. I bet you've always gotten everything you wanted. A handsome kid like you is a poster boy for Bishop's School."

Jessie smiled.

"In the flesh," he said. "I think I was at practice Monday, but I'd go with the coach on that one. His memory is better than mine."

Angus was convinced that Jessie and Cory were together on Monday. He needed to come at Jessie from another direction.

"Let me see your identification," Jessie said. "You could be anybody. You could be a perv for all I know."

Angus knew a diversion when presented with one. He'd see where it led.

"Sure," Angus said, flipping open his wallet. His detective's license was on one side and his Chicago detective's badge was on the other. He handed it to Justin.

"My friends call me McCoy," Angus said.

"Cool," Jessie said. "Just want to be sure. The badge is from Chicago?"

"I'm a retired police detective. I came out here to go private."

"Can I see your gun? Do you carry a 9?"

"I don't carry a gun in a missing person case. The danger at Bishop's School is minimal, as long as I stay off the tennis court with you."

"People talk," Jessie said. "What kind of private detective are you? Magnum always had his gun close at hand."

"You watch too much television, and anything you see on TV is probably made up," Angus said.

"Bummer," Jessie said. "I'll never feel the same about television again. You'd be more impressive if you carried a gun."

"You do what you need to do. Being impressive isn't part of my job. I'm looking for a missing boy. I doubt I'll need artillery. If I was after a mobster or a killer, I'd have a gun," Angus said.

"No, I doubt you'll need to shoot anyone to find Cory. Ever kill anyone?"

"No. I rarely hit anything when I fire my weapon," Angus said. "In real life targets move. In real life you react to a situation. Killing a guy with a gun isn't usually necessary, if the guy with the gun knows you will shoot back."

"How long were you a cop, McCoy?" Jessie asked.

"Over twenty years on the Chicago P.D.," Angus said.

"You can carry a gun. Why not carry one? Guns are cool."

"There's too much violence in the world. If I had the need, I'd have my gun. I'm only trying to find a boy. I think you can help me."

"Why do you suppose there is so much violence?" Jessie asked.

Angus had no objection to playing twenty questions. You never knew where an interview was going to go. Most kids just wanted to do the interview and get out of there, but Justin wasn't most kids. He was a very clever boy.

"I don't know. Because there are so many violent people, would be my guess, but if you're armed, the odds of you firing a gun go up significantly."

"That something like monkey see, monkey do?" Jessie asked. "I never thought of it like that. I bet it's true. If you have a gun you're more likely to find a reason to use a gun. It could explain why so many people end up getting shot in this country."

"Good way to look at it. We seem to cultivate violence. Kids are exposed to excessive violence. They're conditioned to it and accept it as part of their lives."

"I don't know where he is," Jessie said, making another hard turn.

"What can you tell me about Cory. Start where you like," Angus said, steering Jessie back on course.

"I don't know Cory that well. My coach asked me to work with him on his backhand. I gave him what time I had. Being the singles champion, I needed to work on my own game. We spent maybe a half hour together three days a week. He didn't improve enough to make my time investment worthwhile. He's a nice kid, I guess, but he needs to stick to swimming."

"Just wasn't that talented," Angus asked. "Where did you two go on Monday. It's obvious you went somewhere together. If you'll tell me where, I might be able to pick up a trail."

"Cory has a dynamite serve but he can't seem to focus on getting into position to hit a proper backhand. I did what I could. That's why we were together at practice," he said.

"Boys said they saw you together at practice all the time. Several boys said that you and Cory were friendly. One said, 'You need to talk to Jessie. He was closer to Cory than anyone else."

"I was only close to Cory, while I was trying to teach him how to hold the racket properly for a backhand smash. That was the kind of close we got. I'm not like Scott Marcum. I don't get off on other boys. I did what I could for Cory. He simply doesn't have the."

Jessie stopped short.

"You were going to say, 'Killer instinct,' I believe," Angus said. "Why didn't you go ahead and say it?"

"I don't care what Scott Marcum told you. Ask him what he's doing with those two freshman boys who follow him around everywhere he goes. I'm not like Scott Marcum. I don't watch other boys in the shower. I helped Cory with his backhand, because I was asked to help him. I know Scott suggested you take a closer look at me. He wants me to be like him, and I'm not like him. He's full of crap and you can tell him I said so."

Jessie was immediately on his feet. He'd managed to work himself into a lather. It was possible that Angus's most promising lead was about to end the interview.

If he was angry when he came into the room, he was mad as a hornet as he left.

What was it that set him off? Angus wondered. Scott Marcum hadn't said anything a dozen other boys didn't say.

"I'm not here to listen to school gossip. I don't care what kind of drama goes on around here. My objective is to find Cory. You can leave. I can't make you talk to me, but Jessie, if you know something that can lead me to Cory, his life might depend on you coming clean with me. Whatever you say won't go any farther than this room. I promise you that," Angus said, as Justin Parkson headed for the door.

"I've said what I have to say, I don't need this crap. You can't make me stay here," Jessie said, leaving the office.

Angus had said everything he knew how to say. He simply wanted to find Cory, and anything else going on was none of his business. He knew Jessie knew something, but he couldn't stop him from walking out on him.

Jessie opened the door. He went into the outer office. and he left the room.

Angus sighed. He'd need to talk to Jessie's parents. See if they could talk to him about the missing boy.

Angus knew a door was only closed, until someone opened it.

As Angus contemplated what to do next, he watched the crack in the door. It never completely closed.

Angus couldn't imagine what was taking place on the other side of the door. There were still a dozen interviews before he could call it a day, but he still felt Jessie on the other side of the door.

Angus contemplated the crack between the door and the doorjamb. The door was going to open again, but Angus didn't know who would open it. He could check his list and he'd know the next name that was on it, but his hope was that Jessie would return, sit back down, and continue the interview.

It was Jessie who opened the door. He came back inside, leaning his back against the door, until it clicked shut.

It wasn't the same boy who left the room. Gone was the bravado and fearlessness. He seemed resigned to whatever it was that was about to happen. He pushed on the door to make sure it was closed.

"You think you can find Cory?"

"I can find anyone if I can pick up his trail. Why don't you sit down and tell me what it is that's bothering you, Jessie," Angus said. "You'll feel better once you do."

"It won't go any farther than this room?" Jessie asked.

"I won't write anything down that I'm told to hold in confidence. I would need to reveal it in a court of law, if I'm under oath. I'm rarely in court these days. I don't work those kinds of cases."

"I'm the singles tennis champion. I have scholarships to a dozen major colleges across the country. My father has spent a fortune on travel, coaches, the kind of support only a dad can give a son. I'm smart. I'm talented, and none of it means a Goddamn thing, because I think I'm in love with another boy. Do you know what that will do to my future, if it gets out?"

It wasn't a question he wanted answered. Angus didn't try.

"Come and sit down. Tell me what happened Monday. I have no where else to start, Jessie. If you want me to find him, you need to tell me what made Cory run?"

Jessie looked as though he had fifty miles of bad road ahead of him. His face showed signs of both despair and fatigue. He'd been wrestling with what he should do since last Monday.

Jessie moved back to the chair, sitting back down. He was as quiet as a mouse. He was still looking for a way out, but Angus could see that there was none, and so Jessie came back to tell his story.

"I can't tell you how difficult this is to talk about," Jessie said.

"I've found starting at the beginning makes it easier," Angus said, having no idea of where Jessie's story might go.

"There is no beginning. Because I've been this way for as far back as my memory goes. Do you know what it will do to my father, if he ever finds out? He thinks I walk on water."

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