Cory Wade is Missing

by Rick Beck

Chapter 9


Angus composed his thoughts on the Cory Wade case, while driving to Chula Vista. He often put the pieces of a case together while he was behind the wheel.

The key to the case, so far, was Justin Parkson. Mrs. Johnson, the Wade maid, should confirm there was no unusual mess she'd cleaned inside the Wade house. Once this was done, Angus would close out the theory, Cory met with violence at the hands of his father.

If Cory left the house on his own, where did he go. With Johnny Lee's apartment being the location where Cory accessed his computer, Angus would go to Hillcrest to interview Johnny Lee.

If Angus was lucky, he'd find Cory living at Johnny Lee's. As much as that would satisfy Angus, and solve the Cory Wade affair, if Cory was that close, and if Jessie and Cory had 'a thing,' why hadn't he contacted his boyfriend?

Either they weren't as close as Jessie thought they were, or Cory hadn't contacted him for some reason Angus couldn't see yet. Since he knew so little about where Cory went, after leaving home, Angus would wait to see what Mr. Lee had to say.

If he jumped straight to Johnny Lee, he might miss something Mrs. Johnson could tell him. A maid was privy to things no one else, outside the family, knew.

Mrs. Johnson would fill him in on what she cleaned in the house, after Cory disappeared. Most domestics were reluctant to tell tales on employers, but this was different. A housekeeper who kept a house as neat as she kept the Wade house, knew when a mess was left for her to clean, and she'd help rule out a violent confrontation. Then Angus would look for Cory's trail leading away from his house.

Evidence led Angus away from Cory's violent end. It didn't mean something violent didn't take place somewhere. When someone went missing anywhere near Tony Wade, violence could never be ruled out.

Until there was a confirmed sighting of Cory after Monday evening, Tony was of primary interest in Cory's disappearance. Angus wanted visual proof that Cory was alive after Monday and then he might be able to steer clear of Anthony Wade, until he found the boy.

Once he ruled out Tony as a suspect, Angus would be free to interview the contacts on Cory's computer, and not look back.

Information about someone accessing Cory's computer from a location other than the Wade house, didn't mean it was Cory. As he had Terry looking for clues about Cory's whereabouts, someone else might be interested in Cory's computer too, and for reasons Angus knew nothing about. There were still more questions than answers.

Angus parked in front of a modest house, walking to the front door. He knocked, reaching into his pocket for his wallet.

" Mrs. Johnson, I'm Angus McCoy. I'm a private investigator. Mrs. Dolores Wade said that you clean house for her two days a week, and you come in Saturdays occasionally," Angus said.

He held up his license.

Mrs. Johnson nodded, as she listened, and read the information on the private investigator's license.

"Is anything wrong?" she asked with concern in her voice.

"You do know Cory is missing?" Angus asked.

"No, I didn't know. Please come in. Tell me what happened. It explains why his bed hasn't been slept in, Mr. McCoy. I thought he and his mother might be away. Her room shows no sign she's been there for the last week. Sure simplifies cleaning if no one is there. I never imagined anything was wrong."

Angus sat in a very neat living room. Mrs. Johnson sat across from him with her hands folded in her lap. She looked ill at ease.

"How can I help?" She asked. "Cory is missing? Oh my God. He's such a polite boy. I hope nothing has happened to him."

"What I need to know is if you saw anything unusual in Cory's room, after he disappeared, Monday a week ago?"

"Cory's a neat boy. He hangs up most of his clothes. I go into his room to dust, vacuum, and make his bed. Sometimes there are things out on his desk, maybe there will be a pair of shoes by his bed, but no, nothing unusual. My last few days there, Cory's room looked just as I left it. I thought maybe he was away. I know private schools let out earlier than the public schools. My kids have two weeks left."

Mrs. Johnson spoke softly. She had a pleasant speaking voice, and an easy speaking style. She waited for Angus to finish what he was saying before she spoke. She gave thought to each answer.

Mrs. Johnson expressed a legitimate concern for Cory. She was told nothing about where Mrs. Wade or Cory went. Mrs. Wade often left her notes, asking her to attend to something she might not ordinarily attend to, but there had been no note in some time.

"This is the time of year I'd start seeing Cory in the house on my cleaning days. Once school let out, he was often around the house during the summers. I heard nothing about his graduation. Most people I've cleaned for invited me to their son's or daughter's graduation. That seemed odd, but like I said, I thought Cory and his mother might be away. They travel some in the summers," Mrs. Johnson said.

"Their rooms have seemed undisturbed from one cleaning day to the next," she said. "I vacuum and dust, but it doesn't take long."

"You haven't cleaned up anything unusual, a mess of some kind, or have you seen anything out of the ordinary?" Angus asked.

Mrs. Johnson thought for a minute.

"Don't worry about revealing confidences, Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Wade hired me to search for Cory. I'm looking for any clue that might tell me where Cory went or why he left. Anything you say will stay between you and me, Mrs. Johnson," Angus reassured her.

"I can't tell you about anything unusual. I've known Cory since he was a boy. They hired me shortly after they moved out here. The house is always neat. Cory's room has a lived in look, when he's there. Mrs. Wade has a personal maid, Sensa, and she picks up after her. Two days a week is a lot for a house that doesn't show any sign of being messy," Mrs. Johnson said. "Frankly, Mr. McCoy, I've been worried they'd let me go, because the house is so easy to clean, and they pay me top dollar to keep it that way. I get the impression Mr. Wade is a stickler for neatness. He doesn't communicate with me much, but if he comes in while I'm cleaning, he'll check for dust or any sign I may not be doing my job. I don't mind telling you, I didn't appreciate that at first. Then, once i"d been there a few years, I'd see him checking behind me, and it was kind of humorous. I'm sure he has better things to do than check my dust mop for dust."

Angus chuckled. He liked Mrs. Johnson. He believed every word she told him. She was a no nonsense kind of a lady.

"At first I cleaned three times a week," she said. "But recently, they told me to come twice a week. Same money. No cut in pay, but twice a week now. I go in Saturdays if they are entertaining. Sensa and I prepare for the guests. They have catering bring in the food and furnish servers. Sensa and I wash the China and silverware. Make sure everything sparkles."

"I've been in the house, Mrs. Johnson, I told the attorney I do investigations for, 'It doesn't look like anyone lives there. It's neat as a pin," Angus said.

Mrs. Johnson beamed.

"Thank you, Mr. McCoy. What a nice thing to say. I just don't have anything that might help you. I do hope Cory is OK."

"You've been a big help. You told me what I wanted to know, and that's always helpful," Angus said, standing.

Mrs. Johnson walked to the door with him and watched him drive away.

A little after three, Angus was parking near the Hillcrest apartment building where Mr. John Lee lived.

"Yes, may I help you?" The man asked, looking Angus up and down, as he stood at the door.

Angus reached into his inside jacket pocket and showed his investigator's license. This may well have been Cory's first stop, after he left his house. Mr. Lee might be the key to Cory's whereabouts. Presenting his license told Mr. Lee, he was a serious man on serious business.

Angus had taken a minute to pin his Chicago P.D. detective's badge across from the license. It gave gravity to a meeting. Angus picked the occasions when the badge was on display. Anytime he might come in contact with officials, the badge was tucked away.

He didn't tell anyone he was a cop. If someone asked him, 'are you a cop,' he said, 'I'm private.'

Mr. Lee's eyes went to Cory's picture, when Angus held it up. Instant recognition crossed the man's face. Then there was a second when he attempted to assess the situation he faced. He was very cool. John Lee had seen more than one policeman's badge.

"I'm looking for Cory Wade. Your name came up in our investigation. Do you know this boy?" Angus asked, knowing the answer.

"Come in," he said without hesitating.

Angus was surprised.

"I've just brewed a pot of tea. Would you care for a cup? I find it particularly relaxing this time of day."

"Thank you, Mr. Lee. I would indeed enjoy a cup," Angus said, disarmed. "I'm accustomed to being left standing at the door by most folks. They don't want the likes of me in their homes."

"They call me Johnny, Mr. McCoy," he said, walking to the dining table a few feet away.

Johnny took two cups from the sideboard and poured tea from a tea pot decorated with roses. He set a cup and saucer on the coffee table in front of Angus and he sat across from him and sipped his tea.

"I have some tasty cookies if you'd like. They go well with tea."

"No, the tea is fine. I haven't had much time to relax this afternoon. It's one thing after another," Angus said in his friendliest voice. "This is quite good."

"I suppose if I told you I've never seen that boy in my life, you wouldn't believe me?"

Angus looked at a casual picture of Cory Wade on top of some shelves that contained a variety of nicknacks like the ones his grandmother collected. Johnny Lee stood next to Cory in the picture. There was a beautiful garden behind where they stood.

"I'm private. I've been hired by Cory's mom to find Cory. I've gotten the story of why he left home. I talked to Cory's friend, and he hasn't heard a word since the incident at Cory's house involving his father," Angus said, being careful not to reveal too much detail.

What Johnny knew would tell Angus how much Cory trusted him.

"Terrible thing for two teenage boys. They're just beginning to discover and accept themselves, and something like this happens. It could change the course of their lives. It's sad that people still act so badly when their children fail to please them," Johnny Lee said. "Cory is a fine boy and his father made it clear he shouldn't come back. That is my understanding."

"As I thought," Angus said. "Now I know the sequence of events. I talked to the other boy. He's a very nice boy. He hasn't heard a word from Cory, since last Monday. He's worried sick," Angus said.

"Commendable of you to say so. I met Jessie one time, a few weeks ago. Cory wanted me to see him. They were meeting for coffee in Hillcrest one afternoon. Quite a handsome fellow. It was easy to see that Cory was smitten. I'm almost sure Jessie felt the same about Cory. I don't think he has come to grips with being gay though," Johnny said. "Quite a tennis player, I hear."

"There are a lot of people worried about Cory," Angus said in an understanding voice. "I can not force him to return home. His mother is no longer living there. I would like to know he's OK and that he knows he can return to finish school. This is his mother's wish."

Mr. Lee sipped his tea and listened.

"Well, the bottom line is, I've been in his computer, and he emailed you. So I knew you know him, even without the pictorial evidence. You do know Cory Wade is officially a missing person," Angus said, trying to be as nonthreatening as possible.

"No, he's not missing, Mr...."

"Just McCoy, Johnny. This isn't formal. I can't arrest anymore. My only interest is in seeing Cory's life is disrupted as little as necessary, because of this incident with his father."

"His father put a scare into him. He was determined to get as far away from him as he can. He came here last Monday to have the time to make up his mind what to do," Johnny said. "He made up his mind, he had to leave."

"His father scares me," Angus said.

Johnny laughed.

"He left here mid week, last week. This was a safe place for him to run to, until he figured out where to go," Johnny said. "I don't know where he intended to go. I told him I didn't want to know. I figured someone would come looking for him. It's what he thought too. He said his father had ways of dealing with trouble, and he'd become trouble. It's not a new story, McCoy," he said, sipping his tea.

"Gay boys have been running for their lives for as long as there's been gay boys. We live at an intolerant time. People like us are least tolerated. Gives new meaning to the least of these."

"You read the bible, Johnny Lee?"

"Southern Baptists read the bible, and in my church, we lived the words of the Lord," he said.

"Yes, they do," Angus said.

"I wish there was more I could tell you. I wish I knew he was OK. What I do know is, by the middle of last week, a week ago today, he became concerned his father was going to send someone after him. The first thought I had, when you came to the door, you were the guy his father sent, but the badge said different. Tell me how to help you and I will. I'd like Cory to be able to come home."

"The tea is quite nice," Angus said. "Nice change of pace for a man who drinks a gallon of coffee a day."

Angus wanted to slow the pace of the conversation. This man knew things Angus needed to know. It would make life a lot easier if Johnny trusted him. This was the first place Cory ran. Cory trusted Johnny enough to tell him the entire story. Angus didn't want to miss anything Johnny knew."

"Where you from, Johnny Lee? That's a great accent you've got. I've heard it before. Where do you hail from?" Angus said in his most charming voice.

"I'm from the Delta. I'm a Mississippi girl," Johnny Lee said with no joy in the revelation. "Yes, sir, I got out of there fast, but you can take the boy out of Mississippi, but you can't take Mississippi out of the boy. Seems those folks don't cotton to us queers. I knew by the time I was sixteen, if I wanted to see seventeen, I better see a lot less of Mississippi. I came here by way of Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. The Midwest was a step up from the Delta, but the atmosphere was still a bit unfriendly. That's when I came here."

"My accent has worked its way back into my life. I worked at losing the drawl, but I don't mind it so much anymore. You learn as you go, McCoy. The accent wasn't the problem. Even Mississippi wasn't the problem. The people were the problem."

Johnny spoke pensively, as if he'd given this a lot of thought.

"Things not so good in the Delta, Johnny?"

"Let's say I'm well acquainted with fear. I recognized it on Cory, when he came knocking on my door that Monday night. He had nowhere else to go, he said."

"You are someone Cory trusted. He came to you when he had nowhere else to go. Did he indicate where he'd be going next?"

"As I said, I know fear. He was scared when he got here. I was scared like that when I was his age. I did what I could to reassure him that he was safe. He did calm down but in a couple of days he was ready to run. Nothing I could say was going to stop him. It was sudden. On Wednesday he was fine. On Thursday he had to go."

"Anything happen on Thursday to upset him?" Angus asked.

"No. Nothing that I noticed. I didn't expect him to stay, but I didn't expect such a sudden departure either," Johnny said. "All of a sudden it was time to go."

"Did he contact anyone? Did he mention anyone's name to you?"

"No, but I didn't want to know anything someone could beat out of me. He had me scared with his talk of someone coming after him. I'm glad you came to the door and not some cretin, but in a way, it's what Cory feared. Someone coming after him. If you can track him here, well, you might say Cory knew what was coming. That's why he had to leave."

"I can't make him do anything. I would like to get him back in school and settled somewhere with his mother, but as for making him do it, Cory is eighteen. He's in charge of his life now. He's close to finishing school. It's a shame this had to happen this close to graduation," Angus said. "His entire life may depend on me getting hims safely back home in time to salvage his education."

"Another thing. Cory was worried about me. That was part of the reason he didn't want me to know where he was going. He said that if I didn't know where he was going, I'd be safer. It didn't make any sense to me, but it seemed to make sense to him. I had no reason to think anyone would track him here. He knew though. Here you are."

"His father would be the only one who would come looking for him, but if he wanted him to leave the house, and not come back, why would he then want to come after him?" Angus asked.

"It's hard to say what someone as miserable as his father might want with him. I doubt he's suddenly going to apologize for being an asshole," Johnny said. "But Cory thought staying here put me in danger. I tried to reassure him that I could take care of myself, but his mind was made up. He was moving on."

"His father isn't a man who apologizes to anyone. I'd cross that off my list of reasons he'd come looking for Cory," Angus said.

"I don't work for his father. I work for Dolores Wade. Actually, I'm officially her lawyer's chief investigator, and he represents her interests. She's pretty worried and I was hired to get him home to her. She wants him to graduate from school and enroll in college."

"I wish I could help," Johnny said. "I've told you what I know."

"Cory must have been fond of you," Angus said, looking at the eight by ten photo of Johnny and Cory standing close together.

"Not that fond, McCoy. A middle-aged black man in this day and age knows better than to think he's desirable to an upper class eighteen-year-old white boy. No, I was lucky enough to be standing nearby when Cory came stumbling out of the closet. I merely kept him from falling on his face. As with most gay kids who face coming out, he didn't know where he was coming out to. We met by accident. I introduced him to Hill crest, and the gay scene."

"So there was no physical relationship?" Angus asked.

"We hugged. He was comfortable with me. Cory is a charming, smart, intuitive young man. I did nothing to make him regret meeting me. I enjoyed his company and my door was open to him. Our few months of friendship proved a life saver for him, when he had to run. I'd met Jessie. I recognized young love when I saw it. My interest in corn was to be the friend he needed."

"If you hadn't been here for him," Angus said. "Well, I don't know what might have happened to him."

"I was someone he could talk to about his life, about being gay. I'm a good listener. I know his father is trouble. I checked him out. His mother spends her time in nail salons and beauty parlors. She shops at Lord & Taylor's and spends as much of her husbands money as she can. It makes living with the creep tolerable. Hard for a woman like that to give up the good life. Cory knows that."

"You do have the facts. Cory talks about his parents. Only in the context that they are too busy for him. Mama hired him a tennis coach and a diving coach. Keep Cory engaged."

"Some parents love their kids from a distance," Angus said.

"Jessie taught him more about tennis in two months than his coach taught him in two years, but Jessie had Cory's undivided attention," Johnny said.

Angus laughed.

"It's all about focus," Angus said. "His mother is an attractive woman."

"Hell, if I had enough money, I could be an attractive woman too," Johnny Lee said.

Angus chuckled. Johnny was an honest man.

"Thankfully, it's not about Dolores Wade. It's about Cory. Being on the run is no life for a boy Cory's age. He won't be safe as long as he's out there, Johnny."

"I told him. I'm no fool. Life is going to throw you curves. This one couldn't have come at a worse time for him. I told him to come back if he ran into trouble. He knew he could stay as long as he wanted, but he wanted to put distance between him and his father."

"Say he takes you up on it, Johnny, you need to call me. I know you want to protect him, but he needs to get on with his life. He needs to listen to what I have to say. He can decide what's best for him, but he needs to hear me out. I can't make him do anything."

"Leave me your card and if I hear from him, I'll ask him to call you. I'll tell him you work for his mother, and you'd like to talk. I'll make no guarantees, but I will tell him what you had to say."

"That's more than I expected, Johnny. Now the only thing left to talk about, where did you take him. Where did he want to go?"

"He didn't tell me San Francisco, but I heard him talking to people about San Francisco. He used my computer to get on his computer. I'm sure he got contact information, phone numbers. After he made two phone calls, I watched him remove the battery from his phone. He ditched the phone in a dumpster a few minutes later. He didn't hide what he was doing from me. He did it in the open. He seemed to have decided what he was going to do."

"Did you take him somewhere, when he left? San Francisco is a big bite to take all at once."

"Yes, he asked me to drive him to Oceanside. He stopped in one of those military barber shops and he got one of those horrid buzz cuts. I took him to the bus station after we ate lunch at a Mexican place in Oceanside. The one thing I noticed, a ton of military guys everywhere we went. I figured he wanted to blend in when he bought his bus ticket," Johnny said. "Even with that crazy haircut, I would have been able to pick him out of a crowd," Johnny said.

"Oceanside," Angus said.

"In spite of that haircut, no one would be fooled if you showed them the photograph you have. Even with a ball cap, he looked just as young and innocent as always. He would have grown a beard, but he said he only shaves once a week."

Angus laughed.

"Kids, you can't tell them anything. They've got to learn for themselves. I guess I was that way too," Johnny said. "I wish I knew he was OK."

"Where was he taking the bus to?"

"He didn't let me go in with him. He left me outside the bus station. You don't know how much I hated to let him out there. There was nothing I could do. His mind was made up."

"Is there anything else you can tell me?" Angus asked.

"I wanted to give him money. He told me he had plenty of money. I don't know how much or in what form. That's something I don't pry into. I offered. He said no."

"Money?" Angus said. "That complicates matters. Did you take him any place where he might have gotten money?"

"Yes, I took him to Wells Fargo Bank on Wednesday afternoon. I suppose he had an account there, and he withdrew what he had, but I didn't see any money. Now that I think about it, he began getting more distant, once we returned from the bank. It was the next morning he said he had to leave."

"Oceanside," Angus said. "I guess I can get out of here before the worst part of rush hour starts. I've got to go up there and see if anyone remembers seeing him," Angus said. "You've given me a lot to go on, Johnny. It's more than I had an hour ago. I appreciate your time. I'll get out of your hair, if you can't think of anything else."

"Once he got on that bus, it's anyone's guess where he got off, but the impression I got, when he got off that bus, he intended to disappear. If anyone followed him that far, they won't follow him any further, unless you figure out his final destination," Johnny said, reflecting on the day Cory left.

"He was leading anyone following him straight to a dead end?That's the impression I was left with. The haircut, the bus ticket, they were part of his diversion. He told me to tell anyone who asked what I knew. That I took him to the bus station in Oceanside. Why go through the trouble of going to Oceanside, getting that haircut, if he wanted me to give the information to anyone who asked? He was planning to lead them off into the middle of nowhere, and then disappear. That was how I viewed his actions on my way back here, after I left him in Oceanside. He'd worked out a careful plan and he was leaving clues that could easily be followed away from here. In Cory's mind, he was trying to protect me and confuse his pursuer."

"Perception is often accurate," Angus said.

"Cory is a bright kid. He had a plan, even if he didn't tell me what it was. I'm merely giving you my reaction," Johnny said.

"We have taken his contacts off his computer. It's how I got your name. My computer expert is running down names and addresses on any contacts that look promising. My fear is, if I don't handle this carefully, once Cory knows I'm on his trail, he'll break off with anyone he's been communicating with. What I'll work as fast as I'm able and hope for the best," Angus said.

"I hope you find him. If you do, let him know Johnny is worried about him, will you? It might get me a phone call."

"I will, Johnny. Do you mind if I give Jessie your phone number? He wanted to know if I found out anything. Since you met him, he might want to talk to you. The last time he saw Cory was at his house last Monday when he had to get out fast. He's pretty worried."

"Go right ahead. I'll tell him about Cory being here after the incident at his house on Monday," Johnny said.

"Here's my card. If you hear anything, please let me know. Even if its only a phone call," Angus said.

"I'll do what I can," Johnny said, remaining loyal to Cory.

"I'm glad you decided to talk to me. I know Cory left his house under his own power and that he was OK when he left you."

With that Angus shook Johnny's hand and left.

Next stop, Oceanside , Angus thought.

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