Saturday, September 19, 2009
West of Lake Michigan—Part IV
The following morning, right in the middle of watching Captain Kangaroo and eating cold cereal, the Chicago Police showed up at our house. I should have expected it after telling Janice—the daughter of a police captain—about the near-miss-kidnapping episode, but I never saw it coming.
Mother reluctantly let the police into the house while explaining Dad couldn't be reached because he was in the hospital. They didn’t care. The Chicago PD wanted details about the ransom on a son who wasn’t kidnapped, and about Dad's injuries. "What did the men look like?" "How many men were involved?" They said they could do a line-up if Dad came down to the station. Mother was evasive and cast an angry look in my direction.
I shrugged, giving her the "oops' expression. Mother wasn’t minding her hospitality manners so I offered them coffee. They accepted and sat down. Since I was too short to reach the coffee mugs, Mother had to leave the room to do it. Alone with the Chicago PD, I waited for commercial, and then asked how I could help them.
By the next day, my show-and-tell story ended up as headlines in The Chicago Tribune. I knew I my story was very good! Authors, even budding ones, have a second sense about these things. It was probably how I learned about the power of words both written and spoken.
My older sister, Karen, was thankful for the mention I gave her during my conversation with the police, and also, with the show-and-tell, because now her name was in the newspaper, too. She bought copies to pass around to all her friends. Since she was five years older than me, she had access to her own money and the ability of getting to the drug store by crossing the street alone.
After speaking to my Dad at the hospital, the Chicago PD gave not only Karen police protection, but also Russell—the un-kidnapped victim. I was the only one without protection which I found totally prejudicial. My mother explained it was because I took the school bus, so they felt I was safe. Well, my brother Russell took the very same bus as I, but since he had been the target, extra security was provided for him. I still wasn’t sure what my sister's security was all about, but she now walked to the CTA bus stop with a very handsome plainclothes policeman. And as for me, well, I was—as they say—out in the cold, fending for myself and keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who might want to do me harm—in addition to the regular popular girls at my school.
The worst part of all was when my mother sent Dad off to Arizona to escape the hoopla and told family members and friends that I made up the entire kidnapping story. Her words made me lose credibility. I understood they were trying to save their reputations—but I was trying to gain recognition. Being branded a liar had a domino effect. Not wanting her daughter to play with a liar, and not just any liar but a headline making liar, Monica’s mother forbade her to ever play with me again. This was a huge blow. Monica was my best friend. I couldn't even talk to her on the phone, I know because I asked. My best friend and I were over. There was no one to spook the customers with in The Ivanhoe Catacombs. It almost wasn’t worth my time. It was a sad, sad day. I even had given Monica her, her first bra, years before either one of us needed it. Didn’t that mean anything? And now between school and home, there was no one to talk to except the police and reporters. I adjusted and kept right on talking.
The worst was yet to come. The same night Peter Pan jumped out of the fish bowl and died when he was chopped to pieces in the disposal, Mother told us she was going to join Dad in Arizona. They would be gone for a month. My older half brother, Dick and his wife, Joan, along with their son, Rick, would be moving in with us to take care of things.
That first night in bed, I trembled in the darkness beneath my pink blanket and said my goodnight prayers to myself. I was certain there'd be no sleep until Mother was back home. If I thought I was alone before, now I was really alone. My princesshood was way over; I had no best friend, no school friends, no parents, and a dead fish, and right in the middle of media frenzy, too. But that was just the beginning.