Excerpts

Excerpt From Early’s Gold

Ten lanes of traffic held thousands of idling vehicles as the wait to cross from El Paso, Texas into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico grew longer with the morning commute. Exhaust fumes choked the air and a constant din of noise assailed the senses as drivers blew their horns and jockeyed for position in faster moving lanes. Alberto, dressed as thousands of other day laborers, ignored the vehicle traffic and commotion. He made his way across the pedestrian bridge carrying no baggage which practically insured he would not be stopped or checked by American or Mexican immigration authorities. Alberto was only one of thousands of Mexicans and Americans who crossed the border that morning. Most likely there were others wearing money belts also, but the hundred thousand dollars in Alberto’s belt was one of the bigger loads of the morning.

Daniel Marks and Patricia Cranston, investigators for Espinoza and Associates, followed along in Alberto’s wake. Patricia and Daniel had first tried to locate Dwayne Lee at Huntsville Prison and discovered Dwayne had been recently paroled. He met with his parole officer once as scheduled, but so far had been a no-show when they staked out his rented room. Dwayne wasn’t scheduled to meet with his parole officer for another week, so Patricia mined the reports of prior detectives and possibly got another lead with Dave Hardy, who had been a construction supervisor, was still alive, and living in a Fort Worth nursing home.

Patricia visited the home yesterday morning in hopes of interviewing Hardy. She thought twice about growing old once she entered the facility and saw a warehouse of old people, most waiting to die and many she thought might be better off if they did. She expected it to smell like a cat box in need of a cleaning, but it was antiseptic with only a bit of hospital odor. Uneaten food left on trays by room doors indicated a dietician doing the best he or she could and the staff was actually smiling.  Approaching the check-in desk, Patricia flashed her ID. “I’m hoping to have a short visit with a Mr. Dave Hardy.”

The young lady at the desk smiled and openly checked out Patricia. “Private Investigator, sounds like fun to me. Dave will be glad to have a visitor. He hasn’t had one this year. He’s back in the television room and will be the one in pajamas and a big cowboy hat. But you come back and investigate me if Dave doesn’t work out now.”

“Thanks. I’ll uh remember that.”

Pat easily located Mr. Hardy as she followed the sound of The Price Is Right down the hall and into the television room. Only one man was present and as he was wearing a Stetson, Pat congratulated herself on her detecting skills and took the seat beside him. “Are you Dave Hardy?” She asked.

Hardy picked up the TV remote, lowered the volume, and then fiddled with his hearing aid. “I am,” he said. “And who might you be?”

“Mr. Hardy, my name is Patricia Cranston. I’m an investigator working on the Haverdale kidnapping from way back in seventy-two. I understand you were Vernon Lee’s supervisor back then. Can you tell me about him?”

“You’re still working on the Haverdale case after all these years? That little girl is a grown woman now if she is alive. She could come on home if she wanted to. I couldn’t tell you anything I haven’t already told. Police, FBI, Private Investigators … they’ve all talked to me over the years. I supervised Vernon Lee on the construction crew and that is all I can recall.”

“We feel strongly that Frannie is still alive Mr. Hardy. She may not be able to come home sir as she may easily not know who she is. She was quite young when she was kidnapped. Anything at all you can remember may help us.”

“Oh, I am more than happy to talk about it all day, Miss Cranston,” Hardy said. “But I still can’t tell you anything I haven’t told years ago. I ran a big construction crew and Lee was just another name on it. We were building one of those skyscrapers in Dallas and my crew changed all the time. Guys quitting, guys not showing up, guys getting fired, new guys … half the time I didn’t even know what they looked like. I remember Lee though because he had been around for a while. Kind of a loner, but he didn’t ever bother anyone. He didn’t show up for work one day and later we found out about him getting killed in a car wreck and the kidnapping. I remember it really put me in a bind that day.”

“Why did it put you in a bind, Mr. Hardy?” Patricia asked.

“I was short another guy too …  a Mexican man by the name of Alberto never showed up for work either. Fact is, we never did see him again.”

“Have you ever mentioned Alberto to any investigators before? I haven’t seen any references to him in any of the case files I have studied. Do you remember Alberto’s last name?”

“Oh sure. I told everyone about him, but he and Lee weren’t friends or anything like that. I don’t think he had papers. Everyone pretty well figured he had gone back home to Mexico since he didn’t come back to work. I don’t remember his last name … just Alberto”

“Okay Sir, I can’t think of anything else, so I will let you get back to your show. Thank you very much … you’ve been most helpful to me.”

Dave asked Pat to stay for lunch but was soon engrossed back in the TV when she turned him down. She rushed down the hall, speed dialing her cell phone as she went. “Yeah Daniel, it’s me. I might have a lead. I am on the way in but would you talk to someone in personnel at the construction company Vernon Lee worked for. We’re looking for a Mexican man by the name of Alberto who worked on the same crew as Lee. Daniel, he actually went missing the same day Lee did. I should be back to the office in about an hour. See you when I get there.”

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