Monday, April 6, 2009

In The Land of Lost Things

So, the majority of the time doing my job means solving a Whodunit. When you show up to a crime scene, it’s typically pretty clear how the vic died. The big mystery is Who Did It – followed closely by Why and Where Can We Find Them Right Now?

But every once in a while we get a Howdunit or, more accurately, a What-The-Hell-Happenedit. In these cases the first priority isn’t tracking down who did the deed, but figuring out what actually occurred.

These are missing persons cases where the person doesn’t turn up dead, didn’t run away, didn’t pretend to be dead to avoid alimony – just straight up disappeared. I mean, most of the time, the vic turns up alive and gambling their savings away in Vegas. But every so often, you get a mindbender. A case where no warning was given, no note was left, no reasoning makes sense. And they’re the strangest calls I’ve worked.

I’m talking about cases straight out of a philosophy class. We show up and find the apartment deadbolted from the inside, windows closed and locked, the shower still running, and toast still in the toaster. If someone disappears and nobody can figure out how it happened, did it really happen at all?

It’s pretty hard for civilians to grasp, but this sort of thing occurs more often than you’d think. A case where there just isn’t any explanation. Just today, Esposito and I gave Castle the details on Dana Sullivan, a missing persons file we worked a year or so back.

Dana and her boyfriend leave a club in Soho around midnight on a Thursday. He’s a couple steps behind her ‘cause he’s talking on his cell, so when she turns the corner he’s just a few seconds before him. But when he comes around the corner, she’s gone. Street’s empty – no cars pulling off, no footsteps running away. Nothing.

Castle pinged on the boyfriend – clearly the likely suspect. But, like I told Castle, we brought the guy in, went over his story for hours. Examined every inch of their apartment, spoke to their friends, family, co-workers. Every angle we could think of. Then we pulled footage from a couple bank cameras that were located across the street where she disappeared.

First camera has her rounding the corner, then him doing the same. He comes into view of the second camera, but she never does. In the space of a few feet, she up and vanishes. That’s all there was to see.

In the end, everything corroborated the boyfriend’s story. Dana Sullivan just up and disappeared. We never figured that case out, never found an explanation where it all made sense. And if you go through our missing persons files, you’ll find hundreds of cases like that one.

I don’t know, maybe these people vanish to the same place where all those lost pens, remote controls, and socks go. That floating vortex of things that were here just a moment ago and aren’t anymore. Disappeared, vanished, never to be found again.

It’s enough to have you start believing in alien abductions, metaphysical wormholes, and little green men. One moment you’re hanging out at Quiznos, the next you’re in an intergalactic stadium waging combat against six-armed gladiators.

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