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Monday, January 03, 2005

An Amazing Story Part I

This post is a little out of the ordinary for me but since I'm in shock, I have to share.

Part I of III:

A few years ago Mr. Lane was driving a semi long haul. One of his coworkers, Ryan, came to our house to show off his girlfriend, Lee. Mr. Lane told me that Lee went on every trip with Ryan. She stayed cooped up in the truck with him 24/7. Although they worked together, they rarely were in the same place at the same time. This would be the first time Mr. Lane would meet Lee, the little truck pet.

Mr. Lane had told me stories about Ryan before I met him that night. Even though I try really hard not to pass judgment on anyone, especially people I've never met, I'd already decided this guy was a loser and his chick was a subservient kept woman. But, like always, I put on a happy face.

When they walked in I could not believe my eyes. He was around 33 and Lee looked like a kid. I would have guessed maybe 15 years old. Shocked and appalled, I had a quiet conversation with Mr. Lane. He too thought she was under age but suspected she was somewhere around 17. So the two of us worked out a way to bring up the question. Ryan jumped in quickly answering for her, claimed she was 18. The whole time they were there, I tried to get her alone to find out how old she really was. He just wouldn't let her out of his sight or earshot.

I took notes of every piece of jewelry she wore, her hair (which was obviously dyed blonde) and her eye color, what kind of purse she had, hell, I even peeked in to see the contents. I was just that sure.

When they left my house, I got on my computer and looked up the website for Missing and Exploited Children. I typed in her name, which I also thought was fake. When I came up with nothing in Illinois, I checked all over the US. I input age estimates and still came up with nothing. I searched for so many hours I don't even really remember how long I sat there. All I know is my eyeballs became clouded and grainy.

After coming up with nothing more than a gut feeling, I went to bed. I got up early the next morning and went to work. On my way, I stopped at the police station. Working at the newspaper I became close with local authorities and felt comfortable asking for a little personal help. I sat down with a detective friend of mine. I told him about Lee. I described her, height, weight, real hair color, fake hair color, eye color, jewelry, shoes, clothing and slight overbite. Unfortunately, he came up with no one fitting that description who was missing anywhere.

He said he would make some calls and keep checking and get back to me if he found anything out. Thankfully, he didn't think I was crazy, he wanted to find out who she really was too.

Months rolled by and I befriended Lee. She was the little sister I never had. I wanted to protect her and keep that sick bastard as far away from her as I could. I caused intentional waves between them every chance I could. She was finally ready to break it off with him and immediately moved in with me. She still didn't tell me the truth about how old she was or where she came from. The detective also came up with nothing.

Ryan began stalking her and calling my house dozens of times a day. I was afraid to leave her at home alone while I went to work. She was under strict orders from me to stay in the locked house with the phone nearby. It was terrifying for her. He even began calling me at work asking what I did to her.

I finally said what needed to be said. I told her to come clean and tell me her age and where she really came from. She confessed to being 16. I got her to give me her grandmother's phone number. Before she ran away with Ryan, she was in her grandmother's custody.

It was a difficult call to make. "Mary, this is Lois Lane. I'm calling about your granddaughter Lee."
"Oh, dear God. Is she okay?"
"Yes, ma'am, she's fine. She isn't ready to talk to you right now. But she is here safe with me. She's very worried that you'll be upset with her."
"Oh, my goodness. Oh, my God! She's really okay? I've been so worried!"
"Yes, she really is okay. With all due respect, if you were worried about her, why didn't you report her missing?"
"I was scared. I thought if I told the police she'd run away from me, then I'd never get custody of her again. I was afraid they'd put her in a home."

I looked over at Lee. She was crying. Big crocodile tears rolled down her little face as she stared into her hands, which she was wringing until she was white knuckled. Mary was crying too. I handed Lee a box of tissues and walked out of the room. I told Mary everything I knew about Lee's whereabouts over the past year she'd been missing.

Stay tuned tomorrow part II.