My name is Moses Crosby. Interesting name, I know. There’s a story behind that, but I’ll get back to it later. I was a fraud investigator in Cypress Orchards, Texas. I’d investigated all kinds of bank fraud, wire fraud, insurance fraud and tax fraud. I had a nose for sniffing it out.
The story behind my name came from the fact that I was found in a river by my adopted parents. I had nearly drowned and as a matter of fact, I have no recollection of anything before age 7 or so. My true age was actually a mystery and my birthday became the day I was found. The doctors said I was lucky to not have lasting brain damage, but missing so much of my childhood was tough for me.
The Crosby’s found me and took care of me in Riverdale, about a stone’s throw and a few skips from Cypress Orchards, where I was now living. Riverdale was nowhere near as exciting as Cypress, fraud-wise.
There are no shortage of interesting cases here. My last case was the most interesting of them all. My boss, the director of the Municipal Bureau of Investigation, put me on a rather unorthodox assignment.
I was investigating self-described medium Maven Richards because of a claim made against her by Bob and Carol Doe. They filed a million-dollar lawsuit and have also pressed criminal charges. The accusation was that she mislead them intentionally for over 10 years while bilking them for over a half million dollars during that period of time.
She had apparently held weekly seances and spirit readings for their son, Larry. After years of stringing them both along, they began to suspect her to be a charlatan. By the time they came around to their senses, they’d nearly gone bankrupt.
I began my investigation as I always did, by interviewing the accused party first. It gave me a very good idea about the kinds of questions that got deflected and the kinds of answers that just seemed- off.
I expected to enter the abode of a woman with a false turban, beads for doors and crystals everywhere, but I found her place of business (her living room) to be quite modern and normal. Of course, making 50 thousand dollars a year off of a single couple made lots of things possible, furniture-wise.
“Hi, please come in, I’m Maven,” she said warmly while shaking my hand. She looked short and round with a wide, charming smile. I could tell why someone would feel comfortable with her- she gave off a very caring vibe. She wore a dark purple track suit that somehow seemed okay-looking on her.
Her eyes were blue and her hair was curly and red. It was an unnatural color that most likely came from a bottle and not from communing with the spirits.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I replied.
“I’m sorry that it had to be under these circumstances.” She offered me tea, or rather insisted upon it. “Let’s begin. How does this usually work?”
“I’m going to ask you a few questions about Carol, Bob and especially Larry. First off, how long have you known the family?”
“About ten years, maybe a little bit more. Maybe twelve. I did not know them prior to their son going missing. He went missing four years before they first came to me. They couldn’t cope. Who would? ”
I took out my notepad and went to a fresh sheet. I tried to scribble as much information that I found pertinent as possible. The interviews were always recorded, but I knew the kind of stuff that was going to be important better than the recorder did.
“Missing?” I asked. “I thought he was dead- or else why would you be holding spirit readings?”
“Well he is dead- now. The chances weren’t good for him at any rate. Kidnapped individuals don’t have a good prognosis, I’m afraid. That’s just statistics.” She took a sip of her tea as if we’d just been chatting about the weather.
I stopped writing and learned that I should have done some more homework first before meeting with Maven.
“How do you know that he’s dead? Was a body ever recovered?”
She looked at me like I grew two more heads.
“No, but during an especially vivid seance, I felt his soul pass on. That was about 7, 8 years ago. He’d been kidnapped and malnourished for a good 4 years at that point.”
“Fine. Let’s assume that’s true. I’m trying to verify whether you, either intentionally or unintentionally mislead the Does in order to extract a large sum of money from them. So if you’re sincere, Miss Richards–”
“Mrs. Richards. My husband might be dead but that doesn’t mean I’m not still married. Between you and me, we get along a lot better now. But go on, I apologize for interrupting.”
I scratched my head unintentionally.
“If you’re sincere, Mrs. Richards, that means that you met Carol and Bob while their son was still alive. Did you, through your powers, ever try to locate him? And if so, to what success?”
She finished her tea and poured more hot water over the same tea bag.
“I was very successful. It took a very long time – my abilities are not the way you would imagine from comic books or television. Things are a lot fuzzier. It took many tarot card readings, many specialized crystals and mind maps, to find his location. We even told the police exactly where to look. But they refused.”
“And where is that?”
“San Antonio. He was kidnapped by the owner of the San Antonio Captains, Buzz Fingle.”
She was off her rocker…but that didn’t matter. Even if she believed the things that she was saying, I had to make sure I could prove that she was wrong. It had to be falsifiable. That would be very hard to do.
“I don’t mind telling you, Mrs. Richards, that I find it convenient for you to have picked a villain that was as untouchable as Mr. Fingle. Why would he kidnap Larry Doe?”
“I don’t know what’s in the mind of lunatics, I’m not that kind of psychic, Mr. Crosby. I am however a woman who doesn’t appreciate rudeness or accusations, especially if she is asked to be cooperative during an investigation into her person. This is an investigation and not a trial, correct?”
So I was forced to apologize, or she would clam up, basically.
“You’re right, Mrs. Richards. I didn’t mean to over-imply anything. It’s just that you must understand what this sounds like to someone from the outside. Someone not in the know.”
She swallowed half a cup of boiling tea at once. Then she added some milk and sugar to the remainder. The look in her eyes was distant, and I don’t mean otherworldly. It didn’t take a psychic to realize she was unhinged. What were the Does thinking in giving her their hard earned savings? Then again, grief propels us all towards anything that might give us hope. But when that hope is exploited- you deserve your money back.
“I’d like to do a reading on you, Mr. Crosby, to prove that I’m the real deal. There is so much that the spirits are already telling me.”
“Like what?” I wanted to amuse her, and besides, her doing voodoo gave me a chance to organize my notes better.
“For example, I can tell that you are lost. There is a big piece missing in your life and you’ve been searching high and low for it. You’re very driven.”
“Do I have that Lost Boy look about me?”
“No, you give off an air of supreme confidence. It’s the spirits that are telling me otherwise.”
Spirits, shmirits, I thought. There might be a spirit realm and we might be able to receive information from them, but I was sure that she wasn’t. I do have that Lost Boy look about me, no matter how hard I try to fake it. She hasn’t been the first to notice. Every time I looked into my past to find out where I came from, I’ve hit a wall. Some investigator I am.
But I digress, and she masterfully attempted to move the conversation in another direction. She was a very good manipulator. That was her craft.
“Thank you. I will consider having a reading when this is all over, but for now let’s get back to the investigation.”
“Alright.” She folded her hands over the cup of tea.
“Why did Mr. Fingle finally make the decision to kill Larry?”
“It wasn’t his decision. He kept him prisoner for a long time. Larry just died from years of maltreatment.”
“Forgive me for being a little graphic but what happened to Larry? Where’s the body?”
She leaned in close like she was about to reveal a big secret, and then looked right and left as if we weren’t alone. Maybe she wanted to make sure that no spirits were eavesdropping. She whispered.
“At Fingle Stadium. Under Home Plate. Back in San Antonio!” She sat back into her chair, proudly.
“Did Bob and Carol do anything with that information?”
Maven sighed. “It took a few years to locate Larry’s spirit, to be quite honest with you. Sometimes, when someone passes on, they don’t know that they have, and they’re confused. Usually they’ll come around, but it takes some time. You can’t rush it because it is what it is.
“When we contacted him and finally convinced him that he was dead, he began to remember. Slowly. He told us that during the baseball off-season, Fingle and his men buried him under Home Plate. I advised the Does to let it go and find some peace, but they reached out to the police, again. After they spoke to the police, I stopped hearing from them. The next time I heard from them, they were suing me. And there you have it, Mr. Crosby.”
She looked depressed all of a sudden. And tired. This was all that I was going to get from her, but it was enough. The interviews would be only part of the investigation. The rest was research.
The next thing for me to do was to speak to Bob and Carol, as heartbreaking as that would be. They had been an affluent couple. Bob was a former jeweler, and Carol was a former advertising executive.
I didn’t know where they used to live, but now they lived in a cozy…okay, small, one bedroom apartment that was more like a studio.
It was in a particularly seedy area of Cypress Orchards, near the bridge that connects Cypress to three other towns.
They let me in and welcomed me warmly. They were very nice people who had been grieving for the better part of a decade. They’d been given false hope, which was almost as bad as being given poison.
Carol had short blond hair with blue eyes and Bob had light brown hair with brown eyes and glasses. They were a regular Texas couple who had gone through a tragedy without any closure.
“We hope you like pizza, Mr. Crosby. We ordered a lot of it.”
I smiled. As little as they now had, they still offered me lunch. We ate and we talked about some minor things in the news, politics, sports – small talk. When lunch was over, I helped Carold put everything away. Now the interview would begin and I could tell that the sorrow had returned just as soon as I took out my notebook.
With them, I began at the beginning of the story.
“When and where was the last time that you saw Larry?”
Bob began to well up silently and sniffled but no answer came out. Carol rubbed his back and turned to me.
“16, 17 years ago. He would be 24 years old now. We stopped over at Cypress Bridge for a picnic. There’s a landing there, off to the side. Bob and I turned our backs for a minute and he was gone. We were talking to a couple and we thought that Larry was with their son, playing.” She shrugged her shoulders. “That’s it, that’s the last time we saw our baby alive.”
I shuddered. I felt like I’d heard the story before.
“Well, not necessarily, Mrs. Doe. Remember, we’re trying to discredit practically everything that Maven Richards told you. She was the one that said Larry was dead. But, pardon me for saying this, no authorities anywhere ever found him. There is a small, very small chance that he is alive somewhere. If, for example he ran away or even if he was kidnapped.” Now who was giving false hope? I thought sadly. Carol and Bob tried to perk up, but they weren’t buying it. I didn’t know why, but I strongly believed that Larry was still alive.
“Did your son have any identifiable marks? I know you’ve told the police already and I will review those files to be thorough.”
Bob got it together enough to say, “Yes, he had a, like a birthmark on his belly. On the right side.”
Carol smiled. “Yeah, it was like a splotch of paint was dropped onto his stomach. It was very cute.”
I stopped writing. That was all I needed to know. In a calm but confident way, I told them, “You are going to win your case against that con artist, Mr. and Mrs. Doe. But something tells me you might be inclined to drop the charges.”
“Why is that?”
“Because she’s going to reunite you with your lost son.”
How did Moses Crosby know for sure that Maven was wrong? Why did he say that the Does would be reunited with their long-lost son?
Moses was named such because he was found nearly drowned in a river but miraculously survived. He’d lost a good portion of his memory but while speaking to Bob and Carol, one thing clicked: the Cypress Bridge.
It was there that he’d fallen over the landing and into the river as a child and then found by the Crosby’s downstream in Riverdale. What confirmed his suspicion was Carol’s description of a very unique birthmark that both Larry and Moses had: the splotchy paint mark on his belly.
The Doe’s were to be reunited with their son, because their son was by chance their investigator- Moses.
Ironically enough, their reunion was a direct, unintended result of Maven’s scam.