Given the limited time I have and the potential importance of the material here, I think that I may have written too much in the previous post. Specifically, I wasted a lot of our time writing about Laura and the bullshit that that was dredged up in the wake of her tousled hair and scathing screams, when I should have been keeping this work focused on the papers I found and the story that is in here. A story that I just know is begging to come out and be revealed once more, if only I could keep my silly asides to myself and out of its path.
I wrote at the start of this little venture that I would keep me out of this as much as possible. So far I have failed miserably and, so short into this too. In my defense, if I just posted the tattered remains of these documents it would be a useless mess, it would be incomprehensible. A pile of bricks without the mortar to bind them into a useful structure. I know I can ramble but those ramblings are that mortar. My words bind these disparate documents together giving them a shape and form maybe even a direction that make it, I hope, easier for you and everyone else to read and interpret. Whether or not that final product resembles anything similar to the truth in these papers, I can’t say; I know that I’m trying to be both as objective as possible and as open to whichever winding track this goes down. Money may not be coming my way for my efforts but, I do really feel like this is some sort of duty of mine. This is for me alone to do and I intend to do it right.
On to the next document, before I derail us once more.
Like I wrote in the last post, that name Cooper, is plastered all over these disintegrating papers. From the first report we get Shane’s address and some details that his teacher was able to give to the police but, there is plenty more info to be un-obscured and organized in this box.
As with the previous victim, this one also hails from Winslow. Though, while little Karen Williams was reported as missing on the same day she actually had gone missing—on the day of the tenth—Shane was only reported, to the local police department, after a couple of days of being absent from school. Even then, looking at the date of the State report falling apart in my hand, it’s labeled as having been filed on the thirteenth. I checked some calendar site, that was the Monday following. That means that Shane Cooper was missing for at least five days prior to the State Police getting involved.
Keeping that in mind, where the fuck were his parents? Your kid goes missing and you just what, keep on going to work or something? They did not report him as missing. They didn’t get in touch with the school. They didn’t tell anyone that mattered that their ten year-old son was missing or at home sick or whatever the fuck else he could have been doing. As far as the reports read, all the Coopers provided to the authorities was an informational black hole, a dead-end, a fucking big fat question mark. Why? Where were they?
Maybe they just didn’t care; they could have been a couple of drunks that only had the kid because of a lack of precaution and a moment made of lust. Shane just got in the way, physically requiring a space inside of their home and financially prohibiting other routes for their money to have gone, like to the bottom of a bottle. If you’d rather spend time with booze than your boy maybe, when he finally just stops coming home you don’t think to report it. You just uncork another and go about your business.
I know that I’m not painting a very nice picture of the Cooper home here but, a boy goes missing, is then reported as such not by his parents but by his teacher and that same teacher also mentions his habitual tardiness and absenteeism. I’m just some asshole that stumbled into this, literally tripping over this dusty pile of human tragedy. I can’t say with absolute certainty why a young boy might not want to be at home or why he’d be frequently kept from school. But, I can guess.
Perilously connected to the rest of the world by a single pencil-thin road under constant assault from the ever-encroaching and cloying forest. Maple Ridge Road. Shane had but only that single option to escape while at home. I think it doubtful that he had neighbors on that pitiful little path. Where did he go when the yelling got bad? Or, when the sweating bottle was emptied and replaced with the belt, groaning in protest as angered fingers coiled around it?
A ten year-old boy. Lost in the woods. Lost to the world. Gone missing without a single person left to care.
I can see his face. There is no picture here but, I feel it inside of me; I can feel that my conjuring of his visage is accurate. I can see him. He’s just sitting there on an old and creaking dining room chair. His back turned to me, he’s small for a ten year-old but, not tiny. The shirt he has on is old—probably having fit him fine a year ago but, too tight now—spotted with holes from the kind of abuse only a boy growing up in the woods can claw into their clothing. The kitchen is far from clean, dishes piled up and sloughing out of the sink and empty foodstuffs cartons littering everywhere else. And little Shane Cooper is sat there, having wedged himself into a partially clean spot on the table, a relatively safe space to play while his parents are lost in their stupor. He turns, having heard something, and I see his face. He’s dirty but, there is a glow about him, a youthful energy or, maybe even, innocence that shines out of him. His tight and slightly upturned nose, bright blue eyes that betray a burning intelligence and the mess of brown curls laying atop his head, all of it just so, all of it just perfect. Shane the only light spot in that dirty den.
With the creaking of the floorboards above him, his face tightens; the innocence lost, changed into an apprehension and a rigidity that could only have been wrought by fear and anticipation of the worst. The sound of booming uneven footsteps are soon replaced with barely intelligible blurting outs of a drunk man. That too is quickly followed by a boxing of Shane’s ears that is too casual. He yelps, involuntarily. The moment the noise is out of him he wishes he could reel it back in. The man before him, stinking of his drinks turns to Shane and twists his face in a torrent of obscenities and accusations, the septic mixture of sweat and rye glistening down his chin as he flings spittle upon his son. But words are not enough to express his disapproval of a son so weak that he can’t even take a light tap upon the head. No, he grabs the boy’s tight shirt with fingers swollen from hard labor and too much liquor and lays into him. Adam’s face is a sweaty mess, filled with nothing but acrimony and disgust at the poor child before him. However, he’s had too much to drink, this time. The slaps and punches landed but, without the firm impact that a balanced man could deliver. Shane endures it before his father tumbles over from his own exertions and then he bolts. Running through his mess of a house, Shane escapes outside, the sound of his father’s impotent rage being wrought upon the kitchen cabinetry ringing and echoing out into the woods that swallowed Shane whole.
Or, like before, maybe nothing of the kind happened. We’ll see.
I suppose I could tumble into further reverie, I do enjoy this exploration into the darker side of human psychology this provides me but, I’ve no need to speculate on the Coopers. There are at least another dozen documents with their names plastered upon them, sometimes circled, other times poking out of the torn and shorn remains of a piece of paper that barely qualifies to keep that title. Before I get into the specifics of those papers, however, let’s get through this first report.
This is where the tracks switch, cold steel slapping into place, determining the direction of all travelers to come thereafter. I suppose any tale that begins with missing children is destined to be dark but, this shit gets weird quick.
Like I mentioned above, Shane was frequently missing from his lessons. In fact, his teacher, I’m guessing Mrs. Merc[ier]–having to read through the censorship–told the police that he had been absent a full twenty days the previous academic year, all “without notice or explanation.” She even suggested “neglect may be the cause.”, probably politely hinting at worse abuses when questioned by the police.
Similar to the Karen Williams’ report in my previous post, there’s a bit of censorship here, black trails blotting out the names of those involved with the investigation. Just as similarly, the notes here are where the real interest, or is it mystery, lay.
And here it is. Shane’s parents, Adam and Mary, have been singled out. Circled, garnering the reader’s attention. And darting out from that, an arrow lodging itself into a quick little note: “travelling church members? Where?”
I know. Right? I told you it gets interesting. A fucking travelling church! What does that even mean? Was it like a circus, with one group of followers driving from town to town to exhibit their own brand of Christianity? Some great caravan of devout worshipers rolling across the State. The collection plate their main source of income; a wicker basket groaning in the grasp of each hand laid upon it, filled at least partly with the donations of the curious, those that had heard of this odd travelling troop of evangelists and had come out to stare and speculate. Had they hoped for the bizarre or the mundane? Which was delivered?
And, how about the line below that, “priest”? I suppose the word on its own, in this context isn’t truly out of place. But, what catches my eye is the fact that immediately following that word, where one might expect a name, we’re presented with yet another inky trail of censorship.
Who benefits from that?
I understand attempting to protect an officer’s name, I guess; maybe these documents could be seen by some outside bureau. But why protect a suspect’s name? Especially given that not all of the suspects seem to enjoy such equal protections. Shane’s parents, Adam and Mary, are not only there, they’re circled to draw attention to them for Christ’s sake. Then again, maybe it’s not even a name. I don’t know any better than you might.
And then there’s that last note, “Adam → JJ”. I don’t know if JJ is a name or a place or something else entirely; it does sound kinda like a bar. In all seriousness, though, JJ must be a lead or a connection of the father’s. But, why the arrow? I’d think an “and” would have sufficed if it were a simple connection; like Henry and Dan or Lewis and Clark. No, with the arrow there is a suggestion of movement or chronology. That is, I don’t think it was a simple connection where one man was suspected of knowing or being friendly with another. No, Adam did something. Something that either caused or lead to his son’s disappearance. Maybe he hired JJ. Maybe he ran to him after he had, himself, done a most despicable act.
And if Adam had some part in Shane’s disappearance, what about the other children? Karen and Justin had both gone missing on Friday the tenth of September, a couple of days after Shane had stopped coming into school. Winslow and Waterville are small towns, separated and brought together by a river. Even if we combined their populations there just isn’t, nor has there ever been, that many people there. Three kids gone missing in the same week must have been an anomaly. There must have been a panic.
Or had Shane’s record of absenteeism dulled everyone’s ability to draw a connection between his disappearance and Karen’s? Was there a connection anyways?
Still, what would have Adam Cooper done with three kidnapped children, one being his own son? I don’t think I want to think too hard on that question, at least not right now as I’m gearing to get up and go to bed. I doubt you want to think about it either.
I’m falling asleep to this, literally drooling on myself as I type. So, with that, I leave you for now.