Woman of Mystery

by on July 28th, 2010
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Maryellen Anne Lee briskly escorted her 65 pound, four foot, eleven inch, 13-year-old frame, neatly dressed in a black dress, matching black sweater with racing stripes, to the curb where the chauffeur held the door of the Rolls open. She stepped inside, the door was thumped shut, and the huge vehicle left the doorway of the Elizabeth Evan’s Astra Science Building and headed for home. At least, that’s what the teenager thought was happening.

The chauffeur made a quick left on Franklin Street and stopped behind a characterless green Ford under the dark shadow of an oak. This was not the usual turn that the chauffeur made as he drove the fifty-five miles to Maryellen’s home on the outskirts of Poughkeepsie. The girl was only thirteen but she had a nimble mind that far outstripped her age. She wondered why there was a strange change of events this evening.

She saw that the engine of the Ford was running. There was a man behind the wheel. The chauffeur stopped the engine, exited from the car and opened the rear door for Maryellen. When she had climbed out somewhat reluctantly, he helped her enter the Ford. The chauffeur got in beside her, and the Ford abruptly left the curb driven by the man in the front seat.

Maryellen could see only the man’s back. About all she could tell was that he was wearing a sweater that appeared black in the dwindling light of the day.

Maryellen was vaguely familiar with Troy but she recognized that the car was moving as quickly as the traffic lights would allow in a northerly direction. It was now almost dark, the car’s headlights dimly lit the way. She saw a sign and memorized that they were on Route 40. Glancing at her watch, she noted that it was four-thirty-five. At about five, she saw a sign reading Schaghticoke and knew where they were. She had been to the fair on the previous September only a month ago. The car turned on to a dirt road, then pulled into a driveway. The car was driven into a garage where its door had been left open. The driver stopped the engine, exited from the vehicle, then pulled down the door. Next, he fiddled with the front and rear areas of the car. In a few more seconds, he opened the passenger’s door and threw in two license plates. Finally, he opened Maryellen’s door.

He and the chauffeur, who had been sitting motionless beside Maryellen, pulled her non-too-gently out of the car. This required a certain amount of force since the girl was resisting as strongly as her small physique would allow. The men opened a side door of the garage, walked a few steps and entered a large white wooden-framed farm house. A final quick look by Maryellen revealed a large red barn on the other side of the road.

Inside the house, there was another man. Maryellen had a few moments to study the three. She knew one of them. She knew Roy Gordon, the chauffeur since he had been taking her to and from the school for over a year. He was a meek little man wearing a lidded black cap and a chauffeur’s uniform. The man in the sweater, the one who had been driving the Ford, was heavy for his build, and obviously very strong. She noted that he had not shaved that day and his beard appeared blue from the light given by the dim bulb screwed into a socket on the ceiling. The man in the house was short, slight of build, and completely bald. He was wearing jeans and a white shirt. Maryellen decided to refer to the men as Mr. Gordon, Sweater-man and Jeans-man. The man in the jeans spoke to the others.

Maryellen realized that she was the object of a kidnapping plot. Mr. Gordon had betrayed the trust placed in him and had joined with the other two in her abduction. It appeared that Jeans-man had a plane which the group was planning to use after a ransom had been paid. She believed she was not in mortal danger but also understood that anything could happen in a kidnapping adventure.

Mr. Gordon, spoke almost apologetically to Maryellen. “I left a note for your parents, Maryellen. As soon as they give us the money we’re demanding, we’ll let you go and we’ll all be out of your lives. Are you OK?”

“My folks won’t give you any money,” Maryellen said. “Why is that?” asked Sweater-man. “That’s for me to know,” responded Maryellen tartly. “Oh, listen to Miss Senorita, Woman of Mystery, chided the man. She knows something but won’t let on!”

“You better listen to her,” said Mr. Gordon. “She’s a smart girl. She doesn’t just say things without knowing what she’s talking about!”

Maryellen hadn’t anything in mind, but her imagination was racing. Then she said, “My parents set up a secret code. If I give the secret words I’ve memorized, my folks will know that I’m OK. If I don’t do this, they will know that I’m dead and will call the police.”

“OK, then,” said Jeans-man. He brought out a sheet of paper. “Write down the words and we’ll take them to your parents. Keep in mind, can make you do this!”

Maryellen, feigned reluctance, then began to write.

Skinny cattle have all gotten heavy taking in candy or kitchen eats. Rapid eels don’t belong around rusty nutcrackers. All cats roll over sneaky snakes then help every rabbit on a deck.

She wrote carefully and slowly. From time to time, she’d look up as if trying to remember the words she had memorized. Finally, she completed the message and read it carefully as if to double check it. Seemingly satisfied, she handed it to Jeans-man.

“Here,” she said. “Give this to Dad and Mom, and they’ll give you what you’re asking for right away. They’ll know I’m OK and that this the best thing to do. I want to go home.”

Later, Jeans-man chortled, “I read the message to them over a pay phone. They pretended they had no idea what I was talking about but they finally believed me and copied every word just as I read it. Now, all we have to do is wait for the money.”

Maryellen was ready for the excitement when it came a couple of hours later. The three men were dozing. The door leading to the garage was suddenly smashed in and a dozen uniformed and heavily armed officers rushed into the room. Before any of the men could react, they had been overpowered. In handcuffs they were led out of the room and into waiting squad cars halfway down the driveway.

Maryellen was soon reunited with her parents who were waiting in one of the cars. “Thanks for the message,” said her father. “How did you ever convince them to send a message telling us where you were?”

“One of the men called me Woman of Mystery,” replied his daughter. “He was more right than he could have guessed. I knew you would look at the mystery message until you saw that the first letter of every word told you exactly where I was!”

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