November 07, 2008

Lovebird flies the coop

  Bloodstains on the front seat of the pickup are Type O, the same as the missing man's. The pickup is 10 feet from the water's edge. The sheriff's dive team makes a grid search of the lake in the area near the pickup but finds nothing.

  A detective says Dwight's body could surface anytime from two days to three weeks, depending on the condition of the body and the water temperature. "We don't know for a fact that he's in the lake," the detective says, "but for now, we'll assume he is."

  The detective suggests that maybe Dwight "simply took off — the smeared blood on the front seat could be just a smoke screen."

  Detectives talk with neighbors. They talk with friends. They check at work — his and hers. Everybody seems to agree, "they are a devoted couple. Like love birds."

  Five days pass. Nothing. Flyers are sent out within a 100-mile radius. Dwight is listed on the NCIC, the FBI's National Crime Information Center. Three months and still nothing.

  Because there are no new leads after two years, the file is classified "inactive," meaning no man-hours will be spent on this case unless a new lead walks in the front door.

  One day a new lead does come in by way of facsimile from North Carolina in response to the "missing persons" report on the NCIC. Someone using Dwight's name is applying for a driver's license. The applicant works at a hamburger joint in Shelby, North Carolina.

  Two investigators drive up to meet with a local detective. At the hamburger joint they identify Dwight with a two-year-old photo. The cops order coffee from the "missing" man. "Sit down, Dwight," a detective says.

  "How'd you know my name?" the young man asks nervously.

  "Sit down and listen to me, Dwight. You've caused a lot of people a lot of pain with your disappearing act. Now it's time to cut the comedy and be a man."

  Dwight's voice cracks: "I didn't do anything wrong. All I did was leave town."

  "What about your wife?" the detective asks. "She thinks you're dead — your whole family thinks you're dead."

  They talked for a while, but it was a done deal. Dwight had broken no laws. There were no children. He could live wherever he wanted.

  Detectives would notify Dwight's wife that her husband was found alive and well. But they would not reveal where Dwight was now living. He has a right to privacy.

    Back in their unmarked car, the older detective turns to his partner: "Okay, Fred, I talked to the boy. Now it's your turn. When we get back, you tell the wife."

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