Deaf Not Dumb
Deaf Not Dumb
Cameron Eagen was just finishing up a report on his last case when the captain called him into his office. Cam was hoping to have a little down time. He enjoy the work, but he was looking to kick back in his La-Z-Boy recliner with a beer and lose himself in a marathon of M*A*S*H.
“What’s up, sir? How’s tricks?”
“Cut the crap, Eagen. I have just received a most disturbing call. A man out on River Road said his daughter is missing. He wants to talk to an officer, but doesn’t want to come in. He doesn’t want anyone to know he has gone to the police. I told him we’d send someone over.”
“And you want me to go?”
“You’re the only one who’s not involved with another case at the moment. It’s just…”
“His wife is quite distraught and considering this case involves a child, I think it would be easier for her if there was another woman there. You are more than qualified. I am just speaking from experience.”
Cam couldn’t argue there. The captain had been married for over twenty years and had four children…all girls.
“Well, Amanda would be perfect for the job, except she’s out with the flu. What about Pam?”
“Out of town on assignment,” the captain replied.
“Involved in a homicide.”
“Then who do you suggest?”
“There’s one more thing you have to know. This isn’t any ordinary case.”
“Yes?” Cam inquired.
“This missing girl is deaf. So is her mother.” The captain looked at Cam over the top of his wire rimmed glasses. Cam sighed. He knew exactly who the captain wanted on this case. “Do you think she would be willing?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Cam, you only dated the woman for over a year. You know her better than anyone.”
“I really couldn’t say. Maybe.”
“You need to find out,” the captain answered. “And the sooner the better.”
Just the thought of seeing Devon Cavanaugh again made Cam’s stomach do a flip flop. Past memories of his former FBI team member flashed through his mind. One memory in particular. It had been after completing their last assignment as a team. Her face had been splattered with mud, her hair was a mess, but she had never looked so beautiful. Then out of the blue, Cam had kissed her. An unexpected heat sky rocketed through his body. She had kissed him back, wrapping her arms around his neck, just thankful to be alive. But after the kiss everything changed. He hadn’t been able to shake the feeling. He could still see the glint in her eyes and smell the scent of her skin. They had dated for over a year. There was no pretending it had never happened. It was a year of their lives they couldn’t get back.
When he had tried to make advances toward her, she had shied away. She tried to explain she wasn’t ready for this kind of a relationship. She just wanted to be friends. She had sounded like a confused child and Cam wasn’t sure if she meant what she was saying. But he had kept his distance and respected her wishes. Letting her know he would always be there for her. Whether she needed help, a shoulder to cry on…unbridled passion.
I always knew I was different. One minute I could hear sounds and the next minute I couldn’t. I was born profoundly deaf in my right ear and only had fourteen percent hearing in my left ear. Any sounds I could hear were disjointed and low. The doctor put a big hearing aid in my left ear so I could try and use what little hearing I had. My mother called it my magic button.
I learned to talk and use American Sign Language (ASL). I was considered pri-lingual which meant I lost my hearing before learning language.
I hated speech therapy. They started me with the basic p and b. The therapist would put my hand on her throat so I could feel the vibration of her vocal cords and vice versa. Speech therapy lasted until I was in my early teens and was supplemented by more therapy in school. What irritates me is when people think a deaf person can’t talk. Deafness only affects the ears, not the vocal cords.
I was a quick learner and learned to speak fairly well. I have a broad vocabulary and was pretty good at translating my thoughts into written and spoken language. What helped me the most was I loved to read books.
I do have a little bit of the kind of deaf speech, but a lot of people don’t realize it. Some people told me it just sounded like I had a little bit of an accent. Knowing this helped because I used to be very self –conscious of my voice since I have never heard it myself.
It was decided as a child I would learn to combine ASL and speech with lip reading. Lip reading takes a lot of focus, mainly on the lips and tongue. The teacher began by over annunciating words. It was hard because some words like ‘nine’ and ‘dead’ appear the same on the lips. I would get frustrated, but the teacher would not use ASL. Neither did my parents. My mother said I could learn anything a hearing person could I just had to work twice as hard. My mother worked with me at home. She would say a word and then I was supposed to repeat it.
I went places where there were lots of people and tried to watch their conversations. I watched television without the captions. My lip reading ability grew over time. It is easier if I know the person. I would get used to their mouth and the way their lips formed certain words.
All in all, I had a pretty normal childhood. I went to play groups and birthday parties. I also went to public school part of the time. This proved to be difficult since sometimes when the teacher was giving out an assignment she would turn her back to the class and I could not read her lips. I still had the dream of becoming a ballerina even though I couldn’t hear the music.
It was a bright clear morning as I carried the last box out of my parent’s house to the back seat of my white Chevrolet. It was just cool enough to wear jeans, but not cold enough to need a coat.
“Are you sure your phone has been hooked up?” asked my mother both speaking and signing.
“What about that animal of yours?”
“Leo’s a dog and I am going to pick him up if I ever get out of here.”
“And you will be…”
“Yes, I’ll be careful.”
“Devon, there’s no need to be rude,” my mom scolded me.
“But you know I’m always careful.”
My mom has always worried about me. I used to blame it on my deafness. If I were a hearing child she wouldn’t worry about me so much. She said it was her strong maternal instinct. All mothers worry about their children.
“Come on, Jackie, she’ll be fine,” my dad cut in. “Have a good trip, sweetheart.” He kissed me on the forehead.
“I’ll call you when I get there,” I promised. I took a slow, deep breath and backed out of the driveway.
My first stop was The Hearing Ear where I would pick up my new hearing ear dog. Leo alerts me to important hearing sounds or when someone is trying to get my attention. They can lead their handlers to or away from the source of the noise. They make physical contact by nudging an arm or a leg. They are usually Labradors or Golden Retrievers.
When I arrived, I gave Leo’s paperwork to the receptionist. Five minutes later the door opened and one of the handlers came through with my newly trained Golden Retriever on a leash. I knelt down and ruffed up his face.
“Hello, Leo. It’s nice to see you again.” I met Leo and spent time with him many months before so we could get comfortable working with each other. “Will he do okay in the car?” I asked the handler.
“Of course,” she signed and spoke. “We train the dogs not to react in the car. The last thing you need is a 60 pound Golden Retriever in your lap. Are you certain you still want him? He’s been abused so he may be a little schizophrenic. ”
“We’ll be fine,” I answered. “Won’t we, Leo?” He looked up at me with mournful brown eyes.
She handed the leash off to me and I led Leo out and opened the passenger side door for him. He jumped right in and sat down just like a real person. I fastened the special dog safety belt. I went around and got in the driver’s seat. Now I was ready.
I was on my way back to my own apartment. I had originally worked as a profiler for the FBI. I figured since I couldn’t use my hearing, I should find a job where I could use one of my other senses. Mainly my eyes and my mind. Being deaf I had a knack for reading people and I could study a person and link them to a string of unsolved crimes. Positions with the FBI are highly competitive and require commitment and determination. Determination was how I had overcome all the obstacles in my life.
But all the training in the world couldn’t have prepared me for the real thing. Some of the crime scenes were so brutal I couldn’t even stand to be in the same room. I didn’t even want to look. But in order to do my job I had to use my eyes. Seeing into the minds of these killers showed me a whole different side to life and how dark human nature could be. I started having intense nightmares. I had panic attacks which would lead to hyperventilation and finally passing out. I spent over a year in therapy and had moved back in with my parents. I learned how to control and repress my memory, but once in a blue moon I will have an unannounced attack.
Afterwards I just couldn’t bring myself to go back. Finally, I had convinced my parents I was all right and ready to move on with my life. I wanted to go back to my own place. At first my parents thought I should get a whole new apartment maybe a little closer to home. They weren’t sure if I should be alone. I knew if I really was going to move on I needed to confront my fears not pretend like they never happened. Getting Leo had sealed the deal. Knowing I wouldn’t be alone per se had made my parents feel better…even if my mom wasn’t ready to cut the apron strings just yet. I lived in the town of Water Oak which was just a 30 minute drive from my parent’s house. I wanted to get far enough away so I could rely on myself, but also close enough in case of some emergency.
For the first ten miles things were going fine. I was making good time and there wasn’t much traffic. Only recently I had noticed Leo had been looking at the rearview mirror. I didn’t think much of it. When I just happened to glance back, I noticed a sheriff’s car was following me with his lights on. I looked at Leo.
“How long has he been back there?” Leo lay down in the seat and put his head on the center console.
I pulled over. Since the sheriff’s car was so far away I couldn’t read the lips of the sheriff. I continued to sit there and wait. Then he pulled his gun and pointed it in my direction. Was he going to shoot me just for a minor traffic violation? I quickly got out of the car with my hands up.
“Please, don’t shoot me,” I pleaded.
The sheriff came up behind me so I still wasn’t able to read his lips. I turned my head around just long enough to see him say, “Turn around. Put --- hands -- -- car.”
I did what I was told. I felt like my whole body was shaking. Finally, I did the only thing I could think of.
“If you’re talking to me, Deputy, I can’t hear you. I’m deaf!” I blurted out. I usually don’t like to tell people I am deaf. I am not ashamed of it, but when people find out they tend to unconsciously treat me different. “I have ID to prove it. It’s in my purse on the front seat.”
“You’re deaf?” The sheriff came around and faced me. “Is -- -- you didn’t --- out -- the car? You couldn’t hear me?”
“Yes,” I sighed. “But I have never had a gun pointed at me before.” His gun was still drawn.
“Oh, sorry,” he said when he realized it. He holstered it much to my relief. H reached in the car for my purse to verify what I had told him.
“What’s with your dog?” he asked.
“He’s been abused,” I replied.
“You beat your dog?”
“Oh, not by me,” I said quickly. “I just got him. He’s a hearing dog like a seeing eye dog for blind people.”
“Well, I am going -- -- -- off with a warning --- ---.” Probably because I was deaf. “Next --- and stay --- the speed limit.”
“You know you --- -- a bumper sticker --- deaf person driving.”
I smiled politely. I am used to having people make jokes. Especially when they don’t know what to say. After the sheriff left, I glanced down at my map. I was in the county Water Oak was located in, but I still had another 15 minute drive ahead of me.
The next complication I had was when I arrived in Water Oak. I noticed my car starting to smoke. I know nothing about cars so I just thought the engine was hot. Even though I pulled into a garage to have it checked out. While the mechanic checked it out, I flipped through a magazine. Then Leo nudged his head against my hands. I looked up and saw the mechanic standing there. His mouth was moving.
“Were you trying to get my attention?” I asked him.
“I just wanted to -- -- -- -- the problem was.” He looked at me and then at Leo.
“I’m deaf,” I said. “Leo lets me know when someone is trying to get my attention.”
“No kidding,” the mechanic said. “You’re really deaf? How can you tell what I’m saying?” He seemed more interested in my deafness than my car.
“I can read lips. Yours is a little tricky because of your mustache. Now, the problem?”
“Oh, right. You -- - broken fan belt. -- -- -- a new one, but it won’t be --- -- tomorrow.”
“All right,” I replied. “I only live a couple of blocks from here. I’ll pick it up tomorrow. And there is no need to yell.”
“How did you know I was talking loud?”
“From the expression on your face.”
“Come on, Leo.”
My apartment was equipped with lights to let me know when I had visitors or when the phone rings. My phone is hooked up to a special device called a TTY. It translates spoken language into written text so I can read what the person on the other end is saying. It had one bedroom, one bathroom, an open living room and a small kitchen with a breakfast bar. It was small and cute, but there were still some old memories that lingered there. I was determined to make this work.
It had been such a long day I decided to run myself a nice hot bubble bath. Since I was in the bathroom, I couldn’t see the light flash on my telephone telling me I had a caller. However Leo saw it. He walked into the bathroom and looked at me. By the look on his face I knew what was coming next. Just and I said, “Leo, no!” he took a flying leap and landed right in the middle of the soapy water. I pulled on my bathrobe, wrapped my hair in a towel and Leo led me to the kitchen where my phone was flashing.
“Hi, honey. It’s Mom.” The text appeared on my computer screen. “Did everything go all right? Did you have any trouble getting there?”
“No, everything was fine.” I decided to leave out the part about the sheriff and the fan belt.
“Have you eaten yet?” Mom asked.
“Oh, I’m having dinner with friends.”
“Well, just remember what I told you. Sit back and watch the conversation.”
“Yes, Mom. Well, I have to go. I’ll call you later.” I looked down at Leo who was staring up at me. “I didn’t lie,” I told him. “We are friends and we are having dinner.”
When I picked up my car the next morning, the old mechanic seemed more intent about asking me questions about my deafness. How long have I been deaf? How did I learn to talk? What does Leo do to help me? I don’t mind when people ask me questions, but sometimes it can get irritating. Being deaf is just a part of who I am. I don’t look at it as something special.
I was in the middle of breakfast when I saw the light for the doorbell flash. I wondered who it could be at this hour in the morning. I didn’t think anyone got up as early as I did. I was accompanied to the door by Leo.
There in the doorway stood, Cameron Eagen, all six foot three inches of him. He looked just as handsome as I remembered. His light brown hair brushed the top of his collared shirt. His piercing blue eyes still took my breath away.
He had looked up her address on her personal file which was still in the FBI database. He had taken a chance she would still be at the same address. It appeared he was right.
“Cam,” I replied as casually as I could and forced a smile.
“Nice to see you again, Devon,” he signed. “God wants to know where the toilet is.”
“What?” I signed back.
“My dog is getting married today.”
But at his next attempt to communicate, I couldn’t help it. A giggle, which only Cam could hear, escaped my lips.
“What’s so funny?”
“You just signed your mother is an octopus.”
“You’ll have to forgive me. My signing is a little rusty.”
“I can read lips,” I replied just in case he had forgotten. “It’ll save you from further embarrassment.”
“Thanks. And who is this?” He looked past me to Leo.
“Leo. He’s my new hearing dog.”
Cam held out his navy blue sweatshirt for Leo to smell. Instead Leo jerked the sweatshirt out of Cam’s hands and trotted away with it.
“Hey, I need that.”
I saw Leo bark once, his tail wagging in the air.
“He thinks you’re playing fetch.”
“You mean he wants --- -- go after him?” Cam asked.
“Not exactly. He’s trying to see what you’ll do…or what he can get you to do.”
Cam’s mouth curved. He lunged for the dark cotton sleeve, but grabbed only air. Leo skidded under a nearby chair.
“How did he do that?”
“He’s very fast and limber,” I answered.
Cam made another attempt to grab his sweatshirt. This time Leo shot under his legs and the two of them went down in a sprawl on the floor. I laughed out loud. Cam rolled onto one elbow, petting Leo, who in turn licked his face.
“All right, buddy. You win.”
“Leo, come,” I said firmly. And he brought me Cam’s sweatshirt. “Good boy. Here” I handed it back to Cam. “Since we have the small talk out of the way, what brings you by?” I asked.
“It was captain’s idea. I need you to do -- favor.”
“What kind of favor?” I asked
“I was --- -- -- -- old team back together.”
“What’s the job?”
“I never could pull anything over on you. I am ---- - possible kidnapping. A nineteen year old girl is missing.”
“And…” I knew he wasn’t telling me the whole story.
“And the captain thinks it would be better if another woman was there. For the mother’s sake. Would you at least consider being reinstated? Just for this one case?”
“Whoa. Hold on a second. I can read lips, but I am not a speed reader.”
“Sorry,” Cam both signed and spoke the word. He remembered the sign since I had used it a lot in our relationship. He signed the words he knew and finger spelled the ones he didn’t. It took longer this way, but I knew I was getting exactly what he was saying. There wouldn’t be any questions.
I pondered. I walked over to the bookcase and opened the lid to a box on the top shelf. Inside laid my badge. I just didn‘t have the heart to get rid of it. The sunlight hit it making it gleam silver. It was almost like it was trying to entice me.
“There is one other thing…” Cam said.
I knew it. There had to be catch.
“The girl who is missing is deaf. So is her mother.”
Cam knew that would strike a chord in me. I could connect with the mother on a very personal level. Get her to tell me something she might not otherwise tell a hearing person. I couldn’t very well say no. It was part of my duty not only to the FBI, but as a member of the community and a good citizen. If there was a criminal on the loose then I had a right to help protect the community.
What would this day be like, I wondered. What would my future hold? I was determined to serve the FBI with reliance. Face my mistakes without defiance. I would show them I was worthy and while I showed them I would show myself. I’ll do better than my best. I have confidence they’ll put me to the test, but I will make them see I have confidence in me. Somehow I will impress them. As each minute passed I was more certain. Everything would turn out fine.
We pulled up to a two story, white Colonial style house. The name Ferrell was on the welcome mat. Cam knocked on the door. A man probably in his mid –forties answered. He led Cam and me into the family room. His wife was sitting on the couch. She had dark hair, her hands were folded and she had a very distraught look on her face. Mr. Ferrell gestured for us to sit down. He explained to his wife through sign language who we were. I could tell Mrs. Ferrell was leery so I signed, “My name’s Devon. I am also deaf. We want to find your daughter as much you do.” Mrs. Ferrell’s face and shoulders relax some when she saw me sign. She laid her hand on her husband’s and nodded.
Cam took out a pad of paper. “Tell me what happened.”
Even though I was there and could translate, Mr. Ferrell signed as he spoke so his wife would feel included. I knew signing was second nature to him. I often find myself signing when I speak even if it’s to a hearing person. Even though I don’t get every word people say I can still get the jest of the conversation and interject my own words. I was used to Cam’s lips and the way they formed certain words. I also remembered the way he kissed me. His kisses were firm, but soft, sweet and always gentle. I tried to shake off the memory and concentrate more of the conversation.
“Last night,” Mr. Ferrell started. “Kenzie was supposed to come over for my birthday. When she didn’t show up, I knew something was wrong. She was always on time.”
“Did she want to disappear? Was she unhappy? Problems at school? A boyfriend?”
Nineteen is a tough age,” I signed and spoke. “I know about relationships. Sometimes they can be unpredictable.”
“She’s a straight A student. She doesn’t have a boyfriend,” Mr. Ferrell replied.
“It’s not like her,” Mrs. Ferrell finally signed. “She e-mails us every day.”
“Did she have any enemies?” Cam asked. “Was anyone angry at Kenzie?”
“No,” Mr. Ferrell answered. “Everyone likes her.”
“I have heard if the missing person isn’t found in 24 hours…” Mrs. Ferrell’s hands trailed off.
“Not every case is the same,” I signed. “Cam’s the best there is.”
“I can’t lose my daughter.”
“We’ll let you know if we find anything,” Cam stood up and shook Mr. Ferrell’s hand. And then we left.
When Cam and I entered headquarters, I was almost ambushed by the rest of team, the people I had come to know and love. My eyes quickly read their lips.
“What are you doing back?”
“How have you been?”
“It’s great to see you again.”
“How long are you here?”
“We’ve missed you.”
“I promise, I will answer all of your questions later. But first we have a missing girl to find,” I said. And with that they all snapped back into work mode.
“Okay,” Cam started giving out orders. He also finger spelled so I could keep up with the conversation and feel like part of the investigation. “Miles, I want Kenzie’s face all over the media. Heather, phone lines. Cover everything. Eric, talk to Mr. Ferrell’s co-workers; find out if anyone holds a grudge against him.” Everyone started scurrying all over the place.
“What about us?” I asked Cam.
“We’re going back to college.”
“Are you Frank Johnson? “ Eric was at Rest Assured Insurance where Mr. Ferrell worked as an executive.
“Who wants to know?”
“I’m with the FBI,” Eric flashed his badge. “Mr. Ferrell’s daughter is missing.”
“You think I took her?”
“I know Mr. Ferrell denied you a promotion.”
“It must have made you mad.”
“Sure it did.”
“So mad you wanted to get back at him. Hurt him. Take the thing he loves most.”
“I never hurt anybody.”
“What about this note? ‘I am going to get back at him. He won’t know when it’s coming. But it’s coming.’ Pretty straight forward. Sounds like a threat to me.”
“I was upset.”
“Did you write this before or after you kidnapped his daughter?”
“I already told you. I didn’t take her.”
“Then you won’t mind telling me where you were on the night of Kenzie’s disappearance.”
“I was bowling with friends.”
“For your sake I hope you’re telling the truth.”
“I have nothing hide.”
“Was Kenzie acting any differently?” Cam asked Kenzie’s college roommate. He tried to follow her hands. After dating me, he knew a little sign language. The roommates hands were going too fast so Cam looked to me for translation.
“She liked to study a lot. She was a little nervous or anxious,” I relayed.
“When was the last time you saw her?” Cam continued. I translated his question back to the roommate.
“Yesterday. She got a page. It was from a boy…Mike. I don’t know his last name. He wanted her to meet him at the campus coffee shop. Lots of hearing and deaf people hang out there. I haven’t seen her since,” the roommate signed. “Can I go now? I have a class.”
“Sure,” Cam waved his hand. “Thank you for your time.”
“Thank you,” I signed to her.
When we walked into the coffee shop it was almost empty. A college kid was wiping down the counter. Luckily, he was hearing so I didn’t have to translate. I was able to ask questions, too. Even when we had to communicate with hearing people, Cam was always good about including me. We walked up to the counter and Cam showed his badge.
“We’re investigating the disappearance of Kenzie Ferrell.”
“Oh, yeah,” the kid replied. “I heard --- ---. Pretty scary.”
“We were told Kenzie hung out here,” I said.
“She -- -- -- pretty regular.”
“Was she in here two day ago…with a boy…Mike?” Cam asked.
“Mike Rose? He works here.”
“We don’t know his last name,” I pointed out.
“I saw both of them here.”
“Do you know what they were doing?”
“--- --- fighting. --- actions--- louder than words.”
“Do you know what they were fighting about?” I pressed.
“Something about Kenzie not ---- --- dating just him. Mike --- the jealous ---.”
“Do you have his address?” Cam wanted to know.
“Sure, we have all the employees’ info. I’ll get it for you.” He left the room.
I saw Cam reach in his pocket for his cell phone. It must have ringed. He closed it just as the kid returned with Mike’s address.
“We have a ransom note. Let’s go.”
That night we were all in our assigned positions for the stake out. The kidnapper told Mr. Ferrell to make the drop off at 9:30pm in the alley behind the downtown deli. Since we didn’t want to put Mr. Ferrell in danger, Miles was going to make the drop off pretending to be Mr. Ferrell. Then he would circle back around and take his position. I was anxious with anticipation. It had been a long time since I had been part of a stake out. I was also anxious to know Kenzie was okay and getting her back to her parents safely.
About ten minutes after Miles had made the drop off, a dark figure appeared. I was in the surveillance van with Heather and Cam. I had a pair of night vision goggles so I could see everything.
“We have a visual,” Heather spoke into the microphone on her headset. “Do --- want -- to take him?”
“Easy,” Cam replied in to his headset he was using to communicate with the rest of the team. “Easy. If -- him down, Kenzie could be killed if he is working with -- -----.”
“It’s you call,” Heather said. Then, “We lost the visual.”
With that command, I saw the rest of our team come out of the woodwork and spring into action.
“Freeze, FBI. Down ---- ground!” Cam walked up behind the figure forcing him face first onto the ground and handcuffed him. He flipped him over and pointed his gun at the guy’s chest. “Where’s Kenzie?”
“Who?” the guy sputtered.
“Don’t --- ---- with me, fucker. Now where’s Kenzie?”
“Look, I didn’t--- her. ---- --- saw her picture on TV. --- --- -- -- -- easy way -- -- some money.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a movement off to my left. A girl came out of the shadows looking quite disheveled. She was pulling on a white shirt over a red bra.
“Are you okay?” Eric asked. “--- -- hurt you?”
“Oh, it’s not --- you think,” the girl replied. “He didn’t---- me. He ---- boyfriend. Please, don’t --- my mother.”
“We will need to bring you both in for questioning,” Eric replied.
A half an hour later, I stood on the other side of the two way mirror to one of the interrogation rooms while Cam question the guy whose name was Roy. Cam wanted me there since I had knack for reading people and could see if Roy was really telling the truth or lying through his teeth. Eric was questioning Roy’s girlfriend in another room down the hall.
“I’ll ask you again. Have you seen this girl?” Cam pushed the picture of Kenzie toward him.
“I ain’t telling you nothing.”
“Where we you two days ago?”
“I’ve been in rehab for two weeks.”
“Do you have any children?” Cam circled him again
“One. A daughter.”
“A daughter. How old is she?”
“Five. Her name is Sarah.”
“That’s a beautiful name. It’s Hebrew. It means princess.”
“I didn’t know that.”
Cam slid the picture of Kenzie across the table. “She’s someone’s princess, too. Now, have you seen this girl?”
Roy shook his head and I saw tears well up in his eyes when he thought how Kenzie could have been his daughter.
“He might be druggie, but he telling the truth,” I told Cam.
“She is, too,” Eric replied coming down the hall from talking to Roy’s girlfriend. “All she cares about is if her mother finds out.”
The next day Cam and I were back at the college. We were looking for Mike Rose. He was the only lead we had since Roy’s rehab alibi checked out and Frank Johnson had indeed been bowling with friends the night Kenzie disappeared. Heather hadn’t been able to get a hold of any of the school operators who helped Kenzie with her phone calls. The one who had handled a 45 minute call was vacationing in Hawaii and Kenzie had called using a prepaid cell phone and couldn’t be traced.
After about fifteen minutes we had tracked Mike Rose down after getting a copy of his class schedule and asking his roommate where he would be.
“Are you Mike Rose?” Cam called. The boy turned around so he was hearing also. “We are from the FBI.”
“Am I being arrested?”
“No, we just need to ask you a few questions. Do you know where Kenzie is?”
“I’ve haven’t --- -- --- at the coffee shop.”
“Usually the last person to see the victim is the one who had taken them. In this case, that last person would be you, “I said.
“I couldn’t --- anything to Kenzie. I love her. --- -- found out she was missing -- ---- can’t sleep. Or eat. I am going completely insane.”
“Spare us your sob story. If you don’t cooperate, we won’t be able to help you,” Cam said.
“Look if Kenzie’s dead, I might as well be dead, too.”
It had been 41 hours since Kenzie had disappeared. Nothing felt right. The boyfriend was as innocent as he was going to be. We didn’t know where to go.
“I guess we are back to square one,” Cam sighed.
Leo nudged the back of my hand. I turned to see Heather coming down the hallway.
“Devon. Cam. I am so glad I --- --- --- catch you. I think -- -- found something.”
“What do you have?”
“I was finally --- --- -- in touch ---- operator in Hawaii. --- --- --- remembered the conversation. -- ---- --- wasn’t very often she got --- --- ----- -- a mother/daughter reunion. -- -- --- ---- ---- finding each other after nineteen years.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense,” I said. “Kenzie’s mother’s deaf.
Heather smiled. “Her adopted mother is deaf. Her biological mother is hearing. Kenzie’s adopted.”
Cam and I made another visit to Mr. and Mrs. Ferrell the very next morning.
“Why didn’t you tell us Kenzie was adopted?” Cam asked Mr. Ferrell.
“We have had her since she was two days old,” Mr. Ferrell explained. “We really don’t consider it adoption. She is our daughter in every way.”
“Did either one of you ever tell Kenzie about her birth mother?” I asked and signed.
Mr. and Mrs. Ferrell looked at each other. Both were signing at the same time.
“I didn’t. Did you?” Mr. Ferrell signed.
“No, I didn’t.” Mrs. Ferrell signed back.
“This might explain her disappearance,” Cam replied. “We are hopeful. Do you have any information on the birth mother?”
“No,” Mr. Ferrell replied. “We never asked.”
“Do you have the name of the adoption agency?” I asked.
“Now, that’s something we do have,” Mr. Ferrell went to get it.
I looked at Mrs. Ferrell. “Have faith,” I signed to her.
“Here we are,” the woman at the Lullaby Adoption Center said. “I’m sorry. Nineteen years -- -- long time. Back then everything --- -- manually. Now we have all this new ----- -------. I am still getting used to it.” She pulled up Kenzie’s file on the computer and printed it out for us.
A baby girl had been born April 2, 1994. The birth mother’s name was Ivy Thompson. Twelve years later Ivy had started to search for the daughter she gave up by putting her name on a website that connects mothers and daughters. Kenzie’s name was on the website, too. Cam and I looked at each other and smiled. We had to find Ivy Thompson.
By the time we finished with the adoption agency and updated our team with this new information it was too late to go looking for Ivy tonight. It had been a long day.
“Would you like to come in?” I asked Cam when he dropped Leo and me off at my apartment. “I can make some coffee.”
“I’d like that.”
While I made the coffee, Cam ordered some Chinese takeout. It was the closest thing we had to a date since we broke up. Halfway through my container of tangerine chicken, I laughed.
“What?” asked Cam.
“I was just remembering when you didn’t know any sign language you tried to communicate with me through Charades and Pictionary.”
“That was an…interesting time.”
“Do you think it was selfish of me just wanting to be friends?”
“Dev, I would much rather have you as a friend than not in my life at all.” He hadn’t called me Dev in a long time.
I went on to tell Cam some of the difficulties of growing up deaf. I felt comfortable talking to him about this...being such a personal subject. He had always been easy to talk to. He never treated me like someone with a disability.
I did attend a deaf school for a while. It was both a deaf and blind school. The deaf kids would trip the blind kids, while the blind kids would sneak up on the deaf kids. I learned the hard way that some deaf kids could treat other deaf kids the same way hearing kids did. In fact, one thing the deaf kids did to me was just as cruel as anything any hearing kid ever did. Finally, I returned to public school.
Although I was a bright student, I learned to minimize my asking and answering of questions. Sometimes, the teachers would get annoyed, and I would suffer the embarrassment of being told "too late." Spelling tests were a real challenge. I dreaded spelling bees because of how difficult it was for me to keep up and understand the questions. Of course, I dreaded oral reports too, mainly because I disliked having to get up in front of people.
In my early college years, I was still very "hearing" minded. I tended to try to socialize more with hearing students than with deaf students. It was like I was caught behind a wall - one side being the hearing world, the other side the deaf world. Where did I belong? Where was the door in the wall? I had not yet found my identity as a deaf person. This identity developed gradually in college, through daily interaction and living with deaf students.
We talked long into the night. Cam told me he had been married once before…long before we met.
“What happened to your wife?” I asked.
“She left me. Plain and simple.”
“Oh, I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, I guess I was, too for a while.”
“If you don’t want to talk about it…” I started.
“Oh no. It’s okay.”
It wasn’t as if they had what anyone could consider a real marriage. Val wasn’t into white picket fences, 2.5 kids and a dog. Neither one of them was looking for anything serious. There had also been more than one man in Val’s life after that. Even if Cam had known about it at the time, it wasn’t like he could have done anything about it. Val had made it clear about what she wanted. And her list didn’t include him. Cam wasn’t sure if anyone could actually understand his and Val’s relationship since he hadn’t understood it. A woman needs to feel secure. That is what she said. She was married now to her former boss. They live in some mansion in a seaside development in San Diego.
I had never known that about him. It was like we were getting to know each other all over again.
When I finally looked at the clock it was in the wee hours of the morning. Since we had to get up early it would be pointless for Cam to drive all the way to his apartment only to get up and drive all the way back over here to pick me up. I timidly suggested to Cam he should spend the night. We had often spent the night together while dating. I made a point of telling him he had to sleep on the couch. I gave him a pillow and blankets and then disappeared into my room. I felt safer behind closed doors, but it made me a bit uneasy knowing the temptation was on the other side.
I was trapped in a fog. The killer was coming toward me. I could see his ugly face and his ugly yellow teeth. I frantically reached down for my gun. When I realized I didn’t have it, I began to panic. I open my mouth, but nothing came out. I tried to run, but my legs wouldn’t move. I was completely helpless. When I looked into his eyes, I could see all of his victims and the pain he had inflicted. I could feel their pain, all their emotions. Everything hit me all at once. It was more than I could handle. The killer raised his knife and jabbed it into my abdomen. I could actually feel the blade twisting inside me tearing my flesh.
Cam was resting lightly on the couch when a scream pierced the air. Devon, was his first thought. He hit the ground running as he heard her scream again. It sounded like she was being torn apart. He burst through the bedroom door nearly knocking it off its hinges. She was tangled up in the bedclothes, violently trying to free herself. He gently tried to shake her awake. Even when her eyes flew open, she continued to blindly pound Cam’s chest with both fists.
“Devon, stop!” She was too out of control to read his lips.
My breathing was fast and it felt like I was going too hyperventilated. My face was sheet-white and my hands were shaking. Cam placed himself right in front of me to make sure I could see his face.
“--- - --- ---.” He took my hands and squeezed. “--- -- ---.” Cam cupped my chin lifting my face. “-- ---. --- --- ---. --- . --- ----.
I saw his mouth moving, but I wasn’t able to make out anything he was saying. Not a single word.
He could see panic in my eyes. I must have looked desperate, like a swimmer about to go under. I tried to twist away; my trembling hands stretched out in front of me like I was trying to find something to grab on to, but there was only air. I lurched forward tripping on the tangled sheets and rolling onto the floor.
“Have to get away!”
“---- ---. ---- ---- -----.” Cam gripped my hands and held them against his chest. Even when I twisted again accidently jabbing him with my elbow, he didn’t let me go. There was only one thing he could do. As his palm cracked across my face, it was enough to shock me back to reality. He cradled me against his chest and started rocking back and forth. Somehow this comforting motion helped and I stopped fighting. I whimpered and snuggled closer against him. Finally, the rocking motion lulled me to sleep.
I stirred. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. I twisted around and found myself face to face with Cam. I was very disoriented and it took me a few minutes to realize where I was and why Cam was in bed next to me. Had we done something we would both regret later?
“Cam?” I asked bewildered.
“I’m right here.”
“I think you had a nightmare. A pretty intense one from what I could tell.”
I looked away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want for you to see me like that. I usually can control it.”
He turned my face around so I could read his lips. “Don’t worry. I’m glad I was here. You called out .You needed me. That’s all.”
I sat in silence for few minutes to try and let my mind wrap itself around what Cam had said. But there was one thing I had to know.
“Did we… uh, you know…”
“No,” Cam replied. “We weren’t intimate. I would never take advantage of you.”
“I know.” The way Cam was looking at me I felt like he could see right through me.
Cam left me alone to shower and get dressed. I had a very weird, but familiar feeling rising up in my chest. A feeling I hadn’t had for a long time.
Later on we were all gathered at Ivy Thompson’s last known address provided for us through the adoption center. There didn’t appear to be anyone home.
“That’s not paint,” Cam said pointing to some red drops on the ground. Blood. They pulled their guns and burst into the house. Everything was clear. Clear in FBI language means there are no potential threats. Eric pushed the door open to one room. I couldn’t see Eric face, but I saw Cam start in his direction. I assumed Eric had found something and wanted Cam to see it. I followed.
Inside a string of colorful letters said, “Welcome Home.’ It appeared to be a girl’s room with a pink canopy bed and some dolls and stuffed animals on the dresser.
“Looks like Ivy was trying to make up for lost time,” I said.
Cam was leafing through some papers. He handed them to me. They were letters; hundreds of letters from Ivy to Kenzie. They said how they were going to start over, be a real family and how Kenzie would always be her baby. Miles and Eric dusted for finger prints. There were no means of escape.
As we were getting ready to leave we noticed some blood droplets leading to the garage. Miles opened up the door, but there were no cars inside. Cam had located some tire tracks in the dirt and decided on the make and model of the car. He called into the station and had them put out an APB for a 2002 Jeep Cherokee.
When he got off the phone, he had a disappointed look on his face. I didn’t understand. We were so close to solving this case.
“What? What is it?” I asked.
“They found Ivy Thompson’s body in the woods along highway 70. She’s been murdered.”
It felt like all the wind had gone out of me. Ivy had been our only link to finding Kenzie. We reviewed all the evidence we collected. There had to be something we were missing. My days as a profiler were coming back to me. I felt extra pressure because I should be the one who could see what other people might miss. The fingerprints reports came back. Kenzie had definitely been in the room and so had Ivy. However there was one more set of prints belonging to a man named Carlos Montoya. We ran his prints and found he had criminal recorded. All this information was impressive, but it would be even more impressive if we actually knew where he was.
I was sitting at my desk looking over the letters to Kenzie for the hundredth, maybe thousandth time. Maybe there was something in there. So far nothing. I felt Leo nudge my leg.
“What? What is it, boy?” I looked and saw Mr. and Mrs. Ferrell standing in the doorway. “Oh, I see.” I walked over.
“We haven’t found anything yet,” I spoke and signed. “When we do and we will you will be the first to know.” I tried to stay positive for their sake as well as mine.
“I know,” Mr. Ferrell answered. “We just received this.” He held out a video cassette.
All of us crowded around the TV. The tape was another form of a ransom note. Only this time it showed Kenzie and she was holding today’s newspaper so it told us she was still alive. Mrs. Ferrell burst into tears at the sight of her daughter’s face. On the front page of the paper was an article about Memorial Park and according to Mr. Ferrell it was where the ransom was supposed to be delivered. He was all set to pay, but Cam told him to just be patient. Maybe there was something in the tape to give us a clue to where Kenzie was.
We watched the tape again and again. It was only then when I saw it. Everyone had been looking for some kind of landmark and surroundings. No one was watching Kenzie.
“Wait,” I said. “Heather, can you rewind the tape? Now play it again. There, freeze it. Can you zoom in on her hands?”
“What do you see?” asked Cam.
“Look at Kenzie’s right hand,” I said. “She is forming the letter L and moving it back and forth. It’s the sign for lazy.”
“You think she might be trying to tell us where she is?”
“Play the tape, Heather. Now freeze it. See her other hand. Even though it looks like she is putting her hair behind her ear, it’s the sign for horse.”
“Lazy Horse,” Cam repeated. “Get on the computer. Find me all information on Lazy Horse.” Miles jumped on the task. Unfortunately there was a lot of horse country in this area. I noticed Cam was looking at me in a way he hadn’t looked at me for a long time. “Good going, Devon. Only you could pick up on something like that. You are the perfect person for this case.”
I wasn’t sure why he had signed to me. Unless he didn’t want the other members of the team to know what he was saying. He just wanted to keep it between us.
Then I saw Miles jump up. “Found it. The first Lazy Horse place is 40 minutes away-- highway 4.”
“That’s as good of place to start as any. Let’s go.”
Lazy Horse used to be a riding academy. It looked to have been abandoned for some time. It reminded me of those old ghost towns you would see in western movies. The vehicle in question was parked outside. Cam wanted me to stay outside just in case Carlos Montoya was inside and armed. It felt like Cam was making it his job to protect me. It was nice to feel being taken care of.
While he and the rest of the team stormed the house, I wondered around the back. I saw an old wooden shed in the back corner. I don’t know why, but I felt compelled to see what was inside.
I opened it and pushed my way into the darkness. I must have caught my foot on a loose board because I fell and the door closed behind me. After I had regained my balance, I pushed against the door. It didn’t budge. It appeared to be locked from the outside. How could I have been so stupid? I knew better than to go someplace by myself. I couldn’t freak out. I had to assess the situation.
Musty darkness stretched around me. The shed was filled with broken garden tools, watering cans and rusty shovels. None of them would help me get outside. I took another deep breath. I sneezed, frowning at the musty edge to the air. I ran my fingers over the work surface beneath the window, wincing when I met splintered wood. A stack of broken, plastic lawn chairs leaned against the window next to an old garden hose and several empty feed bags.
I huddled in the darkness, dust motes tickling my nose. My heart hammered against my ribs so I took another deep breath and held it summoning all my willpower and control. Feeling my hip throb, I searched the ground and found I was sitting on a fallen shovel. I gripped the handle as I stared at the narrow window. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I was so surprised I screamed. I squinted into the darkness.
“Kenzie?” I forgot to sign. “Is that you?” I crawled toward the back corner. Kenzie was sitting with her hands and legs bound and a piece of duct tape over her mouth. I slowly pulled the tape from her mouth and cut the rope binding her hands and legs with a pair of garden sheers.
“Are you okay?” was the first thing I signed to her. I think she was surprised to see me sign, but she signed back she was fine.
“My name is Devon and I’m with the FBI. Now we are going to get you out of here.” Even though I didn’t know how.
I widely looked around, but all I could see was a pile of old cardboard boxes, some gardening tools and bags of fertilizer. Nothing that would get us up to the window safely. We were going to have to bust our way out. Maybe between Kenzie and me we could get the door open. I signed my idea to her and she nodded in agreement.
We ran full force and flung ourselves against the door. Even though the door was not very strong or sturdy it held fast.
“Again!” I signed.
We summoned our strength and ran at it again. This time it opened and I plowed through and ended up on the ground. I rolled over on my back and saw Cam looking me square in the eye. “Come on.” Cam helped me to my feet. His mouth continued to move. He was talking too fast for me to read his lips and wasn’t signing or finger spelling. I could only grab snippets of what he was saying; I figured he must be asking me how I found Kenzie. Sometimes it just takes common sense for me to know what people are saying.
“Just call it instinct,” I replied.
“I’ve learned to trust your instincts over the years.”
I learned Carlos had been Ivy’s boyfriend and had been in the house, but had tried to run away, but not before making sure Kenzie was hidden and locked away in a place we may not find her. He didn’t realize I was also inside. It has just been a coincidence.
It was so wonderful to be there when Kenzie was reunited with her parents. At the first sight of them I saw Kenzie’s mouth open as she ran into her parents out stretched arms.
“Kenzie can talk?” I whispered to Cam.
“Not coherently anyway,” he answered back. “But it was a happy sound.”
“I wish I could have heard it.”
Cam looked and me. “Sometimes I forget you are deaf since you talk so well and can read my lips.”
“I don’t mind. It’s kind of nice not to be reminded of it every second of every day.” I smiled and turned my attention back to the reunion. Since Kenzie’s hand were busier than her parents I figured she was telling them what had happened.
“If I hadn’t tried to contact Ivy, none of this would have happened,” Kenzie signed.
It’s not your fault,” Mr. Ferrell signed. “You had every right to be curious. We should have talked to you about finding you birth mother long before now.”
“Thank God you are back with us.” Mrs. Ferrell signed and embraced Kenzie again. Then she looked at us over Kenzie’s shoulder at us.
“You are right,” I signed to her. “God brought her back. Not us.”
Two weeks later, Kenzie and Mrs. Ferrell stopped by. Kenzie wanted to thank us for finding her. She signed while I translated her thanks. She was planning to study law enforcement. Cam and the rest of the team shook their hands in the air which is clapping in sign language. As everyone else gathered around Kenzie, I was able to sign personally with Mrs. Ferrell.
“How are things going?”
“It’s not been easy,” Mrs. Ferrell signed. “But Kenzie is strong and most importantly she’s safe. Ivy was trying to save Kenzie from her boyfriend when she died. I tell her in her own way Ivy loved her. Kenzie and I have always had a special bond because of our deafness.”
“But the most important thing you share is love. And Kenzie is loved.”
After Kenzie and her mother left, I started packing up my desk. I was putting some papers into a box when Leo nudged my leg. Cam was walking over.
“So I guess this is good-bye.”
“Why does it have to be good-bye?” I asked. Just because the case was over didn’t mean we couldn’t keep in contact. He had said he still wanted to be friends…and maybe something more could develop over time. I didn’t want to admit it, but I had missed him. I wouldn’t mind working with him again on occasion. Everyone likes to feel needed.
“Well as they would say in your case I don’t even have your TTY number. How will I find you?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll find you.”