The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism
By the time they were seven years old, the twins had finished grammar school, middle school, and junior high. The following year, the two precocious youngsters rebelled against playing tag, marbles, hide and seek on the forested grounds of the school, and tether ball. Bullies from the neighborhoods came to harass the “little brainiacs” every day. Most of the faculty advised the students to grin and bear it and to consider the source. Father J.B. Richter II felt differently. He was happy that his boys were bright and willing to put up with the rigamarole, but he drew the line at them being sissies. He was a firm believer in public schools where the children learned readin,’ writin,’ and ‘rithmatic, and also how to take care of yourself in a fight. He was old-fashion, and he did not care a whit who knew it.
“Boys,” he said, “I take it you don’t like being bullied. That right?”
“Absolutely,” the twins chorused.
“Are you willing to start to learn how to defend yourselves?”
“Yes, Sir. We are going to be pretty ugly looking if we keep getting beaten up, and we suppose we could really get hurt. Our teachers are all peaceniks or Jesus freaks who don’t believe in ever fighting, even in self-defense. We don’t want to have this stuff as part of our lives as long as we try to live in society.”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself. You know something about my opinion—you might be surprised that your mother agrees completely. We want you to have pretty normal lives in regular society. It looks like you will have to be tougher than the bullies to do that, at least in your early school years; so, I have started to make arrangements for you to be taught the manly arts. How does that sound to you?”
“Just great. One of these days, I am going to use my brain to do real harm to Kirkie Simpson if he doesn’t learn to leave me alone. I kind of scare myself when I think of things I might do,” James said.
His face indicated that he meant every word, and his father believed him. He wanted the boys to learn how to take care of themselves convincingly, but not to hatch lethal plans like he saw brewing behind those ever-busy and mysterious eyes.
Doctor Brakenhauer gave his approval for the vigorous training but insisted that the professional fighters avoid and prevent serious injury or those that left permanent disability, however slight. Over the years of training, the twins each suffered a broken nose, cauliflower ears which had to be drained and thereafter protected with plastic ear cups; Jason had a broken ankle, and James had a torn left knee medial meniscus that required surgery. Only the surgeons and the parents knew of the surgery, and the scar faded so much with time that only a skilled examiner could tell the difference in the knees of the two boys. Otherwise, nothing too serious took place.
And even the pros were beginning to see real improvement in the twins. They got together and put a question to the boys and their parents.
Pedro explained the tournament situation for children, especially the younger ones: “Brazil is the only place where kids can fight, and the studios are pretty much closed to anyone not a member. What I think we should do is to get the boys enrolled in a wrestling club and let them wrestle full out. It isn’t actual fighting, but both contestants are trying to win according to the rules imposed in wrestling. I think it would be a good start.”
That idea turned out to be just what the twins needed. They toughened up, got in good shape, and learned how to control an opponent’s body, and their own. Both boys were large for their age by the time they were fourteen, and all the professional tutors and both parents believed they were ready for controlled martial arts fighting. For three years, they worked out with increasingly better opponents, wearing protective gear. At seventeen, both the twins could hold their own with the crème de la crème of American, German, and Brazilian, teenage fighters and had earned the respect of a closed circle of dedicated fighters.
Hector Darlington was a gentle young boy and would not engage in anything that even smacked of fighting; so, his relationship with the twins became limited to working with them on the farm and leading them to his secret fishing hole. By the time Elle was eight, she was able to go along with the boys and became something of a tom-boy in her activities which gave her mother concern. However, her father, James, pointed out:
“Not to worry about Elle, Theresa, she still likes to be pink and pretty, to pretend to be a princess and to love those Disney princess movies. Even though she is a tom-boy when the kids go on their outdoor excursions, they protect her as if she was the reigning princess; and they were appointed by the queen to see to it that she never even skins a knee. They are all—even Hector—smitten with her, and she returns the love by every little thing she does. I repeat; you do not have to worry about her.”
All three boys did worry some—big brother for little sister level–about the charming young sister, friend, and fan, Elle had become. It was wired into their nature. They did not even hint at how they would feel or what they would do if she were hurt, got sick, or some creep came after her. She reciprocated by attending every contest the boys were involved in. Theresa even bought her a little cheerleader outfit. The twins’ opponents laughed when she showed up ready to do cheers, but that stopped when they faced one or the other of the twins in a match.
To supplement the mixed martial arts training and for cardio exercise, the boys started playing soccer at age five and persisted on a Premier Club until they were seventeen and had graduated from Harvard. Their father required of them that they work on the farm when hay baling was done—four times a year–and that they learn how to work all the agribusiness machines. He insisted that they learn about the business itself by doing the accounting for each of its departments separately and for the year-end total spread sheet and tax preparation. They caught on quickly, and they were experts by the time they entered medical school.
By mutual agreement, they both applied to and were accepted at Johns Hospital Medical School and received their Doctor of Medicine degrees two and a half years afterwards, the only two early graduates in the school’s history to gain degrees in less than four years. Three months before they graduated with honors and shared the position of valedictorian, they applied to the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School in Dallas for the renowned orthopedic program. Charles Osgood–the professor and head of the orthopedics department–was a stickler that the school would only turn out general orthopedists capable of doing everything orthopedic that was available at the time. None of the specialization in right ankle surgery or knee surgery kind of thing.
It was a requirement that every resident do a full four-year training program before entering private practice or an academic career. That made them twenty-three-and-a-half-years-old when they set up their own private practice clinic in Highland Park, north Dallas, the wealthiest part of the sprawling Texas city. In a year, the practice was making the two partners a million dollars a year after taxes. In two years, the work was too much; so, they hired two new junior partners. With that, their after-tax income soared to two million dollars each. With their accounting ability and peripheral interest in the stock market, the twins were netting nearly five and a half million a year. Their problem was becoming what to do with all that money. Neither young man had married.
The entire family was thriving. The agribusiness was so successful that Grandfather Darlington suggested that they create franchises with each of the grandchildren, even twenty-year-old Elle becoming the manager of a different site throughout the Midwest, Wyoming, and Colorado. The plan was coming to fruition. Everyone was excited. Then everything came tumbling down—from the heights of joy and excitement to the depths of sorrow and despair. And it happened twice.
Elle was taking a class in economics and business management at the University of Iowa in Ames. Her roommate called the Richters at mid-night.
“This can’t be anything good,” Theresa said, her grogginess quickly disappearing. “You get it Jason; I have a bad feeling.”
“Hello,” he said warily.
“Hello, Mr. Richter. This is Gretchen… you know, Elle’s roommate… at school.”
And she started to cry, crying to the point of incoherence.
“Hey, Gretchen, what’s going on? Try and get hold of yourself for a bit; so, I can find out what’s wrong.”
“Oh, Mr. Richter… Gretchen… your daughter’s not here. I mean, like, she never came home from class today, and like, she’s disappeared.”
“Maybe she’s just out on a late date. It doesn’t sound like anything to be real upset about.”
“She… I mean… Elle… doesn’t have a boyfriend. She always says she’s too busy; her classes are too important. She wants most in all the world to be able to run one of your franchises; and, like, that is all that really matters right now. There’s more.”
“Gretchen, honey, start from the beginning. Let’s see if we can figure this out, okay?”
Gretchen took several deep breaths to calm herself. It was not like her to lose her cool this way, especially when she needed to be a good witness, sort of.
“Elle got up early like she always does; ate her cereal and banana; dressed up for some kind of important interview she was supposed to have at five o’clock in the afternoon. At six in the evening, the business department secretary called here to see if Elle was home. Maybe she had forgotten the interview. Did I know where she was or how to get hold of her? I told her no, and something must be wrong because Elle was never absent minded. She wrote stuff down, like real careful, like… maybe she had OCD or something.
“The secretary asked me to try and get hold of her; so, she could reschedule. They were not happy about the discourteous absence; and, while she would get a second chance this time because she had such a good record; there would not be a third chance. The university expects all students to act like an adult. I told her I would try.
“And, Mr. Richter, oh, how I tried. I called the university police who said they would give her three days and then start a missing person’s investigation. That’s all they were allowed to do. I called the police department in Ames and got pretty much the same answer. Elle is an adult, and she can do what she pleases. She’ll probably be back to her apartment or back in class by then, and it won’t have amounted to a hill of beans. That’s a direct quote. I begged, pleaded, even threatened; but the desk sergeant told me the best he could do was to take another call tomorrow morning.
“I called Hector at seven o’clock sharp to get him to help me. He’s a prince you know. He loves Elle to pieces. He said he’d come right over to the apartment; so, we could start our own search. We split up. I went around to everyone I know about who has anything to do with her; talked to teachers, the janitor, as many of her business classmates as I could find. Hector went around to the hospitals, the police station, the sheriff’s office for the county, and checked with every family member he knew about on both sides of her family… Like, we did everything. It took us to midnight, and that’s why I’m calling you. Like, Mr. Richter, we’re really worried about her, you know?”
“Where’s Hector now?”
“He and a couple of friends are out driving around the city and going to bars and clubs where he knows that criminal types hang out. He was real mad. He threatened to beat it out of some of the JDs and the stoners if he had to. He was sure that some bad news guys might have taken her.”
“Did you tell her brothers, Gretchen?”
“No, Sir, I don’t have their information. Hector said we should hold off because they will go ballistic when they hear about this.”
“That’s probably true. You have done well and are a good friend for Elle. My wife and I will head for Ames as soon as we can get dressed. I think the cops will listen better to the two of us. We can all start planning a search.”
“Oh, Mr. Darlington, it’ll be such a relief to have you here. I feel so all alone. I just know something bad has happened.”
He took five minutes to give Theresa every last detail he had obtained. She asked for more details and was getting more and more upset.
“Theresa, try and get hold of yourself. We have things to do. Call your parents; pack us some bags; and make reservations at the Motel 6… get a suite. I think we are going to have to arrange a search and will need room for quite a few people to be able to work with us.
“I’ll get hold of the boys. Gretchen is probably right. They are so crazy about their sister that nothing will be able to hold them back when they get the news.”
It was 12:30 when he called Jason.
“Jason, it’s your dad. Sorry to wake you but something important has come up. Elle is missing.”
“WHAT!!!??, missing? What happened? Did some monster take her? Are the cops looking for her? What’s the plan, Dad?”
“The plan is first for you to get hold of yourself. Your mother and I are heading to Ames right after I talk to James. You guys need to come, too. We’ll be at the Motel 6 on I-35 fairly close to the U. The three of us can go to the police and the sheriffs together. I want them to know that we are citizens, not crazy out of control buttinskies. We are going to convince them to get off their duffs and start an investigation. Pack for a lengthy stay, Jason. I suspect we’ll be there for quite a while.”
The twinning factor was in full play when Jason II got hold of James. The conversation went the same as it had with Jason III, almost word for word. James had friends at the local domestic airport, and they would be able to hire a private pilot and small jet to get to Ames quickly.
“Dad, I bet we’ll beat you and Mom to the motel. Drive safely, okay? This is enough trouble for one day.”