May 5th, 1932
In a small western town, a gentle warm breeze blew through the second floor nursery window. Moonlight streamed into the room, bathing it in a pale while glow.
The stranger stood in front of the crib, gazing down at the two sleeping babies. Appearing to be making a decision, the stranger looked around the room, spotting a knitted blanket draped over the back of a rocking chair. Retrieving the blanket, the stranger selected a baby, and wrapped it gently in the blanket, not wanting to wake the baby. The next task involved placing the baby into a large sack.
Once assured the baby was snug and safe, the stranger exited the room, using the homeowner's ladder. Once on the ground, the stranger and baby stole silently into the night.
The Mother awoke to the sound of her crying son. She donned a bathrobe and quietly left the bedroom, not wishing to disturb her husband. She padded down the hall to the nursery. Entering the room, she approached the crib to comfort her child.
The Father awoke to a blood-curling scream. Bolting from his bedroom, he raced down the hall to the nursery. His wife held their screaming son. He looked for the other baby, unable to locate his son's twin. His wife pointed toward the open window. Seeing the extension ladder leaning against the windowsill, he froze. A moment later, he dragged himself to the window, looking down into the yard. He let loose his own scream.
The neighbors called the authorities upon hearing the screams. The police quickly responded to the calls. They banged on the door, waiting to be let inside. The Father opened the door. The police started an intensive search of the house, yard, and surrounding neighborhood. The State Police were notified of the abduction. For weeks, townsfolk joined the police, searching for clues.
As time passed, the number of searchers dwindled. The Mother and Father were left alone, empty, mourning the loss of their child. Soon thereafter, they focused their undivided attention on the remaining twin.
The case was never solved.
"Objection! Relevance," declared the defense attorney.
"Your Honor, I am establishing a pattern of behavior from prior convictions. The level of violence has increased with each conviction to the point of multiple murders in this case," the lead prosecutor replied.
The judge sat thoughtfully for a moment. "Objection overruled. Tread lightly, Mr. Collins," the judge instructed.
"Thank you, your Honor." The prosecutor continued his questioning.
Oscar leaned forward in the chair, elbows on his knees, and head in his hands. He paid close attention to the prosecution's case. He didn't normally attend O.S.I. trials, but in this case, he made an exception. An employee and friend died in the crossfire during the shoot out. Oscar was determined to see justice done.
He knew the conviction was assured, since a jury was not involved. In delicate Government cases, the appointed judge would decide guilt or innocence, and pass sentence. The trial was a formality, simply giving the appearance of justice.
The prosecution was comprised of two lawyers, the lead chair and the second chair. Oscar received the dossiers for the two lawyers well before the trial. He read them several times, memorizing all the details. Intrigued by the second chair lawyer, he paid close attention to her trial tactics. The prosecution tag-teamed the defense, assuring a conviction.
His mind kept wandering back to the dossier of the second chair lawyer. She graduated top of the class at Harvard, and attained partnership in a prestigious law firm in New York. After several years, she became bored. Inside information from a friend in Washington lead her to the U.S. Attorney's office where she was quickly hired. To date, she had lost one case, a no-win case due to double jeopardy.
Dragged back to the courtroom, Oscar realized the prosecution had rested. The defense caved, opting to change the plea to guilty. Although it was an unusual move by the defense, due to the nature of the trial, the judge accepted the plea, sentence to be passed a week later.
The prosecutors packed their cases, preparing to leave. Oscar decided to invite them to lunch, courtesy of the O.S.I. They readily agreed, wishing to discuss some of the details of the case.
Oscar opted for a quiet restaurant where they could talk with a measure of privacy. They discussed the case until the food arrived, then abandoned the trial discussion for more agreeable conversation.
After the plates were cleared away, the discussion turned to the O.S.I. "Mr. Goldman, would you mind explaining the difference between your organization and the others, being the F.B.I, C.I.A., and the N.S.A.?" asked the second chair lawyer.
Oscar smiled, "Certainly, Miss Martin. Boundaries."
"Boundaries?" she questioned.
"Exactly. The other agencies have specified boundaries in which they operate, we don't. Our operations extend worldwide. I report directly to the Secretary. The Director of the N.S.A. would like you to believe that the O.S.I. reports to him, but that's not the truth."
The explanation satisfied Miss Martin, but the first chair prosecutor had questions. Oscar politely answered what he could; occasionally explaining that security prohibited him from answering.
At the end of the meal, the first chair excused himself while Oscar took care of the bill. Miss Martin, taking advantage of her co-workers absence, said, "Mr. Goldman, I hope you don't think I'm being too forward, but would you like to go out for a drink this evening, say about 7?"
Pleasantly surprised at her boldness, "I'd love to, under one condition."
"Should I consult a lawyer?" she teased.
"I think we can work this out. If we're to go out for a drink, I'd like you to call me Oscar." He couldn't believe his good fortune, and wasn't about to let it slip away from him.
She laughed. "Alright, as long as you'll call me Shelly."
They worked out the details for the evening. Once Shelly's co-worker returned, they said goodbye and parted. As she walked away, Shelly looked back to see Oscar watching her. She threw him a wink, then returned her attention to her co-worker.
Back at the office, Callahan noticed Oscar's mood to be greatly improved, and his step to be a bit lighter. Although she was curious, Callahan decided not to ask.
Oscar spent most of the afternoon in his office, returning calls, leaving messages and catching up on paperwork. Checking California’s time, he placed a call to Rudy at the base hospital. Oscar tried not to call every day, knowing that if a drastic change took place with Steve, Jan or Josh, Rudy would notify him as soon as possible.
After a brief conversation, Oscar hung up the phone and sighed. Steve’s condition was slowly improving, but Jan remained in a coma with no signs of improvement. Josh, on the other hand, was improving.
Even though Oscar knew the accident was not his fault, he still had a twinge of guilt. ‘After all,’ he thought, ‘if I hadn’t called, they wouldn’t have been going out to the base the next day.’
Shaking the thought from his head, he concentrated on the remaining paperwork, looking forward to his 7 o’clock rendezvous.
Oscar arrived at the upscale bar shortly before the appointed out, securing a table for two in a secluded area, good for conversation. He sat, watching the door.
Promptly at seven, Shelly entered the bar. One look and Oscar knew she had gone home to change for the occasion. She wore a medium blue dress, which hung to her knees. The dress, along with her flowing black hair and piecing dark eyes made her a sight to behold. Heads turned as she walked toward Oscar’s table.
Oscar, ever the gentleman, waited to seat Shelly at the table.
Shelly’s smile warmed Oscar’s heart. “Nice to see you again,” he said, giving her a polite peck on the cheek.
“I’ve been wanting to get out of the office all day,” Shelly admitted. “Knowing we were meeting this evening made it very hard to concentrate on my work.”
Oscar laughed, seating himself. “I’ll have to admit, it was hard for me too.”
The waiter quickly approached the table, took their order and retreated to the bar.
“I should tell you now,” Shelly started, “that I’m a very straight forward woman. I call it like I see it. My attitude bothers many men.”
“I find it refreshing,” Oscar interrupted. “In my profession, I don’t like playing games. I like the straightforward approach the best.”
Shelly nodded. “In my case, being a woman in a male-dominated profession, I find I have to be like this in order to be taken seriously.”
“I imagine so,” Oscar agreed. “With your credentials and reputation, it should be getting a little easier, shouldn’t it?” Oscar knew young male lawyers had a hard enough time being accepted, but after a few hard won cases, they gain the respect of their colleagues.
“You would think my background would make a difference, but that’s not always the case. When I joined the U.S. Attorney’s office, a small percentage accepted me without question, but for the rest? Well, it took a few hard hitting cases for them to realize there is much more to me than my looks. Actually, my first win here in Washington was an O.S.I. case.”
“Really?” Oscar said, truly surprised.
The waiter arrived, interrupting the conversation. He quickly placed the drinks on the table, inquired if the couple needed anything else, and backed away when they declined.
“Obviously I won’t go into details here, but it addition to it being my first win, it was also my first trial without a jury. I had to quickly adapt my approach to accommodate the differences. I was informed, after the fact, that all O.S.I. cases were done without a jury.”
Oscar nodded. “Due to the nature of the cases, we can’t have the general public be part of the proceedings. Take today’s case, for example. National security would have been compromised if a normal jury had participated in the trial.” Oscar paused, taking a sip of his drink.
“Most definitely,” Shelly agreed. “Fortunately I don’t think the man will ever see the light of day again, at least from the outside.”
“Let’s hope that’s the case,” Oscar replied. “Now, that’s enough about work. I’m curious, what made you take the leap from New York City to Washington D.C.?” Oscar knew the facts, but wanted to hear the true reason from Shelly.
“Boredom, mostly,” Shelly replied. She took a sip of her drink, and then returned the glass to the table. “When I first became a lawyer, I found criminal prosecution to be thrilling. But after years of rape and murder cases, and a multitude of other violent crimes, I became bored. And slightly depressed, I suppose. I never seemed to make a difference.”
“You’ve put hundreds of criminals behind bars, keeping the streets just a little safer,” Oscar assured her.
“I know, but the knowledge didn’t help. Anyway, a friend of mine told me of an opening here in Washington. I knew the chance of being hired was a long shot, but figured it couldn’t hurt to try. I was pleasantly shocked when the call came, asking how soon I could be in Washington.”
Oscar smiled. “Well, I’m glad you took the chance. And now that you’re doing something different?”
Shelly smiled. “I’m not bored anymore. Granted, it’s still the same work, but on a much different scale. I’m not dealing with petty thugs who kill old women for their Social Security checks. It’s made a big difference for me.” Shelly really enjoyed dealing with Government cases, getting to see a different view of the justice system, and a tiny peek into the world of espionage.
“It’s definitely different,” Oscar agreed. “So what do you do for fun, or are lawyers allowed to have fun?”
Shelly laughed. “Contrary to popular belief, we do have hobbies outside of work. Well, at least I do. I like the outdoors, camping, fishing, hiking, and bicycling. You name it; I probably do it or have tried it. How about you? What do you do for ‘fun’ when you aren’t at work?” Shelly leaned forward, not wanting to miss a word. Her research indicated that Oscar was seldom seen outside of work, that he is a workaholic and can be found in his office to the wee hours of the morning.
Oscar cleared his throat. He couldn’t believe his luck; Shelly had the same interests. “I also love the outdoors, but don’t get much time to enjoy it. When I can sneak away, I head for the woods, either bicycling or hiking. I’ve done a little camping, and occasionally fish when one of my employees pushes me into the outdoors. I’m not a good fisherman. It takes patience, and I’m not one to sit still for too long.”
“I bet you’d enjoy it more if you had company and not competition,” Shelly hinted.
Oscar’s eyebrow shot up, “That sounds like an offer.”
Shelly laughed, “It is. When the weather turns warmer, we could give it a try, if you’d like. In the meantime, if you don’t object to the cold, I had planned on going hiking this weekend. I’d be more than happy to have some company.”
Oscar smiled, a rare, beaming smile. “I’ll take the rain, er, snow check on the fishing, and would love to join you this weekend on a hike. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a weekend off.” Actually, he couldn’t remember the last time he had a weekend off without leaving the city.
Despite the upscale nature of the bar, the noise level had increased dramatically over the past hour. “Would you like to go for a walk on the Mall?” Oscar questioned.
“I’d love to,” Shelly replied.
Oscar settled the tab and the couple headed out the door. They met at the Mall within minutes, parking next to each other.
Despite the cold, Oscar was in seventh heaven. He never believed in love at first sight, but now he was having second thoughts. ‘We just met,’ he thought. ‘This can’t be happening.’
The couple took a leisurely stroll around the Mall, enjoying each other’s company and the quiet.
Oscar was pleasantly shocked, once again, when Shelly reached over to hold his hand, which he willingly allowed.
Once around the Mall and back at the cars, Shelly turned to face Oscar.
“I know I said I’m rather straightforward, but you should know I’m not generally like this. I mean, well,” she stammered.
“I understand,” Oscar interrupted. “I don’t normally take to a person this quickly, but I have to admit that the first time I saw you…”
“I knew I had found my soul mate,” Shelly finished.
They laughed, relieved they both thought the same thing.
“Well, I’m afraid I must be going,” Shelly said. “I have a couple of briefs to go over before court tomorrow. It’s a bear of a case and I need to be sharp as a tack.” Inwardly, she wanted to invite Oscar to her apartment, but felt she might want to let him control at least one thing of their potential relationship.
“Unfortunately, I have an all day meeting, starting at 8 tomorrow, so I best retire early,” Oscar said. ‘If she weren’t busy…’ he thought.
They exchanged home phone numbers, and a friendly kiss before bidding each other goodnight. Plans for the weekend would be formalized Friday evening over dinner.
Over the following months, the relationship blossomed. They squeezed in as much time as possible, some weeks simply being a lunch date.
One afternoon, Oscar had received the good news from Rudy that Jan was out of the coma and on her way to recovery. During the conversation, Oscar let it slip that he had plans for the weekend.
Knowing that Oscar never had weekend plans, “What gives? Did you finally find a woman?” Of course, Rudy was teasing, but the silence on the phone spoke volumes. Stunned, “You DID find a woman!”
“A very special one, Rudy. We’ve been dating since January,” Oscar finally admitted. “You will keep this to yourself, right?”
“Of course, Oscar. So? Who is she? Is it serious?” Rudy was thrilled for his friend, knowing Oscar needed someone to spend his life with, even if he denied the claim.
“Her name is Shelly Martin. She is a lawyer in the U.S. Attorney’s office. And yes, I do believe it’s serious. Believe it or not, in addition to the weekend, I’m taking next week off. We are going to the Bahamas for a week.”
“Time off, as in vacation? You? You’re taking a vacation? I don’t believe it. She must be really special for you to take time off.” Rudy could not remember Oscar ever taking a vacation.
Oscar laughed. He knew the revelation would stun Rudy, and wished he could have told him in person, just to see the expression on Rudy’s face. “Very special, Rudy. She’s a lot like me. Well, we have a lot in common, at least.”
Wanting to leave the Doctor guessing, Oscar ended the conversation with “Remember, you promised not to say a word.”
Rudy once again promised and was still laughing when Oscar hung up the phone in Washington.
The couple left early Monday morning, destination paradise. Much to their dismay, the week passed to quickly. They spent most of their time hiking or walking on the beach under the moonlight. At one time, Shelly talked Oscar into snorkeling, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
On their final evening, they enjoyed a candle lit dinner on the patio of a little restaurant near the beach. After dinner, they returned to their bungalow and fell into each other’s arms for the first time since they met. The remainder of the night was spent making slow, passionate love with brief rest periods in-between. They both figured on sleeping on the plane the next day, so they took advantage of the night.
The pilot’s announcement of their arrival at Dulles jarred Oscar out of his slumber. He gently woke the sleeping form next to him.
“We’ll be landing in a few minutes,” he told her quietly.
Shelly nodded through a yawn.
By the time they arrived at the terminal, both were wide-awake. Knowing they would return to work in the morning, Oscar felt it was best for them to return to their own apartments for a good nights rest.
Oscar stopped by his office for a moment, calling Rudy for an update.
“Good news for a change,” Rudy said. “Jan’s memory is returning. She remembers Josh and Steve, but doesn’t seem to remember the wedding or Josh’s father.”
“What are the chances of the memories returning?” Oscar knew Steve would be distraught if Jan never remembered their wedding. He leaned back in his chair, making himself comfortable.
“It’s hard to say,” Rudy replied. “Some of her memories are returning when she’s exposed to something familiar. I’m hoping that will be the case with both the wedding and Dale.”
Oscar was pleased at the progress, and turned the discussion to Steve. Rudy filled him in on the routine Steve had established, assuring Oscar it was healthy and normal.
Rudy couldn’t end the conversation without knowing the details behind the vacation. Oscar filled him in on daytime activities, grinning the entire time.
After hanging up the phone, Oscar locked up the office and headed home.
The week dragged for the couple, impatiently waiting for the weekend. Late Friday afternoon, Oscar called her office only to find that Shelly never went into work that day; family emergency was all he was told.
Concerned, Oscar called her apartment, receiving no answer. At a lost for what to do next, he buried himself in paperwork, trying not to worry.
Afternoon turned into evening. Callahan, worried about her boss’s mood, ask if there was anything she could get him before she left.
“No thanks,” he replied without looking up from the paperwork. “Have a good weekend.”
Callahan quietly closed the door behind her, wondering why he wasn’t out on a date with Miss Martin.
The following morning, the phone jarred Oscar out of a fitful slumber.
“Hello,” he said through a yawn.
“Sorry to wake you,” Shelly said. “I need someone to talk to.” She tried not to show her emotions through the phone, but failed.
Oscar scrambled to a sitting position, wide-awake. “Shelly, what’s wrong?”
“Do you mind if I come over?”
“Mind, no, of course not. I’ll put the coffee on and have it ready for you,” he said, hunting for his weekend clothing, consisting of blue jeans and a tee shirt.
“I’ll be there shortly.” Shelly hung up the phone and left her apartment.
Oscar finished dressing and ran a comb through his hair. His concern from the day before came back ten fold.
Once in the kitchen, he quickly put the coffee on, and pulled out some Danish for breakfast. The coffee had just finished when the doorbell rang.
Oscar answered the door to find a depressed Shelly standing in front of him; she fell into his arms, crying.
“What’s wrong,” he asked, trying to comfort her. Oscar shut the door and guided her to the couch. “Shelly?”
Shelly wiped the tears away the best she could, but couldn’t stem the flow.
“It’s my Dad,” she paused, choking back tears. “He died last night.”
Oscar held Shelly in his arms, letting her tears flow. He felt helpless, knowing he couldn’t take away the pain. When Shelly had cried herself out, the moved into the kitchen for coffee.
Shelly stared down into her cup, fighting the next round of tears.
Once seated, Oscar asked, “How?” He knew it might bring on another round of tears, but felt it might help if she discussed it.
“Heart attack,” Shelly replied. She took a sip of coffee, returning the mug to the table. “I got a call early Friday morning while getting ready for work. I called in and left for Alexandria. My Dad had already been admitted and was in critical condition. He held his own for several hours, but deteriorated by early evening. He died shortly before midnight.”
“Did you get to talk to him?” Oscar questioned. He knew the death of a family member without closure could affect a person for years; decades later, the death of his brother still stung.
Shelly nodded, sipping the coffee. “Briefly, yes. He told me he loved me as if I were his own daughter and wouldn’t change a thing.” Shelly choked back the tears.
“As if?” Oscar questioned, baffled.
“I’m adopted. I never knew. No one ever hinted. I looked so much like my parents that I never questioned my heritage. I always believed I was their daughter.” The death of her father and the knowledge of being adopted weighed heavily on he heart.
Oscar reached out to hold her hand. “Your parents were lucky to have you as their daughter,” he said.
A fleeting smile flashed on Shelly’s face, but quickly disappeared. “That’s what he said.”
“I’ll help with the arrangements, if you’d like,” Oscar offered. He, personally, hadn’t dealt with funeral arrangements, but knew it was quite stressful on the family.
“Thanks for offering, but everything has been arranged. Years ago I remember my parents sitting at the kitchen table, planning wills and funerals. They even purchased their plots and caskets. At the time I found in morbid, but now…” Shelly was thankful she didn’t have to handle any of the arrangements. She sipped her coffee, noticing the Danish sitting on the counter. She hadn’t eaten since Thursday night and suddenly realized she was starving.
Catching her glance, Oscar retrieved the Danish from the counter and placed them on the table. He set out a couple of paper plates and napkins.
“Care for a refill?” he asked. He took the mug while she reached for a pastry. He filled both cups, and then returned to the table.
“Personally, I’ve always felt it was quite responsible for a person to plan his own funeral, sparing the family from the task,” Oscar commented. “I think your parents did the right thing.”
Shelly simply nodded, mouth full of pastry.
“If you need any help at all, just let me know,” Oscar offered.
“Thank you,” Shelly replied. “I know I will. There will be the house to go through, stuff to dispose, and the house to sell.” She shuddered at the thought of selling her family home, but she preferred to live in the city, close to work.
“No problem,” Oscar replied. “You tell me when, and I’ll be there.”
“Thank you, I really appreciate it,” Shelly smiled. “I don’t know how I managed without you.”
Oscar smiled. “I can say the same. And of course, my secretary will also agree.” He realized his mood had improved over the months, which undoubtedly made life simpler for the people around him.
Shelly laughed. “You’re probably right. Callahan does seem to take the brunt of your mood.”
They spent the rest of the day discussing the arrangements, and the tasks ahead. Oscar cooked a light lunch for them, and they went out to dinner. Shelly’s mood had much improved by early evening, but had her moments.
Oscar offered for her to spend the night, knowing she could use the company. She accepted.
Oscar held her close, waiting for her to fall asleep. He drifted off shortly thereafter.
Wednesday morning was bright and sunny, ‘Almost obscene,’ Oscar thought, standing at the graveside with Shelly. He always felt the day of a funeral should be gloomy to match the mood.
At the conclusion of the service, he waited with Shelly as people offered their condolences.
Shortly thereafter, the couple slipped away to Shelly’s apartment. Her father had specifically stated he didn’t want a gathering after the funeral, since he knew it would be stressful on his daughter.
Shelly excused herself to change clothes while Oscar changed in the bathroom. He had dropped off some casual clothing prior to the funeral.
They met in the living room, sitting on the couch, Shelly leaning against Oscar’s shoulder.
“Thank you for taking the day off,” Shelly said. “I don’t think I could have handled it by myself.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it,” Oscar said. “There was quite a turnout; your father was well liked.” Oscar estimated about 200 people had turned out for the service, and about 100 of them at the graveside.
“My Dad was well known in the community. He dabbled in local politics, donated his time in the community, and was an all around likeable guy,” Shelly explained.
Oscar spent the rest of the afternoon with Shelly, sometimes just sitting quietly, holding each other. He took her out to a quiet restaurant early evening so they could enjoy a light dinner. Shelly didn’t feel like eating, but Oscar insisted.
By the end of the dinner, they had agreed to spend Saturday at her Father’s house, going through paperwork and deciding what Shelly wanted to keep.
Oscar walked Shelly up to her apartment door, kissed her goodnight then returned home.
Saturday morning, Oscar picked Shelly up from her apartment, took her to breakfast, then down to her Father’s house.
They spent the first hour gathering various boxes of papers, stored in different locations of the house, placing them in the dining room.
“Where should we start?” Oscar asked.
“Good question. I feel odd going through my Dad’s stuff,” Shelly admitted. “I guess we’ll start with this box,” she said, dragging one close to them. The box labeled ‘Personal’ contained a multitude of letters, which Shelly planned on reading at a later time.
“Hey, what’s this?” Oscar asked, handing the envelope to Shelly.
“Taylor Adoption Agency,” she read. “It’s postmarked 1932.” Shelly opened the envelope, withdrew the papers and started reading. She quickly scanned the sheets. “This is my adoption paperwork,” she said.
Oscar’s eyebrow shot up. “Oh? Any details on your birth parents?”
Shaking her head, “No, just confirmation of the adoption, payment information for services rendered, and general information about the agency.” She handed the documents to Oscar.
Looking at the postmark, Oscar questioned, “I wonder if the agency is still in business?”
“What are you thinking, Oscar?”
“Just curious, that’s all,” he admitted.
“Me too. Maybe I’ll check it out. I doubt they are still around, but I’d like to know for sure, one way or another.”
“If you’d like, I can do some checking,” Oscar offered. He knew it wouldn’t take long to get an answer, one way or another.
“Using your Government influence on a personal matter, Mr. Goldman?” she teased.
“Me? I would never do that!” he replied, laughing. Seriously, “It would only take a call or two to determine the existence of the agency. If you’d like, I can check into it Monday morning.” He felt a couple of phone calls to the right people would provide the needed information.
Shelly sat deep in thought. What kind of door would she be opening? Is she prepared for the disappointment of not finding her birth parents? Would she be prepared to find them already deceased? Although the questions weighed heavily, the overwhelming drive to find her identity drove her decision. “Yes, if you don’t mind. If the agency is still around, I’d be interested in talking to them.”
“Alright then, I’ll make the calls and let you know at lunch,” he said. “We are still on for lunch Monday, right?”
Shelly smiled. “Well of course, silly. Your cafeteria or mine?”
“Well, since it seems everyone already knows about us, even though we haven’t truly said anything, location doesn’t seemed to matter,” he chuckled. Although few people have said anything to him, Oscar was well aware of the whispering going on at the office. Normally, he wouldn’t notice, but this time is different.
“Your place then,” Shelly said. “The food is better, but I can’t imagine why since I’m sure it’s the taxpayers money paying for it.”
Rolling his eyes, “Yeah, right. Could it be the difference in vendors?”
“I’ll have to look into it,” Shelly teased.
“Okay, back to work,” Oscar said, picking up another stack of papers.
The couple spent the rest of the day sorting the papers into three piles; business, personal and trash. The personal papers Shelly took to her apartment. The business papers she forwarded to her Father’s attorney.
First thing Monday morning, Oscar placed a call to a friend in the F.B.I., filling him in on the details. His friend promised to call back before lunch.
Amazingly enough, Oscar’s morning was meeting-free. He managed to finish all the paperwork in his inbox, creating a stack of work for Callahan to file.
The next task was the field reports. He was halfway through them when the phone rang. He dropped the folder on his desk and picked up the receiver.
“Good news, Oscar” the voice said.
“Chester, you’ve got an answer?” Oscar knew not to get his hopes up, but wanted to give Shelly some good news.
“Sure do. The agency is still in operation and is about an hour South of here. The postmark was misleading; the agency moved about 20 years ago,” he replied.
Elated, Oscar spent the next few minutes getting additional details from his friend.
When lunchtime arrived, he met Shelly down in the cafeteria with the good news. “The agency still exists, and is about an hour South of here.”
The couple selected their food and retired to a table in the corner of the room, out of the way of foot traffic. The rest of the employees, seeing their boss with a friend, gave them a wide berth by leaving the adjacent tables vacant.
Oscar relayed the details of his conversation to Shelly, along with the fact that the agency is open on Saturday. She sat; pondering the information while Oscar ate his lunch.
With a gleam in her eye, she asked "Oscar, what are you doing this weekend?"
The receptionist looked up from her paperwork when the door opened. She smiled, welcoming them to the Taylor Adoption Agency.
“How may I help you?” she asked.
Oscar took off his sunglasses and smiled. “I’m Oscar Goldman. We spoke yesterday?”
“Yes, I remember,” the woman said. “You must be Shelly Martin,” she said, looking to Shelly.
“Yes,” Shelly replied.
“Mr. Allen will be with you shortly.”
Oscar and Shelly took a seat on the couch, glancing around the office at the photos of happy families plastered on the walls. They sat quietly, holding hands.
Minutes later an office door opened. The man in the doorway stood about a head shorter than Oscar, was slightly balding and gray, and appeared to be middle-aged. “Mr. Goldman? Miss Martin?”
Oscar and Shelly followed the man into the office.
“I’m Brad Allen. I understand you need some information?” the man asked while returning to the chair behind his desk. The couple took the chairs across from the desk.
“That’s correct,” Shelly said. “A couple of weeks ago, my Father died. He told me just before he passed that I was adopted. I had no clue I was adopted since I looked so much like my parents.” Shelly said.
Oscar picked up, “While going through her Father’s documents, we found the adoption paperwork, still in its original envelope. That’s how we found you,”
“I’m hoping you can give me some information about my birth parents,” Shelly continued. “Although I’d like to meet them, if they are still alive, I also want to respect their privacy. I’d be happy just to know what they looked like, just a description, or something along those lines.” Shelly really wanted to learn more about her family, and meet them, but she felt it best not to get her hopes up.
“May I see the paperwork?” Brad asked.
Oscar dug the envelope out of his pocket and handed it to him.
Brad looked it over, checking the postmark. He shook his head. Regretfully he said, “I’m afraid I can’t help you.”
“Can’t or won’t?” Oscar questioned.
“Can’t. If I could I would, but the paperwork prior to 20 years ago was destroyed in a fire. We moved to this location after the fire, since nothing was left of our former address.” Brad remembered waking to a phone call in the middle of the night, hearing the office had been destroyed by fire, which started in an adjacent building.
Shelly sighed, her heart sinking. “Is there anyone who might have worked at that time that I could talk to?”
Brad stood and paced, thinking. He then walked to a file cabinet and opened the bottom drawer. “Come to think of it, there might be one person.” He hesitated, thumbing through the file folders. “Aha!” He extracted one folder and returned to his desk. Sifting through the enclosed papers, he pulled out one sheet and scribbled a name on a note pad.
Oscar accepted the piece of paper presented him. “Charles LaSalle?”
“Yes, Charles retired about 10 years ago. He had been with the agency since the beginning. Although he’s aged, his mind is still sharp as a tack; he has an exceptional memory as well,” Brad replied. “I regretted the day when Charles retired. He’s great with kids and could place a child with the perfect family in short order.”
“Where can we find him?” Shelly asked.
Brad scribbled the address on another sheet of paper. “He’s in a retirement community about 40 minutes west of here. He spent his whole life helping kids find families that he never took the time to have one of his own.” A sad look crossed his face for a moment, thinking about his friend with no family.
Oscar and Shelly thanked Brad for his time and information. They left the office, stopping for lunch at a nearby diner. Once finished, Oscar called directory assistance to get the number for the nursing home. He then called and spoke briefly with Mr. LaSalle, asking if they could visit.
“Of course!” the voice said, “Come on over for a visit.”
Oscar hung up the phone and gave Shelly the news. He paid the bill and they left, heading for a visit with Charles LaSalle.
Charles LaSalle sat at his desk, waiting for his visitors. He wasn’t disappointed when the couple appeared about an hour later. He rose to greet them.
“Mr. Goldman, Miss Martin, nice to meet you both.”
Once the pleasantries were exchanged, Charles suggested going into the cafeteria to talk. The place would be deserted until dinnertime.
Once seated, Charles asked, “What can I do for you?”
Oscar explained the situation and conversation with Brad Allen. “We’re hoping you can help us or at least point us in the right direction.”
Charles sat thoughtfully for a moment. “May I see the papers?”
Oscar pulled out the envelope once again and handed it to Charles, who took a couple of minutes to look over the details.
He let forth a heavy sigh. “1932. A very bad year at the agency.”
“Bad? Why?” Shelly questioned.
“Corruption,” Charles replied. “The demand for children exceeded the supply. The orphanage, for the first time in its history, was devoid of children 5 and under. Despite the depression, childless couples were scrambling for kids. Some of the child placement professionals, as we were called, stooped to unscrupulous means to obtain children.”
“How?” Oscar questioned, suspecting the answer.
“Children were stolen from around the country and brought to the agency. Of course, only a couple of employees knew the truth at that time. It was years later before the truth exploded within the office. By that time, the paperwork on the stolen children had gone missing. We were clueless as to which kids were orphans and which were stolen.”
Disturbed, Oscar asked, “Was any attempt made to identify the children with the families who reported kids missing?”
Charles shook his head. “Not really. Resources were limited in those days, and with the children coming from around the country,” he stopped, feeling he’d made his point.
“One more question,” said Shelly. “Do you know if there was a higher concentration of children coming from one part of the country?”
Charles thought for a moment. “As a matter of fact, yes. I heard the western states were hit harder than any other area, presumably so the kids on the East coast would never accidentally meet their parents in later years.”
Oscar had been thinking of their conversation with Brad Allen. “We were told you were the best, matching kids with the perfect couple.”
Charles blushed, “I had a knack for it, I suppose.”
Shelly picked up on Oscar’s train of thought. “I never suspected I was adopted because my looks, hair, and eyes matched my parents. Was there ever a waiting list for adoptive parents stating what kind of child they are looking to adopt?”
Charles eyes popped open, “Yes, yes there was. Oh my, you don’t think…”
“Yes, I do,” Oscar replied. “You were able to make the perfect match because someone was watching the list and carefully selecting the children to steal.”
“Which means I could be one of the stolen children!” Shelly exclaimed.
“From what you’ve said, it would explain why you fit into your family so well,” Charles agreed.
“Which means I may still have a family out there,” Shelly replied.
Oscar felt he had enough information to begin a computer search for missing children in the western section of the country during the years of 1932 and 1933.
“Mr. LaSalle, thank you very much for your time. You have been most helpful,” Oscar said. They stood, preparing to leave.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t have been of more help,” Charles replied.
“You’ve been more help than you think,” Shelly said. She gave Charles a hug and a kiss, then bade him goodbye.
Charles stood at the window, watching the couple leave, hoping they could find the truth.
Back in Washington, the couple devised a plan. Oscar would call in all favors owed through various law enforcement agencies in the western part of the United States; Shelly would wait patiently.
The first list of missing children proved to be too much to handle, apparently due to a communication problem. He divided it into sections and had some help weeding out all non-Caucasian females. Frank, the resident computer geek, offered to redo the list making it more manageable; Oscar readily accepted the help.
After weeks of work, Oscar had a workable list. He invited Shelly over for supper so they could go over the information.
While Oscar whipped up a quick meal, Shelly went over the list, seeing it for the first time.
“So many children,” she commented.
“Exactly,” Oscar said, tossing the salad. “So many in such a large area; five states.” He placed the salad bowl on the table and took a seat. “Let’s eat, then we’ll go over the list.”
Shelly agreed, setting the papers aside. They ate in silence, enjoying the company. During the time Oscar conducted the search, they had spent a lot of time together, hiking, camping, and any other outdoor activity available within the Washington area. Spring melted into summer as their relationship grew.
Oscar only disappeared on a couple of occasions, much to Shelly’s dismay, but she understood. Now, in mid-July, Shelly had decided they should be together for the rest of their lives, but figured she’d wait patiently for Oscar to make his move.
With the dinner plates cleared away, they spread the papers out on the table, looking over the information.
Holding one sheet, Shelly said, “We’ll be able to eliminate some of this information immediately.”
“Yes,” Oscar agreed. “Although hair color can change from baby to adult, the eye pigment rarely changes. Any entry with the detailed information can be ruled out immediately.” He retrieved a couple of pens from the desk drawer and returned to the table.
“So much for Utah,” Shelly said. “Twin girls, blonde hair, blue eyes.” She scratched the information off the list and grabbed another sheet.
“I can eliminated about 25% of the Californian children,” Oscar added. He set aside the sheets and looked over Shelly’s shoulder.
“Nevada,” Shelly commented. “Out of the twenty two, I crossed out seven. The remainder, well, they’d have to be checked.”
They spent the rest of the evening going over the lists, trying to determine the next step.
The phone interrupted their search. Oscar reached for the phone, “Goldman.”
“Hey Oscar, how ya doing?” the voice questioned.
Oscar grinned, “Steve! Hey pal! I was wondering if you’d ever call!”
Shelly turned her attention to Oscar, listening to the one-sided conversation.
“We’ve been a little busy,” Steve replied. “Hey, the reason I’m calling is that we’re having a belated birthday party for all of us and would like to know if you’d join us?”
“Sure, I’d love to see the three of you again. It's been a long time," he said while glancing at Shelly.
Oscar got the details, writing down the time and date. “Thanks for the invitation. Tell Jan and Josh I said ‘Hi!’”
Replacing the receiver, Oscar explained the situation to Shelly, telling her about the accident and everything the family had been through over the past eight months.
“Care to accompany me?” Oscar asked.
Shelly readily agreed to go to the party. “Sounds like fun.”
“You’ll like them. Steve and Jan are great people, and Josh is something else. He’s nine now, but sometimes seems beyond his years.”
They returned to the papers, going over the list once more before retiring for the evening. Over the past few months, more of Shelly’s stuff had found it’s way to Oscar’s apartment. It was late by the time they finished, so she decided to spend the night.
The couple quickly changed out of their clothes and headed for bed.