Ojai Cal. 1948
“Steven.” Helen called from the kitchen for the third time that morning. “You better get down here if you want breakfast before you go to school. The bus will be here in just a minute.”
“I’m coming mom.” Six-year-old Steven called from his room. "I’ll be right down.”
“It’s about time.” His mother chided when Steven arrived in the kitchen. “Take your time you’ve missed the bus.”
“Ok.” Steven ate his breakfast then got ready for school.
“I’ll drive you.” Helen smiled. She never minded taking him to school. “Remember today is Friday. You will have to ride the bus tonight. Jim and I both have to work. But he should be here by the time bus drops you off.”
“I know mom. I’m ready.”
Steven and Helen walked out to the car. Hop in.” She told him.
She started the car and the headed down the drive, unaware of the car that was parked just across the road.
“Oh thank goodness.” The woman sitting in the car breathed out. “I didn’t think he was going to school today. They both work today. It’s Friday. Steven takes the bus home. I’ll be waiting.”
Anna followed Helen into town. “I hope he takes the bus home tonight’ she thought as she watched Helen drop Steven off in front of the school. She rolled down her window just a crack.
“I’ll see you when I get home tonight, remember ‘dad’ will be in the house when the bus drops you off.
“Sure mommy” Steven called as he headed into the building.
‘Good he’s gong to ride the bus home’ Anna continued to think. She lit a cigarette as she pulled away from the curb. ‘He’s my son, and I’m going to get him back. She pulled into the drive of her home. She had to make sure everything was ready Her son was coming home.
Before she entered the house she removed her dark wig revealing blonde hair.
“Hi honey” She spoke as she entered the living room.
“Hi.” The boy of twelve responded weakly
“I found your brother the other day. I hope to have him home by tonight.” She smiled.
“What?” The boy replied.
“You heard me. Now you just relax we’ll be a family again don’t worry.”
“I’m not." The boy replied. "I just never knew you were my mother.”
“I’ve explained all of that to you Donald.”
“My name is not Donald!!” He shouted. "I want to go home!”
“Get this straight. You are home. And your name is Donald!! After I get your brother we are heading for Mexico."
“Yea right what ever.” ‘Donald sneered.
“You’re going to stay here till I get back and remember what I told you!!”
“If I leave you’ll find me no matter what. ‘Donald’ sighed.
Once again Anna left the house locking the dead bolts from the outside locking her ‘son’ inside.
Anna drove around for the rest of the day waiting for school to let out. At three she was again parked across from the Elgin home.
She watched as Steven stepped off the bus “I hope they call’ She thought as Steven started to cross the road.
In the house Jim was just starting to open the door to go out and welcome Steven off the bus when the phone rang.
Jim reached over and picked it up. “Hello?” Jim spoke as he tried to keep his eye out the window.
“Yes.” The voice on the other end began. “Could I please speak with Ted Fritz?”
“I’m sorry you have the wrong number.” Jim tried to be polite.
“Are you sure?” The woman seemed persistent. “Isn’t this 555-1357
“Yes it is, but…”
“I know your protecting him!” The woman was screaming now. "He’s my boyfriend and…”
As Jim was being screamed at on the phone Anna approached Steven. ‘I just hope they keep him talking long enough.’ She thought.
“Steven!” She called. “Steven come here a minute. I have a little puppy in my car I’m a friend of your mother’s. She told me you liked puppies and if you like this one you can keep him.”
“Really?” Steven’s eyes beamed. “I can have him?”
“That’s what your mother said. Come see if you like him.”
Steve ran to the car and opened the door. “There is no puppy!” He cried. He turned to run but the woman grabbed him and threw him into the back of her car and sped off. She checked her back window to make sure no one and seen.
“There, there.” She tried to sooth the frightened boy. “Its ok mommy will take good care of you.”
“Your not my mommy!” Steven cried.
“Yes I am. You see the lady you have been calling mommy took you away from me when you were just a baby. It’s taken me six years, but I finally found you. You have a brother named Donald, and your name is David.”
“No it’s not. My name is Steven!” He cried.
“No it’s not I’m sorry I know this must be very hard for you to understand.”
Steven cried all the way to Anna’s house.
“Donald!” Anna called when she came into the house. “This is your brother David.”
“I told you its Steven.” Steve continued to cry.
“I’ve explained it to you Donald. You try to explain it to your brother.”
“You mean he was taken from you too?” ‘Donald' was getting very suspicious of this woman he had been forced to call mom for the past six months.
“Yes your mother had bad luck I guess you could say. But now I’ve got you both back.”
“Yea right.” ‘Donald’ replied.
“What do you mean Steven didn’t come home from school?” Helen cried into the phone.
“I’m sorry Helen. I saw the bus stop in front of the drive. I was just getting ready to go out the door when the phone rang…”
“And you just let him get off the bus by himself?” Helen was furious.
“I said I was sorry.” Jim sobbed.
“Oh Jim. It’s not your fault.” Helen was still upset up realized it wasn’t he husband’s fault.
“I called the police. They are on their way.” Jim explained.
“I’m on my way too.” Helen hung up the phone and told her boss she was leaving
“What’s the trouble Mrs. Elgin?” He boss wanted to know.
“I don’t know. My son is missing.”
“Go, don’t worry about us here. You go find your boy.”
“I intend to.” Helen dashed out of the office and raced home as fast as she could get there.
The police had just arrived when Helen pulled up in front of the house.
“Did you find my baby?” She cried.
“Not yet Mrs. Elgin. We are just here to take the report.”
“Yes, yes come on in.” Helen invited.
“Now said the first officer. What was Steven wearing today?”
Helen grabbed a picture of Steven from the coffer table. “This is his picture. “This was taken only last week. He was wearing blue jeans, a blue and white stripped shirt and red canvas tennis shoes.”
The officer was writing down the information any thing else? I see he was has blue eyes and brown hair. Any other marks birth marks, Scars?”
“No not that I can think of.” Helen tried to hold back the tears.
“Ok we’ll get right on this” The officer stated.
“Ok boys we are all set. We leave for Mexico in two days.” Anna told her ‘sons’
“I don’t want to go to Mexico.” Steven screamed.
“You don’t have anything to say about it.” Anna yelled back. “Now you and your brother go up to your rooms.”
“Come on Steven.” ‘Donald’ coaxed.
“He name is David!” Anna corrected.
"Oh yea I forgot.” ‘Donald' took Steven by the hand. “Come on I’ll show you your room.”
When they got upstairs ‘Donald’ closed the door. “Sit down Steven it’s going to be alright.”
“You keep calling my Steven even though she says it’s David.” Steven observed.
“My name isn’t Donald either. It’s Rudy, Rudy Wells. She gave me the same story about six months ago.”
“Really?” Steven’s eyes grew big.
Rudy nodded. “Yea. I don’t know how we’re going to get out of this one, but I’ll think of something. What’s your last name?”
“Austin.” Steven replied.
Helen and Jim were just going out to search the woods behind the house when a car pulled into the drive. They looked at it and the men who got out
“Mr. and Mrs. Elgin" The officer who had taken the report started.
"This is Detective sergeant Ben Goldman. He's from LA. You see we phoned them and told them we had a missing child?”
‘We were just getting ready to look for him." Jim started
“Well you see." Sergeant Goldman began. "We had a case similar to this about six months ago. We are still looking for that boy. Due to the similarities of the cases they asked us to join in.”
“Well I appreciate that.” Jim turned Helen back toward the house.
“Dad?” Came a voice from in the car. “If it wouldn’t be to much trouble could I please use their bathroom?”
“I’m sorry. Come on.” Sergeant Goldman opened the back door of his car.
A boy of about ten climbed out of the car.
“Mr. And Mrs. Elgin, this is my son. I had just picked him up from his grandparents when the call came in I hope you don’t mind my bringing him?”
“No that’s fine.” They said. “What’s your name?” Helen asked.
“My name is Oscar.” The boy replied…
“Please. Won’t you come in?” Jim offered.
“Thank you do you mind if my son?”…
“No not at all. Come on in.” Helen called.
“Well.” The officer said. “I’ll leave you to your work. Call when you’re ready.”
“I will. Thanks Brian.” They all headed into the Elgin house.
“Now Mrs. Elgin, why don’t you start from the beginning?” Detective Goldman asked.
“Well I took Steven to school. Nothing out of the ordinary he usually takes the bus, but he missed it this morning. He usually does.” Helen gave a weak smile.
“I see. Then what?” Ben Goldman pressed.
“he came home. Or didn’t come home I suppose would be a better answer.” Jim replied.
“Mr. Elgin. I notice that your name is Elgin and the boy’s name is Austin?”
Yes. I’m Steve’s stepfather.” Jim admitted.
“What about his real father?” Ben pounded the point “Any chance he took the boy?”
“No!” Helen resounded without thought.
“You’re that sure?” Ben was certain that the boy’s father had him and there was no direct link to this case and the Wells’ case.
“His father was killed in the war Sergeant.” Jim whispered softly. “It wasn’t that long ago, and Helen is still very upset by it. Steven never knew his father.”
“I see.” Ben was now taking the case more seriously. “I believe there is a link to this case and the other case we have handling.”
“What happened in the other case?” Jim asked
“About the same as in this case. Except in that case the boy was older than your son. Young Rudy is 12.”
“I remember that case.” Helen cried out. “We have been following it in the paper. You mean you still haven’t found that boy either?”
“I’m afraid not.” Ben Goldman sat on the couch next to his son.
“I don’t think I could stand going without my baby for that long.” Helen sobbed.
“You have nothing to go on?” Jim asked.
“No. Not until now. This may just give us the lead we need.” Ben was taking notes.
“You think the same person has both boys?” Helen’s mouth flew open.
“Yes I do.” Ben stated. “Well listen I’ve gotten the information I need. I’ll be in contact.”
“Please call even if you have nothing.” Jim pleaded.
“I’ll try. Well Oscar I suppose your mother has dinner ready. It’s a long drive to LA.”
“Ok Dad.” Oscar responded. Then he turned to the Elgin’s “I hope everything works out for you.”
“Thank you Oscar.” And without thinking Helen gave him a hug. “I hope it works out too.
After they left Helen began to sob again. “Oh Jim I don’t think we’re ever going to see him again.”
“Well ok then Steven Austin. I have to warn you about our friend down stairs. She’s nuts I mean really crazy.” Rudy warned. “You just need to go along with her. She wants you to call her mom. You have to.”
“Why?” Steven asked
“To be real honest. I think she really believes we’re her kids. Look I know you are pretty young to understand. Let’s see how can I explain it. She really thinks she’s your mom.”
“I think I understand. But I don’t want her to be my mom.” Steven started crying again.
“It’s ok.” Rudy put his arm around him. “Look your mom and dad are probably looking for you. I’m sure they called the police to help. With any luck they’ll find you. You are just new so to speak. Everyone will be looking for you. They probably think I’m dead or something.”
“You think they’ll find us?”
“I hope so. You can sleep in here with me tonight if you want.”
Steven nodded his head. “I do want that.”
“Well are you boys getting to know each other?” Anna broke through their conversation.
“Yea mom.” Rudy replied.
“Well that’s good. You come on downstairs now, dinner is ready.”
The two boys followed her down to the kitchen. “Where are we?” Steven whispered as they walked down the steps.
“I don’t know. I think the sign said Ojai.” Rudy answered
“That’s where I live.” Steven whispered back. “Maybe I could find my house. You can come with me.”
“It won’t work. She locks the doors every night, and every night she hides the key in a different spot.”
“Come on boys.” Anna was getting impatient “We need to eat dinner. Then we have to pack up everything so we will be ready to move in two days. I have boxes in your rooms for your clothes. Why don’t you get started as soon as you finish dinner?”
“We will.” Rudy assured.
“I have a question.” Steve asked when they were back upstairs.
“Yea what?” Rudy started throwing the clothes from the dresser into one of the boxes.
“Where did all the clothes come from?” Steven wondered.
Rudy stopped midstream. “You know. I never thought about it.” He muttered. “You’re pretty smart for someone who’s only six.”
Steven smiled. “Yea.”
“You know I think you’re onto something.” Rudy continued.
The next morning after spending a sleepless night Helen and Jim again welcomed Detective sergeant Ben Goldman and his son Oscar into their home.
“I’m sorry I had to bring Oscar along again.” Sergeant Goldman began. “There is no school today and his mother is going out of town I think we will stay in a hotel in town tonight.”
“That’s fine. He’s welcome. Do you have anything?” Helen wondered anxiously.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Elgin…”
“Please. Call me Helen.” Helen asked.
“Ok then Helen. I’m sorry I really have no news right now, but it’s early in the day. I’m sure something will come up.”
“I hope so.” Jim sighed. I don’t know if I could spend another day like that.”
They were interrupted by a knock at the door. Jim went to answer it.
“Officer Davis.” Jim greeted.
“I hope I didn’t wake you.” Brian replied. “I phoned Goldman’s house. His wife said he was here.”
“He is. Is there something?”…
“I think there might be. May we come in?”
For the first time Jim noticed the gentleman standing next to Officer Davis
“Yes come on in. We just made a pot of coffee.”
“Thanks.” The two men stepped in.
“Sergeant Goldman.” Jim called. “Officer Davis needs to see you.”
“Yes Brian, what is it?” Ben Goldman asked.
“This Man is Keith Larson. He believes he has some information for us.”
“What kind of information.” Ben asked
“I think I know who took both boys.” Keith Larson revealed.
“Well come on in and tell us.” Ben escorted him into the house.
When they were all seated. Ben turned to the man. “Mr. Larson when you say both boys you are referring to Steven Austin and Rudy Wells?”
Keith Larson nodded. “Yes I am. I’m pretty sure who has them.”
Oh and who might that be?” Ben eyed him suspiciously.
“My wife.” Keith’s face remained somber.
“Donald! David!” Anna called. “Come on boys its time for breakfast.”
Steven and Rudy headed downstairs.
“Good morning boys.” Anna greeted when they sat at the table.
“Morning mom” Steven and Rudy said together.
She walked over to Steven “So how did you sleep?” She asked.
Rudy winked at him.
“I slept fine mom.” He replied.
“Well that’s good. I see you two talked last night.” She patted Rudy on the back. “Thank you Donald.”
“Sure mom.” Rudy smiled at Steven.
Now I want you two to finish your breakfast. We have to get ready.”
Terrified Steven looked at Rudy for help.
“Where are we going mom?” Rudy asked.
“Oh that’s a surprise.” Anna smiled.
“Come on mom, please tell us.” Rudy pleaded.
“Well ok.” Anna smiled. “We can leave earlier. We are leaving for Mexico today….”
“Your wife?” Sergeant Goldman Asked
“Yes my wife.” Keith Larson repeated. “You see a year ago my wife and sons were in an accident. Donald and David were killed. Anna blamed herself. I’m afraid she may have taken these two boys thinking they are hers
“Where might we find her?” Goldman asked.
“I don’t know.” Keith began to tremble. “I haven’t seen her for six months.”
“Why didn’t you come forward with this information before this Mr. Larson?” Sergeant Goldman demanded.
“Well you see. I never put two and two together. My wife said she was going to visit her sister. I thought that’s where she was. When the first boy went missing I thought of my wife but dismissed it, but then when this boy disappeared, I knew Anna had to be involved.”
“I see.” Ben ran his hands through his hair. Can you give us anymore to go on?”
“She has a cousin in Mexico. I tried the sister, she hasn’t seen her for a longer period than I have.”
“How about around here. Any relatives?” Ben kept pumping him for information, anything he could get that would bring these two boys home.
“I don’t know…wait she has an aunt that lives in town. She’s out of town for the summer she goes to Oregon every summer to visit family.”
“What’s the address of her aunt’s house?” Ben demanded.
“1224 Oak Street. Why?” She maybe holding them there.” Ben shouted. “I’ll call the locals have them check out the house keep an eye on it so to speak till we get there.”
Officer Brain Davis escorted them into town with sirens blaring. When they arrived at the house the sheriff and his deputies had the house surrounded.
“She’s in there Brian.” The Sheriff approached the police officer.
“You’re sure it’s her? Does she have the kids?”
“Yes on both counts.” The Sheriff responded. “They act like they are getting ready to go someplace. They’ve come out to the car several times and loaded it with suitcases and boxes.”
Ben Goldman approached the sheriff “Is there any other way into the house?”
“Not that I can tell.” The sheriff looked at him.
“Let me talk to her.” Keith stepped up to the group of Lawmen.
“Couldn’t hurt.” Ben agreed. “Ok you have five minutes.”
“I just want you assurance that you will get her help.” Keith pleaded.
“We will. If your wife is truly ill she will get all the help she needs.” Ben assured.
“OK then.” Keith walked up to the door and knocked. “Anna it’s me. I’ve come to take you…” He thought for a second then decided to play her game. “I’ve come to take you and the boys home.”
The door slowly opened. “Keith?” Anna cried. “You mean it? You want to take us home?”
“Of course I do they’re my boys too. Come on out and I’ll see how well you packed the car.”
“Ok the boys are inside.” Anna smiled as she let her husband lead her down the steps. Rather than take her to the car he turned her over to the sheriff.
“Remember she needs help.” Keith sobbed.
Ben and officer Davis stormed the house. “Rudy? Steven? They called.
Rudy and Steven crept down the stairs. “Yes.” Rudy responded.
“We’re here to take you home.” Ben Goldman told them.
“Home? Really?” Rudy wondered.
“That’s right son. In fact I think your parents are waiting for you at Steven’s house.”
“Let’s go then!” Rudy and Steven cried.
At the Elgin’s Jim, Helen and Rudy’s parents were standing on the porch when their sons were brought home to them.
“What about the woman who took them?” Jim asked.
“She’s on her way to a hospital.” Ben told them. “She should get the help he needs there.”
“Well that’s good.” Helen and Jim agreed. She turned to Ben and Rudy’s parents “It’s a long drive to LA. Why don’t you eat lunch here before you head back?”
“That would be wonderful.” Mrs. Wells agreed. Anything I can do to help?”
“Well come on into the kitchen. I’ll think of something.
While the woman cooked and the men talked the three boys who would later work together romped around the Elgin’s back yard.
“Morning Rudy.” Steve called as he walked down the hall. “Did Oscar call you in too?”
“Yea any idea what it’s all about?” Rudy glanced at him.
Steve shook his head. “No I don’t He sounded almost frantic on the phone though.”
“I got that impression too.” Rudy noted. “Well let’s see what this is all about.” He opened the door to Oscar’s office.
Oscar was sitting behind his desk stacks of files in front of him. “What’s up Oscar?” Steve asked when he and Rudy were seated.
“I have some interesting news for the two of you.” Oscar’s face wore a somber expression.
“Oscar you look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Rudy commented.
“Well maybe I have. An old one anyway.” Oscar pulled one of the files toward him. “You know my father was police commissioner in DC from 1949 till he retired in 1965? I told you that, right?”
Steve and Rudy nodded. “Yea he passed away what is it now a month ago.” Steve wondered.
“Two months ago.” Oscar corrected. “Before he became police commissioner he was a detective on the LA police force.”
“Yea you told us that Oscar. You said that’s what led you to the job you have now.” Rudy reminded him of a conversation they had had several months ago.
“Anyway I just received this package in the mail. It’s from his lawyers. Not much, just some old papers. Old case files that sort of thing. Rather interesting to read how they solved crimes back in the 40s and 50s a lot different than from today. Anyway to get to my point.”
“Please do.” Steve encouraged.
“Did I ever tell you how my father became commissioner?” Oscar asked.
“No.” Rudy answered. “You never did…”
“I have a feeling he’s going to tell us now.” Steve interrupted.
“I’ll ignore that remark Steve.” Oscar flashed him a smile. “He got to be commissioner by solving a kidnapping case. Actually it was two cases that rolled into one. That was in LA in 1948.”
“I was only six.” Steve interrupted again.
“I guess I would have been about twelve.” Rudy added.
“If you two would be quiet for five minutes and let me finish…”
“Sorry Oscar. Please go on.” Steve smiled at Rudy.
“Anyway I’ve been reading some of his old cases, including the kidnap case. It was on top it was always a favorite of his.” Oscar paused for a moment and glanced at his friends across the desk.
“Go on Oscar.” Rudy pressed.
“The first kidnapping took place in LA. A twelve year old boy vanished on his way to school.” Oscar looked over at Rudy.
“I’m listening.” Rudy’s face had turned white.
“The second one was in Ojai.” This time Oscar glanced over at Steve. “A six year old boy failed to come home from school.”
Now Steve’s face went white. “I remember just a little. I was only six. I remember being scared to death. There was another boy there. He made me feel a lot better.” Steve recalled. He paused for a moment then continued.
“You know. After that day we never saw each other again. When I got older I wanted to thank him, but I couldn’t remember his name. Mom and dad wanted to forget the entire incident ever happened.
“You don’t remember his name?” Oscar questioned.
Steve shook his head. “I remember he told me. But I was so scared that I didn’t let it register I guess.”
“Well.” Oscar closed the file. “I think you’re about to get that chance.”
“What chance?” Steve wondered.
“To thank him.” Oscar reminded.
Steve stared at him. “You found him Oscar?”
“Not exactly.” Oscar smiled as he came around to the other side of the desk. “You actually found him.”
“Excuse me?” Steve could barely get the words out.
Oscar sat on the edge of the desk and looked at Rudy. “Do you want to tell him or do you want me to?”
Steve watched the exchange between the two. “Rudy? It was you?”
“Yea it was. I too tried to forget those six months she held me. Like you I remember you telling me your name, but after all this time I blocked it out of my memory till Oscar made it resurface.”
Steve continued to stare at Rudy. “I do remember this much. I was scared to death. You made it a lot easier for me.”
Rudy turned to Oscar. “You said your father was police commissioner here in DC. Why not LA?”
After the kidnap case the he got offers from all over the country. DC offered the best. So we all moved out here.”
“How about you Rudy?” Steve turned to him.
“It wasn’t to long afterward and my parents decided to make the big move. I suppose had we stayed in LA, I might have looked you up but like you. I blocked most of it from my mind.”
“Something else I remember.” This time Steve turned to Oscar. “There was another kid there.”
“That was I.” Oscar smiled. “I was with my father when the call came through on his radio. He just took me with him.”
The three of them sat in silence for several minutes. Then Steve turned to Rudy. “Well I guess after all this time, I want to say thanks.”
“Same here. You know after the first month, I gave up. But when she brought you in I knew the police would be looking for you, and hopefully find me.”
Rudy then turned to Oscar. “The woman who took us. Where is she now.”
“She died in a state mental hospital about 10 years ago. That’s where they took her after the incident.” Oscar informed his friends. “They never let her out.”
“What was her reason for taking us?” Rudy asked
“She had lost her two sons in an accident. They were six and twelve when it happened. I think she truly believed you were her children.”
“That’s right she kept calling us different names!” Steve snapped his fingers.
“Yea.” Rudy snapped his fingers in recognition “Donald and David.”
“Amazing? Isn’t it?” Steve spoke after several more moments of silence. “I mean to think that fate brought us together then. Then brought us together now.”
“It is pretty incredible.” Oscar agreed. “I have the file if you two would like to read it.”
“We would.” They said together.
“Well here you go. I’ll leave you two to read it. Why don’t we meet for lunch around noon, then we can discuss it some more?”
“Sounds good.” They said.
An hour later they sat in a small bar in down town Washington.
“That was certainly eye opening” Rudy commented as he and Steve joined Oscar at one of the tables.
“It was for me too.” Oscar admitted. “The report had everything in it. If it hadn’t been for her husband, I don’t think they would have ever found the two of you. That’s what my father always said anyway. She had plans to take you two to Mexico.”
“Yea I read that.” Steve noted. “Good thing she didn’t get the chance” He added.
“Yea. We’re all lucky there.” Rudy stated
“Can I get you gentlemen anything?” The bartender asked.
They all looked up at him the stared in astonishment. “May I ask you your name?” Oscar spoke first.
“Yes I own this bar, my name is Keith, Keith Larson.”
“Keith Larson?” The three of them cried.
The man nodded “Yes, is there a problem?”
“No problem.” Oscar stated. “Mr. Larson would you please join us?”