My Child Is Missing Again
The Second Abduction
by John Edward Gill
I didn't know her phone number and paced around that kitchen again, back to where I was in January, 1973. Outside, it was sunny and warm, but I shivered. I called the Suffolk County police, who just said to find Estelle and bring her into court. My lawyer said he didn't know about a parent kidnapping his or her child. In fact, he'd never heard of such abductions and agreed police, the District Attorney, and the courts wouldn't do anything. "You'd have to bring your wife into court for contempt," he said.
"But I need the courts to FIND her."
"We could draw up 'show cause' papers, John."
"And serve them on who?"
"I told you police don't like domestic...."
"If I DO find her, I don't need cops."
There was no use talking. I'd spent more than nine thousand dollars between both attorneys, had all the legal court work on my side, and no daughter.
For the second time.
As I jogged that afternoon, I remembered my list of Estelle's family and friends. Each said they didn't know where she and Margie were.
"I'm not privy to Estelle's plans," Wendy said.
As June stretched in July, I began chopping and splitting wood, jogging twice a day, gardening with rose bushes to plant, all the while thinking of where they might be. I continued calling, being harsh with my ex-in-laws, but kind with their friends.
By the end of July I flew to Fargo and then drove to Pine Lakes, Minnesota, where I heard the Lautin's had a summer home beside a lake. At first I thought of wearing a disguise, of crawling through woods after dark with night vision, or "starlight" scopes, peeking in windows, or taking motel rooms from where I could see their summer home, using binoculars to watch for Margie.
And I looked at maps, planned escape routes, looked for roads leading away from lakefront plots. I would have to drive south to Iowa, about a day's drive from Pine Lakes, because Minnesota and North Dakota police might be hostile.
Funny, I thought, how police might not help me, but could chase me if the Lautins or Estelle claimed kidnapping.
But, driving in Minnesota, I decided Maren Lautin would be kind enough to let me see Margie and I would then leave and plan my 'self-help'.
Finding Margie was the biggest problem, I thought, although grabbing her and driving along backroads to Iowa would be difficult and scary.
Shortly after noon, I reached the Lautin's house. I'd abandoned flimsy disguises -- fake moustaches, beards, and goatees, dark glasses, straw hats, cloth golfing caps, -- and drove up their driveway and rang the bell.
"Is your mother home?" I asked one of their sons.
Maren soon came to the screen door, a slender woman with brown hair.
"Can I see Margie?"
She looked puzzled.
She'll be six in less than a month. I have birthday presents, Missus Lautin. Took a break from summer school."
"She's not here."
"Do you know where she is?"
"Would you tell me if you did?"
"I don't know. But come in."
There were many easy chairs, pine panelling, couches, two television sets, windows near the lake, and a dock outside. But there was no sign of a five-year-old girl. I spoke slowly, listening for sounds of Margie behind bedroom doors. Their four boys played Monopoly on card tables in the living room.
"Estelle's been gone since the middle of June," I said. "No one will tell where she and Margie are."
"Look around, John. Stay for lunch. But she's not here."
I believed her. She took me to that dock and I looked at smooth lake waters, shiny white from sunshine, and wondered where Margie was.
"Did Estelle transfer to the University of Minnesota? In Minneapolis?"
"Her father went there. Her brother is in Minneapolis. Her uncle lives in Duluth."
"I know," she said.
"Her Dad had a saying, 'You're either honest or you're not'."
"John, I didn't even know she was gone."
"Could you find out? You know her brother."
"Should a little girl be taken away from both parents?"
"She's probably with Estelle."
"She wasn't before."
"There's nothing I can tell you."
Already I thought of Minneapolis, believing Maren, and also realizing she wouldn't talk. "I'm going back to Fargo then. Returning to Long Island tomorrow," I said, hoping to throw her off if she called Wendy or anyone else.
Driving to Minneapolis was hard, finding route 59, then U. S. route 95 while thinking where Margie might be. Duluth? Minneapolis? Denver, where Estelle's older brother lived? Taking warm baths hours later in a Coon Rapids hotel, just north of Minneapolis didn't help.
There was the Registrar's Office at the University and also her brother's house in Minneapolis to check out and I was alone, with no one to second-guess me or give advice. What good was 'self-help' if there was no one with me, I thought?
Estelle wasn't registered either as a graduate or undergraduate, and her brother's house was empty when I rang the bell. Several unopened newspapers lay on his porch and his mailbox overflowed with junk. I sorted through it, hoping to find letters from Estelle with her return address. His trash can around back had rotting food and discarded newspapers from weeks ago. Several lights were on in his kitchen and livingroom even though it was broad daylight.
Flying to Chicago and then on to LaGuardia was as restless as my driving, only now I didn't have road signs and speed limits to occupy my attention. Jogging at sunset, I tried to think of those friends of Estelle's whom I hadn't called yet. Professors at Stony Brook University, classmates, even acquaintances who might not know her that well and wouldn't be on guard. I checked Wendy's mailbox each night to see if there was any outgoing mail with Estelle's name and address, but found nothing. The same with her trash, which she put on her street two nights a week. I'd park a block away and dump her garbage into large, black plastic bags, take it home, sort it on my basement floor, return it to her can.
But I found nothing.
Then during the first week of August I found where Margie was.
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