Officer Franklin opened the passenger door of the squad car before it stopped rolling. Her partner, Bill Lacey, cut the siren, but left the light bar flashing blue and red. Joyce Franklin, strapped in her Kevlar vest, emerged from the vehicle with her Glock drawn. Bill confirmed to Dispatch, “We have a visual.”
Despite the recently fallen snow, the barefoot woman sitting on the front stoop was drinking an iced cold New Glarius Blacktop IPA. She wore a bright yellow sleeveless sundress with white flowers. Her skin was a sickly pale. The woman’s curly red hair matched the description of Shelby Corbin, a missing person who had disappeared when she was twenty-two. Sitting next to her on the stoop was a six-pack of beer. On her lap lay a Weatherby 12-gauge shotgun.
“Set the gun down, Miss, and step away,” Officer Franklin said firmly.
Shelby considered that for a moment. She took another drink of beer and sighed. She glanced suspiciously at the neighbors standing in front of their houses. One of the men, the muscular one Mr. Wainwright called Ploughboy, disappeared into his house. She shook her head. “I’d rather not.”
Dispatcher. 9-1-1. What is your emergency?
Caller. My name is Shelby Corbin. You’ve been looking for me.
Dispatcher. Shelby Corbin?
Caller. Yes. I was kidnapped a long time ago.
Dispatcher. And where are you now?
Caller. 1015 Tremont.
Dispatcher. Do you need medical attention?
Caller. I don’t. But Mr. Wainwright is injured.
Dispatcher. Please stay with him until help arrives.
Caller. I’d rather not. I don’t want to be inside when he wakes up. I’ll be on the front step.
The caller I.D. came up Benjamin Wainwright and matched the address the caller had given. Shelby Corbin, if that was the caller’s real identity, had disappeared on her way home from Starbucks where she was a barista.
“Put the gun down, Miss,” Officer Franklin repeated, this time more firmly.
Shelby was shivering, but the cold felt wonderful. She hadn’t been allowed outside in eleven months. “It’s not loaded.” She raised the bottle to her lips and took another drink. “Mr. Wainwright keeps the shells locked in his gun safe. He only had the shotgun out because he was going to clean it tonight before the turkey hunt.”
Shelby looked down at the shotgun. She remembered what he’d said he’d do to her with it if she ever tried to escape. “I brought it out was because of them.” She motioned toward one of the neighborhoods, the man Mr. Wainwright called Cutter. He was standing beside his wife.
She took another drink of beer. “The dog sitters.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The men Mr. Wainwright got ‘to watch his bitch’ when he was out of town.” Shelby didn’t know their names, only the nicknames Mr. Wainwright gave them.
Two more patrols arrived, pulling in from opposite ends of the street. The first man out of the car was Ricky Williams, one of three Black officers on the suburban police force. He saw Franklin with her gun drawn and reached for his. Then he saw who she’d drawn on and holstered this weapon.
Ricky moved to join her. “Officer Franklin, where’s your partner?”
“He went around back.”
“Why’d you draw on her, Joyce?” Ricky asked softly when he got to her side.
“We still don’t know what we have here. She’s got a gun. We believe there’s a guy named Wainwright inside who needs medical attention. Bill is checking it out.”
“Isn’t she the college kid that got kidnapped a decade ago?” he said quietly. Officers Williams and Franklin had been dating for six months now. She was wound a little tight because of the Detective exams in April.
“I ordered her to put the shotgun down, but she refused. She claims she needs the gun because of the ‘dog sitters.’”
“The neighbor men who watched her when Wainwright traveled.”
Joyce focused on the scene in front of her: a young woman and a shotgun on the stoop. “She says it isn’t loaded because Wainwright keeps the shells locked up.”
“Jesus, Joyce,” Rickey said under his breath, “holster your weapon. The TV vans are pulling up.” She hesitated, but didn’t lower her Glock. “If she’s Shelby Corbin, do you really want Channel 6 News streaming video of you training your gun on her?”
“No,” she said firmly, “but we don’t know the situation. All we know is what she’d told us.” Joyce glanced over to Ricky. “And we know perps lie.”
The ambulance arrived as Bill Lacey suddenly reappeared from the back. He motioned the EMTs around the side of house. “Got a man down in the kitchen.”
“Would that be Mr. Wainwright?” Joyce asked the young women.
Shelby nodded, and then said softly, “Yes.” She finished the beer and set the empty bottle on the stoop.
“Did you kill him?”
“No. I wanted to, but I couldn’t get myself to.” Shelby eyed the two police officers nervously. “I hit him with a fry pan when he took off his pants.” She slowly reached down and pulled another bottle out of the six-pack and opened it. “Are you going to arrest me?”
Joyce Franklin felt the tears welling up in her eyes. She handed Ricky her service weapon. When he didn’t stop her, she began slowly walking toward the young woman. “Are you Shelby Corbin?” she asked gently.
“I am.” Shelby took a drink from the fresh beer and waited.
“You’ve been gone a long time,” Joyce said.
“Pretty much forever.” Shelby clutched the beer bottle as she stared at the officer. There were TV cameras closing in. She’d need more beer before she could face them. Anything to dull her senses.
“Mind if I join you?”
She shrugged. “Go ahead.”
When Joyce reached the stoop she motioned to the shotgun. “May I?”
Joyce picked up the gun, made sure it was unloaded, and tossed it toward Ricky who quickly retrieved it. She sat down beside the shivering woman.
Shelby asked her, “Do you like beer?”
“Too much sometimes, my boyfriend tells me.”
Shelby pulled a beer from the six-pack, opened it, and handed it to Joyce. The two women drank in silence.
Officer Williams brought a blanket from the squad car and draped it over the shivering girl. The other officers kept the camera crews at a distance.
“Did Mr. Wainwright kidnap you?”
“Did you know him back then?”
“No, he wasn’t one of the regulars.” She added bitterly, “But I know him now.” Joyce Franklin moved to put her arm around her, but Shelby pulled away, trembling. “I’d rather not be touched.”
“I understand,” Joyce told her, but, of course, she didn’t. How could she understand what it was like to be held captive for a decade? “The other men—the dog sitters, you called them—did they help Mr. Wainwright kidnap you?”
Shelby shook her head. “No. They came later, when he started traveling for his job.”
“How many were there?”
Bill Lacey appeared at the front door and motioned for Officer Williams to join him.
“Only one at first. Mr. Wainwright called him Cutter. There are three of them now.” She stared down at the stoop, lifting her head up only when she took another drink. “I hated when Mr. Wainwright was gone.”
At the front door Officer Lacey spoke quietly to Ricky. “You’re not going to fucking believe what’s inside. The upstairs looks normal enough, except for the shackles we found in the kitchen.” Shelby listened as the policemen spoke.
“In the basement there’s a system of wire cables strung with handcuffs, a wire cage with a mattress on the floor, and a table with leather straps next to the furnace. God-awful photos plastered on every wall. No trouble making this case.”
Shelby leaned over to Joyce and whispered. “Is that true?”
“What that officer said about making the case?”
“I suspect it is. My partner doesn’t usually make claims like that.”
“Mr. Wainwright said the police would never believe me. If I ever got away, he said, everyone would think I’d stayed because I liked him.”
“You’ve been held against your will for ten years. They will lock him up and throw away the key..”
“What about the other men?”
“We have to find them first. But they’ll be going away for a long time, too.”
Shelby smiled for the first time. She motioned with her head. “That’s Cutter right over there, in the red shirt.” Joyce Franklin saw where she was pointing, noted the middle-aged man in the red flannel shirt and tight jeans. She noted the tension in his wife’s face. “And I saw Ploughboy go into the blue house. I haven’t seen Sir Sledge, but I think he lives close by.”
“As soon as the EMTs take a look at you, I’ll go have a talk with Cutter.” Joyce drank the beer along side Shelby, even though she was on duty and the cameras were rolling. “He’ll help me find the others.”
A second ambulance arrived and Officer Franklin helped Shelby up. “Let’s get you some place a little warmer.”
“Can I bring the beer? It’s been months since he let me have one.”
“Of course.” Joyce picked up the rest of the six-pack and said something to Ricky on the way over to the ambulance. The female EMT helped Shelby up the steps, into the vehicle, away from the camera’s eyes.
Despite the warmth of the ambulance, and the blanket she was wrapped in, the young woman was still shivering. It had been ten years since she’d spoken to anyone other than her captors. Joyce Franklin could see the fear in her eyes. “Can you call my parents? Can you tell them I’m all right?”
“I’ll let you do that, Shelby, on the way to the hospital. The dispatcher will get the number.”
“Are you coming with me?”
“No. But I’ll come by later. After you get settled in. We can talk. I go off duty at 3:00.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“While the detectives are interviewing Mr. Wainwright, Officer Williams and I are going to have a little talk with the man you call Cutter about what it means to be a good neighbor.”