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Letters to Linus Swartzmann
I thought the day had gone well. There hadn’t been many problems, and the few that had turned up were resolved easily. The bomb threat on West Ave. was a fake, and even the high school football game was free of drugs. It had been a sunny day, great weather for somewhere as far north as Buffalo, and I thought it couldn’t get any better. All this I had thought, but no more. Not after the phone call…
At the time, the sun was just setting in the west, filling the sky with a rainbow of radiant colors. It seemed like an appropriate ending to the day, and I was just getting prepared to go home when the telephone rang. The dispatch officer, Michaels, was skipping work again, as he always did on Tuesday, so I had to take it.
“Hello, Orchard Park Police Station, Officer Quincy speaking.” From the other line, all I could hear was a soft sobbing sound. “Hello, who is this? Please answer me!” I shouted into the phone. It is most aggravating when a caller breaks down, and I was getting quite irritated.
“John, is that you?” inquired the caller softly. By now I had recognized the voice, but its speaker surprised me greatly. It was none other than my wife’s new friend and our neighbor Grace Brandt, a very tough and assertive woman.
“Yes, it’s me, Grace, as I already stated,” I responded.
“Oh, John, something terrible has happened,” Grace said, starting to cry again, “My son is missing!”
Upon hearing this I told her I was on my way, and I called Adams and Dickens, my partners, to attention. When they were ready, we sped off into the approaching night.
When I finally arrived at the Brandt household, only a single light was on in the large, foreboding old mansion. My fellow officers and I stepped up to the door and I pounded on the oak.
“Come in,” whispered a tiny voice. Cautiously, I tiptoed into the house, to find Grace lying down on her couch. She was a wreck. Her eyes were red from constantly crying, her hair was sticking up from pulling at it, and she was as tense as a stretched rubber band. I felt sorry for the young mother, but an examination is no place for sympathy.
“Grace, I’m terribly sorry for whatever mishap occurred here, but now is not the time for mourning. Your son might not be that far away. Now, tell me how this happened.” It took her a minute or two to gather herself, but finally, with an anxious face, Grace told me the whole story. It turned out her 12 year old son, Tom, had been acting strange for the past week or so. He seemed preoccupied, or somewhat troubled in a manner which he refrained from expressing often. Yet it was not until yesterday that the odd behavior went to a greater extreme. Upon getting home from school, the boy had been in a furious rage, storming up to his room and locking the door.
“So what did you do in response to this odd behavior?” I inquired, “I mean, this could not possibly be normal by your standards. Is it?”
“No, no, of course not. I mean, he has been a bit down since we moved here two months ago, from Germany, but nothing like this. He has had some trouble fitting in to American society, as I’m sure all young immigrants do, so I figured he had just had a bad day, and left him alone. Now I regret this, for I fear he has run away,” she said.
“I understand your concern, and my men will conduct a search immediately. Don’t worry, ma’am, we’ll find your son in no time.” I responded. Just as a habit, I checked the house first to see if he was hiding. While investigating his room, I looked upon the desk to see a lone piece of paper sitting there. Looking closer, I read:
Dear Linus Swartzmann,
It been a week since I first came to America, yet this new world is not the one for me. I am not being obliveus. The mixing pot is not mixing me in. Could it be that I don’t understand something the others do? If you could write back, I would ask the question to you, but since that is not going to happen, it is to myself. I cannot ask myself such things forever, though. When will I fit in?
The boy’s passion and loneliness surprised me greatly. From just one of his letters, though, questions arose. Who was this Linus Swartzmann? And why would Tom write to him? As I pondered such things, I nearly stepped on yet another piece of paper. Picking it up, I identified it as another letter. This one said:
Dear Linus Swartzmann,
Another month, another problem. As our first snow came down this morning, I realized that the winter dance is near. Although it isa small problem, it makes me sad that I will has no girl to come with I. Not only this, but I fought George again after school. This looks bad. Maybe someday people will understand my accent and all, but not now.
Duly noting the last letter, I then walked over to Grace. “Who was Linus Swartzmann?” I asked.
“Oh, him. He was Tom’s great uncle who is now deceased. Writing to him was like writing to a diary for Tom. He only wrote a couple of letters, and never let me read them,” she said.
“Well, it seems like Tom was in quite some pain from school. Oh, well. Let’s continue searching.”
Officer Quincy, even in his nice blue uniform with his eyes that could pick things up like a hawk does its prey, was not professional enough to notice the last letter lying under a textbook. It read:
Dear Linus Swartzmann,
I have gone through many hardeships. Kids pretend to like me, but the gossip is never-ending. The same is said over and over. “He wears the weerdest stuff,” “He has the weerdest accent,” “He likes the weerdest stuff.” I am sick of it. Sometimes, people have a false sense that they are making someone feel good, when in fact, they’re just making it woars. Tomorrow I shall take the bus to the airport, and fly to who knows where. This is my last goodbye.