The Clearview Kidnapping

I’m sure my pal and partner will correct me if any of the following doesn’t comport with his ancient memory….

The year was 1968, the weather was perfect, and my partner and I were in our first year, first weeks truth be told, of working criminal cases out the Seattle Office of the FBI. Most of our work involved fugitives, but we often were assigned minor roles in a case or two that would wind up in the Seattle newspaper.

We were following up on a few fugitive leads north of Seattle on that perfect day when a call on the radio reported a kidnapping in Clearview. The radio dispatcher asked who might be close to Clearview to get there quickly and begin the investigation. We looked at the map and called in. We figured we could get there in less than fifteen minutes.

My partner will no doubt dispute this, but I was driving and was by far the better driver. He wasn’t that good at navigating either, but I headed north and figured he’d manage to get us to Clearview (just kidding, partner!). He put the flashing red light on the roof of the car and I hit the siren. I’d been wanting to do that since Day One…..

Our radio dispatcher provided more information. The mother of the missing children had parked in front of the general store, left the children in the car, and did some very quick shopping, only to discover the car and the children were gone when she left the store. She was back in the store and she and the store owner were on the phone calling for help.

We were first on the scene as I turned to park on the main street in front of the store. The general store was one of about five buildings in the downtown area, the largest of them and the one with the signs that offered everything from milk to hiking boots for sale.

This is critical information: there was no parallel parking or parking in a lot. All I had to do to park our high-powered pursuit vehicle was angle toward the store a bit, and with the car completely clear of main street engage the parking brake because the front of the car was a foot or so higher than the back. In other words, we were parked on an angle, on a small hill between two other cars, and without the parking brake our car might have rolled away into the building on the other side of the street.

Except the building on the other side of the street was, as we say in golf, not in play. Had any of the cars parked in front of the store rolled away, they would have missed the building across the street on the left, where there was nothing but open land. Open land that fell away in a downward direction.

We didn’t notice all that at first, but here’s the rest of the story.

As the senior agent (by about four weeks and by marksmanship ability), I had my partner do what he did best; that is, talk to and calm down the mother and the owner while I began to canvass the neighborhood, sparely populated as it was, and wait for other agents to arrive.

As soon as I stepped outside and took a good look at the surroundings, I noticed the aforementioned vacant land streching downward and back to the edge of downtown Clearview, about three hundred yards south.

I started walking across the street to ask whether anyone in the building there had seen anything when I noticed the two-foot high weeds in the vacant area, particulalry the ones that were matted down in a manner that suggested tire tracks. Looked like a vehicle had driven through them.

Highly trained investigator that I was, I decided to walk over and see just how far those tire tracks went. As I came to the edge of the road it was easier to see how much of a hill was there. Another few steps and I could follow those tire tracks a few hundred yards down the hill. I could also see a car at the bottom of the hill and two children waving at me through the front window of a car.  

Clearly in Clearview, the mother’s car had rolled away, crossed the road and down the hill.

I waved back, held up my index finger in the “just a minute” gesture, ran back across the road to get help just as another pair of agents was parking. I told them to go make sure the children were all right while I grabbed my partner and informed the mother that her car and two children were apparently all right and were in the car across the road at the bottom of the hill.  A very happy young mother was out the door in a flash.

I spent the next few minutes on the radio advising people that we had already cracked the case and not to bother continuing on to Clearview.

In my mind, the case became known as “The Clearview Parking Brake Caper.”

Sometimes there were (and still are) happy endings……


Life In America Without Immigrants

I lay claim to a national origin that is mostly Swedish and Irish, with a little English and French in the mix somewhere. My mother’s parents were mostly Irish, and nobody ever became energetic about disclosing where the English and French came from. My father’s parents were all Swede.

Both sets of grandparents managed to instill in me accents that had me sticking around for a while after the rest of the kids were excused from 1st grade to work on pronouncing dozens of words that sounded more like Swedish and Gaelic than English. Years later I would be visiting the USSR to learn more Russian, only to be told by the natives that I spoke Russian with a Swedish accent.

A brief essay in the July 18, 2016, issue of TIME Magazine, “The immigrant’s fate is everyone’s,” by Viet Than Nguyen, is number 9 in a list of “240 Reasons to Celebrate America,” the cover story.

Nguyen, a writer, professor, and winner of a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with his novel “The Sympathizer,” hits the nail on the head when he writes: “Without immigrants (and refugees and slaves), we would be a much paler and older country, burdened with bland food, boring music and stale language. Imagine an America with no jazz or salsa, no rock music or spring rolls, no rap or wraps. Would you want to live here?”

I’ve had my share of readers that have some praise for my writing (and more than a few who had a less pleasant reaction), but I’d love to have Nguyen’s way with English. I don’t know for certain, but guess that English is not his native language.

Yet he reminds us that Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev to “tear down that wall” and John Kennedy told Berliners he was one of them. He reminds us that immigrants have struggled to gain their place in this country and “…have forced Americans to reread their Constitution.”

And he reminds us that no one should ever be considered 3/5ths of a human being and that we are not all white and always right.

We are a nation of immigrants. All of us are descendants of immigrants.

The Clinton/Lynch Conspiracy

Note: the following is intended to be sarcasm; that is, a false but I hope a slightly humorous take on a current event that apparently has thousands of people in an absolute snit.

When a former President (Clinton) happens to wander over to say hello to the present Attorney General (Lynch) on an airport tarmac between flights, there can only be several reasons for that.  As a public service, I offer the following reasons to explain Mr. Clinton’s actions on that fateful day.

He recognized the AG and wanted to acknowledge the excellent work she is doing.

He wanted to try to convince the AG to encourage the indictment of his wife so he wouldn’t suffer the indignity of becoming the nation’s “First Gentleman.”

The flight attendants on his aircraft had run out of his favorite bourbon and he sought to borrow some from the AG.

His aircraft had broken down and he wanted a ride.

He had heard that the AG’s aircraft had broken down and wanted to offer her a ride.

He wanted to show the AG photos of his new grandchildren.

He wanted to see photos of the AG’s grandchildren.

He knew that talking to the AG on an airport tarmac for twenty (?) minutes would unravel Donald Trump for at least three weeks.

He wanted to make certain the AG was aware that restrooms on commercial aircraft were available to anyone, LGBT or regular, with one exception: if your seat was in coach you couldn’t use the first class restroom.

Take your pick. I submit that these reasons make just as much if not more sense than what I’ve been reading the past several days.