Ch. 19 — Little Girl Lost

Next time the phone rings, our director of internal and external communications, Dianne, is the one who answers it.

“ET here, Dianne,” the correspondent introduces himself informally.

“Thanks again, Ethan, for all your help with Alex,” she blurts without thinking.

“You’re more than welcome, Dianne, it really is a delight to be able to repay you for your kindness to me,” he says. “I have a little something you folks might be interested in. It will probably be a charitable donation for you until you get your Foundation in place, but something’s come up that you might want to kick in on.”

“What’s happened? I haven’t been watching TV.”

“A little girl has disappeared in California. The LAPD called NNN to ask if I could get you to check the little one out and find what happened to her.”

“OK. Did you want to come too?”

“Can I bring a camera crew, Dianne?”

“Sure thing.”

“Could you pick us up on your way to California? I’ll get you all the info from the cops in LA, and have it ready for you when you get here.

“I’ll see you in about fifteen minutes, then,” was her response.

“Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad! We’re home!” It’s the kids’ turn to call up from the carport door, then storm up the stairs to the rec room, where Mom was just about to embark on a trip to California.

“Oh, good, you’re home. Could one of you look after this assignment from ET? He needs to be picked up in NYC with a camera crew. Then you can zip off with him to California. He said a little girl is missing and the LAPD has asked him  to get us to try to find her. Ethan has all the information you’ll need. I was just about to start on dinner.”

“OK, Mom.”

“Flip you for it, Lynz?”

“No need,” the girl replies, “You can do it. I‘ll help Mom with dinner.”

Seconds later, the System intrudes on the NNN studio in New York City where Ethan is waiting with his two-man camera team. ET boards the rec room. His cohorts, videographers Lloyd Sommerville and Michael Dawson, hesitantly board USS Dusty Miller Drive immediately behind him.

Following the customary warm welcome from what is left of the family, the mission heads off for the Golden Gate State. Ethan provides an address in Los Angeles, which James quickly enters into the GPS screen and receives directions to head north in the direction of Jacksonville, later adjusting to Gainesville, remembering that the GPS that Russell purchased is intended for use on roads.

A quick glance at a map on the way helps the teen to realize that his destination is in the West Los Angeles area. The map shows that the target city is almost on a straight line with Interstate 10, with which he could connect west of Phoenix, Arizona.

However, James elects to go with the GPS, rather than delay the team’s arrival at the scene of the child’s disappearance. The GPS guides them onto the I-10 at Phoenix. Well, the satellites should know what they’re up to, n’est-ce pas?

Quickly, the satellite navigation program directs him over the enormous sprawl of Los Angeles and down onto a residential street beside a golf course. The presence of several LAPD cruisers with flashing beacons makes it a no-brainer to find 10768 Roxbury Drive, located just twenty or so yards from a ‘T’ intersection with Monte Mar Drive.

Unaccustomed to having others know about the System, James automatically heads for a sheltered area where individuals disembarking from the portal will be out of sight.

Indicating to his camera crew that they should remain in the house, ET heads toward the TV. James calls up the stairs to Lyndsey, “Lynz, could you spare us a couple of minutes with this operation?”

Lyndsey P., as always, is happy to oblige. She darts down the stairs two-at-a-time and receives the remote control from DJ. “What do you want me to do, Deej?”

“Ethan and I are going into this house to speak to the police and I need to you make sure that the NNN guys here don’t miss anything.”

James climbs through the portal and runs off to locate Ethan. ET has stopped a police office who recognizes him and questions, “Mr. Thomas, what are you doing here?”

ET replies openly for a change, as there is now no longer a need to hide the System from the world. “I’ve brought the time-travel machine to try and find the little one that has gotten lost. Can you take me to the officer who is in charge of the investigation? I’ll need to get a few details from him so that I can get our technology working.”

The policeman nods, wheels around and leads Ethan to a man in civilian clothes. The System is just behind them and ET indicates to Lloyd and Michael that they should join him. He wants them to record the proceedings from this moment forward. The two join him as quickly as they can.

“Mr. Thomas. How good to meet you. I’ve been a fan for many years. Tom Leroux. I’m in charge of this case. My captain told me you would be coming with the System, I think he called it. Have I got that right?”

“That’s it,” says our favorite anchor. “I hope we’re here in time to help you find this little girl.

“Is it OK if Lloyd and Michael record our conversation?” he asks.

“It’s OK by me, but we’ll have to get permission from the family for the times when you talk with them.”

Giving the camera crew the ‘high’ sign, “Can I meet the family?” he asks, hopefully.

“Let me introduce you to them; they super nice people. I don’t have a clue as to why this is happening to them.”

Michael Dawson heads  off to get some video of the house and the surrounding area, while Lloyd, his CNN partner, lines up his camera and begin to record the conversation.

The detective says, “Let me fill you in on a point or two first. The little girl was last seen about four hours ago. We’ve been getting some bad press lately over a couple of other kids that vanished over the last few weeks, and I asked for your help when I heard about this case.

“We’ve searched several houses either side of the Buckberrough home and found nothing at all. There is a huge golf course to the rear of the house and we have several cops and a bunch of volunteers checking out the shrubs and long grass on that facility, but I don’t know how far a little one could go. She’s probably tired out. That is if she hasn’t been ‘snatched.’

“The house next door is the home of the husband’s parents and they are on vacation. They apparently left earlier today; driving to Las Vegas visiting with other family. The folks here called the parents on their mobile phone and got them to stop and check if the kid got into the car somehow, but there was no luck. If push comes to shove, the folks here have the key to next door, just in case.”

A worried looking man puts his head outside the door and calls out to the officer, “Inspector Leroux, do you have any news yet?”

“Not about Melody,” he replies, “but I do have someone here that you’ll be very happy to meet. Ethan Thomas from NNN; he’s brought a new technology to help in the search. Come and say hello.”

Matthew Buckberrough leans back into the house and calls for his wife to join him at the front door. Quickly, he is accompanied by an attractive red-eyed young woman, obviously distressed by the disappearance of her youngest child.

Buckberrough introduces his wife, Leontine, to the anchor. ET who is extremely recognizable due to his years at NNN, shakes hands and expresses his condolences at the family’s distressing circumstances.

“What do you think are our chances of finding Melody alive, Mr. Thomas?” Tina Buckberrough pleads.

Lloyd and Michael are busy recording the entire conversation. Finally, Ethan remembers that Inspector Leroux had indicated that he would have to get the family’s permission to make a DVD of what they were saying.

“I apologize, folks. Inspector Leroux said that I should get your permission to record our conversations with the final intention of showing the footage as a part of my show, either tonight or tomorrow night. Would you be willing to permit me to do that?”

He is much relieved when the response is in the affirmative. “Thank you so much. I’ll let you know when it will be going to air.”

With the System just behind them and virtually invisible to the uninitiated, ET invites Inspector Leroux, Matthew and Tina Buckberrough, to board the Florida household. With one of the videographers taking the lead, the party of seven joins Lyndsey in the rec room. A warm Richardson welcome is given to all. James receives the remote control back from Lynz and his sibling disappears back upstairs to the kitchen to continue working at her earlier assignment.

“Let me just explain what we’re going to do,” James begins. “We don’t know why, but this TV is capable of traveling in time and so we’ll just back off to the bottom of the driveway, and just watch what actually happened to Baby Melody, then we can just follow her and find out how she disappeared.”

With that, James takes the remote control and begins to prod the touch-pad to backpedal in time until the garage door of the adjoining house opens and, from Roxbury Drive, an SUV backs into the driveway.

“Look, there’s Melody!” screams Mrs. Buckberrough, at seeing her daughter sitting nonchalantly beside the garage door of her grandparent’s home.

“OK, now that we have her in sight, let’s move in closer to her and see where she went,” DJ explains.

Closing in on the child, DJ stops about five yards away from her, then keys the remote control to move forward in time. Slowly, slowly, easy does it!

Drawing away from the child, the group sees that, having loaded their car up for their journey, Melody’s grandparents kiss the child good-bye and climb into their vehicle. Slowly they head out of the driveway onto a quiet side street and drive off in the direction of the nearest freeway.

With nothing to watch any longer, the bored Melody picks herself up onto her feet and toddles into the garage of the grandparent’s home.

Moments later, back come Grandma and Grandpa, having forgotten to nuke the door of their garage closed, do so from the street, at the bottom of the driveway, oblivious to the fact that their newest grandchild had wandered into the garage, and drive off again.

“Grab the keys and get over to the old folks’ house and see if Melody is still there,” Tina Buckberrough urges her husband. Both of them are still befuddled enough not to recognize the value of the awesome demonstration they have just received of the power of the System.

Leroux, Matt Buckberrough and Ethan Thomas in company with Lloyd Sommerville, rush over to the TV and DJ has to warn them, “Hold on folks, we’re still out of whack time-wise.” A manual change to the same hour as shown by the corporate watch causes it to show the time as being three hours behind the wall clock. This regularizes everything back in California on real-time. Now the quartet can disembark and check out Grandma’s house.

Matt lets all four into the front door, and they rush down through the basement level to the garage, only to find David James Richardson already there, having invited himself by mean of an ‘intrusion’ of the System, so every one receives the news at the same time.

Melody Buckberrough is fast asleep in the dog’s box, blithely unaware of the absolute panic that she had caused for her family and the time and effort of the LAPD and the volunteers who have been searching for her for several hours.

‘All’s well that ends well,’ says the old adage, and it applies in this case, too.

The Buckberroughs are delighted; the cops are off the hook, having resolved a missing child case in the face of much adverse publicity; the grandparents receive a call on their mobile phone to let them know the outworking of the case of the missing child.

Ethan Thomas is delighted, having obtained permission to use the footage recorded in this case. ‘Make a mental note to tell Ron to let the family know when the footage will be on air,’ he thinks.

The Richardsons have to be happy too, since this will prove beyond a doubt to the LAPD that the System can be invaluable in resolving urgent cases of this nature.

####

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