A Missing Link in Castaway County

T he young woman woke up. She was in bed, but it wasn’t her bed. She looked at the wall to see if her parents’ photo was hanging in that familiar frame, but it wasn’t. The wall was drab and bare. There was no window where it should have been. In fact, as she looked around the room, there were no windows at all.

A huge lump caught in her throat, and she wanted to scream. Tears welled in her eyes, and she began to shake all over. She tried to force her mind to calm her spasms of fear and panic. I must remain calm. I must gain control of myself. I have to think!

When she stepped out of bed onto the floor, her feet were instantly cold. Gone was the familiar feel of the plush carpet she had come to love; that pale yellow runner her mother had given her for her bedroom years ago. In its place was concrete that had been painted with the traditional battleship gray found in many schools and other institutions, where comfort is less of a priority than usefulness.

The young woman walked all around the room. There was a combined bedroom-living area, a small bathroom to one side and a small kitchen area to the other side, all of which were open to the main room. There was only one door with a non-tradi-tional doorknob, which was securely locked and did not seem to have any key access on the inside of it. Oh my god, this place is designed to keep me in, not to keep others out! she thought.

She began to shake uncontrollably, and started yelling as loud as she could. Panic had struck again! “Help me! I’m locked in here. Help!"

She stopped yelling and an odd quietness in the room followed. No echoing, even with the almost bare walls. It was as if her cries for help were somehow muffled, and she felt as if she could barely hear them herself. She tried again to yell, even louder. But

the result was the same. She wasn’t sure if anyone on the other side of the door would be able to hear her, let alone anyone who might be passing by.

And for that matter, she had no idea where she was to begin with. Was she in a building in town? Maybe out in the woods somewhere? Had she been taken to a big city? Was she in a desolate warehouse?

She returned to her bed, threw the covers over her head, pulled her knees up to her chin, and began sobbing. The last time she had sobbed this was back in her school days, when she had found out that the first boy she thought she was in love with had thrown her over for the prom queen.

And she just kept sobbing.

It was cold out. Oh, not just a chill in the air mind you, it was a cold that sliced the air like a knife. While it had been seasonable the past few weeks, a front had moved in from Canada and brought an ice-cold chill that suggested that the fall was going to be quickly replaced by a north woods winter. And that winter might be arriving a bit pre-maturely, at least for those who dreaded the long winters in Maine.

I was relaxing with my second cup of coffee, sitting at my desk reading the National Sheriff’s Association's magazine. The article was discussing the increases in organized cults in America and how many police agencies were trying to deal with them. I was quite interested to read that most large agencies had included psycholo-gists on their pay rolls, either actual positions within the agency or through contracted services. Smaller agencies often missed out on the valuable information a psychologist might bring to the table, largely due to costs versus need.

In Maine, the cults I was aware of were in the backwoods of our most northern or western counties. Sparse populations, little law enforcement, and they were generally left alone to do their thing. And you rarely heard any problems arise from them. Most were not even considered to be cults, just groups of people seeking the path less traveled.

I recognized the name of the author, Shelly Evans-Baker, PhD. She was a former FBI profiler who had once been assigned to work with me on a case when I was a Boston Police Department detective. It was a serial rapist case and she had been friends with one of the victims. When we finally caught the perp, he fit the profile she had provided to a tee. She was sharp and I could see the value of her expertise to assist in certain cases.


As I was recalling that old case, my administrative assistant, Eileen ‘Irish’ Ryan, stuck her head round my office door, interrupting my thoughts. “Sheriff! You have got to see the wheels pulling up in the parking lot!"

“Oh? Nice car?"

“Well, you don’t see many of them around these parts, I’d say.”

I looked out the window to see a long Cadillac stretch limo, like the ones I had seen in Boston or down around Portland, but rarely ever seen in rural Downeast Maine. It was huge and pulled to a stop in the middle of the lot, blocking at least three or four regular parking spaces.

We watched a rather tall man, wearing a black suit and a chauffer’s hat, exit the vehicle, and quickly walk around the back of it to open the rear door closest to our building. He helped an older woman out of the car, and escorted her up our walkway toward the front doors.

Irish quickly returned to her desk and tried to disguise the astonished look on her face by clearing her throat.

“Young woman. Is this Sheriff Dell Hinton’s office?” the older woman asked, approaching the reception desk.

“Why, yes ma’am, it is. Can I help you?"

“Yes, indeed you may, young woman. Please tell the Sheriff that Mrs. Elizabeth Wellington Link wishes to see him immediately.”

Listening from my office, I immediately recognized that name. The woman had called a couple of days ago, asking to have her daughter’s welfare checked. Mrs. Link hadn’t heard from her for a while and was worried that something might be wrong. I had sent Chief Deputy Berkley Smith to her daughter’s residence and he had spoken to her husband. He had told Berk that his wife was on a trip with a friend and would be back in a couple of days. Berk reported back that, when he told Mrs. Link, she wasn’t very happy but would wait to hear from her daughter.

I came through to the reception to see what I could do for Mrs. Link.

“Hello, ma’am, I’m Sheriff Hinton. We spoke on the phone a couple of days ago. May I help you?”

“Yes indeed, Sheriff. My daughter still has not contacted me and I want you to find out why."

“By all means, ma’am, please come into my office and have a seat,” I said, before inviting Irish to join us.

While Irish took her coat, Mrs. Link turned toward her chauffer. “It’s alright, Max, please wait in the limo. I’ll call if I need you."

As Irish disappeared to get us some fresh coffee, Mrs. Link and I settled ourselves at the small conference table in my office. When Irish joined us again, I could tell from the look on her face that Mrs. Link was questioning why I had asked Irish to stay, to which I informed her that Irish assisted me with case evaluation and documentation. If she only knew how much I rely upon Irish around the office to keep me straight, I thought.

“Ok, ma’am, why do you think your daughter is missing?”

“Sheriff Hinton, as I told you on the phone, my daughter and her husband live in this county, he’s from here. And she is missing.”

“Are you sure she’s missing? Maybe she is still on a trip with that friend. Do you have anything else that makes you so sure?”

“Well, I haven’t heard from her for four days now!”

“Have you called her husband to see if she has returned from her trip?”

“Of course, I have! Each time I speak to Reggie he is quite vague, he just says that she is out visiting or out shopping, or any other fool answer he thinks might placate me. I’ve always just missed her. She always calls me at least every other day. The last call from her was four days ago. Sheriff, a mother knows when things are not right, and they are not!”

“Do you have a good relationship with Reggie, Mrs. Link?”

“Not particularly, no. I detest him in many ways and rue the day he married my Carrie.”

“So, he might be vague because he knows you don’t care for him.”

“That is a fair assumption, but I just know something is wrong. I feel it. I haven’t heard from her, and I know, that if she could call me, she would. She simply does not miss calls with me. That’s why I finally came up to see you. I know it isn’t factual, it is just a mother’s intuition.”

Mrs. Link was clearly frustrated and worried about her daughter’s welfare, so I thought it was best to steer the conversation away for a moment. As we sat and talked, I found out that Mrs. Link lived in Middleburg, Virginia, commonly referred to as ‘horse country’. The family apparently owned quite a large horse farm and raised trophy-winning stock, explaining her wealth. When Carrie had married a man from our community, she moved away from the Virginia estate. Although Mrs. Link didn’t have a good relationship with her son-in-law, she and Carrie remained close.

“Can you give me some more descriptive information about Carrie, Mrs. Link?”
“Carrie is about 5'7”, with beautiful brown hair and green eyes. She is 34 years old. She and Reggie have no children, thank God.”

“Ok, now when, specifically, was the last time you heard from Carrie?”

“September 10th, about eight in the evening. She called to check on me. I had taken a fall the week before. I twisted my ankle.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, ma’am.”

“It still hurts a bit. But I’m far more concerned about my daughter, Sheriff!”

After getting all of the reasonable information I could from Mrs. Link about her daughter Carrie Douglas, I assured her I would go to speak to Reggie to ask him some more questions, and that I would begin a “check the welfare” case.

“Are you staying in the area, Mrs. Link, so I can contact you after speaking to Reggie?"

“We have booked rooms at the Thistledown Bed & Breakfast in Weavertonport. I doubt it’s up to our usual standards, but I didn’t want to be too far away. You can call Max when you have something, Sheriff. Max handles my calls for me.” I’m not surprised that she uses Max as her traveling secretary, I mused.

“By the way, how long has your daughter been married to this Reggie Douglas?”

“They’ve been married for about 8 years now. Why do you ask?”

“I just wanted to get a full picture. Has Carrie talked about any problems in the recent past? Specifically ones between her and Reggie?”

“No, not that I remember. She didn’t complain about him much. But she also didn’t say much that would indicate that it’s a loving relationship either. She probably assumed that since I already disliked him, why add fuel to my fire.”

Finished with my preliminary questions, I escorted Mrs. Link out of my office. Before we left the walkway, Max arrived in a hurry to collect his mistress and assist her to the limo. Mrs. Link casually waved at me inside the vehicle, as Max closed her door and looked at me coolly.

“Madame Link is a good woman, and Miss Carrie was a wonderful child. Please take her concerns seriously.”

Without another word, Max turned and got into the drivers seat. As the limo backed out into the street, it held up another car and everyone in the area turned to stare at the vehicle. I suspected that many of the people in Castaway County have never seen a real limo before in their lives.

Back in my office, I told Irish that I was going to Reggie Douglas’s place to check the welfare of Carrie Douglas. I planned to call Berk on the radio and see if he could meet me there.

I tried to keep my hopes up about Carrie Douglas. People get reported missing all the time to law enforcement agencies, with many cases ending in the person turning up with a valid excuse or some reasonable explanation. But a smaller portion of people

were missing under more ominous and criminal circumstances, so we always took a missing person complaint seriously. I hoped that this missing person case would fall into the former group.