Will you trust me?

Dear Madam,

I am going to need a few more things from you. These types of investigations are a slow burn. I’ve seen a lot of them. Do not take this lightly. We are going to find your son.

When I saw the tip you sent in I was shocked. We’ve never gotten a red-hot lead on this group before. That’s why I’m writing this letter. We knew they were connected to a mass suicide down south, but who would have guessed they had a mansion here in San Marino.

We conducted the raid only a couple days after your note. There was a man — not your son — and a woman who charged us and they were both killed. We found out afterwards they were nobodies that had just joined in the last couple months.

The mansion had a few pamphlets and posters but that was it, enough to know they were there. So your tip was right, but nothing else. We did find something strange with the two bodies. They had the same amount of cash on them, five dollars and three quarters. Does that mean anything to you?

Most of the department says this was a victory. They think we busted a safe house. But a rookie from Internal Affairs swung by earlier saying he thinks there was a leak. That there should have been more people in the mansion. That they knew we were coming and had time to prepare. He was laughed out of the office for typical IA conspiracy fodder. We see this mistake all the time here: getting scared of an unknown enemy and thinking they have hands everywhere.

My team’s going to finish reporting for the shootings, but we’ve got nothing else to go off of now. We’ll soon be diverted to the next Skid Row overdose or leap of fate by a promising movie starlet. That’s why we need to talk. You and I know this isn’t over. Your son is still missing and he’s part of the wrong crowd. How did you know they were at that mansion? And what else have you found out about them?

You know, there’s usually a tone and texture with these cases. The families are embarrassed. They don’t send in tips. They want to believe it’s just a phase, that their dearest will show up on their front porch with flowers and a box of chocolates. It’s all a great setup for the prodigal son. Not you though.

I think we both know better.

These groups have a way of twisting and turning inside people’s heads, excavating all previous reason and logic. They’re clever; first they gain their victim’s trust, then they paint a picture of a beautiful possibility. With this in place, they sink in their wicked fangs by getting the victim to do something they would never normally do. The moral significance of the act is great. This is a ritual after all and it must meaningfully set them apart from their former life. With the excision of the past complete the new members are finally welcomed into the collective.

Your son is caught in this web. I believe there’s still hope for him. I’ve brushed closely against these types of groups before. Long before I earned my badge. I’ve seen the way in and out. And now that I know your family’s secret, now that we’re going to work together, it’s only right I share with you part of mine.

Growing up, I only had my dad. He was a very successful politician. You know my last name and can probably guess his identity. Even as a single father he was rarely home because of his career. Needless to say I was very independent.

I quickly learned that my dad was different from others. When I brought home textbooks from school he’d dismiss them as government propaganda. I took this seriously because he was part of the government, so he would know these things. He’d tell me about the stars and the comets and what they meant. He’d hint at a day coming, a day of graduation. He’d leave books laying around with titles like The Ascension (although I would never see him read them). I knew he was caught up in something.

Oh, and his friends also only came at night, and they wore long, dark robes. And then there was the time in middle school. I opened the trunk to our car and found a bloodied white dress. I shut the trunk immediately but then saw the curtains to our living room move. I stayed at a friend’s house that week. Yes, maybe I should have called the cops. Ironic now, isn’t it? But do you know how hard it is to condemn the hand that feeds you?

I can remember every moment of my last night with him. I came home from school and heard the shower running, but something else rose above its gentle hum. A relentless sobbing. I ran to the bathroom door and knocked furiously thinking he had hurt himself. The sobbing continued for a moment and then the water shut off and with it all the guttural sounds.

I ran to my room and locked the door. I watched the doorknob from my bed and clutched my sheets. My knuckles grew white. It was about an hour later when I heard his voice announce it was time for dinner. When I walked down the stairs he had already laid out supper on the table.

He smiled at me as I descended. His fork hovered halfway to his mouth. Dad, what’s going on, I said. I’m scared. Did I do something wrong? I’m sorry if I did. The fork lowered to the plate and I could see a morsel of steak still pierced at the tip. I took a seat at the opposite end. He didn’t say anything so I decided it was time. Please, just tell me, and then I took a deep breath. I don’t know why you keep hiding things from me. I found the dress in the car but I didn’t tell anybody. I know it was probably an accident. His face changed when I said that. He stood up and walked toward me.

I swear I can keep secrets, I said. We can be in this together. I won’t tell. What’s going on? Why are you doing this? He walked alongside me and got on his knees. He took my hands in his. I looked into his eyes and I saw the galaxies he loved. I’ll show you, he said, lay down. Lay down for me and I’ll show you why.

I twisted and kicked and sprinted out of the house. I didn’t look back. Only recently did I return. There were things I didn’t understand back then that I do now.

I know what you’re dealing with. The law’s not going to help you. I am the law. They don’t care about a group of runaways. But I do know others who understand, who can help. We just need to know you’re dependable.

If we’re going to find your son, you’re going to have to get uncomfortable. The things we do might seem scary or even wrong. Don’t forget why it’s all necessary. Your boy needs you so we’ll find him together.

We’ll start next week. Think about it — I’m patient. And when I am there, I will help you understand.

Stay where you are and wait for me. Do not tell anyone about this letter.

Will you trust me?

Yours truly,

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