The town of Oak Forest is a smallish town, located in the mountains, east of Los Angeles. The town is located in a grove of oak trees, which is the source of the town name.
The town of Oak Forest is mainly home to a sort of artist colony. There are also some wood workers and some leather workers.
Oak Forest has the usual things that a town of its size has. There are a couple of grocery stores, a couple of gas stations, a movie theater, a couple of bars, a few clothing stores, an outdoor supplies shop, with mountain-oriented items, an elementary school, a middle school and a high school (The Mountaineers,) and a police station.
I pull my rental car into a space, in front of the police station. I get out and walk into the station. I talk to the officer behind the counter. “I’m Dan Riley, FBI.” I show the officer my ID. “I need to talk to the Chief.”
The officer, behind the counter, talks to someone on the phone.
A secretary comes out and leads me back into an office that says Thomas Brady, Chief of Police. The secretary opens the door and motions me in.
“Chief Brady, I’m Dan Riley, FBI.” (Chief Brady is an overweight man of maybe fifty to sixty years.)
Chief Brady says, “Have a seat.”
I sit down and tell the man, “You have seven unsolved disappearances, in the not too distant past. From your reports, you have no suspects and no clues. Exactly what is going on here?”
“I wish I had some clues, some evidence. I wish that I knew.”
“The ones who disappeared are mostly young men. Are they part of a gang, what?”
“There was a man who lived on the outskirts of Oak Forest, Daniel Rond. Daniel Rond was a motorcycle guy. He was older, 78 years old, when he died of natural causes. I have no reason to suspect foul play. Daniel Rond left his house, his pickup truck and several motorcycles to his grandson, James Rond. Fifteen-year-old Big Jim then arrived, riding a motorcycle. It’s not legal for a fifteen-year-old to ride a motorcycle the on public roads. However, Big Jim arrived with the general attitude of a wounded grizzly bear. He did attend the local high school, for a very brief time. His first words to Ellen Walker, his assigned English teacher were, ‘Look, you fat, stupid, ugly, closet lesbian bitch, I may have to be here, I don’t have to like it.’ After that, he got nasty and insulting. One Wesley didn’t like what Big Jim had to say. Wesley then grabbed Big Jim. Big Jim hit Wesley so hard that the back of Wesley’s head was the first thing to hit the floor. I arrested Big Jim. Big Jim, being a minor child, got a decent free lawyer. Big Jim told his lawyer, quote, ‘Some asshole grabbed me. Nobody just walks up and grabs me. If there are more assholes who think that they can just walk up and grab me, have them line up, double line, two at a time okay.’ Big Jim is built something like a grizzly bear. He did get assaulted and battered. I had to release him. I then checked his background. The motorcycle guys don’t call him Big Jim, they call him Chain. Do you know why they call a biker guy Chain?”
“Just a wild guess here, Chain wears a motorcycle secondary chain as a belt.”
“Yes, but they tell me that’s only when he’s not using it as a weapon.”
“Did you also arrest Wesley, for assault and battery upon James Rond”
“Wesley had a fractured skull, due to his head hitting the floor. Wesley also had broken bones in the front of his skull, due to the force of Big Jim’s punch. We didn’t arrest Wesley, as he seemed to have received enough punishment.”
“Is Wesley still here, in Oak Forest?”
“Wesley was taken to a hospital in San Bernardino, since his injuries were severe. He was treated there. Wesley’s father then wanted to sue James Rond. The case was thrown out of court, since Wesley attacked James Rond and the response was a single punch.
(I then get the name of Wesley’s father.)
I ask, “Has James Rond had any more trouble?”
Chief Brady says, “I think so. Seven people have disappeared. The last that anyone knows, they were going out to talk to James Rond. No bodies, no wounded, just seven people disappeared. I got the county sheriff people in, with shotguns and a dog. I got a search warrant. We went in. The county sheriff people searched the house and the garage. They then went to search the barn, where Daniel Rond kept his motorcycles. They came back out of the barn. They told me, “The barn was full of motorcycles and motorcycle parts. There’s some kinda devil artwork on the back wall of the barn. The dog was afraid of Chain. I was afraid of Chain. Don’t call us again, unless you have an arrest warrant that will hold up in court.’ You want to go talk to Chain?”
I sigh, “Chief Brady, I took this assignment, to get out of my last job, defusing live bombs. I wonder if I can get my old job back again?”
Chief Brady smiles and says, “Welcome to friendly Oak Forest, a gateway to the San Gabriel Mountains.”
“Is there anyone in Oak Forest who gets along with James Rond, or at least with Big Jim?”
“Charley, a gas pump jockey down at Ray’s Oak Forest Service Station, Morey who operates the welding shop and maybe Amarantha, insane artist lady.”
“What about the high school?”
Chief Brady laughs. He gets on the intercom. He calls for Delia.
The secretary, who led me into Chief Brady’s office, walks through the door. The lady asks, “You want me, Chief?”
Chief Brady says, “This is Delia, my secretary. Her sister teaches math at the high school. Delia, tell Dan Riley of the FBI a little about James Rond.”
“My sister said that Big Jim was a very good math student. However, if you tried to get him to read poetry, you took your life in your hands. They expelled Big Jim from the local high school and, since there was no other close by high school, Big Jim supposedly took classes by himself for a while. Then Big Jim took and passed the GED, which finished Big Jim’s high school education. Big Jim now takes some college classes. Jeanne, down at the library, says that Big Jim orders some heavy math books, via the library. He also gets some motorcycle books, via the library. Big Jim repairs motor-cycles to earn money. Actually, he restores old motorcycles and sells them for a lot of money.”
Dan Riley asks Delia, “If you want to talk motorcycles or maybe math with James Rond, perhaps a chance. If you want to talk ‘Ode To A Rose’, run for your life?”
Delia says, “That’s about it.”
Dan Riley says, “Thank you Delia, I think I have a pretty good picture of James Rond.”
Delia then leaves.
“Chief Brady, if I suspect that someone in Oak Forest killed a person here, how could they dispose of the body without a trace?”
Chief Brady shakes his head in denial, “They couldn’t. If they wanted to dig a grave, here in Oak Forest, the effort would get noticed, in a small town. No one has noticed a grave digger. If they wanted to dig a grave, up in the mountains, hikers would have noticed the freshly turned soil. No one has noticed amounts of freshly turned soil. If someone dumped a dead body off on a side canyon, up in the mountains, the buzzards, the death birds would have noticed and they would have been spotted in the sky. No one has seen death birds in the sky. If they took the body elsewhere, they would drive away from Oak Forest at night and bury the body elsewhere. James Rond has not driven off, in the night, to dispose of seven dead bodies. If he just dumped a body by the side of the road, that would, of course, have been noticed.”
“Chief Brady, in what they call detective fiction, is a type of story where someone is killed in a locked room. The killer couldn’t have gotten into the locked room, without leaving traces. What you have presented me with is a sort of locked room mystery. Wait a minute, were there ever extensive mining operations done in the area of Oak Forest?”
“There have never been extensive mining operations done in the area of Oak Forest. There were some mining operations, gold mining operations, way back when, in the San Gabriel Mountains. However, the gold mining operations were surface type operations and there were no tunnels dug anywhere near Oak Forest. We may be a small; town police force, but we have checked a bunch of possible body disposal methods.”
I wrap up with Chief Brady.