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People Of Interest - Part 4.

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As you will recall, the walkers were now meeting more often, and had just welcomed a new member to their group. Another elderly woman, also a teacher had vanished, and Hazel was becoming increasingly alarmed.

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Hazel sat, stunned for a moment. How could she have forgotten those difficult children. Fortunately she had never had to deal with the boys herself, but was only too familiar with the havoc they wrought.

When it became apparent that the boys' disruptive behavior was out of control, Cindy Clement, a behavior specialist, had been summoned. As Hazel recalled, the parents did agree to meet with Cindy, but seemed more proud than horrified by the antics of their offspring. After several weeks of dealing with the bullying, swearing, biting, kicking, and screaming boys, even Cindy Clement was becoming desperate. When it was suggested that the boys may need some sort of residential care, the whole family had simply disappeared.

The more Hazel thought of the boys, the more she remembered. Their last appearance at the school had involved the boys starting two small fires, breaking several windows and finally threatening to kill the whole staff. That was the last straw. When summoned, the parents along with a clearly doting grandmother, appeared at the school. They listened silently to the latest suggestion and just as silently left. Then the whole family just packed up and left town.

Could those incidents, from so long ago, have anything to do with the missing women. It seemed pretty far fetched. But was it?

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The next morning, the walkers met as usual. Hazel revealed that she had heard of three more missing women, but kept to herself the fear that any or all of them may have been teachers. As soon as the group separated, Hazel hurried home, eager to speak further to Tessa.

The ensuing conversation only increased Hazel's fears. The missing women had all been teachers, and had taught in the same school as Hazel, Amy, and Tessa.

Hazel voiced her concern that the disappearances may, in some way, have been connected to the Elson family and their two boys, Jimmy and Jeremy. Tessa was silent for a moment, and then spoke up.

"I don't know" she said, "but now that you mention it, I was thinking of those boys last night. I wonder what happened to them."

"How could we find out?" asked Hazel. "Remember they did threaten the whole staff, and if I remember correctly, they were especially nasty to Cindy."

After a long pause, Tessa answered. "I have no idea. Had you thought of reporting all this to the authorities?"

"I don't know. I did call them once before, and mentioned that both Amy and Cindy had been teachers. The man I spoke to was nice and polite, but for all I know he might have though I was just a crazy old woman. You know how people are."

Tessa became insistent. "Look Hazel, woman are going missing. They seem to be mostly if not all teachers, and teachers we know and taught with. We have information that could be relevant. We can't follow up, but they can. You've passed on information before, I really think you should call again."

"All right" Hazel said, with determination, "I'll do it."

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Hazel took a deep breath and dialed the police. She was referred to a detective and a long conversation ensued. The detective listened patiently as Hazel went over all the facts she remembered about the Elson family, as well as all the missing teachers and their involvement with the boys and their parents.

When Hazel finished, the detective thanked her for coming forward and assured her that they would definitely follow up on this information.

When the conversation was over, Hazel felt relieved. She had done her best and would now just have to wait to see if her information proved pertinent.

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When the walkers next met, Hazel told them that the three missing women had all taught at the same school, the same school where I also taught, she revealed. She also told them about the Elson boys and let them know that she had reported all this to the authorities.

The walkers were fascinated by this news. Even old Mabel listened attentively and asked some intelligent questions. Would the police let her know what they found out? Did Hazel think she herself might be in danger? What about all the other woman who taught at that school and the rest of the staff? Shouldn't they be warned that they may be in danger?

When the walk was over, Hazel was only to glad to return home where she sat quietly mulling over the morning's conversations. No sooner had she begun to relax, when she heard a gentle tapping at the door.

Looking out through the peephole, Hazel saw Mabel Wither's concerned face. Politely, though reluctantly, Hazel opened the door and said.

"Hello Mabel. Is anything wrong?"

"Hazel, I'm worried about you. You've always been so good to me and now I hear you may be in danger."

"Please don't worry Mabel. I'm a very careful person."

"But I can't help worrying. Do you lock all your windows and doors, and what about the basement? Someone could easily get in through those windows. Do you pull down the bar locks? I do."

"What do you mean the bar lock?" asked Hazel.

"It's at the top of the window. You just pull it down. It's sort of an extra lock. Let me show you."

Reluctantly Hazel trooped down to the basement, behind a scuttling Mabel. Sure enough, at the top of the windows there was a little bar that pulled down and held the window tightly shut. With all the bars firmly in place, a grateful Hazel invited Mabel for tea. The two spent a pleasant hour together, chatting about this and that, and when Mabel left, Hazel felt more warmly toward a neighbor she had, until then, found simply annoying.

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Several days later, just as Hazel was beginning to wonder if the police had taken her concerns seriously, the news broadcast an appeal for all teachers who had taught, or worked in any capacity at Hanover elementary school to get in touch with the police. A number was given. Hazel gave a sigh of relief. They had listened.

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When next the walkers met, Herb, the newest member, was absent. Herb had not given any of them his phone number or address so they just had to speculate that he may be ill and hoped he would return soon.

Mabel then spoke up. "I may be away for a while too. My cousin called and she's concerned that I'm here in the thick of all these disappearances. She's invited me to come visit for a while and I think I will. My old nerves can't take much more excitement."

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Several days passed. Mabel left to visit her cousin, and Herb did not return to the group. They still met twice weekly, chatting as they walked, about this and that, trying to avoid any subjects that might further upset Hazel.

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One day, tired after an especially long walk, and distressed over the lack of further news about the missing women, Hazel decided to retire early.

As she climbed into bed, she heard a strange noise. Alarmed, she moved quietly to her bedroom door. Down the hall, the basement door slowly opened and a man's figure appeared.

Smiling slyly, he said. "Hello Hazel."

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To be continued.