Hazel Jones: this will be our secret.
For the remainder of his life he would send her small gifts. Flowers. Every four or five weeks, and often following a public performance of Zack’s. Somehow he knew, he made it his business to know, when Gallagher would be gone from the house, and timed deliveries for those mornings.
The first came soon after Hazel returned to Delaware Park, Buffalo, to the house Gallagher had bought for them near the music school. Numerous red climber roses, small-petalled roses, in a thorny cluster that was awkward to fit into even a tall vase. The accompanying note was handwritten, as if in haste.
August 22, 1970
Dearest Hazel Jones,
I have not stopped thinking of you for a single momment since last week. I had a (secret!!!) tape made of Zachiaras playing at the music festival, truly your son is a suberb musician! So hard to believe he is only 13. I have photographs of him, he is so young. Of course in his heart he is no child is he! As I at 13 was no longer a child. For my heart was hardened young, I knew the “way of the world” from boyhood on & had no illusions of the “natural good” of mankind etcetera. Dear Hazel, I hope I am not offending you! Your husband must not know. We will keep our secret will we! Tho‘ I think always of you, your beautiful dark kind eyes that forgive & do not judge. If you would be so kind Hazel you might call me sometime, my number is below. This is my privvate line Hazel, no one will pick up.
But if not dear, I will not be hurt. You have brought into the world the remarkable boy. That he is my grandson is our secret (!!!) & I will meet him sometime but in secret. Do not fear me. You have given me so much I did not expect or hope. I will not be hurt. I will think of you always. Chester is a good man I know, but he is weak & Jealous as his father at that age. Utnil another time, dear
Your Loving “InLaw” Thad
Hazel read this letter in astonishment, distracted by the numerous spelling errors. “He’s crazy! He’s in love with her.” She had not expected such a response. She felt a pang of guilt, if Gallagher should know.
She threw the letter away, she would not reply to it. Never would Hazel Jones reply to Thaddeus Gallagher’s impassioned letters, which became more incoherent with time, nor would she thank him for the numerous gifts. Hazel Jones was a woman of dignity, integrity. Hazel Jones would not encourage the old man, yet she would not discourage him. She supposed that he would be true to his word, he would not confront her or Zack. He would admire them from a discreet distance. Gallagher seemed never to notice the gifts in the household: vases of flowers, a heart-shaped crystal paperweight, a brass frame for a photograph, a silk scarf printed with rosebuds. The old man was discreet enough to send Hazel only small, relatively inexpensive and inconspicuous gifts. And never money.
In March 1971 there came by special delivery a packet for Hazel Jones that was not a gift, but a manila envelope with the return address GALLAGHER MEDIA INC. Inside the envelope were photocopies of newspaper articles and one of Thaddeus Gallagher’s hastily scrawled letters.
At last my assistant gathered these matrials, Hazel. Why it has takken so long I frankly DO NOT KNOW. Thought you would be intriguing, Hazel Jones. “Only a Conincidence” I know. [THANK GOD THANK GOD this poor Hazel Jones was not you.]
There were several pages more, but Hazel tossed them away without reading them.
In an upstairs room of the Delaware Park house where no one was likely to disturb her, Hazel removed the photocopied material from the manila envelope and spread it out on a table. Her movements were deliberate and unhurried and yet her hands shook slightly, she seemed to know beforehand that the revelation Thaddeus Gallagher had sent her would not be a happy one.
The newspaper articles had already been arranged in chronological order. Hazel tried to keep from glancing ahead to learn the outcome.
Yet, there it was:
GRISLY DISCOVERY IN NEW FALLS
FOLLOWS DOCTOR DEATH
Female Skeletons Unearthed
DECEASED NEW FALLS M.D.
SUSPECT IN UNSOLVED 1950S ABDUCTIONS
Property Searched by Police, Skeletons Found
Both clippings included an accompanying photograph, the same likeness of a genially smiling man of middle age: Byron Hendricks, M. D.
“Him! The man in the panama hat.”
Both articles, from the Port Oriskany Journal, were dated September 1964. New Falls was a small, relatively affluent suburb north of Port Oriskany, on Lake Erie. Hazel told herself sternly It is over now. Whatever it was, is over now. It has nothing to do with me now.
It was so. It had to be so. She had not given a thought to Byron Hendricks, M.D., for eleven years. Virtually all memory of the man had faded from her consciousness.
Hazel turned to the first of the articles, also from the Journal, and dated June 1956.
NEW FALLS GIRL REPORTED MISSING
POLICE, VOLUNTEERS EXPAND SEARCH
Hazel Jones, 18, “Vanished”
This Hazel Jones had attended New Falls High School but had dropped out at the age of sixteen. She had lived with her family in the country outside New Falls and had supported herself by “babysitting, waitressing, housecleaning” locally. At the time of her disappearance, she had just begun summer work at a Dairy Queen. Numerous parties had seen Hazel Jones at the Dairy Queen on the day of her disappearance; at dusk she had left to ride her bicycle home, a distance of three miles; but she had never arrived home. Her bicycle was subsequently found in a drainage ditch beside a highway, about two miles from her home.
Apparently it was not a kidnapping, there was no ransom demanded. There were no witnesses to any abduction. No one could think of any person who might have wanted to harm Hazel Jones nor did Hazel Jones have a boyfriend who might have threatened her. For days, weeks, eventually years Hazel Jones was the object of a search but she, or the body she had become, was never found.
Hazel stared at the girl in the photograph. For here was a familiar face.
Aged seventeen at the time of the photograph, Hazel Jones had thick wavy dark hair that fell to her shoulders and across her forehead. Her eyebrows were rather heavy, she had a long nose rather broad at the tip. She was not pretty but “striking”-almost, you might say “exotic.” Her mouth was fleshy, sensuous. Yet there was something prim and even sullen about her. Her eyes were large, very dark, untrusting. For the camera she tried to smile, not very convincingly.
How like Rebecca Schwart at that age, this Hazel Jones! It was unnerving. It was painful to see.
Former New Falls classmates said of Hazel Jones that she was “quiet”-“kept to herself”-“hard to get to know.”
Hazel Jones’s parents said she would “never have gotten into any car with anybody she didn’t know, Hazel wasn’t that kind of girl.”
A subsequent article depicted Mr. and Mrs. Jones posed in front of their “modest bungalow-style” home on the outskirts of New Falls. They were a middle-aged couple, heavy-browed and dark-complected like their daughter, staring grimly at the camera like gamblers willing to take a risk though expecting to lose.
The fake-brick siding on the Joneses’ house was water stained. In the Joneses’ grassless front yard, debris had been raked into a mound.
The next several articles were dated 1957, from upstate newspapers in Port Oriskany, Buffalo, Rochester and Albany. (The Rochester and Albany papers belonged to the Gallagher chain, coincidentally.) In June 1957 another girl was reported missing, this time from Gowanda, a small city thirty miles south and east of Port Oriskany; in October, yet another girl was reported missing from Cableport, a village on the Erie Barge Canal near Albany, hundreds of miles east. The girl from Gowanda was Dorianne Klinski, aged twenty; the girl from Cableport was Gloria Loving, aged nineteen. Dorianne was married, Gloria engaged. Dorianne had “vanished into thin air” walking home from her salesclerk job in Gowanda. Gloria had similarly vanished walking home from Cableport on the Erie Canal towpath, a distance of no more than a mile.
How like Hazel Jones of New Falls these girls looked! Dark-haired, not-pretty.
In the several articles about Dorianne and Gloria there were no references to Hazel Jones of New Falls. But in articles about Gloria Loving, there were references to Dorianne Klinski. Only in later articles, about girls missing in 1959, 1962, and 1963, were there references to the “original” missing girl Hazel Jones. It had taken law enforcement officers, spread across numerous rural counties and townships through New York State, a long time to connect the abductions.
Hazel was reading with mounting difficulty. Her eyes flooded with tears of hurt, rage.
“The bastard! So that’s what he wanted with me: to murder me.”
It was a supreme joke. It was the most fantastical revelation of her life. “Hazel Jones”: all along, from the first, a dead girl. A murdered girl. A naive trusting girl who, when Byron Hendricks had approached Rebecca Schwart on the towpath outside Chautauqua Falls, had been dead for three years. Dead, decomposed! One of the female skeletons to be one day unearthed on Byron Hendricks’s property.
Hazel forced herself to continue reading. She must know the full story even if she would not wish to recall it. The final articles focused on Byron Hendricks, for now in September 1964 the man had been exposed. The most lavish article was a full-page feature from the Port Oriskany Journal in which “Dr. Hendricks’s” benignly smiling face was positioned in an oval surrounded by oval likenesses of his six “known” victims.
At least, Hendricks was dead. The bastard wasn’t locked away somewhere in a mental hospital. There was that satisfaction, at least.
Hendricks had been fifty-two at the time of his death. He had lived alone for years in a “spacious” brick home in New Falls. His medical degree was from the University of Buffalo Medical School but he had never practiced medicine, as his deceased father had done for nearly fifty years; he identified himself as a “medical researcher.” New Falls neighbors spoke of Hendricks as “friendly-seeming but kept to himself”-“always a kind word, cheerful”-“a gentleman”-“always well dressed.”
Hendricks’s only previous contact with any of his victims, so far as police could determine, had been with eighteen-year-old Hazel Jones who’d done “occasional housecleaning” for him.
Hendricks had been found dead in an upstairs room of his home, his body badly decomposed after ten or more days. Initially it was believed that he’d died of natural causes, but an autopsy had turned up evidence of a morphine overdose. Police discovered scrapbooks of news clippings pertaining to the missing girls as well as “incriminating memorabilia.” A search of the house and overgrown two-acre lot led to the eventual discovery of an “estimated” six female skeletons.
Six. He’d led away six Hazel Joneses.
How eagerly, with what naive hope had they gone with him, you could only imagine.
Hazel had not been seated at the table, which was a long, narrow worktable to which she often retreated (here, on the airy third floor of the house Gallagher had bought for her, Hazel felt most comfortable: she was taking night school courses at nearby Canisius College, and spread out her work on the table), but leaning over it, resting her weight on the palms of her hands. By degrees she’d become dizzy, light-headed. Pulses beat in her brain close to bursting. She would not faint! She would not succumb to fear, panic. Instead, she heard herself laughing. It was not Hazel Jones’s delicate feminine laughter but a harsh mirthless hacking laughter.
“A joke! ”Hazel Jones’ is a joke.“
There came a rebuking wave of nausea. A taste of something black and cold at the back of her mouth. Then the worktable’s nearest corner flew up at her. Struck her forehead against something sharp as the edge of an ax blade, abruptly she was on the floor and when she managed to rouse herself from her faint some minutes later, might’ve been five minutes, might’ve been twenty, there she was dripping blood not knowing where the hell she was or what had happened, she was still laughing at the joke she couldn’t exactly remember, or trying to laugh.
That night, beside Gallagher. Thinking I will wake him. I will tell him who I am. I will tell him my life has been a lie, a bad joke. There is no Hazel Jones. Where I am, there is no one. But Gallagher slept as always Gallagher did, a man oblivious in sleep, hot-skinned, prone to snoring, twitching and kicking at bedclothes and if he woke partially he would moan like a forlorn child and reach out for Hazel Jones in the night to touch, to nudge, to caress, to hold, he adored Hazel Jones and so finally she did not wake him and eventually, toward dawn, Hazel Jones slept, too.