This is Episode I of "Raggedy Ann," a Monterey Mystery featuring
Francie LeVillard. The world’s greatest consulting detective,
Francie lives on Yankee Point, just south of the Monterey
Peninsula, which is where most of her cases arise.
* * * * *
Francie LeVillard was one of those people – women especially
– who never wanted children. Her own, or for that matter, anyone
else’s. She was good with them when she had to be, but she only
remained in the presence of them when they were very well
behaved. Being single, and not a mom, had enabled her to follow
her professional interests without other responsibilities.
Interests such as working as a television news reporter for
stations in Washington, D.C., and New York City. And the last
ten years as a consulting detective, work that often meant
connections with nefarious types.
The great-granddaughter of François LeVillard, an eminent
detective with the Deuxi me Bureau in Paris who had worked with
Sherlock Holmes, Francie not only had the requisite genes to
become a world-class investigator, she loved justice as much as
she did journalism. Whether she was dealing with terrorists
smuggling nuclear triggers into the United States, or there was
a leak in a political campaign, Francie wanted comeuppance for
the evil-doers. As a friend put it, she was "attractive, bright
and bad news for bad guys."
So you have a picture in your mind of this significant
person, Francie is indeed attractive, but not glamourous. She
was always more comfortable being seen for her intellect and
humor than just being pretty. Five-six and 135 pounds, she had
dark hair not long enough to get in her eyes which framed a
slightly oval face with tawny skin color. Mostly she dressed for
comfort, which meant jeans, a loose-fitting shirt, and a jacket
that extended over her hips; and often hid a pistol on her belt.
This case did not require a gun. In fact, there wasn’t even a
client, just the need for resolution; and for the truth, Francie
was relentless. It started with a discovery that she read about
in a news item online.
They found the bones fifty yards off a secondary trail at
Point Lobos. This is a marvelous state park south of Carmel on
the California Central Coast whose wonderful acreage was donated
by a number of private owners. It’s a very spiritual place,
highlighted by delicious flora and wonderful coastline. Whoever
chose to bury the body there did so with love.
The bones had been found by a pair of aged flower hunters
from San Jose who had gingerly plied their way through the trees
and gorse and beheld a scapula sticking out of the dirt. The
woman was a retired pediatrician or else she might not have
realized what she was seeing. She also had the sense not to
approach it once she saw what it was. She stood looking down at
what she didn’t know, dispatching her husband to notify a park
ranger. Her husband had done so, returning with the ranger who
lacked the sense to have called the sheriff. The once-doctor
needed to exert her own practiced authority to keep him away
from the site and to get him to call the real authorities.
Begrudgingly, he relented and complied.
The first bit of identification was supplied by the county
forensic pathologist, an aikido pal of Francie’s named Lolly
Perlis. She said that they were old. The bones, that is; not the
person whose bones they had been before she didn’t need them
anymore. Over coffee late one early June morning, after their
workout, Lolly told Francie what she had learned from a cursory
examination of the boxful of human remains that had been brought
to her lab.
"Someone else might not have known what it was," Lolly said.
"Children’s bones look very different for someone who doesn’t
know better. Especially when they’ve been in the ground so
long." She took a sip of her coffee. "You know, it was said that
Hemingway, a little into his cups, once bet someone that he
could write a short story in ten words. This was it. "For
sale: Baby shoes. Never worn. That what these bones recalled
to me." Lolly took a deep breath and let it out. "I wish I had
time to really examine them, but they’re too old."
She saw her friend’s quizzical look.
"There is too much work," she declared, her tone bent by her
anguish. "Current cases, new cases....they need to be assessed
for prosecution. They have to file charges, so I have to give
them the evidence. These bones are maybe 60 years old. We’re
talkin’ a child buried some time around the Korean War, for
goodness sakes. They’re not gonna crack that case."
"Ever?" Francie asked.
"Oh, bah! Sure, when I get the two assistants I’ve been
pleading for, and then after the gangs finish killing themselves
off we might catch up."
"This one has gotten to you, hasn’t it, Lolly?" Francie asked
The doctor nodded her head affirmatively, for a long time,
until her eyes were moist and she had to sniff and clear her
throat. "It was a child, Francie. Children aren’t supposed to
"Maybe three. Hard to tell." She peered at her. "I think it
was a girl. It’s difficult to tell when they’re so young, you
know? But I have a feeling that it was a little girl. Kinda
strong feeling, but I don’t know why. So sad."
Francie nodded back at her. It wasn’t until they approached
adolescence that their young bodies indicated where they were
going, at least the skeletal address. "Any cause of death?"
Lolly shook her head. "Not from a cursory look. No broken
bones," she seemed pleased to report. "No sign of violence."
"Considering where they found her, maybe it was illness. I
guess that would be better," Francie declared.
Lolly agreed and then shook her head and then smiled. "I
think she was buried with love. I think she had a doll with her.
They brought back two buttons which might have been the eyes on
a Raggedy Ann doll. My mother had one like that. That’s what
made me think it was. Square black plastic eyes."
"Would you like me to see if I can turn up anything on this?"
"Oh, Francie that would be great if you could," the woman
said, effusive in her surprise and gratitude. "I’ll take another
look at her when I get back – that stupid drug dealer can wait –
and I’ll let you know what I can find. Maybe get closer on the
age, and get something on her height and weight."
After she left Lolly, in much better spirits, Francie drove
around Monterey on errands, and in the course of her ambling
managed to track down on her cellphone, Ted Boros, a deputy in
the sheriff’s office. Ted was one of the sharper knives in the
department’s drawer. She knew that not only from his reputation,
but from her own experience working with him. Ted had been
attracted to police work for the right reasons. Not the gun,
uniform and authority, but because he had a natural aptitude for
understanding people, many who didn’t understand themselves. He
might have become a psychiatrist, but he knew he would never
have made it through medical school.
Francie told him about her chat with Lolly who was one of his
favorite colleagues. They were great puzzle solvers, though they
went about their work with very different pieces before them.
Lolly wasn’t a people person, at least not live ones. Ted
enjoyed people, even the black hats and the crazies.
"What can you tell me about what you found?"
"Not much more than what Lolly told you."
"Okay, I’ll take less than much. Whaddya got?"
He told her that the body had been buried with care. They
could tell that from the alignment of the bones. He thought
Lolly was right about the doll. "From where we found the
buttons, the doll, if that’s what it was, could have been in her
"Umf, that makes it more human, doesn’t it?"
"This one’s got to you too?"
"Maybe a little. What else?"
"That’s about it, except that she was buried deep, probably
three feet, which is a lot. Whoever did the digging didn’t want
some animal to dig it up. The rains we had this spring were
heavy, and probably some road work re-channeled the drainage,
causing the earth above to erode. Plus it’s been years out
there." He paused and then added. "I guess it was her time."
* * * * *
Who would bury a child at Pt. Lobos and why? Francie and
Lolly will begin answering these and other questions in the next
Episode of "Raggedy Ann" here at MontereyMystery.com. Episode II
is posted on July 15th.