Many people believe that being a notable public figure puts you above reproach or suspicion. Not true, says your old pal Jean. How do I know this? Personal experience. Fame-wise, I know I'm not on the level of the mayor, or the lady in khaki who hosts Pet Eligibles on the community access channel, but I'm fairly high up there. Anyhow, I'm not one to let fame get to my head. (But I shouldn't worry anyhow, because my fame hasn't gotten to anyone else's head either!)
As anyone living in my neck of the woods knows, there's been a rash of baby snatchings. A woman grabbed a 1-month-old baby out of her mother's arms right outside her home last April, and since then there's been at least three others. No one really knows why it's happening. It's pretty horrifying.
Last Wednesday, I had just arrived home from my job at the indoor flea market, and I was pretty jazzed because my buddy Barb, from the Americana Antiques stall, had given me a foot-tall corn-husk doll for free just because it had a tiny spot of water damage on the bottom. As I was trying to find a good place for it, I heard a knock at the door. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw a cop and a man in a suit at the door.
The man in the suit was named Detective Chapin, and he told me that they were investigating a child kidnapping that had occurred a few days ago outside the Pamida near my neighborhood. I had heard about it (who hadn't?)—apparently a babysitter had taken a 2-year-old boy shopping without the parents' knowledge, and then she just left town with him. Fortunately, they found the woman and the boy in a hotel about 200 miles north of here, on their way to Canada. I wasn't sure exactly why they needed to investigate anything else if they caught the woman, or what I had to do with it. But I let them in anyway, because I like to help people. (Plus I was feeling a little lonesome with hubby Rick away on his usual after-work Tacky's binge.)
They asked me if I was Jean Teasdale, and if they could come in and ask me some questions. Detective Chapin asked me if I knew the suspect, a woman named Heather Huber. I said no, her name didn't sound familiar. Then he wanted to know if I ever chatted online with someone with the handle "kabagepatch." Why, yes, I said, frequently, though I hadn't heard from her for a while, maybe two weeks or so. It took a few seconds for it to dawn on me: "'kabagepatch' is Heather Huber?" I exclaimed. I couldn't believe it—the woman I met in the Snowbabies chat room, a kid kidnapper?
For the life of me, I couldn't understand how a woman who seemed so nice and normal could snatch a child. I said the only kid I ever heard Heather talk about was the one that lived in her heart. After all, she collected dolls and figurines, and sewed and knitted baby clothes and sold them online, and even collected cute photographs of children doing sweet things. She e-mailed me pictures of babies and some of the latest projects she was working on, like repainting an old crib or restoring a broken doll. And when she wasn't babysitting, she'd spend her weekends driving across the state to see child beauty pageants. She seemed to live such a rich life!
"I wish I had half her energy!" I said to Detective Chapin. "I haven't updated my baby scrapbook in weeks. Here I have all these clippings piled up."
Detective Chapin's face changed when I mentioned the scrapbook. "You collect pictures of children too?" he asked. Absolutely, I said—I've even mentioned it before in my newspaper column. He asked what I wrote about (I guess he wasn't familiar with my column—no surprise, he's a hardworking cop). I said everyday, ordinary stuff, like my job, my cats, how it's impossible to find jeans that fit, how my hubby won't give me a baby. Then Detective Chapin asked if I could see my scrapbook, and I shrugged and said why not.
Jeanketeers, ever have a day that seems so strange you almost don't believe it happened? Like you dreamt it? I ask this because the things that happened after I got out that scrapbook are hard to follow even days after I've had the chance to reflect on them.
It began when Detective Chapin was turning the pages of my scrapbook, and some loose Polaroids fell out. They happened to be snapshots of my ex-neighbor's daughter, Hailey, when I babysat her once. I had decided to photograph her dressed up as a circus clown while she slept. I guess I never got around to filing them, because while the first photo was adorable, she was crying in the rest, having been awoken by the camera's flash. "Who is this child?" Detective Chapin asked. "A neighbor's," I replied. That's when Detective Chapin said I'd better come down to the station with him, and he started to read me my rights.
I wasn't thinking too straight. I guess Detective Chapin got concerned by all the baby stuff I had. Plus some of these child abductors are still on the loose, and I technically have a police record (I once shoplifted some circus peanuts from the Pamida—long story). So I suppose he thought I should maybe get arrested. So they took me to the police station, and snowed me with a bunch of questions about what I was doing when, and why I collected baby clothes but had no baby, and more questions about my connection to Heather Huber, until my head swam. I hadn't done anything wrong, nothing at all, but the thought of people thinking ill of me, and possibly never seeing my cats again, made me panic, and I started bawling. Then they left me alone in a questioning room for almost an hour.
Finally, they returned and said I was free to go and thanked me for my cooperation. I haven't been contacted by the police since.
The only good thing I can say about that experience is that hubby Rick never found out (and hopefully never will—he never reads my column, either). I caught a cab home, took a hot shower, and went straight to bed, although it took me a while to fall asleep.
What is this world coming to when a 39-year-old woman with a very wholesome life and every good intention in the world becomes a suspected kidnapper, or even worse? I want every parent in this area to know beyond a doubt that I, Jean Teasdale, am not one of those people. I would never, ever think of nabbing their precious child. I love kids to pieces. And what would I do with a child? Not to say that, if I did take one, I would neglect it. I do have enough clothes and toys for one, and the 7-Eleven down the street carries formula and baby food and diapers. I could just pop down the road for a few minutes and get some stuff and come back. What I mean is, the stolen child would never come to harm. But as I said, I would never, ever do it.