Posted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 2:24 pm Post subject: The Babysitter Bandit
She’s stolen thousands of dollars from a dozen families. She comes from nowhere and vanishes without a trace. She also takes care of your kids. She’s the babysitter bandit, and it’s up to Walt McKenzie and the police to lock her up. Criminologist Jennifer Kozec has a bold plan to capture her, but will she persevere? Or will the bandit strike again?
This story is rated PG 13 for oddity, adult themes and occasional use of vulgarity. It is solely the work of the author. Please read with an open mind.
Marissa stopped what she was doing and rose to her feet. The baby was crying again. She ascended the stairs and entered the nursery. Little Sally was awake from her nap and bawling her eyes out. Marissa lifted the infant out of the crib.
“It’s OK, baby,” she said, supporting Sally in her arms. Sally seemed indifferent and continued to cry. Marissa gave her a pacifier to suck on while she diagnosed the source of the problem. She set Sally down on the changing table and took off her one piece sleeper. Not too surprisingly, her diaper was wet. Marissa spoke soothingly to her while she expertly changed her diaper. Once she was finished, she took Sally in her arms and carried her into the kitchen where she received a bottle. A short while later, she was asleep again in Marissa’s arms.
Her charge at ease, Marissa resumed her previous activity: robbing the house. The Litmanns said they would be back at 6:30. That gave her half an hour. She had already collected loose cash and was on the watch for valuables that might look good on her walls. Once her needs were sated, she left the note:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Litmann:
Sally was a joy to take care of. She didn’t give me any problems and I think she’ll turn out to be a wonderful little girl. You must be very proud. I put her down for a nap before I left, so there is no need to worry. Thanks for all the free gifts.
The babysitter bandit.
“All right,” McKenzie began. “Everyone listen up.” The Captain of Detectives was not pleased. He had dealt with criminals of every nature (violent, subversive, twisted, obsessive and even extra-terrestrial), but this latest one struck to close to home. She went after families, goddamn it! McKenzie himself had 3 kids at home and he couldn’t bear the thought of someone like this preying on any of them.
The conversation came to a halt upon McKenzie’s command. His department was an uneven bunch: some pretended to be Clint Eastwood while others mimicked Barney Fife. All, however, were fiercely committed to the job. Some had families like he did, and some lost families, as he feared. The Department’s very own Chief of Detectives, McKenzie’s boss, was himself divorced 3 times due to spending too much time on the job. McKenzie marveled that despite such dedication, L.A. was still the crime capital of the West Coast.
“Our suspect goes by the name of the Babysitter Bandit,” McKenzie began. “She is in her mid 20’s, but beyond that her physical description varies. Some witnesses claim that she has brown hair and green eyes, others say she is a redhead that wears glasses. Her pattern, however, has remained the same.
The Bandit hires herself to a babysitting service that usually caters upper-middle class families. She falsifies her credentials, including her name, but does a good enough job so that she doesn’t leave a paper trail. From there, she is hired by parents in need of someone to watch their kids. She never accepts jobs involving kids over the age of 10 and she never works the same job twice.
Once she arrives, she works like any normal babysitter would. In fact, reports have indicated that she’s an excellent caretaker. She is attentive and enthusiastic and gets along with youngsters very well. She is also good with infants. Her actual theft usually occurs when the kids are asleep. In one case, she left an 8 year old boy tied up under the pretext that they were playing a game. In no cases were the children harmed. Her catch is usually cash, though she has also been known to take artwork and electronics. So far, she has robbed 12 families. The mayor himself has already guaranteed the public that she will not reach lucky 13. Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for us to make good on that promise.”
Jennifer Kozec drew up all her courage and walked into McKenzie’s office. She had been present at the briefing and watched him speak from the back of the room. As she took every detail and consideration into her head, a plan began to form. It was a risky plan, but a sound one as well. She was going to be the one to catch the Babysitter Bandit.
Much like the narrator in that Poe poem, McKenzie heard a rapping upon his chamber door. The detective, who had just turned 50, was a powerful looking man: tall and broad-shouldered with hair that had gone from black to silver. Despite this stature, he was more a man of thought then a man of action. He took a pensive and cautious stance towards his job and always thought things out. As a result, he didn’t get immediate results from his labors, but he also lost far fewer men. It was this mantra of ‘think then strike’ that had allowed McKenzie to rise towards the top of the department.
“Come in,” he said to his visitor.
Jennifer Kozec entered feeling confident, but at the same time apprehensive. She was an unlikely candidate for a police officer. A mere 5’4” (with heels), she did not work to physically condition herself like the other officers. Nor did she carry a gun, or a badge for that matter. Yet the 23 year old felt right at home solving crimes, even though she was often treated like a stranger. Her formal training was in criminal psychology, though she gained expertise in areas such as forensics and legal statutes as well. By the time she earned her doctorate, she anticipated on being a full-fledged (and very important) member of the department.
“Jenny, what a surprise,” McKenzie greeted her.
“Hello, Captain,” she said, remaining formal.
“I appreciate your courtesy, but I’ve known you since you were 3. Stick to Walt, OK?”
“OK Walt,” she replied. “I caught your briefing.”
“Well.... what’s your strategy?”
“We’re going to review the case files. Then, we are going to go back through the babysitting services and do background checks on everyone who has ever worked for them if we have to. In the meantime, I’ll let you and MacArthur work on a psych profile.”
“Way ahead of you,” she said, smiling.
“Well...by all means, let’s have it.”
“Not so fast,” she told him. “Only if you listen to what I have to say afterwards.”
“I’ll always have time to listen,” he answered.
“So far, what you said was right on track. The babysitter bandit is a woman in her mid 20’s. She is non-violent. In fact, she probably actually likes kids a lot. It is possible that she is a mother herself. She steal from families because she is jealous of them. They have what she doesn’t, or what she didn’t growing up. It is possible she was abused as a child. The bandit will continue to steal until she is caught, but eventually she might make it easier and easier for us to catch her. She has a conscience and it is raging against her.”
“Hmm....so all we do is wait?” McKenzie interrupted. “Not a bad idea, but unfortunately we don’t have the time. The pressure is on us and we have to catch her soon. Go on.”
“The bandit gets a thrill out of being able to get away with her crimes. As much as she feels guilty, she also loves the fact that nobody can catch her. She is intelligent enough to avoid us so far, but she isn’t really a genius. In fact, she’s probably the least likely suspect you’d imagine.”
“Jenny, I don’t know how you do it.”
“Thanks, Walt. Now wait for the good part.”
“I know how to catch her.”
“Forget it,” McKenzie said sternly. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Hey, I thought you said you’d hear me out!”
“I did hear you out and I’m telling you it’s too dangerous. Does your uncle know about this?”
“No, and the reason I didn’t tell him was because I was afraid he’d say the same thing you’re saying now.”
“He was my partner for 15 years. We are practically family. Do you expect me to risk the life of someone important to a person I would gladly call my brother?”
“Do you have a better way?” Jennifer retorted. “You said so yourself; the pressure is on. The time to catch her is now and you don’t have any clue on how to do it. Besides, it’s not like I’m an outsider in all of this. You let me talk to Mauro Filanesco and he is far more dangerous then our suspect here.”
“That was in a secure area; this is out in the field!”
“If you don’t think I can do it, why don’t you just say so!” she snapped, tears forming in her eyes. She was more angry then she was upset, but the tears she knew would add effect.
McKenzie placed a comforting arm on her shoulder.
“Jennifer, you are a bright and capable young woman. You’ll probably make an excellent criminologist. However, you’ve been reading a few too many James Patterson novels. You are not a police officer. I like your plan, but for God’s sake, let’s use somebody else. Even the nicest criminal can get nasty if they think they are going to be caught.”
McKenzie was a tough man to break. Her strategy wasn’t working, so she turned up the flow of tears.
“Please let me do this,” she begged. “Please, Walt.”
At long last, McKenzie relented.
“OK,” he conceded. “You’re in. However, we will be listening close behind. If anything, and I mean anything should go wrong, we’ll pull you out no matter what. Understand?”
“Yes,” she answered, bringing her crying to a halt. Inside, she was thrilled with how well things were going.
“Mike isn’t going to like this one bit,” McKenzie sighed.
“You did what?!” Mike Fogel exclaimed. He was nearly livid at first, but McKenzie was able to calm him down a bit. It wasn’t too hard; they had been best friends for quite some time. A severe injury nearly forced Fogel to retire, and his workload had been drastically lightened over the last few years. However, his value as an experienced officer kept him on the payroll and nobody gave it a second thought when McKenzie assigned a case to his good friend Mike.
“Explain this to me one more time,” Fogel said.
“We create a trap,” explained McKenzie. “We take one of our safe houses and wire it. Then, hopefully, when our bandit arrives, we can catch her in the act.”
“And where does my niece fit in to all of this?”
“Well, in order to catch a babysitter, we need a baby.”
“Jenny’s about 20 years too late.”
“We obviously can’t endanger the life of an actual infant. Nor can we use a doll; she’s too clever to fall for that. So what Jenny proposed is that she go undercover as a mentally challenged 16 year old in need of a caretaker for a few hours. If something should arise, she could probably talk the Bandit down. She’s been very good at that so far. And we’ll be listening to the whole thing from a surveillance van right outside.”
“Hmm,” Fogel contemplated. “Jenny came up with this herself?”
“Yes. I’m as impressed as you were.”
“Well, OK, Walt. One condition though: I’m in.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Even though he had convinced himself and even Fogel that this was a good idea, McKenzie was full of doubts. First of all, what if the bandit didn’t take the bait? Jenny’s psych profile indicated she would. Secondly, what if something went wrong? How could he possibly justify it? These were difficult decisions, but they came with the job.
Jennifer was just as apprehensive. She was a little scared, but also very excited. She was looking forward to this assignment. She could do a little acting, have a little fun; and, in the end, be known as the one who captured the babysitter bandit. It wouldn’t make her famous, but it’d give her the respect she felt she deserved.
Once the plan was given a green light, McKenzie decided to call upon a favor from another ‘old friend’ (albeit this one was even younger than Jennifer). Kerri Roberts was a one-time drug offender (charges dropped) who helped him put an end to the criminal careers of the infamous Rex brothers. She was also a damn fine babysitter.
“Hey, what’s up?” Kerri asked. Even over the phone, she seemed to exude sunny glee.
“Hello, Kerri,” McKenzie began. “I need a favor.”
“Sure thing, Cap. But it will like totally cost you an impounded stereo.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“OK. So what is it?”
“First, I need an honest answer. When you were babysitting, did you ever steal anything?”
“No! Well....food maybe, but nothing else really.”
“Do you know anyone who did steal anything? Maybe who bragged about it?”
“Nope; sorry. Hey, is this about that Babysitter Bandit thing that’s been on the news?”
“Right you are.”
“Ooh. I hope you catch that bitch and lock her up! It’s pretty sick to be messing with people’s kids.”
“She’s non-violent actually. However, you are going to help me catch her nonetheless.”
“Cool. What can I do?”
“I need you to bring a few things...”
Kerri arrived at the safe house a half hour later. Inside, she saw McKenzie (whose hair had gone completely gray but still looked OK for a guy who was 50) as well as a woman with short blonde hair who she didn’t recognize.
“Kerri, this is Jennifer Kozec. She’s Mike Fogel’s nephew.”
“Nice to meet you,” Jennifer said.
Kerri couldn’t help but laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. It’s just that you don’t look like a cop.”
“Technically speaking, I’m not. If this goes successfully, then who knows.”
“Did you bring what I asked you?” McKenzie asked.
“Yeah....it’s all here. I still want to know what you need it for.”
“Undercover work,” Jennifer explained. “I’m going to be a 16 year old with the mental abilities of a toddler.”
“Oh...I get it. You’re the bait.”
Jennifer bit her lip. She had a dislike for Kerri already.
McKenzie helped Kerri unload the contents of her bags then wished her well.
“Can I give you some advice?” Kerri said to Jennifer shortly before she left.
“Yeah, go ahead,” Jennifer replied, disinterested.
“If you’re gonna be acting like a baby...just try not to think so hard. I can tell you’re smart, but don’t let that show.”
“How did you know....”?
“I know about acting like a baby because I was one for a few years and I know about smart people because my best friend was one. Long story; I’ll explain it later if you’d like. Bye.”
Reckoning day had arrived. Everything was in place and it was just a matter of time before the dominoes fell in a neat little row. Mike Fogel placed a call to a babysitting service. He explained his odd predicament: he needed someone to look after his mentally challenged daughter for a few hours. It was a job that many shied away from, but the service informed him that one person had actually volunteered. Another detective was able to find out that the sitter’s name was Jill Hurtado. He also ascertained from checking her records that she didn’t exist. The Babysitter Bandit had taken the bait.
Inside the safe house, McKenzie’s team was getting ready. They had just finished placing bugs: microphones scattered about plus a video camera inside the safe and by the door. All that remained was to get Jennifer ready.
She and her uncle were standing in a room decorated like a nursery. There was an oversized crib, a changing table and wallpaper with Disney characters. Fogel held a pacifier in his hand and showed it to Jenny.
“Believe it or not, they were able to cram a microphone and a tracer into this,” he said. “It’ll stay in your mouth or around your neck at all times. Got it?”
“Are you sure you are going to be OK?”
“I’ll be fine, Uncle Mike.”
“All right then. Let’s get you dressed.”
“I can do it myself.”
“It’s no big deal. I used to do this for you all the time.”
“Yeah...20 years ago.”
“Why do you have to make me feel so old?”
She apologized and allowed Fogel to dress her. She stripped off her pants, blouse, shoes, socks, bra, panties and earings and stood as naked as the day she was born. Mike picked her up and set her down on the changing table. He coated her butt with baby powder then slid a thick disposable diaper under it. He taped it shut then helped Jenny into a green flower print baby dress. Next came a pair of white tights that were lined with plastic in the seat and ruffles on the outside. He pulled the tights securely onto her legs and over her diaper. They were followed by a pair of babyish black shoes with a big buckle. Her short hair was combed as far down as it would go and a pretty ribbon was tied to it. Lastly, the pacifier was placed on a cord and slipped over her head to dangle from around her neck.
Fogel smiled warmly at his niece. She looked both silly and sweet. He knew better than to tease her about it and instead asked if she was comfortable.
“I o-tay, Unca Mike,” Jennifer replied. She had taken theater in college and it showed. Her manipulation of McKenzie was only a minor testament to her skills as an actress. This would be a real performance; worthy of her best efforts. She knew that she must have looked ridiculously childish, but her mindset was that of a determined adult. She was going to catch the bandit. That was what mattered. She did her best to forget how she looked. She paid no attention to the undeniable bulk of the diaper between her legs. She ignored the mildly stimulating feeling of her breasts pressing up against the fabric of the baby dress. Kerri was right; don’t think so much. Just catch the bandit.
Mike picked Jennifer up and set her down in the crib. He slid the pacifier into her mouth and gave her a stuffed animal to hold. He turned to leave, but shot a final concerned glance back at her. She gave him the thumbs up and he safely crept downstairs. From the surveillance van, McKenzie informed him that their connections were good and that the bandit was on the way. Fogel looked out the window and surely enough, there came Miss Jill Hurtado. She had red hair and wore jeans, a t-shirt and boots and looked about 25. Fogel stepped forward to answer the door. It was show time.
Marissa/Jill stepped forward and rang the bell. It was promptly answered by a Mr. Jackson: late 40’s and dressed in a suit.
“Mr. Jackson?” she asked.
“Yes. You must be the babysitter.”
“Jill Hurtado,” she said, introducing herself.
“Come on in.”
For the next 5 minutes or so, Marissa/Jill listened as Mr. Jackson explained about his daughter’s unfortunate condition and what she would be required to do and so on. Normally, Marissa didn’t work with anyone over the age of 10. She feared they would catch on to what she was doing. She dreaded being caught or being forced to hurt them (or them hurting her). However, Jenny Jackson had the mental capabilities of a 2 year old. Besides, she could already see a few things she wanted to get her hands on.
At long last, Mr. Jackson led Jill/Marissa up to Jenny’s room. She was quite surprised it was decorated exactly like a nursery. The girl looked absolutely adorable sitting in her crib and playing with her fingers while sucking on a pacifier.
“Jenny, say hi to Jill,” Mr. Jackson said slowly. “Come on, do a wave for daddy.”
Jenny looked out at her visitor and smiled. She gave Jill/Marissa a friendly wave and she smiled back.
“Daddy will be back in a little bit,” Mr. Jackson told her, though Marissa doubted the girl understood a word he said. “Be good for Jill.”
He blew her an air kiss and ducked out of the room. A moment later, he was gone. Expectedly, Jenny noticed her father’s absence and started to cry.
“Shh.....it’s OK,” Marissa said. She lifted the 16 year old baby girl out of the crib and held her. Naturally, Jenny was a lot larger than any child Marissa had previously worked with. She could only support her for a few minutes without hurting herself. She instead pulled up a chair and held the weeping girl in her lap. Eventually, Jenny calmed down and even began to giggle when Marissa tickled her.
“We are going to have lots of fun,” Marissa assured her. She was on the brink of giggling herself. This would be the best score yet.
It had been a half hour and so far everything seemed on the level. Walt McKenzie sat in the surveillance van alongside Mike Fogel (the former Mr. Jackson) and listened apprehensively. So far, the bandit hadn’t made a move. Instead, she was sprawled out on the floor next to Jennifer and guiding her through a simple game of Candyland. Was it possible they had the wrong person? Or was she simply waiting to strike? Fogel became incredibly uneasy as he explored all the variables.
Truth be told, Jenny was actually enjoying herself. It was fun for her to pretend, to get away from being a dedicated crime fighter for awhile. She till kept her eyes open for warning signs, but otherwise slid very neatly into her role. The Bandit had a genuine way with kids. Either she was truly concerned or was a far better actress then Jenny herself.
The constraints of her role provided her with little ability to communicate. She spoke to Jill in sentence fragments and made the appropriate noises when necessary. She beamed when Jill called her a special little girl and pretended to look hurt when Jill scolded her for knocking over magazines from a coffee table. So far, nothing about her seemed criminal. Jenny almost hoped that they had the wrong person; Jill was too decent to be the one.
Jenny watched as Jill’s gaze slowly penetrated the room. She was looking all right; looking and waiting. ‘The best part is she doesn’t know that I’m watching, too,’ Jill told herself. ‘She thinks I won’t be able to understand a thing I’m doing.’
“All right kiddo,” Jill said, bringing an abrupt stop to their playing. “Time for your bottle.”
She grabbed Jenny’s hand and helped her to her feet. Jenny felt awkward walking with a thick diaper between her legs, but tried to act as if her waddle was the most natural thing in the world. Jill let go of her when they reached the kitchen and told her to stay put. Jenny obediently sat on the floor and listened as her diaper crinkled loudly. She watched Jill grab a bottle from the refrigerator and add something to it (probably something to make it taste better). Jenny pretended to grow impatient and through a mock-fit.
“Me wan batta! Me wan batta!”
“Sh....here you go,” Jill said, handing her the bottle. She pretended to have difficulty gripping it and allowed Jill to help her hold it while she forced the nipple between her lips. Jenny didn’t really plan on actually drinking it, but now that Jill was watching, she had no choice. It was silly for her to have pulled that stunt.
Jill picked Jenny back up off the floor and led her to her nursery. She set Jenny down on the changing table. Suddenly, she became nervous and embarrassed at once. A woman barely her own age was about to check her diaper. Whatever thrill she was getting out of this was fading fast. No matter though; it was almost over. All she had to do was wait until Jill thought she was asleep, then sneak downstairs to catch her in the act. Then it would be Jill who was throwing the fit!
“Do you need a new diaper?” Jill asked her. Jenny shook her head, but Jill decided to check anyway. Kids couldn’t always be trusted; especially those as shy as Jenny. Jenny sighed as Jill slid a finger under the waistband of her diaper and felt around.
“All dry,” Jill proclaimed. She then allowed Jenny to finish her bottle before picking her up and setting her down in her crib. Jenny instinctively yawned and put her head down on the pillow. She watched Jill flash her one final smile before leaving her to her nap.
Jenny waited only a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity. She felt very tired; very drained. The moment finally came where she heard some noise from downstairs. Now was her chance to be the heroine. All she had to do was get out of the crib. This proved to be easier said than done. She tried to get up, but found her limbs felt like stone pillars. She was more tired then ever. In fact, she could barely even stay awake much less stop a robbery. Slowly, she drifted off into a peaceful sleep...
Marissa was trying her best not to panic. She found herself trapped in her worst nightmare. She had somehow managed to stumble into a trap; a trap set for her by the police. She noticed the first camera by accident out of the corner of her eye; she found the rest of the surveillance equipment soon after and disabled it. Her major concern, however, was not that she was being watched by the police, but that the police were already here. Lovely little Jenny was an undercover cop! As a precaution, she had added a sedative to the girl’s bottle to ensure that she slept soundly; now she was damn glad that she did. The girl proved to be a lot easier to manage while she was asleep.
The biggest problem Marissa faced was getting away. She couldn’t simply leave. They’d find her and they’d get the truth out of her. Nor could she run the risk of assuming that they didn’t catch her in the act. Even if she had disabled the camera before she stole anything, they obviously knew who she was. Even if she stayed put and didn’t do a damn thing, they’d arrest her anyway because they knew!
Marissa tried very hard to think. She had one card up her sleeve so far: a hostage. She didn’t like to think of Jenny in those terms, but that’s exactly what she was. A hostage. The woman had lied to her and used her and it made Marissa angry. Then again, she had been lying and using people all along. She felt very torn right now: all her emotions were pulling her in opposite directions. Just when she was going to have a massive headache, she heard the muffled cries coming from the nursery.
Jenny knew something was wrong the moment she woke up. First of all, she was still undercover. The mission should have been over already. Secondly, a few new items had been added to her wardrobe. She now wore a pair of white gloves that were sewn together at the wrists and in her mouth was a much larger pacifier. It dawned on Jenny that she was caught. Her cover had been blown and she was stuck in the trap she had created. She tried to call for help, but the rubberized object forced between her lips made communication impossible. She also could do nothing to free herself from her gloves. She was stuck until further notice.
After trying vainly to get loose, Jenny tried to concentrate on another way out. She obviously wasn’t alone in the house: she could hear the sound of footsteps pacing around downstairs. Was it Jill? Did Jill have a partner? What were her plans for her now that she discovered her charge was with the police department? Jenny tried not to think of the negatives. She was pretty sure she could reason with Jill. However, in order to even do that, she would have to get this damn gag out. Jenny let out another muffled scream, which went unanswered.
Suddenly, escape became the least of her problems. As Jenny shifted around still figuring a path toward freedom, she made a startling discovery. Her diaper was wet! She had actually managed to pee in her sleep. ‘It was the sedative,’ Jenny told herself. ‘Nothing more.’ Sedative or no sedative, she was fully aware of the pressure in her bowels. She couldn’t stand to mess her diaper as well. That would be too much! Jenny now began to cry for real.
Jill finally came back. Jenny was both glad and afraid to see her. She was scared, but she had to go to the bathroom very badly. She hoped that Jill would have it in her heart to grant her that freedom. Even prisoners in jail had toilet privileges.
“What’s the matter,” Jill said coldly. “Baby didn’t sleep so well?”
“Mmmmmmph,” Jenny managed to reply. She wanted desperately to talk to her; to plead with her and even apologize. However, she had no such luck.
Marissa watched her squirm around, helplessly crying and convulsing. At first, it felt good for that woman...that cop....that BITCH to get what she deserved. Then, she took pity. She never really meant to hurt anyone, and Jenny hadn’t hurt her. She came to her with a smile instead of a gun and a warrant. Besides, even a traitor didn’t deserve this! Jill decided she had enough and lifted her out of the crib. Jenny thrashed against her and fell from her grip to the floor. Quickly rising to her feet, she darted towards the bathroom like a pig running from a butcher.
Once inside the confines of the bathroom, Jenny quickly shut the door and locked it. She then worked on getting her tights down and her diaper off. This proved to be far easier said then done. The gloves nearly killed her flexibility. She continued to fidget and struggle, as the pressure became worse and worse. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore and gave up. She sat down on the toilet seat so it would be more comfortable and filled the back of her diaper. This brought about a fresh wave of tears. She was in a bathroom, but had still been unable to stop from helplessly messing her diapers!
There was a soft knock on the door and Jenny relented. She unlocked it and allowed Jill to come in. Instead of laughing at her or beating her, Jill picked her up in her arms and hugged her.
“It’s OK,” she said. “I’m not really mad. I’m going to get you out of that icky diaper and we’re going to figure a way out of this.”
Those words brought an end to Jenny’s crying and gave her a ray of hope. She allowed Jill to place her back on the changing table and didn’t even mind when she strapped her down. A horrible smell permeated the room when Jill lowered Jenny’s tights, and Jenny felt shame that she was the cause of it. Jill took off her diaper and discarded it. Without a word of complaint, she wiped and powdered Jenny’s butt and putt a fresh diaper on her. She was just about to release Jenny from the changing table when the phone rang.
Jill picked it up and listened to the words that she had been dreading.
“It’s the police.”
Fogel had been having ‘a bad feeling’ all day long, but when they lost the communications, he nearly went postal. He and McKenzie had been listening in and everything sounded OK. Jill had just announced that she was putting Jenny down for a nap. That gave her a window of opportunity to make her move, and it gave them their chance to nail her. However, she never moved. Instead, she somehow managed to spot all their bugs, and quickly disabled them. Worse still, there was no word from Jenny.
“What the fuck just happened?!” Fogel exclaimed.
“We lost our comms,” said Scott, their techie. “Repeat, comms out.”
“Easy, Mike,” Walt cautioned. “It could be a technical error.”
“This is not a technical error,” Scott informed them. “Repeat, this is...”
“Will you shut up?” McKenzie barked. “Anyway, I’m willing to bet that the Bandit doesn’t know about the mic in the pacifier. If Jenny is still OK, she’ll let us know.”
Suddenly, they heard a series of muffled cries, followed by footsteps.
“What’s the matter?” the Bandit queried in a cold, mocking tone. “Baby didn’t sleep so well?”
This was followed by another stifled explanation.
“That’s it,” Fogel announced. “We’re going in!”
“Now wait just a second, Mike,” McKenzie said, restraining him. “If we go in, we’re showing force. People do stupid things when threatened by force. Why don’t we give her a minute or two to calm down and then we’ll try and talk her into coming out. Remember, she doesn’t know we can hear her.”
“OK,” Fogel agreed. “But let me do the talking.”
He picked up the phone and dialed the number of the house. He wasn’t sure whether she would answer at first, but was greatly relieved to hear Jill Hurtado’s voice.
“This is the police,” he told her. There was a moment of silence and he feared that she would hang up.
“The police?” she echoed blankly. “What is it? Is there something wrong?”
“Listen, Miss Hurtado or whatever your real name might be. We know who you are. We know you are the bandit. We have you surrounded. Come out now and give yourself up. Make it easy for yourself.”
There was another pause and Fogel waited for her to say the one magic syllable that would set everything right again: OK. However, the OK never came. Instead, Jill Hurtado hung up the phone.
“Team in position,” ordered McKenzie. He loaded a chamber into his shotgun and listened to the definitive click. The situation had just escalated.
The police’s offer sounded fair and reasonable. Marissa was about to accept it when a horrific reality dawned on her. The moment she stepped outside, she would be arrested. She would be handcuffed and shoved into the back of a squad car. The press would snap pictures of her and dub her a psycho. She would have to stand trial and watch all those families frown hatefully at her in court. She would most likely go to jail, where she was lucky if she lasted a week. Marissa couldn’t let that happen. She just couldn’t. Rather than give in, she hung up the phone.
Suddenly, Jenny became dynamic. She was still quite effectively restrained, but that didn’t stop her from twisting and turning and kicking her legs. She practically screamed into her gag. She had to get through to Jill before it was too late!
Marissa watched the girl twist and turn and felt sorry for her. She probably thought that she was going to hurt her. Marissa hoped that she wouldn’t have to, but if it came down to that or going to jail, Jenny would have to be hurt.
“It’s OK,” she said, gently patting Jenny’s head.
Jenny continued to buckle and thrash. Finally, Marissa understood and took the gag out of her mouth. In the time that it took Jenny to catch her breath, Marissa was already preparing to climb out the window.
“Jill, no!” she exclaimed.
“They can’t arrest me if they can’t catch me,” Marissa said wryly. She knew that they needed her confession. That was the whole point of this silly sting mission. She was perfectly willing to do a little roof climbing if that’s what it took to get away.
“They’ll shoot you!” Jenny cautioned.
This stopped Marissa dead in her tracks.
“Bullshit,” she snapped. “You’re lying.”
“One of the officers out there is my uncle. If he thinks that I’m hurt, he’s likely to come in here with a shotgun. Please just call him and give yourself up. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
“Neither do I, but I’m not going to jail.”
“Talk to me,” Jenny told her. “Let me help you. Maybe I can cut down your sentence.”
Marissa looked at her in surprise.
“What kind of cop are you?” she asked.
“I’m not really a cop,” she answered. “I’m a psychologist. I work with the crime lab and I do profiles. This was supposed to be my first real case. I guess I thought I’d make myself famous, but things got all fucked up. I’m sorry about that; this was entirely my idea. Don’t take it out on my uncle or the rest of those guys out there. My name’s Jenny Kozec, by the way. You don’t have to tell me yours. You don’t even have to untie me. But you do have to talk to me.”
“Marissa Bridges,” Marissa said, introducing herself. “Also known as the Babysitter Bandit.”
For what seemed like an eternity, Marissa talked and Jenny listened. Mike and Walt and everyone in the van listened as well. They were amazed at the events that have transpired.
“She’s ruining our case,” said McKenzie.
“That’s my niece for you,” Fogel told him.
“Yup. A damn fine listener, but a lousy police officer.”
Marissa Bridges hailed from a small town. Her parents divorced and they didn’t have an abundance of income between them, but she kept up strong relationships with both of them. Unfortunately, that was the extent of their good luck. During her mid to late teen years, she hooked up with a guy named Michael Amorouso. He was a scumbag, but she was deeply in love with him. She accidentally got pregnant by him and had to drop out of college. Their tumultuous relationship culminated in him raping her and giving her a beating so bad that the baby miscarried. None of this was ever reported out of a sense of fear and shame.
After losing her baby, Marissa had a near nervous breakdown. She was nursed back to health and well-being (and a functioning place in society) by her mother and a man named Paul Skerlacis. Marissa and Paul almost married, but she found she couldn’t accept a man whose only apparent attraction towards her was to be her savior. Not long after that ended, Marissa’s mother fell ill and died. Her father simultaneously re-married and moved; not wanting to be bombarded by the guilt of a ghost. With everybody and everything gone, Marissa moved out West to California. She wanted to settle down, but all she found was despair. It was a fairly common tragedy, but what really made the difference was Marissa’s age. She was only 20: 3 years younger than Jenny and she had already given up on life.
“I didn’t have much,” she explained. “The first time it happened, I didn’t really plan it. I was watching these 2 kids, a boy and a girl. They were nice kids, but their parents were real snobs. They wouldn’t even look me in the eye. I thought of their kids growing up to be like that and it made me angry. I waited until the kids were asleep...and I took something. It was a gold clock. They never found out. After that, I just felt so invincible that I couldn’t stop. You know what I mean?”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Jenny said. She had previously considered herself a master manipulator but now came to realize that the only reason she was alive was due to something she had no influence over whatsoever.
“Do you think you can visit me while I’m in jail?” Marissa asked, tears streaming from her face. “I’m really going to need somebody to talk to.”
She began to weep and Jenny offered no objection when she pressed her head up against her chest.
“Of course I’ll visit you,” Jenny told her. “You’re my very first, darling.”
This caused both of them to break out into laughter. They were laughing so hard they didn’t even hear McKenzie knock on the door.
McKenzie and Fogel entered simultaneously, with another officer backing them up. Fogel had heard the entire confession and while he was touched by it, he still remained cynical. When he saw Jenny tied to the table and Marissa leaning over her, he pushed the younger girl aside and untied her niece.
Suddenly, Marissa became very scared. This was the uncle that Jenny had mentioned. Maybe that window wasn’t such a bad idea after all; especially when all the cops were in this room. She took a few steps back before McKenzie seized her wrists.
“You don’t want to do that, Marissa,” he told her.
“How did you know my name?” she asked.
“We were listening,” McKenzie informed her.
She looked entirely dumbfounded until McKenzie showed her the discarded pacifier.
“Would you believe they crammed a microphone in there?” he asked.
“Tell me the truth,” she beckoned. “Is it bad?”
“Well...you have a lot to answer for, but I’m confident that you can emerge from this OK. I’ve seen bigger miracles.”
Marissa gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. He responded by placing the pacifier in her mouth.
“I’m a married man,” he joked. She managed to mouth a ‘thank you’ around the pacifier. “We’ll take you down to processing in a little bit. You just about ready, Mike?”
Fogel was holding Jenny in his arms, hugging her so tight that it nearly hurt.
“Honey, are you sure you’re OK?”
“I’m fine, Uncle Mike.”
He smacked her thigh sharply with his hand.
“In that case, don’t ever scare me like that again!” he snapped. “You’re through working cases for a long time, young lady.”
“No buts. My brother would have a fit if he knew what you were up to!”
“Take it easy on her, Mike.”
“As for you,” he sneered. “Walt, who the hell gave her the clearance for this job anyway?”
He then whirled towards Marissa and her eyes grew wide.
“And you!” Fogel barked. “I just wanted to thank you for doing the right thing.”
He shook her hand and they exited. Marissa got to ride in the backseat of a police cruiser after all, but without handcuffs and with Jenny sitting next to her. She felt fortunate that her wish came true: nobody got hurt. She began to believe McKenzie was right and that she would emerge from this OK after all.
Marissa sat in a steel folding-chair in the police interrogation room. She was 20 years old and pretty, despite all the scars. Her true hair color was brown, and Jenny’s first guess was right: she didn’t look like a thief. She had been in front of a judge and he remanded her to return all stolen property (thankfully, most of it was still in her apartment) and issue statements of apology to all the families (some were more receptive than others). Since she had no prior criminal record, and Jenny’s psychological evaluation painted her in a favorable light, the judge declared a suspended sentence. However, she would have to work off her remaining debts to the families by doing what she did best: babysitting (albeit this time under the supervision of a wrist bracelet that sounded sharply if she tried to escape with any loot).
Marissa would again be watching the Litmann’s baby, Sally, in about 2 hours. Though they didn’t look at her the same way they had in the past, they had accepted her apology and agreed that her quality of care was genuine and excellent. For once, Marissa didn’t have to dress up for the part. She wore a tanktop and running pants with a disposable diaper underneath. It might have looked absurd for Marissa to be sitting alone in an interrogation room with a diaper peeking out above the waistband of her pants and about half a dozen officers watching her, but Marissa didn’t even know she was there.
“Hypnotherapy,” Jenny explaining to Fogel from the other side of the glass petition.
“She’s under hypnotherapy. In order to address some deeply buried childhood issues, I had to hypnotize her and convince her that she was a child. Right now she thinks she’s a 2 year old, hence the diaper. Kinda of like what I was supposed to have done, only she’s doing a much better job of it.”
“Will she be OK?”
“She’ll snap out of it in another 30 seconds.”
Surely enough, 30 seconds later, Marissa opened her eyes. Bewildered and dazed, she got up out of the seat and stretched. She didn’t remember anything that had just happened and was puzzled as to why she was wearing a diaper. She looked at the clock, and upon checking the time realized that she had better get going.
Jenny left the observation window and was on her way home herself when McKenzie pulled her aside.
“She’s really come full circle, hasn’t she?” he asked.
“Just about,” Jenny answered.
“So have you.”
“You mean I can work cases?”
“Not just yet. You seem to be better at this, and besides, Mike would kick my ass. However, you do have free reign on the CSI Unit and if any of them hassle you, I’ll take it up with the chief.”
“Thanks Walt...I mean captain.”
“Dismissed soon-to-be Dr. Kozec...I mean Jenny.”
She smiled briefly, but McKenzie’s expression soured.
“Something wrong?” she asked.
“There is one thing I don’t understand,” he said. “Marissa is no dummy, but she didn’t strike me as a particularly sharp person. How does a small town girl with no college education and no prior criminal activities turn into a master criminal practically overnight?”
“Guess we’ll never know,” Jenny told him before leaving.
It was late at night in a big city, but this did not deter the stranger from freely walking the streets. He knew the answer to McKenzie’s question as well as many countless other things. He had read the papers and noticed that the Babysitter Bandit had finally been caught. Another one of his creations was put to rest.
The stranger wondered if perhaps he should feel guilty. No; not at all. Why should he? When he first met Marissa, she was very depressed (more so then himself, almost suicidal). He gave her a reason to live. He opened up a wealth of doors for her and showed her how to become a star. However, under no circumstances did he force her to do anything. The choice was always hers. She chose to rob people; she paid the price. Simple as that. Besides, she wasn’t going to see hard time. She was going to get the help she needed and would be OK. He felt happy for her.
The irony was not lost on the stranger. There were many parents who would sleep sounder tonight knowing that the Babysitter Bandit was gone. Yet did any of those parents stop to think about their own kids? Didn’t they ever wonder if maybe junior was hiding a knife under his bed so he could impress his friends or that a 13 year old girl was already working on making herself look sexy without really comprehending what sexy is? No matter...that wasn’t his concern, at least not yet.
These were more concerns for Jennifer Kozec. She was bright and capable, but way too sure of herself. He had a feeling that this would be her undoing. Hubris has always been the tragic flaw, and the stranger was a fan of tragedies. Maybe he would write one soon. The world needed some good drama.
Lastly, the stranger’s thoughts turned to McKenzie. Walt McKenzie was a good cop. He had been doing his job for more than 20 years. He had put an end to all of the stranger’s twisted concoctions: Red, the Chameleon, and now the Bandit, as well of hundreds of other lesser punks and lowlifes. Yet what did he receive? Nothing. McKenzie could work until he was 70 and while he would get a cake and a gold watch and a ‘good luck Walt’, greatness would escape him. Or...he could simply be shot tomorrow by a no-name scumbag and it would all be over. Either way, it was a damn shame. The stranger grinned as he thought up a way of making the good detective’s job a whole lot easier.
“Be seeing you soon, Walt,” he said, and then vanished into the cold night air.
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