by Gail Farrelly
This story was first published in the Yonkers Tribune on July 30, 2016.
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
That was more than two years ago. They haven’t been seen since.
Okay, okay, strictly speaking, the twins didn’t go to “fetch a pail of water.” It didn’t happen exactly like the nursery rhyme. But they DID go up a hill and were never seen coming down. That’s a definite. Also a definite is that water played a big, big part in the story of the two missing seventh graders.
Searchers in the small Michigan town were flummoxed. There was no video footage anywhere near the hill and no leads to the disappearance. The original search focused on child sex offenders in the area, but this proved to be a dead end.
There were no signs of a struggle. Creepy. It was almost as if “the hill” had silently and efficiently swallowed up the two kids. The stuff of science fiction. Great material for horror writers. Just plain old horror for everyone else.
Things quickly reached higher levels of creepiness.
In fact, the Jack-and-Jill search turned out to be a series of shocks to law enforcement. And to everyone else. First it was discovered that Jack and Jill had been living, with no parental supervision, in a dilapidated, abandoned house on the outskirts of town. Surprisingly, additional investigation revealed Jack and Jill were not the 12-year-olds they claimed to be. They were 19-year-olds who were very small for their age and looked a lot younger than they actually were.
They say good things come in small packages. Maybe not in this case though.
What the twins lacked in physical size apparently they made up for in brain power. Research revealed that both Jack and Jill were child prodigies with an advanced education in science (concentration in chemistry) that they had received from an overseas university. The mystery deepened.
What had the twins been up to? Investigators studied how the missing pair had been spending time before the disappearance. Not easy, since they had few friends and their classmates knew little about them. At school they were quite interested in technology, but there was no computer in their home. Jack and Jill each had an iPhone though, so they did have internet access. It was also discovered that the twins often used computers at the local library.
After many legal maneuvers (privacy protections are strong these days!), the detectives were able to access info about the internet searches performed by the twins. Many of the searches revolved around subjects such as water contamination, lead poisoning, ancient water pipes, chemicals for water treatment, etc. Uh-oh.
A further examination (this one more thorough) of Jack and Jill’s home led to a most interesting finding. A map of a neighboring city—a map stuck between the cushions of an old couch in the basement. It looked like the map had become lodged there and then forgotten about.
Other than being a clue as to where the twins might possibly be found, the map seemed relatively unimportant at first. But that changed. It grew in significance when the city in the map became quite famous, more accurately infamous, due to water contamination issues which arose shortly after the unexplained disappearance of Jack and Jill.
The map, you see, was of the city of Flint, Michigan…
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