Saturday, February 04, 2006

Searching for Anna … Related by Joe Ford February 3, 2006

In the summer of 1973, when the ranch and the creek had been scoured for the 30th time, when the scouts and the searchers no longer returned, when the hue and cry was no longer loud and the story less newsworthy and the Sheriff’s Dept. had turned its attention to more solvable crimes and were now reluctant to return our calls, we decided it was now up to us, alone, to find Anna.

The investigation of Anna’s father by the county detectives seemed cursory and inconclusive…and promptly abandoned. We decided to find out for ourselves what, if anything, GW (Anna’s father) knew of Anna’s whereabouts.

We discovered that Waters was working the evening shift at a local San Francisco hospital. After several attempts I managed to follow him by car to a shabby semi-transient hotel in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. I was aware from stories told by Annasmom of the strange behavior and paranoia exhibited by Brody and Waters so was not surprised by their choice of residence. Complete anonymity.

I returned the following day with rented cameras and equipment. Parked across the street with the windows to our old VW van obscured with taped-on garbage bags I had a good view of the hotel entrance. I was lucky enough to get a few pictures of them exiting the hotel. (Doogie has posted them.)

After several, mostly futile, attempts at following them by vehicle through the illusive streets of SF and to myriad restaurants and cafes, two things became apparent. They were exceedingly weird and exceptionally paranoid. But did they have a connection to Anna’s disappearance? I needed to somehow get closer.

I first rented a room in the equally shabby hotel next to theirs. The room was located on the same level and adjacent to theirs, separated by a service alley. I was in a position to see directly into their room. Unfortunately they kept the blinds down to within six inches of the sill the whole time. It was no problem, however, to ascertain that they lived alone in the room- with no signs of a child or any visitor for that matter. I observed and followed them for the next few days, learning nothing more.

Over a period of time I eventually acquired a room in the same hotel and on the same floor as Brody and Waters. With a wild and unlikely tale to the hotel proprietors I was able to rent the room next to theirs when it became available. I listened and observed.

I can no longer be sure how many hours, days and nights I spent following their erratic footsteps and listening to there strange dialogues. I know that I taped over forty hours of numbing drivel in the hopes of capturing a clue to Anna’s disappearance. I believe I had several seemingly relevant tapes transcribed.

Brody and Waters, albeit bizarre, did have a routine and daily schedule. Weekdays would find GW hurrying off early to one or another of his jobs. Respectably dressed but with an air of preoccupation. His work leaned toward nonpersonal interaction eg. an out-patient alcoholic clinic and a walk-in non-emergency clinic. Brody would slip out of the hotel early morning as well and could be found monopolizing a weary waitress with breakfast at a downtown eatery. A brisk walk back to the hotel and he was in for the day- amusing himself with tv, newspaper and his own running commentary. The telephone would ring several times a day. Waters checking-in for advice and/or instructions. Drycleaning and the like. Always hush-hush, as though these were topics of great import. "Now repeat that back to me."

Nights were a different matter entirely. Brody seemed to come alive with the night. Somehow energized. Waters would usually arrive at the hotel around 7:00 or 8:00 pm , having showered at work no doubt. [ The rooms at the hotel contained a bed, a facsimile of a dresser, a table, chair and sink. There was a bathroom down the hall avoided by all but the seriously deranged.] Their nights were spent scurrying from one dreary diner to the next interspersed with return trips to the hotel where Brody would harangue Waters to remember every word of every conversation with every waitress that misguidedly spoke to them. Brody was consummately self-centered and imagined himself the Lothario of S.F. and heartthrob to every poor waitress that they met. The encounters had to be repeated over and over again until every ounce of self-aggrandizement was squeezed from them.

Poor Waters. I felt sorry for him. This was a typical scene, one to be repeated night after night. He hardly ever got more than two or three hours sleep. There is no doubt in my mind that sleep deprivation played a large part in the control exerted by Brody over Waters…consciously or not.

In short order the surveillance began to take its toll on me as well. I worked as a carpenter and house builder by day and inhabited this Runyonesque stage at night, surrounded by hookers and pimps and cagey street hustlers, thugs and thuggers, mugs and muggers. The S.F. Tenderloin is no place for the feint-hearted. I felt myself becoming seduced by its intrigue and unhealthy energy.

I decided it was time to provoke a response from the two. I penned a letter to Waters pleading with him to respond if he had any knowledge of Anna’s whereabouts or was interested in the search. I mailed it to his work address and waited by the recorder for three days until it was delivered. As expected, Waters came directly to the hotel and showed it to Brody. There was a silence deep with tension as I strained to hear. "I’m glad the tot is dead" Waters mumbled. Brody was, for once, at a loss for words. The subject was changed. Anna’s name was not mentioned then or thereafter. My letter was discovered upon Water’s death, unopened and torn in two.

Disappointed and weary, I abandoned my surveillance of this sad yet pityful duo. It seemed to me that their involvement in Anna’s disappearance was unlikely despite their odd behavior.
Dr.Waters committed suicide in 1982 following, by a few weeks, the death from cancer of George Brody. They took with them the enigma of their lives. But not entirely. Three or four large leaf bags stuffed with records and receipts were put at my disposal by the Waters family. They were found in GWs room. I looked in disbelief at the past ten years lying before me like a thousand piece puzzle. Despite taking weeks to sort, categorize and organize these voluminous records, I felt excited and expectant at the prospect of finally being able to resolve the issue of Brody and Waters involvement.

Over the years I had endeavored to educate myself regards criminal investigation and procedures. Although a novice I felt confident and concentrated my efforts primarily on the period of time six months prior to and six months following Anna’s disappearance. I did all those things that we are all now so familiar with having watched endless court and cold case tv shows. I looked for patterns, anomalies. Checked mileage between oil changes, referred to maps. Scrutinized telephone bills, verifying each call regards topic. Examined every credit card purchase and restaurant receipt. Plotted time lines and work records. I poked and prodded that pile of paper until my mind went numb. In the end I was unable to discover a single suspicious thing. They were either uninvolved or diabolically clever.

I can not say for certain that Brody and Waters were innocent of Anna’s abduction if such it was. Better and more resourceful minds than mine may yet discover their involvement. As for me, I remain clueless in this sorrowful search for that illusive key that will unlock the mystery of a child that was here one moment…and gone the next.