An Instant Suspect

Wednesday, September 10, 1997 – Night

I never bit my nails. Sometimes I pressed them up against my lips, but I never bit them. Caleb had been calling me out on it since Freshman year of college. That night, as Allie and I cuddled on the couch, watching a video, Caleb looked over from his armchair, “Why are you biting your nails Merry?”

“I’m not biting them,” I said.

“Right,” he said. “So what’s bothering you?”

“Nothing.” I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t tell him that I’d seen bloodied pictures of his wife. I couldn’t tell him that she’d been selling her Adderall.

“You upset because Brant’s refusing your advances again?” he joked.

“Shut up, asshole.”

“Watch it,” he said. “There’s a toddler in the room.” I looked down at Allie – so peaceful, so unaware of her mother’s current condition. As I brushed her hair out of her face, the doorbell rang. Caleb rose and peaked out the window as he walked down the foyer. “Your boyfriend’s here.”

Brant was there for the official notification. Caleb Mitchell, we have reason to believe that your wife has been kidnapped and brutally tortured.

“Just wait a minute, fellas. Just…” Caleb turned towards the TV room. “Merry, take Allie upstairs.”

As I scooped up Allie, I eyed the foyer cautiously. I didn’t like the idea of them being alone together.

When Caleb moved to town, Dani had planned to introduce the boys at Brant’s barbeque, but they all ran into each other at Dave’s Donuts the morning before. When Dave gave Brant “the regular,” Caleb asked, “So Brant, when you have donuts for breakfast every morning, do you think you’re feeding off the cliché or do you think you’re the basis of the cliché?”
It was the first thing Caleb said to Brant and he managed to acquire an enemy before the let’s-all-be-friends barbeque even happened. Brant didn’t realize though that Caleb didn’t mean any harm. Caleb was just perceptive. He didn’t have any concept of his words hurting anyone’s feelings. That’s just how he was.
The barbeque itself wasn’t much better. Dani sat down and popped open a dark beer, Brant teased that she was too good for his Bud Light, and Caleb chimed in, “We’re not in High School anymore Brant, her tastes have rightfully changed.” If Caleb had grown up with us, I’m sure they would have been buds.
It was always Brant who hated Caleb, which fueled Caleb’s attitude towards Brant. Caleb was never one of those people who needed everyone to like him. I think he really enjoyed having a rival. He knew all the right things to say to piss Brant off – and he could do it without ever making a direct hit at Brant. It was always interesting to see whose side Dani would take – she switched constantly. She loved inviting Brant over so she could see her boys battle it out. She would sit at the head of the table – and you better believe she played instigator every time.

When I came back downstairs they were in the middle of the preliminary questioning.

“She went up to NorVa. You know that,” Caleb said.

“I’m just following protocol,” Brant said.

“You were the last one to see her. You know more about it than I do. So why don’t you stop wasting both of our time and go do your job elsewhere.”

“Why didn’t you report your wife missing?” Brant asked.

“Because she’s not missing,” Caleb said. “I know exactly where she is.”

“And where would that be?”

“That’s none of your damn business,” Caleb said.

“You’ve been in contact with her?” Brant asked.

“No.”

“When was the last time you spoke to your wife?”

“The morning that she left.” Caleb crossed his arms.

“Nearly a week ago.” Brant deducted.

“Do you have a problem with that?”

“I think we’re done here, Caleb. If you feel like cooperating, in bringing your wife home safely, you know where to find me.”

I still don’t know if they showed Caleb the photos while I was upstairs with Allie. Did he know the pertinence of the situation? Regardless, he refused to cooperate with Brant. “He’s no good, Merry. He’s just going to trash anything I say,” Caleb said. “She’ll be home soon anyways.”

She didn’t come home though.

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