Wednesday, September 10, 1997
That day was a Wednesday. I had brought an extra slice of pizza in hopes to trade for information on the Dani Investigation. I wanted to know what Brant had dug up on the drug plot. He told me he hadn’t even considered my theory and then he ate all 3 slices.
The baby was with me that morning and after the pizza fail, I took her back home. Wednesday afternoons were Caleb’s free time from classes and the internship. Just like Brant, he wasn’t worried about Dani’s lack of presence. He told me she was just messing around, proving a point.
After leaving the Mitchell house, I went back to the police station to demand action from Brant.
I didn’t even make it past the front door.
Aunt Liza was there, standing in the middle of the precinct. Brant’s hand was on her shoulder. Someone had put a chair down next to her, in hopes that she would sit, breath.
“Aunt Liza?” I asked.
She turned to me, “You didn’t tell me she was missing, Merry. I would have said something sooner.”
“What are you talking about, Li?” Before getting an answer, I addressed Brant, “What is she talking about?”
“We found Dani’s car,” he said. “Outside Liza’s Pizza.”
I sat in the chair, put my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands.
“I thought she was just sleeping it off,” Liza continued. “I thought she would come get the car. I thought it would be gone today.”
“How long has it been there?” I asked, staring at my shoes. I remember thinking I was glad they were flip-flops because when I collapsed in my bed, balling, I could just flick them off.
“Since Monday morning,” Brant said. I imagined three pairs of eyes on my shoes now.
“Uh Brant,” came a voice from behind me. It was one of his minions – that’s what Caleb & I called the department rookies who worshiped Brant. The boy’s department-issued shoe bounced on the floor next to my flip-flop. “Sir, we found something in the car.”
With that, my eyes popped up to meet his face.
Minny – short for Minion – avoided my eye contact, knowing I’d demand answers, knowing he wouldn’t be able to avoid my prying.
“Gloves, Genuis,” Brant snapped at him. “You want your fingerprints all over this evidence?”
Minny recited a prompt, “Sorry, sir.”
“Why are you apologizing to me?”
“Sor – yes – sir.”
Brant chuckled at his power, then his face went somber as he glanced at the envelope in Minny’s hand, remembering why they were here. “Come with me, son.”
* * *
Back then, Brant kept the door to his office cracked so people could hear pieces of his conversations, so they would know that he was doing something important. And he spoke in a hushed voice with his partner, so those listening to the sound that resonated from behind the door would know he was talking about something they were not important enough to know.
That day, though, his volume ignored all boundaries, “What was that? I can’t hear you.”
Minny’s voice creeped up to his level, “They’re pictures of Danielle. Mrs. Mitchell, sir. I – I think she’s dead.”
Followed by Brant, “She’s not dead.”
I heard a thump on the desk, Minny’s chair squeaked and I pictured him leaning forward. Then more silence before, “Why would anyone do that?”
“I guess someone wants us to find her.”
I didn’t care about protocol. I didn’t care about chain of custody. At that moment, all I cared about was the truth. I brushed into the office, across the room, and grabbed the photos with both hands.
I saw her face, covered in blood, and I looked up quickly. “Brant!”
I only glanced at the photo for half a second, but it’s still stapled to my membrane. Dani’s hair stuck to the edges of her face as if she’d slathered it with paint. Her left eye, once vibrant and blue, looked like a purple Brussels sprout. Teeth shattered like a November Jack-o-latern. Dried brown blood mixed with red new blood covering her entire surface.
On the desk in front of Brat was a sticky note. Two words scrawled onto the yellow with permanent marker – SHE’S ALIVE.