Thought I Knew You(3)

By: Kate Moretti







I put the girls to bed with only a minor inquisition from Hannah about her missing daddy. I waved the question away with a cheerful façade. She let it slide, used to going days without seeing him. After calling Greg again and leaving yet another message, I curled up on the couch for some backlogged DVR. I skipped around, aiming for distraction as I fought the unease that settled in the pit of my stomach. Pulling the blanket up to my chin, I shivered from the end-of-season chill, wishing, suddenly, pitifully, that I had my husband to curl up on the couch with, even though it had been months since we’d done that. Briefly, I considered the irony, the way we’d avoided talking or touching in the evenings, but how when faced with a growing sense of anxiety, I longed for it. When he gets home, we’ll fix this.





I was startled awake at one thirty in the morning. As I sat up on the couch, I remembered. Greg. Was he home? I checked the doors—both still locked. I checked our bedroom—no suitcase on the floor, no Greg on the bed. I checked the garage—no car. I was angry. One lousy phone call. Hi, I’m stuck on a plane. Hi, I missed my flight. I tried his cell phone and left a third message. After I hung up, worry bore down on me, heavy and oppressive.



Taking a deep breath, I logged onto our laptop, which had a permanent home on the kitchen island, and Googled United Airlines, the only airline Greg would fly. From the junk drawer, I pulled out the notebook where Greg always wrote down his flight numbers. The entry for October 1 read, “Flight UA1034.” I typed in the flight number—“On Time.” I called the toll-free number at the bottom of the webpage and asked if Greg Barnes had checked in for the flight. After confirming our address, I was put on hold.

“We have no record of Greg Barnes checking in on Friday. He did check in on Tuesday evening for his incoming flight from Newark to Rochester, and he picked up one bag at baggage claim.” I heard a keyboard clicking. “No, I’m sorry, but it does not appear as though he boarded the return flight UA1034 on Friday morning. Can I help you with anything else?”

The question jarred me. Sure. Can you help me find him? I said, “No, thank you,” and hung up the phone.

I sat at the island, drumming my fingers. Could he have missed his flight? I tried to think like Greg. If he had missed his flight, he would have rented a car. The drive would have only taken four hours, so he would have been home even before the kids’ bedtime. That also didn’t explain the dead phone.

Before I had time to think, I called the police station. A woman answered on the second ring, her tone clipped and official.

“Hunterdon County Police Department.”

“Hi, this is strange, but my husband went on a business trip and was scheduled to be home at one o’clock yesterday afternoon, and he’s still not back.” After I said it, I realized how I sounded. Pathetic. “I can’t get in touch with him; he’s not answering his phone. This is really unlike him. I’m not sure what to do.”

Silence.



“Hello?”

“Would you like to fill out a Missing Persons Report?” she asked, sounding bored.

I heard the sound of a clacking keyboard in the background. “I’m not sure. I mean, I’m sure there’s an explanation, but I’m worried. He’s usually much more… reliable.” I paused, unsure of how to finish, unsure of anything.

“How long has he been gone?”

Not missing, I noted. Gone as in left? “He’s been missing since one o’clock yesterday afternoon. I mean, he left on Tuesday…” I trailed off, and my words echoing back to me through the phone sounded helpless.

“Well, we can send someone out tonight to take a report, if you’d like. Typically, we won’t initiate a missing person’s report for an adult until he’s missing for forty-eight hours and—”

“Forty-eight hours seems excessive,” I interrupted, anxiety tight in my chest. Forty-eight hours was two days. Surely, he would be back before then.

“Ma’am, with all due respect, most husbands or wives who are reported missing choose to be missing. So yes, forty-eight hours is our procedure. By then, maybe he’ll come home on his own.” She no longer sounded bored. She sounded compassionate, and that infuriated me.

The finger of fear inched up my spine. “My husband is not choosing to be missing. It is very possible that something has happened to him.” I felt panicky, nauseous. Zero to sixty. Less than ten minutes ago, I wasn’t even worried.

“I’m sure it’s possible, but in most cases, the spouse returns within a day or two with a very plausible explanation for their absence. You can call us back tomorrow or Monday, if you’d like to initiate a report or if there is a new development.”

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