“What the…?” Jenna Matthews looked up from her homework when she heard the garage door open. She got up from her desk, which was positioned against the wall opposite her bed, and walked to the window overlooking the front yard.
Jenna’s father’s black Ford F-250 truck was backing into the garage. Looking at the black sports watch on her left wrist, Jenna noticed that it was four o’clock. Her father should have been at work. His shift at the Evansville City Police Department started at two o’clock. What was he doing home?
Shrugging, Jenna went back to her homework. She couldn’t care less why her father was home. The two of them had never gotten along, and with only a few weeks left until she graduated high school, Jenna was just biding her time until she could leave.
Caroline Marshall, her girlfriend, Cara’s mother, told Jenna she could come and stay with them over the summer until she and Cara left for college in the fall, but Jenna declined the offer. Her father would use it as an excuse to mess with Cara’s mom. He’d stop her for stupid reasons to give her tickets as retaliation for helping Jenna get away from his house.
Jenna wished that her mother would leave too, but Darlene Matthews was too afraid of her abusive husband to risk it. The plan in Jenna’s mind was for her to talk her mom into moving to Bloomington, Indiana where Jenna and Cara were going to go to college at Indiana University. Jenna was pretty sure that her mother would leave if she could go to another city. Jenna was hoping that being close to her in Bloomington would be enough of an excuse for her mother to finally get away from Michael Matthews.
The garage door closed and Jenna heard her father leave. She wondered what he was doing home in the middle of his shift. She looked at her watch again. He’d been there less than ten minutes. Curiosity plagued Jenna until she finally gave in and went downstairs to the garage to see what her father had been doing there.
Jenna made her way through the kitchen and went out the utility room door that opened into the garage. The garage was her father’s domain and she wasn’t supposed to be in there. Michael Matthews was a mean man who ruled over his household with a quick insult and a quicker hand. It was nothing for him to slap Jenna or her mother at the slightest offense. Being in the garage would definitely get her slapped if her father found out, but Jenna was careful not to touch anything.
She’d been in the garage many times. It was part of the game of defiance Jenna played with her father. She did little things to defy him that he rarely found out about. Jenna was naturally tomboyish, but her father refused to let her wear any kind of clothes that might give her a boyish look. When Jenna was away from the house, she pulled her long dark blonde hair up into a ponytail and wore a ball cap with the bill facing backward. At school, she would ditch the white Vans sneakers for a pair of black Nikes that Cara had bought her for Christmas. All small ways to defy him.
The other thing Jenna liked doing to defy her father was to explore his garage. She never touched anything because she knew he would figure out that she had somehow. It was just fun to study the power tools and just be in the one place her father forbids her mother and her to go in their house.
At first, Jenna didn’t notice anything unusual, but she had a feeling her father had brought something home. She wasn’t very familiar with the police department rules, but usually, when her father stopped by the house during his shift, he would be in his patrol car. The fact that he had been in his truck was weird. Jenna ran her eyes over the room trying to see if anything new stuck out when she noticed that the lock on her father’s private freezer was not fastened. This was an extremely unusual circumstance.
Besides not being allowed in the garage unless her father sent her out there to get something, which was rare, the freezer was off limits period. Her mother had bought a bunch of meat one time and was going to put some out there, and her father gave her a severe beating for touching the freezer. After that, he put a lock on it and made it very clear that no one was to touch it.
Seeing the lock undone was too much of a temptation. Jenna always wondered what he kept in that freezer that was so important that no one but he was allowed to touch it. She looked at her watch. Four forty-five. Surely, he wouldn’t come right back. She glanced at the closed garage door and rushed to the freezer. This would be her one last hurrah of defiance before she left this house for good. Carefully noting how the padlock was hanging from the hasp on the freezer, Jenna carefully took the padlock off keeping it in her left hand. She lifted the freezer lid with her right.
She received a blast of frigid air in the face. “Wow! That is cold.”
Frowning, Jenna studied the freezer’s contents, a large black bag. She’d seen this type of bag before on a TV show. It was a coroner’s bag. “What the hell?” she murmured.
Looking over her shoulder nervously, Jenna debated with herself about what to do next. Her father probably just had an illegal deer in here. He’d gone wild turkey hunting over the weekend, but he would have shot a deer despite the fact that deer hunting season had been over for months. But why would he put it in a body bag?
Jenna chewed her lower lip. She understood the saying “Curiosity killed the cat,” because she was dying to open the bag and see what was in there. Her father would kill her if he figured out she’d been in the freezer. Reminding herself that she didn’t have time to fool around she went for it. Jenna grasped the zipper at the top of the bag and pulled. What she saw made her jump back.
“Holy shit!” she gasped and leaned closer to make sure she was not seeing things. She jumped back again when it appeared that the lifeless blue eyes of the young woman were staring at her.
The image of the woman close to Jenna’s age would be forever burned into her brain. Jenna couldn’t stop herself from taking a closer look once she got over the initial shock. The woman’s platinum blonde hair lay against her shoulders as her sky-blue eyes stared at nothing. She had been a pretty woman with a pert nose and full lips.
Realizing the enormity of the situation, Jenna carefully zipped the bag closed, shut the freezer door and hung the padlock exactly the way she found it.
Quickly scanning the room, she made sure that she had not left any trace of her invasion into his space and went back into the utility room. The garage door had not been locked. Jenna’s father had put such a fear in her mother and her that neither of them would dare go into the garage without permission, except Jenna when she was in a defiant mood. Her father never worried about locking the door and that was the only reason Jenna had been able to explore the garage without her father’s knowledge.
Looking around the utility room, Jenna spied a washrag that had fallen between the washer and dryer. She picked it up and wiped down the door and door knob.
The weight of Jenna’s new knowledge made each step she took toward her bedroom seem heavier. What was she going to do? She had to tell someone.
“My God!” she whispered as the realization set in. Her father had a dead body in his freezer. Did he kill her? Probably, Jenna thought, he was totally capable of it.
When she got to her room, she picked up her phone. She wanted to call Cara and tell her about it, but she didn’t want to get Cara involved. Jenna paced her room with her phone in hand. Who could she call? Obviously not the Sheriff’s office, her father would hear it over the radio. He’d be here and kill her before the first police car could arrive. Maybe the city police. No, Terry Howard would find out about it, and he used to be her father’s best friend. He’d call her dad right away. The Indiana State Police, they would have to do something. But what if one of her father’s hunting buddies got the call. They would call him.
“Shit!” Jenna hissed. What was she going to do?
Jenna paced her room for a good fifteen minutes before deciding to call the FBI. They were a federal agency and as far as Jenna knew her father didn’t have any friends in the FBI. She had to take the chance. Someone had to care that a police officer had a dead body in his freezer.
Going back to her desk, Jenna opened the browser on her laptop and looked up the FBI’s phone number in Indianapolis and called it. The first person Jenna talked to took her information and put Jenna on hold while she located her supervisor.
A serious sounding man came on the line and asked her to explain what was happening. Jenna told him about finding the body and who her father was. The man listened and then asked, “Who did you say your father was?”
“Michael Matthews. He works for the Evansville City Police Department. I’m not positive what he does, but it has something to do with patrolling areas where there are a lot of drug crimes,” Jenna explained.
Jenna could hear the man saying something to someone in the background. “Jenna, where are you now?” the man who had identified himself as Special Agent Robert Fletcher asked.
“I’m at home,” Jenna said.
“Good,” Agent Fletcher said. “I have some people in the area. An agent by the name of William Defoe is going to come to your house. Do not leave and do not tell anyone else about what you found. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Jenna said, truly becoming afraid. “How long until they get here?”
“They will be there in the next hour. They are in Owensboro right now,” Agent Fletcher said. “I want you to go to your bedroom and stay there. Pretend like nothing out of the ordinary is going on. Okay?”
“Okay,” Jenna said nervously.
Agent Fletcher gave her a number that would go directly to him. “Call me if your father shows up before my team gets there.”
“I will,” Jenna promised.
Jenna was now hyper-aware of every sound. She tried to go back to working on her homework, but couldn’t concentrate. The sound of the garage door opening again made Jenna jump. She looked out her window and saw her mom’s car back into the garage. Jenna looked at her watch. It was a little after five-thirty. Sometimes her mom came home on her lunch break, but that wasn’t usually until six, and her mom never parked in the garage. Something was up. Even though the FBI agent told her to stay in her room, she wanted to see her mom. She wanted to tell her about the body.
Racing down the stairs, Jenna’s heart was pounding. Her mother was going to flip out when she found out about the body. She opened the garage door and stopped dead in her tracks. Her father was shutting the trunk of her mother’s car. Before it closed, Jenna noted that the body bag was in the trunk.
“What the hell are you doing in here?” Michael Matthews snapped.
“I…I thought Mom was home,” Jenna stammered.
“Well, she’s not. Get your ass out of this garage,” he barked.
“Yes, sir,” Jenna said, spun on her heel and ran back upstairs.
In her room, she started pacing. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” she whispered. She’d screwed up going in there. Jenna didn’t think he’d seen her look at the body bag, but she would definitely be getting an ass chewing for going out there when he got home tonight. And then she realized the FBI was going to get there and think she was playing a prank on them because the body was gone.
She tried calling the number Agent Fletcher gave her, but it went straight to voicemail. Jenna paced faster. What was she going to do? God, she was so screwed!