Lanie's Last Day
Heavy energy filled the house that morning. I dismissed the strange feeling as nerves.
I was leaving and I wasn’t coming back. I planned to go quietly, postponing the inevitable nasty confrontation. My husband was busy at a new job site in town. Our son was at school until noon. An early morning car swap with my sister made me feel powerful—I was retaking control of my life.
Wade was sloppy. He left a bracelet in his work truck. Pink, sparkly crystals peeked out from under the floor mat. It looked like something a teenage girl would wear. I hid it under the lining of my jewelry box. It was the first of his lies I could touch. I wanted to keep it safe.
Naively I believed my husband was put on this earth just for me. We met in grammar school. Wade always took care of me even when we were children. He was charming, handsome, and reliable. Whispers caught my attention over the years, but I felt protected by the idea of the great love I was so sure we shared. Blindly I dismissed everything.
My sister advised me not to leave. She told me to ignore the late nights and be grateful my good provider came home to me eventually. She’s older, never even married, so I didn’t value her opinion. In hindsight, I should’ve listened.
I packed what I thought I couldn’t live without in my sister’s truck and parked it on the road at the end of the driveway. Our home had been in my husband’s family for generations. I knew I would be the one leaving. I hopped out of the truck, closed the gate and heard the dry leaves crunch under his boots.
“Hey, Sugar. You’re donating your suitcases to the church?”
“No, Wade, I’m not,” I answered curtly.
“Why are you out here with Sissy’s truck? She in the house?” I slid my hand into my pocket and brought out the bracelet.
Sunlight bounced off the glittery crystals in all directions. The expression on my husband’s face changed from confusion to disbelief. A strange, cold stare hardened in his eyes, crinkling his lids.
“Lanie, where did you find that? I froze. He called me sugar, sweetie, mama, or baby. He never called me Lanie.
“It was on the floor of your truck. I’m not sticking around to see what I find next. I can’t even look at you anymore.” He had me by the wrist and into the driveway before I could blink.
“There’s nothing to separate you from me but death. You heard the preacher,” Wade growled.
“You’re an idiot. You can’t force me to stay. Let go. You’re hurting me!” Wade grabbed my arm tightly and pulled.
“Can’t leave well enough alone? Should’ve never gone looking. Some things aren’t for you to find.” He stopped dragging me once we reached the old hunting shack.
For decades, the wood outbuilding was used to gut and skin animals after a hunt. The structure fell apart, but the door had a shiny new padlock. He kicked it open.
It was dark inside. Power to the south acreage was cut years ago. The old meat refrigerator still sat in the corner, rusty with age.
“Have you lost your mind? I’m not going inside that filthy place. It smells like rotting deer.”
The business took all of his time since he bought the new drilling rig. He hadn’t been hunting in years. There was no reasonable explanation for the fresh, pungent smell of death.
News stories began to replay in my mind. Three young women had gone missing in as many months. One was last seen at a rest stop outside of town wearing blue jeans and a white top. All three disappeared without a trace.
“What have you done? What the hell have you done?” My head was spinning with dark scenarios.
“This isn’t what I wanted. You can’t see it. Nobody can see it!” Wade kicked new dents in the old refrigerator as he ranted.
The floorboards of the shack cover a deep well designed to hold decomposing animal carcasses. One large animal, one sack of lye, a few shovels of dirt, and time does the rest. The breeze shifted the clouds. Sunlight crept past the doorway and lingered over gaps in the floorboards.
I looked into the pit and saw crumpled denim piled atop flesh.
Terrified, I bolted. I was small, but I was fast. Wade tore through the shack doorway as I reached the gate. I fumbled the padlock shut to slow him down.
My inner voice was screaming, “Move faster!” The excitement of escape let me believe I would see my child again.
The key was in the ignition when I saw him hop the gate and drop to the dirt. The motor was running. Glass shattered everywhere. I was on the pavement with the back of my head split open. Wade slung me over his shoulder. His body shuddered underneath me as he began to sob.
This was not the man I loved. A wild man growling incoherent gibberish grabbed at my shoulders. A sickening thought crossed my mind. We hadn’t spent a night apart since I was seventeen. I laid next to him after he killed those girls—I never suspected a thing.
My body crunched when he dropped me on the floor. Wade hovered close, his breath on my neck, a horrible pain sliced into my stomach. Planks dragged across the dirt. I begged, but my husband was absent from the creature, shoving me into the pit.
“Our little boy?” I pleaded.
“Stop talking! I need to think. I have to hide everything.” Wade fell to the ground and laid next to the hole.
Crying out was useless. There was no one around for miles. Escape was not possible. Eventually, the sunlight retreated, leaving me in darkness. Something took away my pain but left my resolve.
I will torment him, visit him in his sleep. I will remind him of what he has done to me. Later, once his days have ended, I will be there to collect his soul and drag it to whatever fiery pit God will provide.
“You can’t hide from me anymore, Wade. I see you. When you close your eyes. I’ll be waiting for you.” It was my last breath on this earth, but I think it was well spent.
Months went by before I made my way back to find him. It was winter, and Wade was a sight. His veins were filled with drugs as he feverishly hid a fresh victim. I settled in for a long stay in the corner of the living room, but the authorities took him into custody a few weeks later.
His last victim was a strong woman. She knew she made a mistake as soon as she got out of his truck. The unfortunate thing believed she found a man to grow old with. The woman wasn’t planning on being attacked. My warnings were ignored as the wind creaking the old floorboards. But once he punched her in the face, she began to listen to me.
I gave clear instructions. “Get up! Run hard, make it to the road, and you will live.” She did well, and now Wade is tucked away where he can’t hurt anyone again.
The house and property are quiet these days. Mourners come and walk the land, thinking they can find something fifty or more lawmen couldn’t. I understand their need to find their babies—I can’t see mine. I haven’t ever figured out why.
I hear about him in my sister’s thoughts and from the woman he now calls mother. She loves him too much not to be given the honorary title. But I can’t seem to ever find him myself.
Maybe someday he’ll find my remains. Perhaps they will heal his heart, and I will be able to check in on him from time to time.
My days are pretty set. I see Sissy and help her get started in the mornings. A few of my old friends need help. I point out the beauty of their lives in subtle ways and share in their happy moments.
Every night I come back to visit the pit before I visit Wade. Like I mentioned before, I’ve never spent one night away from the man since I was seventeen. I don’t plan on giving him any peace now.