DICE

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The News

“Jesus Christ, Penelope,” Deena mutters, stunned as she continues staring at the screen. “He killed her. He fucking killed her because he got her pregnant.”

Her face, frozen in pure panic as her terrified eyes read the scroll at the bottom of the screen.

“Dee, that’s a stretch,” I reply in a breath, praying for all of my screaming instincts to be wrong. “Right?”

She turns to face me, grabbing my hands from my lap and gripping them in hers. “Pen, the night he came back from the party, you said he showered. Remember?” she asks, her words suddenly sounding all breathy like mine.

My mouth is dry and my face feels numb. It can’t be.

“Where were his clothes? You said he came back that night, drunk as ever, took a shower, and you couldn’t find his clothes. T-the clothes.”

“Yeah,” I say breathlessly.

My mind retraces those steps I took that morning. I emptied the bin in the bathroom, not seeing any new articles of clothing. No suit from an extravagant party anywhere to be seen. I only happened to fall to floor because of my OCD and see that bloody pocket square. The one that wasn’t meant to be seen.

“Oh fuck, I think I’m going to pass out.”

I fall back onto my ass, gripping the edge of the coffee table as my vision becomes cloudy. A white noise floods my head as my heart pounds into my ribs.

The bloody pocket square. Blood. Her blood.

“Jesus, Dee,” I say, holding the air in my lungs. “He fucking killed her.”

My mouth drops open, but words are no longer forming.

“Hold on. Let’s run through this,” she says while looking down at the carpet, putting her hands up in an attempt to gain some clarity. “You found a gold earring in your bed...”

“Correct,” I answer cautiously as she replays everything we’ve discussed.

“He hate fucks you...”

I narrow my eyes, wincing at the comment.

“What?! He did, and you allowed it.” She scoffs in disappointment.

Rolling my eyes, I groan in frustration.

“He hate fucks you, you get in a fight, and he promised to go to therapy the next day. He calls and scheduled a meeting for you guys at the therapist, then never showed...”

“Right.” I nod, edging her on.

“He never returned that night. Came home smelling like booze and took a shower. All of this after the party he declined to tell you about, the one in which he was pictured at. With the missing women. Who wears the exact gold earring that was left in your bed that you can’t seem to find anymore.”

I swallow nervously and nod.

“You show up to his work today, finding a napkin, placing him at that party with a handwritten note from her to meet him later, with an added whore-ish kiss mark.”

I tip my head, glaring at her.

“Now she’s missing, and apparently pregnant, all while your husband is yelling at you about you trapping him with a baby, telling you you can’t divorce him, and finally, catching you in his office behind his desk, knowing his little cotton kiss was within inches of his unassuming wife.”

My eyes scan the room as my thoughts run wild.

“Do you...do you think he thinks I know?”

Her eyes squint slightly as she scans my face. “I fucking hope not.”

We both jump out of our skin when we hear pounding at the door.

Dee blows air through her lips, clutching her heart.

“It’s the pizza.”

“Fuck, it’s the pizza,” I say, wrapping an arm around my waist. “I forgot about the pizza.”

All of this has me jumpy and paranoid.

She walks towards the door, turning to face me with a shrug. “Us girls gotta eat, right?”

Knocks boom through the cheap apartment door again, startling her. She straightens immediately. My heart races as I sit up higher in my position from the living room. She turns to look back at me, her candy-red hair tossed down her back, a questionable glance on her face when the knocks hit again.

“Penelope?! Are you in there?” Tom’s voice echoes through from the other side and I stand abruptly, clutching the edge of my sweatshirt in my sweaty hands.

Deena takes a deep breath and, with a new and determined face, opens the door only enough for the chain lock to open.

“What do you want, Thomas?” she snaps at him.

“Is Pen here? Did she come here? Have you seen her?” he rushes the words from behind the door.

“Why?” she retorts with an attitude. “You’re a busy man, Tom. I’m surprised you even noticed she wasn’t home.”

“C’mon, Dee, after all we’ve been through...” he begins. “I’ve confided in you and you in me. Don’t do this to me now. I need her.”

Confided in you and you in me? Guess I should be happy to know someone was there for him, too. It makes sense now; her giving me reason and understanding when we were talking about his lack of handling the situation. I know he reached out to her. She’s the closest link to the woman who closed up on him.

She sighs, leaning against the frame, saying something inaudible.

I walk closer towards the door, curious to hear the conversation, when she turns to face me.

“You know you can always stay here if you feel more comfortable,” she whispers, sensing my panic. “Just throwing that out there.”

I can’t go home with this man tonight. He’s desperate, anxious, seemingly upset, and may have had something to do with the disappearance of Samantha.

“I’m staying here,” I declare, peering my head through the door crack.

Thomas sighs with relief at the sight of me. He runs his hands through his overgrown, dark-brown locks. His facial hair is already growing out, and it appears those circles beneath his eyes that he was already sporting have deepened. I can smell the lingering scotch in the air wafting off him.

He’s relieved, even though I basically just denied him. Just knowing I’m here seems to have given him some comfort. He was probably worried I’d already gone to the police.

Nodding, he leans forward against the door frame, placing his face as close to me as he can. The move makes me uncomfortable. He registers this and pulls back, looking down at his feet.

“I guess I’ll just go home then,” he mumbles in a deep tone. “Maybe we can talk tomorrow? We need to talk, Pen. We haven’t even talked about all this and I really need someone to talk to right now.”

He’s losing it. Clearly drinking or already drunk. He looks like a man who needs to get something off his chest but can’t. A murder, perhaps? I stand there staring with my mouth hanging open, words stuck in my chest.

“I have an order for delivery,” a large man behind Thomas says, making him turn then step to the side.

“Just remember I love you, Pen.” Thomas tries to push near the door again, but Deena closes in behind me like a watchdog, protecting me. “Please come home tomorrow so we can talk. You need to come home. I need to talk to you.”

The desperation in his tone is attempting to render me useless, but Deena isn’t hearing it. She will not have her friend broken down like the weak bitch I once was. I’ve never been more grateful for her fierceness.

“She doesn’t want to talk right now,” Deena scolds. “Go home so I can get my food.”

She sounds tough, but I hear the slight shake in her tone. She’s fearful of him, knowing what he’s capable of. And for Deena to be fearful, well, let’s just say that doesn’t happen often.

He steps back, allowing the pizza guy to move forward. Looking at me one last time, he pleads with his eyes, using all the force he can with those magical blues to beg me to reconsider.

I close my eyes, needing to turn away from the achingly painful moment. One I’ll have etched into my mind all night.

The man I used to love is capable of things I’d never thought imaginable.

***

The next morning I wake to Deena planted next to me on the edge of the couch. She’s staring at the television, holding the remote in her hand as her face wears a layer of horrified concern.

I rub the sleep out of my eyes, sitting up on the couch and pulling my blanket up over me. The one thing I forgot about staying with Deena, the crazy bitch, loves to keep it cold in her apartment. I used to joke that she’s a sweaty heifer with the way she enjoys the cold, but my twig-like arms can’t take it.

I shiver as I roll up next to her, grabbing my glasses from the coffee table and sliding them up my cold nose. I squint as I see the images on the screen, my stomach dropping all over again as the reality of yesterday catches up with me.

The headline reads that Samantha Witmore’s body was found last night. Mutilated. Her insides spilled out onto the grass where a search team found her. She was near the river, body hidden under brush. Someone had slit her throat, then proceeded to gut her insides like a deer.

Dropping the blanket, I hadn’t realized I was standing before I ran to the bathroom to lose the contents of my stomach. I hold the porcelain toilet, hanging my head as my body shakes around it.

“We have to do something.” I hear Deena before I noticed her approach. Her tone is slow and steady, as if she needs to remind herself to breathe as she thinks. “Pen, he knows you found that napkin. That’s why he came here last night.”

Thoughts swirl like the vomit as it goes down with the flush.

My husband is a murderer.

“It’s the only thing that makes sense. The pregnancies, the evidence, his need to control the uncontrollable...he’s dangerous.”

“What are we gonna do?” I ask, finally pulling my eyes up to hers. “I have to do something.”

She’s clutching the door frame as she leans against it in her sweats, looking down at me, her eyes wincing. She’s scared for me. I can see what her mind has already envisioned. My face up there next to Samantha’s as the next missing woman found mutilated.

“He begged me to go home. He would’ve dragged me had you not been there. Did you see the look on his face last night?!” I shriek.

“He’s too calculated to have messed this up. They’ll never catch him.” Her eyes search the tiny space as if the answer is hiding somewhere along the pink tile of the outdated room.

“What are you suggesting? We take matters into our own hands?” I ask sarcastically.

“I think we have to, Pen,” she replies, a sadness in her tone. “For her.”

I swallow before standing. Washing my mouth out in the sink, I drench my face in the cold water that doesn’t seem to reach me anymore.

She was pregnant, like I was. Her first child. While I’m still suffering internally at the fact that my husband cheated on me, there’s a piece of me that can connect with Samantha. Was he lying to her like he was lying to me? I can’t imagine being pregnant by another woman’s husband is something anyone could be proud of. What were the lies he was spewing to her while trying to “fix” our marriage?

“This sick fuck gutted her of that baby,” Dee mutters in disgust, wrapping her hand over her mouth.

Her freckled face contorts as she paces again, her hands pulling at her fiery hair.

“I can’t—” I lose my breath, needing to drop my head as my hands brace the sink while the world beneath me spins.

“We have to think of a plan.” She walks the hallway, breathing hard as she does. I push up off the sink, following her back out into the living room. “We can’t let him get away with this. I won’t let him hurt you next!” Her voice breaks as she balls her fists tightly.

“Dee, I’m scared. Maybe we should just tell the police—”

“Tell them what, Pen?!” She spins, startling me. “That you had an earring, but now you don’t? That your husband came home bloody and his clothes are missing? That there used to be a napkin with a kiss on it that suddenly vanished into thin air, because your husband is a calculated murderer who’s already gotten rid of any and all evidence since he knows you saw it?”

“Fuck!” I cry out. “What’s the plan?”

She taps her finger on the counter she’s standing near, peering around her kitchen desperately until her eyes fall to a drawer. Making her way to the drawer, I follow her, gripping the edge of one of the barstools as I look on.

“We get to him before he gets to you,” she mutters with determination, continuing to dig through the drawer before her.

“And how do we do that?” I ask breathlessly.

Opening the drawer, she slides a few things aside, making a clattering noise as her hand finds a burnt orange prescription bottle. She turns, holding it up near her face with her middle finger and thumb. She finds my questionable gaze, her blue eyes light with resilience. A determined confidence. The kind I desperately seek at the moment.

“We make him talk.”

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