My wife, Kerrie, is afraid of the dark. We had always slept with the bathroom door open, so the light would illuminate our room just enough for her to fall asleep. Not so long after my father’s passing, a new fear was born. When she couldn’t sleep at night knowing that I kept his Benelli M2 shotgun locked up in our safe, I knew that I had to pass the gun down to my younger brother. Scaredy-cat. That’s what my brother’s kids call her. Something as little as a balloon pop could send her heart straight out of her mouth. So, when she was found by a trained hunter’s dog deep inside Tenebris forest, I was caught off-guard. The forest is primordial. Centuries-old trees populate there with sprawling limbs guarding the darkness. It’s the very kind of darkness my wife can’t stand. Deep inside the Tenebris forest, is where Kerrie’s petite body was discovered by the cops. Her hand embraced the very thing she feared. A gun.
I must look like an idiot right now. My tie knot is asymmetrical and my shirt is not fully tucked in. When I burst through the doors of the hospital where Kerrie has been admitted, one hand clenching a cup of black strong coffee, my other hand typing furiously on my phone. My brother’s wife, Sherly, wants the directions to the hospital. A few minutes before coming to the hospital, I got a call from Kerrie’s mother saying she’ll be staying over at our place until Kerrie gets better. I’ve also been receiving messages and calls from people I could swear I haven’t met before, enquiring about Kerrie’s state. It’s surprising how fast news can travel.
Last night when I wanted to stay in Kerrie’s room through the morning, I was told that I couldn’t. Not until they’ve done tests and the nurses and doctors wanted to take the whole night to run these tests on Kerrie. I crush my chest into something. My shoulders hunch over a nurse as half of the coffee in the cup spills on my shirt. I stare down and a nurse is staring back. “I’m really sorry, ma’am.” My tone comes out groggy. I haven’t been able to sleep the whole night, my mind had been working like a broken recorder, going over the same thing over and over again. The nurse flares her nostrils at me and continues walking in her direction. I sigh and tuck my phone in my pocket to haul out my handkerchief, as I take bigger steps, on my way to the emergency room where Kerrie was admitted last night. She was admitted to the emergency room because even though she had a pulse, her body was extremely cold. I wait for the soft beep to alert me that the elevator is ready while roughly wiping my shirt where the coffee had spilt. Once the elevator slides open, I hop inside, glad to see it’s empty. I push the button to take me to the second floor, and continue wiping my shirt, aggressively. Kerrie’s room is two doors away from the elevator. As I am about to open the door to Kerrie’s room, I can hear voices mumbling coming from inside the room. When I swing open the door, the room is occupied with two gentlemen in black suits. To my surprise, Kerrie is awake.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” The man with oily brown hair inquires.
“For the hundredth time, my husband took us out to a restaurant last night.” Kerrie’s voice is strained and she sounds like she is about to cry. Why is she lying that I took her out last night?
Kerrie’s attention immediately cuts from the men in black to me. It’s the same look she gave me on our very first date back when we were in college. That’s the day I changed my mind from never wanting to have a kid to wanting to have at least three kids with her.
The men in black start to acknowledge my presence after Kerrie. “You must be Mr Stanford.” They flash their badge in my face. “I am detective Dave.” The oily brown haired man points at himself. His wrinkled skin suggests he’s been on Earth for a long time. Under his eyes, there are dark bags of what? stress, too much cases to solve? I have no idea, but he looks like the kind of man that is in a war. “And next to me is detective Phillips.” He nudges the young lad beside him. The blonde young man looks like he could be around the same age as me. “We’re here to ask your wife a few questions,” Dave continues, looking down at my shirt where I’ve spilt coffee; then at the cup in my hand.
“Lovely pattern on your shirt.” I catch the sarcasm in his tone so I reply with a “Thanks.”
He redirects his gaze back to Kerrie, and begins speaking in a lower tone. “Mrs Stanford, if there’s someone you’re protecting, you will never be safe again because the person will strike again and you might not be so lucky to be alive the next time someone finds you.”
Kerrie is still looking at me. “Chase...What am I doing in a hospital? I can’t remember what happened before we left the restaurant last night.” She shrugs, wearing a dazed look of confusion on her face, slowly morphing into panic. I stare at her with concern.
Last night someone ,found you in the woods, Keri. What do you mean I should tell them where we were last night?
"Chase, tell them where we were last night.” She repeats herself. My chest tightens. I catch Detective Phillips in my peripheral busy taking down notes.
I don’t know what to say. Yet again, Kerrie has my heart racing.
“In fact, yes. Tell us where you went after you left the restaurant.”
I swallow the bile in my throat. “What are you saying, Kerrie? You were not with me for two weeks, remember? In the last two weeks I had no idea where you went until they found you last night.”
“So your wife left and you didn’t go down to the police station to report her as a missing person?” Dave interrupts before Kerrie can respond to me.
“My wife left a note behind explaining why she left, detective. I didn’t see a need to inform anyone about why she left.”
“I mean if I was married for four years and my wife had to disappear, leaving a note behind, as a concerned husband, I’d still report her as a missing person.”
“Leave.” I gesture for the door, feeling my face getting hot. “It’s too early for this. My wife needs rest.” After a while, unwillingly, they turn and head for the door.
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