Thought I Knew You(6)

By: Kate Moretti

He sighed. “Sometimes, if he witnessed a crime, or possibly for money.” He answered cautiously, obviously trying to walk the line between brutal truth and blatant lie. I must have given him the impression I could handle the truth, because he added, “Mrs. Barnes, I have to be completely honest with you. We will investigate this. We’ll track down his last movements, where he was, who he saw, what he ate, and what he did. We may find him. We might figure this out. But very few adult men are kidnapped. Unless you have a million dollar trust fund you failed to mention?” I shook my head. “There’s no motive in that. Money, that’s it. With women and children, kidnappings are frequently religious or sexually based. Or with women kidnappers, sometimes children are taken because the woman wants a child. But for men? What would the motive be? So assuming he’s alive, we have to explore the possibility that he may not want to be found. Do you understand what I’m trying to say, Mrs. Barnes?”

I nodded, too confused to talk. I did understand what he was saying, but I needed him to stop saying it.

The officers left with a promise to follow up sometime in the next day or so, after they had time to initiate the investigation. Mom sat next to me, not talking, with her hand on mine. Next to me, my cell phone trilled. I snatched it up with shaky hands and looked down at the caller ID. Drew. I didn’t feel like explaining everything yet. I hit the silence button, and the call went to voicemail.

Mom asked, “Who was that?”

“Drew.” I motioned to the phone and rubbed my forehead. “I didn’t feel like talking about it.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, but I think I need to be alone for a minute. I’m going out to look for Cody.”

Mom looked surprised. “Oh, my gosh! Where’s Cody?”

I explained about the screen door.

She shook her head. “And he hasn’t come back yet? That’s so strange.”

“I know,” I said wryly. “Seriously, everyone who lives here is disappearing.”

She gave me a small smile, waving me away. “I’ll be here. Just go.”

I walked outside and headed toward the barn. The leaves had begun to fall, and the yard was littered with various seedpods, strewn about like nature’s confetti. I took a deep breath. The crisp air smelled of impending fall, the rotting organic perfume of a changing season.

Greg’s favorite season was fall. He loved apple picking and the pumpkin patch at Halloween. Having children seemed to give Greg permission to indulge in the juvenile fun of Halloween. He was finally able to shake off his hard, serious exterior so he could run up and down the rows of the pumpkin patch, showing Hannah how to find the perfect pumpkin. The stem had to be strong enough to hold its weight, and the sides had to be round and the bottom flat. The shell had to be thick enough to withstand carving, but not so thick that it was too hard to carve. Then we’d take our pumpkins home, and Hannah and Leah would paint theirs while Greg would spend an hour carving a perfect face into a third, using patterns and a small knife kit. I remember marveling at the change in him, his smile wide and open-mouthed, his eyes crinkling behind rimless glasses when he laughed. The gray in his sandy hair reflected the sun, and his face seemed to transform, becoming soft and malleable, where before it had been all hard angles and edges.

I missed him. I missed the idea of him being there, and I was terrified the void was permanent. I began to resent the detective’s implications. Greg wouldn’t leave this; I know that. He was practical and methodical, and he loved his children more than life. Could he leave me? My heart wondered. Maybe.

We’d been less than perfect lately. Before he left, we had a fight—a secret I had not shared with the detectives. Something had been missing lately. We had a broken connection, not beyond repair, but temporary, part of the marital ebb and flow. The subject was raw, as we had clawed at it over and over again. Whenever I tried to bring it up, Greg withdrew, and I became angry, a pattern we never seemed to be able to break.

The day he left, he’d responded differently. “Why do you push this, Claire?” He lashed out, his voice raised as much as he ever yelled, which was to say not very loudly or forcefully. “You don’t accept who I am. You don’t let me just be. I’m always not enough somehow.”

“Greg, that’s not true, and you know it. I want to go back; that’s all. I want us back the way we were a year ago. Something is going on. I have no idea what, but it eats at me. It keeps me up at night. When I lie in bed and look at your back, I want to shake you awake and ask, ‘Why are you a million miles away? Where are you?’”

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