He remembered it being cold that day. First day of Spring and ice cold, not uncommon in North Carolina. The state was known for its erratic weather patterns. One could experience all for seasons over the course of a week—14 degrees on Sunday, 70 by Thursday. He’d seen it happen more than once.
He remember laughing at the forecast as he dressed for work that morning. A high of 39 after such a warm February. Trees budding early, pollen already upsetting allergies, people wearing shorts and flip flops despite the groundhog predicting six more weeks of winter.
He remembered misplacing his service weapon. The case he had been working on for the last three months was getting to him. Five-year-old girl missing. Drug addicted mother suspected of selling her into sex slavery for a hit. The night before, he and Spence chased a lead all the way to the Virginia border. Black male, long dreadlocks with gold tips, fitting the dealer’s description, entering the woods behind a park with a little girl in a pink floral Sunday dress. Emerging a little over half an hour later alone.
In collaboration with the local police department, they swept that park until well past midnight, brought the hounds, half the town, the father and his family from Texas. No luck finding a body, or any trace that the little girl had even been there. It was disheartening for everyone, to be so close and still not find any answers, but what upset him more was that father. How he could leave his daughter in the hands of someone clearly unfit to be a parent.
The mother’s addiction didn’t start overnight. He remembered interrogating her back at the station. How she looked—skeletal—her words incoherent, sentences choppy, laughing at her own flat jokes, referring to random events in her past that had nothing to do with the case or her daughter, not knowing her own daughter’s name. How it was so easy for her to sell her child to the devil for a day’s high. This addiction sprung from years of seed taking root. The father knew this, and left anyway. As far as Frank was concerned, he was just as responsible.
After calling it a night due to darkness and fatigue, he remembered taking out his handcuffs, threatening the father, decking him hard in the jaw, ended up spraining his hand pretty badly because the man was built like a linebacker.
Spence dragged him home after that. He remembered crashing on the couch, waking up what seemed like minutes later to bright sunlight and his cell phone’s obnoxious ringtone.
“Don’t tell your mother I forgot our anniversary,” he remembered his father had said.
“Aw, Dad, at your age, I think she’ll forgive you,” he’d said laughing. He rolled to his side, found the floor, and balancing on the arm of the couch, pulled himself up to his feet.
“Remember, you gotta get this old one day.”
He remembered he flicked on the bathroom light, studied himself in the mirror. His disheveled hair, the ring on his cheek from how he slept on the couch. “With this job, I don’t think I’m gonna make it to that age, old man.”
“Bad news on the case?”
“Worse news is no news.” He sighed, squirted toothpaste on his toothbrush and ran it under the faucet. “At this point, we’re looking for a body. I just hate that his happened to a little girl.”
“We all do, son. She didn’t deserve this. There’s a special place in hell reserved for people who do that to children.”
He held the phone away from his ear and spat into the sink, then took a towel from the rack and wiped his mouth. When he finished in the bathroom, he said, “Yea, well they better hope I’m not the one to send them there, ’cause I’ll make sure it’s painful.”
He remembered they were silent for several minutes. Frank noticed his father’s heavy breathing on the other end and asked if his sleep apnea was getting any better. Of course the old man denied ever having a problem.
“I’ll probably be over tonight after work, around six. If nothing new happens with the case.” Frank said later.
“Don’t rush. I’m gonna run over to the floral shop, see if I can’t buy your mother some flowers.”
“Anything but roses.”
The old man chuckled. “Funny, I can remember she’s allergic to roses, but I can’t remember our blasted anniversary.”
“You remember what you want to, old man.” It was the last thing he said to his father before they hung up.
He remembered first reporting his missing service pistol that morning when he arrived at the station, figuring he must have lost it back in Virginia, after all the chaos of the scuffle. Then he had a meeting with the captain to discuss the consequences of his behavior. The father was threatening to sue, said Frank broke his jaw. Unbelievable. He could barely hold a pen long enough to write a report, but he had managed to break the man’s jaw.
He remembered there were no new leads that day. After all the promising evidence in Virginia, they found nothing. The suspect got away. The girl was still missing. He left the office an hour earlier than he expected. When he got to his parents’ home, his father had yet to return from his run to the florist that morning.
Written for the A to Z Challenge. This year, I’m getting a head start on planning my novel for NaNoWriMo. Prologues, character sketches (2) and monologues, brainstorming, outlines, backstories (read more here and here). In today’s post we take a break from Leslie and Gregory and look deeper into the disappearance of Detective Maye’s father. Stick around as I try to figure out what the heck I’m going to write in November!