I go into the living room, Onyx and Jet hot on my tail. I pull up my website, and I’ve gotten a lively set of responses to my post about secrets and lies in relationships. MNborn writes, “My marriage was a hot mess of secrets, mostly on my husband’s part. He was fucking anything in a skirt that moved—but he vehemently denied it if I ever brought it up. It was crazy-making for me—I knew he was cheating on me, but he would never admit it. Talk about gaslighting! He also gambled away his earnings and mine. When I divorced him a year later, I was poorer in the wallet and in friends—because he fucked them—but richer in mental health.” NYOnMyMind muses, “My mother raised me to believe that my first and only goal was to be a wife and mother. That’s all she was, and she was miserable, though she would never say that out loud. My father was a good man, but ineffectual against her rages. He would disappear in a book when she went off on a rant, and I learned to follow suit.” CallMeJoe adds his two cents. “My father was having an affair with my mother’s younger sister. My aunt was barely eighteen at the time. None of us knew for five years, including my mother. We only found out when he left my mom for my aunt, whom he then left a year later for their oldest sister. This was twenty years ago, and me and my five siblings haven’t talked to our father ever since.” InSaneIty shares, “It was an open secret that my mother was in and out of mental institutions for most of her adult life. My father would say she was away at a cousin’s, resting or some shit, but my three sisters and I knew the truth. We could see it in her behavior leading up to the lock-up. She’d swing from mania to depression in the blink of an eye, and she tried to kill herself on more than one occasion. She died five years ago while on one of her ‘rests’. I was sad about it, but also relieved. She was hard to live with when she wasn’t locked up.”
There’s a small group of commenters who insist that their relationships are completely honest, transparent, and free of lies. The other commenters take them to task, but I don’t bother. If someone is deep in denial, it’s dangerous to take that away from them. One thing I learned in Psych 101 was that you don’t remove someone’s coping mechanism if you don’t have anything to replace it with. Even bad coping mechanisms are better than nothing. In addition, who am I to say that they’re lying? I’m sure there are relationships that are mostly honest and healthy, but I haven’t seen many of them. My friend Liz and her husband, Frankie, are as close as it gets to a great relationship. Before the last few weeks, I would have said Jasmine and Bob also had a solid relationship. Now, I know better. It’s not to say they can’t recoup what they once had, but it’s going to take work.
Speaking of Bob, I need to read his emails. The last time I asked Jasmine for his password, however, she got mad and refused to give it to me. She might feel differently this time because she’s more desperate now, but I wouldn’t count on it. I decide to be sneakier about it, even though it makes me feel slimy. I know his Gmail account is email@example.com. My bet is that he’s not very creative with his passwords. I try Jasmine, and I’m in. I make a mental note to tell him to change it later, but for now, I shake off my feeling of discomfort and read his emails. Most of them are mundane and about church or business. He doesn’t have them in folders, so it’s a slog to scroll through them. I see a thread from Hayley, and I open it up. I start from the beginning, which was three weeks ago. In her email to him, she’s whining about her husband and having to stay home with her baby. His response is compassionate and thoughtful, but with a tinge of impatience. I have the feeling that he’s heard it a million times before, and he’s getting tired of it. I would be, too, if I were him. I have little patience for people who want to wallow in their own misery.
I skim a few emails with more of the same. The second-to-last email from Hayley to Bob was from the night before his disappearance. She wanted him to leave Jasmine for her, and she would leave Tony as well. She wrote about her desire for them to be together, and I frown because nothing in their previous emails had suggested that Bob was interested in anything other than being a solicitous friend. His last email to her said that he thought she misunderstood their intentions and that they should talk about it. He suggested the next night, and in her last email, Hayley agreed. She also warned him that if he didn’t do as she wanted, she’d tell Jasmine about them. I go through more of Bob’s inbox, but there’s nothing else of interest. I logout of his account and stare at the screen blankly. This is all I need to verify my belief that Hayley has something to do with Bob’s disappearance. They met the night he disappeared, and he refused to leave Jasmine for her. So, she—what? Killed him? I flinch at the thought, but it doesn’t make sense. If she killed him over a week ago, the body would have been found by now. She must have drugged him and taken him somewhere. Where, though?
I go over my notes to see if there’s anything I’ve missed about Hayley. There is. She and Tony have a cabin ‘up north’! I do a little Googling, and I find that it’s in Stacy, MN, which is only forty minutes out of Minneapolis on I-35W. A frisson of excitement runs down my spine at the information. That has to be where Hayley’s keeping Bob. Should I call the cops and have them check? No. It’d be too easy for her to evade them, so my best bet is to go up by myself. How am I going to get in? I’m going to have to break a window because I don’t have a key. If Bob’s still alive, he probably will need a change of clothes, water, and a doctor. Then again, if Hayley has been visiting him on a regular basis, he could be in decent-ish shape. He has to be tethered somehow, too, so I should bring a knife. I just have to hope he’s not in chains because again, I don’t have a key. I decide to pack a bag of essentials, and Onyx and Jet mew in protest when I move. I get a duffle bag and gather my resources. A hammer, a pair of work gloves, a Bowie knife, and a sweatshirt. I’ll buy some food, bottles of water, and anything else I think of on my way to the cabin. I’ll go after work tomorrow, and I’ll just have to hope that Hayley isn’t there. If she is, I’ll deal with her. I’m guessing she doesn’t have a gun, but I can’t be sure.
Should I tell Jasmine? Not until after I rescue Bob. I don’t want to get her hopes up only to have to dash them again. Should I bring Rembrandt? That’s not a bad idea, actually. I would feel more comfortable having someone with me, but I’m not sure I want to drag him further into my shit and put him in harm’s way yet again. I could ask Lydia. She would be useful in a fight because of her taiji training. I check her schedule, and she has classes at her home studio tomorrow night. She might be able to get out of it, however. I hesitate because I don’t know how Bob would feel being seen by a complete stranger when he’s at less than his best. Then again, going alone would be stupid because I’m not sure what I’ll run into. I’ll deal with Bob’s discomfort when I get to it. I email Lydia, briefly explaining the situation. She agrees to skip her classes and to go with me to the cabin tomorrow night. I thank her profusely, saying I’ll take her out to dinner at a later date to a restaurant of her choice to show my appreciation. I know money is tight for her, so any chance she has to eat out on someone else’s dime is a good thing. She agrees and says she’ll be at my house at six tomorrow night.
I check my blog, and there are more comments on the newest post. SeeSaw says, “My mom and dad have a great relationship now, but it’s taken twenty years to get to this point. When I was a kid, they used to fight constantly. My dad would yell at my mom about something, and my mom would cry for hours in response. About five years ago, my mom gave my dad an ultimatum—go to therapy, or we break up. To his credit, my dad chose therapy. They went three times a week, and though it was painful, they managed to hash out their shit. Now, they hold hands all the time and rarely argue. Is it worth it? You’ll have to ask them.” BoraBoraBora throws in his two cents. “I’m a confirmed bachelor at age fifty-five. When I was in my twenties, my main goal was to get married. I don’t know why as my parents divorced when I was seven. That might be why, come to think of it. I’m a rarity in that my father raised me and my two sisters. My mother never wanted to be a wife or mother, and she showed no interest in us kids after she walked out on my father. I think my desire to marry was to show my father that it could be done. After ten years of that, I gave up. I’m much happier single, and I’m never wanting for female company.” DieselFueled writes, “My parents were never married, but both were active in my life when I was a kid. Other kids teased me for being a bastard, but I never cared. Both my parents loved me with all their hearts. I was an only, so they spoiled me with attention. I never felt any less loved than my friends—in fact, I felt more loved because I had two households in which to find shelter.”
I unwind by watching an episode of Criminal Minds. I like it because it’s a procedural so I don’t have to give it much thought. I can have it on in the background while I do other things, including veg. It’s shallow and often over-acted, and it doesn’t strain my brain cells at all. It’s all auto-pilot, and that’s perfectly fine with me. Onyx and Jet appear to be watching as well, and they hiss at Hotchner every time he appears on screen. I find it amusing as he’s one of my least favorite characters as well, which is probably why they don’t like him, either. It’s not that I hate Hotchner, but I just find him dull and uninteresting. After two episodes, I decide it’s time to go to bed, even though it’s only midnight. I probably won’t actually fall asleep yet, but I can at least rest my body. I take a shower first, then crawl under the covers. Onyx sits on my chest while Jet nestles on my stomach. I tolerate it for a few minutes before moving them to the bed. They meep in protest, but then curl in a ball by my left hip.
I toss and turn for fifteen minutes before giving up. I ease out of bed without disturbing the cats, then go downstairs and outside to grab a quick smoke. I’m jittery now that the case is almost concluded—I hope. I can’t stop thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong tomorrow, and I really don’t want to do something that winds up hurting or killing Bob. Jasmine will never forgive me if that happens. Maybe I should call her after all. I pick up my phone, but then hesitate. If things get tense, she’ll lose her head. I’ve seen that over the past week or so—she’s nervy. I don’t blame her given the circumstances, but that will be a liability tomorrow night. Lydia will be a huge asset, but is she enough to offset Jasmine? Reluctantly, I decide no, and I put my phone in my pocket again.
Once I’m done smoking, I go upstairs and climb back in bed. The cats are dead to the world, and they don’t move a whisker as I snuggle up beside them. I pull out my phone to check the weather. It’s still unusually balmy for this time of year, which means I can delay digging out my winter coat for at least a few more days. I clear my mind of thought, and soon, I drift off to sleep. It’s an uneasy sleep, filled with graphic images of Julianna with her throat slit and her tongue missing. That’s how she was murdered in real life, and it’s even more disconcerting in my dreams. I wake up at four in the morning in a cold sweat, and the cats are nowhere to be found. I’m hungry, so I go downstairs to make myself a turkey sandwich. The cats materialize out of nowhere, and I give them each three Greenies. Once my hunger is satisfied, we go back to bed. This time, my sleep is dreamless.