What do you do when you’re in a toxic relationship? Do you stay and continue to be abused or do you risk it all to start a new life?
All Grace ever wanted was someone to love her. Growing up in the foster care system, dealing with a drug addicted mother, and not knowing who her father was, left holes that she thought could be filled with the love of a man. Lloyd appeared to be what she needed. He had his own business, and he was more handsome than any other man that had looked her way. Little did she know, there was more to him than what the eyes could see.
Between the beatings, rapes, cheating, and neglect, her new life offered more pain than her old one had ever brought her. Now she was pregnant. How could she bring a baby into a life that she would have never chosen for herself? Maybe a baby would change him? Maybe being a father would make him less of a sadistic narcissist or maybe he would get worse.
Grace must now decide, does she stay and make her life work, or does she take a chance and start over?
“Hello,” Lloyd said. “Is this Keith?”
“Yes,” Keith answered. The call came from his co-worker Grace’s phone.
“This is Lloyd,” he said. “Grace’s husband. Did she come into work today?”
“I haven’t seen her,” Keith answered hesitantly. He knew of Lloyd. He had only met him once, but he didn’t like him. Grace was Keith’s “work wife”. They had lunch together and talked often. There was nothing sexual between them, but Grace confided in him about her relationship with Lloyd.
“Her computer is here,” Lloyd said. “I’m getting worried. She went out for her walk this morning, but she hasn’t come back. If you hear from her, please call me. My cell number is 678-586-5895. As you can see, I’m calling from her work phone.”
“Yeah,” Keith said. “If I hear anything, I’ll give you a call.” He hung up.
Lloyd hung up the phone and headed to his car. He pinged the location of Grace’s phone and started the engine. Grace left to go for her daily walk at six thirty. She was usually home by seven forty-five because she had to clock in by eight. It was nine and she wasn’t home yet. Grace worked from home. She processed claims for a major medical company. Lloyd never liked her working outside of the house. They had been married for two years and he wanted to start a family. He said, if they were to have children, she couldn’t leave them everyday to go to some damn job. When her job gave her the opportunity to work from home, the decision was made for her when Lloyd found out.
Lloyd drove out of the housing complex and followed the GPS along the path that Grace took. There was no sign of her anywhere. He stopped at the convenience store on the corner and questioned the attendant. “I saw her like clockwork earlier,” the attendant smiled. “She waved as she passed.” Lloyd walked out of the store and stood in the parking lot scanning the area. What could have happened to her? Where is she?
He got back in his car and continued to follow the GPS. The ping stopped in front of an abandoned building. He parked, go out, and examined the area. He walked around in front of the building. He felt something break under his feet. Bending down he picked up a pair of broken glasses. They were Grace’s glasses. His heart sank. Pulling his cell phone from his pocket, he dialed the police.
Lloyd waiting, sitting on the hood of his car, until the police arrived. The cop was an overweight, white guy. He got out of his squad car with his pen and pad in hand. He wobbled over to Lloyd. “Hello sir,” the cop said. “What seems to be the problem?”
“I can’t find my wife,” Lloyd said. “She left for a walk this morning around six thirty and hasn’t been back since. I tried calling her phone, but it’s going straight to voicemail. Then I found these here.” He handed the police the broken glasses. “These are hers.”
“What made you come here?” the officer asked suspiciously examining the glasses.
“I have a tracker on her phone,” Lloyd said. “It led me here.”
“Hmm,” the officer said, not buying the story Lloyd was selling him.
“Look,” Lloyd said getting angry. “My wife is missing. I need you to do something.”
“Sir,” the officer said. “Maybe your wife left you. I’m sorry to say, but sometimes these things happen.”
“My wife didn’t leave me!” Lloyd said raising his voice. “She knows better.”
“She knows better?” the cop said looking at Lloyd.
Lloyd took a deep breath. “What I meant to say was. She would never leave me. She loved me and I love her.”
“You said she “loved” you,” the cop said. “That’s past tense. Sir. What did you do to your wife?”
“I haven’t done anything,” Lloyd shouted. “Would I have called you if I did something to her?”
“Yes,” the cop said. “To cover your tracks.”
“Look officer,” Lloyd said between clinched teeth. “I called you to help me find my missing wife. She left home this morning and hasn’t been seen since. I just need your help.”
“Looks like to me,” the officer said. “You have a problem with your temper. Maybe your wife made you angry and you hurt her. Crime of passion and all. Let me help you son. Tell me what’s going on.”
“I told you!” Lloyd said getting enraged. “My damn wife is missing!” Another squad car pulled up. The officer jumped out of the car and ran over to his fellow officer. Lloyd’s hands were waving, and he looked aggressive.
“Sir,” the second officer said with his hand on his gun. “I’m going to need you to calm down.”
“Calm down!” Lloyd shouted. “I’m telling this mutherfucker that my wife is missing, and he’s trying to say I killed her or some shit! Do your damn job! Find my wife.”
“Sir,” the second officer said. “Calm down.”
“You know what,” Lloyd said walking towards them. “You bastards aren’t worth the tax money I pay. You,” he said pointing his finger in the first officer’s face.
“You’re under arrest sir,” the second officer said grabbing Lloyd and pushing him against the squad car.
“Under arrest for what?” Lloyd screamed.
“Threatening a police officer,” the officer said. He put the cuffs on Lloyd and escorted him to the squad car. Lloyd was yelling obscenities as he was placed in the back of the car. The officer walked back over to the other officer. “That guy has some serious anger going on. What do you think happened to his wife?”
“The way he’s behaving,” the first officer said. “I think he killed her.”
“I’m going to run him in,” the second officer said walking to his squat car. “Make the report believable.”
“You know I will,” the first officer said.
“Thank you for coming to bail me out,” Lloyd said to Pat. Pat and Lloyd had been friends since the womb. “I don’t know why they put me in here anyway.”
“I’ve told you for years to watch your temper,” Pat said.
“What was I supposed to do?” Lloyd said. “I’m telling them Grace is missing and all they can do is blame me. What kind of bullshit is that?”
“You know the husband is always the primary suspect,” Pat said. Pat was an attorney.
“Well,” Lloyd said getting his belongings from the guard. “I just need to get home. I need to find out what happened to Grace. I’m going crazy man.”
“You ever thought...” Pat said. Lloyd stopped in his tracks and turned to face his brother.
“Thought what?” Lloyd said walking close to Pat. “Oh. You’re thinking like them. That she left me. Ain’t no way in hell Grace left me. No way.”
“I’m sorry man,” Pat said. Ever since they were kids, Pat always backed down to Lloyd. Lloyd was more domineering and vocal. Pat was low-key and tamed.
“Let’s just go back to that building,” Lloyd said. “I know there has to be something there. There has to be.”
“Excuse me,” the officer that arrested Lloyd said. Lloyd’s hand clinched into a fist. “I need to ask you something. Is this your wife’s cell phone?” the officer held out an evidence bag.
Lloyd snatched the bag from his hands. “Yes,” Lloyd said. “This is her phone. Where did you find it?”
“At the building you were at this morning,” the officer said with sympathy in his voice. “We also talked to a few of your neighbors. They noticed your wife leave for her walk this morning.”
“So now you believe me,” Lloyd said.
“Yes sir,” the officer said apologetically. “I need to ask you a few questions. Follow me.” He led Lloyd and Pat to a desk in the middle of the Squad room. “Have a seat. I’m Sergeant Peet” He reached out to shake Lloyd’s hand, but Lloyd refused. He pulled out a notebook and grabbed a pen from the cup on his cluttered desk. “So. When was the last time you saw your wife?”
“It was around six fifteen,” Lloyd began. “She got out of bed and I watched her put on her sweat suit. She kissed me on my forehead and headed out the door.”
“Is that her usual routine?” he asked.
“She started walking about two months ago,” Lloyd said. “She’d gained a little weight and wanted to get it off. She changed her eating habits and everything. She even went and saw a nutritionist.”
“Is there anyone that might have wanted to hurt your wife, or you?” Sergeant Peet asked.
“No,” Lloyd said. “She worked in insurance. She just moved her about three years ago. She didn’t know anyone besides her co-workers. Her parents aren’t in her life and she was an only child.”
“I know this is a hard question,” Sergeant prefaced. “But was your wife having an affair?”
“Hell no!” Lloyd spat. “There’s no way she would cheat on me. She knew better.” Patrick placed his hand on Lloyd’s shoulder to calm him down.
“Okay,” Sergeant Peet said scribbling something on his notebook. “Did you two have a fight recently? How was your marriage?”
“Our marriage was fine,” Lloyd said. “We didn’t fight. I just need you to find her. That’s all. Just find her.” Lloyd got up and walked towards the exit with Pat on his heels. He stopped at the door and looked back at the officer. “Find my wife,” he said and walked out of the precinct.
“What do you think?” Officer Banun who was listening asked Sergeant Peet.
“I don’t know,” Officer Peet said. “But what I do know is that man has a serious temper. I wouldn’t be surprised if she left him or he killed her.”
“What are you doing?” Pat asked. Lloyd was throwing clothes out of Grace’s closet. He had ransacked the house.
“Looking for something,” he said. “Anything.” He walked over to her desk and riffled through papers. He opened her laptop and searched the files and emails. “There has to be something. Something to tell me where she could be.”
“Something like what?” Pat asked. “If she was kidnapped or……I’m just saying there wouldn’t be any evidence here.”
“What about where they found the cell phone?” Lloyd said grabbing his keys. “Maybe they missed something.”
“Lloyd,” Pat said grabbing his shoulder. “You have to let the cops do their job. I know you’re scared, but you have to let them find her.”
Lloyd plopped down on the chair with his face in his hands. “If something happened to her……. I don’t know what I’ll do. I don’t know if I can handle this.”
Pat walked over and sat beside him. He put his hand on his back. “You’ll get through this. We’ll get through this. Grace was like…. I mean Grace is like a sister to me. We’ll find out what happened.”
“And bring her home,” Lloyd said looking at Pat with bloodshot eyes. “You forgot to say and bring her home.”
“And bring her home,” Pas said not believing a word he just spoke. “Why don’t you lay down for a couple of hours. You need to relax. I’ll call your job and tell them what happened. I’ll call mom too.”
“Rest?” Lloyd said. “How am I supposed to rest with her out there somewhere? How?”
“Just lay down,” Pat said. “You don’t want to be sick when they find her.” Lloyd reluctantly shook his head and walked slowly up the stairs to the bedroom.
“I don’t know,” Pat said on the phone a few minutes later. “He’s taking it pretty hard. I know. This is different. I’ll talk to you later,” he said and hung up. “Lloyd! I’m going to go grab you something to eat. I’ll be back.”
“Breaking New,” the television blared. “Police officers found what appears to be a 3-month fetus in the park on Riverside street yesterday. Authorities are unsure if there is foul play involved or simply a miscarriage. So far no information as to the mother identity or whereabouts.”
“Who cares?” Lloyd shouted throwing the remote. “My wife has been missing for two weeks and no one knows a damn thing!” The doorbell rang. Lloyd walked to the door. He looked out the peephole. There were two officers standing at the door. He flung the door open hoping they’d found Grace.
“Mr. Sharpe?” one officer said.
“Did you find her?” Lloyd questioned. “Did you find my wife?”
“We need you to come down to the precinct,” the officer said. “We have some new information on your wife’s disappearance.”
“Why didn’t you just call?” Lloyd asked. “I’ll get my keys.”
“Sir,” the officer said. “We’d like you to come with us.”
“Am I under arrest?” Lloyd asked.
“No sir,” the officer said. “We just think it will be better if you ride with us. That’s all. You’re not under arrest. An officer will drive you home.”
“Okay,” Lloyd said confused. He didn’t trust them, but if they had some information on Grace, he wanted to know what it was.
The ride to the precinct was quiet. The officers didn’t speak and despite Lloyd’s numerous attempts to get them to tell him what was going on, they said nothing. When they reached the precinct, the officers led Lloyd to an empty room. “Sergeant Peet will be in shortly,” one officer said and closed the door. It seemed like hours before Sergeant Peet finally walked in the room.
“How are you today?” Sergeant Peet asked.
“I’d be better if you tell me what you found out about my wife,” Lloyd said.
“You said you and your wife weren’t having any problems. Is that right?” Sergeant Peet asked.
“I told you,” Lloyd said getting upset. “We had no problems.”
“What about children? Do you have any children? Did you both want children?” Sergeant Peet asked.
“No!” Lloyd said. “We didn’t have any children and we both wanted children. What is this about?”
“I don’t know if you’ve been watching the news, but a fetus was found in Riverside part,” Sergeant Peet said.
“Yeah,” Lloyd said. “I saw it. What does this have to do with my wife?”
“You said your wife started walking about two months ago,” Sergeant Peet said reading his notes from his notepad. “You said she’d gained some weight and started eating healthy.”
“Yeah. So.” Lloyd said.
“When your wife was a child,” Sergeant Peet began. “she was in the foster care system. We have her fingerprints on file and her DNA.”
“The fetus we found….” Sergeant Peet said. “Well. I don’t know how to tell you this, but it’s your wife’s.”
“My wife’s what?” Lloyd said confused.
“The fetus belonged to your wife,” Sergeant Peet said. Lloyd jumped up and the chair fell to the floor.
“No fucking way,” Lloyd yelled. “She would have told me. There’s no way my wife was pregnant. Run the test again.”
“We’ve ran them three times,” Sergeant Peet said. “It was her baby. We also found hair and blood that matched your wife. We can take a sample of your blood and verify that it was indeed your child.”
“Let’s do it then,” Lloyd said. Sergeant Peet walked out to get the lab tech to draw Lloyd’s blood. Lloyd’s mind was reeling. Grace was pregnant and she didn’t tell him. What was going on? The tech came in and took a sample of his blood. The sergeant told him it would take twenty-four hours to process the blood sample. Lloyd wouldn’t let the officers drive him home. He called Pat.
“I can’t believe Grace was pregnant,” Pat said as he drove Lloyd home. “I would think she would have told you.”
“Unless it wasn’t mine,” Lloyd said.
“What?” Pat said. “Grace wouldn’t cheat on you.”
“If she did,” Lloyd said. “She better hope she’s dead.”
“Really,” Pat said in disbelief. “For the last two weeks you’ve been crying and leading search parties to find her and now if she cheated on you, she better be dead.”
“Yes,” Lloyd said between clinched teeth. “She better pray I was the father or when I do find her….” Pat shook his head in disbelief. “Why the hell you shaking your head? Pull the damn car over. Pull over now.” Pat pulled the car over. They were in front of the housing complex. Lloyd turned to face Pat. “You think I would be happy to find her if she were carrying another man’s baby. Really! That bitch better pray that baby was mine.”
“Something is seriously wrong with you,” Pat said shaking his head.
“Say it again,” Lloyd said threateningly. “Say something is wrong with me again.” Pat took a deep breath and held his lips together tight. “That’s what the hell I thought.” Lloyd opened the car door, got out, and slammed it shut. He walked off towards his house.
It was two thirty the next day when Sergeant Peet called Lloyd. “Mr. Sharpe. This is Sergeant Peet. I’m calling to give you the results of the DNA test.”
“Yeah,” Lloyd said.
“The baby was yours,” Sergeant Peet said. “And it was a boy.” Lloyd held the phone for a moment and then disconnected the call