Emma was sitting on a chair at the dining room table in a pair of sweatpants and a tank top. Her feet were up on the chair in front of her, her arms around her legs, her chin on her knee. She stared off into the living room, a vacant expression on her face. I was putting dinner onto plates. Emma had become nearly comatose thinking, repeating information over and over and over again. She only came home for a few hours a day.
I put the plate down on the table in front of her. "You need to eat," I said.
"I'll eat when Daniel Gregor is safe in his mother's arms," she mumbled.
"If you don't eat you'll never find the kid," I said, "You'll be passed out somewhere from malnourishment."
Emma begrudgingly lowered her feet to the floor and turned to face the chicken cacciatore I'd made. I shook some parmesan over her plate. She looked down at the meal. "You're a chef now, too?" she asked. She looked up at me, "What happened to the typical American family, where the wife dresses up like Donna Reed and the man comes home and reads the paper while she dusts?"
"I think that scene is dead," I replied.
"Wouldn't you rather a nice safe housewife sometimes?" she asked.
I shook my head. "Why? Are you planning to go all Donna Reed on me?"
Emma laughed, "Me? Hell no. I enjoy playing with guns too much." She lifted her fork. "Donna Reed probably couldn't tell you what Glock was."
"To be honest, I can't either."
"That's because you're a good boy," Emma replied, cupping her hand against my cheek. She smiled. "Aw, Jared, honey, you're like my Donna Reed."
"Eat your food," I said, laughing.
Emma smiled and turned to her plate. She spun her fork through the spaghetti, lifted a mouthful, and chewed slowly, thinking. I could see the wheels in her hed moving. She took another bite. At least she was eating, I thought. She took a sip of the milk I'd poured and set out for her. Suddenly, she put the fork down and stood up. "Oh my God," she muttered. "I can't believe I -- oh crap, how did I overlook that?"
I looked up from my dinner. "Overlook what?"
"The obvious." She said, her voice excited. "Oh crap. Shit. Shit. Shit." She rushed out of the room, her feet thundering down the hallway.
I put down my fork, and stood up and went to the door to the hallway. I'd only just gotten there when Emma came thundering back out, dressed in her officer's uniform, clipping her hair behind her head, her hat tucked under one arm. "Jesus Christ, I can't believe I didn't -- I mean what was I --"
"Save my plate," she said, "I'll be back real soon. I'll tell you everything then." She kissed my cheek, and rushed out the door.
I fell asleep on the couch waiting for her. I woke up on the couch the next morning, still waiting for her. I threw away the left over cacciatore and sat down at the table to work on writing the interior text for some cards.
The first one had a couple of illustrated teddy bears. One with glasses was hugging a little one with a bow. I wrote: To a Sweet Granddaughter, with love from Grampa. Your smile makes me smile and your laugh makes me laugh, there's no other granddaughter that I'd rather have. Happy Birthday.
I glanced at the clock. It was after ten in the morning. I looked at the door.
The next card was a close up of a finger painting stick figure labelled Dad with a magnet holding it against a fridge. I wrote: You're my favorite artist, and you tell the best jokes. You have the brighest eyes, and the cutest little nose. I've loved you since you were born, my precious baby girl, and I'll love you everyday, more than the whole world. Happy Birthday from Your Father.
I looked at the clock again.
I couldn't stand it. I was starting to get worried. I picked up the phone and dialed the precinct. "Hey," I said, "Is Em there?" I asked the receptionist, Mindy, who answered the phone. "Or do you know if she's on the field or something?"
"She's on the field," answered Mindy. She paused, "I think they're onto a lead with the Gregor kid. Seth was here a couple hours ago ordering some paperwork from out of state."
"Oh, okay. Thanks Mindy. If you see her stop by the precinct, tell her to call home."
"Will do, Jared," Mindy said.
We hung up and I went back to the table to write some more cards.
It was about three in the afternoon when Emma burst through the front door. Her hair was a mess, her eyes wild. I was in the kitchen, wrist deep in making meatloaf. "Hey," I said, "There you are. Did you find him?" I asked, coming out of the kitchen, holding my meat-covered hands up in the air.
"We need to go," Emma said feverishly. She ran into the bedrom.
"What?" I asked. But she didn't answer. I heard stuff slamming around in the bedroom. I went back to the kitchen, elbowed the sink on and washed my hands quickly. Drying them on the front of my shirt, I hurried down the hall to the bedroom. Emma was inside, throwing socks and underwear from my drawer into a duffle bag on the bed. "What the hell are you doing?" I asked, confused.
"I told you, Jared, we need to go." She grabbed a duffle bag from the floor where she'd dropped a pile of our bags. "Here, start packing." Emma threw the bag at my chest.
"Why? Where are we going?" I opened the bag and went to the closet obediantly, though.
"I don't know yet. We just need to go, that's all." She looked at her phone. It must've been on vibrate because she answered it, though I hadn't realized it was ringing. "Seth? Yeah we're packing." Pause. "No, I think you should be packing, too. Don't be stupid. They'll come for you, too, the same as they will for me." Pause. "I had to get Jared." Emma looked over at me. She turned and went to the window.
I kept tossing stuff into the bags.
"I don't know how much they know we know," Emma said. "I'm not even sure how much we know." She sighed. "Seth, promise me as soon as you get those papers --- Okay. Okay. I'll see you at the meet-up point." She hung up.
"What is going on?" I asked. I could hear the hint of fear in my voice this time.
Emma's eyes were serious, "Jared, I can't explain yet. I will as soon as we're out of here, I promise." She opened her sock drawer and pulled out the gun she kept packed there. She loaded it, clipped the safety on and looked at me. "Jared," she said, "Make me a promise?"
"What is it?"
"If something happens, run."
"If something - anything - happens to me, you will run."
"What the hell is going to happen?" I asked.
"Jared, just promise me."
I stared at her. "Okay," I said, because her eyes were fierce and serious and had just a tinge of fear in them that I didn't often see. "I promise," I said.
Emma nodded. She pulled off her police uniform top and threw it to the floor, grabbing a tee shirt from the closet, which she pulled on violently. It was an old concert shirt from the mid-90s when I'd taken her to see the Backstreet Boys. She shimmied out of her uniform pants and tugged on a pair of shorts. She plunged the gun into the waist band at the small of her back, tucked her police ID in with it, and pulled the shirt over it. The tour dates bulged just a little bit with the bulk of the gun.
She zipped the bag she'd been working on filling.
"This is going to have to do," she said. We had four bags full of clothes. She grabbed our wedding picture from the nightstand and pushed it into one of the bags. She looked at me, her eyes on fire. "Jared," she said, "I love you."
"I love you, too," I said.