I don't know how long I sat there. Only that it was long enough that when I finally left it was evening and the lights of the city were on and the sun was gone for the night. I carried my four duffle bags toward downtown, hoping nobody was following me, unsure what to do. Emma's ring clinked against my chest with Travis' dog tags. I had to keep blinking my eyes to keep from crying with every metallic click of them. Finally after walking a few blocks, I sat down on a random brownstone's stoop and tried to collect my thoughts.
First thing's first, I needed to get in contact with someone who could help. I needed Seth or someone else from Emma's precinct. Second, I needed to figure out where the hell I was going since home wasn't an option and I couldn't spend the night on the streets of New York City. I needed to get my cash out of the bank, I needed to find food, a bed. I needed to sleep.
I got up and started walking again. I dialed Seth's phone number and waited as it went to voicemail. "It's Jared," I said, "Call me back when you get this." I walked a couple blocks before I found an ATM, and I withdrew all but twenty-seven dollars of our bank account and rolled it into my wallet, which I shoved under the waist band of my boxers for extra safe keeping now that it was so heavily loaded.
I tried Seth a second time as I walked further downtown, racking my brain for a place to go. I stopped at small cafe by Washington Square Park and I got a couple sandwiches, water bottles, and a bag of chips to go and I walked into the square, scattering pigeons and watching art students create light paintings with their camera shutters wide open in the dark as they played with fire and flashlights. I carried my brown bag of food across the square to a small, dingy hotel overlooking the knoll.
Once I was in the room they'd given me, I fell into the bed, which was probably infested with some sort of terrible disease by the look of it, and I dropped my face into the pillow, too exhausted to even eat the food I'd bought, which lay on the floor beside the floor duffle bags. I fell asleep.
When I woke up I sat in the center of the bed and pulled the bags up beside me. I needed to prioritize, list the things I needed to do, and focus. I needed to get my bearings and figure out how to find Emma. Even if it was only a body that I found in the end, I had to find her.
I ate my sandwiches quickly, going over and over in my head the list of things I needed to do.
First thing, I needed to lose some of the junk that I'd been carrying around for two days in the duffle bags.
I unzipped the first bag and emptied it out onto the bed around me. It was mostly my clothes and a couple brochures from the last vacation we'd gone on, over five years ago, a cruise to Alaska. I tossed the brochures onto the floor. I'd written the body copy of them, that's how we'd gotten the cruise tickets. Em had barely gotten the week off to go. I stacked the clothes next to me and opened the next bag.
This bag was all Em's stuff. I lifted a shirt to my face and smelled her perfume, a light almost buttery smell that was warm and filled my senses with memories of her. I put the one shirt into the pile of my clothes and pushed the rest off the bed onto the floor with the brochures. I unzipped the ends of her bag, rooted through the pouches. I found a folder of paperwork, rolled to fit. The folder curved in a half-circle beside me in the pile of things.
The next bag was the one I'd stored our wedding photo in. I tried not to look at it, because I couldn't look in her eyes and feel the weight of the ring against my chest at the same time like it was burning a hole in my skin. I pushed it face-down into the pile of clothes.
I reached into the bag and my hand landed on metal. I pulled out one of her guns. My stomach flipped over a couple times. I held it carefully across my palms, my skin sweating as I turned it over, staring down at the polished metal. I held it up, studying it close. I didn't have the faintest clue how to work it, despite the several times that Emma had brought me to the shooting range the precinct owned. I fiddled with it a little, careful not to hit the trigger. After a few moments, though, I put it aside, too.
I went on through the rest of the bags the same way, tossing artifacts that were unneccesary to be carrying around onto the floor and stacking up the ones that I needed or deemed impossible to toss away beside me. By the time I was done weeding through everything I'd managed to hem myself down to one of the larger sized bags. I made sure the wedding photo was carefully wrapped in Em's shirt and tucked it in between my clothes for extra safe keeping. Then I took a quick shower, changed, tossed the complimentary bottles of soap and shampoo into the bag. I'd ended up keeping Emma's gun, too, because I felt like I should.
I picked up the rolled folder of paperwork from the bed, the last thing I'd left unpacked, and shoved it into the back waistband of my jeans. I tossed the dufflebag around my neck, letting the bag itself rest against my back, and went downstairs to check out of the hotel.
Out on the street, the usual early morning traffic was honking and whizzing their way through downtown. College kids zombie-walked across Washington Square holding bags with food and cups of coffee. I walked across the Square, tried calling Seth again.
"Officer Lombowski," he answered on the fifth ring.
"Seth. It's Jared. Emma's husband."
"Is it a message from Emma? Hurry, I can't talk right now, man." His voice was low.
"Emma isn't here," I said, "That's what I was trying to tell you yesterday."
There was a long pause, "What do you mean Emma isn't there?"
"She isn't with me," I said, "But I went back to the apartment --"
"What? You mean you guys didn't leave New York?"
"No," I answered, "Well, I left, she put me on a plane to Nashville. We were followed by some guys at the airport and she said she'd join me, but she didn't, and then I came back to find her, and our apartment was ransacked, there was blood everywhere. There was a guy, hiding in the closet, he shot at me, chased me out onto the street. I ran like hell, Seth, but he almost got me a couple times..." I paused, "Seth, she left the spoon ring in the safe."
Seth was one of the few people in the world who would understand what that meant. Emma had explained it to him so that he could bring me the ring if anything ever happened in the field. I heard his intake of breath at the words. He was quiet a moment. "Shit," he muttered.
"Seth, we gotta find her, I need your help."
"Where are you?"
"Washington Square Park," I answered.
"There's a bagel shop about three blocks west of the north entrance to the square," Seth said, "It's called the Bagel Beagle. Go there. I'll be there in twenty minutes." He hung up his phone.
I hurried along the street, and found the Bagel Beagle relatively quickly. It had a sign shaped like a dog with a collar made out of bagels. I went inside, the door jangling loudly as I entered, and threw myself into the back corner booth, facing the door, my duffle bag on the seat beside me, and I waited for Seth.
I pulled the rolled folder of papers from my waistband, ordered a chai tea latte, and opened the folder.
Inside was all the information about the Daniel Gregor case that Emma had access to., and also a pink post-it note, shaped like a star, with an out-of-state phone number scrawled across it in an unfamiliar hand writing.
I flipped through the pages, looking at photos of Daniel Gregor - a young boy with big, bright brown eyes and a gap-toothed grin. He looked about seven or eight years old, wearing an Angry Birds t-shirt in what looked like a school photo. He had brown hair and a small scar on the left side of his jaw. His mother's photo was in the folder too. She had blonde hair and defeated grey-ish blue eyes. Attached to her photo was a police report detailing several calls about domestic abuse and rape charges filed against a man whose name Emma had circled with a green highlighter. Beyond that page was a page detailing the arrest of that man, Ian Mitchell, whose photo was also attached. The booking photo. Ian Mitchell was already behind bars.
I wasn't even a quarter of the way through the folder when the door jangled and I looked up and Seth had come into the bagel shop, his eyes scanning the room for me. I don't know why, but I didn't want him to see that I was looking at the details of the case. I didn't know if it was somehow like violation of some privacy law or something - it probably was - but I didn't want to have to explain myself or worse, have him take the folder away. So I shoved it into my duffle bag as Seth made his way across the restaurant to me.
Seth lowered into the seat across from me at an angle so he could see the door and the rest of the patrons of the restaurant. He looked at me, then back out at them. "So," he said, stretching his arms out on to the back of the booth and the table. He chewed the inside of his mouth. "Tell me everything that's happened."
I stared at him for a long moment. "Only if you tell me everything that's happened."
Seth laughed, "Jared, I can't tell you a whole lot," he said. "The less you know, the safer you are."
"I don't wanna be safe," I answered. "I want to find Emma."
"Yeah, me too," Seth nodded, "And we will."