TEN: AN ICY LUMP
ELYSE JORDAN PACED A groove in her kitchen floor. She checked the clock, checked her phone, then checked the clock again. She’d been at it for thirty minutes now. It was over an hour past midnight and Oliver, her husband, wasn’t home.
She had tried his phone the last time just ten minutes ago. She hadn’t gotten so much as a ring. Instead it had gone straight to voicemail as if he had turned the phone off. Her emotions went from anger to fear to worry to panic and then started all over again.
It was unlike Oliver to be late, and on the rare occasions he’d had to be, he’d always called. But not tonight.
That didn’t sit well with Elyse. Something had to be wrong.
Elyse had been twelve when she’d first met a thirteen year old Oliver Jordan. His family had moved in across the street the summer before her Seventh Grade year at Walter Wayne Junior High. He had been an awkward boy; she’d seen that right away. She remembered sitting on her porch those many times that summer and watching him shoot baskets in his driveway. Looking back she had to admit that he’d spent more time missing the basket and chasing the ball down the driveway then he did actually scoring any points, but he’d always given it a hundred percent, she could at least give him that much. But watching him out there every day, he had seemed such a lonely boy. He had no brothers and no sisters, just his mother and father, and she’d never seen much of either back then.
His father had spent most of his time at the office working nonstop at the law firm of West and Allen. His mother, well, she had been out a lot too, spending the loads of money his father made. She’d shopped often, and had spent most of her time at an upscale beauty parlor in the city where she would get manicures, pedicures, and spa treatments. At least, that’s what she’d recalled overhearing her Mom telling her Dad on more than one occasion.
Oliver had lived across the street for most of the summer before the two of them had even so much as talked. That day had come in the middle of one of the worst thunderstorms Garrison had seen in generations. Tornadoes—plural—had been sighted on the ground near their suburb and her Dad had shuffled Elyse, her Mom, and her three younger sisters into the basement where they all had huddled around a battery powered radio. Her Dad had been passing out granola bars from their emergency kit when the doorbell rang.
“What the?” her Dad had said, standing on the stairs to the basement. “That’s the doorbell.”
She smiled at the thought. Her Dad had always had the uncanny ability to state the obvious at every opportunity.
She’d been afraid when her Dad had left the basement to get the door. There could have been all sorts of horrible weather-related type injuries that might have befallen him, and each one had blown through her head as she had waited at the bottom of the steps with her Mom and sisters.
But it had been just moments later when he’d returned, and he had not been alone. Following closely behind had been that awkward boy from across the street: Oliver Jordan.
She smiled again as she recalled how embarrassed he had looked, his eyes locked to the ground as he and her Dad had entered the basement.
“Who’s this, Frank?” her Mom had asked.
“Family, this is young Oliver Jordan.” He’d held his arm out to the boy as if the kid was a prize on the Price is Right. “The Jordan’s are the new family that moved into the old Flannigan place across the street.” Again with the obvious. “He’s going to ride out the storm with us.”
It was then, she remembered, that her Dad took her Mom aside to talk as Oliver stood there, still looking at the floor.
Elyse had shuffled closer to hear what the two were saying.
“He was all alone over there,” her Dad said. “His father is at work and his mother is out.”
“Out?” her Mom cocked an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” her Dad said, a look of disappointed judgement crossing his face. “Shopping. The boy looked more than scared when I’d answered the door.”
At that, her Mom had taken Oliver in hand and made him feel at home. From that point on, the boy had become a regular at the Blake homestead. Dinners, movie nights, and birthday parties, Oliver had always been there.
To Elyse, Oliver had started out as a major annoyance in her life. Eventually, that annoyance had turned to friendship, which in turn had become something more in High School when Oliver had screwed up his courage and asked her to the Prom. Up to that moment, she hadn’t even realized that she had been harboring her own secret feelings for Oliver Jordan. But when they had kissed on the dance floor that night... Well, the word ‘skyrockets’ comes to mind whenever she thinks back on it.
The memory of that kiss brought her another smile as she made her fifty-third circuit of the kitchen. Then her gaze found the phone and the warm feelings of memory quickly turned back into anger.
Where was that man?
She figured that Oliver had let the battery on his phone run down. Again. Oliver was always forgetting to plug that thing in. He must have stopped to bring home food, a late night snack, and was stuck in line at the drive-thru at whatever fast food place he had chosen.
This was the logical answer. It had happened only once since Oliver had started working nights, but that didn’t meant that it couldn’t happen again.
Of course, he could also be hung up because of a battle between Mighties. That happens often enough these days that their countless battles are included in the morning traffic report. She just wished he would call. Of course if Mighties are involved, there could always be collateral damage. That thought alone brought her emotional pendulum swinging back to fear.
The fear, the worry, and the panic, it had all originated from the same place: The Unknown.
While there was the logical side of her brain telling her that her fast food theory was probably the right one, the icy lump in the pit in her stomach had been threatening to take control.
What if something had actually happened to Oliver? Bad things happen to people all the time. What if he’d been mugged? Carjacked? Assaulted? Murdered?!
Her logical side took up a defensive position and fought the icy lump back. But still, she couldn’t manage to stop herself from pacing.
If only he would just walk through the door, that embarrassed smile on his face, apologizing the moment he walked in, a logical explanation for his lateness falling from his mouth before he could put down the greasy bag of burgers from Burger Buddy. She would be angry at him, but she would forgive him at the same time. She would forgive him just because he was alive, and because she loved him. If only he would just walk through the door.
That’s when the doorbell rang.
The doorbell? She thought. At One in the morning?
That could only mean something bad. She couldn’t move. Ice filled her veins and kept her in place. The doorbell rang again, followed by a rapid and forceful knocking on the door. That got her moving.
“Who is it?” she called out from the front room.
“Garrison PD, ma’am,” said the voice from the other side of the door. “Please open up.”
She looked out through the peep hole and saw a man and woman on her stoop. They both wore suits, and each held a badge up for her to see.
Not good at all.
She slid the chain lock open, disengaged the deadbolt, and opened the door.
“Are you Elyse Jordan,” the female detective said.
“May we come in?” the male detective said.
“I’m sorry,” Elyse said. “What is this about?”
“Mrs. Jordan, I apologize,” the female detective said. “I’m detective Pryor, and this is Detective Dwonch. We’d like to talk to you about your husband.”
“Oliver?” Panic got hold of her and she shook. “What’s wrong?”
“Could we come in please, Mrs. Jordan?”
“What has happened to my husband!?”
Detectives Pryor and Dwonch gave each other a knowing look before Pryor spoke. “Mrs. Jordan, I’m sorry, but we don’t really know.”
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