Friday — April 10, 2020: The Morning Of

-Chase Kramner-

Darkness greets me when I open my eyes. Darkness so profound, for a moment, I believe my eyes are still closed. My head is throbbing, like I was struck on it. While it probably was, I know this feeling and what it’s from. This is the headache you get when you get taken down by a carotid choke hold. My late friend Nathan White demonstrated this restraining technique during a combatives class. If done correctly, the suspect will be unconscious in seconds.

I notice my wrists are restrained behind my back, but my feet are free. Not like you can tie down a man with one leg. I’m in a tight, dark space. And I’m moving. Tires are running over a road. I hear the vibration and rumble of an engine that kicks a little from not being driven for so long. I’m in the trunk of a car.

Is it my car? I roll and kick to size up my space. Not my car, this trunk is too small. There is a small lip to the back of the back seats. A narrow space barely large enough to crawl through. Something circular shaped it near my face. It’s where the spare tire goes. After establishing a few basic dimensions of my confinement, I know exactly where I am.

I’m in the trunk of a 1964 Buick Skylark.

The ropes at my wrists are tied well enough to contain me. I’m confident I can free my hands if given enough time, but I don’t know how much time I have. My fingertips can touch them, so I feel the texture. Nylon. Deck rope. It has some give, but not enough to tug my wrists through even after rotating them back and forth several times.

The terrain changes, and I feel us driving uphill, steep, and I roll backwards. We’re not on a road anymore. I hear crunching and small rocks flying up and hitting the under carriage. The car levels off, and I slide back to the center. The brakes screech to a stop, and the driver’s door opens. I hear a second car come to a stop behind me.

“Put it in neutral and push,” a voice says. My head is still fuzzy, and the speaker is muffled from the barrier between us. “You kept the car like a dumbass for a decade, don’t care why. Clean up your mess. Then get his car out of here. Don’t fuck it up this time.”

What the hell happened? My brain is still buffering back to life. I can hear the gears shift and the door close. Hands slap the top of the trunk, and I feel movement again. It starts going down a slight downgrade.

The car goes faster, and faster, then suddenly, I feel like I’m floating. Oh shit.

The car slams into the water, and I bounce around like a pinball. The car drops the rear hard, staying wheels up, and I’m throttled again. I groan in pain from the collision that knocked the sense back into me. I remember how I get here. I don’t have time to celebrate as the car sinks beneath the surface.

Monday – April 13, 2020: Three Days Gone

~Midge Appletree~

This morning I am jolted awake by my four-year-old body-slamming me. I grunt from the force of him landing on my back and pressing all the air from my lungs. It takes me a moment to realize what is happening before he starts laughing. Adjusting my head so the other cheek is on the pillow, I see my alarm isn’t scheduled to go off for another twenty minutes. Who needs an alarm clock when you have a hyperactive toddler?

“Battle!” he declares.

“Cease fire,” I say, and pull the blanket over my face. Shawn pushes against me when he jumps to land between Gianna and me. He pulls at the blanket to find my face, but I hold it firm.

“Mommy, battle,” he says in the voice only a disappointed child has.

“I surrender. The war is over,” I mumble. I blame Shane for his persistence. Shane gets him all riled up, and the first few days after spending a week with his father is this. Shane has the energy to engage in battle. I don’t. At least not without coffee. Daddy is fun, but Mommy is tired.

“Battle!” I hear from the door of our room. I pull the blanket down enough to see Wendy at the door. Shawn stands up on the bed, and I feel him jump off to tackle his sister who catches him. I hear them leaving the room to resume the war elsewhere.

“That woman is a goddamn lifesaver,” I say to Gianna, who I assume is also awake after that display of childhood.

“She’s still my little girl,” Gianna says, sitting up in the bed. She puts her elbow on the pillow, propping her head upright. Her gorgeous eyes blinking the sleep away.

“Keep telling yourself that,” I tease, and finally submit to the day. “I’m up.”

“You wanted a baby. I warned you,” she says with a cheeky grin.

“I know,” I say. I am wholly responsible for my sleep being disrupted.

I cancel my alarm, and then stand up to stretch life into my body. A shower is first, so I undress with the bathroom door ajar. While the water warms up, I look at myself in the mirror. Since having a baby, my body has changed, because that tends to happen when you’re pregnant. My weight snapped back like a rubber band, which pisses Gianna off. It took her nearly a full year to lose her baby fat each time. Not me. Back to one hundred and ten pounds, and I even got some boobs out of the deal. I’m not a cutting board anymore. Now I’m a cutting board with two grapes on it.

The water runs over my body for a few minutes before I grab the loofa and bodywash. Lather and rinse, and then my hair is cleaned with a dual shampoo/conditioner, which my wife says is heresy. Because my hair is short, I don’t have to worry about the lengthy process of drying it off while styling it. I wrap a towel around my body, tucked into my newfound cleavage, and I enter the bedroom.

Gianna is now sitting up while doing something on her phone. Her long crimson hair is resting on her shoulders like a bonfire. The morning sun is pouring in from the window, and her hair glows. My wife is so sexy in the morning.

“What’s your day looking like?” Gianna asks, putting down her phone to talk to me.

“Still teaching the operational security class at the academy,” I reply while rummaging through my drawer for my boy shorts. I’ve always preferred them over normal panties.

The shorts are pulled up to my waist from under the towel. My shirts and pants are on the same hanger, so I take a set off the pole and lay it on the bed. My breasts still don’t justify a full bra, but I have invested in sports bras. The towel drops to the floor so I can continue getting dressed.

“Don’t get dressed too fast,” Gianna teases me.

“What’s on the schedule for you?” I ask.

“Hopefully not fishing a condom out of a guy’s ass,” Gianna says. The glamorous life of an ER nurse. “Not the weirdest thing I’ve had to dig out of someone’s rectum.”

“Just don’t ask me to smell your finger,” I say, making her laugh. I cover my breasts in the sports bra and then slip my undershirt on. I remove the dress shirt from the hanger. The bottom of the shirt cuts off at my upper thighs. If I lift my arms, my shorts are visible.

“Don’t move, that’s the look,” Gianna says. She is now biting her lip and suppressing an antsy giggle. I wish I had the time to do something with that.

“I’ll have to remember that,” I say. I step over to her, leaning over her body to kiss her. Gianna grabs the collar of my shirt and pulls me closer. I climb on the bed and straddle her.

My hands hold her face as we kiss. Her hands touch my sides and glide up my shirt and over the bra. She slips her thumbs under the bra and pops my tits out. Our lips disengage, and I feel her warm lips on my nipple.

“We don’t have time,” I wince.

“Make time. You’re the teacher,” she says as her mouth moves to my other breast. Her fingers start rubbing the outside of my shorts, and I grab her hand. “You okay?”

“It’s not that,” I say, making sure she knows it’s not my boundaries. “I need to be on time because I’m the teacher.”

“I hate how responsible you are,” Gianna says in faux pouty voice.

“One of us has to be,” I say, then tilt her head back to kiss her before I resume getting ready. I button up the shirt and then tuck them into the pants after I pull them up my legs.

“Locked door tonight,” Gianna declares as I sit down to put my socks on.

“They can knock all they want,” I say, and then kiss her one last time before leaving the room.

It sounds like all the kids are up already. Shawn typically wakes up first because that’s just what a four-year-old does. Wendy is home for her college’s spring break. Preston and Wesley are fighting over something stupid by the sound of it. I trot down the stairs and look at the commotion from the third step. Wendy is playfully being chased by Shawn around the island cabinet while Wesley and Preston are going at it.

“Midge,” Wesley says, and I turn toward the living room. “Tell him he needs to give it back.”

“I don’t have your stupid retainer,” Preston says. Wesley got a retainer last year rather than braces. He’s somewhat indifferent and not self-conscious about it. He’s just self-conscious about everything else.

“Someone took it. Only you would,” Wesley snaps back.

“Why would I take something you drool on?” Preston asks. Fair question.

“It wasn’t in the upstairs bathroom. That’s where I always put it. Just give it back,” Wesley says, nearly in tears.

“Where’s the last place you saw it?” I ask to calm him down. He’s still sensitive and cries easily. I don’t have the heart to tell him junior high is going to be rough unless he phases out of that.

“In the bathroom,” he says.

“Which bathroom? I remember you cleaning it after dinner last night,” I say, and a lightbulb turns on above his head. Wesley runs into the downstairs bathroom, and low and behold.

“Found it!” he shouts to us.

“Told you I didn’t take it,” Preston says, annoyed at the accusation. Wesley comes back with his retainer in his mouth and puts its case into his backpack. Their spring break is next week unlike their sister. She already told us she’d happily watch Shawn for us. Saves us a lot on daycare.

“Wes,” I say after I finish coming down the stairs. “You accused your brother, and you were wrong.” I don’t have to tell him anything more than that.

“I’m sorry,” Wesley says.

“Whatever,” Preston says, and I grab his arm as he walks by me. He exhales and faces his brother. “Apology accepted.”

“Thank you,” I say, and let him go. Preston may tower over me now, my forehead being to his chin, but he knows who is in charge.

With that dispute settled, I go to the kitchen to prepare my coffee. I remember when Wesley used to have a cup ready for me. He doesn’t love me any less, but the manner of which he chooses to express it isn’t as obvious.

“Remember when I was the troublemaker?” Wendy asks. I place my tumbler under the dispenser and close the machine on a new K-cup.

“When exactly did you stop?” I ask, and she laughs.

Wendy turned out incredible in the end. Preston is the moody one now. Wesley is just older and grew out of always trying to be my favorite. I knew it would happen, but I certainly miss not having to make my own coffee.

“You sure you want to watch him?” I ask Wendy as my coffee starts pouring. “I can still drop him off in daycare and you can enjoy spring break like a normal girl.”

“He’s my brother, I don’t mind,” Wendy says, picking him up and resting him on her hip. “All my old friends aren’t on spring break, and Jesse is still in New York.”

“I thought you two broke up,” I say.

“We keep telling ourselves that, but every time we try to just be friends,” she says, using finger quotes with the hand not holding her brother. “We still end up sleeping together.”

“Anyone else you’re into?” I ask.

“At school?” Wendy asks, and I shrug. “No, not really. It’s still just Jesse. I just…I don’t know if I’m wasting my time with him.”

“Jesse is a good guy,” I say, and she sighs.

“He’s not the only good guy though,” she says.

“Good guys are few and far apart. That’s why I’m trying to raise three more of them,” I say, and playfully bop Shawn on the nose. He giggles and reaches for me to hold him. Wendy hands off my little guy, and I raspberry the meat of his neck, making him laugh while trying to stop me. “Battle’s on little dude.”

“Stop,” Shawn laughs.

“Never,” I say and make a sound like a dog while pretending to bite his neck. I’m already tired. Shane is the kind of guy who can do this all day. He was born to be a dad. Some days, I feel like I was born to be an aunt. “You gonna have fun with your sister today?”

“Mmhmm,” Shawn says with childlike rapid head nods.

“What are you guys gonna do?” I ask.

“Umm…I dunno,” he says with his shoulders hiked up.

“We have a day planned, don’t you worry about that,” Wendy says, and he tilts his head all the way back to look at her upside down. She then bops his nose too. My coffee finishes, so it’s time for mommy to tag out.

“Hand off,” I say, and Wendy takes him for me. I kiss his cheeks before I step onto the stool next to the fridge to reach the gun safe on top of it. I type in my pin and get my gun, badge, and a discretely hidden pack of cigarettes and lighter. In the process of putting my gun and badge on my belt, I absent mindedly place the pack of cigarettes on the counter. Wendy exaggerates a fake cough, and I look at her. She had grabbed the pack, so her brothers didn’t see it.

“Thanks,” I say, putting them in my pants pocket. She gives me the same disappointed look I used to give her. “I know.”

“I get it. Stressful job, plus being a cop,” Wendy said, and I grin at her. “Just tell me you’re trying.”

“I’m trying,” I say.

Who the hell starts smoking when they’re almost forty? This dumb bitch, that’s who. One day I got it from every angle. Shawn being a toddler, seeing our budget include daycare again, work being work, and someone asked if I wanted a cigarette and I said, ‘fuck it’. I felt instantly better. For a minute. I wanted that minute again, and here I am.

“I need to go. Last hug,” I say, and Shawn extended himself across to me and wraps his arms. I make a sound like I’m being squeezed too tight and kiss him one last time. “Love you dude.”

“Love you mommy,” Shawn says.

“Bye mom,” Wendy says, kissing my cheek before I go to force it out of her brothers. I kiss Wesley’s forehead, and Preston kisses mine. The inequity of height is real in this family.

I get to my car parked at the curb, and successfully resist the urge to light the first cigarette. What stops me is looking in the rearview and seeing Shawn’s car seat. Shawn is sacred, so this car is sacred. There is no smoking at home, or in my car. Wendy is old enough to shame me for it. The boys are way too impressionable.

Before I even start the ignition, my phone rings. I arch my back to extend my leg straight so I can pull the phone from my pocket. It’s Lieutenant Eastland. I press answer and put the phone to my ear.

“Morning boss,” I say.

“Where are you right now?” she asks.

“In my car about to leave my house. What’s up?”

“I’m covering your class today. You’ve been summoned. Eighth floor,” she says. That’s code for the office of the Chief of Police. I’ve done plenty to deserve that, but I don’t know what it was recently.

“They say what for?” I ask.

“Only that you were summoned. No later than nine,” she says.

“I’ll be there,” I say, and we end the call. I start the ignition and check my mirrors before merging with traffic.

The elevator drops me off at the eighth floor. To the left is executive staff offices. To the right are the deputies. Straight ahead is the big man. Also straight ahead is an FBI agent. An angelic princess with a Glock strapped to her hip.

Yvonne Grimsdotter, an FBI agent I met while working one of the most unusual cases of my entire career. I’m openly antagonistic to the Feds, having had more than one of my cases taken by them while I was sitting at the Fraud desk at Property Crimes. I did all the work and they swept in at the eleventh hour to make a federal case out of it. My closure rate suffered for it, and I blame them for my career stagnating before I transferred to Homicide.

Yvonne was different. Once I got over her being a Fed we stayed in contact after the case. I don’t hold the fact she’s an FBI agent against her. No one’s perfect.

“Special Agent Yvonne Fucking Grimsdotter,” I say to get her attention. She turns to me and smiles.

“Sergeant Midge Fucking Appletree,” she says.

And together we say, “And that’s not my middle name.”

“My favorite freakishly tall bitch,” I say. We hug it out, and I burrow my face into her cleavage.

“My favorite…damn momma’s thirsty,” Yvonne says with a laugh. I tilt my head back, so my eyes look up at her, but my lips are still hidden.

“The only thing momma has motorboated in the last month is the belly button of a four-year-old. Do not take this from me,” I say, my voice muffled from her supple bosom.

“You get one good one,” she says.

“Brace yourself. I’m making this count,” I say, and motorboat the shit out of her boobs. Don’t tell her boyfriend. All kidding aside, it’s awesome to see her. I never imagined I’d be friends with a Fed. Let alone such good friends she understands my need for warm feminine flesh.

“What brings you here?” I ask.

“Not sure yet. They’re talking about a task force right now. For what, who knows,” Yvonne says. Even she doesn’t know yet.

“Who’s in there?” I ask.

“Chief of Police, the Mayor, and my ASAC,” she says, pronounced like the letter a, and the word sack. Assistant Special Agent in Charge.

“Sounds big,” I say. They’re either talking logistics or arguing jurisdiction. I don’t hear screaming so it’s likely logistics. “I’m eager to work with someone who understands that if I go longer than a minute without profanity, I’m liable to spontaneously combust.”

“Don’t you curse in front of your kids?” Yvonne asks. When it comes to my bad language around the kids, I’m pretty much do as I say, not as I do.

“I used too. But then my son’s third word was ‘fucknugget‘, so I toned it down a notch.”

“Isn’t that two words?”

“Not if you say it fast. Especially after stubbing your toe on the coffee table,” I explain.

“That warrants a fucknugget.”

“Stubbing your toe is hell. My podium of horrific shit was getting raped, then stubbing my toe on the coffee table,” I say. Yvonne is never sure on how to process most of the things I say. She just understands my need to say them.

“Well, that escalated quickly,” Yvonne says. The door to the Chief’s Office opens. We have been summoned. Yvonne enters the room ahead of me, and as advertised three men are already present.

The Mayor Derek Whitaker is standing with his arms folded over his chest. Four years ago, he was the Chief of Police, so walking into this office and still seeing him is like I stepped through a time machine. His very presence exudes authority. He still looks like a cop and has a well-manicured appearance with salted hair not present four years ago. Like a President after his first term.

To Derek’s left is the current Chief of Police Dean Wu. My friend Jill, who is Derek’s wife, used to work with him back in the day, and he has a reputation of being somewhat of a hard ass. I’ve only met him in passing, but his sense of humor is as spicy as a glass of milk. A short, muscular Asian man pulled straight from a Hong Kong crime drama.