Our family was typical, solid middle class. I was a salesman; my territory the north end of our moderate sized city plus several nearby towns to the immediate north. My wife Sandy was a full time mom/part time bookkeeper. She worked for a small real estate brokerage not far from where we lived. We had three kids we adored. Betty, our oldest was 12, going on 30 according to my wife. Then there was Roy at nine and Nina 7 years old and going to be the last.
When we bought our home I was working in the south end and our house laid just outside the city limits to the south. At the time it was a five-minute drive to my office, when I was given the larger territory it tacked another twenty-five minutes on my commute just getting to or from my territory.
It was a good job, working with construction firms. I spent most of my days visiting on construction sites, the balance at the contractor's offices. The job required my hauling product in and out of my truck constantly. It kept me in shape but my favorite was no more ties and suits, at least while I covered my route. It only made sense for me wearing jeans, flannel shirts and boots. I spent a lot less on work clothes and was a hell of a lot more comfortable.
The company furnished a nondescript faded blue van, they paid for its upkeep but I pretty much treated it like it was my personal vehicle. Pay was good for a High School grad with no formal training, too. Hell, I'll be honest; the pay was damned good, period. I'm modest, but I'm also a damn good salesman.
Sandy's job got her home when the kids arrived That meant she spent most mornings at the real estate office and was home by 3:30 at the latest. If something kept her longer she'd made deals with the mom's of our kids friends who lived in our block to police the little dears until she or I got home. She was working to pay for her own clothes, extra spending money and saving for a trip to Europe. She had a fetish for really nice clothes and felt guilty spending the big bucks her outfits cost but hell, she needed it for her job. I teased her about the job, saying I was for it because it kept her off the streets. But I was looking forward to that trip, too.
Because she was a real knockout at a petite, slender 5' 2", with a great head of red hair, she was a real find for her office. They had her sitting up front where everyone coming in the place would see her. I teased her about that too, telling her they had put her on display to lure the men in. The truth? She made visitors feel good with her perky chatter and friendly smile. The guys liked to look at her and her straightforward manner kept the women from feeling threatened. She wasn't a woman who did a lot of flirting though she had a great sense of humor.
Things started into the toilet on a Monday.
I was twenty minutes on my way to my route when the boss called on my cell phone. "Don," he said, my name is Don, "last night we signed a big contract in Lynn." Lynn was a town twenty miles north of my regular territory. "I've arranged for Tony to take over your route this week. I need you spending time with this new company. Your hours are going to be crappy this week and I'm sorry about that. Tell me if you can't make it. If you can't make it I'll come up with something else."
"Yeah, sure," I told myself. "Like I would tell him that."
"These guys won't be available until after 3:30 any day this week. Come into the office and I'll fill you in. Then you go home to that pretty lady of yours."
Grumbling I headed to the main office, got filled in and picked up what I would need tonight to begin getting the new guys up to snuff before heading home. On the way I swung by Sandy's office to let her know I was home this afternoon but wouldn't be there for dinner. Her car wasn't in the lot so I didn't bother stopping. It was early and something probably kept her home late this morning. I'd get to see her at home, maybe I could talk her into being a little later yet.
She wasn't home when I got there, but the kids had all shipped off to their various zoos for the day. Maybe I could catch her for lunch, she usually came home so I figured I'd have lunch waiting when she got home. Then we could put some of my ideas into action. With the kids, work and all we hadn't spent much quality time in bed recently. Embarrassing in a way, but I was feeling damned randy.
I took care of some chores I'd been putting off then knocked off at 11:00 and put together hot soup and sandwiches for lunch. OK, it wasn't a gourmet meal. Bite me! I'm not a gourmet cook. At least it would be hot and she didn't have to make it. Then I sat down and read the paper, first time I'd read the morning paper for months.
By 1:00 I was getting worried, no sign of Sandy. I called her office and got the answering machine. That meant she had closed up the reception area and everyone else was out doing what real estate salesmen do. Hopefully, they made some sales; Sandy got a small percentage of every sale. The boss did that to reward her when sales picked up when she started. He couldn't find any reason for the increased income other than Sandy was handling the front desk. He was a square shooter, always seeing his people got rewarded for what they did.
I got in my car at 2:00 to swing by her office, then the mall. It wasn't like her to be gone like this. Or maybe it was, I was never home this time of day. Still, it worried me.
I didn't see her car at any of the usual "suspects" so I headed home again, arriving about quarter to three. I had to get up to Lynn by 3:30 so I left a short note, just telling her I wouldn't be home my usual time and she shouldn't wait dinner on me. When something like this happened I caught a meal at one of the greasy spoons. There was no sense in the kids having their routines disrupted just because daddy was late.
The kids weren't due home by school bus until quarter of four or thereabouts. If my wife weren't going to be home by then she would have let them know ahead of time, notified the school or contacted on of the stay at home moms to be sure the kids were taken care of.
The folks up north were a trial, but fun to be around. I got through just after 10 PM and they took me out to dinner. After dinner we had a couple drinks and I didn't start home until almost midnight. With the drinks in me I made sure I obeyed all the laws, especially the speed limits. As a result a trip that would normally take under forty-five minutes didn't see me home until after 1:00 AM.
Need I say my sleepy head wife was thoroughly zonked by the time I arrived? I didn't get to talk to her about my new schedule for the week but figured we would talk in the morning. Boy, was I wrong.
I didn't wake up until after 8:30 and the kids and Sandy were already gone. She left a note telling me why she hadn't waked me up because she knew I worked late last night and must be planning to sleep in today, kind of comp time.
After fixing myself breakfast I called her office and got some bubble-head on the line. When I asked for Sandy, she was very short, snarling something about Sandy taking the week off. Without listening to what I was trying to say she gave me my home phone number and told me to call her there. Then the bitch hung up. It pissed me off having to deal with a dickhead like that on the phone. Still, I didn't think much of it. The girl was obviously new and didn't know Sandy from one of the agents. She sure wouldn't be there long. But I still hadn't been able to talk to Sandy. I was also beginning to wonder what was keeping her out of the office. The week off was pure bullshit but that was for Sandy and the girl to straighten out.
What did bother me was where my wife had gone? Taking a flier I called Cora, her best friend, to see if Sandy was there. The gal was busy with some kind of household emergency and couldn't spend time on the phone. All she told me was that Sandy should be at the office. If she weren't there she would be home before noon. According to Cora, Sandy was almost never later than 12:30 getting home during the week.
Now I had a sinking feeling. Did I have a reason to worry about Sandy's behavior? Well, no I didn't. Still this was strange. Why hadn't she told me about taking the time off work? If she hadn't taken vacation, and it didn't make sense for her to do it without telling me, then where was she?
I decided to take a swing around our neighborhood and see if I could spot her car. When someone drives a fire-engine-red Camry it's hard to hide it on a city street.
That's how I spent the next three hours, until almost 12:30, driving up and down the streets of our little area. No Sandy! A total waste of time! I swung back to the house to see if she was there, but no luck.
Now I was getting concerned. She had a wide circle of friends, but most of them lived within a mile of our home. Unless we had been playing hopscotch as I searched she wasn't anywhere in the area.
After reconnoitering until almost 2:00 I called the office of the people I was to see that evening. After explaining I had a small family emergency they agreed to meet me at 5:00 or so. I apologized and promised, if we needed more time I'd be up to see them Saturday. Well, Hell! There went my weekend!
Then I sat down to wait.
The kids climbed off the school bus their usual time but instead of coming home they scattered to friends houses. I called my eldest off her madcap stampede and asked where everyone was going.
Betty gave me the, "Use your head Dad," look and answered, "Oh Daddy! Don't you remember?" she said in her best 'talking to a simpleton' manner. "Momtoldusthismorning, she'dbehomebyeight!" After a brief pause she added, "You Know!"
.... There is more of this story ...