Colton is awakened to the alternating sounds of a skillsaw and a chainsaw. A month ago the old house next door sold and the new owners, a young couple from Rockford, began their first remodeling adventure. Weekends were not only made for Michelob, but for six AM demolitions.
His head was pounding. Too much beer, not Michelob, but Bud Light. Last night, he’d downed a six-pack while pondering Millie’s note, then driven to D & J Liquors for two twelve packs, thinking that would last him the weekend. He’d consumed way more than he should before passing out in his recliner down stairs. How or when he’d made it up upstairs to his bed was a mystery.
Colton rose slowly and shuffled down the hall to the bathroom. After peeing a pint he swallowed four Tylenols ignoring what the high dosage might do to his liver. “Shit, the beer and whiskey will kill me first.”
A sharp, stabbing pain exploded in his right temple the moment he thought of Millie and his predicament. He returned to the bedroom and rifled through her nightstand, chest of drawers, and closet. Useless. He inched slowly back into the hall and down the stairs, taking one step at a time. Coffee was his first objective.
On his second cup, Colton sat at the kitchen table and started to focus. He knew a plan was imperative if he ever wanted to see Millie again. He couldn’t just do nothing, go to work, come home, and wait to see what happened. There was no doubt, he had to act and act quickly and decidedly, otherwise his life was over and he’d spend his remaining days behind bars.
The first person Colton thought about was Matt Quinn. He was Millie’s number one cheerleader. It hadn’t taken a genius to figure this out. Since Colton moved in with Millie and Molly two years ago, Millie had received at least four raises and two promotions all while her work hours had stayed the same. Actually, for the last six months, she’d worked less.
Colton grinned as he thought about his foresight and wisdom in hiring private eye Butch King to tail Millie after work each day. Although it had taken him a few weeks to spot the Thursday pattern, he eventually learned she exited Grant Thornton Tower at 2:30 every Thursday and walked four blocks to the Clarity Clinic. With some clever subterfuge Butch had discovered Kira Maharaja was Millie’s psychiatrist. With little doubt, even without considering the human interaction between Matt and Millie that Colton had observed at several office parties, including the BBQ at his home less than two months ago, Matt Quinn possessed invaluable information concerning Millie’s whereabouts.
He turned Millie’s note over and grasped the pencil she’d used to scribble her revolt. At the top of the page, Colton printed Matt Quinn. Then, he paused, closed his eyes, and nodded his head up and down, ever so slightly. Kira Maharaja was the next name he added to his list. It seemed the plan to escape, to run away, would be something a mentally ill person might share with her psychiatrist.
Who else would Millie talk to about her plans? Colton stood, walked to the coffee maker beside the sink and refilled his cup. He looked through the kitchen window to the house next door, its windows open, allowing gas fumes from the chainsaw to escape. He returned to his chair and drew a circle in the lower half of the page.
Who else was inside Millie’s circle? He paused, cocked his head as though an invisible hand was prodding him in a new direction. Molly also has a circle and the two don’t perfectly overlap. Colton again picked up the pencil and started printing. This time at the bottom of the page. Work, church, school, friends. He paused and thought. Millie’s best friend at work, other than Matt, is Catherine. What about Molly? That’s easy, she has only one. Alisha, Alisha Maynard. She lives in the Auburn Gresham area. Colton remembered driving Molly there for a sleep-over. That was a year or more ago. He could see the street, and the house in his mind’s eye.
Colton had just penciled Alisha, Harvard Elementary School, and was trying to remember Molly’s favorite teacher when he heard his cell phone vibrating. After his first cup of coffee he’d noticed it on the table beside his recliner. The battery had been dead and he’d plugged it into a charger. “Millie.” He said out loud knowing there was no way in hell she was calling.
He stood and walked into the den. It was his attorney, Cliff Blackwell. “What the fuck does he want?”