As he drove down I-20 listening to the Smiths and sipping on a giant energy drink topped with vodka, Jay Branch relived countless memories of the two women he had chosen to love. Beth the beautiful perfect yinto his yang and Grace the amazing child they had made together. He remembered the time right before Beth had died that Grace had decided she wanted daddy to take the training wheels off of her bike. Then before he could do the iconic hold the seat and help your daughter pedal a 2 wheeler for the first time bit, she was down the street screaming WOOHOO!!! She then immediately took the bike into the dirt and down a rocky hill seconds after. She always did surprising things like that, just like her mother who picked up a 22 rifle for the first time on a camping trip and knocked 6 cans off of a knocked over tree without even blinking. They were truly amazing and he had already lost one of them because of a piece of shit and he wasn’t going to lose Grace.
His cell rang at a little after 11 a.m. Georgia time which would have been a little after 8 Arizona time. It was Suze, she was trying gently to ask if he had heard from Grace because her Aunt had woken her up to take them to breakfast and they couldn’t find her. He hadn’t even thought about that aspect of the situation. He knew that if he told Suze or her Aunt Betty the truth then they would want to alert the cops and he had to make sure that they wouldn’t do that. Especially because something like that would surely end up on the local news and then Grace would be dead. He asked Suze to hand the phone to Aunt Betty and then he simply said that Grace “had gotten herself in a bit of trouble.” and then he assured Betty that he was coming to take care of it and he would have her call Suze as soon as she could. He didn’t know a better thing to say; what do you say? “Oh Grace got up early and decided to swim in Lake Havasu all day, I’ll call you when she tires out.” He figured the best thing to do was say something very
blank and unspecific and hopefully he would have enough time to get there. After he hung up the phone he received a text message from Suze that said “Is Grace okay ?????” to which he replied “Yep” leaving Suze and her Aunt Betty probably more confused than anything.
This was one more thing that he was going to have to deal with. Suze knew Grace better than most anybody and she wasn’t going to put up with half answers much longer. He would have to figure out something to tell her the next time she called and there weren’t many options. He couldn’t tell her that Grace got arrested, she never actually did things wrong. Then he remembered what the kidnapper said. “Oh, her little drunk friend.” Jay picked up his cell and texted Suze “Were u 2 drinking last night?”
“Yes” came the reply.
“Let’s just say it has to do with that.” He sent back. There was no reply to that text.