When Jared gets home, he doesn't see Jenna's car.
He waits inside for her, convinced that she'll come home.
Any minute, she'll come into the house, bringing a draft of cold air, and an explanation. She'll tell him she was 'just' doing this or that.
Twenty odd minutes later, he's not convinced. She's hardly ever late, and she's never late without calling.
He calls her phone repeatedly, only to have it go to voicemail. Straight to voicemail. Like it's turned off, or dead.
No, not dead, he amends. It's just not charged. He hates himself in that instant for thinking the word 'dead', even if it was only meant towards the battery of a cell phone.
That bad, sick feeling returns with a vengeance when he sees a police car pull up to their driveway, as he's pacing in the living room. He sees two troopers get out of their car, and his dread grows when he sees one of them take his hat off, run his fingers distractedly through his hair.
News bad enough for the trooper to leave his hat in the car, that symbol of unwavering authority, that's bad.
The way he runs his fingers through his hair, worse. Like he's steeling himself to deliver a blow. When he looks over at his partner, nods, and they both take deep breaths, Jared is convinced that it's as bad as it can get.
Jared knows from experience, that no matter how much you brace yourself for bad news, it's never quite enough. You can tell your mind to expect the worst, but there's always a part of you that says "It can't really be that bad. Please, don't let it be that bad."
Instead of waiting for them to walk up the stairs and onto the porch, he's taking the stairs two at a time, and running towards them.
"Is she okay?" Somehow I managed to ask. My voice didn't sound like me, it sounded far away, tinny. Canned. The voice of an actor speaking the dialogue of my life. From the next universe, maybe.
When I asked, I saw them exchange a look. That look was enough to make my stomach plummet to my feet.
That look said everything. It said 'It's not okay. In fact, it's pretty fucking bad, but we don't want you to go batshit crazy."
"Mr. Boone," the older of the two said, "I'm Trooper Jakes, and this is Trooper Northcutt. We're here because your girlfriend's car has been in an accident."
It felt like being shocked. Like grabbing a frayed electrical wire with wet hands. It was a jolt that went straight to my heart. It was emotional overload, a sick flailing for words that wouldn't come. It was the words can't, doesn't, shouldn't, wasn't, isn't, no, no, no, no, playing over in my mind.
They asked me questions. They had to repeat themselves, but the kindness of these two men, their careful courtesy kept bringing me out of the shock I wanted to drown in.
From what I pieced together, Jenna wasn't dead. They hadn't found her. Not her body, anyway.
There was an accident, there was blood, lots of blood, but no Jenna.
I remember arguing with them, shouting at one point, "You haven't found her body, you just need to look harder!" I kept on in that vein, finally yelling at them that if they weren't going to look, that I was.
I even got so far as to put on my jacket, and grab my keys, when Trooper Jakes put one of his hands on my shoulder.
"Mr. Boone, I need you to listen to me. We found her car. We haven't found her, but," he glanced over to Northcutt, sighed, and continued, "We think she was abducted."