He had parked the car nearly twenty feet from his front door, but the distance seemed to grow as he hurtled toward it. The door cowered, pulled away, not wanting to let Chef through, but he persisted, pushed toward it.
A police officer stepped out, and stopped. He caught Chef’s eyes and his face drew downward into a deeper frown. His distended cheeks drooped further as he worked his jaw, his eyes spoke for him, giving Chef his condolences. As Chef pushed past, the man tried to speak, to protest, but he was ignored outright.
The record player lay shattered on the floor, and vinyl albums scattered everywhere. Memories, more than music had been ransacked and thrown. The Jethro Tull album he and Amberly had first made love to, the Bob Seger album Chef played for Miranda to go to sleep to the first six months of her life… countless others had been strewn about. The bookshelf holding them all had been tipped over, and lay broken in three pieces across the couch.
A paramedic was talking to Chef.
Amberly’s snow globes lay in puddles of water and broken glass – Chef couldn’t understand what they were doing off of the mantle, or how they had fallen. He picked his steps carefully, tiptoeing through the carnage into the kitchen.
The track lighting had been pulled down, but still shone brightly. Dishes had been pulled seemingly at random from the cupboards and shattered all across the floor. Forks and spoons and knives punctuated the broken porcelain, gleaming and wondering why Chef couldn’t understand their displacement from their homes in the drawer left of the sink. A female police officer stood alone in the room with a pristine uniform and a distraught look on her face. Food was strewn across the floor and onto the table in a direct line from the refrigerator. Amberly sat on the floor in the corner wrapped in a rough blanket, her feet cut and bleeding from the broken dishes.
Chef knelt, porcelain crunched beneath his knee. He put his hand on Amberly’s shoulder, but she flinched away. The eye that wasn’t swollen shut was unfocused and distant, as if she were neither willing nor able to see the things around her. Bruises blossomed across the whole left side of her face, and her lips swelled to twice their size, blood leaked from a crack in her top lip, dripping down her chin. He could see a hot red handprint on her throat. Amberly trembled, but otherwise did nothing but clutch to the blanket around her. The female officer had turned away, giving them space.
And still, Chef couldn’t understand what was happening.
Chef tried again to place a hand on his wife, but again she flinched away from him, letting a pained moan pass between her lips. His hand hung in the air a moment, and he let it fall back to his side. It didn’t make sense.
Two men dressed in blue entered the kitchen, spoke quietly to the female officer, and went upstairs.
Amberly stopped trembling, her open eye transfixed on the wall by the stairwell. Her mouth began to move, but no sound came out. Tears streaked from the corners of her eyes and her whole face screwed up in pain. Chef opened his mouth, willing something to come out, anything, but was interrupted by the sound of a zipper. His blood ran cold. He’d never considered it a harsh sound before, but he was surprised it didn’t cut him open. Chef’s jaw hung slack, having forgotten his question.
The zipper slashed at Chef again, and sounds of shuffling feet came from upstairs. Two sets of feet were coming down the stairs, burdened as if they were carrying furniture down it. They moved rhythmically, their footsteps matching each other’s as if they’d been working together a long time. As they emerged into the kitchen, Chef saw what they were carrying.
It was a heavy blue bag, made of canvas, or some other heavy kind of material, Chef had never asked. Laid out, the bag was just over six feet long – long enough to hold an average person. The men moved easily, as if their burden didn’t weigh nearly so much as the usual. The bag drooped only a little in the center, it didn’t hold much inside.
Amberly moaned again, and Chef couldn’t understand.
Chef stood and followed them, wanting to see what was in the bag, wanted to know what they were taking from him. A young man, a paramedic that couldn’t have been more than a couple years out of school placed his hand on Chef’s chest. His eyes were sad, and his mouth moved softly. He shook his head, and Chef knew. Everything clicked into place. The broken memories in the living room, the mess in the kitchen, Amberly, and … the body bag. It made sense.
“Sir,” a soft voice said from behind him, “I know this is a rough time for you, but I’ve got some questions.”
Chef sank to his knees. “Don’t we all.”