Harmon Sutter arrived in her neighborhood, where most of the houses were bungalows with steep rooftops and crooked guttering, faded paint trim, and squirrels scrambling from tree to tree in the front yards.
“I’m here,” Harmon typed on his phone. The screen glowed back at him. His stomach ached in nerves, having not seen Connie in over twenty years.
They agreed on coffee. No big deal. “What’s the worst that can happen?” he asked himself. He waited a few minutes and Connie still hadn’t come out. How unnerving. Harmon got out of his SUV and walked up the steps, brushing snow off his khakis. At the front door, a man emerged, wearing a gray short-sleeved T-shirt, old blue jeans. He squinted at Harmon.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m her father. Why, what has she done now?”
“We were to meet.”
“You look business. That would be a step up for her.”
“We briefly dated in high school. I’m Harmon Sutter. It’s been a long time. 1996.”
“Jesus. Yes, that is a long time.”
“Anyway, she texted me this address. To meet for coffee.”
“Look, I don’t know where my daughter is. The last I’ve heard, she was in Nevada, living on a ranch. Goes to that wild Burning Man music festival.”
“O.K. Sorry to bother you, sir.”
“You didn’t. What’s the tired saying now days, ‘It is what it is?’”
“I’d better get going. Didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“At my age, hell, sleep is a luxury.”
The man stuck his head out from the doorway, catching the scent of the crisp air, like a curious hound. Harmon noticed the man’s thick forearms and a silver faded tattoo of a boat anchor on his bicep. He still looked in shape, though pudgy around the core. Harmon could see the faint shade of a dog’s head in the window.
“Loving this weather,” said the man. “Most people hate this cold shit, but I miss it. I rent out my condo in St. Pete. Hot as hell down there, you know? Quite smothering. I will give you a number. Connie’s friend, Stacy Sanders, might know where Connie is, but I doubt it. Like I said, she was in Nevada. Hard telling what she’s gotten herself into. Hope she’s all right.”
Harmon took the man’s business card, told the man thanks, and drove out of the neighborhood. A few minutes later, he pulled into the parking lot of a Waffle House off I-65. He ordered hash browns and two eggs over-hard. The coffee was too light, but Harmon didn’t complain. “Catfished. Holy hell,” he whispered to himself. “I’ll be damned. I’m so stupid.”
He called Stacy’s number; a woman answered in a groggy tone of just waking up.
“Is this Stacy? I was given your number. I’m looking for Connie Connor. She’s an old friend of mine. High school sweethearts.”
“Maybe,” said the woman, who Harmon thought to be Stacy Sanders, but she never said she was.
“You’ll have to talk to my husband.”
“Why is that?”
“Because he killed her a few hours ago.”
Harmon stared ahead, watching the slow movement of the elderly people at the tables. At first, he anticipated a laugh, waiting for this person to say something like, I’m messing with you, dude. Connie’s with so and so. Ha-ha!
“What? You still there? Hello?”
The person had hung up. He wasn’t sure if he should contact the police. No, he told himself. I will finish eating and go to work. I will forget about this. This never happened. People are stupid. Even old friends you knew but were troubled, torn apart. Full of rages on the fringes of life. Drugs. Drugs ruin lives. What a shame.
This never happened, Harmon was sure, but it did, and he had to tell Connie’s father, let him know. He would drive back to his house but would finish his eggs first.
Wayne Tucker graduated with B.S. degree in Criminal Justice from Indiana Wesleyan University. He resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is working on a collection of stories. His stories have been honourably mentioned in Glimmer Train, and his story, “Stray,” was published in 1932 Quarterly in 2017.