The Disappearance of Becky Blake

“Hey Rick!” A stocky woman in a loose-fitting grey and black sweatsuit with pink accents stood silhouetted against the late-night urban twilight. She was on the sidewalk, peering over a guard rail down an embankment.
Her husband, Rick, wore a matching outfit fringed with red. They walked almost every night, and the brisk air of the late autumn was enough that he wanted to keep going to stay warm. “What is it, Becky?” He kept walking, hoping that she would take the hint and catch back up. No such luck.
“Stop, Rick… come here and see this!” Rick turned around and saw his wife climb over the railing and disappear into the depths of the brush that prevented street lights from illuminating much of the city wilds.
With a sigh, he hiked the dozen or so steps back to where she’d disappeared, and looked into the shadows to see what was so interesting. There was nothing. He couldn’t even see Becky through the clusters of barren saplings, evergreen shrubs, and tall desiccated grasses that the city never seemed to have the resources to cut back.
“Very funny, Becky. You got me.” A car drove past on the road behind him, and for a moment the headlights were pointed the right way for Rick to see through the brush and down most of the way into the gully. Suddenly he felt clammy. Something wasn’t right.
“Becks?” He hadn’t seen her at all. A fear flashed through his mind, then down to the pit of his stomach. What if she’d fallen?
Without a second thought for how stupid it would be to follow her if she had fallen, Rick jumped over the rail and stumbled down the embankment as quickly as he could with only the dim background of the city’s lights reflecting off nearby clouds. He grabbed at trees and bushes to keep from falling, and kept shouting “Becky!” in between rough, anxious breaths.
When he hit the bottom of the trench, his sneakers splashed in ankle deep water. His eyes were slowly adapting tot he lower level of light, but everywhere he looked he thought he saw her huddled on the ground or leaning against a tree. Every time, he ran to the shape, calling her name desperately hoping that it was her.
After what felt like hours, Rick realized he was going in circles. He needed help. He needed to call the fire department, or the police, or something. Exhausted and shaking, he climbed back out of the gully, clambered over the guard rail, and ran back along the sidewalk for three blocks before he found a payphone.
He tore the receiver off its cradle and pounded 9-1-1 into the keypad. A tinny female voice floated to him with no urgency or emotional inflection whatsoever. “Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?”
Rick wanted to scream into the phone, but instead he took a deep breath and tried very hard to be calm. What he meant to say was: “I was just walking with my wife and she disappeared down an embankment and I need help to find her because she could be hurt.” What he actually said was: “I… my… my wife… uhhh…”
The 911 Operator took the failure to communicate in stride. “Sir, please let me know what happened so I can help you.”
Rick tried again. “My wife.. we were walking and she disappeared… down an embankment. I can’t find her.”
“Sir, I have you calling from the payphone at Brookdale and Twenty-Fourth, is that correct?”
“Uh,” Rick looked around to get his bearings. “Yeah. Yes that’s where I am, but…”
“Where did your wife fall?”
He didn’t have to think this time. They’d walked the same path for months now, ever since the construction on Broad had closed the sidewalk for a few nights… “Twenty-First between Mill and Cedar.”
“Thank you, sir. Please stay on the line with me while I dispatch officers to the scene.”
Rick stayed on the phone with the 911 Operator for less than a minute, relaying his name and Becky’s as well as his apartment’s address. Then a police patrol car pulled up, bathing the area in alternating pools of red and blue light, so he hung the phone back on its hook.
He could hear the cop’s radio chattering, but he couldn’t make out words through the closed windows. The officer got out, at some point, and asked Rick questions. But the whole thing was somehow out of focus, and if he responded, which he was sure he did, Rick didn’t remember anything about what had been said, afterwards.
Then everything snapped into focus when he heard “human remains” over the officer’s belt radio. Suddenly the cop was tense, with his hand on his service piece instead of relaxed by his side.
“Richard Blake, turn around and get on your knees. Place your hands on top of your head. I am placing you under arrest for the murder of Rebecka Blake. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak with an attorney and to have one present during questioning…”


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