The radio blared to life jolting Arla awake. Ben groaned next to her.
“I’m working on it,” Arla said as she reached for their radio alarm clock. Lowering the volume, Arla stretched fully opening her eyes.
Arla sat up. The sheets tucked under her armpits. Reaching over she grabbed her glasses and put them on. The room came into focus. Her phone plugged on top of her robe. Getting up, Arla slid on her slippers. Arla unplugged her phone, setting it down on her nightstand and slid her short white robe with tiny pink flowers on. As she tied the silk band around her waist, she walked over to Ben’s side of the bed. She ran her fingers gently across Ben’s buzzed head. “I’ll be back in ten,” she said softly.
Ben let out a short grunt that sounded something “news.”
“Yes, you get a snooze, but just the one,” Arla said as she made her way to the door.
Arla walked downstairs to the kitchen. The dishwasher proudly displayed a magnet of a 1950’s housewife. Arla opened the silver appliance and pulled out two mugs from the top shelf and put them next to the coffee pot. From the cabinet above she grabbed a coffee filter. The beans she got from the fridge. She set up the coffee and turned on the pot. Arla quickly put away the dishes and utensils, remembering to change the magnet over to a 1950’s pin-up girl. They had been a gift from Ben when they finally replaced the old, broken dishwasher. “To my 1950’s everything…” had been scrawled in Ben’s choppy handwriting on the top of a small wooden box. Inside was the housewife and the pin-up. Arla loved them. She also loved that Ben started the dishwasher before bed on Sunday nights.
The coffee pot beeped, the smell of the breakfast blend already filling the kitchen. Arla went to the fridge and took out the milk and the creamer. Putting two splashes of 2% milk in the mug, Arla fixed her coffee first. In the second mug she poured the cream and four sugars, topping it with the hot coffee. She left the coffees next to the pot and put both the milk and the creamer away. Going back, Arla grabbed both cups of coffee and headed back upstairs.
Ben was still laying in bed when she walked in their room. His arms stretched away from his face holding his phone far back enough to read it.
“That smells good,” Ben said, putting his phone on his chest.
“Coffee, to go with your electronic paper,” Arla said. She put his coffee down on his nightstand and perched at the edge of the bed. Her hands still wrapped around her hot mug.
“Laugh all you want,” Ben said, “but at least one of us stays informed about the ongoings of the world.”
“The financial ongoings,” Arla corrected, “which is also part of your job.”
Ben raised his eyebrows and sat up in bed.
“The part I enjoy,” Ben retorted. “Thank you for the coffee, my phone wouldn’t stop going off. No extra sleep for me.”
“That’s a shame,” Arla said, “everything okay?”
“I haven’t looked yet,” Ben said. “Though I probably should.”
“Probably,” Arla said smiling. “There’s still some meat leftover from yesterday if you want steak and eggs for breakfast.”
Ben picked up his coffee and took a sip. “Maybe tomorrow,” he laughed, “I might still be full from yesterday.”
“Sounds good,” Arla said. Holding her coffee out, she leaned forward and kissed Ben. “I’ll be in my office for a bit, if you need me.”
“I always need you,” Ben cried out.
Arla rolled her eyes and headed toward the door, “don’t spill your coffee, Hamlet.”
The skies were light but grey as Arla looked out her office window. Sitting down at her desk she put her coffee on an old flooring sample she now used as a coaster. Arla kicked off her slippers and folded her feet underneath her as she sat in her chair. She took her journal out from her desk drawer and opened to a new page. Recapping the rest of their day yesterday, mostly having fun in the kitchen and their intense game of Scrabble, Arla noted her apprehension about going into work. She had genuinely missed Cassandra’s call yesterday, but intentionally avoided listening to the voicemail or calling her back. Arla listed three things she was grateful for and followed them up with an affirmation for the day. Closing her journal she pulled out a giant book of crossword puzzles. Sipping her coffee she began working on one with a level four difficulty.
She heard the shower turn on from down the hall. All these years later and she still couldn’t figure out how Ben showered in the morning. She always showered before bed ever since she was a child. Tuning the world back out, Arla resumed her puzzle. She had at least twenty minutes before Ben would be in the kitchen for breakfast. It worked out, most of their habits at least. Arla found the days where she couldn’t start off with her writing, warm coffee, and word games to be the most tiring of days. Especially on grey Mondays like this one.
The rest of the morning passed quickly and quietly. The list of calls Ben had for the day kept growing. Apparently even the world of money took weekends off. Arla grabbed a dark chocolate nut bar and a packet of fruit snacks for breakfast. Throwing them into her lunch bag she added a sandwich made with leftover steak from the fridge. Arla locked up the house and drove to work.
Arla was surprised to see several cars, flashing lights, and a large van on both sides of the building leading to the front door. Arla put on her blinker and pulled off the highway into the parking lot. Two officers pushed off their vehicles extending their arms forward. Arla slowed down to a crawl. Approaching the officers she rolled down her window and came to a stop.
“Good morning. I work here – is everything okay,” Arla offered.
“We’re going to need you to sit tight for a minute, okay?” The officer was friendly, but direct as he spoke. His dark hair clipped short.
Arla put her car in park and pulled out her cell phone. She opened her messages, clicking on Ben’s name, “police at work… something must have happened. I’ll call you when I know more.” As Arla hit send there was a rapt on her window. Dropping her phone Arla pulled back away from her window and looked up. A long face with a thick mustache and deep brown eyes stared back at her. The brim of a hat tipped down, covering the eyebrows. Arla reached for the door handle opening the door into the officer. “William,” she shouted!
The officer shot back, standing up straight.
“Biscuits,” a slight Southern drawl let out, “nearly took my hat off with the move.”
The two nearby officers started making their way over. “I’m alright fellas,” Lieutenant William Bryant said, turning to face them. “I know this one. Only thing she’s currently guilty of is being clumsy.” The two officers stifled a laugh and resumed their conversation.
“Arla,” Bryant said facing the car, “it’s nice to see you too.”
“I’m so sorry,” Arla said. Her seatbelt locked as she tried to get out of the car, “ow. I – um – I’m really sorry. Are you okay? Is everything okay?”
“Arla,” Bryant repeated. “I need you to listen to me now.” His head nodded slowly as he spoke, enforcing a sense of calm in Arla. “Park your car in that spot right there, next to that van.” Bryant extended his arm pointing toward the open parking spot. “One of the detectives is going to come by and take a statement from you.”
“Because I hit you with the door?” Arla looked up at the Lieutenant. He looked and sounded the same as the man she knew from Club, but there was a seriousness weaving its way through his words. For a second Arla wondered if she would be booked for assaulting an officer.
Bryant watched as Arla’s eyes widened behind her glasses. The girl was bright, brighter even than her hair, but sometimes she was a literal as a dictionary. Under any other circumstances he would chuckle and give her a nuggie the same way his Pop used to when he was a kid.
“No ma’am,” Bryant said as flatly as he could, “there’s been an incident inside the building. Do you work at Wide Load Logistics,” he asked.
“No, but I work in the building. At Unstoppable Imports. We rent the space from Wide Load,” Arla explained quickly.
“Okay,” Bryant said, taking a breath. “Well, once you give Detective Bertly your statement you will have to leave the premises. We haven’t spoken to anyone else yet from your company. Who else works with you?”
“Stan, my boss” Arla said. “We’re the only two people full time people. Sophia comes in twice a month for HR stuff and Mike is only here on Wednesdays for IT and marketing needs.”
“So only Stan expected to come in today,” Bryant asked?
Arla nodded. Quickly catching her pink locks and brushing them behind her ear.
“Alright then, Miss Arla,” Bryant said. “Park your car, and wait for Detective Bertly. He’ll come to you, so you just sit tight in your car until he gets there. Understood?”
“Mhmm,” Arla said, keeping her lips pursed tightly. A million questions would spew out of her mouth if she dared to open it. Something bad had happened, and it wasn’t just a case of swim bladder or Ick.
“One last thing, ma’am,” Bryant said, as Arla put her car into drive.
“What kind of car does your boss drive?”
“An SUV type. Black. Slightly tinted windows,” Arla said.
Bryant nodded, tipping his hat at her.