Fracture: Prologue and Chapter One
The prophet had taken his place amongst Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom, for which they were grateful, but they had nowhere to go. Angry mobs had come and destroyed everything, smashing doors and destroying belongings, ravishing the world like wild animals. Anna ran from the house, screaming for others to hide, which all did, but many were found and injured. Some of the Elders rushed to the shore, untying boats and helping women and children quickly climb aboard. There was no time to grab any such convenience other than thy selves, and if not for haste, they would have been viciously murdered.
Ma and Pa rushed to the boat, followed by Anna and her family. They hurried to the mainland, and once there, they traveled downstate. Papa wanted to go to Missouri, but Mama was torn. She thought that they should head to the Utah Territory because it is a place where the Saints could build their own country-the way it should be. The laws of the land would all be just, and they would have no more problems with gentiles. The Utah Territory was there for the taking. That was when Papa whispered something in Mama’s ear. Anna did not hear, but she believed Papa was speaking of The Principle. It had always been something she’d been confused about. First, King James didn’t practice it and said no one should. But then, King James got a revelation from Heavenly Father that he needed to practice the Principle to increase the population. Ma and Pa thought about leaving, but Matthew and Anna had only been married for a few weeks when the trouble started. A man had been punished for breaking the law. The prophet was right in his dealings, but the men were vengeful. As it often does, the secular failed, and the men who killed the prophet were allowed to go free. Mama and Papa were lost- just like they’d been when Brother Joseph died. Where should they go? Who could they trust?
It was hard to know what to do in such situations. Mama had been told by the missionaries that she’d be happy again if they joined the church and went to Illinois. She would spring from her convalescent state with newfound energy, and Papa would find a way to support the family. No more hungry nights. All of those things happened, but there were times when Mama’s face did run long. The constant moving-first Kirtland, then Nauvoo, Missouri, and finally Michigan, had tired Mama. She was starting to look the way she did back at home. But that couldn’t be true. For the prophet told us that Mama would be happy for the rest of her days.
While Ma and Pa believe that the Prophet received the Voree Plates, Anna couldn’t attest that to be true. She’d asked John what he felt, and he said, “I think Brother Brigham is the true prophet, but I fear venturing west and finding out otherwise.” The idea of moving to the Utah Territory wasn’t comforting. Matthew feared the trip, but many of the Saints have already moved to the territory. To make the trip now, they would have to travel without others. It would be dangerous crossing into the wilderness. There was safety in numbers, but most that were going had already gone. Sometimes the adversary is working against the Saints, Anna reminded herself. He stands in the way and prevents them from reaching the goodness in life. Anna’s parents were searching for a comfortable place, but Anna still yearned for meaning-more truth and knowledge.
“Um . . . I don’t know if I’m in the right place.”
“Okay. Are you looking for Sylvia Wilcox, the private investigator?”
“Nice to meet you,” I held out my hand a second time.
The woman crinkled her nose and forehead before shrugging her shoulders and saying, “I guess I’m in the right place.”
Her voice betrayed anxiety and fear. I smiled to ease the tension, but my friendliness seemed to increase her level of discomfort.
“What brings you in today?”
She sighed and folded her arms tightly over her chest.
“I—I’m sorry. I’ve never done this before, and I’m just so nervous.”
I flashed a smile and nodded my head.
“That’s normal. No worries. I will help you. Please have a seat,” I said, motioning toward the red plush chair in front of my desk.
I grabbed a notepad and pen and sat across from the woman, ready to hear her story.
“What type of experience do you have?”
I sat the notepad down and reserved the sigh I felt rising from the bottom of my soul. I went through a familiar spiel of my credentials.
“I was born and raised in Detroit. I have a B.A. in Criminal Justice from the University of Detroit Mercy, an M.A. from EMU, five years on the Detroit Police Department. I’ve owned this agency for five years. Your name?” I asked, hoping my voice stern enough to produce a response.
“Sounds impressive. Raina Whitby,” the woman said, but she didn’t seem moved. We sat in silence for a few minutes. I decided to wait her out.
“I don’t mean to be this way,” the woman said before dropping her face into her hands.
I pulled out a box of Kleenex and pushed it across the desk. She raised her head and pulled the tissues onto her lap.
“Take your time,” I said.
“Thank you for your kindness.”
I nodded, counted to ten in my head, and said, “Let’s start from the beginning.”
The woman looked up, mascara running down her pale cheeks.
“What brings you in today, Ms. Whitby?”
“I remember reading about you. Those killings of the students a few years back.”
She’d done her homework but still was skeptical. Also, she was avoiding telling me why she’d come to my office.
“I guess I imagined you’d look different.”
I considered asking what she’d thought I’d look like, but decided against it. Even though Ypsilanti is a diverse community, there are times when my brown skin shocks some. I brushed it off and said, “I don’t share pictures on my website or allow photos to be posted in the newspaper.”
“Why not?” the woman asked, her voice laced with suspicion.
“Anonymity is a detective’s best friend.”
She took a moment to think about that sentence. Perhaps she arrived at the question that drove that decision: What good is a private detective if their face is easily identifiable?
Ready to get down to business or move on, I asked, “Do you need a private investigator, Ms. Whitby?”
“Yes. My daughter-in-law is missing.”
“How long has she been gone?”
“Well, it’s just that I knew I should have gone. I should’ve just taken it upon myself to run to the store,” Raina Whitby said, dabbing her left eye with her index finger.
“You couldn’t have known that this was going to happen,” I responded, feeling a bit uncomfortable and wishing that she would tell me why she was in my office.
“I just didn’t think anything of it. It was a regular day, ya know? Nothing special. I couldn’t have known what was happening.”
“People often do surprising things.”
“Right?! I had no idea she was going to . . . .”
Her eyes slid away from my face, and an intense sadness came over her. It was challenging to get information out of clients who felt guilty. I decided to sit back and see what bits and pieces she wanted to tell me.
“This building is something. I’ve always wondered what businesses were in here. It used to be apartments when I was younger. Did you know that?”
“Yes. There are still three apartments upstairs.”
“I’ve heard that before. I know that things have to change, but wouldn’t be nice if some things could just remain the way they always were?”
I nodded and considered how to move forward. It was usually hard to get clients to explain what they needed, but this was abnormal. Raina rambled on about the building’s architecture before finally saying, “I want to know if you can help me. My daughter-in-law has been missing for almost three weeks. No one will do anything for us. They say she’s a grown woman and can do what she wants. They won’t even take the clues we have.”
It’s a hard truth to accept, but adults do have the right to walk away from their lives without telling anyone.
“Okay, let’s start from the beginning. First, what’s your daughter-in-law’s name?”
“Delaney Whitby. She’s twenty-six. Beautiful. A wonderful girl.”
“Where does she live?”
“Just a few blocks from here.”
“Tell me about the last time you saw her?”
“She called me one afternoon, it was just an average Wednesday, nothing out of the ordinary. I’d just finished preparing dinner. We had chicken divan that night and were going to eat around five, but Delaney called me a little after four, so we pushed the dinner back. She sounded . . . cautious, subdued, like she was under a spell. The baby was screaming in the background, and I could hear the other kids playing.”
“How many children do your son and daughter-in-law have?”
“Five. The kids are like little stair-steps. Kaylie, the oldest, is six, and the youngest, Clara, is almost seven months.”
“How long have they been married?”
Not a shotgun wedding, but they must have gotten pregnant soon after getting married.
“Okay, so Delaney called you. What did she say?”
“She said, ‘Can you come over and watch the kids?’ Of course, I say yeah, but then she adds, ‘I need to get hamburger buns and ketchup.’ So I say, I’ll go, you know? Take the burden off her, but she insisted on going herself. I figured she needed a break, so I said, yeah, I’ll be there. I show up, she’s not that talkative, but that’s Delaney. Quiet and calm. But the kids were just kind of out of control. So I thought, yeah, she needs a break. I took the baby out of her arms, talked to the other kids, and Delaney got ready to go. All she grabbed was her purse and keys, but before she left, she stopped, grabbed me by the shoulders, and looked me in the eye. It was weird because she’s not much for touching, but she did that time. She said, ‘Thank you,’ like I’d done something significant by coming over to watch the kids, and then she left.”
“What store was she going to?”
“They live on Adams, so I guess she was going down to Farmer Joe’s. Their house is the big, old one at the top of a long staircase. The stairs are crumbling a bit, and the place is kind of falling apart, but Jeff’s going to fix it up.”
I was very familiar with the place she was referring to. It was indeed in need of repairs.
“Large spires out front?”
“Yes. You can say the rest—it needs an update. Total money pit.”
I remembered seeing real estate advertisements for that house. It had gone on the market years ago when I was in graduate school. By the time I moved back to Ypsilanti, it had deteriorated under the weight of extended vacancy. I suspected that Jeff and Delaney had picked it up after it fell to an affordable amount during the recession.
“So, you sensed that something was different before she left?”
“Yes. Just that moment when Delaney grabbed me . . . that’s not how she is.”
“Did you think she would just go to the store and return?”
“Sure. Why wouldn’t she? I live close, so it wasn’t odd for Delaney to call and ask me to watch the kids for a moment. She’d always just runs her errands and comes back.”
“What was her demeanor?”
“She seemed to be in a trance of some sort. Like something had happened. I just thought she was tired of the kids screaming. Every mom needs a break. Especially when they’re so young.”
“You thought she was just taking a trip to the grocery store and maybe a little extra time walking around the store, enjoying the lack of crying babies?”
“Yep. Logical, right? Do you think I should have tried to see what she was thinking?”
“No. There was no reason to think something was wrong. How long did it take before you realized that Delaney wasn’t coming back?”
“Well, I rocked the baby to sleep, which took a little while. After that, I played with the boys, who were making forts in the living room. It was fun. Delaney is one of those moms who often doesn’t ask for help and won’t accept it when offered. I don’t get enough time with the kids, so I was just enjoying it. Then I sat on the couch and thought, it’s been at least an hour. I called her phone and left a message, telling her I was just checking to make sure she was okay. About twenty minutes after that, I sent a text message. Once again, no response. I started to panic once two hours had passed. Jeff came home, and he tried to act like there was nothing to worry about, but I could see it in his face. Something was wrong. They’ve been happy as far as I know, but he’s quiet and private about his personal life.”
“Tell me what happened when Jeff went to the police?”
“They blew him off. I think she’s been taken. Probably trafficked, and they won’t do anything about it.”
I figured there was more to the story, but I didn’t encourage her to expound on the subject. Missing person cases are inflammatory by nature. The police are never doing enough until your loved one is safe at home. I knew that story all too well.
“When was the last time Delaney was in contact with Jeff?”
“Well, that’s a little complicated. Jeff talked to her that afternoon, and then Delaney just up and left. I don’t know why. I didn’t know she was leaving,” Raina said, sounding distraught and guilt-ridden.
I took down a few key details—Delaney and Jeff’s address, Jeff’s number, and completed a basic profile. Raina wasn’t the best person to give me information about the case. I needed to talk with Jeff, so I took down a few more details and told her I’d contact her in a few days.
(End of Preview)
Fracture: A Sylvia Wilcox Mystery (Book3)