When her friend, Linda, went missing, Audrey found something in her friend’s home that alerted her to the husband’s unexpected lies. She got in her car and drove to a house in another city, only to discover Linda locked in a basement. But instead of being grateful, Linda jumped and attacked her.

Audrey impatiently stomped her feet as the phone rang, and she checked her smartwatch once again as the repetitive dial tone didn’t end. It was 11 p.m. on a Friday, and her friend, Linda, was not answering her cell phone.

She had graciously picked up Linda’s daughter, Sophie, from her after-school ballet lessons after Linda called and asked for the favor. However, she should’ve come by already to pick the girl up, and now, Audrey was worried.For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

When the call went to voicemail, she decided to call Linda’s husband, Joseph. “Hello?” he said after a few dial tones.

“Joe! Thank God! Where are you? Do you know where Linda is? I picked up Sophie from ballet hours ago, and Linda hasn’t come by. She’s not answering her phone either,” Audrey explained the entire situation in one breath, not letting Joseph say anything.

“Gosh, Audrey. Thank you for picking up Sophie. But I have no idea where Linda is,” he replied. “I’m in Boston for work. I won’t be home until tomorrow.”

“God, seriously? And when was the last time you talked to Linda? She called me this afternoon and asked me to pick up Sophie because she had ‘things’ to do,” Audrey said, using air quotes. “And now, she’s AWOL.”

Joseph sighed on the line. “I have no idea. We talked this morning when I left. Listen, can you keep Sophie today, please? I’ll try to contact Linda and see what’s happening. Please. I’ll be back tomorrow, and we can talk. OK?”

“Fine,” Audrey sighed and hung up. Sophie was already asleep in the guest room, but Audrey didn’t like that Joseph wasn’t worried that his wife hadn’t picked up their kid. This wasn’t like Linda at all. She debated calling the police, but they probably wouldn’t do anything.

On TV shows, they always said you had to wait 48 hours before a person could be called “missing.” So, she called Linda’s phone a few more times, then decided to go to sleep.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash


Joseph called Audrey when he arrived home the next day, so she took the girl to his house. Sophie ran to her room so the adults could converse.

“Do you think we should call the police?” Audrey asked immediately, reaching for her phone.

“No,” Joseph blurted, raising his hands. “No. We don’t have to call the police. We have to wait.”

“What? Why?”

“Audrey,” he sighed, rubbing one side of his face. “Linda and I had a huge fight before I left. It’s not that uncommon for her to disappear like that.”

Audrey shook her head and tilted her head. “No, Linda wouldn’t do that. Not when it comes to Sophie.”

“She hasn’t done it in a long time, I admit. But it used to happen a lot. I think we need to give her some time,” Joseph continued and sat on the couch, exhausted.

“No! She could be in danger. I know my friend, Joe. I know she wouldn’t just disappear,” she insisted, standing before him and blocking the TV.For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Joseph shook his head. “You don’t know her that well. She has secrets she kept from everyone,” he said, looking firmly up at Audrey. “She has disappeared before. It’s fine. She’ll be back soon.”

Audrey threw her hands in the air, frustrated, but tried not to raise her voice to avoid disturbing Sophie. “I can’t believe you have this cavalier attitude. Your wife is missing,” she hissed the last part. “I’m calling the police whether you like it or not.”

Despite what everyone had seen on television, there isn’t a waiting period before you can report someone missing. The first 24 hours were vital, so several officers came to Joseph’s house to get some statements from them and left to start their search.

“Thank God we called. I can’t believe pop culture made us believe you had to wait,” Audrey said after the cops left.

“I still think it’s a waste of time. I’m just exhausted,” Joseph rubbed his neck. “Listen, I have no right to ask this of you, but I need to head to the office. Can you stay here with Sophie? I would cancel, but I have to arrange some things related to the trip.”

“Sure,” Audrey nodded. She would do anything for Sophie, but his casual attitude about his wife’s disappearance was so confusing.

The dark circles under his eyes were more prominent than ever, but was that from worry over his wife or his recent trip?

“Thank you,” he said and went out.

After lunch, Sophie went back to her room to play video games, and Audrey didn’t know what to do with herself.For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Joseph had left his jacket on the kitchen table, so she picked it up to put it in the coat closet by the door. It was getting colder in New York. He shouldn’t have left without it. She was shaking her head when a paper slip fell from one of the pockets.

It was from yesterday, which wouldn’t be odd, except it was from a grocery store in New Jersey.

“New Jersey?” she echoed quietly. “Wasn’t he in Boston?”

After ruffling some more, she found a parking ticket… from New Jersey, too.

Seriously worried about things now, Audrey decided to go upstairs and sneaked into Linda and Joseph’s bedroom.

There were also some papers on the bed, and Audrey couldn’t help but snoop. She wanted to find something else about New Jersey, any clue that could help her determine why Joseph had lied.

Her eyes squinted at one specific document. It was a life insurance policy. She sat on the bed to read more carefully, and her face paled when she realized that Linda’s life insurance would pay around $500,000.

“Oh my God,” Audrey covered her mouth.

She didn’t know much about this kind of insurance, but Audrey had always understood that children should be the main beneficiaries. In this case, it was Joseph. Sophie wasn’t mentioned at all.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Her head began to hurt, and Audrey had to take a moment to rub her temples thoroughly before digging deeper. To her shock, she found a big clue immediately.

Joseph owned a house in New Jersey, but it was purchased recently, and Linda’s name wasn’t on the title. “Jesus Christ,” Audrey said, letting go of the documents because she couldn’t hold herself up anymore.

There she was on the floor of her best friend’s house, realizing – but still hoping it wasn’t true – that Joseph had likely done something terrible to his wife for money. Her breathing came quicker because the pain in her chest didn’t let up.

So, she wrapped her arms around her legs, holding herself in a tight ball, and rocked back and forth while trying to slow down her heartbeat and breathing pattern. But as she got calmer, her mind started spinning.

Joseph didn’t seem so concerned or guilty when she brought Sophie over. He hadn’t yelled at Sophie or acted like anything but the good father he had always been.

“Auntie Audrey! Can I make some chocolate milk?” Sophie called unexpectedly, and Audrey had to uncurl from the floor, arrange her clothes, and clean her face.

The girl was already downstairs in the kitchen, so she didn’t see Audrey sneaking out of the bedroom with a few documents in hand, which she placed into her purse discreetly.For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

“Do you know where everything is?” Audrey asked brightly, fighting to keep a shaky smile for Sophie’s sake.

Joseph called her later that afternoon, and Audrey had to use all her self-control to talk to him. She didn’t want him to know about her suspicions. He told her he might have to be at work for a while.

“I know I’ve already asked too much of you, Audrey. But can you please take Sophie to my mother?” he said, surprising Audrey.

“Oh, sure,” she replied, nodding way too much. “Does she know that Linda is missing?”

“No, no, no,” Joseph stated nervously. “Please, don’t tell her. It’ll just worry her. Just come up with an excuse if you can.”

“OK,” she muttered.

“I’m sorry, Audrey. I have to go,” Joseph added and hung up quickly. Somehow, she knew Joseph was not at work. She knew he was lying to her, even by omission.

But she couldn’t do much. Sophie needed to be safe, so she told her to pack a few things because she would spend the rest of her weekend with her grandmother. Fortunately, the girl had no idea that anything was wrong.For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash


After dropping Sophie off, Audrey drove for a few blocks, planning to go to her home. But she had to pull over and take a deep breath as she leaned her head on her shoulder. She was usually an assertive woman who wasn’t afraid to take charge of any situation.

That’s why she had called incessantly the night before, trying to reach her friend, and that’s why she had insisted on contacting the police, even when Joseph didn’t want to. But the insurance policy, the property in New Jersey, and the knowledge that her friend’s husband was lying changed everything. It was too much to handle.

She had no idea what to do. She couldn’t tell the police because if her suspicions were wrong, she would ruin that family and her friendship with Linda forever. But if she waited and Joseph had done something, Audrey would regret not acting sooner for the rest of her life.


“God, give me a sign!” her face contorted as she was about to start sobbing, but the loud horn from a nearby car startled her. She looked toward the passenger side, afraid, but it had nothing to do with her. Two drivers were honking at each other for some foolish reason.

But looking to her right brought her attention to her purse, where she had hidden the documents. Audrey grabbed them and started reading once again. And the answer was finally clear: she had to go to New Jersey.For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Her fingers shook as she placed the address on her car’s navigation system. The click of the seat belt was almost too loud as she strapped in and got ready for a long ride. Reaching the address would take almost five hours, but she had to do it.


Audrey reached the beautiful house in New Jersey. It was in a suburban area, but the property was far enough away from the neighbors for privacy. “Perhaps, too much privacy, Audrey thought, biting her lips as she tip-toed through the lawn, even though no one would see her in the dead of night.

She checked the windows, but thick, dark curtains didn’t allow her to see anything. They were also latched tightly. Still, she rounded the house, jiggling all of them and even trying the doors. Finally, she looked up and saw a slightly open window on the second story.

“Argh, I’m getting too old for this,” Audrey groaned as she climbed up through the veranda and reached the open window. Her shirt got caught in a corner, and her feet couldn’t land well, so she fell to the hardwood floors of an entirely empty bedroom.

She had no time to delay, so she jumped up and walked through the eerily quiet house, turning on lights, which luckily worked. It was clean, but the stale air and smell indicated no one had lived there for a while. However, Joseph had bought it recently, according to his documents.For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

She checked all the rooms upstairs and found nothing, so she went quietly down to check the kitchen, the living area, and an extra room that could be an office or a guest bedroom. Finally, in the hallway, she saw a door. It had to lead to the basement. Unlike the others inside the house, this one was closed, and when she rattled the knob, it wouldn’t budge.

Audrey walked away and looked for the keys, but none were inside the house. There was no key bowl or holder anywhere. The kitchen drawers had mostly plastic utensils, which reminded her of something. She opened the fridge, and it was filled with newly-bought groceries, like the receipt in Joseph’s jacket.

It was only more confirmation that he had lied. Therefore, she needed to know what was down in the basement. Audrey returned to rattling the knob and pushing the door with her shoulder, bruising herself.

But it wouldn’t budge. She sighed, wanting to give up, but a distinctive groan came from the other side. Audrey almost flinched away from the door but recovered quickly. “LINDA?” she shouted, pushing her ear to the door.

“Help!” a muted call came, and that was all she needed. Audrey used all her strength, bumping and kicking the door to no avail. She looked around the house for anything that could help her open the door, and at last, she saw a hammer lying in a corner.

She punched the knob many times, trying to break it, and combined that with more pushing with her shoulder until it finally burst open. Audrey didn’t have time to think. She saw some stairs illuminated by the lights she had turned on and rushed down them, almost tripping.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

In a corner, huddled into herself, was her dear friend, Linda. “Linda! Oh God! Oh God! Are you alright?” Audrey ran and knelt on the floor, the tears already surfacing at finding her. “I’m here! I’m here!”

Linda’s eyes widened after realizing who had come downstairs, She was shaking, sweaty, and dirty, but her arms opened wide to hug Audrey, an embrace she would take gladly after the ordeal of her day. But Linda didn’t want a hug. She grabbed Audrey’s arms as tightly as possible and threw her to the side.

Audrey was so shocked by the force that she didn’t have time to brace herself or retain balance. She felt just a few feet away. However, there was an old piano, and she hit her head with an echoing thud.

Everything turned black.


“Audrey! Audrey!” Joseph’s panicked voice penetrated her consciousness. Her eyes blinked slowly, adapting to the light he turned on.

Her head was pounding, and his yells were not helping. “Ouch, stop yelling, please.”

“What the hell are you doing here?” he demanded angrily, but he helped her up.

“What?” Audrey asked, still confused. Then, everything that transpired that day returned to her mind, and she pushed away from Joseph. “Get away from me! You had her locked up!”For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

“For her own good!” he exclaimed, his jaw clenched tightly.

“What?” Audrey tilted her head and gently raised her hand to touch where it had connected with the old dresser.

“I was trying to save her life!” Joseph continued, sitting back and shaking his head in defeat. “Audrey, Linda hid something from you all these years. She’s an addict.”

Audrey took a sharp breath but began to shake her head, too. “No! You’re a monster! You planned to kill her and get her life insurance money!” she denied it, pointing at him with one trembling finger.

“No, Audrey,” Joseph said, his head hanging. “I would never. I love her. Listen to me. She’s been an addict for years. But she recovered even before she met you. She didn’t want anyone to know about her because it helped her stay clean. She told me before we got married, and I accepted it.”

“No,” Audrey’s lower lip shook as her emotions rose. “That’s impossible.”

“She relapsed a few months ago. She’s been using… it’s the hard stuff, Audrey. The most dangerous stuff. She’s been sneaking off, forgetting about Sophie, and doing who knows what and with whom,” Joseph continued.

“What happened yesterday? Wait, Friday?” Audrey wondered. She had no idea how late it was, but it was probably Sunday already.For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

“We had a huge fight. I told you that already. I bought this house because I wanted us to escape New York. Not that she can’t do drugs here, but this place is far away and surrounded by nature, so I thought it would be a good idea,” he explained, moving his hands in the air. “She didn’t like that. She called me controlling. Threw a tantrum, and went out of the house, saying she was picking up Sophie.”

Audrey stayed quiet, thinking back to everything from Friday. Linda called her, but there was nothing odd in her voice.

“I suspect that’s when she called you to pick Sophie up because I followed. I saw her on the phone, but she obviously didn’t go to the ballet studio. She went to score and took the… stuff… right there in a public park,” Joseph stumbled through his words, closing his eyes. “I panicked. I grabbed her, threw her in the car, and drove here. Yes, it took hours, but the drugs bought me time. She was relaxed and compliant.”

“Why didn’t you take her to rehab?” she asked, confused.

“Rehab doesn’t work if the person doesn’t want it,” he sighed, shaking his head some more. “But I wasn’t thinking too well either. I just did it. I arrived and put her in the basement. You called me when right when I exited a grocery store and found a parking ticket on my car.”For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Audrey tilted her head, thinking another piece of the puzzle was solved. But she finally had the big picture.

“That’s it. I went back to get Sophie. I had to deal with some stuff from work that I missed on Friday because I had to come here with Linda. But other than that, I just wanted to come up with some plan,” Joseph continued. His voice had calmed, but he was just lost.

“You should’ve told me. I’ve been in a craze, thinking you did something to her,” Audrey closed her eyes.

“Fine. What do you suggest we do now?” Joseph asked his hands in the air again.

“Call the police. We need to tell them the truth and get them to help,” Audrey shrugged. It would be tricky to explain to them why Joseph had lied initially, but it was better than sitting back and waiting for Linda to show up.

They called the police and waited… and waited… and waited.

Linda never made her way back. The cops found her a few hours later, overdosed in an alleyway, and she died in the ambulance en route to the hospital. Audrey broke down in the sterile, white hallway and fell to the floor, yelling, “It’s all my fault!”For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Joseph cried quietly in a corner, his head pressed to the wall, trying not to let the same guilt eat at him. A nurse begged him for a security number and something along those lines. But he didn’t listen. All he heard were Audrey’s cries and the beeping of medical machines, sounds that would haunt him forever.

What can we learn from this story?

  • Don’t make decisions when your emotions are running high. Joseph shouldn’t have locked Linda in a basement after seeing her using drugs. He should’ve asked for help and taken her to professionals.
  • It’s best not to assume anything without more context. Audrey misjudged Joseph because of what she found in his house and his lies, but she should’ve been honest and demanded the truth.

Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.

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