“Can I get you a cup of coffee?”

“My wife is missing and you are playing hostess?” Something feels off, dangerous even.

“Just trying to be friendly.”

More like amp me up, so I’ll say something in a caffeine rage to make me look guilty. Besides who knew what they put in that stuff. Was anything safe here?

The detective placed two Styrofoam cups of sludge on the table anyway. “In case you change your mind.” He grinned and sat down in the seat across from me.

We were in one of those interview rooms at a police station, in a foreign country. Panama to be exact. My wife has vanished. As if I’d have anything to do with harming her. The minute that woman walked, no, sauntered into my life, I couldn’t remember what it was like without her in it. Except for now. Now I know what it’s like and her absence sits heavy in the pit of my stomach. It weighs on my shoulders like gravity has been turned up a few notches. My brain is banging against my skull in a dull, rhythmic manner that is both aggravating and disorienting.

She’s been missing for less than 10 hours, yet it feels like a lifetime. We had arrived here less than 36 hours ago, believe it or not. It was a fluke why we were even here.

About a month ago, on a Saturday afternoon, we were in Costco stocking up on what seemed like our semi-annual supply of stuff we didn’t need a month’s worth of. On our way out, a man stopped us to talk about their great vacation getaways. He handed my wife a pamphlet with the picture of teal blue ocean waters, and white sand reflecting at the bottom. A lone ocean pier meandering out into the calm sea. And at its end, a small collective of huts that whispered promises of solitude and romance. The tagline read: ‘Wish you were here?’

We needed to get away. Like every other middle-class American couple, we worked long days that extended into the weekends at times, thanks to modern technology. Nights were spent in a rush to get normal life activities done. We barely touched, let alone having time to be intimate.

By the time we reached home from our errands, we had agreed to book the trip. You cannot imagine her excitement when we found the place as advertised. Clear water, white sandy beaches, huts extending out into the water. No Photoshop here.

What they didn’t picture were the cruise ships and expensive yachts that blasted by every hour of the day and night. Our hut neighbors, only eight feet away mind you, were also very enthusiastic with their lovemaking. Not leaving much to the imagination. Thankfully, my charming wife, always a forward thinker, had packed earplugs. They were supposed to be for the underwater adventures we had planned. I was prone to swimmer’s ear since childhood. Yet, we wound up wearing them all the time, to keep the exterior noise at bay. It was ridiculous, us walking around our tiny shack, shouting at each other to convey the simplest of thoughts. But seeing her laugh it off made it all worthwhile. Until I woke up in the middle of the night and she was gone.

The pier was the sole way in and out, other than access off the ocean. She couldn’t have gone far, I reasoned. Maybe she decided to take a moonlit stroll in the brief period of silence. I laid awake waiting for what seemed like an eternity, but when she didn’t return, I became concerned. I dressed and went outside. The huts were close together, with narrow walkways between each building. I wandered through each, whisper-shouting her name. I was shushed more than once by the other occupants, which made me roll my eyes after all the noise we had put up with earlier that day.

When there was no sign of her, I grabbed my cell phone and ran down the pier back towards the mainland. The larger part of the resort lay sprawling along the shoreline. I phoned her cell, straining to hear its unique ringtone, the Super Mario Brothers Theme Song. She was a huge Nintendo fan.

I went to the concierge desk and asked if anyone had seen her. They suggested I go back to our hut and wait. Maybe she was taking some time to explore the amenities, they encouraged. She’s bound to show up, they said. Against my better judgment, I agreed. My heart in my throat, I jogged back to our place. Maybe she was already there! But, no such luck.

By dawn, there was still no wife. Where had she gone? People don’t disappear out of thin air! I called the local police. They came quicker than I expected. Closing off the pier, they did a thorough search of each of the bungalows. They even called in a dive team. That’s when they found her phone. And a shoe. The right foot of her cut-off Chuck Taylor high-tops. There were trace amounts of blood on the inside of the shoe.

The evidence didn’t bode well for me. It’s always the spouse who did it, isn’t it? I think if that were true, people would stop trying to do their husband or wife in on their own. Everything is outsourced these days. Spousal demise should be too. It would save the police time on investigations by not focusing on the wrong person.

Yet again, there are reasons for stereotypes. Odds are I did do it. But where’s the motive? Honestly, I had none. Unless you count the fact that we were tens of thousands of dollars in debt and a large summed life insurance policy was the foreseeable way out of the situation.

I take a gulp of the Styrofoam cup sludge. I shouldn’t have drunk it. It wasn’t safe. Neither is this place.