I blinked awake. My vibrating phone had fallen off of my bedside table, dragging a notepad with it. I blurrily weeded through my full voicemail box, trying to determine if there were any actual leads among the messages. My bullshit radar was working overtime these days.
One voicemail was from an elderly woman who was now terrified to leave her house after seeing our flyer. I called her to reassure her that it was all right to go grocery shopping; her tinny voice crackled at me through the phone, her relief apparent.
On the drive into work, images of Briggs flashed like a sordid pinwheel through my mind. Is he being taken care of? Is he even alive? Should we be making our search so public, or will we scare this man into going underground with him? I pushed those uneasy thoughts aside and tried to calmly run possibilities through my head, making mental notes of avenues that we had yet to explore.
I stomped down the beige hallway into work, boiling with hate over the ugliness of the carpet, only to fall lower still as everyone’s faces fell when they heard that Briggs had not yet been found. Yeah, I feel the same way, I thought.
Channeling my rage into the productive action of hating the office’s I-Think-I-Run-The-World-Sales guy, I gave him a mental middle finger as I passed his office.
My day was filled with blindly answering calls, attempting to get work done, and trying to hold my head up in the fluorescent prison that was my cubicle. Josh checked in with me constantly, sharing every idea he and his co-workers could come up with.
I came to realize that this was another difficult part of the process. Everyone had an opinion, and while people thought they were being helpful by offering suggestions, I was getting hundreds of suggestions a day. The compound effect left me feeling like a failure — as though I wasn’t trying hard enough.
After an interminable day of work, I spent the remaining daylight hours placing flyers in transitional neighborhoods by myself. Josh’s phone call from earlier that day played through my head. He’d been hanging posters in some difficult areas by himself before work and had left me with explicit orders to avoid certain neighborhoods when I was out on my own.
“Don’t you dare go into a bad area without me,” he said.
“What if I get a call and you aren’t here?” I asked.
“Call Paulie or Chuck,” Josh said, referring me to two of his friends who could protect me — in other words who were licensed to carry.
As the shadows deepened, I abandoned my flyering. Going home, I beat myself up some more, this time for not always being able to do it all on my own. Whenever I had to stop and go home, it felt like I was giving up on Briggs, trading his safety for my own.
Nighttime is the worst, I thought. I noticed how empty the house felt without Briggs, especially while Josh was at work — often until midnight or later. It’s amazing how quickly our perception, our illusion, of safety shifts when we become victims.
Our home is a three-story lofted townhome. My office is on the third floor, and there’s only one staircase down to the first floor. As I sat at my desk, I felt like a sitting duck for anyone who had a flyer with our address on it — all those people out there who now knew I was sitting on a reward.
I was in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Our address was on over 2,000 flyers throughout the city, I was on the bitter end of receiving threatening phone calls, and there was no dog to bark an alarm. I attempted to shake it off and tried to focus on my role as Campaign Manager of Operation Bring Briggs Home. The Facebook page was growing steadily, and our community offered consistent support. As I was following up with the comments and messages from the amazing community of followers, my phone rang.
“Call restricted,” my phone display blinked. I tensed. Restricted numbers meant the caller had something to hide.
“Hello?” I answered nervously.
“Yeah, uh, is this the Boston terrier person?”
“I killed your muthafucking dog, bitch! Dead motherfucking dog,” the man’s voice shouted hysterically through the phone, followed with maniacal laughter.
I couldn’t help picturing Briggs with a broken neck, laying on a concrete floor, muddy and bloody, his cold body tossed away. My vivid imagination was quickly becoming my worst enemy. Refusing to give a reaction, I quietly hung up. I was shocked by the evil in this world. Another part of me wasn’t surprised in the least. With our increased exposure, we were targets for all the drunks, freaks, schemers, and scum that Milwaukee had to offer. And like any city, Milwaukee’s got plenty of each.
One thing that I do know is that while I don’t always have time to help others, I’d certainly never go out of my way to make it worse for someone in need. These callers sickened me.
I tried to control my breathing and willed the fear back. Refusing to stumble or be dissuaded and demanding that I remain relentless, I worked through the night until Josh came home.