Dana was late getting home from work on Wednesday evening. Troy, her husband, waited on her for dinner, but by 7 PM, when she wasn’t there, he gave up and ate some warmed up leftovers. He was getting worried. Troy had called her cell phone a few times and texted her, but she didn’t answer. He tried to call her office, but since it was past five o’clock, the call went straight to their after-hours answering service. This behavior was not like Dana. If she ever had to be late, she always let him know in advance, and she never failed to respond to calls or text messages.
Something must be wrong.
By 8 PM, he was really growing concerned, so he climbed into his pickup and drove the ten minutes to her office. Dana was the HR manager for a small consulting firm and worked at their corporate headquarter’s in a small office park in Plano, Texas. The parking lot was practically empty. There were almost always one or two cars in the lot, but Dana’s car was not in her assigned spot.
He tried calling her again, just in case she had gotten home while he was looking for her, but the call went directly to voice mail. That usually indicated that either her battery was dead or she had turned the phone off. He started to head back home, but on a wild hunch decided to drive down the street to a nearby dining and entertainment complex. It was not uncommon for her co-workers to head over to one of the numerous bars for drinks after work.
It was now almost 9 PM as he drove around inside the parking garage. There were hundreds of places to park, so he wasn’t very optimistic that he would find her, but as Troy reached the third floor, he saw Dana’s car with its distinctive custom plate that read BMWgirlz. He pulled into an empty spot nearby and checked her car out. Nothing seemed out of place. She had taken her purse and cell phone, so that was at least a little reassuring. He looked around, wondering where she might be.
Troy walked to the nearest staircase and went down to the ground floor. Surveying the area, he realized Dana could be in any of the twenty or thirty restaurants or bars in the massive complex. However, the fact that she was parked this far to one end of the garage hinted that she might be at one of two places that were down at this end, away from the main section. He noted mentally, with growing unease, that this was also adjacent to the Mariott hotel.
He checked the little Italian bistro first, but Dana was not there. He cut through an alleyway and turned down the side street where he remembered there was a dimly-lit Irish pub. In fact, it was Dana who had pointed the pub out to him a few months ago when they were in the area for dinner. He crossed the street to approach the bar from the side to avoid being seen.
The entire front of the pub was open to the street, with a couple of tables on the sidewalk. Loud music and laughter filled the air. It sounded like a party was going on inside. Troy knew the place got rowdy when the Premier League was active and during NFL games, but nothing was going on sports-wise to justify a crowd, so something else had to be happening.
As he peered inside, he could see a large party taking place. Balloons and streamers decorated the interior in festive colors. A large banner hung across that bar that proclaimed, “Happy Retirement!” There had to be forty or fifty people there, all laughing, joking and drinking heavily. It would seem that someone from Dana’s company was retiring.
Troy wondered why Dana hadn’t mentioned the party to him. It was a simple thing. He assumed she must have been busy planning and organizing it, and it slipped her mind to let him know. He felt relief, knowing she was safe and was about to head back home when the crowd inside began chanting “Speech! Speech! Speech!”. He was curious to see who the party was for, so he hesitated and watched.
That’s when he first saw his wife. She looked happy, blissfully so, and drunk. She was standing near the front of the bar, facing the crowd and waving at them. Everyone quieted down, and Dana began to speak.