The rhythmic sounds of rock music poured out of the speakers surrounding the living room. Rays of sunlight poured in through the glass sliding doors that separated the balcony and the living room. The towering structures of steel and glass of downtown dwarfed the surrounding areas of the metropolis. Shadows stretched over the city as the sun lowered beyond the high-rise buildings and skyscrapers that made up the downtown skyline.
With one hand resting against the wall next to the glass doors and his other holding a glass of ice water down to his side – Jeremy looked down at the city. His green eyes scanned the city below in disinterest. Cars stuck in traffic as people impatiently attempted to make their way home. Horns honked off in the distance, and if he stepped out onto the balcony, he was sure he would hear someone shouting below. The city seemed so much different at night, and he realized how much he preferred it. It wasn’t nearly as loud except for the areas that lit up and came alive when the sun went down.
Ice clinked against the side of the glass as his hand trembled. He pushed away from the wall and turned back to the mess in his apartment. He hadn’t had any alcohol today, and already he had the shakes. He needed to focus, so, for now, water and ibuprofen would have to do.
Boxes were scattered around the kitchen and living room with their tops torn open. He had decided to pull out essentials as he was rolling over the details of the missing person reports. Glasses, plates, and silverware were now stacked on the counter of the kitchen. Mail and bills were fanned across the bartop separating the kitchen and dining area and pages and photos from the case file sorted on the otherwise undecorated dining table.
Three of the four photos were of women who had gone missing and subsequently been found dead roughly a month after. All but the final picture – the photo of Andrea Wynn. Andrea had been missing for over two weeks now, and there hadn’t been any sign of her coming back or where she could have disappeared to. Dozens of scenarios played through in Jeremy’s mind. What could have happened? It seemed most likely that she had met someone and mistakenly trusted them too much.
If she had not been found yet and had not returned on her own, something terrible had happened to her. Jeremy felt it deep down in the pit of his stomach, every time he thought too much about it. She had been lonely, recently single, and looking to fill the new void that had crept into her life. It took effort from him not to give up and write her off as dead, but something was driving him to find her. He hated seeing bad things happen to good people and Andrea Wynn was as good and deserving of help as people got in this shitty world.
With all of the details laid out on the table, Jeremy’s eyes scanned each of the documents and handwritten notes that were included in the folder. Almost every document lacked significant details that would be relevant to the cases, but the handwritten notes shined a light where the reports and documents cast shadows. The original investigating detective assigned to the cases, Enrique Santos, had done as best he could to stitch together details from friends, family, and coworkers. Santos’ notes allowed Jeremy to weave together the narrative that wasn’t being told about each of the women in the official reports.
All of them shared strong similarities to each other. Physically, they were all just over five feet tall, with long and naturally blonde hair, and blue eyes. They were all in good shape, although Jeremy couldn’t find anything in common relating to them going to the same gym or anything similar. One liked to jog, one did yoga, the other two apparently just ate right or had good genetics. Their facial structure was similar, and Jeremy guessed that if he had to pick one out of a group, the only one he could tell the difference in was Andrea and then, only because he knew her.
The real details came out when Santos started talking to the people in their lives. Old reports and conversations with friends, family members, and roommates had combined to draw a bigger picture of the similarity in the women’s lives. That picture was of abuse. All of the women had been exposed to violence on multiple occasions, and Jeremy refused to see it as a coincidence.
By the time, he had started reading the information and notes about Andrea’s life, the stories were all seeming to blend together. As he read through Andrea’s portion of the file, he found out more about her than he had in all of the time they had been neighbors. Andrea had been in trouble before she turned 18, though a lot of it was only known through Andrea’s mother and her roommate, Sarah. As he read through the notes, a narrative of an early life filled with abuse and neglect began to build itself.
Andrea had run away multiple times as a child, well into her teenage years. According to Sarah, Andrea’s father had been physically abusive to both Andrea and her mother, with Andrea having to visit the hospital at least twice for bruising and stitches. The two women lived in fear of her father’s rage until her mother finally got the courage to leave. Notes from Andrea’s mother document that things went well for a year, and she eventually remarried. That was when Andrea was 13.
More notes from Sarah indicated that at 16, Andrea was done running away. With the assistance of her high school guidance counselor, she went to the police and reported that her stepfather had been sexually abusing her for years. Her mother had been ignoring the signs, and that had driven the two of them even further apart.
By 17, she had graduated early from high school, gotten a job, and had herself emancipated as a minor. Her father was out of her life, her stepfather went to prison, and she seemingly never spoke to her mother again. That was when Andrea’s life seemed to have finally turned around. Sarah had met her shortly after as they both worked in the same department store. The two had moved in together, and Andrea had been accepted into college on an academic scholarship. Jeremy remembered Sarah saying that she had been working on a degree in clinical child psychology. It made a little bit more sense now. Andrea’s sheer will and drive impressed him.
Everything had turned away from the horrible life she had in her early years. She had dated someone off and on for a year, and by all accounts, the recent breakup between her and her boyfriend was mutual and amicable. She had a part-time job, was almost done with her degree, and was also selling her own artwork and photography. At 24, she had damn near everything going for her… except that she was now missing.
Jeremy stood at the table and took a deep breath as he tried to make sense of it all. Eyeing over the details, the similarities, the physical appearances of the women – it was more than a coincidence. Someone was taking and killing women that Andrea had all too much in common with. Questions continued to linger in his mind though.
Why were their bodies always found a month later? Were they being kept alive that entire time or were the bodies being dumped after a buffer period for some reason?
The coroner’s reports weren’t any help. The only helpful details mentioned were bruising to the wrists and severe lack of blood in the desiccated corpses that had been found. Jeremy couldn’t even find details in the reports about where the other three women’s bodies had been found – only that they had been found. He could see from the lack of information that someone was obviously holding back on working the case. From his talk with Dillon, it was apparent that whoever was stifling the case – they were high up in the chain of command.
One detective had already been placed on leave and Dillon said his retirement was threatened. Someone was using a lot of power to sway things to keep this out of the news and unsolved. Jeremy couldn’t even begin to imagine why but knew that he had to figure it out. No one else was going to and if there was a chance Andrea was still alive – he had to find her in less than two weeks.
A tapping sound broke him out of his trance, staring over all of the pieces of paper scattered over his table. It wasn’t part of the music. Jeremy walked over to the stereo and turned down the volume. Someone was knocking on the door. He slid his glass onto the table and quickly swept all of the papers up and replaced them back in the folder he had gotten from Dillon.
“Who’s there?” he called out as he hurriedly walked back to his bedroom and stashed the folder.
The knocking stopped.
“It’s Sarah,” a muffled feminine voice replied from the other side of the door.
Jeremy opened the door to find Sarah standing on the other side, clutching a new handful of papers. She looked disheveled and was still wearing her work clothes. Jeremy guessed she had just gotten off work.
She pushed her way in, uninvited, and it was all Jeremy could do to keep up with her as she moved to his dining table and began sorting the new papers on the table.
“So, I remembered this thing where Andrea had a lot of logins and passwords to keep track of between school and work and home. She was awful about remembering them.” Sarah began.
Before Jeremy could respond, Sarah began again.
“I remembered her having this little notebook she wrote them down in, and it turns out she keeps basically everything but her computer and phone password in it.” Sarah continued.
“Okay,” Jeremy said flatly, not sure where she was leading him.
“Probably illegal, I know, but I found her banking info and printed up her card statement,” Sarah said.
“Oh,” Jeremy paused. “Oh shit!” he straightened with the realization that he may not have had that information anytime soon – if ever.
“Yeah,” Sarah began, “I figure you can look at it and maybe it’ll help. I printed up the last two months.”
Jeremy leaned forward and quickly sifted through the pages. They were individually numbered and organized by date of their transaction. Each entry gave information on the amount charged and details about the transaction or business name.
“Sarah, this is great,” Jeremy said as he flipped to the most recent statement period. “Have you given this info or that book to the police?” he asked. There were charges for groceries, food, coffee – the things one would usually expect to find. Later in the month, however, he saw a charge from a dating site and several different bars and clubs listed.
“No, I remembered while I was at work and just got home to find it,” Sarah replied. “Also, it’s not like they’ve been of much help this far.”
“I wouldn’t access it again if I were you and definitely don’t change anything, but if I can get that book from you – I’ll pass it to someone I trust,” Jeremy suggested. He flipped to the last page and looked at the latest charges on Andrea’s bank statement.
“Okay, yeah. I can go get it now.” Sarah replied. She turned to rush over to her apartment next door.
“Thanks,” Jeremy called out as he heard the door swing closed. His eyes were still on the final page’s charges. Someone at one of those places might know where Andrea went or what happened to her.
He glanced down at the bottom of the page and grabbed a pen that he had left on the table. He would check out the last three places and show photos of Andrea. Maybe he’d have some luck, and someone would recognize her. At this point, it was all he had. He circled the last three charges that looked like bars or clubs.
Stone’s Dance Hall
Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash