The fluorescent lights were bright against the white painted concrete walls of the parking garage. Voices echoed throughout the structure as people came and went. The weekend was here, and the city was vibrant with energy, despite the cold. Just outside of the city’s center, this district of the city was colorful and illuminated by lights from the businesses that came to life at night.
Jeremy’s footsteps echoed softly as he exited the garage and stopped on the sidewalk and looked around. The center of the street was divided by small trees, and the sidewalk was wider here than in other areas of the city. Groups of people moved along the paths on both sides of the street as they made their way to whatever bar or club had their interest. It had been a long time since he had come to this area and he had nearly forgotten how many people were down here at night. There was a jazz lounge down the block where Nicolette had played frequently, and he had not gone back since she passed. There were too many painful memories that came to his mind when he remembered how happy she was while playing piano and singing.
After crossing the street, Jeremy found himself standing in front of a building at the end of the block. It didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the area. Most of the buildings in this part of the entertainment district were brightly lit and colorful structures that were either recently renovated or newer construction altogether. This building was old brick and two stories tall, with all of its windows looking as if they had been blacked out. Uncertain if he was in the right location, he double-checked the address he had written down. The building matched the address to a club called Eternity. From the looks of it, Jeremy was almost convinced it was an abandoned warehouse – until he heard laughter.
Following the sounds of laughter toward the corner of the building, Jeremy moved through a crowd of people walking in the opposite direction. As he rounded the corner, he knew he must be in the right place. This must be Eternity. Halfway down the side of the structure, there was an arched entrance leading inside. There was a line of people stretching all the way to the end of the building, and he guessed there were at least a hundred people crowded together in the cold night waiting to file inside for their nightly entertainment. He had no luck finding any information at Stone’s Dance Hall or Club Majestic – the other two locations on his list from the last charges on Andrea’s bank statement. This was his last stop for the night, but he dreaded the thought of waiting in a line again.
He approached the trio of bouncers at the head of the line directly. All of the bouncers were tall, well-built, and well dressed in suits. As he stopped in front of the entrance and waited for one of them to acknowledge him, people waiting near the front of the line began to grumble about letting him in before those who had been waiting. The closest doorman – a burly man with a short, military-style crew cut, looked directly at Jeremy with a piercing stare.
“Whatever it is, piss off and go to the back of the line like everyone else,” the bouncer said gruffly before Jeremy could get out a greeting. The other two briefly looked in his direction and went back to checking the line of people and allowing some in and telling others they would have to wait.
Jeremy was about to respond when a soft laugh came from beside him. He turned to see a woman approaching the doorman from the direction he had come. The woman had a long mane of vibrant purple hair swept over to one side of her head with the exposed side of her head shaved down to the skin. She was wearing a black corset and skirt, and Jeremy was sure she must be in a rush to get in from the cold. Jeremy stepped out of her way as she flashed him a thin-lipped smirk.
“Aw, sorry honey… maybe next time,” the woman said in a mischievous and mocking tone. She reached up to gently stroke his cheek as she passed by and then stopped as her cold hand ran over the stubble of his five o’clock shadow. The smirk briefly disappeared from her and reappeared as she pulled her hand back and looked at the doorman.
“Hey Shy,” the doorman greeted her. “Go on in.”
“On second thought, why don’t you let this one in. He’s delicious.” the woman said playfully. She turned, and her light blue eyes fixated on Jeremy, and with a nod, she gestured for him to follow her inside.
“Welcome to Eternity,” the man said as he pulled the door open for them both.
Without hesitation, the bouncers moved to let the woman lead Jeremy in. He heard grumbles from people still waiting in line, but the voices faded as the woman took his hand and led him into a dark corridor. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the barely lit corridor and he realized that the only light was sneaking through the small gap between large wooden double doors at the end of the hall. A pulsing rhythm of bass got louder as they moved down the hall. The woman released his hand and pushed open the double doors, which held open for a moment and slowly closed.
Inside the club, the music was unhindered and flowed throughout the whole of the open floor. The whole club pulsed with the distorted bass and rapid percussion of industrial music. The woman turned back to him with the same smirk she had initially greeted him with.
“Have a look around and then come find me at the main bar,” she said in a voice raised just enough for him to hear her over the music.
Jeremy nodded and mouthed thanks to her, although he wasn’t sure she could actually hear his voice. She leaned in close, and he felt her soft lips press against his cheek. He was disoriented by her kiss, and before he could pull away from her, she stepped back. Without another word, she walked off smiling and disappeared into the crowd of people inside the club.
Jeremy took his time walking around the club. He would have never guessed it was here if not for the throng of people waiting to get in. In the center of the club, there was a large open dance floor. Blue ambient light poured over everything with red accent lights illuminating booths, tables, and dancer cages. Along the edges of the dance floor, there were white leather lounge couches and tables. Large mirrors were spread all around the walls, and the ceiling was covered in mirrored tiles.
A DJ wearing a bronzed tragedy mask entertained the dancing mob from behind a booth in the center of a small stage. The dance floor was a mass of clubgoers scantily clad in dark velvet, leather, and lace grinding and writhing against each other to the beat of the music. Those people not dancing were carousing and cheering from the tables and booths encircling women spinning and dancing in cages.
In twenty minutes of squeezing his way past people, Jeremy had spoken to almost a dozen of the servers moving in and out of the lounge areas. He had shown the photograph copies of Andrea that he had brought with him, and each time he had no luck with gaining new information about her. He had gotten looks ranging from disinterest to irritation. One of the women he had spoken to had even looked him up and down and told him he clearly didn’t belong in the club and that he should leave. He was done for the night. He’d been in stranger situations when he was a beat cop but it was almost two in the morning, and he was exhausted.
Jeremy meandered back through the crowd and squeezed between a cluster of people to thank the woman who had helped him get in. After that, he resolved to get the hell out of the deafening club and go home. The only problem was that he couldn’t see the violet-haired woman near his side of the bar. As he leaned against the bar and looked down the other end, the nearest bartender, a pale-skinned man dressed in a red-vested Victorian suit, stepped over to help him.
“What can I get you?” he asked Jeremy.
Jeremy didn’t have a response, he wasn’t in the mood to drink in a place like this. Deciding he would try once more, he showed the man a photo of Andrea.
“Sorry man, do you have any idea how many people come in here?” the other man said as he stroked his hand through his painstakingly shaped mustache.
“You finally decided to come see me?” a woman’s voice called out. It seemed clearer to him than any other voice through the cacophony of sound in the club.
Jeremy turned to face the voice and saw a flare of violet hair as the woman who had helped him moved next to the other bartender. It was the woman he had heard the doorman call Shy, but she seemed anything but shy.
“Hey, I meant to say thank you,” Jeremy began. “Shy, right? I’m Jeremy.”
“Nice to meet you. It’s short for Shyanne, but you can call me whatever you want,” she said as she stuck the tip of her tongue between her lips and leaned against the bar toward him.
Jeremy pushed himself up and away from the bar, putting distance between he and Shy only to realize that either way he had a candidly personal view of her cleavage. He was damned if he did lean close to her on the bar and damned if he didn’t.
“What’s this?” Shy asked as she studied the photo of Andrea on the bar top. She rotated the image to view it right-side up. “You’re looking for her? Are you a cop?”
“No. I’m not a cop – she’s a friend, and I’m just trying to find out what happened to her,” Jeremy began. “Her name is Andrea Wynn. Do you recognize her? She would have been here a few weeks ago.”
The other bartender walked off to help people at the bar, leaving Jeremy and Shy at the bar in their conversation.
“I don’t recognize her, but I see a lot of faces,” Shy replied. “Not everyone comes up to the bar though. Did you talk to any of the servers?”
“Yeah,” Jeremy’s voice trailed off and was drowned out by the music. He shook his head.
A server came up to the bar next to Jeremy and laid a tray down. It was the same woman who had told Jeremy he didn’t belong in the club. She rolled her eyes at him as he moved to give her more space at the bar.
“Shy, my VIP table needs more glasses for their bottle service and mixers. He said to surprise him.” the woman called out over the music. She slid a folded stack of what Jeremy guessed were hundred dollar bills to Shy.
“No prob,” Shy replied as she began grabbing glasses and bottles and putting them on the tray. She glanced over at Jeremy and then back at the server. “Hey Hannah, did you check out the photos he has?”
Hannah made an expression that Shy obviously didn’t enjoy. Jeremy was surprised to see Shy slap her hand hard on the bar top in front of the server to get her attention.
“Hey! Don’t be shitty to my friend!” Shy shouted over the music. “Look at the pics, or I will give your section to someone else.”
Startled, Hannah’s entire demeanor shifted, and she began apologizing profusely to both Jeremy and Shy.
“I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize you knew Shy.” Hannah exclaimed as she moved closer to Jeremy and spun both pictures around to look at them.
“Her name’s…” Jeremy started but was interrupted by Hannah.
“Andrea,” Hannah said matter of factly.
“Yeah, do you know her?” Jeremy asked as he felt hope creep back in from the back of his mind.
“Not really but she’s been here a few times,” Hannah replied. “I was serving a group she was with, and she drew a picture of me on a coaster and signed it. I don’t have the coaster on me, but I took a picture of it.” Hannah pulled her cell phone out from the waistband of her skirt and swiped through several photos before showing Jeremy a sketch of herself drawn on one of the club’s stark white coasters. It definitely looked like Andrea’s style.
Shy clapped her hands together and smiled at Jeremy. She went back to stocking the tray and then slid it to the edge of the bar next to Hannah.
“When was the last time you saw her?” Jeremy asked.
“It’s been… a couple weeks,” Hannah guessed. “I haven’t seen her, but I’ve seen the guy she was fawning all over back in here a couple times with a new girl. He’s damn hot and oh my god, his accent.” Hannah shivered as she added the last part.
“Do you know his name or remember what he looks like?” Jeremy leaned in as he questioned her.
After a few moments of pondering, Hannah slowly shook her head. “You know, now that I think about it I can’t remember exactly,” she said and paused. “Weird, I can’t actually remember his face. He’s tall and always wears dark suits. He was definitely British though.” she added.
“That’s it?” Jeremy asked with a heavy shrug. He pulled the pictures of Andrea up and held them in front of Hannah. “She’s been missing for a month. You’ve got to give me more.”
Hannah took a step back. “I’m sorry, for some reason I just can’t picture his face,” she began. “I remember his eyes though. They were this piercing, dreamy gray.” She shrugged blankly as she began to pick up the tray and shuffle the glasses and bottle around to balance evenly.
“Damnit,” Jeremy said and slammed his hand on the bar.
Hannah stepped back and excused herself, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to get back to my tables. I’m sorry for being rude earlier. I hope you find her.”
Jeremy turned back to face Shy and slid the photos of Andrea back into his jacket. Hope was beginning to fade again, and Jeremy could feel the frustration building back up inside him. He tapped his hand on the bar and nodded to Shy as he got ready to leave. “Thanks anyway, I appreciate it.”
Shy’s hands reached out and caught his before it left the bar. Her hands were still cold as ice as she cupped them gently around his. “Don’t lose hope. Why don’t you leave the pictures with me and I’ll ask around? I might get better answers than you did.”
Jeremy nodded and fought a reflex to jerk his hands away. This woman was friendly – maybe a little too much, but she had been more helpful than anyone else. Shy seemed genuinely concerned, and that was a rare trait in most people as far as Jeremy was concerned. He slowly pulled his hand away and reached back into his jacket to remove the copies he had made of Andrea’s photographs. He handed them to her and then picked up a nearby pen and coaster and began writing his phone number down for Shy.
“I would really appreciate it,” Jeremy said. “If you find anything out, please get in touch with me.”
“Sure thing. I hope you find your friend.”
“Thanks. It was nice meeting you Shy.”
Shy winked as she slid a folded napkin into Jeremy’s hand. She held his hand for a few seconds before finally letting go. “Now you’ve got my number too. Don’t be a stranger.”
Jeremy took in a breath and decided not to say anything in response. Instead, he smiled and stepped away from the bar as he pocketed the napkin. As he walked away, Jeremy forced himself not to look back over his shoulder. He couldn’t explain it, but somehow he knew she was still watching him. It was an uncomfortable feeling, and something about Shy seemed off.
As he walked around the edge of the dance floor, he found himself wondering what his next step would be. Running through steps in his mind, he began making plans to start going through Andrea’s sketchbooks and talk to Dillon. Now that he could confirm there was someone who remembered seeing her with someone, maybe the police could get more information where he couldn’t. If anyone cared to try.
As he rounded the corner of the dance floor to head out the large wooden doors through which he had entered, he bumped into a man in a black suit and trench coat. Jeremy apologized and caught himself before getting completely off-balance. The man he slammed into was silent and unphased – solid in his footing. He brushed black shoulder-length hair back away from his face and looked at Jeremy for only a moment before continuing on into the crowd. At that moment, Jeremy saw a threat in his eyes – as if every fiber of the other man’s being wanted to end Jeremy’s existence. He felt threatened and suddenly wished he had his gun on him. Then the man and the feeling were gone.
Jeremy continued to watch the man walk deeper into the club. He watched as inexplicably, the rest of the crowd in the club moved away from the man, like a school of fish calmly parting for a shark to pass through without incident. Jeremy shook his head and turned to leave. It had been a long night, and he was looking forward to getting back to his dark, quiet apartment and getting some rest.
Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash