Jeremy had woken up exhausted from a night that had been a lot longer than he had anticipated after Sarah’s visit. He had worked for two hours to compile the images and notes from Andrea’s newly discovered sketchbook into what he believed helped strengthen the importance of finding Andrea. He had spent most of the time tracing the final image of the unknown man’s face and put it on top of the stack of papers before shoving it all into a full-sized envelope. At the end of the night, and with Sarah’s help, he had two copies of everything – one of which was for him to make notes on. The other was to pass off to Dillon – if Dillon was even able to work on the case.
The scent and feel of the night’s cold air were refreshing to Jeremy as he stood on the sidewalk outside of his apartment building. His breath wisped away from him and hung in the air for a few seconds. After sleeping most of the day, he had woken up to a cold, rainy night and a bunch of missed calls from an area code he didn’t recognize. He had ignored the calls, but several text messages from Dillon confirmed they were on to meet at Eddie’s Bar. The most recent message told Jeremy that Dillon was already there and waiting.
Standing out in the light rain that fell, Jeremy pulled his pea coat tighter around him. He breathed a sigh of relief to see that the rain hadn’t picked back up too much. The last thing he needed was all the documents he had spent his time working on and copying, getting soaked right before he passed them off to Dillon.
Street traffic was light, and after waiting for cars to pass by, Jeremy walked out into the street, careful in his steps to avoid the potholes he knew hid the deep puddles. Dillon’s car was parked a couple spaces down from the bar’s front entrance. A big group of people walked around him as he stepped onto the sidewalk in front of Eddie’s Bar across the street from his apartment building. They yelled and cheered drunkenly as they continued on down the path, and Jeremy watched them. Ignorance of the terrible things going on in the city seemed pretty blissful.
As Jeremy watched them continue on and turn onto a different street, he caught the movement of a helmeted figure straddling a motorcycle parked on the far side of the road. The figure, clad in dark clothes, straightened up to their full seated height as Jeremy glanced over. He couldn’t make out any distinguishing features of the motorcycle or the rider, but he was almost sure the figure was a man and that the engine was turned off. In the light rain, Jeremy stared at the rider, and the rider seemed to stare back without moving.
It seemed strange to see someone out riding on a rainy day, but Jeremy shook his head slightly and brushed the beading rain off his pea coat. His hand grasped the cold metal handle to the door to Eddie’s Bar and swung the door wide open, walking inside from the cold. He didn’t want to keep Dillon waiting, especially with how unlikely it seemed Dillon would be to do any work on Andrea’s case.
Dillon was inside, waiting at their usual booth at the back of the bar. Eddie’s bar was as busy as Jeremy had ever seen it with close to thirty people crammed into the front tables and the bar area. Jeremy nodded to Eddie and an older woman helping behind the bar. Eddie beamed a smile at Jeremy as he gestured his arms wide at the number of patrons in his bar. Jeremy moved past the small crowd huddled near the front, all of whom were looking at the television mounted above the bar.
Joining Dillon at the booth, Jeremy opened his jacket to pull out the envelope filled with Andrea’s most recent images and notes. The legal envelope thudded on the table as Jeremy dropped it flatly in front of Dillon and sat across from him. Dillon looked up with unamused eyes under his furrowed brow.
“That better not be what I think it is,” Dillon said flatly as he lifted the envelope and opened it at the end. He glanced inside and immediately pushed it away from him.
“It’s more info on Andrea Wynn’s case,” Jeremy replied. He had yet to determine whether he would be able to talk Dillon into pressing forward in the case.
“Jesus, man. What part of I will lose my job did you not understand?” Dillon grumbled.
Even as Dillon objected, Jeremy was surprised to see him pull the stack of papers out of the envelope and begin thumbing through them. Jeremy gave the other man a few moments to glance over the documents and images.
“I got the most recent credit card statement from her roommate, Sarah Mullins. I’ve already checked out the last few places she visited and got a couple hits at this club.” Jeremy reached his hand over and tapped the word “Eternity” next to a charge on the statement.
“A waitress at Eternity said she saw Andrea sitting with and then leaving with a man, and no one has seen Andrea since.” Jeremy began. “The drawings are from a sketchbook her roommate just found. I’m thinking that her asking for help and the notes she left are big signs something was wrong.”
“Is this the goth club you met that hot bartender at?” Dillon asked.
“Yeah,” Jeremy replied.
“So you did all this in two days? Man, you need to get laid by that goth chick again.” Dillon teased with a smirk on his face.
“Actually…” Jeremy began and paused for a drink from his beer before continuing. “Actually, I’m kind of leaning toward she drugged me and stole my cologne at the very least.”
“What the f…?” Dillon blurted out before being interrupted by Jeremy.
“I’ll deal with that a different day. For now, Dillon, I need you focused on this. We may only have two weeks left.”
“You’re serious?” Dillon asked. His eyebrows raised up as he leaned forward.
Jeremy nodded silently and took another drink from his beer.
“Well, I was serious too, Jer,” Dillon continued in a lower tone. He glanced around the bar instinctively before he continued. “No one and I mean no one is talking openly about these cases at work. I’m pretty sure someone is getting paid a lot of money to keep this under wraps, and whoever it is, they are much higher than my paygrade.”
“Look, I’m taking it easy, but I’m also trying to do right by this girl while also keeping her friend Sarah out of the mix. She’s stubborn.” Jeremy warned.
“Yeah, I know she’s stubborn. She won’t stop calling me with the tiniest updates or leaving messages with others for me. It’s gotten to the point that I’m getting looked at every time my phone rings. Now, I have to make up shit to get off the phone quickly or say I can’t talk.” Dillon grumbled.
“Great job protecting and serving. Sarah called you a dick, by the way.” Jeremy smirked and finished off his beer.
“Fair enough, but look…” Dillon hesitated as he finished his drink off as well and slid the bottle to the center of the table. “I want to help, and I will. If someone’s really covering it up, though, that means they’re taking money or involved. I’m not trying to be unemployed or dead.”
“So take care of yourself and keep this quiet until you know who you can trust. See if you can get an artist to work on this quietly and run the image through the databases.” Jeremy tapped the page with the drawing of the unknown man’s face. “Text me any details, and I’ll do the leg work.”
“In the meantime, don’t call me at work.” Dillon shrugged as he sorted and stacked the papers again and slid them back into the envelope.
“No offense.” Dillon paused and raised a hand up passively. “I get it, you’ve been through hell, but a lot of people are still pissed about what you did. It put a lot of negative press on the department.”
Jeremy sat in silence, but he could almost remember the rage he felt just over six months ago. He knew Dillon was talking about the night Nicolette was killed in a car accident. He had shown up at the crash to find his fiance’s lifeless body covered in a sheet, while the drunk driver who sent her car off the road was tended to by paramedics. The love of his life was dead, but the intoxicated man who had snuffed out her life was fine, aside from a concussion and minor scrapes and bruises. He refused to acknowledge Dillon’s comment.
Dillon continued, “I can’t imagine what you went through and how it felt, but you put a guy in the hospital. Christ, man, you almost killed him, and you did it all with a news crew reporting the accident.”
“I know what I did, and it cost me my career. He’s still alive, and he took everything.” Jeremy snapped as he felt tears welling up in his eyes. “She’s gone. He fucking took her from me, and I’m left here with an apartment full of memories of how happy she was. He’ll serve less than ten years in prison.”
Several nearby patrons in the bar turned to look toward the source of raised voices at the booth.
Dillon leaned toward the nearest table and pointed at the people looking toward him and Jeremy. “What the fuck are you looking at? Mind your business.”
The trio at the table immediately faced away and mumbled amongst themselves. Dillon turned back to Jeremy and continued. “Calm down, man. You lost a lot that day, but you’re still here, and that means something. I’m just saying it put the PD in a bad light, and we’re struggling as a whole. Honestly, it says a lot that people went to bat for you, and the worst that happened was you lost your badge – so maybe don’t push your luck.”
“Are you going to help me with this or not?” Jeremy sighed and wiped his hand at his eyes before the tears streamed down his face.
“Yes, damn it,” Dillon’s voice rose to a booming volume before he caught himself and regained his composure. “I already said I would.”
“Thank you,” Jeremy replied.
“You want to change the subject on me, then I’ll change it on you too. What the hell are you doing, brother? How are you doing on money?” Dillon asked.
“What?” Jeremy asked, blankly.
“You’re not a cop anymore,” Dillon said. “The last I checked, you didn’t have a job.”
“Oh,” Jeremy said absently. “Between the insurance and severance and barely living, I’m okay for now.”
“Well if you’re going to keep doing this PI shit on the side – next time, get paid,” Dillon said as he reached into his pocket and threw several bills into the middle of the table to cover their bill.
“We’ll see,” Jeremy replied. He didn’t have the time or heart to tell Dillon that two weeks ago, he was ready to eat a bullet.
“You’ll see,” Dillon warned. “You need to get off your ass and start doing something before you’re broke and kicked out of that swanky building. You’re not coming to live with me.” Dillon stood to leave.
Jeremy rose with him and reached down to pick up the cash Dillon had put on the table. “Keep those documents and your money. I’ve got the drinks this time, you bill-sneaking asshole.”
Dillon laughed and nodded. “Go home and get some more sleep Jer. You look like shit.”
Jeremy moved up to the bar to pay the tab and watched as Dillon walked out to his car.
After settling the bar tab with Eddie, Jeremy stepped out of the bar and breathed in the chilled night air. It was raining more steadily than when he had gone into the bar, but Jeremy loved the rain. He’d go home, take a shower, and fall asleep on the couch or in his bed – it didn’t matter to him. Dillon’s car was nowhere to be seen. Jeremy ran his hand through his hair, sweeping it away from his eyes as he waited for the only moving vehicle on the road to roll by.
Before Jeremy could cross the street to his apartment, the rumble of a motorcycle engine started up down the road. Jeremy turned his head toward the sound. The motorcycle and rider he had seen on his way into the bar were in the same spot. The rider revved the throttle on the bike several times until its sound became a high-pitched roar, and for a few seconds, Jeremy watched the rider.
Finally, Jeremy decided to cross the street – waiting for cars to pass from each direction before he moved. As he got to the middle of the road, the high pitched scream of the motorcycle echoed between the buildings, and Jeremy knew the vehicle was coming closer to him. He glanced out of the corner of his vision and saw the blinding light of the headlight coming directly at him. He sped up his walk and began running to the safety of the sidewalk only to turn and see the rider had used a slope from the curb to come up onto the sidewalk. The motorcycle and rider were coming right at him.
Jeremy could hear the blood pumping in his head as his heart raced. The motorcycle accelerated toward him as the rider pushed the high-revving engine. Jeremy jumped forward between two cars parked in front of his building, narrowly avoiding being struck by the motorcycle as it screamed past him on the sidewalk. Jeremy rolled to his side, between the cars, as he reflexively reached to retrieve his gun from his concealed carry holster, only to realize he didn’t have it or his gun on his person.
Still ducking, Jeremy peeked out from the cars in the direction of the motorcycle. The rider had moved back into the street and was continuing on away from him. Several people farther down the sidewalk shouted obscenities at the rider before continuing on the way they were headed.
It was too late to get the license plate, so he just watched to make sure the rider wasn’t turning around. He was out of breath and panting, and he could feel his hands trembling as he watched the rider turn off the street and disappear.
Black clothes and black motorcycle. That was the only description Jeremy had to go by. The bike didn’t sound like a chopper, but it didn’t sound like a sports bike either. He’d have to tell Dillon that someone had been watching them and tried to run him down, even though he was convinced the rider was trying to scare him more than anything. It worked, and Jeremy cursed at himself for leaving his place unarmed.
He stood up and absent-mindedly brushed his wet hands off on his jeans. His clothes were soaked from diving prone into the street. Shaking his head, he went inside his apartment building, his shoes squeaking as he moved across the marble floor to the elevator. On the elevator ride to his level, he wondered who the rider was and if they were connected to the disappearances. Whether they were or not, he didn’t intend to step out of his apartment without protection again.
The elevator dinged, and the doors slid quietly open. Jeremy made his way down the hallway, the wet soles of his shoes still squeaking softly with each step. He reached down into his pocket to retrieve his door key and stopped ten paces short of his apartment door. The door was cracked open, and he could see the light on inside. He knew he had locked the door and turned the lights off when he left. He reached into his pocket for his cellphone as he quietly slid against the wall next to his door. He glanced down at his phone to see a series of cracks and the flickering light of his phone’s screen, failing to render anything intelligible.
“Great, no phone and no gun,” he muttered to himself. “Fuck this night.”