It was later in the morning, and it should have been brighter inside the apartment. Instead, the curtains were drawn fully over all of the windows, leaving a single lamp on the end table to cast its yellow glow across the living room. Sketchbooks were scattered and stacked across the surface of the black coffee table, some of them flipped open – others closed.
Jeremy had not received a response from Shy all morning. It was nearing noon, and he hoped she was resting and hadn’t heard her phone as opposed to the idea she might be avoiding him. He still hadn’t been able to remember everything from the previous night, and he was far from comfortable with that fact. For now, there was only the patience he had no choice but to muster, his mind which wouldn’t stop racing over the facts about Andrea’s case, and the sensation that at any moment he may vomit or pass out. He had felt weak since waking up, but his strength was slowly coming back to him – he hoped.
A dwindling bottle of ibuprofen and several glasses of water had helped, but not nearly as much as the coffee and muffin that Sarah had brought over shortly after he had started going through the sketchbooks that Sarah had left in his apartment. He felt as if he hadn’t eaten or drank anything for days. It was different from any hangover Jeremy had ever experienced. Now, he and Sarah sat in near silence in his living room – the only constant sound being the shuffling of papers as they flipped through each of the sketchbooks page-by-page. Jeremy was convinced there must be something in one of them – some clue as to who Andrea had been seeing when she disappeared.
So far, there had been nothing except one example after another of Andrea’s talent as an artist. Jeremy flipped closed another sketchbook and leaned forward on his couch to stack it with the others he had gone through. As he reached to grab the next book, he glanced over and saw Sarah staring at him. Her eyebrows arched over the soft expression of concern on her face.
“What?” Jeremy asked as he pulled the next sketchbook into his lap and flipped it open.
“Are you okay?” Sarah asked softly from her seat at the opposite end of the couch.
“What do you mean?” Jeremy asked without lifting his eyes to meet hers. He continued to scan through the drawings and notes of the book.
“No offense, but you look like shit,” she said flatly.
Jeremy lifted his gaze to meet hers. “I don’t look like shit.”
“Okay, then why are we sitting in here with only one light on and the curtains closed?” she asked as she set the book she was currently looking through down in her lap.
“I have a headache,” he replied. It was short, but he didn’t feel like explaining that he didn’t know why he was exhausted or that he was becoming increasingly frustrated with everything going on in his life.
“Yeah and you’re like two shades lighter than normal,” Sarah added.
“It was a rough night.” Jeremy could feel frustration building inside him with each comment.
“Yeah, you look like you almost drank yourself into a coma. I’m surprised you’re awake and moving around.”
“Look, I didn’t drink that much. I just don’t feel well.” Jeremy replied.
“Hence, you look like shit,” Sarah responded. She continued to stare at him, accusingly. “Were you drinking alone again?”
Sarah continued to stare at him, disbelief evident in her eyes.
“I was catching up with someone I used to work with,” Jeremy replied.
“Someone from the police department?” Sarah asked. Her expression softened at this.
“Yeah.” Jeremy nodded. He looked back down to the book in his hand and began to flip back through it – surveying page after page of drawings and sketches. It was a much more recent sketchbook.
“Were you talking about Andrea’s case?” Sarah asked.
“A little bit. There wasn’t much to be said,” Jeremy replied and looked back up to meet Sarah’s eyes.
Sarah’s expression became more distraught in response, and she finally looked back down at the book in her lap. “I was thinking of checking into the last couple of places that Andrea went,” she added.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Sarah,” he warned. There was much more to the case than she should know and he didn’t want to say anything too detailed to worry her. As he flipped through the pages, he noted that several of them had been incomplete sketches of facial features – individual eyes, lips, and a nose. It was beginning to look like Andrea had given up drawing completed images of her subjects, or maybe she was just practicing.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Even if there isn’t much of an update to Andrea’s case, I think there’s still something off about it,” Jeremy said as he shifted in his seat to angle more toward Sarah.
“What does that even mean?”
“I’d just prefer if you didn’t go looking into this any more than you already have. There’s something strange about Andrea’s disappearance, and I don’t want you getting wrapped up in it.” There was another one – a realistic sketch of a single eye, open with a dilated pupil.
A few moments of silence filled the space between them as Jeremy finished reviewing his current sketchbook. He set the book on the coffee table by itself and pulled a new one back into his lap.
“Do you think we’ll find her and she’ll be okay?” Sarah’s voice wavered.
“I hope so,” he replied. He didn’t want to give Sarah false hope, but he also didn’t know what else to say.
Sarah went silent for a few moments, before muttering something Jeremy couldn’t quite make out.
“What?” he asked.
“She didn’t look much like a cop to me,” Sarah repeated herself.
“Who?” Jeremy asked.
“Your friend. The woman in all the leather,” she replied.
It took him a few seconds to realize Sarah was most likely talking about Shy. “Oh no, that wasn’t my friend.”
Sarah’s confused expression was quickly replaced with a smile. “Ohhh,” she said with a nod. “Must have been a very rough night.”
“No, it’s not like that. I don’t think…” Jeremy let his thought trail off, uncertain as to whether he wanted to bring up the previous night. “When did you even see her?”
“I saw her as I was coming back from hanging out with friends. It’s okay to move on. I’m happy for you if that’s what you’re into.” Sarah teased.
“What time was that at?” Jeremy asked.
“It must have been around 3:30 this morning,” Sarah replied. “You don’t remember her leaving?”
Jeremy sat on the couch, with Sarah looking at him expectantly – as if she wanted to know more. Finally, he decided to just tell most of what had happened.
Jeremy spent the next few minutes going over how he had met Shy at a club and recounted how he remembered meeting with her the night before. He told Sarah how the two of them had spent time together at the bar and how she’d helped him to his apartment as the night started to become a blur for him. He told her about how he had woken up confused and disoriented, feeling ill, and unable to remember part of the night. He felt uncomfortable telling someone else that he didn’t remember what happened after he got back to his apartment, and even more so because he was uncertain if something had happened with Shy. He did not mention Shy working at a club that Andrea had been to.
Sarah sat on the far end of the couch with a small pile of Andrea’s sketchbooks between them, and Jeremy found himself unable to tell what she might be thinking. She pulled her legs up onto the couch and shifted her position to sit with one leg under her. Something about what he had said bothered her.
“Jeremy,” she began. “I don’t think you drank too much.”
“I didn’t either, but something definitely didn’t agree with me,” he nodded his head in agreement with her.
“Yeah. Hear me out,” she paused. “I think you were drugged.” Sarah’s voice and tone were sincere, and her eyes were focused squarely on him.
“Oh haha,” Jeremy mocked a short laugh.
“I’m not kidding,” she began. Her voice was energetic and determined as she continued. “Think about it. She made you a drink, and shortly afterward, you started to feel different. You don’t remember a significant part of your night and for all intents and purposes – let’s go ahead and call you an alcoholic. You even said it didn’t feel the same. A lot of what you said sounds like you were drugged.”
“I doubt it, I think I must’ve just gotten sick. Do I want to know how you know about all that?”
“My freshman year of college I took a class, and they talked about preventative measures that women can take like not accepting drinks from strangers,” she said sarcastically as she glanced at her phone and started to rise from the couch. “Listen, I have to head into work for a bit, but I’m serious. You should go talk to a doctor or something. At the very least, look around your place – she probably stole something.”
Jeremy nodded in silent agreement, while the thought stirred in his mind. Had he been drugged? If Shy had drugged him – why? Had she taken something from his wallet … or worse? It was something brand new for him to be concerned about and try to figure out. Maybe nothing had happened, and he had just gotten sick?
“It shouldn’t be too hard to get the big picture of what is missing since most of your stuff is still packed up.” Sarah joked. “If you need to talk – I can call into work, or we can talk later.”
“Not necessary,” he dismissed the idea as he walked Sarah over to the door and opened it for her. Something she had said had started to push his concern of being drugged out of his mind. He needed to see the big picture of things. “Just be careful at work and don’t go looking into anything without me.”
As Sarah stepped through the doorway and left for her apartment next door, Jeremy shut the door and walked back to the coffee table. He began moving all of the stacks of sketchbooks off the table and quickly flipped through a couple others. After a few minutes, he was confident that the individual facial features that Andrea had been drawing were all of the same individual. Every nose, ear, eye, or lip looked too similar to not be of the same person.
Standing at one end of the coffee table, he now had sketchbooks sorted out on it and turned to a page with a single facial feature. Each of the sketches worked together to create an approximation of a face. Even pages with stray lines seemingly combined with all of the other drawings to give an impression of a chiseled, angular jawline. If Jeremy was right, it was clearly a man’s face. He stood and wondered if the features he was looking down on could be the person responsible for the disappearance of Andrea and the other women. It was one more thing to go on.
Jeremy needed to figure out what to do with the drawings but resolved to take a quick shower and get cleaned up. After his shower, while drying off, he noticed Sarah was not understating his pallid appearance. He wrapped the bath towel around his waist and glanced over the stubble of his unshaven face. He didn’t have the energy today – he would shave tomorrow. He quickly brushed his teeth, put on deodorant, and out of habit reached for his cologne. After a minute of searching, Jeremy realized the bottle was nowhere to be found.
“Son of a bitch…”