Jeremy awoke on his stomach with his head hanging over the side of his bed. Light from the city outside had snuck its way into his bedroom, and he could make out his arm hanging out in front of him, fingertips lightly brushing the floor with each breath he took. From what Jeremy could see, the dark, wooden floor of his apartment looked clean. As a test, he ran his hand over the floor beneath him and sighed in relief upon realizing he hadn’t thrown up on the floor. His head was pounding and felt like it was about to split open. The feeling only got worse as he rolled over onto his back and looked through squinted eyes around the room.
He reached over and grabbed his watch to check the time and groaned as he realized he’d slept almost twelve hours. He sat up slowly and looked around the room. His mouth and lips were dry – he needed a glass of water, and it looked like he was going to have to go to the kitchen and unpack one. The screen on his cell phone lit the room with a muted phone call notification – probably another debt collector. Nicolette’s death and funeral had cost him more than just the woman he loved, and since then, he had struggled to find a steady job. It was just the latest problem that he was trying to avoid, but Sarah’s plea for help had brought out the need for him to help in any way he could. Even now, he was still considering eating a bullet.
It was dark out and raining again. The bed creaked as Jeremy planted his feet flat on the cold, wooden floor and stood up. Sirens from a police car passing by echoed from the city street below his window. Jeremy stumbled groggily into the kitchen to look for something to take for his headache and then remembered everything was boxed up. He would have to go to the pharmacy down at the corner of his block or spend the next hour hunting through boxes. He quickly rinsed out one of the coffee mugs from last night and filled it with water from the sink tap and walked back toward the bathroom to take a shower.
An hour later, Jeremy was cleaned up, dressed, and had a small list of things to pick up from the pharmacy. He walked into the living room and noticed several stacks of sketchbooks along the wall near the front door. As he reached his arms into his pea coat and shrugged it onto his shoulders, he saw a small note from Sarah on one of the piles.
Hey! You didn’t shut your door last night!
I hope you don’t mind me leaving these here.
These are all of Andrea’s sketchbooks I could find.
I also printed some photos of Andrea for you.
I hope they help. Thank you so much!
Stop by for coffee any time. – Sarah
At the bottom underneath her name, Sarah had left Jeremy the address to the coffee shop where she worked. Underneath the note, there were also a couple printed copies of the same photograph of Andrea. She was smiling and looking directly at the camera, and it looked like she was leaning up against a pier or dock on a beautiful day. She was a beautiful young soul, and it weighed down his heart to know that something terrible might have happened to her. Jeremy looked at the note for a few seconds before laying it back on top of a stack of sketchbooks. His eyes glanced around the apartment looking for any sign of something out of place. Everything was still in boxes. Nothing seemed out of place, but if someone had wanted to steal something, he didn’t care as long as they left him alone. As he turned to head out to the pharmacy, he slid one of the photos into his jacket pocket and made a mental note to talk to his friend Dillon about Andrea.
Jeremy made his way through the cramped aisles of the small pharmacy to the liquor shelves in the back and grabbed another bottle of scotch and put it in his basket. As he began winding his way through the store, he remembered he needed to call his friend Dillon and pulled his phone out. He continued walking through the store as the phone rang to the police precinct he had worked at before losing his job. He tossed a few more items from the medicine shelves into the basket as it continued to ring. He stopped at the end of an aisle when he heard someone pick up on the other end.
“Missing Persons, Detective Randall,” the gravelly voice said in a monotone voice.
“Hey, Dillon. It’s Jeremy.”
“LeBlanc? Damn. How have you been doing?” Dillon’s voice wavered with surprise and concern.
“I’m breathing,” Jeremy responded. He caught himself shrugging even though Dillon couldn’t see him.
“I guess that’s better than the alternative,” Dillon replied.
Dillon and Jeremy had been friends since going through the police academy together. They had briefly been partners before Jeremy became a Detective. A year later, Dillon made Detective, and the two went to different divisions of the precinct. They used to have beers together and discuss their cases or what was bothering them. It had been a good friendship until the night Nicolette was killed. Everything had changed for Jeremy. He pushed everyone away. This phone call was the first time the two had talked directly since Nicolette’s funeral – not for Dillon’s lack of trying. Jeremy just needed to be left alone.
“Yeah,” Jeremy replied flatly.
“What’s going on?” Dillon asked.
Jeremy could still hear the concern in his voice.
“I’m looking into a missing person and wanted to see if you could tell me what the status of her case was,” Jeremy said. He hated asking for a favor and felt like an asshole for pushing away someone with as much heart as Dillon.
“Jer, you know I can’t get into that. Who the hell are you looking into anyway?”
“I know the protocol. It’s my neighbor, Andrea Wynn. Is there anything you can give me?” Jeremy asked. He continued moving through the pharmacy until he had reached the counter.
“Christ,” Dillon muttered. The line was silent for a few seconds. “Andrea Wynn? Did her roommate come to you about it too?” Dillon’s tone changed to one of irritation, giving Jeremy the impression that Dillon had been the Detective interacting with Sarah.
“Yeah,” Jeremy replied. “She said she was getting nothing from the PD.”
“Look… I can’t talk about it,” Dillon whispered into the phone. “There’s nothing to talk about, and she’s not exactly a high priority.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Jeremy asked. His voice raised from the vague response and the older man behind the checkout counter looked at him with raised eyebrows as Jeremy began setting things on the counter.
“It means, there’s nothing to talk about, Jer,” Dillon replied coldly. “Please don’t call back.”
Jeremy heard the audible click of Dillon hanging up and the beep on his phone telling him the call had ended. He looked down at his phone for a few seconds, wondering what had just happened. It was uncharacteristic of Dillon to be cold to someone, but Jeremy asked himself if he had indeed burned the bridge between them.
He put his phone away and paid for his goods using the only credit card that he still had that wasn’t maxed out. As he headed out the door, he looked back and nodded his head to the man behind the counter.
After half an hour in the small pharmacy, Jeremy stepped back out into the cold night with a bag full of the things from his list. He began the short walk back to his apartment, thankful the rain had stopped. As he walked, he heard shouting from across the street. He turned to see two drunken friends yelling at each other as they exited a small bar sandwiched between two closed businesses. He stopped and stared for a moment, his brow furrowed as he wondered if Andrea had started close to home in her nights out. He fought with himself on what to do next. He could walk across the street to the bar and ask around or go back to his apartment and medicate himself with scotch, Dramamine, Tums, Tylenol, and more sleep. The headache wasn’t getting any better, and he still hadn’t taken anything for it.
“Damn it,” he sighed as the former won out. He looked both ways before making his way across the street. He reached for the handle of the door to the bar, only to have the door swing quickly out toward him. He barely managed to sidestep the door as a heavy set woman came stumbling out. She laughed and excused herself as she continued past him. Shaking his head, Jeremy stepped inside, pharmacy bag still in hand. It was much smaller and darker in the bar than he expected.
He squinted as his eyes adjusted from the harsher city lights outside to the mellow and subtle lighting inside the bar. There were a handful of booths along the left wall and the bar lined the wall to the right. At the back of the bar, Jeremy could see a worn looking pool table and old dart board with no one playing at either. Out of the dozen stools at the bar, only half were filled, and most of the people seemed content to drink in silence or watch the sports highlights on the tv mounted behind the bar. Jeremy was surprised the tv was even a flat-screen. The whole place smelled of stale cigarettes and cheap liquor. It could’ve been a dive bar in any city.
The only thing that stood out to Jeremy in the place was the giant of a man standing behind the bar talking to one of the patrons and laughing. The bartender had a big belly, and Jeremy could only guess that he was somewhere over six and a half feet tall. His laugh was deep and genuine, and he nodded at Jeremy as he slid up to the end of the bar and set his bag on the bartop.
“Hey man, how’re you doing?” the bartender greeted him.
“I’m okay. You?” Jeremy forced himself to respond.
“I’m great. I’m Eddie. What can I get you?” the man asked as he moved down to the end of the bar closer to Jeremy.
Jeremy waved his hand as he drew out the photo of Andrea from his jacket pocket. He slid the picture along the bartop to the bartender.
“Thanks, I’m not drinking though. I’m just curious, have you seen this woman in here at all in the past couple weeks?”
Eddie looked down at the photo before lifting it into the light behind the bar. He laughed as a look of familiarity flashed over his face.
“Yeah man. I remember her.” Eddie began as he handed the photo back to Jeremy.
“She came in once a couple of weeks ago,” Eddie continued.
“You’re sure?” Jeremy asked.
“Oh yeah and I figured she wouldn’t come back,” Eddie continued.
“Why’s that?” Jeremy asked as he slid the photo back into his pocket and leaned against the sticky bar.
“Most nights I get the same regulars in here, but one night she came in and sat at the bar. She asked how busy we got and if there were a lot of guys coming through the bar. She hung out for about an hour and talked about her being recently single and wanting to get out more.”
“So what happened?”
“Nothing,” Eddie explained as he refilled the drink of the man seated quietly next to them. “I told her we got the occasional bar hoppers or holiday traffic, but other than that it’s my regulars. She seemed disappointed, so I said she should go to a club if she wanted to be around crowds.”
“So she didn’t meet with or leave with anyone from here?” Jeremy asked.
“No. Hey man, is she okay? Are you a cop or something?” Eddie asked as he rested both hands on the bar and leaned forward.
“Or something…” Jeremy began. He didn’t feel like trying to explain the situation – it wasn’t necessary. “I’m just a friend trying to check up on her.”
“Well I hope she’s okay, she was nice. Good tipper too.” Eddie smirked.
“Yeah, I hope she is too,” Jeremy began. “Can I leave you my number and have you give me a call if by some chance she comes back in?”
Jeremy reached into his pocket and pulled a twenty dollar bill out of his wallet as thanks to the man behind the bar.
“Sure,” Eddie said with a nod as he took the money and stuffed it into his pocket.
Jeremy wrote his phone number down on a bar napkin and watched as Eddie tucked it under one corner of the cash register. Jeremy backed up from the bar and shook hands with the man before turning to head back to his apartment.
After getting back to his apartment and taking the mixture of over the counter medications he had grabbed with a glass of scotch, Jeremy climbed back into his bed. He reached his hand into one pocket and put his wallet and keys on the nightstand. As he reached into the other pocket to grab his phone, he saw he had a message notification. It was a text message from Dillon Randall.