Chapter 13

madeleine-ragsdale-691073-unsplashIt was Sarah’s second time running to Jeremy’s door that evening. She had stopped herself right before knocking the first time and decided that she needed to make copies of the sketchbook. The last half-hour, she had hovered between her laptop and scanner, nibbling the edge of a fingernail as she impatiently ensured each page scanned and copied onto her computer. Now, all of the strange sketches and notes were saved. Her bare feet slapped softly against the marble floor of the apartment hallway as she made her way to her neighbor’s door.

The rapping sound of the knuckles of her thin hand against the heavy door to Jeremy’s apartment carried a subdued echo through the hall. The knock continued, frantically, until the door finally opened. Met with little resistance as she began to push the door open, she stepped in from the hall and into Jeremy’s apartment. She brushed past him, clutching the newly found sketch pad in her hand as she began to speak before Jeremy could sufficiently react.

“I found something, and it’s crazy because Andrea was definitely acting weird before she disappeared. I just didn’t notice it all – there are all of these strange drawings.”

The door swung closed behind her, and she turned back to look at Jeremy. He did not respond and instead shuffled over to his coffee table and stopped to let out a long yawn. He stood with both hands on his hips, and in the bright yellow lights of the living room, Sarah could make out his unkempt hair and the dark bags under his eyes. Beyond his weary eyes, there was something about his posture and the way he looked down at the papers spread across the coffee table. He looked as if he hadn’t slept all day, but more than that – she could sense the frustration seething from him.

“Yeah,” Jeremy said flatly.

Sarah followed him over, and her eyes scanned the living room and kitchen. There were several more boxes opened up as well as pencils and a dozen pieces of paper that had been balled up and tossed around the living room. On top of the coffee table, Jeremy had taken drawings from Andrea’s other sketch pads, each image similar to those she had found in the newest book, and laid them out to approximate the layout of a face. Somehow, he had figured it out before she had, and as she looked at some of the other pieces of paper that hadn’t been wholly crumpled into balls – she saw he had also started sketches of his own.

“They’re all parts of the same face,” Jeremy began as he picked up a sheet of paper with a fresh drawing on it and crumpled it up. “I just can’t get the proportions right to make it all look like pieces that go together.”

“That’s what I found!” Sarah exclaimed.

Sarah settled down onto the couch and pulled her feet up beside her. Opening the book she had been clutching, she gestured for Jeremy to join her. Jeremy sat next to her, and for a brief moment – they both stared at the book. As Sarah began speaking, she tapped the book with the palm of her open hand and recounted how and where she had discovered it.

After she had told the story of how she found the book, she handed it to Jeremy and let him flip through the pages – supplementing information as they both studied the pages. Each page came with a short description, with Sarah adding brief comments until Jeremy arrived at the pages that seemed intensely out of character for Andrea.

Sarah explained it all, including the arrow signs that she and Andrea usually left on notes for each other. The content of the pages was dark, especially for Andrea. It was unlike anything Sarah had ever seen from her friend and roommate. Andrea, Sarah explained multiple times, was clearly not herself. Andrea doesn’t fixate on things like the notes in the book would suggest, and she rarely leaves a piece of art unfinished when she puts her mind to it.

Jeremy listened intently. Several times, his gaze locked on an image on one of the pages, and then he would glance to one of the pages on his coffee table. He compared the drawings and asked questions about the notes scrawled on the edges of the pages – to which Sarah seldom had a solid answer. After Jeremy arrived at the final pages and scribblings, it was evident that something was wrong with Andrea.

“Do you think she could have gotten involved with drugs?” Jeremy asked.

“She drank when she went out, sure, but I don’t think Andrea would ever get into drugs,” Sarah replied. “I just can’t imagine that’s what this is.”

Jeremy nodded and finally flipped to the final page – the note directly addressed to Sarah.

“I have to go see him. God, help me. I can’t stop myself.” Jeremy read the page aloud and looked up at Sarah with wide, questioning eyes. 

“I don’t know, I just know I was meant to find this,” Sarah replied with a shrug. She had no answers for him beyond the book he held in his hands.

“This is a big break,” Jeremy said as he flipped through the last several pages once more. “Sarah, we need to get this to the police. This is very important, do you mind if I give it to my friend?”

“If it helps, they can have it,” Sarah replied. “I made copies of it all. Do you think that’s the guy?”

“I think it will make a difference,” Jeremy began. “I’m going to try to put all of these features on one page, so we can have an idea of what this guy looks like. He’s definitely important.”

“Well, maybe you guys can find him and find out where the hell she is,” Sarah said with a hint of hope in her voice.

“We’ll see. Even if this guy’s not responsible, all of this shows he’s at least connected to her. I can’t make a promise, but I’m going to try to have coffee with my friend tomorrow to help push the case.”

“You’re not making it, are you?” Sarah asked.

“The coffee? No, actually, I thought we could stop by your work and grab drinks. It’s the same guy you’ve talked to.”

“Oh. I’m off tomorrow and no offense, your friend … he’s always a dick when I call. Every time.”

“Yeah. Like I said, though, there’s a lot of strange shit going on around Andrea’s case.” Jeremy replied. “Hopefully, this can help us cut through that and help the police put more focus on her. He closed the sketchbook and began cleaning the books off of the coffee table.

“I won’t be there, but if you need anything – please get in touch,” Sarah said as she stood and straightened the bottom of her shirt. Jeremy was quiet most of the time, but he seemed a genuinely nice guy – especially after everything he had been through. She didn’t have much hope to hold onto, but talking to Jeremy usually gave her more than she started her day off with.

“I can’t thank you enough, Jeremy,” Sarah said as Jeremy stood up from the couch.

She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around him. She dipped her head against his chest and held him tight. A few seconds went by before she felt his arms finally return the hug. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to relax for a moment. In her time of need, he had been there and helped her weather so much. Now, she wished she had been there more for him when he had lost the woman he loved.

Maybe it wasn’t too late to reach out to help him, as well.


Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash

Chapter 12

madeleine-ragsdale-691073-unsplashMusic echoed softly from the living room as Sarah stood in silence – staring into the bedroom of her missing roommate, Andrea. The sound was intended to help Sarah not feel so alone in the apartment. In the end, she was uncertain if it helped or hurt. Her eyes scanned the self-portraits and photos of Andrea that decorated the room and somewhere deep in her chest, she ached. The sun was setting, and the room’s overhead light cast a soft warmth over everything – replacing the day’s light.

Did I miss some sign that Andrea was in trouble?

What could I have done differently?

Earlier, Sarah had spent part of her day with Jeremy searching through sketchbooks. The last few hours, she had helped cover a shift at the coffee house for someone who was sick. Working her regular hours wasn’t enough, and it had become necessary to start picking up extra shifts as the bills continued to pile up. Now, though, she was all alone in her apartment again. She wanted nothing more than to have Andrea back and safe, but, here and now she would settle for just the knowledge of what had happened to her.

The easel stood at the foot of the bed with its unfinished painting as Sarah walked in and moved the sheet and cover back to make up the side of the bed on which Andrea usually slept. The outfits that had been left out on the bed were still there. She had been unable to bring herself to move anything in Andrea’s room until now and worried she would have to pack everything up for someone who would not return.

Somewhere under her, a spring half-squeaked as she turned and sat down on the edge of Andrea’s bed. There was no one now – no one with whom she was genuinely close. Slowly the reality of it all was setting in and becoming too much. Her best friend was missing. It was a struggle to make ends meet. Other than her neighbor and coworkers, there was no one close for support. Family members were a phone call away, but it wasn’t enough – not now. In this big city, the realization of isolation and seclusion was overpowering her.

Unable to take the pain of loss and solitude any longer, she felt flood gates open behind her eyes as tears began to stream down her face. Uncontrollable sobs accompanied her tears as she glanced around the room. There was so much happiness that Andrea had created through her art and photos. Every smiling picture or brightly colored painting caused Sarah to slip further away. She wiped away tears only to have them replaced.

Giving in, she shifted her weight to lay down on Andrea’s bed. Thoughts became blurred as she lost focus of any way to reason through her emotions. She pulled her bare feet up off the floor, resting her body in the same spot where Andrea had slept. She wished she could go to sleep and wake to find it all a horrible dream – that she would hear her friend’s voice waking her up. It never happened. She would never get to say goodbye. Instead, she continued to lie there – drifting in and out of fits of crying and sniveling. 

Reaching under the pillows on the bed to adjust them as she rolled flat onto her stomach, she buried her face into the coolness of the pillow. Her long blonde hair was down out of its bun, and she could feel strands of her hair matting to the sides of her face. Shifting the weight of her small frame to brush the hair away from her face, she heard something clatter against the floor and wall near her.

Lifting her head, she looked around, almost sure that a painting or photo had fallen. As she moved her hair back away from her eyes, there was nothing on the walls was out of place or missing. Convinced she had heard something fall near her, she wondered if she knocked something off of the bed.

In her confusion, the sobbing subsided. She rolled over the side of the bed and stood again, searching the floor around her feet. Seeing nothing, she moved back and leaned down to look underneath Andrea’s bed. The light barely illuminated under the bed, but Sarah could still see something on the floor, leaning against the wall. Climbing down onto her hands and knees, she slid partially under the wooden frame of the bed. She stretched her arm out as far as she could without moving further underneath the bed, and her fingertips brushed against the object and grasped it.

Sarah shimmied back away from the bed, bringing the object in her hand back as well. Resting on her knees, she turned it over to look at the cover. It was one of Andrea’s sketchbooks – a smaller sketch pad than her normal ones, but the same brand that Andrea had sworn by. Unable to control her curiosity, she flipped open the sketch pad and began to turn through its pages.

Still kneeling on the floor next to Andrea’s bed, Sarah turned over each of the pages slowly. Other than the size, initially, the book seemed just like any other sketchbook to her. As she continued to turn through the usual sketches and notes that Andrea left in her books, it became apparent it was not a typical sketchbook. The expected drawings and comments the artist wrote to herself were slowly replaced by the same partial images that Sarah and Jeremy had found earlier in the day.

Andrea had drawn features of a face independently on separate pages. A chiseled and masculine jawline, a featureless head, piercing eyes, smirking lips – all alone on each page and each incomplete. Some of the pages that followed began to have quickly scrawled notes accompanying them.

A drawing of the penetrating eyes bore the words “He draws me to him.”

Another image of a mouth and part of the face showed a confident smirk and the words “More and more, I want to be with him.”

One page was blank save for the words “His eyes pull me in.”

The pages continued throughout the last half of the sketch pad’s pages. Sarah continued. It was like getting a glimpse into Andrea’s mind as she worked. The quality of the drawings and notes began to deteriorate and grow more frustrated. Andrea would start something only to scribble through the illustration roughly.

The notes along the sides of the pages began to change to questions.

“Why?”

“Why can’t I draw or paint him?”

“Why can’t I picture him fully?”

The pencil work in the drawings became more defined, and some of the images began to take up the whole page. Sarah flipped through several sketches of solitary eyes that took up the entire page to stare back at her. Finally, she reached a page that was torn through by how heavily the lead had run over it. The sheet underneath was blank save for the unintended markings. Sarah took a moment as she thought about Andrea’s state as she had been drawing and writing in the book. Andrea must have been breaking down, and Sarah had never even noticed.

Andrea had seemed so happy. She’d finally met someone, and he was amazing and dreamy. That was all Andrea would say about the man she had joked about keeping as her secret. Sarah had demanded details, but her roommate would only smile and say that she wasn’t allowed to tell. Andrea had struggled to draw him as well, while her sketches and notes had become bleak. Something was wrong.

Sarah flipped to the next sheet and found a single, clearly written note across it. “I can’t finish the painting of him, no matter how hard I try.”

At the bottom right of the page, there was a small arrow drawn in the corner – guiding Sarah to turn to the next page. It was a little thing they had started doing in their class notes, and notes left for each other around the apartment. It was something the two women did when they left a message for each other on the reverse of a piece of paper.

Instinctively, Sarah turned the page once more and found the clear and carefully drawn outline of the smirking mouth she had seen in other drawings. An arrow was drawn in the corner of the page again. Was this a note for Sarah? Had Andrea known that Sarah would eventually find this sketchpad?

The next page featured a wave of thick hair and sideburns on an otherwise blank page. Another arrow directed her to flip the page. This time, eyes were drawn on the page – the same piercing eyes that Andrea had sketched so many times before. Another arrow. Sarah turned the page yet again.

Several more pages and several more arrows and all of the features were there. Andrea, for whatever reason, had been unable to draw the man she had become obsessed with all at once. Instead, she had put down each of his features on separate pages, but the lines were substantial enough to allow Sarah to see the page immediately underneath. Had this been Andrea’s final message to Sarah?

The final arrow turned to a page with a note, addressed to her and confirming what she had suspected. “Sarah, I have to go see him. God help me. I can’t stop myself.”

Maybe this sketchbook was it. Maybe the sketchbook and the note were the clues that Andrea’s case needed. Sarah sprung to her feet and ran barefoot from her apartment and into the hallway.

Sarah had to show Jeremy what she had found.


Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash

Chapter 11

madeleine-ragsdale-691073-unsplashIt 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?”

“No.”

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…”


Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash

Chapter 10

madeleine-ragsdale-691073-unsplashA soft hand ran over his cheek, an intimate caress that he had been without for far too long. He felt his heart jump in hope. Jeremy opened his eyes slowly to see everything around him cast in a flickering, ethereal glow. He was still in his bedroom, laying in bed, but he was unable to make out the details to anything other than the light-skinned figure lying next to him, facing him. His eyes met hers, and she smiled warmly – her hand still on his cheek. Her long, bright red hair was swept back from her face and down over her shoulder. It had been so long since he had seen her in anything other than photographs, but she looked just as beautiful as the day they first met. It was a dream, and he knew it. It had to be.

His fiance, Nicolette was in bed next to him, and despite the smile, Jeremy could tell that she had been crying for a long time. Her pale body was wrapped in a firelike radiance and tears were streaming from the corners of her green eyes down her freckled cheeks. The smile faded and was replaced with an almost haunting expression of concern and loss. He could feel her skin against his own, the warmth of her touch building like being too close to a flame.

He tried to reach for her, to settle his cheek into her hand but found himself unable to move. All he could do was lay motionless in bed and watch as her lips began to move. She was speaking to him, and as she did, he could see the trembling of her lips. Tears began to run from her eyes as her lips continued to move silently. There was no sound. Not only could Jeremy not hear Nicolette’s words, he realized he did not hear anything. There was a void of emptiness where he should be hearing her soft and beautiful voice.

Jeremy could not move, and after several moments of trying, he realized his attempts at speaking were futile as well. He felt powerless and could only observe as the woman he wanted so much to be with uttered words that he could not hear. The glimmering light pulsed brightly as Jeremy felt the intensity of her touch getting hotter and hotter against his skin. What should have burned him, instead, only made him feel loved and protected. The heat flowed from her and enveloped him – wrapping around him like a comforting blanket.

Nicolette’s lips continued to move as her expression furrowed. It seemed as if she was begging, pleading with him about something he could not comprehend. He felt the heaviness of frustration building up in him as he struggled to move or speak – if only to say her name once more or tell her he loved her. One word… three words… was all he needed, but whatever was behind this tormenting dream – it gave him no respite from his muted paralysis. Still, her quivering lips and tearful eyes pleaded with him.

Abruptly, she stopped talking, her lips still trembling. Jeremy felt the heat radiating from her begin to fade away from him. Her slender hand pulled slowly away, and with it, the sense of tender sanctuary disappeared. She was leaving him, and he knew there was nothing he could do to keep her here with him.

Her soft lips moved once more as the wavering brilliance of energy and warmth that emanated from her began to falter. Her lips slowly formed the three silent words that Jeremy himself had been unable to speak – “I love you.”

Jeremy blinked, and the warm, red-orange glow vanished and was replaced by the cold, sterile lights of the city outside. He could hear the city as well – wide awake with traffic as the sun prepared to rise. He blinked again and shot up in his bed. He was awake now, but for a few moments – he doubted himself. The side of the bed next to him was empty but unmade, and Jeremy swore he could see the outline of someone having laid down.

He reached a hand over to the spot on the bed where Nicolette had been. It felt warm as if someone had been on that side of the bed, but the sensation faded and soon left him questioning if it was real or if he was still asleep. He glanced around the room, squinting from the light sneaking in between his curtains. Jeremy was in his bedroom, alone, and he felt awful.

~

The sun had broken over the horizon, and its light had started to spread over the city, pushing back the night’s shadows into the corners they had flowed from. There was no doubt Jeremy was awake now. He felt weak, and while rinsing his face off in the bathroom, he noted he looked paler than usual. Shuffling around his apartment, he was convinced that he was alone. Something was off, he just couldn’t figure out what. This wasn’t a hangover, he thought to himself. It couldn’t be. He couldn’t remember anything.

A blur of confusion washed over him as he tried to remember what happened the night prior. Only glimpses of memories blinked into his mind. Two full glasses of water and a handful of painkillers later, and he found himself back in the bathroom, staring at himself in the mirror. He didn’t know why and he was uncertain if it would help. Absently, he began moving things around on his sink counter. He didn’t have much that wasn’t packed away in boxes, but something was missing. It took him a minute to realize his bottle of cologne wasn’t on the countertop.

Shuffling back into the kitchen, his foot kicked something – a balled up piece of paper. As he went to reach down and pick it up, the first full memory from last night flashed back into his head – interrupting him and causing him to leave it on the floor. He had met with Dillon the previous night. They had met up at Eddie’s for drinks, and he was almost sure they had been playing pool. He leaned down against the kitchen counter, burying his head in his folded arms as he struggled to remember.

A woman had been there. Shyanne. He remembered her smiling at him smugly. He also remembered seeing Nicolette’s face in his dream. He was on the verge of tears, and it took him a couple minutes to calm down. He had never had a dream like that, and he had no idea what it was supposed to mean or what his mind was trying to tell him. His focus changed to the blank spots that made up the majority of his memory of last night.

Another blur came flooding into his mind, and he remembered stumbling back to his apartment. Someone had been helping him along. Shyanne’s face popped back into his mind, and he knew she had been here. Shy had been in his apartment. He groaned as he stood back up and got another glass of water.

He sat on the couch and tried to remember more, but after a certain point, his mind was a blank slate. He knew he had met with Dillon, that Shy had shown up, and that she had been in his apartment. He fought through the confusion and headache that felt like it was about to steamroll him. What happened last night?

A faint chiming sound from the coffee table brought his attention back to the room he was in. His cell phone was on the coffee table, along with his wallet and keys – far from the nightstand next to his bed he typically set everything on. Even after drinking, he seemed to have gotten himself into the habit of putting everything in one place, and the coffee table was not it.

He grabbed his phone and unlocked it to see he had several different text messages. There were was one from Dillon, checking up on him and another one from Sarah asking him if he wanted to have coffee in the morning. There were two from Shy. He pulled the messages up on his screen and stared at them for several minutes.

The first message read “I don’t know what got into me and it looked like you had way too much to drink. I just wanted to let you know, I let myself out after you passed out.”

The second message said only, “I’m sorry for making an ass of myself.”

It wasn’t enough. Jeremy was exhausted and hungry, but too weak to motivate himself to get up again. He needed to get more rest, maybe that would help him feel better.

He needed answers. He tapped the screen of his phone to call Shy, but the call immediately went to voicemail. He ended the call without leaving a message and instead sent a text message to Dillon letting him know he wasn’t feeling well and was going to lay back down and catch up on sleep.

Sitting in his living room on the couch, he knew there was more to last night, and he wanted answers that would have to wait. He couldn’t stay awake any longer. He slumped back into the cool leather of the couch and kicked his legs up onto the cushions next to him. He tapped one message to Shy into his cell phone, pressed send and then tossed his phone back onto the coffee table.

His text message to Shy was short but direct. “What the hell happened last night?”


Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash

Chapter 9

madeleine-ragsdale-691073-unsplashNot much had changed in Eddie’s Bar across the street from Jeremy’s apartment. It was the middle of the week and a slow night, and Jeremy wasn’t surprised by the lack of people drinking inside the small bar. It comforted him, much more than the harsh noise and the crowds pressing in on each other at Eternity, the club he had been to a few nights ago. He enjoyed the soft and consistent glow of the lights at Eddie’s much more than the flashing strobes and arcing beams of light at Eternity. The smell of cigarettes and cheap liquor still clung to everything inside, especially the regulars at the bar. Jeremy was pretty sure they were the some of the same people who had been here the last time he had stopped in.

He and his former partner, Dillon, were at the back of the bar at a pool table with beers and shot glasses of whiskey resting on a table nearby. Overdriven riffs of blues-rock were playing from the jukebox behind them. Despite everything that had been going on in his life, this was easily one of the best nights Jeremy had had in a long time. He hadn’t honestly laughed in half a year, and now here he was, downing beers and shots while reliving stories of their time working together for the police department. Jeremy had almost pissed himself from laughter when Dillon brought up when he had to defend himself from an angry woman jumping on his back while Dillon was handcuffing her boyfriend.

Jeremy and Dillon had been drinking and playing pool for almost an hour and had the back of the bar to themselves. Between the music and the distance from the bar, there seemed no reason not to be sitting in a booth whispering. Dillon nodded at the corner pocket closest to the eight ball. He leaned down over the rail of the table and with the help of his left hand he drove the cue steadily into the cue ball with his right hand. The scuffed white ball rolled to the other side of the table and cracked against the eight ball, sending it careening into the nearest corner pocket.

Jeremy shook his head in defeat and reached back to the table behind him. He picked up one of the shot glasses and raised it briefly in a silent toast and then tossed his head back and the shot of whiskey with it. Dillon’s deep-voiced laugh was clear over the music.

“Okay, so maybe playing for shots was a shit idea,” Jeremy said with a smirk.

“It’s either that, or you get better at playing pool.” Dillon started reracking the balls on the table with the help of a well-worn wooden triangle and then stored it back under the table.

Jeremy shrugged and took a sip from his beer and put it back on the table behind him. He made a mental note of the games he had been losing. Out of the six shots of whiskey on the table, only two remained, and so far Jeremy had downed three of the shots to the one Dillon had to finish when he lost the first game. Since then, Jeremy had been on a steady path of losing each game, and it didn’t look like it was going to play out any other way. He took a deep breath and assured himself he was still good between the shots and beer as long as he didn’t drink too much more.

“I told you, it’d be good to get out,” Dillon said as he offered the space at the head of the table to Jeremy and stepped away.

“Yeah, it’s nice to catch up,” Jeremy said as he leaned over the table, leveled his cue stick, and took his aim at breaking the triangle formation of pool balls up.

Over the last hour, they had joked about pranks that had been played on each other, as well as their funniest or most awkward arrests. The conversation had been serious too though, with Jeremy catching Dillon up with the information he had uncovered regarding Andrea Wynn going missing and his visit to the goth nightclub, Eternity. Jeremy had mentioned everything that he could think of. Hannah, the waitress who remembered Andrea and the drawing she had left her. The purple-haired bartender, Shyanne, who seemed to want to help but seemed more interested in Jeremy. The strange feeling he had gotten from the man he had bumped into. Andrea had definitely been at the bar.

Jeremy drove the cue stick forward, sending the cue ball crashing into the triangle of fifteen striped and solid colored balls. The balls scattered and much to his displeasure, Jeremy watched as none of them dropped into one of the pool table pockets. He sighed and stepped away from the table.

Dillon’s eyes scanned the table, and he looked back up at Jeremy. “You suck at this.”

“That’s why I was a cop,” Jeremy said with a shrug as he walked over to pick up his beer bottle again.

“That… you were pretty good at.” Dillon said with a nod. He stepped around to the side of the table, lining himself up with the cue ball and a couple easy shots. Dillon took his time taking each of the shots and stopped after missing on his fourth.

Jeremy finished his beer and waved the empty beer bottle at Eddie, the owner of the bar, who nodded back and reached behind him at the counter to grab another two bottles of beer and put them on the bar. Jeremy watched as Dillon walked over to the bar to pick up the beers. As Dillon returned, Jeremy prepared to take another shot on the pool table and was interrupted by his cell phone ringing in his pocket. Jeremy stepped back and set his cue stick in the wall as he fished to get his cell phone out of his pocket.

The number calling wasn’t one Jeremy recognized, but he could tell by the area code that it was a local number. He hesitated for a moment, his phone buzzing and ringing in his hand, before he answered and lifted the phone up to his ear and turned away from the jukebox speakers.

“Hello?” Jeremy asked. He looked up at Dillon and waved for him to continue playing pool without him.

There was a contented sigh on the other line, and then the soft voice of a woman broke the silence. “Is this Jeremy?”

“Yeah, this is Jeremy. Who’s this?” he replied. He could barely make out the woman’s response, but somehow – he knew who it was.

“It’s Shy. We met at Eternity last weekend.” the light and pleasant voice responded.

“Hey, Shyanne. Err Shy. I remember you.” Jeremy replied. He looked back at Dillon who was silently clapping at him and taunting him from across the pool table.

Shy sighed again, and Jeremy could almost hear the smile forming on her lips as she spoke. “I want to talk to you. Are you free tonight?”

Jeremy was quiet for a few seconds. He didn’t want to give her the wrong impression, but drinks out at a bar was about as much of a social life as he had at this point. She had been helpful at Eternity though, and Jeremy couldn’t help but wonder if she had some new piece of the puzzle he was trying to solve. “Yeah, I’m out at a bar with a buddy right now,” he finally replied.

Dillon instantly began shaking his head. It was clear to Jeremy, Dillon still didn’t want people knowing about him meeting with Jeremy, even if it was mostly to have drinks and catch up with each other. Jeremy not so subtly raised his middle finger in response to Dillon and turned away from him.

“Great, you wouldn’t mind if I swung by to talk to you, would you?” Shy asked.

“Not at all,” Jeremy replied and then gave her directions and a description to Eddie’s Bar.

“I’ll be there soon,” Shy said and hung up.

Jeremy looked down at his phone and shrugged as he tossed his phone back down on the table next to him.

“Looks like you’ve got yourself a date,” Dillon teased as went back to slowly clearing the pool table.

“It’s not like that, and you know it,” Jeremy said in his own defense.

“Man, you told me this lady basically threw herself at you, and now she wants to come see you in the middle of the night?” Dillon did his best not to laugh.

“Yeah, well – nothing’s happening,” Jeremy replied. He couldn’t think of anything else to say, he just knew nothing would happen. “It sounded like maybe she had something to talk about.”

“Well, that would be great. If she does, let me know. I intend to finish this game up, and then I’m out.” Dillon added.

Dillon and Jeremy each took one of the last two shots and continued to play pool. They talked about the case for the next ten minutes, until Dillon decided he should get ready to leave. By the end of the game, they both came to a consensus that the only thing they really knew was that something strange was going on within the police department.

Dillon slid his jacket back on as he prepared to leave. “Just remember, this is between you and me. Do me a favor and keep it that way.” Dillon warned.

Jeremy looked over Dillon’s shoulder as he saw the light from the street outside flood into the bar as the door to Eddie’s Bar swing open. Jeremy nodded to Dillon, signaling that the woman entering was the woman he was expecting. Jeremy waved to Shy from the back of the bar, and Dillon stepped back to the other side of the pool table.

“I know you’re not in the best place right now man, but damn…” Dillon’s voice trailed off as he turned to watch Shy enter. “No man gets that lucky twice.”

Jeremy watched as Shy walked in and held back a retaliation to Dillon’s comment. Now, it was Shy who stood out. Her purple hair didn’t capture as much attention in comparison to the black and purple leather bustier and black leather pants that clung to her skin. Even with the short black jacket she had on, she couldn’t have been warm, and she was anything but subtle. Eddie and the patrons at the bar were all looking her way as she moved to the back of the bar and joined Jeremy. After a few seconds, heads turned away, and the patrons went back to laughing and talking at the bar with Eddie.

Dillon nodded and excused himself without an introduction and Jeremy watched him stop by the bar and pay Eddie money for their tab.

“Son of a bitch,” Jeremy whispered as he remembered he was supposed to be buying drinks tonight. It wasn’t a horrible idea to let Dillon pay. The money from his savings and Nicolette’s life insurance wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, he’d either have to finish what he’d started before Sarah had knocked on his door begging for help or he’d have to find a paying job.

“Hey,” Shy said as she nudged Jeremy slightly and stepped in front of him. She moved closer to him and before he could react she wrapped both arms around him and pressed herself against him. After stepping back from the embrace, she inhaled slowly. “Mmm, that smell. What are you wearing?”

“Hey … uh Shy. I’m not sure, cologne I got as a gift.” Jeremy said looking her in her light blue eyes. Her leather jacket did little to cover up the bustier that she seemed so close to popping out of. Jeremy offered her a seat at the rearmost booth with a wave of his hand. “I’m a few drinks in, but did you want a drink?”

“I’m good, I’ve already had a few. What are you drinking?” Shy asked as she slid into the booth’s bench seat.

“Beer and whiskey, so far,” Jeremy replied. “I was catching up with an old friend.”

Shy made a look of disgust as she looked at Jeremy’s beer bottle and sniffed the shot glasses. – obviously disappointed in Jeremy’s drink choices. “As a bartender, I must recommend you not drink shitty well drinks,” she said with a thin-lipped smirk.

“Okay, so you’re here to abuse and mock me over my poor life choices. And here I thought you were here because you might have new info about my missing friend.” Jeremy added as he took another drink from his beer. He felt pretty good, but as the buzzing feeling behind his eyes grew heavier, he knew he’d have to slow down on drinking, or he would regret it in the morning. Between four shots of whiskey and four beers, he guessed he probably wouldn’t feel well in the morning either way.

“I do want to talk to you about that, but if you’d like me to abuse you – I can always get some handcuffs.” Shy said as she leaned forward and winked.

Her eyes were focused on him, and as Jeremy looked in her eyes, he was almost sure her pupils had gotten larger when she’d made the joke. Jeremy paused, uncertain of how to respond. After a few seconds, he managed, “So, did you have anything related to Andrea?”

The smile faded from Shy’s lips quickly and turned into a look of disappointment. “I talked to Hannah, the waitress you met, again,” she began. “Hannah remembers Andrea clearly, but can’t seem to remember the guy she was with. She only remembers he was dreamy to her and had an English accent that she loved.”

“So nothing new then, really,” Jeremy sighed and took another drink from his beer. He glanced at the bottle for a moment, checking to see how much he had left.

“Well, I did pass your info to the owner of the club, so you may hear from her, but I wouldn’t count on it,” Shy replied. She paused, seemingly contemplating something before she continued. “Look, I didn’t really have anything new to give you, and I knew that before I called. I just… I wanted to see you.”

Jeremy felt the loneliness in himself grow overwhelming as he leaned back in the booth. He took a deep breath before replying. “Shy, there’s a lot you don’t know about me. I’m sorry, but right now I’m not in a position to be with anyone in any kind of way. Nothing can happen between us.”

Shy leaned back as well, seemingly offended. She brushed a strand of her purple hair back away from her face as she leaned toward Jeremy. Her hands reached out for his as she explained. “That’s fine. That’s not what this is about. I can feel it inside you, Jeremy.”

Jeremy kept his hands pulled in to his side of the table as he looked at her. “What is it then? What do you feel?” he asked.

“Loss,” Shy said matter of factly. Her face softened as she looked down at her hands and then back up to meet Jeremy’s gaze. “Give me your hands, please.”

Reluctantly, Jeremy slid his hands across the table and put them on top of her cold hands. He half-expected her to start reading his palms or start muttering some new-age bullshit but was surprised when she just folded her hands together over his.

“I know that look. The deep-seated pain that comes with terrible loss. That heavy feeling of hurt and frustration in your chest, where you’re not sure if you want to scream and break shit or cry yourself to sleep. Everything else is dulled. The only thing that seems stronger is what is missing from your life.”

Jeremy was speechless. She knew. He felt miserable, and despite everything he’d tried, he didn’t think he’d ever get over the loss of losing Nicolette.

“I just wanted you to know, no matter what you’re going through, I will be there for you. I want to be if you’ll let me.” Shy continued. “You won’t hurt forever.”

“Why? Why would you do that for someone you barely know?” Jeremy asked as he pulled his hands back and finished off his beer.

“Because someone did the same thing for me and it literally changed my life,” Shy paused before continuing. “I want to help you change, and I think it’ll start with drinking less of that shit.” Shy brushed the shot glasses and beer bottles off to the side of the table as she stood up and swept her hair back.

“Oh, so it’s an intervention now, too?” Jeremy asked as he stood up, uncertain where she was going.

Shy laughed and nodded her head in the direction of the bar. “Not at all, it’s time to just drink better stuff. Come on, I’ll make you a drink.”

“I doubt Eddie’s going to let you just hop behind the bar and do whatever you want,” Jeremy began to point out.

“He’ll give me whatever I want,” Shy replied with no further explanation.

Jeremy followed Shy to the bar and watched in surprise as Eddie, without hesitation, let Shy behind the bar to make a drink. He seemed excited to let her have her way, and the other people seated at the bar had the same attitude.

Shy stood behind the bar, hands behind her back, as she paced the back area of the bar – studying the inventory of Eddie’s Bar. “Eddie,” she began. “I’ve gotta say, you’ve got stuff back here, that I’m not sure you’ve ever used. You’ve got a bottle of champagne back here at least, even if it’s probably not from last New Year’s, but no champagne flutes? Really?” She smiled and shrugged at Eddie, who shrugged in response.

Jeremy sat down on the opposite side of the bar, watching the antics with curiosity.

After a full minute of deftly spinning bottles of vodka and blue curaçao, while explaining what was going into the drink, Shy finally began pouring into two glasses with sugared rims. There were moments where Shy was spinning bottles or moving her hands so fast, Jeremy hadn’t been able to keep up. First, the vodka, then the champagne, which added an effervescent effect, and finally a bit of blue curaçao to add color. She set the bottles back where they belonged and garnished both glasses with an orange slice and walked back around to the front of the bar with both drinks in hand.

“Thanks, Eddie. The show’s over now, back to minding your own business,” Shy said flatly to the people at the bar.

“That was kind of rude,” Jeremy interrupted as Shy walked back over to their booth.

“They’ll get over it. I’m not here for them, I’m here for you,” Shy said as she set both glasses down on the table and she slid back into the booth.

Jeremy moved back into his seat as well and looked at the glass on his side of the table. He could see the bubbles fizzing up from the bottom of the glass from the sparkling wine, and the entire drink had a soft blue tint to it. He spun the glass around. “Nice fruity drink, what is it called?”

“It’s the midnight kiss.”

Jeremy stifled a laugh. “Seriously?”

“Try it and tell me what you think. It’s supposed to be in a different glass, but I make this drink all the time at Eternity.”

Jeremy shrugged and lifted the glass in front of him to his lips. He took a drink from it and was impressed by the strength of the drink, although he was certain Shy had gone heavier on the vodka. There was a bittersweet citrus flavor, more so than Jeremy would have expected from the blue curaçao. Jeremy guessed that the vodka was citrus flavored, even though he hadn’t noticed. It was good, and there was no denying it.

“It’s good,” Jeremy began.

Shy began to smile.

“It’s too sweet for me though,” Jeremy added. “I don’t think I could drink much of it.”

“Well, I guess I can’t be too upset if you like it,” Shy shrugged and finally took a drink from her glass.

“I’m going to go pay for the drinks and apologize for being rude,” Shy said as she excused herself from the booth.

Jeremy nodded as he nursed the drink, wishing it wasn’t so sweet, or fizzy, or blue. He never got the obsession with mixed drinks and at this point, would exchange it for a glass of scotch if it hadn’t been given to him. He knew he wouldn’t be able to finish it though. He watched as Shy leaned against the bar, talking to Eddie and that was when he felt it hit him.

Something was wrong. Suddenly, Jeremy felt drowsy and dizzy. He tried to stand and found his movements slowing down – or maybe it was his perception of his movements. Either way, he didn’t feel as stable and coordinated as he did just a few minutes ago. As he leaned against the back of the booth and straightened his legs and back, he saw blurred movement at his periphery. Shy was back and standing next to him.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“No, I don’t feel well. I need to get home,” Jeremy replied. Everything seemed to be catching up to him all at once.

“Jesus, maybe I made it too strong, I’m so sorry. Let me help,” Shy replied as she tried to get Jeremy’s arm around her.

“It’s okay,” Jeremy said as he began moving to the door. “I can make it home.”

Pushing through the door to leave Eddie’s, Jeremy wasn’t thinking about anything else except getting home. Shy was helping him. She seemed so concerned.

The two made their way across the empty street to Jeremy’s apartment and into the elevator. Jeremy laughed as he tapped the button for his floor. Shy was next to him, supporting him.

“It’s good for you, you don’t live so far,” Shy said.

Her voice sounded far off to Jeremy, but when he turned to face her, she was right next to him helping him down the hallway. When did they leave the elevator? Or did they take the stairs?

At the door to his apartment, he fumbled for the key and pushed the door open. There was barely any light coming in from the closed blinds, and no lights were on in the apartment. “Sorry, I’ve got boxes,” Jeremy said. He couldn’t tell if his words were slurring or not.

He clicked on the light to the living room and began stumbling over to the couch. He turned back to the door and saw the silhouette of Shy in the doorway. “You can come in, just shut the door,” he slurred. He turned back to the couch and was about to fall back into the couch when he looked back up for Shy.

The door was closed, and she was directly in front of him, pushing him carefully down onto the couch. How did she get into the living room so fast?

As Shy straddled him, Jeremy could feel her lips as she pushed his head back and began kissing his neck. Jeremy felt himself slipping and knew he was going to pass out. Was this real? Did he drink too much? He struggled to raise his voice in opposition, but found himself unable to speak. As he felt his eyes rolling back and his eyes growing heavy, he felt Shy’s lips next to his ear whispering to him.

“I want you,” Shy’s voice echoed in the darkness that enveloped him.


Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash

Chapter 8

madeleine-ragsdale-691073-unsplashKatherine Nilsson watched everything from her office on the second floor of her club, Eternity, as she waited for Christian to return from his errand. Looking down at the club through walls of mirrored and tempered glass, she could see most of the club without having to worry about anyone being able to see into her office. Her grey-eyed gaze rolled over the masses of people on the dance floor and then turned toward the bar.  The strobing lights and pulsing music below barely affected her senses. It was a good night. The club was packed, and most of the people working below were rushing around or at least they should be.

Katherine’s eyes fixed on Shyanne as she interacted with a man at the bar. Standing alone in the darkness of her private office, she folded her arms across her chest in disapproval. Shyanne was at the bar, talking to a man who had passed her something on a piece of paper. She could not see the man’s face from her viewpoint, but he seemed out of place and still had Shyanne’s constant attention. This wasn’t a good thing, especially since it was obvious she was trying to captivate him. She did not seem to understand restraint, but Katherine hoped to help her as she grew more used to the world she had recently joined.

As Katherine continued watching, the man turned to leave and made his way through the crowd. She watched as he made his way awkwardly through the club and smiled as he turned and walked right into whom she had been waiting for. Her arms unfolded as she studied Christian’s reaction to the man bumping into him. Christian seemed upset, but not threatened and that was enough for her to look back over to the bar. Shyanne was leaving the bar with a look of concern, and it seemed as if she was headed directly toward the office.

With a sigh, Katherine turned and smoothed out the sleeves of the black leather dress that clung to her tall and lean frame. She began moving toward the door of her office and paused in front of a mirror. She swept her long blonde hair over one shoulder and then walked from her office and into the relatively private area that was reserved exclusively for club members.

There was no one else in the room at the moment save for two men hired for security. Two guards stood next to the elevator and stairs that led up to the room, and another two were downstairs to make sure that only approved club members were permitted upstairs. It ensured the sheep did not know of the predators among them.

The room was illuminated by recessed lighting that cast dim red and blue light across everything. Ornate French Rococo sofas and daybeds were spread about the large open area. A sleek, black grand piano was in one corner near the long, dark oak table where Katherine held meetings. With red walls adorned with several baroque paintings, the room was different from the club downstairs. There were some things from her past she had been unwilling to part with over the years, and so she kept them either here or at her home.

Katherine felt a craving inside her building but knew she would have to be patient and tend to business concerning the city first. The elevator dinged and the doors opened slowly. She met Shyanne’s eyes as she stepped out of the elevator.

She folded her arms over her chest again as Shyanne walked over. The leather of her dress creaked softly as she nodded at the guards and they both moved out of view into the curving stairwell.

“Who was the blood bag?” Katherine asked in a flat tone.

“He was asking a lot of questions around the club, so I thought it best if I talk to him,” Shyanne replied defensively.

“It looked as if you wanted to do more than talk to him…” Katherine intentionally let her comment trail off.

“I don’t know, there’s something about him. I can sense it on him.” Shyanne tried to hide the smile sneaking across her face.

“Is he a cop?” Katherine asked.

“No. At least I don’t think so.” Shyanne paused. “He’s looking for a missing friend who he says has come into the club.”

“You should have just turned him away,” Katherine began. “I’m not concerned about one person asking questions about missing people. The cops leave us alone because I tell them to.”

Shyanne nodded but pressed the issue. “I think you should look into it.”

Katherine walked over to the small bar, and Shyanne followed her.

“Why do you think I should do that?” Katherine asked as she uncorked an unlabelled bottle and poured herself a drink. The amber liquor flowed into the glass, and she replaced the cork on the bottle and let both items sit on the bar. She looked at Shyanne from behind the bar with emotionless eyes.

“His friend looks a lot like the others,” Shyanne said as she placed photographs on the bar top between them.

“The others?” Katherine asked as she looked down at the photos with insincere curiosity. She knew what Shyanne was hinting at, but did not want to hear the answer.

The photographs showed a young and attractive woman smiling at the camera. She had long, blonde hair, blue eyes, and vibrant skin. The woman in the photo was beautiful, without a doubt. Katherine sighed and felt her rage mounting, but forced her emotions deep into the darker parts of her mind. Self-control was necessary in front of those who swore loyalty to her.

Katherine looked back up to Shyanne. “I see.”

“Is there anything you want from me?” Shyanne asked.

Katherine studied her for a long moment. Shyanne was young and searching for her place in a world of monsters masquerading as their former selves. Katherine was no exception, though, over centuries, she had learned the importance of composure. To lead the city, she knew she had to be someone others wanted to follow. Her focus was turning more and more toward identifying the killer amongst their kind.

Finally, Katherine replied, “Not at this time, Christian has been out looking into what we know so far. I am appreciative that you brought this to my attention so quickly, perhaps he knows something we don’t.”

Katherine lifted the glass up to her face and inhaled through her nose. The notes of honey and berries in the mead reminded her of a time long ago, and she closed her eyes briefly allowing herself to be lost in memories from lifetimes ago.

“Jeremy.”

“What?” Katherine’s eyes snapped open bringing her back to reality. Shyanne was now sitting at the bar and had flipped over one of the photos, showing where his name and phone number had been written down.

“His name is Jeremy LeBlanc,” Shyanne added as she tapped the photo.

Katherine could hear the rising tone in Shyanne’s voice as she said the man’s name. She was about to respond when a soft ding came from the direction of the elevator. Both women looked in the direction of the elevator and Katherine smiled softly as Christian exited the elevator, moving toward the bar.

Katherine called out a greeting to Christian in Japanese, to which he nodded his head in response. She knew he was of Japanese descent and that was all she knew of his history before the two of them met. He did not offer, and she did not ask. He had been at her side for a long time, and she knew the one thing that mattered most. He was the closest thing to a trustworthy ally in a world of deceptive predators.

She watched Christian as he moved. His was impeccably well-dressed in a black suit and the leather trench coat wrapped around his wiry, athletic frame nearly touched the floor. He had a swagger to his walk as if he had nothing to fear and as far as Katherine knew – it was true. Somewhere within him, underneath his calm demeanor was a storm of ferocity and ruthlessness.

Christian leaned up against the bar next to Shyanne without a word. Katherine noted the subtle shift in Shyanne’s posture as she angled herself slightly away from Christian. Shyanne was always uncomfortable around him, and Katherine watched as she seemingly forgot that the two of them were having a conversation. She wondered if Shyanne would ever get past her uneasiness around him.

“Shyanne?” Katherine asked as she leaned down against the bar to look her in the eyes.

“Yes?” Shyanne replied as she met her gaze.

“If there is nothing else, you are dismissed. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”

Shyanne nodded silently and quickly turned to leave.

Katherine glanced over at Christian as he ran his hand gently over the stubble of his short beard. His face was expressionless, and she shook her head at him in disapproval.

“One more thing, Shyanne,” she called out as she looked down at the photos and flipped them back over to see the young woman in them.

“Yes?” Shyanne turned fully to face her as she paused at the elevator. She forced a smile as she met Katherine’s gaze.

“Stay away from this human, Jeremy LeBlanc. Christian will look into him.”

The smile vanished from Shyanne’s face, and she nodded in silence once again before turning and heading back downstairs.

With Shyanne out of the VIP area, she turned to Christian and sighed. “Why do you always have to do that?”

Christian shrugged as he finally took a seat at the bar. “I do not mean to intimidate her.”

“We both know that is a lie,” Katherine responded flatly and drank the glass of mead in front of her and let the taste sink in. “I think you enjoy making her uncomfortable.”

“Perhaps she is concerned I will come for her one day?” he replied.

“That is possible,” Katherine paused before changing the subject and sliding the photos on the bar over to him. “There may be another one.”

His face was calm as he studied the photos for a moment and then looked up to meet her gaze. He shook his head slowly. “You will not enjoy the news I have.”

“That is dependent on if you actually have news.”

“Nothing,” he said as he shook his head. “The police have nothing new, but they are at least keeping the deaths unlinked and off the news. I have not been able to find anything linking to anyone, but I am certain it is one of us.”

“Everyone in the city knows better than to cross me.”

“It could be someone new or someone acting out against you.”

“All the more reason to know who is violating my rules,” she replied as she gripped the glass in her hand and rotated it slowly, watching the mead gently slosh. She weighed the possibilities of it being someone new who didn’t know her orders or someone in her circle that was potentially making a move against her.

“I agree. When we find out who is responsible, they will see their last sunrise.”

“I need another favor, Christian,” Katherine said as she looked back down at the photos on the bar and copied down the phone number written on the back onto a napkin from the bar.

Christian leaned back in his seat, listening calmly.

“A human came in tonight who did not belong. He was asking about this missing woman and said he knew she had been in Eternity. In case she is the latest to be taken, I want you to have someone review the archived footage for her. If she has been here – I want to know when and who she was with.”

He nodded. “Anything else?”

“Find out what you can about this Jeremy LeBlanc,” she said as she tapped the phone number on the back of the photo.

“Do you want me to be direct?”

“No, I doubt there’s a need for you to pay him a visit,” she replied. “I think I will go see him. Shyanne said she sensed something was different about him. You should have seen the way she was throwing herself at him at the bar.”

Christian sighed. “She reads them like a crystal ball and goes through them too quickly for such a small girl.”

“That’s not what concerns me,” Katherine began. “He seemed completely unaffected by her and left of his own free will.”

“He’s lucky. Shyanne has drugged the last two because she’s figured out she can feel the effects when she feeds from them.”

“Nevertheless,” Katherine said as the faint smile disappeared from her lips. “I think I will introduce myself and see what he knows. I want you to call a meeting, all club members must attend. They have two nights to respond.”

Christian nodded and excused himself, taking the photos with him and leaving her alone at the bar. She moved over to lie down on one of the daybeds, relaxing against the soft cushion and pillows.  She could still hear the pulsing beat of music coming from the club below. As she lay there, she wondered what it was that Shyanne had sensed in the human from earlier that night. She refused to trust Shyanne’s ability to read others but decided she would see for herself how he could resist Shyanne’s supernatural allure.


Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash

Chapter 7

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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