Small Detour

Andrew makes a pit stop to change his shirt at his apartment.

Andrew's Apartment

April 28, 9:40 pm

"I feel like I used to be better at this. That you made me better at this."

I don’t like walking around this old and empty house

So hold my hand, I’ll walk with you my dear

The stairs creak as I sleep, it’s keeping me awake

It’s the house telling you to close your eyes

Andrew steps into his two-bedroom apartment, and his lips automatically edge downwards. He needs to change. That’s the reason for the quick detour. There’s no way he’s going to a crime scene with a sullied shirt.

Despite himself, everything in his own space feels warm and comforting, which only makes him feel more sullen. The hardwood floor creaks underneath each of his paces, causing him to smirk just a stitch, only for a moment. The lady that lives downstairs will be in contact if he doesn’t settle soon. She’s lucky he doesn’t wear noisier shoes.

And some days I can’t even trust myself

It’s killing me to see you this way

His couch is regarded with a sad, bittersweet smile: he doesn’t want to be here. The whole room screams I told you so at the top of its lungs to him. His living room often has this effect. The voice of reason lives here. Behind a nearly-always closed door. He sighs as he stares at the couch. It makes his stomach churn.

Mostly because he never would’ve chosen it. Comfort hadn’t played much into his living room far in the past. Or his life for that matter. But then he’d never felt comfortable at home— he was never what they wanted him to be. Even when he felt like he held up his end of the bargain. Discomfort became a type of self-management. If he wanted to be comfortable, he’d go to bed.

It’s what he’d said.

A glance is given to his gold Adidas. The ultimate in comfort wear. Running shoes that were meant to usher in a new era. The irony isn’t lost on him.

There’s an old voice in my head that’s holding me back

Well tell her that I miss our little talks

Soon it will be over and buried with our past

We used to play outside when we were young

And full of life and full of love

A glance is given to the cordless phone that rests on its hook in the kitchen. It’s flashing. Two messages. He makes a scoffing sound in the back of his throat before hitting the play button and treading to the living room.

“Two new messages,” his robotic message machine crackles.

Wearily, he sheds his jacket and lets it fall to the couch before taking a few steps to the stainless steel fridge in the kitchen while unbuttoning his sauce-stained shirt. He feels like this is someone else’s apartment; like he’d purposely considered others when making his choices. Even now.

It’s probably what attracted him to this apartment anyways.

“First new message,” the mechanical voice from the machine crackles. He really ought to replace that.

“Andy,” the machine buzzes with a voice that causes Andrew to roll his eyes as he tugs at the buttons on his shirt.

“Mom wanted to call you, but didn’t think you’d pick up. Evidently you’re not picking up for me either,” the caller sighs. “Look, the IA Hughes case is closed. We thought you’d want to know that you were right. IA came up empty. Hughes wasn’t dirty in any way. I still have no idea how you of all people knew… unfortunately leaves us with questions. But…” she sighs again. “Look. Come home. I need your help on this.” Pause. “Also your nephews miss you,” this actually earns a faint curl of Andrew’s lips that lasts just a moment before the caller once again demands: “Call me back.”

Some days I don’t know if I am wrong or right

Your mind is playing tricks on you my dear

“Second new message,” the machine announces.

“Drew. It’s me,” another female voice—lighter than the last. Almost chipper in cadence and tone. “I really miss you. Come home. If you’re one of those freaks, I’ll still talk to you. I make no promises for everyone else, but… I bet you'd be allowed to work in a similar department here rather than across the country. Besides, if you don’t come home soon, I’m coming to see you. You better have a spare room, big brother.” The message ends.

“End of new messages,” the machine announces.

His eyes turn from the master bedroom to the spare. He takes a long deep breath, and releases it slowly. The Spare Room. He hasn’t been in there since he moved in. And he’s been here long enough.

The floor creaks underneath him as he shifts back to the fridge, opening it, and staring at the single beer in his fridge. He closes the fridge door. No reason to tempt fate. Coffee. Not alcohol. His lips twist into a sharper frown as he turns back to face the Spare Room again.

His lips purse as he stares at the door once more. The floor creaks as he walks across the hardwood and turns the handle, allowing the door to crack open. He finally finishes unbuttoning his shirt as he enters the room. He twists around the corner and flicks on the light, revealing five large unpacked boxes: the remnants of some life past.

Don’t listen to a word I say

The screams all sound the same

Thought the truth may vary

This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

“Hey~” he nearly sings to one box in particular, but his voice cracks around the word. The box is starred with multiple red stars. Evidently this one is important. “So. Believe it or not, I missed you.” He swallows the lump growing in his throat. The guilt has been building up inside him since he set foot in his own apartment. “I wanted to open this door for months.”

“But I couldn’t see you for awhile,” he says quietly. “It wasn’t fair, you know. What you did.” His eyes clamp shut as he walks over to the wall. He slides down it until he’s in a fully seated position. His palms press firmly over his eyes. “I’m still mad at you.” And there it is.

His palms move away from his face, and are pressed into the floor. He at least deserves his dignity intact. And she deserves to know the truth. Even if she’s not really here. “I met someone today.” He pauses and his lips twitch into a smile, “You’d like her. Her name is Alice. I… I want to give her a pair of your shoes. I know you’re kind of testy about people putting their paws on your Adidas, but I figure,” he glances back towards the starred box, “you’re not using them anyways.” He pauses. “And it’s not like that. She’s a kid. You’d have been better at interviewing her. You were always so good with the kids.” He stares at one of the red stars in particular that has the word Andy written in tight cursive across it in black. A faint, bittersweet smile creeps over his lips, but it fades moments later when he adds, “She’s missing. Someone took her. You wouldn’t have let that happen. I didn’t think the story was going to press yet— a big oversight. I feel like I used to be better at this. That you made me better at this. Sometimes I hear your voice in my head warning me. Every now and then, middle-naming me— “ Andrew Cayden Webber. “I screwed up. I should’ve…” he releases a quiet breath. “… it doesn’t even matter now. I just need to find her. She’ll get the shoes when I do.”

He clears his throat. “I did go on a date though. Not with Alice. She really is a kid.” He actually chuckles at this before bringing his beer to his lips. “You would hate the woman I went out with. She’s a reporter.” His cheeks flush. “I flirted with her. And you told me I had no game. Ha! So much game in one baby finger. You were an awful wingman, you know. I mean before…” he sighs.

He frowns as his heart thumps a little harder in his chest, exacerbating the dull ache that never fully goes away. His hands press a little harder to the ground and he hoists himself to his feet.

You’re gone, gone, gone away

I watched you disappear

All that’s left is the ghost of you

Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart,

There’s nothing we can do

Just let me go we’ll meet again soon

Now wait, wait, wait for me

Please hang around

I’ll see you when I fall asleep

He reaches into his pocket and extracts his keys, which he runs across the clear tape at the top of the box. He pauses, looks at the door, and takes another deep breath. He’d love to leave. He would love to forget.

But Alice asked for something from the outside.

And while his failure to protect her got her taken, and ultimately outed her in the worst way, he could give her something that would out just a small piece of him. Or a big piece, as the case may be.

He wonders if she’ll know anything about the shoes.

Or whether they’ll just be shoes to her.

If they find her.

When they find her.

The first shoebox, the most precious shoebox, is drawn from the large brown cargo box. And he pops open the lid to reveal ladies black leopard print ladies Adidas sneakers (size 7) lined with rubber bottoms. Pink fabric details the shoe, lining the inside. They’re so clean they almost look unused.

Don’t listen to a word I say

The screams all sound the same

Though the truth may vary

This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

She’d been like that.

He’d admired that.

He needs a new shirt.

He needs to put his jacket back on.

He’s going back to work.

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