She was just... gone. Without a trace. He couldn't get his mind around it.
The scent of lavender was overpowering as Kieran walked into their bedroom. He ran a hand over the empty pillowcase still lying on the bed. The patchwork quilt that used to cover the bed was gone too. Lena’s grandmother started it and, after she died, Lena made it her project to finish it. Recently, Kieran and Lena had started working on it together, each of them adding pieces of themselves. They’d eventually sewn the patches together, representing them as a couple. Though Kieran never would have admitted it, he’d thought it was a cute idea.
That blanket had more sentimental value to her than I did. Where did she go? Why? he thought. Kieran crawled onto the bed and buried himself in the pillowcase. Her lavender scent was already starting to fade. The tears came upon him like a storm. His fingers dug into the soft mattress, clutching at it as if it would give an explanation for why his fiancé left without a word.
It was dark outside when Kieran raised his wet face from her pillowcase. The snow was falling in swirls, something he and Lena used to love. He wiped the tears from his face and turned onto his side. He stared out at the snow.
“Hey Kieran, you alive in there?” a voice called from his front door.
Kieran recognized his best friend’s voice but didn’t move to let him in.
“Come on man, let me know you’re in there, OK?” his best friend said.
“Leave me alone, Danny,”
Kieran buried his face in her pillowcase again.
“Look man, I just wanted to make sure you’re not doing anything stupid,"
“Well I’m not, so you can go,”
Kieran knew Danny was being a good friend, but it didn't change the fact that he just needed to be alone.
After another minute, Danny said, "C'mon man, open the door,"
Kieran ignored him.
"All right, fine, I'm leaving then,"
Then there was only silence in the hall outside Kieran's front door.
Kieran rolled over in bed that night, fighting an ascent to consciousness. He reached across the bed, intending to snuggle with Lena. As he felt the emptiness beside him, reality came crashing down. It was as if someone had reached into his body and squeezed his heart with their bare hands. Kieran rubbed his hands over his face and sat up. He slid off the bed and walked toward the kitchen, where he grabbed a glass from the cabinet and filled it with ice water. Kieran shot a glance at the clock on the microwave. It read 3:18 a.m. in glowing green. A breath blew through his lips. He had to get ready for work in three hours. Kieran shook his head, knowing he wouldn't be able to go back to sleep now. Lena had only left two days ago, but somehow it seemed longer to Kieran. He still couldn’t wrap his mind around why she would just throw away five years. Kieran had called her cell phone countless times. She’d never picked up. He’d called her parents next, wondering if she’d gone there. Lena’s mother had answered and quickly became confused. She’d told him she thought Lena was meeting him and some friends in Miami the next day. He’d hung up the phone without giving an explanation. He couldn’t believe she'd really left.
Kieran dropped into his chair at work, powered up his laptop and clicked on the internet browser. He clicked on his e-mail client, wondering if his supervisor had sent any important updates on their clients. And there it was. An e-mail from the fabric company he and Lena had been using to finish the quilt. Their fabric had come in. Kieran suddenly felt like he couldn’t breathe. He shut his laptop and walked toward the balcony, a popular break spot among employees. He shoved the door open and breathed in the cool Michigan air. Kieran stared out over the balcony, thinking about how Ann Arbor had always been a beautiful town. Kieran watched as the sun began to rise over downtown, back lighting the cityscape. He sucked in another breath and looked down at the cars and buses traveling to their various destinations. Kieran wondered if Lena was in one of them. As far as he knew, she could still be in the city and he would never know. Ann Arbor was huge. Kieran's gaze returned to the sunrise and he realized he could breathe again. As he turned to go back inside, he nearly collided with Danny.
Kieran didn’t say anything as he pushed past him.
Kieran continued to ignore him all the way back to his desk. Kieran reopened his laptop and clicked on ‘compose new message’ in his e-mail client. He typed Lena’s e-mail address in the “To” field. He could feel Danny’s eyes burning a hole in his back as he did so.
“Go away Danny,” Kieran said without turning around.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“You going away? Yeah, pretty sure,”
“You know that’s not what I’m talking about,”
“Do you not understand the meaning of ‘go away’?”
Danny threw up his hands.
“I’m going, OK?”
Kieran turned back to his laptop and finished writing his e-mail.
'Why? Are you OK?' was all Kieran wrote before pressing 'send'.
December faded into January without much notice from Kieran. He’d slept through most of Christmas. He’d only gone out on New Year’s Eve because Danny made him. Lena never responded to Kieran’s e-mail; he had stopped expecting her to. Kieran realized he had to stop waiting for her to come back. Now he just went through the daily drill: work, home, friends. Kieran found comfort in the familiar routine. He locked the apartment door behind him and tossed his keys on the counter. Kieran sat down at his computer desk to check his e-mail and saw that the first message was from her. At least, it was from her e-mail address. He clicked on the message. The e-mail read:
‘I'm in Panama. Working for us. Don't worry.' –Lena.’
A mixture of relief, confusion, anger and sadness ricocheted in Kieran’s brain. That still doesn’t answer any questions. Why was it necessary for you to leave? Why Panama? he thought. Kieran just stared at the message for a few minutes, uncomprehending. He finally pushed the laptop away from him and walked into the kitchen. He went straight for the liquor cabinet.
Kieran was halfway through his second drink when his cell phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID before flipping the phone open. It was Danny.
“A bunch of us are going to see the new  movie, you’re coming with,”
“No, I’m not,”
“Kieran, c’mon, you can't stay in that apartment forever,”
“Eight words. After five years. That's all I got,"
“Uh, Kieran, what are you talking about?”
“Remember that e-mail I sent? She replied to it today,”
There was a pause before Danny responded.
“Well, what did it say?”
“She's in Panama. 'Working' on something. For 'us',”
"Did she mention anything about coming back?"
There was silence on the other end of the line for a long time.
"Well, I'm going to get another drink. Later,"
Kieran pressed the 'end call' button before Danny could get another word out. Kieran had barely put his phone down when it started ringing again. He looked at the caller ID, suspecting he knew who it was. He read the name and put the phone back down, deciding to ignore it. Danny worried too much. Kieran poured more bourbon into his glass, sat back on the couch and drank until his thoughts stopped.
Later that night, Kieran was startled awake by a pounding on the door. He heard something shatter beneath him and realized he must have still been clutching his bourbon glass. He groaned and sat up. The pounding continued. Kieran glanced into the kitchen to get the time off the microwave: 2:13 a.m. He groaned again.
"Seriously, Danny? This is a little ridiculous, even for you,"
Kieran shuffled toward the door and heaved it open.
"There, you hap---" Kieran started to say. He was interrupted by a baseball bat meeting his stomach and knocking the wind out of him. Kieran's head slammed against the open door. Unconsciousness came quickly.
Kieran's eyes opened to a fuzzy vision of a man tearing his apartment apart. He saw sunshine glinting off the floor tiles in the kitchen and wondered how long he'd been out. Kieran's eyes slowly rotated back over to the man. He was built like a tower in both body and height. Kieran tried to get up, but his body screamed in agony at the smallest movement forward. There was a pounding in his head that had nothing to do with a hangover. It only got worse with the man screaming "Where the fuck is it?!" every few minutes. A groan escaped from Kieran's mouth followed by a wracking cough. When he looked at the floor, there was fresh blood on it. Kieran's head lolled back to its place on the hardwood floor. He knew coughing up blood wasn't a good sign. Unfortunately, the sound also got the man's attention.
"Did I fucking say you could wake up?" the man said.
Kieran didn't know if it was because he was delirious with pain, but he swore that the man was wearing a black mask that tied in the back and only showed his mouth and eyes. Kieran coughed again.
"What, did you steal that mask from The Princess Bride's prop store?" Kieran said.
The man, who Kieran decided he was going to call Pain, kicked him in the side. Kieran screamed and his body curled into the fetal position. He took very small breaths in, as if that would control the pain somehow.
"Now, where the fuck is it?" Pain said.
"Where... the fuck... is what?" Kieran said.
"My money. My stash. Whichever fucking one she told you about," Pain said.
"What are you talking about?" Kieran said. He sucked in a breath. Even that hurt.
"My fucking cocaine man! My money! Lena was one of my dealers!"
"No," Kieran closed his eyes. Speaking hurt.
"Yeah. Gave her enough to supply the Colombian army last time we met. Told her to move it and she didn't,"
Kieran struggled to keep his eyes open. He didn't know how much longer he could do this. As if to answer him, his eyelids drooped closed a second later.
Pain kicked Kieran in the head this time. Kieran's eyes shot open and then squeezed shut. His mouth opened to scream, but no sound came out.
"I don't see how Lena could love such a little bitch. You're useless. She even said I was better in bed,"
Those were the last words Kieran heard before sinking back into the blackness. Pain had taken Kieran's head and slammed it against the floor. It was the same spot that had hit the door the night before. (necessary?)
A sadistic smile crossed Pain's face as he grabbed Kieran's house key and locked the door behind him.
Danny kept glancing over his shoulder at Kieran's empty desk. It was 9:00 a.m. Kieran should have been at work an hour ago. Danny knew he was depressed about Lena, but it wasn't like him to be late. He would have called their supervisor and told her he wasn't coming in. Danny got out his cell phone and dialed Kieran's number. He got Kieran's voice mail after four rings. He dialed the number again and got voice mail again. Danny put his cell phone back down on his desk, gave one more nervous glance at Kieran’s empty desk and dove into the work he had to do.
Kieran still hadn't shown up two hours later. Danny was convinced something was wrong now. He told his supervisor he was taking his lunch break and headed toward the parking garage. He got into his car and sped out of the garage. When he got to Kieran's apartment building, he ran up the stairs to the third floor, where Kieran's apartment was. Danny pounded on his door. Seconds turned into minutes. No one came to the door. Danny pounded on the door again.
"Come on Kieran! If you're in there, open the door!"
Still no answer. Danny turned and ran for the superintendent's office back on the first floor. He explained the situation to him and the super followed Danny back up to Kieran's apartment. They got to the front door and the super turned the key in the lock. The door swung open and the two of them were instantly hit with the smell of blood. Kieran lay prone on the floor, the blood surrounding his head looking like a regular wood stain on the floor.
"Oh, shit..." was all Danny could get out.
"I'll call 911," the super said, getting out his cell phone.
Danny sank to the floor. It felt like his legs were unable to support him any longer. Time became a blur of ambulance sirens, police statements and shock.
A paramedic's voice brought Danny back to Earth: "Sir? Do you want to ride with him?"
"Sure," Danny said, dazed.
He walked toward the elevator with the paramedics, only half aware of what he was doing.
Two days passed before Kieran came to. Danny was sitting in a chair opposite Kieran's bed, trying to distract himself by reading the day's newspaper. He'd read the same article three times. It was when his eyes had drifted from the newspaper for the fifth time that he saw Kieran's eyelids flicker. Danny's hand shot to the nurse's call button as he saw Kieran's eyes open. After his breathing tube was taken out, Kieran gestured for the glass sitting on the bedside table. Danny took the glass and went into the bathroom and filled it up with water from the faucet.
As Kieran took a sip of the water, Danny asked the one question that had been circling his brain like a catchy pop song: "What the hell happened?"
Kieran gave a hoarse, mirthless laugh.
"That's what I'd like to know,"
"Well, start at how someone apparently beat the living hell out of you,"
At this, Kieran looked down at his lap.
He drew in a breath before he said, "He said Lena was one of his dealers. One of his drug dealers. He came looking for his 'stash' or his 'money'. He didn't like the fact that I had no idea what he was talking about,"
"Wait, as in your fiancé Lena? A drug dealer? Was this guy on something?"
"He also said that she... well, that she slept with him,"
"Come on, man, you don't believe that. Lena loved you,"
"Did she?" Kieran's eyes returned to his lap.
Danny just sat there, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water gasping for air. He didn't think there was anything he could say back to that.
Kieran was discharged two days later. Danny helped Kieran get settled back into his apartment. He watched as Kieran paused at the front door, running a hand over the marks the crime scene tape had left behind. Kieran's other hand dropped into his pocket and pulled out the copy of the key the superintendent had given him. Kieran turned the key in the lock and the door swung open. The spotlessness of the apartment unnerved him.
He threw the key on the computer desk, walked into his bedroom and lay down on his bed. He stretched his arms behind his head and stared up at the ceiling until he felt something poking at him. A business card was sticking up from the pocket of his jeans. He reached down and took the business card out of his pocket. "Detective Kenneth Davis, Ann Arbor Police Department, Narcotics", it read. The detective and his partner had come by to take Kieran's statement. He'd told Kieran that an investigation would be launched into both the beating and the accusations Kieran's attacker had made against Lena. Kieran twirled the card in his hand, thinking about how the detective told him to call if he had any new information.
"You're having a little too much fun with that card," Danny said, interrupting Kieran's thoughts.
Kieran looked Danny's way but said nothing.
"Everything looks OK, but the police were right, I couldn't find your keys anywhere, sorry,"
"Gotcha. Thanks," Kieran's eyes were fixed on the ceiling again.
"I'm gonna stop by tomorrow before work and make sure everything's cool,"
"OK," Kieran's eyes were still on the ceiling.
"You sure you're gonna be OK, man?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine,"
Kieran's gaze returned to the detective's business card, which he put on the nightstand next to his bed.
Danny didn't believe him but he still turned to leave, making sure to lock the door behind him.
Months passed without an update on either case. Kieran had recovered enough to get back into his daily routine, though he'd had to get copies of all his keys made. His days consisted of work while his nights usually ended with him, a glass of bourbon and reruns of Law and Order or The Closer. One unseasonably warm evening, as he was fishing his keys out of his pocket, he spotted a short, curvy woman with jawline-level black hair lurking by his apartment door. Dread ran its icy fingers along the back of his neck and down his spine.
"Can I help you?" Kieran said.
The woman turned around and Kieran's keys hit the floor.
"You cut your hair,"
She nodded again.
"What are you doing here?" Anger had seeped into Kieran's voice.
Before Lena had a chance to answer, he continued, "I thought you were 'working' for 'us' ".
"I- look, can we go inside and talk about this?"
"What, did you think you'd just show up here after dropping off the planet for months and have everything be OK again? You made your choice. You left me. You left the country and the only reason I have for it is from some crazy fucker who thinks you're a drug dealer. He believed it so much, in fact, that he tore up my apartment and sent me to the hospital. So, no, 'we' can't go inside,"
Lena just stood there for a minute, dumbfounded. Kieran picked his keys up off the floor and found his front door key. He moved toward the door and unlocked it.
"You were in the hospital?"
Kieran's hand paused on the doorknob.
He snorted and without turning around said, "You're a couple months late on that one,"
He turned the doorknob to go inside when he felt Lena's hand on his shoulder. He shook it off.
"At least let me explain,"
Kieran opened his mouth to say no, but thought better of it.
"Fine. You have five minutes,"
He stepped aside to allow her into the apartment and gestured for her to sit on the couch while he took the computer desk chair. The two of them just sat in silence for a minute, with Kieran looking at the floor, at Lena, then back at the floor.
"Why did you leave?" Kieran's voice was barely above a whisper.
His question was met with more silence. Lena wouldn't meet his eyes.
"You know, if you're not going to say anything you should just go," Kieran said.
"I'm sorry... it's just - it's not an easy explanation," Lena said.
Kieran crossed his arms over his chest.
"You're the one that wanted the chance. Try,"
Lena took a deep breath and said, "Well, that 'crazy fucker' you were talking about earlier? Troy? The one who said I was one of his dealers?"
Kieran nodded his response.
"He wasn't wrong. I was. But that was only part of it. A lot of it was me being a mess after my grandma. I had gotten myself into some pretty bad stuff and---" Lena said. She stopped herself as soon as she saw the pain and rage building behind Kieran's eyes.
"So I take it that's what happened to the ring?" Kieran's voice was still quiet. He'd noticed her bare ring finger when she'd first sat down.
Lena couldn't bring herself to answer.
"I'm guessing the same thing happened with the quilt?"
"You know I'd never get rid of it. It's sitting on my bed at home,"
Kieran had to stop himself from physically recoiling at the words "at home". He took a big breath in.
"I thought you wanted to finish it together,"
"It was always more of a family thing, it being the only thing I have left of my grandma and all. And since I didn't think I'd be coming back..."
"So why did you then? Wanted to screw with me some more?"
"You know that's not true,"
"Do I? Apparently all our relationship was worth to you was eight words in an e-mail, so I guess I don't know much of anything any more,"
"Kieran... Listen, I've been trying to explain, if you'd just let me,"
Kieran looked away from her. There was really only one thing he wanted to know right now. Kieran looked back at Lena, focusing his green eyes on her hazel ones.
"'Troy' also said you slept with him. Did you?"
"Get out," Kieran's voice was quavering now.
"There's more to the story,"
"Yeah I'm sure there are great reasons you're on a first name basis with a drug dealer, had sex with 'Troy' and sold your engagement ring. I guess you didn't hear me the first two times. Get. Out,"
Lena opened her mouth to say something more, thought better of it and hurried past him, slamming the door behind her.
Kieran's breath was coming fast and short. He gulped air down like it was the first fresh water after a drought. He stalked into his room, flipped the light switch on and paced. The hits just keep on coming, don't they? That is not the same person I was ready to share my life with. She could have talked to me... why didn't she? Kieran thought. That was when Kieran's eyes fell to his nightstand, where Detective Davis' business card sat. Kieran picked the card up and threw it across the room. Why couldn't she have stayed gone? he thought. [is this thought necessary?] Kieran sank down against the bedroom wall, rubbing his hands over his face and through his light brown hair. He knew he was going to have to call the police on his now ex-fiancé.
Kieran woke up lying against the wall the next morning. As he stood up, his body protested being in the same position all night. He stretched out his neck and back in an attempt to make himself feel less sore. He shuffled to the kitchen in a quest for coffee. He put the grounds and the water in the coffee maker and set it to brew. He grabbed his cell phone from the kitchen table and started to dial Detective Davis' office number. However, as he reached the last four digits, his fingers hovered over the numbers. Kieran decided that he should have some coffee before talking to the detective. He knew his brain needed the jolt. Kieran cleared the screen and threw the phone back on the table.
As Kieran drank his coffee, he kept glancing across the table at his phone. It glinted back at him, as if to fix him with an accusing stare. OK. Just need to finish this coffee. he thought. He drained the last few sips and put the mug in the sink. He picked his phone up and began dialing the number, his fingers again hesitating as they came to the last four digits. Oh just do it. It needs to be done. And besides, she didn't care, why should I? Kieran told himself. His index finger hovered over the "call" button for a second before finally pressing it.
The line rang twice before a man said, "Detective Davis speaking,"
"Detective? My name is Kieran. I'm calling about the case regarding Lena Jameson. You responded to the break in at my place not too long ago? You told me to call if I had more information?"
"Right, how can I help you, Kieran?" Davis said.
"Well, when you originally came to take my statement that day, I didn't tell you that Lena was my fiance, which she was. The only reason I didn't is because she... disappeared about four months ago---" Kieran said.
"Why didn't you report her missing, sir?" Davis said.
"She told her mom she was going to Miami to meet me and some friends. She never answered any of my calls or returned any of my messages, so I thought it was her way of breaking off our engagement. She'd cleared all her stuff out of the apartment with the exception of a couple pillowcases, so I didn't know what else to think. I finally decided to e-mail her, thinking at least she'd have the decency to answer that. She did... after a month. She told me she was 'working' 'for us' in Panama," The last few words came out coated in more bitterness than Kieran had intended.
"I'll have to verify that. Is that why you called?" Davis said.
"No. And verify it all you want. I can send you the original e-mail. The reason I called you is because she showed up on my doorstep last night, expecting all to be forgiven. She wanted to explain, so I let her, against my better judgment. She told me everything that the guy who broke in, Troy, had said was true. She said she could explain that too, but I kicked her out before she could,"
"Assuming your story checks out, would you be able to give a description of 'Troy' to a sketch artist?"
"I'll never forget that guy's face,"
He hung up after agreeing to meet with the department sketch artist the following week. A sense of guilt gripped him as he put his phone down on the table. No, he thought. That was the right thing to do. If that's true though, why I do I feel so awful? he thought.
Kieran closed the door to the sketch artist's office and started walking toward the exit, losing himself in his thoughts in the process. He was almost out of the building when he smacked right into someone coming in. He looked down at the person to apologize and realized he was staring at his ex-fiance.
"You and 'Troy' must have been pretty close for them to call you here already," Kieran said.
"I can't believe you told them! I was really trying to explain everything when I told you all of that... Troy's going to be all over my ass again if he finds out I was here, " Lena said.
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" Anger burned behind Kieran's eyes.
"Goddammit Kieran! How many times do I have to apologize?"
"See that's the thing. You didn't,"
Officers and office staff alike had started looking over at the two of them, so Lena gestured toward the door in front of them, walked over to it and out of the building.
Kieran thought about just leaving her out there and letting the cops deal with her, but he didn't want to spend any more time in the station than he had to. He opened the door and found her pacing back and forth on the top of the steps.
"You keep telling me you want to explain. So explain," Kieran said.
Lena took a deep breath and gestured for him to sit down on the steps. The two of them sat on the far side of the steps, hoping it would give them a little bit of privacy.
"It started when my grandma died. You know how close I was to her and honestly, I wasn't dealing with it very well. I wanted to talk to you, but I don't know... I felt like you wouldn't understand. I just wanted everything to go away - to not have to feel anything. That's when I met Troy," Lena could only bring herself to look at Kieran once the whole time.
"Go on," Kieran was careful to keep any emotion out of his voice.
"It wasn't like the movies... he didn't just appear from some shadowy alley. He seemed like a normal guy who saw that I was having a hard time. Sometimes it's easier to talk to a stranger, you know?"
Kieran bit back the bitter words forming on his lips and nodded his understanding.
"Anyway, after he heard my story, he lit a joint. I couldn’t believe he was doing it so openly and that was when he offered me a hit. You know I've never understood the point of drugs, but in that moment, it was like he'd offered me exactly what I wanted. After a few puffs of it, I felt happier and more relaxed than I'd felt in ages," Lena said. She drew in another breath.
"After that, we started hanging out more and each time it would be the same: we'd talk and then smoke. It wasn't until a month or so after that that I realized that I would look forward to it to get through the day. We'd usually go to a nearby bar for drinks and cheese fries after. It was good for nothing else but an escape... until one night. We both got really drunk and--"
"I think I can figure out what happened next, you don't have to go into the gory details," Kieran wasn't looking at Lena, but at a piece of neon green gum someone had stuck to the step below him.
"I didn't find out he was a dealer until I woke up in his apartment in the middle of the night and even then, I was too drunk to care. I only found out because one of his customers came over looking for some coke," Lena said.
She started picking at the lint on the black v-neck she was wearing, something she did when she was nervous. She knew what she was going to say next would hurt Kieran on an entirely different level.
"Did my name ever even come up?"
Kieran felt the anxiety rising in his throat, making him feel like he couldn't breathe. He already knew the answer.
"Don't. Just finish your damn explanation," He could feel his chin starting to quiver and willed it to stop.
Lena met Kieran's eyes and her gaze lingered a little too long for his liking.
"Troy did a line with the guy and then got back into bed with me. I won't get into details, but I was open to just about anything at that point. The coke did make some of the... other stuff better so I didn't object when he asked me to do a line with him. It was only after that that it started getting really bad," Now Lena was the one looking at the ground.
"How bad?" Kieran wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"Bad enough that I was willing to do almost anything to get more. Bad enough that I got caught by a cop who, when he found out I knew Troy, was willing to make the drug stuff go away. Somehow Troy found out about it and he told me if I told the cops anything, he'd kill me and then come for my family here. I didn't want to move any of the coke I still had to sell because of that, so I ran. My dad's family is in Panama, so…," Lena said.
"So, what? How was any of that 'working' for 'us'? How could you leave me with your mess? Once upon a time, I was your family too," Kieran said.
"That's why I came back. I realized I had to fix it, and well, I was worried about you. I do still love you, you know,"
"Yeah, you love me so much you let me get beat up for you," Sarcasm coated each of Kieran's words.
"I'm sorry about that... I had no idea he'd go that far. And I'm sorry I wasn't here," Lena put her hand on his knee.
Kieran jerked his leg away.
"What, did you think that you'd just apologize and turn yourself in and everything would just magically fix itself? Look, if that's all, I'm done here,"
Lena just watched as he got up and walked away. She knew there was nothing she could have said to make him stay. She hung her head, took a deep breath in and got up, preparing herself to tell the police what she had just told Kieran.
Once he was back in the safety of his car, Kieran slumped over the steering wheel and let go of all the careful control he had amassed during his conversation with Lena. The sobs shook his body and it was a long time before they stopped. How is this my life? I need a drink. Or 10. Kieran thought. He stared at the keys in his lap for a second before grabbing them and starting the car. Instead of going back to his apartment, Kieran found himself driving toward downtown, toward the bars and clubs, toward not having to think any longer.
Danny joined Kieran at one of the Irish pubs after he got off work. He found Kieran sitting at the back of the bar with part of his face buried in a pint of Guinness. Danny ordered one for himself and sat down on the stool next to Kieran.
"So what's goin' on, man?" Danny said. Kieran looked like hell: He was hunched over his glass, his face was blotchy and his eyes still had a stain of red in them.
"Everything Troy said about Lena was true,"
Danny had to strain to hear him above the Top 40 mix blasting from the bar speakers.
"Troy? You mean that guy who broke into your apartment? You believe him now?"
"I do when Lena tells me the same thing,"
"You saw her again?"
"Not on purpose. I ran into her at the police station. We fought, she explained. Apparently some crackhead is more trustworthy than me. Get this, he 'helped' her deal with her grandma stuff by getting her high. Oh, and somewhere along the way, she apparently fell for him and they fucked," Kieran's eyes were fixed on the seemingly bottomless black of his beer.
"Shit, man. Is she OK?"
"Oh, she's fine. She just forgot to mention to the rest of the class that Troy also threatened to kill her and her family if she told the police anything so... there's that. She only came back to fix it. Not because she loves me or anything, even though she claims she still does,"
Danny's eyes widened and he said, "Jesus. I think you need something stronger than that," He signaled the bartender and ordered two shots of Jäegermeister.
It was late when a cab dropped Kieran off in front of his apartment building. He shuffled to the elevator and pushed the button for "up". Once it came, he stepped in, leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. The drinking hadn't helped erase Lena or that afternoon from his mind, but it did have the Novocaine-like effect of making him numb to everything going on around him. The elevator doors opened to show a mercifully empty hallway. Kieran unlocked his apartment and went in, tossing his keys on his computer desk. He plopped down in front of the TV and turned it on. A repeat of that night's CNN News was on.
"...Tonight, Ann Arbor police are asking for you to be on the lookout for alleged drug kingpin Troy Lewis. Lewis is wanted for questioning concerning his involvement in a break-in at the Glencoe Hills Apartment complex..." the anchor said.
Kieran fumbled with the remote before hitting the power button and turning the TV off. The remote missed the table and clattered to the floor, the noise resounding throughout the apartment. Kieran ignored it and slung an arm over his eyes in an attempt at sleep. Even now I can't escape her. he thought. Somewhere, in the back of his alcohol-fogged mind, even he knew that all he could do now was patch himself up, like his and Lena's old blanket.