New Winslow S7E5
It was hot this morning, about as hot as yesterday. Andrew was at the McBride plot, walking the perimeter of it and shouting Noah’s name. This didn’t feel likely to help, but since the sunrise he’d already driven through the entire town, tried to get over the line, searched as much of the forest as he was able to access, and there was nothing yet again.
The new leaves were unfurling in the trees around the land as Andrew stood at the edge of the cellar hole and looked down. There was nothing there, of course. It was a rounded hole that had been worn down over the years, but still distinct. There’d been a house here once. No, not just a house. A mansion. And Noah had been so sure he knew this area because of how influenced he was by Billy’s memories seeping into his subconscious. They’d been standing in the space where Billy had lived his entire brief life.
Maybe that was the problem, Andrew realized. They were so focused on where Noah would go. Where would Billy McBride go? He wasn’t at the Countess. Roman had gotten back from his vacation late last night and was in regular contact with Liv as he searched the Petersham area. And Iris said the two owners had seen no sign of Noah. But where else? Was there somewhere else that Billy might go to if he was scared?
Andrew tried not to think about Noah being scared. Shit, he was probably scared wherever he was. And Andrew couldn’t help him from here.
There was no sign of him on the entire property. He was going to go home and make a new plan, do anything he could. And not that he ever really prayed anymore, but right now he was praying as hard as he possibly could that Noah would be there when he arrived.
As he drove Cleo’s borrowed car back into town, he kept an eye on the woods. There had been no sign of either Noah or his truck, which was maybe a good sign? If he was still in his truck, then he could be anywhere by this point. But it meant he wasn’t wandering the woods alone in this heat.
Christ, Andrew wasn’t even sure what to feel anymore. But that didn’t matter, because all he could feel was fear.
There was still no sign of Noah. Olivia called his sister Erin, who said she hadn’t heard from him and offered to fly in if they needed her. There wasn’t really anything she could do right now so Olivia said that wasn’t necessary, but she’d let her know as soon as anything changed.
Cleo was taking over the surrounding towns this morning, having gotten her car back from Andrew. She’d let Liv know she was staying longer after a phone call with Edie that didn’t seem like it had gone so well. But there wasn’t much Liv could do about that right now, so she made a note to ask about it later. Then she went down to the small police station again. The same cop she’d talked to yesterday, a middle-aged woman with a stern face, was back today.
“He’s an adult, so there isn’t all that much we can do,” she said, as though she hadn’t said those same words yesterday. “I sympathize and, like I said, we’re doing everything we can. Other police stations in the region are aware, as well as the hospitals. And if he contacts us, then of course we’ll be in touch. Our two cruisers do rounds of New Winslow every day, so if he’s in town, then we’ll hopefully spot him. But if he doesn’t want to be found, then unfortunately, it’s not in our power to force him. We’re aware of his history and that’s part of the process. So I promise, we will let you know.”
Olivia nodded, though she wanted to scream. The cop gave her a sympathetic smile, then turned back to her work as a younger officer she recognized from high school walked her out.
“Look, it’s Kelly,” he said as they reached the automatic doors. “Give him some time to get it out of his system, then he’ll be back.”
She didn’t know if he was trying to be cruel or comforting. But she resisted the urge to punch him in the stomach as she got back in her car and drove away from the police station.
Her phone rang as she was pulling in at home and she nearly dropped it in her hurry to pick it up. The number wasn’t one she recognized and that dying spark of hope flared back up.
“Hi, Olivia? This is Isabel Rivera.”
And then it was gone, and she felt even worse. “Isabel,” she said, hoping she didn’t sound too awful. “Hi.”
“Hey, I just wanted to check in because you didn’t submit an order this morning.”
Of course she hadn’t, she hadn’t even thought about the Limerick since Andrew got home yesterday afternoon. “No, I’m sorry,” Olivia said, pressing a hand to her forehead. “We’re closed for the day, we had a, um, a family emergency.”
“Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that,” Isabel said softly. “I hope you’re alright.”
“I’m, um, yeah, I’m okay, thanks.” Olivia stammered. “I don’t know about, um, tomorrow.”
“Of course,” Isabel said. “Let me know, but don’t worry.”
Olivia hurried off the phone, checking to see if any other calls had come in during the thirty seconds she’d been talking with Isabel. They hadn’t, of course.
How had he just vanished like that? Even if the police weren’t doing much, they were still looking for him. And Charlie had been out since she called him this morning, occasionally checking in. This was a rural area, but it wasn’t desolate. Massachusetts was too small for that.
Meanwhile, she knew that Roman and Celine were looking too. Last she’d heard from Andrew, Roman was looking in the towns around Petersham and Celine had been doing the same until she had to open the House of Pizza. Calling Noah’s cell was useless, she knew it was still on a shelf at Iris’s shop. And Iris better fucking be doing something, though Olivia hadn’t been able to get through asking the question to Andrew before she nearly threw up.
Her mother had Mia again, something she needed to remember to thank her for. So Olivia was alone when she got home. Instead of going into her own apartment, she passed by her door and went up the stairs to Noah’s, opening the door and walking straight in.
It was silent, and she knew instantly that he wasn’t there. Gray Lady was sleeping on his dad’s old recliner and she went over and put some food in the dish for her. Even the rattling of the food falling in didn’t wake the old cat and for a moment, Olivia thought maybe she was dead. Excellent, exactly what Noah would want to come home to. But then Gray Lady opened a yellow eye, stood up, and stretched regally before hopping down and walking toward the food dish.
Noah wouldn’t just leave Gray Lady. Even when he’d been leaving for rehab, he’d called a service to come in and feed her, thinking Olivia didn’t want anything to do with him. And a few hours earlier, he hadn’t been entirely wrong. But even at his lowest, he’d made sure his cat was cared for.
Were there any hints in his apartment about where he might be? The unit was clean, almost too tidy for Noah. She looked around the living room. The TV on its stand, a shelf of DVDs, the old recliner, and the even older couch. The walls were beige and nearly bare, just a Led Zeppelin poster in a frame on one side of the room and a Boston Red Sox photo on the other. She went to the little table beside the couch, which held an oscillating fan and an ancient radio and pulled out the drawer. She was looking for anything. Receipts, messages, business cards, absolutely anything.
All that was in there was a business card for a landscaper and an old Polaroid picture Olivia recognized as one she’d taken. The two of them were maybe sixteen, making faces at the camera in the high school cafeteria. She set it back down in the drawer, not bothering to close it as she stood up and hurried over to the DVD shelf.
Cowboy movies, war movies, and stupid comedies. But nothing that might tell her where he’d go. And there was nothing on the TV stand either. She went into the kitchen, pulling open drawers. One with a few forks in it. One had a single spoon and a cutting board. The junk drawer was a little more full, with some nails, screws, a screwdriver, and an old legal pad filled with Noah’s crowded handwriting. There were details about home repairs and she noticed that a lot of them were ones he’d worked on drunk and made worse. This was his list of what to fix. But none of that gave her any indication where he was right now.
The fridge was empty except for some ketchup packets. The freezer (she braced herself a little opening that one) was empty except for a few ice packs. Jesus, what was he eating?
The cabinets were a little better, with some cereal and pasta in one of them. But the others held nothing but a few plastic bags.
Normally she’d feel a little guilty invading his privacy, but not right now. Olivia kept going, walking into Noah’s bedroom. It was dark in here, the sloping wooden ceilings just high enough that he probably avoided hitting his head every single day. There were three pictures on his dresser. Mia as a baby, his father, and another from when they were teenagers. This one had the four of them in Halloween costumes. There were a few receipts scattered on the dresser top, but none of them stood out to her.
His bedside table held a lamp and a thick blue book filled with colorful tabs. The Alcoholics Anonymous book, she realized as she picked it up and flipped through. There were a few messy notes, but most of the tabs pointed to passages that were also underlined. After getting a few pages in, this felt like a bridge too far and it didn’t seem like there was any information in it that would help her.
Under the bed there was nothing but a belt.
Nothing here and she couldn’t just keep driving aimlessly. Cleo had called Jude, who was also looking for him. So they had a search going from New Winslow to Fitchburg for what it was worth.
If he was still alive. And Olivia was terrified every second she was in here that she’d turn around and see Noah’s ghost watching her silently from the doorway.
If she continued to think that way, it was going to drive her insane, but there was no way of avoiding it. So she left his silent apartment and made her way downstairs to her own.