New Winslow S8E2

Soon Andrew was in the clinic exam room, with a solemn-looking doctor who was not Dr. Degas prodding painfully at him. Smoke inhalation and some exquisite bruising, were the doctor’s exact words. Andrew had gotten lucky. The fire department wanted to talk to him before he left, but they’d call Andrew’s emergency contact now. Then he could go home. 

The doctor seemed to realize what he’d said as the words came out, but he didn’t try to apologize and Andrew didn’t call him out for it. Instead, he just laid back on the table and tried to keep from shaking as the nurse – who he recognized from when Noah had his arm set here – tucked a warm blanket around him and silently took his hand while they waited.

Said emergency contact showed up in tears about twenty minutes later, after Andrew had taken a painkiller that was starting to make the world a bit swimmy. He’d also spoken to a firefighter already, giving her the details about what had happened back at his flat. Noah arrived with Olivia, letting Andrew lean heavily on him as the doctor gave them what details he knew of both the fire and Andrew’s injuries. The general consensus, he reckoned, was that Andrew was lucky. Both for his minimal injuries and to be alive at all. If things had been even slightly different, Andrew might have been trapped in that flat.

“We should go back,” Andrew said as Noah helped him into the car a little while later. “Maybe it’s not so bad. We can just…”

The neon lights of the clinic’s sign were shining softly down, glowing red in the darkness. The letters seemed to pulsate, just slightly, a hypnotic illusion that captivated Andrew. He trailed off, looking at it for a long minute until he half-felt Noah reach around him to buckle his seatbelt. “Wha-sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Noah said softly, running a hand through Andrew’s sooty, muddy hair. “Everything’s fine.”

Liv was driving, her hands shaking as she turned on the car. “How about you drop me off at the Limerick and I’ll talk to them?” Noah said to her. “You bring Andrew home.”

She shook her head as Andrew’s attention was caught by the clinic’s neon lights again. “I’ll talk to them,” she said. “You take him.”

Andrew closed his eyes as the car began to move, opening them with effort only when he smelled smoke again. The road around the Limerick was blocked off, but when Olivia said who she was, the firefighters started talking to her as they walked away from the car together. After a second, they were too far away for Andrew to hear through the open window. Everything was softer now, including the pain in his back and neck from the fall. He knew he should get out and talk to them, he was the legal owner of the building after all. But he closed his eyes again as the car started back up.

“She’s going to walk home once she talks to them,” Noah said from the front seat.


They were quiet for a few minutes. He could feel the familiar motions of the car, the way his body was tugged slightly to and fro as Noah pulled onto roads Andrew now knew by heart. “The building burned down,” Andrew murmured, eyes still closed.

“I know,” Noah said softly.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where are we going?”


Andrew’s pain was distant, but his legs were rubber by the time they pulled up outside the duplex. Noah helped him out of the car. “Is Mia home?” Andrew asked as they went inside.

“We dropped her off with Nana.”

“That’s nice…”

They moved slowly up the stairs to Noah’s flat, Noah still taking most of Andrew’s weight. Andrew looked up into the darkness of the landing. “I’m scared.”

“That’s okay,” Noah said as he opened the door. “Hey, can I help you shower?”

Andrew gave him what was supposed to be a silly, seductive smile, but it dissolved into tears instead. Noah held him for a long moment as Andrew’s breath hitched and he buried his face in Noah’s chest. Even under the weight of the drugs, the events of tonight were tearing at him in a way that was going to hurt a lot more once they wore off.

“Come on,” Noah said gently after a few minutes. “You’ll feel better once you’re clean.”

He was right. Noah didn’t so much help Andrew shower as completely bathe him, scrubbing his back carefully and washing his hair with so much tenderness that Andrew broke down again. But eventually he was in bed, wearing a Bruins t-shirt that hung huge on him.

“Do you want me to stay?” Noah asked.

Andrew nodded and Noah slid in beside him, adjusting the pillows before putting his arms over Andrew, carefully avoiding his back. He didn’t smell smoke anymore as he fell asleep.


The flames were out, but everything was still smoldering, sodden, and too dangerous for Olivia to be anywhere near. Instead, she was stuck across the street as a small group of people gathered to watch what was happening. What were they even doing here? It was the middle of the night and this wasn’t a residential street. There were only a few apartments along here, so where were they all coming from? She wanted to scream at them to go away, to stop gawking at her business as it collapsed. But all she could do was stare.

There was the front awning, about half-burned to char, the remaining parts soaked and tattered. Noah hated that thing. He wanted to replace it but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe this would cheer him up to see. Olivia didn’t know what time it was, only that it was still night. But even in the darkness, the glow of the streetlights and the headlights of the cars and firetrucks illuminated the front of the building. The brick façade had crumbled somewhat, but was standing solid and skeletal around the windows that had shattered within it. The front door hung off the frame, or at least what remained of it did. She swallowed hard, smelling smoke in the late night air. It was going to be sunrise eventually, but Olivia wasn’t going to wake from this nightmare and she knew it.

The firefighter she’d first spoken to, a middle-aged man with a large mustache, came over to her, holding a few sealed bags in his hand. “We just found these along the side of the building,” he said. “Do you know whose they are?”

The bags contained a sodden toy dragon, a wallet, and a shattered cell phone. “They’re my co-owner’s,” she said, unable to keep the tremble out of her voice. “Andrew Harris. He lives upstairs.”

“He got out safely,” the man said. “One of my guys talked to him a little while ago.”

“Yeah, we picked him up at the clinic.”

She stared at the things in the firefighter’s hands, remembering all the times she’d seen Andrew casually pull out his phone or wallet over the past couple years. He’s okay, she reminded herself. He’s stoned on painkillers and safe with Noah. He’s at your house, he’s alright.

But even that didn’t make her feel any safer right now. She was so vulnerable standing out here. There was no way this was a coincidence and, judging by some of the grim expressions around her, she wasn’t the only one who thought so. The crowd was shrinking, but she couldn’t see any familiar faces. Which was stupid in a town this size, there should be nothing but familiar faces.

“Listen,” the firefighter said. “There’s nothing you can do here tonight. You should go home and get some rest. The town offices will be in touch tomorrow to talk to you about it. It’s… a strange situation.”

That confirmed what she knew deep down, and made her feel even more unsafe. She looked at this unfamiliar man from the regional fire department. He wasn’t from New Winslow, but was he in on everything that had been happening? “I’m not the building owner,” she said, since there wasn’t anything else to say.

“It’s your shop though,” the firefighter said. “I gotta be honest, I’m not sure. The fire marshal will need to look at this scene, it’s…”

He seemed to realize he was about to say something that couldn’t be taken back, and that fact actually made her more relieved than it should have. Of course he wasn’t in on it, this might be the town council’s work, or Baxter on his own, but that didn’t mean the rest of the region gave a shit. “Thank you,” Olivia said. “I… the owner of the building is staying with me, so I’m sure I’ll be talking to him very soon.”

“You take care,” he said, then moved back toward the huddle of officials talking in low, serious voices nearby. She noticed that Charles Baxter was not among them.

Olivia tried her best not to look anyone in the eye as she turned and started down the street, regretting the way she’d been so confident about walking home. If anyone was watching her right now, she couldn’t sense it, but that didn’t mean she was completely out of the woods. She had the amulet Celine Beckett had given her, but that was her only protection from spirits until she was safely back in her own home. They couldn’t see her, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. 

She got back to the duplex about twenty minutes later, still smelling smoke on her hair and clothes. She went straight into the shower, grateful that Sammy had told her not to come back for Mia until the morning. Olivia and Noah had dropped her off in a panic on the way to the clinic after getting the call that Andrew was there. So now she was alone in her apartment as she scrubbed the night off of herself and tried not to think about the fact that their entire business had just burned down with Andrew inside.

Once she was clean, she found herself moving toward the stairs to Noah’s apartment before she even realized what she was doing. She went up the stairwell, telling herself she was just going to peek in and make sure Andrew was okay. Which was ridiculous, he was nearly thirty-five years old and she wasn’t his parent. And what more, he had Noah right there with him. But after seeing the space he lived in now a burnt out husk, she needed to see again that he was safe before she could go to sleep.

Noah’s door was unlocked and she knocked lightly as she pushed it open. “Hello?” she called softly.

“In here, Liv.”

She hadn’t actually expected a response, but Noah’s voice came from his bedroom. She moved toward it and stopped in the doorway. In the dim light, she saw that Andrew was asleep, propped awkwardly on some pillows from her couch. Noah lay next to him, but sat up as she walked in.

“It’s a total loss,” she whispered, not wanting to wake Andrew.

Noah moved to get out of bed and pulled on a t-shirt, motioning for her to go out to the living room with him. Once they were sitting on the couch, he took her hand. “Did they tell you anything?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No, but it’s all gone. The brick is still standing, but the rest of it…”

She sniffled, unable to keep going without breaking down. Andrew was safe, that was what mattered. But now that that was established, she couldn’t help thinking about everything else that had happened there. All their equipment, their materials, it was all gone. There wasn’t much money inside, but that had burned up too, unless their safe was fireproof. Which she honestly didn’t know and realized she should have checked on long before now. 

And now she was furious with herself, as misplaced as that was. 

“They said they’ll be in touch with Andrew tomorrow, but the firefighter I was talking to clearly thought something weird happened,” Olivia said as she leaned back against the worn, comfortable cushion at the back of his couch. “Do you think…?”

“Yeah,” Noah said, clearly not needing her to continue that sentence. “I absolutely think so.”

“They tried to kill Andrew.”

He took a shuddering breath, looking back toward the open bedroom door. “Yeah, they did.”

“What do we do?”

He was silent as they looked around the dark room. After a moment he said, “Do you want to stay up here tonight?”

“I don’t think we’ll all fit.”

She couldn’t believe she was joking right now, but maybe it was a way to block out everything she was trying not to feel. He smiled, and she shook her head. “No, I’m going to go to bed,” she said. “I’ll be right downstairs. Shit, do you think I should call Cleo right now?”

“Sun’s going to be up soon enough.”

He was right. And she wasn’t going to be able to have that conversation with Cleo without sobbing. “I’m going to stay up here,” she said. “Nevermind, I’m not moving from your couch.”

Noah kissed her on the forehead. “There’s blankets right over there,” he said, pointing to the pile of clean laundry on his recliner. “Here, let me-”

“I got it,” she said, reluctantly standing up. “Go back in.”

He disappeared back into his bedroom and she pulled some sheets and a blanket out of the laundry pile, draping them over herself as she laid down. Despite everything she’d just said, she was already dialing Cleo’s number.




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