Great read! Five stars! Captured you from the first words. Very entertaining! Liked the characters and story flow. Highly recommend! Given copy for honest review!
“I’m so glad you guys are here. I’m worried about Ashley,” Jesse said, ignoring me, which was typical. I sighed. Some things never changed.
But then I saw he was distraught about something. “Why? What happened? You two have a fight?”
“No, nothing like that. She said she was going to meet you for the bachelorette party and then was going to go to her own place to sleep. She said she had to get up early and had a bunch of stuff to do today. We were supposed to have a late breakfast, and she never called or showed up.”
“Jesse, she never showed up last night. We just assumed she got busy. We knew you were at work, and neither of us had thought to get her number. That’s why I left you that message about it.”
“Jesse, are you saying you haven’t heard from her at all?” Jared asked.
“No, and that’s not like her. I’ve left a million messages, I’ve called everyone I can think of, and no one has heard from her. None of her friends, none of her co–workers, no one.”
“It’s not like she’s disappeared for days,” I said. “Aren’t you overreacting just a little?”
“I don’t think so. This is not like Ashley. She is very organized and big on manners. She doesn’t just not call.”
Jesse drove us to his apartment so he could take a quick shower, and I couldn’t refrain from commenting on its sorry state. “Jesse, your apartment is a mess,” I said, looking around. “No wonder Ashley didn’t want to stay here.’
“Funny, Pres. I admit it’s messy, but Ashley doesn’t love me for my cleaning skills.”
“Pres, isn’t this a little like the pot calling the kettle black?” Jared said. “You’re not exactly Ms. Neat freak. Whose dirty clothes are always on the floor?”
I stuck my tongue out at Jared. “Oh be quiet.”
Over a quick lunch, we decided we would head to Ashley’s apartment. I was still thinking that as a grown woman it was a little premature to be worried yet, but to make Jesse feel better I didn’t say anything. He obviously knew her better than anyone.
“When was the last time you were there, Jesse?” I asked as we left his apartment and got into his champagne–colored Dodge Lancer. It was almost an antique.
“What the hell is wrong with your door, Jesse?” Jared asked as he kept tugging on the back passenger door.
“Oh, you have to get in the other side. That door is stuck. Ashley calls this my three–door car.” He looked over the hood to me and said, “I stopped by last night on my way to work to pick up a shirt I’d left at her place, but I assumed she was with you.”
“We can at least stop by and make sure she hasn’t been there and cross it off our list. Jesse, I’m sure there is a very simple explanation for all this.” I had come up with the idea to make a list of all the places Ashley might frequent and check each one to find out if she’d been seen. Her apartment and her work were the first two on the list.
As we drove to Ashley’s house, I looked out the window. “It seems so plastic and pretend here. Like it’s not real.”
“What do you expect? It’s the desert,” said Jesse.
“It’s all bright lights and gaudiness,” Jared said excitedly. “I fell in love with this place when I first visited here a couple years ago.”
“No wonder you like it,” I teased. “You’re like bright lights and gaudiness.”
“Do you like living here, Jesse?” Jared asked.
“I do. The heat can be a little much, but the people are great. Much nicer than in LA and more normal. The people in L.A. just seemed like they were so fake. That’s why I gave up. There wasn’t enough genuineness.”
“How far is Ashley’s apartment?” I asked.
“Just a few minutes. We live at opposite ends of the strip. Not a long drive in the middle of the day, but at night it can take forever.”
“I love what this place looks like at night all lit up,” Jared said.
“It certainly is something,” I said.
Pulling up in front of an apartment building that was much newer and nicer than the one they had came from, Jesse parked and cut the engine. “Come on, guys.”
I looked at the building in front of me. It couldn’t have been more than a couple years old. Almost more of a condo feel than an apartment complex. Each unit had a decent size balcony. Off to the right, I could see the edge of the pool, and the grounds were beautifully landscaped. A far cry from Jesse’s apartment, which had a pool, but it was filled with greenish water, and even in one–hundred–degree heat I wouldn’t have been tempted to swim in it. I wouldn’t have wanted to bother the critters living in that water.
“I thought you said she was a schoolteacher,” Jared said.
“Wow. Teachers must make a lot more in Las Vegas than they do in Chicago.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Jesse! Look at this place,” I exclaimed. Guys were so oblivious sometimes. “It can’t be cheap to live in a place like this.”
“Oh. She gets help from her parents. They want her to be safe, so they send her money to help out.”
“I wish our parents felt the same way,” I joked, but it fell flat. Jesse wasn’t even paying attention.
“Follow me,” Jesse said, ushering them into the elevator. It was easy to see he was getting anxious. I was convinced: He must really think this girl was the one.
“Hey Jesse, we’re going to find her,” I said.
“I hope so, Presley.”
They stepped off the elevator, and the hallway was as nice as one would expect from the outside. Expensively done in creams and golds, this wasn’t an inexpensive apartment complex by far. Even with financial help, it seemed an unlikely place for a twenty-three-year-old to live.
“Here it is,” Jesse said to us, stopping in front of a door with the number three nineteen on it. He put his key in the lock, but even with his light touch the door swung open. It wasn’t locked. Jared and Jesse looked at each other.
“Do you think we should go in?” asked Jared.
I turned to Jesse. “Do you think you might have left the door open when you were here yesterday?”
“I don’t think I did, but I guess I could have.” He shook his head. “I don’t really remember either way.”
I stepped one foot over the threshold. “Hello, anyone here?” I looked at the guys and shrugged. “We might as well go in,” I said, walking the rest of the way through the door and motioning for Jesse and Jared to join me.
“Not much of a Suzie Homemaker is she?” Jared said to me in a hushed voice, not wanting to criticize Ashley’s cleaning skills in front of Jesse.
“I’m not so sure this is a matter of her housekeeping.” I looked over my shoulder to my brother. “Is this what it looked like yesterday, Jesse?”
He stood there staring into the room in front of him. “What the fuck?” was all he could get out.
The room had been torn to shreds. Someone had obviously been looking for something. It explained the door being open. “I guess you didn’t forget to lock up,” I said.
“Oh my God, Presley,” Jesse said. “What happened? What does this mean? No, it didn’t look at all like this yesterday. Oh my God, something terrible must have happened to Ashley. Look at all this blood.”
“Jesse, calm down.” Of course, I was freaked out, and having him freaked out wasn’t helping. Ashley’s apartment wasn’t only trashed, but it looked as if someone had been playing the dizzy game with an open can of red paint. You know the game where you twirl around and around until you are so dizzy you can’t stand. There wasn’t as much when you looked closely, but it was spattered all over the walls.
This was not the work of average vandals. Or at least the work I thought average vandals might do. Besides, this wasn’t your average apartment complex and surely had security measures in place. I wouldn’t figure it for a random target for theft.
We gingerly walked through the room looking around at the mess. The cushions on what had been a beautiful cream leather couch had been slashed, lamps broken, the coffee table smashed in two, everything had been pulled out of the cabinets, TV knocked off the entertainment center … it was an absolute disaster. Although, I could still see Ashley had great—and expensive—taste. Nothing in that apartment was less than name brand quality. The real stuff. I could tell.
“This was a beautiful place,” Jared said to me. “She either has a good decorator or great taste.”
“She did it all herself,” Jesse interjected. “She wanted to be an interior decorator, but her parents convinced her that being a teacher was a more stable profession. I can’t imagine who could have gotten in here to do all this damage.”
“Jesse, are you sure she doesn’t have any enemies? I can’t imagine someone just broke in here and did this.”
“Presley, I’m sure. Someone must have kidnapped her. What if she’s hurt?” Jesse sounded frantic, “we need to call the police.”
“Does she keep anything valuable here that someone would know about?” Jared asked.
“Not that I’m aware of. I just can’t believe this. Who could have done it?”
“Do you know any of her neighbors? Maybe we can ask if they heard anything?” I said.
“She was friendly with them to say hi and such, and I’m sure they would recognize me. I’ve spent a lot of time here and have met most of them on multiple occasions.”
“Why don’t you go see if anyone is home and ask, while Jared and I look around?” I had no idea what to even look for. And even if something was amiss, I wouldn’t know it, since I hadn’t ever been here before, but I thought it might help if Jesse didn’t have to be in the middle of this mess.
“But…” I could see he was upset looking at the room.
“Just go. It will only take you a few minutes and Jared and I will be right here.” I pushed him toward the door. Jesse walked out, and I turned toward Jared.
“What the hell do you think happened here?” he asked.
“I have no idea, but it sure seems weird. First, that she would live in an apartment like this on a teacher’s salary and then that someone obviously trashed her place. Do you think this is blood?” I started to walk through the apartment, and it was clear, even to me, someone had been on a mission here. There wasn’t anything left untouched. I walked into the master bedroom, and after I got over the feeling I was invading Ashley’s private space, I grew curious to learn more about her by looking in her closet. You could always tell so much about a girl by her clothes. And shoes. And accessories.
“Look at this, Jared. Her closet is almost as big as our entire apartment.” I was so in awe I almost forgot we were supposed to be looking for clues.