Chapter Twenty Seven: Some are filled with lies.
The following morning Andy walked into the dining room. The tables had remained together but on them now stood so many different dishes he couldn’t help but smile.
“Carmita and Emmett really out did themselves didn’t they?” Micah asked from behind him.
“Yeah,” Andy replied still looking at the table in awe.
It had been a rough night for him and he hadn’t had a wink of sleep worrying about the safety of his boyfriend. As though intuitively realizing this Micah wrapped his arms around his son.
“Well find him Andy, I promise,” he said. “Jay’s been through some tough times and gotten out of all of them.”
“Nothing like this though,” Andy replied. “Name one time where he was lost for this long, with no one having any idea where he is.”
Micah was lost for a response, but fortunately at that moment Linds walked in dragging a suitcase behind her.
“Morning guys,” she said walking up to the pair.
Andy couldn’t help but look down at the suitcase in disgust. Was she really leaving? Now, in the midst of all this drama?
“I am so sorry,” Linds started. “I need to get back. I have an exhibit today and no one else can cover for me.”
“That’s ok,” Andy flat-out lied giving her a hug. “You’ve done a lot to help, thanks Linds.”
Truth be known Linds had actually been useless. Despite her creativity she had offered up no useful suggestions at all yesterday. Even Lauren had come up with at least one solid idea.
At that moment Mel strolled in and Andy was intrigued to see no suitcase lagging behind her.
“Your…?” he started to question.
“Oh no,” Mel waved off. “I’m not going anywhere. I got someone to cover for me.”
This perked Andy up right away. Despite what had seemed to be a slow reconciliation between the pair he always felt that they were a packaged-deal and that if Linds needed to leave that Mel would go with her.
“No no,” Linds confirmed. “It’s just me.”
Not long after that Mel walked Linds outside to where a cab was waiting as everyone else slowly made their way into the foyer.
First came Ms Taylor who despite her usual positive nature was clearly not a morning person. She looked so disheveled it wouldn’t have surprised Andy if she was hung over. Nor would he have blamed her considering the circumstances.
“Morning everyone,” she groaned walking slowly over to the tables. “Damn that Carmita gets up early!”
Micah and Andy shared a smile as Ben made his entrance, laden with coffees from Andy’s favourite café.
“Quick, quick, quick,” he hustled. “If Lauren sees I’ve brought this in she’ll have my head.”
And he quickly handed Andy and Micah a paper cup each.
“Not if you got her one,” Andy smiled in gratitude.
“Now you tell me,” Ben smiled back.
Not too much later Carmita and Emmett walked in laden with plates of more food including pancakes and waffles.
“What do you think Andy?” Emmett asked referring to the food in his hands and on the table.
“Impressive,” Andy replied perkily, the coffee had definitely helped to lighten his mood. “More than enough sustainable food to create happily motivated people, thanks Em.”
He leaned over and gave the man a quick peck on the cheek in gratitude.
Not too much later Ted waltzed in, but what surprised Andy was that he was all dressed up in the same suit he had worn to defend B at the trial.
“Wow Ted,” Micah remarked. “If I’d known this was a fancy breakfast I would have dressed up.”
To that Emmett slightly cringed as Ted gave him an accusatory stare.
“You didn’t tell them, did you?” he asked.
Emmett blushed and looked down at the floor.
“Ummm no,” he replied so softly that it was almost hard to hear.
“Tell us what?” Andy enquired, now taking a seat.
The smell of the food was so overwhelming that he couldn’t stand looking at it a moment longer and he piled his plate with everything in sight.
“The pancakes are good,” Ms Taylor acknowledged.
“Oooh good,” Andy replied. “I love sweet food for breakfast.”
Ben wiped his mouth with a napkin and Andy realized that he was already finished with his first helping.
“So you tell us Ted, what’s up?”
Just as Ted went to answer Mel came back in accompanied by Carmita who herself was carrying a tray of homemade Churros.
“Well, what Emmett has failed to tell you all is that, well…we’re leaving. He has to get back to the store and I have some things to take care of at the office.”
Andy’s jaw just dropped. If it was a cartoon his jaw would have hit the table. Did no one care about Jay anymore? Was it just one attempt to find him and then some sort of ‘oh well, we tried’ attitude? Ms Taylor dropped her cutlery at once with a big clang and Ben had the look of a man about to jump across the table and start killing people.
Fortunately Micah was the only one to speak.
“Oh,” he replied, not knowing quite what else to say.
The room was suddenly filled with silence and Andy finally worked out what people meant when they described a silence as being deafening.
“Churros anyone?” asked Carmita smiling trying to break the tension.
“Mmm I’ll take,” Mel replied seeing exactly what she was trying to do.
“You know what? I’m not hungry anymore,” Andy said and with that he picked himself up from his seat and boldly walked out of the room.
Luckily he looked up as he almost collided right into Lauren at the entrance.
“Whoa, where’s the fire?” she asked.
“Right here,” Andy replied pointing to his heart. “I need to get out of here now, can we vamoose?”
Lauren took her cue from him right away and simply pointed towards the exit allowing him to lead the way as Rein continued to walk into the foyer. It was not that she was unsympathetic or that the food was calling to her. But she knew when Andy was like this, he needed her mom and no one else.
What she wasn’t prepared for was the bustle of noise in the room. Everyone seemed to be angry with each other. As Rein looked around it was like watching 3 different verbal tennis matches going on at once. Micah was yelling at Ted, Ben was arguing with Emmett and even Ms Taylor, who seemed like such a sweet lady was yelling at Mel.
Suddenly from out of nowhere someone let out a huge whistle bringing everyone back to attention. As they all turned around they noticed Debbie standing at the entrance with Rick by her side.
“What the fuck is going on around here?!” she demanded. “You’re all acting like fucking two year olds!”
Everyone began to respond at once and so Debbie, much more loudly this time, whistled again while Rick took the moment to slip into a chair at the table and grab some food.
“Enough!” Deb screamed out. “My god! We have a boy out there, missing, going through god only fucking knows what and you guys would rather yell at each other? Grown men and women! It’s ridiculous!”
She took a few more steps into the room and simultaneously everyone started taking steps backwards to back away from her.
“Now then,” she continued. “Ben, what’s going on?”
She hated singling the man out, but she knew out of pretty much everyone in the room, he was the most likely to remain calm.
“Linds has left,” he started, but Deb jumped right in.
“Linds has left?” she asked the room at large.
“And,” Ben continued. “Ted and Emmett are on their way out the door too.”
“Em…is this true?” Deb asked hurt, surprised more with him then the other two.
Emmett simply nodded.
“Fine,” Deb continued, wanting to fix this drama as soon as possible. “Emmett, Ted, thanks for your help. Now if you don’t mind get the fuck out, we have no time for people who aren’t here to help.”
Though she had expressed her demand neutrally and calmly the pair didn’t need telling twice and they both rushed out of the room.
“Ok,” Deb continued looking at everyone else. “Where are Andy and Lauren?”
“Andy got upset and left,” Micah replied.
“Oh, he’s with my mom,” Rein confirmed. “I think he just needs a moment to breathe. They’ll be back.”
“And no bloody wonder, what with everyone starting to abandon him and Jay too when you think about it,” Debbie replied.
“Ok if anyone else is planning on leaving do it now or forever shut your god damned mouth!”
Not a soul moved and so Debbie continued.
“Right, so there’s going to have to be some minor adjustments. But that’s ok. Carmita?”
Carmita, who had remained at the entrance all this time, quickly rushed over to where Debbie was standing.
“Yes?” she asked timidly.
“I understand you’ve lost a chef, don’t worry over a decade of working at the diner and I’m a good replacement. Trust me,” she turned to the Latina smiling.
“Rein, sweet-cheeks,” she continued rather kindly, almost afraid that if she yelled the little girl would faint. “You will move to the search group and fill Ted’s and my role there ok?”
“Sure,” Rein replied. “I’ve even thought of a few places to look at.”
At that Debbie walked over to the girl and planted a big kiss on her cheek.
“Mmmmwah! We need more people like you sweet-cheeks,” she said with an endearing smile.
“The rest of you grab a plate, fill it up and move to your assigned groups. We’ll have Techies in mine and Rick’s room, Mel can remain here and wait for Lauren and Andy, try to contact them if you can,” Debbie directed.
Mel got up right away and headed outside to do just that.
“Ok as for the searching group, Carmita, I’m sure there’s some to-go boxes in there right?”
Carmita nodded and fled to get them.
“Fill them up and head on out, we want to find Jay today if possible.”
“And what about you?” Micah asked.
“Carmita and myself will be going to the store, as great as this place is, what we all need is some good ol’ home cookin’ ok? Now, everyone go.”
No one needed telling twice and once Carmita had come back with the boxes the searching group filled them and departed and not too much later Micah and Rick filled a plate for themselves and headed to Rick’s room.
Meanwhile Andy and Lauren were having a good talk at Latro-Mare. Mel had rung to advise that despite Ted and Emmett’s departure everything was up and running again and in turn Andy had advised he would be back after they’d finished their drinks.
“It just sucks that they’re leaving like this,” Andy confessed, taking another sip from his coffee. “I mean if it were Em or Mel or even Deb, do you think they’d have gone home that quickly.”
“No way,” Lauren agreed. “I’m actually shocked that Emmett left. We had a small talk last night and he had today’s whole menu planned and seemed to even be enjoying himself.”
“Yeah, I agree. I mean, I get that these people have jobs and all that, but seriously? It’s like they don’t even care. You know not one of them came up to me and told me how sorry they were that they had to go? They all just pretty much announced their departure.”
“With no plan to come back,” Lauren agreed shaking her head. “But you know what? I hate to question your friend’s dude I mean I really do, but I don’t trust Ted right now.”
Andy thought about it and he had to admit he agreed.
“Yeah, it’s not like he was eager to help out or anything, you know it was probably his idea to leave.”
“Andy, I’d just…I don’t know…” Lauren started. “I’d watch your step around some of those people. Some of them just seem like the type to be nice to your face and then, I don’t know, slash your tires behind your back you know?”
The more Lauren spoke the more he realized she could be right. Despite the fact that they were all friends of his how much did he really trust them all especially after today? And what about Linds?, she was very quick to jump to B’s side and even leave her wife over a small intervention order that frankly had nothing to do with her. And what about Ted quickly jumping in to become B’s defense counsel? It was definitely something that Andy never thought he would do. The more he sat and thought about it, the less he trusted pretty much everyone.
“At least I have you,” Andy briefly smiled. “That’s one thing I can say with confidence.”
“Andy, you can read people when you take the time to do so,” Lauren replied. “I’m like you, when we take a moment and actually step back we know who we can trust and who we can’t.”
Andy nodded in agreement and the pair finished up their coffees before heading back to the hotel.
Once they were back Mel started talking to them about some ideas she had thought-up but Andy was very quick to stop her.
“Mel sweetie, just give me about ten minutes to get up to my room, shower and change ok? I’ve been in these clothes since yesterday.”
It was true, with all the worry that had consumed him last night Andy hadn’t even taken off his shoes let alone changed. But despite that he really just wanted 10 minutes to breathe on his own. This new found revelation that not everyone within this search party were as trust-worthy as they once seemed had taken a toll on him and he needed to be alone to sift through some very discomforting thoughts.
“No problems Andy,” Mel replied quickly.
There was no way she was going to deny him anything after this morning.
“Why don’t we get started?” she pointed to Lauren. “And you can meet us when you’re done. We’ll just be in the dining room.”
“No problems,” Andy replied. “I won’t be long.”
And he quickly raced over to the elevator and pressed the button hoping the lift would arrive soon. Ten minutes later Andy had showered and dressed and was about to put on his shoes when his phone made a noise. Andy rushed into the common area where he had left it to charge. There on his phone was a text from an unknown number. Hastily Andy opened it and read:
Christmas has come and gone and I’m sure you were surprised. Though your friends have comforted some are filled with lies. I’m sure you’ve worked out that much if not you’ll fail this test. Decipher my clues by tonight or Jay will be laid to rest.
More to come – Bryce.
Andy nearly dropped the phone in shock. He didn’t know what to do, how to feel or what to think. For one thing, Jay was alive which made Andy happy because he was starting to lose hope. For another he had a name and best of all a number. But all of that was shoved aside as his eyes continued to read one line, the only line that stood out to him.
Decipher my clues by tonight or Jay will be laid to rest.
Andy knew exactly what that meant and he hastily grabbed his coat from the couch slipped into his shoes and rushed back to the elevator.
“Come on, come on, come on!” he angrily screamed at it pounding the button with his fist.
He knew exactly where he needed to go and what he needed to do. Finally the doors opened and Andy repeatedly hit the ground floor button his mind racing as the lift carried him back to the reception area of the hotel.
About ten minutes away Rein stood inside a nearby gas station. Ben was filling up the car and she had politely offered to pay. Ben refused but Rein wasn’t hearing it she needed to contribute and also to have a moment out of the freezing conditions. Today had been one of the coldest days in New Haven history and the worst day to be out looking for Jay. But Andy had done so much for her in the past this was the least she could do to help him. As she approached the desk she noticed a poster beaming the words:
Coffee $1 small, $2 large.
Rein couldn’t resist and so ordered three coffees to go. After paying the man she stepped outside and could see Ms Taylor standing there with her hands in the air. Maybe she’s stretching Rein thought to herself. They had after all been driving for a while. However as she approached Ms Taylor Ben’s car sped off out of sight.
“Where’s he going?” Rein asked, wondering why in the world he wouldn’t just wait for her. She had only been five minutes after all. “Has there been an update?”
“Oh Rein!” Ms Taylor cried. “Some guy just came along and took Ben!”
Back at the hotel the elevator doors swung open and all Andy could think about was getting to Lauren. However as he pushed off to race towards the foyer he noticed her sitting behind the desk.
“Um I know you have a business to run,” Andy started surprised. “But ah, this is just as important.”
“I’m actually waiting for you,” Lauren said. “Someone’s here.”
“Oh good,” Andy intrurupted. “At least that will keep Mel occupied. Look at this!”
He thrust the phone into her hands and she read the text.
“God I hate riddles!” Lauren replied. “You know, my ex loved them. He used to come home every night and…”
But Andy cut her off.
“Lauren, look! It’s about Jay!”
Lauren, who had only read the first line quickly read the rest of the text.
But again Andy stopped her.
“Rest! Exactly! I don’t know what to do, but in light of our conversation I don’t know who else we can tell.”
“Good call dude, especially considering the circumstances.”
“What circumstances?” Andy asked.
“Ah, the person I told you about that’s here.”
“What? Linds decided to come back did she?” Andy spat not caring at all if the blonde did. She had proven herself to be so untrustworthy he would never show her anything like this.
“Um, no it’s…”
“Me,” answered a voice that Andy knew only too well.
He spun around to face the man that had just caught his attention.
“Edward? What are you doing here?” he asked intrigued.
Unlike Linds and Ted, Edward had actually proven himself during their last discussion at the diner.
“Linds told me what happened to Jay and so I got on the very next flight,” he explained. “There may have been some issues between us A, but I never wanted this to happen.”
Finally, someone had acknowledged how big a deal the situation was. Despite their issues Edward had managed to put all of that aside and rush down to help him. Andy raced over and gave him a hug.
“Thank you Edward,” he almost cried into the man.
“Of course,” he replied. “Whatever you need A, I’m here.”
Despite all the drama of people leaving, the text and some distrust among people Andy couldn’t help but feel comforted by the dark boy’s words.
“Thank you Edward, you have no idea how much I needed to hear that,” he replied.
Lauren meanwhile was looking at Edward rather skeptically. She had seen Edward walk in and fortunately it was after she had read the text so she had quickly stashed the phone away on behind the counter. She didn’t know why but despite never having met him before, something told her not to trust him.
Meanwhile Jay was in excruciating pain. Bryce had continued to ask him about Lauren and Jay had refused to talk each time resulting in one form of torture or another.
“Arrrgghhh!” Jay screamed out as Bryce fixed something boiling hot to his left foot.
“Jay, Jay, Jay,” Bryce began removing the item. “We could just keep doing this, but it would be much easier if you just tell me what I want to hear!”
“Why should I?” Jay tried to angrily scream though it came out as a whimper owing to the exhaustion and pain he had endured. “What do I have to gain?”
“Oh there are so many things worse than torture!” Bryce replied. “Well I can think of a few anyway,” he continued in a voice as sweet and vindictive as syrup.
“No! I-” Jay began, but was interrupted by the sound of a phone.
“What?” he heard Bryce bark into the phone. “Oooh indeed, yes well that is good news.”
Though he couldn’t see Bryce, Jay knew that he was smiling. His tone had changed from clearly being pissed off for having been interrupted to happy to hear whatever the caller had said. This made Jay shiver. Whatever was pleasing Bryce was definitely not good for him.
“Bring him to the start, I’m happy for him to go there right away.”
Who? What? Where? Jay’s mind was racing, in particular when he heard Bryce mention bringing someone somewhere. That could never be good. Jay heard Bryce snap his phone shut.
“One down and well…who knows how many more to go,” came that same syrupy tone from before.
“One what?” Jay asked, not being able to help himself.
“Oh Jay, dear Jay, poor Jay,” Bryce fakely sympathized. “Suffice it to say that one of your little friends is being brought here right now…exactly as I planned.”
Oh crap! Jay thought to himself. They’ve captured someone else.
“Well, it was a little sooner than I had planned, but who can argue with the timing hey?” Bryce continued seemingly talking to himself more than Jay.
“I must be off,” he continued now talking to the boy. “I have some…things…to arrange.”
And with that Jay heard the unmistakable sound of the heavy door opening.
“Oh and by the way Jay, I would stop fighting if I were you. There’s nothing worth fighting for anymore anyway. Not after your dear boyfriend has finally given up on you,”
With that Bryce let out a maniacal laugh before slamming the door behind him.