Artemis Drifting

Just because she tippietoes, doesn't mean she's a creepin'.

Part 1, Fivestone

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You begin this story on the last night of normalcy in Drew Jett’s life. That is not to say that he did not, prior to this evening, have quirky happenstances and tragedies. However, the scope of what was to come would change his life more than a death that occurred no less than a year ago. As in keeping with this last night of normalcy, he was in the same bar that he came too every night after he left work. Tommy’s Lounge was a surprisingly upbeat hole in the wall for the company it kept. Drew was very little different from any other man in this bar. In one way or another, they had all lost something dear to them and sought solace in the continual battering of their livers. There were no depression-era croonings coming from the juke box, but popular studio bands and actors that gave a shot at singing careers. It was as if the men there did not want real ballads, because that might destroy their sense of surreality that fogged them within the lounge. ‘It’ll be alright’ was practically the motto of this bar, and for the time that patrons remained, they could partake in the cheery music and atmosphere as if they actually felt such joy.


Drew was working his way through his third tumbler of whiskey when his friends arrived. Wayne, his best friend, was one of the tallest men he had ever encountered and never felt intimidated by. He was a good 6’4, and built like an anorexic linebacker. Even his lanky appearance was further reduced in threatening by the way both ears felt unolbligued to stay anywhere close to the sides of his head. Fletcher, five years older then the both of them combined, was a seasoned man full of pleasantness. He was one of the regulars in the bar, and just lately had taken to listening on the younger men’s conversations. Drew thought him harmless, and his advice was too hopeful for any real chance of it actually becoming a plan. 


Wayne sat down beside him, already having scooped up a long neck at the bar. “Hey kid.” Drew pulled a face, he always did. Wayne was only four days older, but he had pestered Drew his entirely life with that fact. He considered himself a big brother and never once dropped that charade, even though Drew thought he had quite enough older brothers to fill that slot. They had grew up together and Wayne had even been his best man in his wedding.


“Hey Wayne, ‘lo Fletcher. You two run in a pack now?” Drew joked dully, the haze of whiskey already deadening his senses. 


Wayne snorted and started to peel the paper from his bottle, “Nah, man. But I got good news. Already told The Fletch, and he thinks you should do it.”


“Do what?” But only Fletcher’s hopeful smile greeted him.


Wayne crumpled the sodden pieces of paper in the wide mitt of his palm with his fingertips, “I met this really good lookin’ girl ..”


Fury surged in Drew’s throat and nausea caught a ride. “No way.” he hissed, feeling his cheeks flush.


Fletcher threw his worn hands up, fingers wide in surrender. “Hear him out, boyo.”


Wayne was undeterred, “It’s not you, Drew. I really like this girl. But she won’t go out unless someone can watch her roommate. Apparently the roomie is a bit cracked in the head, and she’s always worried about her wandering off. I’d just like a little alone time, y’ know what I mean?”


Crumpling his face into a scowl, Drew withheld any comments in a bitter silence.


“The state fair is going on tomorrow, and .. come on man, I’d really owe ya. It’s not like a double date or anything, you’d just be watching out for her! What could it hurt?”


Me, thought Drew. Me. He knew what they were trying to do, ease him back into the world of women. He’d rather not, he could barely look his secretary without grimacing. During his mulling, Wayne was continuing on in his begging. Finally, Drew came to.


“Pay my tab tonight and you’ve got a deal.”


Wayne broke into a cautious grin while Fletcher looked relieved. “Perfect.” Wayne said, “It’s a deal.”


Drew smiled now, holding up his drained tumbler. “Yeah. Boy, did I work myself up a thirst.”


This was always Drew Code for ‘I’m going to give a good shot at alcohol poisoning.’.



Drew’s stomach gurgled unhappily as he left the well lit interior of Tommy’s Lounge. 2 am was closing time for the joint, and for months he had made last call every night. Behind him, chairs were being set up noisily onto well varnished tables and work-weary tenders were counting the till. All of that racket fell to muffled din as the door swung shut behind him and locked him out into a moist June night. Drew reached into his pants pocket and curled his fingers around his set of car keys and looked wearily towards the deserted parking lot. Wayne and Fletcher had left hours earlier, and as usual, he ignored the friendly offer for a lift home. He was going to walk that mile back to his apartment as he has so many nights before, regardless of whatever weather presented itself or alert sobriety reigned. Rubbing his thumb over several keys, he made his way out onto the sidewalk that led past the lot and onward towards his home. 


He knew that most people who left after knocking back a few cold ones had a moment where they analyzed their level of intoxication in reference to their awareness of the world around them. Drew had no such aspirations to determine the affect of the liquor in his system, because in all honesty – it never mattered to him. Drunk as a skunk or cold sober, he had no use for figuring out his level of lucidity. It held no importance to him because he felt that any action, enacted upon himself or the world around him, stopped just short of useful. So that was one less thing that could have occupied his mind as he traveled the street with a shuffling step, his chin dipped down so far that the fabric of his collar grated along untrimmed stubble and rasped in time with his breathing. 


grit and gravel crushed beneath the tires of a patrol car that pulled into view only shortly after Drew left the safety of Tommy’s Lounge. Red and blue saturated the shadows of the late night and cut across surrounding buildings and light posts. No siren shrieked the sleeping district awake, and the car followed him in relative silence. Drew released his keys and gripped the back of his neck, his fingers wet and trembling as he watched the colors throb in front of him. He did not turn around nor acknowledge his slow pursuer with even a gesture, but his posture grew smaller and the whiskey formed the first pang of a headache behind his eyes. The patrol car was like a curious wraith, slinking just behind his steps and sniffing up the sour discharge of his breath – which came now more quickly, until his throat began to tighten from the mere effort of channeling his building panic. 


For the entire mile, Drew kept his head down and studied the distorted shudderings of his shadow beneath the oscillating lights. When his apartment was within a decent sprint that even an intoxicated man could stumble, he never picked up his pace – not once. He walked every single step with the same speed as he had before, and even on the short steps to the buildings doors he practically lingered. The patrol car stopped in front of the apartment, a renovated office building from the 70′s, and did not roll a single inch forward or make any sign to reverse. Drew withdrew his keys and let himself in, leaving a wet streak of sweat on the polished doorknob.


“See you tomorrow night, boys.” Drew said to the darkened foyer before him, his throat hoarse and stripped. Even as he pushed the door shut behind him and locked the bolt with a firm twist, crimson and azure streaked through the half-moon window beside the entrance. Those lights continued to reach into the hall along after he had ascended the stairs towards his apartment.


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