After a brief moment of hesitation, Maeve nodded. “I swear I won’t tell anyone else,” she said.
Cooper sighed and ran his hand through his hair. Maeve noticed that he looked exhausted, something she never saw in the tall, blond man. “Duke had a doctor’s appointment,” he said.
She wrinkled her forehead. “For what?” He was about as healthy as a horse, as far as she could tell.
Cooper laughed humorlessly. “Oh, he’s fine physically. Mentally?” He shook his head. “The poor guy’s a basket case.”
“What do you mean?” She followed as he picked up his equipment and set it in the hall next to the elevator. She knew perfectly well what the term meant, but Duke didn’t seem to be particularly crazy. Yes, he had his quirky moments, but he wasn’t crazy crazy.
“He’s been seein’ a shrink for a while now,” Cooper said. “I only found out when I caught him hidin’ a bottle of pills under his pillow. Won’t tell me exactly what they’re for, but he told me that if I tell anyone, I’m gettin’ slapped. You want me to take your amplifier?”
She nodded, and he set the large speaker next to his own. “Pills?” she asked. “Are you sure they’re not…y’know, drugs?”
“That was my first thought. I made him show me the actual written prescription. It’s legitimate. Signed by the psychiatrist and everything. Don’t remember the name of the medicine, though.”
She watched quietly as he moved the rest of the equipment into the hall. The news that one of her friends had become sick without her knowledge wasn’t exactly a welcome notion, and the fact that she didn’t know what was afflicting him was going to be weighing heavily on her mind for a while. The natural course of action would be to ask him about it, but that was obviously not an option if she wanted Duke to keep Cooper’s trust.
Still, her curiosity got the best of her. “I’m going to go grab my sweatshirt,” she said as Cooper started moving everything into the elevator. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”
“Alright, but be quick,” he said. “Sextus just texted me. They got the van and are headin’ back here right now. And don’t forget to lock the door behind you.”
She nodded. She re-entered the apartment and bounded up the stairs, stopping in front of Duke’s bedroom door. It wasn’t locked, to her surprise, and she pushed it open.
It was very orderly for such a small room, especially considering the identity of its current occupant. His bed was well-made, and the only piece of clothing not in a dresser drawer was a blue sweatshirt hanging off of the doorknob. The walls were a little too bare for her tastes, but she paid it no mind. She cautiously made her way over to his bed and, with little ceremony, plunged her hand under his pillow.
After a bit of groping around, her fingers wrapped around something cylindrical and she pulled it into view. It was an opaque orange medicine bottle. Most of the label had been pulled away, to her disappointment, but the letters EUS were still visible.
She wrinkled her forehead. She couldn’t recall any drug name that ended in EUS. She shook the bottle, and a hollow rattle was heard. It sounded as if there were still a few pills left. She twisted the cap open and tipped a small, oblong pill into the palm of her hand. It looked like a tiny piece of candy, but she knew better than to eat it.
She put the pill back into the bottle. Instead of landing at the bottom, however, it was caught between the side of the bottle and something inside. She realized that the bottle was translucent, and that the apparent opacity was caused by something inside. Curious, she reached inside and removed a flat, folded up object.
She was about to unfold it when her cell phone began to buzz, and she dropped the pill bottle onto the floor. She cursed and scooped the small objects back into the container and shoved it back under the pillow. She cursed a second time when she realized that she had forgotten the paper, and she hastily shoved it into her pocket as she ran for the door, answering her phone along the way.
“Hello?” she asked. She hoped she didn’t sound too winded.
It was Joanna. “Where are you?” she asked impatiently. “We’re ready to go.”
“I’m…uh, hold on.” She slammed the door behind her and ran into her own room, snatching a purple sweatshirt off of the bedpost. “I was just grabbing my sweatshirt. I’ll be down in a sec.”
“Alright. But hurry up.” Before Maeve could say good-bye, the phone beeped. She sighed. She hated it when everyone was stressed.
Making sure to lock the apartment door behind her, she ran into the hallway. She opted to take the stairs instead of the elevator, taking two at a time. She reached the ground floor in record time and exited the building. The black van was waiting there for her. She could see a brooding Duke sitting shotgun, forehead pressed against the window.
She slid the door open and climbed in, the van starting to move before she had even gotten the chance to close it. “Sorry,” she said. “I got distracted.”
No one spoke. Joanna was staring straight ahead as she drove, mouth set in a hard line. Sextus had his head tipped back and his eyes closed, looking as if he was sleeping. The only acknowledgement she got was in the form of a solemn nod from Cooper.
Quietly, she buckled her seat belt. What had happened to them? They used to have so much fun driving together. They would sing, goof around, tell stories… it was almost better than actually playing the show. Now it was like this, with everyone glum and agitated.
She suddenly remembered the paper in her pocket. No one was paying attention to her, and Duke was sitting in front of her, so he wouldn’t see, either.
As surreptitiously as possible, she slid the small rectangle out of her pocket. Making sure no one was looking one last time, she started to unfold it.
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