Rotted Roots — Part 7: The Fallout from Addictions

Ryder stood patiently waiting outside Molly’s building waiting for someone to come out. The sun had set some time ago and the streetlamps now kept the night alive as passersby mulled along the block towards a warm meal and comforting embraces. A few people decided to go out and start the weekend early despite the mugginess and slick sidewalks, laughing as snippets of inside jokes escaped the confines of the group and skimmed the air like a fly dashing across the surface of a lake.

Ryder was used to waiting. Ever since she had moved into the new building, while he had been checked into a sanatorium overcoming his Chronos addiction, she hadn’t bothered to give him a key. She said it had to do with the super not allowing it. Ryder knew she just didn’t trust him anymore. She still helped on his cases, along with Lieutenant Allen. But their partnership had dissolved when he overdosed in her living room. Now she was just “a friend helping a friend.” Now Allen, who had always begrudgingly aided Ryder, was more likely to help than Molly was.

Finally, a couple pushed through the door and walked out into the damp night. Emerging from the shadows the lobby light cast into the opening archway, Ryder slid his hand into the doorway before it closed and slipped inside the building.

It was a nice building filled with some not-so-nice people. A housing development that had been refurbished for people below the poverty line, the building was a mix of well-to-do middle class citizens and poor individuals who needed a place to stay. The dichotomy could be unsettling. Fortunately the super was a hardened man and took no flak from those living for free. Ryder made his way to the top floor.

He found himself standing outside of Molly’s apartment — Room 519 — for several minutes before he knocked. He was always like this. He never called when he needed help, instead just electing to show up and beg for her to drop what she was doing and help him save another person who needed their help. He expected her to do so. She always said yes. It made him appreciate her even more. He knocked. There was no answer.

“Who you lookin’ for?” called a voice from behind him. Ryder turned to see a man standing in another doorway, eyeing Ryder with a look of aggression in his eyes. He was itching for a fight. Ryder had seen the same look in his own demeanor before.

“A friend,” replied Ryder. “Molly Phillips. Have you seen her?”

“No one here by that name,” the man replied. He leaned his body out further into the hall. Ryder saw a baseball bat clutched behind his body.

“You’re mistaken. I know she lives in this apartment.”

“You callin’ me a liar?” The man stepped out into the hall and began walking towards Ryder, the bat swinging back and forth counting down the seconds until impact. “You’re about to see what happens when you call me a liar!”

“What’s going on here?” came a booming voice. The man hid the bat behind his back and scurried back to his apartment. The super, a burly man with an anchor tattooed onto his forearm, came stomping up the steps. The aggressor peered from out behind his door.

“That man’s trying to steal somethin’,” he sneered.

“I’m looking for Molly Phillips,” Ryder said, watching the man hide behind his door.

“You Ryder?” the super asked.

“I am.”

“Miss Phillips doesn’t live here anymore.”

Ryder felt the floor of his stomach drop to his feet. “Excuse me?”

“Settled up what she owed me a few weeks back and moved out.”

“Did she leave a forwarding address or anything?”

“Nope. Only thing she left was a letter.” He pulled out a crumpled envelope from his back pocket. “Guess it’s for you, if you’re M. Ryder.”

“I am,” Ryder said softly. The same looping writing from his notebooks was embossed on the envelope. While the super walked away and the shifty man closed his door, Ryder sat down against the door to room 519 and opened the envelope. A single page letter was inside. It read:

“Ryder, I’m sorry. I know we’ve had an unofficial working relationship the past few months, so I’m sorry to just cut out on you like this. If you’re coming here, it probably means you need my help. But I can’t give it to you anymore.

“I’ve hoped that you would have been able to kick your addictions after being released from the hospital. I’m glad to see that, so far, you’ve been able to stay away from Chronos. Working always did distract you. I can ignore your sudden need for alcohol if it means you’re keeping more dangerous substances out of your life. But your other addictions are still inside you, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going away.

“I know you think your greatest battle was to the drugs. But it wasn’t. It’s to your family. The toxic symbiosis between you and your brother and sister is tearing you apart more than any amount of drugs could. The only way you’ll really be free is if you let them go. I hope you can.

“Despite what you think, you can’t save everyone. You’ll only tear yourself apart.


Ryder wanted to crumple the letter and tear it to shreds and set the shreds on fire and burst through the door and bash whatever was left inside room 519 and scream until he had no voice to cry with. Instead he calmly placed the letter back in the envelope and slid it into the pocket of his blazer. He pulled out his phone and dialed.

“Eleventh Precinct, how can I help you?”

“I want to speak to Lieutenant Louise Allen.”

“She no longer works at this Precinct.”

Ryder closed his eyes and thumped the phone against his forehead. “Do you know where she is so I can reach her?”

“Last I heard she took a job with the State Department. I guess call their number — maybe you can get it on their website or something — and try there.”

“Thanks.” Ryder hung up and placed his phone back in his pocket. Dejectedly, he rose once more and headed back down the stairs towards the cool night mist.

He was propositioned when he got to the first floor.

“You want?” asked the woman. She pulled out a tiny baggie filled with the emerald green pills Ryder knew intimately. Green money for green Chronos. An even exchange. That was how he always justified it back when he was using. “I got plenty if you got cash.”

Ryder looked at the door, knowing he should continue on and pay no attention to this sad woman with needle tracks like mosquito bites and most of her teeth missing. But the door held no answers. Only another long walk in silence.

“I’ll cut you a deal. Four bags for a hundred.”

Ryder found he couldn’t take his eyes off of the green pills. His only friends were gone without warning. He didn’t want to feel hollow tonight.


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