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As the bouncer let him through, Pierce saw that the bar was a neon-lit hazy jazz joint that had a live band with a cute singer. The waitresses all had the same uniform, black skirt, white button-down shirt, black tie. But now was not the time to be distracted.

There was only one that wasn't dealing with a customer at the moment. Pierce asked her if she knew Maryanna Rivers, but she replied that she did not, she was new here. She looked around, saw everyone else was busy, and asked if he would like to see the manager. He agreed and was led to a back room guarded by another bouncer. The waitress departed, and the bouncer ushered him into the dimly-lit room, closing the door behind them.

Behind a desk sat an old man in a very large, rather extravagant chair. He folded his hands and glared at Pierce over his thick glasses. His name was displayed on a fancy engraved placard on the desk.

"What do you want?"

"I'm looking for information on Maryanna Rivers."

"What's it to you?"

"I'm looking into her disappearance."

"Is that so?" The man smiled. "The world would be a better place if the police were sent out every time some self-centered young person ghosted their employer and left them in the lurch. They're all just lazy, nowadays. I would hire people of my own generation for every position here if I could, but most of us are not so easy on the eyes these days, and the clientele would certainly object."

"Are you the one who reported the disappearance?"

"No, I wouldn't bother taking any of my problems to the NSPD these days. They're falling apart at the seams. Crime is on the rise, and they aren't hiring the numbers they should be to keep up. And when they do, they hire those without experience like you. I could show them a thing or two about how to run a business, but I own several in this city, and they need my attention."

He thinks that I'm a police officer and that I have no experience. This old geezer presumes way too much.

"Do you have any information that could help me find her?"

"Listen, all I know is that being a singer here was her first job, at 26 years old, and she couldn't hack it. She had talent, the voice of an angel, really. But she left within three weeks of starting, no reason given. I had high hopes for her. Goes to show you, don't ever get your hopes up about anything."

"Do you know anything about her family?"

"She never said anything about it that I can recall."


"Not that I am aware of. Listen...It's a real shame about the girl and all if something has happened," he said with some sarcasm, "but I'm a business man, and if I don't run this place, nobody will. Now, will that be all?"

What a heartless bastard. "Yeah," he said, trying to keep the disgust from showing on his face. He turned around, the bouncer opened the door for him, and he left the room.

As he was exiting the office, a pretty blonde waitress came up to him and introduced herself, offering her hand. "Hi, I'm Alexis. The new girl said you were looking for Maryanna Rivers?"

"That's right. Did you know her?"

"Know her? Well, more than anyone else here, but no, nobody really knew her. She kept to herself, mostly. She lives in the same apartment complex that I do. On occasion, we would go into work together, though she would never say much of anything to me on the way."

"When was the last time you saw her?"

"Probably...a couple of weeks ago. You know, I'm just getting off my shift, and if you want I can get you into our apartment building."

"That would be great."

And so, after she gathered her belongings from her locker and clocked out, the two exited the bar.

Pierce walked with her in deep thought while his eyes scanned the crowd, wondering why people like the bar owner were allowed to live by whoever or whatever was in charge of the universe. Such callousness, such selfishness. It was that kind of attitude that put his sister in the hospital. He should have stopped it. Occasionally Alexis would ask Pierce a question about his job or his family, but he just brushed her off, stewing in his anger. But this made her get angry.

When they got to the apartment building, she swiped the card, opened the door, and began to walk through. Suddenly she stopped and turned around in the doorway to block Pierce out. "Hey, you haven't answered a single question I've asked you," she scolded. "Now, get to answering, or I'm not gonna let you through!"

Pierce didn't care to play games right now. "Move."

"Hey, did you not hear a word I just said?"

"Move," he said more sternly as he glared down at her and started walking forward. All sense of anger left the girl as she backed out of the doorway wide-eyed. He walked into the elevator and clicked the button for the fifth floor. The doors closed, and smooth jazz played softly over the speaker in the ceiling. He liked smooth jazz. He decided to try to relax, focus on what was in front of him. Can't dwell on the past.

The elevator dinged and opened up, and Pierce was face-to-face with a panting Alexis, red-faced with her high-heals in her hand. This girl was really starting to disturb his calm.

"You think you can just...just shove people around, Pierce?" she asked angrily.

He pushed her out of his way and walked to Maryanna Rivers' front door, looking around for security cameras (there were none), Alexis hot on his heels. He knocked on the door and waited for an answer. He stared intently at the door, Alexis staring intently at him, tapping her foot. Was she really waiting for an answer?

After what seemed like forever, he turned to Alexis and asked, "Do you happen to have a spare key?"

"Oh, now you're asking me for favors?"

"Never mind," he sighed as he took some lock picks out of his pocket and began working the lock on the door. Before Alexis had time to let out a full complaint, he was in the apartment with the door closed and locked behind him.

Merry Christmas!

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