It was a vegan bakery. From inside his car across the street, Sam studied the little shop. Was there any trace? Any remnants of the past showing through the new, trendy facade?
None that he could see.
The problem wasn’t the bakery itself. And he didn’t have anything against vegans. He did have the thought that it must be a sad life without cheese, so all the more need for delicious baked goods. Sure, a cookie without butter or eggs apparently cost twice as much as one with them, but that didn’t seem to be a problem here. The shop was nestled between an upscale boutique and a stylish cocktail bar. There was a Tesla parked in front of him for crying out loud. Clearly an eight dollar muffin would be no big deal in this neighborhood.
Maybe he should have become a baker instead of a cop. He definitely wouldn’t have to deal with corpses as a baker, right? And there was no reason he would ever need to find out that he wore the same underwear as a murder victim. And if he ate a donut on the job, it wouldn’t be some sort of ironic joke, just a perk of the job.
But he liked being a cop. Didn’t he?
Sam knew he should go. Still, his eyes drifted back to the building across the street, up to the second story and the northernmost window, where his old bedroom had been. Dammit if even the windows weren’t different. They were modern, double hung windows that probably didn’t let in a cold draft all winter, then swell so much they wedged themselves shut in the summer. There might not even be a bedroom on the other side of that window. It was probably an office or a storage space. He doubted the people who ran businesses here now needed to sleep in the spaces they rented.
Thinking now of his parents, Sam remembered that he had three missed calls from his father along with three voicemails he hadn’t listened to. He didn’t open any of them up now, but texted his dad anyway: Went by the old place this morning. It’s nice of course, but it’s not the same. Wonder what will happen to it now.
Not the same – an understatement. No abandoned store fronts or plywood panels on broken glass doors. There were actually flowers growing in the small beds along the sidewalk. And even this early in the morning there were people around. There was more life and energy here than in even his best childhood memories. The area had been completely revitalized, and it was all thanks to the clever dealings of Richard Polbrock, the man whom Sam had found dead in his underwear in a part of town as run down as this had once been.
Sam knew that’s why his father had called. He had watched the news and knew that Sam had been at the scene of the murder. And his father would understand why Sam had stopped by the store and apartment that had once been theirs – before Richard Polbrock bought it and canceled their lease. Sam hoped that if they never actually talked about it directly, neither of them would have to admit the truth: that they were glad Richard Polbrock was dead. Sam didn’t want to describe that crime scene to his father. He didn’t want to here satisfaction in the man’s voice, didn’t want to reduce his father to that sort of base cruelty. And he didn’t want to spend any more time thinking about that corpse in his underwear.
It was just underwear, right? It didn’t mean anything.
It was just underwear…
* * *
Story by Gregory M. Fox