"Stop, stop, stop!"
The music within the empty concert hall came to a jarring halt as the conductor nearly fell of his stand in his agitation. Grant Miller, one of the secondary violinists, lowered his violin for what felt like the sixtieth time that night, feeling the irritation slowly creeping up into his veins again. This particular dress rehearsal for the holiday concert was proving to be exceptionally difficult, and Grant, a usually patient man, somehow just knew that this was going to be another one of those nights, where he was going to require a little… medicated assistance to help him along to the next day.
Well, at least he was going to see his dealer tonight anyway.
"All right, that will be it for tonight," the conductor said tiredly, checking his watch; he'd already kept the men and women of the orchestra for eight hours, and he could no doubt already tell that there was going to be a mutiny if he wasn't careful. "We'll resume our work for tomorrow," he said before waving at the musicians in dismissal.
"Hey, Miller. Do you think you could stick around for a drink?" Max, one of the cellists, said, looking up as Grant passed him.
"No, sorry. I still can't stomach that swill you Americans call 'beer'," Grant replied, still in a somewhat good mood as he pulled out his violin case to put the instrument away. "Besides, I have a meeting later tonight."
"That's too bad, a bunch of us were going to try out that bar that opened down the street," Max said, leaning against his own instrument.
"Well, I'll take a rain check if that makes you feel better," Grant said as he snapped the violin case closed.
"Boring. Were you this boring when you still lived in London?" Max asked, clearly disgruntled at the denial. "C'mon, that's what you said last week."
"I know, and I'm still tired this week. Surprise, surprise," Grant said, picking up the violin case. Nodding to the cello, he said, "You should put that away before Lou gets to it first."
Swearing, Max turned to go defend his cello from his fellow cellist, and Grant took that opportunity to leave the stage. Of course Grant became boring once he moved to the United States, his childhood friend Sean, who worked in a London hospital, hadn't been able to join him and work in New York instead.
Perhaps it was for the best, in the end. Sean wouldn't have to see Grant's slow descent back into the pit that had already claimed him once.
The night air outside was sharp and cold, biting exposed skin as he stepped out of the performance hall, and he briefly worried about his violin, still firmly gripped at his side and sealed in its case. But it was only a brief, passing concern; another, more sinister craving had begun to worm its way to the front of his head, one that he'd tried to shake before but failed miserably. He welcomed this new sensation with open arms.
He paused the ATM long enough to withdraw cash for a cup of coffee and the goods he was expecting his contact to bring to their long – overdue rendezvous.
The Sidewalk Café was still bustling with activity despite the late hour. Grant flashed an easy, charismatic smile at Marietta, his favorite waitress of the night-shift staff, and then took his usual table. A former resident of the Bronx, Marietta had moved to Manhattan after her last relationship had gone south, and she, as she put it when they first met, was starting over. She'd expressed interest in him at first, but he very politely turned her down; he didn't have a girlfriend and nor did he want one. Despite this, Marietta had learned fast that she still held some degree of power over him.
As usual though, he didn't speak until Marietta approached him.
"I guess you want your usual?" she asked in a low voice, trying not to betray herself by glancing at her manager, who was talking to another customer up at the counter.
"Yes. Same food, same company," he replied.
She narrowed her eyes. "He never eats it."
"But you still get paid to mind our table," he reminded her.
"Yes, with measly little tips. You still have a tab here, remember?" she whispered furiously. "I still don't know why I constantly cover for you…"
"Because you can't resist me and the sound of my violin," Grant teased, opening the instrument case and pulling out the violin. "You and the other patrons."
"Your violin can't pay your bill here," she snapped before turning around and stalking back to the counter to get the requested orders.
Grant tried not to sigh with irritation, but otherwise tried not to let it bother him. She was going to be difficult until he paid the damn bill… and stopped using recreational drugs. She'd used to threaten to expose his little jaunts here to her manager, but that ended once Grant pointed out that doing that would also expose the fact that she'd known about them all along and did nothing to stop it.
But music always soothed her. He could humor her with a little song or two until his contact arrived. He mentally considered his choices, and then selected her favorite song and began to play.
His hypothesis was proved correct when she returned with a sandwich for him and his friend, and a coffee for both, and she was smiling softly and humming along to the tune. "Thank you," she said grudgingly as she set the tray down and then left.
Grant just rolled his eyes but kept playing.
"Long time no see, Miller."
Grant stopped playing the violin as soon as he heard the all too familiar voice of his visitor. "Chaz. Long time no see," he said, lowering and then packing away the violin, not caring if he only got five to ten minutes of actual playing in before the interruption.
"Likewise." For a successful drug dealer, Chaz seemed very close to the stereotypical American when he wanted to be: loud, obnoxious, and an overall pain in the arse. But he sure as hell knew his business and goods, and Grant had been quite glad to find him not too long after his arrival a few years ago. Drugs were hard to find in the United States when one didn't know exactly where to look. Chaz tilted his head at Grant for a moment and then said, "I take it you want your usual?"
"Assuming you still have some left," Grant replied, knowing very well that since it was a Friday evening, Chaz was likely to have a low supply since he always restocked on Monday mornings, bright and early.
"Lucky for you, I do," Chaz said, reaching into his backpack, which he'd stowed under the table. Pulling out a small cardboard box, he pushed it across the table. "I know this is short notice, but I'm telling you now that I'm moving my operations to Brooklyn."
Grant paused, his hand still wrapped around his wallet under the table. "What do you mean?"
Chaz sighed impatiently. "I'm moving the center of my business to Brooklyn. It's getting too risky to continue operating here in Manhattan," he said.
Chaz glanced at the manager, who was laughing with another customer now. "Have you heard of Ian Carlson?" he finally asked in a low voice.
"Who hasn't?" Grant whispered back. It had been the buzz of the town when Ian Carlson, a thirty – six year old violin teacher at one of the private Catholic high schools in the area, had turned up dead in his small apartment six days ago. He'd also been a recovering drug addict, something the police somehow found out about despite the fact that no one else had known that about Ian. "What about him?" Grant asked.
"The police have this private consultant guy they're using in the investigation, and they managed to figure out through this guy that I was Carlson's old drug dealer. The cops were crawling all over my place earlier today while their smartass consultant kept pestering me with questions. That was all the convincing I needed to get the hell out of dodge while I still could," Chaz said grimly. "It was like the consultant could see straight into my soul and past. It was freaky."
Grant shuddered. "How'd you avoid arrest?" he asked.
Chaz shrugged. "They had a search warrant, but they didn't find anything. I never keep my stuff at my apartment. But like I said, I just wanna go before the cops decide to come back for some reason or another," he said. Tapping the cardboard box on the table between them, he said, "You want your next hit, you have to come to Brooklyn to get it."
"You're not going to send me your new address, are you?" Grant asked, trying not to sigh with irritation.
Chaz shrugged. "Don't want to leave a trail the cops can follow. Besides, you can take this as your perfect opportunity to quit," he said, leaning back in his chair.
"A drug dealer with morals? You'll drive yourself out of business if you haven't already, assuming you keep that up," Grant remarked, sipping his coffee.
"If I had morals, I'd be sending all the names of my clients to the police so they're the cops' problems now," Chaz said, picking at his food. "So obviously, my morals aren't quite that strong."
"Whatever you say then," Grant said, pushing his money across the table and pulling the box closer to him in one fluid movement. "I'll just track you down between concerts then, I'll need something to do in my spare time anyway."
Chaz sighed, but otherwise didn't contradict him. "Whatever makes you happy. Try not to bring the cops with you," he said, reaching over to collect the money. Standing up, he said, "As ever, it was a pleasure doing business with you."
Grant just nodded in silence and leaned back as he watched Chaz leave the small diner without another word.
Both men knew very well that Grant would be able to locate Chaz without any problem in the end.
"What a horrid man," Marietta remarked as she returned to the table, scowling in the direction of Chaz's retreat. "He's slowly killing you, you know," she said, frowning at Grant. "I really wish that –"
"I appreciate your concern Marietta, but it really is none of your business," Grant said, standing up and pulling on his heavy jacket. Glancing out at the slow snowfall, he said, "I really should be getting home before it's impossible to walk through this muck."
Marietta sighed, and Grant was pleased that she was still the type of girl to know a losing battle when she saw one. He preferred those. "Fine," she said. "But pay your bill next time, and if you don't, I will tell the manager about this."
"You'll still be in trouble for not telling him in the first place," Grant pointed out.
She smiled innocently. "Not if I spin the story correctly. Besides, whom do you think he's going to believe: a drug – addicted customer or a clean employee? Do the math," she whispered in a low voice, narrowing her eyes.
Instead of admitting that he had no response to that, Grant chose to pretend not to honor her with one by snatching his violin case and turning on his heel, stalking out of the small diner. Pulling his collar forward with one hand and his cap down to ward off the snow, he hunched his shoulders forward, slipping back into his usual (honest) persona of the struggling orchestra musician. His bill at the diner wasn't the only one that was going to be overdue soon, and the others were more likely to create harder problems if they weren't paid on time.
He was facing eviction for God's sake, how could Marietta expect him to pay the damn food bill if he couldn't even pay his landlord?
This next concert had better have a good turnout…
Kicking the snow in slight frustration, Grant tried to not to think about his gradual slide into the desperate situation he was in now. Three years ago to the day, he'd had it all in London, but his affairs had just gone started to go downhill when someone robbed him blind, breaking into his account at the Bank of London and taking everything. Grant had tried to get back the stolen money, but apparently he wasn't the only victim and the bank could only deal with ten customers at a time, not a hundred. Grant owed money at the time to someone else, and so he fled the city altogether in order to dodge paying his debts, and came to the United States instead looking for work. His longtime friend, Sean Collins, did not accompany him, and it had been unfair of Grant to expect him to come because Sean did have a wife and two children to worry about, unlike Grant who didn't even have a girlfriend.
Sighing, he reached his semi – darkened street without much problem, noting that the NYU students in the flat below his own had finally quieted down… or they were still gearing up for the night's events, seeing as their main room light was still on and there were more than the expected two silhouettes through the curtains.
He wasn't going to sleep tonight, especially if there were really five students in there this time.
Fumbling with his key, he entered the opulent apartment complex lobby, nodded tiredly to the night guard, and tiredly made his way up the stairs to the fourth floor to his apartment; the elevator wasn't an option anymore since those NYU kids from downstairs had ambushed him with party string that one time… and Grant had unwittingly taken the fall for the damage when the landlord came onto the elevator after the kids had gotten off. As a result, Grant had had to pay for the repair work, still owed two months' rent, and now avoided his landlord at all costs.
Grant hated those kids.
After shouldering his apartment door open, he set the violin case down by the door and pulled his jacket off, throwing it to the side. Immediately regretting it, since the apartment was unusually cold, he reached over and pulled his jacket back on and shut the apartment door before going back to the couch, his prized box clutched tightly to his side as though to hide it from prying eyes.
Alone at last.
Making himself comfortable, he set the box carefully down on the coffee table in front of him. Then he leaned down and pulled the other case out from its hiding place underneath the couch. Setting that on the table next to the cardboard box, he reached forward to open it, but something caught his eye.
Frowning, he hesitated, and then leaned over to examine it closer.
It was a small pile of orange seeds, four to be exact. They were sitting on top of a small slip of paper that had two words written in boldface font:
Reflexively, he turned sharply around.
For a moment, all he could see were the empty apartments from across the street; darkened foreboding windows that looked like gaping holes in the older building. The city, Grant knew, had set for the complex to be demolished tomorrow morning at six am sharp. Nonetheless, the complex looked otherwise abandoned, the snow falling steadily all around it.
But he couldn't see what was so special about it.
Then he realized that the living room windows had been left wide open, snow drifting in and the curtains fluttering in the wind.
Frowning, he stood up to go close them. Walking around the couch, he reached out to the twin large windows to close them, trying to remember when he'd opened them in the first place.
He never saw it coming.
All he felt was sharp pain in the left side of his chest, where his heart was, and then his world collapsed into permanent darkness around him.
A/N: Welcome to Switched Around! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. :) Elementary and all related media belong to CBS.
To clear up any confusion: for any readers of the Stranger storyline, this story is not connected to that.
Disclaimer: I'm saying this now, but I have not yet seen episodes 6 and 7 of Elementary due to a severe lack of time (school), but I do plan to take advantage of the upcoming short break to catch up on that.