from: "Condry, Mark"
date: Friday, September 10, 2004 3:11 AM
subject: thoughts and concerns

Hey again.

I know it’s late, or early, depending on how you look at it, but this Andrew thing won’t go away. I finally realized what’s eating at me and I need to spit it out.

Do you remember what went on just before Andrew stopped showing up for game nights at your place? I do. He was gone for two weeks because he had to housesit for his stepfather. Mom and stepdad went on a big vacation every summer, for like 10 days, and Andrew was just expected to stay behind. He usually just stayed at his mom’s apartment, but that year he was asked to mind that house his stepdad owned, the one out in that old rich subdivision west of Houston. Maybe the guy had a bunch of houses. He was big on real estate, wasn’t he?

The guy had inherited this dog from one of his clients, somebody who moved out and didn’t want to take the dog with them. I want to say it was an Australian Shepherd. Do you remember any of this? Andrew talked about it the weekend before. Dog had behavioral problems – whined, barked, scratched at the door, pissed on the carpet. Didn’t want to be inside, always wanted to be outside. Dad kept it in a kennel except when it rained. Andrew was supposed to take care of the dog, plus a few other things like mow the lawn, that sort of crap.

But Andrew didn’t want to go. Dave got into that argument with him about how it was the perfect setup for a young bachelor, house all to yourself, party time, Risky Business, and Andrew kept saying it was too cold there for a party. Too cold. I distinctly remember that. And how he kept asking us to drive out and stay with him while he was housesitting. I don’t think anyone went out there, did they? I never did.

We didn’t see him for two Saturdays in a row, then Travis picked him up like usual, since he was back at his mom’s place.

That’s the one night with Andrew I remember the most. I bet it’s the same with you. It was the most bizarre, frustrating night I had with the group.

Andrew walked in quoting some commercial verbatim. I want to say it was a Tide ad. Travis told us he was like that in the car all the way over. Commercials, shows, movies, radio songs… The first couple of hours gaming was like being in the room with the TV on. Then he started parroting us. He’d just copy something we said. You remember? Tell me you remember this. I can see it in my head, so clearly.

Oh, and what was his response to anyone’s complaints? “Okay.” Drew, stop quoting ‘Law & Order’ episodes. Please give the Pontiac commercial a rest. Dude, shut the fuck up and roll your dice. “Okay.” And then he’d launch into something else a few minutes later. It wasn’t just that he would regurgitate that crap, it was that he could take it so far. Whole reams of dialogue that he’d somehow memorized from one throwaway TV episode. Lyrics to entire songs. It went from odd, to funny, to disturbing in the first hour.

Look, I’ll come out and say it. Whatever happened in those ten days, it changed him. He wasn’t the same person after that. We all know this. We never talked about it, at least not with me around, but fuck if we didn’t know instantly that the person who came back from that house was not Andrew.

I wrote before that I hadn’t thought about Andrew since ’99. That was a lie. You know the way your brain sometimes reminds you of things you hate to dig up? The ones that sour your stomach? I’ve thought about him a few times – about that night.

Was that the start of his madness? Or whatever it is that drove him to shoot up a diner?
Were we there to see him first lose his grip?

Jesus, Eric, why the hell didn’t we say anything?