By the fourth or fifth time he’d been asked to repeat the story of the storm and Ciaran’s disappearance, Alejandro was so sick of his own voice that he wanted to scream. He told it again to a police officer with a bushy moustache, twisting his cold Styrofoam cup of coffee between his hands, and tried to pretend that the officer was actually listening to him.
“The lightning—” the officer started.
“It wasn’t lightning,” Alejandro said flatly, too tired to even be nervous around an authority figure anymore. “It was under the water and it was red. I don’t know about you, Officer, but I’ve never seen red lightning. White, blue, even a kind of purple. Not red. And not under the water, and not any lightning that makes my boyfriend completely disappear.”
The officer stared at him fixedly for a moment then put his pad of paper away. “I understand that you’re upset, sir.”
“I really don’t think you do, or you’d stop asking me stupid questions and actually go find him. Or failing that—and trust me, you are failing—you’ll let me go and find him.” Alejandro shoved the Styrofoam cup across the table so hard cold coffee slopped over the side and got to his feet. “Can I go now?”
“We may have a few more questions for you,” the officer said, but Alejandro had already left the room, slamming the door behind him. He got halfway down the hall towards the outside waiting room before he started shaking, and he had to lean against the wall with his arms wrapped around himself until he regained control. He still got an alarmed look from Brandon when he walked into the waiting room, and Brandon tossed his magazine down to get up and wrap an arm around Alejandro’s shoulders.
“You okay? Want to sit down?”
“I want to go home.” Alejandro turned his back on a pair of curious cops at a nearby desk. “I want Ciaran back.”
“Come on.” Brandon tugged him outside, into the windy afternoon. “Ciaran’s parents called while you were being interrogated. They’re trying to scrape up the money to fly out here. I told them everyone’s still looking for him and we’re going to keep doing it.”
Alejandro thought of Ciaran’s mother, Christiane, and winced at the thought of how she must be feeling. “They’re going to kill me and I’m going to deserve it.”
“You don’t deserve anything bad, Leandro. Quit saying you do. The real question is how we’re supposed to find Ciaran if he’s vanished into the ether. I mean, people don’t just get teleported to random places every day.” Brandon chewed on a thumbnail already nibbled to raggedly raw edges. “Are we still thinking he’s on Earth, or could he be on some other whole fucking planet?”
“I get the feeling you’re making fun of me,” Alejandro said, pulling away from Brandon’s arm. “This isn’t some big joke, Bran.”
“I never said it was. But if you want me to believe he disappeared in a flash of light—which I do believe, if you say that’s what happened—then you need to follow that theory to its logical conclusion. He vanished. Where did he go?”
Alejandro stared at him for a moment, feeling another headache start just behind his right eye. In the three days since Ciaran had vanished in the storm he’d had almost a constant headache and repeating himself over and over to the police hadn’t done much to ease it.
“I don’t know,” he said eventually, running both hands back through his hair. He was so exhausted he felt sick to his stomach, and all he wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep. “This whole thing is just... It’s like a nightmare but I can’t wake up no matter how much I want to. Maybe I am going crazy. Feels like it and everyone else seems to think so.”
“I don’t. And I might know someone we can talk to, but she’s back in Toronto.”
“I’m not leaving.”
“Leandro, if that teleportation theory or whatever is correct, what good are you going to do here? He’s not here, I think we’ve established that much.”
“But he might...” Alejandro let his breath out in a rush. “I’m afraid he might come back and I won’t be here. People already treat him like a dumb child just because he’s deaf, and what if he’s hurt or confused or he doesn’t remember anything or—”
“Leandro.” Brandon caught him by both shoulders, shaking him a little. “You really are going to drive yourself nuts if you don’t control yourself. Ciaran’s not a child. He’s 21 and he was just fine taking care of himself before you ever came along. If he comes back, someone will know who he is and will contact us or his parents. It’s not like we’re stranded in the middle of the godforsaken jungle here, you know?”
“Yeah. Okay.” Alejandro took a deep breath and let it out slowly this time. “Sorry.”
“You’re lucky you still owe me fifty bucks.” Brandon gave him a quick rough hug before looping an arm around his waist and propelling him down the street towards their hotel.
“Bullshit. I already paid you.”
“Did too.” Alejandro stopped, laughing a little despite the empty feeling inside his chest. “You are the most obnoxious friend I’ve ever had.”
“Aww, Leandro, I love you too. And you still owe me fifty bucks.”
The laughter had completely faded by the time Alejandro sat down in the hotel room late that night to take a Skype call from Ciaran’s parents, while Brandon was down taking a swim in the hotel’s indoor pool. On the small Skype screen Christiane looked drawn and suddenly old, though she was barely 40. Ciaran was her only child and she doted on him, as much as she also tried to let him be independent. She attempted a smile when she saw Alejandro and lifted one hand in a little wave, but the smile trembled and fresh tears followed the tracks already dried on her face. Behind her, Ciaran’s father, Aziz, placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently, stroking a comforting line down her arm.
“Excuse me.” Christiane hooked a tissue from the box by her elbow and blotted at her eyes. “How are you holding up, Leandro?”
“I’m okay.” Alejandro forced a smile he didn’t feel. “Still just... waiting. Bran said you called earlier about flying down here.”
“We’re trying to.” She folded her hands tightly in front of her. “It’s just that the money is so tight.”
“Don’t fly down here.” He winced a little at her wounded expression. “I just... I have to leave soon, me and Brandon, and they’re still looking. They haven’t found anything definite yet.” He swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. “He’s not dead, we—they just haven’t found him yet.”
“We understand.” Aziz squeezed his wife’s shoulder again, the exhaustion written plainly in his dark eyes. “Visit us when you return, Alejandro. We would like it.”
“I will. Promise. Love you guys and—and I’ll call you if anything happens before we have to leave.”
Christiane kissed the tips of two fingers and pressed them to her screen, then they were gone, leaving Alejandro looking at his desktop background: a picture of himself, Ciaran, and Brandon, mugging at the camera with their arms wrapped around each other, taken on the day they’d arrived in the Caribbean. Blinking rapidly against the heat in his eyes, Alejandro closed the laptop and curled up on the bed, burying his face in the pillow. Completely drained both mentally and emotionally, he quickly slid into a deep, dark sleep, until a sudden loud pounding at the door jerked him awake.
He pushed himself up and went to answer it, feeling his heart jump nastily inside his chest when he opened the door to a uniformed police officer. His first thought was that they’d found Ciaran—found his body, despite the strange red light—and the edges of his vision went dark so fast he had to grab the doorframe just to stay upright. Then he saw Brandon just behind the officer, pale and shaky, a hotel towel pressed to the side of his face. Spots of blood stained patches of the white terrycloth red, almost obscuring the hotel’s logo in one corner.
“Bran?” He stepped back to let Brandon into the room and gave the officer a dazed look.
“Said something attacked him in the pool, scratched his face up. Won’t go to the hospital.” The officer’s expression said she didn’t hold this decision in high regard. “So I walked him up here.”
“I’m fine,” Brandon said. “Thanks for your help, Officer. I promise not to sue.” He raised both eyebrows and made an unsubtle gesture with his chin towards the hotel hallway. The officer snorted, gave Alejandro a measuring once-over, and finally left, allowing Alejandro to close the door and lock it.
“Something attacked you in the pool?” Alejandro asked, bewildered, turning to face Brandon. “Like what, a pool shark?”
“You’re a funny man.” Brandon sank down onto the end of the bed. “I don’t know what it was. One minute I was doing laps, the next I was in the shallow end and bleeding. I got out and one of the maids saw me, starting screaming so loud she woke half the goddamn hotel.”
“Let me see.” Alejandro pulled the towel away and hissed through his teeth at the puffy gouges marring Brandon’s cheek, bare centimetres away from his eye. “Go to the damn hospital, Bran.”
“’Tis but a scratch.” Brandon started to smile but it turned into a grimace as the movement tugged on the wounds. “Ow. The screaming maid disinfected it for me while we waited for the cops. Her name is Callyanne and I think she liked me, once she got over the shrieking. Got a future in horror movies, that girl.”
Alejandro ignored him, digging through his pack until he found the Polysporin. “Hold still.” He took hold of Brandon’s chin with one hand and gently applied the Polysporin with the other. “Maybe it won’t scar.”
“You don’t think it would suit me? Make me look rakish and dangerous?”
“I think it would make you look like an idiot who got his face scratched up in a hotel swimming pool.” Alejandro screwed the cap back onto the Polysporin tube and placed it on the dresser. “You’re right, we need to go home.” He dropped onto the bed and rested his head on Brandon’s shoulder. “I told Christiane and Aziz not to come down here. I don’t want them wasting the money. You think they’ll hate me for it?”
“No.” Brandon settled an arm around him. “Maybe they’ll be a bit hurt but they’ll understand. And when we get Ciaran back they’ll forget all about it.” He kissed Alejandro’s temple, the press of his mouth warm and comforting. “Let’s sleep, huh? Tomorrow we work on getting out here and back to Toronto so we can go rescue Ciaran from wherever he’s managed to disappear to.”