I couldn’t believe what Kevin had found. It was the first sign since Brian’s disappearance that maybe, just maybe, something was off. The only thing was this – if something was off, I was still wrong in a way. Brian hadn’t been taken, something made him leave. I couldn’t put my finger on it; it was just instinct that told me that he didn’t knowingly ditch his son. This was Brian, come on now.
Still, at that moment, when we found print outs about this random little island we’d never heard of, and an airline confirmation to New York. Who knew where he went after there. If he went there. Damn, what the hell was anyone supposed to think? The ticket wasn’t bought by him though; it was some name I didn’t recognize. Maybe a travel agent. I didn’t recognize it as any of his aliases either.
Why the hell hadn’t the police uncovered any of this shit?!
Because they didn’t investigate it too far. It wasn’t a kidnapping they thought, so they didn’t give any real effort to it. I knew it. That had to be it. But what do you do with that information? I wasn’t sure, and Kevin wasn’t either. It’s why we sat on this for two weeks. A lot of debating about telling AJ and Howie, but no action. We couldn’t tell his parents till we knew something for sure. We checked his card statements that came in the mail still. The best we found was right before he vanished; he’d taken out a whole lot of money. That explained the lack of a paper trail.
I fed Dobby with all these thoughts following me through the apartment. I sighed as I watched my dog eat. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I had a lead, wasn’t that what I’d been wanting this whole time? Except I never knew what I would actually do once I found one. So I was here at a standstill, and Kevin feeling as clueless as I was. I found myself thinking about those Wikipedia printouts. Maybe Brian was taken there, or told to go there, or…
Or maybe I was being crazy about all this.
Maybe, but somehow, I felt like I knew better.
I smiled as Lauren came up from behind and wrapped her arms around me. Instantly my body relaxed a little. I hadn’t even realized it had been tense. It was too similar to how I felt all the time these days. Her lips grazed my cheek softly and I could smell the sweet fruity scent of her hair. I was lucky to have her. I couldn’t imagine how Brian felt, when the accident first happened. I wasn’t even married to Lauren, but I couldn’t imagine being without her these days either. And then add in whatever happened to Brian afterwards, it wasn’t right.
“Nick, did you hear me?” She asked as she pulled away from me, turning me towards her. Shit. Didn’t know I tuned her out.
“Sorry, what is it?”
“I said, you should have the guys over, tell them what you and Kevin found. Maybe then you can figure out what to do. Then maybe you won’t be thinking about it all the time.” She said as her eyes narrowed a bit. Oops. I have to give her credit though, she’s been nothing but supportive. AJ and Howie may have thought I was crazy, Kevin too till now, but Lauren always backed me up. I loved that about her, the way she dealt with the insanity that was my life. The way she believed in me when others didn’t.
He may not have been taken but I was right in a way.
Something was definitely rotten in the state of Backstreet.
“…So we think it had something to do with Brian’s disappearance.”
AJ sat back on my couch, and you could tell he didn’t have a clue of what to say. Made me feel better about myself and how I didn’t know what to do yet. I mean I had thoughts but if I acted on them, well, I’m pretty sure everyone who knew me would want to kill me. Howie, AJ, and Kevin had been here for most of the morning. It was only now that we finally filled them in. Avoidance for the win! Speaking of that, my beautiful girlfriend was out with Rochelle, couldn’t blame her. I think she knew like I did, that there was a damn good chance this wasn’t going to go anywhere, well, good.
“You don’t think he just decided to leave and get away from all of us.”
I rolled my eyes. “And ditch Baylee? That’s the reason I know something’s wrong. I don’t know what happened, or why, but I know he wouldn’t just abandon his son like that, not after he just lost his mom.”
“What do you want us to say? I mean damn Nick, you find shit saying where Brian might be… what if he’s not? What if it’s random crap from before?”
“And the plane ticket?”
“You said it wasn’t bought by him…”
“But it was in his name.”
“And that goes back to Brian leaving on his own.”
“And ditching his son?!”
“That’s your only reason to thinking something happened? Look what Brian was dealing with; maybe he did it because he couldn’t handle it anymore.”
“He would still tell Bay he was going away for awhile.”
“I love him to death, but maybe he didn’t. You saw how he was after the accident, he was…”
I threw my hands up in frustration and glanced at Kevin. “Screw it, I give up. You try.”
“Look, have y’all thought about the fact that…” I tuned him out efficiently as I headed into my kitchen. A part of me knew none of them would follow right then. It came from so many years of growing up with these guys. They knew I wouldn’t do anything rash… yet. I just wished they understood.
I picked up the papers we’d found back at Brian’s house. I hadn’t looked too closely at the Wikipedia print outs before, they didn’t seem that important to me honestly. It was Kevin who thought they might help. I guess they’d been in the same folder as the flight confirmation. My eyes narrowed as I started reading. Things about it were underlined. Like where it was, how you have to contact the government and get approval before trying to live there.
Maybe he was forced to go, taken, blackmailed or something.
Just because there was never a sign or anything foul, didn’t mean there hadn’t been. It just meant it’d been cleaned up well right? I started thinking, what if I went there. Obviously the police gave up, thought I was crazy for believing what I did. A lot of people, including the damn media, thought that way. I knew I wasn’t crazy. Sometimes, a guy, all he has is his instincts. Mine was telling me Brian needed us. Someone just had to go find him. At that moment, I made my decision. A plan started formulating in my head in how to go about it. I had most of what I needed right there in my hands. What harm could it do? If I was wrong, well, I got to see some out of the way new place. But it didn’t matter because I knew I was right. I had to be.
They were going to kill me when they found out; at that point, I didn’t care.
I headed to my room. Hopefully Kevin would take his time talking, and AJ and Howie would keep arguing. I wasn’t mad at them. Really, I wasn’t. I could even understand why they didn’t want to believe me. After talking to Kevin, I got it. It wasn’t easy believing that something had Brian. Or that something was wrong with him. Because really, he had had enough thrown at him recently. I reached in the closet and tossed a small suitcase on the bed. I became a pro at being able to do a lot with a little when it came to clothes.
I’d be going a long way and I didn’t need to be dragging a lot of shit with me.
Once I opened it up, I headed to the closet and started tossing random clothes in. I didn’t care what I took. Pants, shirts, that’s good enough right? My main goal was getting the hell out of here and trying to find my best friend. No one else was going to do it, so hell, I would. I was so wrapped up in my thoughts yet again, I didn’t hear knocking. I wish I had. Because when I finally heard Kevin clear his throat, looked up, and saw his gaze…
He looked beyond pissed.
Last time I saw him with that expression was when I “accidentally” dyed his hair green. (Yes, even the eyebrows). I smiled at him and help up a shirt. I thought if I waved it like a white flag he wouldn’t actually kill me. Or so I hoped. I could see the corners of his mouth twitching and I knew I’d be off the hook. As long as you can get Kevin to laugh, you ended up not dying, it was a life lesson I learned back when I was thirteen. I sat on the bed beside the pile of clothes sitting on my suitcase, and he sat on the other side of it.
“You’re not doing what I think you’re doing.”
“Depends…on what you think I’m doing.”
“You’re not about to leave to track down Brian are you?”
I sighed and tossed the white shirt in my hands down in defeat. “What if I am?”
“It’s a bad idea, you don’t know what happened, or even if he’s down there?”
I met his gaze head on. “If something bad is going on, I’ll get help. If he’s not there, I’ll come back. We need to know. You know that. I know that. I can’t stay here. You can’t just abandon Mason out of nowhere. Lauren will understand.”
“I still don’t think…”
“I’ll be alright. Maybe you can convince AJ and Howie I’m not crazy.”
“They don’t think you’re crazy.”
I just stared at him.
“At least, not for that reason. They just find it hard to believe, part of me does too. And you, even if you refuse to admit it. Something’s weird, but you know as well as I do he wasn’t kidnapped now.”
I stood again, starting to actually fold clothes into the small bag. “I’m still going.”
Kevin rose as well, putting his arm around me. I couldn’t help but smile. The man had been doing that for years. Sometimes I think he forgot that he wasn’t actually my father. Even if over the years he always protected me like I was this hybrid combination of brother and son. I’ll never admit it, but I always loved that. I think he knew anyway.
“This idea is crazy.”
“You mean like me.”
“No, crazier than you, that’s what scares me.”
“Call me when you get there, keep me updated.”
“Promise you’ll be careful.”
“Nick, I mean it.”
“I know Kev, I know.” And I meant it; I would do everything I could to keep my promise. As long as it meant rescuing Brian as well. Because I had already decided at that point that I was going to do whatever it took. But, ya know, Kevin didn’t need to know that last part. He was better off not knowing.