It had been four weeks since Lynn left. The silence in the house was a constant reminder of what he was missing. She was still at his parents house. She came everyday to watch Eddie. He missed having her to talk to at night when Eddie was asleep. The agency was prolonging their investigation since they received more complaints regarding their supposed relationship.
It felt more like a witch hunt. He was positive the complaints were coming from Eleanor. Her way of getting even for him rejecting her the night of the exhibit. If that wasn’t bad enough his brother Robert was missing. The night Lynn moved out he had thought it odd that Robert had not answered his call. But when he didn’t return his call after several days, Casey knew something was wrong. After a week, he had gone over to their house only to find several men searching it.
Without stopping he drove past, a bad feeling deep in his guts advised him those men shouldn’t be there. He called 911 and reported the break in before driving home. Dread twisting his insides into knots. Another week went by and still only silence. Casey had no choice but to report his brother and family as missing. The police agreed to look into it but Casey had the feeling it wasn’t a priority.
By the third week he was convinced something horrible had happened. His brother would never just walk away from everything he knew. Going into the Police station he was determined to get some answers. He was directed to the investigator in charge of his brother’s case and he recognized him as the same man who had helped find his sister Evelyn when she had been kidnapped.
“Mr. Bennett how are you?” he asked pleasantly shaking hands before motioning for Casey to have a seat. “What can I do for you?”
“I’d like to know if you’ve found my brother yet,” he leaned forward anxious for news, anything that would enlighten him
Pursing his lips the officer glanced at Casey “we found his van in a park on the outskirts of Aurora Skies. All the identification and cell phones left inside it.”
Frowning “isn’t that a bit strange?”
Eyeing the young man sitting across from him “not if they were running from someone and didn’t want to be found.” Leaning back in his chair, staring at Casey “was your brother in debt? Did he gamble and owe a lot of money to a loan shark? Was he dealing in drugs?”
“What? Of course not. Robert would be the last person to gamble or be involved in drugs. He’s a devoted family man.” Casey scowled at the officer “you’re way off base in your insinuations.”
Getting to his feet, Casey moved to leave when the officer asked “then why did your brother withdraw all of his savings from the bank and close his accounts?” Giving Casey an unblinking stare “the men who searched your brothers home work for a very powerful, well-connected drug cartel. Can you explain that?”
Heart pounding squeezing his chest shut he could hardly breathe. Casey couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Robert mixed up with a drug cartel? No, not his brother. Shaking Casey barely felt his feet beneath him as his head began to spin “your wrong. Robert would ever get mixed up with drugs. It’s not in who he is.”
The officer shrugged unmoved by Casey’s protestations. Casey walked out of the police station stunned. He knew the police weren’t searching for them. They believed they left of their own volition, changed their identities, started a new life. Casey barely registered what he was doing until he pulled up outside his parents home.
Walking into the house like a storm cloud about to burst. Seeing Gene he remembered they were all there to welcome him home. ‘Did he win? Lose? Who the hell cared?’ Casey’s mind screamed in protest wanting nothing more than to wipe their smiles from their faces. Glowering Casey flexed his hands fighting the urge to hit something. Breathing hard he nearly jumped when he felt a hand on his harm. Looking down he found Lynn looking up at him with concern in her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” she asked so that only he could hear.
Shaking his head he refused to speak, unsure he could speak without exploding.
Taking his hand she led him to the room she shared with Beverly when she was home from College. Closing the door she turned to Casey “now tell me what’s wrong?”
Sighing he raked his hands through his hair looking away from the concern he could see in her face. All he wanted was to feel her arms around him telling him everything would be alright. Shaking his head he knew that wasn’t going to happen not with Eleanor making trouble, people poking their noses into his business, now the cops. He growled deep in his throat causing Lynn to jump beside him.
The door opened behind them “Hey what are you doing in here?” Gene asked coming up to them he asked “Have you seen Rob? I’ve tried calling but he never answers.” His smile faded as Casey glared at him. Looking towards Lynn he asked “What did I do?”
She shook her head at a loss as to way was going on. Screaming Casey grabbed Gene and shoved him against the wall. “It’s your fault he’s gone.” The words of the investigator repeating in his mind. Was Robert involved in drugs? He was staring at the only person he knew who had ever done drugs. If Rob was mixed up with a drug cartel it was because of Gene.
Staring into the fierce hostile face of his brother, Gene stammered “what are you talking about? Whose gone?” He looked into Casey’s eyes and flinched. The cold hard glare was unnerving.
Breathing heavily Casey fought the urge to use Gene as his punching bag. He could see the confusion in Gene’s eyes “Rob’s gone. Been gone for almost a month.” As he shouted he gripped Gene’s shirt front tighter, pounding him into the wall. “the cops think he ran away because he owed a lot of money to the wrong people.” He shoved Gene forcefully into the wall “they’re not even looking for him. Not even when I told them they were looking in the direction. Rob wouldn’t, he just wouldn’t.” He released his death grip on Gene’s shirt as he crumpled to the floor, tears streaming from his eyes. Lynn rushed to him and held hims as he cried.
Gene rubbed his head where it had made contact with the wall multiple times trying to absorb what Casey had blubbered almost incoherently. Robert gone? Gone where? Why? If he had wanted to drink the weeks he was on the show, which unfortunately he had given in to the overwhelming need the night before elimination. It had hurt so much watching Ashton and Jordan so much in love, having each other to rely on, to comfort each other. He had no one, he had thrown his relationship with Tracie away by doing the show. He had meant to prove she was wrong about him instead he proved her right. If Aimee hadn’t brought him back to his senses he would have drunk himself senseless. Her awkward shyness was endearing but did he even stand a chance against her virtual reality? Would she even want to live outside that reality? Maybe she had a point, inside a virtual reality you couldn’t get hurt. The hurt, the pain is what drove him to drink, it was his escape. The place where the real world couldn’t hurt him and in that respect he understood Aimee.
Kneeling beside Casey he was shocked when Casey enveloped him in fierce hug. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to take it out on you. It just got to be too much,” Casey said mirroring Gene’s thoughts, except Gene was sure without the urge to drink, not Casey, not his perfect, routine, meticulous brother.
Getting up Lynn watched the brothers holding each other, wrapped up in their own pain. She backed towards the door to give them space. Coming into the kitchen William came up beside her with a sad knowing smile “where’s Casey?”
Motioning towards the bedroom “in there with Gene.”
Nodding William put a comforting hand on her shoulder before going to speak to his sons. It was time he told them what was happening. He wished it could have been sooner but he had to give Robert time to cover up his tracks. Upon entering the room he found Gene and Casey on the floor sobbing in each other’s arms. Sighing William kneeled down beside them, putting a hand on each boy’s shoulder.
Gene pulled away “why didn’t someone tell me? I would have left the show and come home.” He knew the phone call he received from Robert on the show was the last time he was probably ever hear from his brother again.
Looking at Gene, William said “it was what Rob wanted. He didn’t want you distracted. He wanted you to succeed.” Shocked Gene and Casey fell silent staring at their father.
Mouth gaping open Casey stammered “What do you mean what he wanted?”
Gene looked from his dad to Casey then back again “he means he knows why Rob left.”
Casey narrowed his eyes frowning “what aren’t you telling us?” he asked sitting up wiping his eyes.
Nodding as if to himself William sat on the floor leaning against the bed behind him. “Patricia’s mother made a deal with a very powerful drug lord. Basically selling her daughter to him in exchange for her freedom to leave the country. The man showed up recently to collect the debt. Robert decided to run in the hopes of keeping his family together and his wife safe.” William stopped watching the boys absorb the information, “that’s why you can’t look for him. We hae to assume we’re being watched to see if we will lead them to Robert.”
Casey eyed him as if he had trouble believing what his father was telling him “I can’t believe this. Why didn’t he come to us for help? Surly we could have protected them. The cops….”
William shook his head “Shon was looking into it before his accident.” He looked towards Gene who had no idea Shon was in the hospital after an attempt had been made on his life for his investigation into the drug cartel that was searching for Robert. Something else he was going to have to explain before he went to Bridgeport to help Evelyn. William almost wished Gene was still on the show and away from all of this. “so far Shon hasn’t been able to identify who the drug lord is that wants Patricia. He’s been stonewalled by very powerful influential people in his investigation.” William said. Casey nodded listening “We thought it best to keep the people who knew what was happening to just me and Shon.”
Gene who had been silent so far spoke “you know where they are don’t you?” He stared directly into William’s eyes willing him to tell him the truth.
William nodded “yes I know.”
“And Shon?” Gene asked
“He knows too,” William looked away from his stunned face “we helped Robert pull off their disappearing act.”
“That explains why you weren’t as upset as the rest of us,” Casey mumbled.
Overhearing him William narrowed his eyes “I’ve been worried sick for weeks that this wouldn’t work. Caught. Killed. Do you think I like the idea of never seeing my son or grandchildren again?” His voice rough and jagged.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean …. ” Casey bit his lip as he turned his face away in shame. How could he think his father wasn’t hurting as much as the rest of them? Sighing again “I’m sorry.”
“I know son,” William reached out and gripped his shoulder “hopefully one day they’ll be able to come home.”
“What can we do to help?” Casey and Gene asked together.
“Live your lives,” William told them “be happy. If something comes up we’ll let you know. The fewer people who know the better.” William bit his lip to keep from saying more.
Gene rolled his eyes at him “meaning you had no intention of ever telling us. Except you had to keep us from searching for them. Right?” His tone bitter, his eyes simmered with anger “you expect us to just sit on our hands while our brother is in danger. I can’t do that.” Unable to sit still any longer he began to pace the enclosed room.
“Gene.” William called sharply “don’t do anything stupid. You could be putting your brother’s life in danger without even knowing it. Don’t you understand I had to wait. I had to give Rob time to cover up his tracks. Nothing more. I always intended on telling you.” William looked towards Casey motioning for him to leave.
Stretching Casey took the hint announcing “I should be leaving before Eddie passes out.” Turning to Gene “if you need to talk come to the house,” staring at him until Gene looked at him. “I mean it. No matter how late.” Gene nodded. Casey sighed as he felt a weight come down on his shoulders. It was up to him to be the big brother with all the answers. He wasn’t sure he could do it. Where the hell was Robert when he needed him?