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Brother...

Anna Kozłowska

I used to be a Norma Normal sort of person in my little town of Arcadia, Louisiana. After all

those years of working in the town's library, which was rather short of greater literature, I often thought

that most of the library shelves are loaded with books which were completely unimaginative and full of

hideous descriptions. I mean romances, all kinds of them, historical, medical, contemporary or those

with a super extra doze of sex scenes. Each day I sighed heavily watching those romance readers. One

glance at the cover and I knew everything.

This morning, was different than those of the past months. I was woken up by a telephone

call, too sleepy to think logically or to recognize the voice on the other side of the line.

“Alice? Is that you?” Asked someone melodically.

“Yeah, it's me,” I replied hesitantly. “And you are...?”

“Don't play the fool, Alice. It's me, Kristin, your brother's room mate.”

“Oh. Sorry, hi,” I yawned. “What's up?”

Believe me or not, but I still don't understand why parents should name their son Kristin. He was the

same age as my brother, Mike. Frankly speaking, I haven't heard from Mike for about a year. I've seen

Kristin once in my life, just before Mike left to Shreveport. We chose our own ways. I spent my quiet

life in Arcadia and he moved to Shreveport to share a room with the Kristin guy of Irish descent. That's

why I was so surprised by the call. My brother led his life in another city and our contacts were limited

to sending occasional greetings cards.

“Have you been in touch with Mike recently?” He asked with a slight tension in his voice.

“If lately means sending me a X-mass card last year then yes.” I tried to sound ironic, but I became

suddenly aware of the fact that something was going on, something bad.

“No... it's that...” He mumbled, he couldn't find a word or what?

“What?”

“Mike is missing,” he said in an uneven voice.

“How come?” I thought he was making fun of me. “How long? Isn't he at his friends' place or

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something like that? And why do you call me? You obviously know that he wouldn't have come by here

to say 'hi'.”

Kristin made a pause resembling those scary moments of dead silence.

“Mike was absent minded for a couple of weeks. He got himself a new girlfriend, not one of those

glamorous babes with Cosmopolitan as their Bible,” I knew he was worried. “Well, I've already called

all of his friends. I've even talked to several bartenders working in bars he liked to visit. No one had

seen him for the past two days.”

“Did you call the police?”

“Yes, but they said I should wait.” he answered in a low impatient voice.

“Then wait...” I began to ponder over what to do and what to do with my dear brother if I'll find him

drunken as a skunk in a brothel or in any of similar public utilities. “I'll come to Shreveport in about

three hours and I want you to wait for me at the Greyhound bus station.”

“OK. Thank you Alice, I'm really worried about Mike. If anything happened to him...I couldn't...”

“I know Kristin. See you in three hours. I'll call you when I'm almost there.”

All I had to do now was to phone the head librarian, pack myself and go to Shreveport in search of my

beloved brother. Action and mystery, here I come.

Three and a half hours later I was standing in front of the Greyhound bus station on Fannin

Street in Shreveport, waiting for Mike. As I was just about to phone him and ask where the hell he was,

Mike appeared in a lilac Mustang convertible. I would say I was a bit astonished, for I remembered my

brother's friend as a quiet artistic guy with hair pinned up like those of ancient Greek women. Now he

looked like a mixture of a drag queen and an intellectual, and all this in a lilac car.

Several minutes later we were going up in an elevator to the top story, which was inhabited

only by Mike and Kristin. Kristin unlocked the door and I saw the apartment, it was spacious, decorated

in an arty way. Walls in the living room looked like a flowery meadow, furniture was neat and simple.

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After a moment Kristin showed me the way to Mike's room.

“It's just as he left it, I didn't touch anything,” he said opening the door.

“Uh-huh,” I said looking about the room.

“I'll make us some coffee.” he mumbled not knowing what to do and he went to the kitchen.

The room was tidy. Did my brother learn at last how to clean his room? It's too good to be true. He was

always messy. I came to the little bookshelf in the corner of the room near the window and looked at the

book titles. They were mostly sci-fi, few books about vampires, several psychological guides and a

photo album. I took the album and opened it. I wasn't surprised. It was full of my Mike's pictures with

random girls in the same bars. Having scanned it briefly, I was about to close it when something fell out

of it and landed on the carpeted floor. I stooped to pick it up. It was a bar leaflet. I examined it carefully.

Vampyr was the bar's name. Silly name if you ask me. I wondered about what Mike would do in such a

bar. Kristin came in with two coffees. I showed him the leaflet.

“Have you ever been to that?” I asked when he was handing me the mug with hot coffee.

“I don't recall that, sorry,” he answered instantly.

“So maybe you know where is Industrial Drive?” I took a sip of coffee and waited for the answer.

“I can take you there today after the nightfall.”

“OK, you told me that Mike had a girlfriend just before his disappearance.”

“Yes, he did,” he answered in a slightly cold voice.

“What was her name? You probably know that,” I asked and checked the time. It was about two

hours before nightfall.

“Well, it was something plain... Mary or Maggie sort of thing. I think it was Mary, there are lots of

Maries here. Almost Maryland,” he tried to be funny.

“I get that,” I said thinking intensively. “I'll look around around this room, take a shower and then we

can go to that club.”

“As you wish.” he answered and went out of Mike's room.

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I didn't find much more in his room, so if something was still there it was probably well

hidden. Kristin was a good driver, not speeding too much, no bravado. After about fifteen minutes, we

were on the parking lot just in front of the club. I must say there were strange people out there. Like

Goths for example, wearing shiny leather clothes which uncovered more than covered. Some of them

wore studded collars. I had never seen such weirdos in my entire life. We got out of the car and walked

to the entrance. Standing next to the entrance, there was a tall slim blonde wearing a black corset and a

tight-fitting skirt, acting like a bouncer. Kristin left somewhere behind me, so I approached the blonde

all by myself. Gosh, she was very pale, maybe because of the light, but she looked quite scary.

“The party is closed,” she said in a bored voice.

“But I only,” I started.

“No, you can't come in. The party is closed,” she repeated in an equally bored voice.

“Hey, you Missy!” I became angry, how come this weirdo won't listen to me? “I only wanted...”

“Marigold, is there a problem?” I heard a very low voice coming from the club. A second later, a

huge man stepped through the door and stood beside the woman. He was blond, had blue eyes and if it

could be possible I'd make a wager that he was a Viking or at least had some of Viking's blood in his

veins. I had never heard such a low voice. He spoke with a slight accent, but I couldn't distinguish it.

“This glamour girl won't understand that she can't enter” Ms Bored replied.

“You're a glamazon yourself,” I was clearly loosing my temper and Kristin was chatting with a girl

just a few feet away. “I wanted to ask you a question.”

Ms Bored rolled her eyes while the Viking guy scanned me from top to toe, scary.

“So what is the question?” He asked after a short pause staring at me.

“Have you seen this guy here?” I showed them the picture of Mike which I always carried in my

wallet. They looked at it for a moment in silence.

“Nope, never seen him, but we've seen your friend. She didn't come by for a couple of months,” he

answered pointing in Kristin's direction who was talking with the girl.

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“Thank you for your time,” I said, ready to go.

“You'll visit us some day,” the man whispered incredibly softly and disappeared.

As we were going back, I told Kristin that I didn't found anything new, and that they had

never seen Mike. We returned in silence and went to sleep. In the morning I found a notice from him

that he would be late this evening and that he had phoned police, still with no results. I called them once

more, but to my surprise they claimed that no one had informed them that Mike is missing. I didn't

know what to think about that. After a breakfast and a shower, I figured that the best thing I could do

now is to wait. I might as well wait while watching some DVD on the plasma screen in the living room.

Everything was under control, but I couldn't find movies. I thought of borrowing something from

Kristin. I checked his door. It was unlocked. I entered and looked around in search for movies. To my

surprise, I couldn't find any, but I saw something interesting, a photo of a young woman, something

around twenty. She was spitting image of Kristin. Did he have a twin sister? I looked at the back of the

photo and froze. It was signed “Kristin, 2000.” How come? And then I saw something else and I didn't

know which one was worse. One of Kristin's walls was wallpapered with Mike's photos and girlish

drawings. I understand that Kristin might have had a bit feminine looks few years ago but now I

discover that he loves my brother and it's not love between friends, God! Did Mike know about that?

Shit, Kristin is a gay, not that I care who is a gay or not. That would explain the flat's decoration, the

car's color and his looks! My glance rested on a small jar with some tablets. I came closer and examined

the description of the medicine. I was astonished once more. It was a hormone treatment and a huge

doze of testosterone. Why a man should take such drug? Wait a sec, MAN? It came to me as if it was

obvious from the beginning. Kristin wasn't initially a man. He was a woman. He, well, she had a gender

reassignment. She did it just before meeting Mike, and then she felt madly in love with him or even is

obsessed. That guy from Vampyr didn't mean the girl Kristin was talking to. He meant him, oh, her. She

lived in the same apartment with Mike and yearned for him, but my brother isn't a steady kind of person

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in relationships. He is a womanizer or a wolf if we use more archaic word. Poor Kristin, all those years.

Eh, OK, but I still didn't know where my brother was.

I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee. But were was it? I look into several

cupboards but there was no sign of this brown product containing caffeine, just when I needed it so

badly in the morning. After a while I've spotted a box which was similar to those used to store coffee, so

I grabbed it and opened. Oops, not coffee, not this time Mrs Holmes in search of caffeine. The box was

full of photos. There were several of Mike, some with him and Kristin, oh, that was funny. In one of

them Mike snogged the girl with whom Kristin talked yesterday. It wasn't the only photo like that. I

turned it and read the sign aloud “Mike and Mary”. So, this was Mary. I had to gather up my suspicions

and facts. Both of them didn't look like my initial assumptions. There was a missing link. Why did Mary

speak yesterday with Kristin? Was he or she questioning her if she had seen Mike? Or was it something

else?

I didn't have much time to think about that. It was already evening and my mobile was

ringing. I answered it sighed with a considerable amount of relief. They were in the hospital, beaten up

rather badly. The nurse wanted me to donate blood. Having called for a cab, I waited impatiently

downstairs. The taxi driver was a nice White middle-aged guy who complained about young people's

brutality all the way to the hospital.

It was quite easy to find the room in which Mike and Kristin were placed as there were two

police officers on the hallway. I've introduced myself. They instantly wanted to ask me a few questions,

but I've told them that firstly I must get a few answers from the victims. So I entered the room and gave

Mike a rebuking look. Then, I exchanged glances with Kristin, sat on the chair between two beds and

rolled my eyes. Police officers also decided that they should enter.

“We have found those fellas when they were given the thrashing. We spotted several Goths one of

them was a woman, but with those long haired it is always hard to tell,” the taller and the younger one

said.

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“Ms Rickhold, do you happen to know why did this happen?” The other asked.

“Where should I start?” I asked with a grimace. Weren't they capable of solving that great mystery

themselves?

“Preferably at the beginning,” the taller one said.

“My brother Mike started dating Mary the Goth girl. But after a few times with her, he decided that

he is a true polygamist and that one woman is not enough, so he encountered other girl and they were

both discovered by Mary at her place. She was furious. She went to her cousin, Kristin to, let's say,

complain. Meanwhile, Mike tried to hide from Mary and her gang. Kristin wanted to ease the situation,

but it didn't work. The second attempt took place last night in front of the Vampyr bar. It was rather a

non-event. Today, Kristin was told by Mary that she will 'Kill the bloody bastard', so Kristin went to

prevent such a pitiful end of my brother,” I paused to take a breath. “Goths are fickle, if you know what

I mean. That's why you found them in this physical condition.”

Kristin tried to nod but it was too painful for him, well, her.

“Ma'am, how did you come to that?” the smaller one asked with genuine astonishment.

“You know, the power of the Internet, couple of Internet diaries and a handful of accidentally found

photos make an amateur detective,” I twisted my mouth into a smile.