“Where’s Jeff?” Luke shouted over the din of music and feet pounding the dance floor. His younger brother had been right beside him a minute ago.
“What?” Sasha looked a little dazed.
Ana didn’t hear him at all. She was dancing as hard as anyone, whipping her hair around like she meant to hurt somebody with it.
This time Luke put all his mounting anxiety into his voice. “WHERE’S JEFF?”
Sasha opened her mouth. “He’s right over—” Her pointing hand drooped. “No, never mind, he’s not.” She reached out and tapped Ana’s shoulder instead.
Ana spun around to face them finally. “What? What’s going on?”
“We don’t know where the hell Jeff is,” Luke yelled hurriedly, before Sasha could explain and make it sound reasonable.
“What?” Ana’s eyes were trying to focus but her feet were still tapping to the music.
“My brother’s gone.”
“Oh.” She looked disappointed. She said something more that Luke could not catch over the buzzing pulse of the synth bass.
She cupped her hands around her mouth. “Is that unusual?”
Sasha shrugged and folded her arms, as if defending herself from accusation.
Luke tried to step closer to Ana but was blocked by a flailing set of arms. “I told him to stay close to us!”
“Chill, man,” she shouted back. “He’s seventeen, I think he can take care of himself.”
“Mom said I have to look out for him.”
“Gosh, it’s a pretty tame club, what do you think’s gonna happen? He’s too old to get kidnapped and too poor to get mugged.” She rolled her eyes and launched herself back into the dance.
Luke looked helplessly to Sasha.
She bit her lip. “He probably just went to the bathroom.” She looked very pretty doing it, and he was angry at himself for thinking like that when his brother could be in trouble.
He sighed. “I’ll check.”
Sasha nodded. “Okay. Go for it. I’ll stay here in case he comes back.”
Luke moved off across the dance floor, pushing through body after whirling body as he tried to make it to the back of the room and the pale, glowing signs that denoted the restrooms. The more he struggled through the waving legs and arms and hair, the more that sign looked like the promise of a distant haven of safe rest. This had not been his idea. Ana had set it up. They had been going to go out for Josh’s birthday, but Josh himself had not shown.
Typical, Luke thought.
Edging past a heavyset guy in leather, he finally broke free of the dance floor, though not of the incessant beat that had burrowed into his skull through his eardrums. The restrooms glowed up ahead, and he plunged on, ignoring the tables piled high with t-shirts, posters, and CDs. The bearded and tattooed guy nearby watched him lazily.
The restroom door was heavy, as if resisting the revelation of its secrets. Luke pushed savagely past it.
No one was inside. It was absolutely empty.
But it smelled of cigarettes and vomit.
Luke edged over to the loosely hanging door of one of the stalls and gently opened it with his knee. The toilet was backed up, and the toilet paper was spread out maze-like on the floor. Something greenish was dripping down one of the walls. “Pretty tame club,” huh? He was not so sure anymore. But then, he did not have much experience with clubs in general. Not nearly as much as Ana anyway. He was not sure what drew here to places like these. Otherwise she seemed remarkably studious, almost geeky. She even wore math t-shirts sometimes. But she seemed like a different person here, like she had to have this experience to let loose something that she usually kept carefully locked up behind equations and rational statements.
He checked the next stall, and wished at once that he had not. Multi-colored barf was splashed all over the toilet seat and the floor. He almost turned away in disgust, but then something caught his eye. Flecks of Cheetos orange. Jeff had consumed almost a whole bag of Cheetos in the car during the long ride here. Shoot.
Luke shook his head and started out. He almost ran into a skinny man in a black polo with a mop coming in. The name of the club was emblazoned across his chest.
Luke pointed over his shoulder. “There’s some barf in that stall. And the toilet in the other one’s clogged.”
The corners of the man’s mouth drooped. He nodded thickly and proceeded to edge past Luke. “I know that, man,” he mumbled. “I was just in here. You don’t have to be a royal jerk about it. This is my job, but I don’t have to like it. I saw it man, I saw it. Kinda hard to miss that kind of evidence of a good time. Why you think I’m bringing a mop in here?”
Luke put his hands up. “Sorry, dude.” He turned to go again, but again a thought stopped him. He tapped the skinny man’s polo-clad shoulder. “Hey, if you were in here a minute ago, did you see anybody?”
The man turned and the mouth corners drooped sourly again. “Do I look like I care?”
“No you don’t,” Luke admitted, backing up a step, “but I’m looking for my younger brother and I’m afraid he’s missing or in trouble or something. I think he might be the one who barfed in here.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Well, he was eating Cheetos earlier, and—”
The man laughed humorlessly. “Oh, yeah, I saw that too, Sherlock.”
Luke rolled his eyes. “Was he in here when you were before?”
The man sighed. “Yeah, yeah. Yeah I guess you’re probably right. I guess he was. It wasn’t pleasant, either. He was barfing, for sure, and didn’t look like he was feeling too good. Too much of a good time for the little guy, I suppose, heh heh.”
Luke felt something creeping into his stomach. “Which way did he go?” he demanded.
“Out into the sunlight,” said the guy. “Probably sitting on the front sidewalk now, wishing he was man enough to still be dancing.”
Luke glowered. “I oughta punch you.” He walked out.