T.W. Dementia, Blood, Heart Attack, Death.
That night could have been magical, putting aside grudges and secrets kept for years. Victor and Lester still loved each other; it wasn't an elusive friendship, it was a love that had grown stronger but never consolidated. Lester said goodbye to Victor; changed his father's pajamas and went to sleep. That kiss - according to him - was never going to happen. For the professor, it was time to grow up, thinking about his father was his only priority, but if Victor was willing to be with him and accept him, the doors of his life were going to open.
He called Benxamin the next day to tell him about his unexpected meeting with Victor and the "date" that followed; the twin forced Lester to tell him more details by way of interrogation to scrutinize his thoughts. After several awkward questions - and Lester feeling very embarrassed by his conversation - the twin set him free to annoy someone else he had in mind.
Benxa's relationship with his brother was strange. At times, they seemed to not speak the same language. Even so, the fact of being twins generated a particular bond, almost indestructible, that does not need phone calls to understand each other. Especially with Benxamin: the prodigy, the manipulate young man whose effect he began to feel little by little after the limo accident. Maybe being separated from his brother for so long helped him develop a special ability.
Victor - with Stella's help - got of Benxa's office phone number.
“Victor?” his brother asked before the other confirmed his answer. “You're finally working on something.”
“What...? Yes? Hi, bro. How are... ?”
“Fine? and... you... ?”
“Normal. I guess nothing out of the ordinary and are you working with your art again? I hope not.”
“I don't have much time and Lester told me that you almost kissed him in HIS apartment where he lives with HIS father. You couldn't wait to take him to one of those motels with a jacuzzi?”
“Benxamin!... Well, I couldn't... It wasn't in my plans yet.”
“Are you serious?” Benxa smiled.
“Please,... shut up... I wanted to tell you something important,” Victor said with some embarrassment trying to abruptly change the subject. He wanted to express his thoughts for abandoning his brother when he needed his company the most.
“Don't apologize. You had nothing to do at the hospital.”
“How did you know I was going to talk to you about... ?!” Victor hesitated, sensing that he was speaking to a seer.
“I just know. By the way, it was very boring.”
“Ok? I don't know what I would have done if you... ”
“I wouldn't help you see your son. Daniel? I would have called him... Alex.”
“I guess I would have too. I really missed you, Benxa.”
“We'll talk later.”Benxamin hung up, closed his eyes - feeling relieved. He pondered on his next move; he had his way of investigating, solving crimes, acting with justice. He was going to help his brother for the last time, but only for his son.
Several weeks later, Lester was alone with James in his apartment. He had to work in the afternoon and could be with the old man while Diana bought some groceries for lunch. The professor was preparing breakfast. His father - for his part, sitting by the living room window as was his morning habit - looked out at the street on the sunniest day of the year.
“It's time to eat,” Lester said, gently placing his hand on his father's shoulder.
The old man nodded and obeyed as if he were a small child.
Lester sat his father down next to him. He told him about his previous day, hectic, with students anxious about their grades - but typical - then asked if he remembered Victor as the 31-year-old adult. Sometimes his father was old James again: the cheerful, hard-working man of his son's childhood.
“Yes, he is taller than you,” Mr. Haydar said.
“I'm glad to see him again. He works at a coffee shop and I know you remember that he once told me that he liked me. But after he came here, I haven't deigned to ask him if he wants to go out with me. Hmm... if it wasn't for the fact that Victor has more freckles and the same beard than his brother, I would say that they are the same person. And speaking of Benxamin, I have to tell you about something that happened to him when he was studying forensics, but I'll do it after lunch. It's scary. I guess you remember his art.”
“I wouldn't forget it.”
Lester ate at the same pace as his father to finish together. James took a slice of bread and gave it to his son to eat some more like he did when Lester was a baby. He smiled his thanks, running his fingers through James' hair and guiding him to sit by the living room window again. The son went to wash the dishes in the kitchen, imagining his mother when she taught him to cook. He was in a very good mood and his father too. He turned on the radio and began to remember the moment when he saw Victor playing and singing on his guitar whose window in the twins' room overlooked his parents' kitchen. Was he falling for him again?
But, his happiness was appeased almost immediately. He suddenly heard something heavy fall to the floor.
“Dad?” Lester asked; there was no answer.
He called his father again. Something was wrong; he left what he had in his hands in the sink and ran to the living room. The old man lay face down, with blood on his head - as a result of his fall. The son's lips trembled like his hands; he quickly reacted to call an ambulance. James was too heavy for Lester to carry alone. He left his apartment and knocked on the neighbor's door; the owner was a stocky man who lived with his wife.
The three of them waited for the ambulance to arrive, but after several hellish minutes, they decided to take James in the elevator. The man was a taxi driver and offered to accompany Lester with his father to the nearest hospital.
“Please, don't leave me,” Lester said, caressing his father's face. The neighbor drove as fast as he could. He ran two red lights; the streets were empty, giving way to the taxi.
Minutes later - at the hospital - the taxi driver got out of his vehicle and asked a paramedic who was at the entrance for help. James was led into a room, unfortunately the efforts of Lester and his heroes were in vain. His father died of a heart attack at the time of his fall. The man stayed with Lester, took the professor to the waiting room and they both sat there for the rest of the morning.
The blood in the taxi, Lester's shirt and in the living room, was a reason for the neighbors to call the police. Soon after, some officers along with two investigators escorted Lester back to the apartment. The young man seemed too serene to express any emotion. Among that group of agents was Benxamin, who took photos of the crime scene: the blood, the chair, every part of the room. Several policemen searched the apartment as if Lester had murdered his father, but this was part of their job. Benxa spoke to him in a relaxed manner, giving Lester some peace of mind who continued with his particular behavior.
“This is a routine process; your father died of natural causes. We need you to tell us what happened, dear Lester,” Benxa was moved by James's death as he was by Mira, but he had to show professionalism in front of the others. He sat his friend down on a sofa in the living room and young Haydar told him everything that had happened - including his talk about Benxa's experience when he was a criminology student.
“You mean when our instructor made us jump in a pool of blood?”
“I can't believe that happened to you,” Lester said.
“The professor was fired after that. He said his intention was 'to help students face their fears'. Completely ridiculous reasoning.”
Lester didn't show any feeling of sadness, it seemed that he was skeptical about what had happened - Benxamin humored him.
“I didn't think of seeing you again under these circumstances. Do you think I should call Victor?” Lester asked
“I will do it for you. Don't think about others for now,” his friend affirmed.
“I guess you're right. I wanted to talk to him about you. He owes you a big apology.”
“Victor already has and I hope he told you that he's sorry too. Don't worry. We have our way of keeping in touch."
"Yes, thank you. I can't believe he has a son.” “I'm his uncle and I don't know the boy. It's a shame.”
“I'm talking about him and not my father. I... think I just want to distract my mind."
Hours later, the investigators collected all the pertinent information and prepared to leave, Benxamin had to go to his office, but before saying goodbye to Lester, he told him that he was coming back after work to spend whatever time he needed with his friend.
The twin lived in a small apartment. He had as decoration some paintings that his aunt had sold him, books of diverse literature and a collection of white furniture. He lived alone - according to him - he didn't need to feel tied down by anyone. He didn't think about getting married or having children despite Stella's insistence.
He was a successful man, admired by his coworkers. A prodigy as always, decorated and revered for his enormous merits. But in private, he was another. The bullying he had to endure at university didn't mark him as much as his shipwreck and accident which - like Lester - gave him recurring nightmares that made him scream in despair on several occasions. He had headaches that made him feel like he was about to die, but he hid the agony well. Art was his therapy and he shaped them from the cases he worked on.
Benxamin also used his job as an investigator to divert his thoughts. He didn't revel in short-term pleasures like Lester did. He had had encounters with a few men, but after a while, sex didn't become a part of his life.
He called his brother on the coffee shop telephone number; Lester needed the twins more than ever. Victor asked his boss for permission to leave work early. Knowing where Lester lived, he didn't hesitate to take a taxi; he counted the coins he had in his pocket because the poor man couldn't afford to spend more than necessary for his daily expenses. The taxi ride was an eccentricity for him.
Two hours later, Victor hurried into the apartment building. He took the elevator, took a deep breath. Once on the seventh floor, he pondered what to say to Lester: “I'm sorry, my condolences, I'm here for you.” He knocked on his door, waited a few minutes, tried again, realized he wasn't there.
Young Haydar had returned to the hospital without telling anyone, his father was in the morgue. Lester, sitting next to the corpse, was looking at it wrapped in a white sheet. This reminded him of his mother who also went through the same situation. Mira and James were going to get back together, but their grown son was going to face the world - alone - for the rest of his life.
His father's hands were on each other. Lester had a black suitcase containing the old man's best clothes to take to the funeral home. Since James' death was sudden, he called the university to take a leave of absence for the rest of the week. He looked at Mr. Haydar for several hours without shedding a single tear. The truth is that he was in a natural state of dismay. Lester thought about venting his great anger and frustration once he got back to his apartment. Later Diana appeared, she sat next to Lester, but to him it was as if she were an invisible being. They didn't talk much; they coordinated what they were going to do the next day.
As promised by Benxamin, he went to Lester's apartment earlier that day and Victor was still there talking to the couple who helped James, getting more information about what happened. He was about to go to the hospital when he saw his twin.
“Lester is here?” asked Benxamin.
His brother shook his head.
“He may be in the hospital.”
“Let's go,” Victor replied.
“You need a phone. It's times like this that I want to talk to you the most.”
“I'll buy it when I can. Benxa... ”
“I can buy one for you,” Benxamin said as he walked with Victor to the elevator to go down to the first floor.
“No, bro,” those kinds of expenses were excessive for him.
While they were in the elevator, Benxamin tried to talk to his brother about what was going on with Lester, but he refrained from saying anything that wasn't relevant. However, it was Victor who began to come clean,
“It's been a while since I've seen you two.”
“For Lester yes. He never stopped thinking about you. It was hard for me to believe that he could do anything, but this is a thing of the past, Lester needs us. Mr. Haydar couldn't keep the secret and told him that you were in prison. Stella and I didn't know what to say to him when he went to my aunt's apartment to confront us. He told us that he didn't want to talk to us again and we accepted. For my part, I did it out of respect, but a few years ago he was the one who looked for me in my office. I felt like an idiot; I should have been the one to tell him about you.”
“Do you mean the last time we... ? In that bar?”
“I did it for him, not for you. You had chosen your path when you walked away from us. Then the accident happened, Stella took care of the rest. She changed to be a better version of herself. That made me realize that if people like her can break her addictions, so can we. Unlike James, he was lost when his wife died. Dementia isn't a consequence of drinking, if this had not happened, he would have gotten sick from something else related to alcohol.”
The elevator went down to the first floor and Benxamin continued with his thoughts. Victor listened carefully to what his brother said about the professor,
“Lester had to witness that, you don't know how many times he hid or broke the bottles in front of James to get him to stop drinking. I really don't know how he did it. He is better than us. You and me, no matter how smart we are, we are just that. Lester, instead of making the worst of decisions, outdid himself, studied and cared for that man until his death. That didn't stop him from visiting me in the hospital, I didn't force him; that's what Lester does, thinking about others. But with respect to his father, I couldn't be with him, my health prevented me and neither did you, you disappeared for more than a decade. That makes me wonder: what kind of friends are we to him?”
“We can do something now, don't you think?” Victor said.
Then Benxa looked at his brother's leg.
”If you say so... and Ernest... ”
“Not since I got out of prison, but I know I'm not going to get rid of him. Benxamin,... ” he took a deep breath, “... if something happens to me and he tries to kill me.”
His brother looked at him in dismay. He felt that he was expressing his last wish as in that terrifying experience years ago.
“Don't be paranoid. Ernest would have killed you in prison.”
“What is happening to Lester is too much. I won't leave him alone, let alone you. I have plans for my future and I'm going to find a way to get custody of my son and if Lester wants to, I'll be with him.”
“That sounds so cheesy. We better take a taxi.”