8:56 PM. The shy stalk that was Anders’ arm arose from the feverish blankets, just barely brushing the ledge of the suite window. The thin sheet of plastic over the glass, fixed by Giles at noon, scattered the few stray blushes of light daring to brush up against the floor.

Miranda, please come back home. He pulled his hand back to his body as the purple stain of the sunset kissed his pale fingertips. The sheets made an almost inaudible ruffling sound as Anders rolled over in the mattress bed. The sooner, the better so that this broken family can begin to feel whole again.

A fist fired a rapid procession of raps onto the door, announcing Lainey before she poked her head into the room. She held a bottle of pills and a wet rag in her arms. “Are you doing alright, sir?”

Anders groaned in response, pulling the spare pillow that Giles had brought to him that morning over his head. Lainey approached the man with caution, crouching beside him and setting the bottle of pills down. “Sir, I’m going to need you to roll over so that I can see your face.”

“Mmrph.” Anders resumed his failed sleeping position on his back. His glassy eyes slid over to his nurse, whose braid chose that moment to slip out from behind her shoulder and swing above his stomach. “Oh, hey there, Lainey. What’ve you brought me today?”

He rubbed the sore and puffy circles under his eyes as she laid the cold rag on his forehead. She laid a hand on the rag, causing it to drip twice into his matted hair. “I brought you some ibuprofen. Are you up for taking it?”

“I- I guess.” He ground his elbows into the mattress beneath him and pushed himself to a sitting position. The rag fell off, and he held it back in place as Lainey shook out a few pills. “How is the investigation?”

“The what?” Caught off guard, Lainey fumbled the pills, almost spilling a few but catching them back into the bottle. “Be specific, sir. That is, if you can manage it past the fever.”

“The police investigation. You know, the one where Miranda goes missing in the middle of the night and the kidnapper has mercy on my unconscious body.” He dryly swallowed, laying his unused hand in his lap. “Anything new yet? I’d kinda like to know who to punch in the jaw when this is all over.”

“I don’t have a single clue.” She held the three chartreuse pills out to Anders, who jerked his head back as he dropped them into his mouth. He grimaced as they slid down like bloody-trailing sleds, coughing into his lap. “If I knew, Anders, I would have told you immediately.”

“You’ve been walking a fine line as of late, Lainey.” The wildfire in Anders’ head grew another plume of smoke. His mind fuzzed as he dropped back down onto the pillow, closing his eyes and turning away from the woman. “Do you think that maybe you could refurbish some unused room for Miranda? And then maybe perhaps find a way to contact him? Maybe he’ll come back if he doesn’t feel quite like he’s a bug under my microscope.”

“Anders, if we could contact Miranda, don’t you think that we would have found her already?” Lainey studied her chipped fingernails. “We aren’t that incompetent. And is another living space in the budget?”

“Make room in the budget.” He opened up the folded rag and reapplied it to his forehead. “And he’s probably contacted my mother in some way, so check first. Why wouldn’t he confide in her? She’d do just about anything for Miranda. More than she would do for her own son, anyways.”

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