His body shook under the weight of his sorrow. Unable to make sense of the last twenty four hours, he broke down in front of the cowboy sleuth. Detective Mocroni pulled the broken man into his embrace, rubbing his hand up and down Marcus' back in attempt at consoling him.
"Marcus… Marcus, It's alright. I'm here to help," whispered the Detective, "Do you think you can hold yourself together long enough to hear me out. What I have to tell you might put some of this weirdness into perspective."
Marcus continued to sob a moment longer, before sucking back as much snot into his nostrils as he could manage. He wiped away the rest on his arm and looked into the detective's steel gray eyes. He looked like a mess and knew it, but didn't care.
"I'm sorry, Detective…"
"Call me, Leo, if you'd like." the detective interrupted.
"I'm sorry.. Leo, but I don't see how there is anything you could say to help make sense of watching my girlfriend burn to ash and then, seemingly, never exist. Just saying that makes me sound like an insane moron. Believing it makes me an insane moron. What could help that?"
The detective sat quietly, collecting his thoughts. Finally he sighed and looked at Marcus.
"When I was a kid. I had this inexplicable experience. It was similar to your own, but still much different. Back then, I brushed it off as heat stroke. Too much desert sun, not enough gallons in my hat," Leo paused to tap the top of his ten gallon cowboy hat and wink at Marcus. Though, Marcus wasn't in the most jovial of moods, he still laughed.
"So what is this similar but different experience?" Marcus asked after Humor was usurped by Curiosity.
The Cowboy leaned back against the loveseat and gestured for Marcus to do that same.
"Well, get comfortable and let me wind this tale 'round your ear."
Young Leonardo Esyes stood at the demolished fence of his father's cattle ranch. His skin was tight and red from being cooked in the unobstructed afternoon sun while he busily mended the boards. Thaddeus, his eldest brother, drove through it with his brand new truck early this afternoon. He and his friends had taken it out the night before to celebrate his twenty-first birthday. They'd all been drowned in top shelf rye and hanging out the windows as he sped home. Leonardo counted them lucky that he wasn't cleaning up any body parts along with the broken boards. The King Brat was currently nursing his hangover and being fretted upon by his anxious mother. Being handed Mimosas, Bloody Mary's, chocolates and a tower of exotic fruit; all in the name of recovery.
Meanwhile, Leonardo was forced to toil away, reconstructing the damage Tyrant Thaddeus left in his precious wake.
"Bastard brat of a first born," Leonardo mumbled to the searing sand. He bent to retrieve a fresh board to perfectly place atop the fresh posts. He'd always pay the closest attention to detail. He figures this is one reason Papa assigns all the hand work to him.
"God forbid they be a fraction of a millimeter too low."
Since his brothers were good for nothing more than partying, (Except Ignacio, the youngest, who was the most tender spirit and the most fragile person in Leonardo's life), Little Leo was left with being the reliable farm hand.
He took a nail and accurately placed it on the carefully measured mark and the board and hammered it home. Securing the board to both posts in a quick minute. Leonardo placed his fists on his hips and took great pride in his work, menial as it was. He did believe in one thing "God" had told him, "Hard labor builds strong character." He was glad not to be a lush pussy like his imbecile predecessors. He wiped the sweat from his brow and bent to pick up another board. His fingertips lightly caressing a pale scorpion before he realized it's existence and jerked his hand away.
"Oh shit!" he yelled stumbling a few paces backwards, craving distance between him and the pale predator. The venomous creature scuttled across his work pile. Leonardo tried to shoo it away, but dared not get any closer, knowing the scorpion's white armor meant he was one of the deadliest. The scorpion halted it's stroll above the boards and faced Leonardo, pincers raised in challenge. He took a three steps back just to be safe.
"Go on, get!" he yelled waving his hands at the scorpion. He looked around for something to throw, but all his tools were near the woodpile and there wasn't a rock anywhere to be found. Leonardo had no choice, but to stand there and wait him out. If he ran back inside to get away from the little buggy Papa would probably make him eat it. He and the awful arachnid settled in for their staring contest. Leonardo's eyes never moved away from the lethal creature. They stayed that way for a desert millennia, eyes locked and drying in the sun. Sweat poured from Leonardo's every pore, his throat was sandy. The scorpion never faltered, refusing to leave.
Suddenly, the sun exploded, everything flashed in and out of focus until Leonardo was surrounding by emptiness. Endless miles of blinding white nothing. He raised his hands to move them in front of his face, but couldn't see them either. Just as panic settled in, so did the familiar landscape of his life. The world replaced right before his eyes, with one small difference, everything: the boards, the fence, the scorpion, the ranch; had shifted roughly an arm's length to the left. Leonardo was sure that he hadn't moved anything but his arms, boots still firm on the ground.
"What.. The.. Hell!" he exclaimed in the same moment the sun exploded a second time, returning him unto the Nothingness. This time he could physically feel the absence of his existence. It was the worst pain he had ever, or would ever feel. He tried to scream, but couldn't make a sound. He could feel his lungs fail to inhale what oxygen wasn't present.
"Did the scorpion sting me. Is this death?" he wondered to himself. Unable to answer, he watched as the Nothingness expanded, retracted, fluxed, and flowed. Eventually fading into dull colors and fuzzy lines. Leonardo remained still as the world returned to focus. Everything replaced into it's original position. He stood in disbelief and watched as the scorpion fell from the top of the pile and disappeared into the desert heat.
Leonardo slowly walked back to the fence, making sure to keep an eye for the deadly apparition. When he was sure that he was once again alone, he retrieved a board and perfectly fit it onto the posts. He was determined to finish the fence before sundown. He worked quickly, barely pausing to take a breath, achieving what he had set his mind to.