They’d been driving for around 40 minutes now, and Brian was driving himself insane by thinking up possible ways of escaping, possible reasons for him being here…whether or not he’d get out alive.
“We’re almost there”, the gun man told him.
The road was bumpy, so Brian could only conclude that they were somewhere remote. Somewhere with only second rate roads, and probably quite a few fields. The thought terrified him. Oh God, what if…?
He shook his head, trying to dislodge the thought from inside of himself. He had a tendancy to think the worst when it came to himself. Why could he be optimistic when it involved anybody else? Why is it that he could imagine the only outcome of this situation being him lying dead in a ditch, never to be found?
He was getting hot now; getting himself flustered. He had worked himself into a terrible state, so much so that he didn’t even notice the movement stopping.
“I’m not going to remove the blindfold until we are well inside of the building”, gun man told him. He nodded his head in complete understanding. If they were being so secretive about the location, this could only mean that they were going to let him live…otherwise why would they care?
He felt himself being pulled inside. Upon entering, he was hit by the smell. It smelt like the barn from the farming house Kevin grew up in. Straw, mixed with animal feed. It almost smelt like a chicken coop.
The door shut behind him, and he was relieved to feel the blindfold that had been compressing his head being untied and dropped to the floor. His vision was blurred, but blinking a few times cleared it enough to take in his surroundings.
“Now, Brian. Let’s get down to business.”
Almost as if on cue, Brian’s cellphone began to ring. He jumped, the unexpected noise being a little too much for his nervous state.
“Answer it”, the man commanded. Brian was confused.
“What?” Was this guy for real?
“Answer it and tell them you are fine.”
Brian reached shakily into his coat pocket and pulled out his tiny phone. It was Howie, probably checking up on him and making sure he was safely tucked up in bed. Typical Howie…
Brian reached the phone to his ear, closing his eyes as he prepared himself to give a convincing performance as a liar, which he truly wasn’t.
“Yo Rok, how are you feeling? You left in a bit of a hurry.”
Brian smiled, feeling as though he would burst into tears if he didn’t force a brave face.
“I’m fine, D. Just gonna catch up on some sleep. I haven’t been…sleeping well lately.”
Howie laughed on the other end of the phone. “Who’ve you been hidin’?”
“Um, I’ve just had a lot on my mind, that’s all.”
This was so hard. So very hard. His brain screamed at him to tell his friend that the past day had been the most dangerous of his life, that his life and the lives of his friends had been threatened and that now he was in a remote barn in God knows where, not knowing what they wanted with him…not knowing why they wanted to hurt him…not knowing anything…..
“Well, if you need anything, just give me a call and I’ll bring it on over.”
“Catch you later.”
His voice came out as a tiny whimper of a thing. “Bye…”
He hung up the phone and felt like a puppet. He felt manipulated, and as yet, he didn’t even know why.
Turning to face his ‘kidnapper’, he gasped.
“What the Hell are you doing?” Brian shrieked. It was meant to sound threatening, but it came out more like an anguished wail. He sounded so Southern when he was angry and frightened.
The man shook his head. “You knew it had to happen sooner or later, Brian. You knew I’d come back for you.”
Brian almost laughed. “So you decided that it was going to be sooner, huh Billy? Oh God…as if you hadn’t already done enough.”
He could do bravado, but only for a short while. Then it just let itself be turned into what it really was. Fear, terror and an innocent desire to hide it.
Brian couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe that he was stood here in this sheltered barn, for lack of a better word, with a gun pointed to his head. And who was it who held the gun? It was Billy Fernandez. Billy Fernandez, the guy who had followed him around like a little lost puppy for six months just over a year ago. Billy Fernandez who had cried his little heart out when Brian confronted him about stealing his God damned stereo. Billy Fernandez who had beat up on him in a fit of drunken rage, landing himself in a prison cell for assault, and putting Brian in the hospital and on the front of every God forsaken newspaper in the practically the whole world. Billy Fernandez who got so jealous of Brian’s fame that he turned into a complete psychotic and ended up with a restraining order lying over his head….Billy Fernandez who was now calling the shots.
“Brian, why are you acting like such a tough cookie? You’re not. You know that and I know that. And you also know that it isn’t a good thing to piss off Billy Fernandez. Especially when you involve the cops.”
“Ah, the restraining order. What did you expect, Billy? You trashed my car, you stole my jeep and you spray painted my garage door. You don’t even know me, so how the Hell can you hate me so much?”
From nowhere, Billy’s hand made contact with Brian’s soft cheek. His head spun as the impact made its mark on him.
“Don’t you fucking speak to me like that, you piece of shit. You owe me…”
Brian was feeling a little afraid, now. Billy may have been just a slightly over-involved fan at the beginning, but now? He’d done time, and it was all Brian’s fault. He’d only done three months, but still…he’d been sent to the slammer, and it was all because of sweet, innocent little Brian who he had liked to play with so many times before.
Billy was dangerous when he was angry, and by God that is what he was…
“Brian the big shot fucking Backstreet Boy. Let me tell you, kiddo, you’re nothing but an ass-licker.”
Brian looked straight into his eyes. He didn’t want to appear afraid; didn’t want Billy to know that he did scare him. Truthfully. He didn’t know what to expect from him; never had. He was somewhat unpredictable, and Brian liked things that were safe. He liked things that were not going to hurt him. Billy was not one of those things. It seemed that Billy’s sole aim in life was to hurt Brian.
“Ok, Billy. Tell me what you want. Tell me why you had to threaten my family, and drag me all the way out here, blindfolded I might add, to this place. I thought this was all finished with. Over…”
Billy sniggered. “Well, Brian. It’s simple. I want you.”
“What do you mean, you want me? What for?”
Billy lowered the gun that he had been holding in his left hand, and placed it on the table next to him. He brushed his hands together in an almost clapping motion, and exhaled loudly. It seemed ritualistic…
“I want you to come and work with us. We need you…”
Brian laughed. “You want me to work with you?”
The blow was expected this time, and no matter how hard Brian tried to resist, his own hand couldn’t help itself from coming up to his face to soothe the stinging that had just been inflicted upon him.
“Don’t you laugh at me. I mean business. I have a job to do, and I want you to help me with it.”
“I can’t work for you, Billy. I have responsibilities. You know that.” His voice was soft…and he tried his hardest to be subtle. He remembered how Billy had been for all that time. He was somewhat unstable, and he didn’t want to set him off.
“Responsibilities to who? Your little ass-wipe friends? Your Backstreet Boys? What the Hell is that all about? You owe me, Brian…”
“Billy, I don’t owe you a thing. I don’t even…I don’t even know you.”
Billy was getting angrier by the minute, and the tension in the room was getting stronger and stronger. Billy, angry and completely in control, and Brian, who was feeling rather worked up and pissed off himself. Somewhere in his brain, the seriousness of this situation had registered, but somewhere in his mind, he refused to accept it. He would have kicked himself for calling Billy a ‘stalker’, but at the end of the day, he was. Damned good at it, too.
“So come on, Billy. You scared the shit out of me with all that poetry stuff, but you give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just call the cops right here, right now!”
“Well, aside from the gun that is just a little out of my reach Brian, I know that you’re little blonde friend likes to shower before he falls asleep. I know that his bed-spread is light blue, and he has four little dogs that piss in his rug.”
Brian gasped. How had he known…? He forgot that Billy was an expert at this kind of thing. He should’ve remembered.
“..and I know that your cousin sleeps naked under black satin. His wife likes the feel of satin against her skin.”
He crossed his legs, satisfied with himself.
“I know that you call your mother every night at 7pm, after her favourite TV show has finished, and she always reminds you to take your pills. That pisses you off, because you’re not that forgetful. You tell her that every time…”
It was becoming obscure. Obscene, almost. Billy knew every last detail of everything that Brian did, even down to his love for the Disney Channel, which nobody knew of. The most frightening of all, however, was that Billy knew where to find any of them at any given moment of any given day. And he wasn’t afraid to use that knowledge. Brian began to shiver…
“Ok, Billy. Please…don’t do anything. Please, I’m begging you to deal with me. Leave them out of it, just deal with me. What do you want me to do?”
The young man with the shoulder length dark hair and the somewhat beautiful face smiled prettily at his former victim.
“Where should I begin…?”
Billy made it simple. Brian was going to do him some favours.
“Well, first of all, you need to get me back the money I lost when I was in jail. I make it out to be around 150 grand, but I’m sure that’s just a little speck of a thing to you, right?”
Brian looked at him, fire in his eyes, but didn’t say a word.
“Secondly, I need to get my contacts back, and I can’t do that myself because they’ve all lost faith in me. Who’s fault do you think that is, Brian?”
“I didn’t do anything, Billy. It was all your own fault.”
Billy almost growled, a guttoral sound escaping his throat as his anger welled up once again.
“It is because of you that I was sent away, therefore it is because of you I lost my place in the pecking order. I think that it is safe to say that it was all your fault.”
Brian was feeling really small, right now. He felt like a little kid who’d been caught fighting in the school playground.
“Last of all, I need you to make a few deliveries for me. The cops know what I look like, so as soon as I’m in the area, they watch me like a fucking hawk.”
Brian gasped. “You want me to deliver your stuff for you? No way…”
Billy grabbed his arm, causing him to yelp in pain. He was heavy handed, and Brian knew what he was capable of when he was provoked, so he remained still.
“Brian, do I have to remind you of the consequences if you don’t? Now, the cops would never suspect you. Look at your little angel face…”
The problem with Billy’s ‘stuff’ was that it wasn’t strictly legal. It wasn’t drugs or anything like that, but it was stolen goods. He dealt heavily in stolen goods that were passed on to him from his ‘contacts’; the ones he had apparently lost since he was in jail.
“But don’t you think I’d be seen? Remember that I can’t go anywhere without being seen…”
Billy hesitated. “Brian, look at you. You could talk your way out of murder, my friend…”
Brian weighed up his options. He could call the cops, but Billy had his eyes on him constantly. He knew that he could strike at any moment, and there wouldn’t be enough time to blink, let alone get help. They didn’t have bodyguards at home. His phone was bugged, apparently, so he couldn’t even call them from there without Billy knowing. It was a completely inescapable situation. He was in so deep that he had no idea what he was going to do…
Billy softened instantaneously, placing a gentle hand on Brian’s arm. He could do that. He could just change in a second, without warning.
“Look, kid. I can see that I’ve given you a lot to take in. How’s about I take you home, and let you think about it. Would that be good?”
Brian nodded his head, barely even hearing what Billy had just said. He needed to be home; needed to be under his covers. OH God, were they watching him there? His skin crawled…
“Just take me home, Billy.”
His tormentor nodded. “Sure thing, pal. You need some time, and time I can give you…but not a lot of it. I’m going to give you a call tomorrow, and you’d better have made a decision by then.”
AJ opened his eyes, his vision blurred from sleep, as the phone rang. It was only 10pm, but he was tired. He hadn't slept well the night before, so he was catching up on it now. He'd only just dozed off, and now here was the God damned phone ringing. If it was Nick, he'd kill him.honestly he would. If he'd called just to ask what he was doing, he'd be dead. So dead..
He picked up the phone, almost dropping it to the floor in his dreamy state.
"I swear to God this had better be good." he said, only half-joking, down the phone.
"Aje, it's me. I really need a drink..you up for it?"
AJ did a double-take. Was he dreaming? He felt as though he were. Mr Sensible, Brian, was calling him up out of the blue because he needed a drink?
"My God. Baby-Rok has finally become a man!"
Brian groaned on the other end of the phone. All he wanted was a few drinks. Just something to calm his nerves. AJ was the ideal candidate to join him. He was always up for some late night drinking, no matter what was going on.
"Come on, AJ, give a guy a break. I just want a drink.it's allowed."
AJ laughed. He felt suddenly awake. This was shocking. He made a mental note to write the date in his diary, beside it the comment 'God has Spoken'. Amazing.
"Brian, I thought you were sick?"
"I'll come pick you up in a half hour. Make sure you're ready".
AJ stuttered. "But I.."
It was too late. Brian had already hung up.
As he replaced the receiver, he looked at it, fear in his eyes. He knew that Billy would probably have heard the whole conversation. He knew that he couldn't tell AJ anything of what had happened, because he wasn't someone who could keep his mouth shut. He was a mouth.
He just wanted to get out of this place, because it was fucking him up just sitting in and dwelling on the messed up things that had happened to him in the past day or two. He just wanted to get a little drunk with his friend. He just wanted to forget..
But he couldn't. He knew that he'd have to agree to Billy's little plan, because what else could he do? Until he thought of a way to get out of this whole predicament without endangering anyone's life, he was stuck with it all.
At least if he could spend his last night of freedom doing something which would help him to feel numb. He didn't want to feel any more.
He got his thoughts straight. Billy wanted him to do him favours that were completely illegal, because he was under the misguided impression that he 'owed' him something. How backward was that?
How had this gotten so crazy?
Brian thought back to the whole Billy situation as it had occurred. How had it all got so out of hand? How had he ended up giving Brian a concussion and putting himself in prison for months for breaching a restraining order and assault? Could it have been dealt with in another way? This was all too much.
A few vodkas would do the trick; send him into oblivion for a little while. He needed that.
"So, Brian, you gonna tell me what's up? When have you ever announced, out of the blue I might add, that you wanna drag yourself away from CNN and drink with the Bone?"
Brian sighed. He didn't want 20 questions.
"AJ, Im over 21. I do like the occasional drink."
AJ laughed heartily. "Yeah right. Like at weddings and funerals. The last time we did this we were both underage, and we ended up getting thrown out of the bar for table dancing. Do you remember that? Damned funny."
He wanted to lighten up and enjoy himself, but he was finding it difficult. He'd be doing Billy's dirty-work by tomorrow, and God knows where that would put him. He wasn't a criminal. He didn't have a criminal mind. He'd never broke the law in his life. But Billy was mad. He was deadly mad.! Mad at the person who had took away his business, his income and his 'respect'. Who could respect a criminal only somebody else from the same 'profession'?
"We can go home if you don't want to be out, AJ."
Brian seemed a little hurt by AJ's apparent shock. He often wanted to accompany his friends when they went for quiet drinks, but he didn't like their choice of venue. Tonight, it could be his choice.
"No, I'm just kidding. Just a little surprised, that's all!"
"I just wanted to get out, you know? I'm a little nervous, that's all."
AJ smiled. "Ah, about the tour? It's crept up on us pretty quickly, hasn't it?"
Brian nodded. He could play along.
"Feels as though we've had absolutely no time off. It sucks, Brian, but it's what we do."
"I know. Sometimes, I feel as though I'm a puppet though, ya know? Like someone is pulling all of my strings and I can't do anything but play along with them."
This was all sounding familiar to AJ. He had felt exactly the same way for so long it was hard to remember when it all had began.
"Brian, you've always been Mr Committed. Are you becoming Mr Hard done By, like me? I feel you, man, honestly I do, but it's our life."
He sighed at the steering wheel, feeling completely useless. Was he really this weak?
"I love it, AJ. I love what we do, but sometimes I wish I had a choice."
He had no choice whatsoever in this situation. He just had to find a way to deal with it, before it ate him away.