CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
Brian stared about his hotel room taking in the thick windows and the strong bolts upon the door. Kevin assured him that nobody would be able to get in unless Brian opened the door and there was a peephole for him to check if anyone knocked.
He sat down on the bed for a moment and lie back to relax his muscles, still tight after being cramped in the plane that had brought them to this city, the debut of the tour.
Now he was far away from home and far away from his stalker and he felt a wave of liberty rush over his mind. Notes were one thing, but would someone bother to chase him all the way across America? Brian would never be in the same place long enough for the stalker to send him any of their little, perverted notes.
Nick had offered to share rooms with him, even though nowadays the boys generally had their own room each. Brian had declined, deciding to spend the first night alone and see how things went. He had to start somewhere and he wanted to show the others that he was okay and that he could cope with being alone.
Brian lie back for a moment and closed his eyes, just feeling the warm softness of the covers beneath him. He took a few deep breaths and then opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling.
“I’m going to get through this tour,” he promised himself.
"And how are you feeling after your attack Brian?" a pretty blond haired reporter asked. "Are you fit to be back on stage?"
Brian gulped slightly, his eyes darting about the crowded room of their press conference. He could see that all eyes had turned towards him, apart from a few fans who were more concerned with drinking in Nick’s blond good looks. He smiled at the woman, praying that it did not look too forced.
"If Brian wasn't ready to perform then we wouldn't be here now," Kevin answered quickly. "He's had a good rest and he's excited about the start of the tour like us all."
'Thank you, Kevin,' Brian said silently. But he wasn't sure if he was excited or frightened as his eyes took in the faces of the people watching him. Could one of those be his stalker?
No, Brian had to learn to stop worrying. He could not afford to break down and panic on tour, not when so many people were looking forward to seeing him. At least the performing should help to wrench his mind off of any unpleasant thoughts.
He listened whilst Kevin changed the subject by telling the reporters how excited they were about the tour and how amazing it was going to be. AJ joined in with him enthusiastically and Brian was grateful for them for taking the focus off of himself.
He wondered vaguely if he was ready for the tour. His dreams were still vivid and frightening and he was reunited with Liam again and again, each encounter being more horrific than the last.
He was just terrified that somehow those dreams would become a reality.
"We ready?" Kevin asked, making a final adjustment to his stage shirt. He glanced about the others and his eyes lingered on Brian.
Brian smiled and nodded slightly. They could already hear the excited screams from the crowd and a nervous tingle was creeping over Brian's skin, but it was not a shuddery quiver caused by fear, but by the adrenaline that rushed through him as they prepared for the opening of their first show. He turned to the door that would lead them to the back of the stage and smiled again.
Soon he would be on the stage with the cries of the crowd around him while he danced and sang and enjoyed himself. His life was about to begin again.
"Guys, let's go! We gotta be ready to make our entrance. The music is about to start!" Kevin called glancing around in irritation at the others.
"You okay Brian?"
Brian turned at the whispered voice meant only for him and saw Nick watching him. He fiddled with his bandanna and smiled at him. "Yeah, I am! I can't wait to get out there!"
He could feel his mind slipping into show mode, where nothing else mattered except putting on a great performance for the thousands of people out there screaming their support and love. That night with Liam seemed as if it had happened years ago and the fear that had tormented him lately was beginning to dissolve as the adrenaline coursed through his veins.
This was going to be an amazing performance. He would show his stalker that he knew that he had not intentionally hurt Liam and that his life was not going to be ruined with guilt.
Nick grinned at him and gave him a supportive hug. "That's the way Frick!"
"All right there Brian?" Kevin asked, watching his embrace with Nick and immediately assuming that something was wrong.
"Great!" Brian said, smiling and giving him a thumb's up. He held his arms up. “Before show prayer!” he called.
Nick clasped his hand tightly and then seized hold of Howie’s to begin to form the prayer circle that had become a tradition at their concerts.
"Wait, lemme get a drink first," AJ said, beginning to rush towards a small room to the right.
"AJ, we don't have time!" Kevin hissed, pointing to a clock that showed how near they were to being on stage.
"Chill Kev! Our bags are only in the next room and I'll be quick! Otherwise I'll be singing like a duck!" AJ complained, his voice sounding a little dry, but Brian knew that it was AJ's fault for chatting to Howie non stop for the last three hours.
Brian grinned as he watched AJ leave and released Kevin and Nick’s hands to reach for his own water bottle, which had been placed on a chair. He sipped the cool liquid for a moment and his body trembled in excitement as he heard the muffled screams of the audience.
He wanted to be back on that stage. He wanted to live his life again. Oddly although he had been slightly nervous and scared at the press conference and the hotel, he felt calm and composed now, but he did have the usual before show butterflies flying anxiously in his abdomen that always showed up before he went out on stage.
Whatever happened with his stalker, he would cope. He had not killed Liam and he was not a murderer. It had been an accident. He knew that he had not been the cold-blooded villain in his dreams. He smiled at the realisation and clasped his hands together in front of him. Maybe he could be free now…
Suddenly there was a loud scream from the room beyond. Brian's heart jumped in his chest and a coldness sunk to the bottom of his stomach in fear as he recognised the voice.
“AJ!” Nick screamed.
All heads turned towards the door and for a second everybody remained motionless before there was a rush to reach the door.
‘This is my fault! This is my fault!’ Brian ignored the way his mind cowered in his head and screamed at him to hide and instead made sure that he was the first to rush to the aid of his friend.
As he ran through the door he saw that AJ was slumped upon the floor, one of his hands clasping his shoulder as blood rolled down his shirt and spilled out onto the tiles on the ground. He moaned slightly and his face contorted with pain.
Brian’s heart leapt in painful remembrance as he watched the blood trickle down his friend’s shirt to the floor and his feet seemed to glue themselves to the ground. His lips quivered slightly and his eyes bulged from their sockets in horror as his friend moaned again.
“What happened?” Howie asked rushing over to help his friend.
“Uh… there was a guy…” AJ pointed towards the second door on the other side of the room.
Kevin turned to the security guard, Kyle, behind them but he was already dashing through the door and calling for the other security guards.
AJ gritted his teeth as Howie tore the sleeve from his shirt and pressed it hard against the wound. “I’m all right, I’m all right,” he said, positioning himself up against the wall.
“I’ll call an ambulance,” Kevin said, leaning down and rummaging in his bag for his cell phone. “You don’t look good, buddy.”
“There’s no need!” AJ replied. “I’m not hurt bad!”
“AJ, you’re bleeding!” Nick cried, leaning down beside Howie.
“AJ what happened?” Brian asked, his voice trembling slightly. His eyes stared at the blood and for a second he could almost see Liam in AJ’s place…
“Some guy stabbed me,” AJ murmured. “But it’s not deep.”
Stabbed. The very word brought back the memories…
“Brian, it’s all right,” Nick said immediately coming to his side and slipping his arm around him. “It’s all right. Just breathe…”
Breathe? Brian suddenly realised that his breaths were coming in short, fast gasps that shook his body. He leaned against Nick’s arms, but felt sickly selfish as AJ sat bleeding upon the floor. It wasn’t him in danger; it was AJ.
Brian gulped slightly and broke away from Nick to sit down beside AJ, trying not to let his eyes linger for too long upon the blood. He ignored the nausea that sloshed about his stomach and gently took AJ’s hand in his own. “You’ll be okay,” he said.
AJ smiled weakly at him. “Yeah, you survived and you were worse than me,” AJ said, squeezing his hand back. “It’s not deep, really it isn’t.”
Brian nodded, but his head still began to spin and fill slowly with heat as Howie’s shirt turned a deeper crimson with each passing second.
“The ambulance will be here soon,” Kevin said placing his phone down.
“Good,” Brian murmured.
“Someone needs to get out there and tell the audience,” the stage manager said. “Want me to do it?”
“No, one of us should,” AJ said.
“I will,” Kevin said. “I guess they deserve an explanation. We can’t do the show like this. What do I tell them?”
“I fell over,” AJ replied. “They’ll panic if you say that I was stabbed.”
Kevin nodded and leant down to pat AJ’s shoulder for a second, before exiting with the stage manager. Even in the back room they could hear the excited squeals of the audience, but now they would have to let them down.
Howie lifted his sleeve away from AJ’s shoulder for a moment and Brian caught a glimpse of the wound beneath it. He gulped down a mouthful of sickness and stared at AJ’s face instead.
“Brian, you look awful,” AJ said suddenly.
“It’s my fault,” Brian whispered back. “It was my stalker wasn’t it?”
“No, it was just a coincidence,” Nick replied.
AJ said nothing and he dropped his eyes away from Brian’s. He looked down at his hand and Brian suddenly realised that there was a small, white bag clasped tightly in his fingers.
“What’s that?” Brian asked, somehow feeling number at the very sight of it.
AJ gulped slightly and he whimpered in pain for a brief second. He looked back down at the bag and then at Brian. “Brian - ”
“Guys, the police are here. This is Sergeant Walson and Redein. They need to talk to you.”
Brian glanced up at the sound of Ross, the security guard’s voice and saw two cops standing beside him. Something inside of his chest convulsed as he noticed the way they stared at every person in the room, as if they were AJ’s attackers. He looked away as the eyes landed upon himself and Howie.
“What happened here?” Walson said, a man with blond hair.
Kevin stared up at them puzzled. “Didn’t they tell you? Our friend has been stabbed by someone in this arena!”
“Has an ambulance been called?”
Kevin nodded. “They should be here soon.”
Brian frowned slightly. If they weren’t here because AJ had been stabbed then why were they here? He avoided staring up at them and concentrated upon AJ instead. What if they had found something out about Liam?
“Did you catch that guy?” Howie asked, looking up at them in concern. “We don’t even know who it was.”
Ross shook his head. “I don’t know. Kyle and Gerald are still out searching for him, but I don’t think we’ll get him.”
“But this shouldn’t have happened!” Kevin said angrily. “The police back ground checked almost everyone here and searched the arena yesterday for any signs of trouble! Just wait till I get my hands on Peters!”
“Calm down Kev,” Howie said. “We’ll deal with this later. First we need to make sure tha AJ is okay.”
“I’m fine dammit!” AJ complained and then cried out slightly, his hand reaching to his chest in pain. “Fuck… this hurts…”
“You’re gonna be okay, just stay calm,” Brian whispered, his own hands trembling slightly.
“Easier said than done buddy. You know how much this hurts!”
Redein and Walson glanced at each other for a moment and then Walson spoke. “Before you guys leave, we have to search you and the entire venue.”
“Huh? Why?” Nick asked. “We want to go with AJ to the hospital!”
“Looking for this?” AJ suddenly held up the small bag he had clasped in his hands.
“AJ what is that?” Brian asked again.
AJ stared at him for a moment. “There was a guy in here and he was trying to put it in your bag,” he said softly. “I asked what he was doing and then he pulled a knife out on me and ran.”
Redein stepped over and took the bag from AJ’s hands. He glanced inside it for a moment. “Do you know what this is?” he asked.
“Haven’t a clue,” AJ replied. “But white powder is never a good thing. Looks like drugs to me.”
“Drugs?” Nick asked. “Why would someone put drugs in Brian’s bag?” He leant down beside Brian and placed an arm about him protectively as he noticed Brian’s shoulders shaking.
“We were called out because someone had claimed that one of you was dealing drugs out to people at the concerts,” Walson said.
“What?!” Kevin exclaimed.
“Who was accused?” Brian asked quietly, already knowing the answer from the way his body had turned numb.
“I can’t reveal that information,” Walson replied.
“Like fuck you can’t!” AJ said. He moaned for a brief second before continuing. “It was Brian and someone was trying to frame him!”
“Are you sure that they were taking them out and not putting them in?” Walson questioned.
“That’s ridiculous!” Nick began, leaping to his feet to confront the officer.
“I know what I damn well saw! That guy was trying to put them in and then he stabbed me and dropped them!” AJ said, his pale face rapidly turning red with anger.
“Hey, calm down AJ,” Howie said. “We’ll get this sorted.” He glanced up at the police. “Nobody here is into drugs and especially not Brian. The security cameras should show everything that happened.”
“I’m sorry, but you still have to some with us and we’ll have to search your bags,” Redein replied. “We’ll check the cameras as well, but the entire place will have to be searched.”
“How long would Brian have gotten if you’d have found that shit in his bag and sent him down?” AJ asked, his fingers tightening about Brian’s.
Walson looked down at the bag. “For this amount? A few years at least.”
Brian gasped slightly and lowered his head to hide the tears. He gulped a few times as he felt the sickness rise in his throat and he swallowed the unpleasant lump to leave him with a dry mouth. It seemed as if every force on Earth was trying to force him into jail. First there had been the confrontation with Liam and now this…
“It’s okay Brian,” AJ said gently. “If anything happens to you then I’m coming to jail with you.”
“The ambulance is here,” the stage manager said suddenly. “Kyle is bringing them through.”
“Any sign of the attacker?” Kevin asked, leaning down beside Brian.
The stage manager shook his head. “He went straight out a fire exit. He’s long gone.”
“Damn,” Kevin cursed.
Brian used his wrist to wipe his wet eyes. Why wouldn’t everything stop hurting him? This time it had been AJ who had been stabbed and it was all because of Brian.
“You boys are going to have to come with me now,” Walson said.
“Let us go with our friend!” Nick begged. “Then you can ask us whatever you want!”
Walson shook his head regretfully. “I’m sorry, but the rest of you are going to have to some with me. You and your belongings will have to be searched and everybody here will be questioned.”
“What about Brian?” Kevin asked, his arm tightening about Brian’s trembling shoulders.
“We especially can’t let him go anywhere until searched,” Redein replied.
“It was me wasn’t it? The complaint was against me?” Brian whispered tearfully.
“They were trying to frame him!” AJ yelled as Howie helped him to his feet. “He hasn’t done anything wrong!”
Walson sighed. “I’m sorry, but all of you have to come with us. There’s no other choice.”