CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
His voice was half a sob as it caught in his dry throat. His blue eyes widened in hope as he saw light at the end of the long, dark tunnel he had been trapped in for the past several hours. He rushed forwards, desperate to embrace the warmth that awaited him.
“Brian, are you okay?” Kevin asked as Brian wrapped his arms about him tightly. He looked down at his younger cousin and noticed the way in which he trembled. He glared at the police officer before them, despising him for having put his cousin through God knows what all by himself.
Brian slowly pulled away and smiled weakly at Nick and Howie behind Kevin. Both of them immediately approached him and Nick wanted his own embrace to show him that his friend was okay.
“I was worried about you,” Nick said softly. “You all right?”
“They’re not charging me with anything,” Brian replied.
“That’s because you haven’t done anything wrong,” Howie said. He glared at Walson, the officer who had escorted Brian back to the safety of his friends. “None of us have.”
“We needed to follow that call up,” Walson replied. “We couldn’t ignore it.”
“But we’re free to go now aren’t we?” Kevin asked.
“Unless any other evidence comes to light, then yes. From everything we have so far, it seems that someone was trying to frame you, unfortunately we don’t know who. The person who made the complaint has gone.”
Any other evidence… Could the person who had done this to them come up with anything more to make them suffer?
“If it’s okay with you,” Walson said. “We’d like to have a few words with your security guards.”
“How could anything like this have happened?” Kevin snapped. “Everything was fine during the sound check. Everything was in order! Now look at things. The start of our tour has been ruined!”
Ruined. First Brian’s innocent hands and now the beginning of their new tour had fallen to the same demise. Blood had stained his hands and now it had coated the floor backstage on their first show.
Tainted. Everything was tainted now…
And why did Brian suspect that this was just the start? Inwardly he found himself taunted with the image of Nick or Kevin lying on their stage covered in blood… Anything could happen to any of them.
“We need to get this security tightened,” Howie said. “The police actually checked the entire stadium before we even attended the sound check and they said it was fine.”
“Who was in charge of this?” Walson asked.
“Andrew Peters and Joseph Fren,” Kevin replied.
“I think we need to have a talk with them.”
They had said that the stadium was safe. They had as good as promised that they would protect them.
“You’d better,” Nick snapped. “This was their responsibility. AJ could have been killed!”
“Nicky,” Brian said gently, seeing that his younger friend was becoming upset. He placed a hand upon his shoulder and rubbed it soothingly.
“Your friend is fine,” Walson assured them. “Someone has already spoken with him and gotten a description of his attacker.”
For a second the boys were silent and Brian could see the shock that had appeared upon his friends’ faces and knew that a similar expression rested upon his own.
“You’ve spoken to him?” Howie whispered.
“And you didn’t tell us?” Nick added, tears threatening to fall any second. “We’ve been worried sick about him and you didn’t tell us!” Nick’s voice was beginning to rise in anger. “Didn’t you think that we had a right to know how he was!”
“Nick, calm down,” Brian replied gently. He felt the need to protect Nick and take care of him, just as Nick had done to him when he’d been staying with him. He glanced up at Walson. “If you don’t mind, I think we’d like to leave now and go and see our friend.”
He remained perfectly calm and disallowed any emotions from appearing in his soulful eyes that might give his terror away. He was screaming frantically inside. He could hear his mind screaming as it fought for ways to protect itself from the onslaught that was constantly attacking it. Murder accusations, drug accusations… Each one had almost led to the snatching away of his freedom and would have meant that he would have been confined to a miserable prison cell.
Those drugs had been meant for him and so had the knife. It did not belong in AJ’s chest but in Brian’s own. He was the one that someone was targeting.
Walson nodded understandingly, but of course he had no idea what each of the boys were feeling. He had no idea of the terror that gripped each one of them and how it would not be wrenched away until they had seen their friend for themselves. “Of course, but I will need to speak to you again about - ”
Kevin held up a hand to stop him. “No, you can speak with our management. We have enough to worry about at the moment and we’re not in charge of our own security.”
“Yeah and make sure you have a word with that God damn Peters and Fren,” Nick snapped. “They obviously are not very good at organising searches!”
“Show some respect, Mr. Carter,” Walson said. “They did their best and they are two of our most competent officers, but security is not their job.”
“Good job as well because we’d probably be all dead or sent down for drug dealing otherwise!” Nick spat.
“Nick!” Brian hissed. Panic. Panic was beginning to appear. The police were the ones with the power to arrest. His palms were sweating more with every second that they were in this place. He needed to be out of here and away from the fear.
Maybe if the police had not become involved then his stalker would have left him alone… Maybe if he ignored them from now on they would stop… please stop.
Nick glanced at him and Nick saw his blue eyes soften as he stared into Brian’s face. His fear was showing again, he knew it and Nick could see it plainly. He glared at Walson once more and then stepped back.
“Guys, why don’t we just go and see AJ?” Howie suggested. After I think that we could all do with a rest.”
“He’s asleep at the moment,” a doctor informed them. “But we’re expecting him to wake soon.”
“Can we sit with him?” Howie asked tentatively.
The doctor eyes all four of them and nodded warily. “Two of you can, the rest can wait out here. We don’t want it getting crowded in there.”
“I’ll wait out here,” Brian murmured.
He could remember all to well when he had awoken in hospital after the incident with Liam. First had been the confusion of finding himself in this strange, white place and then he had remembered what had happened. He had remembered the blood and the body that had fallen choking onto his carpet at his feet.
“Howie, Nick, why don’t you two sit with him. I think I need to call AJ’s mom,” Kevin said.
AJ’s mother… Brian had not thought about her before. He hung his head, ashamed. He had dwelled only on his own fears of what had happened and had not thought about AJ’s own mother. What would she do when she found that her only child had been stabbed?
“You all right, Brian?”
Brian jumped slightly, not expecting the hand that landed upon his shoulder. He turned and stared up into the green eyes of his cousin.
He turned away from him, hiding his own blue eyes which would only betray him by showing his unease. He could almost feel Kevin’s eyes scrutinising him in concern and feel the burning on his neck, as they seemed to pierce his mind to see the emotions below. Kevin had always been able to interpret him well. It only took Kevin a brief moment each morning to assess what Brian’s mood would be for the rest of the day… and it also only took him a moment to see his nervousness.
“What’s bothering you? You heard what the doc said; AJ is going to be fine.”
He was lucky… so much more damage could have been done and still could be.
“What if this happens again? What if someone else gets hurt because of me?” Brian whispered. What could he do to stop them?
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“Someone tried to frame me. Those drugs were meant for my bag and someone was waiting for the police to arrest me, but AJ was the one who suffered.”
“How do we know that someone wasn’t going to put some of that stuff in all of our bags? There’s no saying someone was targeting you.”
Poor Kevin… he really could not see it. He didn’t want to see it. Neither did Brian, but he had no choice when his friends were being hurt because of it.
“I was the one the police were called out to investigate. They were meant for me. It was the same person who was behind the note was behind this.”
“Brian, it’s not your fault. There’s no saying that this was done by the same person,”. “This is very different to writing messages upon the wall.”
Brian’s eyes flickered closed. He had to know…
“Kevin, I know that a note was sent to me. What did it say?”
“Nick told you?” Kevin said, immediately glaring at AJ’s room where Nick was.
“No, I over heard him talking to you upon the phone. Please, what did it say? I want to know…”
“We didn’t want to worry you…”
“They’re not going to leave me alone are they? What did it say?”
“It said… that they hadn’t forgotten what you’d done and that they would never forget…”
The words were cold, chilling. They would never forget what he had done and while they still remembered, Brian would be forced to live it over and over again in his nightmares. Over and over, crying and screaming while a hideous man approached him with a knife and a smirk upon his face…
“Someone hates me,” Brian whispered. “Someone wants me to go down for Liam’s murder. I could have gone to jail for those drugs.”
“That wouldn’t have happened. Nobody would send the sweetie mouse Brian down. You’ve got no record and there was no other proof that you’d been involved with drugs.” Kevin slipped his arm protectively about him.
Brian shrugged. Every time he closed his eyes he was faced with the dull metal bars inside of his mind. Although his body was not trapped, his mind was still screaming inside of its torturing prison. Piece by piece he was slipping away… Every incident was now
“Sweetie mouse… No one’s ever called me that before,” Brian murmured. A sweetie mouse that was capable of murder… “Kevin, I want this to stop.”
“We’ll catch the person who did this,” Kevin said determinedly. “I won’t let them continue to torment you like this.”
Brian leaned against Kevin’s shoulder, but at the same time he wanted to walk away. If he walked away then maybe his stalker would think that he didn’t care about them. Maybe he wouldn’t hurt them…
“Guys!” Howie cried, suddenly rushing out of the room. “AJ’s awake!”
Brian exchanged a look with Kevin and then found himself dashing over to see his friend, despite his thoughts a few moments ago. If he had to leave, then he could do it after he had made certain that was AJ was all right.
AJ was propped up against a pile of white pillows, his face a much healthier pink than it had been when Brian had last seen him. Nick was sat beside him; the tearful sadness in his eyes had now been replaced by joy at the awakening of his friend.
“AJ!” Brian leant down and smiled as he embraced his friend. He felt so alive… His stalker had been unable to carry out any serious deeds because AJ was safe. “I was worried sick about you.”
“Aw, you worry too much Rok,” AJ replied. “What about you? No problem with the police was there?”
Now the concern appeared to have been switched over…AJ was the one in hospital and yet he was more concerned about his friends than he was about himself. Brian couldn’t help but admire him; he had been terrified when he had been stabbed himself. But then AJ had not been attacked as brutally as Brian had been…
Brian shook his head. “No one’s being charged with anything, thank God.”
“Good, I’d kill any cop who dared to charge my buddy for something he didn’t do,” AJ said. “I made sure that the police knew that someone was trying to frame you when they questioned me.”
“Would you believe it, AJ?” Nick spoke up. “They didn’t even tell us that you were okay! We were so scared!”
“I told you I wasn’t badly hurt!” AJ protested. “There was no need for you to worry! The guy didn’t have a clue what to do when I walked in!”
“Did you identify the guy?” Brian asked slowly.
AJ sighed and fidgeted about until he had made himself more comfortable upon the bed. “I told them what I could. The guy was posing as a technician. I know because I met him during the sound check. He said that he was new to the team so I welcomed the bastard.”
“A phoney technician?” Nick said his mouth dropping with shock like it always did when he was horrified. “I thought that background checks were done on everyone!”
“That’s what I said!” AJ said angrily. “Apparently though, the police didn’t have time to do everyone! When I spoke to him he said that his name was Dave Kemal, but I’m betting that was a fake name.”
“How the hell did he manage to get on the crew without anybody noticing?” Kevin said.
“He probably wasn’t. There’s always so much chaos that he could just slip in and start helping out. He seemed real friendly and he had a backstage pass, but God knows where he got that from.”
“Could have been a fake.” Kevin clenched his fingers into fists. “But the police should have picked up on this!”
AJ shook his head. “He seemed like a nice guy and I bet he could have talked himself out of anything. After he stabbed me the police said that he escaped out of a fire exit.”
“Shouldn’t security have been on the door?” Howie asked, his brow creasing.
“No, it was only a fire exit, a one way door so there was no need.”
“But that man should not have been able to get anywhere near us with a fake pass! Management need to know about this – we could sue!” Kevin snapped.
“Kev, we don’t want anymore trouble. Whoever did this was serious! They could have done this no matter what our security was like,” AJ said. “I saw the look on his face when he saw me. He was determined.”
He was determined to ruin everything he possibly could for Brian and it was frightening to know that someone was willing to go to any amount of trouble to get Brian where they wanted him – in prison. It couldn’t have been easy for someone to sneak backstage or to get hold of a convincing fake pass.
“Do you think it was the same guy who’s been after Brian?” Kevin asked.
The question had finally been asked. The question Brian had been wondering about all day. Was it just a coincidence? Someone who thought it would be funny to send a Backstreet Boy down for drugs? Or was a darker note of revenge involved?
“Might be,” AJ said. “But there’s no way to tell. If that person had any sense, then they’d send someone else to do it. It could have been someone who was paid to place the drugs.”
“AJ, I’m gonna call your mom and then call management,” Kevin said.
“Thanks Kev,” AJ said. “Don’t be too dramatic about it though. I don’t want her to panic.”
“I’ll make sure she knows you’re all right,” Kevin assured him.
AJ watched him go and then turned to Brian and smiled weakly at him. “It’s going to be okay, Brian,” he said. “We’ve had crazed stalkers before.”
“Why are you worrying about me? You’re the one who was hurt!”
“Yeah, well…” AJ shrugged. “Nothing wrong with looking out for your friends. Look, things will work out. We just need a bit of time.”
But would time treat them fairly? Or would it bring fatal consequences next time disaster struck?