CHAPTER TWENTY SIX
The coloured images raced about the television screen, emitting an endless series of computerised bleeps. Big squares of brown and grey and green drifted across in a montage of bizarre landscapes.
Brian was drawn into the fantasy land of Nintendo games, his eyes focusing solely upon the red car he was trying to steer along the flat, grey track. His mind guided him around the corners of the brightly coloured track, trying to survive the perilous journey and avoid the obstacles that kept fighting to block his path and push him into the wall which would lead to his destruction.
“I’m way ahead of you, Brian,” Nick said, his eyes completely locked upon the screen and his tongue protruding slightly from his mouth as he fought to win the race.
“Not that far,” Brian murmured back.
He was going to make it through this race and the dangerous obstacles it kept throwing at him.
“Nooooooo!” Nick cried suddenly. “I’m dead!” He watched in pure anguish as his racing car skidded from the track and collided with the wall to result in a ball of orange appearing on his screen.
“You were going to fast Nicky,” Brian replied. “Now I just need to beat the computer racers and I’ve won.”
“No one beats Nick Carter!” Nick said with a grin. He gave Brian a shove in the arm.
“Hey, that’s cheating!” Brian complained as his own car smashed into a wall and exploded. “Aw, I lost…”
“Ha, ha, ha,” Nick said, sticking his tongue out.
“Grow up.” Brian dropped the controller onto the floor and moodily stood up and crossed over to his bed.
“What’s up with you?” Nick quizzed, watching him carefully.
“You,” Brian shot back. “You cheat.”
“I’m only playing around!” Nick defended. He stared down at his own controller and then dropped it messily onto the carpet. He twisted around to face Brian properly. “Come on, what’s wrong?”
“AJ’s going to be fine so it can’t be that can it?”
“You said yourself, he’s going to be fine.”
“So why are you PMSing?”
Brian rolled over onto his side and away from his friend. His hands were clenched into fists from pure tension and his entire body felt tight and uncomfortable. He had been uneasy ever since they had returned from the hospital yesterday. Nick had decided to move into Brian’s hotel room after security had advised that no one was left alone.
Brian closed his eyes as he heard Nick get up and then he sensed his friend’s presence as he lent over him.
“Come on, what’s wrong?” Nick asked, sitting down on Brian’s bed.
Brian opened his eyes, wishing that Nick could drop it. A part of him was feeling utterly selfish for thinking of himself after one of his best friends had just been stabbed, but the incident had awakened the memories of his own attack and the events that surrounded it. All he could see now when he closed his eyes was the blood that covered his mind and the voices of his friends screaming. Everything was beginning to tumble out of control and it was all because he had killed someone…
“What happened with AJ… it was my fault,” Brian muttered.
“No it wasn’t! We’ve been through this and - ”
“And I still feel the same! Someone is after me and it’s AJ who gets hurt! I don’t want anything to happen to anybody else because of me!”
“Brian, the police don’t even think it was the same person! There was no note with those drugs incriminating you of murder! Drugs are a different theme entirely! I’ll bet that stuff was going into everyone’s bag!”
“I don’t want anything to happen to anybody else,” Brian whispered. “These awful things keep happening to me and all I can do is watch and wait for the next!”
“Do you really think someone was after you?” Nick asked softly.
“I don’t know. It’s just I got the notes and – and - ”
“And we don’t know if there’s any connection between the two. Brian, don’t be scared. After what happened to AJ, security is going to be so tight it’ll be unbelievable.”
The knock at the door made Brian jump slightly and his eyes darted to the door in fear before he managed to reassure himself that it was probably only Kevin.
Nick looked down at him sympathetically and patted him on the shoulder before he crossed to the door.
“Guys, it’s me,” Kevin’s voice called.
Brian glumly turned around on his bed, embarrassed at his irrational fear. Every time he thought that he could be returning to normal, it would surface within him like a hungry beast from the depths of the wild ocean and it would fight to consume him entirely. He hated the cold feeling of dread it produced inside of him and he constantly wished and prayed that someone would save him.
AJ had been hurt and it was because of Brian… Who would be next? Or was Brian himself still the main target? They had not forgotten what he had done and they were never going to let Brian be at peace with himself.
A murderer deserved to be punished… but Brian had not meant to become a murderer!
He looked up as Nick opened the hotel door and saw his dark haired cousin and his Latino friend Howie waiting on the other side. Nick stood aside to let them in, saying a brief hi t the security guard outside before shutting the door.
“Hey Kev,” Brian greeted weakly as he pushed himself up into a sitting position.
“What’s up guys?” Nick asked, joining Brian upon his bed.
“It’s great news,” Howie said with a grin. “AJ’s mom just called and he’s being released from hospital today!”
“So soon?” Brian asked hopefully.
Kevin nodded in confirmation. “It wasn’t very deep and there was no serious damage!”
“Great!” Nick cried, his face shining from pleasure. “I was worried about him.”
“We all were,” Howie said gently. “But his mom assured us that he’s fine, although he’s been getting really annoyed with the hospital food!”
Nick chuckled slightly. “That’s our Bone.”
“By tonight, he’ll be on a plane home with his mom. He needs some rest so he’s going to stay with his family. He says he’s well enough now, but management want him to take it easy for a while. We’ve got the time at the moment because they’re going to introduce some new security arrangements. We’ll probably be back ready for the tour in just over a week.”
“That’s a little quick isn’t it?” Brian replied. “AJ’s stabbed and he only gets a week off!”
“AJ says he doesn’t even need a week and he’s convinced that the punk won’t return,” Howie said.
They all sounded so confident and they looked so cheerful. Of course AJ getting better was wonderful news, but didn’t they realise that they could all be in danger? AJ may have been convinced that the ‘punk’ would not return, but it would be a while before Brian was reassured.
“Don’t look so worried, Brian,” Kevin said suddenly. “Everything is going to be fine.”
Like he hadn’t heard that before…
“Sure,” Brian replied, feigning a smile.
“But what if everything isn’t fine?” Nick said. “We don’t even know who did this!”
Brian said a silent thank you to his best friend as he voiced Brian’s fear. By Nick speaking, it would draw Kevin’s attention away from him, or at least Brian hoped it would. He hated being such a coward and such a baby. He was making a huge fuss over everything that had happened.
But wasn’t one entitled to make a fuss over a murderer and a threatening message?
“I’ve spoken with Peters and Fren again. You remember them don’t you, Brian? Those were the cops you dealt with before?”
Brian nodded. He may have been a little jumpy lately but his mind had not completely dissolved yet. “Yeah, I remember them.” Immediately Fren’s dark, glittering eyes sprung into his head and filled him with unease as he remembered the suspicious attitude he had harboured towards Brian before.
“Well, Fren’s convinced that it was somebody else entirely to the person who has been stalking Brian. The drugs could have been done by any kid who didn’t like the Backstreet Boys.”
“But a lot of organisation went into it,” Nick said. “The cameras were shut down and somebody knew the fire exit wouldn’t be guarded.”
“He was working there as a ‘technician’,” Howie replied. “He was probably just curious and then saw an opportunity to show up a pop band.”
“It is suspicious,” Kevin said. “But Fren especially believed that it was someone else entirely. Even so, him and his partner are going to keep an eye out. They’ve been in touch with our management and will personally be present for the first couple of shows we perform. They’re going to do complete background checks on everybody.”
Nick snorted slightly. “They said they would do that before and look where it got us!”
“He’s got a point,” Brian added miserably. The police were supposed to be watching them last time around and yet somehow an intruder had managed to sneak inside of the stadium.
“This time they will be there throughout the entire show,” Kevin argued. “And we’re going to have more security guards.”
“What’s gonna happen in the mean time?” Nick asked.
“We get the time off to do whatever we want until the tour begins again, but we’ve been advised to be careful and to not stay by ourselves.”
“Do they really think that we’re in danger?” Nick asked anxiously.
Or was it just Brian who was in danger?
Kevin sighed. “They don’t think that we’re in a great deal of danger. That man could have killed AJ if he had chosen to and he didn’t. The cops think it was just someone messing about.”
“Messing about? They were drugs Kevin!” Brian snapped, his voice harsher than he had expected it to be. “We could have been sent down!”
Sent down… Behind bars… Trapped.
He would never see his friends; he wouldn’t even see his family. He would be locked away in the world until everybody forgot about him. Why would they want to remember such a disgrace?
“Brian,” Howie said gently. “It’s obvious that this is going to affect you more than anybody else, just try to stay calm.”
“How’s he supposed to stay calm?” Nick replied sharply. “There’s a maniac sending him fucking sick notes!”
Nick definitely had the right idea. There had been blood on Brian’s hands and a frightening, but very truthful, message scrawled upon his wall. Someone was following him around…
“Guys!” Kevin cut in. “We can’t start arguing now! What’s important is everybody’s safety. AJ is fine and the new security arrangements should make everybody feel safer. There’s going to be a rule that all of us have to stay with a security guard at all times before and after the shows until we get to the hotels, then we’ll be locked in our rooms with guards outside. Okay?”
Brian rubbed his face with his hands. He had a headache that was fiercely thumping his head relentlessly and his current life was definitely not helping him.
“What are you guys gonna do?” Nick asked. “In the meantime?”
“Well I’m going to stay with my brother for a while,” Howie replied. “I promised I’d make some time for him and I need a break.”
“What do you want to do Brian?” Nick asked.
He wanted to hide where nobody could find him and where he would be liberated from the terrifying situation which he was trapped within. He needed someone to make him feel safe. He needed someone to love him and hold him and scare of the hideous nightmares which now pursued him.
“I think I want to see my mom,” Brian confessed.
Home. Home was where one fled when one felt frightened or worried. Being at home surrounded by the people he loved would help him… or at least make him forget about his guilt for a short, blissful time.
Kevin nodded. “Yeah, I think I’ll go see my mom too. How about I book us both flights home to Lexington?”
Brian nodded. “Yes please.”
Home. He wanted to go home. He wanted his mother to erase everything that had happened to him recently, but not even her loving hands could take away this pain and fear inside of him.