Six Months Earlier…
The two guys sat around the breakfast bar like vultures around a body. Looking at them, and the way their mouths hung open, you’d think they had never been fed.
“Hey, Kev, has anyone even called him? I mean, we could be sitting here, starving our asses off, whilst our dear friend Brian is dreamin’ up the honeys.”
Nick was a child at heart, and he knew it. Being the youngest of the group did have its advantages. Not only was he seen as the ‘cutest’, but he was the least responsible. He was allowed…he was just a normal kid. A normal kid with too much money and not enough common sense, perhaps, but a kid all the same.
“He hasn’t been sleeping well”, Kevin interjected. “Give him a break.”
Brian had been deeply in love with Ellie, so when she had left him during the week prior to their current trip to Canada, he had taken it badly. He had lost his sparkle. Ellie was the sun, whilst he was the moon. She was the day, whilst he was the night. She completed his world, and without her, he was in darkness. None of the boys had ever seen him so lost.
“I’m so hungry I could bite the leg off a low flying duck, Kev. AJ and Howie are already in rehearsal. Why do we have to sit around and wait for him? Maybe he’s just not hungry.”
Nick felt for Brian, he really did, but at such a young age, he didn’t understand the concept of love. He’d never actually been IN love, so he couldn’t imagine the pain and suffering the ending of a relationship could cause. He couldn’t see into Brian’s broken heart and realise that it would take time to heal. All he could see was that Brian was probably better off without a woman that would get him to the point of no return, then just leave without an explaination. To him, that wasn’t love at all. He just wanted his best friend to be happy…
Kevin could understand Nick’s point, but nothing mattered to him more than his cousin. He couldn’t stand to see him in so much pain. It hurt him to see him that way. Thinking of him all alone in that big old hotel room of his worried him more than anything.
“Ok, Nick. I’ll go get him. You don’t have to wait for us, you just eat and get it over with.” Nick grabbed Kevin’s arm as he stood up to leave.
“I’m worried about him just as much as you are, Kev, but you know that it is probably for the best, right? I mean, someone who could just leave him like that was never really in love with him…”
Kevin smiled reassuringly at his young friend.
“Sure it is. He just needs time to think it through. He loved her, man. I mean, REALLY loved her, and it isn’t something you just get over.”
He just hoped that Brian would understand that, too. The pressure of touring was bad enough, but this? This could really have an impact on his well-being, and Kevin wanted to make sure that this never happened.
The blood on the sheets was evident instantly. Splashes of crimson, splattered over the bed like some kind of gothic modern art. Crude, mocking patterns formed on their crisp whiteness, making the vivid red stand out; bloody, tainted purity-red on white.
The handsome man gasped, his heart sinking into his stomach; heat rising to his head, choking him, the breath caught in his throat making him gag for air.
“Please don’t hurt me…I can pay you.”
“Shut up, kid, we don’t want your money.”
His mind showed him his nightmare as vividly as it were playing in front of him. Is this how it had happened? Images of his stricken, vulnerable cousin lying bleeding on the bed flashed before him, screaming his name, begging for help. Panic welled in his body, reaching an anguished crescendo as he screamed out for help. He hoped above all things that somebody could hear him, because his feet were rooted to the spot.
So taken was he with the blood on the bedsheets that he didn’t notice the gigantic letter ‘F’, scrawled in marker pen on the mirror beside him.
His blue eyes scanned the room for points of escape. He’d been awake for two hours, but he knew from the prior awakening not to scream, or else they’d come back. He didn’t want them to come back sooner than they needed.
The lemonade had tasted strange…almost metallic, and bitter. He knew from the amount of time it had taken for him to become disorientated that there was something pretty strong in it; something which he had never experienced before. He had taken some pretty strong painkillers and sedatives in his time, but none had compared to what that damned lemonade had done to him.
Upon extensive, if restricted deliberation, he had arrived at the conclusion that he wasn’t going anywhere. Even if he could escape from the straps that held him down, there was still the locked door to contend with. And there was the bald man. There were others, he knew, but he hadn’t been in contact with them since they took him.
The guys had probably figured out he was missing by now. He could imagine their reactions, and the thought made him smile briefly. He knew them so well…each and every one of them. He could almost imagine their faces.
Then he remembered her…Ellie. The smile vanished from his face almost as quickly as it had arrived. Where was she now? Would she care even if she knew what had happened to him? Why had she left him…?
The hopelessness of his situation dawned on him when her face entered his head. Here he was, lying bound to a bed in a big, blue, locked room in the middle of God knows where, with cryptic bastards who wanted to give him a new life.
Maybe a new life was just what he needed….
He began to struggle helplessly against his restraints.
“Please, God help me. Why are you doing all of this to me?”
The pain was unbearable. It wasn’t physical pain, it was mental pain, exhausted pain…lonely, tormented pain.
He silently kicked himself for making such a noise when the key in the door turned again. He gasped, retreating as far into the bed as he could, subconsciously thinking that this was going to help him. It was Eric again…
“You son of a bitch, why are you doing this to me? At least have the decency to tell me that.” Eric exhaled deeply as he sat down next to Brian. He was calm and collected, reminding Brian of a great white shark. So cool, making it such an efficient killer.
The though sent him into overdrive. His thoughts came out in a massive burst of freeassosiation. Words spilled into the air, straight from his mind, with no time to be thought through.
“They’ll be looking for me, you realise that don’t you? I’m not somebody you just picked up from the street…and I can pay you…a lot, if you need it….”
Eric nodded his head, relaxed. “I know who you are, son. I know how many people will be looking for you, but they won’t find you. Not where we are. It isn’t about money.”
“And where are we?” the young man asked. His eyes darted, as if looking around would help him find his bearing, but this room could be in any house, in any state….
Eric ignored the question. “Let’s just say I thought this all through very carefully, and I haven’t made any incriminating mistakes just yet.”
Brian was quickly becoming desperate. His breathing was becoming gradually erratic, and was in danger of becoming hyper-ventilation.
“Calm down, son. You’re getting yourself into a state.”
“Please…let me….go”, he begged, any bravado diminishing with his panicked breathing. Eric slipped the pills into Brian’s mouth as he gasped for breath. It was easily done on this occasion. He knew it wouldn’t always be the case…but then again, soon enough, he wouldn’t know any better.
“They’ll help you to calm down.”
“What did you give me?” he begged, through ragged breaths and gulping swallows.
“Something to help you to forget…”
He didn’t mind telling him, because soon, he wouldn’t remember anyway.
“Forget what?” Brian was becoming agitated. He wanted to be put out of his misery. He wanted to know.
Turning out the light, leaving the terrified boy in darkness, Eric left the room. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so difficult after all…
“I DON’T WANT TO FORGET….”, Brian screamed, but Eric wasn’t listening. What Brian wanted was never going to be an issue.
It was almost complete…even though it had taken a whole half year to perform. He was nearly a blank canvas, waiting to be formed, waiting for the picture of his life to be painted onto. His new life…
Gone were the close-knit family, and the beloved brother, and the deeply religious mother. Gone were the father whom he loved dearly, all vanished into the drug-induced abyss which had gradually been built up upon him. Gone were the beautiful memories of the past which she could never be a part of.
Soon, THEY would be gone, too. He would never need somebody more than he needed her. He would never look upon someone else in a more loving fashion than he looked upon her. He would never take THEIR words above hers.
She hated them. She hated what they deprived her of, but she didn’t worry now, because now, they barely existed.
She looked at him now, lying so awkwardly on the bed which she had made for him, and she almost pitied him and what she was taking from him, but she knew that it was the only way. For them to be together forever, just like he had promised, this was what needed to be done.
She would thank him for it…in the long run.
Four Months earlier
Two months had passed, and still nothing. Not a trace, not a clue besides the ‘F’ written on the mirror. Not a phone call, not a ransom demand, not a God damned thing.
A.J sat at his desk and wrote. He wrote about how he felt, about his fears, about his torment at losing one of his closest friends, and he wrote about dread.
‘Dread is an awful thing’, he wrote. ‘It eats you and it burns you and it tears you apart. There is no equal to dread; no feeling more powerful or more draining. There is no fear worse than dread; no pain worse than being kept in the dark…’
Brian’s disappearance had affected him deeply. A.J was a deeply feeling man, and he hoped above all things that his friend had not suffered, and if he had suffered, that he was dead and was not suffering any more. He hoped that he had been strong.
The police had followed a number of promising leads, which in actual fact had led to dead ends, and with every dead end came more dread. More anxiety. Dread could sometimes be death itself. The boys had all pondered about the letter ‘F’, What could it mean. Fear? Fragile? Could it be somebody’s name? Every way one looked at it, it was always the same. Meaningless and clueless…pointless.
“You still writing, Bone?”
It was Howie. He had a habit of making people jump.
“Jesus, Howie. Couldn’t you have given me some warning?”
They had all been jumpy since Brian’s disappearance. Always watching their backs, waiting for the fatal arrow to be shot into them. They dreaded to think what had happened to him…to Brian. To sweet, gentle Brian who made no enemies wherever he went. No enemies…so why?
“Sorry, man. You’ve been in this room for days. You need to get out, Aje. Get your mind off things. You need some escape from it.”
AJ knew he was right. He just didn’t want to be out enjoying himself while Brian was still missing; possibly dead. Writing down his feelings was the only escape he had. It was the only escape he had which didn’t make him feel like he was betraying his friend. He didn’t want to lose his family also, though, so he gave in.
“Thanks, Howie. I appreciate this.”
Howie nodded respectfully. A.J was known to take things badly. He had to make sure he didn’t sink any lower, where nobody could catch him before he drowned.
He ran as fast as his tired, weak and unused legs would carry him. He was spurred on by adrenaline, the sudden rush of it acting like an engine, giving him speed and strength that he didn’t know he had. But this was his only chance.
The place was big; gigantic, even. Rooms ran into rooms, corridors into corridors, and he was effectively running blind. His eyes blurred from the effects of the drugs that had been entering his system by one means or another for what had felt like an eternity, but he knew had been merely weeks.
Eric had stopped talking to him. He didn’t remember when, but he knew that it had been for awhile. Gone were the mindless chit-chats they had when, ironically, Eric was poisoning his mind. Gone were the tormenting chats that drove Brian into a state of complete and utter insanity. All that was left was mono-syllabic answers, if any answers, to the desperate questions Brian threw at him day in, day out.
He was running for his life, now. Where he was running to, he did not know. All he knew was that if he blew this one chance, he was as good as dead.
It had been so easy. He had pulled and pulled until his wrists bled, and screamed and shouted until his lungs hurt. He begged and pleaded with Eric to untie him for just one minute, because it had hurt so badly…
“Please, Eric. Please…I don’t want to hurt any more”.
Eric had remembered what he had been warned. ‘Don’t let him get hurt unless absolutely necessary.’ The cuts looked bad. He didn’t want them to get infected.
The strange thing about dread and desperation is that it gives you power. It gives you renewed strength to do anything, and as soon as those straps had been removed, and Brian had been led towards the sink, he had struck. Raining blows to Eric’s balding head was like taking out months of tension, built up, pent up, and it felt good. He saw his chance, and he ran for it. And he was still running.
“Please, God. Help me find my way out of this God-damned maze”, he whispered silently to himself.
He found stairs, and he ran down them. He found doors, and he ran through them. He found a hallway….and the door was locked.
Brian dropped to his knees, the tears of shattered hope spilling down his cheeks, stinging his burning skin as they fell. His head sunk into his hands, and he shook. He shook with anguish, as he realised that he had probably just made the biggest mistake of his life.
The dark haired man moved silently behind him. He slipped the needle under the skin on Brian’s soft neck, and watched him as he shuddered. It didn’t take long until the unconsiousness claimed him , and he was plunged deeper into Hell than he ever could have imagined.
“I don’t think the police are doing their job properly, that’s all”, Howie said.
Kevin looked deep into the glass of whisky that he held in his hand.
‘Are you alone? Do you feel that way?
Does the whisky in your glass chase it all away?’
Brian’s lyrics floated through his mind as he spoke. Suddenly, the words made sense. He had written it when Ellie had left him, and now the words were more poignant than ever.
“I think that they are doing all they can, Howie. They’re working in the dark, pal. No leads. That’s what makes it all so fucking hopeless.”
The four of them were engulfed with misguided emotions. They had to keep on going because of their commitments when all they wanted to do was be with their families. They realised that to get by in such a situation, they needed to be there for each other. They needed to embrace each other’s needs. Right now, Kevin was defeated. He didn’t know where to turn.
“They’re still looking, Kev. It’s just that they don’t know where to look. They will find him…wherever he is. They have to.”
Nick had tears in his eyes. He had never felt more sick and confused as he did right now. Two months on and still none the wiser.
The room was big enough to accommodate all four of them. None of them had wanted to be alone at this time, and their management felt it was for the best that they all stay together. Security had been increased to the point of lack of freedom, but they didn’t complain. Anything to avoid this from ever happening again.
AJ was quiet. He was thoughtful. His mind was somewhere else, and he couldn’t quite bring it back to the real world. He almost absently glided to the telephone when it rang, picking it up with equally no thought.
“Hello?” his monotonous voice offered.
“This is the front desk. A package just arrived for you guys. Do you want a porter to bring it on up?”
One more teddy bear to go with the dozens that had been sent to them already. He hung up the phone, disappointed.
“Fellas, we have a package”.
Brian sobbed broken-heartedly. He had awoken back in the same room, in the same bed, almost as if he had never left it.
Despite his tears, a tune whistled around his head…what the tune was, he couldn’t remember. He had sang it last week, but this week he couldn’t remember the words. He was frustrated, and he was confused. He could sometimes imagine the faces of his family, but he couldn’t remember their names. How could he not remember the names of his own family?
When the tears stopped, he noticed something at the foot of his bed. A tiny flower. Purple, lilac and beautiful. It could’ve been blue, but the blue of the room gave it an hint of a different colour. Anything to break the monotony.
‘Forget me not, a funny name,
So small and blue is she…”
He remembered the rhyme from his childhood, but he couldn’t finish it. He had forgotten the last two lines. The irony made him giggle. The movement of his laughing caused the flower to fall. He knew that when it reached the floor, he would never see it again.
“Don’t fall”, he begged. “Please don’t fall…”, but the tiny flower defied his wishes, and glided to the floor as elegantly as it wished, glided out of his vision.
Brian was losing it rapidly, and it was only a matter of time before his head would be shattered into a million pieces, a jig-saw puzzle that could never be fixed.
“Guys, if it is the last thing I do, I will not forget you. Please…don’t forget me.”
The words triggered off something in his mind. It was her. It was Ellie, and she was crying.
“You forgot, Brian. You forgot our anniversary.”
Brian had taken her in his arms, trying to take away her disappointment by letting her know that he was there, and that was all that matters.
“I’m sorry, baby. It’s just…we’ve all had a lot on our minds lately, and I had to talk with AJ. He’s really fucked up about a lot of things, and I didn’t want him to be alone. He was really upset. Honey, there was nobody else around to help him out.”
She was furious. He could tell by her eyes.
“It’s always about them, isn’t it? I love you, Brian, but how could you choose him over me again? It was our anniversary. I waited for hours, and you forgot to show up…”
He knew how easy it was to forget even the people you loved. He was experiencing this right now. He hoped to God he hadn’t been forgotten
The package was larger than they had been expecting. On it was written ‘Fragile’. The word made AJ shudder.
“What the Hell is this?” said Howie, touching it as carefully as possibly, terrified that it might break.
“It has little hearts drawn onto it, so we can only assume that it is for you, Nick.”
Nick was taken aback, but he smiled all the same. “Me?”, he mocked, knowing full well what they meant.
“Ok, guys, don’t deprive me of what is rightfully mine.”
Nick took the package from Howie, shaking it as though it were a present under the Christmas tree.
“Fragile, dumb-ass. That isn’t a cue to shake.”
Nick unwrapped it carefully, taking their point. As it was opened, a tiny blue flower fell to the floor, followed by many more. The floor was confettied with these pretty little things, dancing around as they fell, and if that wasn’t strange enough, inside was a broken mirror. Seven years bad luck, or just a hint of Nick’s clumsiness.
“I told you not to shake it, Nicky”, Howie said.
As he pulled out the mirror, however, he recoiled in shock. On it, written in dried blood, were the letters ‘ORGET’.
“I think we’d better call the cops”, Kevin shouted.