He felt sick…so sick and so confused. Why was he being hurt? This had never happened before.
“Stop…please”, he begged, but the pain didn’t stop. The pain in his chest and in his head and in his whole body just continued to rage. It continued to pull him apart. He struggled to be free, for some kind of escape which would allow him to curl into fetal position, away from the agony which had begun so early on but seemed to be lasting forever.
“Please, I didn’t do anything wrong…I was just Brian. Who was I, and why did you have to take me? PLEASE?”
It had been awhile since he had allowed himself to get so worked up. Eric was worried about him. He didn’t look good, and he knew that the pills were doing more damage than good, now. He continued to receive instructions, but he didn’t want to kill the kid. That wasn’t part of the deal.
“Shh, it’s ok”, he whispered. He could see from his eyes that Brian was in agony, but he had no idea why.
“Why are you doing this to me? WHY?”
It had been building up for awhile now. He had tried to be brave, but he couldn’t stand it anymore. “Their eyes watch me. They still know me, even if I barely know them. Are they still looking for me?”
Eric nodded, showing the first piece of compassion he had showed since they brought him here. “Yes, they are.”
The young man exhaled in pain. His eyes were bright; feverish. He definitely was a fighter.
“Aa..I don’t want to die here. How long have I been here?”
Eric closed his eyes.
Brian began to feel as though he were getting somewhere. As though he were reaching this man who he had came to see as his tormentor.
“Look, I just want you to know that I didn’t expect it to go on for this long. I thought it’d be all over. I never wanted to hurt you.”
Blue eyes stared back at him, hardly believing what he was hearing.
“But you…you took me. You HURT me.”
Eric nodded. What the Hell was he doing? He was going to blow it all…but today, the sight of Brian shaking and sweating and clearly in pain made him realise that it was all wrong. He couldn’t back out now, but he wasn’t going to cause him any more pain
“Brian, I’m going to go now before I do something I could get into a lot of trouble.”
Brian panicked. This was as close as he’d been to anyone in months.
“Please don’t leave me….Eric.”
He had searched his mind and it had came to him. The name. Eric. The bald man turned to look at him. “Do yourself a favour, kid. Don’t ever speak to anyone again.”
“WAIT…”, Brian cried, but he was gone.
Eric sat down, his head in his hands. 6 months…that poor kid had been subjected to a sickening mind game which he had been a part of for half a year. He remembered back to the phone call. That had been the worst thing…giving him hope, but then snatching it away from him. How could he have been a part of all this?
She’d told him that they she wanted to toy with them. That she wanted them to know he was still alive. She wanted them to suffer as she said she had.
He had dialled the number. Brian had one hand free, but he was honestly to disorientated to contemplate anything. He had held the phone so shakily; so delicately.
“Hello?” the voice on the other end had said. It was on ‘speakerphone’ because he had to know when to cut off.
"Hello? It's...Brian. I don't know where I am. Please help me...please."
Poor kid. At the time, he hadn’t thought it, but now? Seeing him the way he was? It was tragic. “Brian, it's me. Kevin. It's me, buddy..."
But Brian didn’t even remember who the man he had screamed for for the first eight weeks was. The drugs had already destroyed him, even so far back as months ago. But still she wanted more. He hadn’t bargained on that. Three months, he told her, and he’d be hers. He’d be hers without question, and she would be able to mould him like butter in her hands. He’d been strong, and kept some of his thoughts to himself, but he’d been so easily broken.
Inside the locked room, he cried. He cried out for the pain to stop. His body writhed against the bonds that had held him down for so long.
He screamed and he cried for what seemed to be eternity on Eric’s ears, and then he fell silent…
“What I’m saying, guys, is that Ellie said it was a ‘violent break-up’, and we all know it wasn’t. Why would she lie? It was her who left him, after all, not the other way around.”
Kevin felt strange about the whole thing. He had read story after story since Brian’s disappearance, but nothing had hit a note the way this one had. Why would someone who protested to love Brian the way she did say a thing like that?
“Kev, you know that the tabloids print all kinds of junk. Why would this one be any different? Did you believe them when they said that Brian was gay? That he was sleeping with me?” Nick asked innocently. That had been their favourite story of all time to date, but there had been so many since. So many equally ridiculous ones, particularly involving Brian.
Howie interjected. He knew how Ellie and Brian were together. He knew that Brian would never hurt her, and he knew how he had been affected when she had just upped and left him, no explaination given. If anyone were in the wrong, it was her.
“I think maybe we should talk to her friend. Just to give Kev peace of mind.”
AJ sighed. He was getting dejected. All of these things just led to more dread and more grief. There was only so much of that you could take before your mind caved in and your faith was just lost. AJ didn’t know how much more faith he had.
“Have you called the F.B.I and the cops about this?” he asked. Kevin nodded.
“They’re looking into it.”
“Well why don’t you just let them do their jobs and stop building our hopes up then, man?”
AJ had tears streaming down his face. He couldn’t handle it any more. He needed to get away.
“I’m going out. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
He slammed the door as he left, and the others knew not to follow.
AJ walked until he got to the room that he and Howie had been sharing. He hadn’t been in it for months, but he wanted to be alone. He wanted to clear his head. He needed to be alone. He needed it so badly that it hurt.
He lay down and stared at the ceiling. He could almost hear Brian’s comforting voice. He wondered if he would ever hear it again.
He remembered the week before Brian had shut himself inside after Ellie left. He himself had been depressed. Touring had been getting him down. He wanted to live his own life, not one which was there for everyone to see. Every interview that was written, every quote that was re-phrased, every picture that was taken. It took away a piece of his soul. He didn’t have much left to give. Brian had offered him support.
“You have to learn to put things into perspective, Alex”.
He only called him Alex when he was worried about him, and that night he was truly on edge. AJ had needed someone to talk to for so long, and the opportunity arose that night. He had felt guilty when the time went by, and Brian realised that he had forgotten to call Ellie.
“She’ll understand”, he explained. She left just days later.
Something clicked in AJ’s mind. Was that why she left him? Because of one night when he forgot to call? FORGOT to call? He remembered the flowers that arrived the next day. “Happy Anniversary”. Had Brian spent their first anniversary playing shoulder to cry on for him?
Stop it, AJ, he thought. Stop torturing yourself with this shit. He closed his eyes tightly…
…………but the thought just wouldn’t go away.
Eric became silent. The kid had stopped screaming. There was no whimpering like there usually was, just eerie silence. Eerie enough to worry him.
“He’s ok, Eric. He’s just screamed himself to sleep, that’s all. He’s done it before.”
The dark haired man could sense Eric’s unease. He didn’t want him to ruin what they had built for the past six months. They were getting paid soon. If he could just hold his guilt for that long. He didn’t know what he was so bothered about, anyway. He was just a snot nosed little rich kid with too many pairs of shoes and too much hair gel. He never had a mind of his own anyway.
“Dennis, do you realise what we’re doing? He’s just a kid, and he hasn’t done anything wrong. We do it to killers, to people who don’t want to remember what they’ve done. We do it to the scum of the earth, but this kid? What has he done? Nothing. It isn’t even his choice.
“A million, Eric. Don’t you forget that. A million. If we gave him up, do you think we’d get rewarded for it? No. She thought it through perfectly. We’re the only ones who are tied into this deal, not her. She was the mastermind, but she was clever enough to stay out of the practicals. Has he ever seen her? No. Could he ever incriminate her? Fuck, no.”
Eric knew his partner was right, and he kicked himself for it. He thought he was so clever, but he was just as stupid as Dennis was. They were shoulder deep, and they had no option but to carry on what they were being paid to do.
“Ok, Dennis. Point taken. But if he dies…”
Dennis laughed. “He’s not going to die, Eric. Trust me.”
But Eric couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that was building up inside of him. He gathered his thoughts…and picked up the phone.
She was just stepping out of the shower when the phone rang, almost causing her to slip on the wooden flooring in the bathroom
“Who the hell could that be?” she cursed, drying herself off just enough to be able to reach for the phone without soaking it.
“Who is it?” she barked, not even bothering with a ‘hello’.
“It’s me. We have a problem. Can you come down?”
She gasped. What kind of problem?
”Is it Brian? Is he alright?” She seemed genuinely concerned.
“Just get here as quickly as you can.”
The F.B.I took a statement from AJ that evening. He felt as though he were in the middle of a nightmare, and he just wanted to wake up.
“So you’re saying that this ‘forget me not’ theme may be more than just mind games?”
AJ nodded ‘yes’.
“Ellie left him days after he forgot their anniversary. Couldn’t that be some kind of link with the flowers and the letters? Could she be completely warped because Brian forgot her?”
Detective Arling had to admit that this was a possibility. He had seen women who had been perfectly loving and caring snap for less.
“But you said she left without a trace. No phone calls? No notes?”
Kevin shook his head.
“Not a thing. He’d been pretty upset by it all. She just left him. No warning. He’d apologised for it, and she seemed fine about it. At least, that’s how it looked on the outside…”
Detective Arling finished taking the notes he needed, and called the Bureau.
“Yes, Fernandez, this is Agent Arling. Could you check out a miss Ellie Day, address 55 Morval Street? See what you can find?”
He hung up, thanked the guys for their time, and left. AJ broke down again.
“I swear to God, this had better lead to somewhere.”
They all felt the same way.
Brian was completely vacant. His eyes stared absently at the wall in front of him, and he made no attempt to move. Eric found it disturbing that he was so defeated; that he didn’t even try.
When he had removed the restraints, Brian had merely curled up into a ball, protecting himself from the unseen pain that he was feeling. It was heart-wrenching to see. He shook, but he did not say a word. When pulled into sitting position, he had just stayed as he was positioned.
“Come on, kid. Let me know you’re still in there”.
Brian simply stared at him, devoid of expression.
“I’m trying to help you. I’m not going to hurt you, but you have to show me that you can still be helped.” A single tear fell from Brian’s eye, but he did not change his expression. Not even when Ellie walked in to the room….and back into his life.