The drive to Brendan’s “buddy’s” house was only about half an hour long. When the car stopped, Brian found himself in front of an old, ranch-style house, sitting in the middle of a cornfield. He remembered passing other houses a ways back, but this house was at least a mile away from any them. Looking further down the road, he didn’t see any houses ahead either. He was in the middle of nowhere, where there was no one to find him and help him.
“Nice place, eh?” Brendan asked, as he opened Brian’s door and jerked him out of the car. Brian’s wrists and ankles were tied together, and he stumbled, falling hard to the ground. “Oh, get up,” Brendan said in irritation, kicking Brian in the back.
Brian let out a sharp gasp of pain, as Brendan’s heel drove into his back, and bit his lip to keep from crying out.
“There,” Brendan muttered, slicing the cord tying Brian’s ankles together. “Now get your ass up!” He bent down and yanked Brian up. “Come on.”
Holding his gun to Brian’s back, he shoved him up the driveway and into the open garage. A man stood inside the garage, waiting for them. He was a greasy, fat, disgusting-looking man, and he was holding a beer bottle in one hand.
“This the guy?” he asked gruffly.
“Gee, ya think, Sonny?” Brendan replied sarcastically.
The man - Sonny, as Brendan had called him - just grunted in reply and went inside through the back door. Brendan and Brian followed.
“Take ‘im downstairs,” Sonny ordered, pointing to a door that led to a flight of stairs which went down to the basement.
Brendan nodded and jerked Brian towards the doors. He practically dragged Brian downstairs to a dark, musty basement. The basement was not finished, with cinder-block walls and a cracked cement floor. It was sparsely furnished with a dirty old sofa that smelled faintly of stale cigarette smoke, a wobbly coffee table, and a cheap entertainment center against one wall, which held stacks of old magazines, a small, ancient television, and an equally ancient stereo system. The gray walls were bare, except for a collection of stuffed animals heads mounted on one wall for decoration. Brian supposed this Sonny was some kind of hunter.
Sonny had followed Brendan and Brian down the stairs. He caught Brian looking at the stuffed heads and smiled eerily. “Like my collection?” he asked, snickering.
Brian studied him with wide eyes, saying nothing.
“Unfold the hide-a-bed, Sonny,” Brendan commanded.
“Sure thing, boss,” Sonny replied, removing the cushions from the couch and setting up the bed that folded out of it. The hide-a-bed was lumpy and sunk down in the middle. It was covered with a sheet that had probably once been white, but now looked gray with dirt.
“Welcome to your new home, Brian,” Brendan said, pushing Brian on to the bed. Brian cried out in pain as he landed on his still-tied wrists. Brendan rolled his eyes and jerked Brian up into a sitting position, taking out his pocket knife to cut the cords away from his wrists. “Now lie down,” he ordered, pushing Brian back down on the bed so that he was lying flat on his back.
Brian held still and tried desperately to hold back tears as Brendan stretched his arms out from his sides and tied his wrists to the metal legs of the hide-a-bed. He did the same with his ankles and stretched one cord across Brian’s middle so that Brian was once again lying flat on a bed, unable to move.
“There. Comfy?” Brendan asked sarcastically, laughing maliciously. Brian tried his best to ignore his twin, but that was difficult.
“What am I s’posed ta feed ‘im?” Sonny asked, eyeing his prisoner.
“Don’t feed him nothin’,” Brendan replied. “I’ll take care of that. Just make sure he gets some water once a day.”
“Alrighty, boss,” Sonny said. “I won’t let ya down.”
“You better not,” Brendan said, narrowing his eyes at Sonny. “Or else.”
“Where have you been, honey?” Leighanne asked, as Brendan walked into the house. “Just running a few errands,” he replied, leaning over to kiss her cheek.
“Oh. What did you get?”
“What did you get?” she repeated, looking at his empty hands.
“Oh! Uh… nothing. See, I was looking for some… uh…” He looked around desperately and spotted a small potted plant sitting in the windowsill of the kitchen. “… some fertilizer. Yeah, some fertilizer… for your garden.” He smiled inwardly, relieved. “This clay soil… it just isn’t good for growing plants.”
Leighanne nodded. “So you didn’t find any?” she asked.
“Nope. Couldn’t find the right stuff. Guess Lowe’s is all out,” he replied.
“Oh, okay. Well, I was just about to go out and look for a new soaker hose for the garden. The old one’s got a clog in it that I can’t seem to get out. I should have told you this morning; you could have picked one up while you were at Lowe’s.”
“Oh, yeah, you should have,” Brendan said. “Well, I’ll be upstairs.”
Leighanne watched him hurry up the stairs and shrugged. She grabbed her purse and keys and left the house.
Leighanne browsed the gardening section of the local Lowe’s, looking for hoses. She spotted some hanging on the back wall and started towards them. As she walked along, a display at the end of one of the aisles caught her eyes.
She stopped to find herself standing in front of a shelf of large green bags of plant fertilizer, marked down to a special sale price.
“That’s funny,” she murmured, narrowing her eyes at the display. “I thought they were all out.”
One week later
It had been two weeks. For two weeks, Brian had been locked in a room, tied down to a bed. For the first week, it had been in the abandoned building; for the second, in the basement of Brendan’s friend Sonny. Brian wasn’t sure which was worse.
Both were terrible, that was for sure. But lately, Brian was thinking he hated the new place more. Sonny’s basement was dirty, musty, and smelly. Although lately, Brian wasn’t sure which was worse – the stench of the room he was in or the stench of himself. After all, he had not bathed since the morning he had left Mexico City, where the last concert of the tour had been held. Two weeks was a long time to go without bathing, changing, or using deodorant. And it was definitely taking its toll on Brian.
He longed for the heavenly feeling of warm, clean water dripping over his body, the sweet scent of his Dove soap, the silkiness of his hair when it was freshly shampooed. Now his hair was stringy, greasy, and dirty, his face streaked with dirt and tears, his clothes soiled and stained with sweat. Sometimes, just a whiff of the odor rising from his body was enough to make him gag. It was not only gross, but humiliating as well.
But even his lack of hygiene was not as awful as his physical condition. Brian could feel himself getting weaker, from lack of food and exercise. Brendan came by every morning, with a small amount of food for Brian. Then Sonny would come in the evening with a small glass of water. And that was all Brian got. His stomach growled constantly, and he was nauseous with hunger. What he did get to eat provided little relief to him. He now knew what it meant to be “starving to death”. He figured he would not take that expression lightly anymore.
That is, if he got out of this alive.
“Hello?” Brendan asked, picking up the phone in his house. “Brian! Hi, sweetheart, it’s Mom. How are you doing?”
Brendan groaned inwardly, remembering what a mama’s boy his twin was. After all, he was the one who had written that sappy piece of crap, “The Perfect Fan”. This could be a tough act to pull off.
“Hi, Mom!” Brendan exclaimed with faked enthusiasm. “I’m doing great. How’s everything with you and Dad?”
“Oh, everything’s just fine here. We’ve been a little worried about you though. I thought you would call when things wound down after the tour, but I haven’t heard from you in weeks!”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mom. Things have just been hectic, and I haven’t had a chance to call,” Brendan lied, mentally scolding himself for not thinking of calling his mother earlier. Of course sweet little Brian would call his mommy and daddy as soon as he got home.
“Oh, that’s okay, honey. I understand. So what have you been up to that has you so busy?”
“Oh… just the usual stuff,” Brendan replied slowly, trying to think of a good lie. Nothing came to him.
“Oh, I know what you mean,” Jackie Littrell said, to Brendan’s relief. “So how is Leighanne?”
“She’s good,” he said.
“And how about your babies?” she asked teasingly.
Brendan drew a blank. Babies? And then, his eyes resting on the little chihuahua sleeping on the floor across the room, he realized what she meant.
“Oh, Tyke and Litty are great,” he replied. Litty Leigh, hearing her name, got up off the floor and scampered over to her “master”. Brendan glared at her, giving her a little kick as she pawed at his leg. Whimpering, Litty slunk off with her tail between her legs.
“That’s good,” Jackie said. “So… the rest of the tour went fine then, I assume?”
There was a pause. Then Jackie asked, “Is everything all right, Brian?”
“Sure, Mom, everything’s fine,” Brendan said reassuringly. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, I don’t know… you’re just being kind of quiet. Are you sure nothing’s wrong?” Brendan rolled his eyes. “I’m sure, Mom. I’m just tired,” he said.
“Oh, okay. Well, I’ll let you go then. Go get some sleep.”
“Okay, thanks, Mom. I’ll talk to ya later,” Brendan said. He waited for her to say goodbye and then hung up.
He sat there for a few minutes, just staring broodingly into space. He knew he was going to have to try harder to act more like Brian, or people would start to get suspicious. And that couldn’t happen.
The next morning, Brendan got up early, as he did every morning, to go to Sonny’s house and bring Brian his “breakfast”, which consisted of a dry piece of toast. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep him alive, which was all Brendan was concerned about right then. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was going to do with Brian, but killing him was not part of the plan. Not yet, at least.
Brendan shoved the toast into a sandwich baggy and crammed it into his jacket pocket. He grabbed his keys from the kitchen counter and started for the back door.
“Where are you going, hon?” Leighanne asked, coming into the kitchen.
Brendan whirled around, startled. “Oh… uh… I thought I would pick us up some donuts for breakfast. Does that sound good?”
“Sure, babe. That sounds great,” Leighanne replied. “I have an appointment at the salon in a little bit, but I’ll eat when I get home.”
“Okay,” Brendan said. “See you in a little while then.” He gave his “wife” a quick smile and hurried out the door, relieved. With Leighanne leaving in a few minutes for her haircut or manicure or whatever she was getting done, he would have plenty of time to head to pay Brian a little visit and be home before Leighanne was.
He made the decision to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts on his way out of town so that he wouldn’t forget later and show up at home empty-handed. That wouldn’t be too good.
He picked up a dozen donuts and then headed out of Atlanta and towards Sonny’s home outside of town. When he got there, he didn’t park in the driveway, but instead drove around into the backyard to hide his car. Not that anyone would actually drive down the road outside Sonny’s house and see his car there, but he didn’t want to take any chances.
Brendan walked through the shabby backyard to the wooden back porch of Sonny’s house, which sagged precariously in the middle. He climbed the three creaking stairs to the porch and hurried across it to the screen door that led inside Sonny’s house.
He found Sonny sacked out on the couch, sound asleep, an open bag of pork rinds lying on his fat stomach and a couple beer cans sitting on the coffee table beside him. Brendan rolled his eyes in disgust and headed down to the basement.
Brian was lying asleep on the bed. Brendan snickered evilly and crept up to the bed. He bent over Brian’s sleeping form, and, bringing his mouth right up to Brian’s right ear, shouted, “FIRE!!!”
Brian jerked awake and immediately began to struggle, but of course, he was securely tied down and unable to move much. He caught sight of Brendan at his side, laughing hysterically, and realized what was going on. The panic within him died down and was replaced with anger and humiliation.
“Oh, that was too good,” Brendan laughed, slapping his knee. “God, Littrell, you crack me up, you know that?”
Brian just glared up at him. Brendan smirked back for a moment, then reached down and yanked the strip of duct tape off of Brian’s mouth, leaving Brian’s cheeks and lips stinging.
Brendan took off his jacket and tossed it onto the coffee table. “Here’s your breakfast,” Brendan said, pulling the toast out of the pocket of the jacket and taking it out of the baggy.
He held it up to Brian’s lips, and Brian eagerly took a bite. He finished off the dry bread in just a few bites and immediately was overcome with thirst.
“Can I have some water now?” he asked hopefully, his voice weak and hoarse from disuse.
“Uh… let me think… NO,” Brendan replied, breaking into another bout of taunting laughter.
Brian stared up at him with miserable, pleading eyes. But Brendan ignored him and glanced at his watch instead.
“Well, looks like I have some time to kill before I have to get home. Leighanne’s at the beauty shop and won’t be back for a little while,” Brendan said.
Brian perked up at the mention of his wife. And then he was overcome with despair. What had Brendan been doing with Leighanne these past two weeks? And how could his own wife go so long not realizing that the man she was sleeping with was not really her husband? They were identical, and Brendan did put on a pretty good act, but it hurt Brian that Leighanne couldn’t tell the difference.
“Oh, and did I mention I have a video shoot with the Boys next week?” Brendan went on, grinning smugly at Brian, obviously pleased at the misery he was causing in his twin brother. “Yup, we’re shooting the video for the next single, ‘More Than That’. What the hell were y’all thinking when you picked that one? Oh well, I guess none of your other songs are any better. But it’ll be pretty fun, I guess. You know, shooting my first video as you and all. You think the fans will notice?” He snickered, obviously thinking that they wouldn’t.
“Ahh, I tell ya, Littrell, I’m enjoying every minute of this so far. Well, almost. There’s some things that suck. Like your… I mean, our damn mother. She called last night, and God, she’s annoying!” He rolled his eyes. “’Is everything all right, honey?’” he mimicked. “God! Why do you have to be such a little pussy mama’s boy?”
Brian stared in horror at Brendan. He had talked to their mom? And she too had believed she was talking to Brian? His depression was getting worse with each passing second, as he realized Brendan’s plan was working. If not even his own wife or mother could tell the difference, who would?
It was hopeless.