I've discovered a way to stay friends forever--
There's really nothing to it.
I simply tell you what to do
And you do it!!
“Friendship” by Sheldon Allan Silverstein
~ 22 ~
Sometimes You Gotta Out Crazy, Crazy!
AJ was known to be a pretty emotional person by everyone in his closest circle. He also had a hard time editing those emotions and channeling them in a positive way, which is what made him end up turning to drugs and alcohol. It was always his pattern to become self-destructive when in a crisis. Luckily when he met his wife, she became his light in the very dark world he used to inhabit and then once his baby came along, the darkness all but disappeared.
He was scared to go back on the road without his family but he also knew that they were no more than a phone call away. Whenever he would get the urge to drink or do something stupid, he would pick up that phone and quickly be reminded of why he needed to be smart. Sure it would be fun to go to one of those after parties, but can you control yourself there? Rochelle would ask via Skype, to which he would shake his head and she’d smile. “Then stay in and watch Friends with me.” And that’s what they would do. He’d lie on the bed in his bus and watch the same exact episode as his wife while she laid there with a sleeping Ava gently snoring away.
When this accident happened and he found himself stuck and hanging for hours, all he could do was think of his wife and his child. It’s what got him through, picturing them and hearing Rochelle’s voice in his ear telling him he would be okay, that everything would be fine. As the night went on and more and more bad things started happening, he started to lose his wife’s voice. The other negative one was slowly taking its place. The one that told him the only way out was to do a few lines of coke and drink a ton of Jack because it’s going to take more than a few episodes of “Friends” to get out of this mess buddy.
After Nick showed up and then the wolves, he knew if he had anything to snort he would have gladly done it just to get some relief from this situation. He knew he couldn’t take much more of this without cracking, then the wolves disappeared and it seemed like they had been saved, but that wasn’t the case at all. No, this was another level of trouble and probably the worst one yet.
The man who Nick called Tim was standing there with the rifle in his hand and smiling. Both Brian and AJ had no idea what to do.
“Mind if I come in?” He asked not really waiting for an answer before climbing inside.
“Where are Nick and Howie?” Kevin immediately asked shifting his legs.
“I left them at home. Thought I’d come back and check on you gentleman. It’s a good thing I did, huh?”
AJ glanced over at Kevin wondering what he should do. He felt Brian’s hand on his shoulder as he moved closer into the van. Tim was now sitting down right across from Kevin, still holding the rifle in his hand but off to the side. “Why don’t you two come and sit down, we have to talk about things.”
Brian and AJ sat down. “Good idea using the blankets like that although that’s not why I paid so much money for them. They were to keep you warm. How’s your leg?” Tim reached over to touch Kevin’s leg. He winced and tried to move out of the way. “Relax, I’m just checking. What is it with you boys and not liking the friendly pats?”
AJ’s thoughts about this guy touching Nick came back in a big way just then. “Are Nick and Howie okay?” He found himself asking.
“Howie is fine and dandy, Nick has been better. We all just had a nice dinner and some birthday cake. Today is my birthday.”
“What do you mean Nick has been better?” Kevin asked staring intently at this guy who was clearly not all there.
“He’s just not well, not a big deal. We have important things to talk about concerning him and Howie.”
“What?” Brian asked.
“I have a dilemma…” He took a deep breath and shifted his rifle from one hand to the other, “I only came to help you out because Nick begged me to. He wanted me to call for help but obviously I couldn’t do that so I agreed to bring this stuff to you. He promised me you wouldn’t say anything. I’m not sure I believe him.”
He locked eyes with Kevin as he said that last part. “I want them to like me, you know? I wanted to make Nick happy, but I don’t think it’s going to work out.”
As AJ was hearing the words coming out of Tim’s mouth all he could do was stare at that rifle. The way the guy was gently moving his fingers back and forth on it as he talked. It looked like he was petting a cat.
“What are you saying exactly?” It was Brian who asked the question, even though they all knew.
“Please don’t’ take it personally. You seem like perfectly nice people. I know you are the best of friends. That’s why I didn’t tell them.”
AJ found himself shaking, he didn’t even feel it at first but it was a slow shake that started in his hands and went down his spine to his legs. Even his teeth began to chatter as Tim slowly took the rifle and aimed it at him. “Please…” He begged. “I have a wife and a baby at home.”
Tim took a deep breath and looked at AJ, “And I know Howie has a wife and two kids too. We all have to make sacrifices.”
“You don’t have to do this, we won’t tell anyone. We promise.” Brian said in a very shaky voice.
“Now, don’t be so scared guys. I’m not a scary person. I’ve only ever killed two people and only because I had to.”
“You don’t have to kill us, Tim. Believe Nick. He wouldn’t lie to you.” Kevin sounded so calm it was almost scary.
“I don’t know about that…he tried to shoot me earlier.” He laughed and pat his rifle, “With my own gun here. A man who would do that is someone who would also lie to protect people he loves.”
“Those two people you killed, were they Howie and Nick?” AJ found himself asking near tears. “Nick tried to shoot you so you shot him instead?” A tear rolled down his face.
Tim laughed, “No! I would never do that! I love Nick, he’s my new family. Him and Howie, don’t be ridiculous.”
“We promise we won’t tell anyone anything Tim. Please let us go. We swear, we’ll never say one word.” Brian was pleading now.
“They’ll find out, you know.” Both Brian and AJ looked over at Kevin as he continued, “If you do this, Nick and Howie will find out and they’ll never forgive you.”
AJ had no clue what Kevin was doing. The last thing they needed was to agitate this guy. But he didn’t stop, “That’s one thing you can always count on Tim. One thing I learned a long time ago. When you betray someone you love, they always find out in the end. I know Nick and Howie and I know if they find out you killed us, they will never forgive you. They will spend their days trying to get away from you. You have my word on that.” He stopped for a second to collect his thoughts and then continued as Brian and AJ looked on in shock, “But, if you go back to the cabin and tell them what you were going to do and then decided not to, they would be so grateful, you’d win them over.”
AJ could tell that what Kevin was saying was having some effect on the crazy man. He was nodding to himself. It was in that moment, he briefly thought about being a hero and tackling the man for the rifle. It was a small space, it wouldn’t be too hard to get at him, but because it was a small space it was also going to be really easy for the rifle to accidentally go off and kill one of them. Plus, he wasn’t exactly hero material. He just didn’t have it in him so instead he hoped that Kevin’s words would do the trick.
“That’s a good idea uh…what’s your name?”
“Kevin… but who’s to say that they would believe me? I mean I could still kill the three of you now and lie to them. How would they know?”
“That’s easy, take me as proof.”
“Kevin, no!” Brian quickly protested but Kevin held up his hand to shut him up. It was clear he had a plan going and once Kevin had his mind set on something it was going to happen.
“Take you back to the cabin you mean?”
Kevin nodded, “Yes, I’ll tell them you were going to kill us but because you knew they would be mad you decided to help instead and suddenly you’re the hero. That’s all it’ll take.”
Tim sat back, it was clear he was really thinking this plan through and liking it, but neither AJ nor Brian liked it very much at all. Kevin sensing their disapproval locked eyes with AJ and gave him a very slow ‘trust me I know what I’m doing’ nod.
“You know I can’t keep you there. As much as I’d love to take all of you with me, the cabin is not big enough.”
“You can bring me back here or to make you even more of a hero, you can take me to the hospital. I do think my ankle is broken. You can just leave me at the emergency room entrance and drive away. I’ll just say my car died and then I can explain that these guys were waiting at the car for help. Your name will never come up and neither will Nick or Howie’s, I promise.”
Tim nodded, “This might actually work, but how do I know they won’t say anything?” He said pointing to both AJ and Brian. “I find it hard to believe that the three of you would just let your friends stay with me forever.”
“We let Nick leave with you, didn’t we? None of us followed you or tried to get help because he asked us not to. Sometimes when you love people, you have to let them go. I know I’m willing to do that if it means they stay safe and we stay alive. What about you guys?” He looked over at Brian and then AJ knowing he was full of shit but hoping they’d get on the lie my ass off bandwagon.
“Sure.” Brian said.
Tim’s eyes locked onto AJ at that point, AJ the one who was very over emotional and a terrible liar. “I won’t say anything either.” He said with the slightest eye twitch.
“You sure about that kid?”
AJ was still shaking pretty badly and his heart was racing a mile a minute, but he managed to take one deep breath and calm himself down just enough to answer more assertively. “I am positive.” This time he tried to sound as certain as possible.
“I guess today is your lucky day then! I’m in!” He said as he moved to grab Kevin’s hand in a shake.
AJ could tell that Kevin wanted to rip Tim’s arm right off and probably would have if he wasn’t in pain, but instead he extended his hand and gave a smile. “Excellent. One thing, because of my ankle, these guys will have to help me up the hill. I’m sure you could probably do it yourself but I also know you most likely wouldn’t want to let go of that thing,” He pointed to the rifle, “so they’ll have to help carry me, if that’s all right.”
“Yeah, yeah of course, I mean if you two think you can get your friend up the hill?”
In all honesty, AJ didn’t think they would be able to do that at all. Not without hurting Kevin, but when he looked at Brian who nodded with so much assurance, he decided to do the same.
Tim seemed really excited by this new development, but AJ wanted to throw up just at the thought of letting yet another friend leave with this guy. It’s not like Kevin could defend himself in the condition he was in. If for some reason Tim were to lose his cool, Kevin would be toast. No, AJ did not like this plan at all.
“Help me up guys.” Kevin said once again giving them both a reassuring ‘I know what I’m doing’ look.
Tim made his way out of the van as both Brian and AJ went to help Kevin up. “Are you insane?” Brian whispered as he crouched down beside his cousin.
“This is the only way, Brian. Now you can get the license plate number of the car and stay up there and get some help!” He voice so quiet, he was barely heard.
AJ was amazed at Kevin’s bravery. How he was willing to risk his own safety just so that they could get the license plate number. That’s why he offered himself up; it wouldn’t have worked if either he or Brian went with Tim. He needed a reason to get all three of them up that hill.
“I think this is a stupid plan, Kevin!”
“I’ll be okay.” He said, trying to make his cousin feel better. “Besides, I need to make sure they’re okay too. I need them to know we didn’t just let him leave…and this is my fault.”
“No, it’s not Kevin…” Brian started but once again Kevin put up a hand to shut him up, “I have to do this, Brian.”
“Don’t do anything stupid.” AJ added looking at his older friend with a mixture of love and admiration.
He nodded and then winced as the two of them placed their arms around his shoulders and guided him to the windshield. Brian went out first and then He pulled while AJ protectively held onto Kevin’s legs making sure his ankle didn’t hit any broken glass.
“Okay, let’s go.” Tim said as he patiently stood there waiting for the trio to make it out of the window into the clearing. Once out, Brian carried Kevin’s upper half as AJ carried his bottom. He was definitely heavy and a challenge but the two of them managed to get him all the way to the top of the hill without much trouble, while Tim walked behind carrying a flashlight and his rifle.
Once at the top of the hill, Tim opened the passenger door and Brian and AJ who had Kevin on his feet between them, led him over and helped him sit inside. “Thanks, guys.” He said. They could both tell he was in a lot of pain after all the moving around.
“Kevin, please be careful.” Brian urged and then gave his cousin a hug.
AJ approached next, “I wish I could be half as brave as you.”
“No you don’t. This was incredibly stupid. Don’t forget to check the back and I’ll see you soon, okay? Look out for each other.”
AJ nodded and then shut the door.
“See ya fellas! Remember no saying anything, okay?” Tim said and then gave the flashlight to Brian, “So this way you won’t break your necks getting back down to the van.” He winked and then got into the truck.
As they drove off, AJ and Brian memorized the plate and the direction the truck took off in and then set off together down the road to try to find some help.