~ 8 ~
Kevin was always a terrible liar. Not for lack of trying though. Whenever he stretched the truth or flat out lied to his parents, they would instantly know and he would be punished. He was very envious of his two older brothers who could look either their mother or father in the eye and say the biggest load of crap story ever and they’d be so convincing both parents would believe them. Heck even Kevin, who KNEW they were lying, would believe them! It used to make him so mad and was yet, another thing he had in common with the youngest member of the band.
Nick thought he was a genius liar. He thought he was outsmarting people all the time, but he was never able to pull the wool over Kevin’s eyes. He always saw right through his bullshit. The whining about not feeling well just so he could stay in and play video games. Or the times he would swear up and down that he lost his ATM card or his money mysteriously disappeared. Kevin always knew there was more to the story because the teenager had a ‘tell,’ several of them in fact. He would always look up and a little to the left when he wasn’t being honest, followed by running his hands through his hair and ending with biting his bottom lip. It was done in rapid succession as if it was one fluid motion.
The youngest member of the group would get so mad when after telling a tale to all of them, Kevin would say “That was great but how about you tell us the truth now?” Nick would storm off only to be followed by Brian giving his usual look of disapproval. Admittedly, most times Kevin would rat out Nick just to get a rise out of the kid or just for his own satisfaction since he found everything the blond did annoying.
Things slowly changed for Kevin though when he would catch Nick telling lies which seemed odd at the time. Little things like when people asked him about his family and if they were close. He would say “I love my parents and my siblings.” Followed by those same tells. Another time, Nick came in with an unexplained black eye after a weekend home. “I got into it with some neighbor kids because they called me a boy band loser!” He had said in a bragging tone to which he received high fives from both AJ and Brian. He had looked to Kevin for some kind of approval but all he got was a shake of his head. The ‘tell’ gave him away. He had been lying about the neighbor kids. Of course, never did Kevin once think it was something much worse. No, he just chalked it up to Nick being just a liar.
Now he found himself staring down at Nick as he lay there sound asleep. They were thankfully back on land after being rescued by the Coast Guard. Howie’s parents came to pick them up and then together they all went out for dinner. By the time they got back to the house, all three were exhausted and decided to just stay in for the rest of the night. They all ventured out into the backyard and lit up the Dorough’s fire pit. Making S’mores and just relaxing as the sun went down and a gentle breeze hit them. Nick had been oddly quiet after receiving that mysterious page. When he got back to the house, Kevin had watched him carefully, ready to listen in to any phone call he might have made, but he never got the chance because as soon as Nick reclined on one of the lounge chairs outside, he was out like a light.
“Kevin, what’s wrong?”
Kevin looked over at Howie as he handed him a stick to roast a marshmallow. He grabbed it and gently placed the white goo at the end, holding it to the fire.
“Why do you think he lied to us?”
“About who paged him?”
Kevin nodded as he turned his marshmallow to get it crisp on the other side.
“I don’t know…” Howie continued, “Maybe he has a girlfriend and he’s just too shy to admit it?”
“You really believe that?”
Howie shrugged, “Not really… what do you think?”
Kevin took his marshmallow off the flame and blew on it, “I just have a bad feeling.”
“You don’t think it’s the guy; do you, the one threatening him?”
That’s exactly what Kevin was thinking. He hoped he was wrong but he couldn’t help but feel like whomever this person was, Nick knew he shouldn’t be talking to him. He grabbed his marshmallow with his fingers and placed it in his mouth forgoing the rest of the S’more ingredients. “I’d like to get a look at the number and give it a call.”
“That’s a bit of an invasion of privacy, don’t you think?” Howie licked some of the melting chocolate off of his hand as he spoke.
“Not if it’s only an accidental ‘wrong number’ call.”
Howie thought about it, even though he appeared as if he wasn’t concerned, Kevin could clearly tell he was. There was just something overly suspicious about the whole pager thing as well as Nick’s behavior after seeing the number and message. “Do you know where he keeps it?” He asked after a few moments of quiet contemplation.
“It’s on the ground right beside him.” Kevin said eyeing the beeper as he had been almost the entire time they’d been outside.
Howie checked to make sure Nicky was still asleep and then motioned for Kevin to grab it. He realized how pissed off the kid would be if he were caught because Kevin would be just as annoyed, but sometimes it was worth the risk. This was one of those times. He bent down and grabbed the pager off the ground, quickly turning away from Nick as he did and looked for the last page he got. There was no number like he had hoped, but only five words – Found you…better call me!
“What?” Howie asked as he walked over to where Kevin was sitting and sat down beside him.
Kevin passed the pager to Howie who looked at it with a mixture of confusion and fear.
“What should we do?” He asked as he handed the pager back and glanced over at the sleeping form of their friend once again.
“Maybe we should just flat out ask him about it. Tell him we know and make sure it’s not that psycho.”
“I hope it’s not that psycho.” Howie sounded legitimately scared.
“Howie, is there something else you haven’t told me?”
There was a hesitation before he answered Kevin. You could tell he was struggling internally with whether or not to divulge any more information. “Just that this guy is really dangerous and Nicky is well…really vulnerable.” He whispered the last word and looked over to make sure he was still asleep.
“That kid he supposedly attacked? Well he actually almost killed him. He was charged with sexual assault and attempted murder. He was found not guilty of the attempted murder charge which is why he got out so early.”
“Jesus…” Kevin rubbed his chin and let out a sigh.
“The thing is… I guess Nicky doesn’t really think this guy will harm him. He looks at him more like a family member who actually wants to be around him.”
That thought appalled Kevin. How could Nick be so stupid to read the letters he got from this guy and come to the conclusion that he was only looking out for his best interest.
“Johnny was telling me that in Nick’s mind, this guy just had a hard life and needed to be in touch with someone who cared. It was just by luck that security even found out about it at all. Q just happened to see an opened letter that Nick had left on the table. He begged him not to tell Johnny but of course he did.”
Kevin shook his head and let out a sigh. “I think we need to talk to him about this, Howie. I know it’ll make him feel uncomfortable but what if? We have to talk to him.”
Howie nodded, “He’s not going to be happy.”
“But at least he’ll be safe.”
After those words came out of his mouth, Kevin thought back to his conversation with Nick on the boat. Now he was really feeling for the first time a new set of feelings for the kid. This need to protect him was slowly taking over. It seemed like Nick didn’t have anyone in his life that would step up and try to keep him safe. It kind of broke his heart to think that. Know that if this was happening to him, he would have not only his mother right there with him but both of his older brothers, ready to rip this guy in half if he even tried to get close. Nick seemingly had no one in his life that cared for him in that way.
“You know…for someone who doesn’t care about the kid….” Howie said as if driving home what Kevin was thinking only a few moments earlier.
“Howie, of course I care about Nick. I want to kill Nick most of the time, but I care.”
D placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder, “I know Kev…he gets under your skin, but you can’t help but love him a little.” He finished his thought with a wink and then they both looked down at the topic of their conversation, still fast asleep and oblivious to what was going on.