Hope is the Last Thing Ever Lost by Mare

1. Chapter 1 by Mare

2. Chapter 2 by Mare

3. Chapter 3 by Mare

4. Chapter 4 by Mare

5. Chapter 5 by Mare

6. Chapter 6 by Mare

7. Chapter 7 by Mare

8. Chapter 8 by Mare

9. Chapter 9 by Mare

10. Chapter 10 by Mare

11. Chapter 11 by Mare

12. Chapter 12 by Mare

13. Chapter 13 by Mare

14. Chapter 14 by Mare

15. Chapter 15 by Mare

16. Chapter 16 by Mare

17. Chapter 17 by Mare

18. Chapter 18 by Mare

19. Chapter 19 by Mare

20. Chapter 20 by Mare

21. Chapter 21 by Mare

22. Chapter 22 by Mare

23. Chapter 23 by Mare

24. Chapter 24 by Mare

25. Chapter 25 by Mare

26. Chapter 26 by Mare

27. Chapter 27 by Mare

28. Chapter 28 by Mare

29. Chapter 29 by Mare

30. Chapter 30 by Mare

31. Chapter 31 by Mare

32. Chapter 32 by Mare

33. Chapter 33 by Mare

34. Chapter 34 by Mare

35. Chapter 35 by Mare

36. Chapter 36 by Mare

37. Chapter 37 by Mare

38. Chapter 38 by Mare

39. Chapter 39 by Mare

40. Chapter 40 by Mare

Chapter 1 by Mare
Author's Notes:

Well, it seems that thanks to BSB's new incredible album and the return of Kevin, I have been reborn into the fandom! Here's a brand new novel from me! I hope you enjoy. It will be told from many points of view so I thought i'd start with good old Tim!

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy!! :O)

Hope is the Last Thing Ever Lost

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.

 From “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe

 

 

~ 1 ~

The Five Visitors

 

Tim was never big on visitors. Since his time in the cabin he only had five.

Visitor number one showed up on their doorstep shortly after they fled the city and headed for the woods. He was maybe about ten at the time, barely able to comprehend what was happening, yet old enough to realize it was bad. They had fled in the middle of the night, his father grabbing him out of his warm, newly washed sheets leaving everything they owned behind, including his favorite toys and even his dog. Maybe if he was more awake, he would have bothered to ask what was going on, but the concerned look on his mother’s face coupled with the intense anger he felt rising in his dad as he shouted orders for her to run faster, made Timothy decide it was best to just stay quiet which he did for the entire car ride out of the city towards the new life that was waiting for him.

That night as he lay down in his new bed with old, musty sheets, there was a knock on the door. The wooden floor boards creaked as his father let the man into their cabin. They continued to creak as the two fought. Tim closed his eyes tight when he heard the crack of the gun, his mother scream and then once again the creak of the floorboards as the body of visitor number one fell to the ground.

He found himself pacing on those same wooden floorboards now, with his own rifle in his hands. The creaking had gotten better over the years. Eventually he knew he’d have to replace them, pretty sure that wear and tear had caused dry rotting under his feet. If he wasn’t careful, he’d end up falling right through the floor altogether.

Visitor number two appeared about three years later. He had been out hunting with his father. Something he hated to do but understood it needed to be done. When his father heard laughter coming from within the house, he ran ahead and pulled open the door. Tim tried to run after his dad, hesitating only briefly when he heard his mother cry out.

After taking a few more steps, both his father and visitor number two came barreling out the door and fell down the front steps landing right beside the thirteen year old. Without any hesitation, his father straddled the stranger and broke his neck. The crack sounded oddly similar to the floorboards.

Visitor number three showed up when Timothy was about twenty five. His mother had been dead for at least four years, so when he heard the sound of a woman’s voice, at first he thought he was imagining things.

“Hello? Is anyone there?” She had asked.

As she walked from the woods Tim was sure he was just having a waking dream. She was absolutely beautiful and about his age as well. His father got up from his rocking chair and moved to meet her. She had a huge smile on her face. One that said, “Thank God I’ve been saved!”

Her name was Candice. It was the first time he was allowed to keep a friend.

He paused from his memories and looked down at his new friends. Neither of them seemed too happy. “I bet you’re hungry, aren’t you?” Both of them stared up at him with terror filled eyes.

Visitors number four and five came about two years later. They had been sitting in the living room. Tim cleaning his rifle, his father sitting on a chair covered with a blanket and Candice, washing dishes. No one heard them coming until there was a knock at the door. At that point everything just happened so fast.

Candice screamed, “Help me, please! They’re holding me against my will!!”

Upon hearing the scream, the two visitors came crashing through the door. Tim’s father stood up and shaking the blanket off of him ran towards one of the men while the other ran towards Candice.

Tim’s dad took his rifle and aimed it at the man who was heading for his girlfriend, shooting him in the back as he fell into a screaming Candice’s arms.

“Jesus Christ!” The second visitor said as he stared at the dead man on the ground.

“What are you waiting for son, shoot him!”

Tim hesitated slightly but then did as his father instructed. The second man fell in a bloody heap on the floor as Candice continued to scream.

That memory was one he didn’t much like.

He went over to the ice box, temporarily dropped his rifle and grabbed some leftover stew from the night before. He felt two pairs of eyes watching his every move. The tall one kept glancing over at the gun as the other one watched him spoon the stew into small bowls.

“I know it won’t be the tastiest thing you’ll ever eat, but at least its food, right?”

He waited for an answer he knew would not come as he laid the bowls next to the two men.

That night with visitors four and five was the first time he had ever killed a man and it wasn’t as easy as his father had always told him it would be. In fact he had only killed one other person since.

He hadn’t intended on shooting his dad, but after the dead man fell on Candice, she wouldn’t stop crying. His father kept yelling at her to stop but to no avail. Not knowing what else to do; his dad had taken his gun, aimed it at their roommate of two years and shot her between her eyes. Her head fell back with such brutal force, the sound of her skull cracking sounded similar to an egg shattering after being dropped on the floor.

Tim was enraged, so without thinking, he aimed the rifle at his dad and shot just once, right through the heart.

Ever since then he’s been all alone.

He had ventured into the town a few times, thinking to himself that maybe he should come out of hiding and start fresh. After all he wasn’t even sure what he was hiding from in the first place, but being around people felt foreign to him and he didn’t like it. Things had changed drastically since the last time he had come into civilization. There were street lights instead of stop signs. Huge department stores had replaced the local five and dime. The old movie theater was now a pawn shop and there seemed to be coffee places every other block.

He had money from the last two visitor’s wallets. His own father seemed to have collected a nice healthy wad of cash. Tim counted at least $150,000 hidden under those creaky floor boards. Perhaps that is why the family ran in the first place.

So, that initial visit into town, he walked into the local Wal-Mart and purchased some real food and supplies before disappearing once again into the woods. As much as he hated to make an appearance in the real world, he knew he wouldn’t be able to rough it as well as his father did. He liked to live off the land, but he also enjoyed the occasional ice cream sandwich, magazine or book.

Tim loved to read but we’ll talk about that at another time.

He had made it a monthly routine to head into town and grab things as needed. Mostly it was food, occasionally bigger items for the house. He had bought himself a generator so he could watch TV. Something he missed terribly from his childhood. Every time he went to the store he grabbed a DVD out of the $5 bin. Some of the stuff he watched was horrible, some were okay. It didn’t matter though because at least it felt like company and that was something he had missed as the years went by.

The grunting made him look down at the floor. He knew it was probably cruel of him to lay out the food so close while their hands were tied behind their backs and gags were in their mouths but he honestly had no idea how to handle this predicament. He couldn’t take the chance of untying them both because they could easily overthrow him even though one of them seemed significantly small enough to handle.

He decided he would eat first and then let them eat one at a time until they got used to the idea of not fighting back. It had taken Candice awhile, maybe things would happen quicker with these guys.

As he made his way over to one of his new friends to free his hands so he could eat, he realized that no one had been up to this cabin since the day he had buried those four bodies in his backyard. Those last two visitors, Candice and his father. That was over twenty years ago.

That was a long time to be alone.

Tim squatted behind the smaller of the two guys and cut his ropes, “If you promise me you won’t scream I’ll let you and your friend eat some.”

He was answered with a slow nod and big, horrified eyes so he undid the knot that kept the gag in the man’s mouth. He choked and licked at his lips.

“I’m sorry, I don’t like to do things like this, but I had no choice.”

The other one looked at the guy who was lucky enough to be free with a mixture of worry and jealousy in his eyes. “Don’t worry,” He assured the bigger one, “Once he’s done you’ll get your turn, I promise.”

He never intended to take prisoners before. The thought had crossed his mind on a few occasions as his trips to town sometimes brought about interesting conversations in the middle of aisles. Mostly he found himself longing for a woman but they intimidated him so he stayed away. When he really needed that kind of companionship he would go to the local strip club and pay for instant gratification. At the end of the day it was a friend he really wanted. Someone he could hang out with and talk about sports, maybe hunt, drink beers. He missed his family so he thought that maybe one day he’d create himself a new one.

Then these two guys just suddenly fell into his lap.

When it seemed like the smallest one wasn’t going to eat a thing, he grabbed his hands and once again placed them behind his back. “You’re just going to be really hungry later.”

He struggled but just a little, “Please just let us go.” He pleaded but Tim wouldn’t listen. It didn’t work for Candice so it wouldn’t work for them either. He placed the gag back into his mouth and moved to the big one.

“I know you could probably tackle me if you wanted to, but if that happens I won’t hesitate to shoot your friend, do you understand me?” 

The big one nodded as once again, Tim reached behind and undid the binds and unknotted the gag from the man’s mouth. He noticed the cut above his eye and remembered the accident they had claimed to be involved in.

He was making his monthly drive into town when he saw the two of them walking up the dark road. They were moving slowly as if completely lost. At that moment he had made the decision to take them. He wasn’t even sure why. One person would be pretty easy, but two? How on earth would he manage that? He had then looked down at his rifle, in the front passenger seat thinking he could maybe kill one of them and just take the other one. He would be long gone before they were found. The fast beating in his heart gave him a sense of jubilation he hadn’t felt in years. No, he was going to take both of them. If it didn’t work, he could always resort to his first plan and kill them in the woods. Wolves and bears would get at them long before anyone even knew they were gone.

“Why?” The bigger one managed to squeak out after a short bout of coughing subsided.

“I am tired of being alone; now eat.”

“We need to get help.”

That’s right, he had forgotten about the other three.

When he slowly pulled over and let the two guys catch up to the truck, he wasn’t sure how he was going to handle the situation. He had thought about immediately taking the rifle out and forcing them in but seeing how distressed they looked, he thought he might not even have to do that.

“What’s the problem?” He had asked in a very shaky voice. The adrenaline he felt was overwhelming.

“Thank you for stopping! The bigger man said. We were in a car accident and need some help!”

“How far back?” Tim decided to ask when he noticed the absence of a vehicle anywhere in site.

The shorter one answered this time, “I feel like we’ve been walking for hours. We rolled the car into a ditch off the side of a rural road.”

“Our friends are still back there,” the big one had said sounding very alarmed. “Two of them are trapped inside of the car.”

“And the other one?” Tim was hoping the word dead would pop up.

“He’s waiting for help, but he’s hurt!”

“So, you already called the police?” Tim started to think this was a very bad idea.

“No, I couldn’t get a signal.” The bigger man said.

Tim took a deep breath, knowing once he opened that door, there was no turning back. “Come on in, I’ll take you into town and get you some help.” He opened the passenger side door where the biggest one was quick to get in as the other one climbed into the back.

“Thank you so much, we appreciate it!” Tim nodded as they drove away from the town and back towards his cabin.

“Why do you have a rifle in here?” the question came from the bigger guy in a pretty shaky voice.

“I always take it with me wherever I go. I live in the middle of the woods, bear country. You can never be too careful.”

“Oh.”

That was a very uneasy ‘oh’ in Tim’s mind.

“Are we getting close?”

“Not quite yet. We’re kind of in the boonies.” Tim lied once again feeling a rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins as he tried to figure out a way to get the guys out of the truck and back to the cabin without hurting or killing either one.

When they turned off the main road and onto the small dirt path that led to the cabin, the big one started to shift uneasily in his seat. That’s when Tim came up with the brilliant plan he had. “Listen, we’re really close to my cabin so how about we just go there and then you can use my landline and call for help. It’ll actually be a lot faster than if we were to go into town. I live right up here!” Another lie since Tim did not own a phone. What was the purpose?

The big one looked in the back seat at the shorter one. Inside they both probably thought it was a very bad idea, but desperate to help their friends they agreed.

Now Tim looked down at the bigger one as he took one more swallow of the stew looking as if he was about to throw it right back up in protest.

“If you’re all done it’s time for the two of us to go.”

The big one looked at Tim, unsure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

“Where?”

“Since the two of you will now be living with me, we’re going to need some more supplies and I need your help to carry them.”

“What about Howie?” He asked looking over at the shorter one.

“I’m sure Howie will be just fine on his own for a little while, won’t you?”

The smaller one now had a name.

Howie nodded but didn’t really look like he wanted to be left alone or that he was particularly happy that the big one was leaving with a gun wielding psychopath or at least that’s what Tim was sure the smaller man was thinking.

He grabbed the bigger guy’s arm and scooped him off the floor once again the one called Howie showing disapproval by struggling to break free of his binds.

“Relax Howie,” Tim said. Now that he knew his name, he felt like he was talking to an old friend, “I’ll take good care of him.”

The bigger one gave Howie a nod which made him stop his struggle.

“Alright then, let’s get to it!”  Tim said as he pushed his visitor out the door with the butt of the rifle excited that he was no longer going to be living all alone.

 

 

Chapter End Notes:

:O)

Chapter 2 by Mare
Author's Notes:

Thanks for the love so far, I appreciate it! :O)

 

 

Without fear there cannot be courage
Fear drives the unthinkable out of us

From “What Gives You Courage” by Alisha Ricks

 

 

~ 2 ~

 

Accidents Happen

 

Once the door closed, Howie began to struggle against the binds that held his hands behind his back. Thankfully they seemed less tight than they were before he was given the chance to eat something. Maybe he’d be able to undo the knot. He was able to feel it with his hands and once he got his thumb firmly in place, he started to work his pointer finger into the center, hoping it would give a little.

He swallowed hard as another round of saliva fell from the small opening of his gag. He was pretty confident he was going to end up choking to death if he didn’t remove the bandanna from his mouth soon. Feeling that sense of panic made him start to struggle even more. He had never in his life felt as helpless as he did at that very moment.

He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself down, knowing that panicking wasn’t going to help at all. Trying a different approach he moved to a kneeling position and tried to figure out how to stand. Thankfully his captor didn’t think to tie his feet together so if he could manage to stand, he could go into the kitchen and maybe find something sharp to help get his hands free.

Moving to a standing position without the use of his arms proved much harder than he ever thought it would be. He half made it twice but fell back down to the ground both times. Once again he felt a surge of panic rise in him as his heart quickened. He closed his eyes once more but this time thought about his wife and his kids. He needed to get out of this situation for them. They needed him to survive this.

That seemed like the motivation he needed as he opened his eyes and once again knelt but this time he walked towards a chair on his knees and used the seat to help himself rise to a standing position.

Once he managed to stand himself up, he walked over to the kitchen and looked around for a knife or anything he could use to maybe cut himself loose, of course the actual cutting he wasn’t sure he could pull off with his hands behind his back. Maybe he had just seen too many movies where people in this situation managed to successfully cut themselves free but he was willing to give it a try. He HAD to give it a try.

There on the counter was a small paring knife. He turned his back to it and tried reaching for the handle. Managing to get his fingers to touch it just for a second, he lost his balance which in turn made the knife fall to the floor. Howie let out a grunt in frustration as once again the panic began to rise. Just for a few moments, he thought maybe he should just give up and wait. He sat on a kitchen chair rocking back and forth, trying to fight the urge to cry. Even in a stress filled situation like this, he wouldn’t allow his emotions to take over. Mostly it was because if he started he was pretty sure he’d never be able to stop.

“Pull yourself together!” He yelled in his head. “You can do this!”

He knew that he wouldn’t be able to get to the knife on the ground so once again he scanned the room with his eyes hoping he could see anything he might be able to use to help himself out. While doing that, his thoughts shifted to the rest of the guys and what was probably going through their minds about now.

It was safe to say that this was probably the worst day of his entire life and most likely his other band mates could say the same, especially the one currently trapped in the car with the psychopath; just thinking about that made Howie panic once again. They should have never gotten into that truck. He’d never forgive himself if something were to happen, especially since he knew that his friend was hurt, hurt a lot worse than he pretended to be. He needed medical attention but he would never let on because he knew he had to help the others so he lied to Howie and everyone else. No, if something happened to…he couldn’t finish his thought so instead he moved to another one, the accident.

Kevin insisted it was a great way to bond together after the huge blow out fight they had. “Guys let’s rent a car and drive to the next city, just the five of us.”

“Why the hell would we do that?” Nick had asked in his typical sarcastic voice.

“Because I think we need it!”

“So once again it all comes down to what you think we need!”

“Enough guys!” Howie had said putting one hand on Kevin’s shoulder and the other on Nick’s. It had been a while since he had to take the role as mediator. It wasn’t something he missed very much but with them all spending so much time together, it was bound to happen and very early this morning it finally did.

Looking back at what actually sparked the fight in the first place made Howie shake his head. How something so stupid could escalate into something so big.

“Only us…” He thought to himself as he watched his two friends walk away from each other.

“You really think we should rent a car?” AJ asked once it seemed like the air around him had calmed down a bit.

“I do.” Kevin glared over at Nick as he said it, then he found himself glaring at his cousin. “What’s so funny, Brian?”

Brian shook his head, “It’s just that the two of you are so similar I sometimes can’t tell which one of you is my cousin and which one of you is my boy band boyfriend.”

That broke up the tension and everyone laughed.

Just thinking about Brian made Howie bounce back to his present and once again look around the prison he was being held captive in. He was sure he could find more knives in a drawer somewhere but he was also sure that he wouldn’t be able to keep a firm enough grip on one without making it fall to the floor. He would have to try something else. Maybe something that had a sharp edge that he could rub against and break free that way.

He felt his first glimmer of hope when he saw the fire poker sitting by the fireplace. It was in a holder which was a good thing since that meant it would stay firmly in place. To get even with it, he had to get down on the floor. He used the wall to help him slide down to a sitting position and then scooted himself towards the fireplace and the sharp poker. Sitting on the ground made him too low to reach the sharp end so once again he managed to get himself to a kneeling position. This time he was able to reach the pointy edge so he began to rub the rope back and forth against it. He wasn’t even sure if he was doing it right, for all he knew he was way off base, but he had to try.

His thoughts once again went back to the van as he tried sawing his hands free.

“Can I at least drive?”

“NO!” all four of Nick’s band mates answered at once.

“Fine, you all can suck my ass!”

“I rented the van so it’s only fair that I am the one that gets to drive it and besides, it WAS my idea.”

Nick rolled his eyes but stopped arguing as they had all piled into the car.

“I call shotgun!” Howie insisted as he sat next to Kevin.

Brian and AJ decided to sit in the middle area but Nick went for the back so he could stretch his legs. It was going to be about a four hour drive to their next venue even though they had well over 24 hours to arrive since they had a day off to look forward to before the next show. Plenty of time for the mandatory Backstreet bonding that Kevin insisted upon.

“So, Nacho gets to hang out in my bus all by himself because of bananas, nice!”

Yes, the big band brawl, which almost resulted in fisticuffs, had to do with bananas. Kevin wanted the last one and was about to take it when Nick grabbed it out of his hands. There was mention of Nick not even liking bananas and how he was rude, selfish and inconsiderate. This was followed by where Kevin could shove said banana which then morphed into Kevin being a complete control freak on stage. The end result was all five of the guys fighting about the song order, sound and choreography.

Bananas to dancing…weird.

The true center of the argument was just spending too much time together, so what better way to remedy that situation by spending even more time together in a nice confined space?

“Why are you smiling?”

Howie glanced over at Kevin, “Just thinking this is so us, this whole entire thing. We’re kind of ridiculous!”

“Kind of? We’re like the stupidest people I know!”

“Speak for yourself, Nick.”

“I just did, AJ but thanks for proving my point.”

They had been driving for well over two hours, in such time everyone had pretty much calmed down and forgiven each other for anything that had happened within the last year. They sang along to the CD, Nick making sure they knew all the words to the songs he wrote and Brian doing his best to purposely mess the words up.

Kevin did what felt like a soliloquy of why he thought critics hated everything they did and AJ talked about his beard for at least fifteen minutes. Pretty much anything that was needed to be said was said and then some. Too bad there was still at least another two hours of driving time to go.

Howie couldn’t remember the very last thing said before it happened, but he knew it was Nick who was talking. He had said something about the weather or something completely generic like that when suddenly there was a loud pop.

Kevin lost control of the car at that point as it began to swerve. Howie made sure he was wearing his seatbelt and grabbed on to it as if that would help keep him alive.

“Hold on!” Kevin had screamed just as the van barreled through something and rolled down a hill.

The sensation was the same as being on a rollercoaster. The van rolled over a few times before finally landing on its side. Howie was suddenly grateful for holding on to the seatbelt the way he was since he was suspended in the air by it.

He felt blood trickle down his face, but felt no pain at all. He looked up to see his window had been smashed but also took that as a good sign he’d be able to get out of the car.

“Is everyone okay?” Kevin asked weakly.

Howie glanced down at his friend behind the wheel happy to see his eyes and know he wasn’t hurt too badly.

“I’m okay.”

“What about the rest of you?”

“I’m okay.” AJ was in the very same position as Howie in the car, the only thing keeping him from falling was his seatbelt.

“Nick? Brian?”

There was no answer.

Howie knew the only way to get everyone out of the van was if he were to escape first ,so he braced one of his legs against his seat and undid his belt. He was afraid he was going to fall on top of Kevin when he came loose but he managed to hold himself up by hanging on to the broken window and then hoisting himself out until he was sitting on top of the van which was really the side.

“Can you loosen your seatbelt?” He asked Kevin, “I can help you climb up if you can get yourself free and then we can get the rest of the guys out.”

He tried his best to ignore AJ’s constant cries of Nick and Brian’s names. Neither of which were saying one word as he watched Kevin unbuckle himself and try to move from his seat. Kevin kept trying to look behind him to assess how badly the others might be hurt but Howie really needed him to focus on getting himself out of the car. “Kevin, you’re no good to them unless you are out here helping me to get them out of the van.”

Kevin nodded and managed to get himself away from the confines of the steering wheel and stretch his hand up to Howie as he pulled himself up on the armrest that served as a make shift ladder. Once Howie got a hold of his friend’s hand, he pulled with all his might until Kevin emerged from the broken window. He was a bit bloody and bruised himself but other than that he appeared to be okay.

“They aren’t answering me!” AJ sounded as if he was about to cry. “I can see Brian but he’s not moving!”

Kevin and Howie looked at each other helpless. “We have a problem Kev,” Howie pointed to the passenger door which was completely dented with no possible way of opening it up.

A sudden sound of tearing pulled Howie out of his thoughts as he realized that part of the rope that had bound his hands together was slowly ripping. A new sense of excitement hit him as he started to rub against the poker even faster and within a few minutes, his ropes managed to completely come undone. He pulled his gag off and started coughing.

“I can’t believe that actually worked!” He managed to say out loud as he massaged his red, rope burned wrists.

Now that he had set himself free, he frantically started searching the house for a phone that he could use to call for help. Of course searching the cabin from top to bottom yielded absolutely no means of communication at all. No phone or anything else he could use.

He did find a flashlight though so he grabbed it and made his way out into the pitch black night.

 

 

Chapter 3 by Mare
Author's Notes:

Thanks for all the positive feedback so far. :O)

 

 

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

From “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

 

 

 

~ 3 ~

 

Waiting is the Hardest Part

 

Kevin sat with his eyes closed trying to will the pain away as he thought about the events that brought him to the here and now.  He felt completely helpless just sitting there and doing nothing but wait for help.

 When he climbed out of that van and saw the damage, he was overcome with emotion and anger. This was his fault. If only he had never made them rent the stupid van and take this little road trip, none of this would have happened.

“Maybe if we climb back in and pull them out this way.”  Howie suggested, poking his head into the window they had both used to escape.

Once Howie moved, it was Kevin’s turn to poke his head in there.

“AJ, can you hear me?”

He wished he was able to see his friend but all he saw was metal and perhaps what might have been a little bit of Brian’s hair.

“I can.”

“Can you get out of your seatbelt?”

“I’m afraid I’ll fall on Brian if I try.”

“How is he? Can you tell?”

“He is moving. I think he’s starting to wake up.”

“What about Nick?”

“I can’t see or hear him. He was behind us.”

“NICK!” Kevin found himself shouting. “Can you hear me? It’s Kevin!”

Kevin started to feel light headed from bending down into the window for too long so he moved up to a sitting position.

“Are you okay, Kevin?” Howie asked as he placed his hand on his older friend’s shoulder.

“I’ll be fine, just a little dizzy…” He took a few deep breaths before continuing, “D, we have to get them out of there. What if there’s a fire or something.”

“I’ve been trying to call 911 but I can’t get a signal.”

“Maybe if you get closer to the main road, you’ll get one?” He suggested, looking at the top of the long hill they managed to roll down.

Howie looked up in that same direction, “Wow, we’re lucky to be alive.” He whispered and he was right. Just seeing that incline and the broken fence they crashed through was enough to send chills down both men’s spines.

That gave him the added strength he needed to turn around and talk to AJ again as Howie gingerly made his way off the top of the van.

“AJ, Is there anything you can hold on to so this way you can prevent yourself from falling on Brian? What about the headrest?”

“I could try…”

“Do it, just be careful.”

Kevin tried to figure out a way he could get in there to help but before he could, a frantic cry from Howie pulled him back out of the van.

“KEVIN!!!”

He glanced at his friend who was waving his hands by a boulder towards the back of the van.

“What?”

“It’s Nick!”

At first he was confused until he realized it wasn’t a boulder Howie was standing by, but the youngest member of the group.

“Sweet Jesus.”

“What happened?” AJ asked but Kevin didn’t have time to answer. He flung himself off the side of the van despite the pain he was feeling and headed towards the back as every single step he took spelled complete agony for him.

Howie had placed Nick’s head on his lap and was caressing his face. “He must have crawled out of the van.” He pointed at the shattered and badly bent, back window.

Kevin just stood there silent, wondering how he would ever forgive himself for killing Nick but thankfully that thought didn’t last long when the blond stirred and slowly opened his eyes. Quickly Kevin knelt beside him and grabbed his hand, “Nick, are you okay?”

He looked shaken and disoriented. “Where am I?”

“We were in an accident.”

“I knew I should have driven.”

Kevin shook his head and pretended to laugh as he felt a tear stream down his face. “Always have to be a smart ass, huh?”

“You know me.” Nick started to sit up and winced but Kevin pushed him back down. “Easy, just lay there for a few minutes, okay?”

He didn’t argue and closed his eyes. “Where are Brian and AJ?”

“They’re still in the van.”

He opened his eyes again, “Are they okay?”

“AJ is. We’re still not sure about Brian.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s not answering us.”

Howie carefully moved Nick’s head off of his lap, “I’m going to go try the phone, and I’ll be right back.” He smiled at Nick but gave Kevin a serious look. This situation was urgent. Once Howie walked away, Kevin turned his attention back to his friend who wasn’t looking very good.

“Everything will be okay, Nick.”

“You should go check on AJ and Brian.”

“You sure?”

Nick nodded, “Yes.”

He hated to leave his baby brother, but he was right, so he slowly got up and made his way back to the van, unsure of how exactly he was supposed to climb back up to the top. He was in excruciating pain. His ankle was hurt, probably even broken but now that the adrenaline was wearing off, he found it harder to put any weight on it at all. That’s when he had the idea to try the back window. If Nick was able to get out of there then why wouldn’t Kevin be able to get in that same way?

He turned himself around and started to walk back towards the spot Nick was laying when the pain suddenly overtook him and he dropped to the ground in a heap. He closed his eyes and put himself into a fetal position. After a few minutes, he felt a hand on his back, “Kev, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Nick, why are you up? You should be resting.”

“Are you in pain? What hurts?” Nick’s voice was shaky and sounded as if he was about to cry.

“I think I broke my ankle.” Kevin bit on his bottom lip as he forced himself to sit up.

“Hello? Is anyone out there? Can someone tell us what the hell is going on?”

Kevin looked over at Nick.

”AJ.” He whispered, as he once again winced in pain.

Nick nodded and glanced up at the top of the van, “AJ!”

Kevin watched as Nick placed his hands as close to the top of the van as he could and using one of the tires, attempted to hoist himself up. “Be careful,” He urged when Nick’s first attempt failed. Howie was coming down from the hill just as Nick managed to get on top of the van. 

“I couldn’t get a signal up there either.” Howie said as he stared up at Nick before turning his eyes back to Kevin. “It seems like he’s okay.”

Kevin nodded, “I hope so. It might just be adrenaline.” He said this last part as he gradually moved his pant leg up, trying to get a look at his ankle.

“Are you okay?” Howie squatted next to his friend.

“I’m pretty sure my ankle is broken, D.”

“That’s not good.”

Kevin had to actually laugh. “Is any of this good?”

“Brian is awake!” Both Kevin and Howie glanced up at Nick. “He said he’s okay. They both are.”

Kevin let out a huge sigh of relief. At least none of them were dead, yet anyway.

Nick jumped down from the van and did some wincing of his own, “AJ said his seatbelt is stuck. He can’t unbuckle it and Brian said his arm is pinned against the wall of the van and his seat. What should I do?”

“The back window, the one you crawled out of. Can you get back in?”

Nick was about to try but was stopped by Howie, “I’ll do it. You sit and rest!”

“I want to help!”

“Sit!

Kevin grabbed at Nick’s leg and motioned for him to sit. He tried to get a really good look at his friend to assess how he was feeling but Nick was doing the exact same thing to Kevin. “What can I do to help you, Kevin?”

“My shoe…can you take it off?” Kevin pointed to his left leg.

Nick nodded and slowly pulled at the sneaker. Kevin cried out in pain but then bit his lip to stop himself. “I’m sorry; I don’t mean to hurt you.”

Unable to talk because of the pain, Kevin just nodded as Nick tugged the sneaker completely off. “Wow that is really swollen badly! You need help Kev!”  

“Were you able to get through?” Kevin glanced over at Howie as he made his way back towards his friends.

Howie shook his head and knelt down, “There’s too much damage, and I couldn’t get my body all the way in. I have no idea how you managed to get out. The good news is both of them seem to be okay. I was able to talk to Brian. He said from now one he’s going to buy a bushel of bananas and keep them on his bus so something like this will never happen again.”

“Nice to see everyone can still manage to joke.” Kevin halfheartedly said but he did smile, just knowing that at least his cousin had not only escaped major injury but was also able to keep his spirits up. It seemed like besides being trapped, AJ was fine too. Howie seemed to only have a few cuts and bruises as well as Nick. If the worst thing to come of this was a broken ankle he would gladly take one for the team.

“Kevin?”

He opened his eyes to the sound of his cousin. “Yeah, Brian?”

“They aren’t back yet?”

“No.”

“They’ve been gone for a pretty long time.”

“I’m sure it won’t be much longer now.”

After Howie and Nick left to get help, Kevin decided to sit by that back window so he could at least talk to the guys without having to climb on top of the van. Something he knew he would be unable to do with his ankle as swollen as it was.

“How’s AJ holding up?”

“That’s a sucky pun, Kevin.”

Right, AJ was literally up, up.

“Sorry.”

The only bad thing was Kevin could barely hear AJ from the back. So Brian had to act as the messenger.

“He said he’s okay but he wants to get down and out of the van. We both do!”

“I wish I could get you guys out, but I can’t.”

He didn’t want to let them know he was hurt. What was the use? It’s not like that information would do anything positive for their situation just like he didn’t want them to know he was really beginning to worry about Nick and Howie. They had been gone way too long. He thought about trying to make it up the hill to flag a car down but the pain was so bad that he couldn’t even stand. He had heard a few cars pass up the road but since it was dark, no one bothered to notice the broken fence he supposed. He kept trying his cell phone hoping he would get a signal but it was no use. There were just stuck there waiting.

He closed his eyes once more.

“I’m going to go get some help.” Howie had said as Kevin continued to rub at his very swollen ankle.

“You can’t go alone, I’ll go with you.” Nick started to stand up but quickly fell back down to the ground.

“No way, Nicky. I can go by myself. I’m sure I’ll run into someone.”

“D, we encountered no other signs of life for about a good thirty minutes before ending up here.”

“Even still, we need to get help. We can’t just wait around. Kevin’s ankle is probably broken and we have no idea what kind of condition Brian and AJ are really in and you…”

“I’m fine and I’m coming with you.”

Both Howie and Nick looked at Kevin for the final say but in all honesty he wasn’t sure what that should be. There was no way Howie should venture out there alone especially because soon it would be dark but Nick seemed weak, but he also seemed determined.

“Howie, take Nick with you. I’ll stay with these guys.”

He saw Howie look over at Nick with a questioning gaze, “Are you sure you’re okay? Now’s not the time to act like a hero.”

Nick stood up, “I’m good man. Let’s go get help!”

Right before they left, it was Nick who squatted beside Kevin and said the words that he needed to hear more than anything. “You know, none of this is your fault.”

He almost wanted to cry as he grabbed his baby brother into a hug, “Thanks. Please be safe and hurry back.”

“We will.”

The last time he saw them, they had waved from the road. That had to be hours ago. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed but he knew that soon he wouldn’t be able to see anything because of the darkness and it was getting cold. The other thing he found unsettling was the howling he heard off in the distance.

“Please hurry!” He whispered as he protectively wrapped his arms around himself for warmth.

 

 

Chapter 4 by Mare
Author's Notes:

It's so nice seeing some of my old readers back! I have missed you guys! :O)

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

From “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

 

 

~ 4~

 

A Conversation with a lunatic

 

As they drove away from Howie and the cabin, Nick glanced back hoping that his friend would be okay alone and that maybe he would be able to escape and get help. He tried so hard to be strong, but the fear mixed with the pain he was feeling became a bit too much for him so as he turned back to face front, the first few tears streamed out of his eyes.

His hands were no longer tied behind his back. This time they were tied in front which proved to be a bit more comfortable and alleviated the pain in his side and stomach just a little bit. He was also able to wipe away the tears as they fell.

“If you promise not to scream, I’ll take the gag off.”

The last thing Nick wanted to do was make eye contact with this guy, but he was given no choice when the man grabbed his chin and forced him to look into his brown, dull eyes.

“Oh, you’re crying. Heck now I feel bad. I didn’t mean to make you cry.” He let go of Nick’s chin and turned his attention back to the very dark, unmarked gravel road which led away from the cabin.

When driving up that same road to get to their destination, Nick had a sense that something wasn’t quite right with the man who was so willing to help them. The rifle was the first clue but the weird sideways glances he kept receiving were the main ones. He was used to seeing those types of stares from people trying to place a name to his very familiar face, but this was different. It was clear the man helping them out had no clue what or who the Backstreet Boys were. That glance was something else, more like I can’t believe they actually were dumb enough to get in the car with me, type of look. He was sure Howie had picked up on it too, by the sound of his voice as he tried to strike up a conversation with the guy.

“So, what’s your name?” He had asked.

“Tim.”

“Well, thanks again Tim, we really do appreciate the help.”

“Not a problem, I’m happy to do it.”

“Wow, it sure is dark on this road. I bet you encounter a lot of deer?”

“Sometimes, but not really.”

There was more silence, “Are you the only one who lives on this road, Tim?” Yup, Howie was very nervous.

“Yup, and now we’re here.”

He said just as he pulled into a long, unmarked driveway. It seemed like forever before they actually saw the cabin. “Alright boys, welcome home!” He had said as he got out of the truck.

Nick turned to look at Howie who shrugged and said, “Let’s hope he doesn’t have anything dead mounted on the walls.” If only he had known.

Tim opened the door for Nick when it was taking him too long to move. He then reached in and grabbed his rifle just as Howie was getting out of the truck. They both followed him into the cabin not knowing what was to come next…

“So, do you promise?”

Nick looked over at Tim and nodded. He stopped the truck and motioned for Nick to turn his head so he could undo the knot. He let out a breath when the gag came out but this time, he didn’t feel the need to cough.

“Thanks.” He whispered.

“Don’t worry; it won’t always be like this. In time you won’t even need those to leave.” He said glancing down at Nick’s ropes.

“If you let us go, I promise we won’t tell anybody about you. I swear.” He didn’t’ want to sound desperate but he realized that’s exactly what he sounded like because of the crying that went along with the pleading. It wasn’t a full on cry, but shaky enough to sound pathetic, at least in Nick’s mind.

“What’s your name? I know the other one is Howie, but what’s yours?”

He took another deep breath before he answered. “Nick.”

“Well, Nick. I appreciate the offer, but the thing is… I want you and your friend to live with me. I know you probably aren’t too keen on the idea now, I get that. I mean I did hold you at gunpoint and well… tied you up which I admit isn’t the most productive way to get someone to like you, but I really didn’t see any other way.”

“Howie has a wife and two small children.” Nick sniffled.

“And what about you, you got a wife and kids?”

Nick shook his head as another wave of tears fell. “Not yet. I’m engaged though.”

“Congrats, I’m sure she’s a lovely person. I had a girlfriend once. Her name was Candice.”

Tim sounded like such a normal guy when he talked; it was almost hard for Nick to believe this was real. He didn’t act like the stereotypical lunatic you read about living in the backwoods and having sex with gophers. This guy seemed completely normal, except that he wasn’t.

“I want to see her again.” Nick confessed, thinking of Lauren with sadness and longing in his heart.

“We all want what we don’t’ have. That’s part of the human condition I suppose. How old are you, Nick?”

“33.”

“That’s still pretty young. Is your friend the same age?”

“He’s older than me.”

“I can tell. He looks out for you, doesn’t he?”

Nick nodded knowing exactly what sparked that remark.

When they entered the cabin, it looked like something you’d expect to find way out there in the middle of the woods secluded from everything. Nick glanced over to his left at the huge fireplace. Beside the fireplace was a bookcase stocked with so many books they were doubled up in places. A recliner was the only piece of comfortable furniture Tim seemed to own and it sat kitty corner between the book case and the fireplace. To the right of the front door was a very old, almost moldy couch covered with a patchwork quilt. A big black storage chest served as a coffee table that held a few more books. Against the wall and seemingly out of place was a pretty big flat screen TV complete with a five disc DVD player.

There was no separation into the very small kitchen that contained a mini fridge and an old stove, a table and a few chairs. There were two doors off the kitchen. From Nick’s angle, he could tell one was a bedroom. He assumed the other was the bathroom. There seemed to be something missing though. As he scanned the place, “Where is your phone?”

Nick could tell that Howie was thinking the same thing as he was glancing around as well.

“In the bedroom,” Tim said, motioning for Howie to go into the room and make his call. Nick felt relief just then, knowing that this nightmare would soon be over. He would be able to get his friends help and get himself checked out as well, knowing that something was really wrong. Sure Kevin would be pissed, just like Howie was when he started to figure it out, but they’d get over it. Once all was said and done, he needed to go with D. He wouldn’t have done it any other way.

The relief was short lived when he looked up to see Tim pointing the rifle directly at him. Howie came out within seconds of that happening, “I couldn’t find a…what’s going on?”

Tim never looked away from Nick as he spoke to Howie, “I need you to come over here or I will shoot your friend.”

Nick looked over at Howie, terrified at what might happen. This couldn’t be real. Things like this didn’t really happen to people. Things like this were never supposed to happen to him. Howie slowly and cautiously walked over to Tim and next to Nick. “Okay good. Now here’s the deal, you are both going to sit on the ground and not say one word!”

Howie moved quickly and did what he was told, practically plopping himself on the floor the second the command was given. Nick however wasn’t as fast to move, mainly because his brain was still trying to process the gun aimed at his heart. Tim walked over and grabbed Nick’s arm pretty forcefully and pushed him to ground. He hit the floor on his side, the one that was already hurting and cried out in pain. It’s like Howie hearing his friend hurt, forgot about the gun and rushed by Nick’s side.

Tim was not expecting that kind of reaction and grew mad, kicking Nick in the same side he just fell on. “Leave him alone!” Howie stood up at that point, mad as hell, “Can’t you see he is hurt? We were in an accident. He needs medical attention!”

Once again Tim was taken back but this time he allowed Howie to help Nick to a sitting position. “Are you okay?” D had asked, alarmed.

Nick had a hard time finding his voice. He knew he was very far from okay, but he nodded instead. “What do you want from us?” A very angry Howie asked once again turning his attention to their captor. Nick was starting to worry that his Puerto Rican temper was going to end up getting his friend killed, so he placed a loving hand on D’s leg to settle him down.

“Company.” Was Tim’s only response as he pushed everything off the black chest, opened it up and took out rope, a lot of rope.

“I wish I had someone that looked out for me.” Tim sighed, “Well….maybe in time Howie will do the same for me, although I am older than he is, Hell…” He laughed now, “Maybe I can be like the older brother and look out for the two of you.”

It amazed Nick how disconnected from reality the guy seemed, but yet as normal as normal could be. He didn’t even remotely look like a lunatic either. He was about the same size and build as Nick was. He had dark blond hair that was slightly curly and almost shoulder length. You would think living alone in the woods he would have that kind of crazy quality about him, but he was clean shaven and smelled pretty good. AJ looked more like he belonged in the cabin than this guy did. He actually wasn’t a bad looking guy either. In fact, if the two of them were seen together, he could probably pass himself off as a Carter.

Everything about this seemed so wrong.

“I’m sorry for kicking you earlier. I had no idea you were hurt. Are you feeling better?”

“Not really.”

“I am going to buy a bunch of medicine for you. Aspirin all that kind of stuff, anything else you can think of? Do you have any favorite foods? What about Howie? What does he like?”

The excitement in Tim’s voice was comical and horrifying all at the same time. He sounded like a kid who was about to have his very first sleepover. “I’m not really that worried about us, but more for my friends.”

Tim nodded, “Right, the other three.”

“Is there any way you can maybe call for help for them? They won’t have to know it’s from us, no one will have to know and this way they will be okay and you will still have Howie and Me.” Nick knew it was a long shot but he had to at least try.

He could tell that Tim was really thinking this over in his head and he grew hopeful, but then he saw the turn on his face. “Nah, I don’t really feel too comfortable about that. You know they put tracking devices on phones. No one knows about me and I’d like to keep it that way.”

Nick fought back even more tears now as he noticed the time on the dashboard clock. It was almost 8 p.m. “Please! One of my friends broke his ankle and is probably in a lot of pain. They have no supplies, including food. They might freeze or starve to death if they don’t get help soon.” When he saw Tim’s facial expression soften, he continued, “We have been gone so long, it’s been hours. Maybe we could bring supplies to them. So they could at least get through the night?”

“You want me to spend my money on your friends, and then drop off things for them? I don’t’ even know them.” He half laughed at the ridiculous request.

“You know them about as well as you know me and you have all but adopted me as your fucking pet dog or something!” Nick didn’t mean to lose his cool but he was so anxious and emotional, he couldn’t help it.

Tim’s hands tensed on the steering wheel and just for a second, Nick braced himself thinking he was about to be bitch slapped or worse, but fortunately that didn’t happen. Instead he got a surprising, “How about I’ll think about it?”

Tim glanced over at Nick and semi smiled, “If you behave yourself at the store, I’ll consider it but only because I know they mean something to you and Howie so by default, I guess that means they are important to me too.”

“Sounds fair.” Nick said, wiping at the last of his tears as they rolled down his cheeks.

The next few words out of Tim’s mouth sent chills down Nick’s spine.

“You know, I’m not a bad person, Nick. Eventually you’ll enjoy being around me and soon enough you’ll forget about your old life.”  Tim said those words just as they drove past the broken fence that led to the rolled over van.

 

 

Chapter 5 by Mare
Author's Notes:

Thanks for reading as always! :O)

I was placed in sadness
I was placed in darkness
I was placed in fear
Trapped in a place called despair

From “Trapped In Despair” by N.S. Collette.

 

~ 5 ~

 

Left in the Dark, Struggling

 

Brian couldn’t recall the last time he had ever felt this hungry, thirsty, scared and abandoned. He had been in the same position in the van for well over half a day. His left arm pretty much was numb from the hand all the way up to his shoulder and now that area between his shoulder and his neck was tingly with what felt like the beginning of pins and needles. Every time he struggled to get his arm loose, he felt that he was only making things worse so he basically stopped moving about an hour ago, just resigned to the fact that he was going to die inside this van staring up at AJ as if he was some kind of suspended angel.

He wasn’t sure what was taking Nick and Howie so long to get help but he was mad. Leave it to them to get sidetracked or something. Knowing Nick, he was probably talking to Lauren and lost track of time forgetting about the three of them altogether after all, as long as it didn’t affect him...

“Kevin?”

He paused, hoping that maybe his cousin wouldn’t’ answer and actually got angry when he heard a “Yeah?” in reply. That was the other thing he didn’t understand, why on earth Kevin wasn’t also trying to get some help. Surely they couldn’t have been that far away from the main road. Maybe if he had bothered to try, he could have easily flagged down a car. He swore he saw lights, although from his position it was hard to see very much at all. It was almost pitch black inside the van now.

“What’s wrong, Brian?” Kevin asked when his cousin failed to answer the first time.

“Still no sign of them or anyone else?”

“No.”

“I thought I just heard a car pass by.”

“You did, but they didn’t stop. No one knows we’re out here.”

“Don’t’ you think maybe you should go stand in the middle of the road or something?” His words were biting as they came out of his mouth, dripping with anger and impatience.

There was a short pause, “I can’t.”

“Why?”

Again another pause, “I am pretty sure my ankle is broken. I can barely stand let alone make it up the hill. If I could, don’t you think I would have tried by now?”

“What did he say?” AJ’s voice from above asked. He sounded hoarse and tired.

“He thinks he broke his ankle. That’s why he hasn’t been able to go for help.” Now Brian felt horribly guilty for doubting his cousin, just like he did about Howie and Nick. He was sure they hadn’t really forgotten about them either.

“Nick and Howie are dead.” AJ tended to say whatever crossed his mind, which is one of the things that made him endearing at times and completely annoying at others. “Something had to have happened to them. They’ve been gone too long.”

“AJ…stop.” Brian tried to sound reassuring but honestly, he wasn’t so sure himself.

“How are you two doing in there?” Kevin asked now sounding a bit concerned because of Brian’s mini outburst.

“Not so good. We’re hungry, thirsty and pretty achy. What about you? I’m sorry about your ankle. I wish you had mentioned that earlier.”

“I’ll survive.” He said, not sounding very confident.

“I have been looking around the van for something we could eat, but the only thing out here is grass. If worse comes to worse, I’ll pick some and pass it to you.”

Brian tried to smile, “Hey, if it’s good enough for cows…” even though he knew there was no way for Kevin to get anything into the van anyway, unless he were able to climb up to the top. Not with a broken ankle though. Just that thought made his stomach grumble as he swallowed trying to keep his throat wet.

“Everything will work out, Brian. I’m sure help is on the way.”

“Think anyone else noticed we were gone by now?” AJ asked his friend.

Brian was hoping that by now his wife would have realized something was wrong when he didn’t do a check in. They were supposed to meet up for dinner. He was sure it was way past dinner time. “I hope so.” If only he were able to reach into his pocket to check his phone, he was certain there were probably about ten missed calls from her alone. Not that his cell would work anyway…

 “What time is it, do you have any idea?” He called out to Kevin, not really sure he wanted the answer. It was one thing to just think you were stuck for hours but it was another to have proof.

“Just past 8.”

“What time is it?” AJ asked.

“He said it’s after 8.”

“Shit, I don’t know how long I can do this, Brian. I can’t feel my fucking legs anymore and this God damned seat belt is ripping me in half, at least that’s what it feels like.”

Brian really sympathized with AJ but at the same time wanted him to just shut the hell up. He had been doing nothing but complaining ever since they had ended up in this situation and his overly dramatic attitude wasn’t helping either one of them. It was important for Brian to keep his spirits up if he was going to get through this. AJ was just bringing him down.

“I just want to kiss my daughter.” AJ was on the verge of tears and that got Brian going again. He had cried about three times already, more in one day then he could recall doing in a month. He just felt so helpless. It was his nature to be able to problem solve himself out of pretty much any situation. Always keep a level head, close your eyes and pray for answers and no matter what, the solution would soon follow. This time no matter how many times he closed his eyes and cleared his mind to pray, nothing would come. His fate was left purely in the hands of Nick and Howie.

He once again felt just a small surge of anger at the thought of the two of them walking slowly along the road, maybe afraid to stop a car because they would be recognized. Something had to be happening like that. If he had been the one to get help, they would be home by now.

“It’s getting cold and dark in here.”

Brian rolled his eyes at AJ’s whiney voice.

“Well, that’s what happens when it’s night, AJ. It tends to get dark and cold.”

“Jesus, you don’t have to be an ass about it.”

“Sorry, I’m just…”

“I know… me too, bro.”

“I wish there was a way I could get in there.” Kevin had been trying to get himself into the van for about the last two hours. Slowly moving his legs in and then trying to shove the rest of his body through the small opening of the window, but once he got halfway through he would get himself stuck and have to jimmy back out.  “How Nick managed to get out of there, I’ll never know.”

“Velocity is a funny thing I guess. Size doesn’t matter when you are rolling down a hill at a fast speed.” Once again, Brian hated the harsh sound of his voice when he said that.

“How could he possibly be okay?” AJ asked.

That’s when Brian closed his eyes and envisioned the only possible scenario for the hold up. It was clear that Nick wasn’t okay and had dropped dead while trying to get help. Once again he felt himself start to cry, because he was convinced one or both of his friends were dead. They had to be. If help didn’t arrive soon, the three of them would be dead too.

AJ started stirring above. It seemed like every hour or so he would get a burst of energy and squirm around, hoping that the seatbelt would give and he would come crashing to the ground.

“Be careful AJ, you don’t want to hurt yourself.”

The last time he had tried, he was swinging his feet so much that his shoe fell completely off his foot, missing Brian’s head by mere inches.

“I think I loosened it the last time.” He reached around trying to get his body out of the top part of the seatbelt while Brian watched. He considered this his hourly form of entertainment despite the fact that it was too dark to even really see anything at all.

“Is he trying again?” Kevin asked from outside. It sounded as though he was shivering.

Brian hadn’t really thought about what his cousin was going through being stuck outside in the cold and dark, all alone. At least he and AJ had the cover of the van to keep them warm and most importantly away from any kind of creatures that were lurking outside.

“Yup, he thinks he loosened it the last time.”

“Didn’t he say that the last time as well?”

“Yeah.”

Just then, Brian could have sworn he heard howling off in the distance, “Kevin, did I just hear…”

“Yeah, it’s been happening ever since it’s gotten dark.”

“That’s the first time I heard it.”

There was a long pause, where all that could be heard was the sound of AJ grunting as he struggled to free himself before Kevin finally answered, “That’s because they are getting closer now.”

A chill ran down Brian’s almost numb spine, just picturing his cousin helpless outside while wolves slowly made their way towards the van. “Is there anywhere you can go to keep yourself safe?”

“Safe from what?” AJ stopped wrestling with his seatbelt.

Brian wanted to just lie to his friend because honestly he didn’t want to deal with the aftermath but another sound of howling kind of made things clear. “Was that a fucking wolf?”

“Yeah.”

“Well that sounds about right; I mean why the hell wouldn’t there be a fucking wolf in the picture. That’s the only god damn thing that was missing!”

“AJ, please…” Brian took his free hand and rubbed at his eyes. He was starting to get a headache from the stress of the situation.

“I think my best bet would be to get on top of the van, but I can’t so, I guess I’m just going to have to tempt fate.”

Brian was kind of glad that AJ couldn’t hear Kevin and Kevin couldn’t hear AJ but he wished he couldn’t hear either one of them right about now. There was too much to worry about at the moment and once again no answers coming from up above. The only thing coming from higher up was a string of profanity.

“FUCK FUCK FUCK!! THIS FUCKING THING!!” AJ stopped his struggling and broke out into sobs.

“We’re going to die, Brian. I can feel it in my heart….”

“AJ, please stop. We will get through this.”

“How? There’s no one to help.”

“I want to just be able to see my wife and Ava one last time.”

As much as he wanted to be there for his friend, he just wished he would shut the hell up. Brian had to believe they would make it because if he gave up hope…no, he couldn’t give up hope. “You will! Now sitting up there and crying about it won’t help. Try your belt again.”

“It’s no use, Brian! The metal is bent.”

Brian continued his own struggling at that point, trying his best to get his arm free so he could get everyone out of this mess, stopping only briefly when the wolves began to howl, louder than before.

 

 

Chapter 6 by Mare
Author's Notes:
I love seeing new faces in the mix this time around as well! Thanks for all the reviews! :O)

Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood
Others may deceive you
You decide what’s good
You decide alone
But no one is alone

From “No one Is Alone” by Stephen Sondheim

 

~ 6 ~

Into the Woods

 

Howie walked very slowly down the path that led away from the cabin, wondering if what he was doing was such a great idea. He hadn’t really thought about the consequences. What if Tim came back and in a rage, took his anger out on Nick? How could he be so willing to leave his friend behind with that maniac? He stopped and looked back. Maybe he shouldn’t go. Maybe there was a way he could just hide inside the cabin and try to overtake the bigger man when he least expected it.

There was nowhere he could really hide besides the bedroom or bathroom though and if he did try to tackle the guy and failed, there was a good chance he would end up getting both himself and Nick killed. No, leaving and finding help was his best bet, if not only for him but for the rest of the guys as well.

His thoughts briefly went to Kevin, AJ and Brian. Maybe someone had stopped and found them.  They couldn’t be doing well if they were still at the van. They were probably hungry, cold and most likely wondering where the hell help was. Nope, they had to be rescued by now. Someone had to see the skid marks on the road and wonder why the fence was broken. They were most likely safe and joined in an effort to find himself and Nick.

At least he was sure that even if the others weren’t safe, by now everyone else was aware that something was wrong. The thought of Leigh worrying caused him to stop once again. He could see the scenario in his head, plain as day. His wife wondering why he hadn’t returned any of her calls so in turn calling Nick only to see he hadn’t either. She would then call Lauren, Rochelle or Kristin to see if they had heard from their guys and as a last resort Leighanne. Once everyone else said they haven’t heard a word she would begin to panic.

The police would most likely have been called by this point but so were the remaining members of his family. No doubt that the next call would be to his brother who in turn would tell their mother that something was wrong. Yup, everyone was probably concerned, but at least looking.

That was his hope.

He went into his pocket and pulled out his cellphone again, only to find it completely dead. “With my luck I bet I would have gotten a signal from here.” He muttered as he placed it back into his pocket after convincing himself that throwing it in frustration probably wasn’t a good idea.

He thought he heard something scurry by his feet so he quickly shined the flashlight to the ground. He saw nothing, but unfortunately the sounds of nature at night were scaring him to death. Howie by all rights was far from an outdoor person. He had only gone camping when forced to and his idea of roughing it usually involved an RV loaded with amenities. Nick joked that one day the two of them would have to take a good old fashioned camping trip with nothing except a small pup tent, some sleeping bags and a backpack.

Nick…

He took a deep breath as he thought about his friend, more like worried about him. He should have never agreed to let Nick come with him. Howie KNEW he was lying about feeling okay. In a way he figured Kevin did too. They both knew the kid so well, they knew his tells. But still, the hope was that maybe he was just a little achier than he had let on, nothing major. He should have known better. It was selfish of him to agree to let Nicky tag along. He didn’t want to be alone though and the thought of being out there in the dark with no clue where to go frightened him more than the idea of Nick being a little hurt.

Selfish!

Once they had made it up the hill, he knew. Right there he should have forced his younger friend to head right back down and wait with Kevin. He was way out of breath and holding his side a little too gingerly as he bent slightly.

“Are you okay?” Howie had asked, already knowing the real answer as opposed to the one he would hear.

“I’m good, just a little winded.”

Howie had glanced back down the hill at Kevin as he let his friend catch his breath. “Which way do you think we should go?”

“Well, we passed nothing that way,” Nick stood straight grunting slightly and pointed in the direction they had come from before turning to face the other way, “So; I say we go this way.”

“I agree.” He saw Kevin staring right back up at him so he waved.

“He’s in a lot of pain.”

Howie nodded at Nick. “Lord knows how the other two really are as well.”

“We have to find help, Howie. Why haven’t any cars passed by?”

“I have no clue but we better get moving before it gets dark.”

Nick nodded and waved at Kevin as they set out down the road.

It was Howie’s hope that he could get himself back onto that same road. Maybe there was a house that he missed on the ride up. He wished he had paid a little more attention to his surroundings while they were driving to this place. He couldn’t even say for sure what direction they had ended up going. And how many times did Tim turn off a road before ending up at the cabin. Maybe only once, but what if he was wrong?

It seemed like Howie would stop himself about every ten steps or so, probably because he had no real plan. All he had was a flashlight that he hoped held fresh batteries. He also should have thought to raid the small kitchen, grab a bottle of water and maybe some food. But it’s not like he had time to make all these elaborate plans. All he knew was he had to be gone before Tim came back.

The breeze made him also wish he had a jacket or something too. He didn’t expect it would be this chilly in the middle of the summer. Kevin was probably freezing to death about now.

That thought made his feet finally move. He continued to walk down the dirt road and almost fell when the smooth dirt made a transition to gravel. He continued to walk down the long gravel road at a pretty quick pace as he tried to think of some happy thoughts to help him get through.

Thoughts of his kids and his wife helped for a few minutes but then he found himself just getting more distressed about the possibility of never seeing them again. He hated feeling this way. Even the direst of circumstances, Howie never ever felt like giving up. This was certainly the worst situation he had ever found himself in. “You’re right, Nicky. This would make a pretty good Lifetime Movie.” He laughed out loud remembering the conversation they had before this particular part of the nightmare began.

“Think about it, D.” He lowered his voice to resemble Mr. Movie phone. Something that Kevin had taken a habit of doing and of course since Nick always ended up trying to copy everything Kevin did, it was only natural to hear him try this too. “In the middle of the woods…five Backstreet Boys get into a car accident because of…bananas!” He over exaggerated the word which made Howie laugh and shake his head. “Yes, you heard right…bananas! And now they are all fighting for their lives! Will Nick and Howie get help in time?”

“That fight will probably go down in the record books as the stupidest argument ever.”

“I don’t know Howie, remember the Nairing of the brow incident in 98?”

Howie let out a laugh, “Okay you’re right but at least that one didn’t result in a major car accident.”

“Only because I made Kevin so mad at me that he wouldn’t even be in the same room as I was, let alone a car!”

“I can’t believe we ALL managed to end up in the middle of that one. It’s because I had to stick up for YOUR ass!”

“But I’m worth it, aren’t I?”

Howie had looked over at his younger friend and smiled, he had momentarily forgotten why they were in the middle of the road even having this conversation to begin with but taking a look at Nick and the gash on his forehead coupled with his overly white complexion had brought him right back to reality. “Yeah, I guess you’re worth it.” He then grabbed Nick by the scruff of his neck and gave a slight squeeze. Even at thirty three, the blonde giggled at the slightest touch of his neck just like he had when he was twelve. Some things never changed.  

The silent and dark night started to play games with Howie’s mind. He could swear he was seeing shadows off to his side. Obviously it was his imagination, but what if it wasn’t? That’s the first time he allowed himself to explore the possibility that Tim wasn’t really alone. Maybe he had someone staying with him. Maybe that person had been trailing him ever since he left the cabin. Of course he was sure it was paranoia because if that Tim guy did have someone in his life, he wouldn’t have been so keen to ‘adopt’ the two of them in the first place.

Maybe there was someone though, “Hello?” He said out loud suddenly flashing his light into the trees he was sure the shadows were coming from, “Is anyone there?”

He was answered with silence except for another slight breeze that made the trees all dance in unison.

Letting out a sigh he decided to turn back towards where he had just walked. The cabin was nowhere in sight anymore, now totally consumed by the darkness of the remote road. Tim couldn’t have picked a better location if he tried. The place was built for a lunatic, it was secluded, had no cell reception and probably no human contact anywhere within a fifty mile radius. That’s when Howie’s heart sank. What he was doing was useless. There would be no one to help him. Not until he got back onto that main road and he wasn’t sure how far that was. He felt like he had already been walking for at least thirty minutes but when he shined the light ahead all he saw was nothing but more gravel road. There was nothing that even resembled an intersection or anywhere to turn at all. He was sure they had made at least one turn.

“Dammit!”

Once again he was unsure of what to do. Was it the fear of the unknown that was preventing him from continuing on, or his inner voice telling him it was a bad idea and that he should turn back while he had the chance?

Unfortunately it ended up being fate that made his decision when out of nowhere an intense growling sound was heard coming from the place he had shone the light before. He didn’t even turn around to see what it was, he was afraid if he did he would see it right behind him, it’s teeth being the last thing he saw before he was eaten, so he took off into the actual woods, off the road and into the trees, accidentally dropping his flashlight as he ran.

 

 

Chapter 7 by Mare
Author's Notes:
And now we're back to Tim :O)

The baby bat
Screamed out in fright,
‘Turn on the dark,
I’m afraid of the light.’

“Batty” by Shel Silverstein

 

~ 7 ~

 

A Love Story, of sorts…

 

In his life, Tim had only ever loved three things.

His first love of course was his family. His mother had meant everything to him growing up. Before they abandoned their old life and headed for the hills, his favorite part of the day was coming home from school. His mother would be sitting at the kitchen table waiting for him with a freshly made batch of her famous chocolate chip cookies and some milk. She knew how much he hated homework so she would sit by his side and rub his back as he tackled his math problems head on. Whenever he was about to cry in frustration, she would push the cookies and milk towards him and distract him with poetry. Reciting the words to Roald Dahl’s “Augustus Gloop” from memory by changing her voice as she spoke “Augustus Gloop, Augustus Gloop, the great big greedy nincompoop…” by the time she was done, Tim would be ready to finish his work with a smile on his face and crumbs dangling off a freshly worn milk moustache.

After they moved to the cabin, the bond between mother and son became even tighter. They were each other’s only friend. Conversation soon changed from things a mother might say to a son into what two friends might talk about while their kids were in school. It was during those conversations that Tim started to see his dad in a different light. He had never really been close to his father, in fact he had feared him, but after hearing his mother talk about his late night drinking and interludes with other women a new emotion took its place and that was hate.

Sometimes he wished that his mother hadn’t shared as much information as she did because it was much better living in the dark then the light. But then again, he was grateful for some of the knowledge that was imparted, especially after she died. Without knowing about what tended to trigger his father, he most likely would have been dead by now and not sitting beside his newly adopted brother.

As they pulled into the parking lot of the brand new Target which ironically enough sat right across from Wal-Mart, Tim was convinced that he had made the right choice taking Howie and Nick. They seemed like the perfect addition to his family, at least he was sure this one was. Heck, they even kind of looked alike.

“We’re here.”

Nick didn’t answer and Tim was a little disappointed when the kid tried to deflect the reassuring pat given on the shoulder.

“What? Can’t I give you a friendly love tap? That’s what my dad used to call that,” He did it once again and once again Nick tried to move away from his hand, “A love tap.” Tim finished his sentence a bit annoyed.

He hated the look of fear in Nick’s eyes but also knew that in time it would go way. Once his new brother got to know him, he would soften up and maybe even look forward to spending time with him. “You know, I’ve always wanted a little brother and it’s nice to know I’m finally getting my wish.” He gave his most reassuring smile followed by a wink but all his traveling companion did was stare with those same horror filled eyes.

Tim tried to shake off the awkward vibe he was picking up, “So, if I take you in there with me, do you promise to behave yourself and not try to get help?”

This time, Nick did finally look over at him and even smiled a little, “I promise.”

He looked his new brother up and down, making sure that he wouldn’t draw too much attention to himself. The fact was he just might. His gray tee shirt was a little ripped and bloody by the neckline and his black sweats had a tear right above his knee. Then there was his actual face with coagulated blood just above his right eyebrow and down his ear a little. “I don’t know little buddy, you’re not looking too healthy. I’m afraid you might attract some attention if I take you with me. Maybe it’s best if you just hang here in the truck. I won’t be long, I promise.”

Nick looked as if he was about to cry which confused Tim. “Please take me in there with you.” He sounded like a child begging for ice cream.

“Why? What’s the big deal?”

He could tell Nick was trying to figure out what to say and once again, Tim became annoyed. Was he being deceived? He hoped not. “I don’t want to be alone. I don’t like being left alone.”

Tim let out a laugh that made Nick recoil, “Aren’t you a bit too old to be afraid of being by yourself?” Before the kid had a chance to answer, Tim continued, “Sorry buddy, I made up my mind. You’re staying here and as long as you promise to behave, I won’t have to tie you in the back seat and gag you. Do you promise to just sit here and behave?”

A few tears streamed down Nick’s face which made Tim think that maybe he was telling the truth. Maybe he really didn’t want to be left all alone.

“What about my friends? Are you going to help them?”

“Let’s see how this goes first, okay? Now sit tight. I’ll be back real soon.” He grabbed Nick’s hands that were already bound and attached another rope that connected to the steering wheel. This caused him to have to lie down on the front seat and out of the view of the window.

“Sorry buddy, but I just can’t take the chance that you’ll try to get someone to help you. Think of Howie and his safety. This is for your own good.”

Nick tried to muffle his cries as Tim placed a loving arm on his head and pet it like a dog. “It’ll all be okay.” He then opened his door and locked the car.

Tim’s second love was reading. His mother had instilled in him a love for books at a very early age. By the time he was four, he was able to not only read but recite Harold and the Purple Crayon from memory. It was a game he and his mom played right before bed. She would pick out a story for him to read and then the next night, if he was able to recite it back from memory, he was rewarded with a new toy. Nothing ever that extravagant, usually from the five and dime but even still a new toy was a new toy.

After they got to the cabin a new toy was replaced by pets. Not real ones like the dog he had left so many years ago, but smaller ones like a frog or a firefly; something that he was able to call his own. Memorizing children’s books was also replaced with poetry. Poetry was his mother’s first love, even more so than his father. It was poetry she turned to when she was down. She used to write her own but her favorite thing to do was recite poems to her men after dinner. It was their form of entertainment since they didn’t own a television. She would allow her son to pick a book of poems off the shelf and then she would spend an hour reading and explaining the more intricate ones. Tim’s father didn’t really enjoy it, he would usually leave mid-sentence and head outside for a smoke or drink. Tim however, could listen to his mother for hours.

It was through her that he began his own love affair with poetry. After she died, to feel closer to her he would spend hours going through volumes and volumes of some of her favorite poets like Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson. He had read her favorite Dickinson poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” as a eulogy on the day she died, right after him and his father threw her in a ditch and called it a grave.

He found himself standing by the book aisle, staring blankly as his memories gave way to the here and now. He wished they had a bigger selection to choose from. Nothing looked good but he very well couldn’t leave without buying at least one, so he scanned the shelves looking for something maybe Nick or Howie might like. He didn’t know their tastes just yet but eventually he’d be able to bring them into this place and let them pick out whatever they wanted.

His eyes landed on a Stephen King book, even though he wasn’t a fan himself he had a feeling Nick might be, so he grabbed, “Joyland,” and put it in his cart. He moved out of the book aisle and towards the medicine knowing this is where he would be spending most of his allotted money on this trip.

His third love was Candice. Before she walked into his life, he had only ever heard about the kind of love shared between a man and a woman through stories his mother would tell him regarding his parent’s early courtship. When she first came to stay, he was afraid to get too close, for the longest time, he ignored her completely. That was back in the time when binding and gagging her was necessary. After a while curiosity got the better of him and when he was sure his father wasn’t looking, he would go into the bedroom and take her gag off not caring that the action would be met with contemptuous words and a spit in the face followed by tears, lots and lots of tears.

Tim always urged her to calm down, once she stopped fighting, his father would ease up and eventually let her go. He never meant leave but she took it that way. After a few weeks she did stop struggling and within time she was able to wander around the house free of her own will as long as she never tried to go for the door. On those few occasions, she would be locked in the bedroom, tied to a chair as punishment.

Eventually she just became part of the family.

Tim took her under his wing, much the same way his mother did for him. After dinner he would let her pick out her favorite book and he would spend the evening reading it to her as she closed her eyes and lay beside him on the couch. He would experience urges that his father warned him about but he never acted on them, instead choosing self-gratification in the privacy of his bathroom. Candice was a lady and he wasn’t going to do anything to change that. Maybe when they were married it would be different. He wasn’t sure when that would happen, but he knew it would eventually come. He was finally going to know happiness and true love.

His father had changed all of that with one shot to the head.

He looked down at his cart and all the supplies he had bought and couldn’t help but shake his head. Maybe doing this would be the thing that would get Nick on his side. Helping his friends out would win him brownie points. He still wasn’t quite sure if he would or not, but at least he could hold it over the kid’s head for a while.

As he walked to the checkout he passed a cardboard display, he just glanced at it briefly and shook his head. “I hate pop music,” He declared as a teenager picked up “In a World Like This” and placed it in her own cart bouncing with delight that she was able to find it in stock.

 

 

Chapter 8 by Mare

Light breaks on secret lots,
On tips of thought where thoughts smell in the rain;
When logics die,
The secret of the soil grows through the eye,
And blood jumps in the sun;
Above the waste allotments the dawn halts.

From “Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines” by Dylan Thomas

 

~ 8 ~

And Then Came the Rain

 

Kevin was shivering uncontrollably but not only because he was cold, but also because he was scared, in pain and wet. The sounds of the night had fully taken over as he just sat there, by the crushed window in the pitch blackness letting the huge droplets of rain fall on his head but defenseless to do anything about it. He assumed this is what it felt like to be tortured. He wasn’t even wearing a jacket to put over his head; nothing at all was shielding him from the rain as it pelted him steadily for the last thirty minutes.

He had given up trying to get himself into the van. Instead he had crawled on all fours around the vicinity of the crash to see if there was anywhere else he might be able to hide just in case those wolves decided to show up. Rain had never even entered his mind until he saw the lightening off in the distance followed by the crash of thunder. That’s when his search intensified but unfortunately, there was nowhere to go, so once again all that was left was the waiting.

Before the rain came, he would on occasion take out his cell and use it as a flashlight, just to make sure nothing was coming, not that he could do anything about it if wolves did come into the clearing and they were close, he knew that much. The howls getting louder and more frequent as if telling each other “I smell fresh blood, do you smell fresh blood?”

He found a nice big stick that was a little pointy at the end, which he was ready to use as a spear if need be, as well as a few big rocks he could throw to ward off anything that might lurk in the darkness that would catch him unawares. It was one of those rocks he was holding onto now to help control his shaking hands. He even thought about hitting himself in the head with it because anything had to be better than this.

“How you holding up cous?” Brian had been steadily checking in with his older cousin once the rain started.

Kevin was shivering so badly, he had a hard time speaking, “Been….better…” he finally got out.

“Hang in there, Kevin. It has to stop soon; it sounds like it’s letting up a little now.”

Thankfully Brian was right. The pouring rain had finally lessened to a drizzle. The one good thing about all the rain was the fact that he was able to drink some of it in. When it first started he cupped his hands and let the water brim until it was overflowing, and then he gulped it down. At least he wouldn’t die of dehydration anymore. He could knock that one off the list and replace it with being eaten, hypothermia or pneumonia. “Or infection.” He said his last thought out loud as he stared down at his ankle. He didn’t think it was infected yet but he was also sure the longer it was kept unattended and in this wet, dirty environment, the most likely his luck would change on that front.

“How about you guys? How are you holding up?” His voice sounded a little steadier this time.

“I’ll be honest with you; we’re not doing so well. I’m feeling really weak. If we don’t’ get help soon…”

“Don’t’ worry Brian…we’re going to get through this.”

Kevin placed his head against the van, not even caring about the broken glass around him anymore. He wanted to lie down but he knew that sleeping while totally exposed wasn’t a good idea. That is all he wanted to do though, sleep. He had developed a massive sized headache which was the only thing dulling the throbbing of his ankle.

AJ and Brian had been falling in and out of sleep ever since they had been trapped in the van, Kevin making sure to yell his cousin’s name to keep him semi alert and then have him do the same to AJ. He hated that he was unable to help them. And then there was Howie and Nick. Whatever the hell had happened to them was anyone’s guess but one thing was sure, something HAD happened to them and it had to be bad enough to leave their friends trapped and abandoned for this long.

The rain had completely stopped and within a few minutes, so had Kevin’s shivers. He placed his hands on his face and wiped the excess water off. He then squeezed his hair as if it was a mop and watched as rain streamlined off of him. He had placed his rock down on the ground and found himself searching the wet and muddy grass to find it. For whatever reason, holding that rock had become his security blanket. As long as he had it in his hands, he felt safe. He knew it was an irrational thought, but if it was going to help get him through this hellish night, he’d go with it.  

It was unavoidable; he would be spending the night out there. No fire, no protection just the cold, and damp grass around him. He found himself jealous of Brian and AJ. Sure they were trapped, but at least they had shelter. The wolves would be feasting on him long before they would even think to enter the van for seconds. If only Nick was there, he would be eaten first. At least that’s what they always said when it came to that stupid ass “Which one of you would you eat if you were stranded,” question.

He gripped his rock tight to his chest and closed his eyes while exhaling another deep breath. He found himself breathing almost Lamaze style to help him get through the pain.  He was sure it might have been mind over matter but whenever he thought about his ankle a sudden throbbing would appear out of nowhere. He knew that if Kris was there, she’d be calling him a big baby when it came to the pain but he was also quick to shake any thoughts of her out of his head. It’s funny because up until this happened to him, Kevin always assumed it was thoughts of his wife and kids that would get him through a life threatening situation, but in all actuality, the more he thought about them, the worse it was. He was so close to giving up, letting his emotions get the better of him, that if he took the time to think about all he was about to lose, he would never make it.

He placed his empty hand down at his side, quick to move it when he felt a sharp edge of glass. “Shit!” He yelped.

“What?” Brian sounding worried again.

“Nothing, I just nicked myself on a piece of gl…Jesus,” he stopped mid thought and shook his head, “I have no idea why I didn’t think of this sooner.”

“What did you just say?”

He peered into the back window, “I have an idea!”

He felt the ground around him hoping to locate all the rocks he had collected earlier. As he did he loaded them into the bottom of his shirt, swaddling them as if he were holding a baby. He then got on all fours but this time he kept one hand close to his stomach to prevent the rocks from falling out, and made his way to the front of the van.

“What is your idea?” Brian yelled but Kevin was too focused to answer.

Once he got to the front of the van he dumped the rocks out of his shirt and looked up at the windshield. All it would take was a few good throws to shatter it because it was already a little cracked, especially the driver’s side.

“I’m so stupid!” He said to himself. It was funny how simple common sense all but disappeared in times of crisis. He just hoped he had enough energy to do any damage at all. Moving directly in front he peered in to see if he could spot his cousin. The last thing he wanted was for shards of broken glass to hit him out of nowhere, but it was too dark to really see anything. He would have to trust that Brian was out of the danger zone. He knew that AJ would be safe. So he moved to stand on his knees, crying out in pain, but then ignoring it, as he took aim and threw his first rock as hard as he could.

It hit the windshield with a loud thump but it didn’t do much to break anything.

“Kevin what are you doing?” He heard his cousin once again yelling from inside the car.”

“Trying to break through the windshield,” He picked up anther rock and flung it right at the small spidered crack that was already there. This time it did some damage as the glass started to crack a little more inwards. “Yes, come on…” He threw another one in the same spot as once again, the glass gave way just a little. “One more…” He grabbed his lucky rock and kissed it, knowing how ridiculous it looked but not caring, and threw with all his might. This time the windshield completely imploded in, hitting the steering wheel and chair that he had occupied hours ago. “Yes!!!” He shouted!

He heard Brian and AJ cheering inside as he crawled towards the back of the van to retrieve his ‘spear’. Once he made his way back to the broken windshield, he used his stick to finish the job and clear away any pointy shards that remained in his way.

“Bro, that was awesome!” AJ said from his perch. Kevin smiled. It was nice to hear his voice again.

Now that he had successfully broken the glass, the hard part was trying to figure out how he was actually going to get into the van. He hadn’t even tried to stand since shortly after Nick and Howie left to get help. The pain had been so overwhelming that he almost blacked out. There was no getting around having to stand to get into that window though. Not only stand but he’d have to put some weight on his ankle in order to maneuver the dashboard and get behind the front seat to where his friends were.

He braced himself and closed his eyes, “I’m going to try to get in there now, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it.”

“Do your best, Kevin. We have faith in you!” Brian reassured.

He nodded and scooted himself right next to the broken window. Turning himself around so his back was against the hood of the car, he placed one hand on the windshield’s frame and one on the actual hood and slowly hoisted himself off of the ground. A fierce, shooting pain made its way up from his ankle through his entire leg as he cried out in agony.

“Kevin, are you okay?” Once again the voices of Brian and now AJ were ringing in his ears.

He quickly took the weight off his left ankle and hopped on his right, turning himself to face the window. He’d have to go in left foot first, that would be the only way. So, he placed his foot inside the windshield, holding on to the rim as if he was swinging on a stripper pole and once he cleared his left leg he pretty much just threw himself through the windshield. Accident in reverse it probably looked like.

He landed on his ass on the arm rest of his seat but then he fell off of that and landed on top of Brian who let out a moan followed by a “Nice of you to finally drop by.”

He quickly rolled over off of his cousin and gave him a kiss on top of his head. It was too dark inside the car to actually be able to see how bad off he looked, but at least he was inside to help try to free them.

Kevin knew trying to get to AJ was pointless. There was no way he was going to stand anymore until he had crutches and a cast. His best bet was to free his cousin and then Brian could work on getting AJ out of that chair.

“So, how are we going to get you free?”

“If you pull the chair towards you I might be able to jimmy my arm out. I’m pretty sure that’s all it’s going to take.” He sounded hopeful.

“Okay, let’s do it then, on three…one….two…three!” He tugged at the chair with all his might as Brian pulled his arm out in one drastic yelp. It was such a simple thing that needed to be done, but a two man job nonetheless.

Brian was panting as he rubbed at his shoulder and neck, “Thank you so much Kevin!” He sounded like he was going to cry as he crawled away from his prison of the last few hours and continued to massage his arm.

“Okay Rok, my turn!” AJ pleaded from above just as the rain once again began to pour down around them.

 

Chapter 9 by Mare
Author's Notes:

Testing...testing? I hope this works!! LOL If so thanks for reading and it not CRAP!

Give me strength when my will is weak
Give me strength when my heart is frail
Give me strength when life gets rough
Give me strength when my spirit gives up

From “Give me Strength” by Champs Ulysses Cabinatan

 

 

~ 9 ~

Running on Empty

 

Nick wasn’t sure how long he had been lying on his side in the car, but he had managed to dose off or pass out, he wasn’t quite sure which one. The pain and exhaustion had finally caught up to him as he closed his eyes in frustration. He never intended to sleep, in fact he had wanted nothing more than to stay awake and try to get help by drawing attention to the truck any way he could.

When Tim decided to keep him in the car, the disappointment he felt was overwhelming. He had concocted a plan on the drive to the store, to make sure that once he was inside he made eye contact with as many people as possible and count on his famous face to do the rest. All it would take was just one person to recognize him and be brave enough to approach for an autograph and he’d be home free. It would have caught his captor off guard as people would have swarmed around him. Nick then would have had security hold Tim there until the police showed up. Howie would be saved, the rest of the guys rescued and Nick would have been the hero, the little brother who swoops in and saves the day.

Of course that would have been way too easy. The light that was at the end of the very long and dark tunnel had become even longer and much more dark, when Tim decided to tie Nick to that steering wheel and go in all alone. He thought about yelling for help, but he wasn’t sure if Tim would be anywhere near and the last thing he wanted was another gag in his mouth. He was having a hard enough time breathing as it was. He was so weak, tired and dizzy; he thought that maybe if he just closed his eyes for a few seconds, he’d have the energy to figure out another plan.

The sound of rain pelting the windshield is what woke him. He was disoriented and alarmed but most of all mad for wasting precious time. He decided to kick at the passenger door as hard as he could. Maybe that would make someone look through the window and see him there. He was surprised to find how hard it was to exert that much energy. His kicking barely made any sound. He was weak and was running out of fight.

His next plan of action had to be convincing Tim to help his friends in the van. The rain made his worry escalate as thoughts of Brian, AJ and Kevin crossed his mind. It was possible that help had come by now and if that was the case then it was only a matter of time before they realized he and Howie were missing. Maybe the police were looking for them right now. He heard a few voices pass the truck so once again he kicked at the door and even yelled a little. If they heard, they didn’t care as the voices faded into silence.

He looked over at his hands. His wrists were really beginning to burn; he could tell they were irritated right under the ropes. Trying to twist his hands around he was hoping that would be enough to loosen the binds. If he could manage to break free, he could get to Tim’s rifle and have it in his hands, ready to greet him when he got back into the truck but instead he found himself closing his eyes once more not able to control that urge to just sleep.

This time the door opening is what woke him. “Looks like someone was sleepy,” Tim said as he placed five big plastic bags in the back seat before pushing Nick into a sitting position.

“Sorry I took so long, I wasn’t sure what exactly you would like to eat so I got some of everything. I spent a small fortune in there.”

Nick couldn’t believe he fell asleep again. “Are you okay Nick? You aren’t looking well.”

He felt out of it, like his head was completely detached from the rest of his body and all he wanted to do was sleep. He felt Tim’s hand on his shoulder trying to get Nick to turn to face him. “I asked you if you were okay.”

“I’m fine.”

“You don’t look very fine.”

Nick was blown away by the irony of the situation. This guy caring so much about his well-being while making sure his hands hadn’t gotten loose while he was gone. He was literally tightening Nick’s binds while asking how he was feeling.

Once Tim was sure Nick wouldn’t be going anywhere he grabbed one of the bags from the back and started rifling through it. “I think I have something that’ll make you feel better.”

Nick looked away from Tim and out the passenger window just as two people passed by. A teenager and most likely her mother were getting into the car right next to him and for a brief second, the teen and Nick locked eyes. He thought he saw that look of recognition, but it could have also just been wishful thinking before she moved and Tim forced him to once again look his way.

When he turned to face the crazy man, he was holding a bottle of Gator Aide and a Hershey Bar. “I read that Gator Aide helps with dehydration and you haven’t really drank anything all day I bet.” He opened up the bottle and held it up to Nick’s mouth. The liquid felt good going down his throat and he found himself wanting to chug it. “Easy, nice and slow, you don’t want to make yourself sick.” Tim moved the bottle away and then opened the candy bar and did the same thing, “Take some of this too. It’ll give you some energy.” Nick took a few bites and then another few swallows of the juice before Tim put them aside and started the truck.

“Thanks.”

Tim looked surprised when he heard the grateful remark. “You’re very welcome my friend.”

“Did you decide if you’ll help my friends out?”

He nodded slowly, “I did.”

“And?”

“The thing is Nick, I’m not sure I can trust you not to do anything stupid.”

“I promise. You have my word. If you help them out, I’ll be forever grateful to you.”

“Do you even know where they are? I mean when I picked you and Howie up, the two of you seemed completely lost.”

“I’m sure if you go slow and keep your high beams on, we’ll be able to see the fence. We broke through a fence when we rolled down the hill.”

“Hrmm.” Tim grunted as he continued to drive. Nick could tell this was becoming some kind of sick game for him.

“Please, they will really need our help especially since it’s been raining.”

“Hrmm…” He said once again before suddenly bursting out into laughter, “I’m just playing with you silly, of course I’ll help your friends.”

Suddenly Nick, who was ready to fall asleep again, opened his eyes wide in shock and excitement. “Really?”

“Yes, really, I bought them a lot of supplies to help get them through the night; blankets, flashlights, food and water.”

Nick was suddenly overcome with emotion and began to cry. Maybe this nightmare would end after all. His crying was cut short though when his creepy captor placed his arm around Nick’s head and pulled him in close for a hug, “No need to cry, I’d do anything for you and Howie. You’re my new family.”

Nick tried to pull away which angered Tim, his demeanor suddenly changing from sweet to sour in about a half second’s time. “Don’t pull away from me boy! I was being nice to you!” He pushed Nick with such force he actually hit his head against the passenger side window.

Nick’s heart was racing, thinking he had blown it. Now Tim would never help out his friends, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to, I’m just not a touchy feely type person.” A lie, but how would he know that?

Suddenly Tim morphed back into the calmer version of himself, “Sorry for losing my temper. Did I hurt you?” He actually looked concerned.

“No, I’m okay.”

“Good…”

They rode for a while in silence, except for Tim’s whistling. “Crazy people always whistle.” Nick thought to himself, it was a random thought but anything that would help him stay awake was a good thing. He once again was fighting the urge to close his eyes and sleep. Any energy the juice and candy gave him didn’t last long enough to make an impact. He had to be strong and stay awake for his brothers. He needed to help Kevin, AJ and Brian.

Tim slowed his truck down and put his high beams on once they turned off the main road and onto the smaller rural one the accident had taken place on. “Okay let’s keep an eye out.” He said. “Would it be on my side or yours?”

“Mine.”

Nick turned his attention to the window, “Is it okay if I open the window so I can see a little better?” He sounded out of breath and he felt it too. He felt like he had been running a marathon when in truth he had done nothing more than shift in his seat.

Tim hit the control switch that allowed Nick’s window to go down. “Are you sure you’re okay? You don’t sound very good.”

“I just think the crash is starting to take its toll on me, it’s been a long day.”

“You mentioned you rolled down a hill?”

Nick nodded never taking his eyes off the road, he felt like they were getting close now. “Yeah, I was in the back of the van…I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt and I kind of got jolted all around.”

He hadn’t told anyone this and it felt kind of good confessing it to someone, even if it was a lunatic who happened to be holding him hostage.

“I guess I should have made you wear your seatbelt in here then, huh?” Tim snorted but then added sympathetically, “Is there anything I can do to help you out?”

Nick looked Tim’s way, “I just want to get to my friends. We can worry about me later.” He squinted as they rounded a curve, “Wait! I think I see a break in the fence…this is it!”

Tim moved off to the shoulder and shut the car, quick to turn off his lights just in case other cars were to pass and notice the fence.

“You sure?”

Nick looked over at Tim and nodded, “I’m positive.” He took a few deep breaths hoping he would be able to make the trek down the hill. He was beginning to have his doubts.

“Okay well, here’s the deal…” He stared at Nick with great intensity, “We will bring these supplies down to your friends and then we will leave. If you try anything or if they try anything I will shoot them all. I don’t care about them Nick, actually it would make my life a whole lot easier if they didn’t exist in the first place, so don’t think I would even hesitate to kill them.”

Nick knew without a doubt this man was telling the truth so he slowly nodded, “I promise, but I know them, they’re not going to just let me leave with you.” That much he was sure of. There was no way in hell Kevin, Brian or even AJ would let him just walk away.

“Then they’ll die.”

“Maybe if you untie me…”

“Not a chance.”

“Tim, you have to promise me that as long as I do what you ask, you won’t kill them.”

He nodded, “I won’t kill them, Nick. But I’m not going to go out of my way to keep them alive either. That’s up to you.”

Nick nodded feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. Tim smiled and grabbed two of the five bags from the back and then got out of the car, walked around to Nick’s side and opened the door. “Let’s do this quickly; you know poor Howie has been trussed up all alone for a while now.”

He grabbed both bags and his rifle and ushered Nick forward; stopping just long enough to grab a flashlight out of one of the bags when he realized it was too dark to venture down there without the aid of any light. “You’re going to have to carry one of these,” He handed a bag to Nick who had to hold it with both hands since he was still bound. The weight of the bag proved too much for him in his current state and he fell to the ground. “Come on…it’s not heavy.”

“Sorry but the ropes are making me off balance.”

Once again Tim looked mad and frustrated. Nick found himself being lifted back to his feet by one arm, “Fine, I’ll untie you but if you try anything…”

“I won’t.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. Grabbing Nick’s hands he cut them free, the first time without ropes around his wrists in hours. “Now take this and let’s go.” Once again he handed the bag over as they made their way towards the hill. Each step Nick took felt like he was carrying 500 pounds.

 

 

Chapter 10 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Hey guys! Here is an AJ chapter. He hasn't had a say yet! LOL Enjoy!!

He to an armed fleet was forced away
By seamen, who perhaps themselves had shared
Like fate; was hurried off, a helpless prey,
'Gainst all that in 'his' heart, or theirs perhaps, said nay.

From “Guilt and Sorrow” by William Wordsworth

 

~ 10 ~

Some Relief, If Only Temporary


AJ could taste freedom. It was coming at any second; at least that was the hope. Once Kevin managed to get himself into the van and Brian loose, they both set to work on freeing their dangling friend. Brian went out into the rain to look for something that might help tear AJ’s seatbelt since the buckle was too far bent to be able to unclick it.

“We’ll get you down from there soon buddy, I promise.” Kevin said in his most reassuring voice as he sat pretty much in the same spot that Brian had called home for the last several hours.

“How’s the ankle?”

“It’s been better.”

“You really think it’s broken?”

“Yeah, most likely, but I’m hoping for just a really bad sprain.”

Brian returned within a few minutes with a really pointy shard of glass and it was that, he used to finally saw AJ’s seatbelt in half allowing him to sail to the ground with the aid of his friend who made sure he didn’t completely fall and hurt himself. Once down AJ hugged his Brian so tightly he thought that maybe he might have broken him in half. Once he let go, he went for Kevin and did the same.

“I swear to God I am never sitting again!” He said as he plopped himself down on the floor next to Kevin.

The rain finally stopped as they all sat in the van, quietly assessing their situation. AJ protectively wrapped his right arm across his stomach. He was sure that he probably had one hell of a bruise across his abdomen from that dam seatbelt. Granted, the thing probably saved his life, but even still he most likely would always find himself second guessing the need to wear one on long drives. Looking across at Brian, he noticed he was doing his own massaging, “How’s the arm?” He asked concerned that maybe he had broken it.

“I’m starting to get feeling back but it’s actually my back that’s hurting. Pretty much everything is hurting at this point.”

“Same, brother…So, what do we do now?” This time he directed his question at his oldest band mate, the one who always had the answers.

Kevin was also rubbing at his sore spots, this time it was his neck. “I think we need to wait until the morning and then try to flag a car down.”

“Yeah, let’s not forget about the fucking wolves.” AJ’s offering to the argument.

“I think the rain scared them away or at least made them go back to wherever they came from, for now at least.” Kevin went from rubbing his neck to rubbing his legs.

“Shouldn’t we try tonight? I mean I have heard cars passing by.” Brian suggested as he moved his arm back and forth in small circular motions.

 “I don’t know, Bri. It’s dark as hell out there. I’d be afraid if you guys tried to make it up the hill you’d end up hurting yourselves even more, plus AJ did have a point about the wolves, they’ll be back.”

It was almost perfect timing because just as Kevin finished his sentence a pair of car lights shown as they drove by, but the car didn’t sound like it zoomed past, it actually sounded as if it stopped. “Did you hear that?” AJ asked excited as he found himself sitting a little straighter.

“Shh…” Kevin put his finger to his mouth as all three listened. The look on Kevin’s face turned from hopeful to disappointed, “Never mind, I don’t hear it anymore.”

“That’s why I think maybe we should go up there; I mean that was only one car maybe the next one…”

“Brian, no.”

As AJ listened to the cousins arguing he could swear he heard voices coming down the hill. He moved closer to the windshield, “Guys!” He said as the two continued to argue about what they should do. There was no doubt in his mind he thought he saw the slightest flash of a light pass by the back of the van. “Someone’s here!” He said loud enough that both men stopped mid-fight. “We’re saved!” he pointed to the side of the van where two pairs of feet passed right before a familiar voice was heard.

“Guys, are you here?”

“Nick? Is that you?” AJ jumped up as did Brian and even Kevin tried before he fell right back down after yelping in pain.

Nick came into view shortly after that, bending over and looking into the broken windshield. “I was hoping you guys wouldn’t be here.” His voice was weak, it almost didn’t sound like him at all.

“We’re here buddy but the more important question is, where the hell have you guys been?” AJ helped Nick into the van. He seemed very shaky on his feet. He then moved his hand thinking it would be Howie he’d be helping next only to be thrown off by the presence of a complete stranger. “Hey.”

The stranger nodded and handed him a bag, “We brought you some supplies, there’s another bag. I’ll be right back.”

“Oh, okay.” AJ sounded confused. He turned to Nick who was slowly making his way beside Kevin who pulled him into a protective hug and was surprised when Nick was so quick to pull away.

“Give me that bag quick and listen to me, I don’t have much time!”

The alarming sound of his voice made AJ’s heart grow cold.

“What’s going on Nick, where’s Howie?”

“That guy…look he’s nuts, okay? He kidnapped Howie and I. Howie is still at the cabin tied up. I convinced him to drop these off for you but then I have to go back with him…”

He was talking very fast and erratic in between very labored breaths as Brian grabbed a flashlight and shone it on their friend as he continued to talk, literally hoping to shed light on this very farfetched situation. “He said if you guys try anything he’ll kill you so you have to let me just leave with him…you have to let me go.”

Now AJ also was holding a flashlight as Brian passed the remaining one to Kevin, “What? This makes no sense.” Brian said, but just taking one look at Nick, one real close look, you could tell he wasn’t lying.

AJ was focused on his face; he had never in his life seen Nick look as pale as he did at that moment. He also looked absolutely petrified.

“Jesus, let me see those!” Kevin’s eyes however had gone down to Nick’s wrists which were all red and bloody, “Did he do that to you?”

Nick nodded, “I’ve been tied up this whole time…look he’s going to be back any minute. You… You have to let me go…”

The panic on Brian’s face echoed the one AJ felt on his own. “How can we let you go with a maniac, Nick?”

“Because if you don’t he will kill you Brian!” This time he broke into tears, “He will…”

“But if we let him take you, he will kill you!”

“No, Bri…he won’t hurt me.”

“He already has!”

“I mean, he just won’t…he’ll kill you guys.”

Kevin grabbed Nicks shoulders very softly, “Okay, you need to tell us as much as you can. What’s his name? Where does he live, what is he driving?”

Nick swallowed hard, as AJ saw the flashlight beam once again at the back of the van. “He’s coming, hurry!”

“His name is Tim, it’s a white truck. He lives up the road a ways off this...” Was all he managed to get out before Tim peered in carrying the other bag in his hands.

AJ wanted to leap on him right there, the monster but then he saw the rifle and anger was suddenly replaced by fear.

“Okay, well you guys should have plenty of stuff there. I bought you some flashlights and blankets and there’s a whole lot of snacks in there plus bottled water. I’m sure there’s more than enough to get you through the night and then some, just in case you’re trapped longer than that.”

AJ, Brian and Kevin were all staring at the guy as he talked so calmly. “I’m sure Nick told you about our situation. I trust you won’t tell anyone about this. I would hate to hurt any of you especially him since we’ve already been through so much together.” The look, smile and wink he gave to Nick made the hair on the back of AJ’s neck stand on end.

“Can’t you just leave him here with us?” Brian asked placing a hand on Nick’s shoulder as if keeping that on there would prevent him from leaving again.

“But then Howie would be lonely, we wouldn’t want Howie to feel left out. He’s already probably wondering what’s taking us so long.” He said that last part to Nick who nodded and gave what looked like a real smile to anyone who didn’t know him as well as AJ did.  

“Come on kiddo, we need to get going. There’s aspirin in this bag for whoever broke his ankle.” The man said as he handed the second bag over to AJ. “And no need to pay me back, consider it a gift.” He once again motioned for Nick, “Come on…we have to go, NOW”! He shouted that last word and just for a second, AJ thought he saw Kevin try to stand before calming himself down.

Nick turned to Brian, “It’s okay Bri…it’ll be okay.” He nodded and gave him a hug.

He then bent down and hugged Kevin who whispered something into Nick’s ear that had him nodding. AJ wished he could tell what it was, but he was too far away to hear.  

Then it was AJ’s turn. Nick looked at him, there were tears in his eyes and dried blood all over his face. He grabbed his younger friend into a hug, “Please be careful and tell Howie we love him.”

“I will.” He smiled and then looked back and smiled at the other two before being helped out of the windshield by the lunatic they were just letting leave with their friend.

By instinct, AJ followed them out of the van as Brian tagged along, close behind. When he turned the corner Nick was down on the ground and the crazy man was helping him to his feet, almost dragging him. That’s when he turned around noticing the two of them watching, “You best go get into that van before I blow your heads off boys!” The voice coming out of him was sounding completely different than the one handing over the grocery bags just minutes before.

When neither of them moved, he dropped Nick back on the ground and held the rifle up, “I mean it!”

“Go…” Nick said barely in a whisper.

“Come on AJ, let’s go.” Brian put a loving hand on AJ’s shoulder as he felt a few fresh tears hit his cheeks. He couldn’t believe they were just letting him go with that guy. What kind of friends were they?

When they got back into the van there was a new kind of energy that didn’t exist before. It was a mixture of fear, anxiety and anger. Kevin was drinking some water and popping a few pills. “We have to do something!” Brian almost screamed it. “Did you see how bad he looked?”

“What the fuck just happened?” AJ was hoping maybe he had just had a stress induced dream or something. That couldn’t have possibly been real.

“Kevin we have to do something!” Brian said again putting one hand behind his neck and rubbing, something he did when he was completely nervous and stressed out.

For the first time ever, Kevin looked lost and unsure of himself and that scared the crap out of AJ. Who found himself just staring at his older friend, looking for some kind of answer.

Kevin took another swig of water before closing the bottle and placing it by his side, “I think we wait until morning and then flag down a car for help, just like before.”

AJ looked over at Brian as he exploded, “What? Did you not just see what happened, Kevin? Nick and Howie have been kidnapped by a psycho! Our friend just left with him… he had a rifle!”

“I know.”

“You know? Oh good; I’m so glad you know…Kevin what the hell?”

At that point, Kevin’s temporarily calm demeanor disappeared as he shouted in tears, “You think I don’t get it, Brian? I get it, okay?”

“Then why are we not running up that hill and trying to throw ourselves in front of the next car that passes by?”

“Because of all the reasons that existed before Nick showed up, you think everything else is magically going to go away?”

“Kevin…”

“You think he’s not waiting up there to see if we try to do something to help? Honestly?”

Brian hesitated for a second thinking about this as it dawned on AJ how right Kevin probably was. “Look, I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I don’t’ think he’s going to hurt them.”

“He already has hurt Nick and I can only imagine what Howie might look like.” Brian seemed like he was bouncing now but it was really just nervous energy. If he had the room to run in place, he probably would be doing that.

Kevin closed his eyes, now fully crying, “I know…but the thing is,” He stopped and swallowed, trying to take control of his emotions, “The thing is…” He said a lot more calmly now, “If he really wanted to kill them, he would have by now. Instead, Nick managed to convince him to bring us supplies. The guy brought us two bags full of things only because Nick asked him to. If he planned on killing Nick, why would he be so willing to want to help him?”

AJ looked down remembering what Nick looked like, “Why did Nick look so scared then, Kevin? I will never forget that look on his face. He looked terrified.”

“I think it’s because he was afraid the guy was going to kill us, not him. He was worried about us.”

Once again AJ looked over at Brian who was now looking down at the ground. Kevin continued, “It’s clear that our lives were threatened, not his. If we try to leave this van now, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be waiting up there with rifle in hand ready to kill us.”

A pause

“This is a test we can’t fail.”

 

Chapter End Notes:
I know reviews are disabled, but feel free to drop by my update thread on the AC forum if you'd like to comment.

http://absolutechaos.net/fictalk/index.php/topic,3035.0.html
Chapter 11 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Hey guys! I hope everyone is still reading and enjoying this story. We're now back to Howie! :O) Since reviews are disabled feel free to drop in on my update thread here: http://absolutechaos.net/fictalk/index.php/topic,3035.0.html
or my twitter @bitybella to let me know what you think. Nothing makes me happier than reading your reactions to the stuff going on and it really helps motivate me to write.

And now onto Howie!!

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

From “Lost in the Forest” by Pablo Neruda

 

 

~ 11 ~

Safest Place to Hide

 

When Howie was a small child, every night his mother would read him a story. He always got to pick it out and he always went for the action packed ones. His favorite was “The Three Little Pigs,” mostly because of the way his cute little mother would try to change her voice to sound like the wolf when she would say “little pig little pig let me in.” Her broken English when she then would change to “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin,” would have him laughing hysterically. By the time she got to the huffing and puffing, Polly and Johnny would be standing at the door as well as their dad all laughing at their poor little mother’s expense.

After the lights when out and he was left in the dark, he would insert himself into some of those stories. He would be the smart pig who let his brother’s escape into his house and then eventually kill the wolf, or sometimes he would be Hansel, rescuing his sister from the evil witch by throwing her into the oven. Howie always wanted to be in the center of the action and he always wanted to be the hero.

Now here was his chance to do both and he was failing at it, miserably.

That road which had seemed so dark before was nothing compared to the woods. The pitch blackness was horrifying in its solitude and that’s what it felt like. The woods at night were a wide open space but the tall trees made it seem like they were swallowing him into the darkness. He couldn’t believe he dropped the flashlight, worse still he couldn’t’ believe he didn’t turn around and get it. Whatever had been chasing him, and for all he knew it was nothing more than his imagination, had for the meantime disappeared, but by the time he stopped running, he had no clue where he was.

Howie looked around and all he saw was black except for the occasional blip of light made by the fireflies who called this place home. He had no clue what to do.  He had no idea where the road was. Once he started heading in one direction he would stop himself, feeling like he was heading deeper into the woods instead of away from them. The problem is no matter which direction he went, he felt the same way.

Then there was the occasional sound of growling. He knew it wasn’t just his mind playing tricks on him. He would hear the grunts just slightly off in the distance and then followed by what sounded like claws as they walked over leaves and twigs. There was definitely something out there with him but he couldn’t see it, which made him powerless to do anything.

There wasn’t a thing he could use to defend himself. His only weapon was his phone; he could potentially throw it at whatever was following him. That was about it.

The other problem was his arm. It had started to hurt shortly after they were tied up in the cabin and at first he thought it was just because of the way he was forced to sit with his hands tied behind his back, but the dull throb he felt as he walked down the road was replaced by a full blown shooting pain. His father had always warned him that when you are in a car accident, you should always get checked out because you almost always never feel pain until long after the incident occurs.

He was holding his right arm gingerly with his left, now realizing that his dad was right. He was finally feeling the effects of the crash. He just hoped that it wasn’t broken. “Okay D, think …you can get yourself out of this, you have to for the rest of the guys and your family. You cannot die in these woods.”

He found the sound of his own voice oddly comforting. “Maybe I’ll just verbalize everything I think.” He looked around at the huge trees; they had to be at least 20 feet tall. “I’ll start by saying this sucks!”

He continued to walk in a random direction, hoping that following his instincts would prove to be a smart thing but after only going a few feet, he stopped himself again, looking behind him thinking maybe that was the way to go.

“I need to just trust myself…just do it.” He shook off the thought of moving in the other direction and instead pressed ahead as a few droplets of rain began to fall, “Just great…ANYTHING ELSE?” He yelled up at the night sky.

As he continued on in the rain, he thought about his cousin Alfred. He was a marine and whenever he came home from one of his deployments the family would have a huge welcome home party on his behalf. Most of the time, Al just sat there quietly sipping on a beer as he listened to the rest of his family complain about stupid things like gas prices or lost luggage. Once anyone asked him about his time in Iraq or Afghanistan he always shook the question off with a “You wouldn’t understand.”

At the time, Howie always thought his cousin was living under the assumption that he was better than everyone else just because he had gone off to war, but now he understood. Long after this night was over, there would only be one other person who would understand what he had went through and that’s Nick. No one else would get it, not even the other guys, so what would be the use of even talking about it with them? If he got out of this alive, he would never complain about anything trivial ever again and he would be sure to say a big thank you and apology to Alfred.

The rain began to pick up and the sound of thunder boomed a little too close for comfort. Wasn’t it unwise to be by a tree if lightening were to strike? Isn’t that what his mother always told him? Yet there he was right in the middle of the biggest trees on the planet. He might as well wear a metal rod on his head. He decided to pick up his pace almost trying to race against the huge droplets pelting him. Lightening lit up the sky and just for a brief moment, he was able to see more than ten inches in front of him, but what he saw was a bit unsettling. It appeared as if something was staring at him. Maybe it was a deer but he didn’t think so.

“Okay…” He began to move away never turning his back on whatever he was convinced was following him. “Not good…not good.” Another flash of lightening illuminated his situation as the thing sat staring at him, head tilted not looking like he wanted to attack but more observe. Howie squinted to try to get a better look. But the darkness returned a little too quickly. A loud rumble of thunder came so close he felt the vibration in his chest and then the sky exploded as a downpour occurred. The rain coming down so heavy and fast he felt like he was in the ocean.

At that moment he did turn his back and started to run, not even sure why. He just knew he couldn’t stay where he was. He needed to find shelter. Maybe there was a cave or at least a fallen tree trunk he could hide under. He looked over his shoulder once the lightening flashed and felt a small bit of relief seeing nothing behind. The turning proved to be a mistake though as he lost his balance tripped over a branch and fell to the ground. Crying out in pain and nursing his arm on impact.

Lying in that spot in the pouring down, cold rain Howie was pretty sure he had hit his lowest point ever. All he had to do was get help. That was his only job. He and Nick, setting out after the crash to get help for the other three. Out of them all he was in the best shape, his younger friend clearly not doing well. He should have made the call about not getting into that truck. Everything felt wrong about it, but he let Nick make the decision and just followed. Now Nick was with this Tim guy all alone, the others were still trapped and probably starving to death and all he had managed to do is get lost in the woods.

“AHH!!!” He yelled out in frustration as the rain steadily hit his back.

He slowly stood himself up and tried to look around for some form of shelter. Just up ahead a little ways, he thought he might have seen what looked like an old picnic table. “That can’t be right.” He moved his hands to his eyes to wipe out any excess water and squinted, hoping he wasn’t seeing things but sure enough as he got closer, that’s exactly what it was, a very old picnic table, the kind where the two wooden beams are attached as a makeshift and very uncomfortable bench. Beside it were the remnants of an old fire pit and grill standing on its side. “Maybe this used to be an old campsite?” He said as he stepped into the small clearing.

He walked over to the picnic table lied himself down on the bench and then slid himself underneath. It was still wet under there but at least he was able to get out of the rain and stay relatively dry. He would have to stay there until the rain let up, and then he could move on.

Being under that table brought back another memory from his childhood. It was funny how his brain kept going back to when he was a kid. Probably because that’s when he felt the safest, being around his older siblings and his parents gave him that sense of protection. He was longing for that same feeling now so if it meant reliving some memories, then so be it.

They had a picnic table just like this one in their backyard when he was a little boy. He used to find himself hiding under the table frequently whenever he got into trouble, it was like his one hiding spot that he thought no one knew about but in actuality everyone did. “Where is Howie?” his mother would ask, “Where do you think he is?” Johnny would answer with a smirk on his face as he looked over at the table and pointed. Sometimes he would take an old sheet and place it on top and then spend the day inside his own little fort, only coming out for a peanut butter and Jelly sandwich cut into fourths, and some grape juice, his favorite lunch of all time and ironically James’s too.

“Don’t worry little man, daddy is going to get out of this and get home to you real soon. I’m so sorry.” On the last two words, he choked up but quickly shook his feelings away. His little man; he stole the nickname from Nick who joked that because he loved Howie so much, he could have it and that he wouldn’t tell Kevin. It would be their little secret. “I’ll do this for you too, Nicky. We’ll all get home safe.”

At that point, he wondered if Tim and Nick had made it back to the cabin yet. If so, what would the reaction be? Nick would most likely be grateful and relieved to see he had escaped but it was Tim he was worried about. The chances of him just being like ‘eh…’ were slim. Most likely at this very moment, Tim was in that truck looking for him. Would he take out his anger on Nicky? That was the question that had been lingering on Howie’s mind ever since he made the choice to leave in the first place. He had to trust his initial instincts and say that company meant more to Tim than anything else, in which case he wouldn’t be willing to hurt or kill Nick because then he’d be alone again. Although so far his instincts had done nothing but get him lost.

The rain seemed like it was letting up a bit but still coming down steadily. He thought about leaving his hiding spot and continuing on but maybe it was better to just wait until morning and start fresh. This way he could see where he was going and wouldn’t have to worry about that aspect of things. He did feel a sense of urgency but again, what good was he to anyone if he exhausted himself out roaming around in the woods lost all night? The rain suddenly picking up once more just sealed the deal; he would wait out the storm and leave the second the sun came out.

He knew sleep wouldn’t come but at least he could close his eyes and try to take himself back to a happier and safer place.

 

 

Chapter End Notes:
Just so you know, there will be no update tomorrow, but I will try to get an update out to you on Tuesday. Now that school is starting up again I'll probably go back to only updating twice a week or something like that. Thanks!
Chapter 12 by Mare
Author's Notes:
The site and reviews are back up and running so here we go...

Nick's turn!

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew.

"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you."

From “Us Two” by A.A. Milne

 

~ 12 ~

The Baby

Nick had tried so hard to be strong while he was talking to his friends, but by the time he had reached them, he was so tired he thought he might drop at their feet. He had only made it halfway down the hill carrying that bag when his exhaustion overcame him and he fell to the ground. When he opened his eyes, Tim had been hovering over him, “What happened?” he had asked and completely disoriented, Nick just shrugged in reply.

“Well let’s get going then.” He sounded annoyed as he helped Nick off the ground, “I’ll just leave this here and come back for it.” He said locking his arm through Nick’s as if they were about to skip down the hill the rest of the way. Maybe his little fainting spell was a godsend because that gave him time to talk to his friends without Tim present.

Asking Kevin, AJ and Brian to let him go was probably one of the hardest things he ever had to do because every fiber in his being was telling him to say the opposite. He wanted nothing more than for the guys to just jump up and protect him. Not let him go, rescue him and keep him safe. That has always been their role as the older brothers.

He pretended to hate it when he was a kid, but secretly, he loved the kind of attention he got as the baby of the group. Every time Kevin picked on him or Howie, AJ and especially Brian, he’d be all pouty on the outside but on the inside he just yearned for more. How cool was it to suddenly have four older brothers? He used it to his advantage often. Sometimes pretending to be in trouble or need rescuing just because he wanted to see how far they would actually go to protect him. It’s something he never confessed to any of them, even Brian, but they were frequently tested by the youngest member of the band and more often than not, they would pass with flying colors.

When Kevin pulled him in for a hug, in a moment of weakness he almost started crying, wanting to beg for help. “I’m scared and in danger. Please don’t let Tim take me, Kevin.” Those words almost came out of his mouth, which is why he pulled away as fast as he did and instead told them all about what was happening.

He was sure he sounded like a madman as he ranted on about being kidnapped but he also knew there wasn’t much time. Tim only had to go halfway up the hill to retrieve the bag left behind, that would only take five or ten minutes tops, probably less. He wasn’t able to tell them everything, not nearly enough to be helpful. He wished he had taken a minute to look at the license plate of the truck before descending down the hill. That would have helped a ton.

When he said his goodbyes, he wanted to just stand behind Kevin as he used to do so many times when he was a kid and felt the least bit unsafe. He often used his oldest band mate as a human shield which all the others found really funny and as Brian always joked, “Way too cute!”

Kevin would just shake his head when Nick would move slowly behind him trying to be nonchalant about the whole thing, but as much as he pretended it was the dumbest thing in the world, Kevin always let him do it, no matter what. Sometimes he would even initiate it, if a mob was a little too unruly or they were around not the best crowd of people. Kevin would be the one to grab at Nick and pull him behind. Not that Kevin was in any condition to do anything to save him now, but still. Kevin did whisper in his ear, “We will come find you little man; you have my word.” as his grip on the baby of their family tightened which was probably the sitting down, broken equivalent to pushing Nick behind him for safe keeping.

Once out of the van, the stress of the situation, coupled with the relief he felt knowing he had helped his brothers out, proved to be too much as he became dizzy, and fell to the ground. He had no idea that AJ and Brian were out there to witness the entire thing and it kind of embarrassed him. He didn’t want them to see how weak and vulnerable he actually was, not after trying so hard to prove otherwise only moments earlier. He also knew in this state, it would be harder to convince them to go away, but yet when Tim aimed that rifle at them, he found the strength to beg them to leave and admittedly, he was disappointed when they listened.

He was on his own again.

He was just about carried back up the hill and to the truck. Tim opened the door and led him inside. “Don’t move; I need to go back and get the rifle.” Nick was so woozy and out of it he missed another opportunity. He wasn’t bound or gagged and the truck’s door was left unlocked but he just sat there, barely able to move. He wasn’t sure if he could even feel his legs anymore let alone have the energy to try to run away.

Tim looked pleased when he saw Nick just sitting there, “Good boy!” He said as he started the car and drove just a tiny bit further down the road, before turning the truck around and shutting it off.

“Why did we stop?” Nick was so weak and breathy he sounded as if he was speaking in a whisper when he was actually trying to talk in his full voice.

“Now, we wait and see if your friends will listen.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You asked them not to get help, right?” Nick nodded as Tim continued, “Well we’re just making sure they listened.”

“And what if they don’t?”

“Then I shoot them.” Tim nodded and smiled proudly as if this sounded like the best plan in the world.

Nick however, found himself growing anxious, knowing that they would be coming up that hill once they thought it was safe. He forced himself to sit up straight and gave Tim his best threatening look, the one that even scared the guys, when he was out of control angry about something. “You know I won’t let you hurt them.” He wished he sounded like a force to be reckoned with but by the smile he received in return, he quickly knew he was wrong.

“Nick, how do you plan on stopping me? You can barely stand.” He shook his head, “Why are these guys so important to you anyway? Are they your family or something? How do you all know each other?”

“They kind of raised me.”

“So, they are all older than you then?”

“Yeah.”

“Are your parents dead?” Nick shook his head, not exactly sure what to say but knowing for his own good, telling him the complete truth was not the way to go. “Then what do you mean? I don’t understand how they all raised you.”

“They’ve just always looked out for me; they are more like a family than my actual family.”

“Oh, I get it, so your parents were crappy then?”

Nick actually smiled at that, “You can say that I guess.”

“My mom was my best friend. I’m sure my dad loved me too, in his own way.” Tim said in a way kids who want nothing more than love from their parents might.

Nick nodded in understanding, closing his eyes and wincing at the pain in his stomach. He started to rub it gingerly. 

“Your stomach hurts?” Nick nodded while still not opening his eyes. “I have some Tums if you need them.” He heard Tim going through a bag, “I just saw them a second ago…oh here they are.”

“No thanks, I don’t think it’s that kind of pain.”

“What do you mean?”

As much as he didn’t want to admit it to himself or anyone else, he knew he was in trouble and it had very little to do with being held captive by a psycho. “I think I’m really hurt, Tim. I’m pretty sure this is going to require more than Tums and a few aspirin.”

“Don’t be silly, Nick. I’m sure you’re fine.” He half laughed, “You’re trying to distract me from watching for your friends.” Nick opened his eyes to see Tim staring at his abdomen with a worried look on his face, ironically the same exact look that Kevin or Brian would give him when concerned about something but trying to act like they weren’t.

“Did you all go to the same school?” Nick could tell, Tim still didn’t understand how they were all connected, one of them maybe, but five guys bonding together all different ages, probably made no sense. So he tried to come up with an idea that would be believable.

“We all lived on the same block growing up.”

“Oh you were all neighbors then?”

“Mmhmm”

“Howie too?”

“Yeah.”

“So these guys are your best buds then?”

“I’ve been friends with them for 20 years now.”

“That’s a long time. I guess I can see why they mean something to you. You probably mean a lot to them too. I really hope they listen to you and don’t come up here looking for help. The last thing I’d want to do is kill your friends while you watched.”

He seemed so sincere when he said that it blew Nick’s mind. He actually knew Tim was telling the truth about that but he also knew that he wouldn’t hesitate to kill them. He’d probably cry afterwards and look to his newfound baby brother to console him.

“What’s wrong?”

“Huh?”

“You suddenly look very sad. Is it because of what I might have to do to your friends? You’ll still have me and Howie.”

If he had the strength to even raise his arm, he would have reached over and punched Tim in the face but instead he just said, “You will never be able to take their place, not even close.”

Tim let out a little hurt gasp, “That wasn’t a very nice thing to say. I know you’re not feeling well so I’ll ignore it, but that was hurtful.”

“They are my big brothers, I would do anything for them and they would do anything for me.”

“Except care enough to try to save you,” Tim snorted, “They haven’t come up here yet and I have a feeling they won’t be.”

The fact that he didn’t see them coming up that ridge and through the broken fence, did bother Nick a little but it also gave him a great sense of relief. Mixed emotions seemed to be the name of the game. Besides, Kevin told him that they would find him so he had to believe that was true.

Tim started his truck, “Well we’ve been here for a while now. I think it’s safe to say they took your advice and decided to stay put.”

Nick nodded.

“I have to say though, if I was your ‘big brother,’ I would have been up that hill and after this truck so fast…but that’s just me, I guess.” He gave Nick a sideways glance and winked at him.

As they slowly drove away, Nick looked back at the spot where his big brothers were and felt a small pang in his heart, a wanting to jump out of the truck, roll down the hill and be safe within the confines of the van. A few memories hit him just then. The time when Brian decided to let Nick drive his car at the age of 14 and then instantly regretted it when it took the younger one only minutes to accidently drive into a shopping cart and dent his bumper. Or the time when Howie brought Nick to his house for Thanksgiving because his own family were occupied with Aaron’s career. The time when AJ gave Nick his very first cigarette which made him so sick, he spent the rest of the morning throwing up in AJ’s grandmother’s bathroom with the older one begging him not to tell anyone what he had done, and of course Kevin, bailing him out of trouble more times than he could count.

It was them he thought about as he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

 

Chapter End Notes:
Thanks for reading and reviewing! :O)
Chapter 13 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Hey guys! Tim is up next and we have finally reached the cabin! I Hope you enjoy it! :O)

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.

From “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch

 

~ 13 ~

Solitude

 

Tim had known loss, more than any other emotion out there. In his life he had experienced three different kinds of loss that had molded and changed him into the man he was now.

The first loss was of material possessions.

His father often punished Tim by taking away things he held dear when he thought his son needed some discipline. It was little things at first. Maybe one of those toys his mother had rewarded him with for learning those stories, or sometimes he was deprived of dessert if he had misbehaved during dinner. When they fled their home, he was not allowed to take any of his favorite toys with him. All was lost, things he would spend hours playing with as a child, left behind.

As he grew into a teenager, his dad upped the ante by using the books on the shelves. If he was too lazy to go out and get firewood, his father would walk over to the book case and without even thinking about it, toss a book or two into the fire. The first time he did it, his mother screamed as if she was the one being burned alive. His father answered her screaming with a firm slap on the face. From that point on, his dad used those books as his new form of punishment. Whenever Tim disobeyed his father, he had to grab one of his favorite books and toss it into the flames himself. When he was really bad, he not only had to throw one of his favorites into the fire, but he would also have to throw one of his mom’s in there too.

By the time he grew into adulthood, his father decided to take things of sentimental value away. Usually they were things that reminded him of home. The old pair of pajamas he had worn on the night they fled was the first to disappear. That was shortly followed by his mother’s cross necklace. When Tim confronted his father, he just said it was for his own good. Why bother getting yourself attached to things, because that’s all they were… things! He said this as he took a poem he had written for Candice, ripped it in half and tossed it in the fireplace.

This is when he learned not to trust.

He glanced over at Nick as he lay sleeping in the truck. The look on his face seemed anything but peaceful. He was holding his stomach with both of his hands and seemed like he was having trouble breathing. “We’re almost there, buddy.” He said, gently placing his hand on his new friend’s shoulder to try to wake him up.

“Nick…” He said once again but the blonde didn’t even stir so Tim decided to just let him sleep until they got back to the cabin.

The second was loss through unexpected death.

Before his family fled, he had experienced the loss of his grandfather. He was only five years old at the time and his death came sudden and unexpectedly. His mother had told him that he was the center of his grandfather’s universe but as much as he tried to remember, he just couldn’t. To him, his grandpa was just a man who would occasionally come over and fight with his father. They didn’t get along very well, the two of them. It was no big secret that he did not approve of his daughter’s choice of life partner. The funeral was short and not many people attended. That was the first and last real funeral Tim ever went to.

His Mother’s death was just as unexpected. She had been reading to him, choosing her favorite book, “Little Women,” over her usual poetry. As she read, she rubbed his back gently and occasionally had to stop when emotions got the better of her. Even though he was twenty one years old, he still fell into the habit of lying next to her on the couch with his head on her chest as she talked, her breathing as her bosom went up and down slowly would lull him to sleep. The sound of the gunshot is what awoke him. He had gotten up and ran into the bathroom to see her lying there in a pool of her own blood, note in hand that simply said,

Tim, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.

Then there was Candice’s death at the hands of his father. After everyone around him had been killed, and the scent of blood still in the air, he had walked over to his girlfriend and sat with her in his lap just rocking her back and forth as he recited the story “I’ll Love You Forever.” He didn’t cry because by that point there were no more tears to shed. Instead, he went into the bedroom grabbed all his father’s personal belongings and one by one tossed them into the fireplace. After he lit it up, he turned his back from the blaze, grabbed a shovel and went out to dig some graves.

This is when he really became a man.

When they got back to the cabin, after making sure Nick was still sound asleep, Tim gathered the supplies he had bought and started for the front porch. He stopped when he noticed the door was wide open. His heart beat quickened as he dropped the bags and ran inside, “Howie!!” He yelled, worried that maybe a bear had managed to make its way in while they were gone. When he got inside however, there was no sign of a bear or any other creature, including the one he had left tied up.

“Howie!” He screamed again, running into the bedroom and then bathroom before his eyes finally went to the ground where he saw a knife. He picked it up and then noticed the ropes over by the fireplace. “No!” He screamed as he grabbed a flashlight and ran back outside.

His first thought was to run to the back, so that’s what he did, “Howie are you out here?” He shouted flashing the light in front of him as he walked cautiously around the cabin. He saw a few deer scurry past out of the corner of his eye but no sign of his new friend. “Dammit!”

He decided to just make his way completely around the house, stepping carefully over the makeshift graveyard and off to the other side. “Howie, you might as well come out! There’s really nowhere to hide.” He was hoping that would be enough to bring him out of hiding, but he was wrong. “Where did you go?” He continued to talk as he rounded the corner to once again end up in the front of the cabin, “You didn’t actually leave, leave, did you?”

But he knew that’s exactly what had happened. His prisoner had escaped, just something else trying to leave him. He wasn’t about to lose Howie so he started back for the truck only to be stopped by the shaky voice of Nick, “Where is Howie?” He asked as he aimed the rifle at Tim’s head.

The third was loss of his sanity.

Living alone for all the years preceding Candice and his father’s death had begun taking a toll on Tim. Up until that day, he had never spent more than ten minutes by himself. Even if his Father was out in the woods hunting, his mother would always be there. She would even leave the bathroom door opened when she needed to shower, just in case the sounds of living way up in the country became too scary for him. It was a habit she never broke out of, even the day she took her own life she made sure the door was unlocked so he would find her.

That very first night, he had found the solitude liberating. He grabbed books off the shelves, and screamed them out loud as he drank his father’s homebrewed beers until he was so drunk he was seeing double. He figured he could get used to this life. Being all alone was going to be beautiful.

He kept that thought with him for about a week. That’s when the novelty of the situation wore off.

To help pass the time, he started talking to his mother as if she was sitting right next to him. He’d read books out loud and pretend she was sitting there smiling while sipping on her sun brewed iced tea. They’d have conversations about life and mostly about Candice. She appeared shortly after his mother. Since they never met in life, he made sure they became fast friends in death. The three of them hung out together. He made sure he told his mother all about Candice and then he did the same to Candice, letting her know how important his mother was and how much he loved her. It was his Mom’s suggestion that they finally get married so about 6 months after living alone, he asked his dead girlfriend to marry him and she said yes.

Tim began living two lives at that point, his real one and his fantasy one.

In his real life all he did all day was sit outside on the rocking chair, staring out at the woods hoping a deer or bear would come into the clearing. He had always wanted a pet deer or bear but his parents were dead set against it for obvious reasons. They were no longer around to object though so he would just sit there and wait. He figured one day a bear would be hungry enough to make it up to his place and then he could figure out a way to keep it there. That’s when he tried to make a cage. He spent hours gathering wood and hammering away, trying to make something big enough for a bear or deer to live in comfortably. Unfortunately his carpentry skills were lacking so he gave up the idea.  

In the world where he was married to Candice, he had three kids, two boys and a little girl. He never bothered to name them. He left it for his wife to decide and she never gave him her answer so they were just ‘the kids’ who would come and go as he pleased. On nights when he wanted to be alone with his wife, the kids wouldn’t exist. Other times when he needed the kind of affection that little ones could provide he would take out a puzzle and get to work on it, making sure his little daughter got to pick out the end pieces as he clapped for her and watched his boys finish the masterpiece. When the puzzle was complete, they would then push all the pieces to the floor and wrestle their father as he tickled them.

This fantasy world went on for about five years or so, before they, like everything else he ever loved, just vanished without a trace. One day he yelled for his mother to show up but she never came, same with Candice and the kids. They left him in the middle of the night, without so much as a simple note or verbal “Good-bye.”

Just gone.

Tim was a smart man, he knew he was slowly losing his mind but he didn’t know what he could do to prevent it. He just kind of figured it came with the territory. All those years in solitude had him yearning for company so that night when he set out to the store and he saw Nick and Howie, he went for it. 

This was when Tim learned he had nothing left to lose.

He found himself staring at Nick feeling so betrayed he wanted to just fall to the ground and weep. First, Howie leaves and now Nick pulls a gun on him. He was a good man, why was this happening?

“I said, where’s Howie?”

Tim raised his hands in the air, “Why are you aiming that at me?”

He watched as Nick tried walking towards him. He maybe took three steps before almost losing his balance but prevented himself from falling. “You need to go get Howie and bring him out here to me.” He was breathing heavy and his hands were shaking. Tim knew he could easily overtake the kid but he was so upset that he couldn’t make his own legs move to do it.

“He’s not here. While we were gone helping YOUR friends, he left us. He left YOU!”

At that revelation, Nick slowly put the gun down, just for a second, “He got out?”

“Yes, he left. He’s probably roaming around the woods lost if he’s even still alive. We need to go find him before something else does.”

Tim could tell that Nick didn’t believe him but he could also tell that he had never in his life even held a rifle, let alone knew how to shoot one. He watched as his prisoner took a few more labored steps towards him, wincing and grabbing at his stomach with his free hand.

“I don’t believe you, show me.” He motioned for Tim to turn around and head towards the cabin, but instead Tim bolted towards Nick tackling him to the ground just as the rifle went off.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I will try to update again tomorrow :O)
Chapter 14 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Thanks for the continued support guys! As always I am loving all the feedback. It means so much to me and really does help me plow through writing these chapters.

Up next something that seems a little random.

~ 14 ~

 

An Interlude: Random, but Important.

 

Jennie was your typical average teenager. She hated school and was more than happy that the summer had finally arrived. She had a lot of things to look forward to this month. A new car, as long as she passed her road test, a new job where she just received her very first paycheck and most importantly the Backstreet Boys brand new CD.

She wasn’t able to get it when it first came out which bummed her out like no one’s business. She knew she should have gone to the store first thing in the morning but she also didn’t think they would sell out. Maybe she should have had more confidence in her favorite boy band on the planet, but she actually threw a full blown hissy fit when she went to Target and they didn’t have it in stock. It probably wouldn’t have been such a big deal if she had just succumbed to peer pressure and listened to all the leaked songs like everyone else in the fandom, but she wanted to be surprised so she waited patiently until she was able to hold it in her hands, read the lyrics and sing along to every song.

She had begged her mother to take her to the Wal-Mart right across the way but she would have none of that. If she wanted the CD so badly, she’d just have to wait until the next time her mother was able to take her back to Target.

Luckily that time was tonight. She was so excited to finally get this CD that she barely ate her dinner and all but pushed her mom out the door. Of course her mother thought she was absolutely ridiculous. “Why don’t you like those One Direction boys like everyone else your age? The Backstreet Boys are old men now.” She enjoyed making fun of her daughter, but in all actuality it was her mother that used to be the fan. It was through listening to her old CD’s that she fell in love with the group in the first place.

She managed to get most of her friends on board the BSB train, even though none of them were quite the level of fan that she was. Whenever they came over to her place, she had their music blaring on her Ipod and would force her friends to memorize their names and faces. Her favorite was Brian. There was just something about him that she found attractive. Maybe it was his playful nature or his love affair with God, but he just made her feel warm and fuzzy. All her other friends thought Nick was the cutest and she kind of did like him too, but in the end it was Brian that had her heart, which is why when she finally had the CD in her hands she was taken aback when she thought she saw him just standing there at the display case.

She grabbed her mom’s arm as soon as she placed the CD in the cart, whispered in her ear, “Oh my God Mom doesn’t that look like Brian?”

Her mother looked over at the man in question as he stood in the checkout line and nodded, “Kind of, but he’s a bit too tall. He actually looks like the love child of Nick and Brian.” Jennie laughed at her mother, she was right. He looked like both of them.

Even though she agreed with her mom and knew that wasn’t Brian, she still couldn’t take her eyes off of him as she stood a few lanes away in her own checkout line. She grabbed her IPhone and took a picture of him and texted her best friend Sarah. “I was standing by BROK at Target! HAHA” it said.

Her friend just replied with a *SMH* and that was it.

“Look mom, we’re following Brian to the car!” She joked as she lovingly hugged her, “Thanks for taking me to get the CD! I can’t wait to get in the car and put it on full blast!”

Her mother kissed the top of her head as she opened the trunk to put the rest of the things she had bought away. “Can I drive home?” Jennie begged as she stood by the driver’s side door ready to open and climb in even though she knew the answer was going to be a big fat no.

“Don’t press your luck!” She joked but Jennie wasn’t listening. She was too busy staring at the man sitting in the passenger seat of the car right next to hers, aka Brian’s car. He was a dead ringer for Nick Carter. She even squinted into the car to get a better look. It was right at that point he stared back at her. “It can’t be him.” She said, but she was almost positive. He didn’t look very good; in fact he looked like he might have been in a fight of some kind. She thought she saw blood on his face but it was a little hard to tell. “Let’s go!” Her mother said pushing her out of the way of the door.

“Mom…” she looked into the car a second time but, his head was facing the other direction. As the truck was pulling out of its spot, she tried to look at him from the front but he was still turned towards the Brian lookalike. Even from the side view though, there was no mistaking that the guy in that truck was Nick Carter! Even though she couldn’t really get a great picture, she decided to take out her phone and try, so as they were pulling out she aimed and clicked.

Her mother’s beeping made her jump, “Let’s go Jennie, I don’t have all night! I still have to get your brother to bed and lord only knows what kind of mischief your father has been up to while we’ve been gone.

“Mom, I swear on my life, that Nick Carter was in that truck!”

She shook her head, “First Brian and now Nick?”

“Mom, that was definitely him, I swear!!” She pulled up the picture she took and even though it was kind of blurry and he wasn’t facing front, in her mind there was no mistaking it. That was Nick Carter! “See?”

Her mother looked at the picture for a few moments, Jennie could tell that maybe she was thinking the same thing.  She handed the phone back to her daughter, “What would he be doing at a Target at this time of night with someone who happens to look like his band mate?”

“They’re on tour so maybe they are passing through here!”

“Jennie, don’t be ridiculous!”

“I think we should follow that truck!”

Once again her mother shook her head, “Even if it is him, I’m sure the last thing he wants is a pair of random fans following him all over the place. Now put your CD on already. I kind of want to hear what the new stuff sounds like.”

She didn’t bring it up on the rest of the drive home, but the second she got into her room and closed the door, she once again felt the need to text Sarah to tell her that without a doubt, she did see Nick Carter at the local Target along with the picture and the word “See?”

She was on her second complete listen to the CD when her friend finally replied, “OMG! DID YOU SEE THE NEWS? HE’S MISSING THEY ALL ARE!”

Her eyes went wide as she ran to turn on her TV, just as the local news was reporting the boys had never made it to their next tour city.

Jennie opened her bedroom door, “MOM! Call the police!” She screamed as she ran down the hall to let her mother know that maybe she wasn’t imagining things after all.

 

 

 

Chapter 15 by Mare
Author's Notes:
And now we're back to Kevin! :O)

If we can fight together, we must strive together
If we can play together, we must pray together
If we can plan together, we must stand together
If we can cry together, we must try together

From “When If Meets Must” by James Weldon Lane

 

~ 15 ~

What If?

Kevin sat swaddled in the cover of two of the blankets Nick’s captor had brought to them. He decided to take off his clothes, except for his underwear and get himself as dry as possible. The others were also wrapped in blankets gathered around their campfire which was nothing more than their three flashlights piled in the center of the floor.

He had been trying to force himself to sleep for the last hour but whenever he closed his eyes the image of Nick standing in front of him, looking terrified with his rope burnt wrists and pale, bloody face jolted him back to a state of uncomfortable wakefulness. Neither of his band mates were having much better luck. They all just laid there in silence, wanting to say so much but yet not being able to find the proper words to accurately verbalize their feelings.

He would never forgive himself for letting Nick just leave like that. Especially if something were to happen. The what if’s started to plague his mind. What if he had taken one of those rocks he had used to get himself into the van and aimed it at the head of the maniac and then Brian and AJ could have tackled him. What if he had forced Nick to stay inside the van no matter what the cost, banking on the guy not really being capable of killing anyone? What if he did let Brian and AJ go up that hill right after Nick left, if nothing else just to get a better look at the car they had used. What if he had never made them go on this trip together in the first place?

“You don’t think he is doing anything to Nick, do you?” AJ finally knocked Kevin out of his self-doubting waking nightmare.

“Doing what?”

AJ looked down at the ground, “You know…”

“Jesus AJ, please stop.” Brian urged.

“And we have no idea if Howie is even alive…”

“AJ, I said shut up, please!”

After Nick left, it took a little while for them to calm down. AJ had to physically restrain Brian from gong up to the road and trying to get help, at the urging of Kevin who insisted he not leave. There were names shouted and things said that they would later regret, but in the end, they all realized waiting was for the best, no matter how hard it would be.

They reluctantly broke open the junk food and water, and after doing that, all three did feel a little bit better, physically at least. They also had taken advantage of the aspirin in the bag and there was even a few ace bandages which Kevin decided to wrap around his ankle, trying to relieve the pressure anyway he could. Both the aspirin and the wrap seemed to be working a little bit. Maybe after a good night’s rest he would even be able to make it up that hill and try to get help without having to just sit back and rely on his two brothers to do it for him.

After letting Nick go, the last thing he wanted to do was send two more of them off by themselves. It was his job to take care of them, even though they were pretty much old enough to look after themselves. He still felt obligated to make sure they were all okay.

“I’ve never felt more helpless in my entire life.”  Brian confessed taking a swig of water and placing it by his side. “The look on Nick’s face when he told us to go; he didn’t want us to go anywhere, he wanted me to help him but I just turned around and left.”

“You had a gun aimed at you, you both did.”

“You had to see him, Kev. He was on the ground. The guy was practically dragging him.”

“I know, you keep telling me that AJ, it’s not really helping.”

“Do you think they’re looking for us yet?”

Kevin wanted a magic button to shut AJ off. He couldn’t even imagine what it was like for Brian to be stuck listening to AJ’s laments for as long as he had to. But he also realized that’s just how AJ was. He was scared and this is what he did when he was scared, so as much as he wanted to smack his younger brother, instead he tried to answer his questions as patiently as he could.

“I would think that by now they know something is wrong and hopefully they are out searching.”

“They would have no idea to look here though. We didn’t take the same route as the busses.”

“AJ, if they don’t find us someone will. Once the sun comes up, we’ll go up top and get help and then this entire nightmare will be over.”

“But, not for Nick and Howie?”

“Oh God, please stop AJ!” Brian yelled this time, his patience all but gone. “Can’t you see you’re just making it worse?”

AJ was near tears now, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help it! What if he fucking kills them? What if he killed Howie already?”

Kevin closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then looking over at AJ, he placed a hand on his blanket covered leg, “AJ, we just have to think that they are both okay. We need to stay positive for them. Remember what I said before, if he wanted to kill Nick he wouldn’t have let him bring us this stuff.” Even though he was having a hard time believing it himself, he tried to smile at his friend and tightened the grip on his leg, “Have faith, okay?”

AJ just nodded, “I’ll try.”

“Thanks!” He let go of AJ’s leg and once again put his head back and closed his eyes.

The truth was, the more he thought about it and played the scenario in his mind, the worse it was getting. Another whole batch of what if’s cropped up. What if he had meant to kill the three of them but Nick said if you help my friends you can kill me instead? What if the guy had already killed Howie and Nick was going to be next but he had intended for the three of them to rescue him instead of believe what he was saying? What if he misread his baby brother? How could he let the same kid who was scared to go to the bathroom by himself, leave with a lunatic? Someone who would tie him up so tight he would have those kinds of rope burns and barely be able to stand on his own two feet without falling over? How could he possibly convince the others Nick would be safe after they all witnessed what the guy was capable of? How readily he had taken out that rifle and how ready he was to shoot his cousin and AJ just for following him outside?

His eyes opened again and he sat up straight, yup sleep for Kevin wasn’t going to happen tonight, not as long as he knew Nick and Howie weren’t safe.

“At least they have each other.” Kevin looked over at AJ as he put a Triscuit in his mouth, “Nick and Howie, at least they are together, just like we are.”

“Do you remember the time we all went to that festival, it had to be years ago.”

“You’re going to have to be a little more specific, Brian.” Kevin glanced over at his cousin who had pushed his blanket aside and was shaking his leg nervously, the same habit Nick had. It was almost as if he was channeling him.

“It was some kind of cheese festival. We had to sing three songs.”

“Wow that was a really long time ago! I remember that, they had all these famous people’s heads carved out of cheese! That was awesome.” AJ answered.

“It had to be back in 93 or maybe 94, anyway, remember Nick convinced Howie to go on a roller coaster with him?”

Kevin nodded and smiled at the memory. “It was his first time.”

“Yeah, he was always afraid to ride those things, but Nick bugged him about it so much he said yes to just shut him up. How bad can it be? Do you remember him saying that?”  Brian half laughed as he recalled the story, “D’s all like…oh okay this is no big deal…this will be fun! Until we started going down and then the words coming out of his mouth,” He was full on laughing now and as much as he didn’t want to, Kevin found himself laughing too. “I never knew half those words until I heard them being yelled by Howie! I think I even had to ask you what some of those meant, Kevin. Do you remember that?”

“I do…and all Nick did was giggle the entire time as he sat next to him. Only Nick could get Howie to do stuff like that.”

“Yeah, seriously he also got Howie to try pop rocks and coke, remember?”

Once again Kevin nodded at his cousin. “He also convinced Howie to dump his head in a vat of ice.”

“He got us all to do that one!”

There were a few minutes of silence before Brian spoke once again.

“Do you remember when Nick tried to Nair your eye brows?”

Kevin grunted at the memory but once again smiled, “That kid…”

“He did it out of love, Kevin.”

“Yeah, well he really loved me a lot when he was little then.”

“Yeah, Kevin…he really did.”

Kevin looked over at Brian who stared back sincerely and nodded, “He really did love you, he just liked getting under your skin.”

“I know.” And he did. He was well aware that deep down inside, the youngest member of the band yearned for the attention the oldest one gave him, whether it be bad or good. He wasn’t used to being cared for or about. That was pretty clear to Kevin when they first met. Brian who was a little more naïve, was often surprised by the things that Nick would tell them concerning his parents and his upbringing, but Kevin was never all that surprised by any of it. He could tell that Nick just craved love and attention. Still craves it.

AJ who had been quiet during the entire exchange finally spoke up. “I don’t see how what you guys are doing is any better than what I was doing.”

“What do mean?”

“You’re talking about Howie and Nick as if they are already dead. I feel like I’m at their fucking memorial service.”

Brian’s smile quickly faded from his face because he realized that AJ was right. “I’m sorry; I don’t know what else to do. It’s driving me crazy, you know?”

“We all know, Brian.” Kevin nodded and smiled at his cousin who looked down at the ground and sighed.

“You know, if we learned one thing from young Nickolas, is that he could be very persuasive.”

“Meaning?” AJ asked.

“Well, we already know he convinced this guy to help us out, maybe he actually did the same for Howie too? What if the reason Howie wasn’t with him was because Nick convinced him to let him go? Of what if right now he’s trying to convince the guy that maybe he should just turn himself in? He’s got a way of wrapping people around his finger, right? I can see him easily being able to do that with this guy too.”

“Yeah…maybe.” AJ actually smiled for a brief second, which meant progress.

For once, the what if’s had turned positive and none of those were completely irrational thoughts either. He could very well see Nick talking himself out of the situation he was in. If any of them could, it would be him.

Brian nodded, “Nick is…” his thought was interrupted by the sudden sound of howling, very close. “uh…guys?”

Kevin sat up and turned to face the window. It was really dark outside but he could hear them coming. “I think they’re in the clearing.”

“What are we going to do? They can get in through the windshield now!” AJ said in a panicked voice.

Brian bent over and grabbed one of the flashlights and headed for the opening, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” AJ said placing his hand on Brian’s arm to stop him.

“We need to see how close they are. Relax I’m not going to go way out, just enough to be able to see.”

“Be careful!” Kevin warned as he watched his cousin climb through the window, AJ ready to follow him out if he needed help.

He came running back in within a few moments, “They are in the clearing now, just by the tree line. I think I made out at least six of them.” One howled and then the others answered. “They’re probably hungry.”

“And we’re the prey.” Kevin let out a deep breath as a whole new batch of what ifs entered his mind, none of them having to do with Howie or Nick.

 

 

Chapter End Notes:
No update tomorrow most likely, sorry guys. Day before the first day of school means lots of paperwork and stuff! I will be back on Monday though most likely! Enjoy and as always thanks for reading!
Chapter 16 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Howdy and we're back at the cabin trying to resolve at least a little something...

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

“Dreams” by Langston Hughes

 

~ 16 ~

Three Steps

 

Nick was dreaming, a very pleasant dream. He was sitting on a beach with Lauren. The two of them were sharing a blanket as they sat together. Nick almost laying completely flat on his back except for the small incline a rolled up tee-shirt gave him as he rested it behind his neck. Lauren was laying on her stomach right beside him, wearing a visor on her head as she texted on her phone, occasionally looking over at her fiancé and smiling. The sound of the ocean was so relaxing, the breeze making it just comfortable enough to not feel the hot sun blaring down on them. This was paradise to Nick, the water, the wind and his woman. Nothing could really compete with this. Nacho came over and licked his nose, causing him to giggle and find his head to pat without having to open his eyes. He could stay like this all day long.

“We’re almost there, buddy” He had felt a slight tug at his arm but he ignored it. He wanted to stay in this moment forever. Opening his eyes would bring him back to reality and he was all too aware that Lauren, the ocean and his dog were no longer a part of his waking life, not for the moment and possibly not forever.

“Nick?” Tim was trying to wake him, but he refused to open his eyes. He was done talking to the crazy guy. He had nothing left to say.

Taking that trip to the van had drained him of any energy he had left both physically and mentally. When Tim actually made him sit in the truck and wait for his friends to show up just so he could potentially kill them, Nick realized his life would never be the same. No matter how much therapy he had after this ordeal was over or how much time passed, this man, who was trying to wake him, had broken him in ways he never thought possible and would never get over.

Thankfully, Tim no longer bothered Nick for the rest of the ride, instead choosing to whistle softly. So, he tried to go back to that beach in his mind, back into the loving arms of his fiancé but it was too late. His subconscious had already dismissed the idea of a happy ending, so instead his mind went to freedom. How was he going to get Howie and himself out of this situation?

 He wasn’t dumb, he knew he was weak and would be easily overpowered if he tried to fight. At this point pretty much Ava could take him down if she tried. Whatever he chose to do would have to come out of nowhere; a surprise attack, something to catch Tim off guard.

He felt the truck turn onto the path that led to the cabin as his mind raced for an idea. He briefly thought about trying to grab the steering wheel but he also wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting into another car accident and honestly, he wasn’t too sure he would survive a second impact. He was pretty sure that the first one was already slowly killing him.

And there was another problem, one that he was trying to avoid.

When he was a kid, he often complained of being sick. It would drive the guys absolutely crazy. He took more sick days then all of the others combined, having to pay pretty hefty fines for missed rehearsals, etc.… they called him a hypochondriac and it used to really make him mad. They were probably right, but still…he was just a kid; a kid who worked way too hard for his age.

When he was a little older, he went the other direction completely. He would purposely not tell anyone when he was feeling bad no matter how many times they asked or who it even was. He got used to hiding everything from them all until things would get so out of hand he’d have no choice but to come clean. Most of the time it was to Brian, whether it was an emotional breakdown about too much homework or throwing up at the guys feet after hiding a stomach virus.

As an adult he found himself somewhere in the middle. There were times he still whined about things like a crick in the neck or the beginnings of a head cold, but when he knew things were a bit more serious, like the way he felt shortly before his cardio myopathy diagnosis, he would tend to brush those things off as nothing at all, mainly because it scared him. He didn’t like to think about his own mortality and would put it off for as long as possible.

He had never quite felt as weak as he did now. The closest was one time in Europe, while they were in the middle of a tour, he must have been about 17. He felt so bad that he could barely get himself out of bed. He called Brian in such distress, that in a panic he had called Kevin who had the police break down Nick’s door, when repeated knocking and screaming of his name yielded no results. Turned out he had a really bad virus accompanied by a high fever and slight dehydration. That was a walk in the park, compared to what he felt like now.

His whole entire body ached, from head to toe. He felt so weak that even moving his arms up to his face felt draining. The thing that really scared him the most was the pain he felt in his stomach. It was a pain unlike anything he had ever experienced before. It didn’t feel like a sour stomach or a strained muscle. It felt like something had burst. That was the best way to describe it. It was as if he had swallowed something and it ripped him apart from the inside but unlike the cool affects in Alien where the thing bursts through the guy’s stomach, this thing just stayed inside and was now slowly oozing. He felt oozey. There was the word he was looking for.

The pain wasn’t intense though, maybe that’s what actually scared him the most. When he had first crawled out of the car, he felt it then. At that second he knew he had majorly hurt himself. He had passed out at that point only to be woken by Howie’s alarmed voice as his head was being gently caressed by his friend. By then, the pain had subsided, it was never completely gone, but for the most part, there were only sudden bursts of pain, almost like a reminder that things weren’t good.

The thought that he could actually die from his injuries didn’t occur to him until he found himself having a hard time breathing. At first, he figured it was just the stress of his situation, but even just sitting still, he was breathing as hard as he usually was after doing the “Larger than Life” dance.  He realized that if he didn’t get out of this soon, he wouldn’t be getting out at all.

When the truck came to a full stop, he felt Tim staring at him. He decided to keep his eyes closed hoping it might buy him more time and thankfully, that’s what seemed to happen as he heard Tim gather his bags and then shut the truck door. It was at that moment Nick realized two things, 1) his hands were still untied and 2) Tim has left the rifle in the truck.

He turned his head towards the driver’s side but made sure he didn’t make it too obvious that he was shifting in the car. He watched Tim place his bags down on the ground and then run into the house. Nick knew that was his window of opportunity, so he bent down to where the rifle was and grabbed it. The energy that it took to even do that almost was too much for him as he felt his eyes actually begin to close, so he bolted up straight, causing slight pain in his stomach but at least it woke him up. He was holding the rifle now, which was a good thing except that he had no idea how to even shoot it. Point and click was probably all there was to it, after all his father knew how to shoot a rifle so how hard could it be?

He made sure to keep it out of Tim’s site when he saw him running out of the cabin. He expected him to come to the truck and was surprised to see him instead make his way around the side of the house and out of his view.

“Thank you!”  Nick looked up at the sky knowing there was a greater power up there looking out for him. Now he could make his way into the cabin, get Howie and stand there with rifle in hand just waiting for Tim to come back inside. Of course it was the healthy Nick that thought he could accomplish all those things.

He knew he was going to need a backup plan when he could barely manage to open his door and make his legs function enough to swing them out in front of him. They were numb; in fact he could barely feel anything from his stomach below. He managed to get himself out of the car and stand for just a few minutes before falling to the ground, rifle still in his hand. He was lucky it didn’t go off and he accidentally didn’t shoot himself. That’s also when he figured out it was going to be a little more complicated than just point and click.

He managed to get himself on his hands and knees’ knowing it was only a matter of time before Tim surfaced again. With all the strength he would muster, he managed to get himself back to a standing position, rifle in hand just as Tim rounded the corner and headed towards the truck.

This was not how he planned it, but it would have to do.

“Where’s Howie?” He had asked trying his best to aim the rifle at his enemy, the man that had caused him and his friend so much grief.

At least he managed to catch Tim off guard, he couldn’t really see his face but he heard the mix of hurt and anger in his voice as he asked why it was Nick was aiming a gun at him, surprised as if he had done absolutely nothing to warrant such a reaction. Nick felt himself almost keeling over and his vision was beginning to blur but he tried his best to hide it from his captor as they continued to speak to each other. He was having a hard time even focusing on what was being said but when Tim mentioned Howie was not there, he felt a tiny bit of relief. Howie was no longer in danger, now it was just himself he had to worry about. What if Tim was lying to him though? So he insisted that he see proof of this. Sadly, that also meant he would have to move from his spot and all it took was about three steps before everything went horribly wrong.

Tim suddenly ran straight for him. His instincts told him to run but his legs had a different agenda as they just decided to collapse on him just as Tim tackled him to the ground. He dropped the rifle as he landed on his back, hitting his head but not quite knocking himself out. There was a loud pop and then, Tim was off of him. Nick tried to roll over and crawl away but he felt himself being pulled by his ankle.

“You ungrateful little prick!” He was shouting now as he continued to pull Nick towards the cabin.

“I can’t believe after all the things I have done for you; you aim my own rife at me!” Nick was on his belly as he was being pulled. He had his arms above his head and was trying to claw at the dirt and grass as he was being dragged along. Anything to try to stop Tim, but it was no use. He didn’t have the energy to fight any longer so he just stopped trying.

He must have blacked out again because the next thing he knew he was laying on the bed as Tim continued to rant. “I don’t have time for this, Nick! I should be out there looking for Howie! Because of you and your inconsideration, he’s probably dead by now.” He felt Tim sit beside him and then felt a washcloth being placed on his head. “You my friend, look like a complete mess.” He said as he continued to clean Nick’s face by dipping the cloth into a washbasin and then not really all that gently rubbing away the dirt and dried blood from his face. “I have to leave you alone for a little while. I was going to take you with me, but let’s be honest, you my little brother, are in no condition to go anywhere.” His voice was suddenly softer and gentler. “I know you didn’t mean to do what you did, heck I may have even done the same thing if I were in your position, but it can’t happen again. Not that you would be able to do much anyway.” He took the washcloth, wrung it out and placed it back in the basin.

“I’ll be back soon, you try to get some rest and when Howie and I get back, I’ll make us all some dinner. I hope the pizzas I bought haven’t gone bad.” He smiled down at Nick and placed his hand on his forehead. Much the same way Brian used to do after asking his best friend to feel his head because he was sure he had a fever.

Nick wanted to say something but he couldn’t speak so instead he nodded with his eyes barely open.

That’s when it dawned on him, Tim not only left him untied, but also left his bedroom door wide open because he knew what Nick knew, in the state he was in, he was going nowhere. His only hope for escape would be at the hands of someone else. So, he closed his eyes and searched for his beach, where he hoped Lauren and Nacho were still waiting for him.

 

 

 

Chapter End Notes:
:O) Thanks for reading! I'll be back tomorrow with another one!
Chapter 17 by Mare
Author's Notes:
And now we're back to Howie! :O)

I hide myself within my flower,
That fading from your Vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me—
Almost a loneliness.

“I Hide Myself within my Flower” by Emily Dickinson

 

 

~ 17 ~

One Small Light

Howie sat under that picnic table for what felt like eternity, just listening to the rain hitting the top and plinking off the sides. He found the sound oddly relaxing and even closed his eyes a couple of times to sleep before remembering “Oh, yeah I’m under a picnic table in the middle of the woods in the pitch black where at any moment anything can come out of nowhere and maul me to death.” That realization would have him open his eyes and continue to just rock under the table. That’s the other thing he found himself doing, rocking back and forth as if he was an autistic child. So he sat with legs crossed Indian style and rocked, even hummed a bit and hoped that the rain would die down soon.

Ever since this had happened, he had done nothing but second guess his decisions and this one would be no different. The new dilemma being tossed about in his head was whether to just spend the rest of the night under the table and move in the morning, or instead keep moving as soon as the rain was gone. At first he was set on staying put because it just seemed like the safer thing to do. Why risk trolling around the woods in the middle of the night without being able to see anything and risk being attacked or falling and hurting himself, but of course as the night progressed and he had nothing to do but just sit there, other thoughts came to his mind, mostly about Tim.

He really hadn’t thought that much about Tim coming to find him, but most likely, by now, Tim was looking for him and as much as he would have loved to convince himself otherwise, the truth of the matter was he didn’t really get all that far away. It just felt like he had been walking forever in the woods but he was lost and had no real way of knowing how far he had actually traveled. For all he knew, he was only a half a mile from the road he had left behind, in which case it would take Tim no time at all to find him.

And then there was the flashlight he stupidly dropped. Of course he missed that thing for more reasons than you could imagine but by dropping it where he did, he had essentially left a starting point for Tim’s search.  Of course, it was dark and there was a very good chance he wouldn’t even see it on the side of the road, but if he was truly looking like Howie suspected he would be, chances are he would be going really slow, trying to figure out where it was he went. Once he saw that flashlight just sitting there he would be heading right in this direction and right towards the picnic table Howie was sitting under presently.

Granted, all of this was speculation. It was possible that Tim wouldn’t even bother looking for him. Maybe he would decide that Nick was good enough and assume the bears or wolves just got to Howie. Or maybe he would wait until it was light out before he started his search in which case, again the chances of being found by Tim would completely increase the longer he waited to move. So, As much as he didn’t want to, he came to realize that he needed to keep going, dark or not.

He wasn’t exactly sure how long he had sat under that table, maybe a few hours, but eventually his eyes began to adjust to the darkness. He figured it was after midnight easily by now, maybe even later. Howie tried not to think about how any of this was affecting Nick. He just hoped that Tim didn’t take out his anger on his younger friend. It was with that thought he finally made his way from under the safety of the picnic table and out into the wilderness.

His legs felt like jelly at first and his back hurt from being hunched over for as long he was and then there was his arm. While he was under the table, he hadn’t really thought about the pain but now that he was up and moving around again, the dull throb had returned. He just kind of stood in place for a few minutes to work out the kinks in his back and march in place to get his feet and legs going again.

He decided that going the way he had come was his best bet. Maybe if he found the road he was on originally, he could stay in the woods but just hidden behind the first line of trees so this way if Tim were to pass by, he would go unnoticed. If he were to happen to see any other vehicle, he’d be able to run out and flag them down. Of course, he would actually have to find his way back to the road. He wished he had Kevin with him.

Kevin was phenomenal when it came to directions. All the guys were routinely blown away by his navigational skills. No matter where they were, Kevin always managed to figure out the right way to go to get them where they needed to be. Even without a map he would put his finger in his mouth and then hold it up to the sky. Of course they’d all be making fun of him but then he’d point, they would follow and without fail, he was right. It was kind of annoying, but useful.

Kevin would have never gotten lost in the woods, but then again he would’ve probably never dropped the flashlight and run away like a little girl either. He would have never let Tim take Nick away and if he did he would have never just left not knowing what would happen to Nick as a result.

Howie shook his head; he was feeling useless once again.

“Doubting yourself will not help you get out of this, Howie!” He started talking out loud again. But this time, the words didn’t come from him, they came from his Father.

When Howie was a small boy, he always thought he was second best to pretty much everyone. There was nothing extraordinary about him as opposed to the rest of his siblings. He often put himself down. His father when hearing his youngest child talk about himself the way he sometimes did, would take him aside and scold him. It’s actually the only time his dad would ever yell at Howie. “You are not useless! I never want to hear you say that, do you understand me? God made you to be special and when you go on talking about yourself like that, what you’re really saying is God has no idea what he’s doing. Is that what you think son?” Howie would shake his head, horrified that maybe somewhere up there in Heaven God was crying because of his self-doubt. “Then I don’t ever want to hear you say those things ever again!”

And he really tried to listen to his father and keep the negative thoughts out. For the most part he did, but every so often they crept up out of nowhere. He looked up at the sky “Sorry Dad.” He then continued onward, out of the clearing and back into the den of the tall tall trees. That was his new nickname for the hell he had come to call home for the last several hours. Hell on Earth was a much better moniker but also way overused. At least Den of the tall tall trees sounded poetic in a way, almost like the title of a really cool song.

He found not only his eyes adjusting to the dark, but he was also becoming immune to the sounds of the night that had previously spooked him. Every time he stepped on a twig and it made a cracking sound, he was convinced something was coming for him, now he kind of got that the cracking twig sound just came with the territory. He was grateful that he no longer saw anything even remotely resembling a bear or wolf or yeti or whatever else could potentially eat him. He did hear an owl hooting somewhere off in the distance. He had never seen a real owl before. Owls were neat. Out of all the birds, they had to be the coolest. He shook his head and smiled, “I’m thinking all randomly and all over the place like you now, Nicky.”

A flash of light distracted him from his thoughts. At first he figured maybe it was lightening but it was too low and small to be anything like that. He stopped and tried not to make a sound as he heard twigs breaking under someone’s feet; someone that wasn’t him. He wasn’t sure what he should do. His survival instinct wanted him to yell for help. Maybe this was a search party. Maybe Nick had been found, the rest of the guys rescued and only he was missing. It would make sense then to send people into the woods to find him.

The flashlight, which he thought would seal his fate, might have actually saved his life. They probably found it on the side of the road and that’s how they knew to come looking for him. He was about to shout when the voice of his father told him not to. Just wait a few more minutes Howie. Because if it is help, they wouldn’t be all alone, there would be more. Just wait until you see one more light, then you can yell as loud as you want, until then just hush.

He tried to move behind the tree he was standing next to as he watched the small light move closer and closer to him. His heart raced but his mind wasn’t sure which emotion to turn on, fear or relief. He was really hoping to see other lights following this one, but unfortunately they were not to be found. The small light was almost parallel to where he was standing so Howie was able to make out the shadow of the man holding it.

The correct emotion was fear as there was no mistaking the person roaming around him was Tim. He could hear him whistling as suddenly the light flashed only inches away from where he was standing before floating over in the other direction. A few more broken twigs being crunched under his feet accompanied by louder whistling and then he stopped again, standing just behind where Howie was hiding.

If this were a movie soundtrack, the strings would have been in tremolo mood, the bows moving in super-fast speed with louder frequency just as Tim turned and headed right in Howie’s direction. He stood unsure of what to do, when that inner voice that had told him to stay quiet was now telling him to run.

His mind went into fast action mode, thinking it was best to run in the same direction he had seen Tim coming from. Chances were that was the road, so he took off as fast as he could, trying to be as quiet as possible but the breaking twigs under his feet kind of announced his presence.

“Howie, is that you?” He heard Tim ask as he saw the light shine in his direction, but miss him.

“No need to run, it’s me…Tim! I’m here to help. You’ll be safe now.”

He continued to run feeling his captor following him. This time around he was doing a much better job at staying calm and concentrating so he would avoid another fall.

“Howie” Tim called, “Please stop, I’ll never be able to catch up to you if you keep running like this.”

Howie couldn’t believe what he was hearing coming out of this guy’s mouth. He acted like he was being the hero instead of the villain. Now that he had a firm idea on the direction he was going, he decided to veer off slightly, hoping to throw Tim off by making a lot of noise going that way, and then sneak back the other one.

He changed his mind however when he thought he saw the truck just past a line of trees. He took a deep breath and decided he was going to run as fast as he had ever run before, get to that truck, where he was sure Nick would be tied up, jump inside and take off. Leaving Tim stranded on the side of the road. Lots of things would have to fall into place for this to happen but he had to take his chances so he bolted in the direction of the truck.

The strings at this point would be joined by the entire orchestra increasing in volume with the timpani banging away once Tim actually saw Howie running towards that truck. Howie felt the flashlight shine on his back as his captor actually laughed, “There you are! I see you!”

Howie ignored him and just kept running, making it out of the woods and up the small incline towards the truck. He ran to the driver’s side door and was happy to see it unlocked, “I’m here Nicky, let’s get out of…” He stopped when he noticed his friend wasn’t in the car like he had planned.

“I have used this once already today; don’t make me use it again!”

Howie turned towards Tim who was standing directly behind him, towards the back of the truck holding the rifle in his hands.

“What do you mean you used it once already? Where’s Nicky?” Howie was alarmed, once again looking in the truck as if his friend would magically appear upon hearing his name.

“I’m glad you’re safe, Howie. As far as Nick, There’s been a complication. Let’s go home; we have a lot to talk about.”

The music slowly fading to the sound of one violin holding a note full of vibrato slightly before coming to a sudden stop.

 

Chapter End Notes:
Thanks guys! I'll try to be back on Friday with another update. Maybe before then but definitely by Friday! :O)
Chapter 18 by Mare
Author's Notes:
I decided to update tonight because I'm not sure about tomorrow! So, here's another chapter from the mind of our loving villain, Tim! Enjoy!

The world will never adjust itself
To suit your whims to the letter.
Some things must go wrong your whole life long,
And the sooner you know it the better.

From “As You Go Through Life” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

 

~ 18 ~

Birthdays

Tim had a very vivid memory when it came to his birthdays. Four of them stood out way above the others.

On his eighth birthday his parents had a party for him. He was kind of shy and awkward as a kid and didn’t make friends easily. Children bullied him because of his size. He was always a little bigger and slower than the rest, never really what you’d consider fat but definitely big enough to be pinned with the nickname Chunky Monkey. He hated that his last name sounded so similar to monkey, but when you’re born Timothy Muntkey, what can be expected?

His mother hoping to help with the socialization of her only son decided that inviting his entire class over to their house was going to be the big solution to the problem. They spent an entire weekend making homemade invitations for the kids, complete with glitter and paper confetti. His theme was going to be the Wild West; his backyard was going to be transformed into a rodeo and there would even be a pony and a clown. After this party the kids would not only be his best friends for life, they would look at him like some kind of hero. What other kid would be cool enough to have such a huge party?

On the day of the big celebration, out of the twenty three kids that were invited only four showed up. Three of which only did because they lived down the block, the other was the kid who Tim used to pick on to make himself feel better. While watching the clown make balloon animals, he got to hear about all the other parties that were so much cooler than his. He wasn’t invited to any of them, even the kid who he always thought was less popular than we was, had been invited to at least a few. While riding the pony, he overheard his father shouting at his mother in the kitchen about what a failure the party was and how it was her fault that her son was a mess. Tim tried to block out her crying while his ‘friend’s’ laughed about it in the background.

When his cake came out, his mother was wearing a fake smile but her eyes were all black because of freshly made mascara tears. They were in the middle of singing “Happy Birthday,” When his father in a drunken rage, came out of the house, took his fist and slammed it right in the middle of his cake, making the innards explode all over him and his Mom. “You don’t deserve this cake! No one even likes you!” He screamed, “Happy Fucking Birthday!” He said as he got in his car and tore off down the street.

That was the last party he ever had.

~~~

He tried not to cry but he found himself feeling so betrayed as he drove slowly down the road looking for Howie that he couldn’t help himself. How could both of them treat him like that? He opened up his home to them, invited them to live with him forever, hell he was even going to give up his bedroom for them. He was ready to sleep on the couch just so that they could be comfortable in their own beds and what do they do in return? One leaves and other tries to shoot him. He banged his fists against the steering wheel. This was not going as he had planned. It seemed like such a simple thing, bring the guys back to his place, and force them to love him and be his new family. He should have just gotten a girl, like he had planned so long ago after his Candice died.

Instead he found himself out looking for Howie, no idea where he could possibly be and no clue how long he had been gone in the first place. By now he could have probably gotten to the main highway and flagged down a car for help which meant that at any time someone could be showing up at the cabin. He slowed down when he saw a glow coming off the gravel on the side of the road. It was the unmistakable shine of a flashlight on the ground. He pulled up right behind it and smiled. Maybe this wouldn’t be as hard as he thought it was going to be. Maybe Howie hadn’t gotten that far after all.

He had picked up the flashlight, stuck it in his pocket and pulled out his own stronger and brighter model, before wiping away his tears and heading into the woods.

~~~

The second birthday he remembered so well was his eleventh.

The first one they celebrated in the woods as fugitives. He had no idea what that word even meant but he heard his father use it more than once when talking to his mother on nights when he thought his son was fast asleep. His father had done something really bad, that’s about all he knew. He had also overheard them talking about his birthday and how it should be a special one since they ripped him out of his natural environment so quickly without explanation.

Talk of traveling back into town just for the day came up but was quickly shot down by his father. “The chances we’ll be seen are too great. It’s bad enough I have to go back into town from time to time alone, I can’t imagine taking the kid with me.” When Tim heard that, his heart sank, but at least he knew that whatever they decided on would be so worth it in the end.

On the big day, he woke up not really knowing what to expect. His mother had made him pancakes and bacon, two of his favorites and just for this special occasion, she made them in the shape of hearts. When his father didn’t show up for breakfast, he asked his mother where his dad went.

“He went in to town to get you something special!” She had said, smiling.

All day long, Tim had anticipated a huge surprise to show up at any moment, but lunch came and went as did dinner. His mother trying her best not to show her own disappointment that had quickly turned to anger as the day went on. His mom made him a carrot cake which was his all-time favorite, and she sang to him and tried not to cry when he blew out his candles.

Before tucking him in, she laid down next to him as she so often did and apologized. “I’m sorry your father never showed sweetheart. I’m sure there’s a good reason. When he does come with your present, I’ll be sure to wake you.”

Tim closed his eyes and didn’t wake until the next morning because there was no present to be found and no explanation either.

~~~

Finding Howie turned out to be a lot easier than Tim had thought it would be. There he was, standing by the truck, obviously wanting to come back home. At least he realized he made a mistake. He didn’t want to do it, but he tied Howie’s wrists in front of him and sat him in the passenger seat. It felt weird having him there instead of Nick. He found himself missing his new favorite person.

“What did you do to Nicky? Where is he?” Howie asked again, about the fifth time in the span of five minutes.

Tim got in the truck and sighed, “What makes you think I did anything to him?”

“He’s not here.”

“I left him home. I thought it was best after he tried to shoot me!”

“He did what?” Howie’s voice was shaky as he looked Tim’s way.

“Don’t worry, I’m okay.” He made sure to let Howie know that despite everything, he had managed to go unscathed. The last thing he wanted was for Nick and Howie to fight about the possibility of hurting their new found oldest brother.  “He was too weak to handle the rifle. He’s not doing so well, our young friend.”

“You better not have hurt him.”

Tim couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Hurt him? Was he serious? He looked at Howie and shook his head, “Why would I hurt him? Jesus, Howie you have trust issues!” He laughed as he continued, “I didn’t hurt him, that crash did. He’s in a bad way I think. I mean I bought him aspirin and he’s been taking it. I guess we’ll have to see what happens.”

Howie looked down at his wrists. “Is that too tight? Sorry about that but we’ll be there soon. Luckily you didn’t get that far away.”

“Yeah, real lucky.” He half muttered.

“You actually weren’t too far away from an old camping ground.”

“I know, I found it.”

Tim looked over at Howie, “You did?”

He nodded, “I managed to hide under a picnic table to escape the rain.”

Tim laughed, “Oh…”

 

~~~

 

And that brought Tim to his third most memorable birthday.  The night his father decided to take him camping.

It was his nineteenth birthday, and as birthday’s go, it wasn’t supposed to be all that exciting, but for whatever reason, on the eve of the big day, Tim’s father took him aside and said “Tomorrow we are going camping, just you and I and I’ll have a nice surprise for you!”

Of course that night, Tim was so excited he could barely sleep. The thought of being all alone with his dad scared him but mainly he was thrilled. He never thought his father wanted to be around him at all, let alone go camping with him! There would probably be hunting and a campfire. Maybe his dad would tell him some more stories about the old days and what it was like for him growing up.

The next morning, he and his father set out for the campsite shortly after having birthday cake for breakfast. He gave his mother a big hug and kiss and off they went into the woods for about a five mile trek.

“All this property is ours, Timothy.” His father had said a little more than halfway there. “This land is beautiful, isn’t it?”

Tim just nodded, trying to stay focused. He wasn’t used to this much walking and wasn’t sure why they didn’t just take the truck to get to wherever it was they were going. He knew better than to complain about it though. Nothing was going to spoil this birthday.

They finally came into a clearing where there were a few picnic tables, a fire pit and a grill. “This is ours too. It used to be a fully functioning campsite before it was closed.” He placed his backpack down on the ground and Tim did the same. Looking around he was amazed that this place even existed. It seemed out of the way for a campsite. There didn’t even seem to be a road or path to take to get there.

“How long has it been closed?”

 “It was closed before we even came up here.”

“How come we haven’t come here before? Mom would probably love this place.”

“Your mother doesn’t know this place even exists, Tim and we’re going to keep it that way.”

“Why?”

“Can you keep a secret?” Tim nodded and his father smiled wide. “I brought you here because I felt like it was time to let you know some things son, things that only a father and a son can share.”

It was those secrets that Tim’s father gave to him as a birthday gift which forever changed the chemistry of their relationship and forced them into an even unhealthier bond than before.

~~~

They stayed silent for the rest of the ten minute drive back to the cabin. This time when Tim got out of the car, he made sure he grabbed the rifle first. He would no longer leave the thing out of his sight, at least until he was sure he had finally gained the trust of his two new brothers.

Brothers, he loved the sound of that word. Whenever Tim escaped into his fantasyland nowadays he always had a sibling there to keep him company. When he was a kid he always wanted a little brother or sister but then the yearning went away until recently. His life would have been so much different if he had someone else to share the burden and experience of life being a Muntkey with.

He went over to the passenger side door, opened it and led Howie back into the cabin, holding the rope which bound his hands as if it were a leash and the man attached a dog. “I bet you’re really hungry about now, huh?” Tim asked as he opened the door and led them inside.

“Nick, we’re home!” He shouted as he turned towards Howie, grabbed out his pocket knife and held out his hands, “I am going to cut the ropes off. Do not try to run, I think you figured out by now there’s nowhere to go.”

Howie had a dejected look on his face as he nodded and Tim had a quick flashback of Candice. They shared the same look of quiet defeat. This thought both saddened and excited him.

“Where’s Nicky?” Howie asked in a sad whisper.

“He’s in the bedroom sleeping. You can go say hello to him if you want while I make us some dinner.” He watched as Howie messaged his wrists and slowly made his way towards the bedroom. “I have some frozen pizzas and I bought us a carrot cake for dessert. I know it’s after midnight but that’s okay, it’s a special occasion. Today is my birthday!”

He was a little hurt when Howie didn’t say anything at all. It was like he didn’t even hear what Tim had said. He thought he’d at least wish him a happy birthday but he probably just felt bad because he didn’t get him a present or anything. “Don’t worry Howie, I didn’t expect you to get me anything!”

Howie walked into the bedroom and Tim followed. He stood in the doorway and watched as His new brother let out a little gasp and made his way next to the bed Nick was sound asleep on. “Well, I’m going to leave you guys alone for a little bit. I’ll let you out, when it’s time to eat.”

Howie sat on the bed beside Nick and then turned to look at Tim, he had the absolute saddest expression on his face. “Cheer up man, things will get better!” He gave a nice big reassuring smile and then closed and padlocked the bedroom door.

This would be his fourth most memorable birthday ever! Getting two new brothers as his present would make what he had to do after they all ate birthday cake, worth it. He wouldn’t tell Howie or Nick because he knew there would be no way they would ever forgive him, but it had to be done. Those other friends of theirs were too much of a liability now.  They had seen his face, new his name. He only brought them stuff to make his new baby brother think he cared, but he didn’t. Tim decided that on his forty seventh birthday he would have to kill again. It was with that thought in his head he started to whistle “Happy Birthday” and put his frozen pizzas in the oven.

 

 

Chapter End Notes:
Be back this weekend with another update!
Chapter 19 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Here's another interlude for you.

~ 19 ~

Interlude Number Two: Enter the Police

 

Captain Pat Blake had a horrible day. He was ready to go home, feed his dogs and go to bed, but fate had other plans for him so instead of getting to take off his uniform and relax; he headed for the break room and poured himself another cup of coffee. After his fifth he had stopped counting.

He had been going over the final reports of the day when they got a call about one of the missing boy band members being spotted in their little town. The woman claimed her daughter was beside herself with worry insisting she had spotted one of them in a truck, looking like he had been beaten up. Of course as much as Pat wanted to ignore this, because of the high profile potential of the case, he had to follow through. He insisted she bring her daughter down to the station for questioning. He almost went home, but he figured it was best if he were the one to interrogate her.

When he walked into the room with a Coke and candy bar in his hand, he found the girl’s mother hugging her.

“Hi there, I’m Captain Blake.” He said smiling at the teenager and handing her the Coke and candy. “I know when I’m having a bad day; I need these things to help me through.”

She smiled, “Thanks.”

“Jennie, right?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me what happened.”

Pat listened intently as Jennie told her very brief story about seeing the guy in the Target and then ending up being in the parking spot right next to him as they were leaving and then how she locked eyes with Nick Carter before they drove away.

He jotted down notes and made sure he watched the girl as she spoke. Her body language indicated that she really believed everything she was saying. “Honey, show him the pictures.” The mother said as the girl took out her phone.

“Pictures?”

“Yeah, I took a picture of the guy at the Target but I also got a picture of Nick. It’s not that good, kind of blurry but it’s really him.”

He looked at the first picture of the potential suspect. The picture was really clear but he didn’t recognize the face at all. Then he scrolled to the next picture which was supposed to be Nick Carter. Pat really had no clue who he was, so looking at the picture to ID him wasn’t going to help. He did pick up on a few things though. One, Jennie was right. This guy did look like he was in a fight or something. From the side it looked like his ear might have been bloody as well as the collar of his shirt, but what really got him to pay close attention were two things just barely in the picture and hard to make out because of how small it was. “I’m going to take your phone for a few minutes and print out these pictures, is that okay?”

Jennie nodded, “Just don’t read my texts.”

“Jennie!” Her mother said embarrassed.

Pat laughed, “I promise.” He stood up and looked over at the mother, “I’ll be right back.”

“How’s it going in there?” Officer Carla Wright asked when she saw her boss leave the interrogation room.

“Hey Carla, do you think you can take a picture from this phone and get it onto the computer?”

He handed her the phone, “Yeah, what are you looking for?”

“I just need to see this bigger.”

She did her magic and within a few minutes, the picture of Nick was on the big flat screen. He squinted and then pointed, “Can you zoom in on that?”

“Sure.” She said as she blew up the image right where Pat had asked her to. “Oh my,” She said.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought!” He nodded. “I’m going to need you to print this out as well as the one picture before it.”

“Okay, will do.” She went to work as he grabbed the phone and headed back into the interrogation room.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” He handed Jennie her phone, “I promise I didn’t look at any of your text messages but I do hope you don’t text and drive!”

“Oh, I don’t drive yet, but soon...right Mom?”

He nodded and then gave her mother a sympathetic look. “Can you tell me anything else about the man you thought Mr. Carter might be with, or about the truck?”

“You do believe me, don’t you? You think it’s him.”

“I can’t really say for sure Jennie, but it could be.”

“The guy had a lot of medicine in his cart.”

He nodded, “Medicine?”

“Yeah, I noticed when I went to grab my CD. He almost ran me over with it. I looked down and he had piles of aspirin and ace bandages, stuff like that.”

“That’s good, anything else?”

He watched the teenager as she bit the inside of her cheek in deep thought. “No, nothing else I can think of. You don’t think this guy hurt Nick, do you, and what about the rest of them?” She looked over at her mother, “See Mom? I told you we should have followed that truck!”

“It was very wise that you didn’t, otherwise we might be looking for you as well.” He smiled and winked at them both.

As he led them out of the room he took the teenager’s hand in his and shook it, “Thanks for coming out here. We’ll be keeping in touch.”

“I hope I was helpful.”

“You were sweetheart.”

She smiled at him. “Thanks!”

He watched as the two of them left and then turned his attention back to Carla. “Did you print those photos out yet?”

“Here you go, boss!” She handed him the prints. “So, what’s the next step?”

“I would like you and Mark to head to the Target and see if anyone else saw him,” He gave her the photo of the driver, “in the store or parking lot, same with Carter. See if there have been any more celebrity sightings in the store. And then maybe you can cruise around the area, the rural roads in search of this van the band were all supposedly traveling in. My guess is, if this is a kidnapping case it’s bound to be abandoned on the side of a road somewhere and since no one has reported anything yet, it’s most likely on one of the less traveled ones.”

“Sounds like a good idea. I think it might actually be him. It’s hard to tell but I pulled up some of his recent photos and it sure does look like him, see?” She led Pat to her computer where she had several You Tube videos opened of recent performances and appearances. He held up the picture he had in his hands right to the screen and they did look very similar, right down to the gray tee-shirt even. “And according to the band’s website, logistically it could be possible for them to have driven through our little town to get to their next concert.”

He nodded, “I think it’s time to get the FBI involved in this. I’m pretty sure we have a kidnapping on our hands.”

“I agree.” He once again looked at the photo he had pulled from Jennie Wilson’s phone where there stood a rifle behind the driver’s seat. “Even if this isn’t Nick Carter, he’s obviously a hostage.”

“Yeah, you normally don’t tie someone up for a casual trip to Target.”

“Nope, you sure don’t.” He said as his eyes once again landed on the rope seen around the wrists of the passenger.

“Good eye to spot that, Pat.”

“Thanks, yeah at first I thought it might have been a watch but his hands were too close together. Definitely rope.”

Carla shook her head, “Who would have thought in our little town…before this the biggest news story was when Mr. Miller’s cow got loose and started roaming around the highway.”

Pat nodded, “Yup, I think this is going to beat that.”

“I wonder where the other four are.”

“Now, that’s a good question.”

Carla grabbed her partner and headed out to Target as Pat went into the break room and got another cup of coffee before calling the FBI and bracing himself for a long night.

 

Chapter 20 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Today we reunite Howie and Nick at the cabin. Hope you enjoy!

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand,
nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship;
it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when
he discovers that someone else believes in him and is
willing to trust him.

“The Glory of Friendship” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

~ 20 ~

Shattered

 

As Howie sat on the bed, listening to the door being locked from the outside, his heart just broke. He didn’t even want to look at Nicky, he couldn’t face him. When Tim led him into the room and he saw his friend, eyes closed, cuts and a few bruises on his face and dried blood lining his hair almost making it look like he had crimson highlights, he wanted to cry. Before forcing himself to deal with Nick, he walked over to the mirror and decided to take a look at his own reflection. He gasped when he hardly recognized the person staring back at him. He was a mess, pure and simple. He had his own cuts and bruises on his face with a fair share of dried blood in and around his hair. His face also had a good deal of caked dirt on it.

He walked over to the basin which was still full of water and grabbed a towel. For some reason he wanted to look semi presentable when he woke up his friend. Dipping the towel into the water he tried his best to at least clean some of the grim off of himself. He was leaving tracks of mud wherever he walked in the room including a wet, muddy spot in the bed where he was just sitting.

He finally made his way back to that muddy spot and sat down beside Nick. He was alarmed to see that Nick hadn’t even stirred in the time he had been in the room. It’s not like he was trying to be quiet either. He was making a fair share of noise in hopes his friend would wake on his own. He gently grabbed Nick’s shoulder, “Nicky…wake up.” He whispered.

Once again, the blonde didn’t even stir. Nick wasn’t a heavy sleeper. He actually woke pretty easily which was ironic because even though he tended to wake at the drop of a hat, he was always the last one up and out of bed. Howie moved his hand from Nick’s shoulder and placed it on his forehead which was warm to the touch, “Nicky… It’s time to wake up, buddy.”

Finally Nick stirred a little, letting out a soft moan before half opening his eyes. When he realized it was Howie, sitting beside him, his eyes opened wide and he smiled weakly, “D? Is that really you?” His voice was hoarse as if he had been screaming his head off at a concert.

Howie nodded, never taking his hand off his friend’s head, “Yeah it’s really me.”

Nick closed his eyes for a second before speaking again, “You saved us. I knew you would save us.”

At that point, all of the emotions Howie had been holding in since this entire mess happened finally came out as he began uncontrollably sobbing, “I am so sorry Nicky…I tried, I really did. I got lost and…” He was so upset he had a hard time getting his words out. He looked at his friend and shook his head, “He caught me. I didn’t get help. I’m sorry.” He managed to finally say as he placed his head on Nick’s stomach and continued to cry.

He felt his friend’s hand on top of his head, “Its okay Howie…everything will be fine. Please stop crying you’re freaking me out.”

He sat himself up and wiped the tears from his eyes. “Sorry, it’s been a bad day.”

Nick smiled and tried to laugh, but he was too weak so no sound came out, “You think?”

“How are you feeling buddy?” D was trying so hard to keep it together but now that he had allowed himself the breathing room to cry, it’s all he wanted or seemed to be able to do.

Nick swallowed hard before continuing, “I’ve been better.”

“What hurts?”

He moved his hand down to his stomach, “Your tummy?”

Nick laughed, still hoarse and barely audible “Tummy, Howie…really?”

Howie gently went to lift Nick’s shirt, “I just want to take a look, okay?”

Nick closed his eyes and nodded. Howie wasn’t quite prepared for what he saw when he lifted up his friend’s shirt but a whole new wave of tears began to stream down his face as he looked at the huge bruise across his abdomen. It was almost black and looked nasty.

“Is it bad?”

Howie took a few deep breaths because he knew the words would not come out otherwise. “You’ll be okay Nicky…” Was all he could manage before he once again turned into a blubbering mess.

“Well that’s not very reassuring.”

“I’m so sorry Nick…I’ll get us out of this, I promise.” Nick grabbed for Howie’s arm and held it in his hand weakly.

“You tried your best, Howie…I’m glad you’re here. I didn’t want to be all alone when…” He stopped but Howie knew damn well what he was going to say and he didn’t like it one bit. Nick was giving up and he couldn’t let that happen.

“Nicky, you have to keep faith, okay?” Nick nodded and closed his eyes and winced once again. “What can I do to make you feel better? What do you need?”

“I can’t feel my legs anymore D.” tears were falling from Nick’s eyes which started Howie up again. “I am so tired. I just want to go to sleep, but I’m scared…ya know?”

Howie nodded as he stroked the top of Nick’s head, “Don’t be afraid, I’m not going to let anything happen.”

“How are you going to prevent it?”

“By not letting you sleep.”

Nick smiled again as best as he could, “Hey, that’s my job. I’m the one who doesn’t let you sleep, not the other way around.”

“I know, well consider it payback then.” Howie at that point decided he had to stop his crying and be strong for his friend. So he wiped the last of the tears from his eyes and buried his emotions back in the vault. “Here let’s sit you up so you don’t fall back to sleep.” He gingerly pulled Nick up as best as he could to a sitting position, while Nick let out a little moan. A shooting pain in his own arm, made him wince but he ignored it as he adjusted Nick’s pillow to help him sit. “Just in case you have a concussion, okay?”

Nick nodded, “I think I’m bleeding internally, Howie.”

He nodded and took another deep breath, “Maybe, it’s just heartburn.” He joked even though deep in his heart, he thought the same thing too.

Nick’s eyes closed for a second and then popped back open, “Where is Tim?” He asked.

“Making us dinner, apparently it’s his birthday.”

“I tried to escape.”

Howie nodded, “I know, he told me.”

“I guess we both kind of suck at that.”

“Yeah.” He moved next to Nick and allowed his younger friend to lie close to him as if he was a pillow, leaning his head into the crook of Howie’s neck. They looked like an old married couple.

“I must be in bad shape if you’re willing to cuddle with me.”

“You are never to speak those words ever again Nickolas. We are not cuddling. I’m just trying to make you more comfortable.”

“You just keep telling yourself that. You’ve just finally succumbed to my charm.”

“Yeah, that’s it. You’re a regular Prince Charming.”

There were a few moments of silence where Howie could tell that Nick was having some trouble breathing. He closed his eyes and tried not to let his emotions get the better of him, “I saw the guys.” Nick said in short gasps as if he was talking while running on a treadmill. “I convinced Tim to get supplies for them. We brought them stuff. They know about us, so maybe if they get rescued, they’ll get us help.”

Howie tightened his grip on his friend, “How did they look? Are they okay?”

“They looked okay. Kevin made it into the van and Brian and AJ were loose.” He took a few deep breaths and let out a small moan which made Howie tense up. The guilt he was feeling overwhelmed him at that moment. Guilt that what he had set out to do, he couldn’t accomplish yet, Nick who was really barely hanging on managed to help out his friends. “What are we going to do, D?”

He felt Nick’s body shift slightly as his hand tightened on Howie’s bad arm. He tried not to cry out in pain but he let out a small yelp which had Nick quickly let go. “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”

“I’m okay.” He placed his arm around his friend, “No cuddly jokes…” He warned, “I’m just trying to get comfortable now.”

“You’re secret is safe with me.”

Howie laughed and shook his head and then looked up at the ceiling as he felt some more tears come from his eyes. Now he was getting mad at himself. He wiped the tears with his free hand and shifted his focus to Nick’s last question. “I don’t know what we can do Nick but I will get us out of here.” A new wave of emotion hit him this time but it wasn’t sadness, it was anger; anger at the man who was in the other room making pizzas as if nothing was wrong.

“I don’t know if I can do much to help you out, Howie.”

“I know kiddo.”

There was a sudden commotion outside the door as the sound of a key going into a padlock was heard. Howie shifted slightly just as Tim let himself inside. “Look at the two of you.” He said, “Too bad I don’t have a camera to capture the moment.”

He walked over to the bed and knelt beside Nick whose body tensed as a result. Howie’s grip on his younger friend tightened as if to say don’t worry, I won’t let him touch you. “How are you feeling, any better?”

“A little…” He said in a shaky voice. Howie could tell this guy scared the crap out of Nick which made him feel even worse for leaving.

Tim smiled at Nick and then motioned for Howie to follow him outside of the room for a second. When he tried to get up to leave, Nick wouldn’t let go of him. “Please don’t leave…” He begged.

Howie once more tried not to lose it, especially now with Tim standing there watching. “It’ll be okay, Nicky. I’ll be just outside the door.”

Nick nodded and let go of Howie’s arm. Right before leaving, he gave Nick another reassuring smile even though he was kind of scared to be pulled away.

“How is he feeling really? I think he might have been lying to me.” Tim asked once Howie was fully out of the room. The concern in his voice seemed almost surreal.

“He needs to be in a hospital.”

Tim shook his head, “I doubt that. I mean if we just give him some more aspirin...”

“I don’t think aspirin is enough, Tim. He’s hurt really bad.” He felt himself losing it again, just remembering what Nick’s stomach looked like. “He needs to be in a doctor’s care.”

“You know we can’t make that happen.”

“Look, I promise you if you get Nick help, I’ll stay here with you, okay? No one has to know I’m here or that you were the one who brought him to the hospital. You can drive there and just leave him outside.”

“Yeah, some aspirin, maybe I’ll give him four. You think four would work?” He seemed to ignore everything Howie just said as he went into the bathroom and grabbed a giant bottle from the medicine cabinet. “They had great deals at the Target, two for one on these huge bottles. I think I might shop there instead of Wal-Mart from now on.”

Howie followed him to the bathroom, “Tim, he’s going to die if you don’t get him help!”

Tim shook his head, “No he isn’t. You just want me to let him go, but I’m not. He’s my family now, you both are.”

At that moment, Howie lost it! “NO WE ARE NOT! WE ARE NOT YOUR FAMILY AND WILL NEVER BE! WE BOTH HAVE OUR OWN DAMN FAMILIES AND YOU WILL NEVER BE A PART OF EITHER OF THEM!”

After he said that, he actually placed his hand in front of his mouth as if to try to shut himself up, but the damage had already been done as Tim grabbed him by the collar and rammed him up against the wall.

“You ungrateful piece of….” When Howie saw the crazy look on Tim’s face he knew he made a terrible mistake. His eyes were wild.

“What’s going on out there?” Nick was heard in the background trying to yell.

“How DARE you say those things to me after all I have done for you and him! I should snap your neck in half right now!” Tim let go of Howie just long enough to move his hand to D’s neck which found Howie defensively grabbing with both of his hands to try to loosen the bigger man’s grip.

“Stop….” At the sound of Nick’s voice, Tim released his grip on Howie, who fell to the ground, gasping for air.

Holding his Neck and coughing, he looked over at Nick who was on the floor halfway out the bedroom door. He had obviously tried to run out to help but couldn’t get his legs to move so he had to resort to crawling like a toddler.

“Leave him alone…” Howie begged, worried that Tim would take out his anger on Nick.

But when he saw Nick on the ground he softened, “Now, what are you doing out of bed, little fella?” Tim asked, his demeanor suddenly changing back to calm and collected. “And look at you on the floor, my goodness, that can’t help matters any.”

Howie watched as Tim walked over to Nick and picked him up by the arm and then carried him to the table and placed him on a chair. The action obviously caused Nick a lot of pain as he closed his eyes and winced the entire time as his legs dragged behind him.

When Tim turned to walk towards Howie again, he braced himself to be attacked, but instead his assailant reached his hand down to help D up off the floor, “Sorry about that. Sometimes I lose my temper.”

He led Howie towards the bathroom, “I left some towels out for you and I bought you some clothes at Target. They are probably too big but I thought you’d probably like to take a shower and clean yourself up before dinner.” He acted as if nothing had just happened.  The entire discussion they had, never occurred. He walked past Nick and to the couch where there was a tee-shirt and a pair of sweats. “Here you go, buddy! Even though it’s me who should be getting presents and not you,” he winked at Howie, “Just playing with you.” He said as he playfully reached over and tousled Howie’s hair.

Tim walked over and sat across from Nick who was now staring at Howie as if to say, “Just do what he says but hurry back. Don’t leave me alone with him for too long.” And he had no intention of doing that. He nodded at them both, making sure his eyes stayed on Nick for a little longer so he knew everything would be okay, before he walked into the bathroom and shut the door.

“Try not to take too long, Howie! We’re hungry out here!” Tim shouted.

Howie crumbled to the floor in a shaking ball and cried, realizing what he had to do and knowing he didn’t have the strength to do it.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I'll be back tomorrow with Brian.
Chapter 21 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Back to Brian at the van.
"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see—
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

"Faith" is a fine invention by Emily Dickinson

 

~ 21 ~

 

Faith

 

Brian tried not to panic. He was one to never really get overly anxious very often which was kind of funny since his whole family was prone to over react to things. He figured it had something to do with being so sick as a child, but his approach had always been to just leave everything in God’s hands and no matter what, it would all be okay. His faith had gotten him through so many things this should have been no different, yet for some reason it felt different.

That was a thought which had unsettled Brian even more than the actual events occurring. When he was stuck in the car, trying to wiggle himself free but failing miserably, he was mad at God for putting him into this situation. Through AJ’s cries and Kevin’s moans, he managed to keep a level head and pray that he would find a way out of this mess but after the first few hours he started to lose his faith, something he hadn’t done since high school.

His junior year was tough for him. It’s not something he even talked about much to anyone; in fact the only other person who knew this story was his wife. He hadn’t even shared it with Nick, not even in the middle of the night when they were much younger and would tell each other their deepest, darkest secrets. This is one he always kept to himself because he was too embarrassed to admit the consequences of what made him lose his faith.

In the fall of that year two things were happening simultaneously. The first were his parents. They just weren’t getting along at all. Almost every night he would fall asleep to the sound of them arguing. It wasn’t something he was used to hearing. Up until that time, he had barely heard them raise their voices to each other at all. They tried their hardest to hide the fact they were having problems from their youngest son. Painting smiles on their faces at the dinner table and talking about casual things like the weather, politics and sports.

The second thing was a kid named Jake. He appeared out of nowhere in around mid-October and decided immediately that Brian made a great target for bullying. He would accidentally run into him in the halls and knock his books down, or trip him when he would move past the much bigger kid’s desk. Brian was shocked by this. It actually took him some time before he realized these weren’t accidents but intentional. Jake would whisper things like “loser!” and “midget” to him whenever he passed by and then laugh about it. He couldn’t understand why. He had done nothing to this kid at all.

After being picked on all day at school, he’d come home to his parents acting like everything was normal and then sit in his room and listen to them quietly argue all night long. That became his life for most of the year. By March, he had decided he no longer wanted to go to church. What was the use? It’s not like God cared about him. If God cared so much then why was he being put through this hell?

His parents wouldn’t let him skip church so instead he would go and roll his eyes as the sermon was given. He had officially lost his faith, but then in April, Kevin called. At that point he had made a promise to God that he would no longer doubt the divine plan the Lord had for him. Eventually his parents got over their problems and he never saw or heard about Jake again.

When Kevin finally managed to get into the van and set him free, his faith was temporarily restored. He felt better about things, until Nick showed up. As he argued with his cousin about what to do concerning his best friend, he once again felt a new anger towards God. How could he let this happen right after making him feel like they were going to make it? How would a loving God show him a kid who he cared about so much, only to pull him away again at the hands of a lunatic? An embodiment of the bully he had known such a long time ago times ten. That’s when he started to blame himself. Maybe it was his fault for thinking the worst of Nick and Howie while he was stuck in the van. While he was thinking they were just looking for help half assed as they talked on the phone and chatted, they were actually in real trouble, much worse than his trouble.

And now this, wolves right outside their van. Maybe this was some kind of test, but if it was he was failing because no matter how much he tried to depend on his faith, he already knew it wouldn’t work for him. Time for praying and having faith was over. The only way they were going to make it through was by defending themselves.

So, he looked at his cousin and calmly asked, “What should we do?”

Kevin was just sitting there not saying much. Brian knew he was going through his own doubts too, maybe not the same type of internal struggle with God, but he could tell just by looking at his cousin’s face, his faith was all but gone.

“I think the two of you need to get out of here before they get any closer.”

“Didn’t you just go on and on about this test we have to pass?”

“Enough time’s gone by AJ. I am pretty sure they left by now.”

“We’re not just leaving you in here.” Brian said as he looked around the van for anything they might be able to use as a weapon.

“I think you have to. Guys, let’s face facts here. I am not going to be able to get up that hill and you both won’t be able to carry me. You need to leave right now.”

Brian looked at AJ, before coming down hard on his cousin, “So, you’re telling us to just leave you here to fend for yourself against a hungry pack of wolves is that it?” He paused and made sure to lock eyes with his older cousin who only stared back.  “Well it’s not going to happen! I already abandoned one of the people I love; I’m not doing the same to you. If you want to die, you’re going to have to try to figure out another way to do it because leaving you to the wolves will not be it brother, I’m sorry!”

He looked over at AJ, just to make sure they were on the same page, “I’m with Rok. There’s no way we’re just leaving you here dude, so we best come up with a plan B and fast.”

Kevin looked positively pissed but Brian didn’t care. There was no way he was going to let his cousin sacrifice himself. He didn’t want to have to explain to Kris and the kids why her husband died. “Well we just kind of left him and hoped for the best. Sorry about that!” Yeah, wasn’t going to happen. It was bad enough he’d have to let Leigh and Lauren know they had just let Nick help them and go without so much as a struggle or anything.

“You’re both making a huge mistake.” Kevin said as a few more tears streamed down his face. “I will never forgive myself if you both get hurt just because you didn’t leave me here.”

“And what do you think we’d feel like if you died because we left YOU here? It goes both ways, Kevin.”

“Can we argue about guilt later guys? We really need to figure out how to keep those furry motherfuckers out of here!”

Brian crawled towards the back of the van where the seats were already half down. “Maybe we can move these to the front and create some kind of fort.” He tried tugging on one but of course it was firmly in place. “Maybe if you try with me AJ, we can knock it loose or something.” He used both hands this time but still nothing happened.

AJ crawled by his side and pulled along with him but it was no use, those seats were going nowhere. They were able to pull the cushions off as well as the head rests. They had no idea what they were going to do with those things but for now, they were at least a start.

“Maybe if we just toss our extra food out there it’ll distract them.” AJ looked in the bag and was quick to empty the contents. There really wasn’t all that much left except some Chips and a bag of cookies.

“I think that would only make them hungrier.” Kevin said turning his body around and trying to look out the little bit of window he was sitting next to. “I can’t see them but I hear them.”

Brian heard them too. They were in the clearing now. Of course he had to make sure, so he once again moved towards the windshield and peered out. They were close enough that he could make out the glow of their eyes. “AJ, come out here and help me grab some rocks!” He said as he jumped out of the van and started grabbing as many rocks as he could find around the van. AJ was doing the same, stopping every few seconds to make sure the wolves were not coming any closer.

“Rok, they’re moving!” AJ said in a panicked voice as Brian turned around to see that the eyes were making their way closer to the van now.

They both ran inside the van and hid behind the front seats. A wave of fear hit Brian at that point so strongly that he dry heaved right where he was sitting. He was pretty sure that if those wolves entered that van the last thing he would do before being eaten alive would be pee his pants. He looked over at AJ who was shaking and then at Kevin who seemed to have an oddly calm yet intense look on his face.

“Maybe they won’t bother us.” He said hopefully. “If we pelt them with the rocks as soon as they try to enter, maybe that’ll be enough to scare them away.”  

“We have to at least hope that’s the case.” AJ said as he held onto four huge rocks, ready to throw if the need arose.

The worst part was not knowing what was going on outside. Brian realized that it was too risky at this point to take a peek out there because if they were close, the last thing he wanted to do was attract their attention.

“Guys what about the blankets?” Kevin said as if suddenly coming to life. “Maybe if we drape the blankets over the windshield they won’t try to come in here. I mean wolves usually don’t bother people’s campsites, right?”

“It’s worth a shot.” Brian said as he grabbed the blankets that Nick had brought them and headed back to the windshield. He positioned himself by the driver’s seat and AJ stood where the passenger seat was and together they held one of the blankets over the windshield. “We don’t have anything to use to keep it in place.” He looked around him to see if there was anything to help and figured out the visor would do the job. They secured one blanket as best as they could using the two visors, and then secured the bottom with rocks. It definitely wasn’t something that would prevent a wolf from coming inside but maybe it was enough to mask that there was an inside to come in to.

They decided to add a second blanket just as another layer of protection and then when they were finished they made their way back over to Kevin who was once again trying to look out the window.

“They’re close.”

“How close?” AJ moved right next to Kevin, holding one of the headrests in his hands.

“Too close. I think I can hear them out there, listen.” All three sat in complete silence and Kevin was right. Grunting sounds seemed to be coming directly from outside.

Brian grabbed one of the flashlights and held it against his chest. They decided to leave them on, hoping the light might scare the wolves away. He heard one of them jump onto the hood of the van and sniff around. The glow of their silhouette made it seem like they were watching an eerie cartoon.

AJ kept whispering “Oh my God oh my God oh my God…” over and over again while Brian and Kevin just quietly sat there staring at the shadow as it sniffed and then started to scratch at the blanket. It was soon joined by at least three others. They weren’t really trying to get in but they were curious.

Brian just sat there feeling helpless, overwhelmed and pretty sure he was going to die. Not only die but die painfully. Surely being eaten alive wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience. Maybe they wouldn’t kill them. Maybe it would just be an attack. A few bites here or there. He actually found himself trying to figure out what he would let the wolves gnaw on. If he kicked at them, they’d go for his legs, if he hit them, they’d go for his arms. At that point it became a choice of which limbs he could do without. Just as he was about to wonder what it felt like to be torn apart from the neck he heard a gunshot. All the boys stooped down low as another one went off. This time the wolves scattered off of the van. A third and final shot was heard which made the wolves run off, howling as they went.

It took a few moments for Brian to process what had happened. He was so ready to die at the hands of a wolf when suddenly they were no longer there. “I think we’ve been saved!” AJ said as a hesitant question.

Brian looked over at his cousin who was also letting what had just happened sink in. “Hello!” Kevin yelled out after a moment’s pause. “We need help in here!”

Relief overcame Brian as he saw a silhouette of a man now standing by the blankets. God had come through after all. That was until the blanket was ripped down and there was the man who had kidnapped Nick and Howie, with rifle in his hand. “Good thing I have three bullets left.” He said smiling at them.

 

 

Chapter End Notes:
I'll be back with another update tomorrow!
Chapter 22 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Since so many of you were a little upset with the cliffy, I decided to switch up the order a tiny bit and post this chapter before the Nick one. I did ask for people to vote but only three of you did. One wanted van the other two didn't care. So, here you go! We're back at the van with AJ! :O) See? I didn't leave you hanging for as long as I wanted to. LOL

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.”

“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.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I will be back on either Friday or Saturday with a new chapter! :O)
Chapter 23 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Here is Nick's chapter. Just a reminder, this was supposed to be chapter 22 even though these chapters were designed to overlap anyway, there might be more of a sense of Tim being two places at once. He's not! lol Hope it's not too confusing, although I don't think it will be! Enjoy!

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

From “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein

 

~ 23 ~

In Your Pocket

 

Nick had a very hard time sitting on the kitchen chair as they waited for Howie to finish his shower. The energy it took to stay in an upright position was a bit much for him and he was actually afraid he might pass out. Tim noticing this was quick to move him to the couch where he stayed until D finally came out clean but far from refreshed. In that time, Nick thought about his life and his mortality. He knew he was dying, he felt it and he tried to come to terms with it. He had tried everything in his power to make it out of there but it wasn’t meant to be. He gave it the good fight and lost.

Nick Carter, 33 years old and newly engaged was going to die in the cabin of a madman. Maybe one day they’d find his body, maybe one day Lauren would actually be able to mourn his loss instead of being hopeful that he’d be found.

All those news stories about missing people he had ignored while eating and joking. They served as nothing more than background noise. A man suddenly disappears while jogging, his wife and kids left with no answers. A girl gone missing on her way to the movies, never to be seen or heard from again. All things he had heard while playing video games or talking on the phone about the dumbest things ever, he never gave a second thought to. Now the same was going to happen to him. He would be the one they would mention on TV as being lost, while people talked about sports and drank their beers. Lauren would be the one they’d cut to holding his picture and crying as moms were vacuuming and feeding their kids. Nick Carter, 33 years old, just gone…

The others would know the situation (if they survive this themselves) and they would explain how he was abducted, but that’s all anyone would know about and in time, like all those other people, he would just end up being an unsolved mystery that would occasionally appear on the news or a special about celebrity tragic ends and disappearances.

He had glanced over at Howie at that point as he was ushered over to the table. Of course, the same exact fate would befall his friend. With two small children, a wife and a ton of family that loved and adored him, he had so much more to lose and that’s when Nick decided that any fight he had at all was going to go towards helping Howie get out of this mess. There was no reason why the two of them should be faces on milk cartons. If he could convince Howie to get out of there, his death would at least mean something and then he could give Lauren and anyone else who cared, some peace of mind.

That was the thought that ran through his head during Tim’s birthday meal. Nick once again was forced to sit at the table but he couldn’t eat a thing. Mainly he just didn’t have the energy to chew but he wasn’t the least bit hungry and doubted anything he ate would stay down for long anyway. Howie kept giving him concerned glances as Tim urged him to try some pizza because he was missing out. It was delicious blah blah blah. By the time the birthday cake was placed on the table, Nick could barely keep his eyes open. He found if he concentrated on one thing, focused all his attention into one place, he could get himself through without passing out. He chose to stare at Howie’s wedding ring. It was probably creeping his friend out, but he didn’t care. He had to remember that to be able to help D get back to his wife; he had to be strong and hold on a little while longer.

After dinner, Tim had carried Nick back into the bedroom after changing the muddy sheets and replacing them with brand new ones. He then left a new tee shirt and brand new pair of sweats for him as well. He bought both Howie and Nick the same outfit. They matched. “Howie and I are going to talk some, while you change.” He then winked and closed the door.

Nick knew he wasn’t going to be able to dress himself, even though he wanted nothing more than to get out of the clothes he was wearing. Instead he lay down and stared up at the ceiling, trying to figure out a plan to get Howie out of the cabin. He knew it was going to be hard to convince his friend to leave him behind, but if he did it once, he could do it again. He just needed the emotional strength to be able to pull it off.

“Nicky, wake up…” He felt a gentle tug pull him awake. He hadn’t realized he dosed off but when he opened his eyes, he saw the concerned face of Howie staring back at him.

“Remember, I’m not going to let you sleep.”

Nick nodded but couldn’t find his voice. That was the other thing that was concerning him, he was finding it harder to speak. The energy and breath it was taking to formulate words was getting too hard for him. Howie noticed the shirt and sweats still lying on the bed, “You need some help getting out of those clothes?”

He nodded at his friend who gingerly helped him to a sitting position and helped him change. Nick tried to ignore the wince Howie made when he saw his stomach for a second time. And the tears that came down his cheek when Nick didn’t feel Howie accidentally hit his leg because he didn’t have any feeling in them anymore. “You’re much easier to dress than my boys.” He joked as he gave his friend a loving pat on the head and led him down to a half sitting position with the aide of lots of pillows.

“Thanks…” Nick smiled at his friend and felt such a swell of love at that moment. He wasn’t sure what he would do if Howie wasn’t with him. He didn’t want to die alone, but he had to. He couldn’t let D stay for his own selfish reasons.

He never had much growing up and then once it was given to him, once he got the taste of getting whatever you want whenever you want, he went overboard with the notion and became an incredibly spoiled and selfish brat. In his early years with the band, if he didn’t get exactly what he wanted, he would almost throw a fit like that girl in Willy Wonka.

It was Howie who sat him down after a temper tantrum that sent all his other band mates scurrying in all directions just to get away from him. D bought him an ice cream and a Coke and then bluntly told him he was a selfish little brat who on his best day was unlikable and if he didn’t change his ways, none of the guys, including him, would want to have anything to do with him. Those words coming from anyone else would have elicited a punch to the face but Nick was so shocked at what Howie said, he just started bawling his eyes out. Not knowing what to do when he saw the fourteen year olds reaction, Howie just kept apologizing over and over again, but that little talk was enough to make Nick realize if he didn’t try to change at least a little he was going to lose them all and he loved them and needed them way too much to let that happen.

As he grew up he still had his fair share of selfish moments but that conversation he had with Howie will be one of those vivid memories he would always carry with him.

Nick took a few breaths and tried to formulate his words again, “Where’s…Tim.”

“He left to run an errand.”

It was as if God had answered his prayers. This would give Howie the window he needed to get out of there. Nick grabbed at Howie’s shirt as he leaned down to hear what Nick was trying to say. “You have to go.”

“Go where?”

“Away…get out of here.” Nick swallowed hard a couple of times and motioned for Howie to sit beside him.

“Nicky, there’s nowhere to go. I’ve been out there we wouldn’t get very far.”

“No, not we…you.” He said as close to full voice as possible.

Howie shook his head, “Absolutely not.”

Nick took a few deep breaths as he tried to sound stronger and braver than he felt.  “Listen to me…”

“No.”

“D…”

“Nicky, I know what you’re going to say and the answer is no.”

“I’m dying, Howie.”

“Shut up, you’re not dying.” But just watching Howie shift uncomfortably on the bed beside him said that he knew too. He knew but didn’t want to admit it.

“Howie…”

“No!” Howie stood up and walked over to the window.

Nick wasn’t about to let it go, he had to get Howie out of there before Tim came back. “Go in the other direction, you might have an easier time finding someone.”

“I’m not leaving you.”

“You have to; this might be your only chance.”

Howie turned around to face his friend and then slowly walked back and took a seat beside him, “Do you honestly think I would just leave you behind?”

“Howie…” Once again Nick was feeling very weak so he had to stop for a second before continuing, closing his eyes and trying to let the dizziness pass. “I don’t have a…I mean…you can do it. You can get us both help. You know I can’t go with you, you can’t carry me.”

“I know.”

“So, what are you waiting for?”

“Nicky…”

“D, you have to go now. You have no idea when he’ll be back, he could be on his way back now.”

Howie had a smile on his face as he stared down at his friend, “You know…when you were a little guy, listening to you talk about your parents used to break my heart.” Nick was confused and tried to interrupt him but D put his hand up before Nick said a word, “Shh….just listen for a second, okay?” Nick nodded, “You would come in with tears in your eyes and I knew you wanted nothing more than to tell me what was wrong.” Once again Nick nodded, “But I wouldn’t ever let you. I would instead pawn you off on Brian or push you to Kevin and leave…” He paused and took a deep breath. Nick wasn’t sure where his friend was going with this, “In all honesty it’s because I wanted to just be able to pick you up and put you in my pocket and make you safe. I couldn’t though, so it was easier not to know.” He wiped his own tears away, “I had accused you of being selfish once when you were a kid, you probably don’t remember that.”

Nick smiled and finally spoke, “I do…”

“Back then, I was just as selfish. You needed me and I wasn’t there for you. I’m really sorry.”

“Howie, you have to go…”

“No Nick, I don’t. I know what I have to do.” He stood up and moved to the window once again and while his back was still turned he continued, “The only way we are getting out of this is if I kill him.”

Hearing Howie say those words sent chills down Nick’s spine. “Howie…”

Upon hearing his name, Howie turned back to face his friend, walked back towards the bed but this time squatted down beside him, “It’s the only way, Nicky. Like you said, I can’t carry you. He’s too big for me and if I just knock him out or something, it wouldn’t buy us enough time to get out of here. It’s the only way we’re both getting out of this. It has to be done.”

“But, how?” Nick couldn’t find his words but not for lack of breath this time. “Would you even be able to do something like that?”

He grabbed Nick’s hand in his own, “I’m not sure…all I know is, I have to try.”

Nick tried to grasp Howie’s hand hard in his own but he was too weak and could barely close his fingers around his friend’s hand, “If you fail, he’ll kill you.”

“That’s why I won’t fail.” He moved from squatting and sat on the bed once again never letting go of Nick’s hand, “When I got loose, I used a fire poker because it was pointy. If I can manage to get my hands on that again and hit him as hard as I can, as soon as he comes in the door, I might be able to make him fall and then just…” He couldn’t even finish his thought. “It has to be done, there’s no other way.” He said this as if he was trying to convince himself.

“Howie…you can’t.”

“I have to and I need you to be strong for me, Nicky. I need you to try to fight, okay? I feel like you’re giving up and you can’t. I won’t have the courage to do this alone.”

Nick closed his eyes for a second, “What about poison? Maybe there’s something you can use under the sink?”

Howie nodded, “I didn’t think to look.”

“This way, you could say you made him coffee or something and then he’d drink it and…it might be easier than the other way.”

“Nothing about this is easy.” Howie said with so much sadness in his voice it made Nick’s heart break.

“You can still just go, Howie.”

Howie stood up and moved towards the unlocked bedroom door, “Not unless I can fit you in my pocket.” He said as he left to search the cabin for anything he could use to kill Tim.

 

 

 

Chapter End Notes:
I'll be back tomorrow with another update! :O)
Chapter 24 by Mare
Author's Notes:
We're still at the cabin, but this time with Howie! :O) Enjoy!

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.


From “The Day is Done” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

~ 24 ~

Sad Little Pebbles and Wind-up Dolls

 

As Howie walked out of the bedroom and away from his very sick friend, he tried not to look as scared as he felt, but the first thing he did was run to the bathroom and throw up what little pizza and cake he had for dinner. It was in that bathroom earlier, when he was left to take a shower that he realized the only way he was going to get himself and Nick out of this situation was by killing Tim. He’d actually have to end someone’s life. Not merely bop him on the head and make his escape, but actually end his life. He ran all the possible scenarios in his head as he let the hot water roll over his body. If there was any way at all he could get them out of there and spare his captor, but in every single instance, it wouldn’t work out. There were too many factors working against him.

Maybe if he was just a little bit bigger, he’d be able to take Tim on in a fight and then flee with Nick. Maybe if Nick was a little smaller, He’d be able to carry Nick to the car. Both of those things were far from true though. He would never be able to carry his friend and dragging him would be too risky for his baby brother’s health.

He knew Nicky was bad. He knew it long before he even looked under that shirt, but what was really starting to scare him was how fast his health seemed to be declining. Just at that thought, Howie felt another wave of nausea hit him so he placed his head over the bowl and once again puked.  “Pull yourself together, Nicky needs you!” He wiped his mouth and got to work. This situation was urgent. He didn’t know how much time Nick had left. So he pulled open the medicine cabinet and started rifling through its contents.

It was kind of funny how many prescription drugs were in the cabinet. There were all kinds of bottles with names that sounded vaguely familiar to Howie because of late night commercials with sad looking pebbles and windup toys in them. Xanax, Effexor, Elavil, Kilonipin just to name a few. He was no medical expert, but he knew these were all meds that people took when they were not quite right in the head. He wondered how Tim got his hands on them but just looking at the expiration dates kind of answered his question. Most of them were at least 20 years or more passed their shelf life. 

“Marilyn Muntkey.” He said out loud. That’s who most of the meds were prescribed to. “Wonder who that is.”

He grabbed the pill bottles as well as the huge thing of aspirin and made his way back into the bedroom to check on Nick. Just as he was afraid would happen, Nick was sound asleep, this time laying on his side and holding one of his pillows protectively against his stomach the way James would hold one of his teddy bears. Howie sighed, just thinking about his son. How he wanted nothing more than to just see him again, as well as Holden and his wife.

“Not now, Howie! You need to focus!”

He shook them out of his mind and sat on the bed and gently tapped Nick. “Nicky…” When he didn’t stir, he shook a little more forcefully as panic filled him, “Nick, wake up!” Howie actually felt himself go numb and was just about to resort to slapping him on the face when his eyes slowly opened.

“Howie, this is getting a little annoying now.” He whined.

Howie felt so much relief he actually leaned down and kissed Nick on the cheek, “Don’t ever do that to me again!”

“What? Sleep? And yuck I totally have Howie cooties now.” He tried to make himself sound like a smart ass kid but he was so weak and unwell anything he said just sounded like it was coming from someone in a dreamlike state. It broke D’s heart. He could tell Nick was trying to joke more to ease Howie’s mind then his own.

The two of them had always had a strange relationship. When he first met Nick at the tender age of twelve, he felt like he was in the middle of some kind of weird side show, the kind that harbors dancing cats and men who swallow swords. There Howie was with these two little kids, singing and dancing. He never really looked at Nick as anything more than just the blonde kid who’s in my singing group. It kind of felt awkward to think of him as anything more than that. Of course, that changed the longer they stayed together and the better they got to know one another. Even still, Nick always seemed to be more attached to Howie than Howie was to Nick. It kind of annoyed the older one. He wasn’t really ever joking when he said Nick was the younger brother he never wanted. The kid followed him everywhere he went and then would relentlessly torment him any chance he got.

As Nick got older, their relationship grew. Howie no longer felt uncomfortable with the idea of hanging around with the youngest member of the band and even began to enjoy it, although if asked, he’d deny it.

About a year or so before Kevin decided to leave the group is when their relationship really shifted. He found himself searching out for Nick at the end of a long day to see if he wanted to go to a club or just hang out. He found himself calling Nick just to talk and hang out away from the band and all the stupid stuff that went along with being famous. He legitimately enjoyed spending time with Nick Carter, again something he would never openly admit to anyone, least of all Nick, until now.

It’s not until you think you’re going to lose someone that you realize how important they really are to you. “Nicky, you’re my best friend.” He blurted out. “I’m not sure if I ever actually told you that, but you are.”

Nick smiled at his friend, even though he wasn’t looking as vibrant and alive as the old Nick, in that second, he was back to healthy and had that trademark smile of his on his face, “I knew I was your favorite Backstreet Boy!”

“That’s why I need to you to keep fighting, okay? Remember we talked about that.”

“I’m trying D, but it’s getting harder.”

“I know Nicky, but for me, okay? I can’t do this without you.”

Nick moved his pillow away from his stomach and motioned for Howie to help him to a sitting position, “Don’t worry, I got your back brother.” He then looked at all the bottles on the floor, “What are those?”

“I found them in his medicine cabinet. Maybe I can crush them and put them in a drink.”

Nick nodded, “That might work. Maybe something hot so they will melt. What about coffee or hot cocoa or something like that?”

Howie nodded while looking at all the medicine in front of him. He started opening up the bottles of psych meds and felt discouraged when he saw they weren’t full. Not that he was overly surprised, but he was kind of hoping there would be enough to do what needed to be done. He dropped some of the pills into his hand and started to rethink his plan. What if it didn’t work? That would pretty much insure his death at least. Tim was ready to kill him earlier and if it hadn’t been for Nick…

“What about the aspirin?” Nick pointed to the big bottle. “There’s certainly enough in there.”

Howie nodded but wasn’t sure if it would be potent enough. He remembered a friend of his in high school tried to kill herself using a bottle of aspirin, but all she managed to do was get really sick and spend a fair amount of time in a psych ward. When he had spoken to her mother, she mentioned how it caused her to bleed internally and…

“Jesus…” He looked at Nick, “Nicky, how much aspirin have you taken since you’ve been here?”

He shrugged, “I’m not sure, he just keeps giving it to me to help make me feel better.”

“Okay, listen to me; if he tries to give you anymore, you need to spit it out! It’s not helping you. I think it’s actually making you worse.”

“How? It’s aspirin!”

“Yeah, I know but it also thins your blood, well not really thins your blood but stops it from clotting.”

“Huh? When did you suddenly become a doctor?”

“I had a friend who…just never mind and please trust me, okay?”

Nick nodded, “It’s not like we’re going to have to worry about it anyway…”

“Just in case.”

Nick looked serious now, “In case what?”

Howie looked up at his friend from his position on the floor. “In case this doesn’t work. It might not work, Nicky.”

“You think if it doesn’t work, he’s going to kill you, don’t you?”

“There’s a possibility.”

“Then don’t do it!” Nick was now getting visibly upset which is what Howie was trying to avoid. “You need to just get out of here Howie. Before he comes back, please?” He started crying, “I couldn’t handle it of he killed you. I couldn’t do it.”

Howie moved to the bed and grabbed Nick into a hug, “Listen to me, I’m not leaving you here alone with this guy.”

“You will if he kills you.”

“Well I won’t let that happen then.”

“I can’t do this anymore D…” Nick had finally reached his breaking point. Howie knew because he had done this very same thing earlier. “I can’t…”

He rocked with Nick in his arms but he was also very aware that he didn’t have time to deal with this breakdown. He needed to set this plan in motion because he had no idea where Tim had gone and when he was coming back. Suddenly Nick felt limp in his arms which made him release his grasp.

“Nicky?”

His eyes were closed as his head tilted back. “Nicky!” He screamed as he led Nick’s head to the pillow and lifted his legs onto the bed. “Nick, wake up!” He started shaking Nick’s shoulders as hard as he could, as tears began to spill down his face. “Don’t you dare do this to me!! You wake up! You are not allowed to die here! Wake up!!!” He was full on yelling now, sounding like a madman.

Nick stirred slightly and half opened his eyes, “What happened?” He asked almost inaudibly.

“You passed out on me.”

“Sorry. I’m really tired D.”

Howie placed his hand on Nick’s head, “I know…you close your eyes and rest a bit. I’ll be right back, okay?” Howie was so upset he was shaking. He felt himself losing it all over again.

“You’re letting me sleep?”

“Just this once and only for a little bit.”

Nick nodded and swallowed hard, “Howie?”

“Yeah buddy?”

He could tell Nick wanted to say something but he just couldn’t get his words out. He was pretty sure his lips were forming the word ‘careful’ so Howie answered, “I will be!” and winked at his best friend and little brother.

When Nick closed his eyes, Howie slid down to the floor, gathered the pills in his hand and just for a second considered taking them himself. He felt like there was no way out of this. Nick wasn’t going to live much longer and he didn’t want to live the rest of his life with the knowledge that he wasn’t able to save him or himself or the others. He had failed in every way imaginable.

Then the sound of his father’s voice came ringing in his ears. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself son. I didn’t raise you to give up!”

So, he took a deep breath, put the pills back into one of the bottles and got himself off the floor. He looked at Nick one more time, just to make sure he was still breathing and confident he was after seeing his chest rise and fall, he moved into the kitchen to make some hot cocoa.

“This ends now!” He said as he found a kettle and poured some water into it. His hands were shaking so much; the water was actually sloshing out of it as he made his way to the stovetop. He hadn’t even thought to check if Tim had cocoa or coffee in his pantry but after only opening one cabinet, was happy to see some instant coffee mix right in front of him.

He then placed all the medicine minus the aspirin, on the counter, took out a spoon and with the back of it, placed all his weight down and crushed them into a powder. While waiting for the water to boil, he decided to cut another piece of carrot cake and he sprinkled a little bit of the powdery substance on top of the icing. He figured he was going to offer Tim a piece of cake and coffee and apologize for not really celebrating his birthday earlier. There would be no way he would refuse that.

The tricky part of this plan was just knowing when to take the water off and giving the powder enough time to dissolve. He knew he couldn’t do it too early and risk the coffee being cold. There would be a chance Tim wouldn’t drink it then. He’d have to wait until he saw the headlights of the truck and then pour the coffee and hope to God the powder dissolved in time before Tim noticed anything odd about it. Even if he didn’t love the coffee, hopefully by having some of the cake laced with the stuff as well, it would be enough to at least knock him off his feet and then he’d have to go with his original plan and let the fire poker take care of the rest.

He took a deep breath, and sat down at the kitchen table, just waiting to see the headlights of the truck, as he uncontrollably shook.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I'll be back with another chapter tomorrow because I'm cool like that!
Chapter 25 by Mare
Author's Notes:
We're back with Brian and AJ going one way while Kevin goes the other! :O)

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

From “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

 

~ 25 ~

Two Roads

 

They walked in silence for about fifteen minutes. All you could hear was the shuffling of gravel under their feet. Neither of them could even begin to process what had happened to them today and what was still happening to them even now. Brian didn’t mind being alone with his thoughts. He actually loved quiet time. AJ on the other hand, hated when he was left at the mercy of his inner thoughts. But even he had no words that could possibly describe what he felt at the moment. They were both just at a loss.

It was Brian who finally spoke after they hit a stop sign, “Which way do you think we should head?” He flashed the light on AJ, who put his hand up in front of his face to shield his eyes.

“I don’t know, maybe left? I don’t see one sign of life anywhere on this road. Where the hell are all the street lights or stop lights or houses? I haven’t even seen any fireflies for God sakes!”

“Left sounds good.”

AJ nodded and they both turned left and started down yet another dark road.

AJ was grateful that Brian was with him. He had always looked up to his band mate, even though by all rights when they were younger Nick claimed ownership of the Kentuckian. It used to make AJ really mad and jealous, how easily Brian would just walk away from him to end up doing something with Nick instead.

After he cleaned himself up and matured a bit, Brian started hanging out with AJ more and the two of them formed a special bond. Maybe they weren’t as close as Frick and Frack, but they were still pretty tight. “You think your cousin is going to be okay?”

Brian didn’t turn around to face his friend but just kept on walking, “I hope so.”

“He blames himself for this.”

At that, Brian turned around and stopped for a second, “I know.”

What Brian didn’t say out loud was that he blamed his cousin too. He supposed it was a normal reaction. You have to blame someone, right? And since God seemed to be out of the picture for the time being, why not blame the one who suggested the trip and caused the accident in the first place. He had a lot of anger inside of him, anger he wasn’t used to having. It felt so out of character for him. He was afraid this experience was going to change him forever but not in a good way.

“I never really thought that people were truly crazy, you know?” Brian turned around and started walking as AJ continued, “I mean, yeah, we’ve seen some pretty insane behavior but I mean I’ve never really encountered someone as unstable as this guy.”

Brian didn’t answer him but instead just kept walking at a fairly fast pace. AJ was having a hard time keeping up, “Bri…slow down.”

“We need to find help, AJ.”

He was now holding his side. “I know but I can’t go that fast. I’m pretty sure I have at least one broken rib, Brian.”

Brian rolled his eyes before turning around to face his friend. “AJ, just in case you aren’t aware of what’s been happening, we now have three people in the hands of a potential psycho. Two of them not by choice but the other decided to join the fun for shits and giggles, leaving it up to us to rescue their asses! So I’m sorry if I can’t slow down for you and your possibly broken rib. We have to find help before he kills them!” As the words were coming from his mouth he wished he could take them back. He couldn’t even believe what he just said. They both just stood there in an awkward silence for a second.

“Jesus, Brian…” AJ finally said as he gingerly held his hand against his side.

“I’m sorry, AJ. I didn’t mean it…” He felt absolutely horrible. “I don’t know what’s gotten into me! I’m so mad!”

“Me too, Rok.”

“I don’t understand why this is happening to us! We’re good people, AJ. This shouldn’t have happened.”

“But it did.”

“Yeah, I know. I can’t even…And then there’s Leighanne. She must be sick with worry. No idea what happened to us, why I haven’t called. They’ve got to know by now that something is wrong.”

Brian was pacing back and forth as he spoke, visibly upset and not knowing where to put his hands. He kept wringing them in front of him as if he was cold and trying to warm himself up. AJ had no idea what to do to help. That’s when he realized that in all the years he had known Brian, he had always been on the receiving and not the giving end of these kinds of freak outs. AJ couldn’t even count how many times he had done this very same thing to Brian who always had that calm and gentle touch about him. He was always able to talk AJ down from any wall or bridge he had managed to climb. In truth, Brian never complained much about anything. So, this really was new.

“She thinks I’m dead, she has to. I know her, AJ. I’m sure by now she thinks I am lying dead somewhere and there’s nothing I can do about it! I just hope that Baylee is unaware of what’s happening.” He sounded as if he was about to hyperventilate.

AJ moved close to his friend at that point and placed an arm around him, “It’ll be okay, Brian. We’re going to get through this.” He only wished he believed his own words.

That gesture alone was enough to make Brian break down in his friend’s arms. He had never in his life done that. Sure he had his moments and sometimes he got a little teary eyed but he always managed to hold it together in front of his friends. His wife was a different story. She’s the one that saw him at his worst. Full on crying fits about things that he had brushed off when it came to his band mates. Like when Nick went solo. He felt so betrayed he came home and bawled his eyes out. All his friends ever saw was anger, but he always shielded them from hurt. Same deal when Kevin decided to leave the band, once again to his friends he acted stoic and ambivalent, but when he got home it was a different story.

It’s not like he didn’t trust them or anything, it’s just the way he had always been. Even his friends in high school never really saw a vulnerable side to Brian. He wanted to be the strong one that everyone went to and not the other way around. He loved when people came to him for help. Especially the younger guys like AJ and Nick. He knew they looked up to him and he kind of bathed in it. He could be having the worst day ever, his own life falling apart but he’d still take the time to listen to AJ or Nick cry about what seemingly felt like the stupidest things on the planet as he held in his own problems. It kind of empowered him to do that. It made him feel like Batman.

As AJ held him in his arms as he cried, Brian thought about how dumb he was for never really opening up to any of them before. Now maybe, when this was all over, he would try to let them know when he was having a bad day every once in a while.

AJ on the other hand, was trying not to lose it himself. He never had to be the one to have to hold it together, but he realized whether he liked it or not, the job was now his. He held tight to his friend and let him cry. “Everything will be okay…” He kept saying, not really knowing what else there was to say.

Brian finally pulled away and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. “Sorry about that.”

“Jesus, Brian there’s no need to apologize. Are you feeling any better?”

Brian nodded, “A little, thanks.”

“Anytime, I’m always here for you brother. I love you.”

Brian smiled, “I love you too, AJ.” He paused, “How are you holding up?” He asked, pointing to the side that AJ was still nursing. “You really think you have broken ribs?”

AJ wasn’t sure if he should be honest and say yes or hide his pain, suck it up and keep going. He decided on both, “I think maybe, I mean I’ve never broken a rib before but it feels kind of bad. Not bad enough that I can’t keep going.”

“Are you sure? You can always rest and then when I find help, we can double back to get you.”

“Right, because that’s what we should do now, split up in the pitch black darkness. Have you ever watched a horror movie before, Brian?”

“I kind of think we’re living one at the moment.”

“A fucking men to that.” Then unexpectedly and out of nowhere, AJ busted out laughing.

“What?” Brian asked a little surprised and a little confused.

“I don’t’ know man…just this is so fucking unbelievable…seriously? You know most people who blow a fucking tire just pull off the side of the road, call fucking AAA and in an hour there they go. Not us though…” He let out another laugh, “No, we end up rolling into a Goddamned ditch and then the two people sent to get help manage to get kidnapped by a psycho. I mean really? Who else does that fucking happen to?” He laughed again.

Brian had a look of contemplation on his face and then shrugged which sent AJ into another round of laughter. “I mean Nick is a goddamned magnet for crazy people. Why the hell did we send him out there? We should have seen this coming!” He laughed again and then wiped away the tears on his face. “Fuck!” He added before finally ending his very odd tirade.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, just that if I don’t I’m libel to lose my fucking mind.” He added when he saw the worried look on Brian’s face.

“I understand. I’m sure we’ll all be laughing about this one day, way way way after the fact.”

“I doubt it.” AJ answered.

“Me too.” Then more quiet as they both collected their thoughts and emotions, however across the board they were. “We should probably keep moving.”

AJ nodded as they both continued up the very dark road.

 

~~~

 

Kevin was in pain both emotionally and physically as he sat beside Tim who was smiling and whistling as if it was the happiest day of his life. He wasn’t even sure what he was doing when he made the suggestion to go with the guy. It’s not like he was physically able to help Nick or Howie do anything, in fact he would probably be more of an added burden to them than anything else, but yet, he still had to check and make sure they were okay. This was his fault. This entire thing and anything that happened as a result, he’d have to live with for the rest of his life. He also knew that using himself as bait would be the only way to ensure the other two were safe. Now they would be free to go find help and hopefully give the police as much information as possible and then this nightmare would be over. If not then he would make sure to do that if this Tim guy actually did take him to the hospital as promised.

“Nick and Howie are going to be very happy to see you.”

Kevin glanced over and nodded, “It’ll be nice to see them too.” His voice broke as he spoke. He hadn’t even realized he was on the verge of tears.

“Are you in pain?” Tim had a look of deep concern on his face.

“A little, it’s not too bad.”

“Good, maybe you’re not in as bad shape as you thought.”

“You said Nick was not well, what did you mean by that?”

“He just seems to be hurting and weak but just between you and me I think he might be faking it for the attention.”

“What about Howie, how is he?”

“Fine, we had a little disagreement earlier, but it’s all good now.”

Both of those statements didn’t do much to ease Kevin’s mind about his friends. He glanced over and looked at Tim, really made sure to look at him. It was important to take in as much as possible so this way he could tell the cops every little detail of the man who had taken his friends and almost killed him. He didn’t look like someone who would do something like this, but who really did. Maybe if he had looked insane, Nick and Howie would have never got into his truck in the first place.

“So, how did you all meet?”

Kevin took a deep breath and figured it wasn’t a good idea to tell him he was in a mega selling pop group.

“Through school.”

“Oh, really?” Tim looked over at Kevin suspiciously.

“Yeah.”

Tim slowed down the truck and stopped on the side of the road, which had Kevin swallow hard a few times. It wasn’t until after he said that, he realized that maybe Nick or Howie had told him something different. This was a test, another one and this time he might have failed. He tried to act calm, letting all those acting classes he took over the last few years pay off. “Why did we stop? Is there a problem?”

“Yes there is a problem. That little jerk lied to me.”

“Who?”

“Nick! He said you were all neighbors and that’s how you met. I hate being lied to. I’m going to have to punish him when we get home.”

Kevin felt a huge sense of panic, but he remained calm as he thought on his feet, “Oh, well he’s not really lying. We were all neighbors; it’s just that I went to school with most of them. Not Nick though, he’s way younger than me.”

Tim just sat there staring at Kevin and when he didn’t say anything he felt the need to continue, “There’s no need to punish anyone. He was probably also a little nervous when he was talking to you. Nick gets like that sometimes.”

Tim nodded and smiled, “He does seem like a jittery thing. So, you were all neighbors then? He said you helped raise him.”

“We did.” Kevin felt himself starting to lose it, just knowing how scared he felt and trying to compare it to what Howie and Nick must have been feeling the entire time they have been gone.

“He’s going to really love living with me, so will Howie, you’ll see. I gave them birthday cake and everything. Maybe you’ll even get to have a piece before I take you to the hospital.”

Kevin nodded as he quietly cried.

“You’re a weepy guy, huh? Nick seems to be a pretty weepy guy too. Neither of you would have done very well with my dad. He would have beaten those feelings right out of you.”

“Sorry, I’m just thinking about my wife and kids. I want to see them again.”

“Oh, you’ll get to soon enough, as long as you do what you’re supposed to do and keep our little secret.”

He turned off the main road onto a smaller unmarked one. Kevin was sad that there wasn’t a street sign to use as a landmark. In the dark it was hard to find anything to help him along. He’d just have to try his best to remember how long this ride was. “Kevin, you are going to keep our secret, right?”

The question threw him off and worried him. “Of course.”

“Because one thing I hate more than anything else is liars. If you are lying and trying to trick me and I find out about it, things will not end well for you, Howie or Nick.” Then he turned his eyes back to the road and started whistling as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

Kevin was terrified.

 

Chapter End Notes:
Thanks for reading and taking the time to review! It's always appreciated! I hope I left you with enough drama to last until Friday because that's when I'll be updating next! Until then... :O)
Chapter 26 by Mare
Author's Notes:
I'm back with another interlude! :O)

~ 26 ~

Interlude Number Three: The FBI gets involved.

 

Shortly after Captain Blake called the FBI and filled them in on the latest events including a fax of the two pictures taken from the young teenager’s cell phone, he was told that they would be taking over the case and not to make any more moves until the Agent in charge had arrived. Within the hour Special Agent Pagano walked in the door with his team.

Robert Pagano looked around the very small police station with four desks and a jail cell in the corner and shook his head. He was always taken aback when he visited small places like this. How these small towns could function with little to no funding always amazed him.

“Special Agent Pagano, I’m Captain Pat Blake, how do you do?” the Captain offered his hand so Robert shook firmly.

“Bring me up to speed, Captain.”

“There’s not much more to tell I’m afraid. I sent two of my officers to the scene and they have been interviewing people who worked at the store but none of them say they saw Mr. Carter in the store at all.”

Robert opened up the file he was holding, “The girl, Jennie never claimed to actually see him in the story either though, so it’s possible he never entered. What about the suspect? Did he look familiar to anyone?”

“There was one older lady who said she thinks she had seen him maybe once before, but she didn’t have a name or anything. I sent my other two officers across the way to the Wal-Mart. The Target is relatively new so there’s a better chance that he might have been a visitor to the Wal-Mart instead.”

Robert nodded, “That was good thinking.”

Pat started to feel a little better having to work with the FBI after meeting this guy. He had heard stories that they weren’t always the most pleasant people to deal with. “What’s the status with the families?”

Agent Pagano looked up from his notes. “We have been in steady contact but as of now none of them have gotten any ransom demands or anything.”

“Do you find that unusual?”

“Not so much unusual as troubling.”

“Think that means they don’t know he’s famous?”

“Either don’t know or don’t care which means he was kidnapped for a different reason entirely and you know as well as I do, those don’t usually have very happy endings.”

Pat nodded, “Did anyone make a positive ID on Carter?”

He nodded, “His fiancé said it was him.”

“How much do they know, the other families I mean, the other four?”

“That all we have is Carter for the time being.”

Pat nodded, “And what about the press?”

“It’s been tricky but as far as I know, they aren’t aware of anything beside the fact that the guys are missing.” He paused and took out the picture of the suspect driving the truck. “This guy’s face doesn’t show up on our database or any other one for that matter. We were hoping we could get an ID on him that way, but no luck. He’s like a ghost. Not even a Driver’s license.” He handed the picture back to Captain Blake, “You’d think, in a town this small someone might know who he is.”

Pat looked at the picture long and hard again, hoping that maybe he’d have a moment of recognition. Did he ever have to lock this guy up for anything? Unfortunately their office wasn’t equipped with much state of the art things like facial recognition software. The only way they would know if he was ever arrested was by going through all the mug shots and that’s what he had been doing while waiting for the FBI to get there, with no luck.

Robert handed out pictures of the suspect to his team and told them to go canvas the local hangouts, knock on doors and ask anyone if this person looked familiar. “If he’s local, someone has to know who he is.”

Pat agreed, “If he’s not?”

“Then we have a problem.”

“What about cell phones?”

“We tried the GPS, but none of the phones were turned on which means…”

“They were probably ditched.” Pat finished the FBI Agent’s thought.

He nodded, “We’re hoping to find the van.”

“And let’s hope no one is dead inside when we do.”

The FBI had been contacted by the band’s management about three hours after they had gone missing. No one had heard from them and not a single one of them had picked up their phones. Special Agent Pagano brushed it off telling them that on average people have to be missing for at least 48 hours before you could even file a report. Of course due to the celebrity status of the people in question, he couldn’t dismiss it outright, so he told them that if they got any kind of a call that seemed out of the ordinary to contact them immediately.

The band’s family member’s had other plans. One of the wives decided to go to the local news station and report the guys missing knowing perfectly well that people would go nuts about it and it worked because within an hour of that happening, Special Agent Pagano was called into his boss’s office and handed the case.

He had driven up to the hotel the Backstreet Boys were supposed to be checked in at and talked to all the family members, staff and management. He really hadn’t thought much about this except that it was a big waste of time, but after talking to everyone, he got the sense that for all of them to not call at all was a little more than a coincidence. He had hoped that by now either a ransom demand would have come into play or an accident would have been reported, but it did seem like they had just disappeared into thin air.

His cell phone ringing pulled him out of his thoughts.

“Pagano.” He nodded as he listened to one of his agents at the local strip club. He claimed that the suspect was seen there at least once a month. One of the strippers identified him as a man named Tim but she had no last name. He always paid with cash, was a great tipper and he never drank anything more than water. 

He wrote the name Tim under the man’s face. “Well at least that’s a start.”

Pat looked at the name, “Tim?”

“Apparently he likes strippers.”

“Who doesn’t?” Pat joked, “While you were on the phone we also got an ID at the Wal-Mart. He goes at least once a month and buys mainly groceries and occasionally DVDs and books. He always uses cash and is always very polite to everyone. No one knew his name though.”

“Sounds like he makes a trek into town once a month, wonder where he’s coming from.

“No idea, but they said they hadn’t seen him yet this month.”

“That’s because he headed into Target this time around.” He looked at the picture again, “Captain Blake, what else do you have in your lovely town that one might want to visit if only coming once a month?”

Pat thought about it for a few minutes, but nothing came to mind. “Really all we have worth anything is the strip club, our two department stores…there is a little diner not too far from the strip club. Maybe they should try there.”

“Have you ever had to deal with a high profile case before, Captain Blake?”

“Can’t say I have.”

“Well, let’s hope things get resolved before it comes to that because once the press gets involved it turns into another ballgame.”

Robert nodded and called his Agents to check out the eatery. He really hated high profile cases like this one. He wanted to make sure he had as much information as possible before the sun rose and reporters got wind of what had transpired. He was kind of afraid the loose canon who had went to the media earlier would do it again first thing in the morning. If that happened he had to be prepared for the firestorm of activity that would meet this small little unequipped police station.

“Do you really think the press will get wind of this?”

Special Agent Pagano nodded, “These guys are pretty popular and one of the wives is pretty impatient.”

“The one who went to the news station?”

He nodded, “Yeah, I understand her frustration, but it might end up hurting them instead of helping. When she heard Carter was seen in that truck she flipped out. Most of them did, especially the fiancé.” He looked around the station again and peaked into the very small interrogation room, “Is this the only one you have?”

Pat nodded, “The other room’s our break room and that door is the bathroom. This is it.”

“We might have to consider expanding to a different location if this turns into a full blown search and rescue or if we apprehend the suspect.”

Pat nodded as his phone rang, “Excuse me a second, this is Captain Blake…”

Robert watched Pat’s face as his eyes grew wide and he searched for paper on his desk. “Where?” He jotted down some information and then handed the paper to the FBI agent. “We’ll be right there! Thanks, Carla!”

“Maybe this will be resolved before the sun comes up after all.” Pagano said as he read the note about two of the band members showing up at the local hospital.

 

Chapter End Notes:
See you tomorrow with another update! :O)
Chapter 27 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Kevin is reunited with Howie and Nick :O)

This fiend, whose ghastly presence ever
Beside thee like thy shadow hangs,
Dream not to chase;—the mad endeavour
Would scourge thee to severer pangs.
Be as thou art. Thy settled fate,
Dark as it is, all change would aggravate.

From “Oh! There are Spirits of the Air” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

~ 27 ~

 

A Wrench in the Plan

 

Kevin was trying his best to keep his emotions in check after the little threat from Tim. Listening to the man whistling beside him had to be the worst feeling in the world. He was so panicked, at one point he actually thought about just opening the truck door and jumping out. But in the end, he managed to keep his cool head as the truck stopped in front of this quaint little cabin in the middle of nowhere.

“This is it!” Tim said proudly, “You like it?”

“It’s nice, seems very peaceful.” Kevin added that last part as an aside more to himself than anyone else.

Tim got out of the truck and moved to the passenger door, “I guess I’ll have to carry you in.”

Kevin nodded as Tim opened the door, “You ready?”

“Yeah.”

He grabbed Kevin and slung him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He was kind of surprised how easy it was for the guy. Surprised and also worried. That only meant Tim was nice and strong…great, nothing like a nice, strong crazy person. When they got to the front door he placed Kevin back on the ground which sent a small groan coming out of the Kentuckian’s mouth. “Sorry, guess I should have warned you about that.”

Kevin was quick to take the weight off of his bad ankle by lifting it slightly off the ground and Tim countered by wrapping Kevin’s arm around his shoulder so he wouldn’t fall. “I thought we’d walk through the door. Howie might have panicked if he saw me carrying you in like that. We want him to know you are okay and I didn’t hurt you.” Tim winked and then opened the door.

“I’m home and brought some company.”

When they walked in, Howie was sitting at the table, but when he saw Kevin he stood up slowly and his mouth opened wide in surprise. “Kevin? What are you doing here?”

Kevin smiled at his friend, “Hey D.”

“Where are AJ and Brian?” He asked alarmed.

“They are still at the van, don’t worry. They’re okay.”  Tim looked at the table and pointed, “What’s this?”

Howie seemed nervous and distracted, staring at Kevin with wide eyes before turning his attention to Tim, “Oh…I thought I’d surprise you by cutting you another piece of cake and making you some coffee. I feel bad that I didn’t really seem all that excited about your birthday earlier.” Then he looked directly at Kevin again, “I was just worried about Nick and couldn’t concentrate on anything more than that.”

Kevin felt his heart begin to race as Howie said those words slowly and precisely so that he would get the message that something was wrong.

“That was very nice of you, Howie!” Tim turned to Kevin, “See? I told you they liked me.” Once again he turned back to D, “I was just telling Kevin here that we had birthday cake and he could have some.” He guided Kevin over to the table and helped him sit.

Howie sat at the table across from Kevin and shook his head slightly at his friend while staring at the piece of cake.

“Where is Nick?” Kevin asked. “I’d really like to see him.”

“He’s resting in the bedroom.” Howie answered while never taking his eyes off of the cake sitting in front of Kevin.

“Nick! Come on out here! There’s a special visitor I think you’ll be really happy to see!” Tim looked over at the two men sitting at the table and put his hand to his mouth to hide his grin, just like a child would when waiting to give his parents a huge surprise. “Nick, come on out buddy, don’t be rude!”

Howie answered, “He’s probably sleeping and I don’t think he is in any shape to make it out here anyway.”

Again those words sent small waves of panic down Kevin’s spine. What had happened? Why couldn’t Nick come out, what had Tim done to him?

Tim nodded, “Well why don’t you go ahead and have some of that cake while I go get Nick.” He walked into the bedroom.

The second he was out of the room, Howie whispered harshly, “What are you doing here?”

“He came back to the van to kill all of us, I convinced him to take me here mostly to save AJ and Brian.”

“Jesus.”

Kevin nodded, “What’s the deal with Nick?”

Howie ignored the question and instead moved the slice of cake out of Kevin’s reach. “You can’t eat that cake Kev, or the coffee. It’s loaded with psych meds.”

Before Kevin had a chance to ask any more questions, Tim walked in the room part carrying and part dragging a half conscious Nick. He had one of Nick’s arms slung around his shoulder and was carrying him with his hand at Nick’s waste as his feet dragged slightly off the floor.

Howie stood up and quickly went to help as Kevin just sat there staring in a stunned silence. Kevin didn’t know what to think. Howie and Tim led Nick to the seat that Howie vacated and when he almost fell off, D stopped him by squatting beside him to act as a bumper allowing their younger friend to lean on him without falling.

“Jesus…” Kevin managed to get out, “What happened to him?”

Howie looked over at Kevin again but it was Tim who answered, “He hurt himself in the accident but it’s nothing that some aspirin and rest won’t fix. I think he’s faking for attention, aren’t you Nick?” He winked at the blonde who was now beginning to be more aware of his surroundings.

He first glanced at Howie, “D?”

“Yeah buddy.”

Then he looked across the table at Kevin. “Kev?” He tried to say his whole name but he couldn’t get it out. He sounded incredibly out of breath and weak.

Kevin wanted to get up and rush over to him but just putting the slightest bit of pressure on his ankle made him quickly sit back down. “It’s me little man…” He placed his arm across the table and reached for Nick’s hand.

“Why….here…” He looked around, “AJ…Brian?”

“They’re safe, Nicky.” Howie assured him as his grip tightened on his friend who seemed to be slumping slightly off the chair.

Nick nodded and closed his eyes for a second, “Good.”

“I brought Kevin here so he can have some cake and then I’m taking him to the hospital for his ankle. I thought that would make you happy. That makes you happy, right?”

Nick looked up at Tim and nodded and then looked over at Kevin, “Good.” He said again.

Kevin had a giant lump in his throat, “Tim…”

Tim had moved to the kitchen to grab a few more plates and milk. “Eat your cake!”

Howie once again gave a warning glance to Kevin as Nick mouthed the word ‘don’t’ while looking at the cake in front of him. “Thanks, I’m not really all that hungry at the moment.” He made a conscious effort to move the cake as far away as possible.

“You sure, it’s really quite good and I’ll be offended if you don’t at least try a little.” Tim made his way over to the table, carrying empty plates and coffee cups and made it a point of putting the cake right back in front of his new visitor. Kevin glanced over at Howie as he closed his eyes in frustration. At that moment he knew he had become the wrench in the plan his friend had made.

Kevin had no idea what to do, he slowly took a fork and placed the smallest amount possible onto it and put it in his mouth, making sure not to swallow. Tim watched and smiled, “It’s good, right?”

Kevin didn’t answer but only nodded, still holding the small piece of cake in his mouth. Nick, whose hand was still stretched across the table, let go of Kevin’s hand and made a sweeping motion that ended up making the plate of cake sail to the floor. When it hit, Kevin quickly turned his head and spit it out as Tim rushed over to the mess.

“Sorry…” Nick was barely able to get out.

Howie held tight to his friend afraid that Tim was going to strike him, but he only shook his head, “Clumsy bumpkin!” He said very calmly. He turned to Kevin “We’ll get you another piece of cake. I’ll go grab a broom and clean up this mess. I should make you do it!” He said to Nick pointing his finger at him.

“Thanks Nick.” Kevin whispered once Tim left the room.

“There goes that then.” Howie sounded defeated.

“Coffee…” Nick stammered as a reminder that not all was lost. He couldn’t handle the stress of keeping his head up so he laid it on the table. From that angle, Kevin was really able to hear how labored Nick’s breathing was which sent him into full-fledged panic mode.

“Tim…can I ask you for a huge favor?” He said once the man came back with broom and dustpan in hand and began sweeping up the mess.

“What is it?”

“I was wondering if you’d consider taking Nick to the hospital instead of me.”

He could tell he had maybe said something wrong when he saw Howie close his eyes as Tim’s demeanor seemed to change, “So, you’re going to start this too now?”

That’s when he realized the argument he had with Howie earlier probably had to do with this very topic. “Look at him, Tim.” He placed his hand on Nick’s arm. “Can’t you tell that’s he’s having a hard time breathing? Can’t you see he’s not well?”

Tim laughed, “He’s acting.”

“No, he isn’t. I’ve known him my entire life and I can tell you without a doubt, he is not acting.”

Tim looked down at Nick and placed his hand on his back as he tried to breathe. “You can feel him struggling, right?” Howie asked still holding his friend in place. “You say you love him and he’s part of your family, right? Don’t you want to take care of your family?” He paused once more, “I mean OUR new family?”

Kevin grimaced hearing Howie say those words. He watched Tim move his hand from Nick’s back to his own chin in contemplation. He felt like they were starting to win him over so he figured he’d continue the argument. “I will gladly stay here as collateral until he’s well enough to come back to you.”

“What if he doesn’t come back?”

“He will. If he knows I’m here unless he comes back, he will.”

“Is that true, Nick, will you come back here after you’re all better?”

Nick with his eyes half opened nodded.

“And you promise you won’t say anything to anybody?”

Once again he nodded.

“Okay, maybe I will do that then.”

Both Howie and Kevin let out small sighs of relief as D rubbed at Nick’s back who had once again placed his head on the table.

“You’re making the right decision, Tim.” Kevin assured the crazy man as a few tears escaped his eyes. The last thing he wanted was to be stuck at this house with a madman but he had to sacrifice himself to save Nick. It just felt right, since he was the reason Nick was in this situation in the first place. He only wished he could have done the same for Howie. At least three of them would be safe now. Maybe while Tim was taking Nick to the hospital they could formulate a new and better plan.

Tim nodded, “I’m going to the john and then we’ll go before I change my mind.”

He walked into the bathroom. “I’m sorry I ruined your plan.” Kevin said as soon as the door was closed.

“He still has the coffee there. It’s not all lost. I plan on making sure he drinks it when he gets back.” Howie took the coffee and moved it to the counter, ensuring Tim wouldn’t throw it away.

“I don’t want…leave you…guys.” Nick said trying to sit up.

“Nicky, you have to…everything will be okay. Kevin and I will figure something out and you can tell them all about us. Try to tell them as much as you can.”

He looked over at Kevin, “Thank you.”

“It’s what big brothers do.” Kevin reached across the table and once again took Nick’s hand in his own. “Get well, okay? We love you.”

Tim walked out of the bathroom and went to grab Nick. “Are you ready to go?” He asked the blonde who nodded. “Why don’t you walk me to the truck!” He said more like a command and less like a question to Howie.

He placed Nick over his shoulder exactly the way he had done to Kevin earlier and the three of them ventured to the truck leaving Kevin alone, sitting at the table.

As they were leaving, Kevin was trying to figure out what time it was. He guessed it had to be well into the wee hours of the morning which meant daylight would be happening soon. Maybe AJ and Brian had found help by now. Maybe there would already be police at the van. Maybe the police already were looking for the truck that Nick and Tim would be driving in. He hoped that now it was only a matter of time before they would all be saved.

Within a few minutes, Howie and Tim were back, “Okay boys, I need to lock you in the bedroom while I’m gone, no offense. I know Howie won’t go anywhere but I still don’t fully trust you.

“With this ankle, I’m pretty much not going anywhere either.” He pointed to his swollen ankle. Something he was trying to forget about.

Tim laughed, “Probably true, but even still…” He helped Kevin off of his chair and led them both into the bedroom. “When I get back, we’ll have the rest of that coffee and cake, how does that sound?”

“Great.” Howie nodded and smiled.

“See you later, boys!” Tim winked at them and then padlocked the door.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I'll be back tomorrow with chapter 28. Hope you're still enjoying the insanity! lol
Chapter 28 by Mare
Author's Notes:
And now we have arrived at the hospital! :O)

Just wanted to take a minute to thank anyone who took the time to nominate and vote for this story at the Double Rainbow Awards! It won Best Suspense and Tim won Best Villain, although he probably threatened all the other villains to back off! LOL

And whichever journey you embark on,
Don’t let it slip your mind,
Your friends can be your Sherpa’s,
On the Mountain track you climb.

Life always throws a curve-ball,
And you may lose, or maybe saved,
Crisis may lead you up to the stars,
Or drag you to your grave.

From “A Turn of Events” by Ross D. Taylor

 

 

~ 28 ~

Survivor’s Guilt

 

Brian tried his best to close his eyes and not think about things, even if just for a few minutes. It seemed like for the last hour, everything had hit him like a whirlwind and he didn’t have much time to even think or breathe. He had been walking down that dark road with AJ, seemingly without any sense of direction whatsoever. Feeling so emotionally and physically drained he just wanted to sit down on the side of the road and call it a day. They both had reached their breaking points. Then suddenly out of nowhere two glorious headlights appeared off in the distance. As they got closer, the two friends had looked at each other and then jumped in the middle of the road and started waving their arms like madmen. Brian was fully prepared to be hit by the car because there was no way he was getting off that road unless whatever was coming towards them stopped.  

Luckily it was an older man in a pickup truck. At first when they saw the truck a brief moment of irrational panic occurred that maybe it was Tim coming back to kill them, even though it was coming from a different direction entirely.

The man led them both into the car as AJ started to babble about what had happened talking in sentence fragments about car accident’s wolves and kidnappings. It came as no surprise when the man decided maybe they should be brought directly to the hospital. Brian had asked if the man had a phone he could use and was extremely disappointed when he said he didn’t.  

The emergency room was pretty quiet when they walked in; only about three people were sitting in the chairs waiting to be seen. All eyes seemed to go to them as they approached the desk. The nurse sitting there barely gave them a second glance as Brian explained they were just in an accident and needed the police. She handed him a clipboard and instructed him to fill out all the information and she’d call him when they were ready to see him.

“This is an emergency.” He had stated.

“Yes, and this is an emergency room.” She answered, snippily.

That’s when AJ lost his cool. “Excuse me!” He said, taking the clipboard that the nurse had given Brian out of his hands and banging it on the front desk with so much force that everyone looked his way. “My friend just told you this was an emergency! We were in an accident and our friends have been kidnapped and we need the police now so tell me what I need to do to make that happen? If I need to start throwing things and make a bigger scene than I am now, just tell me and I will because I am having a BAD BAD FUCKING DAY!!!! SO ACTING A LITTLE CRAZY WILL BE JUST EASY AS FUCKING PIE FOR ME LADY!!”

She finally decided to look up and a moment of recognition hit her, “Oh my God…” She said pointing to both men, “You are the guys from the news.”

That’s when another nurse came out into the lobby, “The Backstreet Boys! You were missing.”

Brian and AJ looked at each other and then back at the nurses, “That’s us.”

The nurse who came out in front, instructed the rude one to call the police as she led them to the back, out of the lobby and into a curtained area. “I guess they did notice we were gone.” AJ said. It was the last time he saw AJ as he was escorted in a wheelchair to be checked out by a doctor.

Brian was also being looked over by another doctor and at least three other nurses who seemed to be doing nothing but staring. “I need to call my wife and let her know I’m okay.” He insisted as the doctor poked at prodded at him. “We’ll take care of that after we get you looked at.” He then ordered a slew of tests and walked out of the room.

Turned out Brian was pretty lucky. He needed about five stitches on his head and was suffering from dehydration and had a hairline fracture of his left wrist, the one that had been trapped. He hadn’t even felt the break until he was told it existed. There was also talk of a possible mild concussion. The doctor decided to admit him. A nurse then handed him a hospital gown and soap and told him he could clean himself up once he got into his room which is where he was now. All clean, and lying in bed. When he got out of the shower, he once again asked if he could call his wife. The nurse informed him that she had been called and was on her way along with the police and the FBI.

He sat there in silence, not sure what he wanted to do with himself. He decided to turn on the TV but nothing was on except infomercials about fast cookers and fat remedies. The clock on the programming channel said it was 4:04. No wonder no one was on the road. He had lost all sense of time, he felt like months had gone by, not just hours. The fact that so much stuff had happened to him in such a short period of time seemed inconceivable.

He just started randomly flipping the channels as he waited for his wife to show up. He felt an odd kind of panic. It was a horrible feeling actually. It was even worse than being stuck in that van for as long as he was. Like he needed to do something to help, but there was nothing to do but wait. He was safe and he was grateful for that, but Nick, Howie and now Kevin were still in the middle of a nightmare. How was that fair exactly? That he and AJ were safe but they were still in danger? He should have offered to go with Tim. He hadn’t even thought to do that once Kevin threw it out there. It wasn’t even on his radar to trade places with his cousin. The same was true when Nick showed up. He didn’t think to say, “You know what, let him stay here, I’ll go with you.”

He had been so angry at them all during the course of the night. Instead of sympathizing and being overly worried, the emotion he had chosen was anger and now that it was being washed away a fresh new coating of guilt was taking its place.

His cousin had sacrificed his own well-being just to give him and AJ a chance to get help and yet, he was angry at Kevin for the accident and blaming him for everything that happened. Brian was thankful when a nurse walked in the room, “Are you all settled in now Mr. Littrell?” She asked as she poured him a fresh glass of water.

“Call me Brian and yes, I am thanks.”

She nodded, “Brian. I will be back shortly to draw some blood and check your vitals. Is there anything you need?”

“Can you tell me how AJ is? He’s the guy I came in with.”

“I believe they are still working on him.”

Brian got nervous when he heard ‘working on him’ “Is he okay? It’s nothing too serious, right?”

She smiled, “How about I go check for you?”

“I’d appreciate that.”

“I do believe he’s going to be your roommate.”

“Great.” He rolled his eyes but in a joking manner. Then there was AJ. He had wanted to kill AJ at one point during the course of the night, and why? He was going through the same things as Brian. Why was it okay for Brian to be angry and sad but not AJ?

He felt like a horrible person. He put his hands to his eyes and started to cry. Just letting everything hit him and hit him hard as he sat in that hospital bed all alone, alone for the very first time since this nightmare happened.

~~~

AJ was having his own sense of survivor’s guilt as he waited to be brought up to the room he would soon be sharing with Brian. It turned out he did have one broken rib and one bruised one. He also needed a few stitches right above his eye and was suffering from dehydration as well. Other than that, he was fine, physically anyway. Mentally AJ was having a very hard time keeping it together. He seemed depressed and overly anxious, to the point that a psych consult was called.

The doctor tried to prescribe a Xanax to ease the anxiety he had been feeling but he refused, just as he refused all pain meds for his injuries. That’s how his addiction started in the first place. He didn’t want to go down that road all over again, so he’d endure a little pain and anxiety because the alternative was a lot worse.

It sure was tempting, though.

As he was being wheeled to his room, he closed his eyes and thought about all that had happened to him. He couldn’t believe what he had been through, but that was nothing, NOTHING compared to what Howie and Nick were going through. And now Kevin was added into that mix. It was so weird that what haunted him more than anything wasn’t so much the fact that a person had actually held a gun and pointed it right at him, ready to shoot him dead so much as knowing that three of his best friends were still with that guy. He had made it out alive, but what about them? The chances that he and Brian were able to survive all that had happened had to be some kind of fluke of nature. How would it be possible that Kevin, Nick and Howie would be able to make it out of there alive?

He didn’t like the odds. He didn’t want to think about that but it’s all he could think about. His eyes popped open because he hated that dark place.

“There he is.” A nurse said as AJ was wheeled into the room. “I know you asked me to check on him but I figured he could just tell you how he was doing himself.” She winked at Brian and then walked over to AJ and guided him into the bed.

He grimaced slightly when he was standing straight on his feet but then once he was able to lie down he felt a lot better.

“Hey buddy, how are you feeling?”

He looked over at Brian, “Been better, but at least I feel clean.” He was happy for the sponge bath he had before the psych consult came.

“So the ribs?”

“One was broken, another bruised but long story short… I’ll live.”

“Me too.”

AJ noticed the cast, “You broke it?”

Brian nodded, “I guess because of all the anxiety and nervous energy I didn’t even feel it."

AJ let out a sigh, “Do you think they’re okay?” He was looking up at the ceiling, trying to keep his mind from going where it really wanted to go. Thoughts of how much pain Kevin was in when they left him. He was fully aware he had a broken ankle. What else was probably wrong with him they didn’t even know? And then of course Nick, he had looked awful. And no one even knew about Howie.

“I don’t know AJ. All we can do is hope that we give the FBI enough information to get this guy before he does anything to them.”

AJ did look at his friend then, intently actually. “What if we’re too late?” Brian stared at him as he continued, “I mean what if… I’m not sure I can live with that.”

Brian nodded slowly before focusing his attention on the TV again, “I don’t know, AJ.” He paused, flipped channels neither of them were watching and said, “I don’t know” once again.

AJ laid his head back and tried to ignore the pain he felt. He was so tired and wanted to sleep but the guilt of not knowing the fate of the others was preventing that from happening. Plus he knew his wife was on the way. He needed to see her, feel her, and touch her. Maybe she could take away some of the pain, lift some of the burden off of his shoulders.

“We will be able to get through this, right?” He asked Brian once again who seemed to not want to have to think about anything more than how to cook a steak in less than ten minutes.

Before Brian was able to answer, Leighanne, Rochelle and a slew of official looking people entered their room.

AJ smiled for the first time in hours.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I will be back on Saturday with another update. Yes, Saturday. Sorry, I'm catching up to myself and I'd rather have chapters waiting then post all I have and leave you hanging for longer periods of time. You'll get a chapter on Saturday and one on Sunday! :O) Including the worst cliffy I have ever written in my life!! hehe
Chapter 29 by Mare
Author's Notes:
So, before you read I'm just going to say...sorry. It's all Tim's fault!

My heart was anguished for their sake;
I could not frame a word;
But they described my sunken face
And seemed to read therein, and trace
The news which Pity would not break
Nor Truth leave un-averred.

From “The Cave of the Unborn” by Thomas Hardy

 

~ 29~

Shovels

 

Tim was a pretty patient person. Only a very few things would set him off.

Having to wait in line was a big one.

On his once a month ventures into town, he enjoyed the occasional stop at the local McDonald’s Drive-thru but if there were more than three cars in front of him he would opt to go to the diner instead. Same was true if he encountered traffic along the roads, which seldom if ever happened. He had been known to turn his truck around and go way out of his way just to avoid the five to ten minute wait a small jam might result in.

If he was stuck in a situation where he wouldn’t be able to move, he would get antsy, anxious but most of all mad, and if it was one thing he tried to avoid at all costs was becoming mad so he stayed away from lines as best as he could, choosing to go to places right as they opened or right before they closed. Anything in between would prove too risky.

He once shoved an older lady out of his way after waiting for almost thirty minutes in a checkout line at a grocery store. She had been arguing with the cashier about the price of lemons. Tim had smiled at first, thinking it was cute but after about the first ten minutes he found himself going into his pockets and offering to pay the difference in cost just so she would go away! She had said it wasn’t the money but the principle of the thing as she shook her finger in his face.  As they were leaving the store, he had never taken his eyes off of her. She was walking slowly to her car. He thought about hitting her with his bag but decided on a nice firm shove instead. She fell to the ground and he kept walking.

He cried about it that night. He felt bad and never ever went back to that store again.

~~~

He looked over at his very sick passenger and placed his hand on Nick’s shoulder. He was slumped off to the side with his head resting on the window of the passenger seat.

“How are you doing?” He asked softly.

Nick grunted something, it was hard to make out so Tim just shrugged and smiled. He really didn’t like the idea of giving up Nick. He was afraid he would never see him again, even knowing that the other guy was acting as his place holder.

“You do like living with me, right Nick? I mean you are coming back to Howie and Me, right?”

Nick forced himself to sit up and nodded at Tim, “Yes.” Was all he managed to get out.

This made Tim a happy camper, “Okay, good because I would hate to have to hurt your friend. You know, I was originally going back to that van to kill all of them.” He felt like this was the time to come clean, do as Kevin suggested, making him sound like a hero. “I was just about to pull the trigger and everything when it occurred to me how bad it would make you and Howie feel.” He paused and decided to add a nice big sigh before continuing. “So, I couldn’t go through with it.” He looked at his new brother then, taking his chin in his hand and forcing him to look his way, “I love you too much to hurt you.”

He felt bad when he saw how frightened Nick looked. He really didn’t mean to scare him. He just wanted him to see how much he had sacrificed just to make his new family happy. He let go of Nick’s chin, “Don’t be scared, Nick. I didn’t hurt Kevin or your other friends. What were their names?”

Nick took two large breaths before he was able to answer, “Brian and AJ.”

“Yeah, they are all fine. Please don’t be afraid of me. I hate it when people are afraid of me for no reason.”

This was another thing that made him tend to lose his cool, when people feared him just because they misunderstood his intentions.

~~~

After his dad shared all his secrets with Tim at the campsite, he began bringing him along on his little adventures. He had always wondered what his father did when he left the cabin and would be gone until the next morning. When he confronted his mother about this, she claimed he had business to attend to, but once Tim found out the truth, he realized his Mother was probably as in the dark as he was and just pretending to know what was going on.

There was something wrong with his father. He had slowly come to realize this, the older he got but it wasn’t until the campsite that he truly figured it out. As his father would untie the canvas bag that contained the random girl he had chosen to kill, Tim would just stand and watch as his father had them beg for their lives. He claimed he enjoyed taunting them as if they were his cat toys. He never tried to rape them or anything, it wasn’t sexual and he loved his wife too much to do that. He just needed to take out his frustrations on someone. He had explained to Tim, “Isn’t it better that I am killing them instead of your mom, son? Think of the sacrifice I am making just to keep your mother happy and to keep you happy.”

His father would taunt his victims for hours, holding a knife to their necks or pretending he was ready to let them go only to drag them right back towards him. He refused to gag them. He wanted to hear them scream and beg for their lives. They would look at Tim and call him a monster and ask him why he was letting this happen as if he had any control of the situation at all. They would beg him for help and tell him they’d do whatever he wanted as long as he let them go.

Tim felt bad for them, he really did but he wasn’t sure what they thought he could do. He was a good boy and good boys did what their parents told them to do. They never got that part. He once even asked one of the girls right before his father came back from the truck with shovel in hand, “Don’t you listen to your mom and dad? Would you ever refuse to do what your parents asked you to do?”

She ignored his words and spit in his face, telling him he was going to rot in hell next to his deranged father.

This happened time and time again. It got so hard to deal with, he would beg his father to leave him home, but every time he would say no. “This will help you become a man.” He would say, “Otherwise you might just stay the mother loving wussy you are now.”

So he put up with all the taunts and name calling of his father’s victims even though he was really his father’s victim as well. They didn’t understand and after a while he stopped trying to make them. He would just find himself smiling as he watched his father choke the life out of them, all the while secretly thinking better them than me or mom.

~~~

 

As Tim turned off the small gravel road, he once again looked over at his passenger. He was sitting up as straight as possible and just staring ahead. “What’s on your mind?”

Nick glanced his way, “I miss my fiancé.”

Tim rolled his eyes, “You know in the end you’ll probably thank me for breaking you guys up. My father always said that God invented woman only to separate the strong from the weak.”

“Is that what you think too?”

Tim shrugged, “I guess. I’ve only ever loved my wife.”

“You were married? I thought you said you only had one girlfriend.” Nick said this in a very accusatory tone which Tim did not like at all. The same type of tone those girls would use when they called him names and didn’t believe what he was telling them.

“She was my girlfriend. I married her after she died.”

“Okay” Nick answered before falling silent once again.

“I don’t like being accused of lying.” Tim said sounding very hurt.

Nick glanced over at him, “I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. Sorry.” But he didn’t sound very sorry at all.  He just sounded scared.

Tim tried to shake off the anger he was feeling and decided to put on the radio, “You like music?”

Nick nodded.

“Good.” Tim started to flip through the channels trying to find something he wouldn’t mind listening to while trying to calm himself down after being called a liar. He landed on his favorite country station while still brooding.

That was probably the biggest thing to set him off. Being lied to or being accused of lying.

~~~

Tim’s father never believed anything his son ever told him. His dad would ask him a question like, “Did you remember to bring the shovels?” Tim would nod but then It would be followed by an “I don’t believe you, I’m going to go check and you better be telling me the truth!”

When he was being punished and asked to throw his favorite books into the flames, after reading the title, his father would bitch slap his son across the face and claim he was lying! The book didn’t mean enough to him. He was probably just throwing some random book out because he was such a selfish little prick!

Luckily his mother believed every word he said, so he felt bad on those occasions when he had to lie to her. She would ask him what kinds of things they did when they went on their camping trips and he would make up elaborate stories about bird watching, fishing and bonding. She always had a huge smile on her face and would say she knew they’d end up being best friends, just like every father and son are supposed to be.

Tim had only ever hit his father once and it was on the last camping trip they ever took together. The cat toy of that particular night was named Annemarie. She was about the same age as Tim and by the time his father had let her out of her bag she already had a mascara streaked face and a bad case of the shakes. Just like everybody before her, she begged for her life the entire time but the difference was her demeanor. While the others would scream and cry she just calmly asked and used his name. He had been taken back by that at first, thinking she was a witch or a psychic but she admitted it was because she heard his father call him that.

She seemed nice and Tim decided just once, he was going to ask his father to spare someone. Annemarie smiled and said thank you. He could tell that when this thing was over, they would be friends forever. He was going to invite her to the cabin for dinner and then maybe they’d head into town for a movie. When he presented the idea to his Father, he just sat there for a few minutes with a huge smile on his face, “Of course son!” He said with a lot of confidence and pride, “Just because you asked, we’ll let this one go.”

He was so ecstatic he actually moved in to hug his father before forgetting how he hated to be touched. When he told Annemarie, she was so happy she cried and fell into his arms. The feeling made him excited in places he wasn’t used to feeling that way about. When Tim asked if he could untie her, his dad let him and he even let her eat some of the hot dogs and beans they had brought along.

She went from being a cat toy to being Tim’s new friend. This was the best camping trip ever.

Right before they set out their sleeping bags, his father asked him to go to the truck because he had forgotten his flask filled with whiskey, his version of sleeping pills. He gave Annemarie a hug and set out to find that flask. He hadn’t realized his father was holding it when he asked. He would later find out that it was all part of the joke.

He had been scared to tell his father he couldn’t’ find the flask in the truck, but when he heard the screams he forgot about that and just started running towards the site. There was his dad stabbing his new friend over and over again as her blood spewed all over his shirt. “My son lied to you! He knew I was going to kill you!” He heard his dad say to Annemarie as she slowly gave up her fight and looked his way.

“I didn’t!” He yelled to her, running close. “I swear I didn’t know!”

She blinked once or twice and then closed her eyes forever. When she stopped struggling, his father dropped her to the ground and wiped some of the blood off of his face. “That was the best one yet, thank you for that!” He said out of breath. “Now go get the shovels.”

“You lied to me.” Tim said in quiet disbelief, “You told me you’d let her live.”

His father laughed, “I can’t believe you actually thought that could happen. Let her live, so she could go back home and let them know what we did to her?”

“She wouldn’t have done that! She promised me!”

“She was lying to you. You’re such an idiot, Timothy! No one would ever just leave and not say anything; I don’t care how beautiful or sweet they seem. She had to die. Now go get the shovels!”

“LIAR!” he screamed as his rage took over and he punched his father in the face.

His dad fell to the ground and again found himself wiping blood off his face, but this time it was his own. It was also collecting on his teeth so he spit before he spoke, “Well well well…looks like my boy is finally becoming a man.”

“I hate you!” He sneered, “I told her she would live.”

“I guess you and I are both liars then.” He paused, “Now go get a shovel. You’re going to bury this one all by yourself. It’ll give you time to think about what you just did.” Tim looked at the dead body of his best friend and wanted to cry. He would never do that in front of his dad though, so he just started walking back to the truck, “That was the last time you’ll ever touch me and live to tell about it, Timothy.” His father shouted after him.

That night as he shoveled the grave for Annemarie he kept picturing his father’s face as the dirt. He placed the picnic table over the freshly made grave as a makeshift tombstone and decided to sleep in the truck.

He never visited that camp site again.

~~~

 

Suddenly those words his father had spoken to him rang in his ears, so Tim asked Nick once more, “You promise you won’t tell anyone about me and what I did to you and your friends? You promise me you’ll be back when you are all better?”

Tim could tell Nick was nervous by the way he was breathing. It wasn’t the labored breath like before, it was the kind one takes when one is about to lie.

“I promise.”

Suddenly Tim found himself doubting his passenger, what if he was lying? What if he didn’t really like Tim at all and was just waiting for the opportunity to rat him out, “My dad told me not to trust you.” He said as he clenched the steering wheel tightly, “He said no one would ever leave and not tell what happened.”

The country station they had been listening to as background noise broke into “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” just as Nick reached over and placed his hand on Tim’s arm.

Tim was surprised by the show of affection so he unclenched his hands and looked over at his new brother, “Tim, I promise you. I will not tell one single soul about you or the guys. I just need to get better so we can get back to the cabin and Kevin can go get his ankle fixed, okay?”

He said it so calmly and sure he was able to put Tim’s mind at ease. “Okay, I’m sorry I doubted you. This has been hard for me, Nick. This whole thing isn’t easy. The things I do for you, I swear.”

He moved his hand off the steering wheel and gave a pat on the head to his baby brother. It was the first time Nick didn’t try to move away. Tim smiled. Maybe things would work out after all.

They drove in silence while listening to Charlie Daniels have a fiddle battle with Satan.  When the song was over the DJ claimed “Seems like the hunt for that missing boy band is over, not that anyone listening to me even knows what a boy band is…”

“Can we change the station?” Nick suddenly asked.

Tim was particular about his music; it was either classic rock or country, but He nodded, “No problem, you like oldies?”

Nick nodded as the DJ continued talking about boy bands. “Anything is better than this.”

“We’ll have to change your dislike of country when you come back home, little brother!” He laughed and changed the station. For some reason, Nick seemed very relieved. Tim guessed he really really didn’t like country!

The oldies station was in the middle of a news story, “Backstreet Boys AJ McLean and Brian Littrell have been found. The search for Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough and Nick Carter is still on. If anyone has any information regarding their whereabouts…” Hearing the names made Tim actually come to a screeching halt right in the middle of the street. Did he just hear that right?

“Howie, Nick and Kevin?” He said out loud before looking over at his passenger. “Are they talking about you and your friends?”

He didn’t even need an answer because the look on Nick’s face as he listened to the news was enough. “You lied to me.” He said shaking his head. “You’re a liar!”

“Tim wait…”

“SHUT UP!” he shouted as he back handed Nick across the face and then grabbed onto the steering wheel as tears welled in his eyes.

“I can’t believe you lied to me!” He kept saying over and over again. “I trusted you and you lied to me!”

He then turned the car around, “Where are we going?” Nick asked in tears and near panic as he wiped the blood off his face.

“Good thing I still have my shovel!” was all he said as he sped away.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I know...I know...I'll be back with a new chapter tomorrow! I did warn you! LOL :OP
Chapter 30 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Another Interlude! :O)

~ 30 ~

 

Interlude Number Four: Hey Hey they’re the Muntkeys!

 

Special Agent Pagano stood right outside the hospital room occupied by the two recently found members of The Backstreet Boys, looking at his watch and growing impatient. He really wanted to get in there and talk to them. He felt like time was running out but he also knew the importance of reunions. So, he allowed the wives about fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time before he finally walked in the door.

Captain Blake was already inside the room but doing nothing more than quietly observing. When he saw Robert he gave a nod and walked towards the beds. “I’m sorry to bother you, I know you want to just get to spend time together but we really need a few minutes to talk to both of you, if that’s all right?”

It looked like Mrs. Littrell wasn’t happy but her husband nodded, “I agree, you need to find the others.” He then pulled his wife in for a kiss and let go of her hand.

“I’ll be right outside the door.” She said, wiping away a few tears before giving Pat a small nod and walking away.

AJ’s wife gave him a kiss as well and then shook the police officer’s hand. “Thank you for everything.” She said before joining her friend in the hall.

Once out of the room both Pat and Robert pulled chairs beside the beds and introduced themselves to the celebrities.

“Tell us exactly what happened.” Robert said.

Before they started their story, they made sure to describe the truck and the number of the license plate. Captain Blake took down the information and left the room. They both took turns talking about the accident To Special Agent Pagano and how Nick and Howie left to go get help. They thought they were going to die when suddenly their friend showed up with a man holding a rifle. “And his name was?”

“Tim, that’s all he said.” Brian answered.

“How old?”

“Maybe late 40’s early 50’s”

The Agent then pulled out the photo of Tim from Target, “Is that him?” He asked.

Brian looked at it and nodded slowly. Once he returned the photo to the Agent he then gave it to AJ who had the same reaction. “And can you confirm that this is your friend Nick?”

Brian looked at the picture and then let out a small sigh, “Yeah…” He said.

“Anything else you can think of that might help? Any little detail…did he know who you were? That you were famous?”

AJ stepped in, “I don’t think so. He seemed kind of clueless. He didn’t try to rob us or anything.”

Robert nodded, “Thanks for talking to me, gentleman.”

“You have to find them because this guy was nuts.” AJ sounded frantic, “I’m afraid they don’t have much time.”

Robert tried to give them a reassuring smile, “We have a lot of people out there working on this case. I’ll send your wives back in.”

Brian smiled at him as he let out another sigh, “Thanks.”

When he walked out the door, Brian’s wife just about barreled over him to get back to her husband, but Rochelle Mclean was hugging one of the other wives. They all decided to stick together.

“Can you tell us anything new Agent Pagano?” She asked as she continued to hold onto Howie’s wife.

“Not yet, but your husband and Mr. Littrell were very helpful.” He then looked at Lauren, Leigh and Kirstin, “We are going to do everything we can to find your husbands and your fiancé, I promise.” He said.

“Thank you.” Kristin answered before continuing to pace in the hallway.

Pagano walked down the hall into the small room that the FBI had occupied as their center of operations while in the hospital. They felt it was best to stay in this one location before daylight broke and news vans started showing up. Word was already beginning to leak about what had happened. He supposed that within hours this place would be swarming with reporters trying to talk to the two boys.

“We ran the plates and the truck belongs to a Joseph Muntkey.” Captain Blake said, “Here’s the interesting part, he’s been flagged as a person of interest by you guys.”

He handed Robert the sheet on Muntkey.

“He’s not in his 40’s.”

“No, this guy is 70.”

“It can’t be him then.” Pagano was looking at the rap sheet, “Armed robbery, assault, kidnapping… quite a list.”

“Something else, he was a suspect in a lot of disappearances in this area before he vanished.”

“But it can’t be him. He’s too old.” He then looked up, “What about family members?”

“We’re looking into that. So far all we have is the wife, Marilyn. It doesn’t appear like they had any children.”

“Look for siblings then… cousins, uncles, aunts, any relation at all.” He said, handing paperwork to one of his agents as Captain Blake’s cell phone starting ringing.

Robert nodded, “Great, Thanks!” He put his phone back into his pocket. “My men just called, they found the crash site.”

“Good, maybe our mystery man left some fingerprints there.”

“Why would that third guy,” Pat looked at his notes, “Kevin Richardson just willingly go with him like that?”

The Agent shook his head, “I have no idea what goes through people’s minds in times of crisis. He might have a hero complex.” One of Pagano’s team members handed him a paper, “Well this is interesting. Seems like Mr. Muntkey was a murder suspect 47 years ago. He was accused of killing a local stripper. The charges were dropped when the evidence was tampered with, seems like otherwise they had him dead to rights.”

“No living relatives to speak of besides the wife.” Another one of his team members said showing him a computer screen.

“You sure they had no children?”

“According to medical reports on the wife, she wasn’t able to have any kids. They tried to adopt several times but because she had a history of mental illness, they were always declined.”

“She spent a lot of time in mental wards.” He said as he continued to scroll down the screen that displayed Marilyn Muntkey’s life. She had been admitted into the hospital’s psych ward four different times after failed suicide attempts. “She suffered from severe depression with psychotic tendencies. So she heard voices, interesting.” 

Another one of Pagano’s team members came into the room. “We checked out the house on the registration. It was occupied by a nice elderly couple who we felt horrible for waking up this early in the morning. They said they got it at auction because the original owners abandoned it so it went into foreclosure. That was in 1976. But this is the interesting thing, we talked to one of the neighbors who remembered the Muntkey’s and they claimed they had a boy.”

“A son?”

He nodded. “His name was Tim. Apparently the neighborhood kids used to pick on him a lot.”

“So, if she couldn’t conceive or adopt, where did this kid come from?” Agent Pagano asked skimming through all the information he kept being handed.

“Maybe it was a kidnapping?” Captain Blake suggested.

 “So our possible abductor was potentially an abductee as well?”

“Sounds about right.”

Pagano walked over to one of his agents sitting at a computer and handed her the file on the dead stripper, “I need you to find out all there is to know about this woman, in particular if she had a newborn at the time of her death or if she ever went to see an OBGYN or doctor leading up to her murder.” The agent nodded and started her search.

He looked over at Captain Blake, “It’s a long shot but if this woman did have a baby, it might be her son we’re looking for.” Robert then looked over at his other agent, “I hate to make you wake up more people, but someone’s going to have to track down some school records on Tim Muntkey. We need to find this guy. We need to know if that house was his last known address.”

“I’m on it!”

He then addressed the remaining agents in the room, “Start scouring the area by the accident, and hit every side road possible. Look for tires tracks, anything that might lead us in the right direction.”

Captain Blake was blown away at how quickly Robert thought on his feet. He would have never made the connection between he murdered stripper and the suspect, but he supposed that’s why he also never pursued an interest in intelligence.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Agent Pagano looked up to see Kristin Richardson standing in the doorway. “I don’t just want to sit here doing nothing.”

He smiled at her and led her away from the flurry of activity. “I know it is frustrating Mrs. Richardson, but we’ve got it all covered. Go have some coffee and try to relax.”

Taking a deep breath she asked, “Do you think they are still alive?”

He hated when the family members asked him questions like this. It was such a slippery slope. “All we can do is hope. AJ and Brian were very helpful, we know a lot more now than we did even thirty minutes ago.”

“We have a brand new baby at home.” She confessed to the floor, not allowing herself to look up and face her thoughts head on.

“I know.”

“I want him to know his father. Please let that happen, Agent Pagano.”

He let out a small sigh and nodded, “I will try my best.” At that moment, even though kind of out of his character, he felt the need to ask, “Mrs. Richardson…”

“Yes?”

“I was just curious, why do you think your husband chose to leave with the suspect?”

She half smiled and shook her head, “Because as long as he’s known these guys, he’s always felt like it was his responsibility to look out for them.”

Pagano nodded, “We will do our best to bring them all home.”

“Thank you.” She turned and went down the hall back to her friends.

He had been trained to say that last line to all the families to ease their minds, but he was also trained to purposely leave out the word, alive.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I will be back next Saturday with another update. :O) Thanks for reading and reviewing! And sorry about the mean cliffies!
Chapter 31 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Updating a day early because I'm cool like that.

So without further ado, here's Howie and Kevin...

I never hear the word 'escape'
Without a quicker blood,
A sudden expectation,
A flying attitude.

I never hear of prisons broad
By soldiers battered down,
But I tug childish at my bars, --
Only to fail again!

“I Never Hear the Word Escape” by Emily Dickinson

 

~ 31 ~

The Blame Game

 

Howie felt an amazing sense of relief as he watched Tim and Nick drive away from the bedroom window. He was sad that Kevin had managed to get himself in the middle of all this trouble, but if it meant Nick was going to get the help he needed, it was a sacrifice he could live with. He only prayed that it wasn’t too late.

“He looked bad.” Kevin said as he sat on the bed.

Howie nodded and made his way next to his friend. It was clear Kevin really had no idea how badly injured their baby brother was. He also wasn’t sure he wanted him to understand the scope of what that meant and how close they were to losing him. Now that he was in the middle of hell, why stress him out even more? So instead he said, “I’m sorry you’re here but I’m glad Nick’s gone.”

“Did he hurt you at all?”

Howie wasn’t really sure how much he wanted to tell Kevin. Would mentioning the almost strangling thing really do much to help? So he decided to lie, “No, but he’s a loose cannon. He’s not exactly stable.” He then went on to explain exactly how they ended up in this mess in the first place including his great escape and eventual recapture.

After hearing the entire story, Kevin placed a loving arm on Howie’s shoulder, “It’s not your fault. How in the world could you have found help in the dark like that? Please don’t beat yourself up about it.” He bit on his bottom lip, “He seems really attached to Nick. He hasn’t tried anything with him, has he?”

“NO! Nothing like that, it’s more like a creepy family thing. His real family must have been the pits and judging from all the pill bottles, nuts as well!”

“Good…” Kevin seemed relieved as he shifted on the bed and winced at the pain it caused his ankle. “Maybe there will be police waiting at the hospital.”

“Brian and AJ you mean?”

Kevin nodded. “I’m sure they told the police he was going to be bringing me to the hospital.”

If Brian and AJ have been found.”

Kevin sighed, “We need to stay positive, D.”

“It’s hard to do that.”

“I know, but we have to try.” A small pause, “Have you looked around this room for a weapon of any kind, just in case we need one?”

“I was too pre-occupied worrying about Nick to really think about looking for weapons in here. I can’t believe I didn’t think to do that.” Again Howie felt like he had failed.

“No time like the present then!” Kevin tried to stand up, temporarily forgetting about his ankle as he fell to the floor. “SHIT!” He screamed. “I feel so God Damned Helpless!!” He banged his fist down on the ground in frustration.

Howie reached down and helped Kevin back on to the bed. “You’ve helped more in the last hour than I have been able to since we’ve gotten ourselves into this mess. You’ve probably saved Nick’s life and Brian and AJ’s too!”

“Maybe so, but it’s because of me that we’re all in this mess to begin with.”

“Kevin, this isn’t your fault.”

“Please don’t, Howie.” He put up his hand to silence his friend. “Anything you say isn’t going to change my mind. I got us all into this mess and so help me, I’m going to get us out of it.”

In all the years he had known Kevin, one thing was always true. Out of all the Backstreet Boys, he was by far the most stubborn. It was the part of his personality that annoyed most of the others but Howie felt it endearing. There was something about the way Kevin stood behind the things he said and did, that Howie really admired. Sometimes people mistook his behavior for that of a know it all, but the thing is, Kevin was nothing like that at all. He just cared deeply and intensely about everything with so much conviction, you couldn’t help but start feeling the same way just by osmosis. For instance, when he said those words, suddenly Howie felt for the first time since the van rolled over, that perhaps they were going to get out of this.

“Howie look around and see if you can find anything at all we might be able to use as weapons. If he comes back, maybe we can knock his ass out and make our escape.”

He shook his head as flashbacks of Nick came to his mind. It was the same problem, even though the medical condition was different, “Kevin, I’m not going to be able to carry you.”

“I know that, Howie. I’ll walk.”

“How?”

“I’ll manage, even if I have to hop. We’re getting out of here.”

Howie smiled at his friend knowing full well he meant every word he just said so he began searching around the room for anything he could use to take down Tim. He liked the idea of injuring the guy more than having to resort to killing him. He was thankful for Kevin showing up so this way, he wouldn’t have to live with the guilt of taking someone’s life. He was fully prepared to do it though, if he had to.

He opened the closet door and was hit with a very strong scent of mothballs. The closet was very neat with every shirt put on a hanger and even some pants folded and stacked on a small table with a few pairs of shoes underneath. Howie pushed the clothes to the side and noticed some arrows standing upright in the corner. He pulled them out, “Look at these.”

“Is there a bow in there?”

Howie shook his head, “Not that I see.” He handed the three arrows to Kevin and then decided to look up on the top shelf to see if there was anything hidden like a gun or knife. There was a shoebox, but it only contained a few hand written notes, some pictures and what looked like a notebook. He put everything back except the notebook and threw it on the bed beside Kevin. “There’s nothing else we can use in the closet.”

As Howie moved from the closet to the dresser, Kevin decided to open the notebook.

“Weird, it looks like it could be one of his notebooks from junior high or something. It says random girl’s names and then she’s hot, I think she wanted me; I liked her, next to them. He seemed to really like this girl Annemarie. He wanted to marry her.”

Kevin placed the arrows on the floor and kicked them under the bed and then he placed the notebook under one of the pillows. “Nothing else?”

Howie was about to shake his head when he saw a piece of wood behind the dresser. He pulled it out, “This would work.”

Kevin nodded, “Do you think you’d be able to hit him with that?”

Maybe the old Howie would have said no. The Howie from only a day ago would have never been able to do something like that, but that one was gone. The new one had seen too much today. The new one understood what it felt like to fear for your life. Really fear that someone would kill you. “I can do it with no problem.” He said confidently.

“If he comes back, which I am hoping he won’t…but if we see that truck, you should stand by the door and once he comes in, hit him with all the force you can and then I can jab one of those arrows into his leg. That should slow him down long enough for the two of us to get the hell out of here.” Kevin paused after seeing the discouraging look on Howie’s face, “Let’s hope he doesn’t’ come back. Let’s hope the next car we see will be a police car.”

Howie nodded but deep in his heart, he knew he was going to see Tim again. Nothing had gone right for him so far today so he wasn’t really anticipating this to run as smoothly as Kevin thought it might and sure enough, within a few beats of his thoughts, there was the white truck slowly pulling up to the front door. He felt his heart beat quicken as he walked to the bedroom door with the piece of wood.

“That seemed a little too fast.” Howie said uncertainly.

Kevin placed his arm under the bed and pulled out one of the arrows. “You ready for this?” He asked. He sounded a little shaky which temporarily threw Howie off his game.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”

Kevin nodded, “Remember, hit him as hard as you can and then run the hell out of here! I’ll stab him and then follow you!”

Howie was just about to argue with the last part about running out and leaving him behind when suddenly Kevin’s eyes grew wide as he glanced towards the window, “No….no…no…no.” He said over and over again.

That sparked Howie to look over at the window and there was Tim, carrying Nick over his shoulder, “Why? What the hell?” He glanced at Kevin, “What do we do now?”

Kevin was ignoring Howie as he stood up, eyes still peeled towards the window, temporarily forgetting the pain in his ankle, he hopped over to get a closer look.  “Something’s wrong…Howie…” the look of horror on his face scared Howie so badly, he dropped his weapon and joined Kevin at the window. “He’s not moving…something is wrong…” He repeated in a panic.

Howie placed a hand over his mouth as he felt a wave of emotion hit him. Nick’s arms were dangling down and swaying back and forth as Tim was walking towards the house. It was clear that their friend was not conscious as his body bopped with the movement of their captor’s walk, looking lifeless on Tim’s shoulders.

“Jesus Christ, I hope he’s not dead. He looks dead. He’s not dead, he can’t be. Jesus Christ…” Howie was saying the words as if he was reciting the Lord’s Prayer. When they heard the front door open, they both went back to the bed, Kevin losing his balance and falling onto it and Howie taking the arrow Kevin was going to use to impale Tim and kicking it under the bed just as the bedroom door swung open with such force it fell off the hinges.

Howie stood straight up when the door hit the floor, “What happened?” He asked just as Tim took Nick and threw him onto the ground. “What did you do to him?” Howie screamed when he saw Nick had a swollen face. He started to approach Tim letting his anger get the best of him.

“Don’t even come closer, Howie! I am so angry right now. You don’t want to make it worse!!” He answered with foot at the ready, “I swear I’ll kick him to death right now if you don’t back the hell up!” 

That made Howie stop as Kevin got himself down on the floor to try to aide his friend, placing his arm under Nick’s head and examining his face, he looked up at Tim, “Why did you do this to him?”

“He’s a liar just like you!” He said through gritted teeth, “I should do the same thing to you! I hate liars!! Now I have to rethink everything!” He had his fists balled up and punched the wall, “I should have listened to you!” He was saying over and over again as he continued to hit and kick at the wall as if he was a five year old having a full-fledged tantrum.

Kevin wasn’t paying attention to Tim at all, his sole focus was Nick. Howie however, was thinking about that piece of wood not that far out of arms reach. While Tim was distracted, maybe he could hit him and then reach under the bed, grab an arrow and stab him right in the heart with it. He was sure he was angry enough to do it. It really was just a matter of timing, but Tim suddenly stopped as if a button was pressed.

“Oh dear, I can’t believe I broke my door. Good thing my dad is dead because he would be so pissed off!” He said this to Howie as if they were best friends and nothing had just happened.

“Why did you do that to Nick?” Howie didn’t even recognize his own voice it was so full of contempt.

Tim looked down at Nick, “He lied to me.” His voice so full of hurt he actually started to cry. “You all did… and now I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about that.”

“How did we lie?” Kevin said, trying to sound calm, but Howie knew he was not calm at all. He was one step away from biting this guy’s head off or having a complete nervous breakdown. He knew because he felt the same exact way. 

Tim let out a sigh, “I need to go and think about this for a little bit. I’ll be back. Do not leave this room, believe me, you don’t want to make me mad. I’m already kind of mad now.” He then walked close to Kevin and Nick, Howie almost went for the arrow, but stopped when Tim stooped down and gingerly pet Nick’s head, “I’m sorry I had to do that to you little buddy. I had no choice, he told me to do it.” He then turned to Howie and nodded before walking out into the living room.

Howie joined his friends on the floor sitting beside Nick and letting out a frustrated sigh. He wanted to just scream but bit his bottom lip instead. “We have to get out of here, Howie. We have to get him out of here.” Kevin said as he glanced down at their unconscious friend who was starting to stir slightly.

“What do you think happened?”

Kevin shook his head, “I have no idea. I want to know who told him to do this to Nick?”

Howie felt a chill, “I don’t think we want to know the answer to that question, Kevin.” He looked out of the space the door used to occupy to see Tim pacing back and forth, talking to himself, “I don’t think we want to know…” He said again as goose bumps traveled up his arms and neck.

“We’re running out of time.” Kevin whispered as Nick let out a small moan.

Howie looked down at Nick one last time and then at Kevin, “Not if I can help it!” He said winking at Kevin and then standing up.

“Where are you going? Howie come back here!” Kevin pleaded but Howie ignored him as he continued out the bedroom door to confront Tim and end this nightmare once and for all.

 

Chapter End Notes:
As always I love to hear what you think and hope you're still enjoying this as it winds down and comes to an end. I'll be back tomorrow with another chapter! :O)
Chapter 32 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Back with Howie the Hero!

Weren't you relieved to find he wasn't dead?

No!—and yet I can't say: it's hard to tell.
I went about to kill him fair enough.

You took an awkward way. Did he discharge you?

Discharge me? No! He knew I did just right.

From “The Code – Heroics” by Robert Frost

 

 

~ 32 ~

Howie, don’t be a Hero!

 

Kevin felt torn, he wanted to follow Howie right out that door but at the same time he couldn’t leave Nick alone, not as his eyes were beginning to open. “Nick, can you hear me?” He asked gently caressing Nick’s forehead.

Nick looked up at his friend and then panic set in as he grasped at Kevin’s arm, “leave me alone!” He tried to sit up but couldn’t. “Please…” He was crying until the moment of recognition, “Kevin?” He asked.

“Shh…it’s okay. I won’t let him hurt you. You’ll be okay.” He tried to reassure his friend as he shook in his arms. “What happened?”

“Where is he?” Nick still looked terrified which Kevin couldn’t deal with. Up until this very moment, even though Tim was scary, in his head he had really never showed himself to be violent. Sure, he had talked about doing things but he never actually acted on any of it. That was then. Now it was a whole different ballgame.

He gripped Nick even tighter to make him feel safe, “He’s in the other room. I need to know what happened, why did he hurt you, Nick?”

Nick looked him in the eyes, they were horribly bloodshot, “He knows…” He whispered, “He knows who we are.”

“How?”

“The radio…” Nick swallowed hard a couple of times, “They were talking about us on the radio….” Once again he had to stop to catch his breath which was even choppier than before. “AJ and Brian they were found…the police are looking for us.”

Kevin nodded and felt a few tears fall, “They were found?”

Nick nodded and tried to smile, “Yes…” His expression turned back to freight, “I thought he was going to kill me…he was so mad…” He started to shake and cry again but was having difficulty breathing. Kevin was trying his best to calm him down all the while trying to peer through the doorway. He saw Tim standing still and talking to Howie. He seemed to be calm but he had to be ready to move, just in case things changed.

“He won’t hurt you because I won’t let him anywhere near you. Got it?” He stared into the eyes of his baby brother with the same intensity he did whenever he meant what he said so help him…

Nick slowly nodded and then looked around the room, “Howie?” he asked once again panic returning to his face.

Kevin really wanted Nick to stay calm, he didn’t like the way he was breathing or looking. It was clear he was much worse than he had previously thought and the added anxiety wasn’t helping him at all. “He’s fine…relax, okay?”

“Where is he?” He wasn’t buying the ‘he’s fine’ line and once again tried to sit up only to start coughing and groaning in pain as he was guided back down by Kevin.

“He’s talking to Tim and trying to calm him down.”

“No, you have to go out there, don’t leave them alone.” He scrunched his eyes closed and winced grabbing for his stomach and letting out a small cry, “Kevin…” He grabbed at his older friend’s hand. Kevin grasped and held firm.

“We’re going to get you out of here, Nick…you just have to hang on a little longer. Can you do that?” Kevin’s eyes grew wide as he noticed a trace of blood coming out of the side of Nick’s mouth, “I am going to get you out of here!” 

He thought about trying to get Nick out of the window and to the truck and then he could double back and help Howie. If D could keep Tim occupied long enough to not bring attention to the bedroom, it might work. He wasn’t sure how he would be able to get Nick over to the window in the first place but seeing that blood after he coughed and knowing how urgent this situation was, he had to try.

“If I helped you, do you think you’d be able to walk?”

Nick’s eyes were half closed as he clutched his stomach. He was trying his hardest to remain conscious but he was struggling. Kevin felt Nick’s grip on his hand loosen. “Nickolas?” Kevin didn’t mean to sound angry but he knew that it might elicit a quicker response, “I need you to focus. Can you walk?”

“I don’t know…” He answered honestly, “But I can try.”

Kevin nodded and then glanced over into the living room once again. This time Tim seemed to be more animated with his movements more erratic as he paced slightly back and forth while talking. He wished he had a better view of Howie from where he was, but all he could see was just a small side view of his friend. “Don’t make him mad, D.” He found himself saying in a quiet whisper. “And don’t let him look this way.”

“Okay, let’s try to get you up…” He grabbed both of Nick’s arms and hoisted him to a sitting position. Nick moaned as he was moved but once sitting, Kevin shifted all his weight to his good leg and managed to get himself up onto the bed. From that angle he was able to see a little bit better into the living room, where Tim was now sitting on the couch as he listened to whatever it was Howie was telling him. The one positive thing he noticed was the coffee cup. Tim was holding it in his hands, nursing it as if it was warm.

“Kevin…” He turned his attention back to Nick who was staring up at him.

“Yeah little man?”

“I’m not going to be able to stand. I can barely stay like this. It’s too painful and hard to breath.”

“I’ll help you, okay? Let’s at least try to get you onto the bed.”

Nick nodded and braced himself for the discomfort more moving would cause. Kevin ironically did the same knowing that he would have to put weight on his ankle in order to lift Nick.  He bent down, placed his arms under Nick’s and pulled him up with all his might. Pain shot through Kevin’s leg as if he was being stabbed but he held in his discomfort. Luckily Nick did the same thing as he laid half on the bed, with only his legs dangling off the sides.

“Good job, little man.” Kevin said as he helped Nick sit up, “Good job, are you hanging in there?”

Nick couldn’t talk but nodded as his older friend held on to his back to make sure he didn’t fall over. “Now we just have to get over there.” He said pointing to the window which was only about half the room’s length away but between both of their injuries; it might as well have been two football fields.

Kevin was just about to stand when he heard Howie, “No! I can’t let you do that!”

“It’s too late, I made up my mind!” Tim said.

Kevin and Nick both looked up as Tim started walking towards the bedroom door.

 ~~~

When Howie walked out of the bedroom, he honestly had no idea what he was going to do. It’s not like he even thought to bring his stupid piece of wood out there with him or one of the arrows. Nope, just like he had done everything else thus far, he just impulsively went for it and when Tim stopped his pacing and stared at him, he realized perhaps this wasn’t the best of ideas.

“Didn’t I just say to not…”

Howie placed his hand up, “I know and I’m sorry…I just wanted to come out and apologize and see how you were doing.” He was surprised at how easily the words just flowed out of his mouth as he said them. Just say whatever you need to say to calm him down and get him to drink that damn coffee were his thoughts as he took a few hesitant steps towards the madman. “Is there anything I can do to make you feel better? Maybe I can reheat that coffee for you?” He pointed at the untouched cup on the table.

Tim let out a sigh and rubbed his red eyes, “I shouldn’t even be mad at you, Howie. You are the only one who didn’t lie to me. Nick and Kevin…especially Nick…how could he do that?” He balled his right hand into a fist and rubbed it against his own cheek.

“I don’t think he meant you any harm.” Howie still had no idea what Tim was talking about and what lie Nick was caught in. “Sometimes when Nicky gets nervous he tends to exaggerate or lie. It’s nothing personal; he’s done it his whole life.” He moved closer to the cup, “What did he say exactly?”

Tim sighed and wrapped his arms around himself, “He lied about how you all know each other.”

 “What did he tell you?”

“That you all grew up in the same neighborhood. Your other friend said the same thing, well he said you all went to school together but when I caught him in the one lie he lied again!”

Howie nodded and took a huge gamble, “But then you found out about our band?” He grabbed the cup off the table as Tim started pacing back and forth again.

“I can’t believe he would lie like that!” Tim said as he stopped pacing and looked at Howie, “You wouldn’t lie like that to me, would you?”

Howie thought about saying no, but something made him take a risk, “To be honest Tim, probably. You have to understand something about being famous. It gets hard to figure out whom to trust. So many people want to get to know us just for our money and our fame and not because they care about us as people, so when Nicky and I first met you, we kept it from you. I’m sure we would have told you the truth soon enough because we’re family and that’s what family does for each other. Did he tell you in the truck?”

Tim shook his head as he sat down on the couch, “No, I heard it on the news. They found your other friends. The ones I helped save!”

Howie tried not to show his relief when hearing the news and instead just tried to keep feeding Tim the words he needed to hear. “You were certainly a hero for doing that and I’m sorry you found out the way you did.” He walked closer to Tim and handed him the coffee mug, “Drink this maybe it’ll make you feel better. I can warm it up for you if you’d like.”

Tim took the mug in his hands and shook his head, “No, that’s okay. I actually like my coffee cold.”

“Tim, I know you’re really angry at Nick right now, but he still needs help. He’s really in bad shape and now he’s probably even worse off than before.” At this point Howie felt his own anger rising once again but took a small exhale of breath as he continued, “He needs to get to the hospital before it’s too late.”

Tim nodded, “I feel so bad for hitting him, Howie. I didn’t mean to, but he made me so mad.” Right after he said that he went to take a sip of his coffee but stopped himself, “Think he’ll forgive me?”

“I’m sure he will as long as we get him the help he needs, otherwise he’s going to die, Tim.” This time he did let his emotion come out. “He’s my best friend and he’s in so much pain.”

Tim looked up at Howie, “I can’t bring him to the hospital. He’s famous; they’ll never let him come back to me. Maybe if we just give him more pain medicine he’ll feel better. I mean I have been really sick before but have gotten better. My mom thought I was going to die once.”

“Tim, aspirin isn’t enough. He’s got internal injuries, things that only surgery will be able to fix.” 

“He’s in pain?”

Howie nodded once again feeling like he was going to lose it. “I can’t stand seeing him hurting like that. You know how it is, when people you love are in pain, we need to try everything we can to take that pain away.” He did feel a few tears escape, “Please Tim, help Nicky.”

Tim just sat there for a few minutes as Howie watched and tried to read what might have been going through his mind. He then took that coffee cup to his mouth and took a chug of the cold concoction before putting it down on the chest and standing up.

“You’re right Howie. If Nick is in pain and we love him, we need to make the pain go away.”

Howie felt hopeful for a mega second before Tim continued and ruined that feeling in a hurry, “Maybe it is for the best if I put him out of his misery myself. I can do it quick and painless.” He then started crying, “I don’t want to but it’s the only way. I guess my father was right, we need to go back to the campsite.”

“No! I can’t let you do that!”  Howie shouted.

“It’s too late, I made up my mind!” Tim said as he started walking towards the bedroom.

In a panic, Howie ran to the fireplace, grabbed the fire poker and charged at Tim full force.

 

Chapter End Notes:
Sorry about the cliffy but they will be coming pretty much every chapter now. :OP Hope I still have everyone along for the ride! If I can finish the chapter I'm working on today, I may update again tomorrow. If not I'll be back on Friday night! Thanks to those of you who are always giving me feedback. As a writer it's a great motivator and more importantly lets me know I'm not wasting my time! LOL You guys have rocked! Thanks!! :O)
Chapter 33 by Mare
Author's Notes:
I am really great, aren't I? :O) Well if you care if not you're all like Eh? I guess... Here is a resolution for you and yeah maybe another cliffy but not as bad as yesterdays!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

… Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.

From “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Suess

~ 33 ~

The Great Escape

Kevin saw it coming as if in slow motion. There was Tim walking with what seemed like an intense purpose, heading right towards them fairly quickly, when suddenly from behind he saw Howie running with a weapon above his head and ready to strike. In that moment, the man everyone sought for advice, help and decisions had no idea what he was supposed to do. He guided Nick back to a lying position on the bed and reached underneath for one of the arrows just as he heard the scuffle.

Howie had hit Tim with all his might. He tried to get him on the back of the head but he got him in the back between the shoulders just slightly under his neck. The unexpected hit, made their captor groan and temporarily lose his balance before turning around, “What are you doing!” He shouted as Howie once again took aim and hit him in the chest this time, the poker stabbing him slightly but not nearly enough to do any harm. “Why?” Tim asked just as Howie aimed again but this time the hit was deflected by the much bigger man, making the fire poker fly out of Howie’s hands. “Why are you trying to hurt me? Why does everyone try to hurt me?” He walked towards Howie who tried to turn and run but it was too late. Tim grabbed his shirt and pulled him down to the ground.

“Kevin, what’s happening?” Nick asked alarmed but also seeming half dazed.

“I’m not sure.” He lied grabbing the arrows, “Stay here and no matter what happens just don’t move.”

“Kevin…”

“Nick, it’ll be okay.” He tried to reassure but knew he wasn’t convincing as he stood up and tried to run into the living room to help his friend.

Howie was trying to crawl away from Tim but it was useless, he was on top of him in no time flat and turned him around as if he was a ragdoll. “Answer me! Why are you hurting me?” He asked as he straddled his new ‘brother’ placing his hands over Howie’s neck for the second time in one night. “My dad was right!! I shouldn’t trust anyone!” He was crying as his grip tightened around Howie’s wind pipe. His arms were wildly flailing at Tim’s face trying to smack him off like a huge gnat but nothing was working, he was just too big.  His lungs were on fire as he struggled to breathe while small spots danced in his eyes, signaling the beginning of the end. Just as all hope seemed lost, Tim let go and fell off of him screaming in pain, as a new body took his place. Kevin landed right on top of Howie knocking any wind he had left, right out of him.

In the other room, Nick heard the fighting and tried to sit up on his own but to no avail. It was the most frustrating feeling for him knowing his two brothers needed his help but he couldn’t do anything at all about it. He heard Tim screaming but couldn’t’ see anything, not that his vision was the best at the moment anyway. He was suddenly not feeling very well at all. He tried to roll onto his side in hopes that once he did he would be able to roll completely off of the bed and then make his way into the living room. He had done that once and managed to save Howie, maybe he had it in him to do it a second time, but even that had proved to be a bit much for him as he suddenly felt a huge pain in his stomach. He groaned and tried to call out for help but then closed his eyes and lost consciousness.

Kevin rolled off of Howie as quickly as possible and shook his friend as he noticed his eyes closed, “Howie, can you hear me?” He asked as he saw Tim trying to pull the arrow out of his lower calf. Kevin had hoped to hit him in the back with the arrow but he lost his balance and instead it landed in the man’s leg, but at least it hit him.

“AHHH!” Tim screamed, that’s all he was doing at this point. Screaming incoherently like a lunatic.

“Howie!” Kevin shook his friend. They were running out of time. He looked around and saw the fire poker on the ground not too far away so he crawled over towards it.

Tim continued to scream in pain as he finally managed to get the arrow out of his leg. He sat there for a second, messaging his leg as he cried and talked to himself quietly. It sounded like he was saying, “I don’t know mom…I don’t know…” which was further proof that Tim had checked out.

Howie started to move as Kevin made his way back towards him with the poker in his hands, “Howie!” He said once again just as his friend opened his eyes, “Are you okay?”

Howie wasn’t sure what the answer to that question was yet as he tried to find his voice. He let out a sharp cough and then sat up and nodded.

“I can’t mom…No, I know…” Tim was rocking as he continued to nurse his leg. He moved his hands to his ears, “SHUT UP!!” He screamed.

Howie stood up and then helped Kevin do the same as they approached Tim. Even though he didn’t want to, he knew he should be the one to hit Tim and get it over with. Kevin was too off balance because of his leg so he took the poker from Kevin’s hands, “Let me!” He urged when he felt resistance from his friend. “You might fall over.”

“I SAID SHUT UP DAD!!!” Tim was pre-occupied with the voices in his head as he sat on the floor to the point that he completely ignored Howie as he approached and then smacked him across the head as hard as he could.

Tim’s eyes closed as his head made contact with the ground. The screaming halted so quickly it seemed like he was put on mute.

Both Howie and Kevin stood there not even breathing as they watched the man just lay there on the floor, unmoving. “Do you think he’s dead?” Kevin finally asked.

“I don’t’ know.” Howie was about to hit him again but just couldn’t do it. It was one thing to defend himself but another to just hit someone who was already unconscious.

“Let’s get Nick and get out of here before he wakes up!” He said looking at Kevin who nodded as he never took his eyes off the motionless form on the floor.   

Howie did his best to help Kevin walk back into the bedroom but his arm was really hurting him to the point where he wished he could just chop it off! He wasn’t sure how on earth they were going to manage to get Nick out of there but they had to do something. “Nicky, we need to go buddy!” He said as they entered the bedroom. They didn’t expect him to be asleep.

They both looked at each other alarmed as they approached the bed. Howie helped Kevin sit down beside Nick as he stood in the doorway just making sure Tim didn’t’ move. “Nick…” Kevin said firmly as he tried to get his friend into a sitting position before he even opened his eyes. The blonde didn’t even stir with the movement. “Nick!” He said more urgently and angrily this time, still nothing.

“We’re going to have to carry him out of here, Howie.”

Howie turned to both of them, temporarily taking his eyes off of Tim. “Why isn’t he waking up?” He asked panicked.

“I don’t know but he’s not doing well. He’s breathing but it’s…” He couldn’t’ finish when he realized he could barely feel a pulse, “If you can get his legs, I will get his arms.”

“Kevin how are you going to do that?”

He honestly had no idea how he was going to do that. He’d be forced to put weight on his ankle which he knew would potentially destroy it for good, but he had to. There was no other option. He just had to be sure not to pass out from the pain. Not until they got into that truck and were on their way out of there.

“On three…” He said to Howie who nodded as he once again glanced through the door to make sure Tim was still on the ground. Thankfully he was.

“One…” He braced himself, “Two…” He grabbed Nick under his arms and took a deep breath, “Three…” He stood up and followed Howie just a step as he put his weight down on his ankle, screaming out in pain and falling to the ground with Nick in his arms as he did.

Howie stood there with Nick’s legs in his hands, as he watched Kevin writhing in pain. “I can do it myself, Kevin.” He bent down and placed Nick’s legs back on the ground and then pat his friend on the shoulder. “If you can get yourself to the truck, I will get Nicky there.”

Kevin shook his head, “You know you can’t. You have to leave us here and go.”

“What?”

“You heard me! Go to the damn truck and get the hell out of here! Get us help.”

“What if he wakes up?” Howie asked, pointing to Tim.

Kevin looked at his friend in desperation, “You know it’s our only chance, D. I am not leaving Nick alone, you have to go.”

Howie knew his friend was right, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. “What if…” He said only to be interrupted by Kevin.

“He’s going to die, Howie!” Kevin screamed as he held onto Nick as if he were a security blanket. “Go to the truck and try to find the rifle, and then bring it to me!” Kevin sounded out of breath. “GO!!” he screamed which got Howie moving.

He ran out of the bedroom and looked at Tim as he lay on the ground. Maybe he was dead, was Howie’s hope as he ran right past him and out the door towards the truck. Nothing had gone right for him since this thing started but just this once he was hoping for two things, 1) That the rifle was in the truck and 2) That the keys were in the ignition. When he got out there he was happy to see that fate had finally given him a break as both the rifle and the keys were in there waiting for him. He grabbed the gun and ran back inside, handing it to Kevin as he adjusted slightly under the weight of Nick’s body.

“Do you know how to use that thing?”

Kevin shook his head, “I’ll figure it out if I need to.”

“I don’t want to leave you here.”

“I know, Howie… but you have to. We’ll be okay. I won’t let anything happen to us.” When Howie looked down at Nick, Kevin continued, “He’ll be okay too. He’s not going to die on me. He knows I won’t let him.”

Howie nodded, “I’ll be back with help!”

“Don’t’ you dare come back, but yeah, sending help would be great!” he paused for a second, “Now go!” he ordered, trying to sound much braver than he felt.

Howie gave them one final nod and long glance. He felt the need to remember every detail of his friends; just in case this was the last time he’d ever see them. He hated thinking that way, but it seemed like the only logical way to think.

“See you soon!” He said, reaching down and giving him a hug and placing a loving hand on Nick's shoulder lightly squeezing, “You need to wake up, Nicky. We’ve been through too much for you to quit now!” He whispered and sighed deeply before turning and running out the door.

When he passed Tim he made sure he was still motionless and then continued out of the house and into the truck.

A sense of relief washed over Kevin when he heard the truck start and then peel away. Relief was followed by panic knowing that at any moment Tim could wake up and when he did, Kevin would have to aim that rifle and shoot him before he had a chance to kill them both. His grip on Nick tightened “We’re going to be okay little man…I won’t let him come near us.” He placed his hand on Nick’s chest, making sure he felt it rising, “Just a little longer then it’ll be all over…” He reassured his unconscious friend and himself as he held Nick tight and stared out into the living room watching for any subtle movements and praying there were none.

 

Chapter End Notes:
Dun Dun Dun.... lol :O) I'll be back next Friday with another chapter for you! Again, thanks for reading and reviewing!
Chapter 34 by Mare
Author's Notes:
How about a little bit of everyone?

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

From “When I Have Fears” by John Keats

~ 34 ~

 Dawn’s Early Light

 

Brian’s eyes shot open as he temporarily forgot he was safe from harm. The warm body of his wife lying next to him on the hospital bed brought him back to reality quickly as he held tightly to her and kissed the top of her head. He wasn’t sure how long he was asleep but he knew he didn’t feel rested. Glancing at the window he could see the smallest hint of sunlight begin to creep through the blinds giving the room an eerie glow. He looked over at his roommate and noticed he was awake as well. It seemed like he was wiping at tears as he watched his wife sleeping on a chair beside him, holding hands with one another as if ready to skip away.

“Are you okay?” Brian whispered which caught AJ off guard.

“Yeah…sorry…I thought you were asleep.”

“I was for a little bit. What time is it?”

AJ shrugged, “I have no idea.”

“Did you get any sleep?”

AJ shook his head, “Not really. Every time I close my eyes I see and hear those damn wolves and Nick with those wrists…and the gun…Kevin leaving…” With each visual his voice became quieter and more reflective as if he was reliving the words he was speaking.

Brian felt the same way. He knew it would be a very long time before he would be able to enjoy a peaceful sleep, a very long time. “I wish that detective would give us an update or something. I feel so helpless.”

AJ nodded and took a deep breath. “How are we going to come back from this, Rok?”

It was a question that Brian had been asking himself too. Between all the feelings of guilt and anger there was this smaller, underlying voice asking what now? How do you pick up where you left off after something like this? Do something as mundane as going back on the road and singing in front of thousands of screaming people. It all seemed so unimportant now as he clung to his wife. How could he ever justify leaving her and his son again, even if only for one night when he learned through this experience that all it takes is a few minutes for your entire life to change.

“I don’t know, AJ, but we’ll figure it out.” He gave his friend a reassuring smile and nodded confidently just as Agent Pagano walked in the room.

 

~~~

 

Howie was shaking so hard as he held onto the wheel he wasn’t even sure he would be able to make a turn without losing control of the truck. He felt like he was being chased which was normal he supposed, considering that’s what most of his life for the last few hours consisted of. The more irrational fear he had was that Tim was hiding in the backseat. He couldn’t shake that feeling of the crazy man’s stare directly behind him and that at any second he was going to be grabbed and pulled in the back. He placed a hand on his neck, remembering what it felt like to be strangled by those same hands he feared now. He was so close to death, so close.

So, he glanced back once again. In fact it seemed like he was concentrating more on what was behind him then what was in front. He feared that would become a metaphor for this new life of his, never being able to focus on anything more than the past and not being able to see a future. The sound of dinging brought him out of his thoughts. The gaslight on the dashboard was red, signaling there wasn’t much time before the car died.

“Of course!” Howie screamed in frustration as he banged his hands on the steering wheel only to wince when a shooting pain went all the way up his arm.

He decided to put his foot way down on the accelerator and go as fast as the stupid truck would take him. He needed to get as far away as possible, just in case Tim could catch up. That was another irrational fear since he was in the truck and it wasn’t like Tim could fly, but even still. He once again glanced behind to make sure no one was lurking in the back seat.

The sky looked pink as the sun was trying to peek through the darkness. It was ironic how something so beautiful could happen in the middle of something so ugly. Maybe the sun was serving as a gentle reminder that things would get better with the new day.  Of course that thought went out the window as the car started to slow down and make a clattering noise.

“Really?” He said out loud as the truck came to a stop. Frustrated, he placed his head down on the steering wheel and began to cry.

~~~

Kevin just sat there staring out the door at Tim. He wasn’t even sure if he allowed himself to blink because it would just take a second…just one. Thankfully he hadn’t moved at all and he found himself hopeful that the guy was dead. He wished he could see his entire body but all that was in his sightline were his legs.

The fact that Tim hadn’t stirred brought him great satisfaction but the fact that Nick hadn’t moved since he had entered the bedroom, brought such a sense of overwhelming grief he couldn’t handle it. He shifted under Nick’s weight to make himself a little more comfortable because his legs were starting to tingle. He was afraid to let go of his baby brother though, even for a minute. He knew he was being irrational but he felt like his loving touch was the only thing keeping Nick alive. Once he let go, that would be it and there was no way Kevin was going to let that happen. No way!

“Everything will be okay, Nick. I know it’s scary right now, but everything will be okay.” He felt for the rifle which was right next to his hand. He had decided to let go of it after worrying he might accidentally pull the trigger and hurt Nick or himself. If he saw those legs move he would grab it in a second. All it would take is a second…

The smallest ray of sun was slowly enveloping the bedroom and making its way to where the two friends were lying on the ground. Kevin couldn’t believe it was morning. He didn’t think he was going to live to see another sunrise. That thought alone got him crying again. He was an emotional wreck. He missed his wife and his kids. He missed his life, how things used to be and would never be again. There were so many things he needed to say to the people he loved. Had he told his mother he loved her the last time they spoke on the phone? Had he mentioned to Kristin that she was the reason he was a better person? Did he make Mason laugh the last time he grabbed the boy in a hug and kissed his stomach? His son would tell him to stop and that he wasn’t a baby anymore but Kevin would just keep going because deep down inside, he knew that his boy loved it. Did he kiss his newborn baby on the head before he left?

He glanced at Tim’s legs once more as he kept one hand on the butt of the rifle. How did he end up here in this moment? Clinging to someone he loved as they slowly died while he sat helpless to do anything about it. One of his best friend’s was dying in his arms. It seemed unimaginable to him. In movies or shows people made it seem like they were so grateful to have that kind of moment, but that wasn’t reality. No, the reality was he would have rather gotten a call.

Ironically enough, He had expected that call so many times within the last few years that when his phone would ring after 2 am he was sure it was news that Nick was found dead somewhere. Before he left the band he knew Nick was out of control but after he was gone for a year or two he frequently worried about the youngest. Brian would update him on things he saw or heard Nick doing but felt helpless to stop him. AJ would do the same. Kevin had felt torn during those years. He wasn’t sure how much interfering he should do. He would call occasionally just to check up on him but once the lecturing started, there was suddenly another call Nick had to take or a business matter he had to attend to. So, Kevin just prepared himself for the worst.

The day Howie called him about Nick’s heart condition he remembered going through a mixture of emotions, first anger at the kid for causing things to get so bad, then fear about the possibility of losing him but that final emotion which he didn’t really expect to have was relief. He knew it would be a wakeup call for his younger friend, a catalyst to turn his life around and happily he was right.

Up until the last two years, he had expected Nick was going to die first, just not like this….not like this.

He clung tightly to his friend, the one that had confided in him so much over the years. The one who always needed protection and guidance but always acted like it was the last thing he ever wanted. The one he would always see as a scared and vulnerable teenager, no matter how old he got and kissed the top of his head, “Please don’t die on me, Nick,” He whispered softly. He let go of the rifle for just a second to pull down a blanket from the bed. Nick’s skin was feeling a little cold to the touch and he wanted to keep him safe and warm. “You have to fight, buddy. Please…” he placed his hand back on the rifle as he stared out into the other room making sure the legs were still unmoving.

~~~

 

AJ let go of his wife’s hand when the Agent walked into the room, causing her to stir and open her eyes. 

“I’m sorry to interrupt.” He said to both men.

“Do you have any news?” Brian asked, hopeful.

The agent shook his head, “We’re still working on a few leads, but as of now, still no sign of them. We have found the crash site though and lifted fingerprints and now that it’s daybreak, we’re getting a chopper up in the air to help cover more ground.”

“What do you think their chances are?” AJ asked, “I mean seriously, be honest with us.”

“I wish I could tell you that. Unfortunately we don’t really know who we’re dealing with. Once we get a profile of the suspect, those questions may become clearer but we’re hoping it won’t even come to that. We’re hoping that now that it’s light out, we’ll be able to track that truck down.

Rochelle sat up in her chair and yawned as the agent moved between both beds, “I really wanted to come in and warn you that as of about thirty minutes ago there were 50 different media outlets waiting outside the hospital wanting to get in to talk to you. We have agents posted at your door plus your own bodyguards are standing guard by the main entrance but just in case someone happens to make it through posed as a nurse, doctor or anything else, it’s really important that you say nothing about this case to anyone who may ask.”

He made sure to look at both wives as well, “Any of you. I also told Lauren, Kristin and Leigh the same thing as well as your management. It’s vitally important to the welfare of your friends that this man is kept in the dark as much as possible.”

Leighanne was still asleep but Rochelle nodded knowingly as well as both of the men. Pagano then continued, “I will probably be making an official statement regarding the case a little later on in the morning. At that time if there’s something you’d like me to say on your behalf, just let me know and as long as it doesn’t hinder the investigation, I will be more than happy to read it for you.”

“Thank you for everything Agent Pagano.” Brian said as he shook his hand with his good arm.

“I’ll let you get back to your family now.” He winked and walked out the door.

“Wow that was fast.” AJ said once he was gone, “I bet there will be double that amount out there by lunchtime.”

Brian nodded, “All the work we put into the album and touring etc…barely got us noticed, but this is what’s going to put us right back into the spotlight. It seems so unfair.”

“You don’t think there’s any way he could get in here, do you? I mean if Pagano thinks a reporter might be able to make their way into the room to talk to us disguised as a hospital worker, what’s to say this Tim guy won’t be able to do the same?”

It seemed like an irrational fear, but a good one. Brian even thought about that himself, imagining a scenario where the guy came back to finish what he had started. If it’s one thing he learned tonight, anything was possible. But he found himself playing the role he was cast about twenty years ago as he looked at his friend, “We’re safe now AJ. Nothing is going to get us.” He reassured and hoped that he was right.

~~~

Nick was able to hear everything. He wasn’t able to open his eyes and he was much too weak to do anything but concentrate on breathing but he heard every word being uttered by his big brother as he was being held in his arms. Kevin’s words were very comforting to him as was his grip.

He was glad Howie was gone, he wasn’t exactly sure how it happened but he knew he was all alone with Kevin now just waiting for help. The worst was finally over and all he had to do was hang on just a little bit longer. “Please don’t die on me…” he heard his friend say once again. He wished he could open his eyes or even move his hand or something, just to let Kevin know he was trying his best, but he couldn’t do it.

He was fighting between being here and being gone. He felt himself floating between the two places. It felt dreamlike and quiet where he was. He wasn’t feeling that much pain anymore, just exhaustion. So tired that his brain was beginning to shut itself off from being able to do things his body took for granted like breathing.

“He’s moving…” The words seemed to come out of nowhere unexpectedly. “Jesus, he’s moving.” He felt Kevin’s grasp on him tighten. “He’s standing up…”

Nick tried to understand what was happening, but then it was made clear, “Don’t’ you come any closer or I swear I will kill you, you son of a bitch!” He heard Kevin as he felt his body shift slightly off to the side.

“That’s mine…” He heard a groggy voice answer. “Give it back!”

“Stay away from us!”

There was movement as Nick felt himself fall off of Kevin’s legs. “If you come any closer I swear to God I’ll shoot you!” Kevin screamed followed by a, “Keep your hands off of him!”

Nick felt someone grab at his arm and then a small scuffle was heard followed by that all too familiar sound of a gunshot ringing in the air. He wasn’t even sure if he flinched or not, but there was a sudden quiet, a grunt and then a thud before he felt himself being turned around and pulled by one arm out of the room.

 

Chapter End Notes:
Hope you enjoyed that! I will be back tomorrow with another interlude! :O)
Chapter 35 by Mare
Author's Notes:
And here is another interlude...

 

~ 35~

Interlude Number Five: Borrowed Time

 

Just as Robert Pagano was leaving AJ and Brian’s room he was given the news that the fingerprints they had lifted at the crash site yielded no results besides the five band members and two people who worked at the rental company. There was one print that was deemed inconclusive which most likely belonged to the elusive Tim Muntkey.

Research confirmed that the stripper that Tim’s father supposedly killed was in fact pregnant and had given birth a few months before her death but since she had no living relatives to speak of, they were at the mercy of child services which was the least favorite department that Robert liked to deal with. They were usually slow and unwilling to help which didn’t give him the best feeling when it came to entrusting them with children in need. While waiting for answers from them, he also had people tracking down the original birth certificate in hopes that maybe the father listed would have a traceable address or better yet, recognizable name.

There was no death certificates listed for Marilyn or her husband, so his hope was to find all three alive and well. Three for the price of one wouldn’t be a bad day’s work. They had also managed to round up an old psychiatrist that worked with Marilyn Muntkey during one of her stays in the mental ward. Two of his agents were on their way to talk to him.

He walked over to the window and peered out, “It’s a zoo out there.” He said as he sipped on a coffee and took a bite out of a doughnut.  The news trucks were everywhere and people were lined up outside just waiting for something to happen. This was probably the most action this town had ever seen. He looked at his watch, “And it’s not even 7 in the morning yet.”

“Agent Pagano,” one of his team members said, “Captain Blake is on the phone you’re going to want to take this call.”

Robert nodded and grabbed the phone, “Pagano.”

“Robert we found Howie Dorough.”

The Agent put his coffee cup on the table, “Alive?” He asked hopeful.

“Yes and he knows were Muntkey is.”

“I’ll be right there!” He said as he handed the phone back to his man and started barking orders at his team.

~~~

Pat was on route back to the hospital when he got a call saying they had found the white truck just stalled on the road with the driver still inside. Luckily he was only ten minutes away from the location so he was able to get there in no time flat. He met his four policemen with guns drawn and aimed at the vehicle. No one had made a move yet. So he nodded and grabbed the bullhorn out of his squad car, “Come out with your hands up!” He said.

He wasn’t sure what to expect but was kind of surprised when the door opened almost immediately after his request.

“Please don’t shoot, it’s Howie Dorough, I’m one of the Backstreet Boys.” He pleaded as he slowly got out of the car with his hands raised over his head.

Once Pat was able to identify the suspect as one of the victims he called an ambulance but the musician was hesitant to get help, “We have to go back! I knocked him out but he may wake up any minute and Nicky is dying. He’s needs our help. He’s not going to make it!” The desperation in his voice was evident. That’s when he called Agent Pagano.

He walked to the back of the ambulance where Dorough was sitting, “The FBI is on the way.” He said.

Howie seemed relieved and nodded, “How long?”

“Not long at all. About how far away is this cabin?”

“I’m not sure, I wish I could say. I was trying so hard to get away I wasn’t paying attention. I keep messing up.” His voice was shaky and he seemed to be in shock. The paramedics had a blanket around him and were examining his eyes and tending to some minor cuts on his face.

“You think you would be able to lead us there though?”

Mr. Dorough nodded. “Without a doubt but we have to go soon. Kevin’s ankle is badly broken and Nicky was unconscious…we couldn’t’ wake him up…he…” He looked up, “We need to get there soon!”

“Was he armed?”

Howie nodded, “He had a rifle but Kevin is holding onto it now. I drugged his coffee and then hit him in the head with a fire poker. He wasn’t moving when I left but I don’t know if I killed him.” He looked the Captain in the eyes, “I might have killed him.”

Pat put a hand on the victim’s shoulder, “If you did, it was self-defense, Mr. Dorough.”

“Yes, self-defense,” he repeated as he pulled the blanket tighter around himself.

Pagano and his men rolled onto the scene a few minutes later and once Pat briefed him on what Howie said, they were in the squad car heading back to the cabin.

~~~

Robert insisted Howie ride in the back of the squad car because he was afraid he might try to run out to help once they reached the actual crime scene. He had seen it happen one too many times for his liking. Someone leads them to where they need to be only to end up putting themselves in danger and in so doing risk the entire mission. At first it took some convincing for Robert to even go along with the idea of Howie joining them. He felt like they could find it themselves especially now that he had finally managed to get the chopper off the ground to help in the investigation. But after hearing how badly one of the band members was hurt, he decided to forgo his instincts and let the singer lead the way.

The chopper was heard overhead as they turned on to a small gravel road.

“This is it; he lives at the end of this road.” Dorough said pointing.

“And you said he lived alone? No sign of his parents anywhere?” Pagano asked Howie.

“I’m pretty sure his parents are both dead.”

The cars all turned onto the driveway that led to the house and gradually came to a stop. “I’m going to ask you to stay in the car, Mr. Dorough.” Robert said.

Howie nodded as Robert and Pat got out of the car armed and wearing vests. They slowly and cautiously moved to the front door which was opened with a line of blood leading away and down the steps. The FBI and police all moved in single file up the stairs and surrounded the cabin from all angles. Pagano used his fingers to gesture that they were going in on three. He held up his first finger, then the second. When his third went up he moved into the doorway with gun at the ready, “This is the FBI! We have a Warrant!” He said as he looked inside.

There was no one lying in the living room like Howie had said there would be. So cautiously the team proceeded into the cabin and moved to the bedroom where someone was lying on the floor, “We need a medic stat!” he barked into his walkie talkie.

Robert and Pat knelt beside the victim who was semiconscious and bleeding from what looked like a gunshot wound to the head. “Help is coming Mr. Richardson.” Pat said in a calm voice as everyone else in the cabin gave the all clear.

“You have to find them. He took Nick…please.” Kevin sounded weak.

“How long ago?” Agent Pagano asked.

“Not long. They were on foot…find them…please you have to…”

The paramedics came running into the cabin, “We’re working on it right now!” Pat reassured as he held onto Kevin’s hand. Upon closer inspection he realized that the wound wasn’t a gunshot but a gash. “What happened?” He asked as Pagano ran out of the room in pursuit.

“He grabbed Nick…” He said sounding a little dazed, “I had to shoot, I think I hit him but then he grabbed the rifle and smacked me in the head with it.”

Pat nodded now realizing all the blood they found belonged to the suspect.

“I tried to stop him but I couldn’t…” He started to cry, “I couldn’t…”

“If he’s injured I’m sure he couldn’t have gone too far. We’ll get him Mr. Richardson.” Pat said smiling at the man sympathetically.

~~~

“He’s on foot with the other victim, and we need to start a search now.” Pagano said as he ran out of the cabin and spoke with his team.

He then spoke to the chopper to search the surrounding area before heading back to the squad car where a very anxious Howie sat with hand on window looking like a dog wanting nothing more than to break out and run around.

“What’s going on? Why is everyone scattering like that?”

“Mr. Dorough I need to know if Tim mentioned anywhere he might go on foot.”

Howie’s face turned a shade of white, “He’s not there…oh my God. But the paramedics…”

“Mr. Richardson was hurt.”

Dorough lost it at that point, “Let me out!” He cried, “I need to see him!”

“Calm down, Howie, you can see him in a minute, but first an answer to the question I just asked you.”

Howie nodded, “There was a campsite not too far from here. I was actually there hiding at one point. It’s off of the main road.”

“Walking distance?”

“Yes….Nicky is he in there too?”

Robert shook his head, “We believe he’s with the suspect.”

Howie placed his hand to his mouth, “You have to find him! He was going to kill Nick!!”

He nodded and then ran towards a few members of his team. “We need to find GPS coordinates for the exact location of that campground.”

“We see footprints over here Boss!”

He ran to the place where his agent was standing. “Let’s follow those and the two of you take a car and start a search about a mile down the road.”

Kevin Richardson was being taken out of the cabin as Howie ran towards his friend, just as Robert was making his way into the woods following the footprints which he hoped would lead to Tim and Nick before it was too late.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I will be back next Friday with an update but it might only be one chapter at a time from now on. I am all caught up to myself for the first time since posting this story. I know I'll definitely be done with one by next Friday but not sure about two! I shall try though! Thanks for reading, we're almost done, folks! :O(
Chapter 36 by Mare
Author's Notes:
I didn't think I'd get this out because of internet issues, but Tim wanted to talk so here he is!

We die,
Welcoming Bluebeards to our darkening closets,
Stranglers to our outstretched necks,
Stranglers, who neither care nor
care to know that
DEATH IS INTERNAL.

From “The Detached” by Maya Angelou

 

~ 36 ~

Don’t…

Tim had never been what you’d call a happy person.

There were three times he actually came close to ending his own life.

When he was a little boy, he would lie awake in his bed and think about dying. He would lie as still as possible in his little twin bed with the bumpers on it to protect him from falling and pretend he was in a coffin, imagining his mother standing over him and crying because she missed him so much.  Even as a child, he understood that maybe it took something as drastic as death for people to see what they missed out on when they were alive. He often fantasized about his dad standing over his grave and crying tears of regret for not being a good enough Father to his son, but sadly he was also the sole reason that would never happen.

The first time he thought about killing himself was when he was only ten years old. They had just gotten to the cabin and Tim felt like his life had fallen apart. There was no explanation and no apologies. His father’s behavior was scary and erratic and his mother was not talking. His dad kept saying she was catatonic and a total waste of space. Tim remembered wondering whose cat had bit her to make her feel so bad. He would bring her milk in a saucer hoping that maybe she would lap it up and feel better. That’s all he wanted, was for her to get better. He didn’t like when she was not able to take care of him. He didn’t like being all alone with his father.

One day, it was particularly bad. His dad was pacing back and forth and yelling at his mother as she just sat there quietly rocking on a chair. He kept telling her it was all her fault, if she hadn’t forced him to take the bastard in the first place, hadn’t insisted he kill the bastard’s mother, they could have had the life they wanted. They could have been happy together. She had to be selfish though, she wanted a baby and that baby ended up being the cause of all their problems.

Tim remembered wanting to meet this baby and give it a piece of his mind until his father cornered him that day and told him he was the bastard and the reason their lives were falling apart.

He walked into the bathroom and found his dad’s razor. He tried to cut his wrists but stopped when he felt the burn. He was bleeding pretty badly. So, in a panic he had walked over to his mother, while dripping blood and held out his wrist.

“Mommy,” he said, “I tried to die for you.”

She had stopped rocking and looked at her son and then grabbed him in a hug and cried. The saucer of milk didn’t help but the blood did. Maybe it was a vampire cat?

He had passed out at that point and when he woke up he was in his bed next to his mother who had cried herself to sleep beside him.

~~~

Tim felt so hurt and betrayed when Howie attacked him. Up until that point, he had been the one person who hadn’t lied or hurt him but then it turned out he was the worst of them all. He really thought he was going to kill his new brother as he sat on top of him with his hands around the smaller man’s neck.  He felt like maybe he had deserved it, maybe he should die for what he did. That fire poker hurt!

He was also feeling a little tired and dizzy. He wasn’t sure why but that thought quickly disappeared when he felt a very sharp pain in his leg, so he let go of Howie’s neck and rolled off to see what had happened. When he looked at his leg and saw the arrow, he lost it. Both his mother and father were yelling at him at that point. They hadn’t shown up in years but suddenly they decided to make an appearance together. One telling him he was a giant wuss, while the other urged him to pay attention to the two people in the room. Turns out he should have listened to his mother because a few minutes later he felt a sharp pain as he was hit in the head.

When he woke up he was laying on the living room floor. He heard his truck pulling away and he knew at that point, things were only going to get worse.

 

~~~

 

The second time Tim tried to kill himself was shortly after he had lost Annmarie. He was so overcome with grief he didn’t know what to do with himself. Normally he would seek comfort from his Mother but he knew he couldn’t do that without letting her know why and his dad made it a point of letting him know that if he ever told his mother about the things that happened at the campsite, he would be helping to bury her there. So, instead he took to writing in his journal.

He made sure to keep it hidden in his room way up in the corner of his closet so this way his father would never find it. If he did, it would surely find its way into the fireplace. He found writing cathartic, whether it was a poem or just his random thoughts. Besides his mother, pen and paper was his other best friend.

He kept track of all of the people he had met while he was up in the cabin. Not that he met anyone, really but in his head he would create stories about the girls his father would taunt. Some of them he made his friends from school while others he made cousins. A few were the popular girls who would never give someone like Tim the time of day, but just this once they made an exception because of how cool he was. That’s all he usually needed to do to make himself feel better except when those quiet moments hit.

In those quiet moments he would suddenly become all too aware that he was living a fantasy and his real world would come crashing in the door like an unwelcomed visitor.

It was in one of those moments when he decided maybe he should just end it all. On paper, Annmarie was one of his best friends. Someone he could see marrying one day but in all honesty, he hardly knew her. He hardly knew anyone and never would. That was his reality. So he had once again journeyed into the bathroom but this time went for his mother’s pills. He grabbed a handful and put them in his mouth and then placed his head under the faucet and gulped some water.

This was the best thing for everyone he had thought. He sat on the bathroom floor just waiting to die when he heard his mother singing quietly in the living room. Her voice was so calm and soothing he started swaying along as the tears rolled down his face. At that point, he placed his fingers down his throat and forced himself to throw up. He had to stay alive for her. If he left, she’d have to deal with his father all alone. He would never do that to her. He loved her too much. After wiping his face and taking a swig of mouthwash, he walked out into the living room and started singing along with his mom.

~~~

He had slowly stood up after being knocked out by Howie. His head hurt, his leg hurt, but most of all his heart hurt. He had been so nice to them all, so welcoming and loving and this is what he got in return? He was sure they were all gone but he had to check so he slowly staggered into the bedroom surprised to find Nick and Kevin still there. Of course Kevin was holding his rifle!

He had threatened to shoot, but at that point, Tim no longer cared. He had intended to finish what he started before Howie attacked him so he grabbed for Nick. That’s when Kevin tried to fight him away. They struggled and he felt the bullet hit him. He yanked the gun away and hit Kevin in the head with it.

He was in pain but he still had to do what needed to be done, so he grabbed Nick by the arm and dragged him out of the house with one hand while he held on to his wound with the other.

~~~

 The third time Tim thought about killing himself was just about a month ago. It wasn’t like something devastating had happened or anything. He had found himself lying in bed with the very same thoughts he had when he was a kid. He laid there as still as possible, pretending his bed was a coffin and wondering who would actually come to his funeral if he died. That’s when he realized the answer was no one. If he were to die not one single person would ever find out or even care because that’s how long he had been away from people.

He then thought about all of the things he could have potentially done with his life if he were given the chance to live a normal one like everyone else. When he was a really little boy he used to want to be a fireman. Mainly because of the spotted dogs that seemed to come with the fire engines but also because they were heroes. He wondered while lying still on his back if it was too late to become a fireman. If he were to walk into a fire station and ask for an application would the chief just laugh and tell him to go away?

When he was a kid, he used to have big dreams about everything. He wanted to be rich, he wanted to get married and own a house. He wanted to take care of his mother and be a great father to his kids. He sat up and stretched at that point, trying to remember when he let those dreams just fade away. When did he stop caring about being alive?

That’s when it occurred to him that maybe he wasn’t really alive anyway. Maybe he had died all those years ago when his father and mother fled with him in the middle of the night.

He decided maybe now would be a good time to end things so he spent the day trying to figure out exactly how he wanted to make his exit. The last thing he wanted was for bears to eat him so doing something like slitting his wrists was out of the question. Too much blood would attract the animals. He could take pills again but he wasn’t sure if they would work. He then decided maybe he would just hang himself.

He walked into the bedroom, opened his closet door and looked for something he could use. He didn’t want to use an actual rope because he knew it would be painful and he didn’t want to die with rope burns around his neck. There he found one of his dad’s ties. Why his father even bothered to bring ties up to the cabin made no sense, but even still, it would work. He noticed on the back was his name written in marker. LOVE TIM, it said. He had given his father this tie as a present but the message sounded more like a plea than anything else.

He held the tie in his hands for a really long time, in fact so long that when he bothered to look away from it and at the window he noticed the sun had gone down. Maybe the only reason his dad brought the tie with him was because his son gave it to him as a present. Maybe that was his way of telling Tim he loved him.

Tim clung on to that tie and that thought for the rest of the night before putting it back in the closet and then going to bed.

~~~

It was hard getting Nick out of the house. He seemed like a dead weight and Tim was pretty sure that’s all he was at this point, dead. When they got down the steps, he decided to pick him up and carry him the rest of the way to the campground. He was going to drive there but Howie ruined that plan.

He had to stop because the pain in his leg plus the place just below his stomach where he had been grazed by the bullet was a bit too much for him. He gently laid Nick’s body down on the ground and sat beside him. He really did like this kid. They could have had a great relationship if things would have been different.

 “I’m not sure why you lied to me or your friends felt like they had to attack me. I’m a nice person. You would have really enjoyed living with me.”

It was a mistake to sit down and rest because he was really drowsy and had no more energy.  The campsite seemed so far away even though he was more than halfway there. He realized in that moment that he wouldn’t make it the rest of the way. Something else occurred to him at that moment as he heard the sound of a chopper flying over his head, Howie had told and soon the police would be there, just another betrayal in the final act of his life.

He made the decision right then, that this would be it. After he buried Nick, he would finally end his own life. Maybe he would fall on top of the grave he had dug, poetically. Seemed like a fitting end. So, he moved to his knees and began to dig with his hands.

“My father would be proud that I chose here of all places to end things, Nick. Well, not really because we didn’t make it to where I actually wanted us to go, but close enough…close enough.”

He had a big mound of dirt by him now and had managed a nice sized hole. Big enough for Nick to fit in but not nearly deep enough to consider him buried. Still he rolled him in, it would have to do. He was running out of time. He thought he heard the faint sounds of sirens off in the distance. He wanted to be gone before they showed up.

He slowly began to lay the dirt on his new baby brother but stopped when he thought he heard Nick speak. He crawled closer to him at that point, “Nick, did you say something?”

Nick slowly opened his eyes and said only one word. It was barely audible but unmistakable.

“Don’t.”

He then closed his eyes again.

Shocked, Tim backed away from Nick as if he was a zombie about to rise from the dead and eat his brains. How could that be? He was sure Nick was dead. Did he come back just to tell him not to kill himself? Maybe that’s what happened. Maybe it was a sign from God, or maybe it was his mother talking through Nick? Either way he backed all the way against a tree and just sat there staring at the shallow grave he had dug with Nick inside sprinkled with dirt just as the police poked through the trees with guns drawn.

 

Chapter End Notes:
Hope you enjoyed! I might be back with a new one tomorrow! :O)
Chapter 37 by Mare
Author's Notes:
We started with bang but because of the timing of this story, I feel like I'm going out with a whimper. Remind me next time to not plan a story to end around the same time the entire fandom decides to go on vacation together. With that being said, here's the final interlude...

~ 37 ~

The Final Interlude

 

Once they found the suspect, sitting against a tree seemingly in a trance as he stared at a hole in the ground, Pagano and his team went to work quickly. The suspect didn’t put up a fight at all as he was told to put his hands over his head. He kept staring and saying “It was a miracle. He saved my life. He came back from the dead and saved my life.”

That’s when attention went to that hole where they found Nick Carter alive, but barely.

The ambulance carrying Richardson and Dorough had already left for the hospital so they carried Carter into the clearing and waited for a medevac to come and get him.

 “He can wait.” Pagano had said glancing over at Tim, disgusted as he watched one of his team do simple first aide on Muntkey while he waited for another ambulance to arrive. 

“Why don’t you head back to the hospital with Carter.” Robert said to Captain Blake who nodded in agreement just as the chopper landed on the ground. “I’m going to talk to our friend Mr. Muntkey for a bit.”

Blake nodded and walked over to where the paramedics were working on Nick trying to stabilize him for the short trip to the hospital.

~~~

“I’ve never seen a real helicopter…” Tim said as Agent Pagano stood next to him. He was staring at the helicopter as if he was a five year old, “Think I can ride in there with him?”

“Mr. Muntkey, do you understand what is going to happen to you now?”

Tim nodded but never took his eyes off of the helicopter. “You understand the rights that were read to you a few moments ago?”

“Yes”

“I would like to ask you a few questions now, Mr. Muntkey while things are still fresh in your mind. May I do that or would you rather wait for a lawyer to be present?”

“I don’t have a lawyer.”

“The state will provide one for you. We can wait, if you’d like.” He waited a few minutes, before asking again, “Do you want to wait for a lawyer?”

“No…” he said staring as the paramedics worked on Nick, “is he going to be okay?”

Pagano looked over at Nick who had a lot of people tending to him. He didn’t look okay at all. In fact it looked as though they were doing chest compressions on him and trying to stick a tube down his throat.

“I don’t know.”

“I liked him. We could have been great friends.”

“Then why did you hurt him?”

“I didn’t do that to him, he hurt himself in a car accident. I saved his life and his friend’s lives. They are the ones that hurt me. I was a hero, just like a fireman.”

“How did he end up in that hole, Mr. Muntkey?”

“I was going to kill myself and he told me not to. That must mean he loved me, right?” The look on his face was desperation and for some reason it chilled the seasoned detective to the bone.

“Did he say that before or after you placed him in that hole?”

Tim took a few deep breaths and then looked at Pagano. “Yesterday was my birthday.” He said before once again turning his attention back to Nick just as they managed to load him into the chopper.

Blake gave Pagano a ‘thumbs up’ as they lifted off the ground.

“I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to fly.” Tim said as they both watched the chopper take off.

~~~

 

When they arrived at the hospital, Captain Blake ran behind the gurney carrying Nick as a whole team of doctors were waiting up on the roof for him. The paramedics were barking things at the doctors very reminiscent of his favorite show of all time, ER. He only wished he knew what it all meant.

“Do any of you know how Kevin Richardson and Howie Dorough are?”

One of the nurses turned his way, “They are still being worked on.” She said.

He nodded as the elevator doors opened and they began to run down the hall. He was told that he could go no further but they would keep him updated. That’s when he decided to go down to the families and let them know everyone had been found.

When he walked into Brian and AJ’s room, the casual conversation just halted and the three people in there stared at him.

“Good morning, Captain”

He nodded at Brian and just cut to the chase, “We found them all.”

A huge gasp and sighs of relief went through the room and a couple of tears were shed. “How are they?” Brian finally asked. “Can we see them?”

“They are all being looked at right now.”

“What about Tim?” AJ asked, sounding alarmed as he held onto his wife’s hand for support.

“In custody.”

“Thank God!” Rochelle exclaimed. “Do the others know?”

“I was hoping they’d be in here with you.”

“I think they went back to the hotel to rest and freshen up a bit with Leighanne.” Rochelle said, “Would you like me to call them?”

He thought about telling her no but decided that maybe they would like to hear the news coming from a friend. “If you’d like, tell them we’ll send a squad car to pick them up.”

She smiled, jumped off the bed and left the room, “Will do!”

“Captain, Blake…” He turned towards Brian who didn’t look all that relieved or happy.  “How are they, really?”

He grabbed a chair and moved it in between both beds, “Honestly, it’s hard to say but I can tell you that Howie seems to be okay, besides being a little shaken up. He helped us find your other two friends.”

“Thank God. We had no idea at all how he was doing.”

Pat nodded and smiled, “He was quite the hero. He managed to escape and run for help. He then led us back to the place where your other friends were being held.”

“Way to go, D!” AJ said with pride.

“What about Kevin and Nick? Kevin’s ankle was pretty bad.”

“Yeah, that’s definitely broken. He had a gash on his head, but I’m sure the doctors will fill us in when they are done looking him over.”

“And Nick?”

He really didn’t want to talk about this one. Up until this moment, it seemed like they were all getting the fairy tale ending they were hoping for. “He’s not in good shape, but he’s in good hands. I’m sure as soon as someone knows something…”

Brian and AJ looked at each other, “How bad?”

“I really can’t say because I’m not a medical expert.”

“How about as an observer then?” AJ asked.

“They worked on him for a long time before they could load him into the chopper. He wasn’t breathing on his own. I rode with him, held his hand for the ride.”

Brian sat back against his pillows stone faced, and nodded, “I’m glad you were there for him. He doesn’t like to be alone.” The mood in the room went from joyous to somber pretty quickly. He felt bad for that.

“I am going to head down and try to find out a little more on your friends.”

“Please tell them we love them.” Brian said still looking very sad.

“I will.”

“So, we’re safe now, right? Tim can’t get to us or the others anymore?”

Pat looked over at AJ and nodded. He could tell it would be a long time before the tattooed pop star felt safe, a long time and probably a lot of therapy sessions.

“He’s not going to harm you anymore.”

The words didn’t seem to ease AJ’s mind but he smiled at the police officer anyway.

 

~~~

 

Agent Pagano and Tim entered the emergency room surrounded by FBI agents and shielded as best as they could from the news cameras. They brought him down the hall and into a small private room as they worked on fixing him up.

“Please stay with me, I’m scared!!” He had pleaded to Robert on the verge of tears.

“You’ll be fine.” He said as he left the room.

“NO!!” He cried, “I’M SCARED!!”

Pagano was met in the hallway by Pat, “He’s not right in the head, that one, huh?”

“Yeah, he’s nuts.” He paused and shook his head, “How are the others?”

“I just got an update on Richardson. He’s in surgery. They’re putting pins in his ankle. Dorough is down in X-ray but they’ll be bringing him back up shortly. Carter is in rough shape.”

“Think he’ll make it?”

Pat wished he could be more optimistic but remembering the chopper ride and how they had almost lost him twice, he shook his head, “I don’t know…”

“The families?”

“They all know and are waiting to hear news on Mr. Carter and the rest.”

He nodded, “And the press?”

“I think they got word that a suspect is in custody but not sure too much more is known. We probably want to make a statement soon.”

“Once we know more we’ll say something.”

Tim was heard screaming and crying like a big baby in the background. “What about him? What are we charging him with?”

“Right now, two counts of kidnapping…but after hearing from my guys at the campground, I have a feeling that list is going to grow.”

 

~~~

After stopping in to spend some time with the wives and fiancé of the men who had just been found, Agent Pagano made his way into the room in which Howie Dorough was staying. He was wearing a sling and had a bandage on his head just over his eye. Brian was in there with him with the aid of a wheelchair. AJ wasn’t quite ready to leave his bed yet, but they were at least right down the hall from one another.

“How are you feeling?”

Howie nodded, “I’m okay. Could be worse I guess. Any word on Nick and Kevin?”

“Kevin is out of surgery and is doing well. I just talked to his wife. There’s no word on Nick just yet.” He gestured to a chair in the room, “May I sit and ask you a few questions?”

“Sure…”

“You mentioned you were at that campsite?”

Howie nodded, “The first time I escaped, I hid there.”

“Did Tim say anything specific about that site?”

“Just that it existed, why?”

“My team uncovered quite a few bones there.”

“Dead bodies?” Brian asked, horrified.

“Too soon to tell.”

“Jesus…” Howie whispered. Brian grabbed Howie’s hand as he continued, “Is that where you found Nicky and Tim?”

“No, they hadn’t quite made it there but we feel like that was supposed to be the final destination.” He decided to omit the fact that they found Nick in a shallow grave and instead went with his next question. “You also said you thought his parents were dead. Why?”

“He kept talking to them as if they were right there with him.”

Robert nodded, not really surprised by that answer. He wanted to ask more but seeing the look on Howie’s face he decided he’d just come back later.

“Thanks for the information.”

“If I had gotten out sooner Nick might be…”

“You did the best you could, Mr. Dorough.”

“Yeah, Howie this isn’t your fault. Nick will be fine.” His friend tried to reassure even though he didn’t sound very convinced himself.

~~~

When Agent Pagano got to the room they had taken over as their makeshift headquarters, Captain Blake was already there waiting for him, sipping some coffee and rubbing at his temples.

“Long day huh?” Robert asked as he sat down. He felt like he hadn’t sat down in hours.

“The longest, I’m not used to this much action.” Pat confessed.

“They are still uncovering bones at that campsite plus they found some more bodies buried out behind the actual house.” Pagano said as he grabbed his second doughnut of the morning.

“Serial killer, you think? Those boys were pretty lucky.”

“At least four out of five of them were.”

“If Carter dies, will he be charged with murder?”

Pagano shook his head, “I don’t know if they could make that stick, but we sure as hell will try!” He stood up, “Okay, well I’m going back down to Muntkey and see if I can get him to tell me anything about those bodies in his backyard before he gets himself lawyered up.”

“Best of luck!”

“Captain Blake, You did a great job tonight!”

“Same to you, Special Agent Pagano.”

They nodded at each other as Robert went back down to Tim’s room.

 

~~~

 

Pagano walked in to find a sedate Tim Muntkey, handcuffed to his bed and just staring ahead. When he saw the agent walk into the room he looked almost excited. “I was wondering when you’d come back.” He said.

He pulled up a chair and sat beside him, “Are you up to answering more questions?”

Tim nodded, “Can I get out of here soon? I don’t like hospitals. They make me nervous. They stuck me with a needle.”

“Once you get the all clear from your doctor, we’ll get you out of here.”

“Good, because I still have some birthday cake at home.”

“I’m afraid you’re not going home, Mr. Muntkey.”

Tim let out a big sigh and slowly nodded, “I thought you might say that. Tell Howie I’m not mad at him. I guess I understand why he told on me.”

“We found some bones in back of your house…”

“How is Nick? When will I be able to see him?”

At that moment, Robert realized that Tim would never see the inside of a jail cell but instead he’d probably be spending the rest of his life in a mental institution.

“The bones?”

Tim seemed to check out at that moment. Looking up at the ceiling and smiling wide. Robert got goose bumps just watching him. Seeming so detached from reality before looking him in the eyes and saying, “I never really liked my father very much. He wasn’t a nice man. He killed lots of people before I finally killed him and you know what? I’d do it again…now if you don’t mind agent, I think I will wait for that lawyer before I say anything else. My mother think’s that a wise decision.”

Agent Pagano nodded and sat back in his chair, “You’re mom is probably right, Tim.”

Tim nodded and started whistling while Robert stood up and left the room.

 

 

Chapter End Notes:
I will be back next Friday with another chapter. I believe there's only three left. :O( I might only post one because like I said above, I think most of my readers are not going to be around. Have a great time on the cruise. No really...I mean it...lol
Chapter 38 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Here's a little bit of everyone and the real answers from the summary. Ritz, you clever girl! ;o)

Hope is ubiquitous and free of cost
hope is the last thing ever lost....

Poet unknown

 

 

~ 38 ~

In Summary

 

Two were trapped

Howie was a mess. He couldn’t’ seem to stop himself from crying, ever since he had been brought to the hospital and found the warm embrace of his wife. She had just held on to him while he wept and wasn’t exactly sure what to say or do because this was new to her. That’s one thing all the wives would now have in common, dealing with the new versions of the men they had fallen in love with. She gently caressed his head and occasionally shushed him and said, “It’ll all be okay. You’ll get over this. We’ll move on from this as stronger people, you’ll see.”

After a few hours, he urged her to go back to the hotel and get some sleep, but mainly because it was him that needed the break. He felt like he wasn’t worthy of getting her love when he was the cause of others pain.

The guilt he felt concerning Nick was overwhelming. No matter how much he tried to talk himself out of feeling that way, it was his fault or at least that’s what he was convinced of.

The man lying next to him was in direct competition with him on that front. As Kevin lay in his bed, quietly trying to deal with all that had happened, the pangs of guilt made him want to rip the hair right out of his head to the point where he actually did. He looked down at his hand and was surprised to see quite a big patch of hair staring back at him.

“Why haven’t we heard anything?”

Kevin looked up at Howie while he was still holding the hair in his hand. “I don’t know.” The older of the two said, “Maybe he’s still in surgery.”

“For this long?”

“He was in bad shape, D.”

Howie nodded. When he had first arrived at the hospital after leading the police to the cabin, he thought he would have felt relief, but there was none to be had. Not after finding out that Tim had managed to escape with Nick and hurt Kevin.

Once again he had failed.

Then when he heard from his wife that Nick had been found he smiled for the first time in what felt like forever, until he heard the circumstances. Lauren told Leigh exactly what happened as she heard it from Special Agent Pagano. His best friend had almost been buried alive which could have been avoided if he had just hit Tim over the head one more time…

He didn’t tell Kevin when he was wheeled into the room. He couldn’t do it. Instead he watched his friend sleep as Kristin held his hand. She knew about Nick as well. “I’m not letting him know about how Nick was found.” She had said. “He already feels like this is his fault.”

“It’s not his fault, it’s mine.” Howie admitted to her as he tried to close his eyes and sleep.

When he had woken, Kristin was already gone and it was Kevin doing the staring. When he saw Howie’s eyes he nodded.

“How are you feeling?” Howie had asked.

“Trapped,” was his only answer.

What an appropriate word because that’s exactly how he felt as well. Trapped by a situation he was not able to figure out a solution for. Howie was usually so good when it came to making choices and decisions but the previous day you’d never guess it. All the choices he had made were wrong ones and now he was trapped by the guilt and consequences of those decisions, just like Kevin who felt the same way.

“If I had just stayed at the van, you would have been able to drug Tim and none of the other stuff would have happened.”

“It’s not your fault, Kevin.”

“I couldn’t protect him. I couldn’t protect any of them.”

Howie started crying again, “Me either.” He suddenly shifted and started to get out of bed.

“Where are you going?” Kevin asked as Howie fiddled with the intravenous drip attached to his arm realizing he’d just have to wheel the entire thing with him when he left.

“I am going down to Brian and AJ’s room to see if they heard anything.”

“Why would they know something we don’t?”

Howie looked him in the eyes, “I don’t know, but I need to go find out. I can’t just sit here anymore.”

Kevin sighed, once again feeling hopeless and trapped by his emotions as he watched Howie leave the room and venture down the hallway.

~~~

One was a prisoner.

AJ was obsessed with watching the news about what had happened. For some reason he couldn’t take his eyes away from the screen as new information constantly made an appearance. He watched intently as Agent Pagano and Captain Blake held a press conference confirming that they had all been found and that the person responsible was in custody. He listened intently as the girl who had given the tip about Nick, relayed her story saying she was sure it was him and knew her Backstreet Boys. He watched with wide eyes as they mentioned Tim’s name for the first time, saying he had a long history of mental health issues and came from a family who were all wanted by the FBI for various things including murder. He started crying when they mentioned how everyone was doing, using the words ‘grave condition’ for Nick.

His wife would try to distract him any way she could think of like sitting right in front of the TV trying to block his view, or muting it all together, but he couldn’t focus on anything else. He had become a prisoner of his circumstance, forever bound by what had happened and linked to this man, Tim Muntkey. He knew that no matter how hard he would try to break free from the situation, he’d always be stuck as one of the guys who were associated with a madman and his family, forever and ever.

“Hey AJ…”  AJ looked away from the TV long enough to motion for Howie to enter the room. “Where is Rochelle?”

“She left for a bit. You look good.”

Howie walked over and sat on Brian’s bed. “Where is he?”

“He went down to see how Nick was doing.”

“Do we know how he is?”

AJ looked back at the TV, “He’s in grave condition. The news people keep saying that. They think it’s clever since he was almost buried alive.”

Howie allowed himself to look at the television at that point. “You probably shouldn’t be watching that. It can’t be healthy.”

“Tim’s here. Did you know that?”

Howie felt his mouth go dry and heart rate increase as AJ continued, “He’s in this hospital. He’s going to break free and kill us all.”

Even though logically, he figured Tim would have been brought to the hospital, it still came as a little shock to Howie. “He’s not going to hurt anyone ever again, AJ. I’m sure he’s under intense watch right now.”

AJ shook his head, “He’s going to kill us, Howie. We’ll never be safe as long as he’s alive.”

A news person was in the background talking about Tim’s father and how he was wanted for murder and kidnapping, including the possible abduction of Muntkey himself as a baby. They kept showing pictures of the campground as more and more bones were being discovered. Howie looked away just as they showed the picnic table he had been hiding under. Apparently he had spent the night on top of a girl who was buried there.

“Can you shut that off, AJ?” Howie asked, looking away.

“I can’t. I need to know more.”

“Why?”

“Because like Brian said to me earlier, this is what’s going to define us, Howie. Forget about our music and all the things we worked so hard for. It’s this guy, Tim Muntkey who is now going to be what people think about when they see or hear us. So, I need to know more about him.”

For some reason, that made Howie mad. “I don’t know why it bothers you so much, you weren’t even there! I’m the one who dealt with this psycho. Nicky and I…you were lu…” He stopped himself but the word was already on the tip of his tongue.

“No, say it….go ahead. You think I was lucky because I didn’t have to deal with him as much as you guys did. You’re right, but not knowing…and then suddenly being thrown into it. He came to the van, Howie. He was about to kill us. Just for a minute, I thought I was going to die. I really thought this guy was going to murder us all and then he just left…Brian and I just let him leave with Kevin. Before that we let him leave with Nick. We didn’t know if you were alive or dead.”

He paused for what would have seemed like a very uncomfortable amount of time if the two weren’t close enough to enjoy the small silence’s great friends often do. “If I could have done it all again, I would have traded places with you in a second, Howie. I would have gladly been the one who experienced all the horrible things because then at least I would know. I wouldn’t have to watch the news and try to figure out why my life was going to be this way. I would just know and understand.” AJ started crying, “I just want to understand…”

Howie sighed and walked over to his younger friend and wrapped him in a hug. He wanted to let him know that even though he was right in the middle of it, he would never understand it either. Not in a million years. But instead he just gently rocked back and forth while AJ cried and “I want it That Way” played in the background on the news.

~~~

One was lost.

When Brian arrived in the ICU, he was greeted by Rochelle and Kristin. Lauren was in Nick’s room along with one of his many doctors. They sat Brian down and tried to explain what the doctor had said regarding Nick’s condition, the best they could. How the doctors went in and fixed most of the damage that had been done and managed to stop the bleeding but he had lost a lot of blood and had several transfusions and will need several more. They mentioned something about a ruptured spleen, and partial removal of one of his kidneys and a nicked liver. How his body was slowly shutting down but luckily his one kidney was strong and still functioning and his EEG still showed brain activity. He was comatose and not breathing on his own presently. They believed the stress of his situation also induced a very minor heart attack.  

Just then the doctor walked out of the room and gave the girls and Brian a friendly nod and then walked away.

Brian felt numb after hearing all of that. He knew Nick was in bad shape, he had prepared himself for it, but no amount of preparation can really make you ready to see someone you love in such bad shape. And Brian loved Nick with all his heart. So, he took a few deep breaths and walked over to the door and poked his head inside.

Lauren was sitting there staring at her fiancée with tears in her eyes. When she heard the door, she turned and motioned for Brian to come inside. “He would want to see you.” She said as she stood and gave him a hug and her chair. “I’m going to go get a coffee.”

“Am I allowed to be in here?”

She nodded, “You’re as much family as I am, maybe even more.”

When she left the room, he turned his eyes to his young friend. He couldn’t stand seeing Nick like this. The kid who hated sitting still for more than ten minutes at a time, just lying there not moving at all was too much to handle. He almost stood up and ran out of that room, but he stopped himself. Instead he grabbed Nick’s hand in his own and held it tightly.

“I’m here, Nick. I don’t know if you can hear me or not, but I’m here and I’m not going anywhere, okay?”

He closed his eyes to pray, “Where were you today?”  He whispered to God. “I needed you, we all needed you and you were nowhere to be found.” He opened his eyes and shook his head. He was angry once again.

He suddenly was overcome with anger to the point that he had to refrain from screaming and throwing things.

“I don’t know who I am anymore, Nick.” He admitted to his friend at that point as tears came down his face. “I am lost! I can’t find myself. I’m mad at the world, I was even mad at you.”

He watched Nick’s chest go up and down a few times before he added, “I don’t even know if I believe in God anymore. Not after this.”

“Of course you do.”

Brian turned towards the door to see Howie standing there, “You are just having a hard time dealing with the situation. Your faith is strong though, Brian.” He walked into the room and sat on the other side of Nick a look of mounting sadness on his face as he really let himself take in the scene before him.

“We need God now more than ever.” He nodded at his friend and was glad to see Brian nod in return. “He looks so young.” Howie said as his eyes went back to Nick. He grabbed Nick’s other hand in his own.

“Did the girls fill you in?”

“Yes.” Howie leaned in to Nick and whispered in his ear, “You’re a fighter, Nicky. You need to get better. We all need you to get better.”

Brian nodded and tightened his grip, “Please.” He added as they both sat and watched their baby brother clinging to life with the aid of machines that softly hummed in the background.

~~~

 

One was broken.

He was scared until he felt their hands in his own and heard their voices. They would come and go. Most of the time it was the voice of his fiancée but now it was the familiar voice of his band mates, he didn’t want them to leave. When they were there he felt safe. He felt like nothing bad was going to happen to him, well nothing worse. He was well aware that bad had already happened.

Brian and Howie were with him now. He liked it best when people talked instead of just sitting there holding his hand and crying. That’s all Lauren did was cry. He would hear her sob and want to reach out and try to console her but he knew he couldn’t.

Howie hummed and would keep begging him to wake up. “Please, Nicky, for me!” He kept saying over and over again. If he had the energy he would open his eyes just to roll them at his friend.

“Duh, D, if I could open them don’t you think I would?”

Brian would talk to him for a little bit but then just stop. He could actually picture his Frick’s face when he did pause. The conflict and pain he felt. He would start praying and then stop. He did this over and over again like a baby bird practicing that jump out of its nest for the very first time.

Nick felt like he was in a dream even though at times he knew he wasn’t dreaming at all. That’s what it felt like, a dream, sometimes peaceful and sometimes not. He felt like he wasn’t breathing but yet he knew he was alive. At least he thought he was, but then there were other times he felt as if he was floating above everyone. In those times, he was able to see in the room. See them all as they sat around his bed looking sad. Was that a dream or his soul trying to take flight and leave this world for the next one?

Howie blamed himself for what had happened. He kept asking for forgiveness. Brian wished he could switch places. They thought Nick was dying and maybe he was.  His body was broken beyond repair at least that’s what he thought he heard the doctors tell Lauren before mentioning grief counseling. They were surprised he had survived as long as he did in the condition he was in.

“He’s a fighter, he’ll survive this!” She had said argumentatively, probably resisting the urge to punch him in the face for being so negative.

Nick wasn’t so sure how much fight he had left. He felt himself getting weaker and finding it tougher to breathe. He felt his body jerking and heard Howie frantically call for help. He only wished he could tell them all how much he loved them, just one more time.

And then came the floating as he heard the alarms on the machines going off one by one.

 

Chapter End Notes:
I am not sure if there will be an update tomorrow because as of now, the chapter is not finished. I will try my best to work on it and maybe if not by tomorrow then possibly Sunday. We are in the final stretch. I can't believe it's almost over. :O( Feedback is really appreciated, so thank you!
Chapter 39 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Tim takes a final bow...

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you

From “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda

 

~ 39 ~

The Sixth Visitor

 

Tim was never big on visitors. Up until today he only had five.

He didn’t count people that were forced to visit him of course, like his court appointed attorney or team of psychiatrists and then there was his new friend Agent Pagano. None of them counted. He finally began processing that they weren’t really his friends, but people that had no choice in the matter. That was a hard pill for him to swallow. He wanted so much for people to care about him because they loved him, not because it was just part of their job. It was hard for him to figure out which was which. They said it would get easier but he had a hard time believing them.

He didn’t really enjoy where he was very much. He had his own room with a small bed and desk with one chair. He also had his very own bathroom complete with standing shower, sink and toilet.

The one window he had looked out onto the courtyard where people seemed to do nothing but pace back and forth. He was allowed out there on Wednesdays. Today was only Monday. He wished he had a radio or TV or anything he could use for entertainment but his doctors said he wasn’t quite ready for that yet.

After the first month, they gave him a pen and paper as a reward for making good progress. They would take the pen away at night or when he was out with the other patients. They were afraid he might use it as a weapon. Because of all the dead bodies, they viewed him as violent. He had to show them he wasn’t in order to be trusted.

They didn’t fully believe him when he testified about his father doing all those things alone. He had watched but wasn’t a part of it. The lawyer representing the state argued that he could have done something to stop his father if he really wanted to and if he wasn’t violent then how could he kill his father in cold blood the way he did?

There was no one to testify on his behalf of course. He had hoped that Nick and Howie at least would show up and say something nice. Tell them how he had saved his friends from the wolves and brought them food and medicine when he could have just left them all to die. When he did finally see Howie in court on one of the final weeks of his trial, he had smiled and waved a few times. He was sad when all he did was look away. He yelled “Where’s Nick?” but the judge warned him he would be taken back to his cell if he kept making noise.

When Howie was called to the stand, instead of telling the jury about all Tim had done to save his friends, he talked about how he had almost died twice because of Tim’s hot temper. He then looked Tim right in the eyes and said “I wish I had taken the poker and hit him again and again until he died.”

Tim just sat there and cried.

The trial lasted for about a month before the verdict came down and he ended up here in this place for what will probably be the rest of his life. It wasn’t a prison but it sure felt like one.

He cried every single night at first. He kept asking when he could go home. He had to clean his cabin because he had left it in such a mess. He was sure his food was spoiled by now. He would have to go grocery shopping again.

His mother came to visit him every night after lights out was called and the room became too dark for his liking. She sat with him on his bed and rocked him back and forth, telling him it would be okay and reciting his favorite poems to him just to calm him down.

He would call to Candice in hopes she might make an appearance with their children, but she never came. She probably found someone else who treated her better. Besides, it was probably best for his kids to not see him in this new place. It would scare them, just like it scared him.

In his therapy sessions he talked a lot about his father and how he didn’t deserve to feel the way he felt. It was nice being told that maybe just maybe he should have been allowed to be happy and grow up normal.

Slowly, very slowly he came to realize that his mother was just as much of a problem as his father was. Their relationship was unhealthy. In fact, every single relationship he ever had was unhealthy.

The psychiatrists put him on several medications at first and all he seemed to ever do was sleep. He didn’t mind that very much, it made the days go by faster, but he found himself longing for more. In time, they found the right mix of medicines for him. He was less anxious and more lucid.

After about 6 months, the visits from his mother stopped. She had showed up one night, ready to read to him when he turned towards her and uttered “I don’t think I need you anymore.”

Just like that she had disappeared and Tim’s road to recovery officially began.

Instead of talking to his dead mother and yearning for his dead girlfriend, he found himself regretting all he had done. He understood that Candice wasn’t really ever his girlfriend but someone who was being held against her will by his father. He could have helped her get away anytime he wanted. He could have taken the keys to the car, grabbed her and brought her back home to her family.

He discovered at the trial, that she did have a family. A mother, a father and a husband who loved and cared about her very much. She had told Tim that over and over again while she lived with them. She had begged and pleaded for the chance to get back to her husband but he refused to even listen to her. In his head they were together. There was no room for a husband or family in his brain.

One night he decided to write a letter to her husband. Every day he had showed up at the trial and when Tim wasn’t sentenced to jail he actually stood up and made such a fuss, he was escorted out of the building. Tim didn’t understand why he was so mad at the time, but now he did. So, he wrote and wrote all about Candice and the time they spent together in the cabin, how she mentioned him often and always in the highest regard and that up until the day she died he was the only one she ever loved. It broke his heart to write that all down, but it also eased his mind just a bit.

He asked his Psychiatrist to mail it for him and hoped that he actually did.

After writing to Candice’s family, he decided he would do the same for Annemarie’s. In fact, he made sure to write a note to everyone his father had killed in his presence even if it was only a sentence or two long. Even the girls who had laughed at him and made him feel bad, he realized it wasn’t their fault. They were victims of his father just like he was.

With every note he wrote the better he felt.

The hardest letters to write were for the Backstreet Boys. Well two of them were relatively easy. He barely met the two but still felt obliged to let them know he was sorry for threatening them.

The last three were hard though. Up until them, he was able to blame his father for the evil acts while he was just the victim being forced to help or watch. When it came to Kevin, Howie and Nick he had to take full responsibility for his actions and that took the longest time for him to understand. Even though he knew he was in the wrong, he still didn’t fully understand why Howie hadn’t come to his defense because in his head, everything he had done to them was out of love so sitting down to write to them was really rough.

He had started with Kevin. Apologizing for hitting him so hard with the gun and apologizing for all the hurt and guilt he felt when it came to his friends. He understood now, why he lied. He was just trying to protect the people he loved but at the time Tim thought he loved as well. He thought he loved Howie and Nick, he just didn’t fully understand what love actually was. He was hoping for forgiveness one day.

Howie’s was a pretty long letter that said a lot of those same things. He started and stopped that one about a dozen different times not knowing what exactly to say and not sure if saying he was sorry would ever be enough. He insisted that his psychiatrist buy some stuffed animals for his two boys and something nice for his wife. He felt like he owed Howie that much.

He also wrote a letter to his mom but safely tucked it away in his room. On nights when he felt an urge to see her, he would instead take out that letter and read it out loud. He wasn’t quite ready to write to his father. That would take years still.

After the first year, he felt like a different person and he was. It was on the anniversary of his first year there, that he was told he had a visitor.

At first he thought maybe it was Agent Pagano. Even long after he was convicted and his name disappeared from the news, the agent would still come to see how he was doing. Their visits were always brief, “Just checking in to see the progress you are making,” he would say. It made him feel good to know that even though the Agent didn’t approve of what he did, he also realized that he wasn’t in his right mind when he did them.

Tim always looked forward to those visits because those were the only ones he would get.  He understood why but it didn’t make him feel any better.

He took a seat at the table reserved for special guests and started whistling. He realized he did this when he was nervous or excited about things. It wasn’t until the door opened and his guest walked in with a very bad limp that he actually gasped and didn’t know what to say.

 They just sat there staring at each other as if not quite sure why either was there. Finally Tim said, “Your ankle isn’t healed yet?”

Kevin was still staring at him but then looked down at his leg, “It’ll never be totally healed. It was infected. I actually almost lost my leg. I’ll limp like this for the rest of my life, but at least I am alive.”

Tim nodded, “I’m sorry.” Was all he could think to say.

Kevin actually smiled and half laughed, “This actually wasn’t your fault.”

There was more silence. Tim watched Kevin carefully; he could tell he was trying to figure out what to say next. He was sure there was so much to say. He thought he would start, “Did you get my letter? Is that why you’re here?”

Kevin nodded, “Partly. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m here. I wasn’t going to be the one too… I think I needed closure.”

“I’m sure this has been hard for you. All of you.”

Kevin nodded, “After I got your letter I was…it made me mad at first. I wanted to come here and yell and scream at you.”

“I would deserve nothing less.”

Kevin nodded, “But instead, I just had to come and see for myself. See if you meant what you really said.”

Tim looked Kevin straight in the eyes, “I meant every word. I am so very sorry for what I did to you and Howie…”

 “And Nick…” Kevin added after Tim had managed to leave his name out.

“Yes, and Nick…”

He still had a hard time even thinking about Nick. In fact, for the longest time he blocked Nick completely out of his mind from that night. As if it was just Howie and then Kevin. Nick was nothing more than a figment of his imagination because what he did to Nick was completely unforgivable.

“If I could take it all back, I would. I wasn’t in my right mind, Kevin. Everything I did, I thought I was doing out of love. In my head, I loved Nick and Howie and wanted what was best for them.”

“I get that now. I didn’t at the time, but I do now.” Kevin said as he bit at his bottom lip and looked away.

“Do you think you could ever forgive me?”

He wanted validation so much at that point. To hear the word yes was all he had dreamed about for the past year. Of course in his mind it would have come from either Howie or Nick, but Kevin was the next best thing.

“I don’t know Tim, but I do know that in order for me to get on with my life, I need to move on from this. I’m not saying I forgive you for the pain you caused me, my family and my best friends, but I will say I am glad you are sorry for what you did.”

It wasn’t the validation he was looking for, but it was all he was going to get, so he nodded and began to cry. “Thank you Kevin.”

Kevin stood up looking like he wanted to say something else but instead turned to leave. “Kevin, wait a minute, okay?”

He turned around, “What?”

Tim reached into the pocket of his pants and handed him a letter, “I never mailed this one…maybe you can?”

Kevin looked down at it and closed his eyes.

He didn’t say another word but just nodded and left the room and Tim Muntkey’s life forever.

Tim was never big on visitors, up until today he only had five.

Kevin Richardson would be his last.

 

Chapter End Notes:
Well one more chapter to go. I admit I'm kind of sad lol :O( I am torn on when to post it. I have worked so hard on this thing to think that only two or three people might read the last chapter kind of breaks my heart. Selfish I know, but still... This might be a two week wait. We shall see. Regardless, thank you so much for the feedback. It so has helped me keep the momentum going for this story!
Chapter 40 by Mare
Author's Notes:
Well here we are....

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

From “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

 

~ 40 ~

The Healing Process

 

When Kevin walked out of his meeting with Tim, he didn’t know exactly how to feel. Part of him really did feel a sense of closure but it wasn’t the way he had pictured it in his mind. Of course going in alone wasn’t the plan at all. He reached the end of the long hall and waited for the attendant to unlock the door and let him through back to the world of the sane where Howie was sitting on a chair waiting for him.

“How did it go?” He asked looking up at his friend.

“It wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be.”

“I’m really sorry, Kevin.”

He looked down at Nick as he sat in his wheelchair beside Howie, “I know I’m the one that dragged you both down here…I just couldn’t make myself…”

He knelt beside his friend and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Nick, it’s okay, really.”

“I couldn’t do it either, Nicky.” Howie added, “I knew it was going to be too painful.”

Nick nodded, “There was so much I wanted to say to him…”

“In a way, you not going in there said more than your words ever could.” Kevin said as he placed his hand on Nick’s head and pat before standing up, “Understand?”

He nodded.

“Good, now let’s go meet up with AJ and Brian and get the hell out of here.” He grabbed the handles of Nick’s wheelchair and the three of them left the mental hospital to meet their friends.

~~~

AJ and Brian were sitting at the restaurant, patiently waiting for the other three to arrive as silent thoughts went through both of their heads.

The past year had been a rough one for AJ. He found himself yearning for alcohol and drugs and although he was able to resist one, he couldn’t pass on the other so he found himself back in rehab about three months after the accident. Luckily he had now been sober for almost eight full months and pledged he would never touch a drink again. In that time, he also underwent intense therapy for anxiety issues. Before this happened he never really experienced a full on anxiety attack but one afternoon a few weeks after the trial was over he thought he was having a heart attack. Rochelle called an ambulance and he landed in the emergency room.

The doctor told him it was a panic attack. He started having them more and more frequently, especially whenever he watched the news. So, he stopped doing that. In fact, he stopped watching television completely. It was all too painful.

He had also stopped visiting Nick in the hospital. He felt really horrible about that, but he found that seeing Nick triggered some of those attacks. Now that Tim was in the mental hospital and the public finally seemed to stop caring about the tragedy of the entire situation, Nick was the only reminder that the nightmare wasn’t over.

Then there was the letter he got from Tim. Of course that triggered the most severe panic attack ever. He didn’t sleep for three solid days after that and insisted that they sell their house in LA and move somewhere else on the off chance that he ever got out and tracked them down. Now that he had this address they would never be safe.

They moved from the home they loved into a much smaller one outside of Los Angeles. It broke Rochelle’s heart to do that, but she did anyway.

It had been an uphill battle for AJ, but with the love of his friends and family, he knew he was going to make it just fine.

~~~

Brian had his own rough path to conquer. The night they almost lost Nick at the hospital, he remembered being ushered out of the room along with Howie as the machines all started beeping. He realized he couldn’t take it anymore at that point. He felt himself dying inside. He knew that if Nick did die in that moment, he would never have been able to recover from it so he had closed his eyes and recited the Our Father over and over again until the doctors came out and said they managed to bring him back.

He went to the hospital chapel that night and stayed until Leighanne insisted he go back to his bed and rest.

After he got out of the hospital, he went back to Georgia to recover. He didn’t really want to leave Nick or Kevin since they were both still not in the best condition, but he also realized that he needed to take care of himself. He not only needed to heal on the outside, but on the inside as well. So, he began to see a therapist regularly as well as a spiritual advisor. That latter one was his wife’s idea.

He had a lot of anger issues he had to work out. Never before, had he been so quick to lose his temper but everything seemed to trigger this rage that was inside of him. He found himself suddenly screaming at Baylee to clean his room or yelling at a reporter if they asked to speak about what had happened to him. He even lost it one day and attacked a member of the paparazzi. That one made the news because it was SO out of his character. The headline on TMZ was “Angelic Backstreet Boy turns into the devil!” Nice…

It was shortly after that, he decided it was best if maybe they ended the Backstreet Boys. He brought the idea up to AJ, Kevin and Howie on the night that Nick was finally moved out of ICU about two months after he entered the hospital. None of them spoke as Brian gave all the reasons he felt like it would be in the best interest of the group if they parted ways. AJ looked devastated, but he also looked drunk which served as just another reason to end things.

They refused to make any final decisions without consulting Nick, who was in no way ready to think about anything but getting better. So, they instead landed on the idea of a year hiatus. Take a year to heal and recover as best as possible, than make that decision when the time was right.

That’s why they were all getting together today.

“How do you think it went?” AJ asked as Brian took another sip of his iced tea. “I can’t believe they all went to see him. How could Nick even consider doing that?”

Brian shrugged, “All part of the healing process. We handle things differently.”

AJ nodded, “I hope for their sakes, they managed to say what they wanted to say.”

It took Brian a long time, but he did manage to control his anger and forgive in his own way. After receiving his letter from Tim, he decided that maybe it was time to let go of all the anger he had for what had happened. He took that letter and burned it and afterward let out a sigh of relief. It was like he allowed all his anger to burn up with that letter and things had been okay ever since. He still had his little outbursts every now and then but nothing he couldn’t control or handle.

“I just hope it brought them some peace.” Brian said, finally at peace himself.

~~~

Kevin smiled when he saw his cousin and AJ as the hostess led them to the back table. He really missed these times when they were all together as five. It happened so little. The last time was when Nick was finally released from the hospital about three months ago. They had a little celebration for him at the new apartment he and Lauren were renting in the area. They had all sat around and talked about superficial things and even though it seemed like it should have felt awkward, it just didn’t. He had been through so much with the four of them, no matter what circumstances they had to overcome; nothing could ever break that bond. Even if they did end the Backstreet Boys, the friendship they all had would never disappear.

He would never take them for granted, ever again. In fact, he would never take his life for granted, especially coming so close to dying.

It was a very close call for Kevin after about his first week in the hospital. He knew something wasn’t right as the pain in his ankle was really not going away even after being put on pain killers. He was also running a pretty high fever and had the shakes. The last thing he remembered was the doctors telling him he had an infection and that if they weren’t able to stop the spreading, they would have to remove his foot entirely. He was told by his wife, that he had been unconscious for about three full days of which they weren’t sure if he was going to survive. The three boys kept vigil by his bedside before his crisis had passed. They managed to get the infection under control but in the process they were forced to remove the pins that were put in and just like that, he’d walk with this limp forever.

At first he found the news devastating until he actually took a moment to realize how lucky he was considering what his baby brother was going through. A slight limp he could handle. He interpreted that as his penance. Since this thing was his fault, it felt right that he should have an eternal reminder of it. As long as Nick lived, he’d happily deal with not being able to walk properly ever again.

Because of the difficulties he had, his hospital stay lasted almost a month of which rehabilitation played an important part. He would spend hours working on his ankle and trying to get his strength back and then he’d head up to Nick’s room to keep him company. Howie was often up there as well, taking Lauren’s place when she had to go back to LA and her real life.

The two of them would watch TV or play cards while Nick slept which was most of the time but at least they were always there when he opened his eyes and would join them in a round of Go Fish before dosing off again.

The three of them became incredibly close during that month. Not that they weren’t already close but there just suddenly became a new and much stronger bond that formed between them.

“You seem to be walking a lot better.” Brian said as he stood up and gave his cousin a hug. AJ followed the pattern as they then did the same to Howie and then finally Nick.

“Thanks, I’m trying…every day it’s a struggle.”

“Amen to that!”

They all sat and nodded to the hostess as she left the room they had overtaken. “So how did it go?” AJ asked Howie after their menus arrived and drink orders were taken.

~~~

Howie looked down at his food choices before answering. He was ashamed at himself for not going through with seeing Tim. When Nick had called him with the idea, he was hesitant but the more he thought about it, the more it felt right.

The past year for Howie was hell. He was lucky when it came to the physical side of things, but just seeing how bad everyone else was handling what had happened was the worst thing that he could endure. He sometimes wished he was the one who was going through all the medical problems like Nick was but being totally healthy and bearing witness to everyone else’s pain was the price he had to pay.

It didn’t help either, that he seemed to be the one that everyone called when they needed something. He was the one AJ called the very first time he allowed himself to get so drunk he passed out behind a bar just on the outskirts of town. He cried the whole way down to pick him up and tried not to show his emotions as his younger friend mumbled his fears about Tim finding him and killing him. If only Howie had killed Tim like he was supposed to, AJ wouldn’t have fallen off the wagon.

It was him that Brian called after he had attacked a reporter. “I lost it, Howie! They called Tim the sixth member of the Backstreet Boys and I just lost it. I swear if I had a knife, I would have stabbed him. What’s happened to me? I don’t even know who I am?”

He would listen to Kevin go on and on about how this entire thing was his fault as they sat in Nick’s room and listened to the beeping of his heart monitor. It killed him to see Kevin in such a dark dark place, facing demons he shouldn’t have even had to face.

Then of course there was Nick, who he almost watched die, too many times to count. He found himself up in Nick’s room more often than anywhere else after he was released from the hospital. His wife would urge him to go back to the hotel with her but he refused. Said he felt like his place was right there with his friend. He fought with his wife a lot during this time. She didn’t understand why he was pushing her away. He didn’t really understand it either. He loved his wife with all his heart but for some reason being around her was too painful. He felt like his new life didn’t have enough room in it for true love and happiness so, when she decided she had enough and was ready to go back home, he chose to stay behind.

They separated about two months later.

The light in Howie’s eyes went dull. Where he always used to be optimistic and hopeful, his knew thing was “It is what it is.”

He hated how he felt most times, just breathing but not living anymore. It was finally Nick that woke him up. One day he looked at Howie and said, “Seeing you like this is killing me, Howie. Please go back to being the D I used to know. I have had to deal with so much change in my life, I don’t’ want to have to deal with a new you as well.”

Ever since then, he had tried his hardest to remember what it was like to be the Howie he used to be before the accident. He sometimes caught himself laughing at something and instead of stopping himself or feeling guilty about having a good moment, he would just allow himself to enjoy it. Live a little, it was okay to feel happy sometimes.

He also tried his best to reconcile with his wife. Even though he still decided to stay behind and help out with Nick as he recovered, he also made frequent trips back home to Florida to see Leigh and the boys. They started going to marriage counseling together and in time their relationship began to mend, just like Howie’s lost spirit.

“Nicky and I didn’t go in.” He finally said, “There was no reason to bring up all those feelings.”

“I’m glad you decided against it.” Brian said and then looked over at Nick, “I’m really glad…”

Nick nodded at his friend. He was glad too.

~~~

Nick’s road to recovery had been the hardest and was by far not even close to being done yet. He had a very fuzzy recollection of everything that had happened, including his time in the cabin with Tim. Sometimes the others wondered if he was lying when he would say he didn’t remember much about what had happened or if he did remember but chose not to speak about any of it. Not that they could blame him either way. It was probably best to forget anyway.

In all honestly it was a little bit of both. Nick did remember certain things. Never would he forget the feeling of being held against his will. Being tied up and dragged around by Tim. Other things that he should have remembered he didn’t though.

When Howie recounted about their time alone in the bedroom before Kevin showed up and how he had searched the house for ways to kill Tim, Nick just nodded and acted like he remembered but he didn’t. He really didn’t even remember Kevin being there at all.

When he finally woke in the hospital, he felt dazed and out of it. He at first thought he had been on a drug binge and possibly overdosed. He felt ashamed and embarrassed. When he felt Lauren’s hand in his own the first word he uttered was “Sorry…” Because he felt like he had done something wrong.

When what had happened was explained to him he just kept shaking his head in disbelief but then of course the memories started coming back.

For the first few weeks he was awake, he was never alone. If Lauren wasn’t there, one of the guys was. They never left his side for any reason and always reassured him they would be there. He couldn’t do much but nod and occasionally say a few words before being so exhausted he’d end up falling back to sleep.

The pain was pretty intense at times. As he was given a list of his injuries, he felt each one. The internal damage was pretty severe. He had only one functioning kidney now and his liver had been damaged. He was told in no uncertain terms that if he ever had a sip of alcohol, it would kill him. His heart had been weakened as a result of all the other stuff going on. Because of the lengthy coma, he did suffer some memory loss which affected his motor skills. He was in a wheelchair mostly because he was too weak to walk but he had to relearn how all over again. Luckily his legs were fine and in time he’d be able to walk around all he wanted but for now, a wheelchair was his primary mode of transportation. 

He spent almost the entire year in the hospital. It became his second home. He knew all the nurses on staff. They would bring him homemade cookies and brownies. Their kids littered his walls with pictures and get well messages.

He and Lauren made the decision to just find a place to live there. He preferred to stay at the place that treated him for the second half of his recovery, the outpatient rehab, instead of moving back to LA and going somewhere new. He was surprised to hear that Howie had rented a place as well as Kevin. They both felt responsible for him. He wasn’t always sure why but he was glad for the company.

The nightmares started about six weeks ago. He’d wake up in a cold sweat, screaming. His therapist told him it was his minds’ way of dealing with what had happened. He was also remembering more and more. That’s what sparked his decision to see Tim.

To make himself feel a little better he had compiled a list of questions to ask the crazy man. He thought he was ready to confront him right until about ten minutes before they came to get them. He shook his head and began to cry like a baby. “I can’t do it…” He confessed to Kevin. “We should just leave because I can’t do this…”

He was glad Kevin went in and feeling his older friend staring at him now, he looked up and smiled.

“I have something for you.” Kevin said which made everyone at the table stop talking. “He gave it to me just as I was walking out the door. I wasn’t sure whether or not to give it to you, but it’s yours to do with what you want.”

Kevin took the letter Tim had given him addressed to Nick and handed it over.

“I was wondering if I was ever going to get one of these.”

He took a few deep breaths, and looked at his four band mates who all seemed concerned and intrigued about what he was going to do. He held it tight in his hands, “I don’t want us to break up.”

The four of them looked confused. Clearly they thought the next words out of his mouth would be about the letter he was holding and not about their fate, but he held firm to this topic, “I love you guys with all of my heart. Being in this group is all I have ever known. I don’t’ want this man to define us anymore. If we break up, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. We need to show everyone, including ourselves, we are bigger than him.”

“I don’t want us to break up either.” AJ agreed.

Howie nodded, “I want us to stay BSB.”

Kevin added, “Me too.”

They all looked at Brian, including Nick as he still held tight to that letter. “What do you say, B?”

Brian paused for a very long time before saying, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Nick smiled, “Good…” and then looked down at the letter.

“If you want me to read it, I will.” Howie said softly.

Nick shook his head, “No D. I know exactly what I want to do.” He then took the unopened letter and ripped it in half. It was hard but liberating as he felt the tears running down his face. “I’m not giving him the satisfaction of having the last word and I certainly am not going to be his hostage anymore.”  

They all nodded at him with a huge sense of pride.

“So I guess it’s time to start planning for the next album?” Howie said after a few quiet minutes with more tears shed by all of them.

“As long as we don’t’ have to all live together again.”

“What was wrong with that, Brian?”

“Yeah, Bri, you ended up with the best room in the house!”

“You’re still not over that are you, Kevin?”

As Nick listened to his friends light hearted bickering he knew that even though he still had a hard road ahead of him, as long as he had these guys to help him with the journey he’d be just fine.

They all would be just fine.

The End

 

Just wanted to say a giant thank you to all of you for sticking with this story until the end, ESPECIALLY those of you who took the time to leave feedback whether it was a “Great story can’t wait to read more!” or a really detailed review of what you thought was happening. I absolutely loved reading people’s guesses about things and thoughts on Tim whether you loved him or hated him. I can’t even explain how important it is to all the writers out there to know that people are reading and enjoying what they write. I know without your words of encouragement, I might not have been so diligent in updating. It makes a huge difference. I hope you keep that in mind as you read other people’s stories, and maybe one day another one of mine.  *sigh* I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this one. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it!

Until next time…

 

Chapter End Notes:
Thanks! :O)


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