Chapter 4: Not So Angelic
I followed Howie through the crowd, and soon we were standing at the front, looking in horror at the scene that met us. In that moment I blocked out all sound; all the laughing that was coming from the crowd, the shouts and the jeers, the crying girls; all these noises I blocked out as I tried to comprehend what I was seeing. Nick was slumped against a dumpster, his chin lying on his chest. I could tell that he wasn't unconscious, but he wasn't exactly with it either. It was like he was in a state of ‘in-between'. That scared me.
He had his hair bundled up in his fists and it looked as if he was trying to rip chunks of it out. He was also mumbling something, and although I couldn't hear what it was exactly, I knew that it was the same phrase mumbled over and over again. It was practically impossible to discern anything coming out of his mouth that wasn't an anguished sob. And I mean anguished! Boy, did that sound make me want to get stone cold drunk. Happy thoughts, AJ. Go to your happy place.
I froze. I had no clue what to do. Luckily Howie took control of the situation. He knelt in front of Nick, cupping the blonde's face in his hands and lifting it up so that they were eye level. Nick didn't even seem to realise that Howie was right in front of him, that Howie was touching him. I wasn't dumb. I knew what was going on with Nick. That realisation forced me into action and I made to join Howie but all that noise and movement from the crowd suddenly came back to me. From just beside me, a flash of a camera went off. I was suddenly consumed with rage. I hadn't even realised I was angry until I had that guy's camera in my hands and slammed it to the ground. I stomped on it for good measure while the guy stood there yelling at me.
"Hey, what the hell? I'm not the one who gave him the drugs!"
I turned on him, breathing fire. "Who did?"
I could see the fear in his eyes and he instantly turned and pointed at a man standing a few people down. He was one of the assholes laughing at Nick. I was quick. I strode to him, grabbed him by the collar and pushed him up against the wall. It was satisfying to see that laugh die from his lips. It was an extra bonus when I saw the fear.
"What the fuck did you give him?" I was yelling. Man, was I pissed. I was dimly aware that the alley had now become camera flash central.
"Hey man, he asked for it!" He was stuttering. That made me feel good. I like feeling like a tough guy sometimes. So sue me.
"What did you give him?" I said it more calmly and deliberately this time. That act always freaked me out when my mum did it. Yelling I could handle, not this. Apparently the drug dealer felt the same way.
"Angel Dust, okay? Angel Dust! He took less than 5mg. He'll be fine!"
I let go of him, more from shock than anything else. I quickly recovered.
"You gave him PCP?" The guy looked relieved that I had let him go, so I guess it was kind of a shock when I punched him. I would have gone for another round but I heard Howie yell out my name. So instead I just pushed him to the ground, his face bleeding, and made my way over to Howie and Nick. My rage was quickly replaced with concern.
Nick was a blubbering mess. I crouched down beside Howie and whispered, "He took PCP."
Howie swore. "That makes you hallucinate, doesn't it?" Howie's voice was strained. Yep, he was freaking out. "No wonder he's so out of it."
Out of it was an understatement. I'd call it something along the lines of completely fucked up. Howie had managed to get Nick to let go of his hair and I could see patches of blood where his hands had been. Howie was still keeping Nick's head up and the youngest Backstreet member had now wrapped his arms around Howie's neck, pulling him closer. His eyes would open and close sporadically. Howie seemed panicked.
"Okay, it's time to go," I said matter-of-factly, attempting to disentangle Nick from Howie. It was no small feat; Nick felt like he had grown Superman muscles or something. But when I finally had his arm in my grasp, Howie and I managed to get him standing. With no help from Nick of course, he was a dead weight. A dead, hysterically crying weight.
I anticipated a struggle to get out of that alleyway but the crowd parted like the Red Sea. Of course cameras were still flashing and I wanted to break every single one of them. We finally reached the car, and I helped Howie lower Nick into the backseat. I jumped into the driver's seat as Howie scrambled in behind Nick before I tore off, away from that God forsaken club. I watched in the rear-view mirror as Howie grabbed Nick's head and pushed it into his lap. Not sure what the purpose of that was. Maybe Howie thought his crotch would silence Nick's sobs. If anything, Howie's crotch would have made me cry harder.
"Jesus, how much crying can he do in one night?" Now that we had gotten out of there, I was starting to feel in control again. I had taken PCP before myself, more than what the drug dealer had told me Nick had taken. I was pretty sure Nick just needed to wait it out.
"AJ, where are you going? The hospital is in the other direction." Howie didn't seem to share my confidence however.
"The hospital will be crawling with tabloid shitheads," I said, pressing my foot down on the accelerator. "He'll be fine."
As if wanting to prove my point for me, Nick's sobs lessened and his breathing evened out. He was still mumbling though.
"What the fuck is he saying?" I asked as I drove down my street. With relief, I pulled into my driveway and put the car into park. I turned around to face my two bandmates.
Howie was looking down at Nick whose head was still in his lap. "He's saying ‘she hung up on me'."
At that, Nick's mumblings ceased and for a second I thought the worst, that maybe I had been wrong. But then bright blue eyes came up to meet us and for the first time all night they were clear and aware.
"Who hung up on you Nicky?" Howie asked softly, his hand lying on top of Nick's head.
Nick's tear stained face scrunched up and I was afraid that he would start crying again. But it seemed he finally had control over his emotions. The PCP was wearing off. Thank God.
"Nicky, who hung up on you?" Howie pressed.
He let out a shaky breath, "My mum."
Her smell was the best thing about waking up in the morning. That flowery scent that made my heart beat faster than if I was on a rollercoaster ride. I have now decided to steal her perfume and keep it in my pocket with me at all times. That's not creepy at all.
I rolled over and buried my face in her neck, breathing in that smell and thanking God with every fibre of my being for blessing me with this beautiful woman and her scent. I breathed her in deeper. I must have tickled her because she woke up giggling.
She smiled at me and it was the most gorgeous sight. If there is any person on this earth who has not seen Leighanne's smile, they are missing out.
"Morning," she yawned. Of course, they could probably do without the morning breath.
"Let's not go out today," I mumbled to her neck. "Let's stay in with Bay and snuggle all day."
She laughed, kissing the top of my head as she made her way out of bed - much to my dismay.
"You have that thing for the Foundation today remember?"
Crap! Was that today?
"I'll just cancel it," I looked at her pleadingly as she started to undress.
"Brian, this is important to you."
Leighanne was right. Today was the scheduled annual fundraiser for my foundation, Healthy Heart Club. I'd been looking forward to it all week; this foundation was my passion. But in that split second of laziness and, ok I'll admit it, horniness, I had completely forgotten.
"You're right," I conceded, rolling onto my stomach and burying my face into my pillow. I groaned. "Why do I have to be so passionate?"
Her laugh was sweet. "Well if you weren't, we wouldn't have had Baylee."
I looked up with a smirk on my face, just in time to see her wearing her own devilish grin before she walked, fully clothed, out of our bedroom. I groaned again, once more burying my face into my pillow before finally dragging myself out of bed. I dressed as the smell of French toast wafted to me from the kitchen. I dressed faster.
As I made my way downstairs, my favourite sound came out to greet me from the living room: my son's laughter. Leighanne had put our one year old in front of the television and he was now being entertained by the Telletubbies. I was not too thrilled with his choice in television programs. The Telletubbies creeped me out.
I kissed my son on top of the head and continued on into the kitchen where I knew Leighanne would be, preparing a breakfast plate for me. What I found instead was a smoke filled kitchen and Leighanne, completely oblivious to the burning bacon and eggs on the frying pan, reading a tabloid newspaper. How she could not smell the smoke was beyond me.
Her head shot up. She stared at me blankly before she finally took notice of her surroundings. She hurried to turn the stove off and then went to open a window. She began to flail her arms around dramatically and it made for a comical sight. I chuckled. When she was done, she glared at me as if I was the one that had almost burnt down the house. She walked over to where she had dropped the newspaper, grabbed it and thrust it into my hands.
"Page six," was all she said, her voice stern and serious, not at all like the sweet voice I knew so well.
I raised an eyebrow questioningly but complied to her command and flipped over to page six of the newspaper. My stomach instantly dropped.
The picture that jumped at me from page six made me gasp. The black and white photo showed a scene from what looked to be an alleyway. The giant dumpster was what had tipped me off.
AJ was the first person I noticed. How could I not notice him first? Those damn sunglasses and unconventional hairstyle. I'm sorry, but who wears sunglasses at night? At least I think it's night. It was kinda hard to tell with all the black and whiteness of the photo.
Anyway, AJ was at the fore of the scene and what he was doing in it was making me uneasy. At first I had thought he had relapsed. I mean here he was, in black and white, literally, holding this guy up by the scruff of his neck. AJ's mouth was opened menacingly which to me meant that he was yelling. So that was the first thing I saw: AJ in what looked to be a fight with another guy. So I thought maybe he had fallen off the wagon. That's not such an outlandish thought, right? But then as I looked closer at the picture, I realised that this was not an AJ problem, this was another issue altogether.
Behind AJ and the guy he was assaulting (well it's the truth isn't it?) was Howie, looking completely panic stricken, crouching over a blonde man, his face scrunched up and his body tense and agitated. If Howie and AJ hadn't been in the photo with him, I wouldn't have recognised Nick.
Before I could even comprehend what I had just seen, I was reading the article that accompanied the photo. The further my eyes travelled down the page, the more anxious I became. The article wasn't particularly detailed and that's what made it worse. I needed to talk to Kevin.
As if knowing what I was thinking, Leighanne silently handed me the cordless phone and I immediately punched in Kevin's home phone number.
I only had to wait two rings before the phone was answered.
"Hello?" It was Kristen.
"Kristen, it's Brian," I didn't mean to, but I had snapped.
"I'll get Kevin," they must have already heard.
"Brian, now's not a good time," Kevin sounded puffed when he came to the phone.
I ignored him. "What the hell happened to Nick?" Suddenly, I was hit with a bout of panic as I began to answer my own question with whatever scenario my mind came up with: cancer, drugs, alcohol, beatings, attempted suicide. The article only said that "Carter was incapacitated" and that "Mclean and Dorough arrived at the scene to assist their bandmate".
"Brian, I'll ring you when I get to Florida."
Holy shit, Kevin was going to Florida? I felt my stomach plummet even further.
"Kevin, what the hell is going on dammit?" I was working myself up into a frenzy. I was yelling and I was only dimly aware that Leighanne had left the kitchen.
"Look Brian," now he sounded angry. "I don't even know myself. That's why I'm going down there now." He took a deep breath and then said, "I'll ring you when I know more." And then he hung up.
I was left in the kitchen holding the phone to my ear, my mouth open and just looking all around stupid. That's how Leighanne found me when she walked back into the kitchen a moment later with Baylee in her arms.
"What's going on?"
I lowered the phone from my ear, blinked a couple of times and swallowed my panic.
"I think I have to go to Florida."
Not the best writing in this chapter, but would still love to know what you think!