Hope is ubiquitous and free of cost
hope is the last thing ever lost....
~ 38 ~
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.”
“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.