- Text Size +
“What do you mean they haven’t checked in yet?” Nick demanded impatiently, looking the clerk at the desk of the hotel in the eyes defiantly.

“I mean that they have not arrived yet, sir.”

Nick whirled around, amazed. He stared at the entrance incredulously. He was pretty sure he’d been behind the bus the entire time. Although he may have driven a little faster, there was no way he could have caught up with them. He’d had to call for a taxi in the pouring rain at the gas station. Then he’d gone into town to find a car rent that was still open at midnight. It was about an hour later that he’d finally found a car – for which he’d had to pay triple to get the car-park’s owner to rent it to him – and got on his way to Orlando. He’d been driving for about another two hours before arriving at the hotel. The bus should have been there over an hour ago.


Nick grinned to himself. He’d wait up for them. He’d give them hell for leaving him at the pump station. He’d throw it right into their faces that their little joke hadn’t worked, that he’d been there earlier than them after all.

But after more than an hour, he got impatient. He’d already called his wife, who was meant to arrive in Orlando late in the morning, three times. He’d complained and whined about what the others had done. She’d laughed really hard at first, said it was fairly typical behavior for the five of them anyway.


But after the third phone call, she’d asked if they shouldn’t have been there by now.

Also true.

It was then that he, although with a heavy heart, decided to call AJ. He’d gotten nothing but voice-mail, even after the fifth time. He’d shrugged and gone over to Howie.

Howie always picked up his phone, no matter what.

You’ve reached Howard Dorough, please leave a message after the tone and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Nick didn’t even know Howie had voicemail. It seemed so unnatural for him. Normally, when Nick called, Howie always picked up. An uneasy feeling settled in his stomach as he pressed his thumb down on Kevin’s picture in his contact list.

You’ve reached phone-number 555-068…

Nick ended the call with a snarl. Maybe they were all huddled up together, bonding over the incredible prank they’d pulled on their youngest band member. Snickering whenever one of their phones rang, telling each other not to pick up, like a bunch of ten year old school girls on a pajama party.

The thought of AJ as a ten year old girl was quite unsettling and Nick threw his phone on the empty half of the lobby’s sofa. Was his confusion and misery really worth so much, that they didn’t mind coming two hours late for it?


“Okay Bri, how many fingers am I holding up?” Howie waved a bunch of fingers in front of his face and he smiled.
“However the m-many you w-want,” he slurred, not understanding the sentence even seconds after he said it.

He felt a comfortable warmth inside where the alcohol burned in his stomach. He could not remember ever being this drunk and he grinned deviously up at the other three.

They were watching him with seriously concerned expressions and Brian briefly wondered what on earth could give them the reason for such concern. Then he just shrugged to himself. Why should he care?

“I think it’s starting to work,” Howie declared, rising to a standing position next to Kevin. AJ eyed the half-empty bottle of whiskey suspiciously.

“It better start working,” he grumbled, “I mean, he downed half the bottle in like… what? Twenty minutes?”

Kevin nodded slowly. He didn’t really like to think about that now. “Let’s just do this,” he mumbled.

“Hold on!” Howie said, disappearing briefly, only to return with something that looked like a leather belt, “Bite down on this. Don’t ask me why, but it works,” he stated as he gave it to Brian. The younger man smiled warmly at him and meekly did what he was told. He watched as the others got into position, yawning from the alcohol that rose quickly to his head. Would it really be so bad if he closed his eyes for a few minutes? The world was finally warm again, so what harm could it do if…


He bit down hard on the leather and forgot to scream. It felt like he was being ripped apart from the middle.

Instinctively, he tried to get away, his fingernails scraping against the frozen, soggy ground as he fought to find a grip. He barely noticed the pair of firm hands clamping down on his shoulders. He arched back in a blind panic, his head colliding with Kevin’s chest, which almost caused the older Kentuckian to lose his balance.

“Keep him still!” Brian heard someone yell urgently. He couldn’t see what they were doing, but, despite half the bottle of whiskey coursing through his system, he felt the sparking fire burn through his legs. He hadn’t been wrong; it was a warm kind of pain. But pain nevertheless.

He was drunk, but apparently he wasn’t drunk enough for this.

“Just hold on,” Kevin’s voice drifted through the haze, “They’ve almost got it, just hold on.”

He’d eventually given up waiting for them in the lobby. He’d checked about a dozen times if he even got the right hotel, cause that would be just like him. He’d waited for two hours, while his anger had slowly turned into concern.

An incredible uneasiness had settled in his stomach as he lay on his pillow with his eyes wide open. Every few minutes, he’d sit upright, and grabbed his phone, checking it for messages.

It remained still.

When he sat up for the sixth time that night, he sighed.

There was no way he would get any sleep tonight. Had that been part of their as well? Cause you could say a lot about them and their pranks, but not that they weren’t elaborative. Especially Howie’s. God, Nick hated Howie’s pranks. The short Hispanic didn’t prank a lot, but when he did, all hell would break loose. It was kind of a payback for all those small, but irritating jokes Nick used to pull on him.

This had probably been his idea in the first place.

He rubbed absently at his right leg, which had, for no reason at all, been bugging him almost all night. It was incredibly stiff and a dull pain would course through it from time to time. Yet another reason why he wouldn’t catch any sleep. He’d stood up, walked around to ease the nagging ache, but nothing worked.

He stood up again, walking around with his phone in his hands, trying to decide who to call at five am in the morning. Of course, he could always call his wife, no matter what, but what could she possibly do? He’d tried the other women, but –naturally- none of them had picked up at this hour.

Damn, this sucked.

“Okay, okay,” Howie panted, his arms straining under the weight of the metal frame. They had been able to lift it a few inches, which was nearly enough for AJ to shove the rock underneath it. He tried to focus on the task at hand; drowning out Brian’s muffled cries that mindlessly begged them to stop what they were doing. “Aje, are you ready?”
He asked the struggling man across from him.

“Just a little bit more, D,” he answered, grunting with the effort of raising the metal construction that used to be a bus.

Howie took a deep breath, digging his heels into the dirt while he tried not to scream in pain as he raised the wreckage a few inches higher. Not that it would have mattered. Nobody could have heard him over the raw, agonized cries coming from Brian anyway. It almost sounded like somebody was murdering him and Howie wondered briefly just how much worse it would have been if they didn’t down half a bottle of alcohol in him first. He tried to remember that they were trying to save him, instead of killing him, while he pulled the metal construction just a little higher. He heard AJ grumble roughly on the other side.

Then he felt the wreckage suddenly slip.

He jumped instinctively to catch the metal frame and felt his shoulders nearly pop out of their sockets. Brian gave one last scream before he fell silent and Kevin started to yell at AJ.

“I’ve got it!” AJ yelled suddenly, holding his hands up to show the wreckage was standing on its own now. Howie’s first thought was to immediately let go, now that AJ fulfilled his task. His arm muscles had gone sour and he was rapidly losing his strength. He could even feel the sweat on his forehead, although it wasn’t more than thirty-five degrees outside. Before he even noticed what happened, AJ was beside him, halving the burden. Together, they lowered the wreckage slowly, trying not to pay any mind to the silence that was suddenly coming from the other side.


“Ah!” Nick suddenly fell to one knee, clutching his leg as a white hot pain travelled up and down his muscles. After massaging his thigh for a minute, he stood up on wobbly legs and took a shaky breath.

There was definitely something not right here.

Carefully, he walked across the room, grabbed his jacket and his cell phone, and opened the door. He didn’t look back as he slammed it closed and with a frown on his face, he walked through the hallways. It had been three hours since they should have arrived and Nick was past thinking that they were trying to screw with him. With his phone to his ear he stepped into the deserted lobby of the hotel, nodding at the clerk at the front desk.

“Heard anything from them yet?” he questioned, without much hope in his voice.

“No sir,” the young man answered with a grim smile.

Nick nodded again, listening to his phone trying to connect with Howie’s. He was under the impression that it took longer than it had before and he felt his heart jump slightly when he heard Howie’s voice:

You’ve reached Howard Dorough, please leave a message after the tone and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

“Howie? Where the hell are you guys, man? I’ve been waiting for like… three hours.” He barked into the phone, “If you don’t call me right now, I…”

He wasn’t really sure what he was going to do. He had waited long enough, right? They had to go to work in two hours anyway. No way this was still part of that stupid prank. He should go look for them.