Dead or Alive

“The Beginning Is The End.”

 

 

 

 

 

The man runs from the dark figure that chases him. That has been chasing him for months and now it has finally caught up to him. He has never seen this dark figure but tonight he has felt his presence, suffocating, like someone with a bag over his head. It was late when he left the bar so finding a cab was impossible, he began to walk, his collar of his coat turned up to ward off some of the night’s chill. It is a short walk to his hotel and maybe he can make it before it starts to rain again, Seattle in February, the land of perpetual rain and dreariness and….he stops…his next thought cut off abruptly. Did he hear footsteps? He turns and looks, the street is empty and glistening and then the drizzle turns into sprinkles, naturally, he thinks, no umbrella and no hat and the hotel seems farther away all the time. He continues walking, he crosses the street then he turns the corner and he sees his future standing under a distance street light up the block. He stops, the rain now picking up tempo, the figure dressed all in black, a long black trench coat and a black hat that shields his face from the rain and from view.

 

 The rain is now a torrential downpour and the figure with his hands in his pockets still hasn’t moved, his head bent slightly down. The man stands there at the other end of the street, his hair plastered down to his head the rain falling into his eyes causing him to blink and he feels the hair stand up on the back of his neck. As he looks at the nightmare scene in front of him, he never thought it would come to this and he slowly looks around, he is alone, totally. No cars on the street and no passersby and even if there were it wouldn’t matter no one else would see him they never have. He could appear and disappear at will, be anywhere at any time and he always thought that was a myth until now. The figure under the streetlight stands as a statue, he doesn’t even seem to be breathing, the only sound is the rain hitting the pavement and the man takes a step back, he means to flee, run as far and as fast as he can that is until the statue speaks.

 

“Hello Max.”

 

Its voice is flat, monotone, devoid of any accent. When his own name reaches the man it sounds to him like the gates of hell opening, he turns quickly and he tries to run but the pavement is slippery, he falls to one knee and one hand and he chances a look behind him, the figure has not moved. The need to flee is strong, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach and he hears a noise and he realizes it is him, whimpering like a lost child. He finds purchase on the wet pavement and he stumbles to his feet and he begins to run. He only knows this city by cab and not overland but he runs in the direction that he thinks that his hotel is in. As he runs he skirts around trash cans, his trench coat becoming untied and it flapping behind him, it is slowing him down so he takes if off as he runs, it falling to the pavement behind him. The rain has now soaked through his suit, his high dollar shoes ruined. The hotel, if he can only get to the hotel, lights, people he will be safe the figure hides in the darkness, light is his enemy. The only known one he has. Off in the distance he sees the hotel, the lights offering sanctuary and life, he runs towards the lights and straight into a high wooden fence. An alley, he has run into a fucking alley.

 

He slips and he runs headlong into the fence, he bounces off and he turns and he falls into some trash cans there. The only light into the alley blocked by the figure standing in the entrance, not even breathing hard and calm. The man, covered by trash cans and garbage looks up.

 

“Please. Don’t do this, whatever they have paid you I will double it.” The man pleads.

 

The figure comes closer and he looks down at him.

 

“It isn’t about money.”

 

Again that hollow voice, no feeling, no emotion, ancient and still obscured by darkness and the rain still falls.

 

“Then what…? What is it!” The man says louder.

 

“The blood of generations flow through me, I was put here to right wrongs. I am an indentured servant.”

 

The man was right all along, he does exist he isn’t a myth.

 

“Who, who are you?”

 

“Death.”

 

The figure then pulls from his pocket a gun already equipped with a silencer and he points and he shoots, two well placed bullets. After it was over he stands there then he picks up the spent shells in his gloved hand and places them in his pocket as his eyes drift over the fence to the hotel that was so close yet so far.

 

By the time, the figure reached the other end of the city and the phone, the rain had slackened a bit, he picks up the receiver and he punches in the number, now forever sealed in his memory, he doesn’t even have to look.

 

“It is done. How close am I now?” The figure asks.

 

“You are still generations away.”

 

“Fuck you too.”

 

He hangs up the phone and he walks away.

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

 

Steve comes out of the bathroom, a towel draped around his neck, Neal sitting on his bed tying his shoes and Steve heads straight for the coffee pot. He holds the coffee pot up in Neal’s direction and Neal shakes his head.

 

“So what happened to you last night?”

 

“What do you mean?” Steve asks as he pours himself a cup.

 

“I mean, I woke up at 2 am and you were gone. Where did you go?”

 

“For a walk.” Steve says matter-of-factly.

 

“A walk? At that time of night in this city?”

 

“What is wrong with this city?” Steve asks as he takes a couple of swigs then he starts to get dressed.

 

“At that time of the morning anything might have happened Steve.”

 

“I stayed close to the hotel. I walked around the perimeter.”

 

“So. Forget about your average mugger, pick pocket guy, and think about that crazed fan that might be out there.”

 

Steve tucks his shirt in then he sits on the bed and he ties his shoes.

 

“I was alone.”

 

“Oh I suppose that makes it better, you know if Herbie hears about this he will go ballistic.”

 

“Why?” Steve asks.

 

“Why? Why? You are only the lead singer to the hottest band on the planet at the moment and if something was happen to you on one of your many walk-abouts…”

 

“It hasn’t been that many.” Steve says.

 

“Steve not that many? This has only happen in every city we have been in so far and counting last night that would be 5.”

 

Steve finishes tying his other shoe, he stands up and he grabs his wallet and puts it in his back pocket.

 

“When I can’t sleep I walk. It helps me to relax.” Steve says.

 

“Cant sleep? Steve ever since I have known you, you could sleep through a bomb dropping. Last night you were so exhausted you could barely keep your eyes open through dinner. What is going on with you?”

 

“I wish I knew. Herbie doesn’t have to know does he?”

 

“I don’t know about this. You always used to tell me how important sleep was for your voice and all.”

 

Neal says as he grabs his jacket and he hands Steve his.

 

“Tell you what if it doesn’t get better I will tell Herbie and then I will see a doctor if I have to, okay?“

 

Neal looks skeptically at Steve then Steve crosses his heart.

 

“Boy Scouts’ honor.”

 

Neal laughs, “You were never a Boy Scout Steve. I guess that will have to do for now. Come on I want some waffles.”

 

“Waffles?” Steve asks.

 

“Yeah waffles. Isn’t Seattle famous for their waffles?”

 

“Actually I think that is coffee.” Steve says as he laughs.

 

“Whatever, I just want some waffles. I know a place.” 

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

 

The Seattle Police detective watches as the body is loaded into the Coroner’s wagon, then when it rounds the corner he goes back to his partner who is looking for any evidence.

 

“Find anything?”

 

“No. No shell casings. No witnesses. He still had his wallet and all his jewelry so that rules out robbery. The only thing that seems to be missing is his coat that is if he had one, he was wearing an expensive suit and shoes and I doubt a guy like him would go out on a rainy night without a raincoat of some sort.”

 

“Maybe who ever did this took it.”

 

“Maybe. Did you notice the gunshots?”

 

“Yeah I did. Do you think this was a…..”

 

“Hit?”

 

The other detective nods his head.

 

“Yeah I do. Two clean shots, execution style, no shell casings. The only people I know that pick up after themselves are professionals.”

 

Before the detective had a chance to answer, a uniform officer interrupts them.

 

“Lieutenants we think we found the victim’s coat, it is up the street, there is an officer posted there.”

 

The two detectives look at one another and they head up the street to the officer who is standing guard over a sodden trench coat lying in the middle of the sidewalk.

 

“I think we found the missing coat. I need an evidence bag and Officer may I borrow your night stick?”

 

The officer hesitates a moment then he looks at his nightstick and he hands it over to the detective. The Detective uses the nightstick to slip under the strap on the shoulder and he lifts it up and he puts it in the evidence bag, he hands the nightstick back and he seals the bag.

 

McGraw and Allen have been police officers forever, detectives longer and partners longer than that. Of the two McGraw had the stronger stomach so he always went to the autopsies while Allen did the paperwork, the stuff on the computer, McGraw was not computer literate, and Allen had a weak stomach so they made the perfect team. By the afternoon, McGraw returns from the autopsy and he tosses a bag of sandwiches at Allen.

 

“Time for lunch partner, so what has that big boat anchor told you?”

 

Allen opens the sack, he takes out the sandwiches, and he tossed one to McGraw.

 

“You know I hate pickles.”

 

“Don’t be such a crybaby; here I will switch with you.”

 

They switch sandwiches.

 

“You know, you should really learn how to use this.” He points to the computer.

 

“Why, that is why I have you.”

 

“Because I may not always be here I may want to go on vacation.” Allen says.

 

“That is highly unlikely, you and I are joined at the hip, where you goeth I shall go.”

 

“My wife will be gratified to hear that. She already thinks we spend way too much together. So what did the coroner say?” Allen asks.

 

“He’s dead.”

 

“Holy shit I already know that.” Allen looks at him.

 

“Oh okay, you want me to say it, you were right, does that make you feel better?”

 

“Yesssss!”

 

“Two close range 45 shots to the back of the head. More than likely, a silencer was used, that could be why nobody heard a thing. Now it’s your turn.”

 

“Our victim’s name is Maxwell Carlos, according to his license he is from California, San Francisco. He was a jeweler, a good up standing citizen from everything I read about him. No record, not even a traffic violation, he was of Portuguese descent and he had a family.”

 

“He couldn’t have been that up-standing of a citizen if somebody wanted him offed.”

 

“Wait there’s more.” Allen says.

 

“Well come on Colombo don’t leave me in suspense.”

 

“I did a cross reference to see if there had been more of these murders across the country, and it came up with four others. The same motive, the victims were all in the same age range, all of Portuguese descent, no evidence found or left at the scene. Philadelphia, Denver, Memphis, and Los Angeles was the first.”

 

“I’ll say we have a very prolific hit-man running amok across the country. No telling where he will hit next.” McGraw says.

 

“Maybe we should contact the FBI.”

 

“The FBI? Why?” McGraw asks.

 

“Well doesn’t the FBI handle Mafia stuff?” Allen asks.

 

“How do you know this is Mafia related?” McGraw says.

 

“Who else has hit-men? I seriously doubt their credit card companies offed them because they got behind on a payment and besides I know somebody.”

 

“Oh Jesus here we go! You always know somebody. Who know somebody in the FBI?”

 

“Yeah I do he is an old college buddy of mine. His name is Ed.”

 

Allen rummages through his desk drawers.

 

“What are you looking for?” McGraw asks.

 

“His business card I know I….bingo! Here it is!” He hands it to McGraw.

 

“Special Projects? What in the hell does that mean?”

 

“He is a little eccentric and I think this might be right up his alley. I mean we have no jurisdiction outside of Seattle and if our theory is right…”

 

“There could be more.” McGraw says.

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Wait you said he was a little eccentric? How little.” McGraw asks.

 

“He has a novel approach to things. A unique prospective.”

 

“Uh oh. Why do I feel like my pension is in jeopardy. Okay we better run it pass our boss first.”

 

“We better do it today I have a bad feeling.” Allen says.

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

 

A month later Las Vegas Nevada and Eddie was on a roll. A hot streak at the biggest casino in Las Vegas, he took two hundred dollars and parlayed that into eight thousand and he was still going. His luck has never been so good and it is amazing what you can do when you cant sleep and this was certainly the place to not sleep in, Las Vegas. While you are in the casinos there is no night or day, light or dark there is only money. His not sleeping happened way before he got to Vegas so when he was offered this business trip he took it, he thought maybe getting out of his element would help him, help him get rid of the nightmares that had been plaguing him for at least a month now. At first they started out vague, one of these dreams you do not remember the next day, you know you dreamt something because of the lack of sleep but they were soon forgotten but soon they progressed even further. He got to the point to where he was sleeping with the light on because that was the only enemy his nightmare had was the light and before he was offered this trip he felt he was being chased, ran down, something after him. He was constantly looking over his shoulder so what better place to be than a city that was lit up 24/7 where there was no darkness anywhere.

 

He knew to quit while he was still ahead and besides he had to get back home to California so he made sure he left Vegas while it was still daylight. He drove his big old Cadillac that was safe and sturdy that is until he got out of the city limits of Vegas and he was crossing the desert when the most improbable thing happened. He ran out of gas. It jerked and sputtered, then it finally came to a stop on the side of road, and he sits there like an idiot staring at the fuel gage, he knows he filled it up, he taps on it with his finger, once then twice then he realizes it is out of gas. At least it is a full moon and he did spot a gas station just a few miles back it wont be that difficult of a walk, a little chilly, but not difficult. He gets out and he makes sure he locks the car and he starts walking letting the moon be his guide, it is high in the sky so that tells him that it is midnight. He walks on the side of the road, desert on either side and not a car for miles, in the moonlight the sand of the desert looks white and he can see his breath he should had worn a heavier coat he thinks when he stops, he heard something but what? He looks around and sees nothing.

 

He continues walking and then he hears it again, footsteps, but how can that be? He is the only one around for miles. Then up ahead in the distance illuminated by the moonlight standing in the middle of the road is a dark figure. Wearing a long black trench coat and a black hat that covered his face from view, his hands in his pockets, the night is cold but he does not see any breath coming from him. He looks at him and he wonders how he got there, he did not hear or see a car but there he stands nevertheless and he is familiar to him and then he remembers his dreams. This is just like his dreams, he has this dark sinister figure before him and this is what is chasing him. The figure has made no move to harm him, he just stands there looking, but he is sinister in his countenance and his silence only makes it worse. The night is still and calm but now the wind slowly begins to pick up and with it brings the sand, blowing across the road, so much so that he has to cover his eyes. The wind tears at his shirt, pants, and threatens to knock him off his feet but the figure stands steady, his coat or hat does not even move.

 

“Hello Eddie.”

 

The figure is quite a ways away but Eddie heard him as if he was right next to him, whispering in his ear. He covershis ears, his own name causing him fear. The figure spoke his name with no feeling, no emphasis, and his voice sounding dry and harsh like the sand, ancient, and that is when Eddie ran. Eddie turns and he runs back in the direction of his car, his boots making loud slapping noises on the pavement the only sound for miles. He skids to a stop at the driver’s door and tries to open it, he stands there fighting the door handle then he remembers he locked it. He desperately pats himself down for his keys, finding them in his pants pocket his breath now coming in short, terrified little bursts as he constantly looks to his right at the solitary figure standing in the middle of the road, that has yet to move, keeping it’s silent vigil.

 

The finds the right key then he also remembers that the car is out of gas that is when he sees movement out of the corner of his right eye and he jumps as he breathes in sharply. He looks to the right and the figure is gone. He drops the keys on the pavement and they make a loud metallic ‘clang’ as they land, he then turns in all directions, looking for it, that inhuman thing. His panic has now turned into full-blown terror as he runs again.

 

He moves away from the car and into the road, the wind blowing sand and tumbleweeds into his path, his forearm shielding his eyes as he runs through the stinging sand, stumbling. It is funny he thinks the things your mind recallsfrom memory just before you die, and he knows the he will surely die here. It is his fate and in a way, he knew it was coming. As he runs and stumbles, futile as it is, he keeps going, that self-preservation mechanism still going strong and he remembers his grandfather telling him stories. Stories about the black figure on the road, how he comes in different disguises and the list of names he carries. How every deed is charted, every evil and monstrous thing kept track of, how the blood of evil men is never weakened by the generations and how it continues to taint generations yet to come. He thought it was a myth, a story, tales old men told to frighten children now he wished he would have believed him.

 

The sandstorm has grown in such magnitude that Eddie has lost his bearings; he has turned himself in so many circles he has not even realized that he has ran straight into the desert itself. Weakened by terror and trying to run against the wind he drops to his knees, his eyes closed, sand in his hair, in his clothing, million grains of sand pelting him striking him. His hands dig into the sand in front of him as he tries to catch his breath, taking in great gulps of air, tasting sand on his tongue and if he thought it would do any good to pray he would and that was when he felt him.

 

He feels the figure’s shadow on his back, blocking out what moon there is now and Eddie trembles, he has never felt such evil, his lungs, mind and body just ache from the extreme effort of it all, suffocating, pervasive and whatever his shadow falls on succumbs. Eddie, still on his hands and knees slowly open his eyes, the effort equal to that of moving a log with your finger and he sees shoes, dark shoes, even though they are in a blinding sandstorm there is no sand on his shoes. Trembling, he raises his eyes to the hem of its coat, higher still to its belt until he is finally looking at where its face should be and there is nothing, the sand swirls but the figure seems to be in a vortex, the sand even afraid of him. Eddie feels his sanity start to let go, and then slip out of reach as the figure speaks.

 

“The blood of generations flow through me, I was put here to right wrongs. I am an indentured servant.”

 

Then Eddie hears someone screaming, a terrified blood curling scream and he finds it is himself.

 

“WHAT ARE YOU! WHAT! WHAT! WHO ARE YOU!”

 

“Death.”

 

His screams are cut short by two 45 slugs, a gloved hand picks up the spent shells casings. The sandstorm slackens then ceases altogether and less than two miles in the distance, the gas station sign appears glowing like a beacon in the night.

 

The telephone rings and is answered by unseen hand.

 

“It is done. When will I find peace?”

 

“Soon, when it is finished. Then you will have 100 more years of peace.”

 

“This mortal body weakens.”

 

“It is but a shell, a host, one you shall be rid of soon and you will be awarded the peace you seek as I also shall be rewarded. Remain strong in your duty. Now go.”

 

The figure drops the receiver back into its cradle then it turns and walks away.

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

Herbie and the other guys sit and wait on Steve, they jabber jaw, twiddle their thumbs, check their watches, 5 turns into 10, and 10 turns into 15 and at 20 Neal calls his room, no answer. They decide to start the meeting without him, Neal can get Steve up to speed later. After the meeting Neal and Jon go by Steve’s room, they knock on the door and Steve opens it, looking frazzled, hair all messed up, looking like he just crawled out of bed because he just did.

 

Yawning Steve says, “Morning guys.”

 

Neal and Jon come into the room and they notice right away that the clock and telephone are gone.

 

“You mean afternoon don’t you?” Jon says.

 

“What?” Steve says visibly shocked.

 

“Steve it is one o’clock in the afternoon.” Neal says.

 

“What?! No! It can’t be! Oh, fuck! The meeting!” Steve says as he puts his hand up to his head.

 

“You missed it.” Jon says.

 

“Oh shit! Is Herbie pissed?” Steve asks.

 

“Just slightly. Steve where is the telephone?” Neal asks looking around.

 

“Yeah and your clock?” Jon asks.

 

“Clock?” Steve asks.

 

“Yeah you know, a box this big with red numbers that glow in the dark that tells you the time, your clock? The one I got you for Christmas last year?” Jon says.

 

Steve looks baffled and slightly confused, “I don’t know I mean they were here….I think.”

 

Neal does his own looking around in the closet, in the bathroom and of course, the last place he looked was the dresser, the last drawer on the bottom.

 

“Well one mystery solved.”

 

Neal says as he pulls the phone and the clock out of the drawer, both smashed, the face of the clock destroyed.

 

“Jeez Steve, you know if you didn’t like the clock I could have gotten you something else.” Jon says.

 

“No Jon I didn’t do that! I swear!” Steve pleads.

 

“Steve what do you mean you didn’t do this?” Neal holds them up.

 

“I didn’t do that! I do not remember doing that! Honestly!”

 

“Alright Steve calm down. It’s no big deal.” Jon says.

 

“No big deal! No big deal! You call me destroying something and I don’t remember doing it, no big deal?”

 

Neal throws the phone and clock on the bed and he asks,

 

“Did you go for a walk last night Steve?”

 

Steve sits on the bed and he rests his head in his hands.

 

“I….I think so I don’t remember.”

 

Neal goes over to the closet and he moves the few garments around that are hanging there until he comes to Steve’s coat, he examines Steve’s hat that is right above on the shelf and finally he looks at his shoes. No sand.

 

“Neal what are you looking for?” Jon asks.

 

“Sand, there was one hell of a sandstorm last night.” Neal answers.

 

“I didn’t know they made it this far into the city.” Jon says.

 

“Well, this one did, the news called it a ‘freak sandstorm’. Steve when was the last time you saw a doctor?” Neal asks.

 

“You know, Herbie makes us all go before we go on tour. He wants to see that ‘A-Okay Approval’ stamped on my ass.”

 

Despite the situation, they laugh because they know it is true.

 

“No, I meant a……” Neal and Jon’s eyes meet over Steve’s head and then Steve raises his head and he looks at Neal pointedly.

 

“A Psychiatrist?! I do not need a fucking Psychiatrist.”

 

Steve says as he runs his hand through his hair and Neal points to the phone and clock on the bed next to Steve and says,

 

“You look at those and tell me again you don’t need a fucking Psychiatrist.”

 

Steve turns his head slightly and he glances at them then he turns around and looks at Jon.

 

“You think I need to see a shrink too?” Steve asks.

 

“It couldn’t hurt Steve, yes I think you should.” Jon says.

 

“We have a couple of days off here in Vegas, let’s go and talk to Herbie.” Neal says.

 

“Oh no! I really do not want Herbie to know.” Steve says.

 

“I don’t see how you could not have him find out?” Jon says.

 

“True and you don’t want him to find out some other way, do you?’ Neal asks.

 

Steve then looks from Neal back to Jon.

 

“Oh so you two would tell him, I guess.” Steve says.

 

“Yes we would Steve and we hope that you would do the same for us.” Jon says.

 

“Well also I meant Herbie getting a phone call,” Neal mimics holding a phone to his ear and he clears his throat then he says, “Mr. Herbert, Rolling Stone Magazine, any truth to the rumor that your lead singer Steve Perry was last seen wearing only a loin cloth, running through the streets of Las Vegas. Beating his chest and yelling me Tarzan you Jane!”

 

They all laugh just to break the tension but they know how serious this is.

 

“I forgot about the fucking press.” Steve says.

 

“They don’t forget about you.” Jon replies.

 

“So think about it, how do you want Herbie to find out?” Neal asks.

 

“Okay I will tell him.” Steve says.

 

“If anything you’ll find out why you aren’t sleeping.” Jon says.

 

Steve goes over to the closet and he puts on his blue jean jacket and fiddles around with the cuffs, rolling them up then rolling them down.

 

“I already know why.” Steve says hesitantly.

 

“Why?” Jon asks.

 

“Nightmares, I’ve been having nightmares.”

 

“Everybody has nightmares Steve.” Neal says.

 

“Not like these!” Steve shakes his head. “It is as if I am watching a grotesque, sadistic movie playing out in front of me and I am the star. There are people running, screaming! Begging for mercy then I realize they are begging for mercy from me! Screaming how it isn’t their fault, how they would do anything, promise me anything if I just let them……” Steve trails off.

 

“Let them what Steve?’ Jon asks.

 

Steve stops and he looks at the carpet counting the threads repeatedly wishing he could get lost in them.

 

“Steve?” Neal says finally.

 

“Live.” Steve says quietly. So quietly, that neither Jon nor Neal heard him.

 

“What?” They both say in unison.

 

“LIVE! I SAID LIVE!”

 

Steve raises his head and he says loudly, so loudly in fact that Neal and Jon are caught off guard. They do not say anything they just look at one another.

 

“Stop it!” Steve yells. “Stop looking at one another like I am not even here dammit!! I am not crazy! I’m not….!!”

 

Jon and Neal both stand there not sure how to react, what to say, what to do. They were both terrified, they both agreed on that later, they have never seen Steve lose it mentally before. Neither of them has had any experience in dealing with this sort of collapse and from where Neal was standing he had a different perspective and he could see what Jon could not see.

 

It was a second, a glitch, a blurb, it was like someone or something, strolled in and taken up residence and the Steve, Neal had known was gone, Steve’s face changed. Not Steve’s expression but his entire face, like a layer transposed on top of another and this new face was evil, sinister, ancient. It ended as fast as it had started and Neal just wrote it off to imagination, too much going on in this small room, the frightening prospect that Steve was losing his mind and they were powerless to do anything. Neither of them moved, they were stuck to the floor then Jon moved first, slowly, his hand out to Steve.

 

“Steve, we’re sorry okay, we didn’t mean….”

 

Steve moves back before Jon can touch him and even the voice coming out of Steve’s mouth sounds different.

 

“Don’t touch me! Do you have any idea who I am, what I can do? Soon it will be over, there is only a short time left and then there will be peace! Stand back mortal and give me passage!”

 

With that, Steve shoves Jon out of the way with such force that Jon falls to the floor, Steve stalks passed Neal, he flings open the door, and he disappears up the hallway. The minute Steve opened his mouth Neal braced himself for the onslaught because he had never, ever heard anything like what was coming out of Steve’s mouth. The voice sounded old, no ancient, and no accent dry like sandpaper, as if somebody had altered his vocal cords, for Neal it was hard to describe. Neal helped Jon to his feet and he could tell by the look on his face Jon was just as lost as Neal felt.

 

“What in the hell just happened?” Jon asks.

 

“I don’t know but…..”

 

Just then Neal and Jon are interrupted by Steve, standing in the doorway, they both jump when they hear his voice, back to normal it seems but still Neal is afraid to look over his shoulder at him but he does.

 

“Hey what are you two guys doing, dancing? Neal you need a shorter partner, let’s go!”

 

Steve smiles and he gestures over his shoulder with his thumb and to them Steve looks normal, his eyes bright and happy, no hint if what just occurred.

 

“Something wrong guys?”

 

“No, no Jon just tripped over his own big feet. Yeah let’s go.”

 

They follow Steve out the door and they shut it behind them.

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

 

You could set your clocks by Eddie, when he did not return to California and he did not call a Missing Person’s report was filed with the Las Vegas Police and with the State Troopers in Nevada but within a day of that report being filed Eddie’s car was found and soon after Eddie or what was left of him. The gas station attendant who was two miles away first saw the vultures and there were a lot of them so it had to be something big. On the way home, he stopped to investigate and when he saw the car he went no further he drove back to the gas station and he called the police.

 

So here they were, the coroner, two police jurisdictions, crime scene techs and of course another form of vultures, the news media all of them out in the midday heat in the Nevada desert. Four Homicide detectives, two from Las Vegas P.D. and the other two from the State and after Eddie was put in the Coroner’s wagon they stood looking at nothing but a bunch of sand with literally no clues. The only real thing of interest to look at and speculate over was the cactuses and other plants that had surrounded the body.

 

“Make sure you get pictures of those plants.”

 

One of the detectives from the Las Vegas P.D. orders.

 

“Lets get these people out of here there is nothing left to see.”

 

One of the detectives from the State orders.

 

They had a wrecker come and tow the car to the State Crime Lab so it could be processed, the autopsy was conducted, whatever evidence they had and it was not much was gone over with a fine toothcomb, no witnesses, nothing. All four detectives were left scratching their heads and with no leads, the case faltered and died. It was soon after this case Allen got ahold of his old college buddy Ed and he readily invited both Allen and McGraw to his place in Oregon, since neither of them had been to Oregon and they had vacation time accumulated out of the wazoo they agreed. Allen had warned McGraw that Ed was somewhat eccentric and Allen remembers Ed being crazy in College but Ed was older so maybe he mellowed somewhat.

 

Allen was never so wrong in his life, Ed had one of his planes pick up Allen and McGraw and when they got to his house, Ed was busy. His housekeeper showed them to their rooms when they inquired as to where he was she took them outside and pointed up. She spoke in broken English and they could only guess what she meant but they did not have to wait long for answers, because soon Ed landed after he parachuted out of the plane.

 

“Ed?”

 

“Tony? Tony Allen?”

 

Ed took off his helmet and he shook his hand then he embraced him both of them laughing and slapping each other on the back.

 

“It has been awhile.” Ed says.

 

“Yeah a few years but you still look the same.” Tony says.

 

“Oh well I don’t know about that.” Ed says as he laughs.

 

“Ed this Jack McGraw, my partner from the Homicide division.”

 

They shake hands and Jack is almost brought to his knees by his strong grip. Ed is easily six feet tall if he is an inch, dark hair and hazel eyes and a dark complexion. He looks American Indian or Hispanic.

 

“Nice to meet you Jack.”

 

“Same here that was really something, jumping out of that plane.” Jack says.

 

“Oh well it is nothing really. Maybe you two can try it while you’re here.”

 

Jack and Tony laugh and they balk at the idea.

 

“No I don’t think so, Tony has told me a lot about you.”

 

“And you still came and people think I am crazy. Let me go and get out of this thing and we can have dinner.”

 

They agree and after they had all cleaned up, they sat down to a great dinner, Tony and Ed catching up on each other’s lives, Jack listening to the two old friends talk, and after it was time for business. Ed grabbed beers for all of them and he took them into his den where the walls were covered with memorabilia from his FBI career, file cabinets, papers everywhere and books and Jack was impressed and he hopes his career will be so illustrious.

 

“So you said something on the phone about wanting my help? With what exactly?”

 

Tony puts some folders on his desk and Ed thumbs through them.

 

“Last month we had a homicide in Seattle, I had a hunch it was a hit, but it was strange. There was nothing, no evidence, no witnesses and now the case is dead but the thing is I ran a check on the computer and there were four other similar cases across the country. Same M.O., same caliber bullets, the victims were all basically the same age, give or take a year or two, the victims had all different professions so there was no connection there. There was only one connection I could find besides the way they were killed.”

 

“What was that?” Ed asks.

 

“There were either Portuguese or of Portuguese descent and last week there was another murder in Las Vegas. Correct me if I am wrong but you don’t seem surprised by any of this.”

 

“Well no actually I’m not. I already knew about the other murders but I…”

 

“You already knew about the other murders? Ed you’re in the FBI….” Tony says.

 

“Hey wait!” Jack says. “You’re him aren’t you?! Special Agent Ed Glaucio you caught the Hourglass Killer! I read your book! Shit, I don’t know why I didn’t put the two together sooner! Tony your old friend is famous! You tracked down the Hourglass Killer, the most prolific and sadistic serial killer ever!”

 

“That was you?” Tony says as he points at him.

 

“So you’re the guy who bought the book. Yes, I tracked him down but it took years and there was a high price to pay. My partner is dead; a great guy I worked with for 25 years and that sadistic bastard killed him and forced me into early semi-retirement.”


“Ed you’re retired?” Tony asks.

 

“No not officially. I guess it’s more like a leave of absence but the FBI is my life and it is what I do, so I have been keeping up, so I know about the other murders. I know about the one in Vegas and before you called I was planning on flying out there, you two want to come?”

 

“Well Vegas is really not our jurisdiction.” Jack says.

 

“Doesn’t matter, you’re on a fact finding mission, working in conjunction with the FBI and all of that. You’re on vacation and I bet you’ve never been to Vegas, have you?”

 

Ed winks at them and smiles then Tony and Jack look at one another then Tony says,

 

“When do we leave?”

 

Early the next morning Ed was preparing the plane for the trip when Tony and Jack walked up, each carrying an overnight bag, Ed told them where to put them. Tony got into the plane but Jack just stood there looking at the plane with his hands in his pockets, Ed patted him on the back.

 

“Don’t worry I had the rubber band replaced.” Ed and Tony laughed.

 

“Funny.” Jack says.

 

“Don’t worry, I have been flying for years, get in.”

 

They took off and the day was beautiful and the flight was uneventful, Jack was grateful for that. They landed at a municipal airport and they rented a car and drove into Vegas, since there were two police jurisdictions involved they decided to try the Las Vegas Police first since they were closer. They find the station, they find one of the detectives that were working the case, and now for the past hour they have been cooling their heels in his office, drinking up his coffee.

 

“Man, this is a cool office Tony, how come we can’t have a cool office like this?” Jack asks.

 

“Because we work in Seattle.”

 

They laugh and finally the detective comes in, carrying files, and looking harried.

 

“Rough morning?” Ed asks.

 

“Oh don’t ask. Sorry to keep you guys waiting.”

 

“Robert I know when we spoke over the phone you were just expecting me but these gentlemen are colleagues of mine. They have an interest in the case; they have had a similar homicide in Seattle. This is Jack McGraw and Tony Allen Seattle Police Department Homicide Detectives. “ They shake hands.

 

“Always nice to meet other colleagues. So you guys had a similar case in Seattle. How did yours turn out?” Robert asks.

 

“Well pretty much like yours I imagine, dead end. Nothing, zip, zilch, zero.” Tony replies.

 

“That isn’t surprising, I have been a cop for awhile, first I started out in patrol and now I am a detective, but I got to tell you this is the first time I have been stymied this early in a case.”

 

“Robert, don’t take offense to this but you’re in Vegas. I would think that a hit isn’t a new thing, I mean….” Jack says but doesn’t finish because Robert interrupts.

 

“You think this is a mafia hit?”

 

Robert looks at Jack as does the others and Jack suddenly feels uncomfortable.

 

“Don’t all the signs point in that direction?”

 

Jack says as Robert gets up and he grabs a folder from the desk, he walks over to Jack and tosses it into his lap.

 

“You are right I have seen a lot of mafia hits but I have never seen one like this. Take a look.”

 

Tony, Jack and Ed sit on his sofa and they look at the crime scene photos and Robert sits back and waits for the inevitable, out of the three, the only one that doesn’t seem surprised is Ed. They look through them, then they look again and Tony gets up and goes over to Robert’s desk.

 

“What is that?” Tony points at an object in the picture.

 

“That was a Sorrento Cactus. It was about ten feet tall at one time and as big around as this desk.”

 

“What happened to it?” Tony asks.

 

 “That is a good question. How could something that took longer than we have been alive to grow end up the size of a trash can overnight?” Robert asks.

 

“That happened overnight?!” Tony and Jack both say.

 

“Look at the plants that were close to the body and then look at the one’s that weren’t.”

 

“I have an even better one for you.” Jack says.

 

“The footprints, right?” Robert asks.

 

“Yeah.” Tony and Jack say.

 

“Why is there only one set of footprints? He wasn’t dragged and he certainly didn’t shoot himself in the back of the head. The sandstorm couldn’t have wiped them away because it would have gotten rid of the victim’s too.”

 

“Maybe the gunman had a high power rifle.” Jack says. “You know changing his m.o. to keep us guessing.”

 

Robert shakes his head no. “Two close contact wounds, 45 slugs, besides there are no tall buildings out that way. The shooter would have had to park his ass up in a cactus.”

 

“What about his car?” Tony asks.

 

“No help there, it was clean, it was locked keys on the ground. No mechanical trouble, a full tank of gas, no reason we could find why it would stop unless he pulled over to sleep.”

 

“He was an engineer in the gas and oil business. Any leads there?” Jack asks.

 

“No. By all accounts, he was a sweetheart of a guy. His first business trip to Vegas and he won big, $10,000 dollars big.”

 

“Let me guess, it was all there right?” Tony asks.

 

“Right.” Robert says.

 

All of this time Ed has been sitting on his end of the sofa, looking at the pictures as they came around but not making any comments one way or another.

 

“So Ed you are quiet.” Robert says.

 

“Just taking it all in. Has the family claimed the body yet?”

 

“No not yet. The coroner hasn’t released the body yet, do you want to go and see it?”

 

They wanted to but after lunch and Robert wanted to make it his treat, so he took them to one of the casinos where you could eat cheaply but well and of course Tony threw his up in the parking lot of the coroner’s office.

 

“How did you ever become a cop?” Robert asked him.

 

“I passed all the tests.” Tony says.

 

After the coroner they drove out to the crime scene and Tony and Jack saw what he meant by the cactuses and the other plants that were dead around the area of the body. Ed was still quiet as he walked around alone looking at everything in the desert. Then he walked up the road and he stood in the middle just looking at the guys assembled around the car, thinking, then he turned and walked up the road. He was gone at least 15 minutes then he returned to the car.

 

“Sorry I couldn’t have been more help to you guys.” Robert says.

 

“We appreciate it Robert we’re all in the same boat here.” Tony says.

 

“Tell me about it this fucker screwed up my perfect record.”

 

That night they stayed over to visit a few casinos and after they lost a few at Blackjack, they had dinner and a few Jack Daniels.

 

“Ed there was a few things I noticed today.” Tony says.

 

“And they were?” Ed asks.

 

“You didn’t seem at all surprised by any of it, not the footprints, not the cactuses, nothing. You didn’t ask any questions.”

 

“I noticed that too.” Jack says.

 

“I like to listen.” Ed says.

 

“Bullshit! You already knew all the answers, you got this all figured out, you know what’s happening here, don’t you?” Tony says.

 

Ed looks at them across the table, he orders another Jack and water and he leans back in his chair.

 

“I have my theories.” Ed says.

 

“Care to elaborate?” Tony asks.

 

“I have all the research back at the house, time is not something here we have a lot of but I need some more of it. I do have most of the puzzle put together but I need the rest of the pieces. Guys, you have to trust me on this, this is what I do, and this is what I know!” Ed says with conviction.

 

Tony and Jack look at one another and they take a collective deep breath, heaven knows their backs have been up against the wall before. They have been in some pretty tight scraps and even in their darkest moments, they managed to pull themselves up and out. They have handled everything that has been thrown at them but this felt different. This whole thing had a different ring to it and Ed’s reaction only confirmed their feelings. Tony gets the distinct feeling that they are way in over their heads, all of them, and they are going down here for the first time. Tony moves his chair closer to the table, he leans over, and Ed does the same on the opposite side of the table, their heads meeting in the middle as Jack sits with his arms crossed over his chest, watching and waiting.

 

“Can we stop this?”

 

Tony asks as he looks in Ed’s eyes and Ed doesn’t blink.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Can anything stop it?” Tony says louder.

 

“I don’t know!” Ed retorts.

 

Tony then stands up and he slams his hand down on the table, the glasses and dishes jump and rattle. People at the tables near them stop and look in their direction.

 

“Then dammit what do you know!!”

 

Ed stands up and he puts his hands on the table near Tony’s and says loud enough for everyone in close proximity to hear.

 

“I know I don’t have a future!!”

 

Ed emphasized the word ‘don’t’ and before Tony even had a chance to let it sink in or even to speak Ed had turned, kicking his chair out of the way as he walked off, Tony and Jack simply watching until he was lost in the crowd.

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

Steve has had vivid dreams before but here lately when he went to sleep, the dreams seem to take on a life of their own. When he did sleep, he was not alone, he always felt someone or something was with him and now that feeling was crossing the line, bleeding over into his waking hours. The only time he felt alone was onstage, onstage with the lights, the music, the crowd, that was the only time and place he felt safe, felt like the old Steve, he felt normal. During the day when they were not busy, traveling in between gigs, he could feel it creeping up on him, feeling like you do when someone is following you.

 

When they were busy, with interviews, photo shoots, sound checks or what-have-yous he functioned like he always had the ‘get down to business Steve’ for whatever reason ’his condition’ did not like activity or too many people around or the lights. Steve found the old saying to be true “idle hands” because when he is idle, at least on this tour, he becomes an ass. Steve would say if he was being accused of, pulling “prima Donna” behavior he could not deny it but this behavior was not like him at all, he was becoming mean, cruel and hateful. His stuck-up snobby Rock Star image came out to play and the worst thing is he did not remember any of it. Not one iota, not one grain, not one speck, just like the incident with the telephone and clock, he finally conceited to the fact that he did destroy them, he was the only one in the room, or least he thought he was. The other things people told him he did not believe until they brought him proof but sometimes the look on their face was enough.

 

 

Steve did go and see a ‘doctor’ while they were in Vegas but Steve was only there for two days so he had two long sessions with him and Steve talked about everything and at the end, Steve was deemed normal or as normal as a Rock Star could be. The doctor decided that Steve’s inability to sleep came from stress, anxiety and pressure. Pressure from Herbie on down, if somebody from upper management gave Herbie hell then he in turn gave the guys hell, so it goes in the medical world that if the doctors cant find anything wrong, but they perceive that something is wrong they prescribed the quick fix, they medicate. The doctor gave Steve sleeping pills; all Steve needed was a good night’s sleep for a couple of nights and Steve would be a new man. Steve was skeptical and not too keen on taking pills but he had promised, promised Herbie and the rest of the guys he would do whatever it took and if this is, what it took then he had to do it. He was not one to go back on his word, so he walked out of the office with a bottle of pills and prescription in hand.

 

Steve took one and only one when he felt the need and this night he felt the need. That night he went to sleep in a comfortable hotel bed but when he opened his eyes, again he awoke to a different world.

 

He was dressed all in black, riding a black horse chasing someone through an ancient countryside, the mortal he was chasing had some distance between them but it didn’t matter, no matter how far they got ahead and no matter if they had false hope that they were safe, he always found them. Always. Most often than not he would become bored, running these mortals to ground and to keep him interested he would play with them. Let them get far enough ahead of him so that they believe that they were safe, while their guard was down he would come upon them and he would dispatch them, making himself that much closer to his 100 year peace. It was now twilight, that magical time between light and darkness and that was when he comes alive, he wears the cover of darkness like a cloak, the stars like a necklace, the moon like a crown as he rules the night over these mortals as he steadily closes the distance of this latest one.

 

 This mortals’ flight will be his downfall, as the sky darkens and the moon rises the terrain becomes treacherous in the dark and mortal’s eyes are not equipped for riding in the dark without help from torches or other forms of light but he needed nothing. Even though he used this mortal’s body as a host his senses were heightened, smell, sight, hearing, touch. Now up ahead he can see the mortal, forcing his horse to the point of exhaust, and when he tried to jump a small stream the horse faltered, then he stumbled, then he fell to the ground with a dull crashing thud, the mortal thrown from him. He now slows his own horse, he will be upon him soon now, he wants to savor this moment, the anticipation of the pleasure that this mortal’s terror will bring when he realizes that he is to be sacrificed, a blood atonement.

 

He comes upon the horse, dead, lying in the stream and the mortal lying up the bank still trying to get away, now limping on foot. The mortal, his energy now spent, falls to the ground and he stops and looks down at him then he dismounts, he walks over to the mortal lying prone on the ground and he turns him over with his foot, his sword in his hand. Then the mortal did the most extraordinary thing he fought back, he found his feet, he stood up and he knocked the helmet from its head and he became the only person in centuries to see its face. With the helmet gone it revealed a nightmarish view, and there was no face just a skull, devoid of eyes only dark holes where they should have been and then he screamed.

 

“O sangue das geracoes corre atraves de me, mim foi posto aqui erros direitos. Eu sou indentured o empregado.”

 

The thing says in Portuguese to the mortal from a mouth with no tongue and the mortal screams again as the thing raises it sword and that is when Steve, asleep in his comfortable hotel bed, sits up and screams, for the head that was about to be decapitated was his own.

 

 

 

Neal had been out with Jon and when he got back to the hotel room Steve was already asleep and Neal saw the bottle of sleeping pills in the bathroom so he knew that Steve was going to get a good night’s sleep. Therefore, Neal went to bed happy in the knowledge that Steve was sleeping peacefully and Neal was lulled to sleep himself by Steve’s snoring. However, in a few hours, Neal opened one sleepy eye, he looked at the alarm clock on his bedside table, 2 am, and he heard strange noises coming from Steve’s bed. Steve and Neal have been in this band, by now, a long time and they both have heard every conceivable noise that another human can make but Neal has never heard anything like this. First, he heard the thrashing and that is what woke him, it sounded like his own covers trapped Steve and he was desperately trying to escape them. Then he heard him scream once, Neal sits up in bed and then Steve begins to yell something in Portuguese with that same eerie voice he first heard that night months ago, and that is followed by a blood-curdling scream that has Neal covering his ears.

 

Steve finally gets himself extricated from his covers and he jumps off of the bed and he runs across the room and into the bathroom and he slams door and a few seconds later Neal sees the light come on under the door. Neal’s heart is racing a mile a minute and he is sure Steve just woke up all the people in the hotel and he would not be surprised if the cops are knocking on the door next. As soon as the bathroom door slams shut, Neal goes to it and he tries the doorknob, it is not locked but he turns it carefully not knowing what Steve maybe doing on the other side. He opens the door and peeks in; all the lights in the bathroom are on, anything that puts out light Steve has turned on. The mirror faces the bathtub and in the reflection, Neal can see Steve huddled in the tub, knees up to his chin, holding his legs as he rocks back and forth, talking to himself. Neal opens the door and he goes in slowly.

 

“Steve?”

 

Steve looks up at him then, his eyes wide and tear filled, his hair messed and in tangles. The look on Steve’s face Neal has seen on his own kid’s faces, the look of absolute free-rein terror after they have had a most horrendous nightmare.

 

“Don’t turn the lights off!” Steve yells and Neal puts his hands up.

 

“I wont I promise.”

 

Then Neal hears knocking on the door and thinks it just might be the cops, but when he opens the door it, it is Jon. Jon’s room is right on the other side of Steve’s bed and he heard Steve scream, luckily, the other guy’s rooms were further down the hall and Herbie’s was on another floor.

 

“What in the hell is going on?” Jon asks as he comes in. “Where is Steve?”

 

“I don’t know what’s going on, one minute we’re both sound asleep then the next he’s screaming bloody murder. He’s in the bathroom.”

 

Neal points in the direction of the bathroom, Jon goes in and five minutes later he comes back out and he grabs Steve’s pillow and blanket.

 

“What are you doing?” Neal asks.

 

“He wants to sleep in the bathroom. He feels safe there.” Jon says.

 

“Safe? I’m here nothing’s going to happen to him.” Neal says and Jon takes a deep breath.

 

“I don’t think he is scared from anything on the outside.” Jon says.

 

“What does that mean?” Neal asks.

 

“I don’t know, I better go and give these to him.”

 

Jon says as he goes into the bathroom.

 

 

******

 

 

 

For three days they have been back at Ed’s house and for two of those days Ed has been hold-up in his den, stopping only to eat, Tony and Jack helped where they could, doing research and errands when needed. The return trip back was not a pleasurable one, they flew home in stony silence and almost immediately, Ed retreated to his den and Tony was still not sure, what Ed had meant by ‘he didn’t have a future.’ Well he knew what it meant, Ed was going to die but he did not explain any further how and Tony did not ask. It was now noon on the third day, Tony and Jack have been listening to Ed, looking at all his research, and they let Ed say his peace without interruption and this took at least two hours. Ed repeated himself just to make sure they understood but he does not truly understand it all himself and he is the one that stumbled onto it.

 

After Ed was all talked out and Tony and Jack have looked through all his research they sat in silence, the only sound was the ticking of the clock, by now Jack’s head was in his hands and he was staring at the rug, Tony was shell-shocked he and Ed looked at one another.

 

“You’re sure about all of this?” Tony asks.

 

“As sure as I can be at this point.” Ed says.

 

“About their connection, you’re sure about that?’ Jack asks still looking at the rug.

 

Ed nods his head, “Yes.”

 

“Coincidences.” Tony says.

 

“No.” Ed says.

 

“These guys are huge! Everybody on this planet knows who they are and you think one of them can do this and not be recognized?” Jack asks.

 

“Jack I know they are huge and yes I do think that and I already explained it to you and I know, for a fact, that it is one of them!”

 

Ed says as he points to the picture in the newspaper.

 

“It’s him! He is the only one!”

 

“That is all well and good Ed but how…do you propose we do this? I mean…they are quote, Big Rock Stars, unquote! You just don’t walk up to them and shake their hands, there must be security and besides you don’t even know where they….” Jack rattles off.

 

“They are playing Portland next week.” Ed says.

 

“Oh.” Jack says.

 

“Two sold out shows and possibly a third and for the other, well, I am going to contact their company and hopefully get to their manager, a Herbie Herbert, if that doesn’t work, and I am still the FBI. Who wouldn’t want to cooperate with an FBI investigation, right?”

 

“Right.” Tony and Jack both say.

 

“After you tell them all of this they will think you are cracked.” Tony says.

 

“They have to be approached a certain way.” Ed says.

 

Tony and Jack laugh hysterically.

 

“Approached! Approached! How do you approach anybody about this!?” Jack asks.

 

Then Tony stops laughing and he suddenly becomes serious.

 

“This isn’t funny, this is serious.” Tony says.

 

“Oh yeah, this is about as serious as serious can get.” Ed says.

 

“And you told us everything right?” Jack asks.

 

“Yes.”

 

Ed just lied, well he stretched the truth a little, he did know more but he was not sure so he did not mention it and it actually did not pertain to them but he wanted to be sure….

 

“Ed!” Tony says loudly.

 

“What? Oh sorry.” Ed rubs his eyes.

 

“What do you want us to do now?” Jack asks.

 

“Phone calls, we need to call this company and arrange a meeting with Mr. Herbert, like I said I am the FBI.”

 

Throw around a few little initials and it is amazing what you get, not only did he get a meeting with Herbie but Herbie even offered to send a limo to pick him and his associates up and bring them out to the venue where Herbie set-up a makeshift office.

 

This was the first time that any of them had been in a limo and they were impressed, and they were even more impressed when Herbie gave them a tour of the venue and they saw exactly what it took to set up for a concert and he even provided lunch. They were not sure if he always did that or if it was because he was a little intimidated, well who wouldn’t be, when you have an FBI agent and two homicide detectives sitting in your office and if you were smart you would feel intimidated. They explained things to Herbie, they don’t tell him everything of course, they don’t exactly lie either, they just don’t tell him the whole story. The story is plausible and true, at least the part they could tell him. He tells him that they are tracking a hit man and how said hit man has been in every city they have been in and how said hit man might decide to target the band members, they believe that he is working up to that. To stop it before it reaches that far they want to join the band on the rest of the tour. His associates will travel under the guises of bodyguards and he will travel as a doctor. A doctor? He explains to Herbie that he does hold a PhD, he holds a PhD in psychology that again was not a lie, he just didn’t tell the whole truth. The PhD is in parapsychology, the study of the paranormal and this situation is about as paranormal as you can get.

 

Herbie is okay with that, actually, he couldn’t have showed up at a better time because one of the band members is having trouble sleeping and he could kill two birds with one stone, protect them and their sanity all at the same time. That was one way to look at it. Herbie set it all up, getting them all badges and arranging access for them and all of it will be kept hush, hush on the QT and now all there was left to do was to meet the band members and they should be arriving shortly.

 

When they did arrive, Herbie showed them in one at a time, introduced them and explained things to them and Tony and Jack put on their best bodyguard stance and tried their best to look tough and intimidating, but that was difficult when they were dwarfed by Jon. The last one to show was Steve and when he did come in Tony and Jack thought for sure that Ed had tagged the wrong guy, he was quiet, unassuming, little on the smallish side and more than a little leery of strangers. Herbie explained to Steve what was what and whom was whom, and then he was introduced to the bodyguards and then to Ed.

 

“Dr.Glaucio that’s Portuguese isn’t it?” Steve asks as they shake hands, from where Steve is standing they could be cousins. “I can recognize that nose anywhere.” They laugh.

 

“Yes it is. Where is your family from?” Ed asks.

 

“The Azores and yours?” Steve asks.

 

“You know it’s a small world.” Ed replies.

 

They talk a few minutes longer then Steve has to go, he has work to do and Ed told him they would talk again. In the meantime, they all had to go back to Ed’s and pack and Ed made a phone call to Tony and Jack’s boss and informed him that the FBI needed their help and once again the power of three little initials.

 

Tony, Jack and Ed were all fans of music and in this ‘Journey Era’, they were everywhere, they were played constantly on the radio so of course the guys have heard them. They have been to concerts before, but not recently, and they have never been to a Journey concert, and they have never seen and they did not realize how much prep work actually went into it all.

 

One night of the three sold out shows, Ed and Tony were backstage watching from the wings, and Jack was posted on the other side.

 

“These guys are amazing and Steve can really belt out a song, he makes me tired just watching him. You both are Portuguese right; do you have any talent like that in your family?” Tony asks.

 

“None what-so-ever I’m afraid.” Ed replies.

 

They watched Neal burn thru his solo on the song they were doing and Steve running around on stage playing to the audience, as Tony leaned in closer to Ed.

 

“You’re sure?” Tony asks.

 

“How many times are you going to ask me that?”

 

“Until I am sure.” Tony replies.

 

“Yes Tony I am sure. There is no doubt in my mind and there shouldn’t be any in yours.”

 

“Alright Ed, I better do my usual walk thru the audience, you know, keep up appearances.” Tony pats him on the shoulder. “See you later.”

 

They part company and Ed watches Steve full of energy, he and Neal playing off each other, having fun with the audience, the crowd up front going crazier the closer that Steve got to the edge of the stage, Ed also noticed that the majority of the audiences were women. Steve is talking to the audience now and they are yelling, just watching Steve these pasts’ nights Ed knows that Steve is having difficulties, losing time and not sleeping are the two major ones. Herbie already made mention of the fact that a band member was not sleeping and Ed knew it was Steve. To look at him Steve did not seem to have a care in the world, he was happy doing what he loved to do but Ed knew different and the minute they shook hands he felt it, they both felt it. In all of his research, this was the first time, all thru the centuries that the pursuer and the pursued have had contact with each other and they both walked away. Ed watched as the lights went down and the spotlight came up on Neal and Steve was standing beside him. Steve grabbed a towel and some water.

 

“So this is how you keep your girlish figure.” Ed says to Steve and he laughs.

 

“This is it!”

 

“Shouldn’t you…?” Ed gestures back to the stage.

 

“This is Neal’s solo, all the guys have them. You don’t get out much do you?”

 

Steve says and they laugh again.

 

“Well no. You do this every night?” Ed asks.

 

“Just about yes.”

 

“How many songs do you do?”

 

“Counting encores? 13, oh there’s my cue.”

 

Steve drops the towel, he runs back out onto the stage, and then he points at Neal and says,

 

“Ladies and gentlemen Neal Schon!”

 

Thirteen Ed thinks.

 

For the next two nights, Ed did the same thing, he watched and he and Steve spoke in spurts. He knew Steve was leery of strangers so Steve was watching him as well but he knew that the time would come when the need to talk would lead Steve to him and he did not have to wait long.

 

The night of the last concert and it was midnight. They had a relatively easy drive to the next venue so they were leaving in the morning, Ed had finished packing, and now he was writing, making notes in his journal of all of this. He was planning to leave it to Tony and Jack so they could write their own book or do whatever they wanted to it with it. As he was writing he thought he heard a knock, he listened, when he did not hear anything else he went back to his writing. Then he heard it again, a little harder but still timid. He already knew who it was.

 

“Hello Steve.”

 

Steve was wearing his ‘Rock Star Off Duty’ clothes, jeans, t-shirt, brown leather jacket and his Nike’s, long hair down passed his shoulders, looking less like a rock star and more like a kid.

 

“Hey Doc, I know it’s late but…can we talk?”

 

“Any time Steve. Come in.”

 

Ed let him in and he sat on the edge of the table, watching as Steve went around the room and turned on every light.

 

“Sorry I’ve should have asked before I…”

 

“Oh no whatever makes you feel comfortable. So what little problem do you want to talk about?”

 

Steve looks at him then he laughs and Ed cannot help but laugh with him.

 

“What is so funny?”

 

“When a shrink asks what little problem you want to talk about it usually refers to something sexual, financial or mental and as far as I know I don’t have any problems with the formers.”

 

“What about with the latter?” Ed asks.

 

Steve leans back on the dresser, his hands in his jacket pockets, feet crossed at the ankles. Ed waits; he does not ask him again, he lets him take his time. Then when Steve does speak, it seems to take an eternity and his voice sounds far away.

 

“Doc, how do you know if you’re going crazy?”

 

“Do you think you’re crazy Steve?”

 

“I’ve been losing time.” Steve says.

 

“How much time?”

 

“First it started out as an hour but now it’s turned into days.”

 

“When did it start?” Ed asks.

 

“Even before we went on tour. Do the other guys talk to you or are you just here for my benefit?”

 

Right after Steve said it he knew how it sounded.

 

“You know that sounded really egotistical but I didn’t mean it…..”

 

“It’s alright, no the other guys do talk to me. Only Herbie and you guys know that I am a doctor.” Ed says.

 

“So everything we talk about is confidential, right?”

 

“Oh absolutely.” Ed says.

 

“You wont tell anybody, no matter who asks?”

 

“I swear.” Ed says.

 

“Even the police?”

 

Steve looks at him with that boyish face and those dark eyes and Ed knows normally that Steve would never hurt anyone, not on purpose. Ed can already tell that Steve is a good guy and he tells himself that he wont become attached because he cant afford to and what Steve will do will not be his fault.

 

“Why do you think the police will be asking?”

 

“I think I killed somebody.”

 

He says the words slowly just to see how Ed would react, for Steve it was the first time he spoke those words, although to Steve he has been carrying it around for weeks. Ed was not shocked by this revelation.

 

“Why do you think that? You’ve been on tour for months haven’t you, when possibly could have you…?”

 

“I don’t know how or why I just know. I always feel that someone is with me, that I am not alone in my own skin. I feel like I have blood on my hands and no matter what I do I can’t get them clean! Peace! All I want is peace! Tired, I am so tired but I am afraid to sleep, my dreams overtake me. Voices! I hear voices and I see things! That’s a sign isn’t it? When that happens, it means people are crazy aren’t they? Please doc! I feel, I feel like I’m dying. Do you know what that feels like?”

 

Ed walks over to Steve and he puts his hand on his shoulder in comfort, Steve’s face buried in his hands.

 

“Yes Steve I do.” Ed says.

 

“I’m scared. I’m afraid of tomorrow but I am even more afraid that I won’t see it.”

 

“Steve I know how you feel.”

 

Steve then raises his head and he looks at Ed with his tear streaked face then as quickly as someone pulling a shade he changes, his eyes harden, the brightness of them is now dull and lifeless. The skin pulled taut across his face, his hair dry like straw, and the smell like that of an open crypt where a body still lays.

 

“It is not over until it is over!”

 

Its voice washes over Ed like stagnant water, the smell filling his senses causing him to gag immediately and his flight response kicks into overdrive but he doesn’t move. He can feel this creature creeping into him and searching him and they both know that this is not their last meeting. Ed then grabs him and he shakes him violently then he slaps Steve across the face hard, then he pulls Steve by his jacket. Immediately the old Steve is back on the premises, after he is slapped his hand goes to cover his cheek, he looks up at Ed dumbfounded.

 

“What…?”

 

“Sorry but you became hysterical. Sit down and calm down.”

 

Ed pulls a chair from the table over to Steve and Steve sits, then Ed goes to the mini-bar and he grabs a couple of beers. He hands one to Steve, Ed pulls up his own chair, and he sits opposite.

 

“Now tell me about the day you lost that first hour.”

 

 

******

 

 

 

It was a jump from bus to venue, bus to venue and Ed wondered how they did it. He has only been with them two weeks and he was already road weary. In that two-week period, Ed became Steve’s closest confidant, they spent a lot of time together and Ed found himself liking the guy, Steve was a multi-faceted sort of guy and from one day to the next you never knew just how Steve would be. Steve had a wicked sense of humor and he found the strangest things funny and his jokes were another manner, he laughed at them even if no one else did. They were of the same heritage but different backgrounds, Ed’s parents stayed married until their passing and Steve’s mom and his dad divorced while Steve was still young, his mom and step-dad were still living. Ed had two brothers and a sister and Steve was an only child. Ed had had plenty of girlfriends but no relationship stuck because Ed was married to his profession and Steve understood that, Steve did have a girlfriend but music was his mistress and she could be a bitch. His mistress not his girlfriend Steve clarified as they laughed.

 

 

They talked about their Portuguese heritage and how Steve’s grandparents were a big influence. How his grandfather would talk to him in Portuguese and Steve would try to get him to speak English. They talked about the great food and how after the tour, he would like Ed to come to San Francisco and visit him and he would make some of his mom’s recipes for him. Ed smiled and he tried not to show any sadness, he told Steve that he would love nothing better than to come to San Francisco and visit him and Ed knew he was lying and that it would never happen that it could never happen.

 

Another night and another bus ride and Steve was restless and it is a bad thing to be restless on a bus because there is nowhere to go so Steve would pace, he would pace up and down the aisle, back and forth, back and forth.

 

“Hey Steve man, give it a rest, you’re wearing a hole in the rug.” Neal says sleepily.

 

Steve would give it a try; he would lay curled up in his bunk with the light on, remembering back to when he was a kid and the stories his grandfather would tell him and after talking to Ed Steve found out that they shared that too. Their grandparents telling them stories about the Azores and how they grew up, telling and retelling of stories that were handed down through the generations. Steve heard the curtains move on the bunk below his.

 

“Ed.” Steve says quietly.

 

“Yeah Steve.” Ed answers.

 

“It is just a myth right?” Steve asks.

 

“Yes it is just a myth.” Ed agrees.

 

“Then why does it feel real?”

 

“It is just a story.” Ed says.

 

“Do you believe in it?” Steve asks.

 

“Steve I…”

 

“Do you believe in it?!” Steve asks again a little louder and Ed heaves a sigh.

 

“Yes I think I do, do you?” Ed says.

 

“Yes.”

 

Steve says this very quickly and sure without any hesitation and Ed does not know what to say.

 

“It’s late Steve try and get some sleep.”

 

Steve does not answer and Ed turns over in his bunk and goes to sleep.

 

 

Now this many miles and this many weeks into this he wishes that he never started this. He wishes that Tony never called him, actually, he knew about this a year ago, knew it was going to happen. He had been researching it for years and became interested in it as a boy when his grandfather told it to him and then he could not find much on it. The only place it seemed to exist was in the Portuguese culture, the ones he did talk to about it were older and they profess great knowledge and belief in it. Others did not believe it and still others did not want to talk about it. Ed was always the kid who was interested in the offbeat stuff, ghosts, goblins, boogiemen, the things that went bump in the night. Therefore, he was lucky he was able to parlay his interests into a career much like Steve, add that to the list of things that they have in common. The longer the list the harder the task becomes.

 

When they finally came to a stop in Bismarck South Dakota, it was time for a meeting. Ed asked for and received a trailer all to himself so now that is where he sits waiting. Outside he hears sounds of activity, people yelling, the crews moving equipment and he turns when he hears the door open, Neal comes in first then Jon trails in after him.

 

“Guys.”

 

“Hey Doc.” They both say.

 

“Isn’t this a bit unusual that you would have a session with both of us?” Jon asks.

 

“This isn’t a session we need to have a discussion.” Ed says.

 

“Oh this sounds serious.” Neal says.

 

“First of all, I’m not really a doctor.” Ed says.

 

“You’re not really a doctor?” Neal and Jon both say.

 

“I do have a PhD but I am a parapsychologist.” Ed says.

 

“Parapsychologist?” Neal says.

 

“Yeah Neal, you know, they study the paranormal. Like ghosts, stuff like that.” Jon explains.

 

Neal just looks at Ed and says. “So why do we need a parapsychologist?”

 

“Actually I am also a FBI agent.”

 

“What?!” Jon says.

 

“You’re a fucking cop?!” Neal says.

 

“Does Herbie know?” Jon asks.

 

“Yes.” Ed says.

 

“This has something to do with that hit-man doesn’t it? He is after Steve! That’s why you have been sticking so close to him, right?” Neal says.

 

“You’re partially right.” Ed says.

 

“Hey! Wait! Dr.Edward Glaucio I know you!” Neal and Ed both look at Jon and then Ed rubs his eyes. “You caught the Hourglass Killer! I read you’re book!”

 

“Oh so you’re the second guy that bought the book.” Ed says.

 

“Now I remember! Wasn’t he like a Satan Worshipper type dude and he thought he could summon the devil or something like that?” Neal says.

 

“He didn’t think he could do it he actually did do it.” Ed says matter-of-factly.

 

“So what does a parapsychologist slash FBI agent want with us?” Jon asks.

 

“Yeah? Is somebody after us? After Steve?” Neal asks.

 

Ed shoves a folder towards them filled with newspaper clippings and Jon picks it up.

 

“You guys were in those cities when those people were killed.” Ed says.

 

Jon looks through the clippings with Neal leaning over the arm of the chair.

 

“So? I mean that doesn’t prove anything.” Neal says.

 

“Yeah it’s a coincidence.” Jon says then he Ed looks at Jon with that cop look.

 

“Neal, Neal wait do you know what he is saying? He’s saying he thinks that we had something to do with this.”

 

“That is crazy!” Neal replies.

 

“You do! You do think that don’t you!” Jon asks loudly.

 

“You think it’s one of us! That is insane! We are together 24/7, we eat together, we sleep together and we always know where the others are. “Neal says.

 

“Where is Steve?” Ed asks.

 

“Steve?” Jon and Neal both say then Neal looks at his watch. “Right now Steve is doing an interview.”

 

“Steve has been taking walks at night hasn’t he? While you two are sleeping in the same room right? “Ed points right at Neal.

 

“Look now I don’t like your tone!” Neal says loudly again.

 

“You don’t honestly think Steve…? Jon says.

 

“Steve? Our Steve?! He wouldn’t hurt anybody!” Neal says.

 

“You know, you’re the one that needs a psychiatrist! You’re crazy if you think Steve is some sort of hit man! Why would he do that?!” Jon says.

 

“I didn’t say that he would do it willingly.”

 

Neal and Jon look at one another.

 

“Not willingly? You mean he might be brainwashed?” Jon asks.

 

“Or drugged?” Neal asks.

 

“Or possessed.” Ed says.

 

Again, Neal and Jon look at one another then back at Ed. This conversation has taken a strange turn they think and Ed looks serious.

 

“Did you say…?” Neal says.

 

“Possessed?” Then Jon.

 

“Yes possessed.” Ed says in return.

 

“You mean like the Exorcist possessed? Head spinning around, projectile vomit, demon possessed, possessed?!” Neal asks.

 

Ed takes a deep breath before he speaks.

 

“Yes and no. His head wont spin around but yes it is a demon.”

 

Jon then comes partially out of his chair, he hits the table with his hand, and Neal and Ed jump.

 

“This is insane! Do you two hear yourselves! I cant believe we are sitting here having this conversation! Steve possessed!? Steve a hit man?! You’re nuts, come on Neal let’s go!”

 

Jon hits Neal on the shoulder and they both get up and walk to the door.

 

“Steve has been losing time, first hours, now days. He doesn’t sleep and you two cant tell me that you haven’t noticed anything strange or heard anything strange because I have! Do you still want to leave?”

 

They stop Jon’s hand on the doorknob as they look knowingly at one another.

 

“Tell me what happened on December 13 at the Winter Festival.” Ed says.

 

“Well” Neal starts “It’s something we do every year; I mean the band, for charity. Every year it’s the same old thing but…”

 

Jon continues, “But this year there was a new attraction added. A fortune teller, palm reader, whatever you want to call it.”

 

They drift back to their seats as they talk and they sit.

 

“Did the rest of the guys go to this fortune teller?” Ed asks.

 

“Oh sure, we all did.” Neal answered.

 

“Yeah you pay $20.00 bucks and she did whatever.” Jon says.

 

“And Steve saw her too?” Ed asks.

 

They look at one another.

 

“Well I think he was busy doing other stuff and we sorta talked him into it.” Jon says this last part very slowly.

 

“Really? Why was that?” Ed seemed surprised.

 

“Well” Neal clears his throat. “Steve doesn’t believe in all of that hocus-pocus bullshit. He thinks it’s all crap but it was for charity so he did it after we…”

 

“How long was Steve in there?” Ed asks.

 

Neal and Jon look at one another.

 

“Oh, no more than 15 minutes.” Neal says.

 

“Yeah 15 minutes.” Jon agrees.

 

Ed plays with a pencil rolling it between his fingers.

 

“What if I was to tell you that Steve was in there an hour?”

 

Ed looks at them and again they look at one another shocked.

 

“What? An hour?” Jon says.

 

“No, no, no” Neal laughs. “It couldn’t have been an hour I mean…”

 

“We would have known, I mean…” Jon says.

 

“We would have gone in there to see….an hour? You’re sure?!” Neal asks.

 

“Yes I am sure. He lost an hour that day.”

 

“That would explain…” Neal says.

 

“Yeah.” Jon says.

 

“What?” Ed says.

 

“Well, ah, when he came out he seemed a little…” Neal says.

 

“Freaked.” Jon says.

 

“Yeah freaked.” Neal says.

 

“How so?” Ed asks.

 

“He said she spoke to him in Portuguese and he understood it, he even spoke back to her in Portuguese. No English.” Neal says.

 

“What did she say?” Ed asks.

 

“He couldn’t remember, all he remembered was the Portuguese and oh, that she held his hand.” Jon said.

 

“Oh! He also said that he did not feel good, he felt sick. Doc, do you think she did something…?” Neal says.

 

“Yes I do I think that was where first contact was made.” Ed says.

 

“But why? I mean, why target Steve? He has never done anything to anybody.” Jon says.

 

Ed sighs and he rubs his eyes this is where it gets complicated he thinks.

 

“It has less to do with Steve and more to do with his heritage and culture.”

 

Ed looks at them and he lets it sink in. Neal looks at Jon, Jon looks back at Neal, and then Neal says,

 

“What?”

 

“Okay, every culture, every race of people have something unique to them. A ritual, a sacrifice, a cleansing, spilling blood to right a generations of wrongs, blood atonement. Like the mafia does.” Ed looks at Neal.

 

“That is fucking prejudiced just because I am an Italian and I don’t appreciate it.” Neal says angrily.

 

“I was making a point.” Ed says.

 

“You know what you can do with your point.” Neal says.

 

“Stop it! Stop it! I am trying to follow this. This has something to do with Steve being Portuguese but what…?” Jon says.

 

“In the Portuguese culture there is a creature, an entity, a thing, its name unpronounceable. It spans the centuries, no one knows how it started, how it came to be but its only purpose is to right wrongs. It is summoned every hundred years, it enters a human form, and it walks the earth. It is an indentured servant to the one that summoned it. It follows a generational timeline and that fortuneteller summoned it, and it took human form. It needs a human host and Steve is it.”

 

“Well maybe if we find the fortuneteller…” Jon says.

 

“No, after it accomplished its mission it disappeared.”

 

“So what you’re telling us is that Steve is possessed by some ancient, no name hit-man that has some generational scores to settle.” Neal says.

 

“That is close enough.” Ed says.

 

“I don’t believe it.” Neal says as he crosses his arms over his chest.

 

“It is not a prerequisite that you or you” Ed points to Jon. “Believe in it. It is here and it exists and it does not care if you believe, it knows no fear, it has no mercy, it cannot be reasoned with or bargained with, it has already killed five people.”


“Well, how does it know who to kill?”

 

“Jon!” Neal says.

 

“What?! I want to know, how does it know?” Jon asks.

 

“It has a list and only it knows who is next, but I know when the next killing will take place.”

 

“When?” They both ask.

 

“The number 13 is a sacred number to this creature, it holds great power. All the victims had 13 letters in their names; Steve has 13 letters in his name! If you take, the year he was born and subtract it from the day and month he was born you get 26 then you subtract 13 from that and you still get 13. 49-22-1=26-13=13. On the 13th of this month, there will be another victim. In total there will be 13.”

 

“What did these people do?” Neal asks.

 

“It is not so much what these people did; it is what their ancestors did. It is believed that the sins of the father’s are visited on the sons, the blood of evil men taint generations to come.”

 

This was met with blank stares.

 

“Look…”

 

Ed says as he reached for another folder and he pulled out two pictures attached with a paperclip. He pulled the paperclip off and laid them side by side.

 

“This was the first victim and this is his ancestor. His ancestor leveled a village, which is now modern day Portugal; he raped and killed the women and children, decapitated the men and put their heads on poles as an example. All of this over a land dispute.”

 

He laid out another set of pictures.

 

“The ancestor of this victim was a slave trader. He took his own people, his own Portuguese people and enslaved them. While crossing the ocean the slaves became ill and some even died. Dead and ill slaves were no good to him so he decided to sink the ship they were on. Three hundred and fifty souls drowned and he of course survived.

 

This one was a ruler and he ruled over a large countryside. In one of those villages, he fell in love with the daughter of the Magistrate and when he set out to win her hand her family protested, so he had her family massacred in their beds while they slept and she herself was kidnapped. He was in his 50’s and she was 15. The others are similar to these but still others are worse.”

 

Jon and Neal both sit in shocked and stunned silence, staring at the pictures and Jon rubs his eyes as he says,

 

“Ed, all those things were terrible but they were so long ago and killing these people won’t change the past.”

 

“I know that but it isn’t about changing the past. It is about a bill coming due, the death of these people so long ago caused others great suffering, heartache, and others died before their time. It is now time to pay up, time to pay for spilled blood with spilled blood. No bad deed goes unnoticed.” Ed explained.

 

In the meantime, Neal has picked up the folder and he looks at the pictures then he notices a picture of an ancestor without a picture of a victim paper clipped to it and Neal holds it up.

 

“Whose ancestor is this?”

 

Ed reaches across the table, Neal leans over, and he hands it to him.

 

“This man was a so-called doctor at a concentration camp, it doesn’t really matter which war, but he liked to do experiments, and when they went badly or he didn’t get the results he wanted he would dispose of them, I am not really sure how many people he killed. He had many people burned alive just so he could see how the body reacted. He called himself a doctor but he was actually a butcher and unfortunately, he did not stop after the concentration camp was liberated. He was brought to justice but by then it was too late.”

 

Ed tosses the picture on the desk. “He’s my ancestor.”

 

They can hear the noises from outside, the sounds of their breathing and the squeaking of the chair when Neal shifts his weight, they feel the hair stand up on their arms, and even though the day is warm, they feel a chill.

 

“Your ancestor?” Neal says slowly and all Ed does is nod his head.

 

“This thing is after you too?” Jon asks.

 

“There are 13 letters in my name and I am Portuguese, and my ancestor was a sadistic prick.”

 

“How do we stop it?” Jon asks.

 

“We don’t.” Ed says.

 

“We don’t?” Neal and Jon repeat.

 

“We can’t. There is no way to stop it, it has a job to do and it will not stop until it is done. It is like a disease it has to run its course.”

 

“So we are just going to let this thing kill more people, no wait, I mean let Steve kill more people?” Neal asks.

 

“This thing really took over Steve’s body? How do we help Steve?” Jon asks.

 

“Wait, wait you said that this thing needs 13 victims but the last time I looked there are only 12 months in a year, so that means there will be two victims in a month.” Neal says.

 

“No it doesn’t mean that.”

 

“Then what…?”

 

Neal and Jon both say and once again the conversation takes another turn, Ed stops and he fiddles with the papers on the desk, a cloud seems to drift over the sun and Ed takes too long to answer, now the guys are nervous.

 

“Ed…?” Neal says.

 

“Come on Ed, what are you not telling us here?” Jon asks.

 

“ED!” They both say loudly.

 

Ed slams his hands on the table then he stands up, a look of anger, hurt and sadness on his face and his eyes betray too much as he says,

 

“The host is the 13th victim.”

 

“What…?” Jon says.

 

“The host, what do you mean the fucking host is the 13th victim?” Neal says loudly as he stands.

 

“When this ‘thing’ goes back to wherever it came from Steve goes with it.” Ed says.

 

“Wait! Wait! You can’t be saying what I think…” Jon says as he now stands.

 

“You didn’t think Steve’s ancestors were saints, did you?” Ed asks simply.

 

“There has to be a way! Something! Steve can’t….!” Jon says loudly.

 

“I wish there was a way to….”

 

Ed says but does not finish because by now Neal has passed his boiling point and enraged he tips the table over, the papers scatter and Neal, not caring that Ed is as tall as Jon grabs him. Neal pushes him back against the wall with such force that the picture hanging there is knocked free and it shatters as it makes contact with the floor.

 

“You bastard! You fucking bastard! Why! Why did you tell us this shit if we can’t do anything about it! This ‘thing’ is going to kill him and you do not have any fucking answers!”

 

Neal yells at him just inches from his face and then Jon grabs Neal from behind pinning his arms behind his back.

 

“Neal! Stop it!”

 

“Neal he’s my friend too!” Ed says.

 

“No!” Neal says as he struggles against Jon. “He isn’t your fucking friend! You do not know him like we do! I have known Steve for years! You! You do not know anything about him!”

 

Neal says as he continues to struggle against Jon.

 

“Ed! There has to be something! We can’t just stand by and let this happen! Neal stop!”

 

“Let me go! Let me go! Let…me…go!”

 

Jon loosens his grip, Neal breaks away from Jon, and Jon watches him closely as Neal sits on the sofa his head in his hands.

 

“I…understand how you feel and don’t you think I have been trying to find some way to save him! I don’t want this to happen either!” Ed says as he points to himself.

 

“Does Steve know?” Jon asks.

 

“He knows something is wrong he just doesn’t know what exactly.” Ed says.

 

“Do we tell him?” Jon asks again.

 

“No.” Ed says quickly and Neal looks up.

 

“No?!” Neal repeats.

 

“Why tell him, there is nothing he can do about it.” Ed answers back.

 

“Oh, you sound so fucking cavalier about it! There is nothing he can do it about it so why bother to tell him that in a few months he will be dead!!” Neal yells.

 

“I don’t think we should tell him.” Jon says and Neal looks at him wide eyed.

 

“What?!” Neal says

 

“I agree with Ed. What purpose would it…”

 

“What purpose?” Neal says loudly as he throws up his hands. “What purpose…?”

 

Neal then turns on Jon and he puts his finger on his chest.

 

“You’re his friend! We should tell him his life is in danger, what if he tries to…”

 

“He wont, it won’t let Steve harm himself, it needs him. I will do research, I will see if I can find something, anything. Where do you play on the 13th?”

 

Boston.” Neal says as he looks at the floor.

 

“I know this will be difficult but carry on like normal…”

 

Neal and Jon both laugh. “Normal right!” Jon says.

 

“We should go; we have things to do, sorry about…”

 

Neal says as he gestures to the table and the folders scattered over the floor as Ed picks them up and he waves Neal off.

 

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll let you know when or if…”

 

Ed looks at them and Neal and Jon both nod their heads, then Jon grabs Neal by his arm and they leave the trailer leaving Ed to pick up the pieces.

 

Now that Ed told the truth about Steve, Neal and Jon became Steve’s watchers. The only place they do not watch him is on stage and no matter how subtle they think they are, it is not subtle enough because Steve notices.

 

“What are you doing?” Steve asks Neal angrily.

 

“What does it look like I’m doing Steve?” Neal asks him over his shoulder. “I’m taking a piss.”

 

“No you aren’t you’re following me.”

 

When Neal finishes his business, he turns around, Steve grabs him and immediately backs him up against the wall, and Neal is surprised by Steve’s strength.

 

“Steve! Man what are you doing?”

 

“I know you and Jon have been watching and following me! Did the doctor tell you to do that! Did he!”

 

Steve yells at him and somewhere in all of this Neal realizes that his feet are no longer touching the floor and that he is afraid of Steve.

 

“No! Steve, man we aren’t…!”

 

“Neal! What happened did you fall in?”

 

Jon asks jokily as he comes into the bathroom and then he stops when he sees Steve and Neal. Steve looks over his shoulder at Jon as he unceremoniously drops Neal then he turns to Jon pointing his finger.

 

“It stops now!”

 

Jon finds himself backing up as Steve advances.

 

“What….?” Jon says.

 

“This shit you two are pulling! Watching me! Following me! I don’t need a fucking babysitter!!”

 

“Steve nobody is babysitting you…” Jon says.

 

“Don’t give me that shit!!”

 

Jon backs up until he is against the sink and even though he is taller Jon feels intimated.

 

“We know what you’re trying to do and you can’t stop it, so why even try! He’s mine!”

 

Neal and Jon both watch as Steve turns towards the door and an incredible stench of death fills the room, Neal and Jon both cover their noses as Steve grabs the door and he opens it with such force the door handle embeds itself into the wall. By this time, Neal and Jon are both doubled over and Neal barely makes it into the stall before he sick, Jon splashes water on his face willing the nausea to go away.

 

“I think Steve was pissed.” Neal says as he comes out of the stall holding his stomach.

 

“It wasn’t Steve remember.” Jon says as he hangs onto the sink.

 

“It’s going to win, it’s going to take Steve and we can’t stop it.” Neal says.

 

“Ed, Ed will come up with something. In the meantime we better back off.” Jon says.

 

“It won’t hurt us but it sure in hell can make us sick.”

 

After the incident in the bathroom Neal and Jon kept a reasonable distance, knowing that the ‘thing’ can do more damage than they ever could and the problem of the 13th was upon them. Boston, Bean Town and the night of the concert and as usual the show was spectacular. The audience loved it and Steve as always was in great voice but Neal and Jon were terrified because they knew after concert was over the trouble would begin.

 

 

After the concert was the obligatory buffet and staying true to form Steve was falling asleep halfway through the meal, so when Steve left to go back to the hotel Neal and Jon were right behind him. Steve immediately crawled into bed and he was asleep before his head hit the pillow and he never noticed that Jon and Neal were in the same room. For a while, they watched him sleep, like two guardians, then they decided to do something constructive, something to keep their minds occupied, they play cards. In the midst of Trump, No Trump, Five Card Stud and Go Fish they also fell asleep.

 

They don’t know which one of them had fallen asleep first but Neal does know that every light was on in the room and when he woke up the room was dark, except for a shaft of moonlight that snaked its way through the curtain. The cold is what woke him and when he instinctively reached for blankets he realized that he had fallen asleep sitting up in the chair, his back against the wall. It was all he could do to open one of his eyes and he felt like he had been unconscious instead of asleep, he seemed paralyzed either by the cold or by fear because when he exhaled he saw his breath. By now both eyes were open to just mere slits and he blinked slowly, his eyes adjusting to the dark, his vision aided by the moonlight. Later, he would have liked to have said he was having a nightmare, 3-D, Technicolor panoramic nightmare because never in his waking life has he ever seen anything like what he saw. It was Steve but then again it wasn’t. At this point, Steve ceased to exist and what he saw standing in that room was nowhere near human; it was a walking corpse, mottled, rotted flesh hanging from its bones and on its back, folded back as if an accordion was wings. Neal blinked slowly and he held his breath as the ‘thing’ turned its skeleton head and looked in his direction, its empty black sockets met Neal’s eyes and gave him a cursory glance, like one would glance at an insect then not give it another moment’s thought. Neal watched as the ‘thing’ reached into the closet and put on Steve’s hat then Steve’s long trench coat and he wrapped the belt around itself and cinched it tight.

 

Neal wanted to scream but he had no voice, he wanted to run but he had no legs, the only part of his body he could move was his hand that was on the table that he clenched and unclenched. He began to breath a little faster his breath coming out in white bursts as he watched the ‘thing’ turn toward him as it reached into the pockets of the coat and slipped a pair of gloves onto it’s skeleton hands. It seems to glide more than walk as it now stands before Neal, he shuts his eyes tight, and he has never been so afraid, never felt such evil and he wants it to stop, to go away. He silently recites every prayer he has ever known and despite coldness in the room, he breaks out in a sweat when he feels the ‘thing’ place its gloved hand on his chest. The smell of death permeates the room and Neal feels himself start to gag from the stench then he feels his ears assaulted when the creature opens its mouth, the sound it made was never meant for human ears, and Neal trembles as it leans in closer, invading his space even more, Neal desperately wants to turn his head.

 

“Eu nao o conheco.”

 

Neal inhales sharply and he holds his breath his eyes closed tightly together the hand on his chest making him feel as if he is suffocating then he feels warmth return to the room and he is able to move again. He carefully opens one eye, then the other when he sees that ‘it’ is gone then he takes in great deep breaths of fresh air and then he screams.

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

The warehouse district and Jim is leaving work late, very late. He usually doesn’t mind working late, he can get a lot done, it is quiet but here lately that has changed. Lately he doesn’t like to be alone and he especially doesn’t like the dark because things can hide in the dark and a good night sleep has become a thing of the past. He is being followed, watched, stalked a dark something is walking in his footsteps and now all he wants to do is get home and lock himself in his house, in his well lit house. He leaves his office building and he locks the door behind him then he notices the fog, strange he thinks, it is wrong time of year for fog but then again this is Boston and anything could happen here.

 

He retrieves his briefcase then he starts around the corner to the lot where his car is parked and when he gets there, the gate is pulled to and padlocked. He cannot believe it; he stands there looking at his car, so close but yet so far away, this gate has never been locked before and he even if he could climb over, the razor wire at the top giving him pause he couldn’t drive out anyway, the gate would still be locked. He is so concerned about his car that he does not notice that the fog has creep up a little further and it has gotten denser, he looks around then he decides to go back to his office and call a cab.

 

He takes his keys out of his pocket as he goes back around the corner and to the door of his office building and he inserts the key in the lock and it immediately breaks off in the lock.

 

“Shit!”

 

Jim says as he stands there looking at the door and at the other half of the key that is in his hand. He knows there is a gas station at least three blocks away and they have a phone and when he has made up his mind to do this that is when he thinks he hears it. A footstep, it echoes through the fog that now has risen even more and he feels the hair stand up on the back of his neck.

 

“Hello?”

 

He says out to the fog and the only sound he hears is his own voice bouncing back at him. He shakes the feeling off; he is not getting any closer to home standing here and he knows something of a shortcut through a vacant lot and now by the looks of the fog he wishes he brought his overcoat when he picks up his briefcase and heads off towards the vacant lot. He crosses the street and the now the fog is pea soup and he would be totally blind if it wasn’t for some of the streetlights and he can see just enough to maneuver his way into the vacant lot, skirting all matter of debris when he suddenly feels a coldness. Then he hears something, footsteps, the rustle of material, something. He stops and listens, one hand in his pocket the other holding tight to the briefcase as he looks over his shoulder. He sees no one, the place is deserted and even though this is an older part of the city there has been no real trouble here and his mind, from lack of sleep is working overtime. He shrugs it off and he continues through the trash-strewn lot, his mind turning cartwheels and loop-de-loops trying to see through the fog when he runs into another padlocked gate. He bounces off it and he almost loses his balance but he recovers and he looks up.

 

“Shit!”

 

Another gate, where in the hell did this come from, he has owned a business here for years and he does not ever remember a gate being here before. He looks from the gate down the fence line but it is obscured by fog and he cant see where it ends but it has to end somewhere so he decides to hold onto the fence as a guide and to follow it and as he turns sidewalks to walk, out of the corner of his eye, he sees it. A black figure standing in sharp contrast to the whiteness of the fog, just standing not moving, its face hidden by the wide brim of the hat. Jim only turns his head to look at it and the fog seems to create a halo around it, not daring to touch it. So this is what has been following him, playing sanity tag with him, his grandfather believed it and he did not and now he wonders what ancestor had betrayed him all those centuries ago to this.

 

“Hello Jim.”

 

Its voice was like a wave of destruction that flowed over him and the force of just hearing it say his name caused him to stumble back into the fence. He covers one ear with his hand and in the other; he still holds onto the briefcase, he dares to take a few steps forward and with all the terror-filled adrenaline, he can find he throws the briefcase in its direction. It was a hard throw, coming from his days playing College football and it sailed and tumbled through the air and if it had been human it would have ducked but since it wasn’t, it didn’t and the briefcase cut a wide path through where it’s head should have been, it careened through it and when it made contact with the ground it slid a good few feet before it finally came to rest. It did not move and Jim thought it looked amused but he knew that was impossible and he knew that it was impossible to go around it so he decided to go up. He grasps the chain link in his hands and he begins to climb as fast as he can and when he reaches the top he finds a small gap in the razor wire and he plows through it but it was not small enough. He hears and feels his suit coat rip as he struggles and when he finally breaks free he drops to the ground, when he lands he looks behind him and it is gone.

 

He doesn’t look where he is going he just gets to his feet and he slips, then he grasps for some purchase then he starts to run and he turns his head just in time to see it right in front of him and it is too late to stop his forward motion so he runs right through it. Its coldness goes deep into his bones, he feels the evil it generates, and he suddenly feels like a rag doll, his legs no longer can support him, his knees buckle and he falls to the ground. The thing now turns and as it stands over him, it pulls the gun from its pocket.

 

“What…? Why….? Who are you..?”

 

“The blood of generations flow through me, I was put here to right wrongs. I am an indentured servant. I am death.”

 

The silencer conceals the noise of the bullets going into the back of his head and after the spent shell casings are slipped into its coat pocket it turns, it passes through the gate, and as it does, the padlock pops open and the gate slides open into the original position that it had always held.

 

“It is done. How much longer?”

 

“It will be finished soon.”

 

“This mortal host is unworthy of my station.”

 

“All mortals are unworthy of you.”

 

“His people are aware.”

 

“They are nothing. Soon it will be dawn you must go.”

 

It hangs up the receiver then it turns and walks away.

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

Neal’s scream woke up the entire floor that night and by the time Ed got to the room it was filled with the other band members and Ross was doing his best to bring Jon around but no one could reach Neal. Neal was huddled in the corner, a pillow clutched to his chest, he had been crying and now he has been reduced to a trembling child rocking back and forth. No one has seen Steve and of course, it being his room too they wanted to know where he was so Ed lied. He told them that Steve had fallen asleep in his room and that caused some funny looks and raised eyebrows but no one said anything and what with all of the weirdness going on lately no one discounted anything. With the Steve question answered and they now know that Jon is not dead they turned their attention to Neal.

 

Smitty tried to approach Neal but Neal would not let them and they could not make out his babbling, rambling dialogue. All they were sure of was that something had happen here; the room was not destroyed so it was not a fight but Neal seems to be having some sort of bad trip. Ed put on his best doctor’s voice and air and convinced them he could and would take care of it, but they had to leave, go, vacate the premises, now. They all looked at one another, they weren’t sure, they trusted the doctor but all they needed was for the press to get wind of the fact that their lead guitarist was out of his mind due to some drug-induced fit and their keyboardist didn’t look any better. After some more medical type wrangling they agreed to leave, although reluctantly, after they filed out Ed locked the door behind them and he got Jon some coffee then he turned his attention to Neal.

 

Neal hadn’t move from the corner and he continued to rock back and forth lost in a catatonic world of his own. Ed knew he had to approach him carefully; Neal could easily turn violent or slip even further down into the abyss.

 

Ed stands at the foot of the bed, keeping his distance, Neal managed to cram himself into the space between the nightstand and the wall, a space a child could barely fit into let alone an adult.

 

“Neal?”

 

Ed says as he takes a cautionary step, Ed didn’t have much time, it would be dawn and the ‘thing’ would be returning to this room and he had to get these two out of here. Ed had a good idea of what Neal had seen, what stage of transformation it had been in when he caught it dressing for it’s evening out. Weaker sorts have gone mad immediately still others have died from fright, collateral damage, Neal survived this encounter but Ed didn’t think he could survive another so soon.

 

“Neal?” Ed tries again as he moves even closer. “Neal, its Ed.”

 

Ed by now is down on his knees, one hand on the bed the other on his hip assuming a non-threatening stance and Ed can hear what Neal has been repeating over and over, the Lord’s Prayer. Ed slowly starts to repeat it with him then Neal looks up at Ed with childlike eyes, red from crying.

 

“Ed?” Neal says softly.

 

“Yes Neal its Ed.” Ed scoots even closer when he sees recognition.

 

“I…I…saw. I…I…saw.”

 

“Neal you have to come back, come back to us.”

 

Ed reaches out and he touches Neal’s hand then Neal grasps it.

 

“It…it…spoke…to…me…it…it…touched…me.”

 

Neal looks in Ed’s eyes, Ed takes his hands, and he cups Neal’s face.

 

“Do you remember what it said Neal?”

 

Neal nods his head and he repeats it back to Ed, not perfectly, but enough so that Ed caught the gist of it.

 

“Good, Neal we have to go, now, okay. You trust me?”

 

Neal nods his head yes.

 

“I’ll help you but you have to go with me, okay?”

 

Neal nods again and Ed extends his hands and Neal hesitates but then he lets Ed help him to his feet.

 

“Can I take my pillow?”

 

“Yes you can take your pillow.”

 

Ed puts his arm around Neal’s shoulders and they walk pass Jon who seems more awake.

 

“Jon. Jon!”

 

“What?” Jon looks up at Ed and he rubs his eyes.

 

“We need your room Jon; we have to get out of here now!”

 

Ed is holding onto Neal’s arm with one hand and Jon hears the urgency in his voice and worse yet when he looked in Ed’s eyes, he saw defeat, worry, sorrow and fear, Jon as he looks at Ed takes his hand and Ed helps him to his feet. The three of them leave the room and walk up the hall to Jon’s room, he unlocks the door, Neal goes in first, and Ed was just about to follow him when Jon stops him.

 

“What…what was it that Neal said back there?”

 

“Eu nao o conheco, it means ‘I don’t know you’.”

 

“Will Neal…?”

 

“In time, a commodity we don’t have a lot of.”

 

They look at each other for a moment then they go into the room one following the other.

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

Jim had been found the next morning by an employee of his that was coming into work, the beat cops responded first then two detectives from Boston homicide showed up, one supervised the removal of the body while the other stood at the gate, looking up at the razor wire and the shredded material hanging from it.

 

“I don’t get it.”

 

“You don’t get what?”

 

Detective Green asked as he removed a pair of examination gloves and Detective White points to the razor wire.

 

“That. Why he climbed the fence, why didn’t he just open the gate?”

 

“Maybe it was locked.” Detective Green said.

 

“No, his secretary told me that they don’t lock it, hell, they can’t even find the padlock for it.”

 

Detective White points to the place where a padlock should be hanging but there is nothing there.

 

“Lieutenants you need to see this.”

 

A uniformed officer says to them and they follow him to the door of the office building where a locksmith has just pulled the broken end of a key out of the lock.

 

“That explains why he couldn’t get back into his building.” Detective White says.

 

“There’s more.”

 

The uniformed officer this time leads them out to the street and to a battered, yet at one time expensive briefcase.

 

“I think we found his briefcase.”

 

One of the Detectives squat down and he examines it.

 

“Yeah but how did it get here?” Green asks, as he goes down on one knee to get a closer look at it.

 

“Simple. He dropped it as he was running.” White says.

 

“No I don’t think so. Look at the marks on it, this is a scrap mark”

 

“So?” White says as he crosses his arms over his chest.

 

“So.” Green retorts back as he looks up at him. “You get a scrap mark from rubbing up against something, you know friction?” Green rubs his hands together to demonstrate.

 

“He threw this briefcase at somebody, probably at the shooter.”

 

“Well, where did he throw it from?” White asks as Green stands back up and Green looks back over his shoulder at the fence.

 

“You aren’t serious! Jesus that is a good 100 yards!” White says.

 

“Didn’t his secretary say he used to play football?” Green asks.

 

White reaches into his coat pocket and he pulls out his notepad and he flips through a few pages until he finds the one that he wants.

 

“Yeah, he played college and professional for a few years with the New York Jets. So yeah, I guess it makes sense, he could have flung it that far. I wonder if he hit somebody with it.” White says.

 

“We’re let the crime scene guys take a look at it. Okay, what is wrong now?”

 

“He was a big guy, ex-football player and all, why didn’t he, you know, defend himself?” White asks.

 

“The perp did have a gun you know…” Green says.

 

“True…” White says.

 

“Geez what is wrong with you today?! I’ve never seen you so…bothered.”

 

“Well, I don’t know, all of this is so confusing! He was found right next to his car! If he was that close why he didn’t just get in and drive off? There is also the thing about the fence. If the gate is never locked, why did he climb the fence? From the looks of it he was going in circles but there were only one set of footprints!” White says.

 

“Maybe he became disoriented in that fog last night. The news called it the worse fog in a hundred years, there were about 300 accidents last night, and don’t you watch the news?”

 

“I live the news everyday why would I want to watch it?” White answers.

 

“Oh well you do have a point there…”

 

“I have a feeling that this case will be nothing but a dead end.” White says.

 

“Oh come on now think positive.”

 

“Okay I am positive that this case will be nothing but a dead-end.”

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

Steve felt like a puppet, the strings being pulled by unseen hands, he was being manipulated, pushed, pulled and shoved both mentally and physically. Something else was driving him and he was along for the ride with no way to stop it. His mind was suddenly filled with strange images, people and places, places he had never been to before and the people, the people seem to come straight out of the National Geographic but they seem real enough to touch and they felt familiar to him. Steve was sinking and he needed a lifeline, so he called home every chance he got, he talked to his mom, Marv and his girlfriend, and he needed to hear about mundane things. He needed to reach outside the scope of this rock-n-roll world, he needed to connect to people who would surely miss him if he just suddenly…

 

Suddenly what he thought? Disappear? Vanished? Took one of those long walks off a short pier? Died? Steve knew that in life everything had a beginning, middle and an inevitable end. For him the beginning of his insanity and he knows now that is what it is, insanity, was back in December. Now he is stuck in the middle, he knows there is to be an end, and by all accounts and by everything that has happened so far, it will not be a happy ending. People will be left wanting, wanting to know why, why it was not stopped before it reached destructive proportions. In normal circumstances during this leg of the tour he would be making plans, plans to go fishing, motorcycle riding, tackle that list of honey-do’s that by now is a mile long but something tells him why bother? To him he always portrayed his future as a long stretch of freeway, with no end in sight but now he just passed the sign that read ‘Freeway Ends Soon.’ What do you do when you realize that you do not have a future?

 

To make matters worse, if that was possible, other people’s emotions were off the charts Jon’s and Neal’s especially. Steve already had two bodyguards but Jon and Neal suddenly became his ‘handlers’ they watched him, followed him and they thought he wouldn’t notice but he did. He may have said something to either Neal or Jon or to both of them, he does not quite recall but whatever had happened they seem to stop overnight and also overnight their friendship seem to change.

 

Steve remembers going to sleep on the 13th and on the 14th waking up to an empty room because Neal decided; all of a sudden, it seems, to room with Jon. In many ways, Steve could not blame him, his pattern of sleeping and his over all behavior has been somewhat erratic, okay strange might be a better word but to pack up and leave in the middle of the night and then Steve found out that Neal has been sick. The Doc gave him that bit of info and Steve would do what he could to stay clear of sick people and in this environment that was difficult since the immediate band members had no choice but to be with each other, onstage and off. When a week had gone by and Neal seem to be avoiding him Steve couldn’t help but wonder, Steve knew from experience to let Neal be, Neal would process it in his own way and then he would come out with it but in the meantime Steve had work to do.

 

Another city, another hotel and another hotel room and Steve is sitting on his bed, propped up by pillows against the headboard, writing, the T.V. on but the volume low when he hears the door to his room unlock, surprised, he looks up to see Ed come in carrying his bags. They both look at one another and the look on Steve’s face is hard to miss.

 

“Well good thing I wasn’t naked, in my underwear or, ah, doing something else. I thought I was rooming by myself.” Steve says.

 

“I am glad that you weren’t naked, in your underwear or doing that other thing and I thought you might like some company. If not I could always…”

 

“No, no stay I just thought there wasn’t anybody left who would want to room with me. There’s plenty of room left.”

 

Steve gestures as Ed puts his bags on his bed and he begins to unpack. Then Steve goes back to his writing and Ed looks back over his shoulder at him.

 

“You’ve been doing a lot of writing the last couple of days, songs for the new album?”

 

Steve shakes his head back and forth. “No, I wish. Just trying to get things in order because you never know, you know.”

 

Ed looks at him as Steve bites down on the pencil eraser then he taps the pencil on the notebook.

 

“You know what’s happening don’t you?” Steve asks.

 

Ed sits on the edge of his bed and he looks at the floor rubbing the back of his neck.

 

“How much do you…?”

 

“More than you think…” Steve says.

 

“I didn’t know how to…” Ed says and Steve raises his hand.

 

“Don’t, I mean how could you explain…” Steve pauses then he says, “I hurt Neal didn’t I…?”

 

“No Steve it wasn’t you…”

 

“I’ve hurt a lot of people haven’t I…?”

 

“Steve no…” Ed says.

 

“And I’m going to hurt you too, aren’t I?”

 

Ed does not answer.

 

“Aren’t I!!” Steve says louder as he throws the notebook across the room and it hits the wall with a loud slap then it falls to the floor. “I want to know the truth!”

 

Ed finally sees the futility of keeping secrets and the months of having to deal with this on his own, lying, playing games to protect people’s feelings have finally come to an end, after all, two men without futures have nothing to lose. Ed comes up off the bed, he braces himself against the wall, just above the headboard, inches from Steve’s face, and Steve finds himself leaning back against the pillows.

 

“The truth!! You want to know the truth!! Neal was hurt! Others have been hurt and yes, I will be hurt too! Not enough truth! Want some more?! You’re the cause of it! More truth Steve? It will get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better and guess what, if you have not already figured it out, this story does not have a happy ending!! The last big truth, since you’re so hot to know it is I can’t stop it!! You can’t stop it…it’s not over…”

 

“Till it’s over…” Steve finishes.

 

“I hope you like my company because we’re going to spend eternity together.” Ed says.

 

“That isn’t funny.” Steve says.

 

“Do you see me laughing.” Ed says his voice devoid of any humor.

 

“I wish I didn’t like you.” Steve says.

 

“Same here.”

 

 Ed stands up, his hands on his hips, Steve looks up at him. Two halves of a whole, both of them in the same boat. The conqueror and the soon to be conquered.

 

“I could stop it.” Steve says quietly and in all seriousness and Ed can tell that by Steve’s eyes.

 

“No Steve.” Ed says with equal seriousness as he shakes his head. Steve sits up, feet flat on the bed, his forearms resting on his knees.

 

“It’s easy, a handful of pills, fall asleep and never wake up again.”

 

“No!!” Ed says loudly.

 

“Give me one good reason.” Steve says as he holds up one finger.

 

“I’ll give you three. 1. ‘It’ won’t let you. It needs you, it will keep you alive until it kills you, ironic isn’t it. 2. You’re Catholic, you’re go to hell…”

 

Steve laughs as he shakes his head and he says “After all of this, I’ll end up there anyway, so that doesn’t matter.”

 

“And 3 what about the people you leave behind?”

 

Steve doesn’t say anything to this, he just looks at the bed.

 

“Besides it’s not in your nature.” Ed says.

 

“Oh okay, then I suppose it is in my nature to just vanish off of God’s green earth!”

 

“Suicide isn’t the solution.” Ed says.

 

“I don’t hear you coming up with any ideas!”

 

“There are no simple ideas for this only difficult choices.”

 

“I don’t want to die Ed. There is just so much I haven’t done yet, I have so many plans and goals, music wise and personal. Marriage and children but I always thought there would be time for that later.”

 

“But we don’t have later. I am with you Steve, none of this was in my plans either. Later is easy to say when you have a lot of tomorrows ahead of you.”

 

They both remain silent for a moment, the sound of the TV. filling up the space.

 

“I suppose Neal and Jon know.”

 

“Oh yeah.” Ed says as he rubs his face. “They of course thought I was crazy.”

 

Steve laughs, “Well I would have too.”

 

“And they know something else too.” Ed says.

 

“Well whatever it is it can’t be any worse than this…what is it?”

 

“I’m not actually a doctor.”

 

Steve’s eyes widen then he swings his legs over the bed and he stands up.

 

“You mean, I confided in you, told you all kinds of shit about me and it was a lie!! All those notes you were taking, your journal, planning on writing a book Doc?! Oh sorry I forgot I can’t call you Doc anymore because you aren’t one!!”

 

 It was like someone flipping a switch on the wall, Steve went from being nice and calm to angry and very animated. His voice rising with each syllable, his eyes lit up like the 4th of July and Ed wasn’t sure if all of this was Steve or if his alter ego was helping.

 

“No, no what I meant was my real job is not being a doctor, I am a psychologist but I am a parapsychologist so technically, I am a doctor, oh shit, I’m a FBI agent!”

 

“What? You’re a…FBI agent?! You’re a cop!?”

 

“Well yeah I…”

 

“Oh well that just makes this whole thing a lot better then, doesn’t it! What were you going to do, arrest me?”

 

“Well no I…”

 

“Parapsychologist?! Parapsychologist?!” Steve snaps his fingers. “That is one of those doctors that investigate weird shit, right? Well, you’ve come to the right place then but I don’t understand how the two go together.”

 

“I investigate those cases that show signs of paranormal activity, you know, not your everyday garden variety homicides. The ones that are a little out there.”

 

“I suppose those two body guards are FBI agents too, right?”

 

“No, actually they are two homicide detectives from Seattle.”

 

“Now that we all know about this ‘thing’ maybe we could come up with some ideas to stop me, you know, from going out next month. Lock me in a room, chain me to a floor, something.” Steve says.

 

“First of all, if you were changing into a werewolf that might work but in this case it won’t, nothing man-made can hold you.”

 

Steve looks like he is just about to say something then Ed interrupts him.

 

“Holy water, crucifixes, garlic and silver bullets don’t work either and if it was that simple don’t you think I would have done something before now?”

 

Steve thinks about this a minutes then he goes over to retrieve his notebook and he straightens it out.

 

“I guess I should finish this then.”

 

Steve holds the notebook up and Ed nods his head as he looks at the floor.

 

“I wish I didn’t like you so much.” Ed says.

 

“Same here.” Steve says.

 

 

After the initial shock of the airing of the truth wore-off they grew closer in their relationship, which really shouldn’t be the case, they should want to be as far away as they can get from each other, considering how their relationship will end. On the other hand Neal and Steve’s relationship seemed to be in the crapper. They made nicey nicey when they had to, onstage, promo stuff, the photo shoots but when they got away from the outside world they retreated back to their old ways. On a bus you would think it would be difficult to stay away from someone but Neal managed to and Steve had had enough.

 

Steve finally saw his chance in South Carolina, they had to make a pit stop for fuel, food at a truck stop around midnight and Steve was the last one to get off of the bus, and Neal decided to go back and get his cigarettes. Neal climbed the stairs to the bus and standing in front of him, at the top of the stairs was Steve. They both stopped, looked at one another, and Neal made an attempt to back up and get out of the situation but Steve quickly reached over to the handle that controlled the doors and he pulled it, the doors closed behind Neal with a ‘whoosh’ and a slight thud, Neal looked over his shoulder at them.

 

“Open the doors.” Neal replies.

 

“No, we need to talk.”

 

“No we don’t. Open the fucking doors!” Neal says louder this time.

 

“Yes we do! I won’t touch you, I promise.”

 

Neal looks up at him and he watches as Steve moves away and he walks up the aisle and sits at the table. Neal’s hands grasp the rails as he takes the steps one at a time then he too walks up the aisle but he doesn’t sit.

 

“Neal, I didn’t mean to…”

 

“It doesn’t matter.” Neal says.

 

“Damn it, it does matter!” Steve says as his anger flashes, he slaps the tabletop hard, and Neal jumps back.

 

“Sorry, sorry. Neal I didn’t mean to…I don’t remember.” Steve says as he raises his hand.

 

“That excuse is getting old.” Neal says.

 

“It’s’ not after you or Jon, you’re safe.”

 

Neal laughs. “Safe? That is a laugh! After you, that ‘thing’ touched me I almost went crazy or I could have died from fright! You call that safe!” Neal yells.

 

Steve looks at the table.

 

“I wish I could take that back, I wish I could stop all of this, Neal, I need your help.”

 

Then Steve looks back up at him and Neal sees the old Steve, the old Steve with those clear hazel eyes and that smile.

 

“You need my help?” Neal asks.

 

“For after…”

 

Steve says and Neal just looks at him then Neal realizes what the topic of this conversation is about. Neal shakes his head and he moves his hands back and forth.

 

“No!”

 

Neal turns to leave and Steve leaves the table and stands behind him.

 

“No! I don’t want to talk about this!”

 

“Jesus, I don’t either, but I, we need to. Neal, you have to be there for my family, for Sherry, you have to…”

 

Neal feels his anger build and he turns and this time Steve backs up.

 

“I have to do what Steve!!! Lie!!! Thank god, I have some time to come up with some story!! What do I say when they ask!! What!! What do I say to the fans!!! Don’t do this to me Steve, don’t drop this burden on my shoulders because I cant carry it!! I am not that strong!! Whose going to help me….!!!

 

“You are strong Neal.”

 

“Damn it!!! You fucking bastard!!! First, I have to watch you die and then you want me to do damage control after!!! Isn’t the first one enough!!!! Don’t ask me!! I can’t…”

 

“Only you and Jon know the truth…”

 

“And that truth has to go with us to the grave!”

 

“You and Jon are the only two I trust…” Steve says.

 

Neal backs up and he puts his hand up to stop Steve from saying anything else.

 

“Don’t, don’t say that to me…”

 

“I have faith in you and Jon, I trust you two will do….”

 

“STOP IT! STOP IT!” Neal yells as he puts his hands to his head and he staggers backwards and he sits down, holding his head, eyes closed, Steve reaches out to touch the top of Neal’s head but he stops.

 

“This will be the last thing I ever ask of you Neal. I want to show you something.”

 

Neal looks up and he wipes his eyes as Steve goes over to his bunk and he comes back with his notebook and he shows it to Neal.

 

“This will be in my black bag, you know the one I mean…?”

 

Neal nods his head.

 

“It has everything in here. Instructions, lyrics, letters, my will, I add to this notebook everyday. This will help you, nothing will make this easier but as long as I know that you and Jon…”

 

“How do we go on…after?”

 

“You will…”

 

They hear the doors to the bus rattle and Steve goes to see who it is, when he sees it’s Tony, Steve opens the doors and Tony comes upstairs then he stops when he sees Neal.

 

“Oh hey, I don’t want to interrupt…”

 

He says as he looks at Steve and somehow Tony knows what it is all about.

 

“No, no Tony it’s alright, I think Neal and I…right Neal?”

 

Neal nods his head, “Yeah Steve…we are.”

 

“So what’s up Tony?” Steve asks.

 

“I came by to see if you wanted to go and get something to eat, I’m on duty tonight.”

 

“Yeah sure, let me grab my jacket.”

 

“It’s eighty degrees outside Steve.” Tony says.

 

Steve goes back to his bunk and he puts the notebook away then he grabs his blue jean jacket and he puts it on.

 

“Yeah but it is probably cold in there, right?”

 

Steve motions with his head towards the building.

 

“Yeah right.“ Tony says.

 

“Exactly.”

 

Steve says and Neal starts to laugh as Steve moves his hair out from underneath his jacket and he fixes his collar.

 

“Steve’s thermostat has always been screwy.”

 

“Alright laughing boy do you want to come with us?” Steve asks and Neal shakes his head.

 

“No. I’m going to smoke a cigarette or two, hell; I may smoke the whole pack!”

 

“Don’t smoke on the bus!” Steve points at him.

 

“Yes mother!” Neal says and they both look at each other and they laugh.

 

Later Steve had a similar conversation with Jon, it was not any easier and Jon did not like it any better but he reluctantly agreed. Jon and Neal would have each other to lean on and between then they could come up with a plausible story, if there was such a thing, that they would have to remember and repeat an infinite number of times verbatim.

 

“Just don’t put me in your will Steve.” Jon said.

 

“Too late.” Steve replies.

 

They did not talk about it again; Jon and Neal both knew their jobs, what was to be expected of them after, so they all carried on as well as they could. The only pleasure Steve got was onstage, actually that was the only pleasure any of them got and their lack of cheerfulness was noticed, Smitty one day saw Neal looking unhappy his face in that scowl he has been known to wear.

 

“Come on Neal; cheer up, you look like somebody died.” Smitty said.

 

“Not yet.”

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing.” Neal said.

 

So life went on, Steve wrote in his notebook every night and he called home every night, of course, they wondered what was going on, Steve has been know to call home just not this often. He simply told them that he was homesick and he could not tell Sherry enough that he loved her. On the other hand, Ed had no one to call home to and he too worked on his journal every night. They still room together, they talked, and Steve finally stopped apologizing to Ed for what was going to happen.

 

“If you say sorry to me one more time I will smack you.” Ed said.

 

“Sorry.” Steve says.

 

“Stop it!” Ed replies.

 

Steve shrugs his shoulders. “I cant help it.”

 

“Try!”

 

The first half of the tour they criss-crossed the Northern, Eastern, states and the Midwest now on the second half they are playing the Southern states, two nights in Dallas, and on the 11th of the month is when Steve started to bug Ed.

 

“You can do that Ed.”

 

“No Steve I can’t.”

 

“Yes you can.”

 

“I am not a medical doctor.” Ed replies.

 

“You’re still a doctor.”

 

“I don’t write prescriptions.”

 

“I wasn’t talking prescriptions. You can get something.”

 

“Steve…”

 

“Sedate me.”

 

“Steve…”

 

“Put me in a coma.”

 

“I don’t have the drugs or equipment to do that.”

 

“Then sedate me!”

 

“Shit! You are stubborn!!”

 

“When I want my way. Dallas is a big city and I know you can find something here.”

 

Ed sighs. “It won’t do any good.”

 

“It doesn’t hurt to try.”

 

“Oh alright I will see what I can do.”

 

It took Ed a day and a half but he was true to his word, he did seek and he did find and he brought it back to the hotel in the guises of a doctor’s black bag. Steve hung around for about thirty minutes after the concert then he beat a hasty retreat back to the hotel to where Ed was waiting for him. Steve comes into the room and he stops when he sees Ed with the syringe.

 

“Lock the door and then make yourself comfortable.” Ed says.

 

Steve locks the door then he comes back and he sits on the bed.

 

“I don’t like needles.” Steve says as he makes a face and Ed looks at him.

 

“Now is a fine time to tell me Steve.”

 

“Well I thought you would get pills.”

 

“Injections work faster. Well…lie down.”

 

Ed motions and Steve crawls backwards up the bed and he lies down and he watches as Ed puts the syringe in the bottle and fills it and Ed sees him looking.

 

“What…?” Ed asks.

 

“Nothing.” Steve says as he looks away.

 

“This was your idea you know. I cant believe this, the lead singer of the hottest band in America is a big baby.” Ed says as he takes a cotton ball and he rubs it on Steve’s arm.

 

“I am not a baby! I just don’t like……owwwwww !!!!

 

Before Steve knew it, Ed injected him and he puts another cotton ball on the sight of the injection and he bends Steve’s arm up.

 

“Shit! When was the last time you gave somebody a shot!” Steve asks.

 

“Oh I don’t know, what year is this. This stuff works really fast….”

 

“Oh man. Oh, man. It sure does…wow…”

 

“Okay Steve count back from ten.”

 

“Ten?” Steve groggily looks over at Ed. “Hmmm…10, 9, 7, 5….3?”

 

Steve can barely get the number three out when his eyelids flutter once, then twice then a third time they close and they don’t open, Ed checks his breathing and pulse, and he watches his chest rise and fall then he covers him with a blanket. He packs up all his things in his black bag, he heads over to the closet to put it away when he hears a knock at the door, he sets the bag on the dresser and he unlocks the door and he opens it enough just to see who it is.

 

“Hey Doc, I wanted to talk to Steve.” Ross says.

 

“Ross, Steve is asleep.”

 

Ed says and from where Ross is standing, he can see the doctor’s bag on the dresser. Ed can see where Ross’s eyes are going and he tries to block his view but it is too late.

 

“Asleep? Already? That was fast. I am sure that Herbie would be surprised to learn that he hired on Dr.Feelgood.” Ross says as he glances at the bag again and this is about the only time Ed has seen Ross serious.

 

“It isn’t what you think Ross.”

 

“Oh really and how do you know what I am thinking? I want to see Steve.”

 

“Ross, he’s….”

 

Before Ed can finish Ross pushes his way in and Ed, being caught off guard has no choice but to let him in. Ed stands there with the door open as Ross stands at the foot of the bed looking at Steve.

 

“Steve…?”

 

Steve doesn’t move and he doesn’t answer, Ed shuts the door.

 

“I told you Ross that he was asleep.”

 

“What is he on?”

 

“Ross….”

 

“You know, ever since you got here, there has been weird shit happening. Neal and Jon have been walking around like zombies, Steve has been spending all of his time with you, shit, and you two even room together now! It usually takes Steve awhile to trust people but he seem to take to you right away, could it be because of some sort of incentive.”

 

Ross says his tone accusatory as he points at the bag on the dresser.

 

“It’s none of your business Ross.” Ed replies trying to maintain his composure.

 

“None of my business, Steve is my business! Whatever affects this band is my business and you are affecting this band! There is something going on here and I will find out what it is and when I do your ass will be gone and your medical license along with it!”

 

Ross brushes passed him, he opens the door, and he slams it behind him. Ed knows that Ross may never figure it out and if he does it will be too late and he will not be able to stop it anyway. Ed looks at Steve, unaware that anything has occurred around him and Ed hopes he stays that way throughout the night. Ed had promised Steve that he would not leave the room as long as he sleeps so Ed pulls out all his research materials and he begins to work. Hours pass and still Steve sleeps on and for Ed the words on the page begins to blur his writing becomes sloppier and he tells himself that he will just take a little nap, not long, just fifteen minutes or so, he closes his eyes and he lays his head on his arm.

 

 

The cold woke him first, he slowly opens his eyes, he can see his breath in the coldness of the room and he sees that the bed Steve was sleeping in is now empty. The ‘thing’ stands at the closet and it finishes dressing, it turns and Ed closes his eyes, pretending to be asleep again. With his eyes closed tightly the only sound Ed heard it make was the rustle of its coat as it moved towards him, he could feel it standing over him, looking, searching his damnable list for his bloodline. Ed cringes as its shadow falls over him but he does not dare move, he keeps his breathing steady as if he was really sleeping, although this ‘thing’ knows the difference. The table Ed rests his head on is not even an obstacle to it as it stands in the middle of the table, becoming apart of it, scrutinizing, calculating. Ed hears the rustle of its coat again and he smells the leather and intermingled with that is the smell of death. Ed holds his breath and he prays that the ‘thing’ doesn’t touch him because then he would surely scream, the ‘thing’ senses this or the Steve part does and it keeps his hands in the pockets of the coat, he hears Ed’s labored breathing, is made stronger by his fear. He knows this mortal, knows his bloodline and he stands as the only witness to the atrocities of his ancestors, Ed whimpers slightly as it speaks to him.

 

“Mais tarde, voce e mortal de l, mais tarde. O tempo e seu inimigo.”

 

Then just when Ed does not think he can stand anymore, it is gone. The room is once again warm, Ed slowly opens his eyes, he raises his head and he covers his face with his hands, he takes deep breaths as he tries to calm his shaking and he wonders where he will find the strength, the strength to do what he has to do later. He found it just before he fell asleep and now he shuffles through the pages of ancient text, it is only two paragraphs long but to Ed it speaks volumes, this text, written by a long forgotten soul, many centuries ago found himself in the same predicament as Ed does now. This demonic hit man also possessed his friend and he too was marked, Ed rereads it, to make sure there is no misunderstanding, he has to work on his resolve, get a tight hold on his fear in order for this to work. Ed looks at the clock, two a.m., it hasn’t been gone long but it doesn’t take long it knows where to find them, it depends greatly on how far the target runs, it lives for the ritual, the chase, the fear intoxicates it giving fuel to its fire. For each one that falls, his name moves closer to the top of the list and this damn sick think is like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police it always gets its man.

 

Ed goes to bed before it can return he does not want a replay of its departure, one encounter a day is enough. When Ed wakes up the next morning Steve is sound asleep in the bed next to his, curled up in a ball, the covers covering his head, only his hair giving away it is him. Ed does his morning routine, he goes down and he stashes his stuff on the bus then he goes and has breakfast. A few hours later, Steve finally makes it down to the bus, carrying his bags, his hair still damp from the shower and the second he sets foot on the bus he knows he is in trouble. He has to walk pass the table on the way to his bunk and that is where they all sat, the table covered with breakfast dishes and the local morning paper, their eyes follow him as he walks pass, two of their faces graced with a certain amount of perturbedness. Neal and Jon are the only two whose facial expressions are neutral because they know the truth.

 

Steve had missed another breakfast meeting, it was standard operating procedure to have a meeting such as this the morning after the concert, to go over any problems and if there was any tweaking to do, they do it here. Herbie goes over the schedule, announces any changes, any additions and heaven forbid any cancellations, Herbie can overlook a lot and in the past he has, everybody has missed a meeting at least once. On other tours Steve is prompt, hell, he is usually the first one there making the coffee but on this tour Steve has missed too many critical meetings, his attitude has changed and Herbie has been getting some weird reports lately and a lot of this, granted not all, had started after the good Doctor/FBI agent came onboard.

 

Steve is no fool, he can see that they are all upset, he has gone and done it again, he missed another meeting, his attitude lately has sucked and he knows that Herbie has been hearing weird stuff. His slippage has been showing and badly, Steve pours himself a cup of coffee and since no one seems to be making room for him to sit, he stands.

 

“Stephen.”

 

Herbie says with a tone that is laced with attitude and Steve knows that he is in trouble. The only time Herbie calls him Stephen is when he is in trouble.

 

“Herbert.”

 

Steve says with his own attitude and the only time Steve calls him Herbert is when he wants to piss him off or when Steve does not give a good damn, like now.

 

“Don’t use that smart ass tone with me!” Herbie says as he points his pen at him.

 

“Excuse the fuck out of me but it is the only tone I have at the moment.”

 

Steve says his arms crossed over his chest in a defiant manner. Neal and Jon look downright embarrassed and Smitty and Ross feel like they are watching a tennis match as Steve and Herbie trade barbs back and forth.

 

“You better adjust your attitude!” Herbie says.

 

“Or what? You’re fire me? That would be a stupid move and you aren’t a stupid man.”

 

Steve says with more than a touch of ego, the four of them look at Steve then they look at Herbie awaiting a response.

 

“Tomorrow you will have a drug test.” Herbie says.

 

“Really? Want me to piss in a cup I can do that right now.”

 

Steve says as he looks at the coffee cups in front of everyone on the table and immediately everybody covers theirs with their hand. Herbie takes a deep breath and he tries to ignore Steve’s latest response.

 

“I hear you like to take walks.” Herbie says then Steve glances at Jon and Neal.

 

“Yeah so is that a crime?” Steve replies.

 

“That depends on what you are walking for and to. So where do you go when you walk?”

 

“Around.” Steve says.

 

“Do you meet anybody?” Herbie asks and Steve looks at him and then it finally dawns on Steve what Herbie is insinuating.

 

“No I don’t meet anybody.”

 

“I wouldn’t either if I had a roommate that was a doctor.”

 

Ross suddenly says and everybody looks at him including Herbie, then they hear the diesel engine of the bus start and Steve has to hold onto a handle that is near him on the wall as the bus lunges forward. Then Steve realizes that he hasn’t seen Ed today.


“Where is Ed?”

 

“He’s on the crew bus.” Herbie says.

 

“Why?” Steve asks.

 

“Because this bus is for the band members and he is not a band member.” Herbie says.

 

“But you said…” Steve says.

 

“I don’t care what I said, I changed my mind, and I can do that! You two will no longer be roommates; he will stay at the same hotel as the crew.”

 

“Fuck you! I am not a child and you aren’t my father!”

 

“I’m worse! I’m your boss! Shit Steve, you have been acting weird ever since he got here! We are concerned about you; if you’re slipping this badly offstage we need to fix the problem before…”

 

“Stop! You had better not go there!! I have never had a problem onstage! Not once! Not ever! I give a 110 percent every night, I sing my ass off!!

 

“Look at you! You look like shit, your attitude sucks, not to mention mood swings; either you’re going through menopause or…”

 

Herbie doesn’t finish because Steve interrupts, “ I AM NOT DOING DRUGS!!”

 

Steve said this loud enough that he was sure that he was heard in San Antonio.

 

“We’ll find out once we get to San Antonio. It’s all been arranged, Tony will go with you.”

 

“I can go…” Steve says.

 

“Tony will go with you Steve.” Herbie insists.

 

“When it comes back negative I want an apology!” Steve says as he points at Herbie.

 

“If it comes back positive, we’ll help you Steve.” Ross says with a condescending tone.

 

Steve doesn’t know what makes him angrier, that they actually think that he would be that stupid or that he cant tell them the truth, actually both of those make him pretty mad. He could feel himself slowly become unglued, it started out like a small tear and by the time he made his way over to the table, banged his hand down hard enough on the table that the coffee cups rattled and that he was close enough to Ross to grab him and pull him over the table, it was a rip the size of the State of Texas. They all jump, Ross’s eyes wide as Steve sticks his finger in Ross’s face.

 

“I don’t need your help! If you only knew, knew how I feel! If you only knew what I am going through, what I have to give up! If only you realized how short time is!”

 

Ross, for as long as he has known Steve, he has never been afraid of him, until now. Jon reaches his hand out and he puts it on Steve’s hand.

 

“Steve, Steve come on man calm down.”

 

Steve finally comes to his senses and he backs off from Ross, he takes a deep breath and he straightens up, he runs his hand through his hair, all eyes upon him, and a stricken sad look on his face.

 

“Sorry Ross I mean…”

 

Ross doesn’t say anything, no one says anything. Jon leaves his seat and he puts his arm around Steve’s shoulders.

 

“Steve tell me again about the best places in San Antonio to get Mexican food.”

 

Steve nods his head as Jon leads him over to another seat at the other end of the bus, Herbie, Ross and Smitty are all stunned into silence, Neal seems unaffected as if he has seen this all before and Herbie notices this.

 

“Neal didn’t that display bother you just a little?” Herbie asks.

 

“Not really no.” Neal says.

 

“Maybe I should schedule you for a drug test too.”

 

“Fuck you Herbie.” Neal replies.

 

“On well never mind you’re normal.” Herbie says.

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

Beautiful historic San Antonio and the Riverwalk area, shops, restaurants, boat rides on the water, the hustle and bustle of the tourist trade, not far from Dallas as the buses ate up the miles between, and one of Steve’s favorite places. Whenever Steve came to San Antonio, he always made it a point to eat at this Mexican restaurant and he would usually bring somebody with him, today he brought Neal, Jon and Ed. They have a table by the water, the kind with the umbrella, every space on the table filled with food or beverages and after they have gorged themselves, they were sitting back relaxing, letting their meal settle and Neal was having his after dinner cigarette. Neal, Jon and Steve hiding behind their Foster Grants, Ed didn’t have anybody to hide from so he wasn’t wearing any, per usual Steve was giving Neal a hard time about his smoking.

 

“Downwind Neal.” Steve says.

 

“I am downwind Steve and why do you wear that getup? That stupid hat and that even stupider mustache! It is not fooling anybody! If you want to do something fix that nose of yours, it is a dead giveaway. It is like a big neon sign that says ‘I am Steve Perry! The fucking lead singer of Journey!’ “

 

Neal says loudly, Steve picks up a handful of chips, and he throws them at Neal.

 

“Sssshhhhhhhh !! Shut up!!” Steve says as he glances around.

 

“I can’t take you anywhere Perry!”

 

“Sssshhhhhhh!! Shut up!! I heard you’re the cheapest date Neal!!”

 

Neal turns and he makes kissy faces at Steve.

 

Ed turns to Jon, “Do they do this all the time?”

 

“Only in public, embarrassing isn’t it?” Jon replies.

 

“Slightly.”

 

Neal and Jon excused themselves and Steve tossed to Ed a copy of the Dallas Morning News that had on its front page a story about a murder in the downtown district known as Deep Ellum that matched a series of others across the country.

 

“I guess you can say now ‘I told you so.’” Steve says.

 

“Well no I won’t, for once in my life I am not happy that I was right. I am just sorry that Herbie put you through the wringer like that.

 

“Don’t be, if I had an employee that had been acting like me I would have done the same thing. When they all come back negative Herbie will apologize, besides it is too late in the game to hold grudges. I’ve made a decision.”

 

“I’m listening.” Ed says.

 

“I’ve decided to just let it be, to go with it, I can’t fight it, you’ve already told me that. So I guess I give up, it has won. I will do as much as I can with the time I have left, all the music that is stored in here, get it down on paper.”

 

Steve points to his head, “It will be my legacy.”

 

Ed listens and he does not interject anything and in many small ways, Steve is right but he knows that Steve is not a quitter and at the end, he is counting on that. Jon comes up behind Steve, he rattles his chair, and Steve looks behind him.

 

“Hey Mr. Smith rented one of those boats, so get your ass in gear Mr. Jones and you too Ed! Let’s go!”

 

“Jeez, why do I hear the theme from Gilligan’s Island?”

 

Steve says as he and Ed follow Jon.

 

Soon San Antonio was nothing but a memory, and then the College town of Austin and by Houston Herbie had gotten back the results of Steve’s drug test and they were all negative. Herbie kept his promise by calling a meeting and apologizing to Steve.

 

“Steve after this tour is over I want to take you and Sherry out for a big lobster dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf.”

 

Herbie tells Steve after the meeting and Steve smiles and he lies.

 

“Great I will look forward to it.”

 

Herbie, Smitty and Ross were all relieved that the tests came back negative but they were also a little disappointed and confused because the drug thing could certainly explain away Steve’s behavior of late. When you gotten use to somebody being a certain way for years it tends to be a shock when they radically change like Steve has, so you use any excuse you can find to explain it away. So then, when that excuse is explained away what do you do then? Find other excuses of course, Steve was having a mid-life crisis, never mind the fact that Steve was only in his thirties, or he was going through menopause like Herbie had suggested or it was something a lot scarier. Ross and Smitty have of course discussed the possibility that Steve was having a nervous breakdown or he was just on this side of going crazy and why shouldn’t he, he is human but onstage Steve was back to his own self. The Houston concert was aired on MTV and Steve was very up and very animated and very happy, talking to the audience and running around the elevated stage like a squirrel in a cage. Ross and Smitty had a hard time with the Steve they had to deal with after the stage was torn down and Steve took off his rock star uniform, the two halves were diametrically opposed.

 

Albuquerque New Mexico and the law of Physics were very evident in the Southwest and it was tested when Steve and Ross tried to occupy the same space at the same time, Steve was coming out the door and Ross was going in. They didn’t really see each other until they were in each other faces and Ross, being the taller, knocked Steve off his feet, Steve tried to scramble to regain his balance and in doing so, he dropped his notebook, the law of gravity was against him and he fell and his notebook skidded across the highly polished floor, the notebook gradually losing it’s pages as it came to rest against the far wall. It happened so fast that Ross didn’t realize who he knocked down until he regained his composure.

 

“Steve, Jesus, man! I am sorry, are you alright….here let me help you up.”

 

Steve remembers opening the door and that was the last thing he remembered then the ‘thing’ behind Steve’s eyes took over and when Steve grabbed Ross’s hand Ross cringed, he could barely stop himself from falling to his knees; he had to grab the doorjamb for support. Steve’s grip was like a vice, crushing, but that was not the worse of it, the worst of it was his eyes. Empty, black, nothing existed there and he wanted to look away but he couldn’t.

 

“Are…are you alright? I didn’t see you…”

 

Ross manages to say, both of them still holding hands, and by now, Ross’s was going numb.

 

“Yes I’m fine are you?” Steve asks.

 

“I….”

 

 

Ross looks down at their hands and Steve finally let’s go and Ross works the circulation back into it, then he notices the trail of papers that lay scattered across the room. Steve gets around Ross and he begins to pick up the papers and Ross helps him, Ross sees letters, lyrics and something else but he didn’t really get a good look because Steve snatched it out of his hand but he knows a Will when he sees it.

 

“I got it thanks.”

 

Steve says as he takes it and the other papers and he stuffs them back into the notebook. Then he puts the notebook under his arm and he leaves, without even a goodbye, Ross watches him leaves then he continues on his way. He opens the door to the dressing room and Smitty is talking to somebody in the adjacent room where the lockers are and whoever it is, is making him laugh.

 

“What is so funny?” Ross asks.

 

“Steve, he just told the worst….” Smitty says as he laughs and he points to the locker room and Ross knows he must be hearing things because he just saw Steve.

 

“Steve?”

 

Ross says and Steve comes out of the locker room, holding his notebook, his hand on his hip.

 

“Yeah that is my name don’t wear it out.”

 

Ross can’t believe this, he knows he just saw Steve out there and now here he is in here! In the dressing room! How can that be? There is no back entrance to this room, the only door is the one he came in but he knows that he didn’t pass him because he saw him go out….Ross suddenly feels lightheaded and the floor does that tilt-a-whirl move and he turns white as a sheet and Steve grabs him just before he hits the floor. Smitty and Steve help Ross to sit down and Smitty fans him with a magazine as Steve gets him to drink some water.

 

“Ross are you okay?” Steve asks him.

 

“Yeah you almost fainted.” Smitty says.

 

Ross pushes the cup of water away and he points at Steve.

 

“I saw you!”

 

Smitty and Steve look at each other and Steve smiles and he laughs.

 

“Yeah just a second ago.”

 

“No, no out in the foyer! I ran into you, knocked you on your ass, you had that notebook!”

 

Ross says as he points to the notebook, Steve and Smitty glance at one another.

 

“Ross, Steve has been in here the entire time with me.”

 

Ross looks at Smitty, “No he hasn’t because I saw him out there! I fucking ran into him!”

 

Ross says loudly and he becomes more insistence while Smitty tries to convince him otherwise but Steve knows that Ross was right, this ‘Thing’ inside of him is playing games and unfortunately Ross did see what he said that he saw now Steve had to figure a way out of it.

 

“You two guys are playing a trick on me right!”

 

Ross says and Smitty is just about to open his mouth to protest when Steve sees his out.

 

“Oh shit Ross you found us out!”

 

Steve says as Smitty looks at him, his mouth open a very puzzled look on his face, Ross looks behind him at Smitty and he closes his mouth quickly. Steve makes a few hand gestures at Smitty then he silently mouths the words,

 

“Follow my lead.”

 

Ross faces Steve again and Steve runs his hands quickly through his hair then he smiles at Ross, his hands back on his hips.

 

“Oh yeah Ross you certainly found us out, damn it.”

 

Smitty says with not much conviction but Ross does not notice, he is just happy to have an explanation, and then Ross smiles and he slaps Steve on his arm.

 

“I knew it! I knew it! I knew it had to be a trick! Nobody can be two places at once, unless of course, you’re possessed.”

 

Then Ross starts to laugh and Smitty does too because Steve does.

 

“Well Smitty we had him going for awhile anyway, didn’t we?”

 

“What?! Oh! Oh yeah we did Steve! We had him going!”

 

By now, Ross is laughing so hard he is crying Ross wipes his eyes as he asks Smitty, “So how did you do it?”

 

“What?” Smitty replies.

 

“How did you make Steve be two places at once?”

 

Smitty looks at Ross who is back to being a big kid with that smile on his face and he is at a lost for words so he looks to Steve for help.

 

“Well….” Smitty says and Steve immediately jumps in.

 

“Ross that is a secret, you see, we might try it on the other guys and we don’t want it given away, you know, accidentally.”

 

“Oh shit, you know, I can keep a secret.” Ross says.

 

“Ross, it’s one of those things that if too many people know about it, it wont work.”

 

Smitty says and Steve wonders where he came up with that and Steve looks at him and Smitty shrugs.

 

“Oh! It is one of ‘those things’ gotcha!”

 

“Exactly.”

 

Steve says as he nods his head.

 

“I must say, of all the shit you guys have pulled over the years on me that had to be the best! Just the best! When the two Steve’s get together….!”

 

Ross says as the two Steve’s high-five each other just to make it look good then Steve looks at his watch.

 

“I better run and remember Ross ‘loose lips sink ships’.”

 

Steve says as he does the old thing with the zipper across the lips trick and Smitty still confused laughs and Ross does it back to him then Steve leaves to go and find Tony. He finds Tony watching the crew move ‘The Whale’ Jon’s piano into place on the stage, Jon supervising and Neal talking to his guitar tech.

 

“Tony.”

 

“Oh hey Steve what can I do for you?”

 

“Can you get me a limo I need to talk to Ed.”

 

“You got it.”

 

Tony radios ahead to have a limo gassed up and brought around to the side entrance and a few minutes after this they leave together. Meanwhile on stage, Neal sees Steve talking to Tony, then he sees Tony say something on his radio and then they leave then Neal starts to whistle and wave his arms back and forth over his head.

 

“Hey Perry! You little shit! Where in the hell are you going?”

 

Of course, all of this commotion gets Jon’s attention and he walks over to Neal’s side.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“Fucking Perry! We have a sound check in about five minutes and he leaves!”

 

Neal gestures at the back of the auditorium and Jon points to another door that is off to Neal’s left.

 

“No he didn’t there he is.”

 

Neal looks to where Jon is pointing and it is Steve all right, wearing the same clothes as the other Steve and carrying that notebook.

 

“But I just saw him.”

 

Neal says as they watch Steve come around the corner of the stage and when Steve crosses in front of the stage Jon yells at him.

 

“Steve! Hey Steve!”

 

Steve does not stop but he does turn his head and look at them and even at that distance, they can see his eyes, dark, empty, cold, the windows to a soulless creature, he does not look at them long, just a cursory glance but it was enough for Jon and Neal. Neal and Jon felt themselves backing up, the hairs on the back of their necks standing up as they watched Steve continue around the front of the stage, he rounds the corner and he exits through another door that is there. There was a noticeable chill in the air as Neal, Jon took their next breath, and they did not realize that they were holding it until now.

 

“What…what was that?” Jon asks.

 

“I…I don’t know but I know what it wasn’t, that wasn’t Steve.”

 

“But didn’t you just say that you saw…”

 

“Yeah I did…” Neal replies.

 

“But how…?” Jon asks.

 

“I…I don’t know…” Neal says.

 

“It’s not possible; nobody can be two places at once, unless you’re…” Jon says and they look at each other and then Neal pulls the guitar strap over his head and he sits the guitar back in its stand.

 

“We need to go and talk to Ed.”

 

“Now?” Jon asks.

 

“Can you think of a better time?”

 

“We have a sound check to do.” Jon says.

 

“We can do it later besides we don’t have our lead singer. We need to find Jack.”

 

They leave to go and find Jack just as Smitty and Ross arrive.

 

“Hey, where are you guys going?” Smitty asks.

 

“We’re be back; we’re going to find Steve.” Neal replies.

 

“When you find him get him to do that cool trick for you!” Ross says.

 

Neal and Jon look at each other then they look at Smitty and Ross, Smitty just shrugs his shoulders and he shakes his head as he goes off to his drums.

 

“We have already seen it, thanks anyway Ross.” Neal says.

 

In the limo, Steve and Tony, race across the city to Ed’s Hotel and Steve left in such a hurry that he did not think to bring his coat or hat so they had to improvise.

 

Ed was in his Hotel room, doing research, he was forever doing research, he spent his waking hours doing research and he had been in this room so long he forgot what daylight looked like. He was contemplating taking a break when he heard a knock on his door, when he opened it he saw Tony and behind Tony was Steve; he opened the door wider and let them in.

 

Ed had to laugh, “Well Steve, I must say, I never thought I would see you dressed like that.”

 

Steve waves his hands back and forth, “Never mind about that, there’s a new kink in the armor…I.”

 

Steve was interrupted by another knock, this time it was Neal, Jon and Jack.

 

“Ed! Ed! Man, we are so glad that you are here! We…”

 

Then Neal sees Steve and he starts to laugh and so does Jon.

 

“What are you wearing?” Neal asks as he points.

 

“Yeah I hope you didn’t leave the chauffeur naked.” Jon laughs.

 

“Ha-ha very funny, you two big dummies! He’s wearing my clothes.”

 

Steve says as he readjusts the hat and Tony puts his arm around Steve’s shoulders.

 

“We were lucky that the driver was the same size as Steve.” Tony says.

 

“Not that I don’t enjoy this banter but why are you here?” Ed asks.

 

“You’ve heard the saying a person cant be two places at once?” Jon says and Ed nods his head then Steve says,

 

“I can.” Steve says seriously and Ed looks at him.

 

“We can verify that we saw him.” Neal says as he points to Jon and himself.

 

“And Ross too.” Steve says.

 

“Ross too?” Neal and Jon say together and Steve nods his head.

 

“I think I convinced him that Smitty and I were playing a trick on him. He bought it I guess.”

 

“So Doc did you know about this one?” Neal asks.

 

“I wasn’t sure, it doesn’t always manifest itself. It takes a hell of a lot of energy to be able to do that, it’s gotten a lot stronger.”

 

“What other things may happen that you aren’t so sure about?” Steve asks.

 

“You will exhibit a lot of strength.” Ed says.

 

“He’s already done that!” Neal says.

 

“No I meant an extraordinary display of strength.” Ed replies.

 

“You don’t call that little shit picking me up an extraordinary display of strength.” Neal says.

 

“Watch it.” Steve says.

 

“No I don’t call that extradionary, it will make everyone stop and say ‘oh my god’ that is extradionary.” Ed says.

 

Simultaneously Neal, Jon and Steve’s pagers all went off and they all look at the same time.

 

“Shit!” Neal said.

 

“It’s.” Jon said.

 

“Herbie.” Steve said.

 

Neal goes over to the phone and he punches in the number, Herbie answers immediately and just as quickly Neal holds the phone away from his ear and everybody in the room can hear him.

 

“SOUNDCHECK!!....WHERE IN THE FUCK ARE YOU GUYS!!....I WILL KILL YOU!!...KEYBOARD PLAYERS ARE A DIME A DOZEN!!...A MONKEY COULD PLAY LEAD GUITAR!!...I’LL REALLY MAKE PERRY SING A HIGH NOTE!!!....GET BACK HERE NOW!!!”

 

Neal hears a click on the other end then he hangs up the phone.

 

“Well, Herbie gives us all his love. Nice talking to you Ed, it’s time to go guys.”

 

“Steve makes sure the chauffeur gets his uniform back.” Jon says.

 

“Bite me!” Steve says.

 

 

******

 

 

 

 

 

New Mexico was but a speck in the buses side mirrors as they rolled on towards Arizona in the very early morning hours and this time everybody was asleep, including Steve, all encased safely in their bunks. During the night a slow, steady rain started and the windshield wipers was the lulling the bus driver into a hypnotized state and every so often his eyes would close and then they would quickly open again, he reached over and cracked over the window to get some fresh air. His eyes would close then open then close again and this time they did not open, the driver slumped over the wheel asleep as the bus stayed on a straight course for about mile, luckily, the bus was not going very fast and there was very little traffic as the bus now begins to drift.

 

It would drift onto the shoulder, then back into the right lane then it would drift into the left and back again and the bus driver would have kept right on sleeping if it wasn’t for the large pothole that the bus ran over and startled him awake. He woke up just in time to see, not a car in their path, but a concrete bridge support and it was getting closer all the time. He grabbed the wheel and he swerved to miss the support but it was still too close, and add to that, the rain and the wet pavement and the rear of the bus caught the support a glancing blow, and with no traction the bus made a sickening turn with the back end leading the way. It did a dangerous dance across the lanes of the highway as the driver struggled to control it and everything on the left of the bus landed on the right and everything on the right landed on the left and eventually it ended up on the floor as did the guys.

 

Jon and Neal were on the left hand side of the bus; Steve, Ross and Smitty were on the right hand side, all the big pieces of luggage rode underneath the bus, smaller items, the guys liked to keep with them was stashed in the overhead compartments and that is what woke Jon up.

 

Steve’s black bag tumbled out of the overhead and plummeted to the floor right next to Jon’s bunk, Jon rolled over, he peeked through the curtain, that was when the bus clipped the bridge support, and it began its nightmarish turn. The bus was not made to bend that way and it made a hellish sound, like a wounded elephant, by now everybody else was awake and peering out through the curtains on their bunks.

 

“What in the hell…!”

 

Neal said just as the bus made a few well timed circles and the bus driver knew he had to go with it, it was like being on a out of control Fair ride.

 

“Guys! Guys!” The bus driver yelled. “Hang on!”

 

The downward slope of the highway, the slick road and the buses momentum caused it to pick up speed as it pitched and yawned across the highway, whatever was not securely tied down came out of the overheads and fell like rocks, the bus made a sickening thud then it made a bad pitch to the left as the tires on the right came up off of the ground. Smitty was knocked from his bunk, luckily, his bunk was a lower and Ross was also tossed out but he managed to hang on long enough to stand up and put his feet on the floor, Steve’s bunk was also a lower and he grabbed a hold of the curtains to stop himself from hitting the floor, they were little help as they came loose and Steve ended up on the floor anyway, the bus continued to lean further to the left as the weight from everything on the right was pushing it over.

 

“Guys! Guys! We’re going over!” Ross yells.

 

“No we aren’t!”

 

Steve yells as he pulls himself to his feet, then he helps Smitty up as he hangs onto the bunk.

 

“Neal and Jon! Come on! We need more weight over here!”

 

It was not easy but Neal, Jon managed to get out of their bunks, Steve grabs Jon, and Ross grabs Neal.

 

“It’s not enough!” Neal yells.

 

“It has to be!” Steve yells back as he uses the lower bunk as a step and he propels himself up into the upper bunk and that combined with the others seems to have the desire effect because slowly it begins to lean back to the right and once again all the tires were on the ground, they were facing the right way but they were going backwards, loud explosions were heard as two of the rear tires, already weaken from the strain, exploded and the ‘slap slap’ of the disintegrating rubber was heard. They were bounced and jarred around then they heard a different sound, it did not sound like concrete it felt and sounded softer. The bus driver was finally able to run them into the median; it being more mud than grass they slid to a stop, the weight of the bus cutting a deep furrow and sinking the rear deep into the mud up to it’s axles.

 

No one moved, the guys were afraid to until they were sure that they had stopped for real. Neal, Jon, Ross and Smitty were all hanging onto the bunks for dear life, knuckles white, eyes wide; the only sound is their collective breathing. Steve in the bunk was turned, one foot on Neal’s shoulder, the other up on the curtain rod, praying it would hold, to brace himself, his hands flat on the ceiling. No one spoke, no one said a word as one at a time the guys slowly loosen their grips on whatever they were holding onto, Smitty sunk down into a heap on the floor, Ross sat down on the bunk opposite.

 

“I…I…better go and check on the driver.” Jon says as he shakily walks away.

 

Neal looks at Steve up in the bunk, his hands up on the ceiling, one foot up on the rod, the other braced on Neal’s shoulder.

 

“You know Perry, millions of women may enjoy looking at your crotch but I don’t.” Neal says.

 

“Sorry.” Steve says as he removes his foot from Neal’s shoulder.

 

“You have a hole in your pants.” Neal says.

 

“Who told you to look?” Steve replies.

 

“It’s kind of hard to miss, if you know what I mean.”

 

Neal says as he glances up at Steve’s foot that is still on the rod, Steve then removes his foot.

 

“Are you okay?” Steve asks.

 

“I guess so, you?”

 

Steve nods his head as he climbs down from the bunk.

 

“Smitty and Ross, you guys ok?” Neal asks.

 

“Oh just peachy-keen.” Ross says.

 

“Yeah, what happened?” Smitty asks.

 

Neal and Steve both shrug as Jon comes back.

 

“How’s the driver?” Steve asks.

 

“He is pretty well shaken up I can’t get him to let go of the steering wheel.”

 

“What are you looking for Steve?” Ross asks.

 

“My shoes.” Steve replies.

 

Neal and Jon look around then Smitty hands them to him.

 

“I was sitting on them, here.”

 

Steve sits down on the bunk and he puts them on.

 

“Where are you going?’ Neal asks.

 

“To inspect the damage.”

 

Steve simply says as he starts up the aisle, stepping over all matter of debris, he stops to check on the driver then he opens the door and he steps down to the pavement. Steve tries to stay on what grass there is and out of the mud as he goes around to look at the back of the bus or what is left of it. There is no Journey logo on the back of the bus per se, but there is a beautiful mural of the Golden Gate Bridge, there was until it made contact with the concrete bridge support and most of it was scraped off, the fiberglass was pitted and big chunks were missing. The door that covered the engine compartment was ripped off its hinges, when the two tires blew it bent the rims and left gaping holes in the fenders, the front tires of the bus was squarely on the pavement but the rear ones were mired in the mud. By now, Neal and Jon have joined Steve and Neal lets out with a whistle when he saw the back of the bus, then Jon goes over and he looks at the engine.

 

“Jon what are you doing?” Steve asks.

 

“Looking at the engine.” Jon replies.

 

“Jon you don’t know anything about engines.” Neal points out.

 

“I used to take lawn mower engines apart as a kid.” Jon replies.

 

“You’re fibbing!” Steve says.

 

“If you haven’t noticed, Jon, this isn’t a lawn mower.” Neal says.

 

“Whew she is really stuck. We are going to need one big ass wrecker.” Jon says.

 

“No we won’t.” Steve says as Neal and Jon looks at him. “Watch this.” Steve says.

 

Steve spits on his hands then he rubs them together, he places them underneath the bus and he lifts. Jon and Neal remembered what Ed said about ‘extraordinary display of strength’ and it would be an “Oh my God” moment, well this was it. Neal and Jon watched as Steve lifted that bus out of the mud and back onto the highway, facing in the right direction.

 

“Oh my god!” They both said in unison as Steve wipes his hands on his pants. Fifteen seconds of so after this an Arizona State Trooper pulls up, Jon and Neal both wonder if the Trooper saw what they saw obviously he did not because he never mentioned it in the course of their conversation.

 

“Morning Sir.”

 

“Morning Officer.” Steve replies.

 

The officer takes his pen and pad out of his pocket.

 

“Looks like you guys have had quite a morning.” The officer says as he motions to the bus.

 

“You could say that.” Neal says.

 

“Anybody hurt?” The officer asks.

 

“No.” Steve says.

 

“That is amazing. This was the first time in my career that I have seen a bus do the Tango. There are all matters of parts and pieces all over the road back there.”

 

“You didn’t happen to see any luggage did you?”

 

Jon asks and the Trooper laughs.

 

“No. Okay left to right who is who?”

 

“Neal Schon.”

 

“Jonathan Cain.”

 

“So that must make you Steve Perry.”

 

“Hey guys a fan!”

 

“Oh you betcha. I have all of your albums and tickets to the concert in Phoenix. Anybody else on the bus?”

 

While Neal and Jon talk to him Steve runs off, he gets back on the bus, and a few minutes later he returns holding an album autographed by Ross, Smitty and of course himself, he hands it to Neal who autographs it and then to Jon.

 

“Thanks. Do you guys need anything, a wrecker, anything?” The Trooper asks.

 

“No but thanks anyway, the driver already called for help.” Steve replied.

 

“Okay well then I need to go and talk to the driver. Thanks again guys.” The Trooper says as he takes the album and he walks to the front of the bus.

 

“I’m going to go and help Ross and Smitty clean up and make some coffee, okay?”

 

“Oh yeah sure.” Jon says as they watch Steve walk off.

 

“Hell, you know I wish I had a camera.” Neal says.

 

“Nobody would believe you, hell I saw it with my own eyes and I don’t believe it.”

 

Even though they were not stuck in the mud any longer they still needed the wrecker, when they finally landed the rear axle snapped in two like a dry twig and Voyager was done for. Herbie was informed of what had happened and he arranged for a shuttle bus to pick them up, of course, it was not a big, fancy nice tour bus filled with all the latest technology but it would have to do. Not all of their luggage would fit so Herbie had to rent a U-Haul for that, all they needed to do was to get into Phoenix, Herbie told them to stay put and not wander off.

 

“Not wander off? Not wander off? There is no place to wander to; we are stuck on the freeway, on the side of the frigging road!” Neal says.

 

The mish-mash, rag tag way they finally made it to Phoenix made Steve, Neal, Ross remember when they used a couple of Chevy’s and one truck to haul them and their stuff around and they reminisced and laughed about that all the way into Phoenix.

 

Once in the city everything begin to gel and the machine known as Journey ran smoothly, they used a smaller bus to run the by-ways and highways of Arizona, but they couldn’t stay in Arizona forever they had to progress to the next state, Colorado. After the last concert in Arizona they boarded the bus and when they left the parking lot they made a right turn instead of a left and Steve knew that the interstate was to the left, he was already nervous and on edge and he didn’t need this, this change of direction.

 

“Where…where are we going? The interstate is back that way.”

 

“We’re going to the Municipal Airport.” Ross says.

 

“Why?” Steve says with that tone that causes everybody to look.

 

“Because the Sojourn is there.” Smitty replies.

 

“The Sojourn?!” Steve says.

 

“Yeah you know, The Sojourn, our plane?” Ross replies.

 

Steve has a flash of anger, “I know what it is! What’s wrong with this bus!”

 

Ross laughs, “Look around! It’s too small for one thing…”

 

“And another it’s not ‘fan proof ’ quote unquote.” Smitty says.

 

Steve grips the arm of the seat tighter as he looks across at Neal and Jon.

 

“I can’t…” Steve says.

 

“Can’t what?” Ross asks.

 

“I can’t get on that plane!” Steve continues to look at Neal and Jon and they know why.

 

“Steve, look okay, we know small planes…”

 

“I want to ride on the crew bus!” Steve says.

 

“What?” Smitty says as Ross laughs and says,

 

“The crew bus left hours ago and besides Herbie wouldn’t let you…”

 

“Fuck Herbie!”

 

“Steve!” Neal says loudly.

 

“What!” Steve says just as loud as he looks back at Neal.

 

“Calm down man, it will be alright, take your sleeping pills, go to sleep and it will be all over before you know it, got it!”

 

Neal says this slow and calmly and he deliberately looks Steve in the eyes. Ross and Smitty watching this can’t believe it, Jon is usually the calming force and Neal usually serves to piss Steve off even more but this time Jon is silent and Neal is calming Steve down. Whatever look passed between the two of them worked because Steve took a deep breath then he looked at the floor as if he was embarrassed to blow his top.

 

“Sorry guys.” Steve says.

 

“No harm no foul.” Ross says.

 

“Yeah everybody, you know, has something.” Smitty says.

 

They arrive at the Municipal Airport and they leave the bus behind as they board the Sojourn, a recent acquisition of Herbie’s. He reasoned that it would be cheaper in the long run to own rather than rent, this plane was new, it seated eight, had a fold down table and a place in the back where someone could lie down and this is where Steve and Neal were playing out their roles in this strange production, Neal knew that they could be heard all over the plane.

 

 Neal shook out one sleeping pill into his hand and he held it out to Steve who sat on the folded down bed looking up at him.

 

“Take it.”

 

“It won’t do any good.”

 

“Take it anyway.”

 

Neal thrusts his hand closer to him and Steve takes it. “I need some water.”

 

Neal goes into the bathroom and he fills a Dixie cup with water and he brings it back out to him, Steve takes it and he takes the sleeping pill, he finishes the water and Neal takes the cup from him and he wads it up.

 

“What about…?”

 

Steve motions with his head out to where the other guys sit, Neal sees this and he says,

 

“Don’t worry about it. Don’t forget to buckle up we’re taking off soon.”

 

Steve lies down, he buckles up then he pulls the blanket up over himself.

 

“You know you make a lousy flight attendant.”

 

“Bite me! “ Neal says as he pulls the curtain close.

 

For a supposedly short flight, it seem to take forever and a day and stretch on into infinity Jon thought as he and the other guys, one by one dropped off to sleep, Neal’s and Jon’s seats flanked the doorway to the room where Steve was sleeping and straight up midnight Jon heard the metal rings on the curtain rattle.

 

 

Jon was cold, so cold, he wanted desperately to pull the blanket up closer around him but he could not. His head was turned, his eyes downcast on the aisle and all he saw as the ‘thing’ passed were black shoes and the bottom of the black coat. Jon had trouble focusing, he felt like he had been asleep for days instead of hours, he could open his eyes a little, but they were open enough for him to see that the ‘thing’ glided passed, his feet never touched the aisle. Jon prayed a silent prayer in his mind that this ‘thing’ would pass quickly, leave his sight, go on about his business but Jon felt himself cringe as the ‘thing’ stopped, backed up, and stops right next to his seat. Jon gripped the arms of the seat tightly; all the muscles in his body tense, his heart threaten to beat out of his chest, he clamps his eyes tightly shut, not daring to look. The ‘thing’ stood next to Jon’s seat, looking down at him, drinking in his fear gaining pleasure from it, the ‘thing’ slowly lifted it’s arm and put it’s hand on the top of Jon’s head.

 

Jon was now breathing harder, having felt like he had been running a great distance, he heard the coat move as the ‘thing’ lifted its arm and Jon felt its hand being placed on his head. Jon’s gasp was audible; the urge to scream strong as his nostrils were filled with its stench and Jon’s mind was filled with strange images, sounds, and people. Jon felt like this ‘thing’ was reading his mind, reading everything about him, picking him apart slowly and Jon felt violated. Jon could feel his mental state wane and ripple like pebbles thrown into water and just when he thinks he can’t stand anymore the ‘thing’ takes it‘s hand away.

 

“Eu nao o conheco.”

 

The ‘thing’ says, it’s hellish voice hollow and dry like sand paper as it seems to echo in the small confines of the plane, Jon wants to cover his ears but he can’t. The ‘thing’ finally moves away, gliding up the aisle looking at the head’s of the other band members, looking for the one that is not there.

 

Jon’s eyes tear and he feels them run down his cheeks as he watches out of the corner of his eye the ‘thing’ make the right turn that leads to the door of the plane, then Jon sees the ‘thing’ stop, momentarily look his way and if it was possible, looked amused, pleased with itself somehow. Jon continues to watch horrified as it stretches out it’s arms then it steps through the door and disappears. To the right of Jon’s seat is a window, he keeps his head angled to the left, he can’t, he won’t, he’s too afraid too look, he is suddenly reminded of the Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner where he sees that thing out on the wing. Jon is afraid to look for that very reason, he couldn’t stand to see that damnable thing, out there dancing on the wing laughing it’s grotesque head off, if it had a head to laugh off.

 

Jon could move now and even though the plane was warm again, he still felt cold, he grabbed the blanket and pulled it closer up around his neck, he wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand and as he drifted off to sleep again he prayed, he prayed to forget this, forget it ever happened.

 

When they landed there was a limo waiting for them and the driver helped them load whatever luggage they had and they piled into the limo.

 

“That had to be the best damn sleep that i have ever had on a plane.” Ross says.

 

“Not me, I was cold and I was having weird ass dreams.” Smitty said.

 

“Aren’t we missing somebody?” Ross asks.

 

“Yeah the fifth musketeer. “ Smitty says.

 

Neal and Jon look at one another then Neal points to Jon.

 

“You go get him.” Neal says.

 

“No you go.” Jon replies.

 

“No you...” Neal says

 

“Shit will somebody go and get him!” Ross says.

 

“I will....” Smitty moves then Jon stops him.

 

“No, I’ll go.”

 

Jon throws a Neal a disgusted look, after last night he doesn’t want anything more to do with this, he doesn’t want to play anymore, he wants to take his ball and go home but he hauls his ass out of the limo and he goes back to the plane. He goes back to the room and he opens the curtain and there Steve lies, flat on his back, buckled in, the blanket up to his chin, his arm over his eyes. Jon jostles his bed with his foot and Steve moves.

 

“Come on pretty boy time to go.”

 

Steve rubs his eyes then he looks around, he reaches underneath the blanket and unbuckles the buckle, he sits up and he swings his feet down to the floor, he yawns and he runs his hands through his hair. Jon pulls Steve’s bag out from under the bed and he notices it is open and he also notices the black leather coat and hat.

 

“Are you alright?’ Steve asks him. Jon hesitates then he answers.

 

“Oh I suppose, I didn’t go loopy like Neal did but there is always next month right?”

 

Steve doesn’t response, he is all sorry out, he stands up and he puts on his blue jean jacket. Jon thought he knew all of Steve’s clothes but that leather coat and hat was something new.

 

“Where did you get that coat and hat?”

 

Jon points to his bag and Steve looks down at it and he shrugs.

 

“I don’t remember exactly, San Francisco probably. Last night was bad wasn’t it?”

 

“It wasn’t good, you walked off a plane while it was in mid-air.” Jon replies.

 

“It wasn’t me.” Steve says.

 

“I suppose you don’t remember.” Jon says.

 

Steve doesn’t say anything, he folds his arms across his chest and he kicks his bag with his toe.

 

“Why are you the only one who has the luxury of not remembering? Why? How do I stop Steve! How do I stop remembering?”

 

“Guys.”

 

Jon then turns to see Neal, “Ross and Smitty want breakfast, let’s go.”

 

Steve grabs his bag and he leaves the plane, Jon follows, then Neal, they get in the limo and go to the Hotel. The limo turns to the left and from the right a white van arrives, it stops at the newspaper dispensers, a man gets out and he restocks the machines, then he gets back in the van and drives off. The headline screams across the front page,

 

“HITMAN KILLER STRIKES AGAIN!”

 

Even though abstract weirdness, demon possession and Steve being two places at once abounded, life went on and so did the business of music, they all had things to do and schedules to keep and Steve was no exception to that rule, and that was what got Jon thinking about Steve’s leather coat and hat. Jon explained his theory to Neal and a logical theory it seemed to be too, although logic and sanity left the premises along time ago.

 

 At this point they were willing to try anything, there were only three problems remaining, how to get into Steve’s room, how and where to dispose of the hat and coat, they reasoned if they figured out the first then the other two would take care of themselves. They knew the next morning that Steve was going to be out of his room, he had an interview to do at one of the local radio stations, since Neal’s room was across the hall from Steve’s he and Jon could see when Steve left with Tony. They gave them fifteen minutes to make sure that they were good and gone then Neal and Jon went down to the lobby to the registration desk.

 

They all had those silly alias that they registered under, to throw the more frenzied fans off of the track but even alias did no good when you were recognized.

 

Neal and Jon walked right up to the desk and Neal tells the woman working there that he is Mr. So and So and that he is in room such and such and damn the luck he left his room key in his room and could he please have another. Neal asked very nicely and politely and he even made an effort to smile. The woman behind the desk was nice and polite and she smiled too when she replied,

 

“No.”

 

“No?” Neal repeated back.

 

“I know who Mr. So and So is and you aren’t him.”

 

The woman raises her eyebrows at him and she dares him to tell her different, Neal and Jon look at one another then they turn and walk off. They get back upstairs just in time to see the maid opening Steve’s door and they rush up the hall and into the room. The maid stops and looks at them.

 

“I will come back later.” She says then she leaves.

 

“Simple.” Jon says.

 

“I know who Mr. So and So is and you aren’t him!” Neal mimics the woman’s voice.

 

“Oh will you stop it already! You aren’t going to go on and on about that now are you?”

 

“Maybe.” Neal says as he pouts.

 

“We can here to do something so let’s do it!”

 

They go over to the closet and they immediately find the coat hanging there and the hat on the shelf above and then they just stand there looking at them.

 

“Well?” Neal says.

 

“Well what? I’m not touching them.”

 

“It’s just a coat and a hat.” Neal says as he gestures at them.

 

“You forget ‘that thing’ wears that coat and hat, I’m not touching it!” Jon strongly says.

 

Neal makes a face then he pulls the trash bag out of his back pocket and he hands it to Jon, Jon holds it open as Neal approaches the closet and he reaches in slowly and he grabs the hanger, he takes coat off of the rod and holding it away from him like it was snake he drops it into trash bag, then Neal quickly snatches the hat off of the shelf and he throws it into the trash bag, Jon ties a loose knot in the top of the bag and then they leave.

 

Neal rents a car and he has it arranged to be brought to the Hotel, once it arrives Jon tosses the trash bag into the trunk and they go for a drive.

 

“What if Steve asks us what happened to it?” Jon asks.

 

“Then my friend we used the old tried and true method people have been relying on for centuries.” Neal replies.

 

“Which is?” Jon asks.

 

“We play dumb.”

 

They decided in advance that the most permanent way to dispose of anything was to burn it but where to do that was another problem, as they drove they found the industrial part of the city, warehouse and factories in abundance, they drove around until they found an empty warehouse, condemned by the city, a high chain-linked fence erected around it, in the back there was evidence that somebody had been there before them, there was a hole cut in the fence big enough for a person or two to fit through.

 

“Neal what does that sign say?”

 

“No trespassing.”

 

They ignored the sign as they went through the hole in the fence and around the building to where some old drums sat, there was already trash in one of them so they used that one. Jon untied the knot in the bag and he hoisted it up and over the drum, he grabbed the bottom of the bag and turned it upside down and shook the bag until the coat and hat fell into the drum and then they heard a noise they weren’t expecting, a loud ‘clang’ as something heavy and metallic hit the bottom of the drum. They peered over the edge of the drum, curious, and their eyes widen.

 

“What in the hell....!” Neal exclaims.

 

“Steve doesn’t have one of those does he?”

 

At the bottom of the drum sat a 45 automatic with a silencer that had slid out of the coat pocket when Jon dumped the bag into the drum.

 

“I think we just found the ‘thing’s’ weapon of choice. “ Neal says.

 

Neal walks around looking for a stick long enough to reach into the drum and when he finds one he snags the gun and he lifts it out of the drum.

 

“What are you doing?” Jon asks.

 

“What does it look like I am doing, I’m getting rid of this gun, it doesn’t burn. Where’s that trash bag?”

 

Jon finds the trash bag and he opens it and Neal drops the gun in, he ties a tight knot in the top of the bag then he goes over to the dumpster and he opens the lid just enough to drop it in. Wanting to make sure the coat and hat burn, they saturated it well with two cans of gasoline then they drop in two matches and they stand back. It took off with a whoosh and the flames leapt up high over the edge of the drum.

 

“It burns really well.” Jon comments.

 

“Yeah too bad we don’t have any marshmallows or weenies to roast.”

 

They watched it burn then they hung around after to make sure that it was all consumed and that nothing was left but a fine powder, then they threw water on that and when they were sure that it was out they went back to the Hotel.

 

It didn’t take long for Steve to notice that it was missing , that night after the concert when Steve was packing he couldn’t find the hat or coat and he knew, damn good and well, that he had seen them, he tore the room apart but no luck. Neal and Jon, in the meantime, had their own packing issues to deal with.

 

“Put those back. I think you make enough money that you can afford towels.” Jon says.

 

“Their souvenirs!” Neal replies and Jon laughs.

 

“Souvenirs my ass!”

 

They hear a knock at the door, “Put them back.” Jon says as he goes and answers it and Jon sees that it is Steve.

 

“Hey guys have you seen my coat and hat?” Steve asks them.

 

“What coat and hat.” Neal asks nonchalantly.

 

“You know, my long black leather coat and the matching hat, my “Shaft” outfit.”

 

Neal shakes his head, “Haven’t seen it Steve.”

 

“Me either.” Jon says.

 

“Shit! I hope I didn’t leave them somewhere Sherrie will be pissed.” Steve says as he runs his hand through his hair.

 

“Sherrie bought you that hat and coat Steve?” Neal asks.

 

“Well yeah I think so.” Steve says.

 

“I thought you said that you bought them.” Jon says.

 

“Did I? I don’t remember I just know I cant find them and I really liked that coat and hat.”

 

“Sorry Steve we haven’t seen them.” Jon says.

 

“Well okay, thanks.” Steve says with disappointment in his voice as he turns and he walks back to the door.

 

“Neal put those towels back.” Steve says.

 

 

Three days later and Colorado was checked off of the books as another successful stop as the buses turned their noses toward the salt flats of Salt Lake City Utah and it is the first night in Utah and after a long bus ride, getting their rooms straightened out, the hectic pace of unpacking and the fighting the traffic to check out the venue they decided to meet for a relaxing dinner back at the Hotel. Being rock stars and being the number one band at the time gave you some privileges, one being having a dining room to yourself and another a chef who would fix anything you wanted, whether it was on the menu or not. All the principal players sat around the table, some looking at the menu, others talking among themselves, one empty place remained and it was for Steve. Ed was invited to dine with them and he and Ross were at the other end of the table debating something or other, Jon was facing the door and Neal was facing Jon so Neal was the first one to see Jon’s reaction when Steve walked in.

 

Jon had just taken a big drink of ice water when Steve came around the corner, and his immediate reaction was to choke, the water went down the wrong way and Jon started to cough violently. Ed was closest so he began to hit Jon on the back, Jon couldn’t catch his breath, he still cough and sputtered and Neal couldn’t figured out what had happened to cause such a reaction until Steve stopped and stood by the empty chair next to Neal.

 

“Jon are you okay?”

 

Steve asks then Neal turned and looked and he knows that he turned as pale as the tablecloth on the table because Steve was wearing the leather coat and the hat. Steve stood there, his hands in his pockets of the coat, looking at Jon and everyone was concerned with Jon and Neal was the only one looking at Steve then out of the corner of his eye Steve saw the look on Neal’s face. Jon had finally stopped coughing and some natural color was returning to his face as everyone resumed their positions and Jon couldn’t stop looking at Steve.

 

“Neal?”

 

Steve says as he takes off his hat and he ruffles up his hair and he pulls out the chair and he sits down.

 

“I see that you bought another coat and hat.” Neal says as he clears his throat and Jon looks at him.

 

“No this is the same coat and hat. They weren’t lost after all!”

 

Steve says as he smiles.

 

“No?” Jon asks as he coughs then he clears his throat.

 

“Where...where did you....?”

 

Neal doesn’t finish, he wants to know but he is terrified, he and Jon watched that coat and hat burn! Burn until nothing was left of it and now in three days time it is back and is Steve wearing it. Ross and Smitty are talking to each other and they aren’t too concerned about Steve’s coat but Ed, he is a different story. Jon almost drowned on a mouthful of water and Neal, Neal looked like he had just seen a ghost and Steve, well Steve was happy, for whatever reason. Something is going on he just doesn’t know what it is.

 

“You know that is the strangest thing! They were in my trunk.”

 

‘”You’re...you’re trunk? What trunk?” Neal asks.

 

“You know, my trunk, the one where I keep my tux tail coat.”

 

“Excuse me.”

 

Jon says as he throws his napkin on the table and he gets up quickly and he walks runs towards the bathroom, everybody watches him go but they don’t comment, then Neal pushes his chair back and he stands up.

 

“I’ll be back.” Neal says as he follows Jon and Steve looks over his shoulder as he walks off.

 

“I only thought women went to the bathroom in pairs.” Ross says.

 

 “Was it something I said.” Steve says.

 

In the bathroom Jon is bent over the sink, with the water running, his hands cupped over his face and then Neal comes in and he immediately starts to pace back and forth, back and forth.

 

“I cant fucking believe this! We saw it burn!” Neal says.

 

“It...it cant be the same coat and hat! There is no way!” Jon says his head still in the sink.

 

They both are startled when the bathroom door opens and they hope it isn’t Steve and they hold their breath until they see that it is Ed.

 

“Oh god.” Neal says as he looks at the floor.

 

“Okay guys what’s up? Tell me.”

 

Ed crosses his arms over his chest as Jon turns off the water and he grabs a paper towel and he dries his face.

 

“Ed did you see that hat and coat Steve was wearing?” Neal asks.

 

“Yeah what about it?”

 

Ed asks as Neal and Jon look at one another then Jon looks back at Ed with the most serious expression he has seen on his face yet. They both looked scared, shell shocked, Steve shocked might be a better word.

 

“Three days ago we burned that hat and coat.” Jon says.

 

“You did what?” Ed says shocked.

 

“We burned it until there was nothing left of it.

 

“You did what? Why?” Ed asks.

 

Jon wipes his neck with the paper towel then he wads it up and tosses it into the trash.

 

“Three days ago we got into Steve’s room and we took that hat and coat and we burned them! I thought destroying them would help, somehow make a difference, but I see it doesn’t and now, Steve comes along wearing that same fucking hat and coat we thought we destroyed! To make matters worse, Steve is happy! Happy! What in the fuck does he have to be happy about! We’re in here miserable and he is out there, smiling, happy as the proverbial fucking clam!!”

 

Neal can’t believe it, Jon is hardly the one to throw cuss words around, that little feat is usually reserved for Neal, Herbie and the rest of them and to use the same cuss word three times is a record for Jon.

 

“Yeah well, the ‘thing’ is probably happy because it got it’s leather coat back because it is the only piece of clothing it can wear that covers it wings.” Neal says offhandedly and Ed and Jon look at him.

 

“Wings?” They both say.

 

“Yeah wings. If I live to be a thousand I will never forget that sight. Never.” Neal says.

 

“I must say that it was a good try, I never thought of that. We better get out there, Steve is ordering shrimp cocktails for everybody.” Ed says.

 

“Ed, I don’t think I can go back out and look at him wearing that damn coat!” Jon says.

 

“You don’t have to, we’re tell everybody that your sick. That is why you beat such a hasty retreat from the table. I mean, we have a doctor right here.” Neal says as he points to Ed.

 

“True.” Jon says as he runs his hands through his hair. “I’ll do that, I’m going to go back to the room.”

 

“There is one more thing.” Neal says and Ed looks at him and Jon suddenly remembers as well.

 

“Oh shit.” Jon says.

 

“What?” Ed says as he looks back and forth at them. “What!”

 

“Steve has a gun.” Neal says.

 

“I don’t think it’s Steve’s gun, it is more like the ‘thing’s’ gun.” Jon says.

 

“Whatever! There was a gun in the coat pocket.” Neal says.

 

“A 45 probably. What did you do with the gun?” Ed asks.

 

“Threw it in a dumpster.” Neal says.

 

“Look, it doesn’t matter, whatever we do it is one step ahead. We destroyed that coat and it needed it so it made a new one, the same with the hat. I’m going back to the room, this has been too much. Night guys.”

 

They say their goodnights and they follow Jon out of the restroom and he heads back to the room and they go back into the dining room after explaining about Jon they all settled down for a great dinner and conversation, Neal finds himself distracted by that coat and hat and now he wishes he went up to the room with Jon. When Ross and Smitty were playing the millionth game of Scissor, Rock and Paper and Ross started yelling that Smitty was cheating is when Steve decided to call it a night, he had phone calls to make and some more writing to do. Neal and Ed waited until Steve was gone because Neal was reaching the point to where he couldn’t stand looking at Steve wearing that damn coat anymore either, Ed and Neal walked down the hallway together each lost in his own thoughts.

 

“How good is Steve’s eyesight?” Ed asks as they stop at the elevator and Neal looks at him.

 

“20/20 as far as I know why? Oh wait, don’t tell me this is the latest chapter in the Steve saga! Is he going to have x-ray vision like frigging Superman, see through walls and all of that shit?”

 

Neal asks as he and Neal get in the elevator and Neal pushes the button for his floor and they began to move upward.

 

“According to the text I am deciphering it mentions the word ‘eyes’ a number of time and ‘vision’.

 

What about his hearing?”

 

“His hearing...?”

 

Neal doesn’t finish his answer because the elevator slows at Neal’s floor, stops, then it lunges downward, causing Ed and Neal to grab a hold of the railings, then it stops halfway between floors.

 

“Whoa!” Neal exclaims.

 

“I’ll call security.” Ed says as he opens the door to the phone on the panel.

 

“Hey it could be worse, the lights could be out. Hello security yeah we’re stuck...”

 

Then the lights flickered, once, twice and Neal and Ed looked at one another then they went out completely.

 

“You and your big mouth!” Neal says.

 

“Stay calm I am sure the emergency lights will kick on in just a sec.”

 

“Well?” Neal says impatiently when the emergency lights don’t come on.

 

“What do you want me to do?” Ed asks from the dark.

 

“Why do I have to be stuck in a dark elevator with you! Oh no! It can’t be a woman it has to be you!” Neal says.

 

“Shut up! Do you think I like this?” Ed says.

 

“I am just a tad bit claustrophobic.” Neal says.

 

“A tad bit? Why don’t you use your lighter?” Ed asks.

 

“I left it in my room!” Neal yells.

 

“Geez you don’t have to yell I am standing right here.” Ed says.

 

“I am not yelling!” Neal yells.

 

“Neal calm down, take a few deep breaths.”

 

“You know I really don’t like this.” Neal says.

 

Suddenly they hear a noise at the elevator doors then they open but they couldn’t see who it was because it is just as dark out in the hall as it is in the elevator, you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended.

 

“Who’s there?” Ed asks.

 

“Steve. So what are you guys doing? Just hanging around?!” Steve says as he laughs.

 

“Ha-ha-ha! Yeah kiss my ass! That is so not funny! Get us out of here!” Neal says.

 

“How did you find us?” Ed asks.

 

“You guys woke me up. Neal was making enough noise to wake the dead.”

 

Neal now knew why Ed was asking him that question about Steve’s hearing, Steve’s room was at least a good fifty yards down the hall.

 

“Steve where is your flashlight?” Neal asks.

 

“I don’t need a flashlight. Put your hand out Neal.”

 

“But I can’t see you.” Neal says.

 

“That doesn’t matter, I can see you, put your hand out.”

 

Neal does as Steve asks and he feels Steve grab his hand.

 

“Keep your head down you’re between floors.” Steve says.

 

Neal keeps his head down and Neal feels Steve pull him up and out of the elevator and as soon as Steve pulls Ed out of the elevator they see two flashlights bobbing up the hallway in their direction. The security officers shine their flashlights at them and Steve shied away from the light as he covers his eyes.

 

“We had a call that someone was stuck in an elevator.” One of them say.

 

“It’s alright I got them out.” Ed says.

 

One of the security officers looks at Ed in the beam of the flashlight then he shines it toward the elevator, noting that the elevator is stuck between floors.

 

“Who was stuck?” One of them asks. Ed points to Steve and Neal and they raise their hands.

 

Between Neal and Steve, Ed is the bigger, taller and seemingly stronger of the two, so it is possible that he could have pried open the doors and got them out then the security officers noticed something else.

 

“Where’s your flashlight?”

 

The three of them began to look at the other then much to their surprise Steve says,

 

“We have lighters.”

 

“We do?!” Neal says incredulously.

 

“Yeah we do.” Steve produced one from his back pocket. “ Check your back pockets.” Steve encourages them and they do.

 

Neal sticks his hand in his back pocket and pulls out his lighter Ed and does the same wondering how in the hell it got there.

 

“We have...” Ed starts.

 

“Lighters.” Neal finishes.

 

“Here take this.”

 

The security officer reaches into his bag and pulls out a flashlight and he hands it to Ed.

 

“There’s been a major power outage.” One of the security officers say.

 

 “No shit!” Steve says sarcastically. The security officer ignores him and he continues.

 

“The safest place for you right now is in your rooms, we strongly suggest you go there and stay there.”

 

“Good idea, I think it’s passed our bedtimes anyway. Thanks guys.” Ed says.

 

The security officers turn and they go back up the hall.

 

“Looks like I am stuck with you guys tonight.” Ed says.

 

“Steve where are you going?” Neal asks.

 

“Back to my room.” Steve says.

 

“Walk with us, Ed has the flashlight.” Neal says.

 

“I don’t need the flashlight I can see.” Steve says.

 

“Steve where did you get the lighters?” Ed asks.

 

“What lighters?”

 

Steve answers as he shrugs then he walks off. Ed and Neal felt their back pockets and the lighters were gone.

 

Steve couldn’t believe that he had lost his coat and hat and he was really happy when he found them, now he wishes that he could remember buying them. Somebody had to buy them, they didn’t just appear one day out of the blue, did they, or did they? The scary thing was if he didn’t buy them who did? Sherrie could have, the coat and hat were certainly his style and his family knew what he liked but why should it matter how he came to have them. He had them and he was going to wear them, so he did, down to dinner. He had no clue that his choice of fashion would mean so much to so many and cause the reactions that it did.

 

Steve came around the corner and the first person to see him was Jon and he thought Jon was going to keel over from a heart attack, Jon choked on some water and turned at least five shades of red and Neal did the complete opposite, he turned white. Steve couldn’t figure out what had happened or why until Neal mentioned the coat and hat, then Jon went to the bathroom and Neal followed him then Ed left as well. When they finally came back Jon had opted out of dinner and things from there progressed as normally as possible, meaning that Neal tried to avoid looking at Steve but the harder he tried the more he ended up looking at him. Steve was just about to pop off and say something, that was until Ross and Smitty started on their marathon scissors, rock, paper and Steve thought this would be a great out. He said his goodnights and he could have sworn he saw relief on Neal’s face. He went back to his room, made a few phone calls, did a little writing then went to bed. He doesn’t know how long he had been asleep when he heard Neal’s big mouth complaining about something, Neal sounded close like he was in the same room, in the other bed, so Steve rolls over.

 

“Neal! Shut your big mouth!”

 

When Steve opens his eyes he notices a few things, one, that Neal is not in the other bed, two, that the electricity must have gone off because he had left a few lights on when he went to bed and it was darker than the inside of a cow and three, he could see in the dark like a cat. He sat up in bed, his eyes not needing any time to adjust to the dark, he rubs his eyes then he looks again. It was true and it was wild, he always has had good eyesight but this was crazy. He could also hear Neal still and Ed and he could tell by the sound of Neal’s voice that he was in some sort of distress. Steve got dress and he follow the sound of their voices to the elevator. He could see like it was broad daylight and he pried open the elevator doors like it was nothing.

 

“Who’s there?” Ed asks.

 

“Steve. So what are you guys doing? Just hanging around?!” Steve says as he laughs.

 

“Ha-ha-ha! Yeah kiss my ass! That is so not funny! Get us out of here!” Neal says.

 

So Steve proceeded to get them out, then security showed up and Steve did the cigarette lighter trick and Steve felt like Superman, it would have been great if the outcome wasn’t so tragic, and he knew it wasn’t him doing any of this. Even though it was bad he did enjoy seeing the look on Jon’s and Neal’s faces when he moved that bus and just now getting them out of the elevator and telling them he didn’t need a flashlight, that was another surreal moment. Steve also wondered what sort of impact his acute hearing would have and he didn’t have to wait long to find out.

 

“Stop! Stop! Stop!” Steve says as he wildly waves his arms back and forth. “What in the hell was that!! God, we sound like a garage band!”

 

Steve rails at them at the latest sound check.

 

“You!” Steve points to Ross. “ are flat!”

 

“You!” He points to Neal. “ That was the worse note I have ever heard!”

 

“You!” He points to Jon. “ When was the last time you tuned that piano?”

 

“Look Perry don’t you take that tone with me!” Neal says.

 

“Tone?! What would you know about tone? Or Pitch? Or anything remotely musical today?”

 

“This piano is tuned everyday!” Jon says.

 

“Really! Could have fooled me!” Steve answers back.

 

“Steve that is why they call it sound check, we will be perfect by tonight.” Ross says.

 

“Yeah Steve we’re only human.” Smitty says.

 

“Some of us are anyway.”

 

Steve says as they look at him then Neal and Jon look at each other. Then Steve notices something wrong with the light rigging that nobody else standing on the ground would have seen because no one could see that far, Steve then runs off to find a member of the crew.

 

“That was interesting.” Smitty says.

 

“You can say that because he didn’t tell you that your playing sucked!” Ross says.

 

“That’s because it never does.”

 

Smitty says as he smiles and he twirls a drumstick.

 

Although Steve’s acute hearing was a pain it also seemed to be a blessing in disguise for Jon. Even though he wasn’t anywhere near it Steve could hear it, it started out as a low hum then it begin to build in intensity. He knew it was a piece of equipment but he wasn’t sure which one until he saw Jon walk over to the amp and begin to plug his guitar in.

 

“Jon no!”

 

Steve yells and Jon turns just as the amp makes a popping sound then it sparks and smokes and the acrid smell of burning electrical fills the air. Steve pulls Jon away as two of the crew uses the fire extinguishers on it.

 

“Thanks Steve.”

 

“Don’t mention it.” Steve says as he pats him on his shoulder and then he walks away.

 

As it happened Herbie was able to get the next tour bus in line, Traveler, and they were going to use that for the rest of the tour as they were headed back to California to pick-up the remaining dates before the big wrap-up in Hawaii. Back on the highway, stuck somewhere between Utah and California, hell, they could be back in Colorado or even New Mexico for all they knew because they were lost, not just a little lost but a lot lost, they were stopped at one of those rest stops areas, along with a few other road weary tourists.

 

“Lost? How can we be lost?” Steve asks.

 

“Easy. When you don’t know where you are going you are therefore lost.”

 

Ross says as they help the driver with the map then the next thing they know Steve is gone and they feel the bus rock back and forth. They go out to investigate and they find Steve on top of the bus, his hand above his eyes, to shield them from the setting sun.

 

“Perry! What in the Sam hill are you doing up there?” Neal asks.

 

“Looking.” Steve answers.

 

“How did you get up there?” Ross asks.

 

“Looking? Looking at what?” Smitty asks.

 

“Who are you anyway? The incredible Spiderman?” Jon asks.

 

“That would be the amazing Spiderman and the incredible hulk.” Steve replies.

 

“Whatever.” Jon says.

 

“You better get down from there before you break something.” Smitty says.

 

“We need to go ten miles then go West and then we will be home free.” Steve says as Smitty and Ross laugh.

 

“Oh really! I didn’t know the Portuguese had trackers.! Ross says.

 

“Ha-ha yeah yeah just go and tell the bus driver.”

 

Steve says then Smitty and Ross walk away and they board the bus and then Steve climbs down.

 

“Stop showing off Steve.” Neal says.

 

“I am not showing off I’m helping.” Steve replies.

 

“Bullshit! You are showing off! I cant believe this, you’re possessed by this ‘thing’ and your showing off! Those powers of yours aren’t yours! You aren’t some fucking super hero!” Neal says.

 

“Alright maybe I am showing off but don’t you think i deserve it! Don’t I deserve to have some fun with what time I have left, pull some goodness out of this badness that I find myself in? Maybe do some good if I can? Neal give me some leeway here.”

 

The sun has now dipped below the landscape and the last rays die as the three of them look at the other, the lights at the rest area come on as darkness falls and Steve’s eyes are just like those lights because now his night vision has kicked on.

 

“That isn’t too much to ask is it Neal, Jon?”

 

“No I suppose not.” Jon says.

 

“No.” Neal answers.

 

Just then the bus starts up with a cough of soot and diesel fumes and Ross opens the door and he hangs out of it.

 

“Hey guys! Let’s go, the bus driver is going to give it a try!”

 

 

Without another word spoken they get back on the bus and the bus driver, much to his pleasant surprise find that the directions Steve gave him are accurate and they are headed back in the right direction, back to California. California, the minute they crossed the state line the guys knew they were home even if home, technically, was at the other end of the State. Steve and the other guys turned their faces toward their home base, their wives, girlfriends, families the one constants on their minds as Steve tried his best to ignore the ticking of the clock and the ever turning pages of the calendar.

 

 

Herbie decided that after this part of the tour the guys were going to have some time off to regenerate before the last big dates in Hawaii, a few days, that was all they were granted and luckily when the twelfth of the month rolled around they were going to be on the bus. Steve really didn’t want this to happen at home actually he rather it not happen anywhere, to Steve it was like he was having his own monthly cycle, as funny as that sounded, by now if he didn’t make a joke about it he would be reduced to tears. When they found out they were going to get some time off before Hawaii, the guys were happy, Steve was happy, or was he? He wasn’t sure, he wanted to go home but then again he didn’t, even to him that didn’t make sense. It was all he thought about and now that it was close he wasn’t sure, he wasn’t sure if he wanted Sherrie or his family seeing him this way, he didn’t want this ‘thing’ to rear it’s ugly head in his home or around his family. He had this feeling that Sherrie would take one look at him and she would be able to see it or when she touched him she would be able to feel it. He did want to go home to see his people for the last time and it was hard not to be happy, when all around him the guys were ecstatic, longing for home but then again it wasn’t easy either.

 

City by city and venue by venue they criss-crossed and zigzag their way across the lower portion of California and the bus, Traveler, chewed up the miles and spit them back out, the atmosphere on the bus was happy, festive even, as the band members boarded the bus after the last concert on the 12th of the month. They had a small party, nothing fancy, and Steve crawled into his bunk in the midst of it and he went to sleep and this driver, hearing about the difficulty of the last driver’s ability to stay awake and almost killing the hottest band in America, he thought it would behoove him to pull over into a rest stop and sleep, while the guys slept.

 

 

That is where they sat, the bus quiet, the rest stop quiet and mostly deserted at this hour, surrounded by trees, one of the more picturesque rest stops and things were peaceful until Ross felt the call of nature and he had to pass Steve’s bunk to get to the bathroom and then Neal, who was sound asleep felt himself being shaken awake by a very scared Ross.

 

“Neal! Neal! Wake the fuck up! Neal!”

 

“What?! What is it!”

 

“Steve! Steve is gone!”

 

“What! He’s in the bathroom!”

 

“No he isn’t! I was just in there! He is gone!”

 

Neal sits up there and he remembers what the date is and what has happened.

 

“Sssshhhhh! You’re wake up the whole bus!” Neal whispers.

 

“Too late.” Smitty says as he hangs his head over the side. “What’s going on?”

 

“Nothing.” Neal says.

 

“Steve is gone!” Ross says.

 

“Ssshhhhh!” Neal replies.

 

“Gone?” Smitty replies.

 

“Hey! Shut up! Some of us are trying to sleep!” Jon yells from the other side of the bus.

 

“Jon, Steve is gone!”

 

Jon opens the curtain on his bunk and he swings his legs out and he jumps down.

 

“Ross, Ross calm down! There’s got to be a reasonable explanation..”

 

Jon says as he looks at Neal over Ross’s shoulder, they both know what the explanation is but reasonable it aint.

 

“Then what is it then?” Ross asks.

 

“Steve likes to walk. Maybe he is out, you know, walking.” Neal replies.

 

“Walking, at this time of night, in a rest stop, in the middle of nowhere?” Smitty says.

 

“We should go look for him. Maybe something has happened.” Ross says.

 

“Yeah! If he did go out walking he could have gotten pulled into a car!” Smitty says.

 

“Don’t be silly!” Neal says.

 

“Silly!” Ross says.

 

“Yeah silly! Steve will be alright. He can take care of himself.” Neal replies.

 

“How do you know that?!” Smitty says.

 

“Guys! Guys! Stop!” Jon says.

 

“We need to go and look for him!”

 

Ross says as he sits down and puts on his shoes and Smitty begins to do the same, Neal and Jon look at one another and obviously something big had changed. Before no one ever knew that Steve had pulled a disappearing act and also it was later than they realized because it was closer to 6 am than 1 am and Neal could have sworn his watch read 1 am but he couldn’t remember exactly when that was. Just as Ross and Smitty were getting ready to exit the bus, the doors whooshed open and Steve boarded the bus, taking the stairs one at a time, wearing that abominable hat and coat. Steve rounded the partition and he was met with wide eyed stares, Neal and Jon had that deer caught in the headlights look, Jon’s mouth open.

 

“Hey guys, what’s going on?” Steve says way too casually.

 

“What’s going on? Where in the hell have you been?!” Ross asks.

 

“Yeah Steve!” Smitty says.

 

Steve takes his hat off and he throws it on the bunk as he looks back and forth at Ross and Smitty, then he removes his coat.

 

“I went for a walk! What in the hell is your problem!” Steve replies.

 

“My problem...! Now look....!” Ross says.

 

“Just stop. Steve is back and all is right with the world.” Neal says.

 

“I doubt that seriously! Things have not been right in this world for months!” Ross says.

 

Steve doesn’t say anything he just sits on his bunk, removes his shoes, then he rolls backwards into his bunk.

 

“Let’s just all go back to bed.” Jon says sleepily.

 

“It’s 6:30 in the morning.” Ross points out to them.

 

“So! We still have a drive to San Francisco, I suggest we make the most of it. I know once I get home I wont be sleeping.” Neal says.

 

“You know, just the thought of you, having any kind of sexual whatever makes me ill !” Ross says.

 

“Me too.” Jon says.

 

“Me three.” Smitty says.

 

Steve just chuckles then he drags the pillow over and covers his head with it, after that they all scatter and they make trails back to whatever bunk they came from and Neal lays down in his bunk, which is right across from Steve’s, Neal desperately wants to talk to him, ask him questions but he knows he can’t do that here. The bus was entirely the wrong environment to have any sort of discussion, serious or otherwise, it was like a metal cracker box on wheels, a high dollar, shiny, plush, technology filled cracker box, where privacy was nil. Neal looked across at Steve the pillow covering his head

 

“Steve.” Neal whispers.

 

Steve opens his eyes and from the darkness the pillow causes, Steve’s eyes have a luminescent, a slight glow similar to those of a cat and Neal finds himself taking a deep breath and he gets passed it.

 

“What...?” Neal whispers.

 

Steve shrugs, “ I don’t know, it felt different.”

 

“How? What?” Neal asks.

 

“Can the chit chat!” Ross yells.

 

“Later.” Steve says as he closes the curtain.

 

The remainder of the bus ride into San Francisco was peaceful, the guys slept until about noon and at one o’clock the Golden Gate Bridge was in sight, they sat at the rear window, a one way glass where they could look out but no one could see in.

 

“Guys we’re home.”

 

Neal says as they begin their drive across the bridge the cables high above them.

 

“It’s a beautiful day.” Steve says as he looks out of the window.

 

“Yeah it is Steve, it is.” Jon says.

 

What with the heavy midday traffic crossing the bridge they reached Journey central headquarters at two pm, the bus was parked in a huge stucco covered garage, made for concealment and to blend in with the surrounding neighborhood. The guys grabbed their belongings and disembarked and they all headed for the back patio, fenced in and brick lined where the focal point was a fountain surrounded by benches and already waiting there was Ed, Tony and Jack with their bags at their feet, relaxed, reading the paper, Smitty, Ross and Jon were picked up right away, much to the chagrin of Neal.

 

“I guess I’m not loved as much as I thought I was. “ Neal says and they all laugh.

 

“So where are you guys going?” Steve asks.

 

“Herbie got us rooms. We’re waiting on a cab.” Ed replies.

 

“Oh yeah, we’re going to see the sights of San Fran!” Tony says as Steve laughs and he says,

 

“There are a lot of them, check out Fisherman’s Wharf.”

 

“And Alcatraz. I’ve been there.”

 

Neal says happily as he points to himself and smiles.

 

“Well, not as a prisoner I hope Neal.”

 

Tony says and they all laugh as Neal looks a little dumbfounded.

 

“Well no, oh fuck you guys!” Neal says and that makes them laugh even harder as Steve says,

 

“I would invite you guys to stay with me but two is company...”

 

“And five is a orgy!” Neal laughs.

 

“Jeez Neal you need to go home and get laid.” Steve remarks.

 

“I will if she would ever get here.”

 

Neal says as he grabs Steve’s wrist and looks at his watch, just then, they see a car drive up and stop and Steve grabs his bag and makes his way to the gate.

 

“Have fun Steve.” Neal says.

 

“I will, don’t break anything Neal.”

 

They laugh then they watch as Steve opens the gate, he walks then he runs out to her, he drops his bag on the ground then he embraces her in a massive bear hug, lifting her off of her feet, they kiss a long, lingering type of kiss that says, ‘I’ve missed you.’

 

“Cute couple.” Tony says.

 

They finish their kiss and they exchange a few words then Sherrie hands Steve the keys.

 

“It’s changed.” Neal says as he looks over his shoulder as they get in the car.

 

“How?”

 

Ed asks as Tony and Jack look at Neal and Neal watches as they drive off then he explains to Ed in detail what had occurred on the bus, how Ross noticed that Steve was gone and when Steve returned it was ‘Steve’ and they all saw him, saw him wearing that coat and hat.

 

“It didn’t knock us out like in the past, it was like it wanted us to see. What does it mean?”

 

“It means it’s stronger and bolder, it doesn’t care who sees. It’s knows it’s stronger than all of us, it knows we can’t stop it.” Ed explains.

 

Just then a cab and Neal’s ride pull up at the same time, Tony, Jack and Ed pick up their bags, the other guys go out to the cab and as Ed walks by Neal he stops and says,

 

“Know what else it knows?”

 

“No” Neal answers as he shakes his head.

 

“It knows that the end is near. It has nothing to lose and everything to gain, from the moment it began it had already won and Steve and I....we both...lost.”

 

Neal puts his hand out on Ed’s arm to stop him from leaving.

 

“Ed I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t be. I’ve made peace with it, has Steve?”

 

“I think so I don’t really know, with Steve it’s hard to tell, he’s a complicated sort.”

 

They both walk as they talk and Neal latches the gate behind them.

 

“I know what I have to do Neal, so that the emotional toll you guys will have to pay later, may not be so high.”

 

The cab driver puts Ed’s bag in the trunk and he slams the lid shut then the driver gets in and Ed opens the door and he puts one foot in.

 

“Wait! What does that mean?” Neal asks.

 

“It means, absolutely positively, nothing. Enjoy your time off.”

 

Ed smiles at him then he gets in the cab, closes the door, then they drive off leaving Neal to wonder what in the hell all that just meant.

 

Neal was enjoying his time off, that day, that evening and into the next morning that is until 2 am when the phone rang, Neal knew from experience that whenever a phone rang at this hour it was almost always bad news, somebody had either died or they were in jail and it was not Neal’s job to bail out wayward band members, that was Herbie’s job.

 

Neal ignored it, he couldn’t get to it anyway he was too entangled, as it were, when it rang a second time he let that go as well but by the fourth time he was pissed. He grabbed the receiver off of the hook and yelled into it.

 

“WHAT! This better be good because I was just about to....!”

 

“Neal!! This is Steve!! I need your help!!”

 

It was a bad connection but Neal could hear that Steve sounded desperate even scared.

 

“Steve....?!”

 

There were a few snaps, crackles and pops and clicks then nothing but static then dial tone.

 

In Novato, 2:30 in the morning at the Cain residence Jon stumbles into the hallway, tripping over the rug, a toy, his own big feet in an attempt to answer the phone before it woke everybody up.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Jon!! This is Steve!! I need your help!!”

 

It was a bad connection but Neal could hear that Steve sounded desperate even scared.

 

“Steve....?!”

 

There were a few snaps, crackles and pops and clicks then nothing but static then dial tone.

 

It was a whirlwind and they were both caught up in it, Sherrie had made a nice ‘Welcome Home‘ dinner, including wine and dessert, oh well, it would keep whatever it was. The last thing on Steve’s male mind was food, he couldn’t see pass her, they barely made it into the house before they were on each other, then they couldn’t make it out of the living room until they were both spent and that male hormone driven enzyme made it sleepy time for Steve. Now they were the only two people in the world, curled up in bed together, her bare back warm against his chest, content, happy, quiet, peaceful in their existence until the loud, intrusion knocking began on Steve’s front door. As in all things, when you are in a deep sleep and you hear noises you can disregard, ignore, think that the moron who is pounding on your door is actually pounding on your neighbors. No such luck in this case because the moron is pounding on your front door, Steve lazily opens one eye and he looks over Sherrie’s head at the clock, 3 am.

 

They persist and before the neighbors complain and the police arrive Steve gets up, causing Sherrie to stir and she grabs his hand.

 

“Steve. Steve. Where are you going ?” She asks sleepily.

 

“Somebody is knocking at the door, stay put, I’ll be back.”

 

Steve says as she nods her head and drifts off and Steve climbs out of bed and then he searches the floor for his pants, then the hallway, he finally finds them in the living room and the person at the door keeps knocking.

 

“Alright, alright! I’m coming!”

 

Steve puts his pants on then he turns on the porch light and he unlocks the door and he opens it to find Neal.

 

“Neal? What in the hell are you doing here?”

 

Neal pushes pass Steve and he comes into the living room.

 

“What am I doing here! You called me, is everything alright?”

 

Steve laughs, “I didn’t call you! Why would I call you, you big moron!”

 

“I don’t know why but you did, you said you needed help!” Neal says.

 

Again Steve laughs, “ I...don’t need that kind of help and I didn’t...”

 

Their conversation is interrupted by the sound of a car, moving fast up the hill, then they see headlights make that sharp turn, then they hear a squeal of brakes, tires on gravel, a car door slam shut. Steve sees Jon first with his super sight, fiddle with the gate by the garage for a second then when he cant get it open he gives up, he does one of those sideway type jumps and by now Neal can see him as he runs through the front yard to the porch. In his haste he trips on the stair then the Welcome mat by the front door, out of frustration he picks it up and he flings it out into the front yard.

 

“Hey!” Steve says.

 

“Jon! What are you doing here?” Neal asks.

 

“Steve called me, he said he needed help, what’s wrong?”

 

Jon says as he tries to catch his breath his hands on his knees.

 

“I didn’t call you!” Steve says.

 

“What...what are you doing here?” Jon asks Neal.

 

“He called me too.”

 

“No I didn’t!” Steve insists.

 

“I know your voice anywhere, it was you! “ Neal says as he points at Steve.

 

“STEVE!!”

 

They are all startled by Sherrie’s scream from the bedroom, it was an ear piercing scream filled with terror and Steve has never, ever heard her scream like that.

 

Steve turns and he runs down the hall, Neal and Jon behind him, they stop at the entrance to the bedroom and they wait in the hall as Steve runs into the bedroom. Sherrie is sitting up in bed, her hands over her face, crying hysterically and trembling.

 

“Sherrie! What is it?”

 

She mumbles something but Steve cant understand her.

 

“Sherrie! Sherrie! Take a deep breath, what happened!”

 

“You! I saw you!! Just now! I heard your voice out in the living room, then I saw you in here but I could still hear your voice in the living room!!!!”

 

“Sherrie....!”

 

“You....you...touched me!!!!”

 

“WHAT!”

 

Steve horrified looks at her, his hands on either side of her head, her hands clutching the blanket at her chest, tears running down her face.

 

“Where?” Steve asks.

 

Sherrie puts her hand up to her cheek and she looks at him.

 

“Cold. It was so cold...”

 

Steve moves his hand down to hers that is on her cheek.

 

“Honey, where did it go?”

 

She points and Steve looks to where she is pointing.

 

“It went through the wall! What....what was it! How....? I don’t understand....!!!”

 

“Sssshhhhh....sssshhhhh...it’s alright.”

 

He lets his arms drop around her as she folds into him like a rag doll, Steve comforts her like a child, because that is what she has been reduced to, Steve has his chin on the top of her head, their eyes closed, their repose like statues. Out in the hallway Neal and Jon are embarrassed, embarrassed to have been an witness to such an obviously intimate, private moment and they were just about to leave when their pagers went off at the same time, Steve turns his head and he looks over his shoulder to the hallway as Neal and Jon check their pagers, they find it is their respective houses.

 

Jon calls first and he is met with a slight case of hysteria.

 

“What? He did what? No! No! Don’t call the police! I can take care of it! No! Alright, I am on my way. Calm down. See you soon, what? No, I promise to take care of it. Alright. Goodbye.”

 

Jon hangs up the phone and Neal didn’t even have to ask.

 

“Steve paid a visit to my house or what she thought was Steve.”

 

“Holy....!”

 

Neal dials his number and Neal is met with the same story just a different chapter.

 

“It’s me. Wait, wait calm down...I can’t understand a thing...He did what?! Just now...? No! No for crips sakes don’t call the police! I’ll take care of it, yes, yes, yes, no! no! Yes I’ll be home soon. Bye.”

 

Neal drops the receiver back into it’s cradle.

 

“Well Steve sure gets around I must say.” Neal says.

 

“Doesn’t he though. It has to be a new land speed record, Steve made it to both our houses in under two minutes.” Jon says.

 

“Naked as the day he was born.” Neal says.

 

“He did that at your house too huh?” Jon says.

 

“Oh yeah.” Neal rubs his eyes. “She was none too happy, let me tell you.”

 

“Same here. It’s nice to know somebody, somewhere is having fun with this.” Jon says.

 

“Yeah at all our expense.” Neal replies.

 

“Steve, we’re leaving now.”

 

Jon yells down the hall in the direction of the bedroom, Steve doesn’t answer but then again they didn’t really expect him too either.

 

The next day, for everybody, was damage control day, Steve somehow convinced Sherrie that last night she was having a vivid nightmare, caused by too much wine, even though they hadn’t drunk that much, too much sex, too much excitement, too much craziness associated with him being home, whatever it was he didn’t have to sell it too hard because she bought it. Steve knew that she took to it so quickly because she wanted to, she needed to have some sort of explanation, it was like throwing a rope to a drowning man, Steve toss the explanations out there to Sherrie who was drowning is a sea of confusion. He had saved her when he can’t even save himself.

 

If explaining things to Sherrie was that easy it was twice as hard trying to explain things to Neal’s and Jon’s significant others.

 

It was a joke, a prank, a practical joke that had gone horribly wrong, at the time when they plotted it out it seemed funny, hilarious even, Neal explained to her but the outcome was not what they anticipated, Neal even threw in a few “Honeys”, “Sweethearts”, “Babies”, to help sweeten the lie and make it easier to swallow like bad medicine.

 

She just stood there, that look on her face, if Neal had seen it once he had seen it a hundred times, her arms crossed over her chest, that left foot tapping on the floor. She was creating a big head of steam, gearing up and getting ready to blow and blow she did giving it to Neal with both barrels.

 

She called him every name in the book and even some Neal have never heard before, he thinks she just made those up.

 

“Moronic, selfish, lame brain, jackass, childish, are you guys 12 years old or what? When are you guys going to grow up! You guys have pulled some crap in the past but this...this really tears it. Why do you let Jon and Steve talk you into these things? I should call your mother!”

 

That got him, anytime she threaten to call his mother he knew that she was really pissed and it was usually followed by her stating that he “wasn’t going to get any” until he straightened up his act, well, he wasn’t going to be home anyway so that was a mute point. She railed at him for a good 45 minutes and when she finally wound down she stood there, daring him to disagree or to get mad back at her and normally, Neal being true to form would, but not this time.

 

Much to her surprise and to his he agreed, he agreed across the board, he would do anything to appease her, so she, they, he could forget about this latest sharp jab. That ‘thing’ had been in his house, violated his very personal, private space. Forget about what he had seen, what that ‘thing’ made him feel, even forget about the fact that he was almost dragged into insanity. This little escapade cancels all of those out, this was different. The game had changed, the tide had turned, this...was war.

 

Jon faced the same bone of contention at his house, but his story was a little different because Jon’s kids were there. Her take on it was,

 

“Boys will be boys, stupid is as stupid does, there’s an idiot in every crowd, in this case there were three, and why oh why do you let Neal and Steve talk you into things?”

 

Jon didn’t interrupt, he let her go on, all of her points valid and he was ass, he admitted it and just like Neal he agreed with everything she said and he also agreed with Neal’s way of thinking he would do anything to appease her, so she, they, he could forget about this latest sharp jab. That ‘thing’ had been in his house, violated his very personal, private space. Forget about what he had seen, what that ‘thing’ made him feel, even forget about the fact that he was almost dragged into insanity. This little escapade cancels all of those out, this was different. The game had changed, the tide had turned, this...was war.

 

Neal and Jon filled Steve in on the rest that had happened that early morning and he wasn’t shocked, he wasn’t even surprised, not anymore but he did offer to go and apologize.

 

“I don’t know Steve after she calmed down she told me she thought you had a cute ass.” Neal says.

 

“Oh she did?” Steve replies.

 

“Shut up!” Neal says.

 

“I’m glad you two find this humorous.” Jon says.

 

Steve looks at the floor, “Jon....”

 

“My kids were in that house...!”

 

“I know Jon...” Steve says.

 

“And my wife...!” Jon continues.

 

“My wife saw it too Jon.” Neal says.

 

“It didn’t touch them!” Steve says.

 

“It has no fear.” Neal says.

 

“Why should it?” Steve asks.

 

“It likes to have fun.” Jon says.

 

“It can afford to.” Steve says.

 

“We should talk to Ed.” Neal says.

 

“I don’t know what hotel he’s at, do you?” Jon asks and Neal shakes his head no.

 

“I do.”

 

Steve says quietly as he raises his eyes and looks at them then Neal and Jon feel the goose bumps start.

 

“You do?” Jon asks.

 

“The ‘thing’ has been keeping tabs on him...for later. I know what it knows and I see what it...sees.”

 

“Holy shit Steve.” Neal says.

 

“How do you stop yourself from going......” Jon stops.

 

“Crazy.” Steve finishes it for him. “Righteous indignation. Being pissed off at the world seems to help. I’ll go and call Ed.” 

 

When Steve called Ed he was not surprised because he knew that Steve was capable of finding him anywhere, that old saying, ‘you can run but you cant hide’ fit perfectly. They agreed to meet at a very old haunt, it was a very old tired and very run down Cliffside park that fell into disrepair some years before. The guys at one time thought it would make a great project for them, something outside the scope of music, when the city auctioned it off the guys chipped in and bought it, they had plans to renovate it, clean it up and use it for their family get togethers, family reunions and what-have-yous but of course they got busy and the project fell by the wayside. At one time it was a happening park, it had Victorian style benches and a gazebo, picnic tables that had their own little roofs to protect them from the weather but it also had acquired a bad rep.

 

The park was also called Cliffside Park and for a very good reason, it was a rolling, green expanse of land, that had wildflowers, trees and a sheer drop of about 2000 feet, below was a boulder strewn beach and the ocean. The beach being the witness to many suicides and the ocean being the storyteller, the ocean eventually giving up it’s dead and with it the stories of the people who either, walked off, jumped off, or have driven off the edge. It didn’t always have such a sad history, it was also a gathering place for a music festival, The Summer Fling it was called and barbeques and of course a rendezvous point for lovers, young, old, secret and otherwise. It was the first person to jump that started the trend, some young broken heart lover, male or female, no one remembered but that once was all it took and the ones who were serious and couldn’t get to the Golden Gate bridge came here and they never left.

 

So the city erected a tall, wide, huge chain linked fence with razor wire at the top and even that didn’t stop the curious, or the very serious, the people who managed to jump in spite of the fence and razor wire didn’t care about ripped clothing when they had a bigger goal in mind. So the guys put up their own fence and gate at the entrance with all the appropriate signs, “No Trespassing”, “Private Property”, “Keep Off!” and of course when they were in attendance the gate was opened.

 

Jon picked up Ed and brought him out there, Neal soon followed and as they waited on Steve they gave Ed a tour of the park.

 

“This place is really something. Peaceful, beautiful and what a view! You guys really own this?”

 

“Oh yeah, lock, stock and crab grass.” Neal says.

 

Jon looks around, “You know best laid plans and all of that, we just been too busy to really fix it up like we want.”

 

They walked around pointing out to Ed the things that they want to improve on, they talk about the things they want to add, then they make their way back to the gazebo and they sit.

 

“We have had family reunions here, parties, cookouts....”

 

Ed admires the gazebo as they talk.

 

“This gazebo was Steve’s idea.” Jon says.

 

“Really?!” Ed replies.

 

“Yeah, he thought it added a certain ambience...” Neal says.

 

Ed and Jon look at one another and they laugh.

 

“What?” Neal says as he gestures.

 

“Listen to you, ambience, what a smuck!” Jon says as he laughs.

 

“He did say that! Ambience!” Neal replies.

 

“I know he did, it just sounded different when he said it.”

 

“So where did he buy it?” Ed asks.

 

“Oh he didn’t buy it.” Jon says.

 

“No...?” Ed says surprised.

 

“Oh no, Steve and his step dad built it.” Neal replied.

 

“Built it? I had no idea that he could do that. When did he find the time?”

 

“On vacation, in between albums, he said it was a ‘good stress reliever’, he could beat on this with a hammer...instead of...somebody’s head!” Jon looks at Neal.

 

“Why are you looking at me?” Neal replies as he points to himself.

 

“I’m not the one he threw the coffee mug at...” Jon says.

 

“Oh that! That was an accident!”

 

Jon laughs, “An accident my eye!”

 

“He was aiming for the trash can.”

 

“What trash can Neal? The one that was hanging from the ceiling? He was aiming for your head!”

 

“Steve did that?” Ed asks surprised.

 

“Oh yeah....” Neal says as he nods his head.

 

“Our Stevie boy has a temper.” Jon says.

 

“Speaking of which where is our golden throated boy? “ Neal asks as he looks at his watch.

 

 

Steve was stuck in traffic, he had left home in plenty time or so he thought, it was still dark and he was doing great until he got on the freeway and so now here he sits, the sun having come up on the worse case of gridlock and the higher the sun rose the angrier he got. Now he had time to think, think about it all, how this parasite in him has hurt so many people, killed so many and now how it had run amuck in his friend’s houses and the worst thing of all, it had touched someone he loved. It was the worst kind of thief, it had robbed him of his existence, his happiness, his sanity, the stability that he so longed for and that he needed, it robbed him of his family.

 

They went to visit Steve’s folks and they wanted Steve and Sherrie to spend the night but Steve was afraid, afraid that it would grow legs again and make it’s nightly rounds. Steve could tell it liked new environments, new settings, it was an explorer by nature, a scavenger by habit and a killer by design and a quick learner. It learned Steve’s sense of humor and the fact that he can be a prankster, thus the phone calls it made that night, Steve knew that it gets it’s rocks off by reeking havoc. The longer he sat, he more he thought about what he was going to miss, what he was never going to accomplish so by the time he started rolling again he was seeing red and he was livid. He drove like a maniac, in and out of traffic, swerving, passing where it was illegal to do so, he took the off-ramp at a good clip and luckily it was a private road that led up to the gate of the park, because as he rounded the corner the back end of his Mercedes fishtailed doing a side to side dance as the tires sprayed gravel and from where Ed, Neal and Jon sat they heard a fast moving car’s engine whine as it climbed the hill.

 

“That’s him.” Jon says.

 

“It can’t be, that car is moving too fast.” Neal says.

 

In the car Steve shifted gears again to get it up the hill and as he reached the top of the hill he floored it, the car jumped in response and to his left Ed, Neal and Jon were just a blur. When Ed, Neal and Jon saw Steve’s car crest the hill at the speed he was traveling they stood up.

 

“What in the hell is he doing?” Neal asks.

 

“Steve!!” Jon waves his arms.

 

Steve ignores them, the Mercedes was a little car but it was powerful and study, a feat of German engineering, as the car raced along the flat of the land it continued to gain speed, faster and faster seemingly propelled by Steve’s anger. The landscape flew by as Steve closed on the first obstacle, a black and yellow painted wooden barricade.

 

“He’s not stopping! Steve! Steve!”

 

Jon, Neal and Ed left the gazebo at a run, flying down the stairs and running after him, waving their arms even though they knew they had no hopes in catching him, all they could do was watch.

 

The car was in the highest gear it could go and Steve had the accelerator pushed to the floor and all he could do was hang on to the steering wheel and the funny thing was he wasn’t afraid. He was still too angry at this damn ‘thing’ inside of him, angry that it had come to this, angry at the pain and hurt this action will cause, angry that his friends had to stand by and witness his self destruction.

 

Steve braced himself as the car rammed the barricade, it had been there for years and it was weathered and old but the wood was still strong and as soon as the front of the car made contact the radiator was pushed into the engine, the bumper crumbled and the car began to smoke. The sound of the barricade dying was deafening as it groaned, then splintered then came apart, the noise like that of an explosion, the sound echoing back into the car. The car shook violently as pieces of wood flew through the air some falling to the ground quickly, while others became projectiles, pieces raining down on the car, a large piece embedded itself in the windshield and Steve instinctively bringing his arm up to shield his eyes.

 

Ed, Neal and Jon watched as the car impacted the barricade and they covered their ears from the sound of the exploding wood, watching as the splintered wood flew through the air making lazy circles, some falling to the earth while still others made contact with the car bouncing off of it in all directions. Jon yelled Steve’s name in a futile attempt to try and reach him and try as they might they couldn’t turn away.

 

The momentum of the car slowed slightly but it didn’t make a difference because it was only a mere hundred yards to the fence then oblivion. Steve closes his eyes and recites a silent prayer, for it to be over quickly, for the unknown darkness to be sweet, calm and peaceful and Steve knew after the car sailed off the cliff the hard part would be over and eternity would begin. Steve with his eyes closed felt the car bump and grind as it raced along the ground then he felt and heard the impact as the car breached the chain link fence, metal scraping against metal, then the nose of the car tilting downwards as the weight of gravity pushed it down, down, free falling through the air.........then nothing.

 

They watched as the car billowing smoke cleared the hundred yard gap then as it made contact with the chain link fence, ripping a hole through it and just before the car become truly airborne they watched in astonishment and horror as the driver’s door opened and Steve seemed to be pulled from the car, he did not jump out, crawl out or even fall from the car in some last ditch effort to save himself, he was pulled out. They thought they saw a hand grasping the back of his jacket at the collar and that hand propelled him away from the car, the driver’s door slammed shut as the car sluiced side to side, the rear end following the front, part of the chain link fence catching on the rear of the bumper and as the car sailed out and over it took part of the fence with it.

 

In midair the car turn end over end as it’s continued it descent, finally coming to rest in the surf on it’s roof with a thunderous crash, the sound of twisted metal reverberating up to where the guys were. The ground vibrated from the impact, Steve’s beloved Mercedes Coup that he strived for and worked so hard for, that he had dreamed about owning for years was now nothing more than expensive scrap metal on the beach below.

 

With his eyes closed Steve heard and felt the car rip it’s way through the chain link fence, the chain link giving a little resistance then it gave a squeal as the metal links snapped, then he felt the nose of the car tilt down as he said his goodbyes to everyone that he had ever loved, he only hopes Sherrie and his folks and the fans forgive him. Steve’s eyes are still closed when he heard the driver’s door open and he felt the rush of cool wind and he could smell the sharp salt in the air from the ocean below. Then he felt what he only could describe as a hand grab him by the collar of his jacket and pull him from seat of the car with such force that the seat belt was ripped from it’s supports, he heard the car door slam shut and he felt like a rag doll as he was thrown face down in the grass.

 

Steve heard the chain link fence make it’s own scream as the supports were torn away from the earth, the sound of the engine suddenly being to race then the longest minute of silence then the impact as the car came to it’s finally resting place.

 

Now he lies face down in the soft tall grass, among the dandelions hoping that he was dead but he knew he wasn’t when he heard Jon, Ed and Neal calling his name and he feels the ground tremble as they run towards him. Steve laid there stunned, the wind knocked out of him, not for forever as he had hoped but long enough to keep him lying there, he gradually pushed himself up to his knees, his hair hanging down almost to the ground as he keeps his head bowed, his hands digging into the soft grass. After they saw Steve pulled from the car by whatever it was and dropped into the grass like a child’s toy they ran, they made it to him just as he got to his hands and knees.

 

“Steve!!” They yelled and Steve raised one hand to stop them as he still looked at the ground.

 

“Don’t......touch.......me!!!”

 

Steve said biting off each word, his anger hasn’t abated, if anything he was even angrier than before. Angry at the fact that he was up here and not down there in the car where he should be, where he intended to be, angry that the damn thing had won again. He stood up slowly, finding his legs, he takes a few steps then he stumbles and he falls to one hand and knee and there, right in front of him is the rear license plate from the car. The guys watch as Steve grabs the license plate and he gets to his feet and then with a burst of energy he throws it hard over the cliff and it sails through the air like a Frisbee then he runs stumbles close to the edge, Jon makes a move to go after him but Ed reaches his hand out and he stops Jon and Jon and Neal just look at him as he nods his head no. Steve stands close to the edge, he runs his hands through his hair then he takes a deep breath and he lets loose with a scream, a scream that came from deep inside, deep from inside his soul, a scream that has been building for months, a scream born from frustration, fear and heartache.

 

“YOU FUCKING BASTARD! YOU WERE IN MY HOUSE! YOU HURT THE WOMAN THAT I LOVE! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! YOU THINK YOU’RE A BAD ASS, WELL BUCKO, YOU AINT SEEN NOTHING YET! NOBODY SCREWS WITH MY FAMILY! NOBODY! YOU PISSED OFF THE WRONG PORTUGUESE BOY, LET ME TELL YOU! YOU FUCKING SON-OF-A-BITCH THIS IS WAR! IT WON’T BE EASY, DO YOU HEAR ME, NOT EASY AT ALL! I’M NOT GOING DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT! “

 

Steve has one fist raised toward the sky, his voice carrying for miles on the wind, he takes a couple of deep breathes then he turns from the edge and he zips up his jacket and he walks passed the guys.

 

“Steve?” Jon says.

 

He doesn’t answer, he doesn’t even look around as the guys fall into step behind him.

 

“Steve?” Neal says.

 

“Leave me alone.” Steve responds.

 

“Steve?” Jon says.

 

“WHAT!” Steve yells as they try to keep up with him because he is walking fast.

 

“Where are you going?” Neal asks.

 

“Home!”

 

“Let me drive you!” Neal says.

 

“NO!”

 

“Shit Steve you cant walk....!” Jon says.

 

“WHY!”

 

“Because it’s a damn long walk and something.....”

 

Neal says but he doesn’t finish because Steve stops abruptly, so abruptly that Neal almost runs into him and Jon into Neal then Steve wheels around, causing Neal to back up and step on Jon’s foot, Steve points his finger at Neal.

 

“If you open that big trap of yours and say because something will happen to me I will stick my foot so far up your ass you will be tasting shoe leather! I just drove my fucking car off a fucking cliff and I AM STILL HERE! Nothing will or can happen to me! Don’t you get that yet! Now, I am going to walk till I get to a phone and then I will call a cab to take me home but I am so pissed right now I could probably walk all the way home! Got it!”

 

Neal cant speak all he can do is nod as Steve turns and walks off, he walks fast, his hands in his pockets his hair flying out behind him.

 

“What in the fuck are you smiling about?” Neal asks Ed who is standing there with his arms crossed over his chest a big smile on his face.

 

“Steve was really, really pissed.” Jon says.

 

“I know and that is a good thing.” Ed replies.

 

“It is? How so?” Jon asks.

 

“Yeah how so?” Neal asks.

 

“Didn’t you hear what he said, that he isn’t going down without a fight that is the Steve I was hoping would surface, the fighter. It levels the playing field, Steve has a strong will to live. That will be a big help too.“

 

“What can we do to help?” Neal asks as Ed puts his arms around their shoulders and they look at him and they walk back to the gazebo and Ed explains to them what they should do and what they need to do.

 

 

 

 

 

To Be Continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_30_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(C)Copyright 2004-2009 by Perry-Tales and LAB. All rights reserved. No reprints or reproductions without author’s permission. Steve Perry and the members or management of the band Journey are just used as characters for the purpose of story-telling. This is a total work of fiction and if anybody believes otherwise, then they need more help than I do. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead in this story is just a coincidence and not intentional. Steve Perry and the members of Journey have had no input, or knowledge of this story, and have they have not given me permission to write this story. Again it is an original work of fiction.