I drove to the police station in Nick’s car. My nerves were too frayed even to cry; my knuckles were white on the steering wheel. I had only been at the police station once before and that was for a field trip in fourth grade.
This was no field trip.
I walked in and looked around. I didn’t see Nick anywhere. As I walked up to the desk, I spotted a familiar face.
Larry, who worked two days a week as library security and the rest of the time in the garage at the station, walked out from the garage area and headed to the front door. I ran up and touched his arm. He looked at me in surprise.
“Liv, what are you doing here?” he asked. I looked around; it was crowded. I lowered my voice.
“I need your help. There was an incident at 24-Hour Fitness.” I explained the fight.
“So you want me to find out what’s going on?” Larry concluded. I nodded. He grinned.
“Which one are you trying to keep from getting booked?”
“The blonde one,” I said.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Larry said. He headed into parts unknown. I sank down on a hard bench.
Larry came back about a half hour later. He handed me a candy bar.
“It’s going to be awhile,” he explained. “Hunter is throwing a hissy fit and your blondie is still about ready to kill him. They’re handcuffed to separate benches across the room from each other.” Larry shook his head. “If they’re still spewing testosterone when they go in front of the judge I think he’ll throw them in the clink together and throw away the key.”
I scowled. “Larry, you’ve got to help me. Nick can’t be booked. That would be really, really bad.”
Larry looked at me sympathetically. “I’ll see if I can find out any more. But right now you should go home. Like I said, it’s going to be awhile.”
He walked off again and I stood up. I hated leaving, but I also felt extremely dirty and skuzzy sitting on the bench.
As luck would have it, before I hit the door, I saw a guy wearing a 24-Hour Fitness shirt walk in. His nametag read Manager. Without thinking of what I was going to say, I walked up to him.
“Excuse me,” I said as sweetly as possible. “Are you here about the incident at your store?”
The manager did not look happy. “Yes, I’ve come to give a statement and turn in the tapes.”
My heart began to pound. “Are you going to press charges?”
His face said it all. Of course he was. He began to walk away, I touched his arm.
“Wait! Please! Could we talk outside?”
Reluctantly, he followed me out into the night. I looked as doe-eyed as possible.
“I feel like this is all my fault,” I explained. “I’m going through a divorce and my husband is out for blood. He’s not the brawn of this situation but I have a feeling his mouth started it all.”
The guy sighed. “I can’t have my business labeled as a rough house. They disturbed my patrons. The whole front of the store is glass. Anyone walking by would have seen what was going on.”
I nodded sympathetically. “I completely understand,” I sighed. “Was any equipment damaged?”
“Well, no,” the manager said. I cracked my knuckles; my mind was racing for a good solution.
“Well,” I looked around and leaned closer, as if confiding a huge secret to him. “I’ve got to tell you; the blonde guy is Nick Carter.”
The manager looked confused. Obviously he wasn’t up on his influential boy bands of the 90’s.
“He’s a pretty popular musician,” I explained. The manager arched an eyebrow.
“I was thinking that if you wouldn’t press charges that maybe he could make this incident up to you in a different way,” I explained. The manager folded his arms, but his face looked interested. I was reeling him in like a fish.
“What do you have in mind?”
“Well, he was just telling me before the incident that he loves 24-Hour fitness because no matter where he goes he knows what he gets with you guys,” I said. The manager smiled; I was applying the butter and he was eating it up.
“He’s gotten into amazing shape since he started using the company,” I continued. “Maybe he could do some type of promotional advertising to make up for the trouble he caused?”
The manager looked thoughtful.
“No one has to see the tape right?” I added. “If you don’t press charges and no one else sees the tape, then really it’s more of a win situation for you then a lose situation. You won’t have to go to court and go through all of this red tape. Plus, you’ll catch the attention of female clientele. Maybe he can even sign autographs at your store.”
I was spewing out ideas faster than I could really flesh them out. Even so, the manager was buying it hook, line, and sinker.
“Well,” he tapped the video against his hand. “I guess we don’t have to press charges.”
I spoke with the manager a few more minutes and then followed him back in the building. He talked to the lady at the front desk then disappeared back into the building.
An hour later he reemerged. He walked over to me.
“So how can I contact Mr. Carter?” he said. I smiled, scribbling down his cell phone number.
“I’ll be in touch,” the manager said. I thanked him profusely and gave a little wave as he left.
Five minutes later Larry reemerged, shaking his head.
“You scare me sometimes,” he said. “What did you do?”
I feigned innocence. “What are you talking about?”
“The guy didn’t press charges,” Larry explained.
“Oh, he must have decided it was too much trouble,” I said sweetly. “After all, they didn’t break any equipment or anything.”
Larry narrowed his eyes. He didn’t believe me for a second.
“Okay crafty,” he said. “You fixed the biggest problem, but you’ve got one more.”
I raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Hunter’s dead set on pressing charges.”
I laughed incredulously. “He’s just as guilty as Nick,” I said.
“It doesn’t matter. If he presses charges that manager is still going to have to show that tape.”
I frowned. I looked around; the room was no longer busy.
“Larry,” I whispered. “You have to get me in there. I need to talk to Hunter.”
Larry sighed. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”
I batted my eyes. “Please?”
I sat at the table in a small interrogation room. The lights casted yellowed shadows on the dingy surface. My hands were clasped together on the hard surface of the table. I hoped Larry would be able to pull this off.
Just as the thought crossed my mind, the door opened. An officer walked Hunter in and sat him down. He was still handcuffed.
“I’ll be right outside,” the officer said. I nodded. “Thank you so, much.”
The officer grinned. “Larry owes me big time.”
The door closed; I looked over at Hunter. His red hair was disheveled; a permanent scowl was etched on his face.
“Whatever you’re going to say, it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to rest until Carter’s head is on a plate.”
I leaned back with a sigh. “Why are you so bitter, Hunter? I mean, really. Shouldn’t it be me who’s bitter? You’re the one that cheated on me for an entire year for our marriage. You’re the one that got my best friend pregnant. Why does Nick bother you so much?”
Hunter laughed scornfully. “Why does he bother me so much? Gee, Liv, what a dumb question. When you look back, the truth is that the Backstreet Boys hindered our marriage long before Jess came into the picture.”
I looked at him like he was crazy. “What are you talking about?”
“Oh come on,” he rolled his eyes. “On our wedding day you had to have a stupid Backstreet song in the playlist, you took off to concerts even though I didn’t want you to go, your entire IPod is like a shrine. How can a man compete?”
I laughed; it was the most ridiculous reasoning I had ever heard. “What about your whole external hard drive full of porn?” I said. “I think that’s much worse than me enjoying some music.”
“That’s your fault too,” Hunter said. “If I was happy I wouldn’t have needed it.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but then I realized that the reason I needed to talk to him was to make him less defensive. Taking a deep breath, I softened my facial features.
“Hunter,” I said gently. “I talked the gym out of pressing charges. The least you owe me is to do the same for Nick. I mean, it was both of you guys out there on the floor.”
“He provoked it,” Hunter said.
I looked down at the table. The blood was rushing to my head. It was like reasoning with a five year old.
“Okay, let’s just lay it all out on the table. What can I do to keep you from pressing charges?”
Hunter smirked; I saw his eyes lit up. If it benefited him, he was ready to bargain.
“Drop the fraud charges with your credit card company,” Hunter said immediately.
I chewed the inside of my lip. I’d be eighty before I would be able to pay off all of the debt he accumulated.
“Fine,” I said.
“Let me keep the house and the assets,” he said.
I had already planned on doing so in order to speed up the divorce. But what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. I sighed like it was killing me.
“Fine,” I said.
“And, lastly, dump Carter.”
He sat back in the chair, the clink of his handcuffs hitting the wooden seat. My eyes widened.
“Dump Carter. He’s bad news.”
“I can’t do that,” I said, shaking my head. “I’ll give you two out of three.” Tears sprang to my eyes. “Please, Hunter. If our relationship ever meant anything to you, just take what I can give, but I can’t let Nick go.”
Hunter frowned; his eyes strayed to the wall behind my head.
“You really pregnant?” he asked.
I frowned. “How did that come up in conversation?” I asked.
“Carter was bragging,” Hunter said. Somehow I doubted that.
I sighed. “Yes, I am.”
“Is it Carter’s?” he asked. I looked at him in surprise.
“Of course, who else could it be?” I said.
Brian’s, I thought.
He shrugged and sighed like he was carrying a huge burden.
“I won’t press charges. I just want to go home,” Hunter finally said. My shoulders slumped in relief.
“Thank you, Hunter,” I said. I rose. Seconds later the officer was back in leading Hunter down the hall.
Larry poked his head in.
“Everything work out?” he asked. I nodded.
“Well, Nick should be released soon,” Larry added. He paused when he saw the look on my face.
“I don’t like that look. What’s up?”
“Do you have an empty cell?” I asked sweetly.
“What? Yeah we have a few but…” he trailed off. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking,” I paused. “I’m thinking that I need to have a talk with Mr. Carter. But I think it would be more effective if he was behind bars.”
Larry smiled. “Man, I feel sorry for him. Let me go see what I can do.”
He disappeared. I took a deep breath.
I needed to get something off my chest badly. And I needed to cage the animal first before I did it.