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I hadn’t heard from Amie in weeks. I’d given her my cell phone number, my email address, my itinerary, and open-ended backstage passes, so that if she wanted to come to talk in person nobody, not even security, could stand in her way. She, in effect, had full access to me. But she hadn’t used it. She hadn’t texted, emailed, written, called, or any other form of communication since the morning on her RV step.
It was frustrating. I had so many questions for her, not the least of which was what my time was like, but I couldn’t contact her. She had given me nothing to go by to find her again, no phone number, no address. The only thing I had for her was an email address, which I’d religiously written letters to each day since we’d left NH.
The most desperate of which I was in the process of typing.

Amie, I’m going crazy. I have so many questions, and
no answers. I know you didn’t want to talk about
this whole thing, and I’m not trying to force you to talk about it, but
please understand where I’m coming from. Meeting you on the
yacht that night is the closest I’ve ever come to knowing anything
about who – or what – I am. I know I am not human, as you said, I
know I am something
different, but I don’t understand it or
how it works. I just want to talk to someone about it, and the only one
who knows about it is you. Please, Amie, write me back, okay? I am
waiting, hoping to hear from you soon. Please.

AJ came up behind me suddenly. “Yo.” He grabbed the chair next to me and spun it around, sitting in it backwards. His chin rested on the back support. “Sup?” he asked.
I closed the laptop lid hurriedly, not wanting him to see my letter to Amie. “Not a lot,” I answered, turning to look at him.
He smirked, “Were you looking at porn?”
“No,” I stammered.
“You shut that thing at, like, Olympic speed,” he laughed.
I shook my head, “I was working on something – something private,” I said. “Something that isn’t your business,” I added.
“Journal?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. He laughed, then said in a sing-song voice, “Dear diary, the fans love me sooo much, I get boners every time I’m on stage, diary…”
I laughed, “You are such a prick.”
“I know,” he grinned. “Anyways, Brian wanted to know if you were hungry, we’re going out.”
“Yeah I could go for a bite,” I said.
“Sweet,” AJ nodded. He stood up and rotated the chair back to its original place. “Hurry up, then, with your private stuff, so we can make like a banana and split, will ya?”
I laughed. “Go away and I will.”
“I still say you’re looking at porn,” he said as he ducked out of the compartment, back toward the bunks of the bus.
“Idiot,” I mumbled under my breath. I opened the screen once more and clicked the send button. The computer jingled its obedience and I sighed.
On the cab ride to the restaurant that Brian, AJ and Howie had picked out for us to go to that night, I stared out the window at the passing city. The buildings loomed over the street, reaching into the sky. The general feeling of being in a forest filled the city with the towering buildings, like being lost deep amongst the trees. I watched pedestrians standing on the sidewalks, their numbers zooming by my eyes so quickly I could scarcely see them.
“You’re quiet,” Brian said, nudging me as we rode. “You hear from that girl in New Hampshire yet?” he asked. I shook my head. “Sorry,” Brian said, frowning for me.
“It’s all good,” I answered. “I know I will sometime.”
“Maybe you should let it go,” he said.
“No,” I answered, “I don’t think so. She’s…” I shrugged. “Different.”
“Yeah but what good is different if different doesn’t contact you?”
“It’s not like that,” I said. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes with her.”
Brian winced. “This much devotion over one night, Nick?” he asked.
I wasn’t sure how to make Brian understand. I wasn’t waiting for romantic purposes, or out of devotion or loyalty or anything committal like that. I still didn’t feel anything remotely close to adoration or love for Amie, only the desire to know, to have things explained to me finally, at long last. But there was no way to communicate that, not without telling the truth – the whole truth.
“I’m okay, Brian,” I reassured him, “Really.”
“Okay,” he leaned away.
AJ and Howie were arguing about a game they’d watched the night before, which I’d sat on the sofa and stared at, but not comprehended. I shuffled my feet, hoping they didn’t try to include me now that Brian had broken my reverie, but luckily we came to a stop outside of the restaurant and we all piled out of the cab onto the sidewalk.
Brian led the way inside and we followed, and were soon seated at a table in a corner by the windows, looking out onto the street. The waiter took our orders for drinks – AJ and I had both chosen Pepsi, while Brian and Howie opted for something harder – and we were sipping on them when AJ finally started the conversation. “So who’s planning what after tour?” he asked.
I’d forgotten about the end of the tour approaching – or maybe pushed it out of my mind. We’d done a ton of promo and concerts, though, so it was really about time. If I hadn’t been preoccupied, I would’ve been looking forward to going home and hiding out from the world for a few days before returning to my down-time habit of seeking people who needed help.
“Leighanne and I were thinking about bringing Baylee to Disney,” Brian said. “We were trying to figure out what would be good for his birthday this year.”
“Leigh and I are going to Cabo,” Howie smirked.
“Sex on the beach?” AJ asked, winking.
Howie turned red and laughed. “Hoping so.”
“Me, I’m gonna record some,” AJ announced. “I’d like to get that damn solo project done once and for all, you know? Maybe with some work during our down time I can seal that deal.”
“How about you, Nick?” Howie asked me.
I shrugged, “I’m tired, I wanna get some sleep.”
AJ snorted into his Pepsi, “Sleep? Really?”
I shrugged again and drank the Pepsi. “I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep lately. Plus, I’m hoping Amie will call me or something during the break. I’d like to get some writing done, too, you know? Catch up on some new video game scores and music I haven’t heard yet… Just veg.”
Brian looked concerned, but said nothing because a waiter approached us before he could to ask us for our dinner orders. I ordered a steak because I hadn’t really looked at the menu very well. As soon as the waiter left, Brian asked, “Do you want to come stay with us?”
I shook my head. The idea of being able to guard Brian, Leighanne and Baylee over the next couple months was great, but at the same time I didn’t want to bond over that time. That would only make it worse when I had to leave.
I hadn’t thought about the impending departure in a long while. My heart felt like it had crawled into my throat, and caught my breath up for a moment. I hid the awkward moment by taking a pretend mouthful of soda and hiding myself behind my glass.
“You okay?” Howie asked.
I nodded, “Yeah. I’m fine.”
“You sure?” Brian’s voice was nervous.
“Ever since you met that chick you’ve been acting really fucky,” AJ stated.
“I’ve been acting fucky before that,” I reminded him.
“Yeah,” Brian agreed. “What’s going on? Is there something you aren’t telling us?”
Three pairs of eyes locked on me. I felt cornered. I looked away from them, out the window to the street. A gang of guys were gathered around the entrance to a bar across the way, laughing, all clad in black leather jackets and skullcaps, shoving each other around in a somewhat joking manner. My eyes swooped over their times instinctively. They all seemed fine.
I looked back at AJ, Howie and Brian, “Nothing’s going on,” I lied.
AJ shrugged, and quickly changed the subject, but I could still feel that Brian was uneasy beside me. Ever since Claire had died, I’d been unable to conceal myself from him and I knew he was picking up on the nervous vibes I was throwing out there. I avoided meeting eyes with him, knowing he’d be able to read a world of knowledge in my eyes. I watched the gang across the street because I didn’t dare to turn toward the table.
They were goofing off, pushing each other off the curb between parked cars, and shouting, laughing. The corners of their eyes were scrunched with the laughter, but even from across the street I could tell it was an unhealthy kind of horseplay. The feeling I had reminded me of a mother who knows her children too well. “Stop it before someone gets hurt,” she’d call, “I can tell by the laughter it’s getting too rough,” she’d warn.
“Spinach is like mother nature’s fuck you,” AJ was saying to Howie.
“I like spinach,” Howie protested.
“Eat your salad, Nick,” Brian urged.
But my eyes were glued to the guys.
“Nick?” AJ flicked something small and wet at my face and laughed.
“Don’t play with your food, AJ. Christ, how old are you?” Brian snapped, “I don’t even yell at Baylee for that anymore…”
I ran a hand across my face where the whatever-it-was had hit me. It was wet. I smelled my hand. Olive.
“Cut it out,” Howie hissed.
“Nick?” Brian reached out for my elbow.
Another guy had stepped out of the bar, a scrawny guy. The gang had turned to look at him. I felt my stomach contract. It was about to get too rough.
“I- I need-“ I paused, searching my head for an excuse. “Bathroom.”
I didn’t wait for the guys to react or to give me permission. I bolted. My feet carried me between the tables, towards the door, dodging waiters carrying heavy trays of food. The restaurant seemed endless, and when I finally burst through the door onto the city street, I was momentarily disoriented, trying to remember which way the window had been through which I’d seen the bar and the gang.
Turning right, I trotted down the sidewalk for a few moments before I spotted the fluorescent sign that marked the bar’s entrance. I could hear the jeers from where I was, hear the scrawny guy pleading.
“Nice tie, business guy,” one of the thugs was saying, his voice leering.
I crossed the street in a couple strides.
I could see their numbers over the roofs of cars parked along side the street, only two or three of the guys were still standing in a cluster on the sidewalk ahead of me. I felt my feet speed up, carrying me closer.
“Come with us,” another voice said. They began moving down the street toward an alley a bit further down.
“Please,” the scrawny guy said.
I was passing the bar, a pool of light on the sidewalk, as they pulled him into the alley. He was struggling, but I caught side of his numbers for the briefest of seconds.
“Hey!” I shouted, but they all ignored me, and pulled him into the alley. I broke into a run as the last of them disappeared from view. “Hey!” I shouted louder. A girl across the street – wearing a tight skirt and tall heels – glanced at me curiously.
I chanced a glance at the restaurant window, where Howie, AJ and Brian were seated. Howie was pointing in my direction, AJ was gape-mouthed and Brian was in the process of turning around. I dove behind a parked car and rushed, hunched down, trying to avoid being seen, toward the alley.
“You looking for some company?” called the girl across the street. “Hello?”
The alley loomed ahead of me and I could hear voices, but couldn’t distinguish what they were saying any more. They alley was evidently quite long.
I stepped around the corner onto it, and found myself looking into a dark space between two buildings. It reminded me of saving Daniel, yet this alley was more sinister than the one I’d found Daniel in.
“I don’t have any money,” the scrawny guy was pleading, “Please. Look in my wallet, you’ll see, there’s nothing.”
Scuffling feet echoed down the passage.
I walked cautiously forward, unable to see anything ahead of me, except, far away down the tunnel like space, a small orange street lamp, glowing, illuminating an old, overflowing dumpster.
“I think you’re full of shit,” snapped a deep voice.
“Please,” the guy begged.
I could see his numbers.
His breathing was ragged. “I have a wife, and kids,” he pleaded.
“And you were spending the night at a bar instead of with them?” sneered a voice.
“I was laid off today,” the guy explained. “Please, let me go.”
“I think you have money,” a thug said, “Poor guys don’t wear fancy ties.”
“Its in the bank,” the guy explained, “I don’t carry cash. Please. Bring me to an ATM, you can have it all.”
“I think you have cash.”
Skin on skin, rough and hard, a punch landed well on its target. I heard a sickening crack and knew that the guys nose was broken. He let out a wail, and laughter coursed among the thugs.
I propelled myself forward.
“Hey!” I yelled.
The laughter ceased. They turned to face me, surprised looks on their faces.
“Oh look, company,” one guy said.
“What are you? A cop?” snorted the deep-voiced man.
“Maybe,” I answered.
One of them reached behind him and drew a gun out from behind his back, presumably it had been tucked in the waistband of his pants. “Leave,” he said, his voice a warning tone. He aimed the gun at me.
“You don’t scare me,” I said.
“No? I should,” he said, aiming the gun at me.
“No,” I replied, “You see… I can’t die. So, really, waving that thing around, it doesn’t do much.”
I was ready for it. He pulled the trigger and I dropped to the ground, the bullet sailed over my head and struck a trash can a few yards away. If I’d stayed standing it would’ve passed through me. What then?
”I can’t die. Can I?”
“I didn’t think so.”

For the first time, I didn’t feel invincible.
“Did you get him?”
“Help me, please help me!” the man cried out.
“Shut the fuck up.” Another sickening crunch and a scuffle, and the sound of struggling stopped at the end of the alley. The guy was on the ground. His numbers still flickering.
“Did you get the cop?”
“I hit that trash bin,” snarled the irate gunholder. He aimed for me on the floor of the alley and pulled the trigger.
I rolled, and, again, if I hadn’t moved the bullet would’ve struck me. This guy’s aim was dead-on. I was mere feet from the spot where it ricocheted off the cement. My back hit the dingy alley wall and I coughed as wet dirt caught in my nose from the force I’d hit the wall.
“This asshole was telling the truth,” called a voice, “His wallet’s empty.”
“Fucking A,” cried another voice. “Take the wallet anyway. We’ll use the cards.”
“Nice wife,” jeered the first.
“Yeah, she’s got great tits,” sneered the second, evidently looking over the first’s shoulder at a picture in the wallet.
I crawled closer, ducking behind some wooden pallets that were leaning against the wall. The gunman aimed at the place where I’d hit the wall and I heard the bullet clink against a drain pipe that had been inches from my face.
“Where did he go?” he asked, aggravation climbing in his voice.
“You missed again? What the hell?”
“He’s quick.”
I leaned against the cold brick of the wall. Moss was growing all over it. I clutched a handful of it and threw it across the alley, hitting a paint bucket. The gunman whipped around and shot, sending a spray of off-white paint around the alley like the blowhole of a whale.
”I can’t die. Can I?”
He aimed the gun towards me, hidden behind the pallets, and shot, narrowly missing me. The bullet struck the wall about an inch above my left shoulder. I held my breath. Brick shattered and pieces hit my cheek. I closed my eyes. He walked closer. “Where the fuck is he?”
”I didn’t think so.”
Amie’s words were echoing in my head. I wanted them to stop, to go away. They were making me afraid to move, scared to save this guy. I’d never felt weak and vulnerable like this before. I’d always been confident when I saved people, only afraid that I’d be too late, or that I’d somehow make things worse. But this time the fear that coursed through my veins wasn’t entirely about him, but also about me and my own safety.
Cowering behind the wooden pallets, I didn’t feel like a super hero. I felt like a coward.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” sang the gunman, inching along the alley in the wrong direction. One of the other guys was standing behind him, clutching his own gun. Together, they moved toward the street.
I looked down the alley to see if there was any hope of escaping that way, but the dark beyond the orange glow of the street lamp held mysteries only. The green dump bin blocked most of my view to even make a guess where the alley led. Something told me, though, that these guys knew everything there was to know about this alley.
I looked at the scrawny guy.
It was now or never.
Summoning every ounce of courage I had, I crawled out from behind the pallets and, quietly as I could, snuck up behind the guy still crouched beside the victim. He looked up, just before I landed a blow to the side of his face with my foot. He fell over sideways, making only a soft thud against the cement, a bit of blood at his ear and nose. He wasn’t dead, wasn’t even dying. I felt no remorse. I half wondered if I would’ve, even if I’d killed him.
I ran my hand along the guy’s waistband and found the bulge at his hip. Extracting the gun, it felt heavy and cold in my hand.
The scrawny guy was still unconscious. I reached for his arm and pulled him up. He was heavy, for being so scrawny. I grabbed the wallet out of the thug’s hand and replaced it in the guy’s pocket as he fell onto my back.
“You okay back there, Digs?” called one of the two trying to find me. He didn’t turn to look.
“Yeah,” I grunted, leveling the gun. “Doing good, actually.”
The unarmed guy turned around. “Reggie,” he snapped.
The guy with the gun turned. “There you are.” He pulled the trigger, but the range we were at now seemed to be less than perfect for him, because he missed without me even having to move. The bullet blasted the orange lamp and extinguished the only light in the alley. In the pitch black, none of us knew where the others were.
“What the fuck, Reggie!” shouted the unarmed guy.
“Dammit,” Reggie swore. “Where the fuck are they?”
I moved forward, pulling the scrawny guy along, hunched over on my back. His numbers glowed over my head, and gave me the slightest bit of light in which to move forward. I kept the gun leveled, my finger on the trigger, ready to pull.
“We’re leaving,” I announced to the two thugs. “Don’t mess with me. I have a gun, too.”
I heard the click of Reggie’s gun, even though I couldn’t see him pull the trigger. But it wasn’t’ followed by a fire. He’d run out of ammunition.
“God damn it!” shouted the rough voice of Reggie.
Relief washed over me, and I didn’t hesitate. I ran for the mouth of the alley, carrying the nameless scrawny guy along. We stepped onto the sidewalk. It was drizzling ever so slightly, just enough to make the sidewalk wet. I wasn’t sure if I was being followed. In some sense, it felt stupid to think that the now unarmed thugs would follow, yet in another why wouldn’t they? I plowed down the street from the alley.
The scantily clad woman who’d called out to me before was halfway across the street on her cell phone. She’d evidently heard the gunshots. She looked petrified.
I dragged the scrawny guy across the street, past her, to the sidewalk furthest from the alley way, in the shadow of a parked car.
“Call the cops,” I told the girl as she trotted towards us from the street. “Tell them there’s some guys down the alley. They beat him up. Tried to take his wallet.” I lowered him to the sidewalk. I knew he’d be okay. Now I needed to get out before I was recognized.
“Why don’t you tell them?” she asked. She squinted at me, and I knew the only reason she hadn’t already recognized me was because of the grime that had attached itself to my face.
I looked away from her, “I can’t.”
I ran down the street, back toward the restaurant.
“Come back!” she called, but I ignored her, just praying I could get out of there before anything could stop me or force me to go back.
A commotion was going on out front of the restaurant as I turned the corner. Fans were clambering around the guys. Evidently someone had spotted us, or them, and had gotten the word out where we were. My hand flew to my face and I rubbed at the grit on my cheek, trying to rid myself of evidence before they noticed me as I came trotting up behind them.
Brian’s voice rang over the din the fans were making. His arm stuck straight up amidst the girls and I saw him trying to peer over their heads at me, his face puckered with nerves.
I waved at him, as the cluster of fans turned to face me.
Here on the main street, it was so easy to pretend that everything was normal, that it was all okay. Even when the flashing blue lights of the police officer’s car rounded the corner I was able to push the thought from my mind.
I moved toward Brian. He grabbed my elbow. “AJ and Howie are finishing up,” he said. He stared at me, “But you –“ he glanced at the fans around us, and evidently changed his mind from saying what he’d been about to say. “We need to talk. Come on.” He pulled me away from the fans toward the curb, where a cab was waiting, and climbed inside.