He was shot, that much he knew. In fact, it was the pain that had woken him up in the first place. He could hear someone prying the door open, probably the paramedics trying to get to him. He couldn’t even muster a smile but he felt so much better inside, knowing that he would be taken care of.
That got his attention. Who’s dead, he wondered? But it didn’t take long for him to remember. He had collided on an incoming car when he lost control of his own. He felt the beginning of a panic attack coming. He just killed someone.
He forced his eyes to open wider, to clear the blurry image of the man who was checking on the other driver. A sudden blinding pain near his chest clued him in to the fact that he was too weak to even do that. He decided he should concentrate on something simpler for a start, like try to get the attention of the man who was now detaching his seatbelt.
“Shit…” Nick groaned. Why was the paramedic cussing? Was he bleeding too much? Was he in any trouble? “He’s dead, there’s nothing you can do for him! Come here and help me out with this one!”
“Damn it, he’s awake.”
“I can see that, now help me!”
Nick blinked a few more times; the cloud seemed to clear and the two men now crouching next to him came into focus. They were definitely not clad in paramedic gear. In fact, they were in expensive suits and one of them definitely looked familiar…
“Just give me that!”
Without warning, the man now hovering over him swung whatever it was he was holding against his head. A blinding pain seared through his head and then it felt as if his head was burning. Everything was so woozy, he wondered if he had the time to even yell out in pain.
“You call that knocking someone out?”
“Well excuse me if this asshole has a thick head!”
“Move over, I’ll handle this!”
Everything was blurry again and he felt something trickling down his face; he didn’t need to be fully awake to know that he was bleeding. But now another panic was setting in; these people are not help.
“Stop struggling or I have to shoot you!”
The man grab him by his jaw and he felt something being pushed against his chest, it was enough to stop him from struggling further.
Next thing he knew, he felt something hard being shoved into his mouth and down his throat. He started gagging and tried to push the man off him but his movements only made his throat hurt more.
“Stop fucking move!” The man yelled at him.
His head was throbbing, his side was burning from the gunshot and now there was something being forced down his throat that the urge to throw up was too great. And when he thought nothing else could be any worst than that, he saw the other man unscrewing a glass bottle that contained yellow looking liquid.
Nick wondered if they were going to force kerosene down his throat and lit him up.
He froze when the liquid was poured into the funnel and down the tube and into his stomach. It burnt him from the inside and he felt his body giving up the fight. If he was going to be burnt to death, he wouldn’t want to sit around for it to happen. He willed for darkness to come and embrace it.
“Wake the hell up!” Someone was grabbing him by the front of his shirt.
Nick woke up gasping for air. His throat burnt and his head was still swimming with the remnants of his dream.
Only he realized it wasn’t a dream. He remembers now.
“Now, if you don’t mind, try not to start screaming and shouting in your sleep again, it’s fucking annoying for everyone else.”
He only managed a nod before he was being shoved against the wall carelessly. The pain on his head from the contact it made on the wall was the least of his problems. He welcomed the corner and pulled his knees close to his chest.
The man said nothing else and walked out of the cell, locking it behind him.
“Is he alright?” AJ asked Brian expectantly.
Brian shook his head and Howie almost lose the battle of trying to hold his stomach content down. “I…They don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know!” AJ cried. “You were on the phone with him! And who’s they?”
“Did you say Kevin called Brian?” Johnny interrupted from the back. “Where is he?”
Brian shook his head. “No, no, it wasn’t Kevin who called. It was Keith, he said Kevin never made it back to the hotel. He tried calling his cellphone but he’s not answering it.”
“Wasn’t Keith supposed to come with him when Nick made the um, statement earlier?” Howie asked almost in a whisper.
“That was the plan,” Brian said. “I don’t understand…Kevin called earlier before Nick went out and he said he was on his way…I assumed Keith was with him.”
“It’s okay.” Johnny said, wanting everyone to stay calm. “I’ll get to the bottom of this.” He was already punching in numbers on his cellphone but Howie couldn’t care much who it was their manager was trying to get hold of. He doubt Johnny knew even half of the truth; not that it was the manager’s fault in the first place, for some reason, the five of them had done whatever it would take to keep the truth from everyone else until they know it was safe enough to tell. You can’t seem to trust anyone these days.
“What did Kev said earlier?” Howie asked almost in a whisper.
“He said he did what he’s supposed to do and was trying to get back in time before Nick makes his statement.”
AJ sunk deeper in his seat. “Apparently that didn’t happen.”
“Should we start worrying about Kev?” Brian asked as he chewed his lower lip.
“I’ve passed worrying and going to panic.” AJ declared.
“We need a plan.” Howie said.
“Like?” Brian asked. “So far, all our plans suck. Look where Nick ended up at, and now Kev’s missing. Are we still going to keep this between us?”
“As much as we know Johnny is on the good side, you know how he loves to make everything turn into one huge PR thing.” Howie said.
“So you’re saying we’re keeping this to ourselves.” AJ said. Howie nodded.
“What about the videos? We still have them, we can expose the son of a bitch ourselves.” Brian said.
“We agreed we’re not giving anything away until we know all five of us are safe.” AJ reminded him. “We don’t know if Nick and Kev are safe.”
“So what do you suggest we do? Keep quiet?” Brian asked. AJ and Howie looked at each other in silence, knowing that none of them know any better.
It felt like forever since Kevin had been driving aimlessly and his throat still hurt from whatever the idiot sitting next to him had done to him earlier. Kevin had never claimed to be the bravest and boldest of the bunch, but he’d never seen himself as someone who was helpless either. Lately, he had been doubting himself. The silly mugging incident unnerved him to the point where he didn’t want to be alone in an empty house and now, he had just been rendered helpless by a man in an expensive suit who couldn’t have been any older than he was.
He wondered if anyone had bothered to track him down now that he was sure they’d realized he was missing. He knew that between the five of them, they had made a pact to not reveal anything until everyone is accounted for. If that pact still stand, then the ball is still in John Klass’ court. The shrewd had read their game and was playing along. As long as John Klass has one Backstreet Boys under his mercy, he knew his secret was safe.
The ringing of a cellphone broke his thoughts away but Kevin knew it wasn’t his cellphone that was ringing. The idiot had made sure he was cut from all communications while they had their little ride.
Lord knows where they were heading now. Kevin wished they’d met with a dead end, just so he could stop driving. His shoulders were aching and his back was beginning to feel stiff. He wondered what had happened to Nick, if they’d really arrested him or had John Klass paid the entire LAPD to send him to a secret location. What would Johnny Wright do? Surely he wouldn’t just sit on his ass and thought the police are better at handling this, would he? And what would Howie, Brian and AJ do now? Pull out Plan Z?
“Someone wants to talk to you.”
As the idiot in the suit proceeded to prop the cellphone on the dashboard and turned on the loudspeaker, Kevin hoped, even for a second, that it was Nick on the other line, assuring him that he was safe and that he should just go ahead and expose the motherfucker.
“Kevin, I wish I’d the time to see you in person but I’m running late for an important meeting so this will do.”
“Why I’m the man you’ve been wanting to meet Kevin. You and your little buddy have stirred quite a bit of a scare here lately and I must say I’m impressed. If you hadn’t been a damn celebrity, it’d be easier to dispose all of you but of course, it had to be the Backstreet Boys!”
“Well I have you driving to nowhere next to a man with a gun and waiting for my instruction to shoot so I’d say you’re the one in the tough sit.” John Klass laughed. Kevin refrained himself from rolling his eyes. “And Nick’s not doing so well Kevin, I thought you’d like to know.”
“What did you do to him you son of a bitch!”
“Nothing. He’s locked up in LAPD. But I have to say, life behind bars doesn’t seem to agree with him.”
“If you hurt him, I-”
“Relax Kevin, he’s no good to you if you end up dead from a car crash.” John Klass laughed. “Now, I’ll let you see Nick in his cell just to let you see I haven’t touch the kid and in return, you have to do something for me.”
“I’m not doing anything until you get him out of there and clear his name!”
“You’re trying my patient Kevin, I don’t think you understand just how serious this is.”
Kevin found himself too overwhelmed with anger that he couldn’t find the words to yell back at the man.
“Tomorrow, you’re going to meet me at the theme park where I’ll be making an appearance to cut the ribbon and officially announce it’s grand opening and you’ll be there to hand over all the evidence. Once that is over and done with, Nick will be free from my men. I will not help him clear his name but it’s better than bringing back his body. It’s your choice Mr. Richardson, what have you?”
Nick was drifting in between sleep and waking when that familiar sensation in his stomach made him pushed himself up on the bed. He had been throwing up in the bucket they had provided him for the past hour now but now, with his stomach empty, he didn’t bother to even reach down for the bucket.
But while dry heaving wasn’t messy, it definitely hurt twice as much.
It was almost night by the way the cell was beginning to darken and the air was getting cold. He couldn’t help breaking out in cold sweat as his nervousness got the better of him. His head kept entertaining his troubled thoughts, most of which was worrying over the fate of his brothers.
Nick closed his eyes and tried to calm himself down, he didn’t think he could take another dry heave. It seemed to be working, he was drifting back to sleep even in his sitting upright position. He could hear the distant shrieking of the metal gate as it was pushed open, it was echoing in his head. He heard footsteps thudding, as if coming nearer, but he couldn’t really tell if this was true or just his drowsy head playing tricks on him. Truth be told, Nick didn’t really care, he just wanted to be blissfully asleep.
But sleep didn’t come for Nick. However, Kevin did.
He was pale, he smelled of vomit and sweat, his lips was parched and dry, his eyes were closed, but it was still his brother whom he was looking at in the flesh. It was Nick.
Kevin felt like doing a little dance when his eyes immediately flew wide open at the mention of his name. There was a second of disbelief and hesitance before that familiar smile was back on his face.
Nick tried to get out of bed but Kevin was faster. Within two steps, he was already by the bed and leaning down to hug his brother. Was it possible for someone to lose this much weight within a day? Or perhaps this had been going on ever since the accident? Had Kevin been so wrapped up in this confusing fight that he hadn’t noticed?
Nick was shivering and Kevin realized that he was too.
“You’re okay, thank God.” Nick whispered hoarsely.
“You don’t look well.”
“I’m good, they just chuck me in here and left me alone.”
“So no one touched you?”
“I think my vomit drove people away.”
“Is Brian with you Kev? How about AJ and D? Are they okay?”
“I’m going back to them after this, they still haven’t heard from me.”
Nick frowned. “Where were you earlier today?”
Kevin sighed. “Lets just say they found me before I got to you.”
“Look Nick, one of John Klass’ men is here with me, he’s waiting outside. He made me a deal.”
“You don’t deal with such people Kevin.”
“Hear me out please?”
Nick nodded. “Fine.”
“If I hand in all the evidence we have to him, he’ll let all of us go. But he wouldn’t help to clear your name about the accident thing.”
“And you’re going to take it?”
“I don’t want to bring you back in a body bag.”
“So I’m a pawn?”
“You’re a guarantee that I won’t trick them.”
Nick let out a dry cough and Kevin almost ran out to get help when he realized where they were. No one here would care if Nick vomits blood.
“They win then?”
Kevin shook his head. “I don’t care anymore Nick. I want you back, with us. I want all of us safe. I want all of us to get the fuck away from LA for good!”
“It’s not going to solve anything Kevin.”
“It’ll keep all of you alive. That’s what matters to me!”
“You can’t give up now Kevin.”
Kevin was livid. Who did Nick think he was? A superman? “Nick, this is not fighting over some evil lawyers or sponsors. We’re not dealing with the likes of Lou Pearlman. I can’t do this!”
“When are you supposed to meet him?”
“Tomorrow, at the theme park he’s opening for.”
“Then we still have time.”