Authors: C. M. Stunich
Hayden looks over at me and curls her lip.
“I liked you, Turner,” she says, and I shrug. That isn't something I haven't heard before. “You were what I always wanted to be. Now, I don't know anymore.” I drop my cigarette to the ground and it fizzles in a puddle. “You're the God of Rock 'n' Roll, a sexual beast to be reckoned with.” Hayden smiles again, but it falls flat. “But you're also full of shit. Where the fuck is Naomi, you psychopath?” My head snaps up and I glare daggers at her.
“Are you fucking accusing me?” I ask, thoroughly disgusted. Hayden sucks in a breath and licks her lips. The next thing she says blows me the fuck away.
“That guitar you have, the one you claim is Naomi's. That's bullshit, Turner. Dax told me they all saw her smash it up onstage, so what is it you're trying to get at? What are you trying to pull?”
My body goes cold and my blood freezes in my veins, leaving me a statue in the roiling blackness of the rain and the sharp flashes of lightning. Hayden's right. In all the commotion and the shit, I wasn't thinking clearly. The guitar. Fuck. The guitar. It
That is a fucking impossibility.
I hit the stairs to the bus in a blinding rage. I'm not exactly sure who it is I'm angry with. Hayden? Naomi? Myself? Nah. It's the fucking mystery fuck who's behind all of this shit. The
The Devil. Whoever it was that Katie was talking about. When I stumble inside, soaking wet and pissed off, I find a couple of plain clothes cops sitting at the table with Milo. I know they're cops because of the way they sit, the way their eyes swing to me and take it all in, absorbing, cataloguing. Pisses me off even more.
“What the hell do you want?” I ask as I reach for the fridge and grab a beer. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I need a clear head and all, but this crap calls for a little drink. I'm just proud of myself for not slamming any dope.
Milo rises to his feet with a forced smile and tries to soothe my ruffled fur before I tear out any throats.
“Turner, in light of new evidence in the case, these men are hear to ask you a few more questions about Naomi.” I look at the two detectives and I don't have anything to say. Maybe they suspect me, maybe not. I don't give a shit. I don't know anything that'll help them. Sure, I could bring up the foster sister or the key, but I'm not going to. They'll take it away from me, take her into custody, and I won't know shit about what's happening. Fuck, even if they did find Naomi, I probably wouldn't hear about it until it was on the damn news.
“Ask away,” I say, intending to get them out of here as fast as possible. I need to get Ronnie and go to check out the RVs. I pop the cap on the edge of the counter and drink up, downing the whole bottle in less than ten seconds. The small smattering of alcohol hits my empty stomach hard and goes straight to my head. I get out a cigarette and try to ignore the fact that my hands are shaking. It has nothing to do with the cops and everything to do with the guitar. That fucker is
It's not just an extra, a spare, a mix up. That thing was planted, that's for sure. No doubt in my mind about that.
One of the cops, the one in a brown trench and a white button up, rises to his feet and holds out his hand. He's smiley and young, perky. Exactly the type of guy I hate. He and I are polar opposites on the scale. I bet he grew up in a three bedroom in Suburbia with a dog and 2.5 brothers and sisters. Good for him. I grew up in a trailer park with a sign so faded you couldn't read the
Happy to Have You in Tigard Springs
message that was scrawled across it. Immediately, my guard is up and I'm feeling territorial.
“Hello there, Turner. My name is Jim Pemberton and I'm with the Denver County Sheriff's Department. It really is an honor to meet you. I've been a fan of your music for years now. I was actually at one of your first shows, up in Jersey when Travis was still on bass.” I look at his hand and after a moment of debate, I take it and shake hard, letting him know I'm serious here. I watch his blue eyes and his chapped lips and try to decide if he's bringing up my dead friend to piss me off, or to try and win me over.
When the other cop clears his throat and frowns at me, I figure that Jim is the good cop. Whoever's at the table is the bad one. Great. I've played this game before, when I got booked for pissing on that chick. I can handle it.
I slump down in the seat and play my bad boy card, adjusting myself in my pants with one hand and holding my cigarette in the other. Bad Cop watches me play with my balls and doesn't try to hide his disgust.
“You a fan of my music?” I ask as Ronnie enters the room and looks over at me. He knows the RVs are back, too.
Well, of course he does, he's Ronnie freaking McGuire.
Bad Cop continues to stare at me from flat brown eyes, pursing his lips and folding his hands on the table. He's not happy to be here, following our tour around. I bet if he had his way, we'd all be stuck in Denver until this shit was over.
“My name is Darnell Valentine,” he says in a monotone. “And we'd like to ask you a couple of questions.” He sits up tall and doesn't try to hide his disappointment. “Before we move this to another department, we'd like to wrap up our end of the investigation.”
“FBI?” Ronnie asks, pulling their eyes over to him. They take in his pale skin, the snake tattoos on his neck, and they don't look overly excited to have him in the room. Fortunately for them, they don't say anything.
“Hayden Lee went missing in Colorado and showed up in Texas,” Jim says, smiling bright. He doesn't explain further. Instead he sits down next to his partner and proceeds to ask me a bunch of useless questions.
What do you know about Naomi Knox? How are you two involved? Where were you on so-and-so day at so-and-so time?
None of it strikes any chords until they move onto a slightly different subject.
“Have you had the pleasure of meeting Naomi's brother, Eric Rhineback?” Darnell asks. I stop with my cigarette halfway to my mouth. Holy fuck. Have the drugs done that much damage on my brain that I never stopped to think about Eric? Well, shit, he's the obvious suspect here, isn't he? Naomi said he was following the tour, that she spoke with him. But do I tell the cops that? Or do I search for the fucker myself?
I drum my fingers on the table and try to think. Finally, I decide that this information, at least, is better handled by the fucks in the suits.
“I haven't met him, but Naomi said she spoke with him.” The police don't give anything away. If they've heard this information before, they don't let on.
“Did she tell you what they talked about?” Jim asks.
I think as Ronnie makes himself a sandwich and eavesdrops on the conversation. Milo sits stiff and rigid nearby, glancing at his watch every now and again. It's
way too fucking late for cops and all this shit. But here they are, and the tour will just have to wait. Ah, the arrogance. And I thought I was bad.
Naomi told me all about her foster parents and how she killed them, how she stabbed a pair of freaking scissors into their throats like some kind of soap opera heroine.
“He was looking for his sister,” I say instead and I notice that Jim's right eye twitches a little. Guess I hit a nerve.
“I see,” he says and adjusts himself slightly. He's pretending not to be interested, but I can tell that he is. Bad Cop doesn't move a muscle. I keep my eyes on Darnell and notice that he's wearing a very expensive watch. Guess cops make a lot of money, huh? I wouldn't know. All they ever did for me was show up and drag my momma away. They never helped me out, never really punished her, never gave me a second chance at
They slapped her wrist and tossed her back, angrier than ever. I close my eyes and try to tone down the simmer of rage in my belly. “And do you know why he might've gone to Naomi for help with that?” I shrug and stab my cigarette out in an ashtray. It's actually my fourth one since I sat down. This is taking longer than I thought. The RVs drift around in the back of my mind. I imagine kicking the door down and finding Naomi, throwing her over my shoulder and rescuing her like a prince in a fucking fairytale.
“How the fuck should I know?” I ask, playing my other card. The fact that Naomi and I aren't connected in any tangible way according to the law is in my advantage right now. “She and I aren't exactly joined at the hip.”
“But you're in love with her?” Darnell blurts, leaning forward. His shaggy brows drop low over his eyes and obscure the glare he's tossing my way. My nostrils flare, but I manage to hold back my temper. Good for me. I'm growing in all sorts of fucking ways.
“What's it to you?” I snarl back.
“Darnell … ” Jim begins, but his partner isn't listening.
“We have a whole room full of people that heard you confess your love to her, that heard her deny you back that same love. That would've pissed me off. Didn't it bother you? To be turned down like that? And so publicly, too?”
I stand up then and knock over the ashtray with my hand.
“The fuck you gettin' at, motherfucker?” I growl as Milo rockets forward and grabs me by the shoulder. Darnell and Jim stand, too, but this time, it's Jim who's frowning and his partner who's smiling.
“Thank you for your time, Mr. Campbell,” Jim says, giving me a tight-lipped grin. He moves away and Darnell follows. The sound of the door swinging in the wind seems awfully loud as I stand there staring at a burn mark on the tabletop.
“Turner?” Ronnie asks, and I look up at him. “Take a walk to cool down with me, buddy?” I nod and pull my arm from Milo's grip. My manager doesn't say a thing. Maybe this time, he realizes that it's gone too far.
Nobody questions my love for Naomi.
I hear the voices again. They're arguing this time. I wonder if they're trying to decide what to do with me. I hope that whatever it is they decide, that they let me out of these damn ropes sooner rather than later. I can't feel my hands or my feet anymore, and that scares the shit out of me. I preferred it when they were burning in agony.
The footsteps come towards me, but they don't pull away the curtains. Instead, they move past me for the first time since I got here. The voices don't talk when they're close by, but as soon as they move away, they start up again. Wherever it is that they're standing, they've gotten so muffled that I can't hear anything but mumbling. It's so fucking frustrating, almost enough to start up the tears again. I thought they'd all dried up those first few days, but maybe I'm wrong. Right now, a good sob feels like it's about to bubble up and take over me.
Stay positive, Naomi,
I say, trying to give myself an internal pep talk. Never worked for me before, but there's always a first time for everything, right?
You're going to get out of this a stronger person. And then you're going to go nut shit crazy and blow some fucking heads off. Whoever's responsible for this is going down
The footsteps come back and this time, there's the customary swish of the curtain, the flash of light. But when I wait for the needle, it doesn't come. This time, the IVs are ripped out of my arm, and I grunt in pain. A second later, I'm being lifted up and tossed over the shoulder of somebody. A man, I think, based on the muscle and the musky smell of aftershave, but I've been wrong before, believe it or not.
The person starts to talk and their voice is still a bit muffled, despite my head resting against their back. That's when I realize it: I'm wearing earplugs. Fucking earplugs. Goddamn it.
“You tell him that the terms haven't changed. And tell him we haven't fucking seen her. If we do, we'll take care of it, okay?” The voice rumbles up from below my cheek as the person carries me forward. My head bobbles as we descend steps and then I gasp against the fabric in my mouth as cool water hits my skin and brings life back into my numbed limbs. The pain follows shortly after, white hot, like hundreds of needles are stabbing me again and again and again.
I start to struggle and scream as we ascend out of the rain and up another set of steps, into a warm room or bus or whatever the fuck it is. My stomach flip flops and bile rises in my throat as I'm thrown from my captor's shoulder down on a bed and left with bright light blazing into my eyes. I try to turn and bury my head in one of the nearby pillows I can feel against my face, but fingers come down and grab my chin hard, turning me back in the opposite direction.