Authors: C. M. Stunich
“Naomi?” I ask, hoping beyond hope that wherever Hayden was, that maybe Naomi is with her, that maybe we've got a solid lead. She ignores me for the moment and downs the bottle while the crowd's silence fades to murmurs and then rises to deafening screams.
“What about her?” Hayden asks, looking around at the band with a bit of blood dripping from her scalp towards her eye. She doesn't seem to notice it. Her hair is tangled and she's wearing clothes that look like they've seen better days. What the fuck is going on? Ain't nobody going to shit with me and tell me that her disappearance had nothing to do with Naomi's. Nuh uh. I might be stupid, but I'm not fucking retarded. I resist just barely the urge to reach out and shake her hard.
“Oh my God,” Blair whispers, getting tears in her eyes. “You haven't heard.”
“Heard what?” Hayden sniffs, wiping her hand across her face. She's shaking and her cheeks look gaunt, but in her eyes, I don't see any pain or fear, just confusion. “What's going on? Where's Naomi? Why is Turner here?”
“Where the fuck have you been?” bursts out of Dax's mouth. He, too, looks like he wants to shake the bitch. Hayden tucks some brunette hair behind her ear and sniffles, shaking her head wildly. The buzz in the crowd has gotten so bad that it's almost impossible to hear what she says next.
“In Hell.” And that's it. Hayden stops talking, and tears fill her eyes. Blair wraps her arms around her bandmate.
“It's okay, baby. It's okay.”
“I just want to sing,” Hayden whispers and then starts to full on sob. I stand there watching unsympathetically as the rest of the band looks around like they're not sure what to do. They have no manager now and their leading lady is obviously suffering some sort of trauma. Naomi, their real leader, is nowhere to be found. I turn around and move off the stage quick as I can.
“Milo,” I say, and I'm not ashamed of the words that fall next from my lips. I might never live 'em down, but hey, what's a man to do? “I need you.” Milo nods and moves forward, stepping into that role he's so damn good at, taking the stage and wrapping his arm around Hayden's shaking shoulders. He escorts her off and tosses a look over at me, worry lines crinkling his face.
“I think it's time for Indecency to put on a show,” he says, and I nod, sucking in a huge breath and really missing the rush of drugs in my system.
I can do this.
Milo starts barking orders at the crew and they rush around me, splitting in half as they hurry to haul off the equipment. One of them even grabs a rag and scrubs away some of the blood that Hayden's dripped across the floor.
“What the shit?” I hear Trey ask from behind me. But I don't have any answers for him. Whatever shit Hayden's been through will have to wait. The show must go on, right? I scrape my teeth against my tongue ring so hard that it bleeds, filling my mouth with a tangy copper taste. When I glance over my shoulder, I see cops. Don't know where they came from, probably the mess outside, but they're already hovering around Lee and whispering soft spoken questions.
My mind struggles with this new bit of information, trying to digest it as I move to the right and try to grab a glimpse of the heaving crowd. The bouncers all look nervous which is a bad fucking sign. The metal gates up front are rattling and shifting forward as people attempt to climb up and over them, desperate for a taste of this drama. If they only knew what it was like to drink the stuff, they would't be so eager. My eyes scan the colorful mess of misfits and miscreants quickly and then go over them again, just in case. I don't really expect to see her.
But I do.
The bald girl.
Turner Campbell's never really been that smart. I admit it. Yeah, I'm fucking stupid sometimes, but when I set my mind to something, I go for it. And this, this I've set my fucking heart and soul on. I move across the stage in a sprint and hit the edge with a bunching of muscle and tendons, launching myself forward and into the frothing mass.
The audience fucking
this, and their hands come up, like the demons of hell, reaching and grasping for a taste of me. I hit this hot wave of flesh and sweat and land like I'm floating on fucking clouds. The crowd lets me surf for a price, running their hands over me, molesting me with greedy fingers and touching me all over, rushing me back and forth, up and down, pulsing me with the beat of their hearts. The whole time, I struggle to keep my eyes on the girl who tries to turn and flee. But the crowd is thick, dense and immovable. My movements might be frenetic, uncontrollable, but at least I'm moving. The girl gets stuck between the exit and the bathrooms, choosing the easier route and sliding her body past a bouncer and into the heavy swinging door.
And then things get bad.
These people are riled up crazy, salivating for blood, desperate to eat a piece of me and become
I said worship me; they said yes sir. And now I'm paying for it. My own arrogance is fucking the ever living shit out of me.
The crowd surges and engulfs me, dropping me to the floor where I hit the wood hard with my knees. People press down on me like an avalanche, knocking my palms to the ground, scraping my skin along the splintered wood. I hear my name echoing around me, and for the first time ever, I see my fame as a curse instead of a blessing. Hiding behind the walls of my bus, behind the fog of the drugs, the whisper of sweet, anonymous lips, I haven't seen this side of it. And let me tell you, it's real ugly. Real fucking ugly.
There's this pain and this sadness, this tragedy, and they don't care about any of it. They see me how they want to see me, refuse to acknowledge my pain.
This is hell. Destroyed by your own dream. Brilliant, Turner. Look at you now, you fucking fool.
In the heaving mass of faces and greedy, grasping hands, something stands out at me.
A pair of bare feet, frozen and still in the kicking and the scrambling, the stampeding.
I fight through to it, crawling beneath the sea of followers I've always wanted, who believe everything I've ever told them. They all want me but now they can't find me; I'm hidden in plain sight beneath their feet while bouncers fight to get through from the sides.
What a fucking mistake this was.
The last time I was out in public, before this tour started, I'd get recognized sure, but it was nothing like this. Oh God, not at all like this.
I crawl slowly, aware that hands are touching me, feet kicking me, some on accident, some on purpose. Looks like a damn riot's stirring up in here. I keep moving, focusing my eyes on pale, white toes and a shiny, silver anklet that I swear I can hear tinkling, even with all the noise.
When I get to that island of stillness, I reach up and out and a hand brushes mine, wrapping gentle fingers around my wrist, pulling me forward with a surprising amount of strength. I surge to my feet just in time, just as the crowd starts to explode in screams and angry shouts. I don't look where I'm going, just follow the whisper of flying feet as the girl – Naomi's foster sister I presume – drags me forward, making a lot more headway than she had before. My guess is that she wasn't trying then. She sure as fuck is now.
We hit the women's bathroom and slide inside.
Almost immediately, I'm bombarded with memories of Naomi, and my heart constricts painfully, leaving me bent over and leaning against the wall panting for breath. Bald Girl doesn't give me any time, just snatches me by the wrist again and drags me to the stall at the end, pushing me inside and slamming the door behind us. She slides the dead bolt into place and spins to face me, chin up and eyes stormy as the fucking sky outside. Where Naomi's eyes are dry, this girl's are wet. Soaked. She's drenched in pain and melancholy, a walking, talking slice of abuse and mistreatment.
“You could've been killed,” she says and her eyes flicker over to the door as the roaring sound of the crowd booms and then fades. Female voices chatter wildly, and Bald Girl snaps her gaze back to mine. “Stand on the toilet,” she whispers and I give her a
what the fuck?
look. But this girl doesn't take shit. Looks like maybe she's had enough of that in her life. “
Get on the toilet,
” she hisses under her breath, like a vulture or something. “If they see you, you'll get tied down and raped. Up, up, up.” I frown, but I oblige. Just barely.
“Who the hell are you?” I whisper as Baldy gives us a courtesy flush. “What's your name?” The girl walks in a circle and wraps her arms around herself, sucking in a harsh, gasping breath. She's obviously a few cigs short of a pack, but what can I say? She knows things. I know she does. When she doesn't answer, I hazard a few guesses. “Kathleen? Karen? Kim?”
“Well, it's not Rumpelstiltskin,” is her response. Huh.
“Kerrie?” The girl hunches over and closes her eyes so tight I can see the skin on the back of her skull crinkling. “Katie?” She whirls on me then, dirty dress flapping, eyes blazing like fucking firecrackers.
“Yes!” she breathes, the word quiet but powerful, pitched just so that I can hear it over the din outside the tiled shit hole we're standing in.
Naomi's hot body wrapped around mine, her fingers on my skin, her sweet breasts.
I shiver and try to ignore the hard-on that's scraping the inside of my pants. Kind of think I might need to start wearing underwear one of these fucking days. “And you're Dakota, am I right?” I shrug and get out a cig.
“Turner Dakota Campbell, in the flesh,” I say and pause. The voices outside the stall have paused to listen. I flush the toilet again. I don't ask how she knows that. My name is plastered across a thousand websites, blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook timelines. It's fucking everywhere, and that's not just my arrogance speaking; it's a fact. “And now that we've played the damn name game, I want to know. Where's Naomi?” The girl's eyes fill with tears and she starts to shake. That damn purse is hanging over her shoulder, swinging like a pendulum. The dress she's got on is the same one I saw her in a week ago.
“I don't know,” she whispers, shaking her head. “I don't know. I tried to get here in time, I did. But it was too late. It's too late.”
“Shut up,” I snap at her, maybe a little too harshly. She cringes and right away, I feel bad. I adjust my boots on the toilet seat and hope the piece of crap doesn't crack and break my damn ankle. “It's not too late. It's never too late. Where is she? You said
got to her first. Who the fuck is he?”
“The Devil,” Katie says and then drops to her knees. Something rolls from her purse and disappears under the door.
“You alright in there, sweetie?” asks a nasally voice. “You dropped your pills.”
“Keep them,” Katie says, looking up at me from her position on the floor. I'm gettin' uncomfortable crouching here on the damn shitter, but I don't move. I stay, and I wait, eyes scanning the girl's tired face for clues.
“This is some good shit, you sure?” asks the stupid bitch outside the door. I have the urge to tell her to fuck off, but then I might end up with a mob on my hands. I stay quiet. It takes a hell of a lot of effort, but I manage.
“I said KEEP IT!” Katie screeches, grabbing at her head with crooked fingers, clawing at the fine buzz of hair there. She starts to keen and ends up rocking back and forth like a crazy person, moaning under her breath, whimpering pitifully.
“Fuck, okay, your loss,” says Nasal Bitch, and then her heels clomp away across the tile. “I hear Turner Campbell's in the audience somewhere,” she says and I hear a few sets of giggles. I block the girls out.
“The Devil doesn't exist, Katie. Who did this to Naomi and America, to Marta? You've gotta know something.”
“All I know is that you better find her before he gets his claws in her.”
“Who, Katie? Who the fuck are you talking about?” I'm getting frantic now, feeling adrenaline pump through my veins.
He, he, he.
The thought of some guy touching Naomi just makes me bat shit crazy. I see red; I want to fucking
Nothing bad can happen to her or Turner Campbell will cease to exist and Vengeance will take his place.
“I've seen what he can do, and it isn't something you survive. It's something you run from the rest of your life. I'm still sprinting, Dakota.”
“Goddamn it,” I shout, stepping down from the toilet and slamming my boots against the dirty floor. There are syringes everywhere in here. Looks like a damn biohazard room. “I can't do shit with vague little hints. Spell it out for me!”
Katie looks up at me and stares through waterfalls of pain that run down her cheeks and stain her dirty dress. She's a pretty girl, this Katie chick. She has a heart shaped face and round eyes, lips like a rosebud. There's a fiery spirit in there, too, one that makes me sick when I see the haze covering it, like the fog over the sun. Somebody really screwed this chick.
Not somebody, her parents, the ones Naomi killed.
If I'd been bothered at all by the thought of Naomi killing someone, I needn't have been. Seeing this girl, I know why she did it, why she took justice into her own hands, channeled it into a pair of scissors and ended things. For what they did to this girl, Katie's parents got off light.
“I don't know anything for certain. But if he finds me, he'll destroy me. I only have a few pieces left. If he gets me again, there'll be nothing to put back together. I
Naomi to be okay. Please, help her.” I clench my fists at my sides and try to hold back a rush of anger and rage and helplessness. Standing here in this stall chatting it up isn't going to save the woman I love, that I never got to actually show that to. I have to take action but how can I when I have nothing to go on?
“What's the devil's name?” I ask, hoping she'll give me something concrete. Katie wipes her hand across her face and clutches her plastic purse against her chest.
“He goes by many names. Beelzebub, Antichrist, Satan … ” The girl is obviously off her rocker. I'm not getting
out of her. I spin around and punch the wall in anger, letting out a growl of frustration. The tile cracks and blood oozes down my knuckles. Too late, I spin back to Katie to apologize, but she's already gone and I hear Heaven crying for her pain, drenching the earth in tears as she explodes into the auditorium and disappears into the crowd before I can take a single step forward. When I do, my boot crunches down on something. I pause and take a step back.