Rob gave a muffled groan and painfully opened his eyes.
What the hell happened? he thought, his eyes darting around the dark room. He waited for his vision to adjust. Then he remembered.
His mouth was gagged and he was tied to a large wooden support pole. His head throbbed painfully.
"Caffie?" Rob called out through his gag. "Hewwo?"
He leaned his head against the pole but pulled away when sharp pain shot through his head.
"Oh fuuhh," he moaned. He noticed a movement in the distance coming towards him. He instinctively curled his legs up next to his chest as the figure drew closer.
A flashlight shined in his eyes, and he scrunched them close. His left eye was becoming swollen from Cassandra's punch and it hurt to close it, but it was better than being blinded by the light.
"Are you awake?" Cassandra's voice floated down to him. Eyes still closed, Rob nodded.
The flashlight was taken out of his face and placed on the floor next to him.
"Promise not to yell or anything?" she asked, her face inches from Rob's.
Rob nodded meekly, and the gag was removed. He immediately opened his mouth, but Cassandra placed her hand over it.
"Shh, let me fix that nasty boo-boo on your head," she said quietly. In her other hand she held an small ice pack. "Lean forward," she ordered. Rob complied.
"You know," she began, finding the spot where she had hit him, "it's not like I wanted it to end up like this. It could have gone much more smoothly. Lean back now, carefully," she instructed. Rob leaned back, her other hand still on his mouth. She removed it slowly. "But it doesn't matter now.
"You'll heal, and we'll put this behind us."
"What the fuck are you doing?" he demanded.
Cassandra frowned. "Rob, it's not nice to talk to me like that. You should be grateful that I saved you."
"Saved me from what?" he implored. I gotta get out of here.
"From that bitch Rebecca. From making the huge mistake of spending the rest of your life with her, when you and I are meant for each other."
"Cassie, what...what are you talking about?" Rob stammered.
She didn't respond, but she did start laughing. "You know, it's funny. They say that I'm crazy."
"You are," Rob muttered under his breath. He tugged at the rope that bounded him to the pole.
Cassandra stopped laughing. "What did you say?"
"Did you ever stop and think that maybe they're right?" Rob said quietly.
Her mouth dropped open. She took a step back. And then she started laughing again.
Oh, this is not good, Rob thought nervously.
"Well then Rob, I suggest not making the crazy person angry. I don't want to have to hurt you again. But at least," she contemplated, "at least...I got rid of Rebecca so the two of us could be together."
"What?! 'Got rid of'? What..what the fuck does that mean?" Rob screamed. "What did you to her?"
"No, Rob. You can't yell like that," Cassandra reminded him. Then she shrugged. "I made her fall asleep, and she's not gonna wake up. But look, it's all for the better. She was just in the way of the two of us. You'll get over her."
"Oh God," Rob choked out. "She didn't wake up..."
The shrill ringing of the phone brought Mike out of his troubled sleep. The TV was still on. He groggily reached over and picked up the receiver. "Hello?"
"Yes, I'm sorry to bother you sir at such a late time, but the police are here to see you and your band."
Mike closed his eyes. "Who is this?"
"Oh yes, I'm sorry. This is the hotel manager."
Of course, "Look, whatever they did, is it really necessary to talk about it now?"
"I'm afraid you misunderstand me. It's about a girl you may have met tonight."
Mike was trying hard not to fall asleep. "You mean Cassandra?" he asked absently.
The voice on the other end became muffled, and Mike assumed he was talking to someone else. He was just about to doze off when another man came on the line.
"Yes, Mr. Lippman, this is the sergeant. Have you seen Cassandra?"
"Uh..yeah, she's with us right now," Mike replied. He was starting to wake up. "What's all this about?"
"Where is she, Mr. Lippman?"
"She's with Rob and his girlfriend," Mike said. What is going on?
"What room?" the sergeant barked.
"Uh, 341," Mike said. "Is something wrong?"
The sergeant sighed. "Look, I can't talk now. Just...stay in your room. Call the others and make sure they're still in their rooms. Tell them to stay in their rooms and lock their doors."
"What the fuck is going on?" Mike demanded.
"Stay there," the sergeant said. Then he heard the phone drop, and the sergeant exclaiming, "come on!"
Mike hung up silently. As though in a fog, he called the four others and relayed the message to each of them. Then he called Rob's room. No one picked up.
Shit. he sprang out of bed and ran to Rob's room, arriving a moment after several police officers.
"I'm sorry sir, you can't go in there," one of them said, stopping him.
"That's my lead singers room!" Mike exclaimed. "I have every right to go in there!"
"Someone call an ambulance!" someone yelled from inside the room.
"What? Why?" Mike demanded. "What's wrong?!"
"Sir, could you please step out of the way--," one of the police officers began.
"No, I will not step out of the way! What is going on?" Mike roared.
The sergeant stepped out of the room. "Mr. Lippman?" he asked. Mike nodded. "I'm the sergeant," he glanced behind Mike at the other band members, who had since congregated after hearing all the commotion. "It appears that Rob is gone. So is Cassandra."
"Gone?" echoed Mike. "What about Rebecca?"
The sergeant pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose. "She's...she was found unconscious on the floor."
"What?" asked Brian. "Is she okay? What's wrong with her?"
"I don't know," he answered hoarsely.
"Well, can we go in there?" Mike asked desperately.
The sergeant shook his head briskly. "I'm sorry, but it's a crime scene, and I can't let any unauthorized people in."
"I don't believe this," mumbled Mike. "This can't be happening."
"Do any of you have any idea where Rob and Cassandra could have gone?" the sergeant asked the group.
Everyone shook their heads. Suddenly another officer popped out of the room and handed the sergeant a piece of paper. The sergeant read it and sighed again.
"They ordered room service too," the other officer said. The sergeant nodded.
"Get me every employee in this hotel," he told the officer. The other officer disappeared back into the room. Then he refocused his attention on the group in front of him. "I'm sorry I can't tell you anymore right now, but if you'd all go back to your rooms, I'll let you know as soon as possible what's going on."
"But...what about Rebecca?" Mike asked. "Can't we go to the hospital with her?"
"We'll let you know in a few minutes," the sergeant. "But if you'd please return to your rooms, we can finish up here and find Rob and Cassandra."
Everyone grudgingly did what they were told. Before leaving them, Mike reassured the remaining band members.
"If any of you need anything, just ask," he said. Kyle cleared this throat and began biting his fingernail.
"Do...uh...do you think Rob's okay?" he asked softly.
"Well...really, how much could she do to him?" he asked.
"Rob, I want you to sing for me," Cassandra ordered. She was sitting next to where Rob was tied up.
Rob furrowed his brow. "It...would be hard to sing like this. Maybe if you untied me.."
Off in the distance a siren wailed. Cassandra tensed and Rob closed his eyes. Please find me. He couldn't tell if it was a police car or ambulance, but he didn't care. He just wanted to be found so he could find Rebecca.
The siren didn't come closer, but rather disappeared silently into the night. Cassandra relaxed and looked at Rob. "If I untied you, you would run. Do you think I'm that stupid?"
There's always hope, Rob thought. He forced a smile and said, "How about if I promise not to run? Will that make it better?"
Cassandra brightened. "Well, if you promise," she said, going behind the pole, "That's different." Rob felt her tug at the rope. Instead of loosening the rope, however, Rob felt her jerk the ropes tighter. He cried out as his arms were forced to bend at unnatural angles around the pole.
Cassandra came around the pole again and sat down next to Rob. She grabbed his face and turned it to her. "Don't cross me again. Now sing."
"No," Rob said tersely. He glared at Cassandra. "I won't."
Her face became stolid as she regarded him. She slowly nodded. "Fine." She stuck her hand into her ever-present backpack and pulled out a pistol. She brought it up to his head and flicked the safety off.
"My favorite song is 'Hang'," she said in a quiet, unwavering voice.
Rob gave a long and drawn out sigh. He really didn't want to do this. He was worried about Rebecca more than anything. But then he figured he couldn't save her if he was dead. He'd have to figure another way out, but not now.
"She grabs her magazines, she packs her things and she goes..." he began softly. He felt an uncontrolled tear spill over his eye and down his cheek.
The sergeant was nervously pacing in Rob's hotel room, pouring over the note he had written for his girlfriend.
Went to get Cassie, she decided to leave.
So if you were wondering, that's where we are.
Be back soon. Love you baby.
It didn't tell him anything, but it was one of the few things he had to go on. He was planning on informing the band of the possibility of Cassandra showing up the next day, but upon talking to several people at the concert who had reported seeing a strange girl by the exit of the arena, he felt it necessary to let them know right away.
It was still too late, he thought grimly. He knew she was only 15, but he was fully aware of the damage she could cause. He sighed a long, emotional sigh.
His eyes briefly darted to the place where Rebecca had been found on the floor. He was trying to formulate his thoughts when a young officer burst excitedly into the room.
"Sergeant, I found a lady I think you're gonna wanna talk to," he said, leading a petite woman in a hotel uniform into the room.
"Oh really? What do you know?" he asked her.
The woman appeared nervous and played with her apron while she spoke. "I overheard Mr. Thomas and a young girl talking in the bathroom."
"Why were you in the room?"
"A woman called from this room for more towels. When I knocked on the door, no one answered, so I opened the door myself. I found a woman sleeping on the bed. Then I heard Mr. Thomas and a girl talking in the bathroom," she restated.
"And what were they saying?"
"The girl was saying something about being in the way or something like that. Then Mr. Thomas told her she was wrong and that he wasn't doing it to get anything back from her and he wanted her to stay, but she wanted to go. He asked her where she would go, and she said an abandoned building near the arena. Then I decided I'd better go just in case they suddenly came out of the bathroom and saw me there. I just left the towels by the bathroom door and left without them knowing I had ever been there," she said in a rush.
The sergeant thought quickly. He was moderately familiar with the arena area. He knew of several working factories, but was unsure of any abandoned buildings. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and refocused on the woman.
"Thank you very much," he said. He looked at the young officer, who was still in the room. "Get this woman's name and address for me, okay?"
The officer nodded. "Where are you going?" he asked, noticing the sergeant was heading for the door.
"To the arena," the sergeant said as he went into the hallway. He was still deep in thought as he started down the stairs, trying to place all the buildings in that area. Suddenly he remembered one particular building that had been the host of several drug busts that also hadn't been in use for ten
years. Then he was running down the stairs and into the lobby, calling for other officers to join him as he jumped into his squad car.
Rob had finished singing and was now sitting quietly next to Cassandra. He couldn't move at all, and had to distract himself from the pain he was feeling in several places. So he decided to talk to her.
"So...tell me, what made you this way?" he asked. Cassandra, who had been playing with his shoelace, tensed. "What do you mean?" she spat.
"Why are you so..well..crazy?"
"Because being sane wasn't getting anything accomplished," she snapped. "If I was normal, I would be sitting at home pitying myself because my parents wouldn't let me go to your concert. Instead I'm here with you and no one else. I'd say I've accomplished a lot."
Rob nodded despite himself. "Good point," he replied. "Why wouldn't your parents let you go to the concert?"
Cassandra snorted. "They both think you guys are devil worshipers. I don't know where they got that from. And my mom is scared because you wear more make-up than she does."
Rob couldn't help but chuckle a little. "So you kinda decided to rebel against your parents? Is that why you like us?"
She paused. Rob watched her closely to see how she would react. Finally she shrugged. "Maybe that added to it...and I guess I did kind of rebel. They deserved it though. I think they've always thought I was wacko."
"You know I did the same thing," Rob said. "I decided to rebel against my mom. I mean, obviously it's slightly different, but it's the basic issue. I ran away too when I was seventeen and I never came back."
"Why did you run away?" Cassandra questioned. Rob noticed that she was completely involved in the conversation, and he worked to loosen the rope around his wrists.
"Um, well basically I wanted to play music and not go to school, and she wanted me to go to school and not play music. I know I should have gone to school...but...I couldn't focus at all at that age. I was failing out anyway, so it was like, 'what's the point?'" Rob said thoughtfully.
"If..if you could go back, would you change anything?" she asked carefully.
Rob thought. And in thinking, he realized how incredibly lucky he'd been in his life. He had dropped out of high school, ran away, and yet never went hungry or cold. And now he was in a successful band and he was doing what he loved.
"I think it'd be stupid to change anything, 'cause then I might not have what I have now," he replied. Then he steered the conversation away from him. "What about you?" he asked.
"I would have run away sooner. I could be far, far away by now."
"But what would you do?" he persisted.
She shrugged. "Hell, I don't know. It wouldn't really matter, because at least I wouldn't be miserable. Or, if I was, I would know I brought it on myself."
Rob decided to take that and run. "You know, you seem like a bright kid. So I'll be straight with you. Eventually, someone's gonna find us. Why don't you just untie me and get out of here now? If you make it far enough away, you have a good chance of never getting caught. You can start a new life somewhere else."
Cassandra mumbled something under her breath. Then she said, "I can't though. Not after all this. I'll die first before I'll let anyone get to you."
Rob was about to reply when he heard a car drive by the building very slowly. Then another car. Then another. Cassandra noticed the cars too, and grabbed her gun.
"Yeah so um, where'd you get that gun?" Rob asked. He was trying to distract her, but she wasn't swayed.
"I stole it from my dad's nightstand the night I left," she answered, walking over to a nearby window. Any evidence of the cars had disappeared. "Huh. They're gone."
Rob knew better. Or he hoped he did. At any rate, he didn't say anything.
Cassandra came over and sat next to him again. "I know this is strange but..it's been really nice spending all this time with you. Thank you for everything."
Rob coughed and shifted his weight slightly. "Really, it was nothing. I had fun tonight too, with you and Rebecca." His voice choked a little.
"Yeah...about that...I'm really sorry what I did. Maybe I went slightly overboard before..." Cassandra trailed off.
Rob gulped. "Is...she dead?"
Cassandra sighed. "It really depends on when she is or has been found." She saw Rob's face contort into a painful expression. "I'm sorry."
On the word 'sorry,' the door of the floor the two were on burst open and police officers began streaming inside the large, open room. All of them were shouting and pointing their flashlights over every crevice. One beam landed on Rob and Cassandra, and the shouts stopped. The clicks of guns aimed on Cassandra resounded throughout the room.
Cassandra slowly stood up in a state of shock. This had all happened within seconds. She still held the pistol in her hand, and contemplated her choices. She raised the gun towards Rob.
Rob flinched when he saw Cassandra point it towards him, figuring he was a goner. He squeezed his eyes shut.
The sergeant, who had been the first man in the room, kept his finger on the trigger as Cassandra aimed her gun at Rob's head. He felt the officers around him tense.
"Don't shoot yet," he whispered at them. He kept his gun aimed square at her chest, praying he wouldn't have to kill her.
The tension in the room was as thick as a brick wall. Everyone froze in their positions for a split second like statues, held in their places by a delicate balance which they were all on the verge of toppling off.
Then, everything happened all at once. A shot was fired, blood splattered everywhere. More shouts, people running. Yells to call an ambulance, other yells saying it was too late.
"Get him untied, dammit!" the sergeant roared. Two men rushed towards Rob, who had blood dripping off his face, and cut the rope off from around his wrists.
The sergeant leaned over the dead body and checked for a pulse. Of course, there wasn't any. He wasn't expecting there to be. He just had to make sure.
"Get this place cleaned up," he said to whomever would listen. Then he calmly walked outside and leaned against his car. He turned his head up to the sky. And burst into tears.