Most functional members of society disdain routine. Not so in show biz. Entertainers must always appear to be in total control of any given situation, an illusion that is created via The Schedule. The more popular the gig, the more reliant the act becomes on The Schedule. Nothing is ever done without consulting some itinerary, mental or otherwise. Any deviation from The Schedule is regarded as a nuisance at best.
Some entertainers are more dependent upon The Schedule than others. Touring rock outfits are particularly dependent on The Schedule - the bigger the act, the stricter the adherence. Compounding an act's reliance upon The Schedule is the general paranoia of the more prominent members of said act. At the height of their fame, there were few acts bigger - or more paranoid - than Journey. The Schedule was their Bible, the sacred tenement that was above the needs and desires of all others. Not even the fairly demanding frontman could override the authority of The Schedule.
It was understood by every promoter at every venue across North America, Europe, and Asia that Journey was to be escorted to and from any and all open areas. That included airport runways, fan signings, and parking lots. It didn't matter if the escort was a fully armed police force, or a nerdy little twig of a woman wearing Coke-bottle glasses and argyle socks - as long as there was an escort. There was never a question about what to do if an escort failed to appear. They would. It was written into each and every stop on The Schedule - and everyone knew that The Schedule was all.
But that which people 'know' is not necessarily the same as truth.
Someone should have been waiting near the band's designated parking space. Steve leaned forward, trying to get a better look through the limo's tinted window. He shoved down the irrational flash of panic, and settled back to wait for security to escort them to the doors. Five minutes passed, with no sign of an escort. Steve flipped his bandmates off when they started making jokes about his fidgeting. They weren't so quick to tease when the ten minute mark came and went. After about fifteen minutes, Neal declared he was tired of waiting and stuck his head out the window.
"Hey! Anybody out there? We're here, ya know!" No answer.
"Get back in here, you Neanderthal!" Jonathan cried, tugging him back in the car. "What if the electrical system in this car shorts and the windows start goin' up and down like crazy? Where would we be then?" Everyone in the car looked at Jonathan, who promptly let go of Neal's shirt. "Well, it could happen," he muttered.
"Relax, boy. You're just looking for something to worry about," Ross said, giving Jonathan a playful shove.
"I don't think we really need to look for something to worry about," Steve said, still fidgeting. "Why hasn't anybody shown up to walk us to the door?"
"This is ridiculous," Neal complained. "I'm not waiting. Who's coming with me?"
"No!" Smitty said. "I mean, we should wait. That's what they're paid for, after all."
"Yeah, well, I say they don't get paid!" Neal opened the car door and stepped out into the open. "C'mon! What are you guys afraid of? Mutant fans?"
"Remember Denver," came the chorus from the car. Neal hopped back in the limo.
"Maybe our clocks are fast?" Smitty volunteered.
Steve snorted incredulously. "Five watches, the limo clock, the clocks in the hotel rooms and the DJ? Um... no."
"I think the cavalry has finally arrived," Ross said, looking out the back windshield. Six men in green t-shirts and black slacks trooped toward the limousine.
"It's about time," Smitty complained. Everyone else murmured his agreement. They got out of the car and waited for the security detail to arrive. By the time they reached car, the band had already arranged themselves in the usual manner - Smitty and Neal in front, then Ross and Jonathan, with Steve bringing up the rear. The security detail flanked the band, one guard for each musician, except Steve, who was always assigned two. They began the short trek towards the building.
Steve glanced at the red-haired guy on his left. He'd never seen him before. Nothing wrong with that - the venues often supplied extra security at their own expense. Steve looked to his right and frowned. He didn't recognize that man either. That was unusual. Being the "divalicious princess" of the band, he was always given someone familiar to walk with - someone that he trusted. He began to feel edgy, having been sandwiched between two strangers. Then he laughed at himself. What were they going to do? Kidnap him?
They went inside the building, and the red-haired man reached back and closed the door. The man on the right had a two-way radio in his hand, poised to speak. The moment the door clicked shut, the man with the radio said, "We're in."
Then the lights went out.
"Hey!" Neal cried. There were similar shouts of surprise from the rest of the band. Steve was about to ask if any of the guards had flashlights when he felt something cold and sharp against his throat.
"Keep quiet, singer, or you'll need a day job," someone whispered in his ear.
Steve wondered why in the hell people developed sudden, irrepressible urges to do things they were specifically instructed not to do, particularly in times of mortal danger. He bit his lip so hard he tasted blood, but it kept him from screaming bloody murder. He could hear whispering in the hall, and wondered if the rest of the band was being instructed similarly. Then he heard footsteps. They faded away before being replaced by another set of footsteps. Finally, he felt an iron grip take hold of each of his arms and was told by the same whispering voice, "Move."
Steve plonked one foot in front of the other, completely numb. They walked him for a while, until he heard a voice in the first man's radio. "Team one's clear, over."
"Copy." They paused while a third voice crackled an acknowledgment in the radio. The other man - the whisperer - counted to ten before they resumed.
Awhile later, a different voice came through the radio. "Team two is clear, over."
Steve's right arm was suddenly free. Before he could take advantage of that fact, the hand holding his left arm spun him roughly around. "Copy. Team three is on the move, over." The vice grip returned to his right arm the moment he was turned around.
"I said quiet, bitch, or you'll be singing to the man at the pearly gates." The knife reappeared at Steve's throat, and he was quiet. They walked in silence for a few seconds, then paused. The man on the right let go of Steve's arm again, while the other man held the sharp blade against Steve's neck, biting into the tender skin. A door opened, and Steve had to squint. They were back where they'd started, when Steve had ignored the little warning in the back of his head. Instead of the limo a short walk away, however, there was a small, dark car with heavily tinted windows just one step in front of the door. He couldn't make out much more in the sudden light. The man with the radio leaned forward and opened the back door, and Steve was thrust in headfirst. He bolted upright, ready to rumble, but a frizzy headed woman in the driver's seat put an end to that quickly.
"I'm not supposed to use this," she said, turning to level a small pistol at Steve's head, "but believe me, I will. Don't mess with me today, cutie pie. I just started my period."
Steve sat back in his seat, palms raised. "I won't -"
"And I know you were told to keep your pretty little lips sealed, gorgeous. There'll be plenty of time to talk later, songbird." Never taking her eyes off Steve, she addressed the goons standing in the doorway. "The engine's running, boys."
"Sorry, Gina." The red head with the knife closed the car door, ran to the other side and slid in next to Steve, who scrambled away. The man with the radio got in the front seat and pulled a similar gun out of the glove compartment. He aimed it at Steve, then nodded at the woman. She took her gun out of sight and drove out of the parking lot. As they pulled into the street, the man with the radio spoke into it one last time. "Team three is clear, over." Then he smiled at Steve. "Might as well get some sleep, buddy. We've got a long ride ahead."