Herbie was just starting his shower when he heard the damned telephone. He nearly fell flat on his face in his haste to get one leg over the edge of the bathtub. Without bothering to turn off the water, he hustled to the telephone, grabbing a towel on his way across the room. "Hello!" he barked.
"Why, hello, big boy. Did you like my little poem? I wrote it just for you."
Herbie stiffened. It was the same purring lilt from the recording. "Who is this?"
"Mmm, I don't think so, sweetie. I know you called the police last night, didn't you? I'd love to get my hands on the little punk that made you do it, but he's fourth on the list. Can't deviate, you know."
She knew we called the police?? "How did -? Nevermind. What do you want?"
"You know, there's a Motown song about that. I think the Beatles covered it. You know, the one about the best things in life being free and whatnot?"
"Listen, lady," Herbie began. "I've got a lot of things to do, there's a lot on my mind -"
There was a pause, then, "Ow! Uh, hey, Herbie." Steve's voice filtered through the line.
Herbie sucked in his breath. Not good. Then he had a thought. "How do I know that's not a tape?"
The woman on the other end sighed loudly. "Good grief. You can ask him three questions. If any of them have to do with his whereabouts, what we look like, or any other information that could possibly lead you to him before our demands are met, you will forfeit the remaining questions, and quite possibly, his life. Ask."
It took Herbie a minute to think of something that the woman couldn't have possibly prerecorded an answer to. "Who ate my leftover steak last week?"
"Huh? How the fuck should I know? Probably you, lardass!"
"Okay, where'd you hide my extremely expensive cashmere sweater, you little shit?" Herbie demanded.
"What?! I didn't take your goddamned sweater, Herbie! Fuck you, you good for nothing, lazy ass son of a bitch!!"
Herbie closed his eyes, crestfallen. She really took him. "Are you alright, Steve?"
Steve's reply was much quieter. "Yeah. Just scared."
Almost immediately, the woman returned to the phone. "Great," she said smoothly. "Now that's out of the way, we can get down to business."
"And what precisely is that," Herbie asked slowly.
"Twenty million dollars, in unmarked bills."
"You have 24 hours to deliver. If I don't have the cash in my hands in precisely 24 hours, I will have the lead guitarist removed from your location. After that, you will be given another 24 hours to come up with the cash. If I don't have cash in hand, the bass player goes, then the keyboardist, then the drummer. If you are ridiculous enough to have ignored my demands at the end of the week, I will execute each musician in the order received, and ship his head to you in a box. If you attempt to contact the police at any time, I will have any and all hostages in my possession executed, and their heads will be shipped to you in boxes. In fact, if you attempt to dupe me in any way, I will have my operatives find you and ship your head to whoever finds you most dear in a box. Is that clear, Mr. Herbert?"
"But I can't get twenty million - "
"You'd better. Stevie here is depending on it. Buh-bye, now!" The line went dead.
Herbie held the receiver to his ear a bit longer, flabbergasted that some bitch would drop a bomb like that and then just hang the fuck up. He forced himself to recover, and dialed the lobby operator.
Ross was the first to arrive at the emergency meeting in Herbie's room. He noticed a slushy spot on the rug by the telephone and wondered if it had anything to do with anything. The other three arrived slowly, mugs of coffee in hand, still sluggish from the 'early' hour. They settled in, ready for a pep talk, a battle plan, a promise, anything.Except what they got.
"Does anybody here know where the hell I can get twenty goddamned million fucking dollars?"
No one spoke for a long moment. After a while, Jonathan broke the silence. "She asked for twenty million dollars?"
Both Neal and Smitty wanted to know what Jonathan knew about a 'she', but Ross had a more pressing question. "Why are you asking us? Why aren't we talking to the cops?"
Herbie relayed the telephone conversation, devoting an inordinate amount of time to the part about boxed heads in the post. Ross shook his head. "But how do we know she was serious? I mean, who the fuck is gonna actually do some shit like that? Why aren't you gonna call her bluff?"
Herbie pulled at his curls in frustration. "Two reasons, Ross. One, I already called the police at Jonathan's request. She knew about that." He looked pointedly at Jonathan. "I'm not sure how, but she knew."
Neal piped up. "Probably those punk guards, or whoever hired 'em."
Smitty nodded. "We shouldn't mess with this chick. If she organized all of that -replacing the guards, learning the paths backstage so well they could do it in the dark, taking Steve in the blink of an eye - she's either seriously broke, seriously demented or both. Either way, she's serious. I think we ought to forget about the police and figure out how to get this money together."
Ross wasn't so sure about that. If she was really that disturbed, she needed to be stopped. If she was just that desperate for cash, she definitely needed to be stopped, preferably with something hard and heavy. And if not...
"Okay. You said there were two reasons," Ross said. "What's the other one?"
Herbie bit his lip, looked out the window and sighed. "Because by the time the bitch finished her fucking speech, I could hear Steve crying his damn eyes out."
Steve's return to consciousness was marked by a growling tummy. He patted his rumbling belly and wondered if they were going to stop for food soon. He hadn't eaten since being taken, and after his nauseous reaction earlier that morning, he was famished. He cleared his throat and waited for acknowledgment."What," Gina said sharply.
"I'm hungry," Steve said quietly.
"No shit," Gina drawled. "And have you seen any of us stuffing our faces?"
"N-no, ma'am. I... just was wondering..." Steve noticed Jim staring at his lap. Steve looked down to see his hands making an interesting knot out of his shirt. He quickly tucked his hands underneath himself.
"You were just wondering...?"
"If we're gonna eat now," Steve mumbled, ducking his head.
"Hmph." Gina stared at him in the rearview mirror. "I would think that you were accustomed to never eating. You certainly look like you haven't had a meal in a couple of years."
Ignoring the skinny remark, Steve tried again. "Are we going to stop soon, ma'am?"
"Does it look like I'm stopping?"
"Please? I'll bet the others are hun-
"I SAID NO!"
Steve just sighed and closed his eyes. Maybe he could just sleep through the rest of this nightmare...
Neal chewed on his already stubby fingernails while he and the others waited for Herbie to get in touch with someone at Columbia Records. The band had already emptied its proverbial pockets, and had barely come up with three million dollars between them. Everybody's cash was tied up in house notes and car notes and too many toys for too many family members. It had been Smitty's idea to try calling the record company for assistance - to try and get a larger advance on Escape. The album was doing so well, it wouldn't hurt Columbia too much to give them a loan - the company would hurt at least as much if they lost Journey. Herbie had been dubious about that idea, but the remaining members of Journey made it quite clear that Herbie had better get the cash from somewhere.After being transferred to each and every department at least twice, Herbie finally got a hold of someone and began to make his request. Everyone leaned in closer, waiting tensely for the answer. Neal was so tense his jaw hurt from grinding his teeth together. He tried to piece together what was happening from Herbie's side of the conversation.
"...I realize it's a lot of money, but we have unexpected, uh, expenses that we need to take care of... Yes, I understand that too, but I wouldn't make the request if I didn't need it... No, that's not what I meant... But... Please... It's an emergency... I would tell you if I... It's nothing like that... But... Give me just a - hello? Hello?"
Neal could hear the disappointed denials, saw Jonathan's grief stricken posture out of the corner of his eye. He let go a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He watched Herbie hang up the phone, a dull look in his eyes. "I don't think they're going to help us, fellas."
"We can't just... sit here!" Jonathan cried, startling everyone. "She's going to come after us! What the hell are we supposed to do?"
"Sell our stuff," Ross said dejectedly.
"I don't know about you, but I don't have anything worth four million dollars, much less twenty," Smitty pointed out. "Herbie, you gotta try again. Call some friends, anything!"
"Call the police," Ross said just as dejectedly.
"NO!" Smitty said sharply. When everyone looked at him, he shrugged. "You want to lose your heads?"
"What's on your mind, son?" Herbie asked, looking at Neal.
Neal frowned and looked around. "Huh?"
"You're so quiet. What're you thinking about?" Everyone else turned to look at Neal.
"I'm going home. I want to sleep in my own bed and watch my television and kiss my girlfriend and play my guitars in my house one more time before I get decapitated." He shrugged. "Funny, huh?" No one laughed.
Plans were made to postpone the next six shows indefinitely. Herbie said he wanted the band somewhere out of the public eye for the next week, which suited the remainder of the band just fine. He told everyone he didn't think it was a good idea to go straight home, since the point was to avoid the kidnappers, but nobody listened.Jonathan didn't want to bother with tour buses or airplanes or anything else. He rented a car and drove all the way home, a 20 hour drive, stopping only for traffic jams, one potty break, and a refill at the gas pump. He screeched to a stop in front of his condo and bounded up the stairs, two by two, hurling himself through the doorway and zooming through every room of the place until he found what he was searching for.
Tané put down her copy of Cosmopolitan and looked at her fiancé as if he'd lost every single last marble in his collection. "Um... aren't you supposed to be across the country playing keyboards for Journey?"
Jonathan couldn't keep the hysterical giggle from bubbling out. Instead, he wrapped his bewildered girlfriend in a bear hug and tried to keep his laughter from turning into tears.
Ross was far calmer. Mister Impassive. He'd flown home alone, without luggage, called a cab back to his house and strolled in the front door as if it were the most natural thing in the world. He resisted the urge to call out "Honey, I'm home," figuring that would just scare the hell out of his wife. Instead, he wandered through the house, looking at everything with fresh eyes, as if he might never see any of it again. Not that he believed that. It was just his way, being prepared for the damnedest things like being kidnapped and decapitated and stuff like that.He paused in the breakfast nook, looking at one of the china cabinets. There was a hodgepodge of glasses, figurines and other weird, homey clutter that Diane liked to collect. He opened the glass doors and selected a particularly ugly figurine, a little porcelain replica of one of those hideous Kewpie dolls. He hated the damned thing, and had tried on more than one occasion to get rid of it, but his wife wouldn't let him. Ross sat down in the nook and heaved a sigh. He absently turned the thing over in his hands, contemplating its ugliness.
"Hey!" Ross looked up to see his wife in the doorway to the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear. "You're home!" Her smile faded when she saw the look on his face. "What's wrong?"
"Diane, you know what? Of all the things in this house, I think I'm gonna miss this ugly ass Kewpie thing the most." Mister Impassive smiled, eyes shining with unshed tears. "It reminds me of you."