"Yes!" he cried. "You look great!"
The girl blushed. "You really think so?"
"Absolutely! Your boyfriend will flip when he sees you in that."
She blushed again. "Actually, I don't have a boyfriend."
"Impossible!" He grinned. "Listen, hon. I guarantee, if you wear that outfit, you will have so many boys trailing after you that you'll have to beat them off with a stick." She giggled, starting to look convinced. "Shall I ring it up for you?"
"Steve, you have a call on line one. Steve, line one."
Dammit! "I'm very sorry, miss. I'll be back in one second." She nodded and he headed for the phone. "Thank you for calling the Limited, this is Steve, may I help you?"
"Yeah. Can I speak to Steve Aug... Au..."
"Augeri," he supplied. "Yes, this is he. How may I help you?"
"Hi, this is Jonathan Cain , and - "
"Yeah, right. And I'm Steve Perry. Piss off, dickhead!" He hung up the phone, shaking his head. The nerve of some people! The phone rang again almost immediately. "Thank you for calling the Limited, this is - "
"Yeah, Steve, it's me again. Look, I really need to talk to you."
"Look buddy, I'm not in the mood for practical jokes," he said tersely. "I'm at work here! I don't have time for games. If you want me to find you something to wear, come into the store. If not, fuck off! Do not call here with that bullshit again!" He slammed the phone down. "God!" He walked swiftly back to his customer. "I'm so sorry to keep you waiting, miss," he said, all smiles. "Have you made a decision?"
"Yes." The girl smiled at him. "I'll take it."
"Wonderful! I'll ring it up for you right away." He waited for her to change back into her regular clothes, then rung her up. After another two hours, he was free to go. Donna was getting dinner ready when he got home. "Hey, babe," he called.
"Hi, sweetie!" she cried. She rushed to the door, gave him a hug and helped him take off his coat.
"My, you're in a good mood," he said smiling.
She just grinned at him and ushered him into the kitchen. "Sit down, sweetie," she said, going back to the stove.
He was about to do as she said when the phone rang. "I'll get it, babe." He picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Hello, is this Steve?"
"Yes," he said. "Who's this?"
"This is Jonathan Cain again. Don't hang up!"
Steve sank slowly into his seat. He'd called his house. This could be for real. "How... how did you get my home number?" he asked dryly.
"You're listed. Look, I wanted to offer you a job."
"How would you like to be Journey's lead singer?"
"You... J-Journey already has a lead singer," he said.
There was a sigh from the other end of the line. "Where have you been lately, under a rock? Steve Perry isn't exactly capable of being our singer anymore."
"I... I d-don't get out much. How did you find me?"
"We heard a tape of you and that group you used to be in - Fairy Tales - and we were really impressed. So? Do you want the job?" He didn't answer. He just sat staring into space, feeling the blood drain completely from his face. "Hello? Hello, Steve? Are you there?"
"Y-yes," he said breathlessly.
"Do you want the job or not?"
"Yes. Yes, I do! Yes! Thank you! Thank you so much! I'm sorry about earlier, Mr. Cain, but you really can't blame me for not believing it was you, can you and I'm so sorry, and oh my God, this is the happiestdayofmylife!"
Jonathan chuckled. "Okay, kid. Congratulations. How soon do you think you can quit your other job?"
"Whenever you want! Oh my God, I can't believe this. Thank you!"
"Okay, then. Why don't you come next Monday at noon. That ought to be enough time. The studio's at..."
"I know where it is. Thank you so much, Mr. Cain! Thank you!!!"
Jonathan chuckled again. "You're welcome. See you Monday." Jonathan disconnected.
Steve sat staring at the phone for several seconds. Then he jumped up and started shouting. "Yes! Yes, YES, YES!!!"
"What is it?" Donna asked, a bemused smile on her face.
"This is the happiest day of my life!" he cried, picking her up and twirling her around in the air.
She giggled and he set her on her feet. "Steve! What is it? Who was that on the phone?"
"You aren't going to believe this, but that was Jonathan Cain." He straightened and smiled broadly at her. "Baby, you are looking at the new lead singer of Journey!"
For a moment, Donna's face registered only complete and utter shock. Then she smiled. "That's wonderful, sweetheart!" she cried. "I'm... I'm so happy for you!"
"This is it, baby!" Steve cried, pulling her into a tight hug. "This is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me!" He grinned and started kissing her all over her face. "God I love you!" he cried. "Come on, let's go somewhere!"
"But, Steve, I just made dinner."
"Come on, baby, put something on! I need to celebrate! This is the best day of my life!!!"
"Beth!" Steve cried. "Beth, don't leave me!" He reached for her, but she was walking away. She wouldn't look at him. "Beth, no! Please!" His cries went unheard. He watched her walk away until he couldn't see her at all. Then he was alone. Completely alone. Abandoned in utter darkness and silence. Silence so suffocating he literally couldn't breathe. He panicked, gasping for air, flailing his arms against the smothering darkness. Then suddenly, he could breathe. Hands were on his shoulders, shaking him. Beth's hands. He'd been dreaming! Steve sighed, so relieved he was actually shaking. Beth cradled him in her arms, but he stayed awake the rest of the night - too afraid to go back to sleep.
The specialists showed up as planned the day after Ross and Smitty had come over, but none of the hearing aides had worked. Not even the most powerful one on its strongest setting could enhance Steve's hearing. Steve had been utterly depressed that night. Then he'd had that nightmare. He wouldn't tell her much about it. All he would say was that he didn't want to be alone.
Four days passed, and Beth grew more and more worried about Steve. He hardly responded to her at all. He wouldn't play games with her, he never smiled and he'd curtailed his writing to a few short phrases: "Pill," "Bathroom" and "Where," which stood for "Where are you going?" He just spent his days laying in bed, staring at the ceiling - his unseeing eyes looking sadder than she'd ever seen them. As a rule, the only time he ever expressed any emotion but sadness was when Beth had to leave his side. Then he grew agitated and fearful, refusing to relax until he could have physical contact with her again.
Beth was also worried about Steve's growing dependence on medication. He took at least six pills a day now. Beth tried several times to get him to slow down, reminding him of Dr. Reynolds' warning. However, every time she tried to withhold a pill, he became first frustrated, then angry. Once, she tried to hold out too long and he flew into an outright rage - ruining the bedclothes, throwing his board (and anything else he could get his hands on) across the room and, finally, bursting into tears. Beth just didn't have the heart to put him through that again when he was suffering in so many other ways.
After lunch on the fifth day, Beth helped him back into bed. She sat beside him and tried to engage him in a conversation, but he wouldn't talk yet again. Tears came to her eyes. She was losing him. And what if he was right? What if he slowly lost the rest of his senses? Then he really would be alone. At least, that's how he would feel. And so would she. Beth couldn't take it. She couldn't let that happen! There had to be something she could do for him. But what?
Just then, the phone rang. Beth had taken to keeping it close at hand in the bedroom, so Steve wouldn't have to follow her to another room while she talked. She picked it up. "Hello?"
"Hello, Beth? This is Ross."
"Hi, Ross. What's up?"
"Hey, I just thought I should tell you that they found a singer."
"Already?! My God, how long have they really been looking?"
"Must have been longer than what they told us," Ross said.
"Who did they get?'
"Some kid barely out of his teens," Ross said. "His name's Steve, too. He's got some funky Italian last name, though. Au... Aug..."
"Yeah! How did - "
"Are they working today?"
"Yeah, I heard he's coming in for the first time today. But how -"
"Thanks, Ross. Talk to you later, okay? Bye." Beth hung up the phone. Practically vibrating, she took Steve's hand in hers and wrote, "We're going to the studio."
"Augeri is Journey's lead singer. Come on." Steve gasped, looking both hurt and angry. He didn't argue when Beth got him dressed and bundled him into the car. She broke the speed limit in her haste to get to the studio. Steve Augeri! It had to be him. He'd been watching them all this time - stalking them! Steve's misfortunes had begun when they met him, and now, only five days after Steve had been ousted from Journey, he had become the new lead singer! It couldn't be a coincidence. Beth didn't exactly know what she planned to do when she got to the studio, but it would probably involve jumping on him and wringing his neck until he told her what he'd done to her husband and how to reverse it.
Beth parked in one of the VIP spaces and helped Steve out of the car. She gasped when she saw the large, silver Mercedes that she'd seen across from their house so often. She glared at it, completely sure of herself now. No one thought to stop then, and Beth led Steve into the studio as if they still belonged there. When she walked in, everyone turned toward her. Neal, Jonathan and Herbie looked worried; the two young musicians who'd replaced Ross and Smitty looked confused; Steve Augeri was shocked. Then he saw Steve and he smiled. Beth wanted to kill him.
"Beth, what are you doing here?" Herbie asked.
"Yeah, Beth, come on," said Neal. "We don't want any trouble."
Beth ignored them. She walked straight up to Steve Augeri. His smile faltered when he saw the fury in her face. "What did you do to him?" she asked bluntly.
"Don't play dumb with me! I know you're responsible for this! What did you do to him?"
"I d-don't know what you mean, Mrs. Perry," he said nervously.
Jonathan and Neal came over and stood on either side of him. "Back off, Beth," Neal said. "I know you're upset, but you can't blame the kid. It's not his fault we decided to get a new singer."
"The hell it isn't!" Beth cried. "And don't tell me to back off! He knows what happened to Steve! He did this to him!"
"What?" they cried. "Beth, that's crazy," Jonathan said.
The young singer looked incredibly hurt. "Mrs. Perry I swear to you, I would never hurt Steve. Never. I... I love him. He's my... he's everything to me!"
Beth glared at him. "I can't believe you! How can you expect me to believe that? Steve didn't get sick until he met you! I know you've been watching us. You've been in our house and you've been spying on us! Now, you are going to tell me exactly what you did to him and how to stop it right now, or I'm going to start throwing punches!"
"That won't be necessary." Beth jumped at the sound of the new voice. She turned to see a small, blond woman walk into the studio. The same woman she'd seen with Augeri the first day they'd met.
"Donna!" Augeri said, sounding slightly relieved. "What are you doing here, baby?"
"I came because I can't take this anymore," she shouted. "I'm sick of it, Steve! I'm sick of this obsession! This band!" Augeri's relief turned to confusion. Beth looked at Donna with interest. "Steve Perry this," the woman continued. "Steve Perry that! Day in and day out! He's all you talk about. He's all you think about!" Donna's face suddenly changed from fury to sadness. "I don't ask for much, you know," she said. "All I want is a little attention. But can I get it? No! I tried getting into the music. I tried memorizing all the facts you'd tell me about his life. I even tried to look like him, hoping it would make you notice me! Remember that time I dyed my hair black and started wearing platforms all the time? Nothing! Nothing!! Then you met him and it got worse! You talked about him day and night! You stopped going to work every day. Thought I didn't know that, didn't you? I called you at work, Steve! They said you were home sick. Sick! I know where you were. You were out watching him!"
"Donna," Augeri pleaded, looking nervously at his bandmates. Jonathan and Neal had edged away from him a little and were looking at him with mistrust.
"I tried, you know," Donna continued. "I thought that by getting him out of Journey, I could stop this obsession of yours." Beth gasped, but the girl rambled on, ignoring her. "But each time I hurt him, you paid him even more attention! I saw the charge for those flowers, Steve! You've never spent $500 buying flowers for me! Not ever! Then you stayed up all night making those fucking paintings! And always talking to me about how sad it was - how awful that Steve Perry was going through pain! What about my pain, huh? What about what I'm going through?! I'm your girlfriend, God damn it, not him!"
"Donna!" he cried. "You did this to him? How... how could you?"
"I finally managed to get him out of the fucking band, and then they went and hired you," she cried, ignoring him. "All that work down the fucking drain!" She paused, breathing hard and practically vibrating with fury. "I thought about killing him, you know. It would have been easy. But then I realized something. I've been going about this the wrong way. Getting rid of Perry isn't going to solve anything. He's not the problem." Donna reached into her purse, pulled out an automatic pistol and aimed it at Augeri. "You are."
Beth gasped and yanked Steve out of the line of fire. "Fuck!" Neal cried
"Shit!" Jonathan shouted. They both jumped back, and the two replacement musicians dove to the floor. Augeri seemed to be frozen in place. There was complete silence.
Suddenly, Steve tapped on his board and showed it to Beth. "What's happening?" Startled by the sound, Donna pointed the gun at Steve. Beth felt her heart jump into her throat. Trembling, she stepped in front of Steve, slowly shaking her head and pushing him back. She was grateful that Steve followed her lead without question.
After a tense moment, Donna shifted her aim again, pointing the pistol squarely at her boyfriend's chest. The young man paled and raised his shaking hands in front of him. "Donna... honey, p-please. D-don't... don't do this. J-just... please try to c-calm down, okay?"
"Good bye, Steve." Without further hesitation, she pulled the trigger.
The gunshot made a resounding crack. Then there was a moment of complete silence. Time seemed to stop as everyone stood rooted in place, unable to believe what was happening. Suddenly, time started moving again. Augeri staggered back, looking shocked and hurt. Jonathan caught him and lowered him to the floor. When he brought his hand out from behind the singer's back, it was covered with blood. Jonathan started to shake and his face turned a shade paler than it already was.
"Oh my God," Neal said, rushing over to them. "Oh, God. Jesus Christ. Herbie, call an ambulance! Oh my God."
Steve stood a little behind Beth, clutching her arm and shaking slightly. He must have felt the vibration from the gun shot, and Beth knew he had to be more than a little frightened by now. She gave his arm a reassuring squeeze and looked over at Donna. The girl was looking down at her boyfriend in horror - shocked by what she had done. The gun shook in her hands. Slowly, she turned the barrel towards herself. "No!" Beth cried. She raced toward Donna and grabbed her wrist, holding it in a vice-like grip. Donna jumped. She looked at Beth with confusion and sadness in her eyes. "I killed him," she whispered, starting to cry. "I killed him!"
"Let it go, Donna," Beth ordered, squeezing the girl's hand even harder. Donna winced and dropped the gun. Beth looked around. "Hey," she called, beckoning the new drummer and bassist, who were both still cowering on the floor. "Hold on to her." They came over and the bassist took hold of Donna's arms. She buried her face in his chest and cried.
Beth rushed back to Steve, who was panicking in earnest now. She stroked his arm a couple of times, then held his hand tightly and walked over to where Neal and Jonathan crouched over Augeri. The young man wasn't dead. He lay, in a growing pool of his own blood, pale and frightened. He looked up when Beth and Steve drew near and tried to speak. "Shhh," Jonathan said. "Just relax, kid. Help is on the way."
The young man looked from Beth to Steve again, insisting on trying to speak. "I'm... s-sorry," he managed at last.
Beth knelt down, pulling Steve with her. "Hush," she said. "Neal, take off your shirt." He looked at her in confusion for a moment, then complied. She rolled it up and held it over Augeri's wound. "I know it's not your fault." He smiled faintly. Then his eyelids fluttered, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he lost consciousness.