The doll lay on a small table in the attic where it would not be disturbed. It was not well-formed, having been made of wax by untrained hands, but it would do. The proper herbs had been added to its make-up. The proper charms had been spoken over it. It needed only two things before it could begin its work. Hair and clothes. But it wouldn't be long now. Not long at all.
"You know I can't do that, man!"
"Come on, Dave. You owe me. Big."
"Steve, man, I can't. It's illegal."
"Listen, all I want is the address that goes with this license plate number. You don't even have to tell me a name."
"Man, I told you it's illegal! I could lose my job."
"What would you rather lose, David? Your job, or your family?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, knowing exactly what the man meant.
"If I tell Lauren your little secret..."
"You can't do that to me, man," Dave cried.
"I don't want to do it, Dave," Steve said. "I know she said she'd leave you for good if she found out you'd done any more drugs. But if I can't even count on you for one little favor..."
"That was eight months ago, Steve. You know I've been straight since then!"
"Lauren won't care, you know," Steve said.
"Come on, man," Dave pleaded. "Gimme a break!"
Steve sighed. "What a shame. Never to see Colby or Jason again."
Dave sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Steve had him over a barrel and he knew it. . "All right, you fuckin' bastard," he said quietly. "I'll give you the goddamn address." He glanced nervously around the crowded DMV office, making sure none of his supervisors were around. He pulled up the information and read it slowly. Then Steve made him repeat everything to make sure he'd got it right.
"Yeah. Sure," Dave said glumly.
"Your secret's safe with me," Steve said. "Catch ya later, buddy!" He disconnected.
Dave slumped down in his seat, relieved that his brief encounter with Steve was over. Hopefully, he wouldn't call in another "favor" for a long time. He gazed at the screen, wondering who this Perry guy was and what he'd done to attract Steve's attention.
"Babe, have you seen my hairbrush?"
Beth looked up at Steve and grinned. He was standing in the bathroom doorway, fresh out of the shower, using his towel to dry his hair, rather than cover himself. Beth was treated to a lovely view of the steam rising from his arms and chest, and water droplets traveling lazily down his naked body. "Which brush, hon'?" she asked absently.
"The black one with the big bristles."
"I think the last time I saw it was in the car. Want me to check?"
"Yeah. Thanks, babe."
Beth tore her eyes away from her husband and got up to find the car keys. She went out to the Mercedes and searched for the brush. Finally, she found it, hiding under one of the seats. On the way out of the car, Beth's foot caught in the seat belt and she fell, dropping the brush into the gutter. "Crap!" Beth stood up and brushed herself off. She shut the car and looked into the street. The brush had floated down a few feet and now lay in a wet pile of leaves and gunk. Beth grimaced. "Eeew!" She sighed. "Guess I'll have to buy him another one," she said aloud.
"Did you find it?" Steve called when she walked in.
"Yeah, but I don't think you want it anymore."
Beth went to the bathroom and watched Steve groom himself. "I fell and dropped it in the gutter and now it's all gross and disgusting."
"Yuck. Well, are you all right? Did you hurt yourself?"
"I'm okay. Sorry about your brush, though. I'll get you another one."
"Don't worry about it, baby," he said. He grinned mischievously. "I know what a big klutz you are."
"Oh, shut up!"
"All right. Butterfingers."
"Keep it up, Stephen," Beth warned.
"All right, all right," Steve said smiling. He fumbled around and found another one of his many brushes and used it instead.
"Did our neighbors get a new car?" Beth asked.
"There's a Mercedes Benz parked across the street. Whose do you suppose it is?"
Steve shrugged, moving to the bedroom to find some clothes. "I don't know. Probably just somebody visiting."
"But I've never seen it around here before," she said.
"Beth, are you worrying again?" Steve asked.
"Well stop it. One of their relatives could have bought a new car. Or maybe they bought a car for one of their kids."
"Or maybe it's a stalker," she said, laughing a little so Steve would think she was just joking.
Not surprisingly, he wasn't fooled for an instant. "Oh, Beth." He came over to her and put both hands on her shoulders. "Look, honey. I can understand why you're paranoid about stuff like this after what happened with Ozzy. And I know it's not easy for you now that Journey's gotten so big, and we can't be as private as we'd like to be. But you have to try to stop worrying so much. Not every unfamiliar car on the street belongs to a stalker."
Beth sighed and looked down at the floor. "I know. But it's hard not to be afraid."
"I know, baby," Steve said, running a hand through her hair. "I know. I get scared, too. But you're with me. And I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you. Ever. Okay?"
"Okay." After giving her a little kiss, Steve finished getting dressed and they made their way to the studio.
He watched the Benz pull away. When it was completely out of sight, he stepped out of his older, larger Mercedes. One day he'd have enough money to buy a 450 SL, just like the one Steve had. He walked across the street and looked down at the hairbrush. It wasn't so bad. Only the back of it was really dirty, but he could clean that up easily. He picked up the grimy brush and a thrill went through him. Steve Perry's brush, he thought. Steve Perry brushed his hair with this. He grinned and took the brush to his car.
"I can't believe this," said Smitty.
"Dammit, Steve, it's too late," Ross cried.
"Now?? You want to add a new song now?" Herbie asked indignantly.
"Why not?" Steve asked. "What's wrong with it?"
"We're practically in post production, that's what's wrong with it!" Jonathan exclaimed.
"You'll like it," Steve said. "It's a good song."
"That's not the point," Neal said.
"Of course it's the point," Steve said.
"But, Steve, we'd have to be done recording it today to stay on schedule," Herbie said from the control room. "And we still have to do Stone in Love."
"Are you saying we can't record two things in one day? That is, when we don't have certain people distracting us," he said with a sidelong glance at Neal. The guitarist just snickered.
"Let's hear it," Jonathan said suddenly.
"Jay!" Neal cried.
"I want to hear it," he said firmly.
Neal raised his hands in a gesture of defeat. "Fine, let's hear it. But I hope it's better than that sappy crap you two hatched up together!"
"Open Arms is a good song!" Steve cried.
"It's sugary, sappy, overly dramatic crap!" Neal said.
"Shut up!" Jay snapped.
"Shut up!" Steve shouted at the same time. He glared at Neal, his fists clenching.
Ross stepped between them. "Don't. Start," he said, pointing a warning finger at Neal. Then he picked up his bass and handed it to Steve. "Here."
Steve strapped it on and glanced toward the control room. Beth was sitting off to the side, out of the way of the techs. She smiled and gave him a thumbs up. He winked at her, then started to play. Beth had convinced him to at least finish the basic melody and the lyrics before approaching them with it, so there was enough for them to hear where he wanted to take it. "Well?" he asked when he was finished.
"It's good," Smitty said. The others echoed his sentiments.
"But there's not enough time to finish it and record it and do all the other stuff we're supposed to do today," Herbie said.
"I think we should try," said Jonathan.
"Yeah, let's do it," said Neal. "I could rock to that."
"What were you going to call it," Ross asked, taking his bass back from Steve.
Steve shrugged. "I hadn't thought about it. Probably It's Okay. Or Friday Night. Or Keep on Runnin'. I don't know."
"I like the last one," Beth said from her perch in the control room.
"Okay," Steve said with a smile. "Keep on Runnin' it is."
Neal played a few muted chords while Ross picked up the bass line. He grinned. "I like that."
"Hey, Steve," Jay said. "I had some ideas about the chorus. Do it again, and let me know what you think." From the corner of his eye, Steve saw Herbie throw his hands in the air and sit down. He smiled. The song was in.
Two hours later, they'd arranged Steve's song just the way they wanted. It was recorded about an hour and a half after that. Then they worked on Stone in Love. It was late when they finally called it quits. Herbie told them they'd have to come back again later to finish Stone in Love and do the clean up work they were supposed to be doing today, but no one minded. Steve said goodbye to everyone and took Beth home.
The hair was attached to the doll's head with a little hot wax. More charms were spoken. Soon. Very soon it would be complete.