“Where do you go at night, Alex?” Nick muttered, quite drunk and half asleep on Alex’s shoulder.
The tour van shuddered, lurching along a patch of bare, rocky road. They’d been driving along an endless stretch of desert for hours now. They’d all watched the sun set on the Nevada skyline, and then disappeared into their bunks, trying to catch sleep. Alex had been sitting on a sofa and gazing out the window for almost all of the trip. He’d blanked out almost completely. The band knew Alex’s glazed-over moods well. He went into his own world quite often. Who didn’t?
And sometime in the middle of the night, as Alex was about to retreat into his bunk, a very wasted Nick crawled over to the sofa, lifted himself onto it, and drooped onto Alex’s shoulder. Alex wasn’t very surprised. Nick did this more often than one would imagine. It was like Nick came to Alex for comfort and reassurance on the road. Much to Alex’s dismay, however, this was often when Nick was too drunk to care. With a quiet “Hi, Alex,” Nick had grinned and promptly curled himself against his bandmate.
Alex didn’t know how long he and Nick had stayed there, looking out the window together at the barren landscape. Nick was drowsy, eyes only half open, and had laid his troubled head on Alex’s bony shoulder. Alex, only half paying attention, had his gaze fixed quite firmly on the view outside the window. He still had his concert clothes and makeup on. Nick guessed it was because he was far too tired to remove it all. Alex had one hand on Nick’s hair, gently, absent-mindedly stroking it. Nick himself was on the verge of passing out.
“Where do you go, then?” Nick murmured, eyes closing and unfocused. He sighed and burrowed his head deeper into Alex’s neck. God, Alex smelt nice. Sort of like soap and scent and sex. It was beautiful. He was beautiful. Hell, everything was beautiful right now.
Alex briefly glanced down at the sleepy Nick. He smiled, a small smile, a sad smile, and lowered his hand to rest on Nick’s shoulder. Alex was trying so hard to be calming. He really didn’t want Nick to worry. “Don’t be silly,” he said gently, caressing Nick, easing him into sleep. Nick had had a busy night. He deserved to sleep; not stay up all night asking Alex awkward questions.
“Don’t be silly,” Alex repeated. “I’m right here.”
Nick stirred, eyes almost rolling back into his head. He lifted up his face and tried to look Alex in the eye. “But you’re not always here,” he protested, in a small voice that reminded Alex of a child’s. Nick was quite childlike in his current state. His hair was plastered to his face, as if he’d been playing tag all day long, and he was curled up into Alex like a little boy and his older brother. Nick had been reduced to the most innocent of beings, sleepy and slurred, with all the intelligence of a four-year-old.
Alex tilted Nick’s head back down onto his shoulder gently. “No,” he said firmly. “I’ve always been here. I’ve never left. And when I do, it’s because I’ve got important things to attend to.”
Nick nodded, too tired to protest, collapsing entirely into Alex’s thin frame. “You’ve never been gone,” agreed Nick.
“That’s right,” Alex replied softly. “Now go to sleep.”
But it was too late. Nick had already dozed off, deep in the throes of a dark, disturbed slumber.
Alex leaned his own head against Nick’s, closing his eyes too.
“What I’d like to know,” he whispered into Nick’s ear, “Is where you go when no one’s looking.”
“Jesus,” Paul said, flicking open the newspaper. “It’s everywhere, isn’t it?”
It was a nice day, pretty and sunny and bright, and four Glaswegian musicians had decided to make the best of it by sitting outside a quaint café, sipping coffee and reading the paper. The sky was clear, and only the odd, fluffy cloud wandered lazily over it. The air was filled with the crisp, dewy scent of the morning. Waitresses bumbled all around the outdoor nook, as bright and cheery as the morning itself. The heavenly scent of coffee filled the air as people clinked their china cups, settling down for a slice of toast and a bagel or two.
The only odd thing in this perfect café this morning was the appearance of four very glum-looking, very distraught young men. Gathered around a small wrought-iron table and scrounging the newspapers, Alex, Bob, Nick and Paul ignored their morning coffees and were picking up any magazine and paper they could find, leafing through its sections trying to find the same thing.
Bob leaned over to read Paul’s paper. “Headlines, wow,” Bob mused. “Didn’t think it was that important.”
Paul looked incredulously at Bob. “Not important?” he said. “Someone was murdered, Bob. You’d think that would be important enough to be put in a newspaper.”
Nick, shaking his head and clutching a copy of E!, managed to take a sip of his coffee. “I still can’t believe it,” he muttered. “It’s just the fact we were so close.” He flipped through the magazine, eventually finding a glossy fold-out. He ripped it out, and, slamming it onto the middle if the table, announced, “There’s another.”
Big, thick red letters across the top screamed, “ROADIE KILL!: Franz Ferdinand sound tech murdered in shocking stab scandal!” Underneath it was a gory, gut-wrenching photo of a brick alleyway, in which a brunette man lay, face-down in a pool of crimson blood, the broken blade of a knife still sticking out of his back. All in glorious, full color.
“Oh, God,” Paul cringed disgustedly. “Get it away.” He flipped it over.
The men let out a collective shudder, and continued with their work.
“What really gets me,” Bob said, tentatively flipping through the entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times, “Is that it was murder. I mean, it’s not like the Ackuset fell on his head by accident, or anything.” Bob let out a timid, nervous giggle, which brought him evil glares from the rest of the band. “Sorry,” he shrugged sadly. “Just trying to relieve the tension.”
And then the men were back to being silent, sad individuals again. They flipped and tore and shook their heads for a few more minutes. A small pile of articles was slowly accumulating the middle of the table. Four cups of coffee sat, growing cold, in front of the four grim friends. Bob had even started to tear up a little.
“They don’t know who did it,” Nick said suddenly.
The other three looked up. “Yes, we know,” Paul replied.
“No, yes, I mean, I know you know,” Nick gabbled. “I mean – who did it? Who’d go out of his way to murder a perfectly innocent roadie? What’s the motive?”
“I don’t know.”
Alex, who’d been quiet throughout this entire conversation, suddenly jerked his head up from his newspaper.
“They don’t come much more innocent than Parker,” he said. It wasn’t a comforting statement, or a sarcastic one, it was just as if Alex were stating a fact.
“He was innocent, that’s all. I’m going to miss him.”
And with that, Alex dropped his head and buried himself in the newspaper again.
The other three exchanged glances.
“He’s just trying to get his mind off it,” Paul whispered. They all nodded. Yes, that must be it. That must be why Alex is acting detached, like he didn’t care half as much as he should.