17.08.2013 - London
“So… it was definitely him.”
The others watched Dom silently after he’d finished his account of last night’s break in. Dom A, Tom and Morgan were sitting around the table with their eyes fixed on the exhausted drummer. They each had a cup of terrible hospital coffee standing in front of them and no one seemed to take notice of it.
Chris had to be taken in for further examination and now Kelly was with him. The kids were with one of Kelly’s friends who was supposed to bring them over in a few hours to see their father. The police had already taken the bassist’s statement and he’d firmly protested against being taken to the hospital, but with Kelly around, there had been no arguing.
“And the police has no idea what he wanted there? You didn’t see anything?” Tom knitted his brows together, obviously feeling as clueless as Dom.
The blonde shook his head in resignation. “No, he… he didn’t even say anything. Chris tried to take him down but… well, you know how that turned out.”
Tom nodded his head as his shoulders sagged. It made Dom feel even worse. This had been their first real shot at finding out about Matt’s whereabouts and he’d managed to fuck it up. Yes, Chris had tried to make him feel less responsible, but really? He should’ve done more. He should’ve at least tried to to do something.
“It’s not your fault,” Morgan almost whispered, his eyes trained on Dom. It was as if they all knew the stream of thought that was currently running through his head.
“No, I know,” Dom sighed and rubbed at his eyes. “I just… I can’t help thinking what if…”
“There’s no what if,” Dom A announced firmly. “The only what if that I can think of is that what if you’d tried to stop him? And I exactly know the answer to that one. You’d be lying in one of those hospital beds as well, and that’s only if you’d have been lucky.”
Dom laced his fingers around the coffee cup and averted his eyes. Then he nodded softly because hell, he knew they were right. He wouldn’t have stood a chance against that bear of a man.
“I think I’m gonna look into how Chris is doing, I hope you don’t-” he started but was interrupted by Kelly’s arrival.
“No one minds, dear. He asked for you anyway,” she said as she sat down next to Tom. “Says there’s something he needs to talk to you about.” Her warm smile didn’t really reach her eyes, though, and he couldn’t blame her. It’d been a tough night for her, too.
“Maybe you should go home and catch up on some sleep,” Dom suggested but she shook her head no immediately.
“No way I’m leaving this hospital without my husband. I’m just going to finish your coffee to keep me awake.” She winked at him as he got up with a sigh.
Obviously he wouldn’t have been able to convince her otherwise anyway. Even if he was worried for her. Because this was Kelly Wolstenholme they were talking about. If Chris was the tower of strength, then Kelly was its foundation. That much he’d learnt over the years they’d known each other. Especially these past weeks had proven it to him again.
“Well then… I’m gonna head up now.”
The others acknowledged his departure with slight nods and instantly engaged Kelly in a conversation, apparently to at least try and get her mind off her husband’s current state.
Dom left the cafeteria, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans and his eyes fixed on the ground under his feet. What did Chris want to talk about? They had already analysed the whole situation and come to the conclusion that there was nothing new that could be gathered from the incident. When he said incident what he really meant was one of the worst days of his life. Seeing Chris on the ground, unconscious and motionless, had made him feel as helpless as when he’d first learnt about Matt’s abduction. His friends needed him and there was nothing he could do to really help them. So he figured that the least he could do know was to keep himself together. There was no use in falling apart again.
He walked down the sterile, white corridor until he finally reached the door to Chris’ room. With yet another deep breath he pulled himself together and pressed down the handle. He managed to plaster a weak smile on his face when he saw his friend struggling with the tube in his arm. It seemed like Chris couldn’t lie still as he cursed under his breath. It was only when Dom closed the door behind him again that the bassist noticed his presence.
“Hey there, mate. How are you?”
“Oh well, I don’t really get why this thing needs to be stuck into my arm, but otherwise I’m good.” Chris rested his head back against his pillow and returned Dom’s smile. It was obviously a little fake, too.
“And the head? Everything in order in there?” Dom sat down on the chair beside the bed.
“Yeah, it’s okay. The doc says I’ve got a little concussion, but it’s not too bad considering the circumstances.”
Dom nodded and crossed his legs, both falling silent for a moment. The drummer examined the beeping machine that was connected to the tube in Chris’ arm. Probably nothing more than some sodium chloride solution to get his system going again. Nothing to worry about, he told himself. Chris would soon be okay again. Although his friend still looked incredibly pale and too fragile for his liking.
A quiet sigh from the bassist pulled him out of his thoughts and he instantly looked up again.
“Look… I know this night has been a little… rough.” With a stern look at the drummer’s troubled face he added, “For all of us.”
“Yeah…” Dom tried not to fumble with his fingers too obviously. He was nervous.
“But there’s a conversation we have yet to finish. Don’t think I’m letting this go just because some wanker thought it’d be fun to knock me out.” A small, genuine smile curled the corners of his mouth.
Ah. So that’s what this was about.
“Chris, it’s… not important. We’ve got more serious issues on our plate,” Dom tried but Chris was having none of it.
“I’m not forcing you to tell me anything, but I can clearly see that it’s bothering you. You’re more obvious than you probably think.” His smile was still in place.
“Well…” Dom scratched the back of his neck, remembering the turn their earlier conversation had taken before the kidnapper had interrupted them.
Chris tried to straighten the collar of his hospital gown, but not letting himself be distracted by the infuriating cloth. He cleared his throat and looked back at Dom. “You told me that there was… more between you and Matt.” He didn’t seem too comfortable with the topic himself, but the fact alone that he breached it again was telling Dom more than words could.
He swallowed hard and averted his eyes again. “Yes.”
“So… what exactly is this ‘more’?” Dom could practically feel the inverted commas Chris was implying.
Trying to stall a bit, Dom uncrossed his legs again and leant his elbows on his knees, cradling his face in his hands. “I don’t know, Chris… This is new to me, too. Sort of. But I’m pretty sure I…”
Suddenly he felt a broad, steady hand squeeze his shoulder. “You love him.”
It wasn’t a question. Dom’s head shot up in surprise and his eyes locked with Chris’. What he found there wasn’t the rejection he’d irrationally been so afraid of. There were questions, yes, but also the warmth he’d come to rely upon so much over the past years.
He nodded and swallowed again. “I’m sorry, I-”
“Stop right there. What the hell are you sorry about? Seriously, you’ve blamed yourself for stuff that you’ve no control over enough to last a lifetime.” The hand remained firmly in place.
Only then did he realise that he was shaking a bit. “What if I never get the chance to tell him?” he whispered almost inaudibly.
Chris drew in a strangled breath and lay back again. Dom managed to look up again and took in the sudden change in his friend’s demeanor.
“Look, I’m not gonna lie to you… It’s… it’s not looking too good right now. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. If you give up on that, though, everyone else will, too. So… if there’s one thing I am 100 percent sure of, it is that Matt knows. He doesn’t need you to tell him. It has always been that way with you two wankers.”
Chris was smiling again and Dom couldn’t help but return it. It seemed like this was the first time anyone was telling him the truth. Chris wasn’t all patronising and all will be good,and much to his surprise, Dom appreciated that a lot.
“Thanks, mate. Really.”
Dom didn’t really know what Chris really thought about the revelation of these feelings, but it didn’t seem necessary to ask. He obviously didn’t disapprove and, for Dom, that was enough, at least for the moment.
19.08.2013 - London
Dom was already 20 minutes late when he hurried into CI Whitman’s office, but there was a good reason for his delay and it actually made him feel a little better that he’d finally come around to doing it.
“Hey, mate! Where have you been? You didn’t answer my text. We thought you’d be the first to rush over here, what with the news of a lead.” Tom looked him up and down sceptically.
Dom A was on the phone, apparently bringing Glen up to date, while Morgan was sitting next to Tom, texting with someone. Whitman wasn’t around yet (or anymore, considering his lateness that could also be the case). Chris couldn’t come to the station as Kelly had ‘grounded’ him. She was taking the doctor’s orders quiet seriously and watched her husband’s every movement eagle-eyed. So Dom had promised to brief him afterwards.
“Sorry, there was something I had to do first.” He patted the breast pocket of his leather jacket almost lovingly and sat down next to the media manager.
Tom just nodded, obviously not really convinced by Dom’s apology. But then Whitman entered the office again and stopped further inquiries.
“Ah, Mr Howard, there you are.” The CI put down a coffeepot and a few cups in the middle of his desk. Dom didn’t really feel like drinking coffee but accepted the offer, nevertheless.
It was only when Whitman was seated behind his desk that Dom got nervous about the news. Would they finally be able to find Matt? Was this the great breakthrough they’d been waiting for for so long? Before he could let himself be overwhelmed by renewed hope, the CI cleared his throat and Dom’s attention was completely focused again. He had to stay realistic now. No hasty conclusions.
“So we have just gotten the findings of the crime scene examination of the break in at Mr Wolstenholme’s house. And sadly, I have to tell you that there is nothing to go on. The perpetrator didn’t leave any traces and we can only guess why he came there last night. We have a witness who saw someone of the same build running down the street, but no idea where he went.”
A collective sigh of defeat went through the room, but the CI raised his finger then. Obviously he wasn’t finished yet.
“But I didn’t summon you here just to tell you that there’s nothing new. This is not connected to the break in, but we were finally able to trace and locate one of the IP addresses from the website. What we know so far is that Mr Bellamy’s kidnapper used several different locations to upload the photos. One of them is an internet cafe in Central London.”
Dom’s heartbeat picked up a bit, but still he didn’t trust himself with letting his hopes rise. After the first explanation, the CI continued with a detailed description of the way they managed to track down the IP address and while Tom seemed to be completely absorbed, Dom’ thoughts started to wander. He didn’t understand much of the IT lingo and so he was sure that he wouldn’t miss anything vital.
His hand still lingered over the pocket of his jacket. Its content was the reason why he’d been late in the first place. Without really noticing it, he pulled the silver chain out of it and cradled it in his hand while his eyes were locked on of the files on the desk. He’d been to the jeweller to get it repaired. He didn’t want to give it back to Matt while it was still damaged. No, that would’ve been a reminder of the worst time of the singer's life and Dom was determined to do anything to make him forget.
Now he just needed his friend back. He was prepared. He was ready. He wanted Matt back and tell him about his feelings, make up for the time they’d already lost, and enjoy every single second he could possibly spend with the man. One thing he was completely sure of: he would never ever take the singer for granted again. Not when he couldn’t be sure that he’d always be around.
“... so we are already interviewing the staff and the cafe’s regulars.”
At that Dom was pulled out of his thoughts again and perked his ears. Witnesses sounded good. That meant there were people who might know something, people who might be able to help them find Matt. It was at least something, wasn’t it?
Dom looked around and met Whitman’s gaze. The CI was carefully gauging the others’ reactions and Dom tried to do the same as he hadn’t followed the conversation too closely. But it was obvious that Dom A, Tom and Morgan felt the same as he did. Insecure. It was hard to suppress the hope this new lead had raised, but they were apprehensive to give in to it. It was a lead, yes. But it could just as well turn out to be a dead end again. And what then? Dom tried to stay collected. For the others, Matt and himself. But if his hopes got destroyed again, he wasn’t sure he would survive it.
“I think we should all take a break now and let everything sink in. Is that alright with you?” Whitman asked and everyone nodded back at him in confirmation.
Chairs were scraped over the floor when everyone got up from their seats. Dom could feel his friends’ eyes on him, probably evaluating his state of mind. He stared at the papers in front of him for another moment before he finally raised his eyes and looked at them one by one. Then he nodded, signaling to them that he was okay.
“You alright, mate?” Tom seemed to need a verbal confirmation, though, and Dom couldn’t really hold it against him. They had gone through a lot these past days and he hadn’t been the easiest person to read and to handle.
“Yeah,” he replied. “It’s just a lot to take in.”
“I know. I don’t know what to think. I want to be excited, but I’m afraid something will destroy all the progress we’ve made so far.”
“I know what you mean. It feels surreal to have a lead, finally.” He fumbled with his jacket and donned it. “I’m gonna go for a quick smoke. Want to join me?”
“Nah, mate. Thanks for the offer, though.”
Dom nodded at that and headed out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him. He followed the long hallway towards the front of the building and took a right where he knew the smoking area was located. The blonde was surprised to find it completely deserted, but he didn’t really mind. The peace meant he could re-organise his thoughts before he had to head back inside.
They had a lead. They might be able to find Matt and bring him home. The sheer prospect of that made Dom’s heart soar, but he was apprehensive not to get too excited. Like Chris, he was afraid to believe in a success just yet. But he could still hope, and hope he did. Lighting a cigarette and inhaling deeply, he let his mind wander.
He couldn’t wait to hold Matt in his arms again. He’d kiss him and never let go. He’d tell him that he loved him, that he wanted more than just a shag every other day, that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with him, not just as friend, but as lover. And Matt would look at him and smile this soft smile he rarely showed to anyone, and he’d say that he wanted that, too. They’d kiss some more and fall asleep together before they faced their new life together.
Dom blew out the smoke and watched it rise to the ceiling before he took another breath.
First things first, they needed the singer back. What Whitman had told them sounded good, but that didn’t mean that it would bring them to their goal. He knew that, he wasn’t an idiot. Maybe weeks ago when he was still running around like a headless chicken (he still wasn’t over Tom’s comparison) he’d have reacted differently, but now he tried to be realistic and calm. Chris had helped him a lot with that. They didn’t know when they’d get Matt back, he only knew they would. Even if this lead turned out to lead nowhere, they’d find him, no matter how long it took. One day Matt would be with them, and Dom wouldn’t give up until that day had come.
Dom turned around to face the voice and found a young man standing a few feet away from him. He looked pale and scared, and Dom immediately recognized the face. Last time they’d met, Dom had been the biggest arse, so he was surprised the kid had collected the courage to address him. He stubbed out his cigarette.
“You’re that boy. Ian.”
Ian nodded shyly and Dom could see the surprise in the kid’s eyes. Somehow he had the feeling that the boy hadn’t expected him to remember his name. The drummer remembered what DI Whitman had told them about the boy. 17, father left the mother a couple of years ago, no friends at school. He was probably lonely and went through life as someone who’s never seen by anyone. Like a shadow. Dom immediately felt sympathy towards him. He was lucky to never have experienced that feeling of loneliness, but he knew that Matt had to fight with it a couple of times. With his parents being divorced and generally being a shy bloke (and boy, hadn’t that changed over the years?), it had been hard for the brunette to make new friends back then. Dom was glad that Matt had found the courage to talk to him on that sunny day in September. One day he’d ask him why he did it, why Matt had deemed him worthy of such a risk (and a risk it was for Matt).
“I’m sorry, Mr Howard. I didn’t want to disturb you,” Ian stammered. “I just- I’m sorry. I should go.”
The boy had just turned around and bolted for the door, when Dom sprang into action and grabbed a bony shoulder.
“Hey, hey. It’s alright. Calm down.” He smiled calmly.
Ian stared at him for a moment, debating whether he should indeed stay or make a run for it again. His desire to stay won over, though he remained rigid, with his eyes darting around the small room.
Dom wondered if the boy was always like this or if the drummer’s behaviour during their first and last meeting had something to do with it. He knew how he’d treated the boy, what he’d said, and even though he still believed that he had every right to be upset it didn’t give him the right to act like that. Chris was right, they should be happy this boy even contacted the police. What if he hadn’t? Sure, the pictures had gone viral at some point, but, as far as Dom knew, no one (except the people that were members of that website, of course) knew just where they had come from. No one else had come to the police to report the website, no anonymous letter, no phone call, nothing. Ian was one of them, but, unlike his friends, his sense of moral and justice outweighed the codex of the board.
The drummer had to make it up to this boy somehow. They didn’t have to become friends (because Dom could never forgive him, even though he wasn’t the one who’d done this to Matt), but he could treat him better and show him that his effort and betrayal (because that’s what it must feel like to him) was more than appreciated.
“Do you smoke?” he asked and retrieved the package of cigarettes from his jacket pocket.
Ian shrugged. “Used to. Trying to stop because mum keeps pestering me about the smell.”
“Ah. Yeah, mothers. Mine has given up on that long ago.”
Nonetheless, Ian took a cig from the drummer. Dom took another one as well, and after they’d lighted up their respective cigarettes they stood in silence, both watching the smoke swirl in the air.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” Dom asked after enough silence had passed to make him feel uncomfortable.
“I had to come in for another interrogation. They’re investigating on a case of a stolen music recording and one of my friends is…” he sighed. “He stole it, and they wanted to get some information for me.”
Dom turned to look at the boy’s face. His eyes were downcast, the corners of his mouth casted downward. The fingers around the cigarette were gripping it tightly while the ash continued to fall in the ashtray. Ian’s shoulders were slumped and he looked every picture of misery that Dom felt a slight pang in his chest. Yes, the boy was part of this community of which one member was putting his best friend through hell, but he was also just a boy. He was going against people he called his friends and that were worth more than anything else in the world to him. For a moment Dom imagined what it felt like to betray Chris, Tom or Matt, and he immediately remembered his dream. Only dying felt worse.
Instinctively, he laid a hand on Ian’s shoulder. “That must be hard,” he said. “Are you okay?”
Ian looked up at him with a mix of surprise and gratefulness, then he cast his eyes downwards again. “I don’t know,” he whispered. “Tony is my friend and they’re going to- He might be going to prison. Because of me. Friends shouldn’t do that. I should have- I should…”
“I understand.” And really, Dom did. “I’m not saying that it’s right what you and your friends are doing, but I get how hard it must be for you. It’s the right thing, though, and you can be proud of that.”
Ian slapped Dom’s hand away and furiously dumped the butt of his cigarette in the ashtray. He stared at Dom with blazing eyes, and it was the first time the blonde had seen anything else than fear and shyness in the face of the boy.
“How can you say that? How could I be proud of this? He’s one of my best mates! We’ve known each other for years and he’s been there for me when Dave from the French class smashed my face into the bathroom wall. I’ve ruined his life! He’ll never forgive me. Just because you think you understand what I’m going through, you-“ He visibly deflated at that, turning back into the scared teenager that needed a hug badly.
“I’m sorry,” he stammered. “Fuck, I’m sorry. You’re going through so much worse and here I am, making this all about myself. I’m so sorry that Beethoven’s doing that to your friend! It must be awful not knowing if he’s still- Fuck, I need to shut up now or I’ll be making it worse.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay. Calm down, Ian. Breathe.”
Dom laid his hand back on his shoulder and squeezed it softly. The boy was about to have a panic attack, he could see that, and he needed to help him.
“Take deep breaths, Ian. That’s it,” he said and rubbed his shoulder gently.
Taking a couple of deep breaths, Ian calmed down enough not to have a breakdown in front of the drummer. He leaned his body against the wall and closed his eyes. Talking to someone wasn’t his style, and talking to someone whose friend had been abducted and showcased definitely wasn’t any easier. He dropped down to the ground.
“It’s okay. Are you okay now?” Dom kneeled down next to him.
“Yeah, I think so. I didn’t mean to be insensitive. It’s all a bit much for me.”
“I know,” Dom said softly. “It’s unfair to have so much pressure on your shoulders. But I’m really grateful that you did what you did. I won’t say everything will be alright because it won’t, but only because of you we have an inkling of where Matt is. You might save his life.”
They stayed in silence while Ian pondered the drummer’s words and Dom was lost in thoughts of Matt. Occasionally, people would pass them and throw them odd looks, but no one dared to say a word. This time, Ian broke the silence.
“Do they know anything new?” he asked. “I know I’m not entitled to any information because I’m only a witness and connected to the website. They still think I could have something to do with this, as well, I’m sure of that, but…” He turned to Dom. “Please. Just… tell me if it’s good or bad. I don’t want any details, I promise you. I just want to know.”
Dom wasn’t suspicious of him, the boy sounded genuine. But he still had to know for sure. He wasn’t going to give out information, no. Maybe Ian wouldn’t do it deliberately, but there was always the danger of him telling one of his friends, and maybe one of those knew Beethovens5th better than Ian suspected.
“Why do you want to know, though? It’s not like it’s your business. Yes, you feel bad about it, I get it, but it’s not like it concerns you any longer.”
“Because it’s not right!” Ian exclaimed. “This guy is a collector and I adore the items he owns. I love the people I’ve met on this board. I know it’s not right to steal, but giving someone grief because their beloved possession has been stolen is something completely different from abducting someone. Mr Bellamy is a person and even though I don’t know him personally seeing him like this hurts me. He doesn’t deserve this and it shouldn’t happen to him or to anyone. It’s not right, okay?”
Dom nodded at that. Yes, it shouldn’t happen to anyone. But it did happen. And it happened to the person that was the most important in his life. Just because some sick people tried to one up each other and fight over who had the most impressive collection. This young man, though, wasn’t one of these people. Dom didn’t know anything about what Ian’s collection looked like, and if he had ever stolen something to achieve it, but he wasn’t one of these soulless bastards that praised Beethovens5th for having a talented musician imprisoned (and he’d seen a lot of disgusting comments about that on the first entry). He was a decent bloke, and Dom was sure that, once he overcame his shyness and anxiety, he could find the purpose and friends he was looking for in his life.
At last, he replied carefully. “Not good, not bad. We’re getting there. Things are looking up, though.”
As promised, Ian didn’t ask for any details. He seemed content enough with what he got, not only because Dom’s answer seemed to be what he had hoped to hear, but also because Dom had replied in the first place.
Dom slowly got up from his crouching position on the floor and dusted off his trousers.
“I have to get back inside, they’re probably looking for me already,” he said.
Ian got up as well. “Yeah, alright. Thank you for… Thank you for everything. Truly.”
Dom raised his hand as a gesture to say goodbye and headed back towards DI Whitman’s office. Something sprung to his mind, though, and he turned around to Ian again, who hadn’t moved at all, still staring at the floor.
At that, the boy looked up. “Yes?”
“Do you play any instrument?”
“I do. I love playing the guitar,” he replied.
“Are you any good?”
Ian was clearly confused. “Erm… I guess I’m alright? I don’t know.”
Dom didn’t know what had gotten into him, but it felt like the right thing to do. “Chris has got your number, yeah? When all of this is over, let’s jam together.”
“Yeah,” Dom nodded. “I’m sure Matt can teach you a couple of things. And me too, though I’m not as great as him.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much.”
He saw the unshed tears of gratefulness in Ian’s eyes and knew that it was indeed the right thing. They couldn’t be friends, but he could support the boy and maybe, just maybe, he could help him overcome his fears and start living as the boy he seemed to be under all of it.
“I’ll see you around.” With that, he turned back to Whitman’s office.
He was halfway there, when he heard a voice behind him. “Dom!”
Dom turned around to face Tom, dreading what was to come. The tone of his friend’s voice was already indicating that something had happened. There was an edge of urgency and panic to it, and Dom couldn’t discern if it was good or bad.
Looking into the brunette’s face, however, told him everything he needed to know.
“Shit, Dom,” Tom rasped. He was completely out of breath.
“What happened? Is it Matt?”
At the mention of their friend Tom visibly paled and Dom feared the worst. That was not a good sign, was it?
“There was... Something happened at Matt’s place.”
“What?” Once again, the blonde’s heart rate picked up. What did that mean? A break-in? If yes, then why? Was the kidnapper looking for something specific and couldn’t find it in the Wolstenholme residence, so he went to Matt’s? Or did it have nothing to do with the kidnapper at all and something else had happened? He needed to know.”
Tom didn’t reply and wouldn’t look at Dom, so instead Dom grabbed his shoulder and squeezed it gently, but with enough force to bring his point across. “Tell me.”
At last, Tom took a deep breath and his eyes locked with Dom’s. With words spoken way too calmly for the situation he replied, “A police officer called and said they found a dead body in Matt’s living room.”
The words kept repeating themselves in Dom’s head, while his hand moved inside his jacket to make a grab for the silver chain again. A dead body. He turned away from Tom, staring blankly at the wall behind them. In Matt’s house. A dead body. He blinked once. Twice. His hand fisted around the chain, he couldn’t feel the pain. No. No, no, no, no.