“Wha- Is he-” Dom stammered. He was unable to get rid of the lump in his throat.
“I don’t know. Fuck, I don’t know.” The brunette pulled at his hair. “This officer called and I had to find you. I just… I had to find you.”
Dom let go of the chain, which he was still clutching as if his life depended on it, and instead laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder. He could feel Tom shaking and felt a rush of sick satisfaction at knowing that he wasn’t the only one in fear and pain. He squeezed carefully.
“Still in his office,” Tom replied shakily. He looked as if he was about to be sick. “We were talking about the lead when… when the call came.”
Dom turned around and ran. It didn’t matter that he left Tom standing there, the photographer would follow him anyway. It didn’t matter when he accidentally bumped into an elderly lady as he turned around the corner, and it definitely didn’t matter when she shouted after him as he continued his mad race without apologising to her. No, his mind was blank, safe for the one thing that mattered at the moment; he needed to get to the office as quickly as possible. The corridor was so long, it appeared to be neverending. Had it always been this long?
After what felt like forever he finally touched the doorknob to Whitman’s office, Tom nearly bumping into him. The drummer opened the door forcefully and immediately scanned the room for the CI.
“Is it Matt?”
Whitman was located at the window, his phone pressed against his ear, and held his hand up to indicate that he couldn’t talk at the moment before he grunted into the phone. Dom huffed.
“I don’t care! Is it Matt?” he asked again, louder this time. If the CI wouldn’t give him an answer soon he was sure he’d punch him in the face or pass out. Possibly the former, then the latter.
Whitman murmured something into his phone before he ended the call and stashed the phone into his pocket. “Mr Howard,” he began, “I see Mr Kirk has found you, I’m glad. I can assure you, it’s not your friend.”
Relief flooded Dom’s body instantly. He finally tore his eyes away from the inspector and remembered that there were other people in the room as well. Both Dom A and Morgan were still in their seats, Morgan rubbing his right temple while Dom A stared at the table top. Dom’s chest tightened.
“That’s not everything, though, right?” he asked. His friends had to know more, something that wasn’t good news. He looked over to Tom and saw the same helplessness he was feeling reflected in the brunette’s eyes.
“Please sit down first. You look like you’re about to pass out.” With that the CI motioned to their spots at the table and went to the side to retrieve 2 glasses. He filled them with water from the carafe that was placed on the table and handed one each to Dom and Tom.
Dom emptied his glass in mere seconds. His throat felt so dry and raw, his body exhausted and dehydrated for no apparent reason. He wanted Whitman to talk, to explain, but he couldn’t get the words out, the lump having returned with vengeance. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm his nerves, mentally counting to 10. When he reopened his eyes he saw Whitman staring at him expectantly.
“So? Explain,” Tom whispered harshly from next to Dom.
The CI nodded and sat down in front of them. “As you already know, I received a call from a colleague. An anonymous call was placed at 11 o’clock this morning, reporting a homicide in North London. Thompson and his team were assigned to the case to investigate. The person was killed by a shot to the head and placed on the sofa in the living room of Mr Bellamy’s house. For whatever reason they didn’t make the connection to our case until about 30 minutes ago when he immediately called me.”
“Okay…” Dom said slowly. He tried to process what Whitman was telling them.
“From what we know so far, the dead man is not your friend. That much is certain,” Whitman continued and Dom could have sworn he heard relief in the CI’s voice. “We’re still running the fingerprints through the system, but from my colleague’s description it seems like this man is our kidnapper.”
Oh. So that meant…
Tom gasped. He had apparently come to the same conclusion Dom had reached mere seconds ago.
“But, but,” the brunette stammered. “Are you sure? He’s like, our only connection to Matt right now.”
Whitman nodded. “We will be 100% once the body arrives at the morgue and has been identified. Do you feel up to that task, Mr Howard?”
No, he didn’t feel up to the task. He didn’t want to see a dead body, no matter who it was. And… what if it was Matt in the end? The other inspector had never seen the singer, so what if he was wrong? Whitman himself said they weren’t 100% sure. Dom felt a shudder run through his limbs. His body felt as if he had been tossed in a bathtub filled with ice cubes, he was shuddering badly. But he needed to do it, right? Someone had to do it, and he and Chris were the only ones who had seen the kidnapper’s face. It was his responsibility, and he had to see him with his own eyes or he’d always doubt the truth.
So he nodded slowly and raised his eyes to Whitman’s. “When?”
“Tonight or tomorrow morning, whenever you feel up to it. But I figure you’ll want to do this as quickly as possible.”
Dom nodded again and looked at his friends. They looked so devastated and Dom couldn’t hold it against them. He himself felt completely drained and helpless. Days of feeling betterand of hope were destroyed in mere minutes. He felt like he was falling and falling without the ground coming closer. His vision went fuzzy around the edges and his breathing hitched. The drummer closed his eyes and took a deep breath in. He needed their bastion of calm to remind him that there was still hope, that this wasn’t the end. But Chris wasn’t here, and Dom wasn’t strong enough. He breathed out, fingering his mobile phone in his pocket. His fingers itched to dial the bassist’s number, but after taking another breath he decided against it. He could do it.
“Hey,” he addressed his friends and tried to sound as strong as possible. They looked at him expectantly. “It’s okay. This just means we’re getting closer. This is good.”
“How can you fucking say that this is good? If it is the guy, then we’re fucked. How do we find Matt now?” Tom exclaimed and jumped from his seat.
“Once we know who he is we can find his place. Matt could be there. Or at least a hint to his location. We could find something. Anything.” He sounded desperate even to his own ears. Chris did a so much better and more convincing job.
However, his small attempt at comfort seemed to be enough, at least for the moment, as Tom sat down again and nodded. The other 2 nodded their agreement and Dom couldn’t help to breathe a sigh of relief. He eyed the papers on the table, the papers that had given them all a false sense of hope just half an hour ago.
19.08.2013 - London
The morgue was quiet and Dom didn’t really know what else he had expected. Of course it would be quiet down here, there was no one to make a sound, after all. He stared at his watch for the umpteenth time and grumbled to himself when he found the arms of the clock hadn’t moved at all. His eyes travelled to the sterile wall opposite of him and remained there for a moment before Dom checked his watch again.
After he’d done this 3 more times he cursed under his breath and pinched his nose, a nervous habit he’d picked up from Matt. He needed to calm down. Whitman would be here soon, there was no need to check his watch every 15 seconds. He stared at the door separating him from the nightmare, torn between wanting it to be sealed and never to be spoken of again, and willing it to open up to give him answers. He dreaded what was about to happen, but at the same time…
The drummer jumped at the voice, clearly not having expected it. But when he turned around it was indeed Chris standing in front of him, not a figment of his exhausted mind. Dom noted that the bassist was quite pale compared to when he’d last seen him just a couple of hours ago.
“Chris! What are you doing here?”
The taller man leaned against the wall and Dom was immediately concerned. Shouldn’t he be resting? The doctor had given strict instructions and Kelly had been adamant to follow them, even going so far as smacking Dom over the head several times when he had encouraged his friend to get out of bed and join him on the terrace for a quick smoke. But Chris was here now, so did that mean he was feeling better?
“Tom called me,” the bassist replied softly. “Figured it would be a good idea to join you.”
“But you should be resting!”
Chris shrugged. “I’ll be back in bed after this. Had to promise the missus or she wouldn’t have let me go.”
Dom sighed. It wasn’t like he didn’t want Chris here, quite the contrary. If he needed anyone right now (except for Matt, of course) it was him. At the same time, however, he wished Chris were still in bed, safe from whatever was going to happen inside that door in front of them. But he knew that Chris wouldn’t go home now, no matter how much Dom tried to change his mind. In that aspect, Chris and Matt were the same: once they had decided on something, they would follow it through until they succeeded. In this case, Chris wouldn’t leave until they knew who the body was.
So instead of starting an argument, he simply nodded. “Has Tom updated you on everything else? Whitman should be here any minute.”
They chatted quietly with Dom updating his friend on everything that had happened today. It was weird to him how much he had to say, considering he’d just seen Chris that morning. Had all of this really happened in just over a couple of hours?
Chris was quiet throughout and nodded once in a while to let Dom know that he was still listening. He wasn’t quite as pale anymore and the rigidness of his body had almost completely vanished, but the blonde could still feel the nervousness radiating from him. He briefly wondered if Chris could feel his anxiety, as well, and how he looked to his friend. Pale, no doubt, and maybe a bit manic with his hair being dishevelled from pulling at it far too often.
Whitman arrived shortly after, and apologised for his lateness. Apparently he had been on the phone with Thompson to get the latest information on the case. He shook hands with Dom first, then Chris.
“Positively surprised to see you here, Mr Wolstenholme. How’s the head?”
“Better. Thanks for asking.” Chris smiled.
The CI nodded. “I don’t want to let you wait any longer. Let’s get inside, shall we?”
With that he pushed the heavy door open and led them inside. Dom went in last and was hit by a wall of cool air and the smell of formaldehyde and death. At least he thought it was the smell of death. He didn’t know what death smelled like, but he was in a morgue, so it had to be that, right? He scrunched up his nose.
They passed several tables on their way deeper into the room. Dom kept his eyes glued to Chris’ back. He didn’t want to see anything that could upset him, he felt uneasy enough with knowing where they were. This room was filled with death and sadness. The dead had had a life before they ended up here. Maybe they had family, friends. His eyes travelled to the side without him really having a say in it and caught sight of a naked foot sticking out from under a white sheet. The drummer immediately shuddered. He wanted to get out of here. He didn’t want to see the body. He didn’t want to see it was Matt.
An elderly man approached them and shook hands with Whitman before the CI turned to Dom and Chris.
“Gentlemen, this is Mr Farrington. He’s examining the body.”
The coroner nodded and shook hands with them both. “If you would follow me, please.”
They quietly made their way to an examination table in the far back. Dom got more and more anxious the closer they came to their destination. He felt like he was going to his judgement, the narrow path through the rows of examination tables like death row. The end of the way would either bring him salvation or lay the path for his ultimate demise.
Farrington moved around the last table on the right and Whitman indicated for them to stand at the side. The coroner explained something to them, but Dom could only hear the pounding of his heart in his ears. He stared at the white sheet where he could make out the contours of a face. Don’t be Matt, don’t be Matt, don’t be Matt, he repeated internally like a mantra.
The white sheet was removed and Dom gasped involuntarily.
His skin was so pale. He’d never been a tan person, but the nearly translucent colour made him look like a ghost. The hair was a bit longer and a lot dirtier than it had been the last time he’d seen him, but it was still the same shade of dark brown. Dom ignored the hole in the centre of his forehead and instead fixed his gaze on a cut that was visible on his left cheek. His eyes were closed, but Dom remembered the different shades of sparkling blue they had held whenever he had smiled or got excited. They’d never sparkle like that again.
He stared into Matt’s lifeless face and felt his world crumble. So many opportunities missed, so many things left unsaid. He was falling through a bottomless pit, the edges of his vision turning black and his-
The blonde spun around to face Chris, who was staring at him in concern. He drew in a shaky breath and looked back to Matt, but it wasn’t his best friend’s (lover’s?) face anymore. It was too round, the nose was all wrong and the hair was the wrong shade of dark. Dom sighed, his shoulders sagging. Not Matt. His mind had played a trick on him.
He felt Chris lay a shaky hand on his shoulder and, for a moment, Dom contemplated just throwing himself into the bassist’s arms to cry. It wasn’t Matt, and yet Dom felt like his world was crumbling like a card house. Too much stress over too little time lead to him taking several steps backwards in his quest for mental stability.
The drummer took more shaky breaths and seemed on the verge of hyperventilation. Chris was just about to ask if he was okay, when Dom crouched down and emptied his stomach on the morgue floor. There wasn’t much in his stomach, but he just couldn’t stop retching. Chris knelt down next to him to rub his back until Dom had calmed down, hushing comforting words over the back of Dom’s head. In turn Dom held Chris’ hand and squeezed once in a while whenever he felt his friend shaking again. They were both comforting each other as best as they could.
Whitman and Farrington waited patiently until the two musicians had calmed down enough to continue. When the CI felt like Dom wouldn’t pass out, he finally spoke up. “Is this the man from the airport and who broke into your house 2 days ago?”
Chris nodded in reply, apparently unable to speak. Really, what was there to say anyway? The only thing that counted was that this wasn’t Matt.
“Thank you, Mr Howard, Mr Wolstenholme. You may go now.”
Dom shook his head vehemently. He knew that they were only there to identify the body and make sure it wasn’t Matt, but in a way, he was curious. It might have sounded sick to others (and yes, also to himself), but he wanted to know more about this person, even if it were just tiny details. And he wanted to know how this person had died.
Well, it was quite obvious that the bullet in his head had something to do with it. At that, he chuckled to himself and Chris looked at him. He followed the line of his sight and Dom could see Chris in his peripheral view, how the bassist’s features changed and his eyes went wide. The drummer didn’t know if it was because the realisation had finally set in that they were standing right next to a corpse, or if Chris feared that his friend had finally lost the plot. Dom couldn’t really hold it against him considering his mind had just conjured up a picture of a dead Matthew Bellamy on the table in front of them.
“Do you know anything about this guy yet?” Dom asked and was surprised at just how steady his voice sounded.
Whitman shook his head. “No. He’s not in the system and he didn’t carry any ID with him. We’re working on it, though.” He looked from Dom to Chris. “I’m sorry. As soon as I know anything, I’ll let you know.”
Dom smiled weakly at that. He was thankful that someone like CI Whitman was on this case (although he would have preferred if there hadn’t been any case in the first place). He seemed to be sympathetic and kind, and like he really wanted to solve this case, not just because it was his job, but because he felt a duty to the family of the victim. He looked Whitman up and down and wondered what kind of man he might be. Was he a father? He looked like he could be. Had he lost a person close to him, a parent, a partner, and decided he had to join the police so other people wouldn’t have to experience the same pain? That would explain why he seemed to understand Dom and the others so well.
The drummer shook his head. It wasn’t any of his business who Whitman was privately and what had happened in his life. The only thing he had to know was that Matt’s case was in good hands.
The CI looked at his watch before he spoke up again. “I know you want to stay here, Mr Howard. But you can’t do anything at the moment. The best you can do is go home and get some rest. I think Mr Wolstenholme needs that, too.”
“Yeah, I think I’d like that, actually,” the bassist said. He sounded defeated somehow and Dom wondered if it was just the fact that he was still weak from the fight or if Chris was taking this a lot harder than he let on.
Either way, they were both right, even though Dom wished he could just stay and follow the CI’s every step. So he nodded his agreement and left the morgue with Chris, Whitman staying behind to talk to the coroner.
They left the building in a hurry, both too happy to get out of there and get some fresh air. Outside, the first thing Dom did was fumble for his smokes. He took one and offered the pack to Chris, who declined and instead just sat down on a bench close to the building. He stared at the sky as if it held all the answers they needed.
Dom walked over and decided to stand next to the bench to watch his friend. He saw that Chris was deep in thought, but more importantly, he was still shaking. So, like before, he laid a hand on his shoulder and rubbed it gently. He frowned. Chris had definitely taken this a lot harder than he showed. While Dom had recovered from his near breakdown (and wasn’t he a little bit proud of himself for handling this so well) and felt strangely detached from the whole situation, it seemed like Chris wasn’t as lucky. It was never pleasant to see a dead body, no matter who it was, Dom reckoned. Not like he had any experience with that, considering this had been his first body as well, and he hoped it would be the last. Briefly, he wondered if Chris had seen a scene similar to the one Dom had produced in his head, but he discarded that idea quickly. Unlike Dom, Chris was as level-headed as you could be in this kind of situation.
“You okay?” the blonde asked softly.
Chris looked up at him and studied his face for a moment. Dom felt a bit uncomfortable under the scrutiny. He didn’t know what the bassist was looking for. “Yeah. Just… Never mind.”
“No, tell me.”
“Just a bit too much in there. Don’t think I’ll get the smell out of my nose any time soon.”
Yeah, Dom didn’t think so either. He scrunched up his nose when he remembered the burn the stench had left in his nostrils. He took another drag of his cigarette and let the smoke dance in his lungs for a bit. When he finally exhaled he watched the smoke swirl around. To his side he could see people walking up and down the steps of the police station. A child with her dog caught his attention. She was holding a bright red balloon in one hand and patted the little animal with her other. The dog wiggled and buried its face in her shoulder and the girl giggled.
“What do you think of all of this?” Chris asked and pulled him out of his reverie.
“I don’t know, mate. I don’t understand any of this.”
“Why is that guy dead? He was pretty alive when he knocked me out, so I don’t get it.” There was a beat of silence. “He was our only connection to Matt.”
Dom stubbed out the cigarette with his foot. He hadn’t thought of it like that, although it was true. They were back to point zero now with their suspect lying dead on an examination table. But at the same time, it was some form of progress, even though he couldn’t gauge if it was positive or negative. He felt strangely calm about it.
He didn’t know how to put his thoughts into words, especially not without upsetting or worrying Chris, so instead he changed the topic just a bit. “Who do you think killed him?”
“Fuck if I know. I can’t wrap my head around it.”
“Do you think there’s a partner? I don’t think he killed himself.”
The thought had come to him just this very moment. It made a lot of sense. But he didn’t think that someone like this guy would need an accomplice, he seemed more than capable of doing things on his own. There were more theories forming in the blondes head. Maybe someone had found out about what that guy was doing, or maybe one of the messageboard people had killed him to get his precious collection. Or what if this guy had been part of the mafia? He surely looked a bit Italian.
Dom coughed awkwardly. He was sounding more like Matt now, with all his theories and conspiracies. Just one step further and he’d be talking about how the government was behind all of it, no doubt.
Chris still hadn’t replied to the initial question, so the drummer added, “Or do you think it was Matt?”
Chris snorted at that and Dom chuckled quietly. The thought was somehow funny to him. Yeah, he had definitely lost the plot. But so had Chris, apparently. “And where is the bugger now, then?”
Dom’s mouth turned downwards. He didn’t have an answer to that.
Matt was lying on his back, his body completely rigid with his hands folded on his stomach and his eyes fixed on the small crack in the wall above him. His mind was as blank as one of his unused music sheets and his head felt like a vacuum. There was only the dull and empty feeling, the impact death had left behind.
Witnessing how Suzanne had finally dropped her disguise and shown her true face had changed Matt. So had the violence and utter destruction of Jon’s death. Matt had seen his empty stare, had literally sensed how life had been knocked out of the intimidating man with a single bullet to the head. The wall behind Jon had been painted in all variations of red and grey, splinters of his skull bone sticking in the mess of blood and cerebral matter.
Matt’s first reaction after the initial paralysis of shock had been to throw up and stain the bedsheets with the remnants of his modest breakfast mixed up with sour bile. Then he had stared at Suzanne who had been in the middle of brushing dust off her sleeves. She had seemed completely unaffected although she had just killed a man. A man who had admitted his undying love for her only moments before.
All his senses were numbed, not even the pain in his head and neck was bothering him. It seemed like his synapses had stopped firing from one second to the next, rendering him completely unable to comprehend anything that had happened. Since then, he simply didn’t know how to care anymore. He really wished he could remember because it made him feel so… not human.
But Suzanne’s cruelty had not ended there, no. She had made Matt help her clean up the mess, had made him scrub the floor and do away with the small lumps of Jon’s brain. He had even cut his index finger on one of the bone splinters. Matt really, really had wanted to cry then. But he hadn’t been able to. And he still wasn’t.
Not even after he’d been forced to roll the incredibly heavy and unyielding body into a carpet and help Suzanne carry it up the two flights of stairs, so she could go and dispose of it. He had just about managed not to dislocate his shoulder in the process and had almost broken down from the sheer weight of his former tormentor.
There was no satisfaction in the knowledge of Jon’s death. Matt realised that there could never be satisfaction in death. Death was final and offered no relief to the deceased’s victims. He would have rather had the man suffer for what he’d done to him. But now it was over. Everything was over.
He wanted to roll onto his side because after hours of staying in the same position, his back was starting to protest, but he couldn’t find the strength to. Instead, he kept staring. The now never-ceasing brightness of the neon lamps at the ceiling would have bothered him greatly, had he tried to sleep. But although his head felt empty, he couldn’t close his eyes for the fear of a replay of the brutal scene that had been carved into his brain.
“Matthew? Wake up,” The Voice, now also known as Suzanne, came through the speakers and it made Matt squeeze his eyes shut.
He hadn’t been completely right. Not everything was over. Not while he was still here, existing (not living, he was sure that part of him was over, indeed) under the roof of this insane and highly dangerous woman. But now… now he wanted it to be over and done with. No matter how, he just wanted out. Even if it meant that she’d have to roll his dead body into a carpet, as well. Out was one of the few words that snuck their way back into his consciousness.
“Matthew!” Now it was clearly Suzanne’s voice, undistorted and a lot closer than the singer had anticipated.
He looked at her as she was approaching his bed, and forced himself into a sitting position. “What do you want?” he asked tiredly and without any desire to keep playing along with her games.
“What do I want?” she smirked. “Well, you are here for a reason. I want you to sit down at the piano and play, obviously.”
His jaw dropped at that. Was she being serious? After everything that had happened she still wanted him to play for her? Still expected him to be able to?
He shook his head fiercely, almost surprised by his emotional action. “Forget it.”
“You know exactly that I can make you do this. And that I will. So why do you have to make this so hard?” She tutted at him and fingered at the the back of her belt. Obviously she was still carrying her gun.
“It’s not hard. It’s simple. I won’t do it.” He crossed his arms over his chest almost petulantly, a move Dom had so often mocked him for.
“Matthew!” Suzanne snapped him out of his thoughts and back to reality, evidently irritated with his behaviour. “You either get up now, sit down at that piano and play or I’ll shoot you and leave you to bleed out on your friends’ doorstep. Wolstenholme, isn’t it? Very pretty house, I have to admit. Howard is there, too. I’d love to see his face upon finding your body there. I bet the kids would love it, too. Finally something exciting to tell their friends at school.”
Matt’s body started to shake involuntarily at the mental image Suzanne had so vividly painted for him. There, he’d found something else that he had not been entirely right about. He did still care, at least in a way. Although it didn’t matter to him how all of this might end for him, he would definitely not allow her to ruin his friends’ lives like that. Because he knew what seeing a dead body could do to you. And imagining something like that happening to them… no. No, that was not an option. Not to speak of all the other terrible things she could to them. The mention of Chris’ kids made him especially tense and scared. He didn’t put it past her to hurt them, too. And that was a thought Matt simply couldn’t take.
So, very, very slowly he started to crawl over to the edge of the bed and obey her demand. There was still nothing he wouldn’t do for his friends and family, even after he’d felt like there was no fight in him anymore. Barefoot and clad in a pair of grey sweatpants and a nondescript t-shirt, he walked past Suzanne without so much as a single glance in her direction and made his way over to the piano he’d come to despise so much. With a deep sigh he sank down onto the piano bench and put his foot on the paddle.
“Now that’s a good boy,” Suzanne smiled and stood behind him. “You know, I have always admired Blackout. It is a very beautiful composition. And I think it is time that you finally play some of your own music again. Maybe it helps you with the homesickness.”
The evil bitch.
Matt bit his lip in fear of completely breaking down if he really had to play that now. The thought alone was already killing him as it reminded him of the first time he had ever played it to Dom, how they’d recorded it, and that memorable day at Wembley Stadium. He just couldn’t-
“Matthew, what are you waiting for?” Suzanne tapped her feet impatiently and then walked around the piano to look at him properly.
“Why are you doing this to me?” he whispered shakily and kept his eyes locked on the keyboard in front of him.
She cocked her head and pouted at him. “I have already told you many times before. No one understands your music like I do. And no one but me deserves it. It is mine now. I do not like people keeping things from me that are mine.” There was a definite threat in her voice, despite her innocent expression. “Do I really have to remind you of your friends again?”
“No,” he breathed quietly and shook his head weakly.
In this moment he hated his friends. Why did he have to care about them? If he didn’t, she would have no leverage. Well, except for his own life. But fuck, it would all be so much easier if Dom, Chris and the others didn’t mean anything to him. Right now he resented them so much. And not only because he couldn’t stop thinking about them. No, there’s was also the fact that they were out there. Out there and free while he was stuck in hell.
What if they had given up on looking for him? What if they had already forgotten about him? What if his struggle didn’t mean anything at all because they had stopped caring?
He clenched his teeth and closed his eyes, the thought hurting him incredibly. No. No, they did still care. They had to. They were his friends and family and he refused to think that they would give up on him. Even having thought it made Matt’s shoulders sag in utter shame. While he didn’t feel any hope anymore, the thought of accusing his friends of something as horrific as that was simply outrageous.
His fingers were trembling almost uncontrollably when he pressed them down on the keys with deliberation. His body felt stiff and hesitant, just like his mind. But the notes started flowing out from under his fingers, nevertheless. He felt strangely removed upon hearing the familiar melody and found himself able to let the bits and pieces that were his thoughts float just a little freer.
“Matthew,” Suzanne sighed almost happily as she walked back to him again and sat down on the piano bench with her back turned towards the instrument. “You know, I am not doing this to torment you.”
Matt huffed almost inaudibly, but before he could even open his mouth to reply, she cut him short.
“No, don’t even pretend that it is not what you are thinking. But the truth is that I am trying to save you. Just like I saved this beautiful piece.” Suzanne let her fingers slide over the ebony wood of the piano lovingly. “You see, people’s attitude towards music has changed. They consume blindly and without the slightest appreciation. They do not see the joy anymore. Not even the people of the Guild seem to feel as strongly about it as I do.” She shook her head and sighed disappointedly.
Guild? What guild? What the hell is she talking about? Matt thought in confusion. But he knew better than to interrupt her. Maybe she would finally give him some answers. Instead he tried to focus on the keyboard again so as not to disrupt the music and maybe make her angry.
“The problem is, with the change in people’s attitude, the music changed, too.” Another sigh. “Most of the songs out there are mere products. There is no artfulness anymore. So much music is produced on computers. And that’s just wrong.” She turned her head a little and looked at him. “You have changed, too.”
Matt’s blood ran cold at the prospect what was sure to come.
“You are trying to please the masses and the industry. More people mean more money, and for that purpose you have sacrificed your art. Nowadays you are prancing around the stage like one of those hideous popstars. I thought I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw that you even stopped playing the guitar in some songs.”
Yup, he had heard that one before, it was like an old record to him. Usually he didn’t much care, but with Suzanne… He had no idea how stable she really was. Would she kill him in the end because she didn’t like what Muse had done with their music?
“Don’t worry, though,” she went on and, without warning, ran her hand over his forehead to smooth out the creases which had formed there. “I have saved many beautiful pieces before and you won’t be the last.”
Okay… okay, she was definitely unstable. Completely insane and unstable.
“The sad thing is that people do not recognise what I am doing for the music community,” she sighed next to him and took her hand away again, instead resting it on the bench between them. “They think of me as a criminal. An ordinary criminal! Can you believe that? I am a saint!” Her voice rose exponentially and her fingers clenched on the edge of the bench as she tried to control her sudden bout of anger. “A criminal! Me! I practically founded the Collectors’ Guild! But you! You are going to understand me, I am sure of that. You will be grateful because I made you see! It is in your nature to resist because you are constantly being tempted. But I will make you see, I promise!”
“But why...” Matt finally dared to speak, “why me?”
“Because you are a genius in your own way. You have strayed, yes. But I will help you find your path again,” she replied, suddenly soft and almost soothing. “For your friends there is no hope. I cannot save them. You are a true artist and once you understand that they don’t deserve you-”
“Leave them alone!” he suddenly burst out, anger and fear boiling in his veins again. Thoughts of how close she had already gotten to them spurred him on as he clamped his hands down on the keys, producing a loud, distorted noise. “That’s why you attacked them, yes? To make me see?” He spat the words furiously as he faced her. “Did you want to get rid of them? Youdon’t understand anything! There would be no Muse without them! If anything happened to Chris, I swear to God I am going to make you suffer for it!” He stood up abruptly, pushing the bench away with the back of his knees and making Suzanne sway for a second.
His eyes were fixed on hers and she looked at him in pure disbelief. “I heard you talking about it and if you or your henchman hurt him or any of the others, you’re going to fucking regret it!”
Suzanne narrowed her eyes at him and got up from the bench, her movements deliberate and smooth. “I thought you were ready, but it seems I was mistaken.” Slowly she reached into her pocket. “It saddens me to see that there is still only one way to make you listen.”
For a second he thought that she was producing her gun, but before he could react, her hand was in his line of sight again. What she was now dangling in front of his face was definitely not a gun. But the way it made his heart pound, it might just as well have been.
“I take it you recognise this?”
It was Dom’s necklace. The small charm was swinging back and forth in front of his eyes and he felt like his knees would give out any moment now.
“What did you do to him?” he whispered, not quite able to find his voice again.
“Nothing. If you behave it can stay that way. It all depends on you,” she replied calmly. “Here, it’s for you.” She dropped the necklace into his hand and while he eyed it, his thoughts went out of the window.
Matt ran his thumb over the fake shark tooth and slowly raised his head again. “You fucking bitch,” he mumbled, his voice trembling with rage. “You fucking bitch!” he repeated, this time full out shouting at her. “If you ever lay a hand on Dom, I’m going to kill you with my bare hands! I’m going to tie you to your fucking piano and rip you apart piece by piece! And to hell with morality because I am so going to enjoy it!”
By that point his face was fiery red and his voice filled the whole room. But Suzanne just stood there, seemingly unimpressed by his outburst. Then she bit the inside of her cheek and obviously struggled with herself over something that was going on her head. As Matt was still breathing heavily and positively glared at her, her lips suddenly quirked into a devious smile.
“There is obviously no use in continuing this conversation now, seeing as you are quite incensed. Take some time to calm down, maybe it will help you see things more clearly.” With that she turned around and swiftly walked out of the room. Matt’s eyes were fixed on the door as she let it fall shut behind her.
“Fuck you!” he screamed after her, his fingers clenching tightly around the necklace, and, finally, angry tears started to form in his eyes. “FUCK YOU!”