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Time was stretching like a rubber band and Matt could never be sure if there were seconds, hours or days passing by. He was so caught up in his own thoughts that he didn’t bother to pay attention to anything as trivial as time anymore. What did it matter? As long as he was in here, there was nothing he could do anyway. The singer had finally come to the devastating conclusion that there was in fact no way out. Suzanne was always there, somehow knowing his every move.

So… what did anything matter anymore? He would eventually rot away and no one would ever know the whole scale of his predicament. Maybe they’d find him some day in the future when Suzanne was already long gone and the only thing that remained of him would be a worm-riddled corpse. No breathing, no pulse, no thoughts, no life. Nothing.

With a deep sigh he rolled off the bed and padded over to the tiny bathroom connected to his cell. Yes, he’d probably die in here, but that didn’t mean he’d piss himself just because he had no hope left. No hope did not mean no dignity, after all. And it was the trivial things that kept him sane in a way. Sleeping, eating, pissing, taking a shower. Thinking wasn’t one of them but the temporary shut-down of his brain after he had witnessed Jon’s shooting was over now. His thoughts did not go riot like they used to, though, it was more like they were muffled echoes of his once so vivid mind.  

Yes, that seemed about right. He felt numb and couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds. But it didn’t bother him. Maybe he had finally resigned himself to the fact that he would never see his friends again. Or daylight for that matter. He wanted to see the sun so badly but there was no use in clinging to that idea. Hope only intensified the unavoidable pain of disappointment and so he tried not to think of anything outside his prison anymore.

After he had relieved himself and washed his hands while pointedly avoiding to look into the mirror, Matt went back into the larger room. What had he been about to do? Ah yes, lie down again. Right now the lights were on and the whole room looked cold and too bright. He had no idea since when it wasn’t dark anymore, but as there was no apparent schedule to it, Matt had stopped counting the seconds.

Suddenly an overwhelming feeling of wrongness overcame him and he felt his body succumbing to its pressure. He sank down to his knees in front of his bed, closed his eyes and leant his forehead against the metal bedframe. This wasn’t new to him, no, far from it. Every once in a while the numbness would fade and make way for floods of emotions and thoughts he had no control over. And just like all the times before, he tried to endure it and let it pass until numbness took reign again. It was hard, so very, very hard because there were still sparks of hope woven into the despair he had to resist. Because he was sure that if he let himself hope again, he would eventually be suffocated by the mental rope he had tied himself.

Matt was rocking back and forth on his knees, trying to shake the images of his friends and of what used to be his life. He cradled his face in his hands and worked hard on getting his breathing back under control. His eyes were stinging already but he didn’t shed a single tear, which wasn’t a sign of self-restraint but of his body’s inability to react appropriately to the storm in his head.

“Matthew?”

He had not heard Suzanne enter the room but he didn’t care much about the woman who was now standing behind him.

“Matthew, you have to calm down again,” she said soothingly. At that his head snapped around and he eyed her furiously.

“Shut up,” he whispered shakily.

“Nah, nah, it’s okay. Here, I made you your favourite,” she continued in her calm voice and held out her hand in which she was holding a mug. “We need to start working again and if you’re all shaken up, you’re practically useless. Come on, take it.”

Matt fixed his eyes on the steaming, dark-brown liquid. It was topped with cream and he was immediately creeped out. The mug bore the logo of Smith’s Café, the place Suzanne worked at, and also their favourite place to go to when they needed a bit of privacy. It was so weird to see this tiny piece of normality, this reminder of what his life used to be, that he couldn’t quite grasp it.

“Come on now. You need to get off the floor.” By that point she started to sound a bit more impatient, but Matt couldn’t stop staring at the mug. It was amazing, even to himself, how such a small object could trigger so many memories and emotions. And how it could, at the same time, represent Suzanne’s betrayal of their trust so vividly.

Suzanne sighed and rolled her eyes at the unmoving singer before she went over to the piano, put the mug on its lid, and then walked back over to Matt. Without hesitation, she grabbed him by his arms and pulled him into a more upright position.

“Pull yourself together, Matthew,” she said sternly. “I thought you were a professional. We have got a video to record.”

For a second Matt let himself be handled by Suzanne. She was a lot stronger than her fragile looks let on and he felt paralysed anyway. Then he snapped out of it, though, and slapped her hands away, straightening himself up on his own. He kept all his “you’re so sick” and “I hope your death will be painful” thoughts to himself and instead got back to his feet. The feeling of being stared down upon by a psychopath made his skin crawl.

“What video?” he asked defensively and crossed his arms over his chest.

“A video to show people your true musical self,” she replied. The ‘duh’ was implied.

“My musical self? It’s dead,” he muttered under his breath and let his eyes wander to the piano he dreaded so much.

“Stop being complicated about this. Don’t you want people to know that you are still there?” she asked and mirrored his position. If this wasn’t the most fucked up situation he could possibly imagine, he would have laughed right then. But it was and so he couldn’t.

With a deep sigh of resignation he nodded slightly, not exactly sure if it was in answer to her question or  acknowledgement of her demand.

“Go on then,” she urged him and gestured over to the piano bench.

“What do you want me to play?” he asked, suddenly getting nervous at the mere thought of sitting down behind the keyboard.

“Whatever you like. I don’t want to impose any restrictions on your creativity,” she replied, her voice sickeningly sweet again.

He swallowed hard when he finally padded over to the instrument and caught sight of the still steaming hot chocolate on top of it. At that he struck upon an idea. What if…? Yes, what if he could…? But… maybe. Maybe it would work.

This time Matt wasn’t as resistant to the hope that was starting to bubble up inside his chest again. If there was one way left, then it had to be this. Quickly a plan formed in his head as he sat down on the bench. Meanwhile, Suzanne put up a video camera near the door, the same place she used to take the pictures from, her renewed smile firmly in place.

He moved his fingers over the keys, only a hair’s breadth away from actually touching them. He had to be subtle. Oh, fuck he had to be so subtle. And subtlety wasn’t really his strong suit, anyone who knew him would testify to that. But to hell with what people knew about him. He would not let that glimmer of hope go too easily. Not if Chris, Dom or any of the others out there might get to see the video Suzanne was about to record. Not if that could possibly mean his escape.

Suzanne had stressed more than one time how she always uploaded all of her latest conquests to this Guild’s website. Such a website had to have been found out about by now. There were actual people who had seen his pictures and he put all his hopes into the hands of those people now, relying on their humanity and hoping that at least one of them had already outed the illegal activities there. If that really was the case, the police - and by extension his friends - had to know. They had to have the means to see this video, too.

Subtlety, he thought to himself, drew in a quick breath, and looked up at Suzanne again.

“Okay, we are ready to go,” she smiled at him and that alone made him want to throw up instantly.

Calm. Calm, calm, calm. Calm, Bellamy! Again he nodded and let his eyes stray back to the mug that was now exactly at his eye level. Somehow it could become the key to end his misery. He needed this to work out so badly that he couldn’t concentrate on anything else for a second.

“Action,” Suzanne announced and fell silent after that.

Matt rubbed his face with one hand in order to collect himself before he raised his head again, took a deep breath and started playing. Starlight was his song of choice, not only because he knew every note by heart, but also because it was the same for Dom. If Dom saw this, he’d know. He needed him to know and it was that fact that kept him going in that moment.

His best friend’s necklace was dangling a little loosely from his wrist, he had made sure of that before Suzanne had even put the camera on. It needed to be visible because he wanted Dom to know that it was with him. That he had a part of him that reminded him of their relationship that went so much deeper than just friendship. He willed Dom to know all of that. And just maybe Dom would also know that Suzanne had stolen the necklace. While Matt had no idea about the circumstances of the theft, it might have been possible for Dom to have realised it by now. And even if he wouldn’t make the connection to Suzanne, at least he’d know where to look first.

Suzanne was standing behind the camera, her eyes fixed on the little screen and her smile growing by the minute. It wasn’t actually that hard to make her happy, if you only played by the rules. The problem, though, was that those rules sucked big time. But now, for the sake of everything Matt was attached to (i.e. his friends and in a way also his life), he subdued himself to them. With one little exception. He used her own weapon against her. At least he hoped that he did.

When the melody changed a bit, Matt raised one hand from the keys to take the mug from the lid, the other still busy with hitting the right notes. He made a little show of how he played with one hand and took a sip from the hot chocolate with the other. Then he fingered the handle some more, just for good measure, and eventually put the mug back onto the piano. When he engaged his free hand in the song again, he hit a few stray notes, making the refrain sound slightly off. Nothing too bad, though, Suzanne didn’t even notice, Matt realised with relief. But Dom would notice. He was sure Dom would because he was perceptive like that. Especially when it came to changes in the singer.

Matt could practically feel the eyes of his drummer on his hands when he hit yet another wrong note and made another grab for the mug, taking special care when he let his index finger slide over the café’s logo before wrapping his hand around it to take another quick sip. He knew that the necklace as well as the logo had to be visible in the video. But Suzanne didn’t show any concerns, she was too occupied with swaying along to the song.

It worked. Just maybe it actually worked. If Dom or Chris got to see this video, they’d pay attention to every little detail, he was sure of that. And then they’d hopefully get the hint. It was a small chance, but at least it was a chance.

Then, all too soon, the song was over already. Matt really wanted to repeat his actions a few more times, maybe give some more hints, be a bit more obvious, just to make sure, but the problem was that Suzanne knew the song and he was afraid she would notice if he started to stall. So he fixed his eyes on the cup when he forced the final notes out of the ancient instrument and let his shoulders sag as they sounded through the room. This was it, he thought, the last chance.

“Brilliant!” Suzanne crooned after she had shut down the camera again and smiled brightly at him.

“Yeah,” he muttered, one simple word dripping with irony. But, again, she didn’t notice as she was too wrapped up in her own euphoria. Matt had subdued himself to her demands and that was all that seemed to count for her in that moment.

“There were a few wrong notes in there, but really, that doesn’t matter. Creativity is not about perfection but emotions. And you got that part completely right,” she announced happily and for a second Matt’s whole body froze. Shit. So she had noticed after all. But well, obviously she didn’t care. Yes, although he had been very concentrated on getting his message across, the new hope inside his chest had probably made him open up a bit.

All the better, he thought, closed the lid over the keyboard and emptied his mug in one go. The chocolate tasted better than anything he’d had in what felt like years. It tasted of a time before his imprisonment and, mixed with this new hope, it was the best thing ever. It didn’t matter that it had come from Suzanne. It just didn’t.

He couldn’t differentiate between what mattered and what didn’t anymore, if he was completely honest with himself. His thoughts and emotions had fallen victim to messy ups and downs, but this time, he was sure, he’d done the right thing. It felt like a tiny beacon in a massive storm. And he was surprisingly okay with it. No resistance anymore. They’d either find him or he’d die. He’d surrendered himself to both possible outcomes.

“You know what I’ll do with this?” Suzanne suddenly snapped him out of his musings.

He looked up at her in question just to see that she was waving the small camera into his general direction.

“Upload it to your pyscho guild website, I assume,” he replied drily.

“Clever boy,” she patronised him in her sweetest voice while her face took on an expression of pure satisfaction. “But I’ll also save your precious Dominic with it, after all.”

At that Matt’s whole body went completely rigid. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Killing three birds with one stone,” she grinned. “Firstly, we’re going to attract all the attention we deserve. Secondly, people will think that it was sweet Dominic who stole you from the public. And thirdly, he will be put away so he won’t be able to poison more people like he did with you. Don’t you think he’ll look gorgeous behind bars?”

“WHAT?” Matt cried out and jumped from the bench, just to hit his knee on the solid wood of the piano and curse loudly before he could focus on Ms Psycho Bitch.

She already had her hand on the door handle, her evil smile firmly in place. “I think he’ll be safer there. And now I’m going to make sure the police will find all the evidence they need. Wanna know how?”

Matt shook his head, more in bafflement to what she’d just told him than as an answer to her question.  

“I’ll take this pretty little key of yours,” she produced Matt’s key chain from her pocket and waved it through the air, “go to Dominic’s house and upload our nice little piece of art from there.”

It took him a second to grasp the meaning of what she was about to do. They would suspect Dom of having kidnapped him. They would shut him away. No. No!

“NO! You can’t do that! You’re lying! Stop it! ” he cried out in desperation.

“I have always been honest with you. Why should I start lying now? And you know what I’m capable of anyway. Just look at the necklace I brought you. Your little boyfriend didn’t even notice.” She waved her hand around dismissively.

She was right. There was no reason she should start lying to him now. And she surely was far too resourceful for his liking. “I’ll do anything if you just leave him alone!” he changed his approach, his voice sounding utterly pained.

“Too late, Matthew, too late. You knew something like this would happen. And while you’ve been very cooperative today, the same cannot be said about the rest of our time together. Maybe this’ll teach you a lesson.” With those words, she opened the door and took a step out of the room.

“NO!!! YOU’RE A COMPLETE PSYCHOPATH! STOP IT!” Matt shouted, suddenly overcome by desperate anger. He’d never wanted to kill her as much as he wanted to in that moment. “DOM HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS!!!”

“Oh, he has everything to do with this,” she giggled and shut the door behind her in the same instant Matt’s legs had finally found the ability to move again. Although it was already too late at that point as the door was locked again, he couldn’t stop himself from bolting after her anyway. The sheer force of his movement made him crash into the metal door, but the pain of hitting his head on it didn’t stop him from beating his fists against the unyielding barrier between himself and the woman who was so dead set on destroying every single part of his life.

Tears immediately sprang to his eyes as he kept drumming his already bleeding fists against the door and shouted every possible insult after Suzanne. In the same moment his body started to weaken and his eyes fell on the droplets of blood he’d painted the door with, the speakers sprang to life once more.

“It’s no use, Matthew.” Suzanne’s undistorted voice filled the room just as much as it filled his head. “Good night.”

With a creak the speakers went dead again and without warning the lights were turned off, too. Suddenly Matt found himself in an all-consuming darkness again. He turned around, leaned back against the door and let himself slide to the ground slowly. There was no use, she was right. Dom would never get to see the video. They’d imprison him just as she had imprisoned him. It was over.

_____

 

London – 24.08.2013

Dom was lounging on the sofa, his ankles crossed and an arm thrown behind his head, and watched a re-run of Sherlock. These days he did nothing much other than that; wake up, eat, watch telly all day, eat, go to sleep and repeat. Chris mostly left him to his own devices, happy to have his own kind of solidity. Kelly, however, had tried a couple of times to get him out of his stupor, clearly worried that he might fall into another hole, but he assured her that it wouldn’t happen and, if it still did, he’d come straight to her. She didn’t entirely believe him, but it had pacified her, at least for the time being, and she left him alone most of the day.

It was true, though. He was fine. Well, as fine as you could be, obviously. It seemed like this nightmare would never end and the pile of terrible things just got bigger and bigger. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Matt had been abducted, it had to be a collector psycho who thought the singer would be a perfect piece in his collection. Then the guy, their only suspect, ended up dead, in Matt’s house, of all places. And now? Where were they standing now?  

Dom thought back to 6 months ago. They hadn’t worried about abduction and death back then. They had worried about the stadium tour and the following festivals and one-off gigs, about a new album, about the future.

The future.

Was there even a future for them now? He really wanted to believe that, yes, soon it would be alright again, but he was more careful now. He kept this hope, of course he did, but at the same time he tried to prepare himself mentally. For a bad outcome. For a future without Matt.

He frowned at that. Nothing he really wanted to think about, but nevertheless he couldn’t ignore it. He was wondering where Matt was now. His kidnapper was in the morgue, that much was clear, but there was still no trace of him. Dom scratched his newly grown beard (or rather, the poor attempt at growing a beard, as Tom would tease him) and thought of his best friend.

There were so many possibilities to answer this question. First of all, Matt could either be alive or dead. He didn’t know which would be better for him. Dom was sure that the singer had endured some form of torture, not necessarily of physical nature. He knew that it needed more than just a threat to break Matthew Bellamy to be as submissive as he appeared in the most recent pictures, compared to the ones they had started off with. Matt didn’t break, not ever. They’d gone through so many hardships in their lives, mostly together, rarely apart, and even though it was hard Matt had never given up. Not on their dream when people had told them their music was shit and they’d never make it or that Matt wasn’t cut out to be a frontman. Not when Dom had wanted to give up after he’d lost his dad and thrown nasty words and his mother’s china against Matt’s head. Not even when they had worried for Chris’ health and didn’t know what to do.

And definitely not when Matt’s worries seemed to crush his little frame. The brunette wasn’t one to ask for help, which made it a lot more difficult to know when he needed it. But he and Dom were attuned to each other. Matt had always known when Dom needed him, much like a sixth sense. The blonde would have found it downright spooky if it weren’t the same for him. Maybe it was because they used to hang around each other 24/7 during tours and when they had still shared a flat, but he could just feel when Matt needed him, as if he was a part of him. They’d always come to each other, no matter the time of the day or the distance they had to bridge. Dom couldn’t come to him now and magically make things better, though.

For one sick moment Dom considered that it might be a relief for Matt to end up dead in a gutter. The thought scared him, even though he could see where it was coming from, so he had to close his eyes for a moment and take deep breaths to stop himself from going down that road even further.

The other option was that Matt had indeed killed this man or managed to get away. But why wouldn’t he show up then? They didn’t know the whole story and scale of this, hell, they only knew a little part of it. But maybe Matt knew more. For all Dom knew, Matt might’ve known everything and had deemed it unsafe to show his face. Who knew who else was behind this (and there had to be someone else if Matt hadn’t killed the guy in the morgue)? It could be someone just as wealthy and influential from The Guild. He thought of Ian and his interest in the case, but discarded that idea quickly. He wasn’t a master people reader, but he was sure that Ian didn’t have the balls to pull off something like this, especially not to kill someone. His features darkened when Dom let his thoughts wander into conspiracy theories. What if they knew the second person? It would explain how they had managed to track down the band each and every time on their tour (by now Dom fully believed that Matt had seen the bulky man at every concert and in front of the hotel). It could be anyone. A techie or management were the first thoughts that came to his mind. These people knew their schedule by heart, but it could also be someone from the restaurants they frequented, their hairdressers etc. etc. Someone who might have overheard them talking about their plans. There were nearly endless possibilities.

He wished they knew more. The uncertainty was killing him, he already felt helpless enough, but being in the dark made it so much worse.

Dom grabbed the remote and switched the channel when Sherlock had ended and the news were about to be presented. He didn’t think they’d still talk about Matt, it had been too long to be news-worthy for the media (and in that moment Dom realised just how long it had been), but he didn’t want to take any risks. So instead he settled on a nature program about elephants and fingered the sleeve of his shirt.

He could hear keys jingling in the distance which meant that Chris had returned from his visit to the police station. The doctor had given him the green light, so Kelly had allowed Chris to leave the house and resume his work. Dom hadn’t really felt up to the task of going back to the station yet, because he still couldn’t get the smell out of his nose, but Chris had assured him that he’d do just fine on his own. It wasn’t much they needed to do anyway, Whitman just wanted to give them an update. As he hadn’t called them, though, Dom figured there was nothing to give an update about except the personal data of the kidnapper. It was weird to finally have a name for him instead of calling him TheKidnapper in his head all the time.   

Dom watched the baby elephant stumble over to his mother and cuddle up at her feet before he turned off the TV and got up from the sofa. He shuffled over to the kitchen where he could hear Chris and Kelly talking quietly. When the two came into view, his feet halted and he moved a bit to the side to stay mostly hidden.

They were wrapped up in a tight embrace in the middle of the kitchen with Chris’ back to the door. Kelly murmured something into her husband’s ear and then stroked his cheek. She looked worried and tired when her eyes met Chris’ and Dom wondered what they had been talking about just then. A soft kiss to Chris’ lips followed the previous action before they hugged closer.

Dom felt as if he was seeing something he wasn’t meant to see and he didn’t want to breach their privacy like this, so he tiptoed a few steps back just to walk in louder and alert them to his presence. He cleared his throat and coughed into his hand, just for good measure.

When he entered the kitchen, Chris was sitting at the table while Kelly busied herself with stirring the soup that was boiling on the stove. She looked up at him and smiled weakly. He returned the smile, but couldn’t help and wonder if she knew he’d seen them.

He sat down opposite of Chris, his usual position when they sat at the table, and eyed his friend for a moment. Chris didn’t look at him and his unusually evasive eyes told Dom that something was up. Had something happened? Chris would have told him immediately, though, no?

“Alright?” he asked quietly and held his breath.

To his relief Chris nodded and finally looked at him. The moment seemed to have been broken.

“Guess that also means no news?”

“Yeah,” Chris replied. “He only gave me details on Napolitano. Not much else.”

Dom figured that Napolitano was the kidnapper’s name. It sounded weird to him. The man didn’t look like a Napolitano (not that he knew what a Napolitano looked like). He signalled Chris to continue.

“Apparently the name’s Jon Napolitano. Early 30s. British but born in Italy somewhere. Didn’t particularly care about the details. Think Whitman said he didn’t have a wife or kids. No other kind of family left. Worked here and there, construction work, bistro, cleaner, nothing to pin him down.”

“Okay,” Dom nodded along and tried to catalogue the information in his head. It wasn’t information that would help with finding Matt, but it helped to organise them and get a clearer picture of the man behind all of this. Then his mind stopped at a particular detail.

“You said he worked here and there. But these jobs don’t seem like a huge money income to me? How could he afford such a vast collection with so little money? Unless…”

Chris nodded. “That’s what Whitman’s thinking as well. There has to be someone else behind this and Napolitano was just a puppet that they’ve gotten rid of now.”

Something else to add to the pile that was made of nightmares. Yeah, they’d already thought of that, Dom even had done so just half an hour ago, but if Whitman thought the same, and there were clear signs, then it could be true. A second psychopath was dangerous, and if they had no qualms with getting rid of their own partner, he didn’t want to imagine what they’d do to Matt.

Dom sighed. “Does this mean we’re back to zero, though?”

“No, not entirely. The profile they’ve done of the abductor still applies and they could add something to it.” Chris chuckled. “A profile. I feel like someone in these American FBI shows.”

They kept quiet for a bit, Chris looking at the table top, Dom watching Kelly. She had moved around a lot to prepare their dinner and pretended she wasn’t listening in on their conversation. Dom knew her better than that, though. It wasn’t like she went around eavesdropping on people, and, really, she deserved to know as much as everyone else involved. One evening just a couple of days ago, when Dom and Kelly had been alone because Chris had called it an early night, his head aching too much to keep his eyes open, she had told him that she didn’t want to know all the gruesome details because it made her worry so much more. She was a mother and constantly worried about her kids, but knowing that sick people like this walked around freely made her skin crawl and blood run cold, she had said. Dom had been about to apologise for bothering her so much with this, but as if she could read his mind she had spoken up and told him that it was okay because she needed to know if she wanted to take care of her boys. It had taken Dom a bit to realise that he was included in the group of her boys, and it had made his insides feel so warm that he hadn’t been able to stop himself from hugging her tightly.

When the first kids ran into the kitchen he was pulled out of his thoughts. Chris’ features immediately changed to a more relaxed state, and he picked up Buster to say hello properly. Dom plastered on an extra big smile himself and helped Kelly with the soup.

___

After dinner Chris and Dom had ushered Kelly out of the kitchen. She had prepared dinner, so it was only fair that they’d tidy up and wash the dishes.

The mood wasn’t exactly tense, but it was kind of awkward to stand next to each other without talking.  Dom carefully dried each bowl and stacked them up on the counter so Chris could put them in the cupboard afterwards. Once they were done the taller man moved to the fridge and produced a bottle of beer for Dom. The drummer thanked him and took a huge gulp, feeling the liquid flooding down his throat.

Chris opted for a bottle of lemonade and sat down at the table. He eyed Dom, who got the hint and sat down, too. Soft music was floating around the kitchen, the radio still on from when they had started tidying up. Dom fingered the rim of his bottle and softly hummed to himself.

“I wonder how long this will continue.”

Dom turned to face Chris. The bassist was hunched over, holding the bottle with both hands. Once again Chris didn’t look at Dom and preferred to stare at the label of the lemonade, at which he picked with his right thumb.

“Hopefully not much longer,” Dom replied. There was no point in staring at Chris like that, so he moved his gaze to his own bottle. The situation was weird. “Can’t imagine the police taking much longer to find wherever he is.”

“I don’t know, mate. It’s been a month.”

“But Whitman is a good cop,” Dom nodded to himself, “he promised to solve this, so he will.”

A hum was the only reply he got and they resumed their previous silence. Dom wasn’t used to this. People always assumed he was the happy bloke without a single care in the world who always found the right words. However, the truth was that he had no idea what to say to one of his best friends. Chris had supported him constantly and Dom had managed to sponge up some of that power and hope to get through. But now that Chris apparently needed some encouraging words he felt like a failure.

“Wanna jam for a bit?” Chris spoke up.

“Hmm?”

“Wanna jam? I feel like picking up the bass and just play something.”

Dom hesitated. “I don’t know, mate. Haven’t felt like playing since we finished the tour.” In truth, he just didn’t feel like it when the one other thing that made him feel as happy as music was missing.

“Come on, it can’t hurt. Just for an hour or so.”

Without waiting for a reply, Chris got up from his chair and threw the bottle in the bin. Dom followed him, stumbling a bit, and did the same while Chris let Kelly know they wanted to be undisturbed for a bit. Then they both walked down the stairs to the little studio Chris had set up in the house.

“Is my kit still there?” Dom asked, more to make conversation than actually caring.

“Yeah. Haven’t been down there since we hung out together.” Which had been shortly before the stadium tour, Dom remembered.

Chris unlocked the door and they slipped inside quietly. The place was rather small, not comparable to a proper studio, of course, but it served its purpose. Dom looked around and spotted his old drumkit in the back of the room, just as expected. It had served its purpose during the Resistance tour, and Dom hadn’t had the heart to throw it away, so nowadays it served as his hobby drumkit whenever he felt like jamming.

He walked over and touched the crash cymbal timidly, as if the thought of playing the drums was a completely new idea to him. In a way, it was.

He sat down on the stool and overlooked the studio. He imagined sitting behind the drums during one of their gigs, where he could see the whole crowd from his position. He could see the people at the barrier in front of his inner eyes. He could see their ecstatic smiles and hear their happy screams. He could feel the vibrations running through his body, and, suddenly, the idea of playing wasn’t this new to him anymore. Instead, he felt a yearning to go back on tour and play gig after gig until he was so exhausted he could fall asleep on his feet.

He grabbed the drumsticks and balanced one of them on his fingers, twirling it around. Then he hit the toms softly, the resonating sound feeling like an extra heartbeat.

Meanwhile, Chris walked over to his spot and picked up one of the basses. He plugged it in and tried it out for a couple of minutes, just like Dom did with the drums.

The drummer watched his bassist’s movements, content to just enjoy the return of this feeling of being home. He hadn’t expected this or he wouldn’t have waited so long. His fear and pain weren’t erased, but just sitting here was like a comfort blanket. He was wrapped up in something he knew and which connected him to Chris and Matt in more than one way. Matt. He looked over to the spot that the singer usually occupied. The Black Glitter Manson still leaned against the chair, just waiting for her master to return.

“So, what do you want to play?” he asked Chris when he managed tear his eyes away from the guitar.

Chris struck a string idly, thinking about what to play. “Just go through some jams? Can progress from there, I guess.”

They started off with some random jams they’d done over the years, starting from what the fans labelled as the Helsinki Jam and went through some random songs from Nirvana to Rage Against the Machine. There wasn’t any system behind it, just one of them starting and the other joining in.

After about half an hour they decided to take a small break. Chris went to retrieve some water from the mini fridge in the corner, while Dom wiped his face with his arm. He felt a strange mix of comfort and uneasiness. Music was his life, so it was only natural that he felt at ease when playing. But there was the fact that a part of his life that was probably just as big and important was missing. He wasn’t exactly crushed or depressed at the moment, but there was a certain sadness lurking in the back of his mind. Matt was simply missing in every part of his being.

Chris nudged him with a water bottle and Dom took it gratefully. He gulped down the whole bottle in record time, he was that dehydrated from playing just a short amount of time. The bottle was still cold, so he pressed it against his cheek to cool down his face. He then threw it into a nearby bin and gave a pleased sigh.

Chris leaned against the wall behind Dom and drank his water a lot slower than the blonde. There was a soft smile on his face, indicating that the jamming session had done him well. Making music had always been a form of stress relief for them, so it was no wonder that it helped with the built up frustration now. Dom himself felt like at least a bit of the weight on his shoulders had lifted. Still, he couldn’t shake the slight feeling of discomfort and the tiny voice in his head that said it was all wrong.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Chris commented quietly and took another gulp of his water.

Dom watched his crash cymbal move slightly. “Yeah. Was good. Though…”

“Hmm?”

“I don’t know. It’s not the same without Matt. It sounds… wrong.”

Dom could immediately feel the room go cold and tense. The air suddenly felt too charged, too dangerous. He turned around slowly and faced the bassist, not expecting the stony expression he was met with. Chris frowned at him, his eyes narrowed to slits. Had he said something wrong?

“Jesus fucking Christ, Dom!” Chris exploded. He threw the bottle against the wall. “It’s always the fucking same, isn’t it?”

“What?”

“It’s always about Matt with you. Matt here, Matt there. Does it even matter that I’m here?”

What the fuck?

“Of course it matters. What kind of question is this?” Dom was confused. Where was all that coming from?

Chris snorted. “A good question. I haven’t heard anything from you but whining about Matt for weeks now. I’m sick of it.”

Dom rose up from his stool, his anger rising with him. What the hell did Chris think he was doing? Of course Matt was his number one topic. “You do realise that Matt’s been abducted? So excuse me for being worried sick and missing him.”

“I don’t fucking care.”

“What do you mean, you don’t fucking care?”

Chris sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. For a moment he looked tired. The look was quickly replaced by the angry face Dom had seen when he had first turned around, though.

“It means that I don’t fucking care about your worries or about Matt. I’m done with all of this.”

Dom gasped. “The fuck did you just say?”

“I’m done,” he said and moved away from the wall. Dom jumped into his path to block him from leaving. “Move.”

“No,” the drummer shook his head. “I’ll move once you stop saying this bullshit. You don’t give two fucks about Matt anymore, is that what you’re saying?”

“You got that right.”

“Are you out of your mind?!” The bassist had to be joking, right?

“No. No, I think for the first time in a while I’m seeing clear. It’s always been about him, hasn’t it? His constant need to be the centre of attention. Well, he definitely got that now.”

The blonde’s hands automatically turned to fists at his sides. His anger was boiling hot, his vision turning a bright red mixed with blinding white. His body was shaking madly now and if he wasn’t careful he knew he’d lunge at Chris and beat the living daylights out of him. Air rushed through his nostrils.

“Go fuck yourself, Chris. Seriously.”

The bassist laughed at that. His laugh sounded somewhat bitter and too dark for his voice. It sounded like someone else was standing in front of Dom. “Did I hurt your feelings? Do you have to jump to Matt’s defence, just like you’ve always done?”

“I don’t have to jump to anyone’s defence,” the drummer snapped. “I just can’t stand your bullshit talk. Pretending that Matt doesn’t matter to you. We both know that’s not true.”

“Things change,” Chris shrugged and moved passed the frozen blonde, “and at this point he doesn’t. I’m glad he’s gone, he-“

Suddenly the bassist found himself being shoved into the wall by a very furious Dom. The blonde held him with his underarm on Chris’ chest. He wouldn’t be able to hold Chris if he decided to use his strength, obviously, the taller man could push him off any time, but it did the trick for now. They were standing nose to nose, with Dom standing on his toes to match Chris’ size. He was so tempted to let his fist connect with his friend’s face, to make him hurt and beat him until he took back every word he’d uttered in these past minutes, but his fist halted.

He’d done the same just a couple of weeks back. He’d said and done things he didn’t mean, just to relieve his pain. He had wanted to make others hurt just as much as he had been hurting and had said things to Chris that still made him want to puke whenever he thought of them. He’d picked up that Chris was taking this a lot harder than he let on, he just hadn’t expected it to be this bad for him, too.

“You’re just saying all of this because you’re angry and desperate, I get it,” Dom said calmly. His anger had ebbed away just as quickly as it had come. The bassist didn’t reply.

Dom let go of him, but his eyes were still trained on Chris’ face. He continued just as calmly, “You hate the helplessness and the not-knowing. And because Matt’s the reason why it’s happening, you want to hate him for it.” He grabbed the taller man’s wrist and squeezed gently. “I understand. It’s okay.”

And just like that, Chris’ defences crumbled.

“Shit.”

His shoulders sagged and his whole body shook. Chris looked up at the ceiling and Dom could see moisture threatening to leak from his eyes.

“Shit,” Chris swore again and furiously wiped at his eyes.

Dom just stood there and watched him because he didn’t know what to do. He wanted to ask “why didn’t you tell me you felt like this?”, but he really had no right to demand an answer to that. There had been signs that, maybe, Chris wasn’t as level headed and cool as he appeared to be. Their talk after Dom had apologised, Chris’ reaction after the morgue, and the sadness in his eyes just this evening had been the biggest warning signs and they were now ringing in Dom’s head. Too late, of course. He didn’t want to find excuses, but he wouldn’t feel guilty about it, either. There were too many bad feelings around them now, he didn’t need that, too.

“Do you want to punch me?” Dom asked.

“What?”

“Dunno. Figured it might help.”

At that, Chris actually laughed and Dom relaxed. His laugh sounded much more like Chris again, warm and friendly.

“Thanks, mate. But I’ve done that already and let me tell you, it wasn’t beneficial to your face.”

They chuckled together until Dom realised that he was still holding his friend’s wrist. He let go of it and awkwardly stood there.

“Are you feeling better now, though?”

“I want him back so badly,” Chris whispered so quietly Dom had to strain his ears to hear it.

He nodded. “I know, me too.”

Dom moved to stand on Chris’ right side, with his back against the wall, and then slid it down to sit on the floor. Chris raised an eyebrow at him and Dom couldn’t help but grin sheepishly. He signalled him to sit down as well, and Chris followed him. They were mostly blocked from view by the drumkit. So if anyone came inside now, they could collect themselves before they had to face whoever it might be. That also meant that they could talk openly now.

“I’m so fucking scared. That guy is dead, so where is Matt now? What if he’s dead, too? Or injured and left to die in his dirty fucking prison?” He punched his own thigh in frustration.

“You said yourself that whoever is behind this is a collector and wants him in their collection. So I don’t think he’s dead.”

“You don’t know that, though. It could have been him in the morgue, it-“ Chris stopped himself.

Dom swallowed. This was all so new, with their roles switched like that.

“When we were in the morgue and had to identify the body,” he started, “I had a moment where I saw Matt lying there. Dead, with a bullet through his skull.”

He heard a gasp from his side and couldn’t help but cast his eyes downwards. He picked at one of his shoe laces and recalled the whole situation in his head. The only thing that ranked even higher in his list of terrible dreams he’d had since Matt was gone was the nightmare where Matt had told him that he hated him and had then died in his arms.

He shuddered, then collected his thoughts again before he continued, “But it wasn’t him. And that’s good enough for me. At least for now.”

Chris hummed and they fell back into silence. It felt all too bizarre to Dom, how he suddenly was the strong one and Chris needed support. After his breakdown he’d worked hard to get to the point Chris and the others had already been at because he didn’t want to put any more pressure on them. But now he had to realise that it was all a façade, and that underneath Chris was just as broken as he was. Instinctively he wrapped an arm around his friend’s shoulder. In turn, Chris pressed his side to Dom’s and moved a hand to Dom’s left knee to squeeze it. It was a similar picture to nearly 2 months ago; same situation, same position, same people. The only difference was their role reversal.

“When he’s back I’ll cook him pasta. His favourite.”

It was a silly thought, but Dom liked the turn of events in their conversation. Talking about Matt coming home was nice.

“Oh please, Chris,” he laughed openly in the bassist’s face. “You can’t even heat up canned soup!”

He was rewarded with a punch to the arm, not hard enough to bruise, but enough to hurt for a moment. He let out a loud “ouch”.

Chris grumbled, but he couldn’t stop the smile from breaking through. “Fine. Kelly can cook then. She loves to cook anyway, especially for him.” Then he looked to the wall that had been hit with the bottle. “I guess I should clean that up.”

They both got up from the floor, first Chris, who held out his hand to help Dom up and then started to tidy the room. While Chris retrieved another towel to dry the wall, Dom walked over to the black guitar. The instrument wasn’t plugged in, but Dom moved his fingers to play a few chords, anyway. The room stayed eerily quiet and Dom couldn’t help but think that this was a perfect metaphor for their current situation.

He was alerted by a knock on the door. When he looked over he saw Kelly peaking inside the room. She looked uncertain somehow.

“Um… CI Whitman is here. He… wants to talk to Dom?”

The blonde searched for Chris and found him looking just as confused. Just him? Weird.

Anyway, they quickly packed away the remaining stuff and then moved to the living room together where Whitman was already waiting. However, he wasn’t alone. There were 2 officers flanking his sides, which only added to their confusion.

“Mr Howard, Mr Wolstenholme,” the CI greeted them grimly. He didn’t extend his hand in greeting.

They both nodded their hello and Chris asked, “What’s going on? Are there any news?”

“Kind of,” he turned to Dom. “Mr Howard, I must ask you to come with us to the station. Only you.”

“What?” the drummer asked, clearly confused. “Why?”

Whitman nodded at one of the police officers, who then pulled out a pair of handcuffs and walked over to Dom. Chris moved to stand between them. “What’s going on? Whitman!”

“I’m sorry, Mr Wolstenholme, but I must ask you to let Mr Howard go with us. Don’t make this any more difficult and let us do our job.”

“I’m not making this difficult, you-“

“Chris.”

The bassist turned around to Dom, who softly smiled at him and walked past him.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Dom shrugged. He tried to appear as calm as possible, but in truth he just wanted to drop to the floor and curl up in fear. “It’s fine. I’ll see you later.” He moved to the coat pegs and retrieved his leather jacket.

The bassist huffed and crossed his arms, but let Dom proceed. He couldn’t stand still, however, as one of the officers produced a pair of handcuffs to tie Dom up. Whitman was faster than him, though, and stopped his subordinate’s hand before Chris could even say a word.

“That won’t be necessary,” he said. “Mr Howard won’t pose a threat or try to run.” He nodded at the drummer who nodded back at him.

Dom risked another glance at Chris who looked just as confused and lost as Dom himself felt, and then walked out of the door towards the police car, followed by Whitman and the two officers.

_____

 

Whitman didn’t talk much during the car ride to the police station. He only gave two or three orders to his subordinates and completely ignored Dom’s request to tell him what was going on. Dom then tried to talk to the other officers but they remained quiet as well, their stony faces cast forward and pretending to not hear his pleading.

When the car stopped he was ungently pulled out of it and got shoved up the stairs. Dom was glad Whitman had refrained from restraining him, because he could see several people watching them, some of them even wearing Muse shirts. That would have gone down well, he thought bitterly. Their band had gotten enough publicity as it was.

Whitman walked in the front while the two officers walked closely behind him, probably to make sure he wouldn’t bolt for the door or find another way to escape. They walked down the familiar corridor to Whitman’s office, but then turned a corner and headed down somewhere else. Dom was confused, but didn’t bother to ask where they were going. He wouldn’t get an answer anyway.

After what felt like hours for Dom, but was most likely only a few minutes, they stopped at a door. Whitman opened it and motioned for him to go inside. Ah, still no talking, then. When he didn’t move immediately, the taller of the two officers pushed him inside and guided him towards a chair located at a table in the middle of the room.

“You could just have asked,” he growled at the officer.

He was forced to sit down before one of his hands was handcuffed to the table. He huffed at that.

“That won’t be necessary.”

The tall man’s face remained blank when he calmly said, “Precaution.”

Well, at least something more than silence. The officer exited the room and Dom was left to his own devices. With nothing else to do, he took in his dimly lit surroundings.

The walls were whitewashed and appeared to be solely made to intimidate him. There were obviously no windows, nothing he could fix his eyes on for longer than a second or two, and so his gaze kept wandering. The only thing that broke the perfect white was the old school one-way mirror directly in front of him. It looked pristine and crept him out just as much as the rest of the situation did. Maybe there were people on the other side of it, watching him and murmuring about what was going to happen to him.

He felt like a serious offender with the cold metal cuffing his right wrist to the table and a room on the other side of that mirror that was most likely full of policemen who wanted to see him sweat. For what exactly he still didn’t know and no matter how much he racked his brains, no plausible explanation presented itself.

It was that moment when one of the younger officers entered the room, pushing some sort of trolley with a TV set through the door and letting in some brighter light from the hallway. Dom watched him silently as the guy gave no indication of wanting to talk. The silent treatment started to grate on his nerves massively. The TV was placed in the right corner of the room so it was out of Dom’s reach. The two chairs on the other side of the table, standing with their backs to the mirror, would need to be turned a bit if the people who’d occupy them at some point in the near future (at least that’s what Dom thought was about to happen, he’d seen enough American cop shows to last a lifetime) wanted to get a good look at the screen, too.

Oh, the cop shows! Dom looked around when the officer had left the room again. Maybe it was just some TV hoax but usually there were cameras in the interrogation rooms instead of these mirrors, weren’t there? He wasn’t exactly sure because, firstly, he had never been in one of these rooms before (and he was grateful for that, although there had been one or two close calls in the past) and, secondly, you never knew how accurate those TV shows really were. Some still used the mirror because, quite frankly, they were frightening.

Dom could see his reflection on the stainless glass. He looked just as pale and scared as he had assumed, but, in his defense, he was probably also as composed as the situation allowed him to be. It was ridiculous really, but that little thought sparked a bit of pride in his chest. No matter what this was going to be about, he knew that he’d done nothing wrong and that they would ultimately have to let him go again. He wasn’t the serious offender they treated him as, after all.

Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling of being confined, trapped even. He remembered some of the pictures from the Guild’s website that had been taken of Matt. The room in the background had never been of much interest to him, seeing as this was about Matt, after all. But now he remembered how similar it actually was to his current surroundings. Plain and cold and lifeless. It was weird but he felt like he was somehow supposed to live through a milder version of the nightmare his friend had been forced into. A much, much milder, old crime film version, but still.

After half an eternity, Dom heard the click of the door again and turned his gaze to watch it open. A tall man he didn’t recognise entered first. His black hair was cropped short and his sharp green eyes immediately locked with Dom’s. He seemed to be rather young, although the suit made him look more serious and older. Whitman was the second person to enter. He closed the door and then retreated into the corner, while the other man stood in front of the table, examining Dom with an inscrutable glare. Then, wordlessly, he sat down in one of the chairs and placed a folder on the table before the quiet staring continued.

Dom felt extremely uncomfortable under the close scrutiny. He didn’t even have the slightest idea who this man was. A police officer, no doubt, but what did he want from him? He looked over to Whitman in hope of getting at least one answer to the many questions swirling in his head, but the CI pointedly didn’t make eye contact with him as if he was uncomfortable himself. The blonde’s eyes lowered to the table.  

“Mr Howard, my name is CI Thompson. I believe you already know CI Whitman?” the man, Thompson, spoke up and gesticulated to the corner where Whitman was standing. Dom nodded, then tried to remember where he’d heard the younger CI’s name before.

Ah, yes. He was the officer in charge of the case concerning the kidnapper’s, Napolitano’s, death. He remembered the name from when Whitman had told them about the body. His back straightened. Were there any news?

“Mr Howard, how would you describe your band?”

“Huh?”

Dom cocked his head. That question had come completely out of the blue and was, in fact, very confusing. What did that have to do with anything? He looked at Whitman again, who had finally fixed his gaze on the drummer. His expression was unreadable, though.

“Um… Pretty good? We’ve been doing this for over 20 years now and it’s still a lot of fun. Not always easy, but worth it. Our music has changed a lot over the course of our career, but that’s not very surprising, I guess. We’ve changed a lot, after all. Why?”

Thompson nodded at him before he observed the drummer’s face again. Dom felt like an animal in that moment. The uneasiness was constant now, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he wouldn’t like what was going to happen.

“What about your band mate, Matthew? How would you describe him?”

“He’s…” he started. What was he supposed to say? “He’s eccentric. A walking and talking ball of unceasing energy. It’s not always easy with him because he’s a big perfectionist, but we manage alright. I don’t understand what that’s got to do with anything, though?”

Slowly, the CI opened the folder he had previously thrown on the table, and extracted something from it. He slid the paper, a photo, over the table for Dom to inspect. The drummer leaned over to get a better look and instantly felt his body freezing up.

The picture didn’t show much, just a person’s wrist. However, tied around it was an item Dom knew all too well and had already missed dearly.

“That’s my necklace! Where did you find it?”

“I think you know exactly where we found it,” Thompson replied calmly. He took the picture and moved it a bit to the right, not exactly out of reach, but enough to make room for more pictures or other items in front of Dom.

The CI then pulled a CD case from the folder and held it out to Whitman who took it from him and walked to the TV set. He inserted the CD into the player underneath the screen and pressed play. The monitor flickered to life and Dom’s heart skipped a beat.

There he was. He’d lost some weight and his hair was slightly longer, curling around his ears, but it unmistakably were his blue eyes looking down at the keys in front of him. Matt.

Dom felt an incredibly strong longing course through his veins. This was different from looking at pictures or thinking about the singer. Just seeing him, alive, made Dom’s chest ache and swell at the same time, but seeing him breathe and move threw him on a rollercoaster of emotions. There wasn’t enough time to take it all in; the cut on his temple, the split lip, the clean shaven jaw, the soft curve of his neck, the plain black Queen tee that looked like the one the singer had nicked from Dom years ago and was now mainly used to sleep in, Dom’s necklace wrapped loosely around his thin wrist. Dom wanted to reach through the TV screen and just pull him into his arms.

The rollercoaster of emotions took a sharp turn to the left and then just down, down, down into a dark pit on high speed when Matt’s fingers finally moved and the soft melody of Starlight started to fill the otherwise silent room. The longing only intensified when the drummer remembered the last time Matt had played that particular song, for him.

Dom watched transfixed as his band mate played highly concentrated and calm, much like he did at home. He failed to hit the right notes several times, but his face remained soft, his fingers idly ghosting over a cup that was standing on top of the lid. That was weird. Matt would never fail to play this song perfectly under any circumstances, Dom knew that, and the singer was way too hard on himself to simply accept such mistakes. Something was off.

The video ended abruptly when Matt had finished playing. The CD was extracted from the player and put back in its designated case. It then landed right in front of Dom on the table, clattering on the shiny, wooden surface. Thompson stared straight into Dom’s eyes and the drummer realised that the CI must have observed him during the video, as well.

“The video was uploaded to the website last night,” he explained. “We were able to track the IP easily, because the uploader took next to no precaution this time.”

Thompson stopped talking for a moment to let the news sink in. Dom’s heart seared with hope. If they had finally tracked down the uploader, then it meant they knew where Matt was, right? But that didn’t explain why he was sitting in an interrogation room with his hand tied to the table. Unless…

“It was uploaded from your house, Mr Howard. We found the video on the hard drive of your laptop.”

All of a sudden the room was too cold. Dom felt as if he was being thrown into icy water, his body temperature falling rapidly. The blood in his veins must have stopped flowing, as well. Could blood even freeze? Was that the reason? The CI couldn’t mean what Dom thought he was implying, could he?

Thompson placed a wallet in Dom’s line of vision and opened it to reveal an ID. Upon further inspection, Dom could see that it was the kidnapper’s, his angry face staring back at him with blank eyes.

“We found this on your coffee table. Care to explain how it got there?”

“I… I don’t know,” Dom stuttered. This had to be a joke. A terrible, terrible joke. “I haven’t been to my place in weeks. I have nothing to do with this.”

“When did you take it from him, Mr Howard? Before or after you put that bullet in his head?”

“What? No. No!”

“Tell me, why did you do it?” The CI leaned back in his seat. His eyes wouldn’t leave Dom, though. “Did your friend start making decisions without you? Your band is massive and decisions that influence all of you should not be made by one person. Maybe you needed to silence him?”

“What are you- No, for fuck’s sake, what are you talking about?”

Dom pulled at the handcuff in fruitless effort. This was all kinds of wrong. Why were they accusing him of doing something like this to Matt? Didn’t they know that he meant the world to him? He needed to calm down or he’d black out soon, but his pulse didn’t seem to get the memo.

Suddenly, Whitman’s soothing voice cut through his haze. “Now would be the right time to call for a lawyer, Mr Howard. You should-”

“No, no, no,” Thompson cut in. “We don’t need a lawyer here.” He jumped up from his chair and walked around the table so he could then sit on it next to Dom. With his arms crossed, he leaned over to get closer.

“You know what I think happened? Matthew started to get too powerful, taking over the whole band and making decisions you couldn’t accept. You needed to do something, didn’t you? So you hired this man to kidnap your friend and imprison him in a dark room.”

“No, I wouldn’t-” Dom started, but the CI wouldn’t let him speak up.

“He took care of Matthew while you played the worried band mate. He uploaded the pictures for you and gave you the required alibis. What did he do to change your plan? Did he fuck up at your friend’s place? He didn’t do what you wanted him to do, so you had to get rid of him before you were found out.”

“Stop it.”

“You shot him, used your spare key to dump him at Matthew’s place and then pretended to be all shaken up. There are no other fingerprints than yours to be found. It’s quite clear to me that you have done a masterful job, until now that is. What I want to know is, where is Matthew?”

“I didn’t do anything! Stop it. Stop. Please,” the drummer begged and once again pulled at his restraints. He needed to get out of here, away from the accusations. His body screamed at him to get the fuck away.

“Not until you tell me where your band mate is,” Thompson shouted and hit the table with his flat hands. He used the action to push himself up and rise from the table, his right hand shooting out to grab Dom by the hair. He pulled at it so Dom had to look up at him. “I wonder where he got that cut on his temple from? Did you push his head against the wall, over and over again, until he stopped begging you to let him free?”

“No, no, no,” Dom whimpered quietly. The mere thought of someone doing that to Matt made his insides turn, but imagining it was him doing it brought tears to his eyes. He could practically hear Matt’s voice in his head, begging him to stop, pleading him to let him go home. “No…”

He could hear Whitman shouting at his colleague in the background, but it didn’t really matter. By now he was a crying, shaking mess. Weeks of trying to compose himself and getting through this with the least possible damage now became futile as the accusations hit him upfront. Matt was being abused, tortured, and he was the prime suspect. He thought nothing could be worse than his nightmares, but this surpassed every single one of them.

Thompson let go of his hair, but Dom didn’t have the energy to move his head anymore. He stared at the ceiling and let the tears fall freely. Weakly, he whispered, “He’s my best friend.”

“Is that why you haven’t killed him, yet? You locked him away so he’d be out of the way, but you couldn’t bring it over yourself to kill him. Or is it something else?” He cocked his head and observed Dom again, before a smug grin appeared on his face. “You wanted to teach him a lesson, didn’t you? Show him that he couldn’t do as he pleases. But it’s gotten out of hand. You didn’t expect him to resist and you definitely didn’t expect anyone of those criminals to go to the police.”

“Please…”

The CI sighed and put a hand on Dom’s shoulder. If the drummer had had any energy left in him he would have pulled away, as much as the handcuffs would let him. The touch was unwanted and uncomfortable. His shoulder burnt.

“I understand that, Mr Howard. It can’t be easy to be pushed aside. Especially after such a long time together. You had to show him that you were serious. Napolitano was just collateral, right? You’re no cold-hearted killer, I truly believe that.”

He walked around the table to collect the evidence and put it all back into the folder. He made a show out of it and took his time, just so Dom could watch him move around and think about his confession.

“Did he want a solo career?” Thompson continued and waited for a reaction. The only movement Dom made was a roll of his head in Whitman’s direction. “He wanted to leave you guys alone at the peak of your career. And you gave him that. He’s got the attention and you can keep your face. It’s a win for the both of you, right?”

Finally, Whitman pushed himself off the wall and laid a hand on Thompson’s shoulder as a signal to move away, showing that he wouldn’t accept any protest.

“Dominic,” he said softly and Dom looked up. He felt so lost and broken in that moment, begging for salvation. “You need to call a lawyer. Now. You have to say it.”

Whitman looked so trustworthy, a clear contrast to the other CI. Dom remembered how often he’d thought of Whitman as an ally and even now, when the police apparently thought he’d done the unspeakable, he still tried to support the blonde.

Dom had been a fool. He’d thought it was enough to be innocent. That he didn’t need a lawyer simply because the truth was that he’d done nothing wrong. He should have listened to Whitman before. He was definitely listening to him now.

He closed his eyes and could only see Matt’s face, one moment smiling, the other moment crying. Pictures of pain and pure joy. Everything just blending together, much like the voices in his head. He could hear Matt calling his name.

“I… Yes, I want to call a lawyer.”

___

Dom walked down the corridor next to CI Whitman. His head was full of fresh memories from the interrogation. They hurt, if he was completely honest. How Thompson had questioned his loyalty towards Matt and, by extension, the band. The mere thought of causing Matt any kind of pain was poison to his already battered heart. Fortunately the elder CI had stood up for him when he had needed it most. Calling his lawyer had been the smartest move of the day and he was still a little ashamed that he hadn’t come up with it himself. Being innocent was no guarantee for anything, especially not with a dead set, young CI who was on a murder case. He couldn’t even really blame Thompson. If he was in his place he would probably have done the same. Even the most absurd lead was better than none at all.

His lawyer had advised him not to talk to Thompson again, and, if possible, to none of the other officers. She had also told him that, yes, the evidence was weighing against him, but she had promised to do everything in her power to get him out of his temporary custody as quickly as possible. An empty promise, he knew that. There was nothing she could do. She didn’t have any other resources than the police had, so maybe she could stall them a bit, but that was probably already the end of it. Not talking to Thompson was a big improvement, though. He had seriously felt like breaking down under the policeman’s questions.

“Mr Howard, I am sorry that you have gotten pulled into this,” the older man suddenly broke the silence.

“I shouldn’t really talk to you, should I?” Dom mumbled, but there was no spite behind his words.

“Probably not, no,” the CI sighed and threw him a quick glance.

“I swear to God, I have no idea how all that shit got into my house.” Maybe opening his mouth now was a bad idea, but he trusted Whitman. He really did. If there was anyone who could help him, it was him.

“And I honestly believe that,” Whitman nodded. “I do. But my hands are tied here. Napolitano’s not my case… and Thompson may be a bit… straight forward, but he’s only doing his job. And the evidence… well.”

“I know, I know…” Dom sighed and tried to avoid getting snappy. “I already went through all of that with my lawyer.”

For a moment they fell silent again. The blonde knew that the CI only wanted to help. And he had already done that. After all, he had insured that Thompson didn’t sent his sorry arse to prison straight away. Rationally Dom knew that he couldn’t have done that, but Thompson had looked pretty determined and like he’d go to incredible lengths to put him away and close the case.

“Is Thompson only after me or… I mean, is he also investigating against Chris?”

The thought genuinely scared him. Chris was already going through way too much at the moment, as his recent breakdown had shown to the blonde. He didn’t think the bassist would pull through now. Not to mention what it would do to his family. He didn’t want to see Kelly cry and beg for the police to let Chris go. No. He’d rather give a false confession than send his friends through this ordeal.

Whitman, however, shook his head. “He’s only trying to get you. He did try to put Mr Wolstenholme in the position of a possible partner, but there’s no evidence to back this up. He’s safe, don’t worry.”

Dom let out the breath he’d been holding and relaxed a bit. This was all a nightmare, but at least it was only his nightmare. It would probably seem weird to bystanders, but if it came to it, he’d throw his life away just to keep his friends safe.

“Mr Howard… Dominic… is there anything - and I mean even the smallest idea could be helpful here - anything that could refute Thompson’s accusations? I know, watching the video of Mr Bellamy must have been painful for you, but did anything in it strike you as unusual?”

Unusual? Had Whitman really just asked him that? There was literally nothing usual about this video to begin with. Quite frankly, the drummer was still completely shaken up by it. Seeing Matt like that… no. Just no.

“Think, Dominic. Even the smallest detail might help.” Whitman misinterpreted Dom’s prolonged silence and so the blonde tried to focus. “Anything that could give a clue or help us figure this out.”

“Yes, well… when he… when he played he hit a few wrong notes. He never does that. I mean, of course he sometimes plays the odd bum note. But not like that. It did strike me as odd before, but thinking about it now… It has to mean something, I’m sure.” Suddenly Dom got a bit excited. Maybe it was some sort of code? With Matt that idea was well damn possible.

“He’s under constant pressure there, maybe he just… well, maybe he just couldn’t concentrate. Dominic, anything else?” The CI really wanted to do more for him, Dom knew that. But he didn’t know Matt. Even at his worst he could still play Starlight with both eyes closed and his hands tied behind his back. There had to be a reason for his fuck ups. What was so unusual that would justify this? Think. Think, Dominic!

“That cup!” he burst out. “The cup! The one on the piano lid!”

“Yes, we already analysed the logo. It’s from the café you use to frequent, right?”

“Right! Matt never ever drinks when he plays. He does that before or after but never during a song. Never. It’s his golden rule. What if… what if he wanted to draw attention to it? The cup, I mean?”

“That is a possibility. Any reason why he would do that?”

“I don’t know… My necklace… you know, I thought I had lost it. But then there it was. I have no idea how or why he has it now. Maybe…”

“Good, good! This sounds like it could actually lead us somewhere! Keep thinking! When did you last see your necklace apart from in the video?”

He really had to strain his brain in order to remember. When had he first noticed that it was missing? It had definitely been a morning… but which morning? It seemed to have been so long ago… had it been the morning after his shopping trip for Kelly? Yes… yes, that seemed about right. He remembered fumbling with it on the way to the supermarket. Why exactly he wasn’t sure. But yes, that seemed to have been the last time he’d consciously touched it.

“It was… I was grocery shopping, I think. Nothing unusual, just had to get a few things for dinner and the kids. I remember I had to get a package of pasta before I could go home, but I got into conversation with…”He stopped abruptly as the pieces snapped into place. Oh. Oh. Oh fuck! “It was her! She hugged me and told me how sorry she was about everything! God, why didn’t I see? Shit, it was her all along! She stole my necklace! It has to be her!”

“Who? Who are you talking about? Dominic!”

“Suzanne! She is a waitress at this café! The one from the cup! Oh shit, she’s got him! That’s why he wanted to draw attention to it! And the missed notes… he just wanted us to know that something was up!”

By the time their conversation reached its peak excitement-wise, they had already stopped in front of the cells and Whitman gave him an apologetic look.

“Listen, I will follow up on that lead, ask around a bit and investigate her. Maybe she really is a suspect. But for the meantime… I am sorry, but you have to stay here.” The CI indicated one cell with a vague gesture.

Dom’s heart sank at the mere thought of being imprisoned while there was an actual new lead. But he didn’t want to make it difficult for the helpful policeman and so he just nodded. Whitman would find Matt and thereby also prove his innocence. Yes, he knew the CI could do that. And he would. The blonde watched Whitman while he unlocked the heavy iron door reluctantly and with a deep sigh.

“I promise, I’ll hurry. But I cannot tell you how long it will take me to come up with some solid proof. I guess, the only thing I can really do is advise you again not to talk to Thompson and… be patient.”

Again, Dom nodded. Then he looked over at the cell. It looked exactly like he had expected. Cold, dreary and empty. Great. Before he walked in, however, he turned to Whitman again. “Is Chris at the station right now? Is he okay? Will you tell him what we talked about? He needs to know.”

Now it was the CI’s turn to nod. “Yes, he’s up there, asking for you. He cannot visit you right now, but I will tell him, I promise. We will prove your innocence and find Mr Bellamy.”

Dom knew that he really meant it, it was obvious in his face as well as in his voice. Whitman was a good man.

For now, that had to be enough.

_____

 

London – 25.08.2013

Dom stared at the clock that was hung over the door out of the custody area. It told him he’d been in this tiny cell for a whole night and half a day. It was nearly 3 pm, but it felt like it had been a lot longer.

Did Matt have a clock to read the time from? Or was he clueless as to how long he’d been gone from their lives? Did he know they should have played a gig in South Korea a week ago? Dom had tried to ignore the clock before, but it had been an impossible task. He couldn’t not know how much time had passed, no matter how slow it went. He felt a twinge in his chest at the thought of Matt having no sense of time, of losing a part of himself, in a way. The more he thought about it, the more he remembered small details from the pictures and the video. Suzanne had taken everything from him. He couldn’t know the time or day, couldn’t even decide on his own clothes, and, Dom was sure of that, he was dependent on her to bring him food and water.

Did she punish him for breaking the rules? She probably did, denying him food until he’d do as she pleased. Was that why she had set Dom up? To punish him? It was a possible explanation. Knowing that she’d given Matt the blonde’s necklace showed him that she’d used his friends as leverage. And Dom knew Matt would do anything to keep them out of harm’s way, just like Chris and he himself would.

Another look at the clock told him that it had only been 2 minutes since he’d last checked. He sighed. What was Whitman taking so long? The CI had promisedto update him constantly. So far, he hadn’t shown his face. There could be 2 possibilities for that, either Whitman hadn’t found anything incriminating yet, or he finally believed Thompson’s accusations and had abandoned Dom. The drummer didn’t know which would be worse, so he hoped he was completely wrong and Whitman was just taking the time because he’d found Matt and had to bring him here.

In the end, Whitman showed up half an hour later, out of breath, but clearly excited about something. His hair was sticking out into all directions like he had torn it over something. But his eyes were shining and a half smile curled the corners of his mouth. Dom jumped from his narrow bed so as to be on eye level with the CI.

“What is it?” the drummer asked, his heart beating wildly in his chest.

“We found something. A lot actually. There is… I mean, all the evidence points at this Suzanne woman. But the problem is that it’s not enough to get you out. Yet. I interviewed some of your neighbours and there actually was one woman who had a recording.”

“Recording? What recording?”

“Well, she took a video of her children on the front yard, a few houses away from your front door. At first she didn’t think that it was too important, but when she realised that I was there to find out about some mystery woman, she immediately came forward. She caught Suzanne on tape! Lurking around your house! I confiscated the tape and it’s definitely her. It looks a lot like she was checking out the area, but she didn’t enter your house. But it’s at least something to go on.”

“I knew it!” Dom almost laughed in relief.

“But there is more. She obviously uploaded the video from your house to frame you. But she has also been seen around various internet cafés, as well. Why we cannot be really sure, yet. My best guess is that she is trying to cover her tracks.” Whitman leaned back against the wall on the opposite side of the corridor and crossed his arms over his chest.

“And… and that’s not enough to get me out?” The blonde gave him an incredulous look as he stood as close to the bars as physically possible. How could that not be enough?

“No… You see, the thing is that Thompson is dead set on putting you away because he wants to close the case. He is a capable police man, but I think he has gotten a bit of tunnel vision and thinks there’s enough evidence against you. And all of what I’ve found… well, he could turn it against you, make it look like you framed her.” The CI sighed deeply and closed his eyes for a second before he looked at the drummer again. “He could probably turn it against you and accuse you of having forced her into helping you with the abduction and everything.”

Dom gaped at that. How? Whitman had all this evidence against Suzanne and still Thompson would blame everything on him?  

“I’m sorry, Dominic. You have to be patient… trust me, I promise to find out more. I’m going to find Suzanne and try to find out more.”

“Are you fucking crazy?” Dom exclaimed. “If you go to her now it’s all over!”

He had lunged forward when Whitman had come up with this idea and was now gripping the bars in front of his face tightly. If they weren’t there he probably would have strangled the man. Whitman couldn’t be serious, could he? The police standing at her door would just give it all away.

The CI sighed. “Dominic, I know it’s risky. But what other choice do we have? I’m gonna go alone and interview her as a witness. You did frequent that café a lot, after all.”

“But…” Suzanne would be able to put 2 and 2 together. He was sure of that.

“It’s our only chance to find out more without Thompson getting in our way. Please… Just trust me.”

With that, the CI turned and left, the sound of the door clicking shut too loud in the deadly silent room.

Dom was still gripping the bars tightly to the point of breaking the soft skin of his palm. If they talked to Suzanne it was all over. Once she found out that they were onto her there was no point in keeping Matt with her. Or alive, for that matter.

He quietly swore under his breath and prepared to let go of the bars. He felt like he’d break down here and now once he didn’t hold onto them anymore. Slowly, he lessened the grip until he completely let go of them, and stumbled backwards to the bed. There, he sat for an undefinable amount of time and just stared at the door Whitman had just left through.

He had to get out of here. The drummer just couldn’t wait until they interrogated this woman and found Matt’s dead body. He needed to find a way out of this cell and do it on his own; find Matt and bring him home. But how? This was a cell, after all. In a police station. Full of policemen. And cameras. It seemed like an impossible task.

But Matt’s in danger, he reminded himself. That fact changed everything for him. Maybe it was impossible to get out of here, but for Matt he’d always try the impossible. And if it meant to break out of a cell in a police station full of policemen and cameras, then so be it.

He needed a plan first, though. He couldn’t just kick down the cell door, that much was clear. He might as well just shout “arrest my sorry arse and lock me away until the end of time”. Not to mention that he wasn’t even strong enough to do that physically. Oh well. There had to be another way out, but how?

A guard passed his cell and checked on him. Dom pointedly ignored the man until a crazy idea struck him. The same guy had been checking on him the past couple of hours. Every hour on the dot, if he could believe the clock that hung above the door to the outside of the custody area. He hadn’t seen anyone else around, so there was a good chance that this policeman was the only one on duty. Which made sense considering he was the only person down here, they didn’t need a whole team to keep him locked up. No Hulk, after all. That could be very helpful for his plan to break out. He just needed to get the guard inside the cell and overpower him.

He watched the guard retreat and leave him alone again. Dom noted that he didn’t hold any visible weapons. Good. He just hoped that there was nothing hidden under the uniform either. No chance to check until you try, Dom. He scrunched up his face, looking up to the camera and trying to figure out if it was on. He couldn’t see a light indicating it was indeed working, but that didn’t mean it was turned off. Again he had no other choice than to hope that if it was on, the guard was indeed alone.

So many possibilities, so many risks. He closed his eyes. There was no guarantee for him, but if he didn’t try, there was the guarantee of never seeing Matt again.

___

Little under an hour later and Dom was buzzing with nerves. If this went tits up he would not only have to call the prison is new home, but he’d also lose Whitman’s trust, no matter if the CI believed him innocent. But all the voices in his head screaming at him how wrong and dangerous this was were silenced by the quiet voice of Matt saying his name. No going back.

Dom could hear the door open, so he quickly crumpled down next to the bed and curled in on himself. He whimpered, trying to sound as painful as he could and coughed for good measure. He figured his nerves did the rest of his act, as he could only guess that he had to be as white as a sheet. He felt cold sweat on his skin and his stomach wouldn’t stop doing summersaults. Dom wouldn’t have been surprised if he threw up right in this moment.

When the guard finally entered the space in front of his cell the blonde whimpered a quiet “help, please” and moaned pathetically. He turned his body around and fisted the sheet on top of the bed, and held his breath when he heard the key sliding into the lock of his cell. The guard approached him carefully and asked if he was alright.

Dom turned his face away from the guard. He wasn’t close enough yet. Dom wasn’t a good actor, and if the guard realised he was only faking it would all be over. He needed to get closer. Just a bit. Please.

It seemed like his lucky stars were with him today, because the guard crouched down next to him to check on his pulse. Dom turned and grabbed the guard’s shoulder. The momentum gave him so much strength that the guard wasn’t only pushed against the wall, but his head also hit it with so much force, that Dom could hear a loud crack before the policeman dropped to the floor, out cold.

The cell was quiet. Dom couldn’t hear any sounds outside, either. He waited another minute or two, but nothing happened. So he must have been right about the guard being alone. Thank God. He turned his gaze to the man lying lifelessly on his cell’s floor.

“I’m so sorry,” the blonde whispered and started to shake.

Shit, he hoped the man was alright. He just wanted to get out, not kill anyone. Carefully he walked over, mindful not to let his guard down in case the guard wasn’t unconscious (though the chance was truly low). He could feel a weak pulse when he touched the man’s wrist and felt a bit more relieved. He was torn between fleeing and shouting for help. But he could never explain the situation, and, even though he felt bad about what he’d just done, he just couldn’t abandon his plan now. This was his chance.

Carefully, he heaved the guard up and pulled him over to the bed. There, he removed his uniform and undressed himself to put it on. The clothes were a bit too big for his slim frame, especially since he’d lost some weight since Matt was gone, but he just pulled the belt tighter and hoped it would be enough. At last, he removed the cap from the unconscious man.

With the keys in his hands, he walked out of the cell and locked it, before he made his way to the door outside.

Dom took a deep breath and pulled the cap lower so his face was somewhat hidden. Quite frankly, he hadn’t thought he’d come this far, so his plan on what to do needed a lot of improvement. There was no time to do a proper plan now, sneaking through the station seemed to be the most logical. He hoped he could remember the way, getting lost would be a definite way back to his cell. He passed the guard’s office and got confirmation that he had been alone all the time. Dom could see his cell being broadcasted on the monitors, the guard still lying unconscious on his bed. He shook his head and proceeded to leave the custody area.

The fake policeman tried to calm his nerves and appear as casual as possible. He needed to look like he belonged so no one would get suspicious of him. He slowly climbed up the stairs and, after opening the door, found himself in a huge corridor, which luckily seemed to be deserted. Dom picked up the pace, the sooner he was out here, the better, and if no one was around he should use the just to hurry the fuck up.

His heart was beating rapidly in his chest as he approached a pair of policemen. They were talking to each other, so Dom quickly slipped by them, keeping his eyes trained straight forward. He was just about to heave a sigh of relief when one of them called him, “Hey!”.

The blonde froze on the spot, debating what to do. Would running be an option? No, probably not. He might be able to escape these 2, but others would notice him and he’d be back in the cell. What about fighting? No, definitely not. He wasn’t strong enough to take on both, and even if he managed it by sheer luck, the commotion would alert other policemen. Fuck! He should have thought this through a lot more. He should have thought of something like this happening. How fucking naive had he been?!

“Got a lighter by any chance?” the policeman asked him.

Oh, thank God. He could do that. Stay calm.

“Sorry, mate,” he replied and surprised himself with how detached he sounded. He pointedly kept facing away from them, in case they would recognise his face. “Just stopped smoking”

“Aw, man, thanks anyway.”

Dom nodded and took that as his chance to leave. He quickly kept walking and navigated through what seemed like a labyrinth. At a junction, he came to a stop. He remembered he had to pass Whitman’s office to get outside. Shit. He could fool those policemen who had never seen his face, but Whitman? One look at Dom and the CI would recognise him. Would he bust Dom’s disguise? Or would he let him pass without another glance? He couldn’t be too sure. Yes, Whitman was on his side, but that didn’t guarantee him the man would ignore his duty.

His nerves only intensified with that knowledge. He was on his own with his, no Chris or Whitman to save him this time. He had to take responsibility for his actions if it went to hell. He shook his head.

No, this wouldn’t fail. He wouldn’t fail. He’d come this far, he just had to pray his luck wouldn’t run out. Straightening up, Dom kept walking.

___

And it had indeed been a run of sheer good luck. Dom couldn’t quite believe that he had actually made it to Whitman’s office without having been caught. It was hard to look inconspicuous when you felt anything but, after all. And his nervousness was almost overwhelming. The door stood open and from his position on the other side of the corridor it looked empty. Could he really be this lucky? Whitman was probably out, working on his case, looking for Suzanne. Maybe he could… yeah, he even should. He needed to.

With a deep breath he summoned all what was left of his courage and took a step towards the office. There was indeed no one around, so he slipped inside and closed the door behind him. That was the moment he let his breath out again. Then he started to look around frantically. Even if he’d been lucky so far, there was no guarantee that it would stay that way. He needed to hurry. Suzanne. He needed to find out what Whitman knew. He needed to know as much as possible in order to put his plan into action. He needed to find Matt.

There were papers and photographs strewn all over the impressive desk and without having touched any of them, Dom was already on the verge of a nervous breakdown. How in the fucking hell was he supposed to find anything helpful in this mess? The CI could’ve at least tried to get some order into his research. The whole thing looked like a bureaucrat’s living nightmare. With shaking hands he pulled out a random sheet of paper and scanned the bullet points. Nothing interesting, at least not to the blonde. Then, in a sudden outburst of panic, he pulled out sheet after sheet, photo after photo. They were all connected to Matt’s abduction and Dom already knew most of what was written there.

“Address, address, I need an address!” he mumbled to himself when he finally came across a shiny, new plastic folder. It was still pretty slim, but it was signed “Suzanne MacConnel. Real name: Rachel Harrison”. Oh. So Suzanne had not even been her real name. Just an alias. Rachel… Rachel Harrison was the name of the woman who had taken Matt. His best friend and possibly… no, he couldn’t go there now. Not when he had to keep his head as cool as humanly possible.

“Focus, Dom,” he whispered as he flicked through the folder and finally found what he’d been looking for all along. An address. “Yes!” he said a bit too loudly and instantly clamped his hand over his mouth so as not to allow any more words to leave it. Getting caught now was even less of an option than it had been a few minutes ago. He was so close now!

Quickly he grabbed for a pen and a stray piece of paper and copied the address from the folder. It was not too far away, one of the fancier, more secluded neighbourhoods in London. But Dom knew it and maybe he could get there before Suzanne or Rachel or whoever that fucking psycho bitch really was got to know that the police was on her heels now. Dom was seriously scared of what might happen to Matt if she found out before he could get there.

The blonde folded the tiny piece of paper and put it into his backpocket. Then he looked around again. He’d been in this office so many times over the past few weeks, always with a mixture of hope and despair boiling in his chest. But never had he thought that he’d have to sneak into it like he just had. Never had he expected to end up in a cell as the prime suspect. Never had he… But that was his situation right now. He had to do this on his own. He had to find Matt and finally bring him back. It was obviously a very dangerous undertaking, but what had he lose? Yes, he had started to resign himself to the thought of maybe never seeing Matt again in the past. But… But no. Not if there was even the slightest chance, the tiniest possibility of saving him. What would the others think when they found out about his prison break? What would Whitman do? He had knocked out an officer on duty, after all. Hopefully the guy was okay…

“Focus,” he repeated to himself and shook his head so as to get rid of all unnecessary thoughts. Getting out of the station and finding Suzanne’s house was all that counted right now. It was his first and foremost goal for the next hour or so. Then… then there was the problem of actually breaking into the house, finding Matt, and getting him out again without anyone getting hurt. Well… he didn’t care much about Suzanne getting hurt, maybe he would even welcome that. Because if anyone deserved it, then it was definitely and without doubt her.

The drummer pulled himself out of his reverie of bringing the one who had brought all this misery onto them to justice and instead put the scrap paper into his backpocket. There were other things he had to think about now. First he had to get out unnoticed. Then he had to find a way to get to Suzanne’s house. Did he want to call Chris? To put him at ease? If ease was even the right word for it… What would he do when he arrived there? If he arrived there. His head was full of those questions when he heard some people talking outside the office and his whole body instantly went into red alert. He held his breath as they walked past the door and only let it go when he couldn’t hear them anymore.

Close call, he thought and dared to take a step towards the door. Out, out, out, was all he could think about and it made him consider how Matt might have been thinking the same. Probably many times before. The thought about his friend’s desperation alone sparked another bout of determination in his chest and gave him the final boost of courage he needed to take the last steps towards the door. His situation was clearly one of now or never because time was a luxury he didn’t have. So he peeked through the gap between door and frame and, when he felt like no one would see him, he snuck out and quickly hurried through the corridor into the direction he had walked so many times before, never happy but always free to do so.

It didn’t take him long to reach the foyer, but he knew that it might become the hardest part of his escape as there were always more than a few people around there, especially this time of the day. Of course he had to be right. There were policemen and civilians all over the place. The former preparing for their lunch breaks or coming back in from some operation or simply a smoke. The latter complaining about noisy neighbours, parking tickets and the general (bad) state of things. But contrary to his expectations this quickly became his greatest advantage. Everybody was busy and no one paid him any attention as he walked past to make his escape. Yes, he was probably on some CCTV recordings already, but who cared? As long as he had enough time to get to Suzanne’s place before the police found him, nothing else really mattered.

It had been so long since he had last seen Matt that he didn’t even know what to expect in case he could really get to him. What would he be like? Exhausted? Hopeless? Angry? … Broken? No… No, those thoughts weren’t helpful at all. No, he needed to find and save him. That was all that counted. Everything else could be dealt with afterwards. There was nothing they couldn’t get through as long as they were together. Together they’d already come through so much before.

With that thought in mind he made his way out of the station, trying not to break into a run. He walked and walked and walked until the imposing building was far behind him, nothing but a memory at best. His mind was focused on the task at hand. There was nothing more important right now. His hands were buried in the pockets of the uniform he had stolen from the man who had hopefully been found by now. The streets were filled with people, some obviously Londoners on their way to and from work, some tourists. If you had spent as much in the metropolis as Dom had, telling inhabitants from visitors became second nature. And as some of the more openly touristy people eyed him as if they were thinking about approaching him, he figured that the uniform wasn’t really an advantage anymore, not outside the station.

So there were two things on his to-do list before he could put his actual (half) plan into action. Get rid of the uniform and call Chris. Because yes, he needed to inform his friend. The bassist deserved to know what was going on. But first the uniform. It was really attracting too much attention and attention was the very last thing he needed right now. It wasn’t the easiest task, though. The streets were filled with people and as far as he could see there was no place he could get rid of his current set of clothing without raising suspicions. His brain was working at top speed and when he passed yet another coffeehouse, he acted on impulse. Maybe all those people could actually help. So he went in and squeezed through the mass in front of the busy counter. It took him less than two minutes to get to toilets. Without looking at anyone directly, he just went in and closed the door of the stall behind him.

This was the first moment since his bold escape that he took a moment to really breathe again. His heart had not stopped pumping viciously and a thin sheen of sweat covered his forehead. But there was no time to dwell on… on anything right now. So he took of the heavy jacket and worked his legs out of the black trousers. Underneath he had still been wearing his jeans and tee, so he wouldn’t have to run around naked, at least. That would’ve brought him more attention than he could’ve borne.

Shaking his head so as to get rid of that ridiculous thought, he took the scrap paper out of the trousers. He also retrieved the wallet from one of the pockets and looked through it. There wasn’t much money in it, but the couple of coins would be enough. He didn’t plan on taking a holiday, after all. The drummer didn’t feel like extracting anything else, though. This was someone else’s belonging, it was bad enough that he’d knocked the poor guy out, he didn’t want to become a thief, as well.

He pushed the wallet back into the pocket and folded the uniform. Then he opened the lavatory cistern and stuffed the bundle into it. He closed it again and stuffed the paper into his own back pocket. Only then did he start to listen to his surroundings again. There was a busy to and fro going on outside, so he waited another minute to make sure no one who’d seen him going in would be there to see him re-emerge in a different set of clothing.

He took a deep breath and another ridiculous thought shot through his head as he opened the stall again. The police had probably already found out about his escape and were looking for him. He had knocked out an officer on duty, escaped from custody and just changed his appearance. Yes, he truly felt like the main character of some awesome thriller movie. Matt would have probably been proud. If it had been a movie. Which it wasn’t. The situation was dangerous and he could get himself into real trouble. He didn’t really care, though, not if it meant that he had a chance at saving Matt.

Straightening his back and trying to look inconspicuous, he walked back through the cluster of people and made his way out of the front door. Not wasting any time, he started looking for a phone box. Dom obviously didn’t have his mobile with him, so he craned his neck to get a good look up and down the street. There was no phone box in sight, but there had to be one somewhere close to his location because London’s streets were literally covered with them.

Grim determination dominated his every action then and he hurried up the street, a direction less people seemed to be interested in as it led away from the city centre. Good, that was good. No one paid him any attention anymore and he kept his head down because he had never wanted not to get recognised more than now.

When he turned a corner he was suddenly struck by unexpected luck. There was a bus stop as well as a row of phone boxes just a few feet away and only one of them was occupied. Without thinking he broke into a run and only halted when he had almost bumped into the timetable. It took him a moment to find a bus that would at least take him to Suzanne’s neighbourhood. Then he spun around and shoved a few pounds into the ticket machine. Every move he made was fuelled by haste and the need to get to Matt as quickly as possible. The few seconds he had to wait for the machine to print his ticket felt like a lifetime already, and when he finally had the stupid little thing between his fingers, he put it into his pocket alongside the address. Then he turned around and hurried over to the phone boxes. The drummer ripped the door open and jumped into the booth like his life depended on in. Which it kind of did. He shoved his left hand into his trouser pocket and fished the remaining coins out of it just to push them into the phone. His fingers flew across the keys as he typed out Chris’ number faster than he could think. Then he pressed the receiver to his ear and waited for the familiar click to announce that someone had picked up. It was not more than ten seconds until it did.

“Dom? Dom, is that you?”

“Yeah, ‘course.”

He could hear a relieved sigh on the other end of the line.

“Fuck, Dom!” the bassist exclaimed. “Whitman said they were keeping you in custody and I wouldn’t be able to talk to you. He said that this other detective thinks you’re responsible for Matt’s predicament.”

“Yeah,” the blonde confirmed and nodded his head before he remembered that Chris wouldn’t be able to see the motion. “Thompson is dead set on getting me to jail. I won’t let him.”

“I never believed that anyway. Neither does Whitman, you know. He says he’s trying to get you out.”

“He is, but there’s no time for that. Chris, it’s someone we know. It’s that girl from Smith’s. Suzanne. Look, I don’t have time to explain, I need to get going.”

“Wait, what?” There was clear confusion in Chris’ voice. “How do you know that? Does Whitman know? And what do you mean, you need to get going?”

Okay, Dom could just hang up now, say his time was limited and the police wouldn’t give him an extension. But he didn’t feel like lying to Chris. He needed him to know, and even if Chris would lecture him, he needed to be honest with him.

“Look, I… I did something stupid. But it’s gonna be alright, okay?”

“Dom. Dom, what did you do?”

“I might have escaped from custody?” He shrugged and looked around the small booth. He kind of felt like a kid again, having stolen from the cookie jar. “Don’t say anything. I know it was stupid, but Whitman was gonna go to Suzanne and I couldn’t afford that. I’m gonna find Matt.”

There was silence on the other end and Dom could picture Chris in his mind. The bassist was probably trying to line up all information in his head and then figure out what to do. But Dom didn’t have time for that now.

He was just about to tell Chris a quick goodbye when there was rustling coming through the speaker and Chris finally spoke up again. “Where the fuck are you? I’m coming with you.”

Dom was a bit surprised that there wasn’t any lecture coming, because yes, he knew what he was doing was reckless and beyond stupid. But it seemed like Chris understood his motives perfectly. Or maybe the lecture was going to come later, when they had more time. It wouldn’t matter, though, because by then Matt would be back with them and that weighed a lot more than a possible lecture from the bassist.

“Chris, listen. I need you to stay at home and have my back. I never called you and you haven’t heard from me since I left your place, okay?”

“What-”

“No, listen,” Dom repeated. “We’re running out of time and I can’t pull you into this mess. I just needed you to know and make sure that you’re with me.”

“Of course, Dom,” a desperate sigh came from the speaker, “of course I’m with you. I’ll always be, mate.”

“Good. Then do as I told you. Please.”

Chris’ voice was barely a whisper. “Okay… Okay, Dom. I… Please be careful.”

Dom looked outside and saw the bus pulling up. He needed to cut his goodbye short.

“I’m gonna go now, Matt’s waiting,” and because he felt like he needed to say it, he added “I really love you, Chris. You’re one of my best mates and I… Yeah, I’ll see you later.”

He hung up before he could hear Chris’ answer. He didn’t want to hear it. Dom knew he was being quite dramatic now, but the whole situation had come crashing down in a matter of seconds. This was it. Either he’d find Matt and come home with him or go to prison, or he was going to die trying. No matter what happened now, everything was said and done. There was only one thing left on the agenda: Matt.

The drummer stumbled out of the phone booth and took quick steps towards the already waiting bus. Just in time he jumped through the already closing doors and flashed his ticket. Then he walked up the stairs to the upper deck of the bus and sat down at the back. He wouldn’t be able to relax, but he leaned back nevertheless and watched houses pass by. It was only a matter of time now until he reached his destination.

“Just hang on, Matt. I’m coming. Don’t worry,” he whispered to himself.