The bus was badly ventilated and in combination with the nervous energy that currently dominated every fibre of Dom’s body, that made for a dangerously sticky mix. By that point the blonde did nothing but look around frantically and fumble around with the leg of his jeans while the city flew by the windows in a blur. The bus passed station after station and Dom felt like he would never arrive at his destination. Stuck on an endless bus ride while Matt was rotting in some secluded room.
Dom had tried to follow the winding roads the vehicle was taking, just so his mind was occupied for the time being. But soon enough his thoughts had travelled back to what he was about to do. There was no immediate plan he could follow. No idea of how he wanted to get into Suzanne’s house and let alone get Matt out of it unharmed. He guessed that he would just have to improvise as soon as he knew the premises. The problem was, though, that he wasn’t a burglar or a spy or an athlete. He had no special abilities that would help him with his objective.
Dom only had the determination that drove him to this desperate action. And the need to finally bring Matt back to safety. Hopefully that would be enough to arise successfully from this undertaking. He would either save Matt or die trying.
The drummer looked up with a start. Had he really just thought that? Well, he had indeed and he wasn’t too sure why he was so surprised by it. Of course he would risk it all for his best friend and… well, whatever he was for him. Deep down he had always known that he would do anything for Matt, but he had never spelled it out so clearly, not even to himself. Somehow it had always been one of the unspoken principles he lived by.
Just when he was about to close his eyes and try to collect his thoughts, the bus came to a sudden halt and he rocked forward in his seat, not having expected the abrupt motion. He clamped his hands to the metal bar in front of him to steady himself and was suddenly reminded of the uncomfortable feeling of being stuck in a prison cell. By now it almost seemed unreal that less than a few hours ago he actually had been behind closed bars. This day had already been far too long for his liking and for all he knew it might stretch out in front of him for eternity.
When had his life become such a twisted mess? Ah, right… when he had refused to believe Matt’s paranoia. But no. No, not those thoughts again. They would only weaken him in his resolve and that was the very last thing he needed. He needed to be strong and determined and resourceful.
One look at the display told him that this was actually his stop. Wow, he’d been buried in his thoughts so deeply that he’d almost missed the most crucial stop in his life. And didn’t that sound dramatic?
Not hesitating for another moment, the blonde got up from his seat, ran down the short way to the stairs, jumped them down, taking two or three at once, and managed to squeeze through the doors just in time. Some of the other passengers shot him annoyed looks because apparently he had delayed the departure for a few seconds. Well, in a city like London it was all about saving time, even if it was only the smallest amount. Not caring about that for the slightest bit, though, Dom immediately started scanning his surroundings. It was one of the most expensive neighbourhoods around but still he wasn’t in the most private one. Obviously people with that kind of money didn’t want to live too close to anything like a bus stop. So Dom would have to walk some more in order to get to the heart of this exclusive borough.
With the address neatly tucked away in his back pocket and his heart and mind full of a contradictory mix of fear, anticipation, hope, and… well, more fear, the blonde made his way down the street. He really hoped Suzanne wouldn’t see him coming. That would put a very quick end to this undertaking. The thing with trying to be inconspicuous was, though, that the harder you tried, the more obvious you got. So Dom tried to find a balance between seeming like a sneaky perpetrator and looking around like some overly enthusiastic tourist. Fortunately there weren’t too many people around and most of them were rolling down the streets in their expensive cars, anyway. It was weird how, on the one hand, Dom could be part of a neighbourhood like this because, well, he definitely had the financial means. But on the other hand, he had never felt as isolated in such surroundings as he did now. And who were those people, anyway? People who didn’t even notice that an actual person was being held captive just next door.
No, Dominic, no! It’s not the time to blame strangers. Not helpful! he scolded himself. Focus!
Pulling himself together, the drummer continued down the pavement and snuck the odd look at the houses he passed by in order not to miss his destination. In the end it took him about half an hour to find his way from the bus stop and through the streets lined with imposing, dark-green hedges that blocked most of the view of the actual houses behind them. But, to his luck, most of the house numbers were at least visible from the street and so he had no real problems with finding Suzanne’s place.
The mansion (because it was one hell of a big-ass house!) was sitting neatly between the other estates, although separated from them by hedges and big gardens on both sides. The white-washed facades were shining in the late afternoon light and Dom felt weirdly exposed. Right now he would’ve prefered the security of darkness. But well, he’d just have to make do with the circumstances. The path that led to the front door was plastered with artfully asymmetrical granite stones and flanked by lawn and some bushes. Everything looked well-tended but at the same time very natural. Some people just a had a hand for stuff like this. Dom didn’t and, quite frankly, he didn’t care for it one bit.
The question was, how was he going to get inside now? Knocking was definitely out of the question. Oh hello, I just wanted to get into your house so I can take my best friend out of your disgusting, slimy claws. Yeah, that wasn’t the best idea. He looked up the front of the building. There were so many windows, but he would never be able to reach them. Even though there was a tree close to one he doubted he could climb it, and even if he managed to do it without hurting himself he didn’t think he would be able to climb the branch without falling. No, there had to be another way in. Just in case, though, he filed that possibility away for later. Maybe he could find an alternative in once he’d scouted the whole area.
Carefully he moved towards the building. The closer he came, the more he could feel adrenaline being pumped through his veins. He felt like an agent or something similar when he tried to hide between bushes and whatever else he could move behind. For a short moment he tried to imagine what he’d look like in a black suit with black sunglasses and black leather gloves, but he discarded the image quickly. He really must have been on Matt-withdrawal if he came up with weird, random moments like this.
Once he reached the wall he pressed himself against it, heart hammering in his chest. He peeked through the window next to him, but couldn’t see anyone, so he crouched down and crawled under it to reach the other side. There, he checked his surroundings again. It was still eerily quiet.
He took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves.
This had been a bad idea. Maybe he should have called Whitman, after all. Told him what he’d done and that he’d go back to the station with him once Matt was safe. The CI would have understood, right? But what if he hadn’t? Whitman had supported the drummer so far, but it didn’t mean that his sympathy and cooperation was endless. No, Dom had done the right thing by going on his own. But right now, he felt so helpless. He hadn’t realised until now how much he’d come to rely on others to get through this. Maybe not only this, maybe he’d always needed his friends’ support to get through everything. He should be more independent, no?
The blonde shook his head. He really needed to stop having these thoughts out of nowhere. Of course he needed his friends’ support, it was only human. He needed to give himself more credit. While it was true that in the beginning of this nightmare he had been helpless and needed Chris to get him back on his feet, he’d done the rest alone. And, truly, he could be proud of that. If he weren’t such a strong person and believed in Matt and everyone else he wouldn’t be here now.
That brought him back to reality. He was here. Here being the house of the woman that potentially held Matt captive. Matt could be inside. Waiting to get out. Waiting for him. His existential crisis would have to wait until later.
The drummer followed the front of the house and turned the corner to find a huge hedge blocking his way. It was too tall to see what was directly behind it, but when Dom looked up he could see that the majority of the house’s front was made out of windows. Truly, if the circumstances had been different and he were merely visiting a random house it would have taken his breath away, it did look beautiful.
He approached the hedge and got ready to climb over it when he pulled his hand away abruptly, pain shooting through the palm of his left hand. When he put it up in front of his face he saw blood seeping down the digit. Ah, thorns, he concluded and discarded his plan of climbing over the bushes. Instead, he followed the line of briar until the end. There was indeed an opening in the hedge, but when he looked inside he could only see more bushes and, if he looked closely, the the cold wall under huge windows. No door in sight, but he couldn’t see everything of course. But what were the odds? He contemplated the situation quickly.
Think, Dominic. He’d followed his heart and had done well so far, so what did his heart tell him now? He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind. Maybe he could sneak into this maze and navigate to the end. He might find a door, or he might find more walls and waste a good 10 minutes. He could also go around the house some more and try to find an opportunity to get inside and waste another 10 minutes. Or he could go back, man up and climb the damn tree. But what if he couldn’t open the window? He didn’t think it had been open. But at least it would be progress in some way.
He opened his eyes and nodded to himself.
“Tree. I can do it,” he whispered and set off back to the street.
The tree didn’t look too sturdy in Dom’s opinion. But that didn’t mean anything. He was scared of climbing it, so of course Dom didn’t trust a piece of wood. He was afraid of hurting himself, he always had been. The blonde remembered when he’d broken his arm as a teenager. It had been humiliating enough that it had happened when he’d tried to throw a damn ball (because really, how did that happen?!), but he’d gone away with a trauma. He hadn’t done any real sports since then and he tried to evade potentially dangerous situations at any cost. As much as you could avoid that with a certain Matt Bellamy around, that is. Now, however, he had no choice. Either he’d climb that damn tree or waste a chance to find the one person he cared about the most. That was an easy decision, really.
Dom looked left and right to check if he was still alone. He didn’t know what he’d expected, as he reminded himself that this area was secluded and the only person who might see him was probably Suzanne. And that was a risk he was willing to take. Fear was the last thing he wanted to let get into the way of things. Between him and Matt. With a deep breath he put his hands to one of the lower branches and closed his eyes for a second. You can do this, he thought to himself. No, you have to! There is no other option. Man up, Howard!
Then, with a labored groan, he pulled himself up and supported his weight with his feet against the thick trunk. All the years of extensive drumming really came in useful to him now. It wasn’t as hard as he had expected it to be and without too much effort (well, enough effort, really), he had soon reached the middle of the deciduous tree. From here he could look into one or two rooms but there was still no one around. Also, and this annoyed Dom more than anything at that moment, both windows in reach were firmly closed. Sighing deeply he looked up to the next floor. There was an open window. There actually was an open window! But shit, he would have to climb a good six feet higher in order to reach it. Well, he didn’t really have a choice, did he?
A few strained movements and some balance problems later he was only a few inches away from the window-sill. With his legs wrapped around the branch he was sitting on, he reached for it and edged forward as far as his weight and the unstable wood beneath him allowed. While slightly swaying from side to side, he decided to risk it and lunged towards the window in a desperate attempt. And thank God, it worked. His hands were clamping the sill and his feet balanced the rest of his body on the branch. A few quick and considered motions finally catapulted him through the window and into the room.
The roughness of the thrust made for an uncomfortable encounter between his face and the carpeted floor. He stayed there for several moments, face down, just listening to his surroundings. Had someone heard his less than graceful entrance? But there was no movement to be heard, or even the slightest sign that anyone was inside the house, so the blonde got up gingerly and staggered to the door that would hopefully get him closer to his goal.
He was on the second floor above ground, that much he knew. There was no third storey to the building. But where was he supposed to start searching? There’d been no windows in the pictures and the video recordings. So down was probably the right direction to go, he guessed, as the rest of the house pretty much appeared to be covered with windows..
There was a rather dark corridor outside the door, lined with more doors. This house was even huger than it looked from the street. But fortunately there was a bright light coming from one end and Dom could see the shadow of a banister cast on the wall. There had to be a staircase just around the corner. Down. Yes, down.
Still there was no sign of Suzanne. No sign of life in the whole house, actually. What if he was wrong? What if Matt wasn’t here? What if everything, all his efforts had been in vain? No, this was exactly the wrong moment to start with this shit again. He hadn’t even seen the rest of the house yet. Christ, I have no time for this, he scolded himself and proceeded down the stairs as quietly as he could possibly manage.
It didn’t take him long to reach the ground floor of this imposing building. How it could be inhabited by only one person was beyond him. The report he had found in Whitman’s office stated that Suzanne lived in a single household. Well, right now she had a roomy. An involuntary one at that.
The corridor down here was a lot brighter and more open than the upper two and the walls were lined with photographs and expensive looking art pieces. Much like the other corridors, though, this one was also riddled with doors on both sides, none of them indicating that there might be a trapped singer behind them. But he didn’t have any time to muse about that. If he had to open every single door, then so be it.
Proceeding to do exactly that, he hurried from door to door, finding a lot of different rooms of mostly undefinable purpose. At one point he actually needed to do a double take. The room behind the nondescript door offered an overwhelming view of the garden behind the house. Its far wall seemed to be made of nothing but glass and Dom felt like he was intruding on something too beautiful to fathom. But, and that was his one and only concern at the moment, there was still no sign of Matt. None at all. So he shut the door again and made his way further down the endless corridor.
This house was indeed the perfect setting for a nightmare, he thought. Innumerable doors, dark corners, no sign of life, but always the looming threat of getting caught by a psychotic murderer. Shaking his head and trying to focus again, he came across a door that seemed heavier than the previous ones. Instantly alerted, he pushed it open forcefully and was faced with a downward staircase. It was considerably darker and Dom felt dread rising in his chest. But there was also some sort of pull in him that drew on his every fibre and he just knew that this was were he needed to go; further down.
When he reached the floor, he found the new corridor in pale, weak light like the bulbs were trying their best to stay awake but just couldn’t. However, directly next to him there was yet another flight of steps. Even further down? What was this, the entrance to hell? Because yes, it literally felt like that to him. This house, much like its owner, contained a lot more than could be seen from the outside. And its contents scared him greatly. But the prospect of possibly finding Matt kept him in motion.
He moved on to the next staircase and followed it down to an even darker corridor and suddenly he found himself surrounded by impenetrable blackness. The drummer would have given anything at this moment to have a lighter or at least his mobile phone so he could have some form of light. But as he didn’t have either of these items he could only feel his way around.
There was only the wall to touch, no doors or frames that would change the feeling under his fingertips. He didn’t expect anything to be down here, this was clearly a dead end. And yet, his gut instinct told him to keep going.
After a few more steps he could actually see a weak light shining at the bottom close to the floor. His legs moved on their own accord until he stood right in front of a, he supposed, huge door. The light was coming from the room behind it and Dom’s heart leaped in his chest with new hope. This was the only room down here, it seemed, and it was lit from the inside. When he found a handle he gripped it hard and couldn’t stop the shudder that went through his body. There was no reason to keep such a room alight, unless...
His heart suddenly calmed and he felt dizzy. The blonde gripped the handle harder.
This was it. His body and mind knew it. His instincts told him that he’d found him. Finally.
Dom didn’t know how he could be so sure. This could be another disappointment, after all. Matt could be in another room, or not even in this house. But he’d never felt like this before, never had his body reacted the way it did. He knew he wouldn’t be able to cope if he was wrong.
The drummer took a deep breath and prepared himself, then pulled at the handle. The door creaked and groaned, but it slid open with relative ease.
He was met by broad light, so bright that it stung his eyes a bit. He shielded them when he walked inside until he got somewhat accustomed to the brightness so he could quickly scan his surroundings.
There was a huge mirror taking over most of the wall to the side. Dom was sure that this was a one-way mirror, there was no other explanation as to why a monster like that would have been down here in the basement. His eyes roamed further. A piano to the side, a small table in the middle of the room, a bed in the far corner. A guitar leaning against the nightstand. Dom frowned.
That looked suspiciously like one of Matt’s guitars. When did it get lost? He couldn’t remember missing it, but then again, he hadn’t checked their equipment since they left Helsinki the other day. But they should have detected something like that sooner, no? It only showed how unperceptive they were. They hadn’t seen Napolitano at the gigs or the hotel, Dom hadn’t realised his necklace had been missing for so long… How many items had Suzanne taken from right under their noses? How often had she or her… whatever Napolitano had been to her, been close to them without any of them realising it? Goosebumps rose on his flesh.
There was movement on the bed and Dom automatically trained his eyes on the lump. Dark hair peeked out from under the poor excuse of a blanket and Dom felt like exploding right on the spot.
He quickly ran over and knelt in front of the bed, his hand shaking when he extended it to touch the hand that had found its way out of the blanket, as well. The body seemed to feel his presence as blue eyes opened wearily. Dom smiled at him when his face turned into a frown, clearly not being able to process what was happening. The blonde’s hand moved to a slightly bruised cheek and stroked it lovingly. The brunet gasped. Their eyes locked.
“It’s okay. I’m here now, Matt.”