John reached behind him, grateful to feel a chair to sink into before his knees gave out. He felt himself going into a full-blown panic, head spinning as he contemplated the possibility that Paul -- his Paul! -- might be in real danger. Brian rushed over to him, forcing his head down. “Head between your knees, lad, before you pass out, that’s it. Deep breaths.”
“Ohh, God…” Lennon sounded like he was on the verge of vomiting.
“I’ll get you some water…”
“Fuck water, get the police!” John choked out. “God…we have to find him…I need to get dressed and go out. I’ll find him.”
“You need to drink this,” his manager said, putting a glass into his hand. “And we must both calm down. This might be nothing, you know, but if there is something wrong, you’re no help if you fall apart.”
John’s forceful exhales sounded like a bull in full fury; his hand shook as he drank down the water, barely hearing Brian, his eyes still wide with fear. “No, Eppy,” he said as he handed off the glass with a shivery breath. He shook his head, wrapping his arms around himself and slouching forward in shivers. “I’ve felt it. I’ve felt it for nearly all this past hour. Something’s wrong.”
“You can’t know that, John. You’re not psychic.”
“Maybe not, but I know Paul.”
“I think we should both take a moment and consider.”
“There’s nothing to fuckin’ consider, man, call the bleedin’ cops!” John stood up suddenly, wavering a bit and then gathering his strewn-about clothing as he started to get dressed. “You call them while I go down there and look for him.”
Epstein reached out and grabbed his arm, stopping John in his tracks. “Look, John, I am as worried about him as you --”
“You can’t be --”
“Of course, I am!” He shook Lennon’s arm with some force. “But we can’t just go off half-cocked, and getting the police involved here, not yet. What if we’re wrong? What if Paul really is somewhere with some girl? He wouldn’t like seeing it all over the papers that while he was getting his itch scratched, we had the police looking for him. He'd feel a laughing-stock. And we wouldn’t want to give the press even a hint of a rumor that any sort of kidnapping plot might ever exist, or have existed. They’d never stop asking you all about it.”
John glared at Brian, pulling his arm away and getting his shoes.
“And, too,” Epstein continued, speaking plainly, “we’d look damn foolish calling the cops because a 23 year-old man with a reputation for fucking anything in front of him is running two hours late.” He tugged John’s arm again. “Think, John! By all means, get dressed, just in case we have to go somewhere, but don’t run off alone with some heroic idea in your head of tracking him down. If he shows up and you’re gone, it will just throw him into a panic, and then we’ll be running about like Keystone Kops!” Brian tried a small smile. “Come on, John. Let’s give him a little more time, before we notify the police.”
John pulled his arm out of Brian’s hold – gently this time, and sat on the edge of the bed. It was too much to think of. No, Paul wouldn’t like it if word got out that he’d caused a fuss because he’d decided to get laid. Something like that had happened once, in America…Minnesota, John remembered, with deputies banging on a hotel door while Paul was trying to finish up with a bird. He’d been furious at the interruption, and even more so that it had made it into the press. “Bad enough we hadn’t finished,” he’d complained, “but Jane had my nuts in a sling over it, too, when she read about it.”
No, John thought. Wouldn’t do to get him in trouble with Jane again.
Not that he believed for a minute that Paul was with someone. He really didn’t believe it, simply because it wasn’t in Paul’s nature to change a plan, once settled. If the notion was to get together in their room with a few drinks, and settle in for the night, then he wouldn’t suddenly go off for a quick shag, unless the bird was Bardot, herself.
And even if he had, he’d likely have shown up, by now.
No. Paul should be here. He should be here now. He knew it. No matter what Eppy said.
John finished tying his laces and reached for his jacket while watching Brian light a cigarette with a slightly trembling hand. Recalling his manager’s tossed-off words -- that John should be prepared ‘just in case we have to go somewhere’ -- John suddenly went stock-still. What was "somewhere"? Where did he mean? Where would they possibly have to go? To a hospital? Because Paul was hurt? To a morgue to identify his body? God, no!
The thought rang every alarm bell in Lennon’s memory as he was instantly and vividly transported to the horror of his mother’s death. That’s what it had been like. The cop at the door. The ride…the short ride to hospital that seemed to take forever and yet still brought them, too soon, to that awful place, and that awful moment. “I’m afraid her injuries were too grave…”
Too grave, and then the grave…Julia, his mother, cold and dead, and forever lost to him. Forever.
John’s stomach was roiling as the familiar feelings of fear, dread, and grief struck through him, reverberating in his head and heart, and causing his breath to hold in his throat. No! This can’t happen twice to me…this can’t happen twice in one lifetime, I can’t live through it again. I barely survived losing Julia. I can’t lose Paul, too! Christ, no! No!
He buried his face into his jacket and began to weep. It was all too much – the grief for Julia, the fear for Paul – it all became mingled together into one singular unit of unendurable pain, a pain that felt like it would bring John close to madness. He felt the sting of tears and could not stop them, nor stop the horrifying keen that arose from his depths and sounded so like the wail of a trapped and wounded animal that Brian nearly jumped out of his skin to hear it, and hurried to the wailing young man.
“John…” he started.
“No! No, Eppy, No!” Lennon’s voice was muffled within his jacket, but his anguish was unmistakable. “I can’t. I can’t lose him…”
Sitting down beside him on the bed, Brian began rubbing small circles on John’s back, gentling his voice. “John, pull yourself together. You can’t break down like this. You don’t even know --”
“Help me!” John cried, shaking his head and moaning in heart-shattering fear. “Help me! Someone help! I can’t. Please…I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”
Brian felt useless as he watched John give every bit of himself over to heartbreak. This wouldn’t do, he knew. This already-fragile man could not be permitted to completely fall apart, or plummet into an abyss of grief. His psyche couldn’t be permitted to imagine itself into genuine, full-borne sorrow before anything was truly known. God forbid, Brian thought, if something really had happened to Paul – if he’d been kidnapped, or worse – John would already be so far gone that the news might drive him over a dangerous edge. He might become psychotic, lost, completely.
“Help me…” It was quieter, now, but the moaning went on and on, with John’s head buried in the deep black fabric as he rocked back and forth, like an inconsolable infant. “Oh, help me…”
Brian took a breath and made a decision.
“Alright," he said quietly, using his firmest, most managerial tone. “I’ll call down to the hotel management and ask for the house detective.”
“No!” John raised his head, his expression unlike anything Brian had ever seen before, as vulnerable and openly terrified as a child unable to shake off a nightmare. “No, Brian, you have to go to them. We can’t wait!”
“John...love...you’re in no shape to go down there, and I can’t leave you here, like this,” Brian explained as softly as he could. “If we are going to wait on calling the police – and I do think we should – we can at least make sure the hotel has looked everywhere, into places we haven’t thought of.”
John’s breath shuddered from him as he wiped his nose on his sleeve, all but breaking Brian’s heart. “Like where?” he asked, sounding hopeful. “What kinds of places?”
“Well, any sort of place. Perhaps the elevators were too slow for him – you know what he’s like – and he took the stairs, and then slipped because he'd been drinking. That's not impossible to imagine, is it? Maybe he’s lying somewhere with a broken ankle. We’ll make sure everyplace has been searched…every stairwell and the roof...”
John's hopefulness could not be sustained. His fear arose again, smothering it, as he once more buried his head and fresh tears came. “No, he’s gone! He’s gone, I know it! Oh, my God, what am I going to do without him?”
With a deep sigh of resignation, and a heart full of fear, Brian moved to the other bed, and picked up the phone.