The Conspiracy

The murder would be perfect. The boisterous crowd would be entirely focused on the stage, watching the dexterous guitarist as he broke into a solo. The scream would sound perfectly normal, and no one would notice what was going on around them. By the time anyone suspected anything, he would have escaped. It would take a very long time even after the crime had been realized for the event to stop. The commotion would be perfectly in the norm to the gullible crowd. By the time the cops had interviewed all five thousand attendees, he would be miles away enjoying a drink in an ally far away. The next morning he would be in a country far away.

Roger would leave an esoteric note, of course. An enigma mystery to bother the detectives for years, possibly forever. The moot case would be on the news for a very long time. They would never find him.

The victim had been his best friend of course. Or so the man thought. Roger and Jack met in New Jersey State Prison, three years earlier. Jack came into prison only a week after Roger and they became close friends, and ironically they committed the same crime as well as received the same punishment. The two deviates became close friends over the next year, and by the time they were released they became roommates. Both had lost everything while away, and they had decided that they would rely on one another until they got back on their feet.

A week ago, Roger won tickets to a local concert. The band, Arle Vieb, was on their first tour. The young crowd they would attract would lack the senses to realize what was going on. Roger knew his plan would work, and he was positive his planning reward him in the end.

Roger sat by his bed, bent over the chest in front of him. He listened out his window to the constant flow of in-desultory Manhattan traffic. Jack would be returning home from work in an hour, and it was time to prepare. He pulled out the boards at the base of the chest, revealing the legacy his father had left for him. Roger picked up the blade and caressed it with his right hand.
***

Jack came home around 6:30. Roger was dressed and ready, despite the fact that the concert would not begin for another two hours. When Jack walked in the room, Roger was pacing out of anticipation. And when Jack walked in the door, Roger knew Jack had something to say.

"Hey," Jack said, removing his coat. "Do you mind if I can have your ticket for a date?"

Roger stared at Jack without saying a word.

"I need this to get back on my feet. I feel bad taking it from you, but this could be important. I'll buy it off you." He finished.

Roger began to laugh. "Are you joking? Even if I gave you this ticket you'd never even be able to get someone. This isn't high school anymore, and we're just two ex-convicts in New York with no money. The only girl you have a chance with will just get you back in jail."

"Actually," Jack replied, "I already have someone. She's a co-worker, and I already invited her. I'm picking her up in an hour."

Who did Jack think he was? Just ditching Roger the night of a concert that he won tickets to? Roger's wrath grew. His plan was immutable. He will go to that concert. This plan was insuperable. There was no way Jack could prevent it.

"Sorry," Roger said, holding his temper in, "But I don't want to miss this concert. The two of us are going. You'll probably find a better woman there anyway. Sorry to ruin your plans, but this concert will be amazing."

Jack smiled slightly, then looked away. Then he looked back up. "Alright, fine. I guess I can come up with an excuse." Jack wondered over to the kitchen to get his cell phone. He glanced at the two tickets on the counter before picking up his phone.

Smirking, Roger went off to take a dump.
***

Roger was shocked when he came back out. Jack was gone. The tickets were gone. In their place lay a note, written on a post-it. Roger wandered over, fuming.

Sorry, but I just can't abandon her. I promise this concert will help me get back on my feet. I really feel like she's the final step I need, and then maybe I'll be able to move out of that rat nest we live in. She's got friends, and if you want we could set you up. I promise, if this night goes well for me, it will go well for you too. Thanks for understanding,
Jack

Roger was furious. How could Jack do such a thing to him! Classic Jack, just how he was before. Roger had known Jack long before jail, way back in high school. When their paths crossed, Roger had played dumb. As far as he knew, Jack had never met him. Jack however, was the reason for the term he served.


It was a classic high-school story. Roger loved a girl, Jack won her. It's a story that happens many times each year in each school. But no, this was different. Roger truly loved the girl. Way more than Jack did. Jack obviously cared only for her looks. Roger saw it every time he watched them through a window. He didn't even have to meet Jack to know the truth, he could see it in his eyes.

Jack had been with Rita since about the time Roger met her. Within a week of meeting her, Roger had seen the two of them. Rita was blind, and couldn't see how Jack felt. She actually believed he felt the same for her. Roger knew. Roger always knew. Roger was right for her he was sure of it.

It didn't take long for Roger to be destroyed. A month after meeting her, he had his first drink. Soon being drunk became his only escape, and he quickly fell from the achiever he once was. His grades dropped, he was thrown off the soccer team. Everything fell apart. None of that bothered Roger. Only Rita. He realized that Jack, a year older, was only with her because it was a prerogative of age. They stayed together, and Roger couldn't bare it. Two months passed, and Roger failed several classes. The only thing clear in his path was summer school. He became entirely precarious. He lacked the care to change that. Roger had watched Jack and Rita countless times, lurking behind a bush or watching from a parked car. He had seen everything. He watched as they moved closer and closer. They had never been in a fight.

At one point, Roger passed out from excessive drinking. When he awoke, a man stood over him. The proprietor of the store next to the alley where he lay.

The man said something, but Roger couldn't understand. The man offered out his hand, and Roger took it. He yanked the man down with full force and began beating him. The man quickly passed out. Still drunk, Roger ran from the alley. He slipped on some Ice and collapsed close to the man. This time when he awoke, it was a police officer standing over him.

Of course Roger acted nice to Jack when they met again, giving things away was always a bad idea. When Jack did not recognize him, Roger saw his opportunity for revenge. Jack fell like a rabbit into a trap. Roger gained his trust. Today, he was so close to revenge. So close to victory. All other attempts had failed in the past, but this one was supposed to work. Eventually, Roger realized it wasn't too late. And that's how Roger ended up buying scalped tickets an hour before the concert began.
***

The seats were second level. The ones he had won were standing room only. In a place like this, the mosh pit couldn't be too big. Roger realized what he had to do.

To his luck, they never checked his pockets. He passed freely through the gate, and into the concert. The hall was already crowding, long lines growing below the bright neon signs. Normally, Roger would be in one of those lines, passing time before the gig began. But not today, today there was more important business to take care of. He climbed the stairway to the second level and found his seat. He sat back, and looked down at the nearly-empty seats.

The stalking days aren't over quite yet, my friend, his head whispered. Roger began to laugh hysterically, and the people around him looked at him. Great way to point yourself out as the creep.

He looked into the mosh pit. Plenty of college kids stood there, mixed in with a minority of adults and teenagers. Roger scanned intensely, looking for Jack. He was close to giving up before seeing his pre-maturely bald walked slowly below him. He was with a redhead, and together they walked down into the pit. Roger lay back slightly to prevent the possibility of being spotted.

Jack and the girl stood together, happy as every first date couple. They faced the stage, and Roger couldn't make out the girls face. Knowing Jack she's gotta be bad. His high-school days are long gone.

Roger knew exactly how things would go. His plan was only slightly changed, this way was probably safer too. In the middle of the concert, he would slowly sneak down. He would attack Jack, and escape before anyone saw him. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

The lights dimmed and the warm-up band was announced. Like Arle Vieb, this band also had a strange name. Gwkk Duew! The band was probably exactly what you'd expect of a warm-up band when the main attraction would probably be better off warming up bigger bands. Where'd they get these guys? Arle Vieb and Gwkk Duew!? Are they an esoteric message? Roger laughed again, this time only once and extremely loud.

A lot of people stared. Jack stared. Roger ducked down, and failed to get a glimpse of the girl's face. Jack turned back around, smiling. He must have been having so much fun.

Gwkk Duew came and went, and the lights came back on. By then, the venue was nearly full. The night was getting late, and Jack still remained oblivious. In about an hour, his task would be complete. He could easily escape, no one would ever realize what was going on. Everything was falling according to plan. All he had to do was wait a little bit longer-

"Are you alright?" he felt an a hand on his arm, and turned to find it was the young woman sitting next to him. He looked down and noticed his goose bumps and realized he had been shaking.

"Yeah, I'm fine... I've just been waiting for this for a while, you know?" He replied, embarrassed.

The girl made a nervous smile. "Are you here alone?" she asked, sympathetic. The woman was in her early twenties, had brown hair and had an obviously candid personality. Roger assumed she must either be a psychiatrist or a teacher.

"Yea, I guess so," Roger said, bending his head slightly. He realized just how psychotic he must seem, sitting alone, shaking out of excitement. "My friend had to bail out at the last moment... How about you?"

"I'm supposed to be here with my boyfriend... but I'm pretty sure he ditched me. He left to get a drink when we first came here and never came back. I don't really mind though, this is really only my second date with him... I never really liked him that much anyway."

"Sorry to hear it"

"It's alright, we can have fun I guess."

An awkward silence followed before either of them said anything. "Do you come to many concerts?" The girl asked.

"Occasionally, I won tickets for this one on the radio"

"Oh, I own this seat and the one next to me. My dad knows the owner of this place. My boyfriend actually had tickets himself, I guess he didn't realize I owned these... I think he was actually scalping his other tickets, not getting a drink. By now he obviously left with his money though."

Then, after a little while, "You should come with me sometime, you get to hear some pretty cool bands."

Before Roger could reply, the lights dimmed again. Everyone began to rise. The crowd began to roar.

The girl shouted something but was drowned out by the crowd.

"Excuse me?" He shouted

"I never got your name," she repeated

"Roger Wells," He told her. He would have perused her any other day; a shame he'd be leaving the country in the morning.

"Roger? Its Rita Shotwell! Do you remember me? I was in your algebra class when we were sophomores!" She screamed, excited.

Roger's heart stopped. Rita? It has been so long since he had last seen her, he hadn't seen her since he was arrested. All the anger he felt earlier had died. Rita. The source of all his problems. He suddenly realized that she must have broken up with Jack when he was arrested. Roger was amazed by his stupidity. He almost murdered a man who had done no harm in the last four years.

Rita never even mentioned Rogers arrest, the man he nearly killed. Could she have possibly have forgotten about it? The event must have been major in his school. Everyone must have talked about it. Roger was a lucky man.

They had a great time. The concert quickly became the greatest night of Roger's life, and all he had nearly thrown away was found. The band was amazing. Nothing could possibly go wrong now.

But he was wrong. About an hour later, Rita turned around suddenly. He knew instantly her boyfriend was back; he could tell by her formidable face. Roger turned around slowly, and for the second time that night, his heart stopped. In front of him stood Jack, and he was smiling. Rita's face suddenly changed, and she looked back to Roger.

"Rog, this is my boyfriend. I don't know if you remember him, he went to our school too. His names Jack Bergman. He's a year older than us." Rita said excitedly. She was smiling. Not pretending to smile, she was actually smiling. Jack quickly took Roger's place next to her, and Rita didn't even look back to him. The room began to turn, and he looked towards the nearest exit. The mammoth crowd stretched as an impervious line, there was no escaping. Roger felt melancholy sweep over him, and the plaintive man who had so nearly tasted success stood broken. He felt just as he did when he was a novice to such pain, back in high school, when he lost himself the first time.

His will to live, the will to be a good man he had so recently acquired, was gone. He realized he would have to do what he had come here to do. Starring onto the suddenly austere stage, he reached in his pocket. Slowly, he pulled out the weapon. Roger's mind was made, all life was gone from his face. He acted solely on instinct when he slowly turned to his right, and faced Rita.

Without any care, he pushed her aside. She screamed when she saw the shining object in his hand, and Jack turned. Roger dove, and time seemed to stop. He could see the mass in front of him, and in him there only burned hatred. As he fell through the air he felt no regret, only hate. He kept falling, and falling. The next thing he felt was the concrete below him, a heavy blow to the face. Roger fell unconscious, his task failed.

When Roger was taken away, he was indifferent. He only stared forward, showing no emotion. They tied him to the stretcher, but there was no point. Roger made no struggle. They often had to check to make sure he breathed. All the way to the hospital he stared upward. Eventually he became put on life support, after showing no effort to eat or drink. No, he was not in a coma, doctors frequently reported. To Roger, there was nothing. There was no pain, and there was no joy. The world passed by like a TV on mute. Roger didn't care.


Epilogue:


Rita stood next to Jack. She put her arm around him. They stared out at the slowly clearing crowd, listened to the grumbles. To the left of them police officers were interviewing people, trying to figure out what had happened. They were the first ones called over, and Jack was still recovering from his narrow escape from death.

"Well, it's done." Rita said, tilting her head at Jack.

"Yea... It didn't end how I had expected though, that was close." Jack said, looking down at his arm.
"Finally, after all these years. That man was a monster!" Jack replied.

"So he never even suspected what was going on?" she asked.

"Not at all. I don't think he even recognized me." Jack boasted.

The couple stood on the edge of the balcony for a very long time. Eventually Jack reached into his shirt pocket, and pulled out a small, shiny ring.

"And now we can wear these publicly," he said as he slipped it on his finger. It would be their second anniversary next month.

"It's about time, my parents were getting suspicious."

The stood for a while longer in silence.

"I think he saw someone who looked like you while you were down there," Rita said. "I looked down too, and he looked a lot like you. If he wasn't with someone else I think I would have thought it was you." She said as she tilted her head up slowly once again. One of the policeman began to wonder over.

"Jack and Ashlee Bergman, you are free to go" the officer said.

"So he bought your disguise?" Jack asked.

"Somehow, he actually did." she replied. "And didn't you say Rita had red hair? He never even asked me about that."





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