PrologueTrust is a funny thing. It’s fragile and indefinable, something that can’t be seen or heard or touched. Trust is something you either have, or you don’t. It can appear in an instant, and it can disappear in an instant. Trust is something that can build from something crazy, but also from something normal.
Trust is a lot like love.
So it was funny to me that someone who was so completely off-the-rocker insane, someone who should’ve been the bad guy in this story, could earn my trust even after she kidnapped me. Maybe it was because she was a girl. Maybe it was because I had this uncontrollable desire to help her in any way. I didn’t know, and I still don’t.
All I know is that trust alone is what I have to go on, now that I’m stuck here in the middle of this mess. And trust is going to have to be enough.
It was Blake’s idea.
I’m not sure what made him suddenly decide to hold a surprise concert in Barnsdall Park in the middle of the night, although I can understand why. Our band, 88Keys, hasn’t been in the spotlight since three months ago when Blake had turned seventeen. We were bored, simple as that. Blake even wrote a song about it, but Bruno Mars beat him to the punch with “The Lazy Song”.
I was the tweeter in our family, so as soon as Blake came up with the spontaneous idea I tweeted it to all of our fans. I got a ton of text-squeals back, which was gratifying. It was nice to know that people hung onto our every word. Blake rushed around our Los Angeles house—because we had more than one, of course—grabbing instruments and notebooks and trying to decide what clothes or sneakers he should wear.
“Rocky!” he exclaimed, running up to me and holding up two guitars—one red and one blue. “Which one should I use for the surprise concert?”
I barely had time to open my mouth before he glanced at them again and shook his head. “You’re right—they’re both too dark to play at night. I’ll get my white one. Thanks, Rocky!” And he dashed off again.
Blake was childish. It made sense, because he was the youngest in the family, so he had an excuse. He was kind of like the youth in our brotherhood, while Shane was more serious and I guess I was a mixture of both. Blake was always ready with a smile.
Shane was probably the opposite. He was sardonic, one of those dark, brooding bad boys chicks couldn’t get enough of. He didn’t talk unless he had to, but when he did it was usually with a smirk. Shane was usually the target of Blake’s infinite pranks—I think Blake was trying to draw some sort of reaction from him, but Shane was as about as expressionless as a rock.
I already had my outfit picked out. While Blake was careful about what he mixed and matched, I was more the person who would throw something on and be done with it, and that’s why I had on a black and red leather jacket, a dark red T-shirt advertising Robin, my favorite non-superhero from my current favorite TV show, Young Justice, loose jeans, and some sweet black Nike kicks. The choker necklace Mom gave me before she died hung around my neck as always. I wasn’t a sensitive person, but if one thing made me feel closer to Mom, it was music and that necklace.
Shane was ready to go, too. He chose black and silver instead of black and red, with black denim skinny jeans and silver boots. He was lounging in the kitchen with me, strumming his Solidbody electric guitar that had been custom made to fit in the crook of his elbow. Shane was the guitarist in our band. All of us could play, but he’d been playing the longest and that automatically made him better at it. Same thing with Blake and the drums, and me at piano.
I glanced at the clock on one of the kitchen’s many ovens. “Blake, it’s almost nine o’ clock!” I yelled. “We’re going to be late if you don’t haul your—”
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” Blake came flying down the stairs and into our kitchen. He’d kept up with the black theme, going for black and blue with a blue jacket and black jeans. He’d gone with the blue guitar again, probably deciding that it didn’t need to be seen if it matched his outfit. Blake gave us both a bright smile. “This is gonna be sick.”
I rolled my eyes and caught Shane smirking slightly as he stood and stretched. Blake bounced excitedly as he all but skipped out the door, giving the picture of our mother hanging on the wall a kiss as he went. Shane kissed his fingers and then the picture on his way out, and I did the same, lingering on her soft brown eyes and sandy blonde hair. I’d gotten most of my looks from her as the only blonde in the family. I missed her. Giving the glass another quick kiss I slipped out the door and closed it quietly behind me.
“Did you leave a note?” I asked Shane as I slipped into our silver Toyota Camry.
We’d done this before; ditching our Dad and bodyguards, I mean. The most trouble we’d ever gotten into was having to run from a mob of fans, and that hasn’t happened in a while, so we were confident we didn’t need any of them. Dad meant well, but sometimes his overbearing protectiveness, just like his overbearing height, could be a little choking.
Shane drove quickly. Nine at night was cocktail time for Hollywood, so I wasn’t surprised to see the familiar LA traffic crowding the streets. Luckily for us, Barnsdall Park was only a couple of blocks from our house. It was small in the Hollywood sense, but it had a perfect field surrounded by trees that was just right for holding an impromptu concert.
“Is this solo?” Shane asked Blake.
“Yeah,” he said. “I didn’t want to bother the guys.”
Blake was talking about our other bandmates. While we were a brother band, nobody could just pull off band fame with just three people. There were five more in all—Ash Drake on bass guitar, Karen Williams and Mike Jackson for backup vocals, Joy Hart on violin, and Jake Moore on keyboard. They came on tour with us and played when we had scheduled things, but Blake was right—they’d just be downright cranky called out in the middle of the night, no matter how close we are.
We made it to the park in minutes, and I was impressed to see how many fans actually made it out in time. There were at least a couple hundred, all crammed into the small field. Shane, Blake, and I parked our car right in front of them and they all screamed, probably recognizing us on sight. We had really dedicated fans. They even waited patiently while we got our mics and amps set up. A few minutes after that and we were all rocking out to the music.
Music has always been a big thing for my family. Back when Mom was alive, she had this guitar and she would sit us down and strum it while we made up songs about school and getting our pajamas on and stuff like that. It seems really silly now that I’m older but they were some of the best memories I had. Now I could feel her all around me as I sang and danced and played my guitar. Blake was right—we really needed this. I was going crazy cooped up in the house doing nothing all month.
We were into our third song and everything was going great until the feedback came. The thing about mics and amps is that they don’t really mix very well. If you stand in the wrong spot, you get really loud, high, painful screeching from the speakers and a headache to last you a week at a time. Trained musicians who’ve been doing concerts for years know where to stand and where not to stand. Blake, Shane, and I have been doing concerts for years. We knew where to stand. There shouldn’t have been any feedback—not only that, but it definitely shouldn’t have been that loud.
I knew what the high pitched wail was but that didn’t mean I was immune to it. One minute I was rocking out and the next I was on the ground, hands clapped over my ears, eyes squeezed shut in pain. If it was bad for us it must’ve been twenty times worse for our fans. They were hearing it amplified on the speakers. Next to me, Blake writhed on the ground. His mouth was open and I think he was screaming, but I couldn’t hear a thing. My ears were ringing with a million bells, but I realized the sound had stopped. It was only a short burst of feedback—incredibly painful, but at least it didn’t last long enough to rupture my ear drums or something.
Someone grabbed my arm and I looked up, trying to focus on the hazy figure standing above me. It was a girl, I think, a girl with long, sleek black curls and headphones over her ears. I locked eyes with her for a second, and they were cold and calculating and not in the least bit fan-like. She reached for my face with a cloth and that’s when I knew I was in trouble.
The call came at two in the morning. The man in the bed rolled over and picked it up. He hadn’t been sleeping—he rarely ever did—so it wasn’t an interruption, although it was unwelcome.
The man didn’t have to say anything, because the voice on the other end started to talk as soon as the line was picked up. “You saw on the news?”
“I don’t watch the news,” the man told him.
“You should. It would keep you up to date.”
The man blinked slowly into the darkness of the hotel bedroom he was currently staying in. “I assume you aren’t calling me at this hour to reprimand me for my lack of television use.”
There was a dry chuckle on the other end. “True enough. The girls. The boss thinks they’ve resurfaced.”
That got his attention fast. The man sat up, wide awake now. “Is he sure this time?”
“Positive. Turn on the news and you’ll know why.”
It only took a couple of seconds for the man to grab the remote and turn on the TV, switching to the local news station. A puzzled frown sat on his lips. “I don’t know. This seems a little upscale for two teenagers to pull off.”
“They’re that good,” the voice on the other end said. “That’s why he’s so sure—those girls are the only ones smart enough and ambitious enough to succeed.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Use the boy, this… Rocky Nelson. Find him and you find the girls. The boss wants them dead and the keys retrieved.”
The voice on the other line hung up, and the man was left to stare at the television screen, where still shots of three teenage celebrities flashed repeatedly, the anchorwoman’s voice full of false panic and sympathy. A slow smile spread across his face.
This could be fun.