7/11/2012

Night Bird Flying - Chapter 16: Burning Of The Midnight Lamp




The attack was investigated and two bodies were uncovered.  Several people were arrested at the scene, but when Johnny called everyone that attended the show the next day, he discovered that they were all fine, save a few cuts and bruises from the brawl.  He sighed in relief at the news, but desperately hoped that the people arrested at the scene included Ramsey and Eugene.

In the aftermath of it all, Johnny had recovered from his wounds fairly quickly and within a few days, the band was back to practicing again.  They weren't paid for their last venue because of the brawl and were actually banned from ever performing at the Spanish Castle again, much to their disappointment, since performing there was supposed to be a weekly gig for the band. However, the brawl itself did amplify their name, Electric Church, as that was always mentioned in the topic for those that spoke of the incident which happened right after their first set.  Unfortunately, this was also a topic noticed by the police, who interrupted one of their practices to question them.

Each of them were taken downtown and told to present their side of the story.  Because of the chaos that transpired backstage, none of them had even seen that Hal or Salem had been killed during the incident, nor had they seen Johnny commit one of the murders.  Everyone explained that they had gotten in on the action when Chase and Shelly spotted the band members of Calypsis approaching and notified everyone that they were there to crash the party.  Johnny, who had prepared his own alibi with the help of Uncle Chuck, stated that he was in the bathroom at the time that the fight broke out and was blindsided by a group of terrified workers that mistakened him for an offender, thus his injuries.  Uncle Chuck had been in the same bathroom during the time of the incident so with his confirmation, Johnny's alibi checked out and he was let go.  He was sure he wouldn't see the last of the backlash that the ambush by Calypsis had caused, but things needed to keep moving with the band if they were going to make up for the loss of the venue.

A few months had passed since the incident and the realization that the big concert was growing ever so close was more evident than ever among the band.  They had prepared concert versions of each song, adding about a minute of length to each selection.  Now that time was winding down and the school year was nearly over, things were getting tight for the band.  Johnny, Shelly, Chase, and Lorenzo were seniors.  Oliver was still a freshman, due to the time he missed in the coma and Caitlin was only a junior.  Paul had hired Dino Bradley and Lesley Strokes, who were still mourning the loss of their childhood friend and lead guitarist after the attack and currently in hiatus musically without their full-set, as potential stand-ins for Lorenzo, Chase, Shelly, and Oliver.  Both were multi-instrumentalists and could play the instruments of their stand-ins on the off-chance that one of the band members were forced to pull out of the concert for whatever reason.  Johnny was the trump card though.  There would be no replacement for his vocals or his solos.  No Johnny meant no concert, period.

On top of this, the Senior Project was well underway for the students and Johnny still stuck by his refusal to partake in it.  With this in mind, he knew that his chances of graduating were very small unless some miracle diploma fell out of the sky on graduation day.  He didn't know if the others were doing it, but frankly he didn't care and when he told Uncle Chuck, he didn't seem to worry much either.  In the meantime, the seniors and juniors were getting ready for Prom, which was closer than anyone had ever expected.  The time to buy tickets had passed and everyone Johnny knew happened to be going except him.  He didn't particularly mind, since he wouldn't have a date to begin with.  May had chosen to go with Oliver, Lorenzo had charmed Caitlin into going with him, and Chase, with every other girl turning him down, reluctantly decided to go with Shelly.

It wasn't until one day after school, that Johnny was approached by Razzberry at the last minute, who handed him his Prom ticket, stating that he didn't need it since he had decided to spend that night working on new material in his studio.  Johnny took it dismissively and didn't think about it anymore until he received a call from Chase the day of the prom, who found out that Johnny had a ticket.

"Bro, you seriously need to go," Chase shouted into the phone frantically.  "I can't be there alone with Shelly.  That's four hours of hell."

"I don't know man," Johnny said, sitting on his bed strumming away on his guitar as always.  "I don't really feel like goin'.  It's all a big ego scene anyway; I don't see why the rest of you guys want to go when you know how the people at that school are.  Besides, I don't have a suit to wear and that's a requirement."

"Dude, borrow something from your uncle.  I'm sure he's got a suit or something.  Listen, I really need you here or this is going to be an awkward night for me.  Shelly is probably going to kick my ass before its even over.  There's nobody for me to hang out with to make it better either.  Oliver is going to be with May and I already know she's not going to want me bothering him.  Lorenzo will be there but I don't know if he'll be busy or anything.  Just come, dude.  Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not comfortable around anybody else.  When the three of us are together, you, me, and Shelly, we make a good team.  Besides, what else do you have to do on a Saturday night?"

Johnny sighed and let go of the guitar.  "Okay, I'll think about it."

"Think hard and long, bro.  Actually, don't think long because it's noon now and the thing starts at 7."

"Alright, I'll call you later about it.  Bye."  Johnny hung up the phone and got up, pulling off the Night Bird and lying it on his bed.  He walked downstairs and went into Uncle Chuck's room, which was always open now since his door had been broken off its hinges thanks to the incident with Joey.  Chuck was lifting weights by his bed when Johnny entered.  "Hey, Uncle Chuck, do you have a suit I can borrow for tonight?"

"What're we talkin', a business suit?" he asked, deep into his weight-lifting.

"No, like a dress suit.  Somethin' to wear to a special occasion."

"Why, where are you goin'?"

"School prom is tonight," Johnny said, leaning against the doorway post.

"I thought that wasn't your kind of scene?"

"A friend of mine can't survive four hours on his own so he wants me to go.  Figured I should help him out, even though he hasn't done shit for me."

"That's noble of you," Chuck said, finishing his last rep and turning to Johnny with a swollen muscular body, glistening with sweat.  "Got one in the closet over there."

"Thanks," Johnny said, turning to the closet and opening it.  "Which one would you suggest?"

"Got a pink one in the back there."

"Pink?" Johnny asked, turning back to Chuck with a smirk.  "What, do you want me to look like a pimp?"

"Hey, that suit will give you permission to slap whatever bitch you see there.  I'm sure you gonna need it."

"I think I'll take the blue 3-piece, thanks," Johnny replied, pulling it out by the hanger.  There was a black tie tied to the base of it to go with the ensemble.

"Hey, your birthday is tomorrow,” Uncle Chuck said, going back to his weights.  "You realize that right?"

"Nah, I wasn't aware of that, Uncle Chuck," Johnny said with sarcasm, checking out the suit and sizing it up on his body.  "Thanks for tellin' me."

"Yep.  Big 1-8.  Tomorrow, you'll be able to do all the things adults do.  Like go to jail.  Or buy lottery tickets.  There anythin' you want?"

"Not in particular.  Unless some tips on perfectin' Electric Church count as a present."

"Nice try," Uncle Chuck said, smiling.  "Your momma will probably send you somethin'.  She's been talkin' about you a lot lately.  How come you never call her, tell her what you're doin' with the band?"

"Same reason why you won't tell me about your band with my dad.  Just don't want to talk."

"Alright, fair enough," Chuck said, finishing his final set and dropping the weight on the bed.  "Now get out of here, I got to do my wrap-up stretches."

"All right, thanks again for the suit," Johnny said stepping out of the room.

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Johnny was dressed sharply in the blue 3-piece suit several hours later.  It fit him perfectly.  He was headed for the door, grabbing Uncle Chuck's keys on his way out.
"Uncle Chuck, I'll be back in a few hours."

"Alright, love you, boy....And don't wreck that car, I haven't paid off the tags."
"Love you too and I'll try my best to," Johnny said sarcastically, stepping outside and heading for the car.  About thirty minutes later, he was pulling up in the school parking lot which was nearly filled with parked vehicles by this point.  What a shame, Johnny thought.  Brooks High's proms as well as most around the country held theirs in a different location from their school.  This was truly a cheap way to bullshit a prom.  Johnny parked the Honda and stepped out of the car heading straight for the entrance where he dropped his ticket and walked in.

There was bogus mainstream music being played through the loud speaker, which occasionally skipped as the DJ's management over it was less than desirable for the rest of the patrons.  Students were dancing on the dance floor/basketball court, but kept being thrown off-beat by the bad mixing in the DJ booth.  Johnny walked casually through the area, looking around for any sign of anyone he knew.  He eventually heard his name being called from the top of the bleachers.  He turned and saw Chase smiling, wearing a white and purple tuxedo and sitting next to Shelly, who was looking more feminine than Johnny had ever seen her before.  Her hair was swooped over her face and she was wearing large looped earrings, a moderate amount of make-up, and red lipstick.  She was dressed in a purple dress that matched the color of Chase's suit.

Johnny smiled as he approached them.  "Shelly, you look nice," he said with enthusiasm.  "You two look like you were made for each other."

"Shut it, bro," Shelly scowled with her arms crossed.  "My mom wanted us to match so she bought this dress weeks ago.  I had no say."

"Whatever," Johnny said with a smirk as he put his hands in his pockets.  "So how goes it?"

"Lamer than I could have expected," Chase answered.  "They don't even have any decorations.  They just have people in suits and a DJ Booth.  Prom committee was extra lazy this year."

"Not to mention they picked a whack ass DJ," Shelly said, pointing over at the booth, where the DJ was eating a sandwich while simultaneously trying to mix the music, leading to disastrous results.  "They would have gotten a better result putting Oliver on it.  He would have done it for free, he said so himself.  Shows how the school's idiocy goes full circle."

"Speaking of, where is Oliver anyway?" Johnny asked, taking a seat beside Chase.

"I don't think he got here yet,” Chase answered.  “He's always been fashionably late.  You know, like with the whole band thing?"

Chase chuckled at his own joke but Shelly leaned forward and looked at Johnny, shaking her head as if to say "I'm glad you're here, because I don't think I could have dealt with this shit."  Someone called out Johnny's name from down below and Johnny saw that it was Marty, whom he hadn't seen for a while since Paul took over as their manager.

Marty smiled and made his way up to them, wearing a traditional black and white tuxedo.  "I didn't know you were going to be here, Johnny."

"I wasn't and by the looks of it, I really shouldn't," he joked, looking around.

"Yeah, no kidding.  Its pretty lame here.  Anyway, my dad finally let me listen to you guys' Demo and I thought it was fantastic.  He told me about how you guys had to switch up the roster recently and change the name.  Sorry to hear about that, but I'm glad you guys are doing well for yourselves."

"Yeah, same here."

"So any word on the uh...event?" he said, lowering the volume of his voice.

"We're doin' it in a few days, on the 25th of May.  The day of the first exam."

"Are you sure that's a good day to do it?  I mean, what if Garfield's principal wants to slap you with an expulsion or suspension?  Then you won't finish your exams and you could be held back."

"Well, for me its worth it.  I know I'm probably not goin' to graduate any time soon anyway and that's the only day I know that everyone at school will be here."

"Plus me, Shelly and our new bassist, Lorenzo did our Senior Project's last semester and we've all got decent grades,” Chase mentioned.  "On top of that, we’ve got exam classes, which means we don't necessarily have to pass the exam or even do it to pass the class if our grades are already good enough.  So we're pretty much in the clear."

"Yeah, we're all ready to make that sacrifice," Shelly said.

"Well good for you, guys.  My dad really believes in this band."

"What does your dad do anyway?" Johnny asked curiously.  “Outside of managing us?”

"He's in Public Relations but he said he's willing to quit his job when you guys take off.  He has an unparalleled amount of faith in you all."

Wow," Shelly said, exchanging looks with the rest of them.  "That's kind of creepy and cool at the same time."

"Yeah, no kidding," Marty said, taking a seat on the bleacher bench below them.  "Hey, have you guys heard about that serial killer that's loose here in Ladyland?"

"Heard of him?  I met him," Johnny said plainly.  Everyone turned to him in shock.

"You met the Silencer?" Shelly asked, her eyes wide.

"Yeah, at the bus station in Louisiana.  He actually paid my way to get here.  True story.  He sat right beside me on the bus too and we had a long conversation.  I fell asleep but when I woke up, he wasn't there and I never saw him again until he appeared on TV months later."

"Did he say what he was headed here to do?" Chase asked in a nervous whisper.

"He said he was going to see his daughter and wife.  I didn't think anythin’ of it until way later."

"I've got to go," Chase said in a slight haste, standing up and leaving the bleachers quickly.

"Where's he going?" Marty asked curiously.

"Probably to the bathroom.  I've got to go too, I'll be right back."

Johnny got up and left the bleachers, turning right and exiting the gym where he spotted the bathroom.  He had lost sight of Chase but proceeded anyway going in to do his business.  Before he stepped to the urinal, his phone rang and he took it out quickly.  It was May.

"Hey May, what's goin' on?"

"Johnny, I need help," she whispered, her voice shaking as if she were crying.

"What, is it Oliver?  Did he stand you up?"

"No, I turned him down so he didn't come and I lied to Chase about it.  I came to the prom to see you but that's not important right now.  I went back home to get something and someone just broke into my house.  I think...I think they killed my mom."

"Oh my God," Johnny said in fear for her life.  "Why didn't you call 911 first?"

"I did, but they put me on hold."

"Fuckers," Johnny said in anger.  "Okay, where are you right now?”

“In my room, under my bed.  The door's closed and I'm whispering so he can't hear me.”

“All right, hold tight, I'll be right there.  Stay completely quiet.  It's going to be all right, okay?"

“Okay,” she said with terror in her voice.

Johnny hung up the phone and ran out of the bathroom, where he bumped into Chase.

"Dude, have you seen May?” Chase asked.  “I can't find her anywhere-"

"May went back home and somebody broke into your house," Johnny said quickly walking past him.  "We've got to get over there."

"Oh, son of a bitch," Chase said, following him to the exit.  "I knew this would happen."

"You knew this would happen?" Johnny asked turning back to him.  "How?"

"I have to tell you later, let's go before she gets caught!"

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Chase took a ride with Johnny in his Honda and headed straight back to their house.  Johnny told Chase about what May said involving their mother and Chase began to get distraught.  Johnny tried his best to calm him down but to no avail.  When they pulled up to Chase's house, they spotted the front door and saw that it had been forced open.  There was also a beat-up black Chevy parked in the driveway.  Johnny pulled off his suit jacket and loosened his tie.

"It's the Silencer, I'm sure of it," Chase said, as they parked in front of the house.  "We don't have anything to protect ourselves."

"Yeah we do," Johnny said, reaching over Chase and opening the dashboard compartment in front of him, where a pistol was hidden.  He pulled it out and handed it to Chase.  "You go in from the front door and I'll try to get May out through the window.  You know how to use it, don't you?"

"Yeah, I think so," he said, getting out of the car.  "Is there a kick?"

"A little.  Just make sure you look before you shoot and aim it at the right person."

They both ran across the yard, splitting half way through as Chase went in through the front door, moving slowly but vigilantly and Johnny circled the house, heading for the large tree by May's bedroom window.  He did a running start and took the first two steps, sprinting up the tree before jumping off to grab onto a branch.

"The dude from Twilight made it look easy," Johnny whispered aloud as he pulled himself closer to the branch and shimmied over to May's window, which he jumped off onto, grabbing onto its ledge.  He looked up carefully into the dark room and tapped on the window before going back below it, waiting for someone to answer.  A few minutes later, it was lifted up and he saw May looking down on him with a terrified look.

"Johnny, you need to go.  He came in here already, he'll be out in a bit."

"What are you talkin' about?" Johnny whispered, climbing up a bit higher to meet her face to face.  "There's a serial killer in this house.  We've got to get rid of him now or he'll hurt somebody else.  Chase is already in here lookin' for him."

"What?!" May exclaimed.  "He's going to get himself killed!"

BANG!  The door to May's room was kicked open violently and May turned back to see the serial killer known as the Silencer standing in her doorway, the light from the hallway casting a menacing shadow over him.  He raised his gun slowly and May jumped out of the way.  Will fired the weapon and the bullet zipped through the air, right into Johnny's chest.

Johnny grunted and fell from the window, hitting a separate branch of the tree on his way down and slamming onto the grass below.  In a painful and disoriented daze, he struggled to his feet, holding his chest tightly which was burning hotter than he'd ever felt before.  He could feel the blood running in between his fingers and it propelled itself from his throat.  He regurgitated the blood as he staggered across the front yard weakly.

May had crawled over the floor in the darkness, waiting for Will to walk farther into the room.  When he was close enough, she pounced on him, knocking him into her dresser where he fell and dropped his gun.  It was still too close to him for her to grab it so instead she sprinted out of the room and headed downstairs, passing Chase on her way through.

"Chase, let's go!" She screamed as she burst through the front door, Chase following behind confusedly.  Once outside, she spotted Johnny holding his chest, doubled over as he moved aimlessly across the driveway.  "Johnny, hand me your keys!"

Johnny obeyed and pulled the keys from his pocket, throwing them in her direction as she pressed the unlock button.  She circled the vehicle and went for the driver's side as Johnny went straight for the passenger's seat.  At this point, Will had emerged from the house and began firing in their direction, one of the bullets shattering the backseat window right beside Johnny.  He flinched as the glass sprayed in his face but continued to open the door and enter it, ducking down quickly.

"Where are you going, kids?" Will screamed passionately in their direction.  "The night is still young, we can have some fun."

Chase turned around as he headed for the other side of the car, firing in the serial killer's direction but missing each shot.  He at least forced Will to move from his current spot as he continued to fire, one of the shots shattering Johnny's passenger window.  He was shielded himself from the glass, clinching his chest and wincing in pain but showed no visible signs of fear in midst of the danger.  Blood was dripping from his mouth and chin and he was blinking excessively to get his vision straight as he began to lose himself.  As soon as May and Chase were in the car, May started it and floored off into the road with Will running towards them shooting the back windows out.  They were in the clear.  For now.

Johnny was losing a lot of blood as well as consciousness.  Everything around him blurred and every sound echoed.

"What's goin' on?" he asked in an exhausted voice as his world began to spin out of control.  "How did you know this would happen, Chase?"

"Johnny, we're not who we say we are," rang in Johnny's ears like a bell tolled with full force.

"What?"

"Johnny," May said, as he turned to her.  "We're taking you to the hospital, okay?  You're going to be all right."

"What's going on?  Who are you?"

Even in his disorientation, Johnny could see May struggling to find the right words as she kept her eyes on the road.

"He's right, Johnny, we're not who you think.  My name is Ramona Miles and my brother’s name is Wilford Miles Jr."

"What?" Johnny asked in confusion.  The information wasn't piecing together properly.

"Wilford Miles is our dad, Johnny," Chase said, leaning forward from the back seat.  "We were under the Witness Protection Program for years.”

“No....way,” Johnny muttered, slipping into darkness.

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Johnny opened his eyes to find himself in a hospital bed surrounded by friends.  The entire band plus May was there to greet him.  It was the middle of the day and along with a variety of tubes and plugs taped to his body, he noticed that the wound in his chest had healed considerably, due to the efforts made by the doctors.  He could no longer feel the piece of metal that had been lodged in his chest, which meant it must have been removed during surgery.
May was the first to notice that he was awake.  “Look, he’s up.”

Everyone reacted positively and moved in closer to him.  “You doing all right, bro?” Chase asked sincerely.

“Does he look all right, Chase?” Shelly asked with aggression.  “Oh, I’m sorry, I meant Will.”

The idea of dismissing what he’d been told earlier was now out of the question.  It wasn’t a figment of his delusional imagination or a twisted dream of any kind.  Shelly had just confirmed that.

“Don’t call me that,” Chase snapped.  “I hate that name and I don’t live by it.  I’m pretty much dead to my father anyway, that’s why he never mentioned me to Johnny when they met.”
“But it’s your name and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Why are you attacking him like it’s his fault?” May jumped in.  “We didn’t ask for our dad to be a serial killer.”

“Guys,” Johnny said, announcing his presence.  “I’m still awake.”

“Sorry, Johnny,” Lorenzo said, speaking for them.  “Your uncle left not too long ago but these guys have been at it for hours.”

“Well, you can’t blame us,” Oliver said, sitting in a chair close to Johnny’s bed.  “I mean, it’s like everything we knew about these guys was a lie.  I know it’s not your fault but damn.”

“How did any of this happen anyway?” Shelly asked them frustratingly.

“I don’t know, Shelly,” Chase exclaimed.  “Maybe my dad was normal one second and then he just woke up one morning and said ‘hey, I think I’m going to be a serial killer.’”

“Supposedly, something our mom did made him discover that he had an addiction to killing,” May explained.  “He killed our uncle then he went to jail for it and as soon as he got out, he was back at it, killing random people.”

“Why’d he target you guys though?” Oliver asked.  “That’s the big question.  I understand why he’d target your mother, but if he was doing it randomly, why come after his own kids and why so late?”

“He has an addiction to killing, Oliver, I don’t think it really matters who.  I don’t think he ever really cared about us anyway.”

“How long has it been?” Johnny asked, rubbing his eyes.  “Since I lost consciousness.”

“Few hours,” Shelly replied.  “You were on and off all morning.  These guys didn’t want to say anything about the incident until you awoke but we managed to get them to cough it up.  That’s what I’m the most upset about.  Even when the truth was basically out, you guys wanted to hide it.  The guy who you were supposed to be protected from found out who you were so there was no point in keeping it secret.”

“Man, we got Johnny shot,” Chase said, shaking his head with guilt.  “I told you this would happen if you got too close to someone, Ramona.”

“So that’s the reason why you guys weren’t ‘supposed’ to go out with us to the Battle of the Bands that night?” Johnny asked groggily.

“Yeah, making a name for ourselves was not a good idea with a serial killer on the loose,” May said, looking at Chase.  “Right ‘Will?’”

“This is going to get confusing as hell with these new names so can we just go back to calling you May and Chase?” Johnny asked.   “Just till all of this is over.”

There was a knock at the door to the hospital room and May got up to answer it.  When she returned, she was accompanied by two police officers, one tall and Latino, the other short and white.

“What’s going on here?” Lorenzo asked with suspicion.

“I’m afraid we’re going to have to place Mr. Goode under arrest as a suspect for a double homicide,” one of the officers said with authority.

“Double?!” Chase exclaimed standing up.  “Who was killed?”

“22-year old Salem Sharpa and 18-year old Hal McGill.”

"Damn," May said under her breath, exchanging nervous looks with the rest of them.
The officer walked up to Johnny’s bed and looked down at him as Johnny glared up at the officer intently.  “Mr. Jonathan Goode, you have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law; You have the right to an attorney and to have a attorney present with you during questioning; If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you if you so desire; If you do not choose to talk to the police, you have the right to end the interview at any time.  Do you understand each of these rights as I have explained them to you?”

Johnny had a stern enough expression on his face to actually intimidate the officer.  “Yes,” he said plainly.

“With these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to us now?”

“No.”

Burning Of The Midnight Lamp by Jimi Hendrix

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