It was about midnight when they actually made it back home from Karen's house. They had, of course, stopped at Jay's house, mainly just for mass. Becker never really believed in God, but he thought he should go to the First Presbyterian Church of Harmony Hill. If Heaven and God really existed, maybe he'd still get to go, even if he was just paying face to the Big Guy. Jay's father Norman had spoken about the Apostle Saul, who was an enemy of the church until his conversion, wherein he changed his name to Paul and became an Apostle of Jesus. Becker sat in the back row pew, farthest from Norman, but he found the sermon interesting nonetheless. He could almost identify with Saul: he too had been a strange one, with many people alienating him. But then Jay came along and he became an apostle' of sorts to Jay. It made his head throb, but he thought it felt pretty significant.
Everyone decided to just stay at Becker's that night. The group gathered in the larger room of the basement and told jokes for the most part before turning to Xbox Live for the remainder of the night before passing out on the couches from the 70's (and Anson in the nearby bathtub).
The band awoke late the next morning; sometime around 10:30. They knew they had to get to work quickly, as they had little more than a week before they were opening for La Migra. Anson grandly objected to waking up, and it took a blast of cold water from the bathtub faucet to get him up. Eric had taken the honors of blasting him, and also took a punch like a man, as he soon discovered Anson was NOT a morning person. After a quick breakfast of odd-tasting eggs, they were on their feet and working hard. Eric suggested a strange chord progression of Cmin D5 Amin B7 which Anson rejected, mostly due to the faucet incident of 10:43 AM. Jay countered their issue with blast beats from a single bass drum, which Becker quickly followed with his own preogression of B Amin D C. Eric and Anson both agreed, and Charlie pulled a pad of paper from his sweatshirt and began on lyrics. This process would continue to 1 PM or so, when Eric received a text and ran off.
What's so important that you feel the need to pack up and flee? Anson had asked, still obviously miffed.
Things. Eric replied, packing his Ibanez in his Gator case.
Girl. Becker had muttered softly, but still loud enough for Eric to hear.
At least I can get one. Eric shot back.
Which is still a mystery to me. Jay threw into the figurative poker game.
Hey, yours had daddy issues. Eric accused him with a sly grin.
Her father had just died of cancer! Jay cried, sounding offended for his ex-girlfriend.
So, trust issue? Charlie asked. He was still a clueless little thing.
Stop. Anson said. He sounded a bit hurt.
Ah, the whole my girlfriend doesn't actually love me' thing. Becker teased. We've heard it, man.
Anson didn't answer, but rather looked solemnly at his cell phone. Becker began to wonder. What had happened?
Anyway, I'm out. Eric announced, grabbing his case.
I should head out too. Charlie said blankly.
Dani awaits? Jay asked.
In California. Charlie joked. Just to be an ass about it.
The two then fled Becker's abode, disappearing into the surrounding woods and not emerging. The remaining three watched them leave with morbid eyes. They now had little to nothing to do. I can't do Xbox Live all day. Anson announced suddenly, turning to the 46 inch TV. Jay followed his glances.
Let's go into town. Jay suggested.
Harmony Hill was a small town, and Becker's community of West Ramrod was almost in the center of town. It was just off to the West, where the woods began to envelop the otherwise urban area of Harmony Hill, which wasn't even a hill for that matter. It was first called Navenhall in 1782, but was dubbed Harmony Hill when the schoolhouse was built on the nearby Junction Hill. The schoolhouse would eventually develop into the high school, which was rumored to be haunted by a number of old spirits. Becker and Jay had the honor of meeting one of these spirits face to face. Harold, a spirit that haunted the band room, had decided to appear to them while they practiced in a side room. Jay had suddenly stopped drumming when he saw a face staring through the small corner window. Becker had opened the door and looked quickly down the hall to find no living thing. The incident had shaken them, definitely, but they found the presence non-threatening, and had come to enjoy Harold's company during practice at school.
Only if Gina is running the bakery today. Anson said, pulling on his black overcoat.
Need a quickie, eh? Jay joked. His grin was met with a slight slap to the cheek, but he was still laughing at Anson. Becker just kept quiet, put on his black hoodie, and checked the time on his cell. What? Your mom not come home again? Anson asked, looking at Becker's cell phone, now flipped open. It was a text that had caught Becker's eye. It must have been used through an anonymous program, as it had no number attached. It read:
You're all dead. The cord is just the beginning. Never be alone. EVER.
Oh, s--t. Anson muttered under his breath. He then straightened. Uh, probably just some idiot drunk dialing or something.
What? Jay was suddenly intrigued. He strolled over to the couch and looked over Becker's shoulder. He read silently, and then gave an unwarranted sigh.
Crapwho could be that pissed at us? Jay asked, rounding the room as he began to pace from the back door to the stairs and back.
I don't know. Becker said. But it sounds like he means business.
Don't be alone? Anson suddenly asked. It was then Becker saw something Anson's face that he hoped to never see again: a look of pure terror. Do you think this includes loved ones?
F--k loved ones! Becker cried. We gotta catch Charlie and Eric!
Jay was already out the back door, and as Becker could see through the plate glass door that he was a staple on the Harmony Hill track team. Anson followed almost immediately, and Becker could tell he was headed for the bakery in town. Then Becker, mainly out of fear for his own well-being, took off after Anson. Anson could probably hold his own in a confrontation, but Becker couldn't, and he needed protection, at least. It was a good ten minutes of nothing but running that Anson and Becker reached the corner bakery. And from a good block away, Becker could see something was written on the front window in bright green spray paint. It was only when Anson ran inside the store that Becker could see what it said:
What in the--? Becker couldn't find words to express his emotions. From behind the plate glass window, he could see inside the building. All the items of the bakery had been strewn about like lost children, desperately seeking their homes. Becker looked up at the graffiti. It was sloppily done, as if the author had a shaky hand, or had been frightened.
Becker let it go and opened the door to the bakery, welcoming the tiny bell above the door to ring emptily. Anson was comforting Gina, who was gently weeping behind the smashed glass counter. Becker sighed and looked around. It was as if an earthquake had struck. Loaves of bread had been broken into pieces and crumbs littered the floor like ants, which were slowly seeping in under the front door. Cream fillings were splattered on the walls and assorted goods were thrown at the fluorescent lights. Who could have done this? Anson asked aloud, but mostly to Gina.
I don't know. She said through tears. Oh, God, I hope Mrs. Mayberry doesn't see this.
We can clean it up quick. Becker assured her, picking up a spent basket with a broken loaf of bread still in it. He then placed it on a counter and removed his cell phone. Speed dial number 5 immediately brought him Jay.
Oh, jeez, man. Barely caught them.
Good. Becker replied, walking outside to the sound of that damn bell again.
But uhwe got another issue.
Dad's church. Someone messed it up.
Tell me there's no graffiti. At least give me that.
There is. Blame Jay'.
Becker paused and pulled the cell phone from his ear. If this guy had messed with Anson and Jay, he would mess with all of them. It suddenly hit him. He had to get back home. Becker pulled the cell back to his ear. Jay, clean up the church and get back to the basement quick!
And like that, he was off running, not sure what Anson or Gina was thinking, and he didn't really care. He weaved through the streets like a man gone mad, and found himself stumbling through the woods and onto the back streets. He had no other goal, and didn't even stop to say hello to the nice neighbor lady who occasionally brought the band a bundt cake. But his hopes and focus were crushed when he reached the back door.
There, labeled in bright green paint, were the words Blame Becker.
He stood, flabbergasted at what he saw through the glass. The TV had been smashed, the bed coverings slashed, and the wallpaper torn to shreds. Whoever did it had little time, so he must have planned it. Whoever did these things had a goal, and he was focused as hell.
Becker slid the door open and jogged to the other room to find (thankfully) the equipment had been untouched. But strung from the ceiling was a teddy bear bound in a noose, and on its stomach, a note had been taped with electric tape. Becker walked over and peeled it off. He opened it and read:
Tired of taking the blame. Now you know how I feel.
Becker paused, red faced. He was afraid, angry, and embarrassed all at once. Only something like this could get him so confused. Normally, he was so levelheaded and calm. But why? Why did this guy want to hurt the band so badly? What had they ever done to anyone?
Becker folded the note back up and went back to the other room. He barely had enough time to see Jay's horrified expression.
They did what now? Becker asked, sitting on the edge of his amp.
My garage, man. Eric said. He ran a hair stressfully through his hair. They even tagged it.
Blame Eric. The other four said in unison. Everyone had been struck that day, each in the same fashion: things strewn and shredded, and a graffiti message denouncing blame unto them.
God---n. Eric sighed. This guy's got our number.
And its on speed dial. Anson added. Gina had decided staying around the group would be safest. It was nearly 1 AM, and she slept peacefully on a couch in the other room. He's got balls, I'll give him that. Charlie said, sitting on the dryer in the laundry room. His voice echoed eerily, sending chills down the spines of the rest of the band.
This thing's really got us shaken, huh? Becker asked. All responded to his question with a certain positive nod.
F--k. Anson cursed. What now?
Jay suddenly perked up from behind the drum set. He tossed aside the new edition of FHM and stood. He began to pace in front of everyone like a drill sergeant. Becker admired Jay for this. He was always the perfect leader, with the greatest charisma of anyone under 21 in Harmony Hill.
Gentlemen, he began, sounding important. We cannot allow this delinquent to rattle us. He or she is simply a misguided youth seeking an outlet to his misplaced rage. We cannot be threatened by this. We WILL live on. We WILL practice like hell. And we WILL rock the living crap out of the Garden! Now, put your hands in!
He led the charge by placing his own hand on the bass drum, giving a monotonous reverberation. Everyone hesitated. Not a creature stirred. Then Eric, with one meaty movement, slapped his hand on top of Jay's.
Jay's right. This little punk ass thinks he can mess with Chagrin? F--k him! We refuse to be intimidated! Let's rock the Garden, and leave it in shambles!
Charlie nodded, and leapt off the dryer to place his hand in.
It's true. I won't let the destruction of my dad's studio go lightly. Whoever this guy is, he can wait. In less than one week, we will rock the Garden. I know that sounds a bit clich, but what the hell? Let's do it!
Anson laughed and peeked around the corner to check on Gina, who was still sleeping peacefully.
Best be quiet with mine. But heck, I'm not going anywhere but to hell. But that's for later in life. For now, I pledge allegiance to this band!
He placed his own hand on the pile and looked to Becker, who returned his gaze with beaming blue eyes. Becker had never seen them quite like this. No real emotion had emerged from such a group of folk he knew. And for the first time, he felt the same.
Okay. Becker said, placing his hand in the pile. I agree, I guess. I'm not much of a speech maker, but manI don't know. Let's do it. La Migra awaits. And I have an urge to impress the hell out of them.
Excellent. Jay said with a deep undertone. Chagrin on three. ONE TWO THREE CHAGRIN! Now let's get to work, you lazy bums!