"What's going on in?" Jay asked as he entered the room. He was more than a little pissed at being summoned here. That wasn’t his job: they were supposed to answer to him not the other way around.
"Jeanne's leaving. Can you get her to the airport?"
"Nick, please," Kat pleaded, picking nervously at her shirt.
Nick shook his head. "No. You're leaving that's it."
"Nick, it's working. We can't call it off now."
He thought back only a few minutes ago to her pale face as he had pulled her into the room. "I saw your face. You're terrified of him. Forget it. This is over."
"But how. . . "
"I'll find another way."
"There is no other way, Nick. We both know that." She couldn’t believe it. Just a few short while ago she had been on the other side of this conversation; desperate to get away. Now…
"Could someone please explain to me what's going on?" Jay rumbled.
"Nick, please. It's working. There is no other way. Don't send me away now. Please."
"Jeanne. . . "
"I couldn't live with myself if he does it to someone else. Neither could you. And we owe it to. . ." She glanced at Jay then back to Nick. "Please Nick."
"I can't protect you. You're terrified of him. But I can't protect you."
"I would really like to know it's going on here," Jay repeated, his voice grumbling deeper with annoyance.
Kat looked at the big man. They had never been friends. Truth be told, he scared the heck out of her. But he may just be the ally they needed. Leighanne couldn’t be here always, and would probably crumble if Howie turned that look on her. She couldn’t see Jay falling apart over anything. "Nick, what about him?" Kat suggested, nodding at Jay.
Nick ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. Was she nuts? It would just get them into worse trouble… Of course, he could be thee when Nick wasn’t. And he had been one of the best bodyguards in the business before he took over. Skills like that didn’t go out of shape quickly. He mulled it over a little more and then sighed. "Jay, you better sit down."
The big man grabbed a chair and sat down on the nearest chair.
"Further from the door, please." Kat suggested.
Jay frowned, but picked up the chair and moved it to the far side of the bed. Kat and Nick sat across from him but at a distance from each other.
"This have something to do with that fake background you gave me?" Jay asked. Kat looked mystified by the comment, then realized that Nick must have come up with something. She’d forgotten all about Jay’s propensity for being in charge of every thing and everyone on a tour. Nick hadn’t. She shot him an appraising glance and he nodded a yes. She took a deep breath and turned to Jay
"Hi Jay We've met before, Kat Morgan," she said, holding out her hand.
"Kat? Howie's Kat?" Jay replied with surprise.
"I was never his anything," she spat angrily, and Nick put a calming hand on her arm.
"No, you're not…" Jay started and then he stared at her. Really stared.
“Well the basic part is. Just a touch of plastic surgery, a lot of weight loss and some better makeup tips,” she smiled.
"I don't believe this. What's going on here?"
"Kat's the one who started the dolphin story," Nick said quietly.
Jay leaned back. "I think that would be a reason for her NOT to be here."
"So did I. At first. But then she told me a story which explained a lot," he nodded at Kat.
"When I was here before I was working for all the boys, yes, but I spent most of my time with Howie." Her voice shook the little as she said his name, remembering the look on his face. Nick reached out and squeezed her hand again.
"You spent most of your time following Kevin around like a love sick puppydog," Jay sneered.
Kat looked at Nick. "Was I that bad?"
She sighed. "No wonder he thought I'd go for it." She turned back the Jay "Well, that was the key to it. I had a crush on Kevin. An obvious one; even more obvious than I thought. So Howie suggested that help him with a game he plays."
"Howie asked her to distract Kevin so he could fuck Lana. And as a reward he would get Kevin to sleep with her," Nick said bluntly.
Jay's eyes went wide and he reacted angrily, glaring at Kat. "That's sick. I don't know what you two are trying to do. . . "
Kat sighed. "Jay, I'm just telling you what he said. He said it was a game that all the Boys play. They all slept around with each other's girl friends."
"That's not true!"
"I know that now. Nick convinced me of that. But it is true of Howie," Kat replied quietly.
"Keep it down please," Nick said, glancing nervously at the door
"So you're saying Howie sleeps with the other guys girlfriend?" Jay said incredulously.
"Why would he do something like that?"
Kat shrugged. “I think its something to do with what he said to me when we first met: He's the least popular Backstreet Boy. This way he has something over the others. A way to prove he's better than them."
"That's bull shit."
"Jay it's true," Nick said softly. "We confirmed it."
Jay stared at him. "So you're saying that Tanya. . ." Nick nodded. "The others?" Nick shrugged. Jay was silent for a second, then said, with a plaintive tone to his voice, "Leighanne?"
Kat and Nick looked each other and then Nick slowly nodded.
"Oh shit," Jay said, looking away sadly.
Kat cleared her throat. "It happened long time ago. When they first started to see each other.
"And only once," Nick added.
Jay was silent, sitting there in shock, shaking his head. "I can't believe this," he finally said.
"I didn't want to either. But it's true. And it’s why Leigh won't marry Brian. She doesn't know how to tell him, and she's afraid he'll find out."
"So that's why Nick came up with this plan," Kat added.
"That's why this," Kat replied, gesturing to her face and body. "We pretend I'm Nick's girlfriend until Howie makes a move on me."
"Then we blackmail him into never telling Brian. And into never playing his game again," Nick concluded
"You two are crazy. It will never work," Jay said. “She’d be better off telling him the truth. Telling everyone the truth.”
“If she did that do you think would happen?” Nick asked. “Can you see Brian just saying ‘it’s okay, dear. Let’s get married Saturday’? No way. He’d break up with her no matter how much it killed him to do it. Then he’d break up the Backstreet Boys. Kevin and AJ… and I… would kick the shit out of Howie, but it would still the end of everything. And Brian would lose both his job and the woman he loves more than anything.” Nick shook his head. “I couldn’t let that happen. I came up with this plan, got Kat to agree to it and got Leighanne to believe in me when I told her it would work. I am not backing down,” he concluded.
Jay looked at him appraisingly. “I admire your balls, kid, but it ain’t going to work.”
"It is," Kat replied quietly.
Jay frowned at her.
"Howie's bought it. He’s already made a few ‘if Nick gets on your nerves you come cry on Howie’s shoulder’ comments. And the fight we've been having this morning convinced him," she said.
"He looked at her. She says it was the same look he had on his face when he asked her to help him before," Nick said.
"You're basing this on a look?!" Jay asked incredulously.
Nick shook his head. "I'm basing it on the way Kat reacted.” He pointed to her. “Look at her: she's scared shitless. That's why I wanted you to get her out of here.”
Jay sat back and looked at them. Whatever else they believe it.
"Jay, you've seen how he is. I didn't really see it as much until Kat, Jeanne came back. There's something off kilter there. He's erratic. He's not the same D."
"But this is. . . "
"Where's Lana?" Kat asked and both men looked at her.
"Where's Lana?" Kat repeated. "When I was here last she and Kevin were inseparable. They didn't seem to be able to breathe without the other being around. They were crazy in love with each other. So where is she? And why won't he talk about it?"
Jay frowned. "I don't know. He just said that she'd said it was over and left." Jay looked at Nick who shook his head. "He never said anything to me."
"Jay, what if we're right? If this is a game that Howie plays… You agree he's been acting funny. What if it he tried it on Lana. What if that is why she's not here anymore?" Kat continued.
He was silent for a moment. "It is possible..."
"We have to stop him," Kat said quietly. "That is why I am not going, Nick. Yes, I'm scared. I admit it. But the way he looked at me... It's working. It shouldn't take long now. And if you can help us, Jay..."
He sighed and then nodded. "I really hope you are wrong about this. And I will be keeping an eye on you now, Jeanne."
She knew he meant it as a warning, not as a reassurance. She smiled. "Good. I know you have no reason to trust me, Jay. But I am not letting him hurt Brian or Leighanne. And I'm sure that you will see that I am sincere in this."
"Just make sure that you don't hurt anyone else here," Jay warned.
"I know what I am getting myself into, Jay. It was my idea after all," Nick said, unconsciously rubbing the shoulder she had hit in her earlier tirade.
Jay nodded and headed for the door. When he emerged from Nick's room AJ and Howie were still sitting on the couch. Howie looked up at him and smiled, but for the first time Jay noticed that his smile never reached his eyes. They were flat, brown discs. Unlifelike. Un-Howie-like.
"Everything okay?" AJ asked.
"Yeah," Jay nodded, then searched for an excuse. "Their first major fight. How did I get drawn into it? I thought you were the peacemaker, Howie?"
Howie smiled again. Another dead one. "It happened too fast. I'll take care of the next one, don't you worry."
Jay swallowed the bad taste that suddenly appeared in his mouth, then smiled blandly and left the suite. Howie’s words echoed in his head. He was worried. Now more than ever. He had thought that Howie was acting more than a little strange recently – what with his need to work out every minute he could, and his drinking whenever he couldn’t – but now…
Obviously he was going to have to start taking more care of the people in his charge than the other things he had been concentrating on. Something weird WAS going on, and either it was Kat or it was Howie, but in any case he was going to keep a close eye on the both of them.
(c) Kat Morgan