He guided the pontoon boat slowly through the marsh looking out for tree stumps, logs and of course the ever present alligators. The boat's large motor rumbled in low gear as he guided it carefully through the marsh not sure of what he was looking for.
The air was thick with the moldy smell of swamp only southern Florida could emit. His white tank shirt clung to him with sweat. He had tied a bandanna around his head to keep it from going into his eyes as he scanned the green murky water.for what? What was he looking for? He was told he'd know it when he saw it.
As he narrowly avoided a fallen tree the size of his boat he wondered again what he was doing here. Why was he on this quest? He could be out water skiing on some nice clear lake near his home, or catching up on reading with the cat on his lap waiting for his wife to get home. Instead he was 100 miles from home, guiding his expensive boat through some very treacherous water and the worst part was, no one knew he was here -- well maybe one person knew, but would that person say anything if he were missing for days? What would his wife do if something happened to him?
He chased those thoughts from his mind as he continued to scan the murky waters. Despite the bandanna, sweat ran down his face and he whipped at it rubbing his hand on his khaki shorts.
Just as he was about to give up and high tail it out of there, he saw it. A reflection from an island 100 yards in front of him. He continued to make his way slowly toward the island, looking for a safe spot to tie the boat up.
As he approached the island, he thought about what brought him here. A legal sized envelope with a small key inside and a note he'd received a few days ago. The note had been typed on a typewriter with no signature, no return address. In fact it had been hand delivered to him so there wasn't even a postmark. At first he was going to refuse the envelope, but didn't. Curiosity had made him take it and it had brought him here to some desolate island in the middle of the southern Florida swamplands. There was something special about it though, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. He had to come out here and check it out. His wife would've called him crazy, which was why he'd said nothing to her when she'd left for work that morning. A quick kiss good by and 10 minutes after she was gone, he'd hooked up the pontoon to his RAM truck and headed down here.
He found what looked to be a well-rooted small tree and tied the pontoon to it, then stepped onto the island. He wasn't sure of its size since the trees were thick. He kept his eye on the shiny object about 30 yards from where he stood. Thirty yards may not be a lot, but on an island in the swamplands it may as well have been 30 miles. In his way could be alligators, snakes, quicksand and God only knows what else. It seemed every creepy crawly thing known to man, lived on the islands in swamps.
He found a long thin stick and poked his way through the long grass looking for anything from the alligators to quicksand, and sure enough. there was the quicksand. The stick sunk several inches into the stuff before he pulled it free. He poked the toe of his hiking boot gingerly into it and it came away mucky with thick watery sand.
"Ugh." he said, his voice sounding loud to him on the island even though he could hear birds, and bugs buzzing around.
He looked around and saw that going around would be time consuming and probably dangerous since it meant going into the wooded area, something he didn't want to do. On the other end, it extended to the water. There was no place on that side to tie off his boat. He was trapped with no way to get to his prize. He was going to find a way though. He hadn't come this far to go home empty handed.
He looked up at the trees that hung over the quicksand and made up his mind quickly before he lost his nerve.
He shimmied up a tree a few yards to his right. He'd been pretty good at this as a kid, and like riding a bike you never forget it. He remembered it being easier then though. He climbed out onto a limb several feet above the quicksand and again the thought flashed through his mind. What am I doing here??? One false step and he'd be forever part of this island. Pushing up the sand so to speak instead of daises.
The tree on the other side of the quicksand was just out of reach for him. He noticed a vine a foot or so in front of him. He scratched his chin, hearing the scratchy sound. He hadn't taken the time to shave. He'd go to his watery sandy grave with an unshaven face he guessed.
"Oh well."he sighed and grabbed the vine testing it's strength. He softly whispered a childhood prayer and with a yowl jumped from the limb swinging on the vine like Tarzan, only he thought he looked more like George of the Jungle. At least his howl sounded much more like George then Tarzan.
To his surprise and relief he landed nimbly on the limb of the tree on the other side of the quicksand, holding onto the vine for support. He caught his breath for a few seconds then climbed down the tree. Now only a few yards from the shiny object he still made his way carefully to it. He had no wish to disturb a sleeping snake or alligator or any more quicksand.
He finally came to his prize. It was a tin box; looked to be about two feet by two feet and maybe 6 inches deep with a mirror glued to the top, reflecting the sun. Clever he thought as he used the key that had come in the legal envelope to open up the box.
Inside was a manila envelope wrapped in plastic. He could see his name typed on the front. He lifted it out, and under it was what looked like one of those tape-less answering machines. Glued on it was a typed note 'push me' with an arrow pointing to a button on the machine.
He wasn't going to chicken out now, especially after swinging over quicksand. He pushed the button and a voice, sounding something like Max Headroom emitted from the machine.
"Mr. Brewer if you are listening to this message, you have succeeded in the first step of saving the world. If you will now please open the envelope, you will find pictures and documents we are sure will be very familiar to you."
Don opened the envelope and looked at the pictures. The first one was of himself, in he guessed about 1973 or '74 playing on stage. The next was one of him just a few years ago, playing once again with Grand Funk on stage. He wasn't sure of the venue. The next few pictures were of the other guys, Mark and Mel.then and now. The last two documents were familiar, yet strange. One was an itinerary of a tour schedule, the other a recording contract which looked legal to him.
"Now that you have looked over the contents of the envelope, we would like to explain what we mean by saving the world." The voice continued. "The world has been over run by rap music and Brittany Spears wannabes. Soon there will be no other music to listen to. People of the world will not be able to turn on their radios, TVs or even ride an elevator without hearing Tupac or Celine Dion wail in their ears."
Don chuckled at that one.
"To save the world from this fate, Grand Funk Railroad must reunite, tour and record a new CD. In doing this they will lead the way for other great rock groups to get back together tour and record pushing the rap and pop stars back where they belong. Your mission Mr. Brewer, should you decide to accept is to convince your ex-band mates to take up this mission to save the world. The fate of the worlds' music is in your hands. Good luck! This message will self-destruct in 10 seconds."
Don stood back a few feet, but it wasn't necessary. Smoke and a hissing sound came from the small black machine. He shrugged his shoulders and looked down at the pictures and documents again. He wondered who had set this all up. It all looked legal.real. He was perplexed.
He looked up at the sky and decided now was not the time to try and figure this out. It would be dark in a few hours, and the swamp was the last place he wanted to be. He put the pictures and documents back in the envelope and plastic and made his way slowly toward the tree to swing back over the quicksand, something he wasn't looking forward to. He was about to shimmy up the tree when there was a loud BANG and he looked back as birds flew up from the trees behind where the box was. At first he thought someone was shooting at him, but he noticed that the box had exploded. All that was left of it was mangled tin; the machine inside had disintegrated in the explosion.
He stared at it then hurriedly climbed the tree. The sooner he was out of here, the better.
His Tarzan or George imitation didn't go as well as the fist time. He was guessing the explosion had shook him. He had swung over to the other tree, barely making it grabbing hold of the branch, the envelope clenched between his teeth. He would later notice teeth marks on the picture of Mel. He hung onto the branch dangling there, only a few feet above the quicksand.
He pulled himself onto the branch and sat on it, panting waiting for his heart to slow down. It beat furiously in his chest.
"I'm too old for this shit." He sighed and finally climbed down the tree to the other side of the quicksand.
He found the stick he had used before and made his way slowly to the boat. No need to rush things now he thought and jumped slightly as a large black snake slithered away from him after he poked it gently with the stick. He felt chills go down his spine and despite the heat, he had goosebumps.
As he approached his boat, he noticed an alligator, about 4 or 5 feet long laying half submerged in the water near the bow of his boat. He froze and watched it for a few seconds. Since it wasn't moving he slowly approached the boat, climbed on and pulled the rope free that he had tied around the tree. The alligator hadn't moved. He hoped it was just taking an afternoon snooze and not just waiting for him to come closer.
He let the boat drift back a bit away from the alligator, but he didn't have more then maybe 10 feet behind him. He started the motor and winced as the alligator slapped its tail on the water and disappeared.
Once again he felt the goosebumps and resisted the urge to gun the boat out of there. He put it into low and slowly moved away from the island.
Since he had picked up the manila envelope, he had almost been blown up, had a close call with quicksand and a large snake now the alligator. He wondered if these were omens of this mission, should he decide to accept it?
When he cleared the swamp, he saw the sun now close to the horizon and he gunned it for the shoreline. Sunny was going to be really upset and worried. He'd be home in a couple of hours so he decided not to call her, something he would regret when he saw her, but he just didn't know how to explain it. He would have to find some way to do it, and he'd need that couple of hours in the truck to put his words together.
When Sunny saw the lights of Don's truck come up the driveway, she ran out and met him as he got out of the truck, not sure if she was going punch him or hug him. She did the latter first then stepped back. In the light of the garage she could see how dirty he was and he smelled too.like mold.
He looked at her holding her at arms' length, waiting for her to say something. She had said nothing when she'd run up to him and now only stared at him wide eyed.
"What happened?" she asked finally.
Don smiled slightly. It wasn't the old "where have you been", not from Sunny. She knew something had happened to him, and if she'd been mad or upset it was quickly replaced with concern.
"Honey, you aren't going to believe me." he said leading her into the house.
"What is that smell.?" she asked trying to stay down wind from him.
"I'll explain everything, but first I need a shower as you well know and something to eat?"
A little while later, half of a large sandwich still in front of him his first beer gone, the second one half way there he explained it all to Sunny. He showed her the first legal sized envelope, then the manila one he had retrieved from the island.
Sunny stared at the pictures and documents then looked at him.
"Who do you think you are Donnie? Tom Cruise?" She joked looking shaken.
"I know it's hard to believe Honey, but there it is." He said downing the last of his beer.
You shouldn't have gone on your own. What if something had happened to you?" She asked laying the documents down on the table.
"Don't think that didn't cross my mind more then once." He said standing and pacing a bit. "But I had to do it.it was more then just curiosity.it was something stronger then that."
"Like what? Are you telling me there's something supernatural here? Don't go Stephen King on me now."
Don chuckled and got down on one knee next to his wife. He knew by looking at her that she would support him in this, even if she found it a little crazy or hard to believe. She'd always supported any decision he'd made since they'd married.
"You got to trust me on this one Sunny.I don't know what is going on here, and if it doesn't pan out, well we're not out much are we?"
"The fate of the world's music.? Come on Don, sounds like someone is playing a very elaborate practical joke on you."
"If someone is, then they took their own lives into their hands to do it." he said and kissed her softly before going to the fridge for another beer.
"What's next?" she asked as he twisted the cap off the bottle of Leiney's red and sat back down.
"Guess I'm heading to Michigan.hope the weather's nice." He said and took a long drink off the beer.
A couple of days later he was on a flight, heading for Flint. He'd called Mel and talked to him for a short time. He didn't tell Mel why he was coming, just that he was and that he'd like to 'drop by'. He didn't feel comfortable telling him about this over the phone. From there they would hook up with Mark. He'd deal with all of that once in Michigan.
He had put the manila envelope in a small attaché case that he had tucked under his seat. He kept checking it, making sure it was there. He didn't know why he was doing this, only that he couldn't stop himself.
He had had the documents checked by his lawyers, and they said they were legit. The recording contract though would only be legit if the band agreed to tour. There was more to it, but he'd need Mel and Mark to help iron it out, if he could get them to do it.
When he asked who had started this, he couldn't get answers. It was a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, but what it boiled down to was that the only way he was going to get answers was when they (Mark Mel and Don) were all involved. Even then, he wasn't sure if he'd find out who was behind it all. Maybe it would always remain a mystery.
The plane touched down in Flint and less then an hour later he had the rented Pontiac Grand Prix well up over the speed limit headed toward Mel's. It was a rainy cool spring day, but the roads weren't too bad as he zipped along, the radio tuned to a station that played Motown and classic rock. Save the world's music.he thought as Steve Miller started singing about being a joker. He tried to visualize a rap version of this song and cringed, pushing the pedal a little closer to the floor.
He came up to Mel's house. It looked quiet, as if nobody was home, but Don had a hunch where he'd find Mel. He parked the car and strolled around to the back of the house where he found Mel working on a 50's something Harley. He'd been doing this since he'd known Mel, fixing up old bikes, making a pretty good living selling them but sometimes he'd keep them too. This one looked in need of some fixing up too. Its maroon paint chipped and faded some of the exhaust in dire need of replacement. How anyone could let a Harley get in this kind of condition should be severely beaten Don thought as he watched quietly as Mel whistled some tune, his back to him using a wrench on the bike.
"Hey Bumble.how's it hangin'?" he asked after several seconds.
Mel turned and smiled at his old friend.
"To the ground buddy." he said, whipping his hands with an oil stained rag.
They shook hands, happy to see each other.
"How's the wife and kids?" Don asked.
"Beautiful as ever."
"Great.how bout a beer?" Mel motioned over to a patio table and chairs.
"You read my mind amigo." Don said finding a place where if the sun stayed out, as it was now making an appearance, he'd be in it. The sky still looked as if it could rain, but there were spots of sun here and there. His blood had thinned since living in Florida and the 50 something temperature was a little too cool for him. Mel looked very comfortable in his faded jean jacket.
Mel brought out two MGDs and sat opposite his friend.
"OK Brew, what brings you up here? I know you didn't come up here to take in our great weather, and you sounded funny on the phone.well funnier then usual." he smirked and popped the top off his beer.
"I guess the best way to explain it is just do as I did with Sunny.but you are not going to believe it." Don said putting the attaché case on the table.
About a half-hour and a beer later, Mel sat stunned looking a lot like Sunny had, staring at the pictures and documents. It seemed unbelievable, but Don obviously did believe it or why would he be up here? After what he'd been through he guessed Don would have to have a strong belief in it. The idea of foraging into the swamplands of Florida against God knew what was something he wouldn't want to do.
"Really.you swung over quicksand like Tarzan?" he asked trying to absorb what he'd seen. Instead he was picturing Don swinging from a tree, complete with loincloth and shouting the Tarzan cry. It almost sent him into uncontrollable giggles.
"I think I looked more like George of the Jungle." Don confessed. "I know I sounded more like him, but at least I didn't slam into the tree."
"What's next then?" Mel asked knowing already, but he wanted Don to say it.
"Talk to Mark." Don said.
"I know he'll talk Don, but do ya think he'll buy this?"
"Don't know Mel.all we can do is try."
Mel and Don decided not to call Mark, instead they would just 'drop by'. Don was nervous about calling Mark, for if he knew him he'd want to know what was going on and Don knew he couldn't tell Mark over the phone about all this. This was something he had to see. He was afraid that if he called, he might not even want to meet. He had checked Mark's schedule and knew he was home, at least for the next couple of days. His next gig was not until the weekend.
Don had checked into a hotel not far from Mel's house. After turning down an invitation for dinner he went back to the hotel. He was very tired and wanted to phone Sunny before trying to catch a few hours of sleep. He'd had very little in the last few days, but after sharing his story with Mel he felt more relaxed some how. He wasn't hungry and he just wanted to hear his wife's voice before he went to sleep. He did accept an invitation for breakfast and said he'd be at their house by 8am.
His sleep was restless. He had a strange yet vivid dream of being on stage again, only he was young. The afro, the loud outfits. He saw Mel, playing away, young again and Mark, with the long hair and slave bracelet swinging around the green Messenger guitar. He woke in the dark hotel room, the smell of smoke and pot still in his nostrils. He even had the strange sensation of ringing in his ears.!
He shook his head and rubbed his eyes. He made his way to the bathroom and threw some water on his face. It woke him up, and slowly the sensations of the dream disappeared.
"Too frickin weird." he whispered and made his way out of the bathroom. He switched on a small table lamp and looked at his watch. Four am. He sighed and put it down. He went over to the window and glanced out thinking he'd see the wet parking lot of the hotel, but instead he saw something he hadn't seen in a long time. Snow, lots and lots of snow. It was still coming down too.
"Great." he said aloud and closed the curtain on the window.
He switched on the TV and found the weather channel. It wasn't just a good old-fashioned snowstorm; no it was a famous Michigan springtime blizzard. Yaahooo!! The kind that closed roads, caused the elderly to have heart attacks while shoveling, the kind kids loved and parents dread.
No travel was recommended for the area he was in, and looked like some roads were already closed. It would last into the next day, according to the weather channel and of course there would have to be clean up after that. Temps had dropped and Don could feel it seep into his bones. He was getting too old for this.
He knew Sunny would be up by now so he picked up the phone and punched in his number. He said what was now becoming a familiar sentence to his wife.
"Honey, you are not going to believe this."
Mel too had had a restless night. His dream was much like Don's, on stage, young playing the loud Grand Funk music in front of thousands of people. He woke too with the sensation as if it had been real. As if he had been there and not sleeping.
He got out of bed and made his way to the window. He was hoping the rain, which he had heard falling most of the night had stopped and was dumb struck when he saw the snow. He had spent his whole life in Michigan, but he'd never seen anything like this so late in the year. It was almost May for Pete's sake!! He had watched the weather reports from the night before and there was no mention of this. Talk about your bad weather reports. There was a blizzard raging outside his window and not one peep or warning. Total miss by the over paid meteorologists!
He knew that the trip that he and Don were planning for that day would have to wait. Even his 4-wheel drive truck would have problems with this, and he knew that some of the roads around Mark's place would be closed. He didn't have a number for the hotel Don was staying at, so he'd wait for his call.
He lay carefully back down on the bed so as not to wake Deana. He went back to thinking about the dream. He couldn't help but think something else was going on here, something beyond their control. He could hear the 'do do do do do' theme of the "Twilight Zone" in his head. Don calling unexpectedly, the dream and now some freak blizzard.
"Welcome to the 'Twilight Zone'" he whispered listening to the blizzard outside.
"Well.I'll be." Mark Farner said looking outside his window. Snow covered the yard and fields beyond it. It was still coming down too, and blowing around in swirls. Mark didn't need the weather channel to tell him this was a blizzard, one that came from apparently no where. He usually had a pretty good nose for snow, but this one caught him completely by surprise.
He glanced at the kitchen clock. Four AM. He normally didn't get up this early, but a dream had woke him. A dream so vivid that he actually could smell things and feel things. He absently rubbed his upper bicep where he'd wear the silver slave bracelets from long ago. They didn't fit him any more, but it felt like he had one on.
In the dream he was young again, swinging around the green Messenger in front of what looked like thousands of people. The familiar sound of his old band mates behind him.
Funny he'd have this dream. He'd been thinking about them for some reason, although not sure why or what was bringing it on. He was busy with the tour, and negotiations for the new CD he hoped to start working on now that the IRS was off his back. He looked forward to just getting on with his life. Why, when things were going so well for his solo career would he be thinking of Grand Funk? Especially Grand Funk from 30 years ago?
It wasn't that he wasn't proud of Grand Funk, or the music that came from it. It was just another part of his life, and he had moved on. Something though wasn't letting him. The dream meant something, he was pretty sure of that and he had a feeling this storm may be part of something too.
He saw lightning and stared in awe at it as it lit up the sky. Lightning during a snowstorm wasn't all that unusual but it still was an odd site. He heard the rumble of thunder as if God himself was upset with the earth and was voicing his opinion.
Or maybe he was upset with him.? The thought sent a shiver down his spine and he closed the shades on the window. He told himself he was silly, and moved away from the window and the slight draft that came from it, convinced that it was just the draft from the window that gave him the chills.
He turned on his weather radio and listened to the announcer as he talked about the freak blizzard that was what they were calling it. There was no meteorological explanation for it. It just happened. They went to college to figure that out? Hell, he could've told them that!
The storm was a slow mover, and wouldn't be over until sometime the next day, at lest if you could trust their prediction. He turned it off and sat back in the chair sipping a cup of black coffee. There was something more odd then the storm going on, he could feel it. What it was he guessed he'd find out soon enough. He started softly singing "Heartbreaker" under his breath. It had been the song they were performing in his dream.
Don too hummed "Heartbreaker" as he dialed Mel's phone number. He'd just gotten off the phone with Sunny, who told him that the weird weather up there was making news in Florida. Don still had the weather channel on, and saw that the storm stretched into Wisconsin. This baby wasn't going to be over any too soon.
Mel answered on the first ring.
"Welcome to Michigan!" he said. "Hope you enjoy your stay."
"This wasn't what I was expecting." Don chuckled. "But I guess I should've."
"I'm sure you didn't bring clothes for this did ya big fella?" Mel asked.
"Bring.? I don't even own clothes for this any more." Don confessed listening to the howling wind outside. "Who would've dreamt this would happen? I do remember snow storms in late April, but nothing like this, how bout you?"
"No, not really." Mel agreed. "Guess we'll have to wait it out."
"Yeah, you're right. Wish now though I took up that dinner invitation. The diner next door is closed because of this, and I'm slowly starving to death here."
"I think I have an idea." Mel grinned.
About an hour later there was a knock at Don's door. Opening it up reveled what looked like a small Darth Vadar. On closer exception though it was Mel, dressed in a snowmobile suit. He had driven his snowmobile to his hotel with a cooler of food for him. The cooler did the opposite of what it was designed to do; it kept the food warm. Inside were hot beef sandwiches, munchies and a generous piece of apple pie, Deana's specialty if Don remembered correctly. Better yet, Mel had a six pack of MGD with him.
"You look like hell my friend, but I'm calling you an angel now." Don said as he munched on the sandwiches. "You must be insane to be in that."
"Aw, ain't that bad." Mel said hanging the snowmobile suit near a vent so it would dry and warm up. "I'm only a couple of miles from here. Going back will be worse because I'll be going against the wind."
"What did your lovely wife have to say?" He asked.
"Well, I think insane and crazy were in there.I just asked her where her sense of adventure was." He smirked.
Don could only guess what she had to say about that. Pretty much what Sunny had to say about his adventure in the Florida swamp.
"I was thinking that while I was here we'd give Mark a call.I know I know but something is telling me we should. This storm, well I don't know about you Donnie, but I think it's more then what the news is calling a freak storm." Mel said popping a beer and sitting opposite Don. He normally didn't drink this early, it was only 10:30, but he needed it to calm himself. He couldn't get this out of his head.
"You tell me how you would take this news if I just told you on the phone?" Don asked.
"Point taken, but.did you have a weird dream last night Donnie? Playing on stage only it's like 25, 30 years ago? Mark swinging around that old Messenger? I think it was 'Heartbreaker'?"
Don stopped in mid bite and stared at Mel.
"You had that dream? So did I."
"Yeah I did, and I think Mark may have had a similar one too.Only way to find out is to call him since we can't go to him."
"That's why you came here. Not to bring me food." Don teased reaching for the phone.
"Well, can't let an old friend starve now can I?" Mel said. "The thought just popped into my head on the way over."
"Yeah, yeah right." Don said. "It's such a lovely day for a ride on a snowmobile." Don dialed Mark's number and waited for him to answer.
Half way around the world, a man sat tapping on a laptop computer. The office was dark, with heavy shades drawn on the large windows. Only a small desk lamp lit his area, which was fine with him.
There was a discreet knock at the door and he grunted something. In came a handsome Asian man, dressed smartly in a dark suite. He carried a tray with what smelled like some wonderful delicacy of the land.
"Your dinner sir." he said placing the tray on a small table. His English was perfect, better then his own he guessed.
"Thanks Tohagi." He said not looking up. He had no time to eat, but Tohagi brought dinner to him the same time every night.
"Will you be needing anything else?" He asked standing near the table, not approaching the desk.
"No, you can go."
They went through this every night. Tohagi left the office with out another word.
Tohagi had been his assistant since he'd come to Tokyo. He was much more then that and he was happy to have him. His fluent English made him a perfect interpreter. His law degree made him a perfect assistant. He'd only accepted the job as his assistant because he was paying close to 3 times his salary as an attorney in Tokyo. He was well worth the price. He also didn't mind bringing him dinner every night, something Tohagi had suggested. He sometimes wondered why he did this. The thought of foul play didn't enter his mind though. He had a feeling it was because Tohagi didn't want to be seen with him, or as little as possible. On the rare times they did venture out into the city, he could see that, as brilliant and naturally polite Tohagi was he could not hide his uneasiness when he was with him in public.
It wasn't because of who he was or what he looked like. There were many different nationalities of businessmen in Tokyo. It was, he was sure, of what he was that made Tohagi uneasy. Well, let him be uneasy. He was paying him enough.
He tapped at the laptop and watched again as the tall, slender gray hair Brewer swung over the quicksand. He giggled with delight, but had to admire how well he had kept himself in shape to even do this. He originally had wanted Farner but Brewer was a much better choice by far.
He had watched the whole thing. Landing of the boat, the swing over, and then the box exploding. Oh, that was a fun one! The alligator had been a nice touch.
His job was just beginning as he toggled over to the weather maps of northern USA. The blizzard was amazing. Scanning three states, dropping several inches of snow. Causing mayhem not only to his victims, but also to the millions of people that lived there. Just an extra treat as far as he was concerned.
He tapped off the PC and went over to the table. The smell of the food got to him and he sat down to eat. After all, he had some time now. They would be trapped as the blizzard roared. He had done a few other things, and he knew he had some time now.
The fun had just begun.
Don heard the phone ring sharply once then it went dead in his ear. He tapped at the release button a few times then with a shrug hung up.
"Just went dead." He told Mel.
"Must be the storm." Mel said looking at the phone.
"Must be." Don agreed.
They looked at each other silently; each knowing it could be the storm, but probably wasn't.
They both looked at the TV, the sound turned down, but the weather maps said it all. Splashes of orange blue and red covered the upper Midwest, most of it covering the state of Michigan. Don had turned it on when he got up at 4 am and it looked as if these splotches had not moved in that time. In fact they looked to be getting worse or more intense.
Mel noticed too, but said nothing. The uneasiness he felt seem to be growing. It almost felt that something was preventing them from seeing Mark or talking to him. It seemed silly, and Twilight zone-y, but he couldn't help it. This feeling had started with Don's phone call just a few days ago, when it had been sunny and in the upper 60's. Now there was over half a foot of snow on the ground, and the temps were probably in the 20's, and dropping as the weathermen like to say, like a brick. Don't even get started on wind chill!
The phone suddenly rang, and they both jumped as if their seats were loaded with electrodes. Don grabbed the phone before it could shrill a second time.
"Yes." he said feeling his heart pound wildly.
"Mr. Brewer, this is the front office. We were just wondering if you need anything? Food, extra towels? Our staff is having a hard time getting in here because of the storm, so we are bare bones. "
"I'm ok, just a couple of towels should do." He said.
"We'll drop some by, if you do need anything, feel free to call and we will do what we can."
Don thanked him and hung up, then with a glance at Mel, grabbed it again and quickly dialed Mark's number. Once again, a shrill ring and it went dead. No dial tone.nothing.
He hung it up slowly and looked over at Mel. He didn't have to say anything; it was on his face what had happened.
"Don, we aren't going to be able to call him." Mel said softly.
"I agree with you, but anyone else we could right? We could call the friggin' president of the United States easier then Mark." Don sighed, feeling goosebumps under his sweater.
"I'm glad you said that." Mel said crunching up his empty can and tossing it into a trashcan. He wished now he brought more beer.hell a bottle of JD would go down real good now. "I think there's only one thing we can do, and that's go to him."
"Mel, if you expect me to hop on that skidoo out there and travel.how far is Mark's place from here? Doesn't matter.you are more crazy and insane then your wife said. And don't talk to me about sense of adventure.I've already been there."
"Come on Don, in those clothes? You'd be a Popsicle in five minutes." Mel teased. "I say we just wait this out.how long can it last?"
"I'm afraid to even guess at this point." Don said, voicing Mel's thoughts.
Mark heard the phone ring shrilly twice, and each time he picked it up it was dead. After a few minutes though, he picked it up and there was a strong dial tone. He even called his brother to make sure the lines were good.
Leisa noticed the look on his face as he hung up the phone.
"You OK?" She asked with concern.
"Nothin'." he looked over at her, knowing she saw through him. "OK.something is going on, but I sure don't know what."
"The storm?" she asked sitting down next to him. "Come on Mark, what is it."
He told her about his dream, and how he'd been feeling for the last few days. The storm bugged him for more reasons then the obvious.
"Mark.I don't understand." She said softly.
"I don't either Babe." He looked over at the phone, and almost on impulse grabbed it and dialed Don's number. He wasn't sure why he was dialing it, but something told him to.
Sunny answered the phone, surprised to hear Mark's voice.
"Sorry Mark, Don is not here.you haven't talked to him yet?" she asked surprised.
"No." Mark said slowly. He should've known Don was in Michigan.
"Well, he's up there at a hotel near where Mel lives.hang on let me get you the number."
After giving him the number, she asked how he and the family were.
"We're all fine, except for this blizzard things would be dandy." He said. "How are things for you?"
After chatting politly for a few minutes he hung up the phone, and dialed the number Sunny had given him. A loud shrill, and then silance.
So odd.what was going on?
Again, impulse hit him and he quickly dialed Sunny back. He wasn't surprised that the phone now was OK.
"Sunny, I can't get through. I'm not sure if it's the storm or what, but call him and tell him I know he's here. Maybe we can use you for communication until things clear up here if you don't mind."
"No, Mark I don't mind." She said.
Again they chatted. Sunny didn't know what to tell him about Don's adventure in the swamp and his discovery. She mentioned it and said she'd get more information from Don.
When the phone rang again, Don picked it up almost before the first ring cut off.
"Sunny? What's wrong Hon?" he asked concerned.
"Nothing.but I got the weirdest phone call." She said.
Over the next hour or so, Sunny acted as the communication link between Mark, Don and Mel. She finally pulled the plug on her modem for the computer and hooked up a phone to it so she could have Don and Mark on line at the same time.
Slowly the story was told to Mark, who by now was willing to believe what Don was relaying to him through Sunny. The dreams, blizzard, just the way he was feeling totaled up to something really odd. The story sounded unbelievable, but he knew it wasn't. He didn't need to see the documents Don told him about to believe it.
"Before we can do anything, we need to wait out this storm." Mark said.
"Any guess how long that will be?" Don asked again looking at the weather maps, still very colorful and not moving much.
"Spring storms don't last long." Mark said confidently. "I have a couple of gigs this weekend, how long can you hang around?"
"As long as need be." Don looked at Mel, giving him the thumbs up.
"OK Don, but this may be a waste of time.I still would like to continue with my solo career." Mark said, feeling uncomfortable telling Sunny this. He'd rather tell Don, and to his face not through his wife or the phone.
"I understand that Mark, but I'd rather meet over this. There is something at work here we don't understand, and I think you must agree, or you wouldn't have gone through the trouble of contacting me."
"Yeah.I agree." Mark said, scratching his chin. "I do think we need to talk, and maybe about more then just this."
Don sighed when Sunny told him this. It felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"One more thing, Sunny could you do something for me?"
"Sure." she said a bit surprised.
"We're done here, right Brew?" Mark asked.
"Yeah.for now." Don said.
"Sunny, can you put the phones together, you know, receiver to receiver?"
"Sure".she did as he asked and heard both phones 'click'. She put them to her ear, and they were silent for a couple of seconds, then the dial tone.
She hung them up feeling the same goosebumps as her husband had felt earlier, and not only from the weird cutoff of the phone connections, but the story itself.
Don called her a few minutes later thanking her for her help, but he also wanted to make sure she was OK. She had held her composure while Mark was on the line, but he could tell she was a little shook up from all this. After talking for a few minutes, he told her he'd call her that night and hung up.
He looked at Mel.
"Well, may as well head home before it gets dark." Mel said slipping on his snowmobile suit.
"Give me a call when you get home, so I know you're safe." Don said watching as Mel put on boots that looked too big for him.
"Sure.hopefully it will let me. If not, if it rings and hangs up you know it's me."
"We never had trouble calling each other." Don said.
"Yeah..do do do do do do." Mel sang, trying to break the tension a bit.
Don chuckled and watched through the window as Mel cleared off the snowmobile and took off. He was soon out of site in the swirling snow and wind.
Nothing to do now but wait.
He cursed looking at the PC and slammed his fist on the table. He hadn't thought of this, and again slammed his fist ignoring the cracks in the hard oak desktop. They were smarter then he had given them credit for.
He couldn't let them win. He had to keep them apart. All the fun of the blizzard and Brewer's swamp adventure would be a waste if they succeeded in communicating, even if it was through Brewer's wife. The real problem was he wasn't just working against them, he was working against something else too. It was his job to stop the mission from working, but the mission itself had been started by something else and it gave him chills to think about it, and he didn't get chills from too many things.
It was this other entity that was giving them the dreams, and maybe the intuitions and that he could deal with. It was these mer, as he saw them washed up rock stars out smarting him that made him angry.
He punched a few keys on the PC and saw again the colorful splash of the blizzard that covered the Great Lakes region of the USA. It made him feel better to see it, but not as much as he liked. He couldn't keep the blizzard going forever, but he could keep it going until he thought of something else.
He had made the mistake of under estimating them, and he would have to be more careful and crafty. He continued to monitor the storm, so lost in thought that when Tohagi came in with his dinner he didn't even acknowledge him.
Mark decided not to cancel his concerts for that weekend. They were in Texas and Oklahoma. He guessed if he could get out of his driveway he could get to these gigs. Having lived in Michigan all his life, dealing with many storms as bad as this one was he wasn't going to let it stop him. The county was doing it's best to keep the roads open, and even though there were some closings here and there, during the daylight they were clear at least for 4 wheel drives. At night was when there were problems.
He called the other guys, and they too would not let the storm stop them, at least the ones who were old Michigan guys. Mark looked at it as kind of fun in a way. He'd always loved a good blizzard. Keeps the blood pumping during the long winter months, even though this was springtime!
He tried to call Sunny to tell her that he was heading out of town. Not surprised now that he couldn't reach her. The shrill ring and the hang up, the phone fine a few minutes later. He then called her radio station and left a message for her that he was heading out of town. He didn't want Don to sit in the hotel room unless he wanted to. He added that once he had some phone numbers to reach him, he'd let her know at her radio station.
The dreams that had started with this storm had been getting stronger and more real to him. He had woke up that morning, again rubbing his upper bicep and when he looked at himself in the bathroom mirror, it actually looked like he had more hair. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but running his hands through his thinning top it defiantly felt thicker. Even Leisa had made a comment that his hair looked 'different'.
As he loaded his gear into the truck he had a weird feeling, something was going on here, something powerful. The feeling didn't go away as he made his way onto the barely passable roads. His attention now on the drive though took his mind off of it for the time being.
Don woke with a start. His 4th night in the hotel room and he was pretty sick of it. He couldn't venture out, and even if he dared falling snow and the efforts of the snowplows buried his rental car. He longed for the warm sun of Florida and just floating in his backyard pool.
To top it off, he had lost phone communication with Mel, although that didn't stop the old bass player from jumping on the skidoo and heading over. Don had a feeling that Mel was getting off on braving the elements to bring him food and company. Mel too couldn't stop from teasing Don about his cabin fever. That he had 'wussed out' since moving to Florida.
"I'd like to see you out there in this!" Don said motioning to his clothes consisting of light sweaters, jeans and loafers.
"Well, if you weren't a size 'extra long skinny as hell' I could help you out their son!" Mel laughed.
"Scuse me for not being a short shit, 'stick out my tongue look like a zipper'. " Don chuckled.
The jokes helped them deal with the weirdness of the situation. The Weather Channel was calling the blizzard one of the most bizarre storms in history. It would surly go down as one of the worst storms of the century. It had literally crippled every city between Milwaukee/Chicago to Detroit. Squalls on the lakes were causing even worse problems in Detroit and Chicago with lake snow effects. In Chicago alone over 18 inches of snow had been reported with close to two feet in the outer areas. Airports and roads were closed for hundreds of miles leaving thousands stranded. People were trapped in their homes with no way to get food or medical help, and there were numerous power outages. Snowplows from Minnesota, Iowa and other states had been called up to help clear out the roads and airports in the hardest hit areas.
Don went into the bathroom and threw water on his face. The dreams since he'd arrived in Michigan were just getting stronger and more vivid. Each morning he'd wake up with the feeling of being on stage again. His arms a little sore, his voice a little horse. He could in detail remember what had happened, what the other guys looked like and the surroundings.
Mel was having the same dreams. He told Don he could remember the set list, one they had done during the American Band tour. Songs he hadn't played in 30 years (ones they hadn't done on the reunion tours).
Don looked at himself in the mirror and stared blankly at himself. His face had gone white, but that wasn't what had shocked him. It was his hair. Since his mid 30's he'd been going gray. He'd done nothing to stop it. He was pretty much all gray by the time he hit 40 and he had grown used to it. Sunny loved his hair, and told him never to change it when he suggested he color it. Now though he saw some dark strands.like years before as the gray took over now it looked like it was reversing itself. Even his eyebrows now had some dark color to them.
Mel noticed right away.
"What ya do Brew? Brave the weather to stock up on 'Just for Men'?" he quipped, but knew this was no chemical that was changing his hair. He'd noticed changes in his own hair and kept a baseball hat on his head to hide it. It scared him, and he was almost relieved when he saw the change in Don's hair.
Don made no comment, but eyed the baseball cap. Mel without a word took it off. Mel had thinned out some on the top and even Don noticed he now had a little more hair up there.
"I don't know if I should be happy or scared shitless." Mel said running his hands through it and putting the baseball cap back on.
"Maybe a bit of both.but more of the latter right now." Don said. "I couldn't reach Sunny today either, so I'm going to have to go out and find a pay phone or something. I can't stay here and not contact her. "
"Did you try the radio station?" Mel asked.
"Never thought of that." Don said and picked up the phone and quickly dialed the radio station.
He was happy when he heard someone answer the phone. He asked for Sunny after identifying himself. The relief in her voice told him that she was very happy he had called.
"Mark left me a message that he was heading out of town. I checked his web site and he'll be out of town probably until Tuesday." He heard rustling. "He said he'd call back with phone numbers where he could be reached."
"Sounds good, but I think I'm going to try and come home. There's no use in staying here. I just hope I can get out of here." He looked over at Mel who had drove his truck over the last few days. The roads were barely passable. Two to three feet of snow had fallen since the storm started.
"You think it's possible?" She asked. She'd put up the weather channel on the TV in the lounge of the radio station and no one dared turn it. Even the soap addicts had to get their fix by taping their favorite shows. Sunny Quinn Brewer had been a basket case since her husband had left, although the people who didn't know her would have never known. She staid professional on the air about it, even making jokes about the storm. She did not mention on the air though that Don was in Michigan, but said that being a Michigan boy Don had once suggested moving there (that had only been once and Sunny was sure he was joking).
"Well, I'll try. I'll contact you somehow no matter what Ok Hon? Hang in there darlin'. I think about you all the time."
Mel rolled his eyes and went over to the window. Don was talking lovey dovey to the wifey and the last thing you want is another guy hearing that!
Once Don hung up the phone, he dialed information and asked for numbers of the airlines in the area. It wasn't that big of an area so there weren't that many to choose from. He called them and was told what he already knew. Most were closed or had most flights canceled. He finally found an opening on a flight heading for Kansas City and took it. He would catch a flight home from there. He didn't call Sunny right away since she'd be heading home soon. He'd call her at home from the airport. He suspected that would be easier.
"Mel old buddy.how bout a trip? Think that lovely wife of yours could live without you for a few days?" Don knew that if they were to get anything done, Mel would have to come with him.
"I think she'll be alright. Give her a chance to clean the basement. She's been after me about it." Mel smirked.
"I can imagine." Don chuckled.
As Don shivered next to him in the passenger seat, Mel a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, ground a few gears in the old Jeep Cherokee. He seemed to be enjoying himself as he maneuvered around stalled cars and large snowdrifts.
Everything was so white. Only a few brave souls were out in their 4 wheel drives. Anything else didn't have a chance other then snowmobiles, the wind though made it almost impossible to be out on them very long.
As they approached the airport, Don felt the back end of the Jeep swerve and turn as Mel pulled into the parking lot. Mel though calmly straightened it out and parked perfectly between two snow covered cars. Don couldn't even tell what kind they were.
The hike to the terminal was short but one of the coldest in memory for Don, who had moved from Michigan several years ago. He didn't miss it either as he felt his feet get wetter and colder. Mel almost had to run to keep up with his long fast strides, but he had on a parka and boots.
As they finally reached the warmth of the terminal, Don stomped his feet to loosen the snow and knew even without close observation that his loafers were ruined. That didn't bother him as much as how cold and wet his feet were. He would just have to put on a pair of dirty but dry socks from his bag.
The plane was delayed for a few hours, but they were able to take off before sundown. Leaving the white snowy landscape of Michigan had never felt so good to Don. Mel, who really disliked flying, sat nervously next to Don yet he too was glad to escape the blizzard. He knew that when he returned it would look as if nothing had happened. He just had that feeling.
He was apprehensive too. What was this all about? Why was something trying to keep them apart, especially he and Don from Mark? He hoped they could find out the answers soon as he again felt this thickening hairline.
Don had called Sunny from the airport, but just got the voice mail. He left a quick message, but something told him not to tell her too much. He felt like his line was being tapped or something weird.
He waited until the plane landed in Kansas City. They had a couple of hours lay over for the flight home. He called Sunny from there, happy to hear her voice. He decided not to tell her where he was, just that he was out of Michigan. He felt that he shouldn't tell her.
"I have the numbers for Mark." She said understanding why he wouldn't tell her. She too had been getting feelings. It felt lately like someone was listening in.
As Don talked to her, the news was up on one of the airport monitors and he saw that the blizzard that had been plaguing Michigan for the last five days was now moving on and breaking apart. It was just rain east of it. That didn't surprise Don.
"I don't think you better give me those numbers for Mark." Don said softly. "At least not over the phone." Don thought a few seconds, then thought of something. They talked for a few minutes more. He could tell she missed him and wanted him home no matter how much she tried to hide it in her voice. He missed her as much, but knew this was something he had to do.
After hanging up with her, they waited a half-hour and went to another pay phone. Don had told Mel what he was going to do, and Mel was not surprised by it. They were all thinking about the same.
He called his neighbor and talked to Sunny. She gave him Mark's numbers from there. He then called Mark and was surprised to hear him answer the phone.
"I knew it was you.don't know why. How you doin' Brew?" Mark sounded happy to hear him, and even though things were strained between them, it was nice that they now could talk and not just relay messages.
"Better now that I'm out of that winter wonderland." Don said.
"Yeah.I see it's clearin' up. Funny too, started when we all left the state." Mark said. There was no way it was coincidence.not in their minds at least. "Where are you now? Not home?"
"No, Kansas City. It was the only place I could get." Don said.
"KC.you're not that far from me." Mark said.
"I know what you're thinking but I don't," Don began but Mark cut him off.
"It's the only way Brew.you got a better plan old friend, I'd like to hear it."
"OK." Don sighed. He was hoping it would be Sunny's face he'd be seeing that night.
After getting details and directions Don hung up the phone and then dialed his neighbor back. He told Sunny that plans had changed. She didn't seem surprised by it and told him to take care.
They rented a SUV and headed for Oklahoma. They had barely spoke since hanging up with Mark, it almost felt like they didn't have to. Taking a plane was possible from KC to where Mark was, but for some reason they decided to drive.or something else decided for them.
He knew they'd left Michigan. It was inevitable that they would since Farner had left. They were smart in covering their tracks though. He had finally tracked Brewer and Schacher to Kansas City, but lost them there. He'd find them though. They would slip up somewhere.
He knew where Farner was. That was public news of course, listed on his web site. He figured that Brewer and Schacher would head there, but had to think of a way to keep them apart. This was a challenge, but one he was up to. He tapped on the keyboard an evil smile across his face.
Mark had on the local news as he strummed the guitar working out some new tune he had in his head. Some of the crew had gone into town for something to eat, but he stayed behind in the bus happy for the silence. He had the news on out of habit, always interested in what was going on. He happen to look up and saw flashed across the screen a tornado warning just north of where he was, he guessed about 50 miles or so. In fact the weather had been getting pretty bad just north of him, strong thunderstorms with high-speed straight-line winds. This though was the first tornado to come out of it.
He reached for the remote and turned up the sound. It would be of course the way Don and Mel were coming.
"Come on pal, is this all you can do? Bad weather? We are gonna make this happen whether you like it or not buddy, so give it up why don't ya?" Mark said aloud, looking up at the TV mounted on the wall of the bus. "You're gonna have to do better then blizzards and tornados. What do ya think this is?? The Wizard of Oz? Remember the wicked witch was killed in that one pal!!"
He put the guitar aside and stood. He had tied a bandana around his head like he had in the old days, covering the top of his head. Seeing the extra hair spooked him, and he didn't want the other guys looking at him funny. This though was the last straw. He went to a mirror and pulled the bandana off his head. His hair was much thicker now. His face too looked different. The lines around his eyes and mouth were faded. Even the scar on his neck from his car accident had faded. He wondered if Mel and Don were seeing changes.
How could this be happening? He knew now that something or somebody else was involved here, in fact more then one "other", a good one and an evil one.
The dream he'd had the night before seem to explain things to him, even if it was a little foggy when he woke the next day. He kept a pad and paper next to his bed so when he woke he could write down what he remembered.
He found that pad and read some of what he wrote most of it not making sense to him. Don't call home. Don't tell certain people (close family, friends, management) where he was. Use alternate people for communication. The only thing he hadn't done was change the web site, which made sense to him but so far he was told not to do this.
He must keep his whereabouts secret, but still get it to Mel and Don. They knew where he was though, but now a frickin' tornado was in the way and God knew what it would leave behind. From what the reports were saying it was a dozy.
He put the bandana back on, and sat back down. He stared at the TV hoping that Don and Mel would find a way through it. He knew that without them he could do nothing, but would continue to change. Soon he would not be able to hide it.
Don was driving when they saw that the state police had a roadblock up. It didn't surprise them since they'd been hearing about the tornadoes on the radio.
"Sorry sir.road's closed up ahead." The policeman said as Don stopped.
"Is there a detour?" Don asked.
"You can try the county roads." He motioned up the ramp that traffic was being lead off of. "If you don't have a map though I'd get one first.where you heading?"
"Broken Arrow Oklahoma."
"Pretty tough.most roads are closed north of Tulsa." He said. "You can give it a shot though, but be careful for power lines."
Don thanked him and they headed up the ramp. As they approached, Miami Oklahoma, which seemed very ironic to Don, they stopped to get a better map and something to eat. They had hardly stopped since leaving Kansas City, and they both were exhausted.
Don went into the men's room and looked shocked at his hair. It was half-and-half now. His eyebrows were all dark. He'd seen it in the rear view of the car, but just tried to ignore it. Mel had said nothing, but Don knew about his thickening hair.
He noticed the lines around his eyes and mouth were now gone, or almost faded away. He even felt different, like he had maybe 10 years before.
"Mel.." he said sitting across from him in a booth they found in a small diner. It was pretty crowded with people getting off the road and trying to plan routes around the bad weather. "This is getting weirder and weirder."
Mel had the map spread out on the table; a cigarette already smoked to the butt between his fingers.
"I'll be glad when this is over." he said taking one last drag off of it and stubbing it out, only to light another. He looked at Don as he took the first drag off the new butt. "I think it's speeding up too Don.look at us. Our hair.our faces."
"Maybe it's got something to do with how close we get to one another too." Don said drinking some coffee that was hot and strong. "We've got to stay calm Mel.at least its not the other way."
"You got a point there, but I don't wanna be crapping my pants with a rattle in my hand in two weeks."
Don chuckled the visual was too much for him.
"In your case Schacher it would be a cigarette." Don teased.
"If this runs its course I should stop smoking around age 15 when I started." Mel said. "This is really messing with my head Brewer. I just don't know how much more I can take."
From what they could gather from the other people in the diner, most of the county roads were blocked or washed out by the storm. It looked bleak. Don found a pay phone and tried to call Mark, but got no answer. A quick check of his watch and he guessed they were getting ready to go on stage.
Don and Mel decided to find a motel and get some sleep. They both felt ready to drop from all the stress and travel. Neither had gotten much sleep since this whole thing started. Maybe the next day things would look better in their outlook and travel, as long as they didn't look in a mirror.
He knew he was keeping them apart just barely. They were so close to each other, less then 100 miles. They had been closer in Michigan but he'd been able to whip up a blizzard there. He couldn't where they were now, but the tornado, a category 4 had caused much havoc and mayhem and that had made him happy.
He had noticed that they were changing, and whether that would help them against him, he wasn't sure. He didn't like being not sure of things. It made him uneasy and nervous, another feeling he wasn't comfortable with.
He decided he needed to go to the states, as much as he hated his New York office he could keep better tags on them there. Time frame alone could make a difference. He had Tohagi make arrangements and was ready to go in less then a half-hour. A fast, death-defying trip to the airport and his private jet was on its way to the states less then an hour later. Tohagi sat in the front of the plane while he sat it back. They were the only two passengers. Time was crucial and he only hoped he wouldn't be too late.
Mark made his way back to the bus, feeling good and strong but tired. He needed sleep. The rest of the band followed slowly, each looking at each other curiously afraid to voice anything. That night they had done none of the solo stuff, only Grand Funk stuff. The crowd loved it, but it bothered them. Mark changed the set as they played. They didn't question it, but it made them curious to why he'd do this. They had noticed the change in him. As if he were growing younger some how. How could that be?
Mark didn't tell them why he'd changed the set, but when he saw the songs on the set list they were only vaguely familiar to him. He couldn't remember them. His fingers couldn't play the cords, his mouth sing the words. It was as if it was all fading away. He could only remember the funk songs, which didn't seem odd to him.
Only the pictures of his wife and kids in his billfold helped him remember them, and that bothered him. He didn't question why he was forgetting things, he knew why. His wife, kids and the solo songs didn't exist at the time he was regressing to. His dreams would tell him more, another reason to sleep. He made sure the pad and paper were there and settled in to sleep.
Don woke with a start from the dream he was having. It was 1am and he was wide-awake. Again, the dream seemed so real; he could almost feel it. He had been told something in this dream and got out of bed. After a quick shower and packing up the few things he unpacked he met Mel in the parking lot by their rented SUV. Mel said nothing to him. There almost seemed no reason to talk and they jumped into the car and headed not south, but east. They stopped and got some coffee at a fast food place on the way.
"Is this crazy?" Mel asked sipping it carefully.
"I don't know what's crazy any more." Don said as he guided the SUV onto the freeway.
Mark woke at almost the same time Mel and Don had. His dream had told him what to do, and he dressed, threw some clothes into a duffel bag. He made a phone call to a cab company and told him to take him to the nearest car rental place. Even though the place he was going to was several hundred miles away, he had to drive it not fly. He had to move too. He had to be there at a set time.
He left no note for the crew, but that was the last thing on his mind so when they woke and saw him gone they panicked. His manager called Mark's wife, Leisa. It was the wrong thing to do.
He knew Farner had left, but instead of checking the airlines, he checked the car rental places on a hunch. He found Farner had rented a car and was heading east.Atlanta.
He called up to the pilot and said that they would not be going to New York but Atlanta. They had to stop in LA to refuel, from there it was just a few hours to Atlanta. He would be cutting it close though.
He tried to get another storm brewing but it wasn't working. He knew something else was involved here, and again he felt that nervous feeling. He kept tapping at the keyboard, head down. Tohagi had noticed that it had been getting warmer in the cabin and glanced back at his boss. Smoke was coming from the collar of his expensive suite. He turned back around and folded his hands tightly in his lap. No matter what he was paying him, it was not enough for him. He was going to resign, but not until the plane was on the ground. He was afraid that if he said something now, he might not see his homeland or family again.
Mel had the SUV floored. They had seen no police or state patrol yet, but they were willing to risk the speeding ticket. Time was not on their side. It was close to a 15-hour drive to Atlanta and they had to be there at a set time. It kind of reminded Don of the old days when they'd drive to gigs themselves, often in a truck that seemed ready to blow any second with a trailer that was probably unsafe at any speed.
He had dug out his wallet and was looking at pictures of Sunny and the girls. His memory was fading and he needed to see her picture to remember her. It scared him and he wondered for the first time whether he should've accepted this mission. He had a feeling that in the end he would've had no choice. The dreams alone would've drove him insane.
Mel of course would not be having the memory problems as Don and Mark were having since he'd been with Dena almost since the beginning of Grand Funk. When he did look at his picture of Dena, she didn't look as familiar to him since it was taken only a few years ago, but his memory of her had not faded. His memory of his son though was, that bothered him.
They had said little to each other since they'd gotten on the road. Don had the radio tuned into classic rock stations, letting it seek out new ones once they were out of the stations' range. They heard their own songs, American Band, Footstompin' Music, Closer to Home. They both hummed and sung along with them, almost unconsciously. Seemed the closer they got to Atlanta the more they heard themselves. Was it the radio station really playing them or was it in their heads?
They had quit noticing or maybe were just ignoring the changes in their appearance. Don's hair was almost all-dark now; Mel's hair was as thick as it had been when he was in his 20's. They looked and felt like they had 25 plus years ago, and it was good and bad, since they felt good but the memory thing bothered them both. Don even had a hard time remembering the name of his daughter.
Mark too had the radio on in his rental car. All he heard was Grand Funk songs, which he sang along with. He had paid little attention to the fact that he now had the same head of hair he had had over 25 years ago; his body had changed back to what it had been too. In the back of the car where he had stowed his gear, he would discover that the green Messenger replaced the red Peavey he had put back there. His clothes would be different too, complete with slave bracelets.
As they reached Atlanta they were now the men they had been. They had literally stepped back in time although Atlanta itself had not. They were not the only ones to arrive in Atlanta at about the same time.
As the plane set down in Atlanta, Tohagi was quietly getting his courage and words together. He suspected his boss could read his mind at times, so he made sure he used no English in his thoughts. He wondered how he could've been so greedy? Give up his soul for money.
He'd been quiet since they'd taken off, except for this change to Atlanta. All he heard was the tapping on the PC, but even that stopped when they still had an hour left of flight time. He had a feeling things were not going the way he wanted them to. The temperature in the cabin had risen enough for him to loosen his collar. After seeing the smoke rise from his bosses' collar, he had not looked back. He was too afraid to. He only hoped he wouldn't need his assistance, and thankfully he hadn't.
Once the plane had stopped, Tohagi stood and headed for the exit anxious to get off.
"Tohagi." He said, stopping him in his tracks.
He turned, afraid of what he may see but he looked normal, composed.
"I will no longer need your services after today.I of course will full fill my contract to you. I only ask that you accompany me to my final destination then you may take my private jet back home or arrange transportation yourself."
He really wanted to leave now, but figured he'd come this far. He looked much calmer and normal then he'd thought he would. He agreed, although he felt uneasy about it and they climbed into the waiting limousine and entered the busy Atlanta traffic. He wasn't sure where they were going, he was just happy that it was almost over.
Mark drove up to the grounds and parked the rental car in the back area. Unknowingly he parked next to the SUV Mel and Don had drove. They met finally as he stepped from the car, only it was much different then their last meeting, but they didn't remember it. To them it was the 70's again, and they were Grand Funk Railroad, the hot rock band that sold millions of albums, sold out arenas in record time and were the nemesis of most rock critics.
They shook hands and exchanged small talk as they made their way toward the back of the stage. Their small talk though referred to things that had happened 30 years ago, but to them it was as if it were just weeks ago. They changed into their stage clothes, which as the saying goes, what comes around.looked much like the clothes of the day.
As they were changing a black limousine pulled up. This one though held no rock star or group. He got out of the car, leaving his laptop behind. It would do him no good now. Tohagi followed at a distance looking around amazed at all the people. He had never seen a rock festival as big as this one.
The backstage security did not question his presence. He walked into the back toward the dressing room trailers that were set up for the various groups. He waited patiently for them to come out and was not surprised to see them young again. They looked at him curiously.
"What are you doing here?" Don asked quietly.
"You know why I'm here." He said just as quiet.
"You ain't stopping us from going on." Mark said.
"We'll see about that." He said smiling, but it was not a friendly grin.
"What are you gonna do? Bring a hurricane? Mud slide? How bout an earth quake? That outta get these peoples' attention." Mel quipped.
"No nothing like that." he said. Even though they looked the same as they did 30 years ago, they had different attitudes. Not everything he knew had reverted back. He should've expected this he guessed. Mel's comment alone told him they did have some memory of what had happened to them over the last few days.
"I've come to take your equipment.according to my agreement with you," he turned to Tohagi who held a briefcase, which he opened quickly once his soon to be ex-boss turned to him. He found the papers he wanted and handed them to him. "See.signed by you all.your equipment, all of it is mine."
Don looked over the papers, and looked at his band mates, he then looked back at him.
"This is bogus crap and sorry.it's worthless." He said and tore up the papers and tossed them into the air like confetti.
He smiled, and looked down at his feet nodding his head back and forth.
"I have copies of that letter.yes it is legal." He said. "I own your ass Brewer, so you can tear up all the paper you want, doesn't change a thing."
"Oh, but I think it does since we have this." he took out the manila envelope and the record contract and tour schedule. "You don't own us any more.you can go to hell where you belong."
"Those aren't legal." he said.
"Yes they are.look at them." Don said.
"They aren't legal until you perform, and that will be pretty hard without instruments."
"I'd like to see you take my drums." Don said. "I've owned those drums since I was 19."
"I've had this Messenger about as long." Mark said.
"This is not your bass guitar." Mel said.
"We'll see what the sheriff has to say about that." He said snapping his fingers at Tohagi who ran off to get the police who waited in the wings. He had called them from the car and they had just arrived.
As the sheriff's walked up to them, Don disgusted with the way things were going threw his cup of beer in the man's face. They almost expected him to melt like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz, but unfortunately he didn't. He only whipped it away and glared at Brewer who looked a bit satisfied at his deed.
Tohagi thought that the tall afroed man would be killed where he stood, but his boss just smiled evilly and made a comment that this is what he expected of them!
As the sheriffs were about to order the roadies to haul the equipment off stage, a chanting started. Low at first, but soon rose to a loud crescendo.
"WE WANT GRAND FUNK WE WANT GRAND FUNK WE WANT GRAND FUNK" was so loud it drowned out everything, even the man's yelling at the sheriff's to do their job! He had court orders!
"Sorry.we can't do it." The sheriff yelled back and looked at the band. "We do that and they'll be a riot. Court order or no court order, I'm not doing it." He said and looked over at the band again. "I love your stuff man." he yelled over the crowd. "Go rock!"
Mark Don and Mel stepped on stage and flashed back 30 years to the first Atlanta Pop festival they had done, which launched their careers. They ripped into "Are you Ready" which instantly had the crowd cheering and on their feet.
The man was so mad, so infuriated; he turned a bright red. He looked over at Tohagi and yelled something but Tohagi had stepped way back afraid now, afraid for his own life. He looked ready to explode, and as far as Tohagi was concerned he could do it.
Suddenly the man disappeared, in a puff of smoke as if he'd never existed. He didn't melt like the wicked witch, but he may as well have.
When the band came off stage, they asked where he had gone? Where had the sheriffs gone? Tohagi had not even noticed the absence of the law, but only looked dumb struck at the young men that seem to be changing before his eyes. The tall dark afroed man who had threw the beer now had gray in his hair. How could that be? Why would he question any of this after what he'd seen any way?
"He disappeared." He said shocked. "Just poof.and gone."
"Ah, probably went back to where he came from." Mark said and the others nodded.
"I guess I'll just give you this and leave." Tohagi handed them the briefcase with all the legal documents. He had no need of them, and wanted nothing to do with them now that his boss was gone. He just wanted to go home.
Don took it and Tohagi left them, finding the limo still waiting. The laptop was gone, although the limo driver had not moved and had not seen anyone. It didn't matter. He told the driver to take him to the airport.
Don went to the fridge and dug out some beers. He could hear laughing from the other room and wondered what the joke was that would send them into such gawfaws.
He came back in the room where Mel, Mark their wives and Sunny sat talking. They had done the last gig of the tour in Florida and were just getting together before heading home. Soon they would get together to jam and record. It was already in the works. It scared Don sometimes on how fast it all happened.
They would work around Mark's schedule so he could still tour and record with his own band. It had worked out so well, it was amazing they hadn't thought of it before and saved a lot of grief both for themselves and their fans.
None of them could really remember their adventure once leaving Michigan and the blizzard, but it had changed their lives. They now looked their age again, but they really didn't remember being young again. It all felt like a dream to them now, but this was certainly not a dream, a recording contract and a successful tour. Don wasn't really sure if they saved the world's music, but he hoped they'd improved it somewhat.
They had a lot of questions though that had gone unanswered. Who had started this? Even though the man who had showed up at the show in Atlanta had looked like their old manager, was it really him? When they had checked with the sheriffs in Atlanta, they found out none had ever been dispatched there. As far as they were concerned the only law present during the festival were the ones patrolling the grounds. They had tried to contact the Japanese attorney, but when they called the number they found on the legal documents the receptionist who spoke good English in a heavy accent told them Tohagi no longer worked for the firm and they had no way of contacting him. Just like the man who had looked like their old manager, Tohagi had disappeared.poof. They had a feeling there was no foul play involved. Tohagi did not want to be found.
They all had their own theories of what had happened. Divine intervention, fate, something for the X files maybe? Don wasn't sure whose theory was right, but looking at his old friends, his brothers, he felt at home again, as Dorothy had said, there's no place like home!
It wasn't the man who had caused such havoc in their lives that bothered Don. His identity seemed logical. It was the sheriffs at the concert. He could vaguely remember them. "Go Rock" they'd said. Were they angels? Were they omens? Were they Roadkillers? Don chuckled. Roadkillers, the guardian angels of Grand Funk Railroad.seemed logical to him!