Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 10 of 41
Excerpt: Waking up on a tear-damp pillow had been the highlight of the day so far for Isaac. The tears, at least, had helped relieve some of the building internal pressure. But other than that, things just weren’t going well. The past four hours had been hell. FBI agents draped around the suite, enough recording equipment attached to phones to fill a good sized studio, everyone being questioned. And not reasonably questioned, either.
Waking up on a tear-damp pillow had been the highlight of the day so far for Isaac. The tears, at least, had helped relieve some of the building internal pressure. But other than that, things just weren’t going well. The past four hours had been hell. FBI agents draped around the suite, enough recording equipment attached to phones to fill a good sized studio, everyone being questioned. And not reasonably questioned, either.
He ran his hands through his hair, irritably yanking it out of his face. Over and over and over, the same stupid questions, while out there, in the city, somewhere… his brother might be… he shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut. He HADN’T seen what he thought he’d seen. That was it. That was all. Why wouldn’t these people do something? He sat back, rubbing his aching head, thinking that wasn’t the most accurate assessment. They actually did do things. Stupid things. The front desk had called a short while ago, to speak to his parents, and the agents had mobilized as if preparing for Desert Storm. Over a phone call from the front desk. He glanced up at the man sitting opposite him, swallowing a surge of hate and ugly contempt. “What did you say?” The man sighed, and repeated himself. “Son, if you would just go over that one more time for me…” Isaac felt the thump in his head increase, his thoughts angry… “I’m repeating myself, rambling the same thing over and over, and he’s encouraging me! Tay’d love this…” Sighing, he shrugged. “What do you want me to tell you? I’ve told you and told you. I had a fight with him. He left mad, and I went to find him…” “Why?” “Excuse me?” This was a curve he hadn’t been thrown before. “What do you mean why?” “Well…” the man tapped his clipboard with his pen… “If I had just had a big fight with my brother, and he’d gone off in a huff, I’d be glad to see his back! I mean… the last thing in the world I would do is go chasing after him. Why did you want to follow him, Isaac? Why didn’t you just let him go?” Isaac stared, nonplussed. Was the very fact that he’d gone after him going to become twisted into something suspicious? “You obviously don’t know my family. We love each other, and we don’t fight very often. When we do, especially if we say things we’re…” his voice broke and he fought to get it back. “…we’re sorry for, we do the best we can to make it right. I went after him to try to talk to him, to try to… to undo it.” “And you say you didn’t find him?” “That’s right, I didn’t find him. I thought I saw him once, but by the time I got there he was gone.” Isaac turned his eyes to the carpet, tracing the nap. He HADN’T seen it. Hadn’t. “And that’s all you did, you followed him into the park?” He took in Isaac’s nod, and continued, noting the stress building on the boy’s face as he recounted Isaac’s own account of the day back to him.
“And that’s it then, son?” “Yes sir, I told you before, that’s exactly what I did, and exactly where I went. I’ve told you exactly who I talked to, what I said, and where you can find them. I did NOT talk to random strangers, other than to say Hi, or acknowledge that they recognized me.” Isaac was losing his patience with this guy. He’d answered the same questions, time after time, with exactly the same words. He glanced at Zac, beside him, rolling his eyes. This was such a waste of time. “Will you excuse me for a minute? I want to take something for this headache.” Without waiting for a reply, Ike got up and headed to the bathroom, half wincing as Zac got up and followed. At least he and Zac were back in tune. The explosion of the past night had cleared everything up for Zac, and the whispered apologies, while keeping them from sleep, had helped to heal at least part of the wound they both felt. Zac seemed to have switched from wildly suspicious, to heavily protective, of his big brother. Or maybe it was just fear, fear that someone else he loved would vanish. Zac hadn’t left his side once, he’d had to pry him off just to use the bathroom in privacy. He reached out, slinging an arm affectionately around the boy’s shoulders. “It’s okay Zac, I’m just going for some Aspirin.” Zac nodded, and remained stuck to his side. “He’s being a barnacle” Isaac thought to himself, “but at least he’s MY barnacle.”
“Isaac, we’re looking for your brother… please try to co-operate…” Isaac felt like screaming. “Yeah, I know you are… how long is this going to go on, you looking for him from the hotel room? I’ve been co-operating, but I’m getting pretty sick of this!” The agent sighed. “Any information you can give us, that you may not have thought of before, will be helpful. We’re just trying to help you to remember… everything. To make sure that you don’t… accidentally… leave something out. Something that could lead us to Taylor’s whereabouts. You *are* the last person to see him, please remember…” The agent’s voice trailed off, not wanting to insinuate, yet, that Isaac had knowledge he wasn’t sharing. Swallowing a sigh, he looked over his notes. The kid’s story had not changed at all, not in the twenty times he’d answered. But, he remembered, this kid was a pro. He’d dealt with the media for quite a while now. He had the knack for pat answers. He knew Isaac was keeping something back, he could *feel* it. He could see it! Every time the kid said something about seeing his brother in the park, he dropped his eyes, and a completely, he was sure, unconscious expression of bewilderment crossed his features. But what was it? He could see it in the kid’s eyes, but was it guilt he saw? It looked for like bafflement than guilt, but this kid was used to being onstage. Sighing again, wishing for a cup of coffee with a good stiff shot of bourbon in it, he reviewed his notes, and the morning in general. He knew the key to Taylor’s disappearance was in something Isaac saw, or did. Of that he had no doubts. And he’d find it, yes he would. He’d questioned everyone here, had agents out to check alibis, and was able to clear the missing boy’s parents, and younger brother. They had all been together, with their security, for the entire afternoon. In clear view of half of NYC, as they shopped. Everyone’s whereabouts were confirmed, and double checked. All but Isaac’s. He wished, again, that the NYC police had done this legwork earlier, they knew that it had to be done. You never know, these days, the investigator thought, even the nicest families have problems. And fame doesn’t exclude the need for proper procedure. “We still have to check out your alibi, Isaac, I’m sure you understand.”
Eyes narrowing, Isaac leaned forward in his chair, hands clasped together to hide the angry tremor. “Yes… I understand. You think I had something to do with the disappearance of my BROTHER. A member of my family. An third of our band. Give your head a shake, man, I LOVE him. And I want him home. Yeah, we had a fight, didn’t you ever fight with your brother? Now he’s gone, and our last words were angry! Don’t you think I want to find him, find him and tell him…” He stopped for a minute, swallowed, went on. “Tell him I’m sorry? That I didn’t mean it? I want that more than anything!. I don’t know what kind of psychos you’re used to dealing with, but no one in this family did anything to, or with, Tay. We wouldn’t, we COULDN’T! We love him!” His hands tugged at his hair, his distress clearly evident. “You should be out there, looking for him, doing something other than sit here and harass us!” “What would you have us do, Isaac? We have to have the information to…” “Just for God’s sake do SOMETHING!!” Isaac was on his feet before the agent could blink. “Do something other than sit around with your thumbs up your butts, and go find my brother!” He slammed out of the room, leaving the investigator and Zac sitting alone. Zac looked at the agent, in his dark suit, and nodded quietly. “Get your shit together, man, and find my brother. Making Ike mad isn’t gonna find Tay. He’s given you all the information he can, and, for your further information, Ike could no more kill Tay, or anything like that, than I could. Do your job, dude.” He left the man then, sitting alone.
Zac strolled quietly out of the room, and found Isaac sitting by the window. He slid in beside him, resting a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Ike, man, you ok?” “Yeah, I’m okay. You know the worst part, Zac?” Zac shook his head. “The worst part is I understand why they have to clear me. I WAS the last one to see him, and we DID have that fight, and I DID say those words. I’m just glad I talked to someone at each place I looked. And I’m actually glad, for a change, that I was recognized all day. I’m glad I have a damned ALIBI Zac, to clear me of somehow doing away with my brother!” Zac nodded sympathetically, and rested his cheek against his brother’s arm, feeling an arm come around him. “I know you didn’t hurt him, Ike… but…” “But what, Zac..?” Ike drew away slightly. “But what?” Zac shook his head. “I don’t know… you get the funniest look on your face, when you talk about seeing him down there… DID you see something, Ike?” Isaac stared for a minute, wondering if he should tell him. But no, no it would seem too crazy. “Aw… no Zac. No… This just sucks, Zac. I miss him… it’s been almost 4 whole days now…” “I know. I miss him too.” The boys, side by side, missing a puzzle piece that would have completed them, sat by the window, looking into the park that swallowed their brother.
He felt like a heel. An utter heel. “I’m sorry, really I am, Mr. and Mrs. Hanson, but you have to understand, there’s nothing I can do! We can’t continue to cope with these crowds, and the media circus…” He trailed off for a moment. “Mr. and Mrs. Hanson, you’ve always been valued customers. We like you very much. I sympathize with you… and you have to believe we’re all praying for Taylor’s safe return. But we have other guests. This is very disrupting to them. I’m sure you understand. We’ll be happy to help you find alternate accommodations, but we’re very sorry… you WILL have to find alternative accommodations.” The manager of the Trump folded his hands in front of him on the desk. There had been numerous complaints, and no matter how well liked this family was, enough was enough. Entrances, and exits, blocked by hordes of young girls and boys, grown men and women. Trying to come and go was a nightmare, hysterical teenagers grabbing onto the sleeves of total strangers, begging for information. Police officers in and out at all hours, media trying to get information from the other guests… this simply could not continue. “We will give you any help you need, to make a quiet exit, and to find another hotel, if you’d like. I’m really very sorry… but you see… my hands are tied.”
Diana rubbed her aching head, and, glancing out the window, at the swarms of fans, and assorted other onlookers, sighed. “Mmm, disruptive. Do you think so? We’re missing a child, and now you want us to leave? What if he returns, and we’re not here? What then? Won’t THAT be a disruption for you. Thank you, very very much, we’ve been staying here, and you’ve been coping with the crowds, with security WE pay for, for over a year now. This is our home, when we’re here. And you’ve always encouraged our children to look at it that way. We’ve tried to minimize the effect it has on other guests. I’m sorry we’re not doing enough. Has it occurred to you to tell them all to get the hell out, or you’ll have them all thrown in jail? ” “Mrs. Hanson, we’ve had the police clear the…” “Oh forget it. Come on Walker, I guess we’re moving.”
Muttering to herself “Doesn’t it just figure, what else is gonna happen next, we don’t need more…” Diana headed for the elevator. Walker attempted humor to placate his wife. “Ok, Diana, all we need to do is find a temporary lease somewhere. It shouldn’t be that hard, and we won’t tell anyone, and we’ll just leave the crowds here, for Farnsworth to deal with. That works for me.” Walker grinned, picturing the manager telling the kids out front that “Hanson has left the building.” They never believed him in the past, and they sure wouldn’t believe him now. Diana headed for a quiet nook, in the lobby, needing to sit for a bit, without people all over her. “Walker, hucking cups isn’t working anymore. Humor isn’t helping anymore. This is the fourth day he’s been gone. I need him back. WE need him back. Is my baby alright? Has he had food? Has he slept? Is he sick? Or hurt? Walker…” Diana sat, tears rolling down her cheeks. She refused to become a ninny, but this was the last straw. “He’ll come home, and we won’t be here… what will he do then? And where are we going to go? Any other hotel will do exactly the same thing, we won’t find a place in the city that will take us now, you KNOW that…” Walker held his wife, willing back his own tears. Tears he let fall only at night, in the dark. This was a nightmare, the entire situation, cameras flashing at their every move, Christopher Sabec keeping the media at bay, the FBI and the police questioning their whereabouts, all the fans outside, blocking the entrance and the street… now he had to find a place to keep his family safe. And she was right. What about Taylor? What if he came back and they were gone? He pushed away the thought, nagging and eating at him, that the management wouldn’t have asked them to leave if they’d thought Taylor would be back. They’d written him off, just another casualty in the great, murderous, hungry city of New York. Suddenly ineffably tired, he rested his chin against his wife’s hair, thinking.
“Uh, excuse me, Mr. Hanson?” Walker blinked, surprised, and looked up. The man in the uniform looked familiar…” If this is a bad time, I can leave. But I have some news that may be of interest to you. Not about Taylor… I wish it were.” Walker’s gaze continued to be puzzled. He knew this man, knew him well, but his sleep deprived, exhausted, fear addled mind refused to relinquish the information. Reading his confusion, The man stuck out his hand. “Oh, I’m sorry, it’s George sir, from over at the Dakota?” Walker clasped his hand gratefully. Yes, George. Tay’s friend. The keeper of the building that held his son’s passion for the past. Diana, wiping her face, stood, smiling apologetically. “Oh, of course, we’re so sorry…” and hugged him. He’d spent literally hours with Tay, each time they were in the city, he was almost family as far as Taylor was concerned, always full of kind little gestures that helped their son ward off the homesickness he often felt while traveling. George nodded, hugged her back, and clasped his hands in front of him. He had never had to do anything like this before, and wasn’t entirely sure how it all worked. He didn’t want to seem pushy… but it had to be done. “I have so much to learn,” he thought, deciding to just go ahead and be assertive. Bracing, taking a deep breath, he spoke.
“Well, I have some news for you.I know how you feel about staying here, but I figure the management would be getting antsy about the crowds, and I figure you would be too, right about now. Am I wrong?” Walker shook his head, feeling as if God had just directly intervened. “No, no you’re not wrong, they’ve just asked us to leave…” George nodded as if it were entirely expected. “There’s a temp lease at the Dakota. The owner will be gone a month, and suggested they condo it out for him. It looked as if it were going to sit empty regardless, you know how they are over there about who they let in. Then all this happened. We have better security than here, no one need ever know where you are, and NO ONE gets past us. And it’s the first place our Taylor will go, if you aren’t here. It may be the first place he’ll go even if you are…” He grinned, holding out his hand to Diana. “They sent me over to invite Taylor’s family to take the apartment. It’s a little small for all of you, but you could squeeze in…” Diana glanced at Walker, then back at George. “It’s just the two of us, Isaac and Zac. We sent the younger ones home… the tenants would do that for us?” George nodded. “Yes, it was their idea.” Walker shook his head, confused. “Who is this “they” you keep talking about, and what do the other tenants have to do with it?” George took the seat across from him. “Mr. Hanson, the Dakota is OWNED by it’s tenants. They decide who comes in. And most of them are very familiar with Taylor.” “If they’re so familiar, and like him so much, why didn’t they ever let him in?” Walker’s tone had turned vaguely hostile. He knew it wasn’t George, or the poor tenants of the Dakota he was angry with, but he was helpless to stop it. “One thing he wanted more than anything…” George patted his shoulder comfortingly. “I know. More than anything now I wish they had. But the invitation still stands, Mr. and Mrs. Hanson. They’d like to have you stay there.” He sat back. There was nothing more he could say, it was now up to them.
Eyes shining, Diana leaned forward and kissed George’s cheek. “You have no idea, George, none at all. Tay is right, you ARE the best person in this city. When would it be available?” George blushed at the best in the city comment, and grinned. “It’s available as soon as you can pack a bag. It’s furnished, although you’ll have to buy food… but you can move in now if you like.” Diana turned to her husband. “We can move now. Did you hear that? I need to tell the boys. Dear, do the details thing with George, please?” Bustling to the elevator, planning all the details of a midnight move, she flashed a smile at George, this was the first good thing to happen in four days. At the Dakota, she’d feel close to her son. The two men watched the elevator doors close, and simultaneously burst into laughter. “Well Mr. Hanson…” “Oh, Walker… please…” “Walker… it looks as if you’re coming to stay at the Dakota. I’m not telling you what to do of course, but she’s not one I would cross.” Walker shook his head, looking after his wife. “Oh, you got that right… is there anything special we have to do?” “No sir, I’ll just go back and tell them. Someone will be calling you with details on transportation.” “Calling us?” “Yes sir…” “You mean you have our room number?” George burst into laughter. “Oh YES sir! Taylor’s given it to me each stay. I’m not exactly sure why… but it comes in handy now, doesn’t it?” Smiling, the men took their leave, Walker following his wife’s path.
Something felt right about this move.
“Ok, I’m pretty sure we have it all. Anything we don’t have we don’t need.”
Packing the belongings of three teenage boys, herself and her husband hadn’t taken as long as she had thought it would, once she’d threatened them with instant annihilation if they didn’t get up and get moving. Some tears had fallen as she packed Taylor’s clothing and books, but laughter also had it’s place, as she found his candy stash. “Oh look, my Ghiardelli chocolate… I knew I didn’t eat it.” She giggled, as she put it back in it’s proper place: her purse. “I’ll get him for that, when he comes back…” The thought drifted in her mind… “When… If… NO, WHEN!” Isaac had offered to pack for Taylor, but Diana had waved him off, wanting whatever contact with her missing son she could get. Handling his belongings wasn’t the same, not by a longshot, but a lot of his things still held his scent, and his feel, and she wanted it. Isaac’s glance had been dubious, and she’d given him an arch look. “You think I’m going to become an hysterical shrieking fool, don’t you? I’m going to pack. That is all I’m going to do. You go make sure Zac doesn’t pack his dirty stuff in with his clean stuff. That’s not something I want to sit next to him after.” Somewhat astounded at her good humor, wondering if incoming mental instability was causing it, he reluctantly left her to mutter to herself as she glanced under the bed. “I hope none of you left anything important under there for housekeeping, because I’m not getting down there…”
She gave the room one last sweep, and went to supervise her sons, humming as she went. Something was going on, she knew. She felt comforted, and an enormous sense of “Things are going to be alright” had begun to diffuse her. “Just the start of my nervous breakdown… oh yeah…” she shook her head at herself and headed down the hall.
“Man, what’d’ya mean, separate the clean from the dirty clothes? Geez, now I gotta pack all over again!” Zac, highly irritated, dumped his suitcases back out onto the floor. Muttering to himself, he started sorting. “Dude, none of them are that bad. Why does it matter? They’re all gonna get dirty anyways…” Isaac shook his head in disgust as he viewed Zac’s laundry. “Because mom said so. She doesn’t want to sit next to you wearing any of that, and boy neither do I.” Zac repacked hastily, giving only the most cursory glance to the things he was packing. “Dirty… nah. Dirty? Nah…” automatically storing HIS candy stash in his backpack. Nobody dared go in there and he figured it was safest, so long as he didn’t mind storing it next to his dirty socks. He didn’t. Finished, his eyes narrowed. Where was all the music? “Where are all my CDs?” he called to Ike, who was methodically folding and packing. “I don’t know Zac, last time I saw them they were all spread all over the living room.” Zac thought for a moment, thinking back. When was the last time he’d… his eyes widened then, as the memory of Taylor, face furious, jammed handfuls of CDs into a carry case. “Oh man, Ike! They were all in the carry case, the one Tay took with him.” Isaac had to laugh at Zac’s expression. “God Zac, how inconsiderate. Not only does he take off and leave us hanging, but he takes all your really bad music with him.” “Not funny Ike!” “Oh right… Zac, look at it this way. He better come back, he has your stuff.” “Ike, that’s very faulty logic.” “Yeah, sue me…” The two brothers laughed a little, both sharing something of the same feeling their mother had. Things had suddenly stopped feeling so tragic, and had begun to feel anticipatory. As if this move was the beginning of something. Or maybe the culmination. “Geez, Ike, this means now I have to listen to your collection. How fun this will be… I’ll just go online. I wonder if Tay got any e-mail?” Zac grinned evilly, he liked the thought of playing around with Tay’s online stuff. Ike cuffed Zac lightly ‘cross the head. “You leave his e-mail alone, and his s/n too. You don’t want to be messing with his online friends, hear me?” He had already checked Tay’s email, hoping that maybe his brother had sent mail, with his whereabouts. But all he had was mail from his many online buddies. None of which interested Ike. He’d already sent mail to those who mattered, with the news of what had happened so far. Now, as he watched Zac pout, he was overwhelmed with affection for him. He’d stopped being a barnacle, thank God, but Ike had needed him close while he had been. It had helped him get through the worst of it. Smiling, he plopped onto the bed, and grabbed his brother, dragging him down. “Ew Ike, don’t get gushy!” “Aw Zac, why not??” He hugged him tightly, slightly disappointed at the lack of a struggle, and released him as their mother entered. “You guys packed?” Isaac nodded, his smile fading as the need for reassurance resurfaced. “Mom, this is right, isn’t it? Leaving here? He’ll be able to find us?” The move felt “right” to him too, but there was a niggling fear at the back of his mind. What if Tay came back? What if… but that was silly. It’s not like he’d vanish if they weren’t here. He’d just call someone’s beeper. And besides, Christopher would still be here. He’d just go up to his room. It would be fine.
Diana waited, not wanting to provide an answer he could come to himself. When his eyes cleared, she hugged him gently. “It’s going to be fine. And we have no choice anyway. Now lets go…”
“How are we getting there?” Diana laughed. The arrangements for the move had been absurdly simple. The call had come in, and a voice introducing itself as Mrs. Patton, had spoken briskly. “Pack, we’ll be at the underground parking lot at 8 PM. There will be two limos, one for the luggage, one for the family. The shopping has been done for you, the apartment is fully stocked. All you need to do is unpack, and make a cup of tea. Don’t worry for a minute that the limos will look out of place. They will not. They are my own private cars.” She’d hung up then, without a goodbye, and Diana had the amused notion that the woman was enjoying the cloak and dagger aspect of the whole thing.
The FBI would continue to keep the suite, as headquarters, and as the most likely spot for ransom calls to arrive. The family’s feeling was that ransom, were it going to be asked for, would have been, but if the Bureau wanted to stay, let them stay. It was their dime. When Taylor returned, his family wouldn’t be there, but the agents had told them they would hold him tight until they could arrive. Walker’s underbreath muttering of “Good luck…” hadn’t been lost on Diana. Trying to keep Taylor where he didn’t want to be was like trying to hold an eel with a handful of motor oil. More amazing was the parting comment by the Bureau. “Don’t leave town.” Incredulous, Diana had stared at the man. “As if we would! I hope your psychiatrist is qualified…” Now, hoisting a bag over her shoulder, she shot a contemptuous look at the men manning their phones. “So self important. If there’s a media leak about where we are, I’ll bet it comes from them.”
“But he won’t know where we are…” Diana sighed, uneasiness ringing in her head, as they headed to the elevator, four bellmen with the luggage, her sons, and her husband. “Di, you know George is right, if he hears we aren’t here, he’ll come to the Dakota next. Or as he said, he may just go there FIRST! The kid has always wanted to live there, he’ll be in his glory when he gets back.” Walker put his arm around his wife, as a few of the hotel staff wished them well, and offered to pray on their behalf. Nodding, and thanking the staff for all they had done, he hustled his family into the waiting limo.
“You know, this feels good” Diana felt vaguely guilty for being so comfortable in their new lodgings. Setting down her coffee cup, she looked around. The apartment was gorgeous, perfectly appointed, luxurious without being overwhelming. There was a timelessness in here, in the old walls and windows, the carved ceilings so unlike modern day woodwork. She could see the hypnotic affect it had on her son. One floor down from roof level, built on a multilevel she could not quite understand, the apartment was barely big enough for them. Two bedrooms, one so tiny the bed barely fit, but a spectacular bath that looked as if they could all four sleep comfortably in the TUB! “People had interesting priorities, didn’t they?” she’d remarked, on her first viewing.
George had greeted them on their arrival, as had a few of the tenants. “Welcome to the Dakota. Please, make yourselves to home. No one will breathe a word of your being here, be assured of that. If you have any questions, or need anything, don’t hesitate to knock on anyone’s door.” He’d paused for a moment, and then rescinded it. “Don’t go knock on the door of the folks right above you. They’re very quiet, and very well… I don’t want to say unfriendly, but they’d not enjoy being disturbed. They dislike “hullabaloo…” He’d grinned then, and gestured expansively. “Anyone else though, bang away. They’ll help you out.” Diana had smiled, slightly overwhelmed. This was a closed community, a small village unto itself. Privacy was cherished and protected here. That they were being admitted, even temporarily, struck her as something of a minor miracle.
Looking at her sons, one on the couch with the laptop, one on the floor with a book, she felt content. This was a good place to wait for Taylor’s return. There seemed to be some odd sort of vibration of him here. She felt somehow better. Walker dozed in a chair, Isaac laughed at something online, Zac, his tongue caught in his teeth as he read, rapt. If only Tay were there, sprawled in front of the TV, as was his won’t. “Tay, come home. I miss you…” Diana thought, picking up her cup again. “I miss you…”