Alternate Ending - part 7
Uh's Mugs. (c)2000-2001 KSH/BS

Steve recoiled from the impact of both shots, feeling both as sharp, heavy blows to the right side of his chest. He reeled backwards and lost his balance, even as Gregg and Ross made a grab for him. He fell into the grass and lay there, watching the world gray a little and trying to catch his breath. There was a lot of screaming when the fans ducked for cover, not realizing the trouble was already over. Raff and two out-of-uniform officers were already slamming the gunman to the ground.


Steve raised his head a little as Ross leaned over him with a look of shock on his face. "You--"

"You guys think I'd show up here without a vest on?" Steve said, and coughed, sitting up. "Shit. I just didn't think the families would be taking shots at me, though."

"Perry," Gregg said, "what the hell is going on?"

Instead of answering, Steve stuck a hand out, silently demanding that Gregg help him up. Once upright, he winced and looked around. He couldn't tell where Jon or Neal had gone, and he didn't like it. He could tell Ross was looking too, and nudged him. He glanced over to where Mugs was being hauled to his feet and said, "Christ, let the kid go."

Raff eyed him. "I don't remember you being elected to call the shots, anywhere."

"I don't remember you ever having a fucking clue about what's going on. Let 'im go. He's not involved, and he's not gonna shoot me again." Steve looked at Hal, Jon's other brother. "Is he?"

Hal just shook his head, looking like he was still trying to process the whole thing.

"I'd call it a good job, then," Steve said. "I'd have done the same, I think. A little over-emotional resentment was due, huh?" He scanned the crowd again, didn't see what he wanted to. But he did pick up something that he needed to, a figure standing apart and not joining in the panic. A darkly dressed figure scanning the crowd like he was...standing next to someone who had been filming the whole thing on a hand-held videocam.

And the red-haired woman was nowhere to be seen, either.

He started toward the still figure without another word, stopping abruptly when Raff grabbed him. "Where do you--"

"Hands off," Steve snarled without turning, "or there'll be more shots fired. This is already bad enough." He shrugged Raff off and headed out between the stones, shrugging to make sure his shoulder holster hadn't slipped when he'd fallen. He made eye contact with the figure, a dark haired man who returned it calmly before beginning to walk away. Steve picked up the pace until he was running, ignoring the heaviness in his chest. Christ, cracked ribs at the least, from being shot point-blank like that. The vest had caught the bullets but the energy had to go _somewhere_.

He kept looking for Jon and Neal as he ran, careful not to draw his gun until he had to, ignoring the startled, fearful people he passed. Most of the onlookers had already cleared out, and those that were left weren't paying him any attention in their shock. The dark figure continued to recede, clearing the crest of the hill and starting down the other side. Steve quit running because of how much it hurt to breathe, cursing himself for it but not wanting to accidentally disable himself further if he actually had cracked a rib or two.

Ross kept scanning the hill, knowing Jon and Neal would have gone for cover and hoping they'd been smart about it. He was part of a small group that remained graveside; police, agents and what supposedly remained of Journey. Gregg finally grabbed him and said, "Gonna tell me what's going on?"

"No," Ross said. "Not this time, man."

"Who the hell are you looking for?"

"A couple of guys I expected to show up," was all Ross would say.

There was a greenbelt bordering the cemetery, beginning at the bottom of the hill. Steve didn't see any movement, but it was obvious where the guy had gone. He'd probably parked his car further down, if he'd bothered with one. He had a feeling he needed to talk to this guy. But the fact that he hadn't been able to catch a glimpse of Jon or Neal was bothering the hell out of him. There was no way they'd gone running blind, and if Jon had seen anything of what had happened, he would almost certainly have blown his cover to come to Mugs' defense...

The distraction had been what he'd been hoping for; he wasn't thrilled with the how of it, that was damn sure. But it had torn the cover off of everything it needed to.

He drew his gun as he entered the greenbelt, leaping overgrown blackberry bushes where he had to. There was no clear path here, except where people had occasionally cut through. Probably kids with cemetery pranks--or other things--in mind. The road was still several hundred yards beyond, and a ramshackle chain link fence bordered it. The wrought iron gates at the front were more for show than anything else.

He paused to look around, listening, hoping to hear someone crossing the fence if nothing else. Whoever he was, he'd been there to make sure of a few things, probably at least that Jon and Neal were dead. And Steve wanted to talk to him. Bad. He couldn't hear anything beyond the traffic passing on the road below, and then a rapidly approaching set of sirens. Great. Responding to the big emergency. It would screw everything up to the point where he'd have to make a run for it himself.

He walked further in, hoping Ross was having better luck spotting Jon and Neal. It was what he should have been doing, rather than running after some shadow in the woods. He _had_ to get something out of somebody, though. But Christ, not at the expense of...

He tried to duck sharply when he heard the _whoosh_ of something large parting the air close to him, and was too late. The tree branch hit him in the ribs on the same side that Mugs had shot him, and he saw stars as he sank to his knees. He tried to twist, his gun still in his hand, but the tree branch came around again and slammed down across his wrist. He shouted in pain, and when he could open his eyes again, the branch was leveled at his face. The dark man stood there, same bland features and medium brown hair, a gun in his other hand. Also leveled at Steve's face.

"Matt," he said, "You're getting pretty clumsy, you know? You should've given it up before you got to this."

Still partly doubled over, Steve said, "Bastard," and ended up coughing the word out between his teeth. The vest hadn't protected his ribs any.

"Well, if you wanna get technical," Bad Hat said with a shrug. "But the problem we got here is that we're gonna have company pretty quick, so I'm not gonna do you here. Get up."

"Fuck you."

"Come on. You wanna know where Jon and Neal are, don't you?"

Steve straightened the rest of the way. "You--"

Bad Hat poked him with the branch, then threw it. "Up. Or I'll leave you to the idiots up the hill. You know they're gonna 'handle' you pretty quick anyway, huh?"

He was bluffing. There was no way he had Jon or Neal. Still...

"Quit thinkin' about it and move. At this point all you get to decide is who clips you. I'm at least giving you a chance to buy it trying to do something stupid and heroic savin' your dumbass friends. These guys'll have you dyin' in your sleep." He jerked his head in the direction of the failed funeral. "Come on, Matt. You put up a pretty good show, so I want you to have the choice of going with martyred glory on you rather than this cloak and dagger asshole stuff later on. I know you'll do somethin' dumb and honorable."

Steve tried to stand and decided it would be an all right thing to do, so he completed the move, watching Bad Hat step away and keep a steady bead on him. "Now what?" Steve said. "You got my goddamn attention, so hurry up."

Bad Hat laughed softly. "Yeah. I guess it does take a fuckin' tree branch to get your attention. Too bad you gotta go." He laughed again and gestured further into the trees. "Start walkin'. Cops'll be running around screwing up my life pretty soon, so let's get a head start."

"Aren't you gonna pat me down?"

Bad Hat snorted. "You're cute, but you're not that cute. Quit stalling and move. I don't have to pat you down, you're only wearing a vest in front. You give me a fuss, and I'll just drop you from back here. Be a shame, though, shooting you in the back. So don't make me."

Steve eyed him a moment longer, and Bad Hat nodded. It was mutually understood what would have happened if things had been the other way around. Honor was as gray a concept as the situation they were in. Then Steve walked away stiffly, mind racing over the possibilities open to him. Someone would give him an opening. But whether Bad Hat was lying didn't matter yet; if there was any chance he had Jon and/or Neal, he had to see that before he did anything else. He believed him. There really wasn't any other reason to do anything other than drop him right there in the woods, cops or no cops.

The half-hidden chain link fence was in sight when they heard a snap of twigs to their right; Bad Hat startled and moved the gun in that direction, and Steve turned and reached for him.

"_Get clear!_" a woman's voice shouted, and there was gunfire nearly over the top of it. Bad Hat never had a chance to fire; he fell back into the brush, rolling once and coming to rest on his back.

"_No!_" Steve shouted, diving after him, reaching for him. "Dammit, tell me where they are!"

Bad Hat looked at him for a moment, eyes already clouded. Then he was gone.


Steve craned his neck in time to watch Anderson, and the red haired woman he'd seen earlier come out of the trees. He wanted to be angry, but there was no sense to it. Or time for it. He sat back on his haunches and stared at them, silently asking for an explanation. "Jon and Neal," he said.

"I saw Neal," the red haired woman said. "You guys really suck with your disguises, you know that? I was going to surprise him. Actually, I was going to kick his ass for letting me think he was dead."

"Who the hell are you?" Steve said wearily.

Anderson and the redhead traded glances. "Well, despite what everyone would like me to say, my real name is Stacy."

Steve sighed. "You were in this from the beginning, then."

"'Fraid so."

"You didn't happen to see anything, did you?"

She shook her head. "When the craziness started, I got knocked down. By the time I got back in the swing of things, I couldn't see Neal anymore."

Steve glanced at Anderson. Convenient, how she'd shown up just in time to keep his supposed captor from saying anything else. But he wasn't really surprised. After that, Raff and several agents were headed down the hill toward them, and Ross, Gregg and Smitty were all tagging along despite vehement protests from Raff. Steve wanted to laugh, barely managed to keep his mouth shut. Stacy picked up the branch that Bad Hat had used to hit him with, and weighed it in one hand before gesturing vaguely at him with it, then at the advancing figures on the hill.

"What the fuck is that?" Steve said. "You dousing for water, or just glad to see us?"

Stacy shrugged, dropping the branch. "Oh, well. I always wanted to test that old cliche' about how many rock stars is too many to shake a stick at."

"Uh huh," Steve said, grinning to spite himself. "Here a rock star, there a rock star..."

"Everywhere a rock star. I guess Jon and Neal ducked out on me again, huh?"

"We'll find 'em," he said. He realized how shallow the promise was, though; Raff had been right, as much as it galled him to even think it. He was out of touch. And getting slower. And he'd never had more to fight for.

All he could do was hope that his last card was playing itself, and would give him time to find them. There was still one person he felt he could trust...

* * *

When Jon came to, it was to a realization that concrete floors were damn uncomfortable.

He tried to move a little, felt pain shoot up his arms from the attempt. He was stiff and cold from lying on a bare concrete floor with his arms tied tightly behind his back. It was too dark to see anything. He suffered a moment of real panic and tried to breathe through it. Whatever this was, they'd get out of it. They had to. They'd been so lucky so far...and Steve wouldn't give up on them.

Would he?

He thought he heard movement behind him in the dark and tried to raise his head a little further.


He let his head drop back to the concrete in relief. It was Neal. He'd never been happier to hear the guitarists' voice in his life."Yeah."

"I been waitin' for you to wake up. I was afraid you wouldn't. I think we were drugged."

Jon sighed. "Any idea where we are?"

"No. Can't tell how much time has passed, either. What's the last thing you remember?"

"Shots," Jon said. "And everybody runnin' around like crazy, and then guys in suits putting guns to our backs and walking us out of there."

"Okay," Neal said. "I guess your brain's okay. Wasn't just shots, though. I saw it. Mugs shot Steve."

Jon groaned aloud. _Mugs...Christ._ He didn't want to think about that.

"So I'm thinkin' we're kind of alone in this, now," Neal said. "But we can handle it, right?"

Jon sighed again, wanting to reassure him but still too scared himself.

Then the lights came on and blinded them both. Jon heard Neal curse, and squeezed his eyes shut. After a moment he blinked them open again, trying to become accustomed to the light. There were damp concrete walls to match the floors; a bare bulb hung above them. It was a close, narrow space. A storage space. And empty except for them.

The metal rollup door came up halfway with a rattle of noise, and two men in suits stepped through. One, the older of the two, said, "Mr. Cain. Mr. Schon."

It wasn't exactly a greeting; more as if they were being summed up. Neither of them responded.

The older man nodded. "I see. Well, gentlemen, I am Vincent Gianetti. You would know me as the head of Bayside Family Holdings. We have had some business to discuss, but you have been...indisposed for some time. I understand. But that's all behind us now."

"We don't have anything to say to you," Neal said, and Jon felt himself tense up even further.

Gianetti nodded as if he'd expected the response. "Are you certain?"

Jon and Neal were silent. Gianetti made a small motion with his head, and a scuffling of feet was heard immediately outside the metal door.

"Someone was waiting for you at Mr. Perry's house," Gianetti said. "I felt it would be accomodating of me to help that person find you."

A third man in a dark sweatsuit shoved a struggling figure under the door.


She stared at Neal with a bizarre combination of relief and horror. "Couldn't get away from me that easy, huh?" she said with a shaky voice. "They don't have Sarah."

Neal looked up at Gianetti. "You sonofabitch. Untie me, and we'll see how far you get."

Gianetti smiled. "I believe that would be....detrimental to my cause, Mr. Schon."

"We don't know anything," Jon said quickly. "The police have the disk. What do you really need us for?"

"You know much more than you give yourself credit for," Gianetti said. "Trust me."

The man in the dark sweatsuit came the rest of the way under the door.

"Your federal agent friends have been more helpful than you realize," Gianetti said. "Agent Augeri, show our guests what happens to those who don't...see things the way I do."

* * *

Liz was flipping through the channels looking for cartoons for Madison when she caught a glimpse of Jon's and Neal's faces behind a television announcer.

"Coming up at six...The funeral of two rock stars was disrupted by violence today, as the brother of one of the deceased shot at the lead singer of their band."

Liz and Wheeler exchanged looks.

"It's 5:30 now." Wheeler announced. "I'll see if I can get in touch with Raff and get any information before the news comes on."

The agent disappeared into another room to make the call on her cell phone. They were in Katy, Texas, now, near Houston. They had been moved after only a few days in Kansas City. There was still no word on when they would be reunited with Dina and Sarah, or even where they were going when things settled down. Wheeler had told Liz that there had been a threat to Dina's and
Sarah's safety, so they had to be kept apart a little longer.

Wheeler came back a moment later. "Raff couldn't talk. He just said that no one was hurt at the funeral."

Liz nodded, resigned to wait.

At 5:57, Liz and Wheeler were again in front of the television. But the first item on the news was not what they were expecting.

"A United States Marshall was killed today, and another seriously wounded, during the escape of a fugitive at Chicago's O'Hare airport. The two marshalls were escorting a prisoner from Wisconsin, where he had tried to escape to Canada, back to New York to stand trial for hijacking an armored car, when two gunmen attacked them and freed the suspect. The dead agent was
identified as Rhonda Wheeler, while the identity of the other agent has not yet been released."

Liz turned to the woman beside her. "So if Rhonda Wheeler is dead, that would make you...?"

* * *

Huffing and puffing from his run down the hill, Raff walked into the midst of the group and stood over the dead gunman.

"Dammit!" he shouted, kicking at a nearby rock.

Another agent pulled out a handheld radio and began reporting the situation to someone. Ross, Gregg, and Smitty surveyed the scene, taking in the sight of Steve, Corey, and Stacy with weapons still in their hands, as Hal came jogging up behind them.

"What the hell...?" Gregg stared at Steve, shock and horror evident on his face.

Steve took a step closer to Smitty. Both the drummer and Hal looked like they might faint, but Steve should probably avoid any more close encounters with the Cain brothers.

"It's true, isn't it?" Hal asked Raff softly. "Mugs was right. You faked their deaths. Where are they?" He looked at Steve. "But what do you have to do with all this?"

Raff jumped in before Steve could answer. "For your own safety," he looked around at the group. "It's best if you don't know anything. Mr. Perry has been...a valuable assistance."

Smitty pinned Raff with a look. "You didn't answer his question. Are Jay and Neal alive?"

After a long hesitation, Raff finally answered "I really don't know. And that's all I'm going to say."

"Where _is_ Mugs?" Steve asked.

"I had him taken down for observation," Raff said. "Now, let's get out of here and let the forensic guys do their thing." He indicated two men approaching with large evidence kits.

The group dispersed slowly. Gregg, Smitty, and Hal ambushed Ross, so Steve had to leave without speaking to him. Raff left in one car, Anderson and Stacy in another. Steve drove around the cemetery until he spotted the car Jon had driven to the funeral.

_Not a good sign._

Momentarily out of options, Steve decided maybe it was time to speak to Mugs.

* * *