Disclaimer: "Three people can keep a secret, if two of them are dead." - Benajmin Franklin

The Great Escape - Chapter 5
(c)1999-2001 KSH


Jonathan sighed, ran his hand through his hair, and sat down. "What do you know already?"

"I know you've been acting weird ever since I got home this evening, and that the police were here looking for Neal." Liz answered.

"What did they say? What did you tell them?" Jon leaned forward.

"They said that he wasn't being charged with anything right now, they just wanted to talk to him. I told them that he had been here, and that the two of you had gone somewhere, but I didn't know where."

"Ok," Jon said, sighing again. "Neal witnessed a murder." He paused for a moment when Liz gasped and put her hand to her mouth. "The killer got away. Neal doesn't want to make his identity known with the killer still at large, for obvious reasons. He's sent Dina and the kids to stay with friends out of town until the guy is caught. He and I went to see if we could find out any information on our own tonight. He's going to find somewhere to stay around here tonight, and will probably join Dina and the kids tommorrow."

"Oh, Lord," Liz sighed. "So how are you mixed up in this?"

"Neal needed a friend. I'll tell the cops what I've told you, but I honestly don't know where he is now or where he's planning on going."

Liz handed him a business card. "They said they wanted to hear from you tonight."

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Neal checked in the next day right on schedule. They had arranged for him to call Jon's cell phone while Jon was in the studio, to keep Liz out of everything.

"Have you found anything else out?" Neal asked without preamble.

"Good morning yourself," Jon replied. "The police were here last night."

"Dammit! What's going on there?"

"They found your fingerprints, of course. You're not a suspect, but they do want to talk to you as a witness. I told them, and Liz, what you told me about what you saw. They assume you were afraid to come to them because of the killer being on the loose. I said that you and I had gone out riding around last night to discuss things, and rode by Leroy's office and thought we saw someone in there. They asked where you and Dina and the kids were, and I told them that I didn't know, because I don't. I didn't tell them about us actually being in Leroy's office, or the folders. I had a hard time hiding them from Liz."

"But in the meantime, they're probably more busy looking for me than Guido. So what's in those folders?"

"There was nothing that seemed unusual about your folder. Just the normal information you would expect your accountant to keep about you. I haven't had time to go through Bayside's stuff yet."

"What about the one labeled "Journey"? What was in there?"

"Do you remember that we had taped a couple shows on the Escape tour, thinking about putting out a live album, but for some reason we never did?"

"Yeah, and I think we taped a couple on the Frontiers tour too. I had forgotten about that. But what does that have to do with Leroy?" Neal asked.

"Well, somehow Leroy knew about it. There were notes in there that he and someone else were trying to locate the recordings, investigating into release rights, and stuff like that. There was also a copy of our contract with Columbia with the areas dealing with our recordings being used by third parties highlighted."

Neal was completely puzzled. "Why?"

"My guess is that if Steve wasn't going to be able to tour, they were going to see about putting out a live Journey album, with or without our cooperation."

"But why would that have gotten Leroy killed?" Neal rubbed his temples. This whole mess was giving him a headache.

"I don't think it did. I think Leroy's murder is still going to have something to do with Bayside and the disk. But until we figure out who knocked off Leroy and why, you need to hide."

"Well, I can't hang around here much longer. This is exactly the kind of place the cops are going to start snooping around."

"I've been thinking about this," Jon began.

"Oh, God, I'm in trouble now," Neal joked.

"No, seriously, I have this all worked out. First of all, you've got to ditch the Bronco. I figure if we park it in the parking garage at the hospital, it'll be at least several days before anyone finds it. Then you've got to hide in the last place anyone would look."

'I know, I could follow the 'N Sync tour."

"No, because Brittney Spears is opening and she's underage," Jon sighed. "I'm being serious here. I called Ross and he's going to let you borrow his camping gear. And I'm going to take you up to the state park and leave you."

"You mean camping, like sleeping in the woods with bears?"

Jon really wished he could see the look on Neal's face. "It's springtime, so the weather shouldn't be bad. And face it, no one would think to look for you there."

"Yeah, including me. What does Ross know?"

"Not much. Just that you're going to disappear for a while. I didn't actually tell him, but I let him assume that you've talked to the police. Now just meet me at the hospital in an hour."

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Neal was sitting at a shaded bench near the hospital entrance when Jon drove up. He strolled over to the suburban, trying not to look over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching. Jon had been by Neal's house, using the spare key to go in and get Neal some extra clothes. He had also picked up a few groceries and supplies. They stopped by and picked up the camping equipment from Ross, who only had one question. "Who are you and what have you done with the real Neal Schon?"

Finally, Jon let Neal out at the state park. "Okay, have you got everything?" Jon fretted. "You've got the camping stuff, and your clothes, and the food. Here, take the battery out of my cell phone so you'll have an extra one. And you're going to call me at 10:00 tommorrow morning, right? I think I thought of everything, but if I forgot anything, call me. But don't keep your cell phone on all the time, so you won't run the battery down."

Neal touched his friend on the shoulder. "Jay, thanks." He couldn't say anything else, but he didn't have to.

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Jon snatched the phone up before it finished the first ring. "Are you okay?"

"Good morning, Jay," Neal answered. "I guess. I'm so stiff I can barely move. I thought hotel beds were bad. We better not tour. I think I'm too old to sleep on a bus."

Jon laughed, relieved that Neal could joke about the situation. "I've got good news, bad news, and more good news."

"Jonathan Cain, I am sleeping in the fucking woods! Don't play games with me!" Neal shouted, then looked around to make sure no one had heard him. Not likely, since there weren't many people around this early in the season, and Neal was camping well off the main trail.

Jon laughed again. "Ok, the first good news is that I figured out what Leroy had going on with Bayside. Did you know Leroy owned a travelling carnival?"

"No, I had no idea he had any business interests other than the accounting firm."

"Well, he did, and they took in a tremendous amount of cash. Bayside just happens to own a company that sells supplies for carnivals and fairs, and Leroy's carnival was far and away their largest customer."

"Why did that get him killed?"

"I'm getting to that. I can't prove this of course, but I'd bet any kind of odds you want that this is exactly what was going on. They were laundering money. Someone from Bayside brings Leroy illegal cash, which he counts in with the carnival's receipts. Then he turns around and writes a check for supplies to Bayside's company, less his cut. Now Bayside's money is all legal. The only problem was that Leroy got greedy. He kept all of Bayside's books, and paid all their bills for them. All the transactions on that disk were checks written out of Bayside's account. Interestingly enough, most of these companies don't seem to exist."

"What do you mean the companies don't exist?" Neal's headache was coming back.

"I mean Leroy was embezzling the money. He used fake company names to make it look like legitimate transactions. The disk was his personal record of how much he had taken. Apparently, someone figured out what was going on and wasn't too happy about it."

"So that explains why Leroy is now pushing up daisies. What's the bad news?"

"You and I both know way too much now."

"Shit. What's the other good news?"

"I finished the song." Jon laughed at Neal's muffled curses. "So other than the fact you're in the woods, how's life in the woods?"

"There's a couple other things I need, but I am DYING for a cheeseburger and a guitar. Would you bring 'em to me?"

"You want ketchup on that guitar?" They both laughed. "Okay, I'll be there in about an hour and a half. Meet me back where I dropped you off so I don't have to come looking for you."

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Shortly before noon, Jon pulled up in the parking area. Before he had even turned the switch off, Neal was opening the driver's door.

"Where's the food?" He grabbed the McDonald's bag and stuffed a handful of fries in his mouth before taking the guitar from Jon with his other hand. "Wok back uf to the tent wi' me so we can tock." Neal mumbled around the fries.

Jon laughed as he followed Neal up the trail. "You're hopeless."

Neal swallowed the fries. "Hey where's my drink?"

Jon handed it to him. "You know, this bag of stuff is for you too. You _could_ carry it."

"Nah, I got the important stuff." Neal grinned over his shoulder.

They walked about another hundred yards or so before Neal spoke again. "Answer me one thing, Batman."

There was no answer. Neal turned around, but Jon wasn't there. He backtracked about 25 yards back down the trail. The bag Jon had been carrying lay on the ground, its contents strewn, along with Jon's cell phone. He ran back to the parking area. The suburban was still there, with no sign of its owner.

"Jonathan!" Neal yelled.

There was still no answer.

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