The Sequels to Syrrah's Game SGSequels

chapter 32

Sunday, September 3rd, 8:01 AM

Evanston, IL


Evan waited as Carter opened the back driver’s side door of the limo.

“Go ahead, Turrone. Get in and sit on the seat to your left.”

Crouching low enough, Evan climbed in and glanced around. All the seats were covered in grey leather. Between the two back doors was a bench seat. But to his left was an L-shaped seat, its longest length along the driver’s side length of the limo, its shorter length butting up against the front seat with a closed-off window above it. Across from the L-shaped seat was a bar of some sort and a small TV monitor.

As he sat on the end of the L-shaped seat, closest to the door he had just entered through, he could hear Dana talking outside the limo.

“Carter, no,” she said. “He hasn’t been to downtown Chicago that much.”

“What do you mean?” Carter had attitude. “You just performed two nights in a row in downtown.” 

Evan settled himself back into the surprising softness of the seat but kept his ear attentive. 

“Of course you would say that,” she replied. “I still want him sitting by the window.”

“Your father requested it of me since he’s not coming along.”

Hal opened the back passenger side door, across from Evan.

But just when Hal was about to sit on the far end of the bench seat, Dana rushed in and slid across the seat, preventing him. She looked at Carter, still outside the limo. “I thought you were my friend.” 

Hal glanced at Dana, grimaced slightly, and then climbed around her and headed to the L-shaped seat. He sat to Evan’s left.

Carter entered, closed the door, and sat near the door, on the driver’s side of the bench seat. “You know how swamped we’re going to get, once people find out,” he said to Dana. “Hal and I need to be ready to rumble.”

“Whatever.” She leaned back into her seat and gave Carter a disparaging stare. “Why do you call Hal by his first name, but Evan by his last?”

“Because he needs to earn that honor.”

“He already has,” she snapped back. She glanced at Hal and then to Carter.

“Okay. I see where we are going with this.” Carter eyeballed Evan. “Sorry, Turrone, err, I mean Evan. I will refer to you as Evan from now on.”

Felt like the air had suddenly been sucked out of the limo. Evan attempted to maintain his alert, though relaxed state. “I don’t care what you call me. Either name is fine.”

“So I’m trying to defend you here,” Dana told Evan, “and you’re dissing me?”

Carter’s phone buzzed, cruelly dismantling Evan’s opportunity to respond.

“Yeah, Stewart,” Carter said, once answering. “Go ahead and drive.” Carter placed the phone down, his eyeballs back on Evan. “All right. Look, Turrone…uh, excuse me, Evan.” Dana let out an exaggerated sigh. “Since you didn’t already have the opportunity to canvas this place. Follow our lead. Stay close. Remember your training. Could be a huge onslaught of fans. Doesn’t help we’re arriving in a limo. You have to be firm, protective, and very selective of who approaches, but, at the same time, as accommodating as possible.” He rose up. “Here. Sit in my spot, as Dana requested.”

Too much was happening at once. “Sure, okay.” Evan felt a slight tremor within uprooting his relaxed state. “I’ll move.”

With the limo now driving along, Evan crouched down and practically crawled over to Carter’s former spot by the window, careful not to knock into Carter. Carter landed himself to Hal’s right, where Evan had sat. Apologizing for not mentioning it earlier, Carter instructed all of them to make sure their seatbelts were on.

Hal put his on. Evan looked around himself to find his location’s seatbelt parts. He found the female locking part, on his left side, but couldn’t find the male insert on his right.

Dana leaned over and slid her hand down into the crack of the seat. She pulled out the male insert part. “Here.” She handed it to him. “Connect away.” She even gave him a brief smirk.

He clicked the other part together. “Thank you.”

“It’s difficult to see both sides of the street when you sit where Carter is now,” she told Evan, at the same time clicking on her seat belt. “You’re gonna love driving along Lake Michigan. We couldn’t see much last night. Too dark.” She stared at Carter. “Besides. If it’s looking bad, we can switch seats. No worries.”

“I’m aware, Dana.” Carter took out some papers from his pocket, unfolded them, and handed them to Hal. “Do me a favor. Read these. Need your opinion.”

Hal placed the papers on his lap and eyed them closely.

Evan looked at Dana. “Is Water Tower Mall closer than United Center?”

“Mmm…” She leaned back into her seat and closed her eyes. “Let me think.” 

Perfect. What better time than now to take in her appearance covertly, quickly. She was wearing a cute, light blue denim dress, that had a hoodie and long sleeves, though the material appeared very soft and summer-weight. Split on the sides by her thighs, but not too short, not too revealing. On her feet were black, ankle-height, flat-heeled boots with frills around the top rims. She was looking way too hot.

She gazed at him. “Only about a half hour drive from our hotel. United Center is forty-five minutes away.”

He nodded. “Closer, then. Nice.”

Carter’s phone buzzed again. He answered it. From the gist of the conversation, sounded like Vic, Enzo, and Jackson were heading out too, since Brent noticed more people around the mall than first anticipated. Too bad Greg had decided to take the day off.  

“What floor are we going to, in the Water Tower Mall?” Evan asked Dana.

She was swiping and checking some things on her phone. “The eighth floor. You’re gonna love it.” She looked at him. “We will be visiting the jewelry store on that floor. I need some things, mainly bracelets.” She focused back on her phone. “And I wanted to get out.”

“I’m sure. Nice to take a break from things.”

She looked at him. “You don’t have to be all agreeable. Tell me what you really think.”

“I’m actually really curious how your fans will react, since we won’t be in a venue. And how I’ll do.”

She gently batted her eyes a few times and gave him a rather seductive gaze. “After how you were looking out for me…” Her words flowed softly. She gave Hal a nasty glance and then directed her attention back at Evan with the same seductive eyes, those deep, dark, brown eyes. “…I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

He smiled briefly. No point in getting Hal all riled up. Let the happiness of this moment prevail. “I just don’t want to scare any of your fans away.” 

She smiled, again in a seductive manner. “Oh, honey. Don’t you worry. You’ve already created quite the questioning comment storm on my Twitter and Instagram, from just the brief view of you at the venues. My female fans love you. And things are really going to explode once they see you with me today.” 

She actually called me honey?

He wanted to swallow, his throat suddenly so dry, but instead only cleared his throat. “Yes. I know. I’ve heard about that. And at least they seem to like me.”   

“Oh, believe me. They do.” She smiled, a bit deviously, and only slightly seductive this time. She went back to her phone. 

Might as well take my phone out too.

Attempting to do so in a casual manner, Evan finally succeeded in slipping out his own phone from the bulky, security uniform pants pocket. Dana was still quite preoccupied with her phone and didn’t really take notice.

He opened a few saved martial arts websites on his phone. But he couldn’t truly focus on them. Dana has so many fans. And this was troubling. MOTC and their old website. Of course, Dad had recently made certain to remove any old photos of him, and his name, but Google’s search history cache could still have them. And sure, some people could yet have those older photos, but it was doubtful. Besides, those photos were taken when he was around twelve. But he had some photos on Facebook, and he did have himself associated with MOTC, when he was fourteen or fifteen, but then he deleted that Facebook account and started a new one, once they redid the MOTC website. Was about three years since then. But the site was hardly accessed anymore, except by Dad, or Mom-Kyleigh, and maybe Nahas. No one paid it any attention, really. Without a link by Facebook or other social media, MOTC was essentially dead. It was odd Neraeh’s dad even found anything about it.

Then again, there are plenty of online forums, like Reddit, that could yet have threads about MOTC, and himself. Maybe that’s how Neraeh’s dad found out.

So yes. His name could still be out there. Damn. He gazed over at Carter and Hal. Why didn’t Carter know this? Carter was talking to Hal, but sensed Evan’s eyes on him.

Carter stopped talking and looked at Evan. “Something wrong?”

“Did Greg take a sick day?” 

Carter thought a moment, squinting his eyes. “I believe so.” He stared dead on at Evan.

Something didn’t feel right in that stare. Evan smiled at him. “Oh okay. Thanks.” He looked down at his phone again.

Carter and Hal continued their conversation.

Evan’s thoughts deepened. And became disturbing. All this time, since working Dana’s tour, he had been concentrating on fitting in, getting the security moves right, and trying to discover if Syrrah existed in Dana. But how much did they know here, about transferring souls? He hadn’t really given it much thought. Well. Of course. Because he wasn’t even sure this was happening in the first place! Even now, after witnessing Dana’s behavior at that party, he still wasn’t sure. Art, Neraeh, and his own determination could be dead wrong. Syrrah might not be in Dana whatsoever. The traits he witnessed could just be coincidence, and that’s all.

Hence worrying about any of Dana’s fans, or Carter, or Lloyd and any of his associates having knowledge or access to MOTC was probably a pointless worry.

And besides. Art was supposedly watching out for him.

Supposedly. Ha. The key word here.

Some of that disturbing heaviness in his thoughts seeped back in.

But then he recalled Freddy’s reminder. Sometimes prayer is all we have. Prayer. Yes. Prayer was really needed now.

Please, Savior, hear me. Forgive me of my sins, and please protect me, and protect Syrrah, in Dana…or please protect Dana, I mean. She--

Dana suddenly leaned next to him, only inches away. “Evan. See. Here we go.” She placed her phone, a large Samsung phone, in front of his face so the screen was right in his sightline.

He looked at her. The mesmerizing scent from her perfume, her hair, and other womanly products nearly set ablaze desire he could hardly control. She was far too near and far too beautiful, far more than he had realized at any point beforehand.

She noticed him ignoring her phone. “No, silly. Not me. Look at my phone. I don’t bite.”

“You sure?”

Her eyes filled with irritation. “About what?”

He would fix that irritation right now. He bore deep into her dark brown eyes with his powerful, unwavering stare. “That you don’t bite.”

She smiled and then rolled her eyes away. Like always. Few could tolerate his stare for long. “I…I thought you meant if it’s okay to be near me. Yes. It is. If I say so.”

“Sorry. I was only kidding.” He focused on her phone and tried to crush his desire. Thankfully it quickly dissipated due to the photo before him. Someone’s Twitter account. Whoever it was had snapped him with flash in a darkened corridor at the Toyota Arena in Houston. He had his hands up and ready, attempting to block and control a bunch of raucous teenage girls, giving a profile view of his face. Yeah. Hal had told him to do this. He looked at the included text. “Who the hell is that security guard?” he read quietly. “He’s hot A-F.”

“A-F?” She glared at him. “Hot as fuck! You don’t know what that means, or are you afraid to say it?”

Anger began to rumble within Evan’s core. And he wanted to give her, pop star or not, his employer or not, another dagger stare, to convey his annoyance of her frequent, harsh behavior toward him. But he held back. He only stared gently, though directly into her eyes. “I know exactly what it means. I am only trying to be respectful.”

“And well he should,” Carter said, obviously overhearing their conversation. “Thank you, Evan. And you, Miss Dana, you know your father expects proper behavior around you from our team.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Dana stretched out her right hand toward Carter and made an OK sign with her fingers, in the same manner Syrrah had done several times in that video. “See? Okay, okay.”  She showed the OK sign with emphasis. “I get it.” She went back to only holding, looking at her phone.

Carter mumbled something under his breath and then continued talking with Hal again.

The same OK sign? Is it, really? Evan felt a hard pounding against the same spot on his chest where he had nearly crushed the phone into his heart. Dana was far too close to him right now. His breathing amped up slightly. Calm, Evan, stay calm!

She held her phone near him. “What’s your damn Twitter account? I’ll send it to you.”

“I don’t have a Twitter account.”

“You don’t like Twitter?”

“Nah. Not much into social media. I prefer texting my friends and family.”

“What about your band, don’t you guys use social media for that?”

He could suddenly foresee where all of this was heading, and there wasn’t much he could do now to escape it. She knew their band’s name. Maybe not the spelling of the band, but the name. And she could search for it online. But no, this wasn’t good! If Dana truly was Syrrah, then Freddy, and any possible photos people could snap of him, with Neraeh, could show up on Twitter links. And it was far too early to reveal this to Dana. He had to warn Freddy, ASAP. Yet, trying to hide Ten Dissent might make it appear even more suspicious. “Uh, yeah. We do, actually.” 

“Can I see it, please?”

“Sure.” He held his phone closer to his eyes and swiped opened the Twitter app.

“How about Snapchat?”

He looked at her. His heart was settling down some now, fortunately. “I used to. For my ex, since she liked Snapchat.”

“An ex? Why, what happened?”

That was a loaded question. “Well, we broke up. It just didn’t work out for us.” The Twitter app was up and running. Good. Perfect timing. He carefully placed his phone closer to her, trying not to get too near. “Here’s all of us in the band.”

She glanced at the Twitter page but then looked at him. “You don’t smell, you know. I realize you’re a big guy, but I don’t detect any nasty odors.”

“Uh, excuse me?”

“Since I told you I don’t bite, the only other thing I could think of is you big guys are always working out, ya know, getting all sweaty and such, so you’re worried you smell.”

“Dana!” It was Carter. “Do you really need to say that? He is, again, not doing a certain behavior you wish he would do simply out of respect for you, and our guidelines for the security team.”

“Carter’s right,” Evan said. “That’s all it is, honestly.”

But she kept her focus on Carter. “Well, I’m going to solve that. Because, you see, I can’t see his fucking phone!” She placed her own phone down and loosened her seatbelt until it became a large loop, barely around her. She slid all the way across the seat until her left arm and shoulder pressed right up against Evan’s arm. “Okay, honey, show me that Twitter account.”

His thoughts and emotions in a disarray, those beautiful scents around her body forcing their way into the air he had to breathe, Evan held the Twitter page before them both. He looked at Carter, though.

Carter gave one determined nod. “It’s all right, Turrone…err, I mean, Evan. Like Dana said. She doesn’t bite.” He swept his hand outward to him. “As you are, soldier.” 

Evan wanted to smile, but only nodded a bit. “Yes, sir. I will comply.”

“Hey, can we stop with the military shit?” Dana said to Carter. “Don’t you have some papers to discuss over there?”

Carter sighed. “Yup, yup. Whatever.” He continued his conversation with Hal again.

But before Hal put all his attention with Carter, he glared at Evan, dark evil emanating from those grey eyes. He obviously wasn’t liking this.

Dana grasped her warm hand around Evan’s wrist that held the phone. His emotions and pulse revved up again, but he stealthily breathed in deeply, producing calm. She moved his wrist nearer to her and focused on the Twitter page. “Freddy, you, Oz, and Randal. Looks like a nice bunch of guys.”

“Yeah. We are. We get along rather well too. Helps a lot.”

“Oh, I’m well aware of working with a good team.” She gave Hal a disgusted glance and delve back to their Twitter page. “So. Who’s the guy who came up with that physics name?”

“That would be Freddy.”

“He looks the nerd.” Dana’s phone buzzed on the seat. She released Evan’s wrist and picked it up. “Oh shit, oh shit! It’s Fiona!”


“Fiona Karl!” Dana moved away until she was sitting next to her window. She tightened her seatbelt and answer her phone. “Fiona?” She let out a quick screech. “Girl! What are you doing?” The hair strands near her forehead were falling into her eyes. With the fingers of her free hand, she gently swiped the hair away, along her forehead, again so similar to what Syrrah had done in the video. “You’re coming to Chicago tomorrow? Really?”

And their conversation continued.

Fiona Karl. Of course. She was another well-known female pop star, having a few popular songs recently.

He held his eyes on Dana a short time longer, his entire body still reeling that she had pressed herself right up against him, but he then went back to his phone. He inhaled another quiet, cleansing breath and stared at their band’s Twitter account. He scrolled down the page and read the comments. Always nice to see all the positive comments from their fans.

But this couldn’t distract from the moment. Dana. And Syrrah. Again, two signs, and within minutes of each other; the OK sign and the gentle hair swipe. And then there was what she did at the party, besides Art’s determination that she truly was Syrrah. 

Was all of this confirmation that Dana was really Syrrah?

No. Don’t. Could bring on huge disappointment if false.

Besides. Dana’s harsh behavior was a total one-eighty from Syrrah. And even what Art explained recently, that maybe Dana’s harsh personality was not only due to fear but to their two personalities mixing, didn’t seem like a slam dunk. 

Ahh, who knows.

He snuck a few glances at Hal. Strange dude. At times, he seemed like a totally cool guy. Then other times he showed a real dark, shady side to himself. Bottom line. He couldn’t be trusted. Something was just off about him.

Carter and Hal were continuing their conversation, but it was nothing revealing, nothing to explain any possible secrets going on with these people. Simply talk about certain venues and security ideas and other boring themes like that.

Dana was yet talking to Fiona Karl on her phone. She was looking out the window, not even noticing Evan anymore.

He decided to do the same. He watched the scenery pass by. They were heading out of Evanston and toward Chicago. Yeah. Evanston. How do you like staying the night in your namesake’s town? Dana had asked. Good. It’s fine. Gucci? Yeah, great, I know what it means, he had told her. And now of course that A-F thing today. Annoying. But she was getting friendlier.

Rows of expensive homes were lined up on either side of the street they traveled on. And that hotel they had stayed in last night. A Hilton hotel. Luxury. Very nice. The area north of Chicago was obviously the upper-class section. 

They were now passing near Lake Michigan, on the left, east side of the road, route 41. It was amazing. Appeared like an ocean, with a horizon that went on forever, though it was only one of the Great Lakes.

As they drove further along, tall buildings came into view on the right. He kept his eyes on them, by looking out the window near the TV and bar area. They were most likely tall apartment buildings. Probably had great views from up that high.

He looked to his left again, out across the lake view. Boat docks. And sandy beaches. Well, that’s nice. Traffic was starting to get heavier too. Grass-covered parks on both sides of the highway, and even what looked like a man-made pond or lake in the parks, also filled the views. How nice too. 

Even though Chicago was a huge city it did have some decent scenery.

Before long he could see the tall buildings of the Chicago skyline come into sight. And it wasn’t too much longer until they were getting deeply embedded into the downtown area.

“Oh, I have to go. My gorgeous body-guard,” Dana said, winking at Evan, “should take my spot, so he can see these grand buildings.”

Ugh. Why did she have to say that?

She ended the call. She looked at him. “We can switch, so you can see better.”

“Dana, no!” Carter practically yelled. “You stay put. No one is removing their seat belts and crawling around with this heavy traffic. Comprende?”

She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yes, my second dad. Can he at least lean closer here, so he can see better?”

“For goddamn sakes, Dana,” Carter said. “It’s just tall buildings. If you want him to rub up against you, why don’t you just say that?”

Her face lost its color, but her eyes stared daggers. “Yeah. Whatever.”

“Dana. I’m fine,” Evan said. “I can see plenty out the windows from my seat.” 

She crossed her arms tightly and pointed her face out the window. “Yeah. Whatever. Just forget it.” She had turned away from both him and Carter completely.

“Besides,” Evan continued, “I can get a better view on the way back, when our direction is different.”

She spun until she faced him and glared. “Whatever! I get it! I said just forget it!”

Evan felt the loss of color from his own face. “I’m sorry. I…I don’t want to cause a problem.” His heart was now ramping up too.

Dana only fanned her hand at him and then she turned to the window again.

“Turrone,” Carter said. “My apologies for her behavior. We’ll be arriving at that mall soon.”

“It’s fine,” he said. “Chicago is quite the city.” 

“And that it is,” Carter said.

Carter went back to speaking with Hal, the same non-revealing, boring conversations.

And Dana fixed her gaze out the window.

But that fanning, with her hand. She did it again. More of Syrrah.

Calm down, boy. Stay calm!

So this was it. Felt like a tidal wave. He was becoming completely conquered by this woman. The mixture of her possibly being Syrrah and even how she appeared and behaved on her own was encircling him. Pussy-whipped? Yeah. So what? She could probably do or say anything to him now, and he really wouldn’t care much.

Needed to distract from this.

He looked out the windows and the view up ahead caught his attention. A large amount of fog had formed around two thin spikes on a tall building’s rooftop, making the building appear even taller. It was a stunning, otherworldly scene, perfect for a good pic. He moved his phone to his window, Carter and Hal still talking, distracted from what he was doing, and snapped a few photos. He looked at Dana. Her eyes yet faced the window. “Dana. Do you see that?”

She turned to him, and surprisingly her eyes were red-lined around the edges, maybe even harboring a few tears. “See what?”

Felt like a punch to his gut. He briefly pointed in that direction. “Fog around that tall building ahead of us.”

She looked ahead out the windows. “Oh yeah. Great. Thanks.” She turned to her window again.

“Sure,” he said quietly, “just wanted to let you know.”

Damn. It wasn’t just fear. But anger. And despair. He wanted so much to release his seatbelt, move closer and wrap her up in his arms. But nope. Not allowed. 

He kept his eyes on the fog-enveloped building a moment longer, but then watched out the window by the TV. All sorts of businesses and stores were passing by. One of the storefronts had the name Gucci. Of course, gucci, like she had mentioned. 

“Hey. Look. I’m sorry,” Dana abruptly told him. She pointed ahead, out the front window. “We’re on Michigan Avenue. That building surrounded by fog. It’s right next to Water Tower Place. Pretty cool, huh?”

Her eyes glistened less, yet still have redness surrounding them.

“Really?” He looked at the building. “Wow. What’s the name of that building, the one with the fog?”

“I’m not sure. I think it is--”

“It’s the John Hancock building,” Hal interrupted. “There are several well-known businesses on the bottom levels.”

Evan looked at him. Those grey eyes pierced right back. What an uncomfortable, disturbing stare. Was he in love with Dana, but had been rejected by her? Evan didn’t shift his eyes away one bit. Too bad. She is MINE now. And nothing is getting in the way.

“Yeah, thanks Hal,” Dana said to him. “Guess I had a brain fart. Couldn’t recall it.”

“No problem,” Hal said, not even smiling or acknowledging Dana’s attempt at humor. “Always glad to help.” Hal directed his eyes out the window.

Ha. Guilt ridden or couldn’t tolerate the stare.

They were driving in front of Water Tower Place, a large block-like structure with eight or nine floors, from what Evan could tell with his glimpses out the limo’s windows.

“Evan.” Dana was pointing out her window. “Check out these stores. My next stop, next time here. Who has so many different clothing styles you need mannequin displays four or five stories high? Crazy, huh?”

Evan smiled and leaned closer to her, to see. “Oh, wow. You’re right. Lots of window glass and lots of floors.” He noticed they were driving past Water Tower Place. “Are we heading somewhere else?”

“No. We’re just heading around the corner. Lots of one-wayers around here. We need to come around on the other side, near that John Hancock building to enter the underground parking. You’ll see.”

Carter answered his phone yet again. Brent was on the line and mentioned not too many paps nearby, mainly business owners and a few mall walkers at this time, at the underground entrance. Things appeared mostly safe for Dana.

Before long, after they had circled around some of the side streets, adjoining sidewalks filled with people and bordered by tall, majestic buildings, the driver edged the limo over to the left side of a one-way street next to the John Hancock, heading them down a ramp to the underground garage.

The driver eventually parked the limo.

Carter instructed Evan to make sure the ear and mic pieces were positioned properly and working well. Evan did so. Carter then had Hal, and then Evan check to see if all three of them could hear each other adequately. They could. All was working properly.

“Okay, guys.” Dana removed a pair of dark sunglasses and a tan, wide-brimmed hat with floppy edges from a closet by the TV. She put both on. She also lifted a small, tan, crochet purse near her side on the seat. “Let’s get this party rolling.”

Carter told Evan to slide closer to Dana, as he and Hal exited the door by Evan.

Evan carefully moved closer to her, making sure to keep his feelings for her cooled down.

“I’m so tired of them,” she said quietly, before Carter and Hal arrived by her door. Carter opened Dana’s door. She looked at Evan. “Come on.”

“Sure,” he told her. 

She exited first, Carter taking her hand, and then Evan stepped out too, feeling a rush of relief not to have his tall height encumbered anymore. 

But tired of them? What exactly did she mean?

Carter instructed Evan to walk to Dana’s left side, while Carter himself walked in front, and Hal took the back end of their little group.

Their steps, the clang of shoe heels and the soft thuds of rubber soles echoed around the interior of the grey and white concrete-walled structure. Concrete columns painted white on top, yellow on the bottom lined their path toward the elevator doors up ahead.

“At first, no one may notice,” Dana said to Evan, “unless they are fans who recognize you, or Carter and Hal, which will instantly alert them. But usually, it will be quiet at first.”

“What about paps?” Evan asked.

“Carter,” she said. “Any following us yet?”

“Didn’t notice any driving here,” Carter said. “It was a good idea to stay at that hotel in Evanston. I think we lost a lot of them last night.”

“Great,” she said. “Glad we did.”

Up ahead, about twelve yards away, a man appeared from behind one of those concrete columns. He was carrying a large video camera and heading their way. A sudden memory – those camera-carrying reporters before the hull took place – flashed into Evan’s mind. But no, not now. He ignored it. He gently touched Dana’s arm, since her view was blocked by her hat. “Pap alert. I think we spoke too soon.”

But Carter already had him in his sights. “Hey! Keep your distance!” He thrust his palms at the man several times, signaling to back off. 

The pap wasn’t much deterred; he kept snapping photos repeatedly with a high-powered shutter speed.

But the pap did keep his distance. And before long they arrived at the glass-door entrance to the underground parking’s elevator foyer. Carter held the door open for them. Once Evan made sure Dana was safely inside, he looked back across the parking area. Two more paps appeared. Dana noticed them too.

“Wonderful,” she said. “Looks like some of them did follow us here.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem with limos,” Carter said, keeping watch at the door. “But all of us cramped into one SUV ain’t a good idea either.”

Hal pressed the elevator’s button.

“What about separate SUVs?” Evan asked.

“No,” Dana said. “We tried that before. Turned into a disaster because of traffic and we didn’t arrive at the same time. Besides, that’s all the rental place had available today. Bunch of politicians in town, some convention going on. They obviously have precedence.”

The elevator door slid open. Hal led the way inside, with Dana next and Evan following her. Carter stayed by the glass door until the last few seconds, making sure the paps didn’t come barging in, and then rushed into the elevator before the door closed.

Dana leaned against the wall next to where Evan stood. Carter and Hal stood near, but closer to the opposite wall.

“When we arrive up at the main floor,” she said, “we need to get into one of the other elevators as fast as we can.”

“Not needed,” Carter said, checking on his phone. “Brent is already waiting for us. He’s got this covered.” 

“Oh, good.” Her sunglass-covered eyes, barely visible beneath the hat’s wide brim, focused on Evan. “You’re gonna love the next elevator.”

“Oh yeah?” He couldn’t help but give her a brief smile. “Why would that be?”

“It’s fast and the views of all the floors are amazing, since it’s a glass window elevator. We’re heading to the eighth floor, though labeled as seventh in the elevator.”

“Yes. I think you mentioned that already, that it’s on the eighth floor.”

“Olson Jewelers. They’re opening early for us, so I can attempt to get what I need before the regular customers come in. But from what’s happening so far, it’s probably not going to matter much. We’ll be swamped by fans and paps.”

“That’s fine. That is what I was hired to do.”

The elevator stopped. The door slid open. Brent was there, but no one else, though he explained those paps at the parking garage level were probably on their way up. The rest of the security guys would be arriving soon and head promptly to Olson’s.

Carter directed all of them into an elevator labeled ‘Express To 7th Level’. Some seconds after he pressed the button, they started heading up.

“Look,” Dana said, “all around you.” She was facing out the glass barrier windows of the elevator. “I love this place.”

Evan did as she suggested. Artful, architecturally magnificent, brightly lit floors with balconies filled the view. With the elevator rising constantly, the view below was like gazing down a cylinder consisting of balconies from each floor. From what he could see, each floor also revealed brightly lit signs, other lighting, and cool-looking geometric structures, all part of storefronts or displays.

The elevator was traveling up fast.

“Evan.” Dana pointed up, out the glass ceiling of the elevator. “Look up.”

He did. The elevator’s well, and the elevator itself was six-sided, though with uneven sides. The glass panels sparkled and shimmered from surrounding light. Four lines of elevator cables led high up to the elevator’s ceiling control center. Quite the architectural and engineering feat.

The elevator stopped.

Evan looked at the elevator’s sliding doors. Carter was getting ready to press the button, but then turned to Dana. “He’s got eyes, Dana. He can see all this for himself. You know he needs to be surveying his environment, right? Let him focus on his job.”

She sighed. “Yeah, whatever. Can he at least be with me in Olson’s, while you three stand guard outside?”

“Fine.” Carter looked at Evan. “Just if he can pay attention, astutely, to any communication. Comprende?”

“Yes, sir,” Evan said. “I will. Trust me.”

Carter gave him a sideways glance. “Don’t let me down, Turrone.”

“I won’t. Dana will definitely be safe with me.”

The button pressed and the elevator door open, Carter led them out into the mall.  

Dana immediately walked over to the balcony rail, leaned against it, and peered down over its edge.

Evan followed right after her. “Hey. You’re going to get me in trouble. What are you doing?”

“Oh, never mind him.”  She pointed down. “Can you count all the floors?”

He counted all the octagon-shaped floors with their balcony borders. “Yeah. Six. Carter is not going to be happy.” He was about to take hold of her. Something didn’t feel right about this.

“Are we going to Olson’s or what?” Carter said, arriving near Dana, Brent and Hal close by. 

“Of course, sure,” she said. “Sorry.”

She turned and headed down a long mall corridor with Olson’s sign up ahead. Carter positioned himself in the front. Brent and Hal flanked the sides of their small group. Evan did his best to trail behind Dana or walk to her side.

He kept an eye out, noticing straight away shop employees and owners opening their gated entrances, preparing displays. But their attention soon drew to Dana, with some pointing at her, hushing words between each other. 

“Of course,” Evan spoke to Dana, “probably doesn’t help you have four big guys surrounding you.”

“But you see, my dear boy, it’s a double-edged sword.” Her sunglass-covered eyes glanced at him but then she stared ahead, kept walking. “We need my fans noticing me. Gets publicity, social media likes. But we need to keep it controlled.” 

“I know. I get it.”

Before long, five people were following them, taking photos, saying Dana’s name, although Carter continued to lead Dana toward Olson’s. But soon the people were requesting autographs and selfies. Since they were close to Olson’s, Carter suggested they stop for a moment.

Using the training he received, Evan carefully watched each person. Their body language. What they held in their hands. Anything else untoward. But they were ultimately calm, friendly older people, a few guys in their 30s, and three older women, maybe in their 40s or 50s. Dana graciously allowed selfies and she signed a few pictures or papers. And then she concluded things. The people were very thankful and soon walked back to their respective businesses.  

They continued heading toward Olson’s.

Evan felt he had done well, in protecting Dana. Neither Carter nor Brent complained, so it had to be true.

Carter noticed more people heading their way and so he hurried Dana along. When at the store’s glass door front, Dana used her phone and a few hand waving motions to capture the owner’s attention, an older woman who soon opened the door and allowed Dana, and Evan, inside.

The store was nice. Mostly white walls and large white block displays, with splashes of color and design here and there. Resembled your typical cell phone store, but with jewelry.

After Dana had discussed a few jewelry details with the owner, and how she would take selfies or sign autographs once done with purchasing the jewelry, the older woman seated herself in a corner of the store in front of a computer. Another employee, a girl probably still in high school, went about pricing items and setting up case displays, though she would periodically smile at Dana and Evan.

Dana handed her hat and sunglasses to Carter, since she explained they were no longer needed, for now.

Like planned, Carter, Brent, and Hal stationed themselves outside the closed glass doors of the store. However, Carter made sure to remind Evan on their radio connection to keep watch of the store’s back entrance, though Vic, Enzo, and Jackson were covering that area. Just extra precaution.

Dana stepped over to a jewelry case loaded with bracelets. After gazing over them for some minutes, she began checking things on her phone.

Evan had the woman owner show him to the store’s back area. She explained that the rear door was locked, secure, and that an alarm would sound if anyone attempted to break through. All seemed well-protected. He walked back to the front by Dana, yet by the bracelet case.

“Oh my God,” Dana said, smiling, staring at her phone. “One of my Twitter fans posted a photo of young Jason Momoa from Baywatch, said you look like him.”

“Jason…who? And what’s Baywatch?”

She looked up from her phone, her face amused. “You seriously don’t know?”

“Uhh, no.”

“Here.” She presented her phone’s Twitter post to Evan. “And obviously Baywatch is before your time, but you have to know this man.”

Evan studied the face of this Jason guy. “Oh yeah. Wasn’t he in early episodes of Game of Thrones?”

“That would be correct, my dear Evan.” She kept her gaze on that Jason guy’s photo. “But I would say you’re better looking. More stronger, more rugged than him too.”

“Well, thanks, Dana. You can attribute years of weightlifting, football and martial arts for that.”

She eyed him up and down a moment, a slight smile on her face. “And I’m sure eating well didn’t hurt too.”

He smiled and glanced away. “Uh, yeah. As you’ve said before.” He gazed back at her. “But sure, I can pack away the food.”

“And I’m sure you can. Not that there’s much fat, mind you. You’re mostly all muscle.” She turned from him and slipped her phone into that small purse draped on her shoulder. She looked for the girl. “Hey, babe. Can you help me here?”

When the girl walked over, Dana had her remove a thin, gold bracelet with a few diamond-filled, heart shaped designs. Dana tried it on and held it outward, moving her wrist, examining its shimmer. “You know, I attended college for a year and a half.”

That was random. “Really? What was your major? And why did you stop?”

“A music major, of course.” She handed the bracelet back to the girl and tried on another one, consisting of two thin chains of small, gold shapes and tiny sapphire stones. “I decided I could do it on my own. Forget about college. You should too. I mean, look at me.” She held out her wrist again, moving, turning, admiring the bracelet. “Where did you go to high school?”

A loaded question, of course. He couldn’t lie though. She could simply ask Carter and then what? “Park River, Minnesota.”

She looked at him. “Oh, I’m…” She blinked excessively and turned away; this wasn’t like her. “I mean, I’ve been to Minnesota many times. The Twin cities.” 

Adrenaline surged within him. Syrrah, my love. It had to be! He made sure to ignore her behavior, however. “Yeah? You like Minnesota?”

“Sure, it’s nice.”

“Where are you from, originally?”

“Umm, Reno, Nevada.” She handed the sapphire bracelet back to the girl. “But I lived many years in Las Vegas and the LA area.” 

“Oh, wow. That’s definitely different from Minnesota.”

She didn’t respond to his words but instead walked over to another jewelry case.

He followed her.

Without warning, Dana bent over and slammed her left forearm onto the glass top of the jewelry case. She hung there in that stance, head drooping down, her arm apparently breaking a drop for her to the floor.

Evan rushed over. He carefully grasped her upper right arm, holding her up from collapsing, and knelt to see her face. “Dana. Are you all right?”

“Turrone!” Carter shouted into Evan’s earpiece. “Ask her where she hurts."

The woman owner and the girl employee hurried over, both asking if Dana was okay, if they could help.

Dana lifted her face, to see Evan, her face contorted in pain. “Evan. Can you help me stand better?”

“Of course.” He gently yet firmly took hold of her other arm and positioned her, so she was nearly standing tall, though she still appeared racked in pain. “Carter wants to know where you’re hurting.”

“Like electric shocks…down both legs.”

Carter entered the store’s front door and headed over.

“I could barely stand.” She swallowed and was trembling slightly. Her eyes bore into Evan’s concerned gaze. “In my purse. Oxy pills.”

The purse hung from her right shoulder. Yet he had to keep her standing. He stepped closer and wrapped his right arm around her left side, drawing near her, almost as a hug. With his other hand he reached for the straps on her purse – when Carter took hold of it instead. 

“I got this, Turrone.” Carter encircled his arm around Dana’s waist, wedging between Evan and Dana, until Carter supported her. He gave the purse to Evan. “Find the pills. Prescription OxyContin.”

Rapidly undoing the one button on the purse’s flap, Evan searched within until feeling a small plastic bottle.  

The woman owner brought over a chair with cushion seats and Carter helped Dana sit down upon it.

Evan opened the bottle’s cap, near Carter. “How many?”

“Two.” Carter eyed the owner. “You have any water?”

“Bottled water,” she said. “I’ll get it.”

After just a short time, the woman owner came back with a bottled water. Dana was able to swallow down several of the pills, with Carter’s help.

Hal was slowly walking over from the front entrance, though he kept turning back, eying Brent and the doorway. Many more people, lots of them young, like in their teens and twenties, had now gathered near the glass doors and windows, looking in. Sure. Of course. Text messages. Social media. Word travels fast.

And regrettably, many were taking photos and videos of Dana’s unfortunate event, although it appeared Brent tried to block their view, when he could.

Probably was why Carter quickly told Hal to get back out there, that his help wasn’t needed here but instead by her fans.

Maybe about five or more minutes had passed, and Dana appeared to be in less pain.

“Carter,” she said, yet sitting in the chair. “I’m better now. Go help Brent and Hal out in the mall.”

“Are you sure?” Carter asked.

“Yes, I’m sure. Please. Go. It’s bad enough I’ll have to explain everything on Twitter now. Try to distract and keep them happy.”

Carter agreed and walked toward the store’s entrance.

The woman owner offered to keep the store closed longer, before other customers were to come in, if Dana needed more time, though Dana said she wasn’t sure about this yet.

Evan knelt near her. “You want me to help you stand up?”

She looked at him. His heart felt crushed. Like earlier in the limo, her red-lined, glistening eyes gave indication she had cried some again. But she didn’t seem concerned he could tell. “I think so. Let’s give it a try.” 

He took hold of her hands and helped her up. “Can you stand on your own?”

She gazed into his eyes but then focused on another jewelry case. “Just hits me at times, that’s all.”

She removed her hands from his grasp. She walked toward the case, a slight limp in her step.

He followed her.

Dana asked the girl to open the case, but then the owner called the girl to the back room, leaving the case yet open for Dana. They obviously trusted her, which felt good. Then again, security cameras were probably everywhere in here.

“Don’t make it too obvious,” she said, “but can you look out in the mall? Are more of my fans showing up?”

He snuck a glance. “Oh yeah. Quite a lot. And I think some paps now too.”

“Wonderful.” She sighed and continued looking in the jewelry case. “Fuck it. I really, truly don’t care anymore.”

“I’m sorry, Dana.”

“Don’t be sorry. And thank you, really. For helping me now, and at the party.” She faced him and stared into his eyes. “Don’t think I don’t know.” She glanced in Hal’s direction, and then back at him.

“Uhh, okay. And you’re welcome. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

“Oh, surprise. And here I thought you would say it’s just my job, that’s all.” She gazed, curiously, at him. “I’ll ask, though you probably won’t tell. What exactly did Hal say?”

He gazed back into her dark brown eyes, though gently. “Well…uh, you are correct. But I will tell you it was very disrespectful.”

She didn’t say anything but only stared, nodding a bit, her head slightly tilted. “Okay. So much for that.” She continued sorting through the bracelets, and necklaces and rings. “So, you played football. Ever considered doing professional wrestling, you know, the WWF?”

“Yes. I played football. But no, never thought about professional wrestling, not really. Too fake. I like the real stuff, I’m afraid.” 

She laughed. “I see. All that martial arts stuff, huh?”

“Yes. Exactly.”

She turned and faced him. She glanced around his body, flaunting those bedroom eyes again. “Mmm…nice bod, no matter what you do with it.”

No one could really hear, hopefully. The owner and that girl were still in the back room. But maybe Carter could hear on the mic. “Thanks, Dana.”

She stared at his chest and then up into his eyes. She began stepping back, yet with a slight limp, to the farther end of the jewelry case.

Evan was following her when he accidentally tripped on a rug. But he caught his fall and held his gaze on her.

She laughed. “What, I make you nervous?” She took a swig from the water bottle. “You need to get used to me, silly boy.”

He stared at her, straight on. “You don’t make me nervous. I just tripped, nothing more.”

She smirked. “Yeah, right. You eighteen-year-olds, I don’t know. Tough guy and all. What was I thinking?” She turned from him and continued to look at the other jewelry items.

She seized the sides of the case, tightly, with her hands. When she leaned over, to better see the items, her arms and legs trembled. She was breathing harder and struggled to stand firmly.

He stepped closer. “Dana. Are you all right?”

She looked at him, her eyes squinted, angered. “What? You don’t realize oxy takes time to kick in? Fifteen to thirty. Come on, boy. Carter should have told you.”

“He did. Seems too long, though.” 

“Yes, it is! Even with this fast-acting oxy my doctor gave me.”

“I’m sorry. I was just wondering.”

“Don’t be sorry.” She continued to hold on to the case and only stared down at the jewelry. After about a minute, the trembling began subsiding in her arms and legs.

He wanted so badly to hold her, to comfort her, but she gave strong indication that’s not what she wanted, besides Carter’s ‘keep it professional’ demands.

She reached into the case and lifted a small, sparkling, expensive-looking watch-bracelet covered in diamonds and sapphires. She held it up under the room’s lighting, like with the others, so it sparkled even more. “I should just pick out the most expensive, lovely thing I want. Father’s paying for it. Why should I care?” 

“Your dad…he does seem like a good guy.”

She laughed a little, quietly. “Don’t kid yourself. He’s not.”

“Oh, well, I mean, I don’t know him that well. Only judging what I’ve seen, so far.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

The girl employee walked over.

“Just in time,” Dana said to her. “I’ll take this watch. And those two other bracelets I tried on.”

The girl questioned Dana, about the exact jewelry again, and then they discussed the prices and carry-away packaging.

“You have any siblings?” Dana asked him, while the girl was acquiring the jewelry and packaging them up.

“A little brother, four. He lives at home, with my mom and dad.”

“Aww, how cute.”

“And how about you?” he asked, Carter’s ‘keep it professional’ be damned. Dana was in pain and needed a distraction. “Any brothers or sisters?”

But she didn’t answer. She was completing the purchase with the girl. A small iPad tablet displayed the total. Evan was able to view it easily due to his height. $2047.89. Really? Wow.

Dana removed a wallet from her purse. After flipping through its contents, counting some bills, she handed the girl cash, plenty of hundreds.

The girl walked away, to get change.

Dana turned to Evan. She glanced at the store entrance and then presented her closed fist to him. “Here. Hold this for me.”

He held his hand out. She carefully placed a wad of cash in his hand. He grasped his fingers around the bills, tightly. “Okay. I got it.” 

“Put it in your pocket or somewhere else, where it’s safe. Do so discretely, please.”

“Uh, sure.” He nonchalantly shoved the cash into his front, right security pants pocket.

The girl presented the change. Dana placed it in her wallet.

“I’ve got both,” Dana told him. “A fourteen-year-old sister, Audrey, and a twelve-year-old brother, Colton.” She looked out toward the mall. “You’re sure to get plenty of practice today. Looks about fifty people, or more, outside there. You ready?”

“Yes. I’m ready.”

She led them toward the store entrance.

“Wait,” Evan said quietly, after they walked several feet. “The money you gave me.”

She turned back, her eyes intense. “Yeah. What about it?” She spoke quietly too, under her breath.

He began reaching into his pocket.

She stepped closer to him. “Stop. And make sure your mic is off.”

He checked, and it was. “Why, what do you mean? You still want me to hold it?”

“It’s for you,” she said softly. “You deserve it, for putting up with me.”

Mild heat rose within him. “I…I can’t take it.” He spied toward the glass doors, and kept his hand low, so the jewelry counters along their path blocked Carter’s view, and that of the paps and fans. No one was watching directly though. “It’s not right. It’s your money.”

She closed her eyes. “Don’t insult me like this, Evan,” she spoke quietly, seething through her teeth, “just do not.” She opened her eyes and glared at him, rage in those dark brown irises. “Do you understand?”

This was getting too much. “Okay, okay. I know you’re not feeling well, but why do you do that, just turn like that?”

“If you knew, what it’s like, to be me, you would get it. But you’re not, so don’t even try.” She turned and began heading for the entrance. She stopped and looked back at him. “Oh, by the way. I might be needing you for security while we do some practice singing. You up for that?”

Well that was a stunner. “Uh, sure. I guess as long as your dad and Carter approve.”

“Screw them. It’s my decision. And you won’t get in trouble.” She headed toward the entrance again.

The woman owner came running up from the back. “Dana. Wait.”

The girl employee was trailing her.

Dana stopped and faced them. “Oh, that’s right. Sorry my dears. You wanted a selfie or two?”

Before Evan could gather his disoriented thoughts together, Dana wrapped an arm around each woman and then requested Evan to take several photos of all of them together, and separately, with the owner’s phone. He did, at the same time keeping a watchful eye on their behavior, their closeness to Dana, but from all their body language and previous behavior, he sensed only kindness and not a bit of maliciousness in their demeanors.

Even Carter gave an approving eye from the window.

Dana eventually said her good-byes to the two women. She then led Evan out into the mall.

He did his training, along with Carter and the others, allowing Dana to do selfies, sign autographs, and even hug or get close to other fans, similar to what he just did with those two women. Yet he kept a watchful eye. Most of the fans seemed fine. The few paps were well behaved, too, taking photos and videos here and there. But most importantly, like he had noticed at other times, even though Dana was probably still in pain, discomfort, she was kind and gracious to her fans.

If only. If only she would consistently show the same behavior to him.

And it didn’t help much when Dana took selfies with men; a horrible, nearly uncontrollable feeling to destroy these guys, violently, overtook him. This wasn’t like him, not really.

He truly needed to find a way to keep his mind at ease.

And there was. Prayer. And, similarly, a discussion with Art, and soon.