The Sequels to Syrrah's Game SGSequels

chapter 15

Thursday, August 10th, 5:45 PM

Casper, WY

 

“Sure was a quick drive here,” Freddy said. “Good thing we’re so close. So, she’s arriving soon?”

“Yes, according to her tour information.” Evan looked southward out across the parking lot at the stunning, expansive view of the valley below encompassing Casper, along with the distant Casper Mountain range. Interesting how the top of the mountain range was nearly a flat line, at least from this distance. “Like we discussed, she should be arriving early so fans can watch her walk into the event center, maybe take some selfies with her.” He looked at Neraeh. “I know, I’m being overly protective, and you’re not a little girl anymore, but--”

“Those two guys didn’t even show up today, though, Evan.” Neraeh sighed. “But you’re right. We shouldn’t have Dana see me, since if she really is Syrrah, this could spook her, make her disoriented or something before her concert.”

“Yeah, plus I really feel like I let your dad down yesterday. I was supposed to keep you safe, and there I go allowing you to travel up to the same ground where robots or DFRs with guns could have shot at us.” Evan inhaled deeply and let it out, staring out at the Casper Mountain range again. “But, anyway, I would much rather we meet with her all together, after the show.”

“I have to agree, Neraeh,” Freddy said. “She’ll be arriving stressed-out. You know, tours can get rough. Could be too upsetting for her, if it’s all true. I think we should let Evan scope things out first.”

“Wish we had the money to see her in the concert too,” Evan said. “But with the motel rooms, and gas to get back, just don’t have it.”

“It’s all right,” Neraeh said. “Sixty to two hundred and fifty dollars…and even more for the better seats? That’s ridiculously high. Much better for us to try to see her after the show.”

“Yes, exactly.” Evan lifted his phone up. The time was now 5:48. “Okay, you two. I’m getting out.” He removed the keys and handed them to Freddy. “Remember. If those guys come around, drive away. Then text me about it once you find a safe spot.”

“Okay, dude. I got this. Don’t worry.”

Once out of the truck, with the door closed securely, Evan began walking across the event center’s parking lot, phone in hand. He cut a trail around the ever-increasing number of cars and trucks rolling in for a parking spot. He kept alert for any vehicles or people crossing his path but mainly locked his attention on the back entrance of the building. Yet it was impossible to ignore the warming, high-eighties dry air and the vastness surrounding the event center; the scenery was wide-open dry fields, a small number of trees, and hardly any homes nearby. More out in the country, not a concert center you would find in a large city, that was for sure.

He arrived at the end of the parking area and began walking down a small hill. About fifty to a hundred people were heading in the same direction as him, to a sidewalk trail looping from the back of the building not far from the loading area, where big semis carrying tour equipment were parked, on down to a paved side road. On both sides of the sidewalk, lines of those portable metal gates had been placed. Ha, funny. Looked like a bunch of bicycle racks from Park River High all tied together from end to end. 

He slowly approached the line of people on either side of the metal gates. His thoughts sped up. Where to stand? And what to do, or say, to even attempt to find out if Syrrah existed within Dana Zypher?

But if he could only approach her closely, to see her face, to see her eyes, and to hear her voice then this would hopefully give some indication as to who she truly was.

His steps taking him closer, a mildly loud hum filled the area from people taking phone pics and videos, conversing, or reporters setting up cameras and other equipment. He looked around on the left side of the sidewalk from his position. An area with less people was close to the event center’s entrance. Good. He walked in that direction. But he soon understood why less people congregated in this area; to the right of this empty spot stood a very tall white dude, probably six foot nine, talking loudly and rough-playing with three other normal height guys, shoving and smacking into each other. A security guy, wearing a dark blue polo with a white, oval badge enclosing Casper Professional Security in small cap letters, motioned with his hands for them to settle down. He told them Dana Zypher should be here soon. They stopped their rough behavior and looked toward the end of the metal-gated sidewalk, to where she should be arriving.

Evan walked up the grass-covered incline next to the metal gates and stood in that empty spot, about two yards away from the tall guy and his pals. He looked down at his phone, no messages yet, and opened the camera app. Memories suddenly filled his mind when he first came back from the hull. Mrs. Lindele’s class. Jake and Peter, and how they were eager to harass Freddy. And then Evan’s stance, taking hold of them, and calling out I’m not letting you do this to them, or me, any longer! You hear me? And then the aftermath. Yeah, my dad was having bereavement issues, and I was affected by it, made me slightly crazy. Seemed to work, for a couple of weeks, but then the bullying began, by Jake, Peter, and some of their friends. Went on for a couple months, but then his and Freddy’s enrollment in Master Ren’s Academy put a stop to that. Jake’s older brother was a member and witnessed firsthand how Evan himself, and Freddy, were making gains, fast. They were naturals at it.

But thankfully, recent events made things better. Varsity football. And then later, being captain of the Park River Raiders. Jake and Peter begrudgingly became friendly again, yet they could never actually be friends like before. Oz and Randal were his good friends now. And Freddy, of course, the best friend anyone could ever have.

A long, black limousine arrived at the end of the trailing, metal-gated sidewalk. All heads, eyes, and phones turned to it. Evan did the same, though he had to lean out more over the metal gate, mainly due to tall guy and his bros blocking some of the view. Several of those Casper Professional Security guys, obviously working for Casper Events Center, arrived by the limo and held back a few eager fans from approaching too close or too soon. On the other side of the limo, some men stepped out, an older man and a younger one, probably Dana Zypher’s own security. These men walked around until meeting up with Casper Events’ security.

One of Dana’s security men opened the door for her. Her long, tan leg, with a pink, ankle-height high-heeled boot emerged first. The security man quickly helped her to stand up. She seemed unsteady. Well, of course, those ridiculously high heels. Sexy, but clumsy.

Cheers, selfie requests and lots of typical fan call-outs filled the air around Dana. Many of her fans moved down closer along the metal gates, decreasing the number of people near Evan even more than seconds earlier. But, no problem. With his taller height, he was still able to see her quite well, so he stayed put.

Bright lights flashed on and off from phones and other cameras. And the noise volume increased, probably due to all the reporters now becoming more evident, doing their own photo, video taking, and call-outs to Dana.

But ignore it all, Evan told himself. He directed his attention only on Dana. Under a lengthy, white, see-through sweater, she wore a colorful, attractive outfit made up of a halter top and matching short skirt, revealing some of her trim, toned stomach below the halter’s bottom edge. The halter and skirt consisted of the same material, a pastel mix of pink, orange, light green and yellow.

With that same security man close by, a stacked, thirty-something white guy, Dana slowly, carefully leaned into a girl fan requesting a selfie. The girl snapped the image with her phone. Then Dana carefully walked to the other side of the sidewalk, taking a selfie with some goof-ball guy dressed in pink clothing, his friends joining in with the photo.

Done with Mr. Pink guy, she positioned herself more in the center of the sidewalk, though she acknowledged fans with waves and kind words. No longer did she show eagerness to take selfies. Evan observed closely. She was tall, thin, certainly seemed fit, in good shape, her breasts not so large, though proportional to the rest of her body. With every step, she was drawing closer to his view. He had never cared for her looks, yet why? He studied her face. Her eyes. Small, deep-set, dark brown, probably black. Beady eyes? Like a rat, dare he think. Her forehead was too narrow, compared to the rest of her face. Her nose was okay, not too wide, but on profile view, was a bit too large. Her lips were normal, fine. The rest of her face, her cheek area on down to her chin, seemed well balanced and nice, but simply did not fit right with her smaller forehead.

Her hair color was currently brunette, though he had seen blond or purple before, obviously dyed. Her hair hung straight, short, just to her shoulders. She didn’t have any bangs.  

And her demeanor. Overall, her appearance and actions reminded him of a nerdy girl, with aggressive tendencies. Of course. She was a performer, and this required someone with gusto, some aggression, a badass even.

Yet as she moved, as she waved and spoke friendly, supportive words to her fans, he felt something else. Yes, maybe Dana was not his type, but he could see how Oz and Freddy could find her attractive, for her body was certainly hot, and she had charisma, charm. But her face, simply not for him.

But, stupid, what are you doing? Syrrah. Remember? She could be imprisoned within her!

Like many of the others, he carefully held his phone, in a polite manner, low and closer to his body, and snapped photos of her whenever he could. Fans still called out for selfies, yet she didn’t agree to any.

Her steps slowed. Trouble with those heels? He studied her face again. A slight grimace, along with eyes that stared straight ahead now, avoiding fans, became her behavior. Something was wrong. Was she in pain, but trying to hide it? He also waited, as she approached closer and closer, to experience Syrrah’s beautiful face and body merging, even taking over completely of his view of Dana, like what had happened with Heidi. But the closer she walked near him, the more it became evident that was not going to occur. Instead, Dana’s whole persona collapsed from interested and friendly to a constricted, struggling woman, simply trying to make it to the backdoor of the building. Even her security guard seemed more attentive, discretely gesturing, holding a hand out, as if to ask if she needed help. But she didn’t reach back to him.

People were beginning to fill in the empty areas to Evan’s left. They were following, congregating near Dana’s movement.

Finally, she passed in front of Evan. He could only watch. She kept gaining more and more distance away from him. But he had to know. He had to try something, anything. Fans all around her were still calling out her name, though she continued walking, now barely acknowledging any of them. He could only think of one thing to do. Taking in a deep breath, readying himself by cupping his hands by his mouth, he yelled out with his loudest, clear voice. “Syrrah!”

Dana stopped walking. Had she actually heard him, above everything else?

“Hey!” A man’s voice. Sounded like that tall guy or one of his douchebag friends.

A hard punch hit on his right, upper shoulder, nearly forcing him down and banging up lightly into another guy to his left.

“Sorry, bro,” he told this other guy, but this other guy, wide-eyed, was more concerned about darting away. Evan pivoted back until he could see from where the punch came. Crap. It was that tall dude, and he was incoming.

“You don’t disrespect Dana!” The tall guy forecasted a right hook punch. And he stunk of alcohol. No time to reason with him.

The police. Court action. Defense. Don’t destroy. Disable.

Evan whipped his own arms up, wrapping his forearms in a tight knot around his head, grasping his left hand around the back of his head for solid leverage to protect from the punch.

He knew it was inevitable; a hard blow smashed into his left forearm.

The pain was intense. Rage ignited within him.

But no. Defense. Don’t destroy. Disable. But be lightning fast.

Energy from that rage flooded through Evan’s arms. He wrapped his left arm around the tall guy’s upper right bicep, gripping the arm tight against his own body, at the same time plunging his head into the tall guy’s upper back. Though unable to see the guy’s front body, Evan slammed his right palm into the man’s sternum and then shot his hand up until grasping the windpipe, squeezing, just enough to choke but not crushing the windpipe completely. In one last quick move, and still facing away from him, Evan wrapped his right leg around tall guy’s own right leg to drop him. It was all working. Tall guy never had a chance to fight back and now couldn’t help but collapse. Evan released his tight arm grip, set free the windpipe.

The dude landed with a hard, banging thud. He fortunately landed on his back, not his head, and on the grass.

Evan stepped a good distance away from him.

“That’s enough!” One of those Casper Events’ security guards was rushing over. “Break it up, now!” 

The tall guy’s friends moved closer, hovering around him. They reached down to help him up, but he didn’t attempt to stand, only sitting on the grass, appearing disoriented. He wouldn’t even attempt to look at Evan. Defeated, yeah. And served the drunk fool right.

Another Casper Events’ security guard arrived, along with two of Dana Zypher’s security men.

Dana’s fans were stepping near, surrounding all of them. And of course their phones were out and video recording, or snapping pics.

Evan locked eyes with one of the tall guy’s friends who was struggling to help him up. “What’s his problem, anyway?”

“You called Dana by her last name!” the friend said. “Rather rude, you know? She’s Dana, man, she’s Dana.”

Evan could only stare. No way he could explain this. He couldn’t even deny calling out her last name. He turned to find Dana. She was slowly walking inside the Casper Events doorway, not even glancing back. She still moved as though terribly tired, withdrawn. That same security guard guided her along.

Bull crap! Never even had a chance to see anymore of her reactions, thanks to stupid drunk asshole here!

And his friends had finally stood him up, once Evan glanced back. He looked okay. He certainly wasn’t unconscious. Tall guy would survive, the damn fool.

Disgusted, Evan turned to walk away. He rubbed his hand over his left forearm, attempting to decrease the pain. 

A hand seized hold of his shoulder. “Not so fast, chump.” Evan looked back. It was that Casper Events’ security guard who had arrived first. “Police were notified. We need to find out if charges are being filed.”

Another security guard arrived, one of Dana Zypher’s men. “I got this, Tim,” he said to the Casper Events’ guard. “Saw it all. He was only defending himself. I’ll handle it.”

“All right. But I need to find out if that guy is filing charges.”

“Of course,” Dana’s security man said. “Let me know.” The man, an older dude, looked at Evan. Evan stared right back. “Follow me, kid. Just over here.”

The man led Evan down a grass-covered slope to the same level as the parked semis, and near the semi unloading doors. Evan’s gaze caught view of Dana Zypher’s name and images plastered along the sides of several of those semi-trailer containers. Not far from another entrance to the event center, at this lower level, was a small break area, with a concrete bench and a few pine trees planted nearby, giving the little spot a picturesque appearance.

The security man walked over to the break area and sat down on the concrete bench. He smacked his hand on the concrete seat next to him. “Here, kid. Have a rest.”

Evan sat down about a foot away from him. 

The man tilted his head back and stared at Evan. “You had some impressive moves there, kid.”

“I should. I teach martial arts, and have for about a year now.”

“What sort of martial arts?”

“Taekwondo. Jeet Kune Do. Eskrima. Mixed martial arts. Whatever is needed, required.”

“Ahh, the great Bruce Lee. How old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

“How many years studying?”

“Six years. I have a black belt.”

“Nice. A black belt, hey? Working on your second dan now?”

“Yes, I am.” 

 “A determined young man, I see.”

“Yeah, I took to it easily, for some reason. Rather second nature to me.”

The man squeezed his chin in contemplation. Evan gave him a quick once over. Age, about 45? Dark brown eyes. Not a bad-looking face, salt and pepper short hair, not balding. Had a short, quarter inch-length beard and mustache, of the same salt and pepper hair. His skin had a tannish color but was mostly red-tinged. Maybe a weekend alcoholic? He stared at Evan with intensity. “Yeah. I was going to say. You had some fast moves, for someone as large as you. So, listen up, kid.” He held out a business card. Great. Hopefully not another disappearing one. Evan took it. “We’re in need of bodyguards for Dana’s tour. Could sure use someone like you.”

“Umm, well, okay. I’ll think about it.”

“Yes. Please do. You gonna see the concert now? You a fan of Dana’s?”

“Uh, yes, I am a fan of Dana’s. And I was hoping to get a selfie or autograph, or something.”

“Yeah, sure kid. There will be more opportunities for that later, after the concert.”

Motion flickered on Evan’s right peripheral. He looked in that direction. Tim, the security guard, was walking down the small grass-covered hill.

Tim approached and stood in front of Dana’s security guard. He stood tall and crossed his arms over his chest. “We’re in luck.” He eyed Evan. “Mr. Carlson, the man who instigated the fight with you, as we have seen on our security cameras…” He stared back at Dana’s security guard. “Is not pressing charges. In fact, he left in quite the hurry, once talking with us, and walking around a bit. The taller they are, the harder they fall.” He laughed.

Dana’s security guard chuckled. “Oh, don’t they, Tim. We sure know that. So, no police needed?”

Tim looked at Evan again. “Unless you want to press charges?”

“No, no,” Evan said, shaking his head slightly. “I’m fine. Just glad they left.” But then he realized Neraeh and Freddy could be in danger now, if those stupid guys had somehow seen them all arrive together and now wanted revenge. Evan stood up. “Actually, if you will excuse me, I think I will be leaving now.”

“Concert starts soon, kid,” Dana’s security guard said. “Don’t be late.” He smiled at Evan. A few of the man’s front teeth were chipped. Creepy. And cringy. “But, look. Would like to hear from you soon. Call me. We can talk more then.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Carter,” Dana’s security guard said. “My name is Carter Lorenzo.”

“Nice to meet you, Carter.” Not inclined to give my name now, Evan quickly determined. “I’ll definitely keep it in mind, for sure. But need to run now.”

Carter swept his hand outward. “Off you go, then. Hope you have a good seat in there. Dana’s worth every penny.”

Evan smiled, gave Carter a brief nod and began heading up the small grass-covered hill. He jogged up the small hill until near the metal-gated sidewalk, decreasing his pace to a fast walk. He ignored some of Dana’s staring fans, probably still wondering about the fight, and continued his fast pace, concern for Neraeh at the forefront of his mind. Besides, those curious fans could always review all the photos and videos they took of the fight.

He did a quick check of his phone, to see if Neraeh or Freddy had contacted him. But, no texts, or calls, from anyone.

He was soon at the end of the metal-gated sidewalk. He stepped onto the paved road that led up to the main entrance, followed it for some twenty yards or so, and then took a sharp left, heading up another grass-covered hill leading to the parking lot. He was mainly retracing the path he took earlier.

“Excuse me,” a man’s voice said. “Can I have a few words with you?”

Evan stopped walking and looked down the hill, to where he heard the voice. A man carrying a camcorder was approaching from near a few pine trees bordering along the road. Now what?

The man jogged up the hill until several feet from Evan. “If you don’t mind…I would like to speak to you.”

Had to be one of those reporters or paparazzi guys he had seen earlier. Memories of the reporters in Park River, when that second Suburban had suddenly appeared shot through Evan’s mind. No. Not now! He ignored the memory away and stared at the man.  “What do you want to speak to me about?”

The man was older, with salt and pepper hair, like Carter, but taller, thinner. He held out his hand. “Hi. Frank Ragno, from H-Query.”

Evan shook his hand. “Nice to meet you. You work for that tabloid magazine?”

“That’s right, and growing a stronger fan base on our website all the time.”

Evan crossed his arms over his chest. “How can I help you? Sort of in a rush here.”

“Understandable. The concert is going to start at six thirty, if I’m correct. I’ll make this short and sweet.” He stepped a little closer. “I’ve been covering Ms. Zypher for many years, since the start of her music career. I’ve seen fans line up to meet her many times before. I’ve seen them call out her name, and her reaction to this, many times before. But I don’t recall ever seeing the reaction she had today.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, of course. You didn’t see it all. You were fighting with that fella.”

“I was defending myself from that fella. He was drunk and belligerent.”

“Right, I understand. Dana, well, she paused in her steps. Something I’ve never seen before, with just a mere, common fan. And normally she would have turned back, at least to see. But she barely turned her head, like she was scared, frozen. Do you two know each other?”

“Uh, no.” Evan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I’ve never met her before.”

“Dated, maybe?”

“No. Just a fan.”

“Take a look.” Frank stepped until the camcorder’s viewing screen he held was in Evan’s line of sight. The recording showed a view on the opposite side of the sidewalk from where Evan had stood. Just like he had done, he held his cupped hands by his mouth and called out to Dana. And Dana did suddenly pause, like frightened, jolted. And then the recording showed the tall guy’s attack. Frank stopped the video there. “Now, I don’t agree with your fight partner’s friend. Doesn’t exactly sound like you spoke her last name.” He stared Evan in the eyes. “You want to tell me what you did yell out to her?” 

Evan narrowed his eyes and stared right back. He tightened his crossed arms. “I don’t have to tell you anything.”

“Hey. You don’t have to be upset. I understand if you two had a fling on the side.”

He had seen and heard enough. Evan stared daggers at Frank and let out a disgusted sigh. “Not so nice meeting you after all. Have a good life.” He turned and walked away.

“I’m a reporter,” Frank called out from behind Evan. “And I investigate. That’s what we do. Remember that.”

Evan kept his steps going, even picking up the pace, navigating between parked vehicles or staying on the main passageway in the parking lot. He didn’t say anything back.

This was getting all too much. First those men, Art and Kamal, and their van, then the fight with Mr. Tall Drunk, which led to a security guard job offer, and now this reporter.

He turned back, checking, but Frank the reporter was not following, at least from what he could tell. He faced forward and continued his trek.

And Dana Zypher. Scared? Frozen?

His mind relaxed, the more he neared his Ram girl, especially upon noticing tall dude and his buds were nowhere to be seen. Thoughts arose. If the reporter was right, about Dana’s reaction, could this mean Syrrah was inside Dana? For a split second, a rush of elation lifted him, making him want to run back and hug that nasty old reporter guy. But he was a reporter, and they might do anything to instigate a story.

Regardless, that security guard, or bodyguard, whatever they want to call that job position, was sounding more and more like a very important opportunity.

He finally arrived at the Ram. Relief flowed within him; Neraeh, and Freddy were safely inside. Freddy unlocked the doors.

Evan opened the door and climbed in. He looked in both their curious eyes. “Have to say. That was quite the interesting situation.”

“Evan,” Neraeh said, “I’m sorry, but…well, we saw everything.”

Confusion rushed around his mind. “Uh, excuse me?”

She glanced away, staring down at her phone until seeming brave enough to look back at him. “I made Freddy take me up to the floor above Dana Zypher’s entrance path. They have some big windows up there. I just had to see, Evan, I just had to see when Dana walked in.”

Evan sighed, wrapped his arms around the steering wheel, and dropped his forehead there. Yet keeping his arms on the steering wheel, his head on his arms, he moved his head slightly to see Neraeh. “After I tell your dad I’ll protect you.”

“I’m sorry, but I just had to see her!”

“I know,” he said calmly. “But we had a plan.” He looked back at Freddy. “Et tu, Brute?”

“Uh, well…I was going to,” Freddy mumbled, “well, text you, but…umm…”

“I made him, Evan. And I’m sorry.” She drew in a deep breath and let it out quietly. “Anyway.” She had an odd, confusing expression, a slight smile. “Umm, I didn’t know you were that good. That guy was much bigger than you.”

“Like I told you,” Freddy said to Neraeh. “He can more than take care of himself.”

“As can you, Fred.” 

“All the more reason,” Freddy said, “we shouldn’t be too worried about all of this.”

“Yeah, but don’t forget. If it weren’t for all those security guards, tall guy’s entourage might have attacked me too. No point in walking into oncoming fire.”  

Freddy nodded. “Noted. But we’re fine now.”

“I know. But we need to keep with our plans, or things could be messed up, bad. Someone could get really hurt.”

“You’re right,” Freddy said. “Sorry again, dude.”

“It’s okay. But we have to stay vigilant.”

“Evan, did you get hurt, though?” Neraeh asked. “I saw the guy punch your arms on your head, at first.”

“Yeah, my left.” Evan reached his left forearm over to her. “Haven’t even looked. Probably just a bruise.”

She held, turned his arm briefly, with her soft, gentle touch. “Looks like a pretty good contusion.”

“Just par for the course,” Freddy said. “We get those all the time. No biggie.”

“Oh yeah.” Evan placed his left arm back on the steering wheel. “Football. Master Ren’s. Weightlifting. Banging into vehicle parts at Bob’s. All the time.” 

“Did you or that tall dude get in trouble?” Freddy asked. “Security sure did swarm around you.”

“No. Neither of us are pressing charges.”

“That’s good,” Neraeh said. “But I saw what Dana Zypher did. She heard you, Evan. She stopped, but then kept walking.”

“Yeah, I saw it too,” Freddy said. “We pieced it together, taking photos and videos, because Neraeh got more caught up watching you, but I was watching and recording both you and Dana Zypher. Looks like Dana was about to glance back, but then she paused a bit more, and then started walking again. Most people, upon hearing you and that other guy’s scuffle, would have turned back, checked it out. It was like Dana was deliberately avoiding the entire thing. But why?”

“Exactly.” Evan released the steering wheel and sat more comfortably in his seat. “You two weren’t the only ones who noticed something out of kilter. A reporter followed me to the parking lot. Frank Ragno. Works for the H-Query, that tabloid.”

“Dude. Really? What did he say?”

“Told me he’s been reporting on Dana for years, ever since she started. And he had never seen her do that before, what you just described. Said she looked scared, frozen. Then he started accusing me of being an abusive former boyfriend or something, but I told him I’m only a fan.”

“Oh my God,” Neraeh said. “Could it be true? Syrrah is in there, and heard you, but they threatened her if she ever acknowledged it or told anyone?”

Evan felt a strange sensation of his heart both dropping like a rock and rising to new heights, like earlier after Frank Ragno. “Or maybe she was simply tired. Look. I have to say. After she interacted with her fans for some minutes, she didn’t look so good, sort of tired, worn down. And she walked slowly, lacking energy. Maybe from the tour.”

“I noticed that too,” Neraeh said. “There’s only one way to know for sure. We need to meet up with her later when she interacts with her fans.”

“Yes,” Evan said. “I agree. And besides. There’s something else I need to tell you.”