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Chapter 12 - Exhilarate

CHAPTER 12 –

What is this place? Obviously, it’s a music festival; there are weirdoes and hippies all over the place. I smell weed every time I walk to into a huge crowd, and there’s just so many people. So many people, but at least everyone was friendly, and more importantly, none of them recognized me. This was the first time since Springfield that we’ve gone to a crowded space and haven’t been swarmed on the spot. And I know we lost our tail heading in here. The plan had worked, for now.

“Where we headed? We got two shows right Sasha?” Trevor asked as he jumped onto Floyd’s back.

“One and a half, where to Floyd?”

“Main stage. We have to see Big Gigantic.”

“Who plays after Big Gigantic,” Courtney asked.

“My favorite Musician, who we’re also going to see at New Years in Alabama.”

“Who is it?” Just as Floyd was about to answer Courtney’s question. A group of campers came up to us and randomly gave us a series of high fives and hugs. Everyone felt a little uncomfortable about it except for Floyd. It’s things like this that make me ask that same question again. What is this place?

There’s a lot of walking, but with it, you meet and see so many unique and beautiful people, each with their own style and flavor. Many people were wearing costumes, one of the guys that hugged me was a 30-year-old man in a cheerleaders outfit with wonderfully tied up pigtails and green hair. And that wasn’t even the strangest thing I saw there.

I didn’t listen to this kind of music, but I couldn’t help but feel like there was rhythm moving through the air in here, and everyone was feeding off of it. It almost felt like energy. It felt strangely liberating. And I started to think deeply about this next to my friends, is this what life feels like?

I ignored Floyd’s conversation with Trevor and Courtney as he told them about “The King of Sound.” Because that’s all, he ever talked about, at least he was passionate. I took this time to look around me and notice the irony of where this journey had taken me.

Before I was alone, I was miserable; there were only a few things that swam through my thought process. I didn’t want to connect with anyone or anything ever again. Now, I was probably the most wanted person in America. And I was reconnecting the world one phone at a time. I felt like something new was taking hold of my soul. Every step I took in this journey I felt that much more distant from the old Sasha.

But still even after all I had seen, and all I had learned, I was still afraid to let go. I need one more dose of hope before I could bid farewell to this prohibitive shell of depression that has cradled me since the accident. Do your magic Music Festival. I really need to see that I can be whole again. I’m almost there. I can feel it.

*****

Special Agent Andrew Quinn

Montage Mountain Festival Grounds

6:42 P.M.

“How long ago was that festival in Kentucky, Quinn?”

“Jesus. 2008?”

“Then we got promoted.”

“Yes, we did Harry, it’s good to be back.”

In your twenties, you’re gonna do a lot of stupid shit, a lot of crazy shit, and you’re gonna do the kind of shit that’s going to change how you perceive the entire world. This place gave me a nostalgic feeling no doubt if only I were here on leisure. This was a huge pain in the ass. It took us far too long to get in here.

Walking past all these happy going people, I’m shocked no one could tell we were the real FBI. We waltzed into the festival no problem once we flashed our badges. My ADD medication was wearing off. I wanted this done. I just want to sleep in my bed, my empty queen bed.

“How the hell are we going to find her in here?” Arnold made a good point. Trying to find Sasha in this ocean of people was like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles.

“Well first of all. We know that all four of them will be together.”

“That hardly narrows down our field.”

I’ll admit what they did was very smart. And their deceptive actions were starting to piss me off. What better way to lose a tail then to jump into a massive crowd of people. It was foolproof. This was also the last day of the festival, and they would make their escape in the cover of chaos. We had to find her at this place here and now before that happened. This was our last chance.

“What do you think Harry?”

“We’ll have to split up. Fortunately, we’ll be able to find Floyd pretty quickly. How many kids are six foot-seven? I’ll take the tent stage, Pensky you take the small stage, Quinn and Arnold take the main stage.”

“Always wanted to see Big G.” Arnold smiled slapping me on the back. I sighed, I know why Harry put me with him. But I guess he did prove himself to be a good spotter back in Saint Louis. “Harry this kid would have to stand on my shoulders to even see the main stage.”

“Quinn, stop complaining and just get this done. You know he’s got good eyesight. I don’t, and Pensky has to meet up with his backup, he can’t do that very well in a giant crowd of people.”

“Yes, Harry. Let’s get this done quick the sun will set in 2 hours. Regroup and meet at the restaurant at daybreak if we don’t see each before then.”

“Good luck Quinn, we’ll stand in the open if you need us.” Massive pain in the ass this job was becoming, our only reliable form of communication was now word of mouth, and whatever was guiding Sasha on her journey. Every minute she gained an advantage.

They were most likely going to be at the main stage. You have to figure they’d leave after the main performer who is when at least half of the people here would leave. At least they were all focused within this enormous crowd, somewhere. I heard the stage had been breaking down all weekend. But they kept booting it up, bringing in brand new tech every day - converting from radio waves to hardwired systems. But what if it broke and couldn’t be booted back up with new equipment? Would Sasha see that as an opportunity?

“Arnold?”

“Yeah Quinn?”

“I have an idea, but it’s a little immoral. We’re gonna have to lie.”

“Whatever it takes.”

Big Gigantic came on and put on a marvelous display. This was my only plan now. So I was willing to break a few rules.

We moved quickly to the technical booth, which was about 200 feet from the stage. There wasn’t a crowd behind the booth, yet. Arnold and I had no trouble getting inside. We jumped over the gate and flashed out badges.

“FBI. We need to see your computer.”

“Wait why?”

“Just let me see something.”

I took out my phone and looked for a hook-up, and when the sound techs saw me, they panicked. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Sorry boys it’s the only way.” They all lunged towards me when I found the micro-USB adapter. Arnold somehow managed to hold off the three sound techs; I guess they were even bigger pussies than he was. I hooked my phone in and turned it on. And when the sound techs saw that I did, they gave up their attempt and faced the reality of their failure.

“We just replaced it for the third time an hour ago. We can’t do this again.”

“Why?”

I ignored their questions over the bands blaring but clear music. I could feel the bass in my chest, and I knew that after a few minutes had gone by, the show would shut down. Sasha would either rise to the opportunity or try to flee in the crowd. I was placing all of my chips on her ambition. A safe bet, I hope.

*****

I didn’t too much care for standing around for 20 minutes waiting for this band to come around. Floyd’s linebacker size made it easy to push through the crowd, and before we knew it, we were right next to rail on the left side of the stage. It was a great spot, but it far more cramped than we realized.

“I can’t do this,” Courtney announced to us.

“Honey. It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not fucking okay Trevor! I can’t do this! I thought I could but I can’t.” Courtney seemed to be having a blast the entire time we were at the festival until we got close to the stage which was by far the cramped and claustrophobic spot we could’ve asked for.

“Don’t like tight spaces, Courtney?” I asked idly, but she didn’t take it as a joke. In fact, she started to have a panic attack.

“Courtney!” She collapsed to her knees and was gasping for air. Like she was suffocating. It didn’t care being shoulder to shoulder with all these dirty, sweating hippies inhaling the giant cloud of body odor, and cigarette smoke. Something triggered her.

We all gave her our undivided attention, and luckily, the people by our side gave her some space.

“Courtney. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can’t Sasha! I can’t do this.” Tears were streaming down her face; she was hysterical, then I remembered. She was holding a dark secret; now I could assume it had something to do with claustrophobia.

“Put her on your shoulders.” Floyd nodded to my sign, and once she was on top of Floyd’s massive back, she began to ease and looked down to me wiping away her tears.

“Thank you.”

The blasting speakers then broke our moment; it wasn’t until I gazed upon the spectacular light show that was culminating before us that I felt the magic. It’s so much more than the sound, the portrayal of the artist and the shows they put on for us. It the people, the setting, the vibes. They all combine and create this feeling, deeper than sound, deeper than sight, it’s incredible, it’s captivating, it’s inspiring.

“Oh my god!”

“Yeah!” Trevor jumped on my back, and Big Gigantic’s show began. I couldn’t believe the clarity of the music I was hearing; it was rattling, begging to set me free –I started to let go. That feeling would only last minutes before their stage broke down. I knew one concert would not be nearly enough to set me free. I knew it would only be temporary- but I couldn’t let people feel deprived of that. People who had traveled far and wide for the love of music.

“We’ll be back up in a few minutes’ folks!” The stage moderator blared through the spare megaphone on stage, but we could hear their muffled conversation through their megaphone.

“What is going on?”

“We don’t know. It just shut down.”

“Oh god do you think the virus got to it?”

“If it did…”

“Take your finger off the trigger! They can hear us!”

If this had been the first time it had happened, I know the crowd wouldn’t have reacted the way they did. They were furious – this would’ve been the third day in a row that the headliners would’ve unable to perform due to technical difficulties – technical difficulties of an entire nation – affecting everything.

They didn’t start to boo though; it was all starting to settle in. A heartbreaking vibe surged throughout the crowd; they were accepting the disappointment. They couldn’t even escape this crisis at the very place they came to escape the confines of everyday life.

I had to do something.

“Floyd?”

“Sasha, I can’t believe this.”

“Burst through the rail Floyd.”

“What?”

“I have an idea.”

Floyd nodded to me and held my hand tight. Poor Trevor and Courtney were caught off guard when Floyd crashed through the rail. The security was all over us.

“Stop right there!”

“We will shoot!”

Courtney and Trevor flailed under the security guards – they basically acted as body sponges for the security so we could still maneuver. It took three guards to bring down Floyd; they barely managed to pin us, I had two on top of me when I shouted to them.

“Stop! You need to see something!”

I then took out my phone and presented it to them, and their jaws dropped.

“It’s her.”

“You’re Sasha Taylor?” They asked.

“Yeah. Bring me to the back. I can turn this on.”

The security lead came up to us and started to shout at his employees “What the hell are you idiots waiting for! We can’t let these people down. Move it!”

They hastily rushed us behind the stage, while in the meantime the DJ’s began playing the saxophone and the piano and their freestyle melodies began to soothe the crowd. It would be just enough to buy us the time we needed to reactivate the stage.

I caught eyes with one of the performers. He knew who I was; he knew what I was capable of, and when I flashed my screen to him he nodded confidently.

“We’re gonna get a little creative for you all, don’t worry, we’ll be back up soon.”

*****

Special Agent Andrew Quinn

Main Stage at Montage Mountain

6:44 P.M.

I vaulted over the technical booth and dragged Arnold’s sluggish ass with me. He felt the need to apologize to the nerds at the booth for our intrusion. We didn’t have the time this was our moment.

I ran to the two security guards who attempted to stop us, and we flashed our badges.

“I need you two to go out and find my two other agents; each should be in the back row of the smaller stages. They’re the only people wearing suits here, probably, so they shouldn’t be hard to spot. Agents Harry Westin and Brad Pensky.”

They looked at me struck with confusion. “What are you waiting for? This is a matter of national security move it! You ever want your cell phone or computer to work again?”

The security guards nodded and began to sprint to find Harry and Brad, leaving our path to the backstage wide open. Quietly, we made our way around the giant stage to the back. I finally saw her when I peeked around the corner.

“Look.” I nudged Arnold.

“It’s her.”

“Thank you, Arnold. I was afraid I was hallucinating.” He tried to run around the corner, but I stopped him. “Quinn she’s right there.”

“Let her fix the stage, have her glory. And we’ll be waiting for her. We’ll need to wait for Harry and Pensky to get all four of em’. Do you have a cigar?”

“As a matter of fact.” Arnold to my surprise pulled out a cigarillo from his front pocket and presented it to me. “But let’s wait until she’s in our hands – then we’ll split it, and then you can finally sleep, Quinn.”

“We did it, Arnold.” Every minute we chased this girl, she gained an advantage, but despite our insurmountable odds, we conquered it. But yet I wanted to fully cooperate with Sasha, she’s proven to be a decent person, and together we’re finally going to solve this. I feel like I’m finally beating the one thing that has haunted me my entire life, Time, take that you bitch.

*****

Minutes later, it was fixed. The stage booted up, and Big G continued their show. And like many before them, they were bewildered at what I, my phone, had done. Everyone came and shook my hand, and then, of course, it came with the benefit – and the stage moderator asked me:

“Is there anything we can do to repay you?”

I looked to Floyd and nodded. “Yeah let Floyd over there stand up on stage during the next two sets.”

Floyd’s eyes lit up and gleamed in the light; a moment offered to him that he had dreamt of his entire life. He signed to me; I’m sure he was self-conscious to use his vocalizer.

“Sasha?”

I’ve said before that I the need to think very deeply before speaking my mind. Maybe I was afraid of hurting anyone else, those thoughts were disintegrating, and a light to a new and warm mentality was upon me. The veil was lifting; I didn’t need to think at all before I spoke to Floyd.

“You’ve wanted this your whole life, Floyd. What are you waiting for?”

“You should come with me.”

To be honest, I wanted to go to, but this was his benefit. It wasn’t even my moment, but it was one of the best in my life.

“This is yours, Floyd. I’ll be right to the side of the stage if you anything.”

“Thank you, Sasha.”

Floyd bit his lip in excitement as the stage moderator came up behind him and led him through the curtain. He never broke his stare with me. If only our entire journey could be full of enlightening moments such as this, but life is equally cruel as it is beautiful.

“What now Sasha?” Trevor asked as we made our way from backstage, leaving Floyd to his moment. I at least wanted to see him as he danced away with one of his favorite musicians, his all-time favorite to play after Big Gigantic.

“Let’s get some food. I’m starving.”

“Excuse me miss?” I looked up and saw a man in a dirty, torn suit with blonde and pink hair looking down on me.

“Yes?”

“You are Sasha Taylor correct?”

“Let me see your phone.”

Assuming he was asking to have his phone reconnected, I made the first major mistake of our journey. He saw my phone and took a deep breath. Then before we could even think of running three other men in suits surrounded us.

“No.”

“We got you, Sasha. You need to answer some questions.” The man with the horrible haircut must’ve triggered something in Trevor. Ironically, he just couldn’t resist the gay jokes.

“I’ll be damned if the gay Men In Black are going to take us away.”

He didn’t like that comment too much, and they moved in to subdue us.

“We’re F.B.I. You little shit. There were four of you, where’s the other?” I glared at him; I should’ve known the authorities would’ve eventually caught up to us. That was an inevitability, but if they were bringing us in they were not forgetting Floyd. I couldn’t leave him out here on his own in this strange place.

“He’s up on the stage having the moment of his life. And if you try to tear him away from it, my phone will make sure we get away.”

He nodded to his other agent. “Pensky?”

“Yeah Quinn?”

“How are you communicating with your guys?”

“The same way you spotted Sasha. I’ll tell this guard right here to pass along the word to my contact - he’s also working security here. My guys will go to each contact and collect information from them, like following breadcrumbs and home base is the diner. I’m sure my guys will pick him up. I’ve already sent word to them about the festival so they should be here. Let’s get to the diner, and we’ll all be a happily reunited family.”

“I just hope they understand our need to rush.”

Pensky took the security guard to the side and instructed him. “The F.B.I needs a favor kid, this is urgent, go meet with main stage security, the guy’s name is Mike. I want you to give him a message.”

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