Excerpt: Beast

“Beau!” Beau’s editor hurried over to his desk, excitement playing over his face. Beau regarded him with bemusement; it was rare to see Dave looking happy. Normally he was just rampaging about deadlines.

“Yeah?” Beau leaned back in his chair, tapping a pencil idly on the desk in front of him. He had finished this month’s cover story, and the week before they went to press loomed ahead of him, empty and boring.

“I have the story of a lifetime for you!” Dave said, dropping a folder in front of Beau with great aplomb.

“Yeah?” Beau repeated, interest creeping into his voice. He eyed the folder, knowing better than to open it until Dave had given him permission.

“We found Gabriel Fletcher.”

Beau could only splutter, gaping at Dave like an idiot. Dave grinned, obviously pleased with his reaction.

“No shit?” Beau finally choked out, his gaze returning to the folder in front of him, the plain manila suddenly a thousand times more interesting.

“Weirdly enough, we got an anonymous tip.”

Beau arched an eyebrow. They were Rolling Stone, not the Times; they didn’t get anonymous anythings.

“I know, I know. But it checked out,” Dave continued. “He’s holed up in some decrepit mansion in the middle of nowhere.”

“Why?” Beau demanded. It was what they’d all been trying to figure out for well over a year. Why would someone like Gabriel Fletcher suddenly decide to disappear?

“It’s your job to find out.” Dave nodded at the folder, permission finally granted to look inside. “Your flight leaves tonight.”

Beau nodded absently, his attention fully focused on the material in front of him. News clippings from the time of Gabriel’s disappearance—all of which he had seen a million times—and the one new piece of information: an address.

*~*~*

Beau boarded the plane, anxiety thrumming through his veins. It wasn’t the flying—he sometimes joked that he spent more of his life on a plane than off—it was this story. It had the potential to make his career. It involved actual reporting, not just sitting down with the pop star-of-the-moment and pretending to listen while the vapid little thing spewed the same management-approved bullshit as all the others.

Beau loved music, but he still remembered the bigger aspirations he had once held. Back in college, he thought he was going to change the world. This story could at least offer him a taste of what real reporting was like, and he was salivating after it.

He settled into his assigned seat, relieved to find the one next to him empty. Glancing around the plane, he concluded that not many people had cause to travel to Nowhere, USA. Probably just the way Gabriel Fletcher liked it.

Beau frowned as the plane began to taxi, his thoughts filled with the erstwhile musician.

Gabriel Fletcher had been the lead singer and guitarist for the most popular band in the world. Beau shook his head, knowing that was no exaggeration. They’d topped every chart, won every award. For a five-year streak, everything they released had been pure gold; or, in this case, pure platinum.

And then he had just disappeared.

Literally. He didn’t quit the band, or ‘take a break.’ He didn’t have a public meltdown or a career decline. The band had been on tour, supporting their latest hit album, and had been scheduled to headline the MTV VMAs. Fletcher just didn’t show up.

His management panicked; there was a worldwide manhunt and a missing persons investigation. Beau had realized it was serious when the police got involved, actually searching for Fletcher like no one had any idea where he was. Not even his security team could account for him.

And just as suddenly as the search had begun, it ended. Fletcher was never found, but the police assured the public that he was alive. Someone, somewhere, knew where he was and knew that he was okay, but they weren’t talking. And neither was he.

Absolute radio-silence.

The band tried to move on. They got themselves a new singer, a new guitarist, but it wasn’t the same. Fletcher wasn’t just talented; he had that certain something that drew the crowds, sold the records, made all the girls scream. The tour got cancelled, the awards dwindled, and the other band members called it a day. Only a few weeks before they had announced they were splitting up, two of them forming a new band, the others pursuing solo projects. Beau didn’t have high hopes for any of them. Without Fletcher, they were nothing.

Now this. Beau looked down at the address again. Gabriel Fletcher, locked away in some old house, refusing to see anyone. And Beau was going to talk to him.

His pulse pounded with excitement.

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