Stage (f)Right Part 6
Ritchie Jean, completely immersed in sound checks, press conferences, and comparing notes on the competition found night coming quickly. The limo would soon be at the hotel to take the boys to the Civic Center. Another night and another concert and life went on, but not without the memory of Kevin Paul Henry.
The band was announced. Fog covered the stage as flashing lights filled the Center. Reflecting off the fog, it was quite a spectacle, as the band flew into their first number. As the fog cleared, a little man, probably not much more than 5'8" came running across the stage spewing out licks on his cordless guitar. The little man was now Goliath as Ritchie Jean started his first solo of the night.
The sparkle was gone, but to the crowd, they didn't notice anything. Ritchie Jean could do no wrong in their sight. He was king, at least for the next two hours. To Ritchie Jean, much was wrong and he didn't feel like a king at all. The music was going downhill fast.
At the lowest point of the night for Ritchie Jean, he experienced something that would change his life for quite a while to come. Even if he didn't want to, he slipped past the point of no return. As he struggled through yet another guitar solo, he looked over to where the keyboards used to sit. Rather than concentrating on the music, his mind went back to the days when Kevin was there on stage with him, but now his space was empty. Ritchie Jean momentarily fell apart, but again it went unnoticed by the crowd. Allison noticed.
As he glanced back to the keyboard area again, he saw Kevin! Puzzled, the stage play between the two began and there was such a lift in the music, but no one but Ritchie Jean knew why. Kevin was only seen by Ritchie Jean. Ritchie Jean finished his guitar solo and led Craig into his drum solo. He took off stage right while Craig played. Allison met him.
"Ritchie Jean, what's going on out there? You were playing really lousy, and then everything just turned around. What's going on?"
"Didn't you see him? Kevin's back! Kevin's back! And we need him. We need him to make this band go. Come on, Allison."
"Ritchie Jean, Kevin's dead. He's going to stay dead. Accept it. I don't know what happened out there, but Kevin's not here. Are you gonna be okay?"
"Allison, I saw him. He was on stage with us. He's here."
"We'll talk later, Craig's just about done and you need to get back out there. Go!"
Ritchie Jean pounced back to center stage and the night was uphill from that point on. Kevin had disappeared, but the sight kept Ritchie Jean high all night. The closing song of the night came, but before it went, Ritchie Jean saw Kevin slip behind the curtain--stage right.
Ritchie Jean tore back stage and pulled back the curtain. Nothing or no one was there, just the stale smell of marijuana settling in after the concert. As he looked down the hall toward the dressing rooms he noticed a dimness in the lights--a strange dimness. All the lights were on and working fine, but there seemed to be a shadow over everything, a cloud, but yet his sight was clear.
Turning the door knob to his dressing room, he pushed open the door and snapped on the light. Again, a chill took over Ritchie Jean's body. He could remember the sensation as being the same as when he was at Kevin's death scene. It wasn't an icy cold, but a dry chilling cold that penetrated his entire body to the bone. Something was strange, but he didn't know what.
The note was taped to his dressing room mirror. "Ritchie Jean, I miss you, man! I can't reveal myself yet. It's not time, but I'll be in touch shortly. I'll explain everything then. Hang in there buddy, and keep your heart and mind open."
Ritchie Jean was up early the next morning and off to the police station. Time was running out. He had a sound check to do, but right now there was handwriting to be analyzed. In another town, in another police department the handwriting was indeed found to be that of Kevin Henry. Just what to do from here, Ritchie Jean wasn't sure. Something was going on and it was something that Ritchie Jean was going to get to the bottom of.
After the sound check, Allison walked Ritchie Jean back to the hotel. They had much to discuss, but Allison definitely wasn't buying it. Her main concern was what was happening to her star guitar player. The changes in Ritchie Jean were beginning to be noticed. He was becoming obsessed with Kevin and the strange events that were taking place. Even the handwriting analysis was poo-pooed by Allison.
The sun was shining brightly that morning as the boys prepared for the last concert of the tour. Each in his own way was excitedly anticipating some time off. Ritchie Jean, of course, would be heading for the mountains of Central Pennsylvania while everyone else from Allison and the boys to the roadies would go their separate ways for the next few months. This break would be longer than most and it couldn't happen at a better time. Ritchie Jean had some more investigating to do.
As he looked out from his hotel window to the street below, he noticed a woman running hastily from the hotel. As she turned the corner, the sun cast a sheen on her auburn hair. Was she the same person that he saw at the restaurant? Ritchie Jean looked over toward the door. Someone had slipped another one of those religious papers underneath.
"All have sinned. . .the wages of sin is death. . .but God sent his Son to pay for our sin. If we but accept Him and His sacrifice, we can be saved and escape the punishment we deserve in Hell. Trust Him today."
With everything happening to Kevin, Ritchie Jean hadn't really had much time to think about spiritual things. The tract only brought back the question, "Where is Kevin now?" If there was a Hell, was Kevin there? If there wasn't, where was he? Had Kevin somehow managed to fake his own death, and if so, why? And underneath all of these questions one lay buried. Who was the girl with the auburn hair?
Ritchie Jean awoke to a fresh, spring air filling his Central Pennsylvania apartment. Times had definitely been better for Ritchie Jean, but yet there was a feeling of excitement about him as he woke. Today would be the day he would call the preacher over at that little church that just started. Maybe he could help him find his way to the salvation Andrea used to talk about. He knew one thing. Nothing satisfied anymore. There had to be more to life than just the day to day living he had been doing for nearly twenty-seven years and maybe this salvation thing would be the answer.
The call ended with an appointment for 4:15 that afternoon. Ritchie Jean was excited as he looked forward to meeting the man that he had spoken to on the phone. He was so polite, so encouraging, and so friendly.If this was what Christianity was about, Ritchie Jean was ready.
Before the appointment Ritchie Jean decided to go to the ball field and relax for awhile. As he turned on to Woodsdale Drive he finally realized after all these years that there were other things he was interested in besides music. To be sure, music was his life, his first love, but as he strolled on to the diamond, childhood memories filled his mind. He thought about the countless hours he spent as a youngster on his Little League and high school teams. He truly loved baseball and it was a way for him to relax after such a long and stressful tour.
The air was great with just the right touch of spring in it. The sky had never been bluer, and Ritchie Jean was feeling alive. As he looked over to the bleachers, he could see Andrea in his mind's eye, cheering him on and today--today he would finally make a decision for the salvation that he was sure she was still praying for. All of a sudden, it seemed to Ritchie Jean, that life couldn't be better.
As he walked out to the mound and put his foot on the pitching rubber something changed. He could hear the rumble. He could see the red Corvette as it smashed through the cables at the top of the hill. He could remember the blood. In another instant, he could see Kevin lying on his bed, cold to the touch. If Kevin had faked his own death, how or why? He seemed so dead. If Kevin was dead, who did he see on stage and where were the notes coming from? Kevin had to be alive! It was too much and Ritchie Jean crumbled to his knees in a river of tears and confusion.
Back at his apartment, he carefully locked the door and collapsed on the couch. There was so much Ritchie Jean was keeping inside and now it was overflowing. There was so much that Ritchie Jean ignored and refused to deal with, but now, it had caught up with him.
It was Kevin's keyboards that aroused him from an exhausted sleep. One of Kevin's old CDs was playing on the stereo, and once again, that coldness soaked the bones of Ritchie Jean. The door was still locked. All the windows and shades were just as they always were. No one was around, nor was there any evidence that any one had been. The CD that was playing was one that Ritchie Jean had not heard or seen for years. The questions had to be asked. Where did the CD come from? How did it get on the stereo? The questions had to be answered.
As Ritchie Jean struggled to pull himself together, the phone rang. It was Pastor John Reynolds from the church. Ritchie Jean glanced down at his watch--7:05 p.m. Still upset and confused, he spilled out apologies for sleeping through the appointment, but at the same time he was in no condition to make another one right now.
Pastor Reynolds was alarmed by the incoherent statements Ritchie Jean was making. "Ritchie Jean, don't worry about coming to see me. I have some other business in your area and I'll just stop by on the way. I'll see you in a few minutes."
"I'll be expe. . ." and with that the phone went dead.
Pastor Reynolds flew over to Ritchie Jean's apartment, but there was no answer. There seemed to be a light on in the kitchen, but it wasn't clear enough to see anything. The door was locked. A call to the phone company showed the phone was working, but no one was answering. A call to the police brought no response at all. A call to Jim Lockhart, one of Pastor Reynolds' deacons, brought them both back to Ritchie Jean's apartment where they found him collapsed on the small front porch.
His heart had adopted an irregular beat, and beads of sweat formed on his forehead. His eyes weren't clear at all and looked like they were gazing into another world--a world that Pastor Reynolds and Jim couldn't see. The ambulance was on its way, and once again, Ritchie Jean found himself in the emergency room.
Pastor Reynolds was at his side when he came to. After a short introduction, Pastor Reynolds asked Ritchie Jean about the events that took place, about the phone going dead, and how he got to his porch. A bewildered Ritchie Jean took over the conversation.
"Pastor, I don't remember a thing after you called." I remember the phone ringing, and then everything just kind of went blank."
"Pastor, would you be willing to go to my apartment and just look around. See if you can find anything out of the ordinary. There's been several strange things happening lately.I can't explain it, but I need some answers to some tough questions.Will you go?"
"Yes, Ritchie Jean. Give me your keys and I'll call Jim, one of my deacons, and we'll go take a look around."