They were now on the outskirts of the city, rapidly heading east into the desert foothills. Pavlov Florensky kept “the peddle to the metal” and raced along the interstate. Charlie Hume monitored the tracker that indicated the car, that held Megan Pace and her kidnappers, was ten miles ahead.

Liam Pace stared out the back seat window of Pavlov’s car, as the passing scenery gradually changed from suburbia to sagebrush. He thought about the last twenty fours hours and the memories that had been prodded out of his befuddled mind. Not all those memories were pleasant.

Anastasia Mittletwerk. Yes. He remembered her. She was beautiful. She had once saved his life.

It was few years after he had decided to move to America. Several more after his brother had showed up in Australia, interrupting the happy family life that he had finally been able to establish with his wife Karen and daughter Megan.

Life was good for him down under until Charlie had shown up, bringing memories of another life and an offer to reclaim the fame that was once theirs. Fame they both had chased off with a combination of very bad decisions and pretty good drugs.

But Liam had held firm with Charlie. He wasn’t going to fall back into that downward spiral. It was a decision he made not for himself but for Karen and especially for Megan.

So Charlie left, disappointed. Then he died. So it goes. But Liam did feel a subtle sense of guilt. A responsibility for his brother’s death.

What if he had said yes to his brother’s offer? They would have definitely gone out to celebrate! Charlie wouldn’t have left so soon. Would’ve missed Oceanic Flight 815. Would’ve lived.

But Liam didn’t say yes and Charlie was dead and Liam felt responsible, so to cope with that guilt, he did what any former junkie would do. Not drugs, Liam had made a solemn promise to stay away from all that for the sake his family. No, he turned to that old standby, alcohol.

So to live with himself and Charlie’s death, Liam drank. He drank until he drove the reasons he needed to stay straight right away. Karen soon left, taking Megan with her. So with no one now to keep him in Australia, Liam headed to America.

After his arrival, Liam needed work. He decided to check with the producers Charlie had mentioned, who had been interested in reuniting Drive Shaft. They laughed him out the door. Charlie was the one they were interested in, (“after all he was the true talent in the band, wasn’t he?” they had asked him). But they did direct him to another talent agency that specialized in “has beens” trying to make comebacks.

That agency was indeed interested and ended up hiring some “studio musicians” to back Liam up, as he was booked to play some small venue concert dates billed as “The New Drive Shaft”.

Small venues they were. They were lucky to get a dozen people to show up some nights. Not like the thousands that Liam had been accustomed to in the hey days of the original Drive Shaft.

But that was another time and another life. In this lifetime, Liam slowly became more and more depressed. The drinking continued and the drugs inevitably returned. Soon, the only thing that the “New Drive Shaft” had in common with the “old Drive Shaft” was Liam Pace being stoned. He began to show up too spaced out to rehearse, let alone perform, if he even bothered to show up at all.

The agency soon fired him and replaced him with another lead singer.

"Replace me?!” Liam remembered yelling at the agency manager, after being told the news, “how the hell can you do that?! I AM Drive Shaft!! I’ll sue your ass!! You’re presenting a fraudulent band! My fans will not stand for this! They’ll notice I’m not up on that bloody stage!!”

“No, they won’t!” the agency manager simply replied.

Liam was furious but he inherently knew that manager was right. No one would notice. No one cared. What fans did show up for the “New Drive Shaft” were either older fans, who were looking for something from their past to remind them they were once young, or the few younger fans, who used to listen to their parent’s downloads and thought it would be a “hoot” to see how the band still sounded, even if the present “members” of that band hadn’t even been born when the original Drive Shaft was in their prime!

So Liam was a has been once again. He managed to get booked into a couple of bar/restaurants, as a solo act, playing cover songs and requests from drunken patrons. He usually made just enough tip money to support his drinking and drug addiction. Just enough.

Then one night, after a especially disappointing gig, when someone in the bar requested “You All Everybody” and someone else cried out, “You All Nobody!” Liam hit rock bottom. After several hours of drinking and chasing the heroin dragon, Liam found himself passed out in the gutter in front of the bar he had played earlier that evening.

As Liam lay face down in the stale gutter water, he could smell the asphalt of the street and the fumes of the cars as they drove by. Somewhere he could hear a lone dog barking.

Though his Mother had always tried to instill a sense of religion into both him and his brother, Liam never took any of it seriously. Not until that very night did he ever pray and when he did pray for the very first time, he prayed for death!

Liam continued to stare out the car’s back window, as the desert continued to pass by. He never did believe in prayer. For him, it was just something the priests and nuns back home would have them do because they didn’t know what else to say. However, he did remember praying that night and a prayer was answered. However, God didn’t send an angel of death that night. Instead, He sent an angel of life. A guardian angel.

“Hey, are you alright?!” Liam heard a voice from heaven say.

He felt himself being rolled over onto his back and, as he slowly forced his eyes open, he saw his angel. She was a vision of beauty with long dark hair, a face like porcelain, and deep brown eyes. His angel smiled, as he asked her the only question he could think of.

“You have any Black Horse? I sure could use a fix!”

His angel shook her head and helped him wobble to his feet.

“I know you!” she answered, “you’re that guy from that old band years ago that was playing this club. You All Everybody, right?”

“I All Now A Has Been!” Liam chuckled, “look, if you ain’t holding then be a love and get me down to the corner of 42nd and Rutherford Avenue. Some of my old connections should still be out and about!”

“I think its best you come with me,” the angel replied, taking a hold of Liam’s arm and pulling him down the street, then into a parked car, whereupon they ended up at the angel’s very nice apartment on the north side. It was as close to heaven as Liam was going to get that night.

She told him her name was Anastasia Mittlewerk. She was a research associate working with her brother in biological sciences. She was in town for a conference and got separated from her friends earlier in the evening, as they were checking out the local nightlife and was heading home when she happened upon this pathetic guy face down in the gutter.

“I’ll do anything to get a beautiful woman’s attention!” Liam had flirtatiously replied.

Anastasia laughed and thus began a relationship that Liam had never had before. A least since Karen.

Anastasia was the best thing that had happened to Liam in quite a while. She was not only a lover but in a way a mother. She helped him straighten out his life and attempted to get him off the drugs once more. But intentions are always paved with unforeseen circumstances and the spell that drugs had cast upon Liam was just too powerful, even for as strong an angel as Anastasia.

Anastasia, herself, soon became caught up in Liam’s web. One night he slipped her some Benny’s. As she fell into a deep sleep, he injected her with some liquid crack. He just wanted her to experience the same high he had always gotten. So soon she was chasing the dragon as well and Anastasia, Liam's guardian angel, quickly fell from heaven with a sudden thud!

Her brother, Anton, had warned her not to get involved with some has been rock star junkie, when she told him of their relationship. Anton had refused to meet Liam and eventually banned his sister from the lab. In her present condition, she could no longer be trusted. Anton had once tried to “kidnap” Anastasia and force her into rehab, but she had put up quite a fight and had wounded a couple of Anton’s associates with a .380 handgun she kept with her at all times strapped snugly in an ankle holster. So Anton gave up on her. Disowned her!

One night, as they came down from another high, Anastasia gave Liam a gift. It was the charm she had always worn around her neck.

“What this all about?!” he slurred.

“Its something that will always protect you, even from the end of the world!” she had slurred in reply.

“You’re high!” Liam giggled.

But Anastasia quickly took on a look that bellied her seriousness.

“Liam,” she said, “this charm has got some strong mojo. I’m gonna tell you something I’ve never told anyone. I was once instructed by my own father never to tell anyone. My brother doesn’t even know about this!”

Liam realized she was serious, which peaked his curiosity.

“Well, what is it, love?!” he asked.

“I told you,” Anastasia replied, “its a lucky charm. A talisman against evil! My father worked on some real special stuff years ago. Real “End of the World” type serious stuff! Stuff my Father had planned to do and my brother plans to finish!”

“You’re kinda freakin’ me out, Stasia!” Liam replied.

“You should be freaked out!” Anastasia replied, “because my father and now my brother have worked on a virus they planned on releasing into the world! But on this chain is a vial that holds a small amount of liquid that is the antidote to that virus. My father gave it to me and told me that whenever he released that virus, I should immediately drink the liquid in that vial so I’d become immune!”

“And now you giving it to me?” Liam asked, suspiciously.

“Yes,” she replied, “you’ve all I got since I’ve been disowned by my brother. But I can’t keep on like this, Liam. My life is ending. I can feel it. You hooked me on that Horse and I should of killed you right then but I’ve never felt more alive than when I’m with you! But I can’t go on! Its gonna kill me, sooner or later. I won’t make it but you can! So take this vial. Keep it with you! When the time comes, and believe me my brother is crazier than my father ever was and he WILL do this, drink the liquid. It will be your only chance!”

Liam smiled and took the charm. He thought that Anastasia was just high. But he knew she was serious, stoned or not!

“I’ll just loose this, Stasia,” Liam said, “you know I’m not the most responsible person in the world!”

“Take it!” Anastasia pleaded, “I don’t want it anymore anyway! When the world ends, I want to go with it!”

“Tell ya what,” Liam replied, “tomorrow, I’m going down to that studio to store some of my brother’s stuff I told you about the other night. To keep me from losing this very “powerful mojo charm” lets put it in the safe as well. Then, whenever the world does end, we can go retrieve it and toast the end with both of us taking a sip!”

“Liam, I’m not kidding around,” Anastasia replied, “this is serious!”

“I know its serious,” Liam replied, “that’s why we’re gonna put it where no one else can get to it, until we need it!”

He vaguely remembered going the next day with Anastasia and storing those tapes and that charm, which meant so much to his guardian angel. A few days later, she overdosed in a suicide attempt!

When Liam visited her in the hospital, she was still in a coma. The doctors said her prognosis was good. She would live but Liam’s guilt kicked in. So he did what he had always done in his pathetic life, when confronted with a crisis. He ran away. He never saw Anastasia again. He never knew if she ever recovered or not. If she did, she had never tried to contact him. Such is love and life.

Liam noticed it was nearing dark, as they continued to race along the interstate. He figured that if he wasn’t so far out in that desert and wasn’t going so fast in that car, he could easily fall back into his old habit of dealing with a crisis. He would of jumped out of that car and ran away!

Next: Chapter Thirty-One “Better Get This Party Started”

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