Chapter 1

            Kate Hensen never thought the rumors were true, but she was getting a full taste now of how right the tabloids could be if they wanted.  Justin Timberlake, in a mental institution?  No one ever thought it possible, but after the whole thing with Britney and the rest of his NSYNC band mates happened, the best thing for Justin was to stick him in the funny farm.  Kate couldn’t comprehend the fact that she was about to be face to face with a mad man, especially because the mad man was Justin Timberlake, someone she had admired for a long time.  The whole situation was unreal.

            Kate, being a journalist fresh out of college, had gotten the job with the Orlando Tribune  her first day out of the University of Florida.  Thanks to the programs at the college, she knew job hunting would never be necessary.  She didn’t know, however, that she would be placed on the biggest story in the entertainment world since Michael Jackson got married to Lisa Marie Presley.  She didn’t know, either, that she would have to venture out to the Ridgewater Oaks Sanitarium to interview Justin and find out his side of the story... that was, if he wasn’t doped up on drugs and WANTED to talk to her.

            The story broke sometime in June, while Kate was wrapping up her hard at work getting her journalism degree at school.  She only heard about it through her friend and roommate Stacey Law, who was into the whole tabloid scene.  Kate, knowing what REAL journalism was, and knowing full well what was truth and what were lies, ignored the whole thing, even though it interested her.  She was more interested in the fact that it involved NSYNC than anything.  NSYNC had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember, and she still checked up on them when she had the chance.  No posters on the walls or collecting their stupid memorabilia, but enough of a fan to proudly admit to still being one.  Kate and Stacey both didn’t realize how true the whole thing was until they heard about it on the national news. (Tom Brokaw, to boot)

            Details on what had really happened that fateful June 3rd day were still sketchy, hence Kate going to interview Justin, but a few hard facts were known.  Justin and girlfriend Britney Spears were scheduled to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno to promote their new single.  Neither of them showed at the taping early in the day, causing Jay and staff to get in a tizzy.  Justin phoned Jay later on that day to apologize, telling him that Britney was terribly ill and he wanted to stay by her bedside.  Jay accepted the apology, but didn’t know he would be the last person to talk to Justin before he jumped off the deep end.

            The police figured Justin knew Britney was already dead when he called Jay.  Police received word of her death when NSYNC member Lance Bass went to the couple’s house (which was in LA, mind you) to talk to Justin about why he had skipped out on Jay.  Lance found blood on the floor, all over the furniture, and every other place you could possibly think of in the house, and Lance called the police immediately.  Forensic tests done on the spot showed the blood to belong to Britney, and police knew someone who had lost all of that blood couldn’t possibly still be alive.  Justin, of course, was nowhere to be found.

            This was where the story got vague.  No one knew why Justin ran off, but he did, and police found him almost half-way to Orlando later on that evening.  The police figured he was running from the scene, but when the police told Justin that Britney was assumed dead but no body had been found, he supposedly went nuts over it.  The police and his family had no choice then but to commit him.  Police were sure that Justin had committed the murder, but lack of a body and lack of evidence couldn’t and wouldn’t allow them to prosecute. 

            Kate was now in the picture, and the task of interviewing Justin to see what really happened wasn’t exactly exciting for her.  She never wanted to meet Justin this way, but did she have a choice?  If she wanted to become a successful journalist, this was the story that would make or break her career.  Plus, her story might very well get Justin out of the funny farm, back on tour with NSYNC, and the murder solved!  It could also lead to Justin’s demise, and she didn’t want to be the cause of that.  Justin knew too many people that could get her if he went to jail.

 

Chapter 2

            Her interview with Justin was scheduled for 10:30 a.m., so Kate, of course, arrived at ten.  She parked her blue Eclipse in the lot and checked out the place from her car.  Ridgewater Oaks was a real nice name for a real run-down place.  At first glance, it looked just like one of those fancy retirement homes for the elderly, but once inside, Kate got quite a few surprises.

            All Kate could think of as she walked in was the episode of “The Simpsons” when Homer was in the looney bin and the family had to wear stickers on their shirts that said “Sane” when they visited.  Kate wondered if she would get one of those stickers, and thought about what a cool thing all her friends would think it was.  She didn’t see the coolness in it, though. 

            The lobby was probably the only nice part of the whole complex.  Plush burgundy carpet filled the room, with the walls painted a pale shade of pink.  Cutesy wallpaper bordered the ceiling, and the room was decorated with fancy chairs, tables, lamps, and plants.  ‘Guess they want you to be comfy before they commit you,’  Kate thought to herself.  She headed up to the ornate front desk and said to the woman, “Excuse me.”

            The name tag on the woman’s chest read “Barb”.  She looked up at Kate and said, “Honey, it can’t be that bad.  Go home and think about it for awhile.”

            “No! No, I’m not here for that,”  she said, blushing.  “I’m Kate Hensen, I called earlier to speak to Dr.  Peter Becksely about talking to Justin Timberlake.”

            “Oh, you’re Kate, alright, wait here while I get Dr.  Becksely,”  she said, rushing away from the desk and disappearing out of view.

            Kate checked the room out after she was gone.  The magazines on the tables were your normal doctor’s office material:  Highlights, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Healthy Living.  No “Nut Jobs Weekly” or anything of that sort.  Kate was almost disappointed at that. 

            “Miss Hensen?”  a voice asked behind her.  Kate turned around and saw a tall, skinny, but handsome man wearing... a white lab coat.  “I’m Dr.  Becksely,”  he said, extending his hand.  Kate shook it.  “Would you come this way please?”  he asked her, and she followed him through a doorway.

            The niceness ended here.  The walls were painted the sickening yellow of hospitals, and metal pipes that dripped water ran above their heads.  Metal doors lined the hall, with only a small window in the center of them, and little slots near the bottom.  The doors had about fifteen locks on them, and the windows had bars on them.  The floor was pale green tile, and the lighting was fluorescent.

            “Right in here,”  he said, and they went into a room that turned out to be the doctor’s office.  He motioned for her to sit, and she did.  The doctor sat at his desk.

            “I want to tell you now that we aren’t real formal here,”  he said.  “I’ve only been here for a year now and I’ve learned to keep it light.”

            “That’s fine with me,”  Kate said timidly.  She knew her first interview would be the hardest.

            “I spoke to Justin this morning and he said he was ready to talk to someone,”  Becksely said.  “I hope you aren’t feeling afraid of him.”

            “A little.”           

            “Well, we have him on an extensive amount of medication and he really isn’t dangerous,”  Becksely said.  “I just want to warn you that Britney is still a sensitive subject with him.”

            “I can understand that.”

            “Good.  Just a few other things before I take you to his room... is that alright with you to do the interview in his room?  We could clear out the dining area if you’d rather...”

            “That’s fine.  Wherever you have it set up is fine.”

            “Alright.  We’ll have a guard posted outside of the door just in case anything should happen, which I highly doubt will.  I will have to ask you to wear this ID badge,”  he handed it to her and she clipped it onto her jacket.  It simply read “visitor”  and a bar code.  “I will also have to ask you to only take what you absolutely need in there, and you’ll have to leave your purse and keys.  We don’t want anything to accidentally be left behind, you know?”
            “Right,”  Kate said, getting her materials organized.

            “You can leave your purse right in here, I’ll lock the door and open it up when you are ready to leave,”  he said, and Kate handed him the purse.  He set in on a table to the side of the desk.  “And lastly, please make sure you do realize where you are and who you are dealing with.  This isn’t the Justin that I’m sure you’ve heard of.  He’s changed quite dramatically though all of this, and if you think you can just go in there and start singing “Bye Bye Bye” or something, you’re wrong.  If at any moment you feel uncomfortable, just let the guard know, and you can leave.”

            “I’ll keep that in mind,”  Kate said, starting to get very nervous.  This guy was making it sound like Justin was a mass murderer who was going to kill her as soon as she walked in.  “Thank you very much for this,”  she was able to squeak out.  “It’s greatly appreciated, Dr.  Becksely.”

            “Please, it’s Peter,”  he said with a smile.  “Are you ready to go?”
            “As I’ll ever be,”  she said, and stood up.  He led her down the hall and stopped in front of a guard.

            “This is Mike,”  Peter said.  “He’ll be the guard outside the door.  Any problems, questions, anything, just let him know, and he’ll take care of it.”

            “Thank you,”  Kate said, and Peter walked away.  Mike led her silently to a door with the number 181 on it.  He knocked on the door.  “Timberlake!”  he shouted.  “You ready?”

            “Yeah,”  Kate heard the familiar voice say, and Mike unlocked the door.

            “There you go,”  he said, pushing it open.  “I’ll be right here.”

            “Thanks,”  Kate said, walking into the room.  Mike quickly shut the door and bolted it.  Suddenly Kate didn’t want to be there anymore.

           

Chapter 3

            “Hi,”  Justin said suddenly, and Kate turned to face him.  Peter hadn’t been kidding when he had said Justin had changed.  The normally blonde hair was now a dingy brown, and the curls fell limp on his head without styling products.  His skin was pale and sickly looking, and the green “uniform” he wore made him look even worse.  There was one thing that didn’t change, however, and that was the sparkle in his blue eyes.  That was still there, and shining forcefully now.  Kate’s guess was that she was the first female other than a fellow inmate that he had seen in a long time.

            “Hi Justin,”  she said a little shyly.  She pulled up a chair to his bedside and sat down next to him.  “I’m Kate Hensen with the Orlando Tribune, and you’ve agreed to talk to me about...”

            “Yes, I have,”  Justin interrupted.  “I’m ready to talk now.  It’s been long enough.”

            “Well, that’s good to hear,”  Kate smiled.  “Uh, is it alright if I tape this?”  She pulled out a tape recorder and showed it to him.

            “Sure,”  he said, and Kate turned it on.

            “So Justin,”  she started.  “How’s life been treating you here?  I know it can’t be that great, but how are you doing?”

            “Well, it really hasn’t been all that long that I’ve been here,”  he said.  “Just about a month and a half.  But it’s not really that bad, I mean, they keep me on so many damn medications I can’t tell when it’s day or night most of the time, but when I’m not doped up, we have activities and stuff like that.  It’s not so bad.”

            “What kind of activities?”

            “Well, we play board games, cards, sometimes me and a few of the guys shoot hoops outside, it’s just fun, easy, relaxing stuff.  Nothing that would excite us too much, we can’t handle that, you know.”  Justin laughed a little at his comment, and Kate allowed herself to do the same.

            “Alright, Justin, I know this is still something hard to talk about, but would you like to tell me what happened?  You don’t have to if you’re not ready.”

            Justin stared at her like she was the crazy one.  Kate almost got up and ran to the door, but Justin slowly let a smile spread across his face.  “Do you think I did it?”

            “What?”  Kate asked, surprised.

            “Do you think I killed Britney?”

            Kate didn’t want to tell him that yeah, she thought he did.  But for some reason, Kate didn’t want to lie to him either.

            “I can tell that you do, it’s in your eyes,”  he said.  “I know I can’t change your mind on what you think.”

            “Maybe you can, you never know.”

            “Maybe I should talk to a lawyer before I talk to you,”  Justin sounded nervous all of a sudden, like Kate was going to get him sent to jail.

            “Justin, I’m just here to talk to you, I’m not here to throw you in jail,”  Kate reassured.  “If you would rather not talk, that’s fine.  I’ll just leave and you’ll never see me or hear from me again.”  That was a lie, but Justin didn’t need to know that.  Kate would do anything and everything in her willpower to get information out of Justin.

            “I’ll talk,”  Justin said, sounding confident again.

            “Then talk.”

            “Well, I didn’t do it, and I will always stand by that,”  Justin told her.  “I was very much in love with Britney, and I was going to ask her to marry me before she died.” 

            Kate gasped in surprise.  She never knew the relationship was that serious.  “Why did you cancel with Leno that day?”  she asked, starting slow.

            “Britney was sick in bed, like to told Jay,”  Justin replied.

            “What did she have?  Flu?”
            “I don’t know, but she was very pale, and she couldn’t even get out of bed.”

            Kate furrowed her brow in thought.  Justin’s story was starting off strangely.  “Well, why did you run off to Orlando so fast after that?  You told Leno you wanted to stay at her bedside, and then you left and Britney was no where to be found.”

            Justin stared at the ceiling for a while.  Kate didn’t want to think that he was trying to come up with an answer, but that’s what it looked like.  Justin looked back down at Kate with tears in his eyes.  “I...”  he started, but stopped.

            “What did you tell the police, let’s go from there,”  Kate pushed.

            “I told them that I was going to see my mother and step-dad,”  Justin answered.

            “Don’t they live in Memphis?”

            “Yeah.”

            “So then you lied to the police.”

            “Yep.”

            “Why were you going to Orlando, Justin?  You can tell me.”

            “You can’t use this in the article,”  he said, reaching over and turning off the tape recorder. 

            “Are you going to tell me something that could get you in trouble with the police?  Or me?”  Kate asked, scared.

            Justin looked her right in the eye and a smile came on his face.  “I knew Britney was dead before I left.”

            “You did?”  Kate asked, shocked.  She wondered why he had a smile on his face while he said that.

            “Yeah,”  Justin said slowly.  “That’s why I ran, because I didn’t want to deal with her being gone.”

            “Oh,”  Kate said, not sure what to say.  “So does that mean you really shouldn’t be in here?”

            “Yeah, I’m faking it,”  Justin said.  “I put the pills in my mouth but I spit them out after the docs are gone.  Once I swallowed one and I was messed up for a while.”

            Kate wasn’t sure if he was telling her the truth or not, but she played along.  “Do you know where the body is?”  she asked, almost afraid of what he would say.

            “Maybe,”  he replied.  “And I’m not just saying that to mess with you.  I think I might know where it is, but I’m not a hundred percent sure.”

            “Where do you think it might be?”

            “Under my house.”

            “What?!”
            “I think whoever killed her buried her under my house.”  Justin looked Kate right in the eye as he said this, and Kate believed him, as much as she didn’t want to.  But something wasn’t making sense.

            “Justin this story doesn’t make sense,”  she told him.  “If you knew that Britney was already dead, when did it happen?  You said you were with her when she was sick in bed, and weren’t you there with her until you ran off to Orlando?”

            “Let me explain,”  he said.  “Britney needed a prescription filled at the drug store, so I went to do that for her.  I told her that I would be back as soon as I could, and I left.  It must have happened after I left, because when I came back she was gone, and there was blood everywhere.  I ran off to Orlando in a state of shock and panic, because I knew the police were going to accuse me, and I was also distraught over the fact that my soul mate was dead.”

            “But how could you know for sure she was dead?  And why did you let yourself be put in here?”

            “It’s a lot better than jail.”

            Kate realized what he was talking about now.  He let himself be committed because he knew it would save him from getting arrested and possibly convicted of Britney’s murder.  ‘But letting yourself be committed was awfully harsh,’ Kate thought.

            “I know you think it was weird for me to allow myself to be put in here, but I didn’t want to go to jail and I didn’t want people to think that I killed Britney.  I knew it would be better to just stay in here and keep my name clear.”

            “People are already reading through it Justin, especially the police.  They are gathering evidence as we speak so they can charge you.  What are you going to do if they get evidence and they take you to trial?”

            “I’ll plead insanity.”

            “Then everyone will know you did it, even if you didn’t.  That’s the easy way out for real criminals.”

            “Do you have any better ideas?”

            “How about talk to the police and tell them what you know?  Then you will at least have an alibi.”

            “I can’t do that, because then they’ll know I lied to them in the beginning.  They’ll really think I did it then.”

            “No they won’t!  They’ll listen to your story and it will help them solve the crime.  They’ll be able to arrest the person who really did it, and you can get out of here and get back with NSYNC.”

            Justin was quiet.  He knew Kate was right, but he didn’t want to admit it, she could tell.

            “What are you going to do about that article now?”  Justin asked, obviously trying to change the subject.

            “I don’t know,”  Kate told him truthfully.  “Maybe I should publish everything you said.”

            “No!”
            “Wait, listen to me for a second.  If I publish it, the police will get your side of the story from an unbiased source.”

            “Then what?  They come and take me outta here, interrogate me for hours, then throw me in jail.”

            “They won’t arrest you, they can’t.  They don’t have any reason to.  They might want to talk to you, but I can be there, and I can get you a decent lawyer.”

            Justin thought about what Kate said for a long time.  Kate scribbled notes down on her notepad, and waited for him to answer. 

            “You can write it,”  he said finally.  “But I have to ok it before you turn it in.”

            “Of course, I wouldn’t of done it any other way.”

            “And if this backfires and I go to jail, it’s on your head.”

            The threat didn’t phase Kate.  “I can agree with that.  So it’s a go?”
            “It’s a go,”  Justin replied. 

            There was a knock on the door, and Mike opened it a crack.  “Miss Hensen?”  he asked.

            “Yes?”

            “It’s time for Justin’s session with Dr.  Becksely.  I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

            “That’s alright, I was leaving anyway,”  Kate said with a grin, and stood up.  “I will be back in a few days to show you what I have, alright?  And I will also talk to some people about getting you a lawyer, just in case.”

            “Thanks, Kate,”  Justin said, standing up quickly and giving her a hug.  “I really hope this can clear my name and I can get out of here.”

            “Just one last thing, Justin,”  Kate said.  “Does anyone know you’re not supposed to be in here?”

            Justin just smiled, and pointed out the door at Mike.  “Only big Mikey,”  he said.

            Kate smiled and walked out the door.  “Good-bye Justin,”  she said.

            “Bye Kate,”  he said, and Kate walked down the hall to Peter’s office.  Her first interview was over, and she could see Pulitzer written all over it.

 

Chapter 4

            “Kate, you have to tell me what happened!”  Stacey begged her later on that evening at the apartment they shared.  “Please, Kate, you know I won’t tell anyone!”
            “Sorry Stace,”  she said, peeling a sticker off an apple.  She stuck it under the sink for a few moments and then took a bite from it.  “I have to keep a confidence, remember?  Nothing can be said until it goes to print.”

            “Kate, come on, I’m your best friend, don’t play that confidentiality thing with me, I gotta know!  I love NSYNC just as much as you do, I deserve to know! I told you about this in the first place.”

            “I am not saying anything, but I might have left my notes laying out on the table,”  Kate said, smiling.  “There’s nothing I can do if you just happen to read them.”

            Stacey grinned, and ran over to the coffee table to read Kate’s notes.  While she did, Kate picked up the phone and dialed.

            “Hello?”  a male voice asked at the other end.

            “Hey Josh, what’s up?”  Kate asked happily.

            “Kate, hey,”  he said.  “I’m fine, how are you?”

            “Good,”  she said, “but I need to ask you a favor.”

            “How did I know that was coming?”  Josh asked.

            “You know me too well,”  Kate said.  Josh Trotten had been one of Kate’s best friends since high school, and she had even had a huge crush on him.  Once they went to college, though, that faded, but they had remained friends.  “I need a lawyer.”

            “You do?”  he asked.  “Did you get in trouble already?  You just graduated!”

            “Not for me,”  she laughed.  “It’s for a client.”

            “Oh, and I’m your source for one.”

            “Yeah, you intern at the biggest firm in Orlando.  I think I can count on you.  I’d ask you, but you’re just pre-law.”

            “I know, I know.  Who do you want?  We have a lot to chose from here at Simpson & Thomas.” 

            “I just want some phone numbers, and I’ll take care of the rest.”

            “I can do that.  How ‘bout I e-mail them to you?”

            “Sounds like a plan.  Oh, and put a good word in for me, too.”

            “Can do.”

            “Great, thanks so much Josh.  This means the world to me.”

            “Hey, you owe me one now,”  he laughed.

            “Should’ve known,”  she mumbled.  “I’ll talk to you later, Josh.”

            “Ok Kate, bye.”

            “Bye,”  she said, and hung up.  She looked over at Stacey and she was staring open jawed at her.  “What?”  Kate asked.

            “I can’t believe this!” 

            “Is my writing that bad?”

            “No!  It’s excellent!  But the whole story is whack!  I can’t believe Justin is faking it!”
            “Neither could I, but I think I truly believe him.”     

            “You think you do?”

            “Well, yeah,”  Kate said, walking over to the couch and sitting down next to her best friend.  “There are some holes in the story that I’m not too sure about, but other than that I think it’s solid.”

            “I think it’s solid as is,”  Stacey said, reading over the notes again.  “So what do you do next?”

            “Get Justin a lawyer, first off,”  Kate told her.

            “Why does he need a lawyer?”
            “After the story goes out, the police are going to want to talk to him, and I don’t think he should say anything to them unless he has a lawyer present.  Just to be on the safe side, you know?”

            “Yeah,”  Stacey said.  “They’re gonna try to pin the murder on him no matter what he says.  He definitely needs a lawyer.”  She looked over the notes again, then said, “And after the story goes to print and he talks to the police, what then?”
            “Then I hope and pray they don’t arrest him,”  Kate said.  “Hopefully he will be able to get on with his life, go back with NSYNC, move on from Brit.”

            “If he goes to jail, you know he’s gonna blame you.”

            “I know, that’s why I have to pray he doesn’t get arrested.”

            Stacey was quiet for a moment, then said, “What if this whole story is a lie?  What if he’s covering for someone else, and if he gets off because of what you’ll do for him, that means the real murderer gets off.”

            “I don’t think he’s lying,”  Kate replied.  “And if he is, then I guess we’ll just have to deal with that if it comes.”

            Stacey nodded in agreement.  Kate knew there was a doubting factor in Justin’s story, but she didn’t want to deal with that right now.  She had to make sure Justin didn’t go to jail, and she had to save her own ass before she worried about whether or not the story was a lie.

 

            “This story is unbelievable!”  Brian Thompson exclaimed as he read the first copy of Kate’s story.  Brian was Kate’s boss at the paper, and every story she wrote had to be checked by him before it went to print.  “How did you get him to talk like this?”  he asked Kate after he was done.

            “I didn’t do anything, he just started talking,”  Kate told him.  “He said it was about time he let the truth out.”

            “Well, your writing is terrific, Kate, no one at this paper could have written it as well as you have.”

            “Thanks, Brian.”

            “I mean it, Kate.  For someone that’s just graduated from college to write like this is a big accomplishment.  You’ve got a lot of talent,”  Brian told her.  “But I think there are a few things you need to add.”

            “Like what?  I don’t think there is much more Justin can tell me.”

            “No, not anything from him,”  Brian said.  “I think you should interview the rest of NSYNC and get their input on the whole thing.  See what they know, and tell them what Justin said, see how they react.”

            Kate couldn’t believe her ears.  Interview the rest of NSYNC?  She had hardly been able to interview Justin, but now she had to talk to the rest of them?  How would she pull that off?  “Do you really think I should do that?”  she asked him.  “I mean, me being a fan and all...”

            “There’s no one else that can do it, Kate,”  he told her.  “You’re the best damn reporter we have here right now, and I don’t want anyone taking this glory away from you.  This is your story, no one else’s.”

            “I guess you’re right,”  Kate said.

            “No, I know I’m right.”

            Kate smiled, and then asked, “So how am I supposed to find the rest of NSYNC?  Even though they aren’t touring anymore, I hear they still keep a low profile.”

            “We’ll get some people on that right away,”  Brian told her.  “You just come up with what you wanna ask them and we’ll have the numbers for you before you’re done.”

            “Thanks Brian,”  she said, and Brian rushed out of the room.  Kate stood there staring at the folder which held her story.  She couldn’t help but grin, and feel totally good about her story, what she was doing for Justin, and what she was doing to possibly get the real murderer behind bars.

 

            “So how did it go, Justin?”  JC Chasez asked his friend over the telephone that same day.

            “Pretty well,”  he said.  “In fact, it went so well, I think I might be getting out of here sooner than we thought.”

            “Really?  That’s perfect.  We need the extra time anyhow.”

            “And this place is driving me nuts,”  Justin said.  He laughed, “No pun intended.”

            “None taken,”  JC said with a small laugh.  “But you told her the whole story?”

            “I told her exactly what we decided I’d tell her,”  Justin said.  “Nothing more, nothing less.”

            “Good.”

            “Don’t be surprised if she comes knocking on your door soon,”  Justin warned him.  “You know she’ll have to talk to you guys, too.”

            “And we already discussed that,”  JC told him.  “We all know what we’re gonna tell her.”

            “I’m glad you have a plan.”  Justin paused, then said to his band mate, “Alright, Chaz, I gotta go.  Mike said the doc’s comin’.”

            “Ok, I’ll talk to you later then.”

            “Of course.  Tell the guys I said hi.”

            “Will do.”

            “Peace dog.”

            “Lata,”  JC said, and hung up the phone with a flourish.  Every time Justin snuck a phone call, they ended it that way.  It was like a code for ‘this will all be over soon.’  This time, though, they knew it would be over for sure, and they were so glad.

            JC stood up and looked out over downtown Orlando from his twelfth story apartment.  He prayed that the world below would not find out the real truth about what happened to Britney... they would be in for the shock of a lifetime... and JC and the rest of NSYNC would be put away for a lifetime.  “Hopefully Justin’s little toy will give him and us some innocence,”  JC quietly said.  “The NSYNCers in jail would definitely screw things up.”

 

Chapter 5

            “And why does he want to talk to you?”  was the reply Kate got from who she assumed was Joey Fatone’s butler after she knocked on the door and introduced herself.

            “The Orlando Tribune contacted Mr.  Fatone yesterday afternoon to set up this appointment with me,”  Kate said as sweetly as she could.  “I am here to interview him about the article we are working about Justin Timberlake.”

            “I was not informed of this meeting,”  the butler said.  “You’ll have to wait out here while I confirm it with Mr.  Fatone.”  With that, he was gone, slamming the door in Kate’s face.

            “Thanks asshole,”  Kate said right to the closed door, and wished everyone in the house heard it.  If she would’ve known Joey had a butler, she’d of saved his house for last.  But no, she figured Joey would be the easiest to talk to.  “Oh how wrong we were again,”  Kate said aloud again, not caring if anyone heard her talking to herself.

            Suddenly the door opened in front of her, and standing there was the butler... and Joey.

            “Are you Kate?”  Joey asked her.

            “Yes, I am,”  she said, irritated.

            “I am so sorry for his rudeness,”  Joey said, emphasizing the “his.”  “Come on in.”  He waved her in, and she couldn’t help but give a snotty look to the butler as she walked by him.

            “So you wanna talk about Justin?”  Joey asked, motioning Kate to sit down in the living room.  They sat facing each other on the leather furniture, and Kate couldn’t help but feel giddy.  “I’m in Joey’s house!”  the teeny bopper inside of her exclaimed. 

            “Uh, yes, but there are a few things I have to go over with you before we start the actual interview,”  Kate said, getting out a piece of paper and pen, and her tape recorder.  “Is it alright if I tape this?”  she asked.

            “Sure,”  Joey replied, and Kate turned on the tape recorder.

            “I want to ask you a few questions that don’t directly deal with Justin, is that alright?”  she asked him.

            Joey suddenly looked a little panicked, but recovered nicely.  “That’s fine with me, ask away.”

            “Alright,”  Kate said, and flashed him a cute grin.  “First off, how are things since NSYNC stopped touring?”

            “Oh, a little boring, actually.  I didn’t realize how much I really loved my work until we stopped.  We hope Justin can get out soon and we can go back to it, we’re all a little antsy, you know?”

            “I can imagine,”  Kate said.  She scribbled some notes, and continued, “What have you been doing in the meanwhile?”

            “Well, I just bought this house and my girlfriend and daughter moved in,”  Joey said.  “I’m sure you know I own three clubs downtown, and they keep me pretty busy.”

            “How’s your girlfriend and daughter doing?”

            “They’re great.  It’s awesome being a father.  I love Kelly and Brianna very much.”

            “What’s with the butler, if you don’t mind me asking.”

            “Oh, that was Kelly’s idea.  She wanted someone to be here all the time until Brianna is grown up and she’s not so protective of her baby.  Actually I wanted him around too, you know?  I wanna be the best dad I can possibly be.”

            Kate smiled, thinking of Joey changing diapers and pushing a stroller.  She knew baby Brianna was very lucky to have Joey as a dad.

            “Alright, let’s get to Justin,”  Kate said.  “Enough of this personal junk.”

            “Cool, let’s do it,”  Joey laughed, rubbing his hands together.  Kate thought he seemed a little too eager to be interviewed, but being away from the spotlight and the cameras for so long probably made him crave the attention.

 

            The interview went along without a hitch, but Joey didn’t really tell Kate anything she didn’t already know.  He repeated over and over again how much he missed Justin and missed touring and missed NSYNC as a whole.  By the time the interview was over, Kate was ready to get the hell outta there... Joey’s story was getting real old, real fast.

            Kate got in her car and sped off from the house as quickly as she could, and headed in the direction of JC’s downtown apartment.  When the paper had given Kate the addresses and phone numbers for the guys, they informed her that only Joey and JC lived in Orlando, and Joey only full time.  Chris was living in Pittsburgh, PA, and Lance in Clinton, MS, and that meant Kate would have to interview them over the phone.  She was a little disappointed at that, but hey, she couldn’t expect them all to live by her, right?

            JC’s apartment was only a ten minute drive from Joey’s house, but the hustle and bustle of downtown Orlando (if you could call it hustle and bustle) got Kate lost for a few minutes.  She eventually remembered where she was, found the building, and entered through the rotating doors.  ‘Talk about ritzy,’  Kate thought to herself as she looked at her lavish surroundings.  She didn’t realize JC lived at THIS apartment building.  The elevators and front desk were gold plated, rich oriental carpeting filled the room, and on the walls were fancy ornaments and the like.  The ceiling was a cathedral one, with a painting of cherubs playing gold harps.  It looked more like a hotel than an apartment building.

            She walked over to the elevator and hit the button for the twelfth floor.  Inside the elevator there was an intercom system, and she hit the button for apartment 808.

            “Yeah?”  the familiar voice said after a few minutes.

            “Um, hello, I’m Kate Hensen from the Orlando Tribune, and I called earlier about talking to you...”

            “Kate!  Hey, it’s good to know you made it.  I was starting to think you weren’t coming.  I’ll unlock the door for you.”

            “Thanks,”  Kate said, feeling a little weird about the whole situation.  The elevator dinged, and she stepped out.  There was a gold plated door with the numbers 800-820 engraved on it in front of her, and it separated the elevator area from the apartments.  Kate guessed this was the door JC was opening for her, and sure enough, when she grabbed the doorknob, it pushed open easily.  JC was waiting on the other side.

            “Hi,”  he said happily when they caught eyes. 

            “Hi,”  Kate said, a little awkwardly.

            “Oh, are you Kate?”  he asked, suddenly thinking he had the wrong person.

            “Oh, yeah,”  Kate said, grinning.  She stuck out her hand and they shook.  “It’s nice to meet you, Mr....”

            “It’s JC,”  he said.  “Come on, follow me.”  They went down the hallway to 808, and entered.  JC locked the door behind them, and offered Kate a seat in the living room.  Compared to Joey’s house, JC’s place was a nice bachelor pad.  It didn’t have anything too glitzy or glamorous, just a normal guy’s house.  Kate sat on a chair, and JC sat across from her on the couch.

            “Oh, would you like a drink?”  he asked.

            “No, I’m fine, thanks though,”  she said, and got out all her materials.  “Are you ready to begin?”
            “Sure, let’s do it.”

            “Alright, first off, may I record this?”
            “Sure.”

            “Thanks, now, I want to start off with some personal questions, if that is alright with you.”

            “Go ahead.  I don’t have anything to hide.”

            “Of course not,”  Kate said, scribbling notes down on her pad,  “How are things for you since NSYNC stopped touring?”

            “Oh, alright, I guess,”  JC said.  “A little boring, actually.  I didn’t realize how much I really loved my work until we stopped.  We hope Justin can get out soon and we can go back to it, we’re all a little antsy, you know?”

            Kate stared at JC in disbelief.  He had just said the exact same thing Joey had told her not twenty minutes ago.  ‘What is this?’  she asked herself.  ‘Did they all plan their answers?  And did they think I wouldn’t notice?’

            “Something wrong, Kate?”  JC asked her.

            “Oh, no, nothing at all,”  she said, grinning.  “What have you been doing in the meanwhile?”  ‘Now you’re repeating things!’  she thought.

            “Well, I live most of the time up in Maryland, and I’ve been doing some studio work with Wild Orchid, and some other groups, too.”

            “That’s great,”  Kate said, trying to sound as interested in this interview as she possibly could.  She wanted right then to get back to the paper and listen to her tapes to see if she really did just hear the same thing twice.

            “Alright, let’s get to Justin,”  Kate said.  “You alright with that?”
            “Cool, lets do it,”  JC said, rubbing his hands together.  ‘There it is again!’  Kate said to herself as JC repeated Joey’s words again.  ‘This should be a repetitive interview.’

 

            The phone beside Lance’s bed was ringing, but he didn’t want to pick it up.  He rolled over and stared at it, wondering if his stare would shut it up.  No such luck.

            “Hello?” he growled after picking it up.

            “Hey sunshine,”  the familiar voice said on the other end.

            “Joey, what do you want?”
            “Did you talk to her yet?”

            “No, she hasn’t called.”

            “What’s taking her so long?”
            “I don’t know!  Do you know who she’s talking to now?”
            “I think JC.”

            “Then she’s probably still cooped up in that damn apartment while he tells her his life story.  I think you know JC well enough to figure that out.”

            “What if she figures us out?”

            “She’s not going to figure us out.  If she does, we know what to do.”

            “I guess you’re right... make sure you call me after you talk to her.”

            “You know I will.  Good bye.”

            “Get over that hangover Lance.  Bye.”

 

Chapter 6

            “What do you mean, they both said the same thing?”  Brian asked Kate the next day. 

            “I mean, both JC and Joey told me the exact same things when I interviewed them,”  Kate told him.  She hadn’t been sure whether or not to report what had happened to Brian, but there was something strange about the whole situation.  If anyone could tell her what to do, it was definitely Brian.

            “I have to hear this.  Do you have the tapes?”  he asked.

            “Yeah, right here,”  Kate said, taking the tapes out of her purse.  She stuck them in Brian’s tape recorder and pressed play.

            “DIGITAL DIGITAL GETDOWN!”  the recorder screamed, and Brian lowered the volume quickly.  “Real cute,”  he said, frowning at her.

            “How did that get on there?”  Kate asked, picking up the recorder again and rewinding the tape.  She played it over and over, rewinding and fast forwarding, but there were no interviews on the tape.  Kate held the recorder and stared at it, mortified.  She was positive she had the right tape with her... she didn’t even have a tape that had “Digital Getdown” on it! 

            “Are you playing some kind of trick on me?”  Brian asked angrily, snapping her back to reality.

            “No!”  she exclaimed.  “I don’t know what’s going on here... I had the right tape yesterday, I know I did!”

            “Did you listen to them when you got home after the interviews?” 

            Kate was still staring at the recorder.  “No, I didn’t have a chance...”

            “Then you don’t know for sure if you left JC’s apartment with the right tape.”

            “But how could I not have?  I didn’t even take it out of the recorder!  I just threw the whole thing in my purse before I left.”

            Brian looked suspiciously at the recorder, and said,  “Think about what happened at JC’s, Kate.  He may have very well switched your tape with this one.  Was there any time at all when he may have distracted you, or did you leave him alone with the recorder at all?”

            “I don’t think...”  Kate started.

**FLASHBACK**

            “Oh, I am so sorry!”  JC exclaimed as he knocked Kate’s papers off of the coffee table.

            “That’s alright,”  she said, and bent down to pick them up.

            “I am such a klutz sometimes,”  JC said with a laugh.  “I wonder sometimes how I made it into NSYNC.”

            Kate picked up her head with a laugh...

**END FLASHBACK**

            “He knocked my papers off the table,”  Kate said, almost in a daze.  “Do you really think he switched the tapes?”

            “It’s the only way that makes sense,”  Brian said, looking at her somberly.  “Kate, I’m sorry, but it looks like you’ve got yourself into something bigger than any of us realized.”

            “But why...”  Kate stopped.  It was all starting to make sense now.  The fixed answers, the ultra-kindness, the switched tapes... the guys were covering something, either for Justin or for themselves.  “Are you thinking the same thing I’m thinking?”  she asked Brian.

            “That there’s more to this story than NSYNC’s telling?”  Brian asked.  “Definitely.”

 

            “So are you gonna call them now?”  Stacey giddily asked, jumping up and down in the middle of their living room.

            “No, Stace, I really don’t want to talk to them now,”  Kate said, rubbing her temples.  The last two days had given her an incurable headache.

            “Just because you and Brian think there is some kind of conspiracy theory going on here doesn’t mean Chris and Lance shouldn’t get a chance to speak,”  Stacey commented, sitting down on the couch next to her friend.

            “I already know what they’re gonna say, so why should I even bother?”  Kate mumbled.

            “Because they deserve a chance, and you never know what they’ll say, they could very well not know anything about what’s going on with JC and Joey.”

            “That’s about as unlikely as you ever getting over NSYNC,”  Kate said matter of factly.  “They’re all in it together, Stace.  They have to be!  Whatever went down that night, they all are involved some way, somehow.”

            “You don’t have anything to support that.”

            “It’s my theory, then.”

            Stacey looked over at her troubled friend with worry.  “Kate, this job is already driving you nuts.  Why don’t you just forget about the story and start over with something new?”
            “Forget the story?”  Kate exclaimed, suddenly jumping up from her slouched position.  “I don’t think so, hun.  I can’t let this one go.  It will make my career!”
            “If it ever gets published.”

            “Oh, it’ll get published, trust me on that one.  Every paper in Florida wants this story, and if the Trib can’t publish it, someone else will.”

            “With your name on it?”
            “With my name on it,”  Kate said, and she looked over at Stacey.  “Please don’t tell me that you’re worried about something happening to me.”

            “Hey, you said that all the guys were involved in what happened that night, so why on Earth would they let the story get out in the public?”

            “It’s not the real story.  I know that already.  Justin, JC, and Joey all told me lies.  Now I don’t even know if I believe Justin’s faking his illness.”

            “Just be careful, please?”

            “I will, I will,”  Kate said, not thinking her situation could possibly turn dangerous.  She knew that Stacey had other ideas, though.  ‘Better to be safe than sorry,’  the voice of reason told Kate.  ‘More like better to be safe than dead.’

 

            Josh’s e-mail contained three phone numbers of respectable lawyers he had talked to at the firm for Kate to call.  The e-mail also said he had put in a “good word” for Kate, and she should have no problems getting at least one lawyer to work on Justin’s case.

            Kate was at the Trib’s office working on the final copy of Justin’s “story” when she received the e-mail and decided to start calling.  First on the list was Benjamin Simpson, the highest head at Simpson & Thomas.  Kate laughed at the thought of Josh talking to a big shot... he could be very shy at times.

            She dialed the number and got Mr.  Simpson’s secretary.  “Can I help you?”  the polite voice asked.

            “Hi, my name is Kate Hensen from the Orlando Tribune, and I was wondering if Mr.  Simpson could schedule me in for an appointment.”

            “Ms. Hensen, Benjamin has been expecting your call.  Could you please hold while I transfer the call to him?”
            “Of course.”  Kate stared at the phone in disbelief.  This was easier than she thought it would be.

            “Hello, Ms.  Hensen,”  a strong male voice said after a few minutes.  “I do believe Josh Trotten talked to me about you.”

            “Yes, he’s a friend.  I asked him for a few phone numbers of lawyers at Simpson & Thomas because of a story I am working on.”

            “The Timberlake story, I am very familiar with that,”  he said.

            “Really?  How so?”

            “My daughters loved NSYNC and were heartbroken when they split up after the incident.  I looked into it a few times, but nothing really came out if it.”

            ‘A lawyer with a heart.  How odd,’  Kate couldn’t help to think.  She dismissed the thought.  “I am actually calling on Justin’s behalf,”  Kate told him. 

            “You are?  Well, what can I do for you, Ms.  Hensen?”

            “Please, call me Kate,”  she insisted.  “I am going to be running a story in an edition of next week’s paper outlining what Justin has told me about the events that occurred June 3rd.  We are both concerned that doing this will cause the police to want to interview him, and I advised Justin that if that happens to not talk to anyone until he had a lawyer present.”

            “I guess this is where I come in.”
            “Of course.  Are you interested in taking the case?”

            “That depends.  Normally us lawyer types aren’t very friendly with reporters.  You do understand that anything Justin might tell me you cannot know.”

            “I understand that, Ben,”  Kate said, getting a little bolder.  “But I have the upper hand here, because, I’ve already talked to Justin, and anything he might tell you, I already know, on record, of course.”
            Ben didn’t answer for a long minute.  He was extremely impressed with this rookie’s boldness.  “Well, Kate,”  he said.  “When do I begin?”

            “You’re willing to take the case?”
            “I’ll talk to Mr.  Timberlake and see if I am really needed, and if so, then yes, I will take the case.”

            “You do understand this will be pro bono, right?”
            “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

            “Thank you very much, Ben.  Whenever you want to talk to Justin, just let me know and I will set up everything.”

            “I’ll do that Kate,”  he said.  “Good-bye.”

            “Bye,”  Kate said, dropping the phone back down on the receiver.  She grinned uncontrollably, and patted herself on the back.  ‘Score one for the rookie,’  she thought to herself.  ‘Now we’re back in business.’

 

Chapter 7

            “Lance, open up the damn door, you know it’s only me.  Stop bein’ so damn paranoid,”  Chris yelled.

            “I’m paranoid?”  Lance said, almost to himself as he walked to the door of the hotel to open it.  He hated being in Orlando, but as things concerning Justin escalated, he and Chris needed to be there to make sure things went smoothly.  Trusting JC and Joey to handle the matter was beyond stupid. 

            Lance finally opened the door to see Chris standing there, tapping his foot impatiently.  He hurriedly entered the room, and Lance closed the door.

            “Thanks, Lance, I really wanted to be recognized out there,”  Chris said sarcastically.

            “Why didn’t you have the hall cleared?”
            “Because I didn’t bring a bodyguard.”

            “That was dumb.”

            “Shut up,”  Chris said, turning away from him.  “So what was so urgent that you had to make me come over here for?”
            “The story is going to press tomorrow,”  Lance said.  “We have to be ready for the backlash.”

            “That girl sure worked fast,”  Chris said, admiring the view from Lance’s window.  “Less than a week and she has the story ready?”

            “I was amazed myself,”  Lance said, sitting down on the edge of his bed.  “Justin called me a few minutes ago and said she just left.  The article was damn near perfect, according to him.  He only had to make a few minor changes.”

            “She never talked to you?”         

            “Nope.  You?”
            “No.  Is that a good or bad thing?”
            “Neither really.  My best guess for as to why she never called is because she caught on with JC and Joey.  I guess they tipped her off without realizing it.”

            “So what do we do about it?”
            “Nothing for now.  Not until the story is out and Justin is in police custody.  Then we can take care of her.”

            “Does that involve...”

            “That involves anything and everything, Chris.  We can’t be too careful.”

 

            The story hit newsstands with a flourish, and Kate was suddenly the most popular writer in the city.  Everyone in the state of Florida, by the time lunch rolled around, knew her name, and the story behind Justin Timberlake.  The uneasiness that she felt because of the story was getting to her, however.  She had the strangest feeling that Stacey had been right, and she should’ve dropped it while she could.  But now, of course, it was too late, and she had to deal with the repercussions.

            Benjamin Simpson called Kate at the Trib around two o’clock that same afternoon with bad news.

            “I’ve been informed by the Orlando police department that they are heading over to Ridgewater was we speak to pick up Justin for questioning,”  Ben told her.  “I’m sure you’d like to be there to, how should I say it, get the latest scoop on things?”
            “Ben, there’s no need to get hostile,”  she told him.  “You agreed to take this case, you’re Justin’s lawyer.  If you don’t want me or any of the other press around, just say so.  We abide by the law, most of the time.”

            “Justin’s requested that you be there, Kate.  As a friend, not a reporter.  He seems to be rather attached to you now, after all the visits and such.”

            “I met with Justin three times, Ben.  I think he wants me to be there because he’s afraid, and he needs comfort.”

            “I can’t give him that?”
            “I should hope not.”

            “Very well.  I will see you downtown.”

            “Good-bye Ben,”  Kate said, slamming down the phone.  Since Ben had decided to take the case, he had become a real ass.  Any thought of him being compassionate was wiped from her memory.  He was just like any other lawyer, and while she hated him, she knew he was the only thing that would save Justin from ending up in jail.  She couldn’t save him from that, as much as she wanted to.

 

            Kate walked into the police station twenty minutes after Justin arrived.  She sat and waited, and waited, and waited, for what seemed like an eternity, before Ben came out of the interrogation room and headed over to her.

            “I have some bad news,”  he said gravely.

            “What?”  she asked, her voice full of concern.

            “They want to keep Justin here overnight.”

            “Why?”

            “They have some kind of new evidence concerning the case and they want to present it to the district attorney.  They think your story has tied up some of the loose ends.”

            “But the story didn’t say anything to make Justin end up in jail!”

            “Obviously it did.”

            “You know as well as I do that Justin won’t survive overnight in jail,”  Kate told him.  “I don’t care if he’s sane or not.”

            “The police also want to charge him with obstruction of justice,”  Ben said, ignoring her last comment.  “They said that him running to the funny farm prevented them from solving this case a long time ago.”

            “So basically what are you trying to tell me?”
            “You just caused Justin to end up in jail, Kate,”  Ben told her matter of factly.  “I have advised Justin to end any kind of contact he may have with you, and he’s agreed.  He no longer wants you here.”

            “Please, Ben, just let me talk to him, just once,”  Kate begged, standing up to face him.  “I need to tell him how sorry I am...”

            “My client doesn’t want to hear that,”  Ben said, suddenly becoming very ‘professional’ around her.  “Would you please leave now?  I could have an officer escort you if you wish.”

            “I’m leaving,”  Kate said, grabbing her purse and stalking out of the station.  She got to her car and burst into tears.  The thing she had promised Justin over and over again that would not happen just had, and she knew Justin would never forgive her for it.

 

            Lance couldn’t help himself from grinning as he placed the baseball cap on his head and straightened his sunglasses.  It was his time now, the time he had been waiting for.  The whole situation was about to be resolved, and he could get on with his life.  He would have no worries, his bandmates would have no worries, and the money would be rolling back in before they knew it.

            Lance left his room, securely locking the door behind him.  He made his way out the back exit and headed for the rental car that had been arranged for him.  He got in a headed for Kate’s apartment.

            He got there quicker than he thought he would, and nervousness swept over him.  He had never done anything like this before, but because the rest of the guys were too chicken, he had been stuck with it.  He acted as if he wanted no part in it, but he was relishing it.  He always had been the ‘quiet one’ of the group, and he hated it.  He was anything from that, but did little girls want to know the real people behind NSYNC?  No, of course not.  They wanted to believe the fed image of the perfect little boys from sunny Florida.  This was why Lance had to do what he had to do.  No one could know what had really happened to Britney.

            Nervousness soon turned to excitement as the blue Eclipse pulled into the lot, and Kate got out, practically running to her front door.  Lance knew she had just got the bad news of Justin being jailed, and he grinned.  “Too bad it’s not true,”  he said aloud, and laughed.  Poor, sweet Kate.  She had been so close to the truth when she realized JC and Joey planned their answers, but she had made the vital mistake by not talking to Lance and Chris.  If she had, she would have realized there was a scam going on.  The story would have never gone to print, and she would have been saved from what was about to happen to her.  Lance couldn’t help but laugh again at the stupidity of the poor girl.  She should have known the power Justin had over the population, even the police.  He was Justin Timberlake, for crying out loud.  He could get out of anything, even murder.

            Lance slowly for out of his car and checked the parking lot.  Kate’s roommate, the cute, sparkly little thing, was not there.  Lance knew that, but he had to make sure Stacey had not returned.  Stacey was currently sleeping off a heavy hangover and a night of wild sex at a run down hotel, thanks to no one else but Lance himself.  He gently knocked on the door of the apartment, and waited.  ‘C’mon, Kate, lets get this show on the road,’  Lance said to himself, and sure enough, the door opened.

            “Can I help you?”  Kate asked, her face tear stained and her voice shaky.

            Lance almost felt sorry for her, but pushed that thought away.  He only smiled at her, and grabbed her around the waist, covering her mouth.  “Don’t scream,”  he told her.  “Just act like we’re hugging each other, and don’t you dare try and get away.” 

            She did as she was told, but Lance could feel her shaking from fear.  He whispered in her ear gently, “Don’t be afraid.”  He felt Kate suddenly stiffen up.  She knew who he was.  He whispered to her again,  “Close the door, and we’re gonna walk to my car, alright?”

            She nodded, and closed the door.  The two walked to the rental car, and Lance opened the door for her.  She got in, and he closed it.  He did a quick check around him, and smiled.  No one had seen it.

            He got in and started the car up.  He looked over at Kate, who was staring out the window, tears running down her face.  “Everything’s gonna be alright,”  he told her, and sped out of the parking lot.

 

Chapter 8

            It was Lance.  Kate could tell it was him by the unforgettable deep voice and sweet southern accent.  What did he want with her?  The answers were right in front of her, and she knew what it was all about, she just didn’t want to admit it to herself.  She had fallen into their trap, and there was no way of getting out.

            The car stopped at a back exit of a run down hotel, and Lance got out of the car.  He opened the door for her, but yanked her out and shoved her forward.  “Go,”  he said, and she walked.  She could feel his hand on the small of her back, guiding her in which direction to go.  At first it was comforting, but then turned the opposite.  He was leading her to her doom.

            They walked into room 54.  Lance closed the door gently behind them, but shoved Kate onto the bed.  She fell face down, but turned herself over so she was facing Lance.  She didn’t want to risk turning her back on him, for fear of what he might do.

            Lance tossed his baseball cap and glasses on a nearby chair, and got his first good look at Kate.  Kate also looked him over, half expecting him to look like he always had, but she knew better.  Lance was a little heavier than when she had last seen him on TV, but it was pure muscle, not fat.  He had dyed his hair a shade of brown, and his normally gorgeous green eyes were now blue, with the help of colored contacts.  He looked at her with the most hate filled look she had ever seen, and as much as she wanted to scream, run, and hide, she couldn’t do it.  There was something about him that was holding her back.

            “I guess you wanna know why you’re here,”  he said, his voice much different from what it had been only a few minutes ago.  It was, just as his expression, full of hate.  He didn’t wait for her to answer, and continued, “It’s quiet simple, actually.  Wanna venture a guess?”

            “It has to do with Justin,”  she said meekly.

            “Right.  And the fact that you got him in jail.”

            “I didn’t do that.”

            “Did I ask for an answer?”  Lance exclaimed.  He walked over and crouched down so he could look into her eyes.  “You will only talk when I ask you to,”  he said.  “Is that understood?”

            She nodded, and he smiled.  “Good,”  he said.  “Now, I know you don’t think you got him in jail, and in part, you’re right.  You see Kate, you fell into our trap, and now we have someone to blame for Britney’s murder.”

            Kate stared back at Lance in disbelief.  They were going to pin Britney’s murder on her... that meant only one thing.  Justin really HAD done it.

            “I can tell what you’re thinking, Kate,”  he said.  “And I know it’s a hard pill to swallow.  You thought you were doing Justin a favor by putting his story out and possibly clearing his name.  Unfortunately, though, it was all a set up.”  Lance leaned over her and pushed apart her legs so he was standing between them.  “If all goes well here, you’ll just end up in jail and everything for me will be fine.  If you act up, though, I’ll have two dead people to worry about, and I really don’t need that.”

            Kate gasped and began shaking in fear once again.  She couldn’t believe what was happening to her, she didn’t want to believe it... it was all just a terrible nightmare...

            “Kate, you ready for the story?”  Lance asked, leaning down to her face and placing a short kiss on her lips.  Kate froze as the strange sweetness of his lips filled her mouth, and Lance grinned.  “Maybe you’d rather do something else?”  he asked, kissing her again, only this time, drinking her sugary innocence in for a long minute. 

            Kate couldn’t help herself, she had to kiss back.  There was that something about him that was holding her back, making her want to stay there with him, no matter what he would do to her.  It was as if he had a spell on her, a spell that she never wanted to be rid of.

            Lance pulled away and walked over to the other side of the bed.  He pushed her up and made her sit against the headboard.  He then walked back over to the foot of the bed so he was facing her.  “We’re not going to do anything that you might enjoy, Kate dear,”  he told her.  “You’re going to sit here and listen to what I have to tell you, is that understood?”
            Kate nodded, and Lance continued, “All right then.  Let’s start where you came in and work backwards.  Justin and Dr. Becksley had a... well, closer relationship than you realize.  Peter knew there was nothing wrong with Justin, as you already know, and when Justin told him it was time to get out of that hell hole, Peter knew exactly what to do.  He called your paper and told them that Justin was interested in talking to the press.  You must realize, Kate, that Justin and the rest of us had his story already planned out to the exact T.”

            “You told him what story to tell,”  Kate said softly.

            “Exactly, I’m glad to see you’re catching on.  Now, the reason why Justin decided to feed you a story was because he knew that once it went public, he would get out of Ridgewater and go to the cops.”

            “But he didn’t want to go to jail...”

            “Who said anything about him going to jail?  Right now, the police are at his house, discovering the body and the murder weapon, which are both littered with your fingerprints.”

            Kate’s eyes grew wide and she opened her mouth to scream.  Lance hurriedly placed his hand over her mouth.  “Don’t you dare,”  he growled.  “I will kill you right here if you scream or even try.”  He moved his hand away and Kate kept quiet.  Lance continued with his story.  “Justin’s on his way now here, actually, he should be here any minute now.   The whole reason, basically, for him talking to you was to get out of Ridgewater and to have his name cleared.  This has occurred, and you, my love, are about to go to jail.”
            “Lance, please, don’t do this to me,”  she begged.  “I will do anything for you, really, please don’t make me go to jail for this.  I will do whatever you want, I will give you anything, just please don’t pin this on me...”       

            “Kate, Kate, Kate,”  he said, shaking his head.  “You should be careful with what you say, it may come true.”

            “Lance, please...”  Kate begged again.  “I don’t want to go to...”

            “Shhh,”  he told her calmly, climbing onto the bed and laying on top of her.  “Just shhh.”  He gently placed a hand on her face.  “We’ll decide once Justin gets here what to do, alright.  I don’t really want to send you to jail, you are much too beautiful, but it is ultimately Justin’s decision.”

            Kate could feel the tears running down her face again, and couldn’t stop them.  She knew Lance was lying - she was going to jail, or worse, no matter what Justin said.

            “Let me finish the story,”  Lance whispered, getting off of her and going back to his place at the foot of the bed.  “How did we get your fingerprints for the weapon and the body, I’m sure you’re asking.  Well, that’s quite easy,”  he said, and reached into his pocket.  He pulled out the missing tape recorder tape.  “Thanks to JC, we had all we needed right here.”  He threw the tape on the floor and looked Kate over.  “You almost had us, Kate, you really did.  If you would’ve called Chris or myself, you would’ve realized it was a scam.  I thought you were a lot smarter than that.”

            “Can I ask you something, Lance?”  Kate asked, needing answers to her situation. 

            “Go ahead, beautiful,”  he answered.

            “How did Justin get off from the cops?”
            Lance laughed, “Oh, easily, Kate, easily.  The police never called Justin in in the first place.  We had Ben call you and tell you about it, then stay at the station to trick you into thinking it was true.  The police got their information to search Justin’s house to find the body and the weapon only a few hours ago from an anonymous tip, and once they see that you did it, they won’t need to even worry about where Justin is.”

            The tears fell even faster, and Kate could tell that Lance was loving every minute of it.  He walked over and sat next to her on the bed.  “I’m going to let you in on a little secret,”  he whispered into her ear, causing chills to run down her spine.  “I know who really did kill Britney, and you are about to as well.”

            Kate sucked in a breath, and looked into Lance’s eyes.  She already knew who it was.

            “It was me,”  he told her, and proceeded to kiss her passionately on the lips.

 

                                                            Chapter 9

 

            “Where is she?”  Justin asked as he walked into the hotel room an hour later. 

            Lance looked up from his place on the bed.  “Right where we said she was supposed to be.”
            “Good, keep her there,”  Justin said, and sat down on a chair near the bed.  “The police are out looking for her now.  They found her little friend and are questioning her at the station.”

            “Who is at the station checking up on things?”
            “Chris is at the station, and Joey is in the parking lot.”

            “Excellent.  JC is at Kate’s apartment.”

            “Yeah, I just called him and checked in.  The police haven’t been there yet, but I’m sure they’re on their way.”

            “This is all going according to plan, better than I expected.”

            “I agree, but Lance, what did you do to that poor girl last night?  The police had to practically drag her out of the hotel room.”

            “She got loaded, like, so loaded she was almost passed out.”

            “You did her while she was passed out?”

            “No, she wasn’t out.  Damn was she good, though.”

            “She gonna remember it?”

            “Not in a million years she won’t.”

            “Terrific.  Did you tell Kate the story?”

            “Most of it.  She knows what she’s in for, and she knows who did it.”

            “She freak?”

            “Basically.  I kept her preoccupied enough so that she didn’t make too much noise.”

            “Ah, I see,”  Justin laughed.  “I guess it’s my turn to talk to her.”

            “Go for it, man.  I want to get this done and over with as soon as possible.”

            Justin stood up and went to the bathroom door.  He opened it slowly, walked in, and shut the door behind him.  Lance was right when he had said that Kate was where she was supposed to be.  “Hi Kate,”  he said, kneeling down next to the bathtub and looking into her eyes.  “Did you miss me?”

            Kate wanted to scream, wanted to run, wanted to hide... but she couldn’t.  After Lance had told her that he was the one that had killed Britney, he had taped her mouth shut, tied her hands and feet up with rope, and threw her into the bathtub.  She tried countless times to free herself, but to no avail.

            “It’s my turn to talk to you,”  Justin told her sweetly, brushing a strand of her hair from her face.  “Are you ready to hear it?”  He knew she couldn’t answer, so he just continued.  “Britney really wasn’t sick that day, as you may have guessed.  Early that morning, I left the house to go for a run, but I knew what was going to happen while I was gone.  While my poor Britney slept, Lance came into the house and killed her, not even thinking twice about it.  He was a little messy about it, but it didn’t really matter at that moment in time.  After she was dead, he picked her up and carried her down to my basement.  He wrapped her and the weapon up in all kinds of sheets and blankets to prevent the smell from getting too bad, hid her in the best place he could find, and left.  Once I got back from my run, I sent in a tip to the police that something strange was going on at the Timberlake-Spears house, and took off to the airport.  You know most of the rest, that the police found me and thought that I was the one that did it, and I faked going nuts.  I stayed at Ridgewater for as long as I did to make sure that all the suspicion would leave Lance or the rest of the guys and simply rest on me.  Once I was sure nothing bad would happen to them, or me, for that matter, I got Peter to give you a call, and now here we are.  You’re about to get pinned for something you had nothing to do with.”

            Kate began sobbing and choking on her own tears.  Seeing the people that she had once admired being so cold, so calculating, it scared her to death, and it almost made her want to die so she wouldn’t be accused of Britney’s death.  Yeah, she had never liked Brit, but obviously neither had NSYNC.

            “Kate, I really hate to do this to you, I really did start to like you, but NSYNC needs to get back on track.  No one will ever know what we did, and no one will ever believe you when you tell them that you were set up.  NSYNC would never do anything bad, right?”  he asked her wickedly.  He gave her an evil grin, and pulled the tape off of her mouth.  “Do you have anything to say, darling?”
            “Please, Justin, don’t do this to me!  I will do anything for you, honestly, I don’t care what it is, please just don’t pin this on me!   I love you guys, I would do anything for you, just please don’t make me go to jail!  I would rather die than have to go to jail for this, Justin, really.  Please don’t do this to me!”  she begged, sobbing as she did.

            Justin eyed her with an almost happy look.  “You mean that?”

            “Every word!”  Kate screamed.  Justin put his hand on her back and lifted her up towards him.  He reached behind her and untied the ropes on her hands, and then reached down and untied her feet.  “Stand up,”  he told her, and she obliged.  Justin held out his hand and helped her out of the tub.  He led her out of the bathroom and said to Lance, “Hey, Lance, Kate here has a little proposition for us.”
            “Really?”  Lance asked, sitting up from the bed and walking over to the two.  “And what is that?”

            “She said she would do anything for us, and that she would rather die than go to jail,”  Justin told him, still holding onto Kate’s hand.  “What do you think about that?”
            “Well, it really depends,”  Lance said, eyeing over Kate’s body.  “How far are you willing to go?”

            Kate could already see what the two men wanted, and she knew she would have to do whatever they asked.  She would rather be put through this than go to jail for the rest of her life.  “I’ll go as far as you want me to,”  she told them, adding a little spice to her voice.  “It would be my pleasure to do everything and anything that you two want.”

            Lance and Justin looked at each other, licking their lips.  “Well, that can be arranged,”  Lance growled out, and took Kate into his arms, feeling the warmth of her body against his.  He placed his hands up her shirt and caressed her soft skin, feeling every inch of bare skin that he could get his hands on.  He took a lasting look into Kate’s eyes and said, “This will be like nothing else you’ve imagined.”  He bent down to kiss her, but pulled away.

            “What?”  Kate asked, already anxious for Lance’s gentle touch.

            Lance erupted into laughter, and Justin said, “Sorry Kate.  It can’t be like this.”

            Kate looked at the two, confused.  What in the world were they trying to pull?  “But I thought...”   she started, but suddenly felt the presence of someone behind her.  She turned around to see who it was, but never made it far enough to see.  The crashing of the heavy weight onto her head knocked her out cold, and she crumpled to the ground.

            “Good work, Chaz,”  Justin said to his friend.  The three men looked down at the unconscious body of the beautiful reporter, and grinned.

            “It’s all over now,”  JC said suddenly.  “We will never have to worry about this ever again.”

            Justin and Lance turned to their fellow bandmate and grinned.  “Let’s finish the job,”  he told them.

 

                                                            Epilogue

           

            Orlando Tribune reporter commits suicide to escape jail time for murder

                                                By Brian Thompson

            The body of suspected murderer Kate Hensen was found at the Orlando Motel 6 late last night, apparently killed from a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head.  Hensen was suspected of the murder of Britney Spears, the 19 year old pop singer who was found dead at the home she shared with boyfriend Justin Timberlake just yesterday.  Hensen apparently had tried to pin the murder on Timberlake through an article she wrote for the Orlando Tribune, but once the police talked to Timberlake and searched his home, they found Spears’ body and the murder weapon with Hensen’s fingerprints on them.  Timberlake and the rest of the members of NSYNC were not available for comment at press time.  NSYNC is scheduled to release a comment on the situation later on today.  All information on the situation can be viewed at our website www.orlandotrib.com.

            “Nice article, don’t you think?”  Lance asked as he tossed the paper to Justin.  Justin read over it quickly and laughed.  “They didn’t give us much credit.”

            “And thankfully so,”  Lance chuckled, rolling his eyes.  He looked around the tour bus he, Justin, and the rest of the guys were on, relishing the fact that things were back to normal.  “It’s so great to be back here, isn’t it?”  he asked no one in particular.

            “Yes it is,”  JC said from across the aisle.  “This has been a long time coming, and I never thought I would say this, but I can’t wait to go back on tour.”

            “It’s just great to not have a worry in the world,”  Chris said from his bunk, popping his head out to talk to the rest of the guys.  “Don’t you think?”
            “Yes!”  the three guys answered.

            “Hey, where’s Joey?”  Justin suddenly asked, looking around the room.

            “In my bunk,”  Joey’s voice filtered out.

            “Oh, all right,”  Justin laughed.  “Just wanted to make sure we didn’t leave you in Orlando.” 

            Joey laughed in response, but the rest of the guys couldn’t tell he was faking every second of it.  ‘You didn’t leave me,’  Joey thought to himself, ‘but you did leave something.’

            Joey’s mind traveled back to the hotel room where Kate had been found, and he thought about the gun that JC had left under the bed once Kate had been killed.  ‘Let the countdown begin,’  Joey thought and laughed to himself evilly.  NSYNC was on another road to self destruction.

 

 

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