Death by heat exhaustion or suffocation is a difficult choice - but what's really happening?
“Shame, Iero,” Frey shrugged. “Wrong place, wrong time.”
Frank was out of time. He lay, tightly bound and helpless, and all the while, Gerard was unknowingly in grave danger.
Gerard opened his eyes and slowly took in his surroundings. Pushing himself to his knees, he remembered the encounter with Mikey and, sitting back on his heels, he hung his head miserably. Mikey had used him, taunted him, hurt him – again. He should know better than this by now. Mikey didn’t love him; he didn’t even like him. Of course Mikey was always going to use what he knew against him, what else did he expect? Gerard had always known that his brother had never been anything other than what he was now – selfish and arrogant. He had lost count of the number of times he had cursed himself for getting so drunk that Mikey had managed to discover his most private of secrets. Since then, Mikey had grown increasingly worse; taunting him, abusing him and worst of all, threatening to reveal all to the townspeople – they could never accept it. Even though now, in the latter half of the eighteenth century, it was no longer considered the result of demonic possession, it was still a heinous crime and Gerard could do nothing that might risk exposure. Mikey condemned Gerard in private, claiming he had no right to the Estate due to what he saw as his ‘unnatural interests’ and that, by rights, it should fall to him. He wasn’t at all certain how, but Gerard had managed to keep him at bay all this time – perhaps purely on the strength of his natural authority? But he realised that as Mikey got older he would grow more independent and less likely to allow Gerard to keep him under control. Despite his deep suspicions, Gerard had no real sense of just how malevolent Mikey had become, nor that his murder was being planned at that very moment.
Pushing himself to his feet finally, Gerard turned and trudged back to the house. It was by now approaching mid-afternoon and he desperately needed a drink. Stepping into the welcoming warmth of the entrance hall, Gerard removed his coat as he closed the door.
“Mister Gerard!” Angela cried as she saw his bleeding lip, bruised forehead and dirt-covered coat. “What happened? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” he grumbled sourly.
“Let me take your coat,” she replied gently, ignoring his brusqueness.
Gerard looked up as Angela took the coat from his hands and headed to the laundry room to try to get it clean. At the end of the corridor, Mikey stood, leaning against the wall, one leg casually tipped behind the other and his arms folded.
“Who put my horse away?” Gerard growled.
“Frey did,” Mikey replied coldly.
“And he just left me there! That’s it; I’ve had enough! He can collect his things and get out!”
“You can’t fire a man for following orders,” Mikey corrected. “I told him to leave you.”
“He doesn’t work for you!” Gerard snapped only to receive a knowing smirk from his brother.
Racing forward Gerard placed an arm to Mikey’s throat and pushed him forcefully back against the wall.
“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t break your neck, right now!” Gerard screamed, furious at his brother’s callous behaviour.
“Frank,” he whispered hoarsely.
“Wh…what?” he replied losing enough strength and determination for Mikey to push him back.
“Seen him today?” Mikey asked rubbing his neck.
“What have you done?” Gerard asked, his anger stepping up once more.
“Me?” Mikey raised his eyebrows innocently. “Nothing! I don’t want your playthings!”
“I’m warning you, Mikey!”
“You’re warning me! You?” he laughed. “Go ahead, warn me. Beat me to a pulp if you like, but I’m the only one who knows who’s got him and why. Your call, Gerard!”
“What’s going on?” he asked, reluctant to trust Mikey, but left with no choice.
Mikey merely signalled towards the sitting room and the pair entered, an uneasy truce between them.
Frank’s pulse raced as he began to feel the heat from the fires beneath the smokehouse. Frank gritted his teeth in anger as he thought of Frey’s disloyalty towards Gerard. How long, he wondered, had the stableman been doubling as Mikey’s henchman – taking Gerard’s money whilst actively plotting to murder him? Did he honestly think that Mikey would allow him to live after he took control of the Estate? If he could murder his own brother, he was capable of anything and if Frey believed that his help in realising Mikey’s evil plan would gain him favour, then he was sure to be sorely mistaken.
But now, everything became insignificant next to his need to escape. The heat of the fires forced the sweat from his body. Tiny rivers of perspiration ran down his neck and limbs, pooling behind his knees, in the small of his back and glistening on his brow. Near the ceiling, Frank could see the first wisps of white smoke filtering through the crude vents and knew it would only be a matter of time before the room filled and he suffocated. Sweat stung his eyes as it ran from his forehead, his hair already soaked and plastered against his head. Doubling his efforts, he struggled furiously against his bonds, gasping for breath as his exertions sapped his energy. Already the heat of the fires was making breathing difficult and he knew that even if he got free of the leather straps binding his hands and feet, he would still have to break out of the smokehouse; raising stinging and watering eyes, he gazed bleakly at the sturdy looking door that he knew was bolted from the outside. With a muffled scream of frustration, he renewed his efforts, refusing to give in without a fight.
The hospital public address system crackled to life and, moments later, a bored female voice made an announcement.
“Will the Woods family please return to room ten thirty-one? The Woods family to room ten thirty-one, please.”
Gerard tapped Mikey’s arm.
“That’s us; they want us back at Frank’s room.”
“The Woods family?” his brother queried, his expression one of surprise.
Gerard glanced between him and Bob; both appeared perplexed as they rose to follow him.
“It was the first thing I could think of,” he explained. “Can you imagine the noise from fans and press the moment they announce ‘Can the Way brothers and Bob Bryar please go to Frank Iero’s room’?”
Bob rolled his eyes. Gerard was right; it was simply unthinkable. The comparative quiet that Frank was experiencing at the moment would be shattered, the effect of which could be drastic.
As they headed at speed down the stairs, Bob commented on the coded message.
“Woods,” he nodded his approval, “I get that, but there is no room ten thirty-one.”
“It’s his birthday, I wanted something relevant but that wouldn’t give it away. You know,” the singer glanced behind him at the drummer, “just in case there is actually a Woods family somewhere here.”
Bob nodded. For a spur-of-the-moment coded message, it was pretty good.
Arriving in the corridor housing Frank’s room only a minute or two after the announcement, the three musicians drifted to a halt as Doctor Wendel signalled to them to accompany him to an empty patient room.
“What’s wrong?” Mikey asked quietly, his expression one of deep concern as he feared the worst. “Is he… he’s not…?”
“His temperature has risen dramatically and there’s a very real risk of swelling in the brain. He’s also having difficulty breathing. We’ve given him medication to try to bring his temperature down and he’s on oxygen now, but if he doesn’t respond very soon, then… the damage could be irreparable.”
“How soon is very soon?” Gerard asked, uncertain he truly wanted to hear the reply.
Wendel took a deep breath and considered the question for a few moments. He was unwilling to appear to make any promises and he certainly didn’t want to scare them, but they needed to be told something.
“I would say, he needs to respond within the next ten minutes.”
“And if he doesn’t?” Gerard prompted.
Wendel paused unsure how much bad news to give them.
“Tell us,” Bob spoke gently but firmly. “Please, we need to know.”
“Then, I’d have to say if he doesn’t respond to the treatment within the next ten minutes, I doubt he’ll wake up. I have to be honest, it doesn’t look good.”
Wendel was, at first, met merely with stunned silence. They knew it was bad, but they had simply not realised how bad. The silence was broken by the ever-practical Bob.
“Gee, does Ray know about the coded message to call us back here?”
“No,” Gerard shook his head, his voice barely audible. “I arranged it, but forgot to tell you all.”
“Okay,” the drummer began stiffly, “I know we said we’d tell him everything, but I think we should wait to see if Frank responds to the treatment.”
“Why?” Gerard asked still dazed by the news.
Bob allowed his tears to fall unashamedly.
“Because, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could go in there and say the words.”
Gerard turned, Bob was distraught. He had fought to save the guitarist’s life back in the woods and couldn’t bear to think that it was for nothing. Wondering if he had done something wrong, that if he had acted sooner or differently, this could have been avoided. Bob Bryar wasn’t given to showing his feelings and hugging wasn’t something that generally he felt comfortable with. Gerard knew as he placed a comforting arm around his friend’s shoulders that he must be deeply distressed when he didn’t even flinch at the action. When Bob turned into the hug and reciprocated, Gerard’s eyes welled up; he had never seen Bob so obviously upset. Reaching out with his free arm, Gerard pulled Mikey in and they sought solace from each other against their fear and anguish.