Richie walked into the concert hall at the edge of town the next afternoon, a
manila folder tucked under his arm. He headed up to the stage where Michael
was playing a classical piece on the piano.
Richie applauded as the musician finished. "I didn't know you were into that
stuff," he said.
Michael shrugged. "I'm classically trained, but the record company doesn't
like to admit it. They say it doesn't fit with my image," he replied. "So,
Richie, why are you here anyway?" But the teasing tone in his voice belied
the gruffness of his words.
Richie held up the folder, grinning. "Joe finished the plans for the party
you're throwing after your concert," he explained. "He was too busy to bring
them over and, since I had nothing going on, I volunteered." He climbed up
on the stage and handed Michael the folder. "And since I was coming in here
anyway, your security guy gave me your messages."
"Thanks, man, I appreciate it." Michael opened the folder and started
flipping through it. "Oh man, not another one of these."
Richie raised an eyebrow. "Another one of what?"
Michael put the folder on top of the piano and showed Richie a typed note
that had been stuck in with his messages. "This wacko who calls himself 'The
Angel of Death' has been sending me threatening letters since my first single
came out," he answered. He crumpled up the piece of paper and tossed it off
"How do you know it's a guy?" Richie asked.
Michael ran a hand through his hair. "The security company the label hired
for me said that it has to be a man because the letters have always been
death threats," he answered. "According to them, a woman would have started
with sexual propositions and then moved on to death threats when I turned her
down or ignored her. I don't know if it's really true, but the letters do
read like a man wrote them."
Richie shook his head in bewilderment. "You know, for somebody who's having
his life threatened on a regular basis, you're awfully calm about it," he
Michael shrugged. "What do you want me to do, turn into a hysterical recluse
who's afraid to leave the house?" he asked a little defensively. "I have
never backed down from a challenge and I'm not about to start now. Besides,
my security guys have assured me that this guy is just a nut job who won't
follow through on any of this. And if he's not, well, what's life without a
Richie couldn't think of a way to argue with that. And, as a fellow risk
taker, it wasn't like he could say much. "Well, it's your life," he said.
"Although if I were in your shoes, I'd be doing everything in my power to
keep that life going."
Michael stood up and stretched. "Since you're all ready here, you wanna
crash my lunch meeting ?" he asked. "You can help keep my from making an ass
out of myself in front of Mary Hart."
Richie laughed. "Sounds good," he answered. "Although I don't know if I can
handle that big of a job. I am only one man after all."
Michael shook his head. "That was cold, man," he said. "No wonder Joe likes
you so much." He grabbed his folder off the piano and they headed off.