Bobby Gaines knew she wasn’t the best singer in the contest and so she was terrified that this would be her last week on the show. As the names of those who were safe were called, she became more and more sure that she was going to be the last one left. When they got down to the bottom two, Bobby sighed. The only other one left was Sandra Martinez, a sweet girl with a throaty alto that made her stand out as unique.
The host told Bobby and Sandra to come to center stage. Tears were beginning to pool in her eyes. This was it. Sandra would go on while Bobby would go home.
With a smile plastered on her face, Bobby stared at the three seated in the singers’ lounge: Dave, Curtis, and Willie. Curtis or Willie stood the best chance of winning. Dave had limited range; he couldn’t hit the high notes with any accuracy and his low notes came out breathy and weak. Curtis sang country with a twang that grated on Bobby’s ears, but the judges seemed to like him. Willie sang ballads in the sweetest voice and with plaintive eyes that made girls weep. Bobby knew that, even if she did make it to the end, she could never beat the guys.
The emcee said, “One of you will be leaving tonight, and the other is safe.” He turned to the show’s judges and asked, “Did America get it right?”
Paula Abdul said, “You are both great singers. It’s about song choice.”
“You can’t sound like a karaoke singer and win this contest,” Simon Cowell said with a sneer.
“You got to be the bomb, baby,” Randy Jackson said, shaking his head.
“Over three million votes came in last night. Let’s find out the results. Turn down the lights,” the host said as he tapped his right hand with a large card.
“Sandra, you sang A Hard Day’s Night, with an added country twist. Randy said it was pitchy. Paula thought you looked beautiful. Simon said it would be your last night.”
Then he turned to Bobby. “You took on a Mariah Carey song. Randy said you missed some of the high notes. Paula said it was a big song, for a big voice. Simon thought you would make a good wedding singer.”
After a long pause that seemed to last an eternity, he continued, “America voted. Bobby, you are safe.”
Her eyes filled with tears. While she didn’t really like Sandra as a person, that girl knew a lot about music, and had helped Bobby in fine-tuning melody changes that made each performance unique. No one else had ever come forward like that, so Bobby knew she would truly be on her own from now on.
After the show was over, Bobby went back to her hotel room, following the three guys. She burned with jealousy at their joviality and seemingly endless energy. She wished she exuded their confidence, their belief in themselves that they would win.
It had been an emotionally draining week, with rehearsals lasting long into the night. Bed beckoned, and after coming up with a strategy to win, she fell asleep.
Shortly after her alarm went off at six, muffled shouts filled the halls. She pulled on a tank top and sweat pants, then opened the door.
“He’s dead! Oh, my God! He’s dead!” Dave shouted in the hall as he pulled at his mussed hair.
“Who’s dead?” Bobby asked.
“Curtis! He’s blue around the mouth and he’s not breathing. I don’t know what to do!” Dave anxiously paced up and down the hall.
“I’ll call down at the desk,” she said as she ducked back into her room. After placing the call, she walked over to her dresser and picked up her brush. She ran it through her hair several times, and then put on her beat up flip-flops. With a last glance in the mirror, Bobby erased the smug look from her face that would have exposed her true feelings, and then stepped into the hall.
The police had arrived. A burly brunette ushered Dave to a loveseat near the elevators. She indicated that he was to sit, and then she took out a notebook and started writing. Bobby could see Dave’s lips moving, but she couldn’t hear a word. His arms flew around in a melodramatic way, pointing down the hall, and then toward the elevators.
She walked down until she could see inside the suite. Several officers bustled in and out, but when there was no one in the way, she had a clear view. Curtis was in the bed, with a couple of blue-clad paramedics hovering around him.
“Oh, my God!” Bobby cried.
“What’s going on?” Willie sidled up to Bobby. With his long legs and broad shoulders, he oozed strength.
“Curtis is dead,” Bobby said. “Dave’s over by the elevators with a cop.”
“Who’d kill Curtis?”
“Who said he’d been killed?”
“Come on, Bobby. Everyone hated him. Curtis was so arrogant Dave nicknamed him King,” Willie brushed his long black hair over his shoulders.
“Do you think Dave did it?”
“Why would he?”
“Why not? Dave was terrified of Curtis,” Bobby said.
“Who stands to benefit the most?”
“That’s a horrible thing to say,” Bobby purred as she leaned against Willie’s muscular chest. “No one would kill an opponent.”
“You would, I bet,” Willie said as he turned and sauntered down the hall.
“Hey, come back here!” Bobby stomped after Willie. “Don’t make comments like that and then walk away. How dare you!” She stopped just shy of Willie’s massive chest. He towered over her petite five-foot frame. “You can’t blame me for this! I had nothing to do with it.”
“I didn’t mean anything,” Willie said as he inserted his room key into the lock.
Bobby wasn’t one to back down from a fight, and this was an argument that she couldn’t afford to lose. “Didn’t Dave say he’s done a lot of acting?”
“Yeah. So what?”
She whispered, “I think he’s putting on a show for the police.”
“Why would he do that?”
She giggled. “You’re so clueless! Dave’s gay, right?”
“Yeah. Big deal.”
Bobby said, “I bet he made a pass at you and you struck back.”
Willie glanced down the hall toward the elevators, and saw no one moving about. “I’m not gay,” he hissed. “Didn’t I ask you out for a drink earlier this week? You refused, saying that you’d rather date Dave than me.”
“He asked me out, yes. But whenever Dave was talking to me, your eyes were on him, not on me.”
“You’re one crazy woman,” Willie snarled. He grabbed Bobby’s arm, and led her toward the stairwell.
“With Curtis out of the way, you and Dave could be roommates,” she said. “Perfect for romance.” As Willie pushed her through the door, Bobby cackled. “I don’t have time for kissy-face in the stairwell. My rehearsal begins in forty-five minutes. Let me go, Willie.” She tried to pull away, but his grip was too strong.
“Shut up,” he said as he kicked the door shut with his right foot. He slammed Bobby into the wall. His face was a bright red, and a vein pulsed in his sweat-drenched forehead.
Bobby sneered. “You’re in love with Dave. I’ve seen you two holding hands when you thought no one was looking.”
Willie growled as he grabbed Bobby’s right arm. “You’re a liar, a snoop, and a troublemaker. I’m tired of you spreading rumors about people.” His face was bright red. “Why do you think I’m gay?” he snarled, spittle sprinkling her face.
“Yesterday during the lunch break, I saw you slip your hand into Dave’s back pocket. Then he placed his hand on top of yours, and leaned back against your chest.”
“You don’t even know what you witnessed! You idiot!” Willie slapped Bobby’s face, leaving a red imprint on her right cheek. “You’re trying to ruin me. What about Curtis? What did you do to him?”
“Me? I didn’t do anything to him, you moron.”
“I saw you sneaking out of his room this morning. How’d you get the key?”
Bobby laughed. “Dave’s the moron. He got in late after your little tryst. He was so loaded that he dropped his room key in the hall. I thought I’d give it back. Being helpful, you know.”
“Yeah, you’re as helpful as a rattlesnake,” Willie said. He leaned over Bobby. “You’re the murderer. Wait until the press gets this information!”
Bobby spat in Willie’s face, and then stomped on his right foot. She spun away as Willie reached for her.
“Watch out!” he shouted.
“No, you watch out,” Bobby took one step back. “Curtis had to die. He would have made it to the top two. I set Dave up. He had to take the fall. Sure, I’m not the best singer, but I deserve to win.”
“You little brat!” Willie leaned toward Bobby, forcing her to take another step backwards. “You come off like a sweet little girl, but inside you’re poison.”
“You better watch yourself,” Bobby said. “You get in my way, and I’ll do anything that it takes to win that recording contract.”
Willie slapped her again, sending Bobby staggering backwards. Her left foot slid off the top step. With arms whirling, and a startled look on her face, she tipped back, in horrifyingly slow motion. Her balance gone, she fell. Willie watched as she bounced down the stairs, and smiled when her skull slammed into the wall of the next landing.
He ran his hands through his hair, tugged the waistband of his perfectly creased jeans, and then went down the stairs. Willie stopped by Bobby’s crumpled body. “I win; you lose.”