Emma leaned out over the airstrip fence, peering anxiously at the runway. The Beatles were supposed to be leaving town today, but she hadn’t seen any sign of them. It wasn't the first time they hadn't appeared when they were supposed to on this tour, either. The Beatles had never shown up to their fans' meet-and-greet the night before. Emma and the other fans had waited for hours, finally dissolving into despair when it became clear that the Beatles weren’t coming. Some girls had cried, and others had screamed their disapproval, and others had tried to push their way forward to see if the Beatles were hiding in a back room, demanding their chance to see them, as the security fought in vain to keep the crowd calm. Last night, Emma had been just as frantic and furious as everyone else in the crowd. But this morning, she wondered. Why hadn’t the Beatles shown up? That wasn’t like them. Emma always believed she understood John’s mind better than any other fan in England – and neither John nor any of the other Beatles had ever missed a show or any other event they were supposed to go to.
The airport was emptier than it usually was when the Beatles were going away – perhaps most of the other fans assumed the Beatles had already gone. And maybe they were right – there was no sign of their plane coming, or that it had just gone, or anything. “They wouldn’t really leave without saying goodbye to us,” Emma said aloud, partly to herself, but also directing this in the general direction of the other girls scattered round, who had come for the same reasons as her.
One of the other girls heard her and turned round. She was a few inches taller than Emma and maybe a year younger, with an angular face, long black hair tied in pigtails, and almond-shaped green eyes. Next to her stood a big dog that came nearly up to her waist. “I would never have believed it,” the girl said to Emma. “They act like they don’t love us anymore.” Her face crumpled as she said it, like she wanted to cry or scream at someone or both.
Emma bit her lip. “I know! I can’t believe John would ever just abandon us, but....”
“I don’t believe it,” came a small but very determined voice from behind them. Emma and Jenna both turned to see the speaker.
Susan could hardly believe she had taken it upon herself to speak up. Normally she avoided talking to people she didn’t know whenever possible – even speaking to Paul, her soul mate, had been too much for her. But now, she simply had to defend her Beatles, and she was going to do it no matter what. “The Beatles would never abandon us,” she went on, looking the two somewhat bigger girls straight in the eye. “If they didn’t show up to see us, it isn’t their fault. Something must have happened to them.”
Jenna frowned. “I wonder,” she muttered. “Did something happen to them – or was it someone?”
Emma made a face. “You mean those four? Emily and the rest of those upstarts who imagine they’re our Beatles’ girlfriends?”
“I knew that May couldn’t have been any good for Paul!” Susan exclaimed.
Jenna’s hands clenched into fists. “Bad enough that Natalya has turned my Ringo against me,” she growled. “If she’s done anything to hurt him....”
Sensing his mistress’s mood change, Butch growled.
Susan stepped back a pace nervously. Dogs always made her nervous, especially big ones, and Butch didn’t sound especially friendly just then. Emma looked round at him, not looking quite scared, but still a bit apprehensive. “Will it bite?”
Jenna glanced at Butch, then smiled a little mischievously. “Sometimes.”
Susan blanched at this. Jenna laughed. “He wouldn’t bite you. He won’t do a thing unless I tell him to.” She smiled; she’d always liked having a dog who was fierce when necessary. He suited her personality nicely.
Jenna’s face then darkened. “He will bite that Natalya, though, if she’s done anything to Ringo. When I get my hands on her....”
Susan glanced up quickly, from where she had been inching forward, putting out a cautious hand for Butch to sniff. “Do you think they would? I never trusted that May....”
Jenna’s green eyes flashed fire. “I wouldn’t put anything past Natalya.”
“And the Beatles would never miss a chance to see us of their own free will,” Emma added thoughtfully, tapping her fingers against her chin. Her brown eyes were downcast as she considered this, and suddenly her head snapped up. “I bet those awful women did stop them somehow!”
“But if... if these women could make the Beatles stay away from us....” Susan began hesitantly, “then maybe they did – do something to them.” Tears filled her blue eyes. “What if they hurt Paul?”
Jenna scowled. “We won’t let them get away with it, that’s what!”
“We need to find them,” Emma agreed. “We’ll find them, and make sure they’re all right. They’ve got to be all right!” She clapped her fist into her palm to underline this.
“Right,” Jenna agreed, clutching Butch’s lead in preparation. “Heel, Butch. But where can we look for them?” she added, glancing around the airport. “I came here to see if the Beatles were leaving today, and they haven’t. I’ve been following their shows and all their public appearances, but if they’re not here, where do we start?”
“At their hotel,” Susan spoke up. “We’ll see if they’ve checked out, and whether they were with those evil women last time they left.” She looked a little surprised to have volunteered the idea, but also pleased with herself.
“Of course!” Emma agreed enthusiastically. “But – we don’t know which hotel it is.” Her face fell, remembering how her sister had told her she wouldn’t know exactly where the Beatles were staying. Why hadn’t she tried harder to find out?”
Susan, however, smiled broadly. “I do.”