Authors: C. M. Stunich
I'm pretty sure I'm not fucking dead.
If I were, I wouldn't have to piss so bad, right? My shoulders wouldn't be aching, and my stomach wouldn't be growling. If I were dead, I wouldn't have an IV in my arm, and I wouldn't be bouncing around in this darkness.
I think I'm in a car. Or a van maybe. A truck? Wherever it is that I am, I'm on the open road, that's for sure. And I'm tied up. It's nothing magical, no unicorn hair or fairy dust, just rope and tape. I think I've been kidnapped, but who the hell knows? I try to pull up memories, try to piece together what happened to me, but all I can see when I close my eyes is Turner Campbell onstage with me, grinding against me, mixing his voice with mine and screwing the crowd with his words. After that, everything's a big, fucking blank.
But I'm not dead.
I'm pretty damn sure about that.
I don't tell anybody about my find. Not yet. I want to wait and see what happens tonight at the show, if that bald girl will show up again. I make the decision in advance that if I see her, I'm going after her, everything else be damned. I might have figured something out, or at least think I figured something out, but I won't really know anything until I talk to that girl. Knowing that the woman in the morgue is
Naomi doesn't tell me where Naomi is. For that, I've got to dig deeper. I feel like freaking Sherlock Holmes or some shit, like I should be walking around with a damn magnifying glass. Everywhere I look, everything I see is calling out to me, promising me that there's a puzzle here to be solved if I just get closer to the core of it all.
Everything changes when we get to San Antonio.
We pull into the lot behind the venue and already, there are news crews everywhere, blocking the roads, clogging the sidewalks. It's raining, but fans have shown up in the hundreds and the show's already sold out. I always wanted to be popular, but shit. I didn't want to get there like this. These people aren't just here for the music or the sex or the drugs. They're here for tragedy, showing up in flocks to absorb the mystery and the heartache. Some of them wave signs that say things about Naomi, none of it helpful or useful. My post probably made things worse instead of better.
“It's like a zombie apocalypse out there,” Trey says, coming up to me with his brown hair slicked up, spiked out with gel. He's got on a
Burning the Bleeding
tee, reminding me that there are other bands on this tour besides Indecency and Amatory Riot. Kind of easy to forget that sometimes.
Hands slap the windows as we slide through the crowd, inching our way into the gated area our roadies have set up in advance around the back lot behind the old building. This place is sick, and I've been looking forward to playing here for ages. Now, though, doesn't seem so damn important. My mind's all wrapped up in other things.
“Worse, maybe,” I say as I get out a cig and light up. Trey follows suit and we stand there in silence, puffing out gray smoke and casting glances over our shoulders to make sure that Milo isn't about to pop in and yell at us. “Zombies just bite, right? I'd rather get eaten alive or turned then go out there with these crazy bitches. Kind of have a feeling I'd get raped.”
“Probably,” Trey replies. More silence. Outside the windows, my name is chanted like a curse. I've just become more than a rock star. I'm a damn superstar now. Not that it really matters, but I checked some of my shit on my phone earlier. I have ten times as many likes on Facebook, a dozen times as many Twitter followers, and my name is actually trending on Google. How about that? If I wasn't heartbroken and bloody inside, I'd probably be in the middle of a damn orgy by now.
Damn you, Naomi Knox, with your fuck all attitude and your pretty orange eyes. Who the fuck are you to disrupt everything, to tear up my soul and leave me wanting and searching without my ever knowing I wasn't whole?
I step back into the bathroom and grab some eyeliner, scribbling the words out on the mirror before I forget them. Might make for a good song if I ever get the chance to write a new one. The way things are going, I'm feeling hopeful.
Signed up to join the tour and passed a background check, started with us in Seattle our first day and didn't show up for work the day after Naomi went missing. She wasn't the only one. No, lots of crew members bolted that day. I don't blame the fuckers. I mean, who wants to ride around on a tour if you might get your head bashed in? Drugs and easy fucks aren't worth dying for. But Miss Yadley is the only white female that disappeared that day. Nobody else fits the bill.
I drop the eyeliner in the sink and grin at myself in the mirror. I look much better today, less like a corpse and more like a man with a fucking mission.
I will find Naomi Knox. A real man never lets his lady slip by the wayside. If she's out there, I'm going to fucking get her back.
“Hey, man,” Trey says as I put out my cigarette. “I want to apologize for last night. Don't know when I turned into such an asshole.” Silence falls between us again, punctuated only by the crowd outside the windows. Trey and I have never been any good at this heart to heart shit.
“You've always been one,” I say and he gives me a lopsided grin. “Not your fault. You can't help acting out when you're named after a fucking condom.”
“Screw you, Turner,” he says, but I know then that there's not bad blood between us. He'll give me some space as I long as I don't drive myself into the ground. If I try to, then he'll be there kicking my ass until I stop. That's what friends fucking do.
Once the buses are parked and the equipment is being dragged in, covered in plastic and hauled through the sudden downpour at record speed, I head out with an umbrella over my head and a pair of thick, leather boots on my feet. I'm looking for Dax and end up running into him in a vulnerable position, bent over on Terre Haute's empty bus sobbing his fucking eyes out.
When I open the doors and climb up the steps, he raises his face to look at me and wipes the back of his hand across his eyes, not apologizing for the tears or making up justifications. I don't ask him to either. I get it, whether he knows that or not.
“They found her blood,” he says before I can speak. I shake some water off my umbrella and close it up, pulling it inside behind me before I slam the door.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I ask as I stand there staring at Dax's damp hair and tired eyes. He's not wearing any makeup, and he's got on the same damn gloves from the night before. I don't even think he's bothered to change his clothes.
“But not her,” he continues, sniffling hard and taking a deep breath. “They found Naomi's blood on the bus, but it doesn't match the body. The girl in the morgue, it isn't her.”
“Marta Yadley,” I say and he startles, glancing up at me with a wary expression. He's got stubble all over his jaw, and the skin on his cheeks looks sallow. The Little Drummer Boy is not faring well in all this shit. Guess I'm made of tougher stuff. I try to thank my momma in the back of my mind, praise her for beating the shit out of me all those years. It was enough to prepare me for this. But then, fuck the bitch. I'm not thanking her metaphorically or otherwise.
“How do you know that?” I resist the urge to go for the joint in my pocket and glance around. There are bags everywhere, guitar cases, empty beer bottles. Looks like shacking up together hasn't been kind to either band.
“Good gumshoe work,” I say which is sort of a smart ass thing to do. Looking at Dax's bloodshot eyes and trembling hands, I decide to add, “I went through all the missing roadies and found a girl that matched Naomi's description.” I shrug, but inside, I'm shaking, too.
It isn't her. It isn't her. It isn't her.
The mantra plays through my head on repeat and brings the first real smile to my face that I've had in days.
“But they don't know where she is?” I figure that Dax wouldn't be bawling his eyes out if they did, but it never hurts to ask.
“The police don't know shit,” he tells me which isn't surprising. I don't expect them to help out much. Dax sighs deeply and lowers his chin to his chest. “Or if they do, they haven't told us. That's all I know. They found her blood. A lot of it they said. There's a pretty good chance she's dead based on the amount.” I don't respond to that. What the fuck am I supposed to say? Dax is lost in his own world, mourning the loss of his love. I'm determined to find mine.
“That's why I came here to talk to you,” I tell him, looking up at the ceiling. This bus isn't nearly as nice as ours. The appliances are black, not silver, and the floor is covered in linoleum, not hardwood. Maybe if Rook Geary spent a little more time on his music and a little less fucking groupies, he'd have a better rig. “But I guess the point's moot now.”
“Don't dig into this, Turner,” Dax tells me, voice so low it's almost a whisper, lost in the patter of rain on the metal roof. “Let it go. Let the experts handle it.” I smile again, not a pretty one, but a bitter one. If Dax had lived the life I had, he'd know that the police don't always get it right.
“See you onstage,” I say, and then I'm descending the steps and sprinting through the rain. When I hit the back door to the venue, the bouncer nearly tears my fucking head off and then apologizes profusely when he sees my face. That's when I know that something is changing inside of me, mutating, shifting, becoming something different. I would've fired that man before, beat the ever living crap out of him. Now though, I'm having a hard time justifying why. I've got a purpose now, and it feels
good. Everything I do between now and the moment my lips meet Naomi's again, is focused wholly on that task. Nothing else matters.
Inside, I search around until I find the girl with the dual colored hair. I have no friggin' clue what her name is, but the thing I'm looking for, if it's here, she'll have it. She's the only chick I ever saw Naomi hang around with.
“Hey,” I say, and she spins around to face me, black and white polka dot dress swirling around her hips. She's pretty in an old school sort of a way. Had somebody introduced us a few weeks back, I might've fucked her. Not anymore. “You're Naomi's friend, right?” The girl looks down at my outstretched hand and then back up at me.
“Blair Ashton,” she says and then shakes it. “What can I help you with, Turner Campbell?” Her expression is neutral, resting in a place where each word I say could tip the scale, convince her that I'm one way or the other. Right now, I want her to like me. I
“Well, hello there, Blair,” I say, trying to switch on the charm to half-mast. If I go all the way, she'll be repulsed. Pull it all back, and I might as well spit in her face. “I wanted to ask you a question.” She blinks her long eyelashes at me and waits with her red lips pushed out and her cheeks sucked in.
“Shoot,” she says, scooping some hair over her shoulder and letting her eyes flicker around behind me, taking everything in. Blair is not in a good place right now. Anybody could see that. She's nervous, and she has a right to be. Nobody knows who attacked America and Marta, and even more frightening, no one knows why. She could be next; she might not be.
“Do you have access to any of Naomi's things? Anything that the police left behind?” Blair gives me a once over that says she isn't sure what to make of my questions. One thing I do notice right away: she doesn't like them.
“Why?” she asks suspiciously, fanning faux eyelashes as she keeps her gaze traveling around the room, hooking onto unknown roadies and local staff with a nervous flicker of her tongue over her lips. “I mean, what would they leave behind that would be of any use to you? They're cops, Turner.” I squeeze my fists tight at my sides. I am so not used to taking shit from people. I'd sort of like to punch Blair in her tiny nose. But I'm not going to. I'm over that crap. It's not worth it. The only thing that's worth it is this. I sigh and release my frustration into the humid air. It's so fucking
in air. Should be fucking illegal. Christ.
I can't even breathe right now.
I stare at the exposed beams overhead, the untreated wood. This building is old as sin. I don't know anything about the history of it, don't care at the moment, but it would be kind of cool to find out. I run my hands down my face and count cobwebs twenty, thirty feet up. The acoustics in this place are going to be off the hook.