Authors: C. M. Stunich
“Is this like, some souvenir sort of a thing? Do you need something to remember her by?” Blair sounds bitter when she asks these questions, but I don't let it bother me. Naomi isn't dead. Marta is. Naomi is out there, somewhere, and I'm going to fucking find her. I drop my chin down and stare Blair down hard. She can't hold my gaze, good sign.
“If you can think of anything Naomi left, I'd like to see it. Sometimes the cops look at things one way and the bad guys look at it another.”
“Are you a bad guy, Turner?” she asks me, tilting her head slightly, pursing red, red lips. She's got that rockabilly look going on that I'm not a fan of. She's pretty, but she'd be prettier in a pair of jeans and a tee. Whatever. I've only got eyes for Knox at this point. Seems like a one-fucking-eighty for me, but it's not. It's just a natural progression. I've been through a lot of girls, hundreds even, and I don't give a shit about any of them. For Naomi, I'd chop off my own dick. Pretty simple.
“I don't know, Blair. I'm still figuring that bit out. When I find an answer, I'll let you know. For now, I just want to search Naomi's stuff.” Blair shakes her head and pulls out a cigarette from the pocket on the front of her dress. She lights up and doesn't offer me one. I notice absently that her hands are shaking.
“There's nothing, Turner. The cops took everything. Stop worrying about it, okay?”
And then she walks away and leaves me there more curious than ever. I might be an asshole, but I'm a perceptive asshole. Something's up with Blair Ashton. I smile. Any clue is good, any new mystery is helpful because it means progress. I take another breath of the humid air and listen to the drone of the crowd out front. After this is all over and Naomi's back, we'll be crowned the freaking King and Queen of Rock. I pause.
I think as I get out a cig for myself.
The fucking God and Goddess of Rock 'n' Goddamn Roll.
I look around for awhile, letting the sea of workers and musicians swarm around me, keeping their distance, tucking in elbows and scooting past. They'll do anything,
not to run into me. I wonder how long I've been a colossal jackass without even knowing it. I go to drop my cigarette on the floor and pause.
Baby steps, Turner. Baby steps.
I turn around and go searching for an ashtray.
For awhile there, nothing happens. I walk around and I run my fingers over the staccato walls, dig into guitar cases, open abandoned bags. I'll admit, I have no fucking clue what I'm doing. I'm not one of the Hardy boys or some shit. I ain't no Nancy Drew. But there's a driving force inside of me that won't rest, a burst of passion for someone other than myself. I've never had these urges before. At least not like this.
“Five minutes, Turner,” Milo says when he finds me later, slumped in a chair, pretending to be dazed out of my Goddamn mind. In reality though, I'm more aware now than I've ever been. I haven't smoked a joint today, haven't slammed any dope. Today, it's just me and nicotine and a single beer. One fucking beer. I'm proud of myself, even if I don't have anyone to share my accomplishments with. I nod and pass him a shaky salute, my arms covered from wrist to elbow in those stupid bracelets. Every time I find one, I put it on. Don't know why. Just seems important somehow.
When he hesitates and stops to stare at me, I give him a thumbs-up and stay seated, watching, waiting for God only knows what.
But I never expect what comes later. Never would've even fucking guessed.
I pull out a cigarette but don't smoke it, instead thrusting it behind my ear and rising from my chair, watching as the back door opens and rain splatters the cement floor. Dax comes in, moving slow, eyes hollow and empty. He's the kind of guy that gets kicked in the nuts and cries about it. Maybe it makes him deep or whatever, but all I can think is that there's no way in shit he loves Naomi. If he did, there'd be no such thing as giving up.
I slip the sunglasses on my face. They've become sort of a thing for me now, a trend. Plus, I can think all sorts of nasty things behind these glasses and nobody will know. The windows to my soul have shades now, baby.
“I hope you're ready to tear this shit up,” I tell Dax, feeling good. My adrenaline is pumping and I'm
for this. When I sing her words, her spirit wraps around me, caresses my shattered soul and sews me up, keeps me going another day. Dax shrugs, looking just as pathetic as the rest of the band. Amatory Riot is a broken window, and if I'm not careful, it's going to blow out. “Well, just follow my lead and you'll be alright.”
At an imperceptible nod from Milo, I storm the stage, raising my arms up to get a rise out of the crowd. Doesn't take much when they're like this. Below me, no human stands, only beasts. Below me, the last vestiges of control humanity maintains to keep themselves separate from nature, is gone. It's all instinct and wild rage down there. Music is the metaphysical representation of our shredded hearts, all of our pain and anger, our love and joy, ground up and blended together. It saves people, and it destroys them. If it's anything in between, it's not really music at all, just noise.
I grab the mic hard, wrap my fingers around it and wish it was my cock. I haven't been able to masturbate or fuck since Naomi went missing, so I've got all of this pent up energy inside of me, nibbling at my soul, feeding me dark thoughts. I French the shit out of that microphone with my tongue, getting in close, nipping it with my teeth.
“Good evening,” I growl, letting the anger and the sex and the confusion out through my mouth. “How y'all doing tonight?” I let a bit of a twang hit my voice. It's as fake as half the tits in this room, but what the hell. I just go for it. “They say everything's bigger in Texas.” I pause. Grin. “If that's true, then I guess I'm right at home here.”
I swing the guitar around, not as epically as Naomi, but it works. Screams fill the auditorium as I slam the strings so hard it feels like my fingers are going to get sliced off at the tips, garroted by raging riffs and epic melodies.
Who the hell are you?
” I scream at the top of my lungs, missing that high shrieking pitch that Skinny Bitch managed to hit. Crowd seems okay with it though, jumping up and down, pounding the floor and tasting the bass through their feet. “
Eating me, bleeding me, fucking me.
” I eat those words, change 'em up a little with a silent apology to Knox. “
He's not me, that fucking dick with the perfect kicks. I saw his reflection in a mirror, smashed it to pieces. Eating me, bleeding me, fucking me. Make a picture perfect, unbend his soul. Where were you the day I turned myself invisible?
With a small amount of guilty relief, I pull my hands from the strings and grab the mic, snarling into it with animalistic intent while Wren rocks a solo meant for Naomi. He's good at it, enough to get everybody excited, pump their blood up to their brains and blind them with passion and rage, but he's no Knox. Not by a long shot. If she were here, this crowd would be laid out flat, killed by it.
I spin in circles and slam the soles of my boots against the old wood, wondering what this place was originally built for. Certainly not this, this shedding of blood and sweating of souls. Oh God, I bet there are ghosts fucking
in here, spinning in their graves and crying foul.
I pause and tap my foot, waiting while Wren winds down and the Little Drummer Boy starts up, slamming his cymbals, pounding away. The other guy, What's-His-Name, smashes the bass to his crotch and screws the crap out of it. I'm impressed.
I'm calling you out. Calling out to the guy within, the person buried deep that's eating me, bleeding me, fucking me. I'm picking up the pieces and the edges don't look good. Sharp points of pain are tasting me, slicing me, dicing me, and I can't … I won't … I will NOT let you go, let you get lost deep down inside of me.
The crowd is pumping their fists, swaying like barley in a Goddamn summer breeze. Some eyes are closed, diving deep, others are open, spreading out. It's like a damn orgy in here – bodies mixing, sweaty hands sliding over hips, up backs, across tight asses and throbbing cocks. I would not be surprised if this whole thing just spiraled to shit.
I get ready for the harmony that's coming up, for Blair to jump in and soften the edges of my voice.
Instead, I get something else altogether.
” whispers out of the speakers, soft and feminine, familiar but not familiar enough. “
” I pause and the crowd goes silent, just like that, like a candle snuffed out. The absence of noise is almost painful to my throbbing ears, like a punch to the gut, sudden and unexpected. “
It's like a murder mystery play here now, but the joke's not just on the audience, it's on the players, too. I stand frozen in place, guitar hanging loosely around my neck while a woman enters from stage left, crying out the words to this painful song like she's sung 'em before.
And she has.
Wet and dirty, covered in cuts and dried blood, there she is. Hayden Lee.
Amatory Riot's missing leading lady is back.
I hear my music again, booming loud, like some sort of fucked up call from Heaven. It pours down around me and infuses my soul with rage. That's when I really start to fight, when I scream against my bindings and strain my muscles to breaking, push until blood seeps from my wounds and sweat sluices between my lips.
An angel is singing my music from a devil's lips, and I know who it is, even in this state. It's Turner Campbell, the man I loved, that didn't love me back when I needed him most, who says he loves me now. Why is he stealing my lyrics, crying my pain? Does he know I'm here? Does anybody?
I think back,
I imagine my hand clamping around the door handle to the bus, pausing at the sound of voices within.
Next time I ask you to do something, I expect it to get done. Smoking pot behind the bus doesn't equate to work in my book. When you're on the clock, you belong to me. Afterwards, I could give a shit less what you do.”
America. Being a bitch. Nothing unusual about that.
In my memory, I keep climbing, yanking open the door and ascending the steps to find my manager, hands on her hips, looming over a young girl that looks like she's about my age. I've never seen her before, but that's not unusual. There are lots of staff members I've never met.
They both look up when I come in, but they're not looking at me. They're looking at someone behind me. America opens her mouth to speak and pain slashes through my skull, dropping me to my knees. I fall forward as a crushing weight grinds into my back. My mouth makes no sounds; only my mind is capable of screaming. And it does. It shouts and fights, lashing out at my attacker, but failing to move my limbs. My eyes go dark, and I pass out.
And then I wake up here.
I can taste blood and smell it, too. It's dark, but it's not a trunk. There's too much space above and around, and below, it's too soft. A bed? Am I on a bed?
A sound jerks my head around, draws my shuttered eyes towards a flash of light. I must be blindfolded because I can't see anything but the change in shadow. A prick in my arm stings painfully, and I scream again, crying out to that angel to come to my rescue. I don't know why. I have no clue how, in my most terrible moment, I could rely on that wolf in sheep's clothing.
But I do.
With every slowing beat of my tired heart, I do.
Seeing Skinny Bitch alive and well is like watching a zombie rise from the grave. When this chick went missing, I just sort of assumed she was dead. Unlike Naomi, Hayden has a hole inside of her. Basically, she's weak. Seeing her walk onstage is a shocker to be sure. To their credit, the band keeps playing and finishes the song with a beautiful high note from Miss Lee. Me, I just stand there like an asshole and stare.
“That happy to see me?” she chokes, coughing and gagging as Dax gets up from his kit and races over with a water bottle for her. The band gathers around.