I wanted to slap my forehead but managed to restrain myself. If I’d met this space case in a bar, I would’ve laughed and given him a high-five, but this situation could quickly turn into a nightmare if I didn’t put my foot down early. The band could walk over me with thousand-dollar ectoplasm-resistant boots and go bankrupt, and before I knew it I’d be out on the streets, holding up a sign reading "WILL DO TAXES FOR FOOD."
Still, it wasn’t as easy as just putting my foot down, because I didn’t want to be seen as the enemy. Honey always caught more flies than a flyswatter. I took a deep breath. "Chewie, I understand your concern about ghosts, but you’re not seeing the big picture. I wouldn’t want to be sucked into a TV and spit out with birthing fluid all over me, either, but we can’t afford to pay for every contingency we see in a movie. What if a UFO crashes into the bus? There’s no insurance for that. We just have to balance the risk with the expense. And I’m here to make sure we do that, so that at the end of the day, you guys get the money you deserve."
He furrowed his brows and scratched his chin. "Yeah, I guess you’re right. Didn’t think of it that way. The less we buy for the tour, the more weed I can get. Got it."
That wasn’t really what I’d meant, but it seemed close enough for now. "Great," I said. "Oh, by the way, do you have any receipts or bills you could give me? I want to make sure all the important papers are kept in a single, safe place."
Chewie laughed, and it ended with a bit of a cough. "Only papers I’m in charge of are the rolling papers."
"Um, okay. Who should I speak with to get started then?"
He stroked his chin. "That’d be Jax. He’s the man in charge around here. Wish I could be more help, but I’m only here to rock n’ roll," he said, wiggling his fingers on an air guitar. "Jax’ll be here soon enough though. Knowing him, he’s probably busy fighting off a horde of women."
I was hoping the person in charge would be more responsible than Chewie, but it sounded like Jax was probably even less responsible. Great.
A ding came from Chewie’s pocket. He pulled out a shiny, gold-plated iPhone and read the message. "Okay guys," he shouted so that everyone could hear. "We’re shipping out soon, so let’s shake a leg." Chewie turned to me. "I’ll take your suitcase on board. You can wait for Jax on the bus if you want."
I held my hand up like a visor and looked at the blue sky. It had rained last night, leaving puddles here and there, but the gray clouds were nearly all gone, allowing the sun to shine through. "It’s a nice day out, so I guess I’ll wait for him here."
"Suit yourself," he said. I chuckled as he took my luggage and hopped onto the bus.
I took a deep breath, inhaling the crisp summer air. This was going to be some assignment. Judging by the exorbitant bus, the fifty-thousand dollar ghost detector, and the gold-plated iPhone, I could already tell that reining in the expenses was going to be a pain in the ass with a capital "P". But if I’d learned anything from the past three years at Hans-Peterson, it was that no matter how difficult the assignment, I’d always figure out a way to handle it.
I watched the roadies trying frantically to finish loading up all the gear into a trailer attached to a separate, smaller bus that had a psychedelic paint job and an assortment of rust splotches.
I walked over to one of the roadies stacking up empty boxes beside the warehouse, curious to see what he was doing. He was middle-aged with stringy hair and a wiry build.
"Looking for something?" he said, catching sight of me.
"Oh, nope," I replied. "Just killing time waiting for someone named Jax."
"Ah, I see. Trust me, you’ll know when he’s around."
I stared at the stack of empty boxes that looked like a modern day Stonehenge, wondering if it would’ve been easier to collapse them instead. The beautiful tower was just begging for someone to run into it, destroying all the hard work it took to build it.
When the roadie finished what he was doing, he locked the trailer, and he and all the other roadies piled onto the school bus.
What was just a flock of busy people was now a barren landscape. I was the only person left on the street. For a Brooklyn neighborhood on a Monday afternoon, the long city block was eerily empty and silent. Nothing but overfilled garbage cans along the curb and a few small saplings lining the sidewalk.
As I enjoyed the view of the skyscrapers in the distance, a crowd of people rounded the corner down the block. A group of at least a dozen men ran together with one person in the lead. Was the marathon today?
As the runners sped down the sidewalk toward me, I noticed that none of them were wearing numbers clipped to their shirts—and there wasn’t a pair of running shorts in sight. No, it wasn’t a marathon. It was a mob, and they were headed in my direction.
The throng of men appeared to be chasing someone in a white tank and black jeans. I couldn’t make out his face from this distance, but I could tell from his figure that he was fit. A few of the men behind him were waving around wooden baseball bats. It looked so much like Frankenstein’s monster getting chased out of town by angry villagers that I half-expected to see some of them carrying pitchforks and torches.
The guy being chased ran past a line of garbage cans and pulled each one down behind himself, spilling trash everywhere. The first chaser jumped over a rolling can, clearing it with ease. A fat guy followed, leaping to clear the debris, but caught his foot on a trash bag and fell flat on his face. A third man hurdled both the fat guy and the garbage, and the remaining men did as well. Tossing over the garbage cans had been a smooth move, but it couldn’t stop them all.
As the mob’s target approached, his jet black hair flowing wildly around his head, I noticed colorful sleeves of tattoos covering both of his bare arms. My eyes focused on his face—long, flowing black hair and a peppering of stubble—and then it clicked.
It was him!
Stud—the rock god, the male Siren—was the grand marshal of the carnival of chaos running full speed down the pavement. I didn’t think I’d ever see him again, but there he was, racing in my direction with at least a dozen people chasing after him.
As they approached, the crowd’s unintelligible shouting crystallized into words: "Fuck you, motherfucker!" "Gonna beat your ass!" The men chasing him were clearly not his adoring fans. I was no stranger to swearing, but even their vulgar cries made the hairs on the back of my neck prick up. These guys were seriously pissed.