Chapter Fifteen

ANARCHY

Two days later found us in Ventura for the Anarchy Fest, about an hour away from LA, and I for one was glad for the change. For me and for Jax. Something was going on with him that I didn't understand.

At first, I thought his gloominess was just about the bike. But after coming home from his last therapy session, he seemed even more withdrawn than ever, like something was eating him up inside. And it hurt me to watch him suffering, knowing that I couldn't do anything to help.

That's why I hoped the change in venue would be good for him—without his bike, playing music was his only refuge. And he'd be playing for more people at Anarchy Fest than at any other place on the tour. Not all of them would be fans—this festival was too big for that—but the band hoped to make a lot of converts.

And I was excited to see them play again, too. Yet when Jax said this morning that he wanted to go out with a bang for this last show, a strange uneasiness settled over me. His eyes had looked so dark and intense as he said those words—making them almost sound like a farewell.

Now, in the growing dusk of early evening, I stood waiting for the show to start. A thick, skunky smoke settled over my head in hazy clouds.

I eyeballed the guy to my right: in his late thirties, sunglasses, vintage T-shirt. He could have been Chewie's older, more tripped-out brother. A joint the size of a stogie perched between his lips.

If I didn't want to get a contact high, I needed to move. But looking around at the drifting smoke over the Anarchy Fest crowd, I could see it would be pointless. Everyone seemed to be either getting high or already there.

I shook my head. Whatever. Half the people at outdoor festivals came for the music. The other half came for the party. And that's why I'd joined the crowd this evening, instead of watching the Hitchcocks play from backstage like usual. I'd spent so long torturing myself about Jax that the last thing I wanted to do was spend my last night on the tour watching from backstage. At least out with the pulsing, frantic crowd, I could lose myself.

But as I looked at the belligerent, sweaty faces surrounding the stage, I wondered if I'd made the right choice.

People pressed all around me, their faces sweaty and flushed. A lot of them scowled, and a discontented murmur grew louder and louder as we waited for the band to take the stage. I'd seen shows with bad crowd vibes before. It was going to take a hell of a show to bring these audience members out of their angry funk.

A girl on my right wearing only flimsy sandals hopped from one foot to another. "God, is this band going to be late too?"

"Why not?" the guy next to her muttered. "Everyone else has."

The girl grimaced. "This festival sucks. I waited for like two hours to use the port-a-potty, and missed seeing the Death Eagles. Now I'm waiting around for these dicks."

"Yeah, it better be worth it," the guy replied, his face darkening. "I've had enough of this bullshit."

He cupped his hands around his mouth and booed. The girl quickly copied him, and the ugly sound grew as people near us joined in.

I glanced around, dismayed. By now I'd seen my fair share of Hitchcocks shows, and every time the crowds had been ecstatic. This one was anything but. Was Jax's performance going to be enough to change their minds?

I shook my head, trying to clear the negative thoughts from my mind. I didn't want to worry about the show, I wanted to enjoy it. I pushed through the crowd towards the stage, hoping I'd stumble across some real Hitchcocks fans. This was my last chance to see Jax in concert, and I wanted to make it worth remembering. At the very least, I wanted to keep from wondering what was going to happen when it was all over.

I squirmed into a gap between two skinny college guys, trying to force myself through. One of them snarled, and gave me a shove.

Arms flailing, my face pressed into the stinky leather jacket of the guy standing in front of them.

Big and bald, he looked down at me from his massive height, his eyebrows drawn together in a furrow. I pushed myself back and froze as I realized who I bumped into. The guy was a biker.

My heart thumped in my chest.

The biker started to turn around towards me.

Jesus, what is he going to do to me?

His dark eyes met mine, sending a chill up my spine.

Then suddenly, his eyes softened and he flashed me a warm, friendly smile. He was missing a front tooth.

"You all right, little lady?" he asked, his voice sincere.

I nodded, eyes wide, then quickly glanced at his jacket's insignia. A snarling lion. Not the Reapers' skeleton, thank god.

I sighed and gave him a weak smile back as my heartbeat returned to normal. "Thanks, I'm fine. Just trying to get closer to the stage."

The biker's smile grew wider. "I can help with that." Putting his hand on my shoulder, he threw back his head and bellowed, "Coming through!"

People looked up, startled, then blanched at the sight of my new giant biker friend and moved out of the way. It wasn't much, but it was enough to propel me a few yards closer.

"Thanks," I yelled, as the crowd swallowed me up. I caught a glimpse of his grin before he disappeared from my sight. I shook my head. That'll teach me to make a snap judgment.

I scanned the new faces around me, hoping to see some of Jax's fanbase. Come on. I don't even care if it's a bunch of super bimbos. I just want some company. Instead, I just saw frowns. The booing that had started farther back now swelled up to the front, and the people around me eagerly took up the complaint.

I brought my fingers up to my temples. The noise was starting to get to me. I'd wanted a distraction but not like this.

A spotlight suddenly snapped on in the middle of the dark stage.

My heart surged as the band strode to their places and picked up their instruments. Maybe now the crowd would shut up. They were about to get rocked.

Jax, alone in a pool of purple light, strummed the first notes of "Train Wreck."

The booing quieted, but in the void I heard a strident male voice shouting, "You suck!"

Jax flipped him off, then quickly brought his hand back to his guitar as he bashed out another chord. The crowd roared. All around me, people muttered and scowled, and lots of middle fingers jabbed into the air, returning Jax's sentiment.

Spotlights went up on Chewie, Sky, and Kev as they thundered into the song, their instruments meshing with Jax's to create a chaotic beat.

But my eyes stayed locked on Jax. I'd never seen him like this before.

His lip curled as he slung out the lyrics, and his voice soared over the crowd, whipping them up into a frenzy that was half excitement, half hate. He made vicious thrusts with his guitar, crunching out the chords with a scowl of his own on his face.


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