Saturday, August 26th, 8:10
At last. Southaven. Right near the border of Mississippi and
Tennessee. Memphis, Tennessee, to be precise.
Once parked, Carter allowed everyone on their bus to get an
hour break time. The team leaders on the other buses did the same.
Evan stepped out of the bus. Many of the guys, Greg
included, were already making plans for Uber or Lyft rides into downtown
Memphis, since it was only about twenty minutes away from where they were
parked here at Landers Center.
But things weren’t adding up right. Dana wasn’t supposed to
perform at Landers Center until August 29th, a typical evening
concert. She would perform only one show and then they would be heading out.
Carter said they were going to stay in the bus tonight. But then tomorrow
night, the 27th, and the 28th, they would be staying in motels. And,
not only that, but most of the security team would have those days off, except
for the time spent scoping out the venue. The setup crew would still be working
most of the time on those days like usual.
So why would they be stopping here now instead of just
heading straight to a motel already? Maybe Dana had some special accommodations
or set construction work she needed to get planned now, days ahead of her
It was already rather dark outside though the lights from
Landers Center brightened things locally. Semis were still pulling in with
Dana’s stage material, filling the dimly lit air with noise and exhaust. Didn’t
help the air was still quite hot and humid.
Commotion erupted near the Landers Center building itself,
people moving, laughing, yelling. Evan stared in that direction between some of
the other guys standing nearby. Of course. Like usual, paps and fans, maybe
about twenty to thirty of them were attempting to get past venue security. And
then sure enough he could see Carter, Hal, and Brent walking Dana over to meet
with those people.
Geesh. Why even be out here? Memphis didn’t offer him
anything. And it appeared Dana was well protected with her top three security
But that Big Baby Taylor Acoustic-Electric guitar Carter had
left on the bus for anyone interested would be perfect right about now.
He stepped back inside the bus. Ahh. Nice, cool AC air yet
present. And no one else was on the bus. He walked over, lifted the Taylor off
the sofa and eased himself down on the sofa seat, relaxing his body into the
sofa’s cushy pillows.
After getting comfortable with the Taylor, he plucked some
of the tunes he, Freddy, Oz and Randal were working on together. He next did a
few scales. He strummed a few chord sets making sure to slide his fingers up
and down the neck of the guitar. Yes. Of course. Some of his fingertip’s
protective calluses were losing their padding, as expected. Been about two
weeks since he last played. Yet he was still able to play quite exceptionally,
The bus’s door suddenly got yanked open. Evan jolted
slightly and stopped playing.
Greg stepped inside, with the other security guys following
He walked over to Evan and stood before him. “Well, I’ll be.
Boss lady is rounding us all up for a talk.”
Greg smiled. “You’ll see.” He sat down next to Evans’s right
Evan placed the guitar down to the left of his knees.
Once all the guys were sandwiched inside the small living
room area, their yet adjusting steps and motion shaking and swerving the bus in
an eerie manner, Dana stepped in too, with Carter not too far behind her.
“Okay, go on, take a seat,” she told all the guys. “Don’t
have all night here.”
Sure. Pack all the guys in here at one time. Evan quickly
summed them up. Brent and Hal were not here. But Jackson was, that
40-something, white, balding man hovering around six foot five and loaded up
with tattoos. And Vic. Thirty-something. A dark-skinned, broad-shouldered
Hispanic guy. Probably stood around five foot eleven and sported dark curly
hair. Lastly, Enzo. Light-skinned Hispanic guy, around six foot one, but
thinner than the rest of them though muscled bound and another one loaded with
tattoos, even on his neck. Twenty-six years old, a year older than Greg.
Of course. Now all that attention on social media made
sense. He could see he was the best-looking guy of all of them. Yet did looks
really matter all that much?
Carter leaned against the wall near the bus’s door.
But wow. Dana. She was looking gorgeous. She was wearing
cut-off jean shorts and a tight, low cut black T-shirt. Her breasts were
practically popping out of her shirt.
Dana crossed her arms under those fine breasts and glared at
all of them for a short time. “Since all of you have been doing the absolute
worst, terrible job protecting me, I wanted to have a talk with y’all. Notice
my southern drawl…y’all.” Her face was stern even though she was attempting to
be funny. “Terrible job. Couldn’t ask for worse security.” She glanced around
at everyone again. “Yeah. You guys should be looking that glum.” Some of the
guys were mumbling apologies or expressing their confusion. And then she threw
her arms up and laughed. “Ha-ha! I had you all.” She pointed at some of them.
“Kidding! Wow!” She smiled. “My apology guys.” Carter was smiling now too. “No.
Seriously. You guys have been doing a rocket good job! And so have my other
team members. So, tonight, we all, and I mean all of us, are having one hell of
a crazy-ass party! We all deserve it, and damnit, I mean that!”
“All right!” Greg yelled out.
“Oh yeah, that’s the spirit, Greg!” she yelled too. “Okay.
So. Everyone. Get in your party gear and party mood and get over to room
one-seventeen. You hear me? Room one hundred seventeen. Inside Lander’s Center
convention area. We have a suite of rooms and our own restrooms. A karaoke
stage too! Plenty of food and drinks. And I mean those kind of drinks, with the,
uh-hem, alcohol in them.”
A bunch of the guys hooted out on that, Greg included.
“What about security in there?” Jackson asked Dana. “Already
a pile of fans and paps inundating us.”
“Oh, yes. Glad you asked. Landers Center security will be
handling this. I mean shit! You guys need a break from constantly watching over
me. Let them handle it tonight!”
“Awesome,” Jackson said. “Sounds fine with me.”
“Besides. I already did a bunch of selfies and had photos
taken. Know what I mean? All right! So. I’ll see you guys over there. Very
Dana left the bus. Carter followed after her.
Alcohol drinks? Well, I guess that excludes me then.
Jackson, Vic, and Enzo promptly exited the bus.
“Come on, dude,” Greg said, standing up.
But Evan stayed seated and only looked up at him. “I’m not
“For one thing, I’m not twenty-one. And for another, I’d
rather stay here and play this guitar.”
“Bruh. No one says you have to drink and I’m sure Carter
would prevent it anyway. But seriously, you would rather stay here and play
Evan smiled at him. “Yeah. I’m sure. You go have fun.”
“Ahh, all right then, dude.” Greg began walking away. He
stopped at the door and looked back. “Maybe I’ll text you later. Sort of bummed
you’re not coming.”
“Okay. Maybe I’ll come by later.”
“All right, bro.” Greg stepped out of the bus.
Evan was alone again.
He picked up the Taylor. He caressed it a moment, holding it
close to his chest. Confusing thoughts flooded his mind. How did I get here?
What have I done to myself? Unnerving. Maybe he should just go to the
party. Besides, could be a good time to check out Dana’s behavior.
But the drinking bull-crap and its consequences. Ugh. He
needed to think a moment.
Waiting for his thoughts to materialize into some type of
agreement he began strumming that difficult technique song Recuerdos de la
Alhambra to give his fingers a good workout.
The bus’s door flung open again. He stopped playing. Dana
stepped inside. And Carter was not far behind her, like earlier.
What the heck. Not again.
She walked right over, arms crossed, and stood before him.
“I said everyone.”
He looked up at her. “I’m not twenty-one.” He tried not to
even glance at her revealing cleavage. “I can’t drink.”
“I know that. You’re eighteen. I’m not stupid. There’s
plenty of other drinks, and food. This is not an excuse. Although I have to
say, even if you were of age, you look like you’d be a complete teetotaler.”
“Well, and you’re probably right.”
“That’s admirable of you,” Carter said, and he gave Evan a nod.
Evan smiled at him. “Thanks, Carter. Appreciate it.”
“What are you doing?” Dana asked, turning to Carter. “I’m
trying to make a point here.”
“Sure. Go ahead. Continue badgering one of my top security
She faced Evan. She uncrossed her arms. “Okay. Enough of
this. Of course you don’t have to get drunk, idiot. Probably best, because
believe me, I am.”
“Yeah, you should come to the party,” Carter told Evan.
“Just don’t drink any alcoholic beverages.”
He gazed up into Dana’s dark brown eyes. “Okay. I’ll make
sure you are safe.”
She glared at him. “I don’t need you watching over me. Just
wanted everyone there.” She looked at the guitar. “Didn’t know you were
“I am, actually. Surprise.”
“Okay, surprising teetotaler. I expect you there in no more
than ten minutes.” She turned and headed for the door. Carter rushed forward
and opened the door for her. She looked back at Evan. “And no changing your
clothes. Come as you are. It’s most certainly not formal. Oh. And bring that
Taylor. I want to hear what you got.”
She and Carter stepped out of the bus, their steps on the
bus’s ladder shaking through the floor and sofa.
Evan continued to feel the vibration through his body. Yet
then he could hear their voices fading as they walked away from the bus. But
the vibration continued. No. Wait. It was his own body. I’m shaking?
And his heart was pounding. She actually came back for me, because I didn’t
show up? No. Stop. Keep focused! The goal is to confirm Syrrah is within
Dana, not to get swept up in some lustful, proud thinking because she displayed
He took in a few deep, cleansing breaths. His racing heart
and trembling body finally near back to normal, he picked up the guitar, his
phone and headed out the door.
After he had walked a good twenty yards from the bus, Carter
greeted him. Carter talked a lot, his conversation a helpful, needed
distraction, his words centering on how venue security had moved fans and paps
away from their private party entrance. Evan looked up and around. Landers
Center was a stunning venue, surrounded by spacious lawns, numerous trees, and
nearby upscale, suburban homes, visible even in the partial darkness. But
Carter also explained Landers Center was a sprawling maze of hallways and
doorways and would need a good scrutinizing before they could successfully
Up ahead, across the parking lot roadways and wide sidewalks
were two entrances. Carter kept them heading toward the one on the right.
They entered through tall, majestic glass doors. Seven big,
husky-looking security guards were monitoring the entrance. One of the guys
stamped the back of Evan’s left hand and mentioned if he was heading outside
for any reason, show the stamp. Beyond the security guys, two long,
high-ceiling hallways laid out before them, at ninety-degree angles to each
other. But their target doorway, 117, in black numbers on a silver plaque
background, wasn’t too far down the hallway straight ahead of them.
After chatting briefly with one of the security guards,
Carter led them to room 117. Another security guy stood next to this door. For
a flashing second, the whole scene brought memories of the DFR guards in
Tauring’s underground base. Evan shrugged it off and followed Carter into the
They walked down a short hall and arrived in a larger room.
Instantly it felt like entering a nightclub. Dark walls and ceiling colors.
Subdued lighting and the presence of some black lights. And this was a
convention center room normally? Sure got fixed up elaborately.
Carter headed to the right, down another hallway and
continued walking away, without saying a word to Evan.
Fine. Be like that. Maybe he needed to use the bathroom or
Evan stood in place a moment, keeping the guitar down low
against his legs so no one accidentally bumped into it. He looked around. More
dark colors and subdued lighting. In the room where he stood, he noticed sofa
seats to the left with elegant coffee tables nearby. To his right was a long
bar. Further ahead were more comfy sofa seats, with some of Dana’s crew members
crowded around them. And beyond that area, through a wide doorway there
appeared to be a dance floor. Lights flashing. Music playing. People twirling
around or hopping. Sounded like they had an EDM DJ working things.
From what he could tell the entire nearby area was about the
size of your typical large nightclub. But then that room with the dancing and
EDM looked much larger, like the size of a smaller school gym.
Great. I’m just standing here like a statue. He
walked over to the end corner of the bar, away from bar stools, away from
anyone. He carefully leaned the guitar against the bar’s wooden side.
He rested against the bar’s counter and glanced around some
more. Definitely wasn’t just a security team party. He noticed people from all
aspects of Dana’s tour crew. Lighting, sound, and front house techs.
Construction techs. Musical instrument setup crew. The truck and bus drivers.
Even some of those production, stage, and merchandise managers he spoke with
briefly before. He had roughly counted all of Dana’s tour team once recently
and figured seventy to a hundred people total. Wow.
Yet Dana was nowhere nearby. So much for her interest in him.
A group of women walked into his view. He recognized most of
them. Dana’s backup singers. And some dancers. Many of them gazed at him, but
then abruptly turned away. That was definitely a bit unusual. Had Dana
instructed them to do that?
But then one of the women did lock eyes with him. A smile
beamed across her face and she started walking toward him.
The ten yards or so distance between her and his location
lessening with every step she took, Evan quickly summed her up. Petite. Slim.
Light-skinned. She had flat-soled sandals on her feet. About five foot four?
Probably a little taller than his dear Syrrah. Shoulder-length wavy, brunette
hair. She was wearing a sleeveless, short-length white dress, quite
body-hugging on her tight little frame. He recalled seeing her before. She was
one of Dana’s backup singers. And she was prettier than Dana, with small,
But no way was she prettier than Syrrah.
She arrived near him. She held a glass filled with
wine-colored liquid and ice cubes.
“You’re obviously twenty-one or over,” he told her.
She put out her free hand. “Hey, there. I’m Chella. I sing
Evan took hold of her small hand, gently giving her a proper
handshake. “My apologies. Sorry for my rude introduction. I’m Evan, with
“And correct,” she said, grasping her glass drink with both
hands once done with the handshake. “I’m just twenty-one. But I heard you are
quite young. Only eighteen?”
“Word travels fast around these parts I guess. Yes. Only
She laughed a moment. “Oh. You have no idea.”
He smiled at her. “But I can imagine.”
“Carter’s obviously not letting you get wasted, I see.” She
gazed down at the Taylor. “I saw you come in, holding a guitar.” She looked up
into his eyes. “Do you play? And sing too?”
“Yes, I do. I was actually part of a band, before getting
“Oh really? Why did you quit the band?”
“Oh, umm, I didn’t quit. Just taking some time off. I want
to save up some money.”
“I see. For college?”
“No, for another reason.”
“Oh. Well. Are you planning on going to college later on?”
“Maybe.” Which was sort of true. He could change his mind.
“Not exactly sure yet, but tech stuff most likely.” The less she knew the
Greg suddenly approached, also with a drink in hand, and
wrapped his arm around Evan. “Hey. My main man Evan.” He looked at Chella. “We
need to hear this guy sing. I’ve heard him play the guitar, and he’s awesome,
but let’s take it to the next level!”
Evan gave him a disgruntled face. “What? No.”
“Bruh!” Greg shoved him slightly. “Come on, man. Brent is in
the karaoke room busting everyone’s eardrums to shreds. Bro. You got to help
Chella and Evan both laughed at the same time. “Why?” Evan
asked. “What’s he singing?”
Before Evan knew it, Greg and Chella were basically dragging
him, guitar in tow, past the group of Dana’s singers and dancers and then down
a hallway on the left side of this main room. Same sort of dark colored
decoration and dim lighting in the hallway. At the end of the relatively short
hallway, also on the left, was the entrance to the karaoke room.
Across from the entrance was a triangular-shaped stage
floor. Brent was just stepping down, a few people clapping for him at small
tables or randomly placed love seats or sofa chairs spread out across the room.
On the far wall, visible from the stage was a large monitor with YouTube
displayed. Oh yeah. Evan understood quickly. Dana’s team must have set up
YouTube karaoke and covers, something he, Freddy, Oz, and Randal were plenty
“Dude,” Greg said, bringing Evan to the stage. “Make us
proud, bro. You can do this.”
Evan glanced over the stage. Well, this stage came equipped.
Guitar amps. A few standing mics. Some speakers. A tablet obviously connected
to the YouTube screen. Even an electric guitar ready to go. Awesome. And he
already had a song planned. He looked at Greg. “You sure? Are you really sure
you want me getting up on this stage?”
“What do you mean?”
“Yeah,” Chella said, “what’s wrong?”
“Because I play rock. And metal. And I play loud and I play
“Yo, man, do it!” Greg said. “Make us proud!”
“Yeah, Evan,” Chella said. “Plenty of musicians here who
would love to hear you!”
“All right. You two go take a seat. I got it from here.”
With them leaving, walking over to the nearest table, Evan
stepped up on the stage. He didn’t want this taking long. He leaned the Taylor
against the wall bordering the stage. He quickly analyzed the equipment. Nice.
A Fender Mustang GT200. He promptly though carefully connected the electric
guitar to the Fender and then set the preset to metal and adjusted a few other
dials. Should be good enough. He adjusted the mic to be near his voice. He
adjusted the volume for the speakers. He took the tablet off a nearby metal stand
and did a search on YouTube for Black by Sevendust. He found a simple lyrics
version. Good enough. Lastly, he placed the guitar’s strap over his shoulder
and strummed it lightly, to hear the sound quality and volume. Good. Just
“Yo, dude,” Greg called out. “That ain’t sounding hard at
Evan smirked at him. He had no idea. “Wait,” he spoke to
Greg, away from the mic, yet then placed himself before the mic again. “Hey,
everyone.” He looked out across the room. “This is a song me and a few guys from
my hometown cover now and then. Black by Sevendust.” He reached for the tablet
and pressed the start arrow on the video, finding the video louder than he
wanted so he quickly lowered the volume some. They needed to hear him and his
He readied the guitar and as soon as he could, he took over.
He had played the main guitar background to this plenty of
times. He knew the words by heart although seeing them on screen helped.
He let it rip. His voice and guitar cover filled the small
room beyond what it should. This was his world now. This was his stand, his
stage. And they were damn well going to hear what he had inside him.
With his playing continuing he made sure to watch Greg and
Chella’s reactions. Their jaws dropped. Their eyes widened. Ha, as expected.
And as he had seen many times before when he and the guys played at their own
venues was more and more people entering the room, filling the seats, coming up
near the stage, getting into the song’s thunder and rips. And many of them too
had surprised eyes, shocked expressions. Before long Greg and Chella had to get
up from their seats and step closer to the stage so they could see and join in.
He kept scanning over the audience, whenever he could,
especially focusing near the entrance.
Dana. Was she here? Carter had come in. And Hal. And some of
the other security guys. Brent was still here.
But, no. He couldn’t see Dana anywhere.
When the massive thundering event finally ended, the entire
room roared with clapping, cheers, hollers, and praise.
After the roaring noise from the crowd diminished somewhat
Greg stepped up on the stage. “Bro! That was excellent!” He lifted his palm up
and Evan slapped him a high-five.
“Encore!” Chella yelled, clapping and smiling. She stepped
up on the stage too. “Encore! Play us another one, Evan!”
Many in the room called out similar words.
Greg, smiling broadly, stepped closer. “Dude. You got to.
You got to play another one.”
Evan scanned out a moment across the room. Yet he still
didn’t see Dana. What the heck.
Then a brilliant, devious idea entered his mind.
He looked at Greg, and Chella. “All right. I’ll do another.”
Greg faced the audience and raised his fist. “Yo, everyone!
He’s doing another!”
Many of the people hollered “All right!” or were calling out
suggestions they wanted to hear.
But he already had a song chosen. As Greg and Chella stepped
off the stage, he let the guitar hang on his shoulder and he picked up the
tablet. He entered the song’s title and an audio version appeared in the search
list. That was fine. He knew the words well to this song too.
He turned to the Fender again. This time he chose a rock
preset. He adjusted the other dials for less bass and a better sound mix for
the song. He approached the mic. “All right, everyone. This song is a little
less traumatic. And a little older than Black. I Need To Know by the late,
great Tom Petty, and The Heartbreakers.” He clicked on the video’s play arrow
and the song began. He adjusted the volume like for Black so that it was only
soft background music.
He knew this wasn’t going to be as impressive to everyone as
Black had been, but he had to do this. He just had to try.
He made sure to belt it out like Tom Petty had done, with
meaning, and with emphasis on needing to know. Because he had to know, soon.
His audience, Greg and Chella included, stepped closer to
the stage, moved with the song’s rhythm, and even sang along with him. But his
gaze mainly hovered at the room’s entrance.
After about midway through the song, a slim figure appeared
in the doorway. He adjusted his eyes. At first the view was like a dream. Then
he knew it was true. Dana had at last walked in.
She was still wearing that hot little outfit. She crossed
her arms under her breasts and leaned back against the wall. She didn’t show
much expression, at least from his farther observation point. People in the
room pointed at Evan and called out to her about this, though he couldn’t hear
their words. Yet she mostly ignored them and instead locked her eyes on him.
He made sure to let out a good howl, when that part in the
song arrived, his stage presence fully uninhibited, like always.
She slowly walked toward him, drawing closer to the stage.
He could see her better now. Part of her expression showed surprise and
approval, while another gave off anger, envy or even distrust, though he was
But didn’t matter. He was going to complete this song, no
matter what. He was not a quitter.
Dana now stood near Greg and Chella. They spoke to her and
she spoke back to them.
When he was finally drawing to the end of the song, he made
sure the last guitar plays came off loud and with gusto.
Like before, the people in the room let out an uproar of
clapping, cheers, and requests for more.
“Dude!” Greg yelled. “Crank out another one for us!”
“No. Wait,” Dana said to Greg. “I want to talk to him.”
Her conversation with Greg seemed to quiet the intensity in
the room, prompting people to clear away from her presence. She stepped up on
the stage. At the same time, Greg and Chella walked over to the table they sat
She moved closer to him. “Wow. Evan.” She placed her hands
on her hips and locked her eyes with his gaze. “I see you can play that thing.
And Chella mentioned you are in a band?”
“Yes. I am. But I needed the extra money. The opportunity
arose, so I decided to take it.”
Like when they first met, her eyes
glanced around him, taking a trail from his head on down to his feet and back
up again, into his gaze, suspicion in her expression. “We don’t need anyone. I
have all the singers and band players I need.”
“Didn’t you just hear what I said? I need the money, and
I’ve been hired in security, not the band.”
“Mmm hmm. What does your band think?”
“They’re still performing, though not as much. I’m not the
only lead vocalist in our band.”
She tilted her head from side to side, ogling at him, but
then looked directly into his eyes. “But we always could use more help. Do you
usually just sing rock and metal?”
“Yeah, most of the time. And rap rock, rap metal, hip hop. I
can honestly sing anything. And I can like any genre of music. Depends a lot on
the song and the group.”
She looked out across the room.
Surprisingly, those jitters he had earlier, when she
confronted him in the bus were not reoccurring. Something felt different. Well,
of course he had just absolutely killed it, with his performance, but something
else was going on, a strengthening or slow building of energy within his body
he had never felt before. He ignored it for now. Just bask in this moment,
She directed her eyes back on him. “Yeah. Me too. I can like
any genre of music.” She didn’t speak for a moment and only stared at him. “You
know, you have quite the natural stage presence. But I sense you already know
He smiled at her and nodded. “Yes. So I’ve been told. All my
band members have it too.”
“Probably rubbed off you onto them, I suspect.”
He laughed a little. “Yeah, maybe.”
Greg, Chella and some other people were again requesting
that Evan keep playing, but once more Dana told them no, not now.
“I would like you to come spend some time with my dad and
Carter,” she told Evan.
This didn’t sound like such a good idea, but could he really
refuse? “Well, sure. I can do that.”
“Come on, then.” She stepped off the stage.
He left the Taylor where it was and followed her. He could
pick it up later.
Regret began roaring through his mind, walking next to her.
Was it really such a fantastic idea to sing in front of everyone? This was only
going to bring more attention to himself, especially with background questions.
Geesh. MOTC. And any other connections. And he really didn’t want to lie.
But then again, it did bridge some sort of connection with
Dana. He could only hope it was Syrrah’s love of Tom Petty.
She looked at him. “What is the name of your band?”
“Ten dissent? What sort of name is that?”
“Ahh, it’s sort of a physics thing. One of our band members
came up with the name and we all really liked it, and it just kind of stuck.”
“What does it mean?”
“You want the long version or the short version?”
“Short version. I don’t have time for some drawn out
They were heading down that short hallway now. Her tone was
harsh but didn’t matter. “Reality is not what it seems.”
“Interesting. And I guess it could be true.”
“Yes. I suppose so.”
“When did you start singing?”
“When I was twelve, when I started learning the guitar. But
really didn’t start to take it seriously until we formed our band when I was
They had come to the end of the hallway. She now headed them
left, more in the direction of that EDM room but still within the great breadth
and length of the main nightclub-appearing area.
He needed to ask. He looked into her eyes just as she turned
to him. “When did you start performing, singing for an audience?” He made sure
to speak loud enough as the EDM music, along with a new karaoke singer, someone
who was not doing that great, both intruded their audible surroundings.
She stared ahead and shrugged a little. “Oh, I don’t know.
All my life, I suppose. From as far back as I can recall. Singing and
performing has always been a part of my life.”
“Any school performances?”
“Hey, if you don’t mind, I would rather not talk about it.”
“No, that’s fine. Not a problem at all.” Interesting,
though, her reaction. His stomach was grumbling a bit. “So. What kind of food
are we having? Been a while since I last ate.”
She smiled at him. “I bet. As big as you are. Must be all
that weight-lifting you guys do with your workout. You run too?”
“Yeah. Whenever I can. But I mostly lift and do martial arts
training. And yes, does work up the appetite.”
Dana paused in her steps. She was watching a line of people
walk by through the room, heading toward the EDM entrance.
Evan fixed on them too. He didn’t recognize any of them.
They were not part of the tour. They were tough-looking, mixed-race, and
dressed in gangsta-style, mostly black or dark clothing. And then he knew. They
had to be rappers. Actually he did recognize one as quite famous, though he
couldn’t recall the name. “What’s going on? I thought this party was just for
your tour people.”
“Oh it is. Sometimes, though, my dad, Lloyd, invites friends
and clients to come. He’s a music producer and promoter, and not just for me.”
“Right. I understand.”
She began moving again, heading toward the EDM room when she
jerked back to a halt, and quit walking. She was blinking excessively until she
only squinted or stared blankly. She bent over slightly and rubbed her arms up
and down, pain showing on her face. Her stride took on a limp as she tried
walking once more.
“Dana.” Without hesitating Evan positioned himself in front
of her. He gently took hold of her shoulders and stopped her. “Are you all
right? Can I help you?”
“I’m fine!” she yelled, thrusting her arms up and whipping
his hands away. “I’m not a little girl!” Her whipping hit to his forearms
He could only stand there and lock his eyes on her,
surprised at her reaction.
She rolled her eyes and sighed, and then stared at him.
“Look. I’m sorry.” She glanced over at the rappers and other tough guys
hovering in the entrance to the EDM room. “I forgot that my dad wants me to
meet with them.” She pointed across the room at several sofa seats near another
hallway by the bar. “Go sit over there. I’ll be back soon.”
“All right, I will. And I’m sorry too, Dana.”
She nodded, a disgusted smirk on her face, and walked away,
yet with a limp, though she was trying to hide it.
He kept her in his stare as she drew closer to the EDM
entrance and those rappers.
Lord. Please. Forgive me of my sins, and please, please
help Dana to be okay. Amen.
When he could barely see her anymore, mingling amongst those
rappers in the EDM room, his eyes suddenly revealed many curious stares had
been watching their entire little scene. Great. And it got even better. Hal was
glaring hard at him from across the room and nodding ever so slightly, as if
acknowledging all Evan had just experienced.
Idiot. What did he know about any of this? And Dana had
asked him to walk over here. Was he supposed to have said no? No
way would he have said no. So, deal with it, Hal.
Evan simply turned away and walked over to the sofas.
He sat down. No one was nearby, fortunately. All around
though was the constant talking, movement of people, the EDM crap music, and
some other attempts at karaoke. But it was so dimly lit right here it was in
fact relaxing. And for some reason his urge to eat was dwindling.
Probably best not to eat right now anyway.
He tested himself again. Trembling, from Dana’s sudden crazy
outburst? No. He wasn’t.
Instead, like earlier, he felt that strange strength or
energy circulating within. Weird.
He looked at the time on his phone. 9:41 PM. Really? That
“Hey, Evan! What’s up? Dana just dump you like a sack of
He looked up to see Greg standing near him, drink in hand,
smiling. Chella was next to Greg holding the Taylor guitar.
Evan smiled at them, truly happy they were both here. “Hey,
you two. And no, she didn’t dump me. She is talking to some people. She should
be back soon.”
Greg laughed. “Well, I hope you’re right.”
Chella handed the Taylor to Evan. “Another song, Evan,
“Sure. I guess.” He took the guitar.
Chella sat down to Evan’s left, though far enough away so
the guitar neck didn’t press against her. Greg turned a nearby recliner seat
around, so it faced Evan and Chella, and then sat down too.
“Not going to play too loud, though,” Evan said, positioning
the Taylor comfortably. “And no singing this time.” He thought about what to
play. “A recent song I composed, yet only the instrumental part.”
He played that one song, strumming it loud enough to be
heard over all this mock nightclub’s background noise, yet not excessively loud
to start some sort of competition with the karaoke room. Greg and Chella,
leaning in closer to hear better, seemed to enjoy it. And then he played
another song he composed.
But then Greg and Chella wanted to talk. A lot. And loudly,
of course. The alcohol was deadening their proper social mingling skills.
Trying his best to keep the conversation off himself, he
asked Greg about his girlfriend. Greg, speaking a tad too loud again, explained
he met her in high school and was truly in love with her. And then it was
Chella’s turn. Evan asked her about her life. Where did she grow up, how did
she get involved in music? Yet it was hard to hear her answer, with the
surrounding noise and her slurring speech. She also made sure to mention she
didn’t have a boyfriend.
Standing up, her stance a bit unstable, Chella asked Evan if
he wanted some water or soda to drink. He agreed to a root beer. She walked
away to get it.
Evan didn’t hesitate. He asked Greg more questions about
himself, like his past security positions, until Chella returned with the root
beer, handing it to Evan.
Their conversations continued, with Evan’s main goal of
keeping topics off himself. He plucked a few random tunes in between their
words. He took a few chugs of the root beer now and then. All this talking was
getting him thirsty. And then more conversations ensued.
Evan paused on the guitar a moment and checked his phone.
Unbelievable. It was now 10:12 PM. Where was Dana?
He was about to stand up, and go find her, when he noticed
Dana walking toward them.
More like stumbling toward them. She was holding a drink and
barely keeping the liquid in the glass.
She arrived near Evan. She gave him another eyeballing once
over and then cracked a goofy smile. “Still playing that shit, huh?” She took a
big swig of her drink and gulped it down. “Need a karaoke hit again, huh?”
Evan gave her a brief smile. “No. I was waiting here for
“Well,” she said loudly, “I’m super drunk, just like I
wanted.” She glanced around the room and used her free hand to fan her face a
few times. “How the fuck will we survive?”
That video. With Syrrah. At the Mall of America. A shot of
adrenaline surged within him.
All right. Calm down, Evan. It could just be a
He placed the guitar by Chella, and he slowly stood up, no
need to be alarming. “Are you okay, Dana?”
“Ahh, she’s probably fine,” Chella said, yet sitting. “Right
babe? You do this often. He doesn’t know that yet.”
Dana let out a loud, drunken laugh. “Yeah. Right, babe.” She
locked her glazed-over stare on Chella. But then she closed her eyes. She
swallowed, hard, contorting her head and neck slightly at the same time. Her
face took on a sickened expression. She leaned down and handed her drink to
Chella. Chella promptly took it. Dana rose back up and looked at Evan.
“Actually, Mr. Security, I do need some help.” She gulped, swallowed hard
again, as though holding something down, and attempted standing up straight,
but was struggling. “Evan. Can you help me to the little ladies’ room?” She
held both her hands out to him.
“Of course.” He immediately grasped her hands. “Where is
Greg stood up. “I’ll show you. Follow me.” He headed in the
direction of that nearby hallway by the bar.
Not caring about her insistence on being a big girl now,
Evan wrapped his arm around her shoulder and grasped her right hand with his
free hand. She wasn’t trying to struggle away from him this time. In fact, she
nestled herself against him, though maybe it was only due to the alcohol. He
continued walking her in Greg’s direction, easily supporting her light weight
against his body at the same time.
Greg stopped walking. He pointed further down, on the left
side of the hallway. “Women’s room is the door on the left.”
“Okay, thanks Greg,” Evan told him.
Evan looked ahead. Great. Hal was standing on the other side
of the hallway across from the bathroom, only about fifteen feet away. And this
was getting even better; Hal appeared quite trashed himself, while talking with
some of those rapper guys who also behaved utterly wasted. What a damn wrecking
ball this party was becoming. But he ignored them and continued guiding Dana
Dana abruptly stopped walking and slipped away from him. “Oh
“Not gonna make it.” She smacked her left hand over her
mouth and knelt to the floor. And then it happened. Her hand not holding
anything back whatsoever, a gush of vomit exploded between her fingers, out of
her mouth and onto the floor. Some of it splattered on Evan’s shoes and legs.
“Aww, Dana,” Evan said, “are you okay?”
She vomited again, her stance now that of a bent knee
pushup, both hands on the floor. A dark-colored rug covering the hallway floor
was taking the brunt of it. But who cares? He didn’t. He knelt next to her.
“It’s all right, Dana,” he spoke to her while gently rubbing her back. “It’s
all right, it’s all right.”
He was about to lift his head to ask someone for assistance
when a hand grabbed his hair. He looked up, eager to see who would dare do
this, and found drunken Hal with a disturbing, insane expression warping his
face. “Hey! Get your drunk ass off me!” He punched Hal’s arm, thrusting the
hand grab away from his head.
Though it was brief, Evan again felt that surge of energy
power his movement.
“Evan,” Chella said, approaching from behind him, “I’ll help
her.” She carefully edged in between Evan and Dana, her hands gently holding on
to Dana, and she spoke soothing words to her.
Evan was going to thank Chella when he felt a hand grab on
his hair again, only this time with much pain, his hair strands feeling about
to be plucked from his scalp. He was readying another punch when Hal thrust his
face within only inches of Evan’s face. “You don’t get it, man.” Hal’s breath
stunk of rotten bologna and expired beer. “She’s a drug addict and a doorknob,
and everyone’s had a turn.”
The pain. That powering energy. And Hal’s cruel, nasty
words. Chella had Dana, so this was it. With lightning-fast force Evan jabbed
his fingers into Hal’s arms. Hal released his hair grip and grunted in pain.
But Evan wasn’t done. All his inner emotional pain burst into every fiber of
his muscles. He grabbed Hal by his shirt collar and rushed him across the
hallway, slamming his body into the wall. He stared daggers into Hal’s grey
eyes. “You… Treat her. With. Respect. You got that?”
Hal spit a big gob of his stinking
saliva into Evan’s face. “She don’t deserve no respect. Nor do you, bitch.”
Some of those rapper guys were hovering closer, stating some
dumb, drunken words, but Evan ignored them. He removed his right hand and
clenched his fist, readying to punch Hal hard in the gut.
“NO!” It was Greg. He seized hold of Evan’s fist, preventing
the punch. “Bro! What are you doing?”
“All right, all right, break it up, break it up!” Sounded
like Carter. He was running down the hallway. “God damn it.” He was getting
closer. “Break it up, break it up.”
Evan kept his stare on Hal and released him with emphasis.
He stepped backwards. He wiped the nasty saliva off his face, yet keeping his
eyes locked on the guy.
Rage was fuming from Hal, his breathing heavy. He wiped his
hands on his shirt and glared, death in his eyes, back at Evan.
Carter stepped in between them. “The three of you.” He
turned and pointed at Greg. “You too. You witnessed it. All three of you come
with me now.” Carter thrust his hand in a direction past the bathrooms, down
the hallway, at a room on the right.
The rapper guys began dispersing away from the scene.
Evan turned back to see Dana. Her dad, Lloyd, was helping
her up, as was Chella. Chella was attempting to wipe Dana’s mouth and body with
“She’ll be fine,” Carter said, nudging Evan toward that
Evan followed Carter. Hal was ahead of Carter, though Greg
walked near Evan’s side. Good ole Greg. Thank the Lord he came over when he
But Dana. He turned back. She was being guided by Lloyd and
Chella, her gaze at the floor. He faced forward again, but then just had to
turn back to see her once more. When he did this time, her head was raised, and
she looked at him. No anger, no agitation, but a blank, or sad expression and
of course very drunk. But they soon led her around the corner to the bathroom
so he couldn’t see her anymore.
Though adrenaline yet pumped within him and he was
disappointed with his overly aggressive reaction, elation was beginning to
spread through his entire being.
Fanning her face. And those words. How will we survive?
Carter herded them into the room. Appeared to be a
conference room, with a long table. “Take a seat, fools.” He sat at the end of
the table nearest the door.
Evan sat on the right side of the table, from their
approach, and Hal went for the left side. Greg sat next to Evan on his right.
“I know two of you are shit-faced drunk,” Carter said,
resting his arms on the table, “but can someone please try to tell me why that
What to do? They would all be working security together
tomorrow, like usual. Had to keep the peace. Evan didn’t say anything. Nor did
Greg or Hal.
“All right. No takers, like I figured.” Carter focused on
Greg. “You’re the witness. What did you see?”
Greg cleared his throat and stared down at the table. He
looked at Evan. “Well, Evan, my man here, was helping Dana get to the bathroom,
since she had too much to drink. They didn’t make it. Dana started throwing up
on the floor. Evan was helping her when Hal got involved.”
“Got involved?” Carter asked.
“Look. I’m sorry, man.” Hal glanced at Evan but then back at
Carter. “I shouldn’t have done that. Yeah, I’m obviously drunk. It’s just
that…I see no benefit, in an eighteen-year-old kid, fresh off the street,
getting involved with a twenty-eight-year-old woman, a very well-known, rich,
and famous woman.”
Carter laughed and knocked his fist on the table a few
times. “Is that what this is all about?”
“No,” Evan said, “I was just trying to help Dana!”
“Sure you were.” His laughter continued a short time longer
until Carter got more of a stern expression on his face. “Oh, and for the
record, I saw what was happening, but wanted to hear it from you perps. Was
just turning the corner and I see you, Hal, grabbing Evan by his hair and
eyeballing him in his face.” Carter looked at Evan. “But your reaction was way
over the top.”
Evan frowned and eyed Hal. “I’m sorry too.”
Hal nodded slowly. “Noted.”
“Yeah. That’s why I hate these drunken get-togethers.”
Carter sighed, shook his head and grasped his hands together on the table. “No
good ever comes out of them. So, here’s the deal. Both you guys, Hal and Evan,
are on Dana tour probation. Meaning, yours truly here is going to keep a close
eye on both of you, until further notice, and there better be no slip-ups. You understand
Evan nodded. “Yes, I do.”
Hal mumbled something similar.
Carter looked at Greg. “You. You’re not in trouble.” He then
leaned on the table and eyed them all up real intense-like. “Oh, and another
for the record? Dana is not interested in any of you losers. Now, get out of
here, and keep out of trouble!”