Daryl turned the truck into the parking lot behind the Raddison, putting on the brakes the moment he spotted the massive crowd that had gathered behind the hotel. “Fuck me, man,” he snarled, unable to get even a rough head count in the dimming evening light. “How the hell did all these people know we were coming here,” he asked, spotting a hand-made ‘FUCK ME, TIMMY!’ sign held over one young woman’s head. He looked over at Jimmy, and the urge to punch the young dolt nearly overwhelmed him.
Jimmy’s phone screen was plainly visible, and Daryl could see that he was on Twitter, scrolling through various Likes and Re-tweets under the band’s account profile. Jimmy looked over at him, looking blank. “What, dude? You asked me to handle their social media,” said the heroin addict plainly.
“You really think we need this shit right now,” Daryl hollered, reaching over and yanking on one of the colorful hair spikes on Jimmy’s head. The younger roadie yelped, and Daryl would have continued, but for the chiming of his own phone. He took it out of the inner pocket of his leather jacket and answered. “Daryl here,” he answered.
“What’s the hold up, Big Dog,” Axel asked on the other end of the line. “We gotta get the bus off the street here.”
“Sorry, boss man. Looks like Shmucky McGee here tweeted out where we were coming, there’s a whole bucketload of skanks back here waiting for you.”
“Well shit, sunshine, go ahead and let us back there so’s we can make our picks,” Axel replied with a chuckle.
“Yes sir,” Daryl answered dutifully, hanging up and pulling slowly further into the back lot. He jabbed his finger at Jimmy like a weapon and said, “You’re fucking lucky these guys are always horny.” Rule #4 was rearing its head here on Jimmy’s behalf; ‘The band gets dibs on booze, babes, food and drugs’. “Rev, we get situated, you tag along with Jimmy while he makes the circuit. I’ll get the band checked in, then meet back with you guys at he bus to get seniors set up.”
Daryl parked the truck as far back from the hotel as he could get, thankful that the fans here seemed to at least have a modicum of decorum amongst themselves. They continued to wait patiently by the Raddison’s rear entrance while the tour bus and the rest of the crew got parked and out of their vehicles. Thirty-three assorted men and women started convening by the side of the tour bus, the entirety of the crew with the exception of Jimmy and the Rev, all waiting for Daryl to come give them their assignments.
Daryl stepped out of the truck and looked up at the darkening sky, taking in the odd beauty of twilight as it settled in. He had never considered himself a romantic man, but he had moments like this that he kept just for himself, in his secret heart, where he allowed nobody else passage. Shaking his head, he marched to the gathered crew, and began with the standard first question for them.
“Is anybody here from around these parts,” he asked. One narrow hand, covered in bandages and with a splint around the ring and pinkie finger, went up. “All right, Carla, you take three people and fetch whatever booze you can scare up, and grab food for the bosses. Next up, who’s feeling adventurous?” Several hands went up, and Daryl nodded, smiling to himself. “All right you four, keep it on a short jib, but go get grub for the rest of us from someplace. Everybody else, let’s check all the gear, double-check it, start making lists of what we’ll need to do when we get back to L.A. before we start this tour.”
He hadn’t yet told the general crew folks about it being the final tour, though he’d already told Jimmy, the Rev, Stitches and Link. Stitches has the crew’s all-around medic in a pinch, a former Army Corpsman and one hell of a foul-mouthed woman all around. Link, being a former media consultant, had been serving as a media relations specialist for the band and the crew for nearly as long as Daryl had been with the band. Together with Daryl himself, Jimmy and the Rev, they formed the seniors of the crew, and their word was, effectively, law on the road and at shows.
Stitches had taken the news pretty well when he’d told her, but Link had nearly gone into a full meltdown. Short and quick-tempered, the Boston native had gone off on a five-minute curse riddled tirade about being left behind once again, trying to find his way in the world without shit to show for it. But Daryl had managed to ease his fears a little by promising to help network him into the circle of another band along the tour. Surely there’d be some other outfit who could benefit from Link’s experience.
Daryl gave Stitches and Link a quick hand gesture to follow him toward the hotel’s rear entrance, and when they joined him, he asked, “Anyone get left behind?”
“Jesse and Hannah,” Stitches said, playing with her new nose ring. “They peeled off south to head to Utah. I guess Jesse grew up there, they’re going to meet up with some of his old friends and hang out, try to rejoin the crew when the tour swings east.”
“That’s cool, we can always use extra hands, even for a short-run. You didn’t tell ‘em, did you,” he asked.
“Naw, didn’t think it’d be a good idea. Besides, New York’s lousy with little punk bands, I think that’s more their scene anyway. They’ll get picked up.”
“Good deal. Link, you got anything for me?”
“No, it’s radio silence from the label, which is weirding me the fuck out, man,” said the smaller man, who always put Daryl in mind of a reptile wearing a human’s face and clothing. “I haven’t been able to get a hold of anybody, not even by email.”
“Hmm. Well, don’t give up on it, but don’t beat yourself over the head. We might not hear shit from them until we get back to L.A. But do me a favor and get on the band’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and change the password before Jimmy fucks up and lets the whole world know this is the last hurrah.”
“On it, chief,” Link said, pulling out his phone. When the trio reached Jimmy and the Rev, the vast majority of the assembled groupies had begun to disperse, clearly asked to move along and looking dejected. Five rather attractive young women, and one middle-aged redhead (one who had ‘cokehead’ written all over her nostrils) stood bunched together behind Jimmy, who looked quite proud of himself.
“Okay, ladies,” Daryl said loudly as he reached them. “I’m Daryl. We’re going to head into the hotel right now, and you’ll be coming with us. Try not to say too much until we get the band checked in, and I’ll have to ask you to turn your cell phones and smart watches over to the Rev here,” he said, which was met with groans and ‘The hell you say’ glares. “I know, I know,” he said, placating, using the same passive hand gestures he often employed with guys like Jimmy when they were tweaking and on the verge of violence. “Totally being kind of a buzzkill here, but I’m pretty sure you can understand why I’m asking, right?”
“I ain’t giving anybody my phone,” said one of the girls, a tall, short-haired blonde wearing a shirt that appeared to be little more than a repurposed fisherman’s net.
“Okay, I get it,” Daryl said. “You are free to leave, then.” The girl just blinked at him, and Daryl folded his massive arms over his broad chest. “I’m serious, lady. And by the way, until you leave or hand that phone over, nobody’s going anywhere, not even us or the band. You’re gonna hold everybody up.” The other four women quickly turned their displeasure on her, and leading the bunch, she handed her phone over to the Rev without further complaint. “You see? Do you see how easy that was? Watch too, I know that’s a Samsung,” he added, at which the would-be-holdout rolled her eyes. “I know, I’m just some old fuck, what do I know, right? Well, I know technology, so fork it over, sister, okay? Very good, now let’s get going,” he said, ushering the group into the hotel.
Checking in the band was quick enough, as was guiding the girls up to the room. The Rev and Jimmy would be bunking down with Stitches and Daryl in the adjacent suite, ensuring that if the band needed anything, they could easily get it procured. Daryl remained alone with the ladies until the New Horsemen arrived in their suite, then dutifully excused himself out into the hall, then down the way to his own set of rooms.
The Rev and Jimmy sat in the commons room of the suite, puttering around with the big screen television as they lounged on a magnificent if oversized sofa. Stitches was slipping into the attached kitchenette area, a small pocket notebook in her hands, taking stock of the available space. They were only staying for a day, maybe a day and a half, but she was ever the professional; he had always admired that about her.
“All right, everybody, get comfortable,” Daryl announced, pulling out his phone and sending a message to one of the regular crew folks to bring his clothing bag up from the back of Axel’s truck. “Except you, Jimmy. You get in that shower, man, you smell like death.” Jimmy flipped him off over the back of the couch, but dutifully got up and headed for the bathroom, stripping off his shirt as he walked along out of sight.
“There’s some coffee all set for guests in here, Big Dog,” Stitches called from the kitchenette.
“Thank Christ,” Daryl said with a sigh, flopping down beside the Rev. “Go ahead and brew it up, hon. I’m gonna need it.” The Rev found a documentary playing on the History Channel, a piece about Ghengis Khan, that had just started, and Daryl nodded when the man gave him a wordless question. They started the program, and eased back, letting the narrator pull them into times long gone.
“They’re asleep,” Billy said, softly pulling the door shut to one of the suite’s bedrooms. “Did I really need to undress them,” he asked Axel as the front man took a swig of whiskey from the bottle on the side table next to the commons room’s main couch.
“Got to complete the illusion, partner,” Axel replied with a smile, his pushbroom gray mustache flattening out into a thick, bushy line. “We can’t leave these sorts of things to chance. Garret, we got an ETA on those fellahs?” The stoic drummer looked up from his phone, seated in a beige recliner off to one side of the room, and shrugged his shoulders. “Real helpful.”
“It’s not his fault,” Tim said, walking back into the room from their own kitchenette, a bottle of beer in his hand. “We haven’t exactly had much word from upstairs.”
“We got enough,” Axel retorted sharply. “We have the Lord’s work ahead of us, boys. Frankly, it’s about time, so far as I’m concerned. We’ve been doing this heavy metal shit about as long as I can stand.” He took another swig of whiskey and grimaced, holding the bottle away from himself and squinting at it. “And I won’t miss this stuff.”
“It hasn’t been all bad,” said Billy, opening his clamshell video game system. “I mean, we’ve seen some pretty cool stuff along the way, man.”
“I suppose that’s true,” said Axel, beginning to pace. “I am going to miss making people happy with the music we play.”
“Those same people will turn on us if they figure out what we’re doing,” Timothy pointed out. His phone chirped, and as Tim looked at it, an oddly beautiful smile spread across his face. “They’re here, Axel,” he said, tucking the phone back in his pocket. “This is really happening.” He leaned the neck of his beer toward the front man, who clinked the neck of his whiskey bottle against it lightly.
“Amen, brother,” he replied.