Sunday, June 21, 2009


Mick looked out over the crowd. Well, as far as he could see with the lights in his face. She was out there somewhere, watching. Not much he could do about it. She’d paid to get in, just like everyone else. Still, it made his skin crawl.

The guys had teased him when the first letter arrived, delivered by a waitress who was not impressed by the middle band on the bill. There were times when Mick missed being the unknown opener. Not that he had complaints about their incremental success. It was better than his last two bands had managed. They made enough to pay bills and buy groceries – or whatever else his band mates might consider important. Mick liked to eat well. They teased him about that, too, though he wasn’t the one with a gut hanging over his belt. Maybe that’s why the girl had fixated on him. He had no illusions of being studly, but he was in pretty good shape, and he’d been told he had a nice smile. He smiled a lot on stage. Nothing made him happier than bouncing around with his bass, like Tigger on his springy tail.

“Aw, you have a fan.” Greg ruffled Mick’s hair. “Your first groupie.”

“The first with you lot, anyway.” Mick said.

David tore his attention away from the mirror. “Probably some lonely, fat chick.”

“Jealousy is an ugly emotion.” Mick smiled. “I like a woman who gives me something to hold onto. Those coked-out anorexics you prefer have no stamina at all.”

“Have a good time with that,” Greg said. “Just don’t let her follow you home. It’s hard to get them to leave once you let them in.”

Chela slapped Greg on the back of the head. “You’re the one who followed me, asshole.”

“See what happens when you get lost in the fog of lust? You wake up six months later and find out you stole the keyboard player from another band and married her.” Greg kissed his wife on the cheek and went out to do a last sound check.

“Don’t listen to them. It took courage for that girl to write you.” Chela smiled. “Relationships have started in stranger ways.”

Of course, that had only been the first letter. He’d received one at every show for the past year. His gut clenched whenever someone walked into the dressing room. The band insisting that nothing be brought backstage had not helped. The letters appeared on the stairs or the edge of the stage. Sometimes, they slid under the door. If he was lucky, he didn’t find them until the end of the night.

No one teased him now, and Chela definitely didn’t think it was romantic. Of all his band mates, she understood best. At least she had been able to identify her stalker, take steps to keep him away from her. Mick had no idea what the girl looked like, how old she was, where she was from.

She knew plenty about him, though. It was creepy as hell. It also made it impossible for him to date any of the women who expressed an interest in him. If a woman wore a scarf, he wondered if she was the one who’d written about tying him up. Multiple piercings had also lost their appeal, much as he tried to forget that particular letter. He couldn’t even go to the salon after the lavish description of how she would wash his hair. After one letter was delivered to his flat, Greg had rented an apartment and sublet it to him. Chela picked up his mail at a PO Box. One good thing had come from it. The landlord let him keep a dog. He curled up next to Thor every night. The big shepherd was fiercely protective of the man who’d rescued him from the shelter. It had taken a month before he could have friends over, but the loss of a social life was nothing compared to the sense of security Thor provided.

The one thing he wouldn’t let his stalker steal from him was his music. He threw himself into it with more dedication than he’d had since trying to convince his dad it was not just a lark. Several bands had tried to woo him away, but there was no way he’d accept. Even if Epic Stasis had not continued to be successful, in part due to the band trying to keep up with Mick’s increased skill, he would never leave the people who supported him through this ordeal.

A steady drumbeat brought him back to the moment. The audience clapped in time. Mick added the bass line. Chela built up to a crescendo, and David bounded out, his charisma brighter than any stage light. The music took Mick, fingers flying without thought, everything falling away until there was nothing but sound, a moment of pure joy.

After the first song, David looked out over the crowd. “This is our last show for a couple of months.” Boos greeted his announcement. “Don’t be like that,” he chided. “We’re cutting our first album for Tangier Records!” The crowd roared. “Enjoy whatever illicit thing you have in your pocket tonight. The next gig will be an arena with lots of security. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, folks.” The audience laughed.

Mick leaned into the microphone. “This next song is for my biggest fan. I wrote it just for you. So if you’re out there, sweetheart, come on up. It’s about time you got your due.”

The crowd looked around as the band began playing. A ripple formed as they moved aside, a sea parting for the prophet of doom. She was almost pretty, blonde, a little curvy, average, no one who would stand out in a crowd. She stared up at Mick with feverish intensity. He pointed at her and smiled. As David sang the first lines of Gone Away Fear, the officer at the bar nodded and stood.

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