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    C James
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Let the Music Play - 2. Roadie

Chapter 2: Roadie

 

 

His phantom audience gone, Brandon returned to harsh reality, hurrying to finish the last of the long and difficult tasks he'd been left to complete by himself. Giving the guitar one last caress as he returned it to its place, remembering better days, days that now seemed so long ago. He'd been in a garage band, one just beginning to achieve some minor notice, the first glimmerings of a bright and promising future. Life was looking good, until fickle fate intervened; his parents had uncovered his secret, throwing him out like yesterday's trash while taking the trouble to inform everyone they knew the reason for their actions.

By evening, Brandon's work at the studio was done. Locking the door with a quick flick of his wrist, he walked the deserted hallways of the studio, accompanied only by the sounds of his own footsteps, to stop by his locker. Withdrawing a small brown paper bag, he left the building to begin the long walk back to his room.

Treading the desolate city pavement, Brandon strode his usual route, barely noticing as the city changed, block by block, from the prosperity and splendor of the Wilshire district, to the far less spectacular urban grunge, then finally to the seedy realm of those on whom lady luck had cast her scorn.

Brandon heaved the old hotel door aside as the groan of its hinges filled the squalid lobby, causing a few of the tenants to look up from their bottles to take note through glazed eyes of his passing, though most were too far gone to pay any heed at all.

Fumbling in his pocket for the key, trying not to breathe the stench coming from the communal bathroom down the hall, Brandon entered his room, locking the door behind him. Opening a window to remove some of the smell, he sat on the sagging bed, glancing around at the peeling paint, lit by the light of a sole bare bulb, and opened the crumpled brown paper bag.

It wasn't much of a dinner, but it was all that he had, as often as not; a few slices of bread and some mustard. Brandon wolfed down the bread and mustard, hoping that, come Monday, he'd be able to afford some decent food, for a few meals at least.

Carefully setting aside some of the bread for his breakfast, Brandon put it back in the paper sack before placing the bag on its side on a rickety table, setting a book on top of the folded end to keep the cockroaches out.

Peeling off his shirt, Brandon dropped to the filthy floor to begin his daily routine of two hundred sit-ups. Crunching hard, he worked up a sweat, paying the price for his washboard abs and his hope for a modeling career. He'd been told often enough that he had ‘the look', and he was in Los Angeles, the best place to be discovered, or so he'd heard. It wasn't much of a hope, but it was all that he had; his sole defense against the lonely despair that stalked his waking hours.

He lay down on the old lumpy mattress as the few remaining bedsprings groaned. He hated this part of his life, but when everything had gone to hell in Phoenix, he'd been lucky to find anything at all, and maybe, one day, things would get a little better. He glanced briefly at his one decoration; a poster from a magazine, before sighing as exhaustion-driven sleep overcame him.

 

Meanwhile, in markedly different surroundings, Jon, Eric, and Chase, the three brothers who were the founding members of Instinct, discussed the absent fourth member of their group. Angry voices filled the sitting room of the elegant suite as Jon, at twenty-one the eldest, swung back in his chair, looked up at the ceiling and yelled, "This is totally fucked. We have this place for three weeks, it's costing a ton of money, and Lump still isn't here..."

Jon was referring to their lead singer, Joe Clump, who most everyone called Lump, though never to his face unless they were looking for trouble. Lump had a habit, every so often but more as of late, of going off on a bender and disappearing for days at a time. Of late it had been growing worse, in both attitude and unreliability. He'd disappeared just before the closing concert of the last tour, leaving the three brothers to go onstage, inform the fans that the concert was canceled, that they would be getting a refund, and then staying to play a dozen sets of instrumentals to keep the fans from being too disappointed. That particular fiasco had caused a lot of bad press and had cost the band over seventy-five thousand dollars in stadium fees alone.

Eric, the middle brother, looked at Jon and asked, "Could we try calling Lump again? We can't just sit here; we need the rehearsals and studio time, plus we're already paying for this place."

Jon swore again, telling his brothers;"I'll try, but I doubt it'll work. He's dodging our calls and the one time I spoke with him, he said he needed ‘personal time' to sort out a few ‘things'. He was slurring so I know damn well what he's been doing."

Chase suggested, "Maybe we can just work on the writing and instrumentals until Lump dries out enough to show up?"

Eric and Jon reluctantly nodded agreement, as Chase turned, calling back over his shoulder, "Okay, I'll go see if we can get the stage gear working and you two can call Lump."

Chase headed off to the auditorium, Jon watching with concern as he left before commenting to Eric, "Dude, we both know he left the room so we could talk to Lump without him. He tries to hide it, but this situation is taking its toll on him."

Eric, still staring at the door, brushed his long brown hair from his eyes and he nodded softly, "Yeah, and how. This is way fucked up. Look, Jon, even before Lump started pulling his no-shows, I was thinking that we should dump him. You and I stopped riding Lump to be cool when he started disappearing."

Jon paced, his eyes fixed on the plush carpet, "I hear ya. I guess I was too worried about holding the group together. We were just breaking into the big time and I didn't want to wreck it, but I can't stand by and do nothing while Lump is hurting us as a group. Chase is our brother and he's got good reason to feel the way he does about Lump, so I was thinking of calling for a group vote on getting rid of our sorry excuse for a lead singer, once and for all."

Eric looked up in surprise "I was thinking the same."

Jon smiled weakly, "Well, we need three votes, and that's two. How do you think Chase will vote?"

Eric snickered, "Considering that his hate for Lump knows no bounds, I can't see him objecting," Eric thought for a moment, then continued;"But Chase will do what he thinks is best for the group. I wouldn't be surprised if he votes to keep Lump."

 

Brandon's cheap travel alarm clock chirped softly in the pre-dawn darkness. Always a light sleeper, he woke up almost immediately, but not quite soon enough to head off the disgruntled snarl through paper-thin walls from a neighboring room, "Turn that fucking thing off, I'm trying to sleep..."

Clicking on the light, Brandon stretched before glancing in the room's one tiny mirror, fussing his shoulder-length hair somewhat into place with a few passes from a comb. He pulled a duffle bag containing his few remaining clean clothes out from under the bed. Picking out jeans and a concert tee, he reminded himself that he needed to do laundry, soon.

Pulling on yesterday's clothes, Brandon shoved the clean gear into a plastic grocery bag. After wolfing down a few slices of bread, he added the remainder of the loaf to the bag and set off for the five-mile walk to the studio.

Brandon walked with studied purpose; he was in an area that was far from safe, and the tougher you looked the less likely you were to have trouble. As he cleared the worst area, he reminded himself that he'd been lucky; he'd been thrown out, near penniless, and had stumbled into a job that promised room and board along with travel expenses. Promised, though, had been the key word; after a week in Phoenix, he was told to drive to Los Angeles, a journey his old car had barely managed. Upon arrival, the promise of room and board had evaporated, forcing him to sleep in his car until the following payday. He'd tried to get his boss to honor what he'd been promised, but nothing had come of it, save for a caustic order to drop the issue.

Arriving at the studio, Brandon made a beeline for the locker room, grabbing a quick shower before changing into his clean clothes. He clocked in right on time as his workday began, five hours before noon.

That morning saw the crew engaged in routine set-up tasks, preparing the recording equipment for use. The pace was calm and businesslike due to the absence of Gabe, who was, as usual, late. Brandon took his coffee break, something that he was unable to do when his boss was present, and spent a few minutes talking to one of the other techs, those few minutes accounting for the sum total of his social life so far that week.

By unspoken consent, the crew left a few tasks noticeably unfinished, having learned by experience that Gabe would need to yell about something, and the quicker he found it, the quicker he would leave. Gabe's arrival, as usual, was abrupt; he strode in, scowling, running his palm across his balding head, inspecting the sound booths, equipment, and stage. Sure enough, he found what he had been meant to find, spent a few minutes yelling, and then turned to leave, but not before snapping at Brandon, "Re-do the sound and hook-up checks, and do it right this time or you're fired."

Watching their boss leave for the day, less than an hour after his arrival, Brandon and another tech resumed their work as Brandon growled, "I did everything yesterday. He didn't even look at what I've done."

The other tech nodded, "He's riding you, man, tryin' to make you quit, or find some excuse to fire you. You'd better find yourself another job, ‘cause he'll find a way."

Brandon shuddered, knowing full well how close he was to homelessness, wondering how he'd ever survive. He worked, watching the other techs finish up, one by one, leaving for the day, until Brandon, alone again, began the checks he'd done the day before, happy that at least he'd get to sing on stage again.

 

Jon paced in the lavish suite, chewing at his lip, "Lump said he'd be here by now, damn it, another fucking day wasted! These damn no-shows are hurting us, badly."

Eric sat, watching his brother pace, "True, but dumping him now would leave us high and dry with the clock ticking on this place, the new album, and our rehearsals. Chase is in the studio arranging for us to lay down some instrumental tracks tomorrow, but we're fucked if Lump doesn't show soon; there are only so many instrumental tracks we can do."

Raking a hand through his jet-black hair, Jon snatched up a phone, dialing the number from memory, waiting a few long moments before slamming it down again, "That asshole, he's not answering." Sighing, Jon sat down next to his brother, his anger fading as things became clear, "Okay, this is really pretty simple, no point in stressing about it: we need to find a replacement for Lump, and the sooner, the better. We're dead in the water, so we don't have a damn thing to lose by kicking him out. My vote is - he's history."

Eric was about to agree when Chase burst back into the room, almost yelling, "Guys, you have got to hear this..."

Chase snagged an arm on each of his older brothers, almost dragging them in his haste, to the studio's auditorium, entering the stage from the rear. As they came on stage, Chase motioned for them to be quiet, and pointed at the sandy-haired guy at the mike who was halfway through ‘Beyond'. The brothers stopped, listening as they exchanged stunned glances. The guy was doing great, sounded almost like Lump, but best of all, he was there.

Chase whispered, "Look, we need to rehearse, right? Lump isn't here, so why not ask this guy to fill in? We could pay him whatever he wants and it would still be less than the lease on this place going to waste. We do the writing anyway, and this guy can help us rehearse and do some studio workups. He even sounds enough like Lump that we could lay down some tracks..."

 

Brandon finished ‘Beyond', satisfied that the pickups and feeds were set correctly. He'd thoroughly enjoyed being on stage, though as always, the experience tinged with regret as he opened his eyes, his phantom audience returning to the ether yet again. Clicking off the mike, he began to turn around when he froze, having finally noticed the three guys standing a dozen feet away, quietly watching him. He muttered under his breath "Uh oh..." as he recognized the three founding members of Instinct. He immediately began babbling out an apology, "I'm really sorry, I didn't know anyone was here. I'm doing sound checks and this is a good way to check the feedbacks..."

Jon laughed and put up his hands "Whoa, nothing to be sorry about; that was fantastic. We were just coming in to rehearse and..."

Stunned for a moment, Brandon blurted out, "Oh... Nobody told me that you'd be using this today, but, it's all ready, I'll configure it for rehearsal feeds and get out of your way..."

Jon shook his head, "The reason nobody told you that we'd be using this place today is that our singer pulled a no-show again and we didn't decide to come in here until a few minutes ago. We were just going to do some instrumentals because it's just the three of us, but we caught you doing the last half of ‘Beyond'. We really need a singer to rehearse with, and you seem to be having fun with that mike, so how about doing us a huge favor and helping us rehearse?"

Brandon stood there for a moment, too stunned to speak. Do them a favor? Play with Instinct? As quick as he could, Brandon blurted out "Yes! Err, sure, that'd be great..."

The three brothers smiled, exchanging glances, and headed for their positions. Jon played lead guitar so he took the Stratocaster from Brandon, Eric grabbed his bass and plugged in while Chase took his seat behind the drums. Drumming requires a lot of physical exertion, so Chase, as he usually did, peeled off his shirt before putting on his earphones, his deep golden tan and blond hair stunning under the harsh fluorescent lights.

Brandon looked over to Jon, "I know all Instinct's songs from the album so I can do any of ‘m, but I'd need some sheets if you want me to try any new stuff."

Jon gave Brandon a sardonic smile, "We haven't got much new stuff even laid out yet, thanks to our missing singer. So, how about ‘Dawn'?"

Brandon grinned, nodding, and as he had done so many times in his dreams, clicked his thumb and finger three times, the distinctive lead-in to ‘Dawn'.

Halfway through the song, Brandon, with just a mike and no guitar, decided that instead of just standing there singing, he'd work the stage a little, and began to play to his imaginary audience, moving around, even doing a few runs and kicks.

After three sets of other songs, plus twice more through ‘Beyond', Eric called a break.

Brandon was exhausted, soaked in sweat due to his exertions, his black concert tee literally dripping. The three brothers strolled over to Brandon, patting him on the back.

Eric grinned, "Dude, that was awesome. Are you in a band?"

Brandon smiled, "Thanks, and no. I used to be in a garage band, even played a few backyard parties, but nothing right now. I'm working for you guys as a roadie and sound tech. I practice on the gear when no one's around and I'm thinking of going to a few tryouts next summer; I want to sing for a real audience again. I don't care if it's a few drunks in a bar; I just want to do it."

Jon gave Brandon another pat on the back, "You sure have the pipes for it, and your stage work is great."

Chase smiled at Brandon's blush, "Yeah, I'll say... Way different from Lump, he just stands there."

Brandon knew that Chase must be referring to Joe Clump, the lead singer of Instinct, though he'd never heard that nickname used before.

Suddenly remembering that he was supposed to be standing in for Joe Clump to help rehearse, Brandon muttered, "Oh, yeah, sorry. I just got carried away. This is kind of a dream for me; I guess it went to my head. I'll try and stay put."

Jon laughed, "No way, you do whatever you feel like. I'm serious; if we needed something to act like Lump on stage, we'd just drag over a piece of furniture."

The three brothers broke up laughing, and Eric added, "Yeah, just go for it. Do whatever you want."

Brandon grinned, working up the nerve to ask a couple of questions, "Thanks... Uh, you call him ‘Lump'?"

Chase chuckled, which confused Brandon further, until Jon said, "Yeah, we do, just not to his face unless we want a fight."

Brandon laughed, thinking that the nickname did indeed fit, before saying;"I have a favor to ask; singing in Lump's voice is doing a number on my throat, so can I do the next number in my own voice and range?"

Doing a fast double-take upon hearing Brandon's words, Eric asked, "You mean you have a range? Sure, go for it. Okay, guys, how about one more, let's see if we can nail ‘beyond', then wrap it up for a few hours. This has been a real workout..."

Jon looked down at his sweaty T-shirt and laughed "Yeah, works for me."

They headed back towards their positions as Eric and Jon pealed off their shirts, tossing them beside the drums, where Chase had thrown his own. Brandon looked down at his own very sweaty shirt before pulling it off, tossing it to the side of the stage before picking up the mike again. Jon saw Brandon stripping off out of the corner of his eye and turned to look, his face showing surprise and intrigue at what he saw; Brandon's tanned torso, with a very defined build, better than most models had. Jon caught Eric's eye, motioning towards Brandon; Eric took a good long look and nodded with approval.

They began ‘Beyond', Brandon having the time of his life strutting around the stage, working the imaginary crowd. He sang in his own voice, a three octave range he felt was far better suited to ‘Beyond' than Lump's single octave. The number ended with Brandon taking a theatrical bow, spreading his arms wide and showing his beautiful chest before bending deeply at the waist. The sound of clapping startled him, and he turned with an embarrassed grin to meet three pairs of blue eyes, and the sound of the brothers' applause.

Jon noticed movement out of the corner of his eye and looked up to the windows of what had once been a projection room, now little more than an empty, private space. The windows were dark glass so he couldn't see inside, but he could see a silhouette as a door opened and closed, and had a good guess regarding who had been up there, watching.

The three brothers converged on Brandon, telling him what a great performance he had given. Chase asked him, "Dude, that sounded so great, why didn't you sing that way before?"

Brandon shrugged, "I was doing sound checks, so I needed to sound as much like Lump as I could, then you guys asked me to help rehearse so I figured you wanted me to sound like him too."

Jon shook his head, "Dude, that was by far the best I've ever heard that song sound.

Feel like hanging out with us for a while, then doing a few more later?"

Brandon grinned; hang out, with Instinct? Then do some more songs later? Winning the lottery would not have pleased him more. Brandon's face lit up as he replied, "Yeah, thanks..."

Eric replied, "Cool. Okay, we have a lounge just down the hall from here. Let's go unwind."

Brandon moved to follow them, before realizing just how sweaty he was. His black jeans were soaked, his body slick with sweat. He called out, "Er, hey, can I join you in a few minutes? I worked up a real sweat and I need to clean up a little."

 

Jon turned to answer, "Sure, just come on over, the lounge is the room at the end of the hall. Just come on in."

Brandon retrieved his shirt and headed for his locker with his head in the clouds. So far, he reflected, this had been the greatest day of his life. Tossing the sweaty shirt into his locker, he grabbed his clean change of clothes, cargo shorts and a white sleeveless muscle shirt which had an Instinct logo; the only clean clothes he had at work. Brandon headed for an employee washroom, thankful that it contained a shower.

 

Jon, Eric, and Chase arrived back at their lounge, Chase blurting out, "I've got the shower first..." as he dashed into the bathroom.

Exchanging a bemused glance with his older brother, Eric sighed, "He's beat us again."

Jon snickered before giving Eric a serious look, "Brandon did great. I thought he had a great voice even when he was trying to sound like Lump, but man, when he let loose on that last number, it was awesome... He's got range and a great voice; he's a far better singer than Lump could ever be."

Eric nodded as he sank into a plush leather chair, "Yeah, for sure, and don't forget, he's a real performer physically on stage. Lump just stands there, but this guy performs. I guess it doesn't hurt that he's got awesome looks, too."

Jon took a wary glance towards the bathroom door, "Yeah, I think we all noticed that; it's a great asset for a front man. Oh, one other thing, the phone will be ringing in about a minute."

Eric gave his brother a puzzled look, "Huh? Why, what's up?"

Jon grinned, "I saw somebody leaving the control room after the last number. My guess is it was our manager, and I'm betting she's heading for her office right now and will call us the second she gets in. I bet I know what she says, too."

Eric snickered "Yeah, like maybe get rid of Lump and sign Brandon? Not exactly a real tough guess."

As if on cue, the phone rang. Jon grinned, picking it up to say, "Hi, Helen."

"How did I know it was you? Well, I saw someone in the control booth and I guessed it was you, and you just might be calling with some opinions about the singer we were practicing with?" Jon smiled as he listened for a moment before continuing, "Eric and I were discussing dumping Lump before we met Brandon­- Yeah, that's his name. You know the situation with Lump pulling no-shows. We'll be having a meeting here shortly to decide on this... yeah, Eric's onboard totally; he's sitting here nodding and grinning. We haven't asked Chase yet because he's in the shower... I think it's obvious how he'll vote, but we have to ask him. Okay, thanks Helen, and I'll let Brandon know he's got his first fan."

Jon sat down laughing, "Helen said that if we don't ask Brandon, we are fucking idiots, and that's a direct quote. Subtle she ain't, but she's right. Even without the recent trouble, Brandon blows Lump away in every department. Lump's recent shit just makes this totally easy. So, how about we talk to Chase as soon as he gets out of the bathroom?"

Eric replied with a laugh of his own, "Okay, but I've got twenty bucks that says Chase takes less than five seconds to ask to be the one who gives Lump his walking papers..."

"I think he will too, but not that quick. It's a bet..."

Jon was about to continue, and just nodded as Chase burst from the bathroom, clad only in a towel around his waist, blurting out, "Guys, I need to throw an idea at you. Lump's been getting worse and his latest shit has hurt the group a lot. Brandon is way, way better than Lump and he's actually here. He said he'd like to do some tryouts and get in a band... So maybe we should consider replacing Lump with Brandon? I mean, what did you guys think of Brandon?"

Eric held up his hands in mock surrender, "Chase, relax. Jon and I talked about this before we met Brandon tonight. We were going to talk with you about dumping Lump and finding a new lead singer, but I think we found him without even trying. So, Jon and I already agree, so the only remaining vote is yours..."

Chase grinned broadly, "Hell yes, and I get to tell that perverted sack of shit, please?"

Jon laughed and handed a twenty to Eric, telling Chase, "We had a bet on how long it would take you to leap at the chance to give Lump the news."

Chase cracked up, heading into an anteroom to rummage through his clothes for something to wear. Jon smiled, "Well, that's settled."

Eric looked thoughtful, until a downcast expression crept across his face, "Jon, we forgot something - something big. Remember the biggest problem we have with Lump? We don't know Brandon; all we know is he can sing and looks great on stage. I absolutely do not want any more shit, and if Brandon's like Lump, then I won't support asking him in."

Jon grimaced, "Oh, fuck. Yeah, neither can I. Maybe Brandon's cool, but we don't know. We barely know the guy at all. Yeah, we'd be nuts to make him a member this fast, that's asking for trouble. This has got to be temporary, like a probation, to make sure he's okay, in all ways. We sure as hell don't need to saddle ourselves with another Lump."

Chase, decked out in black jeans and a concert T, joined Eric at the table as Jon got up to take a shower. Chase was grinning, and Eric hated to bring him down, but felt it was best to not raise false hope, "Chase, one thing before we get too wrapped up in this; what if Brandon's like Lump, and I don't mean the drug problem..."

Chase's face fell, "He probably isn't, but even if he is, maybe he'd be worth having in the group anyway? He's damn good."

Eric shook his head, "Fuck that, bro. Neither Jon or I will put up with that kind of shit anymore, group or no group, end of discussion. If Brandon's like that, he's not joining; we'll find someone else."

Chase shrugged, "Thanks, I guess... but even if he is that way, maybe we can give him a little time, try and see if he can get over it, or at least keep his mouth shut about it? I know he'd really love joining us, I could see it, so even if he's not okay in that way, he might act cool enough, just to join. Maybe we could ask him in provisionally, like a probation?"

Eric nodded as Jon returned, "Yeah, a probation is what we were thinking. Tell him he's our temporary lead singer, and see how it goes. That'll give us some time to get to know him, and give him some time to get to know us. We can't rush into this, for a lot of reasons."

 

Brandon hurried down the hall, his hair still damp from the shower, feeling a little nervous. The guys had seemed really cool, but hell, he was just a down-and-out roadie and they were the core of a major group. Would they really want him to hang out with them? Arriving at the private lounge, door, he noticed the ‘PRIVATE: Talent Only, Do Not Enter' sign on it. Reaching for the door to knock, he hesitated, drawing his hand back a few times before finally rationalizing that they had asked him to come.

He knocked, and Jon swung the door open, smiling, "Hey, just come on in." Jon led Brandon to the table, had him pull up a chair, and then headed over to the mini bar, "Brandon, name your poison."

Brandon shrugged, "Anything will be fine, but if we're still going to rehearse later, I'll just take a soft drink."

Chase and Eric exchanged a glance at that, accompanied by a private smile; all three brothers liked to party, but they didn't like it to affect their music, especially in front of an audience, a sense of responsibility not shared by their former lead singer.

Jon tossed Brandon a can of soda, "Yeah, a few more sets if you feel like it, so how about we get started on the music in a few minutes and save the booze for later?"

Brandon grinned, realizing he'd just been invited to party with one of his favorite groups, "Yeah, I'd like that... I'll still have to be careful because I've got work early tomorrow, but I'd love to hoist a few with you guys."

The three brothers took seats at the table, Jon sitting back, arms crossed, "I don't know how much you've heard about the way we do things, but we put all major decisions to a vote in a formal band meeting, with each member having one vote. Our manager breaks any tie votes. Anyway, what I'm leading up to is that we are just starting a formal voting meeting, and..."

Brandon stood up in a hurry, "Oh, okay, I'll just wait for you guys on stage..."

Eric laughed, grabbing Brandon by the shoulder, pulling him back down, "Whoa dude, no, we don't want you to leave, more like the opposite. We kinda need you here for this."

Brandon looked puzzled, and Jon resumed the explanation, "Brandon, you know the problem we had, Lump not showing up, right?" Brandon nodded, which prompted Jon to continue, "There's a lot more to it than that. Lump has major problems with drugs and alcohol, and skipped out on us right before our last concert, too."

"Yeah, I know about that, I was there."

Eric arched an eyebrow as he asked, "I didn't know you'd been with us that long?"

Brandon shrugged, "I only started working for you guys recently. I wasn't at the concert as a roadie, just in the audience. I was glad of the refund, and really enjoyed the instrumentals you guys did, but I was a little bummed because I'd had to drive four hundred miles to get there."

Jon grinned, "So you came to one of our concerts before you started working here?"

Brandon laughed, "Two of ‘em. I've been a fan ever since I first heard about you guys."

Eric arched an eyebrow, asking with a friendly smile, "Thanks dude, so how did you hear about us?"

With a quick glance at his hands, Brandon replied, "Drumbeat magazine did an article on Instinct when you guys first started getting gigs. I liked what I read about you, so I checked you out at the Mason Jar in Phoenix when you played there.

"So, you must play drums too? Killer!" Chase said with an eager grin.

Brandon shook his head, pausing for a brief moment before answering, "Sorry, I play keyboard and some guitar, but I've never played drums."

Chase cocked his head to one side, arching one eyebrow to ask, "So how come you were reading Drumbeat? Pretty much only drummers read it."

Hesitating for a long moment, an uncomfortable expression that only Eric noticed creasing his face for a bare instant, Brandon replied, "Uh, I guess I'm just interested in music in general, I don't remember why I bought it..."

Jon resumed his explanation of the purpose for their meeting, "Okay, so you know a lot about us, and that's good, but, what you don't know, maybe, is that Lump has been getting worse in a lot of ways, and not just about music. Chase and Lump despise each other, and Chase has a damn good reason," Jon noticed Chase tensing up, "but I can't get into the reasons for that. Short version: for a lot of reasons, Lump is, as of today, a former member of Instinct."

Brandon's jaw dropped, "Whoa! I'd heard a few rumors since that last concert, but nothing concrete. I'm amazed something this big has stayed secret, especially around the studio... Do many people know?"

Eric chuckled, "Nobody outside of this room, except maybe our manager, Helen, but more on that later."

Staring at the three brothers, each in turn, Brandon stammered, "Wow, thanks for trusting me with this, guys. I swear, I won't tell anyone."

Jon, straining to keep a straight face, explained, "Actually, we did need to tell you, and not just because you‘re helping us rehearse. Well, kind of because of that, but... anyway, after we got back here, our manager Helen called, telling us we needed to dump Lump and try out someone new she'd seen us play with. Helen is really blunt, telling us point blank that we are fucking idiots if we don't. So, seein' as we'd pretty much decided the same thing ourselves, and that Lump's history no matter what, we were already in agreement. We want to bring the new guy in on a temporary basis; to finish up the studio work and sing at our next concert."

Brandon's eyes bulged, "That's big news... I shouldn't say this, but I think you're doing the right thing; I never thought Lump was a good fit for Instinct. I gotta ask, I mean, you three write all the songs and all Lump does is sing, so why did you pick him?"

Eric fielded that question, "When we first started getting serious, it was our writing that got us into the biz and in the door to see the right people, plus our dad had connections. We ghost-wrote some songs and a couple became hits, so we decided to form a group since we already had an inside track. Dad was our manager then; he basically picked Lump because Lump could sing, and Lump is his business partner's son, so we went along with it. Then a few months ago, we had a major blow up with dad and the rest of the family. I can't get into details but it was bad. Jon and I were both over eighteen; we fought for, and got, guardianship of Chase, so we get to tell him what to do."

Chase snorted, "Yeah, for a few more months until I turn eighteen, maybe."

Eric laughed, lightly punching his brother on the shoulder before continuing, "By then, we already had an album and were out on tour, so we stuck with Lump, but he took the other side in our family feud which made things worse. His drinking and drugs and all the related crap got worse too, so this has been building for awhile..."

Looking at the three downcast faces before him, an astonished Brandon replied, "I'd heard some bits of this, but I had no idea... So, have you had the formal vote yet? Does the guy know? Just working with you guys for a few weeks would damn near give him his choice of start-up bands... Who is it? I haven't seen you play with anyone while I've been here, so it must have been at least a week ago?"

Drumming his fingertips on the glass tabletop, Chase grinned, "Whoa dude, let me see if I can answer a few of those questions: no, he doesn't know yet, we just played with him today, and we haven't had the formal vote yet. So, bros, let's vote."

Chase smiled as his two brothers voted ‘yes', before grinning broadly to add, "And I vote hell yes."

Stunned to be involved at this level, Brandon's mind raced; he had no idea who their manager could have seen them perform with today... There had been no one in the theater when he'd helped them rehearse. Hopes that had been crushed far too many times kept him from seeing the obvious, so he asked, "When do you tell the new guy that he's got his shot? Man, I'd love to see his face when he hears the news..."

 

   

© 2007 C James

feedback.gifPlease let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

 

 

Many thanks also to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading and advice, and for putting up with me.

Thanks also to the many, many people who have helped and advised me.

Thanks also to Graeme, for help, advice, and support, and also to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading, and. thank you to Captain Rick, for his help with this and upcoming chapters.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

© 2007 C James
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Chapter Comments

Looks like things for Brandon may be looking up. Love the idea of the band being brothers. Lump is in for quite a surprise :P:o

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Damn, CJames! Now I know why I see those banners all over GA claiming you are the KING of Cliffies! lol

 

I'm thrilled Brandon's bad luck is going to take a turn for the better. :)

 

Too bad the boys of Instinct can't fire that asshole Gabe. What a tool.

 

I just love your story CJames! I love reading about bands and music...

 

Ok, on to the next chapter. =)

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Well...that was quick. ;) Again this reinforces how short Chapter 1 was though. And kind of an awkward ending.

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I was wondering what the poster in Brandon's hotel room was of, but then when you got to the Drumbeat magazine I put two and two together 0:)

 

The final line is a classic!! Looking forward to the first few sentences of the next chapter :P

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Brandon is far too humble for his own good, isn't he?  I just want to hold him and tell him what a sweetie he is (get your minds out of the gutter—I'm almost old enough to be his great-grandfather, lol!).  Such an engaging character.

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