Another night, another city.
This one is larger than the last but less sophisticated. The culture of this metropolis has been feeding on industry and its corroded ruins instead of the ivory towers of the one Turner had left. He was starting to master the strange dance his recollections made in his mind. His thoughts were clearing up.
He felt guilt persistently gnawing at him. While Murphy had refused any kind of help, Adrian felt like he should have done something, anything. Instead he had run away. To late. He had to move on and he was telling himself that once he had advanced with what was slowly appearing to be ‘The Plan’ he might be able to go back and save Murphy. What he was attempting to do is to gather musicians who were special in their own way, somehow revolutionary, assemble them and then do what good musicians did. Go on tour and blow the peoples minds away with the power of rock. That was the way it worked right?
With Murphy he had been trying to bring back a fallen talent. This time he was going to recruit an obscure master who was still very much in his prime. So his target tonight would be a man named Ian Lockwood. He was not known to most people but for the people who knew him he was a legend. One of the few people who had mastered the Chapman Stick, a fretboard as large as an ironing board with 12 strings that was, in Lockwood’s case tuned from guitar to deep bass. The man could play a concert on his own or integrate into any configuration of band. He had started his career as a session musician but slowly over time he had gotten his own dedicated rabid fan base. A Lockwood concert would never fill a stadium. But it it would fill every club and jazz cave all over the world and his tickets would sell for a kings ransom.
Turner felt melodramatic again. He was going to do this one in style. Na cab. This time he would walk.
Turns out that was a shit idea. Granted Lockwood lived in one of the few more affluent corners of this city but that was still fucking far away from the motel he had chosen as his base for this mission. These distances did never look that bad in a car. 10 minutes with wheels turns out to turn into an eternity on foot. Also, endurance was not among Lucifers gifts. At least not when it came to walking. Turner now realised that all those times he had be thinking of hitting the gym or taking up some kind of work-out program, as he was not getting any younger, he should have listened to himself.
Slowly the air around him changed. The smell of dust and stone was slowly replaced by that of pine trees. He was finally reaching the parts of the city were the people living there could afford trees as decoration for their neighbourhoods instead of the derelict buildings that dominated the streets were he was coming from. At least he had reached his destination street. Now it was only 12 blocks to go. Adrian hoped that this hike would be among the things he would forget as part of his bargain.
The sun had long gone, and a cold distant night was ignoring Turner when he finally arrived at Lockwood’s house. It was decent sized middle class house with delusions of grandeur. Instead of the big open lawn that all the other houses around it had, this one sported a high wall, topped of by vicious looking metal spikes on top daring anyone to try to climb over the wall and maybe slip on the way to the other side. Only the topmost floor of the house behind could be seen peering over, looking at passerbys through sleepy half shuttered windows. Turner knew that Lockwood was one of the people who comfortably lived in the artists time zone, where the day started around midday and no kind of serious work would get done before midnight. So when he approached the large heavy wooden gate and rung the bell he felt pretty confident that he would find Lockwood in the most productive and therefore also most receptive time of day.
It took a while until he got any answer. The camera that had been embedded in the wall above the bell button turned on a little red light telling Turner that he was now appraised.
He was weighed and found wanting. The little red light went dark again.
Turner rang the bell again. Slightly more insistent this time but careful not to be more annoying than strictly necessary. The little red light turned on again after only a few seconds.
“If you want I can call the police. They will tazer your sorry ass and haul it off to some hard, cold cell. If they feel genrous they will not beat the shit out of you but leave that to the other inmates.” the voice paused for effect “Or you just piss off so that we can both enjoy of what is left of the night.”
“My name is Adrian Turner, I have come to you with a proposition which…” he did not get to finish his sentence.
“How nice for you. Now. Get lost.”
Turner did not move. The little red light was still burning.
“I really mean it. Go. Away.”
Adrian felt like an idiot as he walked back to his motel. He could have called for a taxi but he wanted to be in the cold night air to vent his burning shame.
The next day he spent talking to agents. First to his own agent who of course had no idea who he was. It would have been slightly awkward if his own band had forgotten him but their manager started to ask silly question like “What happened to your lead guitarist?”. Not only would no one know what he was talking about but it would also turn into a heated argument if there was anyone who was particularly feeling like being the ‘band leader’. Well disaster averted.
This left him with without a way into the celestial realm of band management where the people who walked between the bands lived. If he did not want to give up on Lockwood his agent was the guy to talk to. He decided to oil the wheels in his head with some horrible bourbon from the fridge in his motel room. It had worked for the likes of Spade and Marlow and it would certainly work on his nerves. After the first sip he decided that he should add some coke on top of it. The rich flavour of industrial solvents was made a bit more mellow and palatable after that. After downing he drink he paced around in his room, walking on the bits of carpet that had not been worn down by the people who had inhabited this room before. It helped him to focus his mind.
Shit like that would not have happened in the past. When he was still a real rock star. He had been on the cover of magazines all over the world and he would certainly not have been turned away from the door of a fellow musician. At least not from one he had not met yet. He was also becoming keenly aware of the limitations of Lucifer’s gifts. Had they always been of so little use. But back then he had mostly used his gifts to pull chicks, have nice stash of money and drugs and improve his skills on the guitar, of course.
Of course! The past was the key to his Lockwood problem. Back in the eighties he had another band and another agent. That guy represented a lot of the big names in the business back then and was still going strong today. They had split on friendly terms about eighteen years ago, as Adrian was following his vision of music which did not mesh well with his old agent’s international super act plans all that well.
It took some work but he got his number. He called his office in London but he had already gone home. Fucking time zones. But as luck would have it his secretary was still working, going over some paper work that inland revenue was very keen on having as soon as possible. A bit of small talk and a few well placed compliments later he had Clive Haynes home number.
“Hello Clive. This is Adrian Turner, it’s been a while.”
“I’ll be damned. Adrian blood Turner. I can’t believe that you are calling mate. I found one of your old records today and was just talking with Susan about what had become of you.”
“I’m great Clive. Thanks.”
“You’re still doing music?”
“Of course I am. Can you imagine me without a guitar?”
Clive laughed. “No. I can’t say I can.”
“This is also the reason why I am calling you because I want to go back to doing music big time.”
There was a moment were the only thing that Adrian could here was the faint white noise of a bad intercontinental line. “Damn Adrian. I love to hear that but times are really getting increasingly hard for your type of music.” after a bit of hesitation Clive continued with sliver of well contained hope in his voice. “What were you thinking off? Maybe we can work something out?”
“Glade you ask. I am just now travelling the states recruiting some of the best musicians no one in the mainstream has ever heard off to form a kind of super band. This is going to be big. The people in the know will know what they are getting with our little dream team and the rest of the world will not know what hit them.”
There was moment where Clive Haynes was about to give in to the voice of reason, fed by his decades of experience, but something inside of him stirred thinking of the possibilities and nudged him over. “You know what? I think that your idea is bloody stupid. It is so stupid that I think we might be able to pull it off.”
And so Adrian Turner now had a new agent who had not promised him to get him an appointment with Lockwood but would also point him in the direction of other promising candidates.
Two hours later he was to meet the man that had turned him away a day before. This time he took a cab to take him close to Lockwood’s home. He walked the last two blocks. Balancing style with not being an idiot was important.
“I’m afraid that I can’t help you. Sorry.” Said Lockwood. Not quite the answer Turner had expected. Lockwood had been gracious enough to ignore last nights incident. He even shared a spectacular Glenlivet with him while he listened to ‘The Plan’. “I like your plan. I really do. The things you say make sense. I see it myself. It’s been all to long since the last time I was really blown away by a young new musician and most of the ‘new’ music I hear today is crap. Generic, tepid, soul destroying shit. Hell, I’m old now. I never wanted to be an old musician. I want to live a comfortable life when I’m old. With a nice house, a hot kinky wife and enough money to not have to work anymore. I was thinking I’d have a favourite bar or club or something like that and I’d go there maybe once a week and just play there for the patrons. Shit, maybe one day I would see a young boy or girl standing near the stage with this deep hunger in their eyes when they hear the music and make him or her for that matter into my apprentice. Pass on the torch. That sort of thing.” Lockwood paused for a moment. He took his thick heavy tumbler with his whisky on the rock from the rough wooden table that had been cut lengthwise from a sequoia tree. He just inhaled the aroma while lost in thought. “If that had happened I think I might be tempted.” he continued, “It never happened. I just saw how music started to decline. Sure there are still great new musicians around in these parts of the woods maybe a dozen. But if I stop playing, if I leave my bent there will only be elven left.” He put the glass down with a loud thud. “I can’t have that happen.”
“But if you join us we’d be able to do so much more…” Turner tried to keep the confidence in his voice.
“Would we? I believe that you are going to get something done Turner. You still have that fire burning. But not with me. You know there is a great Chinese proverb that says: ‘Don’t go hunting while your house is on fire’. Which is pretty much what is happening. Right? That’s why you are here. I need to stay were I am and hold the fort. I wish you all of luck and if there is anything I can do to help you in your quest I’ll be happy to help. I can put you in contact with people, I’ll tell my manager to assist you and maybe that way we prevent you ringing at the doors of unsuspecting people in the middle of the night.”
Adrian took a big sip of whisky. It was all he could to to hide his blushing face. “There must be something I can offer you that will change your mind. What do you need? Money? I’ve got money. I can pay you and your band. You’ll just take a break and once the thing is running you can return to your normal life.”
“I don’t need money. I’ve got enough. And I can’t just take a break Turner. I’ve got concerts scheduled for the next two years. I might not fill stadiums but I have fans and I am not going to disappoint them. OK?”
“OK…” Adrian was now reaching the point beyond desperation when one stopped to struggle and just accept death. Only that in this case there would be no death. Just a slow decline into silence.
“Hey why the long face? I believe in you and your idea. I think it’s brilliant! Only because I’m not the right man for the job doesn’t mean that you are on the wrong track. Did you just tell me that you only asked one other guy before me.”
“Nothing but, you will get there. Have a little faith in your own plan for goodness sake. Third time’s the charm after all right? Noe let’s drink more whiskey and listen to some records, that’ll lift your spirits.”
Hours later Adrian left Lockwood’s house, very drunk, slightly dejected but with gritted teeth.
He would push on and next time he would not get no for an answer.
What he got was actually worse.
Leader of the Rebellion
The third city was gigantic. It covered so much land that its borders intermingled with that of other smaller cities threatening to absorb them. Towards its centre it stretched towards the sky, with its middle studded with skyscrapers that raced each other towards the stars. Looking out into the night from his window in the plane he had no memory of boarding, the city looked like a jewel encrusted mountain. As Turners flight approached the airport the plan was shaken time and again by strong gusts of wind that had been caught by the city below which had given it strength and direction. No one understood quite why the city had such strange meteorological qualities but in time its inhabitants had grown weary of hating them and in time grown proud of them. The only thing that grew in Adrian was the temptation to grab a sick bag and get rid of his horrible in-flight meal and what was left of his dignity. In the end dignity and a stomach that had been through worse prevailed and Adrian found himself in the endless halls of an international airport.
This time things would be different. Turner sat in a bar, which was mostly glass and light, seeming to float above the city, looking down on it. He was sipping a cocktail that was 50% decoration and 100% overpriced while thinking over his approach. He would not be ringing at the doors of total strangers anymore like some kind of musical version of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. No, this time he had been announced. He had not told his mark when and where he would arrive, but the mark had been told to expect him. He would not go in blindly. He’d have a good look at the guy and then make his move.
The concert hall was packed, the audience was on fire. Max Stryker lead guitarist, singer and mastermind of the underground sensation “Corrosion Through Power” was screaming his soul out. The lyrics were a bit adolescent rebellion fantasies but combined with the music and the powerful performance they worked their magic. Turner wasn’t all that impressed yet he could not help but tap his foot and nod his head to the hard rhythm.
The band screaming through its set list almost without pause further reinforcing their armoured train vs. innocent wall impact. The impression was only marred by some sound technician fucking up near the end of the concert getting the levels wrong so that in one of the songs the singer could not be heard anymore. The audience went ballistic, screaming and booing until they got the attention of the band. It took a while until they noticed what the problem was. Now it was Max Stryker’s turn to get angry. He vanished gesticulating and screaming off stage, shortly after his voice could be heard again. He came back on stage screaming at the audience. Telling them never to take shit like that from anyone. Asking them to storm the ticket booth after the concert. Let their voices be heard and not be treated like some brainless consumers who would just take this kind of second rate experience without speaking up.
The audience went wild and the concert went on.
Until the sound technician made the same error again.
The audience went almost instantly mad with rage. This time the singer noticed it right away and after a bit of body langauge communication with his fans he had confirmed that some fucker had turned off his mic again. Max Stryker hulked out smashing his guitar in a sudden rage, stomping off the stage. Only a moment later another guy came stumbling onto the stage followed by a still raging Stryker dragging him to the mic, screaming at him and then hitting him with the microphone like someone would hit a disobedient dog with a rolled up news paper. His band showed their support by trashing their own instruments. The band members shoved the poor technician around of the stage and the concert was over.
‘I think I will have to teach that kid some manners first though.’ thought Turner working his way towards the backstage area.
The security had set up a perimeter back stage were not even fans with passes could get passed. Had Turner not prepared his own performance for tonight this would have been it. But the security guys knew that he was coming and that he was a VIP of sorts. So after some back and forth, including the checking of the great holy scripture of every security man around the world the hallowed ‘list’ Turner could pass.
Turner was about to knock on the door to Stryker’s dressing room when the young man opened the door “This is sooo pathetic.” he laughed, shaking his had. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Turner. “And who the fuck are you, grandpa? A fan?” a rhetorical question.
“No.” rhetorical answer.
“A critic?” there was contempt mixed with something that Turner could not quite pinned down in Strykers voice.
“For fucks sake, no!”
“A journalist then?” this came out with a pinch of eagerness.
Turner had to resist the urge to punch some basic manners into the young man in front of him. He closed his eyes for a second taking a deep breath. When he opened them again he said: “My name is Adrian Turner. I. Was announced to you. I come with a proposition and a fist full of cash.” he let that sink in. When Turner saw that he now had the undivided attention of the young man in front of him he continued. “We need to talk. Just tell me when and where.”
“Sure thing grandpa…”
“Call me grandpa one more time and I will punch you so hard that you your ancestors will lose teeth.”
“That’ll do. Go on.”
“I’m done with this tour Mr. Turner. This was supposed to be the grand finale. Did not turn out quite like that, eh? I live here in the city so we could just meet at my home. Tomorrow OK?”
Turner just nodded and left.
“Hey don’t you want my address?” Stryker called after him.
“I know where you live.”