There actually were oysters, the big ones with cheese melted on them, and flutes of champagne, and a slightly fidgety caterer standing there watching over the spread in a tuxedo shirt and striped apron, with matching striped bow tie. He had extremely short hair and a single diamond (or rhinestone) earring.
“Let me guess,” I said to him as I picked up a flute of champagne, and out came this opening line: “you’re really just here to make sure no one burns themself on the canned Sterno.”
He laughed a little nervously. “Pretty much. Though I’d be happy to serve you an oyster if you’d like one. Sir,” he added, a little belatedly.
I snorted. “Save the ‘sir’ for the guys in suits. What’s your name?”
“Michael. Um, pleased to meet you.”
“Daron,” I said, like he didn’t already know. I held out my hand so he could shake it.
I held his hand a little too long. Or maybe just long enough. He blushed.
“Can I ask when you get off? Shift. I mean.” Oh god I was terrible at this.
“Oh. Um.” He actually made a little dip, like a curtsey. Or like he had to pee. “I don’t know. I mean, I know when, obviously, I just… I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right,” I said. “It’s not like you’re the first guy to ever shoot me down.”
“Understand, it’s not that I wouldn’t want to,” he said, in a kind of whispered rush, “it’s just, you know, I could lose my job.”
“It’s really okay.”
“B-but thank you. It’s… it’s very flattering.” He blushed again, looking at the oysters instead of me.
I almost took one, but something that was supposed to be an aphrodisiac was the last thing I needed right now. I ended up pouring out the champagne in the bathroom sink, too, and at Bart’s suggestion getting some seltzer with a spritz of cranberry juice in it so it wouldn’t look like nothing.
“Not to sound like I can’t talk about anything else,” I said to him, “but what did you think of tonight’s show?”
“Awesome. Which reminds me, where’s Louis? I want to see what it looked like.”
We looked around, walking through the room and into the next one, but neither he nor Christian were in evidence. For that matter, I didn’t see Lacey either. Bart and I ended up drifting apart, and Remo and I got to talking again. The gold record was there, too, on display, and we chatted about that a little, too. Remo had a couple of those on his wall already, but he sympathized with the excitement of the first one.
So I kind of forgot about my angst for a while. It was hard to be angsty with Remo. When it was starting to get a little late, though, he left.
By then, Ziggy had returned to the party, presumably freshly shagged. He was alone, though. I stood nearish the gold record, letting various people approach me, natter, and then move on. They could say they had met me now, I guess. Perfectly nice people, if not particularly memorable. I can be a good schmoozer when I put some effort into it.
That left me pretty exhausted by the time things started to thin out, though. Which might have been why I missed Digger sitting down next to me.
“How’s it hanging, kiddo,” he said, in a sort of hangdog Bogart voice.
I gave up. I sat down next to him. “A little to the left,” I said, sounding pretty hangdog myself. I looked at him. “Looks like you sobered up a little.”
“Yeah, too much too fast at the start there. Champagne always kicks my fuckin’ ass.” He stretched and cracked his knuckles. “Did you see the papers today? They’re all over the kid from the ambulance.”
“Perfect. Can’t manufacture publicity like that. I’m betting those photos will end up in People and Us, too. And maybe Teen Machine, I think there was a Sterling’s guy there.”
“I’ll pretend I know what you’re talking about.”
“Guys who sell to a lot of the magazines were there. That’s all that matters.” He waved toward the gold record. “Can you believe that? Pretty exciting, huh?”
“Yeah,” I admitted. I kind of had goosebumps looking at it again now. “But what about the record that’s on sale now?”
“1989 will go gold before you get to New York. I guarantee it.”
“I do. They award these things based on distributor buys, and with the tour selling out and extra dates being added, they’re waking up and smelling the coffee. BNC’s sales department is all over it, thanks to me.”
I raised an eyebrow at him, but he didn’t seem to notice. “Distributor buys?” I asked instead.
“Come on, you worked at Tower. You know what that means. The number bought by the chains and wholesalers. Which they then sell to the public. But it’s the number shipped to the warehouses that determines the gold or platinum status.”
“You mean even a gold record could end up in the bargain bin if they guess wrong.”
“Yeah, but that won’t be happening this time. It’s the other way around. They under-ordered, and now they’re scrambling to catch up. They’re also placing bets on CD, tape, and vinyl. We get to add them all together. The only thing that might hold it back from going platinum is that BNC didn’t manufacture enough.” He looked around as if making sure Mills wasn’t eavesdropping on us. “The problem is that the motherfuckers didn’t manufacture enough.”
“Yeah, wow is right. After they treated you like kings today, it’s a shock, right? Well, hopefully it’s the royal treatment from here on. I’m tired of having to tell them how to run their own business. When I say you guys are solid gold, it’s not just a fucking metaphor anymore.” He looked at me then. “How you holding up?”
“Me? Fine. Everything’s been great.”
“You look kind of wiped out. Pace yourself, kiddo, it hasn’t even been a week.”
“I know. I’m still jet-lagged.” I yawned. “Hey, were the flashlights your idea?”
“Carynne’s actually, but I’m the one who got them made and delivered. She’s a smart cookie.” He tapped his hands against his knees and I guessed he was wanting a cigarette. He had tried quitting and failed so many times that I didn’t say anything.
“Um, yeah, smart cookie,” I said. “Hey, whatever happened to that band?”
“The last time we were in LA we were on a leg of a tour where we were opening for…”
“Oh, oh, you mean MNB? You know, I’ve been wondering that myself.” He looked around again, but there didn’t seem to be anyone we knew from the record company still hanging around.
“Carynne probably knows,” I said. She seemed to have left also.
In fact, the only other person in the room I knew besides Digger was Ziggy. Who looked up at me from right by the door and held my gaze just a little too long.