Sarah’s driver dropped us off at what looked to me like a typical skyscraper-type office building, but through the lobby and up an escalator we came to a restaurant with styling so modern it bordered on futuristic. Which I suppose was the point. The doorman looked more like a Secret Service agent than a restaurant employee.
I swear I saw Tom Cruise while we walked through. Ziggy was already there, waiting for us in a private dining room in the back.
Is this going to happen every time I see him after we’ve been apart? I thought. Basically, I laid eyes on him and it was like taking a hit of some drug: my heart rate went up, my skin felt warm, my senses seemed to come alive…
This wasn’t a new feeling. Remember that first, oh, six months or so after he’d joined the band? It was like that every time I saw him then, too. It didn’t really stop until we did that tour… that tour where we slept together that first time. All those times.
The difference was that back then whenever I saw him my anxiety went up. Now, it went down. Like being in the same room with him calmed me, as if he gave off soothing pheromones or something.
Not that I was completely chilled out. I wanted to rush over to him and slide my hands along the bare skin at the small of his back where the cute white denim jacket he was wearing rode up and pull him into a hug/kiss. But there was a waiter there, and there were introductions to be made.
“Ziggy, Sarah. Sarah, Ziggy,” I said, gesturing between the two of them. Sarah reached out to shake his hand and he pulled her knuckles to his lips, kissed them, and bowed. “I figured I better put you two on a first name basis right away since neither of you uses your real last name.”
“Charmed,” Sarah said with an amused smile.
The three of us sat on the same side of a large oval table that looked like it could have come from the set of Star Trek. Indirect halogens made the edge of the ceiling glow like a horizon. In the theory that I was the one who knew both of them, they made me sit in the middle.
By the time we were done with the appetizer course, though, I made Ziggy switch places with me because my neck was getting sore from looking back and forth between them. The two of them did most of the talking, which probably surprised no one.
They had a lot to talk about. They were both at the same stage of their careers, really, as multi-talented solo artists with similar deals and similar aspirations. Sarah grilled Ziggy about movie stuff. Ziggy, meanwhile, grilled Sarah about her tour logistics, and they talked about things I’d never had to deal with before like choreographers and workout regimens.
Let me tell you, if I thought Ziggy had a perfect body before–which I did–I had a feeling that under his clothes it was only going to be even more perfect after working with a personal trainer and movement coach. That feeling would be intensified later on the dance floor.
But later. There was a reason Ziggy wanted to meet Sarah besides trading stardom tips. He waited until we were about done with the main courses to bring it up.
“So, you know I fired Digger,” he said.
“I know,” she said. “We’re getting ready to. Could be as early as next week.”
“Can I ask you to do one thing first?” He twirled an unused fork slowly on the tablecloth with an outstretched finger, as if making the secondhand of a strange clock go.
“What would that be?” Sarah asked, pushing her plate back and leaning toward him.
“It’s probably in your contract that you have a right to examine his books once a year, right?”
“Yeah, there’s something about that.”
“I should have looked at his books before I fired him. Now I need to subpoena them as part of a lawsuit and that’s going to be rough.” His eyes were on the fork. “I’m sure he’s going to doctor them before the court gets a chance to look at them. I’m wondering if you could get someone in there before he has that chance, though.”
“Funny you should mention–I think we just had a guy go in and do that. He photocopied a ton of stuff. You want to have a look at it?”
“That would be great.” Ziggy sat back in relief. “That would be really great. I don’t know if you’re interested in being party to this lawsuit, but–”
“Wait,” I said. “I thought the lawsuit was about mis-use of band funds from BNC. How would Sarah be part of that?”
Ziggy shrugged and played dumb. “Just asking.”
“Seriously, what exactly is this suit going to be based on? Because I still haven’t heard an explanation that makes me feel good about it.”
Ziggy looked at me through kohl-rimmed eyes. “At the very least there’s something shady with tour support funds. One of the biggest elements of their whole ‘the band wasn’t financially successful’ thing was that they supposedly paid out a huge sum to us for tour support. But do you recall getting a large sum for that?”
“I thought we went out on a shoestring because we turned BNC’s tour support offer down.” Was that what Carynne had actually said? I couldn’t remember exactly.
“That’s what I thought, too. BNC claims they made the payment, though.” Ziggy’s eyes wandered.
“Wait, but did they?”
“That remains to be seen.”
“Does it? What did Mills say?”
Ziggy cleared his throat. “Does it matter? This puts everyone in the clear: Mills is absolved of making the property unrecoupable, the band saves face, and Digger gets nailed to the wall.”
I put my hands on the table, like seeing them would help me think rationally. “But what if BNC didn’t actually make a payment? Then we’re nailing Digger to the wall on another one of Mills’ lies?”
Ziggy looked at me with a slight frown. “Daron. You hate the guy. This fixes everything.”
“It doesn’t. If what it does is prop up a lie. For one thing, how do you plan to get that through court? Won’t it become obvious if Mills is lying about the money?”
“Well, this is the thing, this is why we need a look at Digger’s books. I feel it’s really likely that Digger kept very shady accounting. And because we can prove his accounting’s shady, the fact that the BNC payment mysteriously disappeared will be all the more incriminating. If Digger took the BNC payment for himself and never told us?”
“The BNC payment which might not have existed.”
“But might have. Mills says it was paid.”
“And you have to believe Mills because you’re working with him and you can throw Digger under the bus because you fired him.”
“You wanted me to fire him!”
“You fired him because of me?”
“Yes! Well, partly! Come on, Daron, you know he can’t be trusted.”
I did. I knew perfectly well. “Yeah…” But Mills couldn’t be trusted either, so far as I was concerned. “So you’re saying because Digger’s been shady, he’s getting what he deserves. He opened himself up to this kind of attack because he wasn’t on the up and up, even if maybe this specific crime wasn’t his fault.”
I still didn’t like it. I knew it was supposed to be poetic justice, or maybe simply plain justice, but just because there was no honor among thieves didn’t mean I needed to be a part of it.
“Let’s go dancing,” Ziggy said.
“No,” Sarah said, and for a second I thought maybe she was going to take my side and argue against the whole lawsuit idea. But no. “Dessert first,” she insisted with a conspiratorial grin.
The two of them had a lot in common, including whims, lots of whims, and a determination to have a good time that night. When you’ve got two master manipulators both working on you, it’s hard to maintain a bad mood. I was happy enough to shed it and quit thinking about lawsuits anyway, I guess. Soon enough they had me hopped up on sugar and caffeine, and not long after that we were hitting the floor at Danceteria, under the watchful eyes of Tony and his former crew.
The music and lights pumped and we danced. I still wanted to slide my hands across the sweaty small of Ziggy’s back. I didn’t. We were on a dance floor that was all swirling color and lights but we were in the middle of a couple hundred people and far too public to dare something like that. I did it to Sarah instead, who gave me a flirty look when I did, but I knew it was an act. We all knew it was an act. Just one step away from being choreography.