In the suite Courtney had spread a bunch of stuff out on the big dining room table for us to autograph. Bart was already working his way through it. He barked at Chris, who was getting a Coke out of the refrigerator, to get his ass over there and do his part.
I picked up a Sharpie and started making my way around the table, too. At some point this year I had started signing my name with a “D” that looked like a backwards G clef. I know, I know. Music geek.
The phone rang and Carynne picked it up. “Oh, hang on a second. Bart?”
Bart looked up from the table. “Yeah?”
“Are your parents showing up? Hotel security say they’ve got–”
“Shit! Yes. That’s probably them!” Bart stood up. “I’ll go get them!”
“No!” Carynne pointed to the chair like she was ordering him to sit back down.
“But I’m the only one who knows what they look like,” he said, though he sat.
“I’ll have security send them up. Meet them at the elevator,” she said, and then turned back to the phone.
Bart jumped up. He was wearing red high tops, blue jeans, and a Scruffy the Cat T-shirt, in other words, looking about like he usually did, but he sort of looked down at himself like all of a sudden he thought he should’ve put something nicer on. It was the end of a tour. We didn’t have anything nicer.
“Want me to come with you?” I asked.
I couldn’t remember ever seeing Bart nervous before. We went down the hallway. From the floor below us we could hear the sound of power drills.
“Remind me,” I said while we waited by the elevator. “Is this the first time they’re going to see us play?”
“Yes.” He wiped his hands on his jeans.
“Um. I’ll try to give a good impression?” I said.
The elevators opened and out came a short man with curly salt and pepper hair and a bulldog’s face. “For the love of… what was all that about downstairs?” he demanded gruffly. He was wearing a suit jacket and looked somewhat sweaty.
“They tightened security because of all the people trying to sneak in,” Bart said. “How are you Dad?”
They shook hands and then Bart’s father stuck his expensive-looking shoe into the elevator door to keep the doors from closing. “It’s all right, Dorothy. You can come out.”
A very slender woman in what struck me as a “Sunday best” sort of outfit, matching skirt, jacket, shoes, and dainty gloves, stepped carefully out of the elevator, clutching her purse in both hands.
Bart seized the moment to give introductions. “Dad, Dot, this is Daron.”
His father sized me up and stuck out his hand to shake. “Call me John. And this is my wife, Dorothy.”
She held out her gloved hand for me to limply grasp and said, “We’ve heard so very much about you. What was that you were saying about security, Barty? Is something going on? Are some diplomats staying here?”
“They’re here for us,” Bart tried to explain.
“Oh goodness, and here I thought some kind of parade was going to be going by,” she said, touching her cheek. “Barty, are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Bart said. “It’s like, you know, the Beatles or something.”
“Ohhh. I see. Well, that’s very exciting then, isn’t it?”
“Exciting, and inconvenient,” I said. “Would you like to come in our hospitality suite? We have beverages in there.” Listen to me, when have I ever used the word “beverages” before?
“That’s very nice of you,” Dot said, with a smile. “Come on, Johnny.”
We moved to the suite where Bart made more introductions and I went back to signing everything I could. Bart’s parents weren’t what I expected. I’d always pictured his father as a New England patrician type, like a Kennedy or something. Somehow I hadn’t been ready for someone who looked basically like an older version of Bart, same tendency toward chubby, and with such a direct manner. His step mom, Dot, had been around since he was like ten or something. His descriptions of her as “trophy wife” and Wicked Witch of the West hadn’t led me to expect this willowy, mild woman with auburn hair in a bun.
The phone rang again. Carynne was nowhere in sight, so I picked it up. It was hotel security asking me if it was okay if Mills came up. “Oh yes, he’s fine. You can let him up,” I said.
The male voice on the other end of the phone sounded annoyed. “Look. We gotta work out a better way to handle this. We’re not letting anyone without a room key above the lobby, but if you’ve got a lot of people in and out…”
“Let me send one of my security guys down to talk to you, okay?”
“Okay.” He hung up.
Digger came into the suite then, and I watched as he introduced himself to Bart’s parents. Bart’s father’s face still hadn’t lost the frown he’d had in the elevator lobby and I wondered if he always looked like that or if it wasn’t just the kerfuffle with security that bothered him.
“Digger,” I called.
“Yo, one sec.” He said something else to Bart’s dad and then came over to me. “What’s up.”
“Are Tony or Dirk around? Hotel security is getting kind of annoyed about the situation. Mills is on his way up.”
“Mills?” Digger didn’t look too happy about that.
“Probably just early for the press confab?” I said.
“Probably,” Digger muttered. “I’ll get Dirk. And spread the word, everyone wear your fucking credentials.”
Carynne came back in then and the three of us talked whether to tell hotel security here to honor our backstage passes or not.
“There are too many people with them here,” Carynne said. “Way too many. Anywhere else I’d say that would work but here? We’ve given out like a hundred what with all the BNC people and the press and the hangers on. They can all have access to the function room for the reception and the press conference, but I don’t want them up here.”
“What if we station one of our own guys at the elevator on this floor?” Digger suggested. “We better bring in some more, in fact. Venue security can handle getting us back and forth but they can’t do our perimeter.”
“Okay, how soon can that happen?” Carynne asked.
“I’m sure Tony knows some guys,” I said.
Digger chuckled. “I hired them both through an agency. I’ll call them first. Get somebody bonded in case there’s an incident.”
I took “bonded” to mean “insured.” Apparently there was more to being a security guard than just pushing people around. Learn something new every day. “Sure.”
I was going to make my escape then, to go check on Ziggy, but Mills came in then, and I got pulled into a conversation with him.
“I saw Trav the other day,” I mentioned to him. “Think we can get him lined up for the next record?”
“Well, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” Mills said, sounding and looking more serious than I might have hoped. “This record is just not picking up like it should.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I kept my mouth shut.
“We’re going to have to really give you a better focus on the next one. We’re really going to have to work hard.”
“We’re not afraid of working hard, I assure you.”
He gave me a patronizing smile. “I know you’re not. We’ll talk. We’ll talk.”
Those two little words, I had learned, were business-speak for “this conversation is over now.” “Yeah, sure, we’ll talk,” I repeated, and broke away from him.
I ran into Colin in the hall and asked him, “How are you holding up?”
“Me? I’m great. Don’t be worrying about me, boss.”
“How’s Mr. Illustrious?”
“He’s getting his hair done.”
“He is?” That definitely wasn’t what I expected to hear. “In his room?”
Okay, maybe I could leave him alone for a little while longer. I imagined he had to sit up to have his hair done. That had to be an improvement.
I went to my room and found Jonathan pecking away on the little beige laptop I’d seen him using before. It looked like a small typewriter except where the paper roller would go, a small screen popped up. He could fold the screen down and the sealed the whole thing up like a case, with a carrying handle built in. The screen showed several lines of text at a time, and scrolled down as he typed.
“It’s a madhouse out there,” I said.
“I know. That’s why I’m in here,” he said, leaning back and stretching in his chair and yawning.
“Article?” I asked.
“No. I’m sneaking in some work on the novel.”
I sat down on the corner of the bed nearest to him. “How’s it going?”
“It’s going,” he said. “It’s so hard to tell. Until I get through one full draft I have no idea what’s really going to make it in.”
“How long have you been working on it?”
“Eh, on and off, about three years.” He shrugged. “How’s Ziggy?”
“Conscious. I won’t really know until soundcheck.” I had a sudden surge of panic. What time was it? I checked the clock. Okay, phew, not time yet. Getting close, though.
“All right. I’m going to find out what wacky plan we’re going to need to get us across the street and back again. Make sure you wear your passes everywhere.”
“Will do.” He got up then, and came over and gave me a gentle kiss and said, “In case it gets crazy enough that I don’t get a chance later, break a leg tonight, D. Knock ’em dead.”