(Wrapping up the Amazon reviews campaign: if we can get just THREE more reviews for Volume 3 and four reviews for Volume 7 by Monday at midnight, I’ll release the bonus scene on Wednesday. Dunno why vols 4-5-6 lagged, but they’re all in double digits now so I figure that’s very respectable. Thank you everyone who reviewed! Can we get just a few more? -ctan)
I’m a little unclear on why Digger wasn’t in jail or something already. I guess he’d somehow talked a ranking police officer on site into not dragging him away, I suppose because he had promised he wouldn’t be any trouble if he could just do one thing and one thing only.
“Just let me talk to my son” was apparently that thing. The cop whom Courtney led over put it to me like I’d be doing them–and all of us–a favor, if I’d go find out what he wanted.
“Fine. Lead the way,” I said. The cop brought the two of us toward the front and just shy of box office operations they took us into a small side room. There was Digger, sitting at a Formica table in a beat-up looking office chair with a styrofoam cup of water. He was in his “golf” outfit–pastel polo shirt and chinos–which seemed odd given how chilly the weather was.
“Here he is, you sonuvabitch,” Courtney said, surprising me.
“Watch yer language. That’s yer grandmother yer talking about,” Digger slurred. He was drunk, no surprise. “Daron. I need to talk to you.”
“So talk,” I said. We all remained standing, although there were a couple of other beat up chairs around the table. I got the feeling this was the security staff’s break room and, if necessary, holding cell.
“Alone,” Digger said.
I folded my arms. “Anything you’ve got to say that’s worth hearing, everyone else should be able to hear, too.”
“Fer cryin’ out loud.” He gulped down the water and rolled his eyes. “Okay, look. I came here to appeal to your noble nature. You were always a good kid, I know I never lived up to your expectations.”
I said nothing, trying to keep as stone-faced as possible while I waited for him to get to the point.
“But I’ve worked hard. I don’t deserve to be in the situation I’m in.”
I could feel Courtney next to me as if she were hardening into stone, too, as she crossed her arms like mine. “Don’t deserve to be in what situation?” she demanded.
“Oh, now don’t you start, missy.”
“Missy? Maybe if you actually acted like a father should you could get away with that paternalistic bullshit, but you don’t act like one and you don’t even provide like one.”
He cringed, actually cringed, as if her words really hurt. Probably because he was being humiliated in front of a bunch of men more than because he actually cared about the ways he’d failed to live up to being a good father.
“About that,” he said, when it seemed she had said her piece, “about the money. That’s part of what I need to talk to you about.”
I just stood there waiting for him to go on.
“It’s been rough since Ziggy left, you know? Real rough. My other cash cow, that Gilliman girl? Can you believe the little idiot got knocked up?”
Yeah, that’s going around, I thought to myself but I didn’t say.
“Her parents are these ultra-conservative Hindus, too, don’t believe in abortion, so I had to pay for her to get an abortion out of my own pocket, then she gets disowned by them anyway, so I had her move in with me, poor kid.”
Poor kid? Far as I knew Galani Gilliman was in her mid-twenties if not her late twenties. Was he trying to tell me she lived with her parents? In which case, were her parents unaware of her Hollywood lifestyle?
“Thing is she couldn’t work for a while what with the surgery and stuff, and with Ziggy gone, and all the lawsuit stuff keeping everything locked up, bottom line, my cash flow got bad, the collection agencies started breathing down my neck, and now I’m desperate. I’m going to lose my house and me and the girl will be out on the street if I don’t come up with ten thou, fast.”
I kept thinking of questions to ask, like where is this house, anyway? What’s your mortgage payment? Do her parents know she’s going to be on the street? Too many things didn’t add up. But I was trying hard not to engage. If I asked him anything it would only open the door for him to shovel more bullshit through.
I exchanged a glance with Courtney. She looked angry. I hoped I just looked calm and cool.
“You’re barking up the wrong tree,” I told him. “I’m nearly broke. You know why? Because every dime BNC owes me is being held up by lawsuits coming from you.”
He waved his hand like he was dispelling a bad smell. “No, no, no, that’ll all go away now. You know I had to file those to find out just how badly Ziggy was screwing me? Pretty bad, turns out. Love that deal he cut where they pay the entity known as Moondog Three to let him walk away yet somehow cut me out of the deal.”
“You can’t be on both ends of the deal,” I said, before I could stop myself. “At that time you were still his manager. You were making the money on the Ziggy end of the deal, not the Moondog Three end.”
“You’re such a rube,” Digger said, shaking his head and looked wistfully into the empty paper cup. “Listen, though, listen. I’ll make all the lawsuits go away. I’ll drop everything. For ten thousand dollars.”
“What? Excuse me, officer,” Courtney said to the cop standing off to one side, “did you or did you not just hear an offer of extortion?”
The cop shrugged. “We try not to get involved in family disputes unless violence is inolved, miss.”
I spoke to the cop next. “Well, family or not, this guy has been trespassing repeatedly.”
“The venue already ejected him from the premises,” Court said.
Digger gave a shit-eating grin and spread his hands. “Yet I’m still here.”
“Not for long, right?” Court asked the other cop. “We’re done here now. He got what he wanted, which was to try to extort money out of us. We said no. End of story.” She turned and marched out, the first cop holding the door open for her.
I followed and we stood there waiting for the cops to show Digger the door. He of course spent as much time as possible getting to his feet, yawning, patting his legs, throwing the cup into the garbage bin, et cetera. Finally he walked out, the two cops flanking him, and we watched until they had disappeared past the box office, presumably toward the main exit.
“What the fucking fuck,” Court and I said at the same time, then burst out laughing because it was funny that we both said the same thing.
“Do you think even half of it is true?” I asked her.
“God, I hope not for Galani Gilliman’s sake. Unfortunately that was probably the cleaned up version of the truth that was supposed to make him look good.” She shook her head. “You know who we should call?”
“That insane model you told me about who wanted to become a televangelist.”
“Oh, her. Um, Candy Millington? That’s not quite the name but it’s something like that.”
“Mandy Killington,” she said, snapping her fingers. She started walking toward backstage again.
“Right, yes, Mandy. But why?”
“Because I one-hundred percent guarantee you she’ll help a fellow model in need, especially one who got screwed over by an asshole like Digger. Ugh, can you imagine?”
I caught up to her a little feet-wise but I was lagging behind brain-wise. “Um, how’d he screw her exactly?”
“By screwing her,” Courtney said. “Didn’t you hear him say it?”
“Uh, he didn’t say who got her pregnant, did he?”
“Read between the lines, big brother, when a man says ‘that stupid bitch got herself pregnant’ he means HE got her pregnant and is just laying all the blame on her.”
I had to stop and lean against a wall. “That makes me feel more ill than thinking that Ziggy got a woman pregnant.”
Ziggy chose that moment to appear, of course. “What’s making you ill?” He put a hand on my shoulder. “Court, what’s making him ill?”
“Digger knocked up Galani Gilliman. At least, that’s what I think.”
Ziggy shook his head, but it wasn’t to disagree. “Ugh. Like nobody saw that coming.”
I jerked my head up so fast I almost knocked my skull against his. “Saw what coming? You knew?”
“Daron, I don’t think I’m bursting your bubble when I tell you Digger puts the make on anything with breasts,” Ziggy said.
I felt ill all over again. By comparison his old behaviors of visiting prostitutes with his eleven-year-old son in the car seemed positively savory. I had a hard time imagining that any sex between a fifty-something manager and his twenty-something model-actress-client from a conservative Hindu family could be any kind of wholesome, much less sex that resulted in pregnancy…
When I pulled myself out of my nausea-inducing ruminations, Courtney had gone but Ziggy was there.
I straightened but kept my back pressed to the wall, and pulled him toward me by one belt loop. He put a hand on the wall on either side of me and looked into my face with concern. We were in a back hallway of a big venue, hardly a private place, but I wasn’t pulling him toward me for a kiss. “I need to tell you something,” I said.
“What is it?” he asked, still looking at me intently.
“Listen. If I don’t tell you now, I might forget until a bad time.”
“Okay. So tell me.”
“I think this kind of only just sank in. I mean, maybe I partly unraveled it with Jonathan? But maybe–”
“Daron. What is it?”
I swallowed. “Sometimes. When I don’t understand something. When I don’t understand someone’s feelings. Especially when it seems like their feelings change…suddenly. Unexpectedly. Those times. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
“Yes?” he said tentatively.
“My reaction is to run and hide. You know why?”
I know I was confusing the fuck out of him so I tried to finish the explanation. “Because of him. Because I spent most of my life trying to figure out what he wanted from me. Because I knew that if he got out of control he was dangerous. So the only way I knew to handle him was to constantly be trying to make sure he never got angry, never got set off. But, you know, sometimes he got set off anyway, and sometimes–hell, most of the time–he had hidden agendas that as a kid I could never, ever figure out. So of course I couldn’t predict his moods. But that didn’t stop me from constantly trying to be…a good boy for him.”
“Shut up and let me try to finish this, okay?”
His hands had moved to my shoulders. “Okay.”
“I knew I had to get away from him. When I was a teenager. I knew it. I didn’t know why, I didn’t have an explanation, I just knew, deep down. Because the thing I needed more than anything was to get away from trying to be something I wasn’t. But I still do it, sometimes.”
“Still do what?”
“Try to guess what people want me to be, and try to be it, until I can’t stand it anymore and it all blows up. That’s what happened with me and Jonathan.”
“And I’m telling you this now because…because I’m thinking of it, and because I need you to know, when you get moody or hide stuff from me or your emotional reaction to things changes suddenly–or even if it only looks like it to me–my reflex is to shut down and hide. Literally. Like…I went and slept behind a pile of equipment in the recording studio one night. And it was like I didn’t even think about doing it. It wasn’t like I thought oh, me and Jonathan had a fight. I’ll go make a space for myself somewhere else. It was more like I went on autopilot and later I woke up and was like how did I get in there? I mean, I remembered doing it but it wasn’t even like Me doing it, really.”
“I’m sorry I’m so hard to trust.” He whispered it.
“Shhh. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying…know this. Know this thing about me so the next time it happens…you’ll know what it is. Okay?”
“And also. Also.” A sudden lump in my throat stopped more words from coming out. I tried to keep my breathing even until I could loosen up enough to speak again. “If I say no.” I could only use short words, apparently. “If I say no. To the gig. That’s why.”
I could see it took him a second to make the connection, but then it clicked. “You mean, if you only take the job because you’re doing what you think I want, to keep me happy.”
I nodded and pulled him against me, needing to feel him in my arms, needing to feel the warmth of his chest soaking into mine. “This is why I have to think about it. Why I can’t just jump in and say yes automatically.”
Amazingly I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t freaking out. I had expressed my whole thought without going down a rabbit hole. And I wasn’t shaking so long as I was pressed between him and the wall.
“Am I still banned from saying it over the phone?” I asked then.
“Banned from saying what?”
I let go of him enough that I could look him in the eye again. It wasn’t the first time I’d said it, but I felt like somehow I could say it more credibly now. Like I could really mean it. “I love you.” I touched his lip with my fingers, not to silence him but more simply because I couldn’t resist. “I love you,” I repeated. “The problem is I don’t know how.”
He kissed my fingertips and then folded my hand into his, saying nothing, and then pressing a soft kiss to my cheek.
A moment later Courtney came rushing down the hallway, so if he’d meant to say anything more, he didn’t get the chance. But I think maybe he’d said all he needed to, and being quiet was part of his way of affirming to me that he’d listened. That he’d heard me.
We turned our attention to Courtney’s news, but he didn’t let go my hand.