Barrett wasn’t kidding about the armed escort, though they didn’t come to the restaurant. We met up with them somewhere in town and transferred from the cars into one vehicle.
All six of us were put into a van with one guy with a machine gun in the van with us, one in the passenger seat–or actually he sat in the passenger side window with his gun on the roof–and a driver who didn’t have a visible gun but only because he used both hands to drive.
We heard gunshots at one point on that drive back to the hotel. I felt a stone in the pit of my stomach. It probably wasn’t even related to what was going on by the hotel, though, because that was probably a totally different part of the city.
We pulled up at one point for our driver to talk to another armed man. I couldn’t make out much of the conversation despite everyone else being deathly silent. My guess is it was some kind of check point? Or maybe he was just asking a buddy what was up ahead. Either way the result was we turned around and went a different way.
We drove maybe another ten minutes and then into a parking garage that didn’t look familiar. The guy in the back with us got out and stood beside the van, looking around. I imagined that he was looking for a good spot to shoot us and dump our bodies.
“Why are we stopping here?” Barrett asked the driver.
He had the best English of the three, which was to say not that good. He gave some halting explanations that I can’t even recreate but eventually we got the gist that we were waiting for some kind of trouble to pass by or blow over.
That’s totally logical on the one hand, but on the other hand the longer I sat in a van under armed guard, the more anxious I got.
The cramp started in my hand. I squeezed my palm between my thighs, willing it to go away. The last thing we needed was that. I tried not to let on that anything was going on.
But just sitting there, waiting, with no idea how long it would be, was torture. I was doing shit like trying to count to two hundred in my head without getting distracted. But pain was distracting.
I couldn’t stand sitting there in pain and silence anymore. At least let there be not silence. I started talking to Ziggy. I didn’t care that everyone else was sitting right there with us. He was next to me with Tony on his other side across the van bench.
“I never got to ask you how you thought the show went. There was that…argument and then bam, I was down for the count.” I didn’t use Linn’s name.
“I thought the show went fine,” he said, voice soft. “This isn’t the time or place for perfectionism.”
That wasn’t what I expected him to say. “It’s not?”
“No. During rehearsal, sure. But at this point I think it is what it is.”
The gunman in the passenger seat climbed out of the van and went to share a cigarette with his counterpart a few yards away. None of the rest of us dared move.
I went on. “For what it’s worth I think the band fuckup probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d been at the top of my game.”
“But you’re not, dear one, and last I looked you weren’t playing the drums.” He shifted slightly so his leg was more tightly pressed against mine.
“I just didn’t want you to think I didn’t…you know…worry that I was letting you down.”
“You’re not letting me down. Letting me come out here by myself? That would have been a let-down.” He twined his fingers in my good hand and I shifted my cramping hand to under my leg.
No one else said a word. They were more or less forced to listen to us having this conversation. “Linn seems to think I’m a liability.”
“Linn is extremely loyal, like a pitbull who thinks attacking the mailman is protecting the house,” he said simply. I heard a sound behind us that was probably Stella stifling a laugh. “I’ve spoken with her.”
I took that to mean he’d told her to leave me alone. That should have made me feel better, and maybe it did, but with my hand getting worse it was hard to tell.
There were a lot of other things I wanted to talk with him about, but not with everyone else listening to us. I’d said what I could bring myself to say. I’d wanted him to know that if we got shot in a drug war turf battle that, well, I cared.
He squeezed my fingers gently which to me seemed to say he cared, too.
It wasn’t much, but you know “take what you can get” is practically a motto of mine.
As it turned out, the turf war wasn’t about our hotel itself, and therefore had not dissuaded a few hundred–or maybe it was thousands by now–fans from camping out. Barricades had been erected to keep them to certain parts of the street, leaving the doorway to the lobby clear. The van pulled right up.
If you wondered if armed guards would be an effective way to keep hysterical fans at bay? I don’t know about always, but it worked this time.
(By the way folks, my erotic science fiction publishing company, Circlet Press, is running a Kickstarter right now, trying to raise funds for a 25th anniversary anthology and also operating seed money for the coming year. Check out the great rewards and the campaign here: http://kck.st/2xL0iEm. And for those of you who supported the last DGC Kickstarter! I *know* there must be at least one of you still who hasn’t received your book yet! Other than Chris, Gina, Kira, Steph, and Brian. And Isabelle, your replacement necklace is on the way, too! -ctan)