Blue’s didn’t have a dressing room or a green room, in fact a converted broom closet, not much bigger than a small walk in closet was all he had, but Charles graciously accepted the invitation to use it whenever they played. Last night had been no different. Except last night he didn’t have the room to himself. Raymond waited on the goodwill couch. Its cushions where broken down and one of arms had stuffing pouring from its bright orange side, it smelled a little like mildew and cat urine but Charles loved it non-the-less. What he hated about it was that his good for nothing brother occupied it at the moment he left the stage and planned to crack open a beer and relax before he helped load the gear into the second hand van. Hell, who was he kidding, it was a nineteen eighties model cargo van that was more like fourteenth hand.
“Wha’ the fuck bro’,” Rainbow yelled as he jumped off the couch. He threw his hand up into the air waiting for a high five. Charles didn’t return the favor.
“You liked it?”
“Of course I did, I’m your brother man, I love everything you do.”
“But if you weren’t my brother?” Charles reached into a mini-fridge under his vanity. He never knew why it was even there, he never used it. Maybe someone else does, he thought.
“Come on man, you know country ain’t my thang, but yeah, you good.” He smiled and forced Charles into a giant bear hug. “What ya say we go get fucked?”
“Man I gotta get this stuff loaded and get home to get some sleep. I got a big day tomorrow, ya know.”
Raymond plopped his ass back down into the cushion of the orange couch and Charles thought he heard a spring pop. “Of course I do. What time you meeting them?”
“Yup,” Charles said while taking a pull on the Michelob light.
“Fuck, that be early, bitch.”
“Why do you think I’m trying to get out of here?”
After he finished his beer he finished loading the ancient van and told his band members goodbye for the evening. Or actually the morning, it was four am when he got to his tiny studio apartment on River St. It wasn’t much but it was his and it had a balcony and a view overlooking the river. Bars and restaurants lined the street. It was in the same district as Blues and it had only taken him three minutes to get home. He decided to rest his eyes for a few minutes before he had to go to his meeting.
As they left the city and entered into the rural area of Pine County, Charles’ stomach began to turn and do tumbles. His mop still wet from the quick shower that he had taken in order to wake up a bit. Six thirty came really early. Even though the sign at the bank read thirty five degrees his wet hair was the least of his worries. At this moment all he could hope for was that Bash didn’t fuck anything up or that he didn’t get someone killed.
“Dude you really need to learn to take a shower.” Charles eyes were beginning to water from the stench coming from the passenger seat.
“Fuck you man, Yo’ goddamned brother keeps me working all the time. I came right from the corner to your place. I didn’t have time to go home.” He peered out the window as the pine trees that lined the road sped by at a leisurely pace. They weren’t moving fast. No one had touched the roads in days and they still held a dangerous amount of ice. “Besides no one will fuck with me if they smell me. They don’t wanna get that close, ya know?”
“Sure.” Charles said as he turned off the road onto a gravel drive that would have been missed by anyone who didn’t know that it was there. It sat between two big pine trees that were overgrowing into the road and the ice covered needles raked the side of the van as they approached the run down single wide trailer.
In the beginning Charles shrugged off what he was doing as a way to give people what they wanted at a fair price. No mind the fact that these people were sick and he was feeding their disease. He just didn’t care. His music wasn’t paying his bills and this seemed like the only way to make the ends meet. Besides it was a natural born instinct, his family had always been in some kind of “unethical” business, pimping, dealing a little weed now and again. But crystal was something that Charles found hard to wrap his head around.
As the rickety van pulled to a stop in front of the even ricketier trailer a man stepped out wearing a painters mask. He waved his hands into the air, but Charles wasn’t sure if it was to say hello or to wave them off. And when Charles’ work boot touched the ice covered yard he knew.
“Don’t come up, we are cooking another batch.” The bald man announced. His slight under bite made him resemble an English Bulldog. “I saw your gig last night Psycho, you did an amazing job as usual. I know it isn’t your most popular song but I rocked out to Crystal.” He pounded his chest with his fist. “Shit hits right here you know, kinda close to home.”
“Sure I do.” Charles said. He didn’t like chit-chat. Especially with Tony.
Charles noticed Tony glancing past him toward the van. He raised his finger and shook it at Charles. His arms bowed and his chest stuck out which made him look even more like an English Bulldog. “Fuck you Psycho, I said that hot-kid isn’t to come here anymore. And Rainbow knew that.”
“Listen Tony, Rainbow wasn’t going to let me roll up in here alone, not with the amount of money I have in the van, and not with you tweekers. As long as shit goes down right, there ain’t no need for Bash to get out of the van and start shooting. With the cooking going on I have a feeling it would be bad for us all.” Charles said taking a step toward Tony. “And please don’t call me Psycho. I don’t like it.”
“Well you can call me Scarface, I don’t like Tony.” He said calming down just a little.
“Okay then, Scarface, why don’t you show me your little friends.” Tony got his nickname after he got cut in prison in Charleston, the cut runs along the left side of his face starting at the temple and ends at his chin. He isn’t Cuban, or whatever Pacino was in that movie, he is as American as apple pie. In fact he made methamphetamine on the very property his family settled on just before the civil war. His family fought for the south and by the shaved head and swastika tattoo on his neck Charles had a pretty good guess as to why he ended up with that scar.
Tony stared at him with a puzzled look on his face, like he had no idea what he was talking about, and Charles thought that might be a relative possibility.
“The weight, do you have it ready?” He asked again.
“Oh, yeah its in the barn.”
“Why don’t you get it and I will meet you at the rear of the van with the money.”
Charles had the duffle bag open at the rear of the van when Tony returned with the drugs. He stepped around carrying a white thirteen gallon trash bag tied about halfway up. Two other men escorted him and Charles knew them as Tiger and King, otherwise known as Donald Adams and Michael Robinson respectively. They could have been triplets, ugly fucking triplets. All three wore shaved heads with swastika tattoos somewhere visible and they all three wore dirty blue jeans, sleeveless shirts and work boots.
“Damn, we give you all kinds a cash and you can’t put it in something a little nicer for me to deliver that shit to Rainbow?”
“Contrary to what you may believe, I run on a pretty tight budget and my profit margin is hurting, you know in these hard times and all.” They both chuckled. Even a chuckle could be heard from the front seat.
Charles handed over the money and they left him alone to store the drugs. Charles pulled open the guitar cases and lifted the red velvet that lined each case revealing a hidden compartment in each. They were back inside when Charles turned onto the road and headed back to his apartment.
The road was slick and slippery when Charles topped a hill and saw a Dodge SUV sitting on the side of the road with Pine County Sheriff Department painted on the side. Charles watched in his rear view as he passed and it pulled out behind him. Its lights quickly coming on.
“Shit.” Bash exclaimed.
“Calm down Rowland. We don’t know what they want. I definitely wasn’t speeding.”
They sat on the side of the road and watched as a sleek dark haired beauty approached the drivers side of the van. She placed her hand on her gun and stayed just behind the door in a defensive move.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?” The officer asked.
“I don’t know, maybe cuz you a crazy stalker.”
She chuckled and relaxed, laying her arms on the open window. “Very funny Charles. I‘m not a stalker just your biggest fan. Your free to go now. Just wanted to say hello.”