Authors: D. H. Cameron
“You are a genius, Josie. Let’s shop our butts off and work up an appetite,” I announced. Josie draped her arm over my shoulder and off we went to melt our credit cards.
“I love you, girl. You’re the best,” Josie said.
“You too. I can’t believe you’re married,” I said as we angled towards a lingerie shop in unison.
“I’m pregnant too,” Josie said suddenly. I stopped in my tracks, my mouth agape. “Ha, got you! You’re so gullible, girl,” Josie said laughing. I shook my head and smiled.
“I’m going to kill you,” I said jokingly and then added, “If you don’t give me a heart attack first.”
“Yeah, I heard. Tommy wouldn’t shut up about it,” James said when I picked him up at the hanger a few days later.
“It’s crazy but kind of romantic,” I said.
“You want me to take you to Vegas?” James asked and looked at me with his trademark devilish grin.
“Even if I was going to marry an ex-con like you, I wouldn’t do it in Vegas. I want a big church wedding, thousands of guests and you in a tuxedo,” I said and waited. James curled his lip and sneered at that.
“A tuxedo? You really know how to hurt a man,” he said. I giggled at that.
“You’d look sexy in a bowtie and cummerbund,” I teased. I could hardly imagine such a thing though. I’d rarely seen James in anything but jeans, a t-shirt and his favorite big, black boots. I wasn’t complaining. He looked magnificent dressed like that. James frowned and shuddered. I burst out laughing at him. “Maybe a ruffled shirt too. I’m thinking powder blue,” I continued.
“Stop it! I feel dirty now,” James said. I was glad we could joke about it. We’d never really discussed anything beyond living together. We hadn’t had a lot of time with all the drama swirling around us. Again, I wished James and I could just run off and get married like Tommy and Josie. I wished life were easier. Soon enough I hoped.
“I’m sorry. That was mean. I’ll make it up to you later,” I said. James grinned at me again but then he suddenly looked wounded.
“Ex-con? Really?” he asked.
“You just got that?” I asked him playfully.
“That’s cold,” James said as his smile returned.
“Maybe you could drop the soap tonight,” I teased. James laughed.
“I do like it when you get fired up, little girl,” James told me. Once we were home, James and I spent some time just sitting together. We didn’t talk. We lounged on the sofa in his office, James’ arm around me as I stroked his scraggly beard. It was nice to be alone at home together without the police, lawyers and private investigators. However, it didn’t last long. James’ phone rang and it was Phil, the private investigator.
“Phil, what’s up?” James asked. Phil said something I couldn’t hear and then James told him we were home and to come by. After he hung up and shoved the phone back in his pocket, James answered the question I was about to ask. “Phil says he’s found something and needs to talk to us,” James told me. Phil must’ve been on his way because he showed up only ten minutes later. I hoped he had something important for us.
“I’ve made some progress. I’ve been able to identify an individual in the licensing office in San Francisco that has connections to Victoria. I’m on my way up there to talk with the individual. The complaint against Simone was, in fact, filed by Roland Talent and by your record label James. I can’t prove it yet, but I think Victoria and someone over there are sleeping together. That’s might explain how easily they went along with her demands,” Phil said.
“What about Sylvia?” I asked.
“There’s no doubt she’s being paid by Victoria. I’ve got a few leads including one that might explain her injuries. I’ve found a Hollywood makeup artist that is connected to her. I’ve yet to track down her photographer or the woman that accosted you Simone, but it’s only a matter of time. I suspect one discovery will lead to another,” Phil told us.
“That’s great, Phil. Anything you need?” James asked.
“I’m not finished. There’s more. This isn’t just about you and Simone. It’s not just about the band. You mentioned you always felt Victoria was looking out for her bottom line instead of the acts she represented. Well, that stuck in my craw. I did some digging, talked to some clients and then greased a few palms at your label. Things aren’t matching up. I don’t want to say too much until I know more,” Phil explained.
“What are you thinking?” I asked him.
“Let me find out some more. I want to be sure about this. The less you know,” Phil said. That sounded ominous but neither James or I pressed.
“What studio does the makeup artist work for?” I wondered. Josie worked for a studio.
“United,” Phil said.
“My friend, Josie, works in wardrobe over there. Let me call her and see if she knows anything,” I offered.
“No! I don’t want to scare you, but I don’t want anyone else involved. If I’m right, this is bigger than even I thought and people will go to great lengths to protect their interests. Don’t even tell her about it,” Phil said. I looked at James and he looked concerned.
“Should we protect ourselves?” James asked. I was shocked to hear him ask.
“I was just about to suggest it. I’d keep your heads down and hire some security,” Phil declared.
“You’re scaring me,” I told him.
“It’s a precaution. Better safe than sorry,” Phil told us. I didn’t like this one bit. I knew it was more than a precaution. I understood why Phil was hesitant to tell us what he suspected, but not knowing let my mind make up all sorts of scary scenarios. I wondered if we were in over our heads. I wondered if we were in real danger.
I felt like a prisoner in my own home. Four armed guards kept watch over the house at all times. Another couple of guards accompanied James and I everywhere we went. We worked with the security firm that already provided security for the band on the road to provide even more. Each of the band members had security and Josie had moved in with Tommy sooner than she had planned to keep her safe. Battery was on a longer break than usual that happened to coincide with Phil’s ominous warnings. We took the opportunity to work out details on finishing the tour, one more trip to the upper Midwest and then a West Coast swing that would end with two shows in Los Angeles at the Staples Center.
We also met with the major investors that were quietly acquiring the outstanding stock in Roland Talent. Rence Neil, the lead singer of the 80’s glam rockers, School Boys, and Vinnie Sagen, the Mad Rocker, whose club Battery played at in Cabo attended the meeting at the house. Blade, the former lead guitarist of Blood N Roses and Christie Anastasia, the blonde pop diva, were on a conference call. This was the group, all present and former Roland clients who wanted to see the agency return to its roots. Each was a friend of Samuel Roland, Victoria’s father, and weren’t happy about what was happening to his legacy.
“Things may have changed, “James began. “I’ve hired a private investigator and he delivered some bad news. He didn’t give us details, but he suggested Battery hire additional security,” he told the group.
“So that explains the guards. I thought you were just letting fame go to your head, James,” Vinnie joked. James laughed.
“I wish, Vin. I know we’ve been careful up until now but we're close. By my count, collectively we own nearly forty-eight percent of the stock. We can’t let this slip away. We need to step up our efforts. I propose we do whatever we need to do to get the last of the stock we need and get it anyway we can. Even if we pay more than market value, even if we openly solicit. I’ll do it all. I’m already in trouble. I don’t what to put any of you in danger, whatever that might be,” James declared. I knew he was going to do it but it still took my breath away.
“James, what if Victoria finds out?” Christie asked over the phone.
“Yeah, the point was to keep this secret to block Vicky from repurchasing stock and reacquiring majority control,” Rence added.
“That’s the problem,” I told the group. “We don’t think she’s alone. She’s spent most of the proceeds from her previous sales, but we’re afraid whoever she’s working with might be able to purchase stock and do it quickly. We need to act quickly to take over Roland. We need to deny Victoria an opportunity to block us. We’ll likely only get one chance,” I explained.
“I agree with James and Simone,” Blade spoke up. He was usually pretty quiet and so his support was much appreciated.
“I do to. Let’s get this done,” Vinnie agreed.
“Look, I’m in this, good or bad. We need to get that crazy bitch out of the picture. We need to do it for Sam,” Rence declared. We only needed to hear from Christie. The rest of the group were grizzled veterans who had been around the block once or twice. Christie wasn’t out of her twenties yet but she might have been the closest to Samuel out of any of them. Sam took her under his wing when she was a teen sensation and turned her into the pop princess she was today. Nevertheless, did she have the fortitude to go through with this?
“You all know what Samuel meant to me. He was like the dad I never had. I miss him. I miss the way he ran Roland and I hate that I had to leave. I believe we need to do this with all my heart and I believe Simone can turn things around for us. I’m in. Go get Sam’s company back, James,” Christie told us.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart. I will. It’s settled. I’ll have my broker on it within the hour. I’ll be in contact with all of you as soon as we have control,” James said. I took his hand and he squeezed mine back. Nobody knew how this was going to turn out or the danger we might face. Nevertheless, the end was near. It couldn’t see it yet but I felt like it was coming and coming fast. I hoped that was true and nothing bad would happen. I had a feeling, however, all the hope in the world wasn’t enough.
James and I decided to go to Palmdale to get away for a few days before he had to go back on the road. I’d met his parents before the tour began and I liked them a lot. James’ mom, Audrey, was a pudgy lady that loved to talk and loved to laugh even more. His father, John, was a big man, balding with a potbelly and a deep booming voice. We hadn’t felt endangered despite Phil’s warnings but still we left early in the morning in the security guard’s black SUV just as if they were making a normal shift change. Once the guards were sure we weren’t being followed, they dropped James and me at my Jeep that sat at the dealership after being serviced.
It was all arranged beforehand and I felt like some kind of spy. However, the security consultant wouldn’t let us go to Palmdale alone without all the games. The security team would ensure anyone watching would think James and I were still at home. I wondered if this was all necessary, but I remembered Phil’s words. Better safe than sorry. In any case, it was nice to be out of the house, our self-imposed prison. It seemed ironic that James was facing potential prison time for assaulting Sylvia but Victoria already had us in a prison of sorts.
“James, Simone, what a wonderful surprise,” James’ mother greeted us. His father joined her on the front porch as she greeted us. Inside we were treated to coffee and danishes. It was barely nine in the morning. James’ parents were generally aware of the situation we faced, but they had no idea we were under guard and James wanted to keep it that way. We told them we had left early to avoid the traffic.
“James, you look tired. Are you eating enough?” Audrey asked.
“Mom, I’m fine. I’m on tour and I’m not getting any younger,” James told her. Still Audrey frowned.
“And you, Simone. You’re so thin,” she told me.
“I work hard to keep my figure. I promise you, I’m eating more than I should,” I replied.
“Leave them alone, Audrey. They’re fine. You’ve got me to fatten up,” John said gently and patted her hand and then his belly.
“Oh, all right. You’re staying in the spare room, aren’t you?” Audrey asked. I looked at James. We had reserved a room at a hotel.
“Uh, no, mom. We’re staying at a hotel,” James said.
“No, you’re not. You’re staying here. I won’t hear of it,” Audrey said. James was ready to counter his mother’s insistence. We’d worked out a story on the way. We got the room so we could be alone but we couldn’t very well tell Audrey and John that, not in so many words anyway. So, we told them we were leaving very early in the morning, which was true, and we needed access to the business center, which wasn’t necessarily true. “Oh, well I guess you don’t have a choice. If you’ve got business to do,” James’ mother said though she was clearly disappointed. I think she bought the story but she didn’t like it.
“We appreciate the offer, Audrey. It’s very generous but with the tour and all, we need to be in constant contact,” I offered but that didn’t seem to make her happy. “Maybe next time,” I added. Audrey’s face lit up.
“Yes. Yes, next time. I miss having James around. Even though he played that metal racket in the garage with his friends, I still loved having him here,” Audrey said. James and his father both rolled their eyes. I don’t know what I expected before I met Audrey and John but it wasn’t this. They were just a normal mom and dad. They lived in the house James grew up in, though he had paid it off for them long ago, and you’d never know their only son was a world famous rock star. It was cute.
We spent the day with Audrey and John letting James’ mom dote on us. It was nice and reminded me of home. My mom was a lot like Audrey in many ways, but I wasn’t a rock star. That evening after dinner, we left to go to our room. I’d managed to forget about all the trouble back in the real world and James seemed lighter for it too. “That was nice,” I observed as we got into our room.
“Yeah, it was. Still, I’m glad were alone,” James said as I was unpacking my overnight bag in the bathroom. I walked out to find James naked on the bed. “The prison guards aren’t here. We can mess around,” James said referring to the security guards back at the house in Malibu.
“That didn’t stop you the other night,” I said. They mostly stayed outside so we had the house to ourselves though naked hot tubbing was out.
“Details. We're alone, truly alone. I want you riding me, little girl,” James said. I giggled as I undressed.