Friday, June 19, 2020

Chapter 3

Sitting nearby when Katie and Becca neared the restrooms, was a short, spiked-haired man, with wispy whiskers who heard what Katie had said, recognizing her as his boss’s rival, but unaware of who she truly was to him. He rose from his bar stool with deviousness in mind and headed over to Nick Thomas to engage him in what he had hoped would be a little confrontational action, spicing up the evening. 
Alexander “Junior” Gifford, Nick’s sound engineer, was the young man with the wispy whiskers who overheard Katie’s less than flattering remarks about his boss. He knew telling Nick what he heard would surely light up the pub that night. What Junior did not know was that little information that he was only too happy to share with Nick, would ultimately lead to his superstar, playboy status abrupt finale with no encore following. The shocking devastating truth of Nick’s truly damaging behavior was only thirty minutes, one block, and one brick wall away.  
Moments before Junior approached Nick, he and Shawn were discussing that night’s performance, which Nick felt was more than just lackluster but downright awful. Nick was leaning frontwards against the bar having another disagreement with Shawn, which seemed to be all they did as of late.  
“Nick, you gotta lay off the booze. You cannot expect to down several beers and go out and perform at the top of your game.” Nick claimed one of the bar stools, moving it just over a foot further away from his irritating friend.   
“Shawn, get off my back. I do not get drunk before my performances.”  
“Maybe not falling down drunk, but the beer slows you down and takes away from your charismatic stage presence that you once had.” With his elbows leaning on the bar, he guzzled the last couple of sips of his beer, slammed the bottle down to get the bartender’s attention and signaled for another.  
Rubbing his un-kept  beard on his face, he ordered his favorite beer chaser. “Hey, buddy, throw in two shots of Patron, one for me, the other for my matronly friend over here, who needs to loosen up for once, like he used to,” he snickered. Shawn leaned in sideways from the bar facing Nick with his elbow resting on the bar, as he stood in between two bar stools.  
“No, thanks, none for me and cancel his,” Shawn said. Nick put his hand up in the air signaling for his shot that he ordered, throwing caution to the wind, despite Shawn’s conscientious caveat.  
“Screw that, I’ll take his, also.”  
“Buddy, listen, Cath’ and I are worried about you. You and that stupid whack-job and all your drinking is going to get you a cell right next to your Dad’s. You’re one shot of Patron away from a repeat in history.” Nick slammed his fist down on the bar and spun his head toward his closest, yet lately annoying friend.  
“Shut up, Shawn, I’m nothing like him. I’ll never be like that murderous scum, who is rotting where he should be, so shut the hell up. I’m getting pretty sick of your nagging at me like my mother. Leave me alone.”  
“Well, pal; I’m getting pretty sick of your selfish, ego-maniac, bitching at everyone around you who cares enough to try to get you to open your eyes. Dude, you look like hell. You’re slowing down, your timing is off, your voice sounds like shit, and your stage presence is practically a sleeper.” He crooked his head toward Shawn with a snarl on his face.  
“We’re all sick of you and your bitching,” Jerry said as he approached the two men, claiming the other bar stool behind Shawn.  
“Now, you’re going to get in my face, Jer’? 
“I’ll get in your face, too, jerk,” Mike said kicking Nick’s bar stool, as he approached them right after Jerry. “I’m ready to walk. You sounded like shit tonight.” 
“Fuck off, Mike,” he said, as he threw down the second shot of the clear liquid, relishing in the familiar burn in the back of his throat, and throwing his chin out at Mike.    
“Yeah, I’m ready for that. Jerry. We ought to take that other gig we’ve been talking about.” Nick spun around and shot a stare at Jerry, then Mike. He got off his stool and in Mike’s face.  
“You been talkin’ to someone else, that’s bull. Don’t threaten me.” 
“It’s not a threat, dude, we have. Ask Shawn,” Jerry retorted. 
Nick twisted his head then his body to look at Shawn who nodded. Before Shawn could say a word, Junior approached the four of them. He had a devious look on his face. His roguish grin told Shawn he was up to no good, again.  
“Hey, boss it’s your lucky night. Guess who’s here,” Junior said with his hands in his pocket and mischief in his eye.   
“Who is it?” He asked, stretching his neck to look around.  
“Only your favorite chick, and as a matter of fact, she’s one of your wannado's.” Junior smiled with an obnoxious twist. 
Shawn feared the worse knowing that this was Katie Lynn’s hometown. He thought a face to face with Katie would be good, but not with Nick drunk and the whack job around. Shawn called Mike and Jerry together and spoke to them, sending them off on assignment.  Shawn ran his fingers through his short, near-black, thick wavy hair. He shook his head, frustrated and he threw his 5’11” one hundred and ninety pound body up against Junior’s 5’6” one hundred sixty pounds. 
“Get lost,” Shawn said, as he pushed the little beady-eyed man, who in turn shoved him back to get himself in front of Nick. “Junior, take off. You’re just going to start trouble.” Nick twitched his head away from Shawn showing his disapproval.  
“I’m only here to help out my boss by supporting him against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and this one is definitely domestic, who needs to be dominated. You think you can handle that, boss?” He said slurring and cackling.  
“Junior, what the hell are you talking about? What’s a wanna-do?” He grabbed his beer off the bar guzzling half the bottle.  
“You know, one of the chick’s you want to do, but she won't give you the time of day,” Junior said.  
“I don’t have any wanna-do’s. I get whomever I want, whenever I want, where ever I want, and whatever I want.” He rubbed his  beard on his lower right cheek. He put both hands in his pockets, framing his manhood, proud of where it had traveled and how much exposure it had gotten over the last few months. He gave Junior an arrogant proud look, smiling mischievously.  
“Yes, and whatever diseases you can accumulate,” Shawn said raising one eyebrow, chiding Nick.   
“I know what the hell I’m doing, I’m not a moron.” He slammed his beer bottle down on the bar.  
“Really, I’m not convinced of that, lately,” Shawn said. He put his hands on his hips, tucking his index fingers under his belt.  
“Screw you, Shawn,” Nick said, throwing his head back and causing Shawn to step back. Nicolas Paul would never have spoken to his best friend in that manner. 
“Junior, take note. Watch a pro. You might learn something.” 
He headed off to the land of groupies to pick him out a fair maiden to prove his adroit manhood to Junior. He spotted Brooke McIntosh in that group of beautiful, ego-building, idol-worshiping groupies. He hesitated, having not been drunk enough to find her appealing at that moment, and slithered back, foolishly hoping she had not spotted him, yet.  
“All right, who is it?” He asked. Junior’s calculating smile recommenced on his face, excited to be starting some serious fireworks.  
“How about a little piece of Katie Lynn Moore's ass tonight, boss. You think you can dominate her tonight with anything you want?” Junior shoved Nick a bit with his elbow. 
“That bitch is here?” He picked his head up and looked around, spying over all the heads in the bar. 
“Yeah, and she had a little bit of something to say about you.” Junior signaled the bartender for a beer and then leaned his elbow on the bar in between Shawn and Nick.  
“What did she say?” He looked down at his sound engineer. 
“Something about the whack job as the stench from you as the skunk, spraying your stink everywhere. Then she said something about your expanding middle coming close to the size of your head.”  
“Where is she? I’ll fix her.” Nick’s jaw clenched as he made a fist. He started searching with even more intensity, ready to strike from his wrath.    “She walked into the ladies' room, just a minute ago,” Junior said, pointing toward the restrooms with his head. 
Shawn shoved Junior. “You are an ass, Junior. Nick, don’t do anything you’ll regret.”   
“Shut up Shawn. Everybody knows, Nick wants a piece of her, but he won’t admit which piece.” Junior continued to taunt Nick who got in his face. Leaning down over the short man to intimidate him, Nick corrected Junior’s supposition. 
“I wouldn’t touch that bitch, even with a bag over her head, or mine for that matter. Get lost, Junior, before I find myself a new sound engineer. You screwed with my mic tonight. I know you did.”  
“Nick stop talking out of your ass. You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Shawn said. Junior flung his head back at Shawn and went off to stir the pot a little more. He knew that telling the whack job of Katie’s presence there that night could only increase the drama and maybe even start a catfight.  
“Where is she? Shawn, do you see her?” He raised his head and rubbernecked it, looking around, reaching to look above the crowd.   
“Nick, don’t do it.” Nick signaled to the bartender to give him another beer. “Don’t have another; it will just make things worse for you.”  
“Mind your business, Shawn.” Nick continued to lift his head over the crowd, trying to spot who he thought was some obscure trouble-making author. “She’s going to regret every piece of shit that came out of her skank mouth this past year.”  
“Are you sure it’s not going to be the other way around?” Shawn said. “Take a good look at her. Nicolas Paul would love her.” Nick’s head dropped from searching, and he shot an angry glare at Shawn.  
“What the hell is that supposed to mean, Shawn? I’ve not changed that much. I’ve had to adjust some, but it’s still me.” 
“No, not even close,” Jerry said. Nick glared at Jerry and then started looking around, again.  
“Shut up, asshole.” Nick rubbed the back of his neck vigorously.  “How come I am the only one here who can see the truth about her and her phony fa├žade?”  
“You wouldn’t know the truth about her, if it came right up and slapped you in the face,” Shawn retorted. 
“Shawn you gotta tell him,” Jerry said, with Mike nodding in agreement. Shawn had just informed Jerry and Mike that night who Katie Lynn Moore was, before he sent them off to look for her.  
“Tell me what? Shawn, what do you gotta tell me? Is this about your new alleged gig?” Nick spit out a sharp disbelieving burst of air with his tightened lips.  
“Nick, listen to me. Stop looking around, and look at me.” He dropped his beer bottle on the bar and turned toward Shawn. 
“Fine, what is it?” Nick lowered his head and shoulders, putting his hands on his lower hips.  
“Bro, you know Katie Lynn Moore, you’ve met her.” 
“When have I come in contact with that bitch? I don’t remember that.”  
“It was before she wrote—.” Just as he was about to finish, a fresh cold, wet beer bottle bypassed Shawn’s face. Brooke reached up and put it in Nick’s face for him to grab.  
“Here ya go, Nicky.” He grabbed the bottle from a very anxious and pleased Brooke.   
She had darted over to Nick after Junior reported this great news to her. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for Brooke, and she was going to savor every wonderful moment. They had a common enemy there. Her heart started racing, and her mind went on a marathon of memories and moments to come in her delusionary hope for the future.    
Brooke knew that it was only a matter of time before Shawn had enough and broke up with his best friend. She was about to get her wish come true, unfortunately for  her, for only for fifteen minutes. The dream come true would soon crash fatalistically into a brick wall to become her worst nightmare. Nick gave Brooke a nod right before guzzling half the bottle. He let out a big sigh as well as Shawn did with the disgust of Brooke’s appearance.  
“Thanks, so, Shawn, when have I met the bitch?”  
“Forget it, dude. Too many itching ears,” Shawn said looking at Brooke. 
“You’ve met the bitch?” She asked.  
“I don’t think so, but Shawn, here seems to think so.” Shawn shot an angry stare at  Brooke and shook his head.  
“When did my Nicky meet her? You haven’t met her, have you?” Brooke held on to his bicep.  
“If I did, it must not have been all that special.” Nick pulled away from her grasp, by putting his fists on his hips.  “So, let’s hear it, dude, when?” He asked, pushing Shawn, who backed up, shocked at the aggressive attack. Mike stepped in between Nick and Brooke giving her a shove. 
“You know, you need to get the hell away from here, you whack-job. Nick doesn’t need, or want you to make things worse.” Mike curled his hand into a fist.  
“Listen, you sick twisted bitch, get lost. Nick can’t stand you. As a  matter of fact, no one can stand you,” Jerry said with clenched teeth. Brooke held on tighter and looked up to Nick. 
“Nicky, are you going to let them talk to me like that after what we—,” he interrupted her by pulling his arm away, stepping forward one-step.   “Hey guys, go easy on Brooke,” he said, pacifying her, shaking his head no at her. He spotted the two women coming out of the ladies’ room and move on to a table with two men. His vision was foggy, and they were quite a distance away. People weaved in and out of his line of sight.  
“Is that her, Brooke?” He asked, blinking furiously. Brooke put her arm around his bulky arm with a full beer bottle in the other hand, ready to hand it to Nick.  
“Yep, that’s the slut. C’mon, let’s go.” She tugged at his arm when Jerry got up in her face.  
“Oh, now she’s about to get a little Nick Thomas and not the good stuff,” Nick said. Nick started to move toward their booth when Shawn stepped in front of him. He held him back by putting his hand up against Nick’s chest, extending his arm to hold him back.  
“Don’t do this. I mean it. You are going to regret it.” Shawn gave Brooke a look, showing his annoyance at her appearance. 
“Hey, you stupid whore,” Mike said, getting in her face. “Your days of throwing yourself at Nick are about to end. He’s going to find his teacher, and you’ll be out in the cold doing tricks, again.”   
Nick twisted his head, with his body following promptly. He shot Mike an angry scowl for even bringing up the topic of his Teach. Nick tucked his chin and furrowed his brow with a quizzical look on his face. His tightly clenched jaw accused Mike of no good.  
“Mike, what the hell are you talking about? You don’t know that.” He turned to Shawn. “You wanna tell me what the hell’s going on here? You all are up to something.” Nick’s stance became even more tense and stiffened at the mere mention of his Teach, and Brooke noticed. She had a worried look on her face as if Mike and Jerry knew something, bringing an air of doom around Brooke’s aurora. 
“She’s married,” Brooke said as she stepped up and hooked her arm around Nick’s again. 
“How the hell would you know that?” Nick asked, spinning around, pulling away from her, and putting his hands on his lower hips. “You don’t know her, either.”  
“You told me all about her, remember?” 
“I didn’t talk about her with you, I never would do that.” 
“Don’t you remember? I saw it on Facebook. I told you the other night when we were in the bus in your back—.” Nick grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the guys, scolding her. He got close to her face and lowered his voice, so as to keep Shawn from hearing him.
“Shut up, Brooke. Get out of here,” he said as he shoved her away. She ran off into the ladies’ room, embarrassed that he denied her the truth in front of his friends, again.  
Nick turned to look at Shawn as if he were a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Shawn shook his head in disgust and crossed his arms  across his chest.  
“Damn it, Nick, how the hell could you have, and with the whack job? I don’t even know you anymore.”   
“She’s lying. I didn’t do anything with her,” he said, as he rubbed his nose and squeezed his eyes closed to avoid eye contact with his best friend. With his eyes closed that brief second, the darkness of his eyelids played like an x-rated movie screen with a glimpse of his night with Brooke and Jenna. He quickly turned away and continued to scan the restaurant, in attempt to change the subject fast, having lied to his best friend.  “I’ll bet anything my Teach went and married that deputy. I heard from someone, I think, that she did,” his mind went into a fog with a vague memory of someone telling him of her marriage to a cop and a baby in her arms. “I’ll bet she’s even had his baby. She told me that any sign of me with a groupie or anyone else, and she would marry him in an instant. That damned Chelsea lied, and let everyone believe there was something going on, and you know there wasn’t, don’t you?” 
“Maybe not with Chelsea, but apparently with the whack job, and who is to say you didn’t screw Chelsea. I can’t believe anything you say anymore,” Shawn said with his fists on his hips. Nick rubbed the back of his neck, pulling at his hair in the side of his neck, ready to pounce on Shawn for accusing him of messing with Chelsea.
“Dude, you know I didn’t do anything with her. You know she set me up, and that bastard Colton spread those rumors. He lost me that world tour, you know that.  You’re the one that told me. That bitch Chelsea did this. She ruined my chances to get my Teach back when she wouldn’t tell the truth. She lost me my Teach.”  
A twinge of sadness and regret came over Nick. He grabbed the beer from the bar and guzzled the entire bottle, attempting to drown out his sadness and regret at letting his reputation become that of a playboy.  
“You did that yourself, Nick when you started fooling around and partying all the time. You blew it. Don’t go blaming anyone else. Besides, your teacher isn’t married, nor does she have any kids. She’s waiting for Nicolas Paul to return,” Shawn said. Nick’s body twitched, and he spun on his heel toward Shawn. He leaned over the four inches difference in height into  his face, and  Shawn knew he struck a chord in Nick. Nick’s foggy brain started spinning and was mortified to think that Shawn could know something and have kept it from him, all this time? He tilted his head and beaded up his eyes with an accusatory look, determined to get what information Shawn might have on his Teach. 
“What the hell are you talking about? How do you know? What do you know? C’mon dude, where is she?” Shawn tucked his chin and crooked his head when Brooke returned from being scolded, persistent to pursue her dream man. She  hooked on to Nick’s arm with a fresh brew in hand for him, muffling Shawn again from telling Nick the identity of the woman who was about to take him down. “Tell me, Shawn, what do you know about my…,” he paused, looking at Brooke who had a death grip on his arm.  Shawn shook his head with Brooke nearby. Nick pulled his arm away from Brooke, knowing she was what was keeping him from the truth about his teacher. 
“No way, dude, not with her around,” he said, eyeing Brooke. “Look, if you’re so stupid to screw her, and now you’re going to join forces with that twisted whack job, you are worse off than I thought. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were even part of that stupid Facebook page, like a little child,” he said, eyeballing Brooke and raising one eyebrow. Nick turned toward Brooke, fearful of her letting it known of his support in her own little smear campaign. Brooke faced Nick and shook her head. She had promised to keep his part a secret, and she was already on shaky ground right there. She wouldn’t risk it. 
“That’s not true, Shawn. He had nothing to do with it. I know who did it and it wasn’t my Nick. He wouldn’t stoop so low.” She wrapped her arm around his, again, assuming she could earn it by standing up for Nick, lying for him. 
“Oh, but you would, you little bitch,” Mike said, stepping and elbowing her with a little shove, trying to break her grip on Nick’s arm. Nick and Brooke stared at each other, and Shawn could read their faces and eyes. That was another thing Brooke had on him.
“That’s it, jerk. I’m done. You’re screwing her and smearing an innocent wonderful lady who you don’t even know; or rather don’t even know who she is to you. Every word out of your mouth lately, is a lie. You picked that up from her, didn’t you? I told you to stay the hell away from her, and I told you to get lost,” he said to Brooke. “But you know just how to get to him,” Shawn took the beer bottle from Nick and put it up to his face, then slammed it down on the bar. “I quit.” Nick threw his head back and tucked his chin in disbelief, having missed the reference to who Katie Lynn Moore is to him. 
“You quit what?” He asked. 
“I’m quitting the band, and I quit you. Find yourself a new stage manager and keyboardist.”  
“You are full of it, you won’t quit.” Nick stood over Shawn with his hands on his hips, hovering over his best friend with anger spewing from his stance and glare.  
“Yes, I will. If you don’t leave with us, right now, we all quit,” Shawn said as he moved over to stand next to Jerry and Mike.   
“Yep, I quit,” Jerry said. 
“Me too,” Mike said.  
“You guys are full of it. You aren’t going to quit. You need your paychecks, and I pay you quite well, more than you deserve, even.” All three of the men snorted out a disgusted and furious laugh. 
“That’s bull, buddy. You may have signed my paycheck, but you wouldn’t be where you are without me, and you know it,”  Shawn said.
“You’re the one full of shit. I worked my ass off and got where I am, because I’m damn good. I’m your bread and butter, there’s no way you’re going to quit. You need me, and we have two more shows on this tour, before it’s done.”  
“Correction, you have two more shows, less a keyboardist, a lead guitar, and a bass player,” Mike said with his arms folded across his chest.  
“Good luck finding replacements by tomorrow night, jackass,” Shawn said.
“Go to hell, Shawn. You can’t quit, and even if you do, keyboardists are a dime a dozen and so aren’t stage managers.”  
“And lead guitarists?” Jerry asked. 
“And bass players, right Nick?” Mike asked. Brooke thought a little prompting would put the final nail in the coffin of Shawn’s control over Nick, leaving him all to herself.  
“Nicky, they are just a bunch of ingrates. They won’t quit they, need you, way more than you need them. Like you said, keyboardists, guitarists, bass players in Nashville are a dime a dozen. They’ve been holding you back, all this time,” Brooke said.  
“Maybe they have, I could have you guys replaced tomorrow.”   
“Really, and where are you going to get new friends, you ass?” Shawn asked. Nick’s shoulders dropped with that remark, as he started to concede to the fact he just gave his best friend his walking papers with all that he had said that night. Mike edged over, getting in Brooke’s face and poked her chest. 
“Hey jackass, guess what else are a dime a dozen?” Mike asked, looking up at Nick. He flicked Brooke under her chin. “Cheap, sick and twisted, whack job whores, are a dime a dozen and so aren’t two-bit country singers. Fuck off, Nick Thomas, you are a shit.” Mike shoved Nick as he walked away and stormed out the door. Nick looked at Jerry. 
“I’m with Mike, only I would have said, scum-sucking whores and asshole two-bit country singers.” Jerry flicked Brooke’s hair and shoved Nick some more as he walked away. She turned to Shawn, giving him a snide smile, knowing he was next. Shawn’s red-spoked eyes screamed abomination at Nick, and he felt the piercing of his soul, at the thought of losing his best friend, but the drunkenness of his pride remained far above the legal limit.  
“What, you got something to say to me?”   
With his eyes watering and his voice cracking, Shawn picked up the beer bottle and shoved it into Nick’s chest, as he ended a five-year brother like friendship. He slammed the bottle on the bar.  
“You know what, dude, you’re an ass. Find yourself a new friend. You may have to look for a while, because no one likes you. The guys in the band have wanted to quit for a while, and I’ve been holding it together for you. You sure haven’t deserved me doing anything for you, lately. I’ve put up with all your self-centered egomania far too long. Everything is always about you. Well, guess what? It’s not. You have no clue what’s going on in anyone else’s life but your own. You love only yourself, and like Mike said, you’re a shit; you and Tommy. You’ve sunk to his level. I never thought I’d see it, but I think you’re even worse.” He shook his head and turned to walk away. Nick walked over to Shawn. He grabbed his arm and got in front of him. With Brooke out of ear shot, he demanded to know about his Teach and what Shawn knew about her.  
“Hey, go ahead and quit, but before you do, tell me what you know about my Teach? Where is she?” Nick demanded to know, as if Shawn owed that to him. Shawn shook his head. 
“With you like this,” he said as he pointed his head in Brooke’s direction. “And the shit you’ve pulled, there’s no way in hell I’d tell you anything about her. You weren’t worthy then, and you’re miles from being worthy of knowing anything now. Shit, you’ve sunk so low, you aren’t even worthy of the whack job.” He pulled his arm away and shoved Nick, causing him to stumble and grab onto a table to catch his balance. Nick looked down at the people sitting there, as they looked up at him, in disgust of his drunken state. Shawn paused for a second and then turned back. “I will tell you one thing, though, you, jackass, if you go over there with this whore whack job and pick a fight with Katie Lynn Moore, she’ll knock you on your ass. I’m only sorry that I won’t be able to see it.”
“Bullshit, she’s not gonna touch me. I’m bigger in name and in frame. She can’t do anything to me.”  
“No, you’re a nobody in anybody’s eyes, anybody that matters, that is. Your blind and your stupid, far more stupid than that tortoise brain that she so appropriately labeled you.” 
Shawn turned and walked out of the restaurant, giving Katie one last glance, and debated whether or not to warn her. He decided to leave well enough alone. He assumed that her family, in particular the man with her, assuming he was the cop,  would come to her defense and probably knock Nick on his butt. 

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