Part 1, Chapter 12

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When Mandi had said to Vyola that she needed eyes on her twenty-four seven, Vyola hadn't realized that she meant it literally. As soon as they rejoined Patience and Jjeni in the waiting room, however, Mandi broke the news to them. She had hired a bodyguard who would start as soon as they got back to New York.

The man was a walking wall. Ironically and much to their delight, his name was Walter. He had a last name that none of them could pronounce. They took to calling him "WallTall Blah-Blah-Chenkov." Their joking was, disappointingly, lost on him. Patience was adamant that he was former KGB. They weren't sure how much English he understood or spoke. He was a man of few words.

At first, they were all uncomfortable with his presence but by the time they were headed back from New Jersey they had lost their shyness. Viola was very glad very glad that he was there although she hated to admit it. The club where they played tonight had at its height hosted well-known, now classic rock bands. In recent years it had become more known for its alternate, heavy metal and indie acts. It was apparent from the start that the three-band lineup they were in was not a good match.

They had spent the first hour of their time back stage in a tiny ladies room, the only place they had to change from their street clothes to their stage outfits, dodging around each other as they pulled shirts, shoes and skirts from their travel bags. Patience set her cosmetics kit on the sink and they took turns sticking their faces in front of the small cracked mirror to apply their makeup. After that, they sat waiting on a long low black bench against a cement wall, physically blocked by WallTall from interacting with any of the other musicians. They were grateful. Despite WallTall's presence, they were bombarded with propositions and offers to do drugs. While girlRulz had made friends in the New Jersey and New York club circuit and had a circle of people they knew and trusted, they saw none of them. Even Patience, who might ordinarily join someone for a vape was leery of this group.

"Who knows what I'd end up smokin'?" she said, shaking her head.

All they knew was that the lineup had changed. That was disappointing. When they were told what it was they knew they were in for a rough time. The first band up was a German screamo group named Krak'd P-O-T. Not only did they know that any fans of this group would hate girlRulz with a passion, they quickly realized that none of their fans would show. Many of their fans were young kids and no parents in their right minds would bring them here tonight. The headliner was Spit Stain, a heavy metal alt band. Their manager was there and Vyola recognized him as a man Mandi had introduced her to at a party.

He was an older guy who you would never guess was in the heavy metal rock band business. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and a short-sleeved plaid shirt with dockers. His close-cropped hair was streaked with grey and he looked like he should be in front of a church congregation leading the choir. Even WallTall, after giving the man a quick once over, stepped aside to let him talk to them. He shook each of their hands in turn.

"Hi ladies, hello: Vyola, Patience, Jjeni, hello. Danny Johnson, hi. Vyola, we met – remember? Yes? Good, good."

He looked around them, "I was sorry to hear about your troubles in San Francisco. I see that you have a new staff member. Good for you, good idea."

"He's WallTall – I mean, Walter," Jjeni said.

WallTall looked down over his shoulder, "Hello."

Danny stared at him for a quick moment, "Yes. Hello, hello."

He turned back to Jjeni, "But where is Ms. Mickel?"

"She couldn't make it tonight," she said.

"That's too bad, too bad," Danny said, "I guess you didn't know about the line up changes tonight?"

Vyola shook her head. "No. No one told us, Danny."

"I'm so sorry," he said, "If I realized that you were the meat," he blushed, "Sorry, that's the name they call the middle band in a three band line up here – no offense, girls, no offense – I would have talked to Mandi about it. This is not your crowd, no mam, not at all. I sure hope they don't give you a hard time."

"I think we can count on it," Patience said.

"Yes, I'm afraid you're right. I'm surprised they didn't tell you. It happened almost two weeks ago when Sangrya dropped out."

"Do you know why she did?" Patience asked.

Danny screwed up his lips and shook his head, "No one is sure but," he leaned in, "I heard she told her mother - she manages her, you know, or did - to fuck off, and she quit the biz."

Vyola, Patience and Jjeni looked at one another. They all knew Sangrya and had opened for her at a couple of venues. She had top one-hundred tracks on pop, rock and Latin charts. She was even featured on a hip-hop song. Sangrya had once told Vyola how close she and her mother were. Vyola wondered what had happened.

Danny went on, "The first band dropped when they heard about Sangrya – it was that acoustic group, String Possy. I don't know what happened. Maybe they didn't want to cancel you and couldn't find another act. I don't know. I would think that Mandi would have heard. Strange, very strange."

There was a loud crash that happened somewhere off stage, followed by screaming and loud whoops and hollers. A fight.

"The crowd is gearing up," Danny said.

"Sounds like," Patience replied.

"Gotta go, girlRulz, gotta go," he pressed his hand to each of theirs one last time, "Good luck out there tonight."

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