Part 1, Chapter 16

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"Welcome back to the Morning Power Drive. This is Kyle Brews with Marcus, Ethan and the beautiful Joana and we are here with girlRulz: Vyola Katz, Patience Smith and Jjeni Wang."

"And they were here on time today."

"Let it go Joana - they were early."

"When you're early, you'r e on time, right?" Patience chimed in.

"A girl after my own heart," said Ethan

"Not quite a girl, anymore, so we've heard," said Marcus

"That's right," said Kyle, "We understand you recently turned twenty-one."

Vyola was shocked to see that Patience actually blushed. She shook her head at Vyola and Jjeni, "You guys, I said it was no big deal."

"Vyola let us in on a little secret -"

"What did you guys do?"

"- about a crush you have on someone from our sister station down the hall here. He comes in every now and again to do the graveyard shift on Rock 107. He's a guitarist who has jammed with everyone from Hendrix to Prince to Petty and he is coming into our studio right now to wish you a very happy birthday, Patience, albeit belatedly. The one, the only Ian Winteres!"

Ian walked in and Vyola could swear she had never seen Patience so happy. The girl jumped up and Winteres swept her into a big bear hug. He was just slightly taller than Patience and as thin. He took a seat next to her as Allison handed him some headphones. The last photo Vyola had seen of him had belied his age. Seeing him up close, she couldn't believe they had thought WallTall was old. The man was wizened and his long hair, once jet black was as white as snow,  pulled back in a tight ponytail. The smell of weed coming off of him instantly pervaded the studio.

"I don't know if I have a contact high," said Kyle, "but I think I'm as excited as Patience to see you."

"It's been a while, man," Winters said

"I think you've struck her mute," said Joana.

"And that is rare," added Vyola. They all laughed. 

Patience opened her mouth once or twice but nothing came out. She repeatedly put her hands to her still reddened cheeks.

"Happy birthday, Patience. How old are you, Sweetheart?" Winteres drawled.

Patience giggled. Giggled!

"Twenty-one."

"Man, I could tell some stories about when I turned that age." 

"Do tell, Ian," said Kyle.

"You know we are crashing our whole schedule," Marcus interrupted. 

"Shut up, moron. We have a rock legend here. I'm sorry, Ian, for my colleague's stupidity."

"That's okay, Kyle, stupid people are people, too."

"Please, go on."

"On my twenty-first, I was with Morrison and Danes – do you remember Danes, Kyle? He passed just recently, sadly, one of the producers in the biz. Anyway, we had a quart of Jim Beam and there were these three girls that came by the hotel room and well, we invited them in, natch. This one girl she starts to..."

Winteres stopped talking, looked around, and grinned, "Well, I'm old enough to know when ladies are present. I'll tell you the rest of that story in private, Kyle."

"Boo. But, that's sweet. It's been a long time since anyone said I'm a lady."

"I don't think he meant you, Joana, but I do look forward to hearing that story, Ian. What do you think of all this Patience?"

"I think I wish I was one of the women in that story," Patience had found her voice again.

Winters laughed. "I've heard a lot of buzz about you girls. I listened to your album. I really like it." 

"Get out. You listened to our album? You like our music?" Patience eyes were shining.

 "I do. And congrats on that number one record."

Vyola, Patience and Jjeni furrowed their brows and looked at each other. They didn't have a song at one. Too bad, Vyola thought, the old guy was losing his mental faculties.

"Oh, wow," said Ethan, "Look at their faces. I wish everyone in our listening audience could see girlRulz's faces."

"They look confused."

"They don't know. The song that you sang in San Francisco - the one you were singing when that douche pulled you off stage, Vyola. It hit number one on the rock charts."

Now they were all mute.

"Think That is number one," Jjeni finally said, just a whisper.

The whole studio broke into laughter.

"Congratulations girlRulz. By the way, your manager knew. She stopped in before she left to make sure we knew. I guess she wanted to surprise you. But what a crazy thing to do."

Vyola felt elated and downtrodden at the same time. A pact communicated wordlessly between her, Patience and Jjeni: Abort the break announcement, abort the break announcement.

"We are way behind," Alison broke in, "You need to go to our sponsors, stat."

"Gotta love Alison with her medical lingo – stat! Code Blue."

"We'll be DOA if we don't get to the commercials, Joana."

"We'll be back in a few, listeners, with girlRulz, live."

Vyola, Patience and Jjeni whipped off their headphones.

While the jocks were occupied with their endorsements and flipped through their sheets, she and the girls continued to talk toeach other with their eyes. Vyola shook her head super slow from side to side. Think That was number one on the charts. They had had no idea. Granted, they were practically in a social media moratorium since the incident, so how would they? Just a few days dark was like an eternity on the web. And there they were, clueless, ready to ramp up their media presence again while simultaneously announcing their hiatus. Now there was no way they could. Once again, Mandi had trumped them. She wondered how Mandi could have known and then it hit her: WallTall. He was Mandi's eyes and ears. They had taken for granted that he seemed oblivious to anything other than their physical protection. Of course it was WallTall.  Patience, with a sinister sneer on her lips, made a slicing motion with her hand up high over her head: WallTall. Jjeni smacked herself on her forehead: WallTall. They had carelessly talked of their plans right in front of him. They could not even blame him for it really. Mandi was the one who had hired him. It should have been obvious that she would have him report back to her everything he heard and saw. They were so stupid. 

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