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No one from BNC called that morning. I found out later why, when we were nosing around the performance hall, and a guy in jeans and a corduroy jacket came in carrying a briefcase. “You must be Daron,” he said when he saw me.

“Yes.” I took the hand he was offering and shook it.

“I’m Mills, A&R, BNC.”

So they flew this guy all the way out here for this. As if we weren’t playing New York in two weeks, anyway? “Nice to finally talk to you.”

“Likewise. You and I have a lot to discuss.”

Well, cut the preamble and let’s discuss, I was thinking. “Do you want to go somewhere?”

“Actually, I have to take care of some bullshit first, but I’ll be sure I talk to you before the night’s out. Have you seen John…?”

Fine, whatever. I shrugged in the general direction of the seating area. I had to wonder, though. Was he sent out here to bully a signature out of me? To double-check the goods prior to purchase? Because he liked being a jet-setter? Could be all of the above.

MNB were big here and all the local radio stations had personnel wandering around with backstage passes. The show was being filmed, too, for something. During soundcheck a second group of techies had to set and reset the lights for filming. I overheard one of them remarking that it was being shot on film, not video, to capture more shadow and nuance. Yet another little factoid to file away. I wondered if it was more expensive to shoot a video that way–it must have been–and how that would affect our plan to do our own, or if maybe it would be BNC’s responsibility soon.

Tread caught up with me backstage by the catering table. “So I hear you’re going to be with us the rest of the tour, eh?”

“That’s right, you’re stuck with us.” I clapped him on the back. “So what do you know about this guy Mills?”

Tread made himself a sandwich while he answered. “He’s the hot guy in A&R, the one with the magic pen.”

“What do you mean?” I started making myself a sandwich, too. The spread looked much better than in Portland, the lettuce crisp and more kinds of meat. “Magic pen?”

“He’s a VP in the company. So he has the power to say yes or no, to sign, to make things happen. Without him on our side, we’d never have gotten this far.”

“So he’s a nice guy?”

Tread gave me a disgusted look. “Daron, he’s a suit. Even if he doesn’t wear one. Don’t forget, he’s a suit.”

Okay, I thought. I can handle this guy. If he ever gets around to talking to me.

It became obvious the little chat wasn’t going to happen before the show. Big deal, I told myself. Maybe he does want to see us play before he puts the cards down. It’s only smart. I hoped Ziggy wasn’t off his stride after last night. Onstage in Portland he had seemed fine, like he was having fun, but I guess he wasn’t given how he’d sulked after. I looked around but didn’t see him. Well, he’d turn up. Once I’d put Mills out of my mind, and Ziggy too, I started to worry about Digger. Why would he track me down on the other side of the country? Just to say hi? There had to be some ulterior motive. I wondered what agency he was working for and why he hadn’t told me right out. I tried not to think about him, either. But all that happened was I ate some more catered food and thought about one, then the other, then the other, round and round until John told me we had fifteen minutes to lights up.

I gathered the others around me. “Make this a good one, guys.”

“Right,” Chris said. Ziggy and Bart shook hands. We went to the stage.

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