Sunday, September 11, 2016

Studio Time: Thirty Seven

Calling It an Ultimatum

It was two-thirty-five and thirty seconds.  Fifty. Two-thirty-six. He looked out the window and tried to stop obsessively counting seconds. Duff had spent four long hours trying to fill the time between Eric and Rayne’s leave-taking for Sandy Point and his appointment with the band’s new manager - new to him since he’d never met her, not new to Rob who’d been meeting with her for at least a month. 
Rayne's fragility and her intense reaction to Jimmy Breaux’s death worried him, and so far he had been unable to find a way to help her.  Had he been right to expose her to what he wanted from her and in such a graphic fashion? Could he have waited? Probably not, not without risking further harm to her, and yet it added more knots to an already tangled thread. It burdened her when he wanted to take those burdens from her.

Two-forty and fifteen seconds.

A tall brunette woman opened the door and stepped out on the porch, smiling at him.  That would be Royce Bristowe.  She was as he expected from someone Rob had selected: professional, attractive, charming, and probably obsessive about details. “Hello,” she called out across the driveway.

Royce glanced over his shoulder at his Jag.  "Royce Bristowe,” she said in a quick introduction.  “You must be Duff.  You have excellent taste in vehicles."
Duff returned the compliment even though his interest in her car was almost nonexistent.  He had not noticed it - it was a white car in a driveway on this Tuesday afternoon at maybe two-fifty-five and if he started counting again, twenty seconds and going up.  "As do you. Am I the first to arrive?”
“Yes you are but the others should be here soon.”

Duff followed her into the house. He looked around, familiar with the small size and the style of these homes, but somewhat surprised at the sparse furnishings. When his attention fell back on Royce, she was watching him with an amused expression.

"I’ve been told it looks like a hotel.  Honestly, I don't spend a great deal of time here. It suits my needs." She shrugged. "Would you like coffee? Something stronger?" Duff shook his head.  He had lost track of the amount of coffee he had drunk this morning and certainly could not face any more.

Gesturing toward the small area off the foyer, Royce said, "I appreciate your flexibility in meeting me here. I have a landscaper coming and this was the only day I had.  Please sit and let's get to know each other a little more."

He sat on a sofa under a window and wondered how much longer he was going to have to wait before the meeting even began.  
Shooter was habitually late.  Alex was only frequently late.  Rob was never late. “Rob is usually on time,” he said,
She laughed. “Yes he is. He was going over arrangements with a vet for his dog but he should be here shortly.”
That would explain it then. That dog was the love of the man’s life.

Royce sat across from him. "I should tell you I've done my research on each of you. I must say I find your background fascinating."

He sat there, tired and uneasy and increasingly annoyed - where the hell was Rob - unwilling to engage in small talk about himself but here he was. And there she was.  They had to speak of something.  "I came to music late. If people find it fascinating and it helps the band, then that's good."  It was completely lame.  She worked for them.  It did not matter.

She laughed. "We all have our differences, don’t we? At any rate, I don't care about the details but I do like to know who I’m managing. For example, I know how difficult it is for Rob to relinquish control of all things Flight. I know that Blade is the heart of this band and I know that Shooter comes in from the mountains only reluctantly."

Alex was now the ‘heart of the band’. That would not be news to Alex.  We all try to do what's best for the band," he said, wincing silently. 
“Your contributions are more valuable than you admit," she responded quietly, "and I believe your attachment to the band is quite strong."
A car door slammed, then another.  He heard Shooter coming across the yard even through the closed door.  She rose and headed toward the door.  "I think that’s Rob’s car now, and Shooter’s as well.”

The door opened and both of them walked in, Shooter shoving Rob aside. Rob acknowledged Duff with a smile then headed toward Royce. Other than getting out of his way, he paid no attention to Shooter. 
Shooter was already talking even as he walked through the door. “Hey Duff, hey Rob, I thought I’d be late, you just getting here?  Hi Royce! Nice place, one of those Shasta homes right on the harbor.  Mac has a friend who’s staying with her brother in the one two doors down, or the next one, one of them.” 

Royce shut the door behind both of them and urged everyone to help themselves to food or coffee or beer, Shooter still remarking on the house, Rob nodding at something Royce was saying, dining chairs pulled back. Duff took one with his back to the kitchen and waited. Everybody sat.

Royce began passing around itineraries and travel plans. "I've made one slight change to the flight plan. I replaced one of the roadies whose girlfriend is having a baby soon but other than that everything is a go. The Dead of Winter tour leaves for the Southern Hemisphere on Friday."
A roadie with a pregnant girlfriend. Duff knew she would be obsessive.

No one said anything about the ‘heart of the band’.  
Duff looked around the room.  
Royce seemed distracted by Shooter who was opening more than one beer, maybe intending to pass them around, then changing his mind and leaving them on the counter.  
Rob glanced at them then stopped doing that and gazed off into the ceiling: Rob temporarily shutting down. 

He couldn’t simply continue to ignore it.  “Shouldn’t we wait for Alex?”

"He isn't coming,” Royce said what he thought looked like an uncertain smile. “Dani scheduled a photo shoot which he said is a conflict." 
Not again.  Of course again.  There was always some kind of conflict with Alex. If the plans didn’t suit him, the plans would be changed, as they had been, over and over again.  "Why did they schedule a photo shoot for this afternoon? We leave tomorrow morning.” 

"It's a family photo shoot for a family portrait. She wanted it done before the tour. I'm sure you understand."
Absolutely, why not, take a photo, get a wall painted, get a hair cut, all critical conflicts. Why wouldn’t he understand? This time though, this time was different.  If Alex could play that game, he was tossing his hand in too.  "Of course I understand, taking a family portrait is a legitimate critical conflict.  As a matter of fact, I have a critical conflict too.  I want a week’s delay."

Rob engaged with the world again and sat back in his chair and looked at him curiously. “What reason could you possibly have for wanting to postpone? We've already delayed several times for Alex."

"Yeah man, what kind of conflict, like what do you have to do?" Shooter set the beer down on the coffee table, sat on the couch, stretched out his legs and drummed a beat on his thighs as he waited for a response.  He would probably keep that up for the remainder of the meeting until Duff wanted to hit him with something, anything to get him to stop.  He crossed his arms, briefly, mercifully stopping.
Duff turned around, hesitating, and Shooter shrugged. "It’s a reasonable question.  I’m ready to go and you’re asking me to wait, I want to know why, that's all."

Duff hadn’t prepared any kind of statement, excuse, plea. He started off in an carefully even voice although he should be speaking directly to Rob, not Shooter, but he was facing Shooter and it felt awkward to ignore him and turn around to Rob.  So he didn’t.
"There is a funeral for Jimmy Breaux at the end of the week and I won’t leave Rayne alone to deal with all of it. Shooter you know how those people were talking about her, you heard them when we went to pick up her things. They are still doing it.  One of them came to my house and confronted her. She should not be left alone just now."

“All right.  That’s cool.”  Shooter picked up his beer again which meant he had to stop drumming again. 
"Duff, you got to remember she’s not some chick you picked up somewhere, she’s Rayne Stanfield.  You know Cooper’s gonna be there and she’s tight with him. Maybe she’d rather stay with her dad and her friends right now and let you go on tour like we planned.  You know, considering what you two got going and all, might be kind of a break for her.”
Kind of a break.  He was going to stop beating her and give her a break. He turned to face Rob. 

"This is important Rob, not frivolous.  Find someone to fill in for me or let me find someone. It’s only a small delay." 
Royce exchanged one quick glance with Rob and then smiled sympathetically. "I wish I could Duff but we stand to lose too much money in revenue and advertising. After the last two delays, I had to lock things down or we would have lost some heavy endorsements. I'm sorry but it isn't possible."
Rob kept looking at him from his pose by that window.  “We are not changing the schedule or using a replacement. It’s the opening performance. You’re the headliner right up there with Alex.  You’re not skipping out and leaving the band in the lurch for the first performances in over a year.  It’s settled.” 

He shoved the dining chair aside with his boot. "This is not settled. I've given a great deal to this band and asked for nothing in return!” Without planning or thinking or even considering what he was about to say, he threw out the ultimatum.  “If you refuse, I won't be on that flight on Friday.”

Rob was quiet, letting him watch the damned boats sail by behind him, letting him wait.  "I know what you’ve given, and I haven’t forgotten.”
“On the other hand Duff, I’ve spent a hell of a lot of my time and a lot of effort protecting the band from your shit about sex clubs, slaves chained up in your house, whatever it is you do, all of it slamming bookings, promotions, you name it and it’s hurt the band.  I’ve lied, made promises I couldn’t keep, and cleaned up trouble you didn’t appear to even know you’d caused.  I like you.  I appreciate your work ethic which is a hell of a lot better than anyone else’s, but you are one very big problem.  And I warned you about this girl.”
He paused. “If you aren't on that plane, we'll replace you.  Permanently Duff.  No unscheduled disappearances while we struggle to explain why you’re not there.  No temp replacements. You don’t show up, don’t come back."

"That is not your call to make Rob," Royce cautioned from across the room.

"The hell it isn't. Flight is rising in the ranks of rock bands and I refuse to compromise the momentum or the endorsements for a needy teenager he wants to tie up and fuck!"

He almost hit the man, should have hit him, should have knocked him off his pose and out the fucking window, but throwing him through the window would separate him from Rayne more surely and permanently than taking a flight out of town.  Nevertheless, Duff was taller than Rob.  He used the height when he moved close enough to throttle the son of a bitch and got the satisfaction of seeing Rob give an inch.
"Who the hell do you think you are throwing that kind of shit at me, at her!  We covered for you for two years while you and Sydney avoided her damned husband, and if it hadn't been for me, you and Alex would still be playing small gigs in rundown bars on the outskirts of Newport and Shooter would be up in the mountains strapping on broken skis! I'm asking for two fucking weeks! And do not ever talk about her that way!"
 As he expected, as he should have anticipated when he started this, Rob did not give way. "No. I told you not to chase that particular skirt and you didn't listen. That girl is your undoing Duff. You need to choose—Rayne Stanfield or Flight. If you aren't on that plane, we're done."

He looked down the table at Royce. "I hear Shaun Holloway is available. I talked to him just a week ago." Rob swung his attention back to Duff. "And his wife doesn't require a babysitter."
No one else in the room seemed able to speak.   Royce was the one who finally found her voice. "Please, let's consider all the options before making hasty decisions."

Duff turned his gaze toward Shooter who just shook his head. Shooter wouldn’t defy Rob.  With Alex as backup he might, but not alone.
He had money, it was never about the money, it was finding something he could do and do well, something he could work for, could achieve, could feel pride in having achieved.  Playing with Flight had been one of the best things in his life. He had nothing else.  

If it came to choosing between his career and Rayne though, there was no question of his choice, no moment when he doubted it.  Duff grabbed the file from the table, crumpled the documents, tossed them on the floor and walked out.


  1. Hmmm. Harsh. While I don't really know whether Duff should go the funeral with Rayne--someone should, but I think someone like Eric or Randi would make for a lower-drama, less psychologically conflicted affair--ultimatums never almost never lead anywhere good. I guess Duff's best hope for his future with Flight is if Alex ends up vouching for him, or maybe if Royce manages to persuade Rob.

  2. Thank you Van, again.

    And there's someone else involved in the confrontation: nothing like a good self sacrifice to turn a girl's head.

  3. You are still updating! I have so much to catch up on.

  4. Ooooh! So much drama and tension and such an exciting read! I wasn't expecting that outcome. Also I thought Shooter's suggestion was a pretty reasonable compromise....:/ And I love the last pic in particular, so atmospheric. Thanks for another wonderful update!

    1. Thank you!! It's so cool to get your perspective. Shooter's suggestion was very reasonable but not one that Rayne would accept. She doesn't want to ride around on a tour bus. If Duff wants to keep her with him to make sure she's all right, he had to come up something she would agree to do. There don't seem to be any other options. Poor man. Hearing you're actually expendable is never a good thing.

    2. Yeah, I cannot see Rayne on a tour bus, of course you're right. And yeah the pic perfectly encapsulated Duff's misery. What is he going to find now to fill that huge gap in his life???

    3. In the past Duff bounced around doing nothing in particular, bored and, once again, expendable. Let's face it, no matter how lively you are at parties, the party goes on after you've left. Despite Rob's hissy fit Duff is a good bassist and might be able to find a band willing to take him on if they're also willing to take on his baggage. It won't be a top band but that's not particularly important to Duff. IF he can find a band. Otherwise, he has Rayne who is now depending on him for emotional support, and a few old friends who will be sympathetic but not much more. He's not in a good place.

  5. Wow! I caught up last night and then had to sit on it. I remember all these characters. My heart breaks for Rayne. I'm sure Duff easily could protect her and direct her in the state she's in right now, but I think it's clear she's not going to put up with it for long. This entry makes it seem though that he does care for her, but I think there's more in his subconscious than he realizes.

    Fantastic writing and amazing pictures! I'm glad to see you updating. It's like the world is right again.

    1. It's so good to hear from you. I was absolutely delighted and and happy-stunned to see you back!

      Rayne's tough but she needs a chance to work things out for herself, but not necessarily by herself, in order to believe she really can. And to convince other people that she's not going to break. Taking Duff's protection may work out exactly as you've said: not well and not for long. To some extent that depends on what else she takes on. Duff is giving up a great deal more than he planned. It changes everything.

      Thank you so much. Write!

  6. I don't want to repeat what's already been said, but I did want to thank each of you for reading and leaving a comment. I can't always get to comments right away but I do want to "ditto" what Beth said and to thank you for the support after all this time. It means a lot and makes sticking to the writing a lot easier.

  7. Wow, Duff is really stuck between a rock and a hard place. Poor guy. :( Can't to see what he decides to do, it'll be a tough decision that's for sure.

    Really like Royce's home too, very open and minimalist on the inside! :)

    1. Duff hasn't done anything wrong either, which makes his situation even worse.

      The house is by Shasta and is gorgeous! Gayl customized the interior and the decor to suit Royce, and I agree it's beautiful.

      Jennifer, thank you so much for sticking with us.

  8. Wow! I can't believe Rob went straight to "We'll simply replace you." What a slap in the face. I get that waiting would cost them but a few days doesn't seem like a lot to ask and yes they could replace him.....for one show or two if they really had to start immediately. Is there something between Rob and Duff other than all the "messes" Rob has had to clean up because of him? Seems like there is something else at play, something from the past. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Anyway....I can't wait to see what happens next.

    1. It is interesting that Rob (and the band) hired a manager that is a lot like him in many ways. I also think he is struggling to let go of the role. From his point of view, Flight is on the rise and they can't afford to lose money, sponsors, or stir up rumors and bad press in his mind. He did warn Duff to stay away from Rayne because of her father. So any scandal will be augmented twenty-fold. Maybe more.

      There is history between all these guys, maybe with the exception of Shooter because he didn't "grow up" with the guys. I don't know if we will expose that history or not, but it's there.

      Thank you again for reading!