Thursday, October 27, 2016

Studio Time Thirty Nine

Walking Uphill

Shooter James hadn't finished packing, a chore he could usually blow through in a couple of hours but this time he was working with Mackenna.  She'd finally agreed to go with him on the tour.  She didn't make any big deal about what she was taking so they were having a beer and talking about what they could combine.

He was leaving his place empty but Rafe Taylor was going to watch it so that was one more load off his shoulders.  He was feeling good.  Good enough that it didn't bother him much when Cooper's kid called and hassled him about the Jimmy Breaux concert.  

Nate Stanfield was agitated.  Shooter had a hard time remembering him at first.  He'd met Cooper's twins only once, wasn't sure which one was which, didn't recall one of them had a band, didn't know if the band was any good, and despite feeling kind of sympathetic couldn't do anything for him.  The kid pushed him, going beyond nerves, serious about something Shooter had set up in Jimmy's memory and not as a showcase for the bands.

"Yeah you know that's a bitch when you don't I don't know any drummers but look...Nate?--he--listen---hang on man.  This isn't an audition.  It's for Jimmy.  We got people coming from all over and they're supposed to be there to remember Jimmy...okay I know that but there's gonna be drummers.  One of them will jam with you like you'd help them out right?  Okay...bye."

Mack was smiling at him.  "Would that be Nate Stanfield?"

Easing around the island, Shooter nodded.  "He's wound up about the concert.  He'll be okay, I don't think I've heard his band play but he's Coop's kid, he'll work it out."

Mack shrugged her shoulders, smiled and hummed an agreement. She never got too involved in the drama that went on with the band. Well, except for that one time when she wanted Shooter to fix up her friend with Duff for the RMAs. He was just happy she'd agreed to tour with him.

"Look babe, I gotta get to Rafe's before it gets too late. I won't be long."

"Are you okay?"

"Good as gold babe. See you in a few."

Shooter gave Mack a quick peck on the cheek, grabbed his cell and the spare house key from the hall table, and headed down the front steps. As he mentally inventoried everything he needed to tell Rafe, like the alarm code and the name of the security company, his attention kept circling back to the phone call from Nate. It rekindled his nagging unease over the situation with Duff. 

Shooter didn't understand why Duff felt the need to babysit Rayne Stanfield but then he didn't really know the girl or what she was going through. Sure, he'd seen and heard a little of it when he and Duff had cleaned out her place in Sandy Point and yeah, people were saying some shitty things but was that really enough to have to hold her hand through a funeral and beyond? How messed up was she really?

He stopped at a small park on his way up the hill. Shooter loved the lake, the smell of pine, and damp earth. Drawing a deep breath he looked around and listened to the soft rustling in the shrubs. If you didn't know this park was here, you'd walk right by it.  The telescope was old, bolted to the rock, oiled every once in a while by somebody who remembered to do it.   The place could be a great make-out spot for the teenagers in the area. 

In the deep quiet, his thoughts turned back to Duff's situation. 

What if he fell somewhere around the lake and broke an arm, his shoulder, or strained his back so he couldn't play for months?  He wasn't Alex, he probably wouldn't get a total pass, but would Rob move right on and replace him permanently?  Maybe Duff got some bad press every once in a while but you couldn't call it all that damned bad.   Flight was a rock band not a traveling choir.

Shooter took a deep breath and shook it off for now.  He could see the light on the Taylor house and needed to get this done and get back and finish packing.  Whatever happened in the future, the tour was going to begin and he was going to be there.

He walked around the curve in the road where the land dropped off straight down into the lake just behind a fence that might keep a pedestrian from falling but wouldn't do much for a car.  The narrow land across the street from the Taylor place had a similar steep cliff on the side away from the street but there was enough space for kids to run around.   There weren't many little kids at the lake right now, but he'd seen Autumn Taylor hanging out there with the boy down the road, and there she was in the twilight sitting around a campfire.  And there right with her was Cooper's youngest - Harmony, the one everybody called Hugs.

He took a step toward them and both of them looked up and smiled.  "Hi Shooter!" Autumn called out.

Hugs smiled but didn't say anything.  She'd called him 'Mr. James' until he asked her to call him Shooter for about the tenth time.  It didn't work the way he thought it would.  Pretty obviously uncomfortable and embarrassed, she didn't call him 'Mr. James' or Shooter.  She tried to work out how to avoid calling him anything at all.  "Hi," she finally said.

He grinned.  Autumn knew how to build a fire, how to keep it burning and how to put it out.  The dead leaves all around the place would be a fire hazard with anybody else, like her friend for example.  "Your dad around, Autumn?"

Autumn got to her feet and sashayed around the fire while Hugs hung back.  "He's in the house somewhere. So are you still leaving on the tour this Friday?"

"That's the plan. What are you girls doing out here by yourselves?"

"We're working on a science project, mountain botany. You know, for biology."

Shooter looked at her dubiously. "You're studying botany out here in the dark?" 

"We're just taking a little break." Autumn's smile grew flirtatious. "Are you going to need help taking care of your house while you're gone?  We could rake the leaves."

"We could water the plants," Hugs added from two feet back.

"Your dad's gonna take care of the house so if he wants help with the plants you can ask him about it.  I don't rake the leaves you know.  Kind of no point because of the woods."

"We can keep them off the deck though."  Hugs was clenching her hands under her chin, somehow flirting and blushing at the same time.  "We can move them from the deck to the woods."

"And," Autumn added, moving a couple of steps closer, "we can keep your chimney clear by lighting a fire once a week."

Was she really trying to flirt with him too? These girls couldn't be more than thirteen or fourteen. But in a few more years, they'd probably be breaking hearts all over including the kid's down the road.

"Yeah well your dad knows how to do all that, Autumn.  You know what you're doing with a campfire but going into the house by yourself and lighting a fire, that's not a great idea.  Ask your dad if you can help."

He started across the street, trying not to laugh.  "Okay I'll ask," Autumn called after him.  "We'll take good care of the house for you.  My dad will probably let me help with the fireplace or we can straighten things and we can clean.  We'll do such a good job you'll want us to come over when you're back and make it look good for you."

"Uh...I don't think there's anything that needs straightening or cleaning but thanks.  I'm gonna talk to your dad and leave him the key.  See you girls later."

They waited until he was halfway across the road before they started to giggle.  "What are you talking about," Hugs gasped.  "My dad will never let me clean his house! We should have asked him to send us pictures from the tour." Autumn laughed harder.  "He'll let you help me.  We can go all over his house like his bedroom."

Both girls doubled over with laughter as Shooter shook his head and kept walking.

Rafe Taylor was standing outside the house watching him cross the road and probably watching the girls.  "I see the girls trapped you before you made it up here.  They're pretty good, you have to move fast."

Shooter liked Rafe, got along with him, but the man was hard to read.  He traveled more than most bands traveled and had awards for some of his writing, some of it done in dangerous places.  He had another award, too: the latest People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive thing.  Mack pointed that out as soon as she realized he lived up here.   When Shooter mentioned it, Rafe told him he'd waited longer than he expected to get the cover, and for about a minute Shooter wasn't sure if he was serious.  

He walked into the light from the porch where Rafe stood looking relaxed.  "Yeah, that's okay.  I've got the key here and I guess we went over everything you need to know, plus you've been in the house plenty of times.   Just, you know, keep an eye on the pipes and the roof when it snows."

"I'll take care of it.  Did you get that gutter over the rear deck fixed or should I call someone about it?"

"No it's okay it's back up on the roof."

Rafe shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans, expression changing, studying him instead of just standing there. "You know what I heard tonight?" he asked.  "I heard Flight is replacing Duff Tyson with Shaun Holloway and it sounds permanent.  That's sudden isn't it?  When did you make that decision?"

Caught off guard, Shooter didn't know how to respond. He hadn't anticipated a lengthy conversation with Rafe and he had no idea what to tell him about Duff.  Wary, he tried for something casual and quick. "Yeah, kind of sudden I know. Duff has some...personal issues he can't put off and we can't delay the tour again." Hoping to leave it at that, Shooter handed Rafe the key and prepared to edge away and go before he could ask him anything else.

He didn't make it.

"It's interesting that the band rescheduled multiple times for Alex.  Flight rescheduled when Alex decided to pursue Cooper's wife, who was not suffering and didn't particularly need anything Alex was offering.  You can do that for Alex, but you can't briefly reschedule for Duff to attend a funeral and provide support to a young woman who definitely is suffering?  What does Alex say about it?"

"I, uh, don't know. I wasn't there when Rob told Alex so I'm not sure what he thinks. All I know is we're leaving on schedule."  He didn't know what Rob would want him to say, whether to tell Rafe it was indefinite or what.  His own misgivings pulled at him.  He didn't want to have to explain, and Rafe probably wouldn't just accept it anyway.   The big thing right now, the thing he needed to know tonight, before he left tomorrow, was what Rafe was gonna do with what he did know.

"Are you gonna write about this?"

Rafe looked at him for a few really long moments, arms folded across his chest, and he finally shifted his weight and smiled.  "Maybe.  Depends on why he's been replaced.  Unmovable schedule?  I don't believe that one.  Why is it permanent?  He refused to cooperate, come up with a date when he'd catch up with the tour? No, not that one either. Rob's scared of bad press because Duff's into BDSM and Cooper Stanfield's daughter is involved?"

 "Yeah, that one.  Maybe."  He grinned.  "I'll take care of the place Shooter.  No problem at all.  Good luck with the tour."

As Shooter turned away, shaken, he heard Rafe take a phone call.  "Gemma?  What's up? ...No, I don't have any time, won't have any time until the end of next week at the earliest.  What's this about?"

He headed down the road toward home, kicking at dead leaves, uneasier than ever.  Maybe he should ask Alex if he wanted to go along with permanently replacing Duff since they'd given him more than a couple of breaks.  

He looked up and there they were, the two girls, standing on this side of the road now and looking right at him.  They had been within earshot and Hugs had big eyes.  He wondered what they heard and if they understood what BDSM meant, if Hugs knew any graphic details about her mother and Alex, or if mattered.  Whatever she'd heard, Cooper would protect this one.  

"Bye," he told them, not knowing what else to do. "I'll send you something okay?  And yeah if you want to rake the leaves, you can rake the leaves."


  1. I like Shooter. He's a good voice of reason, it seems, something that Flight in general and Duff in particular need right now. He and Mackenna are great together--a nice oasis of (interesting) stability among the other, less stable (but also interesting) couples.

    I think Hugs will be okay. Her parents seemed have learned enough from their mistakes with their other kids to keep her mostly out of the way of the family drama, and any that comes up... well, I'm sure Autumn won't take long figuring out how best to reassure her. Not that that's a great job for anyone that age, but I suspect Autumn would be more capable of it than most.

    1. Hi Van! Shooter is very laid back and levelheaded. He's always been the more sympathetic and tolerant member of Flight. He doesn't like conflict, that is for sure. He and Mack are like PB&J. I always knew they were a great pair. She isn't really starstruck and he likes that about her.

      It remains to be seen how Hugs handles what she overheard. She has a great support system between her parents and her best friend. Autumn and Hugs fiercely protect each other. As much as her parents want to shield her from the the drama, at some point it will hit her. I hope it won't destroy the image she has of her dad. She is already beginning to notice that her family is fractured. I just don't think she understands it yet.

      Thank you so much for supporting our story and leaving comments. It is greatly appreciated.

  2. Rafe!!! Haven't seen him in so long. I had forgotten that he was a writer and it looks like he's about to have a lot to write about if Gemma has anything to do with it. I love Shooter. He's so cute and there is an innocence about him that endearing. I wish he had spoken up to Rob at the meeting but I guess he's thinking better of that now. Hopefully he can be the person who can get through to Rob and find another way other than cutting Duff permanently.

    Autumn and Hugs are adorable. They've grown into beautiful girls. I just hope that this mess doesn't touch Hugs the way the past has messed with Rayne. I feel like finding out the truth would crush her; she's such a daddy's girl.

    I can't wait for this tour; haven't had one in a long time. I'm loving this new story arch :).

    1. Put Rafe on the scene and everything else fades to the background but then I am extremely biased. ;)

      Shooter is a really special guy and I love that you see those qualities in him. He tends to stay out of the drama and doesn't like conflict. He takes time to process things, work through them, and then make decisions. In his mind, he doesn't get why Duff needs to hold Rayne's hand but the more he thinks about it, Duff's request goes a lot deeper than most of Alex's reasons for delay. And I think it threw him off guard to hear Rob declare Duff as being replaced. Rob steamrolled over all of them including Royce.

      I have always loved the relationship between Hugs and Autumn. They really are adorable! It is unrealistic to think that Hugs won't see a little tarnish on her father's crown if/when she hears or understands what he has kept from her in her life. Rayne idolized her father and ran away as a child when she stepped into the middle of an argument with her parents. Her perfect life was shattered. But Coop wasn't around as much for Rayne as he was for Hugs so that could make a big difference in how any scandal could touch Hugs. They definitely are both daddy's girl ;)

      It would be a blast to go on tour with Flight but I don't know if I have the energy to pull that off the way we did for the Mercury Rising tour.

  3. Sorry it's taken me so long to catch up. It seemed to take a long time to find a good solid half hour where I could read and savour the wonderful pictures and writing uninterrupted.
    I always find it really difficult to write convincing interior monologues. I am jealous of your skills, yet again! I really feel like I can hear Shooter's voice. He may not like conflict but I still think it was kind of low of him not to say anything when Rob told Duff they wouldn't postpone, but he acted true to who he is. I realise now if he had said something it would have been completely out of character. Anyway knowing his point of view was fascinating and a great insight into his personality. He is so caring and non-judgmental as well as evidenced by his interactions with the girls. He is just so lovely! A true naif.

    1. No worries Treason. We just appreciate you taking the time to read and comment so thank you from us both.

      Shooter is an easy character to write, especially when you know him so well. You are right. He should have spoken up. But. He is a thinker. He is slow to work through things, especially conflict, and Rob and Duff are passionate, volatile people. If Alex/Blade had been there, the conversation might have gone differently, Shooter might have thought it through quicker, and then maybe say something in Duff's defense. But probably not. He stewed over it. The situation simmered in his head. Then it occurred to him that he might be just as expendable.

      I am really thrilled that Shooter's character and voice shined through here and that you gained insight into who he is. Thank you so much!