Cooper looked extremely pleased with himself. His smile was evidence enough, but he was also marching forwards with his arms speard wide, as though calling Paul and Colt into a long distance hug. His secretary was following after him. She was carrying a bundle of papers in her arms and looking ruffled and bedraggled. Her hair was coming out of her usually tidy knot and dangling across her face. The heels of her shoes clattered across the ground, matching her angry march as she strode towards them. Cooper however, seemed nothing but bright and cheerful. His every motion was exaggerated and extravagant, as was typically his style, but something bespoke a certain sense of enthusiasm today.
"I've seen some truly wonderful people today," he began as he reached them. He clasped hands with each of them in turn, starting with Paul, and vigorously exchange the sign of greeting. "Do you guys think that you can match up to the luck I've had so far?"
"What's happened?" Paul asked curiously. The secretary, stood slightly behind Cooper, glared at both Paul and Colt silently and accusingly. He caught her eyes for a moment and registered nothing but dislike.
"Nothing I can say," Cooper told him slowly, "but let's just say that music is being made and all is going well. Now, we need to get to work. How are things, Colt? Getting on well with our new singer here?"
His quick words were mocked by the slow voice that Colt replied with: "We're doing alright. I've known his brother for a while. Listen, I'm going to need somebody with a little more experience in here for this mixing deck. One of the wires must be faulty somewhere. I need to work out which one and I need somebody who knows what it is so that I can."
"Well say no more, I have the perfect partner for you," Cooper answered. His speech was coming out as hurried as ever, but thankfully it was easy enough to follow. "I have a music student in another room who's been learning about just these things. Julia can take you, can't you Julia?"
He turned to his secretary as he finished speaking. She reacted horribly to his question, but only facially. Paul was certain that Cooper would remark on her obvious sense of objection, but he did not. Instead he waited casually, his eyes locked on her, until she gave him a curt nod. Afterwards he turned away from her and Paul remarked her sharing an exasperated look with Colt. Apparently, Cooper failed to notice this also.
"Right, if you'd like to go with Julia," Cooper continued, as though there had been no interruption. "You don't really need to go and meet them, but she needs to get back and she could do with somebody to carry her paperwork. Paul, if you'd like to come back to my office, we have things to discuss."
After that, Cooper simply turned away from them and began to walk in the opposite direction from which he had come. Julia, the secretary, wasted no time in shifting her load into Colt's waiting arms, then rushed after him. Neither of them were even remotely interested in what he was holding. They glanced at each other, then, after a nonchalant shrug from Colt, they began moving after the two quickly retreating figures.
"Where are you playing next then?" Colt asked as they walked.
Paul thought for a moment, but his mind only gave him a blank. It was his job to find Disbelief the gigs but he had not been putting in the effort necessary. He played with the idea that the band's current state of disarray was the cause, but he knew the reality of it. He was not very happy right now and he was finding it hard to find the focus needed to find a good show to play. Thankfully, his mind directed him to something that seemed hopeful.
"Well, Cooper said he'd line us up for a few more shows at Fuse," he answered thoughtfully. "I have to find a few more myself, unless you know about somewhere looking for a few bands?"
"I might be able to find some room for Ronnie Taylor's brother," he said shrewdly. "I can't guarantee anything though. We're trying to get our own company going. We tried to get Matty to get Fire Brand involved, but he didn't go for it. It could have put us forward quite a way, but I suppose it's his choice at the end of the day. With all the equipment we've fixed over the years we've ended up with a lot that's decent quality. We've sold it all off recently to buy some good stuff. We might be able to put on some good shows with a venue or two. What do you reckon? Interested?"
The idea sounded too good to be true for Paul. The opportunity to play with high quality equipment without having to pay for it sounded wonderful. For years he'd been using the same instrument and the same amplifier simply because he didn't have enough money to upgrade. Adam also had rather outdated equipment, despite the amount of pedals he continually purchased and then never used. Jace had spent years building up his collection of drums, while Ed had a seemingly unstoppable source of money that none of them were privy to. However, the fact was that Disbelief was currently in contention. He couldn't commit his band, or his friends, to something like this without first finding out if there was a band to commit.
"I'll talk to them about it," Paul said slowly. Inside, he felt quite upset by this, but he didn't let it show. "It sounds like it could be brilliant, but I can't talk for them. If you leave me your number I can get back to you on it."
To his surprise, Colt laughed at him. "These are modern days, Paul," he said simply in response to Paul's confused look. "Do you have a MySpace?"
"No," Paul answered.
"Thank god," Colt said, laughing to himself once again. "What about Facebook?"
"I have one of those," responded Paul, smiling as he figured out Colt's meaning. "It's not filled with as many emo children as MySpace. Or bands either."
"Good," Colt continued. "What about a U-G profile?"
"Yeah, but there's not much on it," Paul said. In the distance, Cooper and Julia split off in different directions. This was where Paul and Colt would have to part ways.
"That doesn't matter Paul, I'll look you up," promised Colt. He began to follow Julia off down a separate corridor, walking backwards so that he could keep his eyes on Paul. "I'll talk to you later Ronnie Taylor's brother. It was nice to meet you." With that, he turned and picked up the pace of his step in the attempt to catch up with Julia. Before Paul could answer his goodbye, Colt had turned a corner and disappeared.
Turning his attention back to Cooper, Paul found him stood waiting beside the door that lead into his waiting room. A clear and genuine smile had claimed total control of his face.
"You two are getting along well then?" Cooper asked. Evidently, he took pleasure in the knowledge that they were, yet he wished to ask regardless.
"Well, he knows my brother," Paul answered. The moment he said it, he felt embaressed for it. Cooper had decided to give him a try based on the fact that his brother was Ronnie Taylor. Colt had taken a liking to him for the same reason, as he had stated several times. Nobody seemed to be taking him seriously as his own artist. Still, with a shadow like his brother looming overhead it was hard to avoid. His brother played guitar for a band that was close to becoming hugely successful. Not only that, but the man could play guitar better than anybody Paul had ever known. "In the past," he continued, "that's made a difference. People always think highly of me just because they think highly of him. It annoys me."
"I can see why," added Cooper. "That would annoy me if I had a brother, but thankfully I don't. It's always been just me. Come on through, grab a bean bag."
He was led through the now vacant room and into Matthew Cooper's office for only the second time. The place hadn't changed. The low ceiling still lit the scene below boldly. The clutter might have been different, but the clutter itself was hardly a change. Papers and letters were strewn haphazardly across the desk, while colourful bean bags and rugs were gathered in seemingly random formations. Paul, assuming that Cooper would choose to sit in the black leather chair behind his desk, chose a bright green bean bag that was on the floor beside it. Cooper however, took up a yellow bean bag opposite, sinking into it with all the evident pleasure of a five year old child.
"Personally I've always quite liked being on my own," he began, continuing their previous conversation. He waved his hands as he spoke. It was a rather comical sight, as it seemed to Paul as though they were simply coming out of the fabric he was sitting on. "I've been single for years as well. I used to have a partner in the business when I was a little lower level, back when Fire Brand was just starting. He left though. I think that might be why I prefer not working with anybody now. My equals don't work with me directly after all. Compared to him I doubt anybody could match up really: he did more work than I did."
"Where is he now?" Paul inquired. It was a simple question, but he doubted he would receive a simple answer. For some reason, Cooper was in a very open mood today.
"He left to pursue big business," Cooper said, laughing to himself afterwards. "He's living the hard life now of course. He found himself a girlfriend and that calmed him down a bit, but he's not the sort of person to handle things as they come. He gets very stressed out, poor fellow."
"Do you still see him?" Paul asked. Prolonging the conversation was his intention, as Cooper seemed to be completely forgetting why Paul was here. This worked well for him. Each word Cooper said was another distraction, keeping Paul out of his own mind for just a little longer. He felt as though he could likely understand how stressed this former business partner must have been. There were enough problems in life without the extras that simply knowing Matthew Cooper seemed to bring about.
"Every now and then," Cooper answered thoughtfully. "His girlfriend doesn't like me much, you see." A few ideas went through Paul's mind as to her reasons, but the continuing conversation quickly silenced them. "I won't go into the details, but let's just say that we have a history. Anyway, back on topic with you sir. I have another gig for you at Fuse in two months, though they told me that if there's any rough-housing you'll be in trouble."
"I'll talk to the guys," Paul said reluctantly. It was not something he wished to bring up, but it was not a performance that any musician should turn down, especially a started band such as Disbelief.
"In the meantime I have a job I'd like you to do for me," Cooper continued. Quite suddenly, Paul began to feel quite worried. "There's a show on in a couple of weeks where I need a talent scout, but I don't have any spare. I'd like you to go in my place, just as a Fire Brand representative. The pay would be quite substantial, and you could take your band without them ever having to know what you're up to. All you have to do is report back to me who was good and who wasn't, bands and musicians. Are you alright with that?"
For a moment, Paul didn't say anything. It was crystal clear in his mind that it was not a good idea to act as a Fire Brand representative anywhere, but the possibility of gaining more ground with a record company producer was incredibly alluring. Nevertheless, before he could complete his thoughts, Cooper sealed the deal:
"I'll need two people, so I'm going to call your friend Ally and ask her to be your date. If you don't go I suppose I'll have to; I hope she won't mind pretending to be with me for the night."
It didn't take any hesitation for Paul to answer with a clear and concise: "yes."