Anger was an emotion Jace was quite accustomed to. It had steered him through most of his life. Often it was uncontrollable or even unwanted, but it was always perfectly usable. The sight of his sister's startled face, coupled with Adam's perfect choice of phrasing, had quite suddenly brought him back to days that had long passed: days when his anger had seen him survive or, as was more likely, days when his anger would get him what he wanted. His fury demanded action.
His sister's fear was plain on her face but that didn't put him off. He marched towards her, Adam's protests ringing in his ears, and grabbed her by the arm. She began to complain but with a look he silenced her. She came with him willingly without putting up a fight. Jace could hear Adam following them, obviously drunk and far from happy. If Jace was willing to stop and think, he would probably see things from Adam's perspective and understand how strange his actions were. However, he was not prepared to do that just yet.
They arrived at the second bar quickly due to the pace that he had set. There he found Paul, Ally and their unknown friend gathered, all looking at him in some confusion. He didn't explain. He didn't want to. Instead, he simply passed his sister into Ally's care. The look on her face told him that Ally understood. She had met his sister before and, by the look of it, she recognised her now. Paul came towards him with an outstretched hand and a look of concern. However, Jace's glare made him stop in his tracks.
"Hold her," he commanded simply. He looked over all three of them with an evil eye. Paul and Ally both seemed to show signs of concern, but the third person in their small party seemed completely unaffected. He continued to lean casually on the bar with his arms crossed, drinking occasionally. Jace did not look at his sister. He couldn't. His anger was peaking and taking it out on his little sister was not something he wanted to do. He would get around to that. They lived together - she couldn't escape him. His target, right now at least, was Adam.
The guitarist reached them quickly. The thick crowd had served to delay him, as Adam was incapable of pushing people aside as Jace had done. Seeing him coming, Jace left the group to come and meet him. As far as Jace was concerned, this was between the two of them and nobody else. He came up close and looked down at his friend.
"What's going on?" Adam asked him loudly and accusingly, looking from Jace to Jace's sister. "You can't do this to a lady. I asked you to help me find her, not grab her and take her away from me. What's going on?"
Jace did not answer verbally. Instead, he simply grabbed Adam by the coat, not even considering the consequences of the actions that he intended to have follow. Victim in hand, with pure terror on his face, Jace marched away from the bar without letting go. The pace he set was so fast that Adam was pulled straight off his feet and, as he struggled to get a footing, he was dragged along after his drummer. The writhing and fighting brought his coat up to gather at his throat, choking him as they moved.
"I'm a very angry man right now," Jace began. He didn't look down, choosing instead to look directly ahead of him at the place he had chosen to go. "I want to forgive you though, you're my friend. So I'm going to punish you once for trying to hit on my sister, then I'm going to say sorry and you're going to forget it. If you don't agree, I'll punish you again."
"I didn't know, man," Adam shouted between sharp inhales. "I didn't know."
"And now you're not going to forget," Jace continued. "I'm going to introduce you to a tradition of mine. It's going to help you. It'll make you tougher. After this, we'll be okay again. That is, unless you try and hit on my sister. Then I'm going to have your balls removed. Now, be a good boy and learn your lesson."
They had reached their destination with the music building to a climax. Everything was about to get very intense on the dance floor, which was exactly what Jace was hoping for. As the guitarist of Bloody Breakdown hit his effects pedal to launch into the heavy beat, Jace lifted Adam up with ease and threw him into the mosh pit. He could hear Adam screaming as he hit the ground, then more as he was dragged back up, only to be battered and thrown about. Then, when he would fall to the ground, bloodied and bruised, the crowd would pick him straight back up again. Satisfaction began to quench Jace's anger at the sight and, with that, regret.
To his surprise, a distraction came with the voice of his old drug dealer whispering in his ear. "Jacey baby, we haven't seen you for a long time," the man said in his raspy, dried-up voice. He was behind Jace now, walking around him slowly, but Jace did not turn around. His formerly subdued anger began to surge once again. "We've missed the fast walk and the glare and the growl. You're a scary man sometimes but we remember when you were our little pet. You'd do anything for us - we've got the drugs. We've still got the drugs, and lots of new clients, but there's always room for one more. Come back to us, Jacey baby. You can look after our back again when people are trying to screw us over."
"Walk away Turner," Jace answered through clenched teeth. "I don't want to be an old client or a new client. You should just walk away."
"Silly boy," the dealer answered, seemingly unfazed by Jace's reaction. "And after all this time too. We've been looking out for you, yes we have - and your whole family too. We've seen your Anna in here these days, but it's been a long time since we've seen you. She's like you in so many ways but she can't afford our merchandise. We have other ways of making her pay for her shit, though."
There was no thought behind his actions. Like a beast, he turned and took hold of the wraith of a man by the throat. With his other hand, he took aim right between the eyes of his target and sent him straight to the ground. He did not stop there though. He couldn't. The anger spurred him to do worse to this foul creature he had once shown deference to. There should have been no witnesses to such weakness. He allowed no thought of remorse or pity to enter his mind, choosing instead to follow his prey to the floor and continue to pummel him.
In the dark and crowded building that was the Fuse nightclub, Paul had had great difficulty following Jace. His attempt had, quite quickly, proven pointless. Whomever Jace was angry at would likely be in big trouble by this point, but there was very little that Paul could do about that. If his friend wanted to get into a fight over his little sister, then Paul was not going to get in the way of that. Frankly, doing so would be quite dangerous. Instead, after his search gave no results, he returned to the bar where he had left Ally alone with Matthew Cooper. Since leaving the stage, the entire night had begun to make him feel quite uneasy.
It seemed that Cooper had come to once again examine Ed's talents for his record label. Ed, however, had completely disappeared. Paul had not seen him, nor had Ally or Cooper. That would have been unnerving enough, but Ed had left his white Fender Stratocaster in Paul's care in the locked back room. That was not something Ed typically did. On top of that, Cooper could at any point tell any one of his friends that Paul was now featuring on another band's album. As Cooper had put it, Paul's voice was now the property of Fire Brand Records. Somehow, Paul could not imagine a very pleased collection of friends at that news.
Then, of course, Jace's sister had turned up, causing him to leap to her defense against some lustful student. That did not bode well for them. Jace looked to be on the warpath and Jace was a man who would not stop until his point was proven. Nobody touched Jace's sister. Nobody even went near Jace's sister. That was not all either. Since Ally had joined them, Paul had been nervous and on edge in case Cooper let on the truth. However, she seemed to be flirting with him. This was not leaving Paul in the best of moods. Somehow, he suspected the influence of karma. He was letting his friends down and this was his punishment perhaps.
He told himself that he had given up the search just because he couldn't find his drummer, but somewhere in his mind a little part of himself knew the truth. He wanted to interfere and get in the way of anything that might happen between the object of all his affections and the source of his current discomfort. Upon his return, though, he found this quite unnecessary. Jace's sister, Anna, was already doing that for him.
"He's a guitarist in a rock band," Anna was slurring. Her intoxication was evident. It had been a long time since Paul had been so drunk himself. She was standing as still as possible, with every movement of her hand or arm ridiculously exaggerated. Her hands flailed angrily in an attempt to emphasise her speech, but only proved to be annoying. "And the other guy just walked away. He didn't even talk to me. Loser. So I went after the other one. He's cute, in a nervous little puppy sort of way."
"You can't just go around doing that, though," Ally replied in desperate tones. "You could end up with anybody trying it on and some guys don't take no for an answer. You have to be more careful. You're not old enough to be here and there's a reason for that. Jace's just looking out for you."
"I can look after myself," Anna announced. Holding her head high she tried to walk away, but her high heels defeated her, making her stumble, lose her footing, and fall straight into Paul. Luckily, Paul was not a small man or the surprise alone would likely have taken him down.
She looked up at him through misty blue eyes. Her blonde hair was in her face and her make-up was smeared. Her eyes were wet. She had obviously been crying: it was not attractive. He pushed her to her feet but kept his hands on her arms to steady her. Jace had said to hold on to her, so Paul was not about to let her escape. He cast around his mind for something to say to the girl in his arms but it was Cooper who spoke first.
"I think your drummer is being kicked out," he pointed out calmly, then took a casual sip from his drink. He had been leaning on the bar, drinking slowly, since Paul had first reached him.
The news caused Paul to let go of Anna straight away. She immediately began to walk away, but Ally followed her quickly, pointing Paul in Jace's direction as she did. The instruction was clear. She would handle Anna - he should handle Jace.
"That's not great for your first gig here, you know," Cooper continued as Paul was about to leave. He paused, wondering where Cooper was going with this. "I could talk to the manager if you want, calm things down. I could probably get you another couple of gigs here if you'd like. Would you like that?"
Paul looked at him suspiciously. "Why would you do that?" he asked. His urge to know fought with his urge to go and find his friend, but Cooper seemed to be making him quite a substantial offer.
"It's simple," Cooper replied with a wry smile. "Consider it payment for your next little visit to my studio. My clients would like your backing on a full track this time. It's not for release, just something they want to try. You'd be working with the singer. If you're interested, call me. Your friend's just been dragged out the door. You'd better go."
He didn't need telling twice. Trusting Cooper to make arrangements as necessary, Paul left him there to move through the crowd as quickly as possible. He had lost sight of Ally, Anna, Ed and Adam, but he had to find out what was going on with Jace. After that, he had to come back in and make arrangements to collect their gear. This needed smoothing over and, as bandleader, it was his job to do it.
Escaping the angry crowd had been impossible until the very moment that the beat calmed down. After that, it had seemed stupidly easy. He could feel blood on his face as he walked through the club, looking for a seat somewhere where he could sit and relax, but he felt quite sure that most of it wasn't actually his. His left arm felt numb. He was carrying it in his right. He was also limping. All in all, Adam had found the crowd ruthless and unmerciful. However, he felt the punishment was well deserved. If somebody he knew had been trying something on with a woman he cared about, he would likely be that protective. As he found his seat, he tried to convince himself that was the only reason. In truth, he knew that he was terrified of Jace.
His adrenaline had abandoned him quickly, as had most of his strength and energy. He was shaking, he was afraid and he couldn't find any of his friends around. He couldn't even be sure that they would be his friends anymore. One, whom he had quite liked, had turned on him quite suddenly today. Was Paul capable of doing the same? Could he trust these people to look after him?
His heart told him exactly what he wanted to do now. The decision had been made long ago. If he wanted comfort or somebody he could simply be with without fear, he had to go and see Veronica. He had to get her back.