Of Music And Despair. Chapter Four

Charlie goes to Steel Records Agency.

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Charlie awoke to a pounding headache and a blur of black in front of his eyes. As his vision cleared, he saw the man in the black suit standing in front of him, and he nearly had a heart attack. The realization that it was Robert Maple standing over him did nothing to calm his nerves. Whenever that man was near him, Charlie got the strangest feeling that nothing good was going to happen. Brushing his nervousness, and his hangover aside, Charlie slowly looked into the man's face. Two steely blue eyes glared back at him, and Charlie slowly got up. Then, realizing he only had boxers on, he hurriedly scanned the room before finally deciding he didn't give a f--k. His head hurt, his eyes were blurry, and all he wanted was to go back to bed.

"Your friends let me in after I told them who I was. Apparently you didn't feel it was necessary to inform them?" The man's voice was dull and emotionless, yet Charlie could hear a hint of anger behind the veil of indifference. "I told you I'd be coming at ten, and here it is, a half hour after what we agreed to. You're lucky we're very interested in what you have to offer, otherwise I would have left twenty minutes ago." The man was trying to intimidate him, and it was working. Charlie took a step back and nearly fell over onto his bed. Miraculously, he maintained his balance. The man continued, "Get dressed, and tell your band mates to meet outside in ten minutes. If you aren't out there by then, I'm leaving for good. With this, the man turned around and strode crisply out of the room, never once looking back. Charlie hurried to get his clothes on.

The sleek black limousine sat up against the curb, the engine running. Charlie led the others towards it, and the chauffeur opened the door for them. For a second, Charlie felt he had gotten a little slice of what being famous was like, and then he sat down next to the silent form of Robert Maple. All happy thoughts instantly disappeared. The others piled in behind him, Kristen taking care to sit as far away from Charlie as possible. Then the black automobile pulled away from the motel, taking them into the unknown that was their future.

The building that the limousine pulled up to was massive, a huge and intimidating gray that stood framed against the blue skyline, almost an antithesis to the beautiful day. The band got out of the limo, and Maple led them towards the massive doors on the face of the building. They entered, and there they encountered the chaos that lay inside. Phones rang all around them, people hurried to and fro with looks of concentration on their faces, and random snatches of conversation were picked up and then lost again. Maple led them through a maze of hallways, doors opening and closing on all sides. Not once did Maple's gaze waver from the path in front of him, and he negotiated the maze with a look of practiced ease. They finally reached an elevator, and Maple pressed the button for the top floor. The elevator slowly rose towards the top of the building.

The elevator dinged, and they once more were led through a maze of confusing corridors that ended in an impressive red door. Maple knocked, then waited until a gruff voice said, "Enter." He turned the door knob and the group followed him into the room, Charlie in the lead. A massive desk sat at the other end of the room, and behind the desk sat an equally massive man with an enormous mustache. The man made no move to get up, and instead folded his hands and said in the same gruff voice, "Welcome to the humble facilities of Steel Records Agency. My name is Joseph Rockwood, and I am the CEO of this corporation. We have brought you here, as I'm sure Mr. Maple has informed you, to discuss you joining with our company. We think it could be a beneficial arrangement for both parties."

At this, the mustached man looked at Charlie, clearly expecting a response. Charlie stood silently for a moment, then slowly nodded, looking down at the floor. It almost felt as if he were selling his soul. At this point, Charlie thought his soul would be worth selling if only to bring some change to his life. He looked up at the fat man in the chair, and this time he said, "Yes." That was all.

The fat man's face broke out into a grin, and the look of this made Charlie sick. Rockwood said, "Alright, well unless any of your band members have any objections," he looked at the others questioningly, and when none said anything, he continued, "We would like to have you back here soon, to begin recording your first album. You can go into the next room with Mr. Maple to hammer out the details. I'm sure you guys will have a great time working with us here!"

The group followed Maple into the next room, where Charlie signed a contract without even looking at it. For all he knew, he had just made a pact with the devil. Then, Maple led them back down the elevator and out of the building, where the black limousine was still waiting. As Charlie sat in the car on the way back to the motel, he finally felt that his life was proceeding in a new direction. Still, it was nearly impossible to ignore that empty feeling in the pit of his stomach, the feeling that told him nothing was all right.

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