The day, and the task at hand, was far from over. Julia and Click were driving through town towards the flat belonging to their next target.
"What's his real name?" Julia asked, scrolling through the pages of a notepad that she had produced from one of her pockets.
"Bob Sanderson, but he really doesn't like it being used," replied Click. They were coming into a rough part of the downtown area now, where the smell of clogged sewers and spontaneous combustion ruled the skies. The streets were mostly quiet, with only the occasional knot of people meeting outside shops and on street corners. Graffiti was the popular career choice here, and it showed on everything, nailed down or otherwise. "I still think it might be a better idea to see the both of them together. They're stuck like glue; I really doubt you'll even be able to catch one without the other."
"And the fact that you don't see this as a problem is clear proof of how terrible a manager you are," laughed Julia. "You allow these people to become so inseparable that they create a divide between themselves and everybody else. From what I've heard they're talent less, quiet and far from driven to improve. This is not what this band of yours needs, and it's certainly not what your career needs. You have to actually put some work in here, you know, Josh."
"Yeah, I get the point," mumbled Click. Their target today was the Dim Screw member dubbed 'Rock'. He lived somewhere in this tired little collection of slums, packed together under the industrial nose of the town. Click didn't know the place all that well, and driving around day after day was not his idea of heaven. It was quiet here. The sounds of his car in motion through the cluttered allies and side streets seemed loud enough to draw much more attention than he wanted.
In addition, Julia was being neither quiet nor withdrawn. "This place is a wreck," she told him. "Who would want to live somewhere where your every minute spent here is another reminder of the failure that is your life. Where did you find these people?"
"I didn't find them, Dim did," answered Click defensively. The smell was beginning to overpower the glass of the windows. "They sort of came with him, in the background. Before I even noticed they were there I couldn't get rid of them."
"How far to Mr. Sanderson's paltry lodgings?" she asked.
"We're about here, just another minute. Rock and hard Plaice live in the same building, Rock just lives three floors higher."
The last time that Click had come to see the rhythm section without Dim or Jerry, there had been a Police helicopter flying overhead. Upon leaving his car behind on the street, Click found himself wishing that there still was. At the very least, there would be some sort of luminescent graffiti on the bonnet by the time that he returned, but with precious little that he could do about it, he just left it there and approached the block of flats where his bassist and drummer lived. He pushed the buzzer in the doorway that offered the intercom to the musician's abode atop this lofty tower.
"Who is it?" came the initial response, faster than Click had anticipated. He moved in to respond, but Julia beat him to it, pushing her thumb into his in order to flatten the button. It made him yelp a little, but Click couldn't move his thumb away.
"This is Julia Barratt of Fire Brand Records Mr. Sanderson," she announced into the mouthpiece, her voice oozing confidence. "I called ahead to make sure that I would have a chance to speak with you as soon as possible so that we might fix these pre-marital spats your band is going through. It also means that we could potentially bring you closer to the spotlight to showcase your own talents and skills."
Silence pervaded for a couple of seconds before the distorted voice was pushed through the intercom. Click, once again, served only as a bystander. "Well, I can't complain about getting more known, and maybe getting some more money out of it," Rock said. "You might as well come on up. I can make you a coffee if you want, and we can talk money."
The noise of acceptance rang out, and Julia finally released Click's rapidly purpling thumb in order to pull the door open. She did not wait for him, and this resulted in something more than slightly annoying when the door slammed shut behind her, leaving Click stranded outside.
Moments later, as he climbed the staircases up towards Rock's own flat, he wondered if having to ask again to be let in himself had been a stroke of luck. Rock hadn't invited him, or offered a drink of any kind. There had just been a grunt over the intercom, and the door has been buzzed open.
Click caught up to Julia fast enough, but she made no reaction to his arrival. They travelled together, in silence, to number forty-seven; Rock's home.
Outside, Julia paused and turned to face Click. "There's a simple fact that you need to know when dealing with these people," she told him. "It's going to make a hell of a lot of difference when I leave if you intend to survive. People want whatever they don't have. If they don't have friends, you can earn their loyalty and respect by being their friend. If they lack stability in their lives then you provide the rock that they smash themselves against; unrelenting, merciless and steady. In this case, these two people have banded together because they have something in common that Jerry and Dim don't. They're poor. They don't miss something; they miss everything. So, what are we going to tempt them with?"
"Money," Click answered quickly, surprising himself with how easily the answer came to him. This wasn't rocket science; he should have seen it much earlier. "Wait," he added, suddenly confused, "I thought we were separating them? If you put them in the same boat like that, doesn't that put them closer together than ever?"
"Yes, but the intention here is to link all four of them together in an unquestionable manner," she told him. "Instruments layer on top of each other, and you can forgive the orgy metaphor, but so do musicians. Are you ready to take charge?"
Not waiting for an answer, Julia lifted her fist and pounded loudly on the door. Rock, tall, with firm muscles and a defined jaw, came to the door quickly with a large glass jar of coffee in his hand. He seemed happy to see Julia. The smile that he offered her was evidence of this, though he offered no such courtesy to Click. Rock's invitation into his home was with the simple gesture of turning and walking away. This was more than enough of an invitation for Julia, and Click followed at her heels.
They stepped through the corridor, over the battered, damp carpet and the peeling paint, and into the kitchen. Surprisingly, though it was definitely dingy, it was still quite an improvement over Click's own; a fact that he far from relished. The reason for the jar of coffee was evident by the two cups in production on a counter top. Again, Click had been excluded.
Prompted by a gesture from Julia, Click cleared his throat to draw Rock's eye. "We're here to talk about how to make sure that Dim Screw actually survives beyond all the crap that we've been putting it through, and we need your help for that. I know nobody's really happy with how things are going, but I'm willing to do everything I can to change that, so you just let me know what you want and we'll get started on making it happen."
"How about you get fired?" Rock quipped with a sarcastic laugh.
Unprepared, Click lost his nerve straight away at this retort, but Julia swept straight in to pick up the slack. "What kind of musician wants to get rid of the pushover when there's every chance they'll just end up with a hard arse instead?" she asked.
Rock just shook his head. "I'll take a nice hard arse every day. This guy's about as useful as a lump of frozen shit."
His gestures in Click's direction made Click eager to defend himself, but he stumbled over his attempt to find the words.
"I think you've missed the point," Julia intervened. She took up the sugar bowl and started to shift spoonful after spoonful into her small cup. "It's not about how useful he is; it's about how much different his replacement would undoubtedly be. I'm sure you understand our position here - you've all gotten out of hand, and we're about ready to cut our losses here."
This was enough to make Rock take notice. Capitalising on the moment that Julia spent preparing her breath, Click leapt in to continue what she had started. "Fire Brand don't want to publicise a band that can't control itself, and keep making enemies of each other in the pursuit of music that's getting more and more crap. If they do decide to fire me, and they're considering it, there'll be no replacement. Dim Screw will vanish quietly into the night, with your pay check."
The reaction to this was an unexpected scoff. "Don't be ridiculous. There's no damned pay check coming, and there's barely been any. All of the money you get from the record company goes straight to Dim's whore. We don't get shit. He's the one living the high life."
"Well not any more," said Click, with as much strength behind the words as he could muster. "He's not as all powerful as that. I don't have the money to give him anymore one way or the other. For the next month, nobody gets a penny out of me, no matter what they want to try and spend it on. I've been cut off."
"Whoa, brutal," Rock responded quietly.
"Too many fake titted hookers," added Julia, to Click's non-vocalised disgust.
"Look, there's a lot of different ways this can go," Click started fresh. "I know we're a bit of a lump as music goes, and as people go, but if you actually want to get something from this, you're going to need to put in a little faith to start with. I need some support before we can balance all of this out. Once we have that, then the publicity will start rolling in because you'll have a reputation worth spreading around. That's when we start considering money and making a living from this. It's no surprise that you have to get good first. Can you do that?"
A relaxed smile playing across his face, Rock took a sip of his coffee before answering with a question: "you guys going to stop all this Rock and hard Plaice bullshit?"
"If that's what you want."
"Good," said Bob. "You've got one month to get me a pay check. I need to make a living you know."