According to every unsuccessful person in the world, successful people suck. Their ridiculous amounts of money are far from deserved, were in no way earned and should, by rights, go to anybody and everybody else, until it does, at which point it should go to anybody and everybody else. Perhaps humanity in general just doesn't like one person to get too much of anything. In many ways, they're right.
Wealth is the modern measure of power, largely due to the concept that everybody has a price. The problems that come with it are well deserved - part and parcel of the world at large getting back at you for beating it so resoundingly. It is well believed that, if fate does not intervene to destroy your riches, you are an utter cock.
Envy goes very far in life, though so does being an utter cock.
On the last day of the Renegades North American tour of 2011, the turbulent and dramatic life of Nick Avers would be ruined. Some would call it deserved, some would not. The only fact of the matter would be the how and the when. Would anybody know why? Would anybody ask?
Downing shots of whiskey, Nick thought about how glad he was the tour was finally done. He sat in the corner of a new club on Miami's beachfront called le Catalizar. He set the shot glasses back on the table and refilled them, staring intently at each glass. The room was dark, the type of darkness that always seemed to be present in the clubs of the world, and everything looked to be a shadow until a light somewhere flashed briefly and temporarily turned the world red or green or blue. An hour earlier he had walked off the big stage at American Airlines Arena, in Miami, after The Renegades had played their third, very long, encore.
The houselights are on and the power to their amps has been cut midway through a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Can't Stop. The band is standing at the front of the stage, applauding the crowd, when Taylor begins swinging his guitar over his head by the strap before hammer-throwing it into the crowd.
This sparks the brilliant, but stupid, idea in the other three members of throwing their gear into the crowd. Guitars, microphones and their stands, various pieces of the drum kit and stage props all fly through the air. The crowd roars and everyone in the target range lifts their arms to the heavens. Nick and Taylor, differences forgotten in the sudden pandemonium that grips them, are begin lifting Andy's Orange-brand amp cabinet and hauling it to the front of the stage when staff or, more specifically, security intervene. Andy has been taken first as he was deciding which of the spare guitars would go, and Wes's arm is caught in mid-air as he tries to frisbee the last of his cymbals over the crowd.
The band laughs, embracing each other off to the side of the stage, as a chant of one more song goes up in the arena. It's at this moment that Nick remembers the last month of Taylor threatening to quit the tour unless Nick got himself under control, of the way he was sometimes introduced to the crowd with barbed jokes and how he and Taylor would smile and the crowd would laugh but there was still the coldness in the way Taylor smiled, an emptiness, that didn't quite make it to the crowds perceptions and it hurt, or how he might not be introduced at all but that somehow hurt more than the cruel jibes.
Nick separates himself from the group, holds them at arm's length and frowns slightly at the band's singer and his former best friend. Taylor looks at him, still smiling, when a quizzical look comes over his face and, a split-second later, recognition. Then coldness.
Taylor pulls away from the group and turns away. Come on, let's get the f--k out of here, he says.
Half an hour later the four band members sit in a stretch hummer with their manager, Wali. They're travelling along the MacArthur causeway, and have just passed the Palm Island turn-off. Nick looks out the window at the passing traffic. Wali is talking, a blackberry sitting on his lap and several magazines clutched in a fat fist.
Now, i've already contacted the media groups, he says, and when we get to the club, le Calathazar or whatever Spanish shit they've called it, there should be a good sized crowd. You two he jerks a thumb at Nick and Taylor are going to walk in chatting to each other like the great friends you are.
The two great friends open their mouths to object.
I'm not-can't make m-with that son of-go by myse-
SHUTUP! Wali bellows. Nick and Taylor both shut their mouths. Now, Wali says very quietly, after the shitstorm you raised, Nick, with your bullshit on ultimate-guitar which, by the way, has been repeated in enough media that there's a possibility that a tribe in bumf--k nowhere, Africa, might not know who you are, but everyone everywhere else most certainly will, and you, Taylor, with your little bitchy tantrums which have been given slightly less attention, this is Going. To. Stop.
Wali pauses briefly, looking from Nick to Taylor. Good. Now, you are going to walk into this new club chatting like the great friends you are. Unless, of course, you each enjoy the perception that you're egotistical little f--kheads. Wali sighed and leaned back. And we will PRAY that none of the other two's exploits get out.
Wes and Andy both look at the floor between their feet. The hummer is moving northward along Miami's beach, and through the window Nick can see a large gathering of people along the sidewalk several hundred metres down the road. A minute later the hummer pulls up in front of le Catalizar. Make me proud boys, Wali proclaims, giving each of them a level look. He throws the door open, and Nick steps out. Security line the walkway to le Catalizar's front entrance. Nick thinks that if they weren't there he would already be crushed by the media swarm.
From the sidewalk to the doorway of le Catalizar it's twenty five metres. Nick strides forward, simulating conversation with Taylor. It feels like more like a mile. Photograph flares go off, there are shouted questions asking whether Nick regrets his online outburst on ultimate-guitar, or whether Taylor's issue have really been resolved, or just who the hell are the other two guys walking behind Nick and Taylor?
They walk inside the doors. A man dressed in a pricey looking suit greets them. He leads them to their private party area. Wali has organised everything, including sending invites for various people to attend. The party remains private for about half an hour before Wes, in attempting to set a world record for the most alcohol consumed in the shortest period of time, throws open the doors and commands security to let everyone else in. In the ensuing fifteen minutes Nick takes a bottle of scotch from behind their private bar, half a dozen shot glasses and has snuck out into the public areas. After finding a vacant table in the corner, he begins lining up shots, and this is where he sits now.
Nick groaned, recalling the evenings events, and wondered about how much precious gear he had lost. One of his signature Catorce guitars would cost over $10,000 with his exact specifications, and he had thrown two of them away and smashed a third. He raked a hand through his hair. Despite the tour, album sales (#1 for 3 straight weeks! as declared on the newest album covers) and merchandise, the band had, so far, seen very little of the money they'd made. I doubt we'll see much more of it either, Nick thought darkly.
He stood suddenly, bumping the table. The bottle of scotch tipped dangerously in one direction then back the other way before steadying. He put a hand on the table as a wave of dizziness swept over him, nearly knocking him back into his chair. After waiting a few seconds to make sure that he can stand, he picked up the bottle of scotch and raised it to his mouth. He tips the bottle up but nothing flows into his mouth. Putting his eye to the top of the bottle, he realised it was empty. He didn't notice the six shot-glasses filled with scotch in a line in front of him.
Placing the bottle back on the table, he decided to get another drink. He glanced around and realised that he didn't know where the bar was. He hadn't bothered to look around beforehand. There were several tables around him that are mostly occupied with couples making out or forlorn looking groups of young men staring silently into their drinks. In front of him there was a large open area where lots of people were dancing. The thought of him going out to the centre of the floor and masturbating a giant dick in the air floated into his head, and Nick giggled. Along the opposite wall there was a booth where someone presumably a DJ was standing over a computer monitor with a large set of headphones on. On his right hand side there's a wall, where several more drunken couples were expressing their passion. On the left there's an archway. Nick made his way to the left.
Trying to walk straight, Nick couldn't help but marvel at how sticky the floor was. He watched a young man with a well-trimmed beard drop his iPhone, which was promptly trampled on. A big, blossoming crack of ink appeared on the display. Screen cracked on the floor, probably caught VD when he picked it up, Nick thought. He realised suddenly that the music was loud. He hadn't noticed it until now, but the electronic beeps and boops and the booming bass of the music, the vibrations, pulsed through him. He couldn't recall whether it was like this at the Renegades live shows.
Someone bumped into him and Nick nearly toppled. He turned, fists clenched, to confront the culprit. He couldn't see anyone that looked as though they'd just been walking. He turned back towards the archways and nearly fell again. It was closer now, much closer. He walked around a large group of women dressed in short skirts that stretched against their bodies and which they were constantly pulling upwards or down so as not to cross the thin line between what they wanted to show and what they didn't. Nick saw several of them look at him. They gave me the eyes, he thought as he brushed past them. The eyes, the eyes, they gave me the eyes, and every guy knows what that means when a girl gives a guy the eyes. He almost turned back, and then remembered Maddie. Then he remembered where he was, who he was, what he was, and at that moment he grasped the very sober concept of sex scandal quite well and kept walking.
Finally he reached the archway. In the room beyond people stood idly holding drinks, the only conversations taking place being shouted into one another's ears. Directly in front of Nick was a small walkway that led to the bar. He moved that direction. A woman in front of him right began laughing. She threw her head back and just as he was passing her she stepped back into him. Nick stumbled backwards, and the woman dropped her drink. The glass shattered. She looked down at the mess on the floor then back up at Nicks face. Her lips drew back from her mouth, her teeth bared. Then there was a bouncer there, grabbing her by the arm, and he mouthed something in her ear. He pulled her towards the far wall, where Nick saw there was the entrance. She tried to resist, but the bouncer dragged her behind him.
Sighing in relief, Nick made it to the bar. A pack of people stand in front of him. He looked at the press of bodies, then moved forward and stood behind them. The music wasn't so loud here it seemed as though if there were any speakers in this room, they were set at a lower volume and there was idle conversation. Most of the conversation threads that Nick could pick out were sarcastic comments about how they'd be sober before they got their next drink. A man in front of him tapped the screen of his iPhone, typing out a status that he posted on facebook. Several other people concentrated on small phones held in their palms. Someone forced their way back, and the line moved forward a bit. The person held three drinks, but they dropped one.
F--king dipshit, said a male voice behind Nick. He half-turned to look at who had said it, perhaps to shake their hand for pointing out the blunt truth, but was bumped the other direction by someone pushing their way out of the line. He swore at them, readjusted himself, and forgot what he had been doing.
It took ten minutes to get to the bar, and another three to get the attention of the serving girl closest to him. He noticed that she had tits rather large ones, that bounced alot in a very tight, low-cut shirt that somehow kept drawing his attention every time he wasn't focussing on not looking at them. She leaned towards him, closer to him, lips slightly apart and her eyebrows raised. The cleavage was impressive.
Two scotch on the rocks thanks, Nick sad in a hoarse voice. The girl nodded, turned and picked up several glasses. He watched her idly. She dipped the cups into a sink full of ice. He looked down at her breasts again. The person next to him pulled away from the bar with a pint in either hand. The person behind him moved into the space. He looked at Nick, then his mouth dropped.
You! You! he said, grabbing Nick by the arm. The voice belonged to the same guy who'd voiced the f--king dipshit' opinion. You're that guy from the Renegades! Nick, right? Isn't your name Nick?!
Nick tried to move away but there was no room.
Man, you're that guy, aren't you? Hey, I saw your stuff on ultimate-guitar! Your meltdown! Dude, what's up with that?
Nick stood slack-jawed. His face flushed hotly, and he felt a new dizziness inside his head. He pushed his assailant back. The man and the few people immediately behind the him fell to the floor, thrown off balance in the confined space. More people swayed and shifted their feet behind them. Nick turned and pushed through the crowd, going away. Several more people fell when he pushed his way through the crowd.
He reached the end of the line and turned towards the entrance. He wanted to get out. Needed to get out. He didn't care about what might await him outside. He walked more directly now, no longer worrying about the well-being of others. Pausing next to a pillar, trying to figure out the quickest route to the door, he thought I just want to go home.
After several seconds deliberation about which way was quickest, and deciding he didn't care, Nick raised a foot to go on when someone took his hand. He turned around, then, and saw her. It was the brunette. The one that Wes had brought back to their room the night, several weeks ago now, that he thought he had grabbed control of his life. She wore a flowing white dress that went to mid-calf, the type of dress that should seem plain but can be so much more sensual than nothing at all. She looked up at him with her blue doe-eyes and moved closer to him. Nick stepped back. She tried to move closer to him again, and Nick took another step back. She looked up at him, frowning. He tried to extricate his hand from hers, but she held tight. She said something, but Nick didn't care.
She reached out to him, trying to wrap her arm around him. He pushed it away. He tried to pull his hand away again, but she held on. She was talking again. What's my name? she mouthed. Nick tried to pull away. What's my name? she repeated. The two of them were blocking other people from passing through. He tried to pull his hand away again, but couldn't get it free. What's my name? she said a third time, and this time he heard her over the chatter and music and sounds of laughter, her voice cutting at him, her face no longer smooth and innocent but creased into anger.
Nick tried to get his hand free again, whipping his arm back with all his strength. He came free. He stumbled back and bumped into a group of people standing around a table. The drinks on the table spilled. He looked up and saw the brunette walking towards him. Nick fled.
Ducking behind people, he headed towards the entrance again, but turned left and ducked behind a group of people. He hoped the brunette would head for the entrance. Nick walked straighter, feeling a little less dizzy. He headed towards the staircase in the corner of the room, adjacent to the front entrance, which led to the private room. It might be open to the public, but he figured he had a better chance of hiding away there.
Someone bumped into him at the bottom of the staircase. He looked up and saw Taylor. As soon as they'd gotten inside the two had gone their separate ways immediately. Taylor's face conveyed the same surprise Nick felt. They stared at each other for a long moment. A voice came on over the speakers, most likely the DJ's, and said, Now i'm gonna play a song to pay respect to a great bunch of guys here tonight who have the guts to not keep their private party private the Renegades!
The music came on. There was a synth holding a chord. The acoustic guitar at the start of the song had been removed. It was the lyrics to their first single, You'll Be Mine, but it had all been sped up.
I've been waiting here on this cold shore Waiting for you for way too long But now i'm watching, watching this breaking dawn And I know, yeah babe I know That you'll be mine.
The rest of the band, the drums and electric guitar and bass, were supposed to kick in there. Instead, Nick winced as there was some wild beeping and booping sounds behind Taylor's singing, and the electronic percussion started at the same tempo as every other song that had been played that night. He looked around embarrassedly and caught a look of disgust on Taylors face. They stared at each other again. Nick began laughing, silently at first, and then Taylor smiled, and the laughter came over both of them, came in gales. They hugged each other tightly, laughing so hard that they both began to cry. They laughed harder.
Let's go get a drink somewhere else man, Taylor yelled into Nick's ear. Nick nodded and, both the young men with an arm wrapped around the others' shoulders, headed towards the door. Nick felt happy. He thought about the tensions of the last few months, the pressures, and he realised that if not being the musician of his dreams meant keeping his friendship with Taylor, he'd spend the rest of his life searching for the simplest, most derivative chord progressions he could find.
Amidst those joyful thoughts, with the entrance in sight, the man that Nick had pushed in the line appeared in front of him. Several people were with him, a mix of men and women, and he pointed at Nick. Look! he shouted. It's him! The man looked at Taylor and paused. Look, it's that guy too! Can we have a photo guys? Can I take a photo of you with my girlfriend?
Taylor shouldered past the man, ignoring him. Then Nick stumbled as something propelled him forward. He saw Taylor fall and hit the floor heavily, and his right arm twisted under him. Turning around, he saw the same man behind them with outstretched hands. His face had turned a deep red. You guys are f--king assholes, you c--ts, f--k you and your shi-
Nick clenched his hands and swung. His fist connected directly with the man's nose, which broke. There was a splatter of blood, and then blood began to stream down his face, over his mouth and chin. Nick swung again, this time connecting with the man's jaw, and he fell to the ground.
Get up you f--ker! Nick screamed. His vision wavered, and the world seemed to shake and then snap back into place. He needed to pummel this guy. Something restrained Nick, and he tried to hit Taylor's attacker again. He couldn't swing his arm, and he turned around to find out what was stopping him. Taylor held his arm. He looked concerned, and his right arm hung limply by his side. Let's go man, he said.
They walked straight past the waiting media outside. Several photographers looked at them, but they don't register that Nick Avers and Taylor Huxley have left and walked out into the streets. Several minutes later, several men help another man with dark blood covering the front of his face and shirt through the entrance. They moved past the entrance, beyond the loitering media, and the man covered in gore sat heavily against the wall. There were several other groups of people standing around this area. A reporter hanging at the back of the media cast a casual glance at the man.
What happened to him, she said tonelessly.
F--king Nick Avers hit me.
She almost didn't process what he said. Her head snapped towards him and she walked over to him, speaking softly.
Nick Avers hit you?
That's what I said you stupid bitch.
I don't know. The guys a f--king dick.
A woman, a pretty brunette with deep blue eyes, moves closer. She wore a flowing white dress that came to her mid-calf. Her mouth turned upwards slightly at the corners. You think that's bad? He's done way worse to me.
The reporter raised her eyebrows. Oh? What did he do?
The man covered in blood and the pretty brunette each tell their stories to the reporter. The news spreads like wildfire, and coverage extends past the entertainment industry and hits national news bulletins across the Western world.He
I can't go home, announced Hugh, his voice shaking as much as his body was. The police could be there waiting for me, and then they could smell my breath and know I was drunk when I stole the car. You'd think that makes it better, what with not really knowing what I'm doing when I'm pissed, but they won't see it that way, oh no. It would just add drunk and disorderly on top of everything else when they throw me in prison. Why did I steal the car, Greg? Why?
Cracksniffer, I am not in your head. I don't want to be in your head. I like my head, Greg told him.
They were still at the guitar store, with Hugh watching through the window of the closed front door. He wasn't convinced that police cars weren't about to round the corner and come flying down this street looking for him. Greg was almost certain that that was exactly what was going to happen, but his constant sense of calm was as disconcerting as his certainty of Hugh's guilt.
You realise you have to go home, right? asked Greg, passing a slinky from hand to hand. He was sitting at his desk as though bored with proceedings, his feet up and crossed at the ankles and playing with his numerous toys. If you stay here much longer then they will find you. I run a respectable business here bunnyfker: I don't want a visit from the police.
Can't I stay in the back room? Just for one night?
Hugh knew Greg well by now. He wasn't at all worried about the police; he was just annoyed that he had to wait for Hugh to leave so that he could lock up and go home himself. The fact that he was obviously considering the question was more than enough evidence of that.
He dropped the slinky to the ground and pointed a worn and thin finger towards Hugh. You touch my stash and I rape your mother, he said. It was not a question.
Sounds fair, Hugh replied.
Is she fit?
No. You made a bad deal.
Damnit, Greg cursed himself. Happy that Hugh would at least keep his hands off, Greg took to his feet, dragging the keys behind him. You know where the blanket is for when I can't be arsed going home. Don't knock one out under there I sleep under that shit.
No more words were offered by either of them. Greg passed Hugh to slip out of the door and lock him in. Hugh, wondering what he might do now if the police came to find that he was locked in without the keys, left the main room, sliding his fingers across the strings of a couple of guitars as he passed them.
The smell of the back room was unavoidable, and Hugh didn't bother holding his nose. Instead, he explored the mouldy blankets arranged haphazardly on the couch and settled under the cleanest one he could find.
Uneasily, he lay down and listened. The sounds of the world greeted him.