Concert Opener – Friday night

In the redlights of the backstage, Ramon fiddles with his in-ears.  The audience cheers as the stage goes dark.  An ominous gunslinger guitar anthem plays on the sound system for forty seconds as the band takes their positions on the dark stage. Jon growls something in Old Norse and the light show begins with a blinding flash. Simon(wearing a retro t-shirt emblazoned Made in Christ) and Ramon hold their hands up and get the audience to clap rapidly along with them as Rolf and James start in.  Jon holds the mic behind his back with his right arm as he headbangs.  Then Rolf suddenly rushes up to the front of the stage and kicks off a speaker and lands a backflip, just in time to power into the next riff. Jon screams the vocals into his mic and the mosh pit descends into a frenzy.  Ramon stuns the crowd with a bass swing around his neck and then does the screams at the end: wave goodbye to the past.

James Grey - Uppsala – Quicksand {Drum Cam} gets uploaded on Youtube.  Sam and Bettina watch it after a big Saturday night campaign rally.  The text description reads: James Grey of Uppsala covers ABR’s Composure.  Live @ The House of Blues, New Orleans.

The drums and cymbals are overpoweringly loud, drowning out the guitars and lyrics.  In the hue of the blacklights, James holds up his right drumstick between hits as the song starts.  Then he transitions to doing drumstick twirls between blast beats.  At fifty seconds in, he sets down his left drumstick, and briefly shakes out that hand, then picks it up without missing a beat.  Did you see that? Sam asks Bettina. What?  She pauses the clip and clicks back.  His arm must have started to cramp, Bettina says.  Near the three minute mark, Jon comes partially into the frame, yells something into his microphone, does a cymbal mute with his free hand, and then leaves the frame.  What did he say? Bettina asks. Sam clicks back and they listen again. “Life Can Be Overwhelming”.  Did you just see those ninja skills?  Sam shrieks as the video continues, as James spins a drumstick around his head and transitions to a gorilla smash with both hands.

Sam scrolls down and looks at the comments.   Most are idiotic one-liners like "The man is an absolute beast".  “Speak softly and carry two little sticks" is the most cerebral.   "A masterclass in the art" is the one with the most likes.  Others come over and Sam plays the video for them.  Where’s the rest of the band?  Senator Johns asks.  This is all that’s been released from last night’s concert, Sam replies.  Did Lana go?  Tim asks.  Bettina shakes her head no.  She was keeping an eye on Rolf’s house.  She gets paid to stay at a rockstar’s mansion?  Where do I sign up? Lindsey whispers jealously to Raj.

***

I heard your opener was quite a hit again. You have no idea how much time we spend practicing the choreography, Sam.  We practice ad nauseum.  There are cues for where I’m supposed to be at every different point in the song.  My neck is raw from doing bass swings. What’s that?  It’s where I throw the guitar to the side with one hand and it swivels around my neck by the strap and I catch it without missing a note. That sounds amazing.  The point is that it looks spontaneous to the audience, but it’s all planned, Sam.  We take turns shifting their attention.  James with his drumstick art, I do bass swings and spin turns, Jon stays in place, as the point of reference.  Rolf and Simon do synchronized head nods to the time shifts. Rolf is the wild card.  He knows where everyone is supposed to be and then he’ll throw a curve ball.  What did he do this time?  Sam asks. He launched off a speaker and did a back flip during our intro.  The audience just went crazy.  Why haven’t you put the video up?  All I saw was the drum cam.  Rolf thinks someone will get injured trying to copy his move.  He wants to edit it out.  No way, Sam exclaims.  I want to see it.  Can you send me a link?  I’ll see what I can do.  I’m just an Indian here, not the chief.  I want to be there for the next concert, Sam says.  Jon said just one more, before the end of the summer.  He’s looking for a violinist.  Do you know anyone?  No.  Sam, I’m going to hire a gymnast to teach me how do to a back flip.  Sam sighs.  A male gymnast, Ramon says quickly.  What are you doing next week?  He asks her.  I’ll be in LA, doing a reshoot.  The natural lighting didn’t work for my skinny dipping scene on location.  It was too dark or so they claim.  I think what they really want is for me to ditch my bra and panties.  What are you going to do?  I called Starlet and asked her to do lunch with me to talk it over.  I’ll listen to what she has to say.  You don’t have a problem with it, do you?  Women’s bodies are beautiful, Ramon exclaims.  Careful, bud.

***

A picture of Rolf inverted in the air playing his guitar with rest of the band in the background makes the cover of Rolling Stone.

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Levi and Saul sit down together at the office.  Ortega paid the $200MM, Saul remarks.  Levi raises his eyebrows, impressed.  Unexpected.  How?  If you knew the market would crash and rebound, could you put together a string of investments that wouldn’t raise any red flags with the regulators?  Levi nods.  It was a brilliant raid.  They scored big, and they’ve managed to keep it quiet from the Syndicate.  Ortega told Samantha that they called themselves the Martyrs Brigade.  They all thought it was a one way mission; the options trades were a failsafe.

How was the security detail?  Well thought out.  We have three layers.  Inner is Tim, who has a rapport with the candidate.  Outer is Samantha, usually at the vehicles or on the street entrance. And I’m the middle layer, stationed at a choke point, able to respond in either direction.  What are your thoughts on Kostamo’s man?  Solid.  A professional.  He took Samantha aside once for joking around over our comms, and she took it to heart.  That’s not an easy thing to do with someone as touchy as her.

What’s the latest on Lana?  Levi asks.  She suspects. She had Andrew’s vehicle inspected by a team of specialists, while they were off playing moonlight golf.  I’d already had all of them removed, as a precaution, Saul explains.  Lana plays golf? She was caddying with Simon for a match between Andrews and her partner. We’ve got a surveillance team in place.  She is very close to Kostamo.  I think she could bring him over to our side.  And we need his pipeline, Levi.