Half way through their world tour, on the night before their New York concert, Millennium Sands main guitarist and back up vocalist rage quit.
"Can't we just put a recording of her on?" asked Danny in desperation.
"Talk about sucking the life out of the stage," grumbled Seth. "It'll stop being 'listen to each other' and become 'keep up with a damn tape.' Besides," he gave them an blank, almost owlish look. "Do we even have any recordings of just her part?"
"Augh, can't they just tone down our track and boost hers? They can do stuff like that, right?"
And since neither Danny or Seth was seeing the point, Hasani dropped yet another complication: "These people paid for an all live concert. We give them a recording and Trempton Corp will eat us alive."
On hearing the name of the Mothership of their ice-veined, merciless, draconic producer, Danny and even the fearless Seth froze.
"Tell me you didn't tell him?" asked Danny. He only gave Hasani the time to blink and open his mouth before he launched out of his chair and about his neck. "For the love of God, tell me you didn't tell him?!"
Seth said nothing, though his expression darkened. Put together with his shock of white hair and hollow, too bright dark eyes and it gave a striking impression of being waited on by a ghost. A none-too-friendly ghost.
"You expect me not to?" asked Hasani, appalled, amazed.
"I'm begging you!"
"How the hell do you expect us to get a guitarist in thirteen hours-"
"Ten," interjected Seth.
"-let alone get security to let them on stage? Get off me, you're like a thousand pounds."
Lanky Danny melted to the ground. "Are you seriously asking me that after all we had to go through to get him to fund a world tour?" Danny curled his head beneath his hands and swore a few pretty, grumbled words before adding, "If he finds out Rebecca ran out-shit, the girl's got connections. And you know what a tight ass he is about quality reputation or whatever."
Never far, and probably attracted by Danny's none-too-quiet tone of panic, their buxom blonde manager stepped through their lounge door with a snap of Winterfresh bubblegum. "What's going on, boys?"
Just as Danny started up with a 'nuthan!' followed by a lame-brain explanation, Hasani said over him, "Rebecca's run out."
If Hasani thought that the entrance of their rarely frazzled manager would bring a drop of rational calm to the situation, he was wrong.
Her violet eyes popped and she all but slammed the door behind her.
"Please tell me you didn't tell Trempton?" She was looking right at Hasani.
"Why are you looking at me? We should tell him, this is his investment and he can help us find-"
She broke him off with a loud, unlady-like snort.
"Bennedict Trempton get off his high horse to help anyone? It's float or sink with that man, sponsor or not. We let him know, he won't even give us a chance to find another guitarist or vocalist, he'll have Duelists in our place before you can say 'dickweed.'"
That made Hasani pause. Danny made apoplectic noises of distress on the white carpeted floor, while Seth's dark look turned to an unpleasant sneer.
"Ah yes," he murmured. "His precious, spoiled flower children."
Hasani pinched the bridge of his nose, then moved said forefinger and thumb to rub the inside corners of his eyes. He could feel grit there, and maybe clumps of leftover eyeliner. "Fine. How do you propose we find someone without it getting to him, hmm?"
Manager Jillian had moved to speak right as he said 'fine', cell phone rising, but wilted by the time Hasani finished his sentence. Her perfectly painted face twisted into a scowl.
"I'm not some kind of drone, I got connections outside of my employer, twerp."
"Then why don't you look more confident?"
"It's just a hassle, okay?"
"Hassle!" cried Danny. "You're our manager! It's your job!"
"And what a fine job your doing," slid in Seth in his usual dry undertone. "Rebecca could be in Tahiti, or Spain."
"Ugh, will you get off my back! Guitarists aren't that hard to find."
"She's not just a guitarist," shot Hasani, yanking out a chair and sitting on it backwards. "Female sopranos stick out, even if they're doing back up. They're going to notice."
Jillian all but clawed at her face. Hasani was vaguely surprised that she didn't smear eye makeup down her cheeks. Swearing and stomping her heel into the floor, she went to a corner and took out her phone, barking for them all to just shut up so she could make some calls.
Just as Jillian started up on her first 'contact', a soft knock came at the door. It was so tentative that no one would have heard it if it weren't for the wood of the door being made of some tree that didn't believe in keeping quiet. Seth and Hasani exchanged glances. Danny was too busy writhing on the floor to notice.
"I'll get it." The chair creaked as Hasani stood up.
He had a ready excuse in case it was one of Mai's assistants or some other gear in the Trempton's massive music machine.
But he didn't recognize the girl. It took him a full ten seconds of registering her short brown hair and open features to recognize the hotel's logo on the breast pocket of her button up shirt.
"Um, this isn't really the time for room service. Can you come back?"
She flushed and gulped, but stood her ground. "Sir, did I hear correctly that you needed a guitarist?"
He inwardly groaned. Eavesdropper. Paparazzi. Number one dream crushers of America. "Look, whoever is paying to eavesdrop-"
"I can play. I can sing too."
"We're not for mediocre-"
"I'm not mediocre."
"Damn it, can you let me finish a sentence? Do you even know who I am?"
To his surprise, she just blinked. "Should I...?"
He shut the door in her face. A pre-recorded Trempton head was cackling in his skull.
You crack-sniffers are just a bunch of wannabe's with a lucky one-hit wonder. I doubt anyone who's actually heard that song even knows who you are.
The knocking came at the door again, louder this time.
Seth appeared next to him, leaning against the little decorative table besides the door. "Who is it?"
The knocking didn't stop.
Hasani yanked open the door. "I said we're not-"
"Do you really have the luxury of turning me away without at least seeing what I can do?"
Hasani stared at her. Any previous signs of nerves had vanished, leaving a stranger with some serious confidence or enough misleading arrogance to rival Trempton. Her hands were fisted at her sides, her shoulders set back, and her sharp blue eyes not shivering once as she stared him down.
It probably would have helped her case more if she didn't have a toilet brush sticking out of the waist band of her apron.
Seth, the freaking hyena, started to laugh.
"Oh Lord..." he shoved off the wall. "Let her in. I could do with some amusement after all this shit."
Hasani slapped a hand to his face. He could hear his pride being flushed down the drain. What were the chances a guitarist as good as Rebecca would appear literally on their front doorstep just as they were in the straights for one? Heaven forbid if she could play more than Gateway to Heaven and Pirates of the Caribbean and sing like a high school chorister's pet.
Well, at least she wasn't ugly. Or fat. Maybe they could fake it, have her stand on stage for Rebecca-Hasani shook his head at that thought, discomforted. He hated round about ways like that. Hell, he hated this whole situation of trying to keep it under wraps. If he knew anything, it was lying rarely ever helped-unless you were trying to get a girl into bed for a night. But that had always been Danny's thing.
"Fine." He stepped back. "But you're signing a contract after this. Even a word gets out and we're suing you."