Thank you all so much for your understanding about story episodes.
I've loved providing the King Brothers to you as weekly instalments, but for now, I'm going to concentrate on bringing each story to you as a complete book.
I'll likely post the odd teaser chapter, so you can still sign up to receive those emails of you haven't signed up for my newsletter.
Much love from me and on to this episode.
If you haven't picked up the complete books, you'll find them here:
Book 1: Dylan & Destiny - Breakout
Book 2: Liam & Alannah - Breakthrough
Book 3: Jesse & Ruby - Breakdown
Love Toni xx
I’d read Ian Wrigley’s recent email over so many times I knew the damn thing word for word.
I tried to put out of my mind the fact that he’d not actually answered my question directly about what we’d be covering.
He’d instructed me to be ready to head out from LA in three days’ time and that we were travelling light, but he still hadn’t told me where we were going.
What kind of story would we be covering?
It had to be somewhere civilised, because otherwise he’d have had to let me know what shots I needed. Presumably not anywhere too cold, or we wouldn’t be travelling light.
A nagging voice in the back of my head kept trying to force me to look at the facts—but those were few and far between.
Aside from outright asking him what we were covering—and for some reason I didn’t feel I could do that—I just had to wait for the surprise.
But the anticipation was killing me.
The thought of getting away from LA and from the vapid scene that I’d been involved in for such a long time filled me with an overwhelming sense of joy.
Ian Wrigley had covered some of the most fascinating breaking stories in his career from the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York to the Darfur conflict in Western Sudan and a wealth of environmental and global issues in between. I was so looking forward to getting to grips with the more meaningful and profound side of journalism.
My phone rang, startling me out of my reverie about the wonderful places that Ian and I would be enjoying on our adventures.
A number I didn’t recognise.
“Ruby, it’s Ian Wrigley here I thought we should talk about the assignment.”
My heart began to thump in anticipation.
“Sure. I’m really looking forward to working with you.” I bit my tongue. Ian didn’t need me waffling on about how honoured I was to have been chosen to work with him. The idea of his name being on my portfolio of work would open so many doors for me. But I couldn’t think about that now. For now, what I needed to concentrate on was what we were doing and where we’d be going.
Ian continued on. “I chose you because I believed that you’d be perfectly suited for the assignment, based on your previous work.”
That didn’t make any sense. I’d effectively been working for high class gossip magazines. My heart began to thump faster in my chest.
“Wh-what do you mean?” The words were barely out of my mouth before he began to justify himself.
“It seems that I’ve fallen on hard times. We’re going to be on the road together in close quarters, with a new up-and-coming band. It’s not my idea of news, but with the divorce, my ex-wife has managed to rake my name through the mud and…”
There was a long silence.
I didn’t know what to say.
So I said nothing.
Ian picked up again. “So you understand that while I’m trying to put my reputation back together again, never mind paying the attorney’s fees, I need you to be my right hand. A better right hand, quite frankly than the bitch that I was married too who’s now trying to suggest that she was the brainchild behind my stellar career.”
It was all starting to fall into place.
Ian Wrigley’s life was in tatters.
He needed me to pull him out of the gutter press and I was relying on him to do that for me.
What a complete fuck up.
“So we’re going on the road, with a band?” I couldn’t believe that the words were coming out of my mouth.
“Yes,” he replied. I heard the rustling of some paperwork. “Record company’s paying me to follow a group that they insist are an up-and-coming band. I figure you’re good at this kind of thing, so you’ll know what we’re in for.”
I knew what we were in for all right.
“Does the band have a name?” I tried to hide the disappointment from my voice.
“They do,” Ian’s voice boomed down the line. “A strange one at that. Yellow Lady.”
My stomach lurched.
“How long are we following them?”
“Minimum of six weeks, possibly longer.”
Six weeks on tour with a bunch of musicians.
I wanted to scream.
How had something that looked like the best opportunity of my life turned into the worst possible scenario?
“We’re due to meet them the day after tomorrow. I’ll forward their manager’s email to you so you know when and where we’re leaving from.”
I could hardly wait.
“You’re sure that their name is Yellow Lady?”
“Positive.” Ian replied. “Have you heard of them?”
Had I heard of them?
A vision of Jesse Davis leaning against a painted brick wall came uninvited into my head. Once it was there, I couldn’t get rid of the image of him, t-shirt pulled tight across a muscular chest, dirty blond hair begging for me to run my fingers through it.
My throat had gone dry.
How many weeks on the road with that man?
“Are they any good?” Ian’s words cut through the show going on inside my head.
That question I couldn’t answer. Cleary their label thought that they were good if they’d contracted Ian Wrigley to follow the band.
What I couldn’t work out was who was trying to give who any kind of credibility here?
“I haven’t seen them play,” I answered. Somehow my hand had found my computer keyboard and I was idly skimming through the pages of photographs that I’d prepared and sent to the magazine from the Yellow Lady shoot.
Had Ian seen these?
Did it even matter if he had seen them?
“Well,” Ian sighed, “I guess that’s soon going to change. They’ve got a gruelling schedule ahead of them and you and me are going to document the entire tour. And,” Ian’s voice rose, “we’re going to make a damn good job of it so that I can go back to being a real journalist. No matter what lies my ex-wife is telling the industry.”
The line went dead.
What the fuck had happened to my life?
I threw my phone down on the bed.
It returned to the home screen.
As if the Universe were laughing at me, I saw a DM from social.
Jesse was trying to contact me.
I thought I’d never see the man ever again.
Did he know I was going on tour?
Every time my phone buzzed, I picked it up hoping like hell it was Ruby getting back to me.
Every time a wave of disappointment washed over me.
I’d send her a direct message and she hadn’t even looked at it.
We were leaving LA tomorrow.
I had to concede defeat, or go and see Calvin and beg for the reporter’s phone number. That idea didn’t appeal. If Ruby didn’t want to get in touch with me, there wasn’t much point in begging.
I wasn’t one to beg.
I swallowed my disappointment and concentrated on packing my bags.
There wasn’t a lot to take on tour.
An assortment of jeans and tees. Some boots and belts. A stash of underwear. A couple of jackets.
The most important thing was to ensure that my fender precision bass was well packed in her flight case. The thought of passing her off to roadies and guitar technicians alternately filled me with joy and terror.
Calvin had promised us the big time and things were happening.
No more travelling around in crappy vans.
We had an actual tour bus that would carry us all.
Our equipment would travel with the road crew and technicians.
I could hear Calvin’s words over and over again in my head. “You guys make this work and it’s the beginning of the big time.”
He’d called another meeting.
“How many of these you think we’ll be having once we get on the road?” Liam asked me as the four of us and Alannah assembled in Calvin’s office. The thought of her being ‘Camp Mother’ still made me smile. The lengths the woman had to go to so she could come and be on the road with Liam part amused and astounded me. How well the two of them could continue to hide their relationship on the road remained to be seen.
Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that I couldn’t get a hold of Ruby.
“Great, you’re all here,” Calvin said as he surveyed the five of us. “Thought I should let you know that the record company have confirmed that Ian Wrigley will be following your every move while we’re on tour.” He eyeballed Liam and Alannah, “So you’ll all have to be on your best behaviour.”
“Fucking great,” Liam muttered under his breath.
“Nothing will be going out that I don’t approve,” Calvin said, “but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find the process intrusive. I want you to co-operate with Ian and his photographer whenever possible. I don’t want to hear any reports via the media that any of you are difficult to deal with. Got it?”
A collective chorus of, “Yes,” filled the room.
“What the fuck’s Ian Wrigley done to be tasked with following us?” Liam asked. “Doesn’t he report on war and famine and pestilence and stuff like that?”
“Maybe he needs a break,” Alannah offered.
“More likely he’s broke and needs the money,” I said.
“It doesn’t matter,” Calvin cut in. “What matters is that you give him the chance to tell your touring story.”
Calvin began to wheel himself toward his desk, his indicator that this meeting was over. “I keep telling you boys, you’re headed for the big time and so there’s a need to document your rise.”
I stood up and made to head back to my room. All this talk of fame and our meteoric rise gave me the shits. All I’d ever really wanted to do was play bass, tour and be left alone.
I was beginning to see that maybe the third concept might not be compatible with the first two and that worried me.
“We were about to send out a search party,” Marty said as I entered the kitchen.
The day of the beginning of the tour had dawned and, despite my own experiences at being on the road—or maybe because of them—I found myself struggling with a real sense of dis-ease.
“He wouldn’t leave his bass,” Liam chipped in, “and it’s already gone on ahead, so I knew he’d show up, eventually.”
“Fuck off,” I said to them both, waving my middle finger in the general direction of anyone who wanted to give me shit.
The rest of the band didn’t seem to have any kind of nerve issues. I found them all tucking into breakfast, a real sense of boys-own-adventure rolling off them in waves.
“Hey, man.” Dylan greeted me as he continued to munch his way through a piece of toast with our beloved vegemite spread.
The familiar scent of the black sandwich spread made my stomach growl, despite my clawing nervousness.
Dylan finished his slice and said, “I’ve made sure that catering have packed enough to see us through the tour.”
Little details. But Dylan’s enthusiasm for the tour was catching and, I had to admit to myself, the scent of the spread and his infectious manner was taking the edge off my own nausea.
“Any coffee over there?” I asked, eyeing the machine over Dylan’s shoulder.
“It’s about all you’ve got time for,” he replied. “The tour bus is due in five.”
I shrugged, “They’ll have a kitchen on board. No need to worry.”
It wasn’t like we were travelling in the crappy vans that we’d done most of Australia and New Zealand in with the last band.
Don’t think about the last band.
No wonder coffee was about all I wanted to keep down.
Calvin rolled into the room just as I poured myself a cup of the inky brew.
“Your accommodation for the next six weeks has just arrived,” he said with an accompanying bright smile. “I suggest you get your stuff, get in there and claim your bunk.”
A burst of frenetic activity filled the room as the boys and Alannah made haste to exit.
That left me with my coffee and Calvin alone in the kitchen.
“You okay?” Calvin asked with a tip of his head.
I nodded, “Yeah. Just thinking about the last time we went on tour with the old band.”
“Take my advice and don’t,” Calvin said. “Focus on the here and now. You got a good thing going with these boys. I don’t want anyone or anything messing it up. Okay?”
“Sure,” I replied.
“Go get your stuff and get on the road.”
There was no arguing with Calvin. Especially as far as touring was concerned. I’d been on the road with this man before. He ran a tight ship and I knew that this tour wasn’t going to be any different.
I picked up my bags off my bed and headed for the bus.
How long it would be before we were back here was anyone’s guess.
The large white sleeper coach with tinted black windows sat in the driveway of the house. How the hell it had negotiated some of the streets to get here, was anyone’s guess. Kudos to the driver who took my pack from me so he could stow it in the luggage bins with everyone else’s gear.
I stepped up through the open double doors at the front of the bus and was astounded with what greeted me on the inside.
For some strange reason I’d expected to see lines of seats like the Auckland coach services back home, instead, I was greeted with what looked like a hotel interior on wheels.
I stepped past two comfortable brown leather couches that lined each wall, on to a sparkling white galley kitchen, complete with a coffee machine. A full size fridge sat opposite a comfortable size rest room and shower and then I saw two rows of three self-contained bunks.
“You’re too slow, man,” Dylan called his head poked out from the curtain that contained the snug space he’d commandeered. “The top bunks have gone, you’re down the bottom.”
“Less space to fall,” I mused as I walked along and threw my sweatshirt on the bottom bunk to my right. I couldn’t complain about the fit out. The bunk had a small reading light, a cup stand, plenty of comfortable bedding, space to plug in a phone and what looked like a small aeroplane style screen that flipped out of the ceiling. All the comforts of home, plus a privacy curtain that I could pull whenever I wanted to be alone.
Alannah and Liam had scored the top and middle bunks across from me. I found myself tucked in under Dylan and Marty—I decided a preferable situation than being tucked in under Liam and Alannah.
A further three bunks lay empty before the coach opened up again to a second lounge that housed a sound system, a booth-type eating nook and an L-shaped couch.
“Who’s in here?” I asked anyone who’d listen.
“We are,” a voice that sounded alarmingly familiar answered my question.
I turned around and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
A vision in tight blue jeans, black ankle boots and a body hugging black shirt that set off the red of her hair.
“What are you doing here?” I could hear the slight tremor in my voice and I hoped like hell she couldn’t.
“Ian and I are documenting your rise to stardom.”
“You’re working with Ian?” I decided that I didn’t like the edge of sarcasm in Ruby’s voice. “You mean we’re your new breaking story?”
She shrugged, a tiny smile turning up the edge of her bright red lips.
“Frankly, I’m as surprised as you are,” she said. The look on her face made me wonder whether or not she even wanted to be on the tour.
* * *
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