Crandall loved the show more than anything – more than everything else put together – and yet as soon as the last note faded into the raucous cheering of the crowd Crandall bolted off stage with barely more than a wave and a half-hearted bow of his head. Mike met Jon in front of his drum set to take a quick bow and shout a thank you into a mic, and Beryl waited, watching them in a pose that thrust out her chest and ass, and emphasized her long, lean legs all at once.
As soon as Jon and Mike jumped off the side stage, she leaned on the microphone and thanked the crowd, rattling off a promotional spiel about Inertia Stand’s other upcoming gigs. Not bad, Mike thought, given that the most she usually did after a show involved jumping off the stage into the arms of fans she’d scoped out and flirted with ceaselessly during the show.
Jon clapped a hand on Mike’s shoulder, shouted something about a good show and disappeared into the crowd to find a beer and a girl. Mike turned towards the hall only to stop short, startled that Crandall had waited for him. Crandall always beelined to the dressing rooms after the last song. Always.
“Good show,” Crandall said. “I like it here.”
Mike bit back every response that came to mind. He had no doubt that Crandall intended to work Blood Moon into their regular rotation and Mike had to be prepared with safe and sane arguments against it. Later, he decided, would be soon enough.
Crandall turned and hurried towards the private hall as Beryl thanked the crowd again and then started talking about the headliner, Dead Inside. Mike followed close behind. With his head down, avoiding the gaze of Jackson guarding the doorway, Crandall walked right into the broad chest of a vampire waiting to take the stage. Rain growled but stepped aside, gesturing to the hunters to pass by. Crandall sneered at the singer but when he stepped into the doorway, Sunshine stepped in front of him with a sound that sounded more a growl than a chuckle despite the wicked grin plastered on his face.
“Get out of the way hunter,” Sunshine growled.
“Fuck you,” Crandall said, glaring at the vampire’s collarbone.
Sunshine grabbed Crandall’s shoulder and yanked him through the doorway. As soon as the vampire’s hand landed, Mike leapt forward, but Rain intercepted him, pulling him aside. Crank drew his stake, swinging it even before he found his footing. Jackson sprung through the door after the pair, but Mike didn’t trust the security man to help when both vampire and human were at risk. He struggled against Rain’s thick arms. The vampire held him tight against his chest. With a deep, throaty purr, Rain whispered in his ear. “Don’t interfere. Jackson will deal with it.”
“Let go of me.” Mike swung an elbow back. He heard the grunt of the vampire, but his embrace didn’t loosen.
“Trust your security if you don’t trust me.”
“He’s not my security.”
Rain cocked his head to the side, glancing around the corner. He laughed and released Mike who stumbled through the door.
Jackson had one hand on Sunshine’s chest, pushing him against a wall, while he pinned Crandall, face first, against the kitty-corner wall, with his body, his hand holding Crandall’s wrist – the hand with the stake — against the wall above his head. The rest of the vampire bandmates watched with amused expressions and relaxed bodies from further down the hall. No one seemed concerned about the scuffle except Jackson and Mike.
“Enough already,” Jackson said. “Chaos, get the fuck on stage or I’ll throw your ass out the front door.”
Mike spun at the sound of boots moving in behind him. Sidney and Rain blocked the door. The other musicians blocked the way to the emergency exit past the dressing room. While Jackson seemed to be diffusing the situation, Mike felt trapped, his heart racing as he pieced together possible escape routes with little hope of actually using them.
Jackson lifted his hand from the vampire’s chest, but kept Crandall pinned and squirming against the wall. “What are you waiting for?” Jackson asked. “Go!”
Up Next: Delaying the Inevitable