by Narrelle M Harris
Laszlo Kantor put on his blandest expression, which was also his most forbidding one, and met the promoter’s eye, stare for stare.
“This is it?” said Mr Malone, the promoter, his gaze flicking from Laszlo to Steve Borman to Yuka to Salvatore D’Souza, “This is the band? I thought you were a six piece?” Malone’s Australian drawl was just this side of rude.
“Normally, yes,” said Laszlo in his own heavily accented English, “Well, five piece, I don’t really play.”
“You’re the manager?”
“So you’re actually a three piece band now?”
“Just for the minute, yes.”
“Oh. Well.” Mr Malone’s dubious gaze flickered over the four of them again. “I was expecting the whole band. I hired a whole band. This is Melbourne, you know, not a crappy little pub out in the sticks that’ll put up with your bullshit. We have professional standards here at The Corner Hotel. Where’re the rest of you?”
Laszlo could practically hear Yuka grinding her teeth, and he didn’t dare look at Sal at all, knowing the tall Goan Indian man would be vascillating between a death glare and grief. Steve, he knew, would just be Steve: so laid back you’d think he was in a coma.
“Well, they’re dead,” said Laszlo, sounding prosaic and reasonable, “But don’t worry about it. We are a professional group and we deliver. We’ve got it sorted.”
Which was an outright lie. It was totally not sorted, and the band was a mess, and they needed someone to take over from poor Alex and Kurt, and a new name now, and, please god, a few days’ rest.
Not that they were likely to get it, even so far south, kilometres and continents away from the trouble they’d just fled. In his short time with the band – just two months, now, since they’d first come to Budapest – Laszlo had learned one unassailable fact. This group of musicians lived and moved under the guiding hand of fate. It can’t have been comfortable for anyone. But he had chosen them. It couldn’t be any more uncomfortable than his life before their arrival. Fate had put him in its sights long ago.
Besides, Laszlo had an unpleasant feeling at the back of his neck, pins and needles, like ice in the Hungarian winter. Shadows were following them and perhaps Budapest wasn’t yet done with them. Whatever it had already taken from them, they’d have to arm themselves and fight those shadows no matter the unhealed wounds they already had. No matter how far from them they’d run.
“I said, can you be ready by Saturday night?”
“Of course we can,” promised Laszlo gravely, lying even more spectacularly, “Don’t worry about us.”
Malone glowered at him. “You’d better come good on what they say about you lot. That’s what I’m paying for.”
“We will,” interjected Steve in his laid-back drawl, “Count on it.”
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