by Narrelle M Harris
“Six days,” said Sal, his Goan accent thickening with anger. The fact that he couldn’t seem to get his teeth unclenched wasn’t helping, “Six days to be ready to perform, without a lead singer and guitarist or a keyboard player. Without half our band.” The way he said it, it sounded like he was being asked to play without half his heart, which was much closer to the truth.
“We’ll work it out,” Laszlo assured him, “I’ve seen you do much more with much less.”
Sal’s brown eyes blazed. “Not with much less of the fucking band, you haven’t. Alex and Kurt are dead. How much less do you think we can get and still function?” He was looming over the older man, his dark skin flushing darker still with emotion. “We can only do so many miracles. Raising the dead isn’t one of them. That’s kind of the opposite of our job.”
“What do you want me to do?” Laszlo demanded, “You said we needed to be very far away. This is very far away. I’m sorry your friends are dead, but I’m not the one who killed them.”
“You sure as hell didn’t save them.”
Yuka pushed her small body between the two men. Neither of them made the mistake of thinking that because she was small she wasn’t strong. She could probably have broken at least one of them in thirteen places with just her left hand and a well-aimed drum stick.
Laszlo, in fact, had seen her perform a similar feat in Budapest, against the undead, so when she glared at the two, much taller, men, Laszlo did the sensible thing. He took a step away, dropping his gaze to his feet.
Sal had backed off fractionally, his expression still mutinous, his eyes glittering bright. He transferred his glare to Yuka.
“No, Sal,” she said, glaring right back, the accented syllables clipped and firm, “You know Laszlo is not the enemy.”
A shudder ran through him. Sal closed his eyes and the glittering brightness in his eyes escaped in wet tracks.
“I know. Sorry, Laszlo.”
“No worries, Sal.” He managed to tilt an awkward smile at Sal. He felt bad that it had got out of hand so quickly. They were still new to each other, Laszlo and the others. Two months acquainted, when Alex, Kurt, Sal, Yuka and Steve had been a team for years. When three of them were still mourning their murdered friends.
Laszlo is not the enemy, Yuka had said. It made him feel… he didn’t know. Sad. Determined. Afraid.
I am not the enemy, he told himself firmly, I never was. That felt like a lie.
I never will be again. There. That felt more like a true thing.
The sound of Steve clearing his throat garnered everyone’s instant attention. Their bass guitarist, the eldest of their group at nearly sixty, wasn’t into idle chatter, so if he had something to say, everyone was going to listen.
“You know,” Steve said in his slow Texan drawl, “We can do it as a three piece if we have to. You can sing lead and play lead guitar, Sal, you’ve done it before.”
“Ain’t no disrespect to them that’s gone,” Steve said, “It’s wrong Alex and Kurt ain’t here, but that ain’t no-one’s fault but the fang-faced bastards what killed them. We got guitars and drums. We got singers. We can do this.”
“It’s not enough.”
“It’ll have to be. Hey, Laszlo,” Steve nodded at the Hungarian, “You played a mean fiddle when we needed you in the crypt. Ain’t half bad for someone who says he only dabbles in music.”
Laszlo’s left hand twitched involuntarily. “I dabbled in many things,” he confessed, “A long time ago, though. Apart from the crypt, I haven’t played in years.”
“Reckon you can learn some songs in a week?”
Laszlo shrugged, the gesture disguising the thrum of excitement in his nerve endings. “Sure. Yes. If you need.”
“We need, and it’ll be a lot easier to pick up the melodies when you’re not trying slay vampires at the same time, I promise you.”
Laszlo snorted a wry laugh. “Oh, but it’s so motivational.”
“I can give you motivation,” said Yuka darkly, and Laszlo couldn’t tell if she was joking. She grinned, somewhat savagely, which was not enlightening.
Steve just grinned at her and settled back into his previous taciturn demeanour, hip hitched on the corner of the small table in their dorm room. They were short on funds – nothing new there – so the four of them were sharing a dorm room at a backpackers’ joint at the north end of town. Beds were covered in duffel bags and instruments. A small, battered metal chest was shoved between two of the bunks.
“You teach Laszlo some songs,” said Yuka to the band, “I will get food.”
With that, Yuka patted her belt, checking that her drumsticks were still held in place by the leather, and left them to it.
Laszlo watched her go, and then turned to Steve. “I suppose we should go and buy a fiddle, then.”
Steve flicked a glance at the little metal chest. “Actually, we still have the other one.”
(Please feel free to post your responses to the story here: thoughts, speculation, whatever strikes you, good or bad.)