“Dude, you look like absolute shit,” Daryl said a couple of days later as Jimmy opened the door to let him in. The punker junkie was on his fifth day being off the needle, and his appetite had gone off into some quiet, dark corner to die the miserable death of all domesticated pets.

“Yeah, well, you know what they say,” Jimmy offered. “It ain’t easy being clean.”

“I believe the expression is ‘being green’, and it’s from Kermit the fuckin’ Frog, brother,” Daryl said, stepping into the apartment and shutting the door behind him. “Where’s the Rev?”

“Some guy named Michael came and picked him up earlier to talk to the pastors over at West Angeles,” Jimmy answered. “Still can’t believe we’re doing this shit at a church, man. Everybody set to come get things squared up?”

“Bright and early tomorrow, man, we get to work,” Daryl said. “You got any beer in the fridge?”

“Dude, you cannot want me to drive,” said Jimmy. “I need a couple of cold ones, I’m hanging by a fuckin’ thread over here.”

“Relax, man,” Daryl said, holding up his phone to show Jimmy he’d pulled up his Uber app. “Neither of us is driving to this thing. Show doesn’t start for another three hours, we got some time to kill.” Daryl brought Jimmy and himself a couple of beers out to the living room, both of them slumping down onto the rickety old couch while Jimmy got Daredevil running again on the tv. “Thought you already watched this, man.”

“Not second season. Just started yesterday. Rev likes it a lot more than I thought he would.”

“Well, Matt Murdock’s a guilt-riddled Catholic, that’s kind of right in the Rev’s wheelhouse, man.” The duo drank a few beers, ate some sandwiches, and enjoyed the costumed adventures of the Man Without Fear and Frank Castle, until there came a knock at the door. Daryl gave Jimmy a puzzled look and said, “You expecting anybody?”

“Not here, no,” Jimmy said. He got up and headed to the door, beer in hand, and opened it to reveal a tall, broad man with wild, multi-colored hair flowing down his head and shoulders in a poof of tangles and snarls, a denim jacket covered in various buttons, and a Ramones shirt similar to the one Daryl was sporting.

Daryl recognized the man on sight, and immediately heard every internal alarm bell in his system telling him to get up, launch a solid punch at the man’s smiling face and slam the door shut. “Samuel,” Daryl snarled, getting to his feet and clutching his beer bottle, ready to hurl it like a rock.

“Hey, Daryl,” Samuel said with a too-broad smile that crinkled his eyes at the corners, revealing several missing teeth in his head. “Boy, you just keep getting’ bigger, don’t ya? That all muscle still, or you got yourself a pair of bitch titties yet?”

“Uh, brother?” Jimmy kept the door held by his left hand, but he took half a step back to look to his mentor. “Who the fuck is this guy?”

“Samuel Barret,” Daryl said, stomping toward the door. “Skinny Whip-Its’ crew chief, and a great all-around motherfucker and shit stirrer. You got a lot of nerve just showing up here, dickwad,” Daryl barked, stepping right past Jimmy to stand belly-to-belly with the newcomer. “How the fuck did you even know how to find us?”

“Lucy has her ways,” Samuel said cryptically, reaching into one of his back pockets. “By the way, one of our people spotted your purchase of tickets, thought it was a little weird, so they red-flagged it and kicked it over to us. We declined the charges, of course, but only because Lucy wanted you guys to have these,” he said, pulling out a pair of laminated black plastic cards which bore the words ‘VIP BACKSTAGE ACCESS’ on them, followed by a smaller set of numbers. “And Daryl, I promise you, I’m not trying to start shit here, but she also wanted me to have a word with Jimbo here, business stuff. So, I suppose you can hear it, too.”

“Make it quick, then skate, scumbag,” Daryl growled, tipping back his bottle to kill the last of its contents.

“Jimmy, everybody knows now that this is The New Horsemen’s last tour,” said Samuel, his tone now softer but more serious, businesslike. “That means there’s a whole lot of crew people who’re going to be looking for work. Lucy knows you got your start working with punkers, like us, knows you cut your teeth living in punk houses and getting by on dumpster dives, really doing the whole shebang.”

“Fuckin’ A right I did,” Jimmy said.

“Well, when this tour of yours is done, we want you to come back to L.A., come work with us,” Samuel said. And there it is, Daryl thought, his jaw clenched. “No need for an answer right now, brother, just think it over and let me know before you guys leave the city. Here,” he added, pressing a business card at Jimmy, which he snatched up excitedly.

“Cool story, thanks for dropping by, now go play in traffic,” Daryl rambled, slamming the door shut in Samuel’s face with a bang. He swiped for the card, but Jimmy spun away from him and backed away into the kitchen, hopping like a kid on a hot blacktop driveway.

“Dude, this is so fucking excellent,” Jimmy yipped, holding the card high overhead like a sword of legend. “I am goddamn set, my man!”

“You get into hanging around with Samuel, that monkey we just kicked down off your back is going to mutate into a goddamn X-Men gorilla, Jimmy,” Daryl shouted, whipping the bottle to shatter against a wall in the living room to emphasize his point. It did the trick; Jimmy went deathly still, staring wide-eyed at the thicker man. “And if that happens, the monkey is not going to be content to ride your back, Jimmy. It’ll throw you down and rape your face until they find you dead in a bathtub with a needle standing out of the tip of your dick!”

“Jesus, dude,” Jimmy rasped, gulping. “Pretty horrific picture you’re painting here, man.”

“Well, sorry about the imagery, but Samuel’s bad news. They make awesome music, Lucy and her people, but they poison everybody they come in contact with. You know I’m right.”

“Yeah, I know,” Jimmy said, running a hand over one of his hair spikes. “But they’re exactly the kind of scene I got into this world with, man. Will you at least let me think about it? Let me keep this,” he said, waving the business card back and forth. Daryl didn’t like the idea, and wanted to take the card away and burn it on the stovetop.

“You’re an adult, Jimmy,” Daryl said gruffly. “You’re my friend, and I love you like a brother, but I can’t make all your decisions for you. That’s no way to help you, in the long run.” He headed quietly to the fridge next to Jimmy, took out two more beers, and handed one to the punker. “If this is what you want, I can’t stop you.”

“Shit, I’ll drink to that,” said Jimmy, clinking bottle necks with his mentor. “Come on, man, order the Uber. I want to check out their backstage before the show.”

 

 

**

 

 

As Samuel tore off down the road on his hog, Tim pulled out his phone and dialed Axel’s number. “Hey, it’s Tim. Samuel just left Jimmy’s building. Looked plenty pleased with himself.”

“Well of course he did, that’s what he does,” Axel replied on his end. “Any idea what he wanted?”

“Not a clue, but you know they’re going to Lucy’s concert tonight. Things could go bad, like, really bad. I want to keep an eye on Daryl at the show.”

“That’s a big negative, son,” Axel said. “We gotta leave off and let things take their natural course. Remember, they’re no longer our direct concern.”

“He’s gotta be there tomorrow to start the setup for our show, man. I’d say that’s our concern.”

“Gabe already told me that Daryl’s safe,” Axel said. “We’re just gonna have to trust him on this one. As for Jimmy, well, that boy’s got to live with his own mistakes from this point forward. It’s not like it can do us any harm, he only ever really hurts himself. Now get your ass back here, Tim, we gotta load the gear on the bus and drive it down to the church.”

“Right, right, I’m on my way,” Tim said, strapping on his helmet and straddling his Harley. He turned it over, the engine making a hellish rumble as he rolled down the street to head back to the band.

 

 

**

 

Jimmy could think only one thing as he and Daryl stood between a pair of tall black privacy screens on the field, Skinny Whip-Its walking toward them; If she even so much as touches my junk, I’m gonna cum in my pants. Lucy possessed the kind of beauty in his eyes that most punk followers were looking for- revealing leatherwear and tattoos covering every inch of visible flesh, a rack that was neither too big nor too small, and hair that was both dyed and all over the place. She led her bandmates like a warleader, the others trailing a good three paces behind her, Samuel still further back from them, leering like the Cheshire Cat.

“Well, you must be Jimmy,” Lucy said, extending one pale, slender hand to Jimmy, who mutely nodded, jaw practically flopping about. “I’m Lucy Furr.”

“Wait, seriously,” Daryl asked abruptly. “That’s a pretty lame stage name, no offense.” Lucy flashed him a crooked smile, pulling out her wallet and removing from it her driver’s license, which she handed over. Daryl looked at it carefully, finally snickering as he held it out to Jimmy, who took it eagerly. “That’s actually kind of hilarious. Legal name change?”

“No, my parents just had kind of a grim sense of humor,” Lucy replied as Jimmy gave her back the license, which proclaimed her ‘Lucinda Furr’. “I’ve just kind of leaned into it most of my life, thanks for that, dad,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“You have to admit, it’s got to have come in handy,” Daryl said.

“Oh, sure, but not when your high school boyfriend’s parents are Bible thumping born-agains who decide you must be Satan’s spawn incarnate with a name like mine,” she griped. “By the way, this is Jordan, Pete, and Cupid,” she said, indicating her bandmates one by one as she named them. “We call him that because he’s always trying to set Jordan and Pete up with something more than a one-night hookup.”

“I do what I can,” said the drummer with a forlorn note in his voice. He looked properly cherubic, Daryl thought. Give the guy a diaper and a bow and heart-shaped arrow, he’s got the gig. Pete and Jordan, on the other hand, were two of the better-looking punk rockers Daryl had met. He could easily see them going through a veritable bevy of women on the road, each one smitten by the pair of them.

“It actually is kind of nice to meet you, though I gotta say, I’m a little surprised you’re still letting him work for you,” Daryl said, pointing at Samuel, who remained standing a little distance away. “That guy is a whole bag of bullshit and potential criminal charges just waiting to happen.”

“That describes three quarters of our crew,” Lucy pointed out with an impish grin. “We’re going to go get warmed up, they’ll be letting people in soon. You need anything, you guys just ask Bell,” she said, pointing to a stout, thick gentleman standing by a craft services table, his shiny black head turned away from them, his frame exhuding power and authority. “He’s a bit rough around the edges, but that’s because he doubles as our head of security and Sam’s right-hand man.”

“Got it,” said Jimmy, taking the lead since Daryl seemed a bit snappish. The band headed up onto the stage situated in the middle of the stadium, while Jimmy ooped his arm through Daryl’s and half-dragged him toward the thickly built Bell. “You have got to chill out, man,” Jimmy whispered to him as they approached the food and beverages.

“What, you worried I’m gonna make you look bad in front of your new crush,” Daryl teased, pulling his arm away from the scrawnier roadie. “I could practically hear your dick screaming for release back there, man.”

“Her voice is like honey, and I’m Winnie the Fuckin’ Poo, dude.”

“Yeah, and you’d just love to get your head stuck in that pot, now wouldn’t you,” Daryl quipped. They both nodded to Bell, who wore the darkest shades this side of God’s green earth, one hand held up to an ear piece to listen to his own people. The veteran metalhead snatched a sweating bottle of Coke off the table while Jimmy fetched himself a water, and the pair looked around at the other drinks on hand. “Um, do you see what I see, brother,” Daryl asked quietly.

“Yeah, there’s none of the good stuff here, man,” Jimmy observed.

“Alcohol doesn’t come out until the show’s started,” Bell suddenly said, his voice as thick and muscled as the rest of his body. Daryl spared a quick moment to compare it in his head; it was like listening to Ving Rhames try to talk while he had maple syrup running down the back of his throat. “You boys want to tear it up at that point, you’re more than welcome to.”

“And for that, we give thanks,” said Jimmy with a nod. True to Bell’s word, a handful of crew started putting liquor and beer on the tables as the band started their opening number, and Daryl allowed himself to get into the music. It was the kind of dirty, raw-sounding punk music he’d always been fond of, with some songs going hyperspeed fast, like their cover of Bad Religion’s ‘News From the Front’, to a sloppy, a-melodic tune whose thrice-repeated chorus was ‘I always wanted a skull to hang my hat on’.

After the final song echoed off, and Lucy thanked the audience for attending, the band invited all of their backstage VIPs, of which there were eight others aside from Daryl and Jimmy, to come back to their green room, which had been converted from a locker room space. Daryl, feeling that this wasn’t really right for him, politely declined.

“I really need to get home and get ready to start setting up for the Horsemen for Sunday,” he said, to which Lucy pouted and stomped her foot cartoonishly.

“Well poo,” she said, playing up a girlish expression of disappointment. “Buuut, I get it,” she said then, back to herself. “Maybe you should get going too, then, Jimmy,” she said to the punker.

“No, no, you know what,” Daryl said, clapping Jimmy on the back. “If you’re serious about taking him onboard when the tour’s over, he should go with you, talk a little shop.” Jimmy stared at Daryl, the corner of his mouth pulling a little up.

“Are you sure, brother,” Jimmy asked. Daryl nodded and reached out to try and muss Jimmy’s hair, easily dodged.

“Yeah, man. You gotta look out for yourself. I’m not always gonna be there to watch your back, you should get used to it. Treat him right, Lucy,” he added with a waggle of his finger.

“Don’t worry, we will,” she said, putting one hand around Jimmy’s shoulders and squeezing him close to her side for a moment as they walked away, toward the tunnel and their green room. Daryl asked Bell for directions to get out of the stadium, which the enforcer gave him patiently before disappearing himself.

By the time Daryl got back to his tiny sanctuary, he had yet to convince himself that he’d done the right thing, letting Jimmy go off with Lucy and the rest of the Skinny Whip-Its. As he pulled the futon out, converting it from slightly uncomfortable couch into a marginally less uncomfortable bed, setting the alarm on his phone for five o’clock in the morning, Daryl decided to make like Axel and the rest of the New Horsemen, and leave the matter in God’s hands.

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