Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Entire First Chapter of the Next Potential Novel PERFECT PROPHET. Give me feedback!


When the bullet struck his chest, Alexander B. Lowell lost his focus. He wasn’t sure why the crowd was screaming, wasn’t sure if he even heard the shot. He fumbled through the last dissonant chord before his fingers dropped from the strings that were lined like an electric fence across the frets of his prized Schechter Hellraiser. His eyes glossed over the packed house of young bloods saturated with alcohol and sweetened by the latest designer drugs, and he briefly thought that maybe his own indulgent behavior prior to taking the stage had caught up with him.

            It made sense. The music of The Great was heavy laden with a bass line laid out like death. The drums put the rhythm of assault rifles to shame, and Alec’s Schechter Hellraiser added the right amount of nails on chalkboard to strike fear into the heart of any listener familiar with a mass murder horror movie franchise. Combine it with the waning influence of Molly, and he thought he understood why he was going down. But the lead singer Claire, who changed her name to Cleopatra to better fit the idea of the band’s lame name, wasn’t putting her signature raspy vocals to the test to belt out an impossibly long high note. She was screaming. Alec looked down to see a new hole, wet with blood, in his artistically torn shirt. His legs wobbled.

Alec thought that he sensed a moment of silence meant for cathedrals between the strike of the bullet and Cleo’s unexpected turn as a scream queen. But then all hell broke loose in a slow motion scene that melted in front of his eyes. The pierced and tattooed bodies of the young souls trying to prove they were fearless animals roaring to song crushed together within the sweaty confines of the underground club and pushed their way toward any perceived exit. Dancers trampled each other in a deafening roar to get out, and Alec, or Alexander The Great as he was called by the hippest punsters of his fledgling fandom, collapsed on stage and blacked out.

          Claire “Cleo” LeCroix held Alec’s hand and whispered comfort into his ear after Mark the bass player and Patrick the drummer dragged him back stage away from the main point of chaos. A smear of blood marked a path for the unidentified shooter to follow if he or she so desired, but that didn’t happen. Cleo silently thanked God, which was odd considering what their band and their music represented.

            Mark the bass player was more vocal and belligerent. “God damn it! God fucking damn it, Alec! You listen to me! You fucking stay with me, you hear me?” He muscled out of his own shirt and used it to apply pressure to the gushing hole as he took terrified glances at the stage. “Alec? Alec—“

            “—He’s bleeding out,” said Patrick the drummer. He was young, technically underage to be in this club. He stared down at the body in numb shock as his mouth stuttered out the obvious with no intent of stopping. “Jesus—Jesus, there’s nothing—there’s—He’s dead, he’s—“

            “—Find your God damned phone and call 911!”

            Patrick raked his fingers through the tangle of dark hair at the center of his scalp. The sides of his head were shaved smooth, giving him the appearance of a panicked Goth rooster. He took a tentative step to the left then reversed course to the right before Mark screeched at him one more time.


            Patrick patted himself down for his phone, fumbled it out of a pocket and lost it as a club bouncer pushed through. The bouncer paused and doubled back. “Cops are on the way. You know what you’re doing here?” Mark admitted that he didn’t with a shake of the head, and the bouncer replied with a harried breath before he bent down and showed Mark and Cleo the basics; how to monitor a pulse, how to apply the right pressure, a glossed over summary of proper CPR. Then the bouncer abandoned them, and Mark hung his head feeling inadequate. Useless.

            “Dear God watch over us. Dear God help him pull through—“

            “—Shut up. What’s that worth, huh?”

            Cleo glared at Mark through her tears. “It’s all I’ve got.” She brushed at her eyes and gripped Alec’s limp hand tighter. It brought her focus. “We could find his phone, call his family.”

            “He doesn’t talk to his family.” It was true. Alec never talked to his family in the presence of Mark or Cleo or Patrick. He never talked about them either, not even with Cleo, who sometimes brought up the topic after the more than occasional drunken night of intimacy. But this... This moment was bad, and she searched his pants pockets only to come up empty. Cleo sobbed. No, this wasn’t happening. This wasn’t fair, and the God that she grew up to believe in could burn in hell if He thought this was some justified penance for hers or Alec’s or the band’s supposed sins.

            Cleo loved Alec. He was gentle with every kiss, every caress. The bad boy temper that was born from frustrations never reared its head during sex. Sure, Alec Lowell was a moody ass sonofabitch on his best days, but it never took a turn toward the hurtful or vengeful or the bullying way. Unless it involved hurting himself. A fist through a mirror, taunting strangers into fights he couldn’t win, playing his frustrations out across wire strings to the point of making his finger tips bleed; these were his acts of penance to keep his secret family demons in check. Cleo knew Alec’s demons stemmed from his family, but she had no idea what they were. And he refused to share.

            “My mom died and my dad found religion,” he would say. “Just leave it alone, alright?” And he would clam up with a sour set face, uncap whatever cheap brand of brew was left in their barely cooler than room temperature mini fridge, and he would set his strings on fire with his cut and bleeding fingertips to annoy the neighbors in the adjacent apartment.

            Cleo caressed those fingertips now as she held his hand. They were soft; not a callous, cut or scar to be seen. Odd.

            The arrival of law enforcement pulled Cleo out of her thoughts. Never in her life was she as glad to see the cops as she was on this night. They wore body armor and head gear as they secured the mostly evacuated building. They escorted paramedics inside, who wasted no time assessing Alec’s chances before they hooked him up to tubes and portable monitors, strapped him onto a gurney and wheeled him the hell out of there. Cleo wanted to go with him, but the police held her back. They had questions for her, and Mark, and Patrick, who found himself a chair and stared straight ahead in silence without blinking for the duration of the interrogation. Did you see the shooter? No. Does he have anyone who would want to do this? No.  A drug debt? Ex girlfriend? No and… well, yes. But Belinda Allen was a distant memory from high school, and a relationship that ended when Alec left his home town in Wisconsin to escape his mysterious, yet obviously dysfunctional family. It had been a clean break, as far as Cleo knew, but honestly she wasn’t sure. Alec never talked about his family, but he had occasionally mentioned Lindy, and usually with a smile. But Cleo wasn’t sure, and she told the police she wasn’t sure, and could this please all be over because she’d rather be pacing the floor of the emergency room where the unknown shooter had a lesser chance of being hidden in some missed broom closet or dark corner.

            Mark had nothing to offer. Patrick continued to stare.


           One gun. One bullet. The shooter walked away that night, or was squeezed out in anonymity along with the panicked mass exodus. He or she, for it was hard to tell when the shooter was dressed in baggy trousers and an oversized hoodie to hide inside, stepped out into the cold Los Angeles streets and kept walking; another homeless outcast in need of a box or a tent along Skid Row. A turn down the right alley, and the shooter had the opportunity to dump the gun into a trash bin that reeked from the stench of rotting sushi, but he or she didn’t bother. He or she still needed to find a way home, and a random holdup at a gas station or all night mini mart seemed like a plausible way to earn the necessary funds.

            The shooter realized that even the idea of a holdup was an unnecessary danger to make it home. The right phone call to the right person was all that he or she needed to make. Their network was vast, the mission, complete. The prophet Alexander was dead along with his legacy to the world. Amen. Hallelujah.


            A TV screen droned in the corner of the quiet Ashland, Wisconsin emergency room at two in the morning. Three young men sat watching cable news with a mix of boredom and nausea from too much liquor after a cold weekend kegger in the woods. The one in the middle was especially in a sour mood as he leaned his head against the wall behind him and held an ice pack over his nose. The front of his shirt held dripped blood stains that made his emergency look worse than it actually was.

            The locked door that separated the waiting room from the emergency ward clicked open, and the boys looked up. They straightened up too, the two friends of the bloodied one suddenly wishing that they also had a broken nose for the nurse to take care of. Belinda Allen twisted a strand of her richly curled hair then slipped a pen from between her lips as she examined a clipboard. “Kenneth McCusker? Is that you?” Her eyes pierced through the middle one, the nose bleeder, and she waited with an inviting smile as the three of them stared back, slack jawed.

            “Yeah… yeah, it’s me,” McCusker finally managed. He rose in unison with his buddies, and Belinda held up her hand.

            “Just Kenneth. But don’t you worry. I’ll take good care of him.” Disappointed, McCusker’s buddies returned to their seats and turned back to the TV news. Belinda glanced at the screen and saw the ticker across the bottom of the reporter’s story. It said Los Angeles. “What’s going on,” she asked Kevin as she led him to triage.

            “Stupid fight with a Jets fan—”

            “—No, the news.”

            It took a moment for McCusker to process. “Oh. Shooting. Los Angeles. Some club.” Belinda nodded at the all too common occurrence as she led the guy to an exam table and patted it for him to climb up and take a seat. “Some guitarist got hit. Some metal band. Never heard of ‘em. The Great something or other? Nobody listens to that Danzig shit anymore.”

Belinda didn’t hear that last part. She abandoned the patient, pushed through the door of the waiting room and startled McCusker’s buddies into standing. She closed in on the TV. The news cycle had already moved on to pundits and their political debates about guns and about the irresponsibility of rock stars who promote violent and immoral behavior. Belinda ransacked through old magazines and healthcare flyers until she found the remote. She hit the playback button for the channel, and she hushed the confused pair of friends when they asked with concern if she was alright.

            She wasn’t alright. The news report included a blurry cell phone video of a washed out club band playing music distorted by its tiny speakers. The gun shot rang out clearly. A startled guitarist stood there a moment before he lost his balance and crumpled to the stage. The rest of the video was a wash of grainy crowd shots as people screamed and pushed their way for cover, before the piece returned to the reporter outside the now evacuated club. Belinda cupped her hand over her gaping mouth and tried to understand what she had just seen. She trembled in silence, barely aware of the hand on her arm; one of McCusker’s concerned buddies. “Are you a fan or something? Are you alright?”

            Belinda backed away. She dug her phone out of her pocket as she headed for the exit. The admissions nurse, Jennie, called out before she could get far. “Lindy? What are you doing?”

            “I have to go. I’m sorry, I can’t…” She pocketed the phone realizing there was no one she could really call. She no longer had Alec’s phone number, his father was a lost cause, and his sister Ilene would probably tell her that Alec had it coming. Lindy didn’t want to be the one to share the news with Alec’s pious sister, and as she reached the parking lot she realized that she didn’t have her keys. Or her purse. Or her coat. She turned back toward the hospital and then turned back toward the lot and then pulled her phone back out as the chilly night air seeped into her bones. “Mom,” she said when a voice picked up on the other end. And then it hit her; the shortness of breath, the sting of tears, the tremble in her voice. “Mom, I need you to take care of Jake,” she managed. Jake was four, and Belinda’s mother babysat the boy whenever she was burdened with a graveyard shift. “I’m going to Los Angeles.”


           Alec Lowell-- Alexander the Great, became famous not because of his music or because of his talent, but because of a bullet. The odds of surviving a gunshot wound to the chest are low, but possible, given the right circumstances. Caliber, trajectory and speed play their part. Then there’s the material that the bullet must penetrate, depending on those circumstances; glass, Kevlar, layers of fabric, bone. Most of those factors, with exception to bone, were absent from Alec’s case. Surgeons pulled a .38 caliber slug and bone fragments from Alec’s sternum out of the muscled wall of his heart. The lead surgeon was a capable man, but not necessarily a rock star among his peers trained in the cardiovascular arts. He was as surprised as the public by Alec’s recovery, because while a bullet to the chest had a low rate of survival, a bullet to the heart had almost nil.

            Almost. In relative terms, there have been cases over the course of centuries that have provided just enough possibility for Alec’s recovery to be attributed to luck, although those in the entertainment news industry were thrilled to call it a miracle. So was his manager. So were the Christian Crusaders who saw fit to remind him that he was going to hell because of his blatant rebellion against The One who gave him a second chance to find the right path. Some of those devout members of society did some internet digging and found fodder to further crucify Alec for his disrespect. This punk turned anarchist grew up out of tragedy, and before he turned his back on God, he turned his back on his father, a devout Catholic who suffered a mental breakdown not long after Alec left home.

            “How did they find out about him?” Cleo shushed him from beside his recovery bed.

            “You worry about you.” Alec closed his eyes and took a careful breath, and Cleo chose her words carefully. “Hon, I’m with you. I’m beside you through this whole unbelievable nightmare. You know that, right?”

            Alec freed a chuckle that was cut short by a spasm of pain in his chest. He rolled his eyes. “Whatever, Claire.”

            “Don’t. Don’t call me Claire.”

            “Why? Why not? It’s who you are. Who the hell says hon, a Cleo or a fuckin’ Claire—”

            “Are you done, hon?”

            “Isn’t it what this is? Us? Done?”


            “You worry about you? I know where this leads. It wasn’t serious. I know that. Whatever.”

            “There’s someone else here to see you.” Cleo paused. Stay cool, she thought. This is the right thing to do no matter how much it hurts. “Someone from home.”

            Alec stared at her for a long silent moment before he crushed his eyes shut in denial. “No.”

            “I’ve talked with her. She dropped everything to be here.”

            “I’m fucking tired, man. And she doesn’t care. She blames me for Dad, and I don’t care. I’m not ready.”

            “Who are we talking about, hon?” Alec huffed, like it needed to be said before he followed up without saying anything. Cleo leaned back ready to give up because she recognized the moment that she knew would come. He was shutting her out and shutting her down. “Fine. Get your rest. But I’m the one who had to talk to her. Me, Alec. She came all this way for you.”

            Alec turned his face away. He looked pained as Cleo vacated her seat and turned her back on him. “I can’t sleep, you know. I’m so goddamned tired, and I can’t sleep.”

            “I know.” Cleo left. She closed the door behind her, found the nearest restroom  and cried her eyes out in a closed stall. It didn’t last long enough. The creak of the lavatory door and hurried footsteps to reach the stall beside her were enough to make Cleo stop, rein in those emotions and dab at her muddy mascara with the ample supply of scratchy paper that hospitals equate to toilet tissue. She waited, content to feel trapped from leaving. Alec was right. Their relationship was something that they both agreed should remain casual, no attachments, because long term relationships with your band mates always ended up messy. Those relationships usually went down in flames along with the band itself. She knew that. And Alec, good God. It didn’t take long knowing him to understand that any sexual relationship with him would—not could, become complicated. He was broken inside, hurt, lost, in need of mothering. She knew that. Goddamn it, she knew that. But here she was wanting to hold him and nurture him and protect him because broken men who never really became men was her weakness. It was her mommy fix, and she hated herself for falling for it. Every time.

            What will he do when he finds out, she thought. When he finds out what’s waiting for him?

Cleo had to get out of there. She crumpled up the mascara stained tissue, flushed it down the toilet and stepped out of the stall just as the occupant in the stall beside her did the same. Shit. It was the ex girlfriend. “Oh. It’s you,” Belinda said. They stood in awkward silence for a moment before both turned to wash their hands at the sink. Cleo washed, rinsed and pulled a towel from the dispenser as Belinda took her time scrubbing.

            “What are you, a doctor or something, hon?” Cleo tried to joke.

            “Nurse,” Belinda replied without looking up, and Cleo felt heated embarrassment color her cheeks.

            “Wow. Alec, he sure knows how pick ‘em. If only he knew how to keep ‘em.” A stupid, stupid attempt at lightheartedness.

            Belinda tried to justify with a rambling clarification. “I’m not a full fledged registered nurse, just an ADN. I can take your blood pressure, take your temperature, take your history, that’s about it.”
Cleo nodded and tried to gloss over her own failure with a lie. “Look, he’s sleeping. He does a lot of that right now—”

            “—I understand. I do.”

            And Cleo felt naked, her true feelings exposed behind cellophane skin. She plowed ahead with what she knew to be the right thing to do in spite of the complicated feelings she had for the moody punk anarchist who wasn’t worth saving, according to the most vocal of the righteous haters who would unwittingly bolster his career in the days to come. Cleo took Belinda’s hand and she told her how it was going to be. “It doesn’t matter, Alec and me. Alright? You came all this way for an asshole who left you because he don’t have no brain in his head. It’s a self absorbing sponge he’s got in there, and he doesn’t deserve me, and I got this feeling that he doesn’t deserve you either.” Belinda managed a trembling laugh that made Cleo smile. It made her more confident to continue on. “But he deserves to know, so come on.” Cleo gave a nod toward the lavatory door and she gently pulled Belinda along.


            When Cleo poked her head back through the doorway of Alec’s room, she found him watching TV. It was an entertainment news show with superficial reporters dishing out the latest superficial hype. The superficial hype man being interviewed was bass man Mark. “He’s doing great, man. He’s pulling through like nobody’s (bleep)ing business.”

            “And you saved him,” said the reporter.

            Mark shook his head. He was a prideful braggart whenever the opportunity arose but humble enough to realize that this was not one of those opportunities. “I just pulled him clear of the stage. You want to give someone credit, give it to the (bleep) paramedics. And the doctors who cut the lead out of his engine.” Mark thumped a fist against his heart, and the reporter continued on.

            “Given the type of music that your band plays, are you willing to take a step back from it and thank God?”

            “Is that really your follow up?” He asked flatly. “Because, look. I’m thankful that my friend is breathing and recovering and shit, but I’m not going to make this into some born again praise the powers that be epiphany.”

            “Marcus, you dick.” Alec aimed the remote and changed the channel. He turned his head to cast an irritated look at Cleo until he saw Belinda step in behind her.

            “I’ll just give you some time,” Cleo said. She retreated back out the door.

            Alec stared ahead looking terrified. He fumbled with the bed adjuster, pressed buttons to help him sit upright, maybe to look less vulnerable and pathetic, as Belinda closed in and took the seat where Cleo once resided. He looked remarkably good for having been shot in the chest; pale yes, gaunt sure, but alive and fidgety and without seeming to be in much pain. Belinda took his hand. She caressed it, brought it to her lips and kissed him across the knuckles. She felt the faintest tremble there. “I thought you were Ilene,” he said, and she responded with a soft and confused what. “Cleo didn’t tell me it was you. I thought you were Ilene.”
            “Oh. She didn’t come? She doesn’t know?” Alec shrugged, and Belinda had nothing to say. Well, she had plenty to say, she just didn’t know how to say it.

            “I’m sorry I left. I’m sorry I left you stranded, but I had to. Shit, Lindy. Why did you come here?”

            Belinda shook her head, not sure how to answer. “Should I leave?” She bit her lip in that way that made her look insecure and she tried to smile. But the tears were threatening to flow, and when Alec caved with a shake of his own head, they spilled over. She vacated the chair and leaned in for a careful embrace. There was the oxygen line and the IV line and the heart monitoring wire to be careful of, and they somehow managed the challenge without getting tangled.  Belinda felt his hesitant breath touch her ear then inhale the aroma of her skin. He still loved her, she could tell until the fleeting moment of hope disappeared and she realized that maybe he was just scared. Alec drew his hand up into the curls of her hair and he soaked up her warmth. When she pulled away, he resisted letting go.

They settled apart and found matter of fact things to talk about. Belinda told him that she had been keeping track of him on the internet, or keeping track of the band, really. She wasn’t a stalker, and Alec’s online presence was next to nil, except for the band’s website that kept track of the California and Nevada clubs they were booked at and little more. Alec seemed surprised that the website existed, and when she pulled out her phone to show him, he nodded. “That’s got to be Paddy,” Alec decided. “The kid’s a genius with this shit.” Alec told her how young their drummer Patrick was. Paddy O’Shaugnessey, sixteen years old and Latino. His mother was Colombian. His father carried the name. The kid’s parents didn’t know that this was how he spent his weekends until the shooting. Well, not exactly. And now, now the band’s future was on hold because the kid was a minor. On the one hand, the kid’s parents were relieved to discover that his disappearances on the weekend were because of a drum habit and not a drug habit, but he was sixteen  and hanging with a bunch of gringo punks who promoted devil worship. That was Patrick’s mother speaking. She was sadistically Catholic.

“And we don’t worship the devil or the dark lord or whatever. Christ, people. That’s just a homage, symbolic, an artistic statement. The people who get triggered are the people who take everything so damned literally.” Belinda nodded and smiled and wondered where Alec was getting the energy to rant. He must have seen something in her expression, because he stopped. He gave her an apologetic upturn of the lips. “I get wound up when I’m exhausted. I’m going to close my eyes and let you tell me what you’ve been up to.” He closed his eyes.

“I don’t know where to begin,” she said, and she wished she hadn’t come. When Alec pushed the issue by hopefully suggesting that she’d moved on, found another guy to replace him, she said no, not really. She told him that she was getting her life together, found time to dedicate to school and that she had a steady job in Ashland while she worked to complete her BS degree in nursing.

“Wow, Lindy. You’re going full on legit. Next thing you know, you’ll have the house, the picket fence, the kids in the yard…” He smiled at the idea, his eyes still closed as he drifted toward what Belinda perceived as a long delayed sleep.

“Can I show you something?” Alec opened his eyes, curious as Belinda scrolled through her phone and showed him a picture. “His name is Jake,” she said. “He’s almost four. He’s my world now.” Alec nodded politely with every flip to a new image. Belinda couldn’t tell if he understood what had yet to be said. She took a steady breath and made things clear. “You have a son.” Alec continued to nod in silence until Belinda finished with the last shot. She stuffed her phone away and she waited for a reaction or anything from him.

“Wow,” he finally managed. “When God teaches you life lessons, he goes in full throttle.”

“You don’t believe in God.”

“I know. But still.” Disappointment hung between them, and Alec struggled through voiced thoughts that only seemed to make it worse. “I don’t have much money—”

“—I know.”

“Especially now—”

“—I didn’t come here for money—”

“—I would suck as a dad—”

“—Alec. I didn’t come here to lay some guilt trip on you. I’m not looking for money or… I don’t know, some level of responsibility from you. I heard the news, and I got scared. I thought maybe… maybe if you knew—”

“—You didn’t tell me. Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“Because you left, Alec!” Belinda held back, pulled her hands up against her lips in a prayer for patience. “You left before I knew. And I knew you weren’t ready. And I’m not even sure if you’re ready now.”

Alec pushed his head back against his pillows and scrunched his eyes shut. Labored breaths eventually dissipated to a melancholy rhythm. ‘Does he know? That I’m his—”


“Do you… want him to know?”

Belinda hesitated to restrain a smile. She took his hand again, relieved to feel him respond to her squeeze by squeezing back. “Do you?”

“Well. I am Alexander the Great.” He laughed at the stupidity of it. “And that could be pretty fucking awesome.”


Alec found sleep that day. Belinda wouldn’t leave his side, and they talked for hours until he drifted off in the comfort of her presence. Decisions were made beforehand. When the doctors gave the okay to check out of this depressing hotel for lost causes, Alec planned to go back to Wisconsin, take a break from the life of skanky bar gigs and spend time with his kid. That was the plan. It was a simple one that didn’t require a lot of steps and considerations. Or so one thought. The hospital stay was short, far shorter than it should have been, but the wound drained and healed, and Alec’s heart literally seemed to not miss a beat. He wore the scar like a badge of honor, but when reporters clamored for an interview,  he repeatedly turned the offers down.  This did not make Marcus Anthony Eddison, the band’s bassist, happy. Mark’s displeasure was in agreement with the band’s booking agent and, eventually, the band’s management. 

Entertainment reporters are a nasty breed of weasels. They slip through the streets and find you in public places and they clamp down with jagged teeth while holding a microphone in your face. The band was barely a name before the shooting; the music they played was mostly hard edged covers. Sabbath, Dio, Iron Maiden, King Diamond; these were the classics and tame material for the uninformed. The Great played these covers to get their feet wet while aspiring to create their own sound within the world of hard core death metal bands. They had a handful of original songs that the fiercely conservative of the religious community discovered after the headlined shooting. But those songs weren’t recorded or put out on an album. The band wasn’t that organized yet.

Until the shooting. One song, one original went viral thanks to cell phones and the internet and what should have been tragedy. The song was Looney Bin, and Cleo had been singing it when the bullet hit its mark.

My daddy walked with Jesus, now he’s in the looney bin, was the first line of the song.

            Put your faith in God We Trust
            A masquerade for sin
            The god you praise
            The rapist
            Loves his virgins
            Kills his sons
            My daddy’s in a padded room
            Insane for the wrong One

Alec’s words, Mark’s composition. The bass player took the idea of the song seriously, while Alec was merely rebelling. Daddy, Brent Lowell, was institutionalized a year or two after Alec left the small Wisconsin town known as Keystone because of a nervous breakdown. That was the simple version. Alec knew. His sister Ilene contacted him soon enough and Alec, being young and irresponsible with a massive chip on his shoulder, did nothing. He convinced himself that his self righteous father deserved it. It was karma. You disown me, you bastard? Funny story, because your god disowns you. Ilene, younger than Alec, carried on with the burden of their father, and followed suit. She never called Alec again.

The song, the words at least, came from Alec. He wrote them after a particularly horrendous set at a club called A Bloody Good Time, where he got wasted after a personal call that left him surly. Yes, freaking surly. Free drinks, and the bartender got goaded into a fight because Alec said “no ice. The ice waters your shit down, man! Like it’s not half cut with tap already. No fucking ice!” Alec lost his shit, as the saying goes, and he lost the brawl. The score; Alec – one black eye and one broken nose, the bartender – one tender fist and the bouncer’s admiration. It was their last gig at A Bloody Good Time, and Mark was pissed.

“Keep it up, Lowell, and we’ll be left with nothing but weddings and bar mitzvahs. Is that what you want?” It sounded like a tame threat, but Mark was shouting an inch from Alec’s bloodied and bruised face while Alec was pinned against a brick wall. Alec shoved him off and stalked away and returned a day later with a sulky apology and the lyrics to a song. Mark assumed the words were connected to that private call the night before. He hadn’t expected them to be so literal, but when the shooting happened and the reporters did their digging, Alec’s father had been discovered.  Mark was shocked. “Shit, man. You really are messed up.”

Then Marcus did what Marcus was prone to do. He wasn’t aspiring to be the next AC/DC or Megadeth or Metallica. He wanted full blown Diecide notoriety, the kind where mutilated corpses hanging from crosses on stage looked like the real “effing” deal as they dripped with slick pig’s blood for added effect. It’s where the money was, where the controversy was, and Mark was all in.

But it was a fa├žade. Marcus Anthony Eddison was an opportunist, a businessman, an atheist; not a Satanist. He had a natural air of menace that helped him play the part of a disciple of hell, but honestly there was no desire inside him to court some fantastical dark overlord. That was ridiculous. He laughed at people who wasted their time in church or who worshiped anyone or anything. “They want to worship something,” he would say during inebriated discussions with Cleo and Patrick and anyone else who might be around. “Worship me. I’ll take your money.” He liked to follow up the notion with a cackle every time he said it. Alec was on the same team, because whenever Cleo or Patrick tried to put an abstract spin on their beliefs to justify their side of the argument, Alec would scoff with a single, “whatever,” before he withdrew from the conversation. 

Mark respected Alec for his relentless fret work. Maybe he respected him for his apathy toward organized faith. But when the gift came, the ironic Godsend of free publicity after having been shot and having survived, and when Alec shunned it even after his recovery, Mark was left with disdain. He was there too. He was shattered by it for a time, but he saw opportunity in tragedy’s wake, and he alone seized it. He alone kept the band in the public spotlight while Patrick struggled through therapy and forced family counseling, while Cleo fought the post traumatic stress with nightly hook ups and pills, and while Alec slipped out of the public eye to play father of the year. What a joke, he thought; moody, bitchy Alexander Lowell as a dad. It wouldn’t last because Alec wasn’t the kind to sit still or to settle. He’d be back. They’d all be back, and Marcus, the promoter, the advocate to take this tragedy and use it like the gift it was meant to be, would be the hero. Mark took satisfaction in that belief, and he turned out to be right.