Dead Records Part 8

Part 1: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/03/dead-records-part-i-by-steven-savile-and-ryan-reid

Part 2: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/04/dead-records-part-2-by-steven-savile-and-ryan-reid

Part 3: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/05/dead-records-part-3

Part 4: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/06/dead-records-part-4-2

Part 5: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/07/dead-records-part-5/

Part 6: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/08/dead-records-part-6/

Part 7: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/09/dead-records-part-7/

I swore to her in the back of our rented Jag that she would never have to sing a sad song again, and I was right, but not entirely by choice. The NME dubbed the concert “Double Bill, Double Kill”, and published lurid photos of the bloodbath in Martine’s dressing room. The singer herself was never found. No one saw her leave the stadium, and though the cops swept the stadium with K9 units, rumours swirled that she was hiding out in some boiler room deep within its bowels.

Aura’s career was finished.

Those few reviews of the concert that didn’t mention the murderous escapades of the headliner called her work “brilliant” and “unparalleled”. Unfortunately, her very public attempt at suicide had been captured from multiple angles on cell phones held aloft by the crowd, and that meant we were unable to obtain the insurance that was required by most concert venues in Britain.

Which was a bit shit, but seemed to suit Aura just fine.

We spent the next week hiding out in the studio. I played her some songs from my days in the punk rock band “Shut it”. My best song was “Don’t Shut the Bloody Door”, a song I’d written the night my much older girlfriend had been admitted to an underground club called the Inferno. I’d been carded by a bouncer and had to wait outside. Ah the angst of youth. It seemed like such a petty problem now, but I remember being devastated. The lyrics were angry, and I supposed it might have been a dangerous song to play for her, but my guitar-work was so rusty it made her smile. Soon she began harmonizing with my ragged three-chord melodies, and then she kissed me.

I set my guitar aside and returned the kiss.

We were going to be okay.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked her as we sat in Harvey’s cramped office, sipping instant coffee out of Styrofoam cups. Our executive assistant had called in sick, and we had the run of the studio.

She looked up at me from the rim of her cup and nodded.

“What did you do for Dolgov? I mean, guys like him don’t do anything out of the kindness of their hearts, and yet he paid for the studio. And your dental surgery.”

She smiled mischievously, and I was reminded of the girl she’d been back in my flat. It was something of a miracle that she’d been able to shake her depression so quickly, but in a sense she was the physical embodiment of the songs she sang, and music is a mercurial creation. A listener can feel the deepest sadness by a melody of minor chords one moment and then be lifted aloft by an aria in the next. Such was life with Aura. “Do you really want to know?” she asked.

“Sure.” My cup was getting warm from the scalding hot coffee within, so I shifted my grip. “I’m curious.”

“I slept with him.”

“What?” The coffee cup slipped through my fingers and I instinctively snatched for it before it landed in my lap. Unfortunately my aim was slightly off and, instead of catching it, I crushed the fragile Styrofoam, spilling coffee all over my shirt and pants. Pain flashed up and down my body and I shoved violently away from the desk. “You told me you weren’t his girlfriend!”

Her eyes flashed dangerously. “Do I have to be his girlfriend to sleep with him?”

“Yes.” I said, suddenly living in the 1950s and a world of disapproval. I shook my head. My emotions were in turmoil, and I was still dripping hot coffee. “No. I don’t know. Look, I have to, you know,” I indicated my coffee-soaked clothing, “We need to talk about Dolgov when I get back.” I turned to leave and then stopped. “You do realize that if he finds out about us, he’ll kill me?”

“He’ll have to get through me first,” she said with mock bravado.

I had no idea how prophetic those words would turn out to be as I left the room and walked down the hall to the bathroom. I was still upset about Aura’s admission. It wasn’t so much that she’d been with Dolgov–I mean I’m not a moron, we all have our histories and mine, well mine’s a legend in my own mind if nothing else. It was more that I’d already begun scheming up ways to pay the gangster back his money and then retire from the spotlight to a private life with Aura. You know, I’m loath to admit it, but I had…feelings for her. Uncomfortable feelings, not of the trouser department variety either, no, these were of the variety that compel you to book dinner reservations on Valentine’s Day and buy expensive rocks.

But if Dolgov considered Aura his property, as violent men tend to do with beautiful women, there would be no paying him back. Not with all the tea in China, or all the blood in Romania if that was more his thing. We’d have to disappear. Ghana was looking very good, again.

The bathroom reeked of baked road kill.

I tried to breathe through my mouth as I yanked on the handle of the paper towel dispenser and pulled on the sheets. I crumpled them into a wad, wet them under the tap, and then began to scrub at my chest and stomach. The effort yielded very little in terms of results. It certainly wouldn’t have stood up to the Persil Whites Test. After a few more scrubs I tossed the paper towels in the garbage and rested my hands on the counter-top.

I looked at myself in the mirror. I’m a simple man with simple needs. They hadn’t actually changed since the time I came in here when the Fortunate Fridays were dying in the studio. What I needed was Yevgeny Dolgov off my back. Permanently. But how? I had nothing on him, except that he lived in a bunker under the Fast Chem plant. Nothing illegal about that. Bond villain-esque, but not illegal. That meant traditional recourse was out. No cops riding in to save the day and my skin.

If my life was an action movie I might have taken matters into my own hands, but obviously that would have necessitated me being an action hero, and even then the gangster and his henchmen were vampires. I’d have to have a pretty strong death wish to take them on. Hell, even if his hirelings were mostly human, I’d still have to deal with Dolgov and his pet, Dimitri.

The mere act of thinking his name brought back all those very vivid memories of what he’d done to the Fortunate Fridays. And, I realized with horror, it had all begun with the smell of road kill in the bathroom. I spun around. The stalls were empty. That meant…

I slammed into the bathroom door and skidded into the hallway.

I wanted to yell a warning to Aura, but the studio door was open and I didn’t want Dimitri to know I was coming. I had no plan. No wooden stakes, no silver bullets, no garlic. I had the element of surprise, but I didn’t know how that was going to help me.

I stopped just before the studio door and ducked my head around the corner. The main door opened into a hallway that was painted black with wooden finish. Left was the studio. Right was the office. There was no sign of Dimitri. I shifted my position and took a step into the studio so that I could see into the office.

I could barely see Aura through the legs of the chair in which I’d sat when I spilled coffee on myself. She was hiding under the desk. She spotted me and motioned frantically that I should remain in the hall.

Not a chance.

This was my moment. I was going to rise to the occasion. I was going to… what? Fucked if I know, to be honest. Make it up, I guess. Doesn’t sound quite as heroic, but it’s pretty much on the money.

I picked up a microphone stand that was lying in the hall and folded up its legs so that it formed a long black pole. I knew it wouldn’t do much good against a vampire, but it felt better to be armed. I heard a noise from the studio down the hall and backed away from it. Seeing that I wasn’t going anywhere without her, Aura pushed my chair out of the way, crawled out from under the desk, and then joined me in the hallway. I caught her up in one arm and felt her press into me. She put her finger to her lips and indicated the door with a nod of her chin.

We backed out of the office as quietly as we could. I still had the Jag in the parking lot downstairs. The problem was that the elevator was past the bathrooms at the other end of the hallway. I didn’t know if Dimitri had been sent because Dolgov had knew I was doing the nasty with Aura, or if it was because he’d come to the conclusion that I’d failed to make his girlfriend (or rather, lover, I amended bitterly. Oh so bitterly.) famous and thus had arrived at the end of my usefulness. Either way, Dimitri wasn’t after Aura.

I dug my car keys out of my pocket. “Here,” I said, offering them to her. “It’s me he wants. Not you.” I thought of the ticket to Ghana I’d bought but never used. “Take the Jag and make for the airport. I have credit with British Airways. Use it.”

She bit her lip and looked down the hall. She looked back. “What about you?”

“I’ll be fine. You know me. I’m a survi–”

Suddenly plaster flew apart around us. Hands like steel vices clamped onto me yanked me into the hole Dimitri had smashed through the studio wall. It was a tight fit. Not that I had time to worry about going on a diet to make it easier next time. He released me and there was a brief moment of weightlessness before the wall came up hard behind me. The plaster crunched, leaving a man-sized indent, and the air exploded out of my lungs. My vision was blurry and my eyes didn’t want to focus in the same direction. Two carpeted floors spun beneath me. I put my foot down on the wrong one and lurched to the side, collapsing into a drum kit. I bounced off a low tom-tom and brought the snare down on top of me with a cymbal crash that would have amused Tom and Jerry.

Something wet dripped onto my lip and then ran down the side of my chin as I lay in the wreckage of the drum kit, and I realized that it was blood.

I must have broken my nose but I couldn’t remember how.

In fact, I couldn’t remember how I’d ended up in the drum kit and saw no particular urgency to leave it.

A shadow loomed before me and I was dragged to my feet. I wobbled and began to slump again, so the shadow very helpfully hoisted me up into the air and slammed me back into the wall.

Sparks shot through my eyes, chasing away the blurred vision.

Dimitri shifted his grip and held me by the neck.

He wasn’t choking me, but the human body is not designed to be suspended that way. I felt like my spine was going to separate and his fingers were hot brands on my skin. I grabbed onto his hand with both of mine, trying to lessen the pressure.

“Yevgeny Dolgov says hello,” said Dimitri. Even this close, his eyes were dark pits and his mouth a red slit filled with needle-like teeth. He squeezed his thumb and forefinger, closing my windpipe and crushing my Adam’s apple. I began to gag and was paradoxically worried I might vomit on the vampire enforcer. I mean no one wants to be remembered as the guy who puked when you were putting the frighteners on him.

Suddenly his eyes widened almost imperceptibly and he turned his head, lowering me, not so far that I could stand on my tiptoes, but just enough to keep me wriggling because frankly he was a sadistic twat. “I’m only supposed to hurt you if you get in the way,” he said over his shoulder.

At the edges of my battered senses I began to hear the sound that had stopped him. A soft hum, gentle at first, but darkening quickly. Aura stood in the hole Dimitri had made in the wall. Her blue dress was stained with plaster dust, but there was something terrifying about her. This was the man-eating monster that she’d once been, and she had more in common with a great white shark than with a woman.

Dimitri released me completely, perhaps afraid for the first time in his long life. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said haltingly.

The humming continued and I felt her anger begin to seep into me as the lyrics erupted from her. The song she sang was rage, it was a conflagration. It was “Don’t Shut the Bloody Door”. It was mine. And it was a dangerous song.

“I–” Dimitri said again, but it was too late. He’d made her angry. He really shouldn’t have made her angry.

She bounded forward in a blur, snatched him up like a rag doll, and then threw him through the studio glass and into the live room. He smashed into the soundproofing and overturned a stool and microphone stand, then collapsed to the ground. He was supernaturally fast, but she was faster.

She caught him with a shoulder as he rose, and this time the soundproofing exploded outwards under the impact of their two bodies and they disappeared into the next office.

I stumbled to my feet, still shaken, and looked dumbly at the hole in the live room. The wall between the studio and the office behind it had been reinforced with brick and a Kevlar-like material used for soundproofing, and it was now shattered and torn respectively. One of the studs had exploded into kindling. I grabbed a particularly sharp piece and pulled it free. Hey, it was wood. It was pointy. That, in my books, made it a stake. I’m not big on literal definitions, but if it looks like stake, stabs like a stake, I figure it’s a bloody stake. That’s good enough for me.

Look I’m not a hero, I’m not even hero’s sidekick material. I’d have loved nothing more than to split, but Aura wasn’t indestructible. She was strong, sure, but it hadn’t been exactly a long time since she’d tried to commit suicide by jumping off a forty foot scaffolding. Once Dimitri realized she was made from your run-of-the-mill soft squidgy stuff he’d make quick work of her.

I stepped through the hole, armed only with my trusty–it was trusty now, okay? We were about to go through a lot and I loved that piece of wood–sharp piece of wood and then blinked against the sudden light from overhead fluorescents. A half dozen desks confronted me, each with two monitors and a black computer case sitting on the floor nearby. A large orange and white banner that read “PEEL Marketing Ltd.” hung across one wall. A nearby overturned water cooler glugged water onto the floor. Horrified PEEL staff members huddled in the office kitchen to my left and an unconscious man with blood pouring from his head lay on the floor nearby.

I put the stake under my arm, dragged the man over to his fellow staffers and told them to look after him. They nodded back at me with fear in their eyes, but did nothing. I caught a look at myself in a mirror with a motivational slogan on it that hung on the kitchen wall. Covered in scratches and plaster dust, torn clothing, two black eyes and a broken nose. I looked half-dead. No wonder they were terrified.

I left them in the kitchen and crossed the office to a small hallway that led to a conference room. As much as I wanted to run to Aura’s rescue, I was conscious of the fact that I wasn’t her knight in shining armour. She was mine. If I wasn’t careful, she’d have to rescue me all over again.

A wide-eyed man with a walrus-like mustache and a belly to match nearly knocked me down in the hallway as he ran for safety. He didn’t even say sorry. Not an excuse me. Nothing. I tutted. I mean, you need some kind of decorum when you’re waddling for your life, don’t you? It’s not very British.

I found Aura and Dimitri in what had probably been the fat man’s office.

Dimitri held both of Aura’s arms in one meaty fist amid the splinters of the man’s desk. She was still singing “Don’t Close the Bloody Door”. Her rage was strong, but she didn’t have her sharp teeth, the other deadly weapon of the siren, whereas his fangs were very much intact.

It was like watching a declawed house cat fighting a rabid tom.

He head-butted her hard and I heard the back of her head smack into the floor. “Remember, you made me do this,” he growled at her as he raised his other fist. Quite the gentleman.

I took three steps forward and brought the remains of the stud down in the middle of his back. It would have been a mortal blow, except that he was a vampire and I was only human and I’d forgotten to actually stick the pointy end in. He twisted impossibly fast and caught the stake, and then rose before me, his eyes like coal, impossibly big. He grabbed my face with his free hand, fingers at my temples and thumb at my chin, and began to squeeze.

I thought my eyes were going to rupture.

My head was going to explode.

Unfortunately it was my big head, not the little one I did most of my thinking with.

Suddenly, it was over.

Just like that.

No, no, no, my head didn’t explode. I’m not talking to you from the beyond or any kind of crap like that. He released his grip and screamed as he collapsed into dust, filling the air with the smell of sulfur and burnt meat. Aura stood behind him, her head and face a bloody mess, holding the leg of the shattered desk. She’d remembered the whole pointy-stabby part of hitting a vampire with wood. Okay just thinking hitting someone with wood I realize I’ve got a bit of one track mind, but seeing her standing there, triumphant, I don’t mind saying I was sporting a bit of a stiffy. Call it fear. She let the lifesaving leg drop from her fingers and fell into me. I clutched her tightly, feeling her sob into my chest.

“We have to go,” I told her after a while. Sooner or later one of those frightened office workers would remember to dial the Met, although I had no idea what they’d say once they arrived. “That pile of ash there was fighting with a tiny waif of a girl who was singing a lot…actually she was really good, but a bit angry. She kicked the ash’s ass.” Because you kick ass, kicking arse just doesn’t sound right, even to me. They’d have to explain the damage to their insurance company, but I was ready to bet that when an actual police office with a notepad was standing in front of them, some other story, something a little more plausible, would suddenly occur to them. Like mice. It was always good to blame mice. Or rats. The city was full of them.

Dolgov would be watching my flat and the studio was wrecked. Further, he’d already demonstrated that he could find me no matter which scuzzy hotel we checked into. No, we had to go somewhere where he couldn’t touch us, and it had to be close.

The old Knight Templar in Temple, down by the Old Bailey, was larger on the inside than it looked on the outside. The main chamber was a large rotunda filled with arc-shaped pews which faced the altar in its center. A large wooden cross hung from the rear wall, illuminated by light filtering through stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes, many of which were unfamiliar to me.

I’d chosen the church because in 2003, an Algerian dissident who faced deportation, despite having fathered two children with a British woman, took refuge in the church for eighteen months until his case was heard in the House of Lords. That meant the minister in charge of the church would be sympathetic to a plea for sanctuary, and that they’d have space to house us if it came to that. Plus, I mean, it was a Templar church, those guys were connected. We’re talking secret society pre-dating the mafioso. If anyone was going to stand up to Yevgeny’s mob it was this lot. They were pretty nifty with swords in their day, too. Always a plus.

I didn’t know quite what to tell the portly administrator in the white smock who interviewed us about our request, but he had a niece who’d been at the Martine concert and he’d read the newspaper headlines. He assumed that we were there to dodge the paparazzi and maybe receive some religious therapy, who was I to deny him his little fantasy?

Dead Records Part 7

Part 1: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/03/dead-records-part-i-by-steven-savile-and-ryan-reid

Part 2: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/04/dead-records-part-2-by-steven-savile-and-ryan-reid

Part 3: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/05/dead-records-part-3

Part 4: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/06/dead-records-part-4-2

Part 5: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/07/dead-records-part-5/

Part 6: http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/2015/07/dead-records-part-6/

When we got to the stage I realized I’d forgotten the camera I’d intended to use to take pictures of her from just off-stage for her fansite. She had a fansite now, by the way. Harvey had built it. I’d just returned when I heard a noise from across the hall. It was a dull, but powerful thump, as if something incredibly heavy had hit the ground with force.

The silence that followed was almost total, except for the quiet crackling of a radio playing Blue Oyster Cult. I looked down the hall, first one way and then the other. Nothing but blank concrete punctuated by the occasional green garbage can. I released the handle of Aura’s dressing room. Shouldn’t I have heard Martine’s entourage through their dressing room door? They hadn’t been a quiet bunch when I’d met them in the hall earlier. And where were the production assistants? Shouldn’t they be streaming in and out of that door, liaising with the media, or airing some petty grievance suffered by Martine to stadium management?

I hadn’t forgotten what I done to the steaks in Martine’s dressing room, but I’d only intended to kill her appetite–less human steak meant less power for her performance. Instead, I’d given a flesh-eating demon a massive dose of medication that included psychosis among its commonly reported side effects. That thought wouldn’t occur to me until I was hiding in the wet and the dark under the Wembley stage. It’s not a comforting thought to be having when said psychotic sex demon was about five feet from your head, but I digress.

Instead, I took my cell phone out of my pocket and swept a finger across the screen to unlock it. I wondered if I should call the police. What would I report? A suspicious thump heard inside a dressing room? What if they found out I’d attempted to dose Martine with antidepressants? I had Rick Casterly’s new number programmed into my phone, and he was ostensibly in charge of this whole gig. I punched it into then phone and then took a few cautious steps across the hall, thumb hovering above the call button. My instinct for self-preservation warred with my desire not to look like a fool by placing a panicked phone call over nothing. Any minute now, some assistant might pop out of that door on some errand.

Any minute now.

Come on errand.

Any time you like, I thought.

Now’s good.

But I still couldn’t hear any signs of activity from Martine’s dressing room. Blue Oyster Cult faded into Kenny Loggins as one song ended and the next began. I put my hand on the door handle and then leaned close to the door, not quite willing to put my ear to it. Now I could hear movement from the other side, a shuffling that stopped just as quickly as it began. There was a kind of weird whiffling sound and then a quiet, repeating whisper that I couldn’t discern. All of a sudden the door shook and I darted backwards. Something slid against it and fell onto the floor.

Silence.

Terrified, I squatted and peered under the door frame. A head of black hair plastered with wet blood lay just on the other side. It shifted lifelessly, as if something had bumped into it and then it was slowly lifted out of my field of view. Several drops of blood splattered onto the ground like falling hammers.

Not good.

Actually the opposite of good.

Way over on the other side of the spectrum.

I stood slowly and, in perfect silence, placed my cell phone in my pocket. With my eyes locked on Martine’s door, I lifted a knee and removed first one loafer and then the other, and then set them down beside me so that their heels wouldn’t click on the concrete. I wore thin dress socks, and the ground was cool on my feet.

The door shook again.

Every instinct in my body screamed to run.

Death was no more than three feet away and I was swimming in shark-infested waters without a cage. An electric crackle followed, and then the sound of metal bouncing across the floor. Death was probably closer to two feet away now.

I chose my footing carefully, placing the ball of my foot on the ground, then the heel. Step after step, I made my way down the hallway, leaving our own dressing room behind. There was only one entrance, and as soon as Martine finished with hers, ours would be the next natural target.

I’d only managed to make it a few steps before my phone rang.

I panicked and tore off my jacket, spinning it around the phone to try and muffle it, but I was wearing silk and the happy little chirp was still clearly audible. It would have been quicker to answer it, obviously, but that would have entailed having some wits about you and my wits were on that plane to Ghana that took off all those weeks ago.

The handle of Martine’s dressing room turned and then slowly swung open.

Completely naked, her blond hair was plastered to her skull by clotted blood and hung in strands around her viscera-smeared face. Her feet slapped wetly on the concrete and her legs and torso were crimson with even more blood. Way too much blood. I doubt a blood bank had as much blood as she had on her.

She turned to face me, rubbing spread fingers up her waist.

Her eyes focused on me as she shook crimson droplets off her hand and onto the wall. A dark purple snake freed itself from her hair and dropped onto her chest and then slid off her breast. I realized with horror that it was an artery.

My cell phone still buzzed merrily in my jacket and she looked down at it.

“Uh…it’s for you!” I yelled and tossed the jacket at her face.

I turned and bolted.

I hit the end of the hall at a full run, and my stockinged feet slid as I attempted to make the turn. My shoulder hit the wall hard, crunching the safety glass in a framed One Direction poster. I was vaguely aware of stabbing pain in my shoulder as I pushed off the wall, but I knew that pain would get much worse if Martine caught me. I windmilled as I struggled to keep my balance and careened into a nearby dustbin, scattering its contents across the hallway. Inhuman screeching filled the corridor behind me, a sound that ran its way up the ladder of my spine and set my nerves aflame, but I had no way of telling how far behind me she was.

I turned into another long hallway.

At the far end I could hear the deep thump of bass speakers, Aura’s crystal clear voice, and the wavelike sound of the crowd. Even if I was somehow able to sprint to the end of the hall before Martine caught me, I’d emerge backstage and bring her down on Aura and the band, as well as any number of innocent concert go-ers.

Choices choices. I’m not proud to say my first thought was better them than me.

Two orange metal doors were set into one wall from which a tangled mass of electrical cords emerged and were then plugged into the wall just outside. Praying that I wasn’t about to trap myself in a utility closet, I darted for it and hauled the door closed behind me, except for a small opening for the cables.

I emerged into a huge space that must have been under the stage.

Metal scaffolding held up black perforated tile, above which was plywood and flooring material. Orange extension cords bound together into mega cords snaked across the ceiling and down to electrical sockets set at regular intervals into the floor. The cable that led outside of the room provided power to about a dozen snake lamps that shed small pools of LED light into the otherwise dark area.

There were no exits.

Martine was too close behind me to risk going back out into the hallway, so I leapt over a few metal obstructions and found a place where the stage sloped downwards and crawled into it. There was very little clearance, but I was able to pull a few sets of cables around me into an attempt to hide. I concentrated on trying to make myself as small as possible.

I could hear stomping on the stage as various band members and techs moved around above me. I was tempted to call out to them, but I didn’t see how help could arrive before the succubus. And besides, I really didn’t want to draw Martine’s attention. Look, some people are proud of their survival instinct. Look at Darwin, he had an entire theory about survival of the fittest. Right then I was fit. The fittest I’d been all of my life.

Suddenly all the lights went out.

Martine had unplugged the cable in the hallway.

The darkness was almost absolute, punctured only by the flashing blue power light of a closed diagnostics laptop that lay a few columns over. Even as my eyes adjusted, I could barely see my hand in front of my face. The door opened, bathing the area in light and a dark shadow stepped through, disappearing into the blackness as it closed behind her.

Martine was in the room with me.

I stayed perfectly still, clutching cables to my chest to camouflage me. If she’d had night vision, as some of our less savory children of the night do, I would have been fucked. And not in that good way I wanted to go out of this life. The bad way. The eaten by a sex demon way. Actually. Okay. Maybe there’s something to being eaten by a sex demon. I’ll have to think about it. It’s certainly a different way to go not so softly into that endless winter night. I’ll get back to you on it.

I shifted positions and spotted a small shaft of light in the wall.

Moving carefully, I managed to crawl over to it. Just outside stood a huge security guard with long greasy jerry-curls. He had his back to me. The crowd beyond was silent as they looked up at Aura. A high school-aged girl, whose eyes were deep wells, twisted a grey cotton beret in her hands as tears ran down her cheeks. Two more girls held hands as they mouthed the words of the chorus of the funeral dirge for drowned sailors I’d written only a week ago.

I was grateful that Aura was having an effect, but I have to be honest, I was more interested in the Taser the security guard had holstered at his side than the whole teenage fanclub thing. There’d be hell to pay if one was used on a concert-goer, but ever since three fans had been killed rushing the stage at Leeds, stadium security had been mandated to carry them. It was a short hop skip and a jump to AK47s being handed out with the earplugs at the door.

I felt along the edge of the crack, hoping to find a latch or handle that might open it further.

There was a noise in the darkness behind me. I looked back. Nothing. I stared into the darkness and was rewarded when the light from the closed laptop winked out and then back on as Martine moved in front of it. Her breathing sounded low and bestial and her breath stunk of wet carrion. Not sexy. Very much demonic.

My fingers finally found something metal, but it was not a latch. It was a screw. I clamped on to its edges and twisted, and there was some give, but not enough. I twisted harder and felt the metal bite into my fingertips.

I looked through the crack again. The guard was so close. I could call out to him. But Martine was closer, and there wasn’t a sheet of painted plywood between the two of us. I felt around in my pockets–nothing but a set of keys, my wallet, and some change. There wasn’t much I wouldn’t trade for a Swiss army knife at that point. I probably would have taken a Swedish army or any other army, neutral country or not, as long as it had the word knife at the end. I took out the change and groped blinded for a ten pence coin. Finding one, I turned it on its edge and pressed it to the top of the screw. If it was a Phillips head I was a dead man.

Praise be to the god of ironmongery, the coin fit into the slot.

I twisted, willing the screw to turn, and finally I was rewarded with some give. Two more twists, and the screw came out of its hole so abruptly that it dropped to the floor. Tink tink…

The darkness shifted behind me.

One of the metal struts collapsed as Martine scrambled towards me.

For a heartbeat I saw her blood-covered face in the light from the crack between panels and it was terrifying. Her eyes bulged out of their sockets and her pupils were dark and full of fire. Every tendon was clearly visible in her face and her jaw had come unhinged. That was the worst of it. The absolute worst. The jaw. In that jaw were her perfectly formed, dentist-implanted human teeth, but they were spattered crimson and her gums had retreated so that they appeared to be as long as knives.

I launched myself away from her, cracking my head against the plywood stage covering. There must have been another screw holding it in place. I used a metal strut for leverage and shoved backward again with all my strength. A small cry escaped from between my lips as I heard wood crack and the panel begin to give.

Sharp points of fire fastened around my ankle as Martine’s clawed fingertips dug into my skin. I kicked out and my foot smashed into her face, but it was like kicking an oncoming car. She pulled and her nails carved furrows in my foot, but instead of pulling me back towards her, all she managed to do was remove my sock.

Once free I pushed forward again, and was birthed into the stadium proper by shattered plywood. The security guard had turned around, but despite all the commotion, he only spared me a glance. He was looking up at the stage.

I launched myself at him and snatched at his holster.

I had the safety snap unlatched before he could react.

Once armed, I aimed the weapon and fired into the darkness. Wires flew away from the muzzle and then crackled as they hit. The smell of ozone burnt the air, and I could feel Martine grasping and tearing at the cords. The Taser jumped forward in my hands and I barely kept my grip. Desperately, I pumped the trigger. How many volts would it take to bring down a psychotic succubus?

A lot. A fuck of a lot. A whole lot of fucking lots. Job lots of fucking lots. We’re talking more than a three-for-one or BOGOF deal of lots.

Green lights turned red on the side of the Taser as charge after charge was depleted, but Martine’s struggles began to weaken. Finally, I felt her convulse at the other end of the wires. They tightened suddenly and went slack.

I felt like screaming, “I’ve got the power!”

I stepped away and dropped the weapon, and then looked around, baffled that I hadn’t been tackled to the ground yet. No one was paying the least bit of attention to me. What was more important than a seeming madman bursting out the stage and firing a Taser back the way he’d come?

The nearest security guard’s face was upturned and I followed his gaze. We’re talking holy rapture drunk the Kool-Aid upturned, just so we’re clear.

The stage was lit by blue and violet overhead lights that hung from metal scaffolding at least forty feet above. Controlled by the laptop beneath the stage, they highlighted each member of the band in turn, brightening and fading according to their programming. Our drummer Eileen sat on a raised pedestal, tapping a high tom-tom with one drumstick and silencing her crash cymbal with the other, as if she’d just finished a solo. Marnie stood on the other side of the stage, completely oblivious to anything but her bass guitar. She wore the big black headphones I’d suggested as a remedy to Aura’s singing. Alice was closest to me, dressed in pleather pants and a black pleather jacket, which left her red bra mostly exposed. Her fingers danced over the frets of her guitar, but I could see her occasionally glance into the rafters.

Nearly forty feet above the stage, Aura balanced precariously on the metal scaffolding that was holding up the lighting. I had no idea they could even hold a person’s weight, but Aura didn’t weigh much more than a couple of light clusters. Her blue dress cascaded down behind her; she looked like a woman leaping out of the waves. She wasn’t wearing any safety gear and this wasn’t a part of her act. Since she was above most of the lighting, the concert director had lifted the lights in the stadium proper, and I could see that her eyes were closed and her chin lifted as she sang the purest notes of sadness into the microphone.

I felt her sadness radiate out from her like I’d felt her hunger in the Broken Doll. It slammed into me like a tidal surge and thrust me beneath the waves. I staggered under its weight. Some members of the audience were crying openly, while others screamed in fear every time Aura took a step.

I seized control of myself. Puppies and football and yesterday’s news. I didn’t care who was at the top of the Premier League. All I cared about was getting Aura down before she hurt herself. She might be incredibly strong, but she was a creature of the sea not the sky. She wouldn’t survive a fall from that height.

“Aura!” I yelled, but my voice was drowned out by her song.

I tried to get Alice’s attention, drawing my hand across my neck to indicate that she needed to cut the show short, but she was looking up, not down, and didn’t see me.

Frustrated, I spun around and grabbed the bouncer’s arm, but his face remained upturned towards Aura. The reason he hadn’t reacted when I’d stolen his Taser was because he hadn’t been able to. He was a victim of Aura’s voice as much as any audience member.

Fanfuckingtastic.

Above me, Aura held a foot over the abyss, testing her balance. I realized that the song she was singing was the one about calling to a young shepherd boy from the bottom of the Cliffs of Moher. At the end of the song, she coaxed him into jumping to his death on the rocks far below. She was going to throw herself from the lighting rigs at the end of the song. When she’d told me she didn’t know if she could make it through the gig, it wasn’t because she was nervous. It was because she was suicidal. Great. A suicidal siren sings the blues. Just fucking marvelous.

There was no way I could reach her.

And if I tried Aura would simply jump the moment she knew she had company.

She couldn’t hear me over the music, so there no way I could communicate with her.

She was going to jump and I couldn’t stop her.

My mind was racing.

I looked at the security guard. He was a big fat boy. He’d probably argue it was muscle or he was big boned but I wasn’t buying it. He was cushioned… so maybe he could cushion her fall?

The guard wore a headset and battery pack, both of which I was able to remove without protest. I ran to one of the giant speakers that belted music into the stadium, held the microphone to it, and hit the send key. The microphone howled with feedback and up and down the front of the stage, large men with black security shirts doubled over in pain and clutched their ears. How was that for mental wax? It was fucking mental, that’s how.

I had maybe half a minute until the end of the song and Aura’s whole crowd surfing thing took a literal dive, so I spoke quickly into the microphone. “This is Marcus Reardon, Aura’s manager. Take down the barriers. Let the crowd rush the stage. Do it! Now!”

The security guards seemed to move like molasses, but if they’d been in full control of their senses they might not have moved at all. Sure, I was Aura’s manager, but removing the barriers was very dangerous–as that fateful concert in Leeds had demonstrated–and required approval from stadium management, not just the manager of the support act.

Above me, Aura began the closing notes of the song. She clasped her hands together over the microphone like a supplicant praying for forgiveness. Her blue dress came alive in the stadium light and instead of the ocean surging around her, it now looked like the sea was reluctant to let her go.

There was an enthusiastic scream from somewhere in the crowd as the first chains around the security fencing slithered to the ground. A few audience members pushed their way through, but most stood in place, mesmerized by the spectacle unfolding above them. More chains were loosened, but the crowd remained lethargic.

Out of desperation, I threw the headphones at Alice.

They whizzed past her left shoulder, failing to connect, but they got her attention, she turned and gave the crowd the finger and that’s when she spotted me.

I signaled like a disheveled madman, and she walked over and squatted before me, still expertly strumming her instrument.

“She’s going to jump!” I yelled, pointing at Aura.

“What?”

“You’ve got to play something else! Something to break the spell!”

Her eyes hardened. She’d been at the Broken Doll too. She knew what was happening. She nodded, stood, and her posture changed. She played a few more notes of Aura’s sad funeral dirge and then immediately launched into the first riff of “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols. Oh how I would have given anything for a fascist regime… or at least to hear Aura belting out those words.

The effect was like being punched it the face.

Some audience members blinked, and that was all it took.

The ones in the front rows noticed the opened fences and surged forward.

Above them, the song came to an end and my sad siren launched herself off the lighting rig and plunged towards the concrete below.

I saw her disappear into the crowd amidst a chorus of screams, and then she was lifted aloft triumphantly.

I punched the air as she surfed the crowd, spinning over and over, before they let her down.

She walked among them.

She cupped a face here, pressed her forehead against another’s there, sharing their sadness. Then they parted and she walked back to the stage like Moses through the Red Sea.