Chapter 2

The band had retired to their separate hotel suites shortly after the interview.  There were no performances booked for the next week in anticipation of them leaving the music industry forever, so everyone was looking for something to do.  Gregory had set up a mini-telescope in his room, with help from the hotel staff, and was trying to spot Venus as the sun set.  The others were getting changed, relaxing, and testing the sensors on the mini-bar each had in his room.

The two band-members who had been very quiet and sedate, Billy and Jordan, had decided to order a few necessities for their hotel rooms that were not on the runner for the band officially.  A red-faced receptionist was trying to explain that, although the hotel did not provide these services, and could not recommend any women with the "qualifications" they were looking for, their rather worldly night-porter would turn a blind eye to any late-night comings and goings after 11pm.  The reasons she declined repeatedly to perform a search for, or recommend, any professional women were simple: it would make the hotel liable, and if the girl in question caused any kind of trouble, they would almost certainly be blamed the next day.

Normally quite reluctant to talk over the phone, the band had a rare conference call set up by the Reception desk at 8pm.  The Cobra was sitting in Michael's palatial hotel room (slightly bigger than the others, as requested of course) looking awkward and out of place in an elegantly-tailored pinstripe suit that did not quite fit his scrawny frame.  In spite of his name, Charles "The Cobra" Coen was seen as one of the nicest people in showbusiness.  His nickname was apparently because of his very pointy teeth and the fact that he wore his very thick, slicked-back hair in such a way that it looked like a hood.  No-one in the band knew about his temper, because he never let them see him lose it - there was a punching-bag in a closet behind his office that looked as though it had been run over by a car.

Charles had been reluctant to let the Rejection Letter band split up initially.  He had been one of their closest friends as children,  and thought he would miss all of them.  Even Michael, who seemed to have the repellent personality of a megalomaniac and the charm of a used-car salesman (an actual quote from Hiya magazine after the reporter had spent an hour with him) was a good friend to The Cobra, and when they were both sober, they could talk for hours or sit in silence and be completely comfortable with it.

The conversation immediately turned to what had gone wrong with the interview.  "I thought we were meant to be closing shop, telling the world we were never going to be touring or working together.   What happened?" asked Jordan, the drummer.

"You know very well what happened," Charles answered, radiating calm.  "You all remembered what it was like being part of something bigger than your own egos.  That boy managed to remind you of who you were, and why you wanted to be in a band in the first place."  As this sank in, the line went very quiet.  Michael sat there, his hands steepled above his lap,  nodding his head in time with a beat that wasn't there.

"He's right.  Somehow, we forgot we were friends, we forgot what made us so good in the first place.  Talking about those times, when we still had energy, we still knew what music was all about, that's why we didn't tell them we were splitting."

"So just because we remembered about the so-called Good Old Days, we're meant to ignore that you called me a... well, you know what it was, and it's a part of a pig that ain't bacon," snarled Jordan.  There was still more than a little bitterness about an argument they had 3 months ago that had left scars on his cheeks, nose and knuckles.

"I know what I said," admitted Michael.  "I never apologised for that, and I'm telling you now, Jordy.  I'm sorry for saying it, I'm sorry for feeling it, and I'm sorry you hurt your hand breaking my nose, and I scratched your face like a stupid child."

The band were in different rooms by design.  The conference call was necessary these days because of their constant aggression and antipathy toward each-other.  Now that they had started a proper conversation without name-calling and recriminations, Coen could foresee proper meetings about the future, maybe even in the same room.

"Guys, now that you have no bookings for the moment, we need to think about next steps.  I didn't catch the full interview - was anything said about tour-dates, new releases or anything similar?" he lied.  Like everyone else, the agent had been present for the full interview, analysing what the next moves would be like a bomb-disposal expert in an earthquake zone.

"We might have said something about doing smaller gigs in some of the places we once played," William the bass-player admitted.  He said this with a trace of guilt as he was the one who had begun this part of the interview and was regretting it now.

"That may be difficult.  You know the boards you walked back then aren't big or strong enough to hold a tenth of your audience now.  They'd sell out in a minute flat, and the towns would be flattened by the others waiting outside to see you.  Michael had the presence of mind to figure that out at the time."  The others made mumbled sounds of agreement that didn't amount to actual words.

"It's still possible," said Michael abruptly.  "If we were to advertise locally in the daily press for each town, regular performances for small, intimate venues, it wouldn't have to be like that."  He spoke dreamily, in spite of his almost unprecedented sobriety.  The music was coming back to Michael Brock,  over 15 years after it had left him.

Charles let out a deep, weary breath.  "I don't think so.  With social media and lack of confidentially the way they are, if you advertise in the local rag on Monday, by Tuesday it's being tweeted, shared and liked in China, Australia and the Amazon rainforest.  There is no possible way to be private about these things.  You'd have a million people trampling those small towns you used to play until they were nothing but dusty wastelands.  I'm sorry, but it's not going to happen with Rejection Letter."

The mood changed with this news.  None of them could remember the last time they played a town hall or a local pub, and it had been nearly 18 years since they had seated an audience of less than 10,000 people.   It made everything seem impossible - it would not be an option.  Everyone agreed on that.

Gregory got excited: "What if... what if Rejection Letter weren't playing, but we were?"

"What are you talking about?"

"We'll use a different name for the band, keep ourselves nice and anonymous, and set it up through third parties so no-one knows we're involved until the night in question.  I'm sure Charlie can arrange it, right?"

A pregnant pause gave birth to the answer.  "I'll find a way.  We'll need to think up several new band-names, make sure they're original, and keep your names and images well out of it.  It won't be good enough to do it just once - after the first gig, everyone will know it's you lot and there will be the same problem."

"We can do that," drawled Billy Brandt.  "I've been thinking of new band-names for months now... even before we were talking about the split," he tailed off, a little sheepishly.

"Gregory's a fantastic artist, I'm sure he'd be more than capable of painting up some posters," added Michael, getting into the idea.  "You'd be okay with that, right Greg?"

Their pianist, a genius with anything involving the arts, a man who was always dreadfully self-critical about everything he ever did, replied: "I think if you're looking for something for a very amateur band, a very amateur poster might be something I can put together."  Although he was alone in the room, the others knew he was blushing.

"It's settled then.  We meet up at my place in a week's time with artwork, band names, and a plan of action," announced Michael.  "I've missed this!"

The End

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