After the gig

Outside the bar the chill air was welcome but made me dizzy for a few moments.  I leaned against a wall on the other side of the road, breathing deeply and watching the rest of the crowd leave.  They were slow, milling around talking to one another.  A lone man hailed a taxi and instantly made friends, people keen to see if he was going in their direction.  Then I saw the pink-haired girl come out, looking tired and shabby, clearly having failed to attract the lead guitarist's attention.  I sidled sideways, not leaving the wall but putting a parked car between me and her, just in case she was still feeling predatory.  To my surprise, I sidled into someone.
Nico Loutreides pulled his sunglasses down and stared at me, and for a moment his face seemed unnaturally dark, his eyes at the end of long tunnels that couldn't possibly exist in his head.  Then everything was normal again, and I realised it had been a trick of the street-lighting.

"Sorry," I said, noticing he had a cigarette in his other hand.  He pushed the sunglasses back up.  "We've met, I think," I said, offering him my hand.  He took it slowly, as though wondering what was coming next, and shook it with unexpected firmness.  His skin was dry and hot.

"Are you friends with the band?"  His voice was smooth and mellow.

"No, no I'm here because my niece saw the band just before she went into a coma.  I think we met at an antiques fair maybe a year ago.  You deal in musical instruments don't you?"

"Antiques fair!  Well, I can't say I've been to many of them lately, this band takes up all my time now.  I used to deal, but there are so many fakes now...."  I nodded agreement; I'd missed the days that the old dealers talk about, when a fake meant it was fifty years younger than the label claimed.  Now fake meant it had been made in China or Taiwan and shipped in an open container so that the sea-air could weather it for you.  "A coma, you said?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, I don't mean to bother you with that.  Her mother got it into her head that she might have slipped at the gig or she might have been hit by a stage-diver.  I'm really only here so I can go back with a clear conscience and tell her she's making mountains out of molehills."

"DeeDee?"

I must have looked shocked because he pushed his sunglasses down his nose again and looked straight at me.  "She came to the afterparty, I think she was a bit taken with Nathanial.  She's a sweet little thing.  Once it was clear that Nate was off-limits she was talking to everyone.  We were talking about musical instruments too as it happens."

"I had no idea she was interested," I said, wondering how much of the conversation had been DeeDee's idea.

"Since when do teenagers tell their parents what they're interested in?"  Nico finished his cigarette and flicked the butt away, a tiny glowing comet in the night.

"Want to come to the afterparty tonight?  See what it's like, so you can reassure her mother about that too?"

I shrugged; I hadn't been going to mention the afterparty to my sister.  "Sure," I decided suddenly.  "I hope you've got some decent beer there."

"The band only seem to drink lager," said Nico, his face suggesting distaste.  "But I'm sure I have something with a little more personality somewhere."

We left the wall and walked to a spotless white van parked near the front of the Bierkeller.  The band were in the back with their equipment, and the girl with pink hair was leaning against the backdoor, talking aggressively to one of the thin boys, trying to get herself invited in.  We ignored her and got in the front, Nico driving.  He turned round and told the boys to close the doors, and for a moment it looked like the girl with pink hair would be left behind.  Then she was in the van, possibly uninvited, but the doors were closed and we were off.

The End

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