Mira Kingsland put down the phone, hard. Stanley had always been a jerk, a patronizing jerk. He had known her since birth, and when she’d learned to talk, he took to using a baby voice when talking to her. The voice he used to talk to her now hadn’t changed much, twenty-five years later. Stanley was her dad’s agent, since the late 70s. He had come to know her dad’s moves, his moods, his whims, his eccentricities, like a shaman predicting the weather. But, even Stanley didn’t know about the One Tree. And he didn’t know where her dad was. Randall Kingsland, founder of 60s legends The Dust, and 70s rock opera pioneer had been swallowed up by the world.
Mira knew that they were bad news. And now her dad was gone, just gone. And even Stanley didn’t know where. The One Tree had a compound in California somewhere, another in Arizona, and a third in Boulder Colorado. She was sure her dad was in one of those. But where? Not even Stanley knew. Not even Stanley. Her dad hadn’t told him. He just got up and left one day, taking nothing with him. Mira had talked to him a week before he left, and he gave no indication of taking those people seriously.
Then, the record company called. No, it was their lawyers. Dad had never been good with money, or contracts. Her mum had. And even she had taken her dad for everything, ten years ago. For a while, her mum had taken her too, convinced her that her dad wasn’t good for her, that he was too much inside of himself stumbling around the studio late at night trying to find the Sound. He was always trying to find the Sound. It was his passion, his obsession, his source of frustration.
Mira had lived with her mum, who had done a bit of singing herself before Mira was born. But, any trace of the punk rock queen was gone. Nothing but the record executive remained. Her dad had produced her band The Long Lunches when he moved to New York City. She had been weary of him and his pompous rock opera. But, then she heard the first Dust album; the gritty soul belter lead singer, the jazzy drumming, the jagged guitar played by one seventeen year old Randall Kingsland, former piano prodigy turned rock icon. And she was hooked. Later, they married, and then divorced, not before making Mira.
She had a memory of him that sustained her. She was three, sitting in his lap and he was talking, not sure to whom. His voice was deep, and scratchy, just like on the records. But, up close, there was a safety in that voice, a warmth. It was the feeling of being in a cocoon, the vibrations of that sonorous voice like a form of music from another world. When her parents had split, and he had moved out, she latched onto the memory, and somehow it had attached itself to a special place in her heart and mind. It was there to stay.
And now Mira was the parent to the father. He had been too far inside himself. Her mother was right. Somehow, that made Mira love her father more, and made her like her mother less. How strange. She should be furious with her father; his insular nature, his hermitically sealed world, his refusal to let go of his quest. But, that’s what made him who he was. And she loved him.
Now she had grown up. She was not like her mother, and not exactly like her father, either. She was the product of a little girl’s resolve to take what she found and make something positive out of it; music school first, then journalism, then an intern at a big music magazine you might have heard of, then a music writer, then public relations director for Wax Wings Records. And now, she figured, as a private investigator. She could hire one, she supposed. But, something told her that if her dad was to be tracked down, it made sense for her and Stanley to do it, even if Stanley was a jerk.
Mira brushed a tendril of scarlet hair from her face. She looked in the mirror on her desk, and caught herself sighing. She was pale. The fact was, she was worried. She was worried about him. She was always worried about him. A brief thought flashed through her mind: “you shouldn’t let him do that to you. You shouldn’t let him make you pay for his erratic behaviour”. She banished the thought, not denying it, but rather shuffling it to the back of her mind. She would have to deal with that, but not now. He was out there somewhere.
She called for Rodney, and he appeared. Rodney was her assistant, her right hand at Wax Wings. He took care of things, not so much a P.A as a sidekick and confidant. His boyfriend hated her, was jealous of her. But, her bond with Rodney was undeniable, and everyone knew it.
“Rodney, I need to contact The One Tree.”
“You’re going to take them on?”
“No, I’m just going to talk to them. Get them on the phone, please. And don’t look at me like that.”
“Like what?” Rodney arched his left eyebrow and tried to look innocent, which was beyond him.
“Like you think I’m trying to put on my shining armour to rescue the maiden.”
“I’ve met your dad. He’s no maiden. More like a Fisher-King.”
“You’ve waited years to use that one.”
“Do you know how much I paid to get that English degree, darling? I get my return on investment by being fabulously clever.”
“You’re still in the red, Rodney.”
“Please get them on the phone.”
“You’re worried. You’re worried about him, I know.”
“When I find him, I’m gonna kill him.”
“Whatever you say, Mirabel…”
Randall Kingland, the rock god of yore, found himself on the road. Everything was hazy, especially since the sun had come up. His eyes hurt. He wished he’d not lost his shades. But, he hadn’t lost them. He’d given them away. He’d given them away, along with everything else. Rose had led him out of there. Now, he was free, a blank slate. There was a lot to work out, but that would come later. All of that other stuff could wait until he got to the desert, until he got to his vision. Yes, his vision.
His mind wandered, in the silence that was interrupted only by the sound of the wind, and the slapping of his sandals on the asphalt. Suddenly, it was 1966 again. And they were sitting around a table at some club. What was it again? He couldn’t remember. It was in San Fran, still. They hadn’t moved to L.A yet. Albert was there. They were meeting with Albert; Randall, Rose, Buck, and Trask. Albert was going to make them stars with that song of theirs: “Better Know What You Got Before It’s Gone”. He could sell it to the college kids. He could sell it to the blacks too. Rose was ecstatic. Randall was confused. Buck was skeptical. And Trask was drunk, as always. Randall remembered Albert smoking a cigar. Did he smoke one, or did Randall just imagine it, looking down the years at the other end of the telescope? It didn’t matter now.
Buck wanted to know all about the percentages. And as soon as he mentioned it, Albert’s attention shifted onto Buck alone. Before that, it had been on Rose. Rose was the real leader of the group. But, Buck was the other solitude, a gravitational force pulling the focus away from Rose like the moon affecting the tides. And now Albert saw it, too. He had them. He figured them out in that exact moment. To Albert, it was only a matter of time before he owned them outright.
Somewhere in there, Randall found himself behind the mixing desk, making a record. He had a gift for production, said Albert. Albert had been so supportive. Yet, walking along the road in 2001, as the sun began to rise, Randall knew that Albert had removed Randall from the equation by making him the producer. When making records, Randall forgot about the money. The money didn’t exist. For Rose, it was his sadness, his insecurity. For Trask, it was the party. And for Buck, it was about ego, although Buck was the hardest one for Albert to get around. Later, Buck had proved to be more than Albert could manage. But, for now, Albert could work them without them knowing they were being worked.
It was 2001 again, suddenly. And Randall stopped. Something was ahead of him, an outline on the background of the sun. It was a coyote, his ears twitching in the early morning sun. Randall was almost blind, his eyes streaming with sorrowless tears. And the moment froze, the world ground to a halt. Randall felt his body sag, his legs quiver. And then he was at rest, staring into the sun at the outline of the coyote who stood motionless before him. He waited. He was certain that the coyote would speak.
What an odd thought. Coyote’s couldn’t speak, could they?
And then, the coyote was gone, just as if it had never been there. And there was nothing to do but keep walking.
Mira got as far as their press officer. The One Tree kept things locked up tight, and there was no way some girl was going to get through to their inner circle, no matter who her father was. And they knew she wouldn’t have the guts to call a press conference and talk about exploitation, kidnapping, and cults. That would be considered an act of war, a reason to let slip the dogs of litigation. Cry havoc.
When she called, the press guy talked about privacy, about the sanctity of the spiritual journey. Mira asked about the money, about the accounts. And then he became less cordial, and talked about court. She lost her temper, and he’d laughed. She hung up, having got nowhere. Rodney had stayed with her through the call, and when she hung up, he looked at her sadly.
“There is nothing you can do, Mirabel. He’s a screw up. I know you love him. But, he’s a screw up.”
“Shut up, Rodney. This is no time for tough love.” She was hard. Her tone was even, and just a little icy too. Rodney was immune.
“If not now, then when? I hate to see you like this, Mirabel. And it’s his fault, all of this. And you’re acting as if it’s yours.”
“Maybe I’m the screw up then.”
“Only if you believe that, which you shouldn’t. Why don’t you take some time off, Mirabel? Get your head together. You can’t take this on, and be fabulous too. You know how I feel about being fabulous.”
“I can’t. I just can’t. I have to find him. Not for his sake, but for mine. I know that.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“I need more coffee, for one.”
“I’m already gone…”
“… And I need my Mom.”
“Not like that, you queen. I need her on the phone.”
And then he was gone before she could say anything.
Mira sighed again, and twisted a scarlet cable of hair around her finger like a little girl might do.