The Sequels to Syrrah's Game SGSequels

chapter 34

Monday, September 11th, 7:46 AM

Indianapolis, IN


It was getting old just looking out the window while they drove.

Evan centered his thoughts on the inside. Yeah. Good thing they rented a silver 2018 Ram 2500 Laramie 4x4 with a crew cab. Definitely more inconspicuous than a stupid limo. He glanced over at Dana. Still talking away on her phone, with whoever, some girlfriend, but thankfully not some guy. He looked at Greg in the front seat, yet carrying on a conversation with Carter, while Carter drove. More talk about how they snuck away from paps and fans after leaving the hotel, with a few Taekwondo tips here and there. Even so, Carter wasn’t convinced it was enough. The paps would somehow find out they rented this recording studio, even if it were the first time Dana would be visiting the place.

Dana had said Aagaard was big enough and had all the right musical technology and mixing setups to accommodate what she needed. 

Evan checked the time on his phone. 7:49 AM.

Nearing their destination, he looked out the window again. Just a pleasant-appearing suburb with homes, small manufacturing buildings and other little businesses. At least it wasn’t like downtown Chicago.   

Dana ended her call. “Up ahead, my fearless new security guards,” she said, mostly directing her voice toward Evan, “Aagaard Recording Studios.”

They were approaching, on the right side of the road, a one-level, modern, sprawling brick building, in white and grey tones, and red borders around each company’s sign names. A long section of green lawn and a row of trees separated the road from the front parking area. But Aagaard itself was still visible, situated at the far end corner of the building, from their approaching vantage, its name above a wall of glass entrance. “Nice, Dana.” He couldn’t think of much more to say. 

Greg turned until he could see Dana. “Some of the big names in rap and hip-hop have been here?”

“Yes. The owner used to rap, so this attracts more of such clientele,” she said. “Doesn’t matter. They accommodate a lot of styles. They will supply whatever I need.”

Carter made a right turn before the lawn and tree border and drove them to a parking area north of the building.

“Oh, I see them.” Dana had her eyes on the backup singers’ bus parked along the north side of the building. She lightly clapped her hands several times. “Glad they got here before us. I really didn’t want to wait.”

Her soft, quick hand claps were reminiscent of Syrrah. Again. But, what Art said. Yes. Stay focused. Ignore for now.

Carter parked the silver Ram near the bus. This parking area would work out well, since it was mostly hidden from the road they drove in on. Carter also explained he had visited Aagaard yesterday, and so was familiar with the layout, most of the people, though he would discuss security details shortly.

They were soon all heading into the building from the back entrance. Carter was greeted by Aagaard’s owners, two older white dudes. Hands were shook, names were introduced. Carter instructed Evan and Greg to continue guiding Dana and her singers to the main rented studio.

As had occurred a few times recently, Chella tried to walk near Evan. Yet every time she attempted this, Dana would slyly, nonchalantly maneuver herself in front or on the sides, whatever worked, to block Chella from getting too close to him. Chella then usually appeared sad but would never fight it. Of course. She had to get along with her employer. What else could she do? But he did miss Chella’s adoring gazes and her need to speak to him. She obviously liked him tons.

Evan counted heads. Chella, Savannah, two other female singers or dancers, though he wasn’t sure of their names, and then a male singer. The male singer, a young guy, maybe late teens, who appeared part black and part Asian spoke to Chella about being tired and not feeling too well.

So, including Dana, six people walked into the main studio room, which appeared to be a sound recording room. Dana quickly recognized the room from images she had seen online. Greg followed them into the room while Evan stayed out in the hall though at the doorway.

Carter stayed by the back door with the owners until everyone was inside. They closed and locked the door. And no paps or fans yet.

The owners and Carter walked into the main studio. Carter explained that they had rented two of the studios for the morning but because Aagaard was also part of a musical college, music students would be coming in and out throughout the day. He made it known that he, Greg and Evan would have to be on guard not only for paps and fans, but the unsuspecting students suddenly realizing Dana was here. Carter detailed the entrances, exits and Aagaard’s floorplan, like the other rooms, the hallway, etc. Expect the unexpected, he said, and expect photo shoots and autograph signings to sprout up at any moment.

No sooner did Carter say this when the owners reminded Dana, per her earlier arrangements, that they would be doing photos and signed autographs once she was finished. Some sort of deal that got both Dana and Aagaard a nice chunk of social media attention.

The owners then left the studio room.

Carter positioned himself near the front glass door but told Evan and Greg to walk around, get the layout down-pat. And so far, no flood of vehicles was showing up, no sign of any paps.

Evan began walking around, taking it all in. There were lots of plaques on the wall of artists who had performed here. Some he recognized, others he didn’t.

But the layout. Aagaard had a small front entrance room with comfy sofa seats and dim lamps. Once done there, he and Greg walked into the adjacent room, a larger room with two hallways. One hallway led to the bathrooms and the other led to Dana’s studio room, where he and Greg had walked out of moments earlier.

Suddenly that male singer came running past them, heading for the bathrooms, his hand covering his mouth.

“Whoa,” Evan said. “You okay?”

“Bro!” Greg called out to him too. “You all right? Hang-overs can be a bitch.”

Dana came rushing after him. “Spot on, Greg.” She didn’t look at Greg but continued following the male singer. “That’s it exactly.”

Seconds later, after the bathroom door was slammed closed, hard vomit retching could be heard.

Dana walked back until she could see Greg, and Evan. “Hang tight, boys. We need to talk.” She hurried off to the bathrooms again.

Warmth enveloped Evan’s heart. That was kind of her to care like that about the poor guy.

Carter walked over to them. “That’s Jerry, for ya. Can’t handle his liquor. Not the first time it’s happened.”

“Isn’t he too young to be drinking?” Evan asked.

“Nah. He’s of age. Just looks younger than he is.”

After some minutes, Dana arrived back again. She leaned against a nearby wall and folded her arms under her breasts. She was looking way too hot in only a simple white T-shirt and denim shorts, along with flat-heeled sandals on her feet. Her long, tan legs were just stunning. Her hair was tied up in a small bun. She looked at Carter. “Yeah, I know. Damn drunks.” 

Jerry’s vomiting could yet be heard. 

“Yup, here we go again,” Carter said. “So, now what?”

“Ben and Leo said Jerry can hang out in the break room,” she said.

Ben and Leo. Of course. The owners. Names mentioned earlier.

“One of their wives is here. She’ll help him.” Dana pointed at Evan. “You. You’re taking over.”

That was random. “Excuse me?”

She walked over and grabbed Evan’s hand. “You heard me. Come on.” She began yanking him toward the studio room.

What else can I do? He allowed her to drag him along.

“Dana, Dana, Dana,” Carter said, as he rushed ahead until in front of her, blocking her path. He held up his palms signaling stop. “He is here for security. You know that.” 

She released Evan’s hand and sighed. “Look. I need this practice section for the upcoming album. He can sing. You heard him at the party, same as me. And not only can he sing, he can sing amazingly good.” She whipped out her phone. He couldn’t see what she was swiping to open, but then he heard the music. It was the video Dad took at one of their performances. No! Why did she do that! She showed the video to Carter. “You see, genius? He’s damn good, and that’s his band. After some warm-ups, we’ll be rocking.”

But Carter didn’t budge from his blocking stance. “This is going to be a violation of numerous contracts if he’s recorded on the album. You need to tell your father.”

“Didn’t you just hear what I said, genius? This is a god damn practice session!”

As expected, Ben and Leo abruptly arrived on the scene. “Hey,” Leo said. “Is everything okay? Is there anything we can do to help?”

Immediately Dana softened her demeanor. “We can handle this,” she told them quietly. “I need to replace Jerry.”

“She needs a male backup singer,” Carter said. “You have one?”

“We do,” Ben replied. “And he is here now in another room.”

“That’s all right,” Dana said firmly. “I already have Evan. He sings. And has that baritone sound I need.”

Carter held his solid stance, his arms now crossed. “Problem is, he’s doing security.”

“Our backup singer is a baritone too,” Ben explained, “with some range in bass and tenor.”

Interesting, Evan realized. That’s exactly my voice range.

Dana thrust her hands on her hips and glared at Ben. “Well Ben, that’s great, but I want Evan, not your backup singer.”

“Uhh, look. Let me think,” Ben said. “We can of course lock the front door. Any students can text me and I’ll let them in at the back door. I’ll make sure they are behaving well.” He looked at Carter. “But really, they are great kids. There shouldn’t be any problems. Would that be all right?”

This was getting all so uncomfortable and odd. Evan’s mind began to focus elsewhere. Carter, Dana, and Ben began discussing back and forth, but he could only center on Dana’s behavior toward Carter. If like Art said, Carter might be involved, then why did Dana show no fear bad-mouthing the guy? Syrrah. Syrrah, are you really in there? Transformed from a Christian, a God-believing girl in those videos into a personality totally unrecognizable now, except for those few brief behavior glimpses here and there.

Finally, it was over. Carter agreed.

Dana grabbed Evan’s hand again and led him down the hallway. He looked back, to see Greg. Greg gave a thumbs up and a big smile.

She led him into that sound recording room. Chella, Savannah and the two other girls were yet there, practicing some a cappella singing. Dana told the girls to hang out in the mixing room for now so she could practice with Evan. He watched out the doorway as the girls walked into a room with a mixing console, visible through a window on the right side of the room. Sure. Brought back memories when Ten Dissent had completed a few track recordings at a studio in Fargo.

Dana told him to shut the room’s door, which he did. She walked over and stepped up on the corner stage in the room.

Evan glanced around. The room had walls of thick wood paneling, along with some sections of rock and concrete walls. Typical. Whatever it took to absorb and redistribute the sound.

He followed her and stepped up on the stage platform too.

“Oh, umm.” She looked back on the main floor of the room. “We need two mic stands.”

“You want me--”

“Yes. Of course. Get them.”

A collection of mic stands was in a corner of the room. He stepped down, walked over to them, and grabbed two. He brought them up on the stage. Dana helped him position the mic stands just as she wanted and connected the cables.

She held on to one mic and looked at him. “So, you rock pretty hard. Not really my style, but how about we start off with a song I’m familiar with. Just want to get more of the breadth of your talent and ability.”

“Uhh, sure. What were you thinking?”

“Fell on Black Days.”

This truly can’t be. He smiled. “You serious?”

She thrust her hands upon her hips. “Well of course. I’m dead serious.”

“Yeah, I know it, very well. Sung it many times. Memorized the lyrics. Would be my pleasure to do it.”

“Well, I must be psychic. I figured this would be right up your alley.” Yet her expression became awash with humbleness for some reason. “You need a chair? And take one of those guitars over there.”

“Oh, sure.” He stepped off the stage again and hurried to a bunch of guitars leaning against the wall. He found a nice Gibson electric and brought it back on stage. 

Dana helped him connect to the nearby stage amp. He strummed the Gibson a few times, checking if in tune, and it was, so no adjustment necessary. He also tuned the volume to Dana’s liking.

“You didn’t grab a chair,” she said to him.

He smiled, strumming the Gibson again, practicing a few chords. “No. I got this.” He gazed into her brown eyes. “Let me know when you want to start.”

She stood near the other mic. “Right away. I’ll be hitting you up with some harmony.”

“Okay.” He started playing the amazing beginning guitar line that so famously defined this great track. But then he stopped and looked at her. “May he rest in peace.”

Puzzlement appeared in her eyes. But then she nodded. “Oh. Yeah. Chris was a super badass. I concur.”   

He started strumming again. And then he began singing the first lyrics of Fell on Black Days.

And he kept on singing, watching her reaction at the same time. Though she didn’t look him in his eyes, she was listening intently, smiling even at times. When he started singing the main chorus part, she joined right in, targeting in on alto-level harmony.

A surging chill and rush of amazement tore through Evan. Her harmony was absolutely perfect and blended flawlessly with his own voice.

Motion in the window of the room caught his gaze. Chella, Savannah and those two other girls were smiling and rocking to their performance. 

He kept going. This felt too great. A dream come true. He glanced at Dana, now and then, but tried not to stare. He wanted to hear her beautiful voice blending with his and he didn’t want to disrupt her concentration.

Before long, the song was done.

She smiled broadly at him. “That was awesome, Evan. You’re really good. Hold on.” She left the mic stand, stepped off the stage and walked over to the guitars. She chose another Gibson electric. She stepped back on stage and plugged it in. “My turn now. You put the guitar down.”

He did, leaning the guitar against the back wall. “Can I say…”

“Go ahead.”

“You are amazing. Did you ever do this song before?”

“Yes, but not the harmony.” She smiled briefly and gazed intently. “What, you didn’t think I have any natural born talent? I didn’t get where I am today by faking it.”

He smiled too, and turned away. “No, just…I guess I didn’t know you pop girls have that much talent.”

“Well, we do, rock boy.” She started playing the beginning of Fell on Black Days, her ability with the strumming at his level, though a little rusty. She stopped playing. “I’ll start, you do the harmony. Think you can?”

“Oh yeah. We’re, umm, pretty much equal in that department.”

“Good.” She began playing again. “Here we go.”

Her guitar playing suddenly picked up in ability, surprisingly. “You play the guitar very well,” he told her, but she was now singing the beginning lyrics and didn’t respond back.

Once she arrived at the chorus, Evan sang the harmony, in the same alto-level as she did. He was simply able to do this, like she could. He could always seem to find the correct lower or higher harmony spots to hit and they just worked. He wasn’t sure how.

He looked out the window off and on. The girls were still listening and rocking to their performance. Greg even showed up, surprisingly, smiling and raising a fist in encouragement. Carter allowed that?

To change things up a bit, he tried to create harmony with his singing at other parts of the song. He even sang in unison with Dana a few times. She didn’t complain. She seemed happy with what he was doing. And both of them were getting the high notes easily.

Soon it was done, with a strong ending.

He focused on her. She was smiling again. And it felt great. “Why do you like that song,” he questioned, “if you don’t mind me asking?”

She held the guitar by her side and gazed down. Her face lost some of its glow, its joy. She looked at him. “Good rock song. Catchy tune. Even though not really my style.”

But that wasn’t enough. “What about the lyrics?”

“You mean that whole fate thing?”

He stared deeply, though gently into her eyes; sadness, longing laid a dull sheen in her gaze. “Yeah. Right. And not locking up something you want to see fly. I think that always hit me more.”

She nodded and turned away. “Yeah. Maybe.” She stepped over to where he had leaned his guitar and placed her guitar next to his. She walked back, happiness in her demeanor once more. “You, young man, are incredible.”

“Well, thank you, Dana. Coming from you, that’s an awesome compliment.”

She squinted at him and canted her head slightly. “Why the hell are you doing security, when you should be perfecting your band and your music?” He was about to answer when she put her palm up. “Silly me. Extra money. Forgot.” 

“Yes, right. That’s correct.” 

She kept her eyes on him. “I know this business. Doing it most of my life. I’ve been around. And let me say, you have what it takes to make it, babe.”

He smiled and felt a tinge of heat flush his face. “Well, thanks, and I think—"

But he couldn’t continue. Ben opened the door and walked in, along with Leo, and another man, Thomas, who they introduced as the mixing engineer. Chella, Savannah, the two other girls, and Carter and Greg, walked in too. Words were flying around all over the place from many of them on how great his and Dana’s singing and harmony had sounded to them, especially for a first-time practice together.

Dana didn’t let that continue for long, however. Work needed to be done. Once Ben, Leo, Carter, and Greg left the room, Dana had Evan put on the studio’s headphones so to get connected to the various tracks in need of fine tuning and accompaniment. She requested the same of Chella, Savannah and the two other backup girls. Dana practiced with Evan, for the part she wanted him to sing. He caught on quite easily and had it down pat after about five tries. Dana then walked into the room’s enclosed, window-encased vocal booth and the practice sessions began.

Thomas, always in view from the wide window opening of the next-door mixing room, worked on mixing and controlling their voices with the sound of the tracks to get things perfected.

But poor Chella. She was constantly avoiding eye contact with Evan and even with Dana at the times she didn’t need to look at her. His heart ached for her, yet he had to stay focused on his main goal. He refrained from talking to her too much, since he might make things even worse.

Yet regardless, time totally rushed by. This was actually fun! Three long hours passed by like it was nothing.

And then Dana was ready to leave.

But before they left, Dana kindly, politely did photo shoots and autograph signings with the owners and the others involved. No paps ever came in, though they did steal some photo shots when Carter led everyone to the Ram and bus. And no fans, really, except for the fans in the studio.

Once Dana was safely in the Ram and Carter had them driving away, Evan pressed back into his seat and reflected a moment. Heidi passed into his mind, that long-ago, nicer Heidi, when she had smiled at him shortly after he came back from being in the hull…felt like he was floating on a cloud, and he never wanted any of this to end.