Suzie Tremors and the Barbarians of Speed

Chapter Two

Ken Preston

9 February 2024

An illustraation of an angry punk woman screaming into a microphone.

That night I first saw her, I hung around after the show finished. I needed to photograph her. A portrait, showing all the blood and the sweat and that wild, messed up rage in her eyes. A photo like that would pay my rent for a month, easy.

Of course she didn’t give a shit about me or my rent. What I hadn’t realised was that after the show she plummeted, all that rage, all that adrenaline, just drained away like water down the Niagara falls.

I found her slumped on the floor backstage, sitting in a pool of beer or piss, I really couldn’t tell you.

She looked up at me and said, ‘Who the hell are you?’

I held up my Leica. ‘Can I get a photo?’

‘Get lost.’

You’ve got to understand, she was terrifying, even back then. Especially for someone like me, a kid just out of college, face covered in pimples, and a haircut the wrong side of cool. So I did as she said, and I got lost.

But I turned up again the next night. She was crazier than before, cutting herself across her chest, exposing herself to catcalls and jeers. Drinking too, big long pulls on plastic cups full of beer sloshing down her T-shirt, frothing in puddles on the stage.

The tiny audience hated her just as much as the previous night. Maybe more.

At the end of the show I found her again, slumped on the floor, all that energy gone.

A hand on my shoulder. ‘Where you think you going, man?’

I didn’t have to turn around to know that was Nazgul behind me. The iron grip on my shoulder. That lisp, from all the piercings in his lips and tongue.

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‘S’all right,’ Suzie said, her voice slurred. ‘Kid just wants my picture.’

Nazgul let go.

I lifted the Leica and took a snap. I wouldn’t bother printing that one, it wasn’t what I wanted. That was just a warmup. What I needed was to get down on her level, up close and real personal. It’s the eyes, you know? It’s always the eyes.

I knelt on the floor in front of Suzie, my knees growing damp in that puddle of beer or piss. She stared right at me, a hint of that rage blossoming in her eyes. I lifted the Leica and focused, filling the frame with her face. That was it. That was what I needed.

I got out of there fast, all my bravado, like Suzie’s rage, suddenly disappearing now that I had what I wanted. But that hand on my shoulder stopped me at the door.

Nazgul.

‘Suzie wants to know, you coming back tomorrow?’

And that’s how I wound up being Suzie Tremors’ tour photographer.

Don’t look at me like that.

Yeah, I know, you want to get straight to the good stuff.

But don’t rush me, okay? You’ve got to let me tell the story, I’ve got to try and get it straight in my head, you know?

You getting all this down?

All right then.

Six months. Felt like a lifetime, but it was just six months. Now she’s gone, and I’m the only one left to tell the story. The only witness.

Henry Ng was the one. Changed everything. Don’t know where he came from, who he was. Just turned up one night, dressed sharp, all in black, like the bad guy in one of those old cowboy movies.

Suzie, she fascinated him. He was all over her, his eyes, his hands, his lips, that soft mouth of his up against her ear, talking. Suzie listened to him, she lapped it all up. Ordinarily she would have given someone like that a swift boot to his knackers. Maybe clawed at his eyes for good measure.

But not Ng. Somehow he’d got under her skin, got inside her skull, and she worshipped him just as much as he worshipped her.

The rest of us, we were just hangers on.

Leeches.

‘You’re too good for them,’ he would say.

‘They’re sucking you dry,’ he’d say.

He’d tell her, ‘You should shed them.’

‘You’re better than they are.’

‘Shed them like a skin,’ he’d whisper into her ear, but loud enough that we could hear him.

Ng said he wanted to give Suzie the backing band she truly deserved. And he knew just the man to do it for her.

Suzie jettisoned Sickboy, and Nazgul, and Ratzo. Told them they were surplus to requirements.

No longer needed.

Not fit for purpose anymore.

Told them they were a bunch of shitheads who would be nothing, nobodies, without Suzie.

‘What about the kid?’ Ng said.

‘Not him,’ Suzie said.

‘He stays with me,’ she said.

‘He’s recording my life in silver nitrate,’ she said.

Ng didn’t argue.

Nobody argued with Suzie.

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