The Standalones

Chapter Ten

Ken Preston

07 June 2024

Silhouette of a rock band against a spotlight and the words The Standalones

The Dog and Whistle looked like it might be the kind of pub where Jack the Ripper had hung out, back in the 1880s. It also looked like it hadn’t had a lick of paint or even been cleaned since Jack the Ripper’s last visit.

“Seriously? We’re playing here?” Scarlett said, as she gazed at the peeling paint, the filthy windows, and the weeds sprouting from the brickwork. “Is it even open for business still?”

“It was the best I could do at such short notice,” Chris said.

Scarlett sighed. “We so need a manager.”

Chloe flinched at a drop of cold rain landing on her face. She tilted her head back and looked at the heavy clouds overhead.

“I think we should head inside before the heavens open and we are drenched,” she said.

The four of them traipsed into the pub and were suddenly brought up short by a lion.

It bared its teeth and a low growl rumbled up from its chest.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” Chris said.

As one, they backed up a step. The lion growled again, muscles and tendons rippling beneath its fur. It jumped onto a table, its ears lying flat along its skull. An old man, sitting at a table in a far corner and nursing a half-finished pint of beer, looked over and cackled. Besides him, the pub was deserted.

“I am never letting you book us a venue ever again!” Matt hissed at Chris. “What is this place, a zoo?”

Chris reached out a trembling hand towards the lion. “There, there, nice pussycat.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, she’ll take your hand off,” a voice called out.

Chris snatched his hand back with a tiny yelp of surprise.

A tall woman clad in leather trousers, jacket and boots, and holding a whip, walked into the bar.

“Elsa, come here!” The woman cracked the whip.

With one last longing look at her potential meal, Elsa licked her lips, jumped off the table, and reluctantly padded over to the woman, who dropped a hand onto Elsa’s neck and began ruffling the fur.

“She’s a softy, really.” As if to prove the point, the lion rubbed her head against the woman’s thigh and purred. “Now, who are you?”

“Um, we’re The Standalones,” Matt said. “We’re playing here tonight?”

The woman placed the tip of the whip against her chin and thought for a moment. “Oh yes, the pop group.” She held out a hand in greeting. “I’m Theodora Franklin-Vixen. Follow me.” Without waiting for anyone to shake her hand, she turned and walked through a doorway, the lioness following her.

“A lion,” Chloe said. “That woman keeps a lion as a pet.”

“What does everyone think?” Matt said. “We could leave now, right now, and just forget about this gig altogether.”

“Are you crazy?” Scarlett said. “This is amazing!”

With that, she ran through the doorway after the lion. Chris looked at the others, shrugged, and followed Scarlett.

Matt took Chloe’s hand in his. “Are you alright? Life with The Standalones isn’t usually this mad.”

Chloe’s insides tingled at Matt’s touch. Even though she had only known him for a few short hours, she felt that she could trust him. Not only that, but she now knew for definite that she was seriously falling for him. After rescuing Chris’s keyboard from Danny Lamb, Chloe and Matt had barely stopped talking about it and laughing. And it seemed like they were both drawing closer to each other.

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