The Standalones

Chapter Sixteen

Ken Preston

13 June 2024

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

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Chapter Sixteen

Once again, Chloe thought to herself that this was not what she had imagined life on the road with The Standalones would be like. So she hadn’t expected chauffeur-driven limousines, champagne on ice, and bodyguards chaperoning her wherever she went.

But this? A brawl in what could possibly be the roughest pub in London, and a lion prowling around too? Chloe didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or simply run away. As it was, she was too busy helping pack up the band’s kit to think too much about what happened next.

Chris had managed to navigate his way between fighting bikers and get outside with his precious keyboard. Matt and Chloe had looked after the guitars, following Chris outside. They stowed the equipment in the van and turned back to face the pub.

None of them seemed in a hurry to go back inside.

“Why on earth is it called The Dog and Whistle?” Chris said.

“More like The Lion and Whip,” Matt replied. “Maybe we should suggest a change of name to Theodora?”

A crash echoed from inside, and a hairy biker tumbled through the doorway. He climbed back on his feet, dusted himself down, and ran back inside to rejoin the fight.

“At least someone’s having fun,” Chloe said. “I wonder how Scarlett is?”

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Matt chuckled. “I wouldn’t worry about her, she loves a good scrap at a concert.”

“I suppose we should go back inside and get the drum kit,” Chris said, although he didn’t sound at all enthusiastic.

“And Scarlett,” Chloe said.

“Alright then, how about you two go and start dismantling the drum kit, and I’ll find Scarlett,” Chris suggested.

“Good idea,” Matt said.

None of them moved.

“Alright, after three,” Chloe said. “One, two, three!”

Together they ran back inside, into the heat and noise and fury of the fight. Chris disappeared into the throng of bodies in search of Scarlett.

Matt and Chloe jumped onto the stage. Together, they began dismantling the drum kit. A pint glass flew over their heads, spraying them with beer before it smashed against the wall.

Matt wiped beer out of his eyes. “Are you alright?”

“Don’t worry, I’m fine,” Chloe said, pushing wet hair off her face.

“This kind of thing doesn’t usually happen,” Chris said.

Chloe ducked as another glass of beer hurtled by. “That’s the second time you’ve said that, I’m not sure I believe you anymore.”

“Look out!” Matt shouted, grabbing hold of Chloe and pulling her in close.

A chair smashed into the stage with a loud crack as one of its legs splintered in half.

Matt held onto Chloe, hugging her close. She had her arms wrapped around him, and she could feel his breath on her cheek. For a brief moment, it seemed as though the fight happening around them disappeared. There were just Matt and Chloe, holding each other.

“Thank you,” she murmured in his ear.

“My pleasure,” Matt replied.

“You smell of beer.”

“So do you.”

“Let’s get out of here, shall we?”

“That sounds like a good idea.”

The fight was spilling onto the stage now. Scarlett suddenly appeared, crawling into view out of the melee.

“Come on, you two, what are you waiting for? We need to get out of here!”

Matt handed her a bunch of drum stands and cymbals. “Here you go.”

“Where’s Chris?” Chloe said.

“I don’t know, I thought he was with you two,” Scarlett yelled as she punched a burly biker who had got too close to her.

Chris suddenly jumped onto the stage and grabbed a cymbal in each hand. “What about the money?”

“Don’t worry, it’s here,” Chloe said, dragging the holdall out from inside the bass drum.

She paused. Something about the holdall didn’t feel right.

“What’s wrong?” Matt said.

Chloe didn’t reply, instead she unzipped the bag. Instead of the packets of money, there were her clothes and other belongings.

“This is my bag,” she said. “I’ve got my bag back.”

“Oh no!” Chris wailed, dropping the cymbals with a clang. “But where has the all the money gone?”

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