The Standalones

Chapter Forty-One

Ken Preston

9 July 2024

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

Scarlett pounded on the wooden garage doors. “Hey! Is there anybody in there?”

Silence greeted her question.

Chloe, Matt and Chris stood morosely behind her, just visible in the dark. Chloe was bone-tired and didn’t think she could walk another step. She had slipped her guitar off her shoulders and dropped her bag on the ground. They both just seemed to be getting heavier and heavier.

Again Scarlett pounded on the garage doors.

“Give it up, Scarlett,” Matt said. “The mechanic’s obviously at home and fast asleep in bed, which is where we should be.”

Scarlett turned around and yelled at Matt, “Oh, really? You think I don’t know that?”

Chris tipped his head back and groaned. “What are we going to do now? This night feels like it’s never going to end.”

Chloe looked at her watch. One in the morning. Hours and hours before sunrise. What were they going to do for the rest of the night? Where could they sleep?

“Hey,” Matt said, pointing at a collection of vehicles parked in a corner of the garage forecourt, just visible in the gloom. “Is that Max?”

Scarlett looked at where Matt was pointing. “It is! It’s Max!”

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Like a long-lost lover, Scarlett ran across the forecourt, arms outstretched as though she was going to fling them around her camper van the moment she reached it.

“That girl loves that camper van far too much,” Chris said, grinning.

“I agree, it’s not natural,” Matt replied.

Chloe lifted her guitar up and yanked the strap over her shoulder.

Matt picked up her bag. “Let me take this.” He grimaced. “Man, this is heavier than I remember.”

“Everything feels heavy, even just moving my feet feels like an act of torture, like they’ve turned into solid blocks of lead or something.”

“I know how you feel,” Matt said, as they followed Chris, walking over to the camper. “Welcome to the glamorous life of a pop star.” He grinned. “Any regrets about joining The Standalones yet?”

“Well …” Chloe put on a thoughtful look. “Let’s see, I’ve been chased by crooks, dragged into a spot of breaking and entering, almost been eaten by a lion, survived a fight with a room full of bikers, and now I’m about to spend the night sleeping on the streets.”

“So, is that a yes or a no?”

Chloe looked up at Matt. “Not a single one. A certain someone has made it all worthwhile.”

“Oh right, and who might that be?”

“Isn’t it obvious? That Chris Thomason is an amazing keyboard player, and he is sooo handsome, I just feel the need to fall into his arms every time I see him.”

“Oh, thanks a lot!” Matt burst out laughing.

“Come here, you.” Chloe threw her free arm around Matt and hugged him. “It’s you, it’s only you and nobody else who makes my life worth living!”

“Alright, no need to go over the top,” Matt said, hugging Chloe back.

When they caught up with the others, they found Scarlett with her cheek pressed up against the camper van window.

“Well, I’m glad we found Max Switchblade and all, but we’re still stuck out on the streets for the rest of the night,” Chris said.

Scarlett turned around. “No we’re not!” With a flourish, she produced a key. “I have a spare key!”

“Scarlett, I think I love you!” Chris said, laughing.

Scarlett opened the door, and they climbed gratefully into the van, and collapsed on the seating.

“I never thought I would be so happy to be inside this camper van as I am right now,” Matt groaned.

“I think I might sleep for a week,” Chloe said.

“You can’t do that, we’ve got a gig tomorrow night remember,” Chris pointed out.

Everyone groaned.

“Let’s sort this place out a bit and then we can get some shut-eye,” Scarlett said, gesturing at the band’s equipment.

Chloe grasped the handles of her bag to drag it closer. “I can’t believe how heavy this has got. I swear it wasn’t this heavy earlier in the evening.”

Everyone froze.

“You don’t think…?”

“No, it’s not possible.”

“I can’t believe it!”

“Oh no, please no…”

With trembling hands, Chloe reached out to her bag and tugged at the zip. The bag opened, revealing packs of twenty-pound notes stuffed inside.