The Standalones

Chapter Seven

Ken Preston

04 June 2024

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

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Chapter Seven

It’s us versus them, Chloe thought, looking at Matt. At least I’m not the only one who thinks we should take this money to the police. And what about my clothes and my song sheets? How am I going to get anything back?

“And here’s another reason not to go to the coppers,” Chris was saying. “They’ll keep us forever, answering questions and filling out forms and stuff. We can’t afford to waste the time, we’ve got to rehearse.”

“And we need to check out Bass Girl here, find out if she’s as good as you say she is,” Scarlett said. “We’re taking an awful chance taking on a new lead singer and bass player this close to our next gig.”

The four of them were sitting at a table in Mac’s Cafe, known for serving the best pie and mash in London. Chris and Scarlett were sitting on one side and Chloe and Matt the other. Chloe had been relieved when Matt sat next to her. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the others, but Matt seemed more in tune with her, and perhaps a little protective of her, too.

Plus, she couldn’t help but keep noticing he was cute.

Since they had sat down in the cafe, Matt had seemed a little subdued. At first, Chloe thought it was because of all the discussion they were having about the bag of money and what they should do with it. But then a new thought occurred to Chloe, and she wondered if he was upset about Lexi. After all, if they had been girlfriend and boyfriend once, Matt could easily have some feelings left for her. Was he maybe feeling guilty that he had left her behind? Was he even wondering if he had made a mistake in breaking up with her?

Chloe needed to get his attention, get him noticing her and forgetting all about Lexi.

And maybe now was the perfect moment to do just that.

“Why don’t I show you how good I am?” Chloe said.

Chris had hauled the bag of money into the cafe with them, nervous about leaving it unattended in the van, and stuffed the bag under their table. Chloe had brought her bass guitar with her. This was the only possession she had left, and she wasn’t about to let it out of her sight. Without her guitar, she was useless to the band, and she might as well go home.

Chloe extricated her legs from beneath the formica table, stood up, and pulled her bass guitar from its case. She slung the strap over her shoulder. A few customers turned their heads at the sight of this young woman with her feet planted wide apart, guitar at the ready. Were they about to be treated to an impromptu concert?

Swallowing a sudden onrush of nerves, Chloe began playing. Her fingers raced across the frets as she plucked and strummed at the strings. Without an amplifier, there was no power to blast the bass notes around the cafe, but the rest of the band seated at the table could see and hear well enough.

“She’s good, alright,” Scarlett murmured.

“She’s better than good, she’s amazing,” Matt said.

“I told you,” Chris said, leaning back in his chair and grinning.

Now to really hit them with it, Chloe thought.

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She was playing their song, A Little Less Patience, and now she opened her mouth and began to sing.

All conversation stopped, and all heads turned to Chloe as her beautiful voice rang around the cafe. Her fingers flew across the frets, keeping the rhythm going, keeping her anchored to the song. A Little Less Patience was one of her favourites, a two minute pop song, brilliant in its simplicity. Consisting of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, repeat the first verse, musical break, and finishing with the chorus repeating as the sound levels faded, it didn’t outstay its welcome and left the listener wanting more.

Chloe finished the song with a flourish after repeating the chorus twice and was met with a round of applause and cheers from the cafe’s customers and staff. Giggling, Chloe performed a deep bow and then sat down again.

“So, am I in the band?” she said.

The other three looked at her in stunned silence.

“Oh yes,” Matt said, finally. “You’re most definitely in the band.”

Chloe’s cheeks flushed at his words.

He was staring at Chloe wide-eyed and with his mouth hanging open. Chloe had most definitely got his attention, and she was pretty sure he’d forgotten all about Lexi for the moment, too.

Scarlett drummed a swift, short beat on the table with her hands and then clapped them together. “That was amazing! We are going to ace this audition on Monday.”

“We’ve still got to hire a studio to record our demo, though,” Chris reminded her. “No demo, no audition, no contract.”

“I agree, but I still don’t think we should use this money,” Matt said, nudging the bag under the table with his foot.

Scarlett leaned forward across the table. “Alright, how about this idea?” She paused to make sure everybody was paying attention. “What if we just borrow some of the money to hire a studio? Then, when we’ve played the two gigs, we can replace it and take the bag of cash to the cops.”

Chris nodded. “That’s a good idea. That way we make sure we’ve got time in the studio booked, maybe we could even book extra just to give us an edge. After all, we’ve never played together as a foursome, have we?”

Chloe squirmed in her seat. Although this was a better idea than simply keeping the money, she still wasn’t entirely comfortable with it. And she could see Matt felt the same. But Chris and Scarlett were right, they needed some cash to book recording time in a studio. If they didn’t have a professional demo tape for the record label talent spotters, they had no chance of securing a deal.

After mulling it over for a few moments, and with a brief glance at Chloe, Matt said, “Alright, as long as we are all agreed that we replace that cash at the earliest opportunity and we hand it in to the cops.”

“Absolutely,” Chris said solemnly, whilst Scarlett nodded beside him.

Chloe nodded her agreement too, and did her best to ignore the queasy feeling of unease in the pit of her stomach.

“Alright then!” Scarlett exclaimed. “That’s all settled and we’re good to go for the gig tonight, right?”

Chris suddenly groaned and dropped his head in his hands.

“What’s wrong with you?” Matt asked.

“I’ve just realised, I left my keyboard back at the flat!”

“Oh man!” Scarlett groaned. “You idiot! How on earth could you forget your keyboard?”

“It’s not my fault, I hadn’t finished packing and then we had to leave so fast I just forgot all about it.”

“So, what do we do now?” Matt said.

“We’ve got to get it back,” Chris said. “We can’t play the gig tonight without my keyboard.”

“Right, I can just see Danny Lamb welcoming us back and handing over your keyboard with a smile and a cheery wave,” Matt said.

“What are we going to do?” Chloe asked, echoing Matt’s question.

Scarlett leaned across the table, beckoning everyone in closer. “Simple. We’re going to return to the flat and steal it back, that’s what.”