This is the third and final part of our exploration of That Time Merit Was In a Band. This story held the kernel of Merit’s character, and a lot of campy laughs, as well as appearances by some names you’ll recognize from the CV world.
Enjoy Part 3 in all its campy glory!
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The room had to be the office, although it wasn’t so much a room, actually, as the back quarter of the building’s first and second floors. A partition had been built separating it from the rest of the club, but the exposed brick walls and tile floors were the same. Pendulum lights hung from the ceiling above us, and a large, glass desk on tubular steel columns sat near the back wall. There were three conversation groupings in front of the desk — two modern leather and steel chairs directly before the desk, another grouping of angular furniture surrounding a gleaming black table in the middle of the room, and, nearest the door, a set of two wide, leather benches that faced each other. The entire space must have been at least 60 feet long.
By the time I’d surveyed the room, Greer was thumbing through materials on the desk at the other end of the space, his back to me.
“I could waste less of your time if you’d quit ignoring me,” I heard myself say. Apparently, I’d opted for the direct route. Good to know.
I suppose he found what he was looking for, as he’d grabbed a manilla folder and was heading back toward my end of the space. He still hadn’t spoken. I forced myself to stay still, to stand straight, to will him to speak to me.
Still looking down at the folder, he stopped three feet in front of me and glanced up.
“My time is precious, Ms. O’Connell,” he said. Greer took this turn at sizing me up, his eyes raking my figure from my pink, patent heels up, taking long seconds to return to my face. The sensation wasn’t so much that he was checking me out, as that he was evaluating me, sizing me up, as if I was a potential enemy.
“I heard your band.” He’d said “band” derisively, as if he was doing us a favor by using that word.
“And?” I asked.
“And, that was enough.” He started back toward the door, his arm brushing mine as he passed me.
“Are you capable of speaking more than a handful of words at a time?” I asked him. That stopped him. He turned, and glared at me over the top of his glasses.
“Yes,” he said with a charming smile. “I am.” He paused. “Ms. O’Connell.”
“That was still only five,” I said quickly. “Surely a man of your entrepreneurial prowess can count higher than that.” I regretted the words the instant they were out of my mouth. I had a temper that I was usually able to control; while his holier-than-thou crap was irritating, he was a potential employer. A realization struck me—I was going to be the subject of one of those cautionary “How Not to Get a Job” stories. Bloody hell.
Greer had apparently reached the end of his leash; the smugness disappeared, replaced by an almost tangible anger. I jumped into the silence before he could say anything I’d regret hearing.
“I’m really sorry, Mr. Greer. That was incredibly unprofessional. I’m sure you’re very busy tonight.” Quick, Kate, think of something nice to say.
“I like your office. It’s very ‘post-modern schoolhouse,’” I said, with a wave of the hand. That sounded stupid, but it was true. The office furniture was a weird choice for the heavy, brick building, but it worked.
He didn’t respond, but glided back toward me, a vaguely threatening look on his face. My heart pounded in my chest. I’d just pissed off a large man in the very empty back of a large building.
Would anyone hear me if I screamed? And what had Mallory said—that he was a vampire? Wouldn’t that be just my luck? I imagined tomorrow’s headlines: “Local Neurotic Girl Mouths Off to Undead, Deserves Slaying.” Nice. Catchy.
“It’s not my office. It’s the manager’s office,” he said, now barely inches away. “I don’t work in this building. I own this building.” He said it with such arrogance, such disdain that I nearly spoke up again.
“And you’ve got a temper,” he continued. It would behoove you to take care around me, Catherine.”
I swallowed. “Kate,” I said softly.
Greer arched a brow. I was beginning to hate that little affectation.
“It would behoove you to take care around me, Kate,” he said. “Some of us are less . . . patient than others.”
“Some of who?”
He was quiet, and a knowing smile playing across his face, but ignored my question.
“You should consider playing without the rest of your ensemble. They’re distracting.” That would have elicited a comment had he not raised his hand toward my face. I wondered, for a moment, if he was going to hit me, but he only touched a lock of my hair then quickly dropped his hand again. He turned back toward the door and marched toward it. His hands were clenched tightly at his sides.
He halted when he reached the closed door and, opening it slowly, glanced back at me. “Every other Friday, alternating Saturdays,” he said, just before walking out of the room. “You can practice on Sunday afternoons.”
I smiled, relieved. That was at least one more show than we usually got.
“Good going, slinky black thing,” I said to myself, humming as I skipped out of the room.
# # #
A smile still on my face, I headed back to the stage to relieve Mallory and company, although I’d conveniently forget to mention Greer’s suggestion that I abandon my crew. The dark hallway between the office and auditorium was still quiet. It seemed oddly silent, I thought, even for early on a Friday night.
Without warning, a man appeared in front of me. He dressed completely in black, his short, dark hair standing up in a rake of prickly spikes.
“Hello,” he said. His voice was somehow soothing, although some tiny bit of terror clawed its way through that softness.
“Hi,” I said back, trying to sound casual.
“How was he?” the man asked, raising my hand to his lips. “Was he good? We hear he’s very good.”
I blinked. Was he insinuating that Greer and I had had sex?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, pulling my hand away. The man stepped back, evaluated me, and turned his head quickly to each side as if looking for someone. He wore a long black jacket over black pants; the jacket had a short, upturned collar and was fastened by a series of knots. The jacket skimmed his knees, and the arms were long, as well, falling into a bell at least four inches below his hands.
“No need to play innocent, darling,” he said, moving closer again. “I saw him leave.”
I ignored the implication. I heard the sound of singing echo from the front of the building; Greer had evidently moved on with the auditions. That thought made me nervous; as uncomfortable as I had been in his office, they would definitely not hear me scream over the thrums of what’s-her-name’s music. Greer had abandoned me in back of a largely deserted building with this creepy pervert. Lovely.
The man smiled at me, revealing a set of white teeth otherwise unremarkable but for the incredibly long canines.
“Nice teeth,” I said. “But goth night isn’t until Tuesday. No need to wear the caps until then.”
“No caps, love,” he said, glancing behind him once more. “I am Stewart.” He said his name as if I’d recognize it.
“Doesn’t ring a bell,” I said. Stewart didn’t like that, and walked forward again. I backed quickly away, but met the wall behind me. Poor planning on my part, but then I hadn’t planned on being accosted at my increasingly insane audition.
“We will become closer, you and I,” he said, waving his hand in front of my eyes. My vision went blurry. Some quiet voice in the back of my mind called my name, urged me to run, but I felt suddenly relaxed, the tension draining from my arms in a wash of warmth. Stewart seemed like a nice enough fellow, I thought. If security let him into the club, he was okay by me. I really like his spiky hair.
Something about the ludicrousness of that last thought shook me from my haze. Had he bewitched me? Crap.
He continued to move closer, his arms finally resting on my shoulders his right hand brushed the hair away from my neck. I tried to move, but my arms felt like concrete, heavy and immobile at my sides. I couldn’t move. Oh, this was very bad.
I tried to scream, but the sound caught in my throat. Was this really happening? And what was “this” exactly? I pushed my chest against the man as hard as I could, but couldn’t dislodge him. He was incredibly strong, and I felt incredibly caged in.
Tears welled in my eyes as he lowered his mouth to my neck. Stewart’s breath was hot and his canines—I think I could safely call them ‘fangs’ at this point—grazed my shoulder. I tried to remember the press conferences—well-dressed, chic vampires explaining to the media how different they were from the horror stories. Either they were lying, or this guy was some deranged vampire outsider. Were the vampires cliquey?
As Stewart moved ever so much closer, I mentally willed someone to get their ass backstage and find me. Hadn’t Mallory or Joe even wondered where I’d gone? Greer had to have made it back in the audience by now—the second band was playing.
“Stop!” I heard the sound echo strongly in my brain a second before the words trickled feebly out of my mouth.
I cursed Greer under my breath and wished that Lucky was here. Stuff like this never happened when he was around. Thrown from my bike at 16? Lucky finds me in a resting comfortably in someone’s front-yard cabbage bed. Nearly pitched down a flight of stairs by an angry cheerleader at 18? Lucky catches me before I go airborne.
The preliminaries were over. With a speed that shocked me, Stewart sank his teeth into the well between my neck and shoulder. I groaned with pain—a lot of pain—and he tightened his vise-like grip on my arms and he drank his fill of me. Tears sprang to my eyes.
Wasn’t the theory that people who were, well, bitten, got to have some kind of orgasmic high or mental block in exchange for the pain and blood loss? That was so not happening to me. Moments passed—maybe minutes, maybe seconds. I wasn’t sure. I stood there, completely unable to help myself, tears falling quickly down my cheeks as Stewart sucked the wound at my neck.
He was finally finished and pulled his teeth away from me. I took a deep breath, and found that I could lift my arms.
“Get OFF me!” I yelled, my voice finally working again. And, miraculously, he did. He’d been holding me up so tightly, my knees buckled and I fell hard on my bottom. I sat, and stared, for what felt like an eternity. My hands felt new — I lifted them, looked, turned them over. What had happened?
I looked up, and realized that the man hadn’t just removed himself—he’d been pulled off. He was struggling, fighting with someone. Who was that? It was darker, now. The edges of my vision turned blurry and sparkly, and then there was nothing.
# # #
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this look at bizarro Merit. 🙂