Welcome back everyone! I hope you had a chance to visit my midweek mini-series,
The Sign of the Ape. I’m telling the story in support of Get Caught Reading Month. Yes, I know — that’s supposed to be May. But the intrepid group of bloggers was so excited, and I needed it to be a midweek post, so that it didn’t get in the way of this road trip. Learn more about it here.
This Week’s Featured Blogger
Recently it was my honor to do a guest post for Kristina Stanley for her Mystery Mondays. We had a great time with a discussion of What’s in a Name. Yes, I can get downright obsessed with naming my characters, as some of you have heard.
Pay a visit to her blog to learn more about Kristina and her Stone Mountain Murder Mystery Series. The series has three novels, Descent, Blaze and Avalanche, and she’s working on a fourth. Drop by her blog and say hello.
So I took the “things” I’ve worked into this installment from Kristina’s blog and marvelous mystery books. Look for descent, murder mystery, and Monday to be worked into the text of this installment of The Guitar Mancer.
About This Episode
In the 1990s when I wrote the original fantasy/romance version of The Guitar Mancer, I naively wanted each chapter to be connected to a song that reflected the plot of that chapter. Santana’s version of Black Magic Woman was the heroine’s theme. It played in my mind the entire time I worked on that version. Carlos Santana’s guitar still rings in the recesses of my mind whenever I work on or even think about this story.
Have you noticed that I tend to leave extra clues in the comments section? Last time Lord David Prossor commented about the “totems” mentioned in Episode 5. Here’s the hint I left in reply. “… there’s more than you’ve been led to believe about this cat. As for Freyja, she has something else on her mind, and won’t be likely to obey her mancer’s wishes to stay out of it.” Read carefully to learn more about that in this installment.
Many of you have commented that Luci’s dad, Grover, seems to be hiding something. In this episode you’ll learn a touch more about that, though not everything.
If we sat down with a paper copy of The Guitar Mancer, this installment would begin Chapter 3. We go back to Luci’s point of view. We had left Luci in Episode 3, trying to make sure her dad went to his reunion. So let’s get the 1959 Caddy back on the road.
Episode 6 — Audition
Luci rode in the car with her dad to Berry Field, the Metropolitan Nashville Airport. He seemed much more excited about this reunion than she had realized. Yet Grover also seemed very apprehensive about leaving her behind. She hadn’t expected her father to suddenly become a bundle of contradictions.
“Daddy, I’ll be fine. I just got my first real job, after months of trying to find one. So I can’t very well ask for a vacation before my first day of work,” she reminded him. “Now you just have a good time,” she insisted. “Stay on with your friends even after the reunion. You said they offered. This is the kind of thing people are supposed to do when they retire!” she told him with a grin.
He gave Luci a look so soulful that even a puppy would have been hard pressed to imitate it.
“About your job… Sweetheart I know you’re real excited about it, but maybe it’s not such a good idea,” her dad suggested in a reluctant tone.
She was so surprised that she didn’t know what to say, but her dad filled the silence. “I mean the record industry, and you being associated with that business,” Grover spoke hesitantly. “That’s no place for good ordinary folk. You’d meet all sorts of people that you’re better off not knowing.”
“Come on Dad! It’s not like a descent into hell. I could and do meet people who could be a bad influence anywhere — if I’d let them,” Luci defended her the new job even though she had not yet started work.
“It’s not just that,” Grover pushed, clearly not willing to let the matter rest. “There’s sort of a… a family problem that I’ve never told you about. It might be really bad for you to be around people performing music. Okay, I see that you don’t buy that, but it’s true. In our family, music can be like an addiction. Yes — that’s it, an addiction,” he added almost as if to convince himself. “It doesn’t happen in every generation. I think… I hope it skipped you, but I just can’t know for sure.”
Luci was mystified by her father’s very odd conversation. Something like that could explain why he wouldn’t talk about his past as a band director for the USO. However, it seemed more likely that it was just nerves. He must be overly worried about leaving her alone while he was going to be more than a shout away.
“You’re not making any sense, Dad. A music addiction? Get real. For one thing, I’m not a musician. There is not a single instrument that I have any idea how to play. Even if I did, I’m not going to be working in the recording studio. They will absolutely not want me being a nuisance in there. I’ll be in an office doing bookkeeping and other office stuff,” she assured him.
His puppy dog eyes studied her carefully. She tried to calm herself before continuing. “Look, I’ve heard of movie and music stars being hooked on performing. How they just can’t live without the applause and worship of their fans. But you know me better than that. Besides, like I said, I can’t play anything to begin with. I promise you that I will not fall in with the wrong crowd at work or anywhere else. Okay?” Luci insisted.
“Some people are late bloomers,” Grover replied, still not giving up his position but Luci only looked at him and shook her head.
Grover took a deep breath and expelled it in a big whoosh. “You’re right Luci,” he said and reached over to give her hand a squeeze. “And I know you’ll be watched over.”
Luci’s eyes narrowed as she looked at her dad. She remembered the conversation between him and that musician from the studio, Tam. They used to know each other. If he meant he had somebody practically babysitting her…
“You know,” he said pointing heavenward.
Grover drove them right up to the industrial looking building made of blue siding and glass. In front it had a wide wall of glass all around the front doors. A sign affixed at the roofline proclaimed, “Welcome to NASHVILLE.”
He leaned over and gave his daughter a peck on the check and a seated hug. Then he got out of the car and Luci scooted over to the driver’s seat. Grover wouldn’t let her go inside to see him off. At first Luci thought that was because he didn’t want her to cry. However, she was beginning to wonder if he would be the one to break down in sobs.
“Hey Dad,” she said, stopping him before he got a step away from the car. “You forgot your book.”
She held a paperback murder mystery out the car window to him. Grover Harper had a penchant for mystery stories. Luci knew her dad would have missed having the book on the flight. She smiled as he stuck the book in the pocket of his sport coat and gave it a little pat.
As she pushed herself across the bench seat of the Malibu, Luci noticed the vinyl folder containing her resumes in the floorboard where she had forgotten it earlier. When she picked it up she saw that one of the forms she’d had to sign was caught on a paper clip.
Mr. Blaylock was supposed to get that form. She wondered if anyone was still at the studio. Luci decided to go to the facility, just in case. She didn’t want to get off to a bad start.
Luci was in luck when she reached Blaylock Sound Magic Studios. The doors were open and several people were still there. Matt Blaylock greeted her warmly and asked her if she’d like to watch some auditions.
A voice from the studio area reached the lobby, and Matt made a wry face. It was Ray Dean Simms, complaining about one of the musicians.
“You can’t be serious! He auditioned with Fats Domino’s Blue Monday. That’s from the 50s. I need to hear what these people can do with modern stuff!” Ray Dean shouted.
Matt rolled his eyes heavenward. “We’ve been auditioning guitarists to back up Ray Dean,” the big man told her. “It can be hard to please him,” Matt whispered and Luci nodded in sympathy.
“After the auditions we’re going to have a little New Year’s Eve party right here. You’re welcome to stick around if you want,” he offered but seemed to read reluctance in her face. “But that really is last-minute notice. I realize you probably already have plans,” he said affably.
Her shyness kicked into overdrive at the sudden prospect of being in a roomful of people she’d never met before, and for a New Year’s Eve party no less. Everybody would already be paired off and supposed to have someone to kiss at midnight. Luci found parties terribly uncomfortable, even when she knew everyone.
She felt like bolting for the door then and there, but she did want to watch the audition. Luci had never seen anything like that and it would be a good introduction to some of the work her new employer conducted. Matt didn’t push her, and that helped settle her nerves. He smiled and gave her a “gentle” pat on the back that made her stumble.
Luci saw Ray Dean walking around, pretending to check out the instruments, while keeping a suspicious eye on a musician who had walked in just ahead of Luci.
The man had long jet black hair with rippling waves. He wore a leather vest with no shirt under it. The thought of wearing that get-up on December 31st made Luci shiver, but the man didn’t appear to feel the cold. He had a lot of tattoos, though she couldn’t see what they were. It was very unusual to see someone with so many tattoos, so his appearance raised eyebrows and caused whispers among the studio regulars. He looked more like a rock musician than country, but she knew studio musicians crossed genera all the time.
Ray Dean motioned for her to come closer. “Who is that overdone hippie?” he whispered to her, but Luci had no idea.
Then an impish impulse overcame her and she couldn’t resist subtly taking a jab at the egotistical Ray Dean. She remembered how he’d acted at that first brief meeting.
“I don’t know. He’s right nice looking though,” she said with a quick sideways glance at the minor celebrity. “I bet he can really play too,” she added at which Ray Dean’s face went red and he stalked away.
Ray Dean Simms had made a bad first impression on Luci, but he probably would have rubbed her the wrong way even if he’d been polite. The truth was that Luci had not gotten a good look at the strange musician’s face. She was unaccustomed to tattoos, so they didn’t appeal to her. In other words she was not attracted to the musician. She only said he was “right nice looking” because she knew it would annoy Ray Dean.
Matt walked over to her, chuckling. “You have a great way with people, young lady,” he said dryly.
Luci’s only reply was a wide-eyed expression of innocence and a shrug. She silently hoped she hadn’t gone too far.
Her new employer motioned for her to follow him and he moved back to the strange musician. Matt looked down at the clipboard he carried. “Ya-ma-ta Or-o-chi?” he sounded out the name carefully. “That sounds like Japanese, but you don’t really look Japanese son,” he commented and the musician merely shrugged.
Luci tried to look at the man without being conspicuous. She could be shy that way, especially when meeting men. Like her new employer, she thought he might have been Japanese, but he might have been several other things too. Maybe he was of mixed descent. She hoped Matt Blaylock would drop that line of conversation before the man became offended.
“Maybe you ought to leave that guitar at home for a while,” Matt said jokingly to the man in the leather vest. “Naturally I can see that it’s a reproduction, but there might be some as would think it really is B. B. King’s Lucille. And if you didn’t know, she was stolen here recently.”
The man gave a wordless nod that was respectful enough. For a musician anyway. Then his gaze fell upon Luci and she thought her knees would give way. He spoke with a trace of an accent, but she couldn’t begin to place it. Pale gray eyes pierced hers as though he could wrench out her very soul just by glancing at her. He was tall, gorgeous, and exotic.
Luci was so shy that just looking at him was enough to frighten her. There was something indefinable about him that gave her chills.
Yamata Orochi locked his eyes onto hers and he began to play. Not once did he look down at frets or strings. His fingers moved over the guitar with surety and grace. The notes never faltered, their pattern simple, yet intricately worked. The guitar solo turned out to be a lead-in to Black Magic Woman, but it was different than Fleetwood Mac had ever played it.
The style of music might not be likely to win him a gig at a country music audition, but he did not seem in the least concerned. Ray Dean and Matt both stood in open mouthed surprise, first at his selection of material and then in shock at his artistry.
With the first haunting repetition of notes, the melody crawled up Luci’s spine in icy anticipation. The guitarist’s pale eyes continued to hold hers in an iron grip from which she could not break free.
The music began as a caress, and then built in sensuality, drawing her into its embrace. The melody’s gentle nature quickly turned to poignant longing, and the chill spread from her spine to encompass her body.
Luci felt rather than saw the studio musicians and technical staff gathering. She could not pry her eyes from Orochi’s to turn and see everyone, but she knew with certainty that they stood mesmerized, watching him play.
The sound of the guitar filled every corner of her mind, each note a glittering jeweled dagger, which pierced her heart.
Melody coiled around her from within, reaching out tentatively, as though it would control the movements of her body, while reaching ever deeper inside, as if to envelop her soul.
The guitar wailed in ecstasy and pain while tears of disquiet slid down her cheeks. Matt unabashedly wiped a tear from his eye. The guitarist added unique embellishments to the song that would have left anyone envious.
Finally he disengaged the hold he had on her gaze. The power of his stare was so strong she nearly collapsed when he finally looked away. Luci felt the inexplicable need to escape. She thanked Matt Blaylock and hurried out of the studio and to her car. The Malibu burned rubber as she left the parking lot.
Carlos Santana — Black Magic Woman
End serial episode 6
Did you notice there was not a food “thing” for this installment? I started looking for something in the episode that I could relate to a recipe, but I didn’t find anything. Then I remembered one of Kristina’s book titles — Avalanche. I was sure that there must be either a drink or a dish called an avalanche…. and there was!
Crispy Avalanche Bars
That’s one avalanche I could enjoy.
Carlos Santana’s guitar in Black Magic Woman has permanent residence in a special corner of my mind. I hope you enjoyed this installment of The Guitar Mancer. Do you remember that “new totem” from Episode 5 that Bodaway Thunder said was about to show up? It arrives next time, so stay tuned. Until then — be groovy and mega hugs!
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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