By: Dr. Rocket with Ms. Gonzo
The capacity crowd at Wild Bill’s Saloon were wildly yet amiably drunk that late August night, and some had also gotten high out in the parking lot. All were on their feet. The sweaty young Texas hipsters knew that this was the final performance of Suze’s band, and many in the crowd were her loyal fans that had packed the dive full every Friday for the last three months. They shouted, driven into a frenzy that was electrifyingly tribal.
Suze, inspired, threw every last trick she had at the revelers. Her vocal chops were up, and she felt locked in with the band as they pounded out tune after tune in sequence, barely stopping between the songs. Suze grinned in triumph. They had never sounded better.
“You’ve got to shake your money maker” she shouted, wagging her rump for emphasis. Most of the men and not a few of the women yowled for joy at her antics as she sang the old blues tune Elmore James had recorded back at the start of the 60’s. “Last tune, let’s give it everything we got,” Suze laughed. The guitar player grinned and responded with a scorching slide guitar riff, making the crowd roar yet again.
Suze and her band were indeed all over after tonight, and she was fleeing her home town of Garland to escape to California for multiple reasons. She belted out her vocals joyously, the band throbbing beneath her soaring voice like a pump. She danced and whirled in a trance, and fed off the music and crowd with gleeful abandon.
“More,” came the chant for an encore, and Suze was ready. “I just wanna say you are the best audience ever, no jive. I love every person here forever, and thanks for outrageous send off.” She paused, and the packed mass of bodies quieted. This was the end of an era.
“There is no doubt about what this encore should be…” Some guy in the back yelled drunkenly, and Suze laughed, along with the crowd, then brashly stood right at the edge of the stage. The drummer kicked in with a Motown fill, and she sang with her most gravelly tone:
“Money, who needs it?
Let me live a life free and easy
Put a toothbrush in my hand,
And call me a travelin’ woo-man!
I’m a road runner baby!”
Saul the sax player wailed the Junior Walker sax line as she teased the audience by leaning over to expose deep cleavage, then jumped back up and into the air, cavorting and prancing. Suze was especially aware of the hungry looks that Rob, the bass player, shot at her. She was momentarily startled by his intense expression, but after all, they had a special plan set up. She grinned at him and turned away back into the spotlight. Everything was just perfect. Just perfect.
“I don’t want no man
To tie me down
I gotta be free, baby
To roam around…”
Aware of her meaning, their shouting mouths roared anew, their arms reached out and up.
“All my life, I’ve been like this
If you love me it’s your own risk..”
Suze sang the verses with emphasis, knowing what was coming. She nodded at Rob.
“Thanks gang, I’ll never forget you. Hey, let’s give the drummer some!”
In response, Mack launched into a furious solo. The crowd ate it up as Suze faded back into the shadows off stage. Rob was ahead of her, quickly packing his Ampeg Fretless into a gig bag, unplugging and wheeling his Fender Bassman into the hall. Suze retrieved her travel purse and they were out the back door. This was The Getaway, her secret plan. Only her band was in on it.
“Quick,” she gasped, looking around the back alley. Nobody yet. Mack’s solo could be heard clearly. Rob unlocked his big ’67 Oldsmobile Delta 88 and loaded his amp and bass in the back seat. “Hurry Rob,” she husked as she jumped into the front. Her suitcase was already in the trunk, her apartment was cleared out and her guitar, and all her other stuff, was in storage. She was ready.
He eased in, smiled lopsidedly, and turned the key. The starter motor turned over, and dashboard lights came on along with the muffled engine. “Ready?” She nodded vigorously and he shifted into gear, taking off fast, his tires squealing just a bit. The brightly lit club faded into the distance.
She let out a big sigh and eased back in the seat. Then she whooped, “California, here I come.” They both laughed in relief.
She mopped her face with a tissue. “Thanks Rob. They’ll be talkin’ about that exit for years!”
Rob heaved a big sigh. “I’m gonna miss this band, damnit. But Suze, listen…”
“Aww. Me too. You guys were kickin’ it tonight! And you and Mack had that psychic rhythm stuff happening. What a way to go!”
“Thanks,” Rob said quietly. She noticed he was biting his lip.
“Oh, before I forget. Your pay for the gig. Wild Bill gave up the money in front for once.” She pulled out an envelope from her purse.
“Keep it.” She frowned at him. Ok, this is weird, a musician turning down money.
He turned, suddenly speaking so rapidly she had difficulty understanding him.
“Suze, something’s come up. I have an offer for ya.” His word were tumbling out over each other. What’s this? Something about driving, and money. Driving to L.A. Driving a van. Full of what? Pot? What was he saying to her?
Suze, now thinking he was joking, laughed. And she kept laughing as he was trying to speak, frustration pissing him off.
She bent over. “Right, a drug run instead of fly to L.A., so I mule a buncha shit west. Cool!” She giggled, and nodded. “Really.” More giggles and finally Rob growled oddly, and very loudly.
“Arrrgwahhh… Damn it Suze!” he barked. “There’s a lot, a lot of money in this for ya, if you’ll hear me out.”
She turned sideways to face him. “Van. Pot. Money.” She snorted in disbelief. “I have a plane to catch, y’all know that, and my mom and sis waiting for me. What the hayyull…” She drawled in her incredulity.
“Our gal driver has vanished. Can’t find her. We needed her, see. So it’s down to you. We need someone who doesn’t fit the profile cops look for.”
“I figure she just chickened out. It’s a damn big load.”
“Drive to L.A. In a pot van?
“Yup, you still get to California, just a few days later is all…”
Suddenly she was close to anger. “No. No way! Too dangerous and scary.”
“A drive in a van. Billy will go along, and give you driving breaks. I’ll be pacing you in the Olds.” Billy, Rob’s brother, was a longtime fan of her music, and had a crush on Suze. Younger than her by a couple years, but devilishly cute. Bit of a hell raiser, though.
She pursed her lips. “Hmm. Say, where was he tonight?”
Rob frowned and ignored the question. He pushed his long rock star hair behind his ear with one hand as he drove. “Listen! Drive with us. It’s just pot. Get this: there’s fifteen thousand bucks in for you.”
Suze froze a second, then looked at him in amazement. He smiled back, and nodded with vigor.
“Got your attention now? Yup, fifteen K! Big payday! Get half now, other half when we get to LA.”
“Wow, fifteen… thousand?” Was Rob for real? His intensity said he was. She stared right ahead, rubbing her chin, then cleared her throat. A bit hoarsely, she said, “Ahhh, ummm, I don’t know. Really, I’m… afraid of jail.”
“Our boss, well, he has top attorneys. Now, nothin’ will happen, right, but if it does, you’d be bailed out and defended, and anyway, if we drive at the limit, nice and easy, it’s a piece of cake. So take the damn money. Here.”
He reached under his seat and abruptly pushed an envelope into her hands, much thicker than the one she had attempted to hand him. So very much thicker. She looked at him, then lifted the unsealed flap. It was packed with hundreds and twenties. She gasped, and stared at it in disbelief.
Money would change everything. Get a car. Get her own place, away from her lovable but bossy sister and mother. Make life bearable, and fun. Suze began to laugh quietly from someplace deep inside.
“All right… why not?” She riffed the bills with her thumb, her eyes narrowed. “Yeah. Why fuckin’ not?
Rob smiled grimly, with a certain satisfaction. He nodded slowly.
“We take the I-40. And we leave tonight.”
To Be Continued…