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River City:

Family Business
"Part 1: Sara Evans Or Two Drink Minimums"
By Derek Hawkins

A smoky haze filled the ceiling of Zapp’s Uptown Club slowly, just bit faster than the ventilation system could clear it out. I had time to notice this while Mike, our lead guitar player, played a solo. The smoke was a combination of cigarette smoke and dry-ice stage smoke. We were doing a lot of covers tonight, some cheesy 80's tunes that people loved, and the stage smoke effect went well with several of them. The crowd below the gathering smoke was lively tonight. And, they were much closer to me and my drum set than normal. Or, rather, I was much closer to them than usual tonight. I took a page out Cowboy Mouth’s rock and roll book and put my drums up front tonight, bringing me in line with the rest of the band. I was able to interact with the crowd much better than before, and as an added bonus, the view was much better. Not only was I able to get a better look at all the women out in the crowd tonight, but I also didn’t have to spend the entire show looking at guitar player asses. Yay me!

One blonde caught my eye. She was standing a bit apart from the others, over on the left side of the room, in a private space all her own. Short, choppy, blonde hair in one of those haircuts the fashion magazines would have called “sassy”, a white spaghetti strapped tank top, and a black mini skirt that ended none too far north of her knees to be considered scandalous; though that was a close call. I didn’t see a guy or any girls with her. She seemed to be a loner. I guessed her to be a two drink minimum - two drinks and I could have her phone number if I wanted it. Did I want it? She looked like she might be worth the trouble of two drinks.

I took a quick swig of water and recapped the bottle. Mike was wrapping up his solo. I grabbed my sticks, posed freeze-frame with my arms in the air, and the rest of the band and I jumped back into the song with Mike, right on the beat. Ah, I love being a rock and roll musician.

We finished the set and took a break. Zapp’s is an informal place, and we took advantage of that to mingle with the crowd. Water bottle in hand, I angled over towards where I’d seen the blonde standing. Now, I know bottled water seems kind of ‘wussy’ or ‘weak’ compared to the beer-fueled rock and roll hell raiser musician stereo-type so often portrayed in movies and television, but let me tell you, it gets hot under those lights, and I’m a drummer, therefore I sweat more than most as I flail about on the kit. So I drink water.

I stepped over to the blonde girl. She gave me a look for about half a second and then her face light up. “I recognize you!”

“Sure you do, honey,” I started easily. “I’m the drummer for the band. You just saw me on stage.”

She shook her head. “No. Not that. Ten years ago, from the newspaper articles. I remember you. You’re-” she said my real name “-aren’t you?”

Those damned articles again. Right after my parents died in an airplane crash several years ago, every newspaper and television station in the region was parked outside of mom and dad’s front gate. My name and face were splashed across the print and television news worlds. It was right after that I started going by Kix to regain a sense of anonymity and a return to a more ‘normal’ private life. I nodded wearily. “Yes, that’s me. But call me Kix.”

“I can’t believe it. I came here to River City hoping to find you.”

“To find me? But why would you want to find me, Miss…?”

“Sara, Sara Evans.” She answered.

That name didn’t ring any bells or toot any whistles in my head. “So, Sara, why was it so important you find me?”

At this point, I was open to any reason she could have given. She’d harbored a secret crush on me for ten years. She was a ‘long lost cousin’ looking for money; there’s been a few of those that turned up, mostly right after mom and dad died. She was slapping me with a paternity suit. She was coming to seek research funding for some expedition into the jungles of South Asia. She was a record exec come to offer the band a recording contract; though she didn’t seem to dress the part. Anything. I wasn’t prepared for the reason she gave me though.

“I think you can help me find my father,” She said simply.


* * *


I arranged to meet Sara after the show finished at an all night greasy spoon called Mom & Pop’s Kitchen. We finished the show up, tore down and loaded our equipment into the tote trailer Mike dragged around behind his pick up truck, and I walked down to Mom & Pop’s place, which I hadn‘t been to in a couple of months. I thought while I walked. I walked lots of places in the city, instead of driving, and I did a lot of my thinking while I walked.

Why did this Sara person think I could help find her father? Until two weeks ago when I foiled a robbery attempt at a favorite internet coffee house of mine, I had no connection to the police force at all, not even a parking violation on my record. It’s hard to get a parking ticket with a vehicle I never use in storage.

Since that incident, though, I did have just one contact in the R.C.P.D., Detective Sam Gordon. Could Sara have possibly seen my name mentioned with his in the article about the robbery? That was possible, but only if she’d been in town for the last two weeks. She didn’t, however, mention the robbery I’d foiled, just the articles about mom and dad. Which would lead me to believe that she hasn’t been in town for very long. I’ll have to find out how long she’s been in River City.

I found myself walking into The Kitchen with more questions then I had answers to. Sara was already there, at a small table in the back. “Been here long?” I asked as I slid into the chair across the table from her.

“Just a few minutes.” The half a glass of iced tea in front of her said as much. She perused the menu in front of her without much further comment.

“What can I get for you folks?” came a voice over my shoulder, without the usual waitress preamble you get from most restaurants. Mom & Pop’s was that kind of relaxed place.

It was a voice I knew all too well from the recent past. “Hello, Desi.” I said evenly.

“Honey,“ she said, clearly addressing Sara and not me, “please tell me you aren’t on a date with this loser.”

“Pardon?” Sara asked, looking up from her menu.

“Tell me you aren’t on a date with this loser. He’s bad news. Do yourself a favor and bail on him before he sticks you with the check.”

Ok, so obviously she wasn’t ready to forget what had happened between us. I cleared my throat. “I’ll have two waffles, butter and syrup, an order of hash browns and a large orange juice.” Her pencil never moved.

“What can I get you?” she asked, again addressing Sara as though I weren’t in existence. Which is probably where she’d have me, if given the choice.

“Scrambled eggs, toast, a side order of ham and another ice tea, please.”

Desi nodded at Sara. “Be right back with it shortly.” She walked behind the counter to give the cook the order. I just hoped I ended up with food. I always get hungry after a performance.

Sara waited until the bottled blonde waitress was behind the counter. “What was all that about?” she ask, a playful hint of a smile on her lips.

I sighed and began to give her the condensed version.

Desiree Walker was an ex girlfriend of mine. She’d been a waitress at a mid-scale seafood restaurant along the river front when I met her. I used to frequent there a good number of nights a month and then we started dating. For a few weeks it was great. I had a girlfriend with just the right amount of curves in all the right places, and things couldn’t be better. But, it seems that it was against company policy for employees of the restaurant dating customers. Long story short, she lost her job and blamed me for it. Things went south fast after that. I didn’t know though, that she’d ended up at Mom & Pop’s Kitchen.

“But, enough about me,” I finished. “Let’s talk about you. Why do you think I can help you, Sara?”

Before she could start, Desi appeared with the order. Both of them. I was actually surprised she’d serve me. Sara and I got squared away and tucked into a three a.m. breakfast. She talked between bites.

“Before I was born, my mother had been a maid for the Johnson family.”

“Which Johnson family?” I asked.

The Johnson family.”

That told me a good bit right there. Everybody knew about the Johnson family. They were our version of the Kennedys. Old money that went back to the antebellum days. They too had a big house in Moneyville and were frequent guests at mom and dad’s parties, and vice versa. And, just like the Kennedys, the Johnsons were heavy into politics. The oldest son Charles was a Senator who was campaigning for State Governor in next year’s election. Katherine Johnson-Bonnet, the daughter, was a graduate of Tulane Law School married to the head of an insurance company, and was the state Attorney General. The youngest of the three Johnson children was David, who’d died in a boat that had capsized at sea. His body was never found. He had been just twenty two at the time, fresh out of college.

“Ok. Is there any other family you can talk to about this?”

Sara shook her head. “No. My grand mother died last year, and my grand father died before I was born. A heart attack.” So, no family to talk to. This wasn’t making things any easier on me, not that I was yet convinced I could even actually help her. I pushed the remnants of the has browns around on the plate with a fork. “No family friends either?”

Again, she shook her head. “No. Mom died when I was young, and I never knew any of her friends. The only people I know of that she knew outside the family was the Johnsons.”

“And you think I can help you get in touch with them?”

Sara nodded.

“Why?”

“Your family were friends with the Johnsons. They would talk to you. Me, I’m a complete stranger to them. I wouldn’t even make it inside the front gate.”

“My parents were friends of the Johnsons.” I corrected her. “I’ve barely had any contact with the family. Fancy parties were not my thing, so I avoided them when ever possible.” I paused for a moment. “Though I do remember them giving me a nice watch for a graduation gift after high school.”

I could see a small glimmer of hope in her eyes when I mentioned the watch.

“So you’ll help me?” She asked cautiously, daring to hope that I might say yes.

I sighed. If I knew what was in store for me, I’d have said no right then and there, and been extremely grateful to avoid the next week or so of my life. Sara Evans would turn out to be worth a lot more trouble than just two drinks.

“OK,” I said at last. “Give me your phone number.” Then I said the words I’d soon learn to regret in this whole fiasco. “I’ll see what I can do.”

End

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