Trick or treat! Smell my feet! Give me something good to eat!
Here’s a little Halloween story for ya kids...
It was a dark and stormy night and the rain fell in torrents as a four piece Classic Rock/Blues band called “The Strangers” loaded up their equipment after a late-night gig at a dingy watering hole called “The Bucket”.
They called themselves “The Strangers” simply because instead of being a group of friends, or even friends of friends (which is usually the case), the drummer had simply advertised on various social media for musicians. Agreements were made, they started rehearsing, and soon a tightly cohesive musical act was being formed.
Months later, when they were ready to start playing in public, an agent contacted them and told them he could book jobs for them via the internet with various venues, bars, small concerts, fests... whatever, all across the country. They agreed. That booking information was to be relayed by text from the agent to the drummer, who in turn informed the bus driver and the rest of the band. It’s been eight months now since they set off in a brand new touring bus supplied by that agent to begin a constant, never-ending tour, not even knowing where they’d be playing next. Each member was paid by weekly deposits into their individual bank accounts.
Though many would initially call such a care-free rambling life on the road “Heaven”, those very same people would eventually find that it could also be called “Hell”.
The four piece band consisted of: a guitarist named Dylan Thomas, the drummer who was simply called “Animal”, the lead vocalist named Billy Lee Michaels, and the bassist named Frank Sarcone.
Along with these gifted and experienced musicians, a road crew consisted of the bus driver (a mysterious old man whose name no one knew but everyone called “Pops”) and three roadies in their early twenties named Jason, Ben, and Jimmy, who were also experienced and very efficient at what they did. In addition to the regular grunt-work of hauling and setting up all the equipment, each of the three had other duties as well: Ben had the responsibility of controlling the soundboard/mixer during performances, Jimmy ran the lights, and Jason was the go-between for the occasional groupies who’d often be willing and waiting at the stage door (he also procured whatever party supplies might be desired).
The particular night we’re talkin’ about was a Saturday. They had climbed onto the bus that morning leaving Chicago about 8:00AM and rode straight through to southern Ohio only stopping for gas and arriving in “Cincy” at 9:00PM just in time to “set up” and perform. As the miles slipped by beneath them, each of them wondered for the umpteenth time why Pops (the driver) never seemed to tire. In fact even when the band had to sleep on the bus due to lack of hotel rooms (which happened every now and then), the old man would sit all night in his driver’s seat not uttering a peep unless one of them specifically tried to engage him in conversation. He was the silent bus-driver, staring through the windshield at something even when the bus wasn’t moving. To say it was creepy was an understatement.
The previous night’s sold out show in Chicago saw the band being the opening act for the once internationally known super-stars, the “Pigs”, recent inductees to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and currently breaking all kinds of attendance records on their much hyped “farewell” tour. “The Strangers” only played this one concert date on one leg of the Pigs tour due to their availability when a sickness caused the last minute cancellation of the usual opening act. But the boys were assured more dates on this tour might be in the works for them... that was until the “Strangers” got a much better audience reception then the headliners... now all that is a questionable issue.
“We did a decent job tonight, but last night we sure cooked!” Frank the bass player enthusiastically told Animal holding his hand up for a high-five as they boarded the bus.
“Yeah, but maybe we cooked too much. I doubt we’ll be opening for the Pigs again.” Then he squeezed past Frank on his way straight to the bus’s john without returning the gesture, leaving Frank standing there on the steps with his splayed hand in the air looking like a dumbass.
Animal was beat. Tonight’s audience was smaller than usual, especially after the adrenalin pumping enthusiasm of the night before. And the crummy bar they played in tonight, “The Bucket” located in Cincinnati’s warehouse district, was certainly a toilet! It was surprising that the health department even allowed a joint like this to remain open. Even without having to pay a cover charge, the audience was small and full of tired losers who appeared to be just killing time out of the pouring rain while they waited to connect with their drug dealers. The band always seemed to get good reviews when mentioned on local radio and in the newspapers, but that’s the way life on the road can be... sometimes ya get a good crowd; sometimes ya don’t.
As they headed for rooms located on the fourth floor of an even more disgusting hotel (with a busted elevator of course) the band members were silent. By the time the four of them climbed the filthy old staircase to the two rooms they’d share (leaving Pops and the crew to sleep on the bus as agreed), the guys could only look forward to showering off the dried sweat and crashing for the night. But when he finally hit the sack Animal couldn’t fall asleep, so instead he lay in the dark smoking a cigarette while thinking about how strange the past eight months have been...
The old man driving the bus, “Pop”, just showed up at a rehearsal one day with the explanation that the “agent” had hired him by phone. As instructed and with all the verification he needed, he purchased the bus for cash in the agent’s name. Next he hired the three-man road crew, and that was that. Now here they all were in Cincinnati. This explanation of such an insane idea, this permanently touring rock n’ roll franchise, seemed bold and exciting to Animal at first. But now on looking back months later and feeling so damned tired, it just seems crazy. However, everything DID seem to go well. That is until odd things began occurring a few weeks ago...
First, it was an eighteen year old groupie who couldn’t get enough of the band (literally) after a gig outside of Detroit. She hadn’t returned home to her mother for over three days and the Strangers were the last ones known to see her. Of course the police immediately became suspicious of these rock n’ roll savages when they were finally alerted. By the time state investigators caught up with the band in Ann Arbor, Michigan, many questions were asked each of them over and over again, and various scenarios were suggested, but no blame could directly be placed on the band.
Then it happened again! Only this time it was a young male hitch-hiker named Cory they picked up outside of Boulder, Colorado. He climbed on with his backpack and a beat up guitar at a roadside rest saying he was headed for the coast. Many hours later as the band slept, Pops told them the boy had gotten off the bus at a truck stop where they got gas. He asked Pop to relay his thanks and goodbyes to the band when they woke up.
Days later the FBI pulled the bus over a few hundred miles west of the Utah line, and after much questioning told them the boy’s body was found with all his stuff, money, backpack, and guitar, in a ditch outside of Grand Junction, Colorado where they passed through the day before on their way to Salt Lake City. On the body was the boy’s phone containing an audio “road diary” mentioning that his current karma, fate, or whatever you want to call it, brought him to meet and travel with this terrific bunch of guys... “The Strangers”. When asked how the boy died, the FBI wouldn’t answer, but instead allowed the band to move on down the road informing them they were now suspects in the cases of both the missing girl and the murdered boy.
That was weeks ago and now as he lay in bed in Cincinnati, Animal decided that a meeting should be called to discuss some rather perplexing suspicions that he’s been having about all this. Finally he drifted off into a fitful sleep. The next morning after breakfast at a local restaurant Animal made an announcement as the four of them were seated in a booth in the corner of the room...
“We need to talk about all this crazy shit... to get it out into the open...” he declared.
Billy Lee was the lead singer and also the one who usually led discussions about things, but this time he only replied, “If the damned FBI couldn’t figure out how it could have been us, what’s the problem? Nothing’s happened since then.”
Animal replied, “We didn’t know anything was wrong each time before, until days later! It’s like I’m always waiting for something to happen now. It’s going to take a while to get it off my mind unless we talk about a few things that’s been bothering me. Hell, I can’t even concentrate while we’re performing!”
Frank asked, “Well, what’s on your mind Animal?”
“Okay... It’s Pops. I mean who the hell is this guy? We don’t even know his name!”
Dylan usually let his guitar do his talking and rarely spoke, but even he opened up at this point in defense of the old man, “Pops just doesn’t like to talk much unless he has to. I can understand that. You don’t actually think he’s a serial killer of some kind?”
“He was the last one to see that hitch-hiking kid. I don’t even remember his name. What was it? Cory? And what was the name of that hot little chick in Detroit?” asked Billy Lee. But nobody knew and just shrugged sheepishly looking at each other.
“Her name was Hannah.”
All four of them actually jumped in surprise as Pops stated that flatly while coming to the booth and standing before them. “I overheard what you were talking about. And the only cereal I’m killing today is Captain Crunch.”
Nobody spoke a word except Pops who ordered from a waitress that appeared with a pot of coffee and poured some for him as he sat down at an adjoining table. Then he sighed before he continued...
“It’s time I explained a few things to you guys I guess.” Then he took a deep swallow of the hot black bean juice before going on. “I am your agent. I’ve been using this band and the constant touring as a way of following my doctor’s orders and fulfilling a desire I’ve had for the past few years at the same time.
“My real name is Jim Morrison. Yes, THAT Jim Morrison... of the “Doors”. I faked my death in 1971 because I was so sick of what was starting to happen to the music scene. It got to the point that I could actually piss on the crowd and the idiots would just beg for more! Nobody cared about the music or the lyrics! So I worked it out that I’d be found dead in my bathtub in Paris, paid off some French officials, and I split. After rambling around Europe for a few years, I decided to take out a pile of the bucks that I had stashed in a Swiss account and returned home. Now that I’m heavier, and now that what’s left of my hair has turned gray, I figured nobody would recognize me except for my accountant who I’ve stayed in contact with, who is paid very well, and who’s sworn to secrecy.
“Feeling lonely upon returning to the states, I hooked up with a fine Amish woman named Sarah. We had a beautiful daughter named Hannah and as we speak they’re both waiting on our farm near here while I finish up with this little project of mine, this touring Rock n’ Roll thing that I came up with was to let me relive the road without actually killing myself. Ya see... I have a bad heart.
“Anyway, Hannah was going through this “Amish” thing called “Rumshpringa”, which allows our young ones to taste the outside world before they settle down and join the community. If I would have known she was going to show up at one of your concerts, or that idiot Jason was going to recruit her for an after-gig hotel party, well, who knows what I would have done. I mean, I AM still Jim Morrison for chrissakes! But I’m also sure Hannah will be changing her mind about being Amish. Now she wants to start a band of her own just so she can boink all the boy-groupies she can get her hands on! You guys created a, well, a monster!”
Nobody said a word because they were in shock and didn’t know what to say. Then Frank finally spoke up, “What about that Cory kid? The hitch-hiker?”
“That was and will always be a mystery. I really did last see him when he got off the bus just like I told the Feds. Whatever happened to him had nothing to do with us.”
“Well, what’s gonna happen TO us now that you’re apparently going back to being an Amishman?” asked Dylan.
“Oh, this band IS pretty good and I’m sure my investment can continue as such. I’ve already instructed my accountant and he has power of attorney. We’ll find a good, real agent to do the bookings from now on. Maybe Jason can take over driving the bus. At least that will keep him away from all that nasty stuff he’s into.”
Animal finally spoke up, “That’s it??? You mean all this has been about something so incredibly stupid and far-fetched? Here I’ve been worrying about going to prison for something I didn’t do and it was all for no reason??? And on top of that... NO MORE GROUPIES????”
“That’s the way it is indeed my friends. Now I’m going to step outside to have a cigarette, but I don’t seem to have a lighter on me. Anybody wanna light my fire?”
Well, since I knew none of you would be giving me a treat for Halloween, I gave you this...