Roman, Part 4
I’d never laid eyes on a Porsche. Despite being an older model, it glistened in the afternoon sun. Sure it was well cared for, but the fresh layer of antifreeze helps. Shattered scraps of the condom balloon cling to the silver exterior and the little cloth wick smolders atop its roof.
Jamie watches with rapt attention from our perch on a nearby roof. She drums her fingers anxiously on the overhang lip. “Huh? It didn’t explode.”
“I don’t think anti-freeze is flammable,” I say. “This is your old boyfriend’s car?”
“Yeah, the bastard. I wanted him to come back to a smoking crater.”
“A crater? You’d need some heavier firepower than—” My stomach tightens and the gravity of our situation hits me. Why the hell am I playing accessory to a felony? I lean over the lip and eye the flickering wick.
Jamie straightens, waving a dismissive hand. “It would need to look like an accident. I’m not stupid.”
“How many cars accidently get covered in anti-freeze?”
“Anyway, let’s get out of here before someone notices.”
I pull myself away from the roof edge. “And if it HAD exploded?”
“Obviously people would be too busy running around like idiots to look up on the roof. I think of everything you—”
A crackling whine fills the air and I catch a flittering spark from the corner of my eye. Jamie tears past me and stares down at the car, eyes wide. “Awesome.”
I bring a tired hand to my forehead and walk even with her. The anti-freeze had turned into a murky tar near the wick and a pungent odor fills the air. Flickering sparks dance atop of the car where the fumes set alight.
My common sense melts away and I agree. “It is pretty awesome.”
“See? I told you.” Jamie says, grinning.
“But uh—we should run.”
“Nah, it’s good. There’s a window below us. Lazy bastards in then mechanic shop below us dump crap out the window. The moron’ll blame them.”
“And the wick?”
“It’ll burn away.”
“And the rubbers?”
“It’s an alley. In the city. Seriously Roman, why are you being such a pussy?”
I slip a hand under her arm, leading her away. “I’m not. I just don’t want you to be arrested.” Hell, I’ll be arrested too.
“No big deal, Roman. Does it really matter? I mean I’m in a fucking band. It’s just cred. And you—” She bit her lip.
“Go on.” I gave her an even stare.
“I mean— you’d spend what? A night in prison, tops? I’d tell ‘em I just conned you into it.”
“Did you?” I say.
“Did I— Come on Roman. Don’t be a dick. I think you’re cool. Just humor me, aight? I got this. I’ve gotten away with worse.”
Worse? I look her over, she’s calm.
“I think it’s funny how you go form nagging me to looking at me like you’re gonna jump my bones.”
“You’re a good looking lady,” I say. “Maybe I—”
“Oh, Fuck,” a guy’s voice comes from the alleyway.
Jamie wrenches her arm free and hurries to the roof. I grudgingly follow and find a group of grease covered mechanics hurrying to put the fire out. Then I get my first good look at him, Tyrell Riles, the lead singer of Haberdash.
He maintained a tempered calm and lit a cigarette, watching the mechanics work. “Meh, let it burn. I’ll write it off on insurance.” I know his voice, his smooth British accent matched his vocals.
The mechanics turn to look him over, confused. A guy in front speaks up. “Just so we’re clear, this—”
“Is a freak accident. I’m sure.” Tyrell shrugs. “Clean it up, sell it, whatever. I’ll catch a cab.”
Jamie clenches her hands on the roof lip, twisting her lips into a frown. She leans back, inhales and shouts. “It ain’t an accident asshole.”
I should be scared, but I’m not. I could have stopped her, but I didn’t.
Tyrell looks up, takes a drag on his cigarette, and smiles. “Looks like an accident to me. Or would you prefer me to call it a mistake? Like ‘us’?”
Hearing his voice spit such venom boils my blood. I step forward, glaring down at him.
“Oh. So I guess that explains the condoms,” Tyrell says. “Who are you, champ?”
“Romeo,” I say.
Jamie shoots me a look.
Tyrell laughed. “You looking for a fight, Montague?”
“Nah,” I say. “If you can’t properly bridge chords, chances are you can’t throw punches. Track four at 2:03. I cringe every time.”
The smile falls off his face, and the smile returns to Jamie’s.
“So you can do better?”
“Yeah. I can.” I raise an arm placing my fingers in the chord position with practiced ease. “If you don’t choke up on your Stratocaster so damn much you’d nail it every time.”
I could hear the track, up the moment of the offending slip. I line it up in my head and demonstrate the shift. I’m not musician. I’m a fan. I’m a critic. I can see the flaws.
Tyrell looks up at me wide eyed. An epiphany sparks behind his dull blue eyes. He slides his guitar case off his shoulder pulls it out and considers. The dull strum of an unplugged electric comes to my ears.
He botches the first attempt, listens, adjusts, and slows it down a half a beat. He nails it. I can already hear the improvement. Now, knowing the ghost of 2:03 might be abolished with a re-release.
“I thought you don’t play?” Jamie says in a low whisper.
“I don’t, but I can see the errors. I know how they can be fixed.” I turn my attention to Tyrell. “Is the tip enough to make up for the car? We cool?”
“We’re cool,” Tyrell says, eyeing his guitar in disbelief. “Hey, Juliet.”
Jamie scowls at him. “What?”
“Better hold on tight to that one. He’s a keeper.”