Chapin sat in their hotel room, typing an email to her mother. To be honest, the email was already typed, but she wanted to attach some pictures of Ireland that she had taken. Unfortunately, she was having no luck. She poured over directory after directory but wasn’t having any luck. Suddenly she came across a file with an odd name. It said “Stan’s Lullaby” with a file extension she didn’t recognize.
“Skeet? Can you come take a look at this sweetie?” she called. Skeet got up off the bed where he had been perusing a local newspaper and glanced over her shoulder.
“Hmmm…where did that come from?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t even know what that file extension means.”
Skeet looked again. It’s a multitrack music file. A primitive version. Your computer should be able to play it. Just double click.”
She did as he asked and the track began to play. It was a wonderfully, soft soothing song, but it seemed a little off.
Skeet stood up. “There’s no bass in it,” he said. It’s completely done but has no bass.
“You don’t think that Stan somehow did this right before he left do you?” Chapin asked.
“I bet he did.” Skeet said as if the idea was forming in his mind as he spoke. “Stan’s Lullaby, huh? It’s like he’s going to sleep and this is the last thing he left for us before he did.” Skeet stared off into space and got a little misty eyed. “I just can’t believe he’s gone. I can’t believe that I’m never going to get to play with him again.”
Skeet opened the door to the balcony of their hotel room and stepped outside. He leaned up against the railing and began to watch the sunset. Chapin joined him, taking his hand.
“You know, I was at my best when I was with Stan,” he began. “Everything since then hasn’t been able to approach what I did with him. I really wanted to be able to play more with him. I wanted to go farther. Now I’m kinda reduced to working with his memory.”
“You can’t live in the past, Skeet. The past is gone. There’s tons of great stuff for you in the future, for us, I know it,” Chapin said.
“Yea, I hope you’re right, but right now I can’t see the future, but the past looked pretty cool. I miss him you know. I really do.”
“I know, baby. I know. But really, you have to look forward, not back. There are a lot of things coming up that we have to take care of.”
Skeet got quite a confused look on his face. “What do you mean? What’s coming up?”
“Well, I’m not quite sure how to tell you this, baby.” She paused and looked at the ground. She took his hands in hers and stood in front of him so they were face to face. “Skeet, I’m pregnant.”
Skeet stood silent, mouth slightly agape for what seemed like hours to Chapin. Suddenly he wrapped both arms around her picked her up and kissed her deeply. “I’m going to be a father?” he asked, breathlessly.
“Yes, you are,” she replied.
“And you’re going to be a mother?”
“That’s usually the way it works.”
He beamed. He looked like he was about to explode when a look of worry passed his face. He looked down at her. “Are you happy about this, I mean, having a baby, with me?”
“If you’re happy, I’m ecstatic!” she gushed.
“But if you’re going to be a mother and I’m going to be a father, there’s still one thing missing.”
She stepped back and stared at him with a surprised look on her face. “What? What’s missing?” she stuttered.
“Well I need to be a husband and you need to be a wife.” He looked deeply into her eyes. “Chapin, will you marry me?”
“Yes!” she said without hesitation. He kissed her again then held her close.
“You don’t think, I mean, with all this talk of reincarnation and rebirth.” Chapin trailed off. “Maybe Stan’s lullaby isn’t about him leaving. Maybe it’s about him coming back.”
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Chapin, Skeet and Brian had spent their first relaxed day since they had come to Ireland. They had no pub owners to cross examine, no phone books to peruse and no hikes to take looking for Stan. They had all slept in, had wonderful meals, gone shopping and, in the case of Chapin and Skeet, engaged in some particularly naughty activities for a good part of the afternoon.
Chapin walked in the door of the White Lotus Center at eight p.m. with Skeet and Brian. The relaxation of the day gave way to a tension of not really knowing what was going to happen. Chapin detected the distinct smell of incense as she entered. The distinct sandalwood odor relaxed her just a touch.
She had wanted to dress up for the evening since it seemed like it deserved the respect of some formal attire, but Skeet reminded her that trying to sit on a cushion on the floor in a little black dress may be more disrespectful than just wearing jeans. She decided he was right and had simply worn jeans with a black shirt. She had to go shopping for a shirt for Brian as she felt the Pink Floyd t-shirt he had planned to wear wasn’t quite appropriate.
They were greeted by Loden Jinpa when they entered. He offered them a seat and made them tea.
“Rinpoche has been in retreat all day. I haven’t seen him at all,” he said. “Have any of you heard from Holly?”
“No, not a word. I really hope she shows up,” Chapin said. “I mean, what do we do if she doesn’t?”
“In all honesty, Rinpoche can do this without her, or any of us for that matter. It’s just easier this way,” Loden Jinpa said, sipping his tea.
Chapin stared at him blankly. “What do you mean? Then why are we here?”
“Rinpoche can easily help Stan move forward. The reason you and hopefully Holly are here, is to help YOU move forward.”
The front door opened and Holly appeared. As she walked toward them, they all stood up.
“Rinpoche will be so glad you have come,” Loden Jinpa said.
“I wasn’t sure you were going to make it,” Brian said. “I know this must be very difficult for you.”
Holly flashed half a smile. “I wasn’t sure I was going to come. But I thought about what you said Brian, and you’re right. I love him enough to want to help him, no matter how much it hurts.”
“Stan was a lucky man to have met you,” Skeet said, choking back a tear.
Rinpoche appeared with Loden Jinpa. No one saw him enter, he just seemed to have materialized. He instructed everyone to take a seat and began to explain some basics of what would occur.
“When we are performing the ceremony, you must attempt to maintain your composure. Stan will know what is happening and if any of you are not composed, his moving on will be more difficult for him. “
“As I have said, his inability to move on is based on a lack of focus or misunderstanding of what is happening. Now, did you each bring the pictures I asked for?” Everyone nodded.
“Good, please give them to me now,” he said. They all handed him pictures of Stan.
“This could be a bit more difficult than normal, I just want to warn you. This ceremony is usually done 45 days after the death, but it has been over 90 now, so Stan’s consciousness has probably become quite used to the place he is in at the moment. Convincing him to move on may prove to be a challenge.”
Rinpoche invited everyone into the main shrine room where he lit more incense. He took a seat and invited everyone else to do the same. Rinpoche sat on a raised yellow cushion with a small wooden table in front of him. On the table was a metal bowl filled with sand, a oddly shaped stack of neatly prepared papers that resembled really wide note cards and a small bic lighter. To his right sat a beautiful, large, metal bowl perched on a brocade pillow with a wooden mallet leaning against the inside.
“Rinpoche says it would be best if we meditate first.” Rinpoche picked up the rubber covered wooden mallet and gently struck the edge of the bowl three times. Chapin was amazed at how soothing the sound was. When the sustain from the bowl had all but subsided, Rinpoche returned the mallet, deadened the slight remaining ringing in the bowl and placed his hands gently on his thighs and just sat.
Brian was quite uncomfortable with the whole meditation thing. He might be able to buy the reincarnation thing, the stuck between this life and the next thing and the needing to let go thing. But the sitting cross legged on the floor thing was almost more than he could stand. His body wasn’t built for it and his mind wasn’t prepared for it, but he did his best to at least sit quietly.
Rinpoche sat immobile for almost 20 minutes, then slowly his hand rose, grasped the mallet again and struck the bowl. He let it ring until it had almost stopped naturally, then, again, replaced the mallet. Loden Jinpa began to translate as he talked.
“I would like each of you to tell the story of how you met Stan, please.” He looked at Chapin.
Chapin’s face became flush. “I… uh…. Never met Stan. I’m sorry.” She hung her head.
“That’s fine.” Rinpoche said in a consoling manner through Loden Jinpa. “There is nothing to be upset about.”
She took his cue, righted herself and put her game face back on.
Rinpoche motioned to Skeet. He cleared his throat and swallowed hard. It was going to be difficult to tell his story without losing it, but he was going to give it a shot.
“I met Stan when I was living in an orphanage in Mississippi. I snuck into a club to see him play one evening and was just blown away. I mean, he was incredible. Luckily I got to sit in with him that night and I was really able to discover what musical chemistry was. We had it in spades and it was something I had never experienced before.” Skeet paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “He asked me to go on the road with him that night and we were together for years.”
“Thank you,” Rinpoche said, then motioned to Brian.
“Well let’s see. When I was a kid, I was friends with Skeet. We grew up in the same area but I was a couple of years older than him and I kinda took care of him, nothing major, I just kinda watched out for him. When he got the gig with Stan, he was nervous and wanted me there with him. I was pretty good with my hands, you know, woodworking and electrical and stuff, so I kinda signed on to keep his basses in good shape, but it was more to keep him outta trouble. That’s where I met Stan. It was getting on the tour bus the first night and Skeet was dragging me along. He asked Skeet who in the hell I was and Skeet told him I was his bass tech. I remember Stan smiled and looked at me and said ‘Cool’ and then invited us to join the rolling poker game that was going on in the back. That’s where we started having poker games every week and we still do to this day.”
“Very good. Thank you,” Rinpoche said and motioned to Holly. She dabbed her eyes with a tissue she was holding and took a deep breath before she began.
“I met him on Kilakee in November, I think it was. I remember it was cold out. I was an avid photographer and my friend Sara and I went to Kilakee to take pictures of the wild life. We were about halfway through our hike when I spotted this man in the distance playing a little acoustic guitar. Just sitting in the middle of nowhere, playing and singing. I wanted to take his picture playing the guitar with the stark background so we walked over and he obliged us. We began talking and before any of us realized, it began to get dark, so we quickly packed up and headed back. About halfway through our hike back, he reached out and gently took my hand. I fell for him right there.”
Chapin wiped away a tear. She had tried to hold her decorum, but hearing Holly’s romantic story reminded her of her own story with Skeet. She couldn’t imagine what she would do if he passed away. She looked at him and thought how grateful she was to be with him and hoping she wouldn’t have to go through what Holly was any time soon.
Suddenly, two metal bowls that had been sitting on the shrine in the front of the room tumbled to the floor with a loud clang. Holly, Chapin, Brian and Skeet jumped. Rinpoche calmed them. Loden Jinpa translated. “It’s all right. He’s expressing his desire to stay. He still doesn’t quite realize he has passed on.” Rinpoche began to speak calmly in Tibetan and Loden Jinpa offered no more translation. Two more bowls fell to the floor. Rinpoche slowly closed his eyes and began to chant in a very low, guttural tone. Loden Jinpa sat quietly. A metal bowl that sat across the room that seemed to be a smaller version of the one that Rinpoche had hit with the mallet, began to hum and an incense holder fell from its perch at the front of the room. A bell that had been sitting with the water bowls began to ring spontaneously. Rinpoche continued to chant.
Loden Jinpa picked up the pictures and placed them next to Rinpoche. Rinpoche opened his eyes but continued to chant. He picked up the first picture and the little bic lighter and ceremoniously set the picture on fire. He started the flame at the lower corner and only when the flame was almost nipping at his fingers did he set the burning paper into the bowl of sand in front of him. As the flames rose, the activity in the room seemed to slowly subside. He repeated the same procedure with the remaining five photographs and with each, the room became more and more calm.
Chapin noticed that a very fine mist seemed to appear in the room. She wondered if this was somehow representative of crying, but she kept silent. A wave of peace and calm passed over all of them and Rinpoche picked up the mallet and struck the bowl lightly three more times. He allowed the ringing to almost subside completely before replacing the mallet and deadening what little sound remained. He sat silently for about a minute afterwards.
“We should have some tea now,” Rinpoche said suddenly, without any interpretation from Loden Jinpa. He stood up and began to walk away.
“That’s it? We’re done?” Brian asked.
“Yes, we are done. It’s time for tea,” Rinpoche said, again without interpretation.
“Umm…ok…tea time then, I guess.”
They all stood and began to leave with the exception of Chapin, whose gaze seemed to be affixed to something in the front of the room.
“Come on, Chapin,” Skeet said. “It’s tea time.” She didn’t respond. “Chapin?” he said again. She slowly raised her hand and pointed to the front of the room where she had been staring. Skeet followed where she was pointing and drew a slight gasp.
“Rinpoche?” he called. Rinpoche and Loden Jinpa turned around and stood beside them. Like Chapin, Skeet pointed toward the front of the room. Loden Jinpa caught his breath.
“Very auspicious! Very auspicious indeed! It is as I thought! This is wonderful,” Rinpoche exclaimed and turned again to leave.
They all continued to stand in silence, finally being broken by Brian. “Am I the only one who sees a double rainbow INSIDE THE FREAKING ROOM? How do you get a double rainbow INSIDE THE FREAKING ROOM?
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Chapin and Skeet could barely contain their excitement the next morning. They felt like two children who had just awoke on the morning they were going to Disneyland. They dressed a little nicer than they had been on previous outings because they truly felt that this mad search was finally coming to an end.
They went to have breakfast with Brian and told him of their meeting the night before with Rinpoche and him instantly recognizing Stan from the picture and his offer to escort them this morning.
“Wow, that Eastern hooey of yours if finally paying off for something.” Brian cracked.
They sipped tea and nibbled on crescents but were too excited to have a big meal. They spent much of breakfast glancing at their watches, each wondering to themselves if it was late enough to go meet Rinpoche and Loden Jinpa without seeming too eager.
Of course, they were eager and finally, at about 9:30, Skeet couldn’t stand it anymore. “Well whaddya say we get going?” he asked. Neither Chapin nor Brian needed any further prodding. Brian dropped a tip on the table and they headed out for the White Lotus Meditation Center.
When they arrived, they saw Loden Jinpa waiting for them. He greeted them politely and they introduced Brian. Soon, Rinpoche appeared dressed in similar robes to the night before. Again they greeted and introduced Brian.
“If you’re ready, our car is right outside,” Skeet suggested, not wanting to waste any more time.
“Rinpoche would prefer to walk if that’s all right. He has been in India and Tibet for the last several months and just returned a couple of days ago and would really like to see the neighborhood again, if you wouldn’t mind,” said Loden Jinpa.
“Oh no, that’s fine,” Chapin said half heartedly, glancing down at the heels she had worn in a attempt to dress up. She was now thinking the jeans and sneakers idea would have been much better, but she was game. If it found Stan, it was worth the discomfort.
“Shall we go?” asked Loden Jinpa. Everyone nodded and Rinpoche grabbed a wooden cane. Both Loden Jinpa and Rinpoche donned English Driving hats. Chapin looked at them oddly. Something about the flowing robes with the English riding hats just didn’t fit. Loden Jinpa looked at her and smirked. “Well we must keep our heads warm. It’s cold out there you know!” They all laughed and headed out the door and began their walk.
“How far is it?” Skeet asked.
“Just a few miles,” Loden Jinpa responded. “It should take more than a couple of hours.”
Chapin immediately began scanning the shops for a shoe store. She didn’t care how it would look. If they were going to walk miles, she was gonna find some more comfortable shoes.
Chapin watched Rinpoche shuffle down the street for a few blocks and finally, she leaned into Loden Jinpa and asked “Is he going to be ok to walk that far?”
Loden Jinpa giggled at her and then began translating for Rinpoche. Chapin was terribly embarrassed as she thought the question was obviously only for Loden Jinpa’s ears. Rinpoche looked at and began to laugh a guttural laugh that seemed almost out of place. He leaned into Chapin, giving her a big hug and said something in Tibetan.
“Rinpoche says it’s very nice of you to be concerned, but this is just a little stretch of the legs for him,” Loden Jinpa said.
As they walked, Rinpoche began telling them, through Loden Jinpa, about his fleeing from Tibet after the Chinese had invaded many years before. He had walked for months over the Himilayas to reach India. His stories were riveting and he had such a matter of fact way of telling them that Chapin completely forgot about her feet and was glued to his side listening.
Brian on the other hand, was much more aware of walking such a great distance and he wasn’t pleased. He expressed his displeasure subtly with the occasional sigh, groan or cough. He was very strong, but only in short bursts. He wasn’t used to walking what he saw as a great distance.
Finally, they approached a sign that said ‘Harlowton’ which excited all three of them. Chapin began to realize how far they had walked and that her feet were not handling it all that well. She also noticed that Rinpoche, walking with his cane, was fresh as a daisy. He laughed and joked and continued telling stories.
“Well it’s about time!” Brian said in his usual gruff tone. Rinpoche leaned over and grabbed Brian’s left arm with his right hand and slapped him affectionately on the back and again said something in Tibetan.
“Rinpoche says you should join a gym. You need to work out more.”
Brian gave a half hearted smile then appeared to ponder for a moment. “If you’re translating everything for him, how did he know what I said?” Brian asked.
“He understands a lot more than most people think he does.” Loden Jinpa’s voiced lowered. “He understands what he hears very well, it’s SPEAKING English that he has problems with. That’s why I’m here. He also thinks it’s a pretty neat prank to play.” They all laughed.
They rounded a corner onto a narrow tree lined street with houses on either side. There were children playing in some of the front yards and a couple of dogs could be heard barking in the distance. It looked like a typical middle class neighborhood.
“Rinpoche says it’s just up here,” Loden Jinpa said. Mentally, all three of them sighed with relief, but only Brian let it be obvious on the outside.
They approached the sidewalk of a medium sized brick house, that was quite skinny but multiple stories. Rinpoche led the way and reached up and punched the buzzer with his cane. After what seemed like an eternity, the door slowly opened and a small woman who appeared to be in her mid forties poked her head around. She had long, straight black hair that was tied back in a pony tail and was wearing a house coat. Her eyes met Rinpoche’s and she straightened slightly. She glanced behind Rinpoche and saw what may have appeared to be an invading army. A puzzled look crossed her face. “Rinpoche. It’s good to see you. I’ve missed you while you were away. Please, come in,” she said, although she eyed the newcomers warily.
They entered the house and she politely offered tea which Rinpoche accepted on everyone’s behalf. Brian would have preferred a beer or a shot of whiskey after their long walk, but he was polite and let it go.
The inside of the house appeared a little disheveled. It was obvious that she wasn’t expecting company. While she prepared the tea, a concerned look crossed Rinpoche’s face and he and Loden Jinpa exchanged words back and forth in Tibetan.
As Skeet glanced around the room he noticed a picture on a piano on the far wall. It was of the woman and what appeared to be Stan on a beach. His excitement grew and he took Chapin’s hand, squeezed it and sent her attention to the picture with a slight head jog. Chapin’s eyes lit up and she squeezed his hand back. They could both barely contain their glee.
The woman came back in carrying a pot and several mugs. She served Rinpoche first, and then began serving everyone else. “I must apologize, Rinpoche,” she said in a soft, Irish voice. “I was not expecting company so I haven’t had a chance to tidy up. But I was sure you would come as soon as you returned and heard the news.” She glanced around at the other three. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe I have met any of you. I’m Holly Balch. “
Skeet looked at her and paused. Just hearing her say the name, he knew he was in the right place. “It’s such a pleasure to meet you. My name is Skeet Seaton. This is Chapin Hannigan and Brian Shaw.” I played with Stan way back in the day and Brian helped us manage the shows. I haven’t seen him in forever and we have come all this way just to find him. Is he here?” Skeet asked, the excitement building in his voice.
Holly just stared at him for a moment then she looked back to Rinpoche. Loden Jinpa reached over and patted Skeet lightly on the knee. “Oh my. Rinpoche. I thought you knew. I thought that was why you were here,” she said, the tears beginning to run down her cheek. Rinpoche stood up and gently guided Holly to his seat and hugged her. Loden Jinpa stood and gave Rinpoche his seat where he sat holding her hand.
Holly looked around the room, the majority of which she considered strangers. “Stan passed away from a heart attack four months ago,” she said and burst into tears. Rinpoche began to comfort her and Loden Jinpa turned to Skeet, Chapin and Brian and suggested they step outside to give Rinpoche and Holly some privacy.
They all exited the front door as quietly as possible and gathered in the front yard.
“Doesn’t Rinpoche need you to translate for him?” Chapin asked Loden Jinpa.
“If he does, he will send for me. Like I said, he understands most of what he hears, plus, Holly speaks a little Tibetan. I don’t think there will be much talking anyway,” he said.
“Well, this was a big wasted trip,” Brian said in a gruff tone. Chapin punched him in the arm.
“A man has died, you creaton!” she exclaimed. “Show a little respect.” Brian hung his head low and muttered a little apology.
Chapin glanced over and saw Skeet with his back to the group leaning against a tree. He stared straight down at the ground. She walked over to him slowly and took his hand. He didn’t look up, but she could see tears dripping from his cheeks.
“I’m so sorry, baby,” she said trying to comfort him. “This has got to be tough. Just remember I’m here for you.” She leaned in to kiss him on the cheek and he almost collapsed in her arms, fighting back the tears as best he could but without much success. They held each other tight for what seemed like many minutes while Brian and Loden Jinpa stood across the sidewalk, trying to give them some privacy and exchanging idle conversation that neither one felt entirely comfortable with.
The door to the little cottage opened and Rinpoche motioned to everyone to come back inside. Chapin helped Skeet dry his eyes and cheeks and make him a little more presentable. He truly didn’t want to add any more difficulty to Holly’s current situation. He righted himself and they all made their way back into the house.
“I’m so sorry you traveled all this way for nothing,” Holly began. “I’m sure Stan would have loved to have seen old friends. He talked about Skeet regularly and I recognize him from some of the albums he kept stored in the other room. He used to tell me that you two were quite the team,” she said.
“He really got me started in the music business. I’m not sure where I would be if it weren’t for Stan. I’m just sorry I didn’t get to tell him in person.”
“Tell me, what made you come all this way to see him?” Holly asked.
They all looked at each other. “Umm…” Skeet began. He wasn’t sure how to begin the story in such a delicate situation. “It seems kinda silly, now. But, I thought he had… I mean…” Chapin patted him on his thigh for reassurance. Rinpoche smiled at him and nodded, as if telling him it was ok to tell the story. “This is kinda weird, so let me just start from the beginning.”
Skeet recounted the tale of the album and the mysterious track, how they couldn’t think of anyone else who played that way except Stan and how they were trying to figure out if Stan was maybe trying to get back in touch with them.
“You see, it all seems kind of silly now. I mean, Stan had already passed before any of this happened. So now we are back at square one, although I’m beginning to think it doesn’t matter a hill of beans anymore,” Skeet said, his voice becoming more and more dejected.
Rinpoche leaned toward Loden Jinpa and began speaking in Tibetan again. Loden Jinpa said something back and Rinpoche got a calming smile on his face. He looked at Loden Jinpa and motioned his hand toward the others in the room as if he was saying, “Go ahead. Tell them.”
“Rinpoche says this is all beginning to make sense now. When he was in Tibet about three weeks ago, he had a vision that Stan was taming a beautiful songbird, He said that in his vision, every time Stan would put the bird back in it’s cage and walk away, it became very agitated. When Stan would go back to the cage and work with taming the songbird again, he would calm.”
They all stared at him blankly. “Ummm…ok…so?” Brian finally offered, to which he was met by glares from everyone in the room with the exception of Rinpoche, who just smiled at him.
Loden Jinpa glanced back at Rinpoche as if he were waiting for him to make things more clear for everyone, but Rinpoche just sat there smiling. He motioned his hand again indicating that Loden Jinpa should continue.
“According to Buddhist thought, when someone dies, their consciousness passes through a set of states called the Bardo. This is the ‘in between time’ between this life and the next, so to say.”
“Oh! The whole reincarnation thing!” Chapin exclaimed.
“Yes, rebirth.” Loden Jinpa continued. “In this process, the consciousness of the deceased would move slowly from this life to the next. Had he been here, Rinpoche could have helped it along, but in rare cases, like this one, there is a problem.”
“Problem?” Holly asked.
“Yes, you see, sometimes the consciousness is very attached to the life he just left and doesn’t want to let go. His attachment is great enough that he doesn’t completely understand that he’s died and is somewhat stuck in limbo. That seems to be what is happening with Stan.”
Rinpoche poked Loden Jinpa and spoke. Loden Jinpa turned back to the group. “Rinpoche says that IS what is happening with Stan.”
They all sat in astonishment. Finally Skeet broke the silence. “I’m confused. I’ve read a little about the concept of rebirth, but what does this have to do with the dream or the music on my album. I don’t quite get it.”
Rinpoche giggled slightly and began to speak again and Loden Jinpa began to interpret as he spoke instead of waiting until he was finished. “You see, part of what Stan’s consciousness is attached to in this life is issues with Skeet. He is basically interacting with Skeet the only way he can figure out from where he is, which is with this music. I have never heard of it happening quite like this but I have heard of similar situations, in theory.”
“So that’s what the songbird dream means?” Brian asked.
“Yes,” Rinpoche said, through Loden Jinpa. “The musical connection is basically his attachment to this life. If he lets it go, it forces his consciousness to confront the fact that he must move on to the next life, so he clings to it more strongly so he doesn’t have to let go. Had I been here and known, I would have helped him at the moment of his death, but since I wasn’t…”
“So, Stan is still around? He’s like a ghost or something?” Brian asked.
Rinpoche laughed uproariously and spoke.
“Something like that, from a Western point of view anyway.” He continued laughing.
“So what does this mean? I mean, can Stan keep ‘playing’ with Skeet?” Brian asked.
Rinpoche’s laughter subsided. “Unfortunately, no. We have to help him move on. He must move on to his next life,” he said through Loden Jinpa.
“No, wait,” Holly spoke up. “I don’t want him to go. If he can stay around, even without a physical body, then I want him to stay.”
“Yea,” Skeet agreed. I mean, if he and I can still make music together, even if it’s this kinda weird way, then I wanna keep doing it. I’ve missed so many years not playing with him, I don’t wanna give this up.”
“I understand your attachment to him, but he has to be allowed to continue on his path. Attaching ourselves in this way will not be beneficial for us or him.” Rinpoche said.
“No! I said I don’t want him to go!” Holly exclaimed. There was a sudden fire in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. “I’ve been feeling his presence around here ever since he passed away. I thought it was just me, but now that I know it’s not. I’m not having him run off and that’s final!”
Rinpoche recoiled slightly and sat silent. All of them sat silent.
“Look, Holly. We don’t know each other, but let me ask you something, please,” Brian said. Four sets of eyes widened and looked at him, wondering if he was just about to make a bad situation even worse.
“She took a deep breath and raised her head so she could look down on him slightly. “I’m listening,” she said.
“You obviously love Stan very much.”
“More than anything,” she replied.
“And you would do anything to hold on to him?”
“You’d lie to him?”
“Of course not! We were always honest with each other!”
“Well, according to this guy,” he said pointing at Rinpoche. “And we all seem to believe him, Stan doesn’t understand that he needs to move on. So we’re just lying to him if we hold on to him.”
Skeet’s mind raced. Either Brian had just made a very good point or he had just alienated Stan’s widow completely. He was really hoping for the former, but thought the latter was probably closer to reality.
Holly sat silent for a moment. “I don’t know. I just don’t want to lose him again.”
“I understand. I really do. I’ve been there. But sometimes we have to love someone enough to let them move on to something that’s much better for them than where we want to keep them.”
“Look, just let me think. This is an awful lot of stuff to take in at once,” Holly replied.
Rinpoche leaned and to Loden Jinpa and mumbled. “Rinpoche says come tomorrow evening to the center. Everyone should come,” Loden Jinpa said.
“But, I don’t know yet just let me think,” Holly reiterated.
“Rinpoche says you should come, all of you. He has much preparation to do. We need to call a cab. It’s too late to walk back now.”
Get chapter 24 as a pdf file.
They finished off their beers and went to the next pub they could find, ordered three more beers and got the same answers as before. They played the same scene again five times and were beginning to get tipsy. Finally, on the sixth stop they decided to have some lunch to try to counter the effects of the alcohol, not to mention the fact that breakfast had been very sparse and they had been tooling around for over 3 hours. They continued to comb pubs for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. The trend continued for the next two days and Skeet was beginning to think it was a lost cause and that maybe they should head home, but Brian and Chapin insisted. At the end of the third day they returned to the hotel exhausted and dejected.
“I need to get some air. I’m gonna take a walk and try to clear my head,” Skeet told Chapin who was busy tapping away at the keys on her laptop computer.
“We’ve been walking around all day and you want to go for a walk? Are you ok?” Chapin asked.
“I’m just a bit burned out. I haven’t done anything except sleep and wander around asking about Stan, and with nothing to show for it. I’m glad we stopped early tonight, but I just need to get out of the hotel room and NOT wander around by the Stardust.” It had almost exploded out of him as if it had been building up the whole time.
Chapin was taken aback. She had been so tied up in the search and trying to keep up with work and her parents back in Chicago, she had apparently missed how much this was bothering him. “It’s ok, Skeet. Do you want me to go with you or do you want to be alone?”
“Oh it doesn’t have anything to do with you, Chapin. If you want to go, I’d love to have you. I just need to break this whole cycle of looking for just a couple of hours.”
She smiled at him, grabbed her shoes, coat and purse and they headed out the door. They had been walking hand in hand for about 15 minutes when Skeet stopped in his tracks and smiled. He was looking at a store front with brightly colored flags painted on the windows. The window also sported white letters in a script that Chapin didn’t understand but below the script, in English it read ‘White Lotus Meditation Center’.
“That’s what I need!” he exclaimed.
“What? You need what?” she asked.
“I need to sit!”
“You need to sit? Do you want to find a bench? Or we can go back to the hotel if you’re tired,” she said, somewhat confused by the whole line of conversation.
“No, no,” he said turning to her. “I need to meditate.” She could see the smile plastered across his face. “That’s what I need to clear my head.”
“Well, um, ok. How do you know you need to meditate?”
“I’ve meditated for years. I sit almost every day. I just haven’t done it since we’ve been here and I think that, along with all this other stuff, is why I can’t keep my head together. Come on. Let’s go in.”
“But, wait. I’ve never meditated before. Are you sure we can go in here?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I can teach you basic mediation. No problem. Come on!” He practically dragged her in the front door. He raised his index finger to his lips. “Shhh.”
An Asian gentleman appeared from around the corner wearing red and yellow robes and sporting a shaved head. Chapin was completely taken aback, but the man smiled very widely which gave her just a hint of ease.
“Welcome!” the man said. He bowed and extended his hand to Skeet, who returned the bow and shook the man’s hand. The man pulled him closer and patted him on the shoulder as if they were long lost friends. He turned to Chapin.
“Welcome!” he said and made an identical gesture. She looked at Skeet and bowed and shook the man’s hand also.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I would like to come and sit for a bit if that’s ok,” Skeet said to him, returning his smile.
“Sit? Yes! Welcome!” he said again.
“I’m not sure he understands you,” Chapin said softly.
Another gentleman emerged from around the same corner, also dressed in robes of red and yellow and his head shaved. He was slightly smaller and wore a pair of granny spectacles. He spoke to the taller man in a language that Chapin didn’t recognize. The man responded then the spectacled man began to speak in English.
“Rinpoche welcomes you to the center. He is honored by your presence,” he said. The taller man smiled and bowed. Skeet’s eyes lit up and he returned the bow quite deeply.
“The honor is all mine. My name is Skeet Seaton and this is Ms. Chapin Hannigan. “
“My name is Loden Jingpa. I am the interpreter for His Eminence Tharpa Lodro, Rinpoche,” he said using his hand in a sweeping motion as if the larger gentleman was a prize on The Price Is Right. “Would you care for some hot tea to warm you? The air is rather cold this evening.”
“That would be wonderful. Thank you,” Skeet said.
The smaller man said something to the larger man and they scurried off.
“His Eminance?” Chapin questioned.
“Yea. We are in luck. This man is a great Buddhist teacher. Just to sit and talk with him is such an honor. I’m all giddy!”
“Are you sure we are supposed to be here? I mean, I don’t know what I mean,” she said, becoming somewhat flustered. She tried to calm herself. “I mean, a couple of heathens like us? We’re not Buddhist. I don’t want to offend him or anything.”
“Umm, I actually AM a Buddhist. I have been a practicing Buddhist for years,” he said, matter of factly. “And anyway, they don’t care. Trust me.”
The taller man re-entered the room and took a seat on an elevated platform with a tall yellow cushion on it. He was soon followed by the smaller man who brought a tray with a tea pot and four small cups. He set them on a small table that sat in front of the larger man and then invited Chapin and Skeet to sit on cushions on the floor. While they were seating themselves, the smaller man took a seat next to the taller one, but his seat was lower. He very methodically began to make the tea as the larger man smiled. He handed the larger man his cup of tea, bowing and then handed Skeet and Chapin their cups. The smaller man took his cup and settled back on his cushion.
The larger man began to speak in the foreign language again. Chapin didn’t understand a word he was saying but she thought he was just cute as a button. His cheeks were very round and Chapin had a distinct urge to pinch them. When the man paused, the smaller man began to interpret. “Rinpoche says it’s most auspicious that you have come here tonight. He has just returned from six months in India and Tibet and this is only his second night back. He told me this morning we would have visitors, but didn’t elaborate.”
“Actually, we just kinda stumbled across this place. I was just trying to clear my head and as soon as I saw the window, I knew I needed to sit for awhile. We weren’t really expecting to have an audience, but we’re honored.”
Loden Jinpa translated and Rinpoche began to speak again. When he paused, Loden Jinpa began interpreting again. “You are always welcome to sit in this place.” Rinpoche began to speak again and Loden Jinpa followed again with the translation. “Rinpoche wants to make sure you have meditated before.”
“I’ve meditated for probably twenty years, but I don’t think Chapin ever has,” he said, glancing at Chapin. She shook her head.
Loden Jinpa translated for Rinpoche who smiled and responded. “Rinpoche says that you are welcome to sit as long as you want. The main shrine room is in there,” he said, pointing down a hallway to the left. “Rinpoche says that he would be happy to teach the young lady to meditate if she would like, or if she would prefer to sit quietly and wait on you, that’s fine too.”
All eyes turned to Chapin who had no idea what to say. “If you have ever even been curious about meditation, this is the time to learn. This is like learning about God from the Pope,” Skeet said. Chapin pondered for a few seconds and decided that going with her gut had been remarkably successful so far and ther was no reason to stop now. She looked at Rinpoche and bowed. “I would be honored to learn from him, if he would teach me. But I am a complete novice. I have no idea about anything,” she said.
Loden Jinpa translated, then Rinpoche smiled widely at Chapin, bowed in return and said something else. “Rinpoche says the honor is his to be your guru.”
Chapin looked at Skeet. She wasn’t quite sure about the whole ‘guru’ thing but Skeet just smiled at her and squeezed her hand.
“Rinpoche says you should go to the main shrine room and sit. He says you need to center yourself. He’ll meet with you after he teaches Ms. Chapin.” Skeet bowed deeply, got up and headed for the main shrine room. “Rinpoche says to tell you there is nothing to be nervous about. He is just a simple monk and we are just going to talk about breathing. No big deal.“
Chapin smiled and nodded. Through Loden Jinpa, Rinpoche explained to Chapin the basic points of meditation. He told her about posture and sitting position, how to breath and how to watch her breath and what to do with the minds activity as it occurs. Within a few minutes, Chapin was sitting quietly with Rinpoche and Loden Jinpa, meditating. Exploring her mind calmed her, at least for the moment. Plus she was becoming comfortable with Rinpoche. After they had been sitting quietly for about 15 minutes, Rinpoche rang a little bell, indicating that the meditation was over. He smiled and bowed to Chapin who returned in kind. He began to speak again and Chapin waited for Loden Jinpa to translate.
“Rinpoche says you did very well. You should try sitting for at least 20 minutes each day and come back and see him in a couple of months.”
“I’ll try,” said Chapin. While she was intrigued with this whole process, she wasn’t planning on being in Ireland in a couple of months.
Rinpoche began to speak again. “Rinpoche would like to know why you came here. “
“Umm, just like Skeet said, we were out walking around and we happened upon this place,” she replied.
“Rinpoche wants to know why you’ve come to Ireland.”
“Well, we are here looking for a friend. His name is Stan Balch,” she said. She pulled out one of the pictures of Stan that she had printed and showed Rinpoche. He looked at the picture and said something to Loden Jinpa.
“Rinpoche says he knows this man. He lives in Harlowton, which is one town over. He can take you there tomorrow, if you’d like.”
Chapin’s heart erupted. She couldn’t believe what she had just heard. “Yes, please! That would be wonderful! I have to go get Skeet and tell him.” She began to stand up.
Rinpoche held out his hands and spoke followed by more translation by Loden Jinpa. “Rinpoche says we should just wait and let him finish. Disturbing him now won’t change anything. He’ll be out when he’s done. He says that you will have many years to tell him anything you want.”
“What? What do you mean?” Chapin asked, but Rinpoche made it fairly clear that he was done talking. He just smiled, picked up his cup and began to drink his tea again.
Skeet emerged from the main shrine room where he had been sitting. He entered the room slowly and quietly in case Rinpoche was still teaching. Chapin saw him and her face lit up. She was filled with excitement. Skeet sat down beside her.
“Skeet,” she began. “Rinpoche says he knows Stan. He says he lives in a little town not far from here and he’ll take us there tomorrow.”
“You’re kidding, right? He knows Stan?”
“He says so. It can’t hurt to go with him. The worst he can be is wrong.” Suddenly she realized that he was right in the room with them.”I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“It’s fine. Nothing to worry about,” said Joden Linpa. “So please come by in the morning and we will go to Harlowton.”
Get chapter 23 as a pdf file.
Chapin and Skeet met up with Brian and they had breakfast in a small café just a couple of blocks from their hotel and began to plan their strategy. Chapin had thought a picture of Stan might be helpful to show people and had gotten the front desk to print out three copies of the most recent one she could find, even if it was over 15 years old. Brian suggested that, since they had no real leads, they go to the site of the Stardust fire in Artane and start there. It was better than any other idea they had come up with so they decided to go with it.
Brian had rented a car and after breakfast they headed for Artane, Brian driving, Chapin navigating and Skeet offering useless advice.
“Brian you want to make a left up here,” Chapin instructed.
“I’m pretty sure it’s a right,” said Skeet.
“How do you know?” she asked.
“I’ve been to Ireland before, on tour,” Skeet announced proudly.
Chapin double checked the map, tapped Brian on the shoulder and pointed left, then turned her attention back to Skeet. “So because you have set foot in this country, you know we need to make a right here,” she asked, in quite a condescending tone.
“Right?” Brian asked.
“Right,” agreed Skeet.
“No left!” Chapin exclaimed. She poked Brian in the shoulder and pointed left again. He turned left.
“Well now we’re going the wrong way,” said Skeet.
“We’re going the wrong way? Should I turn around?” asked Brian.
“Yes,” said Skeet calmly.
“NO!” exclaimed Chapin. “You are going the right direction. Keep going where I tell you.” She looked at Skeet and squinted. “And you just hush! I am the one with the map and you’re confusing him.”
Skeet threw up his hands and began to watch the scenery go by outside the car. Chapin gave him a second glance then turned her attention back to the map. She looked out the window, peering at street signs, then, again, turned her attention back to the map.
“Make a right up here and the next round thingee and then find a place to park. We are pretty much there,” she said, obviously quite proud of herself.
“I told you it was a right,” Skeet said calmly.
She glared at him, then tried to help Brian find a parking garage. They found a suitable place, found their way to the sidewalk and just stood there looking up and down the street.
“So what now?” Brian asked.
“Where was the Stardust? We should just start from there and see if anyone knows Stan,” Skeet suggested.
Chapin pulled out the map and a little notebook she had jotted some information in. She checked the notebook, then the map, then the notebook, back and forth. She began to scan the street then looked at the map again. “I think it should be a couple of blocks that way,” She said, pointing north. “That’s the best I can figure.” She glanced wryly at Skeet. “Unless of course you have some divine, internal, Irish global positioning system that tells us something different.”
They started walking north until Chapin thought she had found the spot of the fire. They looked around to scout out the nearest pub. Skeet began to ponder exactly how big of a wild goose chase they were on, but he tried to shrug it off.
The nearest pub seemed to be one that was just across the street so they decided to try it. They walked in the front door of what appeared to be a classic Irish pub. They grabbed three stools at the bar and Brian ordered them three beers, which seemed to surprise no one except Chapin, who just couldn’t figure out why they were having a beer at ten in the morning.
“Hey, do you mind if I ask you a question?” Skeet said as the bartender poured their beers.
“Sure, that’s what I do. I serve booze and answer questions,” the curmudgeonly barkeep responded.
“I’m trying to find a friend of mine and I was wondering if you might know him. His name is Stan Balch,” Skeet continued while Chapin fished out one of the pictures she had printed out earlier.
“The name doesn’t sound familiar, but then again, I don’t really keep track of everyone. Much of the time, folks just want a drink and to be left alone.” Chapin showed him the picture, which he took and gave an honest look. “Looks like a pretty old photograph,” he said handing the picture back to Chapin.
“Yea, unfortunately, it’s the best we’ve got right now. Does he look familiar?” Chapin asked.
“Sorry folks. Can’t say I’ve ever laid eyes on the man. Wish I could help you yanks out.”
“It’s ok. We’ll just keep asking around. Thanks,” Brian said. As the barkeep walked away Brian turned and looked at Skeet and Chapin. “One pub down. Probably five hundred to go,” he said and took a drink of beer.
Get chapter 22 as a pdf file.
The flight finally landed in Dublin and it took them several hours to get their luggage, get through customs and get a taxi to their hotel. It was early in the morning when they finally got checked in and settled and they were all exhausted. They left wakeup calls for 9 and headed for bed. Much to their later surprise, Chapin and Skeet didn’t make love, or get undressed or even turn down the bed. They just collapsed on top of the covers and fell asleep.
Chapin gasped and sat straight up when the phone rang. It took her a few seconds to realize where she was and what that disturbing buzz was to her left. She picked up the receiver.
“Hello?” she said groggily.
“This is you 9 a.m. wake up call,” said a voice on the other end that was much to cheery considering the amount of sleep she had gotten.
“Ok, thanks,” she said and hung up the phone. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head slightly to try and rid herself of the cobwebs that had taken over her ability to think straight. She stretched her eyes open wide, thinking that if she didn’t, they would just close again and she would fall right back to sleep. She looked over and saw Skeet sleeping. He had barely stirred when the phone rang and she thought he could probably use another couple of hours. She decided to let him sleep just a little longer while she took a shower.
She hung her feet over the bed and drug herself up. She had travelled overseas occasionally but was not used to dealing with this amount of jet lag. She quietly placed her suitcase on the table and took out clothes to wear for the day. She had stripped down to just her panties and headed in to start the shower when the phone rang again and she almost jumped over the toilet. She moved as fast as she could back to the room, hoping to catch it before it woke Skeet.
“Hello?” she whispered.
“Morning!” As usual, Brian’s voice boomed on the other end. She pulled the phone away from her ear slightly to lessen the effect. She looked down at her bare breasts and the thin strip of cloth that barely covered her girly bits and giggled slightly.
“Brian, why is it we always seem to start our conversations when I am wearing almost nothing?”
The phone was silent for a moment. “I uh…I don’t know? Anyway,” he continued. “Did you guys get the wake up call? Is Skeet up?” Brian asked, attempting to avoid the whole subject of Chapin naked.
“Yea, we got it, but Skeet is still out. I was gonna let him sleep while I grabbed a shower, then wake him up.”
“Ok, how about we meet in the lobby in an hour. Then we can grab some breakfast and start the search.”
“Sounds good. See you in an hour.” She hung up the phone as quietly as possible, although she didn’t know why she bothered trying to be quiet. Nothing else had awakened him yet. She paused and watched him for a moment, telling herself how cute he was, but in reality, she was checking to see that he was still breathing. When she was satisfied that his lungs were working properly, she removed her panties, although she paused at the knee and looked at the phone, expecting Brian would call just as she was completely naked.
She hopped in the shower. It was quite cold so she didn’t stay in long at all. When she emerged, she was shivering slightly. She dryed off, wrapped the towel around her and went and sat on the bed next to Skeet.
“Come on, baby. It’s time to get up,” she said softly. He didn’t budge. “Baby, come on,” she said, just a little louder. He still didn’t move. She leaned in close so she could speak directly into his ear. “Sweetie?” she said.
Skeet’s eyes opened wide and he sat straight up. He felt a sudden pain on the side of his head. He turned and saw Chapin holding her lip. She moved her hand and he saw a little bit of blood trickle from it.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
She nodded. “Ith my faulth. I shouldnth av tridth to whithper inth your eart,” she said.
Suddenly it sunk in where the pain in his head came from. He rubbed the spot where the pain was emanating from. “I’m sorry, baby. Sometimes I wake up a little jumpy,” he said.
“Gotha. I’ll keepth that inth mindt. Noteth to selth,” she said trying to hold the spot on her lip to keep it from bleeding. He moved her hand away gently and winced slightly when he saw the damage.
“Yikes! I mean I am REALLY sorry.”
“The least you could do is kiss it and make it better, damnit!” she snarked.
“With pleasure.” He leaned in and kissed her slowly and gently. He gently pulled away and looked in her eyes, then bounded out of bed. “Gonna get a shower. Gotta get started.” He reminded her of Tigger, from Winnie the Pooh. She wondered what part in the menagerie from the hundred acre wood she would have played. She tried to think of someone who was tired and wanted to go back to bed. “Why don’t you jump on that computer of yours and see if you can find us a place to start.”
“Ok, ok…stop rushing me!” she said.
She heard the shower start and thought for a minute about just getting undressed and hopping in with him to enjoy the morning, but opted against it. They were here with a purpose and there would be plenty of time for fooling around. She really should try to find them a place to start.
She pulled her laptop from its bag and plugged it in. Luckily she had remembered the European power adapter, or to be more precise, Skeet had remembered it for her. He had traveled Europe enough to know that your standard US adapter wasn’t going to cut it without some help. She did, however, struggle with getting a connection. It took her a good 15 minutes and a call to the front desk to get it all working.
Once she was rolling on the information superhighway, she decided to make a quick stop and check her email. She glanced at the in box. There was the usual spam, sprinkled with an email or two from Joe, her boss and another few from her mother. She smiled at the screen. It was nice to get email when she was so far away from home. Her smile soon turned to a frown, however. It began to dawn on her that it was Monday morning, she was in Dublin, fucking Ireland and no one except Shawn and Jaque knew where she was. She wasn’t sure how many time zones Dublin was from Chicago, but she was sure she was now late for work and her mother was probably trying to call the police about Skeet kidnapping her again. She began to think of international authorities breaking down their door and arresting Skeet, yet again.
She grabbed her cell phone and tried to dial, but soon discovered she didn’t have international coverage. Now what? She grabbed the hotel phone but an overseas call was going to be a royal pain. Maybe she could go to an AT&T store and just get the international feature added, but did they have AT&T stores in DUBLIN FUCKING IRELAND. She really hated to bother Skeet with any of this. She felt that she should be able to take care of her own life but, she didn’t know what to do in DUBLIN FUCKING IRELAND.
She went to the bathroom door and heard the shower still running. She knocked lightly and slowly opened the door. “Skeet?”
“Hiya gorgeous! Come to join me?” he asked with a hint of hopefulness.
“As tempting as that sounds, I have a problem.”
“Problem? What problem?”
“Well, my cell phone doesn’t work over here and I just realized that neither my work nor my parents know where I am. My mom could call the cops and cause an international incident and I could be in some serious shit at work. I tried the hotel phone, but that was like pulling…” He cut her off.
“Just use my cell. It’s got all that international hoo ha on it. Problem solved!”
“Perfect! Thanks” She began to close the door.
“Are you SURE you don’t want to join me?” he asked.
“More than you know, but I gotta get this taken care of and then we have to get to work. But later? Definitely later!” she said and closed the door before she changed her mind.
She grabbed his phone and began dialing her parent’s number. Her mother answered.
“Mr. Seaton! I want to know where my daughter is right this minute. I will be calling the police as soon as we are through here and if you harm one hair on….”
“MOM!! It’s me! Calm down. Jesus!” Chapin said exasperated.
“Oh thank God! Chapin where are you? We have been worried sick! Has that…man…kidnapped you again? Just cough once and I’ll call the police right away.”
“Jesus mom, calm down. I am not nor have I ever been kidnapped. I tried to explain this to you earlier.”
“Well, where are you, child? We got a call from Jack looking for you. All we could get out of him was that something horrible had happened. That Seaton man had tried to kill him and now he was accusing Jack of horrible things. We mortgaged the house, but we bailed him out for you, sweetie.”
Chapin gasped. “You did what? Oh mom, no. Damnit!”
“Dear, we weren’t going to let your fiancé rot in jail on some trumped up false charges.” Her mother couldn’t understand why Chapin was being so ungrateful. They had gone into heavy debt to help her out and she just seemed irritated.
“Ok mom, one last time. I want you to turn off the TV so you don’t get distracted. Then go get dad and put this on speaker phone. I want you to both hear it so between you, you’ll understand.”
“I just don’t understand any of this. Could you please…”
“DO IT NOW!” Chapin screamed.
Her mother did as she asked and when the speaker phone was on and her father and mother were both listening on the other end, Chapin began the tale yet again. She explained the very short relationship with Jack, the breakup over the break in, the constant harassment, meeting Skeet, Jack’s sabotage of the charity concert, Jack’s manipulation of them to have Skeet arrested and finally Jacks attempted killing of Skeet but hitting Shawn instead. She only left out a few details, namely sleeping with Skeet, Brian’s obsession with her naked body, and the whole mystery guitar track.
The phone sat silent on the other end. “Mom? Dad? Are you still there?”
“Well Chapin if you just would have told us all this in the beginning, we wouldn’t be in such a pickle right now. You know you really should let us know what’s going on in your life, dear,” her mom said.
Chapin’s mouth sat agape and she slowly raised her hand and, making it into the shape of a fake pistol, pointed it at her temple and mimicked blowing her brains out. Skeet, who had finally emerged from the bathroom, giggled at her. She shot him a look to which he turned around to the mirror to brush his hair, hoping she wouldn’t see the big grin on his face in the reflection.
“Well where are you now dear? We have to call the bail bond place and find out what to do, but we would like to have you and this Seaton fellow over for dinner tonight.”
“Oh that could be a problem, you see, I’m in Ireland right now.”
“With Mr. Seaton?” her mother asked.
Chapin became confused. How did she know? “Yes, with Skeet. How did you know that?”
“Caller ID, silly. This is the twenty first century, you know.”
Chapin glanced down at the phone. She had completely forgotten she was using Skeet’s phone, not hers.
“Now why are you in Ireland with…umm…Skeet, is it?”
“We are…umm…working on a story for work, mom,” which reminded her that she need to call Joe Bailey, post haste or she may be unemployed. He was very understanding and easy to work with and, in fact, she thought she could convince him to let her do a story on the Irish jazz scene so the trip wouldn’t be a problem at all. However, he hated not knowing what was going on and the longer she delayed talking to him, the harder it would be.
“Look mom, I need to check in at work. I’ll call you later on today, ok?” Chapin asked.
“Yes dear. We’ll look forward to it.”
Chapin felt her confidence in their understanding of the whole situation waver just a bit. “Now mom, before I go, who is my boyfriend?” Skeet turned from the mirror and looked at her as if she had just questioned the existence of Big Ben.
“Mr. Seaton is dear. That’s what you said, right?”
“And who is Jack?”
“Why that vile man who tried to shoot your Mr. Seaton. We understand now, it’s just that you don’t keep us up on what’s going on with your life,” her mother said in a matter of fact tone.
Chapin mimicked shooting herself in the head again and, through gritting teeth, agreed with her mother and said goodbye. “Now to call Joe and hope I still have a job.”
“Joe Bailey, right?” Skeet asked.
“Yea,” she responded wondering where this left field question had come from.
“Joe’s an old friend of mine, one hell of a drummer too. Just tell him you’re working on a project with me. I’m sure he’ll be ok with it. If not, tell him he’s not invited to any more poker games! We can probably turn this whole thing into one hell of a story when it’s over.”
Chapin began to boil. “Skeet, I told you I am not over here with you for a story. If that’s all you think of me then I am….” Skeet picked her up off the bed and kissed her hard on the lips. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and continued kissing her.
He looked in her eyes. “I know you aren’t here for a story, but you have to admit, one way or the other, this is gonna make a great one. And if anyone is going to do it, I want it to be you. At any rate, just tell Joe that. It’ll buy you some time. We can work all that out later.”
She swooned slightly from the kiss and sat back down on the bed with a sigh. She picked up the phone and did as she asked. Joe had been worried about her more than anything and knowing she was with Skeet gave him some relief. The story of Jack and Skeet and Shawn had hit the paper so he had been very worried. The fact that she could be with Skeet in another country while this whole thing calmed down was a good idea. He didn’t even ask for details on the story, just when he could expect it.
“Maybe for the January issue?” she said.
“Great, that gives you plenty of time. Oh yea. I heard you gave quite a performance with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea a couple of nights ago at the Astoria. I didn’t even know you could play and I must say if you impressed those two, I am automatically impressed. I will expect a full story on the experience for next month’s issue.”
“You got it, boss!” she said with a grin. “I’ll talk to you later.”
“Wait a minute! How do I get hold of you if I need to? I may just be the editor, but I do get worried about you, kiddo,” Joe said in a somewhat fatherly tone.
She explained about her cell phone problem but gave him the hotel information. She said goodbye, hung up the phone and lay flat back on the bed with a sigh.
“You know,” Skeet began, but hesitated.
“Well…you…never mind. It’s no big deal.” Skeet turned back to the mirror
“Hey, open and honest, remember? Whatever you have to tell me, I can take it. So shoot.” Chapin said.
“Really, it’s nothing.”
“Look, don’t worry about hurting my feelings. If there’s a problem, I want to know so we can work on it.”
He turned and looked at her with a big grin. “I was just going to say you could have gone to the AT&T web site and turned on the international service. It’s happened to Brian and me before. Like I said, it was no big deal.”
Chapin buried her face in her palm, breathed a sigh of relief and began to laugh hysterically. She grabbed her lap top and had AT&T turn on her international service, giggling the whole time.
Get chapter 21 as a pdf file.
Once everyone had explained what had happened, Skeet was released and Jack was taken into custody. They had to call a second ambulance because Shawn had been taken away in the first one on the scene. It had just been a flesh wound but the ambulance drivers wanted him checked out by a doctor just to be sure and they would need a doctor’s statement for the police report anyway. Skeet and Chapin gave statements to the police then followed Shawn’s ambulance to the hospital while Brian dropped off Jaque and rescheduled the flight that they were now late for. Shawn had called his wife, Jen who was meeting them at the hospital.
Shawn got patched up and was given a clean bill of health before Jen arrived. The bullet had just grazed his upper arm so just a good cleaning, a couple of stitches and a tetanus shot fixed him right up. Skeet and Chapin waited with him until Jen arrived to pick him up and stuck around for a few just to calm her down a little. Even though Shawn was ok, it’s not every day you get a call telling you that your husband has been shot. “That settles it!” she had said. “We are so moving to California or Canada or Australia or SOMEWHERE!”
Once Jen and Shawn pulled away, Skeet and Chapin hopped in the car and headed for Chapin’s apartment so she could pack. Brian had been able to reschedule the flights for four hours later, which bought them a little time, but not much. If they missed this one, they would have to wait until the next day to leave.
Chapin packed quickly, just grabbing a couple of pairs of jeans, a few shirts, some underwear and only the basics of makeup. She also grabbed a couple of baby doll nighties that she thought might come in handy. She grabbed her laptop computer bag and they headed for the airport.
They met Brian and boarded their plane. They had a connecting flight to catch in Philadelphia and hoped they wouldn’t miss it, but on the flight they just tried to relax from the harrowing day.
“You should try to get some sleep. It’s gonna be a long flight and getting through customs in Ireland can be a bitch,” Skeet said. Chapin had been looking out the window but turned to meet his gaze. He reached out and took her hand and squeezed it. “I’m really glad you came, you know. I just not sure I could have done this whole thing alone.” His eyes drifted off toward the ceiling of the plane. A dulling look came across his face. “I probably just would have tried to ignore the whole thing, which is probably the wrong thing to do.”
“Well, I sure as hell wasn’t going to let you go without me. I think you’re stuck with me,” she said.
“But why?” he asked.
“Why? What do you mean, ‘why’?”
“I mean why are you doing all this. Why are you going halfway around the world to watch me act like an idiot on a wild goose chase. You planning a big story from this? It’ll probably make you a mint.” His eyes suddenly turned a little colder.
“Don’t be an ass, Skeet. I’m not going to write about any of this. I’m here because I want to be here, but if that’s all you think I’m here for, then I underestimated what we had.” She let go of his hand and turned back to the window.
Skeet’s head dropped. “Look, I’m sorry. It’s been a really stressful day and I’m not used to all this.”
“Who of us is used to all this? I mean, psycho guy tries to kill you, hits your friend, mystery sounds on a tape driving you out of your mind. It’s not your everyday stress,” she said.
“Well, yea. That’s true too, But that’s not what I was talking about.”
She turned and gave him a puzzled look.
“Yea, you see, I meant the whole caring about someone and having someone care about me kinda thing. I don’t really have ‘relationships’ or anything. I mean, there have been women, but we usually hook up for a few dates and that’s about it. I am gone too much. I’m just not real sure how to do this.” he said. He hadn’t felt this vulnerable since his youth, and it showed.
She took his hand again. “You were doing just fine until the crack about the story part, but on that one lost you a couple of points,” she said with a soothing smile. “My track record isn’t great either. I have always been very calculating in relationships, but after the last one, I decided to go with the flow a little more. So far, I think it was the right decision, at least I hope so.” She paused and looked at her hand in his. “I’m gonna be straight with you here. I know we’ve only known each other a short time, but I’m falling for you. Hard. I hope that doesn’t scare you away or anything like that, but I want to be honest with you and I want you to be honest with me.” She was afraid to look up so she kept her eyes on their hands. He made no move to let go so she took that as a good sign. With his other hand, he reached under her chin and gently lifted her head so she was looking at him. He slowly leaned in and kissed her, a very soft gentle kiss. When their lips parted, he looked into her eyes.
“I’m falling for you too. It’s really hard for me to admit, but I am.”
“Geez, get a damn room!” Brian’s voice boomed from the seat behind them as he kicked the back of Skeet’s seat. “I mean, my God. You guys are so mushy, it sounds like you could shoot right through a screen door.”
“Oh Brian!” Chapin began. “I didn’t think you were even paying attention since I had my clothes on!” Skeet fell forward giggling and had to hold his stomach.
Brian fell silent.
Get chapter 20 as a pdf file.
When breakfast had been finished and they all felt stuffed, the girls insisted on clearing the table, over Skeet’s objections. Chapin washed and Jaque dried while Brian and Skeet wiped down the table.
“You’ve got a real winner there, Chapin. Talented, cute as hell and on top of that, he can cook. That’s a triple threat if I ever saw one.” Jaque said under her breath.
“Don’t I know it. I think I might have hit the jack pot this time,” Chapin said, smiling.
“What do you think he’s gonna do about Stan?”
“I don’t know, but I think it’s going to drive him crazy if he ignores it. I hope I can convince him,” Chapin said.
“All right, what are you girls whispering about over there?” Skeet said wryly.
“Oh just about how cute you two are. Nothing more,” Jaque said, then the two of them burst into laughter.
“Well, Skeet. What do you wanna do? Should we start looking for Stan?” Brian asked. Brian was not one to beat around the bush or be subtle. Chapin was actually pleased that Brian had brought it up instead of her.
Skeet took a deep breath and looked down at the table. “I don’t really want to, but it seems like I should. So let’s see what turns up. You know, Shawn is always up on where everyone is. Let’s get him over here. Maybe he can help.”
“Alright, but he’s gonna be pissed. You might have to make more Indian Omelettes,” Brian said and pulled his cell phone out of his robe and began to dial.
“Well, if it’s all right, I’m gonna go grab a quick shower and put on some clothes. I’ll be back in a few,” Jaque announced as she headed out the kitchen door towards Brian’s house.
“Shawn’s on his way. He said Stan is going to be a tough one to find. He’s pretty much dropped off the face of the earth. No one has heard from him publically in years.”
“Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Chapin said with a sigh. “I’ve got some contacts through the magazine I can call. We’ll see what that turns up. You boys got a computer around here? I mean one connected to the net.”
Skeet led her into the den and powered up a computer that sat by the fireplace. There was still a chill in the air so he started a fire while Chapin and Brian poured over the screen. Chapin tapped away at the keys and they were soon joined by Jaque. Skeet settled onto the couch and thumbed through a copy of ‘Bon Appetite’ while the other three continued the search. Skeet was halfway through the magazine when the doorbell rang. Neither Chapin, Jaque or Brian stirred and Skeet made his way to the front door to let in Shawn.
“Hiya Skeets! Decided to track down your better half huh? Good move! I always said he was the talented one,” Shawn said with a grin as he slapped Skeet on the back. He was wearing a backpack and a thick blue coat and a red scarf, which he removed and handed to Skeet. They made their way back to the den and Shawn set his backpack down tossed his coat on the couch and warmed himself for a moment by the fire.
“You’re right, Shawn. He seems to have just dropped out of site in the early 90’s. I can’t even find a good lead. You have any ideas?” Chapin asked. She was getting exasperated and somewhat embarrassed. She was a reporter. Research was supposed to be one of her strong points and she really wanted to find some information to help.
“Well, let’s see. I was thinking back and the last thing I think I heard was a long time ago from Larry Mullen who said he had seen him on a trip home to Ireland. That may give us a place to start,” Shawn said.
“Do you have the name of a town or anything?” Chapin asked.
“Not really, but I know that Larry is from Artane, just outside of Dublin, but that’s been a really long time ago that I talked to him.”
Chapin began tapping at the keyboard again but with little success.
As Shawn stood there he began to sniff the air. His diminished site was obviously compensated by his sense of hearing, which is what made him such a great engineer, but he was no slouch in the smell department either, and he was picking up some unusual scents.
“Hey! You guys had Indian Omelets and didn’t invite me? I am thoroughly insulted!” Shawn announced. “Well can a guy at least get a cup of hot tea on a cold morning?”
“Food prep! That’s my department,” Skeet said as he headed off to the kitchen.
“I’m coming up empty. Did he say anything else? Maybe where in Artane he saw him or something?” Chapin asked.
“Not really. He said he saw him in a pub. Go figure. He didn’t really give a name or anything. “ Shawn paused and thought for a moment. “Although…”
“Yea?” said Chapin.
“He said he had been down paying respects to some friends who had died in a big nightclub fire. He said he wandered into a pub just after to have a beer and there was Stan.” Shawn said.
“So there was a fire in a town a long time ago and we are looking for a bar close by to find Stan who happened to be in there. Just great!” Brian sighed. He was becoming frustrated too. “I think this may be….”
“Wait!” Chapin cut him off. “It says here in the 80’s there was a fire at the Stardust Disco in Artane and 48 people died. It was pretty famous. Maybe that’s the one?”
“Stardust…yea, that sounds familiar!” Shawn exclaimed.
“How the hell did you find…” Brian started.
“No time to explain. Let’s see. It says that the Stardust was on the site now occupied by the Butterly Business Park. I’m not sure what to do with it, but we have a scrap. Let me see if I can find some bars in the area,” Chapin said.
“Pubs, missy. They call them pubs. You have to learn to sprechen zee right lingo!” Shawn joked.
“Yes sir!” Chapin said, firing off a mock salute. “But I’m not quite sure how to find bars errr, PUBS in the area.”
“Why don’t you just look up his name in the phone book?” Jaque asked. “I mean, that’s what we do here.”
They all exchanged glances in silence for a moment. “Can’t hurt to try,” Brian said.
Chapin tapped away at the keyboard. “There doesn’t seem to be a Balch listed in Artane,” she said. “But it was a good idea, Jaque. I wonder if we can try something similar for the pub. I mean, those iPhones can do it.”
Chapin tapped some more but to no avail. Other than the nightclub, which was a long shot, they had nothing.
Skeet came back in with a steaming cup of tea for Shawn along with a pastry. “Thought you might could use a little sustenance too,” he said, handing the mug and small plate to Shawn.
“Well, thanks,” he said half heartedly looking at the plate. “But it ain’t no Indian Omelet!” he said and took a big bite out of the pastry.
They continued the search for the next 3 hours with Chapin tapping away at the keyboard and Shawn, Brian and Jaque offering suggestions about what to look for and where they might find it.
“Wait, I may have found something here. I found a listing for a Holly Balch in a small town nearby called Harmonstown,” Chapin announced.
“Well we aren’t looking for Holly, we’re looking for Stan,” Brian protested.
“I know, but it’s the only Balch even close to there. There’s a good possibility that they may be related or at least know something about him. It’s our only lead so far,” said Chapin.
“So I guess we should call,” Jaque suggested.
They all stood around looking expectantly at each other.
“Oh get me the phone, I’ll do it,” Chapin said. Brian picked the phone up off the table and handed it to Chapin. She dialed the number on the screen and waited. “It says it’s been disconnected. Great. Now what?”
“Just keep looking, I guess,” remarked Brian.
“Look we need to solve this once and for all. I’m tired of this and I just want to find out the truth and be done. Brian, let’s just catch a flight to Ireland and find him, assuming he’s still there. Chapin, you stay here and keep working the internet.” Skeet was quite forceful.
“Look, I’ve got a laptop, I can search on the trip, but I’m going with you. I’ve got time off at work and I want to come,” Chapin declared.
“You don’t have to do that. Brian and I can handle…”
“I’m sure you can, but I want to go, so I can go with you or I can tag along on my own. Your choice, sport!”
“You’ve got work. You shouldn’t have to worry about my problems.”
“You announced that I was your girlfriend so now your problems are my problems. Let me make this simple for you. I can come and be in the hotel bed with you or I can come and be in a room by myself across the hall. It’s your choice.”
“Ummm, be careful with this one, Skeeter. If you make the wrong choice we are DEFINITELY gonna take away your man card!” Shawn announced.
“Well, I have no intention of arguing with a woman in my bed. Let’s book a flight and some rooms,” Skeet said, finally relenting.
“I’ve got some contacts around that might know something but it’ll take me a couple of days to track them down. You guys go and I’ll man the command post here and see what I can ferret out. By the way, Skeet. You SO owe me Indian Omelets now!” Shawn said.
Brian grabbed the phone and began to book the trip. It was a duty he was used to performing for Skeet and himself. But when he began making the hotel reservations, he became a little flustered. “Skeet, ummm… I am assuming one room with one bed for you and Chapin?”
“Well, I’m certainly not sleeping with you, Brian!” Chapin giggled.
“Don’t think I’d be too fond of that idea myself, sugar,” giggled Jaque.
“It’s settled then. I will be sleeping with Chapin,” Skeet said with a smile.
Brian turned a light shade of red and turned his attention back to making reservations on the phone. He jotted some information in a small notebook and hung up the phone.
“Ok, we leave from O’Hare in 4 hours, so we better get going. I’ll drop Jaque off at her place if you can drop Shawn off, then we can meet at O’Hare,” Brian suggested.
“I need to grab a few things first. At least a change of panties for God’s sake.” Chapin announced.
“Then we better haul ass. Brian and I pretty much keep a couple of bags ready to go so we don’t have much to pack. Let us just grab them and then we can head out.” Skeet and Brian headed off to their respective parts of the estate while Shawn, Chapin and Jaque stayed in the den and chatted. Within a few minutes, they reappeared, ready to go. They all headed out the front door. Shawn, Chapin and Skeet headed for the SUV parked in the drive way while Jaque waited at the front door while Brian locked up.
Suddenly a crack rang out, causing Chapin to jump. Startled, they all looked around for the source of the noise. Skeet saw a slight movement in the bushes but before he could say anything, a second crack rang out and Shawn winced and fell to the ground. Chapin rolled toward Shawn and began to assess his situation.
“Call 911!” Chapin screamed. Brian rolled on his side and reached for his cell phone. He and Jaque had dropped down in front of the door at the second crack and Brian had covered Jaque with his body to protect her. He dialed the phone and began to breathlessly try to tell the dispatcher about the situation.
Skeet placed himself between Chapin, Shawn and where he had seen the movement. He began scanning the bushes to see if he could catch a glimpse of anything. Just to his left, he saw someone trying to run. They were headed toward the back of the house. Skeet jumped up and began to run as fast as he could around the other side of the house.
He rounded the corner of the house and entered the backyard. He watched as the gate that was the entrance to the garden on the other side of the house, swung open. While Skeet was in decent shape because of all those long sweaty sets on the road, running was not something he did a lot, so he was winded. He began running an intercept course with the man. He could see a rifle in his hand, which was obviously slowing him down, so Skeet thought he stood a chance.
He ran behind a row of bushes and, as he saw the figure passing in front of him, dove at his knees. He hit the runner on the knees and heard a crunch. He pulled himself up and found himself looking into Jack Palero’s eyes, just as a bullet whizzed by his ear. Skeet pulled his arm back, balled up his fist and punched Jack right in the jaw with his right hand and grabbed the rifle with his left. Jack tried to struggle underneath him.
Thoughts of all the trouble he had caused them, not to mention his stalking and abuse of Chapin ran through his mind and rage began to build. “Stop it, you fucker!” Skeet shouted, but Jack took a swing at him. Suddenly the rage overflowed and Skeet yanked the rifle away from Jack’s hand, spun it around and smacked him as hard as he could in the chin with the butt. Jack went limp.
“Oh my God! Did you kill him?” Chapin asked. The panic was evident in her voice.
Skeet, who very rarely lost his cool, stood up with a cold look in his eye. He spun the rifle around and aimed it directly at Jack’s head. “Now there’s a thought,” he said. “He did, after all, shoot my friend, torture my girlfriend, destroyed private property, trespassed on my place, tried to get me arrested for kidnapping and oh yea, by the way, TRIED TO KILL ME. I think shooting this delusional pile of horse shit would be justified and no court in the country would convict me of a thing.
The hair on the back of Chapin’s neck stood on end. She wasn’t sure what to make of Skeet at this point. It was a side of him she had never seen, but she tried to remain calm and talk him down.
“You’re right, baby. But he’s not worth the hassle. The cops are on their way and they’ll take care of him.” She tried to speak in a calming voice but inside, she was panicking.
“Or I could save them the trouble,” he said. He reached up and cocked the hammer on the rifle as Jack began to stir.
“Sweetie, how about if we let the cops worry with him and we worry about Shawn?”
Shawn. Skeet’s mind had been so consumed he had forgotten about Shawn. “Is…is he ok?” Skeet asked.
“I think so. We’re waiting on the ambulance, though. You should come check on him,” she said, inching slowly toward him.
“But what about him? We can’t just let him run away.”
“I don’t think he’s going anywhere, baby,” she said, her eyes moving slowly down Jack’s body. “Looks like he had an accident.”
Skeet looked down and saw that Jack’s left leg was broken in two at the knee. “It must have been when I tackled him.”
“You mean it must have been when he fell down.”
Skeet put his thumb on the hammer of the rifle and slowly lowered it.
Jack looked up at him. “I knew you didn’t have the stones. Chapin wants somebody with guts, and you obviously don’t have any. You can never take her away from me. Isn’t that right Chapin? Tell him. TELL HIM!”
They both stared silently at him. It was finally dawning on them how messed up Jack really was.
“Sir, please put down the rifle and step away with your hands in the air.”
Chapin and Skeet turned around and saw two police officers standing about 20 feet away, both with their pistols drawn.
Skeet put one hand in the air and put the rifle down with the other. One of the officers walked up and handcuffed Skeet. “Great. Just great. Here we go again,” he lamented.
Get chapter 19 as a pdf file.
Chapin awoke in Skeet’s arms and glanced around the room. The sunlight was just starting to stream in the window. She lay there listening to him breathe. She became conscious that she was lying naked and the sheet was at her feet and all she could think of was Brian walking in yet again. She tried to maneuver the sheet up without waking Skeet, but it wasn’t to be. She covered herself and he began to stir.
“Good morning, beautiful!” Skeet said, kissing her. Even the morning breath didn’t matter to the two of them. They held each other for several minutes then just relaxed in total bliss.
“I played with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea last night. I can’t believe it! It’s like a dream and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s true.” She sighed and stared at the ceiling for a moment, then rolled on her side with her head on Skeet’s chest. “Plus I made love to the most wonderful man in the world.”
“Several times!” Skeet interjected.
“Well that makes it several times as great now doesn’t it?”
He kissed her again. “I’m hungry,” he announced. “Let’s grab a shower and cook something to eat.”
“Sounds good, but maybe we should go out for something to eat. I’m not really much of a cook,” she said.
Skeet grinned. “I’ve got it covered. Let’s hit the shower!” He hopped up and walked around the bed, took her hand and headed for the shower.
Once they were showered and dressed they headed to the kitchen. As Skeet bounded into the kitchen he saw a woman sitting there. She was in a blue robe that was clearly oversized. Skeet recognized it as Brian’s. Her back was to the door and she sipped on a cup of coffee. She turned around as she heard them enter the room. She looked strangely familiar but Skeet couldn’t seem to place where he knew her from.
“Hello?” Skeet asked.
“Oh hi, Skeet! I hope I didn’t give you a start, sugar. I was here with Brian and it got really late so he said I could just stay here. I hope that’s not a problem,” the lady said.
“Wait… Jaque, right?” Chapin said.
“Why yes!” Jaque turned to Chapin. “I remember you were in the coffee shop with Brian and Skeet, but I don’t think I ever caught your name.”
“I’m Chapin,” she said with a smile.
Skeet suddenly realized that the woman had been their waitress in the coffee shop across the street from the Metro. She had seemed nice enough and Skeet trusted Brian. If he trusted her to be here, then Skeet did too.
“Well why don’t you girls have some coffee and I’ll get started on some breakfast,” Skeet suggested as he pulled out a chair for Chapin and kissed her on the forehead.
“Now why don’t you let me help, sugar?” Jaque said. She glanced at Chapin with a smile. “You know you can’t trust a man in the kitchen.
“I think you’d be surprised,” boomed Brian’s voice as he entered the room. “Skeet seems quite at home in the kitchen.”
Chapin looked at Skeet with amazement. “You’re quite the renaissance man!” She beamed with her feelings for him. He looked at her and smiled.
“You know, Brian was telling me about that strange thing that happened to your album, you know, with Stan playing on it and all.” Jaque said in a quite matter of fact tone that took a moment to register with both Chapin and Skeet. “And you know I’m on the internet all the time and I bet we can just google old Stan up and you can give him a call and find out what the hec’s goin’ on.”
Skeet shot Brian a look while Chapin bit her lip. Brian stared blankly at Skeet, not knowing what to say. Chapin swallowed hard and decided to interject before temperatures started to rise away from all the pans that Skeet had going on the stove. “You know,” she started. “She’s probably right. We could probably do a little research and find him, no problem.” She immediately wondered if this was the right thing to say to keep tempers down and decided it probably wasn’t, but it was already out there, so she decided she better roll with it.
“Yea, Skeet. I’m sure between us we can find him,” Brian agreed.
“But I’m not sure I want to find him. It’s been a long time and a lot of water has passed under the bridge,” Skeet said, while violently beating eggs in a large bowl.
“Well, he obviously wants something to do with you, for better or worse. He laid some guitar tracks down on tape and not crappy guitar either. He obviously wasn’t trying to mess it up,” Brian commented.
“How about if we eat a little breakfast before we get too heavy into this, cool?” Skeet said. His voiced betrayed both his stress and his irritation. He had planned to cook a small romantic breakfast for just Chapin and himself and now he was cooking for four and talking about an issue that was truly disturbing to him.
“Sounds fair,” remarked Chapin. “So what’s on the menu in this greasy spoon?” she asked, attempting to change the subject to something a little less stressful.
Skeet’s face brightened up as his thoughts turned to his beloved food. “I’m trying not to go too complicated this morning, but I’m making some chocolate covered Belgian waffles topped with Crème fraîche, some maple cured bacon on the side. For those who want eggs, I’m doing a variation on an Indian Omelet. “
Both girls suddenly sat up straight and looked at each other.
“You’re kidding, right sugar?” Jaque asked.
“No, he’s not kidding,” Brian answered.
“I was just expecting some eggs and toast,” said Chapin.
Brian looked down at her mockingly. “Madam, Skeet doesn’t make…” he added just a bit of mock contempt to the words. “eggs and toast.” Brian and Skeet began to laugh as Skeet began pinching ingredients into a pan. The kitchen suddenly filled with a wonderful scent of Middle Eastern spices.
“My God, what is that? It smells wonderful!” Jaque asked.
“Onions, chili, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, a little coriander, some mint, a dash of lime juice…”
“Ok, basically more than I want to know about,” Jaque said with a grin.
Skeet shook and rattled various pots and pans and then grabbed some plates and began to lay them out on the counter.
“Can I help with anything?” Chapin asked.
“I learned a long time ago just to stay out of his way. Every once and a while he lets me cut up something, but usually I have to stay out of the entire area,” Brian laughed.
Skeet emerged from the kitchen with a plate stacked with waffles, and a pot of what appeared to be melted chocolate. After setting it on the table, he raced back in the kitchen and brought a plate of bacon. He then grabbed individual plates, placed an omelet on each one and carefully placed it in front of each person.
The girls sat speechless. Skeet sat down and looked around the table. “Well, dig in!” he said and Brian started reaching for the waffles. The girls followed Brian’s lead and a chorus of “Ummms”, “Yums” and “Oh God” that sometimes bordered on orgasmic.
“You guys are really lucky, you know. Usually he just cooks for the poker buddies,” Brian said. He turned to Skeet. “You know Shawn is gonna be pissed! He loves your Indian Omelet,” Brian said.
“Well, might I suggest that we do this again tomorrow and invite him!?” announced Chapin to a chorus of laughs.
Get chapter 18 as a pdf file.
Chapin slouched down onto the couch in Skeet’s studio as he began turning on power to several devices. It had been a whirlwind evening, which seemed to be a pattern when she was with Skeet. She had almost been late for their date, played jazz back stage with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea and then actually got to play with them on stage. Her boyfriend thinks he’s losing his mind, then was handcuffed and almost arrested by a couple of Chicago’s finest because her ex-boyfriend convinced her parents that she had been kidnapped. It was really beginning to get to her, but she glanced over at him, while he was spinning dials and pushing faders. So far, it all seemed to be worth it. She was beginning to think he was her soul mate and they had only known each other a few days.
On the drive home, he had played the CD that he had brought back from the record company. It was fantastic, she thought but it definitely wasn’t the same thing she had heard during their previous visit to the studio.
Skeet started the playback and turned to her. “Now you’ll see that this one won’t have that fantastic guitar. I don’t know who’s doing this or how but it’s really freaking me out?” They listened to the track and were almost floored when, remarkably, the guitar that had been missing on the masters every time Skeet had listened to it, was magically there now. His eyes widened and he spun around in his chair. He was frantically muting tracks, trying to identify where the sound is coming from.
His original recording of ‘Velvet Paradise’ had used 26 tracks to record on the computer controlled digital system. He muted the 26th track and the guitar sound continued unaccompanied. “Where the hell is that coming from?” The desperation was clear in his voice.
Chapin got up and began looking over his shoulder. She worked with computers all the time and wanted to help. She looked at the screen where the tracks were displayed. “Scroll over to the right,” she suggested. He obeyed and, low and behold, the 48th track on the system had the guitar. He turned it on and off a couple of times just to make sure then slumped backward in his chair.
“What the fuck is going on? That wasn’t there yesterday!” he exclaimed.
“Are you sure you scrolled over here? Maybe you just didn’t notice it.”
“If it were just me, I’d say you’re probably right, but Shawn did it. There’s no way he would have missed something like that. He’s one of the best I’ve ever known,” Skeet said.
“Everyone misses stuff now and then. Maybe he just missed it.”
“Maybe. I’ll call him and find out.” Skeet reached for his cell phone but Chapin gently closed it in his palm.
“Look, its one a.m. It can wait until tomorrow. Let Shawn sleep, or…whatever it is he does.” She took the phone and placed it on the console. “Besides, don’t you have some important business to attend to?” She sat on his lap and began kissing his neck. “Namely me?” she cooed in his ear.
He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. As things began to heat up, his hands began to move freely over her black dress. He caressed her breasts and kissed her gently. She stood up in front of him and pulled the dress over her head, revealing the black lace she had picked out for him earlier in the evening. She unhooked the bra, removed it and tossed it on Skeet’s head. She tucked her thumbs into the top of the black lace panties and slowly began to slide them down.
The door burst open. “Skeet, I’ve been talking to Shawn and we are sure…” Brian was in the center of the room before he realized anything was going on. “Ahh damnit!” he said, covering his eyes and turning around.
Chapin quickly pulled the panties back up, covered her bare breasts with one hand and grabbed her bra with the other. “I’m not sure if I’m pleased or insulted by that reaction, Brian,” she lamented. What else was she going to do but try to make a joke out of the awkward situation.
“I’m…. I’m sorry. I didn’t figure you were… I mean… I didn’t know,” Brian said, his face still planted in his hand so as to not take in the view. He had begun to turn a deep shade of red.
“It’s ok, B. It’s my fault,” Skeet said as he walked him out the door. As the door closed behind them, Skeet turned to Brian. “Ok, you and Shawn were talking, and…”
“Oh man, she must think I’m some kinda perv! I keep walking in when she’s naked. Skeet, you gotta know I’m not doing that on purpose.”
“I know, Brian. She knows too. Shit just happens. Don’t sweat it. I’ll take care of it. Now, you and Shawn were talking…”
“Well, Shawn and I have been listening to the album for hours. There is no doubt. That guitar is Stan Balch. We’re sure of it. No one else sounds like that.”
“But why would Stan… I mean…” Skeet paused and thought for a moment. “I haven’t seen Stan in years. Why would he do this? Why not just call me? Why try to drive me out of my mind?”
“I don’t know. But the playing has got to be Stan.” Brian paused not knowing how to proceed. “Maybe…you should…try to call him.”
Skeet’s head snapped up and looked Brian in the eye. “You know I can’t do that. Why would you even say that?”
“Look man, I know what’s going on. But I also know what the record company’s expecting now, and I know you can’t get anyone else who can play that way, and I know this whole thing is driving you crazy. I don’t know what else to tell you man. I think you should call him.
The door opened and Chapin emerged. “Call who?” she said as she pulled down on the dress to straighten it.
“Nothing. Brian and I were just thinking out loud.”
“I think he should call Stan Balch. That’s got to be who’s on the track,” Brian said.
“Did he tell you it’s on the master now?” Chapin asked.
Brian smirked. “No, the one with the track is a copy. The thing in there is the master.”, he said, point toward the studio door. “The guitar is just on the copy.”
“No, it WAS just on the copy. We just listened to the master. It’s on there now,” she said.
“If that was listening to the master, then I think Skeet and I never listened to the master,” Brian said with a grin.
“Oh you just want to see me naked. Admit it,” she said to Brian, being completely sarcastic. She turned to Skeet. “I think Brian’s right. You should call him. You’ve got to get to the bottom of this.”
“Look, I haven’t talked to him in so many years. I don’t even know how to begin to find him,” Skeet said. He was obviously looking for reasons not to try. “I doubt he’d take the call anyway.”
“Well you should try. It’s the only way you’re going to find out anything. I’ve got some sources at work. I can try to help you find him,” Chapin offered.
“And Shawn keeps up with everybody in the business. He may know something,” Brian offered.
“Ok, let’s talk about it in the morning, OK?” Skeet said.
They stood in an awkward silence. “Ummm…Ok?” Brian asked. There was more awkward silence. “Ohhhh! You guys want to ‘listen to the master’ some more.”
Skeet looked at Chapin. “Maybe we should go upstairs to… ummm… finish our discussion.”
“Is there a lock on that door?” Chapin asked.
Get Chapter 17 as a pdf file.