The guitarist found the singer — guess where! — in the hotel’s bar, with three lavishly made-up girls, none of whom looked over 15. One of the perks of the singer’s having attained superstardom was that he was able to take on the road with him a dedicated forger, whose job it was to create IDs for underaged girls he wished to debauch. As the singer was an implacable debaucher of underaged girls, the dedicated forger was often heard to complain that he worked harder than anyone else on the tour, a complaint roundly pooh-poohed by the tour’s stage crew, which had become noticeably more muscular between the beginning of the tour, in Stockholm, in April, and Phoenix, in July. The girls in the bar with the singer were cooing as they conducted a sort of Easter egg hunt, seeing how many necklaces they could find hidden in the singer’s bounteous chest hair. There were three cosmeticians on the tour, one of whom styled the singer’s hair. The guitarist, who’d been in the game long enough to remember a time when male pop singers were mostly androgynous, and devoid of body hair, wondered if she regularly shampooed and conditioned the singer’s chest.
But of course he had a more pressing question to pose in the limited time he knew he would get with the singer, whose expression, as the guitarist approached him and the three girls, was not one of delight. None of the three girls gave any indication of recognising him as a member of the singer’s band. “Sorry to intrude, dude,” the guitarist. “Hey, I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it!” The singer’s deeply unamused expression said, “Is this apt to take long?” He sighed and indicated to the least cleavaged of the three girls that she should surrender her stool to the guitarist. The look she gave the guitarist might have killed someone with a less hardy constitution.
The guitarist asked if the singer had been pleased with his work on the tour. In at least three reviews, critics had commended the guitarist’s playing. In one of them, the guy had said he was the best part of the show. The guitarist couldn’t imagine the singer having been very pleased with that, not that he imagined he’d even seen the review.
“Let’s cut to the chase, Nikki,” the singer said. “You want a raise, right?” The guitarist had felt he deserved a raise for acceding to the singer’s insistence that he spell his name Nikki in the tour programme.
“I think I’ve probably mentioned that Joanne’s pregnant,” Nick said. “And my dad’s in bad shape, and his insurance doesn’t begin to cover it.”
The singer rolled his eyes, and swatted the hand of one of the girls away from his chest. “Why haven’t you taken this up with Jacob?” he demanded. “There’s channels you’re supposed to go through. You know that.”
“You know how Jacob is,” Nick said, lowering his eyes in submission. “A good word from you would make him a lot more receptive to my approaching him.”
The singer noticed how the girl whose hand he’d slapped away looked on the verge of tears, and replaced her hand on his chest. She brightened immediately, and her two friends hated her with a vengeance. “Let me think about it,” the singer said, taking the hand of one of the still-seated glowering girl and guiding it to his groin.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the bartender said, wincing, with the utmost wariness, “but can I ask you to take that up to your room, please?”
The singer didn’t look very pleased about that, and, as Nick expected, didn’t have a word with Jacob, his manager, who, in response to Nick’s telling about Joanne’s pregnancy and his father’s failing health, said, “Hey, you signed a contract, dude.” Joanne had twin girls — at least one of whom Nick later found out to be the singer’s — and his dad died in agony, but that’s rock and roll.