Court Leopold, who headlines the indie-band Courtesan, disappeared from Counterpoint Music Festival in the early hours of Saturday morning. His devoted roadie Gemma and his greatest fan Louise have no idea where he’s gone or if he’ll ever be back. They need to find him, but Gemma is distracted by her budding romance with Henry Dark, and Louise has found a connection with Yestin Marsh. Should they call the police?
But, as Gemma puts it, Can you imagine what the police would say if we went to report him missing? A singer in his twenties goes AWOL from a festival. They’d think he went for a leg-over with a fan and overstayed.
The festival’s half over and they need to find him fast.
Counterpoint Music Festival, Patterdale: Tuesday, April 14, 2019.
If Gemma had spent more time in the Courtesan trailer, instead of making the most of Henry Dark and the fairyland cottage where they spent their nights, she might have heard the missed calls.
After her second night in the cottage she knew she had to sort herself out.
One fuck-me-out-of-my-head is excusable. I’m not going to let this overshadow the rest of my time with Henry. Oh lord, I hope I’m not going to be dependent the way Jordy is with Chess.
Jordy, usually so calm and easy-going, hated being separated from her husband for more than a few hours.
Sunday and Monday passed in the joy and comfort of Henry’s presence, but on Tuesday Gemma made a firm decision to test herself by staying away from Henry for the day. She used the pretext of sorting out what should happen to the gigs for the rest of the festival. Court Leopold, her sister’s enigmatic singing partner, had been missing since the early hours of Saturday morning and it seemed increasingly likely that something was wrong.
Court wouldn’t do this to us. He wouldn’t do it to himself. He’s so polite and so reliable. He just doesn’t do this sort of thing.
He has, though.
He can’t have. This is not what Court does.
It always came back to that.
“Jordy and Chess and I will be having one of those interminable circular discussions which would bore you out of your skull, so you go and catch some more gigs,” she said to Henry when they arrived at the festival that morning.
“But you are coming to the cottage tonight?” Henry looked worried.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Good. I don’t want to wake up on Wednesday and have that horrible feeling.”
“What, a hard-on you have to see to yourself? You get a lot of hard-ons. Not that you’ve been seeing to them yourself. I mean, why would you, when you’ve got me handy to see to them for you?”
He actually blushed, the red brimming his glasses and his neat beard. “Not that. I love having hard-ons for you to see to, Gemma. I mean that feeling when something’s gone horribly wrong. Like when you get slapped with a fine for something you didn’t even know you did. Or when your mum died and you have to get through the funeral. Or someone tries to sue you for getting a calculation wrong when you didn’t.”
“I can see those things must be worse than a temporary hydraulic problem,” she said, laughing.
“That’s how I’d feel if you weren’t there when I woke up.”
But that’s how I feel about you.
Oh lord. I’m going the same way as Jordy.
She took a few moments to process that. They were standing in the festival grounds, having come over early for a seven o’clock opening gig in the garden of the Over Here B&B.
The Jordy and—gigs, born of necessity since Court had disappeared, had grown in popularity with just about every compatible act standing up with Jordana in rotation. The Tuesday morning gig was a supergroup with an impressive line-up of twenty-two people, including the four members of Fuselier who had arrived the day before, the Sunshower duo, the lads of 4Ts-Quad, Jordy, a girl group called Even the Dog which did indeed include a cheerful black dog, a jazz quartet called Forty-Four-Not-Out and four people who weren’t on the program but who fancied a sing-along. Nell, the woman Court called Orange Indian Skirt, was one of them.
It was going to be chaos.
“Why a dog? How the fuck do you sing with a dog?”
Gemma felt, rather than saw, Henry’s shoulders slump. “Oh, hell, me old china! I did it again, didn’t I? I answered you in my head and left you waiting.” She put her arms around him. “I feel that way about you, too, but let’s face it, after the weekend, we’re going to have to. Face waking without one another, I mean.”
“Why should we?” His voice was steady and logical.
“The carnival will be over. You might still be staying at the cottage, but I’ll be going home. Well, maybe. Depending on Court. I think we’re going to have to bite the bullet and report him missing. We should have done it before. This has gone on far too long.”
“I don’t want the carnival to be over. Ours, I mean.”
“Neither do I.” She leaned into him. “Are you saying it needn’t be? We might keep seeing one another?”
“I come to every Courtesan gig, but that’s not what I meant.”
“After this debacle there might not be any Courtesan. And I have no idea what Jordy wants to do if Court never comes back. She’s having a baby, so she might not want to tour for a bit, if ever.”
“I want to keep on waking up with you forever. You’re everything I ever wanted.”
“Even if I don’t make a noise and scream your name like a porn star?”
“You do sometimes.”
She sighed into his collarbone. “I certainly did one time. The Gemma Creed Fuckability Scale no longer exists. You’ve ruined me for anyone else.”
“Have I?” He sounded pleased.
“Must be the beard.”
They watched the supergroup, which was far less chaotic than it deserved to be. The dog turned out to be a talented creature that looked like a cheerful whippet. It sat on its haunches in front of three young women who swayed together, despite the disparity in their heights, and sang sweetly while the dog raised its muzzle and howled in harmony.
“Oh. My. God.” Gemma choked with laughter and turned to see what Henry thought of it.
He was looking at her with the same dawning pleasure he’d shown when she woke him on Saturday morning.
“What?” she said, feeling her smile light up in return.
“You said you like my beard.”