Andy Wyler spent his twenties high and his thirties hiding from the world.
Twenty years ago, Andy Wyler was the front man for the legendary Hideous Marys. Now, with most of the band members dead and his career over, he sits by his pool and drinks. A knock on the door brings an unlikely comeback, along with a second chance at a lot of things he'd forgotten were worth chasing. Like love.
Dark and sticky,
Deep in the abyss,
You're lost, I'm lost,
We're wandering, broken,
I'm still with you.
Andy stepped back from the edge of the stage, microphone loosely held in his hand, and shook his hair back. He hadn't cut it since the beginning of high school, and now, at nineteen, it nearly reached his waist. He had always thought of the color as dishwater brown, but fans gushed about it, used pretty names like caramel or chestnut. They always gushed about him and his looks, called him brooding and sensitive. Pretty heady for a skinny guy who had dropped out of grade eleven and until last year didn't own much beyond a couple pairs of jeans. This year, he, they, had a single on the charts, a North American tour and their faces on T-shirts other people wore.
Scott nodded at him, Fender lovingly cradled in those long-fingered hands, and Andy tore into the last verse.
In the abyss,
Don't let go,
Don't let go.
Don't leave me.
He wailed the last notes, approaching the edge of the stage again, and as the crescendo of guitar, bass and drums drained away, he flung his head forward, chin to chest, sweat flying from his hair. He dropped the mike, and launched himself off the stage.
The fans caught him. They always caught him.
Until they weren't there anymore.
Andy sat straight up in the wrinkled mess of his bed and pushed his hair back from his forehead. He'd never actually stepped into a crowd that failed him, but sometime around the turn of the century, the venues had gotten smaller, Trix died of an overdose and Gin left for greener pastures. Then it had just been him, Jason, Scott, and whatever studio musicians they hired for that tour, and he'd stopped stage diving at the end of Abyss.
He'd fallen off a stage once, in Toronto, just sort of wandered into the air after the set, and spent a month in rehab. His third stint, or maybe the second. He wasn't sure anymore.
Third time was supposed to be the charm, but it was the fourth that did it for getting off the heroin, after Scott died. He'd replaced the narcotics with alcohol, but he'd never gone back to the hard stuff. Sometimes he tried to control the drinking, and sometimes he didn't bother. In the last year or so, he'd gotten it down to about a bottle and a half of mediocre table wine a day. Cheaper than bourbon, and a tiny fraction of what the smack had cost. Maybe a little less rough on his liver. So maybe he'd make it to fifty, as if that mattered. One washed-up former rock star, never married, childless, and so obscure that nineties trivia shows used him as a bonus tie-breaker question.
Not that the kid who'd flubbed it had any idea who he was. Thought Andy Wyler fronted Pearl Jam for fuck's sake. He'd obviously never heard of the Hideous Marys or Martian Man or Savasana. Didn't even know who the hell Eddie Vedder was.
Andy swung his legs off the bed and padded into the bathroom. He pissed and splashed some water on his face. He'd brush his teeth later, if he felt like it and he hadn't shaved clean in years. If he needed to be presentable, which was pretty much once every never, he'd get his beard trimmed along with his hair. He'd never cut it shorter, and it hadn't thinned much, even if there was a lot of gray for forty-one.
He'd been sleeping in boxers and a HammerFall T-shirt that had come from God alone knew where, which was plenty for walking around his own damn house. Scott had been smart, he had gotten the Hideous Marys a decent agent before they'd signed anywhere, and the guy had looked out for all of them. It was in his interest to do so, sure, but Andy knew plenty of guys screwed over by their own agents or managers. Vic had been solid, and when he'd told them to buy houses, keep it modest, and pay cash, Andy had taken that advice. The writing credits on Abyss and most of the rest of their catalogue paid the taxes and kept him in Merlot and groceries. It also let him keep his "manager" on payroll, got someone in to detoxify his house every week or so, and kept pretty boys or the occasional girl on tap for when he wanted something else. He was pretty sure most of the tail wasn't paid, or not in cash anyway, but it was a lot easier for Sherry to recruit them when the horny-formerly-famous-singer had pot, booze and a nice place to hang out in.
Orange juice...because coffee didn't agree with him anymore, and he could go back to sleep if he wanted. His hand lingered on the half-empty bottle of Chablis in the fridge, but he left the juice unadulterated, and popped a couple of slices of bread in the toaster.
The doorbell rang.
What the fuck?
Sherry had a key, and she came when the housekeeper was scheduled, or if he needed to be somewhere, because he hadn't driven himself in years. She was more personal assistant than manager, but she was smart, she looked out for him and she could use what he paid her, because while Scott had left her pretty much everything, she had three kids, and Scott hadn't taken Vic's advice about not buying a big expensive house. There'd been enough equity from the place Scott couldn't resist purchasing to get her into a decent condo, but not much after that, and Andy was sure some of Scott's estate was in a trust for Sherry's youngest, who was Scott's biological child.
They'd had real managers when they were famous, of course, but none of them had stayed for more than a few years, and the last one had left when the Marys officially broke up.
Whoever was at the door had to be someone lost, or maybe an aging groupie. He should worry about stalkers, but he wasn't going to. Andy walked through the living room to the front door and yanked it wide open. If it was paparazzi for some insane reason, they could get a picture of him in his shorts.
A hipster kid stood on the doorstep. Clean shaven, floppy hair with a little suggestion of a duck's ass and a pompadour, cuffed skinny jeans, and heavy-framed glasses. He held his hand out. "Evan Donaldson from Violet Ice Cream records."
Andy glared at him. "Violet doesn't exist anymore."
"We're still a division of Megalith."
"I thought Megalith consolidated all of those labels. But even if they didn't, why the fuck are you here? I haven't been under contract since..." He trailed off, trying to remember.
"Oh-two," the hipster kid supplied, "but Into the Abyss is still in print and still in our catalogue, along with Dark Vehicles."
"So?" Andy replied. "My lawyer deals with that crap."
"Loathesome Things is on Billboard's Adult Alternative charts."
Andy knew his mouth had dropped open and he was staring. "The fuck?"
Loathesome Things was one of the tracks from Into the Abyss. Andy had always liked it, but the label hadn't thought it made sense to release it as a single, and that had been more than twenty years ago.
"Last year. You authorized it for a soundtrack."
"Yeah?" He couldn't really remember, but he'd sign off on pretty much anything short of a corn chip commercial. He needed the money, Sherry needed the money, and who the fuck cared if he was a sellout? He was pretty sure that was more acceptable these days anyway.
"Blood Knight. It's a blockbuster. Pretty much everything on the soundtrack is charting, but Loathesome Things is getting a lot of airplay, on um..."
"I was going to say traditional rock formats, but thirty-five to fifty-five-year-old listeners are actually a sizable market. And they like to own their music."
"So you came in person to deliver the good news?"
"No, I'm your new manager. Can I come in?"
Andy didn't step away from the door. "I have a manager."
"No, you have a personal assistant, otherwise known as your ex-boyfriend's widow who needs the money and does a halfway decent job of keeping you from falling apart."
Andy sighed and shifted just enough that Evan could brush past him. "Scott was never my boyfriend."
"And technically he was never married to Sherry Johnson, but she's his widow in every way that matters."
"And you were lovers."
"Kind of." Andy rolled his eyes at his ceiling. It was a nice one, vaulted with exposed beams, and one of the things that had motivated him to buy this place. He and Scott had been everything to each other, but the sex had been the least of it, and probably not much more than an experiment on Scott's part, because he wasn't really into men. He had just wanted to be as close as possible to Andy, and Andy sure as hell hadn't kicked him out of his bed. "It was complicated."
"It always is."