Christmas day had the two young men extremely busy. So far, they opened presents in the early morning, sat together to reflect on their good fortunes and then got ready to go out to eat. They went in style as the limo driver picked them up directly in front at the main door and then drove them to downtown San Antonio for the champagne brunch regaled to be the Best in the West. After finishing a superb meal, their driver took them to an early Matinee show at the Majestic Theater in downtown San Antonio which was the crowning event that completed one marvelous day.
Both were beat as they entered the house that evening but Chief changed their spirits as she got them to play with her and just have a good time together. The two, or should I say three, wound up in the Study and Collin decided to call Ryan to find out what he got for Christmas. The two talked for almost an hour but before long, Collin's eyes were drooping and he decided to hit the sack for the night.
Ken and Collin shared a Christmas hug and each went off to their own bedrooms to sleep.
Bright and early on the day after Christmas, Mr. Ken began to make lots of phone calls. He called everyone he knew asking them if they knew of a band, any band for that matter, which might be available to play at his New Year's Eve party. Then, while on the phone to one friend, the second phone line rang. He had hoped it was someone returning his call to say they found a band, but it was just a high school kid asking about the New Year's Eve gig. Mr. Thomas took down the information from the teen and told him either Ryan or Collin would get back to them later that day. He was beginning to feel that his party would be a bust.
Collin woke to a beautiful day. He had slept well and felt rested and ready to go. He did his morning ritual and got downstairs in time for Mr. Ken to give him the information on a possible band for his and Ryan's New Year's Eve party. Collin called Ryan and they worked out a plan to find the right band for their party. They also decided who they would invite and how to get the invitations out.
By noon the day after Christmas, the phones in Mr. Ken's Study were very busy. Ken was not only making calls but was also taking info for the boys on bands who heard there was a gig and they wanted to audition. He reminded himself he needed a household manager who could do all this instead of him.
"Collin, are you out there?" Not getting an answer Ken called Collin's cell phone.
"Oh ... oh, Hello," answered Collin in an awkward manner as the cell phone was still too new to him and he hadn't fully gotten used to having one.
"Collin, Big Bro here. Can you come to my Study, please?"
"Yeah, sure I'll ... I'll be right there. Bye!"
Collin walked into the Study with a big grin on his face and sat down.
"Collin, I'm going to have to get us a secretary or at least get us that Housekeeper I talked about a few weeks back. The incoming phone calls are driving me batty. I've taken eight calls already today from different members of three bands who want to audition for your Party. Have you and Ryan figured out how you will decide who to hire?"
"Not yet. Ryan wants to come over first. We did discuss who to invite and how to work the invitations, though. I also need to ask you if it is okay to invite some of the Police Explorers. After the Saturday night party we showed some of those guys around and mentioned the New Year's Eve Party. Many of the guys are our age but a few are juniors and seniors. I don't think it would be right to invite some and not all."
"Yes, I hear your point. You know, I did talk to Dan about the Explorer's working the security and parking that night too. Maybe we can find out who is and isn't working that night. That way you will know who to invite. I bet the older boys will work as they probably need the money for college or their cars or maybe their girlfriends. By the way, how is Ryan getting over here?"
"Well, he was going to ask you to pick him up. But you still haven't found a band yet, have you? So, I better call him and tell him to ride his bike."
"Yes, that will be better for me, right now. I need to find a band and I'm not having any luck."
Collin called Ryan and gave him the bad news. He also gave him the information he had on the three bands who wanted the gig and who were eager to audition. The two decided to discuss it more with Ken when Ryan got there in about 20 minutes.
As soon as Ryan arrived, the boys got busy figuring out a way to audition the bands for their New Year's Eve party. They called back the spokesperson for each band and set up a simple ten to fifteen minute audition at one of the band members' homes. Now all they needed was someone to drive them there.
"Bro, could you drive Ryan and me to listen to the bands we have so we can decide which one to hire? We kind of set them up to play a ten to fifteen minute set for us today and we need someone to take us to the homes where they practice. And seeing that you're paying we figure it would be best if you went along, too. So, do you think you can do that for us? We'd really appreciate that, Bro," asked Collin.
"Yes, sure, I'm not getting anything done here. Maybe one of those bands would be good enough for my Party, even if they aren't old enough to drink yet. (That comment caused everyone to laugh.) Go get Ryan and have him call his mom to let her know what we are doing. Then meet me at the garage."
Ten minutes later, the three guys all got into the Ford F-150 4-door King Ranch truck, set the Garmin Nuvi 270, and drove off to the first address. Ryan was the navigator so he sat up front with Mr. Thomas. Along the way, Ryan relayed to the other two what he knew about the three bands they were going to listen to today. The first band that they would listen to was, Ramblin' Rockers. He explained it was a four member band that consisted mainly of sophomores and juniors and had been playing together since they were in junior high. He mentioned the group had played high school dances and other small venues like teen church dances set up for their youths.
It was close to 1:30 that afternoon when the trio arrived at the first house where they could hear the band playing and their song radiating out through the garage door. The band was loud and had a real good sound. Ryan knocked on the front door and a lady answered. She showed them through the house and out to the garage. The band stopped as soon as they saw they had company.
"Oh, hi, I'm Jack Stoudt the band's lead guitar and singer. This is Aston Williams our drummer. This is Ethan Sinclair our bass guitarist and this here is Brent Kelly on the keyboard, and he sings too."
"Hi, Jack, I'm Ryan Taylor, this is Mr. Thomas, he owns Three Finger Cove where the gig is, on New Year's Eve, and this is Collin Wilkinson. I've heard you at some of your gigs when I was back in junior high, but that was some time ago. I'm glad you heard we are looking for a band to play at the Teen's New Year's Eve Party that night at the Cove. We need a variety of songs and not just loud. There will be lots of couples that night, so we need slow dances, too. I hope you guys can accommodate that," as Ryan spoke for their group.
"Sure, that's no problem for us. We've been playing as a group for over four years now and we know lots of tunes. We'd like to play four or five different songs for you. Each one will have a bit different tempo. That way you can hear how we can harmonize and keep a good sound going. Will that be ok?" asked jack.
"Ah, Jack, can you please open the garage doors first. I sure don't want my ear drums blown out," asked Mr. Ken.
"Well, I can, but the neighbors don't like it too much when we do that. I'll ask mom. I'll be right back."
Jack went inside to talk to his mother and while he was gone the band members began to talk to Ryan about themselves. They each sort of knew one another as they all went to the same high school. Somehow the discussion got around to the shooting and Collin got scared. He was afraid of what the boys might think about him and what he had done to survive when he was kidnapped. Mr. Thomas explained what he remembered about the day and mentioned how Ryan took the pictures that were seen on the local and national TV News. Brent asked Collin how he was doing after his kidnapping. Again, Collin got scared, but Mr. Ken prompted him to answer.
"Well, I am sure glad that is over!" started Collin. "You know my ... my parents were ... killed trying to protect me. The men took me anyway and kept me hidden for more than three months. I didn't know my parents were dead until I was saved by Mr. Ken here. I almost died the night of that bad storm, too. They tried to kill me when they knew they couldn't get any ransom from dead people. I somehow got away from them the night of the storm. They took me out on the lake to make it look like I drowned, but I fought the guy and the wind blew me overboard.
"Somehow I was able to swim to Mr. Ken's, that's what I call Mr. Thomas, who got the doctor to fix me up and then Mr. Ken here helped nurse me back to life." Then he realized he had said too much then continued by saying, "I'm sorry but the trial hasn't happened yet, and I was asked not to talk too much about what happened to me or anything about the shooting. I hope you all won't tell anyone what I just told you. Please don't say anything to anyone. I don't want those bastards getting away with murder because someone said I said this or that."
As Collin was talking, Mrs. Stoudt and Jack had gotten back to the garage just in time to hear Collin. All the boys agreed they'd say nothing to anyone. They were the first and only ones, besides Mary and Ryan and the authorities and a few others close to Mr. Thomas and Collin, who now knew something about the shooting and how Collin fit into the mystery. Now, here it was; they heard it from the two people involved themselves which gave them an enormous privilege but heavy responsibility not to say anything.
"Guys, I'd really appreciate that. I know I will have to testify one day. Saying this tonight was the first time I ... I've ever said it out loud. You probably saw how scared I was when you asked," a meek Collin spoke to the group.
The guys all nodded their heads in agreement.
"Guys, Collin will attend our high school in a few weeks," began Ryan. "Please don't say anything. Also, please help me keep everyone from asking him about this. He doesn't need the hassle and ... well, he's still recovering from everything and we don't want him to have to answer the same question 200 or 300 times. I bet once this is all over he will be glad to tell everyone. For now ... well, you know, ok? Now, you guys ready. We have other bands to catch later today."
Jack opened the garage door and the Ramblin' Rockers blasted out five tunes. The five songs were shortened but they gave a good representation of the bands abilities. The band had a good sound and the singing was pretty good. Mr. Ken was impressed by the band's ability and made a mental note if they weren't picked for the Teen Party he may consider them.
Before the trio left, they talked about a contract and cost. They told the Rocker's they would be equally considered after the next bands were heard. They explained it would be tomorrow after 12 noon before the band would be selected and that they should not call. Before they left, Mr. Ken mentioned he would provide the stage and lighting but the band would be responsible for their setup and tear down and also transportation to and from the site. They all said their goodbyes and the trio went onto the next audition.
"Ok, guys, this next band is known as Country Cousins. It is an older group of men who have played all over the connected counties. They've supposedly played at County Fairs and private functions as well as wedding and church gatherings. These guys are all in their mid to late twenties and most of them are college grads. There are five in this bunch. I hope their name doesn't mean Country and Western music. I don't want to listen to shit kickin', oops sorry, I mean western music all night."
"I heard that," Collin laughed and agreed as well. "I want a good sounding band like that last group. They are more like us and know what we would like. But we have to give this group a chance. Who knows, they might be awesome."
Ryan gave out the directions off the Nuvi as Ken drove them to the next audition which happened to be at a small house located out in a sparsely inhabited area of the county. It got dark early, and Mr. Ken was a bit apprehensive about the area. The lack of street lights and with no noise or music coming from the residence and that he hadn't brought along his Glock made him antsy.
Ryan knocked on the door. It took a few moments but a man soon answered the door, introduced himself and invited the trio in. The man, Jordan Leech, led them downstairs to the basement where the band was playing. The well-appointed music room, the size of the entire house footprint had the ceiling and walls fully insulated to contain the sound. That was why they couldn't hear anything when they arrived at the home.
"Gentlemen, I would like to introduce my band mates. This is Russell Salter. He's our Lead guitar and singer. This is Ford Chapman, on bass guitar and a singer too. This is Rob Wilson on the keyboard and over there is Mitch Tillman on drums. I also play guitar and drums and ... and ah sing when I ummm have to."
"I'm Ken Thomas and this is Ryan Taylor and to his right is Collin Wilkinson. We are the ones who will decide which band is picked to play at the Teen's New Year's Eve party at Three Finger Cove. Whenever you guys are ready, go ahead and play."
The band struck it right up and the trio knew they had a BAND! These guys were not only good they were awesome. Their rhythm and timing was excellent and their voices were strong and clear. The guys played for about 20 minutes when Mr. Thomas put up his hands and asked them to stop.
"Guys, give me a few moments with my companions here, will you? I want to confer with them a bit," asked Mr. Ken of the band members.
Moving towards a corner and speaking in low tones Mr. Ken asked the guys if they would mind if he booked these guys for his party. Ken reasoned the men were better suited for the adults than the teens and he was desperate. The two teens looked at each other and both answered at the same time, "Sure." Mr. Ken was relieved and went over to the men waiting at their instruments.
"Guys, I think you are a very good group. No, that's NOT right ... I know you are an awesome band. I was totally impressed with everything you did. I could tell from the beginning you are an accomplished band and well-rehearsed. I have a question for you though. Why were you auditioning for the Teens party on New Year's Eve?" inquired Mr. Thomas.
"Huh, a teen dance?" questioned Mr. Leech. "We heard there was going to be a New Year's Eve dance at the Cove and thought we were auditioning for that. We never heard of a teen dance for that night. If we knew we were being considered for that we'd never have called," replied Jordan.
The trio laughed at what Jordan had just said and the five guys got a bit perturbed. Then Mr. Thomas explained the mix up.
"I'm sorry, guys, for our laughing," started Mr. Thomas. "You see the boys here ARE looking for a band for their Teen New Year's Eve dance at the Cove. This here is my 'Little Bro' Collin. He's fifteen. When you called today and I took the message I thought that was what you were asking about. I too am looking for a band for the adults that night, and I think I just found them. Are you guys available for New Year's Eve? Can you play from say 9 PM through to at least 1 AM? If you are, I'd like to talk to you about a contract."
Jordan came up and shook Mr. Ken's hand and they agreed to a tentative contract right there that would be worked out in the next two days. The men were real happy they would be working that night and Collin and Ryan were also happy they wouldn't have a very old band playing at their party. The trio left and proceeded to the next band's location.
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