Nashville, Tennessee has a lot to brag. They have the Grand Old' Opry and Dollywood. They have southern hospitality, the Andrew Jackson House, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. But, best of all, even if they didn't know it, they had me, Emery Shots, five foot eight guitar player with a mass of curly blonde hair and eyes the exact color of rain water, accompanied by the Seven Deadly Sins.
"Emery, I cant see over your head!"
I breathed loudly and slammed the brakes so I could turn around in my seat to glare at Jason. The kid was crunched awkwardly in the make shift seat belt that didn't do any good except to cut off circulation, and he was craning his neck to see around my mass of curly blonde hair. But he shrank back when I gave him the evil eye.
"Do you want a ride or not?" I demanded, and waited till he slowly nodded his head, afraid to give me the wrong answer, before turning around and letting my less than new pick up start to gain a bit more speed again.
"Aunt Tally said you have to take me or else," Jason said in his high little voice, clearly unwilling to let the issue drop but to afraid of me to really press it.
At five, Jason was my second youngest cousin, one of the six my mother, brother and I were living with at the moment. We'd tried mom's parents, but they're to stuffy, and a couple other relatives who were scary eccentric. Like Uncle Mike, the nudist. And Aunt Chilly, the stripper/botanist. Jason looked a lot like me, enough to pass as either my brother or my kid, though I didn't have a baby when I was eleven. I didn't mind him most of the time, he ran errands for me around the house when I was to lazy, but I hadn't wanted to get up at eight on a Sunday to take him to t-ball practice.
"Yeah, well, mom also said we'd never get a dog, and now we have two," I said, effectively ending the argument. He wasn't dumb enough to keep pushing me before I got my latte.
"Are you gonna pick me up?" he asked as I turned off the highway into the ball park, where other little boys were running around in their awkward little uniforms, the coaches trying to keep them from decapitating one another with the baseball bats.
"No, Chase is," I said, letting him out and handing him his bag before plopping a kiss on the top of his head and shooing him off. He grinned and waved good bye.
I waited till he got to his team, and then I drove off. Instead of heading home and back to bed (like I really, really wanted too) I went south towards Dollyland, which is just two exits away from The Graze.
The Graze is technically operating in the grey area of the law. If asked, I would say I never had heard of it. But half the kids in Nashville spend their free time there, either dancing, or making deals in the back, doing less than lovely things up stairs, or getting their big break. I fit into that last category, along with my band.
The Seven Deadly Sins had launched as a joke in seventh grade, and now, as juniors, we actually existed, own songs and everything. I played guitar, and split the role of lead singer with my best friend, Hazel, a tall, athletic girl with long dark hair who laughs at random and hides her emotions from others to well. She doesn't play anything at all, but she has a great voice, kind of like Cher and Christina Aguilera combined. She's also the most mature of us- some times. Mature being in the sense that she buses those of us without cars around and keeps us from getting overly wasted at the club.
Cherry is our keyboard player. She's a short, full figured girl with brown hair and a tendency to somehow end up on the ground no matter what she'd doing. No one understands it. She's also the one who gets bused around all the time, because somehow she always ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Marly is our drum player, average height and dirty blonde. We didn't think she'd go over so well at first, because… well, she's her. But her nonexistent enthusiasm and semi decent ability to keep the beat has been relied on at least once in our career. She's over obsessed with her boyfriend, who she half lives with, and who we all hate.
Rory is our base player, she sings on the occasion. Really she just makes a loud statement, more country than any of us with her red hair and accent. She's not exactly Tennessee in my opinion- she's Kentucky or Texas or something. But, if it came down to it, I'm the only one of us who is really Tennessee.
. We started playing at The Graze a few months ago when a different band copped out last minute, and we were there. We were a big hit- big enough to get called back again and again. And then start getting paid, and recommended to do gigs other places.
My cell phone started ringing right as I pulled into the back parking lot. There weren't a lot of cars around, but this was a strictly business visit, so that didn't matter much.
"Hello?" I asked, opening the phone and cutting Taylor Swift off right in the chorus of You Belong With Me.
"Emery! Thank god you answered," the voice in the phone squealed. I frowned as I recognized Cherry. She never got up this early. Like, EVER. And she usually called Hazel for her get away vehicle if she woke up somewhere she wasn't supposed to be in the morning.
"What's up?" I asked, sliding out of my truck, glancing down to check that my knee high black and gold mock cowboy style boots weren't in any way defiled, and then worrying about my shorts.
'I sort of fell asleep at Jamie's. If Jamie was the only one who lived here and didn't have three obnoxious house mates, it'd all be fine, but as it is I don't want to stick around, get made fun of, and have to make breakfast. I already went out the window- I'm sitting outside the park across the street. And I hate to ask, but-,"
"I'm at The Graze," I sighed. "I'll pick you up in an hour. Or less. Just don't get picked up and raped or something."
"I love you! Thanks! If you don't mind, hurry, all I have is jeans, sneakers, and a tank top. My shirt and jacket disappeared."
"Yeah, yeah," I muttered, and hung up, rolling my eyes.
Of all of us, I guess you could say Hazel is the REALLY responsible one. Or maybe I am. Either way, Hazel's the one who usually takes care of Cherry. She's the one who gives out the best advice, who takes care of things that no one else ever can. Including Cherry. Cherry's Cherry- a little to naïve and a little to determined to get what she wants, and could probably use a little more concern for where she sleeps every night.
I walked in through a plain metal door. Nothing on the outside of the large warehouse gave away what was on the inside- my personal heaven.
They were still cleaning up from last night, and getting ready for tonight, with a few stranded kids here and there. I ignored everyone and walked straight up the steps to the stage and back to the private bar- where Corey Wood was asleep face down on the counter.
I slammed him in the shoulder and stood, hands on hips, waiting for him to get coherent as he mumbled, jumping a foot in the air. "What- What-?" He looked up and saw me, and looked confused. Then acknowledgement flashed in his dazed eyes and he groaned. "You aren't the wake up call I wanted."
"Get up, Wood," I ordered, standing with my hands on my hips. Corey was just barely taller than me, with the body of a quarterback, dark brown hair, and eyes bluer even than mine. Those were the eyes that had attracted Hazel- despite her name, she's a sucker for blue eyes.
He sluggishly shoved himself to his feet, dusting off his rumpled jeans and t-shirt. There was a red mark on his cheek from where he'd had it on the counter. "How can I help you?"
"I need to know where Hazel is," I said shortly, not bothering with any small talk.
"She left at two this morning, right before she ordered me to make sure Cherry didn't get left here alone or go home with some random guy and Rory didn't get drunk and start stripping." His eyes got wide. "Oh shit, they didn't-"
"No!" I snorted
"Are you sure? Because-,"
"YES. I would have been called in to take care of them if they had! My God, you're useless. Haze isn't answering her phone. Do you know why?" I demanded, exasperated.
"She said she was going to her grandparents or something like that," Corey said, eyes still confused and bleary.
"Good. Now give me my guitar."
His eyes went wide and focused. Suddenly he was totally awake. He broke out into a cold sweat. "Y-Your guitar? I don't have it."
I stepped so close to him his stale breath was in my eyes, and grabbed him by the neck of his t-shirt. "I know you have it. And if I don't get it in the next five minutes, you're going to be road kill."
My baby went missing two nights ago. I didn't think anything of it at first, assuming it was at home first and then that it was backstage, but after extensive searching and a temper tantrum, it was revealed to be missing. Or, more accurately, taken. Asking around and using the death eye more than a dozen times had led me to believe it was taken by Corey as a joke.
"It's under the counter," he squeaked, and darted out of my grip. I smiled to myself- not a pretty sight. Then I rounded the counter and pulled my guitar out from under the counter, safely tucked in it's case.
"Nice seeing you," I said curtly to Corey, and started to walk out.
"By the way, Justin Kenly's looking for you!"
I froze instinctively, and my grip on my guitar tightened. "What's he want?"
"He said he has an issue- and he thinks you can fix it," Corey shrugged, back to his normal self, no longer shrinking away from me.
"Tell him I'm not interested- NONE of us are," I said sharply. He should have said that to begin with.
"That's what I told him," Corey shook his head. "He said you all are, you just don't realize it. And he said if you don't agree to at least talk to him… he'll supply the incentive."
Unfortunately, I thought, as I walked out of The Graze, Justin Kenly would have no trouble doing that. Because Justin Kenly was more than just a normal nineteen year old. He was running the whole underworld of Nashville under dozens of different names that all answered to 'Mr. Jones' (also him), and the Seven Deadly Sins were possibly the only people in Nashville who knew it. And because of that, more than once in the past he'd pulled us in to fix a mess he made. And now he was doing it again.
We were all doomed. Dread welling up in my chest, I sped to pick up Cherry.