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Introducing the Whiskey

Vanishing of Thomas Baxter

By Willem IndigoPublished 11 months ago 21 min read
Introducing the Whiskey
Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash

Introduction to the Whiskey Calamity

Tape 1; Side A

Lines of tobacco smoke froze before them as ghostly barriers to their enigmatic silhouettes occupying four folding chairs in uniquely solemn fashions. The single forty-watt bulb above, obviously a victim of misplaced emotional turmoil, eerily shifted their shadows between blinks with its malaise-like, swinging remaining constant, moving a light they sat just outside of their darkened, deepened all facial expressions. It became as imperturbable as it was flimsy in the smoked-out backstage locker room. Howard dared to describe entering the throat chastising bubble like stepping into a localized hotbox preventing itself from spreading as far as the locker’s edge was expansive for comparison. Those accounts don’t hold, considering others who entered smelled it all over, into the hall even, despite none of the visible intertwined blunt vapors going outside the little cove of rarely used, recently beaten lockers. Amongst their hands, the only competing light source going from figure to figure, followed by puffs to replace the still lines that faded at the edge of their sanctuary but providing no more information than the red glow of puckered lips on the other end did on the inhale. Howard, their enraged manager, sick of this behavior, found their silent protest to be another demonstration of their disrespect for his fragile sanity.

“How you gaggle of time wasters breath in the unholy fog of burnt money is beyond me, but here’s a thought, go do some fucking performing. Maybe front man -Le Strange can clear out those house-fired lungs.” He kicked open the door behind him, leading to the hall leading to the theater; they cleared of seats and filled with fans screaming, ‘BRING OUT THE WHISKEY,’ repeatedly. Until the door slowly shut, sounds of their impatience crept through the narrowing gap with the abrupt stop punctuated by an echoing click of the lock engaging. “You heard that, right? A packed house—although the correct term is ‘great big, colossal theater’ of refunds as far—”

He jumped as a folded piece of paper slid under his foot, and when he jumped like a trout failing to feel the glories of air, he shouted, “Christ on a pogo stick,” before taking a step to reconfigure. It was this moment of shame that changed the owners’ outlook on whether they lost thousands on a no-show sitting in their basement, sort of speak, as they arrived.

“Have you been pumping up your people to think they have the clout for this bull shit?” Boris said.

“It makes you a shitty agent if it does, in case you were confused,” Paak added.

“Thank you, fellas. I’ll let you all know when my resignation letter will be in the mail before I get home.” Howard began, “Ignore the ripe odor resembling shite; the envelope may have to be created out of shit tickets.”

The amateur promoters found them not even flinching, with the three of them staring at a light with nothing but the floor in its path. This classic hall, with its rich tapestry littered with more heritage than the artifacts lining the walls between the Whiskey Hotel banners and promo material, came with financial and behavioral stipulations. Track records for the two also meant a considerable amount of footwork to provide the proof necessary for market groups to achieve the crowd to cover gaps in their initial plan, loaded with half-truths at best. Boris had a tirade of his own prepared that involved some racism and Russian threats; his adoptive brother would back up five minutes before the threat was set, but in a moment of an OCD itch that wouldn’t relent, he picked up the paper off his painstakingly manicured floor. Howard’s voice was becoming hoarse and needed a minute to regroup, leaving Boris to examine the folded paper and show it to his brother, whose head sank instantly at its reveal. Paak made sure the entering venue owner saw the page before a point toward the lead singer led them to drop his hat and exit with sobering news for the crowd. A cough from one of the center figures forced them into the light, yet whether this was intentional is still unknown.

Howard stepped closer to really give them the quote, business, end quote, but a clear, distressed face paused his momentum. Amongst the open ears, a figure’s voice raspier than a singer should be burst through, navigating its way to emotions not many were sure they knew how to appreciate. “Waiting is half the fun, right? We’re stoking those flames for a bit.” Spitting on the floor sent them back to the silhouette figure he apparently felt comfortable being.

October 9th, 1987, Thomas Baxter arrived an hour before the headliners to meet friends Jacob and Daisy for a full proof plan to enter the venue undisturbed as scheduled with an employee at the time. Over The Edge maintained the reputation many underground promoters lived for, providing the most lucrative fiscal opportunities in the form of under and overdeveloped youngsters gaining tickets through means untaxable by any government. As long as the owner was sure to know nothing about the shady skeezers scalping tickets for underaged patriots and their parents’ hard-earned money. Ol’ Slick Dick maintained employee loyalty to cover the difference. More on that later, maybe. Hip staff meant those they helped inside rocked the correct look to avoid questions amongst the casual investigator but braces just don’t fit the same after twenty-five. A complimentary drink and what I have to conclude is a rapid-fire class called ‘Faking Adulthood to Adults of the worst type of community members hindrance sold to most everyone else. Part of me couldn’t believe, without knowing Thomas that well, that he was fifteen when partying with his classmates that night.

Whiskey Hotel made a habit of choosing interconnectivity among fans over broken sales records; however, their stage presence eleven years later, upon a sporadic show, wouldn’t speak to that at first. Nearly a full hour late, they took the stage, frontman last, all feeling steady as she goes, absent their typical show enthusiasm. No apology for being late or making the previous act earn their current reputation performing in their absence with their own claim to exuberant recognition, only a statement. Marcus Moone, or Loony Moone, as he’s more colloquially known, explained the death in the family he and his friends suffered with and promised they’d get the show they paid for if they just bored with the struggle for a moment.

Despite their heartfelt dribble, I had it under good authority, mainly testimony and previous songs, that no member of them cared for any non-direct family that didn’t generationally reside on their plane, and even most of them were gold-diggers with the best disguises. Watching Marcus grit his teeth through the first two songs sent something raw through me during the show, especially once I caught on to the rest of the band’s odd behavior. Something like Shane facing the wall behind them or Sonya playing more akin to her grassroots rather than the rock and roll they had seemingly perfected over the years. It would be some time before I discovered Marcus’s grandparents were killed under mysterious circumstances a week prior. Marcus discovered this in a crudely delivered funeral program handed to him by Angie, saying the will reading would cut the tour significantly. There is no full-fledged proof of this, but I suspect the two had little to no idea they shared a parent that would later link them to the downtown New Saint James the Lesser Baptise Church they inherited, where a lot of the Whiskey’s strangest anomalies and childhood traumas were birthed from. Nothing out of the ordinary came from their performance as all seemed reserved at their loss, pouring it into the playing, top to bottom, that is, until they played their party piece.

February 1981, they proved themselves at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go. Whether they knew it or not, the musicians are not worth fucking with unless you have made the appropriate preparations involving at least two separate fighting disciplines. For those getting famous with the help of the internet, the term, big break, involved more fated luck and brutal talent, absent the simplicity of sitting behind a monitor scrolling through piles of tar pit rejects for the easy get-rich millionaire makers. The band had laid down great audio to earn the gig, but Marcus remained wildly shy of playing and singing simultaneously, promoting the on-the-spot recruitment of Janet Staley, bassist for the Damned Lizards. She had not thought of leaving the band before this, as she later reports, only alluding that she was the only one on time for the career-making gig when she was the sickest of her heroin den sedentary lifestyle. When he handed her the bright pink base only locals knew him for as a trademark, she figured the worst would be better than the no-shows she no longer felt contentment waiting for with the scouts in the crowd.

As a former fanatic, I could not change my opinion of their first show; most don’t seem to be allowed, proving some rockstars can hold a persona and their dignity as they served the gods of entertainment, feeding the fans beyond their fill. They hooked into the crowd with no bait in sight yet pulled commitment from those strictly against such a notion. They would later prove that rock stardom can be controlled more by fans than corporate bullshitters looking for more money in a vacuum. A charismatic show void of significant errors expelled their worth to record labels until Damned Lizard’s Hank Virus heckled them during their last song. The back and forth I gathered took place before they ended their set as they prepared one more piece for the captivated audience.

“I don’t need you fighting my battle for me. You might ruin my record,” Janet said, removing the bass.

“Honey, you’re only a bassist. But as long as you play alongside—”

“What bumpkins of a fourth kin--you put the lead in, Lead Asshole?” Janet asked.

Suddenly, Sonya silenced the petty scabbles with a relentless cymbal clash. “You stand by us; we’ll stand by you. Plus, we need your hands until the show is over.”

“Keep it lively, buds. Don’t fret, Shane; I’ll be down before the encore.”

Howard witnessed a violent altercation that somehow concluded at the sound of Hank Virus’ knee going on an adventure towards the inverted unknown. With his microphone, the singer leaned it in for a hot mic serving as a detailed sound of tendons and bones failing to hold. Once the facts of the proceeding confrontation were laid at the feet of all those judgmental folk in attendance and left for the venue’s owner to confirm, Marcus, indeed, ended things before the encore. If they had known that Howard sat in the back smoldering from his last burn too bright and crashed too soon for the money to feel real band save his slumped ass, whether they would have tried the same gimmick is unknown. However, if anyone would know to make this a show to remember, it could’ve only been Marcus and Janet. Why he failed to see the inherent danger of the duo saving the crowd’s opinion as a ruse is unconscionable, so he, too, is responsible in my eyes. I also must include as a notion of unbiased reporting that the band handled the situation well despite being a collection of uncivilized teenagers half-drunk and hormonally insane.

The racist insults Marcus seemed unphased by at the beginning, nor the punches Hank threw without warning, were all reworked to reveal the real villain as the Damned Lizards for being bigots in all the ways the crowd was against them. Six years later, at Over the Edge, I could feel the tension in the room as they geared up for the party piece, with its lead starting with Vicious Doom shooting to rip Queen Janet’s title with an official challenge. The loud cymbals flared, and Marcus took over the bass; Janet stepped down, stretching for more than a simple bar brawl. From the initial lively attacks of Janet winning in every sense of the word, suddenly, my memories become fragmented beyond repair. My records weren’t the only ones to become skewed instantly, as once she hit the ground for the first time, no one could remember if a robot or creature fell before them, leading to mountains of collateral damage; everyone applauded. The closest I received on account of the evening of my nephew’s disappearance was, ‘Dude, it was so metal! The Whiskey Rules!!’

Vicious Doom, or Robert Goldman, Thomas Baxter, and several others I’ve yet to find family or friends to claim have never been seen again. They are part of a pattern potentially set to grow at any revival of the band, and I can’t let this go yet. Tabloids mentioned this for sales or recognition, but it was never backed up despite the monstrous evidence available. Life-changing pieces are missing thanks to a mass involuntary blackout coated in a mass hysteria that tends to be support group gold, yet nothing came from such an agreeable fan base that calmed my guilt.

That tale, like many others involving Whiskey Hotel or any one of its members, has lived in the darkest aisle of the entertainment’s vault for over a decade as folklore added to their stunning overseas album sales. A litany of unconfirmed silence pacts, bribes, extortion plots, or any other has-been methods of concealing the truth I’ve discovered deep diving into my nephew’s disappearance. Sifting through to the tail end of their scorched earth method of announcing their indefinite hiatus signed off at the end of a massively exhausting tour caused me family divisions and the death of my once respected nature for being reasonable in the face of overwhelming odds. As broken as I am in my attempt to bring these, let’s face it, creatures to recompense, I shall persist. It wouldn’t be fair to my brother of sorts to quit before, at a minimum, Thomas is laid to rest, and the band explains their crimes. My name is, for reasons that will become clear soon, Ron Lazaro, an independent investigative journalist, but if I go any deeper, I’ll go full Gonzo tripping balls on the wrong tour bus. Right, they’re coming back, so let’s start from the beginning.

The plan

I’ve built up quite a few connections, all of whom refused to help outside of an auxiliary role with several degrees of separation from the band. But this gave me an independent entry into their inner circle through the member with the most grounded lifestyle. Shane led a very family-oriented existence where any help, like an overqualified au pair, was poorly vetted quickly and sent to work. I hope the slight Spanish accent doesn’t oversell it.

Shane Johnson, lead guitarist, father of fifteen as of this recording, with nine of them gone to college or whatever life choice that liberates them from the cycle of disaster that the remaining six, soon to be seven, children bring. October 2004, I was brought on full-time to get his affairs to order in anticipation of a Whiskey Hotel resurfacing he initiated through an inadvertent ad campaign. With my responsibilities expanded exponentially, I paid close attention to the Boston Irish son of industry, finding I appealed to his need for a cough drop to combat his stage three-level homesickness. Luckily, that meant I needed to be determined rather than perfect. Nevertheless, the official announcement reached the far reaches of metalheads and rock and roll enthusiasts, and the pay bump signaled the boulder falling from the peak of Mt. Everest, gaining terminal velocity near the base.

Challenges in my investigation, however, began with Howard Murphey’s managerial incompetence, highlighting the shady practices that almost leveled out as tolerable work. Claims of the band as a unified venture for artistic expression feel no longer accurate, but distance has nothing to do with it. Mama Johnson, real name, Delores Kingsley, helped reveal this during a conversation, feeling her place as the mother of any and all Shane’s kids, hers or not, taking great care of them with Shane’s funds she spread out equally.

April 2005, two months before their first television gig since the final performance in ’93, I was sent to gather a set of Shane’s checks from various royalty avenues, where I met the Whiskey’s agent and publicist. In evident anxiety, I sparked small talk while he dealt with several other issues to the theme of former clients abruptly needing new representation.

That conversation goes as follows:

“Not a lot of happy yet great voices giving you the business, huh?” I asked with a light chuckle.

“Comes with the job.” Even when he wasn’t yelling, his aggression was clear and present through teeth dying to be ground down.

“You seem kind of old for this to be just a job if you don’t mind me saying.”

“You want to ignore freedom’s capitalist skin tag, fine, but suffer in silence, yeah? You’ve missed an opportunity or two yourself?” Howard asked.

“Sure, sure. Although, if you haven’t noticed, monkeys' kin to wealth performing as brain-dead talk pieces for poverty have all the power, right?” I always regret my wordiness during my nervous rants.

Dropping his pen and shutting his blinds soon after seemed like a stretch for the moment to relax his fingers to have the appropriate energy to chastise my cynicism. “Since you’re keen on making this happenstance a struggle, please enlighten me on why your specialty is worth my time,” he asked.

I hope my real name will survive this, but this inadvertent opportunity to have said name deemed worthy of their inner fold was tripping me up. “Au pair or not, the goal is retirement; the earlier, the better. Call me a sponge of the paperwork and an open mind to prosper from the background. No need to be greedy, to be dishonest. Too much effort if you think about it,” I said.

“Respect, somewhat peer of mine. But it’d be wise for your sanity to fuck off and find another group to suckle from. Maybe one of those aging boy bands catching their second wind. Justin is definitely on the rebound, worth the trouble.”

“A little milking won’t go a miss, right, Mr. Murphey? Hey, I adore them all, especially seeing what Shane has built and how dedicated he is to it. You usually don’t get that love from a man with his sort of sexual appetite, but there are pretty, pretty disgusting people nipping at—”

“You’re right. I’m not background checking every person those dumb fucks hire to their awk as fuck entourage. I report you, prison or maybe a fine, whatever; I don’t need the stress. When they catch you, make sure they know I warned you. And if you don’t want me bitch slapping you back to El Salvador, Don’t fuck up their bottom-line fuck wit. And I won’t have to do a thing. That is your mercy.”

One envelope later, I was sent on my way. I must note that Mrs. Johnson’s checks were easily held down by his mouse pad, waiting as it always is allegedly. Typically, Shane would be in some rented-out studio or some other excuse to play his heart out, but not this time. He had nearly caused a Long Beach highway pile-up on a coastal highway when he found out I was headed to his property and passing by en route. Finding me at an exit close to where he finished ditching some vehicle, claiming he left an Irish surprise in the center of the road, we traveled to his home together.

*Later, the vehicle Johnny Law found parked on the striped yellow lines contained six unregistered firearms, a stolen painting recently gone missing from an Istanbul gallery, a kilo of illegal pills, three middle fingers of actual separate cold-case suspects, and a green slushie, mostly finished. No other DNA or evidence of a driver or passengers inside gave me the suspicion I was the only one who knew who left the car. It caught three killers and a con artist case for Interpol. *

We arrived sometime after eight PM with the supplies he needed to replenish his abode for Mama Johnson’s sake, amid cleaning after six children, with a few of their friends still outside playing on their expansive property. A trojan warrior returning from battle couldn’t dream of a happier reception when we entered to a scattered chorus of ‘Daddy’s Home’ from his own and polite hellos from welcomed playmates. I hadn’t noticed how much pain he was in physically until he struggled to put down one of his daughters, revealing considerable strain and a few bandages underneath his shirt. While his care towards his massive family was untamed, it stood to reason most of the glee he exhibited throughout his readjustment to a sedentary life was the dwindling euphoria of one hell of an adrenaline rush. It was a Friday before a three-day weekend for the kids, leaving rampant creatures of joy and sporadic scraps breaking out that the witnessing adults let play out unless danger was imminent. They were jovial as all adults showed up for the massive family gathering, but I could see they were attentive, merely letting the kids be kids in all their rambunctious forms.

All the band members and Angela ‘Angie’ Colfax, rebel actress extraordinaire, were in attendance despite their unhappiness with her and Howard to a certain degree. The meal was exquisite, and for a moment, amongst loving chatter, reminiscing, or simply passing the mashed potatoes to the hungry table in the large kitchen where their messes weren’t so permanent. The children were tuckered out and finished clearing the table of pertinent dishes by 10:55 and were off to bed by 11:15, teeth brushed, pajamas, and sleeping bags set for slumber. I kept a tight ship. Regardless of relationships that did or didn’t exist within the household, Mama Johnson ran a disciplined ship of polite, tidy, rabid animals. Once the coast was clear, if you grant the liberties, the conversation I was told I must stay for began with a two-shot minimum requirement.

“It’s a souvenir from a tribe residing in a village minding its fucking business, Shane. What’s the hold-up?” Janet asked.

“You have the fucking nerve, bitch. Your shitty attitude isn’t allowed here,” said Mrs. Johnson.

“And I’m sitting right next to you, haven clear the space between us. Are you answering for him? I’m down to skip the middle—”

“Go nod off in a public park. Do the kids still leave notes in your jackets?” Shane asked.

“Watch your goddamn mouth,” Sonya said to a few graciously humble apologies.

“What part of mental episode are you dumb bastards keep miss hearing?”

*Mrs. Johnson refers to Shane’s fourth ‘naked mile’ down some residential street, chasing and firing upon a vehicle fleeing the scene. Due to events remaining unclear, it’s unknown what led to him in that part of California nor how he was on the heels of a notorious kidnapping group that had been ripping people off local sidewalks for the last half-decade. His involvement and the tag number he gave as he was being arrested saved a set of twins who happened to be in the trunk of the car with the back window he shot out. Upon being reprimanded and his heroics celebrated, no matter the unexplainable circumstances, he left the Monte Ray police precinct with a single media statement. “Is this any way to greet the return of the Whiskey?” *

“Howard, my love, voice of blunt Aussie realism. Please fix this,” Mrs. Johnson exclaimed confidently.

“With respect, ma’am, he didn’t rustle the bushes outside the label; he set them on fire and demanded they send out their firstborn. Your last one has been halted for over a decade, wasting money with every year you all went dark from the zeitgeist. Then Sonya blipped on someone’s radar—”

“Shh, shh, shut the fuck up. What album, Howard?” Marcus chimed aggressively.

“Whichever album you pricks held back due to unforeseen tragedies. Once Shane made it official that you guys were over it, they’ve begun presales,” Howard said with a fourth drink.

“Whoever you call to fix this horrendous negligence on your part since you’re as ‘piece of shit’ tier as you are well known, get on it,” Marcus recoiled.

“Here’s the presale figures so far. Four weeks left, they’re saying.”

“Not bad. But if you think I or any of us give a slimy dog dick about these figures, add ‘piece of shit’ to your driver’s license too, your cunty jag.” Marcus said, tossing the paperwork in the center for all to see.

Sonya snatched it first after hearing Marcus’s harsh and overzealous words. She seemed pleased at the numbers, not for what earned them.

“You disrespectful shite is above my pay grade; you pack of danger fiends. This disrespect can fuck right the hell off.” Howard said.

“Hold that thought, Blondie. Let’s hear from the room on the matter. It’s only fair, right? But to plead my case efficiently—Dynamite Sex Appeal, Dutiful Rebecca, Nasty Plastic, Pleasure in the Kill, Fire in the Angies,” Marcus stated, looking from bandmate to bandmate as each’s eyes widened. Even Angie tensed during his song roll call.

“Howard, make sure the coroner knows to clear my shit out of your throat before your family comes to identify your corpse,” Sonya uttered shockingly.

“You fucking suck—you fucking suck at your job. That shit should have vanished when we did. Useless bastard, like little Charlie with the lazy eye. Just pissing on everything everyone cares for,” Shane said to Mrs. Johnson’s surprise.

“I’ll end you. I swear on everything I have; you’ll be managing rodents for Stuart Little spin-offs out of your rectum on the dark web,” Angie said.

“Who’s this piece of shit jerk-off ruining our lives. We should replace you with a better gopher-looking fuck,” Janet said.

“You pack of animals decided to turn a city intersection—a block if you count what followed after Janet’s car show or was arrested into a hooligan savage-fest before your contract-ending album was released. If Marcus and Angie’s personal shite didn’t put ‘pitiful’ in front of your band’s name, the record company would've just passed it out to every K-Mart bargain bin in the nation. I gave you ungrateful shit-swizzlers time to change that god-awful confessional, but Streak-King here is gumming up the works. How’s that frigid footsy with that deadline going, eleven years in the works?”

“This is not Shane’s fault. When are you going to sack up, babe?” Mrs. Johnson asked.

“Get going. We only know what you know,” Janet said impatiently.

Angie’s slily uttered, “Bull shit” line was quickly dismissed by everyone at the table. While later, I could see Mrs. Johnson and Sonya agreed with the sentiment; it was like they hated the lips sharing the syllables.

“I was following a voice in my head. That’s how I discovered the two children needed help and where to find them. Couldn’t see straight until I trusted it enough to blindly obey. It was a twisted nightmare, all of it. Fuck the results.”

“True; however, you were right and survived,” Janet responded without hesitation.

“How, ass hole?” Shane yelled to a collective, ‘shhhs’ from everyone, thinking of the sleeping kids upstairs.

“To interject with the statistics or posterity, each naked mile served a community or non-profit organization for the betterment of all who were in need,” Marcus added.

“Shut the fuck up. I’m so sick of letting you two dipshit lunatics in my home,” Mrs. Johnson said.

“Whatever you are implying, Kingsley, I suggest you get on top of it toot fucking sweet,” Janet said.

“Angie, Thoughts?” Mrs. Johnson uttered desperately. “Something less cowardly would be nice.”

“You’re asking the wrong woman. They may be freakier now and odder to measure currently, but clean living does strange things to people. Four similar events shared four similar patterns that helped four different causes, and if you don’t know, each one had federal eyes on, yet you broke the issue they couldn’t. I’m surprised you’re not calling in favors,” Angie said.

“How’s the church trucking along, you filthy fucking heretics?” Mrs. Johnson asked.

“Careful, that herp lip is getting aggravated. Would hate if that ended up in your kid’s food,” Angie replied.

“I’m sure she wears a mask,” Marcus added.

“This is a terrible idea, Marcus,” Sonya began. “That being said, the nature of you two’s new hobbies lead me to maintain a level, no matter how low, of respect for something I am fearfully too aware of. You need to tidy this up, solve it and strap it the fuck down so we may return to our peace, inducing seclusion. Do you understand, Janet?”

“Yes, thanks.”

“Are we clear, Marcus?”

“We’ll do what we can to keep it tightly wound, and the less we need you, the better. Merci Beaucoup, Madame.”

“Groovy, call me when you’re ready to handle ‘Judas’ Junction’s’ release,” Sonya said. In fact, it was the last thing she said outside of a “goodbye everyone” and a farewell drink before heading off into the night.

“What are you doing to my husband,” Mrs. Johnson shouted to another wave of shhhs she agreed was necessary immediately after sitting back down. The two she was asking wouldn’t look in her direction. I would have sworn they were speaking to each other, but nothing made it to my recorder.

“Nothing. Mama Johnson. But I assure you it gets no sharper than Shane, blackouts or not. I wouldn’t say it to you if I didn’t mean it,” Marcus said.

“So what? God! I can’t hear your names without cringing to keep my skin from crawling off my body. You cold cunts look at me like I should fear you but convincing me is going to be a lot harder—”

About the Creator

Willem Indigo

I spend substantial efforts diving into the unexplainable, the strange, and the bewilderingly blasphamous from a wry me, but it's a cold chaotic universe behind these eyes and at times, far beyond. I am Willem Indigo: where you wanna go?

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