“No,” Ray says. “Gee, you can’t call the show this late. The fans are all here already. You can’t just ask them all to leave.”
Mikey grabs some bandage wrap from the first aid kit and starts in on Ray’s hand. In seconds he’s got Ray’s hand securely wrapped and the bleeding has slowed considerably. We’ve caused a bit of a commotion by this point. Jamia, the guys and I are all crowded around Ray, as well as other techs and crew who were in the backstage area.
Seeing that Ray is being well taken care of, Gerard pulls back and waves to Jerry, the tour manager. “We’ve got to call the show,” he says. “There’s no way Ray can play like that.”
Ray hears them talking and pulls away from Mikey and me, moving over to them. “No,” he says. “Gee, you can’t call the show this late. The fans are all here already. We’re finally regaining our credibility from the whole thing with Frank. You can’t just ask them all to leave.”
Gerard looks at him sadly. “Ray, you can’t even move your fingers, how are you going to play?”
He’s got us all rather confused at this point. “Nobody else on tour can play your parts,” Gerard says.
“We could pull an Ashlee Simpson,” Mikey offers, trying to lighten the mood. “Oh, wait. We don’t have a tape.”
“Jason can play,” Ray says.
“What?” I say, confused.
“What?” Jamia repeats, livid.
“I heard him playing the other day. He’s really good and it seems like he knows all the songs already.” He looks at me expectantly. I can feel Jamia’s death glare boring into the side of my head. “Well?” he asks. “Do you know the songs?”
“Um…” I stutter. “Yeah, I do. But I’ve never played your parts, like, seriously. You know, all the way through.”
“Ray, we’ve never played with him before. No offense Jason, but you were in a band. You know what it’s like on stage. You need to be able to read each other completely, in case something unexpected happens. We’ve never even seen him play,” Mikey says doubtfully.
“I think it’ll work,” Ray insists. “At least just for tonight, then we can figure the rest out later.”
“Really?” I ask.
“Absolutely not.” Jamia hisses. “We’ve never played with him. It’ll be a disaster.”
Mikey looks at me thoughtfully. “It can’t be any worse than those last shows with Frank. And this time we have a legitimate excuse. Ray’s right, we can’t cancel this late. Let’s do it.”
“Alright. I’m in too. But it’s your call, Jason,” Gerard says, looking at me.
I glance at Jamia. She looks furious. This was obviously not in her plan. Then I look back at the guys. They want me to play, and I want to play with them. Screw Jamia.
“Ok,” I say nodding. “Let’s go.”
The guys let out quiet noises of approval and Jamia continues to glare at me. Ray slaps me on the back with his good hand.
“You should get to a hospital,” I say to him.
“And miss you falling flat on your face?” he laughs. “No fucking way!”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” I mumble.
He looks me square in the eyes. “You’ll do fine. Now go!” I turn and realize that Gerard is already onstage for Dr. Death’s opening. I walk over to where the guys are standing and a moment later we take the stage together. Just like before.
The show is amazing. I stay in the background, by the drum set, which I resist the urge to stand on. It’s not exactly like before. For one thing I can feel Jamia radiating hate and anger throughout the whole show. For another I have to keep reminding myself to play Ray’s parts and not mine. I fumble a few times – his parts are hard! – but if the fans noticed they didn’t seem to mind too much. After ‘House of Wolves’ Gerard pauses to address the fans.
“You may have noticed a bit of a personnel change onstage,” he says. “Ray fucked his hand up about thirty seconds before the show and so we’ve got our good friend Jason Demarko filling in for him tonight.”
There’s a round of cheers. I glance backstage at Ray who’s grinning his head off. I smile too as the opening notes to ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ fill the stadium.
By the time we reach the last song I feel on top of the world. It’s not the same, but it still feels so right. Hell I would play anything you asked me to, if it meant I could play on a stage like this with these guys.
The last notes die away and we walk off the stage to be congratulated by an enthusiastic Ray.
“That was incredible!” he gushes. Even Jamia is smiling.
“Way to go, kid,” Gerard says, ruffling my hair. I poke him in the side then duck out of his reach.
Slowly we all remember why I was on stage in the first place.
Mikey voices what we’re all thinking. “Let’s get you to a hospital,” he says to Ray. There’s a murmur of agreement. We make our way out to the parking lot where we head over to the two cars that always travel with us, for times like this. When we need to get somewhere but don’t want to take the bus. Gerard gets in the driver’s seat and Ray takes shotgun. Jamia climbs into the backseat and I’m about to follow her when I feel my phone buzz in my pocket. I mumble an excuse to the guys and duck away to answer it.
I glance at the caller ID and freeze. It’s Bob!
“Don’t say anything,” he barks. “Stay behind, tell them you’ll meet them at the hospital.”
My mind races, how could he know about the hospital? Unless…
“You’re here?” I whisper, glancing around wildly.
“Don’t let them hear you,” he growls. “Act natural. I need to talk to you. I found something.”
“Oh… Ok,” I manage. “Yeah, ok.” He hangs up. I take a moment to try to get my head straight before returning to the car where the guys are waiting, still holding the phone to my ear.
“Hey, I need to take this, I’m really sorry. It will probably be a minute. Why don’t you guys go ahead, I’ll take the other car and be right behind you.”
Jamia gives me a suspicious look but Gerard nods and there’s a chorus of “ok”s as Mikey gets in the back seat beside Jamia I wander over to the other car, pretending to carry on a phone conversation. I wait for the other car to drive away before I lower my phone and dial Bob, putting it instantly back to my ear.
I hear his voice, but it’s not through the phone. I turn and there he is behind me, the answers to my prayers. At least I hope.
“You’re back,” I say stupidly.
“I found what we needed,” he says. “I have a plan.”
I feel hope swell in my chest, but I suppress it. I don’t want to get too excited until I know this is going to work.
He slowly explains to me all he found and what we do next. I lose track of time as the bubble of hope in my chest grows. This might actually work.
Then my mobile goes off. It’s Gerard. I glance at the clock. Shit. We’ve been sitting here for an hour and a half. I answer my phone just before it goes to voicemail.
“Where are you, is everything ok?”
“I…Uh, sorry…” I look to Bob, a question in my eyes and he nods in response. “Bob showed up again. We kind of got sidetracked. We can leave right now.”
Gerard laughs. “Don’t bother, we’re coming back. They want to keep Ray overnight because he got really dehydrated and they want to make sure he’s completely ok. Visiting hours just ended and we’re getting into the car now. Tell Bob we’ll see him in a bit.”
“Oh, ok,” I say. “See you soon.” Then I hang up. I turn to Bob. “They’re on their way back.”
“So when do we start?” I ask.
“As soon as Ray’s back,” he says.
“Alright,” I nod. “You really think this can work?”
He smiles. “Yeah I do. We’re gonna bring you home Frankie.”