Note Perfect, part eight

Vincent figured he’d pretty much seen the worst the world had to offer on his two tours in ‘Nam, so there wasn’t much that scared him. There were perfectly rational fears, like the fear that police might decide to abuse their authority, or that a drunk driver might wipe you out while you were walking home one night, but that was different. Those made a certain amount of sense. In fact, there was only one fear Vincent knew himself to possess that he regarded as irrational.

The one thing that Vincent lived in fear of was Jim’s black moods. The older man might have given up the drugs and (except for special occasions) the booze, but he could still turn on an epic Celtic melancholy when the mood took him. Vincent had always known that the anniversary was going to be tough on all of them, and toughest of all on Jim, but he hadn’t begun to fathom just how tough.

Perhaps he should have talked to Jim about it sooner, but Vincent had decided early on that doing so would most likely only prolong the period Jim spent being depressed about it all. So he hadn’t done anything much about it, and he’d persuaded Eric not to do anything or say anything either. And it was only now that it was upon them that he was learning just how big a mistake he’d made.

From the instant they woke up in the morning – and what woke them up was being disturbed by the bright lights and noise of the camera crews setting up outside, they found themselves besieged by the media. And not polite, friendly media like the guy from Rolling Stone had been, either. These were television, print and radio journalists from what Eric liked to refer to as the Government’s pets: the big networks and publishers that were happy to echo the party line because it was cheaper and easier than doing any real investigative work.

Jim did not react well to being a virtual prisoner in his own house. Vincent and Eric, tunnel rats back in the day, were a little more accustomed to moving unseen under fire, but even so – it had been a long time and a lot of miles since Quang Tri province.

They had to take the phone off the hook because of all the reporters calling, which meant that they couldn’t even call a friend to get them to come over, or even just keep Jim company on the phone. Jim wanted to call Bobby Kennedy, but Vincent pointed out that Bobby’s day probably wasn’t being any better. There was a chance it might be worse, in fact – no one blamed Jim for the Bandshell riot, and ex-Presidents got a much harder time for ducking reporters than ex-Doors did. As much as Bobby might welcome a friendly voice, he probably wouldn’t have the time to listen to it today.

There was nothing for it but to tough it out.

Eric suggested that they watch some tv, but since all the networks were running specials regarding the anniversary, Vincent feared that it might make things worse. Instead, they resorted to drinking and playing Jim’s favourite music as loud as they could. Jim might not have been on stage for years, but he was still a great DJ, so this worked out pretty well for a few hours. But when the booze ran out, and Jim still wasn’t tired – and the encamped media outside showed no signs of dispersing – tempers started to fray.

Vincent took the phone off the hook and finally got through to an operator so that they be connected to some friends, but even that didn’t distract Jim for very long. It took Vincent a moment or two to realise that he’d only made things worse: now Jim would be tired, drunk, angry and grieving when he confronted the reporters. They should have been better prepared, he realised. They could have written a statement in advance, laid in some supplies, anything. They could have been ready. He could just imagine Eric’s “I told you so” face when he admitted that to him.

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