San Francisco's 10th Street Hall was a large assembly hall, owned by the adjacent St. James Church, that somehow became the site of a series of epic punk rock shows during the early 80s. Tonight was one that had been hotly anticipated by Bridge and Benny for weeks. They had just witnessed an incredible set by the Minutemen, a Southern California trio who, true to their name, delivered intensely political songs in short, furious blasts. Flipper were on next, and Black Flag was headlining.
Benny had worn out the Minutemen's first album, Paranoid Time, but had never seen them live until now. He was especially enthused about bassist Mike Watt's punk funk approach to playing. Bridge admired guitarist/singer D. Boon's lyrics, thinking that Scott would like them also. Cassie, who was Benny's date for the evening, enjoyed their angry energy and found them really fun to flail around to--which she had done with abandon.
Shows at 10th Street were big, often drawing audiences in the several hundreds, which meant that it was impossible not to run into people you knew there. Thus it was not long before Benny was spirited away by a group of friends, suburban punks from Moraga. As he disappeared, Bridge turned to Cassie.
"How are you guys doing?"
Cassie's face clouded over.
"Well, I guess this is kind of my public debut as Benny's 'woman', but I don't feel like it's going so well. We're great when we're together alone, but when we're around people, it's like he's embarrassed by me."
"Not embarrassed, Cassie. He feels guilty. You know why."
"I know. Nadya." Her tone indicated that she knew all too well. "But, Bridge. If he doesn't want to be with me, that's fine. I'm a big girl. All he has to do is tell me."
"Cassie, that's the problem. He does want you, but he also wants Nadya's permission to want you. I know it sounds crazy... It is crazy. But, if it were a movie, Nadya would float down from the rafters with angel wings on, wave her celestial wand, and grant you two permission to do it until you go blind, or whatever."
"Geez. What was this girl, some kind of saint?"
"No, not at all. Nadya was great, but no person could live up to the mythology that's grown up around her."
At that, Black Flag took the stage and thundered into their opener, "Rise Above". Cassie had to shout to be heard.
"Look. Let's just stop trying to figure out boys and fucking dance."
"Tally ho," cried bridge.
As Bridge started toward the mosh pit, a hand reached out and took hold of her shoulder, holding her back. Startled, she turned around. It was Scott's dad, looking extra punk in his navy blue sweat pants and heathered Gap tee shirt.
"Bridget, I'm sorry," he pleaded, shouting to be heard above the band. "I tried you at home several times and you weren't there. I finally got one of your roommates and she told me you were here. I really need to talk to you. Benny, too."
Seeing as it was three a.m., the only place they could find to talk was the all-night donut shop across from the Greyhound Bus Terminal on 7th Street. The clientele was divided evenly between cops and homeless people, so they took a middle seat, establishing a DMZ of sorts. It was Scott's dad, Bridge, Benny, and Cassie, all sitting around the table with Styrofoam cups of downright bilious coffee steaming in front of them. Bridge was the first to speak.
"Ok, Steven. I really wanted to see Black Flag. So please tell me what this is about."
"Well," Carlsen began tentatively. "I received a call earlier from a character called Wes Clearmountain. He said he was a former detective with the Reno Police Department."
"Uh huuhhh," said Bridge slowly, already getting a sense of how far into the looking glass they were about to go.
"He told me that Scott--and Scott's entire band... Micah, everybody--was missing. That they'd been taken. And nobody seems to know where they are. And it seems to be that some people who work at one of the casinos are involved. And Letty was there with him. She was the only one who escaped."
Carlsen's words met with three mute, staring faces. Benny's mouth seemed to be forming words.
Bridge was suddenly distraught. She spoke in a hushed tone, as if she didn't want to awaken any evil spirits that might be nearby.
"Steven, if all of that's true, then..."
"Look, let's do this," Benny cut in. "Did this guy give you a number? He did? Well then let me call him and speak to Letty. If she says it's true, then it's true."
"No, Benny," Bridge said quietly. "I want to talk to Letty."
Benny nodded solemnly. Carlsen gave her Clearmountain's card and she walked with it to the payphone at the back of the room. Her walk was slow and deliberate, almost funereal, as if it was a widow's march that she'd been practicing ever since the first time she almost lost Scott.
Cassie turned anxiously to Benny.
"Benny, what if all that is true? Does that mean you're going to Reno?"
"I'm afraid so, Cass," he said, taking her hand.
"Then I'm going too," she announced.
"No, Cass," he said firmly. "You can't."
"He's right, Miss," Carlsen interjected. "I don't know you, but I can tell you that to take more people than Bridge and Benny would be problematic. We'll need to be unobtrusive and not get in the way of whatever formal investigation is already going on."
Cassie silently shrank back into her seat, neither relenting nor objecting. Then Bridge returned to the table, her expression a distressing combination of terror and rage.
"We have to go to Reno."