Date: Wed, 10 Feb 1999 00:58:21 -0500
Subject: Re: Battle Axe ... Chapter 1
Chapter one ... R.E.M. ...
March 1974 ...
Mark, Don, Mel and Craig milled about nervously backstage at Illinois State University. It was about 5 minutes until show time. Mark couldn't wait to get out there. He already had his high polish Velano guitar slung across his back and was pacing back and forth punching his right fist into his open left hand. Craig alternately hopped up and down on his right foot and then his left as he built himself up to a fever pitch. Mel wasn't wearing his Bass yet, but he watched it intently as a guitar tech was doing some last minute tuning of the Fender Jazz instrument. Don, amazingly, was glancing over the daily "Wall Street Journal." He tapped his drumsticks absent-mindedly on the arm of the chair he was sitting in.
The stage manager raised his hand in a predetermined signal that it was about time to hit the stage. The roadies were performing their last mike checks and all of the equipment from the band "Wet Willie" was now gone and all of the Grand Funk stage equipment was now in place and ready to go. Mark could hear the audience and it was really loud ... "We want Grand Funk ... We want Grand Funk" ... ah yes, it was good to be the king! The boys gathered together and began verbally pumping each other up, "Com'on Mel, you're the man, you're the man!" Mark let out a rebel scream as the Stage Manager dropped his hand and the boys bounded onto the blacked out stage.
"... Here's the group you've been waiting to see, GRAND FUNK RAILROAD! ..."
Don shouted, "One, two ... one, two, three, four" and hit the back beat for "Footstompin' Music." Mel was perfect as his Bass pharted out the bottom line of that classic rock tune. Mark hit the chords on the organ and then looked out over the crowd. It was funking huge! Everyone was on their feet clapping and screaming. Mark beamed that big toothy smile as he took a deep breath and began the lyrics ...
"The mate was a mighty sailing man, the skipper brave and sure. Five passengers that sailed that day, for a three hour tour!"
Mark couldn't believe it. He was singing the theme song of Gilligan's Island! And he couldn't seem to stop!
"The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost!"
The crowd and the other guys in the band didn't seem to notice or care. Mark was almost in a panic as he changed over to the Mike at the front of the stage to begin the solo part.
"With Gilligan," and he ripped the first lick, "The skipper too," another guitar lick, "The millionaire and his wife," now the continuous lick, "The movie star, the professor and Mary Ann," He screamed and started the main solo. The crowd was going crazy as he flailed his way through the guitar solo. Mel didn't seem to notice as he kept the solid bass work going. Craig had his head down as he concentrated on the rythym. Don couldn't hear anything anyway so he just kept pounding those skins ...
Mark woke up with a start, the sheets bathed in a cold sweat. That was the third time this week that he had had that same crazy dream. Strange, but he always woke up at the same point. He stared at the clock and noticed that it was 4:13 A.M. He dragged himself out of bed and walked downstairs into the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and then decided to open the cabinet over the range hood. He removed the bottle of Johnny Walker Black and poured himself two fingers. He slammed it down without a thought.
"Gotta stop dreaming like that," he said to himself as he resealed the bottle and put it back over the range hood. He looked back into the refrigerator and removed a piece of New York cheese cake and destroyed it with a fork. He really liked cheese cake.
About 20 minutes later he was back in bed, the booze did it's work and he went back to sleep, but didn't dream anything this time, at least nothing that he remembered the next morning.
Chapter two to follow ...
Chapter 2 ... A New Student ...
The dream he had had was still going through Mark's mind as he walked up the stairs to his music studio. GUITAR MUSIC AND LESSONS read the words on the glass as he inserted the key and turned the lock. His name at the bottom of the window was almost gone as he had been renting this studio/office for about 10 years now.
He walked over to the desk and looked over his schedule for the day. Not too much going on, two lessons in the morning and a new student beginning in the afternoon. He might get some practice time for himself today. He walked into the studio and examined the collection of guitars on the wall. There was the Messenger he had retrieved from a museum in Michigan, a Gibson SG, the Velano (he lingered on that one, remembering his dream), a Gibson LS-5, a Les Paul, and a Stratocaster.
Sitting on a guitar stand plugged into a dormant amp was a Parker Fly. He mostly played the Fly now, though he actually liked some of the other guitars better. His back just couldn't handle the weight of some of those axes anymore. Looking back at the collection he noticed an empty hangar where his Peavey Impact should sit. He smiled as he recalled lending it to his brother Rick. He chuckled as he remembered seeing it at Ricks house with a beer bottle sitting on it! Rick never sat on ceremony.
Shortly after, his first student of the day showed up. Mark had given him a series of excersises to do for the week and he listened paitently as the young man ground through them. Mark gave a few pointers and even ran through them with the pupil a few times. As always, when the lesson was over, student and teacher would jam together informally. Mark got alot of new ideas this way. It was always nice to get a fresh perspective, even if it was from someone with limited talent.
Before the first young gentleman had left, Mark's second appointment arrived and joined in on the jam. They had quite a riff going but unhappily the first kid had to leave. Mark got back down to business and gave instruction to his second money paying student of the day.
After the second young man had left it was time for lunch. Before he left to catch a sub sandwich at Guido's Italian deli, he washed up in the bathroom. He looked in the mirror and stared at the man looking back at him in the reflection. Geez, who was this old man of 50? Look at all the gray hair! Wasn't it about time he started acting his age? "Get a hair cut," he said aloud to the aging and seemingly forgotten Rock Star looking back at him. He punched the light switch as he headed out to the deli.
At Guido's he had his favorite, a Meatball Sub with a Diet Coke. He loved eating at Guido's because they had sidewalk tables that one could eat at. Mark liked to watch the cars and people go by as he absentmindedly chomped down his sandwich. He was thinking about the dream again ... "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip ...," he didn't realize he was singing aloud until he noticed the laughter coming behind him. He turned, red faced, and quickly finished his sandwich and walked back to the studio.
He checked his calendar again and saw that the new student would be there in about 45 minutes. He would be able to get in some quality practice time. He plugged in the Parker and kicked a few pedals on his Korg processor and began strumming some cords ... when he was warmed up he ran a few scales and then launched into the solo from "In Need." He hadn't played that one in a while. He lost track of time as he started playing "Stairway to Heaven" ... he had always wanted to cover that one, not many people dared to do it however.
He wasn't paying any attention as his new student quietly entered the studio carrying his guitar case. The student was in his late 30's or early 40's, kind of old to just be taking up the guitar. The silent intruder didn't do anything to interrupt Mark as he began the intro to "Closer to Home." The guitar hummed joyfully as Mark pumped the wah-wah pedal and began singing the opening verse ... He stopped suddenly as he saw the man standing there.
"Who are you?" asked Mark.
"Hi, I'm your new student. My name is Randy Stowe."
Chapter 3 to come ...
Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 23:48:02 -0500
Subject: Re: Battle Axe ... Chapter 3
Hello all, After a long wait and four written and scraped chapters ... here finally is chapter three of "Battle Axe." For those of you who know me, I go through periods of extremes ... either very active or very dry. I didn't know where to take the story and I wrote chapter three four different times! I erased them all. After some recent events in my life and the life of RK I think I have a direction for the story. So come on for a WILD RIDE, BABEEEEEEE! Now, without further ado, chapter 3 of ... BATTLE AXE!
Chapter 3 ... Getting in tune ...
Mark walked up to Randy and introduced himself. They shook hands and Mark glanced at the guitar case that Randy was carrying ...
"What kind of git-box have you got in there?"
"Let me show you," Randy set the case down and began opening it, all the while looking at the display of guitars hanging on the wall. "It's not as nice as some of those ... is that a Velano?"
"Yeah, it is. Funny you should mention that one. I had a dream about it just the other day." Mark was rubbing his chin and thinking about it.
Randy jerked his Epiphone Birdseye Les Paul from it's case and swung the strap over his shoulder. Mark motioned over to the amp and signaled for Mr. Stowe to plug into one of the Peaveys he had sitting there. Randy unwound a guitar cord he kept in his case and plugged it into the amp. He punched the power switch. The amp powered up with a hum and Randy checked the tuning.
"Okay Randy, show me what you've got there," said Mark with a sympathetic smile.
Randy completed his tuning exercise and ran through a few warm ups. Then he said, "I've been listening to a song lately. I don't remember who the band was but I thought you might know it."
Randy launched into the lead solo from "Into the Sun." Mark shot to his feet!
"I know that one, baby. Hang on, let me plug in too." Mark picked up the Parker Fly and activated another amp.
Together they ground through the entire song. Mark corrected Randy on some of the intricacies and fingerings and then they played it again and again. Mark was enjoying this more than Randy. But, Randy still had no idea that Mark Farner was actually the composer and original performer of the song. You see, Randy didn't know about Grand Funk Railroad or Mark Farner or all the Platinum albums. He just heard the song one day and recorded it and was playing along with it.
"I sure wish I could meet the guy who wrote that," said Randy in passing.
"Step up to the pump, DAD, it's me!" said Mark pounding his chest like Tarzan.
"Oh come on, then what are you doing in this little studio giving guitar lessons, when you could be out there performing?"
Mark sat back and thought about his answer for a moment ... "It's not all that simple, Randy, you see, it takes more than just one guy to make a band or a record or anything in the music business. You need an entire organization."
Randy thought that was a rather lame answer but didn't say anything about it right away. Mark invited Randy to stay for a while. There was a TV show coming on later that Mark wanted to watch and he was having a couple of old friends over. Randy was invited to stay and meet them. Randy thought that was very strange but accepted it anyway.
Chapter four ... soon ... really!
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 22:49:00 -0500
Subject: Re: Battle Axe ... Chapter 4
Battle Axe ... Chapter 4 ... receding hairlines ...
Mark and Randy continued to play "Into the Sun" a few more times. Then Mark started showing Randy some of his rhythm tricks. It turned out that Randy Stowe was a pretty good guitar player. He had all the right instincts, he just needed to practice more. And more is what Mark gave him. Mark demonstrated about six different exercises Randy could do on his own. Then Mark showed how the exercises worked into actual songs.
After about an hour and a half Mark looked up at a clock and announced that the lesson was over, officially. His friends would be coming over soon.
Randy put his guitar back in it's case and Mark propped his up on a guitar stand and flipped on the TV. Randy had wandered over to Mark's guitar display and was looking over the various instruments hanging there. Randy's back was to the front door but he heard a knock on it and Mark called "Come on in, it's open." Randy was looking very closely at the mirror finish Velano. He couldn't seem to take his eyes off of it. He could see the reflection of someone standing behind him in the guitar.
He turned and saw a rather tall man with a graying lions mane of hair. The man held out his hand and shook Randy's and said, "Hi, brother, my name is Don. Don Brewer".
"Hi Don, I'm Randy. I hope you don't mind me hanging out here and watching the TV show with you guys. By the way, do you know what it's about?"
With that comment, Randy heard a chuckle over in the corner. He glanced over and there sat a man with dark hair, pulled back in a small pony tail, and a beard. Randy waved over to him and said, "Howdy, I'm Randy."
"So I heard! My name is Mel Schacher. But all my friends call me Spartacus!"
"What?", Randy said with a laugh.
"Never mind him, Randy, he thinks he should have lived in Roman times," laughed Mark as he twirled his finger around his ear and rolled his eyes.
The conversation can to a halt as everyones attention was drawn to the television. Randy noticed that a show called "Behind the Music" was starting and the subject was Grand Funk Railroad. "Who?" thought Randy as he sat down with other guys and accepted the offer of a cold beer.
Randy was taking a swig from the bottle when he nearly chocked. There on the screen were the three guys he was sitting with now! Only they were much younger! So that explained some of Marks' comments. He now watched carefully as the entire career of GFR was laid out before him. The guys fidgeted in their chairs and made comments back to the TV as the show rolled on.
During the commercial breaks Mark, Don and Mel would break into arguments and debate about various points in the show. They often disagreed on events that were described in the show. They each had their own unique perspective of their experience. It was interesting to note that many times the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing.
After the show, the guys decided to get a second opinion. So they all asked together, "Okay Randy, now that you've seen the show. What do you think of us?"
Randy considered everything he had seen and said with a grin, "If you're hairlines continue to recede you will all have the highest foreheads in rock and roll."
Don's mouth dropped open. Mark ran over to a mirror and began running his fingers over his hairline and frowning. Mel just laughed and said, "Hey Mark, I think the 'just for men' hair color is in the right hand drawer!"
That got Don laughing and then everyone began hurling insults and jokes at each other. This, of course, got the debate over the show going again amongst Mark, Don and Mel and they sort of forgot about Randy. Randy took this opportunity to examine the Velano guitar some more.
The more he stared at the Velano the more he began to think he saw things in it's surface. The shook them off but didn't seem to be able to take his eyes off of it. He felt like he was being drawn into something. But, what? He didn't know. The spell was broken by the sound of Don beating on Mels knoggin' like a snare drum. Randy shook his head and walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed another beer. He threw another to Mark who called for one. Mel latched onto a bag of Cheetos. He really loved Cheetos.
The night wore on and Randy began to realize that these guys were more than just old musicians. They were legends in their own right. But, he kept glancing back at the Velano and wondering ... What if?
Chapter 5 to come.
Date: Sat, 3 Apr 1999 20:38:07 -0500
Subject: Re: Battle Axe ... Chapter 5
Battle Axe ... Chapter 5 ... A Rather Shiney Magnet.
It was starting to get rather late and the impromtu get together with the boys from GFR was drawing to a close. Randy found out that Don was flying to Florida and then onto St. Lucia for a well earned vacation. Randy never found out was Don was taking a vacation from, and never did.
Mel was about to catch a bus to Las Vegas. Mel hated to fly and he had some reading to do. He figured the long 3 day ride to Las Vegas would be a good time to catch up on it. Mark was giving lessons, as usual, and wasn't going anywhere.
Don and Mel said their goodbyes and hit the bricks. Randy left with them and walked as far as his car. Snapping his figures and knocking his fist on his head, he remembered that he had left his guitar in Mark's studio. He hustled back to get it.
When Randy got to Mark's door, he found it ajar. He quietly pushed the door back and looked where the guitar should be sitting. Sure enough, it was right where he thought it should be. He walked over to it. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Mark looking at something. Randy picked up his guitar and then looked over in Mark's direction. Randy's eyes grew wide at the sight.
Mark had a look of extreme joy on his face. In fact, it was unnatural in some way. Gone from the wall was the Velano. It was now hanging from Mark's shoulder. It's mirror finish reflecting the light in a thousand directions. Mark had a death grip on the neck of the guitar and was grinning from ear to ear. Mark began laughing hysterically as he saw Randy looking at him. ... "Hey Randy, I just thought of something. Do you know how Pinnochio found out he was made of wood? ... One day, while minding his own business, his right hand caught on fire!"
Mark dissolved into a fit of laughter. Randy gave Mark a courtesy laugh and waved and walked out of the studio and down to his car. That was a strange episode indeed, he thought. Later while driving home, the joke hit home and he laughed loudly to no one.
After Randy left, Mark plugged in the Velano. He hadn't played it in years, but lately he had been drawn back to it. He set it up with his Nady wireless system and played a chord. The axe was terribly out of tune. Luckily he had a chromatic tuner built into the amp and he tuned the Velano to an acceptable pitch.
He began playing a few songs that he had been working on. But, they didn't sound very good. So he played one of the old tunes. It sounded fine. He continued to alternately play new, unrecorded songs, and old standards that were already released on CD or tape. He noticed that the Velano couldn't play the new stuff, only the old stuff. Hmm, maybe it wasn't the guitar, but Mark himself.
He played for what seemed like hours. In fact, the sun was coming up. He hadn't even noticed the passage of time. Still he played and played and played. He needed to rest, but he couldn't. He fingers were starting to bleed from all the playing. Finally, with a wince of pain, he broke two of the strings and finally stopped.
Exhausted, he stumbled over to the sink and washed the blood from his hands and the Velano. He fought with his own mind as he unstrapped the shiney axe. He kept it tucked between his legs as he washed his hands. He carried it into the kitchen as he prepared some eggs and bacon to eat. He slung it over his back as he sat down to eat. Everything seemed normal, at least to him.
After breakfast he needed a nap. Taking the Velano with him (doesn't everyone?) he laid down in bed with the guitar wrapped up protectively in his arms. His dreams, however, were not very pleasant. In them, someone was trying to steal the Velano from him. He had to kill the perpetrator.
Chapter six to come later ... how much later? ... I don't know.
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 09:16:18 -0500
Subject: Re: Battle Axe ... Chapter 6
Battle Axe ... chapter 6 ... going for broke ...
Mel hung up the phone cautiously. Mark had sounded very strange during the conversation he just had with him. He kept babbling about his Velano guitar. Hmm, he would have to ask Don about it. Maybe he knew something. Mel chuckled to himself ... "Don knowing something, now that would be a switch!" ... He heard the loudspeaker announce that his bus was ready to leave.
As he boarded the big Greyhound he looked around at the mountains. Denver was such a nice city. So close to alot of ski resorts. No wonder Don liked it. Mel hoped that Mark didn't mind him reversing the charges on the phone call. Only a few more hours (comparatively) to Vegas. Mel had an itch that needed to be scratched.
It was 3 A.M. when the buses air brakes announced that they had arrived in Las Vegas. One of the nice things about the bus terminal is that it's right downtown! Mel grabbed his bag from the driver and proceeded to walk to Benny Binnions' Horseshoe Hotel and Casino.
As he walked in the front entrance all the familiar sights, sounds, and smells came back to him. The Horseshoe is one of the older places in town. Refusing to change like the rest of Vegas, it retains a certain charm of a day gone by. Mel hurried through the gaming area and arrived at the hotel registration desk. A raven haired young lady checked Mel into the hotel and had a bell hop take Mel's bag. She gave Mel an electronic room key (I guess they made at least one upgrade) and handed him a map of the hotel with his room circled on it. She gave Mel a cheery smile and wished him a pleasant stay.
The bell hop, a kid named Allen Wightman, led Mel through the seeming labyrinth of halls and elevators and stairways. Finally, arriving at the room, Allen demonstrated the use of the key card and they entered the room. Mel noticed right away that he had been given an upgraded room. It was a two room suite with a fully stocked wet bar. Ah yes, this was going to be a pleasant stay, indeed.
Allen tested the TV and checked the bathroom for all the proper items and announced that the room was fit for duty. Mel knew what his duty was and palmed over a ten dollar bill to the waiting, yet sweaty hand on the end of a rather long arm. Wishing him a great time Allen assured him that if he needed ANYTHING to let him know. With that, he scampered out of the room.
Mel knew what he needed ... A SHOWER! Making sure the door was locked, he stripped down to his rather pale birthday suit and turned on the water to the shower. Mel loves a hot shower and this was no disappointment. A few minutes later he was completely renewed. He opened his bag and removed a pair of jeans and a white Roadkill T-shirt. He threw them on and then combed and brushed his hair. Looking in the mirror, he noticed that his hair wasn't going gray like Don and Marks' hair. (Only his hairdresser knows for sure!)
A half hour later, Mel was standing at the back of the casino, drinking in all the action. Which would it be? Craps, Roulette, or Blackjack? He decided to warm up with a little Blackjack. Besides, the money burning a hole in his pocket was crying for him to spend it. Little did the money know it was about to start a great adventure.
Mel found a $5 minimum table (The horseshoe has no Maximum bet) and sat down in the third baseman's chair. Their were four other players at the table and a rather large burly dealer. His name tag said "Robert Garrett, Texas."
"Hey Bobby, how 'bout changin' out this hunerd?" Mel drawled as he tossed a C note on the felt.
Garrett looked over at Mel with a bored look on his face and picked up the hundred dollar bill and grunted over his shoulder to the pit boss, "Changin' a Hundred." Rob caught the almost imperceptible nod of the pit bosses head and stuffed the bill into the box built into the table. Then he deftly plucked two stacks of red five dollar chips from the rack and passed them over to Mel. Mel placed a single chip in the betting horseshoe printed into the felt.
With a sweep of his hand across the table, Rob began the new deal. Quickly snatching cards from a shoe on the table he had five hands plus his own dealt in a matter of about ten seconds. The dealers up card was a "7." Mel couldn't see what the other players had, the cards were dealt face down. Mel looked at his two cards ... a queen and an eight, hmm, eighteen ...
The first person, a lady, took a hit. It was a four. She stood on that. The next two decided to stand with what they had. The guy sitting next to Mel scratched his cards on the surface of the table. Rob tossed a card from the shoe face up at him ... it was a nine ... busted! The guy tossed his cards face up on the felt and it was seem that he had "23" whoops, too much.
Rob scooped up the cards and his ten dollar bet. Now it was Mels turn. Mel waved his hand across the table to indicate he was standing pat. Garrett now turned to his own cards. He had a seven showing and now flipped his other card, it was a five. He had twelve. He scraped another card from the shoe and tossed it face up next to the others ... a four. Now he had sixteen, Mel was feeling pretty good. Rob picked another card from the shoe, a king ... BUSTED! ... Everyone at the table breathed again as the dealer paid all the winners, except for the guy who had busted previously.
The guy who busted started up a conversation ... "Hi, my name Robertson, Chris Robertson."
"Mel, Mel Schacher," Mel replied with a wave and a smile.
"Schacher, Schacher, that sounds kind of familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?" asked Chris.
"No, I don't think so ... Hey, do you think we can get a cocktail girl over here?" Inquired Mel to Garrett.
Garrett grunted over his shoulder again ... "Cocktails!" ... the pit boss nodded again and shortly after a girl came over with a tray. Mel ordered a scotch and water.
He was just getting warmed up ...
Chapter 7 to follow ...
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 12:30:09 -0500
Subject: Re: Battle Axe ... Chapter 7
Battle Axe ... Chapter 7 ... a strange encounter ...
Mel played Blackjack for about an hour. Chris Robertson had played as well. Chris knew that he knew Mel from somewhere, but couldn't place it. The dealers had rotated a few times and Garrett was now dealing at a table about 30 feet away and the new dealer was a girl named Carla. Mel tried to pronounce her last name but it was tough ... it began with a "B". Carla was much more talkative than Rob Garrett had been. Mel could tell she was from the east coast from her accent ... "Probably Jersey," he thought.
The cards had been kind to Mel and he was up about $350. He had steadily increased he wagers while on a winning streak, always scouping a little of the profit for his personal "bank." Everytime he lost a hand he reverted to his base bet of $5 and rebuilt from there. Not only had the cards been good to him but so had the coctail waitress. She seemed to show up at just the right time. Mel was feeling no pain after about four or five scotch and waters.
Suddenly, Robertson was staring past Mel and looking at someone. Everyone at the table looked over and saw that there was a commotion over at one of the crap tables. Mel loved craps, so he decided to pick up his winnings and place with the "house money" over at the dice table. Chris Robertson waved goodbye to him, he was going to stay at the "21" table.
Mel approached the crap table and noticed a large well dressed man with an entourage around him. His expensive suit and highly polished shoes reminded Mel of some gangster movies he had seen. The craps pit boss was writing out a voucher for some chips for the gentleman. Mel heard him call him Mr. Capetto. The box man greeted him with a jauntey "Howdy, Ricky C." Ricky C.'s bodygaurds didn't face the table, they faced outward and wore dark glasses. Mel wondered if they were packing heat.
After signing the voucher the box man placed the slip in the drop box and counted out $5000 in $100 chips for Mr. Capetto. Ricky C. placed a $100 chip on the pass line and tossed another toward the center of the table and called out "Hunerd' dolla' C and E". "Hundred C and E, it's a bet," answered the stickman as he placed the chip in the appropriate spot on the layout.
The dice were passed over the Ricky and he selected a pair. Shaking them stoutly he flung them across the table ... "Yo'leven!" cried the stickman, "winner on the pass line, winner on eleven!" What a way to start a run at a crap table. Winner on the pass line and a bet on eleven. Mel decided it was time to get in on the action. He placed ten dollars on the pass line.
Capetto now increased his pass line bet to $200. He skipped the C and E bet. The red cubes skittered across the felt. "Six", called the stickman, "Mark the six." Now Mel put $20 behind his pass line bet for the true odds. He saw a sign that said 100X odds bet. That meant he could place 100 times his pass line bet as an odds bet. Mel was not that daring, but he wondered what Ricky C. would do. Capetto placed $400 as an odds bet and he also put $100 out as a come bet. Mel decided to put a $24 place bet on "8."
"Ricky C. needs the six," called the stickman as he passed the dice back over to Capetto. Ricky shook the dice and hurled them down the table. They bounced around and came to rest ... "Five, no field five!" cried the stickman. The come bets were moved to the proper squares on the layout. Mel placed an odds bet of $20 on the come bet of "5." Ricky follwed the pattern, as well, putting an odds bet of $200 on the five. Both Ricky C. and Mel replaced their come bets.
Ricky had the dice once more and threw them with a purpose. However, this time one of the die flew out of the table and onto the floor ... "NO ROLL!" called the stickman ... "Same dice, Same dice," ordered Ricky C. and the house complied.
Well, needless to say this was the start of an incredible experience. Ricky Capetto held the dice for an hour and a half and took the house for over $3 million dollars! It was nice that Binnions' will not turn away any bet and they have no limit.
Mel also profited from the experience. He didn't bet like Ricky C., but he came away about $5000 richer from tagging along. He never found out who Ricky C. was, but he was thankful he had had good timing for a change.
Mel decided to head for the lounge for something to eat and a little entertainment. The lounge act was about to start. He hoped it would be good. He ordered a burger and fries along with a beer and waited for the show to begin.
He heard the P.A. come on ... "And now, ladies and gentlemen, Binnions' is proud to introduce Mark Farner!" ... Mel nearly chocked! The curtain went up and THERE STOOD MARK! He had a few of the house musicians with him and he launched into Limo Driver. Mark was playing the Velano guitar and he had CUT HIS HAIR INTO A FLAT TOP!
Mel couldn't believe it. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the present that Don had given him for Christmas ... an Iridium phone. He punched in Don's number. The phone rang a few times and a woman answered it. "Hi Sunny, it's Mel. Is Don around? You won't believe what I'm seeing. ... He's doing what? ... Well tell him to wipe his ass and grab the phone!"
Mel waited as he heard Sunny hand the phone to Don ... "Hey Mel, where are you?" .... "Don, you won't believe this but I'm sitting in the lounge at Binnions' in Las Vegas and Mark is on stage doing a lounge act and he has cut his hair into a flat top." ... There was silence on the phone. Finally Don asked, "How does he look? What guitar is he playing?"
"Well, he looks a little tired and he's playing the Velano."
"The Velano? ... Mel, I'm packing right now and I'll catch the next plane out there. Meet me at the airport."
"Okay, call me with the flight information. What's the big emergency?"
"Mel, it's the Velano ... somethings wrong with it ... I can't tell you on the phone, but believe me, this is wrong, real wrong. I'll tell you more when I get there. I'll call you back in a few minutes with the flight info. Later."
Mel heard the line go dead. He put the phone back in his pocket. What was the big deal? Oh well, I guess he would find out soon enough.
Mark hadn't noticed Mel sitting in the audience. In fact he didn't seem to notice anyone. He just played the Velano like there was no tomorrow.
Chapter 8 yet to come.
Date: Sun, 2 May 1999 23:16:51 -0500
Subject: Re: Battle Axe ... Chapter 8
Battle Axe ... Chapter 8 ... Commotion ...
Armed with the flight information, Mel walked over to the taxi line outside of Binnions'. Don had called back about an hour after their initial conversation. It was about 14 hours later ... about noon the next day. The previous night, Mel had sat through three shows featuring Mark. Each show was like the other with the same song list.
Mel didn't know where Mark was staying, even though he tried to get backstage after the last show, but was denied entrance by a rather intense security guard. Mel never found out his name, but he was wearing a T-shirt with the picture of a robbed Druid holding a staff (with a rather large bulbous knob ... HI ROBERT!!) and with a multi-colored parrot on his shoulder. Mel figured it must be some art work from the Big Daddy Roth family.
Finally working his way to the front of the line, Mel told the cab driver "Take me to the Airport." The driver put the old model Dodge Caravan into gear and pulled from the curb. The cab driver started up some inane conversation (like most cab drivers do) about the latest building boom in Las Vegas. Mel looked at the drivers I.D. picture in the front of the cab ... "Bill Perenoid" ... hmmm, thought Mel, I wish this guy would just shut up.
Pulling up to the airport drop lane, Mel handed Perenoid a 20 dollar bill and told him to "Keep it." The driver waved and said "Thanks" and pulled away again. As the taxi drove away, Mel noticed the traveling billboard on top of the cab advertising the remake of the movie "Spartacus." "Hmmmm," thought Mel, "I'm gonna have to catch that one." With that he walked into the always busy McCarran International Airport.
After checking the incoming flights, Mel saw that Don's plane was coming in on time and on Concourse C, gate 15. He headed that way. He arrived at the gate about 20 minutes before the plane ...
Don's plane gently came to a stop and the jet-way eased up to the main hatch. Passengers were now deplaning from the Boeing 737. Mel stood to the side and waited. A few minutes later Mel saw the tall, bushy mane that was Don Brewer step through the door and into the terminal. Mel waved and caught Don's attention. Don walked over to him and they shook hands.
"Yeah, too bad you don't fly, Mel. It's the only way to travel."
They headed toward the baggage claim area to pick up Don's bags. As they were walking through the terminal they saw a commotion up ahead. They slowed down.
Up ahead was a group of people, an entourage. Mel recognized the security guard from the day before. Suddenly, Don pointed and said, "Do you see what I see?" ...
Right in the middle of the hallway was Mark Farner, surrounded by about 10 security guards. Across Marks back was the Velano guitar. Mark had a glassy look in his eyes. He was shouting at the crowd ... "Get back ... Don't touch my guitar ... Get Back!"
"This has gone far enough," explained Don as he moved toward the crowd.
"Don ... Wait! ... Don, what are you going to do?"
"I'm gonna knock some sense into his head. That's what I'm gonna do!"
Just then, a scream was heard from somewhere on the left from where they all stood. Then Three Shots rang out! Everyone dived for cover ... everyone except Mark Farner. Wielding the guitar like a giant Battle Axe he rushed the attacker. With a rebel yell, Mark weighed into the attacker and began swinging the Velano. But the attacker was not so easily cowed. He pulled the trigger and the 45 automatic barked in reply ... But the shots ricocheted off of the guitar and into the ceiling of the airport.
This gave time for Marks Security detail to react. They leapt upon the assailant and beat him to a bloody pulp. All the while, Mark was jumping around screaming and swinging the guitar. Mark ran down the hall, shouting and clutching the Velano. He ran all the way to the front door of the Airport and into a waiting Limo which laid rubber as it pulled away from the pickup lane.
"This is alot worse than I thought," remarked Don, as he picked himself up off the floor.
Chapter 9 yet to come.
Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 11:44:09 -0500
Subject: Re: Battle Axe ... Chapter 9
After a little time away from the story ...
Battle Axe ... chapter 9 ... Saint Marcus Amongus ...
Don and Mel hurried to the taxi way. In the distance, they could see Mark's limo racing away from the airport. Hailing a cab, they piled into the back seat. A grin came over Mel's face as he shouted that phrase always seen in the movies ...
"Follow that car! ... Geez Don, I can't believe I just said that!"
"I can't believe it either, porkypine, but we have to find out where Mark is holed up."
"Porkypine? Why I aughtta ..."
"Stow it, Yardape, look Mark's turning right at that stop light. Hey driver, don't lose him ... faster, faster ... NO, not that fast!"
The driver of the cab, Randy Valdez, glanced into his rearview mirror at the two guys in the back seat. Just when you thought you've seen everything, here comes a couple of rubes following a limo. What was so important, anyway. He decided that they were probably a couple of losers. He hoped they had enough money for the fare.
The limo was driving away from the strip and was headed out of town. It pulled up to an abandoned warehouse. Mark and three security guards jumped from the limo and escorted Mark inside through a side door. The limo then drove around back, out of sight.
Don and Mel saw this, however, and they instructed Valdez to pull up about a block short and wait there. "The meter's runnin'," cautioned Randy. Mel flipped him off when he wasn't looking. Don laughed.
They started carefully walking in the direction of the warehouse. There weren't many people in this part of town. In fact, it was almost deserted, except for a small group of apparently homeless people gathered near an alley. The alley was in the path of Don and Mel but they really didn't take any notice of the people. They had to get Mark out of that warehouse and to a doctor, he was obviously sick.
One of the people in the alley was sitting in a doorway, wrapped up in what looked like a brown army blanket. He head was cloaked and it looked like he was asleep ... probably just another drunken bum.
As the boys passed the alley, a voice came from the sleeping bum, "Hello my friends. And where are a couple of musicians doing in a rather bad part of town? If I could be so bold as to ask."
Don and Mel stopped in their tracks. They looked over as the blanket began to move and finally it stood up. Throwing off the blanket, a large multi-colored parrot flew up and with a mighty "grok" came to rest on the now standing robed and hooded figure.
"MONK!" Don cried. (ta-daaaaa)
Mel fell to his knees and began bowing and chanting, "Oh great Monk, save Mark, save Mark, save Mark."
The Monk began to laugh, "Get up, you silly mullet. Tell me what is happening. I know much already, that is why I am here. But, I must know the whole story if we are to save St. Marcus from himself."
"Did you say, 'Spartacus'?", said Mel, not hearing the Monk correctly
Don punched him on the arm and said "SHAAAAT APPP."
Don and Mel told the entire story about the guitar lessons, the viewing of the VH1 show at Marks studio, the show Mark was putting on at the Horseshoe hotel. They also told of the strange events at the airport and of how the Velano guitar seemed to be at the center of the entire deal.
The Monk pondered all that they said as Bill the parrot preened himself while alternately flying around the alley and sitting on the monks shoulder. Somehow it appeared that the Monk and Bill were communicating on a level unfamiliar to Don and Mel. Finally, Monk said, "I have an idea, we should all meet back at the hotel in an hour, I know which room your in, Mel, I'll see both of you there."
"Gee Monk, why don't you just ride with us in the cab?" said Mel, gesturing at the cab. When he looked back at the Monk, the Monk was gone! Geez, that was always unsettling.
Don and Mel walked back over the cab. They had to wake up the dozing Randy Valdez, and they rode back to Binnions'. When they got back to the hotel, Mel jumped from the cab and hurried inside, effectively sticking Don with the cab fare. Don paid the fare and gave Valdez a $10 tip. Valdez thanked him and drove away. Don followed Mel inside. Mel never told him what room he was in ... typical.
Chapter 10 ... someday.
I just couldn't stay away ...
BATTLE AXE Chapter 10
Two days had passed since the Monk, Don and Mel had met in the alley in Las Vegas. Later that evening Mel and Don were having dinner in the lounge at Binnons' when they heard a commotion behind them. They turned and saw that the Mob boss, Ricky C., was being seated at a table near the stage. He had his usual entourage of bodyguards and beautiful women. He spoke to the waiter and laughed at a joke or two and then sat back and enjoyed a glass of champaign. At his right elbow a beautiful brunette fawned over him and giggled like a giddy teenager (kinda like Monica Lewinsky!).
"Hey Don, maybe we should ask Ricky C. if he has seen the Monk anywhere. He has informants all over town."
"Don't be an idiot, you idiot," replied Don, "He has much bigger fish to fry than a group of over the hill rock and roll wanna bees."
"I'm goona ask him anyway."
With that Mel stood up and walked, tenatively, over to a place near to Ricky C. Immediately, Ricky's bodyguards put themselves between Ricky and Mel and reached for unseen side arms under their well tailored jackets.
"It's okay boys, let the runt through", expounded Ricky C.
Mel thanked Ricky profusely and Ricky had to cut him off, "So, like whats do yous guys want with Ricky C., anyhows?"
"Well, Mr. C., it seems we have lost track of a friend of ours. A person called the Monk."
"The Monk?" Ricky ran the name over a few times, "HHmmmm, Monk ... Monk ..." He motioned to one of his bodyguards, "Hey Jimmy, you heard of a Monk character or anythings liken to thats?"
Jimmy Isaac scratched his head and stroked his beard and finally snapped his fingers, "Yeah boss, I think I do. He's some wierd dude that has some kind of bird with him. It sits right on his shoulder, like he's in some kind of pirate movie or somethin'. The bird don't talk or nothin' though. I tried to get it to talk and all it said was 'Grok.'"
"Grok? Sounds like my kinda bird. What do you think son? Do you think it could be my kinda bird or do you think if's foul? ... Ha, Ha ... get it? ... bird? ... foul? ... geez, no sense of humor."
Mel started stammering, "AAAhh, yes sir, yes sir, that could be you kinda of foul bird ... I didn't mean it that way ... I ..."
"Ah SHAT AP!" Ricky C. waved his hand, "Hey Jimmy, you know where this kid can find this Monk?"
"Sure do boss, look right over there," Jimmy pointed over to the bar, and there stood the Monk, dressed in his mysterious robes, Bill, the parrot, perched on his left shoulder. On the bar was a large tankard of beer, it's foamy head spilling onto the bar top. (ah, nirvana!)
Mel pointed over to the Monk and Don looked in that direction also. They waved to the Monk and the Monk, quietly picked up his frothy beverage and came and sat next to the intrepid drummer and bone rattling bass player.
"We've been waiting for you for two days," lamented Don.
"I've been here both days. But, you did not SEE me."
"What do you mean, we've both been here, and we've been looking for you. What do you mean we didn't see you," asked Mel.
"You see, I wasn't wearing the same garments you see before you now. I was in disguise," explained the Monk.
"What did you do with Bill? Turn him into a dog?" joked Don.
At that, Bill let out a mighty Grok and flapped his wings. The Monk chuckled under his robes, "No, my stick pounding friend, I didn't turn him into a dog. I merely reduced him in size and stuffed him into my pocket."
Before Don could assertain whether or not the Monk was joking, the M.C. of the nightclub walked onto the stage ... "Ladies and Gentlemen, guests of the hotel ... (hi Ricky) ... it is my pleasure to introduce to you our act for this evening. Direct from Flint, Michigan ... please give a warm Las Vegas welcome to ... Mark Farner and the Funk Machine!" ...
Don and Mel couldn't believe what the guy had just said ... "The FUNK MACHINE?" ... The curtains opened and out jumped Mark with the same band he had had the other day. He was wearing four inch platform shoes and white and green two tone pants with a gleamming silver sequined belt. Ricky C. was on his feet clapping and a screaming at the top of his lungs. The lustious brunette was dancing and shimmying all over the place. Jimmy Isaac, on the other hand, remained straight faced, always watching the back side for his boss.
The Monk said and did nothing at all. Bill the parrot was busy preening his feathers and The Monk's arm did a series of 12 ounce curls as the beer in his tankard slowly dissapeared into his clock shaddowed mouth.
Chapter 11 to come soon.
It's good to be back.
Jim's a good mans brother
Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999 12:13:05 -0700
Subject: Re: Battle Axe Chapter 11
ahem ... BATTLE AXE ... Chapter 11 ...
Mark raced back and forth across the small stage in the lounge at Binnions'. His hair flying about as he ground away on the Velano guitar. Ricky C., dressed, as always, in an Armani double breasted shark skin suit, gyrated along with Mark as he jammed through his set.
Jimmy Isaac, of course, was busy watching Ricky C.'s backside as his boss maintained his attention toward the stage. Jimmy scanned the crowd forming in the lounge. Binnions' would be pretty happy, it was a larger that usual crowd and the drinks were flowing. The counting room would be overflowing tonight!
Jimmy adjusted his earpiece, the earpiece that was connected to a small transceiver in his coat pocket. He was continually in communication with other "security" personel that followed Ricky C. around wherever he went. He could hear the other guards in conversation ... all clear ... nothing unusual ... what's for dinner ... that kind of stuff.
But, something WAS wrong. Jimmy was hearing a hum in his earpiece, as if, someone was trying to jam his signal. He tapped the small transmitter box in his pocket, he turned his head left and right. The earpiece was in his right ear and when he turned his right ear towards the stage the humming got worse. He radioed over the transceiver for one of his buddies to come over.
Mike Butler, part-time pro wrestler and full time enforcer walked over. As he neared Jimmy, he too, began tapping his earpiece and thumping his transceiver box.
"Hey Mike, you hear that hummin'?"
"Yeah, what the hell is that? ... Geez, it's worse over here," said Mike as he walked over toward the stage.
Jimmy cautiously moved toward the stage. He walked back and forth in front of the stage monitors, thinking he might be getting feedback. Just then, Mark strutted in front of him. The earpiece screamed in his ear and Jimmy yanked it out!
"Owww," he complained as he rubbed his ear. He stared up at Mark as Mark made a turn to his left and his hair flew up. Jimmy caught a glimpse of something. Something shinny at the base of Marks hair line.
"What the hell is that?" he thought to himself.
Chapter 12 to come later ...
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 15:36:16 EDT
Subject: re: Battle Axe Chapter 12
BATTLE AXE! ... Chapter 12 ...
Jimmy Isaac raced over to Ricky C., grabbed his arm while at the same time ripping the earpiece out of his right ear. Pulling the transceiver box from his hip he handed the entire contraption over to Ricky and told him to put it in his ear.
"Here Mr. C, listen to this!"
Ricky looked at Jimmy, with a puzzled look on his face, and then put the earpiece in ... and immediately yanked it back out.
"Owwww! What-da-ya trin' to dooes to me Jimmy?" as the ear piece wailed in his ear.
"Watch Farner when he comes over and listen in the earpiece at the same time," explained Jimmy Isaac.
Ricky C. held the ear piece about a inch away from his ear and listened as Mark Farner pranced back and forth across the stage. Ricky noticed that when Mark got closer the screaming from the ear piece got louder. Suddenly, Mark spun to his left and the spot lights highlighted something behind his right ear. It was just a flash of light, like reflecting off an ear-ring or something. What was that?
"Hey Jimmy, did you see that thing behind his ear? What is that?" asked the dapper Mr. C.
"Yeah, I saw it boss. I thought you might know what it was," answered the pensive Isaac.
"Jimmy, tell Mike to cover the exit. I think something is about to go down here. I don't know what but I really got a feeling," cautioned Ricky.
"You mean like the time your ex-wife busted in on you when you were with that ..."
"I told you never to bring that up! Now get going," Ricky shoved Jimmy out of the way. Jimmy snickered and then walked over to Mike Butler to give him the word. Mike nodded and then walked over to the exit, his right hand placed carefully on the stock of the machine pistol hidden under his J. C. Penny Stafford Blazer.
Back in the corner, Don, Mel and the Monk, with Bill on his shoulder now, watched the proceedings with interest. They too, had noticed the gleam of metal from behind Marks ear. Slowly they began moving to the left hand side of the stage, Mark's right. After a few minutes they were as far to the left as they could get and were up against a wall that extended from the end of the stage. Upon further investigation, they found a black curtain that covered a small passage that led to back stage.
Quickly now, they passed behind the curtain (Never mind that man behind the curtain) and found themselves in a short hall way that opened up about 10 feet to the side of the stage in the back stage area. There weren't too many people around, just a couple of really bored stage hands leaning against the equipment.
The Monk raised his hand and passed it back and forth while pointing at the stage hands. In short order, they fell to the floor, fast asleep. Oh well, they needed a nap anyway.
"How did you do that?" asked the astonished Don.
"There will be time for questions later. Now we must find out what there is to find out," lectured the Monk.
"Huh?" said Mel.
Before Mel could say anything else, Don looked up into the catwalks over the stage. He had caught some movement out of the corner of his eye and looked up. What he saw he couldn't understand, but the Monk did.
Chapter 13 yet to come.
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 13:21:11 -0500
Subject: Re: Battle Axe Chapter 13
Battle Axe ... Chapter 13 ...
Don looked up at the catwalk that extended over the stage. It was high enough so that the audience couldn't see it, but anyone back stage could look up and see various stage hands at work all the while the show was going on. Only, this time, there was no stage hand up there, it was ... it was ... oh, I can't hardly say it ... TERRY DAY, THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS!
"Oh man, I thought he was dead," exclaimed Mel in anguish.
"It would seem that the reports of his death my have be a leeeetle bit premature," reponded Monk.
"Groooooooookkkkkk," croaked Bill the parrot.
The Monk wasted no time as Mel and Don stood frozen in their shoes. Raising his hands above his head he muttered a strange incantation and began to rise above the floor! He rose faster and faster until a few seconds later he was up to the level of the catwalk and steping across the rail. It was at that moment that Day saw him, he attention having been below, watching Mark during the show.
In Day's hand was a small box that looked like somekind of transmitter. It had various switches and joysticks on it and he was moving them about. He switched his attention back and forth between Mark and the Monk as he tried to continue inputting to the transmitter and keeping an eye on the Monk at the same time.
"You have no business here, Monk! Be gone," cried Day.
"While I'm at a loss to determine how you could be alive, I nevertheless must stop you by whatever means are at my disposal," replied the Monk, as his arms rose and he pointed his fingers at the P.O.D.
A blinding white lightning bolt errupted from the Monk and arced toward Terry Day. Day was ready for it, however, and used the transmitter to deflect the bolt, the transmitter exploding into a shower of sparks. Day then ran toward the Monk, intent upon shoving him over the catwalk to the stage below. The Monk braced for the impact.
At the moment the transmitter exploded, Mark cried out and grabbed his head behind his right ear. There he felt, unknown to him before, the small microchip. In agony, he tore at the chip, tearing his skin free behind his ear. The chip falling to the stage floor. Mark recoiled from the site, a small microchip covered in skin, hair and his blood. Now, free from the mind controlling chip he looked down around his waist and noticed he was wearing the Velano guitar.
"What in the hell am I doing with this fossil?" he said to himself.
Just then the microchip started beeping and buzzing. Quick as a flash, Mark slung the guitar from his shoulder and raising it like a mighty battle axe from the dark ages smashed the microchip!
Day and the Monk struggled on the catwalk. After a few horrific seconds Day managed to push the Monk over the rail. But, the Monk hung on to Day and they both fell to the stage. Upon impact Day's neck was broken and he died instantly. The Monk on the other hand only twisted his knee.
Don and Mel rushed up to Mark as the other musicians in his new band ran for cover.
"Mark, Mark are you alright?" they both chimed in together.
"Alright? Yeah, I guess so. Where am I? How did I get here? What's with the Velano guitar?"
"Hey, that's what we wanted to ask you," laughed Don.
Hope you enjoyed battle axe!
One's just like the other, Jim's a good mans brother.