Jared volunteered to go first, sacrificing his day off to stalk Maven’s shows. He even phoned an old girlfriend to tag along as his “date”.
“Are you sure you want to open that can of worms again?” Manuel laughed. “Sherry has been trying to get her hooks back into you since you dumped her last year.”
“I know,” Jared groaned. “It just seemed like a better cover to have someone with me. I’ll take Sherry backstage afterward and she’ll gush about how she’d been dying to see the show and junk like that. You know how she is; she’ll be the perfect cover.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right but do me a favor, huh? Don’t bring her to my show!”
Jared laughed as he playfully punched his friend’s shoulder. He knew Sherry would hound him for months but BT was worth the headache and more. His mind’s eye conjured an image of diving on top of a grenade to save BT. As he walked away, Jared knew he’d even a take a bullet for the man that had become his surrogate father. God help Maven or anyone else if they ever try to hurt BT.
That evening, Jared waited by the main gate for Sherry to arrive. She had sent him a text message that she was running late but 40 minutes was excessive. He paced, checked his watch, paced, and then checking his watch again, he muttered a curse. His carefully laid plan was beginning to unravel before ever being put into play. His phone vibrated and another text message from Sherry appeared: “Just pulling in now” amid an overabundance of smiley faces and hearts. Jared barely said hello as he snatched Sherry’s hand and dragged her to Maven’s tent. She babbled on the entire way about how thrilled she was to hear from him. Yada, yada, yada, Jared thought bitterly as her mouth continued churning out words while he pulled her along at a rapid clip. Long before they reached the entrance, Maven’s lackeys pulled velvet ropes across the gate, signifying the show was full. He stopped short and Sherry plowed into Jared’s back, panting from the exertion.
“Great, we missed it,” grumbled Jared. “What the hell took you so long anyway?”
“Well, Sugar,” Sherry blushed. “I wanted to look my very best so I went and had my hair done and a mani-pedi, and….well, if you play your cards right, you just might get to see what else I had done. I can give ya a hint if you'd like.”
Bile rose in Jared’s throat. He had a pretty good idea what she’d had done and he had no desire whatsoever to see it. He shook his head wondering why women put themselves through such brutal grooming procedures. Resigned to killing time before the next show, he stomped off to another attraction with Sherry trailing his wake. Hours later, Jared and Sherry made their way to Maven’s tent, twenty minutes before the show was scheduled to start. Already there was a long line of anxious patrons. Maven’s assistants began making their way down the line speaking with each customer. Nice touch, Jared thought. When the two burly men stopped in front of Jared and Sherry he smiled brightly and said hello.
“Ticket please,” they responded, as if they didn’t know Jared from Adam.
“We’re in line to get our ticket, guys.” Jared laughed.
“No,” the larger thug responded. “The second show is always by special appointment only. If you don’t have one of the golden tickets, you don’t get in.”
“C’mon, guys. You know me. We'll stand in the back and not make a peep. I swear, if I didn’t know better I’d say you’re deliberately trying to make me look bad in front of my date. She’s been dying to see Maven’s show!”
“No can do, buddy. Those are the rules. No ticket, no entry.”
Jared tried to sweet talk his way in but Maven’s assistants refused. The more he pleaded the angrier they got.
“Look, man, you’re holding up the line. Crimony, I’d expect better manners from one of our own. Seriously, you’re acting worse than the typical drunkards that we have to kick out. Move along or do you want us to call Security?
Stunned, Jared stammered out an apology, trying again to explain that he was merely trying to impress his date and he hadn’t meant to cause any trouble. The last thing he needed was to have them complaint to BT about this.
“She just really wanted to see Maven’s act. She’s a big fan.” Jared insisted.
“Aw, baby,” Sherry squealed. “That’s alright. I’d be just as happy to go through the Tunnel of Love ride instead.”
“You heard the lady, she’d be happy to ride the Tunnel of Love. So why don’t you take her for her ride and step out of line already, Jared.”