Rock the Cradle of Love
by Beth Gualda
The past two years had seen a resurgence of the heavy metal music popular in the 1980's. One band in particular was leading the way back through time when long unkempt hair, primal screams and assaulting electric guitars were all the rage. They called themselves the Underground Pets. They were a talented band with a strong sound, complicated rhythms, and a front person who was fast becoming a local teenage hearthrob.
Their performance tonight had packed the nightclub where they regularly appeared wall to wall insuring good revenue and an increase in their already vast following of fans. The volume was so loud, it penetrated passing cars and allowed everyone in the block a chance to experience their music.
What most likely set them apart from the other rock groups on the heavy metal bandwagon was their vocalist. He was classically trained and possessed an incredible, almost inhuman vocal range. He looked like a typical rock star with long shaggy blonde hair which forever fell over his large hazel eyes. He wore a perpetual shadow of a beard regardless of the time of day. He was tall, almost lanky but still densely muscled. He liked to show off his excessive chest hair on stage, leaving his shirts open provocatively, knowing the young ladies in the front appreciated this thoughtfulness on his part. He loved to dance and moved with natural grace, seductively teasing his fans now and then with a slow rocking of his slender hips. His voice was deep, and breathy, and he liked to snarl certain lyrics, flashing large white canines that always brought a reaction from the crowds.
The band banged out a cover of an ancient Billy Idol tune called "Cradle of Love." It was one of his favorites and he half sang, half screamed it with an energy and power he was becoming known for. He danced temptingly close to the crowd, just out of their reach, baiting them, shooting a quick amused smile to a redheaded girl standing off stage and smiling back at him with the same large white canines.
She watched her brother's antics and the fans' reactions to the things he did with the same amusement. He aquired a totally different persona when he was onstage in front of all those screeching girls. She knew he really was nothing like this. He was normally quite soft spoken, actually shy around girls, and possessed a keen intelligence his ragged appearance disputed.
The set was coming to a close and she had to be ready for the dash out the back with the band or she'd be left behind. This was the only part she didn't like. She was too afraid that one night some of these obsessive fans of his would follow them home. It was hard enough getting away from the club and the rest of the band without detection. Some of the fans however where relentless in their pursuits and each time it seemed they had to go farther and farther out to get back home.
"Goodnight! Thank you for coming!" the vocalist yelled above the thunderous applause. The band took one more bow and then they darted off the stage.
"Come on Izzy!" he yelled to her, reaching out his hand to propel her forward.
"Jacob! Wait!" she shouted, pushing her way through the increasingly dense crowd.
Jacob bit his lower lip and stretched behind him to grasp her hand. Once he had it he yanked her to him and they took off running, out the stage door and into the alley behind the club.
"Hey Diana, where's Father?" Jacob said coming into the library with his half sister close behind him.
Diana looked up from the book she was reading and frowned. She took off her glasses and set them on the arm of her chair.
"He's working on the third level," she told her stepson. She shook her head. "You're a mess," she noted. "What have you been up to?" She peered around him at her daughter. "You don't look any better, Isolde. And you both reek."
Brother and sister exchanged looks.
"We had to come down through a sewer," Isolde informed. "It gets harder and harder to get down here. That's what we need to talk to Father about."
Diana sighed. "How did it go tonight?"
Jacob flashed a toothy smile. "Ah, they eat it up! They take everything I give them and they always want more." He put his hands on his hips. "It was another sellout." He suddenly looked irritated. "Shit! I forgot to get my paycheck."
Isolde punched him in the arm. Diana tried to look stern.
"Don't use that kind of language, Jacob, " she reminded him.
He seemed too busy thinking to notice his stepmother's patient admonishment. "I need to talk to Father."
Now Diana smiled. "Third level, remember?"
"Right," Jacob grinned. He stepped over to her and kissed her cheek affectionately. "In case I don't see you again tonight," he told her. "Sleep well."
After he had gone, Isolde took a seat beside her mother with a heavy sigh.
"What's going on?" Diana began knowingly.
Isolde sighed heavily. "It's getting impossible. His fans are growing in number.....and tenacity. It's getting too risky to come back here after a set. He has enough money saved and with this next paycheck from the club, he wanted to put it towards getting his own place. Above."
"Oh god," Diana moaned. "Above." She looked at Isolde anxiously. "If I had known that, I would have told Jacob to wait until tomorrow. Your father isn't having a good day."
Jacob strode powerfully through the passageways, down to the third level with a singular purpose in mind. Turning a corner in full stride, he almost collided with two of his female friends making their way up.
"Hi Jacob," the girls greeted simultaneously and giggled coyly.
"Ladies," he purred in reply.
"Did you sing tonight?" the one with the dark brown hair and pretty face asked.
"Yes I did, Angela."
"Did they scream at you again?" her companion questioned with a sly smile. "I heard they do that sometimes."
Jacob lowered his eyes, he felt his face turning red. "Yes they did."
"Isolde says you tease them. Those girls up there. That isn't very nice of you."
Jacob knew he was blushing now. "They like it, I think."
"We'll have to come and see for ourselves one night," Angela said, smiling. They stepped slowly away from him and turned back to wave and smile alluringly.
Jacob watched them disappear. He put his hand over his heart and growled. He hoped they wouldn't come to see him otherwise he would never be able to do the things he did onstage knowing they were watching him. He made a mental note to pinch Izzy when he saw her again for betraying his topside debauchery to the tunnel girls.
As soon as he descended to the third level, he could hear the sound of rock sliding slowly against rock and an occasional chink from a pick axe. This part of the tunnels was forever in need of repair for some reason. Cave ins were always blocking access to the lower chambers.
Jacob could feel his father's irascible mood before he even saw him. He sighed heavily and debated whether or not he should bother him now. He decided to proceed as planned thinking what he had to propose could not wait.
Vincent looked up and wiped his sweating brow as his son approached.
"You look like I feel," he noted. "Where have you been?"
Jacob looked at the other people in the tunnel working with Vincent.
"Could you excuse us for a minute," Jacob said hopefully. If he was about to incur his father's outrage, he didn't want it to be in front of everybody.
"Come on," William announced. "It's time for a break anyway."
Once alone, Vincent sighed heavily and sat stiffly on the floor of the tunnel.
"This is like taking one step forward and two steps back," he told Jacob. "The walls are crumbling faster than we can support them."
"I have to talk to you about something," Jacob began tentatively.
Vincent faced him and gave him his undivided attention. "Go on."
"Well, the reason I look the way I do is because I had to run six blocks from the club tonight and the only way down in that part of town was a sewer grate. A particularly vile one at that. Izzy didn't fair much better."
Vincent smiled. "I have no sympathy for either one of you. You, especially, considering you bring this on yourself."
Jacob eased himself down beside his father. "The band is packing houses wherever we go now. You should see the number of fans who follow us. It all seems unreal at times. And then there are the ones who literally follow us. That's why it's getting so hard to get here after a set."
"You're afraid they'll see you use an entrance," Vincent guessed. "That is a concern. You're always careful, I know. What else can you do?"
Jacob's heart began beating faster. "I need to stay above. I can't be coming down every night and risking detection. I want to get an apartment."
Vincent's expression was unreadable. For a long time he looked at Jacob and said nothing. Then with a forced casualness, he said, "Perhaps that would be for the best." He tried to reassure his son's troubled heart. "I never expected you to stay below forever. I want you to do what you feel you have to do."
Jacob sighed frustrated. "Well, you took that better than I was expecting. But you don't like the idea."
Vincent swallowed uneasily. "I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to," Jacob retorted. He took his father's hand. "I can feel it as plain as I feel your hand in mine."
Vincent chuckled. "Can you?" He sighed, squeezing his son's hand affectionately. "I always had the advantage over your mother that way. I could always lie to her with the utmost conviction and she couldn't tell my heart was screaming the opposite. With you, my heart is on my sleeve."
Jacob smiled. "Think about it, okay?" He slowly rose to his feet. "I won't do it, if you don't want me to."
Vincent sat on the edge of the bed and let Diana rub his bruised shoulders. Even from her, he couldn't hide his anxiety over Jacob.
"Jacob spoke to you about living above, didn't he?" she asked softly. Her gentle voice was warm and soothing. She passed her large hands over Vincent's back, digging her fingertips into stiff muscles.
Vincent sighed. "Yes."
"You don't really want him to go do you?"
He shook his head slowly. "I won't make him stay. I can't do that to him. No matter how much I want him to."
Diana knew of Vincent's dilemma. "How are you going to be able to convince him though?"
Vincent turned around and faced her sadly. "I'll have to convince myself first."
Diana smiled slightly. She reached up and touched his beautiful leonine face to comfort him. He leaned into her palm and sighed, reaching for her and taking her into his arms. He kissed her softly.
"It's not like you won't be seeing him again if he does go above," Diana offered. "He'll still be in the city. He'll still come down. All his friends are here. Isolde will still be here. Me. You. He's too close to you to stay away for any length of time."
Diana continued trying desparately to help her husband. "You hardly ever go above anymore. You stay below now and work yourself to exhaustion. You never go to the park anymore. It's like the world above holds no interest for you. And I know you long to be a part of it again. You need to, Vincent. I also know you feel there is nothing for you up there now. Jacob can give that back to you. He can open up the world above to you just as Catherine did. Think how enriched you felt sharing her life there. The things you were able to do, the things you learned. It will be Jacob's world now and yours again."
Vincent sat mulling her words over in his mind. He looked up, suddenly troubled again. "But the dangers...."
Diana smiled easily. "What dangers, Vincent? He's a singer not an investigator with the district attorney. The biggest danger he faces is getting mobbed by those groupies of his."
Vincent laughed. "Perhaps one night I could go see him perform."
Diana hugged him. "Isolde says he is quite good. Just don't expect any arias."