ORIGINAL FICTION: "The Man Who Would Not Be King" (Part 6)

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PLEASE NOTE: This is part 4 of the story, part 1 is online here, part 2 is online here, and part 3 is online here part four is on line here and part 5 here
Burt Reynolds was like royalty in Florida. He was born there - depending on who was telling the story - was a football hero, graduated from one of its state universities, and, in 1959, he’d become the first man in space. He’d been approached by a consortium headed by Boeing and supervised by Dr. Werner von Braun. The German had actually been one of Reynold’s college professors at U.F. When the time came to strap a person to the nose of a souped-up ICBM, he remembered the young Air Force Lieutenant. In relative secrecy he was officially shanghaied away from the Air Force and became - as he himself deprecatingly put it - “America’s answer to a Russian dog in space.”

The ovation when he came out on stage was deafening. Even President Nixon, who’d broken his ankle during a state trip to Cuba last week, stood.

Aaron Presley was in the orchestra pit, heading towards the drums, confident that whatever was going on had finally revealed himself. There was a nervous-looking timpanist by his kettle drums, sweaty and panicked. Aaron made him instantly as the most likely one to be behind whatever was going on. He came up behind him, out of the drummer’s line of site, and with one hand on his pistol in his pocket, he brought his left hand down on the man’s shoulder. The man startled, and at just that moment Aaron felt a hand coming down on his own shoulder, startling him as well.

“What the hell?” Aaron whipped around in shock, pulling the gun out. On stage, Burt was telling homey anecdotes about how he’d done work as a stunt man to make ends meet in college.

It was West, “Whoa, whoa, what’s going on, Chief?” he asked, his hands flying out in front of him in an ‘I surrender’ posture.

“Why didn’t you check in?” Aaron demanded.

“The drummer here…” - he indicated the nervous man - “…took a bad fall, went ass-over teakettle a few minutes ago. It’s too late for a replacement, no time to go to the infirmary, so I got him a bag full of ice for his leg.” He proffered the bag. The drummer, embarrassedly strapped it on the swollen limb with duct tape.

Was that it? Was that what had happened? A drummer falling off a riser? And still no body?

He thought it through.

Yes, despite his nagging feeling that something was going on, he had exactly no proof. Everything that happened could be explained in some other means - Lennon walking through the pool of blood unseen when he slipped out to smoke a joint, the clumsy drummer, even the blood could have been caused by a bunch of different causes. Hell, it really could be just a nosebleed. I mean, no one was missing from any of the various security teams running around at the ceremony. He was just being paranoid. Time to get over it, he ruminated as he walked out of the orchestra pit. He’d have to report in to Tom about this to be safe, but…‘oh, hey, there’s Tommmy now!’ he thought as he caught sight of him out of the corner of his eye, and headed towards him.

“And now, Mister President, Ladies and Gentlemen,” Burt was saying, “It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you The King of Rock and Roll, Mister Roy Orbison!” The crowd went nuts.

“Tom, I don’t know what you’re doing down h…” he started to say, but instantly recognized his error - it wasn’t the head of Boeing security at all, but one of the Orchestra musicians who looked inordinately like him, only with shorter, blonder hair. “I’m sorry,” Aaron said, “I mistook you for someone else.”

“Happens all the time, man” the blonde man said in a nervous voice, sweat on his upper lip. ‘Well, hell, who wouldn’t be nervous in a place like this? Lots of pressure on,’ Aaron thought as he left.

“Thank you very much, mercy,” Orbison said on stage. “You know, I got in a stupid little bet tonight to see whether I’d dare to play the worst song I ever wrote and risk looking like a fool in front of all you fine people. And I’m kind of a sucker for a dare, so here it is: with my apologies, the worst song I ever wrote…”
The band launched in to Ooby Dooby, and again, the crowd went wild.

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