Ricky walked into the studio lounge and assessed. Vic was slumped in a chair, Bo lay on the sofa, drowsily poring over a sex toy catalog, and Lazaro had inexplicably brought his bass drum to the meeting and sat dozing against it. Only Nevin seemed to notice or care that Ricky had arrived, and his perky smile was strained.
“Glad you all could make it,” Ricky said, pretending he had everyone’s attention. “Where’s Kalila?”
Vic opened one eye and gestured at the lamp on the coffee table.
Ricky picked it up and rubbed it with his cuff. “Wake up. Meeting, remember?”
“You're being too nice,” Vic snarled. He grabbed the lamp and shook it. “Get out of there, bitch, so we can have this meeting and go to bed!”
Sparks and smoke erupted out of the lamp and Vic dropped it to the table with a clatter.
“You blood-sucking bastard!” Kalila morphed out of the smoke and advanced on Vic in a blaze of djinn fury. “One of these days I’ll stake you and then you’ll be sorry.”
“You think I’m afraid of you? You’re just a freak who eats air.”
“You should be scared, because—”
Ricky waved his hands. “Could you two save it until after the meeting? I don’t want to be here either, so listen up, because this is important.”
Kalila folded her arms and gave him a cool look while Vic slinked back to his chair and feigned boredom.
“It’s about what happened at the show last night.” Ricky wished he felt certain of everyone’s attention, but Bo was perusing his catalog again, Lazaro was toying with a drum stick, and Vic was pretending fascination with a ceiling panel. “Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t care whose meal you thought she was, but I’ve talked to your lawyer and she suggested we pay the medical bills as a goodwill gesture.”
Kalila shrugged. “So do it.”
“We have no use for money,” Vic added, “Other than to buy off whiney humans. She didn’t even taste good.”
Bo frowned. “I thought she did. And money has other uses, like for buying things out of this catalog. The ‘Deluxe Dominator 3’ costs $29.95.”
“Shipping and handling?”
“Shipping is $4.95. I’ll do the handling myself.”
“Uh, guys,” Ricky said, “I think we’ve wandered off topic. The reason I called this meeting was to remind you how important it is to be careful with your fans. Between the lawyer, the medical bills, the possible lawsuit—”
“And bribing the witnesses,” Vic added.
“I ate two of them,” Lazaro said.
Vic brightened. “There you go, Ricky. We’re saving money already.”
Ricky bit his lip and considered. Was this conversation worth pursuing? Could he ever hope to make them understand?
As if reading his mind, Kalila said, “We get it, Ricky. Really. But damage control is part of your job. It’s in your contract.” When he didn’t answer, she flipped her hair over her shoulder and smiled. “So other than the incident with the girl, what did you think of the show? We rocked, didn’t we?”
Ricky started to say something cutting, but caught himself. What would be the point? “Yeah,” he admitted. “You rock.”