Angie put her finger to her lips to remind me to be quiet, as if I needed to be told. Angie would always conveniently forget that an idea had been mine to begin with when she liked it. She was loving this big time.
The old corridors we were skulking in smelt of damp and urine. There was litter everywhere, discarded needles and broken glass on the floor. I wondered who else we might come across other than my brother and his mates. We could hear their band already, see the roof lights flickering in the sequestered room they had found under the meeting room. The wacky church members were dancing and chanting above. I wondered if they were trespassing as well.
‘Don’t tell the mom’ Jamie had said when I guessed where he was going. She thought they had broken up after she refused to let them keep practising in the garage. She should have known that prohibition only makes an activity more enticing, that they would find somewhere else to go beyond her control.
Jamie’s grades had slipped since he had started hanging out with this group of renegades. When they did a gig at a club he came back smelling of cigarette smoke and beer. I wondered what else they got up to, what else he had tried. Maybe that was part of the reason I was here, to see what he had been doing for myself.
Angie could barely contain herself. She had this notion of herself as a rock chick, hanging off Jamie’s arm, a backstage pass around her neck. I had told her that the places they played didn’t even have a stage and she berated me for not having faith. Perhaps when she heard them play she would understand my scepticism.
I admit now that they had improved. Standing in the shadows watching Angie sway to their beat I could picture them mesmerising a crowd of adoring fans. I was wondering why we were here, why this had seemed important.
The explosion woke me from my reverie a split second before Angie pushed me hard up against the wall. It all happened so quickly: the sudden darkness, the smell of burning, the light from the fire that illuminated the figures fleeing past us. There were screams from above as smoke filled the void.
Angie saved me. She grabbed my hand and pulled me out through an old fire escape and down the side of the building, away from the road. We could hear the sirens approaching but were at least a block away by the time they arrived. My brother’s car drove past us as we made our way home but he didn’t stop.
The building was gutted by the fire, reportedly caused by an electrical fault. The ancient system had been overloaded, water had ingressed causing a short circuit. It was suspected n’er do wells used the rooms downstairs for nefarious activity, an easy target to blame.
Two people were killed and the pastor of the church was to be tried for manslaughter. Some weird ritual had left them unconscious on the floor and they could not be got out before the fire took hold. All of this came out after the event leaving me reeling.
On the night, Jamie phoned from a friend’s. He was staying over which made mom so angry she had no time for me, to ask where I had been. She guessed that Jamie had been up to no good, I was just glad that I wouldn’t have to face him.
When all the news had been reported Angie and I went back to look at the burnt out shell. We hadn’t said much about what happened, not even to each other. I was in shock and then denial, I suspect she was too.
‘Did you think it was strange that they had power for their amps in a place like this?’ she asked. I knew what she was thinking and how important it was that we kept this to ourselves. No one could ever know what happened here. Jamie’s future may depend on it.
I didn’t see much of Angie after that, our secret came between us. Jamie was grounded and then stopped going out anyway which worried mom. It seemed that nothing he did could please her.
Sometimes, when ‘Counting Stars’ came on the radio, he would look at me, knowing I knew. It was a killing song now, and he had sung it well.