Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Chapter 4 Excerpt

Built in 1929, the Chicago Stadium was the largest indoor venue in the world, almost twice as large as Madison Square Gardens. In its forty-six years of existence, it had hosted hockey and football games, presidential nominating conventions, rodeos, boxing tournaments, and the 1964, 1965, and 1966 Ladybugs tours. Its seventeen thousand seat capacity made it a far smaller venue than Shea, but being indoors, with a permanent stage, had some advantages. Crews had been working on the laser and lighting systems for weeks. A single song had been switched. Casanova was replaced by Paragon of Virtue, allowing the band to use the fabled 3,663 pipe Baron organ in the Madhouse on the Madison.

Andrews watched from just off stage as some local celebrity or other introduced the band. He hadn’t been at the previous concert, but he had seen the segments on the news. If anything, the screaming sounded louder here than it had at Shea Stadium, but at least when the music started you could hear it. The band was making the transition from Peggy Sue to She’s My Dream when Wright tapped him on the shoulder.

“Chicago PD says everything is secure.” She had to scream to make herself heard.

He nodded, and while she hurried back to her position, he took a deep breath, allowing himself to enjoy the experience of seeing his favorite band, the world’s favorite band, play their music. It was easy to see that the girls were more at ease than they had been. During Lonely Girl, Ep!phanee, who played no instrument in the song, began leaping around in circles as she sang, just as she had in the early days. The crowd ate it up. Then during Distortion Penny, Piffy, and Steffie fell into a line and began strutting across the stage with almost military precision, finally sliding toward the audience on their knees as they played the final chords.

The drumbeat continued and the all three took their places to begin Under the Heel. That’s when Andrews saw it. There was a flash of light high up in the rafters above the audience. It wasn’t the flash of a camera bulb, but of reflective light bouncing off a pane of glass—like the end lens of binoculars, or of a rifle’s scope.

Ducking around the back curtain and running through the cluttered backstage, he found scaffolding with a metal ladder at one end. Grabbing hold of a rung, he pulled himself upwards. By the time he was twenty feet above the ground, the scaffolding began to sway dangerously with every step, and he still had more than fifty feet to go. When he reached the top he was sure the swaying structure would go crashing to the ground at any second, but he was able to clamber off it and onto the catwalk that ran the length of the stadium.

The stadium lights were out. All spots were on the performing band. Even if they hadn’t been, Andrews probably wouldn’t have been able to see anything. The catwalk ran above the lighting tracks, and the centermost section, where he had seen the flash, was a long way off. He ducked lower and grabbed the rail, but he didn’t have the luxury of watching from where he was, or even of taking it slow. Hunched over, he ran the length of the clattering, swaying metal walkway. The Ladybugs were playing the last chords of Artificial Man when he saw a human figure, not on the catwalk he was on, but one that intersected it. He ran faster.

When the song ended, the screaming applause continued but it, unlike the music, was not amplified up near the ceiling. Andrews stood up straight, but didn’t slow down. As he ran, he pulled the pistol from his shoulder holster. He flipped on the power and it began to whine as the solenoid charged.

“Hold it!” he yelled.

The person turned, saw him, and ran, the catwalk taking her away at a diagonal. Andrews stopped and took aim, but didn’t fire. There was something in the shadowy figure’s hand, but he wasn’t sure it was a weapon. He raced forward to where the two catwalks intersected, then turned and followed the other’s path. By that time, whoever he was following was a tiny figure half lost in the darkness. Andrews ran on, even when he could no longer see the person he was pursuing, secure in the knowledge that they had to be on the catwalk. But then he reached the end of the building to find a short ladder leading to a roof access door. Climbing up the stairs, he put his left hand on the hatch, his right still holding his gun. He quickly opened the door and stepped out onto the roof.

The moon, fully obscured by smoky clouds, did little to aid him, but Andrews carefully made the circuit around the rooftop, stepping around air conditioning units and other equipment. Suddenly a figure in black jumped up right in front of him.

“Freeze!”

“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”

“Hands in the air!”

Andrews could now see that it was a woman in front of him, something he had naturally expected. She was in her late twenties or early thirties and she was dressed in an imitation of Ep!phanee’s dark blue costume—spandex leggings and bustier, though her hair was oily brown rather than a bright blue and she didn’t have a nose ring. He grabbed the object she held up in her right hand. It proved to be a Leica 35mm camera.

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