The Hotel Merriweather was located in the heart of Manhattan; cars shrieked around the Monkees as they crossed the street lugging their instruments. Micky, who had left his drums back in California, directed traffic while his laden bandmates scurried across the street.
They tried to ignore the glares and derisive looks as they entered the lobby, made more difficult by Mickys shouts of glee as he spun a few more times in the revolving door until Mike yanked him out.
Excuse me, sir, Mike asked, leaning on the counter across from a bald man with horn-rimmed glasses. The man, wearing a tag with his name and the word manager underneath it, gave Mike a sour look that made him feel like an awkward teenager back in Texas.
Yes? the man said with the snappish tone of the perpetually busy.
Were looking for McKinley Baker. Hes a Broadway produce who wants us in his musical
Baker? Room 304. With that the manager turned his back to them. Mike swallowed a surge of indignation at the dismissal and led his friends up the stairs to the third floor.
Baker opened the door of his room and smiled to see them there. Boys, welcome!
Mike nodded. Thank you, Mr. Baker.
Come in, come in! How was your flight?
We didnt fly, we took the bus, Micky said. The Blim line.
Baker blinked. The Blim line?
Yeah, you knowIts such a pleasure to take Blim and leave the driving to them.
Never heard of it.
Anyway, Mike said. Were here. So whats the musical youve written?
He told them a story about four struggling musicians who strike it bigand then lose it all, but come to realize friendship was better than fame. Mike looked at Peter, clearly trying to contain his laughter. Peter, for his part, was blushing very red. Gee, must be a recurring theme, he said, fighting to contain his own laughter.
Yes, Baker said. It came to me in a dream.
With that Peter promptly toppled backwards out of his chair and laid on the floor, laughing.
Baker looked around at the others, frowning at their laughter. Its not meant to be a comedy, guys.
We know, sir, Davy said as Peter crawled back into his chair. Its . . . its a long story.
He shrugged. Well, anyhow, just as soon as I hear from my backeryou guys are the ones I want for my stars!
Mike leaned back in his chair. Whens that?
Well, he should already have called by now. Baker frowned.
The back of Mikes neck suddenly gave a nearly painful twitch, and he fought the urge to clap his hand over his tattoo. Peter gasped, his hands clamping down on the arms of his chair. Davys head pulled to the side involuntarily.
You guys okay? Baker asked as Micky stifled a yelp.
Peter looked up. I think youd better tell us about your backer, Mister Baker. His voice had deepened and his face was now very serious.
Baker smiled. Marcus DeLaren is one of the richest men in Manhattan. Hes promised to fund my entire play!
Mike tilted an eyebrow. Just like that? Did he read it first?
Nah, he said he knew talent when he saw it and a good idea when he heard it! And I taped your playing and let him hear it.
Mike nodded, frowning at the floor. He didnt like this one bit, but so far all he had to go on was a twitching tattoo. Peter leaned over and squeezed his hand. My flesh is crawling, he whispered, only loud enough for him to hear.
Mike nodded curtlya nod that clearly said Me too.
Baker smiled as the phone rang. That must be my backer now! He scooped it up and took it into the anteroom to talk in private.
Davy scowled after him. Hes a good man . . . but Im nervous about that backer.
I am too, Mike said. Wed better keep an eye out for trouble, guys. He speared Micky with a stern look. And thats an eye, not a fist.
Micky shrugged easily, grinning from ear to ear. Maybe I should tattoo an eye on my knuckles, he quipped.
Mike tried to keep his stern look, but a chuckle nevertheless forced its way out. You know what I mean, Micky.
I know, he said, his grin softening to an affectionate smile. Im not worriedIve got three Winds to blow me back into line.
Yeah, but whos gonna blow Davy back in line? Peter teased.
Davy wasnt listeninghe was standing right by the other doorway, listening intently to Bakers conversation in the next room. It wasnt the backerthat much he could gather from the one-sided conversation; apparently it was the hotel manager, telling Baker he had to leave the room immediately, as it was booked from under him. Baker was trying to argue his point and appeared to be losing ground fast. Hey fellas! Davy hissed, darting back over to Mikes side. It looks like Mr. Bakers gonna get thrown out of the hotel!
What? Peter hissed back. Can they do that?
I dont know, Davy said. It looks like it.
Baker came out, sighing. Trouble, guys. The manager wants me out by one. My backers not supposed to call until one-thirty.
And what happens when your backer calls? Micky asked.
He smiled. You guys will have a starring role in my show.
Then we have to keep you in this hotel until one-thirty, Mike said.
Baker frowned. How?
Davy smiled. Well think of something.
Mike shot his friends a look that spoke volumes. Diversionary tactics. Its . . . kinda our hobby. Peter smiled, tilting his head in a slow, respectful gesture.
Yeah. Dont worry, Micky said casually. You just worry about that phone call. We take care of the rest. That said, the four moved into the hallway. Go talk to the manager? Peter asked.
We can try, Mike said.
Seeing Micky move to crack his knuckles, Peter smiled. Ill go talk to the manager. You guys see if you cant come up with other diversions. With that he jogged down the hallway toward the stairs.
Cmon guys, Mike said. Lets see what we can do to keep Baker here.
Micky grinned and fell in step beside Mike. I could rig his door so it only opens from the inside.
Do it, Mike ordered. Micky nodded and bolted for Bakers room.
Davys forehead furrowed as he thought. What if we cased out the elevators? If the manager sends someone up.
What do you mean? Mike said, leaning on the wall.
Well . . . maybe we could do the divide and conquer strategy.
Good idea. Well work on keepin the manager and his flunkies separate and confused. Davy grinned and jogged toward the elevators.
Mike stayed leaned against the wall, gnawing on his lower lip as he pondered the situation. He assumed that Bakers backer only knew the phone number for the hotel, and that Baker didnt necessarily know where his backer was. In that case they needed to keep Baker in the hotelotherwise theyd be heading all the way back to California empty-handed.
Peter sighed as he walked back up the stairs, startling Mike as he turned the corner. Sorry.
Its okay. Well?
Peter shook his head. Theres a man from a rabbit breeders convention at the bar. Drunk as a skunk and demanding the room. Politely, but demanding.
And the amount of money hes flashing at the manager could be called obscene. He frowned. Didnt look American, though.
Not whowhat. The money the rabbit mans flashing. They didnt look like your standard bills.
Mike frowned. Any idea what it looked like?
It was reddish-gold and more square. There was some kind of flowing writing on itlooked almost Arabic.
Cmon. Mike gestured to the room. Lets get outta this hallway.
Peter nodded and followed his lead, quietly alert as he always was when the Winds were in action. Once inside they quickly explained the situation to Micky, who finished rigging the door. Okay, Mike said. We have the manager tryin to throw Baker out, and a guy wantin this room whos got Arab money. That sound kinda fishy tyou?
Micky wrinkled his nose. Stinks worsen the ocean at low tide.
If theyre not connected somehow, then Im as dumb as I act, Peter growled. And I wonder how Bakers backer fits into this puzzle?
Poor guy, Micky sighed. Hes bit off more than he can chew.
Well, thats what were here for, right? Mike said. We always get tossed into this stuff in order to help someone out.
And here we are, back in the soup. Peter smiled.
Dont say soup, Micky moaned. Im so hungry . . .
Baker opened his door. Guys, Ive got room service coming! He couldnt have planned more perfect timing.
Mike watched Micky rub his hands together. I hope you got enough, Mr. Baker.