Duke Donovan was born into rock royalty. Front man for the popular Goth band 3-D, Duke’s had everything handed to him his entire life—fame, fortune, flesh. The problem is he wants none of it. After staging an unforgettable concert performance meant to give him an exit from the spotlight, Duke skyrockets 3-D’s rising star past the stratosphere, making the band more popular than ever and Duke ready to crack from all the unwanted attention and pressure.
Seamus Whyler is tall, handsome, and passionate about music. Seamus has had none of Duke’s lucky breaks and dreams of a rock star’s life while living out of his car between gigs. Meeting Duke is like looking into a mirror—and long last being given a shot at true stardom when the pop prince offers to switch places with the pauper. But as Duke and Seamus soon discover, leaving their real identities behind isn’t so easy a thing to accomplish while being dogged by their pasts and a ruthless celebrity music blogger who smells a ringer, and when the opportunity for true love forces them both to face the music.
The Duke and the Deadbeat
Gregory L. Norris © 2018
All Rights Reserved
Maroon 5 stud Adam Levine had taken to the stage stripped down to his black boxer briefs, black socks, and smoldering Cheshire Cat’s smile that insured the other side of his bed would never grow cold. The guys in Blink 182 had turned mediocre talent into megasuccess by conveniently forgetting to put on their pants or underwear before streaking out to their instruments, dicks swinging, hairy butts displayed for the crowd to behold. Before them, Green Day’s handsome frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, with his mop of hair bleached blond and dyed neon-green, had strummed his guitar and crooned for the orgasming audience with his lush thatch of pubic curls and limp cock hanging in clear view. After, it was the Scissor Sisters and Queens of the Stone Age letting it all dangle. Once, live on MTV, some hairy Wolverine-looking tool going by the name of Evil Jared Hasselhoff hopped on a crate, whipped out his manhood, and relieved himself on the lead singer of the band Placebo.
Duke Donovan Dalton, the driving force behind the Goth-rock band 3-D, planned to outshine all of them. The Death Heart Tour’s final leg, winding through Austin and concluding in Boston, would be the ultimate musical mind-fuck.
“You can do this,” Duke said, casting a nervous glance into the mirror.
Harley shot him a look from the other side of the room. Duke’s trusted assistant, who also maintained the band’s website and social media pages on FaceSpace, MyBook, and Chatter, always knew when something dangerous was brewing, and what Duke sensed now was no different. What would he Chit about, using that economy of a hundred and forty-four words? Duke looking way too calm. Huge audience, eager to hear the tunes, screaming bloody murder. What if the murder victim’s Duke Dalton? I think he’s contemplating suicide!
Harley knew Duke, had since they were kids touring with their dads. An uncomfortable rush of warmth bloomed in his gut, threatening to crack the calmness staring back from the glass.
“What the fuck’s going on?” Harley demanded. No one else would dare speak to Duke Dalton that way, not the band’s concert promoters, the rock journalists or late-night talking heads. Not even Duke’s dad, Jack Dalton, lead singer in the big hair juggernaut, Stage Fright.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Duke said flatly.
“For starters, you haven’t touched the snack bar.”
Duke swept a glance across the table. There were plenty of bottles looming over a half dozen bowls, each filled with colorful, tempting vice—big red disks, blue ones, green, two shades of brown, yellow.
Duke marched over to the snack bar, grabbed a handful of green, and crunched down.
“Mmm, peanut butter, my favorite,” he said and then popped one of the bottles, washing the candy down with a jolt of lukewarm soda. “There, satisfied?”
Harley watched Duke from the cut of his eye but didn’t answer. The dude was onto him. Oh well, Duke thought. By the end of the show, the whole world would be. And he was okay with that. Better than okay. Every other day, some new scandal and sex tape broke on the news.
At least he wouldn’t bore them.
Shaye Floden, 3-D’s keyboard player, grabbed a handful of red candy. He stood in the middle of the backstage clubhouse and dressing rooms clad only in his underwear, a pair of tight-fitting designer whites stuffed to capacity in the front. Shaye had the second biggest cock in the band, inferior size-wise only to Duke himself, and wasn’t ashamed to let that fact be known.
“You nervous?” Shaye asked, crunching on candy and scratching at the meat of his balls.
“No,” Duke answered.
“Figured you must be, on account of the fact that you look so calm.” Shaye flashed a cocky smile and groped the front of his underwear. “Damn, I can’t wait to fuck something tonight.”
Harley, or the hotties in the makeup team, one of the best in the business… there certainly would be enough holes to plug after the concert. Ladies as well as dudes, depending upon where his tastes went. Shaye’s pale blue eyes drifted toward the little blonde thing waiting to paint his face.
“Okay, who’s ready to turn into a zombie?” she asked.
“I’m coming to get you, Barbara,” Shaye said in a comically sinister voice. He extended his hands. “And I’m so very horny!”
The makeup artist—Duke doubted her name was Barbara—giggled and waved him over to one of the chairs. There, Shaye Floden began his transformation into “Bones.”
Bass player Arif Yusian, better known to 3-D fans as “Scalpel,” entered the room for a drink and a snack. Another makeup artist seized him by the arms.
“Give me five, okay?” Arif said.
“Only if you tell Joe-Kev to hustle his ass in here. We need to start early on him for the full effect.”
Joe-Kev Hallet, who went by the handle “Autopsy,” soon made an appearance. The oldest member of the band at twenty-seven, his body was a canvas of colorful ink. A sleeve of thorns and roses covered one arm from shoulder to elbow. A tiger slinked down the opposing leg, its extended paw reaching across the top of his foot. A small constellation of five-pointed stars appeared to twinkle at his neck.
Duke knew the artistry didn’t end there. From their tumbles together in the early days of 3-D, he’d gotten intimate with the skull tattooed on the top of the dude’s shaft. When Joe-Kev’s bone snaked out, thickest in the middle, the skull swelled and stretched with it, flashing a sinister Halloween grin.
Their drummer joined Shaye in the makeup chairs. Arif wandered back in and took his seat. The usual banter filled the air, and a wave of nostalgia embraced Duke. By all outward signs, there had been many blessings associated with being the son of a rock legend. And a legend in his own right, lead singer and stud of a powerhouse coming into its own, this generation’s U2 or Electric Light Orchestra. Bigger blessings, like the fame, the fortune and, yes, all that fucking. But it was this little moment, seeing the guys get painted, that he hoped he remembered best when it was over.
And it would be over after this night.
Regret replaced the brief flicker of happiness.
A hand touched his shoulder. Duke seized in place. Turning, he faced Perry, 3-D’s lead makeup artist.
“Whoa, dude,” Perry said. “Didn’t mean to spook you like that. Forgive the pun, but you look like a fucking ghost.”
“Sorry, nerves,” Duke said.
The other man aimed a thumb toward the lone empty makeup chair. “You ready to become ‘Duke De Morte’?”
“Duke of Death,” Duke sighed, punctuating the statement with a humorless chuckle.
His emerald-colored eyes drifted back toward the guys, each man presently having his face painted into character. The nostalgia was gone completely. More importantly, so was Duke’s sense of regret.
“Not yet, man,” Duke said, clapping a hand on Perry’s arm. “Meet me in my dressing room, would you? And do me a favor. Bring some extra paint with you.”
The gimmick sounded lame on the surface at first but had caught on with the fans, especially the legions jerking off to vampire romance novels. The white faces looked elegant, more so when you factored in the crisp white button-down shirts, thin black ties, black suit coats, and shiny black shoes. Total sharpness—and those white ghost faces sure rocked when you shined a black light on them, picking up the phosphorescence on four handsome 3-D apparitions gyrating on stage.
The ghostly faces of 3-D had become as recognizable in recent years as the symbol for the Artist Formerly Known as Prince and Mick Jagger’s lips.
Perry finished working on Duke’s visage. Duke gazed into the mirror. The work was, as usual, artistry at its purest.
“What do you think?”
Duke studied the perfect glowing white skull painted over his handsome face, his dark hair, a messy but intentional thatch of cowlicks and spikes, his full lips, the lower slightly plumper than its twin on top. Those eyes were so green in the fake skull’s sockets that they glowed preternaturally like a wild nocturnal animal’s reflecting in a car’s headlights.
“I’d fuck me,” Duke said.
“Yeah, you and millions of rock junkies around the globe,” Perry said.
And Perry knew; they’d enjoyed the occasional fuck since the night that first smear of white face paint went on.
To enhance the look, the guys’ suits also reacted to the black light, transforming into an illusion of zombie rags thanks to the invisible chemicals painted onto them by the band’s wardrobe department. At intermission, 3-D did a change into kilts, black and white tartan, thick black wool socks, combat boots, and black tuxedo jackets over white shirts. During that fifteen-minute interlude when the opening act, some dude who’d won Idol two seasons back, entertained the crowd, the white skulls got a solid touchup.
The four men huddled offstage. Autopsy, his face streaked with intricate red strips of flesh on one side, extended his hand, palm side down. Bones clapped his hand over Autopsy’s. Scalpel tossed his mitt onto the pile. The persona known as Duke De Morte hesitated. The other characters, each demanding that their preconcert tradition be maintained, shot him looks.
Duke slammed his hand onto the top of the pile. “3-D on one… two… three—”
The four musicians barked the band’s name and, as one, raised their hands toward the ceiling. The announcer trilled their arrival over the speakers, and the crowd outside, some ten thousand souls deep, collectively screamed. Duke’s cock twitched, a sure sign that he’d gotten hard as he always did whenever the band played to a packed venue. His erections had also become part of the 3-D lore; crotch shots and camera phone video of his tented pants littered the Internet. At last count, according to Harley, there were over fifty thousand amateur websites devoted solely to his dick.
The guys raced onto the scallop-shaped stage ahead of him. More shrieks from their worshippers rose up, and he wondered if the concerts, not the eruption of some volcano, had taken bragging rights to the loudest sound event ever recorded in human history. His ears would ring for days. Duke’s nuts tightened against the root of his cock in anticipation. Once he started singing and sweating, they would loosen and spill down his pant legs, hanging, he sometimes imagined, all the way to his hairy ankles.
Steeling himself, Duke pursued. Fuck Vesuvius, the voice in his head decided. The roar that rose up as he trotted toward his Fender guitar was powerful enough to crack the fabric of time and space, to send planets spinning out of orbit and whole constellations of stars crashing into one another.
His cock pulsed.
The audience went insane.
That kind of power, Duke already knew, was dangerous. It could create the universe. But it could also destroy it.
They opened with “Guillotine Romance,” their anthem from the teen slasher flick, Spinal Column, a gore-fest about the vengeful skeleton of a high school newspaper reporter murdered by fellow students he’d dug up serious dirt on. Their cover of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” followed, in which hot female werewolf dancers gyrated and slithered to the smoky, liquid melody. From there, it was a catalog of their greatest hits.
Seamus is living in his car, taking singing gigs where ever he can find them. Nothing in his life but an occasional one night stand, an old guitar, and a scrapbook of memories.
Duke has the most popular band in the world. More money, cars, and infamy than he can deal with. Oh, and all the sex he wants. When Duke and Seamus switch places they both think they are getting exactly what they wanted. But it turns out getting what you want isn’t exactly what you need.
An interesting take on the prince and the pauper. This was a fairly filthy book, but that’s not to say I didn’t like it. The characters for the most part weren’t very likable but they grew on me. If you are a fan of bad boys behaving badly you should enjoy this one.
Raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF television, Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (Brutal Colors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under my rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line — the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. He judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, he traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing.His story “Drowning” appears in the Italian anthology THE BEAUTY OF DEATH 2, alongside tales by none other than Peter Straub and Clive Barker.