March 8th 1983. Orlando, Florida.
Jagger pushed his back up against the door. He took a deep breath, keeping one hand gripped over the metal handle, ready to make his escape.
Ronald Reagan, the fortieth President of the United States, was ready to speak. He was in the Citrus Crown Ballroom, in the Sheraton Twin Towers Hotel, addressing a meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals. The ballroom was packed out with twelve hundred people inside. There were two rows seated behind the President, human ornaments in front of a large blue backdrop. Some of these individuals were associated with the NAE; others were distinguished members of the Florida congressional delegation.
As Reagan stood at the lectern, basking in the adulation of his fellow Americans, Jagger looked at one of the men sitting behind him. John Lennon had drastically changed his appearance for his much-anticipated trip to Florida. Gone was the long hair he’d been sporting constantly since 1981. The full flowing beard, which he’d been growing since the Rocky flop, had been shaved almost to the bone. Lennon’s light brown hair had also been cropped short, much to Jagger’s disgust. The casual clothes were gone too, replaced by a black suit and tie, a white shirt, and formal dark shoes. Only the familiar round glasses hinted of the old Lennon.
As Reagan talked, Lennon leaned forward, listening intently to every word.
But Jagger had had enough. He couldn’t stand there any longer.
He turned around and pulled the door open. Without looking back, he walked through a wide corridor, passing numerous men in dark suits and sunglasses. The suits stared at his pink and blue Hawaiian shirt with a mixture of humour and suspicion.
After walking aimlessly through a few other crowded corridors, Jagger eventually found an unmanned fire exit. There at least offered some privacy from the prying eyes of the Republicans. He opened the door and inhaled a lungful of fresh air. Looking up, a clear blue sky was forming out of a flock of white clouds. It was enough to make him forget, if only for a second or two.
Jagger pulled out a packet of cigarette skins and went to work on a roll-up. If only he had something stronger than regular tobacco. Then he could plant a joint on Reagan’s ass and stink out that Republican hall with the smell of weed. Maybe even watch the evangelicals get high off the happy fumes.
He stood by the door for a while, smoking and thinking of nothing. Losing all track of time.
Reluctantly, he came back to the world.
He turned away from the door. Annie was walking down the corridor by herself. Behind her, others were mulling around in large groups, chatting, or making their way towards the front of the hotel. Was Reagan’s speech over? How long had he been standing there at the door?
Annie greeted him with a mock punch on the arm. Like Jagger, she was a little too casually dressed for the occasion, wearing a pale blue denim jacket, white t-shirt and fashionably ripped jeans. Jagger was aware that his sister was out on the prowl. She’d told him all about it on the plane, how she’d been to the hairdressers and how, with the boys staying with friends in New York, that her heart was set on a holiday romance. Jagger sympathised. It had been a long time since her old man had taken off, leaving Annie to raise the kids alone. Still, he didn’t want to know about his sister’s sex life, or lack of one.
“Hey,” she said. “You didn’t hang around for long.”
Jagger raised an arm, like he was warding off invisible blows to the face.
“What do I want to stay in there for?”
“Because it’s your job. To be around John.”
“Yeah,” Jagger said. “My job is to help John. But it’s got nothing to do with listening to the King of capitalism spouting his right-wing bullshit to the evangelical army.”
“You do whatever the boss tells you,” Annie said. “Just like I have to do at the office every day. So, if he brought you here with him to listen to right-wing bullshit then that’s exactly what you should do.”
Jagger took a last drag of the roll up and tossed the remains out onto the street. He shut the fire exit door and turned towards his sister.
“What’s he doing here Annie?” he said. “He should be in Bermuda writing new songs. Or at the Hit Factory in New York, recording them.”
“He likes Reagan. A lot of people like Reagan.”
Jagger sighed. His breath reeked of rolling tobacco.
“You know what?” he said. I feel as if I’m watching some twisted version of Star Wars. And it’s like I just caught a glimpse of Han Solo sitting on Darth Vader’s lap.”
Annie flicked at her hair. She wasn’t interested in Star Wars.
“Thanks for taking me down here Murphy,” she said. “I love Orlando.”
Jagger nodded. “Least I can do. After all you’ve done for me.”
Up ahead, Jagger saw two men in dark suits walking past, one of them whispering intently into a walkie-talkie.
“Hey Annie,” Jagger said. “What did he say in there anyway?”
“John? I haven’t spoken to him since this morning.”
“I meant Reagan. What did he say?”
“I thought you didn’t care.”
“Yeah. I just want a summary.”
Annie paused, trying to recall the highlights of the President’s speech.
“He trashed the Russians of course,” she said. “I remember that much. He called them evil.”
“Sure,” Jagger said. “Like we’re Saint America or something.”
“Well,” Annie said. “John sat riveted throughout. He never took his eyes off Reagan.”
Jagger felt the call of another roll-up.
“Where is he now?” he asked.
“The Republicans have got him,” Annie said. She might as well have said, ‘The monsters have got him!’
“He’s hanging with them?” Jagger asked.
“Yeah - they’re all over his Beatle ass.”
Jagger spilled some tobacco off the skins and onto the floor. He was making a mess of this one.
“Are they taking photos and shit?” he asked.
“They were,” Annie said. “Lennon and Reagan. The Beatle and the B-movie actor.”
“Celebrity bullshit,” Jagger said. “Oh fuck Annie, I got a bad feeling about this. Nothing good’s going to come out of him being here.”
“It’s alright,” Annie said. “John’s a big boy. He knows how to handle the spotlight.”
“But they’re going to use him Annie,” Jagger said. “I can feel it. Did you see all those politicians kissing John’s ass earlier today?”
Annie smiled. “Everyone loves him.”
“That’s the problem,” Jagger said.
“Yeah,” Annie said. “Maybe it’s his new look. I’m not sure I like it though.”
Jagger took a step closer to his sister. He whispered in her ear, as if on the brink of speaking blasphemy.
“You know who he looks like now?” he said. “A young Heinrich Himmler. Fucking Himmler!”
“Where does it go from here?” Jagger said.
Annie put a sympathetic hand on her brother’s shoulder.
“You need to relax Murphy,” she said.
“You need to wise up,” he said, shrugging off her hand.
She flipped him the bird.
“Get a grip,” she said. “And whatever you do, keep your mouth shut around John. This is the best job you’ve ever had. Free hotel rooms. Free flights. Free vacations to Bermuda. Keep your trap shut and do what the boss tells you. Okay?”
Jagger didn’t answer. He abandoned the half-rolled cigarette and without another word to Annie, started walking back up the corridor. Amidst the hoard of dark suits clogging up the hotel, Jagger stood out, like a beacon of hope and violent colour.
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