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Dead Beats

It's been said Rock 'n Roll is a vicious game (by April Wine, specifically.)

And while sometimes the music grows tepid and beats stale, we think maybe the musicians were the ones fostering the viciousness all along. (Be sure to press on the play button for the full audio experience!)

Dead Beats by S.W. Lauden

"Dude, we have to put him in your kick drum case."

"I don't want a dead guy wrapped around my kick drum."

"No, dumb ass. The kick drum comes out, the dead guy goes in."

The bassist threw his hands up in frustration. He was tall and thin with shoulder length hair dyed black and parted down the middle. Everything about his look was carefully constructed, from the tattered concert t-shirt and denim jacket to the chipped fingernail polish. It lent him an air of composure that he didn't actually possess at the moment.

"I'm not leaving my kick drum here, bro."

"You can carry your drum out to the van without the case."

 The drummer's blonde hair was matted with sweat. He wore tight-fitting jeans adorned with a studded leather belt. They hadn't been off stage for very long so he was still shirtless. A thin spray of fresh blood was splattered across his bare chest.

"Why do I have to do the carrying? You killed him, you carry him."

"Don't start that shit again. You were holding him."

"I thought you were gonna punch him. I didn't see the broken beer bottle until you shoved it into his neck."

"I swear to god. I have to do everything in this band."

"Some of his blood got into my moustache, bro. I can still taste it."

"Fine. I'll carry the case, but we have to clean up before Mitch comes back."

Mitch was the lead singer and guitarist, but he also wrote most of the songs. That made him the band's leader. He only missed the backstage fight because a couple of college newspaper reporters cornered him right after the show. Things might have gone differently if he was with them, but there was no time to ponder what could have been.

The band needed to load their gear and start the fourteen-hour drive to the next gig. Mitch would be walking into the tiny dressing room any minute. His band mates knew he wouldn't be too stoked to find a dead drug dealer draped over his amp.

"Get his arms. I'll grab his legs."

They lifted the body and swung it into the case. It landed so that the head and limbs were hanging over the edges. The drummer immediately started laughing.

"He looks ridiculous."

"Dude, focus! Wipe down Mitch's amp while I finish up."

The bassist started tucking the body into the case. The drummer dropped in a fistful of bloody napkins and a couple of empty water bottles. The bassist shoved the lid on and the drummer cinched the strap tight.

Mitch walked in with the reporters just as they finished.

"Guys, meet Tara and Lauren. They grew up in the town we're playing tomorrow night so they're gonna ride with us."

The girls whipped out their smartphones and started recording video. The bassist and drummer forced smiles. Having two girls in the van would normally be awesome news, but they already had one unexpected passenger to deal with.

Mitch grabbed the kick drum case and said "Let's do this."

The rhythm section froze as he hoisted it up. The weight of the body shifted in the case and made a loud thump. Mitch was either too busy impressing the girls or too drunk, but he didn't say a word as he walked out. The band followed with the rest of the gear, the girls snapping pictures as they worked.

They were almost done when Mitch went back inside to collect $150 from the promoter. It was enough to pay for gas to the next show and a couple packs of cigarettes. They all piled into the van and headed for the interstate.

The bassist was driving and the drummer was riding shotgun. Mitch and the girls were in the back row of seats that was usually reserved for sleeping. An American flag was safety pinned to the roof liner for privacy.

Everything was working out. They just had to ditch the body at the next truck stop.

"Dude, turn the air conditioner down."

"No way. We have to keep it cool in here so the body doesn't start to stink."

The drummer squirmed into his hoodie. The bassist turned up the volume on the stereo and resumed the endless search for the perfect song. The Great Plains stretched out to an inky infinity all around them.

It was thirty minutes before the moaning started from the back of the van. Even a corpse stuffed into his drum case couldn't keep the drummer from feeling jealous. 'Why do singers get all the chicks?'

One of the girls started screaming.

"Somebody's in the back of the van!"

The bassist swerved to the shoulder and flung his door open. The drummer pulled the drum case from the back of the van. It hit the pavement with a heavy thud. The dealer's gurgling moans were drown-out by the 18-wheelers buzzing by.

They ripped the lid from the case. The singer flashed a disappointed look before he pounced. He clutched the dealer's neck and gave it a vicious twist. The girls shrieked at the sickly snap.

Mitch turned to face his band.

"You idiots can't keep killing people. Three record labels are coming to the show tomorrow night. We can't showcase for them if you're in jail."

"He tried to rip us off."

"That's what you always say..."

Mitch's shoulders slumped. They couldn't afford any witnesses.

"Do it."

The two girls took off running. The darkness swallowed them alive.

S.W. Lauden is a writer, drummer and marketing guy living in Los Angeles. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his debut novel, "Bad Citizen Corporation." Twitter: @SWLauden