It was dumb of me to let the kids use the Grendel name for their band, but I was just so damn flattered. Things were changing at Emerald, but not in a good way. The drug of choice was changing from marijuana to methamphetamine. Not my thing. That meant the culture was changing, too. Peace and love were changing to fear and paranoia. There we stories of heavily-armed meth labs in the redwoods. The cops were getting more aggressive. Helicopters started doing aerial surveillance. So far, my Billy Mann credentials had held up, but I knew that wouldn’t last forever.
“You’re going to California to check things out,” said Cassandra. When she had that tone in her voice, there was no protesting, not that I wanted to. Our research on The Spawn and I Tried Girls, as they had re-titled I Think I’m in Love, had turned up little, other than the composition was attribute to “Jerusalem Mann.” The band had lots of coverage online, but surprisingly little personal information.
I called a band meeting, and explained how we were all outlaws … outsiders, and that we needed to keep it that way. No need for anyone to know anything more. They all nodded. They understood. They’re commune kids. They get it. I told them I had to split, but that I loved them.
I flew into San Francisco, headed north on Route 101, then flubbed around with the local police, trying to find our more about Jerusalem Mann, The Spawn, or this commune called Emerald. I got next to nothing. People on the commune kept pretty much to themselves. Jerusalem Mann graduated from the local high school, but had no criminal record. I thought I’d visit Emerald.
“Don’t waste your time,” the police chief said. “They’ll have you pegged as a narc before you even open the door of your rental car. They won’t tell you anything … but they may shoot you.”
I showed up at a gig for The Spawn in Berkeley. I finagled my way backstage to meet Jerusalem Mann. He was polite, but evasive. I tried to soften him up by telling him that Del and I were old friends who played in a band named Grendel. “He wrote the song that you recorded as Tried Girls,” I ventured, trying not to sound accusatory.
“I wrote that song,” was all he said, deadpan. “My name is on the copyright. I don’t know anyone named Del Watson.” The kid was good.
And “grendel?” Where did that come from? “We made it up. It’s a code word for a guy who thinks he’s god’s gift to women, but who’s really a dork.”
Sythia and I agonized over where to go next. Then, we hit on it. We packed our things, settled our accounts, and said our good-bye. We told our communards we were going to Idaho, but our true destination was Vermont.
I came back from my California trip empty-handed, but not discouraged. Those commune kids were … resolved. I knew I had gotten close enough to Del to sense his presence. Wendell Watson just didn’t want to be found.
We were already in Vermont by the time Jeroo let us know that he had met Greg: