Twists and Turns – Part Four
By: Peter Astle


It took a while to get served, but that didn't matter. Ensconced in the shadows of the corner, Trevor was happy to people watch and take in the atmosphere.

Most of the people who got up to sing couldn't hold a tune, but he had to admit that everyone was enjoying themselves. A few singers who took the stage had exceptional voices. The soft-focus videos accompanying most of the song lyrics were pretty lame, images barely fitting the songs. But more customers flooded in. More people signed up to sing. More drinks were sold over the bar.

At four o'clock, Trevor made his move. He filled out a white slip, placed it in the bamboo basket on the side of the bar and ordered drinks. Just before five o'clock his name was called.

"Next up, we have Trevor," Danny boomed from the DJ booth.

Trevor weaved through the crowds, took to the stage and grabbed the silver microphone. He looked Danny straight in the eye.

Danny smiled back and spoke in a low voice. "I was wondering when you'd show up."

Danny pressed a button and the opening bars of Glen Campbell's ‘Rhinestone Cowboy" filled the room. On the monitors, two small kids, around nine or ten, wore country and western outfits as the lyrics appeared at the bottom of the screen.

Trevor turned to the crowd, lifted the microphone to his mouth–and let the soundtrack play.

Onscreen, the young boy pulled down his white Stetson over his eyes while a girl, wearing full makeup, cavorted beside him in a tight-fitting ruby dress. The lyrics moved on as another young boy wearing a red shirt and black Stetson burst through cardboard saloon doors wielding two shiny toy guns.

Trevor kept his lips tight shut.

When the backing track reached the chorus, the crowd started to murmur. Trevor just stood there, holding the microphone against his chin, watching the screen. In the corner, Claire shook her head. A guy in the front row folded his arms. Trevor stared ahead, refusing to sing.

Danny killed the soundtrack at the start of the second verse. "Do you want me to run this again, Trevor?"

The room was pin-drop silent, barely a shuffle of a chair. Trevor shook his head and spoke into the microphone. "I don't think so, Danny." There was some echo, but that didn't matter. He had everyone's attention.

"This whole thing is a sham," Trevor said.

The crowd just stared at him.

"See this," Trevor held up the silver microphone. "It's stolen property. So are the monitors and the speakers and the Karaoke machine."

Danny immediately cut off Trevor's mike. Lenny pushed his bulk through a tiny door at the side of the DJ stand. Claire rose from her seat.

Trevor held up a palm to the muttering crowd and raised his voice. "The discs, the song books, the amplifiers–all of them stolen."

"Please leave the stage now," said Danny. "We're all having fun here. Maria, are you there? You're up next."

Trevor refused to budge. "I know because I was part of it."

Claire headed towards the stage. All eyes turned to her as she weaved between the tables. ‘Agadoo' by Black Lace suddenly blasted through the speakers, drowning Trevor out.

"Maria, are you there?" Danny said, cutting through the music on his microphone.

Claire reached the stage, grabbed the microphone from Trevor's hand and handed it back to Danny, just as Lenny reached her. "Stop this now. This is not the way."

"I'm making a point here, Claire."

"You're making a fool of yourself." Claire hooked his arm and practically dragged him towards the entrance doors.

"Let's give a round of applause for Maria," Danny said when another singer took the stage.

In the blinding sunshine Trevor blinked several times. All tables on the outdoor terrace were taken. Claire pulled him onto the pavement, Lenny was close behind them.

"What were you thinking about?" Claire said.

"We can explain," Lenny blustered. "Calm down, Trevor."

"I was making a point." Trevor glared at Lenny. "You both betrayed me. You and Danny. The band. Our band. This was not part of the plan."

"They invited you out here," Claire said. "With that postcard, remember? "Trevor stared at his wife, stunned. "You knew something about all this?"

Claire looked away. "You had a plan, right?"

"Yes. I had a plan."

"Well so did I," Claire said. "So did Danny. So did Lenny. And–"

"And so, did I." The new voice came from just behind Trevor's right shoulder.

Trevor spun on his heel.

Andy Stuart stood in shorts and T-shirt holding some sort of cocktail. "Yes, Trevor. We all had a plan."


Thirty Years Later

Turns Three, Benidorm, Spain.

"So," Billy said to Trevor from behind the bar, "you started out as arch enemies and ended up as best of friends."

"Me and your dad were never enemies, Billy," Andy said. "Karaoke just separated us for a while that summer."

"And then it brought us all together again," Trevor said. "Turns was the making of the band. We wouldn't be here today if it hadn't been for Karaoke."

Billy returned from the bar with a fresh pint and joined the four of them at the circular table in the centre of the club. It had been a great opening night. Chairs were stacked upside-down on empty tables. No one was in a hurry to start work with the broom. The cleaning could wait.

For now, this was Billy's night.

Claire took a sip from a can of Amstel Radler. "It was a different world back then, Billy," she said. "Those days, the crates of discs took up most of the DJ space. Now you've got every song imaginable online."

"I know, mum. We've never had it so good."

On the other side of the table Lenny raised a chubby finger. "Laser Karaoke was the height of technology at the time. It cost a fortune to buy the whole kit. We're talking thousands of pounds. Mega bucks in 1990."

"And it was all so new," said Danny. "Your dad thought it was a fad, but so did lots of people."

"I saw it as a threat to live music," said Trever. "And I still do. Look at the number of bars in Benidorm doing just Karaoke. It's crazy. If Karaoke had never been invented all these bars would still be employing live acts."

"Get over it," said Lenny. "We found a way, remember?"

That was true. They had found a way.

The famous Turns franchise in Benidorm was as much renowned for its live music as it was for its Karaoke. In fact, the phenomenal success of Turns One, and later Turns Two, was solely about the mixture of the two. The promise of live performances at nine o'clock in the evening kept the punters glued to their seats all afternoon. From lunchtime onwards, seats were jealously guarded. Trevor could not deny that fact. The band would not have been so successful across Europe had it not been for that blessed combination.

Tonight–the opening night of Turns Three–the third bar in the chain–and the first bar for Billy to run by himself–the band had gone down a storm. Who'd have thought country and western music would still be so popular in 2020?

Who'd have thought Karaoke would still be around?

Trevor smiled. "It was a good night tonight."

Billy looked across at Claire. "You said you all had a plan, mum."

Claire sipped her Radler. "You were a toddler. We were struggling." She looked across at Lenny. "We all wanted to start again. Somewhere in the sun."

Lenny grinned. "I was working for a crook, flogging dud insurance policies that never paid out. Sedgewood's Insurance in Derby–long defunct. Life insurance, car insurance, property, holiday, you name it. Thing was, no one with a standard policy ever got paid. The CEO, Nigel Sedgewood, had one rule: reject all standard claims for inadequate cover. There was always something in the small print to invalidate them. Houses and cars not properly secured, pre-existing medical conditions not declared, leaving items unattended, even drinking while on holiday. And we were the mugs who had to tell the robbed and the recently bereaved that they would get nothing."

"But then there were the Gold insurance policies," Andy said. "Those babies did pay out."

Lenny nodded. "Very true. The problem was the premiums for the Gold policies were so expensive, no one ever bought them. I think I only sold two in my whole time at Sedgewood's."

"And one of those was to me," Andy said.

Billy leaned forward in his seat. "You planned the robbery? You insured your Karaoke gear with Sedgewood's"

Andy shook his head. "I didn't plan the robbery. That was your dad. But I knew about it beforehand. I made sure I was in Spain when it happened. And I insured the lot for twice its value. The pay-out was enormous. Enough to buy two more Karaoke kits, as well as holding onto the original one."

Danny raised a finger. "There were no victims, Billy. Even the young police officer who believed he'd saved Lenny's life by the road got some sort of commendation from his bosses. I made sure of that. And Andy still had his old kit. We used the newly purchased machines around Benidorm and we reformed the band."

"Nigel Sedgewood filed for bankruptcy shortly after that," Lenny said. "It wasn't just the pay-out to Andy that crippled him. He was forced to give me a huge bonus for selling the Gold policy in the first place. That was my plan. Enough for me to quit my job and come out here to work with Danny and Andy. Then I reported Nigel to the ombudsman about the standard policies he'd been mis-selling for years. He didn't last long in the courts. And those who were mis-sold policies were recompensed."

Billy looked from Lenny to Danny to Andy. "So, you three set up this Turns empire without dad knowing about it?"

Trevor nodded. "I was completely in the dark."

"I'll admit my part as well," Claire said. "I first discussed the idea with Andy at my friend's hen night. Danny and Lenny were there too. We kind of hatched the plan as a team."

"I was clueless," Trevor said. "Your mum tried to talk me out of it, knowing how stubborn I was."

"I told him it was a stupid idea," said Lenny. "He took no notice."

Billy frowned at Claire. "I don't understand, mum. Why not just tell dad from the start?"

"Your dad was terrified of flying. There was nothing I could do to get him over here."

"And my old Cortina would've never made the road trip," Trevor said. "I needed a real push. A motivation."

"And anger is the strongest motivation of all," Danny said.

Claire finished her Radler. "And that, Billy, was my plan. It was how I finally got your dad on a plane."



Rate Peter Astle's Twists and Turns – Part Four

Let The Contributor Know What You Think!

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...