Pap Doyle stood by the backstage entrance of Packertt Valley Theatre and ArtsExplorationCenter as he had done so many times before. There was so much activity at the theatre these days, it almost felt like his regular beat. It was a perfect assignment for he wasn’t the kind to get star struck. So even while he enjoyed seeing the “stars,” he could focus on the task at hand, protecting them.

Each act, each celebrity had his or her own persona. Each persona generated a crowd to match. It’s funny how a group of people, normally probably fairly well disconnected, are drawn together for something and that group as a whole develops a personality of its own. The teens stars bring out the kids and lots of screaming. The moodier, “deeper” artists bring out the crowds of kids who like to dress in black, accept for their hair, which usually held a wild splash of vibrant color. The “classic” acts usually brought in the older folks who by the time the show was over, mixed their youthful desire to see their chosen idols with stray yawns that slip out because it’s an unusually late night for them.

Tonight was a mix. Max Henry. The crowd building up backstage to get a simple glimpse of the man was much larger than Pap could ever remember, and probably for good reason. Even though they got a lot of them, no act as big as Max Henry had ever come to Packertt Valley.

Max Henry had just turned 65. His career started when he was 14 in the troubled streets of Dublin, Ireland, back in the day. Max hit the world hard and fast with an infectious mix of pop, rock and Celtic influences that just seemed to hit people in the right places. Even though the times changed over the years, and the sounds with them, almost everyone found something to relate to in a Max Henry album.

Pap had the option of working inside, stage side. He could have seen the show, and while he would have a hard time denying his own preference for a good Max Henry album. He felt the backstage door was where he could do the most good. Coming in, the stars were usually pretty safe. They sneak in really. Arrival times are fluid and fans are few. The departure was another story. The transfer from building to vehicle and vehicle to what they called the release, was probably the most important security challenge of any show.

He saw many acts come and go. Most were tired and spent when it was time to leave. They just want to dive in their cars and go. Some, the ones who can’t get enough, dwell outside, not so much to interact with the fans, but to hang there awash in the screams of adoration as if they drew some kind of energy from it. Finally, some acts were just trouble. Panda Angst was the best example of that. The lead singer, Copper Potts had been in a downward spiral personally for some time. The band was strong and growing and Pap was warned to expect the unexpected. He had no idea that once safe in the car and the car was on its way that Potts, high on several things, would burst through the limo’s sunroof climb to the top and dive into the waiting, screaming throngs of people. What a night.

Max Henry should be different. The crowds were energized, but respectful. They saw the barricade lines and only tested them a little. How could they not? Henry’s show ended about an hour ago, and while he was normally known to leave the premises rather quickly, an hour wasn’t out of the question.

Pap’s earpiece crackled. “We’re on the move.”

While he was certain that he was the only one to hear the message, the crowd sensed it and he could feel the energy surge. Two minutes later, the door pushed open and after three band members crossed the threshold and moved to the cars with purpose and intent, but also with smiles and nods, the man himself stepped into the broad alley.

Pap was all business, ready to take on whatever happened. He stepped close to Henry as the crowd tested the barriers with their enthusiasm.

Max Henry, worldwide pop icon, stood for a moment, smiling and waving at the crowds. Cheers and whistles filled the alley. Henry clapped Pap on the shoulder drawing his attention. “Great night, right mate?”

Pap nodded and smiled back. Then he noticed the hand that rested on his shoulder, the hand that penned hits like, Mary Sunshine, Party in the Park and Wonderbomb, seized his shirt. Pap quickly took in the man’s face. Mere seconds ago he was smiling, eyes lit with a bottomless energy. Now, the face was contorting into a pleading wave of misunderstood pain.

“Christ!” someone shouted. “You, get him into the car now.”

A man, probably an agent or a publicist grabbed Pap and Max, who were now joined by Max’s grip, into the car. The door slammed shut cutting a good amount of the noise down to a mild roar. The unknown man yelled at the driver, “Get to the hospital! Now!”

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