‹ Prequel: Union


The Family

“CNN has a live correspondent right night now in Frankfurt, Germany. But if you’ve just woken up and are now just joining us…the music industry lost a very talented drummer last night. Tre Cool of the band Green Day was shot and killed outside of his hotel in Frankfurt last night. As far as we know, this was deliberate and a suspect has been taken into Germanic custody. For now we go to our live correspondent Anderson Cooper who hopped on a plane last night as soon as the news came in and is live at the scene of the crime. Anderson,” Chuck Roberts of CNN headline news announced.

“Yes, thank you Chuck. I am standing here outside the hotel Green Day were staying at last night while playing a local show here in Frankfurt. As you can see behind me, the sight is of the authorities conducting investigation. There are the odd scattered fans around me which you can’t see because I am standing in front of police lines. I actually had a chance to interview some eyewitnesses early this morning. The local time is now eleven-forty-three AM and this occurred last night, somewhere around midnight,” Anderson said, without stopping for breath.

“Now have officials labeled this murder?” Chuck Roberts questioned.

“Yes. I have spoken to the Frankfurt authorities and it has been made quite clear that this was no accident,” the live correspondent replied professionally and very uncaring of the situation.

“Alright, let’s take a look at some of those eyewitnesses,” Mr. Roberts said and the screens on many televisions across the world went black.

And then a young girl appeared. “We saw it happen last night,” she cried in German with a translated dub over.

“How old are you?” Mr. Cooper asked her.

“Eight,” she replied after someone translated for her. “My dad brought me here last night, hoping we could see the band. He’s liked them since he was a kid, like me.”

The screen narrowed and this time a man spoke in English with a Welsh accent. “At first I saw them out by the valet, him and his wife. Their busses were parked over there,” the blonde-haired man said, pointing to the curb behind the police lines. “Tre was walking and he came over to talk to some fans. And then they were going to get on the busses I think! Everything happened so quickly, I heard a couple of gunshots and people started screaming. I never saw him fall to the ground. But I saw her and she lost it! It’s the goriest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. God bless his wife, I flew here from London yesterday…oh my prayers are with you Rose, Billie, Mike and families. God bless. Rest in peace Tre Cool. Lest we forget.”

“As we watch these clips of obviously disturbed fans, some as young as eight years old as we just saw in that footage…we have to wonder what the band is doing right now and how they are handling the loss of their band mate. Have the band released a statement or are they planning to?” Chuck asked and turned to a co-anchor sitting next to him in the studio.

“Well good, question. And good morning everyone, I am Cheryl Ploof. As far as I can tell you no statement has been released at this time. There are rumors circulating that the band’s bassist Mike Dirnt may have left the country this morning, but the particulars are still very hazy,” she answered.

“Now Cheryl, a lot of people are comparing this to the death of the late John Lennon, simply because this band has become quite iconic in its own right. You have a band here whom been making music for twenty-five years. And ironically just celebrated that anniversary yesterday,” Chuck said.

“That’s right, they definitely have been prevalent to music and have quite an enormous fan base. A number of people are going to be very upset by this news,” Cheryl added.

“Mmhmm. So Anderson, if you are still standing by, what is the media coverage looking like over there in Germany?” Chuck said.

“A lot of shock Chuck. If you recall CNN covered a story in 2009 about a riot that occurred at one of these Green Day shows, in Berlin. That was for the bands tour titled 21st Century Breakdown. And twelve teenagers actually were killed and many others injured. Obviously a lot of really upset young people when the show was going to be cancelled about halfway through when lead singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown. So it has been thrown into question whether or not the shooting death of music legend Tre Cool has any connection to those riots. And that’s the big question the local media outlets are asking. Was the suspect someone with a motive? Chuck.”

“Thank you. Anderson Cooper in Frankfurt Germany this morning. Stay tuned everyone, CNN Morning will return…

* * *

Rose went to bed at a new hotel when she checked out of the hospital the following morning. She fell right into French linens next to Michelle on a king size bed, being hardly able to stay awake for another moment. Too tired to stay awake, too upset to want to partake in reality.

Everyone was doing something quite rare and sharing a penthouse suite, wading atop the tall Hilton Frankfurt Hotel building surrounded by a panoramic sea of people. The unusual calm sadness that engulfed them was like a really bad drug. Two members of a really famous band sharing grief at a temporary home with children and two wives and one of which was a new widow.

Billie slinked back on the living room floor, his back rested up against a chesterfield. He bit his lip, Adie sitting on the couch behind him, cross-legged.

She was stroking his hair lovingly and watching their two almost grown children peering out the window at the crowds inconspicuously. “Is anyone hungry?” she asked, being the first to really speak in a good ten minutes.

“No,” Billie Joe answered, his eyes cracked and red as he stared into the bright sun coming through a crack in the blue curtains at the eastern window. “You guys can order breakfast if you like. My stomach is ill.”

Adie nodded, without her husband seeing. She looked at her two sons at the window, both seated in lounge chairs. “Guys why don’t you go downstairs and get some breakfast so I can talk with your father?” Adrienne suggested to them.

Jakob turned from the window and looked at his mother, grinning, “Sure mom,” he answered.

Joseph stood up from the chair and pulled a credit card out of his pant pocket. “Let’s go, give mom and dad some space,” he replied. He smoothed his hand through his hair and started for the door with his younger brother, stopping abruptly and looking down upon his father. “I’m sorry this happened dad. I know it means your band is finished. Just know that me and Jake still love you.”

“That’s right,” Jakob added.

With his father in silence, Joey Armstrong looked at his mother who gave him a proud smile for his thoughtful words. She nodded her head and the two brothers opened the door to head out into the hall.

“Boys?” Billie said before they were gone.

“Yeah dad?” Jakob answered. “Yes?”

“Thank you.”

“No problem, we’ll be back soon,” Joseph said and they left the room.

Adrienne brought herself off the couch and down onto the carpeted floor to sit next to her husband. She placed a hand over the back of his shoulders to look him in the face and be close to him in his time of trial. “Billie,” she said, “I wish I could make you happy again.”

“I just don’t know how Adrienne. I can’t remember feeling this upset since my dad passed away. And then my mom and now this,” he sighed. “This is like two losses in one though, it is so deep. A great friend of mine dead and my career out the window.” Billie brought his knees to his chest feeling small like a child.

“I’m sorry sweetie,” the dark-skinned wife said, hugging her spouse. “We need to be strong. Rose is going to give birth in a couple of days and she is feeling like the world has ended, so let’s be strong for her Billie.”

“The world has ended,” Billie said, gulping. “What did the doctor say?”

“She thought her water broke,” Adie said slowly, having been the one there with the younger woman, “but the doctor said she peed herself from the adrenaline rush.”

Billie nodded with an understanding and then was startled to see Tre’s daughter standing in the bedroom doorway. What a little female version of the man himself, he thought. “Michelle, you’re up early,” Billie said in that voice adults use towards children.

“Billie cousin, where’s daddy?” she asked the forty-two year old man. Her eyes had a look of worry.

Billie bit his lip again, feeling sore from hearing her ask. Poor little dear, he thought and he turned to look at his wife. He shrugged his shoulders, feeling unsure of how to answer the girl and looked to Adie for support.

Adrienne grinned at him and stood from the floor to go to Tre’s daughter. She took her hand and asked her if she was hungry. The little girl concluded that she was after a moment of humming. “Let’s go get some breakfast. You go get Ryan, but don’t wake Uncle Mike up,” she told Michelle and the little girl complied. The grown woman turned to Billie. “We’ll be downstairs for awhile. Do you want me to bring anything back up?”

Billie just shook his head and his wife left with his toddler first cousin once removed, leaving him alone in the living room. He had to wonder if when the news was broken to that little one, if she was going to be as torn as he had been over his father passing.

* * *

Adrienne took the little darling spawn of Tre Cool downstairs for breakfast. It was on the elevator that she had encountered a young woman about Rose’s age who was absolutely flabbergasted to see her there.

“Oh mein Gott,” she said, not breathing and staring at the Hispanic wife of Green Day’s front man. “You, are Adrienne?”

“Yeah hi,” she said, forcing a smile and ignoring her thick German accent. This young woman who looked tired in the face had blue eyes and a calm demeanor, Adrienne observed. “Nice to meet you,” she said.

“Oh mein Gott. Hell…umm…Hello! So good to meeting you Adie!” she said, smile to smile. Her tired face slowly coming back to life. “You are sick?”

“Me? No,” Adie replied pursing her lips afterwards, realizing she probably looked it. “And I’m sorry I will admit I’m not much in the mood for fans right now.”

“Not mood?” she said looking at the reasonably famous woman for an understanding. “Oh! Sorry! Is Billie, Mike or Tre here? I missed show last night. I had…umm…baby? Baby in za night. A girl baby.”

Adie looked at her and got very sad, realizing the young woman didn’t know. It broke her heart that she was going to have to be the one to tell her. So she took a deep breath as the elevator reached its destination and the three got off in the lobby. “What is your name?” she asked.

“I am Olenka. You say…umm…Olga?” she said smiling shyly. “Yes, Olga.”

Adrienne put her arm on the young German woman’s back and lent into her ear to whisper, “Olga dear, Tre died last night.”

The woman looked Billie Joe’s wife straight in the face and her eyes were wide. She didn’t say anything, so mauled over in shock. And then she looked at Michelle and smiled.

“Are you okay?” Adrienne asked her.


“How do you feel?” she said more formally.

“Umm. I am sorry,” Olga said a few tears escaping the rims under her eyes. “Can ask what happened?”

“I can’t talk about it,” Adie said.

“I dunno what to…to say,” she said.

“I’m sorry dear,” Adie said compassionately. “I’m sure if you go turn on the TV in your room, you’ll hear about it.”

“Oh,” she said, as the musician’s wife turned to walk away with whom was obviously Tre’s daughter and the son of Green Day's bassist. Saturated in the situation, she chose to follow the two over to the hotel lounge.

She wanted to hear it from her, so no one could taint the truth. “Please, I need know truths,” she begged and then took in the sight of two young men, who were quite close images of the front man himself coming from the very opposite direction.

”I can’t talk,” Adrienne said, turning her eyes to the side but not moving her head or body around to look at the person, she had observed to have light brown hair, blue eyes and a slightly large nose for a woman’s face.

“Tre…vell Frank,” Olga said loudly, “he at…to…no is…he is mein cousin!”

Adrienne halted and turned around, just as her grown children found her and came to her side. “Get out of here,” she said seriously, looking the woman in the face. She opened her eyes, really looking at her, studying her face and then looked down at the little girl tugging at her left hand. She felt someone walk over her grave. But it was more just the feeling of sudden realization. “You are his cousin?” she asked.

“Frank vas born here! He moves to America vhen he vas four. I zam sekunden cousin.”

“Sekunden?” Adie asked with confusion.

“Umm…two cousin?” she tried to explain, holding up two fingers.

“Second?” Adrienne asked.

“Yeah,” Olga said nodding. “Second. I zam second cousin.”

“How do you know you are his relative?” Adie asked, plainly and straightforwardly.

“Mein Mama, Lori Pfeffer, she is…zuerst cousin to Frank’s Papa, Frank Edwin Vright Jr.,” Olga said slowly. “I meet Frank one time vhen I vas three, we go to Mendacino in California vith mein Mama and ve had reunion.”

Adie looked at her sons, in disbelief for this very random encounter she was having with this strange woman at such an early hour of the morning. She had to wonder if this woman could possibly be legitimate.

“I am ah…fifteen years young from Frank,” she said, feeling totally overwhelmed about the news she had just received about her long lost relative whom had pretty much been in front of her face the whole time on televisions and alike.

Adrienne sighed and a nicety came over her, even under all the stress she had been feeling all morning long. “Boys, take her upstairs,” she asked them, her eyes still fixed on the woman. “I am trusting you, but I want you to talk to my husband. I want…just go upstairs.”

The Armstrong men loaded back onto the elevator with the blue-eyed woman named Olga and they went to see the King of Green Day.

Adrienne brought her attention back to Michelle who was still clinging to her hand and the always quiet and unnoticeable Ryan. She smiled at the two children, brother and sister. “So shall we?”

Michelle nodded, feeling considerable confusion for what was taking place. She let Aunt Adie take her to the lounge that morning for breakfast and after that she grew up about five years in five minutes. Life isn’t always full of joy, a lesson we all learn.

* * *

Rose woke. She was alone in her bed and the room was illuminated from the harsh morning sun, orange like a warm ember, shining in her face. Silence overtook her and then song. It broke her heart, those dear caring people on the streets below, they were singing her song. They were giving their love to Rose, making the morning feel less sad than what it really was.

Rose stood from her bed, grabbing a robe off her nightstand and wrapping it around herself. She sauntered to the living room, first taking in the sight of Billie sitting on the floor. He looked at her directly and she quickly turned her head to the window. “Do you hear that?” she asked.

“Mmhmm,” Billie said.

Rose was feeble for a pregnant woman, her steps on the carpet making her as inconspicuous as a creature of the night. She couldn’t fathom not facing those people who were being so kind to her in her time of unimaginable grief. Braveness was the only thing she knew how to be at that moment when she drew back the curtains and the morning sun came in on her like a nuclear explosion.

The crowd wailed at the sight of her and then continued to sing. She looked right into them and then slowly raised her arms high above her head, making a heart with her two hands.
Billie Joe saw her standing there as a silhouette and a strange feeling came over him. He felt like he was looking at magic happen, his dearest closest cousin, she was finally showing comfort in her own skin. Oh how Tre would have loved to have seen it, he thought.
He smiled and then stood up off the floor, coming to Rose at the window. She lowered her heart and he placed one arm around her shoulders and started to sing, “Give my love to Rose, please won’t you mister…” The crowd cheered, though unhearing of him and he waved his arm back and forth and his subjects did the same. Some were waving their roses high.

Rose started to cry for joy, her husband was dead but the world loved him regardless. She was feeling very proud at that moment. When her song ended, she turned to Billie in the window and the two hugged, an ember from the front, a silhouette of family love from the other. “I love you Billie,” she said.

“I love you too,” Billie said, embracing the very pregnant woman. “You’re a beautiful person.” It was after then that Billie hadn’t noticed that three souls were standing at the door and he turned away from his cousin, trying to adjust his eyes away from the bright light. His sons were easily identifiable, but he saw stranger woman and had to question who she could be. “Guys, you don’t bring fans in here right now,” Billie said sounding stressed.

Rose turned her head, seeing her two first cousins once removed, at the door with a stranger in blue jeans and a Guess t-shirt. She looked at the woman and her face brewed confusion as she closed the curtains once again and went to the couch to sit down.

“Dad, Mom told us to bring her up here,” Jakob said. “She doesn’t speak English well.”

“Oh,” Billie Joe said, feeling slightly embarrassed because he knew he looked like shit. He made eye contact with the woman and muttered, “Well hi.”

“Mr. Billie Joe, so sorry. I zam Olenka…umm Olga. I speak vith Adie down in by desk and she send me here. I zam sekunden umm second cousin of Frank, I just learn news of him dead,” Olga said slowly, nervously twisting her brown hair and piercing her blue eyes into Billie’s green ones. “I zidn’t know.”

Rose looked at the woman and she was feeling very non-judgmental. She pursed her lips unsure of what to think, but feeling very open-minded. She stayed silent and rubbed her belly gently.

“Umm, please sit down,” Billie Joe said, gesturing his hand towards one of the lounge chairs after he had concluded she did resemble the drummer a tad bit. “Umm forgive us for looking the way we do, we’ve had a rough night. Sorry for being rude.” He watched the woman sit down and then went to the couch to sit next to Rose whilst the two Armstrong boys went and sat at a glass dining table on the sunken floor at the centre of the suite.

“Iz okay,” she said. “Adie not believe me full so she send me up here. I live in Berlin, I vas to see za show last umm…night. And zhen I had mein baby so I miss it,” she explained. “I come back to hotel zis morning vith mein husband and there are people outside so I knew you were here.”

“Excuse me for interrupting,” Rose said and turned to face Billie, “where is Michelle?”

“Downstairs with Adrienne and Ryan,” he answered and then looked back at the German woman and snuffed his nose.

“Frank vas mein cousin I meet him in Mendacino in California, ve had reunion vhen I vas t’ree,” she said, holding up three fingers. Looking at Rose, the young woman smiled apologetically, though not saying the words.

“Umm…Olga is it?” Billie asked. “How are you related exactly?”

“Mein Mama, Lori Pfeffer she cousin to Frank’s Papa Frank Edwin Vright Jr.,” she said. “I meet Frank vhen I vas young.”

“What year?” the musician had to ask.

“Nineteen-ninety? Frank vas seventeen. Vhen mein Mama told me our cousin vas famous I spent mein life umm…follow what he do in his job,” she said. “His music and I vanted to meet him again. Now can’t…I guess.”

Rose looked down at the floor, the grief holding onto her, those images burned into her mind and soul. They would never leave her for as long as she lived. “Olenka, Frank was a very good man,” she said. “He loved his family dearly.”

Olga nodded. “I saw you and Frank on zhat DVD and I know you vere happy. I vill go now, I don’t vant nothing except to say sorry and I vant to come to see ze funeral if you would let me. I know I sound strange,” she said, her voice low and shy.

Billie nodded at her proposal. “Yeah, well it will be small probably. Obviously we haven’t discussed that yet,” he told her.

“You believe me?” Olga asked the aging musician.

“Yeah, I remember you,” he said quietly. “You were that little kid who couldn’t speak English, I remember. Tre was very cool to you, he was teaching you to say stuff. We were all there, I doubt you remember that if you were only three.”

“No, I zidn’t know you were zhere. All of you were zhere,” she said sounding very surprised. She hugged herself in her chair and then looked at Rose. “Mrs. Vright, I name mein girl baby Rose after you.”

Rose returned the eye contact, the look on her face of surprise, trauma and utter confusion. “You did?” she said glowing at the notion of it. What an honor and how utterly mind blowing, she thought. The blue eyed woman couldn’t have been much older than she was, she observed with a keen eye.

“Yeah,” she replied with a nice teeth bearing smile that oddly mirrored that of the late Tre Cool. She took a pen from her pocket and began to jot something down on the hotel’s complimentary notepad sitting on the coffee table. “Here iz mein phone,” Olga said, handing to Rose a folded piece of paper. She watched Tre Cool’s widow nod in acknowledgement and she smiled sympathetically. “Be strong. Your girl is beautiful, I see her downstairs.”

“Umm, thank you,” Rose said looking up and forcing herself to smile. She felt that motherly pride and she rubbed her belly again. “I don’t know when we are leaving, but I expect soon. A few days…we’re waiting for the autopsy,” she said feeling so ill to be saying those words about Frank. A corpse a dead piece of nothing. “The investigators need to finish collecting their evidence.”

“Yeah, you phone me. You need someone talking vith you, you phone me,” Olga said. “Because Mrs. Vright ve’re not so different you and I.”

Olga left.

“What do you think she meant by that, that we're not so different?” Rose asked Billie Joe quizzically.

“I have no idea, that was really unexpected,” he replied, shrugging his shoulders.

"She named her daughter after me," Rose said, shaking her head in disbelief and then thinking about her own daughter. "Michelle doesn't know. I don't think she understands what happened last night."

Billie sighed, answering slowly, "Don't worry about that. Adrienne is doing you the favour right now." He turned his head to the door just then when it fell into the room and his wife appeared with a tray of breakfast foods and two little children tagging behind.

Rose pulled herself up from the chesterfield. "Oh my God, Billie I was going to tell her..." she shrieked in upset, rushing towards Adrienne at the door and spotting her daughter looking like a tsunami of reality had struck her. "Michelle baby," the mother said in a panic to comfort her and she came down on her knees, scraped from the pavement outside their last hotel the previous night. She put her arms around her, "Mommy's here honey."

The door to the hall was left open and Ryan watched his unbeknownst sister comforted by the only woman whom had played any sort of mother figure in his life.

Looking over Michelle's shoulder, Rose saw her denied son looking at her like an abandoned puppy and guilt struck her like a tonne of bricks. She took in a shallow breath and then smiled at her son, opening a welcoming arm for him to come into her embrace with his sister.

"Mommy, did daddy go to heaven because he doesn't love us anymore?" Michelle asked innocently.

Mrs. Wright was trying to find the appropriate words to answer the very sad naive question her daughter yearned to know. The truth was the only answer she could give. "No honey. Your daddy loves you, he always has and he always will. And mommy loves both of you and she's been very bad. No more lies babies; I can't do it anymore," she said, sensing that they were all there in her life. Billie, Mike, Adrienne, Joseph, Jakob, her two children, the little unborn one and a new branch of cousins to add to the family. Everyone but Frank.

And so it was that day after the death of Michelle's father, she had gained a brother and a brother had gained a sister. But the most important thing was, that the children had gained a full time family at the expense of Green Day. And a mother whom was now prepared to assume the role and give all her time to them.

A window had opened when the door closed. And it wasn't all bad.