Tonight on Inside the Music…
For some, the music scene of the seventies can be defined by two words:
"Crying Man," snapped Rolling Stone reporter Keith Maccarone.
Others use three:
"The Cryin' Man!" shouted a woman on the street.
"Ladies and gentlemen, back by popular demand, the Crying Man, Rembrandt Brown!"
Rembrandt Brown. The icon. The boy who grew up to be the Crying Man. The era was symbolized by his 'fro, trademark 'stache, and those ever weeping eyes.
"Nobody cries like my boy, Remmy," drawled 'Captain' Jack Brim, Brown's agent of over twenty years. "Not Smokey, not Levi, not Maurice."
"He set the standard," said Maccarone.
Like a true American success story, Brown went from proverbial rags to riches to become one of the most popular entertainers of all time. Arenas sold out as fast as tickets could be purchased and his albums refused to stay stocked on store shelves across the world. Rembrandt had it all—the platinum records, the fleet of cars, and millions upon millions of screaming fans. For Rembrandt Brown, even the sky provided no limit.
Rembrandt belly-flopped from the vortex onto the hard ground.
Groaning, he slowly opened his eyes and lifted himself up. It was then that he noticed his hands imprinted in the cement. "Man, I know I landed hard, but not this hard," he said aloud. As he took a better look at his new surroundings, Rembrandt saw more than just hands engraved in the concrete below. Footprints were there too. And in a shaky print he recognized as his own, the words "Crying Man" were found alongside them.
"Woah!" Rembrandt's eyes grew wide. "Guys! Guys! I'm in the Forecourt of Stars!"
"Don't you mean we're in the Forecourt of Stars?" corrected Wade, recognizing the cultural landmark.
"No, ME! Look at this!" He pointed repeatedly at the ground before him.
"The what?" muttered Arturo, slowly rising to his feet.
"Think Nobel Prize of Entertainment," answered Quinn, admiring the large Oriental-styled building. "Grauman's Chinese Auditorium. Must be a concert hall instead of a theatre."
Wade read off the names in the squares around her. "Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Mel Tormé…"
"The Forecourt of Stars! Only the biggest of the big get this treatment. I must be huge on this world! H-U-G-E, HUGE!" babbled Rembrandt.
"Huh," Wade said. "I'd thought you'd have gotten over yourself by now."
"Girl, look at the ground," said Rembrandt, stepping into his own footprints. Back and forth he went, stepping in and stepping out.
"Come on, Wade. If we found a world where you were famous, you'd act the same way," chided Quinn.
"I would not!"
"Oh no? That's not the way I remember it, little Miss Lottery Winner," said Quinn.
"Funny, I remember someone else being a total jerk," replied Wade without a trace of humor.
"Would you two stop?" said Rembrandt. "This is about me!"
"Ugh…" sighed Wade.
"'Ugh' is right," said Arturo, looking at the auditorium. "Look at that garish monstrosity of architecture. It can only mean one thing. We're in Los Angeles."
"Well, duh…" replied Wade.
"I can feel my lungs collapsing already," added Arturo as the four shuffled off.
The sun was setting as they strolled down Hollywood Boulevard, and the humidity was already sticking their clothes to their backs. So far, Rembrandt had garnered no special attention. "They're certainly giving you your space," Arturo remarked.
"Well, my double probably made it clear he didn't want to be harassed," smiled Rembrandt. As he said that, a young boy walked toward him. The child didn't get two feet before his mother pulled him back.
"But moooooom, that's Rembrandt Brown!" he cried.
"I know. Just keep moving," she said with a scowl, tugging her son along as she briskly moved past.
"See? They respect my privacy. They're willing to let a famous celebrity walk down the street in peace," Rembrandt said assuredly. "But don't get too comfortable. It'll only take one with a bit of nerve and soon they'll be all over me. Look, here comes one now."
An elderly woman slowly approached them. "Mr. Rembrandt Brown?"
Flashing his best smile, he cheerfully answered, "Why yes, my good lady, I am Rembrandt Brown."
"I just wanted to tell you what a terrible person you are. You should be ashamed of yourself! You awful, awful man!" she said, beating him with her change purse all the while.
"What the…Hey! Stop that!" Rembrandt shouted defensively. Instinctively, Quinn and Arturo grabbed hold of him and pulled him away from the geriatric pugilist.
"Burn in hell!" she screamed after him.
And then suddenly, it all went wrong…
What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds?
Where it's the same year...and you're the same person...but everything else is different?
And what if you can't find your way home?
To know the man, we must go back to his humble beginnings. Rembrandt Lee Brown was the second of five children born to Hilton and Tanisha Brown. He was raised in a modest home in a modest North Philadelphia neighborhood. Though there was always food on the table, Hilton's meager paycheck from the Public Works department didn't leave much for luxury.
"The boys didn't have no toys aside from rocks and tin cans," chuckled Hilton in an interview from his current home in Detroit. "And they were too good to steal. So they had to spend time doing something."
The boys—Cézanne, Rembrandt, Duchamp, Rubens, and Titian—were all enlisted into their mother's volunteer work with the church. These duties ranged from assisting elderly parishioners with groceries to scrubbing the baptismal font. But the one job they all enjoyed was choir duty. Every Saturday evening and Sunday morning, the church was their stage. They were all highly skilled, but one shone a little brighter than the rest.
"We could tell at an early age that he had something extra. All of my boys have talent, but Remmy, he's a natural showman," explained Hilton.
"Well, you should have seen him go!" said LaVerne Crockwater, organist for both St. Joseph's Church and the minor league hockey team. "That boy was jumping around so much, he nearly split his choir robe, mm-hmm."
At this time it was still a hobby, but Tanisha had bigger plans.
"Tanisha always wanted the best for the children," explained Hilton. "That's why she named them all after these famous painters and such. For years, I thought she'd named poor Rubens after a sandwich."
The gospel scene in Philadelphia was good for the Lord, but it was not going to make her young men stars. So she packed up the family and moved them to Detroit, home of the burgeoning recording company, Motown. It was time to show her boys to the world.
"Poor Rembrandt. All cooped up in the hotel on a Friday night. I feel bad," Wade said over the music, a harsh reverb that would have made Sonic Youth proud.
"I said I feel bad!" she yelled, just as the music changed to something softer.
Quinn shrugged back. "It couldn't be helped. Until we find out more about his double and this world, he's staying out of sight. And besides, he's got the Professor."
"That's probably for the best. I don't think the Professor would be caught dead in a place like this."
The place in question was a bar/dance club going by the name of The Chameleon's Lair, run by one Elston Diggs. The Lair was an eclectic mix of Dadaism and Pop Art, unified by a '70s retro look that had been taken to new horrific extremes. The majority of the walls were a pale yellow with a burnt orange trim. There were no booths, only sheets of warped reflective glass confined by thin black metal to form what passed for chairs and tables. Glitter and sequins were splashed along every wall and ceiling panel, waiting for the mounted lights to strike them so they could flash in all their glory.
The club's décor was trumped by that of its patrons. If there was one established look, neither Quinn nor Wade could discern it, but there was an unusual concentration of vinyl. And of course, more of the awful sequins! "This looks like my fifth grade dance recital," commented Wade.
"I'm going to head to the bar, see what I can learn. Maybe this Diggs is as eager to spill everything he knows as the others we've encountered," said Quinn. Before Wade could get to her feet, he told her, "Hold our table."
As Quinn headed into the plether jungle, Wade settled back in to her seat trying her best to look otherwise engaged.
"This is a new low," said Rembrandt from the sofa in their economy suite at the Chancellor Hotel. "It's one thing to disguise yourself to keep the fans from tearing you apart, it's another to hide from them 'cause they want to beat you up!"
"Makes you long for your days of obscurity, hm?" added Arturo from the mini-bar.
Rembrandt cocked his head and retorted, "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
"Tut. Tut," Arturo dismissed as he poured a second glass of whiskey. Normally he would chafe at such lavish expenditure considering their state of near poverty, but Rembrandt had carried them on the last world with his street performances. If the man wanted a drink, he would have a drink. And since the bottle was already open…
"I don't know. Maybe I'm some kind of shock rocker here who bites the head off of chickens in concerts," continued Rembrandt. "That could explain why parents and the elderly hate me."
"Indeed," mumbled Arturo, his concentration reserved for balancing the full glasses. Arturo handed one off to Rembrandt and took a seat in the chair beside him.
"Or maybe I'm caught in a high profile love triangle with another celebrity and I'm being painted as a homewrecker."
"Quite honestly I'm surprised your double is so poorly received. On the sole basis of your questionable fashion sense, he should fit right in with this place," the Professor said, gesturing towards the television. On screen a model, covered head to toe in vinyl, was gently caressing a lottery machine as the lucky numbers rolled out.
"Why are you always so down on me? Do I talk trash about your theories on science stuff?" shot back Rembrandt.
"Oh, lighten up, Mr. Brown," dismissed Arturo, but Rembrandt continued.
"No, you seem to think of my career as some kind of a joke."
"Come, come," Arturo said with a pat to Rembrandt's hand. "I only insult you like I do because I'm comfortable with you. It's my way of showing affection."
"You insult total strangers every day, calling them idiots and worse," Rembrandt answered.
"Right, but those are my stock insults. With you, I take the time to craft my remarks. It shows I care," Arturo jovially replied.
Rembrandt folded his arms in silent protest.
"Of course, you're right. You're proud of your art and I respect that," admitted the Professor, but not without lifting an accusing finger. "You must admit however that when we first encountered you, your obsession with your so-called fame in the flying face of mounting evidence to the contrary was a little…grating."
"But I was big! My name was mentioned in the same breath with all the great acts: The Temptations, the Miracles, the Spinning Topps…"
"Are you sure you weren't being used as a foil?" Arturo sliced, incapable of resisting his baser urges.
"I'm sick of having to apologize for my career. There are five gold albums hanging in my living room." Rembrandt said, adding, "How many Nobels do you have in your office?"
"Just drink your whiskey," Arturo growled.
Over at the bar, Quinn waited patiently for the bartender to pay him some attention. Diggs wore shiny black pants, a white sequined shirt and a tangerine boa. After serving two rejects from 'Solid Gold,' Diggs finally pointed Quinn's way.
"Beer," said Quinn.
"Any kind in particular or should I just mix them all in together?" asked Diggs.
"Just give me the house specialty," said Quinn, making a mental note that this Diggs was a wiseass. As Diggs filled up a crystal vase with beer, Quinn commented, "Nice place you got here. Très chic."
"Are you kidding? Look at these walls, sugar. Lemon yellow is just screaming early August. I'm in agony until my decorator gets back from Milan," said Diggs with a flip of his hand.
"This is from August?" Quinn asked incredulously. "Of this year?"
"I know! It's awful," wailed Diggs. "I've got carpenters and painters running through this place on a quarterly basis. My backroom is almost full to the brim with outdated furniture."
"A real slave to fashion," Quinn nodded.
"Boyfriend, you have to be on top of your trends if you want to stay afloat in this business. In a few months, it'll be something else and I'll do it all again to keep it 'hip', 'rad', 'groovy' or whatever term the boys in Hollywood deem in."
"How can you afford to keep remodeling?"
"That'll be $11.50," said Diggs, sliding the ten ounces of beer to Quinn. "Oh and by the way, the grunge look is out, hon. You are so '94."
"Thanks," said Quinn, suddenly wishing he had a sweater. He started to head back for the table when the television caught his eye. Instead of ESPN, Diggs had his set tuned to the E! channel—more accurately, the Headline E! channel. Superimposed over a graphic reading "Crying His Way to the Bank", a familiar face appeared on the television.
"In the ongoing Rembrandt Brown saga, sources inside the Los Angeles District Attorney's office say prosecutors are ready to hand down an indictment. Brown is accused of embezzling funds from the children's charity that shares his name," announced the anchorwoman. "Bernadette Cormier reports from outside the artist's home."
Quinn nearly choked on his beer.
Rembrandt spit his drink all over Arturo.
"The Rembrandt Brown Foundation, also known as Handkerchiefs Across America, is inexplicably missing close to a quarter of a million dollars from its accounts and the trail of treachery leads back to the doorstep of its founder," reported Ms. Cormier.
"We just can't seem to avoid the criminal element lately," observed Arturo as he wiped his sleeve dry.
The image switched to an earlier recording of a large white-haired man in a vanilla suit. Rembrandt recognized him as 'Captain' Jack Brim, a man who had represented another copy of him to the greatest level of success he'd seen in three years of sliding. "My dear, this charge is absolutely preposterous," Brim drawled. "Rembrandt Brown has done more for children over his long and storied career than ol' Saint Nick himself. To think he would be capable of stealing from them, well, it goes beyond comprehension."
"Brown has refused to be interviewed but steadfastly maintains he is innocent of all charges," the reporter concluded.
"I don't believe it!" Rembrandt exclaimed.
"Stealing from a charity," Arturo said. "Well, no wonder they're hostile towards him."
"You think I did this?" Rembrandt incredulously charged back. "I'd never steal from orphans! How can you believe I'm guilty?"
"I don't think you're guilty. YOU are not charged with anything," the flabbergasted Professor replied. "Surely by now you understand that while our doubles may have some original blueprint, they are shaped by forces beyond our control. For heaven's sake, man, you've been sliding for three years!"
"And in all that time I've never met a me I've been ashamed of. Obviously I've been set up," Rembrandt concluded.
"I've been set up?" Arturo repeated.
"Yeah, someone's trying to cut down the Crying Man in his prime. I bet it's a rival record company. Or a Grammy starved artist who just can't bear losing again to a superior musician." He pounded his right fist into his open left hand. "I gotta find out what's going down."
"This is madness!" Arturo preached. "Rembrandt, we've all had bad doubles. We've seen versions of Quinn that were thieves and vandals. Sweet, innocent Wade's been a murderess. Even I have had some counterparts that were less than reputable. Let it go."
"Look, maybe you can write off bad apples as quantum roulette or whatever, but I take it seriously," Rembrandt said. "Even if you're right and my double is up to no good, I want to see why."
Wade sat silently with her hands crossed flat on the table. Diggs' strange layout did not include menus, so she couldn't even pretend to be mulling over an order. Where was Quinn anyway? How long could it possibly take to get a stupid drink?
"Has anyone ever told you that you should work in television?" she thought she heard Quinn say from behind her. She turned and saw that it wasn't Quinn. Or more specifically, not her Quinn. This one's hair was its natural brown although a bit overgeled, and his sense of fashion was far trendier than good ol' flannel shirt boy. He also had on a pair of actual shoes instead of the boots Quinn religiously favored.
"Um…no," said Wade. But this Quinn wasn't discouraged. He grabbed a seat and sat down beside her.
"That's a shame, because I have just the part for you. You'd play a shy accountant by day, but by night you fight crime in a sexy leotard," this Quinn smirked. "We can compromise on the accountancy."
Wade had to laugh. "You're a television producer?"
"Writer actually, but I've got some pull. You ever hear of a little show called 'Law & Order'?"
"You write for them?" Wade repeated, admittedly impressed.
"Not exactly. But I've pitched to them." He leaned in a bit closer. "So what's a pretty woman like yourself doing out all alone?"
"I'm not exactly alone."
"Not anymore you're not. My name's Quinn Mallory," he said extending a hand.
"So's his," Wade said.
Quinn had returned from the bar.
By 1971, the Brothers Brown were a household name. The boys broke in as a novelty teen act, but their leads were becoming men. The songs about puppy love and holding hands gave way to a more mature sound, opening doors to an expanded audience. Leads Cézanne and Rembrandt had grown up and were anxious to prove it. On Rembrandt's eighteenth birthday, the Brothers Brown released what would become their signature hit.
"'Cry Like a Man' wasn't just another Motown anthem," the music reporter said. "It heralded the next wave and pushed the group to the top spot on the scene."
The single went gold in just two weeks. The Crying Man had come of age.
Coming up: Egos flare, a partnership dissolves, and Rembrandt embarks upon a mission. All this when Inside the Music returns.
"Cry Like a Man" began a streak of success that would run for four glorious years. They owned the pop charts, the soul charts, and even broke into the UK charts. But the gold records were tarnished by a simmering feud between the two frontmen.
"You'd think there'd be enough fame to go around," said Hilton. "But it always had to be more."
Cézanne couldn't stand that his younger brother was receiving more attention. His jealousy is apparent in this footage outside the 1973 Grammy Awards:
"Crying Man. Like that's some sort of talent. Anyone can cry, but can everyone do this?" Cézanne touched his tongue to the tip of his nose. "Yeah, that's right. Didn't think so."
This constant game of one-upmanship plagued the band in promotions, concerts, and even into the recording studio. It took all of their mother's skill to keep the group together. Then tragedy struck.
"It was 1975 and back then you didn't go to the doctor unless you physically couldn't get up," Hilton said, calmly but sad. "The cancer had her before we even knew what happened."
Tanisha passed away that May. Without her guiding presence, internal disputes tore the group asunder. The rift between Cézanne and Rembrandt grew so great that they could no longer stand to be in the same room, let alone tour. To a packed room of reporters, Cézanne announced he was leaving the group to embark upon a solo career.
"The others were always jealous of me, particularly Rembrandt," declared Cézanne in an interview taken from 1979, the year evident by his multi-colored rayon jacket. "It just got to the point where it was in everyone's best interests for me to move on. Is it my fault the group could not continue without me?"
Reeling from the losses, the Brothers Brown called a hiatus. But Rembrandt wasn't satisfied. Now on his own, he endeavored to continue what his mother had started. He was going to the top to stay and no one would get in his way.
"You've got to let me pitch this idea!" pleaded alt-Quinn from the doorway of the hotel room. Quinn attempted to close the door, only to have his double stick his hand in the way. For a second, Quinn considered closing it anyway.
This guy was unreal. Once Quinn had explained how there could be two of them in one place, his other had attached himself to his hip. He had followed them back to the hotel last night, like a slobbering stray dog that either can't or won't take the hint he's not wanted. Wade, with her fondness for dumb animals, took him right in. They finally got rid of him around two a.m. only to find him at their door this morning.
"Just push right past him!" yelled Wade from the bedroom.
"Look…Quinn," Quinn began.
"Like I said, call me Q. Everybody does." Q patted him on the shoulder and walked inside.
"Fine. Q," Quinn mulled over, his resentment growing by the moment. "This isn't some kind of television show. It's our lives."
"And lives make great television! There's a reason Sally Jessy Raphael is the queen of daytime TV."
"Oh come on, Quinn. What would it hurt?" Wade said, emerging from the other room. "I'd love to see who'd they cast to play you."
"You want Ben Affleck? I'll get Ben Affleck!" Q said, his hands shaking in front of him. "And as for Wade here, I'll have to see what Yasmine Bleeth has on her schedule."
Wade blushed. Quinn nearly saw red. "You know, that sounds great. But we don't have time…."
"Like you have something better to do," Wade said.
Quinn glared at her. Through clenched teeth, he said, "I could work on the timer."
"I can help!" Q volunteered. "It's perfect. You tell me your adventures, and I'll lend you my technical expertise."
Quinn sneered. "You went to school for theoretical physics?"
"Anthropology actually. Easy A," Q said. "But I've always been fascinated with physics. That's one of the reasons I write sci-fi. You name it, I've seen it."
"Watching reruns of 'Time Tunnel' doesn't qualify you as an expert in quantum mechanics," Quinn shot back.
"Don't be such a snob!" Wade shouted at Quinn. "How do you know he's not smarter than you are? We both know we've met more than a few."
Quinn bit down on his lip, the stud on his tongue rattling across his front teeth. There was just no winning. "Fine. If he can help with the timer, we'll give him some stories."
"Yeah, yeah," Quinn said as he grabbed Wade by the shoulders and led her out of the hotel room.
Q followed. "And we'll have that timer thing fixed in no time. I mean, how hard can it be?"
"And to your left is the home of Samuel Peckinpah. The acclaimed director is rarely in, but you can occasionally catch a glimpse of his nephew cleaning the pool."
The tour guide clicked off her PA speaker and steered the bus along the winding hills of Hollywood. As cameras flashed throughout the left side of the bus, two seemingly disinterested passengers bickered on the opposite side.
"I don't understand why I have to dress like an imbecile too," grumbled Arturo, clad in a large Hawaiian shirt and a visor with the words 'I Love L.A.' emblazoned across it.
"We're traveling in disguise," said Rembrandt in hush-hush tones. He too was in Hawaii's finest accompanied by a straw hat and sunglasses.
"Oh good. For a moment I thought we were seeking attention," the Professor said, with a quick bat to Rembrandt's hat.
"I didn't ask you to come along," Rembrandt retorted.
"Well it's obvious you might need an impartial observer," Arturo huffed.
The bus began to slow again and the PA system kicked in. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are now approaching 'The House That Tears Built', home of Rembrandt Brown. We'll be stopping and allowing you outside to see if you can get a shot of him. If we're especially lucky, he may start throwing tabloids and yell for us all to get away from his property."
"This is it," said Rembrandt, standing up.
Arturo grabbed his arm. "Rembrandt, please. Some things are better left unseen. You may not like what you find here."
"Come on," the singer said.
The Professor filed out of the bus. "All right. We're here. What do we do now? Just march to the front door?"
"Exactly." Rembrandt discarded his hat and sunglasses and headed for the house.
Two minutes later...
"Hey, Brown! You suck!" The sound was cut off by the slamming of the ranch's front door.
"I didn't see those eggs while we were on the bus. When she said shots, I thought she meant photos…" Rembrandt puffed as he leaned forward to catch his breath. The Professor used the wall to prop himself up as he fanned himself with his visor.
"Yes…also good…that the key…was under…the welcome mat," panted Arturo.
"Yeah, I've been doing that for years," Rembrandt said. He straightened up and looked the foyer over. There was nothing out of the ordinary, just a coat rack and a few pairs of shoes on the floor.
"Hello? Hello? Seems like nobody's home." Curious, he opened the double doors to his left.
"Would you look at this?" Rembrandt entered a spacious room, evidently used for parties or social gatherings by the layout of the furniture. But the couches and credenzas went unnoticed beside the lead spectacle—a wall of gold and platinum.
"Look at all these records," Rembrandt marveled, reaching towards the wall. His hand counted each album in turn. "'Explosion of Love'- 1972. One, two, three, quadruple platinum! That's four million copies. Four million!"
"I can count, Mr. Brown," said Arturo, inspecting the adjoining walls. They too were littered with Crying Man memorabilia—publicity shots, tour posters, even autographed material. One item in particular caught his eye. "You never said you came from such a large family."
"I don't. Just me, my brother Cézanne, Dad, and Mom, God rest her soul."
"Then you might want to see this." Rembrandt joined Arturo in front of a large framed poster emblazoned with the logo of the Brothers Brown. "Which one is you?"
"That one," Rembrandt said, peering closer. "And that's Cézanne! What's he doing backing me up? I've seen blind ballplayers with better control of their pitch."
"Actually, it appears you're the one backing him," the Professor said, putting his glasses on.
"Figures. Hogging the spotlight even when it isn't his to take," said Rembrandt. "But the others, man, that's freaky."
"I must admit the concept of extra family members is disconcerting and yet exciting," Arturo concurred. "My parents never had the chance to have another child. The Blitz saw to that. Yet on some worlds, I imagine I do have siblings. I should very like to meet one someday."
"I don't know, Professor. One brother was more than enough. Cézanne and I fought all the time. Everything was always about him, right from when we were little until the time I moved out. 'Look ma, I got an A in science. Dad, guess who got picked first at recess for kickball,'" Rembrandt mocked. "Even at my funeral, all he could do was go on about himself."
Rembrandt waved him off. "Man, it's a wonder we didn't kill each other."
"Oh I thought about it," came a voice from the door. Rembrandt turned his attention to the man who stood before them. He sized him up, starting from his platform shoes, up past the gold-plated shin pads, through to the royal blue slacks, over the diamond studded belt tucking in a silk blue shirt, and ending on the face of the master of the house, slightly concealed from above by a black felt hat and below by a blue surgical mask.
"My God. I've become Michael Jackson," said an awestruck Rembrandt.
Arturo looked him over. "At least you're still black."
Q put on his best ponderous face as he examined the timer, its circuits laid bare without its protective shell. Delicately he shifted it in his hand, studiously examining every pathway. With skilled fingers, Q lifted the microtool…and jammed it into the timer. A sharp spark stunned him and the timer flew from his hand.
"Careful!" exclaimed Quinn, grabbing the device before it hit the floor.
"What can I say? Whenever I'm around, sparks fly," Q smirked at Wade.
Quinn placed the timer on the table, making sure to get a wary glare across to Wade. His patience had just about reached its limits. After an insufferable forty-five minutes stuck in traffic with Q—to go just four blocks—the last place Quinn wanted to be was in this guy's apartment.
Q's flat was not wholly unlike Quinn's room back home. The three weeks' worth of dirty laundry scattered about the place was a testament to that. However the posters of Einstein were replaced by those of the films "Independence Day" and "Species;" the toy dinosaurs by "Baywatch" action figurines; the stacks of books by stacks of video cassettes. And though the telescope remained by the window, it was aimed not at the stars but at a fourth floor window of the neighboring building.
Clearly Q was not an intellectual. That was no sin. The trouble was in the continued attentions he showered down upon Wade were way over the line. 'They're not even real,' he thought. 'Just lame attempts to get into her pants.' It was unbecoming. And worse, Wade wasn't doing anything to curtail his advances.
"What's this do?" Q leaned over Quinn's shoulder, attempting to poke the timer again. Quinn slapped his double's hand away.
"That's the geographic spectrum stabilizer," Quinn explained. "If you break that, we're pretty much finished."
"Why? What will happen?"
"When you open the portal to a parallel dimension, you have to be reasonably sure where you'll land on the other side. Without any input, you could exit the tunnel right over the Pacific Ocean, the other side of the planet, or miss the earth entirely," Quinn chastised. "Under my old laser gyro, I had the exit point centered on my house."
"You moved to L.A. too?"
"Not hardly," he heard himself say.
"We lost the original in another encounter with one of your doubles," said Wade. "Only he was a she."
"A she?" Q gasped. He hurried over to his desk and grabbed a notebook. "Go on."
"Shouldn't we be focusing on the timer?" Quinn asked sharply.
"Oh." Q tapped his pen against his teeth. "You know what I think you need? A spatial dampener."
"A spatial dampener?" Quinn dryly repeated.
"Oh yeah. Why don't you take care of that and Wade will fill me in on our female double? Kill two birds at the same time, you hear what I'm saying?" Q proposed.
Quinn let out a frustrated sigh as Wade launched into the tale of their visit to Prototronics. "For starters, her name is Logan St. Clair and she's a total bitch. And talk about poor fashion sense…"
"Wild." Q scribbled furiously.
Rembrandt's double looked at the two sliders skeptically after his lookalike explained himself. On the one hand, their story was so damn crazy that he ought to be admitted to the David Lynch Institute just for entertaining it. But on the other, it was so damn crazy that no one in their right mind would make it up. And the guy did look just like him. "You journeyed all the way over the Einstein-Rosenstein-Podolwhatever Bridge just to help me?"
"Not exactly," grumbled the English guy in the bad Hawaiian shirt.
"What he means is we didn't come to this world to help you, but we did come to your house to help," Rembrandt said. "We're here to get to the bottom of this charity scandal."
Alt-Rembrandt's eyes blazed with defiance. "I would NEVER do that. These are orphans, for God's sake. Somebody's trying to smear my good name. I suspect a rival record company."
"What did I tell you?" Rembrandt said turning to Arturo.
Arturo strained to keep his composure. "Grandiose schemes by RCA aside, the money is missing. Someone in your employ is stealing from you and your foundation."
"Yeah, I don't handle the finances. You'll have to talk to my agent, Jack Brim. He's the guy running the show," Alt-Rembrandt replied. "But I don't see what more you can do. He's already turned the books inside and out."
"Perhaps a fresh set of eyes can unearth something he may have overlooked," Arturo said. "In the meantime, we might as well keep the two of you out of sight. I'm not sure how much more of your fame I can take."
"Speaking of fame, where's the rest?" Rembrandt asked eagerly.
"The rest?" Alt-Rembrandt repeated.
"Yeah, this room only takes us up to 1983 or so. Where's all the new material?" Rembrandt said, peeking around the corner into the next room. "Oh wait. Don't tell me. They're at the summer home, right?"
"The summer home? Oh, yeah, yeah. You see, I sold that," Alt-Rembrandt said. "Too many mosquitoes…"
"You mean it's all still in boxes?"
Rembrandt paused, his smile still glued to his face. "So what are you saying?"
As the seventies closed, Rembrandt was on the top of his game. His fourth solo album, "The Funk and How to Swing It", went gold in its debut week. Moreover, he had a new dance move that was taking the country by storm—something Captain Jack Brim dubbed "the moonwalk."
"I had this kid in my stable of artists at the time, nice young man from Indiana. Boy, could he dance! Unfortunately, the grown man had the voice of a twelve year old," Brim said with a shake of his head. "So we gave the moves to Remmy."
Rembrandt debuted the dance at the 1980 Grammy Awards and brought the house down. Still there were a few detractors.
"I created the moonwalk, not Rembrandt," declared Cézanne in a 1980 interview, his long geri-curls hanging over his glasses. "This is the true moonwalk."
Cézanne lifted one leg and bounded forward, leapt to his opposite foot, and then made a giant leap with both feet, rattling all the furniture around him. "Oh yeah, you got to get the air! Soon, all the kids'll be doin' it. Right on, right on."
Naysayers aside, Rembrandt entered the 80s as the premier attraction in the pop scene. Little did anyone know, it was all about to unravel.
"I'll never forget that black day," scowled Captain Jack. "That's the day the entire empire started to crumble. August 1, 1981."
MTV was born.
Music Television joined the entertainment landscape while Rembrandt was in between albums. He immediately recognized the marketing advantages it presented. But Rembrandt wasn't about to enter this brave new world with the same old thing; he wanted to take the music video to the next level.
"Most early videos were just bands standing around in the studio, and they looked like they were filmed on camcorders," explained Rolling Stone reporter Keith Maccarone. "What passed for special effects were inverted colors or white-outs. But there's only so many times so you can see a star wipe before it gets old."
Brown saw far greater potential in the medium. Why couldn't a music video be a short film? To realize this dream, he hired a real director and real actors. Brown spent nearly as much work planning his videos as he did his musical arrangements on the songs themselves. Unfortunately, Rembrandt was a much better musician than screenwriter. When the script for the first release of the new album was unveiled, a lot of eyebrows went up.
The production ran way over budget, nearly reaching an unheard of sum of one million dollars. As reports of the finances leaked out, anticipation for the final product increased. MTV began hyping it weeks in advance. Finally, on November 19, 1982, the title track for Brown's fifth album "In The Blood" debuted.
It was a complete failure.
"When he told me what he was planning, I was skeptical. I told him, 'No one wants to see a grown man pretending to be a teenager and then morphing into a freaking werewolf," said director John Landis. "But, hey, it's Rembrandt Brown! If he wants zombies, I'll give him zombies."
The public wasn't ready for a fifteen-minute music video, particularly one starring Vincent Price. The album sputtered to gold, basically on the strength of Rembrandt's prior reputation. But reputation can only carry you so long...
If there was one positive aspect of having a destabilized geographic stabilizer, a sunny 82 degree day in November would have to be a candidate. Whatever Los Angeles's faults, its weather was infinitely superior to the dreary and drizzly skies that plagued San Francisco. Even the Professor could enjoy a day like this.
If only begrudgingly.
"I've seen sidewalks in Rome covered with less smog," he said as he snatched a pretzel from a street vendor.
A news broadcast strained to be heard over the honking horns and revving engines of traffic slowly winding its way past the stand. "On Capitol Hill today, the House voted 215-201 to limit representatives to one term only. President Ford has threatened to veto the bill if it clears the Senate."
"Gerald Ford?" inquired Arturo.
The vendor gave him a funny look before barking back, "Harrison."
"And surprise, surprise, the Israelis and Palestinians are still going at it," continued the broadcast. "It's been fifty years already, just get over it!"
Arturo walked back to the bench where Wade was rubbing her feet from close to an hour of walking. Sighing, she turned to Arturo. "Professor, this is ridiculous. Couldn't we have just gotten a cab?"
"And participate in this snarl of cacophony and carbon monoxide? I think not," he curtly replied. "Come along. We're nearly there."
The two were in route to the offices of Handkerchiefs Across America, where they were to meet with Captain Jack Brim over the status of the charity's accounts. It was decided yesterday at the home of Rembrandt's double not to let the agent in on sliding, so Rembrandt stayed behind to prevent any chance of a slip up. Arturo did however bring Wade along in case her skills were required.
Wade slid off the bench and joined Arturo. "So I've been doing a little more research into this world. Q says the most popular show on television is "The Real World", and that's only because they throw their cast out every season. Fox alone had 122 series last year."
"Anything else?" asked the Professor.
An elderly man, his parachute pants hiked up to his navel, strolled by them singing, "Clearly I remember…picking on the boy…seemed a harmless little f-"
"Oldies stations play songs from 1992," added Wade. "Everything is so go, go, go."
Arturo shook his head. "An entire country modeled around Los Angeles. God help us."
"Is there anything about LA you don't despise?" Wade asked.
"What's to like? It spews forth pretty garbage disguised as art, and we as a society swallow it. It's all style over substance," the Professor lectured. "This emphasis on the artificial and superficial, the nagging need to ride the next trend, where does it lead you? Only to the next trend. And what have you learned along the way? Nothing.
"Call me old-fashioned, Miss Welles. It's a badge I will proudly wear if it distinguishes me from this chaos. At its current rate, I shudder to think what it's next trend will be."
"You want to change your name to an apostrophe?" Rembrandt asked, his eyebrow locked in a quizzical position.
"Hey, it worked for Prince! Or é as he's now known," his double defended. The two sat at the bar of the Chameleon's Lair, defying the orders laid down by Arturo. Though both were technically in disguise (Rembrandt's other was now wearing a cape,) there was no need to be. Activity was low at 4 p.m. and aside from some double takes, they went more or less unnoticed by the few patrons.
"I need a new gimmick. Something fresh," Alt-Rembrandt continued.
"But if Prince—or whatever you said he calls himself—has already done it, how can it be fresh?" Rembrandt asked.
"You know what I'm talking about. I have to change the vibe. Right now, 'Rembrandt Brown' is associated with negative things. I want people to focus on the music, you dig?" alt-Rembrandt said.
"And what style is in now? Baseball?"
"You think I wear these for fashion?" Alt-Rembrandt gave his shin pads a little rap with his knuckles. "This is protection, man. Everywhere I go, people be kicking me."
An exasperated Rembrandt knocked the hat off his double's head. "I don't understand. Why are you changing the act? The Crying Man doesn't need gimmicks."
"The people don't want the Crying Man no more," Alt-Rembrandt shot back, quickly retrieving his chapeau. "He's yesterday's dream, a sad souvenir of a different world."
Alt-Rembrandt shook his head. "Don't you think if it were possible, I'd still be doing the things that made me famous in the first place? I love being the Crying Man. But his time is gone. The world changes and you have to change with it."
"Ain't that the truth," said a passing Diggs with an armload of light fixtures.
"Otherwise, next thing you know, you're singing anthems," he concluded. "Or worse, on Hollywood Squares."
Both men shuddered at the thought.
"I don't know. One day, everything is going your way. The next, you're nobody. No matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to catch up. If I could just get ahead of a trend for once," Alt-Rembrandt sighed, "like I used to back in the old days."
"Don't you get it, man? The true greats don't need to follow trends. Did Elvis ever sing disco? Hell, no," Rembrandt declared. "You got to be true to the fans. When Rembrandt Brown takes the stage, they want to see the Crying Man, not a bunch of symbols they can't pronounce. So you've been this caped crusader for the last decade, ripping off everything new that comes along. What has it gotten you? Your old fans don't listen because this isn't what they want, and the fans you're trying to get stick with the originals you're trying to copy. It ain't no secret how this story ends."
"And you've never changed the act?" Alt-Rembrandt asked.
"Never," Rembrandt proudly answered back.
"And how many records did your last record sell?"
Q looked up from his notes and sighed. "And that's it?"
"That's it," Quinn replied, second guessing his decision to not accompany Arturo. He would have been just as handy with a computer as Wade, but that would have left her alone with Q. To avoid that, he'd fall on the grenade.
The two sat across from each other at a table in Q's apartment. As his other continued probing for storylines, Quinn examined the foreign intricacies of the timer's geo-stabilizer. He doubted there was much he could do, but even the slightest bit of fine-tuning would help. Like Arturo, he'd had just about enough of Los Angeles.
"You nearly get yourself killed for this girl…twice…and you don't even get a little nookie?" cried his exasperated double.
"No time. Just a kiss and run," Quinn said. "Besides, it's not like I was going to settle down and marry her. Just a little infatuation."
"Well, no kidding, but if you go by that theory, you're never going to get any action," Q charged.
"Oh I get my share of action," Quinn answered. 'If you saw the action I do, you wouldn't last a week,' he thought and not unpleasantly at that.
"What about Wade?"
"What about her?"
"Well, haven't you ever…" Q started, making an obscene gesture to finish his question. Quinn didn't dignify it with a response, but that only increased Q's curiosity. "Woah, woah, let me get this straight. You've been sliding for three years with Wade now and you still haven't slept with her?"
"What's your point?" Quinn asked, not looking up from the timer.
"Well, nothing," Q began. "It's just uh…what are you waiting for? It's like being trapped on a desert island with a beautiful woman and living in separate huts."
"For starters, that analogy has more holes than your 'spatial dampener' theory," Quinn replied. "And second, it's not like that between us. We're friends."
"All this time and you're just friends. Like you never thought about…"
"Look, this isn't some kind of honeymoon. " Quinn interrupted, angry at the course of this conversation. "Some of these slides are life and death. There's no time for romance between sliders, and it's not like we're alone on this journey. There are two other people with us."
"All right, chill out, man," Q said, his hands up in a mock 'don't shoot!' position. "You don't want her, fine. Then I suppose you wouldn't mind if I took a run at her. Cause I gotta tell you, man, she's one…"
Before Q could get the rest of the sentence out, Quinn's chair was on the floor and his hand was on Q's collar. "Don't you touch her," Quinn growled.
Realizing what he was doing, Quinn released his other. Q's look of astonishment faded into a smirk. "Oh I get it," Q said. "I see what this is about. You don't want her, but you're going to make sure no one else has her either."
Q chuckled, "Just friends. Some friend you are."
Handkerchiefs Across America was housed in a spacious room on the first floor of an old office building. The walls were covered with certificates, framed thank you letters, and pictures of smiling kids. In the center was a huge blow-up of a photo of Rembrandt surrounded by children of all ages and races. Wade picked up one of the yellowed pamphlets on the windowsill. On the cover was a close up of Rembrandt, looking like he was just about to turn on the water works. "Don't let them shed another tear," he implored.
There was no secretary. "The foundation isn't as busy as it used to be," explained Captain Jack after the introductions. "The work done now is mostly funded off of the interest from our endowment."
"Indeed, and that's why I'm here," said Arturo. "Mr. Brown has employed me to look over the books and verify the accuracy of the accounts."
"Well you're welcome to take a look. I doubt you'll find anything the police already haven't. I love Remmy, but the facts look pretty convincing," he said, leading them over to a computer. Captain Jack sat down in front of the monitor. "You see here, when you log on to the computer, you have to provide a user ID and a code, so the machine knows who y'all are."
"May I?" Wade asked after Brim input his password.
"By all means." Brim stepped aside while Wade slipped into his seat. After a few seconds to orient herself, she began pulling up accounting spreadsheets.
"Tampered with? How?" Arturo leaned over Wade's shoulder.
"Replaced. Check out these create dates," Wade scrolled up a property menu revealing a steady string of recent dates. "It's pretty sloppy work. I didn't even have to pull up any fragmented memory."
"Can you tell by whom?"
She pointed the mouse and highlighted the user name: CMAN. "That's Remmy's ID," said Brim, a hint of resignation in his voice.
"Odd. In my years sliding with…I mean, advising Mr. Brown, I've never once seen him take any interest in a computer," Arturo said. "Could someone have cracked his password and impersonated him?"
"Let's see," Wade logged off and returned to the front screen.
"Rembrandt is a trusting soul. He leaves the keys to his front door under the mat, for heaven's sake." Arturo stroked his beard. "Try something obvious, his birth date or…"
"Bingo," Wade said. "We're in."
"Whew. That's some fancy detective work, Mr. Arturo," Jack said.
"Mr. Brim, who else has access to this terminal?"
The Captain removed his hat, scratching his head with his free index finger. "Well, there are only two people outside of myself with the keys to this office. Rembrandt, of course, and the president of the HAA."
"Rembrandt's not the president?" Wade asked.
"No, he appointed the position to his brother," Jack said with a nod. "Cézanne Brown."
Rembrandt's world was turned upside down. This first commercial flop of his career sent him into seclusion where he could reassess what went wrong. Four long years went by while he worked on the follow-up album to "In the Blood." When it finally hit stores, Brown was confident he'd have a monster success on his hands.
The record garnered virtually no attention. Brown, however, was determined not to fade into obscurity like Cézanne. Though in retrospect, he probably wished he had.
When we return, more of Rembrandt's downward spiral including an unfortunate incident with an orangutan, a cross dresser, and a federal marshal.
When the 90s began, Brown sensed an opportunity to start with a clean slate. He mothballed his powder blue suits, cut his hair, and even shaved his mustache. The Crying Man and the music that made him a household name were retired. It was time for something new.
"Once Rembrandt gets it in his mind to do something, there ain't no way of convincing him otherwise," said an almost apologetic Jack Brim. "I'm sure we all regret some of the looks we've had. Once upon a time, even I tried dressing in black when I was wooing Johnny Cash from his label. You can't escape who you are. People will see through."
The people saw through many a reinvention. There was the MC stage: "Oh-oh, oh-oh, here comes the Remmer! Oh-oh oh-oh, bust it!"
The Sucka MC Stage: "What up, peeps! Rem-dawg in da haaaaaaaaussssss!
And the O.G. Stage: "Yo, this one goes out to my bitches, and all the bruthahs from the bad streets of the Hills, y'all."
As each persona failed, Rembrandt retreated deeper into a personal shell, cutting off connections with the rest of the industry. Friends and family began to fear the worst.
"There was talk of addiction," said Hilton sadly.
The dirty drug? Cough syrup. Rembrandt's fear of damaging his vocal chords became an obsession. He never went out in the rain and wore a surgical mask whenever he wasn't singing.
"He had a serious problem," said a man behind a screen, labeled only as a local pharmacist. "At its worst he was up to a $68 a month on Robitussin. Nasty business."
If his personal and professional problems weren't enough, he'd soon face an even greater challenge. Betrayal.
"Why didn't you say Cézanne was in charge of the foundation before? Of course he's the guy setting you up!" Rembrandt slapped his hand on the bar.
The Lair was in full swing now, and the mounted lights were setting the entire place aglow. Arturo found it exceedingly distracting. "Well, someone is behind the theft and Cézanne certainly had the means. Considering there's only one other probable suspect...Good God, what is that?"
"Oh, you don't want to go there, boyfriend," Diggs said as two of his employees dragged an inflatable buffalo by.
"You don't know anything, man. When Mom died, it blew the family apart. Cézanne and me? We've barely spoken to each other in twenty years. I was so wrapped up in my own career that I turned my back on him," he explained. "I gave him this position to help mend the fences. Now you're telling me he'd stab me in the back?"
"Jealousy makes a man do crazy things," Rembrandt cautioned.
Alt-Rembrandt looked Rembrandt in the eye. "Cézanne is a lot of things, but he's no thief."
"Guess we'll have to find out then, won't we?" Rembrandt said.
"What do you mean, 'I'm thinking about going out with him?'" Quinn mocked in a goony voice. He leaned against the closed shower door as Wade stared into the mirror
"Why should you care what I do?" Wade scoffed back, applying a light lipstick. "He wants to go out. I want to go out."
"He wants more than that," Quinn said with conviction.
"You say that like it's a bad thing," she said, prompting Quinn to let out a deep sigh of frustration
Wade rolled her eyes. "Oh, what's the big deal? He's you, right? What's the matter, Quinn? Don't trust yourself?"
"He's not me! OK, he is me, but, but, you know what I mean." Quinn snapped back. "He's a slimeball."
"He is not! Just because he actually listens to me, you think something must be wrong with him." Wade exited the bathroom, shutting the light off on Quinn.
"That's not true," he said, following her out. "Look, shouldn't I have a say in what you do with another me?"
"Like I had a say when you pretended to be married to a double of mine?" Wade returned.
"That was totally different! We were trying to help her out," Quinn said, "and then she tried to kill us. You see? That just proves my point."
"Did you kiss her, Quinn?" Wade charged.
For a moment, Quinn was caught unaware. He stumbled over his tongue a bit before quietly answering, "Yes."
Wade's hand was across his face before he even finished pronouncing the word. Quinn backed up, stunned. "What was that for?"
"You don't get it. Even now, you still don't get it," Wade said quietly, barely restraining her anger.
"It wasn't you…"
"It WAS me!" she screamed back. "How do you think that makes me feel when I see you not with another woman, but with another me!"
"You never said it bothered you," he ventured.
"I shouldn't have had to say it!" she yelled. Disgusted, she turned away from him and headed for the door. "I'm going now."
"Wade, don't do anything we'll both regret," Quinn said after her. She didn't turn around.
"You're sure you're up to this?" Arturo asked, clipping Rembrandt's cape in place.
"I carried a child to term for one of my doubles. This is nothing." Rembrandt declared from the wardrobe room of the ranch. With his double unable to confront his brother, Rembrandt decided to take his place and shake the truth out of Cézanne. The meeting was set for this eleven a.m. at the HAA's offices.
"I'm surprised at your double's resiliency. From what you say, he's a laughingstock. Why shouldn't he just retire and be done with it?" Arturo challenged.
"Fame is fame, Professor. The entertainer needs attention—good or bad," Rembrandt explained. "He's got to have the spotlight. He needs it, craves it. Without it, he's nothing.
"I'm no fool, man. I know my career isn't half what it once was, but it's what I love. If I couldn't be a singer, I wouldn't be anything at all."
"I do believe you do yourself a disservice," Arturo said. "You are far more than your music. Even if you woke tomorrow and found you could no longer speak, I'd still be proud to stand by your side."
Rembrandt couldn't help but smile. "I thought the only way you could show affection was by insulting me."
"Very well, you look like a musketeer in this get-up," the Professor commented.
"Then I'm ready. It's curtain call."
Quinn was waiting for her when Wade opened the door to the suite. "I didn't hear you come back last night."
"I got in late," she said, dropping the room key on the table. "When I woke up, you were gone. So I got some lunch."
"Did you have fun?" Quinn asked, his head down.
"Yeah, we spent the evening downtown," Wade said. "Started the night with a poetry reading—a little out there, but fun. Next up were the clubs. I even got a phone number."
She pulled the crumpled piece of paper from her pocket and dumped it in the trash.
"That's not what I'm asking," Quinn said quietly.
"I know what you're asking, and you know what, Quinn? It's not your concern," she said, but not coldly. If anything, it was resigned.
Quinn raised his head. "How did we end up like this?"
Wade shook her head. "Come on, we're going to be late for the slide."
Quinn gathered up his jacket and followed her out the door. Q was right. Some friend, indeed.
"I don't understand why I have to be present for this," Captain Jack said as he, Arturo, and Rembrandt walked the corridor to the HAA's office.
"Like I'd do this without my agent," Rembrandt said, removing the surgical mask from his face. He stopped in front of the office and took a deep breath. He opened the door and entered.
Cézanne was waiting for them. The former pop star was dressed in a brown suit, a wide yellow tie hanging well below his belt-line. His eyes, appearing larger behind his glasses, stared a hole through the man he believed to be his brother.
"So it's come to this," Cézanne snarled. "Little Remmy's got himself into trouble so big brother Cézanne will have to bail him out again."
"That's a laugh. When have you ever come to my rescue? You're the most self-centered man in California."
"Look who's talking." Cézanne gestured to the walls, all lined with photos of the Crying Man.
"Phew!" Jack wiped the sweat of his brow. Fanning himself with his hat, he said, "Is it hot in here? Maybe I should open a window."
"This goes beyond sibling rivalry," Rembrandt began. "You want to trash talk me? Pretend you're better? Fine. I'm a big man. But when you take from children and blame me, I gotta draw the line."
"What the hell you talkin' about?" Cézanne looked in turn at each of the three men. "Oh, that's rich. I see what's going down. You're settin' me up!"
"Setting you up?!" Rembrandt cried. "I'm not the one who hacked his brother's password to cover up his tracks."
"I think I'll step outside for some fresh air," Jack said, but Arturo quickly grabbed his sleeve.
"We need to be here to serve as witnesses," he cautioned. Brim inhaled deeply and loosened his Texas tie.
The two brothers were now nose to nose.
"The big celebrity does the crime, and he sends his brother to do the time," Cézanne charged.
"You lyin' weasel! You just can't stand that I'm better than you, so you resort to taking me down any way you can."
The two grabbed each other by the throats and started throttling each other.
"Admit it!" yelled Rembrandt.
"I'm not taking the fall for you!" Cézanne spit back.
"That's enough!" Arturo declared, pushing himself between the two men. The brothers pulled back, both gasping and clutching their throats.
"I'm not trying to set you up, Cézanne," Rembrandt croaked.
"And I didn't take the money," his brother squeaked.
"Well then who did?"
The three men turned to the door where Brim was quietly sneaking out. He froze under their gaze. Practically panting, he faced them. "A man's gotta eat! Rembrandt hasn't released a record that's lasted more than three weeks on the charts since 1987. My commission has done dried up!"
The police escorted the Captain out of the office and out the front steps of the building. "Now, now, watch the lapels, gentlemen!" he cried as they tossed him into the cruiser.
Arturo and Rembrandt quietly slipped into a side alley where Quinn and Wade were waiting for them. "All's well that ends well, I see?" Quinn asked.
"Another job well done. Happy now, Mr. Brown?" Arturo replied.
"I told you my double couldn't do a thing like that," he said, unstrapping his shin pads. "But how did you know the Captain was our man?"
"I didn't," Arturo said. "But it was either one or the other. All we had to do was get them in the same room and watched who broke down first."
"I'm glad it worked out. Maybe now my other can make amends with Cézanne," said Rembrandt.
"And how is your little television program coming along? Should I be expecting any royalty checks in the near future?" Arturo asked Quinn.
"I guess it turned out all right," said Quinn, taking a glance at Wade. "Bad news though, Professor. My double wrote you out and replaced you with a tough female corrections officer. He's hoping to cast Traci Lords."
"I don't give him half a season without me," Arturo declared to the light laughter of his companions. "So Mr. Brown, have we learned anything else from this adventure?"
"I'll say. Jack Brim may be a little sleazy, but you can't argue with his success rate. That's two for two on worlds where he's managed me. Well, maybe this double isn't quite as successful, but that's his own damn fault for messing with the formula. When we get back home, Brim's my man and Artie's out the door," said Rembrandt. "That'll teach him for ratting me out on bank robbery world."
"For the last time, that was a different Artie!" Arturo cried out.
"3…2…1…"Quinn counted off the seconds remaining. At zero, he activated the wormhole.
"Yeah, with the Captain leading the way, I'll be back on top in no time. I figure I've got at least another ten, maybe fifteen years of mainstream success left in me," Rembrandt continued. "And after I retire from the pop charts, I'll be able to name the casino I do my final gigs in. Now I'm partial to Vegas, but they were doing some nice things in Atlantic…woah!"
Rembrandt yelled as he was shoved from behind into the vortex.
"Thanks, Professor," Wade said.
Rembrandt and Cézanne occupied one of the new plaid booths that Elston Diggs had just installed as part of his new 'retro-country' remodeling. As Merle Haggard sang about leaving now, the brothers shared a drink for the first time in two decades.
"Donations are up over one hundred percent, but we've still got a long ways to go to rebuild the endowment," Rembrandt said. "I've been thinking, Cézanne. You know how popular those reunion shows are on TV? Maybe it's time we…"
"…got the boys back together?" Cézanne finished with a wide grin.
The two slapped hands. Cézanne laughed. "This is gonna be great! We'll be bigger than ever! Right on, right on."
"Late 90s, baby!" Rembrandt said, glass raised. "Cryin' Man's back!"
The Crying Man was back.
"My boy may be a lot of things, but he's no criminal. I never doubted him," says his father, Hilton.
"You couldn't meet a finer man than Rembrandt. And I know when I get out, he'll have it in his heart to forgive me and take me back," Brim graciously gushed from his table at the Orange County Correctional Facility. He stared hard into the camera with fear in his eyes. "You gotta take me back, Remmy. I'm begging you here!"
Rembrandt was cleared of all charges. The media, in a rare act of contrition, gave Rembrandt a brief period of positive press. With this first bit of momentum in years, the Brothers Brown returned to the studio to record their first album in twenty-two years.
"The album has the classic Motown sound. It not only recalls but recaptures their glory days," Keith Maccarone enthusiastically critiqued.
Riding a wave of good will, the brothers even got a sister station of the Music Television Network to exclusively premiere their new video. Among the biggest promotional blitz the station could muster, the album was released.
Thanks to TemporalFlux for his considerable help reconstructing our Rembrandt's past from the conflicting information the series has presented throughout the years.
This story was inspired by the rumored Season Four episode, "Toppless."