“We’re on the same page here,” Tom agrees, “so I think the first thing we need to do is either make a statement or do an interview while at the same time do some digging on this woman and find out who she is and what shit she’s into. I bet she’s covered in dirt herself.”

“I don’t think West is up to an interview just yet so we’ll put out a statement and go from there. If we need to do an interview later, we’ll do it,” I reply. Looking at West, I add, “And when I say we, I mean all of us. We’ve got your back, man.”

“This is fucking bullshit!” Van thunders, his eyes blazing. Glaring at West, he says, “If you could keep your dick in your pants for longer than a minute, this kind of shit wouldn’t happen. We’re just about to launch a new album and we need all the fans we can get to support that album. This kind of shit won’t support it.”

My gaze snaps to Van and I look at him with disgust. “I can’t fucking believe you just said that.”

“It’s the truth, Jett, and you know it. You’re the one concerned about changing our sound so I would think you’d agree with me on this.”

“Yeah, I’m worried about that, but fuck, West is our family, and I’m more concerned about him at the moment, and you should be, too. Jesus, Van, if this kind of shit happened to you, you’d want all of us to have your back.”

West butts in, “Fuck you, Van. I might think you’re an asshole but I’ve always been behind you when you’re going through shit. That bitch begged me to fuck her, and I sure as hell know that if it’d been you she was begging, you’d have fucked her too, so don’t give me this bullshit about me keeping my dick in my pants, ‘cause yours is never in your pants, either.” West is wound tight and looks like he’s just holding it together. One more word out of Van and I’m sure West will punch him.

Just as I’m about to call for a time out, Hunter steps into the conversation. Pointing at Van, he says, “You, shut up; nothing productive is coming out of your mouth so until you have something useful to say, don’t say another fucking word.” Then he points at West. “You, go home, shower and have something to eat and then either come back or have a sleep, ‘cause you look like you’re three days into an apocalypse, and I’m pretty sure you need a minute to yourself to sort through the shit running through your mind.” And finally, he looks at me. “And you and I are going to regroup and form a plan to deal with this, ‘cause I don’t think sitting back, making a statement and waiting to see what we can dig up on that bitch will cut it. Van might be an asshole but he’s right, we need to do everything we can to make sure this album sells, and while I’m not saying West is at fault here, we’re in this shit now, and we’ve gotta work with what we have.”

When Hunter speaks, we all listen. He’s a man of few words but he’s the smartest one in our group, and, usually, when he speaks like this, he’s right. I nod at him and then ask West, “Do you want me to drive you home?”

Grabbing his keys, he shakes his head. “No.” And with that, he leaves.

As soon as he’s out the door, I slump into the couch and drop my head into my hands. No one says a word; we’re all lost in our own thoughts. Eventually, I look back up at them and say, “This shit is so unfair. West is a good guy and he gets this?” In this moment, I truly despise the dark side of this business. The lies they tell to sell magazines, the stalking they do to get a photo, the smack they talk to try and get money out of you. I just want to write songs that mean something and sing them to people who want to hear them. Why the fuck should we have to go through all that other bullshit to be able to do what we love?

Van has kept quiet since Hunter told him to but he stands and mutters, “I’m out for today. If I sit here another minute, I’m gonna punch something. You two figure out whatever you want; I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“What the fuck?” I demand, stunned he would leave at a time like this. “You’re just going to leave when we’re in the middle of dealing with a crisis?”

“Hunter was right when he said I had nothing useful to say so there’s no point in me staying.”

I stare at him, wondering where the hell he’s gone. Something has snapped in his mind over the last few weeks and he’s changed to the point where I almost don’t recognise my friend. I actually don’t even want to look at him right now, so I agree, “Yeah, you should go.”

He doesn’t wait for anyone else to chime in; a minute later he’s gone and I’m beginning to question where the hell our band is going to end up in all of this.

“Fuck!” I look at Hunter. “What the hell are we going to do?”

Before he can answer, Tom stands and says, “I’m going to draft a statement and start looking into this girl. I’ve also got some other work to do on the tour. You two start to think about what you want to do and I’ll call you later to go over it with you.”

He leaves and it’s just Hunter and me. I hope to hell he’s got some ideas because I’m pulling a blank here. For the first time in our career, I’m not sure what our next step should be.

Hunter looks at me thoughtfully. “We need to get out there and promote like hell. I hate to say it, but I think we need to be in the States at the moment to deal with this. We need to be seen and we need to make it clear this shit isn’t fazing us because we know it’s not true.”