Stephanie Banner is 20 years old the night Dakota Shane stands center stage while six bullets ring out through the stadium. Five deaths occur from those shots, although only four ever go on record.
All four are women.
It happens in Portland, Oregon, at the Rose Garden Arena. The show is a sellout. Twenty-two thousand seats gone in less than four hours.
For the eight days leading up to the concert, a handful of disparate lives intertwine as their world unravels. Their sanity, their relationships, their work, their children, the law, and even death hangs in the balance. Among them are: the learning-disabled black kid from East St. Louis trying to move past having his little sister die in his arms when she and his Momma become collateral damage during a drive-by; the quick-witted black man who, after losing control of his car on his way to visit family in Portland, finds himself duct-taped to a chair, a hostage to a meth-addled lunatic wanted for a double homicide; the Latino son now desperately struggling to rise above his abusive father and help his mother and sister move on to a better life, while unable to let go of the tremendous guilt he bears over the fate of the other sister he once had; the slash-punk singer who manages to score her band the best gig of its career, only to learn she may not have a band left to play it; the Korean psychiatrist finally confronting how much of her life has slipped by her - how many years she lost - while focussing on far less important things; the ex-LAPD detective now working for the Portland PD finally facing the ghosts that still linger from the time of the Rodney King riots - a past that forced him to drag his family up out of LA; the bitter ex-wife of a disc jockey who still secretly listens to her ex-husband's midnight radio show as she drinks herself into a whiskey coma; the out of control daughter having unprotected sex with strangers hoping that pregnancy might draw the attention of parents unable to see past themselves.
And then, Dakota Shane: chart-topping superstar with a dark secret, caught in a media and tabloid frenzy full of rumor, speculation, and lies. She's off her meds and grappling to find any semblance of herself that might still exist inside an identity forged over the past five years by an extremely successful record company's marketing department.
Each of these lives is a story and the stories collide with each other like silver balls bouncing off bumpers on a pinball machine.
But in the end, The Rose Garden Arena Incident is a tale about passion, about bravery, about redemption, about fixing those things in the world that are fixable and learning to live with the things that are not - a heartbreaking story of tragedy, despair, and loss that still somehow leaves you with a glimmer of faith, love, and hope.
©2016 Michael Hiebert (P)2016 Michael Hiebert