The atmosphere in the Sun Records studio was so tense it was almost unbearable. Carl had been yelling for hours after Jerry Lee set him off with some comment that no one could remember later. The rest— Mr. Phillips, Dyanne, Elvis, Johnny, Jay and Fluke— were silent, watching Carl storm around the studio. There was not a sound except for Carl slamming the door behind him as he left.
Mr. Phillips sighed deeply. "Let's take a break, boys. I think we all need it. Let's meet back in an hour after everyone cools off." The group nodded and began to drift apart.
About fifteen minutes later, Dyanne returned to the now-deserted studio to look for something she had left behind— looking back, she couldn't even remember what it had been. She was searching in a corner of the room when the door abruptly opened with a bang. She looked up to see Carl staring at her suspiciously.
"What are you doing here?"
She straightened. "I am looking for something I have momentarily lost," she said, stiff but with the composure that never left her.
"How do I know you haven't been snooping in my things, Miss Dyanne?"
"Because, Mr. Perkins, I have not touched any of your belongings since I arrived here. Ask Mr. Phillips or Elvis or Mr. Cash or Jerry Lee for verification if you like."
"You certainly have all the others ready to defend you at a moment's notice. The five of y'all planning to gang up on me or something?"
"You assume too readily, Mr. Perkins."
"Maybe so, but you know Mr. Phillips always talks about how great Elvis Presley is, and how successful he is. He seems to forget that I was his first big hit."
Dyanne sighed. "Mr. Perkins..."
If she told him the truth— that, in her opinion, he had such a big ego that she was surprised Mr. Phillips worked with him at all— there was no telling how he would react. "Nothing."
"What were you going to say, Miss Dyanne?"
"It was nothing, Mr. Perkins."
"No, it was something! I want to know! Out with it, Miss Dyanne!"
"Do you have any respect for women, Mr. Perkins?" she snapped back, surprising even herself. Normally she would never speak this way, and never to a man. "A gentleman such as yourself would never demand an answer from a lady."
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know there was a lady present. I should be introduced to her."
"How dare you!"
She knew she should have stopped the conversation earlier. She knew that he was a tightly-wound ball of nerves and any little, insignificant thing could set him off. She had seen him yell at Jerry Lee multiple times. Why had she let it get this far?
Before she could move, before she could think, Carl had crossed the room and crashed his lips forcefully against hers. Dyanne panicked and clawed desperately to get away. He wrapped his arms around her, pinning her arms to her side. She turned to kicking him in the shin, thanking Providence that she had won heels with pointed toes.
Somehow, the beginnings of bruises on his leg finally registered in Carl's mind, and he shoved her back roughly. Dyanne slapped him, hard. Carl swore at Dyanne, calling her all kinds of vulgar names.
Then she saw Johnny in the hallway outside the studio. The door opened— if only someone had come a few minutes earlier— and Johnny was shoving Carl against the wall, his arm against Carl's throat. She had not known Johnny to become that angry.
"What the hell did you do to her?"
"I'll tell you what he did," Dyanne spat, trembling. "He thought everyone was ganging up on him, and his ego got in the way, and he— he took his paranoia and frustration out on me."
"Do you have anything to defend yourself with?" Johnny demanded in his low voice. Carl did not make a sound. "I thought so. If I see you even around her when there's no one else around, I will make your life worse than hell. Understand?"
Johnny shoved Carl away from him and away from Dyanne, looking absolutely disgusted. Carl ran out of the studio without a word.
Johnny turned to Dyanne and kept his distance, guessing correctly that she didn't want to be in the close proximity of anyone at the moment. "Do you want me to bring anyone back to the studio? Mr. Phillips or Elvis?"
She nodded, still shaking. "W— whatever you think is best."
"All right, Miss Dyanne. I'll bring everyone back, and that unfortunately includes Carl, because everyone else needs to know what's going on. Is that all right with you?"
"As long as I'm not in the same room with Mr. Perkins, it's fine."
"I'll go get them, Miss Dyanne, and if Carl comes back, make sure you get out of the studio if we're not back."
He nodded. "I'll be back in a few minutes." He left with a last concerned look at Dyanne. She thanked God for Johnny's intervention.
When the seven men returned, Dyanne was sitting in a chair by the wall, unconsciously clutching the strap of her purse so hard her pale hands grew even whiter. Her head snapped up when she heard the door open.
"Miss Dyanne, would you mind going into the hall for a few minutes, please?" Johnny's request was for Dyanne's own safety, but that meant she would have to pass Carl on her way to the hallway. She did not look at any of them as she went, but Elvis caught her arm.
"Dyanne, could we talk after I'm done with this?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, of course." She gave him a small smile and stepped into the hall, shakily closing the door behind her. When the door clicked behind her, she collapsed back against the wall, her back against some old advertisement poster Mr. Phillips had put up years ago. She knew she was eavesdropping, but she didn't really care; and besides, they were making no effort to lower their voices.
Elvis was the first to speak. "All right, Johnny, what happened? All you said was that something happened to Dyanne." So none of them except Johnny and Carl know.
Johnny's tone was uncomfortable. "I wish to heaven this hadn't happened, Elvis, but— I was coming back to the studio, still in the hallway, and I saw him—" Dyanne assumed Johnny was pointing at Carl— "attacking Miss Dyanne."
"What do you mean 'attacking'?" Mr. Phillips asked.
Johnny grew even more uncomfortable. "Kissing her and— holding her arms to her sides so she couldn't move."
There were various sounds that sounded like a fight. Dyanne cautiously looked through the glass window in the door to see Elvis being forcibly restrained from attacking Carl, a bruise already forming on Carl's jawbone. Elvis was shouting, "What the hell did—"
"She got away from him after a few seconds, Elvis," Johnny interrupted. "I don't think she was physically hurt too badly, but—"
"How the hell was she not 'physically hurt'?" Elvis yelled. "You bastard, you wouldn't—"
"Elvis, there's nothing to be done, hurting Carl won't help anything," Johnny stated. "Go talk to Miss Dyanne, she looks pretty shook up." Dyanne moved away from the door, still unable to stop her trembling even as the door was flung open.
Elvis pulled Dyanne into a fierce embrace, which, contrary to the earlier time, she needed. For a few seconds they stood there, and then he drew back slightly. "Could we talk outside?" Dyanne nodded, and they left the studio.
"Are you all right?" he asked as soon as they stepped outside.
"I— think so. He didn't hurt me very much, it was just the shock of..."
Elvis didn't seem to know what to do with himself. He paced back and forth, running a hand repeatedly through his hair; occasionally he would stop, and Dyanne knew that he was wanted to find Carl.
"It could have turned into something worse, Dyanne," he said. "He could have bruised you, or—" Elvis didn't continue, and Dyanne didn't fill in the word that both were thinking of. "I'm just thankful that you could get away. I just wish I could have been there to prevent this whole thing from happening. I shouldn't have let you go back alone, we all knew that Carl wasn't doing too well..." He turned to her suddenly. "I'm terribly sorry, Dyanne, I didn't ask—"
"It's all right, Elvis, and there's not much to tell. I got out of his hold and then Johnny came in. Nothing else happened."
"Why would he..."
"We were arguing before— and I think he just got paranoid because Mr. Phillips was capitalizing on you more than him and he took it out on me. A way to vicariously hurt you, I think."
"That makes sense." He came up to her and took her hands in his. "Dyanne, if you want to leave, just say the word. This isn't that important to me. If staying means you're going to get hurt at my expense..."
She shook her head and looked up at him. "No, I— I think we should stay. You do want to stay, and I'll be fine—"
"Dyanne, if you get hurt again—"
"I'll just hang around you or Mr. Phillips until we leave. Really, I don't think we should go just because of Carl."
"He hurt you, Dyanne! I won't let you stay in a dangerous situation!"
"Elvis— please, I'll be fine. I'll make sure I'm not alone in the studio again. You have to stay to work out the records—"
"The records aren't important—"
"They are, Elvis, to everyone. And—" she made herself put the gnawing worry she had in her back of her mind into words— "I'm not going to be your girlfriend for much longer so why—"
"What do you mean by that?"
"The name 'Elvis Presley' speaks volumes. You're going to find a different girl who doesn't have all this baggage—"
"Dyanne, how can you say such a thing—"
"Because it's true. I'm the, what, seventh girlfriend you brought along with you?"
"Dyanne!" Elvis looked shocked and hurt. "You should know by now that I'm not that type of person—"
"Yes, you are, because you're famous—"
"Is everything all right out here?"
Dyanne and Elvis turned to see Mr. Phillips standing in the doorway of the studio. "Oh, yes, everything's fine," Dyanne replied. "We'll be back in a few minutes." Mr. Phillips did not look entirely convinced, but he nodded and retreated back into the studio.
"Dyanne..." began Elvis.
"No, let's not start this up again," she said. "Let's just go back inside—"
"Dyanne, wait." Elvis caught her arm as she turned to go. Hesitantly, he said, "Dyanne, I care for you very much, and I'm not going to just leave you, and certainly not to the likes of Carl. If you feel unsafe in any way, just say something and we will leave, no matter what. All right?"
She nodded, unsure of what to say. He embraced her again, and she tried not to think about how many other women had been in the same pair of arms that felt so safe and comforting.
After a few seconds, he stepped back, mindful of what had happened to her, and asked, "Are you sure you want to go back inside?"
"Yes, there's no reason not to," she lied easily and fell in step beside him as they entered the studio.
Looking back, Dyanne didn't know how the famous picture was taken, after all that had happened that day.