Despite Geri-meandering, the Spice Girls stand undivided on their blockbuster march across America.

The Spice Girls have much to discuss during the drive to Madison Square Garden. As their van slowly zig-a-zig-zags away from the squealing preteen mob gathered outside their hotel on Manhattan’s 57th Street, they seem blithely oblivious to the hordes of adoring fans pressing their faces against its windows and banging their tiny fists against its sides. Instead, the four British superbabes chat about shopping in New York. “Of course, we had to go to Bloomie’s,” Sporty says. “And Barneys,” adds Posh. “And the stores in SoHo,” chimes in Scary.

Later, as the van crawls through midtown traffic nearer the Garden—where, in a few hours, 14,500 mostly prepubescent, mostly female fans will turn out for the Spice Girls’ July 1 concert—the conversation turns to parties (Scary recently attended a Prince bash in New York), then to celebrity attendees at tonight’s performance (Madonna and child are expected), and next to international ruminations on rude waiters (they all agree that New York’s are worse than London’s). About the only subject that doesn’t come up during the ride to the arena, conspicuously enough, is the one everyone else in Spice World can’t stop talking about: Geri Halliwell, a.k.a. Traitor Spice.

Last month, Halliwell—or Ginger, as she’s known in Spicespeak—shook the music industry (or at least bummed out lots of fifth graders) with the startling announcement that she was leaving the group, effectively ending Spice life as we know it. Precisely why the racy, flame-haired rocker suddenly decided to hang up her Union Jack miniskirt and call it quits—on the eve of the group’s first North American tour, no less—is one of the great unsolved mysteries currently swirling around the Spice Girls. Another is whether the remaining Spices can still thrive—or even survive—now that five have become four. Could this be the beginning of the end for the most masterfully marketed musical act of the decade? Or is it, as the Spices insist, merely the end of the beginning?

To find the answers, one must delve deep into the heart of Spiceness. One must slip past their army of bodyguards, follow the Spice Girls backstage at the Garden as they prepare for their Gingerless concert, even violate the very sanctum sanctorum of Spicedom: their dressing room. And, of course, one must listen to their music.

The horror. The horror.

“There are no hard feelings. We wish her all the luck in the world. We are totally behind her.”

That’s Posh Spice speaking, but it could be any of the Spice Girls. Each says the same thing—sometimes using the same exact words—when separately asked about Halliwell. The subject is first broached—gingerly, as it were—after the women have settled into their drab but bustling dressing room located deep in the Garden’s concrete bowels. In full preconcert pandemonium, the place looks a bit like an episode of ER as filmed inside Carol Channing’s closet—racks of gaudily sparkling gowns are constantly being rushed down hallways as if on the way to emergency sequinectomies. Hovering by the door, two Oddjob-size security guards in snappy black Armani suits stare unsmilingly at the interloper with the tape recorder.