Half past one.
Stormer glanced up at the clock over the mantle, shutting her folder
with a sigh and setting it to one side. It was late, and yet somehow
she didn't feel like sleeping. Elliot had left for Washington DC three
days earlier, and after a hurried goodbye, the songwriter was acutely
aware of how much she was going to miss her new acquaintance.
"It's not that I've fallen in love with him or anything." She said
pensively, replacing her file with her other songwriting scribbles and
moving to leave the little room in which she did much of her writing.
"But I did like him, and it was nice to have a guy who I could just
talk to without worrying about his ulterior motives. I don't have many
friends who are guys. Actually, I don't think I have any, bar Craig,
and he's my brother. Or Justin...I suppose he's become a friend since
he started seeing Jetta and being involved in Roxy's life. But he's
their guy. Not mine. Elliot seemed to understand me better, in some
ways. I'm not in love with him, but I am going to miss him being
around. Sometimes I wish Pizzazz wasn't so impulsive."
She padded down the stairs to the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of
water from the tap and taking a sip. "Now I don't want to sleep, I
don't want to write and I feel bummed out, right in the middle of the
holiday season. It's wrong , but I just can't help it and...what was
A noise from the salon made her start, and she set down her glass on
the unit, taking cautious steps towards the kitchen door and peering
out into the corridor. The salon door was ajar and the soft glow of the
lamps alerted her to the fact one of her housemates was still up.
"I thought they went to bed." She mused. "Unless it's Jetta, back from
Justin's. But she doesn't usually show up in the middle of the night. I
hope they didn't have a fight or something."
She pushed the door open, stepping into the room and pausing as she
surveyed the scene. Pizzazz sat in the big corner armchair, swathed in
her dressing gown with a pile of books at her feet. In her lap was one
of the expensive photo albums into which all of the Misfits' most
glamorous photographs and press articles went, and at the sound of
company the singer glanced up, offering Stormer a faint smile.
"I thought you were asleep." She said quietly. Stormer shook her head,
softly closing the door behind her with a faint click.
"Likewise." She responded. "But I was upstairs, writing. What are you
doing? I don't think I've ever seen you go through those old books."
"Never had the time to live in the past." Pizzazz pursed her lips,
flicking over pages. "But I couldn't sleep, so I came down here. That's
all. Wanted something to bore me to sleep. This seemed the logical
"I didn't think anything the Misfits did was boring." Stormer came to
join her, leaning up against the chair as she peered over her friend's
shoulder. "Wow, that is an old one. Do you remember that shoot? It was
scorching hot, and the director was a complete ass. You and Roxy wound
up putting seaweed in his bag and a jellyfish in one of his shoes...I
was so scared you'd get into trouble. It was back before Jetta was even
us...doesn't it seem like it's been forever?"
"More than you know." Pizzazz said pensively. "Watching him hop up and
down the beach was a blast. I can still picture him, sad little man."
She sighed, sitting back against the seat and closing the book.
"Things were so much simpler then." She remarked absently. "Before we
had to do anything like run music companies or...or sue chief
executives or worry about Daddy spending Christmas at the mansion."
"Guess nothing stays simple forever." Stormer looked surprised. "Is
something wrong, Pizzazz? You're not usually nostalgic like this."
"No...no." Pizzazz shook her head. "Just stress, that's all. Stupid
company and all the work Eric's damn well left me to sort out. And now
I have to worry about hiring a new cleaner, which is just another thing
to bore me rigid."
"A new cleaner?" Stormer frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Well, one of them parted company with Misfits Music this afternoon."
Pizzazz drew her lips into a thin line. "He was being an ass and I
don't employ asses."
"What did he do?" Stormer's eyes became big at this.
"He was flirting with that girl on reception. A whole lot." Pizzazz
grimaced. "She was getting all stupid and giggly and not answering her
phone, and he was already behind schedule. I won't have it in my
company, Stormer. Fraternising - isn't that what they call it? I won't
have these jerkoff guys thinking they can follow their damn labido
wherever it takes them. It's a business, not a dating hotline. I told
him he'd be paid a month in lieu but if he dared come near Misfits
Music - or Ellen when she's on duty - again, he'll find himself in
"And now I need to find someone to fill his post." She added wearily.
"Last thing that I need is more recruitment hassles."
"Maybe Elliot should have stayed." Stormer suggested lightly. Pizzazz
shook her head.
"Not a chance." She said firmly. "The further apart you and he are, the
better. Besides, he's a smug jerk."
"There was nothing between Elliot and I, Pizzazz. Only friendship."
"Well, now it will stay that way." Pizzazz pursed her lips. "I keep
trying to think of a way to fix Jetta and Justin, but I can't fire his
ass so easily, dammit. He's the best at what he does and he damn well
knows it. It's such a pain."
"Not every relationship is bad, you know." Stormer put a gentle hand on
her shoulder. "I mean, not all guys are in it to swipe a girl's money
or just to get their way with her. Jetta and Justin are a cool couple.
They have chemistry...I think they're happy. Leave them be, huh?
They're not hurting anyone."
"You say that now." Pizzazz knitted her brows together. "But you just
wait. You'll see I'm right. Look at tonight! Where is she? We could
have been Misfits on the town tonight, but instead she's taken off with
that jerk and left us all in the lurch. How often does that happen? All
the friggin' time these days!"
"You really are wound up." Stormer observed, casting a keen glance at
her companion. "It's not worth all this stress, you know. Let it go.
Let it all go. You've got enough with the company without trying to
police everyone's love life."
"I just want to keep the Misfits as they should be." Pizzazz spoke in
obstinate tones, but perceptive Stormer picked up a hint of wistfulness
behind the words. "We were a good band, weren't we? I mean, before all
of this? Before my accident? Before...before Eric? We were
"Of course." Stormer was surprised by the question. "And we still are,
you know. We'll have that number one single, you just wait and see. I
still believe we've more than got what it takes, and so should you."
"I know." Pizzazz sighed. "God, this ain't like me."
"No, it isn't." Stormer agreed. "Pizzazz, you look tired and you're
white as a ghost. Go to bed, huh? Get some sleep. You look like you
need it and everything else will still be there in the morning."
"Yes..." Pizzazz sighed, and for a moment she looked almost haunted.
"Yes, I suppose it will. All of it."
She got to her feet, setting the book down on the pile with the others.
"Maybe you're right. It just all seems like so much at the moment."
"And I hear myself whining to you and I can't stop doing it." She
acknowledged. "It's driving me crazy!"
"Then you really do need to rest up." Despite herself, Stormer smiled.
"It's almost Christmas. Your party isn't far after that...it's not all
"Damn party." Pizzazz furrowed her brow as she remembered. "Well, at
least there's one thing. Daddy won't be there after all."
"He won't?" Stormer looked surprised. "I thought he would."
"He'll be in LA, but he has a pressing engagement somewhere across the
city." Pizzazz shrugged her shoulders. "I guess we'll be without Papa
"Well, maybe that's for the best. What he doesn't know won't hurt him."
Stormer said wryly. A troubled look crossed Pizzazz's face at this, but
it was gone in an instant and she managed a smile, nodding her head.
"Yeah." she agreed softly. "You don't know how damn true that really
* * * * *
"God, do I need a bloody night off."
Jetta glanced at her reflection in her compact mirror, eying her
make-up with a sigh and then snapping it shut, slipping it back into
her trouser pocket.It was New Year's Eve, and one of the big downstairs
rooms in the Gabor Mansion had been decked out with garlands and
tinsel, with an unmistakeably expensive touch. It was quarter to
midnight, and the room was swarming with guests, some of whom Jetta
recognised and others she knew were strangers. As music began to blare
out of speakers set to one side, she bit her lip, glancing around at
"I swear, I ain't had a moment to stop an' breathe lately. Not
since Elliot scarpered back to Washington an' left me 'oldin' the baby,
as it were. I'm not sure I'm cut out for big business, Justin. I'm a
rock musician. I ain't a corporate whizz. All of this is beyond me an'
slippin' out of my control."
She sighed again.
"And next week I have to meet with all the heads of department and tell
them...something." She added. "What, I don't know. I ain't thought it
up yet. I swear, I need tonight to just kick back an' have a good time.
I'm startin' to forget what that's like!"
"I'm just amazed Pizzazz let my invitation stand." Justin said
thoughtfully, wrapping his arms around her as he bent to give her a
kiss. "She's been particularly hostile to me of late, you know."
"I don't think she expected you to be here." Jetta mused. "You were
flyin' out to New York for Christmas...I guess she figured she could
invite a guy who wasn't goin' to make it."
She smiled at him.
"I'm glad you came back for it, though." She owned. "I need some kind
of outlet or I'm going to go mad. I'm dreamin; of paperwork, Justin.
Dreamin' of facts an' figures an' bleedin' tax forms! That's not even
remotely normal...I just wish things would get back to the way they
"Well, it's almost a brand new year." Justin observed, glancing up at
the clock as he did so. "Maybe 1990 will be a less frantic year for the
Misfits - what do you think?"
"I think sadly not." Jetta looked rueful. "But I'll drink to it,
"Then let's get you another drink." Justin suggested, leading his
girlfriend across the marble-polished floor to the bar that had been
constructed for the occasion. "What'll it be?"
"Vodka and coke." Jetta told him. "Thanks."
"Well, you need to have something to drink in the new year, however
much of a pessimist you are about it." Justin's eyes twinkled with
amusement. "Any new year's resolutions, Jetta?"
"Yeah." Jetta groaned. "To relocate my life somewhere in all this
"She put a lot of faith in you, giving you this job." He reminded her,
as he ordered his own drink. "She must trust you."
"Or want to keep me away from you, which I'm startin' to think is her
real motive." Jetta said darkly. "She's been fanatical about people
goin' around in twos of late. More than usual, I mean."
"Well, she's always hated me, so I'm not going to worry about it."
Justin said philosophically. "Can you see Roxy in this crowd?"
"Over there." Jetta pointed to where the platinum Misfit and her curly
haired companion were lounging against the wall, deep in conversation.
"With Stormer. Why?"
"If it's okay with you, I'd like to drink in the new year with my
sister." Justin's eyes twinkled. "It'll be the first time I do, after
"Oh, whatever." Jetta shrugged. "Be my guest."
"Thank you." Justin grinned. "And you're coming too - I want to drink
it in with both of you."
"Better hope Roxy ain't too drunk, then. There could be a brawl." Jetta
observed laconically, but nonetheless she allowed herself to be led
across to where the two other Misfits were.
"Almost time!" Stormer grinned at them as they approached. "We were
just trying to find you and Pizzazz in the crowd, Jetta. Have you seen
her? Misfits always drink the new year in together."
"Actually, I 'aven't seen 'er since we were gettin' ready." Jetta
admitted, her expression creasing in a frown. "She was down 'ere when
guests first began arrivin', then she...I don't know where she went."
"More than likely she found some guy and took him off to do some
private New Year celebrating." Roxy grimaced. "Don't bother about her,
okay? You know what she's like."
"I guess so." Stormer frowned. "But New Year, Roxy..."
"New Year's just another night. It's just one where you get to drink
and shout a lot more than other nights." Roxy shrugged her shoulders.
"Don't sweat it. Like I said, she'll be holed up somewhere."
Before anyone could respond, the big countdown clock that had been set
up on the far wall began to announce the ten second countdown, and
Justin shrugged his shoulders, raising his glass in a toast.
"Well, a Happy New Year to all who are here." He joked. "Let's hope
1990 is a little less mental!"
"Amen to that!" Jetta grinned, as the grandfather clock in the corner
began to chime and as pockets of glittering confetti burst out from all
over the hall. "Because God knows it can't be much worse!"
As the party flared up into full swing, Jetta was startled by a voice
at her left hand. She frowned, turning.
"Matilda?" She asked. "What's up? What do you want?"
"I just wondered if you'd spoken to Miss Gabor." Matilda seemed
concerned. "She's not been herself today, I've noticed that - usually
she's so involved in getting ready for these things, but she's barely
said a word about the arrangements and I haven't seen her anywhere
since the party began. I have to take off home in a minute or two - I
promised Mr Gabor I'd keep an eye on things here...but I haven't seen
her to ask her anything all night."
"We think she took off." Jetta told her. "I don't know where...why?
What's so urgent?"
"Nothing." Matilda shook her head. "It's just not like her to miss a
party, that's all. Particularly not one that she's hosting. I just
wondered if she was unwell again."
"Again?" Jetta's brows knitted. "How do you mean, again? Did she tell
you about what happened at work?"
"Work? Matilda looked startled. "No, Miss. I just meant that she's not
been feeling herself the last couple of mornings - I've heard her, when
I've arrived, and she's been white as a sheet, moving around the place.
I suppose I'm worried she's picked something up. She truly doesn't look
herself at the moment - and I'm sure last night she was sick. I almost
debated asking her if I should stay overnight, in case she needed
me...but then, she's not a little girl any more."
Jetta pursed her lips, digesting this anxious tirade of words with some
difficulty. Then she shrugged her shoulders.
"If you got to go, go." She said at length. "We'll sort 'er out, if
she's around, so don't worry. She's pretty tough - even if she 'as
developed some kind of bug of late, she'll be all right. Probably she
'ad too much to drink, or something. I know her father ordered in a
crate of expensive booze for the Christmas celebrations."
"No, that's not it." Matilda shook her head. "They've not been touched
since Mr Gabor was here on Christmas Day, and Miss Gabor hasn't drunk
anything bar water this last week. I'm sure I'd have noticed,
otherwise, and she hasn't touched her morning cups of coffee or
anything. Maybe you think I'm a fussy fool, Miss Burns, but she was
never really sick growing up...she doesn't generally contract these
"Well, don't sweat it." Jetta assured her. "I told you. We'll deal with
her. But just because you ain't seen 'er drinkin', it don't mean she
ain't taken a few nights out on the town. This is Pizzazz we're talkin'
about...and if this was anythin' other than excess of alcohol, I'd be
very surprised. But you go if you got to an' don't fluster. She won't
like it if she knows an' it's probably nothin', in any case. All right?"
"All right." Matilda pursed her lips. "Then I'd better be away. Thank
you, Miss Burns. I know I seem like a fussy idiot to you, but it puts
my mind at rest to know that you'll keep an eye on her for me. Mr Gabor
said he wouldn't be back till tomorrow at the earliest and well, even
now she's grown up, he does like making sure she's all right."
"So what was that about?" As the housekeeper withdrew, Stormer put a
hand on Jetta's arm. "What did Matilda want?"
"She thinks Pizzazz has come down with somethin' and wants me to play
nursemaid." Jetta grimaced. "Said she's not 'erself, or somethin' -
though at this time of year, she's probably jus' perpetually 'ungover.
It wouldn't surprise me if she'd been down the clubs a few times when
we've not been aware of it - you know the kind of girl she is."
Stormer looked troubled.
"What if she hasn't?" She hazarded. "Jetta, Matilda knows Pizzazz
pretty well. What if she's right?"
"Why?" Jetta frowned. "I don't follow..."
"The other night she was up late, going through photo albums." Stormer
said quietly. "She was white as a sheet and acting all strange then.
She passed out in the studio. Maybe it was heat, maybe it wasn't...I'm
starting to wonder. She hasn't eaten breakfast with us all this week,
and she hasn't gone near the drink Harvey bought. Not even on Christmas
Day when we all had a glass of something. She was drinking mineral
water - or didn't you notice?"
"I got a bit merry." Jetta owned, then, "Mineral water? Seriously?"
"Yeah." Stormer nodded. "She said she had a headache and that she
didn't like the vintage Harvey had chosen."
"Since when?" Jetta's brow furrowed, and Stormer spread her hands.
"So she was teetotal at Christmas?"
"And she's not anywhere to be seen tonight, either." Jetta sighed. "All
right. God knows what I might walk in on, but I guess I'd better trot
upstairs an' see if she's there. Though she's payin' the therapy bill
if I walk in on 'er and some guy, I'm tellin' you. Some things are best