Chapter Ten: Jerrica
“I can’t believe that the Battle of the Bands is tomorrow.” Stormer
her reflection in the mirror, a frown touching her face. “Roxy, is my
squint? I still can’t get the hang of the lightning bolt.”
“Looks okay to me.” Roxy, who was lounging on her bed gave a shrug. “Hurry up with the mirror, will you? You ain’t the only one who needs make-up. What do you suppose Pizzazz’s call was all about, anyway? All she said was that she had a surprise for that Raymond jerk. What do you reckon she’s planning?”
“Who knows?” Stormer turned from the mirror, setting down her make-up brush. “Guess we’ll find out soon enough.” She moved over to the window, glancing down at the street outside. “It just feels like things have gone so quickly.”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t get all mushy and nostalgic.” Roxy grimaced, sliding off the bed and settling herself in front of the mirror before her companion could return. “We’re going to win that contest, Eric said so, and he’d better be right, too.”
“I hope so. The club dates went pretty good.” Stormer nodded her head. “I actually had someone recognise me down at the local store the other day…it was kinda scary to have someone shriek ‘Stormer’ at me!”
“Bet you ran away from them, and all.” Roxy sniggered, pausing in the application of her dramatic eye make-up.
“I did not!” Stormer looked indignant. “It was a bit embarrassing though. You think it’ll always be like that?”
“Ah, stop thinking and worrying and being wet.” Roxy sounded impatient. “We win the contest tomorrow, Eric fixes us up some publicity gimmick and there we go. In a nutshell. We don’t have to pay attention to no fans if we don’t wanna do it – it’s all up to us, so quit freaking out. We’re the stars, after all.”
“I suppose so.” Stormer paused, considering. Then she let out an exclamation. “Pizzazz! Roxy, Pizzazz is here.”
“Whoopee doo.” Roxy rolled her eyes, tossing the make-up brush aside and standing. “Come on. Let’s see what the girl wants now.”
“I hope it doesn’t involve us getting into that van with her at the wheel.” Stormer shuddered.
“What’s the matter, life moves too fast for you?” Roxy teased.
“No, but I’m almost afraid it might end.” Stormer retorted. “Doesn’t it bother you how madly she drives?”
“Hadn’t even noticed, or not really.” Roxy shrugged. “Come on, before she batters the door down!”
Stormer led the way downstairs, not without misgivings. Pizzazz’s ideas could mean literally any whim that took the singer at any given moment…In any case it wasn’t wise to keep her waiting. In the two or three weeks that they had known each other, Stormer knew enough about Pizzazz to know she had a temper equally as violent as Roxy’s, but several times more terrifying to encounter.
“You took your time.” The singer grumbled as Stormer opened the door. “Where’s Roxy? Lagging, as usual?”
“I’m here, so shut your mouth, Pizzazz.” Roxy appeared behind Stormer on the stairs. “What’s the whole secrecy thing about, anyway? What are you planning?”
“Well, I thought that we’d give dear Eric a little bit of help with our publicity.” Pizzazz smirked. “Follow me, girls, and check these babies out.”
Not knowing quite what to expect, Stormer and Roxy followed Pizzazz round to the back of the van. Inside stood three motorbikes, only they were bikes with a definite difference – with a gimmick. Each one was shaped like an electric guitar, and Stormer didn’t need to ask questions to know they’d move fast. She bit her lip. She’d never been on a motorbike before.
“Woo. Neat.” Roxy looked impressed. “Where did you get these?”
“I always get what I want.” Pizzazz shrugged. “It was no big deal. Look, mine’s that one.” She indicated, “And you girls choose one each. I say we scoot around town a bit on these, give people a wake up call, and then screech ‘em into Eric’s office and give him the surprise of his life.”
“Sounds cool to me. I’m in.” Roxy nodded, leaping up into the van. “I want this one. Stormer, that’s yours.” Then, as Stormer paused, she glanced at her housemate. “What’s the matter? Can’t you ride one of these things?”
“I…I’ve never tried.” Stormer admitted.
“Well, bout time you learnt, fast.” Pizzazz snickered. “Grab the bike and stop whingeing, Stormer. You’re a Misfit now, remember?”
“I know.” Stormer sighed, obediently getting the bike down from the van. “Shouldn’t we have helmets?”
“Nah. They’re safe. Helmets are for wimps.” Pizzazz shrugged. “Who wants hat hair?” She pulled her own bike down, jumping on board and revving up the motor. “Well, what are we waiting for? You can’t catch me!” And she was off.
“I’ll show her who can catch who.” Roxy mounted her own vehicle, zooming off in the direction the singer had gone and not without misgivings Stormer pushed the van door shut, clambering onto her own machine and hoping for the best. It took her a few tries to get it started, but once it was going it shot off at such speed that she had to close her eyes, too fearful to see where she was going.
Finally, though, she got it under a modicum of control and opened them again, turning to look for Pizzazz and Roxy. A shriek, followed by a charge of terrified looking pedestrians told her the direction in which they had headed and she manoeuvred the bike around the swarming crowds to rejoin them in the main square. Pizzazz was busy herding people out of her way whilst Roxy was attempting wheelies around the old fountain. Despite herself Stormer giggled. Whatever else the Misfits were, they were never dull to be around.
“Hey!” A policeman hurried into the square, his expression grim. “You girls!”
“Beat it, Misfits!” Pizzazz exclaimed, turning sharp right and shooting off down one of the side-roads. Roxy and Stormer were quick to follow, zooming in and out of roads and houses till Stormer at least was getting dizzy.
Pizzazz screeched to a stop at the end of one of the roads, waiting for Roxy and Stormer to catch up with her.
“Think we lost him.” She observed.
“Loser.” Roxy smirked. “Well? Shall we go introduce Eric to our new gizmos, huh?”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Pizzazz nodded. “Hey, you didn’t even fall off!” She eyed Stormer. “Guess any fool can ride a bike.” She grinned. “Come on, girlies. Eric won’t know what hit him.”
“He never does when we’re in town!” Roxy exclaimed. Stormer rolled her eyes, following on behind the other two. She just hoped that the bikes had enough fuel…
“Hey, isn’t Eric’s office on the top floor?” she demanded as she managed to draw level with Roxy. The blond shrugged.
“So? We’ll take the elevator.” She said. “No biggie, Stormer. Stop being a spoilsport.”
“Bikes…in an elevator?” Stormer stared. “Well, if you say so.”
“What’s the matter – scared?” she demanded.
“No.” Stormer shook her head. “I just don’t think they’ll all fit, that’s all.”
“They’ll fit if I make ‘em fit.” Pizzazz, overhearing, put in her bit. “Noone argues with me and gets away with it.”
“They don’t make helmets big enough to fit her head size.” Roxy muttered to Stormer, who grinned. Despite her housemate’s tough exterior and fast-paced style of living, she felt something of a companionship with Roxy that she didn’t feel with Pizzazz. Maybe one day she would, but for now contesting the singer’s ideas was simply a fearsome idea to even consider.
Starlight Music was bustling with people as usual by the time the Misfits rolled into the ground floor parking lot, and the security guard did not even look up from his desk as they zoomed past him. Over the last week or two he had gotten used to the Misfits and their modes of arrival.
“I bet we don’t fit.” Stormer muttered as they waited impatiently for the lift to stop at the ground floor.
“Well, we’re gonna try.” Pizzazz shrugged. “Quit complaining, will ya? You’re giving me a headache!”
Eric, as it happened, was not alone when the girls made their entrance. He was entertaining a young blond girl whose company he had hoped never to have inside Starlight Music’s headquarters.
Jerrica was only twenty two, but she had a determination that Eric had seen in her late father, and somehow he knew that the patronising and intimidating persona he was fronting towards her would not have as much effect as it would on her younger sister Kimber. Jerrica wanted money to support the group of foster girls her parents had taken in over the years, and Jerrica wasn’t about to leave without it.
Patiently he explained to her that Starlight Music was a business, not a charity, that she was just a child, and that he was running things now. All to no avail. Jerrica simply placed her hands on her hips and told him in no uncertain terms that only half of the company was his.
Eric had problems.
So long as Jerrica and Kimber had been occupied with their own affairs he had had free reign over Starlight Music and it’s finances. He had embezzled a proportion of the money into his own pocket, and used a fair amount more to promote his newest protégées. Even if he had been of the opinion that the Starlight Girls were a worthy cause, he could not have spared her a single penny. Not even to pay her off and stop her bothering him, which would have been his ideal course of action.
But she was still a kid and she lacked his experience…he only hoped he could deal with her.
He had reckoned, of course, without the Misfits. Some instinct told him that they were about to make their appearance, an instinct soon backed up by the roar of motorbike engines not far from his door. Thinking quickly, he decided that Jerrica had better know he meant business – that Starlight Music had a new obligation now. A hot, new, up and coming rock group.
And, failing that, he was sure that Roxy or Pizzazz could deal with the elder Miss Benton.
But Eric made the wrong decision. Allowing the Misfits and Jerrica to meet was to be something he would live to regret for the remainder of his career in music management. For Jerrica did something that Pizzazz’s pride would not soon forget.
She called them trash.
And then Eric did something that Pizzazz and the other Misfits would not forgive him for for some time to come.
He told Jerrica about the Battle of the Bands.
And so it began…Jerrica Benton versus Eric Raymond, the prize: Starlight Music.
For Jerrica did not give up so easily.
As Eric was about to find out.
“What did she want here anyway?” Once Jerrica had taken her dignified exit, Roxy sat down on Eric’s desk, shoving his paperwork aside carelessly as she did so. “And did she mean what she said, about this music company?”
“Yeah, Eric, I thought this joint belonged to you?” Pizzazz agreed, looking suspicious. Eric nodded his head.
“It does. Effectively.” He responded wearily. “Emmet Benton hired me to take over management here during his lifetime and when he died he left controlling interest of the company to me. Jerrica and her sister have a share in it but merely as silent partners. The operation of this place is down to me and me alone.”
“She didn’t seem to think so.” Roxy raised an eyebrow. “What a wimp!”
“I’m Jerrica Benton and I own half this company.” Pizzazz mimicked. She laughed. “What’s a beanpole like that going to do to us, huh? Beat us to death with padded gloves?”
“Pizzazz, please.” Eric snapped. “I’m trying to think.”
“What gives?” Pizzazz demanded. “You’re not worried about her, surely? A shrimp like that? What can she do?”
“Legally, Pizzazz, she can do whatever she likes.” Eric responded darkly. “I’ve spent a lot of money on promoting you three, but if you let me down Jerrica will be in like a flash. You understand me?”
“How come you never told us about her before, Eric?” Stormer asked.
“Yeah, how come, creep?” Roxy put in.
“Because, my dears, I didn’t expect her to make an appearance here.” Eric replied. “Not that it matters. If you’d kept your mouth shut about the Battle of the Bands then things might have worked out, but if I know Jerrica – and sadly I do – she won’t just give in at that. We’re going to have to be very careful tomorrow.”
“You were the one who told her.” Roxy pointed out.
“Yes, but I was handling it. I was trying to give her the impression that the business had moved on without her. You had to tell her that it was rigged!” Eric exclaimed.
“Ah, cool out. She won’t do anything.” Pizzazz shrugged. “She’s nothing, Eric. We’re going to win that contest.”
“See that you do.” Eric retorted. “I’m not going to let Jerrica Benton hold me to ransom for my own music company, just to pander to a bunch of foster brats. Whatever it takes, see that she’s kept well under thumb.”
“That’s your job.” Roxy shrugged. “You can ‘see to it’, Eric. None of our business.”
“Roxy’s right.” Pizzazz nodded. “We’re not doing your dirty work for you. Come on, girls. Let’s split, huh?”
“But…but the bikes!” Eric exclaimed. It was too late, however. The Misfits were gone.
Eric buried his head in his hands. He only hoped that things would work out how he’d planned…
* * * * * * * * * * *
“I want a word with you.”
Allie lounged in the doorway of the hall, her arms folded and a dark frown on her face. Jetta had been a member of the Tinkerbillys for the barest number of days, and yet she had cast a spell over the others – they all seemed eager to bow to her ideas. More, they seemed to like her. It was beyond Allie why…and it was beginning to grate. It took very little to make her possessive or jealous where Snake was concerned, also, and she was certain that the saxophonist was trying to lure her man away.
Indirectly, she wasn’t wrong. Jetta had no designs on Snake, but a large percentage of the leader’s interest in Jetta joining the band had been to do with more than music. Jetta was not stupid – she had observed this turn of events with amusement. She didn’t care for his attentions, let him waste those on the puppy-dog Allie. But it gave her some security within the band, so she had not actively discouraged him. After all, she was shrewd enough to know that in many ways she was still on trial.
“What is it now?” she asked, not even glancing up from where she was carefully polishing her beautiful saxophone, and replacing the battered reed with a new one.
“I want to talk to you about Snake.” Allie closed the door behind her with a bang, marching across to where the dark girl was sitting. Still Jetta paid her little attention and the singer reached out, grabbing the main part of the saxophone from her foe.
“Hey! Give that back!” Now Jetta was paying attention. “Get your grubby little hands off it, Allie.” She went to grab it back but Allie held it out of reach.
“I want you to listen to me.” She said in dangerously low tones. “Snake is mine, and that’s how it’s staying. You got that? Else something unpleasant might just happen to your saxophone.”
“Get a grip, will you?” Jetta scowled, this time managing to get a hold of her instrument and wrenching it away from the other girl. “I’m not interested in Snake, and I ain’t a bit interested in you, either. Far as I’m concerned he’s all yours. I’m not here to make a fool of myself over some guy.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Allie demanded.
“Means whatever you like.” Jetta slipped her instrument inside it’s case, latching it firmly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, love…”
“Don’t ‘love’ me!” Allie’s eyes flashed fire and she grabbed her companion tightly around the wrist as Jetta made to leave. “This band was doing fine before Snake took leave of his mind and decided we needed another member. You got that? Toe the line or you’re out on your ear!”
“Cool down and grow up, Allie. We’re all adults ‘ere.” Jetta retorted, her tone cool. “In any case, if you want to know the truth, the band would be much better off if you took a long walk off a short pier. You can’t sing, you can’t play…all you can do is pout and screech and yell. You give me a headache – no wonder Snake’s gettin’ bored of you.”
“Why, you…” Allie snarled, making a wild grab for Jetta’s hair, but the sax player was too quick. “I oughta…”
“Yeah, you oughta, but I don’t think you will.” Jetta smirked. “You ain’t got the guts. See you tomorrow, Allie.”
“You’re not going anywhere.” Allie barred her companion’s path. “Not till you give me your word that you’ll let Snake alone, you hear me? He’s mine…he’d be a fool to get mixed up with trash like you!”
“What did you call me?” Now Jetta’s amusement was gone and an angry rage flashed into her dark eyes.
“Trash. That’s what you are.” Allie was beginning to regret her boldness, but she kept her bravado going. “Your parents gamble away all their money and your brother…”
“You pipe down.” Dumping her saxophone on the floor, Jetta lunged at Allie, grabbing her tightly by the shoulders and shaking her hard. “Now, you listen to me. My family ain’t none of your business, you got that? I don’t know ‘ow you know so much about me, and I don’t much care. You breathe a word of that to anyone and you’ll be playing concerts from the inside of my sax!”
“They already know.” Allie retorted, trying to struggle free. “Let go of me! The others already know. It was all over the papers when that brother of yours got locked up, we’re not stupid, you know.”
“I think you are.” Jetta’s eyes narrowed and she pushed Allie up against the wall, raising her fist as a warning. “You don’t seem to ‘ave learnt, little girl, that there are certain things you do not mention in polite conversation.”
“Polite? You? Give me a break.” Allie tried her best to sound scornful. Jetta let out a dangerous laugh.
“Where would you like it? Your nose or your arm?” she asked in low tones.
“Jetta! Allie! What the…”
Distracted by the fresh voice, Jetta swung around and Allie managed to slide out of the other girl’s grasp. Snake stood in the doorway, a look of shock on his face at the scene he had walked into.
“She attacked me!” Allie hurried to her boyfriend’s side, throwing her arms around him as she feigned relief and terror. “I didn’t do a thing, Snake, it was her, she went beserk!”
Jetta retrieved her saxophone in silence, not meeting Snake’s gaze, and barely even acknowledging him. He frowned, glancing from his girlfriend to the sax player.
“Jetta, you gonna tell me what all that was about?” he demanded.
“I was just giving your drip of a girlfriend a lesson in what happens to people who mess with my family.” Jetta replied, her voice devoid of all emotion. “I was just going. Don’t bother about it.”
“No, wait.” Snake pulled away from Allie, hurrying to grab Jetta by the arm. “Wait a minute. Where are you going?”
“Home, if it’s all the same to you.”
“Did I say I was?” Jetta met his gaze with a cool one of her own. “It takes more than a wimp like her to force me out, Snake. I’ve just had enough of her company.”
“But Snake, she attacked me!” Allie’s eyes were big with disbelief. “How come you’re siding with her?”
“Perhaps because I’m not behaving like I still need nappies?” Jetta snapped. “I’ve had it with you for today. See you tomorrow, Snake.” And with that, she was gone.
“What did I tell you?” Snake wheeled on his girlfriend. “What exactly did you say to her?”
“Nothing.” Allie protested. “She just…”
“I don’t believe ‘she just’ anything.” Snake interrupted. “You were giving her a hard time about her family, weren’t you?”
“Well, she’s as bad as they are. I was just telling her she oughta toe the line. She’s trying to take this group over.” Allie looked sulky.
“I’m not going to warn you again, Allie.” Snake looked displeased. “Don’t upset Jetta. If she quits this band because of you then that’s the last you’ll see of the Tinkerbillys or me, you understand?”
“But…” Allie’s jaw dropped.
“But nothing.” Snake’s voice was firm. “Come on. Let’s go.”
In sulky silence Allie followed her boyfriend out of the hall to his car. In her mind she added another black mark against Jetta’s name. However the sax player had done it, she had even Snake brainwashed to her false charms.
“Well, not me. I know she’s really scum.” She muttered to herself. “And the sooner Snake and the others see it, the better. The Tinkerbillys don’t need Jetta, and that’s that!”
Jetta, for her part, had returned to the flat she had shared with Laura and Stuart since a huge row over her music had driven her out of her parent’s home some months back, in a fine temper of her own. She was a fairly collected individual as a rule, not allowing the little things in life to stress her out, but she was sensitive about her background. Her family had never meant much to her – and she had received little in the way of affection from them. Many of the things Allie had said had been true. Her mother and father, Bertie and Flo were more interested in winning on the horses and pulling scams to make extra money than they were in the activities of their son or daughter. As a result, her brother Jeremy had taken things too far and wound up in jail for armed robbery, whilst Jetta herself had been left to take the flack.
And she had taken a lot of it. Academically clever as she was, she wasn’t the kind of person who liked to knuckle down to hard work if she could avoid it. Music had long since been her only lifeline, ever since the day when, aged six and a half, she had visited her grandfather on an errand from her mother and found him dusting his old saxophone. It had fascinated her, and he had played it for her, captivating her young imagination in a flash. Though she had been too small to reach many of the keys, he had been only to glad to let her have a go and then had begun their special secret – she would sneak over there after school most nights a week and he would teach her, little by little, how to play the magnificent instrument.
Charlie Burns had been a loving grandfather, and Jetta had adored him with all of her heart.
But Charlie had died when Jetta had been only twelve, and his beautiful saxophone had disappeared. Jetta did not know what had become of it, but she strongly suspected that her parents had gotten rid of it. It had broken her young heart, and in an instant, toughened it. She would not let herself get so sentimental over an object again, of that she was sure…she wouldn’t let herself weaken and show her feelings to anyone, especially not her parents. She bore their strictures on getting a job and getting money, and had occupied her imagination by following her brother’s lead, winding up in more scrapes than she cared to remember. She had never done anything that could have resulted in her arrest, but she had driven her parents to distraction with her exploits. By the time she had turned sixteen she was well out of their control. She got herself a job under her own steam, waitressing in a local café in order to save up her pennies for a saxophone of her own, and finished school without a thought about going on to university. It had taken three long years to find the money, for her mother would often stumble across her savings and they would mysteriously ‘disappear’ into the oblivion of the betting world, but in the end her determination had won through and she had done it. And, despite her decision not to be sentimental any more, she had a deep love for her saxophone.
It reminded her, after all, of the only person who had ever truly loved her.
Jeremy’s arrest, trial and imprisonment had been a hard row for the family to hoe. The papers had covered it in great detail and she had come in for much bullying and flack. But it was more than that. Jetta had idolised Jeremy, and he had let her down. She had seen the reality, her brother’s character stripped to the bare bones and it had horrified her to see that he was planning to lead her into the same activities – in fact he had even been willing to use her to try and clear his own name.
It had been a shock, and she had learnt from it. Though she was fairly friendly with several people down her end, she had learnt that in the long run it was only wise to look out for number one. Other people let you down, after all. Even her grandfather had left her alone to face an unsympathetic world with her desire to play.
She had learnt to be strong.
In some ways her strength had done her good. It had gotten her out of a broken family and had given her the independence to do as she pleased, without worries or regrets.
But on the other hand, it had let something inside her wither and die – trust. There were very few people who Jetta felt she could trust even a little bit. In fact it was only Laura who was Jetta's sole security in the cold hard world she had come to understand...Laura had been her friend since they had been tiny children, and had never let her down. Deep inside of her, despite all her doubts and suspicions about other people and their motives, Jetta trusted Laura implicitly, and Laura, for her part, understood Jetta's situation and provided her with support whenever the strain of reality broke her down. It was only Laura who truly knew Jetta for the mixed up girl she was...that the composed act was just that, an act, that since the day her brother had betrayed her she had not been secure, and she kept much of her pain over her past bottled up behind sarcasm and cool wit. Not even Stuart, who had known her as long as Laura, appreciated how mixed up his flatmate was inside her composed façade.
That was another reason Jetta was determined to get to America. She wanted a new start, a new beginning. No more Sheila Burns, sister of a criminal, daughter of gamblers and crooks. She would create a new identity for herself, and noone need ever know where she really came from. Finally she would have set herself free from her childhood neuroses, free to be who she wanted to be and achieve success in the only thing that she had ever really wanted to do.
“Hey, Sheila!” Laura came out of the building as Jetta locked her car. “Good practice?” Then she read her friend’s expression. “Hey, what’s eating you?”
“Don’t ask.” Jetta growled, shoving her car key into her pocket.
“That Allie witch getting at you again?”
“I’d like to put her properly in her place.” Jetta rolled her eyes. “I don’t want to talk about it, Laura. I’ve got about half an hour to change and get to work, anyway, so I haven’t time to stop about here.”
“Fair enough. I was going out anyhow.” Laura shrugged with a grin. “Word of advice, though. Don’t walk into Tony’s Café with that look on your face. You’ll lose half the clientele through fright!”
“Hah, hah, very funny.” Jetta rolled her eyes. “See you later, Laura. If I ‘aven’t killed someone before then.”
Laura laughed, getting aboard her motorcycle and slipping the helmet over her red hair.
“Sure, see you later. I’ll bring food in with me, better that than Stuart cooking.” She replied, revving the motor and speeding away before Jetta could respond.
Luckily, the flat was empty, and by the time she had showered and changed for her evening shift at the café – needs dictated that even though she was now a Tinkerbilly she still needed the money she got from waitressing – she was in a more level frame of mind. Putting Allie out of her mind, she tied her dark hair back into a ponytail, whistling an upbeat tune as she headed back out to her car.
She’d show all of them. One day, they’d sit up and take notice.
Of that, Jetta was sure.
Chapter One: Mary Phillips
Chapter Two: Enter Roxy
Chapter Three: Developments
Chapter Four: Birth Of A Star
Chapter Five: Eric Raymond
Chapter Six: Outta My Way!
Chapter Seven: London
Chapter Eight: Shawn Harrison
Chapter Nine: The Tinkerbillys
Chapter Eleven: Only The Beginning