Fresh Blood.

Chapter Three: Developments

It was the early hours of the morning when Mary became aware of a commotion somewhere else in the house. At first sleepy and disorientated, she rubbed her eyes, fumbling for her torch as she tried to figure out what was going on.
Suddenly her bedroom light was on and she blinked, trying to focus. What was happening?
As she brought the room into focus she realised that her houseguest was in the doorway, a strange look on her face.
“Don’t say a word.” That girl hissed. “There’s someone in the house.”
“Someone…in the house?” Mary’s eyes widened. “You mean…like a burglar?”
“I said, stay quiet!” Roxanne snapped, her voice never rising above a low murmur. “You want them to hear you?”
“Shh!” Roxanne pushed the door shut, coming to sit on the bed. She had borrowed one of Mary’s own old nightgowns for the night and she looked very strange with her bright whitish hair against the faded pink of the gown. “Yes, I mean like a burglar.”
“Shouldn’t we call the police?” Mary was frightened now.
“Hah.” Roxanne snorted. “Fat lot of good they are. No, we’re going to stop them ourselves. Grab your dressing gown and come on.”
“I…I don’t know…” Mary hesitated, and Roxanne became aware that her companion was shaking. She let out a frustrated sigh.
“Okay, be soft and wimp out.” She said scornfully. “You want everything in this place to be looted out? Believe me, I know how that works. If you want to stop them, you gotta come with me.”
“I…okay.” Mary’s pride rankled at being called soft and she obediently slipped out of bed, pulling on her dressing gown and following her guest to the door. Roxanne paused, then doused the light, gently pushing the door open and slipping out into the corridor, pulling the other girl with her.
“Where are we going?” Mary demanded in the lowest tones she could muster in the circumstances.
 “Where they are.” Roxanne responded in similarly low tones. “Shut up and follow me, okay? I know how to deal with these guys.”
Seeing little option but to go along with it, Mary did as she was bidden and heart in her throat she crept through the corridors of her house towards the master bedroom that had once belonged to her parents. Now the noises were louder, and as they reached the door Roxanne held up her hand to stop her companion. She leant up beside the door, listening carefully. Then, without a word of warning to the other girl she burst into the bedroom, catching three men in balaclava masks in the process of swiping all of the jewellery that had belonged to Mary’s beloved mother.
“What do you guys think you’re doing?” she demanded. Mary cowered in the doorway, not daring to get involved. The men were big and no doubt strong – she was sure she didn’t stand a chance. Absently she wondered if she should go call the police. Surely Roxanne couldn’t deal with three thugs all on her own?
But Roxanne had grown up with people like these, and understood how to out-manoeuvre them. Her eight long years of standing up for herself came good at that moment, for she had no fear of the intruders. Indeed, Mary wondered if she was planning a free-for-all.
“What’s it to you, lady?” One of the guys demanded. Roxanne scowled.
“Get the heck out of here, before I show you.” She threatened.
“Big talk for such a little lady.” One of the other thugs sniggered. Big mistake. Roxanne’s eyes narrowed and she launched herself at him. Though she was not as tall or as bulky as him, she took him off guard and within a matter of moments had overpowered him, leaving him clutching his head and groaning. She wheeled around on the other two, who were looking slightly less smug.
“What’s wrong, perky? Fight like a girl?” she asked of the nearest. “Now drop the stuff and scoot, before I rearrange your face for you, all right?”
“The boss told us that the girl would put up no fight.” The third thug muttered. “Let’s get outta here!”
“I’m right behind you.” The first guy agreed, dropping the handful of jewels he had gathered and making a dive for the window. Roxanne watched them, a satisfied look in her eye. She folded her arms.
“Don’t come back.” She called after them. “Else I’ll be quite happy to give you another doing, you hear me?”
That was enough for the men. With one accord they scrammed.
“Should we call the police now?” Mary emerged from her hiding place.
“You’d better not.” Roxanne turned her glare on her companion. “They’re gone, no harm done.”
“I never rat on my own kind. People have to survive.” Roxanne said curtly. “If you don’t mind, I want to go back to bed now.”
“Wait!” Mary grabbed her by the arm. “I…I mean, thank you. You…you saved my stuff. I don’t know how I can ever repay you for that.”
“Then don’t.” Roxanne shrugged. If she was honest with herself she knew that her own motives for staying at the house had initially involved a little bit of pilfering, but the girl’s kindness had put it past even her weakened conscience, and she had been surprised at how angry the break-in had made her.
Not as if it was her patch, after all.
“No, I must do something.” Mary insisted. “It gets scary being here on my own most of the year – If I’d have been all alone tonight who knows what might have happened.”
“You’d have slept your pretty little head through it all. That’s all.” Roxanne retorted. “No big deal.”
“You don’t understand…my mother meant a lot to me. Her stuff…it can’t be replaced.” Carefully Mary lifted the necklaces from the floor, placing them reverently back in the jewel box. “Look…if you want to stay here…then, then you can. I mean, until you find something you prefer, of course…as a thank you.”
Roxanne stared at her companion in shock.
“Stay? Here? Permanently?” she demanded. Mary shrugged.
“Sure…or as long as you want to, anyway.” She agreed. “Will you? I think…I think I’d feel safer if I wasn’t on my own, anyway. I’m no good with violence or…or that stuff.”
A slow smile touched Roxanne’s features.
“It’s a deal.” She agreed slowly. “I’ll stay. I was looking for a place to crash in L.A any road.”
She glanced at the jewels.
“Your mother meant that much to you, that you even keep all her jewels?” she asked.
“Of course.” Mary nodded. “Mom was everything to us till she died – we lost Dad so long ago, you see. Wasn’t…wasn’t your mother important to you?”
“My mother didn’t want me. Noone did.” Roxanne responded curtly. “I’m going back to bed now…no more questions, huh?”
“Oh…okay.” Mary nodded, watching the older girl head out of the room and back towards the spare bedroom. Then she closed the lid of the jewellery box, her expression thoughtful.
“Her own mother didn’t want her?” she mused as she headed back slowly to her own bedroom. “I can’t imagine having a childhood like that. Poor Roxanne – no wonder she’s been living rough! But…but I’m glad I asked her to stay. I’m not afraid of her now, she saved Mom’s jewels and probably a lot of other stuff. I know we’re not…alike, but…well, maybe it’ll work out okay. And…and maybe she’s not so tough after all. Perhaps…perhaps one day we’ll even be friends.”
She slipped beneath the covers with a small smile. “At least all is well now.” She mused as she drowsed off to sleep. “Wait till I tell Craig…” But that was her last thought…she was fast asleep.

 * * * * * * * * * *

“So, what’s the plan, boss?”
The sandy haired man in the ratty leather jacket leaned back in his seat, glancing across at his companion. The other man was dressed in a full black and white suit, the image of smartness and respectability, and he sat behind a big oak desk, for now the basic running of Starlight Music fell to him and his whims and ideas. Eric Raymond had been in the shadows for too long, and the death of his employer, Emmet Benton had come not a moment too soon to feed his ambition. Emmet had suffered from a long illness but his death had been sudden for his family and his colleagues…Eric had had to be careful about how he contained his joy at being left half of the music company as his own among so much grief. The other half was owned by Emmet’s two daughters, Jerrica and Kimber, but they were barely more than children – Kimber only nineteen – and he had had basic control of the music company for some time anyway. Now, though, he no longer had to pass all the contracts under Emmet’s nose before getting his way with them. The coast was clear for him to turn Starlight Music into the biggest music company on the American west coast.
And for that, he needed new blood.
Fresh talent.
Like Mary Phillips.
He had done nothing in the two weeks that had followed that girl’s stunning performance, considering carefully how best to go about things. All his sources had told him that she was innocent, naïve and vulnerable – that taking her into his ploys would be no trouble, and that she had no interest in business, so she would be unlikely to try to interfere in his wheeler dealing. His only problem was this – could he persuade someone so shy and fundamentally insecure that she had a future without letting on to her how excited he was by her clear talent?
“Last thing I want to do is create a prima donna.” He murmured to himself. He glanced at the sandy haired man. This was Zipper, one of his less honourable associates. If Eric needed a campaign sabotaged or a sponsor bribed, Zipper was the man for the job. But this one…even Zipper and his trickery could not solve his dilemma.
“There is no plan.” He admitted finally. “All I know is that I must sign this girl to Starlight Music before any other music label hears about her…and I must do it without her getting it into her head that she’s big news.” He considered the point, then snapped his fingers. “Ah…wait a minute. I do have a job for you, after all. Go and make sure that no other music companies get their oar into Mary Phillips, will you? I have to work out how best to handle this, and I can’t abide competition when it’s something I want. That girl is going to be dynamite, Zipper, and it’s me she’s going to be raking in the dough for.”
“Nice move, boss.” Zipper smirked appreciatively. “Don’t you worry. Noone will come near her…she’s all yours.”

 * * * * * * * * * * *
“What is all this stuff?”
Roxanne glanced around her, a look of confusion on her face. The two girls were in the attic, for Mary was determined to find a safer place for the jewellery, and had roped in her new housemate with pleading blue eyes and the promise that once they were done they could go shopping. Roxanne had a fascination for money, especially that of other people, which had developed from her lack of it growing up, so she had acquiesced almost immediately.
“Our music stuff, mostly.” Mary responded. “That’s my synthesiser – my mother bought it for me. And my brother keeps his drums up here sometimes, too. It’s nice and quiet.” She placed the jewels in a separate box, pushing them underneath an old blanket. “There. Think that will do it?”
“What’s this?” Roxanne, who did not have the world’s longest concentration span, was not listening. Instead she crouched beside a strange shaped case, flipping it open. “Woo. Nice guitar. Bass?”
“Yes. It belonged to my uncle…my Dad kept it after he died.” Mary glanced across the attic. “It’s electric, of course…but I haven’t had it out for years.”
“Do you play it?” Roxanne demanded. Mary shrugged.
“I can.” She agreed. “But I prefer my synth. Always have.”
Carefully Roxanne lifted the instrument out of the case, examining it more closely.
“A guy I knew back home had one of these babies.” She said absently. “Used to play it for pennies on the street corners. Sometimes he’d let me have a go.”
“You can play on this one, if you like.” Mary offered. “The adapter is in here somewhere.”
“I could?” Roxanne looked startled.
“Sure.” Mary shrugged. “Why not? It’s the least I can do when you’re such a hero.”
“Don’t you dare call me that.”  Roxanne retorted. “But…if I can play about with it…that’d be cool. I haven’t played one for such a long time.”
“Here’s the cable.” Mary produced a box, lifting her own synthesiser case and leading the way towards the steps down. “Come on…I’ll plug it in for you and get it running.”
“I can do it myself.” Roxanne snapped.
“Maybe…but it’s fairly old. It might not work properly.” Mary said evenly. Roxanne scowled, but said nothing, merely following the other girl down into the main lounge.
Once the guitar was warmed up and ready to go, Mary realised that Roxanne had a natural affinity for the instrument. Though her tutoring had been rough and ready, she had been keen to learn all she could and Mary was impressed with her knowledge, even though the girl knew few names of actual chords and confessed that she did not know where to begin reading music.
“But who needs to?” she concluded. “It’s boring, anyway. I just play by ear – much more fun.”
Mary eyed Roxanne keenly. This was a new side to the prickly visitor who had appeared in her life less than twenty-four hours earlier. She had all but dropped her defences once the guitar had been placed in her arms, and she had definite potential.
“You could play anything if you could read music.” She said at length. Roxanne snorted, shrugging her shoulders.
“Ah, who needs it?” She responded. “I do it my way or not at all.”
“Okay.” Mary shrugged. She paused. “Roxanne…I’ve been meaning to ask you. Do you have any way of abbreviating your name?”
“Doin’ what?” Roxanne paused in her absent strumming to stare at her companion.
“Do you have a nickname?”
“Noone ever dared give me a nickname.” Roxanne let out a low chuckle. “Some of the guys used to call me ‘Rox’, but that’s it. Why, anyway? What’s wrong with Roxanne?”
“Nothing!” Mary responded hurriedly. “It’s just…kinda long.”
“Well…if you have so much trouble with a few extra letters, you can always call me Roxy.” Roxanne shrugged. “It’s your call…doesn’t bother me.”
“I like Roxy.” Mary responded. “It…it suits you.”
“Don’t go all mushy on me.” Roxy warned. “I don’t do the friendship thing, so don’t try and go there, you got it?”
“Whatever you say.” Mary responded. “I…I just thought it’d be easier, that’s all.”
“Okay. Roxy it is, then.” Roxy shrugged once more, turning her attention back to the guitar. “Like it even matters.”
Mary looked thoughtful. That morning her houseguest had raided her make-up supplies and had decorated her features in a way that had taken the timid Mary by surprise. Her cheeks were adorned with three yellow slashes on one side, and a purple diamond on the other, whilst yellow and purple smears over her left eye gave her a decidedly rebellious air. Suddenly Roxy had seemed a lot older than twenty year old Mary, despite the fact there were only two years between them.
Mary herself had only ever ventured into eye shadow…she almost envied Roxy’s confidence in making herself up any way she wanted to. The outfit that she had given her guest the previous day gave the girl a look of sophistication beyond her years, and it made the retiring Mary wonder even more about Roxy’s background. It was clear that the girl had very little to say on the subject.
“Guess it can’t have been a happy one.” She mused. “Poor Roxy.”
Little did she suspect how much things were about to change for them both.

Chapter One: Mary Phillips
Chapter Two: Enter Roxy
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 Ten: Jerrica
Chapter Eleven: Only The Beginning


(The Misfits and Holograms and other animated Jem characters are copyrighted to Hasbro Inc. All characters who do not appear in Jem episodes are my own creation. This story is copyrighted to E.A Woolley (2001)