Chapter Six: Outta My Way!
Eric looked expectantly at his companion, settling himself more comfortably in his big chair. “What did you bring me?”
“What you asked for, boss.” Zipper offered a smug smile, dropping a file onto his employer’s desk. “Here’s the details on that Pelligrini girl. Some high school dropout from Philadelphia, that’s what I heard. Ran away from home, living rough.”
“Then what’s she doing in California? More importantly, what was she doing at Mary Phillips’ house?” Eric exclaimed. “What else, Zipper? No criminal record, I trust?”
“Nah, she’s clean as a whistle, boss.” Zipper shook his head. “I took special care to check that much out. Stories go that she’s not all on the level, if you get my drift, but there’s nothing the cops can pin on her.”
“Well, at least that’s something.” Eric sighed. “I’m beginning to think I’ve got more than I bargained for in these three girls. If only that Phillips kid didn’t write such good music! But it’s done now. I’ll just have to keep miss Roxanne to heel. Good work, Zipper…keep it up and I’ll have to see about a little bonus.”
Zipper’s face transformed into a sly grin.
“Whatever you say, boss.” He said. “Whatever you say.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
”Woo. Nice office.”
Roxy glanced around her in approval, moving over to the big open windows to gaze out at the skyline. “Whoever had this place set up must’ve been rolling in it.”
“It was set up by a man called Emmet Benton, but I think he’s passed away now.” Stormer, as she had been ceaselessly labelled since the night before said, taking a seat. “I remember reading about it.”
“Huh.” Roxy shrugged her shoulders. “So he’s dead, right? Then this Eric guy is the boss?”
“Indeed.” The two girls turned to see Eric watching them from the doorway. “Mr Benton left me controlling interest of this company in his will.” He glanced at the clock. “I’m glad to see you made good time this morning. I have the contracts ready to sign.”
“You said that we’d be meeting the singer today, too.” Stormer remembered. “Is she here?”
“Not yet, but she will be.” Eric responded, sitting down at his desk and pulling out two identical sheets of official looking white paper. “Here you are, my dears. Just sign on the dotted line at the bottom. As I said, it’s all procedure. I’ll leave you girls to it – I have a phonecall I need to make.” He left the office.
Roxy took her sheet, glancing at it for a moment, then picking a pen up to sign, but Stormer put a hand on her arm.
“Don’t you want to know what it says before you sign it?” she asked.
“Who cares? Whatever it says has to be better than scrounging off the streets in Philly.” Roxy retorted. “You watch what you’re saying, okay? I don’t want this Eric creep to know I can’t read what he’s put, so don’t you dare say a word!”
“I promised, and I keep my word.” Stormer responded quietly. “I’m sorry, Roxy. It’s just that my brother always taught me to read everything through before I signed it.”
“Yeah, well, no need to flaunt your reading skills at me, little miss know-all.” Roxy snapped, signing the page with a scrawled ‘Roxy’ at the bottom. “There. Signed.”
“It all seems okay to me.” Stormer nodded, going to follow suit, then hesitating. “What should I sign as? Mary or Stormer?”
“Just sign it, all right?” Roxy told her. “It doesn’t matter – means the same thing, anyhow.”
“I suppose so.” Stormer sighed, signing her name on the sheet of paper. “There. It’s done.” She glanced at her companion’s sheet. “Hey, if you can’t read…who taught you to write your name?”
“I did. I’m not totally stupid, you know.” Roxy perched on the desk. “I can sign stuff.”
“I didn’t mean you were.” Stormer said quickly. “I was just asking…just curious.”
“Well, don’t be.” Roxy told her. “Hey, who do you think this singer girl is anyway? Eric’s told us next to nothing about her – reckon she’ll be any good?”
“I don’t know.” Stormer admitted. “To tell you the truth I’m still not quite in the real world over this…it’s all happened so fast. In one way it’s so exciting – I always envied my brother and the way he and his band could travel all over Europe performing, but…” she sighed. “I don’t know. I guess I’m a bit nervous.”
“Well, whatever you do, don’t harp on about that when Eric and that singer chick are here.” Roxy warned her. “You don’t want to come across as no softie, Stormer. You got me? You wanted to be strong – well, you got your chance now. Don’t blow it.”
“Are you going to call me that always?” Stormer asked plaintively. Roxy nodded.
“Sure. Why not?” she responded. “Mary’s a wet name. I like Stormer, though. It has class.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being called Stormer.” Stormer sighed. “I suppose it will be okay.” She set her pen down on the desk. “I wrote a new song last night, you know…it just came to me as I was cleaning up downstairs. I don’t know where all these…ideas are coming from, but they just hit me. All strong and vibrant and…well, they remind me of that girl we saw the other day, out shopping. I’ve never written stuff like this before.”
“You’re toughening up. Bout time.” Roxy grinned at her, but it was a strange grin. “I bet Eric will be only too happy to hear it, you know. Who knows, if it’s any good, we might be playing it.” A look of anticipation crossed her face. “I knew I could come to California and make it here…but I never thought of the music industry…well, whaddya know? You gotta take the chances as they come, right?”
“Right.” Stormer nodded. “I…I suppose…”
“Oh, lighten up. It’s fun!” Roxy rolled her eyes. “You gotta grow up some time, Stormer, and leave your nice safe little world behind. We’re going to be stars, just you wait and see!”
“I very much hope that you’re right, my dear.” Eric returned at that moment, another person in tow and with a little gasp Stormer recognised the girl from the clothes store. “Stormer, Roxy, meet your new band-mate…this is Phyllis Gabor, or Pizzazz to you and I. Pizzazz, my dear, this is Mary Phillips – Stormer – and Roxy Pelligrini, your fellow Misfits.”
“Fellow what?” Roxy turned her gaze on her new manager. Eric smiled.
“I thought ‘Misfits’ had a catchy sound to it.” He said, almost ironically. “For the name of the band, you see. The Misfits.” He gestured with his hands. “I can see it now.”
“Howdy.” Pizzazz eyed both her new colleagues with a thoughtful look. Then, “I hope you can play.”
“Of course we can play, you jumped up little…” Roxy began, but Eric was quick to interrupt her.
“Well, you girls can huddle down and chat later. For now I have business to attend to.” He said, taking the two contracts and putting them carefully into his folder. “The plan of action is simple. Over the next few weeks I intend on doing a lot of promotional work with you three, getting your faces and names known about town and selling you to all and sundry. On Saturday week there’ll be a Battle of the Bands in the park – and you are going to win, that’s a cert. From there it’ll be easy…but you have to follow my lead and trust me if you want to get anywhere in this business.”
“I don’t like taking orders, Eric.” Pizzazz raised an eyebrow. “And you seem to have forgotten – we don’t have any music.”
“That, my dear Pizzazz, is where Stormer here comes in.” Eric bestowed Pizzazz with a faintly irritated smile. He had already realised that working with the spoiled only daughter of a billionaire was going to be hard going. Pizzazz turned her piercing gaze on Stormer, who, despite herself, shrank back.
“That wimp?” The singer said finally. “What can she do?”
“I…” Stormer faltered.
“She writes songs. Duh.” Roxy came to her housemate’s rescue. “I only hope you know how to sing ‘em.”
“Why, you…” Pizzazz’s eyes narrowed and she let out a shriek of rage. “Do you know who I am?”
“Yeah, you’re a…” Roxy began, but Eric clamped his hand down on her arm.
“Roxy, please try to behave like a civilised human being in my office. We’re not living rough round Philadelphia now.” He said, his tone cutting. Roxy wheeled on him.
“What business is it of yours where I came from?” she demanded. “And who told you, anyway?”
“I make it my business to know these things.” Eric smiled his infuriating smile. “Take a seat, my dear. You’re under contract now, you know, and any damages you cause come out of your wages.”
“Creep.” Roxy muttered under her breath, but she did as she was told. Pizzazz shot her an irritated glare. Who were these people, anyway? A total drip and a street hooligan? What kind of a band did Eric hope to make them into? A circus?
“So you write songs?” She turned to Stormer, making that girl nervous in an instant. “What about?” She reached across and plucked the daisy from her companion’s hair. “Flowers?”
“No…not really.” Stormer flushed under the fierce gaze, fumbling in her bag for her manuscript book. “I…maybe you’d like to see…I mean…it’s all notes and stuff, but…”
“Give me that.” Pizzazz snatched the book from the synth player’s grip, tossing the flower aside, and Stormer hurried to retrieve it, putting it carefully back into her hair. She didn’t know where this venture would lead her, but the flower was her own way of knowing that deep inside she was still Mary Phillips, whatever became of her as the rock wannabe ‘Stormer’.
“Well, whaddya know.” Pizzazz flicked through the book, a look of grudging admiration on her face. “The wimp can write. These aren’t half bad. Course, they need a good vocalist.” A smile spread across her lips. “Good thing you’ve the best right here.” She stood. “Come on. I want to try this. Let’s see how you kids can play.”
Stormer glanced at Eric for her lead, but he waved them out.
“Go. I have a lot to do…I’ll see you later.” He told them. Stormer glanced at Roxy.
“Yeah, yeah.” Roxy got to her feet, following the other two out of the room and down to the recording studio, where they found instruments waiting to be used. “How long are we gonna spend doing this, anyway?”
“I just want to hear it through. Got a problem with that?” Pizzazz demanded. Roxy spread her hands.
“Not really.” She returned. “I just hoped there’d be time for some fun, that’s all.”
“There’s always time for fun and games.” Pizzazz’ green eyes lit up with mischief. “Hey, Stormer, or whatever your name is. Play!”
Stormer lifted the synthesiser from the end of the shelf, powering it up and setting it to a heavy beat. Then, with an inward prayer not to slip up, she played the melody.
“Not bad.” Even Roxy looked impressed. “I didn’t know you had it in you, kid.”
She picked up a guitar. “What do I play, then?”
Mindful of the fact the girl could not read music, and amazed at how cooperative the two firebrands were being, Stormer demonstrated the bass guitar part and Roxy picked it up almost at once.
“Well, miss big shot singer, ain’t you gonna give it a try?” she demanded.
“Quit telling me what to do!” Pizzazz retorted, picking up a microphone from the rack and plugging it into the amplifier. “Noone tells me what to do, not ever, okay? You better get used to that.” She snatched the lyric sheet off the table. “Okay, now play it again. This time we’re gonna give it some…pizzazz!”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Roxy dropped down into a nearby chair, airing her complaint for the third time. “There’s nothing to do here! What are we meant to do, sit here like lemons while Eric does everything?”
“Ah, shut up, will you?” Pizzazz sent her guitarist an irritated look. “Bad enough we’re stuck here without you complaining the whole time.”
Roxy scowled. It was two days since the girls had first met – two days which had brought about something in the way of developments. For a start, Roxy and Pizzazz’s initial war cries had died down into something which might just pass for tolerance, if you looked at it under the right circumstances. It was clear to Stormer, at least, that the two of them had the exact same penchant for trouble, and if she was honest that made her nervous. Roxy on her own had been hard enough to handle, but Roxy and Pizzazz together was well out of her capabilities. Her best bet, she had soon learnt, was to stay quiet and do as she was told, at least till she’d found her feet.
If she ever did, that was. More and more she was beginning to wonder if she should ever have signed that contract.
“All I’m sayin’ is that if Eric wants us to play so bad why don’t we go out there and play?” Roxy put in now. “Instead of being caged in here like some kind of wild animals.” She reached for the pink bass guitar which had quickly become labelled ‘hers’, getting to her feet. “Come on. Let’s go and see what all the fuss is about.”
Pizzazz eyed Roxy in mild irritation, then followed suit.
“All right, all right, I’m coming.” She grumbled. “Stormer, get your synthesiser. If we’re going out there we might as well give them something to remember.”
Stormer did as she was bidden, following her band-mates out of the poky dressing room in silence. Eric had got them a gig at a seedy club downtown, the Storehouse, and the whole atmosphere of the place gave her the creeps. As for the others, well, Pizzazz clearly did not approve of it, but it seemed right down Roxy’s street. Her kind of people, she had said. That was before they had been ushered into the dressing room to wait their turn, mind you. Stormer sighed. She was fast realising that Roxy and Pizzazz were going to be serious trouble to work with.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” The band on stage were half-way through their last number when Pizzazz stalked up the stage steps, taking the microphone from the stand and giving the singer a hefty shove.
“Outta my way.” She seethed. “You’ve had plenty enough time, it’s our turn now.”
“Too right.” Roxy squared up to the group’s bass player who backed away at the sight of her fists. “We want to play a song too.”
“Eric, do something, your group are going beserk!” The club’s owner grabbed Eric by the arm, and Eric glanced across at the stage, rolling his eyes.
“If they want to play you’d be best off letting them.” He said dryly, rubbing his arm absently, where a bruise inflicted by an angry Roxy and her guitar the previous morning was still aching. “They’re better than that last group anyway, Hank. Don’t worry about it. It’s all under control.”
“Really?” Hank Arundel, the club’s owner glanced back at the stage, where Roxy was busy dismantling the drum kit and tossing it in the direction of the retreating drummer. “And who’s going to settle the damages?”
“In a dump like this I’m surprised you’d notice any damages.” Eric muttered under his breath. Out loud he said, “Forward any claims to my office. I’ll have my secretary handle them.”
“Right, that’s more like it.” Now the stage was deserted, except for the three Misfits, and Pizzazz had taken control of the microphone. “Now we’re gonna give you some real music, girls and boys, so hang on to your hats. The Misfits are in town.”
She turned a well-timed glare on Stormer, who recognised her cue and, not without misgivings, began to play the opening notes of the song she had written, aptly titled ‘Outta My Way’. Roxy smirked, adjusting the microphone she had now claimed as ‘hers’ for the backing vocals the song required and beginning her own bass line. Pizzazz paused for a moment, gazing out at the audience with a mixture of triumph and disgust. Then she began to sing.
And whatever else Pizzazz might be, she was a performer. She captured the attention of the confused crowd within an instant and though her voice was not the purest, it carried the force of the song well. Stormer sent her a glance. Maybe it would be okay, after all. Pizzazz certainly seemed at home with the microphone. Now if only she would remember that she had a guitar part in the song too…Stormer shrugged to herself. Ah well. Her synth could be programmed to cope with the missing guitar melody. The last thing she felt like doing was arguing the point with someone as truly terrifying to be around as Pizzazz. Stormer felt that even Eric was a bit intimidated by her. Only Roxy seemed totally unphased.
Having said that, Roxy had ceased to answer her back so much over the last couple of days. Stormer wasn’t convinced liking had anything to do with it, but the two girls had definitely found common ground, despite their different upbringings.
Both liked to be the centre of attention, and both loved to cause chaos.
When the song was done there was a rowdy ovation and Pizzazz took her bow, aware that the spotlight was on her and loving every minute of it. So these were the lowest of the low in her eyes, but she still craved adoration and that night she had got it. She sent the masses a wicked grin.
“So, you like a good tune, huh?” she demanded. “A crowd with taste.” She turned, beckoning to her band-mates. “Come on, girls. Let’s blow this joint. I’m bored now.”
“Right behind you.” Roxy grinned her strange, reserved grin, shoving the microphone stand over and sauntering off stage behind the vocalist. Stormer sighed and followed. Now what were they going to do?
A voice caught her attention and she swung around, recognising Ryan in an instant. Biting her lip, she began to wish she had never stopped. Now what? She still wasn’t sure of her ground around him.
“I thought it was you.” Ryan was all charm. This was his usual way of winning her back under his influence and in the past she had always fallen for it. But this time she wasn’t going to let herself…
“Hey, who’s this joker?” Roxy pushed through the crowds of people that had surrounded them, eying Ryan with a malevolent smile. “Friend of yours, Stormer?”
“No…I mean, not exactly.” Stormer blushed. “He’s…”
“Mary and I dated.” Ryan turned his gaze on Roxy, not liking what he saw. Though she was pretty, it was clear that she could take care of herself. “Do you mind?”
“What if I do?” Roxy demanded. “You gotta wait your turn, creep. Come on, Stormer. We don’t have time to stand around and listen to nobodies.” She grabbed Stormer’s arm, pulling her away into the swirling mass of people. Stormer did not let herself look back, secretly glad for Roxy’s intervention, though she knew the girl had only done it because she was eager to get out of the club as soon as possible.
“What took you so long?” Pizzazz, at the wheel of the van the Misfits had adorned with their new logo demanded, pushing open the door. “Get in, and be quick about it! What were you doing, signing autographs?”
“Stormer was chatting to her boyfriend.” Roxy pulled a face.
“He’s not my boyfriend!” Stormer protested. “At least…at least not now.” She added.
“Aww, poor little Stormer lost out in love, did she?” she spoke in mocking tones. “What a shame.”
“I…” Stormer bit her lip, glancing out of the window. She was sure she caught a glimpse of Ryan’s face before Pizzazz put her foot down on the accelerator and the van screeched out of the parking lot. “Shouldn’t we wait for Eric?”
“Why?” Pizzazz demanded. “He has his own car. Stop being so dull, Stormer. What are you, a Misfit or a mouse?”
“I…I’m a Misfit.” Stormer’s tone held doubt, and Roxy grabbed her round the wrists.
“Listen here, Stormer, you can’t be both, you know.” She said in low tones. “Either you’re going to be a softie who wimps out at the slightest sign of trouble, or you’re a Misfit and you do as we do. Got that?”
“I…” Stormer paused. “I’m not a softie.”
“Well, could have fooled us.” Pizzazz snorted.
“Yeah, writing letters to your brother and worrying about whether we should have picked up that jerk Eric or not.” Roxy agreed. “C’mon, Stormer, grow up! Live a little! Otherwise you’re going to be a real drag, you know that?”
“I think she could do with a bit of a masterclass on how to be a Misfit.” Pizzazz observed, her gaze flitting between the road and her companions as she swerved to avoid an oncoming truck. “Morons! Who taught him to drive, his dog?”
“What do you mean, masterclass?” Stormer sounded nervous. “What did you have in mind?”
“Well, for a start, lets get something to eat. I’m starving.” Roxy suggested. “Pizzazz, pull over, huh, and find some place we can get some food.”
“All right already.” Pizzazz scowled. “I can’t make diners appear from nowhere, you know.” She swerved to avoid another vehicle. “Those idiots shouldn’t be allowed on the road.”
Stormer swallowed hard. Between Pizzazz’s driving and Roxy’s insinuations she wasn’t feeling all too good. It was something of a relief when they pulled into the parking lot of an all night fast food diner, and she was able to get out into the cool night air. Pizzazz swung the door shut, tossing the keys up in the air and catching them before she slid them into the pocket of her jacket.
“Not a bad little runner.” She observed as she led the way inside. “Come on, Misfits. Lets get some food!”
“But I didn’t bring any money.” Stormer protested. “Did…did you? Shouldn’t we ask…”
“Stormer, a misfit doesn’t ask. A Misfit takes.” Roxy interrupted her, taking her by the arm and leading her up to the counter. “Anyone who doesn’t like it, well, its all the worse for them.”
“Yeah.” Pizzazz nodded her head, leaning over and taking the drink from a nearby table, draining the contents of the cup and tossing it over her shoulder before anyone could stop her. “We’re going to be stars, Stormer, people should be happy doin’ stuff for us. Don’t you think so?”
“I suppose…I suppose so.” Stormer turned to glance at the irate customer, who was retrieving his cup. “Shouldn’t we…”
“Shouldn’t we do what? Apologise?” Pizzazz let out a peal of scornful laughter. “Stormer, a Misfit doesn’t apologise for anything. Not ever…you hear me?”
“And none of that please and thank you rubbish either.” Roxy agreed. “Take what you want, when you want, and anyone who doesn’t want to find themselves knocked into the middle of next week had better get outta our way.”
“You getting all this, kid?” Pizzazz demanded. Stormer looked troubled.
“I…I think so.”
“You wanted to be a Misfit, now prove that you are one.” Pizzazz added. “Go on. Take that guy’s burger and shove it into his stupid fat face.”
“I…I can’t!” Stormer’s eyes opened wide. “I might hurt him!”
“Misfit or mouse, Stormer?” Roxy glared at her. “Do it!”
Stormer glanced between Pizzazz and Roxy, then swallowed hard, steeling herself. With her heart in her throat she marched across to the man in question, and, not without misgivings, shoved the burger into his face.
“Hey!” The man exclaimed. “What was that for, you little…”
“Got a problem, grandpa?” Pizzazz asked him sweetly.
“I think he needs to cool down.” Roxy scooped up the man’s drink, tipping it over his head. “There, that’s better.”
Stormer frowned, but said nothing. She was too afraid of what Roxy and Pizzazz might do if she interfered, and in any case, she envied them their strength. They would never get hung up on a guy like Ryan – and she didn’t want to feel that wretched ever again. If the solution was to toughen up, as Roxy put it, then toughen up she would.
“Here comes trouble.” Roxy nodded towards a door marked ‘Management Only’. Pizzazz shrugged.
“I’ll give ‘em trouble.” She retorted, scooping up the remains of the man’s meal and tossing it towards the manager. Within moments a full scale food fight was under way, and Roxy laughed.
“Way to go!” She exclaimed. “Food fight!”
“Come on, let’s get outta here.” Pizzazz smirked, heading for the door. “We’ve had our fun for tonight, and I think Stormer’s got the message.” She turned her gaze on the synth player. “Life moves fast round us, kid. Keep up or drop out. That’s an order.”
Chapter One: Mary Phillips
Chapter Two: Enter Roxy
Chapter Three: Developments
Chapter Four: Birth Of A Star
Chapter Five: Eric Raymond
Chapter Seven: London
Chapter Eight: Shawn Harrison
Chapter Nine: The Tinkerbillys
Chapter Ten: Jerrica
Chapter Eleven: Only The Beginning