Chapter Seven: London
“I’m warning you, no more!”
Eric slammed his folder down on the desk to emphasise his point. “I have had nothing but complaints about you three after last night’s adventures! You’re going to have to tame it down, before you land both me and this company in real trouble!”
“Ah, cool out, Eric.” Roxy glanced up from where she was lounging against the doorpost. “It was just a bit of fun.” She sent Stormer a meaningful look. “Wasn’t it, Stormer?”
Stormer raised troubled eyes from her manuscript book, meeting Roxy’s gaze and nodding slowly.
“Yeah.” She agreed. “Just…just a bit of fun.”
“It’s your fault anyway, Eric.” Pizzazz put in her bit. “If you hadn’t have insisted on keeping us penned up like that…”
“You girls have to learn to wait your turn.” Eric snapped.
“Sorry to burst your bubble, Eric, but we ain’t waiting for nobody.” Roxy smirked.
“Too right.” Pizzazz nodded her head. “We’re the stars here, you’re just the manager and don’t forget it. Your success depends on keeping us happy.” She met his gaze with a challenge of her own. “So can the bad girls routine. It’s not making you any friends.”
“Oh, I give up.” Eric sighed, reaching for a second folder and extracting a few sheets, handing them round. “Here. This is the information regarding the Battle of the Bands on Saturday week and your schedule up until then. I’ve arranged photo shoots and a couple of club dates between now and then. Please don’t wreck the stage this time! Tossing a drumkit around the club doesn’t tend to endear people to you.” He glared meaningfully at Roxy. “You’re not in Philadelphia now, Roxy, and don’t forget it.”
“Shut your face.” Roxy glowered back at him.
“Well, all I’m saying is that you girls aren’t a big enough name yet to be invited to appear everywhere regardless.” Eric ignored the glower. “All you’ll do is make people say no when I try and arrange appearances for you. Behave, I mean it!”
“Who else is in this competition, Eric?” Stormer took her sheet, glancing down it. “Anyone we’ve heard of?”
“Who cares?” Roxy shrugged, folding her sheet in half and dropping it on the floor. “We’ll blow ‘em away.”
“Well, you’d better. But even so, I’ve taken the precaution of seriously vetting your competition.” Eric responded. “I don’t think you’ll have any trouble if you play like you did last night, but I don’t believe in taking chances.”
“Hey, noone complained about the music.” Pizzazz’s eyes glinted. “So who are these twerps, Eric? What makes you so sure we’ve got this in the bag? Because I’m warning you, I don’t like coming second to a bunch of nobodies.”
“You will win, my dear Pizzazz, because the competition can barely string a note together between them.” Eric explained patiently. “They’re local zeros…you’ll win by a mile.”
“You mean it’s rigged?” Stormer’s eyes opened wide.
“I prefer not to be quite so blunt.” Eric bestowed Stormer with a falsely pleasant smile. “You’ll simply outclass them. Just make sure you all show up and perform like you did last night – you can’t lose.”
“All right!” Roxy exclaimed. “Rad! And the press will be there?”
“In their droves.” Eric nodded.
“You’d better be right about this, Eric.” Pizzazz frowned. “Winning is everything that counts in this business.”
“Just trust me, Pizzazz. I know what I’m doing.” Eric assured her.
“Trust you?” Pizzazz raised an eyebrow. “That’ll be the day.” Her gaze rested on Stormer, noting the girl’s frown. “Hey, Stormer, chill out! You wanna win, don’t you?” She sneered. “Or do you want to play fair?”
“I…well…” Stormer blushed, shaking her head. “No, it’s not that. I was just thinking about…well, about the song we should sing, that’s all.”
“Who needs more work? We’ve got a song!” Roxy protested.
“Most bands have more than one song in their repertoire before they attempt a proper performance.” Eric said dryly. “I’d like you to have a couple down, just in case the opposition are so dreadful that the crowd really need waking up.” He turned to Stormer. “That a problem?”
“No, of course not.” Stormer shook her head. “Why I…I have ideas already!”
“Good.” Eric smiled. “You girls are going to make it big, just trust me. I’ll pull out all the stops I know to get you on top before you know it. Just don’t bankrupt me in the process, all right? I can only handle so many claims in damages.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Pizzazz rolled her eyes. “Spoilsport.”
“Hey!” Stormer exclaimed at that point. “We’re going to London?”
“What?” Roxy’s head shot up. “London? How come?”
“That’s what the schedule says.” Stormer responded. “Eric…are we really going to England?”
“Don’t get too excited, it’s only for a night or two and you won’t be doing any concerts.” Eric replied. “I pulled a few strings to get you girls photographed by one of the world’s best photographers, it’ll do wonders for promoting your image. We fly out there on Tuesday, meet with the fashion people and do the shoot on the Wednesday, and we’ll fly back on Thursday. It’s not ideal, but it was the only way I could get you three into this guy’s schedule. Sadly there was no way to get him to fly to the States. I did try.”
“So we’re goin’ to England? Neat.” Roxy looked approving. “And we’ll get a whole new wardrobe out of it, too?”
“What do you get out of this trip, Eric?” Pizzazz looked suspicious.
“Nothing. It’s a publicity event for you three and that’s it.” Eric looked frustrated. “Just make sure that you’re all at the airport for nine o clock sharp on Tuesday morning, because I’m not chasing round after you.” Bad enough I have to spend the few days with you, he added to himself.
Still, as a P.R exercise, he knew it would awaken the press. He’d arranged for a bunch of reporters to be at the airport to take pictures – the more promotion he could get in before the Battle of the Bands the better. After all, any band who could fly half way round the world just to be photographed by the best in the business definitely had their sights set on the top and would be taken seriously. And the more money the Misfits made, the bigger his cut. Starlight Music had good financial resources and he was fairly adept at utilising them to his own ends. He expected little opposition from people so inexperienced as the Benton sisters.
“We’ll be there, Eric. Relax.” Roxy idly flicked a stray paperclip across the desk and into the bin.
“Yeah.” Stormer nodded, her mind on her brother. She only hoped he and his group hadn’t moved on from London – maybe she’d find time to slip away and see him.
“All right. Now get out of my office, will you? I have a lot to do before Tuesday.” Eric stood. Pizzazz rolled her eyes.
“We’re going.” She retorted. “You’re no fun, Eric. C’mon girls. Let’s find something else to do.”
“No more trouble!” Eric exclaimed.
“Shut up, Eric. I’ll do what I want.” Pizzazz’s eyes narrowed.
“Yeah, you’re our manager, not our father.” Roxy agreed. “Come on, Stormer. I’ve had enough of this poky office, anyway.”
“Can you believe we’re really going to London?” Stormer’s blue eyes became dreamy as she obediently followed her band-mates out of the room.
“Yeah, so?” Pizzazz shrugged. “What about it? If you ask me it’s gonna be a whole lot of work…meeting people and posing for pictures. We’re hardly gonna have any time to have fun.”
“We’ll find time. Eric can’t keep us under lock and key.” Roxy put in. “We’ll find a way to liven things up, Pizzazz.”
“Yeah.” Stormer nodded, deciding it was safer for her to be seen to agree. “There must be tons of stuff to do in London.”
“Well, I hope so. I just get the feeling that Eric wants this to be a major drag.” Pizzazz pushed open the main door of Starlight Music, leading the way across the parking lot to where the Misfit’s van stood. It wasn’t quite as pristine as it had been – a couple of scrapes and dents told of it’s adventures with Pizzazz at the wheel, but it was still holding up under that girl’s could-care-less style of driving. Stormer swallowed hard, slipping into the back with Roxy in tow. She wasn’t sure she’d ever get used to the way Pizzazz liked to handle the road. How the girl had gotten a licence in the first place she didn’t know, but it was a miracle in her view that that licence hadn’t been rescinded by the law. She found herself almost wishing Roxy would take the wheel, even though she wasn’t qualified to drive.
But then, over the last few days, Pizzazz had all but established herself as the leader of the Misfits, and noone was going to challenge her right to the front seat, not even Roxy.
Stormer glanced across at her housemate, who seemed unconcerned by the speed or the recklessness of the vehicle’s manoeuvres. She was glancing out of the window, deep in thought about something, Stormer decided. Idly she wondered how Roxy would get out of the country – considering her background it was unlikely the girl had a passport, but then she decided that Eric had probably handled it. He certainly seemed to know what he was doing.
Her attention was caught by something on the road and she let out a cry.
“Pizzazz, look out!” she shrieked as the lorry pulled out, right into their path. Pizzazz, who had been fiddling with the radio glanced up, and put her foot on the brake hard with a muttered curse, swerving and missing the side of the lorry by inches. The van shuddered to a stop in the layby that had come to their rescue and Pizzazz thumped the steering wheel hard in her anger, sounding the horn.
“Morons!” She yelled.
“Quit shrieking, Pizzazz.” Roxy snapped. “And can’t you get this thing moving? I thought we were going to have some fun, not sit on the road all night.”
“But…but we were nearly all killed!” Stormer hurried to the back of the van to glance out at the disappearing lorry, feeling sick inside.
“Some joker playing chicken with his dumb lorry.” Pizzazz rolled her eyes. “Stop whining, Roxy. We’ll go when I say, not when you do.”
“Fine. Whatever.” Roxy shrugged, turning her attention back to the window. “Be boring.”
“I’ll give you boring.” Pizzazz snapped, putting her foot down on the accelerator pedal and pulling out of the layby with a screech. Stormer was caught off guard and she grabbed out for something to steady herself, pulling herself back into her seat with a little sigh of relief. Roxy glanced at her and sniggered.
“Next time you’ll fall flat on your face.” She told her housemate.
Despite herself, Stormer felt indignant.
“If I hadn’t been paying attention that lorry would’ve hit us.” She retorted.
“If you’re so clever, miss fuss-budget, you drive.” Pizzazz turned, and there was a challenge in her gaze. Stormer hesitated, then shook her head.
“In that case, shut up!” Pizzazz put the van in top gear, taking a left turn without indicating and causing utter chaos for the cars behind her. Stormer tightened her grip on the arm of her chair. She no longer cared where they were going, only that they got there in one piece.
“So where are we going, Pizzazz?” Roxy demanded.
“Wherever.” Pizzazz shrugged. “I thought maybe we needed some new clothes for our trip to London, something to make people stop and stare.”
Roxy glanced at Stormer, who shrugged. First rule of survival in the Misfits, she was realising, was never argue any point with Pizzazz. Especially not when the girl was driving…she shuddered. Would they even make it to the airport on Tuesday in one piece?
* * * * * * * * * * *
“So what’s the gig, boss?”
Zipper glanced at his employer expectantly, watching Eric fasten his briefcase. “What do you want me to do?”
“I’m going to be away for a few days and I want you to make sure that nobody interferes in the affairs of Starlight Music whilst I’m gone.” Eric straightened his tie. “I don’t expect any trouble from those Benton brats, but it never hurts to be sure.” He handed Zipper a piece of paper. “Here. This is their address. Keep tabs on them, make sure they stay out of trouble. I’ve no intention of letting go of Starlight Music now that it’s practically mine.”
“Whatever you say, boss.” Zipper pocketed the address. “Leave it to me. Those girls won’t come near the place.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Stormer sighed, then pressed the car horn once more. “Roxy, get a move on! It’s half past eight!”
“Chill out.” Roxy, her bag in her hand sauntered out of the front door, pulling it shut and then slipping into the passenger seat of her housemate’s car, checking her make-up in the vehicle’s mirror. “A girl needs to look her best.”
“Well, there isn’t much point if we miss the flight.” Stormer put the car in gear, pulling out onto the main road.
“So step on it.” Roxy shrugged. “We’ll make it. Relax! Eric won’t go without half his band.”
“I think even Eric would have a hard job holding up the plane.” Stormer muttered, her eye firmly on the road ahead. At least, she mused, Pizzazz wasn’t picking them up. Stormer had definitely had her fill of the singer’s driving.
“Reckon we’ll get to play in London?” Roxy, still using the car’s mirror began to primp her hair.
“Eric said not.” Stormer shook her head.
“Eric’s a jerk.” Roxy retorted. “You just gonna do what he tells you?”
“No.” Stormer shook her head again, though inwardly she had misgivings. “I just don’t know if we’ll have time, that’s all.”
“Bummer.” Roxy frowned.
“You ever flown before?” Stormer asked as she turned left towards the main departures terminal of LAX airport.
“Nope.” Roxy shook her head. “But how hard can it be? You just sit there, right?”
“Yeah, pretty much.” Stormer agreed. “The view is fantastic from the air, too.”
“Who cares about the dumb view.” Roxy snorted. They pulled up outside the departures gate just as a jumbo jet soared overhead, and the blond’s attention was captured at once. “Woo. Those things are big.”
“Well, you took your time.” An irritated Eric and a petulant Pizzazz met them inside. “It’s three minutes to nine.”
Stormer glanced at Roxy, who shrugged.
“So what?” she demanded. “You said nine, and we’re here, aren’t we?”
“Can we go see the press now?” Pizzazz demanded. Roxy’s eyes lit up.
“There’s press here?” she demanded.
“Of course. What kind of a P.R manager do you think I am?” Eric retorted. “Come on! We’ve just time for a few words before our flight is called – and there’s still check in, too.” He fiddled in his pocket. “Here, Roxy, here’s your passport – don’t ask questions, just take it. And here are the plane tickets for both of you. Go check in and we’ll meet you in the departures lounge in a couple of minutes.”
“What about the press?” Roxy demanded.
“They’ll be there waiting. Most of them are heading out of town, I just…pulled a few strings and got them to come see us while they waited.” Eric shrugged.
“Eric and his strings.” Roxy rolled her eyes.
“Have you girls got that?” Eric eyed Roxy in irritation. Pizzazz was bad enough, but to have someone who in his eyes was little more than a street yob trying to tell him what to do was the outside of enough.
“We’ve got it, Eric.” Stormer nodded, grabbing Roxy by the arm and pulling her towards the check in desks.
“Hey, get your hands off me!” Roxy shook herself free. “I can check myself in, you know.”
“Sorry.” Stormer frowned. “It’s that desk there. Flight 703.”
“Yeah, yeah. I can read numbers, you know.” Roxy rolled her eyes, pushing through the milling people to the desk. Once both had checked in, Stormer led her companion through customs, inwardly hoping that Roxy wasn’t wearing anything that might set off the metal detectors, for she had a strong suspicion that being stopped would cause a scene.
Luckily her housemate had forgotten her earrings that morning, and soon they were in the departure lounge, where a gaggle of reporters asked a few questions and took a few snaps. For the retiring Stormer it was a relief when their flight was called for boarding. Eric got to his feet and Pizzazz, who had been idly flirting with one of the reporters pushed him aside, stalking her way to the boarding gate as if she were a model on a catwalk. Rolling her eyes, Stormer followed, with Roxy not far behind. The blond had become decidedly quiet since the flight had been called over the tannoy, and it had struck Stormer as strange. Though she had offered her housemate the window seat, Roxy had refused, scorning the view, and had sat in virtual silence till the pilot’s voice announced that they were ready for take off. The stewards performed their safety drill, throughout which Roxy feigned a yawn and pretended to fall asleep, and then they were taking off.
And once they had begun to move, Stormer suddenly understood Roxy’s strange behaviour.
The girl was afraid of heights.
Not that she’d admit it. Casting her a glance, Stormer could see that her companion was doing her best to maintain her nonchalant expression, keeping her own gaze firmly fixed on anything that wasn’t the window.
“Why do these planes never have any decent magazines?” Across the aisle, Pizzazz was already grumbling, tossing the flight magazine onto the floor. Eric rolled his eyes but ignored her complaining. He’d have plenty of Pizzazz’s tantrums to deal with once they’d landed, of that he was sure, and he was already dreading the hotel damages bill.
“And even Stormer has started playing along with them.” He muttered to himself. “Great. Just great. What have I signed up here?” He glanced across at Roxy, who was tearing thin strips off the back cover of one of the magazines and rolling them into pellets, which she was covertly aiming at the stewards as they passed between the rows of seats.
“Not reading it, Roxy?” he asked, in pointed tones. Roxy started, then glared at him.
“What’s that supposed to mean, smart mouth?” she demanded.
“You’re not meant to rip those things up.”
“So? You gonna stop me?” Roxy raised an eyebrow. “All it’s good for, anyway.”
“Give me that.” Eric took the magazine from her grip, shoving it away in the rack in front of his own seat. “Try to behaved like a civilised being for once, please!”
“You better watch your mouth, else I’ll smash your teeth for you.” Roxy’s brown eyes narrowed dangerously and she raised her fist, as if about to act. Eric sighed.
“Oh, I give up.” He said with a resigned look on his face, for he knew that Roxy would be as good as her word and he didn’t fancy another brush with her temper. “Be obnoxious then, the lot of you. But any damage claims will come out of your earnings, keep that in mind.”
Stormer wisely held her tongue, extracting her own magazine from her bag and leafing through the pages, though now and then her attention was caught by the view from the window. She had always loved flying, and the landscape below captured her imagination every time. She turned to Roxy.
“You can borrow my cassette player if you’re bored.” She suggested. Roxy looked startled, then shrugged.
“S’pose it’s better than nothing.” She conceded grudgingly, and Stormer fished the said contraption out of her hand luggage, handing it over. Roxy slid on the headphones and though she said nothing about it, she seemed happier once she had the music to distract her from the view. In fact, she brightened up considerably when she realised food was about to be served.
It was a long flight, and by the time they reached London, the time difference meant that it was almost half three in the morning. Though Stormer and Pizzazz had slept on the plane (much to Eric’s relief), Roxy had remained awake throughout, and had been only too glad to reach the hotel and crash. Afraid of the girls fighting, Eric had booked them each separate rooms, all next door to each other, and he ushered them inside with the remark that he didn’t want to see any of them till ten o clock, when the car would pick them up and take them to the fashion studio.
Stormer got ready for bed quickly, carefully locking the door and sliding beneath the covers. Despite napping on the flight she was still exhausted – if being a rock star was going to be this tiring she didn’t know how she was going to survive it. And how did Craig cope?
Craig. She must call him, tell him she was in England…but that was her last thought, as dreams enveloped her tired body. Soon she was fast asleep, only to be woken the next morning by pounding at her door and a call to ‘get a move on’.
Life as a Misfit, she realised, was going to be anything but slow.
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 Eight: Shawn Harrison
Chapter Nine: The Tinkerbillys
Chapter Ten: Jerrica
Chapter Eleven: Only The Beginning