Chapter Four – The Next Stage
There was a moment of complete silence which greeted Aja’s
“Gone?” Kimber’s eyes opened wide. “But…but where? Why?”
“I don’t know.” Aja shook her head. “She’s vanished into thin air!”
“Well, we haven’t time to chase after her now.” Jem frowned. “We gotta do the concert. We’ll find Raya later, okay? And she can explain then what the heck is going on.”
* * * * * * * * * *
“That was close.”
Clash took a deep breath, calming her racing heart. She had found it hard to hide from Aja, and had thought she would be caught, but something had made the guitarist turn back and she had escaped, at least for now. Locking herself in a cubicle she had quickly removed her Raya disguise, shoving it into her bag and then climbing out of the window, hiring a taxi to take her to the airport.
“But I know what I wanted to know.” She said with a dry smile. “I succeeded where Pizzazz and Eric both failed. I know who Jem really is, and I know how, too! Now I can really show both the Misfits and the Holograms who they’re messing with…and I’ve a nice piece of blackmail material to cover my back with, too. Thank you, Raya.” She grinned. “You’ve been most helpful to me. I wish you luck with the rest of your tour. The Holograms already think the Misfits are behind this all…so they’ll never think little old me is clever enough to come up with a scheme like this all by myself.
And then they’ll see who really has the brains in the Montgomery family!”
She made her way to the phone box, slipping in a coin and dialling a familiar number, waiting for it to be picked up.
“Yeah?” Zipper answered on the third ring. “What is it?”
“Zipper, it’s me. Is Raya taken care of?” Clash twisted the phone chord round her finger. “Everything went to plan here…we don’t need her any more.”
“I hear ya.” Zipper sniggered. “She’s taking a quiet time out here in my apartment, but I can get rid of her, no sweat. I just thought I’d wait till I got your call, you know? Want to do things properly, an’ all.”
“Well, I’m more professional about these things than Eric Raymond is.” Clash snorted. “You can let her go, though. Does she know who you are?”
“Hasn’t a clue. I never met the chick before, remember?”
“Good. Keep it that way.” Clash instructed. “And you didn’t tell her about me?”
“Listen, I can keep my mouth shut. The girl knows nothing.” Zipper retorted. “And so long as you remember to pay me, she won’t need to, neither.”
“Don’t worry, Zipper, you’ll be paid.” Clash assured him. “I’ve been putting money by for this kind of operation for some time, and I can always put the squeeze on my father if I need more. It’s all in hand.” She paused. “Look, I have another job for you.”
“When you pay me for this one, we’ll talk about the other one.” Zipper retorted.
“You’ll be paid! As soon as I get back to L.A I’ll pay you, you greedy buffoon!” Clash snapped. “Now listen up, huh? This is important, so you can’t screw it up. This is what I want you to do…”
* * * * * * * * * * *
“There’s no sign of her.”
Shana put her hands on her hips, sending her companions a helpless glance. “Aja’s right, she really has vanished.”
It was after the concert, and the Holograms were busy searching in vain for their missing band-mate.
“Where do you suppose she went?” Kimber wondered.
“Beats me.” Jem frowned. “But it’s not like Raya to run off like that. Not even if she was feeling bad. I’m worried.”
“Me too.” Aja nodded. “She’s been kinda strange since she got back from L.A, actually…quiet, and not wanting to play…maybe she’s picked up a bug.”
“Perhaps. Either way we need to find her.” Jem replied. “I…yes, what is it?” As one of the employees of the venue poked his head around the door of the dressing room where the girls had met up to report back on their findings.
“Miss Jem? There’s a phone call for you.” The man told her with a smile, tipping his hat.
“Oh! Thank you, I’ll come at once.” Jem rolled her eyes at her friends, heading towards the door.
“Keep looking, huh?” she told them. “She can’t have gotten that far away.”
“Here you go, Miss.” The man indicated the phone receiver, and Jem scooped it up, slightly puzzled by the evening’s events as it was.
“Jem? Is that you?” The voice was all too familiar.
“Raya!” Jem exclaimed. “Oh, where on earth are you? Where did you go? Are you all right? We’re worried sick about you!”
“I’m not sure where I am.” Raya admitted, her tones tearful. “Some strange man kidnapped me from the hotel in San Diego, the call from home, it was a hoax, and he has had me in his flat since then…I think I am still in California but I am so confused – he just let me go but I don’t know why or why he took me!”
“But…but you were here!” Jem exclaimed. “An hour…no, just more than an hour ago! Raya, what are you talking about? You were backstage here with us!”
“Backstage? In Spokane? But Jem, how could I be? He tied me up – I couldn’t escape!” Raya responded, her own tones bewildered.
“Wait…so you were never in Spokane? You never came back to the hotel in San Diego?” Jem demanded.
“No, of course not! Why do you say I was?” Raya was confused.
“Because you…oh, this is crazy!” Jem sighed. “Look, Raya, find out where you are, and call us back, okay? We’ll stay around here. Then see if you can get a flight out to meet us before we fly on from Washington. Something odd is going on here and I don’t like it, but I’m going to get to the bottom of it.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Zipper lounged in the doorway of Clash’s flat, his expression one of insolent expectation. “You’d best be ready to pay up.”
“Oh, don’t you ever think of anything else?”
Clash rolled her eyes skywards, allowing him inside. “I only just got back this minute! Don’t worry, I have your money. Did anyone see you come here?”
“No…they like, took no notice, you know?” Zipper shrugged. “I don’t get my face known about town, if you catch my drift.” He sniggered. “Isn’t good for business.”
“Good. But I’d rather you didn’t come back here again.” Clash led the way into the main lounge, scooping up a briefcase of money and holding it out to him. “Here. Pay for Raya. Now will you cooperate with me?”
Zipper flicked open the case, counting the money with an experienced eye, then shutting it with a snap.
“I’m always willing to talk business.” He drawled. “You intrigued me on the phone…what’s the gig?”
“Well, I didn’t like to say much then, but…I have a plan to get my revenge on both Jem and the Holograms and the Misfits.” Clash smiled slightly. “But I need your help. You up for a bit more fun and games?”
“Always.” Zipper laughed. “What exactly do you want me to do?”
“Well, I have to see to a couple of small details.” Clash responded slowly. “But this is what I want you to do…” She paused, then lowered her voice as she outlined her idea.
Zipper’s expression became one of appreciation as he listened.
“Slick, man.” He responded once she was done. “You can count on my complete cooperation. So long as you pay the fee…” he indicated the case, “Then I’m game for anything. When do you want to do it?”
“Well, the Holograms get back from tour on the eighth. I’d say…the evening of the ninth is probably the best time all round.” Clash’s expression twisted into a devious smile. “I’m going to have a lot of fun with this, Zipper. And now…I have a whole new identity to get ready, so get lost, huh? In future I’ll meet you where we agreed…its safer that way.”
“How will I know that it’s you, if you’re all dolled up like some other chick?” Zipper demanded.
“You’ll know.” Clash assured him. “I’ll make sure of that - trust me. Nothing will go wrong…nothing.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
“This is getting more confusing by the minute.”
Jerrica rested her head in her hands. It was the next evening and the Holograms, re-joined a bare hour earlier by the real Raya were at the airport, awaiting their next plane across the country to the east coast. “Raya, run this all by me again. You were kidnapped…and this guy took you where?”
“His apartment.” Raya shivered. “It was dark and he did not let me see his face. I was…I was scared. He said he would not hurt me but I did not know whether I should believe him.”
“And you were there till you called us yesterday?” Aja asked. Raya nodded.
“Sí, I promise.” She agreed. “I never came to Spokane…you do believe me?” Her eyes opened big with apprehension.
“We believe you, Raya.” Shana assured her. “And we know you’re the real Raya, too. Synergy’s convinced and if she is, we are. But if you weren’t here with us last night…”
“Who was?” Kimber finished.
“I dread to think.” Jerrica sighed. “And more to the point, why go to all that trouble? It doesn’t make sense…why take Raya captive for a bare twenty four hours then let her go, just like that? And why vanish into thin air? Whoever it was didn’t exactly do anything to wreck our tour – though they put you through a torrid time of it, Raya. This whole thing makes no sense to me.”
“Me either.” Shana sighed, stretching out on the airport seat. “If you ask me, Jerrica, we should leave it alone for now. Raya’s back, we’ve a plane to catch…and a concert to think about, too.”
“Shana has a point.” Kimber nodded her head. “We’re all together now.” She shrugged. “Maybe the imposter got cold feet and wimped out. Either way, we’re still going ahead.”
“Maybe we’re looking at this all wrong.” Aja put in, her expression troubled.
“What is it, Aja?” Jerrica sent the guitarist a glance.
“Well…maybe we aren’t thinking about this from the right angle. We’ve assumed that the aim was to wreck our tour, but it doesn’t have to be true.” Aja responded.
“Go on.” Shana looked expectant.
“Well…if you ask me, the imposter wouldn’t have simply vanished without achieving her goal. So, stands to reason that whatever it was, she achieved it.” Aja replied slowly.
“You have a hunch, don’t you?” Kimber demanded. Aja nodded.
“I’m afraid so.” She agreed. “Jerrica, think. Did you change to Jem when the imposter was around?”
“I don’t think…” Jerrica frowned, then her eyes widened and her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh! Yes…I did! Backstage, last night…”
“So whoever she is, she knows.” Shana’s expression was grave. “Whoever it was set the whole thing up to find out who you are, Jerrica, and they succeeded.”
“It’s all my fault!” Raya looked stricken. “If I’d not believed the hoax call…”
“Raya, it’s not your fault.” Jerrica assured her. “What else were you to think? You did nothing wrong.” She sighed. “We should have suspected something was up when you…I mean she didn’t want to practice. You’re always keen to play, even when you’re tired.”
“We were all just so glad that you were back we never thought about it…only of course you weren’t, and we didn’t know it.” Kimber agreed, rather confusingly.
“So what do we do?” Shana demanded. “Someone out there knows you’re Jem, Jerrica…and we haven’t the first idea who.”
Jerrica looked troubled.
“I don’t know.” She admitted. “Like you said, we don’t know who’s behind this. It could be anyone. My bet would be Eric Raymond or the Misfits…and if so, we’re in big trouble. They’ll broadcast it in days…” she buried her head in her hands.
“I think all we can do is carry on as normal and hope in the meantime we can use Synergy to get you out of it.” Aja decided. “There’s nothing else we can try, Jerrica. We just have to finish our tour as planned and pray that it was just an over-eager fan who wanted to know for their own satisfaction.”
“Yes…but I have my doubts that it was.” Jerrica grimaced. “You’re right, though, Aja. We have to carry on. We can’t be seen to falter, whatever happens.” She sighed. “I’m worried. If the world were to find out about Synergy…”
“We mustn’t let them.” Kimber told her sister softly. “Whatever happens. Even if they do all find out that you and Jem are the same, Jerrica…Synergy must be protected at all costs.”
“Agreed.” Shana nodded. “Everyone?”
“What else can we do?” Aja shrugged. “I’m with Kimber. Synergy has to be kept secret no matter what.”
“Right, then that’s settled at least.” Jerrica nodded. “And there’s our flight…come on. Maybe we’ll have better luck on the east coast.”
“I still feel bad.” Raya frowned. Aja put a reassuring arm around the drummer’s shoulder.
“Well, don’t. Noone blames you, Raya.” She said gently. “We just have to take things a day at a time and see what comes of it all, okay? And whatever happens, we’ll all have each other. That counts for more than any scandal campaign.”
“Aja’s right.” Kimber nodded. “Holograms forever!”
Chapter Two: Deception
Chapter Three: On Tour With The Holograms
Chapter Four: The Next Stage
Chapter Five: Jem?
Chapter Six: Trapped!
Chapter Seven: An Unlikely Team
Chapter Eight: Laying Plans
Chapter Nine: Letter From The Desert
Chapter Ten: Jetta's Hunch
Chapter Eleven: Some Outside Help
Chapter Twelve: Kimber's Dilemma
Chapter Thirteen: The Great Escape
Chapter Fourteen: Fire!
Chapter Fifteen: Repercussions and Rock and Roll
Chapter Sixteen: The End Of An Era
(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)