Chapter Three: A Friend In Need
"Something has you in a good mood today."
Hazel Byrne, one of the other waitresses at Tony's Cafe paused in her evaluation of an order to examine the expression on Sheila's face, a thoughtful look on her own. "You're actually smiling, with five hours left of your shift to go - what gives?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Sheila responded with a grin.
"Wonder where she got to last night." Emma Royce, the other waitress on that shift put in snidely from across the room. "If you don't know where she gets that expression from yet, Hazel, you need to grow up some!"
"Actually, Emma, you're the one who needs to grow up. Not all of us spend our whole lives chasin' after no good blokes." Sheila shrugged. "I got me sax, is all."
"You gonna give us a concert, then?" Hazel demanded. Sheila laughed.
"I've had it ten minutes!" she protested. "Not likely. At the moment me dumb folks don't even know about it!"
"Where'd you get it?" Emma demanded. "I presume you did buy it..."
"Course, love. I saved up me pay." Sheila responded. "I ain't rising to you today, neither...I'm in too much of a good mood to bother. And where? The music shop in town...I can't wait for my free day so I can play it properly!"
"I can't wait for my free day, period." Hazel groaned. "I've such a headache from the stupid flickering lights behind the bar...roll on Sunday!"
"I'm working this Sunday." Emma grimaced, then, "Ooh, looks like we got ourselves some action!" As something in the doorway caught her attention.
"What?" Sheila turned, then pulled a face. "Cops...what they doin' here? Off duty?"
"Probably gonna decide that this whole cafe is a cover for some big international spy ring." Hazel giggled. "Come on. We oughta get working before they arrest us for nappin' on the job."
"They can arrest me any day." Emma remarked. "That one with the dark hair is cute..."
"Come on, you flirt." Hazel laughed. "Mr Randall ain't gonna be in any sweet mood if we just stand here and gawk at them, and though Sheila might get away with murder, I wanna keep this job."
"I don't! He scolds me as much as anyone!" Sheila protested.
"Yeah, but you ain't been fired for insubordination yet." Hazel reminded her. "And I know that if I dared mention his baldin' I'd be outta here in a flash. He's sweet on you, Sheila."
"Nah." Sheila snorted. "Not 'im."
"Reckon if we offered service with a smile those cops would tip us good? I could do with the extra cash." Emma wondered. Sheila laughed.
"Emma, love, the kind of service you'd like to do they'd arrest you for!"
"Shut up." Emma retorted, though there was a smile on her face. "At least I do date...when was the last time you had a guy?"
"Like it matters." Sheila was scornful. "But I ain't into 'relationships'." She made imaginary quote marks in the air to illustrate her point. "I've been out with blokes for a drink or darts or whatever, but I'm not into all that mushy stuff like you are. Waste of my time."
"Heartless, that's your trouble, Sheila." Hazel teased her. "No sense of romance."
"Nope, not me." Sheila agreed cheerfully. "Men are only good for one thing...well, two if you count money..."
"You're terrible." Emma told her. Then, "Hey! They're talking to Mr Randall...think they're gonna arrest him?"
"What could he have done? He's soft as anything." Hazel protested. "C'mon. We gotta stop dawdling...people are startin' to send us bad looks."
"All right, already." Sheila retorted. "'Ere, you take table seven, and I'll see to cleanin' up table four. Okay?"
As the girls headed their separate ways to do their various chores, Sheila became aware that she was the focus of some attention, and glancing up she saw with both surprise and trepidation that the two policemen who had been talking to Mr Randall were now heading her way, the boss in tow. Inwardly she began recounting her deeds over the last few nights, but could come up with nothing that she had done to invoke such serious expressions from the law.
"I've been a good girl, really." she told herself. "So what the 'eck this is about I don't know."
"Sheila, can we have a word?" Mr Randall's voice was unusually sombre, and Sheila nodded, slipping her most composed act into place and stepping away from the table.
"A word? Sure. No problem. What about?" she asked.
"You are Sheila Burns?" One of the officers asked. Sheila nodded again.
"Yeah, that's me. So what?"
"Miss Burns, last night we made an arrest - I believe you have a brother named Jeremy?"
"Yes...Oh, what's he done now?" Sheila raised an eyebrow. "Double parked or somethin'?"
"Miss Burns, this isn't a joke. Your brother has been arrested on a charge of armed robbery, and has named you among his accomplices." The other officer clearly did not find the matter at all light-hearted.
"What?" Now Sheila paled, her composure sliding away as the horror of the man's words dawned on her. "He what? But...but that's impossible! He wouldn't...and I...I didn't..."
"Sheila, I think it's best you go with them now and clear things up." Mr Randall intervened. "I believe you, if you say you didn't do it, but these things must be taken care of properly."
"Miss Burns, we have no choice...we have a warrant for your arrest." The first officer intervened. "It would be as well for you if you did as your supervisor suggests and come with us. If there is a mistake it can be cleared up more easily at the station."
"I...I guess I don't have a choice, neither." Sheila sighed heavily, though inwardly fear had gripped her young heart. "When I get me 'ands on you, Jeremy Burns, I'll make you wish you'd never been born! Okay, I'm comin'. You don't need to cuff me, I ain't resisting."
Aware all eyes were on her, she sauntered out of the cafe as nonchalantly as she could muster beneath the terror welling up in her soul. She had been raised with a deep-rooted mistrust of policemen and had always loathed being locked in...no matter how hard she tried to quell the panic, it was with great difficulty that she maintained any kind of composure. Jeremy had never been caught before...and had never betrayed her so thoroughly before.
And now...well, now who knew what her fate would be?
The ride to the police station passed in a blur in Sheila's mind. It wasn't until she found herself in a starkly painted room, with a police officer in front of her and the door firmly shut did it dawn on her that they expected something more from her than simply a plea of innocence. Again panic gripped her. What should she do? How should she tackle this? What had Jeremy said to them...and why?
"Miss Burns...you know I believe why you are here." The police officer spoke in quiet tones. "You are over the age of eighteen, I trust?"
"Yes." The word was no more than a whisper.
"You are aware of your right to have a legal adviser present?"
"I...I just want this over with and sorted out. I didn't do anything!" Finally Sheila's daze snapped and she gazed at the officer helplessly, her eyes filling with unfamiliar tears. "You have to believe me...he's lying! I know nothing about any stupid robbery!"
"Miss Burns, if you could just answer the questions." The policeman was unmoved. "This interview is being recorded, so you would be advised to tell us only the truth. You are acquainted with a man named Jeremy Burns, are you not?"
"Yes, you blinkin' well know I am." Sheila retorted.
"What is this man to you?"
"He's me no good, lyin' brother, that's what he is." Now the tears fell. "Please, you 'ave to listen to me...I don't know anything about this...I didn't know a thing till you mentioned it!"
"Where were you last night, between nine and eleven, Miss Burns?" Almost automatically, and certainly without much sympathy the police officer pushed a box of tissues towards his companion, as if dealing with near hysterical young ladies was an everyday occurence in his profession. Sheila took one almost automatically, beginning to tear it absently into shreds, her mind in a whirl. At first she did not answer, and the police officer repeated his question.
"I...I don't..." This time the question registered, but she faltered in responding, for in her panic her mind had gone blank. Then, suddenly, it came to her.
"I was...I was at a friend's house!"
"A friend's house?" The police officer repeated. "What friend would this be?"
"L...Laura Cunn..ningham." Sheila twisted her hands together uncomfortably. "I was at 'er place till 'alf midnight, when I got a cab back 'ome."
"And can Miss Cunningham confirm that?"
"Of course she can! Think I was in 'er 'ouse without 'er there?" Sheila demanded. Then, "Oh...but she's in Yorkshire till some time tomorrow...I...I don't know when she'll be back. She gave me a ride to work this mornin', but she didn't tell me when...when she might be 'ome."
"I see." The policeman paused, then, "Is there anyone else who can provide you with an alibi for that night, Miss Burns?"
"No...I...I don't think so." Sheila's voice dropped to a whisper. "You don't believe me, do you? You think I'm makin' it up!"
"We will talk to Miss Cunningham in the morning." The policeman ignored the question. "And if she can confirm your story and is willing to give a statement to that effect then that will of course change your situation...for now, Miss Burns, I think you must realise that you are in a very serious situation. Your brother's statement implicates you fully in last night's robbery...unless you can firmly prove you were not there then I am afraid you will be charged."
"Tomorrow?" The rest of the man's words were lost on her as the first part of it sunk in. "You mean...you mean I gotta stay 'ere? All night?"
"Unless you have someone to put up bail, yes." The officer nodded. "Is there anyone you want to call?"
"No bloomin' point." Sheila was bitter. "I don't 'ave Laura's number up north and me parents ain't gonna help me out if it involves spendin' money. I'm stuck 'ere." She buried her head in her hands. "Damn you, Jeremy! I'll never forgive you for this...not ever!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"What's all this?"
Laura stepped out of the car, a frown crossing her face as she registered the policeman who had just given up trying to get a response from the house and was heading back down her drive to his car. "Excuse me, can I 'elp you?"
"Maybe you can. I'm looking for a Miss Cunningham." The officer smiled at her. "Laura Cunningham."
"That would be me." Laura's frown deepened. "What's up?"
"We couldn't get an answer at your house by phone, understood you were out of town, but I came over on the offchance of finding you." The officer responded. "I'm sorry to take up your valuable time, Miss Cunningham, but there's a matter of some urgency we need your help in."
"Mum and I have both been away for the past day or so. There's been noone home since yesterday morning." Laura responded. "Urgent? What is it?"
"You are acquainted with a Sheila Burns?"
"Sheila?" Laura stopped dead. "Yes, of course. Why? What's happened?"
"Miss Burns was arrested yesterday after being named as an accomplice in an armed robbery at a jewellery store. Two security guards were hospitalised - it was a nasty affair." The officer responded.
"But...that's impossible! Sheila...she just wouldn't!" Laura's eyes opened wide. "And what can I do to help you?"
"The robbery took place at ten the night before last...Miss Burns claims to have been with you till gone midnight. We need you to confirm or deny her alibi." The officer said. "She hasn't been charged, as yet...your testimony is important."
"Well, she was with me till late." Laura nodded. "She often comes over mine in the evening. We ordered pizza too...maybe the pizza guy would remember her also. She paid him."
"She didn't mention that to us." the officer frowned.
"Well, I expect she was shell-shocked. Sheila may be wild sometimes but she wouldn't do anything like this!" Laura responded. "I guess I gotta come file my statement, huh? Get her out of there. I trust once I give my side of things she will be let go?"
"If you make a statement confirming her whereabouts on the night in question, then of course, though we might require her further for questioning on other affairs." The officer nodded.
"Then let's go." Laura's tone was determined. "I know she's innocent and I'm gonna get her out of there!"
PART THREE: BACK IN THE CITY
Chapter Nine: The Misfits In London
Chapter Ten: On Every Screen...
Chapter Eleven: A Musical Reunion
Chapter Twelve: Jealousy
Chapter Thirteen: An Old Acquaintance
Chapter Fourteen: Doing London
Chapter Fifteen: Sabotage!
Chapter Sixteen: The Final Straw
Chapter Seventeen: Opening Night
Chapter Eighteen: Jetta
(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)