Chapter Nine: Eric's Offer

So it was his.

Eric smoothed out the folded piece of paper, running his gaze over the typed text and then smiling as he caught sight of the signature at the bottom. Shaky it was, but unmistakeably that of Misfit Music's proprietress in all her formal glory.

"I can't believe that it was as easy as all that." He murmured, opening a nearby folder and slipping it inside. "I thought it would need more persuasion - more coercing. It was well worded though - I must make sure I thank Thompson for his legal opinion when I send him his cut. That accident tore up half her chest and, well, it didn't kill her, but it will mean she won't be here breathing down my neck for a while. In a way it couldn't have worked out better. Her death would have meant all kinds of logistical problems but this way I have the company's finances under my control with remarkably little stress or hassle."

He pursed his lips, considering.

"Of course, it helps too that the company's insurance people agreed to pay out on Pizzazz's injury after my little conversation with them this morning. If I play my cards right this could be a very lucrative situation for me. So long as I'm careful, of course."

"You look overly happy this morning, Eric."

A voice from the doorway made him start and then frown, as he recognised the lead singer of the Stingers.

"I'm contemplating today's workload, that's all." He said briefly. "Since Pizzazz is unwell, she's delegated control of the company to me in the meantime. I'm glad you're here, actually. I want a word with you about your imminent plans for your group."

"Pizzazz's injuries must have included concussion, for her to sign those kinds of rights over to a man with your history." Riot said, taking an empty seat with a bad-tempered air. "What do you care about the Stingers, anyhow? Pizzazz doesn't care about us. If it wasn't for my own skill in planning and organisation we'd have been a sunk act coming out of this pit of a company. Now you're in charge I'm wondering if we should be a part of it at all."

"They do have a saying, you know, about rats and sinking ships." Eric observed absently. Riot's eyes narrowed.

"So you admit that the company is in trouble?" He demanded. Eric shook his head, offering a smile.

"Quite the contrary." He responded. "Thanks to my quick action yesterday, things have never looked brighter. The insurance people seem satisfied that Pizzazz's accident was an accident and was not caused by dangerous driving or they have agreed to pay the agreed sum into the company accounts. And, of course, I intend on actively engaging myself in promotions for Misfit Music whilst I have control of the company. You see, my dear Riot, Pizzazz might put the Misfits first, but me, I put profit first. And while the Misfits are not able to perform, the Stingers are the company's biggest act."

"The Stingers would be the company's biggest act period, if someone hadn't let themselves get carried away with helping themselves to company money, and then lied about international clearance for one of our members." Riot snapped, anger in his blue eyes. "You know it and I know it. You might sweet-talk Pizzazz with your lies but I'm not a fool like she is. I know your ways and I don't trust you. Tell me what you want with me and my girls and get to the point. I'm not in the mood for your games."

Eric's expression became thoughtful.

"Very well." He said slowly. "Some weeks ago I received a letter from a company in Maine who wanted to invest in the business here. They were looking to buy shares, but Pizzazz refused to sell any stake in her company and relinquish full ownership. Their offer was extremely generous and the money they were willing to put forward would have provided ample promotion for your Stingers and for the Misfits. In short, equal publicity."

"But Pizzazz turned them down. What can you do about it?" Riot's expression was wary.

"At the moment, not a lot. But if Pizzazz continues to remain out of my hair, it might be possible for me to work out some other arrangement with them. I can be most persuasive in business matters."

"If Pizzazz found out you were planning to screw over her company's ownership by arranging to sell sections of it off..."

"She won't, and I'm not." Eric fixed Riot with another smile. "But it's to your benefit as well as to my own that these people are allowed to invest in a stake of the company. Not only that, but I received communication this morning from a business that manufacture high class musical instruments. For some time now I've been trying to get them tied to a sponsorship contract here, but have lacked the power to actually do anything concrete. Now I have that power, I intend reopening negotiations on that front. It's a potential million dollars which, with the Misfits out of action, the Stingers will benefit from in it's entirety."

"It all sounds very good." Riot eyed his companion cautiously. "But what do you get out of it? What are we going to have to do for you in order for you to help us?"
"Simple." Eric shrugged. "Your cooperation is all that is required." His eyes narrowed. "I'm not the fool you think I am, you know. I know you went to the Gabor place last night because I heard Stormer talking it over with Roxy downstairs only this morning. I know you tried to get control of this company and I know you're the kind of man who'll do everything in his power to take me down. What I want from you is for you to do as I tell you. I will handle the money side of things. I will see to the Stingers' promotions. I will do it all, and make the Stingers as big a part of this company as they were before...before Harvey Gabor bought the business back - so long as you sit back and do nothing to interfere."

Riot pursed his lips.

"I suppose that can be arranged." He said at length. "I had intended to gatecrash the hospital this afternoon to discuss the situation with Pizzazz myself, if at all possible. But in light of this discussion perhaps I can delay it for a few days. So long as you keep your side of the bargain, I will keep mine."

"Good." Eric smiled, offering his hand and after a moment of hesitation, Riot shook it. "Then it's settled between us."

"You will have to keep me abreast of the financial situation, so that I know what kind of promotions to ask for." Riot mused.

"You will be." Eric assured him.

"I had also meant to discuss with you - or Pizzazz - a tour that Rapture and Minx have been plotting out. I wanted to see if dates could be finalised."

"Much as I would like you out of my immediate range, Riot, I can't send you away on tour when you're the biggest act on tap and when there are major local dates to fill in the Misfits' absence." Eric frowned, shaking his head. "These are important gigs - big gate receipts and only a band of the Stingers' status could possibly fill the Misfits' void. For now the tour will have to wait - but I promise you it will be worth waiting for."

"The Stingers will get all of the Misfits' cancelled appearances?"

"Where possible, yes." Eric nodded.

"Then I suppose the tour can be postponed until a more appropriate time arises." Riot's smile was cool. "I will speak to the others, and tell them what you have told me. Perhaps it will not be so bad to have Pizzazz out of action, after all."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"You over-taxed yourself last night."

Alan Garcia exchanged reproachful looks with his defiant patient, setting her chart down on the bedcover. "I should probably stop you having all visitors, since you obviously talked yourself to death when Miss Burns was here and in consequence here you are today with a slight temperature. I was hoping that you were going to start listening to me, but I guess not. Remember what I said about sedation! If you continue to overstress your stitches, then I won't have any hesitation in making it a reality."

"Quit nagging." Pizzazz's voice was hoarse and pained, and the doctor's frown deepened.

"I'm serious." He said quietly, the teasing tone dropping from his voice. "Your temperature is up a point or two and it should not be. It's nothing sinister - yet - but I don't want it to get to that point. Now, your father is here to see you this morning, and I know he can be trusted to keep you quiet, so you may see him. But I want you to take it easy. Don't talk unless you really have to. Maybe we can get a notepad for you, so you can write down any requests you may have. You've been doing so well and I don't want you going backwards, so work with me here, huh?"

He eyed her keenly.

"Whether you believe me or not, I do care about you getting better and back with your group singing again. At the moment it's certainly not a guarantee."

He stood, replacing the chart on the end of the bed.

"I'll send in your father, and I'll come see you about lunchtime. I have surgery now, so I might be a touch late, but I want to hear you've eaten whatever they give you this time. I will forgive you for refusing breakfast, since you're obviously feeling miserable today, but now I've given you something for your temperature you should start to feel better, and there was no excuse for you to tip the food all over the floor and your bedcovers first thing. I expect that from my patients in the childrens' wards. Not from a young lady who fronts a band and owns a business."

<>Pizzazz's eyes darkened with petulant anger, but she said nothing. In truth she felt washed out, and when she had awoken that morning she had known something was not right. Whether talking the night before had exacerbated her stitches she did not know, but she felt resentful that he dared to tell her off, when it was clearly his lack of foresight which had resulted in her fever that morning. Her chest ached and throbbed with every breath she drew and her head felt muggy and uncomfortable. Inwardly she cursed him once again for being so matter-of-fact and composed about the whole thing. She was a very rich woman with a very serious injury, and his casual attitude antagonised her.

And yet, something in his calm had reassured her, too. She might resent his playful tone, but she also knew that, had she been in any real danger, he would have made no bones about it, and would have taken action right away. And, she admitted to herself grudgingly, as she watched the doctor leave, she did owe him her life. Even if it was his fault that she felt as bad as she did that morning, it was still thanks to him that she was able to be there, feeling bad or otherwise.

Somehow in her current disgruntled state, this did nothing to cheer her mood.

Once Alan had ushered Harvey into the little sideward, he paused in the corridor outside, letting out a sigh of relief.

"Dealing with her is never like dealing with an ordinary patient." He remarked, when a nearby nurse asked him what was wrong. "You never know quite what you're going to get."

"I heard she threw her breakfast at the ward sister this morning, when she went to check her charts and stuff." The nurse sent him a sympathetic smile. "Sooner she's convalescent, the better for everyone, I imagine. Better to get her out of here while the hospital is still standing!"

"If looks could kill, it, me and most of the rest of the staff would be in pieces." Alan agreed ruefully. "But I don't know, Sandra. She's got this reputation for being a spoiled, arrogant bitch...and I can see where she gets it. But the truth is she's frightened. She's got an injury which might take away her career and which almost took away her life. Sometimes I'm ready to strangle her, but then I remember that and I guess I feel better disposed towards her."

He glanced at his hands.

"If something happened to me whereby I couldn't go into theatre any more, or perform any more operations, I don't know what I'd do." He admitted. "Miss Gabor's facing that kind of dilemma now. It doesn't help that she's impatient and wants everything done last week, or that she's quite the madam, with very clear opinions of her own. But underneath it all she's just another scared patient. That's all."

"Well, I still think the sooner you fix her and she's on to outpatients the better." Sandra grimaced. "I swear I've never known a patient press the button more times for menial things. I think she thinks she's at some classy hotel!"

Alan laughed.

"Yes, I can imagine that." He admitted. "And I must scoot. I'm removing part of a lung this morning and I don't want to keep people waiting."

"I thought you were doing that op tonight?" Sandra looked confused. "Mr Randall?"

"We were, but he's heomorrhaging slightly and it's an exec decision to do it right away." Alan nodded.

"That mean you get off earlier this evening?"

"With a queue of ops and a bunch of patients to see? Not a chance." Alan rolled his eyes. "Though between you and me, I'd rather be here than at home at the moment. If you get my drift."

"She's not still causing you hell, is she?" Sandra looked concerned. "Why you stay married to that woman I don't know. You spend most of your time at work complaining about her - and doing overtime to avoid her. Why don't you just divorce the witch and get on with your life? You're a good looking guy. It's not like you'd be stuck for choice."

"Because that witch is my wife, and, like it or don't, we have two children to worry about." Alan pulled a face. "And so long as I can stick this pain in the ass marriage for their sake, I will. I grew up in a split home, Sandra. I don't want them to."

"It's not good for them to see Mom and Dad fighting, though." Sandra warned him. "Nor is it any good if they never see Dad because Dad's always working to avoid seeing Mom. Think about it, huh?"

"Well, I will, but for now this arrangement seems to suit us fine." Alan shrugged. "So that's an end to it."

He winked at her.

"Have fun with your favourite patient. Mr Randall awaits."


Part One: Summer, 1989
Chapter One: Alone
Chapter Two: A Night Out
Chapter Three: Tragedy
Chapter Four: Aftermath
Chapter Five:  Alan Garcia

Chapter Six: Fire vs Fire
Chapter Seven: Eric

Chapter Eight: Ambition
Chapter Nine: Eric's Offer
Chapter Ten: Misfits To Arms