Chapter Two: Eric's Deal

"What exactly is it you're asking, Mr Raymond?"

The tall dark man peered at his companion over the top of his glasses, his lips pursed in a thin smile. "That we hurry through this agreement without properly waiting for the correct authorisation? I understood that Misfit Music was a Gabor owned enterprise. Surely Mr Gabor should be a part of this negotiation?"

"Mr Gabor doesn't run Misfit Music. I do." Eric said firmly, indicating for the man to take a seat, then following suit. It was the following morning and, bright and early, the music company's chief executive was conducting a covert meeting on the top floor of Misfit Music's main headquarters. He was only too aware that Pizzazz had begun taking an unnatural interest in business affairs since her recovery, and it would be no time at all before she discovered what he was trying to do. Therefore he had decided to take a gamble, and convince the investors that it was paramount that the deal was concluded soon. He glanced up at the clock, inwardly asking for strength.

"It is owned by the Gabor network, yes, and nominally by Harvey's daughter, Phyllis." He agreed. "But..."

He paused meaningfully.

"Phyllis Gabor?" The other man raised an eyebrow. "The rock singer?"

"Yes." Eric nodded. "She and her band are a big part of this company's profits, but it's me behind the scenes who does all of the work." he frowned. "Nevertheless, if it's her signature you require, I'm sure I can track her down and bring up the matter with her. Obviously her first concern is her music and she places a great amount of trust in me to oversee the business end of things. Naturally I do everything in my power, therefore, to keep Misfit Music on an even keel. I've worked here ever since the place first opened - you will find that my credentials here are sound."

"I have every confidence in that, Mr Raymond. Our organisation doesn't invest in unsound enterprises." The man told him coolly. "Would it not be possible to speak to Miss Gabor herself?"

"She and the girls are very busy. She's recently been in hospital, and..."

"I do read the papers, Mr Raymond." His companion held up his hand. "Nonetheless, I must insist. It is a great deal of money we would be putting into this business. I would rather do everything by the book."

Before Eric could respond, the office door opened and Pizzazz herself entered, stopping dead at the sight of the stranger. She frowned in confusion, casting Eric a searching look.

"What's all this?" She demanded. "Something up, Eric?"

"Ah...Pizzazz, you have perfect timing." Eric spoke in tones which suggested quite the opposite. He got to his feet, indicating his companion. "This is Stanley Moss, he and his company want to invest in Misfit Music. It's a lucrative sponsorship deal - something the company should really be giving serious thought."
He turned a wan smile on his visitor.

"Mr Moss, may I present to you Misfits Music's owner, Phyllis Gabor."

"A sponsorship deal?" Pizzazz eyed Stanley sharply, then, "What kind of sponsorship? What are you touting?"

Eric winced.

"Musical instruments, Miss Gabor." Stanley held out his hand to shake hers, and, hesitantly, she took it. "Your colleague, Mr Raymond...he thinks that an agreement can be struck as soon as possible. We would supply your company with our instruments for your artists to use, and in return we would pay sponsorship for your other endeavours - publicity, touring and the like. I'm glad to make your acquaintance - it's a policy we have that we never close deals without the consent of everyone in command."

He reached into his folder, pulling out a sheet of paper and handing it to her. "These are the terms of our offer. If you'd consider reading them over, I'd be much obliged to you."

Pizzazz took the sheet, glancing at it, then nodding her head.

"It'll be seen to." She said quietly.

"Good. Then I'll be on my way." Stanley smiled, a thin-lipped smile that lacked all warmth. He nodded to Eric. "Mr Raymond, I'm sure we can continue with this tomorrow, once Miss Gabor has had a chance to review the particulars."

With that he swept out of the office, the door swinging shut behind him. Pizzazz cast Eric a thoughtful look.

"Sponsorship?" She said softly. "What have you been doing since I got hurt, Eric? How many other sponsorship deals are hidden away in back-closets that I don't know about?"

"There's nothing wrong with lucrative backing. You should know that yourself." Eric sounded impatient, crossing the office to the filing cabinet and producing a folder. "Here. Since you were...unfortunately detained in hospital, we've had two or three people contact us with a view to supporting your enterprise. This one looked the best of the bunch, so I was negotiating it. The company can benefit from it."

Pizzazz pursed her lips.

"Jetta thinks you're planning something." She said at length.

"Planning what?" Eric spread his hands. "If I was planning something, wouldn't I have tried to get rid of you from the office, instead of introducing you to Mr Moss? He was asking to meet you anyway - it could not have worked out better."

"I suppose I better read his stupid terms." Pizzazz sighed, glancing at the sheet of paper. "Great. There are a thousand things I'd rather be doing."

She raised her gaze. "Or you could give me a summary." She suggested. "What's doing?"

"It's pretty much as Moss said." Eric retook his seat behind the desk. "Instruments, sponsorship, all of that. We're talking a million dollars here, Pizzazz. All driven into publicity and promotion for your company - most probably for the Misfits. And at the moment, they need that kind of injection of cash. Your father doesn't write so many cheques to keep this place going. Deals like this shouldn't be ignored."

Pizzazz bristled.

"I don't need my father to tell me what to do or to pick up my company's bills." She said acidly. "All right. Tell your Mr Moss to forward his junk to me and I'll sign his contract. Don't suppose there's any harm in it, and it doesn't matter what brand of instrument we use. Roxy breaks enough guitars anyhow. She keeps using the strings to fix her damn motorcycle. I swear she should never have been allowed to buy that thing. Since she did everything under the sun has disappeared to the garage."

She grimaced. "Well? Get onto it! If we're doing this, let's do it! No time like the present."

"I'll pass the message on this very morning." Eric assured her, inwardly hardly believing his luck. Pizzazz smiled.

"Good boy." She murmured, dropping the sheet of paper into the bin. "You can fill me in on the boring details later."

Eric eyed her doubtfully for a moment, then he shrugged.

"Of course. You're the boss." He said genially. Pizzazz pursed her lips.

"Yeah." She agreed. "Whatever good that does me."

With that cryptic statement she was gone, leaving Eric taking a deep breath and running his fingers through his hair.

"I thought I was a goner there." He muttered, as he pushed the folder aside, hunting through his desk drawers for the real one. "Thank God it's never been her style to read through documentation when there's someone else to do it for her! I was getting worried that the accident had made her more keen to be involved, but I guess  not. I guess it was just another Pizzazz flash in the pan, and I can live with that."

He pursed his lips.

"Moss will get his paperwork signed - by me and by Pizzazz, by the sounds of it - and that's one million bucks coming my way. She doesn't need to know that the account it's going into isn't Misfit Music's. She never checks that kind of thing, anyhow. She probably won't even notice. I've been skimming off profits from this place off and on ever since I took up my job here. I should be a pro at it now."

He glanced up at the clock once more.

"Almost ten o' clock. I'll leave it till eleven then call Moss. I don't want to seem desperate." He decided. "But you never know with Pizzazz how things will end up. The sooner this is worked out, the better. Just in case she decides to focus on her work for once!"

Pizzazz, for her part, had headed down to the lobby, intent on spending the rest of the morning at the beach. She had not lost her licence after the accident, though she had received a stiff talking to from her father about her reckless behaviour behind the wheel, and so far had not driven since her return home, preferring to call one of her father's drivers and be chauffeured instead. As she reached the lobby, looking for the man who had driven her there that morning, she heard someone call her name and she called, turning and pulling a face.

"Riot, what do you want! Can't you see I'm busy?!" She snapped.

"I can see you're heading out of the door after less than an hour here." Rory Llewelyn, leader of the Stingers told her in smooth, arrogant tones. "Which must be a new record, even for you. I wanted a word with you about the Stingers next tour. Providing, of course, you're going to let us away from your coat tails now you're back in charge." His lip curled. "Eric seemed to think you wouldn't want us away in your absence."

"You know and I know that I don't care much about your two bit band." Pizzazz pushed past him. "If you wanna go on tour, be my guest. Talk to Eric. Let him arrange it. That's why I pay him, after all."

Riot snorted.

"Your father should sell this company to someone who knows how to run it." He said scathingly. Pizzazz paused, turning on her heel.

"Meaning?" She demanded.

"Meaning that you're as incompetant a businesswoman as you are a singer." Riot responded darkly. "Money really doesn't buy you sense, Pizzazz."

"And what are you trying to say?" Pizzazz's eyes flashed with fire. "That I can't run this company? That I need to run to Daddy every time something difficult comes up?"

"Yes, because you do." Riot said matter-of-factly. "Look at you! You smash yourself up in a stupid road accident that could have been prevented and, quite honestly, should have killed you - it's only thanks to some miracleworking surgeon that you survived, and the merits of that are dubious, if you want my opinion. And you employ a charlatan like Eric to run the show - someone who's as slick as they come and who's going to lap you on the intelligence track every time it comes to the crunch. One of these days your luck is going to run out."

"At least Eric does work, and doesn't just stand around all day spouting off like you seem to." Pizzazz spat back bitterly. "And for your information, he's just netted this company a million dollar sponsorship deal which even the Stingers will benefit from. You're full of yourself, Riot, and I don't care about your opinion. This is my company. You got that? Mine. Not yours. Not these days. And if you want your stupid group to go on any kind of damn tour then you better improve your etiquette. Now, I'm going out. You got a problem? Go cry to Eric. He seems to be the only one of my employees bothering to keep this company afloat anyhow."

She stormed out of the front entrance, almost colliding with the driver she had been seeking, and barking out an order to him to take her to the beach. He scurried to follow her orders, and soon the big black vehicle was pulling slowly out of the company's front forecourt. Idly Pizzazz gazed out of the window, her brows knitting together as they passed the big monstrosity of a hospital where she had spent the critical days and weeks following her accident. Seeing the hospital made her think once more of her recent conversation with Alan Garcia, and inwardly she resolved once again that she would exorcise his memory with action.

"I'm not an invalid now, having to be careful of this or that." She murmured to herself, clenching and unclenching her fists. "I'm a woman with power...connections...and, of course, beauty. I'm a somebody out in the real world and I'm going to prove it. Dammit, back before all this happened, I didn't have a problem getting a guy's attention! Didn't I win the bet in the club with Jetta? The guy was easy pickings!"

She drummed her fingernails impatiently on the arm of the chair as the car hit the freeway, heading out towards the sea.

"I'm wasted, stuck in an office all day." She mused. "So it's my company...but that's why I kept Eric on. He understands all that complicated junk. Likes it, even."
She sighed. "At least he seems to be committed to this company. True, it's probably only because he's a workaholic and he knows I pay him a fat wage, but still. Jetta's paranoid - Jetta's always paranoid. Eric told me up front about this sponsorship crap, after all. He might be a jerk but he ain't a fool. He knows that this company will pay him a fat pension when he retires - if he ever does - and it won't do him any good to go messing about with it."

She rolled her eyes heavenwards.

"I need a few more employees on those terms. People who know that if they don't do as they're supposed to, they're out on their ear. I wish I'd never agreed that the Stingers would get promotion and protection by this company when I coerced Riot out of his half of the business. I held all the cards, with Minx's paperwork so flaky. But I guess you live and learn. And I do have my company back. It is mine, whatever he thinks of it, or me. So he can screw himself. I might have to employ and support his band but it doesn't mean I have to like them or listen to their complaints."

She sighed.

"I wish it wasn't so damn hard to run a music company. Misfit Music is the best there is - why don't people just accept that and leave things alone? All this competitive interest crap Daddy was talking about the other night is a total drag. God knows why I decided to go along to that. Maybe it was for the drinks...but none of his colleagues were even remotely attractive and certainly not interesting company. Oh well. I suppose it's irrelevant anyway. Eric can handle the business. I'm just going to focus on being Pizzazz again, and getting the Misfits back to the top of the charts. After all, that's where we damn belong, and if it hadn't been for that stupid car wreck, we'd be there already! Stormer's new song had better be something extra special - the other night was all very well but we need something new to knock everyone else down. The boring stuff can wait - music is what we're here for, after all, and music is what we're gonna do!"


Part Two: A Test Of Faith
Chapter One:  Back In The Spotlight
Chapter Two:  Eric's Deal
Chapter Three: Siren
Chapter Four: The Morning After
Chapter Five: Schemes

Chapter Six: Roxy Acts
Chapter Seven:  Cracks