Chapter Five: Schemes

So now what?

Eric straightened his tie for the seventh time, glancing nervously at the door as he did so.

It was almost eleven o' clock, and since their encounter last night, he had so far not laid eyes on the fearsome owner of Misfits Music. The night before had been a crazy leap of faith, even for him, and he had no way of knowing what her reaction would be in the cold light of day.

"I swear she's the most unpredictable girl on this planet." He muttered, adjusting his tie yet again and rearranging the papers on his desk with fidgety hands. "If I had pushed her away last night she might have got angry - angry enough to pry into what I've been doing, even angry enough to cut me loose! I can't risk that when I'm so close. But did I take too big a gamble? A million dollars of Moss's money is worth the uncertainty, but I wish she wouldn't keep me hanging on like this! I only need a few more days and everything is taken care of. I hope I haven't pushed the boat out too far on this one!"

"Well, good morning."

He had not heard the door open, and at the sound of her voice he started, turning to stare at her with uncertain eyes. Seeing his expression, she laughed, coming to sit down in the big chair in front of the desk.

"What, afraid of a little business tete-a-tete now, Eric?" She asked playfully. "You should know better than to be afraid of me. Or are you still recovering from the after-effects of our meeting last night? Are you that repressed that it takes you all this time to get your brain in gear?"

"I have just spoken to Stanley Moss on the phone, and he's sending a representative around to collect the contract you signed last night." Eric struggled to keep a hand on his composure. This was a Pizzazz he was unused to, for, though he had seen her flirt and play and tease men in the past, he had never been the recipient of her affections before. He found that it disturbed him, for he knew that she wielded a great deal of power and that his actions could easily dictate whether he kept his job or not.

And then there was that money to think about, too.

"You're all work, aren't you." Pizzazz sighed, seemingly bored by the conversation. "All right. So when do we get the money, then?"

"Within the next couple of days everything should be settled up." Eric replied levelly. "I'm expecting it to be all through and finished by the end of the week, and we'll have the new equipment early next. I understand you girls have a song to put down - the timing could not be better."

"We're going to work on it in studio today. Stormer's finished it." Pizzazz told him. "And tomorrow I've told Justin that we want to do photographs, so we get that done ready for the single release. Then there's the question of a music video - I want something out of Los Angeles this time. I get bored of this city!"

"Any idea where you want to go?" Eric asked. Pizzazz shook her head.

"No. Somewhere exotic, but I'll leave that side of it to you." She told him airily. "Your job is to see to our affairs that way, after all."

She pursed her lips.

"Oh, but there was one other thing."

"Yes?" Eric looked wary.

"I want to talk to you about the Stingers' promotions. They seem to have been using a lot of company money lately to promote their worthless little circus show, and I want that money for the Misfits. Riot doesn't own this company, I do - you'd do better to keep me happy than him."

"I only put money and time into the Stingers while your group were out of action. For the good of the company." Eric told her hurriedly. "Now the Misfits are back, it's business as usual. Of course, you girls are this company's priority."

"Yes, of course we are." Pizzazz nodded her head.

She eyed him thoughtfully.

"You know, I never realised how much fun office work could be." She said softly, a playful glint in her green eyes. "Did you? I never pulled an all nighter at work before. It was kinda interesting. I must do it again sometime."

Eric swallowed hard, then,

"Well, you know that it's your company. I don't suppose it matters what time you visit it."

"I didn't mean alone." Pizzazz's expression became predatorial. "And I think you know that well enough, don't you?"

"About last night..."

"Shh." Pizzazz shook her head. "There's no need to talk about it. I'm not a fool and neither are you. I don't have time for silly love matters and you're only interested in business and profit. That's fine by me. I'm a powerful woman with connections and money. You should keep me happy...very happy. You never know what might come your way, so long as you do."

Eric looked confused.

"You were a touch drunk last night." He hazarded. "I don't think..."

"No, don't think." Pizzazz interrupted him. "Nothing to think about."

She stood, winking at him.

"Our secret." She said softly. "I better get going - the girls are waiting for me. But don't forget what I said, Eric. It's a buzz to be bad sometimes, and you should always keep on the right side of a Gabor. Just in case."

With that she was gone, and Eric sank deeper into his seat, letting out his breath in a rush.

"Well, I still have my job." He mused. "But...hell, what lengths am I going to have to go to to get a hold of this money? Although..."

He frowned, pulling open the desk drawer and pulling out his folder of paperwork, spreading it out on the desk. On the top of the pile was the permission Pizzazz had signed to give him control of the company finances, and a slow smile touched his lips.

"She wasn't kidding when she said that keeping her happy could be beneficial." he mused. "It doesn't have to stop at the sponsorship. I still have free reign over the company finances, and so long as she's preoccupied with this little game of hers, I can do what I like with her money. She's silly enough not to realise what's up until it's too late, and I can make enough money here to set me up for life. Perhaps it is only a small sacrifice to make, after all. So long as I'm cautious about it, I can bleed this place dry and be out of California before she even knows anything is missing."

He laughed.

"I guess that last night was a more important business meeting than I first thought." He decided dryly. "But things are definitely looking up!"

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"Okay, girls, take five."

Justin lowered his camera, casting the hot and dusty Misfits a rueful smile. "That's this film finished and I want to get the drops changed so you might as well take the opportunity to get a drink or something. Those studio lights are blazing."

"You can talk! You're not stuck under them." Pizzazz shot him a glare, tucking wisps of hair back behind her ears. "How much longer are you going to take? You've shot four rolls of film already and dragged us back from the beach to this dump...What did Eric brief you anyhow?"

"He didn't. You did." Justin said calmly, extracting the film and putting a new one into his camera. "You said you wanted some beach shots then that Flash Studios had some classy new drops that you intended to make full use of, so that was where we'd end up next. I still have the memo somewhere in my bag if you want to check it."

Pizzazz shot him a venomous look, but said nothing more, stamping off the dais and down to the soda machine with very bad grace.

Roxy chuckled.

"That's something that don't happen often. You shut her up." She remarked appreciatively. "She has a point though. Are we doing this all day or what?"

"Not if I can help it, sis." Justin shook his head, winding on the film and checking the lens. "I think we got one more film's worth of shots to take and then we're done for today. I have another engagement at four, anyhow, so I'm not really wanting to overrun." He grimaced. "Pizzazz again. This was supposed to be the end of the week, but for some reason it's today."

"She wants us to have our single out as soon as possible." Stormer put in. "We laid it down yesterday."

"Yesterday? Try late last night." Jetta groaned. "We were still at it at gone ten. It were almost bleedin' midnight before we got a copy she was 'appy with!"
"Well, at least she's focused on your music, right?" Justin sent his girlfriend a grin. "And it has been a while since the Misfits had a single out. Perhaps she's got a point."

"Are you sidin' with Pizzazz?" Jetta stared at him. Justin laughed, shaking his head.

"No, but I'm wise enough to know who's paying my wages." He responded. "Hey, where's Eric today? I don't see him."

"I dunno. I think it has something to do with this big sponsorship crap Pizzazz was boring us with this morning in the car here." Roxy pulled a face. "I don't honestly care. Having Eric out of my hair is good enough for me - why question it?"

"Eric ain't a popular guy round here, is he?" Justin grinned. Stormer pursed her lips.

"I think that with everything recently - the accident and all - we're all a bit unsure of what he's been up to." She said carefully. "We're not sure Pizzazz is keeping as firm an eye on his business dealings as she should, to be totally honest."

"That's an understatement if ever there was one." Jetta said bluntly. "I'm sure that the jerk is playin' some kind of game an' that 'e needs someone watchin' over 'im."
"What kind of a game?" Justin looked interested. Jetta shrugged.

"No idea." She admitted. "I just don't trust 'im. An' Pizzazz is actin' up, too. She's so schizophrenic at the moment."

"We're worried that the accident had a more profound effect than we thought." Stormer sighed, glancing across the set to where Pizzazz was having a fight with the soda machine, eventually emerging victorious. "Sometimes she doesn't seem to care about any of this - music, the Misfits, the company...and then other times it's all she wants to deal with. Like last night." She shrugged. "I know unpredictability is one of her main characteristics, but still, this is odd even for her. And then there was the night before last..." She trailed off, blushing.

"Oh yeah. When she got the sulks and stormed off somewhere without us." Roxy grimaced. "But that's not abnormal Pizzazz behaviour, Stormer. She likes to be the centre of attention and that night she wasn't. That's all."

She stretched, stifling a yawn. "I'm tired and it's only two thirty. That's gotta be wrong. Guess I'm gonna grab myself some chocolate for the sugar kick. Be back here in ten, okay?"

"Sure." Justin shrugged. "I have to go see to setting up the new drop anyhow."

Jetta watched her boyfriend and her bandmate head off in opposite directions, then she cast Stormer a quizzical look.

"Why did you stop just then? What 'appened the other night?" She asked quietly.

Stormer shook her head.

"Nothing." She replied.

"I know Pizzazz took off but..." Jetta frowned. "No, you're keepin' something from me. Did she say something to you? Do something?"

"She didn't come home till the early hours." Stormer said with a shrug. "And that's all I know, Jetta. But you didn't come home till half nine either, when it comes to it."

"True, but you knew where I'd be." Jetta pursed her lips. "Where did she go?"

"I don't know. She didn't tell me." Stormer said honestly. "And we're not her minders. She can do what she likes, you know - America is a free country."

"But we're all agreed that she's actin' up at the moment." Jetta sighed. "I shouldn't 'ave gone off with Justin so easily, but I figured you girls'd keep tabs on 'er. We none of us know 'ow she's gonna act next, but knowin' Pizzazz an' knowin' the kind of publicity we've 'ad lately, we shouldn't let 'er go off alone more than we can 'elp. God knows the Misfits 'ave 'ad enough strife already. We don't need more."

"I expect she went to a club or something. She's done it before and it's no big deal." Stormer said quietly, but there was something in her blue eyes that made Jetta shake her head.

"I don't believe you." She said at length. "What do you know, Stormer?"

"I don't know anything." Stormer admitted. "But I walked out into the city yesterday morning, early. I couldn't sleep - I was worried because she hadn't come home and I know Roxy and I shouldn't have left her like we did. Not so soon after the accident, not when she's been so erratic. I met her half way."

"Walking?" Jetta's eyebrows shot into her fringe. "There's erratic right there!"

"I know, but she was." Stormer replied. "Heading back from some club or something was what I thought. She was pretty clear-headed, and she didn't seem drunk."
"So what's the deal?" Jetta asked. Stormer frowned.

"Well, it's probably nothing." She said carefully. "But she was drinking coffee...and the coffee cup was like the ones at Misfit Music. You know, with that really expensive East Coast brew stamped all across the cups? The stuff that she imports into LA regardless of the cost?"

"Yes, I know the stuff. Tastes like chewin' bark." Jetta nodded. "Go on."

" was a fresh cup of coffee." Stormer spread her hands. "And it mightn't mean anything at all, Jetta, but I got the impression that she'd come from work. Yet when I asked her she said not. I dunno. I didn't see why she'd lie to me, but I couldn't think where else the coffee had come from."

Jetta looked puzzled.

"Nor can I." She acknowledged. "She owns the flippin' company - so what if she wants to visit it at some ungodly hour?"

"That's what I thought." Stormer shrugged. "But I wondered if maybe she just didn't want us to know she'd been working while we were out socialising."

"Pizzazz? Workin' at six in the morning?" Jetta swore. "This is worse than we thought!"

Despite herself, Stormer laughed at her companion's melodrama.

"Like I said, it's probably nothing." She chided. "And she's heading over, so drop it, okay? Last thing we need is a Misfit fight."

Jetta frowned, but said no more on the topic, and when Pizzazz rejoined them they were discussing the shade of tights that they had been made to wear for the photoshoot.

"They're designer. Get used to it." Pizzazz put in her two cents, dropping down between them on the dais. "Sheesh, how long is Justin taking? And where's Roxy?"

"Roxy's gone in search of sustenance. Justin's discussing sets." Stormer told her. "He thinks we'll be finished before four."

"Good." Pizzazz sighed. "I'm so bored I could scream. If it wasn't for the fact that this single is gonna win us back America..."

She sent Stormer a piercing look. "At least, it better had. It's a damn good song, but let's hope it's gonna be good enough."

Stormer met the gaze levelly.

"It will be." She said quietly. "I have faith in my music, Pizzazz. After the number of hits I've written, you should too."

Pizzazz grimaced.

"After the number of hits I've written, you should too." She mimicked. "Bah. Just remember whose company is backing those songs of yours, okay?"

"Woah, girl." Jetta held up her hands. "We're all tired and fed up. Give it a rest, huh? Sooner we finish 'ere, sooner we can cut outta 'ere. We could do with the break, if you ask me. There's no shades of grey with us at the moment. Either we're incapacitated or we're workin' to death to catch up with ourselves. It ain't an easy timetable to keep."

"Well, it's one that's going to keep the Misfits going." Pizzazz said darkly. "So live with it." She sighed, stretching. "Okay, enough hanging around. Sooner we get back to work, sooner this is over and we can hit the road!"


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