Chapter Six: Roxy Acts

"God, I don't think I have ever felt so dead tired in my life!"

Roxy dropped down onto the couch, flopping back onto the cushions with a groan. "Here, there and everywhere - that's been us since this wretched song was released! Performance this, radio that...I can't believe I'm actually sitting still right now! Doesn't feel like I've done that in a millennium!"

"But the song is out and people are buying it, right?" Her companion frowned, taking a sip of his coffee and then setting it down on the table. "I mean, it looks like it's a hit - isn't that the case?"

"Sure it is. Don't you read the presses?" Roxy nodded her head. "If it wasn't for the fact we were selling up a storm I'd have dug my heels in and refused to do the half of it, I'm telling you! But the Misfits are back on course, Justin! The last two weeks have been manic, but dammit, we're back at our best. You'd never know that Pizzazz had even had an operation, I swear. She's singing just as good as before. Maybe better! And there's nothing like performing on stage." She grimaced. "Just when you do five nights straight and you're up for some reason at five the next morning, it takes it out of you."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it's popular." Justin observed levelly. "With all the work you girls have put in on it, it should be."

Roxy sat upright, eying her brother suspiciously.

"Something's eating you." She observed slowly. "Come on, spit it out. Something's up, ain't it?"

"It's probably not anything at all." Justin shook his head. "So tell me - where were you playing last night? It wasn't here in LA - was it?"

"No, Sacramento. And don't change the subject." Roxy pursed her lips. "I ain't a fool, and I know when something's eating you. I wasn't born yesterday. Spill. What's the deal?"

Justin sighed.

"Well, I honestly am not sure if I should say anything." He said at length. "At least, not to you."

Roxy bristled.

"Not to me?" She repeated. "To who then? Your precious Jetta?"

"No, not at all." Justin shook his head. "More Pizzazz, if you want to know the truth."

Roxy snorted.

"I wouldn't bother yourself." She said derisively. "She might be able to sing, but sometimes I don't think that girl has a sane idea in her head. Not since the accident, anyway. She's erratic as hell and if she listens to anything anyone tells her it's a miracle. It's all about "the band" at the moment." She made exaggerated quote marks in the air. "And she keeps having "executive meetings" in the office with Eric after hours at night, apparently to do with this or that sponsorship deal. Jetta thinks there's something shady going down with him and I'm starting to agree with her. He seems on edge and stuff of late, but God knows what it is. He's always a creep, anyhow."

"Well, it really is Pizzazz who I should discuss this with, much as I dislike the idea." Justin sighed. "Basically, it's probably just a logistical glitch....but I haven't been paid for the last photoshoot I did for you girls."

"Not?" Roxy's eyebrows shot up. "For real? Money ain't usually a department Pizzazz messes over, even if she can't add up! How long does it usually take her to pay you?"

"A week." Justin spread his hands. "It's been two weeks since the shoot and nothing. It wouldn't bother me, except when I submit my invoice usually I get someone sending me confirmation and a notification of when payment will go into my account. This time I've heard nothing. I did call the company once - got a lady called Gloria - but she didn't seem to know who I was or what was going on. It bothered me. It's not like this is the first job I've done for Misfits Music, after all. I've worked with the company fairly regularly for more than a year now, and I've never had this problem before. I know I'm freelance and not under Misfits Music's express jurisdiction, but it's never been an issue."

"Hrm." Roxy narrowed her eyes, considering. "You sure you submitted your invoice properly? I mean god knows there's so much paper in that office of Eric's, he might be using it to hold up his desk or somethin' if he doesn't realise it's your pay demand."

"I did it the way I always do. I took it in and gave it to the woman in payroll." Justin agreed. "She stamped it, and put it in the pigeonhole to go up to Eric's office. That's the last anyone at that company seems to have seen of it. It's as if it doesn't exist, but I know it does."

"Two weeks ain't so very long, though."

"No, but I owe rent in a week or more and I need the money. Otherwise I'm in the red." Justin grimaced. "Living in LA ain't cheap, and I can't afford to be paid late when rent day is due."

"I see." Roxy looked thoughtful. "You want my opinion?"

"Sure." Justin nodded. "You know the company and the employer better than me. What do you suggest I do?"

"Leave it with me." Roxy responded. "I'll see what I can find out."

"Shouldn't I tell Pizzazz?"

"" Roxy shook her head. "Kinda dumb, but somehow I don't think she'd listen. She ain't listening a lot lately. She seems...odd." She frowned. "Sorta...high on life half the time and then stressed out as hell the rest of it. Either way she probably wouldn't take a blind bit of notice, and even if she did, Eric would probably feed her a line and she'd believe it."

"Do you think, then, that it's more than logistics?" Justin looked startled. Roxy shrugged.

"Where I come from, Justin, if it's money in the balance it's worth checking out right." She said quietly. "It probably is a logistical screw up, an' all that, but I can stick a fist in Eric's face if need be and tell him to pay you. That seems to work pretty good...suddenly all the paperwork goes out the window when I do that, it gets results. And if it ain't logistics...if it ain't..."

"If it isn't, what is it?" Justin asked. Roxy looked grim.

"It don't really bear thinking about." She said finally. "But it probably is just a screw up. An intern probably lost the sheet or something. Leave it with me. I'll find out what's going down."

Justin pursed his lips.

"Well, okay." He said at length. "You're better poised to handle that kind of an assault than I am - but Roxy, don't get yourself into strife on my behalf, okay? If Pizzazz is unpredictable..."

"She doesn't scare me. Never has." Roxy interrupted. "She won't mess with me if I mean business. Besides, I'm gonna find out what I can before I take it up with either her or Eric. If it's nothin' to worry about then it'll be found and you'll be paid. Don't worry about it. You'll have your rent money."

"All right." Justin stretched out more comfortably in his seat. "I trust you to get it sorted, anyhow." He grinned. "Glad you're on my side. I don't like Eric, but this is the first time my money hasn't been there up front and ready."

"Eric doesn't usually handle the money. Not since..." Roxy trailed off, a dark look entering her brown eyes. "Well, anyhow, Pizzazz keeps a tight hand on the purse strings these days. Except her accident meant someone had to take the ropes."

"And it wasn't one of you girls." Justin frowned. "I have to admit that surprised me."

"Eric is head honcho at that place. Stands to reason it should be him." Roxy shrugged. She stood. "Okay. I'm off. I've got things to do and your money issues ain't the least of them."

"Roxy, what did you mean when you said Eric hadn't handled the money since...? Since what?" Justin looked curious. Roxy shook her head.

"Misfit business." She said abruptly. "None of yours, so don't poke your nose in. Later, Justin. I've errands to run."

With that she was gone, and Justin got to his feet, moving to the window.

"She thinks something's up. I can tell she does...but she doesn't want me to know it." He decided at length. "I wonder. Jetta's had a bee in her bonnet about Eric and his grasp on the company since Pizzazz's accident. Now Roxy's acting all cloak and dagger, which really isn't her way of things at all. I just wish I knew what was going down and when I was going to get paid. I'd like to know that I'm going to have a roof over my head come the end of the month!"

Roxy, for her part, had slipped into the front seat of her car, putting it in gear and screeching onto the main road, deep in thought.

"One, Pizzazz has a stupid accident we could all have done without. Two, Eric gains control of parts of the company. Three..." She muttered, ignoring the curses of pedestrians as she ran a red light, taking the turning for Misfits Music. "Three, Riot's act gets a hell of a lot of publicity all of a sudden. Four, Pizzazz gets better, and suddenly we're busy as hell again...and five, Justin doesn't get paid. There must be something in all of these things that explains why I feel so damn strange about how things are at the moment. Pizzazz's accident was a mess, but it was an accident. We know that. Someone had to take over the company, and Eric's the one with the diplomas and the drive to stop in the office to all hours. The company needed to promote the Stingers while we were out of action, but it stopped once Pizzazz got back in the driver's seat. And damn right we should be busy. We've been too quiet for too long. So...what, then?"

She pulled onto the forecourt, climbing out of her vehicle and banging the door shut behind her, heading into the building and up the stairwell towards the finance department.

"Don't usually have to come to this part of the company." She mused, running her fingers over the gold lettering that read 'Anita White, Payroll", then pushing the door open. "Oh well. Here goes nothing."

"Miss Pelligrini!" The office's sole occupant glanced up from her desk, surprise mixed with apprehension in her expression. "What can I do for you?"

"I want a little chat with you." Roxy dropped down into the seat opposite, fixing the woman with an uncompromising glare. "My brother submitted an invoice here two weeks ago and it ain't been seen since. Noone seems to know it exists. So tell me. You're in charge of those things. Where is it?"

The woman blanched at the aggression in her companion's tone. All employees of the music company knew to keep out of Pizzazz's way when the owner was in a temper, but there was something doubly unnerving about being sought out by what was generally considered the hard Misfit.

"Well?" Roxy pressed. "Two weeks is a damn long time, when he's usually paid and settled in a week. What's the deal?"

"One second, miss." The executive pulled herself together, getting to her feet and taking a folder down from the shelf. She sat back down, opening it in front of her.

 "Your brother...the photographer, isn't he?"

"Yes. Justin Pelligrini." Roxy agreed. "You better look this up right. I'm not amused when it's one of my own who's being screwed by the system."

"I remember him coming in." Anita flicked over some pages, pausing on one. "Yes, here we are. Dated and signed, by him and by me. The invoice was received and stamped and put in Mr Raymond's pigeonhole for authorisation. That was...exactly two weeks ago."

"Yes?" Roxy pursed her lips. "You can be sure of that?"

"Yes, miss. Once they're signed off, they go straight to Mr Raymond. He asked us to make it that way."

"Oh, he did, huh?" Roxy was silent for a moment, then, "Hey, before Pizzazz got smashed up in that accident, where did the slips go then?"

"Why, to Miss Gabor's office direct." Anita responded. "She signed most of them out herself. See?"

She pushed the folder forward, and Roxy squinted at the scrawled text.

"I don't got my glasses on me." She admitted at length. "Can't make it out."

"Here." Anita pointed. "Each month she'd check the folder over and sign them out. Only since her accident Mr Raymond's done it. Look. He signed out the month just gone last night. It's all authorised and it's cleared our department. It must be a glitch at the bank."

"At the bank?" Roxy considered. "Okay. Before I go, I don't suppose you know the sort code number of the bank account that deals with these things?"

"Miss Pelligrini, that's classified information. Only Mr Raymond and Miss Gabor are privy to it." Anita shook her head. "I told you. I just sign them in and send them up. Once they're cleared and signed out, then payment should be transferred directly into the employee's account. It works that way with your own."

Roxy's eyes glinted thoughtfully.

"Then you have some kinda file here, with employee bank account information in?" She asked. Anita stared.

"Yes, Miss, but I can't show that to you. It's private!"

"Listen to me, chump." Roxy reached across the desk, sweeping the folder aside and banging her fist down, making the woman jump. "I'm a Misfit. It's not a good idea to say no to me when I ask you for something. What do you suppose your Miss Gabor would say if I trotted down to her office and told her you wouldn't give me that information, huh? She'd have your job!"

Anita paled again.

"I didn't realise it was for Miss Gabor." She faltered, fiddling with the lock of the desk and pulling open a drawer. Hesitantly she pulled out a black file, pushing it across the wooden unit. "I...I didn't mean any disrespect."

"Well, I'll make a deal with you." Roxy glanced at the folder, then slipped it into her bag. "I won't tell her about this, if you don't mention to Mr Raymond that I was here today. All right?"

"Yes Miss Pelligrini."

"Good girl." Roxy allowed her companion a slight smile. She stood. "Then I'll go. You've, uh, been most helpful."

Before the executive could respond, she had pushed open the door, stepping into the corridor, then pausing.

"My instincts were right." She muttered. "Something is going down here. Something big. If Justin's slip was signed in and authorised, then it must've got to Eric's office. And if the information about sort codes and stuff are things only Pizzazz and Eric know...well, Pizzazz ain't yet messed my brother over with money. So that leaves ol' tightwad himself, and I wouldn't put it past him. But this is big. I have to be sure."

"Are you talking to yourself?" A voice came from behind her, and she turned, startled, to see Stormer watching her in consternation. "Is something wrong, Roxy? You look troubled."

"You have perfect timing." Roxy grabbed her friend by the arm, pulling her down the corridor towards the stairwell. "Listen, I need you to go over something with me, and then we're taking a little trip to the bank. Okay?"

"The bank?" Stormer stared. "Do you want to go shopping or something? Only I have to finish this harmony, and..."

"You can take a breather. This is important." Roxy interrupted. "I'll explain on the way. I have a folder for you to look at...and I want you to ask some questions for me."

"But why can't you do it?"

"Firstly, I can't read enough of this without my glasses to make sense of it all." Roxy said ruefully. "Secondly, you're much better at all that nice talk crap that I can't be bothered with."

Stormer sighed, shrugging her shoulders.

"All right." She said, resignedly. "What is this folder?"

"It's from payroll. It has all the employee bank account information in it." Roxy explained, as they reached her car. Stormer stopped dead.

"Roxy, that's private information!" She exclaimed.

"Yeah, well, I ain't gonna abuse it." Roxy snapped. "Listen. Justin ain't been paid and I want to know why. His invoice got through payroll and as far as Eric's office, where it disappeared into oblivion. I just got a hunch...but I need you to check it out for me."

"So we're going to the bank...why exactly?"

"Because I wanna know just whose account these passed invoices are going into...and if Justin is the only one being scammed." Roxy said grimly. "Because I got a feeling I know the answer...I just can't prove it without your help."

Stormer's expression became serious.

"You think Eric's up to his old tricks?" She asked. Roxy nodded.

"Something like that." She agreed. "And Pizzazz ain't picked up on it yet."

"Have you told Jetta? Surely Justin's interests are hers, too?"

"Not yet. We'll see what we find out at the bank before I think about involving bignose." Roxy responded. "Come on. I promised Justin to sort it out for him and get him paid before his rent was due. We haven't the time to sit around yakking about it, so get in and let's go!"


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