Chapter Seven: Cracks

"Thats the last of them."

Pizzazz sat back in her chair, pushing the pile of documents aside. "I'm done with this for the day, Eric. We've been up here all morning going through those things. What gives? What's so important about this big project of yours?"

"What else but profit and prestige for Misfits Music?" Eric cast her a blithe smile, getting to his feet and scooping the documents together into a neat pile. "I'm flying to Arnheim this afternoon, and thanks to this morning, I've a lot of loose ends that will be tied up much more quickly."

"Are you sure all these people really want to put money into Misfits Music?" Pizzazz eyed him doubtfully. "I mean, well, you know I don't sell shares, Eric...are you sure that's not what they want?"

"It might be what they want. It won't be what they get." Eric assured her. "Don't worry, Pizzazz. On that subject I understand your mind perfectly."

"Okay." Pizzazz sighed. "Well, I'm bored with the office. You never do anything other than work, you know that? You need to live a little."

"I was under the impression you were giving me classes of late." Irony touched Eric's tones. Pizzazz's expression became playful.

"Only because you badly needed it doing." She retorted. "Considering your age, you should be glad of everything you get."

"So explain it to me, then." Eric spread his hands. "I'm making no complaints..." he added hurriedly, "But sometimes you astonish even me."

"I do as I choose. I'm a Gabor and I can do whatever I want." Pizzazz responded silkily. "Anything at all. And so, if what I want to do is you...kapiche?"

Eric picked up his briefcase.

"Well, you'll have to find something else to do while I'm out of town." He said finally.

"Who are you meeting with again? Is it that guy Moss's company?" Pizzazz looked petulant. "I'm bored with him. He has bad aftershave and his hair's a mess."
"No, not Moss's company. All that was settled when you signed that contract." Eric shook his head, forcing the impatience from his tones. "This is the other thing we were negotiating."

Pizzazz narrowed her gaze.

"The only other people I can think of are the jerks who want shares." She said slowly. "Them?"

"Yes, them." Eric nodded. "And don't worry!" As Pizzazz opened her mouth to protest. "I told you once - they might think they're getting shares. They aren't. But by the time they wriggle themselves around their contract, we'll have netted a good profit from them. We're doing nothing illegal...but nothing to break up your company, either. Don't you trust me? Money is the department I understand the best."

"Well, at least you're doing something productive." Pizzazz moved to the window. "I haven't seen Roxy in three days, you know. She hasn't been home and she hasn't been here. Her wretched bike has been in and out of the garage, but that's about it. And Stormer seems to have any old excuse for not coming in the office at the moment. I thought she was the one who did the work, but apparently since our big publicity drive began she's found any reason she can not to attend anything she doesn't have to. They're driving me crazy!"

"Running off into corners and leaving you all alone?" Eric asked dryly. Pizzazz scowled.

"Not if they value their lives and livelihoods." She shot back. "What time is your flight?"

"I wondered why you seemed so keen to spend time with me of late." Eric mused. "No other that it?"

"I asked you a question!"

"Ten thirty, so I'd better hit the road." Eric glanced up at the clock. "Guess I'll see you when I get back. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"Honey, my life is doing things you're too wimpy to do." Pizzazz retorted scathingly. "I'll see you if I feel like it. Now get going!"

Once he was gone, she sat down on the windowsill, peering out through the executive blinds to the road below.

"God knows where Roxy and Stormer have been, but it's not amusing me." She muttered. "And Jetta's always off with that stupid boyfriend of hers..."

She reached across to the desk, pulling open the cabinet drawer and extracting a letter, skimming over the contents.

"And now the hospital think I'm gonna run along there for a "check up", do they?" She murmured. "Like I'm going near his office again! I'm fine, and I'm done with his rules and stupid ideas. And his stupid wife, too! He can keep her, they deserve each other!"

She screwed up the letter, tossing it across the room and into the waste bin. "He had his chance. Like I said to Eric, I do what I want to. If the moment passes...hell, it passes! And now he's gone to catch his little flight, I might as well cut out of this place and remind myself what it's like to have a life again. Gah, I couldn't spend my life messing round with him. He's a workaholic and a money obsessed bore."

She slipped down off the windowsill, swinging her bag onto her shoulder and heading out towards the lift, stopping to lock the office door on the way. "I'm going to treat myself to a manicure and then I'm going to see what's playing at the multiplex. If I spent much longer round here I think I'll go mad."


As she crossed the lobby, she almost ran straight into Jetta. "You leavin' already? Didn't you say we 'ad a practice this afternoon?"

"I cancelled it. I'm feeling claustrophobic." Pizzazz snapped. "You should know what that's like."

"So it's off, then?"

"Yeah. It's off. Clever girl."

"Is Eric in?"

"Why?" Pizzazz's tones became guarded, and Jetta rolled her eyes.

"I just asked. I wanted to know if we were going to be nagged by gramps or not today." She replied. "Sheesh, what's eating you?"

"Nothing, except office boredom." Pizzazz muttered. "I'll catch you later. Work, if you're stupid enough. I'm outta here."

With that she was gone, leaving Jetta staring after her.

"Strange bitch." She mused. "What cuckoo's nesting in her brain this time?"

"The same one as has been nesting in there for the last few weeks." A voice told her, and she swung around, seeing Roxy watching her, arms folded, from the door of a downstairs office. "Has she gone?"

"I think so. She did walk out the main door, if you didn't notice." Jetta's tone was thick with sarcasm, but Roxy took no notice. Roughly she grabbed her companion by the arm, pulling her into the office and closing the door.

"Good." She said. "Then we need to talk to you."

"What the 'ell?" Jetta wrenched her arm free.

"We thought you'd never come in." Stormer put in from the corner. "We'd have called home, but we didn't want to alert Matilda. I know she's working there today, and she has a soft spot for Pizzazz. She might just...well...leak."

"Stormer?" Jetta's brow creased. "Roxy? What's all this about? What's goin' on? Where 'ave you two been for the last few days?"

"Doing research." Roxy said grimly. "And not liking what we've been finding, either."

"What kind of research? What's all the cloak and dagger?" Jetta perched on the edge of the desk.

"Justin ain't been paid for the last photoshoot he did." Roxy said slowly. "He asked me to find out what was going down, so I went to payroll and asked some questions. Turns out that the trail went cold at Eric's office, so I got Stormer to go to the bank and ask some leading questions. She's good at that."

"What kind of questions?" A suspicious look entered Jetta's grey eyes. "I don't know as I like where this is leadin'...Eric, banks, money...and unpaid cheques?"

"Yes, we didn't like it either." Stormer admitted. "Basically what I learnt was that all of the money has indeed been paid out of Misfit Music's accounts. Only it's being paid into one account, instead of the multiple employee accounts."

She produced a sheet of paper. "Here."

"One account?" Jetta took it, skimming over it. "Let me guess. One which belongs to a Mr Raymond, first initial E?"

"Got it in one." Roxy agreed. "And it gets worse. Give her the other one, Stormer."

"Worse?" Jetta pursed her lips. "How?"

"This is the readout for the Misfits Music account." Stormer said quietly, holding out a second sheet. "It doesn't make pleasant reading. Jetta, we have to stop this somehow. I'm really afraid of how far it's gotten without anyone raising a flag."

"Holy..." Jetta swore. "That's it? Everythin' this place has left?"

"Yes." Roxy nodded. "I've been over Justin's statements and it's for sure he hasn't been paid. I've been over these, too."

"Sounds like you've got it all wrapped up. Why bring me into it?"

"Well, we figured Justin's interests are yours, too." Stormer said. "And besides, the more heads we have, the better. We've not said anything to Pizzazz yet. Roxy...has another theory, which also worries me. It suggests that Eric's been scheming on far more levels than he usually does, and that she's been more vulnerable since the accident than we anticipated."

Jetta's eyes narrowed.

"Go on." She said slowly. "Explain."

"I think she's been sleeping with him." Roxy said bluntly. "It's enough to make me wanna vomit, but I think it all the same."

"We don't have any proof, though." Stormer added hurriedly. "It might not be as bad as that."

"No, I agree with Roxy. That's somethin' you won't 'ear me say often, but it's true." Jetta's brows knitted together. "I've been thinkin' about the coffee cup know, that she didn't own up that she was 'ere? An' then the number of late night meetin's that 'ave been goin' down recently. I might be paranoid, but workin' late can 'ave a completely different meaning. I just...didn't want to face the fact that it might be really 'appening."

"I don't think it's something any of us relish." Roxy pulled a face. "I went over the security tapes last night. We stopped over at Stormer's old place to go over things without interruptions from you know who. There's nothing to prove once and for all that they did anything, but..." She bit her lip, then, "Let's just say, it implies there's more than work going on in that office some nights."

"Well, Pizzazz ain't 'ere, and Eric's not either. I think I 'eard some talk about 'im flyin' out of state." Jetta mused. "If anyone fancies doin' a bit more research...say in 'is office...I have a key."

"Since when do you have a key to Eric's office?" Stormer stared. Jetta grinned.

"Since I swiped one off him a few months back." She said unrepentantly. "Pizzazz is always sending me down there to find this or that manuscript. I figured I might as well be able to let meself in if you know who wasn't feelin' benevolent."

"Well, then what are we waiting for?" Roxy sounded impatient. "I don't mind if we wreck his office...the more evidence we can find, the better chance we have with Pizzazz." She glanced at Jetta.

"That is the other reason we brought you in." She added. "She likes you. We figured you could break it to her."

"Oh, thanks." Jetta grimaced.

"We can argue that one out later." Stormer said quickly. "For now, while the coast is clear, I suggest we head upstairs and see whether or not there is anything among Eric's papers that incriminates him further. All being well, we can talk to Pizzazz about it soon - tonight, if we're lucky."

"If Justin hasn't been paid, and all this money's going out of the company into Eric's account...then there will be other people as peeved as he was." Roxy mused, as they made their way upstairs. "Think Eric's been sitting on complaint letters?"

"Why would he do all this, though? In the end he'll lose his job - it's bound to come out!"

"With this much money going to him, he wouldn't care." Jetta replied bitterly. "The company might fold, but if 'e 'as 'is profit, it won't matter a dime to 'im. He probably will twist his paperwork around to put the blame at someone else's door, just as soon as he's finished whatever it is he's begun. Which is why now is a good time to check out what's up there. Before 'e 'as a chance to tamper with it."

She shook her head slowly. "I can't believe that you've done all this sleuthin' around without 'er gettin' suspicious. You know what a paranoid cow she can be."
"Well, I threatened the woman in payroll with my fists if she spoke of our meeting." Roxy cracked her knuckles. "She's safe. And Stormer charmed the bank teller. It was quite a performance."

"Pizzazz isn't always the most observant person, either." Stormer sighed. "As we're beginning to see."

"Hopefully, it stops here." Jetta slipped the key into Eric's office door, pushing it open. "Here we go, girls."

"Where to start?" Stormer glanced around her. "Filing cabinet? Desk? Filofax? Where?"

"Well, I'd begin with anywhere Eric keeps locked." Roxy said darkly. "Like this drawer, for example."

She eyed the lock, then grabbed a paperclip off the desk, bending it out of shape. Deftly she picked open the lock, feeling it give in her hands, and pulled the drawer open. "Anything he has fastened away is almost guaranteed to be dodgy stuff."

"I like your thinking." Jetta agreed. "Which reminds me, he 'as a locked document box in the bottom drawer of the filin' cabinet. Think you can pick that open too?"

"I can pick anything you give me." Roxy said derisively. "Coulda picked the door to this place too, but it looks a touch strange to anyone walking past."

"Well, then try your luck at this, 'ot shot." Jetta pulled out the box, tossing it in Roxy's direction. The guitarist caught it deftly, setting to work on the padlock.

"I found his copy of the company accounts." Stormer reported, lifting a folder down from the shelf. "Or at least, the official version. How does this tally with the paper I gave you, Jetta?"

"About as much as Cinderella tallies with the pocket 'istory of wartime Europe." Jetta said grimly, setting the documents down side by side. "So this is falsified stuff."

"And this is probably the original." Roxy pried open the document box, extracting a few sheets. "I don't have my glasses, but they look similar."

"That looks like it, and a few more pages besides." Jetta agreed. "Why in 'ell don't you 'ave your glasses, anyway? You ain't much bloody use if you can't read!"

"I needed them to fix the bike's gearbox." Roxy defended herself. "I got a new pair on order, but they ain't come in yet. Besides, I can see the numbers. Its the words I can't make out. I'm dyslexic, not damn stupid."

"Okay, guys, cool it." Stormer held up her hands. "The future of the company is at stake here. Our jobs as much as anything. Let's leave the fighting for later, all right?"

"Sure." Jetta sighed, pushing the bank details aside, and beginning to rifle through the open drawer. "Ooh, and I just found something. Look at this. Three or four of our suppliers complainin' about lack of payment for stuff we ordered. Stationery, equipment, you name it."

"Gas bill, phone bill, water rates, electric." Stormer dropped some more sheets onto the pile. "This is much, much worse than we could have imagined."

"We need to tackle Pizzazz with it tonight." Roxy agreed grimly. "No more hanging around. If we don't discuss this with her soon, we might not have a company to come to by the end of the week. And that'd mean the end of a lot of things, you know."

"Yes, exactly." Jetta bit her lip. "Including the Misfits."


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