Chapter Eight: Luca Takes A Hand
"You took your time."
Sirena swung open the door of her apartment, casting Luca a strange look. "I thought you were gonna come right over, Luca. You've been twenty minutes."
"I had to get out of studio." Luca explained, following her inside the apartment, and eying his companion keenly. "Em..."
"What?" Sirena fixed hollow green eyes on him. "There isn't anything you can say to make me feel better right now, Luca, so please, spare us both by not trying, huh?"
"I'm sorry." Luca frowned. "Are the police here yet?"
"On their way." Sirena said, leading the way into the lounge and taking a seat, idly picking up a cushion and putting it in her lap. Michael's discarded teddy bear lay on the carpet, and Luca bent to pick it up.
"What happened?" He asked softly. "And how can I help?"
"What happened? God, I wish I knew." Sirena rubbed her temples. "One minute this woman is here, claiming to be from the agency, she seemed legit to me. Then I went in the kitchen to make coffee...next thing I know, she and Mike are gone. I looked for them outside but I saw her drive away, and I was so stunned I only got the first three digits of her registration plate. I have no idea where she's going, who she is, or if she'll even hurt him. I wish I knew what she wanted, or why she took him. If it's money, well, I'll go to Mom, she has to help me out! Mike is her grandson, after all. But if it's not money...hell, Luca, what if it's something else? What if she...if she kills him?"
"Shh." Luca came to sit beside her, putting a strong arm around her shoulders as Sirena's strange calm broke down once more into frightened tears. "Don't think that way, Em. We're going to get him back, I promise you that. The police will be here soon, and well, you did get a good look at the woman, right? Maybe you can give them a decent description. You have photos of Michael, and once the world knows someone took your son, everyone will be helping you look. It will be fine, Emily. Michael will be safely found and you'll get him back."
Sirena buried her head in his shoulder.
"I wish it were so simple as that." She choked. "But I'm not an idiot, Luca. I watch the news. Kids get abducted, and sometimes they never find them. Sometimes it's too late. What makes you think Mike will be one of the lucky ones? What if he isn't?"
"Tell me what you remember about this woman." Luca tactfully changed the subject, and Sirena raised tearful green eyes to his.
"Not a lot." She admitted. "She was dark, I'd say she was about forty or thereabouts, and she had shortish hair, to her chin or just below. She seemed to know exactly what she was doing with Mike - like she'd h...handled kids before, or something."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, she took him from me as if she'd held a baby before." Sirena swallowed hard. "It was just for a second, Luca. I didn't know what she was going to do...I thought she was from the agency." She bit her lip. "I should have asked her for ID, but she seemed to know that I expected her, and everything was all right. She knew exactly who I was, what I wanted, all of that stuff."
"Emily, everyone in Los Angeles knows who you are." Luca reminded her gently. "But it sounds very much to me like the motive is money. If she took the kid, and she knew precisely who you were, it suggests she's hoping to get a fair sum out of you. That being the case, I don't think she'll hurt him."
"Well, if money is it, I'll pay it. Even if I have to borrow off Mom and be in debt to her forever." Sirena said resolutely. "I can't put into words how I feel about this, Luca. I just know that I love him and nothing else matters."
"I feel like a bad mother..."
"No, Em, don't think that." Luca shook his head. He gently cupped her chin in his hand. "Look at me, will you?"
"I want you to listen a moment." Luca responded, as she raised her eyes once more. "Noone could possibly doubt your abilities as a mother, Emily. That's the honest truth. Michael loves you like anything - you're his whole world. If Stef and I had had a mother like you when we were growing up, maybe Stef wouldn't have grown up such a spitfire, and she and I would have had a family to go back to in Connecticut now and again. You mustn't doubt yourself. This isn't your fault."
"Does it matter? He's still gone." Emily observed morosely. She got to her feet, moving to the window.
"Thanks anyway, Luca, but nothing helps."
At that moment there was a knock at the door, and, with an anxious glance at his companion, Luca headed out into the hall to answer it. Relief flooded his features when he registered the presence of two smartly dressed officers from the Los Angeles Sheriff Dept, and he ushered them inside.
"I thought that this apartment belonged to a Miss Gabor?" One of them asked, eying him with suspicion. "We took a call - about a missing child?"
"Yes. Emily's in the lounge - she's the baby's mother. I'm...a friend of hers, that's all. She called me for moral support." He pushed open the door of the sitting room. "Em? The police are here."
"Oh, thank god!" Sirena turned away from the window.
"Miss Gabor, can you please tell us exactly what happened here?" The senior officer took a seat, indicating for the young mother to sit down. "We need to know everything that you can tell us, if we're going to find your missing son."
"I'll leave you to it." Luca suggested. "I'll only get in the way here, and I can head over to Misfit Music, talk to your mother. I'm sure she'll be happy to get involved."
"Mom?" Sirena looked startled, then she nodded. "Yes, Luca. Please, do."
"Wait a minute, sir." The junior officer held up his hand, and Luca cast him a questioning look.
"Can you give us your name, and let us know where we might find you? We may want to speak to you."
"Well, I wasn't here when Mike was kidnapped, but if I can help any, then I will." Luca responded. "My name is Luca Ranieri, and I work at Rebel Records. Otherwise, you'll find me at the Diablo Estate. Emily has my mobile number - I'll do whatever I can to get Michael safely back where he belongs."
"Thanks, Mr Ranieri." The senior officer cast him a smile. "We'll be in touch."
Luca returned the smile, then he slipped out of the apartment, a thoughtful look crossing his face.
"So I'll go to Misfit Music, brave the wrath of the tiger and see if I can't get Phyllis Gabor's help. God knows how she'll react to me, but this is her grandson - I have to try." He decided. "Then I'm going to go see if I can't find any trace of the kid myself. The woman Emily described sounded just like that weird woman at the beach. Maybe if I'd told Em about her when I met her, then this could have been prevented. Either way, I have to try and do my best to help. I know what this woman looks like, and the police will only have a vague description to go on. I have to give it a go."
He jumped into the front seat of his car, revving the engine.
"First stop, Misfit Music." He decided, putting his foot down on the accelerator pedal and roaring out of the parking lot. "And then, if there's anything left of me after I speak with Ms Gabor...then I'll go hunt for the kid myself. Who knows how much time we have? If it was the woman at the beach, she really gave me the shivers. God only knows what she'll do to the poor boy - I have to get him back!"
"So this is the finished script, now?"
Phyllis Gabor glanced over the sheets of manuscript paper, setting them down on the desk and fixing the two Jewels with a thoughtful look. "Jetta said she'd texted you to bring it to show us...have the others seen it yet?"
"No." Nancy shook her head. "Only Sadie, because she was helping me with the bassline. I figured we wouldn't be tackling it until after Topaz's last performance...since it's a charity number, we didn't think it would be unveiled at that show. We're playing songs from Exotic there, isn't that right?"
"That was the plan, since your new album can't hurt from a little additional PR." Phyllis agreed. "Besides, Topaz has one hell of a voice, and the disk has some ambitious tracks on it."
She cast Sadie a casual glance, then, "How much singing are you going to be doing, when Topaz leaves the band?"
"I don't know." Sadie looked startled, her cheeks flushing pink at this unexpected attention. "Whatever they want me to do. Nancy said that a lot had to be reorganised, so..."
"It will." Phyllis agreed abruptly. "So don't let the side down, huh?" She eyed Sadie thoughtfully. "Nancy, I hope this kid's going to get a vocal on the new track. There's no better way to introduce a new band member than to give her a prominent role in the new song."
"Me? Sing? On my first ever Jewel song?" Sadie's eyes became wide.
"Topaz sang lead vocal on hers." Nancy remembered. "Sure, Aunt Phyl, that can be done. I haven't worked out who might take what vocal yet, but I suspect the song will be split between either Sadie and myself, or Sadie and Syl. It looks like a song for two voices, anyhow."
"But..." Sadie held up her hands. "What if I screw it up?"
"Listen to me, Sadie Monahue." Phyllis fixed the English girl with a look that made her quake in her boots. "We didn't offer you a contract for you to fuss and play chicken. This isn't a school play, it's a career and you have to take your part in it. Understand?"
"I...I'll do my best." Sadie lowered her gaze. "I'm sorry. It's just all so new to me. I won't let you down, though."
"Keep it that way." Phyllis told her firmly. "Jewel have a strong public image. I don't want that to change."
She glanced up at the door, a frown crossing her face. "What's all the noise coming from outside? Nancy, go and tell whoever it is to shut the hell up, will you? Can't hear myself think in here!"
"Sure thing, Aunt Phyl." Nancy nodded, heading to the door and slipping out of the office. Within a moment or two she returned, and Phyllis' brow creased as she registered that the girl was not alone.
"What in hell do you want here?" She demanded, getting to her feet and fixing Luca with an unwelcoming glare. "Spying for the enemy?"
"I just..." Luca began.
"You can just turn around and go back out!" Phyllis interrupted. "You're not welcome at Misfit Music!"
"Aunt Phyl, I think you should hear him out." Nancy's expression was grave. "It's important."
"Important?" Phyllis cast her surrogate niece a glare, but she relented, sitting down and indicating for the girl to close the door. "All right. But it better had be important, else someone's gonna pay."
"Miss Gabor, I'm sorry to disturb you." Luca cast Nancy a grateful look, tentatively entering the office and standing before the desk. "I really came on Emily's behalf, not my own. I..."
"Emily?" Phyllis stared, then, "What about her?"
Carefully, Luca outlined the morning's events, and Phyllis' expression of irritation became one of anger.
"They just took him?" She exclaimed. "Walked out the door and abducted him, just like that? What in hell was Emily doing, waving goodbye?"
"Making a drink. The woman pretended she was from the agency you recommended to Emily, in the hunt for a nanny for Mike." Luca said quietly. "Em is already blaming herself, but I don't see how it could have been her fault. The important thing is finding Michael, and I told Emily I'd come here and tell you what happened. Both of us felt sure you'd help out, once you knew what the situation was."
"Damn right I will." Phyllis' eyes narrowed. "Noone messes with my family, so whoever this bitch is, she'd better hope she's got a damn fine lawyer behind her! I'm going over to Emily's, and then I'm going to make some calls. I have contacts all over this city, and soon as I know what the hell I'm looking for, there won't be a tree branch left un-checked."
"I knew you'd help." Luca looked relieved. "The police are at Emily's at the moment - hopefully between everyone, the kid will be found."
"Hopefully? No. The kid will be found." Phyllis said darkly. "And as for you - I appreciate you bringing the message, but get the hell off my company grounds before I get back here, all right? You might be on the level this time, but I don't trust any of Rory's people, and that includes you. Whatever Emily thinks of you!"
With that she was gone, door banging behind her.
Nancy and Sadie exchanged looks.
"Well, she sure knows how to make her displeasure felt." Luca observed. "I guess I'd better be going, like she said. I want to head out and see if I can't find the kid, anyhow."
"Can we help?" Sadie asked tentatively.
"Help?" Luca looked startled.
"Sadie's right." Nancy nodded. "Emily's my friend, and I've known Mike since he was born, near enough. If anyone has a right to help out here, I do." She squeezed Sadie's hand. "And Sadie's a Jewel now. We stick together."
"Well, the more pairs of eyes, the better." Luca nodded. "Sure, why not? I've my car outside. But if your mother throws a fit at me, Nancy..."
"Mom won't." Nancy shook her head. "She has Aaron and I, and she knows how strong a mother-baby bond is. She'd be glad we helped out, however she feels about Emily or about you. Besides, we can't just sit here and do nothing. Come on! Michael needs to be found!"