Chapter Five: The Video Shoot
"I'm really nervous."
Sadie paced across the studio, an unlit cigarette rolling absently back and forth between her fingers. A big red 'no smoking' sign on the door of the building had prevented her from lighting up, but the imposing layout and tangle of cables and cameras had done nothing for her confidence, and she was sorely wishing that she could sneak outside and light up.
"We will be able to do re-takes, right? I can't believe Jetta and Phyllis just turfed us off here and left us to it...what if things go wrong?"
"Nothing will go wrong, silly." Nancy said with a grin. "We laid down the track fine yesterday, so today we're doing the video. Things move fast in this business, and everything will be fine - smooth and coordinated. Oh, that is, so long as you put that thing away, else you'll have the security guys on your back. We've done loads of video shoots before, and Zoe is the best video artist in the business these days. You've seen some of our other videos - they rock, and she's been involved in every one of them. She'll soon put you at your ease."
"I read a lot of good things about her work in some of the magazines Topaz gave me when I was sick, back when I first arrived in LA." Sadie admitted, obediently slipping her cigarette back into her pocket with a wistful sigh. "Which makes me even more nervous. If she's such a pro, she's going to hate working with a complete rookie like me. I'll fluff it up and we'll have seven thousand takes and it will all end up in a mess!"
"I'm glad to hear everyone is so upbeat this morning!" A fresh voice joined the conversation, and the four musicians turned to face the newcomer. "I know it's early, but can we leave the doom and gloom till this afternoon?"
"Zoe!" Copper exclaimed, grinning. "We didn't hear you arrive...meet our newest member, Sadie Monahue! Sadie, this is Zoe Montgomery, our video artist and one of Jewel's closest friends!"
"Wow, you're so young!" Sadie stared, then blushed when she realised she'd spoken out loud. Zoe laughed.
"Everyone says that." She said, dismissing Sadie's embarassment with a careless wave of her hand. "And I'm twenty three, to be exact. But I love my work, and you can never be too young to do that, right?"
"I guess not." Sadie acknowledged. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to blurt it out like that. It just startled me...I expected someone older."
"Most people do. I surprise a lot of folk, when first we meet." Zoe winked. "But it's okay. Really. I'm not offended." She smiled. "Sadie? Misfit Music told me the new Jewel was stage-named Garnet. Which would you rather I used?"
"Sadie, please. I'm still not used to Garnet yet." Sadie said fervently. Zoe nodded.
"Sure." She agreed. "Sadie it is."
She perched on the edge of a speaker, pulling out a folder of papers.
"Okay, I've not had long to work on this one, so bear with me. My brain is still clicking." She said apologetically. "I sort of have a rough idea of how to set it up, but I want to run it by you first."
She reached down, spreading the sheets of paper out across the floor. "Okay, so here is the plan. We're gonna start with a simple theme...who sings the opening verse, by the way? Nancy? I thought so...okay. Well, if we start with you here...that'll be the opening, and I'm working on the idea of a bare set with smoke and cloud effects, just to work the winter/mystery aspect of this in. Remember, it's a Christmas single, so the video has to carry the spirit of Christmas, without being all tacky sleigh bells and mistletoe."
"I like mistletoe." Sylva objected. Zoe laughed.
"Yeah, I know, but not in this video." She scolded. "Now look. This morning we're just going to block the set - the ideas and the scenes, make sure it all works out. This afternoon the dancers and other extras will be here, we'll work them in. Tomorrow we'll film, and with any luck, by the day after I'll be in studio cutting tape and editing visuals. Any questions?"
"We're gonna get the whole thing done in two days?" Sadie stared. Zoe nodded.
"No longer to do it." She said with a shrug. "So I'm afraid you'll be here late tonight, and early tomorrow morning. I wish it was any other way, but deadlines are tight. Misfit Music want the song out before Christmas, and I think they want it in contention for Christmas number one. That being so, it means we have to have a video for you to send out to music channels, and you need as much promotion time and material as you can find. Diablo are already on the verge of releasing a Christmas single, you know. I haven't seen their video, because I was working on another project, but it's tipped to be a good one. You have to match up, according to the powers that be at Misfit Music."
"Well, big surprise there." Nancy rolled her eyes. "Okay, Zoe, we're with you."
"Diablo? I thought they were friends of Jewel's? Luca certainly seems very friendly." Sadie looked confused.
"Well, Luca isn't the problem." Nancy told her. "There are five members of Diablo, Sadie, and four of them are fairly decent human beings. Marissa and Luca could even be said to be nice company. However, the final one..."
"Stefana." Sylva curled her lip in distaste. "She's trouble. She's sabotaged us more times than we care to remember, and she's stuck her nose in our business enough times in the past."
"Mine too." Zoe said darkly. "I try not to play favourites with clientele, but I have refused point blank to work for Diablo since Stefana and that Jesta bitch engineered my coming out in the most publically awful way possible. I couldn't hack it. I'd probably lose my temper and go for her or something."
She bit her lip, realising she'd said more than she'd meant to. She cast Sadie an anxious glance.
"She sounds unpleasant." Sadie mused. "I mean, who would paste someone else's private life all over the press? That's just...well...mean."
"Mean is an understatement for Stefana." Copper sighed. "She's also got a major thing for Aaron...so she's happily done her best to split him and me up. She's not averse to dipping below the belt for ammunition, either. She's fairly obnoxious, Sadie. Like Zoe, I prefer not to take a hate to anyone, but Stefana is icky. If she has a conscience, it's buried so far inside of her that it's probably choking for air."
"And when Copper says something like that about someone, you know it's serious." Nancy said dryly.
"Okay, so Stefana is bad, but the rest of Diablo aren't?" Sadie asked.
"Well, basically." Sylva nodded. "Personally I don't know how much we can trust the rest, but they've never seemed to be involved in Stefana's plots. If you ask me, she gets her orders direct from Mr Rebel Records himself...but if I said that in a public place, I'd probably wind up landed with a lawsuit."
"So we should change the subject and get back to work." Copper suggested. "After all, we don't have much time."
From the shadows of the music studio, a lone eavesdropper had overheard almost the entirety of the group's conversation. Bristling with anger, she pulled further back into the safety of the darkness, narrowing her eyes as she worked out her next move.
"Rory said that Jewel were filming a video, and he was right, damn him." She muttered. "I thought that the deadline before Christmas would be too tight for them to get a song out, but apparently not! We want this Christmas number one, and we're damn well going to get it! Jewel are nothing better than a manufactured band of floozies who couldn't even play air guitar if their lives depended on it. And as for the new Jewel - hah, talk about a rigged contest! She's evidently not gonna be much of an opponant - she's edgy and nervous and scared of cameras. Big deal...they must have been really desperate, to pull her out of the hat! We've got this in the bag...but there's no harm in making sure."
Silently she moved behind the piled up chairs and props, pausing by the doorway to the main studio, then slipping inside.
"Well, Rory said to do anything it took." She muttered. "And well, that's what I'm going to do. Desperate times call for desperate measures, after all!"
She slid carefully beneath a table, making sure she was entirely concealed from view from both the group of eagerly chatting musicians and the studio security. Pulling her cigarette lighter from her pocket, she carefully pushed it up against the black studio curtain, waiting for a second until it ignited. The heavy cloth proved flammable, as she had hoped, and she slipped silently across to the other curtain, repeating the action. The curtains were large and, if left to burn for long enough, had the potential to cause serious harm, but to this Stefana was seemingly oblivious. As soon as she was sure that the flames were licking hungrily up towards the big wooden curtain rails, she pulled herself up onto the ledge, lowering herself down out of the window to the safety of the ground below. As she fled, however, something tumbled out of her pocket, skidding across the studio floor.
From the next room, the sound of a thud caught Zoe's attention and she frowned, getting to her feet and glancing around the room.
"What was that?"
"What was what?" Nancy glanced up from where she had been studying the sketches.
"I heard something fall - or maybe it was someone."
"Can anyone else smell smoke?" Sadie asked softly.
"Sadie, you have cigarettes on the brain." Sylva snorted. "Noone's smoking."
"No, Sadie's right." Copper frowned. "I can smell it too...we ought to investigate. Maybe one of the wires has shot!"
"Or maybe someone was here." Zoe pushed open the door of the main studio, a dark look on her face as she registered the burning curtains. Grabbing hold of the fire extinguisher in the corner, she acted quickly, dousing the flames until the curtains sizzled and hissed, a singed shadow of their former glory. "Whoever it was, they lit and ran. Not the most impressive of arson attempts ever."
"Maybe it wasn't meant to be." Nancy bent to pick up something from the floor. "I think I found whatever it was you heard falling, Zoe. Here."
"A cigarette lighter." Zoe frowned, turning it over. "Well, none of you smoke, so it's not one of yours."
"I smoke." Sadie owned. "But I've never seen that before, I promise. It isn't mine...mine's in the car."
"If you ask me, the lighter is incriminating evidence enough to tell me that we've been paid a visit by the very devil that we were talking about." Nancy murmured. "Who else do you know with the initials S.R?"
She pointed to the lighter which Zoe still held, indicating the crudely scraped letters on the metal top.
"Stefana Ranieri." Copper sighed. "What did she think she was doing this time?"
"The girl's insane, what do you expect?" Sylva replied.
"I bet she did this because she knows full well the red tape damage to this studio can cause." Zoe groaned. "I have to report this - if I don't, Jewel will get the blame. I suspect that was Stefana's motive, since she seems to like framing people...and if you smoke, Sadie, then we don't want to take any chances that someone will nail this on you. After all, we all know what really happened."
"Well, tell them Stefana did it." Nancy shrugged. "You've the evidence right there."
"Yes, covered in our finger prints." Zoe said quietly. "Arson is a prosecutable offence, and Stefana would claimed she'd been framed by a rival. The prints evidence might just back it up, since both you and I have touched it."
"And Stefana often wears gloves, I've seen her." Copper remembered. "So her prints mightn't even be on it."
"So what? We let her get away, again? She's gonna delay our video shoot - maybe even long enough to ensure it doesn't happen, and we're gonna let her walk?" Nancy demanded.
"We're going to let her go, yes." Zoe responded. "But Jewel's video will get done. I'm going to call Miss Gabor, and tell her what happened. Her father owns this studio, and he can override the security nonsense. I bet Stefana didn't know that, but she's just sabotaged Gabor property."
"I doubt it'd trouble her conscience any." Sylva muttered. "She could have burnt us all to death, so I really don't think she'd be too bothered to find out that it was Harvey Gabor's place she torched. Little bitch...I wish we could nail her!"
"Well, we can't. Zoe's right." Copper put up a hand to calm her friend down. "It stinks, but we don't need negative press. Especially not when Sadie's debut is on the cards here. We'll let Zoe make her call, and we'll go back into the main studio and discuss this video. We're going to make it work. The fire is out, we're not at risk."
"Zoe got to it before the fire alarms went off, even." Sadie agreed. "I...I don't think we need bother the police. Let Zoe handle it, and let's get back to work. We have a deadline."
"Okay, I guess we don't have a choice." Sylva sighed. "Fine. But we'll get our own back. We'll make this video so damn good that Diablo will be stampeded into the ground on our race for the number one spot!"
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
Chapter One: Back In Los Angeles
Chapter Two: Christmas Plans
Chapter Three: Like Old Times
Chapter Four: The Truth About Anna
Chapter Five: The Video Shoot
Chapter Six: Topaz's Sensation
Chapter Seven: Sadie's Tattoo
Chapter Eight: An Unlikely Team
Chapter Nine: Misfit vs Devil
Chapter Ten: An Old Flame
Chapter Eleven: Topaz Again
Chapter Twelve: A Christmas Present