Chapter Six: Ransacked!
"Well, that was a long day."
Sadie put the key into the lock of the bedroom she and Sylva shared, casting her companion a tired smile. "Don't you think? Meeting a Queen and learning a song down pat...I'm ready to drop into the tub and soak for an hour or two before we go for dinner."
"What, and get all wrinkly in the process? Eww." Sylva laughed. "C'mon, Sadie, don't you have any stamina? Besides, I thought today was fun." Her eyes twinkled. "I met a cute guy, after all."
"Mm, not my type." Sadie dismissed him with a wave of her hand. "Not that any guy is my type right about now."
"Well, that's fine. He might be my type, though." Sylva shrugged, pushing open the door. "And he said he'd come see me at the Hotel Victor, so I might even get a date out of it, too. I just hope I've a stunning enough outfit in my case to....what the hell?"
She stopped dead, staring at the devastation before her. Clothes had been strewn across the room, and both her case and Sadie's had been pulled from their niches, flung open and left carelessly open in the centre of the floor. Drawers were pulled back, and books were everywhere. A breeze fluttered in through the open window and, frowning, Sadie crossed the floor to close it, turning to inspect the damage.
"Someone really took offence at us being here." She said quietly. "Unless this is the kind of room service that the hotel provides."
"It looks like someone was looking for something." Sylva's brow creased in confusion. She headed over to the door that connected their room with Copper and Nancy's, banging on the oak panelling. "Guys, can you get in here a second? Something's up."
"Geez, what in hell did you do?" Nancy pushed open the connecting door, stopping and staring at the mess. "Syl, I know you're not the tidiest of people, but..."
"I didn't do it, idiot! Sadie and I came back and found it like this!" Sylva was impatient.
"Someone ransacked your room?" Copper looked horrified, coming up behind her friend. "Maybe we should call the police...there could be fingerprints all over this stuff."
"Oh, what's the point? It was probably Jesta." Nancy rolled her eyes. "You know how unoriginal that girl is, and I bet she was looking for our manuscript to burn or something. She's too dumb to know that I keep that with me."
"Well, if it was Jesta, why ransack our room?" Sadie asked. "You write the music. Not..." She trailed off, biting her lip.
"But you wrote this one." Nancy reminded her. "And we were talking about it in plain view of everyone at the theatre. It's more than possible that she took her lunch break away from the place, and snuck in here to play saboteur."
"Possible." Copper conceded, stepping carefully into the bedroom and closing the door. "But what are we going to do about it? I mean, wouldn't Jesta know that we had our music at the theatre? We were using it, after all."
"So maybe she was after something else." Sylva shrugged. "Stupid moron that she is, I bet Nancy's right and it was her." She clenched her fists. "She makes me so mad. I ironed all of my clothes before we came and now look! Half of them are creased up and I'll have to totally talk to room service, else I'll look like a crumpled freak for the rest of the time we're here!"
"That's a point." Sadie looked thoughtful.
"What is?" Nancy cast her friend a confused look.
"Well, it is mostly Syl's stuff that's disturbed." Sadie indicated her own bedside unit. "That's the only part of my stuff that's been messed up. Sylva's clothes and books and everything are all over the place...but mine is hardly touched at all."
"Well, Jesta's a moron. She wouldn't know whose bed was whose, and maybe it's me she hates, since it was me she spited over the Zoe story in the press, and I am a Teenangel's cousin." Sylva shrugged her shoulders once more. "Who knows how her twisted little mind works? If nothing else, it indicates that we're the real competition here and she knows it."
"Should we tell Phyllis?" Copper wondered. Sylva shook her head.
"No. She's already insane enough about us being in Morvania. If we told her Jesta had been in our room she'd probably handcuff us together, and that'd be no fun at all! Whatever the past between Phyllis and the Queen of this country, it's all different now. Nadia and Semela told us themselves how peaceful Morvania was, and Phyllis was last here more than twenty years back." She indicated the mess. "This is classic sabotage, rival musician style. Why involve Phyllis? We don't tell her everything Stefana does, after all."
"No, true." Copper conceded. "Okay. We won't mention it to Phyllis, then. You're probably right, it probably was Jesta. After all, it's no secret that she hates us. Is there anything missing, Syl?"
"Not that I can see, but it's all kinda messy." Sylva responded. "Whatever she was looking for, I don't think she found it." She dimpled. "Which would support the fact that she was looking for music. What else could she have been after?"
Sadie bent down to pick up one of the discarded books, holding it out to her friend. Sylva frowned, taking it.
"My diary?" She asked. "What in hell would Jesta want with my diary?"
"Some petty scandal for the local press, that'd be my guess." Nancy rolled her eyes. "She's so unoriginal - didn't she try this tack already?"
"And if she wanted the diary, how come she left it here?" Copper added. Sadie scooped up a couple of loose leaves from the floor.
"I don't know that she did." She replied softly. "Syl, these look like your writing."
"They're from inside my diary." Sylva agreed, sitting down on the bed and flipping the book open. "But sheesh, does she think I'm going to write all my deep and meaningfuls in a book like this? It's just for dates and times and stuff like that." She slipped the torn pages back in. "And no pages are missing. Whatever it was, she didn't find it here. I..." She paused, a frown crossing her face.
"What?" Sadie came to sit beside her.
"My photo is missing." Sylva checked back through the pages. "That's odd. Why take a photo?"
"What was the photo of?" Copper looked startled.
"Me, Mom and Annie." Sylva looked equally bemused. "Stranger and stranger."
"Maybe it's under all this mess somewhere." Nancy suggested. "Jesta might just have been looking for something valuable to steal, and didn't find it. I dunno. Or maybe she thought that by taking your picture, she'd upset you too much for you to play."
"Well, duh to her then." Sylva shut the diary with a snap. "It's only a print. I have all the negatives safe in my room at the Starlight."
"Something about this is odd." Sadie cast her gaze around the messy room, a troubled expression touching her blue eyes.
"Odd?" Nancy asked. "What kind of odd?"
"Well...I've seen my share of burgled rooms, and this...well...it doesn't fit the bill." Sadie said slowly, a pink tint touching her cheeks. "It's all wrong somehow."
"We already established that nothing was really stolen, though." Nancy pointed out.
"Hang on, Nance. Sadie's more of an expert on this than any of us." Copper held up her hands. "Sadie? What are you driving at?"
"I don't know, quite." Sadie pursed her lips. "Just...I'm not sure if they were looking for anything at all. I think whoever did this just wrecked our room out of anger...or to cover up something else."
"Huh?" Sylva stared at her friend.
"Well, when my friends and I used to...erm, house visit, we'd always make sure the place was as much chaos as possible, so that it took longer for the cops to find out what we were after. We covered our tracks." Sadie glanced down. "We'd take whatever was valuable, but the bigger the mess, the harder it is to find evidence. I think that whoever it was came here searching for something very specific...and that all of this mess is to cover up the real aim of the visit." She shrugged. "Maybe the photo was it."
"Now you're talking crazy." Sylva shook her head. "What use could Jesta possibly have with my photo?"
"I didn't say it was Jesta." Sadie said softly. She moved to the window, glancing down at the ground below. "Maybe it wasn't."
"Noone else with any motive." Nancy said with a shrug. "Look, let's just tidy the place up, and then head down to dinner, okay? Aunt Phyl need know nothing about this, since nothing is damaged and nothing much is missing. I can't think of anyone else in Morvania who'd want us harmed...so it must have been Jesta. Maybe she wrecked the room just out of spite, I don't know. But whatever it is, Aunt Phyl said she was taking us to a fancy restaurant tonight, and we're gonna be late."
"But my clothes are all screwed up!" Sylva exclaimed.
"So borrow something of Sadie's." Nancy looked unsympathetic. "You're the same size and you're always pinching our clothes back home, so why should this be any different?"
"Okay." Sylva sighed. "But only if I can wear that cute little black and pink dress you have, Sadie."
"Be my guest." Sadie nodded her head. She frowned. "I only hope you're right about all of this, that's all."
"Come on, Sade, you're sounding like Phyllis now." Sylva reproached. "Let's get dressed up and go out and enjoy ourselves. Jewel are going to win this competition, whatever Jesta says about it!"
Downstairs in the lobby, a dark clad figure approached the main desk. He
surveyed the scene for a moment, then pushed something across the desk.
"I want to speak to Nerysa." He murmured. The girl stared at him, then disappeared into the back, and when the man looked down at the unit, the money he had offered had gone. Within a few seconds, Nerysa emerged from the back room, casting the stranger an apprehensive look.
"I am Nerysa." She said softly. "What do you want? Is it...a room for the night?"
The man curled his lip in amusement, shaking his head. Nerysa's friend had not come back with her to the desk, and they were alone.
"We have spoken on the phone." He said quietly. "You recognise my voice?"
"I...I do." Understanding and fear leapt into Nerysa's blue eyes. "What do you want?"
"Have you done what I asked?"
"I searched their room, as you told me." Nerysa lowered her voice. "But there was nothing there. Nothing but this photo."
She pushed the slightly dogeared image across the unit and the man scooped it up, glancing at it then pocketing it. He nodded.
"Nothing to suggest they are spies, sir." Nerysa bit her lip. "I don't understand, what danger are they?"
"A great danger, my dear." The man's eyes narrowed behind his dark glasses and he put his hand over hers, squeezing it tightly. "Morvania is more under threat than ever before. A great injustice has taken place...your help will ensure the future prosperity of this country for decades to come!"
"Don't question me." The man warned her. "You know too much, and are too far involved. If you trouble me, you will be eliminated."
His grip on her hand tightened further, and Nerysa swallowed hard.
"What do you want me to do?" She whispered.
"Keep an eye on the Americans." The man told her quietly. "Anything strange that they do, inform me. You know where to call." He smiled slightly.
"Do this for your country, and you will be well rewarded." He added.
With that he was gone, and Nerysa put a frightened hand to her throat, his threat echoing around her mind.
"What have I gotten involved in?" She murmured.
Outside the hotel, the figure paused in the shade of a big walnut tree to examine his prize. It was not much, he mused, but then again, it was enough to begin with.
"Proof positive." He murmured. "She is the daughter of that Misfit woman. Now I know how to proceed."
He slid the photograph into his pocket, slipping away into the night and away from the Hotel Victor. A gleam of triumph touched his expression as he made for the safety of his home.
"Jewel will not survive to play the competition. We will not be foiled again by these American fools." He murmured. "This time, the throne of Morvania will be ours!"
Prologue: Morvania, 1987
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2014
Chapter Two: At The Airport
Chapter Three: Laviana
Chapter Four: The Competition
Chapter Five: The Queen
Chapter Six: Ransacked!
Chapter Seven: Anatole
Chapter Eight: Nerysa
Chapter Nine: A Frightening Realisation
Chapter Ten: Betrayal
Chapter Eleven: The Truth
Chapter Twelve: Heartfelt
Chapter Thirteen: Home