Chapter Eight: Nerysa
"Is it half past seven already?"
Sadie turned over in bed, casting her alarm clock a bleary glance, and groaning as she registered the dial. "Ugh. I feel like I've slept for ten minutes."
She pulled herself upright, grabbing her pillow and tossing it across the room to the other bed.
"Syl, wake up, it's half seven! We've breakfast in half an hour!"
"Hrm?" A sleepy voice came from the second bed, and Sadie rolled her eyes.
"Sylvina, we've gotta be up by eight, unless you want Phyllis to find out what the hell you got up to last night!" She exclaimed. "Get up, damn you!"
"I'm awake, I'm awake!" Sylva sat up, rubbing sleep and haphazard curls from her eyes and stifling a yawn. "Man, it's that time already? I feel like I only just went to bed."
"Join the club." Sadie said grimly, slipping out of bed and reaching for her towel. "I'm gonna take a quick shower - don't fall back asleep, huh?"
"You didn't have to wait up for me last night. I was okay with Nat." Sylva objected. "And don't take too long in there, huh? I need a shower to wake me up!"
"I wanted to be sure you got back all right. Call me suspicious, but I find it odd that your side of the room was ransacked and then suddenly some guy shows up wanting to take you out." Sadie shrugged.
"Well, you can be suspicious." Sylva responded. "Nat is a gentleman and we had fun last night. He showed me Laviana's nightspots, and I had a good time. It was worth it." She dimpled. "Thanks for not blowing my cover, though. I appreciate it."
"Friends don't rat on each other." Sadie said simply. "Just don't do it tonight, huh? I need my sleep!"
"Me too." Sylva admitted. "I might get away with it one night, but two in a row would definitely have Phyllis suspicious."
Sadie grimaced at her, disappearing into the shower and leaving the American girl to pull herself out of bed. As she did so, she recalled the events of the night before, and a smile touched her lips.
"Nat is really nice." She decided, remembering the gentle way he had said goodnight to her, and how he had kissed her softly on the cheek. "I understand why Sadie's suspicious, and all...but I know he's not behind any of this trouble that Phyllis thinks is in the air. He's just a regular Morvanian guy and, if I play it right, he could be one heck of a holiday romance, too! I know we don't have many days left, mind you. I'll just have to make the most of it while I can. He did promise me that he'd come to the rehearsal today, and that's something. And I know I'll see him again before we go home. He's too sweet not to do that."
She pulled open the door of the big wardrobe she and Sadie shared, carefully evaluating and discarding each outfit as she went along. Finally she selected something, slipping it off the hanger and laying it on the bed.
"Sadie, can I borrow your pink sandals?" She called through the en suite door.
"You're going to borrow them if I like it or not, so go ahead." Sadie called back over the sound of the running water. Sylva grinned, scooping the shoes out of the bottom of her friend's side of the wardrobe and setting them down beside the bed. She examined herself in the mirror.
"Looking good, despite the lack of sleep." She murmured, glancing at the time as she did so. "Sadie, will you get a move on! I want the shower too!"
Okay, okay, I'm coming!" Sadie swung open the door, her hair in a towel and her dressing gown wrapped around her. "Go on. You've probably just time for a quick one."
It was something of a scramble, but, despite their slow rising, both Sadie and Sylva were in the hotel restaurant as the big clock began to chime eight. Phyllis, Nancy and Copper were already waiting, and Phyllis cast them a glance, indicating for them to sit down.
"Today is the big rehearsal." She said, without preamble. "I want you kids to work hard, okay? Tomorrow is the contest, and whatever else might be going on, we wanna try and win it. Right?"
"Of course. We're gonna beat Jesta for sure." Sylva nodded her head. "And c'mon, Jewel rock. Who could match up to us?"
"Ego ain't pretty until you've won." Phyllis said sharply, scooping up the menu and pushing it across the table to the keyboardist. "Here. I wanna be outta here by nine, and I still gotta tackle that Nerysa girl. I didn't see her as I came down."
"Maybe she heard you were looking for her and got scared." Nancy said dryly, ignoring the dark look her adoptive aunt sent her. "We haven't really got a lot more to do to put this song together, Aunt Phyl. Since Sadie and I knew it from the off, it's just been a case of getting Copper's rhythm straight, and phrasing Syl's vocal. We're almost there."
"Well, make sure you are." Phyllis glowered. "And if you'll excuse me, I think I see my prey...eat up and meet me in the foyer in a half hour, okay?"
Before any of the girls could respond, she was gone, and the Jewel girls exchanged looks. Sylva rolled her eyes.
"I wish she'd quit being all cloak and dagger." She said with a shrug. "She's being a total drag on this tour."
"Well, I guess she is responsible for our safety." Sadie stifled a yawn. "I need a fag and a good cup of coffee, if I'm gonna play chords straight this morning. Give me the menu, someone...I need something to wake me up."
"No stamina, that's your trouble." Sylva grinned. Sadie grimaced at her room-mate.
"Yeah, right." She muttered.
"You think Phyllis will nail that girl?" Copper wondered. Nancy grinned.
"If I know Aunt Phyl, she'll terrify the life out of the kid." She said wisely. "And then we'll know what's what. I vote we eat breakfast and do as she says - we have a competition to prepare for!"
In the lobby of the hotel, Phyllis had indeed cornered the unsuspecting
Nerysa with a seemingly harmless request, and the hotel employee had obligingly
agreed to come to the executive's room to assess the problem. Her mind
still on the encounter with the strange, dark clad man, she was still on
the look out for any useful tidbit of information about the American guests
that might protect her from harm. She slipped into the bedroom with a charming
smile on her lips, a smile that died as she registered Phyllis' expression.
The executive had neatly placed herself between the employee and the door,
clicking the lock firmly in place, and folding her arms across her chest.
"We need to talk." She said quietly, though the menace in the green eyes made Nerysa quake inwardly. "Don't we?"
"Miss Gabor, if there is some problem..." Nerysa began, but she trailed off as the glare became more intense.
"The other night, one of the rooms we rented was found to be ransacked, and a photograph disappeared." Phyllis cut straight to the chase. "We know you took it. What I want to know is why."
"I don't know what you mean." Nerysa stammered, taking a step away from her formidable captor. Phyllis was having none of it, however, and she grabbed the girl by the wrists, fixing her with a meaningful stare.
"I've been to Morvania before, kid. I know how things work in this place." She said darkly. "Who are you working for, and why are you involving us in your little games?"
"You're gonna have to do better than that." Phyllis' brow creased in irritation, and her grip on the girl's arms tightened. "Listen to me. I've been through my fair share of plots, scrapes and schemes. I'm not a fool, and you're not a very good spy. Now, you have a choice. Either I'm going to turn you into the Morvanian authorities, or you're going to tell me here and now precisely what you were doing going through someone else's belongings. The choice is yours."
Nerysa lifted frightened blue eyes to her captor's forbidding green ones, and swallowed hard.
"I don't know who he is." She whispered at length. Phyllis raised an eyebrow.
"How convenient for you." She said darkly. "Maybe I can help you remember, huh?"
"No, no! I mean it!" Nerysa's expression became one of alarm. "I don't know his name, I swear!"
"Well, then tell me what you do know." Phyllis seemed to realise the girl was telling the truth, and she relented slightly, pushing the girl down onto the bed and sitting down beside her, keeping a firm grip on the hotel employee at all times, to prevent her fleeing. "What is this all about, and what has it to do with us, huh?"
"I don't really know." Nerysa glanced down.
"So you want me to believe you ransacked one of our rooms for a reason you don't understand, and are working for a guy who you don't know." The scorn dripped from Phyllis' words. "That works. Come on, kid. Don't tell me what you don't know. Tell me what you do know, else I promise you you will regret it."
"I think it has something to do with Morvania and...and the government." Now terrified beyond belief, Nerysa's composure crumbled, and tears began to spill down her cheeks. "Please do not hurt me - I did not mean to upset you! My father, he worked for the Secret Service until he was killed in action four years ago, and he had many friends in the Royal Guard. It was not uncommon for him to involve my mother and I in what he did, as spies or informants, or to discover information. It might seem unprofessional to you," as Phyllis snorted. "But it was true."
She twisted her fingers together nervously.
"A while ago, I receive a call from someone who says he is a friend of my father. He tells me that Morvania is in danger and that he is in need of my help. He convinces me that you are spies and are here to hurt Morvania, since you plotted against the throne once before. I...I believed him."
"You think we're here to hurt Queen Adreana?" Phyllis sounded incredulous. "For God's sake, kid, I wouldn't go near the woman if I had any choice about it! We're here for a damn music competition - whatever happened in the past is damn well in the past and that's all there is to it! You mean the Morvanian government is spying on us, just because twenty years or more ago we got wrapped up in some silly plot that came to nothing in the end?"
"I do not know." Nerysa admitted. "Last time when I spoke to him, I began to doubt that he really was working for the government. I did not understand why he wanted proof of your identities, or his interest in Miss Martescu, but when I asked questions, he made a threat. He said that I knew too much and would be eliminated - and I was just to keep an eye on you and make report to him what you did."
"And you don't know who this guy is or what you're involved in? How dumb are you?" Phyllis demanded. "If your damn father was such a good secret agent, how come he raised such a cretin for a daughter, huh?"
"I thought I was doing good for my country." Nerysa whispered. "My brother was killed in a rebellion in the North a few weeks ago, and I was afraid that my mother and my sister and I would also be in peril. Vidmar was a student - he hurt nobody - and I fear that our country will be in civil war if there are more rebellions. I thought I was helping to prevent that - now I wonder if I make it worse."
"I see." Phyllis fell silent for a moment, turning this information over in her head. "And you don't know who this guy is who is so interested in us?"
"I have never seen his face without it being covered." Nerysa shook her head. "I am afraid of him. I think he will hurt me...especially if he finds out I have told you all of this."
"Girl, if I find out you've lied to me about anything, I'll do more than hurt you." Phyllis told her darkly. "You have my word that, whatever unrest there might be in Morvania, it is nothing at all to do with us. All right? It's not my choice of place to come for the competition, and I wish Queen Adreana didn't have such a long memory, but I have no interest in the politics of this country, and nor do my girls. You can tell that to whoever it is using you." She paused, then, "Is there nothing you can tell me about this guy, though? I mean, I presume he is a Morvanian."
"Of course." Nerysa nodded. "He speaks with me in our tongue, after all." She frowned. "But there is not much I can tell you. He conceals himself from me. He is quite tall, and he is strong. I cannot tell you any more, only that he has great interest in all of you - in particular in Miss Martescu and in you. I do not know why."
"In Sylva?" Phyllis looked startled. "That makes no sense. She wasn't here in '86..." Her brow creased. "Oh, but dammit, her mother was, and there is a resemblance between the two. Okay, then between now and when we leave Morvania in a few days, I'm gonna have to make sure I keep close tabs on Sylva, just to make sure there's no trouble."
"Will you report me to the police for what I did? I will lose my job." Nerysa looked anxious.
"No, but you can damn well leave us alone." Phyllis said quietly. "How you deal with this strange guy is your problem, not mine."
She released her grip on the girl's arm.
"This conversation didn't happen." She said finally. "And I'm sure we won't have any need for a repeat."
"No, Miss Gabor." Nerysa took her chance to escape, hurrying to the door and unfastening it, disappearing down the corridor and back to the safety of the lobby. Phyllis pursed her lips, considering all she had learnt.
"Well, whether it's the government or not, I don't want my girls involved in something they have nothing to do with." She decided at length, grabbing her jacket and heading down to meet the group. "And I'll have to grab something to eat at the theatre, that damn girl stopped me getting breakfast and I'm starving." She grimaced. "Sooner this show is dealt with, the better for all of us. I'm not gonna be happy till Jewel are out of Morvania and touching back down in LAX!"
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