Part One: Lovesick
Chapter Nine: Cat Burglar
"And now, the night's main act...JEWEL!"
The lights blazed down on the Los Angeles crowd as Jewel began their open
air concert in the centre of the city, launching into their latest chart
hit. Amid the masses of people, Stefana slipped through the shadows towards
the backstage area, inwardly resenting the task before her. Whilst the thousands
of milling fans sang along to Topaz's vocal line, she pushed through the
mass of people, pausing near the front to catch her breath. It was another
hot February night, and she had not begun her work without a reassuring hit
of amphetamine, but her pulse had been buzzing ever since she had swallowed
the dose, and her head was none too clear. Around her people were pushing
and shoving and for the first time in her life she felt claustrophobic.
Glancing around her for somewhere to get some air, she spied a parting
in the crowd and made a beeline for it, eying the big security guards doubtfully
as she reached the rail. Getting past them was the hardest part, and she
began to regret not embarking on her mission clear-headed.
"It's one thing to spy on Jewel, another to risk getting arrested for doing
it." She muttered, reaching up to adjust the thick swathe of material in
which she had wrapped her distinctive black hair. Phoebe had provided her
with dark contact lenses, to hide her green eyes from view, and in the darkness,
she was hoping that she would go unrecognised. So far, her ploy appeared
to be working.
She cast another look at the security guards, wondering if she could dart
past them without being seen. Then, as she was working out whether she could
make it or not, a cry from further down the rail indicated that someone
was in trouble. The guard's attention distracted as he hurried to the aid
of the fainting fan, Stefana took her opportunity. Whilst the man's back
was turned, she dipped under the thick railing and through the equipment
towards the backstage.
Diablo had played the venue many times before and she found that her knowledge
of the layout worked in her favour, for by the time the guard was back at
his post she was well out of sight, halfway towards the complex where Jewel's
dressing rooms were situated.
She paused in the darkness, perching on a rock as she regained her composure.
"I don't see why I had to do this. If I get caught there's no way Rory's
gonna be kept out of it." She muttered. "How in hell I'm supposed to explain
why I'm here if someone recognises me is beyond me, too. Dammit, this was
a bad idea. What I'm looking for is probably not even going to be there."
From somewhere she heard the sound of voices and she froze, melting as
best she could back into the shadows as she listened. As she sat there,
she realised that the speakers were Aaron and the enigmatic Cynthia, and
she narrowed her gaze, eavesdropping with all her might.
"So that settled that up." Cynthia concluded. "And there have been no more
visits to the Starlight Mansion, Aaron. I promise you. I have been very
good with my security, and nobody would get past the edge of the drive now
without my knowing of it. Believe me, I have it well in hand."
"Well, there's probably nothing to it. Copper said that he'd begun to leave
her alone already, so I guess it was a passing phase after all." Came Aaron's
voice. "But it's comforting to know that you're on the ball with this, Cyn.
We've never had to encounter something like this before, but I can't help
thinking of Blade and what happened there. Copper means the world to me
- well, this might just be another loser with a crush, but I don't want
to take any risks."
"No, I can understand why not." Cynthia sounded grave. "I remember Blade's
death as well as you, Aaron. Do not worry, though. Copper is quite safe
at the Starlight Mansion."
She turned, scanning the horizon and instinctively Stefana pulled back
into the undergrowth, praying that the computer's many abilities did not
stretch to being able to see in the dark. She was in luck, however, for
Cynthia did not notice her huddled among the bushes.
The hologram grinned.
"We should head back towards the stage. I have equipment to change before
the next set and so do you." She chided. "Come on. We cannot abandon them
when they are performing live!"
"No, but I wanted a chance to talk to you when Copper was in a place that
everyone could see her." Aaron laughed, sounding sheepish. "It's crazy,
isn't it? I mean, it's probably absolutely nothing. But in the dark like
this, it seems a whole lot creepier."
"Come on." Cynthia laughed. "I promise, Aaron, my sensors are equal to
They moved out of earshot, and Stefana pursed her lips, considering what
she had heard.
"Well, so maybe tonight hasn't been a waste of time after all." She murmured.
"So Cynthia's sensors are on red-alert at the Starlight Mansion, huh? Interesting,
though not altogether surprising. Whatever Phoebe has planned for Copper,
I'll have to make sure she doesn't plan it to happen at the Starlight. I
don't know if Rory's told her about the computer - probably not, since he
quit believing me about it after Techrat's stupid virus didn't work. But
it's worthwhile knowing. For a bundle of wires, Cynthia's a psychopath. I
want to keep out of her way as much as I possibly can!"
She peered out from her hiding place, satisfying herself that the coast
was clear, and that she was once more alone. Determined not to spend any more
time than she could help among enemy territory, she darted towards the star's
complex around the back way, dodging the many security guards by her expert
knowledge of the place's layout. Slipping her hand into her pocket, she pulled
out the key that she had stolen a few nights ago, when it had been Diablo
who had played live. Sliding it silently into the lock, she was soon inside,
pushing the door shut behind her with a soft click.
"Jewel are on stage, and Cynthia and Aaron are heading backstage to sort
out their equipment." She murmured. "Security are outside...it just remains
to be seen whether one of the old hags from Misfit Music came along for
the ride. I don't want to run across one of them if I can help it - I'd
better keep my head down."
She adjusted her headscarf once more, pulling it more firmly up to cover
her dark hair. Unlike the darkness outside, it was brightly lit inside the
star's complex, and she found it an easy enough task to find her way to
Jewel's dressing room, sliding the key once more into the lock and heading
Once there, she paused, eying her surroundings with derision.
"How I'd love to set fire to all of this, just to see their faces." She
muttered, pushing Sadie's bag off the table in a burst of resentment. "They
think they're so damn great!"
She scanned the bags and coats, rifling through each one until she came
to the one she wanted. Pulling it open, she extracted a small date book, flicking
"When Phoebe next boasts that she has access to something relating to Jewel,
I'm gonna make sure that I'm a mile away." She said darkly. "Thank God this
isn't a diary, I'd be throwing up by now. But blech. Charity engagements,
charity engagements, public signings, night off with Aaron..."
She pulled another face, pocketing the book and glancing through the remaining
belongings for anything else that she could steal. A small wad of notes
caught her eye, and she bit her lip, then pulled the money from it's hiding
place, sliding it into her own pocket as she debated her next move.
"It's about time Jason had more communication from his love, and if I can
send him something that he's seen Copper wear, then all the better." She
decided, grabbing Copper's purse and spilling the contents out on the table
as she surveyed her options. A pair of gold earrings clattered onto the floor
and she scooped them up with a muttered curse at the noise. From the sound
of voices outside the movement had been heard, and she hurriedly pocketed
the earrings, pushing open the door and fleeing as fast as she could towards
the back of the building. As the main doors opened and men swarmed inside,
she pulled herself into a small storeroom, her heart pounding in her chest.
She knew that it would not be long before they would find her, for the security
sweeps were thorough, and the last thing she wanted was to be caught in
possession of stolen goods.
Glancing up, she noticed that the cover to the air vent was slightly ajar
and she uttered a silent thank you, pulling herself up awkwardly onto the
tabletop and pushing the grille further back. With her last burst of energy
she hauled herself up into the ducts, pushing the grille back and leaning
against the cold stone of the wall, trying not to breathe too loudly. Exhaustion
and fear washed over her as she heard footsteps coming closer, and the sound
of the door being opened.
"Noone in here." She heard a gruff voice announce. "Maybe it was just birds
"No birds." Another voice called from down the hall. "Someone's been in
the dressing room. Alert Miss Gabor at once! There's been an intruder and
the sooner we act, the sooner we can catch them! They can't have gotten far!"
"You don't know how true that is." Stefana muttered to herself, glancing
fearfully along the narrow vent as she worked out whether or not crawling
along it would provide escape or further imprisonment. "I can't risk being
heard, but then again I can't just sit here. What if one of them decides
to explore the air vent, just in case? Best I'm well away from here. Oh,
but if only I knew which way I was going, and where this came out!"
The sound of returning footsteps made up her mind and, as stealthily as
possible she began to crawl along the duct, wishing with every passing moment
that she had never let Phoebe talk her into raiding Jewel's dressing room.
The complex was awash with people now, and from somewhere in the chaos Stefana
recognised the distinctive tones of Phyllis Gabor. Fresh fear engulfed her,
and she sped up her pace, moving as fast as she dared.
At length she found herself up against another steel grille and, leaning
up against it cautiously, she listened, trying to ascertain where she had
"End of the line, girl." She muttered, realising that there was no other
way forward than down through the grille. "So long as this one is moveable.
Dammit, I'm so tired! I wish I'd brought something with me!"
Her head spinning, she pushed her weight against the grille, making it
shift slightly. It took five minutes of continued pressure, but eventually
the grille gave way, revealing dark sky and grass before her. It was two
or three metres to the ground, but by this time Stefana was too terrified
to care how big a jump it took. Launching herself out of the duct, she landed
squarely on the grass, speeding away into the night. As she ran, one of her
contact lenses fell out, crushed under her feet in the long thick grass,
and the scarf around her head loosed itself, catching on a tree and tearing.
Grabbing at it feverishly, Stefana pulled it with her, eventually reaching
her car and slipping inside, shoving her scarf and her finds into the glovebox
and burying her head in her arms as fear gave way to traumatised tears.
From behind her, she could still hear the sounds of the security men as
they spread over the complex looking for clues, and she put the car in gear,
screeching away from the venue and speeding down the freeway as fast as she
could, squinting at the road signs through tear-blurred vision.
As she neared home, her heart rate began to slow down and she eventually
rammed her foot on the brake, screeching into the front forecourt of the
Diablo estate and turning the key in the ignition. Pulling open the glovebox,
she spread out her finds on the torn headscarf.
"Gold earrings for Jason, fifty bucks for me, and Copper's datebook for
Phoebe. But boy is she going to pay for this night's adventure!" She muttered,
folding them up tightly and slipping the scarf back into the glove compartment.
"No way am I doing that again - not for any amount of money!"
Catching sight of her reflection in the mirror, she realised that she had
lost a contact lens, and she cursed under her breath.
"Where did I drop that?" She demanded, reaching up to remove the remaining
lens from her eye and slipping it into her pocket. "God, I hope it wasn't
in the complex. Can't they do DNA on things like that? Dammit! After I was
so careful to wear gloves, too! Dammit!"
"Steffi? Is that you?"
A voice from the top of the drive startled her and she swung around, staring
at the speaker as she tried to regain some composure. Marissa stood before
her, a concerned expression on her face.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." She murmured. "I thought I heard
"I thought you weren't going to fuss over me." Stefana snapped.
"I'm not fussing. I was watching a movie and we had pizza and I wanted
to know if you wanted to join me." Marissa responded, though her words were
only half true and Stefana knew it. She grimaced.
"I'm not hungry." She said flatly. "I'm tired - I'm gonna go straight to
"Are you all right? You look like you've been crying." Marissa made no
move to return to the house, as her friend locked her car, stalking up the
Stefana paused, debating what to say, but the fear of the night's events
was still fresh in her mind and she shivered.
"Someone was chasing me." She said, truthfully.
"Chasing you?" Marissa's eyes became wide. "Why? What happened? Are you
"I'm fine." Stefana dismissed it, though Marissa was aware of a slight
tremor in her friend's voice. "I just...someone was following me and I couldn't
shake them off. I...I had to run, and...and it was like, I knew if they caught
me they were...were going to do something...unpleasant."
"Someone was stalking you?" Marissa's expression could not get any more
"I don't know." Stefana took a deep breath. "But I want to go inside and
I want to go now. I don't want to stay out here."
She pushed open the front door, stepping inside and waiting impatiently
for her friend to join her.
Marissa did so, glancing at her friend's clothes, aware for the first time
of the mud and dust that splattered up designer boots and the ladders that
had begun to form in her thin-weave gloves. She frowned.
"Something's scratched you." She murmured, putting a hand up to Stefana's
cheek, and the dark girl flinched away.
"That hurt!" She hissed. "What do you mean, scratched me? There's a mark?"
"Yes." Marissa nodded. "It isn't big, but...did you run into a tree or
"Mari, I just ran." Stefana said emphatically. "I didn't care where I was
going, just away from whoever it was chasing me, that's all."
"It's creepy." She decided, then, "Was it someone you owed money?"
"No. I have all of that in hand. It wasn't someone I know. It wasn't something
"I'm just thinking of what you said about Jewel's mailbox being rifled,
and obsessive fans." Marissa bit her lip. "Stef, be careful, okay? I don't
want you hurt."
"I have no intention of getting hurt." Stefana touched her cheek gingerly.
"Do you suppose it'll show up through make-up? I don't want Rory knowing
"Probably not, but right now you need to bathe it and put some ointment
on." Marissa told her firmly. "Take your boots off and come upstairs - I'll
For once, Stefana did not argue, merely allowing her friend to lead her
up the winding staircase to the bathroom. Though she had not told Marissa
the whole truth, she was comforted nonetheless by her friend's company. Despite
herself, she had been scared. For the first time she had realised how close
to the law Phoebe's plan really ran.
"Not that I'm going to be implicated any further." She decided, as Marissa
carefully washed the dirt from her friend's cut cheek. "I'll collect my
money and deliver what I need to to Phoebe. Once I've written to Jason it's
in her hands then. I've done my bit. And Copper's gonna be the one who'll
live to regret it. Not me. Just so long as they don't find that contact lens..."
Back at the venue, Jewel had finished their set to rousing approval from
the crowd, unaware of any of the shenanigans from backstage. As they left
the stage, they encountered Cynthia looking grave, and Sylva frowned, grabbing
the hologram by the arm.
"What's happened?" She demanded. "Did someone die while we were on stage
or something? What gives, Cyn?"
"Has something happened?" Copper sounded anxious. "Cyn, don't just
stare at us - tell us!"
"Miss Gabor sent me to escort you back to the dressing room. You are to
touch nothing." Cynthia said quietly.
"Touch nothing? But why?" Sadie's eyes grew big. "What gives?"
"Whilst you were on stage, somebody broke into the complex, ransacked your
dressing room and tipped Copper's purse out all over the table." Cynthia
said softly. "Copper, you're going to have to tell security if anything is
missing. Miss Gabor has alerted the police - she's most unamused - and the
area has been thoroughly searched. Although it's clear there was an intruder,
there's been no sign of him anywhere."
"Him?" Copper blanched. "You think it was...?"
"Well, unless there are two nutcases with a crush on you, Copper, it doesn't
take brainpower to work out this is your loser admirer's work." Nancy said
grimly, linking arms with her friend. "Come on. Let's go see what he trashed,
"Was it only Copper's stuff he touched?" Topaz asked, as they made their
way slowly across the grounds. Cynthia shook her head.
"No - he touched everything, but only superficially. It was clearly Copper's
belongings he was after." She said sadly. "Copper, I owe you my apologies.
Aaron and I were near the complex whilst the thief must have been in situe,
yet I saw and heard nothing. I feel I have let you down."
"You've done nothing of the sort, so don't be dumb." Copper squeezed her
friend's hand. "But it does creep me out, guys. I thought he'd done with
me - he stopped sending me letters. And now this? What have they found?"
"They're dusting for prints at the moment, but so far it seems there are
none. He wore gloves." Cynthia said grimly. "I must remind you to touch
nothing, only to ascertain what - if anything- is missing. Understood?"
"We understand, Cyn." Sadie nodded, as they were led past the beefy police
officer on duty at the door and into the main complex itself. Pausing in
the doorway of the dressing room, Copper bit her lip, then stepped inside.
"Miss Santiago?" One of the officers glanced at her, and silently Copper
"If you can just look and tell us if anything is missing, Miss." The man
instructed, and Copper made her way slowly to the table, running a fearful
gaze over her stuff.
There was a long, protracted silence, then,
"My diary." She said flatly. "My datebook. It's gone."
"Anything else, Miss?" The officer made a note. Copper frowned, shaking
"I don't think..."
"Your earrings!" Sylva let out a cry. "The ones you were showing me before
we played - didn't you put them in your purse?"
"Yes...yes I did." Copper turned her gaze back to the table.
"Well, they're not there now." Sylva indicated. "Would he have taken them,
as some kind of trophy?"
"Don't." Copper shivered. "But you're right. The earrings are gone, too."
"How much money was in your purse, Miss Santiago?" The officer cast her
a gentle smile. "Was there much?"
"Fifty dollars or thereabouts - why? Is that gone too?" Copper asked. The
"We found a couple of coins on the floor, but no notes." He confirmed.
"Whoever took your book and your earrings decided to treat themselves to
your cash, too."
"Someone stole your bracelet, and now they stole your earrings and date
book?" Nancy frowned. "The money I can understand - but the other things -
they're just little things. Not even valuable!"
"A bracelet?" The officer looked sharply at Copper, who blushed.
"I mislaid a bracelet earlier this week. Nancy wondered if someone had
taken it, but I thought not - not with a full purse they could have raided
into the bargain." She replied. "Now...now I'm not sure. It isn't a valuable
bracelet but it does have sentimental value to me. But it can't be the same
person. If I'm right about the last time I saw that, well, it must have
been in the rest-room at the restaurant. And I'd have noticed if there was
a guy in the ladies rest-room. Trust me."
"We don't know, Miss, that we are looking for a man." The officer reminded
"We do." Sadie shook her head. "Copper's had love letters from this guy,
and stuff like that. We thought he was a fan with a bit of an obsessive
crush - this is just taking it a step too far."
"Could he have had an accomplice in the rest-room?" Topaz wondered. Copper
shook her head.
"That's just dumb." She responded. "Who'd help him obsess about my stuff?
His wife? I don't think so. No, that must have been an unrelated thing.
Maybe I even imagined it. Maybe it didn't happen at all."
Her voice shook and Nancy hugged her tightly.
"It's been a long night, officer." She said quietly. "We want to go home
- is it all right?"
"We'll be in touch about the letters." The officer nodded. "And try not
to be afraid, Miss Santiago. The suspect broke into the complex when he knew
you would be on stage - it seems more than likely to me that he just came
in search of some little keepsake, rather than to hurt you. It could even
be that someone has learnt of your fan's crush and is using his precedent
to break in here and steal your money. Either way, we'll track the culprit
"Thank you." Copper said quietly. "I hope you're right. It all seemed silly
to begin with, but, well, it's hard not to be scared now!"