"Okay, so what've we got?"
Special Agent Alex Bray dropped down into his chair, reaching for the
folder that lay on his desk and flipping it open, browsing through the sheets
of paper. "And why exactly is this being brought to our attention? What's
so big about this case?"
"You know the name Gabor, I presume?" The other agent, Raymond Nicholson
perched on the corner of the desk, indicating a particular file. Well-educated
and opinionated, his partnership with Alex had always been one to cause
humour among the department, for Alex was as easy-going and sympathetic
as Raymond was quick to judge. However, as a team they worked well together,
and had had many big successes. Based in Los Angeles, though they answered
ultimately to federal authority, they had arrived at work to discover a
new file on their desk, and a new case to be investigated. To Alex, it seemed
rather obscure. No state lines had been crossed, and it seemed a simple case
of arson, something that the city's own police department could deal with
quite adequately. However, at the sound of the name Gabor he looked startled,
meeting his companion's gaze with a surprised one of his own.
"Gabor? As in Gabor Enterprises?"
"Mmm." Raymond nodded his head. "That's exactly what I mean. Harvey Gabor
was one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the last thirty years,
before he retired, and now his daughter is at the helm of the business
empire, her and some business man in D.C by the name of Martescu, who shouldn't
concern us in this case, since he's nothing to do with Misfit Music. Anyway,
sources are that the illustrious Ms Gabor has more than one dodgy connection
and a couple of questionable events in her past which suggests there might
be more to this than meets the eye."
"Insurance fraud?" Alex raised an eyebrow, skimming the sheet. Raymond
"Exactly my thought." He agreed. "Local decided to turn it over to us,
because of the size of the fish involved, if you know what I mean. Gabor
Enterprises have a high powered legal backing, and could make things very
sticky for the city cops. You and I, however, aren't likely to be scared
off so easily and if it proves to be a nationwide scam - which it very well
could, you know - there won't be any holdups." He raised an eyebrow. "Well?
What do you make of it? Are we on for insurance scamming here?"
"I don't know." Alex frowned. "It's more complicated, considering that
if you're right, and that is what's going on here, we're also looking at
an attempted murder charge...possibly even full blown murder, if this Pelligrini
woman bites the dust. Yes, I see why Local handed it over to us. It might
be as you say, but if it is, it's a messy one."
"Difficult to prove, too." Raymond rolled his eyes. "Listen. Misfit Music
have a whole host of employees, and branches all over the United States,
but this one calls the shots. Without it the whole chain is in danger of
collapsing - so on the off-chance that I'm wrong - a rare occurance, I appreciate,
but it has to be considered - we ought to start looking into the background
of some of the employees. High and low profile ones."
"Mmm, I s'pose that means we'll be questioning superstars." Alex grinned.
"What about general staff? Do we have that kind of data?"
"There's a bunch of files lifted from the crimescene - smokedamaged to
some degree but many were protected from the worst by being stored in top
floor filing cabinets, where the flames didn't reach." Raymond replied.
"I've got people looking over them for that information as we speak - I
suggest we go tackle Ms Gabor herself and see what she can tell us."
"Sounds good to me." Alex nodded his head. "Though she mightn't talk to
us without legal advice. Sounds to me like she's a shrewd woman, to be where
she is in life."
"Twice as much fun to bring her down, then, if my suspicions are right."
Raymond laughed. "C'mon, let's give her a shot, anyway."
"Sure." Alex shrugged. "Hey, do we have anything from forensics on the
"Only one thing - that the fire was definitely no accident." Raymond replied.
"It seems to have been started in or near the ventilator shaft that feeds
the elevator...seems like it spread pretty fast and the building's sprinkler
system didn't come into play." His face became grim. "The office where that
woman was found passed out connects directly to the elevator's ventilation,
they're based on the same network. The smoke must've poured in on her and
got her by surprise."
"Sick." Alex said darkly.
"They usually are, the creeps who start this kinda deal." Raymond responded
quietly. "Look, let's quit wasting time, huh? I vote it's time we paid a
visit to the Gabor Estate, see exactly what Miss Phyllis has to say for herself."
"Today is a sad day for the music industry of the United States."
Dean Stacey, his expression unusually sombre faced his studio audience,
sadness in his brown eyes as he reflected on the situation that had begun
to unfold at Misfit Music. Dean had dated Nancy fairly steadily for a while
now, and the news had shocked and dismayed him. He had tried phoning Starlight
Mansion, hoping to get in touch with his girlfriend, but Copper had told
him that Nancy had been sleeping, and the next time he'd called the youngest
Jewel had gone to join her family at the hospital. Not sure whether he should
intrude on such a painful time in the girl's life, he had hesitated in following
her there, mindful of his own desire to be alone when his mother had vanished
in an aircraft crash over the Amazon. Nancy was a solitary figure at the
best of times, not tending to air her innermost fears until she trusted
someone implicitly, and Dean knew only too well how big a figure Jetta was
in his girlfriend's life.
The cameras focused in on him, the usual sparkle and fun of his show
replaced at least in part by a sense of mourning, even though as yet nobody
"This morning, we were to have Jewel play for you." He continued slowly.
"I'm sure, however, that all of you have heard of the terrible fire at Misfit
Music and that as a result of it Goldie's mother is seriously ill in hospital.
With the music company in disarray and with Goldie's attention so naturally
elsewhere for the time being, Jewel are not with us today. I spoke to Copper
this morning myself, and she wanted me to tell you all that they were sorry,
but that in the circumstances none of them felt much like playing live."
He frowned. "All I can say is that I hope very much that things are better
soon. Now we're going to go to a break, but I'll be right back after these
The cameras faded out and, somewhat restless, he got to his feet, pacing
off set towards the production assistant, Julie Kazar. There was none of
the usual mischief in her smile today, for she knew how anxious her young
host was, and she sent him an enquiring glance.
"Doesn't feel right to be on air." Dean told her with a sigh. "I feel like
I should be with Nancy, not trying to present a show to the nation like
this. It's insensitive, expecting everything to go on when one of our biggest
local bands is having such a torrid time."
"Dean, we have a job to do." Julie told him gently, setting down her clipboard.
"I know you're not able to distance yourself from it, because of your involvement
with Nancy, and nor do I expect you to, but we have a responsibility to
the public. For a start, explaining Jewel's absence this morning, as you
"I know. It just feels wrong." Dean shrugged. "I suppose you're right.
I suppose it is because of my relationship with Nancy." He frowned. "I haven't
even seen or spoken to her since it happened. That doesn't help...I want
to be there for her, but she was sleeping when I first called, then at the
hospital and I don't want to push myself on her when I know that this is
such a tentative time...Nancy's not big on emotional displays, and I don't
want to make her feel worse."
"I think Nancy would quite appreciate seeing you."
A fresh voice joined the pair and both turned to meet the sombre grey eyes
of Nancy's brother.
"Aaron!" Dean exclaimed. "Why are you here?"
"To speak to you, of course." Aaron responded. "Do you have a moment to
"I..." Dean glanced up at the clock, then at Julie, who shrugged.
"You've a few minutes." She agreed. "We'll keep running commercials for
"Thanks, Jules." Dean shot her a grateful look, then turned his attention
back to Aaron. "What is it? Did you mean that, about Nancy?"
"Yeah." Aaron frowned. "Things...are not good for us at the moment, Dean,
it doesn't take a psychic or a genius to work that out. I'm trying my best
to keep everything going somehow, but it isn't easy and I can't be everywhere
at once. Dad has barely left the hospital - he's acting totally unlike himself,
though in the circumstances I suppose I can't expect him to do any different.
I've always known that he adores her like anything."
He paused, composing himself.
"Nancy's there too, at the moment, but I'm not sure how much good
it's doing any of us, to be honest. I know in a way we have to be there, but
I don't like it - it's not Mom, somehow, all wired up and still like that.
She looks like she's already gone...I s'pose I'm steeling myself to hear
that she's beyond help." He sighed. "I don't know what's going through Nancy's
head at the moment - she hasn't really talked to me or to Copper much, or
cried since she sent herself hysterical when it happened. She's moving about
like a morose shadow, not saying much, not eating at all, and she has bags
under her eyes even though Copper's told me she's slept. I know she thinks
a hell of a lot of you, and I thought..."
"That it was time I got involved too?" Dean asked softly. Aaron nodded.
"I love my sister like anything." He murmured. "But I've never had to deal
with this kind of emotion before. It's taking all I got to stop myself from
falling apart, and that wouldn't help anyone. If I could hand Nancy over
to you, bearing in mind that she trusts you and all, I'd feel better about
"If you think it would help her, I'll go to the hospital right after we
come off air, and speak to her." Dean promised. Aaron looked grateful.
"Thanks, Dean. It'd be a weight off my mind if you could." he replied.
"Nancy's a lone wolf a lot of the time, but if it comes to the worst, and
I'm afraid that I think it might, she's going to need everyone a whole lot,
and she's dealing with it badly enough as it is - I don't think she could
take news like that at the moment. She needs...well, to snap out of it.
I'm feeling as bad as she is, but it's not helping Mom and it's not helping
Dean nodded grimly.
"It's never easy to lose someone you love dearly." He murmured, remembering
his own mother. Aaron shot him a startled look, but did not press the matter.
"Dean, I'm sorry to intervene but we really gotta carry on with the show."
That was Julie, and it seemed to snap Dean back into coherent thought. He
sent the production assistant a weak smile, nodding.
"All right. Aaron, I'm sorry. Much as my heart isn't in it this morning,
duty calls. I'll be at the hospital as soon as I can, though."
"That's all right. Thanks, Dean." Aaron looked relieved. "I'll let you
carry on with what you're doing. I only hope that you can help bring Nancy
out of this strange state she's in!"