"You're back late."
Nancy glanced up from her book of manuscript, casting her companion a
grin. "It must've been some dinner they served out. You've been ages."
"I went back to Alex's." Sadie slipped off her denim jacket, folding
it over the back of a chair and dropping down on the sofa. "Is everyone
else in bed?"
"Yes, long ago. How come you didn't stop over at his?" Nancy closed her
book, looking curious. "It's almost half four, Sadie."
"I know. I was intending to, but Alex got a call out about half an hour
ago and I decided I might as well come home. We didn't get as far as sleeping,
and I'm not tired." Sadie shrugged, ferreting in her purse for her cigarettes
and her lighter. "What about you? How come you're not in bed?"
"I'm writing. And do you have to do that in here?" Nancy wrinkled up
her nose. "It stinks."
"I'm sorry. I've been without most of the day." Sadie lit the cigarette,
sending her companion an apologetic look. "I'll open the window."
"Okay, so I can die of pneumonia as well as lung cancer." Nancy rolled
her eyes. "Great."
Sadie sighed, exhaling a cloud of smoke.
"It is my home too, you know." She said reproachfully. "What are you
writing, anyway? Didn't you already scrawl down the single we're putting
together at the end of the week? I thought we played it in Connecticut as
part of our last set."
"We did, and it is." Nancy nodded. "This is an album track, though. It
just came to me while I was in the shower, so I came down to see what I
could get together. Want to look?"
"Sure." Sadie shuffled over to take the top sheet, glancing over it.
"It looks like one of your deep and meaningful numbers. A ballad?"
"That's the plan." Nancy nodded. "I doubt it's got enough sting in it
to be a Jewel single, but I think it will be all right on the album. And
it is time we started thinking about another album. The last one's getting
old." She pulled a face. "Some stores even have it on the clearance racks."
"Is it that long since we last put one to disk?" Sadie looked surprised.
"We were working on it when we went to Connecticut, but then Topaz's
mother was ill and with one thing and another it never got finalised."
She replied. "Remember, there were only eight tracks when we'd sorted through
what we liked, and we need at least ten. So this is number nine, anyhow...no
idea what ten might be, but no doubt it will come to me."
"If you need any help, let me know." Sadie offered. "I'm getting into
the music writing lark now, you know, and I wouldn't mind."
"I might well do." Nancy nodded. She smiled. "Sometimes it's fun to have
someone to bounce ideas off."
"Yeah, it is." Sadie looked pensive, flicking ash from her cigarette
into the little ceramic ashtray that sat on the coffee table.
"So you went back to Alex's after dinner?"
"No, we went to the movies, and then we went back to his." Sadie shook
her head. "It was nice, though. At the moment, unless you're a Montgomery,
the press don't care about you. I quite enjoyed not being mobbed by anyone
but fans for once. They usually have more respect than the paparazzi."
"Maybe. I hadn't noticed it myself." Nancy snorted. "There's no such
thing as a private date in Los Angeles these days."
"Perhaps not." Sadie acknowledged. She frowned. "Speaking of which, Nance,
when was the last time Dean took you out?"
"Dean. You know, that guy you've been dating since before I knew you."
"Oh." Nancy shrugged. "I dunno. No biggie, though. We've both been busy."
"He's been working with Rose a whole lot."
"Do you think I should be jealous that he has?"
"No, not if you trust him. I just find it odd. You used to go out all
"Well, like I said, we've both been busy." Nancy shrugged again. "And
I'm not his keeper. Just for the record, too, it doesn't bother me that he's
hanging out so much with Rose. They're friends."
"I know, and Rose isn't the kind to steal another girl's guy." Sadie
inhaled contemplatively on her cigarette. "But he's gonna forget what you
look like if you don't call him soon."
"Forget me? When we played his show just this morning?"
"Nance, that was business. We were working! And you didn't get a single
moment alone because Aaron was short-handed because of Cynnie's leave. We
had to help clear set." Sadie scolded. "So that does not count and you know
"Maybe not, but I did see him." Nancy turned her attention back to her
manuscript. "I'm not bothered about it, Sadie. We're fine. It's not a truly
madly deeply kind of thing like you and Alex have. I've seen you two together
and it's quite nauseating on occasion, you know. You're so mad over him
you probably need therapy. But it's not ever been like that for Dean and
me. It's much more..."
"No!" This got Nancy's attention and she glared at her friend.
"Then what, Nance?" Sadie asked. "I can't remember the last time he called
by here just because, or the last time you phoned him from the bathroom
at the end of the hall because you didn't want us to hear you telling him
you loved him."
Nancy flushed scarlet.
"I knew you guys were listening in!" She exclaimed. "God, how are you
supposed to have a private relationship living in this house!"
"We weren't listening in. It was just pretty obvious from how you acted."
Sadie shrugged. "But I'm serious, Nance. Just because you don't see it
as a problem - maybe Dean might."
"Sadie, my relationship is none of your business." Nancy said wearily.
"And it's never been anyone's but his and mine. So if you don't mind, leave
me to worry about it."
"Okay." Sadie sighed. "But don't say I didn't try and warn you."
She spread out more comfortably on the sofa, taking another drag on her
cigarette. "Did Cynthia come back yet?"
"Yes. She was back ages ago." Nancy nodded. "She didn't say where she'd
been, and I didn't like to pry. She seemed tired and a little edgy, but then
with things how they are, I didn't really want to ask her if she was all
right. Topaz told me about the showdown earlier."
"I feel wretched that I laid into her, but she said something that got
to me." She admitted. "It's hard to be patient with someone when they're
acting like this. I realise how much effort Alyssa put in with me now...I
never saw it before."
"It's difficult. She's like a stranger." Nancy looked thoughtful. "I
mean, she is our Cynthia, but she's lost all of her fun at the moment.
It's hard to describe, but the things that make her the mad hologram we
hang out with are...just not there."
"I think they will be, when she's more used to things." Sadie decided.
"So long as the FBI stay off her trail."
"I thought that was all over with?"
"No, not at all." Sadie grimaced. "Alex says Ray is still on the hunt
for Synergy. And since Cyn is Jerrica's kin as far as everyone knows, he'll
be after her, too. I told Alex he'd better jump the gun and interview the
girl himself first...otherwise Ray might crack her. In this state of mind,
who knows what she might say?"
"At least Alex is on our side."
"No, he's not." Sadie glanced down at her cigarette. "I mean he is, but
not in the way we are. We'll protect Cynthia, whatever. He'll protect her
so long as she's not a threat. I understand why he said it, but it upset
me a little to hear it."
"So that's the real reason you came back early."
"No, I came back because he got a call." Sadie shook her head. "It just
came through at an opportune time."
"It's academic, isn't it? Cynthia wouldn't hurt a fly."
"I hope not." Sadie bit her lip. "You didn't see her earlier."
"Flying off the handle is one thing." Nancy dismissed this with a careless
gesture. "We all let off steam when we're stressed."
"True." Sadie paused, then, "I hope you're right. I just have this...feeling.
Maybe I'm reading too much into her behaviour and my own when Mum died...and
what I ended up doing with myself. But..."
"You, Sadie, are flesh and blood. You succumbed to things only flesh
and blood can succumb to - love and drugs." Nancy said bluntly. "And you
were dumb as heck in both areas. But Cynthia can't fall in love, and she
certainly is immune to chemical stimulants. Plus - and don't take this
the wrong way - Cynthia is far too level headed to get herself into any
kind of trouble. That's why Topaz trusts her with Hollie. Sure, she was
upset earlier. But I can't see her as dangerous. Can you?"
"I guess not." Sadie put her cigarette to her lips, then, "Stefana thinks
"When has Stefana's opinion mattered in Jewel's house?" Nancy looked
startled. "And since when did you start listening to it?"
"That's hardly the issue. Stefana told me that Cynthia threatened her,
once. What if it's true?"
"And you believe a demented hothead who probably slashed Copper's wedding
dress and tried to kill Cyn with a virus?"
"Yes. Frankly, I do." Sadie dropped her cigarette into the ashtray. "I
know you hate her, Nance, and I know why you do. But I...er...ran into
her after we came back from Connecticut, and we got to talking. We...well,
we've hung out a couple of times and the subject came up. I think she was
telling me the truth."
"Well, if you ask me, I'm glad Diablo are still in Europe at the moment."
Nancy grimaced. "Because it's crazy enough around here without you spending
your time hanging out with her. She's probably half-crazed on drugs - did
you ever think about that? Last thing we need is you being pulled back
into that scene."
"What is it with people today talking about my background like it makes
me some kind of a leper?" Sadie groaned. "Nancy, I'm well out of the drug
scene. And I don't think Stefana takes drugs. Certainly she's never taken
anything around me...and I'd know the signs."
"It was just a thought. She's the deranged one. Not Cyn."
"I don't think Cynthia's deranged, exactly. But grief can make you do
strange things." Sadie pursed her lips. "I vote we keep an eye on her, okay?
More for her own safety than anything. If Ray really is after finding her,
then it's probably better she does nothing to attract any attention to herself."
"Well, on that subject I agree with you." Nancy chewed on the end of
her pen. "And now, since you've put that awful thing out, come give me
your opinion on this harmony?"
* * *
* * * *
"Well, that was another non-starter."
Alex tapped his fingers restlessly on the edge of the steering wheel,
watching his partner making some final notes. "We get called out to investigate
a shooting and we have no witnesses, no victim, no gun and no crime scene.
You ever get fed up with hoax call-outs?"
"Yes, all the time, but it's usually you who reminds me that we have to
check everything out just in case." Raymond slipped his notebook back into
his case. "Okay, lets get rolling...we oughta file this back at the precinct
before we head home."
"Yeah, its fine. Take your time, no hurry. Not like there's anything to
go back to." Alex grimaced, putting the car in gear.
"Did I interrupt something, calling tonight?" Raymond raised an eyebrow.
"Yes. Sadie was over at mine and we were spending some time alone together
- something that's happening precious little of late." Alex sighed. "But
she went home when she knew I'd be out in the field. She knows from experience
that it's usually a long haul when I'm called out."
"Gee, sorry, buddy." Raymond shrugged, though his tone belied his words.
"This job's tough sometimes on relationships."
"No, only on mine." Alex flicked on the indicator. "Heather's been married
to you for so long she's well used to it all by now. Half the cops in the
division have been seperated or divorced since I started working here, but
you and she never have any problems. It ain't so easy for all of us, you
know. We don't all have Heather to go home to when work is done, regardless
of the hour."
"You fighting?" Raymond looked confused. Alex shook his head.
"No, I don't think so." He admitted. "But sometimes I wonder where I'm
going to have to make a choice, that's all. I love Sadie like I've never
loved anyone before, that's the damn truth. But this is my job and I want
to do it well...and right."
"If she's making you choose, she's not worth your time." Raymond said
sagely. "A decent chick would understand how important your work is."
"That's just it. She does." Alex sighed. "I dunno, Ray. Sometimes things
start out simple and wind up so complicated you're not sure you know what
the real story is any more."
"Speaking of which, and since we're in that neighbourhood, we might as
well pay a friendly call to Starlight Music." Raymond mused.
"Why would we be doing that? Jerrica Pacheco's case is closed."
"Yes, it is, but I want to satisfy my curiosity on the computer front."
Raymond responded. "And I want to do it when there's nobody around to disturb
"We have a warrant."
"We had a warrant. We never served it. We didn't need it."
"But I always keep these things for emergency encounters with night watchmen."
Raymond shrugged. Alex grimaced.
"Fine, but if we get into trouble for this, you're taking the rap for
it." He said resignedly. "And I don't suppose if I go home I'll sleep much,
anyway. Though what you think we'll find, I don't know."
"Nothing, probably. But I'd like to eliminate it as a potential hiding
place, just in case." Raymond replied. "It comes under new ownership soon.
Now is the best time to do any digging, before they take over."
"Well, anything for a quiet life." Alex pulled obediently onto the front
forecourt of Starlight Music. "Come on. And don't forget that bit of paper."
"I have it." Raymond slipped the document into his jacket. "Go alert the
night porter, huh? He'll let us in when he sees this."
"Fine." Alex rolled his eyes, heading up to the main doors and banging
on the glass. After a moment's pause, a man approached, peering at them through
the dusky panes. Raymond held up his badge and, with a moment's hesitation,
Alex followed suit. There was the sound of a lock turning, and the door
"I thought you feds were done with this place!" The guard complained.
"This is a final sweep." Raymond told him briskly, handing him the search
warrant. "It's procedure before we close the case file for good. We're pretty
settled that Jerrica Pacheco's accident was an accident, but in a high profile
case it never hurts to be sure."
"Well, I'm just the night watchman." The guard shrugged. "But if you make
a mess, Mrs Locke will have my hide."
"We'll be very careful, sir." Alex assured him.
"Mrs Locke is a hard person to work for?"
"Well, at the moment she's been holding the place together. Knows how
to get people's respect and attention." The guard spread his hands. "But
sure, I'll be glad when it's not her calling the shots any more. She's a
taskmistress all right. If she knew I was away from the screens right now..."
"Oh, you get back to what you were doing." Raymond told him smoothly.
"We'll be out of your hair in a heartbeat."
"You know, I really don't think we should be doing this." Alex watched
the guard retreat into his office, closing the door. "Not without proper
backup and procedure."
"We're not breaking any laws."
"No, maybe not, but it doesn't feel ethical."
"Sometimes, Alex, you can be such a drag to work with." Raymond rolled
his eyes. "Come on. Sooner we check this place out, sooner we go home."
"Where are we starting? Jerrica's office?"
"Heck, no. We searched there enough already." Raymond shook his head.
"No. Downstairs. To the studios. And any storage space that might possibly
conceal a large eighties mainframe."
"Are you guys lost?"
A voice from the darkness startled them, and Alex fumbled for his torch,
flicking it on.
"We sure don't usually get Law Enforcement down here at this time of night."
The speaker dimpled, reaching out a painted finger to flick on the light.
"It's okay, sugar. Save your batteries. We do have electricity."
"Miss Buchan!" Raymond gathered his composure first. "Do you have any
idea what time it is?"
"Sure." Daisy shrugged carelessly. "I've been working. Writing. It's kinda
fun down here at night."
"You write music here at night?" Alex stared. Daisy winked at him.
"Oh., honey, I'm full of surprises." She purred. "Well, why are you here?
Are you wanting to ask me some more questions?"
"No, we were doing a final sweep of the premises." Raymond shook his head.
"We didn't expect anyone to be working so late."
"Well, I couldn't sleep." Daisy affected a troubled pout. "Things are so
confusing here at the moment. We've been told, you know, that the new owners
will honour all contracts, but see, you just don't know these days. So I
thought I should put some work in on my music. I have a single due out soon,
and I don't want my career over before it's really taken off. They need to
see I'm serious about what I'm doing."
She paused, running an appraising eye over Alex. "Very serious."
"Have you met the new owners, then?" Alex was curious. Daisy shrugged.
"Not as such." She said dismissively. "That's really Margot's affair. Not
"Al, I'm going to check the end of the hall. You keep Miss Buchan company
a while, huh?" Raymond nudged his partner, then was gone down a flight of
stairs, leaving Alex alone with the attractive young blond.
For a moment, neither spoke. Then Daisy pursed her lips.
"Ain't you awful young to be tied up in federal business?" She asked at
length. Alex shrugged.
"There's never too young an age to do the right thing for your country."
He said levelly. "Some guys go into the army. Me, I do this. It's a job."
"Sure, but isn't it a drag, tripping over corpses all the time?"
"You get used to it."
Daisy tucked a stray lock of blond hair behind her ear, then,
"So why you guys really here?"
"It's like Ray said. A last sweep of things to finally close our case."
Alex met her gaze with a level one of his own.
"Margot said you'd probably be back." She owned. "Jerrica was nuttier than
a fruitcake on occasion. I think she did it on purpose. Poor old fool. If
I looked and acted the way she did, I'd probably have driven into something,
"I don't think that's really appropriate, not with things as they are."
"Perhaps not, but I speak as I find."
"Tell me about Margot, will you?" Alex leant up against the wall. "She
seems very capable - do you think she'll stay on as chief exec here?"
"God knows. She's afraid she won't. She's afraid we'll be bought out and
she'll be out of a job." Daisy frowned. "Which don't do either of us any
good. She's smart, Margot. She makes things happen."
"Things? What kind of things?"
"Well, like this. Like me even being here." Daisy looked thoughtful. "Say,
why you pitching in on Margot? Do you think she's done something?"
"No, not at all. I was making conversation."
"Well, she hasn't." Daisy glanced at her hands. "But we're both worried
she'll lose her job over all of this."
"And that would bother you?"
"Yes, sure. She's family, why wouldn't it?"
Daisy frowned, then her eyes widened and she clapped a hand over her mouth.
"Oh crap. Margot said the less I mentioned that in public the better for
"There seems to be a lot of blatant and not so blatant nepotism in the
music business." Alex said dryly. "And I already knew you were cousins."
"You did?" This startled the singer. "How?"
"In my job it pays to keep informed on these things."
"I'm flattered you showed such interest in me." Daisy offered a coy smile.
"Must be a nice change for you guys, to be investigating a showbiz case
like this instead of trawling through the LA backstreets for some drug pusher."
"Honestly, I'd rather take the drug pusher." Alex grimaced. "It's not easy
to bring a case to trial when there's a high profile person involved. Thankfully
that won't be the case this time - but it's why we're being extra-diligent
in closing things up. We don't want doubts."
"Aw, but if you hadn't come to Starlight Music, you wouldn't have met Margot
and you wouldn't have met me, and we wouldn't be out here in the halls having
this conversation." Daisy pouted once more. "So it can't all be bad."
Alex eyed Daisy carefully, then,
"I think now would be a good time to tell you that my reasons for being
here are entirely work-related."
"Doesn't all work make you a dull boy?" Daisy toyed with a lock of his
hair. "It sure did Jerrica."
"Jerrica was a dull boy?" Gently Alex disentangled himself from her grasp.
"Daisy, please, don't. I have a girlfriend and I'm very happy in that relationship."
"She isn't me, though." Daisy said matter-of-factly. "And I'm far more
exciting than any boring office chick. You should try dating a rock star.
See how it feels."
"I already know all there is to know about dating rock stars, and sometimes
I wish it was the furthest thing from our lives." Alex grimaced.
"What do you mean?" Daisy pulled back, eying him strangely.
"My girlfriend. Garnet, from Jewel. You've probably met her - she sure
"Jewel again." A look of displeasure flitted across Daisy's face. "You
give them an inch, they take a mile. Should have known it."
She dropped back against the wall, folding her arms. "You know, I went
to high school with their guitarist. Nancy. A total nobody, she was. There's
something not right in the world if someone like her can be a star...even
if big money backers like Misfits Music are throwing money at her group
like there's no tomorrow. I just don't get that. That's why it was so good
Margot got her job here. She knew I was looking for action and it worked
out great. Jerrica loved my sound and I had it all poised to be the next
big thing. Then this happens." She gestured impatiently. "You know how hard
it is to get taken seriously if you don't have a big business name behind
you? I've sung in clubs for years, but it's never panned out. And to be able
to say Jerrica Pacheco was representing me - it was a big deal. A buzz. She
pulled strings and got me gigs. Good gigs, too. And now she's dead, and God
only knows what's gonna come of it all. The worst part of it is that Nancy
and her stupid group are still top of the pile...and I haven't even had my
"Miss Buchan, I believe that all contracts with this company are going
to be honoured."
"Sure, so we've been told." A look of derision crossed Daisy's face. "Till
they can push us out with someone else they think is better. And I'm sorry,
but who exactly is gonna have the same clout in the business Jerrica did?
Hell, she was Jem! There was never a singer like Jem before or after the
eighties happened. Anyone with a sense of style knows that. Nah, the whole
thing sucks. And it sucks being here in the studio writing songs because
I'm afraid of losing my job in the next twenty four hours."
"Jerrica's death was an unfortunate incident for us all." Alex responded
"Not for your girlfriend and her act." Daisy shook her head. "Their act
is already on the bandwagon. Jerrica's death don't affect them one bit."
Alex bit his lip, glancing back down the hallway in the direction Raymond
had gone. Slowly, he shook his head.
"You have no idea." He murmured. "Really, no idea."