"She's not anywhere."
Sadie dropped down onto the big rug in the Starlight Mansion's main salon, a perplexed frown on her face as she turned to face her friend. "Her room is empty and her car isn't here. She's not called and Aaron hasn't heard from her. I just spoke to him and he said that she left his last night at around one o' clock. Did anyone hear her get back?"
"No, but then I sleep pretty soundly most nights." Sylva's own expression became concerned. "Has her bed been slept in?"
"Hard to tell, because Copper's such a neat freak she always makes it." Sadie sighed. "Nancy's gone to Misfit Music to see if anyone there has seen her and Aaron said he'd be right over as soon as he was dressed. I'm worried, Syl. She should be here. The rest of us are - why not her?"
"In normal circumstances I'd say she'd stopped the night at Aaron's, but if he hasn't seen her..." Sylva shook her head. "What about Topaz? Is she up?"
"Yeah. She went to consult Cynthia - I mean Synergy - to see if she'd heard anything in the night." Sadie replied. "Hollie's still fast asleep but the radio is on so I said if we heard her one of us would go up and grab her. In the circumstances it's all hands on deck. It just doesn't feel right, her not being here."
"Well, maybe she did go to Misfit Music early." Sylva suggested.
"I can't see why she would." Sadie sighed. "That's Nancy's trick, not Copper's. She's usually up early but she never goes anyplace without leaving us at least a note to tell us where she's gone. It doesn't make any sense at all."
"And it's getting odder by the second." The door of the salon swung open to reveal Topaz, a grave-faced Cynthia in tow. "Cyn didn't hear anything last night and come to think of it, nor did I. Hollie woke with a nightmare at about half one and I was up with her - if Copper had come back then I would have heard her. She'd probably have come in to say hi too, if she saw the light was on. She loves Hollie to death and she wouldn't miss the chance to say goodnight."
Before anyone could respond, the baby radio crackled into life, and Topaz grimaced.
"I better go to her." She said. "But it's beyond me where Copper's got to this time. It isn't like her to take off!"
"Unless she hasn't taken off at all." Sadie drummed her fingers on the carpet. "Cynthia, are you sure that you heard nothing last night?"
"Nothing, Sadie." Cynthia shook her head, sitting down on the sofa. "And I have had all of my sensors set to red alert throughout the last few days, ever since you and Nancy discovered the intruder on the premises. I have not powered down since - I have been constantly vigilant incase someone tried to break in, but nobody has."
"Which is what makes it weirder." Sylva sighed. "And spooky."
"No, I fear not." Cynthia looked troubled. "I am a poor guard, Sylva - I am confined to the limits of this estate in terms of my protection. If Copper had been here last night I would have registered her arrival - but she did not arrive. I assumed she was staying with Aaron, and thought nothing of it when I did not hear her car."
"But Aaron said she left at about one." Sadie shook her head. "I just spoke to him."
"As Topaz has just informed me." Cynthia agreed. "I fear that there is something very wrong afoot here."
"Talk about an understatement." Sylva grimaced, getting to her feet as the doorbell rang. "That'll be Aaron - I'll go let him in. Maybe he can shed some light on this business somewhere."
She left the room, the door banging shut behind her. Sadie cast Cynthia a fearful look.
"Do you think...someone...else is involved?" She asked hesitantly. Cynthia paused, then nodded her head.
"Yes, I do." She agreed. "I believe that whoever Copper's admirer is, he may have struck last night, when none of us were able to intervene."
"But it is possible that she could have just, you know, gone to the police station early with the photo of that guy? If she'd found it?" Sylva suggested, returning at that moment with Aaron in tow. "Surely?"
"No, Sylva, Cyn already said that Copper never came home last night." Sadie shook her head impatiently. "When she left for Aaron's, she hadn't a clue where it was. That just doesn't make sense."
"Well, it was worth a try." Sylva sighed. "So what do we do? Aaron, you were the last to see her - did she say anything to you about where she was headed?"
"Yes." Aaron nodded his head. "She said she was going home and to bed and was going to try and forget all the bad things that had been going on lately. Said she hadn't slept properly for a couple of nights and that she needed a good night's sleep. I asked her if she wanted to stop by at mine but she said it would be okay and that you would all worry if she wasn't home. Plus she reminded me that Cynthia was protecting the Starlight Mansion and that she was probably safer there."
He clenched his fists, frustration and anxiety in his grey eyes. "I should have made her stay. I should never have let her go out alone."
"You couldn't have known anything was wrong." Sylva told him gently, reaching over to squeeze his hand. "It isn't far from yours to ours and she'd have driven straight there - ten minutes drive. Fifteen, tops."
"What doesn't make sense to me is where the heck she is." Sadie bit her lip. "Copper's on edge and on her guard. No way would she stop her car for anything if she didn't know what it was. She's no fool. I'm sure she wouldn't just, you know, pick up a hitcher or something. And as Syl says, it's a quick journey through one of the busiest districts in town at night. Someone would have seen something, surely?"
"There is another possibility to consider." Cynthia spread her hands. "And that is that Copper crashed her car somewhere last night and is hurt. We immediately suspect that someone else is involved, but it quite equally could have been an unpleasant accident. I suggest that, if Nancy returns with no sign of her at Misfit Music, we call the police and the local hospitals, just to see if we can find anything out."
"And I'll call Alex." Sadie said quietly.
"I thought Alex couldn't get involved in a LAPD case?" Sylva shot her a surprised look. Sadie shook her head.
"No, not officially, but I know he will help." She said. "Besides, Syl, we don't have a simple breaking and entering now. If...if someone really has, well, taken her...that's kidnapping. And that's a much bigger crime. Alex's department are bound to be called in, especially considering how high profile she is."
"There's Nancy's car." Cynthia moved over to the window, her sensors picking up movement outside the front door. She pushed the window open.
"Nancy? Any luck?"
Nancy got out of her car, locking it tightly, then turning to face the hologram. She shook her head.
"Nobody at work has seen her. Not even night security." She said grimly. "She's vanished, Cyn. Totally vanished. Her, her car...everything."
"Then something has indeed happened to her." Cynthia said quietly. "We must get to work and contact the authorities."
"I'll do that." Aaron said firmly. "She's my fiancee and I want to do something...anything I can to help find her. She must be somewhere - it's only been a few hours. They can't be far. Copper would never go willingly with some strange guy, anyhow."
"We don't know what this stranger is capable of. He...or even she...is an unknown quantity." Cynthia replied.
"She?" Aaron stared. "Since when...?"
"Alex and I settled yesterday that whoever stole Copper's bracelet in the rest room at the restaurant must have been a woman." Sadie explained. "But we don't know who it was who raided the dressing room the other night or how a woman might tie into all of this. We only know about that guy - that Jason guy. And we don't even have his picture."
"It must be somewhere in Copper's room." Sylva decided. "Do you suppose law enforcement would go ape at us if we went and searched for it?"
"Since Copper is missing, we shouldn't touch anything that might prove useful." Cynthia shook her head. "No, Sylva. We must not."
She indicated the phone. "If Aaron contacts the police, you, Sadie and Nancy should call around the hospitals, just in case."
"And you?" Sadie asked. "Is there any way Synergy can help us?"
"I intend to find out if her car has been found anywhere nearby." Cynthia replied. "If it has, there will be some record somewhere that I can hack into. I am getting adept at slipping in and out of corporate files, anyway. This time I will be hacking security film - for the sake of my friend's safety."
"Well, good luck everyone." Sylva got to her feet. "And let's hope we're all wrong and she turns up safe and sound!"
* * * * * * * *
"How long are you going to make me drive for?"
Copper cast a frightened glance in the mirror, meeting the intense gaze of her captor with terrified brown eyes. "All the way to Vegas? I'm tired, I need to rest! I'll crash the car...I can't think!"
"We can't stop here. Too many people." Her companion shook his head impatiently, using his weapon to illustrate his point and Copper flinched, narrowly avoiding swerving off the road in her fear. "Careful! I told you, I won't hurt you. There's no need for me to hurt you. I'd only do that if you tried to leave me - and Phoebe made it clear to me that you wouldn't do that. So it's all going to be fine."
"Jason...Jason, listen to me." Copper gripped the steering wheel more tightly, desperation touching her voice. "I don't know what Phoebe said...or who she even is, but the only Phoebe I know is...is a nasty piece of work and you shouldn't get mixed up with her and what she says. I'm always willing to be friends but you have to understand that I wasn't expecting any of this! I haven't slept so well the last two nights and it's already daylight - we've been driving all night! I'm tired and confused and I don't know where we are! Can't we stop...at least...at least for a while?"
"I told you - here is too busy." Jason shook his head again. He cast her a fond smile. "They'd try and take you from me...we're still in California. It's still too close. No, my darling. Keep going. Soon, I promise, it will be safe for us to stop and rest, but we must keep going. It's the only way - don't you understand? It's the only way you and I can be together, safe from those Pelligrinis and that no-good fiance of yours!"
Copper bit her lip, turning her attention to the road once more. He seemed to know where he was directing her, she realised, and she had no idea which part of California she was in now. Her exhaustion and her terror had begun to mingle together, and she found herself wondering if she would ever see Aaron or Los Angeles again.
"He said he wouldn't hurt me, but can I believe that?" She wondered for the thousandth time, as a long distance lorry overtook her vehicle, making her start. "I don't know what he really wants with me - or what he might do if...when we stop. He said we would stop...but will he hurt me? Oh, I wish I could go home!"
"Take the next turning." The soft, too-gentle voice instructed her at this moment and she obediently flicked on her indicator, slowing the car to take the left hand fork. "That's right, good girl."
Copper paused, then, "You said you wouldn't hurt me, right?"
"Of course I won't." Jason shook his head emphatically. "You're everything to me, Copper - without you there's no point in me being here. I told you. I'd only hurt you if you tried to leave me - I'd have no choice. But you won't do that, will you? So you have no need to be afraid."
In an instant Copper made up her mind. Gathering the torn shreds of her courage together, she shook her head.
"I won't leave you." She agreed, her heart still pounding in her chest. "But please, put the gun away. It scares me and I can't concentrate on the road. Please. I give you my word not to try and run away."
"You promise me?" Jason seemed to be considering her words carefully. Copper nodded.
"I promise." She agreed. "I...I'll be cooperative. But the gun...the gun scares me so much."
"Then it's gone." There was a glint of steel and when Copper looked in the mirror again, the barrel of the weapon was no longer visible. "I didn't want to bring it at all, but...well, sometimes it's better to have it just in case."
"I understand." Copper said softly. "But we're...we're all right, aren't we? No need...no need for the gun."
"No, none at all." Jason sounded pleased. "Here...take the second right. I know a motel and we should stop for a bit. You're tired, my darling, and I'm hungry. I'm sure you are too."
"Not so much." Copper admitted. "But...I am very tired." She bit her lip, then, "A motel?"
"Yes." Jason nodded his head. "See, I grew up in this part of California, Copper - most beautiful part there is! When we're finished in Las Vegas I'll bring you here, show you my home. Then we'll go to Mexico - safe from anyone's interference! You should like that - somewhere so close to your heart! And noone can catch us in Mexico."
"I see." Copper swallowed hard, then, "I have family in Mexico."
"Yes, but we don't need to see them right away." Jason seemed to only be paying half of his attention to her, his gaze fixed on the road. "Okay...here. This is it. Park here."
Copper hesitated for a moment, then, slowly, she did as she was bidden, pulling her car into the parking lot. Her instincts told her to fling open the door and make a run for it, but fear was soon overridden by common sense as she caught sight of the gun in the mirror. It was carelessly lying on the back seat, but well within Jason's reach should he choose to make a grab for it, and she knew that she could not outrun it's range in time.
"Besides, I don't know where I am and for all I know the whole town could be in on this. He said he comes from this area - there must be people here who would help him." She murmured. "For now I have to cooperate with him - like I promised. So long as I do that, surely I'll be okay...and then maybe there'll be some way to get word home when I realise where I am and get my bearings!"
"Copper, my darling." The driver's door opened and for the first time kidnapper and victim met face to face. His expression was tender, but there was a hardness in his eyes which gave Copper chills. It was clear her companion was not very far from madness, and would indeed carry out his threat to hurt her should she upset him.
In his hands he held a long silk scarf, and she stared at him, not comprehending.
"It's better if noone recognises you here. Not yet." Jason explained, gently wrapping the scarf around Copper's thick auburn curls and hiding them from view. He slipped his hand into his pocket, pulling out his sunglasses and handing them to her. "And these. You have such pretty eyes...I hate for you to have to hide them, but we have no choice."
With shaking hands, Copper put the glasses on, her eyes straying to the discarded gun. A tiny part of her wanted to make a grab for it, but before she could steel her nerves to act, Jason had scooped it up, slipping it into his bag. He cast her a grin.
"Well? Come on, my love."
"Won't they think it strange, with me all dressed up like this?" Copper stumbled out of the car, standing obediently as he shut the door, then allowing him to lead her into the motel. Jason shook his head.
"Let me do the talking." He instructed her. "They won't suspect anything. With your eyes and hair covered from view, nobody will know you at all!" He winked. "Isn't it exciting - dressing up as someone else?"
Copper bit her lip, her mind flitting to her fiance and friends back in Los Angeles.
"I only hope you work out what happened." She whispered. "But how can you know where I am? How can you find me when I don't even know where I am myself? Am I really going to wind up married to a madman?"
Chapter One: Where Is Copper?
Chapter Two: Nancy Finds A Clue
Chapter Three: Marissa
Chapter Four: A Faint Lead
Chapter Five: Undercover
Chapter Six: A Reluctant Witness
Chapter Seven: Cynthia Takes A Gamble
Chapter Eight: A Play For Freedom
Chapter Nine: Aaron Decides
Chapter Ten: Midnight Flight
Chapter Eleven: The Race Is On
Chapter Twelve: Nemesis
Chapter Thirteen: Aftermath
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
Copper, Nancy, Sylva, Anna, Blade, Raesha, Sirena, Topaz, Aaron, Sophie, Justin, Elliot, Rosita, Luis and any other characters in this fiction which do not appear in the animated Jem series are copyrighted to me (E.A Woolley) as of January 2002 <unless otherwise specified> and are not to be reproduced without permission ANYWHERE. Jetta, Pizzazz, Stormer, Roxy, Raya and all other original Jem characters are the copyright of Hasbro Inc, Sunbow, Christy Marx and the other writers of the Jem series. The future world of Pizzazz, Raya, Jetta, Roxy, Stormer, Clash, Synergy, the fate of Jem and her memorial are all copyrighted to me. The future world of Kimber and Shana is copyrighted jointly to myself and Gemma Dawn.
The concept of 'Jewel' is entirely my own, and any apparent link with any fictional or actual person or persons of this name is entirely coincidental. Equally the characters in this fiction are not based on any real life individual.
The concept behind the future world of Danse, Aja and Craig, the idea behind Jerrica's futureworld and the split of the Holograms is copyrighted to Gemma Dawn, whose Teenangel Outsiders fiction is directly twinned with Just a Dream. The character Sammi and any of the other Teenangel Outsider characters mentioned in this fiction are entirely copyright to Gemma Dawn and appear here only with her permission.
Pay her page a visit!