Part Two: Heartstrong

Chapter Three: Marissa

"Well, I'm almost speechless."
Rory Llewelyn set down the newspaper, casting his companion an amused smile. "Am I to presume, Rapture, that you had something to do with this morning's little tabloid splash?"
"Possibly. Not having read it, I couldn't tell you." Phoebe offered her friend an innocent grin. "Which splash would this be?"
"Rumour has it that Jewel's darling little drummer has vanished." Rory pushed the paper across his desk. "Totally and completely in the dead of night. It's a complete mystery. Nobody knows where she's gone or how it happened."
His eyes twinkled. "Nobody, that is, except you, perhaps?"
"Perhaps." Phoebe's eyes glinted with mischief. "Oh, it was the easiest thing in the world, Riot. Really, not even worth breaking a sweat over. Copper has an obsessive fan, that's all...all I did was encourage that fan to spend a little more personal time with his sweetheart."
Rory chuckled.
"Am I to presume, then, that Copper's disappearance last night has something to do with this fan's desire for personal time?"
"Something like that." Phoebe examined her nails. "I convinced the little idiot that I was Copper's business manager and that she was being oppressed by the Pelligrini family and forced into marrying Aaron. He bought it. I promised to arrange for him to meet her, and lo and behold, he has." She shrugged. "He's a little wimp and I doubt he has it in him to hurt her, but it sure messes Jewel's schedule about if she's not there to play the drums, doesn't it?"
"That it does, and I can't complain about having them struck silent for a change." Rory pursed his lips. Phoebe shrugged.
"And I have my revenge on that bitch girl and her mother for the little charade at the Reunion show." She responded silkily. "So it's all even for us this time, Riot. The Stingers come out on top again."
"What about the...liability?"
"No liability at all." Phoebe laughed. "Trust me. That aspect of things is also well in hand."
"Good." Rory sounded approving. "I presume none of this can be traced back to you?"
"No...I don't expect it to be." Phoebe shook her head. "The admirer - Jason or whatever his silly name is - he could probably pick me out of a line-up, but then I was careful to dress the part when we met and nobody would believe his stupid tale about me being Copper's business manager. Besides, since nobody can find him, either..."
She trailed off, amusement clear in her tone. "A plan with few drawbacks, Rory, considering the initial risks involved."
"Well, we could use you in Los Angeles more often, that's for sure." Rory told her. Phoebe shook her head.
"No, I don't think you need me here." She said with a grin. "After all, Jewel's little stray might not come back, mightn't she? If she doesn't come back the forced bride of a madman  - and trust me, that's what the twerp had in mind - she might just come back in a wooden box. You never know with these stalker types. Jewel might yet be out of the running for some time to come. You never know."
"Well, I won't cry for them if that's the outcome." Rory shrugged. "Risks of war - and the music business is a war."
He indicated the paper. "This has made my morning, however I have several other things to do before my meeting at two. If I were you I'd make sure you're well out of things now - possibly even out of Los Angeles, if you catch my drift. Speak to Sophie, see what she thinks. You have some time." He eyed her with some amusement.
"After all, there's no reason to connect any of this with us, is there?"
"None whatsoever." Phoebe shook her head. "And you can always rely on me, Rory, to keep it that way."
In the corridor outside the office, a figure froze, darting into an empty storecupboard as she heard footsteps moving towards the office door. Hardly daring to breathe, she watched as the slim form of the ex-Stinger exited, a waft of perfume following her down the corridor towards the lift. The door of the office once more clicked shut, and there was silence.
From her hiding place, the figure took a deep breath, her mind whirling with all she'd heard. Clutching her manuscript papers tightly in her hands, she pushed open the door of the storecupboard, fleeing down the stairs two at a time as she hurried to get away from what she had just witnessed.
"Mari?" At the door to the studio she almost ran headlong into Luca, who eyed her strangely, noting her expression with some confusion. "Hey, kid, something wrong? Did Rory not like your scoring or what?"
"He...had a meeting." Marissa shook her head, as if trying to clear it. "Oh Luca, if you only knew what just happened..."
"Well, tell me." Luca put a strong arm around her shoulders, leading her out to his car. "It's a twenty minute drive home and I'm all ears - did something happen upstairs?"
He patted his pocket. "I found my strings, by the way - they were under the unit, just like you said."
"I'm glad you got them." Marissa said absently. "And that we're going home. Oh, I don't want to even be here! Not now I...but I don't know what I can do about it?"
"About what?" Now Luca was serious. "Mari, you're acting very strange, you know. Are you feeling sick? Is this a hypoglycaemic fit or something else?"
"No, I'm fine. At least, my blood sugar is fine." Marissa shook her head, clambering into the passenger seat of Luca's car and dumping her paperwork down on the backseat with an uncharacteristic lack of care. She fastened her seatbelt. "It was just...something in Rory's office, that's all. He wasn't alone...and I didn't feel I was welcome to stay."
"Did he say something to you?" Luca put the key in the ignition, casting her a sidelong glance. Marissa shook her head again.
"No. I didn't go in. Like I said, he had company. That creepy Rapture woman was there and she gives me the chills." She said. "But..." She faltered, biting her lip. "Luca, is Stef still at home, do you suppose?"
"Well, on recent evidence who knows?" Luca shrugged his shoulders. "Why? You're changing the subject - are you not going to tell me what happened in Rory's office to make you run around the corridors like a scared rabbit?" He grinned. "Next you'll be telling me he had someone's dead body over his desk! Come on, is our Mr Llewelyn really Dracula in disguise?"
"Don't joke, Luca." Marissa snapped. "It isn't funny. I need to speak to Steffi - I'm worried and I need...I need her advice."
"Mari, I know you're worried." Luca dropped his teasing tone. "But won't my advice do? Why Steffi's?"
"Because she...she knows Rory better than any of us." Marissa faltered. "Luca, stop asking me questions, please! I can't answer them because I don't know the answer! I might be totally mistaken, it's just..."
She shook her head as if to clear it once more, and Luca frowned.
"All right, but I hope my sister is home." He said at length. "Because I don't like you getting yourself worked up, Mari. It isn't good for you."
Marissa sat back in her seat, staring out of the window unseeingly at the passing houses. As she replayed the conversation in her head, fear gripped her young heart.
"When the news broke on the radio this morning that Copper was missing, it didn't even occur to me that Rory and that weird friend of his might be involved." She told herself. "And now that I know that they are I should tell the police, except...except..." She swallowed hard. "Except Stef has been spending a lot of time with that Phoebe woman. And we know that Stef hates Copper...what if she's involved too? She almost got banged up by the FBI once in the last twelve months - and that was for something she did to Jewel, too! I know better than most that she's erratic when she's stoned. What if she is a part of this?"
"Phoebe didn't mention her in the office." A little voice seemed to whisper, but Marissa shook her head, impatient.
"With Stef at the moment, who's to know what she did or didn't do?" She asked herself. "And I don't want Copper in trouble or hurt, but I don't want Stef to be in trouble either. I don't know what to do - but I must speak to Steffi before I do anything else! Oh, but I hope she isn't tied up in all of this! I really hope she isn't!"
At that moment Luca drew his car up outside the Diablo Estate and, before he could ask any further questions, Marissa was gone, grabbing her manuscripts and haring into the house at top speed. After dumping her folder in her room, she swallowed hard, gathering her courage and then making her way down the corridor to her friend's bedroom.
Resolutely she knocked on the door, half-hoping that her bandmate would not be there, but inwardly knowing that it was better this was dealt with soon. There was a moment's pause, then,
"Stef, it's me, Mari. Can I come in?"
"I suppose so." There was a sigh, then, "The door ain't locked."
Marissa turned the handle, pushing open the door and slipping into the room, shutting it behind her. She leant up against it's wood panelling, casting her friend an anxious look.
Stefana was curled up on the end of her bed, reading a magazine, but she flipped it closed at Marissa's entrance, meeting her friend's gaze with a questioning one of her own.
"Well? Whose cat died?" She demanded. "You look ready to go to a funeral."
"Stef, I need to talk to you." Marissa said quietly, coming to sit on the bed. "And...and before I do, know that I'm your best friend, right? That can trust me? know...if there was anything you wanted to tell me about, you could?"
"So you always keep telling me." Stefana's expression became suspicious and wary. "But I don't know why you're telling me it now. What's up, Mari? Spit it out."
"I was just at Rebel Records." Marissa said slowly. "Stef...have you read this morning's press? Do are aware that Copper has disappeared?"
"Aware of it? I'm throwing a party." A dry-humoured smile touched Stefana's pale lips. "It doesn't bother me if that bitch has taken off and quit Los Angeles. Maybe she got cold feet - I've told you before, Aaron can do way better."
Marissa grasped her friend's hand.
"Stef, please, tell me you weren't involved in this?" She begged, her blue eyes pleading. Shock flashed into Stefana's expression, followed by anger, and she pulled her hand away.
"So everything bad that happens to Jewel must involve me?" She demanded. "Is that it? What, do you think I stole over there in the dead of night, tossed her over the back of my car and made off with her? Is that what you think? Any idiot could have grabbed her. Or she could've just taken off, like I said."
"I know that she didn't just take off." Marissa shook her head, her expression troubled. "Oh was so awful. I was at Rebel Records, I wanted to show Rory the scripts for the new album tracks, only that horrible Phoebe woman was there with him. They were talking about Copper, and...and I heard everything they said. Stef, Phoebe engineered Copper's disappearance. She...she got some guy to abduct her and carry her off and...and she pretty much said that if he killed her, well, too bad. It's all her doing, and you've been spending so much time with her...I was worried."
"Well, I didn't abduct Copper." Stefana said flatly. "If that's what you want to know. I'll swear it in blood if I have to - I don't know where she is or where the moron took her. Okay?"
Marissa sighed.
"I'm sorry I accused you." She said at length. "Only, well, I didn't want you in trouble again. And I know don't always think so clearly when you're high."
"There's nothing wrong with my judgement." Stefana snapped. "Now or any other time. I know what I'm doing."
"Well, what I'm doing is going to the police." Marissa got to her feet. "If Copper's life is at stake here, well, I can't just let it go."
"Are you mad?" Stefana's eyes opened wide and Marissa thought she saw a glint of fear somewhere in their depths. "Copper's nothing to do with us!"
"No, but she's a human being and her family and friends must be going frantic about her." Marissa responded. "Think of Aaron, Stef - you're his friend, think about what he must be going through right now! You know I can't just sit back and not do anything!"
"I don't see why not." Stefana folded her arms. "It's not like the guy is going to hurt her."
Marissa shot her friend a startled glance, which soon became one of horror as she realised the implications of Stefana's words. She cursed, sitting back down.
"I don't believe you." She murmured. "You lied to me! You swore..."
"Excuse me?" Stefana stared. "I don't think I lied to you...what are you talking about now?"
"You said you had nothing to do with Copper's abduction!"
"I didn't!"
"I wish I believed you. If you didn't, why don't you want me to go to the police?"
"Because it's nothing to do with us!" Stefana repeated. "It's Jewel's problem and that fat cat Phyllis Gabor will soon get her spies on the case. Let it go, Mari! Diablo have LA to ourselves for a bit!"
Marissa eyed her companion carefully for a moment, then she grabbed her by the wrists, pulling her to her feet.
"You're gonna tell me exactly what you know, right here and right now." She said darkly. "If you don't, I'll go to the police regardless, and if you get into trouble, well, it'll be your own fault. I want to know, don't lie to me, huh? What do you know about Copper's abduction?"
"That's a lie."
"It's not a lie! Why don't you believe me?"
"Because it's not true!"
Stefana narrowed her gaze, eying her friend for some time. Then she grimaced.
"It is so true." She muttered. "I didn't know anything about Copper's abduction. Still don't. I know as much as you know and that's the truth of it. I don't know where he took her, and I don't know what he plans to do with her. I didn't even know that she would be abducted until the news broke this morning. That's the honest truth of it, whether you believe me or not. I don't know where the goddamn bitch is!"
"But you aren't as surprised as me that Phoebe is involved, and you have spent a lot of time with her this last couple of weeks." Marissa was unmoved. "Further, you seem pretty damn sure that this guy who abducted Copper won't hurt her. How can you possibly know that, when even Phoebe and Rory don't know?"
"Rory isn't anything to do with it." Stefana snapped. "And you'd do better not asking questions, Mari!"
Marissa sighed.
"Why do you always let us down like this?" She asked sadly. "And why do I always insist on covering for you, regardless?"
Stefana shot her a surprised glance.
"I thought you were going to rat." She said. "Aren't you?"
"I want to know what you're involved in before I do anything else." Marissa said darkly. "I have to tell someone what I overheard - Copper's life could be in peril and I'd hate myself if anything happened because I kept quiet. But dammit, I don't want you in trouble. God only knows why when maybe it'd knock some common sense into you, but I don't. We're friends and we don't rat on each other. Now stop messing me around, will you? I want to know exactly what you're involved in and how much you know! And if I don't get it from you, I'll go get it out of Rory, because whatever you think he's in this as much as your precious Phoebe - up to his eyeballs and beyond!"
Stefana paled.
"She promised Rory wasn't involved in this." She said softly. "It was just...her and me."
"Yes." Stefana nodded. "But I swear, Mari, this whole kidnap thing is none of my doing. I cut out of it the other night. Cut my losses and that was that. It all got too close for comfort."
Marissa pursed her lips.
"How so?" She asked, then, "When you came in the other night, all scratched and scared - is that something to do with this?"
"Sort of." Stefana glanced at her hands. "You swear you ain't gonna rat on me?"
"I swear." Marissa sighed. "How was it involved?"
Slowly Stefana outlined her involvement in Phoebe's plan, and Marissa listened in silence. She bit her lip.
"Oh Steffi." She said, her tone troubled. "Why?"
"Why? Because I needed the money." Stefana retorted. "Rory's stingy and I owed someone. It was the only way to keep it in hand."
"You could have come to me. I'd have lent you the money."
"Yeah, well, I don't like borrowing. I have pride, you know." Stefana snapped.
"You won't borrow, but you don't mind stealing?" Marissa asked gently. Stefana dismissed it with an impatient gesture.
"It wasn't proper stealing. It was just a means to an end."
"An end which might yet get Copper hurt." Marissa reminded her. Stefana shrugged.
"I don't care about Copper." She said, though her tone belied her words. "I told you what I know. That's it. There's nothing else. As far as I knew, Phoebe was going to use the letters I'd sent and the stuff I got to get this guy on Copper's back. Harass her a bit. Embarrass her. Cause her some negative press. It's the honest truth that I didn't know this would happen."
"And you've no idea where he might take her?"
"None. I'm not psychic. But he was a weed, Mari. He won't hurt her. Sure, scare her a bit and get her wound up...but that's it."
"I hope you're right." Marissa looked troubled. "And now I'm going to the Starlight Mansion. If I can't betray you then I can't really betray Phoebe or Rory, much as I'd like to...but I'll think of something. I can't just sit back when Copper's life might be at stake."


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

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!