It was dawn.
Copper opened her eyes, confused for a moment by her unfamiliar surroundings.
Where was she? Why was she unable to move?
Slowly, it flooded back to her, and she bit her lip, struggling to sit
upright. He was still asleep, she noted, curled up on the room's only chair,
a slight smile on his face as he dreamed. The gun lay on the table beside
him, but try as she might Copper was unable to reach it. Her mind flitted
back to the night before, and she frowned.
Well, he had not tried to hurt her. She had been afraid when he had booked
a room for two, and her fear had grown when the attendant had led them
upstairs to a room with a simple double bed, but he had seemed hesitant
to touch her. Instead he had tied careful bonds around her wrists and her
ankles, to prevent her from escaping, and covered her gently with the duvet,
whispering sweet goodnights before retreating to the uncomfortable chair.
"I suppose I should be thankful for that, at least." She murmured, making
one last attempt to sit up and at last managing to haul herself partway
upright. "He has me at his mercy and God only knows what he could have done
to me last night. Maybe he really does love me. Maybe he won't hurt me after
all." She sighed. "Somehow I have to convince him that all of this is wrong
and to take me home. So far he's not proven threatening - but there's that
gun, and I have this feeling he will use it. Oh, I wish I could reach the
She glared at the telephone, which stood on the table beside the door,
well out of her reach. As if sensing her thoughts, Jason stirred, blinking
and meeting her gaze with a strangely gentle smile.
"Good morning, my darling." He murmured. "Did you sleep well?"
"As well as you can sleep when you're tied up." Copper said quietly.
Jason looked apologetic.
"I'm sorry." He said sadly. "But until we're married I have to do this.
Don't you see? It's difficult otherwise. I have to take you to Las Vegas."
"Did someone tell you to take me there?" Copper asked. Jason shook his
"No. No, that was my idea." he assured her, sounding hurt. "You think
I don't really love you? Is that it?"
"No, not at all. I was just curious." Copper said hurriedly, for Jason's
gaze had flitted to the gun. "So what happens now?"
"Now, my dear, the journey continues." Jason replied with a wink. "Come
on. I have a surprise for you."
"I can't go downstairs tied up like this. I can barely even sit!" Copper
protested. Jason sat down on the bed, carefully unfastening the bonds.
"You promised not to leave me." He reminded her. "So you won't try and
run away, will you?"
"No, I already told you I wouldn't." Copper agreed. "But must we travel
on right away? I'm hungry and I'm still worn out from the long drive."
"Ah, well, I will drive this morning." Jason tapped his nose, grinning
at her with a smile that bordered on insanity. "You see? That is part of
"And the rest?" Copper got unsteadily to her feet. Jason sighed.
"On the radio last night they were talking about searches." He said apologetically.
"That the LAPD have your car registration plate number and are trying to
do a trace. I'm so sorry, my darling, I know you must be fond of your car,
but we can't take it any further. Last night when you were sleeping, I slipped
out and rented us another vehicle. That way noone will be able to stop
"I see." Copper felt her stomach lurch as she realised the significance
of his words. The last tie she had with Los Angeles was gone if they left
her car in the motel parking lot, and she bit her lip, fighting the urge
to burst into frightened tears. She mustn't alarm him, that had already become
clear. Until she knew better what to do, she was safest going along with
"But how will they find me if we leave in a rental car?" She fretted.
"And why is noone here suspicious? Do they really not see who I am behind
the scarf and the glasses? Do they not care? Doesn't anyone know that I'm
frightened and I want to go home?"
* * *
* * * *
Marissa stared up at the front of the Starlight Mansion,
her heart in her throat as she composed herself.
"I don't know what I can tell them, but I have to tell them something."
She decided, steeling herself to ring the doorbell. "But I must keep Steffi
out of it...somehow. I wish I knew how to begin this! I want to help Copper
- I don't want her coming back to LA in a box, whatever Phoebe thinks about
She was about to ring the bell when the front door of the house swung
open, making her jump.
"Good morning, Marissa." Cynthia stepped out beneath the porch, casting
her a curious glance. "May I ask why you are here?"
"You startled me." Marissa admitted. "I was about to knock - how did
you know I was here?"
"The Starlight Mansion has sophisticated technology guarding it's grounds.
The sensors detected your arrival and I came to greet you." Cynthia said
gravely. "If you are looking for any of Jewel, I am afraid you are out of
luck. They are not home - it can be no secret to you what this morning's
presses are reporting."
"No, and that's why I'm here." Marissa swallowed hard. "I want to help,
Cynthia, though I'm honestly not sure how I can."
"Then perhaps you should come in." Cynthia made up her mind, offering
the girl a slight smile, and standing back to allow her inside. "The more
people willing to lend a hand the better, though I fear that searching Los
Angeles for her will prove fruitless." She sighed. "I believe that Copper
is no longer in the city. Possibly not even in the state."
Marissa looked troubled, allowing herself to be led into the main lounge,
and taking a seat. She twisted her fingers together apprehensively, and
for a moment there was silence as she debated how to begin. At length she
"I'm not just a wellwisher." She admitted. "I know something...or at
least, I think I do...that might help you find her."
"You know something?" Cynthia eyed her sharply. "What do you mean? How
does this business involve you?"
"It doesn't. Not at all." Marissa hastened to reassure her. "But this
morning I overheard a...a conversation. There is a man who has a crush on
Copper - he's sent her mail and things, yes?"
"Yes." Cynthia agreed slowly. "What of it?"
"Well, these people were talking. One of them...convinced him it would
be a good idea if he intervened and met Copper face to face." Marissa said
slowly. "I got the impression that she encouraged him to...well...take
matters into his own hands. I think...she said he wanted to take her to
Las Vegas, to marry him there."
Cynthia stared, then,
"Why do you tell this to me? Why not the police?" She asked. Marissa
bit her lip.
"I can't." She whispered. Cynthia frowned.
"So Stefana is involved." She surmised darkly. Marissa shook her head.
"No. Well, not how you think." As Cynthia looked sceptical. "She's not
involved in Copper being abducted, Cynthia. I swear she isn't."
"Well, all right." Cynthia relented. "So who are you protecting?"
"I can't tell you."
"Copper's life might depend on it." Cynthia chided. "Please, Marissa.
This is vital information!"
"Rory Llewelyn." She admitted at length. "And Phoebe Asche. It was them
I heard talking. But I have no evidence - nothing except what I heard and
nobody else heard it! They're both experienced liars and conartists and I
can't...there isn't anything to tie them to any of this."
"I see." Cynthia looked grave. "And I appreciate what you are saying.
Rory Llewelyn is a powerful man, and Phoebe Asche one of the most skilled
liars I know. They are indeed a formidable enemy, and it makes me angry to
think that they have some involvement in all of this. I knew Riot hated Jewel,
but not enough for this."
"You called him Riot." Marissa looked startled. Cynthia's expression
"It is an apt name. It serves him well." She said quietly. "You must
tell me everything that you heard them say - however insignificant. I agree
that it would be foolish to make accusations, but that does not mean that
I cannot do some digging of my own. I have good resources, and Copper's
welfare is very important."
"I'll try and remember." Marissa sounded relieved. "Thank you for understanding
my situation. I mean, well, Rory isn't someone you cross. This morning
I realised it more than ever, when I heard them talking. And then, well..."
"Diablo are dependant on him, and nobody would like you to lose your
jobs simply because you helped us." Cynthia finished. "Have no fear. What
matters to me is getting Copper back. The chances of pinning anything on
that slimy gentleman are slim...my concern is with my friend's safety."
"I wasn't sure whether you'd even believe me." Marissa admitted. "I mean,
well, sometimes I think Jewel and Diablo are friends, and then, well, things
happen and I don't know any more." She glanced at her hands. "I'd like us
to be, but Rory seems convinced that we should keep our distance and Steffi..."
She shook her head. "It's all so complicated. I came to Los Angeles for music,
not for subterfuge and competition."
"The music business is quite often a pseudonym for competition and subterfuge,
as you must have realised." Cynthia reflected. She offered Marissa a smile.
"Have no fear, Marissa. You are not considered the enemy in this house -
not by any of us. Whilst our relations with certain of your members might
be less desirable - you have only ever acted towards Jewel and Jewel's team
with friendliness, and therefore that is how we regard you."
"Stefana hates Jewel so much." Marissa said absently. "Especially Copper.
I wish she didn't." Then she blushed, shaking her head. "No, I shouldn't
have said that. You'll think I lied to you, and that Steffi knows something
about the abduction, and she swore to me that she didn't."
Cynthia looked thoughtful for a moment, then,
"How well acquainted are you with Phoebe Asche?" She asked quietly. "You
know, I presume, that she was once Rapture of the Stingers, a skilled mistress
of deception? She operated particularly under the guise of a medium, and
quite often conned individuals out of money and jewellery for her pretend
services. Whilst Jem and the Holograms were still operating, Jerrica and the
others did their best to limit the damage, but..." She shook her head. "Jerrica
is not the same woman now as she was then...or...or so I have been led to
believe. And since the Stingers split up, it has been very difficult to know
precisely what Rapture might or might not be involved in. That she is willing
to manipulate for money is well known, but I wonder - what is her motivation
for hurting Copper? Is there anything you can tell me there?"
"No." Marissa shook her head, her expression confused by the manner of
Cynthia's approach. "All I heard was them talking about it and how it wouldn't
hurt Rebel Records if Copper stayed missing. Maybe that's why she did it.
"Out of old loyalty? Perhaps." Cynthia sighed. "But it seems a great risk.
Rapture is not someone who is unwilling to take a risk, true- but only if
it is a calculated one. The man who abducted Copper must have seen her face.
That makes me wonder why she would take such a risk for a company that pays
her no salary and can offer her little protection."
"When you put it like that, it does sound strange." Marissa agreed. "Cynthia,
have you met Phoebe yourself? You sound like you know her."
"A long time ago, I did." Cynthia nodded, dismissing it with a careless
wave of her hand. "Before Jewel and before Diablo." She narrowed her eyes.
"Though now I think of it, there was an encounter far more recent than even
that one. Some years ago Jewel put on a reunion concert with the Stingers,
the Misfits and the remainder of the Holograms. I recall that Rapture upset
Copper quite badly whilst she was in Los Angeles, and that we banded together
to give her a taste of her own medicine. Revenge might well be a strong
enough motive." She cast Marissa a glance. "She said nothing of this in
what you overheard?"
"No." Marissa shook her head. "But..." Then she faltered.
"But what?" Cynthia pressed. Marissa bit her lip.
"It's nothing." She said firmly. "And even if this is revenge on Copper,
how can we use it to find her without going to the police?"
"I have my ways." Cynthia said darkly. "I am not without contacts or connections,
and I have no love of a Stinger. Especially one so tangled up in the disappearance
of my friend."
She sighed. "Thank you at least for your information." She said at length.
"Promise me this - if you learn any more, please come to me. I will treat
it in confidence as to where the information originated if it makes you more
comfortable, but know we must. This could be Copper's life. We must do everything."
"Yes, I agree, and I will." Marissa stood. "I will try and find out more,
Cynthia. But she didn't seem to know anything specific. Just that this guy
planned on taking Copper to Las Vegas - though she said it so casually I
don't know whether she meant it or whether she was just being sarcastic."
"And Stefana cannot help you find out?"
"Steffi wants nothing more to do with her." Marissa shook her head, then
bit her lip as she realised what she had revealed. "That is..."
"Nothing more?" Cynthia was on her in a flash. "You said she was
nothing to do with this! Was that a lie?"
"No, it wasn't a lie." Marissa shrank back at the indignant anger in her
companion's violet eyes. "She swore to me that she had nothing to do with
Copper's abduction - that it was as much a surprise to her as it was to everyone
else and that was that."
"You believe her?"
"Yes." Marissa nodded. "Cynthia, Stef does do silly things - and she does
lie, I admit it - but I know when she's telling me the truth. This time she
was. I'd swear it in court if I had to."
"You may have to." Cynthia said grimly. Marissa paled.
"Please, Cynthia, I came to help!" She protested. Cynthia glared at her.
Then she sighed.
"I know you did. My apologies." She said, sounding contrite. "I have great
suspicion where your friend is concerned - it seems that where she goes,
trouble also goes. But if you give me your word she does not know anything
of Copper's disappearance, I shall believe you. She may not be honest, but
I believe you are."
"Thank you. And you have my word." Marissa looked relieved. "I must go,
before someone wonders where I am. Stef knows I'm coming to speak to someone
here, but I don't want the others involved if I can help it. After all,
Rory is our manager."
"It is understood." Cynthia nodded her head. She looked sheepish. "I hope
you will get in contact should you discover anything more. I did not mean
to scare you."
"You're worried for your friend - I understand. I'd be the same if Stef
or one of the others were in trouble." Marissa shook her head. "It's fine.
She flashed her companion a quick smile. "I hope I've been of some help."
Cynthia watched her go, a thoughtful look on her face.
"Stefana would not have let Marissa come here if she knew something about
Copper's location." She decided. "So on that matter at least I feel sure
she was telling the truth. But I wonder...Marissa is a good person, and her
motives here are to help, but what of what she said? Nothing more to
do with Rapture? I should investigate. Perhaps I should learn something."
She cast a glance at her reflection in the mirror, then, slowly, she altered
her features, adopting Stefana's dark expression and thick raven hair. She
"Time to visit Rebel Records." She decided. "And hopefully, Phoebe Asche."