The Story So Far...
After a devastating fire at Misfit Music left Jetta on the brink of
death, Agents Nicholson and Bray of the FBI began their investigations
into who could have committed such a crime. Troubled by her conscience and
her memories, Constance Montgomery is torn between telling the truth and
upsetting her daughter's faith in her. Meanwhile, Zoe, with the help of
Topaz and Sylva, has begun to do some of her own research into her father's
identity, coming up blank when her birth certificate proves not to contain
the information she is hunting.
Stefana Ranieri is acting unlike herself, and both Marissa and Luca
are concerned that the guitarist might know more about the fire than she
is saying. At the same time, Sadie has captured the interest of Agent Alex
Bray, whilst her criminal record has tempted the suspicions of his partner
about the Jewel's seemingly innocent front.
Meanwhile, at the hospital Jetta has opened her eyes, and Nancy believes
her mother knows the identity of the arsonist...
Chapter One: A Confession
Marissa Young pushed open the door of the bedroom belonging to her friend,
an apprehensive look on her pretty face. The guitarist's uncomfortable silence
about the events at Misfit Music had worried her ever since the news had
first filtered through, and her worry had grown upon registering Stefana's
subsequent behaviour. The shadows under her eyes told of sleepless nights,
and her appetite - never great thanks to her amphetamine habit - had become
almost nonexistant. The normally sarcastic, fiery musician had withdrawn
into a quiet, troubled shell, and Marissa was more than a little frightened
that her friend had been involved in events at the music company.
Stefana was sprawled on her bed, leafing half-heartedly through a magazine
when the keyboardist entered, and she glanced up, offering an unconvincing
glare of indignation at the disturbance. There was a cigarette between her
fingers, but Marissa noted it had been toyed with, yet not lit, a sure sign
that there was something preying on the other girl's mind. Stefana did
not often have calls of conscience, or if she did, she hid them well, and
Marissa's heart skipped another beat.
Stefana knew something. Of that she was sure.
Ignoring the unwelcoming look her friend offered, Marissa closed the
door behind her, sitting down on the bed.
"No word from your friend at Misfit Music yet?" She asked softly, her
tone light. Stefana glared at her again.
"He's not my friend, he was just some guy and I could care less." She
muttered. "Get lost, Mari. I don't need you."
"Stef, listen." Marissa's blue eyes became grave. "I know you pretty
well by now, and I know when something is wrong. This change in your behaviour
came as soon as the fire at Misfit Music happened...I'm not stupid, and
nor are the others. Luca's mentioned to me that he's afraid you were involved
somehow, because you're acting so unlike yourself."
"What does he think I am, a damn arsonist?" Stefana snapped. "I wasn't
at Misfit Music when the fire happened!"
"Where were you, then?" Marissa whispered softly. "Because you weren't
"Do I have to have a minder every ten seconds? I was out." Stefana retorted.
"I don't know what's going to happen in the future, do I? I don't prepare
my alibi in advance just in case!"
"Stef, please." Marissa's tone turned pleading. "This is a big deal.
There's a life at stake here. Please tell me where you were that morning.
I need to know."
"It's none of your business. You should just take it from me that I
wasn't at the place." Stefana avoided the question. "If that's all, will
you get lost?"
"No, I won't." Marissa said quietly. "I want to help you, but if you
won't talk to me, I can't."
"I don't need your help!"
"I think you do." Marissa murmured. "Stef, I know that something here
is going on. You know, I presume, that your friend Jake is under suspicion
for some part in this, he's disappeared without a trace and the FBI think
he was a plant at the music company. They also think he had an accomplice."
She gripped her friend's hand. "Please, Stef, I need to know it wasn't you!"
Stefana lowered her gaze.
"I don't know what you mean." She whispered.
"Oh God." Marissa bit her lip. "Steffi, how could you?"
"It's not what you think!" Stefana defended herself. "Mari, listen,
I swear I wasn't at Misfit Music that morning! I swear!"
"But you were involved, weren't you?" Marissa murmured. Stefana hesitated.
"I don't know." She admitted.
"Steffi, tell me the truth." Marissa begged. "Whatever it is...I need
to know. I can't help you otherwise."
"You can help me by pretending we never had this conversation." Stefana
said darkly. "I've no intention of saying anything to those two bumbling
agents and you're not to, either, if you're any kind of friend. I'll...I'll
tell you, but you damn well better swear not to betray me!"
"I won't betray you." Marissa looked troubled, but she gave her word
all the same. "I promise, Steffi. Just tell me."
"I was at Misfit Music before the fire happened." Stefana said slowly.
"Twice. Once Cynthia saw me."
"Okay..." Marissa said slowly. "Why were you there?"
"The time that Cynthia butted her nose in, I was waiting for Jake. That's
all. He said he was finishing some work or something that he needed to do
before we could go to dinner. That was a night or two before the fire happened."
"You believed him?"
"Yes, of course I did. What else would I think? He came across as a
"Do you think it's possible that he was using you as a decoy? Since
we work for a different music company, your presence at Misfit Music could
implicate Rory and us in the whole business?"
"I've thought of nothing else since it happened, dammit!" Stefana muttered.
"I don't like being played at my own game. I thought..."
"You thought what?" Marissa pressed gently.
"I thought it was the other way around." Stefana admitted. "I thought
I was the one using him."
"Using him? For what? Publicity?"
"That's what you told Luca."
"Think I ever tell Luca the truth about anything I do?" Stefana was
scornful. "I don't need his interference and sometimes he thinks he's my
Dad and not my brother."
"Well then, why?"
Stefana bit her lip, and Marissa's hand flew to her mouth.
"Oh God...the sabotages...Jewel's studio!" She breathed. "Stef, that
was you, wasn't it?"
"Yes." She admitted softly. "Dammit, I didn't know what would happen!
I did wonder why Jake didn't question me wanting to be there, but I didn't
think about it much. I was kinda tired, and focused on what I was gonna
do. I only wrecked their stuff and blitzed the recording equipment in the
"Only?! Why in hell would you do something so awful?"
"You might all be sweet on Jewel, Marissa, but I hate them." Stefana's
voice shook. "You know that. I hate them with a passion. I want them out
of the charts, out of Los Angeles, out of the country if I thought I could
"But why, for heaven's sake? What did they ever do to you?"
"Topaz sullied my brother's name." Stefana spat out. "They're all arrogant
show offs who think they rule the music world, but they don't! They don't
care about you or anyone, they pussyfoot up to you in the press and make
themselves out to be sweet as pie but they're not! They're bitches, every
one of them! They deserved to be taken down a peg or two! They deserved to
know what it's like to struggle to be a success for a change!"
"Oh Steffi." Marissa looked troubled. "That's not it at all. Jewel are
exactly as they seem. Okay, Topaz and Luca's little liason wasn't wise for
either party, but I certainly don't think it was all her fault. Luca's said
as much himself. It was just one of those things, and it was a long time
ago now. And as for Jewel themselves, I think they are as sweet as they
come across. Copper especially. I like her a lot."
"Copper." Stefana grimaced. "Bah, she's the worst of the lot. Simpering
wimp. All beauty and no brains or talent, that witch."
Marissa eyed her friend keenly, and despite herself, Stefana blushed
under the younger girl's gaze.
"And she just happens to be Aaron's fiancee." The keyboardist murmured.
"So? He has bad taste, so what?"
"Steffi, you know as well as I do that you like Aaron. I just didn't
realise it was so serious as this."
"What in hell do you mean? I don't fall in love, Marissa!"
"Yes you do. You're a human being, like me, like anyone else. You have
a heart. He's always been kind to you, I see every reason why he'd attract
your attention. You're not used to liking a guy who's so gentle and friendly,
and the one time you find a man who might treat you properly, you discover
he's taken by someone else. That's the root of this, isn't it? You've often
said you wanted to get Aaron away from Jewel and Misfit Music...is that what
you tried to do?"
"Dammit, Marissa, I know my own heart!"
"I don't agree." Marissa said gently. "Steffi, you need to come out
of denial." She sighed. "So how far exactly did you go?"
"What do you mean, how far?" Stefana demanded sharply.
"What would you do to get Misfit Music and perhaps Jewel too out of
"Oh god, my own best friend thinks I'm a psychotic wouldbe murderer!"
Stefana exclaimed. "Listen, Mari, and listen good. I've told you what I
did. I don't know what exactly I cut when I messed with the recording equipment,
but that's all I did. I don't know if I could have accidentally messed
up the fire alarms or the sprinkler sensors, but I didn't go to Misfit
Music on the morning of the fire. If...if you must know," She faltered,
then, "I was settling up a debt with someone in the city."
"A debt?" Marissa narrowed her eyes. "A drug payment?"
"Sort of." Stefana dismissed it vaguely. "I borrowed money from him
to pay for what I needed till I got paid by Rory. I couldn't get an advance
on my wages, he's such a stingy skinflint sometimes."
"I see." Marissa looked worried. "That's not the kind of alibi you can
give the feds either, is it?"
"Wow, you think?" Stefana's tone was rich with sarcasm. "That's why
nobody is going to even link me to the thing, you got it? I wasn't there.
They won't find any evidence that I was ever there at all. Jake's nowhere
and even if he was, do you think he'd be talking? I think not. And Cynthia
couldn't prove anything. Everyone knows she hates me." Her expression darkened.
"So if anyone asks you, you know nothing. All right?"
"You swear you weren't involved in the fire?" Marissa responded. Stefana
rolled her eyes.
"I swear. What, you want it in blood?"
"Okay." Marissa sighed. "I guess I feel a little better, knowing that
you didn't have anything to do with that and with Jetta being so ill. I
mean, those agents who were here were talking about attempted murder charges,
if not murder ones, if Jetta should die. I didn't want to think of you in
that kind of mess."
"Well, I'm not, but keep your trap shut, else someone might get it wrong."
Stefana ordered. "And I've no mind to be done for vandalism, either, okay?"
"Well, then don't do it." Marissa told her firmly. "Promise me you won't
attempt something like that again, Steffi. This music rivalry is a fair
"Right now I couldn't care less." Stefana shrugged.
"Stef, about Aaron..."
"Drop it. You don't know anything."
"Stef, you have to let that go." Marissa put a gentle arm around her
friend's shoulders, despite the other girl's resistance. "I mean it. Aaron
and Copper are very much in love and they will get married. I know you like
him, but you have to accept that sometimes things can't be how we'd like
"Hah. You think I'm soppy about him like you are about Clay? I don't
Marissa blushed at the name of Diablo's drummer and often co-songwriter.
"I'm just saying that, whatever it is, put it on one side and get on
with your life." She said gently. "Aaron is your friend...don't spoil that,
"Oh, leave me alone." Stefana sighed. "I'm tired, I need to sleep."
"All right." Marissa nodded, getting to her feet. "And you don't need
to worry, I won't tell anyone what you just told me. Just please, Steffi,
be careful in future!! You can't go on living so wild, one day it's going
to catch up with you!"
And with that, she was gone.