Part Three

Chapter Two: Stefana's Secret

"Steffi, are you all right?"
Farah Young, Diablo's video artist paused in where she had been idly sketching a storyboard, casting her friend a quizzical look. "You've been damn quiet since you and the others got back from something bothering you?"
"Huh?" Stefana glanced up from her magazine, looking startled. "You say something, Farah?"
"She's been on planet Italy since we got to Rome." Farah's twin sister Marissa put in from her corner, amused. "You should have seen her there, Farah. I think she was even, well, nice to a few people out there."
"Oh, shut up." Stefana pulled a graphic face. "Don't tease me, all right? So I liked what?"
"Well, I guess that's natural." Farah pursed her lips. She waved her pencil at her friend. "You know, the older you get, the more like your Dad you look. And he was born out there, wasn't he? Or am I remembering wrong?"
"At least someone doesn't think it's crazy." Stefana rolled her eyes. "Yeah, he was, Farah. And I wish I had been, too."
She sighed. "This sounds insane, I know, but I never felt as much at home anywhere in my life as I did when we landed in Rome."
"I guess I know how you feel, in a way." Farah stretched out on her stomach. "I felt kinda the same way when Aunt Kaori and I got to Japan and I saw Tokyo and Yokohama for the first time. It's another world, but I loved that world so much. It was amazing."
"Well, I know for a fact there's no Japanese in our heritage, Farah." Marissa looked amused. "So you'll have to put that down to the artist's temperament or something, I guess. I'm quite happy in America, if it's the same to the both of you. I love travelling, but this is home."
"Well, it's home to me too." Farah shrugged. "I guess I just liked being somewhere exotic and different for a while."
Stefana was silent for a moment, then she got to her feet, shutting the door of the sitting room with a click.
"I want to talk to you guys, actually." She said quietly. "It has nothing to do with Italy...but I need some advice."
"Advice?" Marissa's eyes widened. "What kind of advice?"
"Are you in some kind of trouble, Steffi?" Farah added. Stefana shook her head.
"No. I don't think so." She replied with a sigh, dropping onto the couch. "In fact, on that subject, I've been better than I've been in a long time. When we were on tour I think I let down the tires on one dude's car, once, and that was because he was being a jerk-off about letting us play our set on time. But no. something big. And it's bothering me. A lot."
"Can you tell us what it is?" Marissa asked gently. "You know that you can trust Farah and me, Stef."
"Yes, I know I can." Stefana nodded. "In some ways you're practically my family. But I don't think I can...well...explain all too well. It's just..."
She faltered, then, "If you have a really big secret, and telling it could hurt someone, but not telling it could hurt you...what do you do?"
"Secret?" Farah stared. "Steffi..."
"No, Farah, I mean a big secret. Not your little lovefest in Japan." Stefana shook her head. "Something else."
"Lovefest?" Marissa raised an eyebrow, and Farah groaned.
"Not now, Mari...Stef, you swore you'd keep your mouth shut." She said wearily.
"You guys have a secret from me?" Marissa looked hurt.
"For God's sake, Mari, this is more important right now!" Stefana exclaimed.
"If we don't know what the secret is, Steffi, we can't really advise you." Farah spread her hands. "I mean, when you say someone will get hurt - is it someone here? Someone you're close to...or not? And hurt in what sense? Physically? Psychologically? Some other way?"
"I told you. I'm not sure if I can explain." Stefana grimaced. "Truth is, telling it could also wind me in trouble, too. might be too late and I might have already told just depends which telling he believes."
"Steffi, promise me you're sober, because right now you don't sound like it." Marissa put her hands on her hips. Stefana let out an exasperated exclamation.
"Oh, dammit! I'm not stoned! I'm trying to explain without, well, explaining."
"Then start at the beginning and tell us what you can tell us." Farah suggested. "If anything."
"Okay." Stefana twisted her hands together. "A couple of years ago I found something out about someone. I forget how I found out...a lot of things are kinda hazy from back then, but I was certain of what I saw and I told...someone what it was. We...tried to do something about it, because he offered me money to, and I needed it. But it didn't work, and he didn't believe me any more. It was fine, and everything went quiet...but now he believes in it again and even though I told him I made it up, I don't know if he believed me."
"Well, that made a whole lot more sense." Farah pulled a face. "Thanks."
"No, wait. I think it did." Marissa looked thoughtful. "Is this to do with Rory wanting to see you yesterday?"
Stefana flushed.
"Then this is about one of the little errands Rory paid you for, when you needed drug money?"
"Which probably means that the people who could get hurt are Jewel. Yes?"
"No." Stefana faltered, then, "Maybe. I don't know."
"And you could get"
Stefana was silent for a moment, then she shook her head.
"I don't want to call her bluff right at the moment." She said darkly.
"I'm lost. Very lost. Lost and looking for a map store." Farah put up her hands. "Say what?"
"When Stef was using amphetamine, Rory paid her to do little off the record errands to annoy the competition." Marissa explained. "She needed the money, and we had no idea about it till everything else came out before Copper's wedding last March. Luca put a stop to it, and Stef's not done anything since by choice, but Rory's a slippery customer."
"Too true." Stefana drummed her fingers on the arm of the sofa. "Look, if I tell you...some of it, you have to promise me that you won't say anything, on pain of death."
"Is this the same kind of promise that you made me when I told you about Japan?" Farah raised an eyebrow.
"No, this is a life or death promise." Stefana shook her head. "And besides, I haven't said anything to anyone about that. Mari's your sister...I figured you'd told her by now."
"Nobody tells me anything." Marissa protested.
"Well, okay. I guess I promise." Farah shrugged. "Mari?"
"Is this breaking any laws, Steffi?"
"Not as far as I know."
"Then I promise."
"Okay." Stefana paused, then, "I know where Jerrica's computer is."
"What computer?" Farah looked confused. Marissa blanched.
"Synergy? The one in the press? The one that blew up the Memorial...the one we were talking about last night?" She asked. Stefana nodded.
"Yes. That one."
"Sounds like a fun machine." Farah dimpled. "So?"
"So do you never read the press, Farah?"
"No, not usually. Not when I'm working on a video concept." Farah shook her head. "Besides, I've been in Japan till last month. I probably missed a few things."
"Well, this computer is some kind of holographic wonder machine, according to the papers." Marissa looked troubled. "There's a big reward out in the Tribune for anyone with information on it. And I'll bet that's what Rory's interested in...isn't he, Stef?"
"You know him too well. Of course." Stefana nodded. "He tried to sell it to me by saying it'd go into Diablo promotion."
"Are you going to tell us where it is?"
"No, I'm not." Stefana replied darkly. "Look. One thing I do know is that nobody - and I do mean nobody - should get their mitts on that thing. Especially not a power-mad fool like Rory. So long as you leave it alone, it won't hurt you. But upset it..."
She shook her head. "I've been threatened by it once before. I don't want to be so again."
"If it's so dangerous, why not speak to the FBI?" Farah asked. "They're looking too, you know. And it'd get taken care of."
"Yeah, and law enforcement are probably the worst people on the planet to have possession of something like this." Stefana said bitterly. "They'd dismantle it, then build a zillion more, and trust me, one is more than enough."
"Do you think Rory will find it?"
"I don't know. I told him everything I said back when I first found it was made up because I needed drug money and he seemed to buy it. We tried to give it a virus but it failed - I don't know how, exactly - and he lost faith in my word then."
"So what are you worried about?"
"If he gets an idea fixed in his head, God knows what he'll do about it." Stefana glanced at her hands. "And I have absolutely no intention of telling him anything about it, you guys. Not now and not ever. And you mustn't either. But if he finds out I've doublecrossed him..."
She faltered.
"I don't know what he might do to me, but I expect it will involve the press and a headline about Stefana and amphetamine." She said quietly. "So it bothers me."
"Does anyone else know where this thing is? Presumably people must be shielding it." Farah observed. Stefana shrugged.
"A few people know about it." She agreed evasively.
"Aaron, perhaps?" Marissa asked.
"Don't ask me questions I'm not going to answer." Stefana shook her head. "Just people."
"Can you not speak to any of them about it?"
"I'm thinking I might have to." Stefana rubbed her temples. "Twenty four hours back in Los Angeles and I already feel in need of therapy again. God, this city is so bad for me!"
"Maybe it's not a bad idea, speaking to your therapist about it." Farah suggested.
"Aaron's friend. The one who's counselled you since you quit speed." Marissa nodded. "Though I admit they might find the whole thing a bit farfetched."
"Wait a minute..." Light dawned in Stefana's green eyes. "You might be right. Talking her often clears my head."
"And if she thinks you're crazy, well, that's why she's counselling you." Farah giggled. "She'll probably give you better advice than we can, Stef. She's trained in these things."
"Well, you might be right." Stefana got to her feet. "I think I'll go give her a call. Thanks, guys. And remember...not a word."
With that she was gone, leaving the twins exchanging looks with each other.
"Do we think she's right, or has she finally lost it?" Farah asked. Marissa shrugged.
"I don't know." She admitted. "But I have this fleeting memory of her claiming to have seen something...bizarre, once. I thought she was just stoned, but maybe she wasn't. Maybe she does know something. Either way, she believes she does. And passing her on to the therapist was a good idea."
"Right." Farah nodded. "Europe seems to have done Stef good, but when I met up with you guys in Hartford she was still a little close to the wire on occasion. If this is real, well, the counsellor will know what she should do. And if it's not..."
"Do you reckon she could have hallucinated a memory based on drugs she took in the past?" Marissa sounded anxious. "I know she's off them, but who knows what long term damage they do."
"She seemed pretty certain of it, but it might be she thinks she knows something and actually doesn't." Farah said sensibly. "I can't see what Steffi would have enough in common with that Jerrica woman that she'd know something the whole of Los Angeles doesn't."
"Unless it's to do with Aaron."
"But didn't you tell me he works for yet another company again? Seems unlikely."
"True." Marissa shrugged. "Oh well. At least we've helped her talk it out and she's gone to seek help on it. If she is getting delusional, hopefully it'll be nipped in the bud right at the start. She went through a lot of stuff and Rory hasn't always been nice to her. I suppose we should just keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn't over-stress now she's back in the city."
She folded her arms, shuffling back in her seat. "And now we're decided on that, Farah, I think it's time you told me exactly what it was that made you leave Japan." 

Stefana, for her part, had secluded herself in her bedroom, rummaging through her travel bag for her mobile phone. Finally she located it, settling herself on her bed as she dialled the number.
"I should have thought of this myself, without involving Mari and Farah." She muttered, waiting impatiently for the line to be picked up the other end. "I guess I'm still lagged and shook up by Rory's mode of attack yesterday. But if anyone understands what the hell this is about, it's Sadie. She lives with the damn thing. I know Mari and Farah won't tell anyone anything, but still. I should've thought of this."
"Hello? Steffi, is that you? I thought you were in Europe!"
Sadie's clipped Brummie tones came down the line at that moment, startling her.
"Yes it's me, and no, we got back yesterday."
"Well, hi."
"Sadie, I need to talk to you."
"Oh-oh. This isn't a social call?"
"Not exactly. It's a get your butt somewhere where we can talk without being overheard call." Stefana said grimly. "I mean it."
"I thought you were starting to feel better about things of late?"
"It's not that I want to talk to you about." Stefana glanced at the door, then lowered her voice. "It's about that maniacal mainframe that lives in your basement."
Sadie let out a gasp, then,
"Oh God, not something else? What now?"
"I don't want to talk here. Can we meet somewhere? Somewhere...where noone is gonna batter me to death on sight, and somewhere noone can overhear us?"
"Sure. I'll ask Nancy if I can have the key to her studio. I sometimes go there with her to write, so she'll be fine about it. Noone goes there, except her and occasionally me."
"Where the hell is that?"
"I'll come by and pick you up, if you like. Are you at home?"
"Yes. Okay, but make it quick."
"Sure. Though you're lucky our main studio is out at the moment, else we'd be working right now and I wouldn't be by the pool working on my tan." Sadie sounded rueful. "Give me a minute to slip something else on and I'll be right there. And whatever it is, Stef, stop sounding so melodramatic! You're giving me goosebumps."
"Whoopee for you." Stefana grimaced. "I'll see you soon."
She terminated the call, tossing the phone down onto the end of her bed and sprawling out on her stomach, contemplating.
"I did the right thing not telling Rory. Is it the right thing to tell Sadie?" She mused with a sigh. "We're pals and she's helped me, but Cynthia's no friend of mine, and Misfits Music are the enemy.I don't know. But I do know I can't leave things in limbo. I guess in this case I have no choice. Sadie is my friend, at least. And I do owe her for what she's done for me. Maybe this will repay the favour. But then, she might get mad if she realises how much I put Cynthia at risk already. Well, guess we'll soon see, won't we? Either way, I hate having to make this kind of decision. I never was cut out for a conscience, and I don't want to be starting now!"

Chapter One: At The Funeral
Chapter Two: Stefana's Secret
Chapter Three: Nancy's Studio
Chapter Four: An Old Rivalry
Chapter Five: An Act Of Pique
Chapter Six: Darren Moves In
Chapter Seven: Daisy's Ghost
Chapter Eight: An Unlikely Team
Chapter Nine: Scheming
Chapter Ten: The Synergy Ruse
Chapter Eleven: A Legacy Reborn

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