Chapter One: One Jewel Down
"Two thirty and still no sign."
Sylvina Martescu gazed out of the window, clicking her tongue impatiently as she eyed the busy Los Angeles streets below. "I can't believe she just hasn't shown up!"
"It's not like Copper." Aurora Stapleton, or 'Topaz' frowned, playing a couple of chords on her bass guitar, then grimacing further. "Ew, and I'm still way out of tune. Someone give me a note or two on the piano, huh?"
"Sure." Nancy Pelligrini, the final member of the trio nodded her head, moving over to the piano and doing as she was bidden.
She sighed. "I don't like it. When has Copper ever been late before? It's not like her."
"She went to see her Mom this morning." Topaz replied. "Do you think they got talking and lost track of time? I mean, she was pretty mixed up yesterday, praps they're talking things through."
"Mm, perhaps." Nancy shrugged. "But I still don't like it."
"Me either." Sylva admitted. "I mean, let's face it. I've been known to sleep in and have needed dragging out of bed for rehearsals or recording sessions, Topaz, you're the same, and Nancy, sometimes pulling you out of whatever corner you've decided to sit and write music in is near impossible. But Copper's the reliable one. She's always on time...every time."
"If she's not with Raya she could be with Aaron." Topaz put in. "Couldn't she?"
"Could, but with this show coming up, do you think she'd really blow off a practice just to hang out with Aaron, when she sees him all the time anyhow?"
"Good question." Nancy said darkly. "I wish I knew the answer."
She moved over to join Sylva at the window. Both young and talented in their chosen line of work, Jewel were one of the most popular young bands around, and too much rode on their diligent practicing for any of them to play skiver. In fact, however much any of them might moan, generally they all enjoyed their sessions.
But today, percussionist Elizabeth Santiago, or 'Copper' as she was known, had not turned up, and it had sparked immediate concern.
As Nancy had said, it wasn't like her.
"You don't s'pose something's happened to her, do you?" Sylva was the first to voice the question. Nancy frowned.
"I'm more worried that someone has." She said slowly.
"How do you mean, someone?" Topaz looked confused, setting her bass guitar aside and perching on the unit. "Who?"
"You know that yesterday was the anniversary of Esteban Santiago's death?" Nancy reminded them. "Copper and her Dad were real close, and she misses him like anything. Anyway, last night she mentioned to me that she'd met up with a woman claiming to be able to speak to the dead."
"A medium?" Sylva raised an eyebrow. "Don't tell me Copper believes in that stuff!"
"I don't think she's really thought it through." Nancy admitted. "But it gets worse, Sylva. The woman in question is Phoebe Asche - better known as Rapture, of the Stingers. I spoke to Mom after Copper went off to meet Aaron, and apparently Rapture was, and probably still is one of the best conartists the music industry has ever known. Whatever she's playing at with Copper, I think it's pretty much guaranteed that it's not genuine."
"That's horrible!" Topaz exclaimed. "Copper was so upset yesterday - you telling us that this woman would gladly manipulate Copper's grief for some twisted end of her own?"
"Yep, that's what I'm saying." Nancy agreed grimly. "And Mom agreed when I asked her what she thought. I knew that inviting the Stingers here for the reunion show was a bad idea!"
"I wish Id never thought of it." Topaz admitted, frowning. "But seriously, Nancy, do you think that's where Copper is? With this Rapture woman?"
"I'd bet you anything you like that she is." Nancy nodded.
"Should we try calling her phone?" Sylva suggested. Nancy shrugged.
"I tried before, it was switched off." She said. "Either that or she's not taking calls. I don't think we've any way of reaching her."
"Great. What a waste of a practice!" Sylva groaned.
A voice, hesitant and gently accented came from the doorway and the girls turned to see Carmen Santiago, once Raya of the Holograms, her expression unusually grave and her blue eyes clouded with anxiety. "I don't mean to disturb you - I just wanted to know if you'd seen Copper this afternoon - I know she was meant to have a practice and I wanted to speak with her."
"She's not turned up." Nancy said with a frown. "But I bet I can tell you where she is."
Carmen's eyes narrowed.
"Rapture." She murmured. Nancy nodded.
"Last night she told me that she was going to discuss it with you." She said. "Did she?"
"She did." Carmen's tone was troubled. "We...had a fight about it. It upset me so badly that she would even think to trust Rapture's tricks where her Papa was concerned. I miss Esteban as badly as she does...but I know he cannot be brought back. I do not know if it is possible to speak with the dead, Nancy, but I know beyond a doubt that Rapture is not one who can do it. I know her too well, how she works. She wants to hurt my daughter, and Copper, she will not listen to me."
"It's not great for us, either." Sylva frowned. "We've only a few weeks till the big reunion show, you know...and our drummer has gone AWOL."
"Si. It is a mess." Carmen sighed. "Gracias. I shall look for her elsewhere."
"She's not picking up her phone." Topaz said. "Perhaps she just wants some time alone to think? I'm sure once she's thought it all through she'll realise that she's being silly and she'll calm down."
"I hope so." Carmen admitted. "Never have we fought as we did this morning. I love my children more than anything...I hate to be at odds with her." She sighed again. "Well, I'll leave you girls to practice...I'm sorry to have disturbed you." She said at length, making her way towards the door. "If you see her, will you get her to call me?"
"We'll do our best." Nancy nodded. "I'm sorry we couldn't be of more help."
"It is not your fault." Carmen said ruefully. "Rapture is a clever operator and none of you have encountered her methods before. I only hope you are right and when Copper calms down she will see things properly. As it is, all I can do now is wait...and hope for the best."
Across town, Copper had pulled her car into a vacant parking lot, resting
her arms on the steering wheel and burying her face in them as the tears
continued to fall. The row with her mother had been a shock to her sensitive
system, and now she didn't know quite where she stood.
"Mama doesn't care." She sobbed. "She doesn't understand...I need to know what Papa thinks of me, and Phoebe promised to help me! So what if they were rivals - that was twenty years ago! Phoebe was sweet to me...surely it can't hurt to just ask her a couple of questions? Mama doesn't understand why I want to know...she's just jealous because she knows that when Papa was alive I was closer to him than I ever was to her. She doesn't want me to find him because she's afraid I'll not want her any more...well, I don't care! I need to know!"
She dried her eyes, glancing across onto the passenger seat where she had carelessly tossed her phone. Beside it were the two pieces of Phoebe's business card, which Carmen had torn in two in a fit of anger, and gingerly the young drummer scooped them up, putting them back together so that the number was legible.
"She said that if I wanted to talk to her about it, I could call her anytime and anywhere." She remembered, picking up her telephone and switching it on. "So, what's to stop me doing so now?"
To think was to act, and she quickly dialled in the number, waiting for Phoebe to pick up. Her heart beated anxiously in her chest as she waited. Was she doing the right thing? Would Phoebe even remember her?
"Hello?" The voice was familiar, warm and deceptively gentle, and in an instant Copper felt better about the whole idea. "Phoebe Asche...who's calling?"
"Phoebe...it's Copper." Copper spoke hesitantly. "Do...do you remember me?"
"Copper!" Phoebe's tone conveyed pleasure and surprise. "Of course I remember, my dear. I must confess, though, I didn't expect to hear from you. I did think your mother might talk you out of coming to me."
"Mama doesn't understand." Copper admitted softly. "She...doesn't know what it's like. She says she still cares about Dad, but she's put it behind her and moved on. She doesn't understand how important he was to me...I want to know so badly what he thinks of me now. Can...will you help me?"
"I said I would, child, and I meant it." Phoebe's tone was gentle. "If you want my help, of course I'll do my best. I can't guarantee to reach him, he might not want to speak to you - but we can try, can't we?"
"I...need to try." Copper agreed haltingly. "I need to know, though...how much will it cost? I mean, I know it's your job, and..."
"Copper, my dear, I didn't offer to help you because I wanted your money." Phoebe sounded horrified at the bare idea. "What kind of person do you think I am? I wanted to help you because you needed my help to put closure on this whole business. I'm helping you as a friend, my dear...no other reason."
"Oh!" Copper was startled, then, "Thank you! I...didn't expect..."
"You are a clever girl, Copper, and beautiful too. I'm sure that it will take only a few seconds of your father's time to confirm how much he loves you and how proud he is of you." Phoebe spoke softly, her voice barely above a whisper, and it's tone comforted the younger girl, though in truth the Stinger was merely trying to keep from laughing. "I suggest we meet up sometime soon and settle this for you, so you can go on with things."
"I agree." Copper responded. "What...what do I need to do?"
"All you need to do is come and bring something of your father's. Something that I can feel his presence through." Phoebe responded. "Do you have something?"
"I have his wedding ring." Copper agreed. "Mama wanted me to have it, when he died. Will that do?"
"Yes, that will do." Phoebe responded. "When can you come and see me? I am free tomorrow morning - I'm afraid the Stingers must practice this afternoon."
"Tomorrow morning is great." Copper dimpled. "Thanks...where should I meet you?"
"Come to Rebel Records. It's best." Phoebe told her. "At about ten o'clock. I'll meet you there, and we'll put an end to these fears of yours, all right?"
"I hope so." Copper agreed. "And...and I'll be there. Thank you, Phoebe. You don't know how much this means to me."
"I'm glad to help, my dear." Phoebe replied. "I'll see you tomorrow, then."
"Yes." Copper responded. "Goodbye...and thanks again!"
"Bye bye." Phoebe echoed softly. She clicked off her phone, tossing it down onto an empty chair, and raising her eyes to meet the gazes of her companions. As she did so, a smile broke out across her clever face, and she burst into a peal of laughter.
"This is too, too perfect!" She exclaimed.
"The girl fell for it?" Ingrid demanded. Phoebe nodded.
"Hook, line and sinker." She agreed, her blue eyes glinting with mischief. "She and that drip Raya seem to have had some kind of a row about it, too...I was worried Raya might block us, but it's worked out nicely in our favour."
"So, what is the next step, Rapture?" Rory looked interested. "I must admit I've missed your scheming since the Stingers broke up."
"Simple." Phoebe shrugged. "The girl comes here at ten o' clock tomorrow. I'll take her out into the grounds, hold a mock seance...then act all upset, say that its perhaps best I don't tell her his message. Of course, she'll demand I do...and I'll tell her that her beloved Papa doesn't want her to be in a rock band and wants her to finish her education."
"C'est magnifique." Sophie looked impressed. "I knew you would think of something, Rapture!"
"So, Copper will leave Jewel...too soon before the concert for them to be able to replace her and play." Rory looked thoughtful. "The Holograms will be upset by her behaviour, I doubt Raya will be in any mood to play drums herself if your scheme works. And the Misfits...?"
"Pizzazz and Jetta will be so immersed in the crisis of their stupid music company that the Misfits won't be anything but mediocre on the night of the concert." Ingrid finished. "The other band...the Teenangels, well, they aren't anybody here in the States, are they? Some English group, what threat can they be to us when they're only just breaking into the American market? The Stingers will steal the show!"
"We would have done so anyhow." Phoebe shrugged. "But this way...is more fun, somehow. Don't you think? And I'm not sure I'm finished, yet. The whole setup is a shambles...but just in case this plan of mine doesn't work, I think we should have a backup scheme in place. Don't you?"
"What do you have in mind?" Rory asked. A sly smile spread across Phoebe's face.
"That," She said slowly. "Is to play the Misfits at their own, boring game. I vote we be ready with some backstage sabotage, Stinger style. Then, no matter what happens, the Stingers will rock Los Angeles alone."
"As it should be." Ingrid eyed her nail paint idly for chips. "We were always the best sound in town, anyhow."
"Indeed." Phoebe laughed. "But for now...I think we can safely say, one Jewel down, and three to go..."
Chapter One: One Jewel Down
Chapter Two: Fireworks
Chapter Three: Phyllis Steps In
Chapter Four: Esteban Speaks
Chapter Five: Consulting the Teenangels
Chapter Six: Rose Helps
Chapter Seven: Mending Ties
Chapter Eight: Misfit Reborn
Chapter Nine: Dean's Show
Chapter Ten: Sylva and Jack
Chapter Eleven: Sabotaged!
Chapter Twelve: Settling the Past
Chapter Thirteen: Revenge
Chapter Fourteen: Show Must Go On