Chapter Nine: Phoebe Asche
"Well, things have changed a bit since I last set foot
The tall, willowy blond stepped elegantly out of her limousine, accepting her case with a smile from the driver as she surveyed her surroundings. "Back in Los Angeles after so long...well, well. Who would've thought it."
A voice came from the doorway of the big cold black steel building, and the woman, Phoebe Asche by name turned, flashing a smile at the lady who had greeted her.
"Minx." She said, a note of genuine affection touching her otherwise rather false tones. "It's been a while, huh?"
"Too long, Rapture, too long." Ingrid came to hug her friend. "I don't know how Riot found you, but I am so glad that he did. To think, the Stingers will soon play again! All of us, reunited at last!"
"Well...what else did you expect?" Her companion returned, laughing. "What music is there today to match up to the Stingers?"
"Ah, so you have arrived." Rory's smooth, arrogant tones joined the conversation. "Welcome home, Rapture. I trust you had a good flight?"
"Yes." The stranger nodded her head. "Well? What's new, Riot? What's changed?"
"A good deal, I'm sure, for us both." Rory replied with a smile. "Come inside...we have much to discuss."
"I thought you'd never ask." Phoebe gathered together her baggage, following her former colleagues into the music company's headquarters. "Mmm, I like the place, Riot. You've done the Stingers proud. Business is good, I trust?"
"Business is good." Rory nodded. "With a few hiccups. The main blot on the landscape, as ever, is Pizzazz and Misfit Music...but it's something to be got around, and we're doing our best."
"Misfit Music?" Phoebe seemed surprised. "What of Jerrica at Starlight Music?"
"Things have changed...where have you been!" Ingrid scolded her, as she led the way into Rory's office. "Starlight Music is struggling to get itself back up and running...at one point it seemed it would go under completely from the legal wrangles after the Jem Memorial. Jerrica has revived it by the skin of her teeth, but as yet it has no power to challenge the likes of us."
"Legal wrangles, huh?" Phoebe looked interested. "Well well. Good little Jerrica Benton in trouble with the law. I am out of sync."
"Rapture!" At that moment Sophie entered the office, casting her friend a warm smile. "So you 'ave arrived at last!"
"Better late than never." Phoebe winked. "Minx and Riot were just explaining to me how things in Los Angeles have changed since I left here fifteen years ago."
"Ah, je vois." Sophie perched on the desk. "Very much has changed."
"So I'm beginning to see." Phoebe looked amused. "So tell me...what problems has that nusiance Pizzazz been causing? It's been some time since I spoke to her last and I'm sure I'd be glad to renew the acquaintance in the most troublesome manner possible."
"Throwing her weight and her money around, as ever she does." Ingrid pulled a face. "She has put her financial backing into promoting a band called Jewel and they are very successful...too successful. Things have only gotten worse, also, since her daughter Emily...left this company to work for theirs."
"Pizzazz has a daughter?" Phoebe looked startled. "That's news to me."
"Yes, the most ignominious relationship that there could ever be." Rory scowled. "The brat's father is Eric Raymond, of all people."
Phoebe let out an amused chuckle.
"That is priceless." She observed. "But the girl...what caused her to defect?"
"We had a disagreement." Rory said darkly. "And she went."
Since none of the girls were party to the exact circumstances of Sirena's dismissal, though Sophie had her suspicions, none of them could lay the blame on their leader's shoulders, and Phoebe snorted.
"Sounds like her mother's child to me." She said decidedly. "Probably just as lacking in talent. You'd do better finding yourself some real musical stars, Riot...not wasting your time on the sordid offspring of your rivals."
"You don't need to tell me that." Rory snapped. "I wanted to use Emily to get Pizzazz...and for a while it worked. Then the girl had to get herself pregnant and take her life into her own hands and the next thing I know she and Pizzazz are all chummy together. But don't fret about it...I've a couple of potential new signings in the pipeline. She won't be missed here."
"How is it you have never heard of these things, Rapture?" Sophie looked curious. "You disappeared, more or less, fifteen years ago and we hear nothing from you...then here you are, like nothing has changed. Where have you been? What have you done?"
"Oh, I've had the time of my life." Phoebe laughed. "Setting myself up for life, my friend. You wouldn't believe how many gullible people there are in the world...or how much money they'll spend, either. I've been dabbling in the occult, Magique...as ever. Reading people's destiny lines and predicting their futures...communicating with their lost loved ones and convincing them there's life after death. They lap it up...I've made a small fortune out of it. But, such a career means a frequent change of address and a swift manner of moving on to the next place. At least, it did at first. More recently I've settled myself down and opened up a proper psychic consultation centre...which I presume is how Riot traced me. It's the first time since the Stingers broke up that I've used my real name...everything I'm doing can't be faulted for appearing above board and true...it's a case of buyer beware." She giggled. "I hold seances once a week, just for a laugh. The stupid, pitiful people who believe I can really contact their dead loved ones. I mean, come on. They're dead! They don't exist! And yet they keep coming...and keep paying. Oh yes, I've had the time of my life."
"I'm impressed." Sophie's dark eyes twinkled. "More so in fact that noone has picked up on your fraud."
"Well, you helped me perfect that technique." Phoebe winked. "Working so closely with a convicted trickster in the music business, how could I fail to learn something?"
"You two are as terrible now as you ever were." Ingrid looked amused. "But Rapture, there is no danger? If you perform this show, will it cause you trouble?"
"Not at all." Phoebe dismissed it. "I've become a mistress of disguises, Minx, and I've had more fake identities than you've had manicures. Noone can trace my less legit behaviour to Rapture of the Stingers or even Phoebe Asche. I've been very careful to cover my tracks."
"Well, well." Rory laughed. "You never change for an instant, Rapture. And I'm glad, because we have much to rehearse and plan for this show. With Pizzazz as backer, we have to make an impression...we have to outshine the Misfits once and for all, and upset their upstart acts a little in the process."
"We're better than anything those Misfits can produce." Phoebe said confidently. She stretched. "It feels good to be back. I've missed my music some, I have to admit."
"Now would be as good a time as any, per'aps, to settle where you will stay?" She suggested. "Riot and I agree that it is best you stay with us and avoid the hassle of a hotel...there is not time for that. So come with me...I shall show you everything. We have much to talk of."
"I'm right behind you." Phoebe nodded, standing and picking up her case. "Lead on."
Once the two girls were alone, Phoebe sent Sophie a thoughtful look.
"It surprised me that you and Riot were still together." She observed.
"Well, it is business." Sophie shrugged. "We don't fall in love, Rapture, you know us both well enough for that. But we make a good business partnership and we like and respect each other's role in that field. Both of us have enough to give Rebel Records, and my involvement with him guarantees me a green card to remain in the United States...of which I am glad." She dimpled. "Even though the charges against me have wavered, I do not want to re-visit France any time soon in case they are revived. While I am in America, well, people forget. If I were to return...per'aps the memory of the deeds of Jacques and Sophie Devereux would be rekindled."
"Yes, I see what you mean." Phoebe nodded her head. She laughed. "I should've known a conwoman like you had ulterior motives."
"Not so ulterior. Riot and I are very open about such things." Sophie shrugged. "We've never married, Rapture, but he's told me more than once that for the sake of the business, if my green card was called into question then he would marry me if the need arose. We've lived together for so long, noone in authority could begin to suspect any indifference in our relationship. And really, neither of us has the time to waste on a futile romance."
"As ever, Riot has it all thought out." Phoebe looked amused. "I did wonder how it was that you were going quite happily and openly by the name Sophie Devereux these days."
"The need for a false identity is at an end." Sophie responded with a smile, unlocking her car and slipping into the driver's seat. "My brother was cleared of all complicity in the crime and an American court ruled not to extradite me on grounds that I was clearly under the influence of my 'usband when carrying out the crimes in France. Why should I pose Americans any threat? I was the pauvre, grieving widow, n'est-ce-pas?"
"Like hell you were." Phoebe snorted, pulling open the door to the passenger side and getting in. "You may have fooled them with your big, innocent eyes and your helpless acts, but you've never fooled me for one moment."
"Non." Sophie agreed. "And you 'ave never betrayed me, either." She smiled. "Per'aps Minx is right. Per'aps we are terrible together."
"Well, perhaps." Phoebe shrugged. "But if you want something, why not go out and get it?"
"Oui...this gives me a small idea." Sophie looked thoughtful. "Your new line of business is ver' impressive, Rapture...per'aps it can be of some use to us in this show?"
"How do you mean?" Phoebe looked interested.
"C'est facile." Sophie flicked the car indicator on, turning left. "This show...well, I play the part of silent partner very well in this company, Rapture, I interfere little and let Riot do as 'e pleases...but I observe and I learn things. When the girls from Jewel first came to see 'im, to ask if we would take part, it struck me from what they said that this is more than a moneybound show. Three of the Jewel girls 'ave parents who are or were in the music industry at some level...and who will be taking part in the concert also. Then there is Pizzazz's own daughter Emily...it is a very...family concert."
"What are you getting at?" Phoebe's eyes narrowed.
"Well...it just occured to me that emotions in families tend to run high." Sophie dimpled. "And can be easily upset when something as important as a concert comes into the picture."
"I see where you're coming from." A slow smile crossed Phoebe's clever face. "What do you know about these Jewel girls?"
"Enough to know where to look for more information. Jetta's daughter Nancy plays lead guitar for them and writes the songs...her brother Aaron runs a group webpage." Sophie replied. "That seems as good a place to begin as any...I've observed a few things since we got tangled up with Jewel and the rivalry and I've learnt a bit. I'll tell you what I know, and then I'll let you see if you can think of a way to unsettle things. Yes?"
"Sounds like a blast to me." Phoebe's blue eyes twinkled. "It's been so long since I actively caused trouble...I'm game. And tricks and manipulation...well, can't get more fun than that."
"That is my thought exactly." Sophie grinned. "Maybe between us we can make the Stingers shine alone once again. N'est-pas?"
REUNITED: PART ONE
Chapter One: Copper's Idea
Chapter Two: Tackling Sylvina
Chapter Three: I'm Okay
Chapter Four: Preparations
Chapter Five: The Stingers
Chapter Six: Cynthia to the Rescue
Chapter Seven: The Holograms
Chapter Eight: Jack and Courtenay
Chapter Nine: Phoebe Asche
Chapter Ten: Copper
Chapter Eleven: Unrest
JEWELFIC MAIN PAGE: