Chapter Ten: A Friend In Need

"It's awful late to be up here, writing music."

Nancy glanced up from her manuscript, her brow furrowing as she recognised the speaker. She shrugged her shoulders, setting the sheets of paper aside.

"Sometimes it's better, when it's quiet and there's noone around to disturb me." She said quietly. "Why are you still here, Robin? Because I'm not moving this time. My studio is still out of action, and I need the space and the instruments."

"I wasn't going to ask you to move." Robin assured her. "I left my bag up here this morning, that's all. I was in kind of a hurry...Do you mind if I come in and grab it?"

Nancy pursed her lips, eying her companion long and hard.

"What kind of a hurry were you in, Robin?" She asked softly. Robin frowned.

"Pardon me?"

"It wasn't a difficult question...why were you in a hurry?"

"Phyllis arranged a last minute meeting with Zoe Montgomery, to discuss my video." Robin rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "She'd literally just stepped of a plane, but we discussed a couple of things. Apparently my single release has been pushed forward to as soon as humanly possible...or sooner. But that shouldn't be strange to you - I was under the impression that last minute things happened around here all the time."

"Yes, generally they do." Nancy agreed. She paused, then, "Did Zoe have good ideas?"

"She had a few suggestions." Robin nodded his head. "But I'm too new at all of this to know if they were good or bad ones. I guess we'll see how it all pans out...I'm still learning about this music business I've got wrapped up in."

He frowned, fixing Nancy with a piercing look.

"Why all the curiosity, anyway?" He asked. "If you want me to leave you alone, why're you keepin' me here with small talk? Doesn't seem your style."

Nancy swallowed hard, then,

"I guess I'm wondering if it's safe to be up here on my own at this time of night, when there's noone else but you on the same floor." She said softly.

"Huh?" Robin stared.

"I do read, Robin." Nancy reached into her music case, pulling out a tattered copy of the weekend Tribune and dropping it down onto the unit beside her. "Were you just going to pretend this didn't happen?"

"People write junk articles all the time." Robin said flatly. "I credited you with more sense than to read a rag like that."

"I have got more sense." Nancy nodded her head. "But I know Darren McMillan, Robin - at least, by reputation. I know what kind of a journalist he is, and he might be scum but he digs and digs until he finds something that has some fire behind it. He doesn't bother himself with random rumours...which leads to the question, where did he get his latest scoop from?"

"I guess he missed the boat." Robin's eyes were guarded. "And I don't have to explain myself to you or anyone else. It happens in this business. Phyllis told me as much - that people will write what they like to sell papers. It's a tabloid, Nancy. That's all it damn well is."

"Is it?" Nancy pushed the paper aside. "Robin, that's exactly what I told Syl on Sunday night, when she brought this home with her. But you know what? I've changed my mind some since that conversation. I'm starting to think McMillan has hold of more truth than I thought."

"Well, that's your prerogative. I can't stop you listening to the rumour mill." Robin shrugged his shoulders. He crossed the room, bending down to scoop up his bag. "I can see I'm not welcome here, and that I underestimated your intelligence, Nancy. I'll go."

"Yes, you did underestimate my intelligence." Nancy said sharply. "And the fact I'm a Misfit's daughter, too. I heard your conversation with Aunt Phyl, Robin!" As he made to leave. "I heard most everything that you guys screamed at each other. And I want to know what the truth is. Did you kill somebody, back in Arkansas? And if you did, dammit, why the hell are you dancing round Los Angeles acting like some moralistic prophet...telling us what's corrupt and what's wrong and that you're above it all?"

"If you believe I killed someone, Nancy, I'm a little surprised you're willin' to yell at me." Robin's eyes became hard as stone. "Since as you said before, there ain't noone up here but you and me right now. Security's a good few floors down on us, you know. You're taking one hell of a risk."

Despite herself, Nancy shrank back.

"People know I'm here." She managed eventually. "If anything happened to me, they'd know it was you."

Robin stared at her for a moment. Then he shook his head slowly.

"I ain't no kind of killer, Nancy." He said quietly. "And what all Phyllis an' I were discussing the other morning, well, that ain't none of your business, either. It was between her and me. Private. Eavesdropping at doors ain't very pretty."

"But like I said, I'm a Misfit's daughter." Nancy said defiantly. "I didn't overhear on purpose - at least, not all of it. But in the circumstances, I'm not sorry that I did. People deserve to know the truth, Robin. If you did something like the Tribune said - and dammit, it sounded like it when you were screeching at Aunt Phyl - people have the right to know."

"You don't have a damn clue what people should or shouldn't know!" A spark of anger flickered in Robin's eyes and he brought his fist down on the unit, making her jump and shuffle further back from him. "Carrowville ain't none of your business, nor is it Phyllis's, and nor is it anyone else's. I didn't come here so that I could be poked about the past by every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to know. It's not your business, understand me? It ain't nothing to do with you. I never killed nobody. Believe it or don't, but it's the goddamn truth!"

"Then who the hell is Sian?" Nancy snapped back.

Robin reeled, an undescribable look touching his features. For a moment he stared at her, stricken. Then he shook his head, muttering a curse under his breath.

"I don't have to damn well listen to this. Not from a jumped up brat like you." He muttered. "You Jewels are all the same. Y'all are spoiled and you've been given everything you wanted on a platter right from the off. And you - you're the worst of them. You think because your Ma works in this place that you've a God given right to know everything about everyone who works here! Well guess what? You don't! Have fun with your writing, Nancy. I'm gone."

With that he pulled open the door, stalking out into the corridor and banging it shut behind him. Despite herself, Nancy flinched.

"Okay, so maybe there is a case for the psycho, after all." She muttered. "Dammit, maybe it's not safe to be writing alone up here at night...maybe Syl's actually right, for once! Maybe Robin Sheppard is more sinister than I thought!"

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"Excuse me? I'm looking for Jack Miller? His mother was brought in here a half hour or so ago with a suspected stroke and he asked me to meet him here?"

Sylva hurried up to the nurse's station, a harried look on her face as she glanced all around her for any sign of her friend. "Do you know where I can find them, please?"

"Miller, did you say?" One of the nurses cast her a thoughtful look, then, "Floor three."

"Thank you!" Sylva did not wait for further information. Darting across the busy corridor, she took one look at the queue for the lift and then pushed open the door to the stairwell, taking steps two at a time and almost stumbling over her heels as she did so. Cursing, she paused at the top to take them off, tucking them under her arm as she made her way purposefully along the hall, ignoring the stares and whispers as she did so.

"Sylvie!" A cry came from one end of the corridor and she glanced up, seeing a tearful Courtenay hurrying towards her. Instinctively she bent down to take the little girl in her arms, hugging her tightly.

"It's gonna be okay, Court." She murmured gently. "I promise. It will be okay."

"Sylvie. Oh am I glad to see you." Jack approached them at that moment, his face lined with worry. "Oh God, and you're dressed up  -you were out on a date tonight, weren't you?"

"Yes, and Logan's not overly happy about all this, but in the circumstances, what else could I do?" Sylva shrugged, still cuddling the small girl to her. "Court needed me and so did you - so here I am."

She softened her tones.

"How's your mother doing?"

Jack sighed.

"She's unconscious still." He said unsteadily. "They say there's definitely been some bleeding in the brain...they're evaluating whether or not to operate and what her chances are. I'm gonna stay here...I need to be here in case, well, in case anything happens."

He paused, then sighed again.

"I'm sorry I ruined your evening, Syl."

"Don't be silly." Sylva told him gently. "You're my friend and you needed help...I wouldn't be much of a friend if I ignored that, would I?"

She cast a glance at Courtenay.

"Your Dad said you were very brave." She added. "That you called an ambulance and got them there to help your Nana. I'm really proud of you, Court. You did great."

"I was scared." Courtenay buried her head in Sylva's shoulder, tears coursing down her cheeks. "Nana fell down and she didn't get up and I didn't know what to do. I was scared and Daddy wasn't there."

"I know." Sylva soothed her. "But you did the right thing and he came. And now Nana has the doctors with her and I'm sure they'll do everything they can to make her better. You'll see. It'll be all right."

She glanced up.

"I'll take her home." She said with a slight smile. "If you give me your key, I'll stay with her tonight. Logan...well, it doesn't matter. She needs me more right now, and your mother needs you. I know if it was my Mom..." She shrugged.

Jack fumbled in his pocket, pulling out his keys. He hesitated, then held them out.

"You're a good friend, Sylvie." He responded. "After what I said to you the other day, I would've understood if you hadn't come. But...I guess you're a better friend to me than I am to you."

"I wouldn't say that." Sylva shook her head, taking the keys and sliding them into her purse. Gently she lifted Courtenay into her arms. "Oh, you're getting heavy, trouble! Now, you and I are gonna go back to your place, okay? Daddy's gonna stop here with Nana, and I'll give him my phone so he can call if there's any change. All right?"

"I want my Nana." Courtenay met Sylva's gaze with frightened blue eyes.

"I know you do." Sylva agreed. "But she's best off staying here, where the doctors can help her. Will you come with me, Court, and be brave all over again? Nana needs Daddy right now and he needs to be with her." She cast Jack a grin, then lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper.

"You and I, we can look after ourselves, can't we? We never did finish that barbie game, and you know, maybe you could show me how to flip heads at the begonia?"

Despite herself, a glimmer of a smile touched Courtenay's lips.

"It's easy." She said. "Okay. But you mustn't tell Daddy...he doesn't like it."

"I won't." Sylva smiled at Jack over Courtenay's blond head. "I promise."

She raised her voice.

"Jack, take my phone out of my bag. It's got juice - it'll be fine. That way you can keep in touch."

"What if someone tries to call you?"

"Then give them your home number and tell them that it was an emergency." Sylva said simply. "Now take it and don't argue. Your Mom needs you by her side and Court and I should be's getting late as it is."

"All right." Reluctantly Jack did as he was bidden. "Thanks again for this, Syl. I realise what you've done for me tonight."

"Nothing I'm sure you wouldn't do for me." Sylva said lightly. "All right, trouble. Let me put my heels back on, and off we go!"

Prologue: Flashback: Carrowville, Arkansas
Chapter One: Memory
Chapter Two: Spies and Secrets
Chapter Three: Jack
Chapter Four: Flashback: The Hartlin Bar, Carrowville
Chapter Five: Margot's Plan
Chapter Six: Confidences
Chapter Seven:Flashback: The Wedding Reception
Chapter Eight: Fallout
Chapter Nine: Advice
Chapter Ten: A Friend In Need
Chapter Eleven: Logan
Chapter Twelve: Flashback: Sian's News
Chapter Thirteen: Ambush
Chapter Fourteen: Reconciliation
Chapter Fifteen: Flashback: Farewell
Chapter Sixteen: The Curse

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