Chapter Six: Confidences

The clouds were heavy in the sky and a chill wind whipped around the trees as Sylva made her way up the front drive of Jack's house, pausing for a minute to survey the front before ringing the bell. It was not a large property, but it served the needs of both father and child and she had always enjoyed coming here.

From inside, she heard the sound of Courtenay shrieking with excitement, then Jack's voice as footsteps came to the door. It swung open to reveal her friend, who grinned at her, ushering her inside.

"Sylvie!" Courtenay grabbed at her hand. "Are you coming to play dolls with me?"

"Maybe." Sylva grinned back at her, hugging her tightly. "I promised I'd come and see you soon, didn't I? Jewel have a morning off today, so I thought I'd come and say hi...isn't it lucky that your Daddy isn't working today, either?"

"Daddy never works on Sundays." Courtenay said with a grin. "He says it's our special day. And now it's even more specialer, because you're here too. Nana and I made you want one?"

"Woah, kid, slow down a minute!" Jack exclaimed, amusement clear in his eyes. "Let Sylvie get in the door! You're like an eager puppy, bouncing all over her!"

"It's all right. I'm glad to see her too." Sylva assured him. "It has been a while since I stopped by. And yes, Court, brownies sound great. Do you want me to come help you put them out?"

"Sure." Courtenay nodded her head, leading the way importantly into the kitchen. Sylva exchanged a grin with Jack, then followed her young companion. Before long they were all seated in the front room, Courtenay covering herself with chocolate as she curled up against the big radiator, eying Sylva with hopeful eyes.

"Do you like them?" She asked. 

"I think they're lovely." Sylva agreed. "You're a good cook, Courtenay."

Courtenay beamed.

"It's a special recipe Nana showed me." She confided. "Even Daddy doesn't know you, Daddy?"

"No, I can't say that I do." Jack agreed, winking at Sylva over his daughter's head. "Hey, Court, you've got chocolate all over your face and your hands! Run upstairs and wash it off, will you? Before you get it on your sweater? It took me three tries to get cola out of your other one, and I should've known letting you wear white when you were gonna be eating chocolate was a bad idea."

"But this is my favourite sweater." Courtenay pouted. "It has a teddy bear on it."

"And it will also have brownie on it, if you don't go and clean up." Jack told her calmly. "Go on. Sylvie's not going anywhere...are you, Sylvie?"

"Nope, I'll be right here waiting for you." Sylva promised. "And your Dad is probably right, Court. You don't want to ruin your pretty sweater with chocolate fingerprints."

"I guess." Courtenay pouted, but obediently got to her feet, putting the plate on the table and trotting out of the room. Jack remained silent until he heard his daughter's feet on the stairs, then he frowned.

"I'm glad you came today." He admitted. "I wanted to talk to you about something...and I'd rather do it while Court isn't in the room. She's only six, but she's smart and she'd pick up things she shouldn't...I don't want to get her hopes up."

"Oh?" Sylva looked confused. "What's all this, Jack? When I got your call, I thought you sounded bothered about something. Has something happened?"

"No, or not yet." Jack shook his head. "Just, as she's getting older, it's bothering me more and more that she doesn't have a mother figure. Mom is great, but her health hasn't been so good recently and she's getting older. You're a star...but you're also really busy and well, I can't expect you to raise my daughter. So...I spoke to my attorney...the one who's helped me handle pretty much everything since Courtenay was born. I've been trying to get in touch with Courtenay's mother."

"Oh!" Sylva's eyes became big. "Do you think that's a good idea? I mean, Court doesn't know the woman and well, she did run out on you."

"I know, which is why I have reservations." Jack admitted. "But I tried to impose a fake mother on her once, and it ended in tears. As she gets older, she's gonna need that more than I can give it...I don't want her to have noone to talk to, when she's going through all the girly things that all kids go through. I do my best but I can't be both Mom and Dad for her. I hoped that, well, just because Kyla left me, it doesn't mean she wouldn't want to spend time with her daughter. Moms are meant to have a bond with their babies, right? I figured it was worth a shot."

"I see." Sylva looked thoughtful. "And have you had any luck?"

"No. None whatsoever." Jack sighed. "I may not even be writing to the right address. She was always flighty, Syl - you have to realise we were both very young when Court happened. But I hoped she might have grown up some since. Even if she's married and has other would be nice for Court to have a mother."

"I think you should speak to Court about it." Sylva said carefully. "It's as you said, she's not a little kid now...she's old enough to pick things up. She's never really seemed to be lacking anything, not to my eyes. She adores you and your Mom, and she's a happy, well-adjusted kiddy. I don't think she's that bothered about having a Mom. And if it's girly stuff she needs help with, well, I'm always here, Jack. I might be busy, but I always have time for you and her. You know that. She's like a surrogate sister to me."

"I know that, and I'm grateful for it, too." Jack nodded. He looked awkward, then, "But that's kinda another thing. I'm not even sure if I should mention it, as it's none of my business long have you been seeing this Logan guy?"

"Logan?" Sylva looked startled. "Since the summer...why?"

"And you're pretty serious about him?"

"Sure, I'm into him." Sylva looked confused. "But I don't understand...what has that to do with anything?"

"Well, I have a small confession to make." Jack admitted. "Seeing you with him...I didn't like it all that much. I know you have every right to date and whatever, never exactly have. Not since we had...that talk about Melanie when you told me you liked me and I blew up at you. I suppose I didn't think about how I'd react, if you found someone else."

Sylva's eyes became big.

"Jack, are you trying to tell me you have feelings for me?" She asked quietly. Jack glanced at his hands.

"I suppose I am." He acknowledged. "It didn't happen on purpose...I don't even know quite when it did. But seeing you with another guy...well, it hurt. I have to be honest. I was jealous."

"Wow." Sylva bit her lip. "I didn't know. Jack, I'm sorry. But I don't have those feelings for you any more...I really don't. You're one of my best friends, and that you'll always be. But I got over you...I had to. You made me, when you yelled at me in the park that day. And I like Logan - I really like him a whole lot. I don't know what else to say...I guess that it's too late to be thinking otherwise."

Jack sighed.

"I realised that, in a sense, at the beach." He admitted. "It was fairly obvious you liked this guy, and that he liked you a whole lot too. He seems like a nice dude, Syl. And I know it's my own dumb fault that you don't see me that way any more. I had my chance and I missed sucks. I guess I just had to, well, try my luck and tell you anyway. And just hope you didn't lay into me the way I laid into you."

"I never would - that's not my style." Sylva said gravely. "I do love you, Jack, but not that way. But I'm always here for you and I'm always here for Courtenay - whatever else is happening. You know that, right? Whether you do or you don't find Kyla, I'll always be here to call on for help."

"Yes, I know that." Relief mingled with sadness flickered in Jack's blue eyes. "Thanks for not chewing me out about it. Logan is a lucky guy...I hope he knows how lucky he is."

"I hope he does too." Sylva said playfully. "And I think I hear little footsteps, so we should probably change the subject."

"We probably should." Jack nodded. "The last thing I want is her jumping to any conclusions about us."

"Me either." Sylva admitted. "Hey, did you say your Mom wasn't so well of late?"

"Oh, she's been tired and had some headaches." Jack spread his hands. "I think she's doing too much, to be honest. She had some kind of virus at the start of September, and it knocked her for six. She's always volunteering for this or that...and then she spends her time chasing Courtenay around on top of that. If she'd just take it easy, she'd be fine...but that's not my mother's way."

"Like mother, like son, perhaps?" Sylva's eyes twinkled. Jack grinned ruefully.

"Yeah, I do see a resemblance." He admitted.

At that moment the door swung open to reveal a clean Courtenay, her arms full of barbie dolls.

"I picked my bestest ones. You can be the one with red hair." She announced, moving across to the centre of the room and dropping her burden in a heap on the carpet. Sylva laughed.

"All right. I guess I owe you some barbie time." She said with a grin. "The redhead? Okay. What's her name, Courtenay?"

"Alicia. And that's her boyfriend. He's called Freddy." Courtenay jabbed at a male doll with her toe. "I'm gonna be Kendra. She's the blond one and her hair grows and grows when she's happy. She's a model."

Jack cast Sylva a sheepish shrug, and got to his feet.

"I'll go wash up." He said, collecting up the empty plates. "Have fun, you two...and Court, no flipping heads off into the begonia today, all right? Last time you did that, you almost knocked the flowers off."

Courtenay giggled.

"But it was funny, Daddy." She said unrepentantly. "And I didn't do it on purpose. I was jus' combing and it went wooooh..." She indicated with her hands. Jack laughed.

"Well, try not to brush so hard." He amended, winking at Sylva. "I'll be right back."

It was late afternoon by the time Sylva left the Miller house and, whistling to herself under her breath, she took a detour into the city centre, intent on buying her usual make-up magazine. Her mind was still buzzing over all that Jack had told her, however, and as she pushed open the door of the newsagents, she bit her lip, considering.

"It just figures that now he'd decide to be in love with me." She murmured, raising her hand in a wave at the girl on duty and making her way to the magazine rack. "Logan said as much at the beach, and I guess he was right. But I never saw it coming. Plus, I shouldn't feel bad about it. I mean, he did have his chance with me. There was a time I woulda been falling over myself to accept a date. But that time isn't now. I have a boyfriend and I'm happy with's funny. I felt so much crap for so long where Jack was concerned. And now he's said the very things I wanted him to say for all that time...I don't feel them any more. I hope it's not going to be awkward between us because of it. I mean, it shouldn't be. But...I dunno."

She sighed, flipping through magazines as she hunted for the new issue of the one she wanted. "And then there's all this Kyla business. I thought the last time we discussed her, he made it kinda clear he thought she was bad news - for the kid and for him. I got the impression she really hurt him when she left. Does he really want to bring her into the equation now? I realise he wants Courtenay to have a mother figure, but he's already made a mistake once that way when he fell for Melanie. Kyla doesn't sound a whole lot better, even if she is biologically Court's mother. It all seems messy to me...and he can't do it without at least asking the kid what she thinks. Sometimes men are so dense. Ah, there we go! Finally!"

She pulled the magazine from the back of the pile, heading up to the counter and rooting in her pocket for change as she did so.

"Morning, Sylva. Haven't seen you round these parts in a while." The girl cast her a grin. "I always remember when a celeb comes to call! Have you been horrendously busy, or is my stock lacking all of a sudden?"

"I come by this way to visit a friend, and we've not seen each other in a while. Work, mostly." Sylva grimaced, dropping her change onto the wood counter with a clatter. "Yours is still pretty much the only store in the city which gets this mag before Monday morning, so I figured I'd come by and see if it was in yet."

"You know us well." The woman winked. "Anything else I can get you, or just the magazine?"

"Um, no, I think I'm good." Sylva dimpled.

"Hey, before you go, I wonder if I can ask you something?" The girl scanned the magazine, then paused. "Have you seen today's Tribune?"

"They print that thing on a Sunday?" Sylva stared. "No, I haven't. It's not a paper I generally read, Ellen."

"Well, let's face it, honey, the ones who do are the ones who like stirring it." Ellen grimaced, rolling her eyes. "But I thought you might know something about this one. It's about your company, right enough...or on those lines."

"Misfits Music is in the Tribune?" Sylva stared. "In what capacity?"

"One moment." Ellen turned from the till, reaching down behind the desk for the top copy in the big pile of papers she had stored there. She dropped it onto the unit, smoothing out the creases. "Here. We just got our delivery in half an hour ago -I haven't got it out yet. What do you make of it?"

Sylva scooped up the paper, running her gaze over the front page. Her eyes widened.

"Holy..." She trailed off, shaking her head. "No, Ellen. I don't know a damn thing about it. But I think I better take a copy of this just in case...someone at home might know better and whatever else they print, the Tribune are well known for writing truth."

"Well, if you learn anything, let me know." Ellen dimpled. "That Robin Sheppard's a strange one - all dark and broody, but it works for him. I'd like to know if I'm crushing on a murderer before I start crushing...if you get me."

"Yeah, I'd like to know if it's true, also." Sylva pursed her lips. She reached into her pocket, pulling out an extra dollar bill and dropping it onto the counter. "Here...keep the change, okay? I'll just lose it, and I appreciate the heads up on this. I wonder if Phyllis and Jetta have seen it yet."

"Welcome." Ellen winked. "See you again?"

"No doubt." Sylva nodded her head. "Bye, Ellen. Take care!"

Before the newsagent could respond, she had left the shop, pausing in the street outside and unfolding the paper once more.

The headline stood out starkly, black on white.

"Robin Sheppard: Musician or Murderer?" She read aloud to herself. "Is Misfits Music's latest signing really a felon on the run from justice? Gee, that's something I'd like to know, as well. Nancy's been spending far too much time fluttering around him and his music...he as much said so on Connie's Corner the other night. Plus, if it is true, I don't want to be working in the same building as a murderer. That's just too too creepy...God knows we've had enough run-ins with psychos already! I wonder what the others know about this...if Nancy's home when I get there, I'm gonna ask her some very particular questions!"

She crossed the main road, hailing a taxi as she did so. Soon she was pulling onto the arc-shaped drive that made the Starlight Mansion one of Los Angeles' distinctive estates, paying the driver for his trouble and hurrying into the house, almost jamming her key in the door in her rush to find her bandmates and spread her news.

"You sound like you're trying to break the door down." As she finally tumbled into the hall, she heard an amused voice and she glanced up, seeing Cynthia watching her from the top of the stairs. "I must ask you to make less noise, however. Hollie is taking her nap, and Topaz has entrusted her to me, so I must see she gets some rest."

"Sorry, Cyn. I had a fight with my key." Sylva pinkened. "How come you're babysitting? Isn't Topaz home?"

"No - she has gone to San Diego to see Cameron. He has a day off." Cynthia shook her head. "Hollie was already frettish when she left, so I said I'd keep her here and make sure she got a nap and her afternoon meal. It isn't often that they get time to spend together, just themselves...I didn't mind."

"Oh, I see." Sylva frowned. "Is anyone else home?"

"Nancy's in her room." Cynthia nodded. "Sadie is out by the pool. Why? Sylva, is something wrong?"

"It might be." Sylva pursed her lips. "Look, could you do me a favour? Run upstairs and get Nancy, will you? I'll go grab Sadie. I want to talk to whoever's here and since that's it, it will have to do. It's specially Nancy I want, anyway."

"Of course." Cynthia nodded her head. "Though I trust you will explain fully when we're all down? I'm curious."

"I will." Sylva nodded her head. "In the front room then? Thanks, Cyn."

She flashed her hologramatic friend a smile, then made her way through the house to the big french doors that seperated building from grounds. Pushing it back, she poked her head through the gap, hunting for her British bandmate.

"Sadie!" She exclaimed, as finally she spotted the other girl stretched out on a sun-lounger, a lit cigarette between her fingers and a magazine spread casually out beside her. "Put that thing out and come in for a minute, will you? I need to talk to you and Nancy - and come to think of it, your take on this might be as good as anyone's."

"Hello to you too, Syl." Sadie looked startled. "What's this about?"

"Just put the cig out and come inside. I'll explain then." Sylva responded. Sadie rolled her eyes, but did as she was bidden, closing her magazine and sliding her sandals onto her feet.

"Okay, but this better be important." She warned. "I was just comfortable, and I don't often get to smoke without being guilt tripped by one of you."

"Well, you know already that you should quit." Sylva was unrepentant. "It's bad for your vocal chords. Come on. Cyn's gone up to find Nancy. There's an article in the Tribune and I want to know if you've seen anything of it."

"Haven't been out." Sadie shook her head. "It's Sunday...that means day off, in my book."

"Well, mine too...but this concerns our music company." Sylva responded, leading the way into the front room, where Cynthia and an annoyed looking Nancy were already waiting.

"What's all this about, Syl?" Nancy demanded. "I was writing upstairs!"

"It's about this." Sylva dropped the newspaper down on the floor in front of her friend. "I called by a newsagents on my way back from Jack's and that's what I found. I bought it, because I want to read it. It obviously involves our company and maybe even our company's reputation. I read most of it in the taxi coming back, and it definitely insinuates that there's some big cover-up in operation...that Phyllis has been putting pressure on people to clam up and let, I quote, 'justice go undone'."

"What?" Nancy picked up the paper, her eyes widening at the headline. "Musician or murderer? What the...?"

"Who's a murderer?" Sadie demanded.

"According to the Tribune, Robin Sheppard." Sylva said grimly. "The article was written by Darren McMillan - we all know that name."

"Yes, and his penchant for the truth." Cynthia looked troubled. "But what exactly does he write, Sylva? Has he evidence for such a wild claim?"

"He quotes a couple of sources." Nancy glanced up. "Someone at the sheriff's office in Carrowville...very vague and ambiguous comment. It doesn't seem as clinical or concise as it could be...I think it's a load of rubbish, Syl. Everyone's been on at Robin since the day he got here. He's cursed, he's a hack, he's this or that or whatever. So he's different from everyone else and he doesn't like the media game -that's up to him. It doesn't make him a murderer."

"Well, there's no smoke without fire. Not where McMillan is concerned." Sylva said flatly. "There must be something in it."

"Can I see?" Sadie asked, and Nancy pushed the newspaper over. The British girl scanned the contents, then pursed her lips.

"Having been accused of murder myself, there's not a lot of conclusive evidence here. And a whole lot of hearsay." She said at length. "It's he-said she said type stuff. Enough to print a tabloid story, probably. Not enough to make a conviction. Whether it's true or not, I couldn't tell you. But I'm not surprised McMillan's taken the gamble and decided to write it. It's a juicy scandal and he uses the word 'allegedly' enough to prevent him from being sued."

"Well, I think it's stupid." Nancy said firmly. "Robin's not a murderer. He might be a weirdo, but he's not the type of guy who'd kill anyone."

"Perhaps my database can be of some help?" Cynthia suggested. "I might be able to discover more, if I was to put out a search."

"That might help." Sadie nodded. "Synergy has access to a whole lot more than Darren McMillan might dig us up something more substantial."

"Well, I can try." Cynthia promised. "I'm running a wider search on his name as we speak."

She dimpled.

"I love these power cells." She added. "They allow me to multi-task so much better."

"Well? Anything coming back?" Sylva asked. Cynthia paused, then frowned.

"There is...not much to find." She said at length. "Many of the potential sources are scrambled and secured...and it's not a combination I have broken through before. I find it simple work to hack the FBI's files and radio signals when I need to - but this one is more complex, as if someone with great computer skill has designed a program to prevent external access. I have managed to locate Robin's date of birth and his origin - Carrowville, Arkansas. More than that I am unable to yet find."

"Which does suggest a cover-up is going on." Sadie looked troubled. "Who but Phyllis would have the money to put those kinds of stoppers on digital information?"

"It doesn't mean he's a murderer, though." Nancy pointed out.

"No, it does not." Cynthia agreed. "I will continue to work on these codes, and see if I can discover more. I fear it will not be as immediate as I had hoped."

"Well, anything you find out is worth us knowing." Sylva said decidedly. "I knew this guy was creepy, and this is just creeping me out more. We've had way too many run-ins with psychos and crazy people over the years. I don't want to be working with one as well!"

"Let's not jump to conclusions, just because McMillan has." Sadie said sensibly. "People thought I killed Neal, but I didn't. Even you guys had your doubts, based on the evidence. But what it looks like and what it actually is can be two different things. Let's wait and see, huh?"

"Sadie is correct." Cynthia agreed. "Innocent until proven guilty. I find the Los Angeles spotlight an unlikely place for a felon on the run to hide."

"It worked for Sophie Devereux." Sylva pointed out. "And don't worry. I'm not going to go out there screaming about it. But I wanna know...and if it's true, I want something done about it, too. I'm not working with a killer, no matter how good his music. And that's just that!"

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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