Chapter Eight: Fallout

"So much for your protection!"

Robin stormed into the main office at Misfits' Music, slamming a copy of the Tribune down on Phyllis's desk, his dark eyes sparking with anger. "I thought that we had a deal, Phyllis Gabor? I thought that, in return for my hard work and my music, you were going to prevent this kind of thing? What happened, huh? Did you decide it would be more fun to play games and drum up a little scandal on the side?"

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Phyllis dropped her phone down into the paper tray, glaring at the intruder. "I'm busy, and unless you'd forgotten, I'm your employer! How dare you barge into my office and how dare you scream at me like some petulant toddler? Don't you think I have other people to mollycoddle besides you?"

"Have you even read the Tribune?"

"I've read it. So?" Phyllis folded her arms across her chest. "What do you expect from me? That I can silence every single rag in the country, just to protect one silly boy's crazy background? This is America, Robin! Freedom of speech! I can't plug every hole in Carrowville, and I sure as hell can't legislate for leaks. I told you I'd do what I could and dammit, I have! McMillan's story is based on rumour and hearsay. There's nothing of any substance in it. And no names. I thought that was our deal. That I'd make sure your stupid girl's name didn't trot into the presses!"

"Leave her out of it." Robin snarled, brushing his hand across the desk and knocking the paper tray to the floor, phone and all. "Believe you me, if Sian's name had been in that article..."

"You'd have what?" Phyllis cut across him. "Thrown a temper tantrum? Stamped your feet? Walked out on your contract? I have you, pen to paper. I will sue you if you walk from this office and think you don't have to come back. Whether you like it or not, Robin, I own your music now. Anything you write is tied to me and to my company for the next four years. I know what I'm doing when I pen a contract. I have some of the best legal advisers in the country at my beck and call. So if you have something to say to me, I suggest you consider how you're going to say it. Unless, of course, you're desperate to find yourself destitute, destroyed and back in prison on debt charges."

"Do you have any idea how much of an evil bitch you are?" Robin demanded. "You think everyone is afraid of you, but I'm not. I don't care how much you threaten me. I don't care if I have nothing, or if I wind up back in jail. None of it matters - don't you understand any of that? I didn't come to Los Angeles to be famous or to make my fortune. I came here because I had to get out of Carrowville. I couldn't stay there. If you turf me out, then you do. I don't care. But I won't have my background bartered for publicity reasons. Do you understand me? I won't. And if you try suing me, then maybe I'll tell a few people how close you came to blackmail the last time we met!"

Phyllis fell silent for a moment, her green eyes glittering with predatorial anger.

"You really don't understand how Los Angeles' music scene works." She said in low tones, though each word held a note of suppressed rage. "You're a newcomer. You write a song. People like it. They want to know who you are and why you're so damn good at what you do. Once you take that step into the limelight, you're public property. The media will take you apart, piece by piece, looking for the truth. It doesn't matter how much you try and hide it. In the end, all your secrets will come out. It's just how they come out, that's what we can manage. And how quickly, too. If you didn't want people talking about your prison record, then you shouldn't have damn well got locked up in the first place. That's not my doing. I've kept my side of the bargain. And I will not have a jumped up little boy from Arkansas spouting abuse at me in my own office!"

"Where would you like me to do it, then?" Robin put his hands on his hips. "You assured me a certain amount of protection when I signed with Misfits Music. Are you even going to do anything about the Tribune?"

"No, I wasn't going to." Phyllis shook her head. "Why? Do you think your charming manners are going to change my mind?"

Her tone was rich with sarcasm, and Robin's scowl deepened.

"Then how are you helping me exactly, Phyllis?" He asked. "Is this whole deal your doing? Did you sell me out to this stupid tabloid after all?"

"If I'd wanted to do that," Phyllis said slowly, "I would have given them the whole scoop, and boy you'd know about it! This is nothing to do with me. So some information leaked out. It happens. Carrowville is a long way from Los Angeles and not everyone can be bought off. Be glad it wasn't a whole lot worse. All you have to do is go out there and tell them it ain't true. It's not my job to do it for you. You messed up your life, I don't have to patch it back together for you. They've no evidence to really say whether you did or you didn't do the things they're accusing you of doing. Why throw a fit about it? It's not worth your time or your energy."

Robin stood silent for a moment, digesting this. Then he shook his head.

"I'm not so stupid as to think that, if I told them it was a lie, they'd stop trying to find the truth." He responded flatly. "Sian is still dead, Phyllis. What do you want me to say about that, huh? She's still a ghost and she still haunts every damn thing I do. Do you think I want to live in another city where everyone who walks past you knows that? I thought you'd at least spare me those things. I guess you're not as powerful as you think you are."

"I wasn't the one who thought that I could block all comers." Phyllis said acidly. "Listen to me. I don't care much about your sob-story background or the fact you did time back in Arkansas. What I care about is the song you played on Connie's show the other night. They loved it. America will love it. It will be a hit - regardless of what a sappy paper like the Tribune writes. It's not bad publicity if it makes people talk about you. Get that into your head."

"I don't like playing that kind of publicity game." Robin said coldly. "I won't have those things used as some kind of spin."

"Well, too late for that." Phyllis shrugged her shoulders. "Someone's beaten you to the punch, so you'll just have to ride with it and hope it dies down by itself. I won't be doing anything about it. In my experience, the more I meddle in it publically, the more gets printed privately. I'm not stirring your fire. It's up to you how you handle it."

She paused, rolling a pencil back and forwards beneath her fingers thoughtfully. Then,

"And you know, sometimes being an evil bitch helps you to survive." She added. "Remember that. You can't always be right, Robin. You can't always expect everyone to follow the moral high ground or to even believe that that's where you are. I know different. I've seen your charge sheet. I know your background and I still signed you to my books. People don't care about good and bad when there's music to be sold and money to be made. You won't survive in Los Angeles until you master that concept."

"This world sucks, then."

"Yes, it does." Phyllis nodded. "But only if you let it walk all over you."

"I should have known better than to make deals with Misfits."

"Yeah, maybe you should." Phyllis acknowledged his words with a slight tilt of her head. "You never quite know if you can trust us, or if we'll tell you the truth - do you?"

She smiled, but it was a cold smile, and Robin had the impression once more of the hunting cat in her eyes.

"This time, I'm gonna let this little outburst go." She added. "It takes guts to come in here and tell me how you really feel. Part of me admires that. But I won't take it from you again, so remember it. My resources have maxed out on you and on your secrets already over the past few months. You rely on me too much. On Connie's show you were tense and on edge - any pro could see you were hiding something in your answers. I'll do my bit, but I can't squash it all. To me, it doesn't matter much what's in the press so long as you perform good music. That's the only reason I agreed to this little proviso - I know you have the ability to go far and I want that ability signed to this label. You want to keep a secret? Learn how to lie."

She gestured towards the mess on the floor.

"Are you going to pick that up?"

"No." Robin shook his head. "I'm sure you know where to find it on your own."

He cast her an equally cool smile.

"I'll remember everything you said." He added. "Every single last word of it. But I'm telling you, if Sian's name starts hitting the won't just be me who'll be unhappy. There are folks back in Carrowville who don't want to see that name slurred through every tabloid in America. If you have any respect at all for the dead, you'll do what you can to keep her out of it."

"And I'll tell you again, I've done my best so far to ensure that." Phyllis responded quietly. "I can't buy off everyone. But you can rest assured, Robin Sheppard...the name won't get to the media from this source. I'm not interested."

"See that it stays that way." Robin retorted. He turned on his heel, walking out of the office and banging the door behind him. In his hurry and his temper, he did not see Nancy standing at the end of the corridor, her eyes big with shock and her expression one of disbelief. Making his way to the lift shaft, he banged the button for the ground floor, stepping into the car and leaning up against the panelling as the doors closed behind him.

Once alone, he sighed, closing his eyes.

His head ached, he mused, and he knew he'd lost his temper with a potentially dangerous opponant.

"But whatever she says, this shouldn't have come out." He muttered. "She may have done everything she told me, but somehow she still failed. I can't live surrounded by the same stories and memories all the time - I just can't. I'll go crazy. I don't want to think about that life or that Robin Sheppard any more. I came to Los Angeles because it wasn't Carrowville...because I didn't have to walk down every street and not see her there. I don't want to start feeling that way in Los Angeles too - but God, am I ever going to find anywhere that I can escape it?"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *  


Darren McMillan dropped down into an empty seat in the corner of the deserted cafe, casting his companion a grin. "I have to say, I didn't expect to be meeting you in such a public place, Ms Locke. I understood that this business was...strictly behind Aja Phillips' back?"

"I'm not sure what you mean." Margot looked warily at the reporter. "I called you here to discuss interview time and space with Daisy Buchan - I've read your article style and I think it's about time she got some of the action. Being as it is, you like to get to the heart of the matter."

"Oh, I see." Darren looked thoughtful. "So the river runs that way, huh? I thought we were going to discuss the tantalising rumour about Robin Sheppard that's been drumming up a storm at news stands across the city?"

"I don't know anything about that." Margot snorted. "He's not part of this company or it's interests, Mr McMillan. He chose not to sign paper with us, and now I know why Aja turned him down. An ex-con on our books? No thank you. It might be good enough for Misfits Music, with that British jailbird Garnet, but it's not for us."

"Ah-hah." Darren looked amused. He glanced around him, then lowered his voice.

"You don't need to pretend with me." He said softly. "I know where those papers came from, I'm not stupid. I've had correspondance with your office before...when all the investigation went into Jerrica's death, I had one of my men in there, seeing what he could root out. One of your printers has a very distinctive lettering style...I knew when I got it who had sent it. Oh, it's okay," as Margot opened her mouth to protest. "I'm not interested in that, or in blowing your cover. You've given me a good story and I like that. I just want to know more, that's all. I need names, dates, details...those kinds of things."

"I don't have those kinds of things." Margot told him coldly. "And I do want to speak to you about Daisy."

"Nothing at all?" Darren pursed his lips. "You do disappoint me."

"It's not so easy as that!" Margot's eyes narrowed. "God knows I tried every trick in the book, but most people didn't want to talk. Getting into Carrowville is like getting into Fort Knox when you mention his's like noone wants to talk about it much."

She frowned.

"I only found one other thing, and I dug that up by accident." She added. She faltered, then,

"If I give you that, will you promise not to ever reveal where it came from?"

"I always protect my sources, Ms Locke." Darren nodded his head. "You'd be surprised how many influential people in this city babble when the pressure is on."

A sly smile touched his lips. "Even those near and dear to your former boss, Ms Pacheco. Yes, you'd be damn surprised at what a reporter can find out if he promises to withold identities."

"Well, make sure you do." Margot frowned. "And I want your assurance that Daisy will get some coverage in your media section this week. She has a new song and she needs the boost in publicity, whilst Misfits Music are digging themselves out of the mud."

"If the information is worthwhile, then I'm all for it." Darren agreed easily.

"It isn't a lot." Margot admitted. "But after my chat with the editor of the Carrowville Echo, I did some research into their back copies. Some of the papers were strangely not accessible...but I did find an obituary. I guess, if it's relevant, it got missed out."

She reached into her purse, pushing it across the table.

"S.M.Sheppard. November eighth, 2012." She said softly. "Taken from us by God and His angels too soon - aged 22. Beloved wife, sister and daughter."

"Ooh." Darren grabbed it up, skimming over it. His smile widened.

"You know, I think we might have room for Daisy in the Tribune's society pages after all." He mused. "I dug up a marriage certificate for our Robin and some woman called Sian Mulhavy. S M Sheppard sounds too big a coincidence to me...I'm betting that I just nailed the little 'angel' that he did away with. The only question is, how did he do it? Are we dealing with a domestic? The possibilities are endless...I need more leads."

"Well, you won't get them from me, because I'm all out." Margot said bitterly. "And you better keep your word about the anonymity. My job's important to me."

"So is mine, Ms Locke." Darren said with a wink. "If I started ratting out sources, I'd never get another story. No, you can rest assured on that count your secret is safe. But...Mr Sheppard' that's another matter. I will find out what exactly he's keeping hidden...and it won't be pretty by the time it hits the Los Angeles press!"

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

The copyright for the original Jem characters featured in this and other stories by me belongs entirely to Hasbro and their interpretations to Christy Marx and the other writers of the Sunbow Jem series. Their future selves are based on concepts that are entirely my own and are not to be repeated elsewhere without due permission.
All other characters, including their likenesses, are copyrighted to myself as webmistress of Jewel's World from 2001 to the present day and are not to be reproduced elsewhere without permission.
The Teenangel Outsiders, Jesta, Flame, Ryan Montgomery and the future interpretations of Aja, Danse and certain of the other original characters are all or in part the concept of Gemma Dawn whose teenangel outsider fiction world is twinned with Jewel's World. You can visit her site at!
All events in the stories on this site are based on original ideas and are not rooted in any existing Jem fiction nor in any real life event or person.