Chapter Nine: Advice


Nancy pushed open the door of the basement, glancing momentarily behind her to ensure that she was really alone. "Cyn, I need to talk to you. I looked all over Misfits Music but I couldn't find I came back here. Please tell me you're here - I need your help!"


At the foot of the stairs a form shimmered and then took shape, a frown marring Cynthia's features as she fastened her watch around her wrist. "I thought I heard your voice - weren't you working at the studio all day today?"

"I was...and I thought you were there, too." Nancy bit her lip. "But I couldn't find you anywhere."

"I took this afternoon off. In an hour I am going across to the Starlight Foundation in order to help Kimber for a while." Cynthia said simply. "What is the matter? You look distressed."

"I am distressed." Nancy said bitterly. "Look, Cyn, if you overheard something...something that you shouldn't have heard...but it was...well...bad...what would you do?"

"Probably conceal the fact I had heard it, unless it somehow concerned me." Cynthia said with a shrug. "Why? Have you found yourself in such a situation?"

"This morning." Nancy made her way slowly down the stone steps to the basement proper, taking a seat on the edge of an empty crate. "Noone else is home, and I didn't really want to talk to them anyhow. But you're different...I felt I could ask you about this without causing too many ripples."

"I'm touched by your faith in me." Cynthia said softly. "What happened this morning?"

"I overheard something." Nancy sighed. "People talking. Aunt Phyl and...and Robin. Not talking, actually...more arguing. They were in her office and I was taking my manuscript to show her. I didn't like to interrupt but...well...I overheard a lot of things I probably shouldn't have done."

"And what things did you overhear?" Cynthia asked gently.

Nancy bit her lip.

"Aunt Phyl has been covering things up." She said unwillingly. "I don't know precisely what or how...but it was pretty clear from what was said that she's been using her influence to sit on Robin's background wherever possible. He was really angry at her. Said she'd let him down, basically, because of the Tribune article. They mentioned a prison record and...and someone who was dead. Cyn, I told Syl her story was crazy, but what if it isn't? It sure didn't sound like it was nothing, the way they were talking. It sounded Robin had killed someone. And that Aunt Phyl had been hushing it up...that doing so was part of the reason he signed with Misfits Music. He said I was the reason...but I guess my music wasn't it after all."

She glanced at her hands.

"I guess it was all to do with keeping his dark little secret a secret."

"And you are upset by this?"

"I thought I'd found someone who understood and felt the same way as I did about music, yes." Nancy nodded. "But...I don't know, Cyn. Aunt Phyl...I know she's not like other people in a lot of ways. She does things - and is capable of doing things - without really worrying about the moral implication. I just...think of the trouble that it could cause her and the company, if it got out that she'd been bribing sources to keep silent? And in aid of what? In order to sign someone who's guilty of ending another life?"

Cynthia looked thoughtful.

"I am reminded of what Sadie said." She said at length. "That what something appears to be is not necessarily what it actually is. Perhaps, if it troubles you, you should seek out Robin and ask him about it, when you are privately together. He may not like the question, but it is a firmer solution than jumping to conclusions. I do not believe that Phyllis would knowingly sign on someone who had been guilty of murder. Therefore there may be another explanation. I think it is worth discovering that before you decide whether she - and he - are in the wrong."

"Yeah, I guess you're right." Nancy sighed. "I'm's not really your problem. Or mine, actually. I don't know why it bothers me as much as it does. I just...sometimes when I talk to him he's the most irritating guy on the planet. And other times, I wonder if maybe we'll be friends. He seems to understand things - musical things - better than anyone else I know. I like that about him. I just want to know what's what before I decide whether I can trust him."

"I think that's sensible." Cynthia agreed. "Though you should not, perhaps, judge Robin harshly based on the mistakes you have previously made with other men."

"Mistakes?" Nancy stared, then, "Hell, do you mean Blade? Because if you do, Cyn, I wasn't talking about this in a romantic sense. I lost my head and had a silly girly crush on Blade. Robin is different. I don't like him in that way. But I did think we might be friends...before all of this happened."

"Then you should indeed speak to him." Cynthia dimpled. "Otherwise, how can he defend himself to you?"

"I guess he can't." Nancy sighed. "But I'll have to tell him I overheard them talking...and well, I get the feeling he wouldn't like that very much. He's...very particular about crazy stuff like that. Like...doing the right thing. I dunno. Maybe he has a superman complex. But I don't think eavesdropping is something that's gonna impress him."

"You did not eavesdrop on purpose." Cynthia said gently.

Nancy looked rueful.

"Once it had begun, I kinda did." She owned. "Once I realised what it was about. I guess there is a lot of the Misfit in me, sometimes. But nonetheless, you're right. I will speak to him, if and when I get a chance to."

"Then that is settled." Cynthia smiled. "Now, you have work to do and I have to be at the Starlight Foundation in a short time. So perhaps we should finish this discussion and get moving? You know that I am still trying to dig into those files for you - I have had no luck yet, but if I can find out, I will."

"No...I want you to stop doing that." Nancy shook her head. "It's no better than me eavesdropping or...well, the Tribune reporting the latest gossip. I'd rather get whatever it is from him straight, if he's gonna tell me at all. Spying on him isn't the way to make us friends - if we even can be after all of this. And hell, if he's dangerous...I'd rather you didn't get yourself involved."

"I am a lot less vulnerable now than I have been of late." Cynthia assured her. "Athena's cells have made me far stronger than I was, even before Jerrica's death."

"I know, but I don't want to draw any kind of attention to you, now it's all died down again." Nancy shook her head decisively. "Leave it alone, huh? Whatever it is, I'm gonna find out the old fashioned way. And if he won't tell me, well, then I guess he can't trust me and I should watch my step where he's concerned."

"Perhaps you are right." Cynthia agreed.

"You won't mention this to the others?"

"Not one word." Cynthia winked. "I can keep a secret, as well you know."

"Thanks, Cyn." Awkwardly Nancy hugged her friend. "I feel better, at least, for talking it out with you. Now I just have to find the nerve to confront him...and see what he has to say about it!"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
"I swear this crazy city gets crazier and crazier the longer I stay here."

Logan pushed open the door of the restaurant, ushering his companion inside and then following her into the brightly lit eating-house. "If it isn't the press knocking down my door wanting to know if you and I are seriously 'doing it'," he sketched quote marks in the air, rolling his eyes as he did so. "Then I walk into work one morning and find half the office discussing some deep, dark and sinister murder scandal. I expect it to have come from America's Most Wanted, but's the front page of the weekend Tribune, and it's all about your newest colleague. What in hell is going on, Syl?"

"I wish I knew." Sylva grimaced, as the waiter led them to their seats. "The story broke but there seems to have been remarkably little in the way of response. It's like Phyllis hasn't even seen it, or something. Nothing's been said. No statements issued. Nothing. It's kinda creepy, if you want the truth."

She sighed, settling herself more comfortably in her seat.

 "A couple of journos from another paper tried to get me to comment on it when I left work this afternoon, but it's not like I can tell them anything so I just said they were asking the wrong person. It's not good publicity, though. Jewel are associated with Robin through what he said on Connie's show the other night. It's clear that he and Nancy have discussed music and she's even helped him with his song on occasion. That's not good - it brings us into the frame. One column is even discussing their highly unlikely romantic connection as something more sinister."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"I don't know what to tell you. I haven't seen Nancy since we discussed it yesterday afternoon, and she seemed to think it was all crazy talk then. But I dunno, Logan. Weird stuff has happened since Robin came to town. Nance broke up with Dean, for a start. That was totally out of the blue. Some guys mugged her too, and guess who wasn't far away when it happened? Robin Sheppard."

"That's a bit of a jump." Logan pointed out. "You can't blame the guy for everything...can you?"

"Well, it's not just that." Sylva frowned. "There have been so many things. Cynthia's breakdown, for example. Things that didn't happen till Robin walked among us. I'm sure that Cool Trash and the other magazines are right this time. Believe it or don't, I think he's cursed. More, I think he's dangerous. It worries me that Nancy isn't taking this seriously. She might be strange, Logan, but she's my friend too. If he's a crazy guy, I don't want her hurt."

"My memories of Nancy are of a girl who can take care of herself." Logan said ruefully. "If High School was anything to go by, anyway. Besides, do you really think there's anything in it? I mean, your Gabor lady - she'd take that kind of a risk?"

"Dunno." Sylva admitted. "She's a Misfit. Misfits are known to if she has been, you know, keeping it quiet..."

She bit her lip, looking uncomfortable. "Logan, I don't think we should talk about it here. Someone might overhear us and I don't want a doing for saying something careless. I've done that before and I got a hell of a roasting for it...there's enough bad press going around already."

"Fair enough. I'm sorry I brought it up." Logan grinned, a little sheepish. "But I guess like everyone else I've been caught up in the hype of the story."

He reached for a menu, picking it up and glancing over the dishes. Then he paused, eying Sylva playfully.

"You know, I wish you were on the menu." He said innocently. "I just feel like a Jewel tonight."

"You are so brazen! Keep it down!" Sylva blushed, but there was a sparkle in her blue eyes at his words. "Else you mightn't be feeling anything tonight - think of that."

"Aw. You're mean to me." Logan laughed. Sylva nodded her head.

"Yes. It keeps you in check." She bantered back. "Besides, you didn't say what you thought of my dress. After all that agonising over whether to keep it or not, you could at least say, well, something?"

"Something?" Logan tilted his head slightly, considering. "Hrm. Is it easy to remove?"

"Logan!" Sylva's eyes became big, then she burst out laughing. "Oh, you are impossible, you know that?"

"No, I'm a healthy adult male with a more than healthy labido...and one who hasn't spent as much quality time with his girlfriend as he'd like lately." Logan shrugged, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "So hurry up and order, will you?"

"Men." Sylva rolled her eyes, reaching out to kick him beneath the table. He raised an eyebrow at her, and she shrugged. Logan poked out his tongue.

"You're beautiful, is that what you want to hear?" He asked teasingly. "You shouldn't need me to tell you what you already know, Syl. You're stunning and gorgeous and all the other words in the thesaurus that mean the same thing...all right? Happy?"

"Well, I would be if it didn't come with prompting." Sylva grimaced. "But I guess it will do."

She reached for her own menu, opening it up and scanning the contents.

"What about Jack?" The question came out of the blue and Sylva stared at her boyfriend, confused.


"Does he need to be prompted?"

"Logan, I thought you weren't jealous of Jack?"

"I'm not." Logan spread his hands. "I'm just curious to know how this guy got your attention for so long, is all. I was expecting some Grecian god or something. But he's Mr Average...cute kid, mortgage...I don't get it."

"Nobody is asking you to." Sylva's cheeks became pink. "Logan, Jack isn't an issue any more. I got over him long before I started dating you, okay? He's a really good friend of mine, but we...exchanged words and those words can't be unsaid. There's nothing between us - I don't feel for him what I feel for you and that's a fact."

"I never said you did." Logan responded. "I was just curious."

"Mmmhm. And I'm better at reading male ego than you think I am." Sylva said wryly. "I dated enough of it back in school."


"Meaning you're the guy I'm seeing, and the guy I want to be with." Sylva reached out to take his hand, squeezing it. She bit her lip, then, "You're also the guy I shared a special part of me with in New York, as you well know. No other guy has got that close to me before. You shouldn't feel jealous."

"I'm not jealous!"


"No." Logan shook his head. He frowned. "Okay, but maybe I was a mite uncomfortable with how he looked at you the other day. Like he wanted to say a zillion things to you but couldn't because I was there."

"He probably did." Sylva said with a shrug. "But whatever those things were, Logan, they're not your business. Friends share confidences with other friends.You know that."

"Yeah, so long as it's only confidences."

"Friends don't share kisses or each other's beds." Sylva said softly. "I'm not that kind of girl, and I'm a little hurt that you don't take me at my word. If I wanted to be with Jack, well, then I'd still be chasing after Jack. I wouldn't be here with you, letting you joke about my dress. And dammit, Logan, I wouldn't have let what happened in New York happen. Drunk or otherwise, it just would not."

"I guess I know that, on all counts." Logan looked sheepish. "Sorry, Syl. I didn't mean to insinuate things about you. He just seemed like a man who knew a good thing when he saw he wanted to touch but couldn't. And I know sometimes I feel that way, when you and I don't see each other. Especially when I was in Wisconsin. Maybe I'm a tad insecure. But you're hot, dammit!"

"I should think so!" Sylva affected a disapproving expression, but as she met his gaze it broke down into laughter. "Oh, I'm not mad at you. Really, I'm kinda flattered. But you've nothing to worry about. Jack is just my friend."

"Then we should order, before I make an even bigger moron of myself." Logan said ruefully. "What're you up for?"

"Hrm..." Sylva frowned, returning her gaze to the menu. "I think...oh crap, that's my phone!" As a mobile phone chime began to echo through the restaurant. "Oh geez, how embarrassing!"

"Can't you turn it off?" Logan asked, as the musician fumbled in her purse, finally locating it. She shook her head.

"Phyllis likes us to keep them on when we're out, just in case." She responded. "I normally put it on silent, but I guess I forgot. I..."

She trailed off, eying the number in some confusion. "Hey...will you give me a minute? I think I need to take this call."

"Sure, be my guest." Logan grinned. "After being a complete doof, I guess that's owed you."

"Thanks. I'll be right back." Sylva flashed him a smile, getting to her feet and hurrying in the direction of the ladies restroom. As she did so, she hit the 'answer' button, putting the phone to her ear.

"Hello? Sylva Martescu - Jack, is that you?"

"Sylvie! Oh God, thank God I got you." Jack's voice was panicked and harried, and Sylva was almost sure she could hear the sound of Courtenay crying in the background. "Listen, I know it's a really, really huge thing to ask of you but...I need you to come here. Right now.'s hard to explain over the phone, only I need someone to take Courtenay home and keep an eye on her and...I didn't have anyone else to call."

"Jack, slow down." Sylva's brow furrowed as she tried to take in what her friend was saying. Pushing open the door of a vacant cubicle, she slipped inside, shutting it behind her. "What's wrong with Courtenay? Is it her I can hear crying? Why can't your Mom take her? I'm kinda...well...out."

"That's the whole thing." Jack took a shuddery breath, then, "Listen. Syl, I'm at Baptist Hospital. I...we...we've been here a while. Court was with Mom and, well, something happened. Court was really brave, she did everything she should have and called for an ambulance, then the hospital called me out here. Mom...they think she's had a stroke, or something like it. She's in a bad way at the moment and I can't leave her here...but I can't keep Court here either. She's in floods of tears and I don't know what to tell her. Please, Sylvie. I know I'm asking the world, but I need you. I don't have anyone else I can ask."

Sylva bit her lip, her mind racing as she digested Jack's words.

"A stroke?" She echoed. "Is she...I mean, will she be...?"

"They don't know." Jack's voice shook. "Syl, please. I don't have much change left, and I've no power on my cell. Will you come? Please? I'll make it up to you...please?"

"Jack, of course I will." Sylva made up her mind. "Hang tight and I'll be there as soon as I can, all right? I promise. Don't panic."

There was a sigh of relief, then,

"Thank you. I owe you for all time for this."

"Nonsense. Just hug Court for me and go back to your Mom - I won't be long."

Sylva hung up her phone, muttering a curse under her breath as she realised what she had just promised to do.

"Logan is gonna freak at me, and he has every right to do so." She realised. "Especially if he thinks Jack has ulterior motives...oh, but I know that was for real and I can't abandon him any more than I could any of the girls. He needs me - and so does Courtenay. I just hope Logan is gonna understand!"

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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