Part One: North Of The Border

Chapter Three: First Show

The television studio was packed full of fans by the time Eric arrived.

Slipping through the crowd to his seat, he pursed his lips, a thoughtful expression on his face as he surveyed the signs and banners people had brought along to the show. So, even though his daughter had not been to Canada in some years, she still had a loyal following. That was good to know.

"It's always as well to know your opponant's strengths and weaknesses before you move in." He mused, settling himself in the back row of the studio audience and slipping off his jacket. It had been a last minute decision, to come and see Emily's first interview in Toronto, so he had only been able to bribe his way to one of the worst seats in the studio. And yet, he realised, that was an advantage. He had no way of knowing if Emily would recognise him on sight, and he knew that the last thing he needed was any kind of confrontation.

The host had greeted the audience with what was clearly a tried and tested routine, for it had received whoops and cheers from the assembled local audience. Sirena was the first act and, as she was announced, there was another round of applause. Eric craned his neck to see the tall, slim young woman step elegantly onto the stage, casting the audience a playful grin before crossing the floor to where the host sat. She was in her middle twenties now, Eric recalled, and there was something more than the wilful, impetuous young lady he had met on his ill-fated visit to California. Behind the smiles was a look of gravity and, as she took her seat, Eric wondered if she was nervous about facing a crowd she has shunned for years.

"Welcome to the show, Sirena." The host dimpled. "It's been a while since the last time we talked!"

"It has." The girl nodded her head slightly. "And I'm glad to be back, I assure you! Toronto was one of the first places I toured outside of the United States and I've been dying to get back here and see the city again. I remember there's always a buzz, playing when I was told I had tour dates up North I couldn't wait to go!"

To anyone else, her tone seemed sincere but, to Eric, who had known her mother for so many years, there was a note of doubt in her voice. Her angle had been schooled, he realised wryly, and she'd keep to her script, but she was not happy to be in Canada.

Fleetingly he wondered whether he was the reason, and as that thought grew, he allowed himself a smile. A weakness, then, and one that maybe he could yet exploit.

"You've been drumming up a storm all over the place for a long time - why has it taken you so long to come north of the border again?"

"Lots of reasons." Sirena offered the presenter a smile. "Logistics, mainly. Organising support for my son while I'm away can be difficult, and with the sudden flux of popularity over in Europe, my management team decided I'd better go there in person and see the market. It's a very different world across the Atlantic and their expectations and musical tastes are real different from those in America or Canada."

She frowned.

"And then, of course, the last time I was here, I was here with Blade." She said softly. "And that's a memory it's taken a while to be able to put to bed. It wasn't long before his death that we were playing here and first really got to know one another in a way by coming here I'm chasing some ghosts out of my life. It's been hard to do, but it's time that I did. Life goes on, after all."

Eric squinted at his daughter through the crowd, shaking his head slowly.

"That's a lie." He mused. "She may have fooled the rest of the audience, but she doesn't fool me. She has her mother's eyes and I always knew when her mother was lying to me. So, some other reason has kept her out of Canada. And I'm willing to bet that I'm it. It's almost gratifying to means I'm on very strong ground. Pizzazz wouldn't keep her so far away from me if she thought the kid had a backbone and could stand up to me and my ideas. That's worth playing on. If she's vulnerable to manipulation, I'll find a way to manipulate. Things couldn't be timed better, all told."

He sat back in his seat, watching his daughter's posture and body language as she completed the interview. As the topic moved onto the safer subject of music, she visibly relaxed and, by the time she went to sing, she was completely at ease in front of the camera. The last time Eric had heard his daughter sing, it had been a CD recording, but he had never heard her perform live. As she began her song, he realised with a jolt how much of her mother's daughter she really was, drawing the crowd in and getting them involved in her music from the very start.

He smiled.

"So maybe this wasn't a fruitless visit." He pondered. "With Jerrica's death a respectably long time ago, and with my daughter finally within my reach, there must be something I can do to get myself a share of the action. Clubs in Canada are one thing, but Emily might well hold the answer to the one thing I've always meant to snatch. If I could get a hold of Starlight Music, I could teach Pizzazz a serious lesson in music management and finally have my revenge on the Benton family. Emily grew up with Bentons. She must know things that could help me."

He got to his feet, slipping silently up the steps towards the fire exit, pushing open the door and stepping out onto the pavement outside. Nobody observed him and he leant up against the outer wall of the building, reaching in his pocket for his cell phone.

"If you're going to call me, Eric, you might as well save your credit."

A voice from the darkness startled him and he swung around, taking in Harriet's teasing smile. He grimaced at her.

"What are you doing here? I thought you were working the diner tonight!"

"No. I traded shifts with Jodie, remember?" Harriet put a hand on his arm. "You told me you wanted me accessible - that you might need my help. Well, here I am. How can I help?"

"I didn't think you'd follow me." Despite himself, Eric relaxed. "But now you're here, I guess it doesn't matter."

"Why are we here?"

"My daughter was interviewed on live television this evening." Eric explained. "I wanted to see her for myself. See if I could judge what kind of water we were walking on."

"Walking on water now?" Harriet raised an eyebrow. "Ambitious, even for you."

"Don't." Eric shook his head. "This isn't a game, Harri. Emily's here in Canada, true enough, and she might just be the lever I need to get my hands on Starlight Music again. The brat grew up with Kimber Benton at the Starlight Foundation - she must know some dirt that could help me get my foot in the door. From all I gathered she wasn't a popular kid growing up there - an outcast, hated the place. Hated Kimber."

"But how are you going to get it out of her?" Harriet asked pragmatically. "You told me she hates you, too. Or are you going to get me to spy for you? Because I warn you, Eric, we have an arrangement but it doesn't stretch to snooping on your daughter and eavesdropping on her life. All right? I'm already on a thin line when it comes to the law...Id like to keep this side of it."

"Nobody is going to get involved in those things now." Eric shook his head. "I saw to it that all those cases were buried in paperwork and noone's going to come after you for past soliciting offences when you're working a legitimate job now and when there are people being murdered on the street every night. In any case, I'm not asking you to break the law for me. I intend on doing all the speaking to Emily myself...It's not the kind of job I can get someone else to do for me. I'm her father, after all."

"So what have I got to do with it?" Harriet folded her arms across her chest. "I'm not sure I understand."

"There's one slight hiccup to my planning." Eric took Harriet by the wrist, leading her carefully across the car park to the edge of the site and then stopping, holding up his hand to warn her to be quiet. Not far away, a woman was talking on a cell phone, her tones sharp and impatient as she relayed her orders down the line. Harriet frowned, opening her mouth to speak, but Eric shook his head, putting a finger to her lips. Silently he led her back towards his car, indicating for her to get in.

She did so, watching as he climbed in the driver's side, putting the vehicle in gear.

"So what was that about?" She asked, as the car engine roared into life. Eric grimaced.

"That," He said softly. "Was Phyllis Gabor. Emily's business agent, and a rottweiler if ever there was one. She has more money than sense and no ethics to speak of. She'll spend that money to get whatever she wants from whoever she wants, and if you cross her, God help you. I swear she could pay off the President himself, if she ever needed to."

"I see." Harriet looked thoughtful. "And you think she'd get in your way, if you tried to speak to Emily?"

"I know she would." Eric said grimly, pulling the car out onto the main road. "Because, Harriet, she's also Emily's mother."

Harriet's eyes became big with surprise at this.

"Her mother?" She echoed, then she grinned. "Okay. Guess there's no prizes for asking how exactly you crossed her, then. I'm surprised, Eric. She doesn't look like your type of woman to me."

"My type of...?" Eric knitted his brows. "Harriet, this was never about love or 'types of women'. This was business."

"Yes, I'm sure it was." Harriet glanced out of the window, drumming her fingers idly on the armrest of the car. "At least, to you, anyhow. Everything is business with you. What did you do to her, then? Break her heart? Jilt her? Cheat on her with another client? I'm curious. You've never mentioned Emily's mother before - I figured she must be dead or something. You said the kid grew up in foster care, after all."

"No, she's not dead. Unfortunately." Eric said darkly. "She dumped the kid on the Starlight Foundation when she was born and that would have been the end of it, if Emily hadn't put the pieces together and tracked her down. Now she's allied herself with her mother and her mother's business, well, it makes it doubly difficult to get her on my side. Financially, of course, it has it's benefits...the Gabors are notoriously wealthy. But in other ways..."

"So what did happen, then? Why are you so freaked by this woman?" Harriet sat back in her seat, casting her companion a curious look. "Eric, Emily's older than I am. It was a long time ago. Who's to say the woman even remembers you?"

"She remembers." Eric nodded his head. "She's not the kind of person who ever forgets a grudge. She's dangerous to know, Harriet, and we had a falling out of major proportions over the way her business was being run. She thought she knew better how to operate her company and I didn't like the way she did. So she fired me, and basically exiled me to this godforsaken country."

"I thought you liked Canada." Harriet pursed her lips. "Else why did you need me so much to stay?"

"Because here is somewhere Gabor fingers rarely touch." Eric said frankly. "If you upset a Gabor, they don't just write you off their books. They write you off everyone's books. There isn't a company in America who would employ me now. You either, now you're associated with me. I've no doubt Emily had to change her name from Raymond to Gabor to even be involved in Misfits Music."

He flicked on the indicator, taking the next turning onto their road. "That's why you and I have this arrangement. Women who have other motives can't ever be trusted. Twice their fickle hearts and minds have taken from me companies that I've built and strengthened and made successful, driving musical forces. Do you really think I was going to stop around for a third time?"

"I guess not." Harriet acknowledged. "But you are successful, Eric. You have a string of clubs up here. You make a good amount of money from them. You employ lots of people and, speaking as an employee, I've never had anything to complain about."

"Exactly." Eric nodded approvingly. "Which is why our agreement is so mutually beneficial. I stay in Canada, and you have my protection...and a chance at legitimate employment."

"Speaking of protection..."

Harriet bit her lip.

"Jodie sent me a text just before I got to you here. Apparently that guy was back in the club this evening. She thought he was looking for someone, and I'm half afraid he was looking out for me. He left without incident, but he creeps me out. I almost wonder if he knows me from before...the way he spoke to me, like he expected me..."

She trailed off, and Eric shook his head.

"I told you before, noone will be allowed to touch you." He said firmly. "I'll have some people on the case, Harri, don't worry."

"I know you will." Harriet's lips curled into a faint smile.

"But in the meantime, we have another problem to solve."

"Phyllis Gabor?"


"Well, she seems attached to her cell phone." Harriet looked amused. "And fond of giving orders. Do you think you can find out her number?"

"Almost certainly." Eric nodded. "I have contacts, and, being in the club business, it's not uncommon to want acts to play venues. Noone would raise an eyebrow if I put about that I needed Pizzazz's cell number. Why?"

"Well, what if I was to be a completely useless hireling, who needed her help urgently the next time Emily played a show?" Harriet's eyes took on an innocent look. "If she's such a business tyrant, could she resist getting her paws into it?"

"No...knowing Phyllis, I don't think she could." A smile touched Eric's features. "And again, you prove you're more than just a good waitress, my dear. This will bear some thinking about."

"Yes." Harriet nodded. "But listen, Eric. You have plenty in Canada. Don't throw it all away tangling with some bitch from the US, okay? If she's that dangerous, you don't want to get her on your case here too. I don't want you hurt."

"Hurt?" Eric looked surprised. Harriet nodded.

"I know what powerful people are like." She said darkly. "They give orders and people disappear. I don't want that happening to you. I need you, and I'm not the only one who does."

"I don't think that the Gabors have crossed that line yet."

"Well, just in case they have...take it from me." Harriet touched his hand lightly. "Sometimes it's better to keep your head down and not be noticed when the predator is in town."


Prologue: Toronto
Chapter One: Preparations
Chapter Two: Heading North
Chapter Three: First Show
Chapter Four: A Hotel Scare
Chapter Five: Diversion
Chapter Six: Eric's Gambit
Chapter Seven: Under The Radar
Chapter Eight: Flight

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.
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