Part One: North Of The Border

Chapter Four: A Hotel Scare

"Well? Did I do well, Mom?"

Emily perched on the end of her mother's bed, wrapping a towel into her shower-damp hair as she eyed the collection of press articles already littering her mother's desk. In the waste bin was a cluster of magazines of various shapes and sizes and, as Emily watched, her mother carefully removed the relevant pages from the last, dropping the rest into the can with the others. It was the following morning and, after a quick raid on the local newsagents, the executive had withdrawn to quarters to review the impact of her daughter's opening performance.

She turned now, nodding her head.

"Not bad." She agreed. "You won over the audience and there are some nice write-ups in these."

"You wouldn't be keeping a scrapbook on me now, would you?" Emily raised an eyebrow, leaning over to take the nearest cutting. "I didn't think that was your style."

"Of course not." Phyllis snapped. "But I can't carry a pile of magazines back to Cali with me, and it helps your career to have article rave reviews in your file at a moment's notice."

"Uh-huh." Emily pursed her lips, glancing over the glossy sheet of magazine paper. "Sirena's tour is tinged with the tragedy of knowing that the last time she was here it was on the arm of her first true love, with whom romance blossomed in the California sunshine not long after. Many believe it was Toronto that first triggered the love match between the enigmatic singer and her doomed amour Carl Arca, better known as R'n'B singer Blade.'. Blech. Mom, did you sell them that angle?"

"No, you brought it up yourself last night." Phyllis shook her head. "I figured it would be a good one to capitalise on, so gave the word to make the most of it. I didn't think you'd care - you never loved Blade and it's no skin off your nose if his name gets brought up."

She eyed her daughter quizzically. "Is it? Was there more to that than I thought?"

"No. I never loved Blade." Emily shook her head. "But that is Mike's father you're talking about, you know."

"And it doesn't hurt the brat as he gets older to read press that says his Mom and Dad had some fantasy love affair." Phyllis reasoned. "As opposed to the truth - you were bored and having no luck picking anyone else up so you bedded him instead."

"It wasn't quite like that." Emily objected. "But I guess I see your point. Okay. I suppose it's better press than putting out about Dad."

"Exactly." Phyllis nodded her head. "Plus, I don't know why, but people seem to like a tragic love story. This has everything - so drop a few hints in your next interview that Toronto was where you and Blade first fell for one another, or something. Don't go overboard - I don't want to vomit reading the write ups - but it'll pacify the Canucks much better if you can give them a piece of Sirena history to hang onto."

"You might vomit? I think I already will." Emily groaned. "All right. I'll think it over. But blech. Blade and I didn't get it on till we were back in the States and then it was a shortlived thing. Completely sexual - the man was an egotistical moron who thought he was better than he actually was, and who got me knocked up in the process. I can't believe you're going to make me go out there and act all nostalgic, like I miss him. He's old news, after all. People usually want to know about me and Luca these days."

"So give them that, too." Phyllis was unperturbed. "People are silly and obsessed with who other people are sleeping with. Especially if they're not getting any action themselves. You can't fail."

Emily eyed her mother in some amusement.

"Was that a leaf from your own tactic book?" She asked playfully. "I've always wondered how it was I came about."

"Don't push your luck." Phyllis raised an eyebrow. "Come take a look at some of these and see which you think we should keep. I want to have some diversity in terms of press comments. After all, we always have quotes from the US press, but it'd be nice to branch out. Pick two or three and I'll pass them over to Carrie to deal with later on. I've a team meeting then."

"All right." Emily nodded. "At least if I have the power of veto, I can ditch anything that's too mushy or irrelevant."

She stretched, stifling a yawn.

"It was a hard night last night." She admitted. "Even though I do do those things every week in America. I guess I half expected something to happen - but nothing did. It all went off like clockwork."

"I work too hard to let anything random happen while you're on stage." Phyllis told her acidly. "Now, listen to me. I'm glad you're up, because you've that radio appearance in an hour or two and even if they can't see you, I want you presentable. I'm realising that this is a big deal tour. Before we came, Jemima gave me all the stats on your popularity north of the border and I thought we'd have something pretty special up here. But according to Carrie's figures for last night's show and the response generated by your performance on the website...I think we've kept out of here altogether too long. Apparently one of
the online forums even went down because so many people were trying to log on and leave comments. That's pretty powerful stuff - and it's not even my PR."

"Well, I'm a good singer." Emily looked unconcerned. She sent her mother a wry smile. "I take after my Mom."

"Damn right you do." Phyllis laughed. "Though when I was singing, there weren't any internet chat sites or fan forums to flood."

"You miss it?"

"Of course." Phyllis nodded. "Office work doesn't rate compared to living it up on stage."

She cast her companion a sidelong glance.

"But you don't need me to tell you that. You've never expressed even the slightest interest in your Grandfather's business enterprises."

"I'm not a businesswoman, I'm a singer." Emily shook her head. "I told you. I take after my Mom. Not my Dad. The whole suit and tie thing doesn't do much for me."

"Maybe you do take after me." Phyllis looked amused. "But it catches up with you in the end. Being a Gabor, I mean."

"Well, I'm only a Gabor by deed poll. For my son's sake." Emily dimpled. "So maybe I'll make new rules to go along with that."

Before Phyllis could respond, a high pitched wail went up from the hotel room alarm system and the singer let out an exclamation, running to the window. People were milling outside already, clearly bemused and startled by the suddenness of the alarm and Phyllis muttered a curse, pushing the clippings to one side.

"Fire drill." She said darkly. "What a damn time, too. I'm busy."

"So are we going to ignore it?" Emily raised an eyebrow. Phyllis shook her head.

"I never ignore fire drills." She said grimly. "Not after Zipper sent my company up in smoke and almost killed my business partner. No, leave the stuff here. We'll go and see what's going on - but if I find it's a false alarm, there'll be hell to pay when I know who rang the bell."

"All right." Emily pulled on her sandals, grabbing her jacket and her hotel room keys off the unit and leading the way out into the hallway. Swathes of people were bent on the same errand and the executive and her daughter found themselves both swept up in the general swell, as other guests pushed and shoved to be first to the stairwell. Phyllis was quick to react, and, as Emily stumbled against the heel of a businessman attempting to push between them, the former Misfit's elbow came out, ramming him back against the wall.

"Wait your turn!" She exclaimed, grabbing her daughter by her arm and pulling her along through the big double doors and down the first flight of stairs. As they reached the bottom, a chime from her pocket alerted her to her cellphone and she fumbled in her jacket, pulling the phone out and hitting the receive button.

"Phyllis Gabor." She said curtly. "Carrie? What the hell is up? We've got the goddamn death wail on us at the moment - fire drill or something and everyone's acting like a stampede. Can you call me back?"

"I'm calling to make sure you and Sirena are all right." The executive assistant's voice came back down the line. "We just got a call from security that there'd been a bomb alert at the hotel and that the Toronto police were sending in the heavy squad to deal with it."

"Bomb threat?" Phyllis echoed, and Emily stared at her.

"This is a bomb?" She demanded, her tones clear enough to be heard by many of the other milling people around them. As the sense of rising hysteria in the stairwell grew, Phyllis nodded her head grimly, terminating her call and tightening her grasp on her daughter's arm. Then, with a curt "Outta my way!" She navigated them through the rest of the maze of people, pushing open the rear fire door and leading the way across the concrete to where those already evacuated had assembled a safe distance away.

Emily turned back to glance at the hotel, noting the throng of individuals still pushing and shoving their way outside.

"Think it's a hoax, or the real deal?" She asked. Phyllis shook her head.

"No idea." She admitted. "But I guess we'll know soon enough."

She raised her hand to indicate the arrival of several reinforced police vehicles, sirens blaring above the cacophany of the fire alarm and the panicked cries of the people still leaving the building. Armed men in bomb disposal suits near tumbled out of their cars, streaming into the hotel via a side door, the leader shouting unintelligible orders as they disappeared inside.

Emily managed a smile.

"Life's never dull, is it?" She observed. Phyllis rolled her eyes.

"I'm going to speak to the manager." She said briefly. "See what exactly is going on. Keep an eye on yourself, Em. I've already seen one or two flashbulbs going. There are press here and we'll likely be right up there on tomorrow's news...whether this is a hoax or whether it's really a bomb."

"I will. Don't worry, Mom. They won't get any quotes out of me that I don't give them myself." Emily said impatiently. "I'm fine and I'm not scared. Just ticked off. Go talk to the hotel guy, okay? Find out whatever you can. I'm perfectly safe here...else we wouldn't all be gathered this far away."

Phyllis shot her a look, but made no demur, turning on her heel and crossing the tarmac to where the flustered hotel owner was trying his best to calm his panicked staff. As she reached him, one of the suited up officers approached, a grave look on his face.

"Mr Van Hendry?" He asked. The hotelier nodded.

"Yes." He agreed. "Can you tell me what's going on here? I've got people telling me there's a bomb in my hotel!"

"That's what we're trying to ascertain, sir." The officer told him firmly. "Can I speak with whoever called the emergency services?"

"That'd be Anna Darwin. She's on reception...apparently they had an anonymous tip off that someone had placed a bomb in the wine cellar." Mr Van Hendry waved an agitated hand in the direction of a pale faced young girl, who gazed at he officer with frightened blue eyes. The officer nodded.

"Thank you." He said curtly. "I'll want to speak to you some more shortly. Meantime, noone is to go back in there until we've assessed the risk."

With that he disappeared in the direction of the nervy reception girl, and Phyllis took her chance to accost the hotelier.

"Anonymous tip?" She asked quietly. Van Hendry turned, nodding his head.

"Yes. Ms Gabor, I'm so sorry about this." He gabbled, taking in the look of displeasure in his client's eyes. "It's never happened before."

"Well, there's no legislating for nutcases in this world." Phyllis sighed. "At least my daughter and I are both out and unscathed - despite the horrible evacuation technique your staff seem to have in play."

"I can only apologise further." Van Hendry flustered. "As I said, we're really not used to this kind of event."

Phyllis pursed her lips. Then she shrugged.

"Do you think it's a hoax?"

"I very much hope so." The hotelier nodded, relief flickering in his eyes at the change of tactic. "Wasting time is better than risking lives, not to mention the jobs and belongings of two hundred or more people. Yes, I hope it is a false alarm...but as you said, you can't legislate for nutcases."

"Or someone decided it would be fun to generate a news scandal." Phyllis looked thoughtful. "How many of the local press representatives would you say know we're staying in this hotel?"

"Miss Gabor?" The man looked startled. "This is no publicity stunt!"

"Not by you, perhaps." Phyllis turned her gaze back on the abandoned building. "But it does make you wonder, doesn't it?"

*   *   *   *   *   *

Across the far side of the hotel grounds, concealed behind a waste disposal skip, one person watched the antics with a growing sense of disdain and amusement. As he crouched there, motionless amid the gloom and the smell, he observed the bomb disposal people flitting in and out of nearby buildings, calling instructions to one another and ushering bewildered staff from nearby homes and businesses as they continued to scour the hotel for any kind of incendiary.

He glanced at his cell phone, then flipped it closed, sliding it into his pocket.

"Amazing what kind of panic a few words can cause." He murmured, letting out a low chuckle. "People running around like flustered hens in a chicken coop - and there isn't even a bomb to be scared of. What they'd do if I really decided to blow them all up I don't know...but that's not why I'm here. I have a much more important task to carry out."

He picked up the battered bag on the ground beside him, unzipping it carefully and extracting the polythene bag that he had taken from the dead youth two nights earlier. Glancing at it carefully, a slow smile touched his features.

"Misdirection has always been one of my greater gifts." He mused. "I can't think why I didn't apply it to the big league sooner. There's so much more fun when you gamble with such high stakes. And this one is owed. Even if I wasn't getting a hefty bonus for it - I'd do it regardless. I have a long memory - unfortunately for some people."

He got slowly to his feet, kicking his bag idly against the skip for later collection. He had been observing the disposal squad's actions and his quick brain had already noticed a couple of gaps in their focused patrolling. Darting across the grounds, he slipped in through an unguarded rear door that was partially hidden by the overhang of a nearby climbing vine, wrenching the lock deftly as he did so and pushing it shut behind him. From inside the dark corridor he could hear the sound of voices and, after a moment's careful listening, he worked out that the nearest disposal experts were a floor above him, somewhere in the vicinity of the wine cellar.

"Which is, I hope, where they'll stay while I take a little walk north." He muttered, feeling his way carefully along the dim passageway towards the steps at the far end. All that time going over the hotel plans had been worthwhile, he realised, now that he was able to put his photographic recollections into play. Deftly negotiating two flights of stairs, he paused, listening once again for the officers. Their voices seemed fainter now, however, and he surmised that they were deeply engrossed in their task. He took a deep breath, slipping cautiously up the next two flights and pausing at the top. The lifts had all been shut down by the crisis, and he knew he had several floors still to negotiate.

"But it will take them quite a while to determine nothing in the cellar is suspicious." He reminded himself. "They'll decide that the hotel is clean and let people back in, but it's a big hotel and they've a lot of ground to cover. I'll be well away by the time they get to where I'm heading. I can take my time. There's no hurry - stealth is more important than speed at this particular stage in my plan."

He crept up another flight of stairs, running over in his mind the best way to carry out his scheme. It had occured to him only after his encounter with the woman in the nightclub, but as he had drunk himself into sleep that evening, he had fixed upon the perfect answer to his other dilemma.

"Two deaths between me and a rich retirement." He murmured. "That dealer was a freebie, but he had his use and pushed his luck too far. I still have more to do, and there's an irony in this one. After our last encounter, she should really be more careful about believing what's right in front of her."

At that moment, he reached his destination and, pushing open the door of the stairwell he made his way slowly along the hall, negotiating abandoned room service trolleys as he went.

"I'll bet you ten bucks it's another hoax call."

 The sound of a man's voice made him freeze, darting beneath one of the trolleys as two of the bomb disposal officers passed him on the stairs.

"Rather that than get your head blown off." The other officer observed, walking past the trolley without a second glance. "And we're off shift in an hour. If they ain't outta here by then, someone will come take over. Come on. Let's go see what's down one - this floor's clean."

Their voices faded away as they disappeared into the stairwell, but the man kept to his hiding place for a moment longer, making absolutely sure that they were gone before he emerged. At length he decided it was safe and he crawled out of the back of the trolley, dusting himself down and muttering a curse under his breath for the closeness of the encounter.

"Two seconds earlier and I'd have been done before I began." He told himself. "Even if I claimed I was a lost guest caught up in the whirl, they'd want to know what I was doing with this much illegal dope in my pocket. And I don't really want to answer that question to anyone."

He paused to glance along the corridor at the door numbers, finally finding the one he wanted. A smile touched his lips.

"But here we are." He said aloud. "The golden room. What lies behind that door? Death or glory - or it soon will do!"

The door was ajar, propped there by the security checks, and he found little difficulty in making his entry, heading straight for the far side of the room and pulling open the mini-bar. Glancing at the contents of the fridge, he frowned, tilting his head on one side.

"But the big question is, what kind of a drinker are you?" He murmured. "That's something I wasn't told. Oh well. I guess this is a part of the game. The gamble. Long distance murder is all very well, but it's not as precise a science as I'd like it to be. Still, we'll give it a shot. And if that doesn't work, I'm sure I'll think of something else...seems a shame to waste this now I've gone to all that trouble."

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, he took one of the bottles from the cooler, setting it down in front of him. With a gesture that told of many years practice, he extracted a tool from the lining of his coat, slowly and laboriously beginning to prise it open. Engrossed in his task, he carefully removed the lid without leaving a mark on it, then produced the bag of pills from his pocket.

With a wry smile, he gave them a kiss for luck, then tipped the entire dose into the bottle, refastening the top firmly in place. The liquid bubbled and fizzed for a moment, and he shook it firmly, watching as the tablets began to dissolve in the reddish liquid.

"They won't take long to dissolve in that." He decided, casting it one final look and then returning it to the cooler. "All that remains to be seen now is how potent a force it really is. I like this part of the game...with any luck we'll soon find out exactly what happens when you mix a billionaire with a bottle of spiked Merlot!"


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.
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.