ARC ONE: NEW DAWN
OF BENTON BLOOD
Chapter Four: Jerrica Acts
Well, so it was morning.
Jerrica glanced up at the clear sky, a frown marring her tired features.
"So much for the idea that problems look less with a new day's dawning."
She muttered, banging her car door shut with some force, and locking it
firmly. "Not that I got much sleep last night, all things considered. I
can't believe that Synergy is not only still in operation, but that she's
evaded the FBI and is masquerading as just another civilian. More, do they
even know how dangerous what they have is? Do those Jewel girls know what
she really is, and what she's capable of? Is she working for the Misfits
now? It wouldn't surprise me. It would explain all too well what the Jem
Memorial was all about. It's occured to me more than once since then that
she's been reprogrammed by someone who used her to try and destroy Starlight
Music. Who else would want that but Eric Raymond, and in his absence, his
group of no good Misfits? This whole business reeks of Pizzazz...I wonder
that I didn't spot it earlier."
She stalked into the front lobby of the music company, ignoring the
security guard on duty and heading right up to the lift.
"But it's not going to happen any more. The FBI searched for her and
failed to find her. If Pizzazz was hiding her, that's no surprise. In fact,
the more I think about it, the more I'm sure that's what happened. Synergy
was still locked away inside Starlight Mansion when we sold it off...I
should have realised there was someone on her payroll who could revive
a dead computer system and turn it into a living nightmare. Pizzazz has
more bribing potential than anyone I know in this city, and I know the
way that woman works. But whatever she did to my father's life work...it's
not going to continue. It's time Synergy was safely locked away, where she
can do me - and the world - no further damage."
"Ms Pacheco?" A young intern stopped her as she left the lift. "Can
you sign these? They have to go today, and..."
"Send them up to my office. I have other things to worry about." Jerrica
shook her head.
"But Ms Pacheco..."
"Please, I don't have time right now." Jerrica sounded harried. "Send
them up to my office. Send them to Margot - she'll deal with them and
authorise them. I have an urgent matter to see to this morning, and I'm
afraid it can't wait."
"Yes, Ms Pacheco."
The intern withdrew, and Jerrica made her way along the corridor to
the executive suite of offices and computer bays which marked the main
centre of Starlight Music's headquarters. She pushed open the door, glancing
around the room for the person she wanted.
The dark haired assistant raised her head from her pile of letters,
casting her employer a questioning look.
"Yes, Ms Pacheco?"
"Can you field all calls to my line for the time being? I have something
important I must do." Jerrica ran a hand through her hair absently, fumbling
in her purse for the key to her office. "And if Daisy wants to see me,
tell her I've been unavoidably detained and I'll be with her as soon as
I can be. Something's come up, and I need to see to it right away."
"Of course." Margot eyed her employer carefully, then, "Ms Pacheco,
are you all right?"
"All right?" Jerrica looked startled. Then she sighed, dropping her
briefcase down onto the desk and shaking her head.
"No. No, I would say I've not been that for a long time." She said
quietly. "But last night...well, there was someone at the show who I'm
afraid might put everything at risk. The company, everything I'm working
to rebuild...I won't lose it again. I have to get in contact with...I have
a letter to write, and....did I ask you - will you field calls to my office?
"Yes, you already asked me that." Margot pushed her paperwork aside,
getting to her feet and coming to her boss's side. "Ms Pacheco, what's
up? I've not seen you this worked up about anything before. Is this serious?"
"It could be." Jerrica nodded her head slowly. "I really can't explain
any further, though. It's...tied up with business my father had in the
city. Things he did...things he thought were right but that have often come
back to haunt me. He was a good man, my father, but he just didn't realise
what he'd done..." She trailed off. "And now I have to do the right thing
She cast Margot a harried smile, finally locating her key, and slipping
into the lock, pushing the door open and slipping into the office. The
door clicked shut behind her, and once she was alone, Margot grimaced at
the closed door.
"Well, and you really need to take your medication more often." She
muttered. "They warned me that getting a job at Starlight Music was a
career risk...in college they told me that Jerrica was psychologically
unstable and that she'd had breakdowns before, but she seemed so together
when I met her for the interview, and I like my position here. But that was
just weird. Maybe she is cracking up. Maybe I should have listened to the
careers guy a little more closely. It was just easier to slip in here as
a new graduate with only credentials and not much experience...especially
when it meant gifting Daisy her contract so easily, too. I hope it wasn't
a silly gamble."
"They do say talking to yourself is the first sign of madness, Margot."
A voice came from behind her, and Margot swung round, scowling at the
"And when you're Jerrica's PA, you'll understand why." She retorted.
"Drop dead, Gareth. If she goes crazy on us, it won't just be my job that's
hanging on the line. We're all at the beck and call of her questionable
moments of sanity."
"You think the old woman's losing it?" Gareth perched on her desk,
not noticeably crushed.
"Do you think it's much of your business if I think she is or not?"
Margot raised an eyebrow. "Besides, what I think isn't important. Didn't
you see her just now? Falling to pieces didn't describe it."
"Maybe Daisy blew out her big show last night."
"No...no." Margot shook her head. "Believe me, that's not it. I've
taken several calls already about promotions, and potential interview slots
on television shows and with magazines. Daisy did good...this isn't to
do with her."
"You know, you get mighty defensive when someone criticises ol' Daisy."
Gareth looked pensive. "Something you want to share with the class? I
seem to remember you pushed her case at staff briefing when the demos
originally came in, too. She a friend of yours?"
"Again, is it any of your business?" Margot shot him a withering look.
"Go back to your spell checking and leave me alone, huh?"
"Oh, so cruel." Gareth laughed. "You know, you're awful young really,
Margot...and very green. I coulda been Jerrica's assistant when Joanie
left - any of us could. But none of us wanted the job...want to know why
"Go on...I'm sure I'll be thrilled." Margot feigned a yawn. Gareth
"Because we all know the old lady's shy of a full dozen." He said
simply. "She has been for years. Shoulda seen her after the Jem Memorial.
Almost carted her off to a mental hospital after that one, I'm telling
you. She's never quite been on the thin and narrow. Course, the big story
is it's all to do with that husband dude of hers. Ever met him? He's a
"Am I discussing my employer's personal life with a copy boy?" Margot
"I'm not a copy boy. I'm head of public relations and you know it."
Gareth seemed unperturbed. "Besides, that's where it all lies. Trust me.
He's been in here before...they've had fights. I swear it. He's what it's
"Fascinating." Margot rolled her eyes. "And when I care, I'll get
back to you. You know, some of us do have lives and husbands of our own
to worry about. We don't get our kicks digging into other people's sad
lives...do you think you could remember that?"
"Hey, just trying to warn you that our Jerrica's always been a bit
loose in the head." Gareth winked. "Keeping your resume up to date is always
a good plan when you're working here. It's well known that's why Joanie
retired when she did. Couldn't take it any more."
"I appreciate your overwhelming concern for my position." Margot's
tone was dripping with sarcasm. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I do have some
correspondance of my own to deal with?"
"Well, don't say you never got the warning." Gareth's eyes twinkled
with amusement, and he held up his hands. "I got plenty of stuff to do
too, you know."
Inside her office, oblivious to the conversation going on outside
her door, Jerrica had settled down at her desk, reaching for the phone
receiver. She moved to dial, then paused.
"Who's to say the FBI would even listen to a word I said?" She asked
herself softly. "I told them at the memorial that I didn't know where she
was...would they think I kept the secret this long? But I didn't...and
this is important. It was one thing when Synergy was at our command, but
who knows what beck and call she's operating under now. It's better for
everyone if they know about her and take appropriate action to stop her
activities. I might even wind up saving lives. No time to get sentimental
over Dad's work, either. She's not Dad's work any more...she proved that
at the Memorial. This is the right thing...I know it is."
Setting her teeth, she resolutely dialled the number of the local
federal office, waiting impatiently for her call to be answered.
"Federal Bureau of Investigation." A young man's voice came down the
line, and Jerrica steeled herself.
"I want to talk to Agent Bray or Agent Nicholson, please." She said
quietly. "My name is Jerrica Pacheco - I'm the chief executive of Starlight
Music. They once interviewed me in connection with a case they were working
on - I have some new information that I think might be of interest to them."
"Can you be more specific, Ma'am? Their department has a very busy
"No, not over the phone." Jerrica bit her lip. "But it's very important.
Please, if you can get one of them for me...they will know my name, and
I'm sure they won't forget the case in question. It could be a matter of
life or death."
"If you'll just hold one moment, ma'am. I'll try and put you through
to their extension."
"Thank you." Jerrica twisted the phone cord absently around her finger.
"I appreciate it."
She drummed her nails on the desk, impatiently waiting for the phone
to be picked up. At length it was, and a fresh voice came down the line.
"Hello? This is Agent Alex Bray speaking."
"Agent Bray! Oh, good. This is Jerrica Pacheco, at Starlight Music."
Jerrica sighed, then, "Do you remember that you and your partner were
here after the Jem Memorial, when my father's computer...well...when it
"Yes ma'am, I remember. How can I help you now?"
"It's to do with the same thing." Jerrica admitted. "At the time I
didn't know where the computer was, or who was running it - but now I
do. At least, I don't know where she is, but I know that she is being
There was a moment's silence, then, "I see. Can you tell me something
"It's hard over the phone. I'm never sure if this line is bugged or
not...it has happened in the past." Jerrica responded slowly. "But if we
"I can set up an interview here at the bureau this afternoon, if you
are free. Our caseload is pretty busy, but what you have to say about
this computer interests me...I'd like to hear what you've found out."
"This afternoon I'm tied up with various things. Meetings, mostly."
Jerrica sighed. "But tomorrow? Tomorrow morning? Could I come see you then?
I'll cancel my schedule and be by the bureau first thing. Would that be all
right? It's important that I see you soon."
"Yes, tomorrow morning will be fine." The agent confirmed. "Is there
nothing you can tell me in the meantime? I mean, in order to begin our
"My rival in this business is a dangerous person to tangle with." Jerrica
said slowly. "And I know she's had spies in this company before. All I
can tell you is that I was made aware of the computer's continued existance
last night...when my newest act played warm-up at Jewel's big concert."
There was no immediate response, and Jerrica bit her lip.
"I'm here, Ms Pacheco. I'll see you tomorrow morning, and we'll see
what we can dig up in the meantime." The voice came down the line once more,
gentle and reassuring to the troubled executive. "And don't worry about
it. I intend to look into this personally, and find out whatever I can."
"Thank you." Jerrica let out a sigh of relief. "I knew I could trust
you to help me...you listened to me before, when everyone else was screaming
fraud at me through the collapsing Jem haze."
The door of the office opened at that moment, to reveal Margot, and
Jerrica put her hand over the receiver, casting her assistant a frown.
"I said I had important business - Margot, what is it?"
"There's a journo to see you, Ms Pacheco. He says it's important...I
can't turn him away. He's scheduled to interview with Daisy and she...isn't
"Fine, I suppose he'll have to come in then." Jerrica was resigned.
She turned her attention back to the phone.
"I have to go, Agent Bray, but I will speak to you tomorrow. I think
I made a full report on this when the Memorial happened, but if there's
anything else you think you need to know, feel free to ask me. I want
this stopped, once and for all."
She set the receiver back in it's cradle, sending Margot a quizzical
"Well? Who is this guy? What magazine is he with? Is this in the diary?"
"I'm not sure. He didn't give me a chance to check - just barged in
here demanding to know where she was." Margot admitted. "He was very insistant
he saw you. Said he was on a tight schedule and couldn't hang about waiting
"You didn't even get his magazine?" Jerrica raised an eyebrow. "Did
you bother to ask his name?"
"Yes." Margot reined in her impatience. "He says he's Ryan Montgomery,
Ms Pacheco. And there was something in the diary about an interview for
Daisy this morning, but it looks like it's been double-booked or crossed
out. In any case, Daisy isn't here. She's across town getting her na...discussing
with her style editor about her look for the cover of her single release."
"Okay. I get the picture. Send him in." Jerrica shrugged. "I suppose
I better sort this out, if you can't do it."
She gestured to the door.
"Well? Let's see what he has to say."