ARC ONE: NEW DAWN
OF BENTON BLOOD
Chapter Nine: Starlight Music
"And that was the last time you saw Ms Pacheco?"
Alex eyed his subject thoughtfully, taking in the carefully made up face,
the perfectly styled waves of blond hair and the manicured nails that tapped
idly on the edge of her chair at intervals. "It's very important you remember,
Miss Buchan. Did she seem upset at all when you spoke to her then?"
"Jerrica was always a bit out of her tree." Daisy dismissed it with a flick
of her hand. "She was always agitated about something. I didn't notice."
"Did she say anything to you on the night of your concert? Anything at all?"
"Well, duh. She's my boss. She said a lot of things." Daisy rolled her eyes.
"What exactly do you wanna know?"
"Did she make any mention of a computer?" Raymond shot his partner a glance,
then turned his attention back to the singer, who stared at him as if he'd
"A computer? What do you think I am, some kind of technical geek? Of course
not. She spoke to me about Jewel and about giving my set the best. But I always
do that. Then she headed off somewhere and I did my vocal exercises and went
out on stage."
She grinned. "The crowd loved me."
"And you didn't see Ms Pacheco at all yesterday?"
"Don't remember it." Daisy shook her head. "I did get a call from her on
my cell...but that was just reminding me about an interview I had to do with
some magazine dude. It was cool...I got it done. I never spoke to her after
"At what time did she call you, Miss Buchan?" Alex asked.
"I dunno." Daisy pursed her lips. "It was morning. Around ten? I was having
my nails done."
She cast Alex a coy smile, then, "Is that all, Agent Bray? I don't think
there's anything else I can tell you."
"There is one more thing I'd like to ask you about." Alex returned the smile
with a genial one of his own. "Your relationship with your boss. Was it on
"Oh, for sure." Daisy's expression became almost predatorial. "Sure. She'd
do anything for me. I was her big saviour, her publicity act. I was pulling
her company out of it's slump. Of course we had a good relationship. She loved
"Then I think that's all we have to ask you, Miss Buchan." Raymond said
quietly. "Thank you for your time - we do appreciate it."
"Oh, it's my pleasure." Daisy cast a wink at Alex, swinging her hips casually
as she left the office where the FBI had set up their interrogation room.
Once the door swung shut behind her, Raymond uttered a groan.
"What in hell was that, and why did I think coming here was an easier job
than prying the will out of that lawyer?" He asked aloud. Alex chuckled.
"She is something." He admitted, amused. "But I don't see her as a potential
"No. Me either. Though she sure seemed keen on you." Raymond pursed his
lips. "What do you reckon, Alex? You go for trashy rock star blondes. This
one in your league too?"
"Sadie is not trashy." Alex grimaced at his colleague. "And Daisy can flirt
all she likes. I'm a taken man."
"So what else have we to do before we can catch some lunch and head out
to pry the will out of the old clam?" Raymond glanced at his watch. "I asked
Jerrica's PA to stick around, because I have a few other things I'd like to
ask her. She was here when Jerrica spoke to you, after all, and she seemed
very observant. I thought she might be able to help us further."
"Fine. Then you better go tell her to come in." Alex settled himself in
his chair. "Not having met the woman, I wouldn't know who to ask."
"You are in a funny mood today." Raymond observed, getting to his feet and
obediently heading to the door. "And I still feel like you're holding out
"Well, don't be so paranoid." Alex said lightly. "It's the influence of
being in this place. It's full of weird stuff. You'll get over it."
Raymond pulled a face back at him, then swung open the door, glancing down
the corridor for the executive.
"Mrs Locke?" He said. "Can we have a few words now please?"
"Yes...but I hope it isn't going to take too long." Margot got to her feet,
sweeping into the office and taking a seat, eying the two detectives with
any amount of composure. "Well? I thought I told you everything yesterday,
Agent Nicholson. This place is in chaos and as Jerrica's assistant, it's
largely up to me to try and keep things going until we know what's going
to happen to all of us."
"I just wanted to go over a few things." Raymond told her. "Oh, this is
my partner...Agent Bray."
"You're the one Jerrica was talking to yesterday morning." Margot's sharp
eyes flitted to the blond agent thoughtfully. "What was she calling you about?"
"That's a federal matter, ma'am." Alex said gravely. "As yet we don't know
if it has any bearing on her death or not. We'd like to know exactly what
you can tell us about Jerrica's behaviour yesterday, before she left the office.
She seemed a little upset on the phone...would you agree with that assessment?"
"A little upset?" Margot snorted. "Agent Bray, the woman was half talking
to herself. I've worked here only a few months, I admit...but I'd never
seen her so wound up. The guys in the office all reckon she was crazy anyway...but
she was never quite like that before."
"Did she say anything, exactly, to explain why she was agitated?"
"Yes." Margot pursed her lips, her eyes narrowing as she struggled to remember.
"Yes, she did. She wasn't specific, but she said she'd seen someone at the
show - Daisy's show. It was someone who shouldn't have been there. Then she
mentioned her father and something he'd done that she wanted to put right."
She shrugged. "I dunno. Emmet Benton's been pushing up daisies since before
I was born, so she might just have been having an episode. It's hard to be
Raymond glanced across at Alex. Then,
"Mrs Locke, I don't suppose Ms Pacheco had any enemies here in the office?"
"No. They thought her cuckoo, but they didn't hate her." Margot spread her
hands. "Honestly, I think they felt sorry for her. One of the guys said she
had marital problems...or something. That's so tragic, really...that she couldn't
find a decent guy to settle down with. Apparently he's a real headcase or
something, and they've had fights in public in the office before. Maybe he's
someone you need to speak to."
"Oh trust me, he is on our list." Alex assured her. "Mrs Locke...after Jerrica
finished speaking to me on the phone, can you tell me what happened?"
"Yeah." Margot looked rueful. "Yeah. This guy was here...he's a journo from
one of the city magazines, and he was booked to do an interview with Daisy.
There was a hell of a mess because Daisy wasn't here...she was with her style
editor talking over looks for her single cover, I think. Anyhow, I couldn't
get him to listen to me, so I had to disturb Jerrica and she wasn't pleased.
She didn't really want to be bothered with it, but she told me to send him
"Do you remember his name?"
"No. I'm sorry, but I don't."
"And after that?"
"I don't know. I had a meeting downstairs with some investors and when I
got back upstairs Jerrica had left." Margot shrugged. "She had a lot of meetings
written in her diary, so I supposed she'd gone to one of them. It wasn't strange
for her to go out, after all. She was very busy."
"Do you have this diary?"
"Yes, I brought it down with me when I heard you were coming back. I wondered
if you'd need it." Margot reached into her purse, pulling out the little black
organiser. "Jerrica hated computers...wouldn't have anything like this put
onto digital media. I never really understood why. It would have made life
a lot easier on me if she had."
"She hated computers?" Raymond raised an eyebrow. "Now that's interesting.
A woman in the height of the music business and she hated computers?"
"Scared of them. Said they were no better than little people waiting to
pounce." Margot pulled a face. "Maybe the guys are right. Perhaps she was
cuckoo. You know, she could easily just have gone off in a fit and done this
on purpose. Way she was acting yesterday, anything's possible."
"Thank you, Mrs Locke. You've been very helpful." Alex held out a hand and
Margot took it, shaking it with a professional smile on her face. "If you
remember anything else, please, give our office a call."
"Definitely." Margot agreed. "Now, maybe I can ask you something?"
"Nobody seems to know what's going to happen with Starlight Music now Jerrica
is dead." Margot schooled her features into a look of anxiety. "And naturally
we're all very worried about our jobs here. Do you know whether Jerrica specified
something in her will? I know she met with her lawyer not long after I began,
so I presume her legal affairs are all in order, but she never spoke to me
- or anyone here - about what would happen to Starlight Music in the event
of her death. Are we going to be closed down? There are a lot of contracts
on the line here - not to mention performers like Daisy who don't know if
they have musical representation now Jerrica's gone. Is there anything you
can tell me about that?"
"We haven't yet spoken to Ms Pacheco's legal adviser." Raymond said slowly.
"Unfortunately at present we know as much as you."
"Well, it was worth a shot." She said ruefully. "I've just made myself at
home here. I don't relish the idea of putting out my resume again so soon."
"Hopefully it won't come to that for any of you." Alex got to his feet.
"And now we've taken up enough of your busy time, Mrs Locke. Thank you again...I'm
sure we'll be in touch."
"Yes. Thank you." Margot nodded. "And if you need to know anything else,
feel free to give me a call. We've nothing to hide."
She got to her feet, shaking Alex's hand again, and then leaving the office.
There was a moment of silence, then,
"Do you suppose that's true?" Alex wondered. Raymond frowned.
"That Starlight Music have nothing to hide?"
"Well, I guess we'll soon find out." Raymond flicked through the small black
diary. "Seems the last person to see her alive was this journalist guy. I
wonder if Jerrica wrote his appointment in here."
"A journalist?" Alex frowned. "What would a pressman have to gain from Jerrica's
"Beats me." Raymond shrugged. "And there's no name in the book. The appointment
is written in, but there's no specific name. It might be a lead worth chasing
"Of course, it might equally be worthless." Alex sighed. "We're no closer
"Don't you find it interesting, that she was afraid of computers?"
"Interesting? Not really. Unusual, perhaps...but no."
"Really?" Raymond raised an eyebrow. "Alex, I've about had enough. What
in hell do you know about Jerrica's computer, and why aren't you telling
me about it of your own accord?"
"Jerrica doesn't have a computer...or didn't." Alex said quietly. "When
we spoke to her after the Jem Memorial, we swept her home and we swept this
place. Nothing. The thing wasn't there."
"No, true." Raymond pursed his lips. "I wonder if we overlooked something."
He shrugged, getting to his feet. "Well, for now I vote we grab lunch and
go speak to Jerrica's lawyer. Find out about this archaic will, and see who's
left stuff in it. And whether that stuff is motive enough to have her killed."
"We don't even know she was killed."
"No...but I like to work on the premise, murder until proven otherwise."
Raymond said grimly. "Let's go."
"Do you suppose they'll be here a lot over the next few weeks?"
As the agents drew away, Daisy turned from the window, casting her companion
a quizzical look.
"Who, Daisy?" Margot frowned, pushing her paperwork aside. "Will who be
here a lot?"
"Those agents. The blond one is cute."
"Daisy, do you ever think of anything other than your next boyfriend?" Margot
sounded exasperated. "And yes, I guess we'll see more of them. It just gives
me yet another headache with working things out in this place. We don't know
if we have a buyer, we don't know if we have someone to inherit it...we don't
even know if our boss was murdered and in the meantime I'm expected to hold
the place together. Half the staff think I'm too young to even be working
"Do you think someone did kill her?" Daisy looked thoughtful. "Would be
real convenient if Jewel were somehow involved. Didn't you say that she'd
got all upset about something she saw at the show?"
"Yes, but it couldve been anything." Margot sighed. "I wish I knew what
or who it was she saw. Something to do with her father, I think...but he's
dead. Long dead. So I don't know what to make of it."
"Does it matter if Jewel really were involved? Couldn't we just, you know,
put the rumour out that they mightve been?"
"Daisy, I know how you feel about Nancy Pelligrini." Margot grimaced. "I
think the same way. But for now we gotta keep our heads down. You have a single
to promote and me, I have to try and get all of this straight."
"Why do you think? So we keep our jobs when we come under new ownership."
Margot looked grim. "We don't know who that might be, or what...but I do
remember that Phyllis Gabor has bought out parts of Jerrica's empire before
now. Do you see where I'm going with this?"
"Not really, but I am verging on bored." Daisy examined her nails for chips.
"Do you think that blond dude's available?"
Margot rolled her eyes.
"Sometimes, you drive me up the wall." She said, shaking her head slowly.
"Daisy, Phyllis Gabor is head of Misfits Music. She owns Jewel. And she
already bought up one of Jerrica's old estates, plus has had various dealings
with the Starlight Foundation - on and off. Would it be a leap of faith to
suggest she might express an interest in this joint, too?"
"I suppose not." Daisy conceded. "Though what about Jerrica's will?"
"Well, whoever's set to inherit might be convinced to sell. Phyllis Gabor
is very...persuasive in that department, and an egomaniac to boot." Margot
pursed her lips. "Listen. When I first started looking for work in this business,
I did a lot of background checking and research on the main movers in Los
Angeles. Rory Llewelyn, Jerrica Pacheco, Phyllis Gabor. Jerrica seemed the
easiest target - her PA had just announced she was going to retire and Jerrica's
company badly needed new blood, so I knew there'd be something in it for you
as well as for me. So I went with it. I didn't anticipate she was going to
stiff out on us and leave us in this kind of situation - but for the time
being the best thing we can do is do our jobs and do them well."
"And if something should come up in the meantime?" Daisy raised an eyebrow.
"Something? Like what?"
"Well, if information was to pop up somewhere suggesting maybe Jewel were
"Then you can give your blond friend a call." Margot said dryly. "Until
then, cousin, we have a lot of work to do, and promoting your single isn't
the least of it. Jerrica's death is inconvenient in a logistical sense, but
it's the only thing anyone in Los Angeles is talking about at the moment.
Perhaps you and I can capitalise on this. After all, it's some story - the
budding starlet whose manager dies tragically just as she's about to hit
the bigtime. Who wouldn't want that interview?"
She reached for the phone. "And on that note - I have some calls to make.
Let's see if we can't get you some publicity out of this whole mess!"