Chapter Two: Sadie's Voice

 I know it was stupid.
I felt so guilty when I left the music studio. I know I've let Nancy down this morning, and whatever she says about it, she's annoyed with me. It's a privilege in a lot of ways that she wants me to write with her, so it sucks doubly badly that I've behaved like a total headcase instead of trying to get to grips with this new song. But I can't help it. Rowing with Alex last night has really put my head in a strange place.
I was almost relieved when Nancy suggested I should call him. It was like someone else had taken responsibility for what to do, and I guess I was leaning towards doing it myself. I figured the safest place to go was to my car - it's private out there, and I didn't really want any well-meaning eavesdroppers. Finding space and peace and quiet in the Starlight Mansion is like trying to find an emerald in a field of grass. Seriously. And besides, with Hollie around, I can't go out by the pool and light up. I promised Topaz not to smoke around her baby, and I'm pretty good at remembering. My car, however, is my domain.
To be honest, the fact that I'm even here right now, doing the job that I do and with all the things I have makes me feel guilty that I'm not just happy with everything. I mean, five years ago I was in drug rehabilitation. Now I'm a bonafide rock star, with friends and a nice home and...
And a boyfriend.
Well, at least I hope so.
I was about to give up on Alex answering my call (after about the thirty third ring, yeah, I'm that pathetic, I counted), when suddenly he picked up and I heard his voice coming down the line at me. For a moment I wasn't sure what to say. What if he was mad at me? What if he yelled?
"Sadie, that you?" He tried again, and I swallowed my fear.
"Hi, Alex." I said. "Are you busy? I'm sorry if I called at a bad time."
"Everytime's a bad time round this damn office." He sounded harried, and I knew I'd not picked the best time to get in touch. Oh well. It was done now. "What's up?"
"I...I guess I wanted to apologise for last night." There, I'd made the first move. There was a moment of hesitation, then,
"I don't think you have anything to apologise for." He admitted. "Sadie, it's been my bad three times in a row, and I totally get why you blew a fuse at me. I didn't do it on purpose, I promise you. Seeing you is far more important to me than spending hours in a cell interrogating someone suspected of killing three women, but that's my job and unfortunately it often has to come first. I didn't mean to let you down, though."
"I know it's your job. That's why I'm apologising." Somehow his words comforted me. "I was just disappointed, that's all. And afraid you were making excuses and...well, didn't feel that way about me any more."
"You can take it from me, Sadie, that's not the case." Alex's tones were reassuring. "I think the world of you, so don't you dare think otherwise."
"I'm sorry." I felt almost silly now. "I guess I should know that, huh?"
"You should." Alex's teasing tone dropped, then, "Sadie, we have to get together and talk about this whole thing some time. I hate to bail on you now, but Ray's just come in with a call about a shooting on fifty ninth. I have to go - but I will call you later, and that's a promise. As soon as I get in, whatever time that is. Okay? And we'll talk. We can't just keep not seeing each other because of work - it's no way for a relationship to survive."
"I'm glad you feel that way too." I told him. "And sure, I shouldn't have called you at work anyhow. I'll talk to you later, Alex. Keep safe, huh?"
"As safe as I ever am dealing with maniacs with guns." Alex sounded amused. "Bye, Sadie. Ray is glaring at me, so I really have to go. Love you - talk later."
"I love you too." I whispered, listening for the click of his phone as he hung up. I knew he was haring off to fifty ninth street now, to see what he could do to uphold the law. But at least I knew he loved me, and that meant something.
I am proud of him. He's great at his job - he and his partner solved the mystery of the fire at Misfit Music. I guess I just can't help being insecure sometimes over a relationship which is often interrupted by his work. But I do love him - more than is probably good for either of us. I'm glad to know he at least feels the same way.
I slipped my phone into the glovebox, lighting my cigarette and resting my arms on the steering wheel, considering. Somehow I knew my brain wasn't in any shape to write music, but I had made Nancy a promise, and on the subject of music she can be very hard to shift. She wouldn't love me if I went back to the studio with my cigarette lit, mind you. None of the others smoke - which can make it hard for me sometimes, to be honest. Topaz isn't overly bothered, so long as I don't smoke round Hollie, and Copper never really says anything, but Syl and Nancy are vocally anti-smoking, and always try and make me quit. I probably should. It's an ugly and expensive habit, but sometimes life doesn't half throw it at you.
Checking the car's clock, I realised it was almost lunchtime, and I finished my cigarette, tossing it into the ashtray and swinging open the car door. Thank God for automobile air conditioning, that's all I can say! I never knew it to be so hot in January! In three days it's my birthday, and when I lived in England, we'd often celebrate it in the snow. But snow doesn't exist in California! At least, if it does, I've never seen it happen. It's just one of those odd things about moving half a world away from my homeland, I suppose. I'm more used to the weather now than I was, but boy can it still cook me!
I headed into the Mansion, deciding as I did so to root Nancy out and suggest we swim for the rest of this afternoon. It was hot and we could write tomorrow...at least that was my plan. Nancy had already left the studio when I got there, however, so I figured she'd already given it up as a bad job. From my bedroom window I could see that they were all out by the water already, and I changed quickly, glad that for the time being the new album was on the back-burner.
As I tied my hair up out of my face, I was aware that I had company, and I turned, casting Cynthia a grin.
"You crept up on me." I told her playfully. "Shouldn't you knock? I was changing."
"You left your door open." Cynthia cast me a lazy, unperturbed smile. "And you were already changed by the time I reached the top landing. Everyone else is by the pool - I trust you are planning to join them?"
"Yes. I'm hot." I nodded. "Aren't you?"
"The basement is nice and cool." Cynthia shook her head. "And my circuits are all housed there. I don't get affected by California heat like you do."
"Lucky for you." I rolled my eyes. "Help me put sun cream on my back, will you? I can never do it right myself and I don't want to burn again. It's a nusiance having fair skin."
"Certainly." Cynthia agreed amiably, taking the tube of sun cream I handed her, and obliging. "Have you given up writing for the day, then?"
"Well, Nancy's gone outside and I honestly don't see how my brain will write in this heat." I admitted. "Am I skiving off, Cyn? Feels like it."
"I think everyone is a little stuck with this new disk." Cynthia reflected. "Nancy said she needed inspiration. I have been thinking hard about how to help."
"Can you help?" I eyed her doubtfully. "Do you write music?"
"I suppose I could, if I really wanted to put my hard drive to it." Cynthia considered. "But that isn't what I meant. Nancy is very adamant that Jewel music should only be written by Jewel musicians, and I am in agreement with that. I just wondered how best to create new inspiration for you both, that's all. For all of you, in fact."
"Well? What do you suggest?" I asked. "You're clever, Cyn - help us out."
Cynthia smiled.
"I wondered if maybe it would help to get a feel of what the Misfits and Holograms did when they were the big groups in Los Angeles." She said.
"The Misfits, Holograms and Stingers." I corrected her. "Surely they were big too?"
"Yes, but I do not like Rory Llewelyn." Cynthia's lip curled. "He wanted to destroy me. So I will not count his group. No."
"Well, what do you have in mind?" I was curious. Cynthia shook her head.
"I haven't everything worked out yet." She said slowly. "I have been working on a new program for myself in the last few weeks, based on some bootleg designs I found on the internet. They were created by the same man who created the virus that almost consumed me - he has a very brilliant mind, and I wondered if it might provide me with some amusement."
"Surely if he tried to kill you, doing anything with his work is dangerous?" I was alarmed. I'd not been in Los Angeles when Cynthia had contracted the computer virus, but I had heard all about it, and I knew that it had been a near thing. "What if there's another virus? What if it is a trap?"
"I have been very stringent in checking it out." Cynthia assured me. "I have learnt from my experience that I am not indestructable, Sadie. No, this is simply for fun - something to wile away hours when I have nothing else to do."
"Well, what sort of project is it? Can it help Jewel?" I was curious. Cynthia pursed her lips.
"I hope so." She said at length. "I think it will help to...to bring the Misfits and Holograms home to Jewel in a way that they've never encountered them before."
"Sounds fun." I smiled. "Do I get to play along too?"
"You all will, if it works." Cynthia promised. "I have had to make some slight adjustments and alterations to the original plan, to fit with my hardware capabilities and to compensate for a few design flaws. I think I have finally worked out the correct sequence, but I will test it further tonight. If it all works as it should, well, I hope to share it with Jewel tomorrow."
"And tomorrow couldn't be soon enough." I admitted. "With songs to write, the sooner we get out of this slump, the better."
Cynthia nodded.
"I agree entirely." She responded. "It does not please me to see Diablo do well. I intend Jewel to be top of the album chart, and I know you can do it. All you need is a little added inspiration." She winked. "That's all."
She handed the sun cream back to me. "So how did the call to Alex work out?"
"Well, we did speak, and I think we made up." I replied. "He was haring out on a job, but he promised to call me tonight. I feel better about it, Cyn...somehow I do, anyway. But it does worry me, that we work long hours away from each other."
"If you really love him, Sadie, you'll find a way around it." Cynthia said sagely. "All of my studies on the internet have led me to believe love is a complicated affair."
"No kidding." I rolled my eyes.
"I believe it is designed to be." Cynthia mused. "In order that it should only succeed in the best of circumstances."
Sometimes Cynthia's computer outlook can really be a pain.
"I don't think that helps." I told her now. "Are you coming out to the pool?"
"No. I have my project to work on." Cynthia shook her head. "But don't fret, Sadie. I am sure you and Alex will work it out."
She grinned.
"I worked out that you are eighty nine and a half percent compatible."
I take back what I said about her computer outlook. Those kind of statistics are just the kind of thing I need to hear right now.
I cast her a grin.
"Thanks, Cyn. That does help." I told her. Cynthia winked.
"I'll see you later." Was all she said, however. "Make sure Alex doesn't call you too late, huh?"
"Why should it matter?" I was confused. Cynthia smiled a strange smile.
"We have a baby in the house." She said with a shrug. "Topaz would not thank you for waking her."
"I guess not." I frowned. "Guess I'll put my phone on vibrate or something, and stick it under my pillow."
Cynthia did not reply. She just smiled another strange smile, and left the bedroom.
Sometimes being friends with a computer simulation can be really freaky, I'm telling you.
Not seeing what else to do, I headed downstairs myself to the pool. At least I could discuss Cynthia's latest project with the others, and see what they thought about it.
Something in my head nagged away at me, however. Something about that smile.
What was Cynthia planning?
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen