Cath Edgley's mother was the lead singer of an all girl punk band who vanished when Cath was 7 years old. When the man she believes was her father is murdered, Cath is determined to find the truth about her missing mum.
There was a split second of silence before Suzi shrieked and jumped into the air, her hands hitting the strings of her red Fender guitar.
“Hello, we’re Décolleté and this is for you!” I screamed as the fans erupted. The assault on the ears of those in front of us began. Speakers pulsed, spewing airborne emotion at the speed of sound. The opening power chords screamed out. Cassie’s desperate drums demanded to be heard. Rocky’s bass thumped. Heads shook, hands waved, the audience jumped and cheered. The lights burst on and off like a supernova as I scanned the heaving crowd and started to sing.
Behind me were four fired up females recapturing their youth. Décolleté were alive and full of fire, just as they had been with Mum three decades ago; their fingers less nimble, their bodies less taut, but their passion still as strong. Colours changed, from deep reds and cool blues to brilliant white and everything in between, darting in and out of the smoke billowing onto the stage. But how did I get here, from drama teacher in front of a class, to a rock star in front of thousands? The fans were raising their arms, cheering and calling my mother’s name, wanting me to be her, reborn, to glimpse what once was. But where was she?
Where was Betzy Blac?
1. Raven Rain
Raven Rain found dead in hotel horror!
The relentless downpour hit my fringe and dripped onto my cheek as I stared at the news stand, unable to tear myself away from the chilling words in front of me. The shock of the headline on the soaking wet paper made me gasp.
I had always believed Raven Rain was my father.
I could visualise the scene. I could see him lying there, eyes open—staring, empty—pills in one hand, a glass hanging from the other. Wine trickling slowly onto the booze-soaked carpet. His last lyrics frozen on his lips, the last encore missed. The woman beside him in bed, naked, almost unconscious, unable to scream. Her face was out of focus but I was sure I knew who she was, his relationship with the former model was well known.
But it didn’t make sense; he had everything to live for. He’d given up drugs. He’d survived his early punk years of excess, so why would he have overdosed like this now? No, this was no accident.
I opened the damp pages and there, on page two, next to his picture was one of his former lover: my mother. I expected to see her there, beside him in happier days, but I knew this would bring everything to the surface again and link me to them both.
I was suddenly aware of a man across the road. He was watching me. He had old-fashioned glasses, an outdated haircut and a thin dark coat. I knew I’d seen him before. I was about to walk away when a voice from behind made me turn around.
“Ah, Miss Edgley? I thought I recognised you,” smiled the pushy woman rushing up beside me, demanding my attention. She was typical of the parents of the girls in my class, carrying the obligatory designer handbag just to show she could. It completed a look that was worn to do one thing: shout, I’m rich! and overshadow my own department store clothes.
“I’m Dawn: Becca’s mum? Becca Jowell? She’s in your drama group, doing West Side Story?”
I smiled politely but behind the façade I was unimpressed.
“Shows a lot of promise, and puts a lot of effort into drama, you wrote on her last report,” she continued.
Why did they do this? Why now, the worst time? It was raining, the street was busy, I had to get back to work, and I’d just found out the man I believed to be my dad had been murdered. She made no attempt to share her Burberry brolly with me, determined to keep her own hair immaculate and dry while mine was flattened by the demeaning downpour.
“I’d be happy to talk at the parents’ evening next week?” I said. Cars drove through puddles, water splashed over the pavement hitting my shoes.
“I just wanted to say Becca would do so well as Maria, she really would, it’s an ideal part for her, especially as she shows a lot of promise, as you said yourself. I’m sure Darren, my husband, would be happy to make a donation to the production, for the whole cast of course. You must know him? Darren, Darren Jowell, the footballer? He plays for...”
“Yes, yes I know,” I smiled, interrupting. She waited for me to show gushing acquiescence to her social status, but none came. So she had a famous husband. Well I had a super famous mum and a dad who was all over the headlines, sadly for all the wrong reasons. Don’t upset her, Cath, I thought to myself, smiling benignly.
“I’ve already cast Maria, but Becca is the stand-in, so you never know. And she does have a good part. Now I’m sorry but I must dash; your daughter’s class will be waiting for me.” I smiled and turned away, knowing yet another email from a persistent parent would be winging its way to the Head, keen to question my casting. In my school, money talked and the Jowells had sacks full of it.
The watching man had gone. I took one last glance at the rack of newspapers. Yes, the woman pictured next to the shot of Raven Rain and his current muse, was Betzy Blac. My mum. Lead singer and songwriter from Décolleté.
It was a secret I’d tried to keep. Raven being my dad wasn’t really known, even within the music industry. Even though Raven had denied I was his daughter, I’d always been told I was. When people knew who my mum was they treated me differently: badly. They expected me to act like she did on stage. With a mum like Betzy Blac and a dad like Raven Rain it’s surprising I turned out sane and able to hold down a proper job at all. I learned to hold back, mind my tongue, keep below the parapet. Had my mum brought me up, maybe I’d be different.
So many pop stars’ kids are confident, positive, talented. I was none of these; I was quite the opposite.
I had to get back to work, to Beckthorn School for Girls, teaching English and Drama to Becca Jowell and twenty others like her, all with desperately doting mothers minding their fresh, fragile blooms. My pupils were the privileged elite at one of those expensive boarding schools behind big walls in the Home Counties just south of London. The ones you come across hiding behind a large notice board and big gates down small roads in expensive suburbs. It was the perfect place for me to hide and so different to the small town High School I attended.
My mum was that infamous fiery post-punk princess; although Aunt Trish, who brought me up, always said that beneath the image she was a bit like me. I’d always wanted to be her. I studied drama and English at college, but I never had the confidence to be the performer I dreamed of becoming, so I decided to teach it instead.
But what now? If Mum became headline news again, and if she and Raven were revealed as my parents, my job might not be safe. The daughter of an infamous punk princess and bad boy front man teaching the delicate daughters of the rich? It didn’t fit very well at all. My mum wore her heart and her sex on her sleeve. She was everything the school I worked for wasn’t. And as for Raven Rain? Where to start.
I hurried to my waiting car, water dripping onto the side of the seat as I opened the door. I dived in, slamming it shut to keep out the driving rain. My windscreen was fogged, my hands cold, my feet wet. I put my bag on a passenger seat liberally decorated with old petrol receipts and parking slips. A damp smell overpowered me. I was feeling vulnerable, the headlines going round and round in my head. I started the engine, turned on the wipers and pulled out from the car park. I had a feeling it wouldn’t be long before the press came calling. It had happened before.
Stories surfaced in the papers every few years: What really happened to Betzy Blac? It was the classic rock and roll mystery. Big star vanishes. Murdered? Suicide? Abducted or run away? The speculation had filled pages of print and hours of airtime. Aunt Trish protected me from it in the early days, when I was only a kid, but now I was fair game. I’d stayed under the radar for years, but they’d soon find me, now that Raven was dead.
I turned on the radio. It was the top story in the news: Police say they’re treating the death of former punk frontman Raven Rain as unexplained. Music stars have been paying tribute to the singer whose band, The Scented Slugs, were regular chart toppers in the early ’80s. A so far unnamed woman found at the scene is being treated in hospital under police guard.
I switched it off. For a long time I imagined seeing Mum everywhere, although I had no idea what she would have looked like now. She could be almost any woman in the street; she was a master of make-up and persona. That vision gave me a warm reassurance, but in reality I had to come to terms with the sad fact that she was probably dead, lying in some unmarked grave. Unnoticed but never forgotten, by me or her fans. I just clung on to the hope that she was living a secret life and I could carry on with mine.
The journey back to work was painful. The downpour slowing the traffic in the already clogged, congested streets. Eventually I reached roads alongside fields and then the narrow lanes leading to work; and there they were, the imposing gates of Beckthorn School for Girls. Outside was a van with ‘Satellite TV Services’ on its side. I hurried to my classroom just in time, smiling through a dozen “Hello Miss” welcomes from my final year drama girls, eagerly waiting for my lesson to start. The school secretary stepped into my path and stopped me like a roadblock ensuring I couldn’t pass.
“Miss Edgley, don’t forget the meeting tomorrow re parents’ evening, Miss Miles is insistent you attend. Oh, and there’s a small question over your casting in the musical.”
“I bet there is. The email has landed,” I muttered as I pushed past her and walked into my room, knowing I’d have to argue my case again. Talent over influence. Another staff room drama, but I was more worried about having a major drama of my own.
I ended the last lesson and picked up my bag, ready to go. As soon as I switched on my phone it rang. It was a withheld number.
“Is that Catherine Edgley?”
“I’m Jem Marin, a reporter with Top World News Agency; we supply the papers with stories. I’ve been asked to talk to you about the sad death of Raven Rain.”
“Er… How did you get my number?”
“It must be a sad time. I’m sorry to be intrusive but there’s a lot of sympathy out there. Have you spoken to your brother?”
“Who? I haven’t ever spoken to Tr… Look, I don’t have any comment to make, okay?” Travis Brennon, Really? My brother? Did I have a brother?
“Travis Brennon’s management have just confirmed he was Raven Rain’s secret son, and word has it you’re Raven’s daughter, so that makes you his sister.”
I had no words.
“Just one last question please, Miss Edgley. Do you think your mother, Betzy Blac, Raven Rain’s former lover, is still alive?” I didn’t answer. “Ms Edgley, your mum was loved by millions; any thoughts or clues to what happened to her would be welcomed.”
“Yes, and I’d welcome you leaving me alone.” I felt myself welling up. My throat was tight, my voice strained.
“Wait, Catherine, just give me a second, please. I understand you’re upset. There’s a theory trending on social media that if Raven Rain was murdered, Betzy Blac was killed as well and her killer has struck again all these years later. That killer has not only murdered your mother, but has now killed your father as well. Do you think that could be true? Do you think you or Travis Brennon are also in danger?”
“Your aunt, Trish Black, told me she thought it possible. Do you?”
“Aunt Trish? You’ve spoken to my aunt? What else has she said?”
“Yes, we spoke to her. So you don’t disagree with her then. It is possible? You won’t rule it out? Murder.”
“I… Don’t know. I…”
“So you don’t think it’s impossible that Raven and your mother were murdered by the same killer?”
“I… I don’t know. Sorry, I’m going to go.”
“How well did you know the woman in the room with Raven Rain, Ms Edgley? We understand it was the model, Sacha Tillens?”
“I don’t know her,” I replied, flustered.
“I understand there was a picture of your mother, Betzy Blac, on his phone. Why would that be? Their relationship ended a long time ago.”
“Sorry, I have to go.” I ended the call. Travis Brennon, my brother? I collected my things and left the school in a whirl. As I walked out to get into my car the satellite TV van’s door opened and the driver rushed to the open gates, holding a camera.
“Miss Edgley! Over here! This way Miss Edgley. Great, got it, thank you!” He smiled and threw the camera onto the passenger seat, a job well done.
“Hey!” I shouted. But he was soon behind the wheel, revving up and driving away, leaving marks in the gravel as he sped off and disappeared down the road.
Head down in my car, I drove as fast as I could and soon reached my dull suburban street a few miles away. Whatever would Mum have thought of this very ordinary commuter box that I inhabited? It wasn’t exactly rock and roll. Far from it: the essence of pedestrian normality. I nodded through the car window at Eileen, one of my friendly but uninspiring neighbours, who watched my return. She seemed fascinated. I looked ahead in the small cul-de-sac where I lived and saw why.
Outside my house were cameras and journalists. I knew this day might come, I knew people would hound me because of my mum and dad. I felt my throat tighten and my heart race as I slowed down approaching my house. Should I drive away or park down the road and come back when they’d gone? No. Why should I run away? I’d done nothing wrong. What would they ask me? Who killed Raven Rain? How should I know? The reporters already seemed to know more about my mum and Raven than I did. And Travis Brennon? A major star, described as the ‘Sexiest singer in music today’ by one magazine I read. Everyone knew him, my girls at school had posters of him, he had a string of bestselling songs and thousands of screaming fans. Totally gorgeous too; but my brother? Seriously?
2. DC Dennison
The reporters turned as one when they heard me approaching. A little press pack all of my own. When I’d tried to get the local paper to cover my school’s production of West Side Story they weren’t interested; but all of a sudden, bang. These were the nationals, right outside my place. I wasn’t going to be intimidated though. However unimpressive this insignificant 1970s semidetached house was, it was still my home, and right now I needed seclusion and solace. I crawled forwards, forcing them to part as I parked on the little drive leading to the front door.
“Catherine Edgley,” said the first reporter as I stepped out of my car, slamming the
door. She was a woman almost half my age, barely out of college.
“Sophie Eriksson from the Mail. When did you last speak to Raven Rain?” The other two edged forward, one framing me in their camera viewfinder, the other poised to record everything I said. I’d never spoken to Raven. I’d never met him. I said nothing. “Raven Rain was writing a book, do you have it?” Sophie Eriksson asked.
I shook my head.
“Josh Turner, BBC radio news,” said the next in line. “The London evening paper claims in its online edition that you aren’t ruling out murder.”
“No, I didn’t say that. What I said was that I didn’t know.”
“Ellie Khan, Sky News. So is it possible that Raven Rain and Betzy Blac may have been the victims of the same determined killer? A killer who’s struck again after thirty years?”
“Possibly,” I replied curtly. “But I couldn’t say that; I really don’t know. The conspiracy theories will start feeding on this and I don’t want fan the flames.”
“Who would want to hurt them? We’d love to do a proper interview with you, for the fans; it’s attracting massive interest. The picture of your mum and Raven being arrested naked and drunk in that fountain is Paris in 1983 is everywhere again. Is that an embarrassment to you?” asked Ellie Khan, moving closer.
“Oh really? What do you think?” I mused, remembering the shot. It was hardly Mum and Raven’s brightest moment. I remained emotionless as I fixed a firm stare and pushed my way to the front door with a polite “thank you”. I reached for my keys, went in and shut the press out just as my phone rang.