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Episode 114

 

Release Date:  May 18, 2010

 Read the episode Recap

 

 

 

Episode 114

"Development Hell"

 

Day 1

A convoy of black Mercedes SUV’s followed in perfect formation along the winding roads up and down the mountains of Acapulco.  Stormy, Cassidy Solomon and Jack Childers in the first; Steven, Eric Autumn, plus the cinematographer and two lighting technicians were in the second; and the remaining three transported the rest of the crew.  From the airport where the Sunset Studios jet had arrived half an hour earlier, the parade caused quite a spectacle, and drew the attention of two federal police officers. 

One by one, the vehicles pulled to the side of a particularly narrow stretch of road overlooking the bay.  Stormy thought they looked more like soldiers as he spied them in the rearview mirror from his position in the front passenger’s seat.  Armed with machine guns and cloaked in body armor, they approached the driver, a service Kyle had set up prior to their arrival.

“What’s going on?” Cassidy complained.  She was wrapped in a head scarf and large round sunglasses, determined to protect her identity from any random fans they met along the way.  So far there had been none.   She fanned her skin as the driver put his window down and began speaking to the police in rapid Spanish.  “It’s hotter than hell out there,” she continued.

“Be quiet,” replied Jack Childers, her infamous co-star in House of Palms.  He was a distinguished looking actor in his early sixties complete with over-dyed hair gelled neatly to the side, perfectly manicured fingernails, and a  paisley ascot tied loosely around his neck.  “It’s a routine traffic stop.  It’s for our own protection.”

“I will not be quiet,” she said indignantly while leering at him from behind her upturned nose.  After she regarded him for a good sixty seconds, she finally continued, “just because you lived here thirty years ago doesn’t mean you’re an expert.”

“How about you both be quiet,” Stormy said daringly, watching as one of the officers walked around to the passenger’s side while the other proceeded back to inspect the other vehicles.

A repetitive tap to the glass with the butt of his rifle prompted him to lower his window.  He swallowed hard, nervous about the intimidating weapon waving before him.  Routine traffic stops in L.A. were nothing like this.  He figured it was just that – an intimidation tactic.

“Is there a problem?” he asked.

The man leered at him for several seconds, inspecting the floor around him and the passengers in the back seat.  Cassidy and Jack remained silent. 

“You speak Spanish?” he asked.

He shook his head in reply.

After offering a look of irritation, the officer continued in broken English, “what brings you to Acapulco?”

“We’re filming a movie.  We’re with Sunset Studios in Hollywood.”

“You a movie star?”

“No.  I’m an executive.”  Hadn’t they gone through customs already?  What was with the questions, he wondered.  “Is there a problem?”

He responded by holding a hand up between them.  “Relax.  I tell you if there’s a problem.  Where are you staying?  Las Brisas?”

“Yes.”  He figured he knew because it was the most famous hotel in the city and celebrities often stayed there.  Jack had insisted on it as opposed to the Continental Hotel where they’d stayed last time. 

“Ahhh, very nice,” the officer said with a grin and a smile.  “You have passport?”

“Why?  I was already granted access to your country,” Stormy answered. 

“Don’t give it to him,” Jack announced from the back seat.  “They make money by trying to sell it back to you.” 

The officer reacted to the outburst by lowering his weapon from its position against his shoulder.  Aiming it toward him, he took on a threatening glare but didn’t respond with words.  An automatic rifle pointed through the window at him was enough to shut Jack up. 

“Give me your passport,” said the officer again. 

Stormy glanced at the driver, hoping for some kind of guidance but the man simply sat staring at the floor.  Finally, he decided to do as the officer asked.  They didn’t want any trouble.  He assumed they only drew attention because of the sheer spectacle of their arrival.  Hesitantly, he reached into his carry-on and removed his passport.  The officer quickly took it from him and opened it to the middle section.

“How long you be in Acapulco?”

“Three months,” Stormy replied.  He noticed the second officer approach the window, apparently finished inspecting the other vehicles.  “Our visas are in order.”

The other officer nudged his partner, pointing to the back seat.  He mumbled something in Spanish and before long they were engaged in a rapid fire conversation that none of them could understand.  Jack knew bits and pieces but was no longer as fluent as he used to be. 

“They’re talking about you,” he whispered to Cassidy.

“What about me?” she whispered under her breath.

“Near as I can tell, it’s about Summer and that video on your website.” 

“What?” she exclaimed angrily, suddenly unconcerned about keeping her voice down.  “How dare they?  You tell them that I don’t appreciate being the subject of their disgusting jokes.”

“You really want me to tell them that?” he mused. 

Stormy tried to tune out their bickering.  As he did, the officer turned his attention back to him. 

“You have filming permits?” he asked.

“Yes.  They’re on file at the Mexican Film Commission.”   He was suddenly tired of the interrogation.  Yes, they were guests in their city but they had broken no laws and had every right to be there.  “Look, how long is this going to take?  We have a lot of work to do.” 

“You need to come with us,” the officer said, suddenly serious again. 

Shaking his head in frustration, Stormy grew increasingly belligerent.  “No,” he said.

“Que?”

“No.  I’m not coming with you.  Look, I respect your laws but none of us have done anything wrong.  You can’t make me do anything.”

The officer regarded him carefully, then went for the door handle.  Stormy issued the driver a stern order to pull away.  In the back seat, Cassidy looked on with alarm.

“Are you crazy?  Do what he says.” 

Stormy ignored her.  He rolled up the window and waited as the SUV pulled out onto the road.  He knew that the driver supported his decision or he would have refused to move.  He knew the locals better than they did, after all. 

“Jesus, now they’re going to come after us,” Cassidy complained. 

“No, they won’t,” the driver suddenly announced.  “They knew they had no authority.  They were just trying to see how far they could push you.”

“They’re not real police?” Stormy asked.

“No, they are real police.  But some police in Mexico take advantage of Americans who come here to visit.  Watch what you do and where you go.  Stay in contact with your American Embassy.” 

“I told you,” Jack said, watching through the rear window as the rest of their convoy followed in line.  “Look, they’re not even following us.” 

“It was still risky,” Cassidy said, fanning herself with a magazine. “Would somebody tell me why I agreed to spend three months here?”

“Because you got fired from that soap,” Jack reminded her. 

She gave him a wry expression and buried her face in her magazine.  In the front seat, Stormy tried to shake off the frustrating run-in with the police.  Checking in with the American Embassy once they got to their hotel wasn’t a bad idea.  They had a lot of work to do, and as much of a spectacle as their group was, he didn’t want to risk attracting a lot of unwanted attention and falling behind schedule.  His father would never let him forget it if that happened. 

Las Brisas was a typical high rise hotel nestled into the side of the mountain overlooking the bay.  It seemed to be fairly deserted, and then Stormy remembered it was off season in the small resort town.  The spring breakers had gone and the inhabitants of the area were preparing for their rainy season.  He hoped the weather didn’t put a crimp in their shooting schedule.  Another factor he failed to consider during pre-production. 

As the crew unloaded into the open-air lobby, Eric Autumn entered with Steven following close behind. 

“What the hell, Blackthorne?” he barked when he spotted Stormy checking in at the front desk.  “Jesus, we’re here for twenty minutes and you already get us pulled over by the fucking police?  I thought you had this shoot under control.”

“Like I could do anything about a traffic stop,” he mused, slinging a bag over his shoulder.

“Gee, maybe if you’d picked a slightly less ostentatious method of transportation from the damn airport then we wouldn’t have looked like the Kardashian’s rolling into Acapulco.”

“Kyle arranged the transportation,” Stormy informed him.  He handed him and Steven their room keys with a belligerent flick of his wrist.  “Blame him when he gets here.”

From across the lobby, they could hear Cassidy raising hell with a startled front desk agent.  “I thought I asked for a two-room suite.  I require one room for myself and one for my clothes.  I don’t sleep in my clothes, nor do I sleep with them.”

“Lo siento,” the wide-eyed young man said.  “I’m sorry, Senora Solomon.  There are no more two-room suites.”

“Outrageous!” she gasped and slapped her hand down on the counter.  She turned her head and glared at Stormy and Eric.  “I knew I should have insisted my manager come with me.  What the hell kind of slipshod treatment is this?  Do they have any idea who I am?  I’m an Emmy winning actress, goddammit.”

Groaning, Stormy went to her and exchanged room keys.  “Here, take mine,” he said, refusing to let her continue with her tirade.  He intended to use the two-room suite himself because he needed the extra space for production materials, but it was soon becoming clear that whatever Cassidy wanted, Cassidy got.

She took his key with a sigh.  “Does this have an ocean view?” she asked and turned her head to the agent. 

Kyle Fenwick

There was something to be said for flying commercial, Kyle thought as he and the assorted crew members made their way to the hotel that afternoon.  He’d escaped the diva-like antics that Cassidy, Jack and Eric would undoubtedly bring to the flight from Los Angeles, and clearing airspace on a private jet was always more problematic than a commercial airliner.  Because of this, it put him into Acapulco only an hour after the others had arrived.

On the twenty-minute ride from the airport, he thought about calling Brooke to check in with her.  He’d just seen her that morning when she took him to the airport, so maybe it was too soon.  Didn’t want to seem too eager.  Besides, it would be at least a couple of weeks before they got a break and he could fly back to see her.  Better to space out their communication so as not to confuse the situation.

Upon arriving at the Continental Hotel, he approached the front desk and attempted to check them into their rooms.  To his surprise, their reservations had been canceled.

“What do you mean canceled?” he demanded, staring at the agent from behind mirrored aviators.  “Our entire crew is staying here.  We should have thirty rooms on the tenth floor.” 

“I’m sorry, someone canceled the reservations yesterday.” 

“Who canceled them?” Kyle demanded, louder this time.

The woman simply shook her head with a blank expression.

Groaning with frustration, he plucked his cell phone from his back pocket and called Stormy who inexplicably told him they’d relocated to Las Brisas.  Without wanting to get into it over the phone, he loaded everyone back into the van and went back up the mountain. 

“What the hell?” he exclaimed when he found Stormy in the lobby with Alejandro from the Mexican Film Commission.  “Ever think of telling me that you changed our hotel reservations?”

Stormy looked at Alejandro and then at Kyle.  “I thought I did.  Jack and Cassidy insisted we stay here.  I told you yesterday.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I’m sorry.  It was an oversight.” 

Kyle folded his arms across his chest and chuckled to himself.  “An oversight?” he asked.  “Right.  You intentionally didn’t tell me.  Admit it.”

“Why would I do that?” Stormy demanded as he stood up from the chair.

“Because you’re trying to exclude me, that’s why.  But what you don’t seem to understand is that wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for me.”

Groaning, Stormy held a hand up in an effort to quiet him.  “If you start going on about your father’s screenplay again I swear to God I’ll freak out.  Get a clue, Kyle.  If it wasn’t this movie it would have been another one.  Stop acting like you’re the glue that holds this studio together.”

“Look, you little punk,” Kyle said, removing his sunglasses and staring him down.  “I’m here whether you like it or not.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Well, your father does, so get used to it.  And isn’t that what this is about?  You’re afraid you’re going to fail with this movie and I’m going to look more competent to James?  You’ve disappointed him before.  What’s once more?”

Refusing to let him get to him, Stormy turned back to Alejandro and lowered himself into his chair.  “You’d better the crew checked into their rooms.  We have a busy day tomorrow.”

Furious over the encounter, Kyle stormed off to the front desk.  Whether the mix-up with the hotels was intentional or not, he could see a battle brewing over the course of the next three months.

Stormy Blackthorne

Day 2

The first day of filming took place at the estate on the outskirts of the city.  Set high up in the mountains, the hacienda style home was the ideal location for the Andrews homestead.  In the first scene of the script, Lana and Edward Andrews, a Texas-based oil-rich family, were touring options for their Mexican summer home.  In the title role of the film, the house and its inhabitants would become the focus of the story. 

While Eric gave Cassidy and Jack their direction for the scene, Stormy checked in with the director of photography and the sound and lighting crew.  Steven assisted with taking pictures of the set to ensure continuity from day to day, and Kyle took on the role of security to ward off the growing group of spectators.  Their security guy who’d traveled with them from L.A. had made the mistake of drinking too many margaritas the night before.  At six a.m., he was in no condition to travel up the mountain.  So once again, Kyle was reduced to menial work that should be taken care of by the crew. 

By lunchtime, the security guard had made it to the location.  Kyle promptly fired him and ordered him back to the states.  Stormy, having worked with the three-hundred pound man on Angel Assassin 2, rehired him immediately after.  The challenge over authority spurred another confrontation. 

“I just spent the entire morning fending off a group of rabid fans while your security guy was sleeping it off back at the hotel,” Kyle protested in front of the entire production crew.  “How dare you usurp my authority.”

Rolling his eyes, he attempted to go about his duties.  “I don’t have time for this,” he said and turned away.

“Then make time,” Kyle insisted, pushing him forcefully. 

Stormy stopped in his tracks and turned back to him.  He retaliated by giving him a quick shove backward.  “Mike’s been working for my family for years.  This is the first time he’s done anything like this.  If I say he’s not fired, then he’s not fired.”

“And I say he’s dead weight and we don’t need him,” Kyle fired back.  He stepped forward, taking on a threatening stance. 

As blows were about to be exchanged, Mike the security guard doubled over and vomited next to the caterer’s table.  They both turned in his direction and simultaneously moaned with irritation. 

“Jesus, how many margaritas did you have?” Jack Childers asked from his makeup chair. 

“It’s not just Mike,” Steven remarked after jogging up to the group.  “The lighting assistant and the grip are both puking their guts out in the bathroom.”

“What?” Stormy raged, running his fingers through his thick black hair.  “Did they all get shit faced together or something?”

“The other guys only had one drink each.  Mike was the only one who got drunk.”

“It was probably the water,” Kyle decided.  “Most places around here don’t use filtered water for their ice.”

Stormy slapped his hands to his sides and grimaced at the pool of vomit on the ground beside the food table.  “Brilliant.  Our second day here and we’ve already got three guys down.”  He turned to Steven.  “Can you get them in the van and take them back to the hotel?”

Acting quickly, Steven went to round up the three ailing crew members. 

“Now what?” Kyle murmured aloud. 

Stormy racked his brain and came up with the only solution he could.  “Some people will just have to double up on duties, that’s all.”  He looked around.  “Where’s Eric, anyway?”

“I saw him talking to one of the fans a while ago,” Jack said and motioned to the blockade separating the throng of onlookers.

Stormy scouted around the area, checked a couple of the rooms inside the house, and finally found their director in the makeup trailer with an exotic looking local he’d noticed earlier amidst the group of onlookers.  The girl, Marisol, who was no older than eighteen, leaned over a vanity in the trailer while Eric, hot and sweaty, fucked her vigorously from behind. 

“Do you mind?” Eric asked in bated breath as Stormy stood in the doorway in awe.  The girl shrieked with delight, barely acknowledging the interruption.

Shaking his head in aggravation, Stormy ducked back outside and closed the door.  So far the first day of filming wasn’t going as smoothly as he’d planned.  What else could go wrong?

Kyle Fenwick

While they decided what to do about the unexpected illnesses within the crew, Kyle ducked into the van and texted Brooke.  It had been a day since he’d left Los Angeles so it seemed appropriate to contact her, and not at all pushy.  She’d made it clear she wasn’t the type to respond to pushy. 

What are you doing?

Having lunch with Miranda at my office.  How is Acapulco?

Chaos, of course.  Lonely night last night.  Too bad you aren’t here.

Why?

No one to do it in the shower with. 

He couldn’t resist adding the last message.  The night before he left, they’d made love several times, and in the morning he surprised her in the shower and they had an amazing experience under the flow of rushing water.

The steamy vision would have to carry him for a while, he realized.  At the rate things were already going, they wouldn’t get a break for some time.  So much for making a weekend trip home anytime soon. 

Commotion around the side of the sprawling tree-strewn house sent alarm bells in his head.  Quickly, he bolted from the van and raced to the clearing where they’d set up the next shot.  What he saw only cemented his assumption that they were in development hell. 

Eric, dressed only in his underwear with his pants around his ankles, was writhing on the ground as a large Hispanic man was kicking him in the ribs.  Standing to the side with a defiant look in her eyes was Marisol, the young girl he’d been screwing only minutes before. 

“What the-“ Kyle began as he approached Stormy.

As several crew members went to intervene in the attack, all Stormy could do was stand and shake his head.  “Eric was caught dipping into the native pool and her boyfriend didn’t seem to like it very much.” 

“Well get him out of here.  The last thing we need is to lose our director.” 

“Really?” Stormy asked sarcastically.

He turned his attention to Eric who was being led away by the other crew members, bruised but still standing on his own two feet.  The Hispanic man yelled after him, a string of rapid Spanish phrases that Jack quickly interpreted for them. 

“Our friend isn’t too happy about a cocky white man moving in on his girlfriend,” he whispered.  “He threatened to rip off his….um….well, his cock if he ever looked at her again.” 

“About what I expected,” Stormy sighed.

“He also said we all needed to watch out backs,” Jack went on.  “Another incident like this one and he’d sick his friends on us.” 

“Friends?” Kyle asked with a raised eyebrow.

Jack motioned to the tell-tale bulge protruding from the back of the man’s pants.  Stormy and Kyle immediately recognized that he was carrying a gun. 

“Lots of gangs around here, Amigos,” Jack cautioned them.  “I suggest we keep to ourselves as much as possible while we’re away from the hotel and resort areas.”

“Good thinking,” Stormy agreed, eyeing the large Hispanic man as he grabbed his girlfriend and drug her off through the crowd.  Their eyes locked momentarily and for a few seconds he felt intimidated for the second time since their arrival. 

Stormy Blackthorne

Day 3

Much to Stormy’s irritation, they woke up on their third day in Acapulco to driving rainstorms.  After checking the L.A. Times on his iPad, he realized they were getting the same weather up at home.  Sighing, he decided they would have to reorder their shoots for the next few days.  Instead of outdoor scenes today, they’d move indoors, which of course meant extra work for their grouchy wardrobe girl and particularly from Lenny Korvanski, makeup artist extraordinaire. 

As he flipped through the pages of the paper, he came to the society section where plastered across the front page was his mother’s most recent head shot, complimented with an inset photograph of her being led into Promises Treatment Center.  Below was a one-page article detailing her breakdown at L.A.X., the disastrous attempt at adopting a Malawian baby, and finally her admittance to the rehab center with James by her side. 

He froze in his upright position in the bed of his room at Las Brisas.  Quickly, he set his coffee cup down and attempted to call his father on his cell.  No answer.  He called the house and Leilani told him he was in meetings all day.  She filled him in on what she knew about Alex and then said she’d tell James he called.  After hanging up, he couldn’t help but feel out of sorts with the new information.  She’d seemed so hopeful when he went to see her the day before he left.  He knew she wasn’t as together as she claimed, but he had no idea she would hit rock bottom in such a heartbreaking way.  At least his father was there to take care of her, he thought.  Unlike Jordan, who appeared to have remarried his ex-wife the day before.  It seemed that much had happened in the few days he’d been gone.

After trying to call Miranda, who also didn’t answer, he finally settled on phoning Brooke.  Her cell went straight to voicemail, indicating that it must be turned off.

With a resigned sigh, he climbed out of bed and went to the bathroom to take a quick shower before they gathered the crew and headed back up to the house.  Despite the rain, he was determined to get more done today than they did yesterday.  As long as there were no more unplanned illnesses and Eric could keep his dick in his pants, then they should be good. 

Bryan Carlson

New York City

“Are you there?” Bryan Carlson asked as he paced his office.  Jackie?  Hello?”

“Sorry,” she said. “I’m here.  I just can’t stop thinking about David and him giving everything to Brooke.  If he wasn’t my son I would seriously have to wonder where his head was.”

“She’s going to become a very wealthy and powerful woman in a matter of months,” Bryan told her, feet propped up on his desk.  “She could be a dangerous enemy to have.”

“You’re not suggesting I befriend that little pop tart, are you?”

He laughed.  “No, I know better than to suggest the impossible.”

“Then there’s nothing I can do about it,” Jackie said with a sigh.  “She’ll inherit everything and I’ll be here struggling to take back what her and James and everyone else stole from me.”

“Where is she now?  It’s the middle of the day and you’re bashing her at the office.  Watch out or you’ll have another cat fight on your hands.”

“Oh, she’s on her way to Acapulco.  Something about checking up on production schedules.  God, she’s got such a Napoleon complex.” 

“Interesting,” Bryan said.  “I saw her at the airport when Kyle left.  They seemed pretty close.  He always did go for the pretty ones.” 

“Ugh,” Jackie croaked.  “She can stay down there for all I care.  As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t mind if she disappeared somewhere in Mexico and was never heard from again.”

Bryan grew silent for several seconds while he dissected her innocent remark.  “That would certainly count her out of David’s will.  Might even push you right up to the front of the line.”

She sighed with defeat.  “Oh well.  What’s done is done.  She’s getting it all.  Like I said, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Then Bryan replied, casually and mild-mannered as ever.  “You never know.”

Jackie dismissed his remark with an incredulous laugh.  “Aren’t you getting tired of listening to my little dramas?  You are the acting head of Fenwick Industries.  A huge shipping conglomerate like that must take up a lot of your time.  You make it look so easy.  If only I had someone like you to help me with Merteuil.”

“I’m always happy to help,” Bryan said with a wink.  “I’ll be back in L.A. in a day or two.  Why don’t you give me a crack at your books and I’ll see what I can do?” 

“You’re so sweet,” Jackie said. 

“Don’t worry.  I’ll take care of everything.”

After a day of shooting at the estate in the mountains, the crew returned to their hotel, tired and drenched from the continuous downpour.  When Kyle arrived at his room, he heard soft music playing from outside on the patio, outfitted with its own private pool.  The soft glow from the lights poured into the room.  He proceeded with caution, plagued with trepidation over their stay in Acapulco so far.  Assuming everything as a threat, he grabbed the nearest instrument he could use as a weapon.  The first thing he found was the iron from the closet. 

Proceeding onto the terrace, he came to realize there was no threat, but definitely a welcome surprise.  Slowly, he set the makeshift weapon aside.

“I didn’t realize these were shark infested waters,” he grinned, staring down at Brooke who was luxuriating in the nude beneath the water. 

“Are you calling me a shark?” she asked coyly, moving to the ledge and leaning over the side of the pool.  “I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

“What are you doing here?” he asked, kneeling down and knotting his fingers through hers.

“I couldn’t wait to see you,” she said, pulling him toward the water.  “Kept thinking about that shower we shared the other morning.” 

“What happened to being discrete?”

“What?  I’m here to check up on production.  And it just so happens that the hotel is sold out so I’ll have to share a room with the most drop dead gorgeous guy in the entire crew.”

Flushed with excitement over her bare breasts peeking ever so slightly above the surface of the water, he began to quickly undress.  He stripped off his shirt, dropped his jeans and underwear to the floor, and jumped into the water.  Instantly, their lips met in a long, hot kiss. 

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you swimming in shark infested water was dangerous business?” Brooke asked between hurried kisses.  She placed her hands on his muscular arms and savored the taste of his mouth on hers. 

“Sure.  Can’t you feel how fast my heart is beating?  I’m terrified.” 

Grinning, she led him to the side of the pool and straddled him on the ledge.  “Let’s see if we can’t get that heart rate up even more.” 

Intoxicated by her soft, smooth skin and perfectly formed curves, Kyle lifted her into his arms and carried her inside to the bed.  Placing her soaking wet body gently against the pillows, he lowered himself on top of her and brushed his lips across her neck.  Shrieking with delight, she guided him inside of her and felt her entire body tingle when they were joined. 

Afterwards, they talked for hours, thought about ordering up some food, but fell asleep in each other’s arms before they could.

Brooke Taylor

Day 4

Sun streaming through the windows of the hotel room, Brooke awoke shortly after six o’clock and watched Kyle sleep for a few stolen moments.  She smiled, unable to take her eyes off of his boyish face and finely sculpted body.  Was she crazy for getting this wrapped up in a man again?  After a string of bad relationships and broken hearts, she’d swore off men for a while.  Time to work on herself, she’d promised.  But this was different.  She and Kyle had agreed to take things slow.  Right now they were having fun, and fun was exactly what she needed.  Serious stuff would come later.  Disappointment did not enter the line of possibility.

Twisting off the bed, she wrapped her naked body in a robe and proceeded to the terrace.  The pool looked inviting.  If they had time she decided she’d like to go for a swim before the day’s activities began. 

She gazed over the railing from the terrace, taking in the beautiful surroundings of steep rock cliffs and sandy beaches.  A group of people were gathered across the road where the ground began its descent into the bay.  In the distance she heard the sound of sirens.  She glanced around and then turned back to the growing crowd, noting disturbing looks of horror on their faces.  Something big must be happening, she decided. 

After hesitating about waking Kyle, she decided to venture out herself and check things out.  She quickly threw on shorts, a t-shirt and running shoes, and after tying her hair into a ponytail, she proceeded down to the hotel lobby.  Stark white faces and more looks of horror met her every few feet. 

Tentatively, she went outside and started across the road where the developing group of spectators had gathered.  Lining the road along the descent to the beach, a group of federal police officers had gathered, armed with automatic machine guns and body armor.  She strained to see what the commotion was about, and when the crowd parted and she finally saw, she wished she’d stayed in her room. 

On the blood-stained ground, covered in bullet holes, was the headless corps of a man.  She felt bile instantly rising from the pit of her stomach at the horrific sight.  Taking a step back, she threw her hands to her mouth and quickly turned away.  It was an exhausting struggle to keep from vomiting from sheer nausea.  Never had she seen anything as grotesque.

Then, in the instant she opened her eyes again, she saw a similar situation several yards down the road.  More spectators, more police, and an ambulance that loaded a blood-soaked body into its cabin. 

She turned and started to retreat to the hotel.  She bumped directly into someone lurking from behind.  A shriek tore loose from her throat until she realized it was Kyle. He turned her face away and placed his arms tightly around her. 

“Don’t look,” he said with a grimace. 

She clung to him tightly, confused and horrified by the devastating events that had started the day off.

Eric Autumn

“The hotel manager said the victims were locals,” Eric said an hour later as they gathered in the lobby.  “And they probably had drug ties.” 

“How many?” Brooke asked, sitting between Stormy and Kyle on a sofa, her skin green with nausea. 

“Two,” Kyle interrupted, rubbing her back with the palm of his hand.  He ignored an inquisitive look that Eric shot him.  “They were killed somewhere else and their bodies were dumped here.  The cartels have done this before.  It’s a warning to their rivals.”

“Are they sure they weren’t killed here?” Brooke asked.  “I mean, they were right outside our hotel.  It could have been any one of us.”

“Somebody would have seen something,” Eric assured her.  “They dumped them here sometime during the night.”

“And they don’t target Americans,” Kyle interjected.  “These drugs wars have been going on for years.” 

“It wasn’t like this in the eighties,” Jack objected.  “Discos and g-strings is all anybody cared about back then.”

Kyle groaned, fully aware that Jack wasn’t helping to settle Brooke’s nerves.

“Well, I don’t care what this place was like in the eighties, it’s a war zone now,” Cassidy piped in.  “I’m not staying.”

“What?” Stormy asked.  “You can’t leave.”

“Watch me,” she snapped, pacing the area before them with a mimosa gripped tightly in her hand.  “You all can stick around and get turned into swiss cheese or have your heads chopped off, but I’m not about to join you.”

Brooke grimaced at the visual, setting her coffee cup on the table beside them.  She shot to her feet and raced off to the bathroom.  After she’d gone, Kyle and Stormy exchanged harried glances. 

“You have a contract, sweetheart,” Eric maintained, turning his attention back to Cassidy.  “You’re not going anywhere.”

“The hell I’m not,” Cassidy proclaimed.  “If you’ll all read my contract carefully, you’ll note that there’s a clause I had my manager include precluding me from filming in any location that I deem unsafe or hazardous to my health.  I think two headless corpses twenty feet from my hotel room warrants a hazard.”

“These were drug dealers,” Stormy insisted.  “These people just don’t go around killing American visitors.”

“And just what if they decide to use one of us as a warning to their rivals?” Cassidy exclaimed.  “Forgive me, but I don’t want to be the next corpse you find on the side of the road when you wake up tomorrow.”

Steven, characteristically quiet in the corner of the sitting area, welled up with tears as the bickering continued.  What no one seemed to care about was that two people were dead – butchered in the most violent way imaginable.  Whether they knew them or not, it was a tragedy that seemed to be overlooked in light of their own fears.  He contemplated saying something, but instead kept his thoughts to himself.  No one would listen to him anyway. 

“Look, let’s just take the day and stay close to the hotel,” Kyle suggested.  “The forecast calls for more rain anyway.  Give some time for this thing to blow over and then we’ll pick up filming tomorrow.”

“No way,” Stormy insisted.

“I don’t think anyone’s in the mindset to work today,” Kyle argued.  “Besides, the authorities are telling everyone to stick to the resort areas.”

“How long do you think we can do that before we go over budget?” exclaimed Stormy.  “A day?  Two, maybe?  We’ve already lost time and money because of everything that’s happened since we’ve been here.  No, I’m not putting the studio or this film in jeopardy."

“Well I’m not going up to that house today,” Cassidy maintained, arms folded sternly across her chest. 

Stormy looked around the group, realizing everyone felt the same way as she did.  He threw his hands up in resignation, willing to concede but knowing it would have dire consequences.

“Fine,” he said with a chuckle and shot Kyle a frustrated look.  “We’ll take today off.  Just today.” 

With that, he turned and headed back to the elevators.  After he left, Cassidy accepted a fresh mimosa from the waiter and started off on her own.

“I’ll be in my suite,” she said, flouncing off dramatically. 

“You’re not leaving,” Eric announced sternly. 

Before leaving the lobby, she turned back and regarded him carefully.  “Well, we’ll just see what my lawyer and my manager have to say about that.” 

One by one, everyone retreated to their rooms, leaving Kyle and Eric standing in the lobby.  Before Kyle could turn and leave, Eric stopped him with a tug at his sleeve.

“Why did you lie?” he asked.

Kyle ran a hand over his stubbled chin.  “What do you mean?”

“You said two people were found murdered.  You and I both know it was thirteen.”

“Do you want a full-scale panic on our hands?  You saw them just now.  We tell them they found bodies up and down the bay this morning  - all victims of drug retaliation – and we might as well close this production down right now.  The less they know the better.” 

“You want to lie to them?” Eric asked.  “How is that going to help matters?”

“It’ll prevent Cassidy Solomon from flying home and the rest of the cast and crew from losing it.  This is only the first week of production, Eric.  We still have a whole other group of actors coming down in two weeks.  If we can get through this then we might have some chance of getting this film made.”

Their conversation was interrupted when Brooke emerged from the bathroom.  She approached them warily and smiled as Kyle placed a hand on her back.  All discussions about the morning’s events stopped for her benefit, and for the benefit of the movie.

Stormy Blackthorne

Stormy had dinner with Alejandro in the hotel dining room that night.  They discussed the day’s events and the challenges they’d met with production of the film.  Alejandro’s advice was both comforting and disorienting all at the same time.

“I warned you that Guererro was in a volatile situation right now,” the young Hispanic man said.  “These drug wars are something we’ve learned to live with.  Even the hotels and the resort industry are immune to it.  It’s like smog in Los Angeles.  A nuisance that you learn to live with.”

“But people are being murdered.  Surely even you can’t be that cavalier about it.”

“No, but it doesn’t concern me.  It shouldn’t concern you either.  Stay out of the way and you and your crew will be fine.  These people aren’t interested in you.”

“We’re just caught in the crossfire,” Stormy surmised. 

“This isn’t happening because of you.  It’s happening in spite of you.  Keep control of your people and they’ll overlook you.  Just don’t draw attention to yourselves.”

Stormy replied with a wry smile.  “That’s a little hard to do with Jack and Cassidy.  Thirty people traveling up and down the mountain every day in a convoy of black Mercedes isn’t exactly easy to keep under a low profile.”

Alejandro returned the smile.  “Just keep to yourselves and you’ll be fine.”

But as soon as Stormy began feeling the slightest sense of relief, chaos from outside the hotel sent him back into a tailspin.  Screaming, followed by a bright flash of light, then a thunderous explosion sent him flying to his feet.  They both tore through the restaurant, through the open-air lobby and into the front porte-cochere.  There, engulfed in flames that shot up into the night sky, was a car surrounded by startled onlookers. 

Brooke and Kyle heard the explosion from their room upstairs.  They raced to the terrace and looked down at the front drive where a car had exploded into flames. 

“What the hell happened?” she asked in a panic. 

Kyle shook his head, afraid of what the answer would be.  He grabbed a shirt from the chair and headed for the door.   Brooke, wary of another incident, grudgingly followed him. 

A minute later, they met up with Stormy and Alejandro on the front drive.  The car was still ablaze, onlookers standing by gawking at the fiery spectacle. 

“Car bomb,” Alejandro said with certainty.  “I’ve seen this before.  This is another move from one of the drug cartels.”

“But why here?” Brooke asked.  “First the bodies dumped in front of the hotel and now this?  Why are they targeting this hotel?”

Kyle and Stormy looked at each other blankly.  Even Alejandro had no explanation for the seemingly coincidental occurrences.

Eric Autumn

Eric closed his eyes, throwing his head back as the young girl from the makeup trailer gave him a world class blowjob.  They were a half mile down the beach, him standing against a tree and her on her knees working him to an explosive orgasm.

“Don’t stop,” he groaned, eyes rolling back in his head.  “I’m coming.” 

He didn’t care if she had a brute of a boyfriend who’d kicked the crap out of him.  This girl had expert lips and knew how to please him.  The fact that she sought him out after the incident at the filming location was a thrill in itself.  Who was he to turn her down?

Steven Chandler

Steven walked down the beach, hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head, and stopped when he came to two Hispanic men standing by a jeep. 

“Hey amigo,” one of them said.  He pulled something from his pocket and approached Steven.  “You got the money this time?”

“Here,” Steven replied, handing a wad of cash over to him. 

The other man counted the money.  “It’s not enough,” he said and started to hand it back to him.

“What can I get for that much?”

The man handed him a tiny ziplock bag of cocaine.  “You take this tonight.  You get me more money and I get you more cocaine.  It’s alright?”

“Sure,” Steven said, pocketing the bag.

“Hey amigo, you said you were from Hollywood.  What’s wrong that you don’t have any money?”

“I’m in college,” he said.  “I’m here with a movie studio.  We’re filming a movie up the mountain.” 

“You with some movie stars, amigo?  Who?  Jennifer Aniston?  Angelina Jolie?”

He shook his head and dropped Jack and Cassidy’s names, neither of which impressed them too much.   After a couple minutes of them talking in Spanish to one another, he said an awkward goodbye and headed back toward the hotel.  Halfway there, he stopped and snorted half the bag. 

Coke had been something he’d dabbled in for the last few weeks since helping Benji and Duke set Jeff Branigan up.  He’d never been exposed to it much before, but since then couldn’t help his curiosity.  That curiosity had branched into a weekly habit.

Replacing the bag in his pocket, he proceeded back to his room.

Stormy Blackthorne

Day 5

The rear cargo doors of the equipment van hung off their hinges, a high-pitched squeak echoing through the storage unit as metal scraped against metal.  Inside the van were the remnants of their camera equipment – the bulk of it nowhere in sight. 

“Damnit!” Stormy exclaimed and hit his fist against the van door, causing it to finally break from its hinges and fall with a crash to the floor.   He jumped back, veins throbbing in his forehead as he tried to wrap his head around what had happened.

"How did they get in here?” Brooke asked as she stepped in line behind Kyle and Eric.  

“And who?” Eric interjected.

Stormy shook his head angrily.  “I don’t know, but whoever it was, they got away with hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment.  Now what are we supposed to do?”

“We’d better call the authorities,” Brooke suggested.  “File a claim or something?  I don’t know.”

“Jesus, this isn’t L.A., Brooke,” Stormy snapped.  “The Mexican police haven’t exactly been helpful in any of the disasters we’ve encountered since we’ve been here.  What do you expect them to do?”

She grew silent, understanding that he was upset but at the same time put off by his snarling at her.

“It’s time to go to the American Embassy,” Kyle said, sweating from the heat inside the storage unit.  He turned and walked outside with Brooke and Eric close behind. 

Stormy, standing back next to the van, stared miserably into the empty cargo area.  How could this be happening?  They’d been so careful.  The van was locked up every night, safely out of view.  Who would know what to look for or where to look for it? 

Frustrated, he slammed the remaining van door closed and watched as it too collapsed to the ground. 

Brooke Taylor

Standing beneath the awning outside of the American Consulate, Kyle and Brooke watched the rain hammer down onto the streets.  There was no good time to make a run for it, so they bolted toward the awaiting taxi cab.  By the time they got inside, they were already soaked. 

After a short ride back to the hotel, they were deposited beneath the porte-cochere safely out of the elements.  Stormy, Jack, and Steven were waiting in the lobby as they approached with bleak expressions on their faces.

“What did they say?” Stormy asked eagerly.

Shaking his head with frustration, Kyle led Brooke toward the group.  “They said they’ll investigate the stolen camera equipment and get back to us.”

“That’s it?” Eric inquired. 

“Typical,” Jack mused, martini in hand.

“Are they going to question anyone?” Stormy asked.  “Did you give them the list of what they took?”

“Yes, we gave it to them,” Brooke replied.  “They didn’t seem to have any insight as to who was involved.”

“Brilliant,” Stormy groaned, turning and trying to decide what to do next.

“They didn’t seem very surprised,” Kyle went on.  “They said certain groups target tourists and visitors from America who they consider wealthy.”

“We haven’t exactly kept our reasons for being here a secret,” Eric pointed out.  “Or kept to ourselves.”

“No, not with you banging the locals,” Stormy barked.

“Me?” he argued.  “What about Kyle and his choice of transportation.  Thirty of us rolling around town in tricked out Mercedes’ hasn’t exactly kept us under the radar.”

“So what?  This is my fault?” Kyle moaned defensively.  “What about Cassidy going around acting like Joan Crawford?  Those scarves and sunglasses don’t hide anything.  She draws more attention to herself than a pack of cigarettes in prison.”

“Bickering isn’t going to help,” Brooke interrupted.  “We’ve got to figure out what to do now that our equipment is gone.  Without it there’s no movie.  I think we should call James.”

“Forget it,” Stormy exclaimed.  He refused to go to his father with his tail between his legs.  He’d given him enough reasons to doubt him over the years.  This movie was supposed to be his chance to change that. 

“We have no choice,” Kyle told him. 

“I’m in charge.  We’re not calling my father.”

Shaking his head with contempt, Kyle took a step toward him.  “This isn’t the time to flex your pride muscles,” he began.  “Nobody cares about your daddy issues.  This involves everyone here and you sticking your head in the sand isn’t going to-“

“What part of I’m in charge don’t you understand?” Stormy raged.  “We’ll work on something else while the Consulate looks for our missing equipment.  This doesn’t have to mean we’re done.”

“We have no cameras!” Kyle shouted.  “I know you didn’t just fall off the truck but I’m not sure you’re getting the picture here.”

“We’ll work around it!”

“How?” Kyle bellowed, pushing toward him. 

Stormy, aggravated and feeling cornered, responded by delivering a powerful blow to his jaw with a closed fist.  Kyle stumbled back, but quickly reacted by charging toward him and pummeling him to the ground.

“Stop it!” Brooke exclaimed, turning to Eric with pleading eyes. 

Hotel guests stopped and watched.  Before Eric could do anything to break up the fight, two hotel security guards raced over and separated them.  Stormy, struggling in their grasp, leered at Kyle with fury in his eyes. 

“This isn’t helping anything!” Brooke yelled, placing a hand on Kyle’s forearm.  “Look, nobody is thinking straight right now.  Let’s all just step back and cool off for a while.”

Unwilling to back down, Kyle lunged at Stormy again.  The security guard stepped between them, holding him at bay as Stormy glared defiantly.  After an intense stare-down, they finally turned away and went their separate ways. 

Kyle, leading Brooke off to the corner of the lobby, winced from the pain in his jaw.  He breathed heavily, fuming over the altercation. 

“He’s just as frustrated as we are,” Brooke told him.  “Maybe more.  You don’t know James the way I do.  Disappointment is a cardinal sin to him.” 

Ignoring the taste of blood in his mouth, Kyle leveled his eyes on her and took her by the shoulders.  “I want you to go back to L.A. this morning.”

“No,” she said, shaking her head.

“It’s not safe here,” he told her.  “Our being here has caused a spectacle and we need to readjust our priorities.  That means anyone who doesn’t have to be here needs to go home.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she insisted.

“I’m not asking you.  I’m telling you.”

She regarded him carefully for a few seconds, holding her anger at bay while she considered her words.  “I own half of Sunset Studios,” she said very calmly.  “Which makes me your boss.  I don’t take orders from you or anyone else so believe me when I tell you you do not want to go around telling me what to do.  I’m staying until we figure this thing out.”

He knew she meant business.  In the months he’d known her, he had learned that she wasn’t the type to be pushed around.  With a tentative nod, he hesitantly agreed to drop it.  

From the corner of his eye, he could see Stormy leering at him from across the lobby.  Their coming to blows was inevitable.  It had been building the minute he joined the project.  Something told him their battle had only begun.

Bryan Carlson

San Diego

Bryan Carlson never in a million years thought he’d find himself in prison one day.  Granted, he was only visiting, but it was still surprising to him.  Yet he’d found himself associating with criminals on various occasions.  He was a corporate attorney but had dabbled in criminal law on a few isolated occasions throughout his career.  What he’d seen was that life on the inside was hell for anyone who’d had the misfortune to experience it. 

Later that day, an inmate at the California State Prison would go in front of a parole board who would decide if he’d served adequate time for his crimes, a list too long for Bryan to remember as he was led to the visitors area. 

He was brought through the prison yard, past a troupe of female prisoners who were being temporarily housed in the south wing while they awaited release.  Several of them made whistling noises and obscene remarks as he passed.  He couldn't help but grin.  Once they arrived in the men's wing, the guard opened a door to a recreation room and gestured to a seat positioned across a table from a hulking Hispanic man with unkempt facial hair and bulging muscles. 

“Who are you?”

“I’m your attorney, Mr. Pacheco," he responded, noting the giant tattoo of a scorpion that covered most of his right arm.  “I’m helping you with your parole hearing.”

“You a public defender?”

Bryan shook his head.  “No.”

“I ain’t got no money amigo.”

He smiled.  “That’s okay.  I think we can help each other out.” 

Day 6

The lobby of the Las Brisas hotel was scattered with police officers.  Brooke, Kyle, and Steven watched the proceedings from a safe distance, unsure of what was happening but realizing it was something serious.

Two hotel employees, Hispanic men dressed in crisp uniforms and gold nametags, were being led out of the building in handcuffs.  Positioned throughout the area were machine-gun toting Mexican officials. 

When Stormy and Alejandro arrived, they quickly met up next to the bar. 

“What’s going on?” Brooke inquired. 

“They found your stolen camera equipment,” Alejandro explained.

“Seriously?” Brooke asked.

“The police have been investigating employees of the hotel,” Stormy explained.  “They just arrested two of them for involvement with the cartels.  They admitted to stealing the equipment.”

“Can we get it back?” Kyle asked, thankful that things were finally looking up.

“Soon,” Alejandro reported.

“They also connected the dealers to the car explosion the other night,” explained Stormy.  “The investigator said the dealers were branching out from the cartels and they retaliated, which is probably also why they dumped those bodies in front of the hotel.”

Steven watched carefully, recognizing the two men as the ones he’d bought cocaine from on several occasions throughout the week.  He hadn’t realized they also worked at the hotel.  Paranoid thoughts about them implicating him as a buyer filled his head.  When one of the dealers glanced in his direction and smiled knowingly, he decided to make himself scarce.  Without anyone noticing, he disappeared toward the elevator bank.

“Thank God it’s over,” Brooke said, clutching to Kyle’s side.  “Does that mean we can go back to business as usual?”

"I’ll talk to the investigator and see if we can get your equipment released as soon as possible,” Alejandro offered while patting Stormy on the back.  “With any luck you’ll be back in business by tomorrow.”

Smiles were exchanged all around.  Kyle hugged Brooke happily and then turned to Stormy.  Wordlessly, they went their separate ways.

Jackie Lamont

Los Angeles

Mixing a batch of bloody mary’s in her room at the Yacht Club, Jackie eyed Bryan from a few feet away.  He lounged on a chaise wearing only a pair of silk boxer shorts, his laptop and an assortment of papers strewn out before him.  His phone was tucked between his ear and his shoulder as he made one brief phone call after another.  Impressed by his ability to multi-task, Jackie proceeded toward him and handed him his drink which he accepted with his only free hand. 

“Yes, tomorrow,” he was saying into the phone.  “It’s got to be tomorrow or the deal is off.”  A pause while he took a sip of his drink.  “Well if you can’t get them ready for launch and delivered on schedule then I’ll go elsewhere.”

Jackie listened intently, her nightgown billowing behind her as she moved around to the back of the chaise and began massaging his bare shoulders.  When she asked him to take a look at Merteuil’s assets, she had no idea he would be this thorough.  It already seemed as though he were wheeling and dealing her way to major success.

“What was that all about?” she asked when he ended the call. 

“Helping - just like I said I would.” 

She looked over his shoulder and read a few lines from an email on his computer.  “What does Merteuil need with two freighters?  I thought we had a fleet of ships already.”

“Tankers,” he told her.  “Those are for oil and gas.  These are for finished goods.  You need to diversify your product range.” 

“So what industry are we tapping into?” she asked, reaching down and running her hands over his chest.

“Sugar cane and vanilla,” he replied, setting his laptop aside and pulling her onto his lap.

“How exciting,” she mused with a roll of her eyes.  “If I was Betty Crocker.  Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

“I thought you trusted me.  Didn’t I tell you I would take care of everything?”

"Yes,” she said, shivering when he brushed his lips over the top of her cleavage. 

“I helped you acquire Merteuil Industries and now I’ll help you put it on top.  I might even be able to help you keep David from giving away his fortune.”

“You’re so good to me,” she said, flushed with excitement as he kissed her passionately on the lips. 

Kyle Fenwick

Day 7

After a week in Mexico, things were finally looking up for House of Palms.  The forecast called for clear skies for the next few days, the Mexican authorities had returned the stolen camera equipment, and the illness that plagued several crew members had run its course.  Even Cassidy had begun to behave, content with the assumption that the violence in the area had dissipated. 

Brooke decided to stay one more day before returning to L.A.  Her visit, with its original purpose of spending time with Kyle, had taken a different turn, but they’d still managed to enjoy one another’s company.  After a full day of filming at the estate on the mountain, they returned to the hotel and enjoyed a relaxing dinner together. 

"God, you’re beautiful,” Kyle told her over a candlelit dinner in his room. 

She smiled and looked down bashfully.  It was never easy for her to accept a compliment.  To her, there were always flaws prohibiting it. 

He took her hand and pulled her up from her chair.  He devoured her with kisses, salty lips thoroughly exploring her mouth.  A warm breeze carried in through the open terrace door.  Gently, he led her toward the bed and lowered himself on top of her.  They undressed one another slowly, their skin hot and damp from the humidity.  Once they were naked, their limbs knotted together, he leaned in and whispered in her ear. 

“I love you,” he said softly. 

Her response, a deep, urgent kiss, was followed by the words she never thought she’d hear herself say again.  “I love you.” 

It was impetuous and crazy.  Four days ago she was sitting in her office telling Miranda how she refused to let herself get too involved with Kyle.  It was supposed to be a casual, care-free romance.  Great sex and mutual respect.  Now, after spending a few tumultuous days together in Mexico, she was positive that things had taken a different turn.  She was head over heels in love with him.  She wanted to tell everyone.  Forget keeping things under wraps.  This feeling was too good to keep to herself. 

They had passionate sex that lasted for hours.  Every shiver of excitement he’d given her up until then paled in comparison to what he did to her that night.  She’d never experienced so much ecstasy.  It was raw and filled with emotion. 

They fell asleep in each other’s arms, the breeze billowing inwards and cooling their skin.

Brooke Taylor

2:57 AM

At first thought, Brooke wondered if Kyle was growing amorous again.  Through the thick blanket of darkness in the room, she could hear movement all around her.  She struggled to see what was going on but couldn’t make out a single shape.  It wasn’t until she started to raise her hands did she realize she couldn’t.  Her shoulders strained, she came to the conclusion that her hands and feet were bound by something. Her eyes fluttering, it soon became clear that she was blindfolded.  Opening her mouth to scream, she then realized she’d also been gagged. 

Horror and confusion set in quickly.  She struggled about on her back, cringing when she was pulled from the safety of the bed and hoisted up over someone’s shoulder.  Muffled screams escaped her throat and strained against the sick smelling cloth that held her tongue in place.  During the commotion, her blindfold slipped ever so slightly and she could see Kyle slumped over on the floor of the room.  A man went to grab him and Kyle struggled, pushing him away and attacking him mercilessly.  It was then that she heard a sound that sent her recoiling in terror.  It was unmistakably the cocking of a gun. 

“Let her go!” Kyle was screaming.  He grabbed the gun from one of the men with lighting fast reflexes, using it to butt him hard against the forehead. 

She felt movement and within seconds they were outside on the terrace.  She could smell the chlorine from their private pool.  Loud voices permeated the night.  Machine gun fire exploded in her ears.  In the not so far distance she could hear struggles and what sounded like Stormy yelling for help.  Where was he?  What happened to Kyle?  Who was doing this to them?  A million thoughts raced through her mind, and, after an unnerving descent from the terrace, she found herself being thrown onto a hard metal surface.  Her heart thudding inside her chest and nausea rising from the pit of her stomach, she could sense others around her.  Muffled screams echoed through the hollow space. 

Lying paralyzed for several minutes, she heard the roar of an engine followed by the sound of car doors closing all around her.  Yelling in rapid Spanish emanated through the night, followed by more machine gun fire outside.  She realized she was in some kind of vehicle – a van maybe.  Her theory was confirmed moments later when it took off at breakneck speed, sending her crashing into someone laying mere inches away. 

The smell of gunpowder and blood filled her senses.  The muffled screams and cries that she’d heard moments before now ceased to exist.  She felt alone and frightened and had no idea what was happening to her. 

Jackie Lamont

Los Angeles

Woken out of a dead sleep by the sound of the phone ringing, Jackie turned on the bedside lamp and took note of the time.  Who could be calling her in the middle of the night?  An emergency, she decided.  Maybe it was David.  The cancer had taken hold of his body and he was reaching out to her, the only one who’d stood by him over the years. 

Still groggy but startled awake by the prospect, she quickly went for the cordless phone and sat up in her bed. 

“Hello?”

The connection was muffled.  Static filled the line and she answered again, this time louder. 

“Hello?  Who is this?  David?”

“Mrs. Blackthorne?” a deep voice finally broke over the line.  It was unmistakably male, but definitely not David. 

“Yes, this is Jackie Blackthorne.  Who is this?”  She threw the covers off of her.  In one fluid motion, she flew off the bed and rose to her feet.

“We need Miss Taylor’s date of birth.” 

“What?”  Brooke’s name did not enter her head right away, but she soon made the connection to the name.  “What do you mean her date of birth?”

“There was a mix-up,” the man continued.  “We need to know approximately how old Brooke Taylor is.” 

The question didn’t even make sense to her, but still she responded amidst her confusion. “She’s in her early thirties.  Why?  How did you get this number?”

“Did you say early thirties?”

“Yes!”

Silence followed.  She ran her fingers through her hair and began stalking back and forth on the thick pile carpet. 

“Hello?” she asked, growing annoyed.  “Are you there?”

“There’s been a delay.  We’ll report back soon.  Can we get confirmation the freighter will still arrive on schedule?”

Alarms went on inside her head.  She placed a hand over her mouth, her thoughts immediately going to Bryan.  What had he done?  And how did it involve Brooke Taylor?

“Can we get confirmation the freighter will still arrive on schedule?” the deep voice repeated. 

“Yes,” she said, unsure of what deal Bryan had made.  “Yes.” 

“We’ll be in touch.”

The line went dead and Jackie stood frozen on her feet.  She lowered the phone from her ear and let her mind go in a thousand directions.  Her instincts told her something was very wrong, and it had everything to do with Bryan Carlson.


Next time....

Word spreads regarding the incident in Acapulco.  Miranda doesn't want to lose David.  Jackie frantically searches for Bryan.  Brett can't get Suzanne out of his mind.

  

 

Read Episode 115

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