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Episode 115

 

Release Date:  May 30, 2010

 Read the episode Recap 

 

Previously...

 

In Acapulco, Stormy, Brooke, Kyle and the cast and crew of House of Palms were confronted with several setbacks during the first week of filming.  A string of drug-related murders rocked the hotel where they were staying.  Jackie complained to Bryan about David leaving Brooke everything in his will.  Bryan arranged for a Jorge Pacheco, a prisoner at the California State Prison, to be released on parole.  Later, he arranged for a new division of Merteuil Industries to begin transporting finished goods via freighters.  Brooke awoke in her and Kyle's room, blindfolded and bound by the hands and feet.  A struggle ensued and she found herself thrown in the back of a moving van.  Later, Jackie received an ominous phone call by a man asking for Brooke's date of birth.  When she asked why, the man told her there had been a mix up and wanted to confirm that the freighters would still arrive on schedule.  

 


 

Episode 115

"Missing Persons"

 

Jackie had been awake since three o’clock in the morning.  After the mysterious phone call asking her for Brooke Taylor’s date of birth, she racked her brain for a possible explanation.   The caller, with his deep and ominous voice, hadn’t revealed himself.  She didn’t know who he was or where he was calling from.  The only thing that made sense to her was the mention of the freighters that Bryan had purchased for Merteuil Industries.  She’d heard him arrange their delivery.  But what didn’t make sense was how it involved Brooke.  Playing over and over in her mind like a broken record were Bryan’s recent remarks, which at the time seemed harmless enough.

Don’t worry.  I’ll take care of everything,” he’d said on more than one occasion. 

The promise was in response to her complaining about David willing his entire estate to Brooke.  She’d conceded that there was nothing she could do about it now. 

You never know,” had been his harmless reply.

What then appeared to be an off-the-cuff remark was now filled with innuendo.  Hoping to put her mind at ease, she tried calling him on his cell.  No answer.  She knew even in the early morning hours he always made himself available by telephone.  It was the nature of his business as temporary head of Fenwick Industries.  The fact that he did not answer her call sent alarms going off in her head. 

At four o’clock she decided to call his office.  It was three hours later in New York and he was usually up and around early.  After a few rings, the answering service picked up.

“Fenwick Industries,” said the woman. 

“Bryan Carlson, please.” 

“He’s unavailable.  Can I take a message?”

Jackie sighed in frustration.  “Do you know where he is?”

“I’m sorry. This is the answering service.  I’d be happy to take a message.”

Pacing the room, Jackie tucked the phone beneath her ear and poured herself a cup of hot coffee.  “I don’t want to leave a message.  Is anyone in his office?  His secretary?”

“Ma’am, their phones are still forwarded to us.  If you don’t want to leave a message I would suggest calling back later.” 

“Fine.  Please have him call me.  My name is Jackie Blackthorne.  He has the number.” 

“Is this an emergency?”

“Yes, it’s an emergency.” 

“What is the nature of the emergency?” asked the answering service.

She of course couldn’t get into her wild theories with the total stranger, so she struggled for a plausible emergency that would get him to call her back as soon as possible.  Nothing immediately came to mind.  “It’s personal,” she finally said.  “And very urgent.”

There were a few moments of silence followed by a snippy, “I’ll see that he gets the message.”

Frustrated and uncertain that the message would even get to Bryan, Jackie hung up and called his cell phone again.  It rang a few times and went to voice mail.  She left another message.

“Bryan, it’s Jackie.  Call me as soon as you get this.” 

With that, she hung up and decided to get dressed.  She couldn’t stand pacing around her small room at the Yacht Club anymore.  She had to do something to get to the bottom of whatever was going on.  She’d wait another hour and then call his office again.  By that time his secretary should be in the office and maybe she’d have some indication of where Bryan was.  This was definitely not the time for him to be ignoring her calls.

Blackthorne Mansion

James swept into the solarium at the Blackthorne mansion and gave Miranda a peck on the top of the head.  Michael, crunching on a bowl of Cheerios, flashed a crooked smile at him and giggled when he ruffled his shock of blond hair. 

“Lost another one, Uncle James!” the five-year old grinned, pointing to the gap between his front row of teeth. 

“I can see that!” James said with a hearty laugh.  “I hope the tooth fairy dropped by last night and left something under your pillow.”

Flashing her father a look, Miranda shook her head.  “The tooth fairy forgot,” she said, recognizing that she may not be mother material just yet.  “She fell asleep watching Jimmy Kimmel.”

James smiled and sat down across from them.  “Well, I’m sure she’ll come tonight when you’re home in your own bed.  Excited to see your mom?”

“Yeah!” he replied jubilantly while thrusting his spoon in the air.  “Adam is too!”

“Great.  Who’s Adam?”  

“My friend.”  Michael gestured to the empty seat beside him. 

“Don’t ask,” Miranda mouthed to her father with a grin. 

James laughed and thanked Leilani as she brought him a plate of poached eggs and buttered toast.  “What time are you picking Brooke up?”

Miranda checked her watch and quickly stuffed the last bite of her grapefruit into her mouth.  “Now,” she said, standing up and dabbing Michael’s mouth with a napkin.  “Her flight gets in at eight.  Traffic’s going to be a bitch so we should get going.”

“You said the B word!” Michael shouted as he jumped down from his chair.

“Sorry, that was bad,” Miranda said, then walked over and kissed James on the cheek.  As she did, she pulled his plate away from him and handed him a muffin and a grapefruit.  “And so is your Uncle James.”

“Uncle James is bad?” Michael asked, all serious. 

“Hey!” James said as Miranda handed the plate off to Leilani.  “That’s my breakfast.”

“How many times have I told you you need to lower your cholesterol,” Miranda said.  “You’re not getting any younger, Daddy.  And Leilani knows that.  Dr. Farraday wants you on a strict diet.”

“Sorry, Miss Miranda,” Leilani said.  “He bribe me.”

“It wasn’t a bribe,” James said defensively.  “It was more of a….bonus.”

Flashing him an incredulous look, Miranda took Michael by the hand and led him out to the foyer.  “Yes, Uncle James is very bad,” she said to him. “What should we do about that?”

“Give him a time out!” he yelled as they made their way to the front doors.

Brett Armstrong

Brett got to his office at Rydell Productions early that morning, the same as very day for the last week.  Throwing himself into his work, into the gym, and into his daughter’s happiness were the only things keeping him sane since his affair with Suzanne ended so abruptly.  The last time he’d seen her, a rainy night in her bedroom over a week ago, she’d told him under no uncertain terms that it was over.  Still, he hadn’t been able to take his mind off of her.  She was all he thought about.   Not seeing her caused major withdrawal symptoms and he found himself searching for reasons to see her. 

“Brett,” she said timidly as she stepped into his office. 

He turned and smiled, taken by her radiant beauty and ethereal quality that he found so refreshing.  “Thank you for coming.” 

“Well, you said you wanted to talk to me about Violet.”  She slowly made her way inside the office.  She wore a summery wrap dress and clutched onto a bright yellow purse.  ”That’s the only reason I came.” 

“I know you miss seeing her everyday,” he said, making a calculated effort to showcase his best assets.  Sleeves rolled up to his elbows to expose his muscular forearms; white teeth flashing; and a baby blue shirt to bring out his eyes.  All things that she’d adored about him.  Cheap tactics, but she was asking him to play dirty.   “I don’t want this distance between us to keep you from her.”

“Really?” Suzanne asked buoyantly.  “I’m so glad you feel that way because I’ve been so upset about it.  I haven’t seen that little girl in over a week and I miss her like crazy.” 

Digging his hands in his pockets, he leaned casually against his desk.  “She misses you too,” he said, unsure whether she did or not, but if it helped his case then he’d say anything.

“Are you sure this is okay with you?” Suzanne asked, hands clasped before her.  “I mean, I know you were hit pretty hard when Jordan and I got married.  That night you came to the house drunk and…”

“You should be in Violet’s life,” Brett told her. 

“So do you want to bring her by the house, or...” she started to ask before clumsily dropping her purse to the floor.  Slowly, she knelt down to retrieve the items that had spilled out onto the rust colored carpet.  Brett quickly went to assist. 

Kneeling before her, his hand grazed across hers and remained there for a few lingering moments.  Just outside the door, Benji appeared, stopping before he walked in and interrupted the seemingly intimate moment.  With calculated efficiency, he stood aside and listened intently. 

“I’ve got it,” Suzanne said, avoiding looking him in the eyes.  She grabbed the hairbrush and slipped it into her bag.  When Brett’s hand didn’t move from hers, she paused and allowed their eyes to meet. 

“I need you, Suzanne,” he said, caressing her hand in his.  “I miss you.” 

“Stop,” she whispered, looking away again. 

“Is that really what you want?”  He waited for an answer and when she didn’t respond he moved in closer, brushing his lips gently against hers.  Within seconds, they were engaged in a long hot kiss. 

Resistant to allow things to go any further, Suzanne broke away and rose quickly to her feet.  She placed a hand over her forehead while tugging her purse tightly over her shoulder. 

“What are you doing?” she demanded angrily.  “You lured me over here under the pretense of talking about Violet?  How could you?  I told you this was over.”

“I know what you told me but I don’t believe you.  I can see it in your eyes.  You still want me every bit as much as I want you.”

“You’re wrong,” she said, shaking her head with tears burning her eyes.  “I’m married, Brett, just like you are.  Whatever we felt for each other in the past was a mistake.  The sooner you accept that the better.”

“How can you say that?” he demanded, stepping closer to her.  “You told me no one had ever made you feel the way I did.”  Pausing, he placed a hand gently alongside her face.  “Does Jordan make love to you the way I do?  Does he make you feel as good as I do?”

“Stop it.”  She turned away, unable to look him in the eyes.  If she did, she knew she would be unable to leave.  As it was, it was already a struggle to make her way to the door. 

“Come to my condo tonight,” he told her.  “Tell Jordan you’re going to have drinks with Renee or James or somebody.  I’ll send Violet to the sitter.  We can be alone.  No one has to know.”

“No!” she cried, backing up away from him and putting her hands up defensively.  “I can’t be with you, Brett.  Can’t you get that through your head?”

He shook his head.  “Tonight around eight o’clock.  Please, Suzanne.” 

Pushing a strand of chestnut hair from her eyes, she turned and went to the door.  As she did, Benji quickly darted back around the corner. 

“Goodbye, Brett,” she said with as much willpower as she could manage.

After watching her leave, he turned and leaned over his desk, angrily punching his fist against the hard wooden surface.  He wondered if he’d only succeeded in making things worse. 

Jackie Lamont

When Jackie arrived at Sunset Studios, she stalked out of the elevator and headed straight to her office.  On her way, James met up with her and issued a casual good morning, which she ignored in her haste to get to the phone.  Leaving him perplexed in the hallway, she closed her office door, threw her bag and sunglasses on the sofa, and slid into her chair.  She immediately started dialing Bryan’s cell phone again.  Voicemail. 

“Bryan, you need to call me,” she said.  “It’s urgent.  I got a strange phone call last night.  They were asking me about Brooke and then they wanted to know if the freighters would still arrive on schedule.  They said there had been some kind of mix-up.  If you’ve done something that I need to know about then….just call me.”

After she hung up, James opened the door and walked tentatively into her office, regarding her with his usual air of suspicion.   “Everything okay?  You seem on edge.”

“Everything’s fine,” she said with an irritated sigh.  Nothing to tell him about yet.  She still had no idea what was going on or if anything was going on.  “If you don’t mind, James, I’ve got a lot of work to do.” 

“You don’t do anything,” James said with a sarcastic grin.  “What on earth could possibly be that important?”

“Funny,” she said, pushing a wisp of hair from her face.   She tapped her fingers nervously on the desk, willing him to leave so she could continue her search for answers, and for Bryan Carlson.

“Well, I’m expecting an update from Stormy today on the first week of filming so if you want to-“  His sentence was cut short by the sound of his cell phone ringing.  Drawing it from interior chest pocket, he glanced at the display and realized it was Miranda calling.   “Miranda?” he answered.  “What’s up?”

“Hi Daddy,” Miranda said, holding Michael’s hand as they stood in the crowded L.A.X. terminal.  “Did Brooke call you and say she was switching her flight?”

“No, I haven’t heard from Brooke.  Why?”

“She wasn’t on the plane,” Miranda explained, searching every face in the crowd that came from the line of international gates.

James frowned.  “Are you sure?  Maybe she hasn’t gotten off yet.”

“Everyone’s gotten off,” she said, steering Michael back toward her when he started to run off.  “I thought she might have been delayed in Acapulco or something.”

“It’s possible,” James replied.  “But she knew you were picking her up.  I’m sure she would have called.  Why don’t you head home and I’ll see what I can find out.” 

Jackie listened intently.  Stirring in the pit of her stomach told her that something was very wrong.  Before jumping to conclusions, she continued listening to the phone call.  After James hung up, she shifted uneasily in her seat.  “Everything okay?”

“Brooke was supposed to fly home today but she wasn’t on the plane.”

Jackie swallowed hard as a chord struck in her mind.  Her unsettled feeling turned to one of all out panic.  What had Bryan done?  Suddenly the ominous phone call in the middle of the night took on an even more foreboding meaning to her. 

“Maybe she took a later flight,” she suggested casually.

James was already on his phone calling her.  “It goes straight to voicemail,” he indicated. 

Tapping her fingers on the phone, Jackie prayed he would leave so she could make another attempt at calling Bryan.  Still, he stood firmly in her doorway. 

“Who are you calling now?” she asked as he made another call. 

“Stormy,” he replied.  After a few seconds, he got his son’s voicemail and left a breezy message.  “Hey son, it’s your Dad.  Call me when you get this.  Miranda was supposed to pick Brooke up at the airport this morning but she wasn’t on the plane.  Wondering if she was still there with you and Kyle.”

“They’re probably on location,” Jackie remarked.  “Why don’t you let me try to call Steven and see if he knows anything?”

“Go ahead,” James said, remaining in his standing position. 

She picked up the phone and regarded him with irritation.  “You can go back to your office.  I’ll let you know when I find something out.”

Throwing his hands up in resignation, he turned and walked out of the room.  As soon as the door closed, she dialed Bryan’s office in New York.   This time a different woman answered. 

“Hello, I’d like to speak to Bryan Carlson please.”

“Mr. Carlson is not in the office today.  Can I take a message?”

Jackie sighed.  “Is this his secretary?”

“Yes, this is Monica.”

“Monica, this is Jacqueline Blackthorne,” she said, gazing two offices down through the glass walls where James was pacing back and forth on his phone.  “I’m a business associate and friend of Mr. Carlson’s.  I really need to get a hold of him today - as soon as possible - but he isn’t answering his cell phone.  Do you know where I can reach him?”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Blackthorne, I don’t.  All he told me was that he wouldn’t be in the office today.  I can leave a mess-“

“He had to have told you where he was,” she snapped.  “For God’s sake, he’s the head of a multi-billion dollar corporation.  He can’t just take the day off without leaving a forwarding number.”

A few moments of silence followed before the young woman replied as politely as possible.  “Mrs. Blackthorne, I don’t know how to reach him today.  I’d be happy to take a message and make sure that he-“

“I don’t want to leave a goddamn message!” Jackie shrieked, flying up out of her seat and gripping the phone tightly in her hand.  “I need to talk to him now!”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what to tell you.”

Closing her eyes briefly, Jackie resigned to the fact that the woman wasn’t going to be of any help.  “All right.  Please do give him the message if he checks in.  It’s very important.”

“I will tell him,” Monica said and hung up. 

Jackie disconnected the call while searching for a number on the cell phone.  Once she had retrieved it, she quickly dialed another number.  The call went directly to voice mail. 

“Steven, it’s Jackie.  You'd better call me as soon as possible.  I told you to update me on everything that goes on down there.  I'll be expecting your call."

She hung up, rose from her desk and began pacing the office.  When James reappeared in her doorway, she looked up and recognized the stark white look of panic on his face. 

“What is it?” she asked, almost afraid to ask.

“I just talked to Lenny Korvanski down in Acapulco,” he said slowly.  “Something’s happened.” 

Jackie recognized she was having a panic attack.  Slowly, she sat down in her chair and waited for the news. 

Miranda Blackthorne

Miranda drove home from the airport and sent Michael to his room to play.  She hoped that her father would call back soon because if she had to return to the airport later to pick up Brooke, she’d have to reschedule an afternoon rendezvous with David. 

It had been over a week since they professed their feelings for each other in the rain outside the bungalow at Moonshadows.  Since then they had gotten together nearly every day.  The sex was still phenomenal, but aside from that they shared so much more.  Laughter, tons of jokes, serious talks about their inner most secrets, and his concern over hurting her when he died in less than a year.  Were they in love?  She didn’t know for sure.  What she did know was that he made her feel good and that was all that mattered right now.

Eddie had been on an intensive case for the better part of the week, so she’d managed to avoid the guilt over cheating on him up until the moment she walked into the kitchen and saw him cramming a sandwich in his mouth.  Fried Spam, one of Leilani’s Hawaiian specialties.  The moment he looked at her with his expressive brown eyes and goofy smile, the guilt hit her and hit her hard.  She immediately questioned her recent activities.  Why was she carrying on with David when she had a man who adored her and had never done a single thing to hurt her? 

“Hey babe,” he said, mouth full, squeezing her tightly in his arms.  “Guess what?  I cracked the case.  Turns out the wife of that CEO had another guy on the side and spent their retirement funds on a chalet in Switzerland.  Dude sent her packing.  Can you believe it?”

“That he sent her packing?” she asked.

“No, that she was stepping out on him.  And with her trainer!  How cliché.” 

“Maybe she couldn’t help herself,” she replied defensively.  “Or maybe she and the trainer had some kind of connection.  The universe sometimes has plans, you know.  I mean, you could be going through life perfectly happy thinking that you have everything you’ve ever wanted and then one day out of the blue you meet someone that makes everything make sense.”

Cramming another bite of the sandwich into his mouth, Eddie waved a hand through the air.  “I saw the trainer.  Six foot five and two hundred and thirty pounds of muscle.  The only thing that made sense to her was between the sheets, if you know what I’m talking about.” 

Rolling her eyes, she turned and started out of the kitchen.  Eddie followed her back into the foyer while swigging from a glass of milk. 

“What did I say?” he asked with a shrug. 

“Nothing,” she replied, realizing she had overreacted.  She honestly didn’t think of herself as a bad person.  After all, she didn’t mean to hurt Eddie.  She didn’t want to keep secrets from him.  Her connection with David was fate.  Maybe the wife of the CEO and the trainer had experienced the same kind of phenomenon.  Who was anyone to judge?

“Hey,” Eddie said, pulling her close again.  “I’ve missed you.  I’m sorry that I’ve been so preoccupied with work lately.”

“It’s okay,” she said somberly, shaking her head. 

“No, it’s not.  Let’s go out tonight.  Just you and me.  Then we’ll go back to my place and…..you know.”

“I can’t.  I have Michael.”

“Oh, well I’ll come here then.  We’ll watch movies and after the kid goes to bed we’ll hit the sheets.  What do you say?”

But she had plans with David this afternoon.  Secret plans.  They were supposed to meet up at the bungalow in a little while.  How could she go from being with him to seeing Eddie that evening and not feel like a complete skank?  As much as she hated to admit it, she wished Eddie was still on his case.  Yes, she wanted to see him but she also wanted to spend more time with David.  Who knows? Maybe the thing with David would be over soon.  She’d get it out of her system and she could refocus on her relationship with Eddie.   God, she sounded like a selfish bitch. 

“Um…” she began, saved when Leilani appeared with David steps behind.   Her eyes flashed open wide.  What was he doing there?  Did he see them hugging?  What a stupid question.  What difference did it make?  David knew she was with Eddie.  He knew what he was getting into when they started their affair.  No reason to feel awkward.

“Sorry to interrupt,” David said grimly.

“That’s okay,” Miranda said, jumping away from Eddie.  “We were just talking.  What’s up?  What are you doing here?”

“James just called me and told me to meet him here,” he announced.  “It sounded serious.  Do you know what it’s about?”

Miranda shook her head.  “No, I don’t.  I just talked to him an hour ago and he seemed fine.  I was supposed to pick Brooke up at the airport but she wasn’t on the plane.  He said he was going to try to get hold of her.”

“Did he get hold of her?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe that’s what he wanted to talk to you about.” 

The three looked at each other blankly, wondering if there was something to be concerned about regarding Brooke’s failure to get off the plane. 

Benji Rydell

After witnessing the exchange between his mother and Brett, Benji headed home for the day.  This time it wasn’t a made up excuse to get out of his stupid job, but instead a direct order from his brother-in-law himself.  It was clear to Benji that what had transpired with his mother had upset him a great deal.  So much so that he couldn’t even concentrate on work.   Everyone left, halting production on Ocean Avenue.  It was then that he realized just how bad Brett had it for her. 

On the way home, he realized he’d been right to question the alarmingly sudden re-marriage of his mother and father.  It wasn’t a marriage based on love.  They were together for convenience and to provide a stable home for their family.  What he didn’t understand was why.  He was nineteen years old – almost twenty.  He’d been raised by professors and head masters at boarding school.  He’d given up hope a long time ago that they would ever be a family again, particularly since he spent fifteen years thinking his mother was dead. 

Now all he was left with was resentment and anger.  This time directed at his mother.  After everything that had happened – everything his father did to protect him, to protect all of them – she was treating him like dirt.  If his morality was ever in question, it was because of their doing. 

Upon returning home, he found them having lunch on the terrace with Renee DeWitt.  He’d walked through the back yard and spotted them before they spotted him, then ducked behind a rose-covered trellis a few feet away. 

“Does Kenny think there’s anything he can do to get Merteuil Industries back from Jackie?” Suzanne was asking. 

Renee shrugged and stirred a packet of sweetener into her iced tea.  “He’s working on some things but it doesn’t look good.  She owns the majority of the shares so unless she decides to sell them back to me, she remains in control.” 

“I’m so sorry,” Jordan told her.

She smiled, thinking about her father and the fact that he would roll over in his grave if he knew what had happened.  “I know this sounds terrible, but part of me hopes she runs it into the ground.  It would serve her right.”

“Try not to worry too much,” Suzanne went on.  She had never had a mind for business so she felt a little ridiculous trying to give her advice.  Rather than drag it on for too long, she expertly changed the subject.  “At least Sierra is done with school for the semester.  Will she be coming back for a visit?”

“I don’t know,” Renee replied.  “I hoped so, but she and this Hunt Roberts character are quite serious.  She said something about spending the summer with him and his family on Shelter Island.”

“It’s good that she has a solid, upstanding man at her side after all the disappointments she’s been through,” Jordan remarked.  “Finding out her father was a child molester could have swallowed her up but it didn’t.”

“And let’s not forget that unfortunate detour with Malcolm Harris,” Renee said with a heavy sigh.  “I don’t personally know this new young man in her life, but everything I read about him and his family gives me some kind of comfort that she’s being taken care of.  Still, I wish she would come home more.  But I think being here hurts her in some ways.” 

Benji listened closely, anger building within.  Hearing them praise this Hunt Roberts douche bag made him want to punch someone until they bled.  He was supposed to be the man who stood by Sierra, no one else.  She’d give him her virginity last summer.  He wanted her to feel as connected to him as he did to her.  Their idiot parents had no idea what they were talking about. 

As he hid beneath the shade of the trellis, he then heard the subject turn to him. 

“I hope Benji is settling down now that you’re back living as a family,” Renee said.  “I know how concerned you’ve both been about his acting out.” 

“That’s an understatement,” Jordan said.  “But I have to believe that our past as a family hasn’t permanently shaped him to be this way.  He’s a good kid, he just has these anger issues.  That’s what Dr. Wolkstein said, anyway, and I’m inclined to believe him.”

“Dr. Wolkstein?” Suzanne asked.

“He was the counselor at Beau Soleil,” Jordan told her.

Suzanne glanced between him and Renee, certain that they weren’t telling her something.  “What?”

Jordan took a deep breath and shook his head to dismiss the conversation.  “Something happened a few years ago.  It’s kind of what started me thinking it was our fault that he’s always been a little high strung.  All the more reason I wanted us to get married and try to repair some of the damage.” 

“What happened?” Suzanne asked, almost afraid to ask.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jordan replied. 

“The hell it doesn’t,” insisted Suzanne, eyes flashing major danger signals between the two of them.  “You’re both acting like I have no right to know about my own son.  It’s not my fault that I was locked way for all that time.”

Renee smiled.  “Sweetie, the important thing is that you’re a family again.  You’re a united front, and together you can turn Benji around into a very upstanding young man.” 

Hands trembling, Suzanne looked down at the table.  She’d been away for so long that sometimes she forgot how much she missed out on.  Every monumental event in her children’s lives was shared by Jordan and other women.  She felt like a stranger in her own house. 

James Blackthorne

When James arrived home with Jackie following steps behind, they gathered in the family room with Miranda, Eddie and David.  Leilani served a tray of sandwiches and a pot of coffee, busying herself throughout the room as they talked about the news from Acapulco.

“I don’t understand,” Miranda said in shock.  “What is going on?”

“I don’t have many details,” James said.  “Lenny is going to call any minute.  Apparently there was some kind of incident at their hotel last night.”

“What does that mean?” David demanded. 

Jackie stood quietly by, staring at her cell phone in hopes that it would ring and it would be Bryan calling her back.  Or maybe Steven reporting in with information.  Not knowing what was going on was killing her.  

When the phone rang, they all looked at each other with breath held.  James went to the coffee table and answered it on speaker so everyone could hear.  

“James, it’s Lenny,” said their makeup artist who had traveled to Acapulco with the rest of the crew.  “Sorry for taking so long.  It’s chaos around here.  I don’t have much time.”

“What’s going on, Lenny?” James asked, standing above the phone.  He could hear loud voices and sirens coming over the phone line.  Chaos seemed to be an understatement.  “You’ve got us scared to death.”

“I’m sorry.  I don’t know much yet.”

“Well what do you know?” David shouted. 

Through the broken connection, Lenny reported as clearly as he could.  “Some of the crew members were taken from the hotel last night.  We don’t know by whom exactly but the authorities here seem to think they were one of the drug cartels.  Apparently they haven’t been too keen on our being here.”

“Who was taken?” James asked, scanning the room and noting the looks of terror on everyone’s faces.  “Was Brooke one of them?”

“Yes,” Lenny replied solemnly.  “I’m sorry, James.” 

Jackie closed her eyes tightly, now having full confirmation that Bryan had taken her idle comments to heart.  If it hadn’t been for the ominous phone call she’d received the night before, she might have bought the drug cartel explanation, but she knew better. 

“Who else?” David asked, pacing the room.  He glanced at Miranda and noted the tears welling up in her eyes.  He was afraid to hear the rest for her sake, and James’s.  

“Stormy, Kyle, Cassidy, Eric, Jack, and that kid – the intern.” 

“Steven,” Jackie spoke up. 

“How could this have happened?” James demanded.  “What do they want with them?”

“We don’t know anything,” Lenny explained.  “Everyone was asleep.  There was gunfire and yelling and screaming.  It was horrible, James.”

“Was anyone hurt?” David asked.

Silence filled the line until Lenny replied softly.  “Mike,” he replied.

“Mike, our security guy?” James asked. 

“He’s dead,” Lenny told them.  “They think he intercepted them and tried to stop them and so they shot him.” 

“Jesus,” James whispered under his breath.  He glanced at Jackie who was white as a sheet.   He didn’t know why but it surprised him that she was taking the news of the prior night’s events so hard.  She was human, after all.  And Mike had been with them for years. 

“Are they alive?” Miranda asked through a veil of tears.   “Lenny, tell me Stormy and Brooke are alive.” 

More silence aside from the chaos in the background.  “I don’t know, Miranda.  The American Embassy is investigating but the federal police aren’t being much help.  They don’t seem to hold out much hope.” 

When Miranda broke down into hysterics, David started to go to her.  But when Eddie pulled her into an embrace, he held back, realizing it wasn’t his place to comfort her, as much as he wanted to.

“I want to talk to somebody down there,” James insisted.  “Someone in the Embassy has to know something.  This is my family we’re talking about, damnit.”

“I can’t even get anyone to talk to me,” Lenny said.  “Meanwhile, the rest of the crew is in a panic.  They’re packing up and ready to leave.  James, I think I am too.  I’m sorry, I just don’t think it’s safe to stay here.” 

James rubbed his face with his hand.  “Of course.  Send them home, Lenny.  But I need someone there who can fill me in on what’s going on.” 

“I know you do.  I’ll stay for the day and try to get you as much information as possible.  But by tonight I’m on a flight back to L.A.  I’m sorry.”

“I understand, Lenny.  Please update me as soon as you know anything.  I’ll be by the phone.” 

“Will do,” he said and hung up. 

When the call ended, everyone stood around the room, quiet and in shock.  James and David stared at the speakerphone as if waiting for more information.  Miranda stood with Eddie’s arm around her, tears staining her cheeks.  Finally, the silence was broken by Jackie who spoke up with a quavering voice. 

“They’re all dead,” she said with certainty.

“What?” James asked incredulously.

“You know it’s true,” she maintained.  “How many tourists go missing or are killed there every year?  They were casualties.”

“Mother, you don’t know that,” David snapped. 

“So where are they?” she replied.  She had no idea what had transpired, and what deal Bryan had made, but it was no coincidence that seven of their crew members had gone missing with one other already reported dead.  “What other explanation is there?”

“They’re not dead,” Miranda insisted.  “Stop saying that.  Maybe they’re someplace safe waiting for things to settle down.”

“Stormy wouldn’t have given up without a fight,” Eddie confirmed.  

“I agree,” said James, then shot Jackie a full look of warning.  “And I refuse to think the worst before we have any real information to go by.” 

She shook her head with a sigh.  Maybe she was wrong.  Maybe her theories about Bryan were way off base.  It could just be a giant string of coincidences.  She hoped so.  All the more reason she hoped he would call her back very soon.

“So what do we do now?” Miranda asked. 

“We wait,” James announced.  “Hopefully Lenny calls back soon with news.”

David set his jaw with determination.  “I can’t just sit here and wait,” he said.  “Brooke is down there, possibly in grave danger.  I’ve got to try to help.”

“What are you going to do?” Jackie asked, alarmed.  The last thing she wanted was her son getting involved.  One man was already confirmed dead as a result of her connections.  She refused to let her son be another casualty. 

“Fly down there and look for them,” David said, pacing back and forth while running a hand through his thick black hair.  “We can’t just stand back and wait.”

“David, we’re not doing anything yet,” James said.  “We don’t have all the facts.  Like Miranda said, they could be waiting somewhere until it’s safe.  After the commotion at the hotel, there’s no telling what transpired.  Wait for Lenny to call and then we’ll make a decision.”

Jackie relaxed once she sensed that David had agreed with them.  She plucked her cell phone from her purse and checked the display.  No calls.  Zero.  She’d heard nothing from Bryan and nothing from Steven.  She began to wonder if she ever would.

Suzanne Rogers

Suzanne spent the afternoon lying at the pool with her laptop open in front of her.  Jordan had gone golfing, leaving her with time to work on her assignments for her writing class.  The more she learned, the more she enjoyed doing it.  She hadn’t been much into school in her younger years.  Like many actresses, she barely scathed by the high school experience before she was discovered and landed on a movie set.  In her case, a television set.  The role of Faye Richards on The Young at Heart had been like a dream come true to her at the impressionable age of eighteen.   From there it was a whirlwind of activity, roles and movie offers.  Then after spending thirteen years in a sanitarium in Switzerland, she’d finally realized how much she didn’t know.  Her professor thought she had potential, too, which was the first time she’d heard that since working as an actress.  It was gratifying and did wonders for her self worth. 

But what had started off as a distraction from Brett and her attraction to him turned into an excuse to relive the passion that they shared.  A thousand word assignment had burgeoned into an eighty-page thinly-veiled account of their relationship, names and places changed to protect the not-so-innocent.  She continued to add more and more plot twists, characters, and of course plenty of passionate love scenes.  She began to wonder if there was a novel disguised somewhere amidst the pages.

When Benji emerged from the house, she saved her progress and inconspicuously closed the laptop. 

“How come you’re not at work?” she asked.

“Brett closed the studio for the day,” he told her, gauging her reaction as he filled her in.  “He seemed pretty upset about something.”

Suzanne looked away instantly, her heart breaking for the hurt she’d caused him.  It had never been her intention.  She was only doing what she thought was right.

“What….um….was he upset about?” she found herself asking. 

He shrugged, meeting her gaze.  “I thought maybe you would know.” 

“Why would I know?” 

His reply was cold and detached and filled with suggestion.  “Didn’t I see you leaving his office this morning?”

Panic immediately set in.  In one fluid motion, she rose from the lounger and began to tie her silk wrap around her waist.  

“Yeah, he called me and asked me to come by to talk about Violet,” she said, content that it wasn’t a total lie.  “Things have been so hectic since the wedding that your father and I have barely had a chance to see her.”

“Did you have a fight or something?” Benji asked, pushing her the way he knew she would respond.

“No.  Why?”

“I thought that might be why he was so upset.”

She busied herself with pouring a glass of lemonade.  “I’m not sure.”   She hadn’t considered the implications of Benji working at Rydell with Brett.  He was so close to the source that it could be dangerous.  What if he’d walked in on them this morning when they were kissing?  Even though she’d ended their affair, Brett’s state of mind was volatile.  She had to do something fast to prevent their past being exposed.

“I was just thinking,” she continued.  “I’m not sure that working at Rydell is what you really want.  Why don’t you let me talk to your father about forgetting the whole idea?”

He saw right through her suggestion.  She didn’t want him finding out about their sordid affair.  It was almost amusing how transparent she was.  Weren’t actresses supposed to be convincing?

“But Dad said I have to work.  He’s not going to go for this.”

“So you’ll work somewhere else.  Something that you enjoy.  Maybe at Moonshadows.  I can talk to Renee.”

“Great,” he replied.  Now he knew why fate had led him to discover his mother and his brother-in-law’s dirty little secret.  He’d be able to use the knowledge to his advantage.  “Well if I don’t have to go back to Rydell tomorrow, then can you give me my credit card so I can buy a plane ticket?”

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“New York,” he said.  Now was the perfect time to drop in on Sierra and do his best to size up this Hunt Roberts character.  He was losing time.  If he didn’t act fast, she’d forget about the connection they shared. 

“I’m sorry, that’s not going to happen,” Suzanne told him firmly. 

“Why?”

“Because I said so, Benji.”  She sounded like a typical mother.  Precisely the way hers did when she told her she was not going to college but instead pursuing an acting career.  “You just got off probation and-“

“Exactly.  I’m not on probation anymore.  There’s no reason why I can’t go.”

“You’re still not out of the woods,” she said, standing firm.  “You’ve done some reckless things and your father and I are trying to instill some values in you.  How are we supposed to do that if we pay for you to run off on a cross-country jaunt?”

He never pegged his mother as a hypocrite, but that’s exactly what she was.  For years he’d been made to believe he was some kind of a degenerate.  Now he realized he’d only been following by example.  

“I’ll go to Dad,” he said without even a blink.

“He’s not going to tell you anything different.  You’re not going, Benji, and that’s final.”  She grabbed her laptop and started toward the house.  She may not have her own life under control, but she was determined to stick to her guns where her son was concerned.  

“Are you sure you want to leave it like that?” he called after her, unwilling to let it rest.  “Things could get very ugly if he knew certain things.”

The remark didn’t immediately register with her, but she stopped and turned to him nonetheless.   “What does that supposed to mean?”

He looked definitely at her.  No words were necessary. 

“Benji, what does that supposed to mean?” she repeated, stalking back toward him. 

“I just don’t think you should dismiss New York so quickly.”

She looked into his eyes.  Did he know something?  Did Brett tell him about their affair?  She couldn’t imagine what else he could be referring to, and short of coming out and asking him if he knew, she was left with wondering.  

“I can’t believe you’re acting this way,” she said, genuinely shocked by his cold nature.  Yes, he’d always been rebellious, but the look in his eyes and the tone in his voice made her wonder how well she even knew him. 

“I can’t believe you’re preaching to me about right and wrong,” he countered. 

She decided to take care in her next few words.  She could easily say one wrong word and confirm something he was only guessing about.  No, it wasn’t worth the risk. 

“You’re not going,” she said flatly.  She wasn’t about to be pushed around by her own son.  Besides, if he did know about her and Brett, he’d never say anything to Jordan without coming out and asking her point blank. 

Turning back to the house, she stormed up the walkway through the yard and left Benji standing truant. 

Blackthorne Mansion

Miranda stood above Michael as he napped in an upstairs bedroom at the Blackthorne mansion.  Eyes red and watery, she wondered what would happen to the young boy if Brooke was really dead.  His father was gone, killed in the horrific earthquake that had wrecked their lives in so many unimaginable ways.  He’d be an orphan.  Would her father step up and raise him?  He did believe for years that he was the boy’s father.  It only made sense. 

A presence behind her caused her to turn from the bed.  Standing in the doorway was David, gazing sorrowfully at her.   No words were spoken as they met in the center of the room and fell into a warm embrace.  In his arms, she cried silently. 

“They’re going to be okay,” David said.  “Brooke and Stormy.  You’ll see.”

“You don’t know that,” she cried.  “You heard your mother downstairs.  Tourists are murdered all the time and for no reason.  I may never see my brother again and Michael may grow up not knowing his mother or his father.  It isn’t fair.”

“Don’t listen to what my mother says,” he insisted.  “She’s just being dramatic as usual.” 

Breaking from his embrace, Miranda stared down at the floor in a daze while thinking about Stormy.  “All he wanted to do was make our father proud of him,” she said.  “I think he really thought this movie was going to accomplish that.  And look where it’s got him now.”

“Don’t talk like that.”  He followed her across the room.  “Stormy’s a smart guy when it comes down to it.  He’s got enough sense to keep himself and everyone else out of danger.”

“How?  Mike couldn’t even do that and he was a three-hundred pound security guard.  If he couldn’t protect them then what makes you think Stormy could?”

David didn’t have the answer.  He wanted to take away her worries but he couldn’t.  Instead, he wrapped his arms around her again and held her as tight as he could.  Neither of them noticed Eddie appear in the doorway and remain silent for several moments. 

“Sorry,” he finally said, unsure of what he had walked in on.

Miranda quickly pulled away from David and wiped her teary eyes.  “David was just…” she stammered.  “I came to check on Michael and I started thinking about Stormy and….”

“I know,” Eddie said and kissed her on the forehead.  “But you two better get downstairs.”

“Did Lenny call back?” David asked hopefully.

“No.  But the media’s got hold of the story.  It’s on every station.” 

Quickly, they followed him out of the room and down the hall to the staircase.

David Jenner

In the family room, they gathered around the television as a CNN news correspondent reported from their Atlanta news desk.  James stood, arms folded, watching as the story unfolded in front of the entire world.  He felt embittered, angry that they seemed to be learning information at the same time as the rest of the country.  It was his studio and his family.  Why was nobody contacting him?   What was worse, it had been hours since they’d last talked to Lenny.

“Breaking news from Acapulco this afternoon as details are surfacing involving a film crew on location in the drug-torn Mexican city,” said the news anchor.  “Reports are coming to us that late last night several Sunset Studios crew members were kidnapped from their hotel.  Among them were legendary film star Jack Childers, renowned film director Eric Autumn, and soap opera star Cassidy Solomon.  We’ve just learned that a security guard traveling with the cast and crew was found shot to death in his hotel room.  Mexican authorities claim to be on top of the investigation but no word yet on confirmation that the murder and apparent kidnappings have ties with the warring drug cartels that have plagued much of the country for the last few years.” 

As if on cue, the phone began ringing.  James prayed that it was Lenny calling with information.  Quickly, he went to retrieve it.   Deflated, he shook his head with sorrow when he realized it was a reporter from the L.A. Times. 

“No comment,” he fired back, quickly hanging up they phone. 

“Reporters already?” Jackie asked, rubbing her hand over her face.  The days events had seemingly began to spiral out of control. 

“I’m sure it’s only the beginning,” David said with a sigh. 

They continued watching the news report.  James turned to another channel which broadcasted the same story, this one with stock footage of the area around their hotel, he assumed because the media hadn’t yet made it to Acapulco yet to tape live.

“The American Embassy in Acapulco has denied claims that the alleged kidnappings and murder mean an international incident has occurred,” said another reporter.  “The FBI and the Department of State have not indicated that these events were intentional attacks on Americans or even that drug wars are behind them.”

Jackie closed her eyes.  How this thing had escalated to an international incident was beyond her.  All she wanted was Brooke to go away.  Now a man was dead and several others were nowhere to be found.  Nausea quickly set in. 

“The incident follows two days after a confirmed drug-related incident on the same stretch of the Acapulco Bay,” continued the reporter.  “Vacationers and locals awoke the first morning of this long holiday weekend to thirteen bullet-ridden corpses, several having been decapitated, in what was called a warning by the cartels for any who speak out against them.” 

Miranda placed a hand over her mouth and stumbled backward.  Eddie placed a hand around her arm, steadying her as the flood of information continued to pour in. 

Another phone call and another reporter.  This one from the Associated Press.  James replied again with no comment, and instructed Leilani to field any more calls.  He only wanted to speak to Lenny or anyone else from their crew. 

Jackie decided to take control of the situation.  Bryan wasn’t returning her calls and things were escalating to a near panic-level.  Determined to get to the bottom of whatever was going on, she ducked out of the room and ran to the front doors in the foyer.  As she made her way out to her car, she saw a barrage of reporters making their way up the drive in news vans and satellite vehicles.  In a harried effort to avoid them, she raced to her car and sped off in the opposite direction. 

Jackie Lamont

Thirty minutes later, she was in her office at Merteuil Industries.  Tossing her purse on the sofa, she went to the desk and began searching the phone list for every department head in the company.  Having only been in charge for a few weeks, and keeping a relatively low profile, she hadn’t had much opportunity to speak to any of them, but she decided she soon would.

After locating the contact information for Rob Silva, Merteuil’s director of operations, she called him at home.  A housekeeper answered and told her he and his family were in Big Bear for the holiday weekend.  Jackie groaned at the mention of Big Bear.  Wasn’t that where this whole chain of events began?  Roz and Mick Taylor brought Brooke there every summer of her youth so that Royce could spend time with her.  If it wasn’t for those few years and the photographic evidence that had appeared, David would have never learned that she was his sister. 

She called his cell phone and he answered, the sounds of summertime activity apparent in the background.   Regardless of the timing, she had to talk to him.  It was now a matter of life or death. 

“This is Jacqueline Blackthorne,” she said, forming her plan as she went.  “I need you to come to Merteuil right away.  There’s a problem with the new freighters that we purchased a few days ago.”

“Mrs. Blackthorne?” he said, taken aback.  Of course he knew her by name.  Her ousting Renee as CEO had been a huge shock to him and the rest of the executives in the company.  Never did he expect her to reach out to him.  “I’m on vacation with my family.  Whatever it is will have to wait until next week.” 

“It can’t wait,” she insisted.  “I’m sorry to disturb you but this is a business emergency.”

“Like I said, it’ll have to wait until next week.”

Jackie didn’t mind pulling rank, and the circumstances definitely warranted it.  “Mr. Silva, I assume you have a personal stake in Merteuil, particularly since after forty years with the company you have a substantial pension waiting for you when you retire in a few years.  I’d hate for anything to jeopardize that.” 

“Are you threatening to fire me if I don’t come?” he asked incredulously.  

“Yes,” she said hastily. 

Silence followed, and then a response that she hadn’t anticipated.  “Look lady, I kept my mouth shut when you took over the company because I need that pension, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you start calling the shots.  I’ve worked for the Merteuil’s since Charles started the goddamn company.  I practically ran it myself for most of that time.  I don’t think you’re in any position to make demands of me.  You got that?”

She took a deep breath, realizing her threats were useless in some cases.  She knew his reputation and she knew that without him, the company would meander aimlessly until it eventually collapsed.   A different approach is what she needed, she decided.

“Look, Mr. Silva, I’m sorry.  I’m in a tight spot here and I need your help.”  Maybe imploring him with humanity was the key.  “Can you at least tell me what you know about those freighters?  Where they went?  Anything?”

After a few moments of hesitation, he finally responded, “they arrived in Mexico this morning.  A seaport in Acapulco.” 

Jackie closed her eyes with the confirmation that Bryan was definitely up to something.  “What are they picking up?”

“You don’t know?  I thought you were supposed to be running the show.” 

“What was the cargo?” she demanded. 

“Finished product,” he told her.  “Sugar and vanilla.  What else do they export from Mexico?”

“An associate of mine made the deal.  I’m just trying to wrap my head around it, that’s all.  What do you know about the arrangement?”

He sighed.  “I know it didn’t seem like good business, but then again you’re in charge and I figured you had your reasons.”

“What do you mean it didn’t seem like good business?”

“We’re not making anything off the deal,” he explained.  “Two times a week those freighters are going to pick up goods from Acapulco and bring them to Los Angeles.”

“And we’re not making any money?” she asked.  “Who’s the shipper?”

“I don’t know.  Your associate arranged it.  I assume we’re getting something out of the deal.  What, I don’t know.  But if you ask me, when somebody wants something freightered from Mexico and there’s some kind of under the table arrangement in the works, they’re not shipping what they say they’re shipping.”

“What do you mean?” she asked. 

“Figure it out,” he told her firmly.  “Now if you don’t mind, can I get back to my family?  No offense, but morale isn’t exactly high since you took over and I need all the time I can get away from that place.”

She nodded dismissively.  “Yes, yes, of course.  I’m sorry to have bothered you.  Please go back to your family.  As a matter of fact, take an extra day off next week.”

“Gee, thanks,” he said. 

After hanging up, Jackie racked her brain to decode the unsettling phone call.  Rob had suggested that there may be something illegal going on; that sugar and vanilla weren’t the intended cargo for those freighter runs.  But what else could it be?   Drugs?  It was a distinct possibility, which made her realize there was much more going on than Bryan doing her a simple favor by getting rid of Brooke Taylor.

James Blackthorne

With reporters staked out outside the mansion, James, David, Miranda and Eddie remained positioned in the family room as news continued to come in over the networks.  

“Shouldn’t we tell Mom what’s going on?” Miranda asked her father.  “She’d want to know about Stormy.”

He shook his head adamantly.  “Absolutely not.  If we tell her what’s going on it could set her recovery back.  Besides, until we know anything concrete I don’t want to alarm anyone.” 

Just then, Leilani lowered the phone and motioned to James.  “Mr. Blackthorne, it’s Lenny!”

He quickly went to retrieve the receiver.  Everyone waited in suspense as he spoke urgently over the phone.  A few seconds later his tone deepened and all color drained from his face.  Miranda immediately thought the worst. 

“What is it?” David asked when James lowered the phone. 

He looked at him and then at Miranda.  “They just found two bodies.”

Covering her mouth with her hands, Miranda stared at him in disbelief.  After hours of waiting, their fears were coming true.  “Who were they?”

He shook his head.  “They don’t know yet.  Apparently the bodies were unrecognizable.  They did say it was a man and a woman.”

“Where did they find them?” Eddie asked.

"In the trunk of a car a mile from the hotel.  They’re positive it’s the drug cartels who are responsible.” 

Miranda turned away at the horrific thought.  When she looked back, James was stalking intently down the hall.  Panicked, she ran after him and found him in his study. 

“Daddy, what are you doing?” she asked as he lifted the phone and made a quick call. 

“I’m having the pilot prepare the jet,” he said after the call.  “I’m going down there.”

“You can’t!” she cried, rushing toward him with pleading eyes.  “It’s too dangerous!”

“I can’t stay here and wait for news,” he insisted.  “If that wasn’t Stormy and Brooke they found in that trunk then there’s a chance they’re still alive.  I have to do everything I can to bring them home safely.”

“You don’t even know where to look!” she lamented, her vision blurred with tears.  “You could wind up dead too!”

“It’s a chance I’m going to have to take, Miranda, now the subject is not up for discussion!”  He went to his desk and unlocked the bottom drawer, removing a cardboard box that his gun was encased in.  

“What do you need that for?”

“I was thinking I might need it,” he told her, checking the chamber to ensure that it was loaded.

“Why?” Panic coursed through her veins.  Everything was happening so fast.  It didn’t even seem like their lives.  It was like something out of one of her father’s movies. 

He could see the distress in her eyes and realized he was doing nothing to ease her mind.  “I was thinking I might need it,” he repeated calmly.  “But they have semi-automatic machine guns, so what’s the point?”

Crying hysterically, she fell into his arms when he went to her.  “I can’t lose you too,” she sobbed into his shoulder. 

“Just stay by the phone and wait for me to call.  Don’t talk to any reporters.” 

She nodded, drying her eyes as she resigned to the fact that he was going to go regardless of how much she pleaded.  That was his nature.  He would risk his own life to save his family.

“I’m going with you,” said David from the doorway once they broke from the embrace. 

“Are you sure?” James asked him.  

He nodded.  “Brooke is my sister.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here and wait.”

James patted him on the shoulder, tucking his gun in the back of his pants as he made his way out of the study.  Once he was gone, Miranda began shaking her head dramatically.  She held up her hand and turned away stubbornly.

“No,” she said.  “David, you’re not going to Mexico.  I won’t let you.” 

"I have to,” he told her.  “It’s Brooke and Stormy.  Don’t you want to see them come home?  That little boy upstairs has no father.  He needs his mother, Miranda.”

“What about what I need?” she demanded angrily.  “Doesn’t that make any difference to you?”

“Of course, but I-“

“If you thought I was difficult when you told me you were dying of cancer, just wait till you get your head blown off down there trying to act like some kind of hero!” she screamed.

“I won’t,” he reassured her, taking her by the shoulders and looking into her eyes.  “I promise.”

“What if you get sick while you’re there?” she cried.

“I feel fine.  Now stop worrying.” 

“Don’t tell me to stop worrying!  I do worry!  Please, David.  I can’t lose you yet.”

When Eddie appeared in the doorway, David used the awkward moment to dismiss himself and form a game plan with James.  Standing behind in the study, Miranda couldn’t even look Eddie in the eyes.  Twice he’d walked in on her and David together and it was now nearly impossible for her to hide her feelings. 

“Miranda, what’s going on?” Eddie asked.

She simply shook her head and turned away. 

“I asked you a question,” he went on.  “What’s going on with you and David?  First I walk in on you and him upstairs and now in here.  Why does his going to Mexico upset you so much?”

“Because it’s dangerous,” she said, tracing her finger along the desk. 

His eyes narrowed on her.  “But it’s okay for your father to go?  What is so special about David Jennings?”

“I don’t want either one of them to go!”

Meeting her at the desk, he lifted her face and forced her to look him in the eyes.  “What’s going on with the two of you?” 

She shook her head, tears now coming not only as a result of the day’s horrific events, but also due to her unmanageable guilt.  She knew her face gave her away but she didn’t have the energy to hide it. 

"Eddie…” she began, reaching out to him.  

Eyes wide, he backed up to the doorway.  Her expression told him everything he needed to know.  Numb, he turned and darted out of the room.  Left behind, Miranda buried her face in her hands and sunk to the floor.  How had everything gone wrong so fast?

Jordan Rydell

Suzanne had thought all day about everything.  About Benji’s disturbing behavior, about the lackluster excitement in her marriage to Jordan, and about the passion she’d given up by breaking things off with Brett.   His invitation, laced in desperation, played on her mind.  She had to at least see if there was something still there, knowing full well there was.  So grabbing her purse and car keys, she set out to the prearranged rendezvous at his condo.  Already the excitement and anticipation was building. 

Benji watched her leave from his bedroom window.  Glancing at his watch, he realized it was nearly eight o’clock, the exact time he’d overhead Brett tell her to be at his place if she wanted to see him again.  He felt genuinely surprised that she was going through with it.  For some reason he thought she would have stuck to her guns in light of her marriage to Jordan.  Apparently it was not so. 

When he made his way downstairs some time later, his father had just gotten home from the golf course.

“Hi,” he said, propping his golf bag inside the door.  “What’s going on?  Where's your mom?”

“I was just getting ready to call you,” Benji replied, leaning against the staircase banister.  “Mom wanted me to tell you that she’s on her way to Brett’s.” 

“What for?” Jordan asked, removing his driving gloves and tucking them in his back pockets.

“Some emergency with Violet, I think,” he told him with as much sincerity as he could muster.  “She ran out of here in a hurry.” 

Immediately, Jordan went for his cell.  As he started to dial Suzanne’s number, Benji quickly stopped him.

“Don’t bother calling her,” he said.  “She ran out of here so fast she left her phone in the drawing room.  She just said to tell you to come as soon as you could.” 

“I hope everything’s okay,” Jordan remarked, quickly heading for the door.  “I’ll call you when I find out what’s going on.”

"Great,” Benji replied, smiling as his father left the house. 

Blackthorne Mansion

Miranda and Leilani stood in the foyer as James and David prepared to leave for the airport.  They clung to each other tightly, misty eyed as they said their brief goodbyes.  The less that they drug it out the easier it would be to let them go, Miranda thought to herself. 

“I’ll call you when we get there, sweetheart,” James said as he kissed her on the cheek. 

She nodded, tensing as Eddie emerged from the hallway.  His eyes were cold and moved past her so quickly that she couldn’t even be sure he saw her standing there.  He had a right to be furious.  What she’d done was despicable and he didn’t deserve it. 

“I’m going with you,” he announced, looking at James and David. 

“Eddie, I don’t think-“

“Stormy and I have been best friends since we were five years old,” he maintained.  “If he’s still alive, I want to help bring him back.”

James nodded, deciding to forgo any manner of protest.  It could be that they needed his investigative skills once they got to Acapulco.  Eddie had a way with getting information in the most efficient ways possible. 

Before they left, Eddie glanced back and finally let his eyes rest on Miranda’s.  She didn’t bother to ask him not to go; she knew why he was doing it.  He was proving a point.  A show of bravery in light of how she’d hurt him. 

Her hand knotted through Leilani’s, she watched as the three left the house together and stepped into the barrage of reporters.   She prayed it wasn’t the last she saw of them. 

Bryan Carlson

After forty years in the work force, Rob Silva had come to learn one important thing in life:  no one ever went to their deathbed wishing they had spent more time at the office.  That was why, after years hearing his wife complain, he agreed to go away for the weekend.  They spent three days in Big Bear, boating and enjoying time away with their two young children.  It was relaxation at its best, until Jacqueline Blackthorne called and interrupted it, of course.  Since the infuriating phone call, he couldn’t stop thinking about her.  What nerve to call him on his vacation demanding he come to the office? 

Her questions led him to wonder just what the arrangement was with the freighters that had arrived that morning in Acapulco.  If she didn’t know anything about them, who did?  Who was her associate that made the deal?  He decided after they got back he’d have to do some investigating.  If something illegal was going on, he was determined to not go down for it. 

Their speedboat was parked at a dock at the lake.  His wife, Trudy, and their children played on a swing set next to the small convenience store up on the shore.  As he walked out of the small mom and pop establishment, Rob bumped into a man in a tan hunting jacket and ball cap pulled tightly over his face. 

“Sorry,” the man said as he made his way inside the store.

“No problem.”  He went to the swing set and informed Trudy that the store was out of earplugs. 

“Then I don’t think Hannah should get back in the water,” his wife said, tending to their young daughter who irritably rubbed her head and ears.  “I’m afraid she has an ear infection again.” 

“Okay, I’ll take the boat back to the cabin and come back with the car,” Rob said, then kissed his daughter on the head.  “Then we’ll go eat.  See you in a few minutes.” 

Jogging down the bank to the dock, he jumped inside the boat and turned the key.  Expertly, he backed up away from the dock and steered the boat out a hundred feet.  It was less than half a mile to the cabin.  He could get there and back in ten minutes.  The more time with his family, the better. 

The thought proved to be his last.  In an instant, the boat exploded into flames, thousands of bits of debris flying up into the air.  The owners of the convenience store came running outside after hearing the thunderous explosion.  Standing near the swing set, Trudy screamed at the top of her lungs at the sight of her husband disappearing before her eyes.

Standing inside the store, staring out the window, Bryan Carlson, clad in the tan hunting jacket, removed his hat and watched the flames die to a steady gasoline burn. 


Next time....

James, David and Eddie search for answers in Acapulco while Miranda waits nervously by the phone.  Jackie continues her search for Bryan, and for answers.  Benji's trap puts those near him in hot water.  

  

 

Read Episode 116

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