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Episode 118

 

Release Date:  July 9, 2010

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

Benji accompanied Miranda on her trip to inform Summer Solomon that her mother, Cassidy, was one of the casualties in Acapulco.  Summer asked Benji to stay the night with her.  The following morning, he and Blake found her about to jump off a bluff at Malaga Cove.  Benji talked her down and she became smitten with him.  Miranda worried over her loved ones' safety as they journeyed to Mexico to find Brooke and Stormy and the others.  After becoming nauseous and having strange dreams, she finally collapsed when James called to inform her that they found Stormy's body.  Jordan walked in on Brett and Suzanne making love and blasted them for their betrayals.  Later, Jordan fired Brett from Rydell Productions and then threatened to sue for custody of Violet.  Concerned over not having a job when it came to fighting for his daughter, Brett was delighed when James called to ask him to step in at Sunset Studios.  Jackie learned of Rob Silva's boating accident and immediately sensed that Bryan was behind it.  She later worried that she would be tied to the Merteuil freighters arranged by Bryan in exchange for Brooke's kidnapping by the Pacheco Cartel.  A carbon copy of a note Rob Silva wrote to Renee led her to believe he'd mailed her a copy of the contract she had signed authorizing the shipping deal.  Jack Childers escaped from Manuel and left Brooke, Stormy and Steven who were thrown in a cell somewhere on the outskirts of Acapulco.  In New York, Kelly Blackthorne's agent and lover, Neil Winslow, told her that in order to advance her career, she needed to get rid of her infant child, R.J., who was Stormy's son.

 


  

Episode 118

"Palisades"

 

When Jordan came home at lunchtime, Suzanne was walking around the house with the phone in her hand trying to decide whether or not to call him.  Stationed in the drawing room in cream slacks, a peach blouse and beige pumps, she lowered the phone and tried to look him in the eyes.  She couldn’t, really.

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“At the studio,” he told her, pouring himself a glass of bourbon.  “Then at the attorney’s office.”

“You’re not really going through with this, are you?” Suzanne demanded.  “You’re actually going to try to take Violet away from him because of this?  If you’re angry at someone be angry at me.  Don’t take it out on our granddaughter.” 

“I’m not taking it out on our granddaughter,” Jordan maintained after finishing the glass in one gulp.  “I’m trying to protect her, and I’m trying to protect Heather.”

“From Brett?” she asked and raised an eyebrow.  “Why?”

“You’re in love with him,” Jordan reminded her.

She sighed and looked down.  He didn’t have to remind her of that.   

“What do you suppose would have happened if I hadn’t walked in on you together?  You would have continued your affair until you were ready to take off somewhere together.  With Violet.  How would I have explained that to Heather when she got out of the hospital?”

“Do you honestly think I would have left with Brett and Violet?” she asked in disbelief. 

“I don’t know,” he told her.  “You were going to leave before you and Heather’s car accident.”

“That was different.  I was going to leave because of your affair.  Your hands are exactly squeaky clean, you know.”

He cleverly avoided the accusation.  “What’s to say Brett won’t meet another woman and fall in love with her?  What’s to keep him from taking Violet away from here while Heather is locked away?  I won’t let her lose her daughter.”

“Do you really think they’re going to let her out?” Suzanne asked softly, then immediately regretted it. 

“What did you say?”

“Do you really think they’re going to let her out?” she repeated, this time louder and with more confidence.  “Come on, Jordan, you saw her during our last visit.  You saw the blankness in her eyes.  The darkness.  She’s never coming back and you know that.” 

“I cannot believe I’m hearing this,” Jordan said, raking his fingers through his hair and turning away.  “What the hell kind of a mother are you?”

“A realistic one."

Jordan flashed her an incredulous look and poured himself another drink, but before he could lift the glass to his lips, he turned and threw it against the far wall.  Shards of glass and amber liquid exploded in every direction.  

“You may have already written Heather off, but not me.  I’m not going to go on as if she doesn’t exist.”

“I don’t-“

“She is coming home and she is going to be a mother to her daughter again.”

“That’s just not reality,” is all Suzanne could say. 

Jordan refused to discuss it any further.  “Where’s Benji?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think he came home last night.” 

“Smart kid,” Jordan remarked.

“Why do you say that?”

“You don’t know?” he asked her with a hint of a smile.  It was a smile brought on by indifference and resignation.  “He’s the one who sent me over to Brett’s apartment.  He knew you were going to be there.  He told me you went because Violet was sick.”

“What?” Suzanne asked.  She couldn’t believe he’d gone through with it.  She couldn’t believe he would hang his own mother out to dry just because she wouldn’t let him go to New York. 

Benji Rydell

After leaving Palos Verdes that morning, Benji, Blake and Summer stopped at Manhattan Beach and spent a few relaxing hours enjoying the sun and watching a volleyball game that had assembled on the crowded stretch of sand.  They got frozen yogurt from Pinkberry and perched on the edge of the stairs where the boardwalk emptied out onto the beach.  From the speakers outside one of the establishments behind them blared Vacation by the Go-Go’s.

“I wouldn’t have jumped,” Summer was saying, expertly moving her yogurt around so that it appeared she was eating it even though she wasn’t.  “Sometimes I stand on the bluff and just look down at the water.”  A faraway look appeared in her eyes as she spoke.  “I just look and then I have to turn away because I can’t take it.  I just can’t handle it.” 

Benji had tuned her out an hour ago, instead spending his time looking for people he knew on the beach.  He spotted Van Edgewater and Sheldon Novak, both taking part in the impromptu volleyball game, and considered going up to them.  Blake seemed to be handling Summer just fine on his own anyway.  Despite feeling bad for her mother’s tragic death, he’d begun to already sense her neediness, prompting him to mentally check out of the situation.

“You should have called someone,” Blake said.  He looked concerned.  “You just went through a terrible ordeal.  I lost my dad last year and it was really hard.  I can only imagine what you’re going through.”

As he said it, Summer’s eyes traveled to Benji who lay with his legs outstretched on the stairs, bronzed skin and sculpted body glowing in the sunlight.  Blake noticed her distraction but also noticed that Benji was indifferent, still staring off at the water and at the volleyball game.

“Summer?” he asked, not quite sure that she’d heard him. 

“Yeah?”

“Nothing.”  He slipped on his Wayfarers and finished the rest of his yogurt. 

Benji stood up and hiked up his shorts before glancing back at Blake and Summer.  “Be right back,” he said and headed up the boardwalk to a bathroom. 

“Listen, if you don’t want to go home you can always stay at my place,” Blake offered.  “I live with my brother in Studio City.  He’s out of town so there’s an extra bedroom.”

“Where is it?” Summer asked, distracted.

“What?  The apartment?”

“Yeah.”

“On Moorpark.  It’s nothing fancy but there’s a pool.” 

“Great,” she said, repeatedly glancing over her shoulder in the direction Benji had disappeared to.  “So is Benji seeing anyone right now?”

“No,” Blake replied quickly.  “Why?”

She shrugged.  “Just curious.  I have to go to the bathroom.” 

With that, she stood up and disappeared into the crowd.  A set of public restrooms that smelled like chlorine and urine were situated between two snack stands off the boardwalk.  She leaned against the cement wall painted blue and waited for Benji to emerge, and each time someone walked out she thought it was going to be him. 

When he finally came out, tying the strings on his board shorts, she quickly approached with a smile.  “Can’t believe the line, huh?” she asked. 

He looked up and nodded.  “Yeah, the lines are crazy.” 

“Hey, I wanted to thank you for last night.  It was really decent of you to stay.  And this morning on the bluff.  You saved my life.” 

“No problem.” He swept lazy bangs from his eyes and stood there thinking she wasn’t finished. 

“No, it was really decent of you.”  She stepped forward and put her arms around him, kissing his neck.  When she pulled away, she placed a hand on his hard stomach and looked into his eyes.  Brazenly, she slowly inched her fingers down to the waistband of his trunk and let them linger there momentarily.

“We should get back and see if Blake’s ready to go,” Benji said casually. 

Realizing her point was not coming across loud enough, she moved closer to him and ignored the people coming and going from the bathrooms as she kissed him softly on the lips.  Her hand moved farther down and she became instantly aware that he was aroused. 

“Why don’t you and I go somewhere private?” she asked, whispering in his ear.  “Just like that night outside Area.” 

Benji closed his eyes as she worked him into a state of excitement.  It would be easy to find a secluded spot on the beach and use her any way he wanted.  She was distraught and therefore an easy target.  Plus she was coming on to him like gangbusters, most likely to ease her despair over her mother’s death.  They were alike in that respect, too.  He wasn’t a stranger to using sex as self-medication.  

Still, he rarely made a repeat occurrence of casual hookups so he moved her hands from his tented shorts and took a step back.

“I don’t think so,” he said and walked away.

Angrily, she followed him back down to the beach where Blake was waiting. 

“We should get back,” Benji said.  “I need to check in at home anyway.”

Glaring heatedly, Summer made a vain attempt at making him jealous.  She went to Blake’s side and placed a painfully thin hand on his arm.  “Hey, if that offer’s still good, I think I would like to crash at your brother’s place.  At least for a few days.  I can’t handle going back to that house.”  As she said it she eyed Benji out of the corner of her eye to catch his reaction. 

“Sure,” Blake said with a grin.

“Thanks,” she said, pulling him into an embrace.  The whole time she watched Benji watch them with what she perceived to be mock disinterest.  She was positive that he was jealous.

Miranda Blackthorne

The first thing Miranda heard when she regained consciousness was the sound of a child crying nearby.  The second thing was a gentle voice asking her if she was all right.  She thought she was, but she couldn’t be sure just yet. 

Slowly her focus returned and she realized she was laying face up on the grassy area of the children’s park at Moonshadows.  The crying child was Michael, terrified after seeing her collapse.  The gentle voice belonged to Marilee Wells-Walker, who knelt beside her on the ground. 

“What happened?” Miranda asked groggily. 

“You fainted,” replied Marilee who helped her to an upright position. 

“Oh.”  She looked around and saw that a few spectators had stopped to watch.  Humiliation quickly set in.  She struggled to recall the moments that led up to her passing out but it was a haze. 

“Take it easy,” Marilee said, steadying her to her feet. 

Miranda teetered back and forth, finally realizing how upset Michael was and doing her best to reassure him that she was okay.  “Shhh,” she quieted him.  “Aunt Miranda’s better now.  Don’t cry.”

He hugged her tightly, wrapping his arms around her legs and squeezing with all his might.  She felt dizzy again, felt that she might collapse again, and used Marilee to brace herself. 

“You’d better come sit down,” Marilee said and led her back to the bench.  The crowd began to disperse and Michael hung back tentatively.  “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Miranda said, straining to recall the last few minutes.  Finally it came back to her.  The phone call from her father, the news of the car bombing and the bodies they found inside along with Stormy’s passport.   “Oh my God.  No.”  She began crying.

“What is it, Miranda?” Marilee asked, a hand resting on hers. 

“My brother,” she lamented softly.  “Daddy called from Mexico and said they found his body.  And maybe Brooke’s.  They were too burned to know for sure.”

Marilee gasped and placed her hands over her mouth.  “Oh no,” she whispered under her breath.  “Sweetheart, I’m so sorry.  What else did James say?”

She shook her head.  “That’s all.  They don’t know much else.” 

Suddenly, Marilee looked away in deep concentration.  When she turned back to Miranda she wanted to know about her son.  “What about Kyle?  Did he say anything about Kyle?”

Miranda didn’t think to question her motives for asking.  “I think he’s okay.  He got away from the people that were holding them.  He’s been helping them find everyone.”

A look of relief washed over her face.  “But they’re not sure who the other bodies were?”

“No.” 

“Well, no wonder you fainted,” Marilee said.  “After news like that.”

She pushed a lock of dark hair from her eyes and nodded.  “Yeah, I suppose.  I haven’t felt well for a couple of days so maybe that also has something to do with it.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I’ve been nauseas and I haven’t had an appetite.  Plus I haven’t been sleeping well.” 

Marilee raised an eyebrow and turned closer to her.  “Could you be pregnant?”

The thought had never occurred to Miranda.  She thought about it for a second and realized it was a possibility.  Her cycle had always been inconsistent.  She’d been sexually active in the past few months and she’d never had a problem sleeping before. 

“I don’t know,” she said, feeling overwhelmed.

“Well, you might want to find out,” Marilee said and then squeezed her hand.

Miranda didn’t want to think about it.  There was too much going on already. 

James Blackthorne

Meanwhile, James stood in a corridor at the hospital in Acapulco where the bodies of the car bomb victims had been taken for identification.  David, Eddie and Kyle hung back, impatiently pacing up and down the hall while they waited for answers. 

Kyle, still in moderate pain from his gunshot wound, refused to sit still.  He knew he wouldn’t be able to relax until he got confirmation that Brooke wasn’t one of the victims.  He refused to consider that she was.  Their relationship had just gotten off the ground; they’d only expressed their feelings to each other two days before.  There was so much more to look forward to.  He began closing his eyes and imagining what their reunion would be like. 

Eddie continuously glared at David, still reeling over hearing him profess his love to Miranda over the phone.  As of yet, he hadn’t confronted him about his feelings for her, but he knew they were there.  He saw it in Miranda’s eyes before they left Los Angeles.  For now the most important thing was to find everyone and get them to safety, and to confirm whether or not it was his best friend who’d perished in that car bomb. 

Biding his time, David savored the anticipation of beating the hell out of Kyle Fenwick when the time was right.  It was because of him that Brooke was in Acapulco when the kidnappings occurred.  It was their relationship that brought her there only two days after production began on House of Palms.  If he hadn’t lured her into his bed with his lies and his shady manipulations, his sister would be safe at home with Michael. 

Alejandro emerged from a hallway with a doctor following close behind.  James assumed he was a coroner because he’d been in with the bodies for two hours.  With the doctor not able to speak English, Alejandro had volunteered to help them with translating.

“What did he find?” James demanded as the others quickly assembled at his sides.  “Is it Stormy?”

“He can’t be sure,” Alejandro replied.  “He needs dental records.”

“We’ll get them,” James assured him and flashed Eddie a quick look.  “Eddie, can you call?”

“Right away,” Eddie said and started off with his cell phone in hand. 

“What about the other bodies?” David asked.  “Can they make a positive identification on any of them?”

“They do know that all three bodies were men,” Alejandro told them. 

“That means Brooke is still alive,” James said hopefully.  Behind him, Kyle and David exchanged relieved glances. 

“But if she is, where is she?” David asked after the initial elation had worn off.  “Just because she didn’t burn up in that jeep doesn’t mean she's alive.” 

Brooke Taylor

Temperatures in the cell were at least a hundred degrees.  They’d been given an adequate supply of water but were suffering from heat exhaustion and were starving from lack of food.  Sweat dripped off of their bodies; Stormy and Steven stripped down to only their shorts and Brooke in very short shorts and a skinny tank top.  They sat against the crumbling stone wall of the cell, conserving their energy as they tried to make sense of the morning’s events. 

“Why did they move us in the first place?” Stormy was asking.  “One minute we’re in the van at some house and the next Jack is gone and we’re being thrown in this place.” 

“It’s an old jail cell,” Steven announced.  “I think it’s partially underground.”

“How can you tell?” Brooke asked.

“Moisture on the ground.”  He pointed to the walls of the cell where the stone had been worn down along the floor.  “We’re somewhere in the jungle.  This bunker must have been used for holding prisoners a long time ago.” 

Stormy found himself laughing in spite of their precarious situation.  “How in hell do you know this stuff?”

“School,” he replied.  “We just studied ground water last semester in geology.” 

“Okay, but what about Jack?”  Brooke asked. 

Stormy looked at her knowingly.  “You heard those gunshots back at that house, didn’t you?”

“You think they killed him?”  Her eyes went wide with panic.  “What do they want with us?  Have they asked for a ransom?”

“Of course they have,” Steven said and stood up.  His bare skin was smeared with dirt and sweat and his face was red from the heat.  “There’s no other explanation.  They know we work for a film studio in Hollywood so they’re trying to extort money from someone.”

They grew silent for a few minutes until Brooke remembered something she heard back at the sugar cane plant.  “Jack said something about freighters,” she recalled.  “What do you think that was all about?”

“None of it makes any sense,” Stormy declared, jet black hair matted to his forehead and around his neck.  “All I know is they’ve got to be looking for us.”

We don’t even know where we are,” Brooke maintained.   “What makes you think they’ll be able to find us?”

Miles away, Acapulco bay was bustling with activity.  Two large freighters were docked at the merchant port.  Pallets of boxes were loaded into the cargo hold by a crew of men using forklifts.  A customs officer came by to inspect the cargo.  Each pallet had to be opened and its contents verified with the shipping manifest.   One by one, he gave the okay for the merchandise to be loaded onto the ship.  

In a hotel room with a bird’s eye view of the port, Manuel Pacheco conferred with several of his next’s-in-command. 

“Is the deal still going through?” one of them asked him.

“Yes, why wouldn’t it?”  Manuel barked.

“Because Ricardo is dead and he’s the one who made the deal.  We didn’t even hold up our end of the bargain.  The girl is still alive.” 

“They don’t know that.  She’s our insurance policy now.  If those freighters don’t make it to their destination, they all die.” 

With a knife he pulled from an ankle holster on his leg, he cut open one of the cartons their men were loading onto the freighters.  Inside were bags of sugar, complete with a hollow center that housed five gram bags of cocaine.  

Jackie Lamont

The only way to find out what Renee DeWitt knew was to go directly to the source.  Jackie knew this and dreaded every moment of it.  If Rob Silva had sent that note attached to the copy of the shipping agreement Bryan had drawn up, she’d soon be linked to the kidnappings and murders in Acapulco.  No one would believe her that it all started from an innocent comment stemming from her displeasure over David’s will.  Besides, everyone knew how she felt about Brooke Taylor.  Her recent takeover of Merteuil Industries wouldn’t help her case either.   And now with the news that Stormy was dead, her conscience was eating away at her.  She wasn’t a monster.  She did feel terrible about the turn of events.  But she was still a woman who would protect herself above all else. 

Starting out in the sweltering heat, she drove to Moonshadows and proceeded to Renee’s penthouse suite.  In the hallway, she took a deep breath before knocking.  Moments later, the door opened and Renee stood, hand on hip and with a chilled out stare that made her wonder what she knew. 

“What are you doing here?” Renee asked.  “Come to see the improvements I’ve made to your apartment?"

“I came to ask a favor,” Jackie said before brushing past her and walking inside the palatial suite. 

“A favor?”  Renee turned and looked at her in disbelief.  “You have got to be kidding me.”

Jackie held her hands before her, clutching her small Chanel bag while putting on her interpretation of a look of vulnerability.  “It’s about my son.  As I’m sure you’ve heard, he’s in Acapulco with James and I’m scared that he’s in great danger.”

Never had Renee heard such fear in her enemies’ voice.  She closed the door and turned to her with as much compassion as she could physically provide her.  “I heard,” she said.  “Has there been any more news?  I saw the report about Stormy earlier today.”

By the mere affliction in her voice, Jackie could tell Renee hadn’t yet received the message from Rob Silva.  If he had, she would be much cagier in her attitude toward her.  Still, that didn’t mean the letter wasn’t on its way. 

“Nothing that I’ve heard of,” she went on.

“So what’s this favor?” Renee asked.

“I know how close you and Kenny are to James.  I have no doubt he’ll check in with you at some point.  When he does, would you mind asking him to tell David that I love him?”   The contrived favor wasn’t that much of a reach.  Her son was on her mind a lot lately and she’d had little to no sleep since he left for Mexico.  

Renee blinked a few times, surprised.  Never one to believe anyone could be totally evil, she nodded slowly.   “Of course.  I’m touched that you would trust me with something like this.” 

Deciding not to succumb to total defenselessness, Jackie regarded her with an arched eyebrow.  “I didn’t say I trusted you.  I just wanted you to pass the message along.”

As she left, Renee couldn’t help but glower at Jackie’s nerve.  Still, she had to admit that she felt sorry for her in a way.  Aside from David, she really had no one. 

In the hall, Jackie clutched onto her bag and breathed a sigh of relief.  At least she still had time to try to cover her tracks before Renee learned the truth.  Determined, she set off toward the elevator. 

Benji Rydell

After Blake dropped him off at home in Beverly Hills, Benji walked tentatively inside the house and was met with his mother’s disapproving gaze before he’d even closed the front door.  He immediately sensed that she knew about his manipulation. 

“Welcome home,” Suzanne said, arms folded across her chest.  “You and I need to have a little talk.” 

“Can it wait?” he asked with a roll of his eyes. “I spent the night curled up in a chair and I barely got any sleep.”  He proceeded straight for the staircase.

“Not so fast,” she said and followed him closely.  “I’d like to know what you hoped to get out of your little stunt last night.  It can’t be as simple as you wanting to get back at me for not letting you go to New York.”

“Why can’t it?”

“Because you’re not just a spoiled brat, Benji.  I’m your mother, remember.  I know you pretty well.  You always have a reason for the things you do and I refuse to believe you’re just that petty.”

“Are you serious?” he asked crossly.  “You’re looking for a motive?”

“Yes.”

“You cheated on my father with Heather’s husband,” he exclaimed incredulously.  “Maybe I just thought that was a shitty thing to do and thought he had a right to know.” 

“Do you expect me to believe that you did this out of concern for your father?” Suzanne demanded, refusing to believe her son was that empathetic toward anyone.

“Yes.” 

“You’re lying,” she said, eyes flashing major danger signals.  “Sometimes I think you enjoy inflicting pain on people because it gives you some kind of charge.  Or maybe you’re just angry about everything.  About being sent away to school while Heather was here with your father and I was locked up in an institution.  But when are you going to realize that was for your own good?  You can’t hold this grudge forever.” 

Slowly, Benji walked toward her.  “Do you realize what a hypocrite you sound like?” he asked.  “You fucked your daughter’s husband and you’re standing there telling me I’m the one with problems.  You are so messed up.” 

Angry and hurt, Suzanne drew back her hand and slapped him hard across the face.  Immediately, she regretted it but refused to let him see.  Instead, she maintained her grounding and stared at him with anger evident. 

Reeling from the powerful blow, Benji turned his defiant gaze on her.  “Happy?” he asked and started up the stairs.  He stopped midway and looked down at her.  “Next time I’ll hit back, by the way.” 

After he’d disappeared into his room, she turned and covered her mouth with her hands.  The altercation had left her rattled and she couldn’t stop her hands from trembling.  It was becoming clearer to her than ever that her son had issues no one could fully comprehend. 

Miranda Blackthorne

Shaken and fearful that her emotional state would cause further panic for Michael, Miranda took him home to Leilani and then proceeded down Mulholland in her Porsche, tears streaming down her face.  She had no idea where she was going but all she knew was she couldn’t sit home and wait any longer.  Before she knew it, she had arrived at the giant gates surrounding Sunset Studios.  The guard waved her through and she parked and then dashed into the building.  She needed to feel close to her father and her brother and the studio lot was like second home to them. 

Just as the elevator doors opened, she darted down the hall and burst into Stormy’s office.  Someone was in his chair, their back to her and they stared out the window that overlooked the lot.  Immediately, she thought she was seeing things.

“Stormy?” she exclaimed and proceeded inside. 

But when the chair swiveled back around and she saw who was seated at her brother’s desk, her mood deflated.  Not that she expected it to be him, but hope was all she had to cling to. 

“What are you doing in here?” she demanded in a shrill voice.

“Didn’t your father tell you?” Brett asked and rose from the chair. 

“Tell me what?”  Her eyes were blurred with tears and she took offense to him being there.  “This is Stormy’s office.  You have no right to be in here.”

“Your father asked me to step in and run things since…”  He paused, trying to think of a tactful way to describe James’s wishes.  “…everything that’s gone down in Mexico.” 

She couldn’t believe her father would have done that without telling her.  How could he?  Stormy couldn’t be replaced, and especially not by Brett.  They’d hated each other for years.  Stormy wouldn’t have liked this at all. 

“So you just thought you’d move into my brother’s office?” she asked, picking up a picture of Violet that was already displayed on the desk.  “God, Brett, his body isn’t even cold!”

He knew she was upset so he let the remark go.  Walking around the desk, he placed his hands on her arms and looked her in the eyes.  “I’m very sorry for your loss,” he said.  “I would never think of taking over for Stormy, but your father asked me to do this.  Please try and understand.” 

A whimper escaped her dry throat and she slumped down into a chair.  “I can’t believe this is happening,” she said, more talking to herself than to him.  With Stormy gone; her father, Brooke, David and Eddie in danger, and now Marilee’s suggestion that she could be pregnant, she couldn’t handle any more.  It was too much.   “I’m sorry I snapped.  I’m glad that you could help out.  I know my father would worry about the business otherwise.”

“That’s exactly why I’m doing this,” Brett said though not very convincingly. 

“But what about Rydell?  What does Jordan think of you moonlighting?”

Brett lowered himself into the seat beside her.  “Jordan fired me,” he said.  “This morning.” 

“What?  Why?”

He sighed.  “It’s a long story.”

Miranda knew him well enough to know he’d done something underhanded.  She could tell just by the look in his eyes and the sound of his voice.  She was probably one of the few people who could read him like a book. 

“What did you do?” she asked flatly. 

“I sort of…slept with someone that wasn’t Heather.” 

She responded by slapping him hard on the back of the head with the palm of her hand.  “Ass!”

“Oww!” he exclaimed and tried to rub the stinging sensation way.  “What the hell?”

“How could you do that to Heather?” she demanded angrily, although secretly happy to have something else to think about than her own problems.  “I thought you’d changed!  You were supposed to be this loyal family man.  What happened?”

“In case you’ve forgotten, my wife’s been away in an institution for the past few months and it doesn’t look like she’s going to get out.” 

This quieted Miranda’s hostility.  “She isn’t getting any better?”

He shook his head sorrowfully and looked away. 

“Brett, I’m sorry.”  She reached over and placed a hand on his arm.  “But sleeping with someone else?  Come on, that’s not you anymore.  Who was she?”

“I doesn’t matter,” Brett replied.  “The point is Jordan found out, fired me, and is going to try to take Violet from me.” 

“What?  He can’t do that!”

“He already did,” Brett said, lifting a legal document that had been messengered over just before she arrived.  “There’s a custody hearing next week.” 

“Oh my God,” she whispered sorrowfully.  “I can’t believe Jordan could be this vindictive.  It’s not like him.  What are you going to do?”

“Fight him every step of the way.”   He walked over to the desk, picked up the picture of Violet and looked at it for a few seconds.  “There’s nothing I won’t do to protect her.” 

James Blackthorne

Meanwhile, in Acapulco, James, David, Kyle and Eddie had split up and were questioning guests and employees of the Las Brisas hotel.  James had theorized that someone had to have seen something the night of the kidnappings.  The Pacheco Cartel was huge with many offshoots.  To date, the only member that the authorities could identify was Ricardo Pacheco, who had coincidentally been released from prison days before. Other members were elusive, as was any home base or place of operation.  That much they had been able to determine from the Mexican Government.  To James, it meant they had no leads on where Brooke or anyone else could be. 

The security guard on duty the night of the attacks was the only person who had seen anything.  Gunshots at three in the morning had kept everyone else locked away in offices and guestrooms.  With Alejandro translating, James questioned the security guard but was disappointed when nothing came of it.   All he’d succeeded in learning was that the men had AK-47’s and took everyone over the balconies of the rooms wearing blindfolds or hoods over their heads. 

About to give up, James suddenly had new hope when David stormed into the office behind the lobby with a hopeful sound in his voice. 

“They just detained a man at the airport for trying to buy a ticket to Los Angeles,” he announced.  “They think it’s one of the crew members.” 

Without hesitation, James flew out of his seat and followed David into the lobby.

Stormy Blackthorne

They’d loosened a rock from the stone wall in the cell.  Steven rubbed his fingers raw in the process, but the payoff was worth it.  Then they formulated a rudimentary plan but it was their only option.  So far that day, a man with a machine gun had unlocked the cell and entered the room with fresh water every two hours.  He’d come twice already.  If he followed the same schedule, the next time would be in a matter of seconds.

Taking her position on the dirt floor of the cell, Brooke laid with her eyes closed while Stormy and Steven stood on either side of the door.  Raising the rock above his head, Steven trembled as the door began to open.  The man with the machine gun saw Brooke lying motionless on the floor and quickly went to her side, leaving his weapon slung over his shoulder by the strap. While he was momentarily defenseless, Steven raced forward and attempted to bring the rock down to his head.  

His efforts, however, were halted by a second man who entered quickly and slammed the butt of his rifle against Steven’s head, who collapsed to the dirt, unconscious and bleeding.  Brooke sensed that their plan had backfired and quickly twisted away.  Stormy, meanwhile, emerged from behind the door and attempted to wrestle the gun out of the man’s hands.  He, too, was knocked to the ground with blunt force.  In unison, the two armed men brought their weapons up and pointed it at the three of them, shouting incomprehensible words in Spanish.  Brooke brought her hands to her mouth and tried to keep from screaming in fear. 

“Please, no,” she said, begging the men.  “Don’t kill them.” 

They screamed again, this time louder and gesturing their guns for emphasis.  One of them kicked Steven hard in the ribs and left.  The other followed, locking the door securely behind.  Brooke cringed when the heavy sound of the door echoed through the cell and the exterior hallway.

After they’d gone, she crawled over to Stormy, conscious but wincing in agony from the pain in his head.  Steven writhed about on the floor, blood trickling down his face from where they’d struck him and clutching his side from the pain in his ribs.  

Jack Childers

In his heart, James hoped that there had somehow been a mistake and that Stormy was really alive and had made it to the airport and tried to book a flight home.  David said that the man they detained didn’t have a passport.  But his common sense told him the scenario was too far-fetched to be viable.  As he and David were led to a room behind the airport security check, his fears were realized.  It wasn’t Stormy.

“Jack?” James asked and marched into the room where Jack Childers was positioned in a chair, skin sunburned and filthy and clothes tattered and soiled.  “What’s going on?  Where did you come from?”

“If I only knew,” Jack said miserably.  Also in the room were two Mexican police officers standing guard.   “James, I’m sorry.  I had to save myself.”

James regarded him suspiciously.  “What are you talking about?”

“They would have killed me eventually.  After they got the money they would have killed me.”

“What did you do?” James asked him, his heart pounding.  “Where are Brooke and the others?”

He shrugged.  “I have no idea.  They were in the back of a van parked at some house by the bay the last I knew.” 

“When was that?” David demanded, growing angrier by the minute.  The man’s flippant attitude infuriated him.  The fact that he was trying to leave the country without providing any assistance made him want to kill him. 

“A few hours ago,” Jack claimed.  “This morning sometime.” 

James and David exchanged glances quickly and then turned back to him, hungry for answers.  “Brooke was in the van?  What about Stormy?” James inquired.

“Brooke, Stormy, and that kid Steven.”

“What time?” James asked.  When he didn’t reply immediately he raced forward and pulled him out of the chair by the shirt collar, shaking him forcefully.  “What time this morning?”

“I don’t know!” he lamented, exhausted from the miles of walking he’d done since escaping from Manuel and the other gun-toting men.  “It was a few hours ago, all right?  I don’t know what time it was.” 

“Alejandro said the car bomb explosion happened just before dawn,” David said to James.  “If Jack was with Stormy and Brooke after that, then that means the bodies can’t belong to them.” 

The news was exhilarating.  James dropped Jack back into the chair and ran a hand over his sweating face.  “Okay, okay,” he began, trying to make sense of things.  “Where was this house?  What were you doing there?”

Jack shook his head again. “I don’t know.  It was big, palatial, like something out of a magazine.  This person had money.  It must have belonged to this guy Ricardo.” 

“Ricardo?” James asked.  “Ricardo Pacheco?”

He nodded.  “Maybe.  They wanted me to transfer money from my account.  Then the other guy shot him and I ran.  If I’d gone back for the others I would have been killed.”

“Shot who?  Ricardo?” David asked.

“Yes.  Whoever he was, he’s dead.”

James began pacing the small room.  He thought better when he was moving around.  “Did you hear anything else?  Did they talk about anything before Pacheco was shot?”

Jack simply shook his head. 

“Think!” David yelled, startling him.

“No!  Nothing!  It all happened so fast!  All I could think about was getting out of there!”

Angry, David leaned in to him, hands on the arms of the chair as he stared into Jack’s beady eyes.  “Look, we are running out of time.  If there’s still a chance to save Brooke then you have to help us.  Tell us everything you know.  Anything that you heard or saw that could give us some idea of what the hell is going on.” 

Lethargic and sweaty, Jack leaned away and closed his eyes.  “Something about freighters,” he said.

“What freighters?” asked James.

“The freighters at the port in the bay.  I heard them talking about a deal they made with some freighters that were going to Los Angeles.  I don’t know what it means but it’s all I know.” 

James looked at David and shrugged.  It was their only lead.  Maybe it meant nothing but they had to at least check it out.

Benji Rydell

Back in Beverly Hills, Benji sat on his bed with his computer in his lap, tapping at the keys a he logged into his Facebook account.  He ignored several messages from Summer Solomon and went on to navigating to Sierra’s latest status update.  She rarely updated it anymore but he still checked it at least once a day to see if there was any shred of information that would tell him she was thinking about him.  Today was a different story, however.  An updated relationship status stared him in the face as soon as he logged on. 

Sierra is in a relationship.  The words cut like a knife in his skin.  Although it was no surprise that she and Hunt Roberts were seeing each other, he didn’t know that it had gone this far.  Updating your relationship status on Facebook meant it was official.

Angrily, he brought his fist down on the computer several times.  It whirred and made a few very loud beeping noises before he heard the power shut off.  Silence followed.  After a few minutes of trying to reconcile the new information, he tried turning it on again.  The computer was done for.  Tinkering with the battery and pushing the power button a few times did nothing but confirm that it was broken.  

“Great,” he said under his breath, storming out of his room and down the stairs to the drawing room.  He scouted around for his mother’s computer, which she usually left at the desk.  The new information about Sierra had upset him so much that he acted out in a rage, never getting the chance to further investigate her Facebook account.

He spotted the laptop in its usual spot.  Dropping into the chair behind the desk, he powered it on and drummed his fingers on the desk as he waited.  It looked like his mother had taken off somewhere, probably to cry over the mess she’d made of things since she came back from the institution.  He didn’t feel sorry for her.  Especially now after she hit him.  Never had either of his parents laid a hand on him before.  And what was the monumental event that brought it on?  Because he told his father the truth about her affair?  Was that such a horrible thing?  Once again their lack of morals was taken out on him. 

As the computer turned on, a message appeared indicating that a document had been saved in the auto-recovery mode and asked if he wanted to open the last version of the file.  Maybe his mother had shut the computer off before something had saved, he supposed.  His fist instinct was to say no and let it disappear forever, but instead he clicked yes and waited for the document to load. 

When it appeared on the screen, he first saw the title page.  Valley of Temptation by Suzanne Rogers. The next page started with the heading Chapter 1 and was followed by what appeared to be a story of some kind.  He checked the document length, saw that it was over three hundred pages, and then went back to read the first few lines of the first chapter, which got him immediately curious.  Within a few minutes, he’d hurried through the first fifteen pages. 

Realization slowly dawning, he came to the conclusion that his mother appeared to have written a book. and that book was a thinly veiled account of her life and her affair with Brett.  Bewilderment quickly set in. 

Checking again to ensure he was alone, he hit the print button and waited for the pages to start appearing in the paper tray. 

Suzanne Rogers

Suzanne had spent the afternoon searching through a file in Jordan’s home office.  The file contained various records, letters, and documents pertaining to Benji and Heather.  She found medical records, transcripts from schools, report cards, tuition receipts, donation requests, and various other information.  The document that she hoped she’d find, and succeeded in doing so, was a list of faculty from Beau Soleil, Benji’s Swiss boarding school.  Scanning the length of the document, she jotted a few numbers down for Dr. Kip Wolkstein, the school’s counselor.  She’d made a mental note of the name after Jordan and Renee exchanged ominous remarks regarding him a few days before and then refused to clue her in to what they were referring to. 

After a number of phone calls, she learned that Dr. Wolkstein had a home in Los Angeles and usually spent time there with his family while on summer vacation.  A quick search through the phonebook and a brief conversation with the maid who answered the phone led her to a large Tudor in the Palisades. 

Kip Wolkstein was younger than she’d expected, maybe forty-five or so, and was also very attractive and spoke in a smooth, articulate voice.  She immediately felt at ease with him as they sat in an elegant parlor room with a huge bay window overlooking a palm-lined street.  That feeling would diminish rapidly.

“Thank you for seeing me, Dr. Wolkstein,” Suzanne said graciously as the maid set a tray of iced tea on the ottoman between them.  “I have to admit I felt a little stalkerish tracking you down to your home here in L.A.”

Wolkstein smiled and pushed his thick black hair from his eyes.  “Just don’t tell my wife,” he said with a good-natured laugh.  “I’m only kidding.  She’s at a fundraising luncheon.  I stayed home to catch up on work.”

“Well, I won’t keep you,” Suzanne promised.  “As I mentioned, I wanted to talk to you about my son.”

“Right.  Who is your son again?”  He sat facing her, cross-legged against a high-backed chair. 

“Benji Rydell,” she told him. 

Immediately, the man began shifting around in his chair.  His gracious smile faded and he started drumming his fingers on his knee.  “You’re Suzanne Rogers,” he said, phrasing it as more of a declaration than a question.  “We’ve never met.  I didn’t realize who you were when we spoke on the phone.”

“I was…away while Benji attended Beau Soleil so I never got the opportunity to visit.  My husband did on many occasions, however.” 

“Yes, Jordan was a big contributor to the school.  Still is.  What can I do for you, Miss Rogers?” 

“I’m worried about my son.  Not physically.  He’s healthy.  But mentally…I worry about his state of mind.” 

Dr. Wolkstein sat forward on the chair.  “Has he done something?”

Finally she looked up.  “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.  My husband and a close friend of ours were talking about something that happened a few years ago while Benji was at Beau Soleil but they wouldn’t tell me what it was.  I hoped that you would.”

She suddenly felt like she was under scrutiny the way a patient of his would because Dr. Wolkstein simply uncrossed his legs and looked at her with the arm of his eyeglasses clamped between his teeth. 

“Miss. Rogers, Benji isn’t a student any longer.  I'm not sure how I can help you.”

The way he dismissed her increased her frustration.  “But I’m his mother.  I have a right to know if something happened with my son.  Did he do something?  Was it involving a student at the school?  Please, you have to help me.  He’s so angry.  If I can just reach him I think I could help him.” 

Dr. Wolkstein sighed and stood up.  “I think you need to talk to your husband about this.  As I said, I can’t discuss-“

“I know what you said, Dr. Wolkstein,” Suzanne insisted and stood up as well.  “But I have a right to know.  If Jordan won’t level with me and you won’t tell me what happened, then I’ll go to Switzerland and start asking questions until someone tells me the truth.”

Again, he sighed.  “I can tell you that it’s not something that Benji did.”

Confused, Suzanne waited for him to continue. 

“It’s the things that he said to me in our sessions,” Dr. Wolkstein continued.  “I was concerned and I called Jordan and asked him to fly to Switzerland so we could talk about it.  I really wouldn’t concern yourself with it now, Miss Rogers.  That was nearly five years ago.” 

“What kind of things?” Suzanne demanded, angry as he led her to the foyer. 

“Adolescence affects different people in different ways,” he told her on a condescending tone.  “Believe me, you would know if there was a problem with your son.” 

“But there is a problem,” she insisted when they reached the door.  “I feel like I don’t even know him, Dr. Wolkstein.  I look into his eyes and I see nothing but darkness.  You asked me when I first got here if he’d done something.  Why would you ask me that unless you were expecting me to tell you something?”

“I’m afraid I’m out of time, Miss Rogers.”  He opened the door and gestured outside.  “Please give Jordan my regards.”

Before she could protest, the door was closing in her face.  Devastated, she turned and started down the sidewalk to her car.  She couldn’t shake the feeling that something was being kept from her.  Both Jordan and Dr. Wolkstein weren’t telling her something.  She’d also seen the look in the man’s eyes.  It was as if he’d expected her to tell him something awful that Benji had done. 

Jordan Rydell

After leaving Sunset Studios, Miranda called Jordan and asked him to meet her somewhere.  They decided on Santa Monica Pier.  Miranda was waiting when he arrived and when he did they started off down the beach letting the waves snake around their bare feet. 

“You’re holding up remarkably well,” Jordan said.  “I would have expected you to be in full tantrum mode right now.  I heard about Stormy on the news.  How are you even functioning?”

“I don’t think it’s sunk it yet,” she said, sweeping away a strand of hair the wind blew against her lips.  “And until my father comes back and tells me to my face that he’s gone, I guess I won’t believe it.” 

“I’m sorry,” he said, squinting through the hazy sun.  “What about Brooke?”

She shrugged.  “I haven’t heard anything yet.  The waiting is the worst part.  Plus now Daddy, Eddie and David are in danger just being there.  The things I heard that these cartels do make my skin crawl."

“Does Alex know about what’s going on?”

“Daddy said the longer she stayed in the dark the better off she’d be.  He doesn’t want her recovery to be set back, which makes sense.  I can only imagine how she’d react if she knew Stormy could be….well, you know.” 

“She’s bound to find out soon.  Doesn’t she get out in a few days?”

“I think so.”

“I’ve been thinking about her a lot these last few days – about how things ended between us.  I can’t help but feel partially responsible for driving her to the pills.  I should have done something when you came to me for help a few weeks ago.”

Miranda smiled up at him and placed a hand through his.  “You can’t make yourself love someone.”  Her advice rang true especially in her own situation.  She was slowly beginning to realize what she had to do about her relationship with Eddie.  While she cared for him very much, she didn’t know if she was in love with him.  “You have your own problems to worry about.” 

“You heard?” he asked with a grin. 

“I saw Brett today at Sunset,” she told him.

“Didn’t take him long to get a new job.  That guy always lands on his feet.  How much did he tell you?”

“That he had an affair and that you’re trying to take Violet away from him.”  She gazed out at the water before stopping and looking him in the eye.  “I know you, Jordan.  You don’t want to take a baby away from her father.  The only reason you’re doing this is because of Heather.” 

“Is it wrong to want to protect my daughter?”

“No, of course not.  But how do think she’ll feel when she gets home and her father is raising her daughter?  She’s going to want to know why, and what are you going to do?  Tell her that Brett cheated on her?  From the sounds of it she won’t handle it well.” 

“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” Jordan told her, thinking about Suzanne’s theory that Heather would never come home.  As much as he hated to admit it, he knew it was a distinct possibility.  “You know, not many people would come to Brett Armstrong’s defense.  I’m surprised you would after the way things ended between the two of you.”

“That was a long time ago, and I thought he’d changed.  I still do even after he did what he did.  He’s a single father whose wife is in a mental institution.  Can you blame him for wanting to reach out to some other woman?”

Jordan realized by her choice of words that she didn’t know Suzanne was the other woman, and he decided not to clue her in to that fact.  The last thing he wanted was their dirty laundry being exposed all over town. 

“Do you need anything?” he asked as they started walking again, arm in arm.  “There’s got to be something I can do to help with this situation in Mexico.” 

She shook her head thoughtfully.  “I just want my family back. I want everything to go back to normal.” 

Whatever normal was, she thought to herself. 

Jackie Lamont

Jackie knew her way around a computer so it took no time to duplicate the shipping contract that bore her signature, change the date to one week prior to her taking over Merteuil, print a new copy, and – using samples from old papers she found in her office – forge Renee DeWitt’s signature on it.

With a clean copy in hand, she blew dry the ink and spun around in her chair with a self approving smile.  The new document was very convincing.  No one would question its authenticity.  To the authorities it would appear that Renee herself made the deal with the freighters weeks ago, and she, coming on board blindly, would have had no reason to question it.

The only thing in the way now was the copy of the original contract that Rob Silva mailed – or didn’t mail – to Renee.  She couldn’t be sure if it ever made it into an envelope. From her purse, she pulled out the carbon copy of the note that had accidentally been made on message pad.  Rob had obviously written it in a hurry – maybe as he was leaving for Big Bear.  Maybe he didn’t mail it.  Maybe he planned on mailing it from his cabin but never got around to it.  If that were the case, it would still be in his personal belongings. 

She decided she would have to pay a visit to Rob’s widow. 

Benji Rydell

With the last page of his mother’s manuscript clutched in his hand, Benji lay sprawled out in a lounge chair at the pool.  His mouth had been ajar for the last two hours as he read Valley of Temptation from beginning to end.  With each chapter he was more and more surprised by the frankness of the material.  In particular the lengthy and explicit accounts of his mother and Brett’s sexual encounters.  One went on for nearly an entire chapter.  Other parts of the manuscript expressed her feelings on her past, both marriages to Jordan, and her pathetic attempts at excusing her behavior with a younger man who happened to be married to her daughter.  The mundane daily trappings of life in the Valley were eclipsed by a sordid scandal that he knew she’d written for her own eyes only.  

A plan steadily formulated in his mind.  Something that would surely set his hypocritical mother in her place.  Reaching beside him, he lifted his phone and speed dialed Duke at his family’s place across town. 

“Hey,” he said. 

“What up, Rydell?” asked Duke Summerfield, cocktail in hand and watching from the sidelines as a bikini-clad girl washed his car in the driveway of the enormous estate.   “Where you been hiding?”

“I’ve been around,” he said, staring at the title page of the manuscript.

“We should hang out later.”

“Sure.”  He quickly got to the point of his phone call.  “Do you know any book publishers?”

Duke grinned as the girl playfully sprayed him with the hose.  “I met one at a party of my dad’s back in New York.  Why?”

Smiling, Benji placed the pages of the manuscript neatly in a box.  “I’ve got a book that I think he’d kill to read.” 

Miranda Blackthorne

Miranda stood in the hall outside Michael’s bedroom at the mansion and watched him as he played with toys on the floor.  He carried on a conversation with Adam, his imaginary friend, whom Miranda heard more about every day.  She supposed it was normal for a boy his age, just staring school, father gone for good, and a mother who’d been gone for a week with no contact.  She wondered if she had ever carried on this way when she was a little girl.  She decided to make a point to ask her father when he returned.  If he returned. 

The prospect of her family in such imminent danger made her sick to her stomach.  They were all in Mexico while she was home not knowing what was going on.  The news stations had reported nothing new since that morning and the journalists staked out beyond the front gate of the mansion knew less than she did. 

The familiar feeling of nausea returned and she raced down the hall to her bathroom.  After emptying the contents of her stomach, she pushed her hair back behind her ears and went to the sink and splashed cold water on her face.  She looked at her reflection in the mirror.  She looked tired and pale.  Her breasts ached and she felt bloated.  All familiar symptoms.  She remembered feeling the same way when she was pregnant with Biff.  Marilee was right.  She was pregnant.  

Doing the math in her head, she was suddenly faced with a more precarious situation.  She couldn’t be sure if the father was Eddie or David. 

Kelly Blackthorne

Sex with Neil Winslow was explosive, intense, sometimes painful, and almost always made Kelly Blackthorne feel dirty.  She often wondered what made it so good.  Maybe it was the fact that he was still married and there was a sense of excitement having to sneak around all the time.  Despite her pleas for him to leave his wife, Lucy, he still hadn’t.  Maybe it was the kinky toys he often employed in bed with her.  Or maybe it was his dick – eight and a half solid inches and always, always hard.  Whatever it was, she couldn’t get enough, no matter how badly he treated her. 

Then there was the movie deal he was working on for her.  A starring role in an upcoming adaptation of a new Bret Easton Ellis novel.  She’d auditioned, went in for two callbacks, and had lunch with the film’s director and producer.  It was practically in the bag.  There was only one thing standing in her way. 

“You gotta get rid of that kid, sweetheart,” Neil said as he watched her twist off the bed and walk naked across the room.  The television was on and she rapidly switched channels in an attempt to ignore his ranting.   “He’s gonna do nothing but hold you back.” 

“That kid is my son,” she snapped, settling on MTV and pulling a mega short robe over her taut body.  “With the money I’ll be making from this film I can afford a nanny to stay with him all day.  I don’t see what the big deal is.” 

“The big deal is that you’re going to be very in demand from here on out,” Neil told her, perched on the edge of the bed in the small apartment in Manhattan.  “You’re a star thanks to Angel Assassin 2.  A sex symbol.  Even more so now with that drug cartel mess your in-laws are involved in down in Mexico.  It’s all anyone can talk about.  What’s going to happen when people put two and two together and realize your son is a Blackthorne?  They’re going to cast you as the grieving widow with the fatherless child.  Say goodbye to the high-life and being labeled the next Megan Fox.”

Kelly sighed and plucked R.J. from his crib.  Cradling him in her arms, she watched as the news broke in again with reports of Stormy’s death in Acapulco.  She had to admit Neil had a point.  Her son would now take on a whole new meaning in her career. And despite how miserable she felt about Stormy, she had to look out for herself and her career first and foremost.  

“Whatever,” she said, picking up the phone and dialing with her free hand. 

“Who are you calling?” Neil asked. 

“I’m not going to give my son up to just anyone,” she said while waiting for an answer.  When an American Airlines operator came onto the line, she looked down at R.J. and realized what she had to do.  “I’d like to book a flight to Los Angeles.  One adult and one infant.” 

Jackie Lamont

Jackie obtained Rob Silva’s address from the human resources office.  Armed with an enormous bouquet of flowers and a basket of muffins, she drove to the house in Granada Hills and offered her condolences to Trudy, Rob’s grieving widow.  Despite her initial hesitation, Trudy invited Jackie in for coffee. 

“You have a lovely home,” Jackie said without really meaning it.  She thought that with the salary Rob made he would have been able to afford a better house and somewhere other than the overrun area of the Valley.  Still, it was elegantly decorated, most likely Judy’s influence, who was a very elegant woman.

“Rob always wanted something better for us,” she said sadly as she poured them each a cup of steaming hot coffee.  In the center of the coffee table were the muffins Jackie had brought.  “But he bought my mother a place.  A car too.  He was always caring that way.  He was a very giving man.  Always thinking about others first.”

This seemed to provoke tears in the woman and actually made Jackie feel badly for her initial take on their home life.  She realized she was often times judgmental about such things and made a mental not to rectify that. 

“I can’t tell you how sorry I was to hear about Rob,” she said.  “I didn’t work with him for very long but I heard nothing but positive things about his work performance.”

Dabbing her eyes with a tissue, Trudy pushed a small container of creamer toward her.   “He loved Merteuil Industries,” she said.  “Since Charles died he always said he had a personal stake in it.  But he always made time for his family.  Always.  Our children are devastated.  They don’t understand why their daddy isn’t coming home.” 

“The poor things,” Jackie said as she stirred her coffee for a lot longer than was necessary.  “Well, I want to make things as easy for you as I possible can.  I don’t want you to give a second thought to anything Merteuil-related.  You have enough to think about right now.” 

“Thank you,” she said.  “It has been a chore making all the funeral arrangements.” 

“Or course it has,” Jackie said, perfectly poised on the sofa with her legs crossed.  “I’m having Rob’s things packed up from his office.  Someone will drop them by for you later….when things calm down a bit.” 

“That’s wonderful,” Trudy said amidst a flood of tears.

“And in return, I’ll be happy to take any papers that Rob may have had here at your house.  Did he have a home office?”

“Yes.”

“Can I go through it for you?” Jackie inquired, hoping the letter to Renee was somewhere in his belongings.  “I’d be more than happy to.” 

“You don’t have to bother,” Trudy said while blowing her nose.  “I’ll get to it sometime and I’ll be sure to send anything pertaining to Merteuil.”

Jackie smiled as politely as she could.  “The thing is, Trudy – and I hate to be indelicate – but there may be things of a sensitive nature that really should be dealt with as soon as possible.  Again, I don’t want any of this to be a burden to you.” 

Taking a deep breath, Trudy slowly nodded her head.  “You’re right.  I’ll have Martha go through it all now.  I know there’s not much.  A few folders and a few pieces of mail.  Rob was very organized.” 

“I’m sure he was,” Jackie said, glancing at her watch.   “Do you know when you might be able to have Martha get it for me?”

“I’ll have her do it now,” Trudy said, then called for the maid.  “Please go into Mr. Silva’s study and get the Merteuil folders for Mrs. Blackthorne.”

The housekeeper nodded dutifully.

“And anything he may have left in his briefcase,” Jackie added. 

“Yes, of course,” the maid said and started off across the house. 

After she’d gone, Jackie pleasantly sipped her coffee while continuing to make small talk.  She couldn't help but sense that Martha, the maid, was terrified of her employer.  Perhaps behind all the elegance, Trudy was really a hard-nosed slave driver.  Half an hour later, Martha brought a box full of tear-soaked papers and handed it to her.   Jackie rose to her feet, exchanged heart-felt goodbyes, and left the house. 

Once she returned home, she emptied the box onto the counter of her room at the Yacht Club and sorted through every piece of paper.  Most were insignificant memos and letters that were drawn up long before she took over.  Still, she shredded everything just to be sure. 

Pay dirt came in the form of a copy of the contract for the freighters baring her signature.  It was folded neatly in an envelope with Renee’s name scribbled across the front.  Below that was the partially-written word Moonsh...  She assumed he was searching for an address to mail it to.  There was no sign of the note he had written to Renee that would accompany the contract.  Still, she was relieved to learn that he had never mailed it. 

Smiling happily, she shredded the contract and the envelope, confident that her involuntary involvement would never be discovered.

David Jenner

James, Kyle, David and Eddie arrived at the seaport in Acapulco and proceeded to the commercial freight slips.  James had no idea what they were looking for or if it meant anything at all, but he did know that they had no other leads.  At the very least they may be able to find out who they were up against.  Then with any luck they could get the Mexican authorities to cooperate enough to investigate.  If the Pacheco Cartel was involved in shipments to Los Angeles, then they may even be able to get help from the United States.

“We don’t even know what kind of freighters we’re looking for,” Eddie said as they walked along the port under the blazing afternoon sun.  “This is a wild goose chase.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be a private investigator?” Kyle asked with a frown.  “I thought this type of thing was your specialty.” 

“If I was on a case I’d at least have a lead to go on,” Eddie remarked.  He gestured to the ship docked behind them.  “This is impossible.  What else did Jack say to you?”

“We already told you,” David said, annoyed.  “He said that he overheard the men talking about two freighters and some kind of deal Ricardo Pacheco made before he was killed.” 

“He had to have said something else,” Eddie snapped.

“Well, he didn’t,” David replied. 

“You know, I’m getting tired of this attitude of yours.”  Eddie pushed past James and leaned into David.  “You aren’t in charge of this operation.  If anything you’re slowing us down.  Why don’t you do us all a favor and go back to L.A.?  James and Kyle and I can handle this.” 

“I don’t take orders from you, Eddie,” David said.  He knew what his rant was about.  Miranda.  He’d overheard him on the phone with her telling her that he loved her and now he was even angrier than when they’d left home.  “We’re all here for the same reason.  Try and remember that, okay?”

“Try and remember this,” Eddie said and went for the attack. 

James and Kyle held him back, breaking up the fight by positioning themselves between them. 

“That’s enough,” James said, flashing Eddie a look of warning.  “What the hell has gotten into you?  What is this animosity about?”

“Tell him, David,” Eddie challenged him but he just looked way angrily.

“Tell me what?” demanded James.

“That David has been seeing Miranda behind my back, that’s what,” Eddie announced. 

“What?” James asked and looked at David in confusion.  “Is that true, David?”

“I don’t think this is the time to get into it,” David said.  “I thought we were here to find Brooke and the others.” 

“He’s right,” Kyle interjected.  “Whatever’s going on back home can wait.  Right now we’ve got to find out what these freighters have to do with the cartel and with Brooke and Stormy.” 

Next to them was a forklift with a pallet of boxes on it.  Eddie went over to it and inspected the shipping manifest that was shrink-wrapped around it.  He read through the contents and shook his head dismissively.  Nothing but raw sugar, he noted.  Nothing unusual about that. 

“What is it, Eddie?” James asked. 

Inspecting the manifest closer, Eddie saw who the shipper was and looked up at the others with a frown.  “Odd,” he began.  “It says that the shipper is Merteuil Industries.” 

“Merteuil?” Kyle asked.  “As in Renee Merteuil?”

David shook his head and looked at the manifest himself.  “Not anymore.  My mother owns Merteuil now.”

Jackie Lamont

Satisfied that she’d covered the paper trail linking her to the freighters in Acapulco, Jackie could finally concentrate on Sunset Studios business.  She’d received a message from James informing her that he’d hired Brett Armstrong as temporary executive of the studio and that he would take care of the daily operations.  This suited her fine because he wasn’t family and there was no risk in losing anything to him.

She parked her car in the parking garage and stepped out onto the concrete floor.  Securing her purse beneath her arm, she turned and proceeded toward the elevators.  As she did, she heard the squealing sounds of tires in the near distance.  Pausing, she glanced around in search of the origin of the sound. 

Before she knew it, a dark Mercedes came careening around the corner, headed directly for her.  Frozen and unable to react, her eyes flashed open wide.  Her brain didn’t immediately register what was happening.

At that moment, Brett emerged from the elevator.  He saw the car speeding toward Jackie and quickly ran toward her, sweeping her out of the way in the nick of time.  As he did, the Mercedes scraped against several cars parked nearby and continued on its way without slowing down.  Fragments of headlights and broken car bumpers scattered across the ground from the impact. 

“Are you okay?” Brett asked as they lay in bated breath. 

“I think so,” she panted, still unsure of what had just happened.

“Did you get a look at the driver?”

She shook her head.  “No.  The windows were dark. What a maniac.  Who would be so reckless?”

“I don’t think they were being reckless.”  Brett helped her to her feet and offered her a morbid look.  “It looked to me like someone was trying to hit you.” 

Alarms went off in her head as Jackie gazed in the direction the car had disappeared in.   Who would be trying to run her down?  Granted, she didn’t have a lot of friends, but was there actually an enemy out there who want her dead?

 


Next time....

Jackie fears someone is trying to kill her.  An old friend of Brett's returns.  Jordan is there for Alex when she is released from rehab.  Renee gets a special delivery from Trudy's maid.  

 

 

Read Episode 119

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