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Episode 145

 

Release Date:  July 27, 2011

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

Brooke embraced Kyle when he told her they were given the permits for the marina expansion.  Ethan walked in and grew jealous.  Later, Mackenzie asked Ethan to help out with budgets at The Young at Heart, surprising Brooke and James. Mason planned to sabotage the marina expansion so that Moonshadows would go bankrupt and he could buy the land at a bargain, allowing him to drill for oil under the ground.  James asked Mackenzie to go to his house in Palm Springs with him for the weekend.  An assailant tried to smother Lola in her sleep, mistakenly targeting another resident at the retirement village instead, and left an old photograph of Lola as a calling card.  Miranda planned a party for her girls and a selection of clients, but Kelly found out about it.  Miranda found it increasingly difficult to hide her profession from Eddie.  Brad and Akilah arrived from New Martin and met with Stormy about Akilah's record deal.  Hugh gave Brad a gun and cash to kill Miranda.  Chelsea followed them to Moonshadows and walked in on Brad holding the gun, assuming he was going to kill Akilah.  When she told Akilah of her suspicions, she dismissed her.

 


  

Episode 145

"The Miranda Warning"

 

At a secluded booth in the Sierra Room at Moonshadows, Brad King ordered another round of drinks, making sure to ask for a double this time.  Sitting across from him, Trevor sized him up accordingly.   Neither of them noticed Chelsea Holden sitting in the next booth listening intently to their conversation. 

“So you used to work for Hugh Rogers?” Trevor asked him.

“In Atlantic City,” Brad confirmed.  “I guess I was you before you were you.” 

Trevor regarded him with a smirk.  “And this assignment he’s got you doing for him?” he asked.  “You can handle it?” 

“It’s nothing I haven’t done before.”  The truth was, it had been a while since Brad had gone to the lengths Hugh was requesting of him.  Murder wasn’t something he saw himself building a career on, which was precisely why he gave up working for Hugh years before. 

“How are you going to do it?” Trevor asked. 

Brad frowned and regarded him carefully.  “Are you asking for my professional methods because you’re curious or…?”

“I just want to make sure Hugh can trust you.” 

“At a party Miranda Blackthorne’s throwing tonight.  And Hugh trusts me just fine,” Brad told him.  “He and I have already gone over the details of the plan.  If he wanted you to know, he would have ran it by you.  But as it is, I’m the one he came to.  Not you.” 

When then waiter brought their drinks, Brad quickly swallowed his in two heaping gulps before flying up out of the booth.  Chelsea quickly ducked down so that he wouldn’t see her. 

“Just don’t screw this up,” Trevor said.  “A lot is riding on this.” 

“I’m well aware of that,” Brad said before leaving.  “You know, Trevor, have you ever thought that maybe it’s you Hugh doesn’t trust?” 

After he’d gone, Chelsea waited until the coast was clear.  She sat back up in the booth and looked around in a panic.  What had Brad gotten himself into?    These people he was involved with were bad news, and if he was sent there to kill Akilah, then she had to do something.

Stormy Blackthorne

“What the hell happened to you?” Miranda asked when she, Eddie and Jane walked into La Mirada bar on the other side of the hotel and spotted Stormy sitting at a table sporting a black eye and a cut on his upper lip.

“That’s quite a shiner, buddy,” Eddie said and gave him a playful punch in the shoulder.  “Who’d you piss off?”

“Are you okay?” Jane asked and rushed over to his side.  “Oh my God.  You look terrible.”

Stormy regarded her with a frown.  “Thanks.  You should see the other guy.” 

“What happened?” Jane asked. 

Brett and I had a little disagreement on a spaceship this afternoon.” 

“Spaceship?” Miranda mouthed while flashing Jane an incredulous look.  “Stormy, what are you talking about?”

He rolled his eyes while flashing a hand dismissively through the air. “Never mind.  Listen, I was about to meet with a new act when you called.  Do you mind if I take care of some business before we eat?” 

“Tonight?” Jane asked with disappointment.  “I thought we were just going to hang out and have fun tonight. You said no work.”

“I know, babe, but on top of everything going on at the studio, I’m running things at Titan Records now.  Akilah Holden and her manager are in town exclusively to meet with me.  I can’t take a night off.  Not now.” 

Realizing that Jane was annoyed, Miranda quickly went to diffuse the situation.  “Akilah?  You mean that girl I met in your office today?”

“Yeah,” he replied, then stood up when he spotted Akilah enter the room.  “Akilah, over here.”

She smiled and made her way toward them, weaving through tables and growing relieved when she saw more friendly faces.  Miranda, the pregnant girl she’d met earlier that day, and Eddie, the tall, goofy friend of Stormy’s were both there. 

“Hi,” she said.  “Are we still meeting?  Your message said you wanted to show me some songs.” 

“I do,” Stormy told her.  “But do you mind if we get right to it?  This is my girlfriend Jane and you already know Miranda and Eddie.  We were going to have some drinks or something.” 

“Not all of us were going to drink,” Miranda said and ran her hand over her stomach. 

“That’s fine,” Akilah said.

“You can join us after you talk business if you’d like, Akilah,” Miranda said.  “You might as well have some fun while you’re in L.A.” 

“Thanks.  I’d like that.”

“Where’s Brad?” Stormy asked.  “I thought he would be here.” 

Akilah shrugged.  “I don’t know where that cracker is.” 

Suddenly, Chelsea barreled into the bar and stomped over to Akilah.  She grabbed her by the arm and pulled her toward her. 

“You have to listen to me and you have to listen now,” she demanded, then glanced around at the multiple sets of eyes that were on her.  With an apologetic smile, she let Akilah go and attempted to compose herself.  “Sorry.  Chelsea Holden, reporter for the New Martin News.”

“Wow, Akilah’s already got the paparazzi following her,” Eddie said.

Chelsea smiled.  “Actually, we’re just friends from back home.” 

“No we’re not,” Akilah said with a frown. 

“Just come here.”  Chelsea pulled her across the room and spoke in a hushed whisper.  “Listen, I was right about Brad being involved in something.” 

“Yes, you said he was going to try to kill me,” was Akilah’s irritated reply.  “Chelsea, I don’t have time for this.” 

“You’d better make time,” she insisted.  “I just overheard Brad talking to a guy about whatever job he’s here to do.  They mentioned the name Hugh Rogers.  He’s the guy that Brad is working for.”

“So?” Akilah said. 

So I Googled him and the guy is a hood.  You wouldn’t believe some of the shady things he’s involved in.  Akilah, you are in trouble and the sooner you stop having fantasies about being the next Whitney Houston or Roberta Flack the better off you’ll be.”

“Roberta Flack?” Akilah asked.  “Girl, you are trippin.”

Sighing, Chelsea switched her purse to her other shoulder.  “Haven’t you ever heard of Hugh Rogers?” 

“Why would I have?”

“Because he’s from Marquette Cove.  You probably crossed paths and never even knew it!” 

Akilah groaned with frustration.  “I don’t give a damn about old white folks’ business!” she exclaimed.  “Damn girl, stop bothering me and let me get back to my life.  I’d tell you to do the same but I have a feeling you don’t have one.” 

With that, she turned and walked back to the others.

“Who was that?” Miranda asked. 

Shaking her head, Akilah sat down next to Stormy.  “Some cheerleader who never stopped clapping,” she replied dubiously.  “I’m sorry.  She won’t be a problem again.” 

“It’s uncanny,” Eddie was saying.

“Seriously,” Stormy said while staring across the room at Chelsea. 

“What?” Akilah asked with a frown.

“She looks just like Stormy’s ex wife,” Miranda told her.  “A little older, but the face and hair are identical.” 

“Weird,” Akilah said.

“So, are you ready to look at some music?” Stormy asked and pulled a stack of sheet music from his bag. 

Moonshadows

Using the list of clients and call girls Hugh had given him, Brad locked himself in his suite upstairs and made the calls to cancel Miranda’s party.  The explanation he’d came up with seemed plausible enough, and after the first few calls, he realized it was going to do the trick.

The plan was simple enough.  When Miranda showed up at the mansion, he would be there waiting for her with the gun Hugh had given him.  He’d do it quickly and without giving her a chance to run.  He’d then drop the gun in the ocean and pick up the rest of his money.  Then he and Akilah would finish their work at Titan and be on a plane back to New Martin.  It would be quick and painless. 

But the more he convinced himself of that, the more he began to wonder if he still had it in him to kill someone.  Maybe Trevor was right.  Maybe he couldn’t handle the job Hugh had given him. 

Jordan Rydell

The first stage of grief was denial, then came bargaining, then anger, then finally acceptance.  Jordan didn’t know where he was in the process but he did know that he’d seen glimpses of all four over the past few weeks.   While the death of a child was the worst thing a parent could go through, he knew that it was because he’d turned his back on Benji that it happened.  Guilt plagued him daily.  To mask the pain and the feelings of helplessness, he began to surround himself with people he didn’t care about.  There were no repercussions that way.  If he didn’t get close to anyone, they couldn’t be hurt by him. 

He invited a few acquaintances over for drinks, which turned into a few more, and eventually a houseful of actors he’d once worked with, directors he’d partied with, and models he’d fucked.  The company was welcome, but mostly because he could never see any of them again and wouldn’t care.  

By the pool out back, he wandered through the crowd, nodding to an actress he hired and fired in Tour of Duty, and smiling graciously at the mother of a young actress he bedded after Suzanne left the first time.  In desperate search of someone who he hadn’t screwed over, he entered the house and proceeded through the kitchen and into the drawing room. 

“Jordan, great party!” squealed a model from Westwood. 

“Just like the old days,” said the voice of someone he couldn’t quite make out. 

“What are you doing later?” asked an attractive blonde whom he decided to get to know better.  

As he made a b-line toward her, he caught a glimpse of someone out of the corner of his eye.  In the foyer by the door, he spotted his mother as she chattered with a throng of party goers who flocked around her. 

“What the-“ Jordan began, rushing toward her and parting the crowd.  “Lola, what are you doing here?  It’s the middle of the night.” 

“Don’t panic,” Lola said.  “No one died.” 

Jordan stifled a laugh.  “That’s good news, but you still haven’t told me what you’re doing here.” 

“The Retirement Village burned down,” she told him as a limo driver entered the house and set three suitcases on the floor of the foyer.

“It burned down?” Jordan asked incredulously. 

“My room specifically,” she said, raising an eyebrow as a woman with a Mohawk passed by.  “The good news is you’re going to have me around to monitor your guest lists from now on.”

“Excuse me?” Jordan asked, watching her make her way to the staircase. 

“Do me a favor, Jordan,” Lola said, pausing on the bottom landing.  “Pay the driver and bring my bags up to my room.  Oh, and get these people out of here.  I wasn’t prepared to entertain.” 

Jordan turned, the blonde he’d been targeting all night hovering nearby.  Suddenly he wasn’t in the mood to get to know her better.   Lola showing up had dampened the mood. 

Blackthorne Mansion

At home late that night, Stormy emerged from the bathroom in his underwear, pausing in the doorway while looking across the room at Jane.   She looked beautiful stretched languorously on his bed, her golden blond hair fanned across the pillow and her tanned skin glowing in the dim light.  As simple as she was, laying there reading her People magazine, she excited him every bit as much as the day they met in the parking lot of his mother’s apartment.  Smiling, he turned off the bathroom light and walked across the room. 

“You were quiet tonight,” he said, sidling up beside her and brushing his lips against her face. 

“I didn’t want to interrupt you when you were working,” she replied without looking away from her magazine. 

Stormy sighed.  “Babe, I’m sorry.  I know it’s a bummer that I had to take care of work tonight, but it couldn’t be helped.  I promise it won’t always be like this.”

“You just took on another job,” Jane said, making exaggerated turns of the pages.  “So on top of how serious you’re taking this thing with Brett at the studio, you’re now working with clients for Titan Records.” 

“This is about the other day at lunch,” Stormy said.  “I told you I was sorry that I was short with you.”

“I feel like you don’t have time for me,” she said, finally closing the magazine and throwing it onto the bed.  “It’s not just about what happened at lunch.  It’s about you and how you’ve changed since we first got together.” 

“Changed?  How have I changed?” 

“It’s like you’re trying to prove yourself.  I like that you’re determined but I don’t like what it’s doing to you.” 

“I am determined,” Stormy agreed.  “I have a son now.  I have to make a name for myself so my son doesn’t grow up thinking his father is a loser, which is exactly what I’ve always been.” 

“You’re not a loser.” 

Stormy collapsed onto his back and stared up at the ceiling.  “You haven’t known me for long.  Everything I’ve touched I’ve obliterated.  Careers, marriages, you name it.  I can’t let that happen to my son.  I won’t let R.J. down.”

Jane studied his face carefully.  She rolled over and straddled him, only the thin lace from her underwear separating their bodies.  “Look, I’m sorry I said anything.  The last thing I want to do is be one of those girlfriends who complain about everything.  I just want to feel like we’re connecting.” 

“We are,” Stormy assured her and kissed her.   “I love you, Jane.”

“I love you too,” she said, lowering herself onto his body and kissing him softly.

Miranda Blackthorne

Miranda thought the last time she saw Gemma Sanders was the last time she would see her.  But when she awoke that morning to her cell phone ringing and the woman giving her strict instructions to get to the prison immediately, she realized she’d been wrong.  Quickly, she dressed and made her way downstairs where she ran into Kelly who was perched happily on the bottom landing.  Immediately, Miranda groaned and attempted to brush past her. 

“Not so fast,” Kelly said and stopped her in her tracks.  She glared menacingly at her while placing her hands firmly on her hips.  “You must feel proud of yourself.” 

“Sometimes, yes,” Miranda said with a shrug. 

“That stunt you pulled yesterday at the boutique landed me in a holding cell for two hours,” Kelly went on. 

“Oh…” Miranda said, stifling a laugh.  “I’m sorry, Kelly, but I’m not sure what that has to do with me.” 

“You put those earrings in my purse.  Don’t even try to deny it.” 

Miranda folded her arms, continuing to hide her amusement over the situation.  “If something wound up in your purse, then maybe you and Winona Ryder have more in common than anyone thought.” 

“Funny,” Kelly said, smiling cunningly at her.  She realized Miranda wasn’t about to admit to setting her up, so she decided to play her hand.  “So did you ever find a dress for your party?”

“Yes,” Miranda said.  “The off white beaded one turned out to be just what I was looking for after all.  I hope there are no hard feelings.  You can always wear it after I get done.  After all, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before you sucker another guy into knocking you up.” 

“Right back at ya,” Kelly said with a scowl.  “So you never answered me.  Is Eddie going to the party with you?”

“He’s working on a case,” Miranda said, quick to dismiss her question as she made her way to the door.  “Why are you so interested in my party, anyway?  You’re not invited.” 

With that, she flew through the door and made her way to her car that awaited her.   Inside, Kelly rubbed her hands together in excitement.

“That’s what you think,” she said to herself. 

“Kelly?” Leilani asked as she emerged from the parlor.  “Who are you talking to?” 

She looked at her mother and grinned.  “Oh, no one,” she said.  “Mama, can you look after R.J. tonight?  I have a party to go to.” 

Brooke Taylor

Upstairs, Brooke pulled a t-shirt over Michael’s head, frustrated that he wouldn’t put his new Captain America toy down long enough to let her dress him.  After struggling to pry it from his hands, she succeeded in getting his arms through the holes. 

“Mommy, can I bring Captain America to day camp?” he asked.

“No, Captain American has to stay home,” she replied, flustered when she looked at her watch and realized it was already after nine.   A busy day at Moonshadows awaited her and she meant to get an early start. 

“But I want to bring him!” Michael screamed.

“Fine, you can bring him,” she said.  She hated to give in so easily to her six-year old son but she didn’t have time to argue or put up with one of his tantrums. 

When Ethan entered the room dressed in light gray slacks and a crisp baby blue shirt, she looked up and smiled. 

“Wow, look at you,” she said. “I haven’t seen you dressed up in a while.” 

“Thought I should put my best foot forward my first day.” 

“First day?” Brooke asked while packing Michael’s bag. 

“Yeah.  At The Young at Heart.  Mackenzie asked me to work on their budget, remember?” 

Of course she remembered.  The prospect had led to a huge fight that they still hadn’t gotten over.  As a matter of fact, they hadn’t spoken since the blow up at Moonshadows when he told her.  

“Yeah, I just didn’t know that you were starting so soon,” she said.

“The sooner I start the sooner we can get it done.”

She decided not to get into it again with him so she forced herself not to reply with another comment about Mackenzie.  “Do you still have time to take Michael to day camp?”

“Brooke, I’m headed in the opposite direction,” he told her.  “Can’t you take him?” 

She sighed and pushed her hair over her ears.  “I’ve got back to back meetings today,” she said.  “Plus the marina project is already behind schedule.  I’m late enough as it is.”

“I’ve been taking him every day.  I thought that maybe you could handle it this once.”

“I would have been happy to if you’d told me Mackenzie was already putting you to work,” she claimed.  “Don’t make this seem like I’m not willing to do my part, Ethan.”

“I won’t if you don’t turn this into another attack against Mackenzie.” 

She ran her fingers through her long blond hair and shook her head.  “I’m not turning this into an attack on Mackenzie.  All I’m saying is that you should have told me you were going back to work so we could plan on what to do with our son.” 

“I did tell you,” he insisted.  “You just chose to make it about something other than me going back to work.” 

Frustrated, Brooke bent down and put a hand on Michael’s back.  “Sweetheart, run downstairs and ask Leilani if your lunch is ready.  Mommy and Daddy will be down in a minute.” 

“Okay but I’m bringing Captain America!” he shouted while tearing out of the room.  “The first avenger!  Woo!”

Once he was gone, Brooke looked away, uncomfortable with the way Ethan’s eyes bore down on her. 

“Look, I know I said things yesterday that may have came across in the wrong way, but don’t make this into some jealousy theory.  I don’t care that you’re working with Mackenzie.  I care that you won’t let me forget about what Kyle did to us, but you refuse to see that she had a part in it too.” 

“I’m not going to get into this again with you.” Ethan insisted.  “We’re obviously not going to agree so what’s the point?  We’ll just agree to keep our work lives separate from our home lives.  Deal?”

No!  Brooke wanted to shout.  Keeping their work lives separate was the worst thing that they could do.  The more they divided their lives the bigger the chance there was that someone could come along and ruin everything they’d been working for.  That someone being Kyle or Mackenzie. 

“Fine,” she said, deciding it was pointless to argue.  Besides, if she did, the fact that she still had this irritating attraction to Kyle may come to light.  “If that’s the way you want it.”  Quickly, she started out of the room. 

“What about Michael?”  Ethan asked before she left. 

“I’ll take him today.  Tomorrow I’ll arrange for Leilani to take him so this doesn’t keep happening.”

Before Ethan could reply, she was tearing out of the room and down the hall to the staircase. 

Miranda Blackthorne

The first two times Miranda had been to see Gemma in prison, she’d breezed in and out without a care or thought to what being behind bars really meant.  Her night in jail after she, Stormy and Eddie broke Jane out of the institution hadn’t even affected her in the way it would most people.  But for some reason, as she walked in after being summoned by her predecessor, she realized she could very well wind up exactly like her. Spending three to five years in prison was something she realized could very well become a reality if she wasn’t careful. 

Wanting to get in and out as fast as she could, she positioned herself on the opposite side of the glass partition and picked up the phone. 

“You look tired,” Gemma said to her. 

Miranda frowned.  “Yeah, well you don’t exactly look like you’re about to walk down the runway either,” she snapped.  “I’m pregnant, remember?  It takes a lot out of a person.” 

“You’re not sleeping, are you?” 

Miranda ran her fingers through her hair. “I’m sleeping fine.  I’m also very busy so if you’d just get to the point.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me Hugh Rogers was causing problems for you?”  Gemma asked, her limp blond hair showing dark roots and her fingernails unmanicured.  “You should have told me when he first came to you.”

“I can handle Hugh Rogers.”

“Get a grip, sweetheart.  This isn’t one of your daddy’s movies.  This man is for real.  Believe me, I’ve had my share of run-ins with him.  What did you do to piss him off, anyway?” 

“What makes you think I-“ 

Gemma cut her off with a mere look.  “You’re not exactly subtle.”

Miranda sighed.  “I met a few girls who were working for him and gave them jobs,” she said.  “No big deal.  Like there aren’t a million other out of work actresses who he can kick around.” 

Quickly, Gemma leaned toward the glass and looked at her with a deadpan expression.  “You may not think it’s a big deal, but believe me, it can cost you dearly if you keep this up. “

“What?  Because I invaded his turf?   God, this has B movie written all over it.” 

“It’s not a movie, Miranda.  It’s reality.  Men like Hugh Rogers are dangerous and they don’t care how much money you have or who you family is.  How serious has it gotten?”

Miranda didn’t want to hear it.  She sighed again and leaned back in the chair.  “He’s made a few idle threats.  Actually, he usually sends his goons to do the work for him.   Believe me, I’ve gone up against worse characters.”

“Not likely.   I’d take those threats very serious if I were you.  I learned to steer clear of him.  I went about my business and he went about his.”

“You know how he treats his girls, don’t you?” Miranda asked.  “I’ve gotten to know several of them very well.  Did you know that one of them was murdered?  They found her in an alley.  She’d been dumped there like garbage.” 

“You can’t get involved,” Gemma cautioned her with a stern shake of her head.  “It’s not your problem.”

“Then whose problem is it?”

Again, Gemma leaned toward the glass.  “This isn’t a project that you can chalk up to community service so you can go to bed feeling good about yourself.  This is a business.  And Hugh Rogers won’t give a second thought to eliminating you if he needs to.”

“Like I said, I can handle myself.”   Miranda stood up and looked down at her.  “Look, you turned your operation over to me, didn’t you?  Well let me handle it the way I want.” 

“You’re a fool if you think you’re going to be able to stand up to him.” 

“We’ll see,” Miranda replied before hanging up the phone and walking away.

Behind, Gemma shook her head in frustration. 

Miranda Blackthorne

When she emerged from the prison, Miranda made her way to her car while swooping inside her large Chanel purse for her keys and sunglasses.  A moment later she stopped in her tracks and doubled over in pain.  First thinking it was the heat getting to her, coupled with the stress over her visit with Gemma, she attempted to brush it off.  When another wave of pains engulfed her, however, she realized that wasn’t the case. 

“Settle down there,” she said to her baby.  “It’s way too early for you to show up.” 

A minute later the pains were gone.  Relieved, she continued to her car but was headed off by a long black limousine that pulled up in front of her.   Before the back window even rolled down, she knew who it was going to be. 

“Don’t you get tired of following me around?” she asked Hugh Rogers as he leered out the window at her. 

“You must think a lot of yourself,” he replied.  “I was actually here visiting some associates.” 

“Why don't you do everyone a favor and check yourself in?  You'll probably wind up here soon anyway.” 

Before she could leave, he climbed out of the car and approached her.  Dressed in an expensive Italian suit, point-toed Ferragamo wing tips, and a gold medallion around his neck, he loomed above her. 

“And you?  Visiting your friend Gemma, I assume?” 

“What I do and who I see is none of your business,” she said.  “Just like whom I choose to employ is none of your business.  You think you have this claim on these girls?  Well you don’t.  There are plenty of girls out there who don’t care about themselves or anyone else that you can poison with your touch.  Leave the good ones to me.” 

Glaring menacingly at her, he took a step forward.  “I’ve just about had it with your smart mouth,” he began, then looked down at her pregnant stomach and outstretched his hand.  “Let’s hope your baby doesn’t live to regret his mother’s mistakes.” 

“Don’t touch me,” Miranda said and shot him a heated glare while backing away.

“So defensive,” Hugh said with an ominous grin.

“If you ever say another word about my child I swear to God I’ll kill you.” 

Hugh retreated after seeing the look in her eyes.   Behind Miranda, a guard from the prison appeared waving her wallet. 

“Miss Blackthorne, you left your wallet at the check-in desk,” he said, regarding the tense situation warily.   “Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine,” Miranda said, snatched the wallet from him and climbed into her car.   Once she was safely locked in, she let out a deep breath and placed a hand on her stomach, her heart beating furiously.

Ethan Blackthorne

“This is what the network wants the show to get by on?” Ethan exclaimed as he looked over financial reports in Mackenzie’s office.  “Are they serious?  This is a joke.  I’ve seen wedding videos with a bigger budget than this.” 

Mackenzie laughed, her feet dangling over the side of her desk as she perched on top, peering over his shoulder.  “They’re probably trying to force us to close our doors,” she said.  “Production quality drops, actors get fired, and the fans start to disappear.  And when that happens, so do the advertisers.  It’s sad to say, but I think the medium has run its course.” 

“That’s too bad,” Ethan said.  “If that happens, there’ll be a lot of out of work people.” 

“Two hundred and twenty-four,” Mackenzie clarified with precision.  “Let’s just hope we can get this budget to work so that doesn’t happen.”

“I’ll do my best,” Ethan said.  “So anything new with you and James or are things still rocky?” 

She shrugged.  “There’s hope, I guess.  He came by yesterday and asked me to go away with him for the weekend.” 

“That’s promising,” Ethan said with a smile.  “Are you going to do it?”

“I think so,” she said with a smile.  “But then again, if we can’t get things on track here, then I probably shouldn’t be leaving.  I know, I know.  It’s the workaholic in me.” 

Ethan smiled and watched as she hopped down off the desk.  “You really should think about going.  I think James really wants to make this work with you.” 

Mackenzie flashed him a smile and a wink and walked back to the desk.  “Well, then we’ve got our work cut out of us.  Let’s get cracking.”  She stood behind him, placing a hand on his back as she looked over his shoulder at the financials. 

Brooke Taylor

After lunch, Brooke began to feel guilty over her argument with Ethan.  She didn’t know why she was making such a big deal about him working with Mackenzie.  It wasn’t as if she were threatened by the woman.  The fact that she was Kyle’s sister just got the better of her for some reason.

A break in the day provided her time to drive to Century City and pop in for a quick hello.  After being grilled by security, she was finally allowed onto the lot and proceeded through the vast array of sound stages.   Two men wheeling a hospital backdrop down a back hallway directed her to Mackenzie’s office.   When she approached, she found the door partially open.  Inside, Ethan was sitting at the desk and Mackenzie was hovering over him, a hand resting delicately on his back.  They were laughing and appeared to be having a private moment.   Surprised, she backed up a step and bumped into a camera tech making his way down the hall.

“I’m sorry,” she said, quickly surveying the damage.

Ethan and Mackenzie noticed the commotion and Ethan quickly stood up.  When he saw that it was Brooke in the doorway, he called out to her.

“Brooke?” he said, walking around the desk and going to intercept her. 

“I’m sorry,” she repeated, this time to Ethan.  “I was just….” 

“Is everything okay?” Ethan asked.

“Everything fine,” she said, backing back up down the hall.  “Look, I’m sorry.  I should get back.” 

Before he could protest, she was flying down the hall.  Mackenzie appeared behind him and followed his gaze inquisitively.

“That was strange,” she said.

“Yeah, very,” Ethan said, confused as to why Brooke would show up at the studio and then leave before even talking to him.  

Miranda Blackthorne

“Are you sure you can handle it?” Miranda was saying to Farrah as they stood in her new office space in Beverly Hills.  “You know I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t trust you completely.”

“No, of course I can handle it,” Farrah replied and craned her neck when the office door opened and Jane walked inside.   “Thank you for trusting me.”

“So basically, your job tonight is to work the room and make sure everyone’s having a good time.  If somebody wants to pair off into one of the bedrooms, you make sure it’s safe.  I don’t want anyone forgetting our rules during this party tonight.” 

“You got it,” Farrah said and then turned toward Jane.  “Hi Janey.”

“Hi,” Farrah said and gave her cousin a quick squeeze before looking at Miranda.  “So you’re still going through with this party?”

“Yeah, of course I am,” Miranda said.  “I just think it makes sense to-“

“Hey, what’s going on?” called a voice across the room.  They all turned just as Eddie entered, looking curiously around the office.   “Miranda, what are you doing here?”

Eyes wide, she looked at him and then at Farrah and Jane.  “Eddie….”  Panic overtook her as she tried to think of a way out of it.  If he knew she had an office he would wonder why and begin looking around at the myriad of papers and receipts that she kept locked in filing cabinets.   “I was just…um….”

“Coming to see me,” Farrah chimed in and turned to Eddie.  “We met before.  Hi, I’m Farrah Bale, Jane’s cousin.”

“This is your office?” Eddie asked her.

“Yep."

“Eddie, what are you doing here, anyway?” Miranda asked, relieved at Farrah’s quick thinking.  “Were you looking for me?”

“No, I was actually tailing Jane.”

“Tailing me?” she asked with a shriek.  “Why?”

“It is my job,” he replied mysteriously.  “But seriously, I just wanted to give you this.”  He produced a cell phone and handed it to her.  “Stormy said you left it in his room last night.  I went to your restaurant but you were just leaving so I followed you here.” 

“Oh,” she said and took the phone from him.  “Thanks.” 

“No problem.”  He sidled up next to Miranda and put his arm around her.  “How’s my baby mama feeling today?”

“Pretty good,” she lied, not particularly eager to tell him about the cramps she’d been having since they were probably due to stress.  Another thing she hated lying to him about. 

Suddenly, everything was beginning to catch up to her.

Moonshadows

Brad finished calling the names on the list, all but a girl named Farrah whose phone rang repeatedly with no answer and no voice mail.  One name couldn’t hurt, he decided.  She could be someone who didn’t work for Miranda anymore.  Besides, if she showed up at the party that night he’d just get rid of her.  There were a thousand excuses to send her away. 

Standing by the desk in his suite at Moonshadows, he opened the briefcase full of money and looked inside with flickering eyes.  The money was enticing.  The prospect of what he could do with it made his imagination swell.  He reached down and picked up the gun.  Only a few more hours to go and it would be over.   Miranda Blackthorne would be history and he would be on his way back to New Martin. 

The sound of the door opening startled him and he quickly turned, the gun positioned discreetly behind his back.   When he realized it was Akilah, he relaxed. 

“What are you doing?” she asked, noting the tense look on his face. 

“Nothing,” he replied.  “Where have you been?” 

“Sight seeing,” she replied.  “Down at the beach.” 

Quickly, he turned and placed the gun back inside the briefcase without her seeing.  After securing it closed, he crossed the room and busied himself with picking things up and arranging them neatly in his suitcase. 

“I think we should leave tonight,” he said. “I booked a ten o’clock flight.  You might want to get your stuff together now because you still have that dinner with Stormy Blackthorne later.” 

“Leave?” Akilah asked with a frown and marched toward him.  “We haven’t gotten all the details for the album set up.  Besides, Stormy wanted to lay down some tracks tomorrow.” 

Brad kept his back toward her as he folded a t-shirt into his suitcase.  “I think we should go back to New Martin and talk about some stuff with Cameo before we lay down any tracks.  We can always make another trip out here.”

“But Brad-“

“We did what we came for,” he cut her off and turned toward her.  “We hammered out our deal with Titan Records.  You don’t want to rush the process.  Making an album doesn’t happen overnight.” 

Angrily, she planted her hands firmly on her hips.  “Especially not with you as my manager,” she said.  “You’ve been absent from every meeting since we got here.  What have you been doing, anyway?”

“It told you.  I’m working on stuff behind the scenes to ensure your debut is a hit.  I don’t expect you to understand the minute details of making a record, Akilah.  Just leave the specifics to me.” 

“If I did that, I’d never get anywhere,” she barked.  “I’m not going anywhere.  We have more work to do before we take off again so I say we stay.”

“Are you forgetting that I’m your manager?” Brad snapped.  He had no interest in hanging around L.A. after he took care of Miranda.  The sooner they were out of there the better off he’d be.

“Are you forgetting that you wouldn’t have anyone to manage if it wasn’t for me?” she demanded.  “We’re staying and that’s final.”

Now was not the time for her to be stubborn, but he didn’t see any way of changing her mind.  Once Akilah was set on something, there was no swaying her. 

“Just get ready for your dinner with Stormy,” he said and started to his bedroom.

“And where will you be?” she called after him.  “Don’t tell me you’re not going.”

“I have something to do,” he said and closed himself off in the bedroom. 

Akilah threw her hands up in resignation and breathed an irritated sigh.  She didn’t understand what had gotten into him.  He’d been acting strangely since they arrived in Los Angeles. 

Crossing the room, she eyed his briefcase on the desk and decided to see if there was anything he was keeping from her.  It wouldn’t surprise her if the whole record deal was a hoax.

Carefully making sure Brad was still behind closed doors, she reached out to the clasps of the briefcase and opened it quietly.  Her eyes grew wide at the sight of the stacks of money lined up inside, the shiny black revolver sitting ominously on top of the bills. 

Akilah took a step back, glancing at the bedroom door and then back at the briefcase.  Maybe Chelsea was right.  Maybe everything she’d been warning her about with Brad was the truth. 

Brooke Taylor

When Brooke got back to Moonshadows, she barreled into her office and quickly sat down at her desk.  Burying her face in her hands, she went over and over in her mind the awkward scene back at Mackenzie’s office.  She honestly didn’t know why she turned and ran off.  It wasn’t as if she walked in on her and Ethan doing anything inappropriate.  They were working together.  Maybe the rocky road to their reunion was starting to affect her in ways she hadn’t predicted.  She was now inventing things to worry about, as if reality wasn’t enough.

The door opening startled her and she quickly shot to her feet.  Her eyes narrowed on Kyle who stood in the doorway, looking sexy as ever in a form fitting navy polo and blue and white plaid shorts. 

“The engineer confirmed that the air conditioner parts would be here Monday,” he told her.  “We should have the Cahuenga Room up and running again by the first part of the week.”

“That’s great,” she said, distracted.  “Did you hear from Chip about the foundation for the new marina?  I went by there today and it’s so dangerous with the ground dug up like that.  I’d hate for someone to get hurt.” 

“They’re pouring the cement the day after tomorrow,” he replied. 

“Good.”

When he remained lingering in the doorway, she forced herself to look away. 

“Are you okay?” Kyle asked.  “You seem kind of…flushed.” 

“I’m fine,” she replied with a forced smile.   Her eyes moved to the left where Miranda had appeared behind Kyle.  Grateful for the distraction, she stood up and smiled.  “Hi Miranda.   Come on in.” 

“Thanks,” she said and squeezed past Kyle.   “Sorry if I’m interrupting.  I just wanted to see if you had time to talk.  Hello Kyle.”

“Miranda.” 

“Of course I have time,” Brooke said and pulled a chair out for her.  “Kyle, we’ll talk later.”

“No problem,” he said and started to leave.   “Oh, I changed the door code at the Cahuenga Room to your birthday, by the way.  With all the maintenance people in and out of there, I wanted to make sure it was secure until Monday.” 

“Fine,” Brooke said, finding it amusing that he used her birthday for the code.

After he’d gone, Brooke sighed and sat down at her desk.  “How are you?  I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.” 

“I know.  It looks like you’re busy around here.   What’s going on?” 

She shook her head with aggravation, rubbing her tired eyes.  “What isn't?  Waiting to pour cement at the marina the day after tomorrow, closing the Cahuenga Room for a few days for repairs.  Like another setback is what I need right now.  How are you?  How are you feeling?” 

“I feel fine,” Miranda said and ran her hand over her stomach.  “Just tired I guess.”

“You should really take it easy,” Brooke cautioned her.  “It’s not easy being seven months pregnant in the middle of summer.  Believe me, I know.”

Miranda smiled.  The truth was she didn’t come there to talk to her about her pregnancy, or about problems at Moonshadows.  She was beginning to think her getting involved in Gemma’s business was a mistake.  The stress over what she was doing, coupled with Hugh Rogers’ constant threats were beginning to take its toll on her and her baby. 

“Brooke, if I tell you something do you promise you wouldn’t say anything to anyone?  Especially my father.” 

“Of course,” Brooke said with a shrug.  “What is it?” 

The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on Miranda.  Telling something like this to the woman she used to despise more than anything surprised even her.  But over the years, Brooke had become a welcome confidant.  Someone she had began to admire and respect. 

Revealing the truth about her working as a Hollywood madam, however, was easier said than done.  Jane already knew which was bad enough because of her constant cryptic warnings.  If Brooke knew the truth, she would probably regret telling her in no time. 

“You know what?”  Miranda said and stood up again.  “It’s nothing.  I just remembered I have an appointment anyway.” 

“Miranda, you were going to tell me something,” Brooke said and followed her. 

“It’s really not important,” Miranda insisted, collecting her purse and weaklings to the door.  “I’m sorry that I bothered you, Brooke.”

“You’re not bothering me,” Brooke said and pulled her back.  “Miranda, is everything okay?  You know you can talk to me.” 

Smiling, she pulled the door open.  “I know.  I just decided it wasn’t worth talking about, that’s all.  I’ll see you at home later.”

“Okay,” Brooke said, still concerned that she wasn’t telling her something.  “Bye.” 

After she’d left the office, Miranda paused on the other side of the door.  She placed a hand on her pregnant stomach and took a deep breath.   She had to handle her problems herself without involving anyone else.  She’d gotten into this on her own, after all. 

Lola Lamont

Silently sipping his cocktail, Jordan stared across the table at his mother who nursed a gimlet while poring over a copy of Variety magazine.   It was dusk and the sky in the horizon was pink and yellow.  He still had a hangover from the night before, but a drink before dinner sounded too good to pass up.  Lola had always made excellent cocktails. 

“Is Mary Ann coming over?” Lola asked while flipping through the pages of the magazine.

Jordan simply shook his head.  “No, Alex is not coming over.  We’re not seeing each other anymore.”

“That’s the best news I’ve heard all day,” Lola said.

Jordan started to say something in reply, but the butler emerged through the back door with Detective Rodriguez hovering close behind.   Quickly, he rose to his feet and intercepted them across the veranda.

“Sorry for just dropping in, Mr. Rydell,” the police detective said.

“That’s okay,” Jordan replied while squinting through the setting sun.  “What can I do for you, detective?”

“It’s about your mother’s retirement home,” the man told him.  “Apparently there was a fire last night that left a number of residents fairly shaken.”

“She told me,” Jordan said.  “Do you have any idea what happened?”

“It appears to be arson,” Rodriguez explained.  “I just received the report from the fire chief.”

“Arson?” Jordan asked.  “Who would have done something like that?” 

“That’s what we intend to find out.  The damage was contained to one of the residences.  Your mothers.” 

Jordan frowned.  “And no one else was affected?”

“Minor damage to the buildings beside Lola’s.  We also found something.”  He produced a photograph and handed it to Jordan.  “It was left at the front gate after the fire broke out.” 

Jordan took the photo from him and looked at it closely.  It was a photograph of his mother taken a number of years before. 

“It seems to be the same calling card that was left when someone tried to smother your mother with the pillow,” Rodriguez told him.  “The picture appears to be from the same era as the other photograph we found.” 

Jordan looked at the picture again and then turned toward his mother who still sat across the veranda.  What on earth was going on?  Who would have done these things, and why were they leaving these photographs of Lola taken over forty years before?

Mackenzie Stone

When the doorbell rang, Mackenzie strode across the tiled floor of her expansive, modern home on Mulholland.  When she pulled the door open and found James standing on the porch, she smiled and stood clear of the door.

“I hope you don’t mind that we’re staying in,” she said and exchanged glances with him in the entryway.  “I’m beat and going out was the furthest thing from my mind.” 

“Not at all,” James said while leaning forward and kissing her softly.  “I’m thrilled that you called.” 

She led him into the starkly decorated living room and offered him a drink.   “It’s time for us to stop playing games,” she said. 

“I agree,” James replied and sat down beside her on the sofa. 

“I want tonight to be a new start.  Forget about everything else.  And everyone else.” 

“Sounds good to me,” James said with a clever simile while sipping his drink.   “Does this mean you’ve made a decision on spending the weekend with me in Palm Springs?”

She looked into his warm, caring eyes and nodded.  “Yes.  I would love to go away with you this weekend.” 

“Wow,” James said with an amused grin.  “Mackenzie Stone taking time off to enjoy herself?  Did hell freeze over and nobody told me?” 

She smiled in return.  “No, but like I said, I’d like to get a fresh start.”

James inched closer to her on the sofa and set her drink on the table next to his.  “So why don’t we get started on that fresh start?” he asked, brushing his lips against hers. 

She threw her head back as he kissed her neck.   “What about dinner?” she asked.  “I’ve been cooking all evening.” 

“She cooks too,” James said, guiding her down onto the sofa and snaking his arms around her. 

Moonshadows

Chelsea left her room at Moonshadows and turned just as Brad was leaving his room across the hall.  She jumped, startled by his sudden presence and dropped her keys and purse. 

“Can you not sneak up on me like that?” she asked while kneeling down to collect her things. 

“You’re awfully jumpy,” Brad said.  “What are you still doing here, anyway?  I thought you were leaving to go back to New Martin.” 

“I’m not finished here yet,” she said, meeting his gaze when she rose back to her feet.  “I’m on a story and I’m not leaving until I get the whole truth.”

“What story is that?” he asked suspiciously.

Chelsea crossed her arms over her chest and eyed him up and down.  “Where are you going, Brad?  Meeting Akilah?” 

“Akilah has a dinner meeting with Titan. I have other engagements.”  He attempted to brush past her and make his way down the hall.

“Other engagements?” she asked, knowing full well he was on his way to some party Miranda Blackthorne was hosting.  “What other engagements?”

Sighing, he turned back to her.  “None of your business, Chelsea.  Now go home.”

Glaring angrily, she watched as he got into the elevator and waited for the doors to close.   Once inside, Brad removed the gun from the back of his pants and looked at it in his hand.   It was now or never, he realized. 

Back down the hall, Chelsea pulled her phone from her purse when it began ringing the theme from Matlock.  From the display, she realized it was Duke calling from New Martin.

“What’s up?” she asked curtly after answering.  “Did you find anything out?” 

“I did,” he replied.  “A whole mess of dirty details about your friend Hugh Rogers.” 

“What kind of details?” she asked impatiently.  “Come on, Duke, spill it.” 

“The guy’s wrapped up in lots of stuff.  Drug trafficking, prostitution, murder. You name it.” 

Swallowing hard, Chelsea looked down the hall at the elevator.  “Murder?” she asked.  “Are you sure?”

“He’s not a nice guy, Chelsea.  What are you doing out there in L.A. anyway?  Are you in some kind of trouble?  Are you hanging around with this guy?”

Now more sure than ever that Brad was working for this Hugh Rogers guy and was planning on killing Akilah, Chelsea shook her head dismissively.  “I can’t talk right now, Duke.  I have to go.  But thank you for the information.” 

With that, she clicked off her phone and ran down the hall to the elevator, pushing the button several times in anticipation of stopping something terrible from happening. 

Moonshadows

“I’m so glad you guys are here,” Akilah said as she sipped a glass of water at their table in the Sierra Room.  “Everyone in L.A. has been so friendly since I got here.” 

“We try to accommodate,” Eddie replied. 

“I was hoping Miranda would be here,” Akilah went on.  “Is she feeling okay?  I know being pregnant can take it out of you.” 

“She had a…uh…party to go to,” Jane asked from her seat beside Stormy, then quickly changed the subject so Eddie wouldn’t pry as to where she was.  “Do you have kids, Akilah?”

“No,” she said with a somber shake of her head.  She still felt the pain over losing Julian so soon after his birth.   The wounds were still fresh in her mind.

“Well, Miranda or no Miranda, we have business to discuss,” Stormy chimed in.  “I just invited Jane and Eddie so you’d feel more comfortable.” 

“Speaking of Miranda,” Eddie said.  “What party is she at, anyway?  She was so vague about it when she mentioned it.   And why weren’t we invited?” 

“It’s a girl’s night out,” Jane lied.  “I think some of her friends from high school wanted to get together.” 

Stormy and Eddie looked at each other warily.  “Miranda didn’t have any friends in high school,” Stormy said.

Jane felt flustered by their questions so she shrugged and flagged the waitress down.  “Maybe I misheard her,” she said.   “Can I have another club soda, please?” 

They were interrupted when Chelsea appeared, darting through the restaurant and popping up behind Akilah.  “I need to talk to you.” 

“You again,” she groaned.  “Girl, you need to get out of my face.  Can’t you see I’m having dinner with some friends?” 

“This is important,” Chelsea whispered while tugging at her arm.  “Would you just please come with me so we can talk?” 

With a frustrated sigh, Akilah slid her chair back and stood up.  “Excuse me,” she said.  “This won’t take a minute.”

“Take your time,” Stormy said and watched them disappear to the bar across the room.  When they were out of earshot, he looked at Eddie.  “It’s so weird.  They’re identical.” 

“Identical!” Eddie agreed boisterously.

At the bar, Akilah leveled a penetrating gaze upon Chelsea while raising a perfectly arched eyebrow.  “This better be good or I swear to God I’ll pull your hair out.” 

“Listen to me,” Chelsea pleaded.  “I just got off the phone with Duke back in New Martin.”

“Duke?” Akilah asked.  “What does he have to do with anything?” 

“He did some research on Hugh Rogers,” Chelsea explained.  “Akilah, I was right about him.  He’s a dangerous man.   Drugs, prostitutes, racketeering.  He’s a murderer.” 

“A murderer?” she asked with disbelief.

“Yes, and Brad is involved with him.” 

Akilah thought about the money and the gun she’d found in their room earlier that day.  She hadn’t confronted Brad about it, but it had been weighing heavily on her.  And the truth was, Brad had been very disassociated with her record deal since they arrived.  He always had somewhere else to be, or something else to do.   It was almost as if coming to L.A. had nothing to do with her album.  Now she finds out that he is involved with a murderer?   She began to grow concerned. 

“Look, I don’t know what Brad is up to,” Chelsea continued.  “But I do know that it isn’t normal to be carrying around a gun with you in a city you just arrived in.”

Despite her methods, Akilah did have to agree with Chelsea.  Brad’s behavior had not been normal, and it worried her.  

“Where is he now?” she asked. 

“I found the address,” Chelsea said.  “I’ll drive.”

“Maybe we should just call him.” 

“We’ll call him on the way.  Let’s just go.” 

Grudgingly, Akilah went back to the table and got her purse.  “Look, I’m sorry to have to do this,” she said to Stormy.  “Something’s come up with Brad and I have to go.  Would it be all right if we met tomorrow morning?” 

“Yeah,” Stormy said and stood up.  “Is everything okay?” 

“I’m not sure,” she said, aware of Chelsea impatiently waiting for her by the door.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

And just like that, she was flying to the door and leaving the restaurant with Chelsea. 

Ethan Blackthorne

When Ethan got home that night, he went straight upstairs to his room.  On his way down the corridor, he passed Michael’s bedroom and paused when he saw Brooke coming out into the hall. 

“Hi,” he said.

“You’re home late,” she said and glanced at her watch.

“I wanted to go over the actor’s salaries before I left,” he answered.

Quietly, she left the room and closed the door behind her.  Standing in the hall, she looked into his eyes.  “Did Mackenzie stay late too?” 

He already knew where she was going with her question, but decided to humor her anyway.  “Mackenzie left early to have dinner with James.” 

“Oh,” Brooke said with a certain amount of relief.  “Listen, about earlier today.  I’m sorry for taking off like that.  I’m not sure why I even went there in the first place.” 

“Why did you take off?” Ethan asked.  “I would have been more than happy to take a few minutes to talk.”

She shrugged and looked at the floor. 

“We were just working, Brooke.  I don’t know why you’re acting so jealous.” 

“I’m not jealous of Mackenzie,” she said quickly.  “I have no reason to be.  It’s not about that anyway.  It’s about…”

“It’s about Kyle, I know,” he finished for her.  “Because she kept the truth about who he really was.  But I don’t know how many times I have to tell you, Mackenzie isn’t Kyle.” 

“I know,” she said breathlessly.  “Look, can we just forget about that argument and about what happened today?  We were on such a good track.  I’d hoped we could continue that.” 

“That’s all I want,” he said. 

A few moments of awkward silence were followed by a kiss.   Before she knew it, Ethan was leading her down the hall to her room and closing the door quietly behind them.   As soon as he turned around, he led her to the bed and peeled his shirt off.   Brooke lay down on the bed and pulled him on top of her.   They kissed passionately, clawing at one another until they were naked and making hot, steamy love. 

Eddie Distefano

“Everyone has a doppelganger,” Eddie was saying as he, Stormy and Jane finished their dinner in the Sierra Room at Moonshadows.  “It just so happens that Heather’s is a nosy reporter from Tennessee who pops in at the most inopportune times.” 

Jane laughed, her hand resting gently on Stormy’s back. Her eyes narrowed on the doorway of the restaurant where Kelly appeared.  With a groan, she sat forward and prepared herself for their night to come to a bitter end.   With Kelly, there was no other way.

“Don’t look now,” she said.  “I don’t think our luck is good enough for her to be a doppelganger.” 

Stormy looked up and sighed.  “No, that looks like the real deal.”  When Kelly approached, he smiled condescendingly.  “Kelly, what are you doing here?”

“I came to invite you to a party,” she said. 

“I’ll pass,” Stormy replied.  “Where’s R.J.?"

“At home with my mother,” Kelly said and sat down next to Eddie.  She picked up Stormy’s glass of wine and took a sip.  “What?  A girl’s allowed to have a night out once and a while, isn’t she?”

“Yes, we’d just like you to do it someplace else,” Stormy replied and tried to ignore her.

Beaming with excitement, she crossed her legs and let her Jimmy Choos hang delicately off her foot.  “I’m not staying.  Like I said, I’m going to a party.  I think this one you’ll all want to be there for.” 

“Doubt it,” Jane said with a roll of her eyes. 

“Oh, but your buddy Miranda is hosting it,” Kelly said.  “I’m surprised she didn’t invite you, Jane.  It seems like it would be right up your alley.”

Jane’s face fell and she quickly gauged Stormy and Eddie’s reactions.  Kelly couldn’t know about the party, could she?  Miranda had been so careful with every detail since the mix up with Gemma’s client book. 

“Miranda’s with some girls from high school,” Eddie told her.  “What party are you talking about?”

“Oh, is that what she told you?” Kelly said, toying with them.  “Well, I guess she wouldn’t have admitted to arranging a party for a bunch of call girls to meet prospective clients.” 

“Huh?” Eddie asked with a frown.

“Let’s just get out of here,” Jane said and quickly stood from the table.  Somehow it was true. Kelly knew everything.  She had to get Eddie and Stormy away from her before it was too late.  “She’s obviously just trying to start trouble.” 

“Come with me if you don’t believe me,” Kelly insisted.  “I know exactly where it is.  Miranda’s probably on her way there right now.” 

“All right,” Stormy said angrily.  “You better start explaining.  What the hell are you talking about?” 

With a great deal of satisfaction, she traced her finger along the rim of his wine glass.  “Miranda’s a madam,” she said simply.

Laughter exploded from Stormy’s mouth.  Moments later, Eddie joined in.  Jane simply sat in shock.  She felt like she was on a train that was headed for disaster. 

“She employs prostitutes,” Kelly went on to further explain her claim.  “She has for weeks.  When Gemma Sanders was sent up the river, she appointed Miranda as her replacement.”  A sneer crossed her lips as she turned to Eddie.  “The woman who may be carrying your child is a pimp.  How does that make you feel?” 

Slowly, the smile faded from Eddie’s mouth.  He looked at her and then at Stormy, who picked up on the severity of his expression.  When they both looked at Jane and she didn’t react, silence fell over the table.

“What is she talking about?” Stormy asked her.  “Do you know anything about this?” 

Realizing there was no denying it any more, Jane slowly nodded her head.  “I tried to talk her out of it,” she said.  “But she had these grand ideas of changing the world.  Or at least helping these girls get off the street.” 

“Miranda?” Eddie asked.  “A….madam?  No, that’s impossible.  She’s pregnant.” 

“Miranda loathes prostitution,” Stormy insisted.  “She always has.” 

“She’s apparently changed her mind,” Kelly chimed in.

“Shut up,” Stormy snapped before turning back to Jane.  “Has she…?”

Jane immediately knew what he was asking, and quickly went to defend her friend’s honor.  She had to at least do that much.  “No, Miranda has never slept with a man for money.”  She looked at Eddie with as much sincerity as she could offer up.  “Eddie, she loves you.  This….job was just her way of helping people.”

“Yeah, helping sleazy men get their rocks off,” Kelly insinuated. 

“I said enough!” Stormy shouted. 

“And the party?” Eddie asked.

“It’s a meet and greet,” Jane told him.  “It’s at Gemma’s mansion in Beverly Hills.  She invited all the girls and some clients.  But listen, the only reason she got into this was because of Farrah.”

“Your cousin from Illinois?” Stormy asked.

“Yes.  She got involved with this guy named Hugh Rogers.  He’s a real piece of work.  He puts these girls on his payroll and then treats them like garbage.  We think he killed one of them.  It was all over the news.  Miranda gave her a job working for her and that’s when the trouble started.” 

“What trouble?”  Eddie wanted to know. 

Jane realized she had to tell them everything.  Maybe if they knew what Miranda had been up against, they wouldn’t judge her so harshly. 

“She started getting threats,” she explained.  “From Hugh Rogers.  He was angry that she was budding in on his business.”

Eddie ran his fingers through his hair.  “What kind of threats?”

Nervously, Jane wrung her hands together beneath the table.  “He had her car run off the road,” she said.  “Then he put a snake in her car.  His goons are constantly following her."

“Jesus,” Eddie said and flew to his feet.  “Are you telling me some guy is out there threatening my girlfriend?  My pregnant girlfriend?”

“She said she could handle it,” Jane insisted.  “She said that it wasn’t that serious.” 

Kelly listened in shock.  When she learned that Miranda was a madam, she had no idea that it had taken this turn.  Her enjoyment over blowing her out of the water now seemed trivial compared to what else had been going on. 

“Look, I’m sorry,” Jane said.  “Miranda swore me to secrecy.” 

When nobody responded, she decided it was time to leave.  Stormy would probably never forgive her for keeping the truth from him.  Besides, she had to get to the party and warn Miranda.  Quickly, she grabbed her purse and ran out of the restaurant.  She jumped into her car and sped off through the night. 

“I have to get to that party,” Eddie said after a few moments of silence.  “If this guy has threatened her, he could very well be planning on doing something to her tonight.” 

“Where’s Gemma’s house?” Stormy demanded of Kelly.

“902 Benedict Canyon,” she said and swallowed hard.   “Look, I’m sorry.  I didn’t know about any of those threats.”

But Eddie was already tearing out of the room.  Stormy sat behind glaring at Kelly with a heated expression. 

“You’ve really done it this time, haven’t you?” he asked her.

“Me?” she asked in a shrill voice.  “If I hadn’t shown up with the news you would have never found out about any of this!   Your girlfriend Jane certainly had no intention of saying anything until I showed up.  I figure you should be thanking me.” 

Rolling his eyes, Stormy rose and threw a few hundred dollar bills onto the table.  “You’re a piece of work,” he said.

“Where are you going?” Kelly demanded.

“To that party.  Don’t even think about showing up.  You’ve done enough already.” 

With that, he left the room and proceeded to his car in the parking lot.  Kelly shook her head in disbelief while picking up Stormy’s wine glass and finishing it off.

“Unbelievable,” she said to herself. 

Gemma's House

The sound of crickets chirping in the night was all that Miranda could hear when she pulled into the driveway at Gemma’s mansion on Benedict Canyon.  She let her car idle for a few minutes while looking around the deserted area.  Her expectation was to arrive and see the majority of those she’d invited already there, in particular the girls who were working for her.   But as it was, there wasn’t a car to be seen.  The house appeared dark and desolate. 

Frowning, she climbed out of the car and fished her phone from her purse.  Had she gotten the date wrong when she informed everyone about the party?  No, she was sure she said the 27th.  There had to be another reason why she appeared to be the only one there.

Quickly, she dialed the first name that appeared on her business phone.  Shay, a sweet young girl she’d recently plucked from the streets, answered on the first ring as she always did. 

“Shay, it’s Miranda,” she said.  “Is everything okay?”

“What do you mean, Miranda?” 

“Just wondering why you weren’t here.  Why nobody’s here.”

“Where are you?” Shay inquired. 

“At the mansion.  The party is tonight, remember?”  She made her way up the front steps and found the door partially open.   “I swear this has got to be a practical joke or something.” 

“Miranda, the party was canceled,” Shay said matter-of-factly.  “We all got a call from some guy.” 

“What guy?” She peered into the dark house, unsure of what was awaiting her. 

“He said he was the party planner.  Miranda, is everything okay?  Do you need me to come there?”

She shook her head and stepped inside the foyer.  “No, don’t come here, Shay.  I'll find out what’s going on.”

“Are you sure?” 

“Yeah, goodnight.” 

Miranda clicked off her phone and proceeded through the dark foyer.   A sound from behind startled her and she spun around with a start, her heart beating wildly.  It was too dark to see who was there.  Too dark to know who or what could be standing right in front of her...

Kyle Fenwick

Kyle left his office at Moonshadows later that evening and proceeded across the parking lot to his car parked beneath a rambling oak tree.  He fumbled with his keys while glancing around the area.  Always a good idea to do a check of the vicinity when security wasn’t present.  With construction for the marina expansion in full swing, there were plenty of dangerous areas someone could get hurt in.  In particular the gaping holes the heavy equipment had dug into the shore.  Until they were filled with cement in another two days, it was dangerous territory. 

Things looked fairly calm tonight, however, with the exception of a strange car parked down the hill outside the Cahuenga Room.  Frowning, he proceeded through the parking lot and made his way down the hill to the structure.  The car, unfamiliar to him at first glance, was abandoned and blocking the doors the led into the back kitchen area. 

“Hello?” he called out, but wasn’t entirely sure anyone was there to hear him.   Better to administer the warning up front, however.  “This building is closed for repairs.  You’re trespassing.” 

As he reached out to turn the door knob, he was struck over the head from behind.  Grimacing in pain, he sunk to his knees and collapsed unconscious.  Behind him, his assailant dropped the tire iron and retreated back to the car. 

It was over. 

Brad repeated the words to himself over and over the entire ride out to the beach.  Once he arrived, he parked his rental car and slowly stepped out onto the pavement.  After a quick look around to ensure no one was around, he made his way down to the pier and walked clear to the end.  It felt like miles to him. 

Standing on the edge of the pier, he removed the gun from the back of his jeans and held it out in front of him.  He closed his eyes tightly, images from earlier that night plaguing him.  Quickly, he drew the gun back and hurled it as far as he could into the ocean.  An encompassing sense of relief washed over him when he heard the splash.   He wanted to run away from Los Angeles as fast as he could.  He wanted to get out of there and forget that he'd ever made a deal with Hugh Rogers. 

Slowly, he turned and walked back down the pier, his hands trembling.


Next time....

The story continues on Nightingales # 9 when Brad tries to act normal.  Meanwhile, Mackenzie surprises James by inviting others along on their trip to Palm Springs.  Alex has dinner with Vaughan Novak and notices something peculiar. Jordan questions Lola about her past.

 

 

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