Mackenzie grew angry when Ethan
blew her off to be at Brooke's side. Arsenic was
found in the water supply at Moonshadows. Mason
revealed to Chip that he planted it there. Moonshadows
was closed due to the bad water. Lola gave Cecily
Davidson an acting lesson. Brett learned that
Deacon Edgewater was suing Sunset Studios for the rights
to The Benefactor. Quinn Rainer faked Magnum's
disappearance when their father left them penniless.
Benji snitched on Joba Branigan's drug operation
and framed Hunt Roberts for it. Nathan, Victor
and Jack attended Questicon at Moonshadows. A
masked figure killed Jack and left a photograph of Natalie
Davidson, the woman he accidentally pushed overboard
his yacht years before. Stormy saw Denise from
archives having a meltdown over her failed acting career.
Keaton, dropping his geeky act, had sex with a Questicon
attendee in a storage room at Moonshadows. Nathan
later noticed that his glasses were left in the room
where the killer's things were found. Denise claimed
that the police arrested someone for the murder.
Wrath of Con"
Beneath the full
moon, shadows danced across the pavement.
The wind carried voices and the sounds of laughter as Questicon attendees, still in costume,
flitted about the parking lot at Moonshadows.
In the distance, a light saber battle commenced, its subjects jumping
atop cars and flipping in and out of crevasses with their glowing swords.
Another group of overzealous science
fiction fans acted out the evening’s events with morbid glee. As a young man in a star pilot uniform fell
to the asphalt, another hovered above him while wearing a helmet and a plastic
knife in hand.
“Please no!” the pilot cried. “You can’t kill me! Who will save the galaxy?”
“No one can save us now,” the guy
with the helmet replied in a deep baritone and went through the motions of
stabbing the pilot in the stomach.
Raucous cheers and laughter exploded
through the night, incensing Stormy as he made his way through the parking
lot. Behind him, a small group had assembled;
anxious to find out whom the person was that had been arrested for Jack’s
“Over there,” Denise said and
pointed across the crowded parking area.
“Officer!” Nathan shouted as they
neared a gathering of policemen. “Officer,
tell me you found the person responsible for this horror!”
“Nathan, let them do what they need
to do,” Brett said and held him back.
When the police officers parted,
they were surprised to find Jordan standing in handcuffs, an ambiguous expression
on his taut face. In the officer’s hand
was a plastic evidence bag containing a Halloween costume. In another was a bloody dagger.
“Jordan,” Victor exclaimed, looking
around in wonderment. “What on
Stormy addressed the police. “He’s
the one you arrested for Jack’s murder?”
“We found him trying to flee the
hotel with these,” he said and held up the evidence bags. “What do you
think he was doing with them?”
They all looked at him while waiting
for an explanation.
“You idiots, I found the costume and knife,” Jordan told them, twisting in the
handcuffs that bound his arms behind his back.
“I was walking from my car to the hotel and I saw something in the
bushes.” He pointed a few hundred feet
away to a line of shrubs. “I went to
investigate and that’s when Barney Fife
here branded me the candy man.”
“Convenient story,” the lead officer
“Officer, you can’t honestly believe
Jordan would have had anything to do with this,” Nathan said. “The man’s own mother has been a target of
“We can’t overlook anything,” the policeman
“I’ll take over from here,” said
Detective Rodriguez when he arrived on the scene. He removed the handcuffs from Jordan and sent
the other officers away. “Mr. Rydell, a
Jordan followed him away from the
crowd. “Look, I don’t care how it
looked. I only came here because I heard
about Nathan’s appearance at the convention.
I thought the killer might try something.”
“And you thought you could take him
or her down yourself?” Rodriguez asked.
“It’s a hell of a lot more than you’re doing. Two people are dead. Whoever’s doing this has made it very clear
who his intended victims are. That means
only three are left, and one of them is my mother.”
“I know you’re worried about your
mother,” Rodriguez told him. “But you’ve
got to let me do my job. I’ve got this
“You do not have it handled.
Otherwise Jack Childers wouldn’t be on a stretcher on his way to the
morgue right now.”
Rodriguez looked at him
crossly. “You know, maybe all this
concern of yours is just a cover,” he began.
“Maybe you are the killer and
you’re just doing a very convincing job of hiding it.”
“Is that an accusation?”
“It would be clever of you to just be pretending to be helping me.”
Jordan shook his head
irritably. “Look, Detective, I didn’t
kill anybody. You say you want me to let
you do your job, so do it. Otherwise I’m
going to continue with my own investigation.”
Rodriguez sighed with
resignation. “Be at my office tomorrow
morning at ten. Maybe if we put our
heads together we can figure out who he plans on targeting next.”
He walked away and left Jordan
standing alone. Across the lot, Nathan
and Victor exchanged harried glances.
“Looks like we’re a rare breed these
days,” Nathan said to him. “Jordan’s
idea of hiring a bodyguard for Lola doesn’t seem like such a bad idea
“I quite agree,” Victor said.
“Has anyone seen Keaton?” Stormy
Nathan shook his head. He still thought it was odd that his glasses
were suddenly missing just as the police found a pair identical to them in a
storage room inside the hotel. He
wondered what the young director was hiding.
Stormy saw Brett turn to leave and
quickly went after him. “Slinking off
before you have to answer for your screw up?” he asked. “We still have to deal with this lawsuit from
“I’ll take care of it,” he
replied. “Trust me.”
Stormy sighed with
exasperation. Trusting Brett Armstrong
was the last thing he ever thought he would have to do. “Where are you going?”
“To the hospital,” he replied. “Jack Childers is dead and the only next of
kin he had is Ashton, and he’s in a coma.
Someone’s got to help get his affairs in order.”
Stormy sighed as he watched him
go. He hoped that they got this lawsuit mess
cleared up before his father found out.
With as much as they had riding on this film, much of the weight rested
on his shoulders.
Inside the hotel, Kyle watched
helplessly as mass exodus occurred in the lobby. Guests departed in droves, staff evacuated,
and tables in the restaurants were left with full plates of food still eerily
present. He ran his fingers through his
hair and turned just as Mackenzie approached.
“Not now,” he told her. “I don’t think I can handle another one of
your sisterly lectures. Especially tonight.”
“If you’re expecting me to tell you
how everything you touch turns into a disaster, I won’t,” she said. “It was implied.”
“What are you doing here, anyway?”
“I had a night to myself so I came
in for a drink. Why aren’t you at the
hospital with Brooke?”
“Because somebody’s got to be here,” he replied. “We’ve already been threatened with four
lawsuits by people claiming they’re
experiencing symptoms of arsenic poisoning.
I expect that to quadruple by morning.”
“So you just left James and Ethan at
Brooke’s beside?” Mackenzie asked.
“Little brother, have you learned nothing? They all flock to her. Turn your back for a minute and she could be
on to the next one. I thought you of all
people would realize that.”
“Thanks for your vote of
confidence,” he said with a snarl and walked across the lobby. He stopped when he spotted Mason
“Hey Kyle, I heard about what
happened. Let me know if there’s
anything I can do.”
“Thanks Mason,” he said. “Looks
like helping me get that variance was all for nothing. Like there’s ever a chance that marina
expansion is going to be finished now.”
“You don’t know that,” Mason told
him. “This could be a temporary
setback. Do they have any leads on how
the arsenic got into the water supply?”
Kyle shook his head. “Not yet.
But even if we can get the water cleaned up enough to open again, the
lawsuits we’ll be facing will bankrupt us.”
Mason patted him on the
shoulder. “I hope things don’t get that
bad, but if they do, I can help.”
Mason shrugged, hoping he didn’t
sound too eager. “I can always help find
a buyer if Renee DeWitt and Brooke Taylor decide to sell.”
“A buyer for a resort this size in this economy? They’ll lose their shirts.”
“It could be worse. Just keep me in mind,” Mason said. “I’m staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel in
As he departed, Chip Matthews emerged
from La Mirada bar and approached him swiftly.
“That was an about face,” he
“What do you mean?” Mason
“An hour ago you were talking about
leaving town. Our plan to buy this place
and drill for oil was up in smoke as far as you were concerned. Now you’re offering to help find a buyer.”
Mason wrangled him off to the
side. “Look, I feel horrible about that
man that died,” he said. “I really
do. But Brooke and the guy from your
crew are going to be fine. And there’s
no way they’re ever going to be able to prove that I put the arsenic in the
water. So why not take advantage of
this? We could be filthy rich in a
matter of months, Chip. One lawsuit
from a disgruntled guest and this place is dead in the water.”
“Do you have no scruples?”
“Yes, but I also learned a long time
ago that sometimes opportunities come up that you have to take by the horns if
you want to get anywhere. There were a
few snags in the plan, but it’s still on course. Are you still with me?”
“A few snags? A man died because of you.”
“Think of all that money.”
Chip looked away and contemplated
his request. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll go along with it. But I want more than what you were cutting me
in for in our original deal.”
Mason sighed with exasperation. “How much more? Five percent?”
Chip grinned. “I’m not talking about money.” He gave him a seductive look up and down and
playfully licked his lips. “You know
what I want.”
Mason laughed in spite of the
obvious attempt at blackmailing him for sex.
While their one-time thing a few weeks before hadn’t exactly been torture for him, he wasn’t interested in
a repeat. But if it kept Chip’s mouth
shut then he would go along with anything.
After all, he had people he needed to answer to if they didn’t get at
the oil as he’d said he would.
Across the lobby, Mackenzie watched
them talking. This wasn’t the first time
she saw her ex-husband in a heated discussion with the contractor for the
marina expansion. She began to wonder
what Mason was up to this time.
Ethan was standing outside the
intensive care unit at the hospital, gazing through the window at Brooke who
lay asleep on the bed, tubes and wires attached to her mouth. When James approached, he began to walk
“Ethan, don’t go,” James said. “We haven’t finished our conversation.”
He looked at his uncle with a
frown. “You really want to get into that
again now? Brooke is fighting for her life and you want
to continue reaming me for falling for Mackenzie?”
James dug his hands into his pockets
while he looked at him. “Falling for
Mackenzie? That’s an interesting choice
of words. I mean, you’re here doting
over Brooke, who you claim to be over, while Mackenzie is who knows where.”
“Brooke is the mother of my son,”
Ethan insisted. “Where else would I
“I just think it proves that you may
not be as over Brooke as you claim to be,” James told him. “Maybe this thing you have going with
Mackenzie is all due to your pride being hurt when Brooke chose Kyle over
Ethan looked back through the window
and remained silent. When he turned to
respond, he saw Brett coming toward them.
Happy for the distraction, he called out to him.
“Brett, what’s going on?”
James turned and acknowledged him as
well. “Problem with the studio?”
Brett remained silent about the
lawsuit. “No, it’s Jack Childers. He’s been murdered.”
“What?” James exclaimed. “When?
“Just a little while ago at the
convention at Moonshadows,” he explained.
“Someone stabbed him and left a picture of Natalie Davidson.”
“Natalie Davison?” James asked. “What’s going on? First Elana Hendricks and now Jack?”
“There have been attempts made
against Nathan, Victor and Lola too.”
James processed the information.
He’d been so wrapped up in his own problems that he’d barely paid attention to
anything else. “It’s like someone’s
trying to get rid of anyone who worked for Sunset Studios.”
“They arrested Jordan but released
him,” Brett told them. “He’s just as
eager to get this maniac locked up as anyone is.”
James shook his head in
bewilderment. “Ashton,” he said to
“What?” Ethan asked.
“He’s still in the coma,” James
said. “Jack was here every day with him. I can’t imagine how devastated that young man
will be if we wakes up. It isn’t
“I was going to go talk to Ashton’s
doctor,” Brett said. “They should know
what happened. I figure we may need to
help out in some way.”
“Yes,” James agreed and patted him
on the shoulder. “Thank you, Brett.”
“How is Brooke?” he asked.
“She’s stable,” Ethan said. “They’re giving her something to counteract
“That’s good news,” Brett said. “It’s chaos at Moonshadows right now. The whole place is evacuating. I think it’ll be a long time before they can
recover from this.”
After he left, he made is way down to
the lower floor and passed by Ashton Childer’s room. He stopped when he heard a voice from
inside. Peering through the doorway, he
saw Blake Distefano sitting in the chair beside the bed.
“That night should never have
happened,” Blake was saying, unaware that he was being watched. “All we did was try to help Benji and
Sierra. Then a damn drunk driver had to
come out of nowhere and ruin everything.”
He thought about the night he and
Ashton had raced up to Mulholland to stop Benji from doing something
drastic. They might have made it if the
accident hadn’t happened. They might
have been able to stop Benji from doing what he did.
“It isn’t fair,” he continued. “It isn’t fair that you’re in this hospital
or that Benji and Sierra are gone while all the people who hurt them are still
Brett felt awkward listening in on
Blake’s private thoughts, so he decided to announce his presence. “Blake?”
Quickly, he stood up from the chair
and turned, wiping a tear from his eye.
“Brett, what are you doing here?”
“I came to talk to Ashton’s doctor,”
he explained. “His father was killed
Blake barely reacted to the
news. He turned and looked at Ashton
again. “I should go.”
Frowning, Brett watched as he made
his way out of the room. Reaching a hand
out, he stopped him. “Blake, wait,” he
said, hoping to pick his brain about something else. “How well do you know that Edgewater kid?”
“Van?” Blake asked. “Pretty well.
“I need to talk to him. Do you know where I can find him?”
“I just saw him downstairs in the
E.R. He’s a third year resident.”
With that, he left the room. Brett decided if he was going to get anything
on Deacon Edgewater that could help fight the lawsuit, he’d have to go straight
to those closest to him.
“What are you up to?” Mackenzie
asked as she sauntered over to Mason in the parking lot at Moonshadows. There were few cars remaining, and the
entire resort had turned deafeningly silent.
“And don’t tell me nothing
because I know you, Mason. We were
married for a year, remember?”
“You’ve always been so suspicious,
Mac,” he said, opening the door of his rental car. “Sometimes when you’re going out for milk,
you’re just going out for milk.”
She looked at him warily. “If going out for milk means you wind up in
bed with the neighbor, then I’ll buy it.
You’re forgetting, I was on to every underhanded move you made back
then. So what are you up to this time?”
“What makes you think I’m up to
“I saw you talking to Chip Matthews
inside,” she revealed. “Things looked
very intense from where I stood. How are
you involved with him?”
Mason grew defensive. “We’re not involved,” he said. “I can’t talk to people now without my
ex-wife getting suspicious of me? You
need to get a life, sweetheart.”
“Does this have anything to do with
the marina expansion?” she asked. “It
would certainly explain why you got so chummy with my brother the minute you
showed up in town.”
“I happen to like Kyle,” Mason
said. “We have a lot in common. We’re both sick of you brow beating us to
death. Lighten up, Mac. Or are you just sore that your boyfriend is
still sitting by Brooke Taylor’s side?”
The remark got the better of
her. She pursed her lips tightly as he
got into his car and drove off through the night. The sad thing was, Mason was right. She was incensed that Ethan had blown her off
for Brooke the last few days. She
decided to give it another day and then have a talk with him. She had no intention of coming in second to
anyone for any man.
Once the last person had left
Moonshadows, Kyle realized there was nothing more he could do for the time
being, so he returned to the hospital to check on Brooke. As he entered through the main doors from the
parking area, he ran into Marilee Wells-Walker.
She looked away and attempted to skirt past him.
“Marilee, wait,” he said and tried
to stop her. “What are you doing
“I came to check on Brooke,” she
said. “If you’ll excuse me, I have
nothing to say to you.”
“Please, don’t go,” Kyle said. “I know how much I hurt you and I can’t tell
you how sorry I am. I never meant for
you to assume I was your son.”
Finally, she turned back to him and
glared. “What was I supposed to think
when you show up in town claiming to be Will Thomerson’s son?” she asked. “Born the same year I gave my baby up for
adoption? The worst part is you let me
believe it for months.”
He swallowed hard. “I know and I regret that. I regret everything I did when I first came
to town. You have to believe that.”
“I don’t know what to believe,”
Marilee said, running her fingers down her hair, now longer and colored a warm
shade of auburn. “I only hope Brooke
knows what she’s getting into with you.
If you hurt her-“
“I’m not going to hurt her,” he cut
her off. He waited a few awkward moments
before continuing. “Have you searched
for the son that you gave up?”
She looked away, the pain evident in
her eyes. “Yes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really have to
Kyle watched as she raced from the
hospital to her car. He did hate what he
did to her. He had to prove to everyone
that he wasn’t the lying opportunist he was when he first got there two years
ago. And if Brooke found out about how
he got the variance for the marina, and about David’s experimental surgery,
that was going to be difficult to do.
From his days running cons, Brett
was no stranger to getting around hospitals when he needed to. Once, he and his former partners, Devon and
Bailey, pulled a scam to steal fifty large from a dying socialite. It had worked, and they blew the money at the
roulette table in Reno, a mistake he chalked up to his youth and inexperience
with large sums of money.
Feigning stomach pains, he admitted
himself to the emergency room. He knew
they were backlogged with patients, most of whom were paranoid former guests of
Moonshadows who wanted a comprehensive check to make sure they hadn’t acquired
arsenic poisoning. Luckily, Van Edgewater,
the twenty-four year-old son of Deacon Edgewater, was one of only three
residents on staff.
As instructed, he took off his shirt
and sat down on the exam table. Van
approached and began to examine him.
“How long have you been having
pains?” he asked, pressing on his stomach.
“A few days,” Brett told him. “I didn’t think anything of it until I heard
about people getting sick at that resort.
I eat there almost every day.”
“Any fainting or dizzy spells?”
“Any trouble breathing?”
Brett shook his head, making an
obvious show of reading his name badge. “No,” he said. “You’re Van
Edgewater? Deacon Edgewater’s son?”
“That’s right,” Van said and
listened to his heartbeat through the stethoscope. “Do you know my old man?”
“Sort of,” Brett said, happy to have
the conversation steer to his intentions.
“I work in the business and we’ve crossed paths. He’s very famous. You must get recognized a lot.”
Van laughed. “Unfortunately.”
“You don’t seem very thrilled about
He shrugged. “It has its perks. He got me admitted early to medical school so
I could skip all the B.S.”
Brett recalled the time Benji and
Blake got into some kind of trouble and Van botched some stitches he
administered to Blake after an incident with a gun. This
was the youth of America?
“Still, it must be kind of exciting
having such a mega producer for a father,” Brett went on. “You had to have had the perfect life.”
“Get serious,” Van said and checked
in his ears with a small pen light. “He
was drunk for the better part of it. Always on and off the wagon.”
“Really?” Brett asked. He couldn’t remember ever hearing about
Deacon’s drinking problem. Then again,
he probably did a good job of hiding it.
He wondered if he could somehow use it against him. “Where is he now? On or off?”
“On,” Van said after thinking for a
few seconds. “Even when he’s not
drinking he hangs out every night at the Dresden. Sober. Until something happens that pushes him over
the edge again.”
“Jesus, I don’t know,” Van said and
handed him his shirt. “Anytime the wind
blows the wrong way he goes back to the bottle.
Doesn’t make the best decisions when that happens, either. I got two half sisters and a brand new
Porsche after the last one.”
Brett got up and started to put his
shirt back on. Yes, he could definitely
use this to his advantage.
“You seem fine,” Van told him. “I’ll have a nurse draw some blood to find
out if you’ve been exposed to arsenic.
Results should come back in three days.”
“Thanks,” Brett said and watched him
walk away. While the coast was clear, he
darted off through the emergency room.
Even if he didn’t hate needles, he didn’t have time to stick around. He had to save the film from going
The lounge at the Dresden was quiet, subtle
lighting emanating from crystal chandeliers, tufted leather booths busy with
hushed chatter, and the soothing sounds of a jazz quarter playing in the
Brett spotted Deacon Edgewater
tucked into one of the booths alone, a clear liquid drink in front of him as he
chatted casually with the cocktail waitress.
Forming a plan in his mind, he made a nonchalant trail to the booth
beside him and slid in. Once the
waitress was gone, he turned and garnered the man’s attention.
“Deacon?” he said. “This is a surprise. Funny running into you twice in one
Deacon looked at him. “Armstrong?”
Brett got out of his booth and
joined him in his. “I was driving by and
decided to stop for a drink. May I join
“Look, if this is about the lawsuit,
I’m under strict orders from my attorney not to communicate with anyone from
Brett held up a hand in
protest. “I understand. But I’m honestly not here to discuss any of
“I should still go,” Deacon said and
attempted to leave.
“Please, don’t,” Brett said and
pulled at his arm. “You really don’t
have anything to worry about with me.
I’m nothing but a yes-man to James and Stormy Blackthorne. They make the decisions. I do as they say. I guess when you’re not a Blackthorne you
“Isn’t that something?” Deacon said,
resting back in his spot. “Typical of
that family to relegate someone of your talent with menial tasks. No wonder you needed a drink.”
The waitress came by and placed a
napkin on the table. “What can I get
Brett calmly ordered a vodka tonic.
When she left, he motioned to Deacon’s drink.
“Go ahead,” he said. “You don’t
have to wait for me.”
Deacon handed him the glass. “It’s club soda,” he said. “I don’t drink. Go ahead.
Have a sip.”
Brett took in the vapors of the
liquid and realized he was telling the truth.
“Actually, I don’t drink either,” he said. “I shouldn’t even be here. Today was just such a monumental catastrophe
that I found myself getting into my car and stopping at the first bar I came
“I’m a recovering alcoholic,” Brett
told him. “Been sober for a year.”
“No kidding?” Deacon asked. “Nine months for me.”
“Really?” Brett asked with mock
surprise. “Well, what do you know? Looks like we have something in common.”
Deacon raised his glass and watched
as the waitress returned with Brett’s drink.
“Actually, can you please take that
back and get me a club soda with lime?” Brett asked when she set the drink down
in front of him.
After she left, Deacon looked at him
and patted him on the back. “That took a
lot of courage,” he said. “I’m proud of
you, young man. I know how difficult
this industry can get. To look a drink
in the face and turn it down is a respectable thing. Besides, it would be a shame to throw a year
of sobriety out the window.”
“I know,” Brett said sullenly. “I should go to a meeting. It’s been a while. I just hate going alone. I feel so vulnerable.”
“We’ll go together,” Deacon insisted
with a firm nod of his head. “I could
use a meeting myself.”
Brett watched him slide out of the
booth. “Are you sure?”
“You bet I am. What kind of recovering alcoholic would I be
if I let a fellow survivor struggle through this alone? Come on.
Brett followed him through the bar,
relieved that the first part of his plan was well underway.
The AA meeting revealed that the
biggest contentions in Deacon’s sobriety were his shaky post as CEO of Double
Strike Studios, and his son’s fondness for getting himself in trouble at every
turn. Most recent were an arrest for
possession of pot, disorderly conduct at the Grove, and a near dismissal from
UCLA’s medical program for reasons he didn’t reveal. It seemed that when Van said anything could
send his father back to the bottle, he was probably referring to his own
The next morning, Brett created a
fake Facebook account and promptly studied Van’s wall posts. It became immediately evident that his most
prevalent friend, on-line and in the real world, was Joba Branigan. After doing some research, he discovered that
Joba had just been released from prison after spending six months for drug possession
with intent to sell. He remembered that
his twin brother, Jeff, had been hit by a car and killed following some party
that Benji was at. Afterwards, the
police raided their apartment in the Valley and got Joba on drug charges. By then he’d already disposed of most of his
supply, thus the light sentence. He also found out where he worked.
“We don’t open till eleven,” said
the slightly pudgy young man as Brett knocked on the door of California Taco in
Van Nuys. “Unless you like to eat tacos
at nine o’clock in the morning.”
“Actually, I was hoping to talk to
you,” Brett replied. “You’re Joba, right?”
“Who’s asking?” he asked, standing
inside the small restaurant in an apron and Diesel running shoes with bright
green laces. “You some kinda cop or
Brett laughed. “Do I look like a cop?”
“Kinda,” he replied. “Well, no.
Who are you?”
“I’m a friend of Van’s,” Brett told
him. “He said you could get me some
Joba tried to close the door. “Sorry, I don’t sell that shit anymore.”
Brett quickly went to stop the door
from closing on him. “Look, I don’t need
much. Just a bag of weed to get me
through the weekend. I’ve got plenty of
Joba looked at him through squinty
eyes. “You sure you ain’t a cop,
“I’m not a cop,” he said. “Look, do you have anything or not?”
Joba looked around and motioned for
him to enter. “Wait here,” he said and
disappeared in the back. When he
returned a few minutes later he was carrying a large manila envelope. “How’d you say you know Van?”
“I didn’t,” Brett said with a
grin. “Just from around. Sounds like you know him pretty well
though. From what he told me, I
Joba drew the blinds on the door and
went to a table where he sorted through bags of marijuana. “I’ve known him forever,” he said. “We’ve had some crazy times, that’s for
“Oh yeah?” Brett said. “Anything you want to share?”
Joba laughed. “No.”
Brett laughed as well. “Yeah.
He told me about this one time.
Said his dad would flip if he found out?”
Joba looked at him with an alarmed
expression. “He told you about
Too easy, Brett thought to
Joba took a fistful of cash from him
and produced a plastic bag of weed. “He
says he didn’t know she was only sixteen at the time, but I don’t believe
“Yeah, but she was a hot piece of
ass, I’m sure,” Brett said. He never got
the appeal of young girls. He
appreciated women and all the
experience they brought to the bedroom.
“Cecily Davidson?” Joba asked. “Yeah, I suppose. If she took her clothes off, I guess. Her face is bad news though.”
Brett couldn’t believe it. Van had sex with an underage girl, who
happened to be playing a supporting role in The
Benefactor. “How long ago was
“Couple years ago,” he replied. “Before Cecily turned eighteen. Now she’s dating that tool Magnum Rainer, who
hates Van. I’m sure if he ever found out
about what Van did to her, he’d blow a gasket.”
Grinning, Brett finished the
transaction with Joba and made his way back out to his car.
“Who’d you say you were again?” Magnum
Rainer asked as he opened the door of his mother’s house in Bel Air.
“Brett Armstrong,” he replied. “I’m an executive at Sunset Studios. I wanted to talk to you about Cecily.”
“Oh.” Magnum sounded worried. He stood clear of the door and let Brett
enter. “Is this about The Benefactor?”
Brett looked around the sparse
surroundings. He knew that Magnum’s
father had left some time ago, leaving his mother to support them. It appeared the only way she knew how to do
that was to sell off the family’s priceless antiques, furniture and
artwork. Magnum’s sister Quinn had since
married a soldier from Calabasas.
“How long have you and Cecily been
dating?” he asked.
“Not long. A few weeks.
Is she okay? Is she getting fired
Brett smiled and shook his
head. “No, but I’m worried about
her. That’s why I came here to talk to
you. I figure since she doesn’t have any
family you could talk to her. Something
is really eating away at her. We can
tell in her performance on set.”
Magnum ran his fingers through his
hair. “She’s been taking those acting
classes,” he said. “She thought it was
“It is,” Brett was quick to
add. “But there’s something she isn’t
dealing with. I have a feeling it’s
“Van? What about him?” Magnum sounded irritated by the mention of
“Well, I think she ran into him
recently because she told me about what happened with him. A few years ago. Before she was of age. I guess she really felt taken advantage
Magnum glared angrily. “What the hell happened? She never told me about anything with Van
“Apparently they had a little thing
way back when. I’m surprised she didn’t
Magnum shook his head. “No, she didn’t tell me. She knows how I feel about Van. Ever since he-“ He paused and didn’t continue his thought
until a moment later. “He fucked my mom
and that’s why my dad left. Nice,
shit, Brett thought to himself. And
he thought his past was screwed
up. “Well, I just thought maybe you
could talk to her,” Brett told him. “We
really want her to succeed in her role.
I know how important it is to her to try to live up to her Aunt
Natalie’s reputation in the business.”
“Yeah,” Magnum said, growing more
incensed by the second. “Thanks for
James stopped at the receptionist in
the bullpen at the police station. “I
need to see Detective Rodriguez, please.”
“I’m sorry, he’s with someone right
now,” the woman said.
James looked down the hall and saw
the detective through the windows of his office. When he saw him, he motioned for him to
enter. Quickly, James made his way into
the office where Rodriguez and Jordan were gathered.
“What the hell’s going on?” James
“We’re having a private meeting,”
Jordan told him. “What are you doing here?”
“Trying to figure out why two of the
top stars of Sunset Studios were murdered and no one felt the need to clue me
in to what’s going on.”
“Mr. Blackthorne, we’re trying to
figure that out,” Rodriguez announced.
“And he’s helping you?” James asked
and gestured to Jordan. “What do you know about any of this?”
“My mother happens to be one of the
intended victims. Why wouldn’t I be
helping the police?”
“Yeah, well it’s my studio that
these people all worked for,” James replied.
“Not to mention the fact that this lunatic has tried killing my
Jordan rolled his eyes. “Don’t pretend like you care about what
happens to Nathan. You washed your hands
of him when we sent him back to prison in Paris.”
“He also happens to be the star of
my movie. I don’t exactly want to have
to stop production when he winds up skewered like Jack was.” He looked at the detective. “What are you doing to protect the
“Since last night we’ve got men
watching them at all times,” Rodriguez explained.
“We’re also trying to figure out
what the killer might have planned next,” he went on. “Based on the photographs he’s left, he’s
either aiming for Lola, Victor or your uncle.”
James looked at a whiteboard across
the room with the names of the two deceased victims scribbled on it. A line separated the remaining three people
who had been targeted unsuccessfully. He
studied each name carefully, searching his mind for a reason why they
were being systematically killed.
you think someone has some kind of grudge against them for some reason?"
“And using their past mistakes to
taunt them?” Jordan added.
James shrugged. “It looks that way.”
“Well who could it be?” Rodriguez
James shook his head. “I still think we’re overlooking
something. Someone who’s been at the
studio since the beginning.” He searched
his memory, recalling everyone who was still employed with Sunset Studios. There was Suzette in wardrobe, Lenny in
makeup, Denise in archives. “That’s
“What?” Jordan asked.
“Denise Syswicki,” James said. “She’s worked at the studio forever. Jonas hired her
when he decided she wasn't right for appearing in front
of the camera."
Rodriguez looked at him and then at
Jordan. “Sounds like she might have some
buried feelings of resentment.”
“She was at Moonshadows last night
after Jack was killed,” Jordan said.
“Denise wouldn’t do something like
this,” James insisted. “She’s worked for
the studio for years.”
“But what do you know about her
outside of the studio?” Rodriguez asked.
James couldn’t answer him. He swallowed hard, wondering if maybe Denise
was harboring some kind of deep resentment over something.
“I say we pay Miss Syswicki a
visit,” Rodriguez announced.
In the waiting room at the hospital,
Kyle watched as news of Jack Childers murder, coupled with the closing of
Moonshadows, dominated the news channels.
“Hollywood was rocked last night by
another murder of one of its A-list stars,” said the reporter who was staked
out just past the entrance to Moonshadows. “In the second vicious murder in less than a
week, authorities are reportedly left baffled by the brutality of the
killings. The latest, renowned actor
Jack Childers, was apparently stabbed to death during a costume gala held here
at the Moonshadows hotel and resort.
Police aren’t saying if this latest murder is connected to Elana
Hendricks, who was found strangled to death in a darkened set where she starred
in the daytime soap opera, The Young at
Heart, but sources close to the investigation claim the killer leaves a
photograph with each victim. The murder
coincided with Moonshadows being shuddered due to reports of arsenic being
found in the water supply. No word yet
on when the popular resort will reopen.”
Frustrated, Kyle turned off the
television and spun around angrily.
“This is a nightmare,” he said to the EPA agent who stood by. “Look, you’ve got to do something. Every day that Moonshadows is closed we lose
money. Not to mention the hundreds of
employees who aren’t getting paid.”
“There’s nothing we can do until we
find the source of the arsenic,” the agent told him.
“Well when will that be?”
He shrugged. “There’s no way to tell. It could be days, weeks, or months.”
“Months?” Kyle exclaimed. “You can’t close us down for months. We’ll lose the place if that happens.”
“We’re taking this very seriously,
Mr. Fenwick,” the agent claimed. “It’s
not safe for anyone to be anywhere near that resort right now.”
“So what are we supposed to do in
“There’s nothing you can do but
wait,” Randolph replied before turning and walking away.
Kyle sighed with aggravation. He turned just as a young Latin American
woman entered the waiting room. Her
eyes were glossy and she wore no makeup.
Immediately, she moved toward him.
“Are you Kyle Fenwick?” she asked.
“Yes. Do I know you?”
She pulled her purse tight over her
shoulder. “They told me I could find you
in here,” she began. “I’m Jessica De La
Cruz. My father was Marco De La
Cruz. I believe he was staying at your
Kyle looked down and nodded in
despair. “Yes, he was. Miss De La Cruz, I’m so sorry about your
father. I spent some time with him while
he was here in the hospital. He was a
very kind man.”
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” she
“I thought he didn’t have any family,”
She looked away. “We fell out of touch over the last few
years. We didn’t agree on much.” She ran a hand over her stomach. “I found out I was pregnant and I decided to
reach out to him. But by then it was too
“I’m so sorry. I’m sure he would have loved to know his
“What happened?” the young woman
asked. “The doctors said he was
poisoned. I don’t understand. Who would want to hurt my father?”
Kyle shook his head. “It was
unintentional. Arsenic was found in the
water supply at the resort. We’re not
sure how it got there. It’s what got
your father sick.”
“How could that happen?” she
demanded. “How could you let that happen?”
Her outburst surprised him. “Like I said, it was unintentional. We were just as shocked when they found the
arsenic as anyone was.”
“But you should have known something
was wrong!” she exclaimed. “If you were
running the place you should have known!
Now my father is dead because you let this happen!”
Kyle closed his eyes. “I didn’t let it happen,” he said. “It was an accident. Other people got sick too. I-“
“So that makes it better? It’s okay that my father died because other
people got sick but didn’t die?”
“I didn’t mean that,” Kyle
said. “I’m sorry. If I could have fixed this I would
“My father is dead because of your
negligence,” the woman said, backing up to the door. “How can you sleep at night?”
Before he could reply, she was
flying out of the room in tears. Kyle
barely had a chance to compose himself when Mackenzie entered. He groaned and turned away from her.
“As you can see, Mackenzie, I’ve got
my hands full, so if you don’t mind-“
She ignored him as she walked into
the room. “What is going on between
Mason and your contractor?”
Kyle frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean I’ve seen them together on
more than one occasion.”
“So what? Mason lived at the resort and Chip worked
there. What’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is that Mason doesn’t
do anything without there being a good goddamn reason,” Mackenzie told
him. “He’s up to something, Kyle, and if
I didn’t know any better, I’d say you
were in on it.”
“I don’t have time for this,” he
said. “Look, just keep your theories to
yourself and worry about your own life.
I’ve got my own problems to take care of.”
She shook her head with frustration
as he stalked out of the room. Maybe
Kyle didn’t know what was going on, but Mason did, and she was determined to
Michael jumped onto the side of the
hospital bed, thrusting the rock he’d found in the garden at Brooke with
“Look what Miranda and I found
yesterday in the garden!” he exclaimed.
“It’s a moon rock!”
“Look at that,” Brooke said weakly
as she ruffled his hair with her hand.
“That’s very cool, honey.”
“I’m taking it to school tomorrow to
show Adam,” the little boy declared.
Brooke sighed with resignation. She’d hoped that in the two days she’d been
in the hospital things might have gotten better with her son and his imaginary
friend. It seemed her absence, however,
had only cemented his need for him.
“Careful, buddy,” Ethan said. “Mommy’s still not feeling very good. Come down off the bed.”
“It’s okay,” Brooke said and curled
her arm around her son. “I missed this
little guy. Tell me what else you’ve
been up to.”
“Nothing. Just waiting to go back to school. I hate the weekends. I don’t get to play with Adam.”
Brooke frowned. “Adam doesn’t play with you at home
He shook his head. “No.
Only when I’m at school. He says
you and Daddy don’t like him so that’s why he doesn’t come to our house.”
Brooke looked at Ethan and then
managed a smile. “It’s not that we don’t
like Adam, sweetheart. We just want you
to have a lot of friends. And if you are
sad or upset about something, we want you to tell us.”
Michael nodded while looking at the
rock. “Mommy, when are you coming
“Soon,” she said. She did feel much better than she had in
days. Whatever medication they were giving
her to counteract the arsenic was apparently working. She only wished they’d been able to help Mr.
De La Cruz before it was too late.
“Go out and wait in the hallway,”
Ethan said and helped Michael down from the bed. “Daddy’s got to talk to Mommy for a few
“Okay, bye Mommy! I love you!”
“Love you too!” Brooke called after
him. When he’d gone, she lay back
against the pillows and sighed. “I hate
what this is all doing to him. I think I
need to take him to see Dr. Podany again. I think it’s time we tell him that we’re not
going to be getting back together.”
Ethan remained tight lipped.
“I just don’t want him to keep
holding on to the hope that we’re going to be a family again," she went
on. "You can see what it’s doing to him.”
“Sure,” he said meekly. “So are you feeling okay? You had us pretty scared.”
“I’m better,” she told him. “Has anyone else gotten sick?”
“Not so far,” Ethan replied. “Kyle’s dealing with the EPA. They still don’t know when Moonshadows will
be able to reopen.”
She hung her face in her hands. “How is this happening?”
“The good news is the people who
were threatening lawsuits were checked out and didn’t have arsenic poisoning,”
he said, filling her in.
“That’s a relief,” Brooke said and
ran her fingers through her hair. She
looked at him and noted the sadness in his eyes. “Are you okay? You seem kind of….I don’t know…down.”
“It’s just hard hearing you say that
you want to tell Michael his parents aren’t getting back together. It just seems very final, that’s all. I thought that-“
He shook his head. He
refused to second guess their decisions. He was
moving on. “You’re with Kyle now. It doesn’t matter.”
Stormy had done everything he could
to stall telling any of the cast and crew of The Benefactor that they might have to stop production. But rather than succumb to Deacon Edgewater’s
threats, he decided to go about business as usual.
The necessary cast was gathered on
the set for the control tower. Among
them was Cecily Davidson, who was being coached by Keaton before she stepped in
front of the camera. Stormy and Brett
were on opposite sides of the set, ensuring the cinematographer and lighting
assistants were prepared for the scene, which they’d moved up a day early as a
result of the setback the night before.
During a break just before cameras
rolled, Cecily made her way to the craft services table and picked at a bag of
popcorn. From behind, Van Edgewater
appeared and pulled her off to the side.
“Van,” she said with surprise,
noting the black eye he was sporting.
“What happened to you? What are
you doing here?”
“Why did you tell Magnum about us?”
“About the night we spent together a
few years ago. He showed up at my door
this morning and sucker punched me!”
“I didn’t tell Magnum anything!”
Cecily exclaimed. “Why would I? That was forever ago. He and I weren’t even together then. Why would he care?”
“Because you were underage when it
happened,” he confirmed. “Jesus, do you
have any idea what this could do to my medical career?”
Just then, two police officers
appeared on set, followed by the Sunset Studios security team. They pointed across the room to Van and
“Van Edgewater?” one of the officers
“Yeah?” He swallowed hard.
“We have a warrant for your arrest.” The officer turned him around and placed a
pair of handcuffs behind his back.
“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
“Wait a minute,” he argued. “Under arrest for what?”
“Coercion of a minor child,” they
announced as a crowd gathered. “You have
a right to an attorney. If you cannot
afford one, one will be appointed for you.”
“This is bullshit!” Van exclaimed, struggling
in their grasp as they pulled him out of the room.
Brett watched the events unfold,
surprised that his plan was working as well as he’d anticipated. He knew that by telling Magnum what happened,
it would eventually wind up in his favor.
“What’s going on?” James asked when
he arrived on set with Detective Rodriguez.
“Stormy? Brett? Answer me.
Was that Deacon Edgewater’s son?”
Brett shrugged innocently. “I don’t know, James. He just showed up and started hassling
Cecily, and that’s when the police showed up and arrested him.”
Stormy looked at Brett and whispered
inconspicuously. “Deacon Edgewater’s
son?” he asked. “What did you do,
“What makes you think I had anything
to do with this?” he asked.
“Because the man is suing us,”
Stormy told him. “And yesterday you said
you would take care of it. Now all the
sudden the man’s son is arrested for statutory rape? With one of the actresses
in our film, no less.”
Brett shrugged. “Coincidence?”
He regarded him warily and turned
back to his father. “We were just about
to shoot scene forty-five,” he explained.
“We’re trying to make up for the time we lost yesterday.”
James looked at them,
unconvinced. “Are you sure that’s all
that’s going on?”
“Absolutely,” Stormy said.
Before James could say anything, Denise
walked onto the set. “James, I was told
you wanted to see me.” She looked at the
detective and shifted uncomfortably. “Is
there a problem?”
“We’re not sure,” he said. “Denise, would you please come with us?”
She followed them through the
set. Stormy ran after them and pulled
his father back. “Dad? What’s going on with Denise?”
“It’s nothing, son. Just get back to the scene and we’ll talk
“You know, I ran into Denise the
other day in the screening room at the studio,” Stormy went on. “She seemed very upset about something.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. But she kept talking about how she’d been
stuck down in the archives for her whole life and how Jonas had passed her up
on a few roles she auditioned for. I
think she’s going through a rough time.
Whatever this is about, you should go easy on her.”
James placed a hand on his
shoulder. “Don’t worry, son. I’ll take care of it.”
Outside, Denise lit a cigarette and
blew a stream of smoke into the air as James and Detective Rodriguez studied
her facial expressions.
“So what’s this all about?” she
asked. “Don’t tell me I’ve been accused
of stealing office supplies.”
“Denise, what were you doing at
Moonshadows last night?” James asked her.
She shrugged. “It’s a public place. Do I need a reason?”
“You do when it became a crime
scene,” Rodriguez informed her. “We have
witnesses who claim they saw you just after Jack Childers murder, but no one
can place you before.”
“I didn’t get there until after,”
she told them. “I parked my car, walked
up to the hotel and that’s when I saw Jordan Rydell being arrested.”
“What did you go to the hotel for?”
the detective asked.
She hesitated before answering. “To have a drink.”
“So it wasn’t you who stashed the
Halloween costume and bloody dagger in the bushes?” he went on.
“That’s enough, Rodriguez,” James
ordered. “She’s not on trial. We’re just trying to get to the bottom of
what’s going on.”
“What’s going on is that you think I’m
killing the stars of Sunset Studios,” Denise said, gesturing with her
cigarette. “Isn’t that right?”
James took a breath. “Denise, we just-“
“Let me tell you something, James,”
she went on. “There’s no one who knows
more than I do about the stars that have worked for your studio. I’m the authority. Everyone’s come to me at one time or another
“The killer has left a photograph at
each crime scene,” Rodriguez said. “No
one has access the way you do.”
“Except for just about anyone in
this town,” she scoffed.
“We know about the roles you
auditioned for,” James said. “I know
it’s got to hurt being overlooked for other actors.”
She regarded him carefully. “What hurts is spending your whole life
working for someone only to have my motives questioned. I don’t have to put up with this. I quit.”
“Denise, please-“ James began. “I’m not questioning your motives. I just want to know if you’ve done anything
that you might regret.”
After a few moments of silence, she
stubbed out her cigarette on the ground.
“The only thing I regret is spending my life working for people like you
and Jonas Lamont. I’m out of here.”
“We still have more questions for
you,” the detective said.
“Am I under arrest?” Denise asked.
He shook his head. “No.”
“Then if you’ll excuse me, I have to
get my things.” She flashed James a look
of anger. “I assume you’ll want to have
security escort me so I don’t steal anything.
Just don’t keep me waiting.
Contrary to what you might think, I do have a life.”
She stormed off, leaving James to
wonder if they were wrong in suspecting her of the murders. On the surface she seemed like nothing more
than a bitter woman with a lot of regrets.
Inside the studio, Nathan arrived
and went directly to Keaton who was assisting the lighting techs with setting
up the shot.
“Keaton, a word?” he asked.
“Of course, Mr. Blackthorne,” he
said and followed him to the side of the stage.
“I want to know why your glasses
were found in that store room with the killer’s photographs and the empty bag
from his costume.”
“What?” Keaton asked. “I don’t understand.”
“Come on, I’m an actor,” Nathan
said. “My senses are heightened. I know when someone is lying. First the pictures. You said you got them for a scrapbook. Now your glasses are found where the killer
waited to make his move? It’s you, isn’t
it? You’re the one who’s been doing this
Keaton shook his head. “No, I’m not,” he said. “I swear to you. Nathan, I worship you. I have for my entire life. I would never hurt you.”
“Then what were you doing in that
He fidgeted anxiously. “I was…I was….”
“What? Spit it out.”
“I was with a girl,” he said. “We had sex in that store room. The one with the Vulcan ears. The one Victor said I wasn’t interested
in. I took my glasses off and I guess I
Nathan frowned. “You suddenly don’t
“I never did,” Keaton admitted. “I only wear them because I don’t want people
to know the real me.”
Regarding him suspiciously, Nathan
folded his arms. “Who is the real you?” he asked. “Something tells me you’re not the awkward
nerd that you claim to be. The Keaton I
know wouldn’t slip off to a storage closet and have his way with a Vulcan. What are you trying to hide?”
“Nothing,” he said after a moment of
hesitation. “I’m not hiding anything, I
“You just told me you don’t want
people to know the real you. So who are
you? Where did you come from? Who is your family?”
Keaton looked away. “They’re nobody,” he said.
“What about your parents?”
“They’re dead,” he said
quickly. “Look, I’m just trying to make
it on my own. It’s not that uncommon for
directors to struggle with their identity.
Scorsese, Hitchcock, they’re all conflicted.”
“I’m watching you,” Nathan
said. “A very dear friend of mine was
murdered last night and I intend to find out who did it. Now is the time for you to tell me if you
“I don’t,” Keaton said. “I swear to you."
Nathan locked eyes with him as he
backed up and made his way across the set.
Keaton let out a sigh of relief, wiping his brow with his sleeve as he
called to the actors.
“Okay, let’s take our places. We’ve got a scene to shoot.”
On his way back to his office,
Brett’s phone rang. He plucked it from
his pocket and answered quickly.
“Armstrong, it’s Deacon.”
Brett raised an eyebrow, steering
with one hand through the back lot of the studio. “Deacon, how are you?”
“Not good,” he answered. “I need to get to
a meeting. Van’s got himself in trouble again and I
don’t think I’ll be able to get him out of it this time.”
Smiling, Brett stopped his car. That didn’t take long, he thought to
himself. “Just hold on,” he said with as
much conviction as he could muster.
“I’ll be right there. We’ll get
through this, Deacon. That’s what fellow
recovering addicts are for, remember?”
“I don’t know how long I can keep
from taking a drink,” Deacon told him.
“I’ve got a full bottle of vodka and a glass. I’ve been sitting here staring at it for the
“I’ll be there right away,” Brett
said. “Can you hold on until I get
“I’ll try,” he said weakly.
“Be there in a flash,” Brett said
and clicked off the phone. He nestled back in his seat, grinning mischievously
as his plan progressed faster than he’d ever imagined. He
called Violet's nanny at the condo while pulling back
out onto the access road.
it's Brett. Just thought I'd see if my little
girl was up from her nap yet. I have a couple
hours to kill and thought I'd stop by and see her beautiful
“You’re thinking about Mr. De La
Cruz’s daughter, aren’t you?” Brooke asked as Kyle sat next to her in her
hospital room. “Don’t beat yourself up
over what she said. There’s no way we
could have known about the arsenic.”
“I know, I just feel so bad for
her,” he replied. “Her child is never
going to know his or her grandfather.”
Brooke clasped her hand around
his. “Kind of like how you never knew
your parents?” she asked, realizing he was talking about his own situation as
much as he was talking about Jessica. “I
know it’s got to be hard, Kyle. You were
adopted at such a young age.”
He shook his head dismissively. “I’m not trying to compare the situations,”
he said. “I guess I’m also just thinking about what Marilee said to me
earlier. She’s still so crushed over
what I did to her.”
“You were a different person then,”
Brooke said. “Marilee can’t hold this
grudge against you forever.”
“She still has a son out there that
she gave up,” he said. “It’s got to be
“You can’t blame yourself about
Marilee any more than you can about Mr. De La Cruz. His death was tragic, but it wasn’t our
Kyle sighed, realizing she was
right. It still didn’t make it any
easier. The look on the woman’s face was
hard to get out of his mind.
“I heard you talking at the hospital
earlier,” Mason said after the woman slid into the booth across from him. “I’m so sorry to hear about your
Jessica De La Cruz smiled weakly as
the waitress brought her a glass of water.
“Then you probably heard me blaming that man from Moonshadows for his
death,” she said. “I was angry. My father’s passing is still such a shock to
“You have every right to be angry,”
Mason told her. “That’s why I asked you
to meet me here. I think you might have
a case against the owners of Moonshadows.”
“Are you a lawyer?”
He shook his head. “No, but I’ve consulted for legal firms and I
know an open and shut case when I hear about one. You might want to think about
seeing a lawyer and finding out what your options are.”
“My options?” she asked
“There are laws protecting people
like you,” he explained. “I know nothing
can bring your father back, but you’re entitled to money that in some way tries
to make up for your pain and suffering.”
Jessica shook her head. “I wouldn’t feel right about profiting from
my father’s death.”
“Of course not,” Mason said, then
quickly went about things another way.
“When are you due?”
“January,” she replied, smiling down
at her stomach. “I was hoping my father
and I could mend fences so he could be a part of my baby’s life. He won’t have any male influences.”
“Where's the father?”
“He left,” she said somberly. “I guess it’s just going to be me and this
Mason shrugged. “All the more reason why a settlement could
help. It’s got to be difficult with
medical bills. Not to mention how much a
baby costs once it’s born. Did you
father have life insurance?"
“I don’t know,” she said. “Like I said, we haven’t been in touch for a
“Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t
have to worry about money?” Mason asked.
“You should call a lawyer. A
wrongful death suit can be very profitable.
We’re talking millions.”
“Millions?” Jessica asked, wide
Mason smiled, sipping his drink as
he watched her mind change before his eyes.
A lawsuit this size would surely drive Moonshadows to bankruptcy. And once that happened, he would swoop in and
buy it so he could finally get the oil sitting beneath it.
When Brett finally showed up at
Deacon Edgewater’s house in the Hollywood Hills, it was dark outside. He’d waited two hours before showing up,
hoping it had been enough time for the inevitable to happen.
When he arrived, he rang the bell
repeatedly. No one answered so he pushed
the door open and proceeded into the sitting area, dark except for a single
lamp beside the sofa.
“Hello?” he called out. “Deacon?
It’s Brett Armstrong.”
Light suddenly came from
overhead. He turned his head and saw
Deacon enter the room, staggering on his feet and a half-bottle of vodka
clutched in his hand. He was drunk out
of his mind.
“You were coming right over,” the
man said, walking from the light switch and stumbling across the room. “I waited for you but you never showed.”
Brett watched him in bewilderment. “I’m sorry. My car broke down. Deacon, are you drinking? I
thought we were going to a meeting.”
“Fuck the damn meeting,” he said,
his speech slurred. “What’s a meeting
gonna do? Is it gonna get my son out of
trouble again? Is it gonna save my job
at the studio?”
“Come sit down,” Brett said and led
him to the sofa. “I’m going to get you
“I don’t want any coffee,” Deacon
argued belligerently. “I want to drink
until I can’t see straight.” He lifted
the bottle to his lips and took a drink.
“Please, don’t,” Brett said and took
the bottle from him. He needed him
drunk, not passed out “What do you mean
your job at the studio is in jeopardy?
He hiccupped. “Just haven’t been pulling in the audiences
like I used to. The board said if I
produced one more flop I’d be out. Hell,
if they knew I was drinking again they’d fire me on the spot.”
“All the more reason to sober you
up,” Brett said. “Speaking of the
studio, do they know about the lawsuit against Sunset Studios?”
He shook his head. “That was my ace in the hole,” he said. “I saw what a buzz The Benefactor was making around town and so I decided it was the
only thing that could save me. I’d
almost forgotten that we’d bought the rights.”
“Thank goodness you agreed to drop
the suit,” Brett said, finally ready to play his cards.
“Drop it?” Deacon asked. “Why would I want to do that?”
“You said the bad publicity the
movie was generating because of the murders would hurt your career even more,” Brett lied. “Don’t you remember?”
Deacon struggled to clear his blurry
eyes. “No,” he said. “I don’t…wait….maybe I do.”
“You were going to call your lawyer
and tell him to drop the suit,” Brett said, grabbing the cordless phone from
the sofa table. “We had this whole
discussion about it after our AA meeting."
Brett shook his head with mock sympathy. “I guess you really have fallen off the wagon,” he said. “I hope the board doesn’t find out. I’d hate for you to get fired and leave them
with a nasty lawsuit that they probably don’t even care about.”
“I don’t want to lose my job.”
“Then you should call your lawyer,”
Brett said and handed him the phone. “Do
it for your career, Deacon. Do it for
Confused, he took the phone from him
and started to dial. “I’m so tired,” he
said, his eyes droopy as he slowly began to lean back. “Need to sleep. I can’t believe I started drinking
again. I’m a
“You can sleep after you make that
call,” Brett said, propping him back up and instructing him to dial. “Go ahead.
It’ll just take a minute. Say John, I’m dropping the lawsuit.”
Deacon finished dialing and started
to doze off as he waited. When his
attorney came on the line, he sat up quickly.
“John, it’s Deacon. I’m dropping
the lawsuit against Sunset Studios.”
Brett sighed with relief. Who knew that getting one man as powerful as
Deacon Edgewater to fall off the wagon would be so easy?
James and Nathan made their way
through the back lot at Sunset Studios as they discussed the events of the past
“I know how close you were to Jack,”
James was saying. “I’m sorry about what
happened, Nathan. I can only imagine how
“I’ll worry about how I’m feeling
after they catch this maniac,” Nathan told his nephew. “Victor and I have decided to start our own
investigation into the murders. He’s on
his way to convince Eddie to take on the case as we speak.”
“You don’t want to wait and see what
the police uncover?”
“You know how I feel about the
police,” Nathan said with a grin.
“Besides, I think it would do their relationship some good. Fathers and sons shouldn’t be
James dug his hands in his pockets
as they stopped near a group of stage hands who were moving equipment from one
stage to another.
“There seems to be a lot of that in
our own family,” James said thoughtfully.
“Ethan and his father, me and my
“Me and my daughter,” Nathan said, a
hint of sadness on his face as he looked away.
“Despite everything I may or may not have done, I regret every day I
didn’t get to spend with Sierra.”
James didn’t know how to feel about
the subject. There were differing takes
on what transpired on Victor’s yacht that night three years ago. Part of him didn’t want to believe that his
uncle would have done the things people accused him of where Sierra was
By the time he had broken from the
intense line of thinking, Nathan had moved ahead and was continuing through the
back lot. James paused, waiting a beat
to consider his thoughts before going after him.
“Nathan, wait,” he called.
But as he moved toward him, he heard
the sound of metal scraping against metal.
He saw the sparks from above as the crane toppled to the ground, camera
equipment shattering in hundreds of tiny pieces. He saw the crane falling toward Nathan,
dropping to the ground at lightning speed.
Quickly, James ran toward him, intent on stopping the equipment from
crushing his uncle to death.
After he got Violet to sleep, Brett poured himself a celebratory glass
of scotch and paced the living room of his condo at the marina. He had to give himself credit where credit
was due. He’d succeeded in saving the
film from certain disaster, and undoubtedly cemented his position in the
studio. Not even Stormy could refute
A knock at the door alerted him to a
visitor. Checking his watch to confirm
the late hour, he walked across the room and peered through the peep hole. To his surprise, it was Stormy.
“Come to congratulate me?” he asked
after opening the door, a smug expression on his face.
“Congratulate you?” Stormy asked
incredulously. “You’ve got to be kidding
“I got Edgewater to drop the
lawsuit,” Brett told him. “You can’t
possibly find a problem with that, junior.
I said I’d handle it and I did.”
Stormy walked inside as Brett closed
the door behind him. “Obviously you
haven’t heard,” he said.
“Heard what?” Brett asked as if waiting for the punch line
of some bad joke.
“Deacon Edgewater killed himself an
hour ago,” Stormy explained. “His
housekeeper walked in and found him with a pistol in his mouth."
Brett stood, paralyzed by the
news. Suddenly his victory came with
consequences that he had in no way been prepared for.
the murders but Miranda proves to be a distraction.
Stormy plans a romantic evening with Jane. Alex
reflects over Deacon Edgewater's suicide. Brett
struggled with guilt.
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