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Episode 35

 

Release Date:  August 18, 2006

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

Detective Baines questioned Gwen about Michael's kidnapping.  Stormy thought Gwen was hiding something when he saw her suitcases packed in her room. Brett destroyed a note that Gwen had planned on leaving for James, revealing every dirty deed he'd been up to.  Miranda grew despondent and locked herself in her room, refusing to say anything to anyone about Michael's disappearance. Brooke grew upset when James had the police looking for Philip in connection with the kidnapping.  Alex questioned Jordan as to where he'd been after spending all night out with no alibi.  Heather saw a picture of Philip in the paper and remembered him as one of the men who had sex with her in the sex video Armitage had directed. Brett received the report the detective did on Gwen's past, which revealed that she'd been in prison in Paraguay for kidnapping and attempted murder.  

 


 

Episode 35

"Paternal Rights"

 

James and Stormy arrived at the rundown office building in downtown Hollywood.  A squad car carrying two uniformed officers and Detective Baines pulled up directly behind them.   When they got out, James approached Baines and held his hand up insistently.

“Let me go in first,” he said.  “I want to talk to this Joel Armitage myself.”

Baines shook his head reluctantly.  “I don’t know,” he said.  “I don’t this like.  I’d feel better if I went in there with you.”

“Listen, we can handle it, okay?” Stormy said defiantly.   “If he sees cops coming in he might get scared and refuse to talk.”

Reluctantly, Baines agreed and held the officers back while James and Stormy proceeded inside the building.  Once inside, they entered an empty reception area, the smell of scorched coffee and stale cigarettes pungent in the air.

“Hello?” James called out as they wandered through the offices.   “Anybody here?”

Moments later, Joel emerged from the back room and stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of the unwelcome visitors.  “Can I help you?”

James stepped forward and dug his hands into his pockets.  “Are you Joel Armitage?” he asked.

He nodded.  “Yeah.  Who are you?  The cops?  Look, I’m just trying to make a living.  I have a family at home to support.”  He held up a framed picture of his family, his wife holding their newborn in her arms.

James ignored his plea, disregarding the picture while Stormy curiously inspected several one-sheets that hung on the walls of the outer office.  “I’m looking for someone,” he said.  “I heard you might know where I can find him.”

Joel shrugged and sat down at a desk.  “Well if you’re looking for an actor then you’ve come to the right place,” he said, pulling out several thick binders of resumes and headshots.  “I’ve got just about every type you can think of.  Black, white, Latino, gay, uncut – you name it.”

James shook his head in confusion.  He was beginning to understand what kind of film studio this scum was running.  He looked over to Stormy who gestured to a poster of a film called Power Tools.  It didn’t surprise him that Brooke’s ex-husband was involved in the porn industry.  That appeared to be the only thing he could do with his miserable life.

“I’m looking for Philip Whitacre,” James said, dismissing the director’s efforts to show him a stack of photos.

Joel hesitated and shook his head.  “I don’t recognize that name,” he said.  “Of course a lot of our actors use stage names.”

Stormy handed over the newspaper with Philip’s picture in it then took his place by his father’s side.

“Oh yeah,” Joel said, recalling Philip immediately. “He goes by Biff Majors.  I used him in a shot the other day.”  Then just as quickly he tensed up, growing nervous and fidgeting with photos on his desk.  “Listen, if this is about that girl…I was told that it was legit.  The guy who hired me gave me a consent for with her signature on it.”

“What girl?” James asked with a frown.

Stormy flew into a panic, wondering if he was referring to Heather.  He still didn’t know how she came to know where to find Philip, or how she knew about Joel Armitage.  It didn’t add up, and he had a bad feeling that she’d gotten herself mixed up in something awful.

“This actress I shot a scene with last night,” Joel continued.  “Biff was one of the actors in the scene with her.”

“How did you meet Philip?” James asked, then quickly corrected himself.  “Biff, I mean.”

Joel shrugged.  “I was out at a bar in the Valley a few weeks ago.  The usual hangout.  Lots of actors come in there looking for work.  They know what they’re after and they know it pays well.  So I meet this guy – your friend Philip.  Thought he had the right look and he said he needed some money and a place to live.  I brought him back here and had him do a screen test.”  He laughed and shrugged in spite of himself.  “Not that there’s much to a screen test in this business, you know.  Just a matter of taking a look at the goods if you know what I mean.”

James dismissed the remark with a wave of his hand.  “Yeah, yeah, yeah.  What next?”

“Well, he had the body and the merchandise so I told him I’d get him something right away,” Joel continued.  “Lots of demand for that type.  Anyway, a couple days later I got a call about a film some guy was producing.  I gave Biff a call and he made a cool grand.”

“Where is he now?” Stormy demanded.

Joel looked at them skeptically, wondering if they were cops.  He still wondered if it had anything to do with the girl from last night.  Slipping her the GHB was extreme, even for him, but those were his orders and he was paid well for it.

“Answer the question!” James shouted angrily.

“Van Nuys,” Joel replied without further hesitation.  He didn’t want to get involved in a dispute over an actor.  Whoever the guy was, Philip or Biff or whatever he called himself, he wasn’t worth getting beaten up over.  “He rented a studio apartment off Van Nuys Boulevard next to the Michelin store.  Top floor.  Apartment 5B.”

In a flash, James and Stormy were darting back outside to their car.  James called over to Detective Baines and gave him the address of where they were going.  Within seconds, both cars were speeding off into the distance toward the San Fernando Valley, dust from the gravel lot swirling up into the air.

Blackthorne Mansion

Alex pounded on the door of the Blackthorne mansion and waited impatiently until a uniformed police officer opened it and stood authoritatively before her. 

“I want to see James,” she announced and attempted to brush her way past him.

“No one is permitted inside the house,” the officer said and blocked her from entering.

Gasping at his insulting tone, Alex placed her hands firmly on her hips and narrowed her eyes firmly on him.  “How dare you,” she spat.  “My children live in this house and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you stop me from seeing them.”

“I’ve got my orders,” said the officer.  “Now please turn and vacate the property.”

Prepared for battle, Alex opened her mouth to respond when Brooke came down the stairs and called after the officer.  “It’s okay,” she said.  “Miss Reynolds can come in.”

The officer stood aside and let Alex enter the house.  She traipsed through the foyer and started for the staircase when Brooke stepped in front of her to block her path.  “What do you think you’re doing?” she asked.

“I want to see my children,” she said defiantly.  “Would you please move out of my way?”

Brooke shook her head in irritation.  She saw right through Alex’s charade.  “You’re not here to see your children.  You’re here to gloat.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Alex said with a laugh as she touched her diamond necklace with the tips of her fingers.  “I happen to be very upset about what’s happened.  Is there anything wrong with me wanting to spend some time with my children?  To reflect on my bond with them as their mother?”

“Don’t make me laugh,” Brooke shock back.  “Besides, your children aren’t here.”

With a shrug, Alex turned and started down the hall to the study.  “Fine.  Then I’ll just give James my support to let him know that I’m thinking about him.”

“He isn’t here either,” Brooke said and dashed over to block her way.

“Where is he?” she demanded.  “Do they have any leads on who took the baby?”

Brooke contemplated whether she should tell Alex the truth or not.  She didn’t feel that she had a right to know, but seeing as how she and James did have children together it didn’t seem right to lie to her. 

“James and Stormy went with Detective Baines to find Philip Whitacre,” she finally announced with some regret.

“Philip?” Alex asked in shock.  “They think Philip took the baby?”

Brooke nodded.  “Obviously you haven’t seen the paper today.”

Taking a moment to register the information, Alex thought about her brief history with Philip.  Never did she think it would end up like this.  “Well I guess James has you to thank for this then,” she said spitefully.

“I beg your pardon?”

“If you had gotten legally divorced from him in the first place, none of this would have happened,” Alex charged.  “Honestly Brooke, the pain you’ve caused this family since you arrived is unbelievable.”

Desperately trying to refrain from doing something she’d regret, Brooke clenched her fists and took a deep, cleansing breath.  “You have some room to talk,” she said.  You were the one who brought Philip here in the first place.  If it wasn’t for your meddling and wanting to break James and I up he would have never come into our lives!”

“Then you’d still be married to him, and that child of yours would be a bastard,” Alex said.

Brooke heatedly raised her hand and struck Alex across the face.  Her breathing heavy and her chest heaving, she stepped back and ran back up the stairs.  How could Alex come there and be so hateful on a day like today?  Her baby had been kidnapped and all she could do was spit her venom.

Jasmes Blackthorne

James and Stormy followed the police officers and Detective Baines down the musty old corridor in an apartment building in Van Nuys.  Stepping lightly so as not to alarm him before they could make their move, the officer in the lead reached out to the door and knocked firmly.

After a few seconds of silence, he knocked again.  Still no answer.  He looked at Detective Baines who gave him the go ahead with a nod of his head.

“Philip Whitacre?” the officer called through the door in an authoritative tone.

Suddenly the sound of commotion from inside erupted and with one swift movement the officer kicked the apartment door down.  He pulled his gun and aimed it directly at Philip who was scurrying to open a window in the back.

“Freeze!” he called, his voice booming through the small interior.

Philip held his hands up in surrender.  He was dressed only in a pair of jeans, his bare chest heaving with panic and his face soaked in a nervous sweat.  Slowly he turned around and came face to face with James who glared at him with contempt.

“Whitacre, you slimy son of a bitch!” he yelled and grabbed him by the arm, forcing him across the room and throwing him down onto the bed.  “Where is my son?  Where is he, damnit?”

Philip looked at him in confusion, trembling with fear as the officer pointed the gun directly at him.  He was disoriented, having just woken up upon hearing the knocking at his door.  “What are you talking about?” he asked.  “What son?”

“You know damn well what son!” James bellowed.  “The son you said should have been yours!  Brooke’s and my baby!  You took him last night!  Now tell me where he is or do I have to beat it out of you!?”

“James, take it easy,” Detective Baines said and stepped forward.  “Mr. Whitacre, where were you last night between the hours of ten o’clock and midnight?”

Philip shrugged and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand.  “I was here,” he said.  “I worked last night and I came home and went to bed.  I don’t know anything about your baby being kidnapped.”  He stood up, his face full of concern.  “Is Brooke okay?  She must be frantic.”

Stormy glared at him and pushed his way forward.  “You’ve got that right,” he said angrily.  “What the hell did you do, Whitacre?”

Baines led Stormy aside and turned his attention back to Philip.  “Did you see anyone last night who could vouch for your whereabouts?” he asked.  “Someone who saw you during the time when the baby was taken from the Blackthornes home?”

Philip shook his head in irritation. “No, I don’t,” he said.  “I told you I came home and went to bed.  What do I need with an alibi, anyway?  Do you see any babies around anywhere?”

“You could have stashed him somewhere until you were ready to get out of town,” James purported.  “I know about the films you’ve been making.  After you’ve got some cash you could take off with my son and be half way around the world.”

“You’re trippin’, man,” Philip said and pushed a long lock of greasy black hair from his eyes.  “What would I want with your baby?  Brooke chose you.  She doesn’t want me.  I get it.”

“That didn’t stop you from kidnapping her,” James said.  “What did you plan to do, Philip?  Keep her locked up forever so she had no choice but to stay with you?”

He shook his head adamantly.  “No!  I was messed up, that’s all.  She took off, went back to you, left me with nothing.  I freaked out.  Then she went into labor and I realized what I’d done.  She understood, man.”

“Well I don’t understand” James yelled and grabbed him forcefully.  “I swear to God I’ll make you sorry for messing with me and my wife.  You should have left town when you had the chance.”  He turned to Baines and nodded.  “I want this pretty boy arrested.”

Philip frowned as the officers took out a pair of handcuffs.  “For what?”

“Kidnapping,” Baines said.

Groaning in frustration, Philip struggled in the cold metal cuffs.  “I told you I didn’t take your damn baby!”

“You’re under arrest for the kidnapping of Brooke Blackthorne,” Baines said as the officers led him outside and read him his rights. 

What?” Philip exclaimed.

Detective Baines turned back to James and Stormy and threw his hands up in frustration.  “I don’t know, James.  It looks like you’re after the wrong guy.  I think he’s telling the truth.  If he did kidnap your baby, where is he?”

James sighed and looked around the tiny one room apartment.  There didn’t appear to be any signs that a baby had ever been there.  It didn’t add up.  He was certain that Philip was the kidnapper.

Stormy folded his arms.  He wasn’t quite ready to give up on Philip as a suspect just yet.  There had to be a way to find out if he had stashed the baby somewhere. 

Brett Armstrong

Brett arrived back at the mansion and found Gwen upstairs in her room.  He walked inside and watched as she rocked back and forth on the edge of her bed, a distant look in her glazed over eyes.

“Gwen,” he began.  “We need to talk.”

She looked up at him and immediately grew agitated.  “What do you want?” she asked.  “Come to steal more of my things?”

He smiled and folded his arms across his chest.  “You mean the letter you wrote to James?” he asked wickedly.  “I thought it was best that I destroy it before it wound up in the wrong hands.”

“You’re making a mistake,” she said.  “I can always tell him to his face what a lying manipulative monster you are.”

Exuding confidence, Brett reached into his jacket and removed the portfolio from Detective Carlyle.  “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said.  “This is a report that a private investigator did on you.  You’ve led quite an interesting life, Gwen.  Mental breakdowns, attempted murder, prison.  I wonder what James and Brooke would think if they knew their nanny was a confirmed mental patient and one-time criminal?”

Flying up off the bed, Gwen raced toward him and snatched the report from his hands.  She read through the contents and closed her eyes with regret.  She knew her past would come back to haunt her eventually.  It seemed it never went away completely.

“I paid my debt to society,” she said and handed it back to him.  “I’ve changed.”

Brett eyed her skeptically and took a step forward.  “Have you really?” he asked with a devilish grin.  “Tell me, Gwen, where did you hide Michael last night after you took him from the nursery?  You know, before we got home from the premiere and found you innocently nestled in bed with a Danielle Steele novel?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Gwen said and turned away from him.

But Brett persisted.  He knew he had her and that he was home free.  “You do know that once they find out about your past you’ll be their number one suspect.   Forgive me, but after losing two babies it’s bound to have an impact on a woman.  Maybe you felt like it was unjust and cruel that each time you got pregnant it ended in tragedy.  That woman in Paraguay that you tried to kill….was it by any chance because she found you trying to run off with her baby?”

Gwen shook her head, trembling from head to toe.  “That’s a lie,” she said.

“It’s right here in the report,” Brett said with a smirk. 

Finally she turned to face him, wiping the tears from her eyes.  “I paid for my crime and I was released,” she said.  “I’m never going back to prison.  Never!”

Brett shrugged indifferently.  “You won’t have to as long as you keep your mouth shut about us.  You don’t tell anyone about the pills, or our affair, or our baby.”  He reached into his jacket and removed another report.  “And in return I’ll give James my edited version of the detectives findings.”

Gwen eyed the phony report and looked at him with fear in her eyes.

My report says that you spent six years working at an orphanage in Paraguay, and that you were an exemplary child care giver,” he said, his voice taunting.  “Which one would you rather I hand over?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Gwen said and walked across the room.  “I didn’t take that baby and no one can prove that I did.  I’ll just explain to Mr. Blackthorne and he’ll understand that I made mistakes in the past, but that’s just what they are – mistakes from the past.”

Brett motioned to her open suitcase on the floor.  “And that’s why you decided to leave town the night that Michael was kidnapped?”

She turned to him and glared with contempt.  “Because you forced me to with your evil ways,” she said, tears in her eyes.

Shrugging, Brett held out the two reports to her.  “Either way, they won’t stand for a criminal working for them,” he said, watching her squirm.  “It’s your choice.”

Gwen shook her head in disbelief and stepped forward.  “If you think I kidnapped Michael and you’re prepared to keep it a secret to save your own skin, then you’re more of a monster than I thought.”

Suddenly Brett’s eyes turned ominous and bore into her with feverish intensity.  “You need to get one thing straight,” he began, his voice dark and loathing.  “I will do whatever I have to do in order to get what I want.  And what I want is to own Sunset Studios one day.  If that baby was still around, guess who would be running it in twenty years?  Not me.  That new Blackthorne heir that everyone’s so crazy about would be in charge.  Not some outsider like me who married into the family.  So don’t misunderstand me, Gwen.  If that baby never comes back again it’ll only pave the way for my success here.”

His words came through loud and clear.  She pointed to the phony report and quickly stepped back from him.  “I won’t say anything,” she said. 

“Good,” Brett replied and walked back out of the room.  Once he left, he leaned against the wall outside in the hallway.  The fact that she didn’t fight him made him realize that she probably was the kidnapper.  If she was innocent, his threats would have meant nothing to her.

Brooke Taylor

When James and Stormy returned home and told Brooke of Philip’s arrest, she became agitated, the waiting for news driving her crazy.  “I don’t understand you!” Brooke cried as she followed James around his study.  “How could you have had him arrested when it was obvious that he didn’t have Michael?”

“Just because Michael wasn’t there with him doesn’t mean he hasn’t done something to him,” James insisted.  “Why are you so willing to defend that man?  He kidnapped you!”

“Yes, but I’m fine.  Now our baby is gone and you’re taking manpower away from finding the real kidnapper!” Brooke lamented.  “James, forget about Philip!”

“I can’t!” James bellowed, angry that his wife was so defensive of the man.  “Do you know where we found him, Brooke?  Starring in x-rated movies!”

The news was unsettling but she didn’t back down.  “So, you can’t judge him for that!” she exclaimed.  “Please just let him go so the police can continue searching!”

Stormy interrupted and hesitantly agreed with Brooke.  “You know, Dad, she may have a point,” he said.  “Besides, if Whitacre is keeping Michael somewhere else, how are we ever going to find him?”

James sighed and rubbed the sides of his aching head.  He realized that his wife and son might be right.  He didn’t like the idea of letting Philip get away with what he did to Brooke, but at least they’d have a chance of finding out what he was really up to.

“All right,” he said and picked up the phone to call Detective Baines.  “I’ll have him released.”

Brooke took a deep breath and sighed with relief.  She knew in her heart that Philip wasn’t a monster.  He couldn’t have kidnapped her baby after everything they’d shared over the summer.

Stormy approached James after he got off the phone, taking him aside and whispering to him in confidence.  “I’m going to trail Whitacre,” he said.  “If he took Michael maybe he’ll lead me to him.”

James nodded, putting an appreciative hand on Stormy’s shoulder.  “Thank you, Son,” he said.  “Do you want me to have Brett go with you?  You might need help.”

“No, I want to do this alone.”

“Be careful,” James said and watched as Stormy fled out of the room and down to the front door.

James walked over to Brooke and pulled her into an embrace.  “I’m sorry, Darling,” he said.  “I just want him back so badly.  This is driving me crazy.  If Whitacre didn’t take him then I don’t know who did.  No one’s called or made any ransom demands.  What the hell are they waiting for?”

Brooke regarded him closely and clasped her hands together as she pondered her thoughts.  “I told you before who I thought it was.”

James shook his head.  “I know you think Gwen took him, but Brooke, that doesn’t make any sense,” he said.  “Where would she have taken him?”

“Well let’s find out!” she exclaimed.  “She was the only one here last night and she didn’t see or hear anything.  Don’t you think that’s strange?  Why don’t we have Detective Baines investigate her?”

The more he thought about it, the more sense it made.  “Stormy did tell me that Gwen was planning on leaving town just after this whole thing happened,” he said.

“You see!” Brooke exclaimed.  “She’s planning on leaving with our baby!”

Just then, Brett entered the study and approached James with the phony investigator’s report he’d doctored up.  “James, I’ve got that report Carlyle did on Gwen,” he said.

“And?” James asked, taking it and leafing through the pages.

“And she’s clean,” he said with a shrug.  “She’s never so much as had a parking ticket in her entire life.  I don’t think we have anything to worry about where she’s concerned.”

James looked up and sighed.  Maybe they were both off base.  Gwen certainly didn’t seem like the type to kidnap a child from her employer.   

“This doesn’t make sense,” Brooke said, taking the portfolio from James and leafing through the sparse contents.  She looked up at them and began sobbing.  “Then why do I have such a bad feeling about her?”

James pulled her into another embrace and tried to comfort her as Brett stood by, watching with a satisfied grin on his face.

Stormy Blackthorne

Stormy drove his Cobra II down Santa Monica Boulevard, keeping an inconspicuous distance from the old beat up Chevy.  He’d followed Philip Whitacre from the police station downtown and he now appeared to be leading him to a seedy part of West Hollywood.

Nearing an intersection, he saw the light turn from green to yellow but Philip proceeded through, so having no choice, Stormy pressed down on the gas pedal and sped past the red light.  Cars honked and people yelled out their windows but he ignored them, intent on keeping up.  He had to tail Philip until he was certain that he wasn’t going to the hidden location where Michael was being kept.  As hurt as Philip was over Brooke’s leaving, there was a good chance he would want take the baby in order to lure him back to him.

Minutes later, he saw the Chevy pull into an old warehouse just off Sunset Strip.  He looked around at the unsavory surroundings and shuddered from the eerie feeling that overcame him.  Where was Whitacre going? he wondered as he parked his car a short distance away, out of view from Philip’s car.

Stormy remained in his car, hidden behind dark sunglasses and a baseball cap as he watched Philip jog up to the big garage doors and phone in through an intercom on the front panel.   Before going inside, Philip looked around the parking lot as if checking to make sure no one was watching.  Immediately, Stormy jumped out of his car and jogged up to the warehouse.

After inspecting the intercom, he realized that the doors were securely locked and couldn’t be opened except from inside, or by a code.  He bit down on his lip and walked around to the side of the building, searching for another way in.

To his relief, there was a small, half-open window several feet up.  It looked large enough for him to climb through, but he’d have to find something to boost himself up.  A quick glance around the area led him to a giant barrel several feet way.  Without hesitation, he struggled to move it across the dirt lot and position it underneath the window.  Lifting himself up, he stood on top of the makeshift stool and peered inside the window.  It was dark and all he could see was rows and rows of racks housing metal film canisters. 

Deciding he should take a closer look, Stormy lifted himself up to the window and crawled through.  Once inside, he lowered himself down and dropped to the floor.  He dusted his hands on his jeans and proceeded into the warehouse.  After a quick glance through the canisters, he realized they were porn films all lined up in rows up and down the length of the building.  It appeared that he was in the production offices of an adult film company.  It matched with what they’d learned about Philip earlier so he scouted around to see where he’d gone.

Up ahead a few yards was a glass wall separating the warehouse from a lounge area, an office, and a few crude movie sets.  He sidled up against the wall and peered through, spotting several cameramen and lighting technicians going about their business.  A few others directed the crew around the set where several half-naked blondes with enormous breasts got touchups on their makeup.

Finally he spotted Philip who was standing naked and getting his body sprayed with oil.  Seconds later, he took his position between the legs of a fiery redhead who was leaning against a desk in the “office scene”. 

Stormy had seen enough.  He turned and started back toward the doors.  It seemed that the only thing Philip had led him to was the set of his next movie.  But what about Michael?  They’d been so sure that he was the kidnapper.  If he was, why wasn’t he going to check on the baby?

Finding a way back outside, he got back into his car and called James to give him an update.  “I don’t know, Dad,” he said.  “There just doesn’t seem to be any reason to think Philip took Michael.”

James sighed and ran his hands through his hair.  “Damnit, he’s the only lead we’ve got,” he said.  “If Philip didn’t take my son then who the hell did?”

“Did Brett hear from the detective about Gwen?” Stormy asked in desperation.

“Yes, and he found nothing.  Well, except for the fact that she worked in an orphanage for six years.”

Stormy pulled off his hat and scratched his head.  “Doesn’t seem like the typical kidnapper, does it?”

“No,” James agreed.  “Listen, Son, why don’t you come home.  There’s nothing more you can do.  The police will be checking up on Whitacre.”

But Stormy wasn’t ready to give up.  “I just want to try one more thing,” he said.  “I’ll see you a little later, Dad.”

After hanging up, he nestled back in his car seat and waited until Philip emerged from the building two hours later.  It was getting late and it had almost been twenty-four hours since Michael was taken.  If Philip was responsible, he’d lead him to him eventually.  He had to.

Again, Stormy followed him in his car, this time all the way back to his apartment in Van Nuys.  After Philip had gone inside, Stormy turned off his lights and watched through the window on the top floor.  All he could see happening was Philip doing pulls up in the doorway and then flexing in front of a mirror. 

He watched and waited, not taking his eyes from the apartment window.

Blackthorne Mansion

Back at the Blackthorne mansion, Brooke sat in a rocking chair in the baby’s nursery and cried silently into his blanket.  She closed her eyes, letting the tears flow as she rocked back and forth methodically. 

The pain was excruciating and she didn’t know how much more she could take.  First she feared she would lose him when she gave birth up in the cabin in the middle of a rainstorm.  But fate was on their side and Michael was born happy and healthy.  She and James were set to start a wonderful life together.  A new family and no worries from the past. 

But now this.  Now their baby was gone and she felt helpless.  Even James, who usually commanded everything to happen according to his wishes, was futile in his efforts to find him.   And if James couldn’t bring their baby back then who could?  Who would save her this time?

Renee DeWitt

Downstairs, Kenny and Renee DeWitt arrived and James instructed the officer on duty to let them pass through.  With one look at his best friend, James crumbled and broke into tears.  Kenny approached, embracing him warmly and patting him firmly on the back.

“We’re so sorry, James,” Kenny said. 

“It’s just awful,” Renee said, dressed elegantly as ever in a flowing black gown covered in a floor length fur.  Even tragedy didn’t stop her from looking like a million bucks.  “What monster could have done this?”

James quickly regained his composure and wiped his eyes.  “Thank you so much for stopping by,” he said.  “You’re both good friends.  It means a lot to Brooke and myself.”

“Is there anything we can do?” Kenny asked as James led them into the parlor.  “Make phone calls?  Hire a private investigator?  You know, Renee’s uncle is one of the best in the business.  He’s still handling cases and he’s seventy years old.”

“He’s a regular Colombo, James,” Renee agreed.  “You just say the word and I’ll call him.”

James shook his head and managed an appreciative smile.  “Thank you but I’ve got some of my best men working on it,” he said.  “The police have been here since last night and Detective Baines is working around the clock.”

“They’ll get him back,” Kenny said with a firm nod of his head.  “I know they will.”

“Kenny, while you’re here, I thought I’d give you those old movie reels you’ve always wanted,” James said.  

“Those old movies in your vault?” Kenny asked with surprise.  “James, I can’t let you do that.”

“Nonsense,” he replied and led them back out into the foyer.  “I always said that I would give them to you when I got out of the business.  Now here I am starting a new venture with Alex.  And you know I’m a man of my word.”

“But you’re not retiring forever,” Kenny insisted.  “James, are you sure?”

James stopped in the doorway that led down to the basement where the screening room and vault were located.  “Kenny, you’ve been a wonderful friend to me over the years in so many ways.  You were there for me when I had my operation, you stuck by me when Brooke left, and you’re here now.  I figure I owe you this.”

They proceeded downstairs and James led them down a corridor to the vault, past the screening room and laundry facilities. 

“These were the first movies I made in film school and your parents were kind enough to let me film at their cottage in Santa Barbara,” James announced as he entered a large room with piles of boxes and rows of film stock.  “I know how much it would mean to you to have them.  That fire in ’82 destroyed most of the buildings on that road if I remember correctly.”

“Mom used to say it was God’s will,” Kenny said with a smile.

Renee waited in the hall for them to emerge from the dark, eerie vault.  She opened her purse and plucked out a compact to examine her flawless appearance.   Suddenly the lights flickered and the basement went dark for several seconds.  A scream escaped from her throat and she stumbled backward, the wall behind her giving out and sending her tumbling to the ground.

“Renee!” Kenny exclaimed and raced over to his wife.  “What the-“

James stood in the hallway, his mouth gaping open in awe at the sight of the hidden doorway.  Renee had leaned against it and it opened inward.  He peered into the darkness of the long corridor that spanned as far as the eyes could see. 

“Renee, are you all right?” Kenny asked as he helped his wife to her feet.

“Does it look like I’m all right?” she asked, dusting herself off and becoming increasingly distraught over the incident.  “Now I’m going to have to take this coat in to be cleaned again.  I’m covered in dust.”

“What is this?” Kenny asked as he gazed inside through the darkness.

James shrugged.  “A passageway,” he replied.  “I never knew it was here.”

Kenny frowned at his friend.  “You’ve lived in this house for how long and you never knew you had a secret doorway?”

“No,” James replied, examining the edges of the door.  “I guess it blended in so well that I never noticed it.”

Kenny inspected the door hinges and frowned.  “It looks like it was sealed closed at one time.”

Renee shrugged, wondering what they were so interested in a door for.  “Well if it was sealed, someone obviously unsealed it,” she said and started down the hall to the stairs.  All she wanted to do was get cleaned up and shed her filthy clothes.

Kenny and James looked at each other and wondered exactly what Renee had uncovered.

Miranda Blackthorne

About an hour later, Miranda parked her car in the front drive and made her way into the mansion.  She rolled her eyes with irritation when the guard stood forward and waved her on.  As if she had to be permitted into her own house. 

“There you are,” Brett said as he came down the stairs.  “It’s almost midnight.  Where the hell have you been all day?”

She shrugged indifferently.   “Didn’t Brooke tell you?  I had some things to do at Hotel Terranova.”

Brett approached her and tried to determine her state of mind.  “That was this morning,” he said.  “You never work this long.  Miranda, what’s going on with you?  You’ve been acting strangely ever since-“

His sentence was cut short as Detective Baines and a uniformed officer emerged from the basement steps.  “Do you know where Mr. Blackthorne is?” he asked.

Brett nodded, wondering what was going on.  “I just saw him in the library.”

Quickly, the detective made his way down the hall and into the library where James and another police officer were engaged in conversation.  Brett and Miranda followed fast on their heels, intent on finding out what was so urgent.

“Mr. Blackthorne, we checked out that passageway,” Baines said.

James looked up quickly.  “And?” he asked.  “Where does it lead to?”

“A lot of different places,” Baines described.  “There are secret passageways that run all over this house.  Upstairs even.  There’s so many doors and twists and turns in there it’s like a maze.  It took us half an hour just to get back to the screening room.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Brett said in amazement.  How could no one have known about the secret passageways after all these years?  It didn’t add up.  He looked at Miranda and shrugged.  “Did you know about these tunnels?”

She barely acknowledged his question, instead turning to the Detective and folding her arms.  “Could you tell if anyone’s been in them lately?”

Detective Baines’ eyes traveled to each of them in succession.  “After investigating, we’re fairly certain the tunnels had been sealed off for a number of years,” he began.  “There was a thick layer of dust covering the floor that was for the most part undisturbed.”

“For the most part?” James asked, puzzled.

“We found footprints,” he explained ominously.  “Some appeared to be relatively fresh.”  He reached into his pocket and removed a plastic evidence bag.  “And we also found this.”

James took the bag from him and examined the contents through the clear plastic.  “A red handkerchief?” he asked. 

Miranda’s eyes shot back and forth between her father and the detective.  She swallowed hard and quickly put her arm around Brett.

“It was in one of the tunnels just outside the nursery,” Baines continued.  “There doesn’t seem to be any traces of dust on it.  I’d say it hasn’t been there very long at all.  A day or two at the most.”

“Do you know whose it is?” Brett asked.

“It has the initials EMB on it,” the detective replied.  “Do any of you have any idea whose initials those might be?"

Brooke had just entered the room, stopping in her tracks and staring at the red handkerchief in James’s hand. 

Ethan's House

Ethan watched the late news broadcast about Michael’s kidnapping, tipping a bottle of water to his lips as he sat bare-chested on his sofa.    He stared at the television in a daze, becoming mesmerized by the constant coverage of the kidnapping.

“No contact has been made by the abductor since the infant was taken from the Blackthorne mansion late last night,” said the news anchor.  “Authorities are not ruling out the possibility of a ransom demand being made.”

After finishing his water, Ethan set the bottle on the coffee table and reached across the sofa where he’d tossed his jacket.    He reached inside the pocket and removed a small plush baby rattle, smiling as he listened to the gentle purr it made when he shook it.

 


 Next time....

Another arrest is made.  Alex suspects Jordan.  Stormy questions Heather about how she knows Philip Whitacre.  Brooke goes to see Ethan.  Miranda has something to hide.  

 

Read Episode 36

 

 


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