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Episode 39

 

Release Date:  September 15, 2006

 Read the episode Recap 

 

Previously...

James and Ethan searched desperately for Winter.  Hidden away in a motel room in the Valley, Winter had a meltdown in front of the mirror while chastising herself in her mother's voice.  Knowing the baby was Ethan's, she renamed him Ethan Jr.  After the police arrived, she grabbed the baby and fled in her car.  A car chase ensued and Ethan cornered Winter on the edge of the pier. Desperately wanting to keep the baby for herself, she plunged off the pier with the baby in her arms. Meanwhile, Gwen blackmailed Brett for cash in exchange for keeping quiet about their affair.  Brooke and Heather had a heart to heart.  

 

 


 

Episode 39

"The Mystery of the Whispering Walls"

 

Gwen was sitting in her room at the Blackthorne mansion when the door opened and Brett entered with a briefcase gripped tightly in his hand.   He paused in the doorway, his eyes narrowing on her suspiciously.

“I thought you’d be packed by now,” he said and closed the door behind him.

Gwen stretched languorously on the bed and shot him a wicked smile.  “I started packing and then I had second thoughts,” she said.

“Second thoughts about what?” Brett demanded, thrusting the case of money at her.  “You said you were leaving today after you got your money.”

She sat up and popped the latches on the briefcase.  Her eyes widened and she felt a surge of greed sweep over her.  She hadn’t seen that much money in one place in her entire life.   To her it was a fortune, but to the Blackthornes it was a drop in the bucket.

“How did you come up with this much cash all at once?” she finally asked and closed the lid again.  “I suppose your wife and father-in-law have no idea that you took it.”

Ignoring her remarks, Brett anchored himself to the floor and crossed his arms neatly over his chest.   “Don’t worry about where I got it from,” he began.  The truth was he had taken it from the petty cash account at Sunset Studios.  It was a risk, especially since Stormy watched every penny going out of the studio.  He’d have to come up with a believable story as to what he really did with it.  Admitting that he used it to pay off Gwen and her blackmailing attempts was not an option.

“It must be quite a lifestyle change for you,” Gwen continued.  “Going from running cons at Las Vegas casinos to passing out fifty thousand dollars whenever you feel like it.  Now I see why you’re so eager to hold on to everything you’ve got.  Even if you stole it.”

“I’ve worked for everything I have,” Brett retaliated.

“Oh really?” Gwen asked and stood up from the bed.  She placed her hands on her hips and moved toward him with accusatory eyes.  “So drugging James Blackthorne to keep him in the wheelchair was just another day in the life of a studio executive?  And when you thought I had kidnapped Michael and yet were willing to keep quiet about it – that was just you working for the future?”

Brett had had enough of her thinly veiled threats.  “Cut the crap, Gwen.  You’ve got your money.  I kept my end of the bargain and now it’s time that you kept yours.  Are you going to finish packing and leave this house or not?”

Sighing, Gwen turned and looked back at the case of money.  “Actually I’m having second thoughts,” she said.

What?” Brett asked in a rage.  He clenched his fists and moved closer, his eyes flaring angrily and menacingly.   “You can’t do that.  You said yourself that James and Brooke will terminate your position here when they get their baby back.  They don’t want you hanging around after learning of your shady past and prison record.”

“When they ask me to leave I’ll leave,” Gwen replied.  “But I want to make sure I’m well taken care of when that happens, and somehow I don’t think that fifty thousand dollars is going to cut it.”

Brett closed his eyes with regret.  He knew he shouldn’t have given in to her blackmail demands.  A blackmailer always got greedy and wanted more.  He should have taken care of her in his own way when he had the chance.

“I want half a million dollars,” Gwen announced and met him with her gaze.

What?”

“You heard me.  And don’t even tell me that you can’t get it because I know how much James Blackthorne is worth.  Your own wife is an heiress to that fortune.”

“That doesn’t mean I can just ask for five hundred thousand dollars and expect no one to ask questions,” Brett insisted.  “Be reasonable.  Take the fifty thousand and just be grateful that you’re walking away with that much.”

“I spent six years in prison before I came here and took orders from you and your family,” Gwen said.  “I’ve been walked on and used for far too long.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it happen again.  You owe me, Brett.  You and everyone else.”

His hands were tied.  If he didn’t pay her the money she asked for his scheming and plotting would be exposed to everyone, and that was something he couldn’t let happen.  But on the other hand, he couldn’t come up with half a million dollars without throwing up some red flags.

Suddenly an idea came to him.  A way to shut Gwen up once and for all.  Maybe it was the answer he was looking for.

“I’ll give you until tomorrow morning,” Gwen said and picked up the briefcase of money.  “I’ll keep this in the meantime.”

Brett gritted his teeth and started to the door.

“And remember what I said,” Gwen called over to him.  “I’d hate to see what happened to your cushy lifestyle if you wife found out about all the nights we spent together, and that you were the father of my baby.”

Refusing to let her get to him, Brett opened the door and walked out into the hallway.  He had to get moving if he was going to make Gwen Hardisty a distant memory.

Jasmes Blackthorne

James stood on the shore below the pier, barely breathing as he watched with anticipation at the events playing out in the choppy ocean water.  He heard the ambulance in the distance growing nearer and he wrung his hands together in agony.  The sight of Winter jumping off the pier with his baby was almost enough to stop his heart from beating.  The chances of the tiny baby surviving in the water was next to none.  How was he going to tell Brooke?  What words were there to tell his wife that their baby had died?

Twenty feet off shore, a police officer had grabbed hold of Winter and was swimming back to land with her.  Ethan was close behind, holding on to the baby and making his way to shore.   James couldn’t bare the pain that the waiting caused him.  The ambulance arrived on the scene and the paramedics stood by to administer whatever needed to be done to save the baby.

Finally the officer drug Winter’s unconscious body to the sandy beach and dropped her onto her side.  The paramedics rushed over to see if she was breathing.   James looked down with contempt as they began performing CPR on her.  He wanted to tell them to let her die.  Her pathetic life wasn’t worth saving after what she’d done.

But Ethan was nearing the shore and he quickly shot out to intercept him.  He took the baby from Ethan’s tired arms and rushed back to the shore where Detective Baines and another paramedic rushed over.

“Do something!” James lamented as the paramedic peeled the blanket from around the baby.  “Please don’t let my son die!”

Exhausted and out of breath, Ethan pulled himself onto the sand and knelt down beside the motionless infant.   He looked up at James and shook his head, tears mixing with water that dripped from his soaked body. 

“I don’t think he’s breathing,” he panted.  “He’s not even moving.”

“Oh my God,” Detective Baines said as he paramedic unraveled the protective blankets around the baby. 

“What?” James exclaimed, tears bursting from his eyes.  “What is it?”

Baines looked up at James and Ethan, then gestured back to the bundle of blankets and towels on the beach.   “It’s not a baby,” he said. 

“What do you mean it’s not a baby?” James demanded and picked up the soaked blankets.  “I don’t understand…”

Suddenly realization finally dawned and Detective Baines stood up just as Winter coughed and choked up the salty ocean water from her lungs. 

“She didn’t have the baby at all,” Ethan said in astonishment.

Baines nodded.  “It’s just a bundle of blankets and towels.”

“What?” James gasped, then turned to the ocean.  “Then he’s still out there!”

Ethan stood up and grabbed his uncle’s arm.  “No, James.  She didn’t have him.”

Winter sat up and looked with wide eyes at the blankets on the wet sand.  “My baby!” she cried and crawled on her hands and knees, scooping the blankets up in her arms and cradling them with a demented gleam in her eyes.  “I’m so sorry, Ethan Jr.  I don’t know what I was thinking.   I just couldn’t let them take you away from me.”

Ethan and James looked down at the insane woman holding onto the wet umble of seaweed and fabric.  James closed his eyes in relief, finally understanding that Winter had completely lost all sense of reality.

“I killed him!” Winter shrieked and climbed to her feet in hysterics.  She turned to Ethan and shook her head in despair.  “I’m sorry, Ethan!   I killed our baby!”

The uniformed police officers grabbed hold of her arms and led her to the nearby squad car.  She continued crying and struggling in their grasp, dropping the blankets and staring at Ethan with an empty, hollow look in her eyes.

I killed him!” she cried as she was forced into the back of the squad car.  “Oh my God, I killed our baby!”

Ethan rubbed his face with his hand and realized they were back at square one.  He turned to James and pulled him into an embrace.  Part of him was relieved that Winter was as far gone as she was, but the other part realized that they were no closer to finding Michael and bringing him home.

Blackthorne Mansion

Miranda passed by the game room where Heather was sitting in front of the TV watching the news.  She stopped and sauntered inside, her eyes narrowing on Heather’s pale, listless face.

“You look like you’ve been to hell and back,” she said, the bottoms of her jeans scraping against the old, thick shag carpet.   “What’s going on with you, anyway?”

Heather turned off the television and looked up at her.  Leave it to Miranda to cut through the bull and tell it like she saw it.  “I’ve had some stuff to sort through lately,” she replied with a shrug.   “I just needed to be alone for a while.”

“We’ve all had stuff going on,” Miranda countered.  “My baby brother is still missing and my father is about ready to crack.  What could be so earth-shattering important that you’ve barely come out of your room for a week?”

Biting down on her lip, Heather decided that she had to confide in someone.  She had to have an accomplice to help her with her plan, and Miranda’s spunk and ability to think on her feet might be just what she was looking for.  She got up and walked across the room to close the door so they could talk in private.

Miranda frowned, amused by Heather’s sudden cloak and dagger routine.   “Wow, this must be big,” she started.  “Wait a minute.  Are you a lesbian?  Is that what this is all about?”

Heather rolled her eyes and pulled her step-sister to the sofa.  “No, don’t be ridiculous,” she said.  “I need your help.”

“Help with what?” Miranda asked skeptically.  She’d never seen Heather so serious about anything before.  It was almost unnerving.

“Help with breaking and entering,” Heather explained.

Miranda almost laughed.  “Breaking into what?” she asked.  “Man, you are losing it, aren’t you?”

“Just shut up for a minute and listen to me,” Heather said, her tone full of harsh reality.  “I need to get into Will Thomerson’s estate.”

“What for?”

Heather was suddenly reluctant to give her any more information that she had to.  If Miranda knew about the tape of her and Philip Whitacre then she’d most likely tell Stormy.  And she certainly didn’t need her ex-husband knowing what kind of trouble she’d gotten herself into.  Stormy was protective enough of her since their divorce.

“I need to find something,” she replied ominously.  “Something that belongs to me.”

Miranda shrugged indifferently.  “So just go up and ask him for it,” she said.

“It’s not that simple.  I have to be discreet about this.  I don’t want him to know that I’m looking for it because then he’ll just hide it someplace where I can never find it.”

“Whoa,” Miranda said and stood up from the sofa.  “What is it of yours that Will Thomerson has up the street in his estate?  How do you even know this guy?  You do realize that he and my father are mortal enemies, don’t you?”

“Yes, and that’s all the more reason to keep this thing quiet,” Heather replied.  “I just want to get in, find it, and then get out.”

Miranda sighed and folded her arms across her chest, her eyes leveled evenly on her.  “And you won’t tell me what it is we’re going to look for?  I’m just supposed to go along and supervise?”

“I’ll tell you more later,” Heather said.  After you promise to help me, and to keep it quiet, especially from Stormy.”

“Keep what quiet from Stormy?” asked a voice from across the room.

They both spun around and saw Stormy standing in the doorway, a look of suspicion on his face.  

“Stormy-“ Heather began nervously.  “I didn’t see you there.”

“Obviously,” he replied and pressed further into the room.  “What is it that you want Miranda to keep from me?”

They both looked at each other, their eyes darting nervously around the room.  In a moment of selflessness, Miranda decided to give her former sister-in-law a helping hand.  “I was just telling Heather that we should give mom and Jordan a party,” she said, making it up as she went along.  “I mean, they never really had much of a reception and they have been having a hard time lately.”

Stormy frowned distrustfully.  “And why couldn’t you tell me about it?”

Miranda looked at Heather, trying desperately to think of a plausible story.   “Well….”

“Because you’re lousy at keeping secrets,” Heather explained with a shrug.  “I mean, you remember when you told me about my twenty-first surprise birthday party.  I had to force myself to look surprised when I came home.”

“Oh…” Stormy said and scratched his head.  “I guess I didn’t realize.  So, when’s the party?”

Miranda smiled and pushed her brother back to the door.  “You know we can’t tell you because then you’ll ruin it,” she said.  “This way you’ll be just as surprised as mom and Jordan are when it happens.”

Before he could protest further, Stormy was shoved out into the hallway and the door slammed in his face.  He shook his head in irritation and started back down the hallway.

Miranda turned to Heather and threw her hands up in resignation.  “Okay, so what we do we have to do?”

Brooke Taylor

James sat on the sofa in the library with Brooke, holding her in his arms as she cried hysterically on his shoulder.   Ethan was standing across the room by the window watching them apprehensively.  It tore him up seeing what this was doing to Brooke.  In a way he wished Winter had taken Michael, because then by now this whole nightmare would be over.

“I don’t understand,” Brooke sobbed into James’s shoulder.  “What about the diapers and the formula that Ethan saw her buying at the store?”

Ethan shrugged and dug his hands into his pockets.  “She’d become unhinged,” he said apologetically.  “She was so grief stricken when I ended it with her that her mind snapped.”

“Detective Baines went back to Winter’s motel room, “James continued.  “He found newspaper clippings of the kidnapping.  We think she heard about it and somehow got it into her mind that she had taken him.  The room hadn’t been cleaned in days and they found no traces that a baby had ever been there.  No dirty diapers, no open bottles of formula or soiled bibs.  It was all in her imagination.”

Brooke buried her face into her hands and stood up from the sofa.   “What’s going to happen to her now?” she asked.

“She’s been admitted to the psychiatric ward at the hospital,” Ethan replied.  “She’ll undergo forty-eight hours of tests and then probably be sent to an institution.”

Brooke couldn’t help but feel sorry for the young woman.  “It’s sad,” she said, then looked at Ethan.  “What about her family?  Maybe you should call them.”

He shook his head.  “Her father ran out on them when she was young, and her mother died a few years ago.  She’s pretty much alone in the world.”

“How awful,” Brooke said and sat down again.  She looked at James and reached out for his hand.  “So what now?  Does Detective Baines have any other leads?”

James took a deep breath and shook his head slowly.  They were at a dead-end.  No one they’d suspected had turned out to be the real kidnapper.  No ransom had been demanded, and it was well over a week since Michael had been taken.

It looked like they may never see their child again.

Brett Armstrong

In his office at Sunset Studios, Brett held the phone to his ear as he paced back and forth across the expansive room, stopping to glance outside at the bright afternoon sun.

“Yes, I know people are released from prison on good behavior all the time,” he said with an irritated frown.  “But in this case I’m wondering if it was such a good idea.  Gwen Hardisty is a menace to society.  She should have served the full ten year sentence.”

Pausing while he listened to the prison warden in Paraguay, Brett raked his fingers through his hair and shook his head in protest.  “I’m prepared to make it worth your while,” he said.  “How does fifty thousand dollars sound?”

Again, Brett clenched his fists and started pacing rapidly.  “All right.  Fifty thousand dollars and we’ll do some location shooting in Paraguay in our next picture.  The revenue you’ll take in from the tourism alone will be ten times that amount.”

Finally, the warden agreed and Brett smiled with satisfaction.  “So you do have a vacancy after all?” he asked.  “Good.   I’ll see to it that Miss Hardisty is delivered to you first thing in the morning your time.  I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to serve out the remainder of her sentence.”

After he hung up the phone, Brett went to sit down behind his desk and smiled from ear to ear.  Finally he’d be rid of Gwen and her threats to expose him.  The pills, their affair, the baby they made together, as well as his pronouncement when he thought she was the kidnapper, were all going to remain a secret.  And Gwen would be a distant memory.  He could use the fifty thousand he’d already given her to pay the warden.  At last everything was going in his favor.

Picking up the phone, he dialed the air strip and talked to the pilot.  “This is Brett Armstrong,” he said.  “I’d like you to gas up the jet.  I’ve got some cargo I need to deliver to South America tonight.”

Hotel Terranova

That evening, Stormy sat at the bar at Hotel Terranova.  He downed his fifth drink and ordered another from the bartender.  After having all their hopes dashed about finding Michael, he and the others were left with a sinking feeling that their search had come to a halt.  There were no more leads and no more hope to cling to.   Seeing the torture his father was going through was torture in itself. 

The sound of clinking glasses at a nearby cocktail table caught his attention and he turned around.   There, sitting in a cozy booth together was Jordan Rydell and a young woman whom he couldn’t place.  Probably a starlet who’d come to Hollywood to break her way into the business.  And what better way than to cozy up to Jordan Rydell, who happened to be married to his mother.

“You son of a bitch!” Stormy yelled in his half-drunken state as he charged across the room and plucked Jordan out of the booth by the shirt collar.  He drew his fist back and punched him square in the nose, sending him flying back into a passing waiter.  “How could you do this to my mother?”

Jordan flew back and knocked the waiter – along with his tray of drinks – to the floor.  An enormous crash ensued and the lounge grew suddenly quiet as onlookers gasped in awe at the spectacle.   The young girl who’d been sitting with Jordan cowered back into the booth and watched with surprise as Jordan climbed to his feet and went after Stormy.

“Knock it off!” Jordan yelled as Stormy tried to get free of his grasp.  “It’s not what you think, Stormy!  Now cool it!”

“Not what I think?” Stormy yelled, angrier at life in general than he was at his stepfather.  “You’re sitting here with a girl half your age and my mother is nowhere in sight, and it’s not what I think?   I’m not stupid, Jordan.  I know your reputation before you married my mother.  This little bimbette is just your type.”

“Hey!” the girl exclaimed defensively.  “Who are you calling a bimbette?”

Stormy looked at her and shrugged.  “Sorry, sweetie.  If the D cup fits…”

Jordan tightened his grip on Stormy and shoved him into the booth.  “That’s enough, junior,” he said angrily, then pushed his hair back into place and straightened his perfectly tailored shirt.  “BJ’s an actress who starred in one of my films.  I was here alone having a drink and saw her come in.  We were just catching up, that’s all.”

BJ?” Stormy asked with an incredulous frown.   “You have got to be kidding me.”

“It’s true,” Jordan said.

“I’d better get going, Jordan,” said BJ as she slid out from the booth and primped her blond hair and dangerously short mini skirt.  “Nice to see you again.  Sorry to hear about your wife.”

After she was gone, Stormy looked at him and frowned again.  “What did she mean?” he asked.  Sorry about your wife?”

Jordan sighed.  “I guess you haven’t talked to your mother lately,” he said with a certain amount of regret.  “We split up.  I moved in here to Hotel Terranova a couple nights ago.”

The news didn’t surprise Stormy.  “So you thought you’d hook up with the first slut you found?  Come on, Jordan.  BJ?  That’s too much even for you.”

“Even if I was here meeting women,” Jordan began, "it would serve your mother right.”

“Don’t make me punch you again,” Stormy said with a threatening stare.  “Just what do you mean by that?”

“She’s in love with your father,” he replied and stood up from the booth.  “She always has been and she always will be.  I can’t compete.”

Stormy was dumbfounded, refusing to believe that his mother was still pining away for his father.  It didn’t seem like Alex Reynolds’ style at all.”

Just as Jordan left, Stormy saw a vision dripping in diamonds at the bar across the room.  His heart skipped a beat and he stood up with a jolt.  “Samantha…?” he began in total disbelief, moving across the room until he was standing at the bar.

The woman, a beautiful blonde with flawless skin and killer legs turned when she saw him standing there, her brilliant green eyes flickering in the dim candlelight.  “Stormy, I was just-“

Quickly, he pulled her to her feet and threw his arms around her waist, drawing her into a passionate kiss.   Seconds later, Samantha pushed him away and quickly surveyed the room to see if anyone had witnessed the display. 

“Not here,” she whispered, grabbing her luxurious floor-length mink coat and flinging it over her arm.  “I’m in room 1005.  Meet me there in five minutes.”

With that, she was off across the lounge with a flourish.   Stormy watched her go, mesmerized by her beauty and class.    He thought he’d never see her again, but here she was, in his sister's hotel in Los Angeles. 

Stormy Blackthorne

Minutes later, Stormy was upstairs knocking on room 1005.  It seemed like an eternity before the door opened and Samantha appeared, just as beautiful as the day he’d met her last summer.

“Samantha, I can’t believe you’re really here,” he said as he pushed his way into the elegant hotel room.  “What are you doing in Los Angeles?”

At thirty two, Samantha was a dazzling woman who exuded class and distinction.  She walked with purpose and elegance, moving across the room to fix herself a drink.  “I came to find you,” she began.  “I knew that your father owned Hotel Terranova so I took a chance.”

“Well I’m glad you did,” Stormy said, butterflies tripping through his stomach as he walked over and stood feverishly close to her.  “I thought after our affair in Denver that I’d never see you again.”

Samantha gulped down a shot of cold vodka and plucked her purse from the bed.  “Our affair in Denver is why I had to see you,” she said, removing a set of photographs from her purse and handing them to him.  “Someone got a little camera happy and took pictures of us together at the hotel.”

Stormy paged through the pictures, each one depicting them in intimate embraces and lingering kisses.  Several were of them in the hallway just outside his hotel room.   “I don’t understand,” he said with a frown.  “Who would want to take pictures of us together?  I mean, it’s not like you’re married or something-“

But the look on her face told him otherwise. 

“You’re married?” he asked.  “Oh God.  You never said anything.”

“I’m sorry,” Samantha replied.  “If you knew my husband you’d understand.  He’s all work, and I’m alone most of the time.   We’re only married for the sake of appearances.  His family is very…visible in the media.”

Stormy thought for a minute and realized he had no room to judge.  When they met and had their affair, he was still married to Heather.  He was also involved with Lauren Spencer at the time, making him twice as guilty as Samantha was.

“I just wanted to tell you in case something should happen,” Samantha explained.  “I don’t know who took the pictures but I have a feeling they’ll wind up on the news before too long.  I hope you can handle that.  I’ll certainly be cast out onto the street.  There’s no hope that I could ever explain this to my husband so…”

“Wait a minute,” Stormy began as if a light bulb went off in his head.  “There’s been a reporter from Denver hanging around LA for the past few weeks.  I saw her in Denver at the hotel on the night you and I met.  She came up to me and made some remarks about the Blackthornes and I figured she was just angling for a scoop on Hollywood.  But now that I think about it-“

“Let me guess,” Samantha said with a boding look in her eyes.  Janet Harper.”

Ethan Blackthorne

Several floors below, Ethan knocked on the door and smiled with relief when Janet appeared in the doorway.   He needed to be with someone tonight more than anything.  After the upset over Winter’s psychotic episode, and the sight of James and Brooke together in their intimate embrace, he needed to feel someone’s arms around him. 

“Ethan-“ Janet began, caught off guard by his sudden appearance.  “I wasn’t expecting you.  Are you okay?”

He walked into the room and saw the suitcases laid out on the floor, her belongings gathered into a pile on the dresser.  “You weren’t going to say goodbye?” he asked in a daze.

“I’m sorry,” she said, fidgeting nervously with her hands.  She’d actually planned on leaving two days ago, right after Will purchased her manuscript and bought the Denver Tribune in her name.  A few last minute details had held her back and she was planning on leaving in the morning, before news got out that her manuscript was going to be made into a movie.

“I just…” he began, unsure of what to say or even how he felt.  Maybe words were too much to ask for at a time like this.  “I just…” 

Sensing the condition he was in mentally, Janet put her arms around him and pulled him close.   “Ethan….”

Fighting back the tears that trickled down his face, he lifted his head and kissed her passionately on the lips.  He put his hands on her waist and pulled her closer as he unfastened her blouse.

“I want to make love to you,” he whispered in her ear.

Janet closed her eyes, unwilling and unable to fight his request.  She slid his shirt up over his head and ran her hands along his smooth bare chest.   Fumbling with the zipper on his pants, she led them to the bed and collapsed onto a pile of clothing.

Ethan, silently working at stripping their clothes off, lowered himself onto her and covered her naked body with his.   He kissed her forehead and then her cheek and lips, savoring every second they spent together. 

Blackthorne Mansion

It was after ten o’clock when Gwen stepped out of the bathtub in her bedroom, her hair tied up in a towel and her nightgown clinging to her damp skin.  She shivered from a cool breeze blowing through the open window and rushed over to close it.

Nearing the window, she peered outside into the darkness and caught a glimpse of a person standing down on the back lawn next to the pool house.  Squinting through the glare, she tried hard to tell if it was someone who lived in the house or if it was a prowler scouting around the grounds.  One could never tell after everything that had happened in that house lately.

Realizing that it was too dark to tell who it was, Gwen turned and decided to contact the security guard just to make sure.  She started toward the phone when a hand suddenly clasped around her mouth.  Struggling in the powerful man’s grasp, she inhaled the noxious fumes from the cloth that covered her nose and mouth – falling limply into a state of unconsciousness within seconds.

Quickly, the man threw Gwen over his shoulder and went back through the hidden door in the closet.  He carried her limp body through the tunnels and emerged into the pool house where Brett and another man were waiting beside a van outside.

“Did she see anything?” Brett asked, handing the man an envelope full of hundred dollar bills.

“She didn’t even know what hit her,” he said as the other man opened the back door of the white van.  He carefully laid Gwen into the back and securely closed the door, pocketing the money and smiling appreciatively.  “I won’t bother to count it.  I’m sure it’s all here.”

“It is,” Brett replied.  “The jet will be waiting for you so you’d better get going.  The warden in Paraguay is expecting you first thing in the morning.”

“No problem,” said the burly man as he and his partner climbed into the van and took off along the access road. 

Brett took a deep breath and smiled with relief.  Finally he was rid of Gwen and her constant threats.  In twelve hours she’d be safely locked up in a South American prison for the next four years.  He was home free.

Samantha Fallmont

“Who is Janet Harper anyway?” Stormy asked Samantha as they laid in bed together in her room at Hotel Terranova.  “She seems awfully interested in my family.”

Samantha shook her head with regret, tracing her fingers along his muscular bare chest.  “She’s a vulture who has picked my family apart to such a degree that I’m assuming she had to move on to someone else.  You’re not exactly low profile as far as the media is concerned, Stormy.”

He smiled and kissed her warmly.  “What do you think she’s going to do with the pictures?” he asked, plucking them from the nightstand and glancing at them once again.

“She sent them as a threat,” Samantha admonished.  “Janet and I have always had a hate-on for each other.  She’s probably going to make me sweat it out before she goes to my husband with them.  Or worse yet – publishes them in that newspaper she works for.”

Stormy grew into a thoughtful daze and caressed her magnificently smooth legs.  “There’s got to be a way to stop her from going to him,” he said.  “Maybe she just wants money.”

Samantha shook her head.  “No, Janet isn’t motivated by money.  She wants power and respect.  It’s what she thrives on as a journalist.”

“Well, would it be so terrible if your husband did find out?” Stormy asked with a sly grin.  “We could be together.  And you said yourself that it’s a loveless marriage.”

Quickly, Samantha pulled the sheet firmly around her body and got out of bed.  She walked across the room and poured herself another drink.  “That’s out of the question,” she said.  “My husband can’t find out about us.  Ever.”

“But I thought we had something.”

Samantha’s eyes leveled on him and she smiled.  “We do, Stormy.  We have amazing sex together.  And you make me feel younger and more beautiful than I have in a long time.  But we can’t continue this way.  After I go back to Denver I can never see you again.”

The news came as a blow to Stormy, let alone the fact that she thought of him as a mere sex object.  Somehow when he saw her downstairs in the lounge he had imagined them starting something much more serious together.  Now she was telling him that it was over again before it really got started.

Seeing the hurt in his eyes, Samantha walked over to him and dropped the sheet from her naked body.  She leaned down and kissed him passionately before straddling him with her long, slender legs.  “We can still have tonight,” she said with a purr, her tongue flicking in and out of his ear.

Stormy gave in, unable to resist her come-ons.  He set her gently down on top of him and they were instantly joined.  A perfect fit, Stormy thought as they made love in the moonlight.

Janet Harper

Janet had awoken and was leaning with her elbow next to Ethan on the bed.  She watched his strong face as he slept peacefully.  She’d never seen him so despondent as when he showed up at her hotel room that night.  Her heart ached for him, as much as she tried to fight it.  There was no room for love in her agenda, particularly since his family was the target of the exploit she’d written and sold to Will Thomerson.  When Ethan learned of her poison pen, he would surely turn his back on her.

Yes, it was best that she didn’t let herself get emotionally involved.

“Whatever happens, Ethan, I’m sorry,” she whispered, tracing his muscular arms with her fingertips.  “But I’m going back to Denver tomorrow a more powerful woman than when I left.”  A pause while she reflected on her choices.  “And power wins over love every time.”

She opened a nightstand drawer and removed a set of photographs.  Flipping through them, she admired her handiwork. Taking those photos of Stormy and Samantha last summer was the best move she could have made.  She leaned back against her pillow and sighed.  

"I have an important delivery to make tomorrow in Denver."

Will's House

The full moon above illuminated the dim entryway of Will Thomerson’s estate in the Hollywood Hills.  Miranda jabbed the tiny metal instruments into the lock and popped the door open with ease.  She looked up at Heather and smiled arrogantly. 

“I don’t even want to know where you learned how to do that,” Heather said as she led them inside the house.  “You’re full of surprises, Miranda.”

Miranda smiled and pocketed the lock picking devices.  “Thanks,” she chirped.  “And for that matter, so are you.  You still haven’t told me what’s so important that we break into the Thomerson estate.  Does he have something on you?  Is he blackmailing you, is that it?”

“No,” Heather said firmly.

“You really are a lesbian and he has proof, right?  Heather, I’m telling you it’s okay.  It’s cool if you like chicks.  I guess that’s what being married to my brother does to a woman.”

Heather rolled her eyes again, unsure of how she was going to find the tape without filling Miranda in on the sordid details.  “Just keep your eyes peeled,” she said, leading her down the hall into Will’s parlor room.

Miranda threw her hands up in frustration.  “Well I can’t exactly help you look for something if I don’t know what we’re looking for,” she said, then stopped and picked up a paperweight from the desk.  “Oh wait, is this it?” she asked sarcastically.

“Don’t be snippy,” Heather said and tossed her long brown hair behind her shoulders.

Sighing, Miranda looked around the dimly lit room and shuddered with apprehension.  “Are you sure it’s safe to be here?” she asked.  “He could come home any minute, or one of the servants could find us, or-“

“Relax, he goes to the HFPA meetings every Saturday night and then has drinks until dawn at the Polo Lounge.  And Gerald and the rest of his staff have Saturday nights off so we’re home free.”

“I’m scared that you know his schedule,” Miranda goaded.

But Heather wasn’t paying attention.  The thought of being caught in Will Thomerson’s house was terrifying, but she decided it was a risk she had to take.  Finding that x-rated videotape with her as the featured star was crucial.  If it got out, everyone she knew would be affected, including the Blackthornes and her father.  Not to mention the fact that her career would be finished before it ever got started.

“Can you at least give me a hint what I should be looking for?” Miranda asked as she sorted through drawers and piles of books.  “Is it something you read, or eat?”

“It’s a videotape,” Heather finally admitted, feeling tears threaten to explode.

Miranda quickly cut her sarcasm to a skidding halt.  “And what would be on that videotape?” she asked as she walked across the room to her stepsister.

But Heather relented, refusing to let anyone know the humiliation she’d suffered by starring in her own porn flick against her will.  “Let’s just say that it’s to everyone’s advantage that we find it and destroy it before Will Thomerson has a chance to make it public.”

Suddenly the severity of the situation became apparent to Miranda.  She nodded her head and continued searching around the parlor.  She didn’t know what kind of trouble Heather had gotten herself into, but whatever it was it was not good.

Examining the wall of bookshelves across the room, Miranda slid her hand along the rows and rows of dusty old books.  Her hand flipped against a notch on the bottom shelf and the wall creaked open, revealing a hidden doorway leading to a staircase.

Staring in amazement, Miranda peered inside and tried to determine where the passageway went.  She turned to Heather and called over to her.

“Heather, come look at this,” she said, her heart thudding inside her chest.

Heather shot toward her in a flash.  “Did you find it?” she asked. 

“I found something,” Miranda replied, stepping inside the dark passageway.  “This is just like the tunnels at our place.”

Heather glanced around their surroundings and shrugged.  “All of these old mansions probably have them,” she said.  “I’ve seen Will come out of this doorway before.  I guess I never thought to ask where it led to.”

Her mind racing, Miranda felt her way along the walls and walked down the staircase to a lower level.  “Now’s your chance to find out,” she said.

“Miranda, wait!” Heather called after her.  “What are you doing?  We can’t go in there.  Just come back and help me find that tape!”

“What if the tape’s in here somewhere,” Miranda suggested.  “What better place to hide something than behind a hidden door?”

Reluctantly, Heather followed her down the stairs and proceeded through a dark tunnel underground.  They walked for several minutes amidst the narrow corridor and forced themselves to press on despite their increasing anxiety.

“It’s like it just goes on and on,” Heather said.

Miranda pointed ahead and started walking faster.  “I see a doorway.”

Heather followed her quickly to the end of the corridor and stopped when they reached a small opening.  Miranda pulled the lever down and forced the door open.  A second later they were standing in the tunnels of the Blackthorne mansion, voices traveling from the other side of the thin walls.

“Oh my God,” Miranda whispered.  “We’re right outside my father and Brooke’s bedroom.”  She could hear them inside the bedroom talking intimately.  “And right there is the nursery,” she said and pointed a few yards down the tunnel.  “This is where I was standing when I heard them taking Michael."

Heather looked at her with astonishment.  “Do you realize what this means?”

Miranda nodded, a permanent scowl on her face.  “I think if we looked hard enough we could find a lot more than your videotape in Will Thomerson's house, Heather.”

They stood in the dark tunnel, the heart wrenching cries of sorrow from James and Brooke’s bedroom almost too much to bare.

 


Next time....

Stormy accuses Brett of embezzlement.  Brooke is hurt when James goes back to work.  Janet returns and asks Will for her manuscript back.  James and Alex host a dinner party for the Fallmonts.

  

 

 Read Episode 40

 

 

 


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