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Episode 70

 

Release Date:  October 19, 2007

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

Miranda and David went to David's cabin in Big Bear, where a picture of a young girl in a photo album puzzled Miranda. Brooke and Ethan went to a neighboring resort, but not before they ran into David at a gas station and he reaffirmed his desire to get to know Brooke on a more personal level.  Ethan expressed his distrust in David to a indifferent Brooke. James served Brooke with divorce papers.  Brett uncovered a donation Seth made to the Land Commission, then investigated the land at Costa Mesa and learned that it had recently been granted a variance.  Seth sent Brett on a business trip to Reno and Heather accompanied him.  Alex rebuffed Jordan's attempts at reconciling.  Alex confided in Seth that she didn't trust Logan.  James and Leigh grew closer.  Renee received a letter containing a map that Adrienne had sent to her on the day of her murder, asking her to deliver it to Kenny in case something happened to her.  Alex learned that Adrienne had been Seth's former partner in Costa Mesa, and wondered what significance the map held.  

 

 


 

Episode 70

"$"

 

At seventeen, Rick Shively was on his own.  He grew up in Henderson, Nevada with a bipolar step-mother and a workaholic father.  While other kids his age were preparing for graduation and applying to colleges, he was working illegally every night as a bus boy and bartender at a local strip club.  A fake ID and a regular bang on the pool table with the club’s owner, Donna D., got him the gig.  It paid better than Burger King and wasn’t as monotonous as folding jeans at The Gap.  Besides, he didn’t plan on doing it for long.  Just long enough to save some money so that he could get out of that town and finally make something of himself. 

One Friday night he was naked in the back seat of his old Mustang with his girlfriend, Devon.  They had sex and laid on the sticky vinyl seats, planning for their future and dreaming of something better. 

“I want to get out of here,” Devon said.  She was a short, feisty girl with dark hair and a voluptuous figure.  “I’m sick of the B.S. at home, and I know you are too.”

“We gotta at least wait till graduation,” Rick insisted, supporting himself on one side with his elbow.  “After that we’ll do like we planned.  You, me and Bailey will leave together.  We’re the three musketeers, remember?  We’ll get out of here and head to Vegas.”

As much as Devon wanted to rush the process, deep down so did Rick.  His mother passed away two years ago and his father remarried all too quickly.  What was worse was that his mother had been pregnant.  Both killed in a car accident.   A baby brother or sister would never be a reality.  His father took it hard, despite his quick remarriage.  He’d never seen his father so broken up over anything in his life.  They hadn’t been the same since.

When he got home that night, Helen was awake and in one of her confrontational moods.  “Where the hell have you been?” she asked, drunk and on an assortment of uppers and downers.

“At work,” Rick said and rolled his eyes.  He went to the fridge and pulled out a Coke.

“You mean that freakin’ titty bar,” she said belligerently.  “I don’t know why I’m surprised.  You’re just like your father.  A loser.  Obsessed with women and their breasts.  Tell me, was your mother stacked too?”

“Lay off that.”  His eyes flashed major danger signals.

“So where were you?” Helen asked again.  “I know you weren’t at work because I called there two hours ago.  You were with that skank Devon again, weren’t you?”

“None of your business.”

“You got a smart mouth, kid,” Helen said and wobbled toward him.  “You think you’re all hot stuff marching around that place.  Well you’re not, do you hear me?  You’re nothing.  You’re going to wind up just like your father.  A workaholic with an unhappy wife at home.”

Rick bided his time, taking a deep breath and hoping that her tirade would soon be over.  He had to remain cool.

“And do you know why she’s unhappy?” his step-mother went on.  “He cheats on her.  He lines one up before the other is even gone.”

“That’s a lie,” Rick said.

“How do you think he bagged me so quickly?  We were screwing before your mom died.  And when she did, I was right there in line behind her.”

“He wouldn’t have left her.”

She laughed and hiccupped at the same time.  “Right,” she said.  “He stayed with her for the baby.  And when that baby died, so did his love for her.  Just remember that, kid.  Blame your whore of a mother if things haven’t gone the way you’ve wanted.”

Rick lost it immediately, dropping his can and rushing toward her with blinding speed.  He grabbed her by the shoulders and threw her against the wall so hard that she flinched and cried out.

“Don’t talk about my mother like that!” he screamed.  His voice echoed through the house.  “Don’t ever talk about my mother again!”

“Take your hands off of her,” ordered his father as he entered the room. 

Rick looked at him and sighed with aggravation.  “Dad, you should hear the way she talks to me.  The way she talks about mom.  I-“

“I don’t know how else to tell you this, Rick, your mother is gone and you need to get over it.  I won’t have you touching my wife that way.  I want you out of this house.”

Rick looked at him, his eyes threatening to well up with tears but he fought them off.  He wouldn’t give his father the satisfaction.  Instead, he gave him one final look of contempt before turning and going to his room to pack a suitcase.

The next morning he, Devon, and his best friend Bailey left for Vegas.  For the next ten years they became experts at defrauding unsuspecting citizens of their money.  Pyramid schemes, phony tour operations, and confidence games were their specialty.  He and Devon drifted apart, she hooked up with Bailey, and Rick married Miranda Blackthorne and started a new life in Hollywood using the alias Brett Armstrong.

When that marriage failed, he was determined to succeed with another.  Over the months he’d grown to love Heather more than anything.  She was fragile and innocent and reminded him of his mother.   That’s why when they got married in Reno it seemed like the perfect beginning to their lives together.   

“You what?” Seth asked as he and Brett had drinks at the Yacht Club.

“I got married in Reno,” he said proudly. 

“Wow,” Seth said and folded his arms.  “I sent you off to make a public appearance in my place, and you come back married.  I guess you could say I footed the bill for the honeymoon.”

Brett laughed.  His face was unshaven after the long weekend and he was dressed in a sweater and chinos.  There was a lot to do now that he was back.  While Heather was busy getting settled into his condo, he was determined to secure their life together.  To do that they needed money, and a lot of it.  Seth Walker’s latest scheme was going to be the key to that security.

“Well, with the salary you pay me I can use all the help I can get,” he said with a smirk and gulped down half of his screwdriver.  “But I have a deal in the works that should bump up my savings account nicely.”

Seth looked at him curiously.  “What deal is that?”

“Costa Mesa.  I want in.”

Seth could only assume he was bluffing.  Brett couldn’t know enough to realize the value of his operation at Costa Mesa.  “I already told you, I abandoned that deal.  The Land Commission didn’t grant my variance, so I-“

“They did grant the variance,” Brett corrected him.  “And you did buy that land.”

“A company called Stratotech bought that land,” Seth corrected him.  “Do all the investigation you want.  My name isn’t associated with them at all.  So whatever you think you know, you-“

“I’m still not sure how you pulled it off, but you do own Stratotech.  Maybe not on paper, but-  And Stratotech owns Costa Mesa.  But it isn’t oil drilling that they’re doing there.   I did some checking at the records office at City Hall.  Then this morning when we got back from Reno, I went to the office to catch up on some work.  There was a fax from Panama.  Quite an interesting scheme you have going on there.  And very illegal.”

Maintaining his cool, Seth waved to a passing waitress and ordered another drink.  He leaned forward and folded his arms on the table.  “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, Brett,” he said ominously.  “If I were you I would go home and play house with your new wife and forget everything you think you know about Stratotech.  This isn’t a game that you can con your way in and out of.”

His cold stare didn’t affect Brett’s determination.  “All I want is the chance to get in on the operation.  I’ll do whatever you need done.  Surely I can be of some kind of help.”

Seth regarded him carefully, partially confident in Brett’s ability to be of assistance.  He was a conman, and therefore he could probably be trusted.  Not that he had a choice.  He already knew too much.  He’d have to cut him in.

“I suppose I could up your salary a bit,” he said.

Brett smiled and shook his head.  “I want in for five percent,” he said.  “Of everything.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask considering the fact that I’m keeping your secret and I’m offering up my services.”

“Aren’t you full of entrepreneurial spirit?” Seth asked rhetorically.  “Things could get dangerous.  If the government knew what was going on in Costa Mesa-“

“You’re a smart man.  I’m sure you have contingencies if that happens.”

Against his better judgment, Seth nodded his head in agreement.  “Fine.  Five percent.”

Brett grinned and sipped his drink again.  He was on top of the world.  A new wife and a stake in a deal that would yield him millions of dollars.  How could anything go wrong?

“So what does your new father-in-law think of your marriage to his daughter?” Seth asked off handedly when the waitress returned with his drink.  “I can’t imagine Jordan Rydell is too eager to welcome you to his family.”

Heather Blackthorne

“You what?”

“I got married.  Brett and I went to Reno this weekend and we just did it.  It was crazy and last minute and totally unexpected, but we did it.  We got married.”

Jordan ran his fingers through his hair and paced the living room of his house in Beverly Hills.  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  What was his daughter thinking?

“Crazy about sums it up,” he said disapprovingly.

“Daddy!” Heather said angrily.  “This isn’t the reaction I was hoping for.  I thought you’d be happy for me.  Don’t you want me to be happy?”

“Of course I do, Princess,” he said and placed his arms around her.  “I just don’t think that marrying Brett Armstrong is going to make you happy.  He’s a con man, Heather.  Are you forgetting everything he put Miranda through?”

“Miranda has nothing to do with this,” Heather insisted.  “Brett and Miranda knew each other for all of five minutes before they got married.  Brett and I have known each other for years.”

“Most of which you’ve spent hating each other,” Jordan said and threw his hands up in resignation.  “There was a time when you couldn’t even be in the same room together without the police being brought in to mediate.”

"Things change.  We’ve been getting closer for months now.  We’re in love, Daddy.  It’s nothing like what I felt for Stormy, or what he felt for Miranda.  This is real.”

“Nothing about Brett Armstrong is real.  That isn’t even his real name.  He’s a con man, a cheater, and a liar.  I don’t want you to be another one of his victims.”

Heather stormed around the room in a huff.  She couldn’t believe how negative her father was being.  “Look, he may have been untrustworthy once upon a time, but since he got out of the Blackthorne mansion he’s been different.  He’s got a career in politics and he wants a family.  How can you begrudge him that?”

Jordan sighed.  “God I wish your mother was here to handle this.”

“Well she’s not.  She abandoned us, remember?  So you’re going to have to think of something to say that doesn’t end in ‘big mistake’.  Daddy, I love Brett and he loves me.  I wish that you could understand that.”

He didn’t.  His daughter had been through so much already.  He was convinced that her marriage to Brett was going to make everything else she’d been through look like an afternoon at the Ice Capades.

Jasmes Blackthorne

Kenny looked at the map and shrugged indifferently, handing it back to James as they stood in his office at Blackthorne-Reynolds.

“I have no idea what it means,” he said.

James and Renee exchanged glances and both sighed in unison. 

“But Adrienne said you’d understand,” Renee insisted, folding her arms and glaring at her ex-husband.  “Come on, Kenny, this isn’t the time for one of your space outs.  Adrienne said that if anything happened to her I should give this to you.  She knew she was in danger.  You've got to help us find out why she was killed.”

“I don’t know why she’d send this to me,” he insisted.  “I haven’t talked to Adrienne in months.”

James ran his fingers through his hair and looked back at the map.  “It’s a truck route from Costa Mesa to Panama.  What’s in Costa Mesa?”

Kenny realized he would have to come clean to what he knew.  Or at least part of it.  “Someone applied for a variance to drill for oil at a site in Costa Mesa.   The Land Commission denied the variance, and then reconsidered.”

“Why did they reconsider?” James asked.

That was the part that Kenny wasn’t thrilled with revealing.  The fact that he’d been bribed into granting the variance was something he was unwilling to own up to.  Whatever the details were, he wasn’t interested.  The only thing he cared about was that the wildlife preserve would be a reality thanks to the donation from Seth Walker.  All he had to do was keep quiet about where the money came from.

“The oil for one thing,” he said.  “Who wouldn’t want to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.  It just seemed to make good sense that we allowed them to drill.”

Them who?” Renee asked.  “Who bought that land and who plans on drilling for oil?”

Kenny shrugged. “A company called Stratotech,” he answered.

“Who owns them?” James added quickly.

“I don’t know," he lied.

“Do you think they’re planning on transporting that oil to Panama?” Renee asked and gestured to the map. “Is that what this truck route is all about?   Because if so, Stratotech is in for a world of trouble.  There’s a trade embargo with Panama.”

They both looked at Kenny with accusatory glances.

“I don’t know anything about Panama or illegal trade,” he insisted, grabbing his briefcase and starting to the door.  At least that much was true.    “I’m sorry I can’t help you any more than I have.”

After he left, Kenny stopped in the hall outside James’ office and recalled the conversation he’d recently had with Seth...

“What are you trying to pull?” Kenny asked.   “There’s no oil under that land and you know that as well as I do.”

“The land survey Logan gave you paints a different picture.”

“I know a fake when I see one,” Kenny insisted.  “The first survey we did showed no traces of oil.  Now suddenly you produce a new one that claims that land is oil rich.  So my question is this:  Why do you need a drilling variance if there isn’t anything to drill for?”

"Don’t worry about that,” Seth replied ominously.  “Maybe a donation in the Land Commission’s name would sway your decision.  As I understand it, the wildlife preserve on the South Coast won’t be a reailty unless you gain additional funding.  I could make that happen for you.”

“You want to donate money in exchange for a variance that you don’t even need?” Kenny asked.   “What is this?  Costa Mesa is a cover, isn’t it?  A front for some illegal operation.”

“With my donation, you’ll be a hero and you’ll be secured the post as head of the Land commission indefinitely.  Isn’t that enough?”

Breaking from the daze, Kenny continued down the hallway with his briefcase.  He didn’t know what Seth Walker was up to, and he didn’t care.  As far as he was concerned, he was out of it.  The only thing he knew was that something very sinister was going on at Costa Mesa, and it dind’t have anything to do with oil.

Logan Mackenzie

“What do you mean we have a new partner?” Logan demanded.  He was standing beside the window in Seth's office overlooking the marina.

“Armstrong found out what we were up to,” Seth answered.  “I had to cut him in for five percent.  You can relax, he’s not going to tell anyone.  He feels about money the same way we do.”

Logan clenched his fist and slammed it against the wall.  “Too many people are in on this, Seth,” he said, agitated.  Leigh, Alex, now Brett Armstrong.  Even Kenny DeWitt knows that you own Stratotech.”

“That’s what Alex Reynolds is for,” Seth replied.  “On paper she owns Stratotech, so she’s the one they’ll go after if this thing leaks out.”

“But how long before they trace it back to us?” Logan insisted.

“Not fast enough.  Well be out of the country and free and clear.  Don’t worry about Brett Armstrong.”

“Well then should I worry about James Blackthorne and Renee DeWitt?” Logan asked and began pacing the office.  “Adrienne sent them a map.  They’re going to put two and two together.  All they have to do is take a trip to Costa Mesa and they’ll find out what’s really going on there.”

“That’s why I doubled up on security at the site,” Seth explained.  “Relax.  You worry too much.”

“Forgive me if I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison.”  Logan paused again at the window and glanced outside.  “This isn’t worth it to me, Seth.”

“Hundreds of millions of dollars isn’t worth it to you?”

Their conversation was interrupted when Alex stormed dramatically into the office, draped in a mink shawl and large round sunglasses.

“There you are,” Seth said and turned toward her in an instant.  “We’ve been trying to call you for days.  Where have you been?”

“Trying to figure out how to get out of this mess I’ve gotten myself into,” Alex said and stepped forward slowly.  “Why didn’t you tell me that Adrienne was your other partner?  The one who gave you the ten million dollars?”

Seth and Logan exchanged knowing glances.  “Does it matter?” Seth asked with a shrug.

Alex gasped and folded her arms.  “Yes, it matters.  She’s dead.  Murdered in her own home.  Her killer is still at large.”

“The police are saying it may have been a burgular,” Seth interjected.

“I don’t think so,” Alex whispered.  “And what is with the map she mailed to Renee DeWitt on the day she died?”

Map?” they asked in unison. 

“A truck route from Costa Mesa to Panama.  What are you two up to?  Are we shipping oil to Panama?  Is that what makes this deal so important to you?  Illegal trade of natural resources?  If that’s the case then I want out because I don’t plan on going to prison again.”

“No one’s going to prison, Alex,” Seth said and walked toward her.  “I assure you that no one will find out what we’re doing.”

“So that is it!” she shrieked.  “What about Adrienne?  Did you…” 

“What?” Logan asked and came up on her.

She looked at them both in terror.  “Did you kill her because she found out?”

Seth laughed and placed a hand on her shoulder.  “Alex, you are so theatre.  Please.  Do you honestly think one of us would have killed Adrienne Fallmont?”

“I don’t know,” she said, her eyes wide as she backed up to the door.  “All I know is that before she died she reached out to give that map to Renee.  James is going to find out about what we’re up to.”

“He won’t.”

“Need I remind you that he unwittingly owns part of Stratotech?” she asked.  “It’s a branch of Blackthorne-Reynolds.  He’s every bit as guilty as we are.”

Logan glared menacingly and hovered above her.  “Then I suggest you do everything you can to prevent him from finding out.”

Terrified, Alex backed up another step, flinching when her back met the door.  She quickly turned the knob and raced out into the hall.  The look in Logan’s eyes bore into her soul and she couldn’t shake the eerie feeling inside.  He looked like a man who would kill to get what he wanted.  She was positive that he’d been the one to strangle poor Adrienne. 

She hid beside the door, listening as they continued their conversation inside the office.

“She’s going to be a problem,” Logan said with agitation.  “Just like Adrienne.”

“She’ll be fine,” Seth said.

“I’m telling you, this isn’t worth it,” Logan continued and leveled a serious gaze at his partner.  “I want more money.”

What?  Are you crazy?”

“My career is on the line.  Everything I’ve done to prevent people find learning the truth has been for nothing.  I’ve risked everything.”

“Everything you’ve done?” Seth asked and regarding him carefully.  “What does that mean?”

“Nothing,” he said quickly and dismissed the remark with ease.  “But I deserve more than we’d agreed on.  I want forty percent.”

“Forty percent?” Seth asked irately.  “May I remind you that this is now a five-way split?  With Armstrong and Leigh and Alex, that leaves me with less than a third.”

“Too bad,” Logan insisted.  ‘If you want me to keep my mouth shut and keep up appearances, you’ll cut me in for forty percent.  I’ll accept nothing less.”

Alex covered her mouth with her hands and quickly raced down the hall before he could see her on his way out.  She raced outside and hid behind a palm tree, spying Logan storm out to the parking lot.

Leigh Purcell

The forty mile drive to Costa Mesa was the most stomach-turning ride of Leigh Purcell’s life.  James had insisted that she accompany him, stopping at a seaside restaurant in Orange County, and while although it was a romantic jaunt that she thoroughly used to her advantage, she knew that once they got to the drill site her guilt would be too much for her to hide.

“What exactly are you hoping to find in Costa Mesa?” she asked when they were back in the car and driving up the gravel road to the oil field.

“I don’t know,” James replied.  “But Adrienne was concerned enough about it to send that map to Renee before she died.  I think she was involved with someone with Stratotech.  Maybe whoever she was sleeping with was the man behind the operation.”

“You think whoever owns Stratotech killed Adrienne?” Leigh asked, swallowing hard and keeping her eyes on the road.  Her thoughts kept going to Seth and to Logan and how devoted they were to the deal.  Either one of them could have strangled Adrienne Fallmont, silencing her for threatening to tell.

“I think it’s the best lead we have,” James replied, turning the car off when they came to a stop beside a fence surrounding the property.  He gazed at the tell-tale Keep Out signs hanging every twenty feet or so.  Property of Stratotech Corporation.  Beneath it was a phone number to call for information. 

“What are you doing?” Leigh asked when he pulled out his cell phone and punched in the toll-free number.

“Seeing who picks up the phone,” he replied and waited through several rings.  A woman picked up and James pointed to the phone triumphantly.  “I need to speak to someone in charge.”

“Pardon?” asked the receptionist. 

“With Stratotech.  Who do you work for?” James questioned.

“I’m sorry, sir.  This is an answering service.  Do you have a message for the Stratotech Corporation?”

Frustrated, James ran his hand over his face.  “I just want to speak to someone in charge.  There’s got to be somebody you can put me through to.  Who pays your salary?”

“I was hired to intercept phone calls.  My checks come from a temp agency.  Would you like to leave a message?”

“I just want to know who I’m leaving a message for.”

The line went dead and James dropped his phone in aggravation.  “She hung up.”

Leigh breathed a sigh of relief.  “You couldn’t get any information?”

He shook his head.  “It’s an answering service.  She probably doesn’t even know who she works for.”

“Well then why would they-“

“Something about Stratotech is very odd,” James said and got out of the car.  Leigh followed him to the fence where they looked out over the valley.  “I don’t believe they’re really transporting oil to Central America.”

“What makes you say that?” Leigh asked.  He couldn’t have figured out their real operation, she thought to herself.  There’s no way he could know. 

“Just a feeling I have,” James said.  He turned and led her along the fence, gazing down at the heavy machinery and trucks.  “There’s two, three, maybe four workers down there.  That’s not a big enough crew to work an entire oil field.”

“Maybe they’re on break,” Leigh said, hoping her excuse didn’t sound too lame.

James scratched his head, turning and bumping directly into two burly men in uniforms, brandishing guns at their sides and a yellow truck with the name Stratotech emblazoned on the side. 

“What are you people doing here?” one of them asked. 

James and Leigh looked at one another nervously.  “We were just-“

“Can’t you read?” the other guard demanded and pointed to the fence.  “This is private property.  There’s no trespassing.  You’ll have to get in your vehicle and exit the site.”

“Look, we just want some information,” James said and stared the guard down with defiance.  “Like who is Stratotech and what are they doing here?”

Stratotech will be happy to answer any questions you have,” said the guard.  “Call them and find out for yourself.”

James rolled his eyes.  “We did that and all we got was an answering service.”  He shrugged the guard’s arm off of him and met his gaze.  “Who do you work for?  Just give me a name so I can talk to him.”

"Sir, get into your vehicle and leave the premises,” the guard said, placing a firm hand on the butt of his gun.”

“Come on, James,” Leigh said and led him to the car.  “Let’s just go.”

Begrudgingly, he got into the car.  Leigh buckled her seat belt and placed a warm hand on his.  They looked through the windows at the guards eyeing them suspiciously.

“Friendly staff,” James murmured to himself and backed the car back onto the road.  They started back down the gravel hill and Leigh was now more sure than ever that she had to come clean to James.  His curiosity would wind up getting him killed if she didn’t.

Alex Reynolds

That night, Alex dead bolted the door and settled down in front of the television with a glass of wine and the late night movie.  Being mid-October, naturally it was a horror film.  A psycho killing babysitters.  She switched the channel.  What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?  She didn’t want to find out, so she turned to yet another channel.  Bad Night.   That was scary for very different reasons.  What was she thinking?

Sighing, she put in a DVD.  Police Woman, The Complete First Season.   Although it was secretly housed in a Dynasty case.  Better not to let anyone know she was actually entertained by her number one acting rival, Angie Dickinson.  The woman’s flair for the action-adventure genre was inspirational on a zen level.

Tapping at her patio window sent her heart pounding in her chest and she quickly muted the volume on the TV, her head spinning in the direction of the sound.  Was someone there?  Was it Logan coming to silence her the way he did Adrienne?  She quickly scanned the area for any stray lingerie that he could use to strangle her with.  Nothing.  She reminded herself to get a lock for her underwear drawer.

Finally she realized it was the leaves of the giant banyan tree scraping against the side of the house.  The Santa Ana’s were blowing like crazy and every sound that resulted made her jump out of her skin.

Relaxing a bit, she turned the DVD on again and took a sip of wine to relax her nerves.  Police Woman was just about to nab the kidnappers.  It was always her favorite part of the episodes.  Nothing could stop that woman.

Suddenly pounding on the door reverberated through the house and she twisted off of the sofa and let out a horrific scream.  She backed up a step, her hands plastered to her mouth in suspense.  No way was that the Santa Ana’s.

More pounding on the door and in Alex’s chest.  Her eyes transfixed to the door, she was frozen on her feet.  She was terrified.  She wished she had never met Seth Walker or Logan Mackenzie.

“Alex!  Open up!”

The voice called from outside.  It was dark and booming.  The voice of a maniac.

“Go away!” she screamed.

“Alex, please!  Let me in!  I need to talk to you about Heather!”

Frowning, Alex replayed the words over in her mind, only then realizing it was Jordan outside her door.   She raced over and unbolted the lock, pulling at the handle and standing aside to allow him in.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked, dusting a coating of leaves from his hair and shoulders.

“What’s wrong with me?” she asked in a huff.  “What’s wrong with you?  Coming over here pounding on the door bellowing like a wild animal?  What are you doing here, anyway?”

"I need help,” Jordan said.  “It’s Heather.  She’s made a huge mistake and-“

“Hold on, I need a drink for this,” Alex said and refilled her glass.  “Do you want a glass of wine?”

“Scotch,” he said, shaking his head.  “Anyway, she went away this weekend with Brett Armstrong and came back married.  She’s convinced she’s in love with him.”

“Heather and Brett?” Alex asked.  “After what he did to Miranda, you can’t let this stand.  Jordan, I-“

A thumping sound from outside on the terrace caused Jordan’s attention to steer away from her momentarily. 

“What is it?” Alex asked.

“Did you hear that?” he asked, peering through the glass door.

She shook her head, waving her hand in the air dismissively.  “It’s just the wind.  It’s been doing that all night.”  She quickly got them back on track.  “Anyway, you have to talk some sense into that daughter of yours.  Did you know Brett cheated on Miranda with his secretary?  And framed my son for murder.  His list of crimes is never ending, and-“

But Jordan wasn’t convinced it was just the wind.  A reflection in the glass caught his eye and he bolted for the terrace.  “There’s someone outside,” he said and pulled the French doors open.  Wind and salty ocean mist whooshed inside the house while he scanned the yard.

Alex was suddenly filled with dread.  She cowered inside and waited for Jordan to scare off whoever it was.

A minute later, Jordan returned to the house and closed the doors.  “Whoever it was is gone.  Do you know why anyone would be outside your house?  Other than your usual smattering of obsessed fans and stalkers.”

She knew exactly who.   He was after her, and he was going to kill her just like he did Adrienne.   And as much as she wanted to lean on Jordan for support and tell him everything about Seth and Logan and Stratotech, she couldn’t.  She was in trouble and no one, not even Jordan, could help her out of it.

“No, I don’t,” she said softly and grew into a deep train of thought.

Jordan came up behind her, sensing that she was obviously upset.  “Do you want me to stay?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said, putting on her best brave face.

“You’re trembling,” Jordan said and touched her gently on the arm.

Alex immediately brushed his hand away and turned angrily toward him.  “I see what you’re doing,” she said.  “You’re so obvious.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked in confusion.

“You come over here under the pretense that you need my help with Heather, then you conveniently see a mysterious stalker outside my door, knowing how paranoid I’ve been since Adrienne’s murder.  And you use that to your benefit and offer to stay the night just so you can get me into bed.”  She paused and laughed haughtily.  “Will your pathetic attempts at reconciliation never end, Jordan?  I mean, honestly.”

Furiously, Jordan placed his hands on his hips and shook his head.  “You’re unbelievable, you know that?  I’ve never met anyone as deluded and…”  He stopped, his frustration prohibiting him from finishing his sentence.  “I’m done.  I’m just done with you.”

With that, he turned and stormed out of the house.  Alex stood behind, wrapping her arms around herself and wondering if she had been too hasty.  Was accusing Jordan of manipulating her just a cover to make herself feel better?

Outside, Logan Mackenzie stepped out from behind a tree in the yard outside Alex’s house.  He trotted down the road to his car and quickly got inside, pulling back out onto the road.

Brett Armstrong

Brett was shaving the next morning when Heather came up behind him, wrapping her arms around his bare torso and kissing his neck. 

“Well good morning,” he said with a grin, swiping a line of shave cream from his jawline.  “You looked so peaceful I thought I’d let you sleep.  Did the shower wake you?”

She shook her head and massaged his stomach with her hand.  “No, I have to meet Miranda this morning.  She’s coming back from Big Bear and we’re having breakfast.”

He splashed warm water on his face and dried it with a towel.  “Are you going to tell her about us?” he asked.

“I’m going to have to,” she replied.  “She’s going to find out sooner or later.  I only hope she takes it better than my father did.”

Brett turned and pulled her into him.  “I’m sorry he wasn’t very supportive.  I can’t help but feel like this is all my fault.  It was my idea to get married in Reno.  We should have taken our time, let people get used to our being together.”

“I don’t care about what people think,” Heather said, running her hand down his smooth, muscular chest.  “I love you, Brett, and no matter if my father or Miranda or Stormy or whoever else objects, I’m glad that we got married.  I’ve never been happier in my life.”

He grinned from ear to ear, putting his arms around her and hugging her warmly.  “I’m so glad you feel that way,” he said.  “Because I’ve been on top of the world since Reno, and I can’t wait to spend every day of my life with you.”

Heather kissed him passionately, unsecuring his towel and letting it drop haphazardly to the floor.  Their gazes met, a smile breaking out across Brett’s face as she led him out into the bedroom.

“I’m going to be late for work,” he said.

“I’ll call your boss and tell him it was my fault,” she said, pushing him onto the bed and straddling him eagerly.  Slowly, she leaned down and flicked her tongue in his ear, feeling him growing aroused and ready to take her.

Blackthorne Mansion

At the Blackthorne mansion, James opened the front door and greeted Leigh with a smile and a kiss on the cheek.  

“This is a nice surprise,” he said and led her gently inside the foyer.  “I thought you had a meeting this morning.  I wasn’t planning on seeing you until tonight.”

She wrapped her arms around herself and followed him into his study.  “I wanted to see you before my meeting,” she began.  She woke up that morning with the firm intentions of telling him everything.  Her affair with Seth, their partnership with Alex in Stratotech, and the fact that Adrienne’s murder was no coincidence.

Yes, she was prepared to come clean, and if he cast her aside and ended their relationship, so be it.  At least she would have a clear conscience.

But fate would have other plans.  Distraction came in the form of James’s devoted housekeeper, whose whimpering could be heard from the parlor room across the hall.

“What the-“ James started with a frown.  He walked into the parlor and found Leilani muttering silent Hawaiian syllables to herself as she swung a feather duster along every surface in the room.  “Leilani?” he asked.  “What is it?”

She turned to him and shook her head dismissively.  “Nothing, Mr. Blackthorne.  You’re a busy man.  You don’t need my troubles.”

He approached her and led her to the cognac leather sofa.  “Sit down and tell me what’s bothering you.  You’re like a part of this family.  If something is bothering you I want you to tell me.”

She burst into tears and sobbed on his shoulder.  “I thought I was doing the right thing but I make mistake,” she said in her broken English.  “I try to give a good life for my family but they don’t appreciate.”

James patted her gently on the back, her large frame pushed up snugly against him.  “Is it your daughter in Hawaii?” he asked.  “Is she all right?”

Leilani sat up and accepted a handkerchief from him.  “She left her fiancé.  She says he doesn’t make her happy and doesn’t give her excitement so she leaves him and moved in with a friend from school.”

“This is the arranged marriage you told me about years ago?” James asked.

She nodded.  “He is from good family.  He can support her and give her things that I can’t.  Please, Mr. Blackthorne, you pay me well, but most of the money goes to my mother in Oahu.  She’s very sick.  My daughter doesn’t have the skills that most young women have who go to college.  She's twenty-two years old, but she can’t do things for herself.”

“She sounds a lot like Miranda a few years ago,” James said with a grin.

Leilani had thought the exact same thing but hadn’t said so out of respect for her employer.  “Now she refuse to go back to him and I’m afraid that she’ll wind up a prostitute who picks up military men from the base.”

“Leilani, I’m sorry about your daughter.  If there’s anything I can do. ..”

She shook her head adamantly and stood up with her feather duster.  “No, you do enough, Mr. Blackthorne.  I handle my family just like you handle yours.  Please, I’m sorry for being a burden.”

“Leilani, you’re not-“ James began, unable to finish his sentence before she raced out of the room. 

Sighing, James stood up and went back out into the foyer, having almost forgotten about Leigh.  By the time he realized she was gone, she was already in her car driving away.

“I’m going to tell James everything,” Leigh said as she paced back and forth in Seth’s office at the marina.  “He’s getting too close to the truth.  Maybe if we just tell him now before things get too out of hand, he’ll understand and we can forget about the whole thing.”

“Things are already out of hand, sweetheart,” Seth said with a scowl.  “More people know about this deal than it’s safe to talk about.  Alex Reynolds, Brett Armstrong, Logan Mackenzie.  I’ll be lucky if I have two dimes to scratch together with our profits.  So you’re not going to say a damn word to James Blackthorne.”

“But Seth, he-“

“I’m not interested in your romantic feelings for the man,” he cut her off bitterly.  “Who you choose to sleep with is your business, but don’t risk the business because you want the man in your bed and can’t stand the thought of him finding out what a manipulative liar you are.”

She felt her eyes sting with tears and she turned around in despair.  She was trapped.  Stuck in a dangerous business deal with two men she couldn’t trust, and faced with lying to the man she trusted with her life.  It wasn’t fair. 

“Not only has Brett Armstrong insinuated himself into this deal for five percent of the profits, now Logan is stonewalling me for forty percent.  Alex knows something is up and now you’re suddenly growing a conscience.  This isn’t the best day to spring this on me, Leigh.”

She shook her head, realizing it was useless in trying to get out of this mess.  She turned and left the office, bumping directly into Logan in the hall.  They stared at one another for a split second, and the cold steeliness of his eyes sent shivers down her spine.

“Good morning, Leigh,” he said and brushed past her into Seth’s office.

“Not now, Logan,” he said and turned from the window.

“I believe we have business to discuss,” Logan went on anyway.  “More specifically, forty percent of the business.”

Eddie Distefano

James and Stormy met Eddie in his private investigative office in Beverly Hills.  Armed with the phone number for Stratotech, James was determined to find out who was behind the company and what they had to do with Adrienne’s murder.  Eddie set up a system of phone tracing equipment and they patched into the Stratotech answering service.  Once the receptionist got on the line, Stormy went to work at charming the pants off of her.

“Hi, I need some information, please,” he said.

“Did you want to leave a message for someone?” the woman asked.

“Yes, but I can’t remember her name,” Stormy said with a grin.

“I can leave a message and get it to someone with Stratotech.  Whom shall I say is calling?”

“Leonardo Dicaprio,” Stormy said and nudged Eddie who sat by in a fit of laughter. 

You’re Leonardo Dicaprio?” the woman asked, her voice full of doubt.  “Look, if you want to-“

“No, I’m really Leonardo Dicaprio.  Ask me anything.  Go ahead.  Did you see Titanic?”

“Yes.”

“Ask me how it ends.  I know because I was in it.  Never let go, Rose.  See?  I nailed it.”

Their banter went back and forth for another thirty seconds, precisely long enough for Eddie to secure the location of the phone call.  “Got it,” he said.

“Okay, well, gotta go.  Make sure you come see me in Titanic 2 next summer.”  Stormy hung up the phone and he and Eddie gave each other a high five. 

“Brilliant,” James said with a roll of his eyes, patting his son firmly on the back.

Stormy Blackthorne

Half an hour later, Eddie and Stormy were staked out outside a small unmarked office on the seediest street in Studio City.  James had sent them to check it out while he tracked down Leigh to find out why she’d run off so suddenly that morning.

This is Stratotech’s answering service?” Eddie asked as they stared at the corroding building.  “They certainly spare no expense.”

Stormy laughed and got out of his car.  “You got that right,” he said and looked around.  “This doesn’t make any sense.  Why would an oil company have an answering service between a needle exchange and a check cashing depot?”

“Let’s go find out.”  Eddie jogged up to the door and went inside.  The office was sparse, consisting of a single worn out sofa, a dusty fichus tree, a Culligan water bottle, and a woman sitting behind a desk reading US Weekly.

“Can I help you boys?” she asked and looked up from the magazine.

“We’re looking for someone from Stratotech,” Stormy said.

“I’m their answering service.  There aren’t any Stratotech employees in this office.”

“Oh,” Eddie said, trying desperately to come up with a plan.  “Well, does anyone ever check in for messages?”

“Of course,” said the woman and looked at her watch.  “They usually send someone in every day about this time.  If you want you can stick around and wait.”

“Absolutely.”

“We’d love to,” Stormy added.  “We’ll just wait outside if you don’t mind.”

She shrugged.  “Whatever gets you off.”

They excited the office and made their way back to Stormy’s car.  “This is good,” he said and climbed in.  “All we have to do is wait for someone to show up and we start asking questions.  We should have a report for my father by lunchtime.  How’s that for a day’s work?”

“You should really think about being my partner,” Eddie said.  “Seriously, Dude, we are such a good team.  Think about it.  We can set you up with a desk at the office, get you a bitchin’ little secretary.  Maybe we can get like walkie talkie’s or something.”

But Stormy was no longer listening.  He stared out the windshield and shook his head in disbelief at who he saw going into the office building.

“What?” Eddie asked, realizing he’d missed something key.

“Would you just look at who’s picking up messages for Stratotech,” Stormy said as Brett walked from his car on the street and entered the office where the receptionist sat. 

Seconds later, Brett emerged with a stack of papers in his hand.  He got into his car and sped away, leaving Stormy and Eddie speechless.

Logan Mackenzie

Logan left Seth’s office at the marina, wiping his hands with a handkerchief and glancing nervously around the parking lot.  He swept his hair into place and sunk rigidly into his  black SUV.  A trickle of blood smeared on his hand caught his attention and he quickly wiped it away with the handkerchief.

He took a deep breath, started the car and drove away from the marina, speeding out onto Pacific Coast Highway.

Alex Reynolds

An hour later, Alex was eating lunch in her office at Blackthorne-Reynolds.  She turned on the mid-day news and picked at her salad with disinterest.  Sighing, she opened a copy of US Weekly and tried to obsess on some other celebrity’s problems instead of her own.  It was the same old garbage.  Singer in rehab again.  Actress in rehab again.  Custody battle between a sitcom star and his bitchy wife.  She was bored already.  These stars needed better writers, she decided. 

Suddenly a report on the news caught her attention and she turned to the television with renewed interest.  The live report came from stretch of Pacific Coast Highway, the guardrail broken through and the fiery debris of an automobile still smoldering at the bottom of the cliff.

“No cause for the accident has been determined, but witnesses claim the SUV sped through traffic on PCH at an alarming rate, colliding with several cars in its path before losing control and crashing through the guardrail.  The automomobile exploded on impact and the driver was pronounced dead on the scene.  Although the cause of the accident is still unconfirmed, investigators say that the driver’s pattern could be indicative of break failure.”

Alex grew uneasy, watching the reporter on the scene with knots in her stomach. 

“Again, the driver of the automobile has been identified as noted geologist Logan Mackenzie.  Mackenzie has no family ties in the area and police and currently searching for next of kin.”

Eyes widening, Alex shot up from her desk and covered her mouth with her hands in astonishment.  She knew immediately it was no accident.

“He killed him,” she whispered to herself.

Seth Walker

When Brett got back to the marina, he entered Seth’s office and stopped dead in his tracks.  His eyes widened in disbelief at the sight before him.  The office, or what was once an office, was in complete disarray.  It looked to Brett like a tornado had gone through, breaking and destroying everything in site. 

“What the-“ he began, taking note of the papers strewn across the floor, the broken furniture, and the shattered glass.  

He quickly turned, preparing to leave when he bumped directly into Seth who raced inside in bated breath. 

“Brett-“ he began.

“What the hell happened here?”

Seth shrugged and looked around.  “I don’t know.  I just got here.  It looks like somebody broke in and tore the place up.”

“Where were you?” Brett asked.

“I was….at home.  I forgot my briefcase this morning and had to go back and get it.”

Brett eyed him carefully.  “Did you have a flat tire or something?” he asked.

“Why?” Seth asked nervously. 

Gesturing to his forearm, Brett plucked a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to him.  “That’s bearing grease.  Did you do some auto maintenance when you were at home too?”

Seth laughed and wiped the grease clear.  “I guess I must have brushed up against something in the garage,” he said.  “Anyway, did you go get the messages from the service?”

Brett nodded and handed the stack of papers to him.  “Yeah, what should I do with them?”

“Throw them away,” Seth said and went to his desk.  “I never read them.”

Brett shrugged indifferently and tossed the messages into a trash can.  He looked around the office, wondering what Seth was hiding from him.  Obviously someone was unhappy.  


Next time....

Alex fears that she is next on Seth's list.  Stormy confronts Brett about his involvement with Stratotech and his marriage to Heather.  James learns who is behind Stratotech and what they're really up to in Costa Mesa.   

 Read Episode 71

 

 


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