Twelve-year-old Steven Ross cuddled up with a pillow on the couch in his brother’s house. His sky blue pajamas conflicted with the black leather fabric as well as the darkened sky. Wiping his eyes, he yawned as he waited for his older brother to rejoin him for their movie night.
Rylee was in the kitchen, heating up water for coffee and hot chocolate.
A figure appeared behind him. Like a shadow, they didn’t make a sound until it wanted to. “I haven’t missed much, have I?” she said, throwing off her hood.
Rylee jumped around leaning against the oven handle. “A little, Bridget, E.T. and the Sound of Music.” Catching his breath, he looked at her with eyebrows raised.
She looked down at the puddle at her feet. “It’s a monster out there. And my car broke down. Sorry about the water.”
He turned back to the stovetop to boiling water. “Want some coffee?”
“Yeah,” she said, tugging off her poncho. “You still have my bag here?” She pulled at her drenched clothes that we're acting like a second skin.
“Linen closet. The dryer's open if you want.”
The boys waited in the living room for their neighbor to get dry.
When she came out, shaking a towel over her hair, she saw Steven laying on a pillow on Rylee's lap. A cup of coffee sat on the table, with steam waving her hello. A news channel ad played.
"What's this show you were telling me about?"
“Second Chances? It’s a show we watched as a family when we were kids.” He paused in thought, brushing a hand through his brother’s hair. “Well, younger. It’s 'bout an estranged family trying to make things work- Iittle ironic for us?”
“It's been going on this long?” she asked, plopping down on the grey armchair next to Rylee's side of the couch.
“No, it was postponed halfway through the second season… have no idea why.”
“Tonight's the second series premiere,” Steven chimed, “It’s live.”
The ad ended and a catchy jazz song rolled out of the speakers. It was the only sound in the room. Even as it faded into acting, the only interruption was the thunder and side-hurting kind of laughter.
Forty minutes in, another ad started playing. Rylee stretched. His legs shook even though he tried to not move the pillow.
After putting his arms down, he cocked his hand. Every time he moved a muscle Steven would object. As he thought about it, it had been some time since he heard a peep from him.
“Want to hand me a blanket, Bree?” he whispered.
She turned her head with her eyes scowling. Her anger at what he called her faded into a smile. “Do you need help moving him?”
His biceps twitched as forklifted the pillow off his lap, being gentle with his fragile sleeping cargo. “Nah,” he announced as Bridget draped a matching fleece blanket to Steven's pajamas.
Steven clenched at the blanket, rolled onto his side, creating a bubble of blanket under his chin.
They both giggled. “Does this mean movie night is over?” she asked, picking up their cups.
“It's barely 10,” he called after her on her way to the kitchen. “No, no. This just means R is added back to our vocabulary.”
He turned back to the TV as the show's tune rang out. “Hurry, B!”
The scene resumed with two actresses - playing sister characters - standing on either side of the set. Theresa - a woman of six-foot in her own right - wore pink laced-up heels matching her tight shiny dress. Her firm tan arms were raised level to her dangly earrings.
Talia, a twig of a person, wore a royal purple off-the-shoulder jumper accentuating her hazel eyes. Her usually pale skin was a heated red. In her shaking hands laid a dust-splotched gun.
“He loved me!” Talia cried, tugging on the trigger.
The shot rang out and Theresa was thrown to the ground. A puddle of red stained the light boards of hardwood. Her eyes stared out towards the camera.
However, the gun in Talia’s hand had none of the normal smoke of a blank. In its place was a flag like the ones that come out of a toy gun. Holding on its side, Talia raised her eyebrows at it.
Before Rylee and Bridget could read the flag, colored bars took up the screen with a loud static sound blaring. Steven scurried in sleep as Rylee reached for the controller.
Turning off the cable, Rylee asked, “What do you want to watch now?” He placed a hand on Steven’s shoulder to put him to ease.
An annoying buzzing jogged Rylee from his sleep. But, what actually woke him was the repeated slapping to his slide. Opening his eyes, he caught Steven’s wrist before the next slap. With his other hand, pulled out his cell.
“I need you in my office now!”
“Director West?” He looked out the window. The rain had stopped but it was still dark out. “It’s not even dawn yet.”
“Just bring your whole entourage!” He hung up.
“Bridget,” he yawned. “Bridget!”
She jerked up. Bright-eyed at first, but she quickly dropped her face into her hands. “What time is it?” she muttered.
“Montgomery time.” He got up and stood in front of his still sleeping brother. He stretched out his hand but immediately whipped it back, closing his hand. Taking a breath, he shook his brother’s arm.
Steven’s arm jutted up straight into Rylee’s jaw. He sat up as Rylee stumbled back. Scrunching up his eyebrows, he said, “What are you doing?”
“Learning the hard way not to poke a sleeping bear,” he said, clenching at his jaw.
Rylee gave his head a good shake, making his shaggy hair fly. “Me and Bridget-,” he paused as Steven glared at him. “Bridget and I-,” he fixed, getting a smile in return, “got called into the office. Are you okay here or do you want to come?”
“Let me get dressed,” he said, stretching as he slothed to his feet. “You might want to change your shirt.” He pointed to the coffee stains.
"Oh fine!" Rylee stomped his foot.
Dressed - Steven in a pair of khakis and a purple polo and Rylee in the same ripped jeans and leather jacket as yesterday and in a fresh black tee, the three of them arrived at the Octagon: cold case building. At the door of the director's office, they were met by Montgomery West - who was nearly hidden by his desk and its mountaining paperwork - and Rylee's partner, Jaxon Brown, sat down in front of the desk. “Leave the kid outside,” West barked.
“I thought you said my WHOLE entourage.”
Ripping off his glasses, he replied, “I need to talk to you guys first. Now, come in and close the door.”
After they did as he ordered, he continued, “Now, you watched that Second something premiere last night, correct?”
Rylee and Bridget nodded.
“And I assume you saw the erupt ending?”
He didn't wait for a reply before starting again. "Actress Joy Donnell was murdered during the production."
The three agents stood shocked for a moment. Bridget sat down in the last chair.
“Not to sound insensitive, but isn't she a little too warm for cold case?” Rylee asked.
“Stop interrupting!... Now, the note on the gun was an ultimatum -” West put his glasses back on - “‘Law enforcement and the people of this show have failed Joan Evers. Until the murderer is caught, I’ll kill one person who was there every day until they're all dead.’”
“Joan Evers?” Jaxon asked.
“There was an ‘In Honor Of’ message in the show last night,” Bridget added.
Checking his file, West added, “She suspiciously died during the original production. It was reluctantly called a suicide.”
“Clearly someone knows more than us,” Jaxon chimed.
“And I know I’m sending the three of you to LA, immediately. The FBI will handle the new murder, you the old.”
Before any of them could interject, West continued, “Now, we need to discuss Steven. Spend him back to your aunt, drop him somewhere here, leave him in your hotel room for all I care.”
“Alan Crow! Do you have a moment?” Rylee called to a man in a suit and sunglasses a few yards ahead of him in the studio.
Turning to the wall of agents coming upon him, he stated, “I already made my dos to the FBI guys. And I’m late.”
“If you haven’t noticed there’s a mad man who wants to kill you. Is being a little later really a deal-breaker?” Jaxon said.
“I didn’t know Joan,” he droned, “I only talked to her once during the shooting of the first episode. I was in New York the day she died. And I thought she killed herself like reported. Anything else?”
The three of them stared at him a moment.
“Why were you in New York?” Steven asked, standing behind Rylee.
“Talking to lawyers. A company wanted to buy the show. Legally, I can’t tell you who, but they pulled out after Joan’s death. Now, I really need to go.”
“Please,” Rylee blurted.
As soon as Crow was gone, Rylee turned on a dime. “I thought we agreed you would stay quiet if I let you come.”
“It’s not like I interrupted you fishes,” Steven answered, “and now you know he had no reason to kill her and as the producer, it had no benefit for him.”
“No more questions!”
“Director Wells?” Jaxon asked, with a knock on the door to a big office made small by many file cabinets.
Two people were at the desk. A man sat behind it and a woman sat in front. She was busy scribbling on multiple pages, not even stopping a second to Jaxon's call.
“Please, come in, “ the man said. “You must be the hexagon whatever people.”
“Octagon, two more sides,” Bridget answered.
“Write that down, Cindy. Cindy here is our screenwriter and my niece. Say hello.”
She didn't stop writing as she used her right hand to wave at them.
“Well, that's the best we're going to get. What questions do you have?”
“Were you filming on the day Joan died?” Rylee asked.
“Yeah. Give me one sec-” he went to the closest filing cupboard - “here it is. We were filming a small cast, so it was just me, Cindy, two cameramen, Joy and Carmel who played last night, Angel, and Joan.”
“Joan was here the day she died?” Bridget asked, stepping forward, revealing Steven standing behind them.
Cindy stopped writing, with Steven in her peripherals.
“Yeah, she went back to her dressing room while we filmed some other scenes.”
“Are you sure there was only the…” Jaxon paused for a second, “eight of you?”
“Yes, actors that aren't filming that day weren’t allowed in the building.” He dropped his head. “Joan couldn't handle large extraneous groups. We made allowances due to her skill or-” or trying to laugh - “as Alan would say saving money for limiting cast on set.”
In the moment, Wells tried to regain himself, Steven tugged on Rylee's sleeve. After a bit of belligerence on Rylee's part, Steven whispered something into his ear.
“Isn't he a little young for a government agent?” Wells asked, getting the boost he needed.
Rylee straightened. “He's just a Silent-” he shot his head to the side-
“observer… Who found Joan?”
His boost zipped right out of him. "I sent Cindy to get her for more filming."
“Joy just died can't you people just-” Carmel choked, pulling her fail ponytail out of her neglected curls.
“Do you mind?” Steven asked, stepping forward.
She looked at him with her reddened eyes and a twitch in the corner of her mouth.
"I've done my friend's hair without complaint for years."
Her hand shook as she handed him her brush.
“How well did you know Joan?” Rylee asked as Steven worked on Carmel's knots.
“Not at all. She was quiet and shy, unlike the character she played. If she was here she was on set or in her room.”
“Who did know her well?” Bridget asked.
As Steven finished her hair tie, Carmel answered, “The only people she talked to were the director and the writer.”
“How do you like it?” Steven asked.
“Oh,” she exclaimed, turning her head both ways, “Thank you.”
Steven started to put her brush back on the vanity. He didn't think he was that close to it, but the head of the brush hit a box off the table. Immediately dropping, he cried, “I'm so sorry!”
“Don't worry about it,” she freaked.
Before she finished, Steven popped up with a handful of small white-filled plastic bags. “What are these?”
She was speechless, so was Rylee. He knew what it was, he used it enough himself once upon a time. He flashed over to Steven. Pulling him back he made Steven drop the bags on the vanity.
“I'm sorry. I haven't had a role in seven years.”
“I think that's enough for now, Miss Lowell,” Jaxon said, using his father of teenage children's voice.
The four of them walked out of the dressing room. Rylee practically dragged Steven away.
"Okay, what is wrong with you guys. We're on a time crunch. We didn't get started until after noon and have less than seven hours before someone dies."
"More of a reason for you not to be here. I'm taking you back to the hotel before you get hurt."
"I'll only go if you agree to go back to the investigation right after."
"And you have a murder to stop!"
After insisting on taking Steven all the way to their room and waiting until he was sitting down with dinner, Rylee arrived back at the studio. He found Bridget and Jaxon arriving, too, from a different studio.
They explain how the last actress was indisposed when they arrived, so they went to find the cameramen. As Wells forgot to mention earlier, only one returned to the new production. He had picked up some work at a different shooting. His old coworker died in a scuba diving accident a year before the show got back on its feet.
With no other place to go, they went back to Angel's dressing room. Rylee knocked in a few groups before anyone came to the door. Starting another round, his hand didn't meet the door. Instead, he almost hit the woman opening the door. "Hello?"
She was wearing a hot pink rob. Her extremely short was damp and flat against the top of her head. Staring back, she repeated his hello.
Without another word, she left the doorway, leaving it open. She sat dramatically across an armchair.
“Angel Monroe?” Rylee asked.
“Come in.” She waved them in. “I thought I already got my five minutes of fame from the FBI.”
“We’re from the Octagon about Joan Evers,” Rylee explained, sitting on the loveseat next to her.
“Who? Oh, the one who only talked on set,” she giggled.
“Guessing you didn’t know her well, then?” She mimicked Rylee.
“I knew her character better.”
“Do you remember anything from that day?” Jaxon asked.
“I have Cindy’s scream scarred into my ears but beyond that, it’s been seven years.”
Disheartened, they trudge up the stairs in their hotel. With a hand on the doorknob, Rylee stopped. He put his ear to the door. “There are voices.”
Jaxon and Rylee pulled their guns out and Bridget backed up to the other side of the hall. With a turn of a knob, they entered the room fanning the room in their sights. The voices got louder as they went past the bathroom and the closet.
Sitting at the table in the far corner of the room, Steven was talking to a young woman.
“Cindy?” Rylee exclaimed.
“Rylee, Jaxon, put your guns away,” Steven said without looking in their direction.
“What’s going on?”
“Cindy has some information, but she’ll only tell Bridget.”
With an eye roll, Rylee called for Bridget to come in and explained.
After the men left, Bridget sat on the bed closest to the kids. “What would you like to tell me, Cindy?”
She looked at Steven and he gave her a nod. “I guess the easiest way to explain is to tell you my name is Cindy Evers.”
“Joan was your… sister?”
“Older. Me and my uncle always knew she couldn’t have killed herself.”
“Family is usually last to kno~.”
“Not in our case. She wouldn’t have left me. We were taken from our parents’ custody when we were little. She wouldn’t have left me even with my … uncle here.”
“I want to believe you but the case needs more.”
“That's what the police said that the first time. I wasn’t in any shape to explain this seven years ago. I was the eleven-year-old shadow to my... uncle.” She teared up.
Putting her hands on Cindy’s shoulders, Bridget said, “Take a deep breath. Explain what?”
“She didn’t want to tell me, she thought I was too young, but I saw. She would find ‘gifts’ in her room from unknown persons. We found out some were from her boyfriend, Drew, the cameraman that died. He had put some roses in her room after really good shootings. But~” she paused, breathing heavily.
“But gifts kept appearing. Starting from chocolates, to jewelry, to … um… intimate clothing.”
“Why didn’t your uncle tell us this?”
“Joan made me promise not to tell him. But Drew… A letter came to my… uncle after Drew’s death. It told him about the stalking and murder suspicions but Drew didn’t know who?”
“Do you know?”
She nodded. “Angel. The day before Joan… I saw Angel go into Joan’s rooms. I recorded it and I showed it to Joan.”
“You keep gulping when you mention your uncle. Do you think he’s behind Joy’s murder?”
She nodded, planting her face into her hands before sobbing.
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Nicely written. Keep it up!
Great story! Flowed well!
You're welcome. Can you read mine?