Authors: Aphrodite Hunt
Tags: #mystery, #Psychological, #movie star, #bondage, #reporter, #millionaire, #Romance, #Erotic Romance, #BDSM
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright 2012 by Aphrodite Hunt
Cover art by Aphrodite Hunt
God, but he was so handsome!
I am perched at the edge of my desk, sifting through old magazines and photos of David Kinney, ex-movie star, who had gone into sudden and mysterious seclusion ten years ago.
Most of us know the story, or at least, those who keep up with entertainment gossip. David Kinney had a meteoric teenage rise to dramatic stardom. He was at the peak of his career, when he suddenly disappeared.
No, I don’t mean that his plane crashed in the middle of the Caribbean. He didn’t commit suicide. He wasn’t kidnapped either.
He just stopped making movies overnight and disappeared from the public eye.
No one knew why.
He didn’t announce his retirement. He didn’t check into rehab. His publicist couldn’t or wouldn’t give a press release. His lawyer had no comment. His agent had nothing official to say.
For months, the tabloids speculated on everything from a failed love affair to a cocaine overdose, from alien abduction to an FBI cover-up conspiracy (he was secretly a state witness against organized crime and had to be protected thereafter from the mob).
And naturally, like all news with a finite shelf life, the speculations dwindled. Other movie stars ascended to the Hollywood firmament to replace him in the public eye. His fans soon deserted him – all but a hardcore group which still dedicated a website – no, shrine – to his memory.
David Kinney was largely forgotten.
I stare at his pictures, taking in his large mud green eyes, his perfect Roman nose and his flawless complexion. He has very sensuous lips. Very kissable lips, actually. In the movies, he specialized in playing incredibly complex, flawed, and broken characters. His eyes were forever projecting a rainbow of emotions, a kaleidoscope of inner conflict. It didn’t matter if the character was a vampire or an undercover wise guy cop or a demonic assassin from the future. David Kinney nailed every one of them.
Oh, but he portrayed pain and angst so very well. When he bled, we bled with him. When he cried, the audience wept with silent tears.
He should have gotten an Oscar, but he didn’t.
I was a fan.
Not exactly the President of his fan club, but I was an Internet member of the community. I posted fan fiction on Live Journal. I watched his movies over and over, pausing at sequences where he looked particularly beautiful or emotional, or if the scene is particularly well played.
I’m all grown up now.
I have an exciting job as an investigative journalist. And yesterday, I pitched the idea of me solving the mystery of why David Kinney disappeared.
My editor, Sharon Contralto, frowned. “David Kinney? But he’s yesterday’s news.”
“Not if I angle the piece as a mystery,” I said. “Everyone loves mysteries.”
I expanded upon what I would like to do, and finally, she nodded.
“Sounds interesting,” she said.
“It will be,” I promised.
“What sort of budget are you aiming for?”
I was ready for this. I outlined some points from my spreadsheet. It wouldn’t take that much, really, especially since I already have an inkling of where he’s holed up in, thanks to overzealous fan site speculation.
“OK, approved,” Sharon said. “Go to it.”
The meeting turned to other matters, but inside, I was gloating with exhilaration.
I am going to meet David Kinney and solve the mystery of why he disappeared. Only he doesn’t go by the name of David Kinney anymore. He doesn’t even go by his real name. That’s why he is so difficult to ferret out. Unless you are particularly driven, like a hardcore fan.
But the real mystery is this:
If he is alive and well, why why why go through such pains to conceal his whereabouts and identity?
What does he have to hide?
Since we are operating on a shoestring budget, I fly coach class to Missouri. I have never been to Missouri before. I stop in St. Louis for the night, soaking in the culture and dining on the best ribs I have ever eaten, topped off by the best bread-and-butter pudding in the world. It was advertised as such too: ‘THE BEST BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING IN THE WORLD’, even though the joint was just a lopsided Mexican shack which looked as though it could collapse at any minute.
But I’m not here to sightsee.
The next morning, I rent an Avis car. It is a Chevy HHR with a well-maintained engine – which means it doesn’t cough up enough smoke to choke my tailgaters.
I set out on my journey. I am a careful driver – careful to abide by the speed limit, that is. I don’t have a GPS. My reporter’s budget doesn’t allow for that . . . yet. I’m navigating completely by roadmap. The kind you can fold by its creases.
I like being on a road trip. My parents used to take my brother, Mikey, and me on cross-country expeditions. We went to Yellowstone that way. And the Grand Canyon. And Niagara. OK, so we like water.
Funny I should mention ‘water’, because it’s going to figure prominently in my adventure real soon.
I stop at a roadside diner for lunch. I order a cheeseburger and ask for the fries to be held. I have my map spread out on the table, and the waitress takes a peek.
“Looking for someplace?” she asks.
“Yes.” I jab my finger on a very tiny speck on the enlarged map. “It’s this town called Kelowna.”
She scrunches her freckled face. “Don’t know it. Must be off the grid. But Brett there probably knows more stuff than I do. Brett’s my manager. You want to talk to him, honey?”
“Sure.” I make to get up.
She waves me to stay seated. “Don’t you move your ass, honey. Brett will be here in a short while.” She winks. “He’s got an eye for the pretty ones, and you’d be right up his alley.”
I smile, waiting for the predatory Brett, who is a fat, middle-aged guy whom I wouldn’t look at twice unless he had an extra-huge zit. So maybe, yeah, he’s got a thing for ladies who wouldn’t find him attractive in a million years. Maybe he’s got a rejection complex. Flirt with girls you can’t have, they reject you, and you’ve got exactly what you need to reinforce your loser image.
“Hiya, little lady,” he says in that faux cheery voice of his. “Betty here’s been telling me you’re looking for Kelowna.”
“Yes. Know the place?”
“Drive past it every two months when I go visit my kids. They live with my ex.” He snickers. “Takes me all of five minutes to go through Kelowna. It’s just one main street, and there’s that. Population’s less than three thousand.”
“Indeed. Why would anybody want to live there, do you think?”
“Beats me.” He shrugs. “Mostly the older folks are left there. The new generation moves right out as soon as they can get a driving license. There’s an eccentric old millionaire who lives up there though.”
I prick my ears up. “Oh?”
“Yeah. He lives in a big house on a hill. He hardly comes to town, and who can blame him, seeing as Kelowna’s deader than my ex mother-in-law.” He laughs at his own joke. “He has a butler, can you believe? A butler who does his groceries and errands, as though he’s some sort of British lordling. And when Mr. Bigwig comes to town, he’s dressed like the Blues Brothers – all dark glasses and trench coats.”
“What’s his name?” I think I know it, but I want Brett to say it.
“Beats me,” he says again. “I’m just telling you what I hear, little lady, when I stop for lunch at their diner. Always pays to check out what other folks are serving.”
I say carefully, “His name wouldn’t happen to be Ethan Greene, would it?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
I pay my bill and tip the waitress generously. Well, as generously as I can afford to. I return to my rented car and continue the long trek to Kelowna, home to Ethan Greene for the past ten years.
Well, if I’m wrong, I would have wasted a shitload (OK, a shoestring load) of my newspaper’s money, and Sharon Contralto might decide not to give me that raise I’ve been aiming for after all. But no pain, no gain.
I hope I’m right.
It’s dark when I finally pull into Kelowna. I know it is Kelowna because a signboard saying ‘KELOWNA, 10 MILES’ with an arrow pointing ahead is illuminated by my headlights.
I drive on. Sincerely, I have no idea where I’m going to stay in Kelowna. As far as I could Google, there are no hotels, no inns, and no homestays. It’s a virtually dead little town, kept alive by a pencil factory, which has branched out to making pens (good for them).
Worse come to worse, I can always drive twenty miles south to the nearest town, Aberdeen, population ten thousand. At least that one has a Ramada Inn I can shell eighty bucks a night for.
Armed with more hopes than plans, I trawl the dark road that leads to Kelowna. Houses begin to spring up – leached in the twilight of all color. No one is around. At least, they are not out in the streets. What’s this about small towns? People retire early for the sheer boredom factor? The houses start to crowd closer. Sycamores grow in profusion, until I am right in the middle of what I believe is Main Street.
If it can even be considered a Main Street.
Brett was right. If I wasn’t looking out for it, I might have missed it entirely looking for something longer, wider and more interesting.
Main Street is populated by a couple of restaurants, neither of them swanky, and the usual grocery stores, launderettes, banks and others. Most of them are closed, except for the restaurants and the grocery stores. I had just stopped for some ribs and fries (yeah, I know, I should really watch my diet now that I’m hitting twenty-seven) at five o’ clock, and so I don’t feel hungry anymore.
At least out here in the Main Street, people are walking around, doing ‘people in small town’ stuff. OK, I know I sound derogatory, coming from a big city and all, but I do notice the differences. People are slower here, less in a rush to do something or be someplace. People are nicer. Kinder.
I park the car just outside a grocery store that looks well-lighted and decently populated. The residents seem to be homogenous here. All white. I enter the store and a bell jiggles above me. The cashier looks up. He’s a youngish man with a baseball cap worn backwards. He wears a football jersey that says ‘39’.
“Excuse me, but I’m from out of town.”
“I can see that,” he drawls, smiling and leaning upon the counter.
Gawd, why does every man I speak to here seem to want to flirt with me? It’s not as if I’m exceptionally stunning. I’m pretty, yes, and I’m a blonde. That seems to count for a lot. But I’m hardly catwalk model material. I’m too short, for one. And my brown eyes are too large and close together. My tits are too small, but maybe they like anorexic models these days, who knows.
“I was wondering where I can stay for the night. In this town, I mean,” I announce.
He opens his mouth to proposition the obvious, and then thinks the better of it when he sees my face. Outside, thunder rumbles.