Richfield & Rivers Mystery Series 1 - Combust the Sun

BOOK: Richfield & Rivers Mystery Series 1 - Combust the Sun
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Combust
the Sun

Andrews
and Austin

Prologue

It
would be months before I would learn of Sterling Hacket's desperate late-night
call to Robert Isaacs regarding the too-perfect Italian boy whose exquisitely
carved body lay naked on the floor of Sterling's palatial Bel-Air estate,
threatening to expire and take with him Sterling's hard-won motion picture
career.

Sterling
apparently thought the youth had merely passed out from erotic exhaustion and
designer drugs, until he felt for a pulse in his neck. Panicked, he tried to
haul the boy out of his living room but, for all of his lithe beauty, the lad
was far too large for him to handle. Sterling dropped to his knees beside the
boy and began CPR. I could envision Hollywood's action-adventure idol, infamous
for never being able to remember the most elementary dialogue, shouting,
"Four breaths, two pushes, or two breaths, three pushes? Shit!"

That's
when I imagine Sterling rang for help. The booming voice that had enthralled
women by the thousands, scaling up to high C in near hysteria, "He's not
breathing! We were partying and I gave him a little Ecstasy. That's all. You
gotta do something, Bobby!"

"I
warned you about this!"

"You're
wasting time!" Sterling shouted.

"Try
to get him breathing. Do CPR or something. I'll get someone over to your house
right away. Do whatever she says."

Moments
later across town, another phone rang in Barrett Silvers's Los Feliz home.
Naked to the waist, she propped herself up in bed on one elbow and tried to
sound awake when she picked up the receiver.

The
voice on the other end of the line was loud and firm. "Barrett, get over
to Sterling Hacket's house right away. He's got a kid over there who's not
breathing. See if you can get him going. If you can't, I don't want any trace
of that kid ever having been near him, you got that?"

"I'm
not dressed—"

"I
don't give a fuck what you're not! Be there in two goddamned minutes and get
that kid breathing! Then call me." The phone went dead.

Shaking,
Barrett dove into the pants hanging over the chair in her bedroom, slung on a
shirt, slammed her bare feet into her loafers, and ran to her car, now fully
aware that "she who rides on the tiger's back must go where the tiger
goes."

Chapter
One

My
feet landed on the treadmill in time to the shriek of violins and a country
singer proclaiming that the devil was down in Georgia trying to make a deal.

If
he thinks Georgia s tough, he ought to try Hollywood,
I thought and cranked the treadmill speed up a notch,
out of frustration. The music was shattered by my own voice in the
distance—"You've reached Teague Richfield. Leave your name and number and I'll
call you back"—then a shrill beep signaling the caller to talk.

"Teague?
Barrett. How about lunch at Orca's, one o'clock? I really need to talk to you.
Unless you call, I'll assume we're on."

I
shut off the treadmill and reached for the cordless phone just in time to hear
the line go dead.

"Why
didn't you get it?" I panted to Elmo, who lowered his long basset ears and
let out a disapproving groan.

Staggering
to the kitchen counter, I deposited myself on a bar stool in a palpitating heap
and replayed Barrett's message. Whatever she wanted to tell me was obviously
important. I'd known Barrett for years. The common denominator of our
friendship was our studio ties, and the fact that she once fucked my brains
out, but we rarely lunched.

I
scanned the trades to be "au courant" for my lunch with Barrett, who
knew more players in Hollywood than a gossip columnist. Half the women
screenwriters in town owed their careers to her, and the other half were afraid
of her. Barrett confided in me precisely because I wasn't afraid of
her—occasionally attracted to her, but not afraid of her; and in Hollywood,
that alone could constitute friendship.

I
glanced at an article on Marathon Movie Studio's CEO, Lee Talbot. Next to it
was a smaller article about Marathon's star, Sterling Hacket, and the ongoing
investigation into Hacket's alleged procuring of young boys for sex. I tossed
the trade magazine aside as the phone rang again. It was Mom, in Tulsa, calling
to tell me to turn on CNN immediately.

"Channel
forty-one!" she shouted, persistent in her belief that the entire U.S. was
on her cable system. I located the channel carrying CNN in L.A.

The
crawl running along the bottom of the screen read "Dateline Oklahoma,"
over a scene of several homicide investigators and coroner's assistants loading
a body into a morgue van while a reporter announced that in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
prominent businessman Frank Anthony was found murdered and police were still
looking for leads. I turned up the volume. Frank Anthony was a legend when I
was growing up in the Midwest. I was ten years old when I saw him step out of a
truck in the middle of an oilfield. He was wearing a pair of boots so highly
polished that the cow who gave up the leather must have been able to see her
reflection every time she scratched her ass. I asked my dad if Mr. Anthony was
rich.

"Richer
than three feet up a bull's butt," was my dad's colorful reply.

Frank
Anthony owned everything from oilfields and car dealerships to shopping malls
and movie theaters and was now apparently one of the richest dead men in
Oklahoma.

"Do
you see it?" Mom yelled through the phone line. "It would make a
great movie! Maybe you could stay here and work on it. Diane Sawyer said the
next earthquake could sink all of California into the ocean, so you should come
home."

"If
Diane Sawyer wants me home, I'm there," I said and told Mom I'd see her in
a couple of days.

At
noon, I donned my new tweed faux riding jacket, looking a bit like I'd taken a
wrong turn at the fox hunt, and drove through Coldwater Canyon to Beverly Hills
in high spirits over my lunch with Barrett Silvers. If Marathon had a project
for me, I could leave for Tulsa secure in the knowledge that work and money
awaited my return.

As a
screenwriter, I vacillated between the certainty that I would never be able to
write the stories I was given and the fear that I would never be given any stories
to write. And of course, there was my history with Barrett, which made me doubt
I could write at all.

Dozens
of stately palms lined Beverly Drive, stretching their elegant trunks toward a
blue and balmy heaven, their leafy tops blowing in the wind like great pom-poms
cheering on the row of multimillion-dollar homes. Hollywood might be violent,
rude, and expensive, but she was still the woman with whom we all wanted to be
intimate. Even I had succumbed to her allure, receiving my Hollywood initiation
at the Beverly Bungalows that infamous Friday night when I learned that no one's
ever too old to be naive.

I
went east, then south, taking a right on Third, and pulled up in front of the
Sante Fe-style restaurant. Only a few small European letter tiles embedded in
the adobe designated the building as Orca's. It was an address one could easily
miss, which seemed to be a criterion for Hollywood hot spots. I entered the
building, looping around the adobe wall, down a short and narrow unmarked path.

Inside,
studio executives, directors, writers, and agents were huddled in twos and
threes eating overpriced pasta in a room with so much reverb only Marlee Matlin
would be able to make out what anyone was saying. I could see Barrett seated on
the coveted patio enjoying the beautiful summer day. The light sliced through
the vine-covered trellis overhead onto her Greco-carved curls, which lay flat
against her head like an olive wreath, crowning the beauty and power and grace
I remembered from that day I'd first stepped foot into her office on the
Marathon Studio lot. I'd gotten the appointment by virtue of the script I'd
submitted entitled
Sveltiana,
based on the true story of New York's top
fashion model caught up in the runway rituals of binge-and-purge perfectionism.

It
was exactly four p.m. when Barrett's gracefully gay male assistant led me to
her office for that memorable meeting. From the moment I saw her, I realized I
was looking at the most captivatingly androgynous creature I would ever see in
my lifetime, her DNA seemingly able to morph kaleidoscopically from X to Y
chromosome and back again, daring me to settle on a gender. When I entered the room,
she rose to her feet, tall and washboard smooth from her chest down to her
pleated slacks. Lifting her French-cuffed arm, tan at the wrist where the
expensive gold watch dangled loosely, she shook my hand. "I've enjoyed
reading your script," she said with a genuine smile. Her phone rang before
I could speak and she excused herself, picking up the receiver and showing the
muscle definition of a young man who worked out at the gym. She pivoted, to
profile her chiseled features framed by the Adonis curls, and stared out the
window as she spoke. She could only be described as smashingly handsome.

"What
time is it now?" she asked the caller and gave me a "this will only
take a moment longer" look. Her light brown eyes were smart and cunning,
going slightly soft in the center, if anyone could ever get to her center. Just
looking at her left me short of breath and, of course, she knew that. She
traded on that.

"All
right then, six," she assured the caller and hung up. "I'm sorry,
I've just learned that I have to get over the hill and be at the Beverly at six
to meet Talbot." Name-dropping in LA. was always effective, especially if
the name ran the studio. "I wanted to talk about your script today because
I'm leaving town next week..." She paused in thought. "Tell you what,
if you want, we could meet this evening around sevenish at the Bev, if you're
not tied up."

"That
would be great," I said.

"Good."
She bounced to her feet and shook my hand again. "Then I'll see you
shortly. If I'm not in the bar, ask Amanda, the redhead behind the desk, where
I am and she'll get us hooked up."

"Perfect,"
I said and left, elated that Barrett Silvers, head of development at Marathon
Studios, enjoyed reading my script and delighted that I was going to get to see
her tonight, script or no script.

Promptly
at seven, I entered the Beverly lobby and scanned the bar for Barrett. My
quizzing the redhead behind the desk led me to bungalow 42, where a heavyset,
matronly woman wearing a hotel uniform opened the door. She invited me in,
saying she was Teresa, the massage therapist for the hotel, and this was Marta,
who was in training. From across the room, Barrett, lying facedown and naked on
a massage table, spoke nonchalantly, inviting me in. "My meeting was short.
Talbot offered me his suite for the weekend, and of course, I never pass up
pleasure."

Her
long, well-proportioned frame was tan from the nape of her neck to the soles of
her feet. No white sock or panty lines for Barrett.

"Teague
is a very good writer," Barrett told the masseuses, who oohed
appropriately and offered me a free massage because "Marta is in
training." Barrett laughed and asked who could turn down a free massage. I
was ushered into the bathroom to hang up my clothes, shower off, and have a
glass of wine, all the while believing this was the most So-Cal studio pitch
I'd ever encountered.

After
my second glass of wine, I decided that, in fact, this was the way all studio
pitches should unfold; then, even if my story were turned down, I would be too
relaxed to care. Marta gave me a forty-five minute going-over that made me
question whether or not she was really in training. When I was as relaxed as a
boneless chicken, she helped me up and placed me on the bed on clean towels and
covered me with a sheet.

Assuming
Barrett was still being massaged, I closed my eyes and was in a dream state
when I heard the click of the latch as the door softly closed. Barrett and I
were alone as, of course, I had suspected we would be, even hoped we would be.
The massage therapists had been dismissed so quickly that they left behind
their tables and the obligatory New Age waterfall music. Barrett slid onto the
bed beside me, wasting no time on preliminaries, and rubbed her tan, fully
lubricated, frictionless form against my own.

"On
page thirty-six," she began flatly, as if she were sitting behind her desk
and I were fully clothed, "when he first kisses Colette, he says, 'This is
just a prelude.'" She leaned into me slowly and kissed me warmly on the
lips. My mind registered disappointment that Barrett couldn't kiss. Being able
to kiss, followed closely by being able to dance, were two key criteria in
lovers, and oddly, I'd never found anyone who could do either satisfactorily. I
reached up to encircle her with my arms, but she pushed my arms back to my
side. It was clear that this was Barrett's motion picture, and she was
directing it.

BOOK: Richfield & Rivers Mystery Series 1 - Combust the Sun
9.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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